TV column for Thursday, Nov. 17

Practice,” 9 p.m., ABC.

From its early days, TV has thrived at
this – cramming opposites into a tight space, then letting their
words bounce off each other. Now “Practice” has its turn, in the
first hour, with stunning results.

Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) is back from
a drug binge, seemingly unaware she was gone 12 days. Her colleagues
promptly plan an intervention. With exceptions – her new fiance
(Wes Brown), some flashbacks, a powerful finale – this hour is
simply the nine regulars in the office with an intervention
specialist. The result is brilliantly written (by series creator
Shonda Rhimes), directed (by Mark Tinker) and acted (by Scorsone and
others). It's a reminder that TV really can pack a punch.

p.m., ABC.

OK, not all shows punch hard. This week
focuses on Regis Philbin, the master of low-impact TV.

In this hour, Katie Couric interviews
Philbin. On Friday morning, he has his final round of “Live With
Regis & Kelley” – a show he's been doing, with changing
title and co-host – for 23 years.

And then? Guests – Jerry Seinfeld,
Neil Patrick Harris, more – fill in, until a new co-host is chosen.
Philbin says he'll stay busy, with no intention of retiring at 80.

Miracles” (1999), 10 p.m., Hallmark.

Over the next six weeks, we'll see a
flood of Christmas movies and specials. A few (like Hallmark's “Lucky
Christmas,” repeating Friday) are awful, most (like its “Jingle
All the Way,” debuting Nov. 25) are quite pleasant. And some –
including this one – are superb.

When a drug-addicted mother is jailed,
her kids may be shuffled off to the bureaucracy. Instead, her sister
takes them on the lam, reaching a small town with a magical touch.
The result has a smart script, perfect direction by Michael Pressman
(who won two Emmys for “Picket Fences”) and a supporting cast
that includes Pattty Duke, Laura Dern, Kathy Baker and Lynn Redgrave.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon says he and Amy aren't dating – but is surprised to
see how jealous he is when the comic-book-store guy asks her out.

– “Beneath the Blue” (2010), 8-10
p.m., CW. Giving its regular shows a week off, CW has a movie. In the
Bahamas, Paul Wesley and Caitlin Wachs fight sonar experiments that
might harm the dolphins

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. With
most of the workers on a field trip to Gettysburg, the boss (James
Spader) challenges the others to concoct the company's next big idea.

– “Braxton Family Values,” 9
p.m., WE. In last week's OK season-opener (rerunning at 8), things
looked shaky for the notion of an album teaming Toni Braxton with her
sisters. Tonight, Tamar admits she's working on a solo project; also,
Traci says she's quitting music and trying beauty school.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
After an undercover cop is killed, the team re-traces her work.

– “Private Practice,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. After the powerhouse episode at 9 p.m., “Practice” continues
its – story here. In rehab, a teen (Debby Ryan, 18, a Disney
Channel favorite) has an impact on Amelia.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 16

p.m., PBS (check local listings).

As Thanksgiving nears, most of us will
be soothed by the belief that turkeys are really stupid. Joe Hutto –
a Florida wildlife artist – begs to differ.

One day, he says, someone left a bowl
of turkey eggs on his front porch. The eggs hatched; he imprinted on
them and bonded with 16 turkeys. He learned they have different
personalities and a variety of vocal symbols. The story is told here
with wry humor and softly gorgeous visuals.

8 p.m., ABC.

In the perpetual search for something
Sue can do, this may be perfect: A community production of “The
Wizard of Oz” accepts all kids, without auditions. Things get
complicated, however, with Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Bob (Chris
Kattan) in the show.

Meanwhile, Brick invites his wayward
uncle (Norm Macdonald) to “special persons day” at school.

10 p.m., BBC.America.

This show's first story started slowly
and ended powerfully. An upper-crust Englishman, a police detective,
was being groomed for fast promotion. He resisted his mentors,
however, and they lost interest in him – even after he caught the
man who was duplicating Jack the Ripper murders.

Now a new three-week story has a new
copycat, duplicating 1960s murders done by the Kray twins.

Other choices include:

– “Up All Night,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., NBC. Each episodes has a “Saturday Night Live” person, past
or present. First is Molly Shannon as an inept worker Reagan
(Christina Applegate) can't quite fire. Then, in a rerun, Will Forte
advises Chris (Will Arnett) on bringing sexiness back to marriage.

– Movies, 8 p.m., cable. The familiar
film is “Steel Magnolias” (1989, WE), which has humor, heart and
Oscar-winners (Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia
Dukakis). Also, consider two opposites: “Vice Squad” is a raw
story of a prostitute, filmed with gritty flair; “My Life in Ruins”
is a harmless, adequate tale of a tour guide, played by Nia Vardalos
of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Here's another former “SNL” person – Ana Gasteyer as the
imposing Sheila, tending to George during an illness. Meanwhile,
Tessa has Dalia, the blank-eyed teen, as party-planner for her 16th

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. A
well-meaning drive to help a neighbor hits problems.

