TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 10


(Some scheduling is tenative, because of the late
insertion of the presidential speech.)

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This is Us” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

A month ago, this
show brought surprises, delights ... and then a jolt. Toby – the
upbeat soul Kate needs -- collapsed. “Us” showed doctors trying
to revive him; then it ended abrupty.

Now, four weeks
later, it's back. Dan Fogelman, its creator, promises we'll quickly
learn about Toby. After that, NBC says, we'll look at Kate's brother
Kevin, who split with Olivia (the self-centered actress) and linked
with Sloane (the brainy playwright). Now, alas, Olivia is back. Also,
flashbacks show the young parents-to-be house-hunting ... setting up
a deeply moving episode next week.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

In 1980, two young
guys, ages 19 and 21, were doing routine work at the Titan II silo.
One dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet and punctured the missile.
Eventually, there was an explosion; a nuclear warhead – 600 times
more powerful than the one at Hiroshima – was found in an Arkansas
ditch.

Officials say there
was never a danger it would detonate; this compelling documentary
disagrees. There have been hundreds of small accidents, it says ...
plus what was almost a huge disaster.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Speech, 9 p.m. ET, many networks.

In Chicago, Barack
Obama gives a speech, discussing highlights of his eight years as
president. Covering it sets off a series of shifts, varying by
network and time zone.

NBC will nudge “This
Is Us” back an hour (to 10 p.m.), resting “Chicago Fire” ...
ABC will shift its comedy episodes in different combinations for each
zone ... CBS will rest “Bull,” inserting at 9:30 p.m. ET a
hilarious “Big Bang” rerun, with families gathering for the
second Leonard-Pennny wedding.

Other choices
include:

“Uncle Buck”
(1989) and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” (1986), 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.,
Freeform. With network scheduled scrambled by the speech, some
viewers might settle for these amiable comedies. Other light choices,
at 8 p.m., are “Legally Blonde” (2001) on CMT and “Parent Trap”
(1998) on E.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, two new agents (Jennifer Esposito and Wilmer
Valderrama) settle into their jobs. While probing a death at a
Quantico reunion, the team discovers a long-time theft ring.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie has won free maid service for a month ... but,
alas, her house may defy cleaning. Meanwhile, Mike and his brother
(Norm Macdonald) look for an assisted living facility for their dad.
Also, Axl and his pals want to temporarily move into his sister's
college room.

“The Departed”
(2006), 8 p.m., AMC. With a potent collision of top actors –
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, more – this terrific
film won Academy Awards for best picture, for director Martin
Scorsese and for its script and editing, plus a nomination for Mark
Wahlberg.

“Good Behavior,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. At times, Letty (Michelle Dockeryt) has
been rescued by Javier, the taut hitman. Now she must take desperate
steps to rescue him.

“Lawless Oceans”
debut, 9 and 10 p.m., National Geographic. Ever since the pirate
days, we've known that criminals can roam the seas, sometimes
untouched by the law. That reached an extreme, this series says, with
footage that went viral in 2014: Four men, clinging to wreckage, were
shot and killed. This six-houd series probes the case, following a
trail of drugs, human-trafficking and, of course, piracy.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. During a vibrant funeral procession for one
Navy person, another one is killed.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. Coulson and May are getting closer – which
may be a problem, now that some people are being secretly replaced by
“life-model decoys.”

TV column for Monday, Jan.9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
College football championship game, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN.

OK, this is a little
like women's basketball and the University of Connecticut – no
surprises, no fun. For the second straight year, the game has
Alabama and Clemson. Alabama won last time, has won 26 straight games
and (counting the days before playoffs) is going for its fourth title
in seven years.

Maybe Clemson, 13-1,
can snap the streak. It did come up with a convincing win over Ohio
State, 31-0. That was right after 'Bama beat Washington, 24-7,
setting up some sameness.

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

Yes, it's just a
rerun. Still, it's a rerun of TV's best comedy, which is always an
improvement over the consistently adequate comedies that CBS airs on
Mondays.

