TV column for Saturday, Jan. 26


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

Adam Levine is your all-purpose NBC
star. He coaches on “The Voice,” visits Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon
and did the New Year's Eve show. Twice, his Maroon 5 band was the
“SNL” music guest.

Now he has his first time as host;
Kendrick Lamar is music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Figure-skating,
3-6 p.m. and 8-11p.m., NBC.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships
dominate the weekend.

The duo and dance finals are this
afternoon; then the women have their solo finals tonight. Things wrap
up from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, when the men have their finals. On both
days, the commentary is by Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezick and others.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Goodnight For
Justice: Queen of Hearts,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel.

Luke Perry returns to the role of John
Goodnight, an honest judge riding the frontier circuit. Always on the
move, he lacks a home or a friend; a canny beauty (Katharine
Isabelle) easily attracts him.

There's a catch, of course: Lots of
people want to capture or kill her, possibly with good reason.

We'll have to forgive some slow
stretches. And the fact that the best line is stolen from “Butch
Cassidy.” And that the villain (Rick Schroder) has widely variable
competence. This is still an OK part of a cowboy day, following “Mail
Order Bride” (2008) at 4 p.m. and “Hannah's Law” (2012) at 6.

Other choices include:

– “Snow Beast” (2011), 7 p.m.;
and “The Abominable Snowman” (1996), 9 p.m., Syfy. This
double-feature could cure any temptation to go outdoors in the winter
time. Large beasts lurk.

– “The Taste,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.
Here's a rerun of Tuesday's opener. It's identical to “The Voice”
– four celebrities choosing people before seeing them – with two
key differences: There are no spinning chairs and, alas, no chances
for viewers to form an opinion. Until TV's transmit tastes, this will
be so-so.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sam has disappeared during undercover work in Sudan.

– “Chloe” (2009), 8-10 p.m.,
Lifetime Movie Network. What might have been just another seductress
tale becomes much more, thanks to gifted director Atom Egoyan and a
great cast. Convinced that her husband (Liam Neeson) is cheating on
her, a woman (Julianne Moore) hires a young beauty (Amanda Seyfried)
to lure him. Then come the extra layers of depth and suprise.

– “Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. This is set in a Victorian London neighborhood that was
terrorized by Jack the Ripper. An honest cop (Matthew Macfadyen, who
was Mr. Darcy in the most recent “Pride & Prejudice”) and a
decadent doctor try to catch crooks. Tonight, they find a youth gang
that's sort of “Oliver Twist” turned deadly. Like last week's
opener, it's dark and dreary, but well-made.

– “Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual,”
9 and 9:30 p.m., WE. These episodes see Lauper making a
public-service announcement and trying to dine alone with her
husband. They rerun from 10-11 p.m. and midnight to 1 a.m.; others
(Cannes and Coney Island) rerun from 8-9 p.m. and 11 p.m. to
midnight.

– “20/20, 10 p.m., ABC. After a
couple of 8 p.m. tries, the Saturday edition moves to 10.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Following”
(Fox) or “Carrie Diaries” (CW), both 9 p.m.

Mondays are overcrowded; Fridays are
not. So here's a rerun of whichever show you missed Monday.

At one extreme is the “Following”
opener – intense, gory (way too gory in one scene) and
well-crafted. Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI guy, with James
Purefoy as a smart serial killer.

At the other is the second “Carrie
Diaries” – fun and frothy. We meet Carrie Bradford before her
“Sex and the City” days; tonight, she tell lies to retain her
suburban teen life and her Manhattan dreams.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS.

Next Thursday, a new “sweeps” month
begins and most reruns disappear. Before that, however, this show and
“CSI: NY” both go back to their season-openers.

An old enemy (Michael Madsen) seeks
revenge on Danny by kidnapping his police partner (Jennifer
Esposito). Meanwhile, Jamie meets his new partner and a young cop
(Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical”) is shaken after
accidentally shooting an innocent man.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Spartacus”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Starz; repeats at 10.

The season opens with what “Spartacus”
fans expect – an epic attack, flowing blood, rampant gore and more:
It's richly crafted, yet pushes everything – believability and
civility – to the breaking point.

Then, of course, there's mass sex
involving lots of Olympic-quality bodies, male and female.

Gradually, “Spartacus” starts a
story that can propel this final season. So far, the Romans have been
led by preening fools. Now we meet Marcus Crassus; he's tough,
earnest, rich and deceptively clever.

Other choices include:

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In the rerun of a fairly good episode, Mike clings to the only
daughter who shares his interest in sports. Also, his wife is
socially clumsy with the black neighbors.

– “Fringe,” 8-11 p.m., Science
Channel; repeating, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.. A week ago, “Fringe” ended
its five-year run on Fox. That leaves a Friday-night hole this
channel is happy to fill with reruns. Here's the two-parter with
Walter confronting Bell (Leonard Nimoy); then the alternate Olivia
poses as her.

– “Malibu Country,” 8:31 p.m.,
ABC. This rerun has Reba reluctantly trying a blind date.

