TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Detour,” 7 and 7:30 p.m., and “Full Frontal,” 10:30
p.m., TBS.

Ever since switching
to all-comedy, TBS has sputtered. It's had Conan O'Brien (11 p.m.)
and great reruns (“Big Bang Theory” from 8-10:30 p.m. today), but
so-so originals.

It's salvation is
the husband-wife team of Jason Jones and Samantha Bee; he has
“Detour,” she has “Frontal” and each works on the other.
Tonight only has reruns, but they're good ones. “Detour” moves
the family to New York, where things crumble in (mostly) funny ways.
“Frontal” sends Amy Hoggart to Scotland, where she finds
hilarious rage toward Donald Trump and his golf course.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Major Crimes” return, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

For a dozen years,
these people have given us crisp stories set in Los Angeles'
high-tech police depeartment. Now the fifth season (after seven years
of “The Closer”) resumes with a sharp story.

That starts with a
high-octane distraction, then gets to the main plot: The murder
victim had dated a ragged chap with anger issues and a tech innovator
with big money. There are flaws here – an overwrought boss (Camryn
Manheim), a lame side plot involving Rusty – but the basic plot is
first-rate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

This feels like
spring-breakers gone wild – rowdies are climbing high towers and
leaping into a pool, splashing onlookers. Except these are monkeys in
India, seizing control of a water trough.

That starts a
delightful hour of bad behavior by animals. Birds steal others' fish
in mid-air; penguins swipe each other's nest stones. Some moments
seem like scenes from “The Crying Game” (a clever bird pretends
to be a female) or “Scarlet Letter” (a meerkat is banished for
unauthorized sex).

Other choices
include:

“Gladiator,”
7-10:30 p.m., AMC. This epic won five Oscars, including best picture
and Russell Crowe as best actor. It faces three more gems -- “Mystic
River” (2003) at 8 p.m. on HBO; “O Brother, Where Art Thou”
(2000) at 8 p.m. on CMT; and – at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic
Movies -- “Roman Holiday” (1953), which won Oscars for a luminous
Audrey Hepburtn and blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. When clues point in several directions, the team splits
into unusual duos – Weller and Roman, Jane and Zapada and Patterson
and Reade.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Like “Game of Thrones,” this isn't one of those shows
that sputters in neutral. It has major plot twists and is willing to
kill much-loved characters; we're reminded of that with this strong
hour. We're also reminded that it has a bizarre habit of making
everyone self-destructive. “What if (this) is all we are –
torture, kill, destroy?” someone finally asks, in the midst of
high-stakes crises.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Cotton is moving out of the house, after Carlotta (Queen
Latifah) refused to accept the fact that her son is transitioning
into her daughter. Also, Carlotta's beauty salon has been thrown into
chaos by the killing of Simone's rapist foaster father.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. For Phil and Jay, the property-management scheme may
fai. And Gloria's gift – an in-office spa treatment – comes at
the worst time, after Claire ordered budget cuts.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. On jury duty, Dre feels compelled to give extra
attention to a young black man who clearly seems guilty.

“Doubt,” 10
p.m., CBS. This second episode, like the first, has great characters,
strong monologs, brief humor ... and weak court cases. The main one
-- a married couple having sex, despite her Alzheimer's disease –
lacks challenges, drama or even a strong prosecutor.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

Maya Angelou's
sprawling life covered all the extremes. She was a powerful speaker
with, Bill Clinton said, “the voice of God”; she was also mute
for five childhood years. She was a poet, gifted at arts and
intellect; she also was an imposing physical figure, a six-foot-tall
Calypso dancer.

She was a city kid
from St. Louis and Oakland ... a country kid from Stamps, Ark. ...
an artist in Harlem ... a teacher and social leader in Ghana. She was
reluctant to write an autobiographical books – then wrote seven of
them, plus 32 other books. It was a great 86 years, beautifully
profiled here.

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

Most weeks, this
terrific show juggles six lives, two eras, several stories. But
tonight it focuses – firmly and powerfully – on William, played
with quiet perfection by Ron Cephas Jones.

