TV column for Monday, Nov. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-9 p.m., ABC.

In its final weeks, this first
“all-star edition” became a battle of champions. Four of the five
finalists were past winners; three of them were top athletes.

Last week, two of them – football
star Emmitt Smith and Olympic speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno – were
ousted. Now we have the all-female finale, with Olympic gymnast Shawn
Johnson, actress Kelly Monaco and reality-show star Melissa Rycroft;
on Tuesday, one will be the champion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: The Big Bang
Theory, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In a last-second move, CBS dumped
“Partners” last week and started inserting reruns.

There was a so-so “Two and a Half
Men” last week; now TV's best comedy has its turn:

One university office has opened up.
Competing for it are Sheldon and his nemesis Kripke.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Extreme
Makeover: Home Edition, 9:01-11 p.m., ABC.

Raised by single mothers, Daniel and
Mandy Watson turned their lives into a mission. They adopted three
children and house two single-mom families at their farm; through
their Restoration House charity, they house three more moms in a
Knoxville apartment building.

Daniel has a part-time job – besides
working 50 hours a week for Restoration House. His family shares one
bathroom; the former dining room became the couple's bedroom.

Now the show – in the first of four
feel-good specials at Christmas time – comes to the rescue. The
result is sometimes contrived, often repetitive – but worth it with
the beautifully designed result.

Other choices include:

– “A Boy Named Charlie Brown:
(1969) and “WALL-E” (2008), 7 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. Animated
films often push loudly for big laughs; now here are refreshing
alternatives: “Charlie Brown” is understated and pleasant;
“WALL-E” is often silent and sometimes charming and moving.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, Marshall's old friend Brad tricked him into
getting a job at Marshall's law office. He promptly stole information
and will use it when they battle in court tonight. That leads friends
to recall their days as teen delinquents.

– “Liz & Dick,” 8-10 p.m.,
Lifetime. If you missed the debut Sunday, catch it now. Lindsay Lohan
and Grant Bowler are excellent as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard
Burton, launching an epic affair. The first half of the film,
dripping in glamor and romance, is great fun; the rest slides
downhill.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Max and Caroline have talked loosely about their cupcake business,
but now comes a break: A storefront may be available; they try an
unusual financing plan.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Mike and Molly are ready to have kids now. When she doesn't get
pregnant right away, Mike turns – unwisely, perhaps – to Carl and
Samuel for advice.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
McGarrett feels a therapist (Vanessa Marcil of “General Hospital”)
killed her patient. A cat-and-mouse game begins; Carlos Bernard and
Christin Lahti are guest stars.

– “Revolution,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.
Miles, a rebel leader, finally confronts Gen. Monroe, the militia
leader. He's trying to rescue his nephew Danny ... whose sister
Charlie makes a shocking discovery. Also, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell)
tests Monroe's patience.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Revenge,” 9
p.m., ABC.

We met these characters in full fury,
already set in their ways. Now “Revenge” backs up to 2006, to
show they got this way.

Victoria has a visit from her estranged
mother, bringing memories of her troubled childhood. Emily goes on
her first mission under Takeda's training. Also, Nolcorp goes public;
Carl Porter gets in trouble.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Liz &
Dick,” 9-11 p.m., Lifetime.

No modern-day scandal can match
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for size and scope.

Not yet 30, she had already made 29
movies, married four men and won an Oscar. At 36 and on his first
marriage, he was a gifted stage star with a so-so film career. Now
their “Cleopatra” was big enough to save or destroy an entire
movie studio.

It's an epic story, fairly well told.
Lindsay Lohan – like Taylor, a talented actress before stirring the
tabloids – and Grant Bowler are excellent. “Liz & Dick”
does deliver glamor and gorgeous settings. What it can't give is a
full story; like the duo itself, it starts strong, then slowly slides
downhill.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Boardwalk
Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO.

A week before the season-finale,
Nucky's world seems to be crumbling.

