TV column for Saturday, Oct. 20


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

Few people do double duty on “SNL,”
hosting and being musical guest on the same night.

Mick Jagger did that last May; other
have ranged from Garth Brooks to Britney Spears. Still, many singers
– from Justin Timberlake to Miley Cyrus – have had separate music
guests.

Now it's Bruno Mars' turn to do both.
He was music guest once, with Jane Lynch (who towers over him by
seven inches) as host; tonight, he does it all.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Pride &
Prejudice” (2005), 8 p.m. E.

Jane Austen's novel focused on
Elizabeth Bennet – bright, beautiful and broke, in need of a
husband with money. It could have been a talky costume drama, but
director Joseph Wright showed that few words are needed, when you
have an expressive star (Keira Knightley) and a flowing camera.

And if you need something macho? Prime
time has four football games, plus “The Road Warrior” (1981) and
“”Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985) at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. on
the G4 network.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Girl,”
9 p.m., HBO.

Back in 1963, Alfred Hitchcock was
already 64 and famous. He had his own TV show and five Academy Award
nominations, spread over 20 years.

Tippi Hedren was 33 and unknown, a
model from New Ulm, Minn. When she starred in his “The Birds” and
“Marnie,” two strong forces collided.

That story bears no particular
importance, but it's still fascinating to see replayed. Sienna Miller
portrays a complex Hedren, with Toby Jones as an exaggerated version
of Hitchcock.

Other choices include:

– “Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Here's a rerun of Monday's episode, which added Kim Raver (Teddy on
“Grey's Anatomy”) in a recurring role. Charlie and Miles have
optimism, but their enemy Captain Neville has a steam engine.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has a medical helicopter hijacked, with Brody
(Elisabeth Harnois) on board.

– “Person of Interest.” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun offers hints about Reese's past. As he works undercover
for an armored-truck company, he reflects on the final case that led
to him leave the CIA.

– “Chicago Fire,” 9 p.m., NBC.
After a so-so opener, “Fire” improved with this second episode.
We get some feeling for the stoic Kelly Severide, in a rescue story
that starts and ends this hour.

– “I Married Who?,” 9 p.m.,
Hallmark; repeats at 11. Strange things seem to happen at bachelor
and bachelorette parties on TV. The clean-living Jordan (Kellie
Martin) accidentally gets drunk and (accidentally again) gets married
to a TV star. It's a light, loopy story, but Martin makes it work.

– Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit, 10 p.m., NBC. For all of its 10 seasons, Alexandra Eames
(Kathryn Erbe) was one of the key cops on “Law & Order:
Criminal Intent.” Now she's in this show, in a rerun of Wednesday's
episode. She's a lieutenant now, blocking a sex-trafficking
investigation.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “CSI: NY,” 9
p.m., CBS.

After hanging around for years, smart
shows take an arbitrary, one-episode detour. That's what this show –
early in its ninth season – does here.

The first half of the show is told with
no dialog; it's all visual, backed by Green Day songs. That works
well, a reminder that all Jerry Bruckheimer shows have movie-quality
production.

The first words spoken, slyly, are:
“Speak, say something, anything.” From there, the plot is so-so;
one character acknowledges “an ironic fluke.” Still, the hour is
memorable.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Boss”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10.

Throughout this brilliant season, we've
seen Mayor Kane crumble. His housing-project evictions led to riots
and Chicago's near-bankruptcy. His wife was shot, their daughter
began a torrid (and secret) affair with his young aide … and a
newspaper might connect him to the murder of the previous aide.

Then came Kane's outrageous comeback –
a casino, at the site of the housing project. Now the aftershocks
begin. The daughter learns a big secret and we get another hint of
how cruel Kane can be.

TONIGHT'S SURPRISE: Changes, 8 p.m.,
CBS and NBC.

Fridays have always been wobbly, but
this is bizarre: Two networks made late changes.

CBS pulled “Made in Jersey” after
only two episodes. It slides “CSI: NY” back to 9 p.m., with
reruns at 8. Tonight is “Hawaii Five-0,” with Ed Asner returning
to a role in the original series, 37 years ago.

And NBC? It pulled “Community” and
“Whitney” after ZERO episodes. They may go elsewhere, replacing
other comedies that are failing. This spot will keep holding the
previous week's “Grimm.”

Other choices include:

– Baseball, 7:30 p.m., Fox. “Fringe”
fans are shut out. This is the fifth game of the National League
championship, with the Giants at the Cardinals; if there's a
four-game sweep, “X Factor” reruns.

– “Grimm,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.
First is a rerun, with Nick pursuing the husband and daughter of a
murder victim. Then a new episode has a teen's murder show the
extremes people will go to win in extracurricular activities. In
both, Monroe has trouble taking Rosalee's spot in the spice shop.

