Some milestones can't help but make a longtime TV viewer feel a bit long in the tooth. Such is the case this Sunday, as Fox's The Simpsons marks a full quarter-century of spooky satire with its 25th annual "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween trilogy (8/7c), which strikes a nostalgic chord from its opening fanfare, echoing the classic (and still-missed) theme from Johnny Carson's Tonight Show — with a macabre twist, naturally.
From there, things just get blissfully silly, per usual, with the first vignette sending prankster Bart and bystander Lisa to the ultimate detention room: Hell. And guess who fits right in? A parody of A Clockwork Orange is somewhat less successful, as it spirals into a patchwork of Stanley Kubrick-inspired gags that becomes so esoteric, one character has to admit, "Even I forget what this is a reference to." The climax evokes the movie The Others, a mere pretext to set up the episode's most inspired stunt: confronting the Simpsons with the more crudely drawn and voiced version of their animated selves as they first appeared within The Tracey Ullman Show in Fox's earliest days. How far they, we and Fox have come. Although in some ways, not so much, really.
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MUSICAL ROAD TRIP: "I hear memories," says Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl of the creative process that informs each illuminating pit stop along HBO's Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways (Friday, 11/10c), an eclectic and enthralling documentary travelogue that follows the band on a musical journey to explore the rich cultural heritage of eight iconic music meccas. "There's something about a city that influences the way people play music in that city," Grohl reflects, and to prove it, the musicians record a new song (pretty much written on the spot) in a legendary studio in each location.
First stop: Chicago, with its deep history of influences from the blues (Buddy Guy is on hand to share colorful anecdotes) to punk rock. Grohl immerses the viewer in the city's vivid musical past, taking inspiration to write the first song on the band's new album: "Something From Nothing," recorded in producer Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studios, with Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen sitting in for the session. The itinerary includes Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin and Seattle, where Foo Fighters got its start 20 years ago. As history lessons go, Sonic Highways rocks.
THEY'LL BE BACK: Two of the summer's most distinctive series wrap their first season this weekend — each renewed, thankfully, for a second — and even with shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Freak Show wreaking havoc elsewhere on the cable spectrum, you'll be hard pressed to find a more harrowing hour than the season finale of Cinemax's gritty and graphic 1900s medical drama The Knick (Friday, 10/9c). Clive Owen's commanding performance as the brilliant but drug-ravaged Dr. Thackery reaches new heights — or is that depths — of deranged paranoia as he desperately tries to best a rival doctor in the pioneering study of blood transfusion. His reckless behavior could threaten his career, possibly even his life. And the embattled, under-funded Lower Manhattan hospital where he toils isn't in much better shape.
The intrigues in WGN America's Manhattan are heightened by the high stakes of creating an A-bomb during wartime, in this atmospheric drama set in the '40s hotbed of Los Alamos, New Mexico. The finale focuses on its two genius protagonists, the beleaguered Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) and upstart whiz-kid Charley Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman), and I'm thrilled that their urgent mission hasn't been cut short.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: An American classic receives a bold interpretation from the San Francisco Opera in the PBS Arts Fall Festival's presentation of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (Friday, 9/8c, check tvguide.com listings), with Eric Owens and Laquita Mitchell in the title roles. ... Like a distaff version of his deservedly better-known Misery, Lifetime's distasteful adaptation of Stephen King's novella Big Driver (Saturday, 8/7c) squanders the considerable star presence of Maria Bello as a mystery writer whose back-road detour turns ugly — torture-porn ugly — setting up an uninspired and predictable revenge scenario in which she's egged on by one of her own fictional creations (a similarly wasted Olympic Dukakis). ... A more traditional sort of horror, of the evil-doll variety, threatens the likes of Jaime Pressly in Syfy's Finders Keepers (Saturday, 9/8). ... And just when you think CBS's The Good Wife (Sunday, 9/8c) couldn't get any better or juicier, look who turns up to face off against Alicia in court on a sex-discrimination case: Emmy winner Carrie Preston as deceptively quirky Elsbeth Tascioni, this time teamed with Jill Hennessy's high-powered Rayna Hecht.