TV column for Thursday, Oct. 15

MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

first two episodes have taken Liz and Red on a fierce whirlwind.
Chased by her old FBI colleagues, she ended up in the Russian
embassy, claiming to be a spy ... then headed toward a plane ride to
Moscow. Except that Solomon planned to kill her en route.

Red hatched an elaborate escape plan. Now they're on the run in the
Midwest; the FBI is still chasing them ... while coming across what
could be the core of a global food crisis.

MIGHT-SEE: Movies, cable.

a night dominated by sports (football and baseball), cable counters
with strong movies. Kids have “Cars” on Starz (which even
rhymes); the 2006 film is at 7 p.m. General audiences have Tom Hanks
in “Cast Away” (2000, 8 p.m, AMC), on the eve of his “Bridge of
Spies” opening.

also have two Oscar-winners, the scary “Silence of the Lambs”
(1991, 8 and 10:30 p.m. ET, BBC America and the tough documentary
“Harlan County, U.S.A.” (1976, 9:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies), plus a terrific Oscar-nominee, “American Sniper” (2014,
8:30 p.m., HBO).

ALTERNATIVE: “Nathan For You” season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy

on its best days, this odd show – sort of reality and (sometimes)
hidden camera – is slow to entertain us. Nathan Fielder brings a
quiet, Canadian humor as he helps small businesses in odd ways.

isn't one of the best days. Fielder's scheme – briefly price your
TV's at $1, to squelch a match-any-price offer at Best Buy – has
huge flaws. There are some good moments, however ... especially when
he probes how his people would do in a courtroom.

choices include:

overload, all night. CBS has football (7:30 p.m. ET preview, 8:30
kick-off), with undefeated Atlanta at 1-4 New Orleans. And TBS has
the fifth and final games (if neccessary) of baseball's National
League division series in St. Louis (4:30 p.m. ET) and Los Angeles (8
p.m. ET).

Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. This is bad form for hostesses: The sisters
forget they're giving a dinner party for everyone. Meanwhile, Arizona
finds she's getting romance advice from a 90-year-old.

8 p.m., Fox. It's the first day back to their old jobs for Booth –
who finds his old office now occupied by Aubrey – and for Brennan.
She has the kind of case she savors (complex and gruesome), but
there's other trouble: Arastoo (who held her job briefly) and Cam are
no longer together.

Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox. We were kind of wary when a beauty named
Pandora arrived, bearing a box. Inside is an artifact, capable of
turning an ordinary person into a terrifying figure from the past.

9 p.m., ABC. Olivia is usually soothing other people's media storms.
As she faces one of her own, Huck and Quinn recruit a familiar figure
to help.

Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Here's something the classic
designers never worried about: Contestants must use 3-D printing
technology to make avant garde designs.

to Get Away with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Wes finds new information
about Rebecca's disappearance, Asher gets a surprising confession ...
and there's a new case, with a murdered teen.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 14

MUST-SEE: “Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

shows match “Empire” for dizzying extremes of good and bad. This
hour starts and ends superbly, mixing music with high-octane scenes.
And in between ... well, sometimes it's sheer nonsense.

prosecutor character is absurd. Her scenes with Cookie go too far in
splintering a powerful character. And one plot element – ignoring
all the realities of federal rules – seems to think a record
company can buy all the radio stations and instantly shut out its
competition. Much of this is ludicrous ... but the good parts –
especially at the start and end – let us forget the nonsense

MIGHT-SEE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

three decades, Dereck and Beverly Joubert have ceated slendid African
documentaries. This one, however, is far more pensive – and morose?
-- than most. They call it “Soul of the Elephant.”

gets heavy at times, but there are beautiful pictures and soulful
moments. We see a herd change course to visit an elephant's remains
... and a mother panic when her son strays in lion territory. Adds
Dereck, in one of his reveries: “There is something hypnotic about
being in the path of a charging elephant – so much danger, but also
beautiful and peaceful.”

