TV column for Thursday, Dec. 10

“Coat of Many Colors,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Let's credit NBC for
remembering some of the notions – music, specials and TV movies –
that helped TV thrive. Last Thursday was its live “The Wiz”;
tonight, this movie follows a Michael Buble hour.

Dolly Parton's great
song told how her mom made a coat out of rags and turned it into a
personal triumph. That's part of this story, set in 1951 in the
Smokey Mountains. Alyvia Lind plays Parton at 9, with Jennifer
Nettles and Rick Schroeder as her parents and Gerald McRaney as her

II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

We're a week from a
pivotal episode, one that involves Amy, the “Star Wars” premiere
and even dream scenes with the late Professor Proton (Bob Newhart).
Here's the episode that sets it up.

Previously, Sheldon
rejected Amy's suggestion that they date again. Now she tries a
second date with the annoying Dave, played by Stephen Merchant, the
6-foot-7 Englishman who is Ricky Gervais' comedy partner. Meanwhile,
Sheldon finally figures out why a song is stuck in his head.

ALTERNATIVE: “Bones” mid-season finale, 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

How does a show –
a fairly good one, but not a great one – prosper for 11 seasons?
“Bones” does it partly with variety, deftly going from light to
heavy; these two episodes provide strong examples.

The first is just
this side of silly, as Booth and Brennan (David Boreanaz and Emily
Deschanel) go undercover at a weekend camp where people pretend to be
cowboys. The second is dead-serious, with jolting moments at the the
beginning and end. Wrapping through both are personal stories for Cam
and the married duo of Hodgins and Angela. “Bones” skims all the
bases of good-enough drama.

Other choices

“Toy Story at 20”
and “Toy Story” (1995), 8 and 9-11 p.m., ABC. Back in 1995,
little Pixar was still struggling to prove computer-animation could
be popular. It made commercials, special effects and Oscar-nominated
shorts – then hit it big with “Toy Story.” The idea was clever,
the script was smart and Pixar soared. It has gone on to other gems
-- from “Nemo” to “Inside Out” -- and merged with Disney. Now
ABC (also Disney-owned) reruns “Toy Story,” preceded by a
documentary about it.

Other choices

“Michael Buble's
Christmas in Hollywood,” 8 p.m., NBC. For his fifth holiday
special, Buble includes music from Celine Dion, Tori Kelly and Sharon
Jones & the Dap-Kings. He tries comedy with reality stars Kylie
Jenner and Gigi Hadid and NBC favorites Blake Shelton, Jay Leno and
Eva Langoria.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31, CBS. While Greg (Colin Hanks) revives a ping-pong grudge match
with his brother, his wife frets about returning to work after being
home with the baby. Also, Heather has second thoughts about her
husband getting a vasectomy. And her mom sees the effects of a stolen
credit card.

“The Originals,”
9 p.m., CW. This show and “Vampire Diaries” will be taking a long
break, before moving to Fridays on Jan. 29. First, this episode finds
Freya scrambling to help an afflicted sibling.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Sara Rue competes with herself tonight. At the same time
that she guests in the second “Bones” hour (as a disheveled
profiler) she returns here as the prosperous girlfriend of Christy's
ex-husband. At a conference with Roscoe's teacher, Christy feels more
threateed than ever.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. An archeologist has been killed, possibly because of
something he found.

“White Christmas”
(1954), 11:30 p.m., AMC. This Bing Crosby musical wraps up a stretch
of Christmas classics. At 4:30 p.m. is George C. Scott's blistering
“Christmas Carol” (1984) performance; the the original “Miracle
on 34th Street” (1947) is at 7 and 9:15.




TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 9

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Holiday episodes
tend to be fun and tonight ABC has plenty of them.

That peaks here,
with Gloria insisting on the white Christmas she never had in
Colombia; she rents a mountain cabin for the family. Then ... well,
things never seem to go right in situation-comedy cabins.

“Taraji and Terrence's White Hot Holidays,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Being an “Empire”
fan – like being a “Sopranos” fan in the old days – can
involve a lot of waiting. Now there won't be another new episode
until March; tonight, Fox tries to ease our pain.

