TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Touch debut, 9
p.m., Fox.

A widower (Kiefer Sutherland) tries
desperately to reach his son, who is locked in silence.

Is he autistic? What about the
professor (Danny Glover) who says there is something bigger here?

This pilot film that will move you and
surprise you. Sutherland gets to show all the emotions that were
bottled up during “24”; creator Tim Kring – whose “Heroes”
wavered – gets to finish a story each week. The only problem: We'll
have to wait two months for “Touch” to return in a regular slot.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation, 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week had fierce twists for
Catherine (Marg Helgenberger). An old FBI-agent boyfriend was back;
so was an old friend (Annabeth Gish) with a menacing husband. Then
the friend was apparently kidnapped and killed; Catherine was
attacked by gunmen, barely rescued by her boss (Ted Danson).

Now they're on the run. This hour has
some faults – odd leaps of logic, plus a rather bland way for
Helgenberger to end her 11-plus seasons as a regular. Still, it has a
story that will surprise and grip you.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Royal Pains,”
10 p.m., USA.

Last week's episode left Hank worrying
about the health of a friend (Tom Cavanagh) and fuming about Divya.
Working a second job, she'd stretched herself too far, making a
near-fatal error.

Both problems persist here, alongside
lighter fare. Members of a rock band show similar symptoms; also,
Hank's brother may be panicking about his engagement.

Other choices include:

– “Another Cinderella Story”
(2008) and “A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song” (2011), 7 and 9
p.m., ABC Family. Yes, the same story keeps being adapted, with
sweet-faced young actresses. First, Selena Gomez loses her iPod at a
masked ball; then Lucy Hale finds her song given to her step-sister.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). On Alaska's Admiralty Island, the summertime scenery
is gorgeous, even when the story is disturbing. Global warming has
delayed the annual salmon run by two months. Mother bears scramble to
keep their cubs alive; giant creatures turn gaunt as they wait.

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
These auditions are trimmed to an hour, to make room for “Touch.”

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. A
night of ABC reruns starts with Frankie and Sue in the same play.
Also, Brick asks his odd uncle (Norm Macdonald) to visit on “special
friends day.”

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In this funny episode, Tessa passes her driving test (easily), Dalia
flunks hers (thoroughly) … and Tessa becomes Dalia's driver.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a late change, ABC inserts the episode that has the family helping
– ineptly, at times – when a neighborhood home burns down.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. Previous episodes introduced Joe Jonas and Jennifer Love Hewitt
as the son of Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) and th daughter of
Victoria (Wendi Malick). Now they're back, with a surprise
announcement.

– “Mistresses,” 10 p.m., BBC
America. Visiting her childhood home, Dr. Katie Roden learns a dark
secret about her roots.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S SHOULD-SEE: State of the
Union address, 9 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, plus cable news
channels.

This is a big night – especially
during an election year. Adding in the analysis and Republican
response, most networks will continue until 10:30 p.m., NBC to 11;
news channels will go on and on.

That also brings a scheduling scramble,
as cable channels try to grab viewers who aren't into speeches.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory, 10:30 p.m., CBS.

After the newcasts end, two networks
plug in comedy reruns. ABC has its Halloween episode of “Happy
Endings”; CBS has an especially funny “Big Bang.”

The college president (Joshua Malena of
“Big Bang Theory”) has a request: Leonard (Johnny Galecki, 36)
should have sex with a donor (Jessica Walter, 70). It's another fine
moment for Walter, who also has the “Archer” cartoon and the
upcoming “Arrested Development” revival.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Justified,”
10 p.m., FX.

For decades, people have taken the
brilliant characters from Elmore Leonard books and put them on film.
A prime example was Karen Sisco – played by Jennifer Lopez in a
movie, Carla Gugino on TV.

Now Gugino guests here, as someone who
may or may not be Sisco. (The last name has changed, so that's left
vague.) Despite one flaw – an obsession with torture – it's
another great episode.

Other choices include:

 

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
In a very late switch, Fox is swapping reruns – “Idol” filling
in for “Glee.” This is the “Idol” hour that aired Sunday;
some people may have missed it then because it started a full hour
later than scheduled, due to a football overrun.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, Lily Tomlin plays McGee's grandmother, linked to a murder.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC. Both reruns partly focus on Mike's teen daughter Mandy. In
the first, her video takes revenge on s boyfriend; in the second, she
fights to save a barber shop. Also in the first one, Mike has much in
common with his lesbian neighbor.

– “The Biggest Loser,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Trimmed to an hour, this has a battering-ram challenge, with the
losers banned from using the gym that week.

