TV column for Sunday, Jan. 1


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Football, all day.

Many of us are used to stumbling up on
New Year's Day and staring at a parade and the bowl games.

Not this time. When Jan. 1 is on a
Sunday, all of that gets nudged back to the next day; this is NFL
day.

That means a triple-header – 1 p.m.,
4:15 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. ET. The play-offs won't be settled until that
final game, with the Giants hosting the Cowboys on NBC. The winner is
a division champion; the loser is done for the season.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Once Upon a
Time,” 7-11 p.m., ABC.

With a late start and a lot of holiday
breaks, this terrific newcomer has only shown seven episodes so far.
Now you can catch over half of them in one night.

Most of these reruns focus heavily on
Snow White and Prince Charming. In the 7 p.m. show, we see them meet,
when she was a clever thief and he was … well, a charming prince;
we also see their equivalents in our world, Mary Margaret and an
amnesiac. They don't know their fairy-tale pasts.

At 9 p.m., he faces tough decisions. At
10, the Evil Queen seeks an assassin to stop Snow.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Oprah's Next
Chapter,” 9-11 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

Exactly a year ago, OWN was launched
with strong interest and weak ratings. This show is the key piece in
its new phase.

Instead of doing a daily show, Winfrey
will travel the country (and beyond) to meet interesting people. That
starts here with Steven Tyler, who has managed to be a rock-band
frontman for four decades, finding fresh popularity at age 63 via
“American Idol.”

Other choices include:

– “Great Performances,” 2:30-4
p.m. and 7:30-9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This has become a
New Year's Day tradition for PBS. The Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna
Boys Choir perform the music of Johann Strauss, his family and his
contemporaries; Julie Andrews hosts from scenic Vienna sights.

– “Unforgettable,” 8 p.m., CBS.
After a fairly good start in the ratings, this show gives latecomers
a chance to catch up. Two days before new episodes begin, it reruns
the pilot: Carrie (Poppy Montgomery) has a syndrome that exists for a
tiny number of real-life people, causing them to remember every
detail. A murder case in her neighborhood draws her back into police
work.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Here's a rerun of the funny season-opener. Kiefer Sutherland plays a
shadowy security guard who seems a lot like his old “24”
character.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The “Downton Abbey” finale is
beautifully crafted, but leaves way too many plot threads open. This
rerun will frustrate you, but not for long: Next Sunday, the sequel
begins and the missing pieces will start to emerge.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In three previous episodes, we saw a romance form between political
opposites – Diane Lockhart and Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole), a
right-wing ballistics expert. Now she defends him against a law suit.
Other guest stars in this rerun are America Ferrera and Jerry
Stiller.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun of the season-opener, serial killer Jack Toller has escaped
and Natalie faces death, unless Horatio can save her.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “New Year's
Rockin' Eve,” 8-11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to 2:13 a.m., ABC.

There are plenty of Eve celebrations,
but we'll start with this because it's the oldest and the longest.
For its 40th anniversary, Dick Clark's celebration bloats
to almost six hours.

This year's live portions include Clark
and Ryan Seacrest, with music by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Pitbull
and Hot Chelle Rae. A taped party is hosted by Fergie and Jenny
McCarthy, with music by Florence and the Machine, Taio Cruz, Nicki
Minaj, Robin Thicke, will.i.am, Christina Perri, blink-182, the Band
Perry, OneRepublic, LMFAO and Working Class Heroes. Also, Beyonce
performs in London.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Live From
Lincoln Center, 8-10 p.m., PBS.

Here's another New Year's Eve tradition
– a live concert by the New York Philharmonic. And don't worry,
this won't be overwhelmingly classical.

Two of the numbers are from Leonard
Bernstein's Broadway scores – the overture to “Candide” and
“Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story.” The other two are
from George Gershwin – “Concerto in F” and the famed “Rhapsody
in Blue”; for both, French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaulet will solo.

TONIGHTS ALTERNATIVE: “The Bourne
Ultimatum” (2007), 8:30-11 p.m., CBS.

This all started in 2002 with an
amnesiac rescued. People wanted to kill him, but he wasn't sure why.

Now this trilogy wraps up neatly. Paul
Greengrass, who also directed the second film, gives it a crisp
energy. “Ultimatum: has intelligence – it's adapted from a Robert
Ludlum novel – and a strong cast, including Matt Damon, Julia
Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney.

Other choices include:

– “Terra Nova,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.
In the first rerun, Taylor is a suspect in an old murder case; he
also braces for a possible attack. In the second, he meets in the
jungle with Mira, the rebel leader.

– “New Year's Eve With Carson
Daly,” 10-11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., NBC. Alongside the
music – Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, Drake, Tony Bennett and Jessy
J – will be stops by Brian Williams, Bob Costas and Jimmy Fallon
with his show's band, The Roots.

– More music, PBS (check local
listings). Many stations will rerun Hugh Laurie's superb New Orleans
blues special at 10 p.m., followed by a new “Austin City Limits”
special with Coldplay at 11.

– “American Country New Year's
Eve,” 11 p.m., Fox. The music from Las Vegas includes Toby Keith,
Rodney Atkins, Joe Nichols, the Eli Young Band and “American Idol”
runner-up Lauren Alaina.

– “NYE in NYC,” 11 p.m., MTV,
repeating at 12:05 a.m. Demi Lovato co-hosts and Selena Gomez –
whom she's known since their “Barney and Friends” days in Texas –
will sing. Other performers include Jason Derulo, J. Cole and Mac
Miller.

– “New Year's Eve Live,” 11 p.m.
to 1 a.m., CNN. Coverage jumps to Florida, Nashville and more. In New
York, it will be in Central Park and – with Anderson Cooper and
Kathy Griffin – Times Square.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 12:30-2
a.m., NBC. An hour later than usual, this rerun has Jason Segel
hosting, with music by Florence and the Machine.

 

TV column for Friday, Dec. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Chuck,” 8
p.m., NBC.

This thoroughly entertaining series is
just four weeks from its finale. It's time to learn more about Sarah
(Yvonne Strahovski), the gorgeous spy who married Chuck.

Tonight, her former handler (Tim DeKay
of “White Collar”) returns. Sarah fears he could hurt people
close to her, including her mother (Cheryl Ladd).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Chronicles
of Narnia (2006), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

C.S. Lewis wasn't expected to write
about children; a bachelor until he was 58, he spent his time in
Oxford academia. During World War II, however, three girls moved into
his manor, to escape the London bombing; he soon began writing “The
Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

This movie version uses that as a
backdrop: During the war, kids move into the somber home of a quiet
professor. Rhey find a portal to a world where animals talk and the
White Witch (Tilda Swinton) has made it snow for a century. The
result is long and episodic, but it's well-crafted.

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

Pop songs used to be an assembly-line
production. They were written by talented unknowns, performed by
pretty people with (sometimes) modest talent.

Then came the era of the
singer-songwriter. This terrific rerun focuses on two of them –
Carole King (formerly one of those anonymous writers) and James
Taylor – as they prepare for a return to Troubadour, a West
Hollywood club. It includes many of the others who emerged then,
including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Elton John and
Kris Kristofferson.

Other choices include:

– “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 6 p.m.,
and “Grease” (1978), 8:30, ABC Family. It's a double dip of teen
nostalgia, with music and dance. The first is a serious tale of a
life-changing summer; Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze star. The
second has John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in pleasant fluff.

– “A Gifted Man,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Starting a rerun night on CBS, Michael has a patient who hears
voices; he reluctantly turns to Anton's alternative approach. Also,
Kate has a rocky start as clinic director.

– “Tootsie” (1982), 8-10 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies. As his career wobbles, an actor (Dustin
Hoffman) disguises and auditions for an actress role. The script is
witty, Hoffman is perfect and there's great support from everyone;
Jessica Lange won a supporting Oscar as the beauty he secretly lusts
for.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. For
years, Walter has been confined to his lab. Now he reluctantly heads
to New York with Olivia, to examine the Massive Dynamics files.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. Someone
dressed as a clown shoots a bakery owner.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Retaliation threats build, after a Russian gangster has been killed
at his engagement party. Now Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) tries to quickly
learn how this Mob works.

– “The Increasingly Poor Decisions
of Todd Margaret,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., Independent Film Channel.
This wonderfully offbeat series starts its second season next Friday.
First, catch the final pieces of the first year, as Todd
(writer-producer-star David Cross) botches his London ventures.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

In a change, CBS is replacing one funny
rerun (Leonard beds a rich, old patron) with another one.

This is the second episode of last
season, pushing Sheldon to the extreme. Wary of germs, he puts his
consciousness inside a robotic TV image. The result is way too goofy,
but – in its own way – quite fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Gnomeo &
Juliet” (2011), 8 p.m., Starz; “Bolt” (2008), 8:30, Disney.

Beyond all the giant Pixar and
Dreamworks films, other animated movies offer fun.

“Gnomeo” shows us what “Romeo and
Juliet” might have been like, if William Shakespear had chosen to
focus on lawn gnomes. “Bolt” gives us a sort of existential epic.

A dog thinks his TV-show heroics are
real. Then he breaks free and expects everything to come easily to
him. It's a fairly funny concept, boosted wonderfully by a hamster
encased in a ball.

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

As the “colorization” controversy
grew, Congress realized movies ar historic treasures. The National
Film Registry began in 1988, adding 25 films a year; this documentary
offers a joy ride through them.

