TV column for Monday, Nov.23 (out of order)

(Right below this, you'll find all the TV columns through Nov. 27, neatly arranged in reverse chronological order. Alas, the one for Monday, Nov. 23, didn't get into its place. Here it is:) 


“Mark Twain Prize,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Back in 1980,
“Saturday Night Live” seemed near extinction. The old stars were
gone, the new ones weren't funny ... until Eddie Murphy, 19, arrived.
Now he's the 18th winner of this annual comedy prize.

We get great clips
of early Murphy – stand-up and “SNL” – and OK ones of his
later movies. There are funny riffs from other comedians, including
George Lopez, Chris Rock and Kathy Griffin, who calls herself
“tonight's diversity hire.” Murphy – watching with girlfriend
Paige Butcher (a former bikini model) and many of his eight children
– seems to enjoy it all, then adds funny bits of his own.

II: “Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Here is 50-some
minutes of high-octane television, plus a few moving scenes at the
end. As Megan –Walter's sister and now Sylvester's wife – nears
death, people converge on a hospital ... which is about to have a
deadly fungus outbreak, alongside a difficult birth and more.

You can grumble
about the overload of coincidences ... or the badly written portrayal
of Walter's father ... or the blitz of sentences that we'd need a
dictionary (and an Ivy League education) to understand. But you'll
still admit that this is a gripping episode.

ALTERNATIVE: “Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

After some truly
great episodes, this one is merely very good. It skips its best
characters (Ed and Peggy Blomquist) and spends too much time with
Simone Gerhardt, who slept with the enemy.

Those are the Kansas
City people, who face a brutal time in the opening scene and later.
Meanwhile, the Gerhardts (Minnesota mobsters) bury their patriarch
and wonder what happened to their oldest son Dodd. So do the police;
and so do viewers ... until a final scene sets up next week's great

ALTERNATIVE II: “Saints & Strangers” conclusion, 9 p.m.,
National Geographic.

The first half of
this mini-series (rerunning at 7 p.m.) offered an involving portrait
of the early, chaotic days of the Plymouth Colony and its
good-hearted leader, William Bradford (Vincent Kartheiser).

This second half
tackles dilemmas – disputes between the native tribes ... the
ethics of a pre-emptive attack ... and the question of Squanto's real
motives. This miniseries – rerunning from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and
then on Thanksgiving – gets mired down at times. Still, it solidly
portrays a tough time that somehow led to our day of turkey, parades
and football.

Other choices

Family films, 6:30
and 7 p.m., cable. The sight-gag joys of “Home Alone” (1990) are
at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on AMC, colliding with Disney animation: ABC
Family has “Toy Story 2” (1999) and “Finding Nemo” (2003) at
6:30 and 8:30 p.m.; the Disney Channel has “The Princess and the
Frog” (2009) at 7.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., CBS. The two-part finale begins, with a
champion named on Tuesday. When Tamar Braxton dropped out (due to
illness), the show had its final four – Bindi Irwin, Nick Carter,
Carlos PenaVega and Alex Skarlatos.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The 11 singers perform; on Tuesday, one will be

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. Plans call for the episode that was scheduled for last
Monday, then delayed after the Paris attacks. It's a good one,
putting Kara in the modern problem of multi-tasking. She's working
... and watching her boss' son ... and (as Supergirl) trying to stop
two bombings.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane's busy seeking a sitter for her baby ... and hoping
to find a writing adviser at her school Christmas party.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. In the “mid-season finale,” the team races to stop the
people in a newly activated sleeper cell, before they start their

TV column for Friday, Nov. 27

“Unforgettable” season-opener, 8 and 9 p.m., A&E.

It's been a bumpy
ride for this solid crime show. CBS ran it for a season ... cancelled
it ... brought it back (after a year off) for two summers ... and
cancelled it again. Now it moves to cable.

In the first hour,
Carrie (Poppy Montgomery) -- the cop who remembers everything – is
suddenly working a case with her ex-husband (Skeet Ulrich). In the
second, Rachel Dratch plays a key witness in a securities-fraud case.
A hitman has killed two of the security guards who were protecting

“Santa Claus is Comin' to Town,” 8-9 p.m., ABC.

