TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Voice,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Blake Shelton performs tonight … which could be when his
winning streak ends.

He’s coached three straight champions, but last week his Ray
Boudreaux and CeeLo Green’s Caroline Pennell were ousted. That left Green with
no one and Shelton with only Cole Vosbury; Christina Aguilera has Jacquie Lee
and Matthew Schuler … and Adam Levine, Shelton’s friendly rival, has half the
final six: Will Champlin, James Wolpert and Tessane Chin.

Two more will go tonight, after some Christmas songs. Shelton
sings “Silver Bells” with Xenia and Kelly Clarkson sings “Underneath the Tree.”

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.

How desperate is Mindy to get together with Cliff? In a fun
episode, she throws a Christmas party for the entire building, just so she can
impress him by singing a sexy “Santa Baby.”

It’s a bad plan, of course. (If you want to be the sexiest
person, don’t invite Maria Menounos.) Or is it? And in the romantic-comedy
tradition, the audience knows Danny, not Cliff, is the one for Mindy.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX.

With no Thanksgiving-week episode, viewers had extra time to
digest the fierce events: The long struggle between Jax and his step-father
Clay is over; Jax killed Clay and three Irish mobsters.

He planned it in a deal to get immunity for his biker club …
but doesn’t know the prosecutor is nixing the deal and cutting a new one with
his estranged wife, to destroy the club. Tonight, the aftershocks begin.

Other choices include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Billy Dee Williams plays
the World War II veteran Gibbs was named after.

“Dads,” 8 p.m., Fox. The Sachs guys really don’t take well
to Christmas. David (Peter Riegert) is the world’s grumpiest Santa; Eli (Seth
Green) tried to create a holiday videogame, only to have it sabotaged. That
sets off some misadventures that range from funny to crude or merely really

Noir night, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This
week, TNT launches “Mob City,” an ambitious miniseries (three Wednesdays, six
hours) in the “film noir” crime style. First, sister-channel TCM has noir
classics. “White Heat” (1949) and “The Roaring Twenties” (1939) – James Cagney
films directed by Raoul Walsh – are at 8 and 10 p.m., with “The Big Heat”
(1953) at midnight and “Key Largo” (1948) at 2 a.m.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Faced with death
threats, the captain chooses Jake to be his bodyguard. The plot teeters toward
mere stupidity, before righting itself in the final minutes.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the season-opener,
Nick and Jess try a romantic vacation in Mexico.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team is
undercover to probe an ambush tied to a cartel.

“Marshal Law: Texas,” 10 p.m., TNT. Like last week’s debut,
this reality hour leaves us admiring federal marshals’ no-surprises efficiency
… and realizing this doesn’t make for interesting drama.

“Chicago Fire,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Chief Walker is ready to
confront McLeod (Michelle Forbes), the official who is eyeing his firehouse to
be closed.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 8 p.m.,

This happened almost by accident, the key people say. With a
tight deadline, there was no time for advertisers or network minions to interfere.
Charles Schulz and friends made the cartoon their way.

That was a splendid way, a masterpiece with a jazzy score,
kid actors and a mix of humor and sentiment. Rounding out this hour is the
seven-minute “Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa.”

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “CMA Country Christmas,” 9-11 p.m.,

In a show of efficiency, the Country Music Association tapes
this annual special when stars converge for its award show. Now Jennifer
Nettles has her fourth straight year as host.

She’ll have lots of country groups (Lady Antebellum, Rascal
Flatts) and individuals – Luke Bryan, Trace Adkins, Darius Rucker Kellie Pickler,
Jake Owens and Hunter Hayes. She’ll also have songs by people who are better
known for rock (Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige), contemporary Christian (Michael W.
Smith) and TV, with Lucy Hale of “Pretty Little Liars” and – really -- Willie
Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.”


A comedy episode about cancer? That works fairly well here,
after a weak start.

Christy and her mom – both recovering alcoholics and former
teen moms – have befriended Marjorie (Mim Kennedy), a veteran of AA meetings.
When they learn of her cancer, they wedge into her life.

On its own, that’s humor-deficient. The fun is set off by
Marjorie’s cats and Christy’s allergies; the final half of “Mom” is about as funny
as a cancer comedy can be.

Other choices include:

“It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie” (2002), 8-10
p.m., CW. A banker has closed Muppet Theatre; now an angel tries to convince Kermit
that live is still fine.

“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The final six acts perform
and viewers vote.

“Almost Human,” 8 p.m., Fox. This futuristic views an
advanced drug that has a fierce effect.

“Sleepy Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the second
episode, Ichabod Crane is still adjusting to this century; now he learns that
an ill-tempered witch from his time (the 18
th century) is here.