His mistress was killed by Gyp's bomb;
his wife has left him, taking the kids. Now Gyp's men are coming,
with rifles ready.

A series often built around smart drama
now turns to shoot-em-up action, all centering on an often-bad man
who has a sturdy soul. There are plenty of surprises along the way,
peaking in the final minute.

Other choices include:

– “A Golden Christmas” (2009), 5
p.m., Ion. At her childhood home, a woman is helpfully nudged by a
dog. The story is predictable, but Andrea Roth (“Rescue Me”) is
always good and this starts a series of films with a golden
retriever. The sequel is at 7 p.m.; “Golden Christmas 3” debuts
at 9.

– “Home Alone” (1990), 6 p.m.,
ABC Family. Cleverly written (by John Hughes) and lushly directed (by
Chris Columbus), this revived the art of the big sight gag, while
overlaying some holiday heart. It's had four sequels; the latest –
this time, a boy thinks ghosts are invading – debuts at 8 and 10
p.m.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. David's life is endangered by an effort to reach Emma and Mary
Margaret across the portals of time.

– “BET Awards,” 8-10:30 p.m.,
BET. For 36 years, Don Cornelius was the booming host of Soul Train.
He died this year, at 75, and there will be a tribute tonight. Also,
a lifetime award to New Edition and lots of performers – Stevie
Wonder, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, 2 Chainz, Leah
Labelle, Rapael Saddiq, Charlie Wilson, Marcus Canty, Elle Varnr and
Eddie Levert.

– Football, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. The
two most-recent Super Bowl winners collide. Aaron Rodgers and the
Packers (7-3 this year, with a five-game winning streak) visit Eli
Manning and the Giants (6-4).

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. (or
later, with football overrun), CBS. It's a busy night for veteran
actors: Brian Dennehy and Bebe Neuwirth return as a lawyer and a
judge; Stockard Channing arrives as Alicia's mom, looking for
emotional and legal help.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m. or
later, CBS. A slain real-state agent had former gang ties

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Indiana Jones
and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008), 8 p.m., NBC.

After a 19-years rest, Harrison Ford
returned to a role he'd perfected. Yes, Ford (then 66) was too old
for action-adventure. Wisely, “Skull” acknowledged that; it ha
some old-guy jibes and gave him a young protege (Shia LaBeouf) who
ends up playing a key role.

Beyond that, this is standard “Indy.”
Some plot twists are absurd –in real life, a refrigerator is meager
protection from a nuclear blast – but director Steven Spielberg
makes them all seem exciting.

TONGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Made in Jersey,”
8 p.m., CBS.

After two episodes, CBS yanked this
show. Now it tosses episodes into the Saturday abyss.

At the core is Janet Montgomery, who
was superb as a young thief in “Human Target.” Here, she's TV's
version of a New Jersey woman –big hair, big mouth – in an
upscale law firm. Her case at work involves a comatose woman's
husband and sister; at home, it involves hr sister and the neighbors.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Unlikely
Animal Friends,” 8-11 p.m., Nat Geo Wild.

Anyone can hang with a dog or cat or
such, but now come less-traditional friendships.

Dominic Ehrler was adopted by a goose;
it walked with him in the park and flew above his motorbike. A Welsh
couple kept a sheep at home; an Irishman kept Sammy the seal, even
after marrying. “In fairy tales, Sammy would have been a bridesmaid
at their wedding,” a friend said.

Don't rule that out; when Casey
Anderson married actress Missi Pyle, one of the wedding guests was
his 900-pound grizzly. The first, fun hour views these humans and
their animal pals. The second views assorted animal mismatches; the
third reviews these plus highlights from Friday's opener.

Other choices include:

– “Christmas Angel,” 7, 9 and 11
p.m., GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel); same times Sunday. Kids
feel that wishes will only come true if they break windows in a
creepy old house. Grown-ups disagree – but then some wishes really
do come true. Emerging is a fairly solid drama that's a step up for
GMC. There are slow parts and illogical parts, but :”Christmas
Angel” has sharp production values and a cast led by Terri Polo,
Kevin Sorbo and Della Reese.

