TV column for Monday, Oct. 12

MUST-SEE: “Fargo” opener, 10 p.m., FX.

a splendid non-surprise: The first “Fargo” miniseries was the
best show of the 2013-14 season; this second one is the best of 2015. Like the
original, it has wit, charm, violence and a knack for the odd and

starts with a scene that's both drolly funny and thoroughly unrelated
to anything else. Then we're in 1979, when Molly (the sheriff in the
first mini) was 6 and her dad was a state trooper. He's working a
multiple murder that will uncover much more – a local crime
matriarch, big-city toughs and a clueless small-town couple,
wonderfully played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. It keeps
getting better.

MUST-SEE II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” debut, 8 p.m., CW.

Rebecca is a high-flying New York lawyer, with lots of money and
little joy. Suddenly, she ditches it all to move to West Covina,
Cal., home of the guy she dated during one blissful teen summer. That
may sound so-so, but wait until you see what writer-producer-star
Rachel Bloom does with it.

makes the fictional Rebecca a richly divided soul, simultaneously
big-city smart and junior-high ditsy. She adds big musical production
numbers, even belting an anthem astride a giant pretzel. And she
fills the cast with other musical-theater talent, making this a show
that should keep dazzling us.

ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

first “Jane” season was a delight. Its plot – a clinic error
accidentally impregnates a virgin with the last sperm of a handsome
hotel heir – was wildly unlikely, in the style of a “telenovela”
(a primetime soap on Spanish-language TV). “Jane” was aware of
that, though, and its narrator kept pointing it out.

Jane's baby is here ... and then is missing. The early minutes
tonight are hilarious; the others are fairly good. Put this alongside
“Fargo” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and Mondays have suddenly
become the centerpoint for TV that is bright, witty and – most of
all – really different.

choices include:

Phillips” (2013), 7-10 p.m., FX. It's a fine Tom Hanks night, with
this true-life drama plus the comedy “Sleepless in Seattle”
(1993) at 9 p.m. on Pop. It's also a night for great movies –
“Godfather” (1972) and its sequel (1974) at 5 and 9 p.m. on
Sundance, “Rain Man” (1988) at 9 p.m. on Starz.

Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), both 8-10 p.m.
Both shows reach turning points: “Voice” starts its battle
rounds; “Stars” switches partners. Last week, Bindi Irwin and
frequent-winner Derek Hough had the top scores; now he's with Alexa
PenaVega and she has Val Chmerkovskiy.

8 p.m., Fox. Michael Chiklis arrives in a big, booming way. He's the
new boss of head of a corrupt bunch of police detectives. That comes
as Galavan and Penguin scheme to be crime boss.

Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. For Sheldon, the big jolt wasn't
that Leonard married Penny ... it's that Leonard actually plans to
leave the apartment and move in with her. Now Sheldon ponders life.

in Pieces,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. After two good episodes, this comedy
had a great one last week. Now Jordan Peele is back as Colleen's
ex-boyfriend, who still lives. Also, Joan (Dianne Weist) questions
her daugter-in-law's parenting; Tim is advised not to beat his
father-in-law (James Brolin) in golf.

9 p.m., CBS. Walter, Cabe and Happy are in a submarine when an
explosion sends it to the bottom. The water is rising; the oxygen
level is falling.

10 p.m., NBC. The clues in Jane's tattoos keep sending people to
strange places. Now that's the Centers for Disease Control, with the
possibility of a global catastrophe.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 11

MUST-SEE: “The Walking Dead” season-opener, 9 p.m., AMC,
rerunning at 11:31 p.m. and 1:01 and 3:31 a.m.

the ferocity of the first “Walking Dead” episode, we saw Morgan
Jones, the first human Rick met after emerging from a coma. Last
season, we saw him following Rick.

he reaches the Alexandria compoundm amid more chaos. Outside the
compound are zombies; inside, the leader ordered Rick to kill the guy
who killed her husband. He did, bringing aftershocks.

