TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 1


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Next week, all the
Tuesday shows will be swept aside, replaced by election coverage. So
we might as well savor them tonight, starting with this
ratings-leader.

Tonight's focus is
on a newcomer and an old-timer. Wilmer Valderrama, 36, is in his
fifth series-regular role since “That '70s Show” ended; he plays
Nick Torres, who breaks protocol when learning that a witness is
wanted by immigration agents. And Robert Wagner, 86, returns as Tony
DiNozzo's dad. He's the landlord for Tony's apartment, which Abby,
Elly and McGee are trying to sublet.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “This is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

In last week's
episode – one of TV's best hours this season – Kate stumbled into
a job with her boyfriend's ex-wife. He fumed and she promised not to
work there; now she's up for another job.

Meanwhile, her
brother Kevin finds himself in a changing relationship. And their
adoptive brother Randall? In a flashback, we see his parents'
indecision when he tests as a gifted child. And in the present, he
starts to doubt his career choice, despite his big-money success.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “America Divided: The Rise of the Trump Nation,” 9
p.m. ET. AXS.

Dan Rather has
covered a dozen presidential races, many of them polite and proper.
Now, at 85, he asks how we ended up with a race “so low and absurd
and unworthy of us.”

Skipping any easy
answers, Rather talks to Donald Trump backers, authors and a scholar.
And he returns to Houston, where his old neighborhood (once all-white
and low-income) has become Latino and prospering. The result is a
richly detailed hour, a week before the election.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Atlanta,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:12 p.m.
and 2:19 a.m.

We all know the
feeling: We wake up one morning (well, one noon) kind of blurry;
something is missing. For Earn (Donald Glover, the show's creator),
that brings an odyssey to find his jacket.

We won't learn until
the final minute why that's important. First, he stumbles through
misadventures. It's a good finish to a season that has left some
people raving and some, perhaps, perplexed.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox, with preview at 7:30. The World Series moves back to Cleveland,
where the Indians – leading the Cubs three games to two – are a
game away from giving the city its second sports championship this
year.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. The show pauses to look at what's happened so far, leading
to the top-20.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Sue doesn't have much experience at ending a relationship;
she turns to Axl for advice. Meanwhile, their brother Brick tries to
fit into the whole high-school-spirit thing.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 p.m., ABC. It's 1996 and the restaurant is an election
polling place. Also, Jessica reports that a worker may be
undocumented ... and finds a surprise about her own status.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Pat is starting to realize he should
probably move out. After all, the marriage has ended and Vice
Principal Murray has been hanging around with Eileen a lot. As the
kids realize how unhappy their parents were, they decide to have an
upbeat “divorce ceremony.”

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A Navy SEAL candidate – working with an
unorthodox instructor -- has been killed. Also, Dr. Wade frets when
her adopted son Danny wants to enlist.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“People of Earth” debut, 9 and 9:27 p.m., TBS.

Ozzie is an ordinary
reporter – or, at least, thinks he is – with an extraordinary
assignment: Go to a small town, where an alien-abductee support group
meets at Our Lady of Sorrows church.

He soon finds
oddness in everyone, including himself. A terrific cast – led by
Wyatt Cernac (“The Daily Show”), Anna Gasteyer and Oscar Nunez –
captures the droll humor. Some of the biggest laughs come from
surprising detours – especially the squabbling aliens and two
mismatched sketch artists.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Man With a Plan,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In the TV tradition,
Adam (Matt LeBlanc) has tickets everyone wants. Soon, he's lying
ineptly.

That much is kind of
fun; back when he was on “Friends,” LeBlanc played the bad liar
hilariously. The difference is that “Plan” tries to stretch this
into an entire episode, getting tangled in excess. We soon long for
the days of LeBlanc's “Friends” or “Episodes.” We wish TV had
something that clever to turn to now ... which it does, thanks to
cable and “People on Earth.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week ended with
the possibility that Jane might really, actually become a non-virgin
some day. Her husband, recovering from a gunshot, received good
medical news; they rushed home.

Naturally, there are
complications there. Her mother may abandon her singing career. Her
dad, already a Spanish-language TV star, is trying to sell a
telenovela to the CW. And Jane wants to expand her college thesis, to
include her grandmother's estranged sister; the grandmother is not
pleased.

Other choices
include:

Halloween films,
cable. If kids finish trick-or-treating early, they might want
something to watch while munching. At 7 p.m., Cartoon has “Lego
Scooby-Doo: Haunted Halloween” (2016) and Freeform has “Addams
Family Values” (1993). At 8 and 10 p.m., FX has “Hotel
Transylvania” (2012). And grown-ups? At 8 p.m., there's “The
Craft” (1996) on Pop and “The Ring” (2007) on WGN America.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The “knockout rounds” conclude, giving us the
top 20 for the live shows. On Tuesday, there will be a recap of
what's happened so far.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. With Maureen McCormick's elimination last
week, seven celebrities remain. That includes all four athletes, plus
Marilu Henner, Jana Kramer and Terra Jole.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. It does seem kind of logical to watch a show about Lucifer
on Halloween. Tonioght, he clashes with Chloe and she chooses a
different partner for her police work. Also, Maze (a demon in
disguise) takes Chloe's daughter trick-or-treating.

