TV column for Thursday, Dec. 26



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Godfather” films. All day, AMC.


Two of the all-time great films fill the day, for our
viewing or taping pleasure. “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather Part II”
(1974) air at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., then at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., with the lesser
“Part III” (1990) at 2 a.m.


Those first two offer writer-director Francis Coppola at his
best. They offer a family saga of love, rage and retribution, even flashing
back (in the second film) to show how this began. The consummate casts include
Marlon Brando and James Caan in the first film, Robert De Niro in the second,
Al Pacino in both.


Both won Academy Awards for best picture. The American Film
Institute lists “Godfather” as the second-best movie ever (behind “Citizen
Kane”), with “Part II” at No. 32, the only sequel in the top 100.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Parks and Recreation,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.


Tentative plans call for a “Women of Saturday Night Live”
special, from 9-11 p.m. Before that, here’s a chance to catch one of the best
of those women.


Amy Poehler thrived for eight seasons on “SNL,” then moved
to this quietly clever series. She currently has her fourth straight Golden
Globe nomination in “Parks and Recreation” … which has its first best-series
nomination … for an upcoming Globe ceremony she’ll co-host with Tina Fey,
another of the great “SNL” women.


Tonight, “Parks” reruns a two-parter. Leslie (Poehler) is in
London for an award, bringing Ben, April, Andy and a reluctant (as usual) Ron.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Ground Floor,” 10 p.m., TBS.


This requires acting: Skyler Astin (as Brody) spends this series
in love and lust with Briga Heelan (as Jenny). Now his real-life girlfriend Anna
Camp guests as his ex-lover.


She plays a Harvard grad who booms into this all-male
domain. It’s an inconsistent but fun episode that offers a “Pitch Perfect”
reunion, with Astin, Camp and (as torrid Tori) Alexis Knapp; in the spirit of
that movie, Astin, Camp and Heelan are in good voice at the karaoke bar.


Other choices include:


Football, 6 and 9:30 p.m., ESPN. After a one-day break, the
bowl rush resumes. First, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl has Pittsburgh, with a
6-6 record (the minimum for a bowl) and Bowling Green, 10-3; then the
Poinsettia Bowl has Northern Illinois, 11-1, and Utah State, 8-5.


Non-fiction, 7-10:30 p.m., Bravo. This starts with a new
twist for “Inside the Actors Studio” – a father-daughter interview involving
Bruce and Laura Dern. Then the “Millionaire Matchmaker” has two hours involving
other Bravo people. At 8 p.m. is a rerun with the refreshingly vibrant Courtney
Kerr (whose “Courtney Loves Dallas” is at 10 p.m.); at 9 is a new hour with Rosie
Pierri of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”


“Glee,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has Rachel and
Kurt returning to town as the glee club prepares “Grease”; also, Cassandra
(Kate Hudson) brings fresh detours to Rachel. The second, from a year ago,
weaves holiday stories, from Artie’s dream to Jake and Puck’s Hanukah and Sam
and Brittany’s fear of a Mayan-predicted apocalypse.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the women
join the guys’ “Dungeons & Dragons” game, bringing a change in the
relationship of Sheldon and Amy. Meanwhile, Raj goes on an awkward (and
painfully funny) date with Lucy, played by the terrific Kate Micucci.


“The Millers,” 8:31-10 p.m., CBS. This first-year show –
strong in ratings, mixed in quality – offers three reruns. First, Carol (Margo
Martindale) learns her son Nathan (Will Arnett) is seeing a therapist; she
arranges her own appointment. Then she decides that the cemetery plots must be
re-arranged, now that Nathan has divorced and his parents have separated. In
the third, there’s a scheme to get the parents together by having them divide
their possessions.


“20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Ten days before “Downton Abbey” has
its elegant season-opener, ABC takes a look at the world it depicts. That views
the history of such mansions and their modern equivalent … including the current
life at the estate that is used for “Downton” scenes.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sherlock
trying to prevent a mega-heist in the midst of a giant blizzard.


TV column for Thursday, Dec. 26



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Godfather” films. All day, AMC.

Two of the all-time great films fill the day, for our
viewing or taping pleasure. “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather Part II”
(1974) air at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., then at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., with the lesser
“Part III” (1990) at 2 a.m.


Those first two offer writer-director Francis Coppola at his
best. They offer a family saga of love, rage and retribution, even flashing
back (in the second film) to show how this began. The consummate casts include
Marlon Brando and James Caan in the first film, Robert De Niro in the second,
Al Pacino in both.