He's in late-stage
cancer, his son (the superb Sterling K. Brown) has just recovered
from an anxiety attack, but now they've decided on a road trip.
They'll go back to Memphis, William's home town, and gather memories.
Done with subtlety and skill, the result is deeply moving.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

At first, this
clever series was about four loftmates who didn't really want to be
grown-ups. But now Schmidt is married, Winston is engaged and Jess is
about to become a school principal.

Naturally, this
sends her into panic mode. A road trip -- and a major crisis --
follows. A second story (involving Winston and pranks) is so-so, but
there are hilarious moments as Jess crumbles.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Detour” season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m.,
TBS.

All of life is a
detour, it seems. In the first season, the family took a disastrous
road trip while Nate (Jason Jones) kept secret the fact that he'd
lost his job. Viewers also learned that his wife (Natalie Zea) has
bigger secrets ... including lots of alternate identities and
criminal links.

Now life detours to
New York and more trouble ... including people who seem to be living
in their apartment. Like “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” (10:30
p.m. Wednesdays), this was created by Bee and her husband, Jones.
“Full Frontal” is brilliant; “Detour” is inconsistent, but
has great moments.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. You were wondering what skills Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) would
bring? Tonight, he teaches the art of pickpocketing, Also, Bishop has
new hope to avenging Qasim's murder.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 p.m., ABC. Heather Locklear guests as Sarah, the ex-wife
of Honey's husband. After accidentally befriending her, Jessica tries
to soothe the rift between Sarah and Honey.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 9:30, ABC. As Shannon's confirmation nears, things may be
moving too quickly between her mom and Vice-Principal Murray ... and
between her brother and Brett ... and maybe even between her father
and a hot ex-babysitter.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. This hour focuses on Dr. Wade, played by
the terrific CCH Pounder. A streeetcar slaying re-opens a painful
case from her past.

“Imposters,” 10
p.m., Bravo. At first, this was simple: Maddie seduced and bilked
guys; two of them chased after her. But they soon had their own scams
... which they're bad at; also, they met another of Maddie's exes –
this time a woman, Now Maddie may be falling for the mysterious
Patrick.

“The Pop Game”
debut, 10:02 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:04. This has producer
Timbaland coach five aspiring pop stars, with occasional help from
Macy Gray, Nelly Furtado, Jordin Sparks and more.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

It's time for Nick
Viall to visit the home towns of the final four women. That's usually
a strong episode, but this one has an oddity: One of the four --
Rachel Lindsay, 31, a Dallas lawyer – has already been announced as
star of the next “Bachelorette.”

It's good that ABC
will finally have a black star for “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette”
... but that takes some suspense out of tonight. Focus on the other
three visits: Vanessa Grimaldi, 29, is a special-ed teacher in
Montreal; Corinne Olympios, 24, and Raven Gates, 25, have businesses
in Miami and Hoxie, Ark.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bates Motel” season-opener, 10 p.m., A&E.

This is the final
season, nudging Norman toward the all-out craziness of “Psycho.”
And yes, he's just about there. He imagines that his mother is still
alive; she has warm talks with him ... and has loud fights with him
... and helps him kill people and dispose of their bodies.

His half-brother
Dylan and sweet Emma have a baby; now Dylan's biological father (via
incest) is back. This may all sound odd and twisted, but it's done
with subtle precision. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga are perfect
as crazy Norman and dead Norma.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Talk,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

For some races,
we're told, there is no escaping a fear of police. Moving up – in
income, education or prestige – is no sure solution. A New York
Times columnist describes his son being held at gunpoint after
leaving the Yale library; a pastor describes an ordeal that began
because her brights were on.

Several such moments
– some well-known, some not – are detailed here. They're
supplemented by statistics and balanced by a look at the other side –
the agony over a slain policeman, the efforts by police forces to
train and improve. The result is uneven, often disturbing and
sometimes uplifting.

