Worth Watching: ‘Dark Shadows’ Visit for Halloween, Hugh Laurie in ‘Roadkill,’ Virus Hunters
A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Ghost Nation: Reunion in Hell (Saturday, 8/7c, Travel Channel): For at least one holiday a year, Travel’s incessant obsession with all things paranormal seems justified. In a Halloween night crossover event that hits close to home for someone who has been spending a fair amount of time during the pandemic nostalgically working my way sloooooowly through the entire run of the supernatural soap Dark Shadows, the “stars” of Ghost Nation and Kindred Spirits team up to investigate sinister doings at Rhode Island’s Seaview Terrace. Which, for the uninitiated, is the sprawling 40,000-square-foot mansion that was used as the exterior for Dark Shadows‘ iconic Collinwood estate. Apparently a self-proclaimed warlock did some psychic damage there on a recent visit, so it’s up to these TV ghost hunters to get to work. Could Barnabas be far behind?
Christmas Movies at Halloween: If you’re ready to move on from pumpkins and bite-sized candies, you’re in luck. Hallmark and Lifetime are already busily cranking out the yuletide cheer in romantic TV-movies.
On Hallmark: There’s a Broadway vibe to One Royal Holiday (Saturday, 8/7c), starring musical-theater veterans Laura Osnes, Aaron Tveit and Tony winner Victoria Clark in the story of an incognito crown prince and his mother (Tveit, Clark) stranded by a blizzard in Connecticut, where they soon warm up to innkeeper Osnes; Sunday’s On the 12th Date of Christmas (8/7c) is a more whimsical romance about designers of a city-wide Christmas-themed scavenger hunt.
On Hallmark Movies and Mysteries: Cranberry Christmas (Saturday, 9/8c) stars Nikki DeLoach and Benjamin Ayres as an estranged couple playing nice for the TV cameras to keep the local Christmas festival afloat… Holly & Ivy (9/8c) are the names of the kids of an ailing mother whose neighbor promises to adopt them, possibly with the help of a handsome contractor (Smash‘s Jeremy Jordan — another Broadway tie; he was Clyde to Osnes’ Bonnie!)
On Lifetime: Candy Cane Christmas (Saturday, 8/7c) stars 7th Heaven‘s Beverley Mitchell as a woman in search of a new tradition when the neighborhood known as Candy Cane Lane decides to skip putting up the annual decorations; The Christmas Aunt (Sunday, 8/7c) stars The Cosby Show scene-stealer Keshia Knight Pulliam as title character Rebecca, who heads home to Tennessee to care for her niece and nephew and rekindles a friendship with childhood bestie Drew (Jarod Joseph) just in time for you-know-when.
Roadkill (Sunday, 9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Hugh Laurie (House) stars in playwright David Hare’s four-part Masterpiece drama of political intrigue as ambitious government minister and “people’s politician” Peter Laurence. His success in winning a libel trial can’t disguise the fact that the multiple personal skeletons in his cluttered closet could bring him down. As his frosty boss, conservative Prime Minister Dawn Ellison, Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) is a delight, making Peter squirm as he awaits his next promotion.
The Undoing (Sunday, 9/8c, HBO): Where in the world is Dr. Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant)? His baffling, disturbing disappearance is the prevailing mystery in the gripping second episode of the psychological thriller, which focuses tightly on wife Grace’s (Nicole Kidman) disoriented disbelief morphing into rage as she is brought in for questioning by skeptical Detective Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez). Naturally, the toxic moms at the private school are all abuzz over the shocking murder of one of their own, and the smarmy headmaster suggests that Grace might want to have someone else pick up her son for the time being. You think?
Fargo (Sunday, 10/9c, FX): Desperate times call for desperate measures as the mob war in Kansas City escalates in a diabolically suspenseful episode. Even an outlier like homicidal nurse Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley) has to bake up a new batch of spiked macarons to save her skin. The real question, though, is how far Loy Cannon (Chris Rock) will go after a showdown with Josto (Jason Schwartzman). The family crime boss resists being dragged down to his rival’s animal level, but does he have a choice?
Virus Hunters (Sunday, 9/8c, National Geographic): This documentary special couldn’t be timelier. National Geographic fellow and epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Golden leads a global report with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman, traveling to far-flung locations to consult researchers and scientists who study conditions that could breed new and deadly diseases. Among their subjects: a bat scientist, a wildlife veterinarian who specializes in emerging infectious diseases, a wildlife biologist and a research veterinary medical officer who knows her way around swine viral pathogens. These are not pretty jobs, but essential in keeping the next novel virus from spreading.
Inside Weekend TV: It’s only a matter of time before Emmy-nominated guest host John Mulaney makes it into the Five Timers Club. The Emmy-winning former staff writer is back on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c) for his fourth turn, joined by musical guest The Strokes, also back for a fourth appearance… All six seasons of Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003), the sultry teen soap that helped define The WB in its glory years, begin streaming Sunday on Netflix… CBS’s 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7/6c) sends correspondent Scott Pelley back to swing state Ohio to take the temperature of the political waters, much as he did four years ago, in advance of official Election Day. Polls currently suggest a toss-up in the state that has predicted the winner 96% of the time since 1896… Delayed by sports pre-emptions, Fox finally airs the 31st annual “Treehouse of Horror” trilogy of The Simpsons (Sunday, 8/7c), keeping Halloween alive one night longer… Bounce’s six-part true-crime documentary Dying to Be Famous: The Ryan Singleton Mystery (Sunday, 9/8c) opens with back-to-back episodes, sifting through clues in the case of Singleton, a 24-year-old aspiring model and producer who sought fame in Hollywood with s “Black Entourage” of friends, but ended up dead in the Mojave Desert, his body mutilated and missing all of his organs.