TV column for Monday, Nov. 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m.,

With its youngest final four, “Stars” sets up Tuesday’s
finale. Corbin Bleu, Amber Riley and Jack Osbourne (ages 24, 27 and 28) are
still around, plus Bill Engvall, 56.

Kellie Pickler opens with her song “Little Bit Gypsy.”
Afterward, each finalists does three dances, including a “samba relay” to TLC
singing “No Scrubs.” And three finalists reach Tuesday’s finale.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

“Pine Ridge is like a soap opera,” Cecelia Fire Thunder
says. That’s no exaggeration; through the eyes of Sunny Clifford, 21, and her
twin sister, we see an amazing year on the reservation.

There’s an impeachment vote, an election, a last-minute
ballot change, even police seizing ballot boxes. Young people go through
profound changes while older ones – including Fire Thunder, the tribe’s first
female president – persist; it’s a highly involving soap-opera-plus.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Christmas With Tucker,” 9-11 p.m.,
Hallmark Movie Channel.

We’re still a month from the holiday, but here’s one of the
best Christmas movies in years. It’s about a boy and his dog – many stories are
– but also about an earnest Kansas farm family and fierce storms.

This could have been excessive (and occasionally is), but
talented people rein it in. One is Dave Alan Johnson, who used to produce shows
– “Doc,” “Sue Thomas,” “Against the Grain” – with rich humanity; this film, his
first script to be aired in eight years, does the same. The other is James
Brolin; in North Bay, Ontario – many universes from his Malibu home – he
perfectly captures down-home decency.

Other choices include:  

The Voice, 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The final eight acts perform;
on Tuesday, two will be ousted.

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s an episode
written in rhyme. Marshall tries to get his son to sleep by telling him three
rhyming tales.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. On her first day at pastry
school, Max is distracted by the class clown.

“Major Crimes” return, 9 p.m., TNT. The hour opens with two
dead kids and an ailing woman; a tough case is coming, filled with twists,
turns and adult misbehavior. And in the backdrop, the somber story of teen-aged
Rusty builds. He was a gay prostitute when he witnessed a murder; now – in an
ongoing story that’s well-played -- he fidgets under police guard, while living
with Capt. Raydor and waiting to testify.

“Toxic Hot Seat,” 9-10:30 p.m., HBO. Good intentions can go
terribly bad, this well-crafted film says. Furniture has been so overloaded
with fire retardants, endangering kids and exposing firefighters to deadly
fumes. Female firefighters, for instance, have six times the national rate of
breast cancer.

“Generation Cryo” debut, 10 p.m., MTV; reruns at 11 p.m. and
2 a.m. Like many reality shows, this hour rambles a lot, occasionally with
shaky cameras. Unlike some, it has an immensely likable central person.
Breeanna Speicher, 17 when this started, is bright and optimistic; she’s trying
to find her sperm-donor father and her half-siblings. In the opener, she finds
delightful people and some misgivings.

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. After a
one-week break, this ratings hit is back with the first half of a tense,
two-week story. A bad guy schemes to break through the FBI protection and kill

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Pitbull hosts, but we can expect women to dominate. Katy
Perry opens the show … Jennifer Lopez does a Celia Cruz tribute … Christina
Aguilera repeats a “Voice” number, linking with the duo A Great Big World for “Say
Something.” Also performing: Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, TLC, Rihanna and Ariana

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who lead with six nominations,
will also perform; so will Justin Timberlake, who is tied with Taylor Swift
with five. Others are One Direction, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and, on
the country side, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m. (or later,
with football overrun), CBS.

This is what the show has been building to for five-plus
seasons. Patrick Jane finally confronts Red John, the serial killer who
murdered his wife and daughter.

We can expect some closure here – so much so that next
week’s episode jumps ahead two years.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Carol Burnett: The Mark Twain
Prize,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The Twain prize is for comedy, which makes this annual show
great fun. The presenters tend to go for big laughs, not sentiment.

The 16th Twain winner, Burnett is only the fifth
woman, but the third in the past four years. The previous two, Tina Fey and
Ellen DeGeneres, will be presenters; so will Burnett’s longtime colleagues Vicki
Lawerence, Tim Conway and Julie Andrews, plus Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Maya
Rudolph and more.

TONIGHT’S YES AND NO: “Getting On” and “Ja’Mie: Private
School Girl” debuts, 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO.

Stretching for offbeat comedy styles, HBO soars and then goes

“Getting On” is set in a hospital’s extended–care unit,
where the staff ranges from flawed to outright daft. Its style – fwith
overlapping dialog and choppy sentences – is hard to pull off, but a great cast
pulls it off. Alex Borstein (“MadTV”) stars, surrounded by Laurie Metcalf
(“Roseanne”) and Niecy Nash.

