TV column for Thursday, Jan. 1

Tournament of Roses parade, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, six channels.

Each year, this
good-natured parade helps viewers lose any risidual fog and
hangovers. This year it has 37 floats, 18 horse units and 20 bands,
including ones from Hawaii, Mexico, Denmark and the Marines.

The theme is
“Inspiring Stories” and Louis Zamperini – subject of the movie
and book “Unbroken” -- was named grand marshal; he's still
considered marshal, despite his death in July at 97. The parade is
carried on NBC, ABC and four cable channels -- Hallmark, RFD-TV,
Univision and HGTV – which annually makes this commercial-free, to
promote an amiable new batch of series.

Bowl games, all day.

Things peak tonight
on ESPN, when two games decide who will be in the Jan. 12 national
championship game. At 5 p.m. ET, the Rose Bowl has Oregon (ranked No.
2) and Florida State (No. 3); at 8:30, the Sugar Bowl has Alabama
(No. 1) and Ohio State (No. 4).

There's more, as a
warm-up. At noon ET on ESPN2, the Outback Bowl has Wisconsin (No. 18)
and Auburn (No. 19). At 12:30 on ESPN, the Cotton Bowl has Baylor
(No. 5) and Michigan State (No. 8); at 1 on ABC, the Citrus Bowl has
Mississippi (No. 16) and Minnesota (No. 25).

Debuts, all day, HGTV.

Today, this channel
obsesses on fantasy; its five new shows view exotic homes or
settings. Debuting (each with two half-hours) are “Castle Hunters”
at 10 a.m., “Half-Price Paradise” at 2 p.m., “Living Big Sky”
at 6, “Island Life” at 7 and “Building Hawaii” at 11.

(A few of those change in the Pacific time zone, however. There, "Castle Hunters" is 7 a.m., "Half-Price Paradise" is 11 and "Living Big Sky" is 3 p.m.; the others stay the same.)

There's more to
fantasize about. At 8, HGTV introduces the “Dream Home” that one
viewer will win. This one is a sprawling, Cape Cod-style home on
Martha's Vineyard, a mile from the beach.

Other choices

“Portlandia,” 6
a.m., IFC. This wonderfully odd comedy reruns its first four seasons
until 2 a.m., then starts over to complete a 24-hour stretch. The
fifth season starts next Thursday,

Performances,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The Vienna
Philharmonic continues its tradition of New Year's Day concerts,
filled with Strauss tunes. Zubin Mehta is the guest conductor, with
Vienna City Ballet dancers; Julie Andrews hosts.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. An all-rerun night for CBS starts with this
hilarious episode. Amy convinces a reluctant Sheldon to join Howard
and Bernadette for a trip to wine country; also, things go wrong when
Leonard and Penny are in charge of Raj's dog.

“Mom,” 8:31,
CBS. Here's the episode from last spring, with teen Violet having
her baby. Her mom and grandmother – both former teen moms – face
her wrath.

“Bad Judge,” 9
p.m., NBC. Angela Kinsey (“The Office”) guests as a friend,
getting over a divorce. Rebecca (Kate Walsh) helps her, but soon
finds that people don't always appreciate her judgments.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. This season-opener sent the show in a fresh
direction. Faced with a health scare, Walden decided to change his
life. It's fairly funny; so is the “McCarthys” that follows, with
the family trying to resist everything Jackie must give up during

10:01 p.m.., CBS. Moriariy, Holmes' former nemesis, is a consultant
on a case.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 31

“New Year's Rockin' Eve,” 8-11 p.m., 11:30 p.m. to 2:13 a.m.,

The simple show that
Dick Clark created in 1972 keeps growing. Now Ryan Seacrast heads a
marathon that covers almost six hours and 40 performances.

Some are live on
Times Square (Taylor Swift. Idina Menzel, Magic, Florida Georgia
Line) or via satellite (Elton John, Gavin DeGraw, Lady Antebellum).
Others are taped in advance at a Hollywood party. They include One
Direction, Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX, Brantley Gilbert, Nick Jonas,
Fergie (who hosts), Jason Derulo, Ella Henderson, Meghan Trainor,
Bastille,Rixton, Train and Nico & Vinz.

