“Downton Abbey” season-opener, 9-10:15 p.m. PBS (check local listings).
In the first four
seasons, the Crawleys – and British life – have changed
profoundly. Now it's 1924, the Labor Party rules and Robert Crawley
(the Downton patriarch) disapproves. Tom -- former chauffeur, former
Socialist -- feels torn between the Crawleys and Sarah, an outspoken
There's wry humor,
plus a possible romance for Lady Mary (as usual) and Isobel (not so
usual). Visitors arrive, looking for art and/or lust. Lady Edith
agonizes about her missing beau and her secret daughter ... then
ignites a fresh crisis, wrapping up a terrific opener.
II: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
After a five-week
break, one of TV's top shows – with new Golden Globe nominations
for best drama and for Julianna Margulies and Alan Cummings – is
back, along with CBS' other Sunday shows.
Now people realize
Cary might not be able to avoid prison for his advice to drug-dealing
clients; he hires a prison consultant. Alicia (Margulies) also has a
consultant (Chris Elliott) to prep her for debates.
ALTERNATIVE: “Life Itself,” 9 and 11 p.m. ET, CNN.
TV's master film
critics, it turns out, were opposites. Gene Siskel was at ease
socially (partying with Hugh Hefner and Playmates) and on camera;
Roger Ebert was awkward on camera and, at times, in life. For a long
stretch, friends say, he drank heavily and had the world's worst
taste in women.
transformed. He became a world-traveler who championed small films,
while keeping his populist appreciation of big ones. He also wrote
beautifully and married well. Director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”)
spends too much time on Ebert's cancer ordeal, but has crafted a
ALTERNATIVE II: “Ultimate Survival Alaska” opener, 9 p.m.,
Kids, DON'T try this
at home: To save time, two teams cross a lake on thawing ice; another
makes a novice climb a sleek glacier. That's in the first of 13
rounds for four three-person teams.
Dallas Seavey, last
year's winner (and the Iditarod record-holder) is back. His team
(including tiny newcomer Lel Tone) faces the tough military guys they
barely beat last year. An Alaskan team is back; new is a “Lower 48”
team ... including a North Carolina kayaker who says he's never seen
snow. Beautifully filmed, this is the good side of reality TV.
and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Now for something completely different – an
eight-part, four Sunday comedy musical mini-series. The “Tangled”
writer and composer offer the tale of a knight trying to lure his
loved one from her husband, the king. First, John Stamos plays a
tough jousting foe.
American Princesses” opener, 8 p.m., Smithsonian. Just before
“Downton” returns, this looks at the real-life versions of Cora
Crawley – American heiresses who married into British nobility.
Apprentice” opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC. Donald Trump again has a dandy
line-up, with athletes (Johnny Damon, Terrell Owens and
gold-medalists Shawn Johnson and Jamie Anderson), reality stars (Kate
Gosselin, Kenya Moore, Brandi Glanville) and more, including a
fisherman (Sig Hansen) and a Jonas (Kevin). The opener, at pie shops,
is slickly produced, but has the show's persistent flaw: Everything
else is negated, if a team simply brings in some big-money donors.
Water” season-opener, 9 p.m., Bravo. This is a mostly amiable look
at gospel star Ben Tankard and his extended family from three
marriages. Then it offers the sort of screaming match (very loud,
very absurd) that Bravo seems fond of.
“The Manners of
Downton Abbey,” 10:15-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Alastair
Bruce, the “Downey” historical advisor, offers a beautifully
crafted look at the era the show re-creates.