TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 2



TONIGHT’S MUST-TRY: “Ironside” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.


In the first version of this series, Robert Ironside
(Raymond Burr) fit the prevailing image of a paraplegic. He caught crooks, but needed
a full-time aide and two nearby cops.


Now, 46 years later, he’s the toughest guy in town. He has
cops working for him, played by Spencer Grammer (Kelsey’s daughter), the superb
Brent Sexton (“The Killing”) and Pablo Schreiber (fresh from terrorizing Benson
on (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”); still, he seems ready to end
crime alone.


Many critics hate this show’s over-the top approach and its
police brutality. We agree with the second part, but admire the fierce
intensity and Blair Underwood’s blistering performance.


TONIGHT’S MISMATCH: “Modern Family” and “Super Fun Night,” 9
and 9:31 p.m., ABC.


First is the show that has won the best-comedy Emmy every
year; it’s clever, classy, restrained. Then comes the debut of a show that is
none of those things.


Kimmie (Rebel Wilson) has a dreary law job, two friends, a
weekly fun night and little else. Then comes the vague possibility of romance;
she brightens … then flops thoroughly.


Sure, it’s fun to laugh at proud, pompous people who fail.
But Kimmie is merely a well-meaning person who seems beyond hope. We can’t
laugh with her and feel awful about laughing at her.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC; “Top Chef,” 10 p.m., Bravo.


First, we see Cybill Shepherd as a celebrity chef charged
with murder. After a string of rapes in upper-income New York, she shoots a
young man, then gets a strong lawyer (Jeffrey Tambor).


Then … well, real-life people are trying to become celebrity
chefs, as usual. This edition, the 11
th, uses its New Orleans
setting for rich backdrops.


Other choices include:


“Rango” (2011), 7:30 p.m., FXX; or “Madagascar 3” (2012),
7:45 p.m., HBO; or “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012), 8:10 p.m., Starz. Choose between
three immensely popular animated films.


“The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Early in the auditions, judges
kept changing their minds about which category they were hoping to mentor.
Tonight, that gets settled.


“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Last week’s season-opener ended
bizarrely, with Zak killed – or maybe not -- and Miles captured. Now Rachel and
her dad (a doctor) try to revive Za.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. The first day of school brings
fear to Brick and Joy to Sue – who can finally enjoy high school without Axl
overshadowing her.


“Back in the Game,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Terry (Maggie Lawson)
scrambles to find a job, so she and her son can move out of her dad’s house.
Meanwhile, that dad (James Caan) has offbeat coaching methods.


“Sixteen Candles” (1984), 9-11 p.m., ABC Family. This is the
movie that ignited John Hughes’ brief-but-important career as a movie director.
He would direct only seven more, peaking quickly with “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris
Bueller.” For a few years, he showed a deft touch with teens in transition.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. This excellent series began three
months ago with a body in the middle of the bridge between El Paso and Juarez.
That created the uncomfortable partnership of an American and Mexican cop. Now,
in the season finale, they race to rescue a girl.


TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 1



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m.,
ABC.


After last week’s terrific debut, the question is basic: Can
TV’s best new show maintain its quality?


Probably. This episode continues a wise approach: Despite
all the superheroes and whiz-bang action, keep some of the focus on the
non-super guy in charge.


That’s Agent Phil Coulson, superbly played by Clark Gregg.
Tonight, he takes the team to Peru to investigate an object of unknown origin …
and meets a steamy force (Leanor Varela) from his past.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Goldbergs,” 9:01 p.m., ABC.


The trouble with kids is that they keep getting older before
their parents can make the adjustment. Now teen Erica groans about
daddy-daughter day and Adam winces at wearing a train (not the rock group, the
choo-choo) shirt for the first day of 7
th grade.


This episode starts weakly, but has  funny moments near the end … including video
of the real dad.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Latino Americans” conclusion, 8-10
p.m., PBS (check local listings).


Returning from World War II, this excellent documentary
says, Cesar Chavez decided he was done with second-class status. He sat in the
middle of a movie theater in his home town of Delano, Cal.


He was arrested, interrogated for two hours and released; there
was no actual law requiring Latinos to sit on the sides. Soon, other towns integrated
their theaters; later, Chavez became a leader.


