TV column for Saturday, Sept. 28



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live” season-opener,
11:29 p.m., NBC.

The 39th season begins with Tina Fey hosting,
Arcade Fire as music guest … and some of the most drastic changes in the show’s
history.


Gone are big stars -- Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason
Sudeikis. Edging out is Seth Meyers, whose own show starts in February; he’s no
longer head writer and he’ll share the news desk with Cicely Strong.


Tim Robinson retreats to the writers’ room and six newcomer arrive.
Five are obscure; one (Beck Bennett) is omnipresent in all those cell-phone
commercials with kids.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Crazy Ones” and “Mom,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., CBS.


Here are quick reruns of CBS’ best two new comedies, each guided
by a talented producer.


“Mom” is from Chuck Lorre, who keeps scoring in situation
comedies -- “Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Mike & Molly” and
more. “Crazy Ones” is from David E. Kelly, a master of one-hour dramas (“Ally
McBeal,” “Boston Legal,” etc.), making his first sitcom.


Add some top actors – Robin Williams, Allison Janney and
more – and you have great fun.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.


If you missed this show’s terrific debut Monday, here’s a
second chance.


 On the surface, it
may seem to be swiped from “Silence of the Lambs” – a master crook,
incarcerated and working with a young female FBI agent. But it’s sparked by
James Spader’s richly eccentric work, making the character (and the show)
compelling. 


Other choices include:


Football, 7 p.m. Fox and 8 p.m. ABC. Half of the big-four
networks have games tonight. (Don’t complain; next week it’s three-fourths.) Fox
has Wisconsin at Ohio State; ABC has Arizona and Washington.


“Chicago Fire,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here’s a rerun of Tuesday’s OK
opener, with a bomber targeting Severide.


Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Two 
animated sequels, both providing family fun, collide. ABC Family has
“Ice Age: The Meltdown” (2006); Disney (at 8:05, actually) has “Cars 2” (2011).
And grown-ups? FX has the third “Twilight” film (2010); BET has “Precious”
(2009), with six Oscar nominations (including best picture) and wins for its
script and Mo’Nique’s supporting performance.


“Hostages,” 9 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of Monday’s debut,
with its stark premise – holding a doctor’s family hostage until she kills the
president. It’s not something you’re likely to covet for its 15-week run.


“The White Queen,” 9 p.m., Starz. By now, several people
actually believe the queen is practicing witchcraft. That belief, mixed with rage
and envy, becomes deadly in a strong hour.


“Saturday Night Live,” 10 p.m., NBC. Here’s a shortened
rerun of Melissa McCarthy’s Emmy-nominated hosting gig, with Phoenix as the
music guest.


“Orphan Black,” 10 p.m., BBC America. This terrific series
finds Sarah’s ruse stretched way too far. In this is rerun, she’s still
pretending to be the lookalike cop who actually committed suicide. Now her
colleagues have found the body of a would-be assassin she buried.


 


 


TV column for Friday, Sept. 27



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “MasterChef Junior” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.


Imagine a world in which Gordon Ramsay doesn’t scream and
Joe Bastianich doesn’t scowl. You get that dream world by filling it with 24
kids (ages 8-13) who are talented cooks.


Tonight, each is asked to prepare a seafood, pasta or
dessert dish. Then half of them advance, in the start of the only new reality
show on this fall’s broadcast-network line-ups.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
CBS.


After warming up the slot this summer, “Five-0” starts the
season in its new Friday home. It does it amid raging troubles.


Kono and Adam, falsely accused, are hiding in Hong Kong.
McGarrett barely escapes (with Wo Fat) from prison … while his loved one
Catherine is being captured when gunmen storm the headquarters. Chi McBride
plays a SWAT captain and Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”) plays a terrorist leader.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


Last week, the lavishly filmed, four-week “Hollow Crown”
opened with “Richard II,” as Henry Bollingbroke seized the throne. Now “Henry
IV: Part 1” finds him (Jeremy Irons) old and intense, raging at his enemies and
his party-time son (Tom Hiddleston).


