TV column for Friday, Oct. 24

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

This goes beyond great, actually. Two splendid singers are
backed by brilliant instrumentalists. The music is rarely interrupted by patter
and never by commercials.
Tony Bennett, 88, prefers subtlety; Lady Gaga, 28, likes belting.
Both do it well, so the combination works. They do the songs of the masters –
Ellington, Porter, Berlin, Strayhorn and, yes, Sonny Bono (“Bang Bang”). They
sing of a “Sophisticated Lady,” avoid “Lady is a Tramp” and fill a superb hour.
TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Constantine” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.
Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a tortured soul (literally). He
fights demons skillfully, but failed to save a young girl; he has
institutionalized himself and is trying to forget … until a new mission
That involves Liv (Lucy Griffiths), fresh from college and
unaware of her powers or her danger. At its best, “Constantine” has huge
special effects, with occasional humor and a terrific cast; at its worst, it
pours on everything to excess, then dumps its best character. After finishing
the pilot, producers decided to rewrite the ending, making room for Zed
(Angelica Celaya) and dropping Liv; we’ll miss her.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Grimm” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC,
and more.
Halloween is a week away, so we have to expect bursts of
horror. “Grimm” has a strong (but open-ended) hour, following up on last
season’s finale: Nick, who has lost his power to see demons, was at a wedding
when there was a shooting and beheading in his house; his police colleagues are
There’s more on cable, including zombie killers (“Z Nation,”
10 p.m., Syfy) and “Zombie Strippers” (8:45 p.m., IFC). Lifetime repeats “Big
DrIver” (2014), its so-so Stephen King tale, at 8 p.m.; AMC has the “Omen”
trilogy at 4 p.m. (1976), 6:30 p.m. (1978) and 9 p.m. (1981).
Other choices include:
Lighter Halloween films, 7 p.m., cable. Yes, this holiday
used to be for kids. Nickelodeon has “Monster High: Freaky Fusion” (2014),
flashing back to the school’s first day. ABC Family Tim Burton films -- “The
Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) at 7 p.m. and Johnny Depp’s “Dark Shadows”
(2012) at 8:30. Disney has “Return to Halloween Town” (2006) at 7:20 and two
“Evermoor” episodes at 9.
Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30. The World
Series moves to San Francisco, for the third game of its best-of-seven series
with the Giants and Royals.
“Jane the Virgin,” 8 p.m., CW. Here’s a rerun of the second
episode, which offered the same bubbly mix – offbeat humor in a gorgeous,
telenovela setting – as the opener. The final moments are memorable.
“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. We’re in Morocco now, with
the eight duos facing a double U-turn and an accusation that one team is
“Cristela,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Cristela is drawn into equal-pay
arguments at home and at work.
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett meets a woman who
helps him re-open his dad’s last case.
“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Generational changes are key
here: The former police commissioner (Len Cariou) made insensitive remarks that
the current one (Frank, played by Tom Selleck), his son, must deal with. Also,
Frank’s son Jamie (Will Estes) is targeted after breaking up an abusive

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 23

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Football, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, with
preview at 7:30.

CBS’ Thursday-football experiment wraps up tonight, just as
it started having some close games. The first four were dreadful – an average
score of 24-3 at halfime, 42-11 final; the last two were tight.

Now this final one is promising, with Denver – 5-1 and fresh
from Peyton Manning’s career touchdown record – hosting San Diego, 5-2.
Starting next week, the Thursday games will only be on the NFL Network; CBS will
have its old line-up back, from “Big Bang Theory” to “Elementary.”

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Project Runway” finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,

This show’s final four designers vary sharply in roots –
from Detroit to Hawaii – and in experience.

Two already have their own labels – Amanda Valentine (33 and
from Nebraska) in Nashville and Kini Zamora, 30, in Hawaii. The others are
making a big leap: Sean Kelly (25 and from New Zealand) has been working in a
Brooklyn store; Char Glover, 37, has been a Detroit hair stylist since she was
16. Now (after an 8 p.m. rerun) we see their collections at New York’s Fashion
Week; a “Runway” champion is named.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Gracepoint,” 9 p.m., Fox.

“Nothing you’re saying makes sense today,” one character says
… reflecting what viewers might be thinking. Yes, “Gracepoint” adapts (superbly,
in many ways) a British mini-series (“Broadchurch”) that richly portrayed the
aftershocks of a small-town boy’s murder. But in moving to America (and
expanding from eight to 10 parts), the story has broadened the suspect pool and
amped up the weirdness.

When the priest chastises the psychic, it’s hard to tell who
is loonier … except that the old lady and her colleague top them and the cop is
pretty odd. Surely, it doesn’t take a village of crazies to kill a child.

