The devil made them remake it. What other excuse can there be for NBC's glossy but laborious two-part revisiting of the Ira Levin supernatural classic Rosemary's Baby (Sunday, 9/8c, concludes next Thursday)? Perversely scheduled to begin on the evening of Mother's Day, this unnecessarily expanded miniseries version owes a huge debt to The Omen for many of its telegraphed shocks.
Simpler would have been better in telling the cautionary story of Rosemary's infamously high-risk pregnancy, relocated here to not-so-gay Paree and a plush flat presided over by a mewling black cat (yes, it's almost always that obvious). As Rosemary, Zoe Saldana is anything but a timid waif, suffering gorgeously while her paranoia and hysteria mounts after she and her ambitious writer-professor husband (Suits' Patrick J. Adams, a bit bland for this assignment) fall under the spell of their exotic patrons, Roman and Margaux Castavet (scene-stealing Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet, the best reasons to tune in). Closer in tone to ABC's failed 666 Park Avenue homage than to Roman Polanski's still-haunting 1968 adaptation, this Baby isn't likely to keep you at night.
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GHOUL POWER: An even more curious creepshow gets underway Sunday with the Victorian monster mash of Showtime's new series Penny Dreadful (10/9c), a stylish but pretentious collision of Gothic horror tropes that in the first two episodes gives little sense of what tone it's trying to set or what story it's aiming to tell. Atmospheric and overheated, it's often as lurid and messy as American Horror Story and almost as indulgent and incoherent, with characters from Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray and assorted other legends of yore intersecting in an occultist brew that indicates how well series creator John Logan did his research, but to what effect?
The casting is similarly uneven, with Josh Hartnett exceptionally uninteresting as an American sharpshooter recruited by spiritualist Eva Green and vampire hunter Timothy Dalton (both suitably hammy) in their quest to unearth a demonic mystery. "Do you believe there is a demimonde, a half-world between what we know and what we fear — a place in the shadows, rarely seen but deeply felt," queries Green portentously. There had better be, or there wouldn't be a show. Even if the first episode doesn't grab you, consider tuning in next Sunday to witness a marvelous performance by rising British star Rory Kinnear as Dr. Frankenstein's creature "Proteus," whose sense of wonder cuts through the miasma of erotica and gore that otherwise typifies Penny Dreadful. But even then, a dreadful twist left me wondering where the show is headed and whether it will be worth two cents when the carnage settles.
DON'T CALL THEM ZOMBIES: The politically correct term would be "Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) Sufferers" for the risen dead who populate BBC America's unnerving In the Flesh, which returns for a second season (Saturday, 10/9c) with the focus still on now-eternal adolescent Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry). His reawakening from a suicide threw his puzzled family and alarmed small-town community for a loop, and things aren't getting any easier as the new season picks up nine months after the first.
A creepier, freakier Resurrection, in which the returned are almost human but just "other" enough to cause problems, Flesh aims high as an allegory of social prejudice and political extremism. No matter how hard Kieren tries to assimilate back into the world of the living — wearing a coat of makeup and painful contacts to mask his reptilian eyes, taking meds to suppress the zombie instinct to attack and devour — he keeps finding himself in the middle of polarized conflict. On one side, the politicians from the "pro-living" Victus party refuse to accept the undead among them, while on the other extreme, members of the radical Undead Liberation Army (ULA) go "rabid" on a drug called Blue Oblivion, organizing grisly attacks on their formerly fellow men, women and children. What is "the nature of the beast," as a local clergyman rails, and who are the actual beasts? Intriguing enough though rather familiar questions, and having only seen the new season's premiere episode, I'm a bit worried that the poignant arc of restless, insecure Kieren will get lost amid the noisier battles in the society at large.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST: Her single-motherhood created a political firestorm, an incident recalled vividly in a 10-episode marathon of Murphy Brown on Encore Classic, which opens with a Murphy Brown 25 Anniversary Special (Sunday, 4 p.m./3c) hosted by the author of this column, TV Guide Magazine's senior critic Matt Roush. The half-hour special teems with terrific clips, including a montage of famous and infamous secretaries, as well as excerpts from my exclusive sit-down interview with the original cast, and a subsequent panel at the Museum of Modern Art that featured series creator Diane English. Among the hits spotlighted in the Mother's Day marathon: the classic "Birth" episode, and the show's highly rated follow-up reaction to Dan Quayle's criticisms of Murphy's "lifestyle choice."
And then there's Maude. Logo is welcoming this controversial Mother Courage, played by Bea Arthur, to its lineup with a daylong marathon (6 a.m./5c to 7 p.m./6c) saluting the "uncompromisin', enterprisin', anything but tranqulizin'" liberal goddess.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: If it's even possible for the clone wars of BBC America's Orphan Black to get crazier and scarier, that's what happens by the end of this week's episode (Saturday, 9/8c) as Sarah goes searching for more answers, Alison lands in rehab after her musical mishap and, never a good sign, Helena is back on the loose. ... The victim in this week's installment of CBS's 48 Hours (Saturday, 10/9c), a Weight Watchers executive murdered by her partner, a Wall Street lawyer, is heard in the desperate last minutes of her life on a cell-phone recording, which isn't the strangest part of this true-crime story. The defense strategy invokes a history of childhood neglect and abuse resulting in an illness called "Intermittent Explosive Disorder." ... Emma and Hook are sucked into the Enchanted Forest of the past in the two-hour season finale of ABC's Once Upon a Time (Sunday, 8/7c), while Emily and Victoria go at it again as Revenge (10:01/9:01) wraps its third season. ... With The Cleveland Show now a memory, Cleveland returns to Fox's Family Guy (Sunday, 8:30/7:30c), but is banned from hanging with Peter. ... Oprah's Master Class returns to the OWN lineup (Sunday, 10/9c) with Oprah Winfrey urging Justin Timberlake to share his life and career wisdom.