TV column for Monday, Jan. 4

“The Bachelor” season-opener, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Ben Higgins is a
small-town Indiana guy, ready for a big-time adventure. After
finishing third on “The Bachelorette,” he's now ABC's 20th

Higgins grew up in
Wabash, a town of 11,000, where he played quarterback, taught Sunday
School and took a missionary trip to Honduras. He sold software in
Denver, finished third on “Bachelorette” ... and now has 28 women
to choose from. That includes identical twins from Las Vegas, a Texas
cowgirl, a lawyer, a dentist, a war veteran ... and, we're told, an
esthetician and a “chicken enthusiast.”

II: “Biggest Loser” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Ever since this show
began in 2004, Bob Harper has been “the nice one,” nudging people
into exercise without seeming nasty about it. Now he takes over as
the host. He'll still offer some work-out advice, but most of that
will be handled by returning trainers Dolvett Quince and Jennifer

Seven of the duos
are people who know each other, but the eighth provides a fresh
twist: Richard Hatch, the first “Survivor” winner, will be paired
with former “Voice” contestant Erin Willett.

ALTERNATIVE: “Superstore” and “Telenovela,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,

On a night of
competing reality shows, these comedies provide a handy counterpoint.
After some advance samplers last month, they settle into their
regular slots with episodes that are silly, but fun.

At the store,
workers have mock Jonah, after finding a mannequin that like him;
when Cheyenne considers giving her future baby up for adoption, two
colleagues push themselves as perfect parents. At the telenovela, Ana
(Eva Longoria) – a Latina who doesn't speak Spanish – has a date
with the network head (Zachary Levi), a non-Latino who speaks it
well. Also, there are rumors of a ghost.

Other choices

“The Notebook”
(2004) and “The Lucky One” (2012), 6 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.
Clearly, all movies made from Nicholas Sparks novels aren't equal.
“Notebook” is masterful and deeply moving; “Lucky One” is
contrived, leaving the audience to shout: “Just tell her, stupid.”

8-10 p.m., Fox. The 12 contestants in this special are regular humans
in most areas – except each has one extraordinary skill. Now those
skills – sight, smell, touch, taste, memory, etc. -- are
challenged, with chances to win $100,000. Kal Penn, formerly of
“House” and “Battle Creek” -- hosts.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. The evil Astra has been captured by the DEO, the
organization monitoring extra terrestials. That might be a good thing
... except that now her husband has captured Hank, the DEO head,
leading to a standoff. Also, Kara (who is Supergirl) tries to
convince her boss she isn't.

“Paris Terror
Attack: Charlie Hebdo,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. Thursday will mark the
anniversary of the day terrorists killed 11 people at a satirical
magazine in Paris. This documentary uses interviews and news footage
to trace the three-day search that led to a shoot-out and hostage

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Life keeps getting complicated for these geniuses. They're
on a rescue mission to Antarctica, where Happy (Jadyn Wong) is lost
in a blizzard.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. After a security guard is killed by
radiation poisoning, Deeks and Kensi go undercover at a former
nuclear-power plant.

“Bachelor Live,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. For the next four Mondays, ABC will follow “The
Bachelor” with a show talking about what just happened. Chris
Harrison will host this, as he does “The Bachelor.”

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 2

“Galavant,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Here was one of last
season's great experiments – a musical mini-series, with eight
half-hours telling of knights, damsels and daring. Linking the
“Tangled” team – writer Dan Fogelman, composer Alan Menken and
lyricist Glenn Slater – it was bursting with offbeat wit.

Now we get a
truncated version, with the first and last half-hours, plus the
fourth and sixth ones. It sets up a second season, which will take
the 8-9 p.m. spot on the next five Sundays.

Football, all day, ESPN.

No, those bowl
marathons Thursday and Friday didn't suffice. Now ESPN has four games
in a row.

At noon ET, the
TaxSlayer Bowl has Georgia and Penn State. That's followed by the
Liberty Bowl (Arkansas and Kansas State) at 3:20 p.m., the Alamo Bowl
(Oregon and Texas Christian) at 6;45 and – for the insatiable fan –
the Cactus Bowl (Arizona and West Virginia) at 10:15 p.m. ET.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015), 8
p.m., HBO.

