TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Baseball, 7:30
p.m., Fox.

The World Series begins, with neither
of the regular-season leaders. Both the Phillies and the Yankees
dominated during the season, then lost in the first round of the
play-offs.

For these first two games, the Texas
Rangers – red-hot the past month – visit St.Louis. 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Up All
Night,” 8 p.m., NBC.

This series began with Reagan and Chris
(Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) in mid-chaos, during their
early weeks of being parents. Now it's fun to flash back to when they
thought they were in control.

Chris had a career plan that would
bring him back to the office in a week or so. Reagan had a birth
plan, written in elaborate detail. All of that crumbled in sharp and
funny ways.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Nature”
season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Some 25 years after its nuclear-plant
disaster, Chernobyl remains a wasteland.

Most haunting are the ghost-town images
– small signs that 500,000 people once lived here. Most
encouraging: Wildlife and plant life have sprung back quickly. This
mirrors a previous film on the Mt. St. Helens area, showing nature's
ability to re-take its world.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Luther,”
10 p.m., BBC America

Last week ended with a double shock.
Luther caught the mad killer – unaware that the guy's twin was
ready for more murder. Jenny was petrified, after killing her
attacker.

Both stories continue, as this show
concludes a four-week season that's quick and compelling. Luther must
protect Jenny from the dead attacker's family; he must also catch a
killer.

Other choices include:

– “The Ringer,” 8 p.m.,CW. “H8R”
has been abruptly (and deservedly) canceled. The spot goes to this
rerun: Gemma is missing and Bridget is worried.

– “The Will: Outrageous Final
Wishes 2” and “The Will: Family Secrets,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. What do people want done with their bodies
after death? One wanted it dismembered, some want it sitting up in
the coffin, several want liquification. That's just one part of this
fairly good hour, which surveys coffins, wills and more. Then
“Secrets” views the Howard Hughes will.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
There are some very funny moments here, in the aftermath of a crime
spree – well,some Shirley Temple dolls are stolen – in suburbia.
Dallas (Cheryl Hines), who seeks any excuse to be near George, moves
in with him for safety, bringing her ditzy daughter.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Phil takes his daughter to his alma mater, trying to get her
interested in college. With extra time, Claire goes out with Mitchell
and other gay (she thinks) guys. It turns out that one guy – played
by Gilles Marini of “Brothers & Sisters” – is heterosexual
and interested.

– “American Horror Story,” 10
p.m., FX. The deaths pile up for this troubled family, which now
learns that its home is called “The Murder House.” Like the first
two episodes, this is beautifully filmed and sharply acted, but seems
to have little reason to exist as entertainment.

– “Fact or Faked,” 10 p.m., Syfy.
One piece of footage seems to show a space ship crashing. Another has
a ghostly image, near the site of a mining disaster. The team
searches for explanations.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Man Up” debut,
8:30 p.m., ABC.

Will (Mather Zickel) wants to be a
guy's guy, like his dad the Vietnam veteran.

That isn't easy these days. Will wears
a tie, sells insurance, prefers pomegranate body wash and non-dairy
hazelnut cream. His warfare is confined to video games.

His friends are no help. Craig
(Christopher Moynihan, who created the show) mopes about a lost love;
Kenny (Dan Fogler) is a troll-ish sort whose ex-wife is dating a hunk
(Henry Simmons).

The result is big, broad and,
apparently, divisive. Several critics have dismissed it sharply, but
we think its smart, funny and well-done; give it a try.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Flashpoint,”
10 p.m., Ion.

This network seemed to fade when it
quit being Pax Net and retreated into reruns. Now, however, it has
new episodes of a first-rate show.

“Flashpoint” is a Canadian series
about a Toronto crisis team. It has made 65 episodes in its first
four seasons, some airing summers on CBS; now Ion will have a new
episode at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and a rerun at 11; it will also air those
from 9-11 p.m. Saturdays, repeating them from 1-3 a.m. both nights.

Tonight's first hour has hostages on a
plane; the second has Spike leaving his dad's death bed, to try to
disarm a bomb.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE:”Billions
Behind Bars,” 9 p.m., CNBC.

One Montana town has a sleek, $27
million prison – with no prisoners. A corporation convinced it to
build it, promising that prisoners – from Montana or elsewhere –
wold follow; they didn't.

That's one twist in the
$74-billion-a-year corrections business in the U.S. Companies say
privately run prisons can do the job cheaper; they can, critics say,
because they avoid unions and have understaffed, underpaid workers
who leave quickly, making prisons brutal for convicts and workers.

