TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 7

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Intelligence” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

Hollywood loves the notion of a molding a supersoldier. This
time, that includes mind and body.

Like the heroes of “Six Million Dollar Man,” “Bourne
Identity” and “Nikita,” Gabriel (Josh Holloway) has great physical moves. Like the
“Chuck” hero, his mind works as a supercomputer.

It’s tough for his handler (Marg Helgenberg) or sidekick
(Meghan Ory) to control him, as he scrambles to find his wife and save his
father figure. The result mixes strong action with heart and … well,

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.

As a hot-tub date looms, Mindy frets about her weight. Her
solution is to have Danny as her trainer.

It’s an uncomfortable time for Danny (who secretly loves
her) and Mindy (who dislikes any work-out). Soon, however, it leads to some
hilarious sight gags.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

A century ago, this compelling documentary says, poison was
easy to get and hard to detect. But in 1918, New York City put a remarkable
pair in charge.

Charles Norris, from upper-class roots, was medical examiner;
Alexander Gettler, a working-class guy, was chief toxicologist. They turned crime-detection
into a science, then spurred social change.

One factory’s toxins nudged its employees to madness,
another factory had young women dying after applying radium to watches. Norris
and Gettler pushed for federal efforts against workplace poison.

Other choices include:

“Pretty Little Liars” and “Ravenswood,” noon to 10 p.m., ABC
Family. An eight-hour catch-up marathon for “Liars” is followed by the
mid-season debuts of “Liars” (8 p.m.) and “Ravenswood” (9).

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A drone has been stolen. Now Gibbs – working
with his former girlfriend Hollis (Susanna Thompson) -- races to get it back
before it’s used for a large-scale attack.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Flashbacks show how people got
their current jobs.

“Killer Women” debut, 10 p.m., ABC. Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar
Galactica”) plays one of the first female Texas Rangers. That’s in an
overcrowded hour when cable has another debut and two season-openers

“Justified” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. Boyd Crowder is
scariest when he’s desperate. Now he scrambles to bribe Ava’s way to freedom;
that drives him to brutality and to Detroit. Meanwhile, Raylan faces the
nastiest members of the Crowe family. It’s a good hour … leading to a better
one next week.

“Cougar Town” season-opener, 10 p.m., TBS.  It’s tricky to love your mom’s friend; now
Travis (Dan Byrd), Jules’ college-age son, snuggles openly with Laurie (Busy
Phillips, 34). Jules claims she’s cool with it; she’s not. Like most “Cougar
Town” episode, this is erratic, with enough laughs to keep us watching.

“100 Days of Summer,” 10 p.m., Bravo. “Our summers tend to
be epic,” one Chicago woman says. That’s because time is tight. After long
winters, there are three months of abandon; one man estimates he had sex with
60 different women one summer. This reality series introduces people who are
moderately likable, fairly interesting and extremely good-looking.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 6

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Bachelor” opener, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

There’s a welcome burst of diversity here, with Juan Pablo
Galavis as the bachelor. He’s a former Venezuelan soccer player whose first
language was Spanish; he’s 32, with a daughter who’s 4.

Tonight, he meets 27 women, many grasping for a first impression.
One brings her dog, another (a nurse) brings her stethoscope and another (a
composer) rides her “piano bike.”

A dancer offers salsa moves; an opera singer does not. One
woman is barefoot, another is seven months pregnant. This could be an odd

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Football, 8:30 p.m., ESPN.

The college season ends with the big one – the national
championship game, in the Rose Bowl stadium.

Florida State is 13-0 and ranked No. 1; Auburn is 12-1 and
ranked No. 2, after stunning Alabama. Tonight, one of them follows ‘Bama as the
season’s overall champion.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hostages,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Viewers instantly rejected this show’s absurd story: A
surgeon and her family are held hostage for weeks (while continuing their
routines), so that she’ll kill the president on the operating table.

To its credit, CBS is letting the show wrap up. Tonight,
there’s in-fighting among the bad guys; also, the surgeon is confronted by the
First Lady, just before going into the operating room.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Private Screenings,” 8-9:30 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies.

At first, Robert Osborne led us astray. He did commercials
for cigarettes, beer and coffee; he did a soap opera and was the banker’s
assistant in the “Beverly Hillbillies” pilot. Terribly handsome (as we see in
clips), he had little to do. “I was always in a suit, with a briefcase,” he tells
interviewer Alec Baldwin.

