TV column for Monday, Oct. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week's
brilliant opener plunked a small-town, Minnesota couple into a bloody
mess. Rye Gerhardt killed three people in a diner, then stumbled into
a car driven by Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst) ... who simply kept
going. Her husband, Ed the butcher, ended up confronting Rye in the
garage.

Now Ed deals with
the body. The Gerhardts – in a power struggle with each other and
outsiders – search for Rye. And a local cop (Ted Danson) and his
state-trooper son-in-law (Patrick Wilson) investigate. Like the
previous “Fargo” miniseries, this is droll, odd and wonderfully
entertaining.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

A few scenes here
remind us how great last week's debut was. Others remind us how
difficult it is to maintain that quality in an hourlong comedy (with
music and drama) each week.

The hilarious
opening song explains the notion: Rebecca (Rachel Green, who
co-writes the show and the songs) was a big-time lawyer who chucked
it all to move to the California town where her long-ago boyfriend
lives. Now she sees his gorgeous girlfriend ... and somehow decides
to befriend her. Some moments seem stretched and belabored; others –
especially the two music numbers – are terrific.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Belief,” 8 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

Jordan Richter was a
hot young California skateboarder. At 15, he was featured in a 1991
Spike Jonze documentary; at 16 he turned pro ... and at 19 he seemed
to disappear. There were drug problems (which also plagued his
parents) and more; he retreated, sampled religions and converted to
Muslim.

Now he's returned to
being a skater, teacher and park designer; this hour closes with his
first trip to Mecca, joining two million pilgrims. That wraps an
episode that has a painful story of love after a debilitating crash,
then has a sweet look at a touch-free romance among Hasidic Jews.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The battle round continues, tonight and Tuesday.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. There was no elimination last week, when
partners were switched. Now we'll learn who's out, combining two
weeks of scores. For judges last week, Paula Deen were at the bottom;
Alexa PenaVega, suddenly paired with Derek Hough, was a perfect 10.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. The break-up of Sheldon and Amy has sparked
some great comedy this fall. Now the guys take fencing lessons from
Barry Kripke ... who expresses an interest in Amy. Meanwhile, she and
Penny and Bernadette help Stuart attract women to the comic book
store.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30, CBS. Teen-aged Tyler brings home a gorgeous girlfriend ... and
his parents soon make things awkward. Also, his sister gets a new
cell phone (behind her parents' backs) from her grandfather. And an
annoying colleague spots Matt romancing his girlfriend, their
co-worker.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Sometimes, saving the world can get silly. To disable a
nuclear missile, the team must don odd costumes and join a “Super
Fun Guys” movie being filmed in Kazakhstan.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane is finally content with her baby, who was kidnapped
and quickly retrieved. More complicated is her love triangle with
Michael (her ex-fiance) and Rafael (the baby's father by accidental
insemination). Menwhile, her dad (the TV star) and mom could be sued
for missing a Las Vegas appearance; the solution is to perform on a
cruise ship.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. A standard hostage crisis suddenly has international
repercussions. The FBI and CIA collide, and their are doubts about
trusting Jane.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 18


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise,” 9-11 p..m, Hallmark.

For
years, CBS thrived with near-annual movies starring Tom Selleck as a
former Los Angeles homicide cop, now a small-town police chief. Then
it stopped; three years later, Hallmark steps in.

This
one (the ninth overall) is the best yet. It's maddedningly slow –
19 minutes before the case begins – but worth the wait. The script
(by Selleck and Michael Brandman) starts with Jesse and his therapist
(William Devane), in a discussion that's circuitous, distant and sort
of brilliant. Under gifted director Robert Harmon, the film neatly
balances character depth and a solid mystery.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “The Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox.

We're
a week away from the latest edition of “Treehouse of Horror,”
which annually delivers perverse (and funny) Halloween tales. To warm
up, here's last year's episode and more.

The
“Treehouse” rerun (7:30) has a Stanley Kubrick take-off that's
way too obscure, but other parts work well. Bart finally finds a
school he likes, in the bowels of Hell; and the Simpsons meet
primitive versions of themselves from “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
Then a new episode finds Homer taking down his Halloween decorations;
his home is soon invaded by workers from Everscream Terrors.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Belief” opener, 8 p.m.,, Oprah Winfrey Network.

