TV column for Monday, Dec. 22


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

On a night stuffed
with reruns, here's one of the few new shows on a broadcast network.

Wrapping up a a
three-week, six-hour series, it shows people taking Christmas
decorations to the extreme. In Clayton, N.C., for instance, one
family has a shooting star, an orchestra of trees, a bridge and a
great sprawl of outdoor decorations.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “State of Affairs,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Charleston
(Katherine Heigl) is in Qatar with the President, who gives her a key
assignment: Find out if the man who infiltrated the embassy, claiming
to be in the CIA, is telling the truth.

There's more: Nick,
the tough adventurer, is interrogated brutally. Also, Charleston goes
to dangerous extremes to remember what happened the night her fiance
(the president's son) was killed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Miracle on 34th Street,” 6:30 p.m.
(1947) and 8:45 p.m. (1994), AMC.

Separated by almost
a half-century, here are two versions of the same story. It's
fashionable to say the original – shorter, filmed in
black-and-white – is better. It has an ideal cast, with Maureen
O'Hara, Natalie Wood (then 9) and Edmund Gwenn, who won an Oscar as
the man claiming to be Kris Kringle.

Still, the remake
looks gorgeous and feels livelier. Richard Attenborough, an
Oscar-winning director for “Gandhi,” is a great Kringle; Mara
Wilson, then 7, glows as his true believer.

Other choices
include:

“A Saturday Night
Live Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Christmas sketches are rerun.

“The iHeart Radio
Jingo Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW. Most Mondays, viewers are watching
“The Voice.” That has finished this edition (Craig Wayne Boyd
won), but fans can catch two of its judges here. Pharrell Williams
performs; so (as part of Maroon 5) does Adam Levine, who had three of
the four “Voice” finalists, but still lost to Blake Shelton. Also
in this rerun: Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, Charli XCX,
Jessi J, One Republic, 5 Seconds of Summer and more.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This transplanted rerun has some big laughs,
as the guys ponder becoming part-owners of Stuart's comic-book story.
Also, Raj's new girlfriend is oddly cold to Penny.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. In CBS' only new episode tonight, Mike
assures Molly he'll be home for Christmas Eve dinner. Instead, he and
his police partner end up in the back of a stolen van.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Working a Las Vegas job, Walter is arrested for robbery.

“Major Crimes,”
9 p.m., TNT. Someone in a Santa suit has robbed a bank ... timing it
perfectly, when there's a flash mob of Santas nearby.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. Michelle Trachtenberg (“Buffy” and
“Gossip Girl”) plays a senator's daughter who survives an attack.
The team must get her home and learn why she was targeted.

“Anger Management”
finale, 10 and 10:30 p.m., FX. Fueled by Charlie Sheen's implosion,
this comedy started strong, then faded. Its deal called for 100
episodes; they were rushed out in two-and-a-half years, double the
usual pace. Here are No. 99 and 100; Charlie, a therapist, makes a
career choice.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 21


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Sound of Music” (1965), 7-11 p.m., ABC.

Life has conspired
to give us two versions of the show in two nights – NBC reran its
live version Saturday, ABC reruns the movie (this time with
sing-along words) tonight. The movie is better, with gorgeous
backdrops and with Julie Andrews – a great singer who, as a bonus,
is also an actrtess.

The story itself –
based on the true tale of the von Trapp singers – is so-so, but the
Rodgers-and-Hammerstein songs are superb. Some soar (“Climb Every
Mountain” and the title song), some are just fun (“Do-Re-Mi,”
“MyFavorite Things”). The result won five Academy Awards,
including best picture.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II:
Christmas episodes, 8 p.m., Fox and Lifetime.

TV hasn't finished
its holiday deluge yet. On Fox's “The Simpsons,” Homer goes
drinking on Christmas Eve. Marge promptly banishes him, forcing him
to trudge through Springfield alone.

Then there's TNT's
“The Librarians,” where the Serpent Brotherhood targets Santa ...
played, of course, by Bruce Campbell. Now the team must save Santa.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland” and “The Affair,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
Showtime.

Two much-praised
pay-cable shows wrap up their seasons, then rerun twice, until 3 a.m.

“Homeland” finds
Carrie and Saul (Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin) returning to the
U.S., to probe what they found in Islamabad. “Affair” finds
teen-aged Whitney disappearing; her mom (Maura Tierney) probes the
relationship between her own husband (Dominic West) and Alison (Ruth
Wilson).

Other choices
include:

“Star Trek”
marathon, BBC America. Here's an odd combination -- “Star Trek II”
at 8:30 a.m., “III” at 11 a.m., “V” (skipping a good one) at
1:30 p.m. and “VI” at 4 p.m.. Then they repeat at 6:30, 9 and
11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“Mulaney,” 7
p.m., Fox (barring a football overrun). It's hard to be jolly at
Christmas: John harbors an intense dislike of Macauley Culkin; his
boss (Martin Short) worries about a rival's holiday special.

