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Go Westworld, young man, and grow up with HBO’s newest series

Ed Harris in Westworld (Image: HBO)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, October 2. All times are Eastern.

Top picks

Westworld (HBO, 9 p.m.): Let’s be honest, is there anyone who isn’t interested in seeing how Westworld turned out? Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s adaptation of the 1973 sci-fi western thriller was announced all the way back in 2013, and since then has added a legion of terrific actors and actresses to its roster: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Shannon Woodward, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, Tessa Thompson, and Lili Simmons. (One or more of whom may turn out to be a killer robot, or engage in some genital-on-genital sexytimes.) However, excitement has been tempered by some behind-the-scenes issues—including a two-month hiatus in the middle of production—and the recent broken record of Vinyl proved that even at HBO, excellent casts and years of development time do not by default make a successful series.


In this case, however, it looks like they might. Erik Adams donned the white hat of the pre-air review (leaving the black hat of weekly coverage to Zack Handlen), and finds the world of Michael Crichton and Yul Brynner bridges four decades surprisingly well:

It does so by advancing the ideas and the execution of Jurassic World, Ex Machina, Game Of Thrones, and other post-modern Prometheuses. The new Westworld is an expansive techno-thriller with ongoing workplace storylines; it’s a revisionist western with keen interest in Nolan family pet themes like identity, memory, and entropy. Most crucially for the cable channel that airs it, Westworld is a stylish, expensive prestige drama with a hint of titillating trashiness and a sprawling cast of strong performers, a sign that HBO won’t soon be without an award- and viewer-baiting drama whose setting begins with “West.”

Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz, 8 p.m.): Moving from 1970s sci-fi adaptation to 1980s horror adaptation, Ash Vs. Evil Dead is strapping on its chainsaw and loading its boomstick for season two. Bruce Campbell’s swaggering hero Ash is living the high life in Jacksonville, Florida after the apocalyptic season one finale, but dark forces once conspire to drag him to hell—or worse, his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. Michael Roffman’s looked at the early episodes, and couldn’t be happier that the show’s “tasteless ingenuity” continues to make the show worlds better than expected: “It’s chewy popcorn television, where everything zips by at face value, from the laughs to the thrills to the kills, and once again, Ash Vs. Evil Dead delivers this mayhem with gutsy results.” Our one-word review remains, as ever: Groovy.

Fear The Walking Dead (AMC, 9 p.m.): The gory delights of Ash vs. Evil Dead come as a welcome corrective to Fear The Walking Dead, where no one is having any fun. Chief amongst the misery brigade is Danette Chavez, who gave last week’s penultimate episode the show’s lowest grade to date, bashing it for “déjà vu and boredom,” “a continuous distortion of Mexican culture,” and “characters [who] remain underdeveloped or inconsistently written.” But it looks like Travis might have killed Chris, so yay for that! Hopefully tonight’s two-hour (ugh) finale will confirm that as fact, or at least take advantage of its newly refugee-packed hotel to transform the show into the first level of Left 4 Dead 2.


Premieres and finales

Guy’s Grocery Games (Food Network, 8 p.m.): It’s the latest installment of Guy Fieri’s mad food contests, this time returning to some seasonal favorites in “Halloween Spooktacular.” Tonight, one challenge involves contestants cooking a “mummified dish.” Please, like that’s so hard! Your What’s On Tonight correspondent’s fridge contains leftovers that could meet that definition in an instant.


Blunt Talk (Starz, 8:30 p.m.): Once again Patrick Stewart’s Walter Blunt is ready to bring truth and justice to the airwaves—or at least he’s going to try to, between all his own bad decisions and the personal drama of his show’s staff. We’re just cheered to see that the show remains a contender for our Longest Episode Title awards, with the premiere “I Remember That Time More Like a Movie I Saw Than a Life I Lived.” Walter remembers that time well, but real life probably didn’t have as many Vulcans, or the Borg.