– “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows
Best” season-opener, 9 p.m., WE; reruns at 10. In the first season
(rerunning from 1-9 p.m.), Joan moved in with her daughter, promptly
trying to change the furniture and the too-sexy nanny. Now the
nanny's gone and Joan is planning more plastic surgery; Melissa tries
an intervention – only to have Joan buy touch-ups for everyone. The
result is a fairly enjoyable hour.

– “Jane By Design,” 9 p.m., ABC
Family. Jane's fashion-design employers still don't know she's a high
school student. Today, she has a chance to impress a top editor.

– “Hidden City,” 9 p.m., Travel
Channel. Tonight, this excellent show takes crime writer Marcus Sakey
to the Florida Keys, where he finds true tales from three centuries –
the 18th (Black Caesar, a thriving pirate), 19th
(Edgar Watson, a notorious pioneer) and 20th (an arrest of
29 drug smugglers).

– White Collar, 10 p.m., USA.
Scholarship money may be missing from an upscale prep school To help
the investigation, Neal poses as a substitute teacher.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

When a popular dog trainer is killed,
suspicions turn to Kay Cappuccio.

Played by Hilarie Burton of “One Tree
Hill,” she's a reality star who's famous, despite having no
discernible skill or talent. We're sure this is just a coincidence,
but “Castle” happens to be going against a marathon (1-7 p.m.,
8-11 p.m.) of reruns focusing on Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Lost Girl,”
10 p.m., Syfy.

Growing up alone and angry, Bo knew she
didn't fit in. In last week's opener, she learned why.

She's part of the Fae world, a succubus
who draws life force (sometimes fatally) from others. Now she lives
with a young thief, works with a cop and scrambles for answers.

This Canadian series smartly blends
fantasy action with bursts of humor – especially tonight. She meets
a sprite named Will-o'-the-Wisp – who happens to be overweight,
bitter and prone to starting fires.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Masters,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Opposite forces flowed through Phil
Ochs. He was passionate, idealistic, willing to sing anywhere, for
any cause he believed in. He was also ambitious, convinced that he
was the best.

He was a jokester who organized Yippie
parties and once did a “Greatest Hits” album of new songs, posing
on the cover in a golden Elvis-style jacket. He was also depressed
and suicidal.

Oddly, this hour makes effort to say
where this started. It plops him in the New York folk scene, fully
formed. It tells only half a story, but that half is fascinating.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Ben Flajnik takes the women to Park City, Utah, for climbing,
kayaking, fishing and a concert by country's Clay Walker. Then he
trims the field from 13 to 11.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Married
couples gets the focus tonight. One patient insists he has a chaste
marriage; another has violence and hints of deep marital conflict.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Launching a night of reruns for CBS, Marshall lands his
dream job – except he's worried that the background search will
uncover his old videos.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. The women take an apartment-cleaning job. They soon find
themselves in a hoarder's apartment, with funny results.

– Two and a Half Men, 9 p.m., CBS.
Alan obsesses on reading his late brother's diary.

– “Alcatraz,” 9 p.m., Fox. In
last week's compelling opener, a cop (Sarah Jones) linked with a
professor (Jorge Garcia), facing a crisis: Prisoners disappeared from
Alcatraz 50 years ago; now they're back, seeming no older or tamer.
Tonight's target is a child-killer.

– “Being Human.” 9 p.m., Syfy.
Change is never easy, you know. It's wrenching for Nora, who has just
become a werewolf … for Josh, who accidentally caused the
transformation … for Sally, who finally meets other ghosts … and
for Aidan, compelled to help his long-ago lover rule the vampires.
There are moments of humor, alongside wrenching pain..

--”Mike & Molly,” 9:31 p.m.,
CBS. After years in his bachelor pad, Mike moves in with Molly.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American Idol,”
about 10 p.m. ET, Fox.

In two weeks, “The Voice” will get
a big launch: Its season-opener follows the Super Bowl; its second
episode is the next night.

First, “Idol” gets a similar
football boost. When the NFC championship game ends – sending the
49ers or Giants to the Super Bowl – Fox will air “Idol”; it's
the third night (and fourth hour) of auditions.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “A Cinderella
Story: Once Upon a Song,” 8 and 10, ABC Family.

Avoided for decades, musical drama is
suddenly soaring on TV. There's “Glee” on Fox and the wonderful
“Smash” coming to NBC. The Disney Channel has gone from “High
School Musical” to (coming this summer) “Let It Shine.” And now
ABC Family, owned by Disney, has its turn.

