Worth Watching: A Final 'Modern' Halloween, 'Baroness Von Sketch Show' Returns, HBO Celebrates 'The Bronx, USA'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Modern Family (9/8c, ABC): A Family tradition comes to an end as the extended Dunphy-Pritchett clan prepares for the long-running sitcom's last Halloween episode in its final season. This year's challenge: to see if anything can actually scare Claire (Julie Bowen). For husband Phil (Ty Burrell), that means donning a gray wig and dowdy dress to go all Psycho in a costume resembling Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates (in dead-mother mode). Maybe Claire should think twice before showering? In other Halloween news, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) attend the WeHo Halloween Carnival now that Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) is finally old enough to go to a Halloween party on her own. Or is she?
In other Halloween-related shenanigans, ABC's The Goldbergs (8/7c) pays homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a cameo by Barry Bostwick as Professor Majors. (Could his first name be Brad?) And spinoff Schooled (8:30/7:30c) conjures up The Blair Witch Project when CB (Brett Dier) uses the influential horror film to try to scare his students into behaving at the school's Halloween parade.
Baroness Von Sketch Show (midnight/11c, IFC): The hilarious female sketch comedy from Canada is back for a new season, with back-to-back episodes featuring a dizzying variety of quick-hit gags that score more often than not with madcap fearlessness. The troupe — Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen — excels at fearless physical comedy, including a slapstick riff on texting while nude and finding just the right overhead angle for a more dignified phone pic. (Neither ends well.) These ladies are also exceedingly clever, as in a twist on an alien first encounter that gives you hope for the universe, as long as minds as sharp and funny as theirs are in charge.
The Bronx, USA (9/8c, HBO): In what is described as a love letter to the fabled New York City borough, veteran producer George Shapiro (Seinfeld) returns to his stomping grounds of 70 years ago and finds common ground with the 2017 graduating class of DeWitt Clinton High School. Among those also sharing memories of growing up or coming of age in the Bronx: Alan and Arlene Alda, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Melissa Manchester, Chazz Palminteri, Carl and Rob Reiner and Gen. Colin Powell.
Stumptown (10/9c, ABC): A big cheer to this funky private-eye romp, which was just picked up for a full season. This gives us hope for Dex's (Cobie Smulders) future as she sweats out an interview to become a bona fide private eye. In the meantime, she helps Hoffman (Michael Ealy) with a case, even though his boss (Camryn Manheim) ordered the detective to take time off. Rules aren't really what Stumptown is about.
Inside Tuesday TV: Get your Halloween Eve spook on with the two-hour Travel Channel special World's Biggest Ghost Hunt: Pennhurst Asylum (8/7c), said to be the "longest continuously filmed paranormal investigation in TV history." Five investigators spent two weeks locked inside a notorious Pennsylvanian asylum to look into claims of eerie noises and full-body apparitions. Watch if you dare… Ever wondered how life on Earth evolved after a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago? In a special edition of PBS's Nova (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), titled "Rise of the Mammals," scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science reveal findings from a major discovery of fossils that help provide a timeline for the first million years of mammal life… As Comedy Central's South Park (10/9c) continues its adventures of Tegridy Farms, Randy must deal with daughter Shelly's marijuana problem — not smoking it, hating it.