Matt's Guide to Wednesday TV: Halloween Hilarity and Horror, South Park and More!
James Roday, Dule Hill
If you can spot the vampire reference in the line "Let the right ones in, buddy" — from tonight's enjoyably spoofy episode of USA Network's Psych (10/9c) — then you're in for a real treat, as Halloween is played for laughs (more often than not on purpose) on a variety of tonight's shows.
The cleverest might be Psych's guest star-studded comic mystery (titled "This Episode Sucks"), in which a body drained of blood leads Shawn and Gus to deduce a vampire is on the loose. Could said fiend be the new mystery lady in Lassiter's life? She's played by original-movie Buffy Kristy Swanson, so anything's possible. Also making cameos: TV-Buffy alum Tom Lenk and eternal where-are-they-now curiosity Corey Feldman. But the real pleasure here is in watching James Roday (who co-wrote and directed the episode) and Dulé Hill work their way through a midnight movie marathon's worth of horror references, none funnier than when Gus is repeatedly mistaken as Count Chocula when it's so obvious (to him and Shawn, anyway) that he's dressed as the "iconic" Blacula. There's a pretty good Carrie joke as well. (Which reminds me: With Saturday Night Live in repeats this weekend, I sense a DVD horror-movie-a-thon in my immediate future.)
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ABC's sitcom lineup also goes wall-to-wall Hallo-wacky, with Modern Family (9/8c) repeating last year's memorable episode in which Claire's haunted-house preparations go terribly awry. The rest of the shows are new. On The Middle (8/7c), Poor Sue Heck endures another costume fiasco and turns to her dad for advice on getting noticed — the right way — by boys, while Frankie is stuck taking Brick and his socially challenged "skills group" trick or treating. ... Jay Mohr guests on Suburgatory (8:30/7:30c) as Dallas' often-absent husband, while Tessa's suburban-chic costume freaks out her new classmates when it reminds them too much of a recently passed neighbor. ... There's a costume party on Happy Endings (9:31/8:31c), and as usual, Max and Penny (the show's funniest characters) kill it, as he plays "wing baby" strapped on to her new-mom ensemble, which makes things awkward when both find new friends to flirt with. As a reminder of all the failed relationship comedies of last season, David Walton of NBC's short-lived Perfect Couples guests as a partygoer who misinterprets an ailing Alex's Marilyn Monroe get-up. As for Jane and Brad, running afoul of trick-or-treaters as they housesit in the suburbs, they could just stay there for as much as they add to this show.
Taking the holiday a tad more seriously, although with such a high camp threshold it tends to inspire giggles more than shrieks (especially whenever the rubber-suited ghoul appears), FX's American Horror Story (10/9c) kicks off an above-par two-parter featuring a very lively Zachary Quinto as the bitchier half of the ill-fated gay couple who lived in the "Murder House" just prior to the unhappy Harmons. The show is still an undisciplined hodgepodge that tends to stall whenever it focuses on the mopey core family, but it comes alive in spooky flashbacks — especially those involving the house's first tenants, a drug-addled "doctor to the stars" secret abortionist (Big Love's Matt Ross) and his unhappy wife (Broadway star Lily Rabe). As usual, the highlight is any scene involving Jessica Lange as flamboyant neighbor Constance, who this week channels Carrie's Piper Laurie in her overwrought scenes with her daughter Addie. And there's a nifty cliffhanger to boot. This is never as scary as AMC's The Walking Dead, but it's miles more nutty.
Also hoping to evoke goosebumps, BBC America launches the evocative six-part crime thriller Whitechapel (10/9c) as part of its "Dramaville" franchise. The first three episodes form a mini-arc, as an ambitious and well-connected but woefully inexperienced London copper (Rupert Penry-Jones) is given a trial by fire as he's put on the trail of a killer replicating the savage 19th century murders of Jack the Ripper. The mystery is perhaps a too time-honored classic, and there's little subtlety to the shock-cut gruesomeness: "Welcome to hell, gentlemen," the coroner cheerfully announces during a grisly autopsy. But there is potent workplace tension, as the fastidious young boss tries to win over his resentful and unruly seen-it-all colleagues. They're skeptical of the Ripper connection, but the new guy consults an avid Ripper-ologist anyway. When the expert expresses his enthusiasm for "the irresistible siren call of a mystery, the delectable twists of a conundrum ... that delicious eureka moment when the scales fall away and everything is laid bare," we can almost believe Whitechapel is in that grand tradition.
On a lighter note, if you're not already Broadway'd out by this week's Dancing With the Stars extravaganza, Comedy Central's South Park, which has been pretty spotty so far this fall, takes on the Great White Way. Tonight's episode (10/9c) is a much-anticipated collaboration/reunion between Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone and their Book of Mormon co-creator Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), who all made Tony magic together with the mega-hit Mormon musical. The focus is on Randy and Sharon, Stan's parents, who head to Broadway to see all the shows after Randy catches the musical-theatre bug. Could this be the episode that earns South Park a Standing O this season?
So what else is on? ... The World Series moves back to St. Louis for Game 6 (Fox, starts at 7:30/ET). If the home team wins, the series goes to a climactic Game 7 on Thursday. If the Texas Rangers win, it's all over until next year. ... While every other show celebrates Halloween, it's the Fourth of July on ABC's Revenge (10/9c), and the Graysons once again are throwing a party that's bound to be disrupted. The culprit this time is a scandalous surveillance video — of Lydia's violent fall from grace, perhaps? — that drives a wedge between the Graysons and their sinister head of security, Frank (Max Martini). ... CBS' Survivor (8/7c) is touting a risky move by one of the tribes' players that "will go down in Survivor history." The episode is titled "Trojan Horse," which could be a clue to what goes down. ... If Maks thought he had it rough in the judging on Dancing With the Stars, wait until the America's Next Top Model All-Stars (The CW, 9/8c) get a load of their guest judge this week: the hilariously outspoken Kathy Griffin. ... How sweet it is: One of the final three chef-testants will be named the winner in the season finale of Bravo's Top Chef: Just Desserts (10/9c).
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