Alaska: The Last Frontier (Discovery, 9 p.m.): Honestly, how much frontier can be left in Alaska after all the episodes of this show? It’s gotta be a finite resource, you’d think.


Halloween Wars (Food Network, 9 p.m.): The season six premiere features contestants building a grand display of witches and warlocks, to be judged by none other than the Mistress Of The Dark herself, Elvira. No word on what role “Diamond” Joe Biden played in getting her this gig.

Madam Secretary (CBS, 9 p.m.): It’s been a bumpy road for Hillary Clinton over the last few weeks, between a (thankfully brief) drop in the polls, a bout of pneumonia, and having to defend herself on a daily basis against the rambling attacks of a fascist half-melted creamsicle. But there’s a silver lining for her tonight as one of her favorite shows returns for its third season, and Téa Leoni’s Elizabeth McCord tries to bring climate change to the attention of President Dalton. Hopefully Clinton can find time to watch the premiere in between sharpening her knives for the second debate.


Shameless (Showtime, 9 p.m.): Season seven dawns on the Gallaghers, and all signs point to an unlucky seven as Frank returns from a month-long coma to discover none of his family missed him. Then again, given said family put him in that coma by tossing him into the frozen river after he ruined Fiona’s wedding, that couldn’t have come as a surprise to him. Once again Myles McNutt is the Gallagher’s weekly houseguest, and he’s just waiting for a reason to bring back University Verisimilitude Corner.

Talking Dead (AMC, 10 p.m.): Chris Hardwick and company (Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, and the ever-popular “surprise cast member”) gather once again to discuss the events of the Fear The Walking Dead finale. As positive as Hardwick is, even he can’t have nice things to say about Chris.


Elementary (CBS, 10 p.m.): The fifth season premiere sees Elementary returning to the deep well of its Arthur Conan Doyle source material, taking Sherlock Holmes’ criminal informer/occasional enforcer Shinwell Johnson from “The Adventure Of The Illustrious Client” and adding him to the regular cast. Johnson will be portrayed by Nelsan Ellis, best known as Lafayette from True Blood. No word if this character will also have a cutting delivery of “Hooker, please.”

Ozzy And Jack’s World Detour (History, 10 p.m.): The Osbourne clan’s father and son have been having a grand old time bumming around the world, sampling its delights and offering up some confused mumblings in reaction. Tonight, they’re back in the United States for some time in Memphis, where they visit Sun Studios and Ozzy gets a gift from “a legendary instrument maker.” It’s a golden fiddle, isn’t it?


Worst Bakers In America (Food Network, 10 p.m.): A lot of broken hearts and upper lips are failing to remain stiff these days with The Great British Bake-Off going through a series of bad circumstances. We can’t imagine it’ll cheer up those who love the best bakers in England to witness the worst bakers in America, but take heart: whatever they cook has to be better than the worst pies in London.

Kevin Hart: Hart Of The City (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m.): Professional wisecracking sidekick Kevin Hart launches a look into the comedy scene of various American cities, beginning with a stop in Atlanta, Georgia. No word on whether or not he can tell us anything Donald Glover hasn’t already covered.


Geeking Out (AMC, 11:59 p.m.): Keeping with the Walking Dead theme of the night, Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg interview the creative team of the show and also have a chance to chat with Kim Dickens. Please pick her brain about the Deadwood film, that’s all we ask.

Regular coverage

Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix)

The Simpsons (Fox, 8 p.m.)

Son Of Zorn (Fox, 8:30 p.m.)

The Last Man On Earth (Fox, 9:30 p.m)

Streaming pick

The Simpsons, “Itchy And Scratchy Land” (FX NOW): We couldn’t find the original Westworld film streaming anywhere, but that didn’t stop us from finding another story of a theme park full of robots who go off their rocker. When asked about the similarities, Anthony Hopkins’ character assured us “This is an amusement park of the future, where nothing can possib-lie go wrong… Possibly go wrong. Huh. That’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong… Here, have a ‘BORT’ license plate!”


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