Some
of life's most profound subjects – religion and faith – are often
ignored on TV. Here's a sweeping, seven-night documentary, with an
opener that has stunning visuals, soaring music and epic emotions.

One
story tonight is set in the U.S., with a college student trying to
revive the faith that was shattered by a rape; another follows a
rabbi's son in Poland, which lost three-fourths of its Jews in the
Holocaust. The hour goes from massive (30 million people in the
Ganges River on a religious day) to intimate: A dying Aborigine must
pass on the stories from the world's oldest religion, possibly 5,000
years old.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Homeland,” 9 p.m., Showtime.

Remember
the old Carrie, the bipolar one played with such fierce, Emmy-winning
brilliance by Claire Danes? She's back and off her medication
tonight, in a powerful episode.

That
was triggered last week, when Carrie learned that she – not the
boss she was protecting – was the target of a bomber. Now her fast
and fragile mind goes into overdrive, in a sensational episode.

Other
choices include:

Football
preview, 7 p.m. ET, and game, 8:30, NBC. The undefeated New England
Patriots visit the 3-2 Indianapolis Colts. There's a lot more
football, plus a National League baseball playoff game.

“I
Am Potential,” 7 and 11:30 p.m. ET, UP. This is the true story of a
Kentucky youth – born without eyes and also unable to walk – who
dreamed of being in a marching band. Its TV debut is surrounded by
two other faith-based films -- “Summer Snow” (2014) at 5 p.m. ET
and “Courageous” (2011) at 9.

“Home
Fires,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). There's still time to
jump into this excellent series, set in an English village in 1939.
Tonight, older men consider enlisting and a young pilot falls in
love.

“Indian
Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Like “Home Fires,”
this has skilled actors and deep characters; the difference is the
lush look and global feel of colonialism in 1932 India. Ralph Whelan,
the viceroy's secretary, has steely control ... until his boss
visits. An Indian clerk – who accidentally saved Whelan's life –
has found and stolen a document that suddenly becomes crucial.

“The
Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. Alicia tends to be very good in court;
tonight, she faces a complex, designer-drug case. She may not be as
good in the kitchen; tonight, she and her mom (Stockard Channing) are
supposed to help her husband's campaign by visiting a tv cookings
show,

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. This has become a success -- easily topping the lame
ratings of its lead-in (“Blood & Oil”) and almost matching
“CSI: Cyber.” Tonight again jumpa between time frames: In
training, Alex is shaken by a hostage exercise; in the future, she's
on the lam and finding a clue.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 17


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

In
June of 2014, people feared Tracy Morgan's career was over. A semi,
with a sleep-deprived driver, had struck his limo; a friend was
killed and Morgan – with a history of diabetes, kidney disease and
alcoholism -- was in a two-week coma, with the danger of brain
damage.

But
Morgan, 46, recovered and last month made a brief-but-funny
appearance as a presenter at the Emmys. Now he hosts the show he was
part of for nine years; Demi Lovato is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-TRY: “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., Fox.

Here
are two shows that have everything – clever concepts, smart
casting, crisp scirpts – except an audience. Ratings on Tuesdays
have been weak; now Fox reruns the pilot films.

First,
John Stamos is a slick restaurateur and casual bachelor who suddenly
learns he has a son (Josh Peck) ... and a granddaughter. Then Rob
Lowe plays an actor who portrayed a lawyer on TV; when the show is
cancelled, he figures he can help his brother and dad (Fred Savage
and William Devane) at their real-life law office. Both are sharp
stories with few big laughs, but lots of little ones.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hot Jam” (CMT) or “Amy Schumer: Live at the
Apollo” (HBO), both 10 p.m.

On
a foggy day, you really could confuse Carrie Underwood with Schumer.
They're about the same age (32 and 34 respectively); they're both
blondes with pleasantly broad faces.

