TV column for Friday, Jan. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Grimm,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Last week's
season-opener left Nick at the edge of disaster. The mayor-elect is a
monster (literally); so are other officials, including a judge. Nick
defeated a batch of hit men, thanks to a magic stick (don't ask) and
a girl's voodoo doll. But now a SWAT team is ready to attack.

This hour takes some
tangled strategic twists, as schemes collide with counter-schemes.
Still, it's a well-made hour – a solid start to a Friday-the-13th
that's filled with appropriately spooky stuff.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW.

The latest good news
is that “Crazy” has been renewed for next season; micro-mini
ratings can't kill a show, at least on CW. The other good news is
that “Crazy” has ended its stagnant stretch; the plot is now
leaping forward, with some dandy twists ... and, as usual, a couple
clever music numbers.

Rebecca is convinced
that her deep love for Josh can withstand anything. But what happens
when a sunnily shallow California guy meets a world of deep and
gloomy thinkers? There are some dandy surprises here, with Tovah
Feldshuh and Patti LuPone as her mother and her rabbi.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Two decades ago,
rebels invaded the Japanese embassy in Peru; a four-month hostage
crisis began. Fiveyears later, Ann Patchett's “Bel Canto” novel
imagined an opera diva as a hostage.

Now comes the next
logical step – an opera about a novel about an opera singer. Renee
Fleming organized this project for the Chicagoe Lyric, with
Peruvian-born composer Jimmy Lopez and Cuban-born playwright Nilo
Cruz. The result, introduced by Fleming, is shown tonight. It's a
muscular, red-blooded piece, with a talented cast led by Danielle de
Niese as a diva-in-crisis.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. When their helicopter crashes, Mac and Jack are in remote
Kazachstan, where a war criminal has Jack's gun. This will require
some inventiveness.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. People apparently do different things while
bonding. The girls decide to have a slumber party; their dad and his
poker buddies decide to prepare for colonoscopies.

“Alexander and the
Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (2014), 8:30 p.m.,
Disney. It's not easy to turn a delightful little kids' book into a
full movie story. But this has been translated into a fairly
enjoyable family story of an 11-year-old who's heading toward a truly
awful party.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Molly's boyfriend is quitting his pre-med studies to be an
artist. Her dad, the doctor, doesn't approve.

“Sleepy Hollow”
(Fox) or “Emerald City” (NBC), 9 p.m. Fresh from “Grimm,”
this grim Friday-the-13th can continue with either show.
On Fox, Ichabod suspects that a case involves witchcraft. On NBC, the
wizard has sent people to kill Dorothy. (No, this isn't the old
“Wizard of Oz.”) She takes a big risk.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Masi Oka is leaving the show, but first his character
(Max, the medical examiner) must help investigate a murder at a
police convention.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Moonlighting as a bodyguard for a recently released
conflict, Danny uses the chance to snag a crook. Also, his brother
Jamie witnesses a lovers' quarrel between two cops; now he and his
police partner reconsider their own relationship.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Taking the Stage: Changing America,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Washington's new
monolith is the National Museum of African American History and
Culture. Now this 400,000-square-foot giant gets a Kennedy Center
tribute, with readings, music and starpower.

Oprah Winfrey, Tom
Hanks, Stevie Wonder, Dave Chappelle and more will be there. The
line-up has people from music (Christina Aguilera, John Legend,
Janelle Monae, Elijah Kelley, Common, Patti Austin, Fantasia, Shirley
Caesar, Jon Batiste, Chuck D., Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight) and
dance (Savion Glover, the Alvin Ailey troupe), plus Angela Bassett,
Chris Tucker, Will Smith and more.

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

Michael has finally
learned of his bureaucratic blunders. He brought a bad Eleanor to
this good afterlife, based on the record of a good Eleanor; he
brought Jason, a would-be DJ, thinking he was a Tibetan monk. Now
bad-Eleanor must scramble to acquire “goodness points” and stay.

