TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 20


(Here's the Wednesday TV column, a tad out of place. Scroll down and you'll see Friday and Thursday, then Tuesday, Monday etc. If I knew how to re-arrange them, I would; I am aware of the correct order of the days of the week.)


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.


Comedies are at their best with Thanksgiving episodes,
swirling people together in odd combinations.


Now “Middle” has its fifth annual one, with unexpected
guests and with secrets. Axl has dropped three of his four college classes …
Sue hasn’t told what she did during a discount-shopping trip … and Frankie’s
dad (Jerry Van Dyke) tried online gambling, losing the money that was set aside
for a cruise.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.


This show is down to it top 10, after shedding three acts
last week. Only Demi Lovato’s group (girls) survived intact, while Rachel
Potter, Carlos Guevera and Sweet Suspense were sent home.


Lovato and Paulina Rubio (boys) still have three acts apiece;
Kelly Rowland (older singers) and Simon Cowell (groups) each have two. Now we
move to Cowell’s turf, with each act singing a song from the United Kingdom;
Thursday will have a performance by his discovery, the British boy band One
Direction.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Up” (2009) and “WALL-E” (2008), 7
and 9 p.m, ABC Family.


The Pixar people are so talented that they can break all the
rules for animated movies, yet delight kids and grown-ups. They even include
quiet moments of heartbreak.


“Up” is mostly a fun romp with a boy and a grumpy old man,
in an airborne house; still, it offers a sweet prologue, showing why the man is
grumpy. “Wall-E” follows a lonely robot on a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Like “Up,” it eventually become funny,
hopeful and immensely entertaining.


Other choices include:


“Nova,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The first
hour visits the edge of the sky, just before space blackness; it includes
“sprites” that shoot upward from clouds. The second ponders the possibilities
of meteors for profit (valuable minerals) or destruction (over 1,000 Siberians
injured in February).


“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Charlie tries to show her
maturity to her mom … who continues to have strained relations with Gene. Meanwhile,
Neville gives Jason a proclamation.


“Back in the Game,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. The Cannon (James Caan)
pushes the boys to get paintball revenge.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m,, ABC. Jay is persuaded top try
ClosetCon again and meets an old colleague; back home, people fiddle with his
model of Apollo 13. Meanwhile, Cam hopes – futilely – that Mitchell and Lily
will feel at home at his family’s farm.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. The
focus moves to Rollins, played by Kelli Giddish, Her friend Lena wants to file
rape charges … a situation complicated by Lena’s history with the guy and
fondness for rough sex. When the situation turns fatal, Rollins must face
personal questions in court.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. There was a
stabbing at a motel that had two similar cases. (No, it’s not the Bates Motel.)
Jordin Sparks, former “American Idol” champion, has a guest role.


TV column for Friday, Nov. 22



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Where Were You: The Day JFK Died,” 9-11
p.m., NBC.


The 50th anniversary of the John Kennedy assassination
will be key today in news shows and beyond.


Cable will continue its push. Tonight, History has “JFK
Assassination: The Definitive Guide” at 8 p.m. and “Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours
to Live” at 10.


And NBC has this special. Tom Brokaw -- a college student,
23, at the time of the assassination – hosts; he’ll have Dan Rather -- than a
CBS bureau chief, 31, working in Dallas – and others.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.


The run-and-gun nature of this show – leaping between wild
plot points and quick sight gags – means “Hope” will always be erratic. Tonight,
we get a terrific episode and then an almost-OK one.


The first has the family deciding to give Hope a memorable
vacation experience; that story has a direct thrust, some neat surprises and a
strong character twist for Sabrina. The second is more muddled, with funny-video
Web sites, health check-ups, new glasses, a colonoscopy and more; it’s
occasionally funny.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Nashville 2.0: The Rise of
Americana,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).


Radio emerges as the villain and the hero of this tightly
packed hour. Slick commercial stations squeezed country music into a narrow
category; then satellite and Internet radio opened things up again.


“Americana” – an indefinable blend of country, folk, blues
and more -- thrives. This hour does an OK job of explaining it and a superb job
of illustrating it. We see the old masters (Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale,
Roseanne Cash and such) and the new forces. Many acts deserve attention; one
(Mumford and Sons) won the best-album Grammy. At that moment, Americana soared.


Other choices include:


“The Carrie Diaries” (8 p.m.) and the “Nikita” season-opener
(9 p.m.), CW. Both shows focus on young women, but you won’t get them confused.
Carrie is occasionally accused of a fashion blunder; Nikita has been accused of
killing the president.


“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. The Brennan-Booth wedding – simple,
basic, in the middle of a murder case – wasn’t enough for their friends. Angela
plans a belated bachelorette party, amid a new case.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. This comedy is set in
Colorado, where the first legal marijuana stores are expected to open in
January. Mike is jolted when his dad says he’s planning to start one.


“The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC. More parental chaos: Marty’s
dad (Stacy Keach) arrives at Thanksgiving, announcing that he’s divorcing and
moving in. Also, oddly, Jackie’s parents (Reginald VelJohnson and Meredith
Baxter) visit from their home planet.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. More Thanksgiving surprises:
McGarrett’s aunt (Carol Burnett) arrives, bearing a secret. Meanwhile, a Secret
Service agent has been killed during the president’s visit to Oahu.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. The prime suspect in a murder
is the estranged brother of Danny’s police partner Baez (Marisa Ramirez).


TV column for Thursday, Nov. 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC.

 It’s election time in Kristina’s mayoral race, just as most
of her family is in emotional chaos.


Her son Max makes a clumsy stab at having a girlfriend. Her sister-in-law
Julia feels pain as young Victor is pushed back a grade. And her niece Amber
finds extremes of joy and agony.


Each story – except for a lame one involving Crosby – is a
strong one, subtly played by top actors. A Hank-Sarah (Ray Romano-Lauren
Graham) scene is a gem; others come close.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS;
“The Michael J. Fox Show,” 9:30, NBC.


Thanksgiving episodes tend to bring big laughs, especially
when the parents show up.


For “Fox,” those are classy stars: Mike’s dad is played by
Charles Grodin, his mom by five-time Emmy-winner Candice Bergen. And for “Big
Bang,” no visual presence is need. We don’t see Howard’s mom (as usual), but
she has an impact on the dinner he’s hosting with his wife Bernadette.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox.


The American version of Simon Cowell’s show has wobbled in
the ratings – last Thursday, a transplanted “Voice” almost tripled it – and in
creating stars. But the British version has soared; we’ll be reminded of that
tonight when (alongside the usual ousters) One Direction sings “Story of My
Life.”


These guys auditioned individually in England, then became a
group. Cowell mentored them and signed them after they finished third. They’ve sold
35 million records, with a new album coming next week.


Other choices include:


“JFK: The Lost Tapes,” 7 p.m., Discovery. Audio recordings –
some newly released, others re-mastered – from Dallas police, Dallas radio and
Air Force One help tell the story of the John Kennedy assassination.


“Parks and Recreation,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. Leslie is back
to her city-council duties. In the first episode, she tries to get fluoride in
the drinking water and the Indianapolis Colts in a local fund-raiser; in the
second, she deadlocks in negotiations with Councilman Jamm.


“Primary” (1960), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. This is the
first of four Kennedy documentaries by Robert Drew, airing  back-to-back on TCM. They’ll be followed by
“Four Days in November” (1964) at 
midnight and Cliff Robertson playing Kennedy in “PT 109” (1963) at 2:15
a.m.


“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. Meredith plans a Thanksgiving
dinner as relations with her former best friend Cristina continue to crumble.
Also, April’s upcoming wedding causes complications.


“The Returned,” 9 p.m., Sundance. This brilliant, eight-week
French series (with English sub-titles) reaches its half-way mark. We’ve seen Camille
(dead four years) and Simon (dead 10) casually return, unchanged and unaware.
We’ve seen a local slasher and been perplexed by the wound to Camille’s sister
Lena. We’ve also seen a silent boy who seems to be a killer. All of these start
to link powerfully.


“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. Cyrus plans a risky retaliation
against Sally Langston.


“Ground Floor,” 10 p.m., TBS. The boss’ daughter visits,
determined to displease her dad … which seems to be quite easy. It’s a mixed
episode, way too goofy in its upstairs scenes, but has fun moments.


“Covert Affairs” season-finale, 10:01 p.m., USA. Annie and
Auggie scramble to bring Henry Wilcox to justice.


TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 19



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Music, 8 p.m. (CW) and 9 p.m. (NBC).

TV has gone gaga lately. Three days after Lady Gaga’s
excellent work on “Saturday Night Live,” she has an “iHeartRadio Album Release
Party” in her native New York City.


Gaga performs in Brooklyn and is interviewed by Ryan
Seacrest; also, artist Jeff Koons discusses working on art installations with
her. When that’s done, switch to “The Voice,” to see the field trimmed to
eight.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “David Blaine: Real or Magic,” 9:30-11
p.m., ABC.


Anyone can pull a rabbit out of his own hat, right? (Well,
some people can.) But when was the last time you saw someone pull an alligator
out of the purse of a stunned Katy Perry? When did you see someone startle
Harrison Ford, impress Will Smith’s family, cause Jon Stewart to mutter “that’s
just not right”?


David Blaine does that and more, nimbly ranging from street
kids to George W. Bush and Stephen Hawking. We’d grumble that the final parts
of the show are the weakest and that an hour would have been better than 90
minutes. Still, the core – close-up tricks, perfectly executed – is engaging.


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


For decades, civil-rights people fought fierce odds. They
faced policemen, dogs, fire hoses, mobs; they stirred public opinion and,
eventually, won.


Now this hour – the fifth in a splendid, six-week series –
views the stretch from 1940 through Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
It talks to key people, from Ruby Bridges, 59 – escorted to 1
st
grade each day by federal marshals – to federal Judge Damon Keith, 91.


We meet Vernon Jordan, who was a young lawyer working to
force the University of Georgia to accept black students, and Charlayne
Hunter-Gault, one of the first two students there. He would go on to advise
presidents, she would be an Emmy-winning reporter; the world would change.


Other choices include:


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Emily Wickersham joins the cast as a
security analyst. She’s called in after the Secretary of the Navy is bugged
during a confidential briefing.


“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC. Hollywood is reluctant to
try an ongoing link between movies and a TV show. Tonight’s episode, however,
has the team react to events in the new “Thor: The Dark World.”


“The Goldbergs,” 9 p.m., ABC.  Thanksgiving seems to be when comedies are at
their best. Tonight, Murray’s brother – who always complicates the holidays –
is coming.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Navy officer dies
at Tranquility Villa rehab center, people go undercover – Deeks as a patient
and Kensi as a nutritionist.


“Person of Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. As the machine
identified people who will be victims or killers, we expected this: Reese’s own
number comes up, while the battle with a crooked-cop group heightens.


“Frontline,” 10 p.m. to midnight, PBS (check local
listings). Decades ago, “Frontline” took an ambitious look into the life of Lee
Harvey Oswald, sending reporters to Russia, Japan, Mexico and beyond. That ran
in 1993 and 2003; it reruns here, three days before the 50
th
anniversary of John Kennedy’s death.


TV column for Monday, Nov. 18



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Almost Human” and “Sleepy Hollow,”
8-10 p.m., Fox.

This is the new look of Fox Mondays, offering a sharp alternative
to two competition shows and the CBS comedies. We get two first-year fantasy
adventures, each stylishly filmed.


On Sunday, we met the oddest of odd couples – a cop who
hates robots and a robot who’s trying to learn to be humans; tonight, they probe
a murder linked to “sexbots.” Then “Sleepy Hollow” has Ichabod Crane confront
the Headless Horseman and learn the Horseman’s true motives.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC.


As one of the dance pros, Maksim Chmerkovskiy has been
runner-up twice (with Kirstie Alley and Mel B) and finished third twice (Laila
Ali and Erin Andrews). Now, a week before the finale, he’s a judge.


The night starts with a pro routine from Emmy-nominated
choreographer Mandy Moore. Then the final five duos will do two styles of dance
to the same song – one in its original version and one unplugged. For the
latter, singers include Noah Guthrie with “Sexy & I Know It” and Kerli with
“My Song Knows.”


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


Amid the bleak beauty of the North, people practice a
traditional skill. They’re training in the Indian Relay – a dangerous bareback
race, with high-speed mounts and dismounts on three horses.


“Indian Relay” focuses on two teams (in the Crow and
Blackfeet nations) in Montana and one (Shoshone-Bannock) in Idaho, preparing
for the nationals. The film gets repetitious, but you’ll root for the people.
Facing injuries amid 40-mph fury, they re-capture skills that helped form the
American West.


Other choices include


“The Voice,” 8-11 p.m., NBC. To give “Blacklist” a one-week
rest, NBC has a “Voice” recap at 8; then the top 10 singers perform from 9-11
p.m.


“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Two talented theater
people link when John Lithgow returns as Barney’s father, for the wedding.
Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has a scheme that worries Robin.


“2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. After forever being short
on education, Max wants to enter the Manhattan School of Pastry. Gilles Marini
plays its owner, with Mary Lynn Rajskub at the front desk.


“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. Obsessed with focusing on
Melissa McCarthy, this show has turned Molly into a total ditz. Tonight, she
visits her sister’s funeral-home workplace. She gets goofy and shares her
sister’s marijuana; the show stretches hard for laughs, sometimes successfully.


“Beauty and the Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. The Thanksgiving
episodes are starting now, 10 days before the holiday. Tonight, Vincent is
invited to Cat’s family dinner.


“Moms Mabley,” 9-10:15 p.m., HBO. When Moms Mabley reached
TV in 1967, she was already in her 70s, a newcomer to many people and a superstar
to some. For four decades, she’d worked her way up from tiny clubs to the
Apollo Theatre and movies. Whoopi Goldberg, an admirer since childhood, shows
ample clips and talks to comedians (including Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy),
academics and more.


“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. For once, this show doesn’t have
to compete with “Blacklist.” This week’s murder victim bears a striking
resemblance to Lanie Parish, the medical examiner.