What makes a good scary story? There must be a convincing villain, a relatable protagonist in danger and unexpected plot twists. American Horror Story, now in its third miniseries installment, indulges viewers while elevating the horror genre with an outstanding cast, suspenseful writing and the perfect touch of sex and camp. And this season is set to continue the trend in a truly bewitching fashion.
American Horror Story: Coven (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Wednesday, FX), as the subtitle suggests, is all about witches. Of course, this is no Hocus Pocus — the series will jump across time and the country to feature modern-day witchcraft, 19th-century Voodoo and the Salem witch trials. In present day, witches are rare and in danger. Fiona and Cordelia (Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, respectively — both of whom have been featured in each season) are recently reunited mother and daughter who run Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, a school protecting witch-girls in New Orleans. Meanwhile, back in the 1800s, Kathy Bates plays Delphine LaLaurie, a socialite/slave torturer who makes her character in Misery look like Mother Theresa, which is especially frightening because LaLaurie is based on a real woman by the same name. Also portraying a historic figure is Angela Bassett as Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
Fans will be excited to see the continued crossover of actors from the first two installments, including Evan Peters (Tate, Murder House and Kit, Asylum), who plays a frat boy living near the school; Taissa Farmiga (Violet, Murder House) as a young witch just discovering her powers; Lily Rabe (Nora, Murder House and Sister Mary Eunice, Asylum) as a misunderstood, swamp-living necromancer and many more.
American Horror Story is so captivating because it takes on not just the things that scare us in a spooky campfire story — ghosts, crazed murderers on the loose, witches — but the real-life horrors throughout history that haunt for ages, like mental illness, persecution and slavery.
Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – Cam’s older sister Pam comes to visit, and as he tries to hide the news of his engagement until the time is right, she has an announcement of her own. Gloria is in denial about her less-than-perfect eyesight — because beautiful women never wear glasses!
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10 p.m., FXX) – Sunny’s 100th episode finds the Gang in the middle of a convenience store robbery, and everyone imagines different possible outcomes. Dee’s fantasy involves Josh Groban (natch), Mac’s includes shirtless dudes and Charlie gets animated with a Pixar-inspired vision.
THURSDAY OCT. 10
Parks and Recreation (8 p.m., NBC) – Now that the city of Eagleton has merged with Pawnee, Leslie and the parks crew meet their neighboring counterparts — who happen to be their doppelgangers.
Glee (9 p.m., Fox) – In what’s sure to be an emotional but necessary episode, McKinley students past and present pay tribute to the late Finn Hudson. Actor Cory Monteith, who portrayed Finn since the pilot episode, died from a drug and alcohol overdose in July.
Project Runway (9 p.m., Lifetime) – The penultimate Project Runway of the season means home visits with Tim! At least one of the final five designers will be eliminated before Fashion Week.
SUNDAY OCT. 13
The Walking Dead (Season Premiere, 9 p.m., AMC) – With the Governor on the lam and the group bulked up with additional members from Woodbury (albeit mostly children and older people — anyone Gov. found unfit for combat), we find the prison in a much more sound standing in this fourth season opener. Several months have passed since the battle we saw in last season’s finale — the crew has set up a small farm with animals and some Morgan-inspired security traps. Expect to see a lighter, more stable Rick Grimes, the emergence of a new threat and a scene that will leave viewers singing, “It’s Raining Dead!” Talking Dead follows at 10 p.m.
Boardwalk Empire (9 p.m., HBO) – Does anyone else miss Margaret? Good, because Nucky reunites with his estranged wife this week before returning to Tampa, Fla. Harrow makes his way back to Atlantic City and Agent Knox sets his sights on Eli after learning the fate of his last informant.
Homeland (9 p.m., Showtime) – Brody is back, but not like we’ve seen him before — bald, weak and in unfamiliar territory. Carrie, who continues to unravel while institutionalized, is offered help from a shady source.
Eastbound and Down (10 p.m., HBO) – Kenny uses his newfound success on television as an excuse to spend exorbitant amounts of money.
CONTACT JAC KERN: firstname.lastname@example.org or @jackern