TV column for Sunday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mercy Street” season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

Chaos keeps bubblng
in this Virginia mansion, which was converted into a Union hospital.
The dentist (a Confederate spy) almost bombed President Lincoln, then
attacked someone who detected him. As doctors rush to save the
victim, Allan Pinkerton (head of Union intelligence) stares and
glowers.

Meanwhile, Dr.
Summers frets about losing his new Washington job. Also, an activist
arrives to help her fellow ex-slaves. There's more, including a
furtive romance. Much of this is too frantic, too overwrought ... yet
holds our interest, with compelling characters in mid-crisis.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 3:05 pm. ET Fox, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS.

It's high-stakes
football, with the winners going to the Super Bowl. The first could
be an air war. Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons – the top-scoring team
by 100 points – host the Green Bay Packers, who have a troubled
pass defense, but a great quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and an
eight-game winning streak.

Then Tom Brady's New
England Patriots – with a lofty 15-2 record – host the Pittsburgh
Steelers, who rode a tough ground game to last week's no-touchdown,
18-16 win over Kansas City.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland,” 9 p.m., Showtime.

Carrie (Claire
Danes) has put her old life behind her now. She's out of the CIA,
running a defencants' law firm and spending time with her daughter.
Except, of course, that her old life never goes away.

The legal work is
painful, defending a young man who has a pro-terrorist Web site.
Also, Carrie may or may not be advising the female president-elect.
(That's asked and answered in this hour.) And she's temporarily
caring for Quinn, the ex-colleague with a shattered mind and troubled
soul. That leads to tonight's final scene, which reminds us that
Danes may be the best drama actress of her generation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Victoria,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Enough of the
life-and-death world of “Homeland” and “Mercy Street.” It's
time for some fun, watching the would-be romances of the rich and
foolish.

The teen queen says
she wants to remain single; other royals seem determined to make a
match. Most of the prospects are dim; then there's Albert, an obscure
German prince with an interesting mind. Nothing is decided tonight,
but it's fun watching Jenna Coleman field the possibilites.

Other choices
include:

“Jesse Stone”
movies, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Skillfully written, directed and acted, these films offer subtle
elegance, with Tom Selleck as a small-town police chief. Here are the
seven most-recent ones, from “Death in Paradise” (2006) to “Lost
in Paradise” (2015).

Figure-skating, 4-6
p.m. ET, NBC. The women had the primetime spotlight Saturday. Now the
men compete for their U.S. championships ... at a time when most
viewers will obsess on football.

“Ted” (2012),
8:30-11 p.m., NBC. Seth MacFarlane is big on Sundays, with Fox
cartoons (including “Family Guy” at 9 p.m. today); NBC counters
with a movie – a teddy bear comes to life – he wrote, directed
and co-starred in. Other top movies include the brilliant “Gone
Girl” (2014) at 8 p.m. on FX and the hilarious “Pink Panther”
(1963) and its sequel, at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“The Young Pope,”
9 p.m., HBO. The first public homily by Pope Pius XIII leaves
confusion. Now he asks Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) to present his
vision.

“Quantico,”
10 p.m. Sunday, ABC. On Monday, this moves to its new timeslot, a
comfy one behind “The Bachelor.” First, here's a final Sunday
rerun (nudging the “Conviction” finale back to next Sunday). Alex
and her colleagues scramble to destroy the biological weapon.

Hunted,”
10 p.m. ET, CBS (or later, with football overrun). CBS takes
advantage of the big football lead-in to launch
this
reality show,
which then
moves to Wednesdays.Think of it as high-tech hide-and-seek: Nine
teams try to disappear in the U.S., while skilled pros try to find
them.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Beaches,” 8 p.m., Lifetimem rerunning at 12:02 a.m.

Back in 1988,
“Beaches” stirred big emotions and big box-office. It offerered
the ups and downs of a friendship between a rich kid and a
hard-scrabble singer.

