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PBS’s “American Masters” sheds new light on Edgar Allan Poe. And a marathon of the “Treehouse of Horror” specials on “The Simpsons” brings nostalgia.
What’s on TV
AMERICAN MASTERS: EDGAR ALLAN POE: BURIED ALIVE 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). When Edgar Allan Poe died in October 1849, the editor and poet Rufus Griswold wrote a harsh obituary that helped to define Poe’s legacy as a man with a mind as disturbed as his characters’. A new documentary on PBS, part of the “American Masters” series, sheds light on one of America’s darkest writers, and questions some of the negative impressions that have haunted Poe’s name since his death.
Credit 20th Century Fox
THE SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR MARATHON 6 p.m. on FXX. Since the ’90s, the “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials on “The Simpsons” have offered a violent, spooky take on the animated sitcom. One opening credits sequence from 1997 depicts an anthropomorphic TV ratings symbol repeatedly pushing a cutlass into the back of a formally dressed Fox censor. The rating on its face increases with each thrust. Such moments feel less shocking now (the tolerance for onscreen violence has increased in the “Game of Thrones” age), but are still as sharply clever as ever. Another mark of the times: One story line, from a 1999 Halloween episode, centers on the fear of Y2K.
CAKE BOSS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 9 p.m. on Discovery Family. The chef Buddy Valastro creates Halloween treats, including a cake made with real bugs. It’s “Fear Factor” for baking enthusiasts, and a counterargument to those who might write off extravagantly decorated cakes as “all fondant.”
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THE LOBSTER (2016) on iTunes and Amazon. Audiences interested in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” would do well to watch (or rewatch) the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous film, which stars Colin Farrell as a divorced man at a dystopian hotel for singles, and Rachel Weisz as a radical outsider who helps him escape it. “Cruelty and humor are nestled like spoons in a drawer,” A. O. Scott wrote in his review for The New York Times, designating the film a Critic’s Pick. “Mr. Lanthimos’s method is to elicit an appreciative chuckle followed by a gasp of shock, and to deliver violence and whimsy in the same even tone.”
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971) on iTunes and Amazon. This beloved classic candy factory tale has always had a more sinister side. You can feel it when innocent, young Charlie Bucket is approached by the Wonka competitor Arthur Slugworth in the ashen shadows of his unnamed city’s streets (filming took place in Munich), or when an unhinged Gene Wilder, as Willy Wonka, screams at Charlie near the end of the film. The candy might be enough to make this a great Halloween choice, but you don’t have to look too far below the surface of the chocolate river to realize that this musical classic has demons, too.