TV column for Saturday, Jan. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Ten Day in the Valley” conclusion, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

This has been a much
better mini-series than ABC deserves. It's smartly written, with
deeply detailed characters, beautifully played. But it was derailed
by the network – yanked (with little warning) from the schedule ...
shelved for almost two months ... then buried on Saturdays.

Still, it's been
worth catching, as Jane searched for the daughter who was kidnapped
by her assistant (now slain) and then re-kidnapped by someone else.
(Yes, that requires some use of coincidence.) Now Jane flees, while
Bird (the honest cop) works the case.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football play-offs, 4:20 p.m. ET, ESPN; 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC.

For decades, TV
people have longed for the day when Los Angeles – with its
mega-media audience – would have a pro team again. Even better
would be for LA to have a contender.

Now, suddenly, both
have happened. Last season, after 20 years in St. Louis, the Rams
returned to LA ... and fell flat, with a 4-12 record. This year, they
leaped to 11-5, won their division title, and now host Atlanta (10-6)
on NBC. Earlier, ESPN has Kansas City (10-6) hosting Tennessee (9-7).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rocky” (1976) and “Chuck” (2016), 7 and 9 p.m.,
Showtime.

Most people agree
that “Rocky” is a great film. It won three Academy Awards
(including best picture) and was nominated for seven more; the
American Film Institute puts it behind only “Raging Bull,” among
the best sports movies in history.

Still, some people
said the plot – an obscure lug fights a flashy champion – lacked
believability. Think again: “Rocky” has a sharp similarity to
Chuck Wepner's real-life championship fight with Muhammad Ali. Here
are both films – Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, Liev Schreiber as
Wepner – side by side.

Other choices
include:

Figure skating, 4
p.m. ET and 8 p.m., NBC. These are the U.S. finals, with Olympic
spots at stake. The women were Friday, pairs are this afternoon, with
men tonight and free dance at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“The Four,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. Here's a quick rerun of Thursday's debut of this music
competition.

“The Good Doctor,”
8 p.m., ABC. In an excellent rerun, we see Shaun's first full day at
the hospital. With colleagues skeptical about his youth and autism,
he's confined to the sidelines.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Torres' stake-out partner suddenly disappears. Also,
Susan Blakely guests as Ducky's friend, offering him a fresh
opportunity.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Tammy's ex-husband embezzled $80 million
intended for Katrina victims. This tends to make him unpopular; now
his troubles grow, when he's linked to the murder of the son of a Mob
boss.

“The Lion King”
(1994), 9 p.m., Freeform. With lush animation – matched by Elton
John's lush music – this is a classic. It's preceded by Disney's
animated “Tarzan” (1999) at 6:55.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. This reruns the two-rapper night: Chance
the Rapper hosts, with Eminem as music guest.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” return, 8 p.m., CW.

Last month, this
clever show reached a turning point. Rebecca had survived her
obsession with Josh and had survived a suicide attempt. No longer
employed, she has a therapist ... and a new obsession, with her
former boss. Then cane a four-week break.

Now “Crazy”
re-starts slowly. Neither of tonight;s music numbers has Rebecca;
there's a splashy piece by Darryl and a funny little one by Josh's
mom. There's also a mild plot, suggesting that this witty and
eccentric show has bigger things ahead.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Figure-skating, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

On Feb. 9, the
Winter Olympics will begin, elevating skaters to the top of the
sports world. So the U.S. championship – with Olympic-team spots at
stake – get extra attention.

The NBC Sports
Network has been covering the early rounds, wrapping them up from
12:30-6:30 p.m. ET today. Then NBC has the finals. The women are
tonight; Saturday has pairs (4 p.m. ET) and men (8 p.m.), Then free
dance will be 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mysteries & Scandals” debut, 9 p.m., Oxygen.

In her CNN years,
Soledad O'Brien showed she's a smart and diligent reporter. Now she
uses approximately 12 percent of that talent, to re-tell famous crime
stories.

The first seven
minutes offer a bland retelling of the O.J. Simpson story; then comes
the fascinating crime that sent him to prison. This was a bizarre
botch – retrieving sports artifacts that (a court later ruled)
belonged to Simpson anyway ... but doing it with threats and guns.
Simpson got nine years, the gunmen went free; one “friend” sold a
secret tape for $150,000. It's an odd story, told by key players.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Music specials, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

We can catch three
great singers in back-to-back (or cheek-to-cheek) reruns. First are
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, in a 2014 “Great Performances,” doing
jazz songs from their “Cheek to Cheek” album.

Then is the misnamed
“Alan Cummings Sings Sappy Songs.” There's no sappiness here;
Cummings beautifully does the songs from Gaga, Miley Cyrus and more;
he also dedicates wrenching songs to his troubled father and
grandfather.

Other choices
include:

“Child Support”
debut, 8 p.m., ABC. Viewers have enjoyed the young “experts” on
ABC's “Toy Box.” Now grown-ups try to answer questions, but can
be bailed out by a panel of kids. Fred Savage – the former “Wonder
Years” star and a busy director – hosts; Ricky Gervais works with
the kiddie panel.

