TV column for Monday, Nov. 13


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Man With a Plan” season-opener, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

We expected “Man”
to return sometime this season ... but not this soon. After just six
episodes, CBS yanked “Me, Myself and I” and juggled its Monday
schedule. “Superior Donuts” gets the 9 p.m. slot, “9JKL”
moves to 9:30 and “Man” steps in at 8:30.

Tonight, Andi (Liza
Snyder) and Adam have a new babysitter. One problem is that their
daughter prefers her advice to theirs; another is that the sitter
admits she has the hots for Adam. This news is viewed warily; she's
played by Victoria Justice, 24, and he's played by Matt LeBlanc, 50.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Superior Donuts,” 9 p.m., CBS.

We had high hopes
for this inconsistent but promising comedy. It introduced a strong
character in the season's first week, then planned to tackle strong
subjects – cops last week, biases tonight.

Alas, the episode
scheduled for tonight – a fairly good one – received a late
change, nudging it back to Nov. 27. Tonight, Franco joins the Big
Brother program ... then is dismayed when the kid likes Arthur (Judd
Hirsch) more than he likes Franco.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cinderella” (2015), 8 p.m., TNT.

At times, the Disney
people come up with great ideas; here were two of them: First, take
some of the classic cartoons and redo them as lush, live-action
epics; that has yielded “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast”
and movies that cross generations.

The second was to
get Kenneth Branagh – a classy actor-director with a strong
Shakespearean record – to direct this one. The result is both
intelligent and gorgeous. Lily James has the title role, with lots of
top people – Cate Blanchett, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter,
more – in support.

Other choices
include:

“Futurama,” all
day, Syfy. Moving to a new channel, this witty cartoon (from the
“Simpsons” people) continues a marathon that started Saturday and
ends at 2 a.m. Wednesday. After that, it will air on Monday and
Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. With the two-night finale coming next
week, the show is down to its final five couples.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Kara sets aside her Supergirl duties for a while and
returns home with her sister. The triggers painful memories of a
childhood friend's death.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. An angry reporter says his estranged wife (Linda, the
therapist) has been sleeping with Lucifer. That provides a
distraction, as a past killer returns.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. As police launch a fresh surveillance program, several of
the mutants must confront their secrets. Eclipse gets a call from his
ex-lover ... Blink opens up about her past ... and Reed and Sage
learn startling things about Lauren's new friend.

“Scorpion, 10
p.m., CBS. You know things will go wrong when the team tries to have
fun at a Renaissance festival. Walter spends way too much time
muttering about historical inaccuracies; also, as usually happens to
these people, there's a crime nearby.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Tonight, both the doctor and the patient suffer from
autism. That brings some bias from a surprising source.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“No Activity” debut, any time, CBS All Access.

This pay-extra
service – stuffed with decades of CBS reruns – has started its
original shows slowly. “The Good Fight” is great; “Star Trek:
Discovery” was tardy and a mixed blessing.

Now, however, comes
a true delight. Taken from an Australian hit, it wisely uses the
show's creators – Trent O'Donnell (who directs every episode) and
Patrick Brammell (who plays he competent half of a cop duo). As
people wait for a drug shipment, we hear wonderfully droll dialog
involving the cops, two dispatch operators and two crooks. The result
is quietly hilarious ... and then comes a sudden plot twist.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography,” 9 p.m., A&E, rerunning at
10:33.

This story
fascinated people for almost a year. Elizabeth Smart was 14 wen she
was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home; she was found nine months
later, in a nearby town.

Now, 15 years later,
Smart is working with two networks. Tonight, this documentary offers
her account of what happened; at 8 p.m. next Saturday, Lifetime
debuts the scripted film, “I Am Elizabeth Smart.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II; “The Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS.

It's the season's
second-to-last episode for two shows – mismatched, but well-crafted
– under the “Masterpiece” banner. “Poldark” is solemn, but
“Durrells” is mostly a fun jaunt.

