TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 25

“Titanic” (1997), 6:15 to 9:30 p.m., HBO; or “Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 7 p.m. to midnight, AMC.

Here are two
powerful pieces of Hollywood history. Each was, for a time, the
biggest box-office hit ever; “Wind” is No. 6 on the American Film
Institute list of best American movies; “Titanic” is No. 83.

Eacg proved an
important point: Even within an epic, big-budget adventure – the
Civil War, an ocean tragedy – you can have solid drama and a
classic love story.

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

While some networks
retreat to reruns, “Empire” has a new episode with key guest

One is Alicia Keys,
playing a star singer who links – musically and maybe romantically
– with Lucious. The other is Rosie O'Donnell, as Cookie's former
prison colleague. Now Cookie and her sister (Vivica Fox) need her for
a rescue attempt.

ALTERNATIVE: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Thanksgiving has
always been TV's best comedy situation, so now ABC gives us a bonus –
a string of three reruns from last year, each set on the holiday.

That concludes with
this one: Phil takes over the turkey duties, helped by his son; his
wife Claire has no confidence and secretly prepares a back-up bird.
Meanwhile, her dad and his wife (Jay and Gloria) find their vacation
scuttled; they plan to secretly stay home ... an idea that quickly

Other choices

Animated films,
6:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m., cable. Families can find fun tonight, while
waiting for the holiday. ABC Family has “Monsters, Inc.” (2001)
at 6:30 and “Ratatouille” (2007) at 8:30; Disney has “Despicable
Me” (2020) – birthplace of all those popular minions -- at 8.

“Survivor,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. We're at the mid-point of the eliminations now, with
10 of the original 20 people remaining. Here are two episodes,
including a driving rainstorm that darkens moods.

“Planes, Trains &
Automobiles” (1987), 8-10 p.m., CW. This film fits neatly into each
November, as two mismatched guys (Steve Martin and John Candy) face
transportation disasters, while trying to make it home for
Thanksgiving. It's uneven – most road films are – but has plenty
of fun moments.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The Thanksgiving-rerun spree begins here. Her kitchen in
shambles, Frankie decides the family should eat out. Things get
complicated when Sue brings Darrin, Brick brings quirky Cindy and Axl
is pressured to invite a girl he doesn't even know.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. This was the first Thanksgiving episode for the
Goldbergs, with both parents in consternation. Murray fumes about his
younger brother Marvin (Dan Fogler); Bev frets because her daughter
Erica is skipping the holiday.

“Saturday Night
Live Thanksgiving,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. With four decades of sketches
to mine, we spend the holiday with Ed Grimley, Debbie Downer, Martha
Stewart and the Loud Family. There's more, ranging from Adam
Sandler's turkey song to Paul Simon in a turkey costume.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Alton Fitzgerald White has played Mufasa – the
patriarch, first voiced by James Earl Jones – onstage more than
4,000 times. Here he guests as Lawrence, in an episode entwined with
the show's tour: Its star receives a jolting diagnosis; its cast
helps a teen with a painful decision.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 24

“American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

It was 395 years ago
today that people on the Mayflower heard what they though was a
battle cry onshore. They had landed 200 miles north of their target
and still needed to find a safe site for their colony. Undermanned
and undersupplied, they weren't likely to survive,

They did. “The
difference was (William) Bradford,” historian Bernard Bailyn says
here. Calm and devout, he was the colony's governor for 30 years. Ric
Burns tells the story beautfully, using replicas of the Mayflower and
Plymouth, with Roger Rees (who died in July, at 71) reading
Bradford's words.

“Dancing With the Stars” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

At 17, Bindi Irwin
is a nature enthusiast – like her late father Steve Irwin, the
“crocodile hunter” -- and an actress. She's also been a
front-runner here, especially after getting Derek Hough as her pro

Now she's in the
final four, with three guys. There's Alek Skarlatos, 23 (one of the
American soldiers who stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train) plus
two singer-actors – Nick Carter, 35, of the Backstreet Boys, and
Carlos PenaVega, 26, of Big Time Rush.

ALTERNATIVE: “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder.” 8 and 8:30
p.m., Fox.