The original
“Marigold” was a surprise hit, bringing grown-ups back to
theaters, in a summer filled with action films. Now this sequel has
much of the charm and fun of the first.

Once skeptical,
Muriel (Maggie Smith) now tries to help Sonny (Dev Patel of “Slumdog
Millionaire”) finance a second hotel. An inspector is coming, but
they don't know who it is. That part of the plot is borrowed from
“Fawlty Towers” and others, but we won't gripe. Directed by John
Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) and filled with British stars
(Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, etc.), this is a delight,

Other choices

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 4:15 to 9:45 p.m., Starz. Here's the entire first season,
with all of its gore, whimsy, action and, at times, humor. The
season-finale – ridding the world of the Evil would bring a steep
cost – is at 9 p.m., rerunning at 9:40, 10:20 and midnight.

“The Grinder,”
7-11 p.m., FX. This sharp comedy got off to a slow start in the
ratings. Now Fox will launch a re-constructed line-up Tuesday,
putting it at 9:30 p.m.; first, cable offers a marathon of what's
happened so far. In the clever pilot at 7, Dean (Rob Lowe) returns to
the family law office, after playing a big-deal lawyer on TV.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Penguin rushes to rescue his mother ... then
plans revenge on Galavan, who had kidnapped her.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. This may be the team's toughest task – passing a psych
test. Also in this rerun, Paige frets when her son is reluctant to go
to his school's Halloween party.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, people have been impersonating
military personnel. The mystery deepens when one has a Navy jacket
issued to someone who was thought to have been killed in Afghanistan.

“Being Evel”
(2015), 9-11:22 p.m., History. This documentary traces the
high-profile life of stunt-star. “Evel” Knievel. It includes
comments from Knievel, George Hamilton (who played him in a 1971
movie) and stunt-guy Johnny Knoxville ... whose “Jackass 3D” is
10 p.m. today on Comedy Central.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Ryan Gosling hosts a rerun, with music from
Leon Bridges.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 1

Rose Bowl parade, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, ABC, HGTV, Hallmark, RFD and
Univision; 11:30 to 1, NBC.

Still feeling the
aftershocks of New Year's Eve, our heads might want something
pleasant and uncomplicated. That's this parade, with 44 floats, 20
bands, 19 horse units and Ken Burns.

Yes, Burns – who
produces PBS gems – is grand marshal, a spot that has been handled
by the greats ... and by Richard Nixon, Bill Cosby, Paula Deen,
Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog. The National Park Service – which
Burns profiled beautifully – is being honored, celebrating its
100th year.

Football, all day.

The first kick-off
comes before the parade ends. At noon ET on ESPN2, the Outback Bowl
has Northwestern (10-2) and Tennessee (8-4). At 1 p.m. on ABC, the
Citrus Bowl has Michigan (9-3) and Florida (10-3).

More attention,
however, will go to ESPN's triple-header: At 1 p.m. ET, the Fiesta
Bowl with Ohio State (11-1) and Notre Dame (10-2). At 5, the Rose
Bowl has Iowa (12-1) and Stanford (11-2). And at 8:30 p.m. ET, the
Sugar Bowl has Mississippi (9-3) and Oklahoma State (10-2).

ALTERNATIVES: “Sherlock,” PBS, or “Cinderella” (1950), ABC
Family, both 9 p.m.

Two classic
characters compete. One is Cinderella, in the dandy Disney cartoon
that includes a hilarious color feud with fairy godmothers, plus the
Oscar-nominated song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”

The other is
Sherlock Holmes, suddenly back in time. Holmes was created in 1887,
but the clever “Masterpiece” version has put him and Dr. Watson
in modern times. Now – just for one movie – they're in 1895, with
a few wry references to how Sherlock tales usually unfold. All of
this should get us in the mood for Sunday's “Masterpiece,” with
the splendid start of the final “Downton Abbey” season.

Other choices today

“Portlandia,” 3
a.m. today to 3 a.m. Thursday, IFC. We can immerse ourselves in the
full experience – 48 consecutive reruns of a neatly offbeat show,
with Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and friends offering sketches of
odd (but well-meaning) folks in Portland, Oregon.

