The Initiation of Sarah (Sunday, 7 p.m., ABC Family) is the rare horror movie that's at once intentionally campy yet also poignant and scary. It has you laughing, sniffling and screaming at the same time. Is there any cinematic pleasure more divine?
Sarah (Mika Boorem) is a teenage girl with extraordinary powers that make her feel like a freak. That describes many teenage girls (hence the film's poignancy), but Sarah's powers happen to be of the supernatural variety. She and her twin sister (Summer Glau) arrive at a college campus where two rival sororities are run by powerful witches (Jennifer Tilly, Joanna Garcia), each desperate to recruit Sarah. This leads to the strangest rush week in college history, full of shape-shifting, human sacrifice and love potions.
Did I mention that the movie is also a devastating satire of American youth and their headlong rush to conformity? Sarah is a sharp-tongued outsider, bemused by the sorority girls who so desperately want to look and talk alike. 'Ridding the world of willowy blonds is kind of my thing,' she tells a dorm mate. Boorem is brilliantly deadpan as Sarah, and the whole cast finds the perfect tone for a film balanced between trash and tragedy.
Hold on...does it seem like I'm being a little too positive about The Initiation of Sarah? You don't think one of those witches slipped me a love potion, do you?
Gordon Ramsay's F Word
Sunday, 8 pm (BBC America)
British chef Gordon Ramsay did his mean act for the American reality show 'Hell's Kitchen,' terrifying the contestants. In Ramsay's British series, he drops the fascist pose and shows his real personality ' not so much mean as teasingly brusque, with loads of wit and charm. Ramsay cooks for a restaurant full of his countrymen and banters with British celebrities we've never heard of. The show is utterly absorbing, and it also drives home Ramsay's philosophy of food. He asks ' no, he orders ' people to throw away their fast food in favor of thoughtfully prepared meals.
As I watched, I guiltily set aside my bucket of fried chicken. Anybody know where I can get a bucket of escargot Ã la Bourguignonne?
Oct. 22-31 (AMC)
I always look forward to AMC's Halloween-season movie marathon. But this year's edition is more horribly wonderful ' and wonderfully horrible ' than ever. It features the classic Universal monster movies, the ones I watched nonstop as a kid. The Invisible Man (Monday, Oct 23, 5:15 am), Dracula (Tuesday, Oct. 24, 8:30 am), Frankenstein (Wednesday, Oct. 25, 7:45 am), The Mummy (Friday, Oct. 27, 7:45 am) ' I saw them all from under a blanket, peering at the TV through a tiny opening. I scattered tacks in the hallway to stop the monsters if they got in my house.
I look forward to seeing the movies again as an adult. This time, of course, I'm too mature to be under a blanket. But I will scatter the tacks. Hey, maturity is no excuse for imprudence.
Wednesday, 7 pm (NBC)
Tina Fey stars as a writer on a 'Saturday Night Live'-style program, dealing with an overbearing network executive (Alec Baldwin) and an unhinged star (Tracy Morgan). Fey has comic talent, as she proved during her stint on the real 'Saturday Night Live,' but she's way too sober to play 'wacky.' And unfortunately, that's what '30 Rock' asks her to do. She buys hundreds of hot dogs from the corner vendor; she drunkenly leaps onstage at a strip club; she gets conked on the head by falling debris. None of this shtick gets a laugh, because Fey doesn't have a slapstick bone in her body.
It'll be interesting to see how long NBC lets '30 Rock' go on until its own overbearing executives realize that Fey isn't Lucille Ball.
Twenty Good Years
Wednesday, 7:30 pm (NBC)
I'm tired of all the sitcoms about beautiful young people. I looked forward to this new sitcom about homely old people, but it's amazing how fast you get tired of them too.
John (John Lithgow) is an arrogant surgeon, Jeffrey (Jeffrey Tambor) a timid judge, and they've decided to seize the day for the Twenty Good Years they have left. Lithgow and Tambor have been effective in other TV comedies, but they can't do a thing with dumb punchlines about penis size and sperm banks. Indeed, they make things worse by bellowing their lines, as if sheer volume would make them funnier.
'I want to hang glide over a live volcano!' Lithgow screams. 'I want to track gorillas in the Congo! When I think of all the time I've wasted!'
'Twenty Good Years' makes me think of all the time I've wasted ' 30 minutes, to be precise.