TV column for Sunday, Dec. 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Kennedy Center Honors,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

 Each year, this mixes talent and intelligence to create TV’s
most soaring moments. Now comes one of its most promising years: Four of the
five honorees are musicians, two of them reaching the top of pop charts.


The night starts and ends with those two. To honor Carlos
Santana, the music ranges from Buddy Guy to Steve Winwood and Sheila E.; to
honor Billy Joel, the finale has Garth Brooks and Rufus Wainwright, plus Don
Henley of the Eagles and Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco.


In between, jazz greats perform for Herbie Hancock and opera
stars for Martina Arroyo. The fifth honoree is Shirley MacLaine, who started
her career doing musical theater. Her Broadway songs are performed by
Tony-winners Sutton Foster, Karen Olivo ad Patina Miller, plus movie star Anna
Kendrick.


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


Both reruns have people pondering past dreams.


In the first, Homer brings in a long-ago friend to help him
fulfill the to-do list he made when he was 10. In the second, four people
ponder lost opportunities: Burns has a missed love, Kent Brockman failed to
follow his colleague (Rachel Maddow) to the big time and Marge, of course, has
parenting issues. Then there’s Homer, who long ago sold his Apple stock to buy
a bowling ball.


TONIGHT’S FINALE: “Treme” finale, 9-10:20 p.m., HBO.


High in quality and low in ratings, this series has been an enigma.
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, it has dangled dozens of interesting
characters, often just leaving them there.


Tonight, it tries to resolve a few of them. There’s Colson
(David Morse), the honest cop in a corruption-riddled department. And Toni
(Melissa Leo), the crusading lawyer fighting police abuse. And Delmond (Rob
Brown), a New York trumpeter whose dad died last week, after insisting the son
take over his Mardi Gras position.


And back together are Janette (Kim Dickens), the chef and
restaurant owner, and Davis (Steve Zahn) the struggling DJ. He makes some
bizarre moves tonight, before “Treme” reminds us (in its final minutes) that it
is sometimes an excellent series.


Other choices include:


“Breaking Bad,” noon, AMC. A sweeping rerun of the entire
series continues until 5 a.m.; it returns at noon Monday, concluding at about 3
a.m.


“Cinderella” (1949), 6 p.m., ABC Family. Here’s another
chance to catch a great cartoon. And afterward? For more animation, ABC Family
has “The Little Mermaid” (1989) at 7:45 p.m.; for more music, Disney has the
zesty “High School Musical 2” (2007) at 8.


“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), 8-11 p.m.,
ABC. Broadcast-network series are skipping new episodes this week, so ABC plugs
in the first “Harry Potter” film. It starts beautifully and ends with a shrug;
in between, it has rich visuals – something we expect from director Chris
Columbus – and a first-rate cast.


Football, 8:30 p.m., NBC. A bizarre Dallas Cowboy season
comes down to this: The regular season ends with hosting the Philadelphia
Eagles; the winner heads to the playoffs and the loser goes home.


More animation, 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., Fox. Here are reruns of pilots
for two series that will get late-Saturday spots, beginning Jan. 11. “Lucas
Bros. Moving Co.” is based on the comedy of twins Keith and Kenny Lucas; “Golan
the Insatiable” finds a fierce godlord trapped in suburbia.


“Getting On” season-finale, 10:20 p.m., HBO. This show’s
strain between comedy and tragedy ends up closest to the latter, as nurses and
the doctor (Laurie Metcalf) debate responsibility for … well, everything.


TV column for Saturday, Dec. 28



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.


This first-year success offers what we expect from Chuck
Lorre’s shows – crisply written, well-cast comedy, done before a studio
audience. It lacks the highs of “Big Bang Theory” or the occasional lows of
“Two and a Half Men” or “Mike & Molly”; mostly, it’s fun.


Christy (Anna Faris) and her mom (Allison Janney) are
recovering alcoholics and former teen moms. Now Christy’s daughter is
continuing the latter family tradition. This rerun of the show’s second episode
unfolds with witty dialog and likable (if clueless) characters.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Saturday Night Live” memories, all
night.