There are the towering classics –
from “Casablanca” to “ET.” There are also quirky little
shards, from “Let's All Go to the Lobby” to “Gus Visser and
His Singing Duck” – a two-minute talkie from 1925.

There are some wrong-headed films.
“Birth of a Nation” celebrated the Ku Klux Klan; “The House in
the Middle” explained that a well-maintained and painted house
would better survive a nuclear blast.

Still, “Birth” offers rich
craftsmanship. Settle back and savor and what movies have become.

Other choices include:

– “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown”
and “She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Here are cartoons from 1980 and '86. The second one reflects the
winter-sports passion of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz; a
Minnesota skating buff, he owned an arena and played seniors hockey.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. The
musical episode, a “Glee” parody, reruns. Ther are fine music
moments from Danny Pudi, Donald Glover and – satirizing his
generation – Chevy Chase.

– “A Princess For Christmas,”
8-10 p.m., Hallmark. You really didn't expect Christmas movies to end
after Christmas, did you? At 8, AMC has “Polar Express” (2004)
and Hallmark has “Princess.” Both offer lame stories and pretty
settings. For “Princess,” the heavy-handed plot is telegraphed
and Roger Moore, 84, is stiff and monotone. Still, it's all fairly
pretty and pleasant.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 and 10
p.m., ABC. Both reruns have familiar patients. The first has the late
George O'Malley's mother (Debra Monk); the second has Teddy's husband
(Scott Foley).

– “The Office,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
NBC. In the first rerun, Dwight hosts a party at the family farm; in
the second, the warehouse workers win the lottery.

– “Whitney,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. This
rerun has Whitney scheming to skip her parents during Christmas
vacation. She ends up with both of them (Peter Gallagher, Jane
Kaczmarek) and some funny surprises.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
After Lisbon is injured, Hightower (Aunjanue Ellis) must do some
field work. She and Patrick Jane probe the death of a prosecutor.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “New Girl,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Some good shows take their time
catching on. Not “New Girl”; from the first episode – the first
scene, actually – it's been bright, funny and thoroughly likable.
Now Fox reruns the first two episodes.

That starts with Jess (the delightful
Zooey Deschanel) in post-breakup collapse; guys add her as their
roommate, then are caught in her web of despair. In the second
episode, they help her retrieve her stuff. Also, another roommate
(Damon Wayans Jr.) is gone and a new one (Lamorne Morris) arrives.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Happy Endings,”
9:31 p.m., ABC.

This show is the reason Wayans had to
leave “New Girl” after one episode. “New Girl” had put him in
the pilot, assuming that “Endings” would be canceled. It wasn't;
now he's back there, playing Brad.

In tonight's rerun, his wife (Eliza
Coupe) urges everyone to make “vision boards.” Also, Brad has
trouble pleasing his humorless boss – played by Larry Wilmore, the
terrific producer-writer-actor and “chief black correspondent”
for “The Daily Show.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Funny People”
(2009, USA) and “Green Hornet” (2011, Starz), 8 p.m.

Yes, Seth Rogen is everywhere. In both
films, he's a co-writer, an executive producer and a star.

“Green Hornet” is his crack at
being an action-adventure hero, reworking a favorite comic-book
character from his youth. “Funny People” is an odd detour.

Rogen plays an aspiring stand-up comic
who gets a chance to write for a star (Adam Sandler). Directed by
Judd Apatow, the film takes some surprisingly serious turns, as it
probes the complexities of Sandler's character. It's a worthy try,
but not always an entertaining one.

Other choices include:

– “Chopped,” 6-11 p.m., Food
Network. The entire “all-star” tournament reruns.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., and “Nova,”
9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Beautifully filmed, all
three documentaries look at the effects of global warming in the
polar regions. The first focuses on polar bears, the second on
glacial melting; the third views a research project in the
Antarctic.

– “According to Greta” (2008),
8-10 p.m., CW. Hilary Duff plays a rebellious and suicidal teen who's
sent to be with her grandparents for the summer. Ellen Burstyn and
Michael Murphy co-star.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Here's a rerun of this year's Halloween episode. After a minor
mistake (wearing a childish costume) Sue makes a bigger one –
asking her dad for advice about guys.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Tessa tries to get her dad back together with his old
girlfriend – just as he had a new one in mind.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has Jay obsess on his dog; Phil on tightrope-walking.

– “Elf” (2003), 9-11p.m., ABC
Family. Zooey Deschanel competes with herself tonight. She makes a
charming love interest for Will Ferrell – who plays a 6-foot-3
ex-elf who left the North Pole.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun has three conflicting confessions.

– “State of Play,” 10 p.m., BBC
America. Now at its mid-point, this six-week mini-series offers fresh
surprises about Dominic, the late Sonia and a political scheme. It's
another great hour.