TV column for Monday, Nov. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“15 Songs That Changed Country Music," 10:01 p.m., ABC.

In past years, Robin
Roberts preceded the Country Music Association awards with a batch of
Nashville interviews. This time, two days before the awards, she
tries to pinpoint songs that triggered changes.

ABC isn't saying
which they are, except that the hour ranges from Hank Williams to
Taylor Swift. There will be performances by Martina McBride, Lady
Antebellum, Hunter Hayes and Kacey Musgravees, plus comments and
memories from Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

After a close call,
Jane's virginity is still intact. The alternative is a hurry-up
wedding, one week away.

That leads to some
quick humor (especially involving the well-meaning priest) and some
dead-serious moments. One bridal-salon scene is gorgeous; another
scene offers heartbreak. It's complicated (in clever, telenovela
ways), so be sure to catch the first minutes, when the narrator tries
to explain it all.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Olive Kitteridge” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., HBO.

Sunday's opening
leaped between tragedy and humor, while introducing cranky, crabby
Olive (Frances McDormand). Now the conclusion sheds most of the
humor, while somehow getting us to like her.

Olive badgered her
son (improperly), disliked his wife and in-laws (properly) and
belittled her saintly husband. Now old age strikes: In some ways,
she's not ready; in others, she's always been there,

Other choices
include:

“Frozen” (2013)
and “Monuments Men” (2014), 7:15 and 9 p.m., Starz. Here's an
exceptional double-feature – first Disney's animated gem, then a
George Clooney film – sometimes contrived, but always entertaining
– about the real-life effort to preserve art masterpieces in the
final days of World War II.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, after all the Halloween-time
commotion, Tommy Chong and Antonio Sabato Jr. finished in the bottom.
Sabato was sent home; Chong – at 76, one of the oldest dancers in
the show's history – has reached the final seven.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's the last “knock-out round” night. It's
followed by a recap on Tuesday and then the live episodes, beginning
next week.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. As battles between the Falcone and Maroni mobs get fierce,
Gordon regrets not killing “The Penguin” when he had a chance.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. With Katrina in deep danger, Abbie and Ichabod rush to
the rescue.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. After an Iranian nuclear scientist is killed, Red warns
that a cunning hitman has been hired to retaliate by killing an
American scientist.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In India, the
once-thriving city of Kanpur is crippled by black-outs. The power
company promises 18 hours of electricity a day but, this film says,
often falls short. We meet Ritu, whose career crashed when she tried
to enforce rules ... and Loha, 28, whose mission was to thwart her,
becoming a neighborhood hero with his ragged ways
to steal power.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Death Comes to Pemberley” conclusion, 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

P.D. James' clever
tale has plunked the “Pride and Prejudice” characters into a
smart mystery. Elizabeth and Darcy are happily married, of course,
but others flounder. Her bubbly sister Lydia married the rascal
Wickham; Darcy's earnest sister Georgina loves one man, but is
courted by another.

Now Wickham is
charged with killing his friend Captain Denny. Other mysteries
involve the creepy woman in the woods and the father of Louisa
Bidwell's baby. Clever twists are laid over well-drawn characters, in
a mini-series that is beautifully filmed and (mostly) perfectly cast.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

After a baseball
break, Fox's Sunday comedies are back and welcome. That starts and
ends adequately: A “Simpsons” rerun (last year's Halloween tale,
with a rwo-headed Bart/Lisa) at 7 p.m. and “Mulaney” (John's
friend Jane disapproves of anyone he dates) at 9:30, are so-so, with
some good moments.

More promising is
“Nine-Nine” and the return of Captain Holt's nemesis, Deputy
Chief Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick). There's a mole in the precinct; Holt
scrambles to plug the leak before Wuntch finds out.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Olive Kitteridge,” 9-11 p.m., HBO; concludes
Monday.

Like the mini-series
bearing her name, Olive is terribly hard to like. She grumps and
grumbles; she gnaws at her saintly husband and others. She pushes a
cliche (the stolid New Englander) to its edge.

But stick with her
and you'll find cleverly concealed decency. Stick with the
mini-series, too. At first, it stockpiles tragedy; gradually, it adds
range and humor. Emmy-winner Jane Anderson's sharp script isolates
four stories from Elizabeth Strout's novel; Lois Cholodenko has
directed a great cast, led by Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and
(in a huge change from her “Ruby Sparks” role) Zoe Kazan.

Other choices
include:

“Goldfinger”
(1964), 6:30 p.m., BBC America. The third James Bond film – and the
first big, glitzy one – is great fun. It's followed at 9 by the
Britannia Awards. Honorees range from Emma Watson, 24, to Judi Dench,
79. Others are Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Leigh and
Mark Ruffalo.

“Bob's Burgers,”
7:30 p.m., Fox. There's really no reason – except for the calendar
– to discard Halloweeen already. Now Fox offers one more story and
it's a pretty good one. Rumors of ghosts prevail; soon, Tina is
dating a shoebox (really) and is considered cool.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Determined to stop Mr. Burns' fracking operation, Lisa
brings in a state assemblywoman (Jane Fonda). Romance intervenes.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the past, Belle needs Anna's help in her
struggle to regain her memory. In the present, she tries to nudge her
husband into telling her where the Snow Queen is.

