TV column for Saturday, Jan. 13


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

Sam Rockwell hosts,
six days after a big night at the Golden Globes. He was named best
supporting actor, in the terrific “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,
Missouri” ... which also won for best drama movie, actress (Frances
McDormand) and script (Martin McDonagh, who also directed).

And yes, Rockwell
does comedy; in his breakthrough role, he played an offbeat version
of Chuck Barris, working as a spy. Now it's his first turn as host;
Halsey has her first time as music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC; 8:15 p.m., CBS.

After getting a week
off, the two conference leaders start their title push.

The Eagles host the
Falcons ... who controlled the ball most of the time in last week's
win over the Rams. Then the Patriots host the Titans, who came from a
21-3 halftime deficit to upset the Chiefs, 22-21. The winners will
face Sunday's winners, for spots in the Super Bowl.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Flushed Away” (2006), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Ever since Charles
Dickens' time, the British have been good at culture clashes and at
instant changes of status: So here's another: An upscale mouse gets
flushed down the drain; scrambling to get home, he must link with a
sewer rat.

Yes, that's
animated. Lots of classy British and Australian actors -- Kate
Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, David Suchet, Bill Nighy --
provide the voices.

Other choices
include:

More animation, all
day. Freeform starts this with the clever “Cars” films at 12:05
(2006) and 2:40 p.m. (2011). It follows with “Hercules” (1997) at
5:10, the lovely “Up” (2009) at 7:15 and “Ratatouille” (2007)
-- yes, another rat with high aspirations -- at 9:25. Disney has the
“Tangled” movie (2010) at 7 and 9:35 p.m., sandwiching the series
at 8:40. FX has “Book of Life” (2014) at 2, “Hotel
Transylvania“ (2015) at 4, “Despicable Me” (2013) at 6 and
“Minions” (2015) at 8 and 10.

“The Four,” 8-10
p.m., ABC. Here's a quick rerun of Thursday's episode, the second in
a six-week run.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. Nick Offerman – whose wife (Megan Mullaly)
co-stars – plays a charismatic guy who stirs lust from both Will
and Grace. Also in this rerun, Karen (Mullaly) and Jack seek medical
help, after a commercial jingle is stuck in their heads.

“Bullitt”
(1968), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Some people remember this for
Steve McQueen's work as the consummate loner cop. Others remember it
for one of the first of the great car chases.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. It's time for crackdowns, in this rerun: Dina asks
Cheyene for help in policing social-media accounts, after a video
goes Online. Also, Glenn suspects Mateo of fraud.

Movies, 9 p.m.,
cable. On the heavy side is Showtime's “The Girl on the Train”
(2016). On the light side, Hallmark's new “Frozen in Love” has
two strangers needing image makeovers.

“The Vet Life”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Animal Planet. This series about Texas
veterinarians was nudged in serious directions by Hurricane Harvey.
Tonight, the vets deal with the effects on animals.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Gershwin Prize,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

Here is some truly
great musical television. Tony Bennett is honored, in a night that
has short films, no speeches and superb music.

There are gorgeous
duets early (Josh Groban and trumpeter Chris Botti) and late (Stevie
Wonder and Gloria Estefan). There are familiar stars – Vanessa
Williams, Michael Buble, Savion Glover, Brian Stokes Mitchell –
plus strong moments from emerging singers Lukas Nelson (Willie's
son), 29, and We McDonald, 18. Then Bennett – still in great voice
at 91 – wraps up his own tribute.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC.

The first season –
with a young version of Bryan Mills, the hero Liam Neeson played in
the movies – had only modest success. Instead of dumping the show,
NBC has rebuilt it.

Now Bryan (Clive
Standen) is in a secret Mexican prison, where brutal fights happen
daily. Things can't get any worse ... but do, when he and a young
migrant girl are taken by human traffickers. Back at headquarters,
his boss (Jennifer Beals) gets powerful new software that might help
find him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Lately, Rebecca's
obsessive nature has ruled (and ruined) her life. Now she's sort of
obsessed with shedding obsessions. She even fantasizes the show's
nine top characters combining to sing the zesty message: “Without
love, you can save the world.”

Alas, Rebecca isn't
good at saving anything, including a friend's struggling
party-planning business. In a fairly funny hour, she leaves her
everyone struggling. That include three hunky guys, delivering the
topless (and unconvincing) musical message: “Fit, hot guys can have
fun too;”

Other choices
include:

Streaming shows, any
time. There have been plenty of rock-biography movies, but how about
a polka biography? Jack Black plays Jan Lewan,who was famous and
jailed, in “Polka King.” That arrives today on Netflix, as does
the second half of the “Disjointed” season, with Kathy Bates
trying to re-launch her pot business. Also, Amazon starts a sci-fi
anthology, “Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.”