At the core is the
wonderful Keeley Hawes as Louisa, a penniless widow who moved her
four kids to a Greek island in 1935. Now the amiable Spiro tells her
(quite accurately) that she has bad taste in men. He's also busy with
Hugh, organizing a maybe-friendly Greeks-English cricket match. And
speaking of terrible taste, Louisa's son is still with evil Vasilia,
who makes an extremely un-romantic proposal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” 9 p.m., CNN
(barring breaking news).

Tower's life has had
the dizzying extremes that make for great biography. With no chef
training, he linked with Alice Waters to revolutionize American
cuisine ... then broke from her bitterly.

He was the image of
a celebrity chef, communing easily with patrons ... disappeared from
the public view for 16 years ... and returned in an ultra-public way,
running a New York mega-restaurant. It's a fascinating story,
described vividly by Anthony Bourdain (who also produced this) and
other foodies.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Running for mayor, Marge needs someone to mock. She
chooses Homer.

“Ghosted,” 8:30,
Fox. Don't you hate it when your office puts an
artificial-intelligence entity in charge, but it turns out to be an
evil and powerful force? That's happens to the guys tonight.

“Poldark,” 9
p.m., PBS. In her final burst of venom, the dowager Agatha told
George he's probably not the baby's father. Now he fumes and takes it
out on others. Meanwhile, their are marital problems in the homes of
the nasty Rev. Whitworth and the sturdy-but-distant Ross Poldark.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30, Fox. As some of the planet's few survivors, these
people feel obligated to procreate. But now Carol's pregnancy has
complications; Melissa discourages Todd's baby enthusiasm.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. This is perilous for the secretary of state and her
husband. They disagree on whether to negotiate with terrorists; also,
their daughter Stevie is having a difficult time.

“SMILF,” 10
p.m., Showtime. In its second episode, this seems to find its tone.
The first – like many pilot films – leaned clumsily on sex; this
one is fairly similar to “Better Things” -- a low-key look at a
parenting life that's improvised, moment by moment. Bridgette
(Frankie Shaw, the show's creator) drifts between her job, her son's
illness, her dour mom (Rosie O'Donnell) and mere circumstance.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 9 (slightly out of order)


(This is the Nov. 9 TV column, a bit out of order. If you scroll down, you'll see Nov. 11 and then Nov. 10)

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Young Sheldon,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

In just three
episodes, “Young Sheldon” has found its place as its own kind of
gem. It's different from “The Big Bang Theory” in huge ways –
no studio audience, fewer jokes, a softer, gentler tone.

Still, it's the same
in all the ways that count – great characters who are very funny in
flawed, human ways, without ever seeming cartoon-ish. Tonight, Annie
Potts plays the grandma that old Sheldon has praised on “Big Bang”;
caregiving isn't one of her strengths. Also, Sheldon's older brother
takes him on a wild ride. In its own way, the episode delivers big
laughs and some dabs of warmth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Life in Pieces,” 9:31 p.m., CBS.

Here's a situation
anyone can stumble into: You've spent lots of time with someone, then
realize you don't know his or her name. That happens to Jen tonight,
in a hilarious segment. After charming her boss, she needs to know
his wife's first name ... and hasn't a clue, turning increasingly
desperate.

The other stories
are mixed: The teens are trying an open marriage ... Matt has a
bizarre dream ... Heather feels her mom has a drinking problem. They
have their moments, but the first one is terrific.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, ABC.

This is the 300th
episode for “Grey's Anatomy,” a show that has kept viewers
engaged for 14 busy seasos. Tonight, a roller-coaster disaster has
the doctors flashing back to previous crises.

That's at 8 p.m.,
launching a busy night. At 9, “Scandal” will include Taylor Swift
debuting a three-minute song from her album, “Reputation.” At 10,
“How to Get Away With Murder” gives Annalise a surprising ally in
her class-action lawsuit. Also, Laurel's scheme to take down her
father is discovered.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX, repeats at 10:45.

At times, this
brilliant show doesn't even pretend to be a comedy. Tonight has a
couple laughs at the beginning and end, but this is mostly
bittersweet and quietly moving.

