TV column for Sunday, Nov. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Agent X” debut, 9
and 10 p.m.,
TNT.

Cable
has plenty of her
oes
who are
flawed or wobbly or anti- or such.
Now
it adds
an old-school hero (Jeff
Hephner).
Strong,
smart and sturdy,
he's a
secret agent in the Bond caliber.

No
one knows he exists, except for his boss the new vice-president
(Sharon Stone) and her know-it-all aide
(Gerald
McRaney).
In a sharp start, he faces a
worthy opponent
(Olga Fonda).

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “
The Good Wife,” 9:30
p.m., CBS.

Christine
Lahti's superb acting career has included six Emmy nominations (and
one win) plus an Oscar nomination. Now she plays the lawyer for a
tech firm that fired
a man
who flunked a polygraph
test.

Meanwhile,
Peter's presidental campaign could bring collateral damage: His
former advisor Eli is ready to plant a story that would hurt Peter
... but would also damage Alicia.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Home Fires” series finale, 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

After
a quiet start, this series has been packed with strong stories. Even
if you've missed the first five weeks, you could still catch an
excellent finish.

In
1939, some English villagers have gone to war. One wife copes with
running the farm, another with running the church; the butcher's wife
fears for her son. The doctor is gravely ill; one daughter is widowed
and the other is having an affair. There's an abusive husband, a
bookkeeper forced to help a profiteer and more, including a
conscientious objector,
in stories told
with subtlety and skill.

Other
choices include:

Fairy
tales,
ABC Family and ABC. The two
sister channels are
on similar turf
tonight. ABC Family has a dandy double-feature of new and old --
“Tangled” (2010) at
6 p.m. and “
Sleeping Beauty” (1959)
at 8:10. ABC counters with “Once
Upon a Time”
at 8;
our heroes boldly try to slip
into
King Arthur's
castle to swipe his
broken Excalibur
sword.

Football
preview, 7 p.m.
ET,
and kick-off, 8:30, NBC. Before the
season started, this seemed like a big one – the Eagles (10-6 last
season) at the Cowboys (12-4). Alas, the Eagles are 3-4 this season;
the Cowboys have a 2-5 record and an injured quarterback, Tony Romo.

The
Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m., Fox. After a baseball break last week,
here's a rerun – the Simpsons on the home planet of Kang and Kodo –
and
then a
new episode, with Lisa having a rich friend.

The
Librarians,” 8 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 11:01. This global adventure
should fit neatly alongside “Agent X.” Tonight, an oil-rig
disaster reveals a shape-shifting monster (no, not an oil executive)
that grows whenever a lie is told. Let's hope it doesn't
hear
any of the debates.

Masterpiece:
Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This lush
miniseries, which had such a promising start, is sliding into dark
melodrama. Last week we learned that Ralph (the viceroy's top aide)
is Adam's father. Tonight, after Adam's mother's body is found,
there's a rush to judgement.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m. Fox, and “Getting On” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
HBO. The terrific Mel Rodriguez now has back-to-back shows. On Fox,
he's Todd, facing a power problem. On HBO, he's Patsy; tonight, Dr.
James meets her replacement.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. An explosive mid-term exam sees some of the FBI
students sent home. Flashing forward, Alex is wondering if there's
anyone she can trust.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 7


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

Like lovers in a bad
movie, NBC and Donald Trump hit all the extremes. The network fired
him from “Celebrity Apprentice” and dumped the beauty pageants
(Miss USA, Miss Universe) it co-owned with him. “SNL” mocks him a
little; Seth Meyers (12:37 a.m. weekdays) mocks him a lot.

Still, Trump draws
big ratings. Here's his first turn as “SNL” host; Sia is the
music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS.

After way too many
mismatches, Louisiana State (ranked No. 2) visits Alabama (No. 4).