ALTERNATIVE: “Baring It All: Inside New York's Fashion Week,” 9
p.m., ABC Family.

cable channels keep changing identities, like spies on the lam. The
Christian Broadcasting Nework became the Family Channel, Fox Family
and ABC Family; in January, it will become Freeform, continuing to
seek “becomers,” ages 14-34. This documentary may fit them

visits Fashion Week with a model and a designer, plus writer
Katherine Schwarzenegger and singer Caroline Vreeland, descendants of
a much-feared terminator and a more-feared fashion editor.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Kingdom,” 9 p.m., DirecTV.

for the Kulina clan is tough and loud. Alvey runs a
mixed-martial-arts gym, where his fighters include his sons (the
seething Jay and quiet Nate), plus champion Ryan. Alvey lives with
his pregnant girlfriend, who focuses on the business; his sons live
with his estranged wife, a recovering drug addict.

are passionate people, even when they're just talking. Then there are
the fights – a brutal one first, a pivotal one later; they help
jolt a drama that's always strong and sometimes overwrought.

choices include:

Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Norm Macdonald is back as the flaky brother
of Mike – who's willing to join one of his schemes. Also, Sue hates
her roommate so much that she's sleeping in her car.

& Hungry” season-finale, 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC Family. In the
romantic-comedy tradition, Gabi and Josh aree the only ones who don't
realize they belong together. Complicating things is Josh's handsome
and carefree brother, arriving just as Gabi prepares to cater the
wedding of Elliot and Alan. A bit less broad and forced than usual,
this is a pretty good episode.

Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Phil obsesses on helping hatch duck eggs, but
no one (except little Lily) is interested. Meanwhile, Manny has a
crush and Cam gets too attached to his frat-guy renters.

9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Now we can worry about warfare
that needs no guns or bombs. Here's a disturbing look at possible
cyber attacks on power plants, pipelines and more.

Brain,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Over the next six
weeks, this will mix science and special effectsm to see what's known
about the brain.

Black,” 10 p.m., CBS. Doctors face tragedy during a 36-hour shift.

Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:40 p.m. and 1:20 a.m.
Last week's opener was stuffed with nasty (and well-crafted) scenes,
but was slow to develop a story. Gradually, we met a decent cop who
has checked into the hotel, unaware his missing son is there.
Tonight, he learns about the original owner; also, the new owner
plans big changes.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 13

MUST-SEE: “The Muppets,” 8 p.m., ABC.

probably wondered what the Muppets do after each show. Tonight, we
follow them to a bar, where they let let loose on karaoke. It's a
treat to see Beaker do the Cher parts ... and, especially, to see Sam
the Eagle (the show's censor) offer an earnest “Wind Beneath My

a fun episode, sparked by Miss Piggy's attempt to join the pary ...
and by Fozzie's troubles with a tee-shirt gun. “It really feels
good,” he says, “to do something nice for someone you shot in the

MIGHT-SEE: “The Grinder,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

isn't easy to take all your life-lessons from a bad TV show. Tonight,
the extended family is watching the show Dean (Rob Lowe) starred in;
that sets off a complicated debate about truth and useful lies.

that spirals into truth issues everywhere – from the family law
office to a boyhood squabble, decades ago. There aren't a lot of big
laughs, but there is a solid and entertaining half-hour.

ALTERNATIVE: “Secrets of the Dead” season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

more than 3,000 years, the “Trojan horse” has remained a symbol
for clever warfare, bad gifts and hidden agendas. But could this
story – soldiers hidden inside a wooden “horse” -- be true?

fitrst, this interesting hour says, people even doubted that Troy
existed. But researchers found remnants of a small city in the 1870s
and much more in the 1990s; they saw signs of a fortified place that
had been overrun. From there, a military engineer ponders whether
such a scheme would work.

choices include:

Time Ever,” 8 p.m., NBC. After staying at 10 p.m. for four weeks
(two more than planned), this live show moves to a tougher spot; “The
Voice” (now trimmed to a 9 p.m. hour) is no longer its lead-in.
Tonight, Jack Black is the guest announcer, the B-52s sing in the
song challenge, Neil Patrick Harris tries to trick the “Today”
team and the dancing-acrobatic “Queen of the Night” closes the

Tyler Moore: A Celebration,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Here's a profile of the former dancer whose show (and production
company) spurred a golden age of TV comedy.