When father and son are together, this is a passionate tale fueled
by subtly perfect actors. Alas, they spend almost the entire story apart. The film
is more Falstaff foolishness than Henry drama; think of it as a silly
way-station, on the way to the next two weeks with “Part 2” and “Henry V.”


Other choices include:


“Moneyball,” 7 and 10:03 p.m., FX. Now that the Oakland A’s
have clinched the American League West pennant, this movie is fun to watch.
Aaron Sorkin’s bright script tells how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) -- then and now,
the A’s general manager -- beat the odds by winning without money.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike likes teaching Eve
how to drive, but figures his wife should do it so they can bond. Also, Mandy
is mad at Mike for forever asking her boyfriend to do chores.


“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Learning the Earthling ways
is difficult for this family from another planet. Having just learned about
April Fool’s Day, Larry tries to create an epic prank. Learning about love with
an Earthling, Reggie must convince her he doesn’t have feelings for his Zabvronian
soulmate.


“Community,” 9-11 p.m., Comedy Central. The barren Friday
landscape was improved this fall, when Comedy Central started this block of
reruns of an oft-clever comedy. In tonight’s first one, Jeff uses his old
fake-lawyer skills to defend someone accused of cheating in Senor Chang’s
class.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck), the police
commissioner, focuses on catching a suspected cop-killer. Then he rages when
his daughter releases him for lack of evidence.


“Haven,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Duke is used to the fact that
terrible things happen in this town. (The latest: Bodies are found, with the
blood drained.) Now he urges his half-brother Wade to leave.


“Strike Back,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. In the
two-parter that ended last week, the team managed to do some rescues and stop a
deadly combination of Irish and Middle Eastern terrorists. By then, however,
key information had been stolen; now Stonebridge (his health worsening) and Scott are in pursuit.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 26



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Crazy Ones” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

Simon (Robin Williams) was once an ad master, but now he’s
lost his touch or his his passion. His daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar) nudges
him to save the McDonald’s account.


This is a promising notion, spiced by genius. There’s
Williams and two great supporting actors, James Wolk and Hamish Linklater. And
most of all, there’s David E. Kelley.


From “L.A. Law” to “Boston Legal,” Kelley has written great
hour-long dramas. Now he switches to half-hours, with some wondrously clever
moments.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Michael J. Fox Show” debut, 9 and
9:30 p.m., NBC.


Mike Henry (Fox) was a top TV reporter until Parkinson’s
disease took hold. Now he’s over-obsessing on the lives of his wife and their
three kids … who really want him to return to work.


What follows is a show that’s always good and rarely more.
It uses the ailment for occasional laughs, but also gets humor out of Mike’s
wife, their kids, his boss (Wendell Pierce) and Fox’s real wife.


That’s Tracy Pollan, who shows up in tonight’s second episode,
as the gorgeous new neighbor. Mike promptly becomes a bumbling, babbling fool …
a recurring flaw in an otherwise dandy show.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Parenthood” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
NBC.


“We’ve been through so much this year,” Kristina says, so
now it’s time for fun.


Last season, she had cancer … Her sister-in-law Sarah saw
two nice guys leave town and a bad ex-mate sometimes return …. Kristina and
Julia both left top jobs …. And more problems bounced around.


Now Kristina’s health is back; one of Sarah’s guys (Ray
Romano) has returned to town. There are hints of trouble, but this fine episode
starts with humor, ends with a key surprise and scatters fun throughout.


Other choices include


“Parks and Recreation” season-opener, 8-9 p.m., NBC. Here’s
a busy hour – complete with a major step before the opening credits. Then
Leslie -- roundly disliked at home – gets a chance to accept an award in
London. The London scenes and their aftershocks are terrific; some other twists
are lame.