That part is fairly
funny, but the big laughs come from the Jason. Truly dim, he's now
married to an all-knowing computer creation. (Really.) And in
hilarious moments, we learn how he died.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, IFC.

The terrific
“Ghostbusters” movies neatly sandwich a new “Portlandia”; you
can catch them at 7:45 (1984) and 10:30 p.m. (1989) ET, rerunning at
1:30 and 3:45 a.m. ET.

In between (at 10
p.m. and 1 a.m. ET) is the droll wit of “Portlandia,” twistng
things around. There are the nerds, fretting that they are no longer
trendy, now that hunks have learned to read and talk. And a hip
couple, transforming its life by buying a white carpet. And guys
grumblng about their lost role in history. “Why don't we ever hear
about Harriet Tubman's husband? Or Eleanor Roosevelt's?”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Nashville,” 9 p.m., CMT; also, 11 p.m., CMT and
Nickelodeon.

Yes, we can expect
to get strong drama this year, with Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz
(“thirtysomething”) taking over as producers. Tonight, Maddie
starts her internship and Avery tries doing producing work for a
YouTube sensation; also, Juliette meets her “guardian angel.”

Alongside that,
however, has been great music. Outside the show, this is the week
that Clare Bowen -- who's terrific as Scarlett – hopes to release
her first single. Bowen (a childhood cancer survivor) sings a moving
tribute to her brother, who is in remission from cancer.

Other choices
include:

“The Great
American Baking Show” finale, 8 p.m., ABC. Next week, ABC finally
has its Thursday A-list, with “Scandal” and “Grey's Anatomy.”
First, however, we have the final two amateur bakers.

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 8 p.m., CW. This rerun concludes the four-night
crossover. CW superheroes – Supergirl, Arrow, Flash – join the
Legends to fight the Dominators.Stein has a possible plan, but he's
distracted by something he created in 1987.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the guys rush to meet the
unrealistic deadline they promised for a government project. That
leads, alas, to Sheldon taking an energy drink.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. An explorers' group claims that Jack
faked his most famous expedition. Now his young co-workers try to
save his reputation.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Bonnie doesn't seem like someone who can keep a secret.
Still, she didn't tell Christy that Jill is pregnant; Christy feels
left out

-- “The
Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. This helpful: On her doorstep, Liz finds
a diorama of a future crime.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

If you think it's
cold walking to your car, try spending your entire life outdoors in
the Arctic. Many animalas do it and seem to thrive; this fun hour
shows us how.

Wolves have two
layers of fur – one for insulation, the other to repel snow and
water; they have cold blood in their paws, warm blood in the rest of
their body. Polar bears can hibernate throughout the long winter ...
at the same time that they give birth and feed their young. And in
gorgeous footage, we see how the Arctic wooly bear caterpiller lets
itself be frozen stiff ... then thaws beautifully in the spring.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Star,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week's episode
was flawed, but ended sharply. Simone – shy and tentative – had
gulped some pills. Later, coaxed into singing in church, she
performed powerfully ... then collapsed.

That's where we
start: Drifting between life and death, Simone imagines being tugged
musically by her half-sister and her late mother. It's a great start
to an hour that's deeply erratic. On one side, the in-your-face
dialog becomes repetitious; the notion that a simple music demo
requires $30,000 is absurd ... as is proved in tonight's final
minutes. On the other, the characters are compelling and the music is
superb.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Cable comedies, 8 p.m., Pop; 10 and 10:30 p.m., FXX.

Suddenly, Wednesdays
are a key night for quirky comedy. FXX has the season's second
episodes of “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (it's water-park
time) and “Man Seeking Woman.” Now that Josh has a girlfriend, he
prepares her to meet his mom (Robin Duke, formerly of “Saturday
Night Live”).

First, Pop's “Creek”
has the once-wealthy Rose family in an odd little town. In this
season-opener, Johnny (Eugene Levy) seeks a new purpose; Moira
(Catherine O'Hara) feels the realities of local politics. That reruns
at 11 p.m.; the previous-season finale reruns at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30
p.m.