– “Shakespeare Uncovered” debut,
9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Slickly produced, this offers
fresh insights via historic locations, movie clips and more. First,
Ethan Hawke discusses “Macbeth”; then Joely Richardson views two
broad comedies, “Twelfth Night” and “As You Like It.”

– “True Justice,” 9 p.m., Reelz;
repeats at 11. Last week, we met a vile human-trafficker; in an OK
episode tonight, Kane (Steven Seagal) closes in. Also, a former
colleague is killed and Kane almost – but not quite – emotes.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, Mac's friend, a fire chief, has been killed in a blaze. The
result reflects the methods of an arsonist (Rob Morrow of “Northern
Exposure”) who's just been paroled.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Janet
Montgomery, whose CBS show (“Made in Jersey”) died abruptly,
makes her second appearance here as Princess Mithian, desperately
seeking help. Alas, this is all part of Morgana's dark scheme for
revenge.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Last Resort," 8 p.m., ABC.

This show's pilot film rippled with
ethical dilemmas. Refusing to fire nuclear missiles that would have
killed four million Pakistanis, a captain moved his submarine crew to
a tropical island.

The show is slick and smart … and
never found an audience; now it ends its 13-episode run. Two forces
battle for control of the sub … making it vulnerable to a third
party that has its own agenda.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “30 Rock,” 8
p.m., NBC.

A week after “Last Resort” ends its
short run, this show will end a long one.

In each of its first three seasons, “30
Rock” won the Emmy for best comedy; for the next three, it was
nominated. Now it will wrap up its seventh and final season (just 13
episodes) next week.

Tonight, Liz tries to rescue her
variety show, while Jenna and Tracy worry more about what's ahead.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “1600 Penn,”
9:31 p.m., BC.

When this comedy debuted, we met a
good-guy president(Bill Pullman), his smart-and-glamorous second wife
(Jenna Elfman), his four kids and his crisis: His brainy daughter is
pregnant.

Three episodes later, we finally meet
the expectant father … and realize this show has depth. Under his
hunky exterior, this is a decent guy with sly wit; under her sharp
exterior, the First Daughter makes a false assumption. There are
broad sight gags, as “Penn” shows it can juggle large and small
laughs.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon insists that Stephen Hawking is now his close friend –
until an Online word game drives them part. Also, in this terrific
rerun, Penny tries a college class.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. It's been a good year for this show, but here's the
screeching exception. There are lots of jokes about three-way sex,
with minimum wit and maximum crudeness.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. The girls
set up a Sadie Hawkins Dance, so they can ask the guys out. Also,
Sam keeps pushing to prove that the Warblers cheated during
sectionals.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Here's an overload of feelings: Meredith has pregnancy hormones,
Arizona has phantom pain after losing her leg and everyone frets
about the arrival of a new doctor.

– “Chasing the Saturdays,” 9
p.m., E. In England, we're told, the Saturdays have had 11 singles in
the top-10. Now this reality show follows the five young women on a
three-month visit to the U.S. They vary sharply – from the sunny
Mollie King to Frankie Sandford, fighting depression. Mostly,
however, this rerun of Sunday's opener matches the upbeat amiability
of their music.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. The
main story – a copycat of crimes done 13 years earlier – is
so-so, but this rerun has strong moments for two supporting
characters: Watson digs for a personal detail from Sherlock Holmes;
also, Gregson shows he's an honest cop who won't cover up a possible
error.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX.
Sterling's best friend – his only one, perhaps – has been
accused of killing colleagues, stealing money and faking his own
death. It's a funny episode (despite an overload of jokes about gay
leanings), sandwiched by new round of “Anger Management” at 9:30
and “Legit” at 10:30.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For 60 years, David Attenborough has
done nature programs for British TV.

The technical quality has changed
immensely, from stagnant, black-and-white pictures to vibrant color.
Attenborough, however, has stayed mostly the same.

At 86 (and now Sir David) he's still an
amiable storyteller. This charming hour starts a three-week special –
beautifully edited – that meanders through his career.

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

Three simple lives are suddenly getting
complicated, in a funny episode.

Sue must compete for the survival of
her wrestling cheerleaders. Axl is told that his relationship with
his brainy girlfriend – which currently consists only of making
out – should include conversations.

Then there's Mike, who's happy being
alone. His wife arranges “play dates” with a neighbor.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Nova,” 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

To the U.S. military, “drones” are
heroes. They've saved pilots and decimated al-Qaeda.

To critics, they are the new menace.
One drone team mistook Afghan civilians for militants, creating a
tragedy. Now the U.S. has 10,000 drones and 55 other nations are
working on them..

In the “Nova” style, this excellent
hour spends a little time on the political arguments and a lot on the
technology. We meet the original scientists who launched an immense
change in modern warfare.

Other choices include:

– “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”
(2010), 7:30-10 p.m., FX. Beautiful people do have problems, you
know. Bella must choose between a handsome vampire and a hunky
werewolf.