“Glee” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox. The high school kids are
tackling Beatles tunes and the grads are facing life. Kurt and Blaine make a
decision about their relationship; Rachel faces a new turn in her career. The
bigger issue, the loss of Finn (the late Cory Monteith) will wait until the
third episode.


“The Big Bang Theory” season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.
Leonard is gone on a North Sea expedition, giving time for Sheldon and Penny to
bond. He returns in the second episode,but Sheldon is upset.


“Grey’s Anatomy” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., ABC. Meredith and
Derek have their baby now; others have problems. They includes Arizona cheating
on Callie and the ER dealing with mud-slide victims.


“Two and a Half Men” season-opener, 9:31 p.m., CBS. We
really shouldn’t be surprised that the late Charlie Harper has offspring; his life
created plenty of opportunities. And we shouldn’t be surprised that is daughter
shares his wayward ways; she’s played here by Amber Tamblyn.


“Elementary” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. On the
same night that “Parks and Recreation” visits London, this show does the same.
At lea

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 25



TONIGHT’S
MUST-SEE: “Revolution” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.


The first
season ended with a whip-lash high and low: The power was restored; a mad man
used it to fire missiles at cities, then disabled it anew.


Now the
regulars have dispersed. Charlie is in the treacherous Plains territory; others
are in the New Texas … where a new threat emerges. It’s a great start … even if
the final minutes are merely odd.


TONIGHT’S
MUST-SEE II: “Modern Family” season-opener, 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC.


Next
week, this splendid show will be followed by the rather-awful “Super Fun Night”
debut. Before that, settle back for two episodes of one of TV’s best comedies.


First is
summertime, with Phil and Claire juggling their kids’ adventures, in order to
have a child-free week. Then everyone seems to have a key day -- the first day
of 1
st grade (Lily)
and high school (Luke and Manny) …. The first day back working at her dad’s
company (Claire) and at a new substitute-teaching job (Cam). That last one
leaves Mitchell watching Lily while having with a big meeting at work.


TONIGHT’S
ALTERNATIVE: “Broadchurch” finale, 10 p.m., BBC America.


Filled
with rich layers of pain, hope and character depth, “Broadchurch” has been
compelling from the start. It’s the fictional story of the search for a boy’s
killer in a sweet, seaside town.


This
finale happens to be a disappointment on two fronts: No detective work is
involved in its conclusion … and there’s no room for the viewer to feel the
satisfaction of closure. Mostly, viewers will simply feel a wrenching pain. At
least they’ll feel strongly; that alone puts “Broadchurch” near the top of any
list.


Other
choices include:


“The
Middle” season-opener, 8 p.m., ABC. Frankie and Mike are relieved that Axl is
actually making it to college. They insist on the whole family going; Sue and
Brick, alas, are not on their best behavior.


“Breaking
Bad,” 8 p.m., AMC. Here is the ultimate marathon. It starts here the pilot of a
great series. It continues non-stop (except for a few early-morning slots),
right up to the series finale at 9 p.m. Sunday.


“Argo”
(2012, HBO) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008, IFC), both 8 p.m. We don’t really
need them on this busy night, but here are two brilliant winners of
best-picture Oscars. If that’s not enough, catch the fun of “Bolt” (2008) on
Disney or “Juno” (2007) on Oxygen.


“Back in
the Game” debut, 8:30 p.m., ABC. Terry grew up in the shadow of her dad (who
is, of course, Terry Sr.). She became a star athlete … until pregnancy
intervened. Now she’s back home with her son, reluctantly coaching with her dad
(James Caan) hovering. The result is fairly good.


“Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC. TV’s (and
this show’s) obsession with kidnapping is reaching an extreme. Tonight,
colleagues desperately search for Benson, while coming across more hostages and
murders. Then a young boy disappears.


 “Capture,” 9 p.m., CW. The season ends with
the winning team getting $250,000.


