TV column for Monday, Feb. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC.

A 20-year TV tradition is down to its final four days. Jay
Leno departs, with key guest s.

Tonight, he has Jimmy Fallon – who inherits the show after
the Olympics – and Betty White, 91 and making her 19
th appearance.
Coming are Matthew McConaughey on Tuesday, Blake Shelton and Sandra Bullock on
Wednesday and Billy Crystal (Leno’s first guest, 20 years ago) and Garth Brooks
on Thursday.

Ironically, Leno is being nudged out at the top. A recent
week (Jan. 21-24) saw him beat David Letterman by more than 40 percent in total
viewers and in ages 18-49.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years
of Beautiful,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Guys seem to be very interested in fashion, especially as it
relates to beachwear. This would explain the high circulation of Sports
Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition.

This special celebrates the 50th edition with old
and new views, plus interviews. It has former swimsuit models -- Heidi Klum
(who hosts), Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland, Marisa Miller, Kate
Upton – plus music from Lady Antebellum, Enrique Iglesias, John Legend, Tim
McGraw and The Fray.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “POV: American Promise,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

The idea began with optimism. Joe Brewster, whose dad learned
to read at 40, is a psychiatrist; Michele Stephenson, a law-school grad, is a
filmmaker. Their son Idris was starting at what was once an all-white private
school; the parents would record all 12 years of Idris and another black
student, Seun Summers.

Then the problems came – some external tragedies, some
internal. Alternately compelling, disturbing and mildly hopeful, this film
leaves questions. Do some educators and parents obsess on results while
ignoring humanity? “Promise” can spark strong debates.

Other choices include:

“Wallykazam” debut, 1 p.m., Nickelodeon. Knowledge and fun
intermingle, in this world of trolls and such. In the opener, Wally learns “S”
words while trying to keep an ogre’s pet away from purple flowers.

“The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. A generation ago, who
would have imagined Vietnam as a romantic location for a dating show? That
happens tonight, before the field is trimmed from 11 to eight.

“Antique Roadshow,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Some
30,000 people applied for the Detroit visit, we’re told, more than for any
other city. Here’s the second of three Detroit hours (followed, at 9, by
Eugene, Oregon). It has a few local nods – Marvin Gaye’s passport, a skilled
architect, a brief visit to a fascinating museum for small-company cars – and
more, concluding with an amazing photo book.

“Beauty and the Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Vincent and Cat scramble
to rescue the kidnapped J.T.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. When a mean girl is killed, other
teens become suspects.

“Inside Comedy” season-opener, 11 p.m., Showtime. Before his
Leno visit, watch Fallon (and Zach Galifianakis) chat with David Steinberg.
Also: films about Richard Pryor and Steinberg, at 8 and 9:30 p.m.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Super Bowl, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox.

Here’s a classic battle of opposites: A veteran quarterback (Peyton
Manning, 37, of the Denver Broncos) who stands back and fires … a youngster
(Russell Wilson, 25, of the Seattle Seahawks) who scrambles.

Manning threw 55 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in the
regular season; Wilson had 26 and 9. Then again, Wilson runs for over 500 yards
a season, Manning for less than 50. Add tough defenses, solid running (plus
commercials and a Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers halftime) and it’s a fun

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece,” 9 and 9:58 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

While others duck a Super Bowl confrontation, PBS pushes
ahead with its best work. At 9:58 is the last of this season’s three episodes
of the oft-brilliant “Sherlock”; Holmes faces a master blackmailer. And at 9,
“Downton Abbey” has another night of elegant soap opera.

Downstairs, there are turning points for Alfred (the
would-be chef) and Molesley (the jobless footman); also, Bates and Anna strain
for a fresh start. Upstairs, there’s agony for Edith, a dispute between
dowagers … and a birthday surprise for Robert, from his young houseguest Rose.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Marathons, cable.

Animal Planet invented this concept with “Puppy Bowl” – a
two-hour loop of frolicking pups. Today, that keeps running from 3 p.m. to 5

Now Hallmark counters with “Kitten Bowl,” a three-hour loop
from noon to midnight. AMC also has a marathon, but not a cute one: From 10
a.m. to 6 a.m., it has the first two seasons of “The Walking Dead.” There’s
another marathon next weekend, leading into the mid-season premiere next

Other choices include:

Pre-game shows, noon to 6 p.m., Fox. The annual “Road to the
Super Bowl” is at noon, followed by “Football America: Our Story” at 1 and the studio
show at 2.

More pre-game, about 6 p.m. Opera star Renee Fleming sings
the National Anthem, with Queen Latifah doing “America the Beautiful.” There’s
also a Declaration of Independence film, a coin toss and more.

