TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 30

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Selfie” debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

Karen Gillan provides the perfect vessel for great writers.
Tall (5-10) and thin, she projects comic clumsiness; once a shy kid from
small-town Scotland, she projects fragility and humanity.

First, Stephen Moffat, cast her as Amy in “Doctor Who”; now
Emily Kapnek (“Suburgatory”) has given her another gem. Gillan plays Eliza
Dooley, who has 263,000 friends in social media and none in real life; she
wants Henry (John Cho) to teach her. This variation on “Pygmalion” is superbly
filmed and acted.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox; or “Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The Fox comedies and ABC’s “Selfie” have key things in
common – female creators, female stars and sharp wit. And airing at the same
time, a PBS documentary reminds us how tough the odds once were.

The comedy-club circuit was 95-percent male, it says; TV
writers’ rooms were similar. “Golden Girls” – with a female creator and stars –
had one female writer and 12 guys. This “Makers” documentary is prone to wild
overstatement – Carol Burnett’s ditzy secretary is somehow described as a
satire on media images – but it has great comments and clips from the late Joan
Rivers and others.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Finding Your Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Just after the final crescendos of Derek Jeter’s baseball
career, here’s a chance to visit his roots. Jeter talks briefly about being a
mixed-race kid in Kalamazoo, Mich.; then experts dig into his family, finding
quick achievers. On one side is an ex-slave man turned preacher and landowner;
on the other is an English immigrant who owned a rowdy bar and then a furniture

Other stars – Billie Jean King (tennis) and Rebecca Lobo (basketball)
– learn about their roots. Lobo’s careens from the Spanish revolution to a
missed boat ride and some unexpected ethnic ancestry.

Other choices include:

“iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Here’s the
second half of a concert with One Direction, Lorde, Train, 50 Cent, Ed Sheeran,
Iggy Azalea, Paramore, Weezer, Calvin Harris and Eric Church.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A Navy officer has been killed on the
way to a meeting with the President

Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, TBS. For the first time since 1985, the
Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs. To stay there, however, they must win
this wild-card game; they host the Oakland A’s.

“Manhattan Love Story,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Dana moved to New
York, determined to focus on career success, not romance failures. Peter has
lived there his entire life; his focus is on one-night stands. She’s idealistic;
he’s not. They are, in short, a logical romantic-comedy couple. Like “Selfie,”
this show has a sleek look and funny moments. What it lacks is a consistent
script, a likable guy and Karen Gillan.

“NCIS: New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Navy lieutenant
dies of bubonic plague, the team must find his colleagues. Several “NCIS”
people – Tony, Vance and Abby – get involved.

“Agents of SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. With his team on the run,
Coulson takes a dangerous step.

“Live Free or Die” debut, 10 p.m., National Geographic. A
former financial advisor lives alone in the Georgia swampland, foraging for
food. A former teacher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes with his
5-year-old daughter. Two married couples re-define wilderness life. These are
interesting people to follow … even if it is tough to empathize with deliberate

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 28

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Resurrection” season-opener, 9 p.m.,

Last season ended roughly. The sheriff called in the Army
and had most of the returned-from-the-dead people hauled away. The outside
world soon was convinced that it was all a hoax.

Now Martin (Omar Epps), a federal agent, wakes up dazed and
confused. What has happened? Is there a cover-up? This opener gives fresh
energy to an already terrific show; that includes an important arrival and a
powerhouse realization during tonight’s final minutes.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Simpsons” season-opener, 8 p.m.,

First, we get a peek at what “The Simpsons” will look like
in a few millennia. (You really didn’t expect the show to ever end, did you?)

Then come two things that we’ve never seen in the first 25
seasons – a well-deserved roast of Krusty the Clown and a long look at a Jewish
Heaven. There are great moments, with brief guest spots from Sarah Silverman,
Jackie Mason and master roaster Jeff Ross.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time” season-opener, 8
p.m., ABC, with preview at 7.

Driving home from a drunken party, two ruffians really don’t
expect this – a blonde beauty in an elegant ballroom gown, trudging down the
road. They zoom toward her; she blasts their truck into ice.

Ah yes, more trouble in this dandy show’s two worlds. In
fairy-tale land, we meet Elsa the Ice Queen (of “Frozen” fame) and her sister;
we see newlyweds Belle and Rumpelstiltskin. But Elsa finds Storybrooke … which
is already shaken by Emma saving Marian, whose husband Robin Hood had a romance
with Regina. Will Regina return to her evil ways? Will Storybrooke freeze? It’s
fun finding out.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.

Yes, this hour delivers the big monster moments that “Strain”
fans expect. Eichhorst invades the pawn shop; Palmer, the mogul, learns whether
his deal with the devil will bring renewed life.

Alongside that, however, are quietly powerful emotions. We learn
the back story of Setrakian’s monster quest. And Ruta Gedmintas has great
moments as Dutch Velders, the young hacker now trying to make amends, after
realizing Palmer had hired her to do evil.

Other choices include:

“Masterpiece,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In
1875 London, John Moray ran a department store and prepared to marry Katherine,
the owner’s daughter … until she realized he loves Denise, the shopgirl. Moray
was banished; Katherine left. Tonight, both return, in a lush hour that starts
the second and final season of “The Paradise”; that’s followed by the season’s
third and final Miss Marple mystery.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” season-opener, 8:30 p.m., Fox. Last
season ended with Jake (Andy Samberg) pretending to be a dirty cop, so he could
work undercover. Now he’s already cozy with the Mob. (Hey, he’s a charming
guy.) That’s the start of a fast, funny episode that also has station-house

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. The season started powerfully
last week, with Cary charged with aiding a drug deal. It’s apparently a ploy to
get to the drug kingpin he and Alicia represent … complicated by the
prosecutors’ rage at Alicia and her husband. Maneuvers continue, while Diane
prepares to switch firms.

“Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex” season-finales, 9 and 10
p.m., Showtime. Ray’s dad has a new scheme. Then Masters and Johnson finally
release their research results to the public.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
CBS. Starting its new night, “CSI” has a bomb in Finlay’s car … a call from
(maybe) the Gig Harbor Killer … and a double role for Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 27

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

The 40th season opens with Chris Pratt – a comedy
guy on “Parks and Recreation,” an action hero in “Guardians of the Galaxy” -- hosting
and Ariana Grande as music guest. It also brings key changes.

Michael Che (briefly of “The Daily Show”) joins “Weekend
Update,” becoming its first black anchor. Unfortunately, Colin Jost stays and
Cecily Strong will focus on sketches. Also, Nasim Pedrad has left, Pete Davidson
will be a writer and others (Brooks Wheelan, Noel Wells, John Milhiser) were

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Music for Change: The Global Citizen
Festival,” 9 p.m., NBC.

This last-minute addition is stuffed with stars. Hugh
Jackman hosts from New York’s Central Park, in an annual concert designed to
fight worldwide poverty.

No Doubt is expected to have its first performance in two years.
Also scheduled are Carrie Underwood, Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Fun, Tiesta and The

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Friday Night Lights” (2004) and “The
Blind Side” (2009), 6:30 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.

Both movies have true stories with football backdrops; both
have country star Tim McGraw in support.

And both are well-crafted. Based on a non-fiction book about
high school football, “Lights” isn’t as good as the TV series that followed,
but it’s still a strong movie. “Blind Side” is propelled by Sandra Bullock’s
brilliant, Oscar-winning work as a rich Southerner who provided a home for a
good-hearted giant.

Other choices include:

Westerns, all night. Choose young or old Clint Eastwood.
“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) is 4:45 p.m. on AMC; the Oscar-winning
“Unforgiven” (1992) is 8 p.m. on Reelz. Both are slow (“Ugly” is ultra-slow),
but well-crafted. AMC also has “Hell on Wheels” at 9; Cullen scrambles to free
his workers.

Football, 8 p.m. ET, Fox and ABC. Fox has 7th-ranked
Baylor and Iowa State; ABC has 8
th-ranked Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Cable has much more, all day.

“Madam Secretary” and “Scorpion,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Here
are reruns of two pilot films, both so-so. “Madam” is earnest, but try; “Scorpion”
is fun, but strains believability.

“The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC. This rerun is a logical lead-in
for the concert. One of the new “Voice” judges is Gwen Stefani, who will also
be performing in the Central Park show with her group, No Doubt.

Cedar Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark Last week, every blonde woman
was in dismay, but many of the brunettes were OK. Tonight, troubles – guy woes,
cyber-bully woes – are equal-hair offenders. 
All this is against the gorgeous backdrop of waterfront Washington. In
snappy little scenes (written and acted competently), beautiful and
well-meaning people face life’s problems.

“Outlander” mid-season finale, 9 p.m., Starz. Last week’s
episode (rerunning at 8) saw Claire marrying a Scotsman in 1742, to legally
block the English from interrogating her. It turns out that she really likes
the guy … but then she spots a possible link to her 1940s self. It’s a strong
scene, setting up a cliffhanger. 

“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The fierce Skovox Blitzer
is ready to destroy mankind.

“The Intruders,” 10 p.m., BBC America. New information may
block the ascension of Rose (Miranda Cosgrove). Also, she asks Jack why Amy
(Mira Sorvino) has been acting so odd lately.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 26

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Amazing Race” season-opener, 8
p.m., CBS.

For its 25th season, “Race” slides from one of
the highest-viewership nights (Sundays), to one of the lowest. Still, we can expect
the skill that has brought 10 best-reality-competition Emmys in 12 years.

This edition has plenty of couples – three dating, one
engaged and two married; that includes Bethany Hamilton (who returned to
surfing after losing an arm to a shark at age 13) and her husband. There are
also sisters, friends and a mother-daughter duo. They’ll try to race 26,000
miles in eight countries.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

Other networks avoid stage performances, unless there’s a
prize involved. PBS savors them; over the next 11 Fridays, it will include two
theater events (“Porgy and Bess” and “The Nance”), several concerts (Tony
Bennett and Lady Gaga, Kristin Chenoweth, an “Austin City Limits” anniversary)
and more.

