TV column for Monday, Nov. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch
Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This brilliant special bounces around
the cable universe a lot, but here's one of two chances to see it on
ABC. The other will be on Christmas Eve.

Debuting back in 1966, “Grinch” has
the perfect combination – a great story (from Dr. Seuss), a gifted
animation co-director (Chuck Jones) and the right voices. Boris
Karloff narrates, Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of Tony the Tiger)
sings and June Foray (the voice of Rocky Squirrel) is Cindy Lou Who.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Sing-Off”
finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

Three groups remain, going for $200,000
and a record deal.

The largest is the Dartmouth Aires –
16 guys in a college group that was started in 1946. The smallest is
Pentatonix – four men and one woman, originally from Arlington,
Texas. In between is Urban Method; it assembled studio singers –
five men, three women – who hadn't previously been a group.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Saved,” 8
p.m., Animal Planet.

Maya Pieters and Jack faced serious
problems. She has a rare neurological disease that makes talking
difficult and causes seizures; he's a Jack Russell terrior, found
(literally) in a dumpster.

During frequent trips to the animal
shelter, Maya had disliked other dogs. Then she met Jack and a warmth
began. He alerted people before a seizure, sometimes breaking her
fall.

This story is beautifully told, albeit
with too much repetition, and a second story – about a teen's love
of polo – is OK. Overall, this “Saved,” like the two previous
ones, is superb.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. An all-rerun night for CBS starts with last year's
Thanksgiving episode, which has Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) as a
college friend who brings bad luck

-- "Top Gear," 8 and 9 p.m., BBC America. In an eight-week mini-series, this smart show about cars reruns its 40 favorite challenges. That starts with a dandy -- a Volkswagen Beetle against a a streaking sports car; each is going a mile ... but the Volkswagen is doing it by being dropped from a helicopter.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Here's the episode that introduced Nick Zano as Johnny, a
sarcastic street artist. Also, Max shows Caroline the art of
thrift-store shopping.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Walden is so nervous about meeting his estranged wife that he
does something few people would try – taking dating advice from
Alan.

– “The Closer” return, 9 p.m.,
TNT. A crusading principal has been killed and suspects abound. It's
an OK episode, spiced with internal dealings as Captain Raydor (Mary
McDonnells) monitors Brenda.

– “Bored to Death,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Last week, Jonathan fell into love and into bed with a beauty (Isla
Fisher). Then he learned that a sperm bank had only one donor, so
she's his half-sister. In some great moments in this season-finale,
the biological dad might be rescued by Ray's caped fans and Jonathan.

– “Enlightened,” 9:30, HBO. After
a couple poor episodes, this show bounces back with Amy's embarrassed
admission: She really doesn't know what her department does.

– “Rizzoli & Isles” return,
10 p.m., TNT. A community hero has been killed. Now Rizzoli has to
worry about protecting the witness; she also frets about an ambitious
assistant district attorney and about her mom's sudden infatuation
with Bill O'Reilly. He plays himself, in an erratic but interesting
hour.

– “Scouted” debut, 10 p.m., E.
This reality show follows scouts as they look for models. Tonight's
hour is highlighted by a 15-year-old natural whose dad is struggling
with cancer.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Have a Little
Faith,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Mitch Albom has skillfully weaved
together two stories about religious leaders.

One is his boyhood rabbi in New Jersey.
At 83, he asked Albom to start preparing a eulogy forhim; frequent
trips followed, in the style of “Tuesdays With Morrie,”
absorbing warmth and wisdom.

The other is a former robber and drug
dealer who became the hard-working pastor at a Detroit church and
shelter. These stories sometimes seem forced – especially when the
decisive Albom is portrayed as wracked with indecision. Still,
“Faith” is superbly crafted by director Jon Avnet, with great
work from stars Bradley Whitford, Martin Landau and Laurence
Fishburne.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Person of
Interest,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

The regular Sunday dramas get tonight
off and “Person” – off to a good start on Thursdays – steps
in.