Now it's been remade
with Nia Long and Idina Menzel. The script is fairly good – even if
some of the fights do seem contrived – and Allison Anders, once a
favorite in indie-movie circles, has directed it beautifully. Menzel
beautifully sings two songs from the original movie -- “Wind
Beneath My Wings” and the 1930s “The Glory of Love” -- plus a
gorgeous new one, “The Last Time.”

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Figure-skating, NBC,

It's time for the
U.S. Figure Skating Championships. This afternoon (3-6 p.m. ET), we
have the finals for pairs and dance. Tonight (8-11 p.m.) is the big
draw – the women's finals, with all of last year's medalists
(Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds, Ashley Wagner) returning.

The men, as usual,
get a lesser spot. That's from 4-6 p.m. ET Sunday.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
R&B groups, 12:54 to 9:55 p.m., BET.

On Tuesday, BET will
launch an ambitious mini-series about New Edition. First, here's a
nine-hour marathon of films about rhythm-&-blues groups, real and
fictional.

First is a
collection of past performances, with “The 'Soul Train' Life of New
Edition.” At 2:08 p.m. is “The Temptations,” the 1998 NBC mini
about the Motown group. And at 6:36 p.m. is “The Five Hearbeats”
(1991); Robert Townsend co-wrote (with Keenen Ivory Wayans), directed
and starred in this story of a fictional group's rise and fall.

Other choices
include:

“RED” (2010) and
“RED 2” (2013), 6 and 8:30 p.m., USA. Bruce Willis plays a spy –
the licensed-to-kill sort – who tries to retire to suburbia.
Retirement isn't an option, it seems; these gems have great
supporting casts, including Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and
Mary-Louise Parker.

More movies, all
night. At 6 p.m., Sundance has the powerhouse drama of Rob Reiner's
“A Few Good Men” (1992). At 7, AMC has the epic “Titanic”
(1997). At 8, TNT has the Sandra/Bullock/George Clooney “Gravity”
(2013), which dominated the technical Academy Award categories and
was nominated for best picture. And at 9:25 on Freeform, Menzel and
others soar in “Frozen.”

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Negotiations are difficult with bank robbers who don't
want cash.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a Christmas episode – yes, this is a rerun –
Riggs flashes back to past holidays with his late wife; Murtaugh
grumbles about his neighbor's decorations. They also combine to probe
a murder linked to a drug lord's deranged nephew.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a quick rerun of Wednesday's episode, Gladys Knight hosts a
hair show, where the emerging girl group performs one of her classic
songs.

“Beaches: The
After Show,” 10:03 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a look back at the movie
and its music.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On the day after the inauguration, Aziz
Ansari hosts a new “SNL,” with Big Sean as his music guest.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 20


TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Presidential inauguration.

The actual
swearing-in will be at noon ET, but the coverage will go on and on.
We can expect the cable news channels to obsess (as is their habit),
but the broadcast channels will also be busy.

Subject to
last-minute changes, CBS plans to go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., NBC from
10 to 3, ABC and Fox from 11 to 4. There's much more, from the
morning talk shows to the newscasts and into prime time. At 8 p.m.,
CBS has an hour; at 10, ABC has an hour and NBC has the flexibility
of “Dateline.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Landmarks Live in Concert” debut, 9 p.m., PBS.

Let's give PBS
credit for injecting performance – music, dance, theater, more –
into one of TV's weakest nights. Now it has a series of concerts,
each in a key location fot the singer.

That starts with
Alicia Keys in New York, which is logical. That's her home town and
the subject of “Empire State of Mind,” which she sang with Jay-Z;
the song was No. 1 for five weeks and won two of her 15 Grammys.
Tonight, she performs in several spots, including the Apollo Theatre.
Next week is Brad Paisley in West Virginia; six more will be this
summer, including Andrea Bocelli in Italy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Stefanie Martini is
a young British actress on a mini-series spree. In her native
England, she's superb as the star of “Doctor Thorne” and the
upcoming “Prime Suspect” prequel. And in tonight's final minutes,
we meet her as Lady Ev, stepping into the life of a transformed
Jason.