“Nashville,”
10 p.m., ABC. The second season of this show gives Rayna some soap-sized woes.
She’s in a coma, her cheating husband is stunned to know his mistress is
pregnant and her daughter is stunned to learn who her real father is. Also,
Teddy is awaiting sentencing.


“The
Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. A week from the season-finale of this excellent show,
Sonia tries to repair the tattered relationship with her police colleague
Marco.


TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 24



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debut,
8 p.m., ABC.


Ever since Buffy started hunting vampires on TV, fantasy
fans have savored writer-producer-director Joss Whedon. He delivers
high-octane, sci-fi fun, yet laces it with humor and humanity.


Tonight, a superhero team pursues an ordinary guy who
suddenly has extraordinary (and dangerous) powers. Lots of heroes do super
things … but they’re led by Phil Coulson, an almost-average guy. As played by
Clark Gregg, he provides a human touch that makes this a Whedon-esque delight.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Trophy Wife” debut, 9:31 p.m., ABC.


Kate (Malin Akerman) is no mere trophy. But she is a new
wife; she has a much-older husband (Bradley Whitford), three step-kids and many
visits from their moms.


Pete’s first wife (Marcia Gay Harden) is precise and driven;
his second (Michaela Watkins) is the opposite. Somewhere between is Kate, in a
slick and funny show.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE 2.5: “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.


Last week, Mindy got sick in Haiti and was airlifted home.
Now she’s at her old medical practice … except a charismatic newcomer (James
Franco) has her office,  her patients and
her friendships.


Worse, Mindy might no longer be the cutest person in the
office. Life can be cruel (and funny).


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Latino Americans,” 8-10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


During World War II, Latino-Americans had a shot at equality
and heroism, this film (the mid-section of a three-parter) says. Many
triumphed; one single-handedly captured 800 men on one day.


But things were different just before the war -- Los
Angeles’ “Zoot suit riot” found soldiers assaulting young Latinos, while police
looked on – and afterward. One war hero was denied service at a nightspot in
his Texas home town. This excellent film follows events leading to  civil-rights surge in the 1960s.


Other choices include:


“NCIS” season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS. An explosion at a
black-tie affair occurs with Gibbs’ team down three people. Ziva is gone;
DiNozzo and McGee join the probe as civilians.


“Dads,” 8 p.m., Fox. Let’s not tell Nancy Reagan about this
one: It starts with the older guys accidentally munching a son’s pot-laced
brownies; it ends with an inter-generational puff-off. Some portions are very
funny; more are merely heavy-handed.


“NCIS: Los Angeles” season-opener, 9 p.m., CBS. Continuing from
last season’s cliffhanger, Sam and Deeks are rescued, but their torture
after-shocks linger. Then the search for nuclear weapons grows.


“The Goldbergs” debut, 9 p.m., ABC. When Adam F. Goldberg’s
family got a camera; he obsessed, recording every quirk. Now, 26 years later,
he’s created this fairly fun series about a kid like  him.


“Face Off” and “Fangasm,” 9 and 10 p.m., Syfy. Tonight’s
first “Face Off” challenge is weak, but the second (creating a look based on an
art style) brings strong results. Then “Fangasm” debuts, with seven proud geeks
working as interns at a sci-fi convention. The bad news is a contest that’s
merely endurance torture; the good news is a charming visit by “Star Trek”
veteran George Takei.


“Lucky 7” debut, 10 p.m., ABC. TV rarely gives us regular,
blue-collar people. Now we meet lots of them in Queens … except their lives
turn upside down when they win the lottery. The result is uneven.


“Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m.,. FX. Already tough and taut,
this show grew by adding someone (Donal Logue) obsessed with bringing down the
bikers. Tonight, we learn just how broken his own mind is.


“Chicago Fire,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Sevaride’s troubles build,
in this OK season-opener. His girlfriend’s pregnancy doesn’t add up … the station
could be closed … and an arsonist seems to be targeting him.