These Thanksgiving
episodes are opposites. “Grandfathered” finds Jimmy (John Stamos)
jealous of his son's sorta-stepdad. It's an OK story, but lacks
laughs ... an essential ingredient for a comedy.

When it ends,
viewers will be hungry for humor; fortunately, “Grinder” delivers
instantly. It flashes back to a year ago, when Dean (Rob Lowe) was
still a TV star; Jason Alexander plays the show's scheming producer,
with Timothy Olyphant as himself, delivering surfside philosophy.
“Grinder” also offers a new Thanksgiving and a family secret
that's big and (in a perverted way) quite funny.

Other choices

“A Charle Brown
Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here's the 1973 cartoon that saw
Charlie, Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock trying to organize a feast for
Peppermint Patty and friends. Rounding out the hour is the Mayflower
portion of “This is America, Charlie Brown.”

“Greatest Holiday
Commercials Countdown,” 8 p.m., CW. This special names the 12 best
holiday commercials and also shows some foreign creations.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Battling leukemia, a sailor needs a bone-marrow transplant, but
his two siblings (both Marines) were killed in duty. Now the team
rushes to find a donor; meanwhile, Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham)
goes home to Oklahoma to see her mother (Lindsay Wagner) for

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. The first murder case that Pride and Lasalle
worked together, we're told, happened just before Katrina hit. A
decade later, they find fresh evidence.

“Young &
Hungry,” 9 p.m., ABC Family, rerunning at 10:30. Fresh from
Thanksgiving episodes on ABC and Fox, we leap to a Christmas one on
cable. Gabi (Emily Osment) is trying for good deeds – preparing
food at a church and reuniting Yolanda (Kim Whitley) with her
estranged sister (Jackee Harry). The result is broadly played, as
usual, but also packs some clever lines and quick twists.

“Secrets of the
Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS. A decade before the Mayflower reached
Massachusetts, there had already been deep tragedy in Virginia. Only
about one-fifth of the Jamestown settlers survived the starvation of
the winter of 1609. This somber documentary watches archeologists
uncover horror.

“Manhattan,” 10
p.m., WGN. The colonel has a young witness who may be able to say
who's been spying for the Russians. Viewers know there are two spies,
Meeks and Nora; would one of them kill to keep their secret?
Meanwhile, the apparent suicide of project-leader Robert
Oppenheimer's mistress – an event taken from real life – leaves a
feeling of guilt for Abby, who had verbally confronted her.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 22

“American Music Awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

There should be lots
of youth appeal tonight, with music by One Direction, Selena Gomez,
Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, Meghan Trainor, Demi Lovato ... and a
closing medley by Justin Bieber.

There's more for
various ages, with performances by Jennifer Lopez (who also hosts),
Gwen Stefani, Coldplay, 5 Seconds of Summer, Walk the Moon, The
Weeknd and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. For country, there's Carrie
Underwood, plus Luke Bryan with Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town.
And crossing all age groups, Pentatonix links with an orchestra to
perform the “Star Wars” score.

II: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.; and
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 8 and 10:17 p.m., TBS.

TV's holiday season
begins with true classics. “Grinch” may be the best half-hour in
TV history, mixing Dr. Seuss' wonderful story with the animation of
Chuck Jones (the genius behind Road Runner and, at times, Bugs Bunny)
and great work by narrator Boris Karloff and singer Thurl
Ravenscroft. That's followed by “Oz,” which blends heart, brains
and imagination, plus Judy Garland singing about brighter times,
somewhere over the rainbow.

ALTERNATIVE: “Saints & Strangers,” 9-11 p.m., National

We're getting some
harder, harsher views of pilgrim life. That includes this miniseries
(which concludes Monday and reruns on Thanksgiving) and a night of
PBS documentaries Tuesday.

This richly filmed
tale starts in 1620, as the Mayflower nears land. Thrown far off
course, it ends up in Cape Cod and sends out a landing party,
desperate to find a site. Vincent Kartheiser and Ron Livingston play
leaders of a group ravaged by illness, hunger and rampant rumors
about the natives.

