TV column for Sunday, Oct. 16

“Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu” opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

Running out of money
and patience, Gerald Durrell's widowed mother took a drastic step in
1933: With her four eccentric kids, she moved to a Greek island.
Durrell would turn that experience into three books; now they've been
adapted into a thoroughly enjoyable, six-week mini-series.

Don't expect the
brooding beauty of the shows that follow (“Poldark” and “Indian
Summers”). “Corfu” has a breezy charm, especially with the
superb Keeley Hawes as the mom. The other PBS shows have worlds at
stake; “Corfu” has low stakes, casual rewards and gentle fun.

“Killing Reagan,” 8 p.m., National Geographic, reruns at 10 and

For the fourth time,
a Bill O'Reilly books has become a solidly competent movie. The
others dealt with the killing of Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy and
Jesus; this is the wounding of Ronald Reagan.

Neither the shooter
nor his scheme are interesting. Wisely, this shifts the focus to the
victim and the aftermath. It depicts Ronald Reagan (Tim Matheson) as
an affable guy who prefers to skip details ... Nancy Reagain (Cynthia
Nixon) as deeply devoted and (with astrology) a tad daft ... and
Alexander Haig as merely creepy. Their worlds transform.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Nothing is forever
in television ... except this. Here is the 27th annual
“Treehouse of Horror” edition, which is also the 600th
episode overall. That's celebrated by a big, “Goldfinger”-style

That's a great
ending to a half-hour that's merely OK. It starts cleverly, with Mr.
Burns hoarding all of Springfield's water, then trails off, with lots
of gore and occasional wit. (It really is funny, actually, when a
grief counselor is killed by a falling “It gets better” sign.)
Then comes the big “600” finale.

Other choices

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Visiting the past, we see Jekyll develop his
formula to separate a man's good and evil sides. In the present,
alas, his evil side (Hyde) is trying to steal the formula.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. After taking a debate break last Sunday, the 9
p.m. and 10 p.m. shows are back. Eric – suspected of killing his
wife – tries to find her missing assistant; he soon has questions
about her secret life ... just as a cop finds new questions about
Eric's secrets.

“The Walking Dead:
The Journey So Far,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:05. Next Sunday,
the seventh season begins; first, here's a quick summary of the first
six. If you prefer the slower approach, reruns begin with the first
episode, at 6:50 a.m. They'll continue from 6 p.m. to midnight on the
five weekdays, then take up much of next weekend.

“Berlin Station”
debut, 9 p.m., Epix, rerunning at 11:10. CIA schemes abound in
Berlin, some involving leaks of secret material. Great actors –
Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Forbes, etc. – and rich
production values partly make up for the monotone gloom encasing each

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Now that they know they're not the last
people on Earth, Tandy and Melissa each fashion a sort of alarm
system. Also, everyone decides on a change of scenery.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. This never seemed to happen to Sherlock in the Victorian
and Edwardian eras: A gang leader kidnaps him, demanding he find who
was responsible for a hit.

“Graves” debut,
10 p.m., Epix, rerunning at 10:35. Some 25 years after leaving
office, Richard Graves (Nick Nolte) starts to suspect he was a bad
president. His personal journey begins. Graves' rampages are
heavy-handed and unfunny, but there are great supporting characters,
led by Sela Ward as his wife.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 15

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

It's been a strong
start for the “SNL” season. In the first two weeks, ratings were
high and quality was good ... if, as usual, uneven. The election has
been kind to all comedy shows and “SNL” -- with Alec Baldwin as
its new Donald Trump, opposite Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton –
has thrived.

Now Emily Blunt –
starring in “Girl on the Train” and preparing to be the new Mary
Poppins – has her debut as host. Bruno Mars will be the music
guest; he's done it three times before, once while hosting.

“Lethal Weapon,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

As TV scrambles to
remake movies or old series, it occasionally gets it right. This
time, it did. The characters – cautious old cop, wild young one –
could have been cartoonish; instead, each makes sense.