Tonight’s first hour is filled with successful movements –
farmworkers with Chavez, school kids in Los Angeles, a political party in San
Antonio. The second faces tangled issues of borders and illegal aliens.


Other choices include:


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. By now, fans know that Cote de Pablo,
who plays Ziva, is leaving the show. Tonight, however, Tony tries a solo trip
to Israel, in search of Ziva; meanwhile, his colleagues hunt for Parsa and a
growing terrorist ring.


“Brooklyn Nine Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Jake (Andy Samberg) is
on a losing streak; he can’t seem to close any cases, so no one wants to work
with him. Meanwhile, Amy is in charge of the Junior Policeman.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Still shattered by their
experience as tortured hostages, Sam and Deeks are having trouble returning to
work. Hetty brings in Nate Getz, a psychologist.


“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Things go badly when the loft-mates
try a double date at a fancy restaurant. Also, Nick learns a secret that leaves
him with divided loyalties. And returning as Elizabeth is Merritt Wever. She’s
the one who won a surprise Emmy for her “Nurse Jackie” role, promptly giving
one of the shortest acceptance speeches (“I’ve gotta go; bye”) ever.


“The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Mindy’s boyfriend, the
youth minister, is back from his year in Haiti. He brings an identity crisis …
and wants to be a disc jockey. Soon, everyone’s at a music festival.


“Trophy Wife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Kate wants more
responsibility with her step-kids … and promptly flops. One of her husband’s
ex-wives lectures her; the other is intimidating the kids.


“Chicago Fire,” 10 p.m., NBC. Sevaride has enough troubles,
what with an arsonist stalking him. Now he confronts his pregnant ex-girlfriend
about the fact that he’s not the father if the due date is correct.


“Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX. The war with the Iranians
gang grows.


TV column for Monday, Sept. 30



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.


At first, CBS’ plan seemed odd: It pulled “Mike & Molly”
– reasonably funny, reasonably successful – from the schedule (at least
temporarily), inserting a show with a moderately good pilot film.


But now that we see this second episode, it makes sense.
With great characters in place, “Mom” builds.


Christy and her mother had teen pregnancies; now come new
questions: Is Christy’s teen daughter pregnant? Could Anna Faris, 36, and
Allison Janney, 53, play a grandmother and great-grandmother? Stick around;
under producer Chuck Lorre (who adoes “Mike & Molly” and more), “Mom”
works.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “We Are Men” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.


Stranded at the altar, Carter moves into an apartment, where
he gets advice from “experts.”


One (Tony Shalhoub) has four divorces, one (Jerry O’Connell)
has two, one is permanently moping his separation; these are the worst possible
tour guides through life. Occasionally funny (but mostly just loud), “Men” keep
us semi-adequately amused alongside three better comedies.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


Scrambling for a lead vocalist, the guys in Journey saw Filipino
singer Arnel Pinada on the Internet.


Here was someone who had left school at 13, surviving a
couple years of homelessness and then a couple decades of show-business highs
and lows. He had little education, little English … but a great voice and a
splashy stage presence. Now he would be singing American classics.


It’s a great story, well-told in “Don’t Stop Believin’.” That
launches what’s billed as “PBS Indies Showcase.” On four Mondays, “Lens” and “POV”
take turns delivering top-level documentary movies.


Other choices include:


“iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Speaking of
replacement singers with great voices and splashy styles, Adam Lambert sings
here with Queen. The night also includes Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Elton John,
J. Cole and Muse. And there will be many more Tuesday, in the second half of
the special.


“The Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10 p.m.
While “Voice” is still assembling its contestants, “Stars” sheds them. Last
week, Keyshawn Johnson was ousted … breaking the tradition of athletes thriving.
Now Bill Nye, who was injured during last week’s dance, may have to leave,


“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. With wedding guests –
including Wayne Brady as Barney’s too-perfect brother – arrive, Robin and
Barney seek some private time.


“2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS. Max obsesses on her new phone,
Caroline on getting designer pants.


“Masters of Sex,” 9 and 11:05 p.m, Showtime. If you missed
Sunday’s debut, here’s a second chance. Opposites – a socially clumsy doctor
and his socially savvy assistant – launch what would be a famous 1960s sex
study. It’s sandwiched by reruns of the excellent “Homeland” season-opener, at
8 and 10:05  .