– “Harry's Law,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Adam has already been dazzled by Chunhua, whose family has a
dry-cleaning business in the neighborhood. Now she wants him to fight
plans that would require the family to sell to developers. Also,
Harriet defends a teen who killed three students.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. Three murders seem unrelated. Then a link is found:
They may be revenge for unsolved cases in the past.

– “American Horror Story,” 10
p.m., FX. Desperate to get out of the house, the family finally has a
prospective buyer. The neighbor (Jessica Lange) and Larry scramble to
prevent that.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 15

9:01 p.m., Fox.

From “Cheers” to “Friends,”
comedies have thrived on Thanksgiving episodes. Here's one of the

Justin Long (the Mac guy in
commercials) plays a music teacher at Jess' school. She invites him
for the holiday, buys a giant turkey and has one question: “Does
anybody know anything about cooking?”

The result is hilarious in all the
expected ways and a few unexpected ones. It's a great half-hour.

Justice,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For a brutal stretch, this richly
detailed documentary says, vigilantism seemed like the only answer.

Nazi war criminals had fled, using
false documents from the Vatican, the Argentine bureaucracy and more.
Consumed by the Cold War (and luring Germany's best scientists),
governments quit searching.

So private efforts were set up to
identify suspects and catch them. This film meets men who were there
for an assassination, a capture and more. It has somber moments with
the suspects themselves. And a Germa man descrives the moment he
realized his father had been a mass murderer.

Spielberg, 8 p.m., cable.

For 38 years, Spielberg has stuck with
one, brilliant composer, John Williams. Still, Williams was
overwhelmed when he saw an early, no-music cut of “Schindler's

Stunned by the film's power, Williams
walked alone for a few minutes, then told Spielberg the film needed a
composer who's better than he is. “I agree,” Spielberg said, “but
they're all dead.”

That story is told in “AFI's Master
Class” (8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies), with Williams and Spielberg
describing their collaboration. The night also offers two prime
examples – a fun adventure (“Jurassic Park,” 1993, 8 p.m., AMC)
and a compelling war drama (“Saving Private Ryan,” 1998, 9 p.m.

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. The club
has friendly competition with the group started by Shelby (Idina
Menzel). Meanwhile, Huck has a crush and Sue – this is no surprise
– smears her political opponent.

– NCIS, 8 p.m., CBS. This wraps up a
two-parter, as the team seeks a Marine who's been missing since a
school bombing in Afghanistan. Tony reveals his deepest fear and
Gibbs re-lives a painful moment.

– “Annie” (1982), 8 p.m., ABC
Family, or “Bolt” (2008), 8:30 Disney. Here are good family
choices. “Annie” never matched its hype, but has some vibrant
musical moments; “Bolt” is an animated delight.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. On an undercover mission in Sudan, Sam is missing.

– “Knights of Mayhem” debut, 9
and 10 p.m., National Geographic. At first, modern jousting was
simply fun make-believe, a harmless way to entertain Renaissance
Faire crowds. Then people begain doing it for real, creating a
high-risk pro circuit. We hear of concussions, divorce,
near-bankruptcy and, sometimes, death. There's a lot of macho
posturing, including two angry brothers jousting fiercely.

– “Body of Proof,” 10:01p.m.,
ABC. This case is complicated because the victim's blood was drained
– and because she was a drug rep and many of the suspects had
access to lethal pills. Meanwhile, most of the guys are warming to
Dani Alvarez; she's played by Nathalie Kelley, a relative newcomer
with global roots – French mother, Argentine father, Irish
step-father, childhood in Peru and Australia.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 14

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Saved” debut,
8 p.m., Animal Planet.

Leadbelly and Hero are true TV stars –
warm, loving, filling big emotional gaps. They're also dogs.

Hero was homeless in Iraq, adopted by
an American soldier who was then killed. For the soldier's parents
and girlfriend, he became a crucial link.

And Leadbelly? A drug-addicted woman
spent a decade on the streets; this sleepy-looking dog gave her a
reason to change. These are great stories, neatly told, in a series
about animals that transform people.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Sing-off,”
8-10 p.m., NBC,

There are only five groups left and
they leap into the promising category of rhythm-and-blues.

First is a medley of very different
songs – James Brown's “I Feel Good,” the Jackson 5's “ABC”
and Beyonce's “Crazy in Love.” Then the groups tackle their own
R-&-B favorites.