Disney marathon, 8
p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This starts with cartoons, then at
8:30 has the 1954 TV show that introduced Disneyland. At 9:30, “The
Reluctant Dragon” (1941) tours the studio, incorporating cartoon
sequences. Then there's “Davy Crockett” at 11 and more.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of a fairly good episode
from last Christmas, Jake is the captain's bodyguard and Amy wants a
perfect precinct photo – elusive, since Rosa refuses to smile.

“The Mentalist,”
about 9:30 p.m., CBS. The team probes a murder linked to a
counterfeit diamond operation. Patrick Jane, however, is confined to
the office by illness.

“The Comeback,”
10 p.m., HBO. A week from its hour-long season finale, this finds
Valerie's new show debuting. It's promptly lambasted by critics, by
“The Talk” ... and by her husband.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” about 10:30 p.m., CBS. An apparent hit-and-run
leads to a probe of the aeronautics industry.

 

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 3:30 p.m., ABC; 8:25 p.m. CBS.

The bowl season –
once confined to a few games around New Year's Day – is ready to
consume us. Starting today, there will be 39 bowls, spread over
two-plus weeks. The top first-day match-up is the Las Vegas Bowl on
ABC, with Utah (8-4 and ranked No. 22) and Colorado State (10-2).

Drawing more viewers
will be tonight's pro game – the final piece of the deal that
brought seven games to CBS on Thursdays. The San Diego Chargers
(8-6), a game behind top wild-card playoff contenders – visit the
San Francisco 49ers (7-7), a Super Bowl team two years ago, but out
of the running now.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 5:30 and 7:45 p.m., TNT.

On the final
Saturday before Christmas, families can get together to watch a
classic. “Oz” has enough fantasy and whimsy for the kids and
enough intelligence and depth for the grown-ups.

Catch it early and
you can also see an excellent 8 p.m. film -- “Forrest Gump”
(1994) on USA, “Steel Magnolias” (1989) on WE or “Christmas in
Conway” (2013) on Hallmark.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Christmas Icetastrophe,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.

For anyone who faced
last month's snow storms (or last year's ice storms), here's the
pleasure of being warm and cozy, watching other people have it much
worse. Ice races at 40 miles an hour, freezing people instantly;
giant chunks leap from the ground, smiting trucks and a low-flying
helicopter.

Still, this isn't a
“Sharknado”-type film that means to be silly. It starts with an
absurd situation, but then has a solid cast (mostly attractive
unknowns) playing it straight. And at times – when the ice tries to
outrun a car, boat, snowmobile or chopper – it's kind of exciting.

Other choices
include:

More bowl games,
ESPN. Sure, some of the names are silly (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?)
and one has teams with a combined 13-12 record. Still, here's a
quadruple-header – New Orleans Bowl at 11 a.m., Nevada (7-5) and
Lousiana-Lafayette (8-4); New Mexico Bowl at 2:20 p.m., Utah State
(9-4) and Texas-El Paso (7-5); Potato Bowl at 5:45, Air Force (9-3)
and Western Michigan (8-4); and Camellia Bowl at 9:15, Bowling Green
(7-6) and South Alabama (6-6).

“Blackfish”
(2013) and “Dinosaur 13” (2014), 7 and 9 p.m., CNN. The network
reruns two of its best documentary movies – one eyes sea creatures
in captivity, the other the fight for fossil ownership.

“The Sound of
Music Live” (2013), 8-11 p.m., NBC. It's not live any more, but it
was last year. Less ambitious than this year's “Peter Pan Live,”
it was still much better, with vastly superior music given to great
singers, led by Carrie Underwood and Audra McDonald.

“I Wat a Dog for
Christmas, Charlie Brown,” 8 p.m., ABC. This 2003 cartoon has Rerun
(Linus and Lucy's brother) bond with Snoopy and want a dog of his
own.

“CMA Country
Christmas,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Here's a second chance to catch a
concert stuffed with country stars – Underwood, Brad Paisley, Alan
Jackson ,Jennifer Nettles (who hosts) and more. It also includes such
outsiders as Steven Tyler, Idina Menzel, Lucy Hale and Michael W.
Smith.

“The Missing,” 9
p.m., Starz, repeating at 10:05 and 11:10. Last week ended with a
fierce jolt: Eight years ago, Tony learned that the man who had been
funding his search for his son was, himself, a pedophile; enraged, he
killed him. Tonight, he covers up the crime.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Amy Adams hosts, with music from One
Direction.

TV column for Friday, Dec. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Amazing Race” finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week, “Race”
scuttled tradition by – for the second straight week -- eliminating
no one. That spared Amy DeJong and Maya Warren, the friends and food
scientists who were in last place.

Brooke Adams and
Robbie Strauss, the wrestlers who are dating, lead the million-dollar
chase, followed by two married couples. Bethany Hamilton – who
continued to be a top surfer after losing an arm to a shark – is in
second with Adam Dirks; Jim and Misti Raman, both dentists, are
third.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “A Home for the Holidays,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Each year, this
special ripples with strong music. This year, it has two women –
Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee – who became more famous than
the people who beat them on “American Idol”; it also has Train,
Rixton and Earth, Wind & Fire, plus country's Ashley Monroe and
Dan + Shay.