“The Good Wife,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts
with Alicia learning she’s been spied on through her own computer. That’s
followed by “The Mentalist” at 9 and “NCIS” at 10.

“Girls” and “Looking,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO. Most of
cable’s key shows skip Super Bowl Sunday. HBO has “This is 40” (2012) at 7:40
p.m., resting the brilliant “True Detective”; it does, however, have these two.
“Girls” has a surprising downer, as Hannah’s world crumbles; “Looking” (set
among gays in San Francisco) also goes grim, with job setbacks, before offering
glimmers of hope in the final minutes.

“New Girl,” 10:30 p.m. or later, Fox. Jess and Cece are
invited to a party at Prince’s mansion. Naturally, the guys try to slip in.
Prince and other celebrities have guest roles.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 11 p.m. or later, Fox. Jake (Andy
Samberg, fresh from his Golden Globe award) works a case with his frequent
nemesis Amy. Meanwhile, the captain and sergeant plan a precinct makeover.
Guest stars include Fred Armisen, Joe Theismann and more.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 1

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Seth Meyers has been on “SNL” for 12-plus years; he’s been a
head writer for eight years, the “Weekend Update” anchor for seven-plus. He’s
created everything from past Sarah Palin sketches to current bits with grumpy
critic Jebediah Atkinson. He’s had moments of sheer brilliance.

Now Meyers has his final “Update.” Melissa McCarthy hosts,
with music by Imagine Dragons.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blades of Glory” (2007), 8-10 p.m.,

On Thursday, real figure-skaters will start competing in the
Winter Olympics. First, here’s some silliness.

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play dueling skaters, reluctantly
becoming the first guy-guy duo. The result is wildly inconsistent – did we
mention it’s a Ferrell film? – but the routines are hilarious.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “And the Oscar Goes To …,” 8-9:45
p.m., Turner Classic Movies.

Over the next month, TCM will fill each prime time with
Oscar-winners. First, it has this dandy documentary, racing through Oscar
history via great clips and comments.

It includes moments that were weird, wretched (blacklisting)
and controversial. It also reminds us that at times – but not often lately –
there have been acceptance speeches and introductions worth catching.

Other choices include:

“Remember Sunday” (2013), 7-9 p.m., Hallmark; repeats at 10.
Clinging to shards of his memory, a jewelry-store clerk uses written notes to
survive. Now he grasps for romance, in a sweetly moving film that stars Zachary
Levy and Alexis Bledel.

“Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. When
the Olympics end, Fallon will take over “Tonight,” the semi-sacred land of
Carson, Paar and Leno. First, here are highlights from his late-night show …
which will now go to Meyers.

“NFL Honors,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. On the Super Bowl eve, Alec
Baldwin hosts a tribute to pro football’s best. There are awards for most
valuable player and coach-of-the-year, plus Hall of Fame inductees.

“The Gabby Douglas Story,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Here’s a
portrait of the 2012 Olympic gymnastics champion. It’s followed by a 10 p.m.
portrait of Douglas.

“Stan Lee’s Mighty 7,” 8 p.m. ET, Hub. Imagine that the
comic-book master met real aliens with superpowers. Lee, 91, voices himself in
this cartoon, with lines that are sometimes too jokey. Overall, however, this
is a fairly good adventure, spiced with some heart and humor..

When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. Cat is suspected of
being the arsonist.

“Saturday Night Live,” 10 p.m., NBC. Here’s a shortened
rerun of last week’s show, with Jonah Hill as host and Bastille as music guest.
Some so-so sketches come early, with a hilarious one at the end

“Gone With the Wind” (1939), 10 p.m., TCM. The Oscar month
starts with one of the greats.

TV column for Friday, Jan, 31

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Enlisted” and “Raising Hope,” 9 and
9:30 P.M., Fox.

Two nights before the Super Bowl, Fox’s comedies obsess on competition.

First, “Enlisted” gives the feuding platoon leaders (Pete Hill
and Jill Perez) a common cause: They must work together to defeat the
athletically superior Marines.

Then “Hope” has the International Grocery Games – the Super
Bowl of grocery-store skills – visit little Natesville. Naturally, there’s a
performance scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

John Barrymore had it all – talent, beauty and family
tradition. He did light comedies onstage, easy dramas in movies, then tackled
the epic roles -- “Hamlet” and “Richard III.” But as his drinking increased,
his memory faded; he died in 1942, at 60.