Murtaugh (Damon
Wayans) has good reason for his caution; he has a new baby and he's
fresh from a medical crisis. Riggs (Clayne Crawford of “Rectify”),
jolted by his wife's death, mixes despair and a near-suicidal
abandon. They meet in the first rerun and solve an arms-dealer case
in the second.

ALTERNATIVE: “Southwest of Salem,” 8-10 p.m., Investigation
Discovery, reruns at 11.

This 1994 case
stirred rage in San Antonio: Two girls, ages 7 and 9, said they were
stripped and abused by their aunt and three of her friends.
Prosecutors emphasized that the women are lesbians.

The defendants said
this was simply a scheme by the girls' angry father. (One was even at
work during an alleged incident.) They rejected plea bargains that
would have kept them out of jail ... and were sentenced to 15-37
years. Now – after one girl recanted and the medical testimony has
been disputed – they are free; this documentary offers a chilling
view of justice transformed by emotion.

Other choices

Movie marathons, 7
a.m., cable. Freeform has another Harry Potter spree, with films at 7
and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30, 5:30 and 9 p.m. AMC counters with scary
stuff: The “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies are at 7, 9, and 11
a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m.; the original repeats at 5 p.m., followed by
“Child's Play 2 and 3” at 7 and 8:57 p.m. and “Bride of Chucky”
at 10:57. Then, if possible, we're supposed to sleep.

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
ABC. After a bye week, the surprising Wisconsin (4-1 and ranked No.
8) hosts Ohio State (undefeated and No. 2). There are plenty of
alternatives, of course. At 7 p.m. on ESPN, for insantce, Mississippi
(No. 12) visits Arkansas (No. 22); at 7:30 on NBC, it's Stanford at
Notre Dame.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a woman was murdered in her home. Her young
daughter has a deep connection with one of the Five-0 people.

“Kevin Hart:
Seriously Funny,” 9 p.m., Comedy Central. Here are reruns of hours
from some of the channel's biggest draws. This 2010 special is
followed by Amy Schumer's 2012 “Mostly Sex Stuff” at 10 p.m. and
Dane Cook's 2014 “Troublemaker” at 11.

“Joy” (2015), 9
p.m., HBO. As a divorced mother of three, Joy Mangano scrambled to
hold day jobs and ponder inventions. One was a mop she made in her
dad's body shop and sold on QVC. Its a mop-to-riches tale that soared
by relinking the “Silver Linings Playbook” people – Jennifer
Lawrence (nominated for an Oscar), Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and
writer-director David O. Lawrence.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. It was 42 years ago that Ben
Vereen soared in Broadway's “Pippin” ... following that three
years later with “Roots.” At 70, he remains busy, including a
role coming up Thursday in TV's “Rocky Horror Picture Show”
remake. This hour visits him, plus Kate Piersonof the B-52s and Kenny

“Hell's Kitchen,”
11 p.m., Fox. Chefs rarely get a chance to work with ostrich cuts.
They do that in this rerun ... adding other ingredients hidden inside
giant ostrich egg.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 14

“Goliath,” any time, Amazon Prime.

Billy McBride (Billy
Bob Thornton) was a great lawyer. Juries loved him; he built a super
firm ... then sank into alcoholism and despair. Now he lives in a
tacky motel while that firm – which includes his ex-wife (Maria
Bello) and is run by his enemy (William Hurt) – has become a

This could be grim
... but not with David Kelley in charge. From “L.A. Law” and
“Chicago Hope” to “Monday Mornings,” Kelley's shows have been
beautifully written. Now he and Jonathan Shapiro (“The Practice,”
“Boston Legal”) are back in the courtroom. The result is superbly
written and acted.

II: “Supergirl” and “Frequency,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW.

Once a minor
distraction for teen girls, the CW network has grown enormously in
both scope and quality. These reruns should help you catch up.