All day, HGTV. Each
New Year's Day is big for HGTV. The parade (which it has
commercial-free) is followed by key series or specials and then the
introduction of a “Dream Home” that one viewer will win. This
year's home, on Florida's Merritt Island, will be introduced at 8 pm.
It's preceded by the parade, “Mexico Life” at 1 p.m., “Caribbean
Life” at 2, tiny-house shows at 3 and “Island Life” at 7.

Performances,” 7:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). PBS visits
Austria each New Year's Day, for a grand event. Julie Andrews hosts
this one, which includes the Vienna Musikverein and the Vienna Boys
Choir, plus soloists from the Vienna State Ballet.

“iHeartRadio Music
Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. For the third straight night, CW fills
its line-up with a music special. This one – the second half of a
rerun that started Thursday -- has Janet Jackson, Nick Jonas, Blake
Shelton, Puff Daddy, Prince Royce, Fall Out Boy and The Weeknd.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Mike feels his young grandson
should be able to walk home from school alone. Also, Kyle and Ed have
a doomsday-preparations meeting.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a transplanted rerun, Gibbs is on a sea exercise, when a body
is found in the water. The investigation puts him in jeopardy, on a
ship held by pirates.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 and 10 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Grover's best friend says he
saw his wife fall off a cliff, to her death; foul play is suspected.
The second has McGarrett and Danny working on their relationship,
during a stakeout; guest stars include Jon Lovitz, Cloris Leachman
and Max Weinberg.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 31

“New Year's Rockin' Eve,” 8-11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to 2:13 a.m.,

In a night stuffed
with music and specials, ABC has the quantity and (maybe) quality.
Ryan Seacrest's live portions in New York include Carrie Underwood,
Luke Bryan, Demi Lovato and Wiz Khalifa.

There's more: A
Taylor Swift video will debut and Fergie will host a pre-recorded
Hollywood party that has ... well, almost everyone. It includes One
Direction, Nick Jonas, Ellie Goulding, Andy Grammer, Elle King, Fall
Out Boy, Tove Lo, Alessia Cara, Rachel Platten and more, including 5
Seconds of Summer, Walk the Moon and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

II: Football, noon, 4 and 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.

The last thing we
need on this busy day is another distraction. But here are three bowl
games, including two that decide the teams in the national
championship game.

The day starts with
Houston (12-1) and Florida State (10-2) in the Peach Bowl; then come
the championship semi-final gamess: The Orange Bowl has Clemson
(13-0) and Oklahoma (11-1); the Cotton Bowl has Alabama and Michigan
State, each 12-1.

ALTERNATIVE: More Eve parties, everywhere.

The overload
continues, with more music events – Fox, PBS, NBC – plus parties,
news coverage more. We'll take them one at a time, below:

Other choices

-- Fox special, 8-10
p.m. and 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. For the second year, Pitbull hosts a
Miami bash. This one has Jessie Smollett of “Empire,” plus Shawn
Mendes, Austin Mahone, Pia Mia, Prince Royce, R. City and more.

-- “Live From
Lincoln Center,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The New
York Philharmonic's annual concert has a Paris theme this year, with
music by Ravel, Offenbach and Saint-Saens.

-- “Michael
Feinstein's New Year's Eve,” 10-11 p.m., PBS (check listings).
Backed by a 17-piece band, Feinstein is joined by Broadway's Kelli
O'Hara, Aaron Tveitand Christine Ebersole, plus Darren Criss of
“Glee,” Leslie Odom Jr. Of “Smash” and Julia Goodwin of
“America's Got Talent.”

-- “New Year's Eve
Game Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. This is a lot like “Hollywood Game
Night” -- which will start its season Tuesday – except that Andy
Cohen hosts, there are some New Year-themed games and Panic at the
Disco is the house band.

-- “New Year's Eve
with Carson Daly,” 11:30 p.m., NBC. Trimmed to an hour, this will
include Gwen Stefani singing “Used to Love You.” Also, it will
share several people – Andy Cohen, Whitney Cummings, Rob Riggle –
with the game-night hour.