Firtst, it reruns
last week's hour, with Lucious trying a risky business move and
Cookie planning a concert at the prison where was an inmate. Then the
actors who play them (Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson) sing a duet;
the Christmas special also has Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Jamie

ALTERNATIVE: “You're the Worst” season-finale, 10:30 p.m., FXX.

For two seasons,
this has traced the hesitant – and humorous -- relationship of two
deeply cynical souls. Last week found Gretchen in a deep funk, while
Jimmy almost had an affair with a gorgeous skiier. His other
roommate, Edgar, pondered moving in with his girlfriend; their friend
Lindsay found she was pregnant via the husband who left her.

Now things peaks at
a party for Lindsay's self-centered sister, who's making a big deal
of announcing her baby's sex. Drinks and words flow freely; it's
quite funny ... with a poignant moment at the end.

Other choices

“Mat Franco's Got
Magic,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, we see the “America's Got
Talent” winner head from his Rhode Island home to the site of his
Las Vegas show – stopping for magic tricks long the way. That's
followed at 10 by “The Illusionists,” a TV version of a Broadway
magic show.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Each Christmas, the Hecks get to the church late and are
confined to the overflow room. This time, Frankie vows to have
everyone watch a service at home on TV.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:31 p.m., ABC. Beverly frets that her family's holiday is too blah.
She expands it into “super Hanukkah” ... which looks suspiciously
like Christmas.

“One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest” (1975), 9 p.m., Sundance. Here's an anti-authority
classic, winner of Oscars for best-picture and for all four acting
categories – including best actor for Jack Nicholson, whose “The
Shining” (1980) precedes this at 5:30.

9:31 p.m., ABC. Dre feels Christmas should be less about getting
things and more about family togetherness. His children don't share
that view.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. This is supposed to be Markus Keen's big break – a live
“Good Morning, America” performance, to spotlight his new album.
As the time nears, however, he doesn't seem to be ready. Meanwhile,
there's trouble between Luke nd Colt and between Rayna and Deacon.

“The League”
series finale, 10 p.m., FXX. For seven terribly inconsistent seasons,
this show has found some humor among friends in a fantasy-football
league. Last week – in an exceptionally solid episode – an
attempt to compute scores by hand failed; now the championship is
settled with one big play-off.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 8


“The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC,

There will be sudden
surgery tonight, sending five of the nine finalists home.

The Blake Shelton
and Adam Levine teams are dominating, as usual, with three apiece;
Gwen Stefani has two, Pharrell Williams has only one. Now the show
trims to its final four. They'll have their last chance to get viewer
votes on Monday; the next day will bring a winner.

“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

In one crowded hour,
we get Christmas decor, murder, humor and this cautionary message for
kids: “Being a zombie hooker is terrible.”

The story starts
with the death of a high-school shop teacher who spent nights as a
vigilante crimefighter. (He was so-so at fighting, but had a terrific
utility belt.) Soon, Liv takes on his personality, while learning the
city is full of erstwhile vigilantes. Add in some moving moments with
her boyfriend (a secret zombie-hunter) and you have an excellent
episode, despite a fairly flat ending.

ALTERNATIVE: Mid-season finales of “Agents of SHIELD” (9 p.m.,
ABC) and “Chicago Fire” (10 p.m., NBC).

As networks scramble
to avoid reruns, more shows are taking breaks – some tiny and some
huge. “Fire will skip three weeks (returning Jan. 5); “SHIELD”
will skip three months, returning March 8.

For now, “SHIELD”
will have Daisy and her team of inhumans desperately trying to hold
off evil Hydra, while Coulson and Fitz take the ultimate risk. On
“Fire,” Patterson is in charge of the firehouse while Boden tries
to clear his name; also, Severide learns where Serena might be.

Other choices

“Scream Queens”
season-finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox. This seemed like a great idea: Ryan
Murphy had already produced first-rate versions of a youth comedy
(“Glee”) and a fright show (“American Horror Story”); now he
would mash the two, with young stars plus Jamie Lee Curtis. Alas, the
humor was too broad and ratings plummeted; now – in the last
episode of this season (and, maybe, forever) -- Fox says there will
be confessions, deaths and the identity of the Red Devil killer.