Other choices
include:

“The Hobbit”
trilogy, 1 p.m. (2012), 4:30 (2013) and 8-11 p.m. (2014), TNT. With
lots of people getting a holiday from school and work, cable has
long-form fun. BET repeats its well-made “The New Edition”
mini-series, from 5 p.m. to midnight. And AMC has “Forrest Gump”
(1994) from 7-10 p.m.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. A week ago in this timeslot, Matt Iseman
won the “Celebrity Apprentice” championship. Now he's back to his
regular show; this is an all-star special, with Iseman and two
co-hosts each choosing a team of past competitors.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. Grimes – the troubled survivor from Carter's Army Ranger
unit – may finally be helpful. His information could lead Carter to
the terrorists.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Arthur (Judd Hirsch) is reluctant to let Franco
(Jermaine Flowers) take the shop's money to the bank. Now Franco is
angry about not being trusted.

“The Breaks”
debut, 9 p.m., VH1, rerunning at 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. TV has
suddenly remembered that there's big drama in the record business.
Fox alternates “Empire” and “Star” on Wednesdays ... CMT is
putting “Sun Records” behind “Nashville” on Thursdays ...
mini-series have included HBO's “Vinyl,” Netflix's “The Get
Down” and BET's “New Edition Story.” Now VH1 has turned last
year's movie – three young people in 1990's hip-hop – into this
series.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. This isn't going well: Three team members have fear-based
hallucinations.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. The last show of the season – and maybe forever –
takes us to 1954 Washington, D.C., where Sen. Joseph McCarthy is in
the midst of his anti-Communist campaign.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 19


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Good Fight” debut, 8 p.m., CBS and CBS All Access.

The
good news is that this sequel keeps all the qualities of the Good
Wife” -- great characters, sharp dialog, shifting ethics. The bad:
After tonight, it will only be on the All Access streaming service.

As
it starts, one person (Diane Lockhart) is ending her law career;
another (Maia Rindell, a family friend of Diane) is starting hers.
First, they'll battle an all-black law firm that includes Lucca
Quinn, Diane's former colleague. Then a financial jolt shatters
everything – and propels us toward All Access.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “Paley Center Salutes,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Back
on Nov. 15, 1926, this was considered an epic: One show reached 25
radio stations. It had an orchestra, four dance bands, a vaudeville
duo, Will Rogers and opera stars; NBC was born.

Its
video efforts would be more gradual; in 1946, the few NBC-TV shows
included “Geographically Speaking,” “Esso Newsreel” and “I
Love to Eat.” This 90-year celebration (three years late) focuses
mainly on TV – which NBC once ruled. We can explect lots of clps,
plus Kelsey Grammer (who hosts), Tina Fey, Ted Danson, Jennifer
Lopez, Blake Shelton, Amy Poehler, Noah Wyle, Bob Costas and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tangled” (2010), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Six
years before triumphing with “This Is Us,” Dan Fogelman and Mandy
Moore combined for this Disney animated film. He wrote it, inserting
sly humor for grown-ups; she voiced and sang the lead role as a
feisty Rapunzel, maneuvering an unwitting hero (Zachary Levi) to help
her.

The
result has served Disney well; a new series (with Moore and Levi
again voicing the leads) debuts as a movie on Martch 10 and a series
March 24). First, here's a channce to catch the original.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Billions” season-opener, 10 p.m., Showtime,
rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The
first season (rerunning from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) had a collision of
opposites. Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) is a U.S. attorney,
well-born and stridently ethical. Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is a
blue-collar billionaire, straight-talking and ruthless; so far, he's
deflected all investigations.

Now
a sampling shows that the quality will continue this season.
“Billions” is filled with dark schemes and dialog that is
crackling good ... even when it becomes almost too thick to follow.

Other choices
include:

“The
Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Lisa and Bart
investigate Krusty's new candy bar. Then a new episode finds two
surprises: Homer is a chess champ; Bart experieces guilt.

Basketball,
8 p.m. ET, TNT. Last season ended with LeBron James and the Cleveland
Cavaliers topping Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Now
those two collide in the all-star game. Curry has a Warrior teammate
(Kevin Durant) starting and another (Draymond Green) in reserve ...
alongside Russell Westbrook of the Rockets, who is No. 1 in scoring
AND No. 3 in assists.