Other choices include:

“The Corpse Bride” (2005) and “The Nightmare Before
Christmas” (1993), 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., ABC Family. Fully into its “13 Days of
Halloween” mode, ABC Family has Tim Burton’s automated films, with music by the
talented Danny Elfman.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. In the rerun of a good episode from
last spring, the team investigates a lab that cryogenically freezes bodies.
Also, Cam frets about meeting Arastoo’s parents.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. This eyes the troubled
marriage of Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw). While Callie
focuses on her veterans’ project, Arizona tries to impress Dr. Henry.

“Scandal,” 9 p.m., ABC. Continuing to work Catherine’s case,
Olivia is distracted by the fact that Jake (Scott Foley) hasn’t called.
Meanwhile, the president pushes his effort to learn who killed his son.

“A to Z,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Here’s a true test of how far along
the relationship is: Zelda can’t decide whether to invite Andrew to her aunt’s

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. At a family barbecue, Julia’s
new boyfriend meets her estranged husband. Also, Jasmine frets about Crosby; Max
tries to learn more about his new friend.

“How to Get Away with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Annalise
tackles the tough case of a cop killed by his son, some of her students start
to suspect her motives. Also, flash-forwards show us why her husband made phone
calls on the night his student was killed.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 22

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Here’s a detour for Steve Zahn and Andrea Anders. He’s
played sweet geeks in “Treme,” “Mind Games” and more; she’s been the perpetual
love interest, from “Joey” to “Mr. Sunshine.” Now they’re the obnoxious couple
who might buy the house next door, with Phil as the reluctant realtor.

Also, Tyne Daly plays the tough teacher who intimidates Cam
and Mitchell.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The 100” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

The first season was a canny mixture of sci-fi thrills,
character drama and cute teens in turmoil.  Almost a century after radiation ruined the
planet, a space station was running out of resources; 100 teen prisoners were
sent down, to see if the Earth is inhabitable.

It is, for some. The “Grounders” who survived are lethal,
except for the one who fell in love with Octavia; then there are the enigmatic
forces who grabbed Clarke and imprisoned her. Also, one adult, Raven, landed on
Earth; now others have crash-landed. A huge (and fairly good) plot twist is

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “How We Got to Now,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

This was an early think tank: Venice cherished glassmakers,
even banning them from leaving town. Still, it considered their furnaces to be
fire dangers; in 1291, the artisans were moved to Murano Island. There, a confluence
of genius created see-through glass and more.

In this fascinating hour, Steven Johnson takes us through
the great moments of glass, from microscopes to magnifying glasses. He says it
took only seven watts to power the first picture from the moon. And he takes us
to modern fiber-optics: “The global village is woven together by threads of

Other choices include:

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. Laura is no fashion
buff, but now she’s flung into that world. When an upscale designer’s intern is
killed, the police converge on New York’s Fashion Week.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Jimmy Kimmel plays himself, in an
episode that includes Brick’s podcast, Axl’s search for a worthy table and
Sue’s grumbling about a gift necklace.

“Ghost Hunters,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy. For their 200th
episode, the hunters re-visit one of their favorite (or creepiest) spots -- the
former Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia. They bring back three past
hunters (Grant Wilson, Joe Chin., Dustin Pari) for a double episode. The
setting is great; the result – as in the previous 199 episodes – is a lot of
gasping about things that viewers can’t hear or see.

“Blackish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Dre and Rainbow vow not to
spank. Then misdeeds challenge that concept.

“Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. Rayna’s engagement to Luke gives
her a new layer of fame, with mixed effect on her kids. Also, Juliette and Noah
(Hayden Pannettere and Derek Hough) near their love scene.

“Chicago P.D.,” 10 p.m., NBC.  When Voight doesn’t show up for work, his
police team springs into action. It turns out that he’s been kidnapped.

“American Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX. A woman claiming to be
a fortune-teller fascinates Jimmy. That sets up a two-parter that next week
will have him collide with the killer clown.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 21

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview
at 7:30.

After seeing most of the play-offs shuffled away to cable,
baseball finally gets the main focus – prime time on a broadcast network – for
the World Series.

That starts in Kansas City, with the Royals hosting the San
Francisco Giants. Each finished second in its division, then caught on big;
they combined to win eight of nine in the league-championship round.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

If you missed the first two episodes of this above-average
series, don’t fret. Tonight’s hour is big on flashbacks to the night when a
storm ignited a research-lab explosion, giving Barry Allen superspeed.

The show’s flaws are common ones – too much power to the hero
(chase scenes aren’t much fun when you get there instantly) and to the villain;
tonight’s bad guy is so strong that beating him defies believability. Beyond
that, “Flash” is beautifully cast and sharply written; alongside the flashes of
action, tonight’s hour gives several characters a moment of quiet human dramas.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local

Fresh from school as the Vietnam War was heating up, a nurse
joined the Army. Her dad held her and wept; “four sons,” he said, “and I send
my daughter to war.” She was entering a mixed world – no weapons, no
weapon-training, but people firing at her; women were told to simply duck under
the bed.