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox.
With the World Series taking its usual nights, this show borrows a
Tuesday slot. Tonight, it continues having contestants perform at the
judges' homes.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. This notion of being grandparents is disconcerting for Mike and
Vanessa (played by Tim Allen, 58, and Nancy Travis, 50). Mike creates
a fuss at the day-care center; Vanessa starts secretly shopping at
her daughter's favorite boutique.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a
Coast Guard officer is killed on a cargo ship, the team finds a
hiding family, seeking political asylum. Also, Tony and McGee try to
find the perfect woman for Gibbs.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A raid finds a link between the drug cartel and a wanted
terrorist.

– “Women, War and Peace,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). With their country doubly ravaged –
by President Charles Taylor and by rebels – Liberian women had had
enough. At first, they protested with daily sit-ins at the fish
market; when peace talks stagnated, they surrounded the building and
refused to let anyone leave until there was an accord. It's a
dramatic story, told by the women..

– “Body of Proof,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Peter is dismayed after rescuing only one of two people in a
fire. Afterward, Megan (Dana Delany) clashes with a veteran arson
investigator and his young assistant.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Sing Your Song,”
10 p.m., HBO.

Sixty years ago, most Americans hadn't
heard of calypso music. Then came Harry Belafonte – smart, talented
and relentlessly handsome; a Harlem native, he had spent five
childhood years in his mother's native Jamaica, then later studied
its music.

The album soared to No. 1 and a
remarkable career followed. Belafonte, now 84, would head civil
rights marches, “USA For Africa,” “We Are the World” and
more, triggering idealism in Americans.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Two and a Half
Men,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Last week's episode got life back in
stride for Alan (Jon Cryer). Walden (Ashton Kutcher) said he can stay
in the Malibu home; Lyndsey (Courtney Thorne-Smith) hesitantly took
him back … again.

Now Alan is jolted by seeing her
risque-movie past; Walden tries to cheer him up with a party.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Sin by
Silence,” 8 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

Brenda Clubine says there were 11
restraining orders against her husband, a retired cop twice her size.
She agreed to see him, to sign divorce papers; trouble came and she
was convicted of murder.

More tragedy followed: Her son's
adoptive parents said he'd died in a car accident.

Clubine founded Convicted Women Against
Abuse, influenced legislation … and got a call from her son, now 26
and unsure why his adoptive parents lied. This is a great story,
scattered into a so-so documentary about abused women who were sent
to prison.

Other choices include:

– “Sid the Science Kid,” daytime
(check local listings), PBS. This fun Halloween episode has two
original songs and a look at spiders and skeletons. Beware, though:
Kids also learn how to make slime.

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. This has been a tough edition for the trim or
athletic. First to go was basketball star Ron Artest; then went
actresses Elisabetta Canalis. Kristin Cavallari and Chynna Phillips.
Tonight, the eight survivors start a new round.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Robin's new boyfriend (Kal Penn, formerly of “House”)
is appalled by how throroughly everyone jumps into Ted's dating life.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Raising money for their cupcake business, the women through a
'90s party at the restaurant. Caroline, formerly rich, is stunned
when her ex-boyfriend arrives.

– “Bored to Death,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Last week ended with Jonathan clinging to the giant hand on clock
tower. Now that story ends well, mixing some humor alongside its
detective-style adventure.

– “Enlightened, 9:30 p.m., HBO.
Mike White has created a dandy corporate satire. In last week's
opener, Amy (Laura Dern) was demoted, had a nervous breakdown, when
to a spiritual retreat and returned. Her new joy wasn't shared by her
employers, her ex-husband (Luke Wilson) or her cynical mother (Diane
Ladd, Dern's real mom). Tonight, she's sent to the lowest corporate
level – literally. There, other discards, including White, have
adjust to a blank existence.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Kristin Lehman played Nathan Fillion's racing partner in the “Drive”
series. Now she's an insurance investigator who attracts Castle
(Fillion), as they probe theft and murder.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 16


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

A new crime-solver arrives for three
movies – a fairly good one this week, then two terrific ones.

Haunted by a childhood tragedy, Jackson
Brodie has blown his marriage and his police job. He clutches
remnants of both in relationships with two females – his daughter
and his former colleague.

Tonight, Brodie meets mismatched
sisters and probes their long-ago tragedy. It's a tough ride, but
Jason Isaacs (Lucius in the Harry Potter films) brings depth to a
tortured and caring soul.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Desperate
Housewives,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Joy Lauren was 14 when she began
playing Bree's daughter Danielle. Now Danielle is back, after her
husband has left; her mom ranges from I-told-you-so to fretting about
maybe-unsavory details.

The other housewives also have trouble.
Susan feuds with an art teacher, Gabrielle has PTA warfare and
Lynette suspects her separated husband is already seeing someone.

TONIGHT'S ALTERATIVE: “The Walking
Dead” season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., AMC.

In any situation, a missing child can
be wrenching. Now imagine she's lost in a woods with zombies.

