TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

In a remarkable,
three-week stretch, this has focused on the past and present worlds
of the siblings. First was Kevin, buckling fom pain-killers after
refusing needed surgery. Then was Kate, reeling from her miscarriage.
And now it's Randall, their adopted brother.

He clings to his
foster daughter, as she ponders college choices. That brings
flashbacks to his own choice – Ivy League or the historically black
Howard University – and more. Subtly and superbly played by
Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown, this is one of TV's best characters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” 8 p.m., CBS.

It was back in 1939
that a little poem celebrated a mocked deer with a glowing nose. A
decade later, that became a hit song ... and 15 years after that, it
became this stop-motion animation special.

Some stretching was
needed, to turn a two-minute tale into an hour; there are odd
detours, including an abominable snow monster. We've always had
misgivings about this one, but it set the stage for the masterpieces
-- “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole
Christmas” -- that followed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Snowglobe” (2007), 12:30 p.m. Freeform, and more.

This channel hasn't
made many Christmas movies lately. (This year, it has one new one;
the Hallmark channels have 18.) That's unfortunate, because its films
tend to be distinctive.

“Snowglobe” has
sharp dialog and a smart plot – a young woman (Christina Milian)
transported to a too-perfect world inside a globe. That's followed by
two more originals from the channel -- “The Mistle-Tones” (2012)
at 2:30 and the witty “Angry Angel,” which debuted Monday, at
4:40. Then Freeform returns to films that were in theaters, starting
with “Christmas Vacation” (1989) at 6:50.

Other choices
include:

“The Flash” and
“Legends of Tomorrow,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW. Here's the conclusion of
the the story that started cleverly Monday. The heroes from four CW
shows face evil variations of themselves, from a Nazi-ruled alternate
world. In addition to Flash and the Legends, the team has Supergirl,
Arrow, Citizen Cold, The Ray, Felicty Smoak and Iris West ... whose
wedding to Flash was rudely interrupted.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. The guys probe a murder in a hospital. Also, Murtaugh
fumes when he learns that his daughter is secretly dating the son of
his neighbor and nemesis.

“The Vietnam War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. Ken Burns' 10-part masterpiece concludes on a
sobering note. Saigon falls, the war ends and some people return,
decades later, to the worst moments of their lives.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged back an hour by “Rudolph,” this puts the emphasis on
supporting characters. McGee finds his apartment has been torn apart,
in search of something hidden by the previous renter, a convicted
killer. Also, Vance is nudged by a congresswoman to go into politics.

“The Mayor,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the flawed-but-fun pilot, a young
rapper runs for mayor as a publicity stunt ... then is startled to
find he won.

“Victoria Secret
Fashion Show,” 10 p.m., CBS. This year's show is in Shanghai, so
Chinese pop star Jane Zhang joins Harry Styles, Miguel, Leslie Odom
Jr., and lots of slender women.

“Drunk History,”
10 p.m., Comedy Central, rerunning at midnight. Here are true
Christmas tales, retold by people who are drunk – in some cases,
too drunk. Teddy Roosevelt's kids insist on a tree ... Charles
Dickens publishes “A Christmas Carol” ... and Washington crosses
the Delaware. That one also includes Alexander Hamilton, who's
featured in a 10:30 rerun. Other reruns are from 8-10 p.m.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CW.

Don't you hate it
when you're in a life-and-death struggle – battling a monster,
robbing a nobleman in Sherwood Forest, etc. -- and people keep
bugging you about a wedding RSVP? That's happens (often) at the sart
of this hour; on the eve of the wedding of Barry Allen (he's the
Flash) and Iris.

Those scenes are
silly, but they follow a dead-serious one in an alternate world run
by the Nazis. This hour is like that – sometimes witty, sometimes
warm, sometimes violent, but always well-done. It offers a strong
start to a crossover story that spans four shows, from 8-10 p.m.
today and Tuesday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “CMA Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Each year at
Christmastime, TV re-discovers music. It doesn't need awards, doesn't
pause for lame acceptance speeches; it just has back-to-back music,
in this case with Nashville stars.