Tonight involves
somethng “Big Bang” savors – isolating mismatched characters.
This one has two terrific actresses: Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is with
Leonard's non-nurturing mother, played by Christine Baranski – who
has an Emmy (for “Cybill”) and 15 nominations, four of them in
this role.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelor” (ABC) or “Celebrity Apprentice”
(NBC), 8-10 p.m.

For the second
straight week, these big-deal reality shows collide with bigger-deal
football. Last week it was the bowl games, including (in most time
zones) that wild Rose Bowl finish. Now there's more.

Last week, in his
debut as the “Apprentice” boss, Arnold Schwarzenegger fired
YouTube personality Carrie Keagan and singer Carnie Wilson. In Nick
Viall's debut as the bachelor, he trimmed the field from 30 to 22. He
kept Liz Sandoz, but neither one mentioned a secret that's key
tonight: The two had met at a wedding; they slept togther, she didn't
give him her phone number but tried to reach him later.

Other choices
include;

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. The final minutes of this rerun lauch a four-show
crossover. Between now and Thursday, Supergirl will link with Green
Arrow, The Flash and the Legends of Tomorow, in an effort keep the
Dominators from dominating.

“Saving Private
Ryan” (1998), 8 p.m. to midnight, AMC. Steve Spielberg's
masterpiece mixes jolting battle scenes with a story rich in human
depth. Tom Hanks stars, with Matt Damon in the title role.

“Vanderpump Rules”
season-opener, 9-11 p.m., Bravo. It's party time for Lisa
Vanderpump's young employees, who are, at least, very attractive.
When told it's a clambake, they look it up to see what it is. (It
turns out to be place where clams are baked.) Then someone wonders if
it will be formal.

“Beyond,” 9
p.m., Freeform. In the first two episodes, Holden woke from a 12-year
coma, facing questions. Why did he seem to have these memories? Why
does his mind have strange powers? In a fairly good episode, he
learns more about himself ... and learns the secret his family's been
keeping.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. After the current, 13-episode season, CBS has no
plans to renew this above-average show. Speeding the departure, it
has a new episode here, on a night of reruns. A fun-loving woman
(Busy Phillips) spends the night with Felix, who's not the fun type.

“Big Fan” debut,
10 and 10:30 p.m., on ABC. This game has fans seeing if they can top
their favorite celebrity in questions about him or her. Tonight, it's
Aaron Rodgers and actor Matthew McConaughey.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Happy (Jadyn Wong) is clearly unhappy in this rerun. She's
lost in a blizzard, while the team tries to rescue soldiers in
Anarctica.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Golden Globes,” 8-11 p.m. ET, NBC (5 p.m. PT, repeating at 8).

We can expect fun
(Jimmy Fallon hosts) and quirks. This splits movies into dramas
(“Manchester by the Sea,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Lion,”
“Moonlight,” “Hell or Highwater”) and comedies or musicals
(“La La Land,” “Deadpool,” “Sing Street,” “20th
Century Women,” “Florence Foster Jenkins”).

In TV, every drama
except “Game of Thrones” is in its first year -- “This is Us,”
“Westworld,” “The Crown” and “Stranger Things.” “Atlanta”
is the only new comedy, facing “Veep,” “Blackish,”
“Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Elsewhere, the O.J.
Simpson mini-series dominates.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Sherlock Holmes tales, PBS and CBS.

After resting on two
holidays, “Elementary” returns to its 10 p.m. spot on CBS.
Tonight, Holmes and Watson race to save a woman who's been captive
for years.

That faces strong
competition from a “Sherlock” double-feature on PBS. At 7 p.m. is
a rerun of last week's season-opener; Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)
is in modern London, where Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife
struggle with parenthood. At 9, Toby Jones – who has played
Hitchcock, Capote and Karl Rove – is Culverton Smith, one of
Sherlock's toughest enemies.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Real Mad Men of Advertising,” 9 p.m.,
Smithsonian.

As “Mad Men”
viewers already know, Madison Avenue once rippled with fun and
creativity, plus alcohol, drugs and a sense of white-male privilige.
This interesting documentary looks at the 1950s tonight and the'60s
next week, with lots of clips and a few of the people who were there
at the time.