Then Lucille Ball suggested he write a book. A small-town
kid who grew up loving movies, Osborne wrote a history of the Academy Awards.
Soon, he was on talk shows, news shows and cable. Now, at 81, Osborne has been
TCM’s eloquent (and elegant) host for 20 years; here’s a fun memory ride.

Other choices include:

“The Blacklist,” 8-11 p.m., NBC. A week before new episodes
resume, here are key reruns. First is the pilot, with James Spader superb as a
most-wanted criminal, turning himself in to work with Liz (Megan Boone) in
catching others. Then, in a two-parter, she must infiltrate the spot where he’s
held hostage.

“2 Broke Girls” and “Mom,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Both reruns
air earlier than usual. First, Max and Caroline are on a private plane with
2Chainz; then Christy wants a romance to go slow.

“Major Crimes,” 9 p.m., TNT. In the start of a two-week
season-finale, police race to stop a serial killer.

“Teen Wolf,” 10 p.m., MTV. Haunted by visions of mythical creatures,
the teens meet a new girl who seems terribly interested in them and the

”Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In this rerun, a body at an arson
site was shot to death.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Downton Abbey” season-opener, 9-11
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

After savoring gentle joys and pains, viewers were jolted in
the final minutes of last season: There was a sudden car crash; Matthew – new
dad, reforming head of the estate – was dead.

Jumping ahead six months, his widow Mary is still distant
and despondent; his mom feels useless, his valet is jobless. And without
Matthew, the estate’s management wobbles between Mary, her father and her
brother-in-law. As usual, “Downton” nimbly juggles soap opera and elegant human

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Football, 1:05 p.m., CBS, and 4:40 p.m.,

The pro play-offs wrap up their first weekend, with
division-winners hosting wild-card teams.

First, San Diego (9-7) visits Cincinnati (11-5). Then San
Francisco (11-5) visits an oft-frigid Green Bay. The Packers scraped in with an
8-7-1 record … but were 6-2 when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was healthy, which
he seems to be now. This weekend’s four winners join the four teams that had a
first-week bye.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Muppets” (2011), 8 and 10 p.m.,
ABC Family.

At times after Jim Henson’s death, it seemed like the
Muppets were going to fade away. Then Jason Segel, a long-time fan, brought
them back with this clever film.

Segel links with his Muppet brother and his girlfriend (Amy
Adams) to re-unite the Muppets and put on a show. Along the way, there are some
wonderfully witty songs.

Other choices include:

“Admission,” 6:55 p.m., and “Identity Thief,” 9 p.m. (both
2013), HBO. A week before its new Sunday line-up, HBO tosses in two fairly good
comedies, first with Tina Fey and then with Melissa McCarthy. Both strain belief,
but the first finds warmth and the second has big (but scattered) laughs.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m. (or later, with football overrun),
Fox. Annoyed by a movie theater, Homer takes lessons (from Bart, of course) in
the art of pirating films.

“The Bachelor” preview, 8 p.m., ABC. On the eve of a new
edition, this show introduces the bachelor (former Venezuelan soccer player
Juan Pablo Galavis) and peeks at the season ahead.

“Elementary,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of the hour that
was filmed in London. Holmes returns there to track a former mentor; also, his
estranged brother reveals secrets.

“The Good Wife” and “The Mentalist,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. Both
shows are back to new episodes. First, Alicia faces trouble when Will – once her
boss and friend, now her enemy – joins the opposing side in a case. Then
Patrick Jane probes the murders of three drug agents; he dates a beauty linked
to the case.

“Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. In the aftermath of Emily’s wedding–day
disaster, everyone becomes a suspect.

“Betrayal,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two weeks from the show’s finale, Sara
is desperate to clear her jailed lover.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 4

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Football, 4:35 and 8 p.m. ET, NBC.

NBC wraps up its football season – a big one in the ratings
– with this doubleheader. Each game has a division winner hosting a wild-card

First, it’s Kansas City at Indianapolis, then New Orleans at
Philadelphia. Two more games Sunday (one CBS, the other Fox) leave us with the
final eight teams, each two wins from the Super Bowl.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Crazy Ones,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

After decades of great hour-long shows – from “L.A. Law” to “Ally
McBeal” to “Boston Legal” – David Kelley hit a slowdown. He bounced back with
the dandy pilot film that reruns here.