MUST-SEE II: “Madam Secretary,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Elizabeth feels like an outsider, overshadowed by the new
national-security advisor. He's a hard-nosed guy and the new crisis –
an American kidnapped in Afghanistan – may need a softer step.

a smart, fast episode, other issues swirl by. One – her husband is
nudged into doing spy work – seems out-of-character; another
(involving their daughter) is excellent. There's a minor moment with
Madeleine Albright (as herself) and some strong foreshadowing
involving the Russian government.

ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland” and “The Affair,” 9 and 10 p.m.,

are shows with almost nothing in common except what counts – great
writing and superb acting. “Homeland” is taut and tense, as
Carrie tries to guard her boss in a rebel-ruled refugee camp. There
are bureaucratic maneuvers and then, late in the hour, some powerful

by comparison, is soft and subtle; we see the same day (plus a
flash-forward) from two perspectives. Tonight, it's Alison (the
superb Ruth Wilson) and her former boyfriend (Joshua Jackson).

choices include:

all day, cable. AMC continues to rerun the previous “Walking Dead”
seasons; that wraps up with last season's finale, at 7:30 p.m. Also,
FXM has the first “Fargo” miniseries, from 2 p.m. to 12:13 a.m.;
that sets up the start Monday of the second mini ... which is the
year's best new show.

Funniest Home Videos” season-opener, 7 p.m., ABC. Alfonso Ribeiro,
the new host, pushes too hard, but that doesn't really matter: Over
25 seasons, some things have been eternal: It's always funny to see a
bulldog try a treadmill ... or a dog leap up and shred the mail as it
comes through the slot ... or people tumble off docks, out of swings
and even out of giant flower pots.

Fires,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It's 1939 and village
matriarch Joyce wanted to close the Women's Institute during the war.
Instead, Frances pushed to keep it going and make it functional. In
this excellent episode, Joyce strikes back. Older women feel rage;
younger women try romance.

8:30 p.m. ET, NBC, with 7 p.m. preview. The struggling 49ers – 1-3
this season and dead-last in scoring with 12 points a game – visit
the Giants, 2-2 and averaging 25-plus.

Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It's time for
the Sipi fair, the only time locals in this India village can frolic
at the English compound. That turns out to be a dark day, complete
with fights concerning an affair and a foreclosure. And there are
bigger woes tonight, as the British start to crack down on rebels. A
strong show gets darker, deeper and better.

Good Wife,” 9:30, CBS. Like “The Affair,” this masters mixed
emotions. “You're being used,” Alicia's husband insists. Her
reply: “Isn't everyone?” He's running for president; she's
starting over, after an election scandal. Tonight, she gets a tough
new case and searches for the right investigator.

10:01 p.m., ABC. As Alex remains on the lam, her mother begs her to
turn herself in.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 10

MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

has been a big year for Amy Schumer. Her clever movie (“Trainwreck”)
became a box-office hit; her cable series (“Inside Amy Schumer”)
won in the Emmy's new category of best variety sketch series.

Schumer, 34, has her first time hosting “SNL” -- one of the shows
she beat for that Emmy – with The Weeknd as music guest. That's the
middle of a strong “SNL” streak; it had a good opener last week
(Miley Cyrus hosting, Hillary Clinton doing a clever sketch), with
Tracy Morngan hosting next week.

MIGHT-SEE: Sports overload, everywhere.

much do sports dominate Saturdays? Tonight, they take up three of the
four big networks ... and that doesn't count National League baseball
playoffs, at 5:37 and 9:07 p.m. ET on TBS.

football takes up Fox (second-ranked TCU at Kansas State at 7:30 p.m.
ET) and ABC (Miami at 12th-ranked Florida State at 8);
there's more all day, peaking at 10 p.m. on ESPN with 23rd-ranked
California at fifth-ranked Utah. Amid all this, NBC adds a 7 p.m. ET
NASCAR race from Charlotte.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Last Kingdom” debut, 10 p.m. ET, BBC America,
rerunnning at 1:15 a.m. ET.

has rediscovered something that Hollywood knew in the days of
swashbuckler movies: Action is more kinetic and exciting (and
disturbing) if you take away the guns. That's true of “Vikings,”
“Game of Thrones” and “The Bastard Executioner”; it's true
here, in ninth-century England.

in a changing turf, as Edward tries to unite England's scattered
kingdoms, against the fierce forces of the Danes. We meet people who
were born English, but raised by the Danes -- Uhtred, now back on
Edward's side and the beautiful Brida, fighting for the Danes. It's a
promising landscape.

choices include:

Walking Dead,” all day, AMC. The new season starts at 9 p.m.
Sunday. To get us ready, AMC is rerunning previous seasons troughout
today and Sunday.