That's what happens here. With zombies
overrunning the world, survivors had pinned their hopes on rumors of
safety in Atlanta. There wasn't, so now a ragged convoy begins. It
soon finds a traffic jam that leaves opportunity and then the crisis
involving the missing girl. It's a compelling start.

Other choices include:

– “Visionaries” debut, 8 p.m.,
Oprah Winfrey Network. Growing up around an angry father, Tyler Perry
says, he was determined to control his life. He kept failing, then
scored big. Now he has movies, TV series and his film studio. He's a
fascinating subject, despite the lazy approach of this series. It
lets him do all the talking, with no follow-up questions, no outside
perspective, not even clips of his work.

– Football, 8:15 p.m., NBC. The Bears
and Vikings – with a combined seven losses in 10 games – collide.
Some fans may try baseball on Fox; it has the American League series
finale, if neccesary.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Will and Diane try to sort out the firm's future, with Lisa Edelstein
(“House”) back as Will's former love interest.

– “Ask Oprah's All Stars”
season-opener, 9 p.m., OWN. Quickly – sometimes too quickly – the
“Dr. Phil” and “Dr. Oz” stars and Suze Orman advise on
everything from tipping to heart health. The highlight comes near the
end, with the return of someone who previously said she was a virgin
at 51.

– “Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. This hour starts and ends with fierce moments involving “the
Commodore” (Dabney Coleman). In between, Nucky scrambles to get new
alcohol supplies.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Carlos Bernard (Tony in “24”) plays Horatio's new nemesis.

– “Our America” season-opener, 10
p.m., OWN. Lisa Ling does solid documentaries, sometimes on brash
subjects. Tonight, she meets a grandmother and a married couple who
make cable-porn in their homes. It's a non-judgmental approach that
lets us both like and doubt these people.

– “Pan Am,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. When
the flight is diverted to Rangoon, Kate might not be able to complete
her courier mission for the CIA; also, her sister Laura sees the
wilder side of life.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Five,” 8 p.m.,
Lifetime; also, midnight and same times Sunday.

If you missed this on Monday, catch it
now. Splendidly crafted, it's the best TV movie in years.

It's actually five movies, each with a
breast-cancer theme, but feels seamless. The little girl in the
first film becomes the centerpiece (Jeanne Tripplehorn) of the fifth;
she appears briefly in the others.

Novice directors – Demi Moore,
Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys – made the first three films, with
Penelope Spheeris and Patty Jenkins doing the others. There's humor,
tragedy, joy and deep emotion.

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

In a late change, CBS reruns this
season-opener, which ranges from pretty good to hilarious.

It opens at Charlie's funeral, in a
scene that's typical for “Men” – sometimes funny and sometimes
heavy-handed. Stick around; in the second half, Alan (Jon Cryer)
meets Walden (Ashton Kutcher), a lovelorn billionaire. Their
two-person moments are gems, fine actors given sharp material.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Front of the
Class (2008),” 6:30 and 8:45 p.m., Hallmark; or “Finding a
Family,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel.

Both channels have true stories of
someone facing steep odds. In “Class,” a would-be teacher has
Tourette's syndrome; in “Family,” a teen in an orphanage
struggles get into Harvard.

“Class,” originally on CBS, is
brilliant, with great work from star Jimmy Wolk. “Family” feels
over-stretched at times, but remains involving.

Other choices include:

– Sports, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Fox.
ABC has NASCAR, from Charlotte, N.C.. Fox counters with the sixth
game of the American League's best-of-seven series, unless this ended
in five.

– “Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Camryn Manheim, one of the stars of David Kelley's “The Practice,”
plays the antagonist in this rerun. She's the prosecutor in a
cyberbullying case.

– “How to Be a Gentleman,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. Let's credit CBS for putting a new, scripted comedy
episode on Saturdays – even though it's not the one promised. The
network set “Rules of Engagement” for last Saturday, then made a
late switch. “Rules” gets a better night (Thursdays); “Gentleman”
is dumped here. Tonight, Andrew reluctantly goes to the wedding of
his former fiancee.

– “CSI: Miami,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Here's a rerun of an episode from last March. After kidnapping
Natalia, an escaped convict insists – perhaps convincingly – that
he was framed.

– “Welcome to Sweetie Pie's”
debut, 9 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Once a back-up singer for Ike
and Tina Turner, Robbie Montgomery lost her singing voice and found a
career owning a soul-food restaurant in St. Louis. This reality show
catches some amiable people, including Montgomery, 71, and her son,
an ex-convict who turned his life around and nervously prepares to
propose to his girlfriend.

– “Don't Tell the Bride” debut,
10 p.m., OWN. Each week, a couple is given $25,000 for its wedding,
with one catch: The groom must plan every detail, surprising the
bride. The opener – with an easygoing guy, a precise bride and some
sniping commentary from Caroline Rhea – is moderately fun.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Anna Faris hosts, with Drake as the music guest.