Other choices

“Angels in the
Snow,” 7 and 9 p.m., UP. Two opposite families are stranded
together in a blizzard.

Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. There's much to grumble about: An awful
sub-plot continues, with Elizabeth's husband a secret spymaster ...
The view of how reporters work is cliched and wrong ... And there's a
silly argument about whether to use the military or the CIA – which
then dispatches a military-type squad. All gripes fade, however, as
the final minutes propel the show in a compelling direction.

“The Hunting
Ground,” 8 p.m. ET, CNN. Originally scheduled for Thursday, this
documentary – an important one about campus rape – was delayed
until today, because of Paris coverage. Now – barring another delay
– it will be followed by a discussion at 9:54 p.m. ET and a second
run at 11.

Indian Summers,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A season
that started beautifully ends weakly. Ralph must decide whether to
execute Ramu; also, their are turning points for Ralph's sister and
for his lover.

“Murder She Baked:
A Plum Pudding Mystery,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Alison Sweeney has her second film about Hannah Swensen, a
small-town baker who keeps solving murders. There are flaws here –
including characters who are hard to tell apart – partially
overcome by Sweeney's likeability and the direction of Kristoffer
Tabori, using his directing name K.T. Donaldson.

“Trevor Noah: Lost
in Translation,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central, rerunning at 11. The
“Daily Show” anchor is also a gifted stand-up comic, subtle and
intelligent. Here's his stand-up special.

“Into the
Badlands,” 10 p.m., AMC. At least, this is equal-opportunity
nonsense. Tonight's hour starts and ends with someone getting a
bloody, gory victory against impossible odds; one winner is female,
the other is male, both are epic. In between, this visually
impressive show finally gets around to defining its characters –
especially stony Sunny and the boy he secretly saved from death.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 21

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

Last season, “SNL”
had fun mocking those uber-dramatic car commercials featuring Matthew
McConaughey. Now McConaughey takes over as host -- his second time
and his first in a dozen years. Adele has her third turn as music

Let's assume that
“SNL” is best when an actor or comedian is host. The Donald Trump
episode had strong ratings, but weak humor; a week later, the
Elizabeth Banks one was a sharp improvement.

“Turkey Hollow,” 8 p.m., Lifetime.

It was almost a
half-century ago that Jim Henson thought of this amiable tale. Now,
25 years after his death, it's been turned into a movie that seems a
bit quaint and slight, but is thoroughly charming.

Engulfed in work and
divorce, a man takes his somber daughter and wide-eyed son to Turkey
Hollow. His hippie aunt (Mary Steenburgen) lives there, near a
scheming turkey-farmer and a forest said to hold a monster. And then
... well, Muppet-like touches provide some family fun.

ALTERNATIVE: More family films, 8 p.m., NBC and cable.

NBC's “Free Birds”
(2013) fits the season. A time machine (voiced by George Takei) helps
two turkeys (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) visit the first
Thanksgiving, where they try to change the menu.

There's more: “The
Smurfs 2” (2013), on FXX, has Neil Patrick Harris and other
live-action people trying to help the animated Smurfs. “Northpole”
(2014) on Hallmark has gorgeous settings, as an elf (Bailee Madison)
nudges a boy to help the Clauses (Robert Wagner and Jill St. John).

Other choices

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 6:20 to 8 p.m. Starz, then 9, 9:30 and 11. You can catch up
on the series – bloody, gory, over-the-top, yet quite fun – in
one messy night. In the opener (6:20), the demons are back and Ash
must end his low-profile life in a hardware store. In the second
episode (7:03), his co-worker finds horror when visiting her parents.
The third (7:30) basically adds Lucy Lawless, as a mysterious woman
surveys that carnage. The new episode (9, rerunning at 9:30 and 11)
has an unlikely alliance.

Football, 7:30 p.m.,
Fox, and 8 p.m., ABC. Tonight's top games are both in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State (ranked No. 6) hosts Baylor (No. 10) on Fox; Oklahoma
(No. 7) hosts Texas Christian (18) on ABC.