This is a “Wizard
of Oz” reboot that mixes gorgeous visuals with a dark and tangled
story. Tonight, Dorothy tries to help a troubled girl, the Wizard
(Vincent D'Onofrio) has a disturbing visit to a village and young Tip
finds herself tugged by the opposite forces of Glinda (Joely
Richardson) and West.

Other choices
include:

“Ghostbusters”
(1984), 3:15 p.m. ET, IFC. From the seriousness of Inauguration Day,
we can switch to some jaunty fun. This reruns at 10:30 p.m. and 3:15
a.m. ET, with its sequel (1989) at 8, 12:45 and 5:30. Other strong
choices are at 7 -- “Forrest Gump” (1994) on AMC, “Julie &
Julia” (2009) on Pop.

“Grimm,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Life gets complicated when the mayor-elect is (literally) a
monster. Now Nick has a fresh plan to stop Capt. Renard's rise. Also,
Eve and Rosalind rush to get the spell ready.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mandy's parents want her to show less
public affection with her new husband Kyle. She'll only do it if they
also be more discreet.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Yvette Nicole Brown, the “Community” and “Odd
Couple” co-star, guests as the producer of a TV health show. She
follows Ken around ... and has him doubting his career.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW. When the Santa Ana winds blow into
town, people start questioning their relationships. Rebecca even
wonders if Josh is really the guy for her.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Reflecting real events from 1995, a suspect seeks
sanctuary from the “Nation of Hawai'i.” The result leaves the
team in conflict with a U.S. marshal (Lou Diamond Phillips).

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Here's bad timing: Someone tries a robbery while Jamie
and his police partner are on a date. Meanwhile, Jamie's brother
faces a child-abuse case that's complicated by diplomatic immunity;
their dad, the police commissioner, intervenes without jurisdiction.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Here's one of those
mismatches that comedies love: Small and shy, Christy (Ana Farris) is
a recovering alcoholic with a fragile ego. She meets a handsome hunk
(Chris Pratt), finding instant love and lust.

That might seem like
a stretch, but Faris and Pratt have been married for seven years –
with the mismatch the other way around: She was the movie and TV
star; he had a smaller career, as slacker Andy in “Parks and
Recreation.” With a newly sculpted look, Pratt starred in
“Guardians” and “Jurassic” films; now he and Faris are
perfect as gaga people, temporarily (and hilariously) in love.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Place,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Fresh, funny and
thoroughly original, this show has everything one could hope for ...
except a big audience. Here are the final episodes of its first (and,
possibly, only) season.

Through a
bureaucratic blunder, Eleanor was sent to the good afterlife; so was
a dim DJ who's also a failed thief. Now they've stolen a train; along
with his new wife (a sort of android), they're headed to the middle
place ... while others debate their future. Yes, it's odd ... but
it's also quite clever.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“America's First Family: The Trumps Go to Washington,” 10 p.m.,
ABC.

For many viewers,
this is a night of disappointment. ABC had announced it for the
season-opening of “Scandal,” alongside the return of “Grey's
Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” Then, oddly, it
delayed everything by a week, ostensibly so it could air this
inauguration-eve special.

So the Trump special
airs tonight, preceded by reruns. At 8 p.m., “Grey's” sees Alex
prepare for jail and “Scandal” sees the choice of
vice-presidential candidates; a week later, new episodes arrive.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Baskets” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

The first season
offered interesting portraits of Chip Baskets and the eccentric
people around him. It was sometimes funny, sometimes touching ...
and, too often, devoid of hope.

It ended with his
only clowning job (at a rodeo) ending; bitter about his family and
his life, he became a hobo. He's not very good at it -- or at
anything else -- but he runs into a vagabond performings troupe.
(What are the odds?) The result is bittersweet, as usual, but gives
him a reason to keep living and us a reason to, sometimes
reluctantly, keep watching.