– “Make Your Mark,” 8-9:30 p.m.,
Disney. Young dancers perform and viewers vote. On Sunday, wrapping
up a two-night quickie, we'll learn who wins a job in a “Shake It
Up” episode.

– “Nikita,” 9 p.m., CW. The
season starts with Ryan and Nikita now in charge. Their first job is
to capture a pack of rogue agents.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
drive-by shooting has killed a bride on her wedding day. Danny and
Jackie are upset when they're pulled from the case and told to
protect a Central American president.

– “Hunted” debut, 10 p.m.,
Cinemax. Melissa George can be terrific at intimate, personal drama –
as HBO viewers saw in “In Treatment.” Now comes the opposite:
This solid show has an action prologue, before we even know who her
character is. Then she goes undercover in a mobster's mansion.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Two and a Half
Men,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

We don't know what to expect from “Men”
these days. The season's first two episodes – Walden and Zoe break
up after she rejects his marriage proposal – were wonderful, and
then …

Well, last week's episode (about
three-way sex) was a lunk-headed collection of sex puns. We can only
hope that no one who wrote it was over the age of 12.

Still, tonight is promising. Miley
Cyrus, a deceptively good actress at 19, plays the grown daughter of
Walden's friend; for the first time, Walden (Ashton Kutcher, 34)
feels old.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Vampire
Diaries,” 8 p.m., CW.

Last week's ending was explosive –
literally. Suddenly, inexplicably, Pastor Young said “we are the
beginning” and blew himself and everyone else in the
creature-hunting town council.

Chances are, he has a scheme about
powering-up in the afterworld. For now, it's a mixed episode.

Elena's adjustment to vampirism is
fairly dial, dealing more with digestion than emotion. But another
story – the arrival of a clever vampire-hunter – is taut, peaking
at a funeral for council people.

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

In many ways, these two were opposites.
Bobby Kennedy grew up Democrat; Ethel was Republican. His family was
structured; hers was free-form. He fumbled public appearances, at
first; she thrived.

Most importantly, she brought their
marriage a sense of zest and joy.

Don't expect an even-handed
documentary. Rory Kennedy was already a gifted filmmaker, before
being persuaded to make a film about her mother; like HBO's recent
George H.W. Bush documentary, this is a beautifully crafted love
letter about a fascinating life.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After all his stress in outer space, Wolowitz was expecting a
hero's welcome;it doesn't turn out that way. Also, the sexes battle
during games night.

– “Project Runway,” 8-10:30 p.m.,
Lifetime. Last week, the final four started their showdown. Melissa
Fleis, 31, is from San Francisco; the others – Christopher Palu,
24; Fabio Costa, 29, Dmitry Sholokhov, 33, are from New York or
nearby. In that episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), each prepared three
designs for the judges. In the new episoe, at 9, the show names its
10th champion.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The survivors of the crash face a painful decision. Meanwhile,
Jackson and April reluctantly work together and Alex triess
uncharacteristic restraint with an intern.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Holmes and Watson rush to find someone who has been abducting
children, leaving balloons behind as a calling card.

– “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FX. In the midst of a garbage strike, the
gang schemes. There are funny moments, as the guys become upscale
trashmen and Frank tries to prolong the strike.

– “The League,” 10:30 p.m., FX.
In a moderately funny episode, the guys feel dating strategies for
guys in their 30s can be the same as rotisserie-league strategy for
waivers.

– “The Daily Show,” 11 p.m.,
Comedy Central. Barack Obama visits, for his second time as
president.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Suburgatory”
season-opener, 9:31 p.m., ABC.

After a summer in the city with her
maternal grandmother, Tessa feels she's changed. She has her mom's
jacket and (maybe) her mom's musical touch.

What she finds, however, is that the
suburbs have changed, too. Her neighbors are warring over a nanny –
Dalia's monologue about nannies is a gem – and Lisa might mold a
new power structure. In this show's style, the result is smart and
subtle.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Nova,” 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Weeks after bombs killed 191 people in
Madrid, police arrested Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer and father
of three. This seemed logical: A convert to Islam, he had defended a
terrorism suspect … and his fingerprint, an official said, was an
“absolutely incontrovertible match” to one in Madrid.

After 15 days in jail, he was released;
a man in Spain – also a perfect match – had been arrested. That
case shook the century-old belief in the uniqueness of prints. This
richly detailed documentary views other techniques being questioned,
along with scientists' efforts to improve them.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Will”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

Tammy Wynette's life was like a
country-music epic, with five husbands, four daughters and two
step-daughters. After years of illness,her daughters say, she called
everyone together and told of their inheritance and a million-dollar
insurance policy they would share.