“Ja’Mie” is like one of those one-joke sketches that just
won’t quit. Chris Lilley takes a character – rich and full of herself -- he
played in “Summer Heights High” and stretches her out for way too long.

Other choices include:

Red carpet, 7 p.m., E. Here’s a one-hour music-awards
preview. A longer one is 5 p.m.

“Sofia the First,” 7 p.m., Disney. This is another thing to
worry about on a cruise: In this hour-long special, Sofia accidentally becomes
a mermaid. She meets Ariel – voiced by Jodi Benson, as she was in “Little
Mermaid” – and Oona, a mermaid played by Kiernan Shipka.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. Lisa’s new best friend turns
out to be her opposition in the class election. That’s followed by Thanksgiving
episodes of “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. (or later), CBS. Jason O’Mara
(“Vegas,” “Terra Nova”) plays a new lawyer at the office, complicating Alicia’s
case. Also, Mary Stuart Masterson’s plays an old acquaintance of Jackie.

“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. This show’s season-finales
tend to pack a wallop. Now the fourth season ends with the feds’ putting their
anti-Nucky plan in motion. Also, Chalky plots revenge on his foes and Al Capone
forms a bond with Johnny Torrio in Chicago. 

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 23

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Bill Cosby: Far From Finished,” 8 p.m.,
Comedy Central, and/or “Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles,” 10 p.m., HBO.

At first glance, these are opposites. Cosby uses no curse
words; Silverman thrives on them. She sings the same nasty one dozens of times;
she even contrives a claim about the sex lives of Sept. 11 widows.

Beyond that, however, they’re oddly similar. Both have
brilliant material, delivered in slow, droll styles. They don’t force anything;
this is the rhythm of gifted comedians in complete control.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Saturday Night Live,” 10-11 p.m. and
11:29 p.m., NBC.

First is a shortened rerun of last week’s episode, with great
moments from Lady Gaga. She ranged from history’s worst cover songs to the
ultimate dream for displaced Blockbuster employees. When she wasn’t on-camera,
the show still clicked, especially with Bobby Moynihan as Toronto mayor Rob

We knew, of course, that the Gaga episode would be big. Less
certain is tonight’s new one, with Josh Hutcherson (co-star of the “Hunger
Games” films) hosting and Haim as music guest.


In its brilliant, 50-year history, “Doctor Who” has occasionally
linked two versions of The Doctor. Now Matt Smith and David Tennant combine, in
a story that also has John Hurt as a previous variation.

“Day of the Doctor” debuts at 2:50 p.m. ET, in order to simulcast
with its British debut. Later, it repeats at 7 and 11 p.m. in most time zones, surrounding
the 9 p.m. debut of the “Atlantis” adventure series and a 10 p.m. “Graham
Norton Show.” The rest of the day is non-stop “Who.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Window Wonderland,” 8-10 p.m.,

Sleek and stylish, Sloan Van Doren (Chyler Leigh) talks of
old-money parents and has a boyfriend who shows up in a limousine. Jake Dooley
(Paul Campbell) is her opposite, a farm kid trying to make it in the city. They’re
window-decorators, in constant competition and bickering cutely.

“Window Wonderland” has a few absurd twists near the end,
but that’s forgiven. With a sharp script that’s well-played, this is
above-average for Christmas-season films

Other choices include:

Football, 7 p.m., Fox and 8 p.m., ABC. Fox has Arizona State
(ranked No. 17) at UCLA (No. 14); ABC has Baylor (No. 4) at Oklahoma State (No.
10). And cable, of course, has much more.

“Mike & Molly,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Here are two
reruns from last season. In the first, Molly thinks she’s escaped Thanksgiving
duties because Mike is sick; in the second, he remodels the basement.

“The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of Tuesday’s episode,
the field is trimmed from 10 to eight.

“The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC. This rerun has Robert Knepper
(“Prison Break”) as the shadowy Courier.

“Stonados,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy. These are tornadoes hurling
stones. There’s probably a logical explanation.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 20

(Here's the Wednesday TV column, a tad out of place. Scroll down and you'll see Friday and Thursday, then Tuesday, Monday etc. If I knew how to re-arrange them, I would; I am aware of the correct order of the days of the week.)

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Comedies are at their best with Thanksgiving episodes,
swirling people together in odd combinations.

Now “Middle” has its fifth annual one, with unexpected
guests and with secrets. Axl has dropped three of his four college classes …
Sue hasn’t told what she did during a discount-shopping trip … and Frankie’s
dad (Jerry Van Dyke) tried online gambling, losing the money that was set aside
for a cruise.

