‘Tis the season for ghosts and goblins — and junky ”reality” shows about them. Hosted by a mysteriously well-preserved Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Mysteries, Magic & Miracles (Sci-Fi, Oct. 23, 9:30-10 p.m.) visits haunted houses spanning the continent, from the Long Island locale of The Amityville Horror to Harry Houdini’s Magic Castle in Hollywood. Meanwhile, NBC devotes two hours of prime time to the paranormal with The Unexplained: Witches, Werewolves and Vampires (Oct. 23, 7-8 p.m.), featuring interviews with actual spell casters, moon howlers, and blood drinkers, and Unsolved Mysteries: Mysteries of the Afterlife (Oct. 21, 8-9 p.m.), in which Robert Stack profiles people who’ve come back from ”the other side.” If anyone knows about life after death, it’s Robert Stack, right?
Some of the funniest sketches on The Carol Burnett Show were film parodies — who can forget Rebecky? — so it’s that much more disappointing that her new special, Men, Movies & Carol (CBS, Oct. 24, 10-11 p.m.), isn’t so special. There are a few laughs in this send-up of cinematic romance from Double Indemnity to The Remains of the Day, like when the no-sex-please-we’re-British butler and maid in the Merchant- Ivory parody bring each other to climax with a detailed discussion of dusting. But aside from a pleasant duet with Tony Bennett, Burnett shares the stage with a trio of hammy Broadway musical vets: Scott Bakula (Romance, Romance), Barry Bostwick (Nick & Nora), and Michael Jeter (Grand Hotel). Where are Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Lyle Waggoner when you need them?
Starting with the addition of the emcee’s name to the title, big changes are afoot these days on Ed McMahon’s Star Search (syndicated, check local listings): (1) The show is now taped at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Fla., which means you get to see the spokesmodels frolicking with Goofy (he’s the one with the big ears). (2) The judges are no longer nobodies. They now include such luminaries as lightweight boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya and ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn (To everything, turn, turn, turn … ). (3) There are now male spokesmodel contestants as well as females. (What next — will men be able to enter Miss America?) (4) Men and women go up against each other in the vocalist category (why, it’s anarchy!). (5) The band competition is hosted by ex-MTV VJ Martha Quinn. (Take a hard look, Kennedy — this is your future.)
An inexplicably unreleased MGM/UA film going straight to cable, Radio Inside (Showtime, Oct. 21, 8-9:30 p.m.) stars Texasville’s William McNamara as a recent college grad who moves to Miami and develops a crush on his brother’s girlfriend (Cocktail’s Elisabeth Shue). Written and directed by first-timer Jeffrey Bell, Radio mixes moments of pretentious sensitivity (McNamara has periodic phone conversations with Jesus — yes, that Jesus) with Baywatch-like beach footage. It’s odd but never boring, and Shue shines as a bookstore clerk torn between two brothers. Best known these days as the big sister of Melroser Andrew Shue, Elisabeth proves here that she got all the acting genes in the family.