“All Access
Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. On Wednesday, ABC will have the 50th
Country Music Association awards. In this special, Robin Roberts
looks at the history and also talks with current stars, including
Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett.

“Timeless,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. It's time to visit the Alamo; don't bet on the
Texans.

ALSO: This is a good
time to catch British shows via streaming. Today, one service
(www.acorn.tv) debuts “Brief
Encounters,” an interesting-but-cliched drama/comedy about women
selling lingerie and sex toys in 1982; another (Neflix) debuts the
comedy “Chewing Gum.” A third (www.amazon.com)
recently added “Love & Friendship,” Whit Stillman's breezy
delight, adapting a Jane Austen novella.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC; “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.

On Halloween-eve,
one rugged show has barely started its season and another is
concluding. Last week's “Dead” drew 17 million viewers (almost
topping football to reach No. 1), some of them appalled by a brutal
scene. That episode reruns at 7:55 p.m. today, leading into the new
one at 9 (rerunning at 12:40 a.m.): Reaching an established haven from
zombies, the group is instantly skeptical.

Then “Strain”
ends its season, with Eph trying a device that could control the
creatures. It may be too late: Police have fled, the city is falling,
the Master reveals himself for a winner-takes-all battle.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Quantico,” 10 p.m., ABC.

“It's getting
harder to pretend,” Alex says. “I don't know what lie I just
told.” Hey, it's even harder on us, as the show juggles schemes and
deceptions in two time frames.

In one, Alex is on
the run from terrorists. In the other (a year earlier), she and Ryan
face an intense trainer (Blair Underwood) and a colleague who's an
English enigma. Some of this is way too thick; still, some moments in
the second half of this hour – clever plot twists one moment, a
wonderfully human moment from Leigh the next – make this tangled
jungle worth tackling.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

At first, the goal
was just to survive. Louisa (Keeley Hawes), a widow, moved to a Greek
island in 1933, with her four eccentric kids. Money was short, jobs
were scarce, things were falling apart.

But in this third of
six terrific episodes, the focus moves to love or friendship. One son
falls out of a romance and into jail; another finds friendship with a
mysterious stranger. Louisa is charmed by a Scandinavian man ... but
not his accordion. And she meets a rich woman, played by Leslie
Caron, 85.

Other choices
include:

Halloween comedies,
cable. Hey, this holiday isn't all zombies and such. The “Addams
Family” films (1991 and 1993) are 3:15 and 5:20 p.m. on Freeform.
And “Young Frankenstein” (1974) – Mel Brooks' brilliant,
black-and-white spoof – is 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

More movies, cable.
“Psycho” (1960), Alfred Hitchcock's black-and-white classic, is 7
p.m. ET on BBC America, And the original, splendid “Star Wars”
(1977) is 8:05 p.m. on TBS, surrounded by its “Revenge of the Sith”
(2005) prequel, at 5 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.

Sports collision, 8
p.m. ET, Fox; and 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. The fifth World Series game –
Indians and Cubs, at Wrigley Field – clashes with a match-up of
suprising football teams: The Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) visit the
Dallas Cowboys (5-1).

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. There's trouble for Hook in the past (kidnapped
by Captain Nemo) and the present, where the Evil Queen sows suspicion
between him and Henry. Also, there are efforts to help Agrabah and to
rescue Archie from Zelena,

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. This has been a blur for Eric. He learns more
secrets about his slain wife; he also learns that Danny is actually a
detective. Soon, he's suspecting everyone.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. After a bombing, Elizabeth is criticized for ignoring
the Angolan election. Meanwhile, her husband is closer to finding
stolen antiquities.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In the 100th episode of this dependable show, a
murder case points to the field of asteroid research. And when the
unit gets a commendation, the captain pushes to include his star
consultants, Holmes and Watson.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 29


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

Donald Trump has
already declared “SNL” to be a “boring, unfunny show”; now we
can re-visit the core of his non-amusement: This is a rerun of the
season-opener, with some harsh moments.

Alec Baldwin took
over as Trump in an opening debate. The episode also had the Trump
kids in “Family Feud” and introduced “Melania's Moment,” with
Cecily Strong. Audiences have apparently approved; last week's
episode topped many primetime shows in ratings and was 50-percent
shows a year ago. Margot Robbie hosts this rerun and has a funny bit
as an ordinary guy's gorgeous wife.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: World Series, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30.

Sure, college
football is big on Saturdays. Tonight, Nebraska (ranked No. 7) visits
Wisconsin (No. 11) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN; Clemson (No. 3) visits
Florida State (No. 12) at 8 p.m. on ABC.

But this time,
baseball offers a worthy alternative. Tonight is scheduled to be only
the second World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years; the
Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians, in the fourth game of the
best-of-seven series.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 4:30, 7
p.m., VH1.

On Friday, PBS
showed Bill Murray winning the annual Mark Twain Prize for comedy.
Now we can savor two of his examples, each perfect for families to
catch on the weekend before Halloween.

