Tuesday TV Review: Halloween High Jinks, a Covert Director

TV Guide

Lucas Neff and Shannon Woodward | Photo Credits: Patrick Wymore/Fox

Alert to Great Pumpkin fans: You'll need to be almost as patient as Linus for this year's annual showing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which ABC is saving for Halloween night itself, at 8/7c, kicking off Wednesday's great lineup of comedy (though considerably less great without The Middle in the equation). But unlike Linus, you will get your payoff, one considerably more satisfying than the rock Charlie Brown always ends up with after trick or treating.

Are there any timeless classics among Tuesday's Halloween sitcom treats? Perhaps not, but here are a few good reasons to watch (if storm coverage subsides):

Fox's entire two-hour comedy block is Halloween themed, and to quote Virginia Chance (Martha Plimpton) of the delirious Raising Hope (8/7c): "I think we're on the good side of weird here." The fabulous side, to be exact, when husband Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and son Jimmy (Lucas Neff) start frequenting the local gay scene — who knew? — so Jimmy can get pointers on how to be more comfortable around Sabrina's gay buddies, who have a proposition that could earn them a cameo on The New Normal (yes, it involves babies). Watching "super-gay-curious" Burt fly his freak flag is, as always, worth the price of admission. But the high point comes when the gay couple wonders, "Who'd have a child without doing the research?" and Jimmy responds: "Maybe someone who's prepared to make a series of hopefully entertaining mistakes." Sounds like the basis of a pretty funny series to me.

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The biggest laughs on Ben and Kate (8:30/7:30c) involve Kate's (Dakota Johnson) utter ineptitude when it comes to letting her hair down at a "hot neighbor guy's" Halloween party. Before the episode ends, sparks will fly with a single dad on the block, winningly played by The Finder's Geoff Stults. And Ben (Nat Faxon), who spends much of the episode tripping on ill-gotten treats from Amsterdam, makes a profoundly timely observation: "Why do they call fun size fun size when full size is the fun size?" Put that in your Snickers and chew it.

Fox's most endearingly wacky comedy, New Girl (9/8c), finds Jess (Zooey Deschanel) working at a haunted house, spooked by her deepening feelings for Dr. Sam (David Walton), while Nick (Jake M. Johnson) awkwardly rekindles an old college crush and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) pesters Cece (Hannah Simone) to the point that she utters the immortal words: "Get off my horse, Schmidt!" This episode may be the highlight of the night. (The Mindy Project, at 9:30/8:30c, was not available for preview.)

Elsewhere on network TV's busiest night for comedy, NBC's The New Normal (10:30/9:30c) — pushed back an hour because of (sigh) an expanded version of The Voice — celebrates "gay Christmas" (a gag also used on Raising Hope) with Bryan (Andrew Rannells) trying to bully everyone into doing a very Honey Boo Boo Halloween. Helping his transformation into Big Momma June: George Takei as a makeup artist who figures, "If I could make Bea Arthur pass as a woman..." The episode becomes a parable about identity and self-pride — "You don't ever have to be someone you don't want to be" — and a reaffirmation of this newfangled freaky family, which grows by one before it's over. Not counting Nana (Ellen Barkin), who makes a grand entrance as a beloved sitcom character rightly described by the precocious Shania (Bebe Wood) as "the sharp-tongued comic relief... audiences didn't know whether to love her or hate her." True then, true now.

ABC's Halloween sitcom entry is the bitingly clever Don't Trust the B--- in Apartment 23 (9:30/8:30c), in which Chloe's (Krysten Ritter) annual "trick," targeting an ill-fated beau she has primed for psychological destruction, takes an unexpected twist, while June (Dreama Walker) looks on as the "supporting player" she so desperately doesn't want to be.

AFFAIR OF THE HEART: What can't Auggie do? We're talking, of course, about Christopher Gorham, the charismatic co-star of USA Network's Covert Affairs  (10/9c), whose character of Auggie Anderson is the moral spine and sympathetic heart of this engaging spy thriller, one of USA's best. Gorham does double duty by deftly directing this week's pivotal episode, which is less about the mission du jour that what it reveals about the layers of tension and emotional estrangement among the CIA team. "Complicated people have complicated relationships," an unwilling mark declares to Annie (Piper Perabo), who has spent all season flirting dangerously with passion on the job, leading Joan (Kari Matchett) to once again accuse the young agent of making decisions "driven by emotional attachment" — this time to her Mossad friend Eyal (Oded Fehr).

While Annie once again puts her career on the line to follow her gut, or is it her heart, she is forced to rethink her loyalty to Joan, whose own conflict of self-interest with husband/boss Arthur (Peter Gallagher) is strained by recent events. And Auggie? He's still everyone's favorite confidant and support system, but even he resists going the extra mile when someone from his romantic past re-enters the picture. By the end of this episode, just about everyone is full of regret — except, I'm betting, for Gorham, who scores a win with his directorial debut. Nicely played, Auggie.

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