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. The second week begins. We'll see auditions today, Thursday and
next week, sending a total of 276 singers to the Hollywood round.

– “Big Rich Atlanta” and “Kimora:
House of Fab,” 8 and 9 p.m., Style. “Big Rich” has lots of big,
loud nonsense from interchangeable blondes. “Fab” is much better,
as we watch Kimora Lee Simmons launch her “JustFab” fashion
house; photo shoots are tough, we're told, when the model is the CEO.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Jay's home has been filled with emotion, during Gloria's pregnancy.
Now everything is threefold. Arriving from Colombia are her mother
(Elizabeth Pena) and sister. They bring along family traditions and
family drama, plus an assortment of proposed baby names

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. This
is supposed to be a lavish party to celebrate the success of “Wrong
Song.” Problems appear, involving Juliette's mom, Rayna's husband
and a rival record executive.

– “Necessary Roughness” return,
10 p.m., USA. Problems have cascaded. Dani suspended her practice,
after learning that her home (where she holds therapy sessions) was
bugged. Her son was arrested; her prime patient (King) is in alcohol
rehab. New problems range from King's backsliding to the team's new
owner, a drunken 23-year-old. Some of this is interesting, but a key
football scene is absurd.

– “Workaholics,”10 p.m., Comedy
Central. The art of the comedy roast is pushed to extremes here, in
an episode that even most fans of perverse comedy will find wildly
excessive.

– “The Kroll Show,” 10:30 p.m.,
Comedy Central. It's a tough (and funny) time for the wealthy. We see
a mock reality show about a plastic surgeon for pets; also two rich
dudes make a drug run to Mexico.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American
Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS.

After decades of intense efforts,
abolitionists were discouraged. They had the support of the public,
but not of Congress; new laws imperiled escaped slaves and even ones
who had been freed.

That's when John Brown asked ex-slave
Frederick Douglass to join his 1859 plan to launch a violent slave
revolt. Douglass refused and remained a national hero; Brown
proceeded and failed. This hour concludes an involving, three-week
look at the abolition movement.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Taste”
debut, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

The formula for “The Voice” moves
to food, with so-so results.

Four mentors – Anthony Bourdain,
Nigella Lawson, Brian Malarkey. Ludovic Lefebvre –each assemble a
four-chef team. They must decide after one bite, without seeing who
prepared it.

These are colorful contestants, from a
waiter to a Harvard grad, from a sewage worker to Charlie Sheen's
personal chef. But for viewers – who can share a voice, but not a
taste – it's frustrating.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Private
Practice” finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

This spin-off hasn't matched the
quality or success of “Grey's Anatomy.” Still, it's had six
seasons and some decent moments; this hour, written by creator Shonda
Rhimes, is promising.

Naomi returns for the wedding of
Addison and Jake. Cooper struggles with being a stay-at-home dad;
Violet wraps things up with a long-time patient (Sarah Ramos) and
ponders a new book.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “The
Scapegoat,” 8 and 10:30 p.m., Ovation.

Out of work and out of luck, a man
meets his lookalike. The next day, he wakes up with the stranger's
wallet, then finds himself in a very different (and very troubled)
life.

Based on a 1957 novel by Daphne Du
Maurer – whose stories became three Alfred Hitchcock films – this
is an intelligent tale, beautifully acted by Matthew Rhys (“Brothers
& Sisters”) and others.

Other choices include:

– :NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In the first
half of a rerun (concluding Sunday), Gibbs meets a Marine captain who
has post-traumatic stress order.

– “Pioneers of Television,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). This views the rise of “Dallas,”
“Dynasty” and other primetime soap operas.

– “Away From Her” (2006), 8 p.m.,
TV Guide. TV viewers know Sarah Polley as the young “Avonlea”
star, but at 34, she writes and directs subtle gems. This one views a
couple torn by Alzheimer's disease.

– “Face Off,” 9 p.m., Syfy. This
may be a make-up artist's dream: Go to Comic-Con, meet artists and
design a superhero. The result goes far beyond make-up, in an
interesting competition.

– “Edge of America” debut, 9 and
9:30 p.m., Travel. Geoff Edgers visits life's odder pleasures in this
OK opener, from fried calf testicles in Oklahoma to bike-tossing in
Oregon.

– “Vegas,” 10 p.m., CBS. As
Savino's wife arrived, he's accused of kidnapping.

– “Cougar Town,” 10 p.m., TBS. In
a fast and funny episode, Jules seeks more arguments with her
husband. Her son wants a “super power” and her ex-husband seeks a
new image with a new name.

– “White Collar” return, 10 p.m.,
USA. Neal now realizes his dad is alive and on the lam. Then he's in
a story involving counterfeit whiskey. The characters are great; the
story is extremely hard to believe.

– “Wild Things” debut, 10 p.m.,
BBC America. Dominic Monaghan (“Lost”) seeks creatures worldwide.
Tonight's goal – the giant water bug in Vietam – is
anti-climatic, but there are great moments – snakes, crocodiles and
such – along the way.