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. The team has a lot of internal disputes now, but it tries
to put them aside. After all, nuclear warheads are missing. This is
considered a major problem.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox, Three tough challenges are packed into the hour,
including this one: Taste a dish (without being told what's in it)
and then re-create it.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Old relationships return: Jack heads to his class reunion,
hoping to confront the guy who beat him for Homecoming king. Mac is
competing with his fomer girlfriend (Ashley Tisdale), now a CIA
operative, in a robotics contest; then he helps her when she's
hacked.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Grover (Chi McBride) gets an intensely personal moment,
dealing with a man who is threatening suicide.

Sci-fi shows, 9 p.m.
On ABC's “Agents of SHIELD,” the team is finally back together
... and promptly faces an undefeated Kree warrior. That goes against
Fox's rerun of the “X-Files” season-opener. Focusing on the
show's overall arc, the hour has rich, heightened dialog, but no real
ending. And the Syfy channel? At 8 p.m., it has a marathon of the
clever cartoon “Futurama.”

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Anthony, who does detective work for Erin, has been
shot. Now she asks her brother Danny – who happens to be Anthony's
enemy – fo find out who did it. Meanwhile, Jamie's in the middle of
a dangerous stand-off and Nicky prepares to take the police exam.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Four,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Last week's opener
saw two of the top four singers toppled. Elanese Lansen lost to
16-year-old Zhavia, Blair Perkins lost to Saeed Renaud. Lex Lu
survived and Ash Minor wasn't challenged.

It was a noisy,
hype-filled night that finally fulfilled a Simon Cowell prophesy.
Fifteen years ago, Cowell predicted the “American Idol”
contestants would be competitive and back-stabbing; instead, most
were young, small-town kids who seemed to like each other. But “Four”
has people with more of a big-city, hyper-competitive mood. Amid much
commotion, strident, strutting attitudes prevailed.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-TRY:
“Project Runway All Stars,” 9 p.m., Lifetime.

While Fox was
introducing its flashy/splashy “Four” last week, Lifetime
launched a “rookies vs. vets” notion. That hour reruns at 8 p.m.,
followed by a new round that's all about “distressed” fashions.

As it turns out,
these “rookies” have lots of experience. Two (Amanda Valentine
and Kelly Dempsey) were runners-up in a regular “Runway”; others
finished third, fourth or fifth. Still, none has done an all-star
edition; the vets have, finishing as high as third (Helen Castillo,
Ken Laurence) among all-stars.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Young Sheldon,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A serious issue is
wrapped up here in waves of humor. Sheldon – the 9-year-old genius
– has discovered Dungeons & Dragons. He's playing it with his
two friends (one smart, one not). Then his mother spots a devil in
the game and feels it's time for religious intervention.

Sheldon refuses; his
mom insists; in 1980s Texas, church usually prevails. The show isn't
as funny as “Big Bang Theory” (with the grown-up Sheldon), but
this episode pushes for some good laughs.

Other choices
include:

Critics Choice
Awards, 8-10 p.m., CW. Four days after the Golden Globes, we get the
next round. Up for best movie are three chunks of 20th-century
history (“The Post,” “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour”) and a
great batch of indie-type films -- “Lady Bird,” “The Big Sick,”
“Get Out,” “The Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,”
“The Florida Project” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,
Missouri.”

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Right before young Sheldon struggles with
religion, the old one boots Amy out so he can work alone ... then
gets surprising help from Penny.

“The Lego Movie,”
8-10 p.m., Nickelodeon. This is a comedy gem; even the songs are
clever. Other movies are “Pitch Perfect 2” (2015) at 8 p.m. on FX
and the classic “Ghost” (1990) at 9 p.m. on Starz.

“Truth & Lies:
The Tonya Harding Story,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. The bizarre story –
with schemes, goons and swirling theaters -- is in movie theaters.
Here's a documentary look.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Christy's long-distance relationship with Patrick (Steven Weber)
is stumbling, so she fits an old boyfriend. Also, her mom – not
good at self-denial – tries to give up coffee.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Jack's first day as a Lyft driver doesn't go
well: He hits his odd neighbor (Molly Shannon). Also, Grace's old
friend Larry announces he's in love with Will..

“Making a Model”
debut, 10 p.m., Lifetime. As soon as the second “Runway” round
ends, viewers can try this show. Yolanda Hadid has seen her daughters
(Gigi and Bella) become top models. Now she trains six aspiring
models, who share an apartment with each other ... and with their
moms.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Alone Together” debut, 8:30 p.m., Freeform.

People keep assuming
Esther and Benji are a couple, which she corrects. “Just because
we're both small and undesirable doesn't mean we're dating,” she
says.

She stays at his
place, because ... well, he has a great home (his parents' house) and
she has no home. That puts them near tall beauties, which doesn't
help her tattered self-esteem. These two are cleverly written and
played by Esther Povitsky (who also plays Maya, the nerdy secretary,
on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Benji Aflalo. They're instantly
likable ... and, despite what she says, kind of desirable.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grown-ish,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

This amiable
“Black-ish” spin-off debuted last week, zipping Zoey off to
college. Now the second week re-affirms what we'd suspected: This is
smart, Zoey is charming and teen life is complicated.