'The result has a
scattered organization, with lots of repetition. Still, it has some
wonderful insights into the days when a Volkswagen ad or a “plop
plop fizz fizz” commercial could stir pop culture.

Other choices
include:

Football, 1:05 p.m.
ET, CBS and 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox, Some of pro-football's top
quarterbacks battle in the playoffs. First, Ben Roethlisberger and
the Steelers (11-5) host Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins (10-6). Then
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (10-6) host Eli Manning and the Giants
(11-5).

Golden Globe
previews, E and NBC. E has its preview at 4 p.m. ET, then starts its
red-carpet coverage at 6; NBC has its own red-carpet show at 7. And
at 11 p.m. (ET and PT), E has its “After Party.”

“Son of Zorn,” 7
and 8:30 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun, with Alan feeling the holiday
tug that comes from a mixed marriage; his mom likes Christmas, his
dad prefers Grafelnik, the day of revenge. Then a new episode brings
everyone together at an engagement party for his mom and Chris (Tim
Meadows).

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Tonight, we meet people with adventures
– one was rescued by Harrison Ford, another was caught in te eye of
a tornado – and those with odd ceations: There are the the people
who created a farmers dating site and and launched the art of
juggling while running.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. You really shouldn't look a gift horse in
the mouth, especially if you're secretary of state. Elizabeth
considers rejecting a horse sent to her by Mongolia.

“Conviction,” 10
p.m., ABC. As Hayes and Wallace try to sort out their feelings for
each other, they're brought to a crime scene that's in the style of
earlier murders that had already been “solved.”

ALSO: Turner Classic
Movies has two of Woody Allen's best films, “Annie Hall” (1977)
and “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), at 8 and 10 p.m. ET. He got
screenplay Oscars (one shared) for both films and best-director for
“Annie Hall” ... which also won for best picture and is No. 35 on
the American Film Institute's all-time list. But Allen, 81, isn't
only found in the past; Amazon Prime has his “Cafe Society”
movie and his “Crisis in Six Scenes” mini-series (both 2016).

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 7


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
“This is Us,” 1-11 p.m., USA.

In an era when new
shows draw shrugs, this has soared,. Ratings have been good, praise
has been high. The American Film Institute called it one of the
year's 10 best; the Critics Choice awards named it “most exciting
new series.” The latter also nominated it for best drama, as did
the Golden Globes.

We won't spoil any
surprises here. Watch the opener, with a doctor subtly transforming
lives. He's superbly played by Gerald McRaney, who comes back briefly
in the third episode (3 p.m.) and is key to the tenth (10 p.m.),
which has compelling moments that set up NBC's next new hour, at 9
p.m. Tuesday.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Ransom,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Let's credit CBS for
inserting a new, scripted series into a night that's been a profit
center for reruns and non-fiction. It does that by splitting the
costs between production companies in Canada (which makes excellent
TV), France, Germany and the U.S.

The show centers on
a hostage negotiator, but this hour – its first Saturday one, after
a Sunday debut – is different: A top baseball prospect needs a
specific bone marrow ... which is being ransomed.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Football, 4:35 p.m. ET ESPN, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC.

The wild-card teams
get their shots today and Sunday, in games that will trim the Super
Bowl field to eight. First are the Oakland Raiders; they had a great
season (12-4), but their quarterback was injured and his back-up was
banged up last week. Suddenly, Connor Cook – who had never before
dressed for a pro game – was playing; he may now be facing the
Houston Texans (9-7).

Then it's the
Detroit Lions (9-7), whose quarterback has been playing with a
throwing finger in a splint. He's done well with it – but the Lions
have lost three straight; they visit the Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1).

Other choices
include:

“The River Wild”
(1994), 7:08 p.m., Starz; or “Julie & Julia” (2009), 8 p.m.,
Pop. Two first-rate movies offer opposite views of Meryl Streep. In
one, she's an action hero, saving her kids from nasties; in the
other, she's Julia Child in flashbacks, as a modern woman (Amy Adams)
tries to master her recipes.

