(This is the Wednesday TV column, out of order. The Thursday one, out of order, is right below this.)
“Designated Survivor” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.
The season's best
new show is done with subtlety and skill. During the State of the
Union address, it seems, one cabinet official is tucked away in case
there's an emergency. This time, there is one; soon, an obscure
official (Kiefer Sutherland) becomes president.
This could have been
overwrought, but that's not Sutherland's style. Instead, we get the
depth and drama of a quietly decent man, thrust into world-changing
II: “Lethal Weapon” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.
For four movies,
this formula has paid off: A careful, cautious cop is paired with a
mad-dash one. They bicker amid chases and shoot-outs and more.
Now the TV version
adds extra warmth: The older guy (Damon Wayans) has good reason to be
careful; fresh from a health crisis, he's a new dad. The younger one
(Clayne Crawford) has solid humanity below his suicidal facade.
There's still lots of action, but there are also good reasons to
ALTERNATIVE: “Empire” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.
Don't be tardy for
this; within the first couple minutes, we're belted by power-punch
moments. That's the “Empire” style; in the season-finale, Lucious
married the scheming and pregnant Anika to keep her from testifying
against him; soon, she was battling on the rooftop with his
Now emotions are
stirred by Lucious' mother and son (both bipolar) and his
half-brother. The result is overheated, but engrossing. It has few of
the usual music moments, but one epic song is worth the wait.
8-9:30 p.m., CBS. For its 33rd season, “Survivor” has
a generational battle. The millenials tribe ranges from a high school
student, 18, to an Internet videogame host, 31; the generation-X
tribe ranges from a model, 33, to a mechanic, 52. The millennials
includes a bartender and a barista; the gen-X'ers includes two
lawyers, a cop and a pastor.
debut, 8:30 p.m., ABC. Maya (Minnie Driver) is a passionate parent,
scrambling to find the perfect school district for her son, who had
cerebral palsy ... often while ignoring the rest of the family. She's
sometimes a delight and sometimes just overbearing. Fortunately, some
side characters – especially Cedric Yarbrough as the school
groundskeeper – add extra fun.
“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. When a little boy is found
alone in Central Park, the investigation ranges from terrorism to
rape. The story is solidly told, but not necessarily satisfying.
9 p.m., ABC. The family manages to re-unite, after separate trips
take people to New York, Mexico and the Midwest.
9:30-11 p.m., CBS. Here's the finale, with a $500,000 winner.
9:31 p.m., ABC. As a kid, Dre feels, he never had a big-deal family
vacation. Now he takes everyone (including his father) to Disney
Story,” 10 p.m., FX. This is the season “AHS” kept secret.
During last week's opener, viewers finally learned that it centers on
a couple that may have bought a house haunted by the vanished Roanoke
Colony. The show's complicated interview/flashback approach offers
lots of work for actors – including new Emmy-winners Sarah Paulson
and Cuba Gooding Jr., as the couple.