Reba McEntire hosts
from the Grand Ole Opry. She has other veterans -- Alan Jackson,
Trisha Yearwood, gospel's CeCe Winans – and younger people. There's
Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Chris Young, Dustin
Lynch, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, CB30 and Dan and Shay.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“A Very Pentatonix Christmas,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Fresh from all those
country stars, we can switch channels and catch more music.

Pentatonix first
reached NBC in 2011, for the third “Sing-Off” season, pitting a
cappella groups. It won and has gone on to win three Grammys. Now its
special includes an Oscar-winner (Jennifer Hudson), an “America's
Got Talent” winner (13-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer) and a TV icon
(Jay Leno).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Angry Angel,” 9-11 p.m., Freeform.

Allison (Brenda
Song) is living a modern-style, impersonal life, including
sex-without-involvement. (This isn't your typical Christmas movie ...
or what you got when this was called The Family Channel.) Then she
dies and her contact (Jason Biggs) says she doesn't have nearly
enough points for Heaven.

Yes, that makes her
angry ... especially since she's not very good at doing good. There
are clever moments here, in a movie that will repeat often during
Freeform's “25 Days of Christmas.”

Other choices
include:

“Lucifer” and
“The Gifted,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here are reruns of a
season-opener and a series premiere. In the first, Lucifer wakes up
in the desert, with wings and with no idea what happened. In the
second, a family goes on the run, after both teens are sought because
of their special powers.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. Sometimes an undercover job can go sideways. As a
janitor in a car dealership, Kevin accidentally sells a car; now he
could be salesman-of-the-month.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m.,
CW. Now that the wedding has been botched, our heroes have a
challenge: Fight people who are identical to them, but are Nazis.
That story concludes Tuesday.

“Dog & Beth:
Fight of Their Lives,” 9-11 p.m., A&E. For eight seasons of
“Dog the Bounty Hunter,” viewers saw Dog and Beth Chapman as
tough, tanned and strong people, catching crooks. Now this
documentary sees Beth, 50, in her struggles with throat cancer.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. At work, Shaun remains skilled and confident; tonight,
he backs a difficult procedure to help a young boy from the Congo who
as severe heart anomalies. In the rest of life, he's unsure; his
latest encounter with his neighbor Lea leaves him confused.

“Meth Storm,”
10-11:40 p.m., HBO. This documentary puts our opiod crisis in human
terms. It goes to rural areas, where money and jobs are scarce and
meth-addiction is rampant.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 26


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Miss Universe” pageant, 7-10 p.m., Fox.

Two years ago, this
pageant couldn't stop making headlines. First, NBC cut all ties with
Miss USA and Miss Universe, which it co-owned with Donald Trump. Then
host Steve Harvey read the wrong name for the Miss Universe winner
... just as the Academy Awards would do the next year.

Now we're back to
the basics: Harvey is still host ... NBC and Trump are no long owners
... And close to 100 attractive women will be in Las Vegas, to see
who succeeds Iris Mittenaere of France.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: Soul Train Awards, 8-10 p.m., BET.

It's been more than
a decade since “Soul Train” ended its long – 35 years, 1,100
episodes – and influential run. Since then, there have been reruns
(Aspire, Bounce, YouTube), cruises and this show.

Erykah Badu has her
third time as host, with Toni Braxton getting a lifetime award.
She'll perform, as will her sister Tamar; other performers include
Kirk Franklin, Keyshia Cole, Jessie J, Luke James, Ledisi, Daniel
Caesar, Major, Tank, Ro James, Le'Andria Johnson, DVSN, Method Man
and U-God.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian,
rerunning at midnight.

Few lives have had
as many bizarre twists as Hearst's. An heiress, she was kidnapped at
19 .... She proclaimed allegiance with her kidnappers and was
convicted (and later pardoned) for bank robbery.

And now? At 63,
she's a widow, a grandmother and a philanthropist who acted in John
Waters movies and whose shih tzu and bulldogs have recently won top
prizes at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It's a fascinating
story, told here simply – no interviews, just the original tapes
and news clips.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Christmas movies, cable.

Candace Cameron
Bure, a Hallmark favorite, has a double role tonight. In “Switched
for Christmas” (8 p.m., Hallmark), she plays twins who decide to
trade lives ... while agreeing to have no romance.