Other choices
include:

“Big” (1988) and
“Miracles From Heaven” (2016), 7:15 and 9 p.m., Starz. Here's a
feel-good double-feature – Tom Hanks as a 13-year-old in a
grown-up's body, then Jennifer Garner in a film base on a true story.
To feel less good – but see great filmmaking -- catch Alfred
Hitchcock's “Psycho” (1960), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic
Movies; the American Film Institute lists it as No. 14 all time.

“Arrow,” 8 p.m.,
CW. Here's the third part of the four-night crossover. Now the
recruits are linking with Flash and Supergirl, to face the
Dominators. Also in this rerun, Oliver is in an alternate life; his
parents (Jamey Sheridan, Susanna Thompson) are still alive and Laurel
(Katie Cassidy) is about to be his bride.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. The murder of a Texas Ranger leads to a corruption probe
... and to a dark secret from Captain Avery's past. Malcolm-Jamal
Warner has a guest role as David Reed.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. One of the world's most-wanted terrorists has been spotted
in New York. Now the team must race to prevent a bombing.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. In the middle of a woman's wild
drug party, her 6-year-old son disappears. As Benson works the case,
she worries about her own ability as a mother.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. At a wedding, Michell and Claire struggle to keep their
divorced (and squabbling) parents apart. Also, Cam obsesses on the
parent who was obnoxious at a dance recital.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. With his medical work limited by Parkinson's disease, Dr.
Guthrie takes a new job as the hospital chaplain. Also, he considers
a risky procedure to fight the ailment.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 10


(Some scheduling is tenative, because of the late
insertion of the presidential speech.)

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This is Us” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

A month ago, this
show brought surprises, delights ... and then a jolt. Toby – the
upbeat soul Kate needs -- collapsed. “Us” showed doctors trying
to revive him; then it ended abrupty.

Now, four weeks
later, it's back. Dan Fogelman, its creator, promises we'll quickly
learn about Toby. After that, NBC says, we'll look at Kate's brother
Kevin, who split with Olivia (the self-centered actress) and linked
with Sloane (the brainy playwright). Now, alas, Olivia is back. Also,
flashbacks show the young parents-to-be house-hunting ... setting up
a deeply moving episode next week.

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

In 1980, two young
guys, ages 19 and 21, were doing routine work at the Titan II silo.
One dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet and punctured the missile.
Eventually, there was an explosion; a nuclear warhead – 600 times
more powerful than the one at Hiroshima – was found in an Arkansas
ditch.

Officials say there
was never a danger it would detonate; this compelling documentary
disagrees. There have been hundreds of small accidents, it says ...
plus what was almost a huge disaster.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Speech, 9 p.m. ET, many networks.

In Chicago, Barack
Obama gives a speech, discussing highlights of his eight years as
president. Covering it sets off a series of shifts, varying by
network and time zone.

NBC will nudge “This
Is Us” back an hour (to 10 p.m.), resting “Chicago Fire” ...
ABC will shift its comedy episodes in different combinations for each
zone ... CBS will rest “Bull,” inserting at 9:30 p.m. ET a
hilarious “Big Bang” rerun, with families gathering for the
second Leonard-Pennny wedding.

Other choices
include:

“Uncle Buck”
(1989) and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” (1986), 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.,
Freeform. With network scheduled scrambled by the speech, some
viewers might settle for these amiable comedies. Other light choices,
at 8 p.m., are “Legally Blonde” (2001) on CMT and “Parent Trap”
(1998) on E.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, two new agents (Jennifer Esposito and Wilmer
Valderrama) settle into their jobs. While probing a death at a
Quantico reunion, the team discovers a long-time theft ring.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie has won free maid service for a month ... but,
alas, her house may defy cleaning. Meanwhile, Mike and his brother
(Norm Macdonald) look for an assisted living facility for their dad.
Also, Axl and his pals want to temporarily move into his sister's
college room.

“The Departed”
(2006), 8 p.m., AMC. With a potent collision of top actors –
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, more – this terrific
film won Academy Awards for best picture, for director Martin
Scorsese and for its script and editing, plus a nomination for Mark
Wahlberg.

