TV column for Sunday, Oct. 2

“Madam Secretary” and “Elementary” season-openers, 9 and 10
p.m., CBS.

A week late, CBS'
solid Sunday line-up is in place. On “Madam Secretary,” a naval
base in Bahrain was destroyed by a storm; Elizabeth urges the
president to change his view on climate channge ... and to change his
foreign policy in general. Neither move is likely during an election

Then “Elementary”
resurrects Shinwell Johnson, a character from a 1924 Sherlock Holmes
novel. Watson saved his life when she was a surgeon; now she needs
his help in tracing a serial bomber who's suddenly back after six
years. Also, Sherlock wonders if Watson is unhappy as a detective.

“Westworld” debut, 9 p.m., HBO; rernning at 10:15 and midnight.

Back in 1973,
Michael Crichton's movie was your standard robots-gone-wild tale. A
cowboy town was set up for tourists, until a robotic killer suddenly
started working for real.

Now Jonathan Nolan
(“Person of Interest”) has come up with a fresh twist, seeing it
partly through the androids' eyes. Anthony Hopkins plays the man in
charge; Ed Harris is the gunslinger and Evan Rachel Wood is the
Western damsel, realizing her life is an artifice. This could become
something special.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Irresistable Blueberry Farm,” 9-11 p.m.,
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Ellen (Alison
Sweeney) is a Manhattan lawyer, sleek and successful. Now she must
deliver her late grandmother's letter to a person she's never known,
in a town she's never heard of.

Yes, this is your
typical Hallmark film, which makes it predictable. But it's also your
typical Sweeney film, which makes it well-crafted. As usual, she's
directed by Kristoffer Tabori, the actor who sometimes uses an
alternate name (K.T. Donaldson) when directing. As usual, Sweeney and
her colleagues deliver quiet depth; put this alongside “Westworld”
and you have something for everyone. Other choices include:

Football preview (7
p.m. ET) and game (8:20), NBC. Two strong teams,each with a 2-1
record, collide. Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs visit Ben
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Emma returns to her therapy sessions ... which
is understandable, when you consider the world around her. A
mysteriopus newcomer has a past with the Evil Queen ... who keeps
trying to lure Zelena. Also, Belle needs Hook's help to hide from her
husband, Mr. Gold.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Mr. Burns needs a virtual-reality family, so he hires
all of the Simpsons except Homer ... who finds a neighbor (Allison
Janney) who's just like him.

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead” season-opener, 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:05 and 10:10.
Imagine the ultimate scenes in most action-horror films, the ones
soaked in blood, sweat and desperation. Now string them together for
35 minutes, with little plot to slow things down. That's the “Ash”
opener, which is (varying with your tastes) sensational or the
definition of overkill. The first season reruns from 4-8 p.m.

“Blunt Talk”
season-opener, 8:35 p.m., Starz; rerunning at 9:40 and 10:45. The
people around him actually have romances, but not Walter Blunt
(Patrick Stewart). Then he feels he's seen his long-lost true love.
It's a strong start for a promising season.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. The telegenic marriage of Eric and Kate
(Michael Ealy and Jordana Brewster) ended quickly, when she plunged
to her death. Now a police detective uncovers secrets.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The first season flashed between FBI training and a future
crisis; this second one does the same, but with CIA training. There,
Alex and Ryan test their relationship; in the future, Ryan faces a
terrorist scheme to blend in with the hostages.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 30

“America Divided” debut, 9-10:30 p.m., Epix.

While trivialities
consume our elections, here's a reminder that real issues squeeze
lives. In the opener, Common (the rapper-actor) returns to Chicago,
amid protests over a police shooting of a 17-year-old.

That report is
concluded, bringing few answers but strong passion. Two other stories
begin – actress Rosario Dawson on the water crisis in Flint, Mich.;
producer Norman Lear on New York's housing crises. Those two will
continue in the weeks ahead, along with others – from education to
immigration -- by Amy Poehler, America Ferrara, Jesse Williams, Peter
Sarsgaard and Zach Galifianakis.

“Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is classic turf
-- the Vienna Philharmonic, performing its annual concert on the lush
grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace, a 270-year-old, 1441-room reminder
of Austria's imperial age.

there's little else Austrian about this, except for a closing Strauss
waltz. Semyon Bychkov, a Russian native, conducts a night of French
composers. He has pieces by Bizet and Offenbach, plus Ravel's popular
“Bolero”; there's also a two-piano Poulenc concerto with Marielle
Labeque (Bychkov's wife) and her sister Katia. It adds up to an
elegant evening.

II: “MacGyver,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week's opener
left us with lots of questions. Yes, it was slick and sleek; like the
original “MacGyver,” it had an inventive and handsome hero. But
can it be human and make us care?

The show tries, by
offering frayed relationships. In the opener, MacGyver learned his
lover is a crook; tonight, Jack (George Eads) finds that his former
girlfriend and CIA partner is missing in Venezuela.

ALTERNATIVE: Three shows, Netflix and Amazon.

The first weeks of a
TV season used to be the sole domain of the big networks; not any
more. Today, Netflix alone debuts a big series (Marvel's “Luke
Cage”) and a documentary (“Amanda Knox”).

And Amazon has Woody
Allen's entry into this streaming world. “Crisis in Six Scenes”
is a six-parter set in the 1960s, with a free-spirit (Miley Cyrus)
disrupting the lives of Allen, Elaine May and more.

Other choices

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. Welcome to the “Crepe Grand Prix,” a two-team race
to come up with 10 acceptable crepes. Later, there's a dinner service
and an elimination.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. For Mike (Tim Allen), this is the ultimate
conflict – his daughter's wedding shower is at the same time that
the Broncos are on “Monday Night Football.” He and Joe (Jay Leno)
hatch a solution – separate events for men and women.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. On the first day that Ken and his wife work in the same
clinic, they promptly disagree about a patient. Meanwhile, their son
wants a new image for middle school.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. As the search for a vigilante serial killer contiues, a
retired FBI profiler (Claire Forlani) helps. Also, the team helps
track a terrorist who plans nuclear meltdowns in Europe.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck) faces criticism in his police
department, after he disciplines a distrespectful cop. Meanwhile, his
son Danny probes the death of an old woman hit by a stray bullet; his
daughter Erin helps her detective (Steve Schirripa) with a case
that's personal to him.

“Van Helsing,”
10 p.m., Syfy. The only way to keep the vampires out of the hospital
is with ultraviolet lights ... but now the power source is damaged
and only three reserve hours remain. Vanessa “Van” Helsing and
Axel head into the ruins to scavenge parts.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 29

“The Good Place,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

At first, the
concept seemed simple: Eleanor (Kirsten Bell) was an anomaly, the
only flawed soul. Michael (Ted Danson) had created this afterlife for
the best people, then had included her via error.

Now we learn she's
not the only one. There's at least one more undeserving person, maybe
more, and their secret is tenuous. For comedy fans, this neatly fills
the void created by the temporary “Big Bang” move to Monday.
Starting Oct. 27, both gems will have new Thursday episodes.

“The Big Bang Theory” and “Kevin Can Wait,” 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Here's the only
Thursday this fall that doesn't have football on a broadcast
network. Tonight's game – Dolphins at Bengals – is only on the
NFL Network, leaving a void that CBS fills with reruns.

“Big Bang” has
two views of the Sheldon-Amy romance – a good one (they've split
and she's dating clumsy Dave) at 8 p.m. and a great one
(consummation, at last) at 9. The companion shows, however, are less
worthy. “Kevin” reruns its first episodes at 8:30 and 9:30; both
are fairly funny, but the second pushes the dolt-guy/sharp-wife
cliche to an extreme. The disappointing “Bull” pilot is at 10.

SHOULD-RECORD: Gene Wilder, 8 p.m to 4 a.m. ET, Turner Classic

A month after
Wilder's death (at 83), here's a chance to savor his career. That
includes Mel Brooks' hilarious “Young Frankenstein” (1974), at
9:15 p.m. ET; sandwiching that is a 2008 “Role Model” interviewe
with Alec Baldwin, at 8 and 11:15 p.m.

