TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Logic might say this
episode will be all about Randall. He's the one who was stunned last
week, learning that his adoptive mother had secretly known the
identity of his biological father. Now he's enraged – in his
calculated, list-making way. Sterling K. Brown plays him perfectly,
as usual.

But the surprise is
that this offers some fresh depth for is brother. People easily
dismiss Kevin as the pretty-boy actor who blew TV stardom and is now
in a play with a much-smarter Englishwoman. But tonight's twists give
us fresh insights into some beautifully layered characters.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

As Monday's
“Supergirl” was ending, Barry Allen (The Flash) flashed in. His
town, Central City, was about to be attacked by the aliens called The
Dominators; he needed lots of superhelp.

That was the start
of something ambitious – a four-night crossover, assembling people
from four shows. Tonight, Barry seeks Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) and
the time-trekkers in “Legends of Tomorrow.” The story will
continue on their shows, Wednesday and Thursday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

Here is something
that goes way back. It's 52 years old ... or 67 ... or 77. In 1939,
the story was written as a Montgomery Ward promotion. The song
followed in '49, the TV special in '64

There are plenty of
things to grumble about here, from the weak animation to the
overstretched story, with arbitrary detours to make it an hour long.
Still, audiences keep returning, making it a classic.

Other choices
include:

“The Empire
Strikes Back” (1980), 6:10-9 p.m., TNT. The second “Star Wars”
film starts a srong movie night. At 8 p.m., there's “Mean Girls”
(2004) on E and “As Good as It Gets” (1997) on Pop. At 9, there's
the fun “Enchanted” (2007) on AMC and the taut “A Few Good Men”
(1992) on Sundance.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8 p.m., Fox. Terry (Terry Crews) puts himself in the
field, in order to meet his favorite author. He joins Jake in
protecting the guy, who's had a death threat.

“New Girl,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. Two mismatched stories share this half-hour. One -- Nick
can't decide on a wedding gift –is lame; it makes a character
stupid, for the sake of random laughs. But the other works
splendidly; striving for a promotion to school principal, Jess must
impress a key parent, played by David Hornsby (Cricket in “It's
Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged back an hour by “Rudolph,” this reruns an episodes
focusing on Ducky (played by David McCallum, 83). When an attacker
claims to know something about his late half-brother, we see
flashbacks to their final days together.

“Good Behavior,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. Here's a detour from the sleek, slick
Letty (Michelle Dockery) of the first three hours. She's in her home
town to catch a class reunion, see her son and maybe settle down.
It's an involving hour, but frustrating, with Letty's knack for for
self-sabotage.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. The parents of Gabrielle and Antonio Dawson arrive for
an anniversary celebration that soon goes bad. Also, a secret emerges
about Chief Boden's stepson.

“Leah Remini:
Scientology and the Aftermath” debut, 10 p.m., A&E. Amy Scovee
says she was lured into Scientology at 14. She was raped by an
executive, she says, but at 16 signed a billion-year (really)
contract to join the church's elite Sea Org. She kept being promoted,
but after complaining that the church's leader is violent, she was
sent to a “rehabilitation” camp. In this hour – poorly crafted,
but involving – she describes starting a life over at 42, with no
money, home or outside work history.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“CMA Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Each year, the
Country Music Association assembles many of its stars do Christmas
songs. This year, it has plenty of them – Brad Paisley, Rascal
Flatts, Chris Young, Trisha Yearwood, Brett Eldredge, Kelsea
Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves and host Jennifer Nettles.

But it also adds
other genres. Tonight, we get “Voice” winner Jordan Smith,
Broadway's Idina Menzel, contemporary Christian star Amy Grant and
pop's Kelly Clarkson, Andra Day and Sarah McLachlan.

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

On some levels, this
is just your typical batch of supertroubles. Kara's mother – Helen
Slater, who starred in the 1984 “Supergirl” movie – is in town,
insisting that Mon El is attracted to Kara. Also, there's an
alien-killing virus; to stop it, Kara needs help from Lena Luthor,
Lex's sister.

At the end of the
hour, however, we're thrust into a bigger crisis: Barry Allen and
Cisco Ramon (both from “The Flash”) arrive; their city is being
invaded by evil aliens and they need help. That launches a
four-series crossover that will continue (at 8 p.m. nightly) through
Thursday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

As long as you're
watching CW (to see the start of the superhero crossover), stick
around for a show that's different, but fun. This is a
comedy-drama-romance that can shift tones easily; tonight, while Jane
learns about mystery-writing, it takes some clever, Hitchcock-style
twists.

There are slight
nods to the master's movies, as Rafael searches for secrets about his
life. Other stories – about Jane's dad and her cousin Catalina –
are merely OK, but the mystery elements work well.

Other choices
include:

-- “Fred Claus”
(2007) and “The Holiday” (2006), 5:30 and 8 p.m., Freeform. Three
days before starting its annual “25 Days of Christmas,” Freeform
gives us Vince Vaughn as Santa's slacker brother and then Kate
Winslet and Cameron Diaz swapping houses for the holiday. By Winslet
standards, these are forgettable; by Christmas-movie standards,
they're fairly good.