-- Looking backward,
CNN has “All the Best, All the Worst, 2015” at 7 p.m.; NBC has “A
Toast to 2015” (with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb) from 8-10.
News channels will visit celebraions and more; Fox Business plans to
include Donald Trump, sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. But the
big news bash is 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on CNN; Anderson Cooper and
Kathy Griffin -- a fun, witty duo -- will host, with reporters in New
Orleans, Memphis, Rio de Janeiro and (really) Hershey, Pa.

-- And if you want
to skip Eve and football? CBS has reruns of its strong Thursday
shows, from “Big Bang Theory” to “Elementary.” And the first
two seasons of David Cross' sometimes-hilarious “Todd Margaret”
rerun from 6 p.m. to midnight on IFC, setting up next Thursday's
start of the third .

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 30

“In Defense of Food,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Progress can be a
tricky thing, Michael Pollan tells us. In 30 years, Americans'
child-obesity rate has doubled; in 40, type 2 diabetes (for any age)
has tripled. Much of that comes from an industry that can now make
food that is cheap, convenient, tasty ... and lacks key ingredients.

Pollan – a skilled
journalist and storyteller – views other aproaches, including
traditional hunters and getherers in Tanzania. Diets range from the
Andes (mostly potatoes and grains) to the Arctic, with tremendous
amounts of whale and seal fat; somehow, both approaches seem to work.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Next week, ABC will
be back to new episodes of its terrific Wednesday line-up. First,
however, here's a rerun of the season-opener, filled with good

Having second
thoughts, Haley tries to rush and stop Andy from proposing to Beth.
Meanwhile, Jay and Gloria are frustrated by efforts to land a good
pre-school. Also, Cam supports Mitchell in his effort to switch
careers ... until money gets tight.

ALTERNATIVE: “Mozart in the Jungle” second season, any time,
Amazon Prime.

Wolfgang Mozart shows up at the very start of the second season –
both his music (it's quite good, you know) and his image. A troubled
Rodrigo imagines a fretful conversation with him.

Rodrigo has many
worries. The hot-shot conductor of the New York Symphony, he's
disliked by donors (who want the old one to un-retire) and viewed
warily by the musicians, who are planning a strike. Also, he kissed
Hailey, the young oboist working temporarily as his assistant.
There's a rich broth of emotions, in a series that's beautifully
written and subtly acted ... with some fine music along the way.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Mr. Robot,” 11:42 a.m. to 11 p.m., USA.

The start of this
series was brilliant, as a young hacker (tautly played by Rami Malek)
confronted a villain. The finish of the first season was bizarre.

Now – as “Mr.
Robot” deservedly reaches 10-best lists or 2015 – you can catch
the whole season again. It runs twice, actually; the first time, from
midnight to 11:42 a.m., isn't terribly convenient.

Other choices

Football, all day,
ESPN. The biggest bowl games are Thursday and Friday, but here's a
handy warm-up. There's the Birmingham Bowl at noon ET, the Belk Bowl
at 3:30 p.m., the Music City Bowl at 7 and then the day's top game:
At 10:30 p.m. ET, the Holiday Bowl has Wisconsin (9-3) and Southern
Cal (7-5).

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the two-part
season-opener, the team finds a fresh murder that fits the suspected
approach of serial-killer Gregory Yates. That leads to a trial,
blackmail, a confession, a new victim and then a runaway.

Music, 8 p.m.,
everywhere. Reruns offer pop songs via concert -- “iHeartRadio
Jingle Ball” on CW – or inside stories. Fox has “Empire”
(Cookie and Anika try to grab Pitbull's attention); Disney has its
“Descendants” movie. At 8:15, ABC Family has “Grease” (1978),
with a lame story and vibrant music.

“Code Black,” 9
p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode that introduced Cress Williams
(“Hart of Dixie”) as the new surgeon, the estranged son of Dr.

9:31 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. Neither rerun offers the usual holiday
fare. In the first, the family accepts a neighbor's invitation to
attend church; in the second, Dre and his colleagues try to create a
new holiday, Daddy's Day.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. This rerun involves the death of a teen at a big-money
private school.