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.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Community” season-opener, 8 and 8:30
p.m., NBC.

After four years, Jeff (Joel McHale) has finally graduated
from community college and returned to the real world … where he has no money,
skills or future. His last possessions are being hauled away.

Then comes an opportunity to destroy (or maybe save) his old
college. Soon, the study group is back and Jeff – who always ignored teachers –
is teaching.

Tonight marks the return of Dan Harmon, who created the
show, then was dumped by NBC. With big, broad strokes, “Community” is
inconsistent, but has enough big laughs to make us glad it’s back.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Taste” season-opener and “The
Assets” debut, 8 and 10 p.m., ABC.

Here’s one way to keep the serialized successes (“Grey’s
Anatomy” and “Scandal”) fresh: They get long, mid-season breaks, while
temporary shows fill in.

First, “Taste” takes the “Voice” and “X Factor” approach:
Four celebrities each mentor a team of contestants; then make blind judgments,
not knowing who cooked or what it is. Nigella Lawson, the British author and TV
personality, joins chefs Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Marcus Samuelsson.

Then “Assets” is an eight-week mini-series, based on the
memoirs of Sandy Grimes. The story starts in 1985, with a mole somewhere in the
CIA; Grimes – living a double life as a CIA agent and a wife and mother – tries
to find his identity before the Russian contacts are discovered.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Parenthood” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

Beautifully acted, this show still varies widely from one
plotline to the next. One story – the aftermath of Julia being kissed by a PTA
colleague – plays like bad soap opera; others have depth and quality.

In one, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), whose wife is away,
reluctantly bonds with a fellow Vietnam vet. In another, a confrontation with Max
leads Hank (Ray Romano) to dig into the details of his syndrome. That brings to
an extraordinary scene, with a surprisingly perfect drama performance by

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After weeks of reruns
and specials, CBS has a full night of new episodes. That starts with TV’s best
comedy: Penny’s dormant acting career almost gets a break, then crumbles anew,
leading to a key moment with Leonard

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), 8-11:15 p.m.,
FX. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s odd tale – born an old man, Benjamin ages backward –
was beautifully directed by David Fincher (“The Social Network”). It won three
technical Oscars and was nominated for 10 more, including for Brad Pitt and
Taraji Henson.

Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. Alabama expected to be in the
national championship game; then a failed field goal was returned for a
touchdown. ‘Bama (11-1) settles for the Sugar Bowl, with Oklahoma (10-2).

“The Crazy Ones,” 9 p.m., CBS. Assigned the ad account for a
videogame company, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar) soon obsesses on the games.

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Still adjusting to the fact that
this Dr. Watson is a woman, Sherlock Holmes fans are now coping with the fact
that Moriarty is also female. She’s back tonight; as a consultant on a
kidnapping case, working with her ex-enemy Sherlock.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 1

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Parade, 11 a.m. ET, NBC, ABC, HGTV,
Hallmark, RFD TV and Univision.

Each year, the Tournament of Roses parade offers two hours
of sheer excess.

This year, that includes 44 floats, 16 horse units and lots
of music. Some of the music comes from the 21 marching bands; the rest from
atop some of the floats. An NBC float has Tessanne Chin, the new “Voice”
champion; an RFD one has Daryl Hall, others have Natalie Cole and KC & the
Sunshine Band.

It’s a big day for Hallmark, which has a preview at 10 a.m.
and a parade rerun until 4 p.m. And a bigger cay for HGTV, which annually has
the parade commercial-free, followed by a day of specials.

TODAY’S MUST-SEE II: Football, all day.

The big one is the 100th Rose Bowl, with Michigan
State (12-1 and ranked No. 4) and Stanford (11-2, No. 5). That’s 5 p.m. ET, the
mid-section of ESPN’s triple-header: At 1 p.m., the Outback Bowl has Louisiana
State (9-3, No. 16) and Iowa (8-4); at 8:30, the Fiesta Bowl has Baylor (No. 6)
and Central Florida (No. 15), each 11-1.

There are two noon bowls – Georgia (No. 22) and Nebraska,
each 8-4, on ESPN2; Las Vegas (7-5) and North Texas (8-4) on ESPNU. At 1 p.m.,
ABC has South Carolina (10-2, No. 9) and Wisconsin (9-3, No. 19).

TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: “Island Hunters,” 1 and 1:30 p.m., HGTV,
and more.

Fresh from its parade coverage, HGTV has shows with varying
titles and a consistent theme – living in sunshine and warmth. In a six-hour
stretch, it visits Belize, Georgian Bay, St. Croix, Hawaii and more.

That pauses for “Living Alaska” at 7 and 7:30 p.m.; at 8,
HGTV introduces its annual “Dream Home” – this one at Lake Tahoe – that one
viewer will win.

Other choices include:

“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts
with McGarrett trying to craft a reunion of his estranged mother (Christine
Lahti) and sister (Taryn Manning).

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. The ABC rerun night starts with
Sue getting a mall job. Meanwhile, Brick’s new principal (Rachel Dratch) has
bad news and Axl hates his college roommates.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the
season-opener, the adults scheme for a kid-free week.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Amy has a tough
time in two holiday reruns. In the first, she needs a costume for undercover
Halloween duty; in the second, she tries to impress the captain with a
Thanksgiving party … only to see him race out on a case.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. Five bodies
have been found at what looks like a meteor site. Finlay (Elisabeth Shue) recognizes
one of them and re-visits her past.   

“The Soup,” 10 p.m., E. This is Joel McHale’s big week.
Tonight, he hosts the second part of the show’s annual look at year’s high and
(especially) low points; on Thursday, he has some funny moments as NBC finally
airs the season-opener of “Community.”

