TV column for Saturday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch
Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., TBS.

No, your calendar isn't wrong. There
still are 50 days until Christmas, but cable gives us two holiday
specials – a new miniseries on Hallmark and this classic on TBS.

Back in 1966, forces linked perfectly.
Dr. Seuss' “Grinch” tale had humor and heart; co-director Chuck
Jones adding visual flair. Boris Karloff narrated; Thurl Ravenscroft
and June Foray (the voices of Tony the Tiger and Rocky Squirrel)
added the song and the voice of Cindy Lou Who. It's a masterpiece.

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

After three weeks of reruns, the show
is back to new episodes for the “sweeps” ratings period.

That includes the first hosting gig for
Charlie Day (“Horrible Bosses” and “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia”) tonight and the second for Emma Stone, next week.
Tonight's music guest is Maroon 5.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: The Pastor's
Wife, 8 p.m., Lifetime.

Back in 2006, the quiet wife of a
clergyman in small-town Tennessee killed her husband with a shotgun,
then drove away with their daughters. She was soon arrested in
Alabama.

It's a strange story, beautifully told
here. Canadian director Norma Bailey offers a sharp, distinctive
style and Rose McGowan is superb in the title role.

Other choices include:

– “The Roy Rogers Show” (noon)
and “Roy Rogers' 100th Birthday” (8:30-9:30 p.m.),
RFD-TV. This channel – via satellite and some cable systems –
celebrates what would have been the 100th birthday of the
cowboy king. There's a regular rerun at noon and a special from
Rogers' old California ranch – with interviews, plus music by his
son and grandson – at 8:30.

– Football, 8 p.m., CBS. The two
top-rated teams collide, as Louisiana State visits Alabama. And the
No. 3 team? Oklahoma State hosts Kansas State on ABC or ESPN2, on a
busy football day.

– “Harry's Law” and “Prime
Suspect,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. You have to treat these hours
cautiously: Last week, in a late change, NBC switched both of its
shows. So tonight's reruns MIGHT involve a return of Harriet's fierce
nemesis (Jean Smart) at 8 and a maybe-deadly prostitute at 9.

– More movies, 8 p.m. This is a night
for beautifully made movies, sweet (“Beauty and the Beast,” 1991,
on ABC Family) or brutal (Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning work in
“There Will Be Blood,” 2007, on AMC). Also, Turner Classic Movies
has James Dean's “East of Eden” (1955).

– “Love's Christmas Journey,” 8
p.m. to midnight, Hallmark. After success with movies from Janette
Oke's frontier novels, Hallmark tries a mini-series. After the death
of her husband and daughter, Ellie visits her brother. Natalie Hall
(“All My Children”) stars, with Sean Astin, JoBeth Williams and
more.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 8:30
p.m., TBS. Here's another great movie; your VCR could be busy.

– “Terra Nova,” 9 p.m., Fox. A
flock of dinosaur birds endangers the community in this rerun. Also,
Elisabeth learns a former love interest may be responsible for
bringing her and her family here.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. A young mother says her car was stolen with
the baby inside. When stories don't add up, police dig in..

TV column for Friday, Nov. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Chuck,” 8
p.m., NBC.

The scheme seemed solid: Chuck started
a security firm, with his wife Sarah and John Casey (both former CIA
superspies) and his friend Morgan, whose mind has “The Intersect,”
full of CIA secrets.

Now the complications begin: Morgan
likes being a star; Chuck doesn't like being a mere handler. There's
a fierce new competitor (Carrie-Anne Moss of the “Matrix” movies)
and an impressive spokesman for the Buy More store. Add a
missing-person tale and you have a wildly fun adventure.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Give Me the
Banjo,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For a modest instrument with an
unassuming sound, the banjo has ranged far. It has been the backwoods
sound of Appalachia and the Beverly Hillbillies … the buoyant sound
of Southern blacks … the folksy sound of Pete Seeger … the hip
sound of Steve Martin and Jerry Garcia.

We meet all of them – plus Bela
Fleck, Tony Trischka and more. They're tied together in this special,
with rich history and great, turbo-paced music.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Boss,” 10
p.m., Starz.

It's already clear that Kelsey Grammer
is playing one of TV's great characters. Mayor Tom Kane is brilliant
and bullying, powerful and secretly crumbling from a debilitating
disease.

Now we see how fierce he can be, as he
lashes out (recklessly, perhaps) at people and eliminates obstacles.
We also see the shattered relationship with his wife and daughter.
It's a compelling hour.

Other choices include:

– “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Returning home from Iraq, Allen Hill faced post
traumatic stress disorder. That's triggered by many of the things
near his Kansas home, including a train station and a quarry that
uses dynamite. The team works to build a stress-free home.