“The Muppets”
and “Fresh Off the Boat,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Here are
back-to-back Christmas episodes. In the first, Miss Piggy prepares
for her holiday special, with Mindy Kaling as guest; in the second,
Eddie's parents announce that Santa has several post-graduate degrees
from Princeton.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun from last December, the city is hit by an Internet
shutdown, just before Christmas. The team confers with
cyber-terrorists it sent to prison last year.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. The focus moves to Dr. Wade (the excellent
CCH Pounder) in this rerun. She's performing an autopsy when a gunman
holds her hostage, along with her aide and Danny.

“Chicago Med,” 9
p.m., NBC. Doctors rush to treat the victims of a movie-theater
shooting. Other patients include a teen with an eating disorder and
someone with an unusual form of racism.

“Victoria's Secret
Fashion Show,” 10 p.m., CBS. It turns out that guys are interested
in fashion, after all. This has music by Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding
and The Weeknd, plus lots of skinny models and, CBS says, a
“mult-million-dollar fantasy bra.” Oddly, our fantasies never
include an expensive bra.

(2007), midnight, ABC Family. This one is a gem, worth recording. A
young woman (the radiant Christina Milian) is transplanted to the
beautiful-but-sterile world inside a snowglobe.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 6, slightly out of order

(Here's the Sunday TV column, a tad out of order; scroll down and you'll find Monday below this)

By Mike Hughes

“Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Last year's Beatles
special was terrific, so CBS repeats the formula – modern
musicians, doing the songs of a classic act. This concert arrives six
days shy of the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's
birth; he'll loom large,with a video screen showing him discussing
his life and his music.

Those songs will be
performed by stars of country (Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Zach
Brown, Trisha Yearwood) and beyond – Adam Levine, Lady Gaga, Tony
Bennett, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Celine Dion, Usher, Juanes and
Seth Macfarlane.

“Once Upon a Time,” mid-season finale, 8 p.m. ABC.

It's never a good
thing when someone resurrects all the dark souls. Now they're
targeting living souls; Gold's advice to our heroes is simple: Just
enjoy your last minutes of life.

Emma, who started
this problem, won't settle for that; now she faces a tough
confrontation with Dark Hook. The result is supposed to be climactic,
holding us until the show returns March 6.

ALTERNATIVE: “Breakthrough,” 9 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic.

People keep trying
new ways to create energy. Some are personal projects; a Canadian is
creating artificial tornadoes inside a giant machine. Some are more
massive; Americans have a billion-dollar field, harvesting solar
power in the desert.

One effort taps
geothermal power ... which Iceland already does, tapping steam from
its geysers. This solid documentary is from Akiva Goldsman, who wrote
“A Beautiful Mind.” The “Mind” director, Ron Howard, made
last week's “Breakthrough” (on research into aging), which reruns
at 10 a.m.

Other choices

“Just in Time for
Christmas,” 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Hallmark. The “Hallmark Hall of
Fame” project only does two or three films a year, all worth
catching. This one has a too-familiar plot – a slight variation on
“The Family Man” and “Comfort and Joy” -- but an appealing
star (Eloise Mumford) and lush look.

Football, 7 p.m. ET
preview and 8:30 kick-off, NBC. Two 6-5 teams collide. The Colts have
a share of their division lead; the Steelers, who host, must settle
for play-off prospects.

“The Bridge,”
8-10 p.m., Hallmark. This is a frustrating one – a film that grabs
our interest ... then ends abruptly, telling us to come back next
year. Based on Karen Kingsbury's best-seller, it has a good-hearted
couple (Faith Ford and Ted McGinley) running a bookstore near
Nashville and a mismatched pair (Katie Findlay and Wyatt Nash) who
don't seem to realize they're in love. These are thoroughly likable
people ... but a complication appears and we're told to wait for
another movie next year.

Yellowstone,” 9 and 10 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Beautifully filmed, these
documentaries catch opposite views of the park – the hard-scrabble
winter life and then the summer.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. The Christmas spirit seems to dissapate
when there are only seven known survivors. Now Carol tries to revive
it with a secret-Santa program.

