What's On: An epic ‘Fail,’ a Halloween ‘Simpsons,’ an ‘Outlander’ reunion, a ‘Walking Dead’ war
A critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Too Funny to Fail (Saturday, Hulu): You’ve never seen so much laughter in a documentary as in the interviews with comic greats—including then-unknowns Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Louis C.K. (with hair!)—reliving their disastrously short seven-episode tenure on The Dana Carvey Show, which crashed and burned on ABC in 1996. Intended to showcase the Saturday Night Live superstar to a mainstream prime-time audience, with a foolproof Home Improvement lead-in, Carvey Inc. saw this opportunity as the second coming of Monty Python. “We had hired badass nerd pirates (led by SNL vet and Triumph puppeteer Robert Smigel) to blow up television,” Carvey says. “This show would represent anarchy.” But after an ill-chosen opening sketch featuring a multi-nippled Bill Clinton breast feeding, the show would soon symbolize failure. This hilariously fond remembrance, however, is a complete success.
The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c, Fox): Like Halloween itself, the annual “Treehouse of Horror” trilogy is a tradition you’d hate to outgrow. This year’s is especially enjoyable, taking on The Exorcist (by no coincidence also a Fox series) when little Maggie is possessed by Pazuzu, giving spooky new meaning to “the terrible 2’s.” Later, Lisa discovers a Coraline-like alternate universe animated in stop-motion 3D style, prompting her to marvel, “For a Halloween-show middle segment, this is amazing!” But not as incredibly as the grisly end piece, in which a hungry Homer, left home alone, begins to feast upon himself. And yes, he tastes like donuts.
Outlander (Sunday, 8/7c, Starz): The episode fans have longed all season for: Claire (Caitriona Balfe) passing back through time to reunite with the love of her double life, Jamie (Sam Heughan). After being separated by centuries for 20 years, just imagine the pent-up passion. Things are about to get steamy in 17th-century Europe, and that’s how we like our Outlander.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): To celebrate the monster hit’s milestone 100th episode, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his allies in the Hilltop and the Kingdom launch the opening salvo in the long-awaited war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his so-called Savoirs. It won’t be an easy battle, and the harrowing complications ensue almost immediately, but anything to take the smirk off the swaggering Negan’s face will be a plus for the show. And then maybe we can get back to focusing on the zombie threat.
She Loves Me (Friday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Great Performances launches a fall series of filmed Broadway productions with a charming musical revival, starring the exquisite Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi as squabbling shop workers in 1930s Budapest who don’t realize they’re romantic pen pals. Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel co-star in this jewel box of a show, which produced such lovely Bock-Harnick tunes as “Ice Cream,” “A Trip to the Library” and the soaring title number.
Inside Weekend TV: Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek hosts the documentary Game Changers (Friday, 8/7c, Buzzr), celebrating the 74-year history of game shows, with interviews including the late Monty Hall. … Amazon’s Red Oaks (Friday) cues up its final season of nostalgic coming-of-age comedy, taking us to the summer of 1987. … HBO’s Emmy-nominated Tracey Ullman’s Show (Friday, 11/10c) returns for a second season of sketch shenanigans, opening with impersonations of Dame Judi Dench and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others. … Narrated by the subject before his untimely death, the musical biographical portrait George Michael: Freedom (Saturday, 9/8c, Showtime) profiles the musician with a special focus on the making of his acclaimed Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 album and the court battle against his record label that followed. … The kidnapping case takes a startling and potentially lethal new twist in the fourth chapter of ABC’s Ten Days in the Valley (Sunday, 10/9c) as Jane (Kyra Sedgwick) confronts her ex, Pete (Kick Gurry), revealing a new web of secrets and betrayals.