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 31

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve,” 8-10 p.m.,
10-11 p.m., 11:29 p.m. to 2:11 a.m., ABC.

Dick Clark came up with the idea back in 1972: Record a rock
party in advance; then be at Times Square and weave it into one big,
sometimes-live event.

Now, 41 years later, it’s a marathon. The first two hours
views “The 30 Greatest Women in Music,” hosted by Ryan Seacrest, Jenny McCarthy
and Fergie. Then Seacrest and McCarthy take the late Clark’s duties at Times Square,
with Billy Joel performing live in Brooklyn; Fergie hosts the pre-taped party.

That one overflows with stars -- Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus,
Jennifer Hudson, Enrique Iglesias, Daughtry, Florida Georgia Line, Blondie, The
Fray, Fall Out Boy and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: More New Year’s Eve.

For more music, you can switch to NBC (10-11 p.m., 11:30
p.m. to 12:30 a.m.), where Carson Daly is expected to have to “Voice” champions
Cassadee Pope and Tessanne Chin, plus Train. Or to Fox (11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.),
where Mario Lopez has J. Cole, Krewella, New Politics and Panic at the Disco.

And for general commotion, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin
again host on CNN; that’s from 9 p.m. ET to 12:30 a.m.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Walking Dead” marathon, 9 a.m.,

It’s always fun to see in the new year with zombies, so
here’s a 43-hour marathon. It starts at 9 a.m. with a cop emerging from a coma
to find the world overrun by the undead.

And for variety? At 8 p.m., switch to HBO for “Warm Bodies”
(2013), a movie about … well, more zombies.

Other choices include:

Football, all day. Warming up for Wednesday’s bowl marathon,
we get one bowl on CBS – Virginia Tech (8-4) and UCLA (9-3) at 2 p.m. ET – and three
on ESPN. ESPN starts with Arizona and Boston (each 7-5) at 12:30 p.m. ET; it
has Rice (9-3) and Mississippi State (6-6) at 4 p.m. and Duke (10-3) and Texas
A&M (8-4) at 8.

“Finding Nemo,” (2003), 7:15 p.m., Starz. It’s a great night
for watching or recording great Pixar animated films. The Disney Channel has more,
with “Up” (2009) at 8:30 p.m. and “Wall-E” (2008) at 10:15.

The “iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Think of
this rerun as a warm-up for the tonight’s specials. It has big-name acts
(Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars, Tim McGraw), one-name acts
(Ke$ha, Drake, Miguel) and groups (Maroon 5, 30 Seconds to Mars).

“Year End News in Review,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The network waits
to the final moments to sum up 2013.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a Marine’s car accident
triggers Abby’s memory of a “case” she worked on when she was a kid.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Kensi faces some fresh
emotions, when monitoring Deeks’ undercover assignment, which brings him close
to a female source.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 30

MIGHT-SEE: “Hollywood Game Night,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

splendid past of NBC helps prop up a slow TV night. The first rerun includes
two “Friends” stars, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry; the second is stuffed with
past “Saturday Night Live” people – Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen
and Maya Rudolph.

They play
games and Jane Lynch hosts. The first hour adds Kristen Bell, Martin Short,
Alyson Hannigan and Daniel Dae Kim; the second has Sean Hayes (the show’s
producer) and Dax Shepard.

MUST-RECORD: “Breaking Bad,” noon to about 3 a.m., AMC.

For three
days, AMC has been rerunning “Bad” in order; now come the final hours.

That starts
at noon, with Walt and Jesse getting back into the drug business, this time
partnered with Mike the enforcer.
The series finale starts at 2:03 a.m.,
accomplishing a tough goal – satisfying the people who root for Walt and the
ones who want lawbreakers to be punished.

ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 pm., PBS (check local listings).

Six years
into a global health crisis, AIDS remained a death sentence. Then the ACT UP
activists – many of them HIV-positive – took control.

didn’t just protest, this documentary (“How to Survive a Plague”) says; they
became experts in biology, virology and more. They pushed for new tests, new
drugs; they scored a partial victory over a deadly enemy.

choices include:

6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. After 16 season and 158 wins, Mack Brown coaches his final
game for Texas. His team finished 8-4 this year, not good enough by Texas
standards. This is the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, facing Oregon, 10-2; if he
wins, Brown will finish his Texas years with an 11-4 bowl record. ESPN also has
bowls at 11:45 a.m. and at 3:15 and 10:15 p.m. ET.

New Year, Charlie Brown,” 8 p.m., ABC. In an adequate cartoon from 1986,
Charlie totes “War and Peace” to the party. Rounding out the hour is the 1980
“She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown”; Charles Schulz – a seniors-league hockey
player whose daughter was a professional figure skater – created a tale of
Snoopy coaching Peppermint Patty.

Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. This two-night rerun concludes Tuesday,
alongside New Year’s Eve music; think of tonight as Eve eve. It has music by
Katy Perry, Robin Thicke, Keith Urban, Elton John, Muse, Tiesto, J. Cole and
Queen, with Adam Lambert as its lead singer.

School Musical 3” (2008), 8-10 p.m., Disney. Here’s another burst of pop music,
alongside “iHeart.” This one wraps up a trilogy, filled with cute kids and
lively songs

Shiny New Year,” 9 p.m., ABC. Rudolph must find the New Year baby before
midnight. And no, this 1976 tale is not considered a classic.

10 p.m., ABC. This rerun tries “Rear Window” turf. Sidelined by a broken leg,
Castle feels he saw a woman killed in a nearby apartment.