Night Lights” and “We Are Marshall” (both 2006), 6 and 9 p.m.,
CMT. Lest we spend a moment without football, CMT has two excellent
movies telling true stories. “Lights” is based on a book that
followed a high school season in Odessa, Texas; “Marshall” is the
story of a college's first year, after losing most of its players in
a plane crash. Starring as coaches are Billy Bob Thornton in
“Lights,” Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox in “Marshall.”

8 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun from a year ago, turning these tech
geniuses into action heroes. They must rush to recover the stealth
technology of a plane that was shot down in Bosnia.

Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds the team stumped when victims
in Montana seem to have nothing in common. Meanwhile, JJ feels the
aftershocks of hert sister's death; Candy Clark – who had a big
impact in “American Graffiti,” 42 years ago, returns as their

Who,” 9 p.m. ET, BBC America, rerunning at 12:15 a.m. ET. Last
week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m. ET) saw an underwater base
attacked. Now that story concludes, as an alien warlord strikes.

Talk,” 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11:05. Walter (Patrick
Stewart) had managed to escape notoriety for a while. Now Celia's
mistake plunges him back.

the Headlines,” 10:02 p.m. and 11:02 p.m., Lifetime. First is a new
hour talking to the people from “Melrose Place”; then a rerun
meets the “Beverly Hills 90210” people. These are sandwiched (at
8 p.m. and 12:02 a.m.) by the movie “The Unauthorized 'Melrose
Place' Story.”

TV column for Friday, Oct. 9

MUST-SEE: “Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

the next eight Fridays, the PBS Arts Fall Festival” has big-deal
performances. That starts with a splendid hour -- great music, given
the fresh approach of gifted musicians.

Jean Rodriguez's opening “Billie Jean” to Judith Hill's
powerhouse “Earth Song,” Michael Jackson's songs soars. Sheila E.
offers some vibrant drumming and hosts, introducing Jon Secada, Angel
Lopez, Michael Stuart, Jennifer Pena and more. Then everyone –
backed by a chorus and a terrific, 37-piece band – turns “Man in
the Mirror” into a glowing anthem.

ALTERNATIVE: “Reign” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

one level, this is history-turned-soap-opera, with iffty dialog
deliverec by adequate (and telegenic) young actors. It pretends that
France's King Louis and his bride, Mary Queen of Scots, were vibrant,
earnest, healthy and (in soap style) deeply in love. Often, it's
merely so-so drama.

another level, there's Megan Follows. In the three decades since
triumphing in “Anne of Green Gables,” she's done TV and
heavy-duty theater. Here, she's Catherine de' Medici, widow of the
French king. Her son is king and she's scheming with Queen Elizabeth
I. Tonight gives her some big moments.

ALTERNATIVE: “Red Oaks” debut, any time, Amazon Prime.

lives can be transformed, it seems, amid the grown-up playgrounds of
summertime. We saw that in “Dirty Dancing,” “Adventureland,”
“The Way Way Back,” “The Flamingo Kid” and now this amiable
show, a half-hour comedy with the feel of a good independent movie.

doesn't want to be like his folks (Richard Kind and “Dirty Dancing”
star Jennifer Grey), who don't particularly like each other. As a
country club's assistant tennis pro, he samples new worlds. The
result is an upbeat mixture of comedy and drama, with occasional
nudity, drugs and tennis.

choices include:

Masks,” 11 and 11:30 a.m., Disney Channel. This likable new show
has three kids donning superhero masks (and pajamas) for nightime
adventures. Today, they compete with Luna Girl. The show also airs on
the Disney Junior channel, at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and

This is the first night of full play-off action, with doubleheaders
from both the National League (on TBS) and American League (various
channels); see Sports for specifics.

Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. The third leg begins. So far, two duos
– cousins and TMZ co-workers – have been eliminated.

season-openerm 8-9 p.m., NBC. Over two seasons and 23 episodes, this
has been a fairly funny view of 30-somethings in a Detroit bar. It's
been inconsistent, but last seaaon it did two things right – adding
youthful enthusiasm (Bridget Mendler, 22, as Candace) and trying a
live episode. That worked well, so now the entire season will be
live. Tonight, Justin, the good-hearted bar-owner, is about to get
serious with Candace. Alas, Danny offers advice; that's rarely a good

Ken,” 8:30, ABC. If the live “Undateable” isn't amusing you,
switch to this comedy, with Ken sent to a sensitivity seminar. The
writing is blunt and the performances are poor, but there are fairly
good moments at the beginning and with his parents at the end..

Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett is ready to propose to Catherine
(Michelle Borth). Meanwhile, there's a case to probe; a scuba diver
was killed by a gun that was used in another murder.

Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A reporter has been shot during a
ride-along, while he was wearing police gear. Frank suspects someone
was targetting cops.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 8

MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist” (NBC) or “Sleepy Hollow” (Fox),
both 9 p.m.

shows had tough, taut season-openers last week. “Blacklist” saw
Liz – apparently framed as a killer and a Russian spy – taking a
desperate escape route: She vaulted the fence of the Russian embassy,
insisted she really is a spy and demanded sanctuary. Now Red
scrambles to help.

again, things may be even tougher in Sleepy Hollow. A beauty named
Pandora has just reached town ... and she's carrying a box.

MIGHT-SEE: “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

week's season-opener was bizarre: Booth, the sturdy FBI guy, was part
of a heist; he was wounded and his brother was killed. It was a poor
episode, hurt by a ludicrous character (an FBI agent played by Kim
Raver), but it propelled tonight's stronger follow-up.

clings to life, surrounded by bad guys. Brennan (his wife) has
quickly discarded her vow to quit work and stay at home. Back in the
lab, she and her old colleagues face a tangle of clues.

ALTERNATIVE: “Vampire Diaries” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

takes makeovers to an extreme. The sheriff was killed (at her
wedding, no less), others are gone and Elena (the show's hero) will
stay a coma as long as Bonnie is alive. Bonnie, alas, is young and
healthy. And the brother's mom is back, with a house full of people
who are witches AND vampires.

leads to a major change that we think damages the show. What doesn't
change is romance among terribly attractive people. “My best
friend's gone, my mom is dead, the whole town is destroyed,”
Caroline says before a warm kiss. “But when I'm with you, I'm

choices include:

pregame, 7:30 p.m. ET, and game, 8:30 ET, CBS. This one looked great
on the advance schedule, with Indianapolis (11-5 during the regular
season last year) at Houston (9-7). Alas, the Colts are 2-2 this
year, averaging only 18 points a game; the Texans are 1-3.

Reborn,” 8 p.m., NBC. Around the globe, people are grasping for
pieces of their destiny. Noah (also known as HRG) breaks into
corporate headquarters; Miko continues her rescue mission, while
searching for the sword. And after suppressing his ability, Tommy
needs it to save a life.

Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. Alex faces a tough decision involving
newborn twins; also, Jo has been keeping a secret from him.
Meanwhile, Richard distrusts Bailey; Maggie re-considers some of her
choices, after getting an invitation to a former boyfriend's wedding.

9 p.m., ABC. Olivia and the president face some big-time retribution,
as the estranged First Lady brings in someone to make sure she gets
her way. Also, Abby shows skills at the White House.

Originals” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW. Marcel has control of the
French Quarter again, but there's trouble ahead. Returning to New
Orleans are the first three people the Mikaelsons turned into

to Get Away with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Annalise's defense of
siblings stumbles when a new motive surfaces. Meanwhile, a new case
takes the law students to a high-end sex club.

10 and 11 p.m., Syfy. After a 10-month break, this show is back for
it final 13 episodes. Duke's troubles have grown and now the town is
enshrouded in a fog. People panic; Nathan tries to get the power
restored as Audrey grasps for a final way to end the trouble.