We're not even in
December yet and we already have competing Christmas cartoons on two
broadcast networks. This one goes back to 1970, with Fred Astaire

Kris Kringle (Mickey
Rooney) just wants to make toys. Alas, Burgermeister Meister Burger
hates toys and bans them; that propels Kris' conversion to become
Santa Claus.

ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local

Andrea Bocelli's
powerful voice is unleashed on great movie songs. Some of these
became wildly popular -- “Moon River,” “Maria,” “Cheek to
Cheek,” the themes from “Love Story” and “Doctor Zhivago”
-- but all seem to soar with Bocelli, singing in five languages.

We'll forgive the
introductions, which range from dull to corny, and savor some
incrtedible duets. That includes Veronica Berti (Bocelli's wife),
Ariana Grande (a virtual duet with her video image) and a truly
awesome rendition of the “Evita” theme, with Nicole Scherzinger.

Other choices

Movies, 6 p.m. and
beyond, cable. There's sharp, sight-gag comedy in “Home Alone”
(1990) at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on AMC. Mostly, though, tonight offers epic
adventure – James Bond's “Skyfall” (2012), at 7 p.m., Syfy ...
“The Hunger Games” (2012), 7:45 p.m., ABC Family ... “Avatar”
(2009), 8 p.m., FX ... and the Batman tale “The Dark Knight Rises”
(2012), 8 p.m., TNT.

More animation, 8-10
p.m., CW. Here are three newer specials, starting with the 2000
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” from the goofy song. At 9
p.m. is the 2010 “Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special.” At 9:30, the
characters from the “Madagascar” movies – and its delightful TV
series – offer the 2009 “Merry Madagascar”; Santa loses his
memory after crashing on the island.

“National Dog
Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of the Thanksgiving

“A Crown for
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. Suddenly jobless, a diligent young
woman becomes a nanny for a lonely girl in a castle. Would it jolt
you to learn that the girl is quite nice and her father is a handsome
and earnest monarch? The rest is pleasant, unassuming and (of course)

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in which McGarrett, kidnapped by
Wo Fat, drifts into alternate paths people could have taken. William
Sadler returns as his late father.\

Undercover,” 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Beautifully visually and
distressing emotionally, this film – launching “Big Cat Week”
-- follows two mountain lines, each with two cubs. One is an intense
mom, the other is laidback, but neither has much control over a
demanding world.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a homeowner shot an intruder ... then
learned it was a hit man. Also, a young lawyer seeks justice for his
mother, whom Erin helped convict 12 years ago.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 26

Thanksgiving parade, 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS.

The holiday gets a
big, booming start, with the Macy's parade. That includes 12 bands,
41 balloons, 1,000 clowns and 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers. There
are also 27 floats, often with singers – Mariah Carey, Chris
Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, Jake Owen, Jennifer Nettles and more –

And each network has
extra performances, mainly in the first hour. CBS has Justin Bieber,
“Jersey Boys” and “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”;
NBC has the Rockettes, “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Finding
Neverland,” “The King & I,” “On Your Feet,” “Something
Rotten” and its upcoming “Wiz.”

Football, all day.

The pro
triple-header has few winning records. The Lions (3-7, with a
two-game winning streak) host the Eagles (4-6), at 12:30 p.m. ET on
Fox. The Cowboys (3-7, but with Tony Romo back) host the Carolina
Panthers at (10-0) at 4:30 on CBS. And the Packers (7-3) host the
Bears (4-6) at 8:30 on NBC.

Cable adds two
college games at 7:30 p.m. ET. On ESPN, winless Central Florida hosts
South Florida (7-4); on Fox Sports1, Texas (4-6 and scrambling for
bowl eligibility) hosts Texas Tech (6-5).

Disney nature films, 1 p.m. to 3 a.m., NatGeo Wild.

Each year, on Earth
Day, Disney debuts a beautifully crafted nature film in theaters.
Instead of going to one of Disney's four entertainment cable
channels, they've been sold en masse to NatGeo Wild.

Now NatGeo debuts
the gorgeous “Deep Blue” (2003) – penguins, whales and more --
at 1 and 8 p.m. “Chimpanzee” (2012) -- ranging from jungle
tragedy to funny village invasions – is 3 and 10 p.m.. “The
Crimson Wing” (2008), with stunning views of a million-flamingo
gathering, is 5 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.; “Wings of Life” (2011) --
Meryl Streep narrating pollination tales -- is 6:30 p.m. and

II: Dogs, noon, NBC and 8 p.m., Fox.