& Kelly,” 9 a.m. (check local listings).

This is the farewell week for Regis
Philbin; expect logs of commotion.

Philbin has been doing morning TV for
36 years and this show (originally “Live With Regis & Kathy
Lee”) for 23 of them. At 80, he didn't expect to leave the show …
but hit an impasse on the contract.

A replacement will come later – maybe
much later – but this will be the Regis week.

Other choices include:

– “Dinosaur Train,” times vary
(check local listings), PBS. This starts a week of new episodes that
try to nudge kids outdoors. Today, the young dinosaurs go stargazing
and start a Nature Trackers Club.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, Max met Johnny's bright, black and beautiful
girlfriend … who instantly realized Johnny likes Max. Now she
fights back by hiring Max's cupcake business.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Released from the hospital, Alan faces fresh challenges.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. What is
Dr; House doing with his immense IQ? He's trying to find a way to
remove his ankle bracelet and go to a boxing match. Also, of course,
there's a patient to worry about.

– “ABC News Special,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords discusses her recovery from the
January shooting spree that left six people dead. She also discusses
her early years and the courtship with her husband, astronaut Mark

– “Rock Center,” 10 p.m., NBC.
The complexities of the Penn State situation will be tackled by Bob
Costas, TV's smartest sports reporter. Also, Kate Snow looks at
Alabama's controversial immigration law; Brian Williams interviews
photographer Annie Leibovitz and views changes in military food.

– “The Headhuntress” debut, 10
p.m., Bravo. This moderately interesting hour follows Wendy Doulton
in her duo duties of job-recruiting and career-makeovers. The biggest
surprise comes with the arrival of underwhelming candidates for a
$150,000-a-year job.

– “Bored to Death,” 10 p.m., HBO.
Casey Wilson plays Jonathan's first lover, returning a decade later
with a job for him. It's a fun mixture of humor and adventure.

– “Enlightened,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.
Immense talent is stuffed in here, with Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Robin
Wright and director Jonathan Demme. They have an Oscar and three
Golden Globes, plus 15 more nominations for Oscars, Globes and Emmys.
Still, they're stuck in a weak, one-note story.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 13

WEEKEND'S MUST-SEE: “Hell on Wheels,”
10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

The show's second episode reaffirms
that this could be one of the great TV series.

In the opener, we met four key
characters in 1865 – Durant, a corrupt railroader … Lily, who
barely escaped the Indian raid that killed her husband, a railroad
surveyor … Elam, an ex-slave … and Cullen. He freed his slaves,
but fought for the Confederates; now he seeks the people who killed
his wife.

In the opener, one of them almost
killed Cullen – until Elam slit the guy's throat. Now the
repercussions begin; fierce forces have been set in motion.

Contemporary,” 9 p.m. Sunday, PBS.

Here's an odd delight, one of the
strangest “Masterpiece” hours ever.

It started as a piece by British poet
Christopher Reid, then was adapted into a screenplay by director
Niall McCormick. The result has lots of narration, with occasional
(and splendid) dialog.

A publisher (Alan Rickman) is cold and
distant; his former lover (Emma Thompson) is sharp and vibrant. They
have lunch; the result is fresh, funny and … strange.

America,” 8 and 11 p.m., CNN.

Last year, we're told, only one per
cent of Internet start-ups were led by blacks. By accident, perhaps,
Silicon Valley has become a Caucasian and Asian enclave.

Now we meet a fascinating woman who's
trying to change that. Pregnant at 15, a mom at 16, she went on to
get a Master's degree and start a company. She co-leads a program
that has eight people living together for the summer, while pitching
to investors.

There are complications. (One man is
questioned by police for, as a colleague puts it, “walking while
black.”) Mostly, however, we see sharp and likable people,
scrambling under stress.

Other choices include:

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In fairy-tale time, Cinderella makes a regrettable deal with
Rumplestiltskin. And in our time, Emma tries to help a young,
pregnant woman escape from Mr. Gold.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
The family finds its real skill – eating and writing a food blog.

– “Trashopolis,” 8 p.m.,
Smithsonian. Progress can create trouble, we see in this portrait of
Cairo's trash history. Rules elimnated dogs and pigs, which had been
helpfully eating garbage; a municipal service hit the lifestyle of
people who lived off the garbage, becoming consummate recyclers.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Carlos is sinking into alcoholism, distraught about saving
Gabrielle by killing her abusive stepfather. Meanwhile, Bree's
boyfriend (a police detective) tightens his search. Also, Susan
realizes her art project – inspired by the killing – can't be
seen by the public.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Alicia is in the odd position of seeking a delay in the execution of
a guilty man. He has information that could save an innocent

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
murder points to Horatio's nemesis “The Taunter,” who has an