When she died at 55, her widower
(producer George Richey) got almost everything. This is a tangled and
interesting story that talks to everyone, including the woman the
late Richey subsequently married.

Other choices include:

– The X Factor, 8-10 p.m., Fox.
Tonight, each judge chooses four acts from six semi-finalists.
Britney Spears' singers range from ages 13 to 17, Demi Lovato's from
18 to 22 and LA. Reid's from 27 to 40. Simon Cowell has the groups.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. A
funny episode finds troubles everywhere – Cam at work, Mitchell at
home, Phil and Claire with their kids. Most troubled is Jay, who
can't rest next to a pregnant and snoring Gloria. “You're huge and
you're loud,” he says. “It's like sleeping with Rush Limbaugh.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Alexandra Eames – the cop Kathryn Erbe played
on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” – shows up in this rerun.
She's a lieutenant now, suddenly haltinng a sex-trafficking probe.

– “Chicago Fire,” 10 p.m., NBC.
After its poor start last week, the show delivers a better hour,
adding some depth to its characters. Kelly (Taylor Kinney), a sphinx
last week, has some emotional moments, including a moving scene at
the end of the episode.

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. The
complex life of country star Rayna (Connie Britton) is fascinating.
Her husband's mayoral campaign leads to an embarrassing
investigation. Her intimate concert makes it clear she still loves
Deacon, the band leader young Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is trying
to steal.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. Instead of the bright lights of Las Vegas, the team is
working in the quiet expanse of the desert, where a 14-year-old
girl's body was found.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct.16


 

(Due to the debate, several time will vary in the Paciific and Mountain zones; check local listings)

TONIGHT'S SHOULD-SEE: Debate, 9-10:30
p.m. ET plus follow-up, most networks.

The second of three presidential
debates is the only one with a town-hall format. The audience –
chosen from people who say they are undecided – asks the questions
to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley of CNN will be the first
woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years. She'll try to
keep things on track – something PBS' Jim Lehrer failed at in the
first debate, but ABC's Martha Raddatz did well in the
vice-presidential one.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Underemployed”
debut, 10 p.m., MTV.

Here's the season's best surprise, a
comedy-drama with good laughs and characters worth rooting for.

These college friends were ready to
soar. Instead, they range from an unpaid internship to wearing a hat
with an enormous doughnut. A year after graduation, they're in
Chicago, their enthusiasm mostly intact.

The cast of semi-knowns includes Diego
Boneta (the “Rock of Ages” star) and the immensely likable
Michelle Ang. They give us a “Friends” for a new and scrambling
generation.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Emily Owens,
MD” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

In the TV tradition, Dr. Owens (Mamie
Gummer) is great at work, clumsy at life. The words in her head
(which we hear) are wise; the ones tumbling from her mouth are not.

This lightweight material tries to
co-exist with life-and-death stories. Yes, it gets too precious at
times, playing like “Grey's Anatomy Lite.” Still, Gummer (Meryl
Streep's daughter) is a delight and this is an instant antidote to
the dark excess of several CW shows.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Others –
“The Voice,” “Dancing With the Stars,” etc. – have new
episodes, but “NCIS” has a key rerun from last February. Facing a
gunman, Gibbs recalls moments in his life. Flashbacks include his
father (Ralph Waite), late wife (Darby Stanchfield) and mentor (Joe
Spano).

– “Race 2012,” 8 p.m., PBS. In
just one generation (32 years), this documentary says, the U.S. has
gone from 80-percent white to 65 percent. The changes, in politics
and in life, are examined.

– “Raising Hope,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Here's the second half of a story that started with officials putting
Jimmy's grandmother (Cloris Leachman) in a nursing home. Now comes a
break-out scheme … except that Jimmy's mom wonders if the home
isn't a more kindly place.

– “Ben and Kate,” 8:30, Fox. Life
(and motherhood) kept Kate from having the big 21st
birthday party she'd wanted. Now her brother plans a retroactive one,
bringing back her wild teen friend.

– “The Men Who Built America,”
9-11:02 p.m., History Channel. In an anything-goes economy, moguls
schemed and destroyed. Cornelius Vanderbilt strangled other
railroads, then bought them; then one company cheated him by printing
mountains of new stock. John Rockefeller built a vertical monopoly of
oil and transportation. This huge story is fascinating, despite an
overwrought style.

– “Flashpoint,”11 p.m., Ion. This
solid drama has Hugh Dillon, Enrico Colantoni and Amy Jo Johnson as
Toronto police. As its fifth season starts, they must stop an armed
man before he finds his ex-wife.

– “Mash Up,” 12:30 a.m., Comedy
Central. Here are fairly good stand-up comedy outings from Deon Cole
and Chris Hardwick.