And at 9 p.m., there
are two choices: “A Joyous Christmas” (Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries) has an author reluctantly visiting her home town.
“Snowmance” (Ion) gets a bit less realistic: Each year, Sarah
creates a snowman version of a boyfriend; then ... well, some magic
strikes, “Frosty” style.

Other choices
include:

“No Activity,”
any time, CBS All Access. The first two weeks have been hilarious in
their own dry-dialog way. An inept cop (Tim Meadows) accidentally
disrupted a stake-out and shot one of the suspects. Soon, an Internal
Affairs guy (J.K. Simmons) and a substitute crook (Will Ferrell)
arrived.

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 7 and 8 p.m., ABC. First is a rerun,
including misadventures in the outdoors. Then a new episode includes
a raccoon trying to seem like a household pet ... a truck driver who
forgot to put his brakes on ... and someone paying too much attention
to a phone at a food table.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. PT), CBS. Joelle Taylor, a CIA agent,
wants Callen's help after escaping from a kidnapping. Callen,
however, starts to question her back story.

“Good Behavior,”
10 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 11:01. This combination – a scam woman
and a hit man – has had its problems. Now Letty (Michelle Dockery
of “Downton Abbey”) decides it might be best to leave Javier and
return to her old life. That may not be easy.

“Madam Secretary,”
10:30 p.m. (10 p.m. PT), CBS. Elizabeth and her staff worked to get a
Mexican cartel dealer extradited to the U.S. But now he's escaped and
they're desperate to find him.

ALSO: On a night
when broadcast choices are limited, cable has plenty of new episodes.
That includes Starz (“Outlander” at 8, “The Girlfriend
Experience” at 9), AMC (“Walking Dead” at 9), HBO (“Curb Your
Enthusiasm” at 10) and Showtime (“Shameless” at 9, “SMILF”
at 10, “White Famous” at 10:30).

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Christmas Train,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark and Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries.

This has been one of
TV's finest tradition. The first “Hallmark Hall of Fame” -- an
original opera, no less – arrived 66 years ago. The “Hall”
banner has given us stage dramas (including Shakespeare) and classy
movies, winning 81 Emmys. But lately, it's been confined to two films
a year, on cable.

That makes each one
an event. Tonight, Dermot Mulroney plays a weary reporter, desperate
to get home for Christmas. That requires a cross-country train ride,
putting him near a film producer (Danny Glover), his protege
(Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and a general know-it-all (Joan Cusack).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Robbie the Reindeer” and its sequel, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Robbie is a young
slacker with two assets – a talented nose and a famous father.
(That dad seems a lot like Rudolph, but we never know for sure.) Now
he tries to follow his dad's legacy.

The result was a
drolly clever British cartoon, re-dubbed with American voices. Ben
Stiller – who did follow his father's legacy – is Robbie; his
dad, Jerry, is Old Jingle and, of course, a talking garbage bag.
Britney Spears and Leah Remini are sexy reindeer (Donner and Vixen)
and Hugh Grant is Blitzen.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, TNT.

OK, many people
aren't ready for Christmas tales yet. Instead, here's an action
marathon.

“King Kong”
(2005), at 2 p.m., is disappointing. But it's followed by
“Transformers” (2007), which is quite clever, at 5 and by
“Ant-Man” (2015) at 8. Then get your recording device ready: The
great “Back to the Future” (1985) is at 10:31 p.m., with its
sequels at 1:01(1989) and 3:31 (1990) a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Hatfields &
McCoys,” 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., AMC. Here's the complete mini-series
about the families that made war (and, sometimes, love). Kevin
Costner and the late Bill Paxton played the patriarchs.

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
ABC and Fox. The final week of the season has some big games, many of
them rivalries. Fox has Washington State (ranked No. 18) at
Washington (No. 14); ABC has Notre Dame (No. 8) at Stanford (No. 21).
Earlier, Fox has Ohio State (No. 9) at Michigan (No. 24) at noon and
CBS has the big one – Alabama (No. 1) at Auburn (No. 6) at 3:30.