First is the
“Supergirl” season-opener, the first episode made after the show
moved from CBS; it's big -- complete with the arrival of Superman and
of Lex Luthor's adopted sister – and well-made, especially in the
scenes with Kara and her boss (Calista Flockhart). Then “Frequency”
has a young cop talking to her late father via odd radio signal; it's
done well enough to have us almost believe it.

ALTERNATIVE: “Grammy Salute to Music Legends,” 9-11:30 p.m., PBS.

The sheer starpower
is dazzling; here are music masters, performing and being honored.
It's the first time the Grammy Lifetime Achievement awards get their
own telecast.

A few honorees –
Jefferson Airplane, Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind & Fire –
perform; for others – Linda Ronstadt, Run-DMC, the late Celia Cruz
and Ruth Brown and more – there are performances by such stars as
Martina McBride, Kris Kristofferson and Andy Garcia. For brief spurts
– especially in the second half – this is splendid; too often,
however, it's flat, stagnant and talky, lacking musical joy.

Other choices

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Even in this computer age, we need MacGyver and his duct
tape. In Russia, that's pretty much all he has available to stop an
antiquated warhead and computer from iginiting war.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. Nobody seems to enjoy making sausage – or seeing it
made. The losers of tonight's first challenge must make it from
scratch; the winners will go surfing.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When this show started, Boyd was just a
toddler. Now he's 10 and his grandpa wants to give him a shotgun and
take him hunting. His dad, Ryan, disapproves.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Shocked by his parents' split, Ken frets about his own

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The “Five-0” people seem to spend a lot of time
being captured. Now it's McGarrett and Alicia (Claire Forlani), being
held by a serial killer.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. After Lt. Gormley is beaten by a mob outside his home,
Danny and Frank get help from a police detective (Steve Schirripa)
with a link to the neighborhood.

“Van Helsing,”
10 p.m., Syfy. Vanessa “Van” Helsing – descended from the
long-ago vampire-hunter – is now the captive of a vampire brood;
escaping may put her in a tougher spot. Meanwhile, the refugees have
a serial killer in their midst; also, they scheme to seize control
from Axel.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 13

“Legends of Tomorrow” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

In its first season,
“Legends” had epic stopries. Heroes and villains leaped across
time; superpowers soared, super egos collided, worlds wobbled. What
was missing, perhaps, was a human scale.

Gradually, there's
been a makeover. Several of the original characters -- Hawkgirl,
Hawkman. Captain Cold – are gone; tonight, another key one seems to
be leaving. Arriving is a wide-eyed historian (Nick Zano) who has no
special powers; he's just what the show needs. This hstarts and ends
with references to “Arrow” and “Flash”; in between is a
jaunty tale of a bomb, two Einsteins and world crisis.

“Falling Water” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Here are three
strangers – a cop, a security chief, a trend-spotter. Each has a
busy life and dark dreams; they don't yet realize that the lives and
the dreams are inter-connected.

In its first hour,
“Falling Water” isn't yet compelling ... but it could get that
way quickly. Producer Gale Anne Hurd – a sci-fi master, from
“Terminator” to “Walking Dead” -- has a richly diverse cast,
with French star Lizzie Brochere, black British actor David Ajala and
Will Yun Lee, a U.S. native with Chinese and Korean roots. Their
characters are gradually descending into a creepy semi-reality.

ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX.

Meandering almost
aimlessly through one person's life, this show is alternately fun and
perplexing. Pamela Adlon plays someone a lot like herself – a
semi-employed actress with three daughters, an English mom and an
iffy love life. Most of it is chaotic, but in an interesting way.

Tonight, three
encounters with males cross generation lines in odd ways. There's
more, with her

daughters, her
friend and her daft mom. It's often random, occasionally funny and
usually interesting.

Other choices

Football preview,
7:30 p.m. ET, and kick-off, 8:30, CBS. The Denver Broncos, starting
their post-Peyton era with a strong 4-1 record, visit tough-luck San
Diego. The Chargers have won one game (by 24 points) and lost four
... by a total of 14.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. A booze cruise turns serious, when a body is discovered.
The case soon involves the world of deep-sea treasure-hunting.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. When the spokesman for the store chain is accused of a
nasty crime, Dina decides to have mandatory drug-testing. Meanwhile,
Cheyenne can't stop talking about her baby; also, Amy and Jonah have
a day of dares and pranks.