-- “The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Miley Cyrus is getting used to seeing her people
in the bottom two. Two weeks ago, she had one person (Aaron Gibson),
who was saved; last week, she had both of them – with Gibson saved
(again) and Darby Walker sent home. Now the top 10 singers compete.

-- “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a transplanted rerun of last year's
Thanksgiving episode. It's a good (but not great) one, with Sheldon
and Amy trying just-friends time at the aquarium.

-- “Kevin Can
Wait,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Kevin figures he'll get away with hiring
someone else to do his chores, while he plays with his friends. The
result strains too hard, but is fairly funny. It's followed at 9 by a
rerun of the disappointing pilot film for “Man With a Plan.”

-- “Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. Lucifer knows that sinking feeling that comes when your
mom escapes from Hell and tries to sabotage your world. Now she's
trying to turn Chloe against him.

-- “Mars,” 9
p.m., National Geographic. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.),
was sharp, smart and involving. After landing far from their target,
crew members tried to take their injured captain to safety. Tonight,
the struggle for shelter continues.

-- “Timeless,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. After seeing “Mars,” you can switch here for
some more space drama. Flynn has time-trekked to 1969, where he could
disrupt the Apollo 11 moon landing.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 5:45 p.m., TBS.

This is the time of
year when the true classics return. We had “Grinch” on Friday and
now there's “Oz” today; “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is coming
on Thursday (Dec. 1).

What they have in
common is memorable music and a willingness to mix sophisticated
craftsmaship with an open-hearted sense of emotion. Ostensibly for
children, they keep grabbing all generations.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Madam Secretary,” 9:30 p.m., CBS (9 p.m. PT).

Here's a fictional
election night. That triggers moments of fretting, fears and high
drama ... just as you may have noticed in the real-life election; it
also triggers romance, which you may not have seen.

As President Dalton
worries, Elizabeth's staff considers romantic links. Meanwhile, she
has information that could jeopardize the peace deal with Iran; also,
her son supports one of the president's opponents. Sam Daly, the son
of co-star Tim Daly, plays the lobbyist who is Daisy's former fiance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Soul Train Awards,” 8-10:35 p.m., BET and VH1; also
11:05 on BET.

“Soul Train”
vanished a decade ago, after a 35-year run, but its award show lives
on. Tonight's show will have definite nods to rhythm-and-blues
history. It's hosted by Erykah Badu ... Bobby Brown will perform ...
his old group (New Edition) will present ... Brandy and Teddy Riley
will get special awards.

But this is mainly
about music now; Drake and Beyonce lead with 12 and eight
nominations. Performers tonight include Dru Hill, Ma$e, Guy,
D.R.A.M., Yuna, Eric Benet, Ro James, Candice Boyd, Carl Thomas, Doug
E. Fresh, Wreckx-n-Effect and BJ the Chicago Kid.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Poldark” season-finale, 9 p.m.,
PBS.

Ross' mine has
finally paid off, but that good news is surrounded by agony. His
cousin Francis drowned, leaving the widowed Elizabeth on her own. She
hooked up with Ross (who has loved her forever), then married the
evil Warleggan ... who is fencing off the estate and enraging the
neighbors.

Meanwhile, Dr. Enys
is enamored with the rich and beautiful Caroline. And Demelza, Ross'
fiery wife, is fuming about his dalliance. Things peak tonight,
including a powerhouse storm-the-manor scene, complete with torches.
The second season gets a strong, emotional finale.

Other choices
include:

“Soul Train”
preview, 7 p.m., BET. Here's the red-carpet show. Also, a follow-up
is at 10:35 p.m.

Christmas movies,
cable. At 7 and 9 p.m., UP's “A Rooftop Christmas” has Tim Reid
(“WKRP”) arrested for his tree. At 8, Hallmark's “Journey Back
to Christmas” has a 1940s nurse (Candace Cameron Bure) whisked to
2016. At 9, Ion has “A Christmas in Vermont” and Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries has “I'll Be Home for Christmas"; James Brolin stars, with background songs from his wife, Barbra Streisand.

“A Cinderella
Story: If the Shoe Fits,” 8-10 p.m., Freeform. Talented young Sofia
Carson gets the sort of role that launched Miley Cyrus – an
ordinary person who puts on a wig and becomes a diva. The result
includes both broad comedy and some strong singing and dancing.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. As secrets keep crumbling, Detective Cornell is
closer to learning who killed Kate. Eric, the widower, scrambles to
keep his business and family together. And when he finally unlocks
Kate's second iPad, he gets some jolting information.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The CIA trainees study the fine art of lying. That may be
helpful to Alex: In this timeframe, she feels disconnected from Ryan;
in the future, she must destroy a biological weapon.

“Elementary,”
10:30 p.m., CBS (10 p.m. PT). While they work on their first
death-by-sausage case, Watson learns that Holmes has been lying about
attending rehab.

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.