That overshadows the
other network games. At 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox, Washington (4-4, but
fresh from a 49-3 pounding of Arizona) hosts No. 12 Utah; at 8 on
ABC, Minnesota (4-4 after a loss by inches to Michigan under its
interim coach) visits No. 3 Ohio State. And there's much more, on
cable.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jackie: Behind Closed Doors,” 9-11 p.m. ET, Reelz.

Back in 2011, this
obscure channel drew an audience when it took over “The Kennedys,”
a mini-series that others had abandoned. Now, four years later, it
has a Kennedy-stuffed month.

That starts today
with reruns of assassination documentaries (one offering a bizarre
theory) from noon to 3 p.m. ET. The “Jackie” documentary debuts
tonight and a “Kennedy Files” series will be 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Also, the mini-series reruns Nov. 16-19 (9-11 a.m. ET) and Nov. 21-22
(noon to 4 p.m. ET).

Other choices
include:

Movies, 6 p.m. and
beyond, cable. A great movie night starts with “Jerry Maguire”
(1996) at 6 p.m. on CMT. At 7, FX has Tom Hanks in the true-life
“Captain Phillips” (2013). At 8 p.m., IFC has the fun
“Ghostbusters” (1984) and CNN has a quietly moving Glen Campbell
documentary (2014). And at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has Sally
Field's Oscar-winning role in “Norma Rae” (1979).

“Dr. Dee: Alaska
Vet” debut, 8 p.m., Animal Planet; reruns at 11:04. Dee Fornell
spends some of her time in a modern veterinary clinic in Fairbanks, a
city of 30,000. At other times, however, she's fluing her plane to
remote places. This opener includes a trip above the Arctic Circle.

“Tangled” (2010)
and “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), 8 and 10:10 p.m., ABC Family. Fairy
tales get new and old spins. These also air Sunday at 6 and 8:10.

“Da Vinci's
Demons.” 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10. Usually terrific, “Demons”
has an off-night, falling into TV's current obsession with torture.
It starts and ends its hour that way; in between, Leonardo --
enraged after seeing Turks kill his father – tries to align with
his enemies in the Vatican.

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:30, 11 and 11:30. Buckets of
blood seem to flow through this second episode. (Bruce Campbell, the
star, says at one point he was blinded by spouting fake blood; you'll
believe that tonight.) Still, this show's jaunty style and occasional
humor keeps us watching. Tonight, one of Ash's hardware-store
co-workers races to protect her mother.

“Dr. Who,” 9
p.m. ET, BBC America. The British, with other troubles, now face
shape-shifting Zygons.

“Legends,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. The Isley Brothers perform at the
Apollo.

“Marie” (1985),
10:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. For Fred Thompson, who died of
lymphoma Sunday at 73, this was a career switch. He was a lawyer who
played himself in this movie ... then became an actor ... then, for
eight years, a U.S. senator ... then an actor and presidential
candidate.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 6


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Chita Rivera's
high-energy career is visited with a dizzying mix of elements. There
are great movie and TV clips, peppered with memories from Rivera and
friends, all interweaved with a current concert.

Her dance moves are
toned down these days ... but not bad for an 82-year-old, 22 years
after a car accident required 16 pins in her leg. And the clips are
sensational; from “West Side Story” to “Bye Bye Birdie,”
“Sweet Charity,” “Chicago” and this year's “The Visit,”
we see a vibrant talent.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

Kya has been cooking
for five years now and tells us she has “a really sophistcated
palate”; she's 8 years old. Then there's Addison, 9, who says she's
“the best kid baker in the whole world” ... and 22 others, ages
8-13, many with that same sort of agreeable confidence.

Tonight, they do
many things that grown-ups would envy: They make a perfect burger,
concoct a sweet dessert and batter Gordon Ramsay's head. Well, it's a
pinata, shaped like his head, and they're supposed to smash it;
that's part of a fun hour that's filled with lots of fast-paced
stunts and tasks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “World's Funniest” season-opener, 9 p.m.

“America's
Funniest Home Videos” proved long ago that viewers savor a chance
to see real people fall, fail, flop and, at times, get hit in the
groin. Now “Funniest” -- using only Internet videos – puts that
into overdrive. Its hyperactive approach sometimes gets in the way,
but the clips are great.