“Major Crimes,” 9 p.m., TNT. A former teen rapist, now on
parole, has disappeared. Is he on a rampage … or has he been lured by vengeful
grown-ups. There are sharp plot twists, plus excellent work by guest stars Esai
Morales, Jeanine Mason (the former “So You Think You Can Dance” champ and – as Rusty’s
psychologist and chess partner – Bill Brochtrup of “NYPD Blue.”

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Here’s the second half of
a story that started with Red kidnapped. He tries to bargain with his captors,
while Liz has precariously slipped into the building where he’s held.

“The Story of Film,” 12:45 a.m., Turner Classic Movies. One
week from its finale, this documentary has its 14th chapter, viewing the impact
of the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino and other stylish writer-directors. The
Coens’ “Hudsucker Proxy” (1994) is at 8 p.m., with Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”
(2000) at 10.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 1

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife” and “The Mentalist,”
about 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., CBS.

For “Good Wife,” it’s time to celebrate (briefly). This is
its 100
th episode, there’s a Christmas party … and Alicia could
inherit. There are problems, of course, and Lockhart/Gardner firm is fighting
the will.

And for “Mentalist,” it’s a fresh start. Patrick Jane has
finally beaten Red John; we flash ahead two years. Jane has found peace and
pleasure, then gets a surprising job offer.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Christmas in Conway,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Bad concepts can sometimes -- not often – become good
movies. Here, a guy make a grand gesture for his dying wife; we can find him
simultaneously advirable and foolish

 Still, this is a classy
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” production. John Kent Harrison (“What the Deaf Man
Heard”) directed beautifully, as usual. He has a strong cast (led by Andy
Garcia, Mary-Louise Parker and Mandy Moore), a great-looking film and an
emotional finish that semi-compensates for a bad idea.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Treme” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

The “Treme” parts are always greater than the whole. Indeed,
we’re not sure there is a whole; are these stories going anywhere, or will they
– like John Goodman’s character – inexplicably plunge overboard?.

We mayor may not  find
out over these final five weeks. Tonight starts in 2008, with New Orleans
celebrating the election while still staggering three-plus years after
Hurricane Katrina. There’s great music – including a dandy piano solo from
Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of New Orleans – and lots of interesting
characters and situations, which may or may not be resolved.

Other choices include:

Movie series, all night. The first three “Star Wars” films
(1977, ’80 and ’83) are at 3, 6 and 9 p.m. on Spike; they overlap with thne
“Ghostbusters” films (1984 and ’89), at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on VHI.

“Silver Bells,” 7, 9 and 11 p.m., UP. The former Gospel
Music Channel now dubs itself “America’s Christmas Channel,” with music, movies
and more. Here, Bruce Boxleitner plays an overwrought guy, sentenced to bell-ringing.
It’s mostly so-so, but has some good moments near the end.

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Flashbacks tell us how
Henry ended up with mean Regina.

“Soul Train Awards,” 8-10:30 p.m., BET and Centric. The
classic stars – Chaka Khan, Smoky Robinson, Gladys Knight – perform along with
newer generations. There’s music from Jennifer Hudson, Ruben Studdard, Tamar
Braxton, Faith Evans, T.I., Candice Glover, Eric Benet and more.

“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. The mid-season finale finds
the Governor eyeing revenge.

“Getting On,” 10 p.m., HBO. Last week’s terrific opener
introduced perverse characters – beautifully played by Alex Borstein, Laurie
Metcalf and Niecy Nash -- at an extended-care unit. Now the show adds Mel
Rodriguez as Patsy De La Serda, the new supervising nurse. Large and fragile,
he’s bubbles slogans about treating the patients as cruise-line customers; he
clashes neatly with the cynicism around him.

“Brody Stevens: Enjoy It,” midnight and 12:30 a.m., Comedy
Central. Stevens was already working on a comedy series produced by his friend
Zach Galifianakis, we’re told here, when he had a breakdown. He ranted,
berated, drove away his friends; they had him institutionalized … then helped
his comeback. That story is told in a documentary series that is (like Brody)
alternately fascinating and disturbing.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 30

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Flight Before Christmas,” 8 p.m.,

Some of the best animated shows emerge far from the
U.S.  They need only some redubbing and
some trimming to suit our attention factors.

This one was an award-winning Finnish movie about a reindeer
who can’t fly, but wants to join his father, who may be a member of Santa’s
Flying Forces. It was trimmed in half, with Emma Roberts voicing the lead role
and Norm MacDonald plays our hero’s mentor, a clumsy squirrel.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “National Dog Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

If you missed this event Thursday – hey, Thanksgiving gets
kind of crowded – here’s a quick rerun.

The show has become popular because of its blitz speed (just
two hours for a 1,500-dog show) and light approach. Commentator David Frei is a
dog expert, but the others are amiable laymen. John O’Hurley (“Seinfeld”) hosts,
with Mary Carillo – former tennis star, known for Olympic coverage – as reporter.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Let It Snow,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.