“National Dog
Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. If you prefer watching dogs (not football
players) compete, here's a rerun of Thursday's event.

“Unwrapping
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. A romance begins between people
unaware of their connection: She's the mall manager who is closing
his aunt's failing toy story. Tatyana Ali (“Fresh Prince of Bel
Air”) stars, with other TV names (Kim Fields, Jasmine Guy, Dan
Lauria) in support.

“The Story of
Santa Claus,” 9-10 p.m., CBS. This 1996 film tells us how Santa got
started. Ed Asner – who has played the role often, live and in
cartoons – voices Claus, with Betty White as his wife.

“A Family for
Christmas,” 10 p.m., Lifetime. This starts an interesting
experiment – an hour-long “mini-movie” after each of Lifetime's
six new Christmas films. The first one involves an elderly woman and
the young neighbor who rarely has time to talk to her.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Gal Gadot hosts this rerun, with Sam Smith
as music guest.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC.

It's time for a
tidal wave of Christmas cartoons. Many are OK, a few are exceptional
... and two are masterworks -- “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (next
Thursday on ABC) and “Grinch.”

Both have wit,
warmth and originality. “Grinch” started with Dr. Seuss' clever
story, then added Chuck Jones' animation and an ideal cast. The rest
of the year, we think of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster,
June Foray as Rocky Squirrel and Thurl Ravenscroft as Tony the Tiger;
here, however, they're the narrator and Cindy Lou Who and the singer
of a undeniable: “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Great Performances,” 9-11:30 p.m., PBS.

A song-and-dance man
figures he'll buy a Connecticut farm, grow crops (bananas, maybe) and
savor the country air. Naturally, that goes wrong; the only way to
save the farm is to have his show-business friends show up during
their vacations, turning the farmhouse into a short-term inn.

That was the plot
for two Irving Berlin movies, “Holiday Inn” (1942) and “White
Christmas” (1954). Now here's the Broadway version of “Inn,”
rippling with Berlin classics. It has “Blue Skies” in the first
half, “Easter Parade” and “Cheek to Cheek” in the second,
“White Christmas” in both.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Grammy's Greatest Stories,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

As the 60th
Grammy ceremony nears, the show pauses to celebrate its own history.
Here are some of the dramatic moments -- Aretha Franklin stepping in
to do an opera aria ... LL Cool J deciding to have an opening prayer
after the death of his friend, Whitney Houston ... and more.

The special includes
comments from Franklin, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Keith
Urban, Mary J. Blige, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Chris Martin,
Elton John and the U2 guys.

Other choices
include:

“iHeartRadio Music
Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Here's the second half of a special
packed with stars. Over the four-hour stretch, we get Miley Cyrus,
The Weeknd, PINK, Harry Styles, Lorde and more.

“Frosty the
Snowman” and “Frosty Returns,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. The
original arrivd in 1969, making jaunty use of its song. The sequel
came 23 years later and should have waited longer; it's lame.

“Santa Claus is
Comin' to Town,” 8-9 p.m., ABC. Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney
starred in this 1970 cartoon, explaining Santa's roots. It's no
classic, but at least it's no “Frosty Returns.:

“Finding Santa,”
8-10 p.m., Hallmark. Grace (Jodie Sweetin of “Full House”) is in
the third generation of a tradition – running a local Christmas
parade. Now there's extra pressure, with a visit by a network-TV
morning show. This is the second of Hallmark's four straight nights
of new Christmas movies.

“Trolls Holiday,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Poppy (Anna Kendrick) decides its time for a new
holiday. Villagers, however, aren't so sure about Ticklepalooza or
Balloon Squeal Day. This is a new, musical half-hour, with Justin
Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar and more.

“Z Nation,” 9
p.m., Syfy. Hey, the night can't be all sweetness and holiday light,
can it? TV always has room for a few zombies, too. Tonight, our
heroes come across an abandoned TV news station, triggering
flashbacks to Day One of the zombie takeover.

“Savage Kingdom:
Uprising” debut, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 10. Here's one
of those epic projects National Geographic sometimes tackles,
reaching 140 nations. It filmed lions in the wild, then shaped their
story into an epic, narrated with deadly earnest by Charles Dance.