When the parade has
its last Santa sighting, NBC jumps to the National Dog Show. This
year, John O'Hurley, David Frei and Mary Carillo are joined by the
quirky Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.

At 8 p.m., Fox has
its second “All-Star Dog Rescue Celebration.” Kaley Cuoco hosts,
with guests from music (Miley Cyrus, Sia, Zendaya, Florida Georgia
Line), comedy (Kathy Griffin, Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Handler) and
more (Scarlett Johansson, Paula Abdul and dog-trainer Cesar Milan).

Other choices

Movies, all day. For
greatness, catch the first two “Godfather” films (1972 and '74)
at 5:30 and 9 p.m. on AMC ... or “Cinderella” (1950) at 1:45 p.m.
on ABC Family. That's followed by more animation, with “Monsters
Inc. (2001) at 3:45, “Ratatouille” (2007) at 6 and “Planes”
(2013) at 8:45.

“Saints &
Strangers,” 7-11 p.m., National Geographic, repeating from 11 p.m.
to 3 a.m. If you missed this well-made mini-series earlier in the
week, you can catch it now... which is logical. This is the story of
the Mayflower and the Plymouth colony, leading to the first
Thanksgiving and beyond. The first half is darkly involving; the rest
gets tangled in confusing tribal politics, but remains involving.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Cuoco competes with herself, hosting Fox's
dog show and being key to this rerun, as Penny. Leonard admits to her
that he kissed a girl during his North Sea project,.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. This launches tonight's string of five
Thanksgiving-episode reruns, all from last week. Here, Eddie's mom is
determined to take over the family feast.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. We haven't seen much of Violet lately. Now, however, she
announces that she wants to spend more time with her mother, Christy.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. The murder victim's secret life leaves plenty of suspects.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 25

“Titanic” (1997), 6:15 to 9:30 p.m., HBO; or “Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 7 p.m. to midnight, AMC.

Here are two
powerful pieces of Hollywood history. Each was, for a time, the
biggest box-office hit ever; “Wind” is No. 6 on the American Film
Institute list of best American movies; “Titanic” is No. 83.

Eacg proved an
important point: Even within an epic, big-budget adventure – the
Civil War, an ocean tragedy – you can have solid drama and a
classic love story.

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

While some networks
retreat to reruns, “Empire” has a new episode with key guest

One is Alicia Keys,
playing a star singer who links – musically and maybe romantically
– with Lucious. The other is Rosie O'Donnell, as Cookie's former
prison colleague. Now Cookie and her sister (Vivica Fox) need her for
a rescue attempt.

ALTERNATIVE: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Thanksgiving has
always been TV's best comedy situation, so now ABC gives us a bonus –
a string of three reruns from last year, each set on the holiday.

That concludes with
this one: Phil takes over the turkey duties, helped by his son; his
wife Claire has no confidence and secretly prepares a back-up bird.
Meanwhile, her dad and his wife (Jay and Gloria) find their vacation
scuttled; they plan to secretly stay home ... an idea that quickly

Other choices

Animated films,
6:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m., cable. Families can find fun tonight, while
waiting for the holiday. ABC Family has “Monsters, Inc.” (2001)
at 6:30 and “Ratatouille” (2007) at 8:30; Disney has “Despicable
Me” (2020) – birthplace of all those popular minions -- at 8.

“Survivor,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. We're at the mid-point of the eliminations now, with
10 of the original 20 people remaining. Here are two episodes,
including a driving rainstorm that darkens moods.

“Planes, Trains &
Automobiles” (1987), 8-10 p.m., CW. This film fits neatly into each
November, as two mismatched guys (Steve Martin and John Candy) face
transportation disasters, while trying to make it home for
Thanksgiving. It's uneven – most road films are – but has plenty
of fun moments.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The Thanksgiving-rerun spree begins here. Her kitchen in
shambles, Frankie decides the family should eat out. Things get
complicated when Sue brings Darrin, Brick brings quirky Cindy and Axl
is pressured to invite a girl he doesn't even know.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. This was the first Thanksgiving episode for the
Goldbergs, with both parents in consternation. Murray fumes about his
younger brother Marvin (Dan Fogler); Bev frets because her daughter
Erica is skipping the holiday.

