'Eleven' revisits unsolved Texas serial killer case

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By Kevin McDonough

Created for obsessive true crime buffs, "The Eleven" (9 p.m. and 10 p.m., A&E, TV-14) recalls unsolved serial killings from the 1970s. Beginning in 1971, 11 young girls disappeared and were found murdered in the area between Houston and Galveston. Some were last seen hitchhiking, leaving their school bus or awaiting a ride from their parents. Despite the notoriety of the crimes, no suspect was ever tried.

Nearly a half-century later, local journalist Lise Olsen and retired police detective Fred Paige have revived the cold case and have decided to follow a peculiar lead. In the midst of the original investigation, authorities received a cryptic note from inmate Edward Harold Bell, serving time for an unrelated homicide. Filled with strange references to government conspiracies, Bell's confessional note was dismissed at the time. Olsen and Paige believe that was a mistake.

Unfortunately for viewers, there is very little surviving contemporary news footage concerning this horrific case. The 1970s was a time when a lot of news was still shot on film; storing film canisters in this pre-digital age was expensive, as well as space- and time-consuming.

So, in addition to interviews with friends of the victims, now in their 50s and 60s, a great deal of "The Eleven" consists of re-enactments, or what the makers of this production call "cinematic dramatizations."

There's an emphasis here on clips of lurid depictions of execution-style killings. Information about the case and its new investigation is doled out in spoonfuls in-between repeated viewings of these shock-value tableaux.

One gets the sense that there's about 15 minutes of actual exposition per hour-long episode. Look for two helpings of "The Eleven" tonight. The remaining four helpings will air at 10 p.m. on subsequent Thursday nights.

• ABC recycles holiday favorites of different vintages. Linus embraces an unorthodox view of Halloween in the 1966 cartoon "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (8 p.m., TV-G). The gang hunts for one of their own amid things that go bump in the night in the 2013 CGI offering "Toy Story OF TERROR!" (8:30 p.m., TV-G).

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Big changes in Bruce on "Gotham" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• Contestants find themselves caught between safety and unconventionality on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).

• A compromised commander gets a second chance on the pilot episode of "The Orville" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

• Fitz adjusts to private life on "Scandal" (9 p.m. ABC, TV-14).

• Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn star in the 1985 adaptation of the board game "Clue" (9 p.m., Discovery Family).

• An awards ceremony allows members of the team to rub shoulders with their heroes on "Great News" (9:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

• Crawling from the wreckage on "Chicago Fire" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Annalise regains her confidence on "How to Get Away With Murder" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

SERIES NOTES

Security concerns on "Superstore" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * The brothers get a sense of Jack's potential on "Supernatural" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Sorting out ethics on "The Good Place" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Jack discovers he's a grandfather on "Will & Grace" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Anatoly returns to Star City on "Arrow" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

"The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) visits Chicago * Carl Reiner, Nikki Glaser and Pokey LaFarge are on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r) * Jeff Bridges, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Miguel are on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Reese Witherspoon and U2 on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC, r) * Billy Joel, Tracy Morgan and Paul Shaffer appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC) * Jim Parsons, Chrissy Metz, Ruston Kelly and Gregg Bissonette visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Michael Keaton, Dylan O'Brien and Superfruit appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate