TV column for Monday, Oct. 27

ONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.
The first two weeks weaved a zesty tangle. Jane was
accidentally inseminated; the biologic father (her boss) doesn’t know that his
wife was having an affair with his best friend (now slain … or that his sister
has an affair with his stepmother. Meanwhile, Jane doesn’t know her biologic
father is a telenovela star.
All of this would be silly, if it weren’t done with wry wit
… and with Gina Rodriguez as a pure-hearted heroine. Tonight, she’s ready to be
an ex-virgin – maybe. The church and hotel-room scenes are gems.
TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “2 Broke Girls” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
For five weeks, “The Big Bang Theory” has propped up CBS’
Monday line-up. Now “2 Broke Girls” must take over; to make it easier, its
opener borrows the tabloid starpower of Kim Kardashian West.
 A producer of her
reality show wants to film at the cupcake window. Max is skeptical; Caroline,
who used to be as rich as a Kardashian, wants the publicity, but has never seen
the show.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James
Brown,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.
Here is the best kind of music biography – one made by and
for people who love music. At times, this Mick Jagger production simply sits
back and watches Brown with awe. Stunning dance moves and great vocal riffs were
backed by gifted jazzmen who were ready to improvise to his moves.
Alongside that are deep analyses of the music and the man.
Brown’s parents deserted him; he grew up in an aunt’s brothel. He trusted no
one; that made him a great performer (copying no one) and a cruel employer. One
band member recalls needing to pull a pistol on his boss; it’s part of a great
Other choices include:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. ABC’s Halloween
week has the eight dancers (Jonathan Bennett was ousted last week) split into
teams, dancing to Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” or to “Time Warp” from “Rocky
Horror.” Also, Ella Henderson sings “Ghost,” Nikki Yanofsky does “Necessary
“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The “knock-out round” begins,
with Taylor Swift as key advisor. Teammates compete, this time choosing their
own songs; the loser will be dumped or “stolen.”
“Gotham,” 8 p.m., Fox. This is almost biblical: A killer
targets the first-born children of Gotham’s elite.
“The Millers,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. It’s time for Tom and Carol
(Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale) to officially end their marriage. Suddenly,
both hesitate.
“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS. Team members face two imposing
challenges – passing psychological tests and helping Paige (Katharine McPhee)
convince her son to go to his school’s Halloween party.
“American Dad,” 9 p.m., TBS. Desperate to prove they’re
better than military drones, the guys steal a king’s jewel-encrusted inhaler.
Humor follows, but sporadically.
“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. Liz needs to pump Red for
information about the nasty world of poaching.
“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Here’s the worst kind of
serial-killer – one who’s really good at social media.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 26

