TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
State of the Union address, 9 p.m. ET, everywhere.

President Obama's
speech (plus the Republican response by Jodi Ernst, the new Iowa
senator) will dominate the networks tonight.

Afterward, the
follow-up coverage continues. It goes to 10:30 p.m. on ABC, CBS and
Fox ... until 11 p.m. on NBC and PBS ... and approximately forever on
CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Fox Business.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Justified” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

The final season
begins with the usual “Justified” attributes – richly drawn
characters and hours that somehow juggle droll wit and sudden bursts
of violence.

Raylan's old life
has crumbled. Winona – his ex-wife and true love – has moved to
Florida with their baby daughter. His boss (as a U.S. marshal) barely
survived a shooting. Boyd, his nemesis is free and Boyd's angry wife
Ava is out of prison. Now Raylan can move to Florida, if he helps
bring down Boyd ... who, in this terrific opener, plans a bank
robbery, aided (sort of) by dim Dewey Crowe.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Living Different” debut, 9 p.m., Oxygen.

On opposite coasts,
likable young women have lives molded by religion. Hannah. a Muslim
convert, sells real estate; her clients, in the free-form California
world, eye her traditional garb warily.

In New York, Dalia
Shusterman, a widowed mom, and Perl Wolfe have a modern look and (in
their rock band, Bulletproof Stockings) a modern sound, but they
follow Hasidic Jewish rules – no shaking hands with men, no
performing when men are in the audience. They seem to have strong
talent, so we're soon rooting for them to succeed with female-only
nights at bars.

Other choices
include:

“Parks and
Recreation” (NBC) or “MasterChef Junior” (Fox), 8 p.m. Some
networks are sticking to reruns (to avoid State of the Union
complications), but these two hours are new. NBC has Leslie (Amy
Poehler) battling her old boss Ron over the future of possible park
land. Fox's cooking show presents -- briefly and behind glass – a
crocodile and a rattlesnake.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the team probes whether a murder was random or the
result of the victim's scheduled meeting with the presaident.

“Agent Carter,”
8 p.m., ABC. In a quick rerun of last week's episode, Peggy is close
to finding the stolen technology. Then Jarvis is arrested and a
secret is revealed.

“Supernatural,”
9 p.m., CW. This is the one broadcast network that's skipping the
speech. After a new “Flash” at 8 p.m. (Captain Cold and Heat Wave
pull off a kidnapping), this show finds Sam and Dean redoubling their
efforts to stop the Mark of Cain, after the massacre at the ranch.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. Settling into dorm life, Daphne finds
that someone is pranking the deaf kids; she soon challenges him.
Meanwhile, Bay faces an obsatacle in getting her work into an art
showcase; also, Regina finds a new guy, owner of a coffee house she
likes.

“Girlfriends'
Guide to Divorce,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Just as she prepares to pitch
her new idea, Abby is thrown off by the arrival of her flashy, brassy
friend (Alanna Ubach) from college days.

“Black-ish,”
10:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, things go badly when Dre insists his
kids get jobs.

“Mike &
Molly,” 10:30 p.m., CBS. This reruns the so-so season-opener, with
Molly back from the eight-week writers' workshop, already toting a
book deal.

 

TV column for Monday, Jan. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

After a month of
reruns, “Jane” returns, toting some honors. The American Film
Institute named it one of the year's 10 best shows; the Golden Globes
gave it a win (for Gina Rodriguez) and a nomination (best comedy).
What remains is for this clever show to get viewers.

As a storm rages
through Miami, Jane – a virgin, accidentally impregnated via
clinical error – has new problems. She frets about her grandmother
(who is hospitalized) and her friends (who face lay-offs). There are
serious, moving moments, alongside the offbeat humor from a droll
narrator.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Fresh from its
Sunday spotlight – a coveted slot after the AFC playoff game --
“Scorpion” returns to its regular spot. It offers the episode
that was originally set for Sunday, then was nudged back a night.

David James Elliott
(“JAG”) plays a former Secret Service agent, now injured and
impaired; the team must jog his memory, to prevent a nuclear launch.
Also, Paige worries about her son: His father insists he would be
better off if he moved to Maine.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nightly Show” debut, 11:31 p.m., Comedy
Central.

For a decade, Comedy
Central has had brilliance four nights a week, with Stephen Colbert
following Jon Stewart. Now Colbert is gone – his CBS show starts in
September – and Larry Wilmore arrives.

He's an unusual
choice – older (52) and quieter than most new stars – but a good
one. As a producer (“Bernie Mac Show,” early episodes of
“Black-ish” and “The Office”) and as one of Stewart's
correspondents, he's shown great wit; now he plans to take a
round-table approach to the news.