Quantico,” 10 p.m.
ABC. Secrets are spilled at an emergency disciplinary meeting. And in
the flash-forward story, Alex (Priyanka Chopra) and her team work
secretly to learn who's really responsible for the Grand Central
Station bombing; we'll get the answer next week.

“Into the
Badlands,” 10 p.m., AMC. Worried about the power The Widow, Quinn
tries a dangerous link with one of the other barons. Meanwhile, Sunny
grasps for ways to control M.K.'s immense and scary power. And if
none of this makes sense to you ... well, the first three episodes
rerun from 7-10 p.m.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 7

“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

Near the end of a
great episode, “Fargo” has a plot twist that is ... well, just
weird. We'll forgive it for basic reasons: This is the season's best
new show; sometimes brilliance and weirdness go together.

This story has a
small-town couple (a butcher and a hair-stylist) wedged between rival
gangs. Now they're in South Dakota, where both gangs and the cops
converge. It's tangled, so catch the opening narration (by Martin
Freeman, from the first “Fargo” series). Then get ready for next
week's finale.

“Telenovela” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., NBC.

Beautiful, rich and
famous, Ana (Eva Longoria) stars in a Spanish-language soap opera.
Her life is great ... except she doesn't speak Spanish and her
ex-husband has just joined the show.

After debuting
“Superstore” last week and this show tonight, NBC will launch
them together next month. “Superstore” has lots of advantages –
subtlety, wit and likable characters – but “Telenovela” may be
a bigger draw. It has bright colors, broad humor, sight gags and a
feeling of fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 8 and 9 p.m.,

Last year, this was
a pleasant December diversion, focusing on some good-hearted (if
rather odd) people who take decorations to the extreme. At tne end of
each hour, one of the judges – HGTV designers Carter Oosterhouse
and Taniya Nayak – hands out a $50,000 prize.
There are plenty
of choices. The second hour has a home with a 20-foot Santa, 30,000
ice lights, 80,000 bulbs and 10,000 feet of cable; the first has one
with 500,000 lights and special projectors.

Other choices

"The Brokenwood Mysteries," any time, Earlier, viewers saw this pilot for a New Zealand series about a big-city cop -- crusty, smart and oft-divorced -- moving to a small town. Now there will be separate tales on each of the next four Mondays. This is a fairly good -- albeit harsh -- one, set among angry members of a local rugby team. 

“Love, Actually,”
1 p.m., ABC Family. This casual British gem ties together (very
loosely) several stories at holiday time. It launches a string of
Christmas comedies – the OK “Fred Claus” (2007) at 4 p.m., then
the clever “Christmas Vacation” (1989) and “Santa Clause”
(1994) at 6:30 and 8:45.

“TV's Funniest
Animated Stars,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The Paley Center created this
tribute to cartoon favorites and the people behind them. It includes
interviews with the actors who voice Bart Simpson, Donald Duck,
SpongeBob SquarePants, Beavis and ButtHead and more ... including
Todd Barbee, who was 10 when he was Charlie in the 1972 “A Charlie
Brown Thanksgiving.”

“The Flash” and
“The Arrow,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW. If you missed this crossover last
week, here's a quick rerun. On “The Flash,” Cisco's girlfriend
learns she's the new Hawkgirl; targeted by Vandal Savage, she's taken
to “Arrow” turf. Expect her to survive and star next month in
“Legends of Tomorrow.”

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. This show keeps competing with others in the DC Comics
universe – usually Fox's “Gotham” and now the transplanted CW
shows. Tonight, an earthquake leaves Kara and her friends trapped
with one of the alien escapees.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. The team goes undercover at a college where hackers
endanger the economy.

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 9-11:35 p.m., Syfy. Steven Spielberg's film –
using a character envisioned by his friend, George Lucas – is one
of the all-time great movie adventures.

Inheritance,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox Business Network. Some people
just inherit money or houses or such. Now we meet a family that got
toy soldiers and a man with Winston Churchill's teeth.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 10 p.m., CBS. Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) has been
arrested and is being interrogated for the murder of his former
partner. The team races to prove his innocence.