TV column for Saturday, Nov. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Heavenly Christmas,” 8 p.m., Hallmark; Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Back in 1951, “Hallmark Hall of Fame” was launched
with high ambitions. An original mini-opera (“Amahl and the Night
Visitors”) was first; then came three Shakespearean plays, followed
by Lewis Carroll abnd George Bernard Shaw; TV used to be like.

Over the last 65
years, the “Hall” subjects have become less British and more
accessible; still, the lush production values have continued, winning
81 Emmys. This newest film has Shirley MacLaine trying to convert a
self-centered woman (Kristin Davis) into a guardian angel for a dad
(Eric McCormack).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Robbie the Reindeer” and its sequel, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Sure, a lot of shows
(including “Hallmark Hall of Fame”) have squeezed out the British
touches. Still, let's not take that too far: “Robbie” started as
a delightfully droll and dry cartoon for English TV. When it moved to
the U.S., those voices were stripped out and Americans were inserted.

The token Englishman
is Hugh Grant as the evil Blitzen. In the opener, he tries to stop
Robbie (Ben Stiller) from joining Santa's sleigh; in the sequel, he
wants to start a reindeer theme park. Other voices include Britney
Spears, Jim Belushi, Brad Garrett, Leah Remini, James Woods and Jerry
Siller.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency,” 9 p.m.,
BBC America.

Now for British
whimsy at its extreme. Yes, this was filmed in Canada, with an
American star (Elijah Wood); but at the core are novels by the
bizarrely brilliant Douglas Adams (“Hitchhiker's Guide”).

The good news is
that this has just been renewed for next season. The bad is that
tonight has a dark, stark episode. Dirk has found the machine
everyone covets, but Todd (Wood) must confess to his sister: He faked
an illness and drained the family's money ... leaving nothing, now
that she has a real illness.

Other choices
include:

“Love Actually”
(2003), 6 and 9 p.m., E. Here's another clever British writer
(Richard Curtis), linking (barely) some charming Christmastime tales.
Other movies deliver great action – the second and third Indiana
Jones” movies (1984 and 1989) at 5:29 and 8:05 p.m. on Syfy – and
Dustin Hoffman's best work, with “Tootsie” (1982) and “Rain
Man” (1988), at 8 and 10:15 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Falling for
Christmas,” 7 p.m., UP, rerunning at 9. This is the second in the
cable channel's string of three straight new holiday films. An
injured figure-skating champion is sent to a snowy rehab retreat. As
you may have assumed, she meets a handsome local guy there.

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET Fox and 8 p.m. ABC. These could both be good match-ups: Fox has
Utah (ranked No. 12) at Colorado (No. 10); ABC has Florida (No. 23)
at Florida State (No. 17). There's much more on cable, includiing
Clemson (No. 4) hosting South Carolina, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

“National Dog
Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Thursday's event.

More Christmas
movies, 8 p.m., cable. TV One has “The Christmas Swap,” with
Dondre Whitfield as a single dad who scuttled his dreams to care for
his mother. Lifetime has “All I Want for Christmas”; told she
doesn't understand people, a young woman is given a pin that lets her
hear their thoughts.

“The Story of
Santa Claus,” 9-10 p.m., CBS. It's the 20th anniversary
for this cartoon, which has an elderly toymaker and his wife (Ed
Asner and Betty White) deciding to give away the toys.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. After a long string of new episodes, here's
a rerun. Donald Trump won't be tempted to start any new Twitter
storms tonight.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC.

A night that's
overloaded with cartoons starts with one of TV's all-time great
moments. It takes the Dr. Seuss story – rippling with humor and
warmth – and adds much more.

There's the
direction of Chuck Jones, the genius behind Road Runner. There's
Boris Karloff's narration and the great “Grich” tune sung by
Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Tony the Tiger..

TONIGHT'S
MUST-RECORD: More cartoons, 8-9 p.m., everywhere.

In a night of
splendid excess, four of the top five commercial broadcast networks
have cartoons from 8-9 p.m. If you're skipping “Grinch,” catch
the amiable “Frosty the Snowman” at 8 p.m. on CBS; then skip its
lame sequel and try “How Murray Saved Christmas” at 8:35 on NBC.
“Murray” is a trimmed version of a show that was – in its
hourlong version – stuffed with wonderfully witty songs.

