TV column for Thursday, Dec. 28

Music, 8-10 p.m., Fox and CW.

It's a night of
big-deal specials -- new and rerun, hip-hop and pop. CW has the pop
rerun (continuing Friday), with Pink, Harry Styles, Coldplay, Christ
Stapleton. The Weeknd and more.

And Fox has the new
“Bad Boy Story.” Sean “Diddy” Combs was 23 when he was fired
by a record company; he promptly started the Bad Boy label, scoring
with The Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack, Faith Evans and his own
records as Puff Daddy. Last year, he assembled a “hip-hop
homecoming” with Evans, plus French Montana (currently on the Bad
Boy label), Usher, Lil' Kim and Jay Z.

II: “Will & Grace,” 8:30 and 9 p.m., NBC.

With regular-season
football ending, the Thursday comedy battle resumes. It''s
CBS-vs.-NBC, with reruns tonight and new episodes next week.
Fortunately for NBC, “Will & Grace” has great reruns.

First, people talk
longingly (and foolishly) about the joys of 1890s New York. They soon
see variations of themselves, in a world that has no place for anyone
except rich, white heterosexuals. Then the friends are near big
career goals – a law-firm partnership for Will, a giant decorating
job for Grace. These are broadly funny episodes, each with Leslie
Jordan guesting as the bizarre Beverly Leslie.

ALTERNATIVE: “Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., and “Young
Sheldon,” 8:31, CBS.

This is why it's so
hard for even the clever NBC comedies to get a Thursday foothold. CBS
has TV's best comedy, along with its fairly good spin-off.

In the first “Big
Bang” rerun, Howard and Bernadette have trouble leaving their baby
at day-care; also, plain Bert introduces his girlfriend ...played by
the gorgeous April Bowlby of “Drop Dead Diva” and “Two and a
Half Men.” In the second, Penny gets a job offer from her former
boyfriend. In between, Sheldon – a 9-year-old in high school –
wants to soothe his mom's fears by finding one friend.

Other choices

Football, all day.
This is serious bowl turf, as top-20 teams collide in two 9 p.m. ET
games. Fox Sports1 has the Holiday Bowl, with Michigan State (ranked
No. 16) and Washington State (No. 18); both are 9-3. ESPN has the
Alamo Bowl, with Stanford (9-4, No. 13) and TCU(10-3, No. 15).
Earlier, ESPN has two more – the Military Bowl at 1:30 p.m. ET,
with Navy (6-5) and Virginia (6-6) and the Camping World Bowl at
5:15, with Virginia Tech (No. 22) and Oklahoma State (No. 19), both

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 p.m., ABC. Thursdays will be in flux for ABC until the
dramas return Jan. 18. For tonight, we get game-show reruns,
including “$100,00 Pyramid” at 9 and “Match Game” at 10.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Amy tries to show her wild side, during a
quiet Christmas Eve.

“Great News,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Here's the lone new comedy episode, amid a sea of
reruns. Shortly after her own break-up, Katie learns that her
grandparents are divorcing after 70 years. Now she's convinced that
love is dead ... while Chuck tries to steal the affection of Justin's
new girfriend.

“Mom,” 9:30
p.m., CBS. Ever since they quit drinking, Bonnie and Christy have
been relatively sedate. Now Adam's hard-partying friends (Bradley
Whitford and Nicole Sullivan) pay a noisy visit.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun of a fairly good (if a bit monotone) episode,
Sherilyn Fenn of “Twin Peaks” plays the manipulative mother of
Jim Street. Also, a drug ring endangers immigrants.

“Say Anything”
(1989), 10 p.m., Pop. Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire”) wrote and
directed this gem about an underachiever (John Cusack) romancing a
beautiful valedictorian (Ione Skye).

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 27

(PLEASE NOTE: For a couple of weeks, this Web site was down. I was still writing columns and stories and sending them to papers, but a technical glitch shut down things online. Now that's been fixed and I'm getting things back on the site, even if the time factor has already passed.)


“The Librarians,” 8 and 9 p.m., TNT, repeating at 10 and 11.

Most shows are on a
holiday break now, offering reruns or disappearing entirely. But this
one – a whimsical tale of globetrotting adventurers – goes the
other way, with two new hours.

In the first, Flynn
(Noah Wyle) gets to work with his hero, Darrington Dare. In the
second, we re-meet Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger), who was Flynn's
colleague and lover ... then became embittered, when he accidentally
propelled her 500 years into the past. She joins Baird (Rebecca
Romijn) on a mission.

“Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special,” 8-10 p.m.,

Two important things
happen on Sept. 11, 1967 -- “The Carol Burnett Show” debuted and
Harry Connick Jr. was born. Now, logically, Connick sings the show's
theme song with Burnett, 84.

Other stars show up
in this rerun, including Jim Carrey, Stephen Colbert, Jane Lynch, Jay
Leno, Bernadette Peters, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and
Kristen Chenoweth. Tim Conway couldn't be there and Harvey Korman
died at 81, but Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner are there. And
everyone shows up in the classic sketches, from Mama's family to
“Gone With the Wind.”

ALTERNATIVE: Bowl games.

Now we've reached
the serious part of the bowl blitz. There are even two games

At 8:30 p.m. ET
(with pre-game at 8), Fox has the Foster Farms Bowl, with Arizona
(7-5) and Purdue (6-6). At 9, ESPN has the Texas Bowl with,
logically, Texas (6-6) and Missouri (7-5). Earlier, ESPN has the
Independence Bowl at 1:30 p.m. ET, with Southern Mississippi (8-4)
and Florida State (6-6); at 5:15, it has the Pinstripe Bowl, with
Boston and Iowa (both 7-5).

Other choices

“Matilda” (1996)
and “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971), 6:30 and
8:30 p.m., Freeform. Here are two films adapted from books by Roald
Dahl. “Wonka” is the famous one, but “Matilda” is a delight,
with director/co-star Danny Devito capturing the dark humor.

“The Wall,” 8
p.m., NBC. Two brothers – one a college professor, the other a
Washington, D.C., cop – tackle the high-tech game show.

“Dolly Parton's
Christmas of Many Colors” (2016), 9-11 p.m., NBC. As a sequel to
her “Coat of Many Colors” film, Parton narrates another story
from her childhood. In this one (nominated for a best-movie Emmy), a
snowstorm threatens Christmas, as the dad (Ricky Schroder) scrambles
to finally buy the mom (Jennifer Nettles) a wedding ring. Also, young
Dolly's singing career gets an important nudge​.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil and Claire start to feel Alex is self-sufficient in

“Match Game,” 10
p.m., ABC. Starting next week, this loose-spirited game show – with
Alec Baldwin hosting – will have new episodes at 10 p.m.
Wednesdays. Meanwhile, here's a rerun.

“SEAL Team,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun from last month, Jason (David Boreanaz) is
unhappy about a raid that links his team with one that's led by his
longtime rival.

ALSO: On a night
clogged with reruns, we might as well re-see a movie. Three Marvel
action films collide: Syfy has “Thor” (2011) at 7:30 p.m.; FX has
“The Wolverine” (2013) at 6 p.m. and “X-Men: Days of Future
Past” (2014) at 9. For comedies, try “Spy” (2015) at 8 p.m. on
FXX or Mel Brooks original “The Producers” (1968) at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 26

“Kennedy Center Honors,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

For decades, this
has been one of TV's best shows. It slipped a bit, after replacing
producer George Stevens Jr. (as evidenced by tonight's dreary,
six-minute opening), but remains a classy delight.

There is “All in
the Family” producer Norman Lear, described by J.J. Abrams as “a
95-year-old superhero.” There's great music – a Latin beat for
Gloria Estefan, rap rhythms for LL Cool J – and a dynamic dance
tribute for Carmen de Lavallade. And Nicole Richie calls her adoptive
dad Lionel “the happiest person I know,” leading into a great
tribute with Luke Bryan, Stevie Wonder and Leona Lewis.

“Major Crimes,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT; repeats at 11:02 p.m. and
12:03 a.m.

After a dozen years
of self-contained episodes (seven years as “The Closer,” five as
“Crimes”), this show has switched in its final season to three
multi-part tales. Tonight, the final two episodes of the second story
rerun at 7 and 8 p.m.; then we get the first half of the final one.

There's a sudden
death of a key cop – possibly linked to the escape of Philip Stroh,
the cunning killer played by Billy Burke. Meanwhile, Rusty finds some
advice and some frustration.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Sultan and the Saint,” 8-9 p.m., PBS.

By 1219, the
Christians and Muslims had seen waves of death. This was the fifth
Crusade, each one determined to kill or convert all Muslims. “Destroy
that vile race,” Pope Urban II had written.

