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.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 15


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

When Paula Abdul left “American
Idol,” she was sought by the dance shows. Nigel Lythgoe, her former
“Idol” boss, even held an empty chair for her on “So You Think
You Can Dance.”

Instead, Abdul had her own brief CBS
show and now drops in this week as a “Dance” guest judge. That
comes six days after two former champions – Drew Lachey and Helio
Castroneves – were ousted; this “all-star” edition had
previously dumped Pamela Anderson and Joe Fatone, leaving 11
contestants.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Revolution, 10:01
p.m., NBC.

Fresh from playing Teddy on three years
of “Grey's Anatomy,” Kim Raver joins the show. That's apparently
for a major – but not permanent – role; she's also starring in
the pilot for a Lifetime series.

The show, a rare ratings success for
NBC, has a world in which all electric power has vanished. A brutal
militia is in control, as Charlie tries desperately to find her
captured brother; she's helped by her uncle Miles (an ex-Marine) and
other rebels. She feels she's close tonight, until a shocking
discovery changes things; Jeff Fahey (Frank Lapidus in “Lost”)
has a guest role.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Major
Crimes,” 8 and 9 p.m., TNT.

It seemed shaky to continue “The
Closer” without its star, but TNT has made it work.

First is a rerun of last week's
episode: The truth seems wobbly, after a detective from Las Vegas is
killed; Rusty spends time with his biological dad, but isn't sure he
can be trusted.

Then the new episode sees a peaceful
ceremony turn deadly. Police and the FBI search for the sniper.

Other choices include:

– Baseball, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox. It's
the second game of the National League championship series.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Situation comedies love to do episodes in which characters
have to choose between friends. Tonight, Marshall and Lily aren't
sure which friend should be their baby's godparent. Naturally, they
turn it into a contest.

– “Flashdance” (1983), 8-10 p.m.,
TV Guide. Yes, there's a lot of flash and dance here. The music and
the movement made this popular. Beyond thatis solid portrait of a
young woman (Jennifer Beals) finding a life in the city that mixes
art, welding and romance.

– “Partners,” 8:30, CBS. Ali
insists that Louis shouldn't have a key to their apartment. Now Joe
is torn between his fiancee and his best friend.

– 2 Broke Girls, 9 p.m., CBS. Max and
Caroline audition for “Cupcake Wars.”

– “Gossip Girl,” 9 p.m., CW.
Blair is ready to debut her fashion line, when an old enemy
re-appears. Also, Blair hosts a gala and Dan hopes to meet a
publisher.

– “Mike & Molly,”9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Now that they're married, Mike and Molly consider having a baby.
Meanwhile, Carl is mad because Molly is still a friend of his
ex-girlfriend (Holly Robinson Peete).

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Now
that they're a couple, Kate and Rick figure they'll have a romantic
weekend in the Hamptons. Naturally, a man wanders in and collapses
in the swimming pool; soon, they're working with a small-town cop
who's diligent, but inexperienced.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife,”
9 p.m. (or later, with a football overrun), CBS.

As the firm teeters toward bankruptcy,
Will and Alicia take what could be a big-money case: Two ambitious
young women have sued a search-engine mogul.

It's a complex story, with a quick
detour at the end. There are great guest performances by Tony-winner
John Benjamin Hickey (“The Big C”) as the mogul, Rita Wilson (Tom
Hanks' wife) as his tough lawyer and Dominic Chianese (Junior on
“Sopranos”) as the quirky judge.

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

As Germany seethes with Nazi terror,
this upscale London family is pulled into the crisis.

Persie (Claire Foy), Agnes' beautiful
and amoral sister, has been there as a mistress. Now she needs
rescuing from her brother-in-law, whose warnings have been ignored.

Back home, Blanche (Alex Kingston)
leads a desperate effort to get Jewish kids to safety. Also, the
family entertains Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and his son Jack.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Walking
Dead,” all day, AMC.

If you're wondering what this whole
zombie fuss is about, you can catch up today.

AMC has been rerunning the entire first
two seasons. The second season starts at 6:51 a.m. and keeps going
until 9 p.m., when the third season starts (rerunning at 10). Rick
finds a possible sanctuary against the zombie hordes; now he pushes
people to secure it.

