Worth Watching: ‘Simpsons’ 30th ‘Treehouse Horror,’ ‘Watchmen’ Premieres, ‘Patsy & Loretta’ on Lifetime, ‘Expedition Amelia’
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c, Fox): Some TV traditions are always worth celebrating, and few are as durable as The Simpsons‘ annual Halloween treat, the “Treehouse of Horror” trilogy now in its incredible 30th year, which also happens to mark episode #666 — get it? That “mark of the beast” is upon a demonic Maggie in the opening Omen-inspired bit, which is followed by send-ups of Stranger Things (Milhouse stuck in the “Over Under” dimension), Heaven Can Wait (Homer’s spirit inside a studly body) and a terrific parody of the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water, in which Kang the Conqueror falls for Selma the Available, muttering sweet nothings like “Fear not, my sultry smokestack.”
Watchmen (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Equal parts dazzling and mystifying, this alt-reality fantasia from Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) revisits the world of the classic graphic novel 30 years later. A race war is brewing in an America where Robert Redford (unseen) has been president for decades, cops wear masks for self-protection, and cloaked vigilantes including Sister Night (Regina King) and Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) may be America’s last hope. Or something like that. Cult TV at its most elaborately enthralling, if a bit overstuffed and unfocused, with a sensational cast including Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr. and (starting in the third episode) a wonderfully sardonic Jean Smart as FBI agent (and former Silk Spectre) Laurie Blake. (See the full review.)
Patsy & Loretta (Saturday, 8/7c, Lifetime): Two country-music legends worthy of their own film biographies — Patsy Cline (Sweet Dreams) and Loretta Lynn (Coal Miner’s Daughter) — take center stage in a touching and tuneful movie charting the Nashville stars’ friendship. Smash star Megan Hilty is wonderfully robust as the outspoken Patsy, who takes the more naïve Loretta (a nicely nuanced Jesse Mueller) under her wing until tragedy intervenes. Who wouldn’t go “Crazy” for these ladies?
Expedition Amelia (Sunday, 8/7c, National Geographic Channel): The man who discovered the wreckage of the Titanic is now on another quest, seeking clues to the disappearance of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who vanished during an around-the-world flight in 1937. In a two-hour documentary special, National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Robert Ballard travels to a remote Pacific atoll called Nikumaroro with archaeologists to explore the land and sea in the region for any signs of Earhart, navigator Fred Noonan and the Lockheed Electra airplane they were flying. Even if the results are inconclusive, Ballard won’t be giving up this search easily, and narration from Allison Janney will provide historical context to Earhart’s life and legacy.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC): As the seasons progress, and focus moves from the existential zombie peril to progressively more loathsome, and tiresome, ogres like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Alpha (Samantha Morton), it becomes harder and harder to recommend this horror saga. But one of the best reasons ever to watch is Melissa McBride as the toughened warrior Carol, and this is a particularly strong episode for her. Still grieving over the loss of her adopted son at the hands of the vile Whisperers, Carol is pushed to the edge by exhaustion and emotion as wave after wave of the undead (manipulated by their enemy) assault the heroes’ outpost. Popping pills that only amplify her mental stress, Carol rocks and is rocked by her latest encounter with Alpha over crossing boundaries. “You should fear me,” insists Alpha. Does she even know who she’s talking to?
Inside Weekend TV: Hallmark Channel’s movie-length Good Witch: Curse From a Rose (Saturday, 8/7c) marks the first Halloween for title spellbinder Cassie (Catherine Bell) and Sam (James Denton) as a married couple. Their celebration at Middleton’s Fall Fair could be disrupted by the arrival of Autumn (Lolita Davidovich), Cassie’s resentful college roommate… CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7/6c) revisits Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue a year after a gunman murdered 11 worshippers inside the building, and Lesley Stahl reports on how the community at large has rallied to support their grieving Jewish neighbors… It’s time for Kate (Ruby Rose) to fully commit to the batsuit on The CW’s Batwoman (Sunday, 8/7c), and when nemesis/twisted sister Alice (Rachel Skarsten) gets a good look at Gotham’s new heroine, her reaction is priceless: “Red wig? And I’m the crazy one?”… The Sopranos‘ Lorraine Bracco hosts HLN’s true-crime series The Dead Wives Club (Sunday, 8/7c), which opens with a 90-minute investigation of Natalie Wood’s mysterious drowning in 1981… A possible Ebola exposure puts Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam (LL Cool J) in quarantine aboard the USS Allegiance, while Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) pursue leads on shore… Steven Soderbergh is among the executive producers of the five-part Starz docuseries Leavenworth (Sunday, 9:30/8:30c), which examines the controversial case of Clint Lorance, an ex-Army lieutenant currently serving 19 years for the murder of two Afghan civilians who were shot on his orders… Another learning curve for ABC’s The Rookie (Sunday, 10/9c) when Nolan (Nathan Fillion) meets his new training officer, Nyla Harper (Mekia Cox), a former undercover detective whose methods aren’t always by the book.