8 p.m., CBS. The NCIS director (Rocky Carroll) returns to field duty,
helping Gibbs investigte a murder connected to a long-ago case.

New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. A Navy pilot was using a black-market
drone to individually gather military surveillance.

season-opener, 9 p.m., WGN, rerunning at 10:10 and midnight. Like the
atom-bomb project itself, this hour is big, tangled, hard to follow,
but worth the trouble. It protagonist, Frank Winter, has vanished and
his wife rejects official explanations. Joining the cast are William
Petersen as the colonel in charge and Mamie Gummer as a WAC, plus
Neve Campbell and Griifin Dunne.

Fire” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. Blamed for the steep turnover in
his squad, Severide is demoted. Meanshile, Casey continues his
perilous undercover work and a neighborhood protest.

My Brother's Bomber,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here is
the boomarang effect of revenge: Libyans led the bombing of American
soldiers in a German disco ... The U.S. responded by almost killing
Muammar Gaddafi and his family ... Libya responded by bombing a plane
over Scotland, killing hundreds of Americans. Wrapping up a
three-parter, Ken Dornstein traces those events, produces key
testimony from a former Libyan official and points to another key

TV column for Monday, Oct. 12

MUST-SEE: “Fargo” opener, 10 p.m., FX.

a splendid non-surprise: The first “Fargo” miniseries was the
best show of the 2013-14 season; this second one is the best of 2015. Like the
original, it has wit, charm, violence and a knack for the odd and

starts with a scene that's both drolly funny and thoroughly unrelated
to anything else. Then we're in 1979, when Molly (the sheriff in the
first mini) was 6 and her dad was a state trooper. He's working a
multiple murder that will uncover much more – a local crime
matriarch, big-city toughs and a clueless small-town couple,
wonderfully played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. It keeps
getting better.

MUST-SEE II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” debut, 8 p.m., CW.

Rebecca is a high-flying New York lawyer, with lots of money and
little joy. Suddenly, she ditches it all to move to West Covina,
Cal., home of the guy she dated during one blissful teen summer. That
may sound so-so, but wait until you see what writer-producer-star
Rachel Bloom does with it.

makes the fictional Rebecca a richly divided soul, simultaneously
big-city smart and junior-high ditsy. She adds big musical production
numbers, even belting an anthem astride a giant pretzel. And she
fills the cast with other musical-theater talent, making this a show
that should keep dazzling us.

ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

first “Jane” season was a delight. Its plot – a clinic error
accidentally impregnates a virgin with the last sperm of a handsome
hotel heir – was wildly unlikely, in the style of a “telenovela”
(a primetime soap on Spanish-language TV). “Jane” was aware of
that, though, and its narrator kept pointing it out.

Jane's baby is here ... and then is missing. The early minutes
tonight are hilarious; the others are fairly good. Put this alongside
“Fargo” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and Mondays have suddenly
become the centerpoint for TV that is bright, witty and – most of
all – really different.

choices include:

Phillips” (2013), 7-10 p.m., FX. It's a fine Tom Hanks night, with
this true-life drama plus the comedy “Sleepless in Seattle”
(1993) at 9 p.m. on Pop. It's also a night for great movies –
“Godfather” (1972) and its sequel (1974) at 5 and 9 p.m. on
Sundance, “Rain Man” (1988) at 9 p.m. on Starz.

Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), both 8-10 p.m.
Both shows reach turning points: “Voice” starts its battle
rounds; “Stars” switches partners. Last week, Bindi Irwin and
frequent-winner Derek Hough had the top scores; now he's with Alexa
PenaVega and she has Val Chmerkovskiy.

8 p.m., Fox. Michael Chiklis arrives in a big, booming way. He's the
new boss of head of a corrupt bunch of police detectives. That comes
as Galavan and Penguin scheme to be crime boss.

Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. For Sheldon, the big jolt wasn't
that Leonard married Penny ... it's that Leonard actually plans to
leave the apartment and move in with her. Now Sheldon ponders life.

in Pieces,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. After two good episodes, this comedy
had a great one last week. Now Jordan Peele is back as Colleen's
ex-boyfriend, who still lives. Also, Joan (Dianne Weist) questions
her daugter-in-law's parenting; Tim is advised not to beat his
father-in-law (James Brolin) in golf.

9 p.m., CBS. Walter, Cabe and Happy are in a submarine when an
explosion sends it to the bottom. The water is rising; the oxygen
level is falling.

10 p.m., NBC. The clues in Jane's tattoos keep sending people to
strange places. Now that's the Centers for Disease Control, with the
possibility of a global catastrophe.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 11

MUST-SEE: “The Walking Dead” season-opener, 9 p.m., AMC,
rerunning at 11:31 p.m. and 1:01 and 3:31 a.m.

the ferocity of the first “Walking Dead” episode, we saw Morgan
Jones, the first human Rick met after emerging from a coma. Last
season, we saw him following Rick.

he reaches the Alexandria compoundm amid more chaos. Outside the
compound are zombies; inside, the leader ordered Rick to kill the guy
who killed her husband. He did, bringing aftershocks.

MUST-SEE II: “Madam Secretary,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Elizabeth feels like an outsider, overshadowed by the new
national-security advisor. He's a hard-nosed guy and the new crisis –
an American kidnapped in Afghanistan – may need a softer step.

a smart, fast episode, other issues swirl by. One – her husband is
nudged into doing spy work – seems out-of-character; another
(involving their daughter) is excellent. There's a minor moment with
Madeleine Albright (as herself) and some strong foreshadowing
involving the Russian government.

ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland” and “The Affair,” 9 and 10 p.m.,

are shows with almost nothing in common except what counts – great
writing and superb acting. “Homeland” is taut and tense, as
Carrie tries to guard her boss in a rebel-ruled refugee camp. There
are bureaucratic maneuvers and then, late in the hour, some powerful

by comparison, is soft and subtle; we see the same day (plus a
flash-forward) from two perspectives. Tonight, it's Alison (the
superb Ruth Wilson) and her former boyfriend (Joshua Jackson).

choices include:

all day, cable. AMC continues to rerun the previous “Walking Dead”
seasons; that wraps up with last season's finale, at 7:30 p.m. Also,
FXM has the first “Fargo” miniseries, from 2 p.m. to 12:13 a.m.;
that sets up the start Monday of the second mini ... which is the
year's best new show.

Funniest Home Videos” season-opener, 7 p.m., ABC. Alfonso Ribeiro,
the new host, pushes too hard, but that doesn't really matter: Over
25 seasons, some things have been eternal: It's always funny to see a
bulldog try a treadmill ... or a dog leap up and shred the mail as it
comes through the slot ... or people tumble off docks, out of swings
and even out of giant flower pots.

Fires,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It's 1939 and village
matriarch Joyce wanted to close the Women's Institute during the war.
Instead, Frances pushed to keep it going and make it functional. In
this excellent episode, Joyce strikes back. Older women feel rage;
younger women try romance.

8:30 p.m. ET, NBC, with 7 p.m. preview. The struggling 49ers – 1-3
this season and dead-last in scoring with 12 points a game – visit
the Giants, 2-2 and averaging 25-plus.

Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It's time for
the Sipi fair, the only time locals in this India village can frolic
at the English compound. That turns out to be a dark day, complete
with fights concerning an affair and a foreclosure. And there are
bigger woes tonight, as the British start to crack down on rebels. A
strong show gets darker, deeper and better.

Good Wife,” 9:30, CBS. Like “The Affair,” this masters mixed
emotions. “You're being used,” Alicia's husband insists. Her
reply: “Isn't everyone?” He's running for president; she's
starting over, after an election scandal. Tonight, she gets a tough
new case and searches for the right investigator.

10:01 p.m., ABC. As Alex remains on the lam, her mother begs her to
turn herself in.