TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 8

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This has become an
ABC specialty – holiday episodes from each comedy. Tonight, six
days early, we get Valentine's Day tales, peaking with the
Emmy-winning “Modern Family.”

Elizabeth Banks and
Nathan Fillion are back as guest stars. Also returning is “Clive
Bixby,” the alter-ego Phil summons when trying to spice his
marriage. Meanwhile, Valentine complications include Manny's dating
indecisiveness and a secret admirer for Haley.

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

The second “spy in
the wild” chapter studies animal intelligence. We see the use of
tools, both copied – oragnutans use soap and a saw – and
original. Tools are neatly crafted by crows, otters and more.

Most delightful is
the use of trickery. A squirrel pretends to hide a nut, then scampers
off with it while a thief searches futiley. A drongo sounds his alarm
so meerkats will disperse ... then steals their food; when they quit
falling for that, he starts mimicking their own alarm sound, with
renewed success.

ALTERNATIVE: “Madiba,” 6-10 p.m., BET.

In last week's
opener (rerunning at 6 p.m.), viewers had to overlook the fact that
Laurence Fishburne, 55 and burly, doesn't remotely resemble Nelson
Mandela from ages 21 to 32. Once they got past that, they had an epic
story, filmed in South African by gifted actor-turned-director Kevin

That ended with
Mandela and his colleagues acquitted of treason, after a case that
lasted six years, including long chunks of prison time. He returned
home, where Winnie was expecting their second child. Tonight's
chapter (8 p.m.), the second of three, has the tug between politics
and guerrilla warfare.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Legion” debut, 10 p.m., FX,

It was four years
ago that Dan Stevens left “Downton Abbey,” leaving his character
(Matthew) dead and fans stunned. Since then, his career has been
so-so – until now. Next month, he has the half-title role in
“Beauty and the Beast”; first, he has this spectacular acting

Stevens is David
Haller, in a semi-permanent life in a mental home, with one friend
(Aubrey Plaza) and few complications. Then a beautiful patient
arrives and everything changes. David soon wonders what is real; so
do we. It's a fascinating (if perplexing) start to a promising

Other choices

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Suddenly, the guys are questioning the past of Cahill
(Jordana Brewster). She has a deadly stalker; also, a file about
Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) is in her car.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. The string of Valentine comedies starts with Erica
feeling the breakup blues; her mom tried to snap her out of it in
time for the holiday.

8:30, ABC. Maya is planning a Valentine surprise for her husband,
requiring help from his former roommate ... who happens to be her
former fiance. Also, Ray has a secret admirer and JJ is in charge of
distributing candygrams.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. New crises appear. Derek organizes a rally after losing a
friend, but it gets out of control. Star misses a key rehearsal, so
someone else steps in. And Eva's intentions become clear.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Zoey's plan for an anti-Valentine party gets complicated
when her friend has a date. Meanwhile, her parents plan a party to
announce the gender of their baby. It's Dre's turn to choose a name
... but his culturally relevant choice isn't very popular.

“Code Black”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. This second season has only 16 episodes,
even shorter than the first year's 18. Tonight, Jesse welcomes the
new interns at a perilous time: Doctors are working with the Centers
For Disease Control, trying to stop the outbreak that's sweeping
through the hospital.

“The Quad,” 10
p.m., BET. Last week's opener had some strengths (especially the
terrific Anika Noni Rose in the lead as Eva, a college president)
nearly overwhelmed by an overwrought plot. Two female students nearly
died – one in a band hazig, the other (Eva's daughter) by
binge-drinking. Then a body was found and a student was arrested. Now
the aftershocks begin.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 7

“American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Amid the horror of
the Oklahoma City bombing, officials and newsment were quick to
speculate. This seemed to have Middle Eastern roots, they said; it
was probably from organized terrorists.

Then came the truth:
This was the mostly-solo work of Timothy McVeigh, a former Army
infantryman who had received a Bronze Star in the Gulf War. After
killing 161 people, he was arrested on a traffic charge ... and came
within an hour of being released. This richly detailed documentary
details the rage that transormed and the quick investigation that
caught him.

“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

TV comedies love to
have their characters get accidentally high. They've done that to
John Ritter, Bob Newhart, Tina Fey, the whole “Barney Miller”
precinct; last week, it happened to the “Mom” stars.