The
difference comes when they open their mouths. Underwood sings of love
and (at times) Jesus; Schumer talks about sex and body parts. Now
Schumer gets an uncensored hour on HBO; Underwood gets a special that
includes a concert and backstage preparations.

Other
choices include:

“Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001), 7 a.m., ABC Family. A
marathon begins, with five of the films in order; others are at 10:30
a.m. and 2:30, 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. That omits the fourth film (“Goblet
of Fire”) and the two-part finale. They are Sunday, at 11:45 a.m.
and 5:15 and 9 p.m.

Sports,
all day. It's college-football time, including two primetime games on
broadcast networks. At 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC has Southern California (3-2
and reeling from the sudden firing of its coach) at Notre Dame (5-1
and ranked No. 14); at 8, ABC has Penn State (5-1) at top-ranked Ohio
State (6-0). By comparison, the baseball playoffs are exiled to
cable, on TBS and Fox Sports1.

“NCIS,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a thief's body is found in a Marine's home.
Investigators find the calling card of Delilah, a terrorist group the
Defense Department has been tracking.

“Code
Black,” 9 p.m., CBS. Most episodes find this Los Angeles emergency
room in a state of high-code crisis. In this rerun, the crisis state
has persisted for 36 hours, leaving people exhausted. Now they face a
distraught woman (Gail O'Grady) whose sons were in a devastating
accident.

“Rosewood,”
9 p.m., Fox. This rerun finds a troubled young genius accused of
murder. The only person who seems to feel he's ionnocent is
Rosewood – who has growing health problems and a new nemesis.

“Blunt
Talk,” 9 p.m. Starz, repeating at 10 and 11:05. A week from the
season finale, this excellent comedy sees Walter Blunt (Patrick
Stewart) celebrate the anniversary of what he considers an epic event
– the end of the Falklands war.

“The
Last Kingdom,” 10 p.m., BBC America. On the lam with Brida, Uhtred
insists he's innocent. That follows a “Doctor Who” (9 p.m.) which
somehow deals with Vikings and warriors from outer space.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 16


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “Live From Lincon Center,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

“Show
Boat” reach Broadway back in 1927, with several good songs, one
great one (“Old Man River”) and huge ambition: It would entwine
the lives of black and white characters ... and would include the
painful portrait of Julie, who was breaking Southern laws while
“passing” as white.

The
show ran two-plus years, returned to Broadway six more times and had
three movies. Now we get a concert version, stuffed with stars.
Vanessa Williams is Julie and Norm Lewis is Joe, thundering “Old
Man River.” Jane Alexander, Fred Willard and Laura Worsham also
star.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “Truth Be Told” debut, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Mitch
(Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is a professor, married to a doctor; he's a
smart guy, floundering with the modern etiquette of race issues. He's
white, his neighbors (Tone Bell and Bresha Webb) are black, his wife
(Vanessa Lachey) is Latina, other neighbors are Jewish and life is
complicated.

There
is potential here, as shown in a clever opening scene. Alas, that
potential is wasted on a witless plot about whether the babysitter is
a porn star. Let's hope for a better story next week.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Gold Rush” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., Discovery.

As
the sixth season begins, two Yukon prospectors, Todd Hoffman and Tony
Beets, have big plans. That won't be easy, though; Beets orders
Parker Schnabel to leave, after key crew people depart.

This
has become Discovery's ratings-leader ... and even has its own talk
show. “Gold Rush: The Dirt” is at 8 p.m., with Matt Rogers –
former “American Idol” finalist and former football player –
hosting.

Other
choices include:

Baseball,
7:30 p.m. ET, Fox. Here's the start of the best-of-seven series to
determine the American League team in the World Series. Most of the
other games will be on cable's Fox Sports1.

“Undateable,”
8 p.m., NBC. After its hourlong debut last week, this show settles
into its unique routine – a half-hour comedy, done live each week.