“Good Behavior,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. At times, Letty (Michelle Dockeryt) has
been rescued by Javier, the taut hitman. Now she must take desperate
steps to rescue him.

“Lawless Oceans”
debut, 9 and 10 p.m., National Geographic. Ever since the pirate
days, we've known that criminals can roam the seas, sometimes
untouched by the law. That reached an extreme, this series says, with
footage that went viral in 2014: Four men, clinging to wreckage, were
shot and killed. This six-houd series probes the case, following a
trail of drugs, human-trafficking and, of course, piracy.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. During a vibrant funeral procession for one
Navy person, another one is killed.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. Coulson and May are getting closer – which
may be a problem, now that some people are being secretly replaced by
“life-model decoys.”

TV column for Monday, Jan.9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
College football championship game, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN.

OK, this is a little
like women's basketball and the University of Connecticut – no
surprises, no fun. For the second straight year, the game has
Alabama and Clemson. Alabama won last time, has won 26 straight games
and (counting the days before playoffs) is going for its fourth title
in seven years.

Maybe Clemson, 13-1,
can snap the streak. It did come up with a convincing win over Ohio
State, 31-0. That was right after 'Bama beat Washington, 24-7,
setting up some sameness.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Yes, it's just a
rerun. Still, it's a rerun of TV's best comedy, which is always an
improvement over the consistently adequate comedies that CBS airs on
Mondays.

Tonight involves
somethng “Big Bang” savors – isolating mismatched characters.
This one has two terrific actresses: Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is with
Leonard's non-nurturing mother, played by Christine Baranski – who
has an Emmy (for “Cybill”) and 15 nominations, four of them in
this role.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelor” (ABC) or “Celebrity Apprentice”
(NBC), 8-10 p.m.

For the second
straight week, these big-deal reality shows collide with bigger-deal
football. Last week it was the bowl games, including (in most time
zones) that wild Rose Bowl finish. Now there's more.

Last week, in his
debut as the “Apprentice” boss, Arnold Schwarzenegger fired
YouTube personality Carrie Keagan and singer Carnie Wilson. In Nick
Viall's debut as the bachelor, he trimmed the field from 30 to 22. He
kept Liz Sandoz, but neither one mentioned a secret that's key
tonight: The two had met at a wedding; they slept togther, she didn't
give him her phone number but tried to reach him later.

Other choices
include;

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. The final minutes of this rerun lauch a four-show
crossover. Between now and Thursday, Supergirl will link with Green
Arrow, The Flash and the Legends of Tomorow, in an effort keep the
Dominators from dominating.

“Saving Private
Ryan” (1998), 8 p.m. to midnight, AMC. Steve Spielberg's
masterpiece mixes jolting battle scenes with a story rich in human
depth. Tom Hanks stars, with Matt Damon in the title role.

“Vanderpump Rules”
season-opener, 9-11 p.m., Bravo. It's party time for Lisa
Vanderpump's young employees, who are, at least, very attractive.
When told it's a clambake, they look it up to see what it is. (It
turns out to be place where clams are baked.) Then someone wonders if
it will be formal.

“Beyond,” 9
p.m., Freeform. In the first two episodes, Holden woke from a 12-year
coma, facing questions. Why did he seem to have these memories? Why
does his mind have strange powers? In a fairly good episode, he
learns more about himself ... and learns the secret his family's been
keeping.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. After the current, 13-episode season, CBS has no
plans to renew this above-average show. Speeding the departure, it
has a new episode here, on a night of reruns. A fun-loving woman
(Busy Phillips) spends the night with Felix, who's not the fun type.

“Big Fan” debut,
10 and 10:30 p.m., on ABC. This game has fans seeing if they can top
their favorite celebrity in questions about him or her. Tonight, it's
Aaron Rodgers and actor Matthew McConaughey.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Happy (Jadyn Wong) is clearly unhappy in this rerun. She's
lost in a blizzard, while the team tries to rescue soldiers in
Anarctica.