That’s one of the recollections in a richly detailed look at
American women at war. This ranges from the ‘40s – a retired general recalls
joining because no typing was required – to recent times. We meet the first woman
to lead a unit in combat and the first to fend off a captor who attempted rape.

Other choices include:

“NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In the
first hour, Gibbs again turns action hero; he’s trapped on a ship controlled by
pirates. In the second, an officer is killed and his wife is kidnapped.

“Selfie,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here’s the latest life-lesson for self-centered
Eliza, in this clever series. Challenged to do something good, she babysits for
a boy who knows all about having fun..

“Agents of SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Adrianne Palicki – who starred
in the rejected “Wonder Woman” pilot – returns to the comic-hero world here as a
tough foe. She’s Bobbi Morse, the Hydra security chief.

“About a Boy,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Palicki competes against
herself tonight. Here, she’s Will’s New York girlfriend, a doctor, flying to
California to help him pack and move … except he seems reluctant..

“Forever,” 10 p.m., ABC. Most TV characters (vampires
excluded) can only flash back a generation or two. But Henry, the doctor who
can’t die, has been around for 200 years. Now there are modern copies of a Jack
the Ripper case (1888 London) and the “Black Dahlia” case (1947 Los Angeles). Henry,
of course, worked the Ripper case, so flashbacks ensue.

“Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX. Midway in the final season,
this continues to be a brutal year; tonight’s loss is devastating. Meanwhile,
Jax launches his elaborate scheme, using the newly captured Juice as a pawn;
Jemma (Jax’s mom) fears that Juice will reveal her secrets. It’s a good hour,
despite one absurdly out-of-character scene with Jemma and her grandsons.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 20

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week’s opener was fresh, funny and a tad goofy. A
future teacher – bright, beautiful and virginal – was accidentally inseminated
by sperm from her boss, his final sample before cancer left him sterile.

Now, surprisingly, this second episode is even better than
the first. It still has laughs – including tonight’s final line – but it also
adds warmth and depth. Led by the remarkable Gina Rodriguez as Jane, we see
people with real layers and humanity, alongside a world of gorgeous visuals and
still-goofy humor. 

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang Theory” and “The
Millers,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS.

This is the final week for “Big Bang” to prop up CBS’ Monday
line-up. Next week, TV’s best comedy returns to Thursdays; tonight, it has
Sheldon and Raj trying to duplicate the rigors of a salt mine.

Then “Millers” has its belated season-opener. Carol is ready
for her own apartment and her kids want her far away; she soon has a new best
friend, linking Emmy-winners Margo Martindale and Sean Hayes. And then? After a
year of being safely tucked behind “Big Bang,” next week the show will be on
its own.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Here is a great human drama, spanning 5,000 miles and
opposite worlds. It starts with a quirk: Only through a scheduling mix-up did families
learn that the babies they adopted in China are twins.

In Sacramento, Mia lives a heavily scheduled life of Scouts,
soccer and lessons; she’s not allowed out on her own. In a gorgeous Norwegian
village of 243 people, Alexandra simply wanders. Each shows a deep affection
for her twin; they have letters, gifts, computer links. And at 10, we see them
cruise their bikes through the Norwegian countryside, with a quiet freedom Mia
could have barely imagined.

Other choices include:

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week
brought a partner switch, low scores, but no ouster. Now the dancers –
including driver Michael Waltrip, with the bottom score – face elimination.

“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The “battle rounds” continue.

“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS. As a nuclear reactor nears
meltdown, the team turns to a troubled ex-colleague.

“American Dad” season-opener, 9 p.m., TBS, and 10 p.m.,
Cartoon. After almost 10 seasons on Fox, this series is doing double duty on cable
networks. TBS starts a five-hour rerun marathon at 4 p.m., leading into the
opener: To get people to hear her causes, Hayley turns blonde … and temporarily
has her IQ plummet. After one more rerun at 9:30, you can switch to Cartoon for
the same, so-so opener.

“Private Violence,” 9-10:30 p.m., HBO. Deanna Walters’
ordeal lasted four-and-a-half days. In the back of an 18-wheeler (with her
brother-in-law driving and her 2-year-old nearby), she kept being beaten by her
estranged husband; at first, he wasn’t arrested. That story and others provide
the core of this dark and involving documentary, focusing on the advocates, lawyers
and cops who struggle to stop abuse.

“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. Eco-terrorists are in pursuit
of a major weapon. Meanwhile, Liz wants to shed her guardian and Red is trying
some personal manipulation.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Rick goes undercover at a school,
to find a 2
nd-grader with key information.