“Madam Secretary,”
about 8:31 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth takes her daughter on a government
trip to India ... then is separated from her by an earthquake.

“The Good Wife,”
about 9:30, CBS. Matthew Goode is playing both sides of the law
tonight. On PBS, he's excellent as Wickham, the handsome heel who's
on trial for murder. Here, he's the prosecutor who has just found
potent new evidence in Cary's drug trial. That's in an hour that also
adds David Hyde Pierce (the four-time Emmy-winner for “Frasier”)
as a TV commentator who may run against Alicia.

“Revenge,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. David Clarke finally meets Nolan Ross, who used
techno-skills to help clear Clarke's name. Meanwhile, the downward
spiral of Charlotte (Clarke's daughter) deepens.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live," 11:29 p.m., NBC.

For its 40th
season, “SNL” keeps bringing back former cast members to host.
It's already had Bill Hader and Sarah Silverman; now the fifth new
episode has Chris Rock.

Rock was just 25
when he joined “SNL” in 1990; he stayed for three years, ranging
from a Michael Jackson impersonation to creating Nat X, a hard-core
critic. He went on to do movies, produce a terrific TV show
(“Everybody Hates Chris”) and soar in stand-up; now he hosts,
with Prince as music guest.

TONIGHT'S
CAN'T-AVOID: Sports overload, everywhere.

Why have a
500-channel universe, if they all carry the same thing? Three of the
big-four networks have college football; the fourth (NBC, at 8 p.m.
ET) has the Breeders Cup Classic horse race.

Ironically, none
those has a match-up of top-20 teams. For that, you need ESPN, with
Auburn (ranked No. 3) at Mississippi (4) at 7:15 p.m. ET and Arizona
(12) at UCLA (22) at 10:30. Fox has Stanford at Oregon (5) at 7:30;
at 8, CBS has Notre Dame (10) at Navy and ABC, varying by region, has
Illinois at Ohio State (16) or Oklahoma State at Kansas State (9).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “First Blood” (1982) and “Rambo” (1985), 7:30
and 9:30 p.m., AMC.

This is one of the
strangest movie-sequel combinations ever – film that are skillfully
crafted, yet totally different in tone. They have little in common
except Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo.

In the first, he's a
former Green Beret who uses his skills to elude cops (for a while)
after being wrongly arrested. In the second, he's pulled from prison
and sent on a Vietnam rescue mission. The result is
wildly exaggerated, but also an example of top-notch
action-moviemaking.

Other
choices include:

"Transformers
Rescue Bots" season-opener, 1 p.m. ET, Discovery Family Channel.
The animation is primitive and the song is a mess, but stick around.
This pleasant-enough show has Transformers making rescues, not
warfare. The opener has some humor and an island of non-lethal
dinosaurs.

Movies,
7 p.m., cable. For light fun, Jim Carrey's "Bruce Almighty"
(2003) is on ABC Family. For something more serious, catch Spike
Lee's "Do the Right Thing
" (1989)
on USA.

"Hocus
Pocus" (1993), 8 a
nd
10 p.m., Life
ttme.
Some people just won't admit Halloween is over, Lifetime has Bette
Midler and others as revived witches; also, MTV has "Fright
Night" (2011) at 9:30.

"Doctor
Who," 8 and 9 p.m., BBC America. First, a rerun finds trees
springing up so quickly they might take over the Earth. Then a new
episode brings a dilemma in the Neversphere.

"Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit," 9 p.m., NBC.
This
reruns the episode that brought
Amaro (Danny
Pino) back to the
unit. Demoted to street
cop, he handles a crash involving a troubled starlet. Later, she's
charged with statut
ory
rape of a 15-year-old boy; Benson suspects there are other villains.

"Saturday
Night Live," 10 p.m., NBC. This 2008 rerun has Josh Brolin
hosting, with music by Adele.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 31


TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “
Grimm,”
9 p.m.,
NBC.

What
would Halloween be without an Octopus-faced creatue who uses his
tentacles to steal memories? We met him in last week's season-opener,
which brought a problem: Suddenly, Nick has lost his power to spot
demons in disguise.

Fortunately,
“Grimm” has an excellent new character. Trubel (newcomer
Jacqueline Tuoboni, 21) was a tough street kid, unaware of her power
... or of people trying to capture her. She's already beheaded one
villain; now she has a fierce fight.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE II: “Utopia” and “Gotham,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Once
considered a key to Fox's comeback, “Utopia” has been
semi-ignored. It went from twice a week to once to (with the World
Series) nothing last week. So tonight's hour views two weeks of
progress in building a wilderness civilization.

Stick
around and you'll find a rerun of Monday's stylish “Gotham.” A
new drug causes euphoria and then death. Also, Oswald Cobblepot (the
flauture Penguin) wedges into Maroni's inner circle and Fish Mooney
schemes against Falcone.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

Yes,
there are some light choices for families to watch after
trick-or-treating. ABC Family has the delightful “Beetlejuice”
(1988) at 7 p.m. and the disappointing “Casper” (1995) at 9;
Disney has “Girl vs. Monster” (2012) at 9.