– “Alice in Wonderland” (1951),
7:30 p.m., Disney. One of the all-time greats returns, on a night
filled with cartoon movies. At 7 and 9 p.m., Bravo has Jerry
Seinfeld's “Bee Movie” (2007), with a clever script and OK
visuals. Starz has “Cars 2” (2011) at 7:10 p.m. and “Finding
Nemo” (2003) at 9.

– Football, 8 p.m., ABC. Notre Dame –
suddenly back to its old spot at No. 1 in the nation – visits
Southern Cal. Fox gets a jump on this, with Stanford at UCLA, at 6:30
p.m.

– “Marvin Marvin” debut, 8:30
p.m., Nickelodeon. Marvin (Lucas Cruikshank) is pretending to be a
typical teen-aged Earthling; only his host family knows he's from
another planet. The idea is fairly goo, but the rest – the script
and some of the performances – is way too broad and blunt.

– NCIS, 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the
husband of Diane Sterling (Melina McGraw) has been kidnapped.
Fortunately, her previous husbands are agents with the FBI (Fornell)
and NCIS (Gibbs).

– “Kyle Kinane: Whiskey Icarus,”
11 p.m., Comedy Central. A terrific storyteller, Kinane makes
everything seem funny – including his own arrest and the time a
couple had sex next to him on a plane.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “It's a SpongeBob
Christmas,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.

TV's Christmas season starts big, with
seven hours of primetime cartoons on four networks.

All the cartoons are reruns, except
this one and “Jingle & Bell.” Much too dark for younger kids,
this “SpongeBob” will delight grown-ups. Evil scheme involves
jerktonium-laced fruitcake and a SpongeBob-shaped robot. The episode
is built around a witty song by Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob and
more) and Andy Paley, with the eternal message: “Don't Be a Jerk,
It's Christmas.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “iCarly finale,”
8-9 p.m., Nickelodeon.

For six seasons, this show has offered
a good-enough blend of verbal comedy and sight gags.

With her dad gone on a long military
assignment, a teen (the likable Miranda Cosgrove) gets by with her
goofy older brother, two friends and some fame, making funny blogs
for the Internet. Now her dad may get home in time to take her to the
big dance; if not, her brother will do it.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Happiness is
a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown,” 8-9 p.m., Fox.

For decades, Linus has been hauling
that ragged security blanket. Now this special (a made-for-video
release from last year) assembles many of his crises.

The blanket is snatched by Snoopy,
turned into a kite by Lucy, whipped away by the wind. There's also
the threat of a visit by a kite-grabbing grandma. This is a low-key
hour – too low-key for some high-energy kids – backed by the
gentle music of Mark Mothersbaugh, formerly of Devo.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Animal
Friends,” 8-10 p.m., Nat Geo Wild; concludes Saturday.

Somehow, a Labrador has adopted a
dolphin as his best friend. They swim together for hours.

Another dog decided a donkey was lonely
and began leaping through the fence, even teaching this new friend
how to play with a stick. For other mistmatched creatures, friendship
simply involves cuddling. Tonight'a first hour, featuring dogs, is a
delight; the second, with cats, is fairly good.

Other choices include:

– “Jingle & Bell's Christmas
Star” and “Jingle All the Way,” 7-8 p.m., Hallmark; rerunning
8-9 p.m. Don't expect any sight-gag laughs here. “Jingle All the
Way”was a sweetly solemn cartoon about a lonely little dog; now the
adequate sequel has a lonely little girl and her dog.

– “Frosty the Snowman” and
“Frosty Returns,” 8-9 p.m., CBS. The first, a classic cartoon, is
fairly pleasant; it's followed by a surprisingly poor sequel and then
by “Hoops & Yoho Ruin Christmas.”

– “Grandma Got Run Over By a
Reindeer” and “The Happy Elf,” 8-10 p.m. CW. It's cartoon
overload.

