TV column for Thursday, Nov. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Scandal,”
10:02 p.m., ABC.

For one fictional politician, life has
spiraled downward. A few years ago, he was almost elected president;
now he could face murder charges.

He killed someone who may or may not
have been his wife's rapist. Now Olivia's team defends him.

The result is sharply written, with
great moments for Tom Amandes and Brenda Strong (the “Desperate
Housewives” narrator) as the suspect and his wife and Jeff Perry as
the president's chief of staff.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Glee,” 9
p.m., Fox.

For five weeks, “Glee” was gone.
Now – with no more baseball or debate distractions – it's back.

This episode – only the fifth this
season – finds the club preparing to do “Grease.” Two alumi,
Mike and Mercedes, will cast it, which won't be easy. Marley and
Kitty compete for the female lead; for the male lead, a newcomer
(played by Blake Jenner, the “Glee Project” winner) faces Jake
(Jacob Artist).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Grey's Anatomy,”
9 p.m., ABC.

At times, this show can be scattered
over a half-dozen stories, new and old. Tonight, however, it gets
back to the two women – in different cities now – at its core.

In Seattle, Meredith is caring for baby
Zola and facing a tough medical case. In Minneapolis, Cristina is
doing a difficult heart surgery with Dr. Thomas, the elderly surgeon
her hospital wants to replace. He's played by William Daniels, 84,
who played a similar doctor 30 years ago on “St. Elsewhere.”

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor” (Fox) or “The
Voice” (NBC), 8 p.m. Two results shows collide. “X Factor,”
already down to its final 12, drops one act; “Voice” gets to its
final 12 the hard way: Each of the four judges has five acts.
Tonight, viewers' votes spare two of them; the judge then saves one
of the other three.

– “Last Resort,” 8 p.m., ABC. As
the submarine crew makes its stand on a tropical island, forces keep
trying to oust it. Now there may be a drug to cause confusion and
chaos.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Now that Howard and Bernadette are married, a new crisis arises:
She actually wants them to move out of his mother's house. The
episode includes two “Star Wars: The Next Generation” stars, Wil
Wheaton (who has a dispute with Amy) and LeVar Burton.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:30,
CBS. Miley Cyrus is back as Jake's love interest. He's been away in
the Army, but now he hopes to have a rendezvous with her at Walden's
beach house. Meanwhile, Walden wants to simplify his life by hiring
an actress to portray his mistress.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. This
is the episode that was scheduled for last week, then delayed. After
his dad blows the family's money, Andy has to step in.

– “Burn Notice” return, 9-11 p.m,
USA. Michael and Fiona are in Panama, scrambling to steal a plane and
escape. That won't be easy, with a drug dealer in pursuit.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS.
After a small plane crashes, mechanical failure is blamed; Sherlock
Holmes suspects that one of the people had already been killed.
Meanwhile, Watson tries to convince Holmes to meet with his elusive
father.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 7


 

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

When Charlie the horse went blind, Jack
the goat took over. Each day, he patiently led Charlie to his
favorite feeding ground; when a storm left Charlie trapped amid
debris, Jack raced to tell the humans.

Such stories fill this wonderful hour.
There's a cheetah with a dog, a coyote with a lion. A duck befriends
a tortoise, even chasing everyone else away so the big guy can eat
alone. An orphaned fawn chooses a great dane as her mother; even now,
with a family of her own, she has joyful reunions.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC.

After loaning Tuesday to election
coverage, “The Voice” is grabbing everyone else's space.

On Monday (in its regular spot), it
started the live performances of the top 20. Tonight, it wraps that
up and viewers vote. On Thursday, each five-person team will lose two
people.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX.

Here's the start of a two-parter that
hits the extremes.

The story – set in a 1960's insane
asylum – includes intriguing claims of alien abduction, Nazi war
crimes and more. It's brilliantly acted by Jessica Lange and Evan
Peter (both who played other roles in he show last season), Zachary
Quinto and a wondrously fragile Lizzie Brochere.

Still, the story makes perplexing leaps
between real and perceived truths. And producer Ryan Murphy is back
to his old “Nip/Tuck” fascination with bitter endings.

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

The 10th edition assembles21
people, many of them intriguing.

One was a Tokyo banker; another was
knighted in Belguim. One is a former model; she and another
contestant are friends, living in the same apartment building and
getting the same tattoo. And one saw a hot career snuffed by a drug
problem; he came back andwas named “the most hated chef in Dallas.”

In a fairly good episode tonight, they
split into four groups, to audition at judges' restaurants .

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.
It's reality-overkill night, with a collision of “Voice,”
:Survivor” and “X Factor.” In this one, each of the four judges
has trimmed to three contestants

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Axl
is supposed to get better grades, now that his injury – caused by
his sister – may prevent a football scholarship. Also, their mom
has a rough start in dental-assistant class.