Pamela Adlon builds
“Things” around her complex life, with a British mom, a late
Jewish-American dad and three daughters. She created this story with
Louis C.K. (who wrote the script) and directed the tale of a trip to
see her mom's brother in Canada. The result is filled with
understated elquence.

Other choices
include:

"Doc Martin" season-finale, any time, www.acorn.tv. Even on the best of days, the doctor remains stoic; now we see him on his worst, as he's supposed to resist practicing medicine until he faces a hearing. Naturally, crises intervene -- one of them involving guest star Sigourney Weaver. It's an amiable way for a perpetual pleasure to end its season.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Fans know that Jim Gordon will eventually be the police
commissioner and Batman's best ally. For now, he's offered a
promotion to captain, putting him at odds with his colleague Bullock.
Also, Ed Nygma is mocking Penguin on the Cherry's Place stage,
setting up a confrontation.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon is collaborating with Bert, the
geologist. He tries to keep it a secret, after all his time mocking
geology.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Bonnie's half-brother is back from rehab. When he promptly
strikes a friendship with Adam, she becomes suspicious.

“The Orville,” 9
p.m., Fox. This takes mixed romance to an extreme: Claire Finn is the
ship doctor; Yaphit (voiced by Norm Macdonald) is a gelatinous blob.
Now he says he loves her. Also, the ship is mediating peace talks, at
a time when Ed and his ex-wife are feeling very unpeaceful.

“Project Runway,”
9-11:02 p.m., Lifetime. We're down to five people for the Fashion
Week finale, but there's a catch: The show only guarantees it will
take three; tonight, they each present two pieces.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. In its second week, this continues to draw mixed feelings.
It has a great hero (Shemar Moore), who's strong and smart and
sensitive. But it overloads each scene with arch-macho lines. There
are big action scenes, but our guys still need luck and bad-guy
stupidity to triumph.

blah blah blah

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Veterans Day marathons, cable.

Four channels load
up with a rich variety of shows. At the top, there's the
Oscar-winning “Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), at 5 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies; there's also a rerun of Tuesday's powerhouse
start of the “Long Road Home” mini-series, at 9 and 11:30 p.m. on
National Geographic.

And there's much
more: Sundance has “MASH” -- the series, 2-9 p.m., and then the
movie (1970), 9 and 11:45; History and NatGeo have documentaries;
we'll list them (and other films) separately.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Will & Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC.

OK, we were
skeptical about bringing this back after an 11 year break. But “Will
& Grace” has been perfectly re-assembled; it has the same
actors, same producers and – most importantly – same director.

Ever since “Cheers,”
Jim Burrows has been TV's comedy master. Here, he's molded (or
re-molded) a gem. Now the show has a long football break, so we'll
have to settle for reruns; this one – Jack's grandson goes to
gay-conversion camp – is sometimes overwrought, but mostly a
delight.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer,” 8-10:02
p.m., Lifetime.

There was a time
when Hollywood seemed to feel a movie needed beautiful people,
beautiful places and an interesting story. In that case, this has two
out of three.

We see Pistorius
(the paralympic champion) and his girlfriend (a model and TV
personality who also had a law degree) as stunning people in gorgeous
places. Still, the story of her death and his murder trial brings no
interesting twists and turns. Mostly, we see flashes of splendor and
rage.

Other choices
include:

Veterans Day films,
9 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Not all military movies were
created equal, of course. “Best Years” -- eight Oscars, including
best picture – is beloved; “Green Berets” (1968), is not. The
latter is at 11:15 a.m. ET, after Strategic Air Command” (1955) at
9. Then come “Where Eagles Dare” (1968) at 2 p.m. ET, “Best
Years” at 5, “No Time for Sergeants” (1958) at 8, “Sergeant
Rutledge” (1960) at 10:15 and “Sergeant York” (1941) at 12:15
a.m.

