Journey to the Center of the Earth (Tuesday and Wednesday, September 14 and 15; 8 to 10 p.m.; USA) stars Treat Williams as the Darwin-persuaded geologist who goes underground to find another world of prehistoric creepy-crawlies, “Sauroids,” and native girls with beauty spots; Tushka Bergen as the nubile heiress who hires Treat to find her missing husband and ends up falling in love with him; Bryan Brown as that absent husband, a “schoolmaster” who seems to have been reading Joseph Conrad instead of Jules Verne and has established his very own Kurtz-like kingdom, a sexual Disneyland; Jeremy London as Treat’s nephew Jonas, an anal-retentive Harvard type until he meets the raunchy “Ralna”; Petra Yared as this “Ralna,” a sort of Polynesian wet dream; New Zealand volcanoes, cannibalistic Maoris, and any number of special effects from the usual Jurassic riffraff to healing smoke and missing links; plus matriarchs, gravity machines, dynamite, and a sacrificial altar – and yet, for all of Tushka’s charms and Bryan’s energy and the jam-packing of this mini-series with spectacle and incident, it’s unaccountably plodding.
Not so Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Sunday, September 19; 9 p.m. to midnight; Channel 13), a Great Performance of Eugene O’Neill’s play, adapted for public television by David Wellington from Diana Leblanc’s 1994 Stratford Festival production, with William Hutt as James Tyrone, Martha Henry as Mary, Tom McCamus as Edmund, Peter Donaldson as James Jr., and Martha Burns as Kathleen. It’s a whirlpool worse than anything Jules Verne dreamed up for Theodore and Alice, pulling us down into Freudian psychology and Irish-American illusion, alcoholism and tuberculosis, Catholicism and despair. Out of which: poetry. You will probably remember Jason Robards – as James Jr., the alcoholic son, in Sidney Lumet’s 1962 big-screen film version, and as James Sr. in a previous public-television production – but the Canadian Hutt seems to me superior. And Martha Henry gives even the transcendent Katharine Hepburn a run for her money in the dope-addicted sweepstakes. A painful pleasure.