What's On: 'American Horror Story' goes 'Cult,' Catching the 'Unabomber,' 'Difficult People' Monkees Around
A critical checklist of Tuesday's TV:
American Horror Story: Cult (10/9c, FX): If ever a show deserved a "cult" sub-heading, it's American Horror Story, which in its seventh go-round embraces the cult mentality full throttle (so to speak). At first glance, AHS: Cult even seems to have something more ambitious in mind than going off its usual deep end of grotesque excess. The season opens on Election Night 2016, which triggers in many an existential terror—harking back to the tradition of horror at its best reflecting the free-floating anxieties of our times. That's certainly the case with the show's beleaguered heroine, Allie (Ryan Murphy repertory star Sarah Paulson), whose phobias, mostly involving killer clowns, are reignited by her despair over the results of the presidential election. (Creepy masks of both candidates appear in the baroque credit sequence.) Married to Ivy (Alison Pill), a restaurateur who operates a steakhouse ominously called The Butchery, Allie is in an almost constant state of screaming hysteria, which grows tiresome even by the end of the first episode. "We're all uneasy with the state of the world," insists her smarmy shrink, Cheyenne Jackson. Well, maybe not blue-haired race-baiting punk Kai (AHS regular Evan Peters), who delivers a manifesto on fear to the local city council and talks triumphantly of revolution. So are the murderous clowns real, or just a figment of Allie's (and adorable son Ozzie's) imagination? And what's Kai's part in all of the mayhem that ensues? AHS's own cult following will want to know.
Manhunt: Unabomber (10/9c, Discovery): In the penultimate episode of a very strong true-crime series, the FBI closes in on Ted Kaczynsky's (Paul Bettany) cabin in the Montana woods, but can't move in for the arrest until Agent Fitz (Sam Worthington) secures an official warrant, which requires a smoking gun—or in this case, a "smoking proverb." Even though we know how it comes out, the tautly structured hour builds up considerable suspense and high drama.
Difficult People (streaming on Hulu): Funnier than ever in its third raucous season, the comedy of bad manners welcomes Monkees legend Micky Dolenz as himself, who makes what we imagine is a terrible mistake by answering a fan letter that Billy (Billy Eichner, about to appear in American Horror Story: Cult) wrote as a child. In other how-can-it-go-hilariously wrong news, Julie (Julie Klausner) lands a gig writing for a TV show, and her mom Marilyn (the irrepressible Andrea Martin) throws a Bat Mitzvah for herself.
Inside Tuesday TV: Steve Harvey's syndicated daytime talk show rechristens itself as Steve (check local listings), moving to Los Angeles with a lighter focus on celebrity interviews. … The live semi-finals begin, narrowing the field further on NBC's America's Got Talent (8/7c). Can I help it if I'm a wee bit more excited about the eclectic guest lineup that follows on NBC's Hollywood Game Night (10/9c), including RuPaul Charles, Nancy Grace, Margaret Cho and Weird Al Yankovic—names I never thought I'd see in the same sentence. … Freeform's The Fosters (8/7c) and The Bold Type (9/8c) air their summer finales, with prom night busted by ICE agents on the former. … Showtime goes behind the scenes with the Midshipmen, covering A Season With Navy Football (10/9c) at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.