TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 8

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Goldbergs,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.

As MTV spread, everyone seemed to start a garage band. It
helped to have wigs, enthusiasm and maybe a garage. Now Adam and his brother
Barry take their turn (loudly).

The result whips us through the extremes of failed rock and
foiled romance, offering the life-cycle of a band in one day. Add their mom’s
plan for a second wedding – she’d prefer harps, actually – and you have a dandy
1980s memory … directed by Fred Savage, whose “Wonder Years” preserved the ‘60s.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Derek Hough is already the star of ABC’s “Dancing With the
Stars.” In 13 editions, he’s reached the final four 11 times, including five
championships and two runners-up. He continues there, but adds acting.

Hough plays a movie star who will be opposite Juliette in
the Patsy Cline movie … if she manages to conceal her pregnancy. The other big
secret involves Will, who is gay, married and a country star; his wife is ready
to blackmail him. Also, Rayna and Luke finally announce their wedding date.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Horror Story”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Some “Horror” seasons have been so dreary that we’ve fled
quickly; this one is different. The setting is a “freak show” in 1952 Florida.
In silent (mostly) background roles, actors range from Jyoti Amge (20 years
old, 2-foot, ¾ inch) to Erika Ervin, 6-foot-8; in the front is a relentless, would-be
star (Jessica Lange).

Ryan Murphy, who co-wrote and directed, shows the fondness
for outsiders that propelled his “Normal Heart” and “Glee” Emmys; he also shows
his usual darkness. It’s a brutal hour, redeemed by stunning work from Murphy,
Lange, Grace Gummer and more, including Sarah Paulson in a superb double role.

Other choices include:

“Arrow” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. Just as his life is
becoming semi-normal, Oliver has a new arch-villain. He’s Count Vertigo, played
by Peter Stormare … who’s also in “Blacklist” as villainous Berlin.

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. A quick ratings
success, this show keeps grabbing all the high-profile subjects. Tonight, that
includes politics, a sex scandal and the gaming world.

 “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). The delightful, three-week penguin series concludes
with a look at youths learning to head out to the sea on their own.

 “Nova,” 9 and 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Already planning a new “Why Planes Vanish” hour
at 9 p.m., this show has now added “Surviving Ebola” at 10.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Demoted to traffic duty, Amaro handles the case of a troubled starlet and is
brought back into the SVU. Soon, he’s investigating her bigger problems.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Putting together the wedding
video, Phil tries to edit out the proof that he spread the cold that has infected
everyone. Also, Manny’s football trouble creates a dilemma.

“Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Dre wants his son to have more
black friends. Also, Rainbow hopes their daughter will follow her path and be a
doctor; she takes her to work on the worst possible day.

“Chicago, PD,” 10 p.m., NBC. A hired assassin continues to
hunt Halstead. Police try to convince Bembenek (now in custody) to call it off,
with no success.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 7

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Flash” debut, 8 p.m., CW.

Barry Allen showed up in a couple “Arrow” episodes. As
played by Grant Gustin, 24, he was young, eager, a bit shy, wanting to do
something big in his life; now – thanks to science and lightning – he can.

He’s The Flash, the world’s fastest man. This hour has weak
spots, but also has great visuals, a likable star and some warmth, with John
Wesley Shipp (star of the 1990 “Flash”) as Barry’s imprisoned father.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Selfie,” 8 p.m., ABC.

After last week’s delightful debut, this show gets down to
its task.

Eliza Dooley (the superb Karen Gillan), an expert only on
social media, tries a real romance with co-worker Freddy. (Yes, the names and
attitude are borrowed from “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady.”) Henry, her advisor,
hesitantly tries Facebook. Both ventures promptly hit problems.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Finding Your Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Basil Biggs couldn’t escape the horrors of his era. A free black
man in the pre-war South, he moved to Pennsylvania; then the Battle of Gettysburg
destroyed his farm. Hired to lead tghe battlefield clean-up, he re-started his
farm and his veterinary practice and became wealthy.

That story fascinates his descendant, actress Anna Deavere
Smith. In a dandy hour, we also hear about the ancestors of filmmaker Ken Burns
and newsman Anderson Cooper. Some fought for the North, some for the South, one
(in the revolution) for the British; they ranged from slaveholders to Abraham

Other choices include:

“Family Guy,” 8-9 p.m., Fox. This is a quick rerun of the
show’s crossover episode, visiting “Simpsons” turf; it’s inserted here to patch
a hole: “Utopia” was dead-last among shows on a big-four network; now it will
be confined to Fridays. The Tuesday spots will have animation for two weeks,
baseball for two more and then “MasterChef Junior.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The spotlight shifts to David McCallum,
81, as Dr. “Ducky” Mallard.

“NCIS: New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Not taking any chances,
this ratings hit again borrows characters from “NCIS.” Dangerous prisoners have
escaped; the New Orleans guys need help from Gibbs and Vance.

“Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). For decades, movies
were made for and by men. “It’s easy to make a movie for men,” producer Judd
Apatow says here. “You just blow things up.” Then came twin trends – women as
writer-directors of niche films … and “Hunger Games” spawning a billion-dollar
franchise with a female action hero. This hour offers a fairly good history of
women in Hollywood

“Hotel Impossible” season-opener and “Resort Rescue” debut,
9 and 10 p.m., Travel. In Daytona Beach, the Streamline Hotel (birthplace of
NASCAR) had holes in the ceiling and “zero tolerance” on the sign; an overhaul
begins. Afterward, “Resort Rescue” (despite the title) eyes another hotel; it’s
a so-so hour, with some good moments … including when the owner’s father
interrupts diners for a long prayer.

“Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX. Jemma’s lie – saying it was
Chinese gangsters who killed Tara – has spawned fierce warfare. Now the Chinese
have attacked the ice cream shop and the brothel, leaving blood and bodies; Jax
is ready to respond. It’s a mess that this hour manages to clean up fairly well;
along the way, there are also some great moments for Annabeth Gish, as the new

TV column for Monday, Oct. 6

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Originals” season-opener, 8 p.m.,

Suddenly, there are reasons to notice the CW. The oft-wobbly
network has two fairly good new shows ---- “The Flash” debuts Tuesday, “Jane
the Virgin” is next Monday – and some solid returning ones.

“Originals” arrived last season, moving Klaus from “Vampire
Diaries.” A vampire-werewolf hybrid, he expected to thrive in New Orleans,
where his family has ruled. But werewolves have decimated the vampire population
… and witches tried to kill his baby … and his wicked mom (inhabiting the body
of a teen witch, of course) and dad returned from the dead. Now Klaus plots revenge.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Last week’s season-opener was very involving – and very
frustrating. Castle survived a car crash, disappeared, did a cash drop-off to
have a car crushed, then was found at sea, remembering nothing.

Now the team works on a separate case, while Castle chases a
clue about his own case. Matt Letscher returns as the man who said he was a
witness named Henry Jenkins … until another Jenkins showed up.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Dressed festively, an old man shows the dance moves he used
to make at the end of a busy work day. His job? Using wire, he strangled people
to death.

After Indonesia’s 1965 revolution, gangsters reportedly
killed more than a million people who may have been Communists. A few mention regrets,
apologies or nightmares; most celebrate their past. Now we see them plan a
bizarre movie about their deeds … including an epic finale, complete with
dancing beauties and “Born Free.” This Oscar-nominated documentary is both
tragic and perversely funny.

Other choices include:

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. It’s time for a
fourth ouster … and so far, every actor has survived. Two athletes – hurdler
Lolo Jones, mixed-martial-arts fighter Randy Couture – have been eliminated,
along with newsman Tavis Smiley.

“Gotham,” 8 p.m., Fox. Someone is killing corrupt Gothamites
– there are many to choose from – and attaching them to weather balloons. Also,
Oswald Cobblepot (the future Penguin) is back in town.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Penny can’t
figure out why Raj’s girlfriend Emily dislikes her; and as Stuart revives his
burned-out comic-book store, the guys might be investors. That’s followed by a
rerun, with Leonard’s new table causing Sheldon to re-consider his life.

“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS. After failing a military-training exercised,
the team can get real-life redemption: Terrorists endanger a large chunk of the

“A Very Special Supernatural Special,” 9 p.m., CW. On the eve
of its 10
th season-opener, “Supernatural” offers interviews of the
stars, plus clips of assorted monstrous events.

“Hunted,” 9 p.m., HBO. Russia decriminalized homosexuality 20
years ago, but officials seem to look the other way as gangs hunt, lure and
brutalize gays. This deeply disturbing special introduces some of the
vigilantes, even filming them during one night of hunting.

“The Blacklist,” 10 NBC. When a body is found with its heart
torn out, police focus on a doctor’s black-market business. Also, Red’s
business scheme in Indonesia turns perilous.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE (if possible): “Homeland,” 9-11 p.m.,

OK, not everyone gets Showtime. If you do, however, here are
two stunning episodes, with TV’s best actress (Claire Danes) given great

The season opens with Carrie (Danes) in charge, in a
dangerous Middle East post, far from her baby. Lockhart runs the CIA; Saul is
in private enterprise. Then things implode, in big, public ways and small, personal
ways. One horrifying scene offers Danes in jolting perfection.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: New comedies, 7:30-10 p.m., Fox.

Things start splendidly, with the “Bob’s Burgers”
season-opener. The school has competing musicals, based on the movies “Die Hard”
and “Working Girl” – then manages to mash them together.

That’s followed by “The Simpsons,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Family
Guy,” then ends with a relative disappointment. “Mulaney” has all the elements
of early “Seinfeld,” including a likable star who does brief stand-up bits;
still, it works only sporadically. This is a big improvement over the show’s
awful pilot film, but the humor is forced and John Mulaney often sounds like he’s
merely reciting lines.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time,” 7 and 8 p.m.,

In a late change, ABC is delaying the 25th season
of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for a week, so it can rerun last week’s “Time”
opener, leading into the second episode.