The story has an evil stepmother and an
overworked beauty (Lucy Hale). She's a singer-songwriter whose evil
stepsister gets the credit and (at first) the guy. There's even a
“Cyrano” scene – just as there is in “Let It Shine.”
Originality may be scarce, but in the sampling we've seen, the
results are good.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Secrets of
the Manor House” and “Masterpiece Classic,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Alongside its soapy twists and richly
etched characters, “Downton Abbey” has drawn raves for its lush
views of an English manor. Now a documentary offers details about the
look and feel of such places.

That's followed by “Downton,” which
finds Matthew (heir-apparent to the estate) in World War I, with
William (the second footman) as his aide. Back home, Matthew's mom
clashes with Cora about managing the convalescence of soldiers.
Ethel, a housemaid, is way too friendly with one patient.

Other choices include:

– Football, 3 p.m. ET, CBS and 6:30
p.m., Fox. The New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens; then
the San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants. The winners reach
the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In both worlds, life is complicated for Snow White and Prince
Charming (Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas). In the fairy-tale land,
he's about to marry King Midas' daughter; in our world, their
equivalents (Mary Margaret and David) are stymied by his marriage.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Bree spirals deeper into alcoholism and lust. Meanwhile, Lynette
tries her first date since splitting with Tom; Susan is confronted by
Alejandro's wife.

– “Prime Suspect,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
NBC. Already canceled, this solid cop show still has some new
episodes. Jane (Maria Bello) probes a upper-scale murder and then a
hit man who's behind bars.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Alicia defends a Jewish student accused of killing a
Jewish classmate.

– “Majors & Minors,” 10 p.m.,
The Hub. While grown-ups are starting the “Idol” and “Voice”
seasons, this cable show is wrapping up. The teen singing contest has
its two-part finale today and next week.

– “Pan Am,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Now
that Dean and Colette have split, they have opposite fates. He's
accosted by customs officials; she's shown around Rome by a handsome
stranger,

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Over the Hedge”
(2006), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Raccoons like to steal food, something
they're quite good at. Alas, this one (voice by Bruce Willis) steals
from a bear who gives him one day to replace everything.

Now he must trick the other creatures
into helping him raid suburbia for food. The result is a first-rate
animated comedy, offering family fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Two talented guest stars collided in
this rerun.

Sofia Vassilieva was 11 when she did
the two “Eloise” TV movies, then played Ariel in “Medium.”
Here, she plays a music student who's been raped at gunpoint.

Andre Braugher was sensational in his
Emmy-winning work as a “Homicide” cop. Now he's working the other
side, as a high-priced defense attorney.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “JB Smoove:
That's How I Dooz It,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

If a comedian is too popular, it can be
bad news. Laughs come too easily; clever bits aren't required.

At first, Smoove – a co-star of “Curb
Your Enthusiasm,” “'Til Death” and the upcoming “Bent” –
gets laughs just by dancing around the stage. He doesn't feel
obligated to start a comedy bit until after the first commercial
break.

That bit – about cops weighted down
by equipment – is clever. Still, the overall hour is mixed, at
best.

Other choices include:

– Saving Private Ryan (1997), 7-10:35
p.m., TNT. Long before his current gem (“War Horse”) set in World
War I, Steven Spielberg made this masterpiece about World War II. Tom
Hanks leads a mission to retrieve a soldier (Matt Damon) whose
brothers were killed..

– “Prison Wives,” 7 p.m. to 3
a.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. In a change, OWN has an eight-hour rerun
marathon of this reality show.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A Navy intelligence officer was responsible for tracking a
Venezuelan official. Now the officer is missing and there are fears
of an assassination attempt.

– “Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC. Not
all of the firm's clients are sympathetic. In this rerun, it's a
cyberbully who revealed that someone was a lesbian, leading to a
suicide.

– “The Firm,” 9 p.m., NBC. Mitch
defends a psychiatrist who's been charged with killing the former
patient who was stalking her.

– “Terra Nova,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
reruns the last episode of the season – and maybe the last one
ever. (Fox is still deciding whether to return the expensive
Spielberg production for a second year.) Amid a battle with the
Phoenix group, life at the colony is changed.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun of the season-opener, Beckett is hovering near death and Castle
is trying to find who shot her. Back at the station, there's a new,
iron-willed commander; she's played by Penny Johnson Jerald, who has
been the First Lady on “24” and Condoleezza Rice in two 9/11
films.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Emma Stone hosts this rerun, with music by Coldplay.