More New Year's bashes, Fox, NBC and cable.

The newcomer is
Fox's “New Year's Revolution.” From 8-10 p.m. and 11 p.m. to
12:30 a.m. in Miami, Pitbull has Enrique Iglesias, the Band Perry,
Fall Out Boy, Fifth Harmony and Becky G.

There's more. NBC
(10-11 p.m., 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.) has most of its “Voice”
people – Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Wlliams, Carson Daly
– plus Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. On cable, MTV (11 p.m. to 12:02
a,m.) is hosted by Victoria Justice and Charlamagne; BET (11 p.m. to
1 a.m.) has “106 & Party.” Also, two news channels, mentioned
below, start their specials at 9.

ALTERNATIVE: Bowl games, 12:30 p.m. to midnight ET, ESPN.

Over the next two
days, ESPN will pack the biggesty games into triple-headers.

Today, that starts
with Mississippi (ranked No. 9) and Texas Christian (No. 6) in the
Peach Bowl. At 4 p.m. ET, the Fiesta Bowl has Arizona (No. 10) and
Boise State (No. 20); at 8, the Orange Bowl has Georgia (No. 8) and
Mississippi State (No. 7).

Other choices

“Live From Lincoln
Center,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The New York
Philharmonic and singers Dianne Reeves and Norm Lewis offer a night
of George Gershwin songs.

“A Toast to 2014,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb host a look at the
year, with lots of odd people – Weird Al Yankovic, weirder Russell
Brand, Miss Piggy – and others, including Chris Pratt, Debra
Messing and Bethenny Frankel.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. As a murder probe wraps up, a survivor's story makes
Morgan (Shemar Moore) feel there's something more. That's part of an
all-rerun CBS night, with “Blue Bloods” (Danny learns he's being
investigated) at 8 and the nasty “Stalker” pilot at 10.

More New Year's Eve,
9 p.m., news channels. Two marathons cover the celebrations. Fox News
goes to 12:30 a.m.; CNN (again pairing Kathy Griffin and Anderson
Cooper) goes to 1:05 a.m.

“A Hard Day's
Night” (1964), 9:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. At a time when
rock movies were mostly bland and bad, this one had style, zest and
the Beatles. In a night of giants, it's sandwiched by “Elvis on
Tour” (1973) at 8 p.m. ET and the Rolling Stones' “Gimme Shelter”
(1970) at 11:30.

“New Year's Eve at
the Rainbow Room,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This is how
ritzy people celebrate the holiday – in a refurbished nightclub,
with stars from Broadway and clubs. They include host Michael
Feinstein, plus Kelli O'Hara, Darren Criss, Christine Eversole,
Leslie Odom and more.

“Red” (2010), 10
p.m., TNT. If you'd rather end the year with a good movie, this is
ideal. Bruce Willis plays a hit man trying to retire to suburbia; the
great supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John
Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 30

“Kennedy Center Honors,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

This is TV at its
finest, a convergence of superb writing, performing and subjects.
After brief-but-clever little comments by A-listers – David
Letterman, Garrison Keillor, Merle Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, Christine
Baranski – we get brilliant little biographical films and then
superb performances.

The mid-section is
pretty good, with tributes to Tom Hanks (“That Thing You Do” is
botched), Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride. But the great
moments are early and late, for singers Al Green and Sting. Jennifer
Hudson, Usher, Lady Gaga and (especially) Bruce Springsteen lead a
great night.

“Chicago Fire” (NBC) or “Forever” (ABC), 8, 9 and 10 p.m.

Borrowing a cable
strategy, both networks use a slow night for three straight reruns.
“Fire” has the season's first episodes, recovering from one
crisis and then (with trucks colliding) facing another. Severide
returns late, Dawson scrambles for a firefighrer job and the bar
needs a quick makeover.

“Forever” has
its third, fourth and sixth episodes – each stirring flashbacks for
Henry, a 200-year-old medical examiner who can't die. First, there's
an anti-aging pill scam. Next, a patroness is killed in an art
gallery. Then someone copies Jack the Ripper and “Black Dahlia”
cases – which he investigated.

ALTERNATIVE: “Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Many of the world's
10 largest religions are male-dominated, some are somber. Now we meet
an exception, as two recent college grads travel to Nigeria to become
priestesses in the Yoruba religion.

Along the way,
they'll catch vibrant celebrations, in honor of the goddess Osun.
Some things – including animal sacrifice – are tough to deal
with; others (vibrant music, dance and more) offer great appeal. This
hour wraps up a solid, six-part series; the fifth hour (8 p.m.,)
visits the epic journey to the Ganges River, where mass bathing has
been a tradition for 2,500 people.

Other choices:

Bowl games, 3, 6:30
and 10 p.m. ET, ESPN. As New Year's Day nears, we start to see more
teams that are nationally ranked. The first game has Louisiana State
(ranked No. 23) and Notre Dame, the second has Georgia (No. 13) and
Louisville (No. 21), the third has Maryland and Stanford.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Here's a rerun of last spring's episode – a good one – that
helped launch the latest spin-off. Gibbs is in New Orleans, to work a
murder case with an old friend (Scott Bakula).

“New Girl,” 8
and 9 p.m., Fox. Jess has woes in both reruns. In the first, Schmidt
is teaching her about dating via mobile apps; in the second, her dad
(Rob Reiner) has a girlfriend (Kaitlin Olson of “It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia”) who was her high school rival.

“The Mindy
Project,” 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. The first rerun introduces Rhea
Perlman (the “Cheers” Emmy-winner) as Danny's hard-to-please mom.
The second takes the romance to a precarous level.

“Revelation: The
End of Days” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., History. Monday's opener
(rerunning at 7) launched a dramatization of the world collapsing in
ways described in the Bible.

Guide to Divorce,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Here's the one new scripted
hour, in a sea of reruns. Bernadette Peters arrives as the mother of
Lyla (Janeane Garofalo); Abby agrees to date a young guy.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 29

“State of Affairs,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

After just six
episodes, NBC gives us a catch-up night. Here are half of them –
the first, fourth and (from last Monday) sixth.

We meet Charleston
(Katherine Heigl), a CIA agent who can't recall details of the attack
that killed her fiance; now his mother (Alfre Woodard) is president.
At 8 p.m., Charleston absurdly exceeds her authority ... At 9, Nick,
a handsome adventurer, departs to probe the text threats they've been
getting ... At 10, Nick faces brutal interrogation, while Charleston
and the president face a crisis in Qatar.

II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

The Golden Globe
list startled some viewers. On the TV-comedy side, “Jane” is
nominated for best series and best actress (Gina Rodriguez) ... in a
show that can't crack the top 100 in the weekly ratings.

So now is the
perfect time to start catching up with this skillful blend of comedy
and soap-style telenovela. Tonight reruns the third episode, with
Jane at a turning point. Accidentally inseminated (via clinic error),
she planned to give the baby to the biological father; now she has
doubts about his wife ... and about her own engagement. Also, her
grandmother tries to keep her from her father, a TV star.

ALTERNATIVE: “Branson Famous” debut, 10 p.m., TruTV.

TV's first reality
musical (well, semi-reality) eyes the Baldknobbers Jamboree, for 55
years a family-run show in Branson, Mo. Now Tim and Patty Mabe agree
that they need a youth injection.

Heather Gentry is
logical, but she's also fresh and flirty. She could distract Brandon
Mabe ... who was previously distracted by Megan McCombs; they each
divorced and have been together for three years. People argue about
this – and sometimes look straight into the camera and sing about
it. It's terribly wierd and artificial, yet oddly entertaining; also,
Brandon is a terrific country singer.

Other choices

Animation, 8-10
p.m., ABC. Things start with “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown,” an
OK cartoon from 1986, with Charlie lugging “War and Peace” to the
party. That's followed by “She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown,”
which came out around the time of the 1980 Winter Olympics; Snoopy is
Peppermint Patty's figure-skating coach. At 9 is the 1976 “Rudolph's
Shiny New Year.”