Jimmy Kimmel
special, 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of an hour that followed Monday's
“Bachelor” season-opener. Kimmel talks to Nick Viall (the new
bachelor) and others.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
8 p.m., Fox. In an instant rerun of Friday's season-opener, Ichabod –
stunned by Abbie's death – is in Washington, D.C., with her sister,
searching for the next Witness.

“Now More Than
Ever,” 8 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at 10. If you missed this in its
debut Sunday, catch it now. With frankness and detail, we get a
history of Chicago, the band that's now in its 50th year.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. This rerun of Wednesday's episode has great music, compelling
characters ... and an overheated plot that wants us to think someone
needs $30,000 to make a music demo for a festival.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the episode that brought Paget
Brewster back to the show, as Emily Prentiss. She helps probe the
disappearance of three women.

“World War Z”
(2013), 10 p.m., FX. Brad Pitt tries to save the world from a zombie
overload. Apparently, that's just one of our problems. This is
preceded at 8 p.m. by “Underworld Awakening” (2012), with
vampires and werewolves and such.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW.

Here's a rare
pleasure – a double scoop of a show that's fresh, original and
(despite being uneven in quality) often quite clever. And after a
stagnant stretch, both hours propel the plot sharply.

In the first, there
are major moments in the romance of Rebecca's ex-boyfriend Josh and
in the marriage of her friend Paula; that leads to a child-raising
misadventure in a strip club. And in the second, there's a huge
change in her work world. That episode, in particular, has some
wonderfully witty songs. “Crazy” does get excessive at times, but
usually pulls back in time for some dandy fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grimm” final-season opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

What do you do if
the world's gone mad and Evil runs the government? “We regroup; we
rebuild,” Trubel said. That will have to be quick, because “Grimm”
only has 13 episodes and steep odds.

The mayor and other
officials are monsters (literally); Nick, the monster-fighter, was
called a criminal and attacked by a horde of killers. He survived,
for reasons he doesn't understand. (It had something to do with a
magic piece of wood and a little girl's doll; it's that kind of
show.) Now he's trying desperately to escape, which will take more
than one episode. This one is solidly crafted.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Emerald City,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC

Kansas must be
filled with great adoptive parents. The Kents were good to Clark; in
this version, the Gales were great to Dorothy. Like him, she's a
solid Midwesterner, flung into a bigger mission.

An earnest young
nurse, she propelled by a tornado and inadvertently kills a witch.
The good news is that this has great visuals and a likable star,
Adria Arjona; the bad news is that this relentlessly dark version of
“Wizard of Oz” isn't for kids (or some adults). But it will
please most “Grimm” fans.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “One Day at a Time,” any time, Netflix.

Ponder the awesome
length of Norman Lear's career. This guy was writing TV for Dean
Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1950; he wrote for Martha Raye, George
Gobel, Tennessee Ernie Ford ... all more than a decade before his1971
“All in the Family” changed television.

And now, 94 and
still witty, he's a producer of this remake of his show. Justina
Machado – who was impressive as a regular in “Six Feet Under”
and “Queen of the South” -- plays a single mother of two. Rita
Moreno, 85 and one of the few EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony)
winners, plays her mom.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Mac has to figure out who's the mole, trying to disrupt
the organization. Sarah (Amy Acker) is back; Nikki's back, too, but
we don't know who's side she's on.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Parenting issues get debated here. When
Mike and Vanessa turn down Eve's financing request, Kristen steps in.
Soon, there's a debate over family dinner.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. In real life, Tisha Campbell-Martin (who plays Damona) had
a fairly busy music career. In this fictional version, we learn that
Damona was the lead singer on “Gonna Make You Sweat.” Also, Ken's
new intern (Gillian Jacobs of “Community”) is either admiring or
flirtatious.

“Shark Tank,” 9
p.m., ABC. When was the last time you saw a rich financier with a cat
comb in his teeth? That's part of a fun start for an hour rhat ranges
from frustration to a moving moment.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Chin life is in danger, after he's captured by a drug
cartel in Mexico.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. All the Reagans get involved tonight. Jamie and his
police partner are enmeshed in a complex adoption fight and want help
from his sister, a lawyer.. His brother learns that his son plans to
join the Marines. And their dad, the police comissioner, hears
reports of cadet cheating.