One man does achieve
smooth dance moves on a rooftop, but another's idea – somersault
off a roof and into a trash can – fails spectacularly. We see
dancers break a mirror and bump a forehead; there's also a greedy
chipmunk, a woman pursued by an amorous deer, an overwrought marriage
proposal and more.

Other choices
include:

“Casino Royale”
(2006), 7 p.m., Syfy. This really isn't sci-fi, but it is a good
James Bond film, with a few flaws and a lot of fun. Also, “Charade”
(1963) -- a sleek, Parisian jaunt with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn
– is at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's sometimes tough to work for your dad.
When Kristin wants to oversee a project, she finds Mike (Tim Allen)
acting more like her father than her boss.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. After his teen daughter admits to sipping beer, Ken
decided to give her an illustration of alcohol's bad effects.
Naturally, the experiment goes terribly wrong.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Island dates always seem so sweet on “The Bachelor.”
McGarett's first date with Lynn is on a deserted isle ... where,
alas, a Mob boss will kill to keep his hide-out secret.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Last week's season-opener ended with Nick searching for the
people who kidnapped Trubel. Now he has new complications, protecting
his nemesis Adalind and their baby.

“Britannia
Awards,” 9-11 p.m., Pop. Don't let the title throw you off. This
ceremony is held in Los Angeles, with winners split evenly between
American (Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer) and British
(James Corden, Orland Bloom and director Sam Mendes).

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Anthony Edwards plays the owner of the Mustang that
Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt.” It's been stolen and Danny and
Baez try to find the thief.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom” season-opener, 9:01 p.m., CBS.

One of TV's best
shows is back (at last) and in top form. Last season, “Mom”
showed a rare knack for being quietly moving AND loudly funny. Now
its third season opens on the serious side.

Allison Janney
already has two Emmys as Bonnie, who's had a life of excess. Now she
meets the mom (Ellen Burstyn) she hasn't seen since she was 4. That
means Burstyn, 73, is playing a great-great-grandmother; in this
family, generations come quickly. There are deep emotions here, but
“Mom” remains very funny. Three great actresses (Anna Faris plays
a mere grandmother) blend perfectly.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

This was supposed to
be opening night for “Angel From Hell” ... until CBS pushed it to
February. That makes sense; “Angel” would have been the weak link
among strong comedies. Still, there's a vacancy.

Next week, “2
Broke Girls” will take over the 9:30 spot; tonight, “Big Bang”
-- which aired Mondays while CBS had its Thursday-football run –
does double duty: At 8 p.m., Leonard and Penny learn what viewers
already know -- Sheldon had been ready to propose to Amy. At 9:30, a
funny rerun has Penny considering giving up her high-paying drug-rep
job, so she can audition for a movie.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway” finale, 9-11:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Last week's two-hour
episode (rerunning at 7 p.m.) turned the final three designers into a
final-four. Tim Gunn used his “save” to extend the say of Edmond
Newton, 37.

Now Newton is going
to Fashion Week in New York, with his emphasis on fancy gowns. Also
going are Ashley Nell Tipton, 24, with plus-size models; Candice
Cuoco, 27, with an avante-garde look; and Kelly Dempsey, 31,
approaching casual fashions with an un-casual focus.

Other choices
include:

Football pre-game
shows (6, 7:30 and 8 p.m. ET) and kick-off (8:25 p.m. ET), NFL
Network. After seven weeks of high-rated simulcasts on CBS, the
Thursday games are now cable-only (TV stations in the two teams' home
towns). Tonight, the undefeated Bengals host the 2-6 Browns.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. A new resident transfers to the hospital ... where
people are buzzing about a patient who accidentally sent his sex tape
to the entire congregation.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. After a mostly terrific stretch on Mondays, this
sharp comedy moves to its regular night, always with four separate
stories about the family. Tonight, Colleen's ex-boyfriend (Jordan
Peele) continues causing trouble; he's trying to steal her dog and to
push his business venture.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. A top advisor to the head of the U.S. National
Clandestine Service has gone missing, Red and Liz search for him,
facing danger.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Olivia's company has a new client, but she's busy
obsessing over her own secrets. Meanwhile, the president tries to
repair his image, then makes a startling discovery.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two people who have been Annalise's
lover are linked when Eve defends Nate, who faces a new murder
charge. Also, the team has a defendant who is accused of badgering
someone who then committed suicide.