First is the pilot film – so slick
and sharp that we're able to forgive the overwrought premise. We see
Jim Caviezel as a former CIA hit man, linking with a genius (Michael
Emerson) whose machine knows who will be involved in a future crime.
In the second rerun, the target is a resourceful beauty.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Leverage”
return, 9 p.m., TNT.

Each week, this ambitious show leaps
into a fresh situation, where the heroes scam the scammers. Some
episodes (including the one next week) misfire, but most are clever.
Here's a prime example.

Veterans are missing and a college
psychology project is suspect. The team goes to work; there are some
goofy moments – plus a powerful one, as Eliot (Christian Kane)
speaks about his own violent past. He may be lying or may be telling
the truth; in “Leverage,” we never know for sure.

Other choices include:

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. As soon as Emma is deputized, the ground shakes and a giant
sinkhole opens up. This is bad news – especially after Henry enters
the hole, seeking the fairy-tale land.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Homer suddenly becomes an advertising account man, with John Slattery
of “Mad Men” voicing his mentor.

– New holiday movies. At 8 p.m. are
two cable films: In ABC Family's “Desperately Seeking Santa,” a
marketer (Laura Vandervoort of “V”) has a sexy-Santa contest; in
Hallmark's “Holiday Engagement,” Bonnie Somerville tries to
please her parents by bringing home a fake fiance. At 9, the Ion
network has Elisa Donovan meeting a life coach who grants “The
Twelve Wishes of Christmas.”

– “Masterpiece Contemporary,”
9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). With London being bombed by
the Germans, its art treasures were hidden in a Welsh mountain. That
sets up “Framed,” a fictional delight that reruns tonight,
showing the relationship between the town and a London curator. Eve
Myles (“Torchwood”) and Trevor Eve star..

– “Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. Nucky has a new alcohol source from Ireland, enraging his
competitors – including Al Capone, who is easily enraged. There's
much more trouble ahead: The daughter of Nucky's lover has polio …
a federal attorney gains momentum … and a Philadelphia supplier
seeks revenge on the people who tried to kill him.

– “Hell on Wheels,” 10 p.m., AMC.
Now that the lovely widow has been found, Durant treats her tenderly
– partly because he needs the maps her husband had. Cullen sags
into an alcohol stupor … until a sudden tragedy jolts him and wraps
up another strong episode.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Bee Movie
(2007),” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

In the 13 years since ending TV's best
show, Jerry Seinfeld has been a busy guest – talk shows, “Curb
Your Enthusiasm” and more – but has created little except “The
Marriage Ref” and “Bee Movie.”

So we should savor this film as a
random burst of Seinfeld humor. He co-wrote it and provides the voice
of a college-grad bee, appalled at his limited life options; soon,
he's suing humans.

Unlike “Seinfeld,” this show fails
to build strong side characters. Unlike the best cartoons, it tries
to do too much with dialog, not enough visually. Still, it's smart
Seinfeld dialog, which is enough.

 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “How I Met Your
Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS.

In a change, CBS is inserting two
reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” – a show that's always fun to
watch once or twice.

In the first, Ted's friends finally
tell him what they think of Zoey (Jennifer Morrison). In th second,
Marshall and Barney argue about the destruction of the Arcadian
Hotel; Robin and Lily try to concoct the perfect cocktails to soothe
them.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Trading
Christmas,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark.

Based on a Debbie McComber novel, this
needs some extreme coincidences.

Planning to surprise her daughter,
Emily (Faith Ford) swaps her California home for the Boston one of
Charles (Tom Cavanagh), who wants someplace quiet to work in. Except
that the daughter has gone to Arizona and Emily's friend is going to
California and Charles' brother (Gil Bellows) is perplexed..

It's all wildly convoluted – maybe
excessively so – but it sets up some fairly solid character drama.

Other choices include:

– Football, 8 p.m. ET, ABC. Stanford
(ranked No. 6) hosts Notre Dame (No. 22). There's more, including
Clemson (No. 17) at South Carolina (No. 12), at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN.

– “The 85th Anniversary
of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun
of Thursday's documentary, looking at the parade's early days and at
preparations this year.