Other choices
include:

Figure-skating, 5:30
and 9:30 p.m. ET, NBC. The U.S. championships begin with the short
programs. Today are pairs and then women. There are more short
programs Friday, before NBC takes over with the finals on Saturday
and Sunday.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Feeling she's being taken advantage of, Penny
heads off to a spa with Amy. Soon, Sheldon is in the unfamiliar role
of peacemaker.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Jack has been mocking the meager
reporting skills of his young colleagues. But now Mason has a big
scoop; Jack is jealous and wants his own.

“My Kitchen
Rules,” 9 p.m., Fox. No one said that life or reality shows would
be fair. We've seen cooking by siblings (Brandy and Ray J) and
generations (Lance Bass and his mom); tonight, we have a married
couple (Naomi Judd and Larry Strickland) and two friends (Brandi
Glanville and Dean Sheremet) who met when their spouses had an
affair. But elsewhere, Sheremet has been presented as a chef and
cooking expert; tonight, the others learn he may be a ringer.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. The pieces are usually scattered, but tonight they
revolve around a Los Angeles Rams football game. Greg is in a
halftime contest, Joan and Jen try to sneak into better seats and Tim
has trouble returning to his seat. Also, Colleen and Matt have a
really clumsy tailgate party; their solution is to add Kurt Warner,
the former Rams great.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. Jill Hennessy plays the leader of gifted female thieves.
Liz tries to wedge her way into the group,to work undercover.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 18


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“People's Choice Awards,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Many awards, it
seems, go to TV shows you've never seen and movies you've never heard
of. Not here. This lets people choose (quite eccentrically, at times)
winners in film, TV and music categories.

For favorite-movie,
there are two animated films (“Zootopia,” “Finding Dory”) and
three action/fantasy ones (“Deadpool,” “Suicide Squad,”
“Captain America: Civil War”). The TV side has more fantasy
(“Outlander,” “Walking Dead,” “Stranger Things”), plus
“Grey's Anatomy” and “Big Bang Theory.” Joel McHale will
host, Blake Shelton will perform and stars (Tom Hanks, Jennifer
Lopez) will attend.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Six” debut, 10:01 p.m., History (rerunning at 11:02 p.m. and
2:02 and 3:02 a.m.) and A&E (rerunning at 2:02 a.m.).

The Broyles men have
a deep understanding of war. William was a Marine officer in Vietnam,
then co-created the superb “China Beach” series; his son David
was a pararescue man in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their show starts
starkly, with lots of close-range shooting; some viewers will like
it, but others will exit before “Six” finally reveals its human
side.

Yes, it has one.
These are solid, decent guys, torn between their lives at home and
the need to rescue a former colleague who was kidnapped. “Six”
has a solid soul ... but takes a while to get there.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Full Frontal,” 10:30 p.m., TBS.

After spending its
first oft-brilliant season on Mondays, the show has now shifted to
Wednesdays. Now its satirical humor can be polished during the week,
not during weekend scrambles.

And there's a lot of
turf for satirists, with the inauguration coming Friday. For more
humor, you could stick around for “The Daily Show” (11 p.m.,
Comedy Central) and Seth Meyers (12:35 a.m., NBC).

Other choices
include:

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. An unusual tattoo points attention toward Roman. Now
police must decide whether to have him go undercover with a biker
gang.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Why would you risk stealing a car from a police impound
lot? In this case, it's stuffed with cocaine; the case leads to a
notorious car-theft ring.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. So far, the half-sisters have managed to hide their past: They
fled, after Star stabbed (and almost killed) Simone's abusive foster
father. Now Carlotta (Queen Latifah) keeps searching for the truth,
Meanwhile, her salon is hosting a hair show. Gladys Knight (playing
herself) will introduce it, with the trio singing one of her
classics.

“Frontline”
conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS. Here's the second half of a documentary
that traces how the optimistic Obama administration was soon dragged
into gridlock.

“The End,” 9-11
p.m., CNN (barring late-breaking news). Cameras have been following
the final days of the Obama White House. Here's are report, with less
than two days left.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Dre is being nudged toward anger-management therapy.
Also, Johan becomes the kids' life coach.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Two murder suspects duck inside a church – where the
priest and parishioners give them sanctuary.