Now it's Nick's turn
... right before his first chance to give a book-store reading. That
part is very funny; another plot – Winston's big scheme – starts
well and then goes lame. One out of two is OK.

II: “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week brought a
rarity – a Tuesday without any of the “NCIS” shows. A “greatest
commercials” special wiped out one; a last-minute news special took
the other. But now they're back, with new hours.

Both stories involve
laymen, trying their own solutions. First are “The Sherlocks” --
a seasoned group of crimesolvers, played by Jessica Walter, 76;
Richard Riehle, 68; Todd Louiso, 47; and (as Tony's dad) Robert
Wagner, who turns 87 on Friday. Then is a group of hackers (with Tom
Arnold as co-founder), trying to expose corruption in New Orleans.

ALTERNATIVE: “Imposters” debut, 10 p.m., Bravo; then midnight,

Television suddenly
loves scam artists and imposters. “Good Behavior” just finished
its first season, “Sneaky Pete” just arrived, “The Catch”
returns March 9 ... each offering gifted con artists. Now “Imposters”
does the same – but also includes some bumbling beginners.

At first, we see a
gorgeous master (skillfully played by Inbar Lavi) at work, crushing a
decent chap. Then he strikes back – gradually joined by two of her
other victims. She's still scheming and scamming; so are they ... but
they're not very good at it. The combination works fairly well.

Other choices

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie's feeling bad that she won't be having any more
children. A night of watching the neighbor kid may give her a fresh
perspective on being an older parent.

“The Mick,”
8:30, Fox. Chip faces the school's “Honor Board” ... which is led
by his sister. Also, their maid manages to dent the family's luxury

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. In flashbacks, the kids' parents fret about their own
relationship, after getting bad news from Miguel. In current time,
Toby complicates Kate's weight-loss plan.

“Outsiders,” 9
p.m., WGN America, rerunning at 10, 11 and midnight. Two somber
health stories – cancer and an unwanted pregnancy – exist
alongside some fierce moments. Here is “Big Foster,” facing
banishment from the clan he ruled ... and his son “Little Foster,”
raging in jail ... and their colleagues, determined to retrieve the
all-terrain-vehicle the lawmen grabbed. It's a strong, tough hour.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. The police and fire worlds combine again, this time
when a dangerous criminal targets Lt. Casey and his firehouse.

“The Detroiters”
debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. Detroit has been the home of some
skilled ad agencies. In this show – nestled after the season-opener
of “Tosh.0” -- two guys try to start a new one. Former “Saturday
Night Live” writer Tim Robinson and actor Sam Richardson created
and starred in the show, with “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels and
alumnus Jason Sudeikis as producers.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 6

“24: Legacy,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Fans of “24”
must take the bad with the good – even when that bad hits an
extreme. Tonight, Carter needs $2 million in an hour, to keep vital
data away from terrorists. His plan, of course, is to steal money
from the police evidence room.

It's an absurd
notion, given the time constraints, but “24” tends to ignore
absurdities. Tonight, it juggles five plots – with lots of people
overhearing other people – and even adds Gerald McRaney, who's
having a great year at 69. Somehow, it's slick and exciting enough to
have us ignore all its flaws.

“Superior Donuts,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Settling into its
regular slot, this show finds a comfortable style. Sometimes mildly
topical, it's mostly just fun – a quick-paced show, done in the
traditional TV way, with a studio audience.

Tonight's silliest
parts come when the neighboring businessman (Max Jobrani) tries to
keep his wi-fi from being stolen by Maya (Anna Baryshnikov, daughter
of the ballet great) and James. Meanwhile, young Franco invents some
great doughnut flavors; the result is fairly light-headed, but fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

The problem with
“Birth of a Nation” is basic: “It really is a great film,”
Vincent Brown, an African-American Studies professor at Harvard,
says. D.W. Griffith turned filmmaking into an artform. “Birth”
was so well-made that many people ignored or forgave its anti-black,
pro-Klan bias.

William Trotter
didn't ignore it. Harvard's first black Phi Beta Kappa, he was a
passionate newspaper editor who tried to stop the film. He failed,
but created protests in 1915 that foreshadowed the civil rights
movement. This terrific documentary blends profiles of Griffith,
Trotter and a landmark film.