Robin Williams stars as a former advertising star whose
passion for the business has drained. The great moments, however, come from Sarah
Michelle Gellar and James Wolk, who push hard to sign Kelly Clarkson for a McDonald’s

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Over the Hedge” (2006), 8-10 p.m.,

It’s family-film night. On cable, there’s a dandy Muppets
double-feature, airing in reverse order – “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984)
and “The Muppet Movie” (1979), at 7 and 9 p.m. on ABC Family. And on ABC, there’s
this fairly good animated film.

A raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis) has stolen the food from
a bear … who really wants it replaced. The solution is to trick the other
animals into swiping from a sub-division. Wild sight gags follow.

Other choices include:

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), 6-8:30 p.m., Syfy. Steven
Spielberg crafted one of the great adventures.

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. As the wedding nears,
Barney learns that Ted still has a thing for Robin. He takes it out on him
during a tough poker game.

Movies, 8 and 9 p.m., cable. Here are master filmmakers. At
8 p.m. on IFC is “No Country for Old Men” (2007), the Coen Brothers’ quietly eloquent
Oscar-winner for best picture. At 9 on Sundance is “The Pianist” (2002), a compelling
true story that won Oscars for Adrien Brody and director Roman Polanski.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of last
season’s finale, an explosion in the Pacific triggers fresh efforts to find the
stolen nuclear device. Sam goes undercover with his wife (Aunjanue Ellis).

“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun has a new scheme to catch
the sly Pelant: Fix up a body to look like a killer is copying his style.
Meanwhile, Sweets is back and is suspicious of FBI Agent Flynn.

“Agents of SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. This rerun offers the rare
case of a TV series linking with a movie. The SHIELD people deal with the
aftermath of “Thor: The Dark World.”

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or later, with football
overrun), NBC. The show pauses for highlights from the first half of the season.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Football, 7:30 p.m. Fox and 8:30 p.m.,

In the old days, the whole bowl bash wrapped up on an
overcrowded New Year’s Day. Now, instead, we get small bowls Saturday and
Sunday, the national championship Monday and these two big ones.

Fox has the Cotton Bowl, which has been around since 1935 in
the Dallas area; Missouri (11-2 and ranked No. 8 in the nation, faces Oklahoma
State (10-2), No. 13. ESPN has the Orange Bowl, which has been around since ‘37
in Miami. Ohio State (12-1), No. 7, faces Clemson (10-2), No. 12.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Filled with clever presenters, this humor award tends to
(appropriately) pack in the laughs.

In this rerun, we see Carol Burnett become the 16th
winner of the prize. She’s only the fifth woman to win, but the third in the
past four years, following Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Fey will be a presenter, along with Amy Poehler, Maya
Rudolph, Martin Short, Tony Bennett, Lucie Arnaz and people linked closely to
Burnett’s career – Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Julie Andrews.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “We Are Marshall” (2006), 7-9 p.m.,

As the bowl season wraps up, it’s a good time to see this
quietly involving film about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed
the Marshall University football players.

What could have been a cliché film added extra depth as it
viewed the recovery efforts in a small West Virginia town. A talented director
(McG) had a top cast, with Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox as coaches and
David Strathairn as the college president who insisted the team would return;
it did and, among other things, won the Military Bowl last Friday in Annapolis,
beating Maryland 31-20.

Other choices include:

“Last Man Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun
finds Mandy considering joining a sorority. The second has Mike (Tim Allen)
opposing his neighbor’s run for school board.

“Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992), 8 and 11 p.m.,
AMC. Michael Keaton stars in two big-budget adventures, stylishly directed by
Tim Burton.

“Grimm” and “Dracula,” 9-11 p.m., NBC, The horror series are
back with new episodes. First, a “healer” brings danger. Then we find that
Grayson (Count Dracula’s new identity) has successfully become almost
invulnerable to sunlight; also, Renfield heads to Budapest, in search of a
mysterious artifact.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds McGarrett
taken hostage during a camping trip.

“Burn Notice,” 9-11 p.m., Ion. Here’s a rerun of this show’s
slick, smart opener. We see an agent cut off by the CIA, mid-mission. He barely
survives and retreats to Miami, where he needs back-up from some shaky souls,
including his mom (Sharon Gless) and a conniving colleague (Bruce Campbell).

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Danny (Donnie
Wahlberg) pursues a bank-robbing duo in the Bonnie-and-Clyde mode. They’ve
injured a bystander and stolen an off-duty cop’s gun.