“Hostages,” 10 p.m., CBS. Last week, Duncan (Dylan
McDermott) and others invaded the home of Dr. Sanders (Toni Collette) and gave
a demand: Kill the president during surgery or lose her family. She stalled by
faking a medical problem, but now Duncan is furious. He might kill one person;
he also insists that everyone resume regular lives, without saying what
happened.


“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In the season-opener, Castle was
exposed to a stolen virus that could kill thousands. Now he may die within 24
hours, if Beckett can’t find the antidote.


 


Combined Saturday-Sunday TV column for Sept. 28-29


If you scroll down, you'll find the full TV columns for Sunday and Saturday. Because of a current computer quirk, however, I'm also putting a combined column here:


By MIKE HUGHES


WEEKEND’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live” season-opener,
11:29 p.m. TODAY, NBC.


The 39th season begins with Tina Fey hosting,
Arcade Fire as music guest … and drastic changes. Gone are Bill Hader, Fred
Armisen and Jason Sudeikis. Cutting back is Seth Meyers, whose own show starts in
February; he’s no longer head writer and he’ll share the news desk with Cicely
Strong.


Six newcomers arrive including Beck Bennett, the guy in all
those cell-phone commercials with kids.


WEEKEND’S MUST-SEE II: “Breaking Bad” finale, 9-10:15 p.m.
Sunday, AMC.


Over five seasons, this show has turned bad into good, a
mild-mannered teacher into a drug lord, an obscure network into a must-see.


Last Sunday, it finally won Emmys for best drama series and
for Anna Gunn – joining the previous two for Aaron Paul and three for Bryan
Cranston. That came just as the second-to-last episode (repeating at 7:45 p.m.
today) found their characters in captivity or in gloomy rural retreat. Now it
all wraps up.


WEEKEND’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox) and
“Homeland” (9 p.m., Showtime).


The 25th “Simpsons” season starts with a clever
“Homeland” take-off that has a semi-sane federal agent (Kristen Wiig) trying to
stop Homer from endangering the nuclear plant.


Then savor the real thing: Carrie (the brilliant Claire
Danes) faces federal hearings while Brody – accused of the CIA attack – is on
the run. He’s not in the first two episodes, but “Homeland” remains compelling.


ALSO TONIGHT:


“The Crazy Ones” and “Mom,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Here are
reruns of CBS’ best new comedies.


“The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC. If you missed this show’s
debut Monday, here’s a second chance. James Spader is brilliant as a master
crook, getting revenge by working with a young FBI agent.


“The White Queen,” 9 p.m., Starz. By now, several people
actually believe the queen is practicing witchcraft. That belief, mixed with
rage and envy, becomes deadly in a strong hour.


ALSO SUNDAY:


All night, CBS. A classy night has season-openers, starting
with “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. and “Amazing Race” at 8. At 9, “Good Wife” finds
Alicia trying to stop an execution; at 10, “The Mentalist” has a private search
for Red John.


 “Once Upon a Time,” 7
and 8 p.m., ABC. A recap hour offers the first two seasons, with big events in
multiple worlds. Then it’s yet another world, as people head to Neverland, in
search of Henry.


 “Instant Mom” debut,
8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Ready to party, a young wife (Tia Mowry-Hardrict)
instead has three step-kids. The result is an almost-adequate alternative to
heavy-duty Sunday shows.


“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
The last of this year’s “Foyle’s War” movies
is slow and sturdy, with an
honest ex-cop battling the shaky ethics of shielding a war criminal.


“Masters of Sex” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime. A mild-mannered
doctor in a tepid marriage, William Masters begins researching the specifics of
sex. He flounders until helped by Virginia Johnson, who has more people skills
and (much) more sexual experience. It’s a colorful, real-life story, told here
with good actors (Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan), humor, depth and, of course,
nudity.


“Betrayal” debut, 10:01 p.m., ABC. In “Boss,” Hannah Ware
brilliantly played a Chicago mayor’s daughter with divided loyalties. Now she’s
a Chicago lawyer’s wife with divided loyalties and an affair. The story is
so-so; the actors – especially Ware and Henry Thomas (“E.T.”) -- are superb.