“Barrymore” is virtually a one-man play, watching him try to
prepare for a return to “Richard,” a month before his death. At times, he
thinks he’s on a vaudeville stage or a movie set; at others, he has splendid
quips. It’s a rich role, wonderfully played by Christopher Plummer, 84, who won
a Tony for it in 1997.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.

Last week, the show found a fresh way to stir up two sides:
A secret, cross-cultural romance ended with an American Indian girl killed and
an Amish boy missing.

Now that’s resolved. (The bad news -- yet another torture
scene; the good – a stunning tomahawk scene.) Things are peaceful – except for
the giant figure who is free again and threatening Sheriff Lucas Hood … and the
young man who knows the sheriff’s a fraud, because his dad was the real Lucas Hood.

Other choices included:

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. When a kidnap victim’s body is found,
the team starts to suspect people who were close to her. Also, Hodgins finds a
family secret and Brennan and Booth ponder co-mingling their money.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When Valentine flowers
arrive, no one’s sure who they’re for. They’re not from Mike (Tim Allen), who
got his wife a Taser for the holiday. Maybe Kyle sent them for Mandy; maybe
Kristin’s boss (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Allen’s “Home Improvement” son) is a
secret admirer.

“The Neighbors,” 8:30, ABC. Now that she’s in college,
Debbie hosts a study group at her home. She soon feels more like a mom than a

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Here’s a new episode with an
old plot, one that’s been used often lately in series (including Wednesday’s
“Psych”) and movies: McGarrett and Danny are kidnapped by an escaped convict
who demands they prove his innocence.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A popular drag queen has been
murdered. Danny (Donnie Wahlberg, directing a “Blue Bloods” for the first time)
investigates; also, his sister Erin re-opens a drug probe.

“Helix,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Now the CDC team realizes how much
trouble it faces. This private research lab in the Arctic was doing some nasty
things; no one here is who he seems to be.


TV column for Thursday, Jan. 30

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

In recent weeks, we’ve had four “Big Bang” reruns on CBS and
roughly three kajillion more on cable and individual stations. Now, as the
“sweeps” ratings month begins, we finally get a new one.

Sheldon insists he’s starting his own variation on a comics
convention for fantasy fans. Friends mock him … until he lands a major
celebrity; James Earl Jones is the guest star.

“Parks and Recreation,” 8:30, NBC.

Rashida Jones has been with this show from the start, as Ann.
We met her as a nurse who had a lazy boyfriend on her couch and a gaping pit in
her neighborhood; she became Leslie’s best friend.

Now, after five-plus years, Ann is leaving town. She and
Chris plan to live in Michigan, where they’ll raise their baby; first, Leslie plans
to do – or overdo – one more thing, with a grand farewell party.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties: The British Invasion,”
9 p.m., CNN.

Fifty years ago, the music world transformed. The Beatles
did the “Ed Sullivan Show,” with 73 million people watching; others – Stones,
Kinks, Who, Dave Clark Five – soon followed.

Now TV is noting that. On Feb. 9 (the exact 50th
anniversary of the Sullivan telecast), CBS has a music special. On April 8, PBS
has a Dave Clark film, including Tom Hanks’ passionate hall-of-fame speech.

First is this special, produced by Hanks and a sampling of
the 10-part “The Sixties” in May. Alongside clips aree comments by Graham Nash,
Smokey Robinson, Mickey Dolenz, Questlove and more.

Other choices include:

“American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. Here’s the final night of
auditions, in Omaha.

“Blade Runner” (1982), 9 p.m., Sundance. Ridley Scott
stylishly directed this film, weaving genres about the past (hard-boiled
detective) and future (android-hunting). Harrison Ford stars, with great support
from Daryl Hannah, Sean Young, William Sanderson, Rutger Hauer and more.

“The Millers,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Tired of chauffeuring his
mother, Nathan tells her to learn to drive or get someone else to do it.

 “Rake,” 9 p.m., Fox.
In the jaunty season-opener, we met Keane (Greg Kinnear), a good lawyer with a
bad life of gambling debts and more; he was stopped for drunken driving. Now he
needs a driver and finds an overeducated one (Alexandra Breckenridge) who
shares his passion for sports bets. Meanwhile, his clients are charged with a
hate crime, for cutting off the beard of a fellow Amish man.

“White Collar,” 9 p.m., USA. In the season finale, Neal
searches for a treasure buried in New York.

“The Michael J. Fox Show,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Eve isn’t really
the edgy type, but now she pretends to be.

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. It’s time for new ventures -- Sara
and Hank (Lauren Graham and Ray Romano) with their project, Kristina starts
working as a community counselor.