There's more,
overnight. In “Start the Revolution Without Me” (1970) at 12:30
a.m., identical twins swap identities; in “The Frisco Kid” (1979)
at 2:15 a.m., he's a Polish rabbi in the Amertican frontier.

Other choices

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Last week's season-opener saw Alex's violent side
explode as he almost ended the surgery career of his victim, Andrew.
Now Meredith, who kept Alex's involvement secret for a while, has
divided loyalties Also, April recovers from her traumatic childbirth.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. In the aftermath of the brief strike, a corporate official
will stay for a while, looking for possible improvements. Glenn wants
to seem like a tough boss and Amy tries (futiley) to have things go
smoothly. Also, Jonah tries to help Dina, after she betrayed her

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. The trouble with this murder victim is that he's listed on
a death certificate from years ago. Rosie and Villa try to determine
who's who.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Last week's excellent season-opener introduced a young pitcher,
becoming the first woman in the major leagues. Now she faces fall-out
from a sexist comment that her manager (Dan Lauria) made about her,
years ago. Also, the star catcher (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, 42) adjusts
to the fact that his career might be fading and his marriage is

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. While Liz tries to decide if Alexander Kirk is
trustworthy, Red needs the team's help to track a bounty hunter who
may know Kirk's next move.

“How To Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Annalise fights to keep her college
job, her students compete to defend a battered woman accused of
killing her husband.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX, repeating at 11:02. This oddly fascinating show changes
wildly between episodes ... and within an episode. Last week's
terrific half-hour (with Lenny Kravitz) reruns at 10:31; first, an
interesting tale about being a middle-aged actress is joined by two
vignettes – a poignant one with a bag lady and a hilarious one with
a smoke detector.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 28

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Like last week's
season-opener, this is relatively low on music and strong on societal

One issue involves
gun violence in Chicago; Jamal – who's been emotionally fragile
ever since Freda almost killed him – tries to take charge. Another
issue – a prevalent one – strikes his brother Andre in the final
minutes. In between, there are more stories ... including a slickly
handsome councilman (Taye Diggs), who instantly has Cookie's
attention; Lucious, who keeps trying to win her back, is not pleased.

II: “Code Black” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

Just as cancellation
seemed imminent, “Code” hatched a drastic transformation. Gone
are Bonnie Somerville and Raza Jaffrey, whose doctors (Christa and
Neal) were at the show's core; getting more focus are three new
residents and two bosses:

Boris Kodjoe arrived
late last season, to lead the emergency room and operating room; Rob
Lowe arrives now as Col. Willis, embedded in this hospital because it
resembles a combat zone; soon, he's on a wild helicopter ride, trying
to save shark victims.

ALTERNATIVE: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” 10:30 p.m., TBS;
or “Designated Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Tonight, we can take
our presidential politics in two ways – satirical or fictional. The
former is from Bee, whose show -- usually caustic, generally funny --
has received a Television Critics Association award and an Emmy
nomiation. This episode was pushed back two days, so she can eye the

And the fictional
side is from the season's best new show. Last week, a lowly cabinet
member (Kiefer Sutherland) was the”designated survivor,” hidden
away during the State of the Union address. A disaster struck and now
he's president, trying to run the country amid chaos and confusion.

Other choices

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Jason Derulo guests as a boxer. Riggs (Damon Wayans) and
Murtaugh go to his house to field a noise complaint; then guns are
fired, bringing them into a major case of gun-runners who have
advanced military technology.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. A week into this generational battle, the young folks
lead. The “Millennials” tribe survived; the first ouster, from
the “Gen X” tribe, was Rachel Ako, 37, a recruiting director.

8:30 p.m., ABC. One of the best things about last week's debut was
Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), the truth-telling groundskeeper. Now
J.J., who has cerebral palsey, has chosen him as his caregiver and
his voice. That creates instant conflicts with J.J.'s intense mom
(Minie Driver).