Other choices
include:

“Glory” (1989),
5:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Martin Luther King Day is
celebrated with a string of powerful dramas, including this look at
the Civil War's first all-black unit. That's followed by Sidney
Poitier films -- “The Defiant Ones” (1958) at 8 p.m. ET, “To
Sir With Love” (1967) at 10 and “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner”
(1967) at midnight.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Jimmy Kimmel, who says he's a fan of the show,
arrives to help Chris Soules and the remaining 18 women. He plans
dates and even joins a hot-tub party.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Caroline has been learning how to live cheap. Now comes
a surprise – a Lamborghini her father ordered (to be delivered on
her birthday) before being convicted of embezzling.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. When he gets a letter about his parents'
troubles, Samuel considers moving back to Africa.

“Sleepty Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. In flashbacks, Michelle Trachtenberg (“Buffy”) plays
Abigail Adams, the outspoken wife of the second president.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local lisatings). The accounts by Adam
Winfield are chilling: In Afghaistan, he said, his unit sometimes
murdered innocent civilians, then planted weapons on them; the
sergeant in charge encouraged this and collected fingers of the
victims. His colleagues (subsequently convicted) now confirm this;
the Army seems to have acted slowly – then gone after Winfield, the
whistle-blower. That's told in a compelling and disturbing
documentary.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. On the night that “Jane the Virgin” brings
telenovela-style fun, this show has the murder of a telenovela
actress. The suspects are as flamboyant as the characters they play.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grantchester” debut, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Riding a new high,
the once-struggling “Masterpiece” now adds new series alongside
“Downton Abbey.” Tonight, it introduces Sidney Chambers, a World
War II veteran who is now a clergyman,

zooming around his
village by bicycle while accidentally solving crimes.

As played by James
Norton (accurately described by “Masterpiece” chief Rebecca Eaton
as “gorgeous”), Sidney remains optimistic, despite a doomed love;
he forms a mismatched friendship with a semi-weary cop, skillfully
played by Robson Green, a “Masterpiece” favorite.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS, followed by “Scorpion.”

By the end of the
night, we'll know who's in the Super Bowl. At 3:05 p.m., Fox has the
Packers at Seattle; then CBS has the Colts at New England ...
followed (at 10 p.m. ET or so) by “Scorpion.”

That's a key spot
for a first-year show that's already a ratings hit. “Scorpion”
had planned an episode with David James Elliott as a memory-impaired
officer, then slid that to Monday. Tonight, the team tries to find a
mole inside the CIA; also, Paige (Katharine McPhee) teaches Walter
to flirt.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Galavant,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Over the past two
Sundays, Galavant has launched his quest to win back his former love
Madalena. Now (a week from the finale) he reaches her castle, unaware
that she prefers being queen (“I really like stuff”) ... And that
the princess – who loves Galavant – has been forced to lead him
into a trap.

There's some funny
stuff here, sparked by two guest roles – Weird Al Yankovic as a
monk who's taken a vow of song, Rickey Gervais as Xanax, the
feel-good advisor. Weaved in are some witty songs; an early one –
with Madalena's mirror images singing back to her – is especially
clever.

Other choices
include:

“Bridesmaids”
(2011), 8-11 p.m., NBC. Here's the zillionth rerun of a broadly funny
comedy, which Kristen Wiig co-wrote and starred in during her
“Saturday Night Live” days.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A quiet episode sets the tone for
bigger moments ahead, as we worry about Lady Mary's tryst ... and the
war memorial ... and Cora's overattentive friend ... and who killed
the valet who raped Anna Bates (Golden Globe-winner Joanne Froggatt).

“Shameless,”
9-10 p.m., Showtime. It's a busy Father's Day for Frank, one of the
world's worst dads His daughter gropes for romance on the day before
her ankle-tether is removed ... one son (breaking family tradition by
going to college) has a summer job, another schemes revenge on a
bigoted pastor.

“Girls,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. In a big detour, this Manhattan-centric show send Hannah to
Iowa, for a writers' workshop. It's fun to see her in a world where
apartments are huge and bikes are unlocked.

“Togetherness,”
9:30, HBO. The husband-wife relationship remains only moderately
interesting. Better are the scenes between her sleek sister and his
lumpy friend, sharing the house during tough times. That's followed
by an OK “Looking,” with Patrick facing a health scare.

“Revenge,” 10
p.m., ABC. Jack and David race to stop Emily and Victoria from
killing each other.

“Episodes,”
10:30, Showtime. Last week, Matt LeBlanc (playing a perverse verion
of himself) learned that half his money was embezzled. Now come
great moments, as he ponders cutting back.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

After three weeks of
reruns, this show is back to new episodes.

Kevin Hart hosts,
the day after his “The Wedding Ringer” opened, with Sia as the
music guest. Coming next week is Blake Shelton (host and music
guest); that points to the 40th anniversary special Feb.
15.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Whitney,” 8 p.m., and “Bobby Brown: Remembering Whitney,”
10 p.m., Lifetime.

Back in 1995, Angela
Bassett starred in the splendid “Waiting to Exhale.” Her co-star
was Whitney Houston, then 31, three years after “The Bodyguard”
and luminous.