– “Elf” (2003), 8-10 p.m., USA.
Long before she became delightfully daft in “New Girl,” Zooey
Deschanel was sweet and shy and blond in this film. She's part of a
great supporting cast for this fairly good Will Ferrell comedy,
including Bob Newhart, James Caan, Ed Asner and Peter Dinklage.

– “Terra Nova,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, one of the “Sixers” rebels seeks asylum, but there's
disagreement about whether she can be trusted. Also, Commander Taylor
suspects there's a traitor.

– “Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In this rerun, a little boy is the lone witness to a murder. Carrie
must set aside her emotions about her sister's murder, to focus on
this.

– “Storm War,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.
It's best not to annoy an inventor, especially if he's created a
weapon system that can unleash lightning, hail and more. When the
government drops his funding, the guy (Stacey Keach) gets nasty. The
movie starts well, sags in the middle, then ends big.

– “Primeval,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. In a good episode, the guys inadvertently send a killer
creature back in time to Victorian England – which really isn't
equipped to handle such problems.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Melissa McCarthy, the “Mike & Molly” Emmy-winner,
hosts this rerun, with music from country (and crossover) group Lady
Antebellum.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Iron Man”(2008),
8-10:30 p.m., Fox.

While other action films cast
heroic-looking stars, “Iron Man” chose Robert Downey, Jr. He
brought a wry, sly humor to a story that needed it.

The plot requires big stretches –
including history's least-observant jail guards. Still, this works
because of the skill of director Jon Favreau, Downey and a supporting
cast that is much better than the material, including Oscar-winners
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges and Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Cartoons,
everywhere.

Sweetly understated, “Jingle All the
Way” is a quiet pleasure, as a homeless dog loves kids at school.
The animation and story are spare, but there's a charm; Hallmark airs
it at 7, 7:30 and 8 p.m.

Also gently low-key is ABC Family's
double-feature – “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969) at 7 p.m.,
“Snoopy Come Home” (1972) at 9. There's more at 8, on CBS (“Hoops
& Yoyo Ruin Christmas” and “The Elf on the Shelf”) and CW
(“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” plus “Olive the Other
Reindeer” at 9). Also, ABC has the third “Shrek” movie (2007)
at 8; HBO has the fourth (2010) at 7:40.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Great
Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Adapting the 1994 movie, “Il Postino”
has Placido Domingo as Pablo Neruda, the exiled poet.

Lusty and likable, he sings a
passionate poem about nakedness to his topless (back to the audience)
wife. He changess lives in this Italian fishing village … and then
leaves. The second act has little Domingo, but great power from its
young lovers, Charles Castronovo and Amanda Squitieri.

It's a strong show, beautifully staged.
The introduction was taped by Daniel Catan, who died in April at 62,
six months after debuting this opera, his fourth.

Other choices:

– Sports, all afternoon. There are
plenty of non-shoppers today and some of them want to watch violent
sports. Not to worry, there's hockey (Red Wings at Bruins, at 1 p.m.
on NBC) and college football. At 2:30 p.m., CBS has Arkansas at LSU;
at 3:30, ABC has Boston at Miami.

– “National Treasure: Book of
Secrets” (2007), 8-11 p.m., NBC. Nicolas Cage stars in this action
sequel. With so many movies and cartoons, none of the regular Friday
shows are on NBC, Fox or CW.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. The
“Gossip Girl” world turns violent? Probing the murder of a
popular prep-school student, cops earn just how competitive his world
is

 

– “For Better or Worse” debut, 9
and 9:30 p.m., TBS. An attractive cast – including Michael Jai
White and Crystle Stewar – tries a “sitcom” that's closer to a
“sitdram.” There are OK dramatic moments, as friends mix business
and personal lives; producer Tyler Perry adds some comedy, with so-so
results.

– “Facing Evil,” 9 and 9:30 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. Candice DeLong – the FBI agent once
portrayed by Jean Smart in a TV movie – interviews two women who
were convicted of hiring killers. DeLong stares blankly a lot and
concludes with variations of “we'll never know.”