– “The Simpson,” 9-10 p.m., Fox.
The first rerun peeks at a Christmas 30 years in the future. The
second, a fairly good episode, sees the Simpsons being banned from
Springfield.

– “Killer Karaoke” debut, 9 p.m.,
Tru TV. Singing is tough enough without being dropped into a water
tank filled with snakes. It's fun for a while, with good moments from
host Steve-O, but gets repetitious.

– “Person to Person,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. After announcing plans to revive this 1953 Edward R. Murrow
interview series, CBS has been in no hurry. The previous special was
nine months ago, this one has Charlie Rose and Lara Logan visiting
singer Alicia Keys, actor Sean Penn and quarterback Drew Brees.

– “Hunted,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. In
another strong, taut episode, a Pakistani presidential candidate may
be assassinated. Also, Sam is closer to knowing about Hourglass;
others are close to knowing about her.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 22


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Pro football, all
day.

Thanksgiving used to be a one-game
monopoly for the Detroit Lions. Then the Dallas Cowboys joined; now
an evening game has moved from the NFL Network to NBC, concluding the
marathon.

At 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS has Houston at
Detroit, with Kid Rock at halftime. At 4:15, Fox has Washington at
Dallas, with Kenny Chesney at halftime. At 8:20, NBC has New England
at the New York Jets.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II: Thanksgiving Day
Parade, 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS.

Here is true Americana spectacle, three
hours of massive sights, sounds and sponsors.

There will be Muppets, Rockettes, Power
Rangers and Big Apple Circus performers. Celebrities will range from
tiny gymnasts to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We'll see bands making actual
music and singers – Carly Rae Jepsen, Flo Rida, Colbie Caillat,
Rachel Crow, Trace Adkins, Chris Isaak – lip-syncing.

And there will be Broadway casts. CBS
has “Once” and “Newsies”; NBC has “Elf,” “Annie,”
“Bring It On,” “Cinderella” and “Nice Work If You Can Get
It.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bad25,”
9:30-11 p.m., ABC.

Spike Lee's superb documentary looks
back at “Bad,” the album that ruled the world 25 years ago, with
five straight No. 1 singles. This has moments big – two powerhouse
songs from Michael Jackson's London concert – and small. A stunning
montage shows people unable to discuss Jackson's 2009 death.

There are reflections from current
stars: Cee Lo Green used to think “Liberian Girl” was “Librarian
Girl”; Kanye West still dresses like Jackson did in “Bad.” It
has then-unknowns (including Wesley Snipes in the “Bad” video)
who leaped to fame. And it has insights. One man says Jackson had a
three-and-half octave range, but preferred to sing and talk as a
tenor. “He really didn't want to grow up.”

Other choices include:

– “National Dog Show,” noon to 2
p.m., NBC. This annual ratings hit will rerun at 8 p.m. Friday. John
O'Hurley and David Frei again do the announcing and commentary; Mary
Carillo adds interviews.

– “The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox.
It's time to oust one of the final10 – and to feature another of
Simon Cowell's discoveries. Cher Lloyd finished fourth on the British
“X Factor” and was signed by Cowell. At 19. she's had a single
(“Want U Back”) reaching No. 12 on Billboard's U.S. chart.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. Here are two terrific reruns. First is the season-opener,
with Howard – in outer-space, no less – in the middle of an
argument between his wife and mother. Then is an episode from last
season, with Penny teaching Sheldon to be a better boyfriend.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31 and
9:31 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Walden's former business partner
shows up. In the second, the moms of Alan and Lyndsey make a quick
connection.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Wedged precariously between Charlie Brown and Michael Jackson, this
rerun has the first day of college for Haley and first day of
kindergarten for Lily.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here's the
night's only new, scripted show. Marley finds herself in a romantic
triangle with Ryder (played by “Glee Project” winner Blake
Jenner) and Jake.

– “Person of Interest,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Reese and Finch protect a 6-month-old baby.