“Reign,”
8 p.m., CW. Last week's season-opener saw Catherine de' Medici
(played by the superb Megan Follows) get her due. The former queen of
France (until her husband's death), she had schemed against her son
the king ... who captured her. Now she's imprisoned and Mary faces
tough choices.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m. CW. If you missed this show's wonderfully
offbeat debut Monday, catch it now. Rachel Bloom is brilliant as a
writer, lyricist – yes, there are big music numbers -- and star.
She plays an intense New York lawyer who moves cross-country to be
near her long-ago boytfriend.

“Hawaii
Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. We kind of thought Adam's troubles ended last
season, after he killed his brother, went on the lam with Kono and
(when the danger passed) married her. Alas, tonight he's kidnapped by
the Yakuza, the crime family he once led and tried to reform.

“Blue
Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Two familiar Dans provide complications for
the Reagan family. Dan Lauria plays the fire commissioner, battling
Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner. Dan Hedaya is an
informant who endangers a case worked by Frank's daugher Erin
(Bridget Moynahan).

“The
Knick” season-opener, 10 p.m., Cinemax. The second season starts
with the hospital preparing to abandon its lower-income patients and
move to an upscale neighborhood, in early-20th-century New
York. Thackery has left, with some people trying to get him back;
Edwards – once ignored because he's black – pushes to get the
permanent job as chief of surgery.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 15


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The
first two episodes have taken Liz and Red on a fierce whirlwind.
Chased by her old FBI colleagues, she ended up in the Russian
embassy, claiming to be a spy ... then headed toward a plane ride to
Moscow. Except that Solomon planned to kill her en route.

Instead,
Red hatched an elaborate escape plan. Now they're on the run in the
Midwest; the FBI is still chasing them ... while coming across what
could be the core of a global food crisis.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: Movies, cable.

On
a night dominated by sports (football and baseball), cable counters
with strong movies. Kids have “Cars” on Starz (which even
rhymes); the 2006 film is at 7 p.m. General audiences have Tom Hanks
in “Cast Away” (2000, 8 p.m, AMC), on the eve of his “Bridge of
Spies” opening.

Grown-ups
also have two Oscar-winners, the scary “Silence of the Lambs”
(1991, 8 and 10:30 p.m. ET, BBC America and the tough documentary
“Harlan County, U.S.A.” (1976, 9:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies), plus a terrific Oscar-nominee, “American Sniper” (2014,
8:30 p.m., HBO).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nathan For You” season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy
Central.

Even
on its best days, this odd show – sort of reality and (sometimes)
hidden camera – is slow to entertain us. Nathan Fielder brings a
quiet, Canadian humor as he helps small businesses in odd ways.

Tonight
isn't one of the best days. Fielder's scheme – briefly price your
TV's at $1, to squelch a match-any-price offer at Best Buy – has
huge flaws. There are some good moments, however ... especially when
he probes how his people would do in a courtroom.

Other
choices include:

Sports
overload, all night. CBS has football (7:30 p.m. ET preview, 8:30
kick-off), with undefeated Atlanta at 1-4 New Orleans. And TBS has
the fifth and final games (if neccessary) of baseball's National
League division series in St. Louis (4:30 p.m. ET) and Los Angeles (8
p.m. ET).

“Grey's
Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. This is bad form for hostesses: The sisters
forget they're giving a dinner party for everyone. Meanwhile, Arizona
finds she's getting romance advice from a 90-year-old.

“Bones,”
8 p.m., Fox. It's the first day back to their old jobs for Booth –
who finds his old office now occupied by Aubrey – and for Brennan.
She has the kind of case she savors (complex and gruesome), but
there's other trouble: Arastoo (who held her job briefly) and Cam are
no longer together.

“Sleepy
Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox. We were kind of wary when a beauty named
Pandora arrived, bearing a box. Inside is an artifact, capable of
turning an ordinary person into a terrifying figure from the past.

“Scandal,”
9 p.m., ABC. Olivia is usually soothing other people's media storms.
As she faces one of her own, Huck and Quinn recruit a familiar figure
to help.

“Project
Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Here's something the classic
designers never worried about: Contestants must use 3-D printing
technology to make avant garde designs.

“How
to Get Away with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Wes finds new information
about Rebecca's disappearance, Asher gets a surprising confession ...
and there's a new case, with a murdered teen.