TV column for Monday, Oct. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Five,” 9-11
p.m., Lifetime.

The best TV movie in years, this was
written, directed and acted with consummate skill.

There are five short films about breast
cancer, each with a different writer and director. Still, a clever
device strongly ties the first and last films and lightly links the
others.

Three people – Demi Moore, Jennifer
Aniston, Alicia Keys – made directing debuts. Their work, starting
with Moore's exquisite opener, is superb; so are films by Patty
Jenkins and Penelope Spheeris.

Two roles are overwritten, but
performed so well (by Patricia Clarkson and Jenifer Lewis) that all
is forgiven. Others are perfection, with Jeanne Tripplehorn, Lyndsy
Fonseca, Rosario Dawson and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “2 Broke
Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In the first three weeks of this
terrific series, we've savored the reactions of Caroline, the fallen
heiress, as she sees how real people live. Now it's time for the flip
side: Max sees how the rich live.

Caroline is convinced she needs
something at her old home – now padlocked by police. She has no
breaking-and-entering skills; Max does and soon gets a peek at
Caroline's old life.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Rosie
Show,” 7 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

OWN started weakly – not enough
oomph, not enough Oprah – on Jan. 1. Now the facelift begins, with
Rosie O'Donnell at 7 p.m., reconfigured “Oprah” reruns at 8 and
more coming.

Rosie O'Donnell says her show will
start with a monologue and end with an offbeat game. In between, it
will usually have only one guest; the first is Russell Brand,
guaranteeing an enjoyable start.

Other choices include:

– “Terra Nova,” 8 p.m., Fox. At
an outpost, a virus has caused memory loss, insanity and death. Dr.
Shanon (Shelley Conn) and others scramble for a cure, before they
become infected.

--”Oprah's Lifeclass” debut, 8
p.m., OWN. Winfrey hosts a show that repackages her reruns. This
week, that's followed by reruns of Lisa Ling documentaries at 9 and
“Oprah” at 10.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Out of
prison, House has a tough time. Wilson, his long-suffering friend, is
cool to him. Also, the outspoken House is working with the
talented-but-timid Dr. Chi Park,

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. OK, Walter (Ashton Kutcher) has spent enough time moping about
his marriage. Now he's looking of the next perfect woman. Also, Alan
re-pursues Lyndsey.

– “Bored to Death” season-opener,
9 p.m., HBO. Sometimes sly and subtle, “Bored” leaps into a big
story that ends (well) next week. Ray is lured into what feels like
an old-time detective novel.

– “Enlightened” debut, 9:30, HBO.
Amy (Laura Dern) had a spectacular meltdown, then took a spiritual
retreat. Newly enlightened, she expects peace with her grouchy mother
(Diane Ladd, Dern's real mom) and slacker ex-husband (Luke Wilson).
Its a slickly crafted comedy-drama.

– “Prime Suspect,” 10 p.m., NBC.
“The Playboy Club” – dull, drab and badly done – has already
been canceled. A news hour is coming, with reruns filling in.
Tonight, Jane's dad's bar is robbed.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Breaking Bad”
season finale, 10 p.m., AMC.

This season has pushed Walt to the
brink. He raged at his colleague Jessie, fumed when his wife gave
away most of the drug money. At the end of last week's hour, he tried
unsuccessfully to kill Gus.

Now forces collide. Gus – the
crystal-meth king who runs a chicken restaurant – has beaten the
Mexican cartel, but the DEA has been closing in on him. Now Walt and
Jessie prepare to confront him.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Desperate
Housewives,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This season continues to be shaken by
what happened at the end of last year: Carlos saved Gabrielle by
killing her stepfather; then the four women helped him hide the body.

Now the aftershocks persist. Carlos and
Susan are drawn together; Bree feels her cop boyfriend knows what
happened. Meanwhile, Lynette's oft-weepy sister (Sarah Paulson)
arrives with a surprise.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Brain Games,”
8-11 p.m., National Geographic.

The brain has amazing skills, we see
here. Given partial information, it fills out pictures neatly.

It is also, alas, easy to confuse. We
see magic tricks, visual-perception twists and more. People are
stunned when a rubber arm near theirs is smashed; a hypnotist
convinces someone that cold is hot, then rids the number “four”
from her mind.

Also, tests prove we're bad
multi-taskers and shaky crime witnesses. It's a fun night, including
games.

Other choices include:

– Sports overload, 7 p.m. ET Fox,
8:15 p.m., NBC. Fox has baseball, with the second game of the
American League championship series. NBC has football – the Super
Bowl champion Packers, with a 4-0 record this year, at the Falcons,
who were 13-3 last year, but are only 2-2 now.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. The erratic “Inspector Lewis” series end its season on a
so-so note. There are some good moments focusing on Hathaway, who
gave up academia to be a police sergeant; there's also a fanciful
plot that spans decades and identities, laced with melodrama.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Fresh from “House,” Lisa Edelstein steps into a recurring role as
Will's former loved one. Tonight, they're on opposite sides of a
mediation.

