HBO Miniseries Explores Small-Town Relationships

It’s a familiar tale: A sleepy town’s beguiling picturesque landscape hides the flaws of the people who call it home.

click to enlarge Olive Kitteridge
Olive Kitteridge

It’s a familiar tale: A sleepy town’s beguiling picturesque landscape hides the flaws of the people who call it home. In Olive Kitteridge (Miniseries Premiere, 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO), that town is a coastal New England village, home to sharp-tongued teacher Olive, her friendly pharmacist husband Henry, her resentful son and a collection of complicated townsfolk.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge gets its titular matriarch in a frank and witty Frances McDormand, who we follow over a span of 25 years. Joining her are Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), Bill Murray, John Gallagher, Jr. (The Newsroom) and a solid supporting cast. Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) directs the miniseries, which appears in four parts over two nights (the final half airs 9-11 p.m. Monday.)

Things aren’t always as simple as they appear in placid little towns, and the same goes for the people that live there — especially, in this case, Olive. As biting and harsh as she may be, it comes from an honest, heartfelt place. Like the quiet woods and still waters of the village act as a perceived barrier to the wicked world, Olive also wears her cynicism as armor as she navigates life through love and loss.

WEDNESDAY OCT. 29

AMC Fearfest (Daily through Friday) – From Child’s Play to A Nightmare on Elm Street, AMC is screening all the horror classics all day through Friday, capped off with a Halloween Halloween marathon.

ABC Family 13 Nights of Halloween (Nightly through Friday) – Prefer more family-friendly fare? ABC Family’s got The Addams Family, Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows and other fun spooky flicks throughout the week.

Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – Halloween is usually Claire’s specialty, but this year Phil takes celebrations into his own hands.

Blackish (9:30 p.m., ABC) – Dre looks to continue the Johnson family tradition of pulling elaborate Halloween pranks on each other.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (10 p.m., FX) – The second half of this Halloween special goes behind the mask for Twisty’s backstory. Who will Edward Mordrake take with him to the underworld?

Key & Peele (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Seasonally themed skits include a vampire, a funhouse, a serial killer and evil within the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

THURSDAY OCT. 30

Project Runway All Stars (Season Premiere, 9 p.m., Lifetime) – You know how today every kid gets a trophy? Well, basically every Project Runway alum is an all-star, as evidenced by this spinoff’s fourth installment. Most of this season’s cast consists of contestants from the past two years. #desperate

The McCarthys (Series Premiere, 9:30 p.m., CBS) – The football coach father of a die-hard sports family stirs things up when he elects Ronny — his one unathletic (and gay) son — to be his new assistant in order to keep him from moving away from Boston.

Parenthood (10 p.m., NBC) – Amber — who is suddenly very pregnant looking — steps in when neither Sarah nor Hank can handle Ruby; trouble plagues The Luncheonette; Drew tries to settle on a major and career path.

FRIDAY OCT. 31

Comedy Bang! Bang! (11 p.m., IFC) – The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne arrives in costume, but that usually has nothing to do with Halloween.

SATURDAY NOV. 1

Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m., NBC) – SNL enlists another comedy veteran host — this week it’s Chris Rock — and Prince performs. Hopefully Fred Armisen will return with a special presentation of the Prince Show.

SUNDAY NOV. 2

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (8:30 p.m., Fox) – Jake and Holt attempt to root out a mole while Gina and Boyle try to keep their relationship under wraps.

Homeland (9 p.m., Showtime) – Operation: Save Saul!

The Walking Dead (9 p.m., AMC) – Remember Beth? You know, Maggie’s sister whom she’s failed to mention once this season? We last saw the blonde Greene post-prison ambush with Daryl, only to get mysteriously scooped away in a hearse-like vehicle. This week we catch up with Beth and all she’s been up to since her Season Four disappearance — it involves a suspiciously well-kept functioning hospital. Emily Kinney (Beth) also appears on Talking Dead.

TUESDAY NOV. 4

The Mindy Project (9:30 p.m., Fox) – When Mindy claims to run on CPT — “Caramel Princess Time” — Danny sets out to teach her the importance of punctuality. Morgan and Tamra set Peter up on a date, hopefully at a “menu restaurant.”


CONTACT jac kern: [email protected] or @jackern