Then the weather
left the attackers paralyzed. They could have been slaughtered ...
but were saved by extraordinary kindness from the Sultan of Egypt.
Why? This interesting film – dramatized, but with lots of narration
from Jeremy Irons – credits Francis of Assisi (the future St.
Francis). He had risked his life to have long conversations with the
Sultan; two deeply decent men ended the cycle of death.

Other choices

“The Godfather”
(1972) and “Godfather II” (1974), 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., AMC, then at
5:30 and 9:30. Here are great movies. One is No. 2 (trailing only
“Citizen Kane”) on the American Film Institute's all-time list;
the other is No. 32 ... and the only sequel in the top 100. Both won
best-picture Oscars.

“Happy New Year,
Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph's Shiny New Year,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. Did you ever notice that the great Christmas cartoons vastly
outnumber the good New Year's ones?

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun from early in the season, Gibbs and McGee have been
rescued, but the effects aren't certain. A doctor (Laura San Giacomo)
must approve before they can resume work.

“The Mick,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Mick begins to suspect that
Jimmy is having an affair with an heiress. In the second – an
interesting, quirky one – the kids visit their parents in jail.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 9 p.m., NBC. Next week, this show will take a Monday spot
and “Ellen's Game of Games” will be Tuesdays. To get us ready,
they have reruns at 8 and 9 p.m. today. In this one, the guys visit a
nude park in Munich and have “a Julie Andrews moment” atop the
Bavarian Alps.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the so-so season opener, Dr. Charles
(Oliver Platt) gets a chance to speak at the trial of the patient who
shot him.

“Married at First
Sight: Jamie and Doug Plus One,” 10:02 and 10:32 p.m., Lifetime.
Like most dating shows, “First Sight” has had few lasting
matches; Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner are an exception. Strangers when
they married, they've been together three years, with a four-month
old baby. They were profiled last week, in a film that reruns today
at 7 and 8 p.m. and at 11:02 p.m. Now we see details of their new
life – indecision about day-care issues and about Jamie's mother's
involvement with the baby.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 25

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC.

TV has given us
approximately 7.2 zillion Christmas shows, old and new, this month.
But here's the one that (alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas”)
ranks as the best of all.

It started with a
great Dr. Seuss book. Then animation genius Chuck Jones added the
voices of Boris Karloff (narrating) and June Foray (as Cindy Lou
Who), plus Thurl Ravenscroft, booming the song.

“Magical Christmas Celebration,” 10 a.m. to noon, ABC (9-11 a.m.

By mid-morning, some
people might be worn out by the holiday frenzy. It's time for bright
colors and cheery music. This has Christmas Day parades at Disney
parks, plus pre-recorded music.

Nick Lachey hosts
(with Julianne Hough) and joins his band (98 Degrees) for “Season
of Love.” Other performers include Ciara, Darius Rucker, Jason
Derulo, Lea Michele and Fritz and the Tantrums.

ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife Holiday Special,” 9-10:30 p.m.,

In real life,
England was hit with fierce weather in 1962-3. In 350 years, only two
winters have been colder; by late December, some areas had 20-foot

That's the backdrop
for this story. Milk is scarce, toilets are frozen, people are
desperate; the midwives face waves of tragedy. An old woman has
survived decades of abuse; a young, unmarried woman shivers while
waiting to give birth. There are dark moments here, plus good news
that pushes “Christmas miracle” to an extreme. Despite it all,
there's the quiet joy of good people getting by.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Murdoch Mysteries,” any time,

This gentle Canadian
drama – which is also on the Ovation network as “The Artful
Detective” -- begins its 11th season of catching crooks
in 1890s-or-so Toronto. And it starts with a rare crisis: Murdoch has
been framed for murder, several of his men were shot and his wife is

Throughout it, he
remains as sturdy as Dudley Do-Right. This streaming service will
release the new season over 18 Mondays. Also today, it has the season
finales of solid series from Australia (“A Place to Call Home”),
New Zealand (“Brokenwood Mysteries”) and England (“Love, Lies &

Other choices

“The Christmas
Train” (2017), 12:30 p.m., Hallmark. The holiday marathons wrap up
on Freeform, Ion, TBS and TNT (both with “Christmas Story” every
two hours to 8 p.m.), and on both Hallmark channels. One highlight is
this film, from the prestigious “Hallmark Hall of Fame.”

Basketball, 3 p.m.
ET, ABC. An impressive tripleheader starts with Golden State at
Cleveland. That's followed by Washington and Boston at 5:30 and
Houston and Oklahoma City at 8. If you need more, ESPN has
Philadelphia and New York at noon ET; TNT has Minnesota and the
Lakers at 10:30 p.m.