“Hell's Kitchen”
and “9-1-1,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. First, Gordon Ramsay calls the
contestants late at night, giving each $20 to buy ingredients for
three restaurant-quality pasta dishes. Then is a rerun of the
excellent “9-1-1” debut, boosted by strong work from Connie
Britton, Peter Krause and Angela Bassett. “MacGyver,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. And you thought a karaoke microphone was a silly tiong to have
at home? Mac needs it after his house has been rigged with bombs by
his nemesis, The Ghost.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. This is a tough task – round up every gang-related
criminal on the island. That happens after the death of an FBI agent
who was cracking down on gangs.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. With Daisy's life in danger, she gets
unexpected help.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank, the police commissioner, is at odds with a drug
policy led by his daughter. Meanwhile, his son Danny re-opens a case
a reporter was investigating when killed.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Four” debut, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Fifteen years after
soaring with “American Idol,” Fox tries another music concept
that has worked in other countries. This will start cautiously –
six quick weeks, to avoid clashing with “The Voice.”

And it starts where
others end – a “final four.” The panel – Sean “Diddy”
Combs, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled and Charlie Walk – has chosen
those four; each week, challengers – maybe even viewers who submit
their auditions – try to replace someone. Fergie hosts, with the
winner getting a record deal.

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

No show has ever
made so many U-turns so quickly. It started as a comedy about a bad
person, mistakenly sent to the good afterlife. Then we learned this
was all planned by Michael (Ted Danson), as a subtle torture for four
bad people. Then Michael flipped and became their secret friend.

Now his boss shows
up and he seems to flip yet again. In only its 20th
episode, “Good Place” keeps spinning in new (and clever)
directions; we have no idea what the 21st will bring.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nashville” season-opener, 9 p.m., CMT, rerunning at
12:58 a.m.

In five seasons,
this has gone through all the joy and agony of a good country song.
It even killed its main character (Rayna) when Connie Britton wanted
to leave. Now Britton is gone – she was terrific in Wednesday's
“9-1-1” debut – and “Nashville” is starting its final
season.

Rayna's widower,
Deacon, deals with loneliness. Their daughter, Maddie, goes on a trip
with Scarlett – meeting a handsome and confident pop star. Also,
Juliette tries to rebound from her public meltdown.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that the regular football season is over,
this will be a weekly battle – NBC's dandy comedies facing a CBS
line-up led by TV's best comedy. Tonight, Sheldon and Amy use science
to choose a best man and a maid-of-honor. Expect them to bungle it.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's tough to compete with a comedy giant. Tonight, one of
the employees posts a controversial video; soon, Dina wants Cheyenne
to help her police everyone's social media.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Who thought we needed another 8 p.m. comedy tonight? In
this rerun, Frankie gives away unneeded items, hoping to get foot in
return.

“Truth and Lies:
Waco,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Next month will bring the 25th
anniversary of a chaotic moment: Trying to enter the Branch Davidian
compound near Waco, Texas, federal agents faced gunfire. Four agents
and six Davidians were killed; a 51-day stand-off began, ending with
the deaths of 79 of the 85 people inside. Why did things go so badly?
ABC News says it has fresh information.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Earlier, Bonnie learned she is no one's contact person for
medical emergencies. Now there's areminder of that low regard: When
her half-brother is arrested, he calls Adam, not her..

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. When Nick Offerman was in “Parks and
Recreation,” there were wildly funny guest bits by his real-life
wife, Megan Mullally. Now he returns the favor; he plays a bisexual
chap who is dating Will AND Grace. Meanwhile, Karen (Mullally) can't
shake an annoying jingle.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. When Dawson's dad is stabbed, Brett tries a difficult
procedure to save him. Dawson struggles with how she's dealt with her
her dad. Meanwhile, Otis scrambles to get the second Molly's bar
ready to open. And Boden is emotional about the rescue of a famous
bluesman.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The X-Files” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

It's been two years
since the 10th “X-Files” season ended with a
world-at-risk episode. Now we start there again: Some people want to
kill the cigarette man (Mulder's father) ... some want to nab the
teen son of Mulder and Scully ... some want to end the world. All are
quite angry and tense.

Eventually, the show
will get back to its quirk-of-the-week format. (The fourth episode is
hilarious.) Meanwhile, the high-stakes episodes, including tonight's,
are a mixed blessing. Heavily serialized, with no real ending,
they're frustrating. Still, the heightened writing makes them
fascinating to watch.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “9-1-1” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

TV has had lots of
cops, firefighters and paramedics, plus an occasional crisis-phone
person. But this mixes them together, in a busy hour that has two big
crises, plus small ones and personal stories.

The personal
problems are piled on heavily; there's Alzheimer's, alcoholism, a
fractured marriage, and more. And the loose-cannon character feels
like a cliche ... especially because he's almost identical to the one
on “S.W.A.T.” Still, the stories are compelling, with terrific
actors at the top. Angela Bassett, Peter Krause and the superb Connie
Britton breathe rich humanity into a quick-paced hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Grown-ish” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Freeform.