“Code Black,” 8
p.m., CBS. Cress Williams has already made an impact on “Friday
Night Lights” (as the troubled father of a football star) and “Hart
of Dixie” (as the mayor). Now he's the new attending surgeon and
the son of Dr. Guthrie; in this rerun, he starts work and promptly
battles with Leanne.

“Da Vinci's
Demons,” 8 p.m., Starz. Last year's nasty episode found Leonardo
being tortured and drifting into dreams of a quiet life. Tonight,
he's paranoid and avoiding his friends.

Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., Food Network. With the holiday just five
days away, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis offer tips
on everything from turkey to Brussels sprouts.

“Dr. Who,” 9
p.m., BBC America. A magical alien world, it seems, is hidden inside

“The Muppet
Christmas Carol” (1992), 10 p.m., Lifetime. Fresh from “Turkey
Hollow,” you should enjoy this gentle gem, with Michael Caine as
Scrooge. It was written by the late Jerry Juhl, who was the prime
“Muppet Show” and “Fraggle Rock” writer and co-wrote the
“Turkey Hollow” story.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 20


“Shining a Light: A Concert For Progress on Race in America,” 8
p.m., A&E, History, Lifetime, FYI and Lifetime Movie Network.

In a year shattered
by racial issues, music greats converge. The concert is expected to
include Bruce Springsteen, Pharrell Williams, John Legend, Sia, Jamie
Foxx, Sting, Pink, Ed Sheeran, Nick Jonas, Smokey Robinson, Big Sean,
Miguel, Jill Scott, Tori Kelly, Rhiannon Giddens, Andrea Day, Tom
Morello, Eric Church and the Zac Brown Band.

At 10 p.m. on A&E,
Williams and Legend will join Alicia Keys and reporters Soledad
O'Brien, Michele Norris and Byron Pitts, talking with people in
Charleston, Baltimore and Ferguson.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Steve Schirripa,
best known at Bobby Baccalieri on “The Sopranos,” moves to the
other side of the law, as an investigator for the district attorney.
Erin (Bridget Moynahan) needs him after she takes over a case that
had a hung jurry.

Also, there's a
tricky role for Will Estes and Vanessa Ray: They're 37 and 34, but
their characters (Jamie and Eddie) go undercover as an elderly
couple, in a neighborhood troubled by gangs.

ALTERNATIVE: “First You Dream – the Music of Kander & Ebb,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For decades, John
Kander and Fred Ebb filled Broadway with great music. A couple shows
were big hits (“Cabaret,” “Chicago”); some were modest
successes, some flopped, but the songs soared.

This concert mostly
skips the familiar songs (except for including “New York, New York”
and “Cabaret”) and finds other gems. “All About Us” didn't
reach New York, but “At the Rialto” and “Military Man” are
amazing songs. Norm Lewis tops a great cast, alongside Kate Baldwin,
Heidi Blickenstaff, James Clow, Julia Murney and Matthew Scott.

Other choices

Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. The 20 survivors face a mystery box
challenge, then must come up with a spectacular fish dish. Two of
them will be ousted.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. The big Thanksgiving dinner has shrunk;
only Eve, the youngest daughter, will be there ... and she resists a
family custom. Meanwhile, Kristin learns that Mandy lied about where
she and Kyle will be for the holiday.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Here are the starting points in two series of action epics --
“Lord of the Rings” (2001) on TNT and “The Hunger Games”
(2012) on ABC Family. For family fun, “Despicable Me 2” (2013) is
8 and 10 p.m. on FX.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Thanksgiving dinner becomes a culture clash of sorts.
Ken's wife insists she's more Japanese than he is Korean; soon, each
is pushing traditional food for the guests.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. When a professor is killed, Danny goes undercover as his

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. This seemed like a good idea in the kings-and-castles days: A
mobster sends three guys on a quest, to win his daughter's hand;
things soon turn lethal. Meanwhile, Nick has trouble settling into
home life with his ex-nemesis Adalind and their baby.

“Z Nation,” 10
p.m., Syfy. After taking refuge in a hotel run by white-collar
survivors, Murphy – whose zombie-resistant body is crucial – is
shot at. The next job is to figure out who did it.