Both won Academy Awards for best picture. The American Film
Institute lists “Godfather” as the second-best movie ever (behind “Citizen
Kane”), with “Part II” at No. 32, the only sequel in the top 100.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Parks and Recreation,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.


Tentative plans call for a “Women of Saturday Night Live”
special, from 9-11 p.m. Before that, here’s a chance to catch one of the best
of those women.


Amy Poehler thrived for eight seasons on “SNL,” then moved
to this quietly clever series. She currently has her fourth straight Golden
Globe nomination in “Parks and Recreation” … which has its first best-series
nomination … for an upcoming Globe ceremony she’ll co-host with Tina Fey,
another of the great “SNL” women.


Tonight, “Parks” reruns a two-parter. Leslie (Poehler) is in
London for an award, bringing Ben, April, Andy and a reluctant (as usual) Ron.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Ground Floor,” 10 p.m., TBS.


This requires acting: Skyler Astin (as Brody) spends this series
in love and lust with Briga Heelan (as Jenny). Now his real-life girlfriend Anna
Camp guests as his ex-lover.


She plays a Harvard grad who booms into this all-male
domain. It’s an inconsistent but fun episode that offers a “Pitch Perfect”
reunion, with Astin, Camp and (as torrid Tori) Alexis Knapp; in the spirit of
that movie, Astin, Camp and Heelan are in good voice at the karaoke bar.


Other choices include:


Football, 6 and 9:30 p.m., ESPN. After a one-day break, the
bowl rush resumes. First, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl has Pittsburgh, with a
6-6 record (the minimum for a bowl) and Bowling Green, 10-3; then the
Poinsettia Bowl has Northern Illinois, 11-1, and Utah State, 8-5.


Non-fiction, 7-10:30 p.m., Bravo. This starts with a new
twist for “Inside the Actors Studio” – a father-daughter interview involving
Bruce and Laura Dern. Then the “Millionaire Matchmaker” has two hours involving
other Bravo people. At 8 p.m. is a rerun with the refreshingly vibrant Courtney
Kerr (whose “Courtney Loves Dallas” is at 10 p.m.); at 9 is a new hour with Rosie
Pierri of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”


“Glee,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has Rachel and
Kurt returning to town as the glee club prepares “Grease”; also, Cassandra
(Kate Hudson) brings fresh detours to Rachel. The second, from a year ago,
weaves holiday stories, from Artie’s dream to Jake and Puck’s Hanukah and Sam
and Brittany’s fear of a Mayan-predicted apocalypse.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the women
join the guys’ “Dungeons & Dragons” game, bringing a change in the
relationship of Sheldon and Amy. Meanwhile, Raj goes on an awkward (and
painfully funny) date with Lucy, played by the terrific Kate Micucci.


“The Millers,” 8:31-10 p.m., CBS. This first-year show –
strong in ratings, mixed in quality – offers three reruns. First, Carol (Margo
Martindale) learns her son Nathan (Will Arnett) is seeing a therapist; she
arranges her own appointment. Then she decides that the cemetery plots must be
re-arranged, now that Nathan has divorced and his parents have separated. In
the third, there’s a scheme to get the parents together by having them divide
their possessions.


“20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Ten days before “Downton Abbey” has
its elegant season-opener, ABC takes a look at the world it depicts. That views
the history of such mansions and their modern equivalent … including the current
life at the estate that is used for “Downton” scenes.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sherlock
trying to prevent a mega-heist in the midst of a giant blizzard.


TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 24



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8
p.m., ABC; and “ET” (1982), 8:30, TV Guide.

On a night when overwrought children need to be distracted,
we get two of the all-time greats.


One is a tidy half-hour, the other a sprawling movie, but the
formula is the same: A great director (Chuck Jones, Steven Spielberg) adds
visual flair to a story that has heart and humor. Then perfect music adds to
that.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.


All four Fox comedies rerun Christmas episodes (sort of),
tonight.


For this one, the holiday link is iffy. Amy wants to create
the perfect Christmas card for Captain Holt, with one obstacle: It’s almost
impossible to get Rosa to smile.


In the main plot, Jake (Andy Samberg) is assigned as a
bodyguard for Holt (Andre Braugher). Naturally, he takes it to idiotic
extremes; the episode goes too far, then rights itself in its final minutes.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Classic Christmas movies, everywhere.


