TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 25

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

choices include:

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.

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.

(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.

& 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.

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.

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

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.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 23

(TV column for Monday, Sept. 23, an extremely busy night.)


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

“Red” Reddington is a master crook, smart and elusive. Then
he surrenders at FBI headquarters and volunteers to help catch other crooks …
but only if he works with Elizabeth Keen.

Why her? Why now, on her first day of work? We don’t know,
but James Spader is brilliant in the lead role. Megan Boone is fine in support,
as “Blacklist” gets off to a compelling start.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Mom” debut, 9:31 p.m., CBS.

Christy (Anna Faris) has a bundle of troubles. She’s a
recovering alcoholic, a former teen mom, a waitress who keeps choosing the
wrong guys.

It’s a family tradition of sorts, shared by her mom (Allison
Janney) and maybe her teen daughter.

But is it funny? Eventually. “Mom” starts poorly, then
improves as Janney arrives. With everyone – including clueless guys – together,
it delivers the sharp laughs we expect from Chuck Lorre, who also produces “Big
Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly” (delayed to mid-season) and “Two and a Half

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

On the day the broadcast networks officially start their
season, cable tops them with old movies.

“Good Will Hunting” (1997, CMT) won an Oscar for the sharp
script by then-newcomers Matt Damon (who stars) and Ben Affleck. “Enchanted”
(2007, Disney) has a cartoon princess turning into Amy Adams. “Queen of Versailles”
(2012, CNBC) is a fascinating documentary.

But the real delight is “Rio” (2011, FX), an animated gem
with the sights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro.

Other choices include:

“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. A new season starts, with Cee
Lo Green and Christina Aguilera re-joining Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, after
skipping the winter edition.

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Forced to wedge
everything into one night instead of two, “Stars” has its first elimination.

“How I Met Your Mother,: 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. As this show’s
final season begins, it’s time for Barney to marry Robin; then the problems
begin: There’s trouble in his family … Marshall scrambles to get there on time …
Lily confronts Ted about his lingering love for Robin … And Ted is alone in a
romantic hotel.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Booth and Brennan – whose own
relationship is shaky enough – go undercover at a retreat for married couples.
Also, Cam’s identity is stolen and Sweets takes a break from the FBI.

“Sleepy Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox. Ichabod Crane is still
overwhelmed, after jumping ahead 230-some years. Now a vision from his late wife
says an evil witch has also leapt into our time.

“2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS. After their cupcake shop
failed last season, Max and Caroline get off to a hot start with their new,
walk-up cupcake window, in this season-opener.

“POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This earnest
film visits a Newark school that works hard to give autistic kids a break. It’s
well-meaning, but the slow, cinema-verite style is difficult to watch.

 “Hostages” debut, 10:01
p.m., CBS. Duncan (Dylan McDermott) is an FBI agent, an expert in hostage
negotiation; Ellen (Toni Collette) is a surgeon, about to operate on the
president. Then … well, the less you know in advance, the better. This is the
start of a 15-week series from skilled producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Some people
see it as a classy, cable-quality drama; we don’t see how it can hold interest..

“Castle” season-opener, 10:01 p.m., ABC. As a major case
begins, Kate answers Rick’s proposal.



TV column for Sunday, Sept. 22

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Emmy awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

Neil Patrick Harris – maybe the best host ever – is back in
charge, so we can expect big laughs.

We can also expect music … especially with Grammy veteran
Ken Ehrlich producing. One example: With “Under the Candelabra” as a big
nominee, Elton John will perform a tribute to Liberace.

That film’s stars – Michael Douglas and Matt Damon – will be
presenters. Other pairings include Tina Fey and Amy Poehler; Emily and Zoey
Deschanel; and Kerry Washington and Diahann Carroll.

And in a change, there will be personalized memorials. Those
will be for James Gandolfini (Edie Falco), Cory Monteith (Jane Lynch), Jonathan
Winters (Robin Williams), Jean Stapleton (Rob Reiner) and producer Gary David
Goldberg (Michael J. Fox).

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

A Russian stumbles into a hospital, bleeding and muttering.
An upscale housewife grabs an always-packed suitcase and vanishes; a downscale
shopgirl vanishes, too.

Yes, these can be related, in post-war England. There are
some absurd parts, including the easiest rescue in recorded history, still
Foyle brings intelligence and integrity to a chaotic tale and a chaotic world.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Dexter” (Showtime) or “Boardwalk
Empire” (HBO), both 9 p.m.