“American War
Generals,” 9 a.m., National Geographic. Eleven current or retired
generals were interviewed for this documentary. It's followed by
“Inside the Afghanistan War” at (11 a.m.) and “Inside” films
on World War II (1 p.m.), Iraq (4) and Vietnam (6).

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder case links to a gang Torres once
infiltrated undercover.

“The Warfighters,”
8 p.m. to 4:02 a.m., History. This reruns last year's series about
the Special Forces fight against terror. The channel also views the
Third Reich (7-11 a.m.) and repeats its “World Wars” series (11
a.m. to 5 p.m.). At 5, it has “Fury,” a 2014 Brad Pitt movie.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. The funniest scene comes early in this rerun, with
Jonah immensely incapable of stopping a thief. Soon, his co-workers
are talking about security ... and mocking him.

“S.W.A.T.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the pilot, which did a fairly good job
of mixing slam-bang action with deeper issues. Shemar Moore is solid
as a cop with community concerns.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On NBC's “Carmichael Show,” Tiffany
Haddish was mostly ignored. Then “Girls Trip” pushed her to the
top; now she hosts “SNL,” with music from Taylor Swift.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 10


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

This has been a
spectacular year for Diane Guerrero. She continues (as Maritza, the
con artist) on “Orange is the New Black” and has been a big boost
to “Superior Donuts,” as the food-truck owner who bedevils Arthur
and intrigues Franco. And now she's back as Jane's best friend Lina.

It's a big episode
for her: Her wedding is near and her groom-to-be – a cautious
accountant – is planning a 1940s murder mystery. Lina grumbles
about having “to learn new words for my bachelorette party; what
the hell is a dowager?” There's much more, including a surprise
about Jane's boyfriend.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Inhumans” finale, 9:01 p.m., ABC.

From the beginning,
this was one of TV's really bad ideas. Hidden inside a moon colony,
it had a king who couldn't speak (or, apparently, tweet) because his
voice was too powerful ... a queen who used her red hair like a
lethal lasso ... and a princess with a 2,000-pound teleporting dog.

They were overthrown
by his evil brother and banished to Hawaii. But now they've returned
to the moon – the big dog helps with such things – for a final
confrontation. Then ABC will stalling for a couple weeks, before
finally starting the “Agents of SHIELD” season.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Landmarks Live: Foo Fighters,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

By rock 'n' roll
standards, Dave Grohl is eternal. He did the last four years of
Nirvana and has led the Foo Fighters for 23 years and four
best-rock-album Grammys. Still, that's meager by Greek standards.

Grohl marvels at
Poseidon's temple, which has lasted almost 2,000 years. “And I have
to replace my roof every eight years,” he says. Then his band plays
in the theater of the 2,500-year-old Acropolis. It's a booming show,
loud enough to wake the gods ... who, of course, are probably nearby.

Other choices
include:

“Ghostbusters”
(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 7 and 9:30 p.m., AMC. Long
before it was fashionable, these delightful films showed that special
effects could link with clever dialog.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. Last week's terrific hour ended with
Rebecca falling apart. Friends phoned her mom; Rebecca agreed to go
home. Now she heads cross-country to Westchester, to bond with her
mother. In California, her friends struggle with mixed emotions.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. While Jane and Weller hunt for hackers, the others try to
hide a secret.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. In Ecuador, a presidential candidate's heart transplant is
sabotaged by a rebel group. Fortunately, MacGyver can help with a
heater and tabasco sauce.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A killer has two personalities – one violent and one
childlike. He's chased by the team – including a stress-management
expert, to help manage McGarrett's health.

“Great
Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS. Almost a decade ago, PBS followed a
young composer with an ambitious project – a hip hop musical that
reflected his Puerto Rican roots. Good choice: “In the Heights”
won four Tonys, including best musical and best score; Lin-Manuel
Miranda went on to make “Hamilton” and Broadway history. Here's a
rerun of the 2009 special about making the show.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny – whose wife, a nurse, died recently, protects
a nurse from her violent ex-boyfriend. Also, his dad (the police
commissioner) hears a theory about an inmate's death.