Put down that candy corn and pick up the remote control. It's Halloween, and there's plenty on the tube.
Just about every network TV series is airing a spooky episode this week, in addition to a host of specials _ some of which are not designed for children. (Brace yourselves: Family favorite, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, has been shelved by CBS this year. Let's hope Rudolph doesn't get the ax in December.)
Here's a guide to steer you away from the rotten apples:
GARY LARSON'S TALES FROM THE FAR SIDE (8:30 tonight, CBS):
You love his whacked-out barnyard animals on the funny pages each Sunday, and now he's brought them to the small screen. This half-hour special is a can't-miss goody bag of 10 animated comic strips featuring zombies, cowboys, insects and pigs. Larson's is a bizarre world, one where two eggs groping in a car in a secluded area reminiscent of Happy Days' Inspiration Point can be attacked by a savage housewife wielding an egg beater. Grade: A.
ANNE RICE: BIRTH OF THE VAMPIRE (10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime):
The dark and Gothic writer explores her childhood demons in this chilling biography. If you think Rice's writing is tormented, wait until you learn about her personal life. Juxtaposing interviews with family members with narrated passages from her books, the documentary paints a dreary portrait of a woman plagued by the fear of death and alcoholism. "Anne and I grew up with the otherworld beside us," her elder sister states of their New Orleans origins. "Everyone believed in ghosts." Even non-fans will be intrigued by the story of how a writer, and her pop culture following, was born. Grade: A.
HALLOWEEN (10 p.m. Saturday, CBS): Don't let the kids stay up for this special, which explores film director Wes Craven's nightmares, a Connecticut couple's travails as real-life ghostbusters, the haunting of the White House by Abraham Lincoln and the ghoulish Halloween festival at New York's St. John the Divine Cathedral. Mildly interesting tales are marred by overdone theatrics and host Jonathan Pryce's annoying narration. Grade: C.
Other outerworld occurances include:
AAHH!!! REAL MONSTERS: Nickelodeon unveils this new animated series this weekend. The show follows the life of three young monsters who live beneath the city dump and attend an elite school for monsters. Cute and clever.
15 MINUTES OF FAME: Look closely, that's Ron Sheppard (a k a Joe Mama Johnson), disc jockey for the Power Pig (WFLZ-FM 93), appearing on Living Single Thursday. He'll be one of a party full of DJs from around the nation for the special Halloween episode, part of Fox's weeklong Halloween bash.
WOULD YOU LIKE FRIED BRAINS WITH THAT ORDER? TNT will serve up a weekend of horror films, including the rarely seen The Haunting, and Stephen King's Carrie. The cable network also will feature a trio of Vincent Price films and Dr. Seuss' Halloween Is Grinch Night.
SERIOUSLY SALLY: Leave it to Sally to get deep on Halloween. Wrong. It's just another "Do ghosts really exist?" episode, on the Sally Jessy Raphael show Friday.
WATCH OUT SHAGGY! Even the Cartoon Network has been spooked. The cable station will air a 24-hour Scooby-Doo-a-thon this weekend.
CHANNEL SURFING: If you've missed Q-105's Dave McKay on the radio in the mornings, turn on the television. That's where the former WRBQ-FM 104.7 disc jockey has been hanging his hat since Oct. 3, on a lighthearted show on WTMV-Ch. 32 from 5 to 7 a.m. "It has radio elements on TV," but there's plenty of messing around, McKay said. Witness their treatment of Q-105's Roger Schulman, who reads the news: "We never show his face. We always show bogus pictures of what we think Roger looks like." . . . EARLIER NIGHT WITH DAVE: CBS will air a prime-time special of The Late Show with David Letterman at 10 p.m. Nov. 21.
_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.