Intermingled are
stories about adoption. Jared and Kelly Williams, for instance, had
two biological sons when they met Mara. “She didn't know how to
speak, because no one had talked to her,” Jared says. Now, eight
years later, she's a talkative 12-year-old ... and the family has
adopted two more kids.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Christmas in Washington,” 8 p.m., TNT, rerunning at
10.

In the elegant
National Building Museum, President Obama and others hear musical
variety.

There's country,
from Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish) and Hunter
Hayes. And pop, from Christina Perri and Rita Ora. And soulful
singers, some new (Aloe Blacc) and some not (Earth, Wind & Fire).
Dwayne Johnson – far above his wrestling days as The Rock – is
the host.

Other choices
include:

More Christmas, 8
p.m. NBC repeats its “Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” with
music by Mariah Carey, Trisha Yearwood and more, including a Lady
Gaga/Tony Bennett duet. There are also plenty of movies, including
“Elf” (2003) on ABC Family and “Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol”
(1962) on CW.

“MasterChef
Junior” and “Hell's Kitchen,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here –
repeated from Tuesday and Wednesday – are the two-person showdowns
from both shows, choosing the champions.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Boyd is sent home from a party
for starting a war game. His grandfather (Tim Allen) is promptly
blamed for showing him action movies and video games.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Here's a rerun of the pilot film, with comedian Cristela
Alonzo as a law-office intern, living with her mother, sister and
brother-in-law. The characters are appealing, but the humor is blunt
and forced, including one joke (about poison) which is literally a
century old.

“Christmas With
the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
The holiday gets a classical touch, when soprano Deborah Voight links
with the choir; actor John Rhys-Davies also performs. Many stations
follow at 10 with Minnesota's St. Olaf Choir performing in Norway.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, teens have been randomly punching
strangers. That turns tragic with a pregnant victim.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 18


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

After giving up her
baby for adoption, Violet (Sadie Calvano) slid downhill. She moped,
drank and repeated the mistakes of her recovering-alcoholic mother
and grandmother.

Now she cheats on
her good-guy boyfriend and her elders step in with lies, therapy and
more. On one hand, “Mom” is very funny – a worthy show to
follow “Big Bang Theory”; on the other, it handles drama
skillfully. We knew Allison Janney is gifted; last year she won an
Emmy (her sixth overall) as the grandma. The surprise is how good
Calvano and Anna Faris are, making an ideal combination.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “White Collar” series finale, 9-10:05 p.m., USA.

Over six seasons,
this show has given us clever scripts, focusing on smart guys
enmeshed in scams. Peter (Tim DeKay) is the FBI agent who caught Neal
(Matt Bomer), a master thief. A fragile friendship grew, while Neal
helped catch other crooks ... while sometimes hatching schemes of his
own.

Now Peter plans a
con against a crooked group known as the Pink Panthers ... a
dangerous move that his pregnant wife (Tiffani Thiessen) objects to.
Neal has a risky heist of his own; he often does.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

Pop music's power
players assemble in Madison Square Garden, for an all-star show.
Taylor Swift will be there, of course; so will Iggy Azalea, Sam
Smith, Ariana Grande and half the “Voice” judges – Adam Levine
(as part of Maroon 5) and Pharrell Williams.

There's more,
including One Republic and 5 Seconds of Summer, plus Charli XCX,
Jessie J, Nick Jonas, Shawn Mendes, Rita Ora and Meghan Trainor.

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 and 9
p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, the murder victim is a country singer;
in the second, it's a swim coach. That one introduces Laura Spencer
(Emily in “Big Bang”) as an intern Sweets falls for.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Wolowitz's skills have never included
throwing a ball. In this rerun, however, NASA wants him to throw out
the first pitch at a Los Angeles Angels game.

“People Magazine
Awards,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. Nick Cannon hosts a special that looks at
the year in pop culture. Guests including the top Jennifers (Aniston
and Lopez), plus music by Maroon 5 and 5 Seconds of Summer – groups
that are also in tonight's CW special – and Lady Antebellum.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. The guys try to convince young Louis that
Santa is real. Also, Rose is back.

“The McCarthys,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. Alyson Hannigan (“How I Met Your Mother”) plays
the upstairs tenant. She's heart-broken about a failed romance, so
Marjorie invites her to the family Christmas.

“Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. Holmes and Watson join the search for a cop-killer.
Also, someone has been posting things that Sherlock said in the
anonymity of his recovery group.

“The Colbert
Report,” 11:30 p.m., Comedy Central. After more than eight years,
Stephen Colbert has his final new show. His guest – a frequent one
– is Grimmy, better known as the Grim Reaper. Then Colbert will
prepare to take over CBS' “Late Show,” after David Letterman's
May 20 finale.