Mostly,
however, these are for grown-ups. That includes “Nightmare on Elm
Street” (1984) at 6:30 p.m. on IFC, “Silence of the Lambs”
(1991) at 8 p.m. on BBC America and the offbeat “Shaun of the Dead”
(2004) at 9 on Comedy Central.

Other
choices include:

Roseanne,”
noon to 2 p.m. and 7:40 to 10 p.m., WE. Each year, this show
delivered the freshest and funniest Halloween episodes. Here's a
chance to catch them again, in two chunks.

The
Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week, Whitney Duncan and Keith
Tollefson – engaged, from Nashville – were ousted. Now the seven
surviving duos find themselves suspended above the mountains of
Morocco.

Last
Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike tries to give Mandy financial
advice about her fashion business.

Cristela,”
8:31 p.m., ABC. Cristela's big Halloween-party plans mostly go awry.
Her mom – who hates Halloween and prefers Day of the Dead – soon
becomes the party's star with her morbid stories.

Hawaii
Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. On Halloween, someone is copying the murders
from a slasher film. Also, McGarret must n rescue Jerry (Jorge
Garcia), who's been kidnapped by the counterfeiters he was tracking.

Michael
Feinstein at the Rainbow Room,” 9 p.m., PBS. Feinstein, a terrific
interpreter of the great American composers, performs. Most PBS
stations follow at 10 with a typically flat and lifeless hour of “Art
in the 21st Century.”

Penny
Dreadful,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime. On Halloween, Showtime reruns
the first two hours of this lushly crafted (and sometimes creepy)
series.

Blue
Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. An international felon keeps narrowly
avoiding murder charges. Now Danny – butting heads with his new
boss – and Frank scramble to find more evidence.

Constantine,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a troubled mining town, John meets his new ally, Zed
(Angelica Celaya).

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The McCarthys” debut, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

This is what only
CBS seems able (or willing) to do: Make a situation comedy in front
of a studio audience, with an emphasis on quick, slick jokes. Yes,
“McCarthys” sometimes tries too hard, with blunt jokes that
should have been scuttled; more often, we see sharp lines delivered
by a skilled cast

Brian Gallivan
created this with some autobiographic touches. Ronnie (Tyler Ritter,
John's son) doesn't share his family's obsession with Boston sports;
his mom (Laurie Metcalf) likes that about him, his dad and siblings
are flabbergasted. They're a loud-but-loving bunch ... classic CBS
folks.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mom” season-opener, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

In its first season,
this show had sharp wit, an Emmy (for Allison Janney) and fairly good
ratings. Now it moves to Thursdays, behind “Big Bang Theory”;
ratings could soar.

Christy (Anna Faris)
is a recovering alcoholic who has put her life back together. Now we
learn she's bungled the finances; there's no rent money, so she could
be homeless, along with her mom (Janney) and kids. Complicating
things, she's agreed to help a newly sober friend (Jamie Pressly).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway All Stars” opener, 9 p.m., Lifetime.

Fresh from finishing
its 13th season, “Runway” brings back recent
contestants, with Alyssa Milano hosting. Only two people – Chris
March from season 4, Jay Sario from 7 – will strain viewers'
memory. Three people – Helen Castillo, Justin LeBlanc and
Alexandria van Bromssen – are from Season 12.

From Season 11 is
winner Michelle Lesniak, plus Samantha Black, Benjamin Mach and
Patricia Michaels. From 10 is winner Dmitry Sholokhav, plus Fabio
Costa, Gunnar Deatherage and Sonja Williams. From both is Kate
Pankoke, who was returned by fan vote and became a double loser.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that Thursday-football returned to
cable-only, TV's best comedy is back in its real home, on Thursdays.

“It's the Great
Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” 8 p.m., ABC. The 1966 cartoon classic
(so-so humor, charming characters) reruns, followed by the 1972
“You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.”

“Gracepoint,” 9
p.m., Fox. As this 10-part series reaches its halfway mark, it's
suddenly overloaded with suspects. Two townspeople have hidden pasts
and even the priest is acting wierd. That's part of a good episode
that also pauses to humanize the troubled lead detective and his
colleague.

“Bad Judge,” 9
p.m., NBC. What's worse than a bad judge? A bad juror, maybe; Rebecca
has jury duty.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9 p.m., CBS. As the 12th and final season begins,
Walden has a health scare and vows to get new priorities ... and,
maybe, to become a father.

“Elementary”
season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. Fired from his London job, Sherlock
returns home with a young interne (Ophelia Lovibond) and a problem:
Watson (Lucy Liu), his former colleague, is now a top detective.
He'll need her approval before he can get any New York police cases.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Things suddenly get serious for Asher,
the privileged Ivy Leaguer: The team's client is someone his dad
sentenced, long ago. Also, flash-forwards show what Asher will be up
to on the murder night.