The new fright anthology series "Night Visions" (7 p.m., Fox) further illustrates the decline of the suspense thriller. Faithfully patterned after Rod Serling's classic "Twilight Zone," "Visions" demonstrates just how advanced technical effects, and the graphic depiction of violence and gore have changed the spooky story genre in the last 40 years (and not much for the better).
Just as Serling introduced every visit to the "Zone," "Visions" is hosted by actor/musician/publisher Henry Rollins. Sporting a black T-shirt and any number of tattoos, Rollins begins each segment with a pithy preamble of impending doom. Aidan Quinn stars in the first story, "The Passenger List." He's an air safety officer who arrives early at a jet crash site. In fact, he claims to have seen the jet go down. But as his investigation unfolds, he is haunted by the fear that his daughter may be among the victims.
Directed by Yves Simoneau ("Nuremberg"), "List" is rife with intense scenes. We're shown the wreckage of the jet and the scorched personal effects of victims. There's also a visit to a makeshift morgue that's not for the squeamish. For all of this explicit gore, "List" still unfolds like a classic camp fire story and ends with a "surprise" ending that most viewers will anticipate.
The rest of the tales are equally graphic and similarly predictable. Starring Samantha Mathis, "Bokor" begins with the dissection of a corpse. "Dead Air" stars Lou Diamond Phillips as a scary late-night DJ who doesn't know if one of his callers is being murdered, and "Renovation" stars Gil Bellows as a young father whose behavior changes for the worse when he moves his family into a house haunted by memories of extreme domestic violence.
At its best, "The Twilight Zone" never needed to show violence and gore to deliver the goose bumps. Serling and the other producers of that show knew that subtle inference was often far creepier than blatant depiction.
Future "Night Visions" will air at 8 p.m. Thursdays and feature performances by Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda and Luke Perry. Guest directors include Joe Dante, JoBeth Williams and Tobe Hooper.
Tonight's other highlights
l Monica reveals more than she should about that special night in London on a repeat of "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).
l Rory keeps a big secret from Lorelai on a repeat "The Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB)
l A victim is left for dead on a repeat "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
l Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): the controversial romance between a U.S. Marine and a princess from Bahrain.
l Measles strikes on a repeat "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
l Scheduled on "Primetime" (9 p.m., ABC): an update report on twin teens who have terrorized their foster mom.
l "Spy" and "Brother" are new ... House-bound on "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Wrestling on "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Candid camera antics on "Spy TV" (7:30 p.m., NBC) ... Will's dad (Sydney Pollack) strays with a stranger (Lesley Ann Warren) on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC) ... Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (8 p.m., ABC).