It was simpler, in
the days when a phone produced a conversation. Now this text
generation debates the meaning of “hook-up” and the correct
response to “U up?” Zoey has a text meltdown ... and then a funny
text/skype tangle. It's a fun and youthful episode, a perfect lead-in
for “Alone Together.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The X-Files,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Mulder and Scully
have sort of seen it all ... but not this: Richard Langly (one of the
Lone Gunmen) has sent them a cryptic video message ... 15 years after
his death.

Is this a trick? Or
a ghost? Or something much deeper and more “X-Files”? Stick with
it and you'll be amply rewarded. Yes, the bad guys seem too easy to
defeat ... and yes, there's some time spent on the show's bloated
central mythology. But mostly, this is the sort of fresh idea we
expect from X-folks.

Other choices
include:

“Howie Mandel
Comedy Gala,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW. Last year's special was so-so, with
several people (including Mandel) failing to bring strong material.
Still, we're hopeful because some of tonight's people – Ron
Funches, Cristela Alonzo, John Heffron – have done great stand-up
work.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. Someone is using his powerful position to sell sensitive
information. But when the task force goes after him, Ressler is in
danger of being exposed.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. Any logical teen dreads the moment her boyfriend has
dinner with her family. Now it's Erica's turn ... and, of course,
things quickly fall apart.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This thrives on moments when all the characters are
together. Now there's a serious reason for it: Gloria rushes Phil to
the hospital, then tries to get the whole family there.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. There are still plenty of big questions and mysteries out there
– especially in outer space. Janna Levin offers a two-hour look at
what science knows (so far) about black holes.

“The Magicians”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy. The second season ended ... well,
chaotically. Ember, the god of chaos, killed his twin Umber ... and
then was killed by Quentin. In the aftermath, the parents of the gods
shut down most of the magic in the world; also, fairies invaded
Fillory. Now Quentin and Julia try to bring magic back, while Eliot
and Margo chafe at their fairy-filled world.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Burgess has had no experience working with a
confidential informant. Her first effort – trying to nail a pimp
who recruits at a women's shelter – endangers her CI.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

There was a cascade
of tragedy as the first half of the season ended. Kate had a
miscarriage; Kevin – who skipped needed knee-surgery -- descended
into pill addiction and was arrested.

Now issues are
confronted head-on. There are flashbacks to a pivotal cabin vacation,
but most of the hour is at Kevin's upscale rehab center. It has
powerful moments from each sibling – even Randall bursts with rage–
and from their mom, Rebecca. And we get key glimpses of others –
Beth, Randall's intense wife; and Miguel, the quietly decent guy who
married Rebecca, his best friend's widow.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Major Crimes” finale, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

After 13 seasons –
seven as “The Closer,” six as “Major Crimes” -- this solid
series concludes.

Last week's hour
(rerunning at 8) had the team search for Philip Stroh (Billy Burke),
the escaped serial killer. Now they fnd him; two men who have been
here from the start play key roles: Provenza (G.W. Bailey) identifies
the real Ms. Bechtal; Tao (Michael Paul Chan) is in a room with a
possible bomb.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“LA to Las Vegas,” 9 p.m., Fox.

As a skilled flight
attendant, Ronnie (Kim Matula) knows the drill: Seem calm and
cheerful, when a small problem appears. Now there's a bigger problem
– someone has quietly died mid-flight.

The solution? Ignore
him ... or cover him up ... or casually (well, semi-casually) move
the body. In other hands, this might be quite sad; in this
erratic-but-fun show, it brings some big laughs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

At 55, Teddy
Roosevelt had already done it all – battlefield hero, reform
governor of New York and president of the U.S. for seven years,
creating the national parks system. But the failure of his
third-party campaign left him forlorn; he needed a new adventure, and
chose an extreme one.

Roosevelt and
Brazil's Candido Rondon would explore an uncharted tributary of the
Amazon. It would take almost 100 brutal days, plagued by disease,
doubts and death. This is a fascinating (if dreary) story,
beautifully told with old photos, the men's writing and gorgeous,
black-and-white re-creations.

Other choices
include:

“Runaways” and
“Vera,” any time. The streaming networks reach opposite
audiences. Hulu has the first-season finale of “Runaways,”
Marvel's teen-superhero tale. Britbox has the eighth-season opener of
“Vera.” with Brenda Blethyn as a tough but caring police
detective; the Northern-England accents can be difficult, but it's
worth the trouble.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A Navy lieutenant seemed happy and successful, then committed
suicide

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Two terrific guest stars return. Tony Plana plays Riggs'
father-in-law; whie visiting him in prison, Riggs learns a secret
about his late wife. And Thomas Lennon plays Leo Gets, working with
Murtaugh to solve the murder of a mutual friend.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Both aunts are in town – Dre's sister Rhonda
(Raven-Symone) and Bow's sister Santamonica (Rashida Jones).

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. These are problems that Mick has no experience with:
Sabrina has an admissions interview with Yale; Alba must pretend to
her family that she's still a maid.

“CSI: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Sebastian, the forensics guy, is thrust
into a mystery. His high school friend Adrian calls when her business
partner is killed. But the FBI feels se's a hacker.