As this show
starts, it feels compelled to remind us it's a “Black-ish”
spin-off. That two-minute opening, oddly, is weepy and witless; as
soon as it ends, “Grown-ish” becomes an excellent show.

A smart and popular
high school student, Zoey is starting college ... and sort of
botching it. This show is surprisingly frank about drugs and sex –
especially for a network that used to be called “ABC Family.”
It's also smart and likable; Zoey soon has a “Breakfast Club”
sort of friendship wih six others; they seem wrong for each other
(and, sometimes, for college), but they're great together.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Amazing Race” season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Once a huge,
twice-a-year project, “Race” is down to one edition, squeezed
between “Survivor” editions. For its 30th round, the
show assembles for competitive types. There are IndyCar champions and
former pro basketball stas, plus champions of “X-Games,” eating
(really) and debating.

Others include twins
who are firefighters, two more sets of friends (models and yoga
instructors) and three more dating couples – a lifeguard duo ...
half of a classical/pop string quartet ... and former “Big Brother”
couple Cody Nickson and Jessioca Graf. Tonight, they race fron New
York to Iceland.

Other choices
include:

Movies, 4 p.m. to
midnight, FX. Here's a line-up aimed at kids on vacation. The amiable
“We Bought a Zoo” (2011) is 4 p.m., with “Goosebumps” (2015)
at 6 and “Hotel Transylvania 2” (2015) at 8 and 10.

“The Blacklist”
return, 8 p.m., NBC. Fresh from a six-week break, the show now has
Liz – widowed and shattered – trying for a new start where no one
knows her. Soon, she's fighting for her life.

“Riverdale” and
“Dynasty,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW. One show reruns its season-opener,
the other its debut, with opposite results. “Riverdale” is a
solid show, giving depth to the old Archies gang; “Dynasty” has
all the depth of a shot glass, giving us no one to like and little to
care about.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. If guys can have a “man cave,” can Claire have a
“she shed” in the yard? The neighborhood association says she
can't. Also, a family sends Cam to Mitch's therapist.

“Match Game”
season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. Alec Baldwin has panelists mostly known
for comedy – Niecy Nash, Joel McHale, Caroline Rhea, Jason Ritter,
Mark Duplass and Constance Zimmer.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Partying with his girlfriend, Halstead becomes entwined
in a drug-related murder. Also, we finally learn who is the mole in
the police unit.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“LA to Vegas” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

When Ronnie became a
flight attendant, she expected to see the world. Instead, she sees
the same 270-mile route, with the same needy passengers and needier
pilot.

This is a comedy
that goes for big,broad laughs, often succeeding. Former soap star
Kim Matula makes Ronnie smart and likable, confident about everything
except her own emotions. Dylan McDermott, who usually does
dead-serious roles, is surprisingly good as the shady, shaky captain.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Ellen's Game of Games,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

After a likable
preview two weeks ago, this settles into its temporary, 8 p.m. slot,
adding an extra hour at 9. Ellen DeGeneres presides over offbeat
games that have worked on her daytime show,.

In a perverse
version of “musical chairs,” for instance, the contestants are
blindfolded and the chairs keep being moved. In “You Bet Your
Wife,” men bet on how many questions their wives – suspended 30
feet in the air – can answer in 30 seconds.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Major Crimes,” 9 p.m., TNT; rerunning at 10.

Let's credit G.W.
Bailey with perseverance. From “MASH” (as Sgt. Rizzo) to now,
this Texan is usually given folksy, crusty little roles. But he has
stuck with this character, Louie Provenza, for two series (“The
Closer” and “Major Crimes”), 13 seasons and 212 episodes. At
73, he plays a key role.

Sharon Raydor, the
unit's leader, has died of heart trouble. Last week (rerunning at 8),
she was mourned and buried, while the team faced another crisis:
Serial killer Philip Stroh (Billy Burke) escaped and seems to have a
bigger plan. In the series' second-to-last hour, Lt. Provenza pushes
for extra cops.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. With a drug-running operation working out of a marina, Ellie and
Nick (Emily Wickersham and Wilmer Valderrama) go undercover as a
crime couple.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Teens inadvertently get tangled in a counterfeit-money
scheme. That strikes a chord with Murtaugh, who's having trouble with
his son.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The boys ride with their dad and grandfather (John
Cullum), unaware of what's in store. And as New Year's Eve nears, Sue
isn't sure if she has a romance with Sean Donahue.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. As Bow's maternity leave expires, she finds it tough to
return to work. At home, her mother-in-law has shaky parenting
skills, offering the twins a scheme to skip homework.

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. Mick has been social-climbing lately. So when she learns
that her nephew's friend is the son of actress Jennie Garth (playing
herself), she schemes to get close.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A deadly robbery seems to be linked to an
undercover operation by the Alcohol Tobacco Firearms unit. Percy
(Shalia Grant) must reconnect with her old ATF partner.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. A young woman has HIV symptoms, but refuses to take a
test. She has no insurance, leading to an ethical debate. Meanwhile,
Noah deals with his first death as a resident.