Jingle Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW. This rerun is stuffed with pop
stars, including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Fifth Harmony and two
First Direction guys – Liam Payne and Niall Horan.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 8 p.m., p.m., Fox. Fifth Harmony is in this rerun, too,
along with Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, DMX and host Steve Harvey.

“When Calls the
Heart,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. This amiable series – set in a Canadian
frontier town – offers a movie-length special: Local people are
eager to place their desires on a Christmas “wishing tree.”

“Doctor Who,”
9-11 p.m. ET, BBC America. A new film offers key moments: Peter
Capaldi ends his three-season stay as the 12th Doctor ...
David Bradley (“The Strain”) portrays the first Doctor ... and
Jodie Whittaker, 35, becomes the 13th Doctor, breaking a
male monopoly on the role.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun from a year ago, the team faces gun-runners on
Christmas Eve.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 25

“A Christmas Story” (1983), 8 p.m. and beyond, TBS; or “It's a
Wonderful Life” (1946), 8-11 p.m., NBC

When people argue
about the best Christmas movies ever, they sometimes settle on these
two. “Wonderful Life,” with James Stewart, has the warmth;
“Christmas Story” has a tad of warmth, but mixes it with a
refreshingly cynical sense of humor.

Fortunately, you can
catch both. This is the annual, 24-hour marathon for “Christmas
Story,” which re-starts every two hours. Catch it at 8 p.m., 10,
midnight, etc., through 6-8 p.m. Monday.

II: “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

As the 1990s began,
the notion of a Disney animated feature was wobbling. With an
occasional exception (“Little Mermaid,” perhaps) there hadn't
been a great one in more than 20 years.

Then “Beauty”
won Oscars for its title song and its score; it was nominated for
four more, including being the first cartoon up for best picture.
That would quickly be followed by “Aladdin,” “Lion King” and
the Pixar revolution; Disney became rich enough to buy ABC, where
this gem reruns tonight.

Movies, 4 p.m. to 12:06 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Today, the channel
lives up to the “classic” in its name. That includes “Christmas
in Connecticut” (1945) at 4 p.m. ET, “The Bishop's Wife” (1947)
at 8 and “The Bells of St.Mary” (1945) at 10.

All are in
black-and-white, but making up for that is “Meet Me in St. Louis”
(1946) at 6 p.m. ET. Director Vincente Minnelli, a former set
designer, bathed it with glorious color. Judy Garland – whom he
soon married – introduced a great song, “Have Yourself a Merry
Little Christmas.” That one didn't even get a best-song Oscar
nomination ... but another tune -- “The Trolley Song” -- did.

Other choices

“A Happy Yule
Log,” 5 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Monday, Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Yes, it's a 23-hour stretch of a dog, a cat and some
kittens, in front of a fireplace, plus Christmas tunes.

“How Murray Saved
Christmas,” 7:30 p.m., NBC. The original, hour-long cartoon rippled
with smart songs and wittty lines. This is a half-hour version,
following “Trolls” at 7.

More cartoons, 8-10
p.m., Fox. It's a night of Christmas cartoon reruns. Krusty and his
daughter spend the holiday with “The Simpsons” at 8. A fun “Ice
Age” special is 8:30, followed by “Family Guy” (Peter's a mall
Santa) At 9 and “Bob's Burgers” (an intense gingerbread-house
competition) at 9:30.

“Last Tango in
Halifax Holiday Special,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After
their late-in-life marriage, Alan and Celia have another belated
adventure – co-starring in community theater. That story provides a
light backdrop for some dark moments: Through flashbacks and a
confession, we learn why their daughters are in agony. This is a
harsh hour, complicated by accents that are tough to follow.

“I Love Lucy”
and “Dick Van Dyke Show” specials, 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In a change
of plans, CBS will rerun these specials, two days after they aired.
Both add color to black-and-white episodes. “Lucy” flashes back
to some great moments; the Van Dyke episodes are merely so-so.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the show's 150th episode,
Isaiah Washington plays a police chief who refuses to go when he
reaches the mandatory retirement age. Also, an ex-cop disappears,
after telling Danny she'll make amends to someone she helped wrongly

Christmas services.
At 11:30 p.m., NBC will go to the Vatican for midnight Mass; at
11:35, CBS will be at Fairfield University in Connecticut, for music
and reflections.