“Hello, Ladies” debut, 10:30, HBO. In trendy Los Angeles
nightclubs, Stuart stands out. He’s 6-foot-7 and British; he’s also a bumbler,
socially and physically. Stephen Merchant (co-creator and co-star of the
British “Office”) stars and co-created this series, which is often very funny
and sometimes just sad.


 


TV column for Sunday, Sept. 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Breaking Bad” finale, 9-10:15 p.m.,
AMC.

Over five seasons, this show has turned bad into good, a
mild-mannered teacher into a drug lord, an obscure network into a must-see.


Last Sunday, it finally won Emmys for best drama series and
for Anna Gunn – joining the previous two for Aaron Paul and three for Bryan
Cranston. That came just as the second-to-last episode (repeating at 7:45 p.m.
today) found their characters in captivity or in gloomy rural retreat. Now it
all wraps up; first, the final season starts rerunning at 4:26 a.m.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Simpsons” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
Fox.


The 25th season starts with Homer in an
un-Homer-like state, eating vegetables and putting a napkin on his lap.
Needless to say, friends are frightened and the nuclear plant is in danger.


This is the start of a clever “Homeland” take-off, with Kristen
Wiig doing the voice of a semi-sane federal agent. Even if you’ve never seen
that show, you’ll enjoy a script that has some wonderful moments.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
Showtime.


Fresh from being satirized on “The Simpsons,” this is back
and in top form.


Carrie (the brilliant Claire Danes) faces federal hearings
while Brody – accused of the CIA attack – is on the run. He’s not in the first
two episodes, but “Homeland,” stuffed with talent, remains compelling.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: All night, CBS.


After giving everything a week off for the Emmys, CBS has
season-openers for its classiest night.


There’s “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. and “Amazing Race” at 8. At 9,
“Good Wife” finds Alicia trying to stop an execution; at 10, “The Mentalist”
has Patrick Jane and Lisbon on a private search for Red John.


Other choices include:


“Once Upon a Time,” 7 and 8 p.m., ABC. A recap hour offers
the first two seasons, with big events in multiple worlds. Then it’s yet
another world, as people head to Neverland, in search of Henry.


“Bob’s Burger” and “Family Guy” season-openers, 8:30 and 9
p.m., Fox. Dads lead ill-advised projects – a camping trip, a treasure hunt –
in so-so episodes that have some funny moments.


“Instant Mom” debut, 8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Ready to party,
a young wife (Tia Mowry-Hardrict) instead has three step-kids. The result is an
almost-adequate alternative to heavy-duty Sunday shows.


“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
The last of this year’s “Foyle’s War” movies
is slow and sturdy, with an
honest ex-cop battling the shaky ethics of shielding a war criminal.


“Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. This first season started with
engagement-party violence, then flashed back. Now the third starts with a wedding
shooting, then flashes back to see how we got there.


“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. Things are way too spread
out now. Some plot twists – Nucky meets a new mobster partner – are excellent;
others – Eli’s son in college, for instance – are a waste.


“Eastbound & Down” season-opener, 10 p.m., HBO. Once a
cocky and profane baseball star, Kenny is trying to adjust to life as a
suburban step-dad. He mostly fails at it, occasionally in funny moments.


“Masters of Sex” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime. A mild-mannered
doctor in a tepid marriage, William Masters began researching the specifics of
sex. He floundered until helped by Virginia Johnson, who had more people skills
and (much) more sexual experience. It’s a colorful, real-life story, told here
with good actors (Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan), humor, depth and, of course,
nudity.


“Betrayal” debut, 10:01 p.m., ABC. In “Boss,” Hannah Ware
brilliantly played a Chicago mayor’s daughter with divided loyalties. Now she’s
a Chicago lawyer’s wife with divided loyalties and an affair. The story is
so-so; the actors – especially Ware and Henry Thomas (“E.T.”) are superb.


“Hello, Ladies” debut, 10:30, HBO. In trendy Los Angeles
nightclubs, Stuart stands out. He’s 6-foot-7 and British; he’s also a bumbler,
socially and physically. Stephen Merchant (co-creator and co-star of the
British “Office”) stars and co-created this series, which is often very funny
and sometimes just sad.