“Saturday Night
Live Thanksgiving,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. With four decades of sketches
to mine, we spend the holiday with Ed Grimley, Debbie Downer, Martha
Stewart and the Loud Family. There's more, ranging from Adam
Sandler's turkey song to Paul Simon in a turkey costume.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Alton Fitzgerald White has played Mufasa – the
patriarch, first voiced by James Earl Jones – onstage more than
4,000 times. Here he guests as Lawrence, in an episode entwined with
the show's tour: Its star receives a jolting diagnosis; its cast
helps a teen with a painful decision.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 24

“American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

It was 395 years ago
today that people on the Mayflower heard what they though was a
battle cry onshore. They had landed 200 miles north of their target
and still needed to find a safe site for their colony. Undermanned
and undersupplied, they weren't likely to survive,

They did. “The
difference was (William) Bradford,” historian Bernard Bailyn says
here. Calm and devout, he was the colony's governor for 30 years. Ric
Burns tells the story beautfully, using replicas of the Mayflower and
Plymouth, with Roger Rees (who died in July, at 71) reading
Bradford's words.

“Dancing With the Stars” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

At 17, Bindi Irwin
is a nature enthusiast – like her late father Steve Irwin, the
“crocodile hunter” -- and an actress. She's also been a
front-runner here, especially after getting Derek Hough as her pro

Now she's in the
final four, with three guys. There's Alek Skarlatos, 23 (one of the
American soldiers who stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train) plus
two singer-actors – Nick Carter, 35, of the Backstreet Boys, and
Carlos PenaVega, 26, of Big Time Rush.

ALTERNATIVE: “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder.” 8 and 8:30
p.m., Fox.

These Thanksgiving
episodes are opposites. “Grandfathered” finds Jimmy (John Stamos)
jealous of his son's sorta-stepdad. It's an OK story, but lacks
laughs ... an essential ingredient for a comedy.

When it ends,
viewers will be hungry for humor; fortunately, “Grinder” delivers
instantly. It flashes back to a year ago, when Dean (Rob Lowe) was
still a TV star; Jason Alexander plays the show's scheming producer,
with Timothy Olyphant as himself, delivering surfside philosophy.
“Grinder” also offers a new Thanksgiving and a family secret
that's big and (in a perverted way) quite funny.

Other choices

“A Charle Brown
Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here's the 1973 cartoon that saw
Charlie, Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock trying to organize a feast for
Peppermint Patty and friends. Rounding out the hour is the Mayflower
portion of “This is America, Charlie Brown.”

“Greatest Holiday
Commercials Countdown,” 8 p.m., CW. This special names the 12 best
holiday commercials and also shows some foreign creations.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Battling leukemia, a sailor needs a bone-marrow transplant, but
his two siblings (both Marines) were killed in duty. Now the team
rushes to find a donor; meanwhile, Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham)
goes home to Oklahoma to see her mother (Lindsay Wagner) for

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. The first murder case that Pride and Lasalle
worked together, we're told, happened just before Katrina hit. A
decade later, they find fresh evidence.

“Young &
Hungry,” 9 p.m., ABC Family, rerunning at 10:30. Fresh from
Thanksgiving episodes on ABC and Fox, we leap to a Christmas one on
cable. Gabi (Emily Osment) is trying for good deeds – preparing
food at a church and reuniting Yolanda (Kim Whitley) with her
estranged sister (Jackee Harry). The result is broadly played, as
usual, but also packs some clever lines and quick twists.

“Secrets of the
Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS. A decade before the Mayflower reached
Massachusetts, there had already been deep tragedy in Virginia. Only
about one-fifth of the Jamestown settlers survived the starvation of
the winter of 1609. This somber documentary watches archeologists
uncover horror.

“Manhattan,” 10
p.m., WGN. The colonel has a young witness who may be able to say
who's been spying for the Russians. Viewers know there are two spies,
Meeks and Nora; would one of them kill to keep their secret?
Meanwhile, the apparent suicide of project-leader Robert
Oppenheimer's mistress – an event taken from real life – leaves a
feeling of guilt for Abby, who had verbally confronted her.