Now Bassett makes
her directing debut in a film focusing on the years (through '95)
when Houston's career was at its peak; so was her romance and
marriage to Bobby Brown. Yaya DaCosta plays Houston, but Deborah Cox
offers the vocals for “I'm Every Woman,” “I Will Always Love
You” and more. Afterward, a special has Brown interviewed by Shaun
Robinson of “Access Hollywood.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Musketeers” season-opener, 9-10:15 p.m., AMC.

On a rerun-stuffed
night, new cable series offer a counterforce. Next week, Starz has
the excellent season-opener of its “Black Sails” pirate tale;
tonight, it reruns the entire first season from 2-10 p.m.

Tonight brings the
debut of the awful “Bella and the Bulldogs” and the season-opener
of this ambitious show. The musketeers search for the escaped Comte
de Rochefort; then a key official is captured.

Other choices
include:

“Empire,” 8 and
9 p.m., Fox. Here's a quick chace to catch up with the start of this
promising series. In the first rerun, Lucious (Terrence Howard)
prepares to put his company on the stock market, just as he faces
crushing health news ... and his ex-wife returns from prison. In the
second, she helps with a crisis.

“Just Go With It”
(2011, ABC) or “Blended” (2014, HBO), both 8 p.m. The world
conspires to make sure we see a contrived and semi-adequate Adam
Sandler movie. Both involve vacations: On ABC, he asks an employee
(Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his ex-wife in Hawaii; on HBO, his
African trip has him meeting the woman (Drew Barrymore) he once had
an awful date with.

“Bella and the
Bulldogs” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Even by kid-comedy
standards, this is an awful show. The concept (cheerleader becomes
quarterback) is good and the star (Brec Bassinger) is likable, but
everything else – writing and performance – is done with
sledge-hammer bluntness.

“The Graduate”
(1967), 9 p.m., Sundance. Mike Nichols won a well-deserved Oscar for
his direction of this classic, starring then-unknown Dustin Hoffman
as a young man unsure of his future.

“Bridal Wave,”
9-11 p.m., Hallmark. At an island retreat, a bride-to-be (Arielle
Kebbel) has doubts.

“The Goldbergs,”
10:30, ABC. In a rerun, both brothers have trouble with competition.
Adam's woes involve dodgeball; Barry can't seem to beat his sister in
a new game called Trivial Pursuit.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 16


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“12 Monkeys” debut, 9 p.m., Syfy.

As the world faces
Ebola fears, Syfy has back-to-back dramas involving global virus
outbreaks – each triggered by an evil businessmen. “Helix” is
fairly good; “Monkeys,” from the 1995 movie, is better.

A sleek scientist is
confronted by a ragged stranger with an odd claim: He's from the
future and she's a key person – he's not sure why – in preventing
a plague that will destroy most of mankind. What follows is a complex
and well-crafted race through two periods and dizzying plot
complications.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“World's Funniest Fails” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

Borrowing ideas from
cable and the Web, this show offers some of the biggest flops and
fumbles and such on the Internet.

That already works
well for “Tosh.0” on Comedy Central. Here, Terry Crews – the
amiable “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-star and former pro football
player – hosts, with comedians commenting. Also, a “fail of the
week” will be named.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

Two best-picture
Oscar-winners collide, differing sharply in tone. “Gladiator”
(2000, AMC) is tough and solid, with Russell Crowe at war; “Forrest
Gump” (1994) is clever and whimsical, with Tom Hanks strolling
through large chunks of modern history.

If you prefer recent
action films, there's the “Star Trek” reboot (2009, FX) and
“X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), HBO. Also, at 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classsic Movies has Richard Dreyfuss' Oscar-winning work in Neil
Simon's dandy “The Goodbye Girl” (1977), which was nominated for
best picture.

Other choices
include:

“Constantine,” 8
p.m., NBC. This sometimes-nasty show used to be at 10 p.m., away from
some youngsters' eyes. Now it moves up two hours (with “Grimm”
staying at 9); tonight, John takes a big risk by summoning a demon
inside him, to face a fierce attack.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike's business needs a security firm and
he wants to hire his neighbor Chuck. Vanessa is against it,
especially because she needs a favor from Chuck's wife.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Cristela tries to figure out who taught her niece to be a
bully.

“Glee,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Last week's opener brought Rachel and Kurt back to town, where
they re-created the glee club with exactly four members. Now the
rebuilding begins.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a neuro-surgeon (shortly before surgery)
leads to a 40-year-old mystery. Also, McGarrett's car is stolen by an
unlikely culprit.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A homeless teen insists his aunt has been murdered.
Jamie (a street cop) ask his brother Danny (a police detective) to
help on the case.

“Helix”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. The first season centered on Arctic
research, where a virus was being developed. Now the second season
seems almost like “Lost 2,” in a good way. It comes complete with
a creepy island and – in tonight's final moments -- a 40-year time
jump.