For “Dexter,” this is the final night of a richly crafted,
eight-year run.  A hurricane roars toward
Miami as Dexter – facing impossible odds – is determined to end things his way.

And for “Empire,” things have strayed far from Atlantic
City. Nucky is in Florida, where he hears a colleague’s desperate deal and
meets a smart speakeasy owner (Patricia Arquette). His nephew is in college,
trying to use his old bootleg connections.

Then there’s Nucky’s old colleague Harrow, returning to his
sister’s farm … and finding no pastoral serenity. The stories pack emotional
wallops … albeit scattered ones.

Other choices include:

Red-carpet coverage, 6-8 p.m., E. Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana
Rancic lead coverage of the Emmy arrivals.

The Simpsons, 7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has Bart
falling for an attractive piano teacher. The second has Marge accidentally
joining a Web site for married people seeking affairs.

“Last Tango in Halifax,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Seeking a site for their wedding, Alan and Celia find themselves trapped in a
Medieval-era hall during a thunderstorm.

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. A week before their new
season, ABC’s Sunday dramas rerun their season-finales. Storybrooke people
brace for the worst, as Gregory and Tamara try to destroy the town.

Football, 8:20 p.m., NBC. The Chicago Bears – alone atop their
division after two narrow wins -- visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost their
first two games.

“Revenge,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. A tragedy jolts Emily into
re-considering her vengeance.

“Ray Anthony,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Ray finds Eddie, who ran
off with Sully’s money.

“Copper,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Fiction and history merge,
as Corcoran and colleagues join the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 21

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

When the new “SNL” season starts next Saturday, many of the
best people – Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis -- will be gone. Seth
Meyers, preparing for his own latenight show in February, will ease out; he’ll
no longer be head writer and he’ll share the anchor desk with Cecily Strong.

There’s a whole new crop coming in – including Beck Bennett,
the guy who drolly chats with kids in all those cell-phone commercials. But for
now, this rerun is our last chance to catch the current group. Ben Affleck
hosts, with Kanye West as the music guest.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

In a change, NBC is inserting two key reruns. The first is
the show’s 300
th episode, with a kidnapping reminding detectives of
an unsolved case from 13 years ago.

Then comes the current season’s finale. Pablo Schreiber
plays a clever criminal who puts Benson into a life-and-death crisis; there’s a
cliffhanger, propelling us toward Wednesday’s season-opener

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The White Queen,” 9 p.m., Starz; and
“Orphan Black,” 10 p.m., BBC America.

For cable viewers, Saturdays offer immensely gifted

“White Queen,” tonight focuses not only the title character
(Rebecca Ferguson), but also on two key widows. Margaret Beaufort (Amanda
Hale), rich and zealous, schemes ways for her son, Henry Tudor, to be king;
Anne Neville, whose father and son were killed in a failed overthrow, must
start anew. All three have key moments, in a superb hour.

Then “Orphan Black” has Tatiana Maslany, winner of the
Television Critics Association award for drama. She plays Sara, a drifter still
posing as the lookalike police detective she saw commit suicide; there are
bigger surprises ahead, all beautifully played.

Other choices include:

“Ratatouille” (2007), 6:30 p.m., ABC Family; or “Cloudy With
a Chance of Meatballs” (2009), 7 p.m., Cartoon Network. Take your choice of
popular films. Either way, you can make it an animated double-feature by adding
the witty “The Incredibles” (2004) at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.

College football, 7 and 8 p.m. ET. After a busy afternoon,
football also takes up primetime for half the big-four networks. At 7, Fox has
Stanford (ranked No. 5 in the ESPN poll) hosting  Arizona State (No. 23); at 8, ABC has
(varying by region) Michigan at Connecticut or Kansas State at Texas.

“Mike & Molly,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. The first rerun
has Mike fidgeting because Molly isn’t pregnant; he turns to Carl and Sam for
advice, in a relatively witless episode. The second has him stressing over
trying to land a promotion to detective.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Here are box-office hits, comic – “Grown
Ups” (2010) on FX, “Bridesmaids (2011) on USA – and action. TNT has “Fast and
Furious” (2009); Bravo has “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007).

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Deeks and
Kensi go undercover as surfers.

“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10. With his railroad
workers defecting, Cullen must turn to his enemy, Durant, for help.

“Torchwood: Miracle Day,” 9 p.m., BBC America. In a strong
rerun, Jack gets his old team back together. He also realizes he may be the
only person on Earth who’s vulnerable to death.