The others are each
an hour: The CW has “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”; ABC has
“Santa Claus is Comin' to Town,” with Fred Astaire narrating the
tale of young Kris Kringle (Mickey Rooney).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Descendants Magical Holiday Celebration,” 8-9
p.m., Disney.

In the Disney parks,
we get music from Kelly Clarkson and Forever in Your Mind, plus a
husband-wife duet from Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Beyond that, the
young stars of the channel's “Descendants” movie combine on
“Jolly to the Core.” One of then, Sofia Carson, also solos on
“Silent Night.” And China Anne McClain, from next year's
“Descendants 2,” does “This Christmas.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Gilmore Girls” and more, anytime, Netflix.

Today, Netflix
delivers all four new “Gilmore” tales. Subtitled “A Year in the
Life,” each is movie-length and is set during a different season.

There's more, in a
holiday deluge. Michael Che (“Saturday Night Live”) has a
stand-up special; also, there are two animated films -- “The Snowy
Day” and “If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie.”

Other choices
include:

TV movies, 7 p.m. UP
(rerunning at 9) and 8 p.m. Hallmark. UP starts a three-night streak
of new Christmas movies, with “A Puppy For Christmas”; Noelle
finally gets the puppy while loses her job and her boyfriend. And
Hallmark is in the middle of a five-night streak of new films. In
“Christmas List,” a designer (Alicia Witt) heads to “the
perfect Christmas town” to fill her holiday bucket list.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. This show has a mini-monopoly, as the only non-cartoon
at 8 p.m. on a commercial broadcast network. Tonight, a Navy SEAL is
wanted for criminal activity; Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) sees parallels
with Riggs, his ex-military police partner.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. Lots of people have family troubles, but not like this:
Lucifer's mother (Tricia Helfer) has just escaped from Hell. That's
in a rerun of the season-opener, which adds a new medical examiner
(Aimee Garcia) and a new crisis: Maze is missing.

“Lang Lang's New
York Rhapsody,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. The pianist performs works by
classical composers (Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland) plus Alicia
Keys, Don Henley and Danny Elfman. It's under the “Live From
Lincoln Center” banner, but taped in advance.

“MacGyver,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a transplanted rerun, a man with key information has
been shot. MacGyver must keep him alive, using only a driver's
license and a hand sanitizer.

“Savage Kingdom”
opener, 9-11 p.m., NatGeo Wild. On the one hand, this is brilliantly
executed; it has stunning camerawork, relentlessly urgent music and
Charles Dance narrating with a tone of Karloffian doom. Still, that
doesn't mean everyone should flock to it. It would help if you like
brutal violence by African lions and their enemies ... and if you
enjoy a cub being killed in front of its helpless mother.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Jamie disagrees with his brother Danny
on how to handle a reckless rookie cop who is the son of Danny's
friend.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 24


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
“Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS.

It's time for size,
spectacle and Santa. The parade ranges from young “Sesame Street”
people to 90-year-old Tony Bennett. And both networks also front-load
with their own performances.

NBC (which reruns
this at 2 p.m., after the dog show) has the casts of its “Hairspray
Live,” plus Broadway's “Cats,” “Holiday Inn” and “Waitress”
and Cirque du Soleil's “Paramour.” CBS has Sting, Miranda
Lambert, “The Color Purple,” “School of Rock” and Gloria
Estefan's “On Your Feet.”

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Football, all day.

What used to be a
single Thanksgiving game in Detroit has now become a three-network
marathon. This year brings good match-ups, including several teams
that have thrived with back-up quarterbacks.

CBS start this with
the Lions hosting the Vikings at 12:30 p.m. ET; they share the
division lead with 6-4 records. Then it's Fox, with the Cowboys
(9-1) hosting the Redskins (6-3-1) at 4:30 p.m. ET. And at 8:30 p.m.
(with preview at 8), NBC has the Colts hosting the Steelers, with
both teams at 5-5.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Magical Holidays Celebration,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Since the holidays
are about family, this makes sense: The special will be hosted by
siblings (Derek and Julianne Hough) and will include a husband-wife
duet (Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood).

Sofia Carson also
hosts, as part of her mega-weekend, sprawling across three networks.
She co-hosts and performs in specials on ABC and Disney (Friday),
then stars in a Freeform movie Sunday. Also performing tonight at the
Disney parks are Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, OneRepublic, Jordan
Fisher, Boyz II Men, China Anne McClain, Forever in Your Mind, Dove
Cameron, Flo Rida and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Anne of Green Gables,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Anne Shirley sees
life in great bursts of words and colors and possibilities. As an
orphan, she's accidentally invaded the quiet world of a good-hearted
but colorless brother and sister. Their home and lives are drab;
their surroundings (on Prince Edward Island in Canada) are gorgeous.