– “A Gifted Man,” 8 p.m., CBS. In
a change, CBS plans to play all of the episodes tonight that it had
originally scheduled for last Friday. That starts here: Working at
the clinic, Michael spots the former football star he treated at his
upscale practice.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. This
change inserts the episode that had been scheduled to run before
Halloween: A prank goes awry, leaving someone for dead in an open
grave.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. In this
hour – scheduled for last week, then nudged aside by the World
Series – several forces converge. The translucent shape-shifters
are back; so is Malcolm Truss, the former Massive Dynamic scientist.
And Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) visits Walter in the lab.

– “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. In last
week's debut, a cop learned he's descended from the Grimms, who have
been fighting storybook monsters for generations. Now a home invasion
points him toward a family that seems to be simultaneously good and
evil.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This re-scheduled episode bring a political crisis for the police
commissioner (Tom Selleck), when his son and another cop are injured
by a church security team.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 10
p.m. TBS. Yes, this is a bit late at night to show a family classic.
Be patient; the film also airs at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m.
Sunday.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Burn Notice”
return, 10 p.m., USA.

A rerun marathon starts at 6 a.m. and
ends (from 9-10 p.m.) with an episode that brings big trouble. The
evil Anson (Jere Burns) has incriminating information on Fiona; he'll
use it unless Michael helps him.

He does that in the new episode at 10.
The mission stretches credibility to the limit, but comes with
everything we expect – explosions, clever dialog, high-tech
gadgetry and geeks in love.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Bones”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

For six years, “Bones” has offered
oddly interesting characters solving modestly interesting cases.

This seventh season starts late
(because of baseball) and will take a break (because of the birth of
Emily Deschanel's baby). Brennan and Booth are together now, even if
they can't agree on where to live … or on whether she should keep
trudging to crime sites while pregnant.

This case starts with paint-ball
players finding a body; it ends adequately, after a few detours.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Marathon
Boy,” 8 p.m., HBO, and/or “Crime After Crime,” 9 p.m., Oprah
Winfrey Network.

Here are two compelling documentaries.
Each required more than five years of painstaking filming; each is
deeply depressing, yet offers glimmers of hope and heroism.

HBO's film involves a boy who ran 48
marathons before the age of 4. He became famous and his coach became
controversial. There were jealousies, bureaucrats, moments of greed
and confusion; since this happened in an impoverished section of
India, American viewers will be tempted to feel superior.

The other film, however, happens in Los
Angeles. The district attorney's office withholds evidence, reneges
on a promise, lets a woman's sentence linger for decades. It's a
shattering story, brightened by glowing moments of nobility and
idealism.

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Settling into its pattern, the show has its first ouster by viewers.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Shopping for a wedding dress, Bernadette only takes Penny. That
depresses Amy (Mayim Bialik), who thought she finally had close
girlfriends.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Dwight's “doomsday” plan will get everyone fired if there are
mistakes.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
When T.R. Knight left two years ago, “the show lost some of its
heart.” Now the mother (Debra Monk) of his late character returns,
after her surgery is botched elsewhere. Also, Teddy and Henry (Scott
Foley) fight, when he says he's considering medical school

– “Best Jobs Ever,” 9 p.m., CNBC.
Most CNBC specials bring depth and insight. By comparison, this one –
looking at people with enviable jobs – plays like a so-so feature
on a local newscast.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
David Paymer plays a blogger obsessed with finding a serial killer.
Now Patrick Jane is on the case.

– “Good Vibes,” 10:30 p.m., MTV.
It's time to re-invent spring break, the guys feel. They create a
floating city, away from shore; that puts them in international
water, they figure, and laws vanish. The legalities are shaky, but
the result stirs up teen fantasies and a fair amount of humor.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 2


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

Bounced around by baseball, “X
Factor” can finally settle into its pattern. On Wednesdays, singers
perform and viewers vote; Thursdays bring ousters.

Last week, the judges trimmed from 17
people to the 12 finalists. Now the viewers take over.

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

Some animals – even sophisticated
chimps and apes – remain homeless. Others are awesome.

Beavers build 50-ton dams. Prairie dogs
create tunnel cities that go for miles,. Leaf-cutter ants move 40
tons of earth to create a home for 12 million.

All of this beautifully told and
wonderfully filmed. Watch the camera pull back to show the geometry
of cormorants, each with a plat that's an inch or so out of pecking
range from the others.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Top Chef”
opener, 10 p.m., Bravo.

There are 29 chefs tonight, in a show
designed for 16. In the first two hours, almost half will be ousted.