First is this hybrid -- the New York Philharmonic’s semi-staged
concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s powerful “Sweeney Todd.” Bryn Terfel,
an operatic bass-baritone, sings the title role of the demon barber; Emma
Thompson is his pie-baking companion

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Shark Tank” season-opener, 8 and 9
p.m., ABC.

The new season quickly hits the extremes. One notion has
several investors tossing around big-money offers; another is proclaimed by
Kevin O’Leary as “one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.”

During that first hour, we hear such phrases as “re-engineering
the athletic sock” and “pre-revenue” (in short, they’ve made zero so far) and “put
the ‘man’ in ‘manicure.’” And yes, these sometimes work; an update shows six
products (including dog food created by a 10-year-old) that have soared.

Other choices include:

 “The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of Wednesday’s episode, a woman has been killed
after making a date Online. Now Laura (Debra Messing) must go undercover.

“Gotham,” 9 p.m., Fox. If you missed Monday’s debut, here
(after an 8 p.m. “Utopia”) is a second chance to enter Gotham City at its low
point, before Batman emerged. The story gets a bit monotone, heavy on the
darkness and torture; still, the visuals are gorgeous as “Gotham” creates its
own world.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. While other networks are
content to include Friday reruns, CBS has a full night of season-openers. This
one offers a scheme that also spiced this summer’s “24”: Terrorists have seized
control of armed drones; now they’re using them against regular people.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Two police detectives, Danny
Reagan and Maria Baez, are escorting drugs to a remote incineration spot. Then
they’re attacked; she’s seriously injured, he seeks revenge.

“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. After a flashback preamble, “Knick”
quickly hits overdrive. Irishmen are convinced a black man has killed an Irish
cop; soon, a race war erupts. Most intriguing is how far some of the characters
have gone. When “Knick” started, the chief surgeon (Clive Owen) was a bigot and
the ambulance driver was a rude oaf; now both have their heroic moments. It’s a
big, tough episode that leads to some small, tender moments.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Black-ish” debut, 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Life is comfy for Andre and Rainbow (Anthony Anderson and
Tracee Ellis Ross). He’s an advertising executive, she’s an anesthesiologist
and money is abundant.

The trouble, he feels, is that their kids have no feel for
their black heritage; their son wants to have a bar mitzvah, like his
classmates do. Produced by Anderson and Laurence Fishburne (who plays his dad),
this is a smart show, but a one-note one that leaves us wondering if there’s
enough story to keep going.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Survivor” and “Big Brother,” 8 and
9:30 p.m., CBS.

Right before “Brother” ends its season, “Survivor” starts one.
And for the second time, it has each person competing with someone close to him
or her.

There’s a father and son, a mother and daughter, a father
and daughter. There are brothers and twin sisters (the Andersons, from two
rounds of “Amazing Race). There’s a married couple, some college sweethearts
and two dating duos. One includes John Rocker, the former major-league pitcher
whose comments – “the biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the
foreigners” – preceded his decline.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week was clouded by Marco’s absurd decision to head
into Fausto’s armed compound virtually alone, to suggest a surrender. The suggestion
was rejected and he was captured.

Now the Mexican government’s Marines consider an attack,
while Sonya digs through Eleanor’s crime ledger. It’s a fairly good hour with
some superb moments. One little gem comes when a calm avenger briefly visits
the office of Robles, who is a corrupt police captain and a rapist.

Other choices include:

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. In last week’s opener
– entertaining, but overwrought – Laura (Debra Messing) dealt with her nasty
sons and showed that her police boss was a killer. Alas, the new boss is her estranged
husband. Yes, that’s wildly unlikely; so were parts, but we’ll give this a
chance as it moves into its time slot. When a woman is killed during a date set
Online, Laura goes undercover.

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A delightful,
three-week penguin documentary starts with the frantic extremes these creatures
face, as they head to their breeding ground.

“Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Yes, there are
brilliant hackers out there, stealing our identities. This hour views the other
side – squadrons of geniuses, trying to combat cyber-theft.

“Modern Family” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC. Fresh from its
fifth straight best-comedy Emmy, “Family” eyes some changes at the end of the
summer. Cam is still in his honeymoon mood; Mitchell is more matter-of-fact.
Also, Alex’s return transforms her family’s dynamics.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” season-opener, 9
p.m., NBC. The season starts with Olivia raising a foster baby and Amaro exiled
to traffic duty. Then those fates merge, when he arrests a teen prostitute.

“Chicago PD” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. After being off
the air for two months, this show returns with troubles everywhere. Voight is a
crash victim while driving undercover … Burgess dislikes her new partner … and
Lindsay (Sophia Bush) meets her mom (Markie Post) for the first time in