“Criminal Minds”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CBS. It's turnover time again, as the 12th
season starts. Shemar Moore has left; Thomas Gibson was fired –
anger issues, apparently – and will be gone by this season's fourth
episode. Paget Brewster returns to the show early this season and
Aisha Tyler becomes a regular. Adam Rodriguez (“CSI: Miami”)
joins the cast tonight, joining the search for an escaped killer.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Jay wants to impress the new neighbors and Manny wants
to impress an attractive girl who has radical views. Meanwhile,
Alex's mono changes life at her home. Also, Cam and Mitchell re-think
their own parenting, after hearing Lily insults her new friend.

9:31 p.m., ABC. When his daughter starts questioning her belief in
God, Dre looks for ideas from family members and co-workers. Also,
his brother-in-law moves in, creating problems.

“Younger,” 10
p.m., TV Land. Liz juggles the requirements of her real age (early
40s) and what she pretends to be (mid-20s). Tonight, she sends her
daughter to college and ponders two handsome guys, one from each age
group; Sutton Foster, 41, fits the role neatly. The “Impastor”
season-opener follows.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 27

SHOULD-SEE: “Frontline,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

On the night after
the debate, most networks retreat from politics. One exception is
Comedy Central, where “The Daily Show” (11 p.m.) can take a
day-after view of the debate; another is PBS.

At 8 p.m.,
“Contenders” views the Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis campaigns;
at 9 is a duo biography, startig at turning points: Hillary Clinton's
husband had lost his re-election campaign for governor, amid
complaints that her hip look and attitude didn't suit Arkansas.
Donald Trump had been mocked by President Obama, whose citizenship he
disputed. Both would transform their images.

“Agents of SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Ghost Rider has had
a wild ride through Marvel Comics. He was a cowboy on horseback, then
Johnny Blaze on motorcycle and then Robbie Reyes in a souped-up, 1969
Dodge Charger.

Blaze had two
Nicolas Cage's movies, but now it's Reyes' turn. Gabriel Luna –
fresh from playing a motorcycle racer in “Harley and the Davidsons”
-- plays the avenging spirit with a magical car. Tonight, Dixie
battles him, at a fierce cost; also, Coulson meets his new boss
(Jason O'Mara).

ALTERNATIVE: “This Is Us,” 10 p.m., NBC.

If you still plan to
see last week's terrific debut, skip this item. If you have seen it,
you know its twist:

Until the final
minutes, viewers didn't realize the childbirth scenes were a
flashback; that couple (Milo Ventimigilia and Mandy Moore) had twins
and an adopted son ... all of whom we meet as adults.

Now flashbacks show
that raising three 8-year-olds strains a marriage. In current times,
Kate struggles with her weight; her brother ponders the aftermath of
walking out of a starring TV role. Their adopted brother (new
Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown) struggles to bond with his biological

Other choices

“The Voice”
(NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8 p.m. After trimming to
an hour Monday, to make room for the debate, both go to two hours
tonight. For both networks, the regular Tuesday line-ups will finally
be in place on Oct. 11.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. There's a death at a reunion of people from the Quantico Marine
base. Probing it, the team finds a bomb plot and a long-running theft

“New Girl,”
8:30, Fox. Sex and politics combine here. Nick gets a lesson in
modern phone sex; Jess and Cece vow to recruit voters for the
presidential election.

“Scream Queens,”
9 p.m., Fox. In the first season, Denise (Niecy Nash) was a campus
cop. Now she's a special agent, fresh from FBI training, helping
Munsch pursue the killer.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Already being probed by the FBI, Pride
brings more suspicion when he helps a Navy Intelligence analyst (Tom
Arnold) who is suspected in multiple murders.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. In a truly bizarre episode, Paper Boi is in a celebrity
basketball game with Justin Bieber ... who is played by a black
actor; there's a point here, arriving in a round-about way. Also,
mistaken identity lets Earn (Paper Boi's almost-manager) see how
upscale agents live.

“Born This Way,”
10 p.m., A&E. Fresh from its Emmy (best unstructured reality
show), here's the season-finale of this likable look at young people
with Down syndrome. Tonight, Stephen Ashmore faces up to his feelings
about Megan Bomgaars ... who also finds that caring for a baby is
tougher than she thought. Also, Rachel Ostergard finds romance.