– “Hachi: A Dog's Tale” (2008),
8-10 p.m., Hallmark. Based on a true story in Japan, here's the warm
and heart-breaking tale of one pet's loyalty. Lasse Hallstrom
(“Chocolat”) directed beautifully.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
With Haley in jail for underage drinking, everyone gets involved. Her
parents ask Mitchell to be her lawyer and Cam to watch the other
kids.

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Juliette tries to deal with her drug-addicted mother. Deacon wants to
help, but that brings up painful memories for him.

– “LOLwork” debut, 11 p.m., Bravo
(with “Watch What Happens Live” moving to 11:30). This reality
show is set at an office that puts cute kittens and such on the Web.
The videos are great; the rest so-so.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Election, all
night.

This is the day people have talked
about – sometimes yelled about – for months or years.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all start
coverage at 7 p.m. ET; so does PBS, sort of, because that's when its
“Newshour” starts. And the news channels will be talking about it
all day.

Many of the key swing states – Ohio,
Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina – are in the Eastern time
zone, so it would be possible to predict a winner early. After their
troubles in 2000, however, most networks are likely to hesitate.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Emily Owens,
M.D.,” 9 p.m., CW.

For people who really don't want
election news, CW has reruns of two promising new series.

It had originally planned to show the
“Emily Owens” pilot film, but then switched. This is the episode
that aired last week, when some viewers were distracted by the storm.

Emily (Mamie Gummer, a fine actress who
resembles her mom, Merle Streep) is a smart surgeon and a bumbling
person. Nurses mock her, bosses distrust her, Will doesn't share her
affection and she doesn't notice Micah's. Tonight, she tries to
forget all that while talking to teen girls about safe sex.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Daily
Show” and “The Colbert Report,” 11 and 11:30 p.m. ET, Comedy
Central; repeating at midnight.

Already holding 10 straight Emmys for
best variety show, “The Daily Show” is having one of its best
years. It has feasted on the election-year inanities of many
politicians and news shows.

Usually, things are mocked a day after
they happen. Tonight, however, both shows go live, with catchy titles
– “The Daily Show: This Ends Now” and “The Colbert Report: A
Nation Votes; Ohio Decides.”

Other choices include”

– “The Men Who Built America,”
3-11 p.m., History. Here's the full series in one gulp, with six
hours of reruns and then the two-hour finale at 9. Giant figures –
Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Edison and more – scheme
with and against each other, creating vertical monopolies.

– “Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW. This is a
rerun of last week's episode; the show's fourth; the fifth will debut
Wednesday. Tonight, our hero – a playboy by day and vigilante by
night – is convinced someone is being framed for murder; he asks
his ex-girlfriend Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to prove innocence. At the
mansion, his mom (Susanna Thompson) has secretly withdrawn $2.6
million; Walter (Colin Salmon) – her husband and the company's
former chief financial officer – investigates.

– “Puppy Love” (2012), 8 p.m.,
Hallmark. Through a string of mix-ups, two strangers sort of own the
same dog. Not to worry: The dog is cute, so are they (Candace Cameron
Bure and Victor Webster) and Hallmark has a pleasant-enough,
feel-good movie.

– “Princess Protection Program”
(2009), 8:30 p.m., Disney. After a coup in her country, a princess
(Demi Lovato) tries to blend into small-town Louisiana, living with a
non-royal teen (Selena Gomez).

– “Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m.,
FX. Emotions were shattered last week, when Gemma admitted she was
high on drugs when she drove with her grandkids. They survived the
crash, but now Tara hates Gemma, who hates (and loves) Clay; Jax –
who suspects Clay of many things – searches for a solution.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC.

For some fans, Nathan Fillion will be
frozen forever in “Firefly.” The science-fiction series lasted
only 14 episodes, but it was followed by fan conventions, a movie and
more.

Now
Fillion has a dandy hour, filled with sci-fi nuggets. It starts with
a take-off of William Shatner in his “Star Trek” days (delivered
perfectly by Jeff Galfer) and ends with “Ideal Woman,” a Ben
Folds song Shatner recorded in 2004. Jonathan Frakes (“Star Trek:
The Next Generation”) directs a fun mystery about murder at a fan
convention, with Armin Shimerman (“Deep Space Nine”) as a
suspect.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Like
“Castle,” this starts with the discovery of a body in an odd
setting. It's a gory-yet-funny scene, complete with an opera-singing
garbage man.

Unlike “Castle,” that's followed by
a relatively mundane mystery. Still, it's good to see “Bones”
back after a month-plus break; also, this episode is brightened by
Sweets staying with Brennan and Booth.

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

In rural Jordan, we meet a 32-year-old
mother of four. Everyone in the village is unemployed, she says; days
are spent smoking and drinking tea.