On broadcast networks, NBC has “It’s a Wonderful Life”
(1946) – for the second time in five days – at 8 p.m.  ABC has Ron Howard’s live-action “Grinch”
(2000) at 8:30, with Jim Carrey in the title role.


And on cable, choices abound. ABC Family has Tim Allen’s
“Santa Clause” trilogy (1994, 2002, 2006) at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Starz has Will
Ferrell’s “Elf” (2003) at noon and then runs it every 100 minutes (including
6:40, 8:30 and 10 p.m.) for a day. And TNT continues a tradition: “A Christmas
Story” (1983), the warm and witty look at a 1940s holiday, is at 8 p.m.,
rerunning every two hours for 24 hours.


Other choices include:


“Roots,” 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., BET. The beloved mini-series
reruns.


Non-holiday movies, cable. If you don’t need a Christmas
film, there are some strong choices tonight. “Batman Begins” (2005), intense
and high-octane, is 6 p.m. on Syfy. “Sex and the City” (2008) is 7 p.m. on
Oxygen. And Spielberg’s richly crafted “Lincoln” (2012)is at 7:30 p.m. on
Showtime.


“Dads,” 8 p.m., Fox. When someone sabotages a
family-friendly Christmas game, the guys must swipe it back. The result is
mostly too silly, but has some funny moments.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns start with Tony’s
dad visiting at Christmas time.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When Hetty has the team
working a missing-person case, Callen distrusts her motives.


“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. During multiple parties, Jess tries
to avoid Sam and Nick tries to keep up with his adventurous girlfriend (Olivia
Munn).


“The Mindy Project,” 9:30, Fox. At a Christmas party in her
apartment, Mindy plans to introduce her boyfriend … but then learns his secret.


“Person of Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. Reese investigates the
sister of a slain soldier.


Christmas services, 11:35 p.m., NBC and CBS. These networks
catch services, respectively, in the Vatican and at the Church of St. Paul the
Apostle in New York City.


TV column for Monday, Dec. 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sing-off” finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.


Three richly talented a cappella groups compete for $100,000
and a recording deal. There’s Vocal Rush, an Oakland high school group with two
straight international titles … Ands Ten, 10 Dallas singers with a gospel touch
… and Home Free, a seasoned Minneapolis group with a country sound.


They’ll perform tonight. So will the judges – Jewel, Ben
Folds and Shawn Stockman – and host Nick Lachey, plus two groups: One is 98
Degrees, with Lachey; the other is Pentatonix, the 2011 winner (there was no
2012 edition) that has had albums at No. 10 and 14 on the Billboard chart.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “November Christmas” (2010), 8-10
p.m., Hallmark.


Yes, there have been 17 kazillion Christmas movies this
year, many stretching for emotion. The difference is that this one is perfectly
executed.


It was originally a “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” which brings a
bigger budget and meticulous preparation. John Corbett plays a dad, worried
that his daughter won’t live to Christmastime; Sam Elliott leads a supporting
cast that captures the essence of small-town decency. Robert Harmon – who
crafted all of Tom Selleck’s “Jesse Stone” films – directed them beautifully.


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


Jiro Ono’s Tokyo restaurant, we’re told, is the smallest to
get a perfect Michelin Guide rating. It has exactly 10 stools; reservations are
a month or more in advance.


There, Ono – 85 when this was filmed – prepares immaculate
sushi, along with his son and friends. This documentary (with Englsh
sub-titles) is a gently crafted tribute to anyone who seeks perfection. Ono
describes his early life – on his own since he was 8, a one-time bully who
decided to improve himself. He keeps doing that.


Other choices include:


“Shrek the Halls,” 8 p.m., ABC. A weak story was semi-salvaged
by gorgeous animation. Add the popularity of the “Shrek” movies and you have an
annual ratings hit despite itself.


“The iHeart Radio Jingle Ball,” 8-10 p.m., CW. This rerun
packs pop starpower, including Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore and Ryan
Lewis, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Selena Gomez and Austin Mahone.


Chipmunks, everywhere. Who would have figured the Chipmunks
as modern stars? A one-shot novelty, they had a brief cartoon series in 1961,
vanished … and were revived by the late founder’s son 20 years later on TV and
(much later) in movies. Now ABC reruns “A Chipmunk Christmas” at 8:30 p.m.,
while FX airs two films (in reverse order) – the sequel (2009) at 8 p.m,, the
original (2007) at 10.