NBC throws in two “SNL” reruns tonight – a shortened one at
10 p.m. and a full one at 11:29. Before that, however, catch “’Saturday Night
Live’ in the 2000s,” from 8-10 p.m. on VH1.


“SNL” limped into the millennium with weak material. It soon
found new strength with witty women (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler), an amiable guy
(Jimmy Fallon) and neatly offbeat films by Andy Samberg and friends. Now – as
all of those people find fresh success elsewhere – we get fun clips and
comments.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Football, noon to 1:30 a.m. ET, ESPN.


Here’s a four-bowl marathon, leaving little time to go to
refrigerator or nod to the family. The bowl names are obscure – Belk Bowl?
Russell Athletic Bowl? –but many of the teams are traditional powers.


Notre Dame (8-4) plays Rutgers (6-6) at noon. Then it’s
Cincinnati (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6) at 3:20 p.m., Miami (9-3) and
Louisville (11-1) at 6:45 and Michigan and Kansas State (both 7-5) at 10:15.


Other choices include:


“Just Go With It” (2011), 8-10:30 p.m., ABC. A doctor (Adam
Sandler) says whatever will convince women to sleep with him. Now the lies to a
stunning beauty (Brooklyn Decker) are piling up. His assistant (Jennifer
Aniston) must pose as a wife he’s divorcing; there are also fake kids and more.
The story and characters are hard to believe or like; at times, though, the
Hawaiian settings and random jokes suffice.


“Almost Human,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Kennex and his
robot partner face an intense hostage situation.


 “Cinderella” (1949),
8 p.m., ABC Family. Here’s one of the all-time classics, with gorgeous
animation and music. It’s followed at 9:45 p.m. by a newer gem, “The Little
Mermaid” (1989).


“The Fast and the Furious” (2001), 8 p.m., Fox. Paul Walker,
who died in a car crash on Nov. 30, saw his career soar with this film. He
plays a cop who goes undercover in the street-racing scene, then develops a
fondness for the people involved.


“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun is from the time when Booth
and Brennan were both reconsidering their plans to marry. Meanwhile, a
seemingly minor case becomes big-time when a CIA agent (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is
found clearing evidence from the victim’s condo.


“The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Robert Sean
Leonard (“House”) plays a mad scientist, being sought after a chemical attack
on a subway.


“Trophy Wife,” 10:30 p.m., ABC. Kate’s life is already complicated
enough, with her new husband, his two ex-wives and his three kids. Now comes
more trouble: Her friend Meg (Natalie Morales) moves in after a break-up; they
fight and Pete has to find a way to settle things.


TV column (out of order) for Wednesday, Dec .25


Here, out of order, is the TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 25. If you scroll down from there, you'll find the Friday and Thursday ones; in retrospect, chronological would be better.


TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade,” 10
a.m. to noon, ABC.


If you’re in a cheery, Christmas-morning mood, this will
keep that going. It leaps between parades (at Disneyland and Disney World) and
songs taped at the parks.


That includes two “American Idol” champions, Jordin Sparks
(in a duet with Jason Derulo) and Candice Glover. Also performing are Demi
Lovato, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige and actress-singer Dove Cameron, plus groups (Il
Volo and The Wanted) and the cast of “Teen Beach Movie.”


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Trophy Wife,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.


On Christmas morning, things are missing – the presents,
someone’s eyebrows and any memory of what happened. Also, Pete shredded his work
papers and (maybe) quit his job. And there’s a wolf in the house.


Clearly, alcohol was involved, but no one remembers drinking
much. There are logical (and funny) explanations; along with other shows –
comedies on ABC, dramas on CBS, movies on cable – this reminds us that there are
plenty of shows today that avoid Christmas themes.


TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: Cartoons, everywhere.


OK, many kids still need to be entertained. Fortunately, two
broadcast networks have competing specials from 8-9 p.m. Fox has the characters
from “Ice Age” and “How to Tame Your Dragon”; the CW has the ones from “Kung Fu
Panda” and “Madagascar.”


Meanwhile, three of those movies run today on FX; starting and
ending with “Megamind” (2010), the channel has animated movies every two hours,
from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. There’s much more on cable; that starts early, with
Christmas cartoons from 7-9:30 a.m. on ABC Family.