– “Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. Pushed to the wall by his former mentor, Nucky starts to strike
back. Also, there are dramatic moments involving his current mistress
and his former one.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Don't you hate it when you're expecting a tidy murder scene and then
a hurricane stirs things up? Tonight, that's all part of the Florida
cop experience.

– “Hung,” 10 p.m., HBO. After a
couple so-so years, this show improved sharply in last week's
season-opener. Tonight, alas, it sags; the story (Ray has a young
foe) is so-so, with a non-clever conclusion.

– “Pan Am,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In
the early 1960s, private jets were rare. That explains why these Pan
Am stewardesses are flying to Berlin with reporters who are covering
John Kennedy's speech. Maggie, a Kennedy-backer, is obsessed with
meeting him. Kelly, working undercover for the CIA, has a source
who's been compromised; she wants to help her flee from East Germany.

 

 

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rules of
Engagement” season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Here's good news – a non-rerun
scripted show on primetime Saturday. It's a half-hour island amid
reruns and non-fiction, but “Rules” tends to be lightweight fun.

Last season Russell (David Spade), who
covets young women, ended up on a cruise with older ones. Now he's
back home, shell-shocked – and married to Liz, his semi-crazy
neighbor. It's a funny storyline, in a typically erratic “Rules.”
One other story (Jeff tries to talk dirty) is childish; but an
opening scene with Adam and a waitress is quite funny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Harry's Law,”
8-11 p.m., NBC.

In a late change, NBC has dumped all of
its primetime plans for tonight. Instead, it reruns the three-part
season-opener, with Harriet representing a guy (Alfred Molina) who
seems terribly guilty.

The first hour is a disappointment,
with two weak secondary stories and the transformation of “Law”
into a “Boston Legal” clone. But the second develops the
prosecutor (Jean Smart) as a richly detailed villain. And the third
brings some sharp surprises in Molina's case.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bedlam,” 9
p.m., BBC America.

This show nudges ahead slightly in its
central story – the haunted history of an old mental institution
and the family now turning it into upscale housing. It also shows
that it can deliver a story-of-the-week that begins and ends
(skillfully) in one episode.

Tonight, a new tenant arrives. Like
almost everyone on this show, she's young, attractive and wobbly.
Haunted by her conscience and her car (really), she starts to
crumble, in a well-made hour.

Other choices include:

– Sports overload, 7:30 p.m., Fox,
and 8 p.m., ABC. Starting now, two major sports collide on the
broadcast networks. Fox takes over the baseball play-offs; tonight,
the American League championships begin. ABC has football with Ohio
State at Nebraska – two traditional powerhouses, in the unfamiliar
position of having lost their conference openers.

– More football, cable. At 7 p.m., FX
has Auburn at Arkansas, ESPN has Texas A&M at Texas Tech and
ESPN2 has Georgia at Tennessee. At 7:30. Versus has Colorado at
Stanford.

– Mega-movies, 7:30 and 8 p.m.,
cable. ABC Family has “Titanic” (1997) at 7:30 p.m.; it's an
Oscar-winning gem, but a lengthy one – running to midnight with
commercials. HBO has “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”
(2010) at 8.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Here's a second chance to see the year's best comedy pilot.
Sharply written by Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings (who
also has her own show), this neatly links an acerbic waitress (Kat
Dennings) and a fallen heiress (Beth Behrs).

– “Honeymoon for One” (2011),
9-11 p.m., Hallmark. After her marriage plans implode, a sleek
executive (Nicollette Sheridan) decides to still take her
non-refundable honeymoon in Ireland. The Irish settings are terrific;
Sheridan is not, coming across as a bit stiff.

– Saturday Night Live, 11:29 p.m.,
NBC. Ben Stiller hosts the season's third episode, with music by
Foster the People.

 

 

TV column for Friday, Oct. 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Gifted Man,”
8 p.m., CBS.

Rachel Lefevre has gone a long way from
her early roles. With her swirling, reddish-blond hair, she kept
getting light series – “Big Wolf on Campus” and – as a
hot-dog stand worker – “Life on a Stick.”

Not any more. She's playing her second
straight doctor – first in “Off the Map” and now here.

Michael (Patrick Wilson) needs someone
to run his late wife's clinic. Dr. Kate Sykora (Lefevre, a new
regular on the show) is a prime prospect. Meanwhile, Michael must do
instant surgery.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Whitney,”
8:30 p.m., NBC.

It's easy for this sharp new comedy to
get lost in its tough Thursday slot. Now, on a slow night, an instant
rerun gives us a second chance to see it.