ALTERNATIVE II: “APB” debut, 9:01 p.m., Fox.

In ancient Greek
theater, gods would swoop down to the rescue; in modern TV, we want
tech gods to do the same. “Pure Genius” had a tech billionaire
finance and run the ultimate hospital; now “APB” has one finance
and run the ultimate police precinct.

The problem here is
the same one that doomed “Pure Genius”: The tech guy seems
distant and hard to care about. Still, “APB” does have some mild
strengths, including a realistic blend of failures and successes.
Paired with “24,” it gives Fox a fairly solid Monday makeover.

Other choices

“800 Words,” anu
time, Here are the
season's final two episodes of a dandy drama-comedy – sort of an
Aussie “Northern Exposure” -- about a dad who suddenly moved his
family from Sydney to a quirky little New Zealand town.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After the rose ceremony, Nick Viall takes the nine
remaining women to the island of St. Thomas ... where two dates
flounder amid tropical beauty.

“Man With a Plan,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. At school, Mrs. Rodriguez admits she had a sexy dream
about Adam (Matt LeBlanc). At home, Adam's brother (Kevin Nealon) is
jealous of time spent with Lowell.

“2 Broke Girls,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Nudged back to its new timeslot, “Girls” finds
Caroline excited about her date ... but fretting about Max running
the dessert bar on her own.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. This treasure-hunting mission goes very badly. Soon,
Walter and Paige are lost in the ocean, surrounded by sharks.

10:01 p.m., ABC. The CIA trainees must get someone out of Germany –
not easy, with the person's death wish. In the flashforward story,
terrorists try new methods to get info from the hostages.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 5

Super Bowl, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox.

After two weeks of
fuss and seven-plus hours of on-air commotion, the game begins. Joe
Buck and Troy Aikman will be in the broadcast booth, with Erin
Andrews and Chris Myers on the sidelines.

The New England
Patriots bring all the advantages. Tom Brady is in his seventh Super
Bowl, going for his fifth win. The Pats have gone 11-1 since his
suspension ended; they had the league's No. 1 defense AND the No. 3
offfense. Then again, Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons had the No. 1
offense; this could be fun ... and even if it isn't, there's Lady
Gaga (plus, apparently, Tony Bennett) at halftime.

II: “24: Legacy,” after football (about 10:30 p.m. ET), Fox.

How strong is the
“24” format? You can strip away Jack Bauer and friends, cut the
number of hours to 12, change the basic plot ... and still have one
terrific, high octane show.

Corey Hawkins
(“Straight Outta Compton”) plays a former member of an Army
Ranger unit that killed a terrorist leader. One of hia men stole
something vital; now they're all being chased and killed. He links
with his old boss (Miranda Otto), the former Counter Terrorism Unit
boss. She's on the inside, secretly working high-techl he's on the
run, ducking bullets.It's classic “24,”strong and stirring.

ALTERNATIVE: “Mercy Street,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Opposite forces keep
colliding, at a Union hospital inside the Greens' Virginia mansion.
Last week, Alice Green (AnnaSophia Robb) got caught spying on a Union
officer. She claimed he attacked her; her father and brother
accidentally killed him.

Now they try to dump
the body ... Alice tries to sneak a fellow spy back to the
Confederate side ... and Allan Pinkerton (the Union intelligence
chief) investigates. It's a strong and passionate hour.

Other choices

Super Bowl preview,
11 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox. Somewhere at the end of this, there will
be al football game. First, there's “Road to the Super Bowl” at
11 a.m. and transplanted Fox Sports 1 people at noon and 1 p.m.; at
2, Terry Bradshaw and Carl Menefee host a pre-game marathon. At about
6, things move to the field, with Luke Bryan singing the National

“Puppy Bowl,”
all day, Animal Planet. Two-hour editions, filled with puppy
cuteness, will be at 3, 6, 8 and 10 p.m. and at midnight; other puppy
specials start at 10 a.m. For more, try Hallmark's “Kitten Bowl”
(noon to 9 p.m.) and NatGeo Wild's Fish Bowl (4-9 p.m.).