Other choices include:


Oscar-winners, cable. Here are two contrasting movies that
share one thing: Each won the Academy Award for best picture. “Forrest Gump” (“1994),
an offbeat fable about a simple chap  who
keeps colliding with history, is 5:30 and 9 p.m. on Spike; “Crash” (2004), with
entwining looks at race relations, is 7 p.m. on Showtime.


More movies, cable. For sheer fun, go with “Oz the Great and
Powerful” (2013) at 6:45 p.m. on Starz … or “Young Frankenstein” (1974) at 7:45
p.m. on Sundance … or “Bridesmaids” (2011) at 8 p.m. on USA.


“Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale” and
“Michael Buble’s 3
rd annual Christmas Special,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.
Two specials get a second run. Buble included music from Mariah Carey and Mary
J. Blige. Clarkson surrounded her concert with a “Christmas Carol” type of
story and lots of guest stars.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a fairly funny rerun, the kids
have holiday woes: Axl negotiates family time, Brick’s sales scheme collapses
and Sue is allergic to the tree.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. In the rerun of a funny
episode from more than a year ago, Haley’s been arrested for underage drinking.


“Hawaii Five-0” and “Blue Bloods,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. The
Friday dramas add reruns here. First, McGarrett and Catherine meet a boy whose
missing father may be in danger in backwoods Oahu. Then Jamie (Will Estes)
deals with the emotions of shooting someone; Annabella Sciorra plays the police
psychologist who studies him.


TV column for Friday, Dec. 27



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

 Marvin Hamlisch grew up as a golden child, one whose mom
said it was too dangerous for him to fly. She gave him his breakfast at the New
York train station … then flew to Chicago and greeted him at that station with
his lunch.


He emerged as a prodigy – studying at Juilliard at 6, being
Barbra Streisand’s rehearsal pianist at 19, winning three Oscars at 29 for
composing … then winning the Pulitzer Prize at 31 for “A Chorus Line.”


There were some slow moments after that, but Hamlisch filled
68 years with people, jokes, songs and success. This documentary – more a tribute
than a biography – has a rich assortment of clips, often with Hamlisch talking
astutely about his life and his craft.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Nikita” finale, 9 p.m., CW.


This story – a street kid turned into a lethal force – has
been told often. It was a French movie, a U.S. movie, a Canadian series (for
U.S. cable) and now this version.


It wraps up tonight, with much at stake. The Group almost
maneuvered a massive war; our heroes (led by Maggie Q) stopped some of that,
but the evil Amanda (Melinda Clarke) is still out there, along with lots of
foul doubles disguising as world leaders. The finish could be messy,


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “ET” (1982), 9:30 p.m., TV Guide.


This school-vacation time is ideal for families to catch
movies together, even when they start late.


Here’s the perfect one. It’s sometimes warm, with a lonely
kid’s love for the outer-space alien he finds in his yard. It’s occasionally
funny. And with Steven Spielberg directing and John Williams providing the
soaring score, it’s also an exciting adventure.


Other choices include:


“Breaking Bad,” noon to 5 a.m., AMC. A great series reruns
in full, sprawling over four days. Things continue until 5 a.m. each day, then
resume the next noon, with the terrific finale Monday night at 2 a.m.


“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. When a professional dancer is killed,
Bones and Brennan go undercover as contestants.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike keeps wanting Mandy’s
boyfriend to help around the house … and wants Vanessa to try some
mother-daughter bonding by teaching Eve to drive.


“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Now that he’s learned about
Earthlings’ April Fools Day, Larry tries to concoct an epic prank.


“Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has a
field trip to the childhood home of Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman). The second has
Burt’s parents (Shirley Jones and Lee Majors) tell him he’s Jewish; that leads
to a wonderfully witty dream-scene song..


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Some 40 years later, here’s an
updated version of a 1973 episode in which a double-amputee targets cops, with
McGarrett next on his list. Peter Weller, who also directed, plays the villain
in this run, except in the close-up scenes of prosthetic hands.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Maybe this should have happened
a long time ago: Danny is sent to anger-management class. Meanwhile, his dad
the police commissioner tries to help a young Turkish woman avoid prosecution
by her government.