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).
Separated by two centuries, masterful writers molded a
terrific tale. Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” came out in 1813; P.D. James
published “Death Comes to Pemberley” in 2011, when she was 91.
James (known for the Dalgliesh mysteries) jumped ahead six
years, to find Elizabeth and Darcy planning a ball. Many invited guests are
coming, plus two uninvited ones – the scoundrel Wickham and his wife, Elizabeth’s
fun sister Lydia; then comes a murder and some clever detours and suspects.
Anna Maxwell Martin is OK as Elizabeth, with Matthew Rhys (far from his
“Americans” role) solid as Darcy.
TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Baseball or football.
This is one of the few times when baseball and pro-football
collide on broadcast networks. The World Series continues (barring a sweep) at
8 p.m. ET, with the Kansas City Royals at San Francisco.
Meanwhile, two top quarterbacks battle at 8:20 ET in New
Orleans. Aaron Rodgers’ Packers, surviving close calls, have won four straight
for a 5-2 record; Drew Brees’ Saints are 0-4 on the road, 2-0 at home.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Day of Expedition,” noon to 11 p.m.,
National Geographic.
For 11 hours, we see people take stunning risks; some fail. “The
Man Who Doesn’t Breathe” (6 p.m.) is an OK look at a guy trying to break his
record of 22 underwater minutes without breathing. Far more gripping are “Die
Trying” episodes: One (7 p.m.) views the 2008 tragedies on the K2 mountain;
another (10 p.m.) follows two Australians trying to be the first to walk to the
South Pole and back, unassisted.
In between (8-10 p.m.) is the premiere of “Mammoths
Unearthed.” In an unforgiving stretch of Siberia, two rugged American
scientists find amazing, 30,000-year-old wooly mammoth artifacts.
Other choices include:
“Manhattan,” 11 a.m. to midnight, WGN America. Richly
crafted by director-producer Thomas Schlamme, this series views the early days
in Los Alamos. Here’s the entire first season in one gulp.
“Star Wars Rebels,” 7 p.m., ABC. Already a hit on cable (9
p.m. Mondays, Disney XD), this hour has added one scene for ABC. Set just
before Luke Skywalker’s emergence (but after the prequel trilogy), this is on a
planet where a ragtag group led by Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) battles the
Imperial force.
“Madam Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. Pleading with the president
to help with a West African crisis, Elizabeth finds unexpected consequences.
“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. The wonderfully quirky Elsbeth
has been a great opponent and colleague for Alicia. Now they must link when
each has a client accused of economic espionage.
“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Martin still hasn’t told Maggie
that he’s now among those returned from the dead. That becomes crucial as she
treats many of the returned, struck by a mysterious disease.
“Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. Emily used to dream of her father,
David Clarke, returning and being cleared. Now that he’s back, however, he’s
under Victoria’s evil control; Emily tries to repair relations.
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. The women
(Jorja Fox, Elisabeth Shue, Elizabeth Harnois) plan to relax at a conference.
Naturally, there’s a mass shooting.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.
For four years, Jim Carrey was a sketch-comedy master. On
“In Living Color,” he was Fire Marshall Bill and Vanilla Ice and body-builder
Vera DiMilo and (as the cast’s only white guy) lots of bigots.
He would seem like a logical “SNL” host, but he’s only done
that twice – in 1996 and 2011. Now – with his “Dumb and Dumberer To” opening
Nov. 14, Carrey hosts with Iggy Azalea as music guest.
TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Elementary,” 8 p.m., CBS.
One of TV’s better dramas has been off the air for six
weeks, to make room for football. “Elementary” will finally start its season
Thursday, after season-openers of “Mom” and “Two and a Half Men.”
To get us in the mood, CBS offers a rerun from last fall:
While probing the death of a financial-company CEO, Sherlock finds that an old
acquaintance (Laura Benanti) is a suspect.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Good Witch’s Wonder,” 9 p.m.,
Hallmark; rerunning at 1 a.m.
Amid all the Halloween horror, the holiday still gives us
occasional pleasantness. Hallmark has an annual film (and, next year, a series)
with Catherine Bell as Cassie, who uses mild magic for good.
Five of the films rerun today, starting with the original (2008)
at 11 a.m., leading to this new one: Cassie is the ex-mayor, married to the
police chief. Two romances involving her their kids are remarkably lame, but
the people are so pleasant and the setting so charming that even a bad story
can seem almost OK.
Other choices include:
“Saturday Night Fever” (1977), 6:30 p.m., Sundance, and more.
One of the all-time greats leads a strong movie night. Other choices are at 8
p.m.: “Mean Girls” (2004) on WE, “Addams Family Values” (1993) on ABC Family
and horror – “High School Possession” (2014) on Lifetime, “28 Weeks Later” (2007)
on IFC.
Sports overload, 8 p.m. It’s baseball on Fox, with the Kansas
City Royals at San Francisco; the pre-game show is at 7:30. And it’s football
on ABC, with 13th-ranked Ohio State at Penn State. There’s more on
cable, led by Mississippi (No. 3) at Louisiana State (No. 24), at 7:15 p.m. on
“The Mysteries of Laura” and “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. These are tentative, given NBC’s habit of
Saturday switches.
“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. We always thought of
trees as a good thing. Suddenly, they’re growing so fast they may take over the
“Survivor’s Remorse,” 9 p.m., Starz. At the core, Cam and
his family and friends are good people, awed by the big-money life his
basketball success brings. Now comes a new dilemma – returning to church and
finding objections to his openly gay sister. That sets up a big finish to an
otherwise-quiet episode.
“Daniel Tosh: Happy Thoughts,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. This
2011 stand-up special wraps up an all-Tosh primetime. “Tosh.0” reruns at 8 and
8:30, with the 2007 “Completely Serious” special at 9.

“The Chair,” 10 p.m., Starz. Production wraps up
for two films, each loosely based on the same script. They’ll air at 10 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday; the winner (chosen by viewers) will be announced Nov. 8.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Great Performances,” p.m., PBS (check local listings)