“The Good Place,”
8:30, NBC. As Michael's reluctant assistant, Eleanor is given a key
task. Now it's harder for her to cover up her secret: She only got
the good afterlife due to his bureaucratic error.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. For Mike (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the veteran catcher, this is
doubly complicated: An injury could cost him his spot in the All-Star
Game; also, his general manager (Mark Consuelos) has just signed a
star catcher from Cuba. Meanwhile, Ginny – the first female in the
majors – finds it's difficult to balance her carteer and her
personal life.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Liz and the team chase an eco-terrorist who has a link
to Alexander Kirk. Also, Tom takes things into his own hands.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. It's another brutal week for Annalise.
The Bar Association finds damaging information about her; a
disciplinary action could jeopardize her young client. Also, Frank –
once her trusted assistant – commits yet another shocking deed.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 12

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Hummingbirds are
like guardian angels or secret Santas: People like them ... but
rarely see them. The tiniest of birds, they can fly – even
backwards and upside-down – at astonishing speeds.

Many scientists and
filmmakers prefer bigger, slower creatures. But now Ann Johnson Prum
makes her second hummingbird documentary, using splendid slow-motion
footage and new research. One person returns to his native Colombia,
to study the birds' rapid drinking; others study scarce-oxygen use
in Peru and mating in Costa Rica. Yes, we see hummingbirds mate; not
surprisingly, it's quite quick.

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Romance keeps
complicating things for the Lyons. Lucious fumes as things heat up
between his ex-wife and Angelo (Taye Diggs), the slick and handsome
councilman. Also, his son Jamal is falling for emerging singer Tessa
... who may be interested in someone else.

Other complications
emerge. Anika – Lucious' wife-of-convenience – is back, after
surviving the fight that killed Rhonda. And Jamal confronts Freda,
who shot him. It's a violent (but romantic) world.

ALTERNATIVE: “We Will Rise,” 9 p.m., CNN, repeating at midnight,

Globally, we're
told, 62 million girls aren't in school. Now we meet some African
girls who overcame the odds. One makes and sells doughnuts to pay
school fees; another goes straight from school to chores, then
studies from 9-11 p.m. Others move away from home or make marathon
daily treks.

These are heroes who
get encouragement here from Michelle Obama (as part of her “Let
Girls Learn” project), actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto and
CNN's Isha Sesay, a Sierra Leone native. This is a flawed documentary
that becomes terribly repetitious; at times, however, the idealism
soars through.

Other choices

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. It's time for the first rewards challenge ... and then the
fourth elimination. The “Gen-X” team has ousted two people so
far, the latest being the oldest competitor, Paul Wachtel, 52.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) has been taking things seriously
since his baby was born. Now he frets when a string of burglaries
reaches his neighborhood. Also, his son connects with an old friend
who may be linked to criminal activity.

8:30 p.m., ABC. Savoring his new freedom with Kenneth as a handler,
JJ decides to go out on the town. In his wheelchair, he soon gets
free food, baseball-game admission and more.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Nathan Fillion's “Castle” is gone now, but he guests
here as star weatherman Rainer Shine. Phil is delighted to meet him
... until the guy's interested in his daughter.

“Frequency,” 9
p.m., CW. In last week's well-made opener, Raimy learned she really
can use the ham radio to have her late father affect events from 20
years ago. Nowshe has a big request – prevent her mother from being

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Ever since the terrific pilot film, we
(and the new president) have wondered who's responsible for the
attack that killed most of the government officials. Now he finds out
... and weighs the possibilities of a war and of a domestic outbreak.

“Documentary Now,”
10 p.m. ET, IFC. In its second season of witty mock-documentaries,
this show again includes a musical tale. This one pretends to be a
farewell concert of a 1980s new-wave band.