 


TV column for Thursday, Dec. 26



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Godfather” films. All day, AMC.


Two of the all-time great films fill the day, for our
viewing or taping pleasure. “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather Part II”
(1974) air at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., then at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., with the lesser
“Part III” (1990) at 2 a.m.


Those first two offer writer-director Francis Coppola at his
best. They offer a family saga of love, rage and retribution, even flashing
back (in the second film) to show how this began. The consummate casts include
Marlon Brando and James Caan in the first film, Robert De Niro in the second,
Al Pacino in both.


Both won Academy Awards for best picture. The American Film
Institute lists “Godfather” as the second-best movie ever (behind “Citizen
Kane”), with “Part II” at No. 32, the only sequel in the top 100.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Parks and Recreation,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.


Tentative plans call for a “Women of Saturday Night Live”
special, from 9-11 p.m. Before that, here’s a chance to catch one of the best
of those women.


Amy Poehler thrived for eight seasons on “SNL,” then moved
to this quietly clever series. She currently has her fourth straight Golden
Globe nomination in “Parks and Recreation” … which has its first best-series
nomination … for an upcoming Globe ceremony she’ll co-host with Tina Fey,
another of the great “SNL” women.


Tonight, “Parks” reruns a two-parter. Leslie (Poehler) is in
London for an award, bringing Ben, April, Andy and a reluctant (as usual) Ron.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Ground Floor,” 10 p.m., TBS.


This requires acting: Skyler Astin (as Brody) spends this series
in love and lust with Briga Heelan (as Jenny). Now his real-life girlfriend Anna
Camp guests as his ex-lover.


She plays a Harvard grad who booms into this all-male
domain. It’s an inconsistent but fun episode that offers a “Pitch Perfect”
reunion, with Astin, Camp and (as torrid Tori) Alexis Knapp; in the spirit of
that movie, Astin, Camp and Heelan are in good voice at the karaoke bar.


Other choices include:


Football, 6 and 9:30 p.m., ESPN. After a one-day break, the
bowl rush resumes. First, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl has Pittsburgh, with a
6-6 record (the minimum for a bowl) and Bowling Green, 10-3; then the
Poinsettia Bowl has Northern Illinois, 11-1, and Utah State, 8-5.


Non-fiction, 7-10:30 p.m., Bravo. This starts with a new
twist for “Inside the Actors Studio” – a father-daughter interview involving
Bruce and Laura Dern. Then the “Millionaire Matchmaker” has two hours involving
other Bravo people. At 8 p.m. is a rerun with the refreshingly vibrant Courtney
Kerr (whose “Courtney Loves Dallas” is at 10 p.m.); at 9 is a new hour with Rosie
Pierri of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”


“Glee,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has Rachel and
Kurt returning to town as the glee club prepares “Grease”; also, Cassandra
(Kate Hudson) brings fresh detours to Rachel. The second, from a year ago,
weaves holiday stories, from Artie’s dream to Jake and Puck’s Hanukah and Sam
and Brittany’s fear of a Mayan-predicted apocalypse.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the women
join the guys’ “Dungeons & Dragons” game, bringing a change in the
relationship of Sheldon and Amy. Meanwhile, Raj goes on an awkward (and
painfully funny) date with Lucy, played by the terrific Kate Micucci.


“The Millers,” 8:31-10 p.m., CBS. This first-year show –
strong in ratings, mixed in quality – offers three reruns. First, Carol (Margo
Martindale) learns her son Nathan (Will Arnett) is seeing a therapist; she
arranges her own appointment. Then she decides that the cemetery plots must be
re-arranged, now that Nathan has divorced and his parents have separated. In
the third, there’s a scheme to get the parents together by having them divide
their possessions.


“20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Ten days before “Downton Abbey” has
its elegant season-opener, ABC takes a look at the world it depicts. That views
the history of such mansions and their modern equivalent … including the current
life at the estate that is used for “Downton” scenes.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sherlock
trying to prevent a mega-heist in the midst of a giant blizzard.