“Elementary”
season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. Last season's finale strained
believability, as Sherlock nearly beat a man to death, then resumed
his old heroin habit. Tonight offers a slow, morose tale; even the
mystery is weak. The only good news comes late, when John Noble
(“Fringe”) joins the cast.

 

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Country Music Association awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Lots of familiar
names are here: Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley host and perform
for the eighth straight year. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, who host
the competing ACM awards, also perform; so do Miranda Lambert, Jason
Aldean, Zac Brown, Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line.

But there will be
fresh combinations – Keith Urban and John Mellancamp, Dierks
Bentley and Lindsey Stirling, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake,
Reba and Brooks & Dunn, Eric Church with Thomas Rhett, Hank
Williams Jr. and Fall Out Boy. Also performing: Sam Hunt, Kacey
Musgraves and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW.

NBC's “Constantine”
was a ratings failure ... at least by big-network standards; CW's
“Arrow” is a hit ... at least by micro-network standards. That
makes them sort of equal, so here's a crossover.

Flashbacks show that
Constantine (Matt Ryan) owes Oliver a favor; sometimes, a guy really
needs a friend with exorcist-type skills. Sara has been brought back
to life, creating lots of fierce-female battles. Ryan, a talented
guy, seems out of place near the stiff acting and dialog of “Arrow.”
So does director John Badham, who once knew greatness with “Saturday
Night Fever” and “War Games.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova: Making North America” opener, 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings)..

If all our teachers
were like this, we might have actually learned something in geology
class. Kirk Johnson of the Smithsonian Institution combines sweeping
landscapes and impressive special effects.

We see a continent
that's been in constant – albeit gradual – change. There are
palm-frond fossils in Alaska, remnants of vast sand dunes that
coveredd the West, a massive lake in the Midwest, a mountain range in
Manhattan. There are signs of a giant rift that almost split us in
two. This hour, launching a three-week series, ranges from a current
volcano in Hawaii to a long-ago one in Minnesota.

Other choices
include:

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. This show is at its worst when focusing on the captain,
who seems like a collection of bad scenes from old cop shows. Now
he's a murder suspect; an awful first scene signals what's ahead.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rosewood's police colleague fumes after seeing him
kiss her psychiatrist. “This thing we're doing, it's like a virus,”
Rosey says. It certainly feels like one.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Disney has “Enchanted” (2007), a clever tale with a
princess transforming from a cartoon into Amy Adams. Sundance has
“The Outsiders” (1983), Francis Coppola's richly emotional film
stuffed with young stars -- Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane,
Patrick Swayze and more.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. The early end of the World Series means this ratings-hit
only had to miss one week. Now it's back, with Lucious and Cookie
setting aside their fierce fights, to protect their kids.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. A reality show about a devout
family has presented its 13-year-old as virtuous and virginal. Now
she's pregnant and police investigate.

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 9:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. In many time
zones, this will be strictly something to record. A great epic, it
continues until 2 a.m. ET.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Here's the question most medical shows include: What if
you must decide whom to treat first, a wounded cop or the man who
shot him?

“The Brain,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Even basic decisions seem to be
affected by physical factors few people understand. We meet a woman
who is normal in other ways, but lost the decision portion of her
brain; a grocery-store trip is a blur. We see how much easier it is
to decide life and death if – like a drone pilot – we're not
directly involved. And we learn that lap dancers make more money at
different points in their menstrual cycle; the decision to hand over
money is affected by pheromones.