He grew up in a homespun winter resort, where customs are
savored. She’s an executive for her dad’s company, which makes all resorts
slick and corporate. He splashes mud on her and they bicker cutely.

Did we mention that both of them (Candace Cameron Bure and
Jesse Hutch) are attractive? The rest bears zero surprises, but “Snow” looks
and feels amiable. Alan Thicke is trapped in a small (thankfully) and ludicrous
role, but Bure -- making her third Christmas film -- glows.

Other choices include:

Football, 7 p.m., Fox, and 8 p.m., ABC. The big game is
actually at 3:30 p.m., when CBS has top-ranked Alabama at 4
Auburn. At night, Fox has Notre Dame (ranked No. 25) at Stanford (No. 7); ABC
has UCLA (22) at Southern Cal (23), with more on cable

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (2011), 8-11
p.m., ABC Family. The Harry Potter epics conclude. Alternatives? “As Good as It
Gets” (1997, 7:30 p.m., TV Guide) won Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt;
“Traffic” (2000, 8 p.m., Sundance) won four, including director Steven

“One Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., TV One. Here’s a throwback to
the days when TV had holiday variety shows. The husband-wife duo of DeVon
Franklin and Meagan Good host, with music by Marvin Sapp, Angie Stone, Lidisi,
Chante Moore and more, including 3WB which has three Winan brothers.

“The Story of Santa Claus,” 9 p.m., CBS. A homeless Claus?
That happened long ago, this 1996 animated tale says, when Santa and his wife (Ed
Asner and Betty White) were evicted. They tried to go to an orphan island, but
an ill-wind blew them to the North Pole and a scheming elf (Tim Curry).

“Atlantis,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Last week’s opener had
Jason (of Argonaut fame) find the missing island. Now an old man asks him to
find his daughter.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Paul Rudd has his
third turn as host, this time with One Direction as music guest. Also, there’s
a shortened rerun at 10 p.m.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 29

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8
p.m., ABC.

OK, now the season really starts. Primetime tonight brings
five Christmas cartoons, nine Christmas movies, and a combined Christmas
episode … but nothing that can match this 1966 gem.

A great Dr. Seuss story was co-directed by Chuck Jones, the
genius behind many Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons.  Everything clicked, including Boris Karloff’s
narration and Thurl Ravenscroft’s song.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

To most of the world, Barbra Streisand’s 1967 Central Park
concert was a spectacular success. But Streisand, the perfectionist, said she
missed some lyrics … and didn’t do another live show for 26 years.

She needn’t had worried. This tape of a live concert in her
home town of Brooklyn shows that Streisand is still the master at 71. She
gently caresses the words one moment, passionately belts them the next.

All the classics are there – “People,” “Evergreen,” “The Way
We Were,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” – plus surprises and guest spots by Il
Volo, trumpeter Chris Botti and (with a gorgeous film he directed and sang in)
her son Jason Gould. Despite contrived dialog and needy applause lines, this is
a triumph.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Garth Brooks: Live From Las Vegas,”
9-11 p.m., CBS.

Garth Brooks was at the top – certified as the
highest-selling American solo act ever – when he retired in 2001 to focus on
raising his three daughters. He came back eight years later, for a Vegas show.

Now here’s a tape of its final performance. Brooks, 51,
talks about his influences – from George Jones and Merle Haggard to James
Taylor and Bob Seger – and offers a musical journey through his life.

Other choices include:

“A Golden Christmas 3” (2012) and “My Santa,” 7 and 9 p.m.,
Ion. This network is now part of the Christmas-movie overload. Tonight, it
reruns last year’s film about romance and golden retrievers, then debuts one
about a department store Santa who happens to be the real one’s son.

More cartoons, 8-9 p.m. Two sister channels compete with
each other; CBS has “Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas” and “The Elf on the
Shelf,” while CW airs the hour-long “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Meanwhile, ABC follows the great “Grinch” with the OK “Shrek the Halls.”

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. This rerun has Booth and Brennan going
undercover on a dance show.

“Good Luck Jessie: New York Christmas,” 8-9 p.m., Disney.
Two comedies link tonight. Scouting colleges in New York City, the “Good Luck
Charlie” teens meet Jessie Prescott of “Jessie.”

“Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. The first episode has
a new owner take over the store, demanding new ideas. The second has Sabrina
taking steps to adopt Hope.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. A rash of vigilantism may be linked to
an old Spanish myth. Meanwhile, Juliette learns more about Nick’s mom and Adalind
gets a jolt during her ultrasound exam.

“Dracula,” 10 p.m., NBC. The good news: This show finally
overcomes its biggest flaw – the coldly distant façade of Grayson (Dracula’s
alternate identity); one is only in a dream scene, but the other is during a
richly passionate dance. The bad: TV’s obsession with torture hits a brutal low