There are plenty of strong choices.
Keith Rhodes is a North Carolina giant, 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds.
Dakota Weiss, 35 and outspoken, is one of several heavily tattooed
women. Tyler Stone is 22 and cocky; Laurent Quenious is 51, a
transplanted Frenchman. It's an interesting bunch and a strong start.

Other choices include:

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
After years of lax studies, Axl could still get into college via
football. Now his parents fret that he might blow his interview.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Building a treehouse for his son, Phil meets a new friend (Kevin
Hart). Also, Gloria insists Jay take her salsa-dancing.

– Nova, 9 p.m., PBS. Brian Greene is
a clever chap who tries to explain elusive physics concepts in this
four-week “Fabric of the Cosmos.” Alas, this may be too distant
and wispy for most of us to grasp.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS: Here's a concept that has worked for “The X-Files”
and others: A murder is linked to a traveling sideshow that's
patterned after 19th-century shows.

– “American Horror Story,”10
p.m., FX. Halloween parties aren't a good idea for “the murder
house.”

Last week, one brought death and
despair; now the night continues, with more dead converging. One
scene – with a creepy-charismatic teen confronting misdeeds he
can't remember – is deeply jolting.

– “Whitechapel,” 10 p.m., BBC
America. In the second week of this six-part series, people realize
the killer is a modern Jack the Ripper copycat. “Whitechapel” is
acted and filmed with great skill; it also, alas, hits extremes with
the cliché of cops who are thick-headed and inflexible.

– “Born to Drive” debut, 10 p.m.,
GAC (Great American Country). Annabeth Barnes was 6 when she got her
first go-kart; she amassed 200 tropies and two national titles. Now
she's 15 and ready for the same stock-car track that launched Richard
Petty, Dale Earnhardt and more. With money tight, her dad is her
mechanic, her fund-raiser and more. This reality series follows
instantly likable people.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Covert Affairs”
return, 10 p.m., USA.

Just as Annie (Piper Perabo) was
getting good at this CIA secret-spy thing, it fell apart. She blew an
assignment; she drew her sister's anger when she admitted she'd been
lying about her job and her life.

Now she's in an empty apartment, with
lots of time on her hands. Except that she meets a handsome
restaurant-owner who may be tied to a terrorist movement from Spain.
Despite a few illogical moments and a so-so sub-plot, this marks a
strong start for the second half of the “Covert” season.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Glee”
return, 8 p.m., Fox.

When they tied as winners of “The
Glee Project,” Damian McGinty and Samuel Larson were each
guaranteed a seven-episode run on “Glee.” Now – after the
show's baseball break – McGinty begins.

He's a foreign exchange student from
Ireland, living with Brittany – who, of course, assumes he's a
leprechaun. Also, Shelby (Idina Menzel) is starting her own club and
Mercedes recruits people for it.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Women, War
and Peace,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

When warlords turned in their weapons,
the Colombian government put out cheery travel commericials, saying
the country is save and fun. The women of Cauca disagree.

Their region has strong resources,
including gold. Many people have been killed, this strong hour says;
others have been intimidated to move. The government has often looked
the other way, ignoring laws that let Afro-Colombians keep their
land. Women lead the oft-frustrating fight for their rights.

Other choices include:

– “Bones,” 6-11 p.m., TNT. Two
days before this show finally has its season-opener on Fox, here's a
mini-marathon of reruns. Catch the time before Brennan and Booth were
a couple; in fact, his girlfriend (a worldly war correspondent)
visits in the 10 p.m. episode.

– NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a man is
kidnapped, his wife (Melinda McGraw) has people to turn to. One
ex-husband is Gibbs (Mark Harmon) of the NCIS; another is Fornell
(Joe Spano) of the FBI.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. The softball team is under pressure to add females. That's a
tricky situation for Mike (Tim Allen), with his all-male mind and
all-female household.

– “Man Up,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Kenny
has been living with Craig lately, which isn't ideal. He spilled
putting in the piano, left a sword in the washing machine. Craig is
not pleased.

– “New Girl” return, 9 p.m., Fox.
Nick is finally getting his confidence back, after an attractive
co-worker agrees to a date. Then Jess accidentally sees him naked and
that confidence crumbles.

– NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS.
A Marine who was dishonorably discharged may have committed murder …
or may be the victim of an elaborate, international set-up.

– “Unforgettable,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A man has been killed and his baby is missing. Carrie is on the case,
but may be too distracted by her obsession with the long-ago murder
of her sister.

– “Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Kristina's family-night plan goes awry. Meanwhile, Crosby fumes about
Jasmine's new romance; Zeek fumes about Sarah trying to help her
alcoholic ex-husband.