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Hal Linden, 83, as the apartment's
original tenant. If he doesn't claim he still lives there, Max and
Caroline might be evicted.

Movies, 8 p.m., HBO
and 10 p.m., Showtime. Tonight, we need pay-cable. HBO has “42,”
with Harrison Ford excellent as Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson's
mentor. Showtime has “Silver Linings Playbook,” an
Oscar-nominated delight, with Bradley Cooper and Oscar-winning
Jennifer Lawrence.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Let's give this some respect; it's
tonight's only non-rerun, outside of cable. The guys-only fishing
trip is jolted when Carl invites Victoria, Molly's sexy sister.

“Revelation: The
End of Days,” 9-11 p.m., History; concludes Tuesday. While the rest
of us are giddily between holidays, this mini-series offers six
fictional characters, describing the world ending via war, plague and
more. Can we at least say “bummer”?

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. In a rerun from last spring, Beckett's probe of her
mother's murder goes terribly wrong. Now she and Castle are on the

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 28

“High School Musical” (2006), 8 p.m., Disney Channel.

For a while, a
generation seemed oblivious to musicals; ten this one sparked a
revival. It had a lame script – the start seems taken directly from
“Grease” -- but amiable pop songs handled by Zac Efron and other
likable young stars. Kenny Ortega provided the vibrant direction and

The sequels (2007
and 2008) air at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, each preceded by the
previous one. And next Saturday, ABC has “Hairspray” (2007), with
Efron in support. With “Glee” returning (Jan. 9), live shows on
NBC and two films (“Annie” and “Into the Woods”) in theaters,
musicals are back.

Football, all day.

On the final day of
the regular season, there's much at stake. Yes, 10 teams have already
cinched playoff spots, with only two spots uncertain. Still, there's
much to be determined today -- division titles, first-round byes,
home-field advantage and more.

Some Fox stations
will catch two straight division-championship games – Carolina at
Atlanta at 1 p.m. ET, Detroit at an oft-frozen Green Bay at 4:25.
Then NBC – exercising its flex-scheduling option – gets another
championship game, with Cincinnati at Pittsburgh at 8:25; it should
be fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Comeback” season-finale, 10-11 p.m., HBO.

After her career hit
bottom, Valerie (Lisa Kudrow) tried a primitive reality show. Then
came a break, an Emmy nomination ... and trouble. Her husband is
gone; Mickey (her beloved hairdresser) is badly ill.

Some critics rave
about this show, but we find the lead character one-note; two scenes
with her former co-stars are painfully monotonous. Still, “Comeback”
does close its season with surprising warmth.

Other choices

Marathons, cable.
AMC has “Breaking Bad” from 10 a.m. to 5:12 a.m., taking it from
the compelling pilot film to midway in the second season; there will
be more Monday. Also, Starz reruns the entire first season of its
fairly good “Black Sails” pirate series, from 3 p.m. to 11:10

“Revenge,” 8-11
p.m., ABC. Networks are using this slow time to let viewers catch up,
with nights of three straight reruns. It's “Revenge” tonight
(starting with the FBI closing in on Victoria), then NBC's “State
of Affairs” on Monday and ABC's “Forever” on Tuesday.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Homer and Bart are on the Relation Ship
cruise, to salvage parenting skills. That, of course, leaves Marge
with the fantasy football team.

“The Librarians,”
8 p.m., TNT. If you think global warming is already a threat, imagine
if the sleeping dragons wake up. Flynn (Noah Wyle) is back, trying to
prevent that.

Nine-Nine,” 8:30, Fox. A funny rerun has the captain demanding an
annoying set of drills. Meanwhile, Jake obsesses on the one mobster
who eluded his undercover sting.

“The Mentalist,”
9:30 p.m. (or later, with football overrun, but 10 p.m. PT), CBS. Surrounded by
reruns, CBS has an all-new night. Here, Patrick Jane is suspicious
during a chance encounter; soon, he has a murder case.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10:30 p.m. (or later, but 11 p.m. PT), CBS. A 10-year-old case is
re-opened; Dean McDermott plays a suspect.