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

This show is down to it top 10, after shedding three acts
last week. Only Demi Lovato’s group (girls) survived intact, while Rachel
Potter, Carlos Guevera and Sweet Suspense were sent home.

Lovato and Paulina Rubio (boys) still have three acts apiece;
Kelly Rowland (older singers) and Simon Cowell (groups) each have two. Now we
move to Cowell’s turf, with each act singing a song from the United Kingdom;
Thursday will have a performance by his discovery, the British boy band One

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Up” (2009) and “WALL-E” (2008), 7
and 9 p.m, ABC Family.

The Pixar people are so talented that they can break all the
rules for animated movies, yet delight kids and grown-ups. They even include
quiet moments of heartbreak.

“Up” is mostly a fun romp with a boy and a grumpy old man,
in an airborne house; still, it offers a sweet prologue, showing why the man is
grumpy. “Wall-E” follows a lonely robot on a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Like “Up,” it eventually become funny,
hopeful and immensely entertaining.

Other choices include:

“Nova,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The first
hour visits the edge of the sky, just before space blackness; it includes
“sprites” that shoot upward from clouds. The second ponders the possibilities
of meteors for profit (valuable minerals) or destruction (over 1,000 Siberians
injured in February).

“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Charlie tries to show her
maturity to her mom … who continues to have strained relations with Gene. Meanwhile,
Neville gives Jason a proclamation.

“Back in the Game,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. The Cannon (James Caan)
pushes the boys to get paintball revenge.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m,, ABC. Jay is persuaded top try
ClosetCon again and meets an old colleague; back home, people fiddle with his
model of Apollo 13. Meanwhile, Cam hopes – futilely – that Mitchell and Lily
will feel at home at his family’s farm.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. The
focus moves to Rollins, played by Kelli Giddish, Her friend Lena wants to file
rape charges … a situation complicated by Lena’s history with the guy and
fondness for rough sex. When the situation turns fatal, Rollins must face
personal questions in court.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. There was a
stabbing at a motel that had two similar cases. (No, it’s not the Bates Motel.)
Jordin Sparks, former “American Idol” champion, has a guest role.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 22

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Where Were You: The Day JFK Died,” 9-11
p.m., NBC.

The 50th anniversary of the John Kennedy assassination
will be key today in news shows and beyond.

Cable will continue its push. Tonight, History has “JFK
Assassination: The Definitive Guide” at 8 p.m. and “Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours
to Live” at 10.

And NBC has this special. Tom Brokaw -- a college student,
23, at the time of the assassination – hosts; he’ll have Dan Rather -- than a
CBS bureau chief, 31, working in Dallas – and others.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

The run-and-gun nature of this show – leaping between wild
plot points and quick sight gags – means “Hope” will always be erratic. Tonight,
we get a terrific episode and then an almost-OK one.

The first has the family deciding to give Hope a memorable
vacation experience; that story has a direct thrust, some neat surprises and a
strong character twist for Sabrina. The second is more muddled, with funny-video
Web sites, health check-ups, new glasses, a colonoscopy and more; it’s
occasionally funny.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Nashville 2.0: The Rise of
Americana,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Radio emerges as the villain and the hero of this tightly
packed hour. Slick commercial stations squeezed country music into a narrow
category; then satellite and Internet radio opened things up again.

“Americana” – an indefinable blend of country, folk, blues
and more -- thrives. This hour does an OK job of explaining it and a superb job
of illustrating it. We see the old masters (Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale,
Roseanne Cash and such) and the new forces. Many acts deserve attention; one
(Mumford and Sons) won the best-album Grammy. At that moment, Americana soared.

Other choices include:

“The Carrie Diaries” (8 p.m.) and the “Nikita” season-opener
(9 p.m.), CW. Both shows focus on young women, but you won’t get them confused.
Carrie is occasionally accused of a fashion blunder; Nikita has been accused of
killing the president.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. The Brennan-Booth wedding – simple,
basic, in the middle of a murder case – wasn’t enough for their friends. Angela
plans a belated bachelorette party, amid a new case.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. This comedy is set in
Colorado, where the first legal marijuana stores are expected to open in
January. Mike is jolted when his dad says he’s planning to start one.

“The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC. More parental chaos: Marty’s
dad (Stacy Keach) arrives at Thanksgiving, announcing that he’s divorcing and
moving in. Also, oddly, Jackie’s parents (Reginald VelJohnson and Meredith
Baxter) visit from their home planet.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. More Thanksgiving surprises:
McGarrett’s aunt (Carol Burnett) arrives, bearing a secret. Meanwhile, a Secret
Service agent has been killed during the president’s visit to Oahu.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. The prime suspect in a murder
is the estranged brother of Danny’s police partner Baez (Marisa Ramirez).