“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Here are
the final two episodes of this first season, pitting amiable families that take
their seasonal decorations to the extreme.


“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from last March,
Molly goes on spring break with a wild junior-college crowd that includes her
sister Victoria.


“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Christy is disappointed
by everyone; also, her mom meets an old rival.


“Hollywood Game Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. This summer success
returns for a holiday-themed hour with Ray Romano, Cheryl Hines, Rachel Bilson,
singer Gavin DeGraw, tennis star Andy Roddick and model-turned-actress Brooklyn
Decker.


TV column for Sunday, Dec. 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sound of Music” (1965), 7-11 p.m.,
ABC.


Just 10 days ago, Carrie Underwood’s “Sound of Music” drew
huge ratings on NBCm rerunning two days later. Now ABC has its annual showing
of the movie, with Julie Andrews.


Both versions look great and are sung beautifully; Underwood
was well-cast and two of her co-stars (Audra McDonald and Stephen Moyer)
actually sang better than the movie people. The difference: The movie could
make spectacular use of outdoor settings … and has better acting.


Moyer made the captain stiff and cartoonish; Underwood did
her best, with limited experience. Now we see quality work from Christopher
Plummer and Julie Andrews.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Cartoons, all night, Fox.


Any night with two “Simpsons” episodes – even two reruns –
is a pleasure; add “Axe Cop” and you have a strong line-up.


The first “Simpsons” (8 p.m.) has Homer so obsessed with a
game that he loses the dog; Grampa tells him about his boyhood dog. The second
(8:30) has radiation turn Springfield into a snowy tourist attraction.


That’s followed by a rerun of the “Family Guy” Nativity tale
(9 p.m.) and then by two short episodes of “Axe Cop,” a witty show that’s
usually late-night Saturdays. One imagines our hero (Nick Offerman) grew up to
run a cab company, not fight crime; the other is set at Thanksgiving time, with
Axe Cop missing since Halloween.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Returned,” noon to 10 p.m.,
Sundance.


Here is a superb French mini-series, ready to watch (or
tape) in one chunk. It’s so good that you won’t even resent having to read 10
hours of sub-titles.


The start – a teen-ager calmly walks into her house, unaware
that she was dead and buried four years ago – is compelling. The mid-section –
more returnees, more dilemmas – is just as good; the ending ….


Well, it’s as good as can be expected, with this difficult
concept. And throughout, “Returned” is acted, written and filmed with uncommon
depth and subtlety.


Other choices include:


“Shrek” (2001) and “Shrek 2” (2004), 6 and 8 p.m., Cartoon. In
a dandy double-feature for families, here are animated films with humor and
heart.


Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. On the second-to-last week of
the regular season, we see two teams that are clinging to their division leads
with 8-6 records. The Eagles (holding a one-game lead) host the Bears … who
lead one team by a half-game and another by a game.


“The Good Wife,” 8:30 p.m. (or later with football overrun),
CBS; but 8 p.m. PT. The high-octane season-opener reruns. Word has leaked out that Alicia and
Cary are starting their own firm and hoping to take their clients with them.
Suddenly, there’s a flurry of schemes, suits, threats and lies. With one
exception – the injection of Alicia’s husband, the governor – it’s a terrific
hour.


“Treme,” 9 p.m., HBO. A week from its finale, this
well-crafted (if scattered) series eyes the effects of time. Antoine finds it’s
not so easy to stay up all night … Albert knows he might not be able to march
in one more Mardi Gras … And Janette (Kim Dickens) realizes Davis (Steve Zahn)
is in a funk as he turns 40. The final minutes have some moving moments.


“The Mentalist,” 9:30 p.m. or later, CBS, but 9 p.m. PT. Patrick Jane’s
world crumbled long ago, when his wife and daughter were murdered. As he probes
the murder of a diamond-cutter in this rerun, he meets someone (Dove Cameron) who
claims to be the daughter.


“Getting On,” 10 p.m., HBO. DiDi (Niecy Nash) has a dull
night shift … until she’s suddenly dealing with three drunks and a doctor. Alex
Borstein (formerly of “MadTV”) has great moments as the drunken Dawn.


“Elementary,” 10:30 p.m. or later, CBS, but 10 p.m. PT.  This rerun has Sherlock reluctantly working
with an FBI profiler (Kari Matchett), while pursuing an unpredictable criminal.