“Safe Haven”
(2013), 7-9 p.m., NBC. On the run, a woman (Julianne Hough) meets a
handsome, widowed dad (Josh Duhamel). Yes, this is contrived, but
stick with it; director Lasse Hallstrom (“Cider House Rules,”
“Chocolat,” “The Hundred Foot Journey”) makes an ordinary
story seem involving.

“The Quad,” 7:29
to 9:36 p.m., BET. Here's a rerun of the series opener, with a
terrific star (Anika Noni Rose), a great setting (a traditionallyt
black college) ... and, alas, soapy twists and overwrought villains.

“Black Sails,” 9
p.m., Starz; rerunning at 10 and 11. Last week's season-opener saw
the pirates lured into an ambush. Now many are being executed and
John Silver is captive. Then there's Edward Teach, the future
Blackbeard, ready to kill Eleanor at all costs. This is srong drama,
beautifully filmed.

“Victoria,” 9
p.m., PBS. Last week's charming episode saw Queen Victoria propose to
Albert. Now the bureaucratic complications show up. Stick around, for
some gorgeous little wedding scenes.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 10 p.m., CBS. Instead of battling the Super Bowl, CBS
simply reruns its “NCIS” shows. This one involves the murder of a
tech inventor who found a stealth way to collect data.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 4

“Airplane” (1980) and more, all day, Sundance Channel.

If you get Sundance
-- via cable or satellite or sheer luck – catch a day of quick,
bright laughs from the Zucker brothers. The highlight is “Airplane,”
ranked No. 10 on the American Film Institute's comedy list, at noon
and 10 p.m.; its sequel (1982), which the Zuckers didn't do, is at 2
p.m. and midnight.

There's more, thanks
to their “Naked Gun” films, complete with Leslie Nielsen,
Priscilla Presley and a heroic-seeming O.J. Simpson. They're at 4
p.m. (1988), 6 p.m. (1991) and 8 p.m. (1994).

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Wedged between big
events – border-blocking and new Supreme Court nominee on one side,
Super Bowl on the other -- “SNL” should have a lot to have fun

Kristen Stewart, the
“Twilight” star who's not usually linked with humor, has her
first time as host. Alessia Cara is the music guest.

ALTERNATIVE: “NFL Honors,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

On the eve of the
Super Bowl, the NFL honors its best. There will be some entertainment
– Keegan-Michael Key, best known as President Obama's “anger
interpreter,” will host; trumpeter-singer Spencer Ludwig will
perform – but the emphasis will be on awards.

That includes most
valuable player, plus awardsfor the year's top rookie, coach,
comeback, defensive player, offensive player and more. Also, the Hall
of Fame inductees will be announced.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Frozen” (2013), 9 p.m., Disney.

This is a splendid
night for kids to watch animated films ... or for grown-ups to record
them for later.

At 6 p.m., the
Cartoon Network has “Happy Feet Two” (2011); at 7 and 9, AMC has
“Megamind” (2010). And at 9, Disney offers this modern classic,
winner of Academy Awards for best animated feature and for its power
ballad, “Let It Go.”

Other choices

Harry Potter
marathon, 7 a.m., Freeform. Here are the first five Potter films, at
7 and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30, 5:30 and 9 p.m. The last three will be
repeated Sunday, leading into the two-part finale.

More movies, cable.
HBO has Steven Spielberg's jaunty “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) at
5:35p.m. and E has “The Hangover” (2009) at 7 and 9:30. At 8 p.m.
ET, IFC has Stanley Kubrick's “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and
Turner Classic Movies has Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at
Tiffany's” (1960).

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Michael Ironside guests as Eric's old boss. He's in the
FBI and wants Eric to negotiatewith a racist group that threatens to
set off bombs in New York City.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun is built around the Navy custom of a “tiger
cruise,” when spouses and kids can be aboard. Now a body has been
found and the team heads there to investigate.

“Whatever Happened
To?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey. Cable recently had a mini-series about
New Edition, the Boston group that soared and split. Now this looks
at the group that three of the men formed afterward. Also included
are looks at country singer Ty Herndon and paralympian Amy Purdy.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
11 p.m., Fox. This rerun starts with an odd challenge: Chefs are
given three of the ingredients, but must race to the buzzer to get
the others.