Whitney spots her boyfriend watchig a
hot-looking woman. He denies that he has a wandering eye, but she
decides to give him the silent treatment. Alas, Whitney talks a lot,
so this isn't really a punishment.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Shrek”
(2001) and “Shrek 2” (2004), 8 and 9:54 p.m., TNT.

This weak night might be a good time to
watch or tape these animated family films.

Taking a clue from the Pixar films,
Dreamworks wrote a clever script and hired talented people – Mike
Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz – as the voices. The first
“Shrek” is a delight, a feel-good fable about an ugly ogre and a
beautiful princess; the second tries to to complicate things, with
mixed results.

Other choices include:

– “Up All Night,” 8 p.m., NBC. In
a quick rerun of Wednesday's episode, a cool new couple has moved in
across the street. Reagan and Chris, forever feeling uncool, want to
learn about them.

– “Modern Family,” 8 p.m., ABC.
In another Wednesday rerun, everyone is obsessing – Claire on
getting a stop sign, Phil on creating a video hit, Jay on a
fund-raiser, Gloria on finding the dog.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In another Wednesday rerun, Jane is appalled to realize she's
attracted to a suburban athlete.

– “Charlie's Angels,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. In a rerun of the show's second episode, the women must go
undercover as models. This is not a big stretch for them, you know.

– Fringe, 9 p.m., Fox. Two bullies
are found dead, with their bodies decomposing quickly.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
beauty's body has been found in a car trunk, leading to a car-theft
probe.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Tentatively scheduled for this week (and originally scheduled for
last week) is an episode in which Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) learns an
ex-cop was in a failed bank robbery.

– “Sanctuary” season-opener, 10
p.m., Syfy. Time-travel is a lot more fun if you follow the view of
“Back to the Future” (the past can safely be altered) or “Terra
Nova” (alternate time streams). “Sanctuary” insists that
nothing can be altered. That limits the possibilities, as Helen
chases Adam Worth to 1898;the result is fairly drab.

– “Strike Back,” 10 p.m.,
Cinemax. Did this show decide it didn't have enough sex or violence?
Both are amped up even more, in a fierce (and fairly well-done) hour
that starts with the guys held hostage.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 6


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

Two terrific forces link. One is “Big
Bang,” TV's best comedy; the other is Katie Leclerc, 24, the
partially deaf actress who's so good in “Switched at Birth.”

Yes, it's a logical fit. Raj can't talk
to women when he's sober; Penny hooks him up with a deaf date.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Parks and
Recreation,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

This starts with a spot-on satire of
public radio. Leslie has written a book and now she's on the local
talk circuit; soon, she's in the midst of a swirling birthplace
controversy.

Also, there's fun with the two most
non-communicative people, Ron and April. Ann is determined to engage
them in conversation; it's an imposing (and funny) challenge.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “George
Harrison: Living in the Material World,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.

After years in the background, Harrison
did some songwriting, rarely piercing the Lennon-McCartney dominance.
He let Joe Cocker record “Something” first; when the Beatles
finally did it, it reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts; Frank
Sinatra called it “the greatest love song of the last 50 years.”

This film – wrapping up a terrific
two-night Martin Scorsese documentary – shows Harrison on his own,
as a talented songwriter and more. He popularized music from India
and led the historic “Concert for Bangladesh.” He formed The
Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan and others. He rescued “Life of Brian,” which became a classic, and financed other movies. He had
rich friendships and complex romances, before dying of cancer at 58.
It's a compelling story, well told.

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.
This episode, originally scheduled for 90 minutes, wraps up the
two-night “boot camp.” Now we'll learn who advances to the next
round.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
A stampede at a Comicon-type gathering leaves the emergency room
stuffed with oddly dressed people.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. When
the warehouse guys win the lottery, troubles spiral. Andy needs to
hire people quickly and others fill in … while dreaming of their
own post-lottery lives.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A boy has been kidnapped and his mom (Kelli Williams) was Patrick
Jane's client during his psychic days. Now she wants help; he soon
clashes with her spiritual advisor.

– “Standup Revolution,” 10 p.m.,
Comedy Central. Gabriele Iglesias is a stand-up comedian with good
material and great likability. (His stand-up special reruns at 9.)
Now he has a weekly half-hour, with an opening monologue and a
Grammy-winning house band (Ozomatli, which did a zesty video for the
show. He also has fairly good comedy sets by Alred Robles and Rick
Gutierrez.

– “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FX. “This is (the) darkest thing we've
ever done,” one character says. We won't disagree. This story –
fake baby, fake funeral – is only for “Sunny” zealots.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. The clinic is in chaos. Pete is recovering from his heart
attack, Amelia is recovering from alcoholism, Addison is oddly
negative toward a new guy (Benjamin Bratt).

– “The League” season-opener,
10:30 p.m., FX. Seth Rogen plays a porno filmmaker, in an episode
that is sometimes very clever and sometimes just very loud.