By Kevin McDonough
For real frights, Halloween has nothing on tonight's "Putin's Revenge, Part I" on "Frontline" (10 p.m., PBS, check local listings). A two-part report, concluding Nov. 1, "Revenge" is based on interviews with more than 60 intelligence experts from the United States, Europe and Russia, as well as journalists who have been covering Vladimir Putin for decades.
Tonight's documentary begins during the days leading up to the 2016 election, when American intelligence grew increasingly alarmed by Russian cyber activity that appeared aimed at tampering with the Nov. 8 vote, actions that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described as "warlike."
The balance of "Revenge" surveys Putin's rise to power since 2000 and his increasing distrust of the United States. As a KGB officer in 1989, he looked on with horror at crowds gathering in the streets of Dresden, East Germany, as the Communist regime collapsed and Moscow failed to come to its aid.
After he took power and trampled on media and political opponents, Putin suspected Western ties to any dissident groups either in Russia, or in former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia.
Putin's distrust of the United States only grew when the George W. Bush administration pursued regime change in Iraq and eventually killed Saddam Hussein and his sons. To experts here, Putin saw himself as the ultimate target of such personalized overthrows. After Obama became president, he saw American conspiracies at work in the Arab Spring and was personally repulsed by the brutal murder of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's seemingly callous reactions to his death.
Part II will expand upon Putin's personal obsession with Clinton and how it contributed to his decision to launch a politically motivated cyber assault on the U.S. in 2016.
• There appears to be a law dictating that every sitcom must have a Halloween episode. ABC complies willingly and dedicates its four-comedy lineup to holiday frights.
Viewers may be surprised to note that "The Goldbergs" (8 p.m., TV-PG) has reached the 100-episode milestone already. Time flies when you're stuck in the 1980s. In tonight's episode, arguments about "Star Trek" and costumes loom large.
On "Speechless" (8:30 p.m., TV-PG), a batch of old candy gives the kids vivid dreams filled with frightful imagery. An argument about Michael Jackson costumes ensues.
For the entire run of its nine seasons, "Modern Family" (9 p.m., TV-PG) has emphasized Phil and Claire's competitiveness over Halloween displays. Tonight, they begin to wonder if they've always taken things too far, and worse, if others may not have really appreciated, or even noticed, their efforts.
On "American Housewife" (9:30 p.m., TV-PG), the family receives a gift and a note with friendly advice, a passive-aggressive Halloween tradition peculiar to their town.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• Otters cavort on "Nature" (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings).
• A creature seeks comfort food on the premiere of "Massive Monster Mayhem" (8 p.m., Nicktoons, TV-Y7).
• The 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G) extols the links between dogs and people.
• "NOVA" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) looks for evidence of a giant volcano that plunged Europe into darkness during medieval times.
• A drug bust exposes a child trafficking ring on "Chicago P.D." (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Fake news and intelligence sharing on "Designated Survivor" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Red snags a wanted terrorist on "The Blacklist" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Archie shows initiative on "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * An ambassador won't evacuate a country in chaos on "SEAL Team" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * A disoriented woman reopens an old case on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * A charity function celebrates a lost era on "Dynasty" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Morgan returns on "Criminal Minds" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Maggie Gyllenhaal appears on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Paul Reiser, Abbi Jacobson and JD McPherson are booked on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Expect Hugh Laurie, Gretchen Carlson, Adam Savage and Michael Stevens on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Jessica Alba, JB Smoove and Kevin Delaney on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Megyn Kelly, Nathan Fielder, Colton Dunn and Sonny Emory visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) * Anna Wintour and Everything Everything appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate