TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 6

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

With no more World Series to fret about, “X Factor” is back
and in its prime. Its final 12 acts perform tonight; viewers vote and two will
be ousted Thursday.

The show could prosper now … except it will keep colliding
with more music. Tonight, it faces the country-music awards; on Thursday, its results
face the transplanted “Voice” results.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Country Music Association awards,
8-11 p.m., ABC.

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host and join a long list
of performers. It includes Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Kacey
Musgraves, Lady Antebellum, the Band Perry and Florida Georgia Line.

Then there are the collaborations – Keith Urban with Miranda
Lambert, Hunter Hayes with Jason Mraz, the Zac Brown Band with Dave Grohl of the
Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. One tribute (for the
late George Jones) has Tim McGraw and George Strait; another (Kenny Rogers,
getting a lifetime award) has Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker and Rascal

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

For some, seduction is a long and lonely road. A male polar
bear spends weeks finding a female, then must romp up and down a hill, to prove
his physical worth.

For others, it’s overload. Surrounded by thousands of choices,
a flamingo tries to find his perfect match.

Those scenes and many more are in this beautifully filmed
hour. We see blue-footed boobies concoct seduction dances; we see a silverback
gorilla fake an affair, to arouse the jealousy of the desired mate. We see lust
and pride at work in the wild.

Other choices include:

“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Miles and his colleagues are
stuck in Willoughby, at a time of parental troubles. It’s Jason with the dad who
once disowned him, Charlie with the mom she barely knew.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Here’s
a key guest role for Billy Porter, who won this year’s Tony for best actor in a
musical (“Kinky Boots”). He plays a popular music teacher and reality-show
mentor, accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old.

“Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A race car that
drives itself? David Pogue reluctantly rides in one, in “Making Stuff Safer.” The
car is an attempt to copy the habits of top drivers. We also see scientists
trying to protect us from earthquakes, terrorist attacks, sports injuries and

“Dateline,” 10 p.m., NBC. For now, this will take over the
abandoned “Ironside” slot.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. An
unidentified body has been found during a fierce storm. Also, Greg Sanders is
accused of framing a man for murder seven years ago.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FXX. In an
extra-early Thanksgiving episode, the gang invites its enemies – it’s made many
– for the holiday.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 5

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

Beating TV’s long odds, Damon Wayans Jr. did two pilot films
and both were picked up. “Happy Endings” had first call, so he had to leave
“New Girl” after one episode.

Now “Endings” has ended and he’s back for several episodes.
He breezes in, ready to party like the old days, but things have changed: Nick
is with Jess, but can’t admit she’s his girlfriend. The result is fast and
funny … especially when the perfect guy (Taye Diggs) wedges into Jess’ life and
her bedroom.

TONIGHT’S MUST-TAPE: “The Goldbergs,” 9 p.m., ABC.

In TV’s perverse nature, two funny episodes are at the same

This one finds Adam’s sister (the smart one) with a flawless
plan for lying to their parents, complete with cover stories. His brother (the other
one) wants to copy that, now that he has a driver’s license, but lacks the cunning.
The result builds (while their dad obsesses on the World Series), bringing big

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Jimi Hendrix blazed to the top and died at 27; still, friends
say, this was no cliché rock star. He was “kind, considerate and fun,” one
says. He was “quiet and conservative,” another says. “When he wasn’t playing,
he was desperately insecure.”

He was a paratrooper whose Army career ended when he broke
his ankle on his 25
th jump. Then he merged blues and psychedelic
rock. Paul McCartney describes being dazzled by Hendrix in a small club, then
recommending him to the Monterey rock fest. Laced with great music, this is
richly entertaining.

Other choices include:

“The African Americans,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
While their masters slept on shore, Robert Smalls and other slaves stole the
ship they worked on; they navigated past Confederate forts and gave everything –
ship, weapons, secret documents – to the Union. This hour describes other
triumphant slaves, including Ben Montgomery; after the war, he bought the
boyhood farm of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, and thrived. It
also tells of the new segregation that then scorched the South.  

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. With Gibbs helping his dad, Tony and
McGee each want to be in charge.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951, 8 p.m., Turner Classic
Movies). Tennessee Williams’ searing words are performed brilliantly by Marlon
Brando, Vivien Leigh and more.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a train-yard
security man points to a terrorist threat.

“The Voice,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. This wraps up a two-night
stretch with the top 20 singers performing live. For the results, the show will
borrow the vacant hour at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“Face Off” finale, 9 p.m., Syfy. The finalists  design a swan and a sorcerer for “Swan Lake.”

“Doomsday Preppers,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. An Arizona
man builds a 140-foot escape tunnel, hiding its entrance because “secrecy is
important.” The secrets might be sturdier, of course, if he didn’t show them on
national TV.

 “In the Spotlight,”
10 p.m., ABC. On the eve of the Country Music Association awards, Robin Roberts
visits new stars (Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean) and a returning one (Shania Twain).
She also visits ABC’s “Nashville” and (aided by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton)
counts down the top five country duets.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mike & Molly” season-opener, 9
p.m., CBS.

It took CBS only three weeks to realize its folly and dump “We
Are Men.” Now “Mike & Molly” is back.

The show returns with a sudden – and hilarious – shift. Molly
(Melissa McCarthy) has a mid-life crisis in front of her grade-school class.
She leaves school (out the window, no less) and her job. From here, things get
shaky; the next two episodes are disappointing. Still, tonight is a delight.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Sleepy Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Halfway through an already-compelling hour, viewers meet a favorite
of fantasy fans.

John Noble was brilliant in Fox’s “Fringe”; now he guests as
the mysterious “Sin Eater,” finding the link between Ichabod Crane and the
Headless Horseman. These are strong scenes, perfectly played.

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

Gustavo Madrigal was 9 when he and his mother spent three
days in the desert, slipping into the U.S.; she survived only because others
shared water. He became a star student … then learned that the top five Georgia
colleges won’t take him because he’s an undocumented immigrant.

Now he’s featured in the second half of the excellent “The
Graduates” documentary. Last Monday featured Latinas; tonight, we meet three varied
guys. Juan Bernabe, large and gay, was bullied; Eduardo Corona was a bully
type. With Madrigal, they bring involving life stories.

TONIGHT’S ODDITY: “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and
“Vanderpump Rules,” 8-10 p.m., Bravo.

Two season-openers entwine. Kyle Richards throws a party for
the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce; it’s catered by Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant
and its angst-filled young staffers.

We meet the new “housewives”: Joyce Giraud de Ohoven is a
spectacular beauty (former Miss Universe 1998 runner-up) who starred in NBC’s
failed “Siberia”; Carlton Gebbia is offended if people don’t like her kids’
names – Destiiny and Mysteri. Hey, it’s relative; Vanderpump’s daughter is

The staffers seem easily offended, too. Scheana Marie rages
at friends who didn’t text her after her dental surgery. Later, the delightful
Stossi Schroeder belittles the crisis: “(She) went to the dentist’s office;
(she) got a lollipop and toothbrush afterward.”

Other choices include:

Dancing With the Stars, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Cher will open
the show by singing “Believe” and close it with “I Hope You Find It.” In
between, she joins Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba in judging the final

“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Over the next two nights, the
top 20 singers will perform live.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Did anyone expect a simple honeymoon
for Booth and Brennan? In Buenos Aires, they help solve the murder of a Nazi
war criminal; back home, friends struggle to take care of their baby.

“Mom.” 9:30 p.m., CBS. There are some large laughs when Bonnie
(Allison Janney) confronts menopause … and when she meets the conservative
parents of her pregnant granddaughter’s boyfriend.

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Robert Sean Leonard
(“House”) plays a mad scientist.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

After slowly unfolding for five weeks, this elegant mini-series
reaches a pivotal point. At the core is Moray, the department-store owner; he’s
a widower, inexplicably loved by two women.

Denise loves him from afar; she’s a sweet-spirited women’s-wear
clerk whose angry uncle has a shop nearby. Katherine loves him from anear; she’s
rich, the daughter of his banker. Now both relationships reach turning points,
while the imposing Jonas continues to be Moray’s self-appointed enforcer.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Betrayal,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Here’s another show that has moved slowly, but now reaches
turning points.

 Sara (the superb
Hannah Ware) is married to Drew, a crusading assistant district attorney; she’s
having an affair with Jack, who works for the crooked family that took him in
when he was young. Now Dean is tracks clues, just as Jack finally describes the
night that left T.J. (a huge acting leap for Henry Thomas of “E.T.” fame) with
brain damage.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Civil War 360,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian.

As the war began, this richly detailed documentary says, the
South had some huge plusses. Its cotton crop was crucial globally; it had
skilled soldiers and (especially) gifted cavalrymen.

Still, it lacked industry. The British sold it ships and
iron; even Confederate money needed plates that somehow came from New Jersey.
After early victories, the South wobbled under a shortage of food, supplies and
hope. Narrated by Trace Adkins, this is the mid-section of a strong, three-week

Other choices include:

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. If you’re drowning, it’s
best to have Ariel (of “Little Mermaid” fame) as a friend. Tonight, Ariel
(Joanna Garcia Swisher) saves and befriends Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin).

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. It’s time to ponder past
mistakes in parenting (Marge), romance (Mr. Burns) and more. Homer sold his Apple
stock to buy a bowling ball; Kent Brockman resisted moving to cable news with
his old colleague Rachel Maddow.

“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” season-opener, 8 p.m., Bravo;
repeats at 10. NeNe Leakes is back to her old life; she has remarried Gregg and
(with her comedy cancelled) returned to Atlanta. Naturally, this opener finds
her in a noisy party argument … which seems to be a “Real Housewives”
specialty. Meanwhile, Porsha Stewart has a messy divorce and Kenya Moore faces

Football, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC, with pre-game at 7. Two weeks
after the Indianapolis Colts drew huge ratings against the Broncos, the team
(5-2) visits the Houston Texans (2-5).  

“The Good Wife,” about 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, Will react fiercely when he learned that Alicia and Cary were
leaving the firm and taking clients with them. It was a great hour, marred by
the unethical intervention of her husband the governor. Now Will refuses to
release the files Alicia needs.

“The Mentalist,” about 10:30
p.m., CBS. Patrick Jane feels he finally has the last clue to identify Red
John. Now – in the style of Agatha Christie mysteries – he wants to gather the
suspects in one place.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

The night overflows with movies that drew Academy Award
nominations for best picture.

Two of them won – “Forrest Gump” (1994, ABC Family) and “How
Green Was My Valley” (1941, Turner Classic Movies). That’s three if you count “Crash”
(2004) at 8:30 p.m. on TV Guide.

And three more were best-picture nominees. “The Social
Network” (2010, FXX) and “Good Will Hunting” (1997, Encore) won Oscars for
their scripts; “The Fugitive” (1993, Independent Film Channel) and “Hunting”
won supporting-actor Oscars for Tommy Lee Jones and Robin Williams, respectively.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Mike & Molly,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

When one of its new shows (“We Are Men”) crashed instantly,
CBS suddenly remembered it had “Mike & Molly” waiting on the shelf. Now
comes the big push – two reruns tonight (replacing the scheduled “Two and a
Half Men” reruns), then a hilarious new episode Monday.

Tonight’s shows eye Molly’s birthday. First, she collides
with Mike’s mom during party-planning. Then Mike has grand plans for the
birthday … until he encounters psychedelic gelato from Veronica’s friend.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

At a wobbly time for new shows, this one has become a quick
ratings hit. If you haven’t started seeing it on Mondays, you can catch a sampling
with this rerun.

Liz (Megan Boone) is a new FBI agent with double trouble:
She’s probing her husband, after finding his box filled with secret passports.
Also, she’s a witness against a crime lord; the key witness has been kidnapped …
apparently, says Red (James Spader), by the notorious “Stewmaker.”

Other choices include:

Movie sequels, cable. Skipping the first film, two action
series have their second and third films. Syfy has the fairly good “Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) at 6:30 p.m. and the superb “Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade” (1989) at 9 p.m. TNT has “Mission Impossible II” at 8 and
“MI3” at 10:30.

Sports overload. Horses and halfbacks share the top networks.
The big one has Miami (ranked No. 7 on ESPN) at Florida State (ranked No. 3);
that’s on ABC at 8 p.m. … the same time that NBC has the Breeders Club Classic.
At 7 p.m., Fox has Oklahoma State (No. 18) at Texas Tech (No. 15).

“Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Ken Olin plays a
writer whose daughters have disappeared, on the anniversary of the day of the
day his wife disappeared.

“Dancing on the Edge,” 9 p.m., Starz. Last week, this richly
crafted show ended with a jolt. Jessie (Angel Coulby), the superb jazz singer,
had been knifed. Now, as she lingers between life and death, her friends go
on.  There are joyous moments, despair
and bursts of great music.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Kerry Washington,
the “Scandal” star, hosts with Eminem as the music guest.