This goes beyond great, actually. Two splendid singers are
backed by brilliant instrumentalists. The music is rarely interrupted by patter
and never by commercials.
Tony Bennett, 88, prefers subtlety; Lady Gaga, 28, likes belting.
Both do it well, so the combination works. They do the songs of the masters –
Ellington, Porter, Berlin, Strayhorn and, yes, Sonny Bono (“Bang Bang”). They
sing of a “Sophisticated Lady,” avoid “Lady is a Tramp” and fill a superb hour.
TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Constantine” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.
Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a tortured soul (literally). He
fights demons skillfully, but failed to save a young girl; he has
institutionalized himself and is trying to forget … until a new mission
That involves Liv (Lucy Griffiths), fresh from college and
unaware of her powers or her danger. At its best, “Constantine” has huge
special effects, with occasional humor and a terrific cast; at its worst, it
pours on everything to excess, then dumps its best character. After finishing
the pilot, producers decided to rewrite the ending, making room for Zed
(Angelica Celaya) and dropping Liv; we’ll miss her.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Grimm” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC,
and more.
Halloween is a week away, so we have to expect bursts of
horror. “Grimm” has a strong (but open-ended) hour, following up on last
season’s finale: Nick, who has lost his power to see demons, was at a wedding
when there was a shooting and beheading in his house; his police colleagues are
There’s more on cable, including zombie killers (“Z Nation,”
10 p.m., Syfy) and “Zombie Strippers” (8:45 p.m., IFC). Lifetime repeats “Big
DrIver” (2014), its so-so Stephen King tale, at 8 p.m.; AMC has the “Omen”
trilogy at 4 p.m. (1976), 6:30 p.m. (1978) and 9 p.m. (1981).
Other choices include:
Lighter Halloween films, 7 p.m., cable. Yes, this holiday
used to be for kids. Nickelodeon has “Monster High: Freaky Fusion” (2014),
flashing back to the school’s first day. ABC Family Tim Burton films -- “The
Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) at 7 p.m. and Johnny Depp’s “Dark Shadows”
(2012) at 8:30. Disney has “Return to Halloween Town” (2006) at 7:20 and two
“Evermoor” episodes at 9.
Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30. The World
Series moves to San Francisco, for the third game of its best-of-seven series
with the Giants and Royals.
“Jane the Virgin,” 8 p.m., CW. Here’s a rerun of the second
episode, which offered the same bubbly mix – offbeat humor in a gorgeous,
telenovela setting – as the opener. The final moments are memorable.
“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. We’re in Morocco now, with
the eight duos facing a double U-turn and an accusation that one team is
“Cristela,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Cristela is drawn into equal-pay
arguments at home and at work.
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett meets a woman who
helps him re-open his dad’s last case.
“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Generational changes are key
here: The former police commissioner (Len Cariou) made insensitive remarks that
the current one (Frank, played by Tom Selleck), his son, must deal with. Also,
Frank’s son Jamie (Will Estes) is targeted after breaking up an abusive

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 23

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Football, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, with
preview at 7:30.

CBS’ Thursday-football experiment wraps up tonight, just as
it started having some close games. The first four were dreadful – an average
score of 24-3 at halfime, 42-11 final; the last two were tight.

Now this final one is promising, with Denver – 5-1 and fresh
from Peyton Manning’s career touchdown record – hosting San Diego, 5-2.
Starting next week, the Thursday games will only be on the NFL Network; CBS will
have its old line-up back, from “Big Bang Theory” to “Elementary.”

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Project Runway” finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,

This show’s final four designers vary sharply in roots –
from Detroit to Hawaii – and in experience.

Two already have their own labels – Amanda Valentine (33 and
from Nebraska) in Nashville and Kini Zamora, 30, in Hawaii. The others are
making a big leap: Sean Kelly (25 and from New Zealand) has been working in a
Brooklyn store; Char Glover, 37, has been a Detroit hair stylist since she was
16. Now (after an 8 p.m. rerun) we see their collections at New York’s Fashion
Week; a “Runway” champion is named.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Gracepoint,” 9 p.m., Fox.

“Nothing you’re saying makes sense today,” one character says
… reflecting what viewers might be thinking. Yes, “Gracepoint” adapts (superbly,
in many ways) a British mini-series (“Broadchurch”) that richly portrayed the
aftershocks of a small-town boy’s murder. But in moving to America (and
expanding from eight to 10 parts), the story has broadened the suspect pool and
amped up the weirdness.

When the priest chastises the psychic, it’s hard to tell who
is loonier … except that the old lady and her colleague top them and the cop is
pretty odd. Surely, it doesn’t take a village of crazies to kill a child.

Other choices include:

“The Corpse Bride” (2005) and “The Nightmare Before
Christmas” (1993), 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., ABC Family. Fully into its “13 Days of
Halloween” mode, ABC Family has Tim Burton’s automated films, with music by the
talented Danny Elfman.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. In the rerun of a good episode from
last spring, the team investigates a lab that cryogenically freezes bodies.
Also, Cam frets about meeting Arastoo’s parents.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. This eyes the troubled
marriage of Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw). While Callie
focuses on her veterans’ project, Arizona tries to impress Dr. Henry.

“Scandal,” 9 p.m., ABC. Continuing to work Catherine’s case,
Olivia is distracted by the fact that Jake (Scott Foley) hasn’t called.
Meanwhile, the president pushes his effort to learn who killed his son.

“A to Z,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Here’s a true test of how far along
the relationship is: Zelda can’t decide whether to invite Andrew to her aunt’s

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. At a family barbecue, Julia’s
new boyfriend meets her estranged husband. Also, Jasmine frets about Crosby; Max
tries to learn more about his new friend.

“How to Get Away with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Annalise
tackles the tough case of a cop killed by his son, some of her students start
to suspect her motives. Also, flash-forwards show us why her husband made phone
calls on the night his student was killed.