That opener (a good one), added the “Frozen” sisters: Anna
delayed her wedding to seek answers about their late parents; Elsa reached
Storybrooke, dazed and confused and creating ice emergencies. In the new hour,
she’s trapped in an ice cave with Emma, while the town tries to restore
electricity. Also, Regina is enraged, after Emma ruined her romance with Robin
Hood by rescuing Marian.

Other choices include:

“The Simpsons,” 7 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Lisa has a
begrudging respect for the re-invented Sideshow Bob.

Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. Monday’s 41-14 loss to Kansas
City left Tom Brady and the Patriots with a disappointing 2-2 record. Now they
host Cincinnati, which is 3-0 plus a bye.

“Madam Secretary,” about 8:31 p.m., CBS. A reporter
threatens to publish leaked documents from inside Elizabeth’s department. Also,
her husband (Tim Daly) is a factor in Pakistan negotiations.

“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). “This
job can be bleak sometimes,” Inspector Lewis says. Especially in this
relentlessly grim tale. Following “The Paradise” at 8, it starts an “Inspector  Lewis” season, with Hathaway in charge and
Lewis out of retirement to help; clues arrive way too easily.

“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Last week ended powerfully,
with Martin (Omar Epps) realizing that he was killed. Now he adjusts to being a
returned-dead … and to his mysterious new boss (Donna Murphy).

“The Good Wife,” about 9:30, CBS. Linda Lavin guests as the officer
who can decide if Cary stays in jail before his trial. Also, Alicia and Dean
(Taye Diggs) are on new turf, arguing in Christian arbitration.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week brought a small triumph
– Eph broadcast his warning to the city – and a big crisis. Eichorst and his
bad guys breached the pawn shop, killing Nora’s mother and sending the others
scurrying to the basement. Now a terrific first season ends with a confrontation

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 4

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

Sarah Silverman was 22 when she joined “SNL.” She did some
charming “Weekend Update” bits and disappeared; now – 43 and a two-time
Emmy-winner – she’s hosting, with Maroon 5 as music guest.

And now there’s a new whiz-kid: Pete Davidson, 20, had a
great debut (as an “Update” guest) last week, during a mixed season-opener. The
weakest sketches came early, the better ones later. Michael Che and Colin Jost
made a shaky “Update” team, but that freed Cecily Strong to do her
daft-party-girl bit. And Leslie Jones had strong moments; she’s from the writers’
room, where Davidson had been.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Cedar Cove” season-finale, 8 p.m.,

Problems abound in this pleasant seaside town. Olivia (Andie
McDowell) doesn’t realize Jack has reverted to alcoholism; meanwhile, his son
Eric is trapped between scheming businessmen, her daughter Justine is trapped
between returning boyfriend Seth and recovering ex-SEAL Luke.

There’s more. Grace frets about her cowboy boyfriend’s
gorgeous ranch hand and about teen Allison’s school bullies. Peggy hasn’t told
her husband (Bruce Boxleitner) about her stalker. Some of these crises get
resolved quite well, in an involving episode; others will hang in limbo until
the third season.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Survivor’s Remorse” debut, 9 p.m.,
Starz, repeating at 9:30.

When Cam (Jesse T. Usher) landed a top-dollar basketball
contract in Atlanta, worlds transformed.

Surprisingly, this black-experience comedy is written is by
Mike O’Malley, who went from silly-sitcom actor to strong duty as Kurt’s dad on
“Glee.” More surprisingly, it’s called a comedy. There are some clever moments,
but the best parts are dead-serious – from Cam and (in a terrific little
monolog) from the big sister who guided him through childhood land mines.

Other choices include:

“Stand-Up Revolution” season-opener, 8:21 a.m., Comedy
Central. This early-morning rerun offers lots of showmanship – including a band
and a cartoon – as Gabriel Iglesias introduces two comics, one clever (Kabir Singh)
and one not. Later, Iglesias’ three specials rerun from 6:27 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Football, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox and 8 p.m. ET, ABC. A busy day
includes these two: Fox has Arizona State at Southern California (ranked No.
16); ABC at Nebraska (No. 19) at Michigan State (No. 10).

“The Mysteries of Laura” (NBC) or “Scorpion” (CBS), 8 p.m., maybe.
Each network says it will rerun these shows tonight. Then again, they said that
last week – then made late switches. Take nothing for granted.

“Stalker,” 9 p.m., CBS. The cruel, nasty pilot is scheduled
to rerun. Let’s hope for another late change.

“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The Doctor has already
saved the Earth countless times, but now he may or may not save the moon. It
has started to endanger us, so astronauts are sent to bomb it away. The Doctor
soon discovers big spiders and bigger ethical dilemmas.

“The Chair,” 10 p.m., Starz.  Nudged an hour earlier than usual, this
interesting reality show follows two very different directors, as they each
make a movie springing from the same script. Now – after sometimes-drastic
changes – filming begins.