Dan Aykroyd, Harold
Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Murray play guys trying iffy devices to save
ordinary folks (starting with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) from
increasingly imposing spectres. Like this year's remake, these films
offer a sly mixture of small verbal humor and big sight gags.

Other choices
include:

“The Blob”
(1958), 10:30 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This low-budget film
has endured, partly because it's in color and stars Steve McQueen. It
leads a day of micro-films, some well-regarded (“Village of the
Damned,” 1961, 3:15 p.m.) and some not (“Earth vs. The Flying
Saucers,” 1958, 6:30).

“Addams Family”
(1991) and “Addams Family Values” (1993), 5:15 and 7:30 p.m.,
Freeform. Here's some more mildly spooky fun on Halloween weekend.
The films repeat at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Zombieland”
(2009), Syfy, or “Halloween” (1978), AMC; both 7 p.m. Now the
messier stuff begins. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg fight
zombies; also, Jamie Lee Curtis eludes a slasher, in a film with a
tiny budget and strong craftsmanship. She's also in “Halloween II”
(1981), at 9 p.m.

“Pure Genius,” 8
p.m., CBS. Here's a second chance to see Thursday's pilot film, with
a tech billionaire setting up a hospital filled with top equipment.
The machines are interesting; the people aren't.

“How We Fight,”
8 p.m., Fox News Channel. Bret Baier leads a look at military policy
over the past eight years. He includes the currtent Defense Secretary
(Ash Carter), two previous ones (Robert Gates and Leon Panetta), plus
generals David Petraeus, John Kelly, Carter Ham and more.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. This reruns an episode from last March, the first of
Shemar Moore's final three episodes. Morgan (Moore) has been
kidnapped and others scramble to find him; Thomas Gibson, who was
dropped at the end of the season, co-stars and directed the episode.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. We re-meet singers Debbie
Gibson and Jennifer Holliday and talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Bill Murray has
always taken show-business on his own terms. He refuses to have an
agent, keeps ignoring offers ... yet has done David Letterman's show
44 times, including the first and last CBS ones.

Letterman and others
spoke, as Murray became the 19th winner of the annual
award for American comedy. They praised him and mocked his reclusive
nature. “You and I are as close as two people can be, considering
that one of them is you,” Steve Martin said. The two-plus-hour
ceremony Sunday (being trimmed to 90 minutes) also had Aziz Ansari,
Jimmy Kimmel, Dan Aykroyd and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox; preview at 7:30.

One person who will
NOT be watching tonight's Bill Murray special is Bill Murray.
Throughout his life, he's been a passionate fan of his home-town
Chicago Cubs. He's gone to the games, talked them up, led the singing
of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Now, at last, the Cubs are in
the World Series.

Tonight – game
three in the best-of-seven series with the Cleveland Indians -- is
the first time in Murray's 66 years that there has been a Series game
at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks, the Major League leader in earned
run average (2.13), starts for the Cubs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW.

Here's an abrupt –
and much-needed – pivot. Yes, Rachel Bloom has been terrific at the
star and co-writer, while also doing big musical numbers. But the
flightiness of her character is wearing thin.

Tonight has no songs
for Bloom – but one for each of her talented co-stars. Vincent
Rodriguez III (who plays Josh) has done two Broadway musicals; he
blasts a rock song about a sexy ping-pong player. Santino Fontana
(Greg) has done four and drew a Tony nomination. Donna Lynn Champlin
(Paula) has also done four; she beautifully trills the fond wish:
“Maybe this dream won't poop in my face.”

Other choices
include:

“Friday the 13th”
(1980), 6 p.m., AMC. The pre-Halloween weekend starts with this so-so
film and its sequels, at 8 p.m. (1981) and 9:59 (1982). There are
other scare tales, including “Lost Boys” (1987) at 8 p.m. on VH1
and a peek at long-ago horror, with “Dracula” (1931) and “The
Mummy” (1932), at 8 and 9:30 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Battling an enemy who killed his mentor, MacGyver must
disable a bomb near the United Nations building. Naturally, his only
tools are a rope and a wrench.

Charlie Brown films,
8 p.m., ABC. Two creepy notions – Halloween and elections –
combine. There's the 1966 “It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
and the 1972 “You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.”

Also, families can
catch the animated “Hotel Transylvania” (2012), at 8 and 10 p.m.
on FX.

“Vampire Diaries,”
8 p.m., CW. Here's a show that treats every week like Halloween.
Tonight, Stefan, Bonnie and Caroline race back to North Carolina, to
save the latest target of Enzo and Damon.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. On Halloween, Kono and Adam are kidnapped yet again.
Also, the team investigates a crooked medium who may have literally
been scared to death.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner. ponders a
whistleblower's claims of corruption in his department. Also, Frank's
son (Donnie Wahlberg) probes a case in which a car struck a woman
under suspicious circumstances.

“Wolf Creek,” 10
p.m., Pop. Eve, a vengeful teen-ager, stalks Mick in the Outback. To
see why, catch the first two episodes, at 8 and 9 p.m.