Other choices include:

– Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox. There's
no room for cartoons tonight. Fox goes straight from football to the
start of baseball's National League championship series; the American
League continues on TBS.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Desperate to return to Storybrooke in our world, Emma and Mary
Margaret get help from Aurora, Mulan and Lancelot. And in the old
fairy-tale days, Snow White has been poisoned; the only antidote is
in the domain of Lady of the Lake.

– “See Dad Run debut, 8 p.m.,
Nickelodeon. David (Scott Baio) was an all-knowing dad on TV. Now
he's a non-knowing dad at home; the result is an OK comedy with broad
sight gags. Some of them work, especially when David calls his TV
people to the rescue.

– “Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Controversy swirls around the Graysons, but Emily has her own
troubles.

– “Dexter,” 9 p.m., Showtime. In
a pivotal episode, Dexter and his disapproving sister work together
to try to stop a killer. Also, squelching a co-worker seems easy …
but may bring repercussions.

– “Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. Gyp has a stranglehold, blocking Nucky's bootleg business. Maybe
Rothstein will switch suppliers … or maybe Gyp will be a target;
some fierce moments follow.

– “The Mentalist,”10 p.m. (or
later) CBS. As the team probes the murder of a bank employee, its
rivalry with the FBI grows. Ivan Sergei returns as an FBI agent.

– “Treme,” 10 p.m., HBO. Toni and
a reporter try to nail a crooked cop in New Orleans. Meanwhile, the
one honest cop (David Morse) finds a moment of joy. And Janette molds
her new restaurant.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 13


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: “The Walking Dead,”
10 a.m. today to 11 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

If you've been wondering what this
whole zombie fuss is about, settle in for this marathon.

It starts with a cop emerging from a
coma to find the hospital – and the world – overrun with zombies.
Soon he's on the move, linking with the few other survivors.

The first two seasons rerun, ending at
6:51 a.m. Sunday; then the second season runs yet again. That wraps
up in time for the third season to start at 9 p.m. Sunday.

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

Every couple decades, Christina
Applegate hosts this show.

She did it when she was 21 and played a
teen on a saucy Fox comedy. Now, 19 years later, she's back; Passion
Pit is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: New movies,
cable.

Here are two totally opposite movies.
Neither is particularly good, but many people will like one.

On the light side is “The Seven Year
Hitch,” at 8 and 10 p.m. on the Hallmark Movie Channel. To save his
best friend from marrying a cheater, a guy invokes an old law:
Because he's lived in her house for seven years, they could be
common-law spouses. Soap actors Natalie Hall and Darin Brooks star.

On the deep-dark side is“American
Horror House,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy. Beautiful sorority girls are dying
in messy ways. Performances range from awful (as the hazing leader)
to sharp (Alessandra Torresani, who was Zoe in “Caprica” as the
heroine). There are crude moments and then a so-so ending.

Other choices include:

– “Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun, Charlie and Nora rescue Miles and head toward Aaron.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun says a dishonorably discharged Marine may have
committed murder … or may be the patsy of an elaborate,
international set-up.

– “The Descendants” (2011), 8
p.m., HBO. Here's the kind of role – smart and subtle – George
Clooney does so well. He plays a guy whose pleasant Hawaiian life is
shattered. The result won an Academy Award for its script, plus
nomiatios for best picture, director Alexander Payne, Clooney and the
editing.

– “Steel Magnolias” (2012), 8
p.m., Lifetime. Queen Latifah leads a terrific cast, remaking the
popular story about strong and quirky Southern women finding joy and
despair.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
bus filled with kindergarten kids has been stolen, in this rerun.

– “Chicago Fire,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Here's a rerun of Wednesday's so-so debut. The fire and rescue scenes
are fine, but the feuding-firefighter ones see contrived.

 

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In this rerun, Anna Chlumsky – once a child
star of “My Girl,” now a “Veep” co-star -- plays a controversial author who is a rape victim.

– “Abducted: The Carlina White
Story,” 8 and 10 p.m., Lifetime. Seeking her birth certificate at
23, a woman learns this isn't her real name or her real mother; she
was swiped from a hospital as a baby. That true-life story is told
solidly enough, with strong work from Aunjanue Ellis and Keke Palmer.