This is a great
story that is filmed often, including PBS' masterful miniseries in
1985 and its sequels. Despite being directed by the gifted John Kent
Harrison, this version isn't nearly as good, wedging too much into 85
minutes. Still, even a fairly good “Anne” is a fine way for
families to wrap up a holiday.

Other choices
include:

-- “A Place to
Call Home,” any time, www.acorntv.com.
This follows the “Scandal” formula: If you have smart dialog and
subtle actors, viewers will forgive hideous soap-opera twists. There
have plenty of those: Olivia Bligh miscarried and, to save her
marriage, arranged to pretend an unwed mother's baby is her own. The
marriage failed anyway, because her husband is gay. Now it's 1954
Australia and a rich schemer has put poison in Sarah's drink. Yes,
this is overwrought ... yet fairly involving.

-- “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This is tonight's only CBS rerun, a terrific
one. Leonard and Penny host their second wedding, a bit more formal
than the first, but things are awkward: His dad and Sheldon's mother
(Emmy-winners Judd Hirsch and Laurie Metcalf) spent the night
together.

-- “Christmas in
Homestead,” 8 p.m, Hallmark. A movie star is filming in a small
town, where the widowed mayor's daughter is her biggest fan.

-- “The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Human Resources has banned Jack from
giving input to his young colleagues. It sees that he made Clark cry.

-- “Mom,” 9
p.m., CBS. When Violet has mononucleosis, her mother and grandmother
rush to help ... and soon learn that there are bigger problems than
mono.

-- “Modern
Family,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a transplanted rerun, Phil is unhappy
that his daughter (Sarah Hyland, 26) is dating veteran weatherman
Rainer Shine (Nathan Fillion, 45).

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

On Thanksgiving eve,
reruns and specials abound. So we might as well see (or re-see) this
terrific rerun of the “The Empire” season-opener.

Last season ended
with Rhonda and the pregnant Anika fighting on the balcony, with one
of them crashing down. Now – quickly and spectacularly – we learn
which one it is. There are other big moments, involving a thug
producer, his talented sister Tessa and Jamal, who tries to bounce
back after being shot and nearly killed. This is high-stakes,
high-voltage stuff, backed by some great music.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Soundbreaking” finale, 10 p.m., PBS.

Big Mama Thornton's
”Hounddog” sold a half-million record; when newcomer Elvis
Presley did the same song, this excellent hour says, it sold 10
million. There were many reasons for that, including a basic one:
Presley had a 45-rpm single, the new thing for teens with their own
players in their rooms.

Such changes in the
delivery system keep transforming music. When long-playing discs
came, Frank Sinatra cut the first concept album. When FM radio grew,
the hitless “album rock” guys soared. Now comes streaming; our
descendants, Moby says, “will be baffled that people once owned
music.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Specials, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

The 90th
edition of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade will be 9 a.m to noon
Thursday on NBC and CBS. First, NBC has an 8 p.m. special, looking
back at the parade's history.

That's followed at 9
by a “Saturday Night Live” collection of Thanksgiving skits. In
the past, that's included Adam Sandler's “Turkey Song” and Paul
Simon in a turkey costume. Juliana Margulies found that her boyfiend
has strange eating habits; also, Martin Short gave us an Ed Grimley
holiday.

Other choices
include:

Animation, 5:50 p.m.
and beyond, cable. Families have three networks to choose from.
Disney starts at 5:50 with its “Elena/Sofia” crossover (2015),
then has “Despicable Me” (2010) at 7. FX has “The Croods”
(2013) at 6 and and the delightful “Rio 2” (2014) at 8 and 10.
Freeform has female action heroes, with the gorgeous “Mulan”
(1998) at 6:45 and “Brave” (2007) at 8:50.

“Survivor,” 8-10
p.m., CBS. While others take a pre-holiday nap, this show has a
two-hour episode. That comes at a tough time for people from the
former “Millennials” tribe. After having only one of the first
five ousters, they've now had four straight; the latest was Taylor
Stocker, 24, a ski instructor.