Then strangers offer her a chance to go
to Barefoot College, where women (many illiterate) learn to be solar
engineers in six months, then create mini-industries back home. But
can she accept? Can she stay? “Solar Mamas” is an intimate and
involving documentary.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATVE II: “The Voice”
(NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10 p.m.

With Tuesday ruled by election results,
both shows must scramble.

NBC's solution is to extend “Voice”
through Thursday. ABC's is to have another week without results.

That's OK, because the results have
been weird. Sabrina Bryan started last week in first place in judges'
scores, then added this edition's first perfect, 30-point night.
Viewers promptly ousted her.

Other choices inclue:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. The entire CBS line-up tonight has episodes that were
scheduled for last week and then – on a night dominated by storm
coverage – delayed. In this one, Ted has questions about his
relationship with Victoria (Ashley Williams).

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
When a pre-approved credit card arrives, Max and Caroline have
opposite views of how to use it. Also, Earl (Garrett Morris) meets
his estranged son (Cedric the Entertainer), who is in New York hoping
to be an entertainer.

– Mob Boss, 9 p.m., Fox. This fifth
episode – like the first one – has Grace's friends in the Mob
urgin her to kill someone. (She really needs new friends.) It's a
so-so episode, with good moments when triggering strong memories of
her tough childhood.

– “The Real Housewives of Beverly
Hills” season-opener, 9 p.m., Bravo. Camille Grammer shows up in
this episode, but won't be a regular this year. Stepping in is Yolana
Hadid Foster, a Dutch former model who is the fourth wife of music
composer-producer David Foster.

– “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley”
debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. In a sharp change-of-pace, Bravo goes for
brainy types. This focuses on six young people hoping for high-tech
success.

– “Revolution,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.
This series – about a world without electricity – probably
doesn't seem like science-fiction to viewers hit by the storm.
Tonight, Charlie finds children on their own.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Call the
Midwife” season-finale, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Imposing and clumsy (physically and
socially), Chummy seemed destined for sidekick duty.

Not any more. With sharp writing and a
terrific actress (6-foot-1 Miranda Hart), she has soared. Two of
tonight's plots – Sister Monica Joan suspected of theft, Jenny torn
by a past love – are so-so. All is forgiven, however, when we see
Chummy at a latenight emergency … and meeting her imperious mother
… and shyly romancing the constable. With those, “Midwife” ends
its season beautifully.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “666 Park
Avenue,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Now for the aftershocks of last week's
masquerade party.

Jane (Rachael Taylor) can't convince
people she was attacked by a killer from 1929. Gavin (Terry O'Quinn)
is desperate to learn who stole from him. Meanwhile, Jane – and
viewers – may finally learn the key thing: How does she tie into
this; why were she and her husband lured to this strange building?

WEEKEND'S ALTERNATIVE:“Dexter,” 9
p.m. Sunday, Showtime.

“I really need to kill someone,”
Dexter grumbles. He has an ideal target, but watch out.

As played by Yvonne Strahovski
(“Chuck”), Hannah McKay is smart, sexy, secretive and terribly
capable, with a tad of vulnerability. Tonight's final minutes are
sensational.

Other choices include:

– “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.
Making up for some of the time it lost to baseball and the debates,
Fox gives “X Factor” an extra night, borrowing the cartoons'
spots.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Remember Jorge Garcia of “Lost”? Now he's the evil giant
above the beanstalk. Emma needs to steal his magic compass, to find
Storybrooke with Mary Margaret.

– “SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama
bin Laden,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic. The raid is told as a
movie, with cable stars – Anson Mount (“Hell on Wheels”),
Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under”) and Kathleen Robertson
(“Boss”) – in the leads.

– “Love at the Thanksgiving
Parade,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. For 77years, Chicago's parade has
escaped national attention; now it gets ts own movie, an adequate and
light-hearted one. Autumn Reeser plays the organizer of the Chicago
parade; Antonio Cupo is the outsider who may oppose it.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). A week from its soap-style conclusion,
“Upstairs, Downstairs” finds Hallam sinking deeper into trouble,
via his affair with his wife's sister.

– “Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. On the personal side, this focuses beautifully on Nucky's wife
and his mistress, a showgirl with new layers of depth. Still, the
hallmark involves sudden explosions – of personal rage (twice) and
more. That peaks fiercely in tonight's final minutes.

– “The Good Wife,” about 9:30
p.m., CBS. A soldier (Amanda Peet) says she was raped by a civilian
contractor in Afghanistan. His lawyer (Brian Dennehy) insists a rule
prohibits her from suing.

– “The Mentalist,” 10:30 p.m.,
CBS. The team searches for a couple that may have been kidnapped do
to a mistaken identity.