“Victoria,”
9 p.m., PBS. In many circles, news of a pregnancy only sparks joy. In
this solid episode,

it
sparks a debate: If the queen dies in childbirth, who will rule as
the baby's regent?


Big Little Lies” debut, 9 p.m.,
HBO. At a trendy school in an upscale community, three opposites
become friends. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is vibrant and social;
Celeste (Nicole Kidman),
whose marriage
is envied, is guarded; Jane (Shailene Woodley) has less money and
less to say. These are vivid characters, soon stirred by an
accusation, a murder, secrets and more.

“Elementary,”
10 p.m., CBS. Several professional video-game players – yes, that's
a profession – guest in this episode, in which a former pro is
killed during a live video
stream.

“Crashing”
debut, 10:30 p.m., HBO. Pete Holmes created this promising series, based on
the
early, floundering years
of his
stand-up comedy career.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 17; slightly out of order


(This is the Friday, Feb. 17 column, a tad out of order. For Saturday one, scroll down one more.)

By Mike Hughes

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The early episodes
were way too thick and tangled, twisting the “Wizard of Oz” story
beyond recognition. But now, in the eighth of 10 episodes, things are
starting to make sense.

We learn more about
Tip, who seemed to transform from boy to girl. And about Lucas,
Dorothy's lover. In visually splendid scenes, Dorothy, Lucas and
young Sylvie are in the all-white world of Glinda (Joely Richardson).
The story's weak point involves the relationship between Jack and
Queen Ev ... but that may change: In tonight's final minures, the
Wizard gallops in with his anti-witch army.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Here's the third
confrontation with Dr. Madison Gray, the beautiful and cunning serial
killer, played by former “Law & Order” co-star Elizabeth
Rohm.

This time, she
stumbles into the police office, claiming to hava amnesia. Also,
she's covered with what seems to be the blood of Alicia Brown (Claire
Forlani).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Grammy Awards, 8-11:30 p.m., Pop.

Why watch a rerun of
an award show from five days ago? Because it was one of the season's
greatest shows, cleverly hosted by James Corden and filled with
brilliant moments. There were two numbers by Adele, two by Bruno
Mars, splendid productions with Beyonce, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Even when their were
miscues – Adele stopped a song and started over, Metallica's
microphone didn't work for half a song – things were fine. This is
what TV should be – live, raw and ambitious.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Basketball or ballet.

Some remarkably
skilled peopple fill our TV sets – doing things for specialized
tastes. On PBS (9 p.m.), “Great Performances” spends the next two
Fridays in Paris, viewing the New York City Ballet. Each night has
portions of two George Balanchine ballets, with the music of French
composers.

For opposite tastes,
this is the start of pro-basketball's all-star weekend. The actual
all-star game is 8 p.m. ET Sunday, but tonight has two warm-ups –
the celebrity game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and the “Rising Stars”
game, featuring rookies and second-year pros, at 9 p.m. on TNT.

Other choices
include:

“Kung Fu Panda 2”
(2011) and “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014), 6 and 8 p.m., FX.
It's an animation double-feature. Grown-ups can try “Fight Club”
(1999), 7:38 p.m., Starz, or the Oscar-winning work of Anne Bancroft
and Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker” (1962) at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. The original “MacGyver” series included the Coltons, a
tough family of bounty hunters. Now they're back, with Sheryl Lee
Ralph as the knife-wielding Mama Colton; they've already caught the
fugitive, but Mac and Jack want to extract him.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. During a search for a counterfeit-money kingpin, Dr.
Rosewood (Morris Chestnut) learns new things about the past of Det.
Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz).

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. This is a difficult time for Diana. Just as her daughter
Molly nears her 11th birthday, the girl's father returns
from duty and there are fresh revelations.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Kevin Dillon guests as Linda's brother. Now he's in
trouble with the Mob; he pleads with his brother-in-law Danny to let
him stay with him until it blows over.

“The History of
Comedy,” midnight, CNN (barring breaking news). Here's a quick
rerun of Thursday's episode, an interesting look at the past and
present of women in comedy.