 – “All on the Line” debut, 9:30,
Sundance. Joe Zee, the creative director of Elle, swoops in to
transform designers' businesses. He starts with a huge challenge:
Angelo Lambrou is a brilliant wedding-dress designer, but he's two
hours late for important meetings, doesn't know business details and
hasn't been paying his top people; on a key day, one of them is
applying for another job.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The family is caught up in an ethical debate, when Erin gets a gang
leader by using his law-abiding brother as bait.

– “Boss,” 10 p.m., Starz.
Overwrought in a huge and operatic way, “Boss” is also
compelling. Tonight, we learn (again) just how ruthless Mayor Tom
Kane (Kelsey Grammer) and others are. Facing a devastating charge –
he created an ecological disaster – Kane insists he can survive and
rule.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Ice Age: A
Mammoth Christmas,” 8 p.m., Fox.

OK, we're not sure why mammoths –
extinct 8,000 years before the birth of Christ – are involved with
Christmas. Once we get past that, however, this is an animated
delight.

It starts, as the “Ice Age” movies
do, with Scrat in his search for the perfect nut. Then Sid
accidentally shatters the Christmas rock; he heads north, hoping to
get off Santa's naughty list.

Dandy sight gags follow, plus sharp
dialog, drolly delivered by Ray Romano, Denis Leary and more.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE: “Macy's
Thanksgiving parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC.

Santa and Harry Potter in one morning?
Almost. Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry) will be there with the
cast of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”; other
Broadway casts – “Spider-Man,” “Sister Act,” “Priscilla,
Queen of the Desert” – are also performing.

That's part of a parade heavy on
singers – Mary J. Blige, Neil Diamond, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne
and Michael Feinstein, plus country's Rodney Atkins, Shelby Lynn and
Scotty McCreery. Also performing: Big Apple Circus, Naval Academy
Glee Club, Radio City Rockettes and more.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “A Very Gaga
Thanksgiving,” 9:30-11 p.m., ABC.

Lady Gaga may not fit any Thanksgiving
images, but here she is.

She sings classics – “White
Christmas” and (with Tony Bennett) “Lady Is a Tramp” – plus
her “Marry the Night” and more. At her alma mater, Sacred Heart
Academy, she's interviewed by Katie Couric.

Other choices include:

– Parade, 9 a.m. to noon, CBS. Here's
a second network showing the parade. It includes separate
performances by John Fogerty and the casts of “Memphis” and
“Anything Goes.”

– “The National Dog Show,” noon
to 2 p.m., NBC. In two quick hours, judges choose the winners among
more than 2,000 dogs in 185 breeds. John O'Hurley again hosts.

– Football, 12:30 p.m., Fox.
Sometimes winless, often hopeless, the Detroit Lions have been a weak
Thanksgiving draw. Now, however, they have a 7-3 record and host the
Super Bowl champ (and undefeated this year) Packers. Nickelback rocks
at halftime; Lauren Alaina sings the National Anthem.

– More football. At 4:15 p.m., the
Cowboys (6-4) host the Dolphins (3-7) on CBS. At 8, it's Texas (6-4)
at Texas A&M (6-5) on ESPN and the 49ers (9-1) at the Ravens
(7-3) on the NFL Network.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of a merely OK episode, the women have a slumber
party and the guys confront Wil Wheaton at a movie screeing.

– Charlie Brown, 8 p.m., ABC, and
8:30, Fox. ABC has the 1973 “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”; it
rounds out the hour with the Mayflower portion of “This Is America,
Charlie Brown.” Fox counters at 8:30 with “Happiness Is a Warm
Blanket, Charlie Brown,” which had a video release this spring.

– “Horton Hears a Who” (2008),
8-10 p.m., NBC. Yes, another cartoon. There's more on ABC Family –
including the splendid “WALL-E” (2008) at 9 p.m.-- and the
Cartoon Network.

– “The 85th Anniversary
of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 10 p.m., NBC. Matt Lauer
hosts this special, scheduled to rerun Saturday, tracing the parade's
history.