“Hollywood Walk of
Fame Honors,” 8-10 p.m., CW. For 58 years, names have been added to
this sidewalk stretch; there are more than 2,500 of them, ranging
from superstars to the super-obscure. This special views highlights
and adds music fron Daughtry, Michael Bolton, Candace Glover, David
Foster, Pia Toscano and the Beach Boys.

“A Charlie Brown
Thanksgiving, 8-9 p.m., ABC. In a 1973 cartoon, Charlie tries to
assemble a feast on his ping-pong table. ABC tends to round out the
hour with the Pilgrim portion of its Peanuts mini-seres.

“Broadcasting
Christmas,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. This channel starts a five-nigt
streak of new Christmas movies. This has a former couple (Dean Cain
and Melissa Joan Hart) competing for a coveted TV job.

“Polar Bear Town,”
8 and 11 p.m., Smithsonian. We meet the young woman who was attacked
by a bear last year, surviving with strong support from friends and
community. Other portions are so-so: One guide adds a young
apprentice; another joins an ambitious process to identify bears.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Claire frets about “Take Your Daughters to
Work Day.”

“Code Black”
(CBS) and “Queen Sugar” (Oprah Winfrey Network), both 10 p.m..
Here are the night's only new, scripted episodes. On CBS, cult
members who tried a mass suicide are rescued; on OWN (with previous
hours from 7-10 p.m.), the siblings scramble to find a new mill for
their sugar crop.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

We're down to the
final four now, with viewers' last chance to vote before Tuesday's
finale. And there's a strong chance that an athlete will win ...
again.

During one stretch,
eight of the 16 winners were athletes – three skaters and three
football players, plus a driver and a gymnast. And this time they
have three finalists -- from 6-foot-6 footballer Calvin Johnson to
5-foot gymnast Laurie Hernandez, plus driver James Hinchcliffe. The
lone exception is singer Jana Kramer ... who did play a football
star's girlfriend on “Friday Night Lights.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Soundbreaking,” 10 p.m., PBS.

It all started with
New York block parties; gifted DJ's – two of them with Caribbean
roots – mixed and matched sounds, then added rappers. It was fun
and it was free. “I thought it was inconceivable in 1978, '79 that
there could ever be a rap record,” Chuck D says in this terrific
hour.

Then “Rappers
Delight” sold two million records. Hip hop ranged from joy to rage
to the political intensity of Chuck D and Public Enemy. The borrowing
of other records brought dizzying creativity, producer Hugh Shocklee
said, until lawyers intervened. “Now sampling is only available to
the elite.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Raised by Wolves,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

What sort of
disaster could drive Getmaine Garry – the undereducated and
overhormoned teen-ager – to the library? Only one: Her cost-cutting
mom has cancelled the Internet connection.

In this unnatural
habitat (where her sisters thrive), Germaine talks loudly and gets
her first date; elsewhere, her elders are dumpster-diving. Here's the
six-episode second season of “Wolves,” which is like Showtime's
“Shameless” -- a scheming, scamming and raggedly likable family –
but with more comedy and less drama. The result – what we could
discern through thick accents – is crude, but funny.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The show continues its week-by-week process of
eliminating people from the top 12. Last week, the bottom two were
Sa'Rayah (from Alicia Keys' team) and Aaron Gibson (Miley Cyrus'
team); Gibson won the instant save and Sa'Rayah was sent home.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Life never seems to be easy, even if you have superpowers.
Tonight, Supergirl confronts Cyborg Superman. Also, Mon-El has been
captured and Guardian is accused of murder.

“Jane the
Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW. When her cousin arrives, Jane begins to doubt
her own too-orderly life. Meanwhile, her husband is ready to return
to police work and her mom finds a dance-studio location that's
perfect ... except that her ex-boyfriend (Ricardo Chavira of
“Desperate Housewives”) is nearby.

“2 Broke Girls,”
9 p.m., CBS. Han is busy tonight: He's entering a contest for
duck-stamp artists; also, he's becoming addicted to the concoctions
from the trendy new bartender.

“The Odd
Couple,”9:30 p.m., CBS. Rich Eisen, a sports guy on radio and TV,
plays himself. Oscar (also a sportscaster) considers him his
nemesis,. but is supposed to give him a humanitarian award.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Lea Thompson guests as Paige's estranged mother, who
defiinitely needs some input from the geniuses. It seems she's found
a nuclear reactor that's ready to explode.

“Timeless,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. The team is stranded in hostile territory in1754.