TV column for Monday, Jan. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Following, 9
p.m., Fox.

The grisliest moment is past us now and
viewers can settle in for a great character drama.

At the core are Ryan Hardy (Kevin
Bacon), a former FBI agent, and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a
brilliant author, professor and serial killer. He's back in prison,
but his followers are at work.

To get back at Carroll's wife (and
Hardy's ex-lover), they've kidnapped his son. That's led by a nanny
with a sweet face and fierce mind. A flashback with her own mom is
stunning and startling.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Dallas”
season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., TNT.

Larry Hagman – who died Nov. 23, at
81 – was still in fine form when these episodes were filmed.
Still, don't expect the sly pace of his old “Dallas.” This is
soap-on-steroids, with absurd developments shoveled atop each other.
No one needs to dig for dirt; it's all on the surface, waiting to be
strip-mined.

Even Bobby Ewing's family is
susceptible. His new wife is reduced to a whimper; his adopted son
Christopher learn the true identity of the woman he briefly married.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Carrie
Diaries,” 8 p.m., CW.

There would be every reason to give up
on this teen version of Carrie Bradshaw, who's kind of a snitch.
Tonight, she tells on herself (needlessly) to her dad and her
boyfriend; she also tells on her sister.

Still, “Diaries” is fun to watch.
Set in 1984, it offers bright colors, big hair and bursts of
optimism. AnnaSophia Robb is immensely likable as Carrie weaves
between her suburban life and the Manhattan that her future self
mastered in “Sex and the City.”

TONIGHT'S ODDITY: “Built” debut, 9
p.m., Style.

A reality show about guys who are
models and handymen? It sounds silly, especially when following the
truly awful season-opener of “Jerseylicious.” Still, it's a
competent home-improvement show.

The guys – educated as a lawyer, an
aeronautical engineer, etc. – have a “Hot and Handy” company
and work with a skilled designer. Tonight, they convert a mansion's
third floor into a gorgeous mega-closet for a woman who has, we're
told, $300,000 in handbags alone.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelor,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.
One woman gets a glamorous date, but the others don't have it as
easy. There's rock-climbing, roller derby and an ambulance ride to
the hospital.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m.,CBS. In a rerun, people have a haunting realization: They're
dating (or married to) people a lot like one of their parents.

– “Jerseylicious” season-opener,
8 p.m., Style. One woman announces she'll have “the Jersey version
of the royal wedding, only bigger.” Then people screech at each
other a lot.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8:30,
CBS. In its final Monday rerun (before “Rules of Engagement”
returns), this show finds Sheldon being jealous, when the comic-store
guy asks Amy for a date.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a funny rerun, two Amish men want to sample city life. Max and
Caroline are glad to help – especially if the guys will build a
barn for Caroline's horse.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, Castle and Beckett plan a romantic weekend in the Hamptons.
Then, of course, a dying man stumbles into the yard and falls into
the swimming pool.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m. Sunday, PBS (check local listings).

Let's forget about the “Downton”
elegance and glamor. This episode – the mid-section of a seven-week
season – is tough, wrenching and deeply moving.

The estate's finances are wobbling.
Bates' wife and lawyer hit roadblocks as they try to free him. Lady
Sybil's pregnancy draws conflicting advice from the local doctor and
a visiting expert. And Matthew's mother hires a former prostitute as
her maid. All are strong stories; one hits with a fierce impact.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Makeover,”
9-11 p.m., ABC.

The “Pygmalion”/“My Fair Lady”
story switches genders here. A politico (Julia Stiles) tries to
transform a rough-hewn guy (David Walton) into a congressional
candidate.

The result has all the sleek production
values we expect from “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” partly making up
for a key flaw: Throughout it, she shows little interest in his views
about government.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Football, 7 p.m.
ET, NBC.

Some years, the Pro Bowl loses its fan
favorites. They're in the Super Bowl and skip this all-star game.

Not this year, with two underdogs (the
Ravens and 49ers) getting the Super spots. For this game, they were
going to provide no quarterbacks, no receivers and two reserve
running backs.

That leaves lots of starpower here –
Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and more.

Other choices include:

– “Goodnight For Justice: Queen of
Hearts,” noon and 2, 8 and 10 p.m, Hallmark Movie Chanel. Luke
Perry again plays John Goodnight, an honest judge riding the frontier
circuit. Now he meets a cunning beauty whom people want to kill or
capture. There are slow stretches and the best line is stolen from
“Butch Cassidy,” but it's a solid-enough cowboy tale.

– Figure skating, 3-5 p.m., NBC. The
men compete for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (Women had
their turn Saturday night.) That follows a “Love on Ice” special
(1-3 p.m.), with Nancy Kerrigan, Sasha Cohen, Elvis Stojko and
Michael Weiss.

– Screen Actors Guild awards, 8
p.m.,TBS, 8 and 10, TNT. Dick Van Dyke gets a lifetime award and
others are up for movie or TV awards. In movies, Golden Globe winners
Daniel Day-Lewis and Hugh Jackman face Denzel Washington, Bradley
Cooper and John Hawkes; Globe winners Jessica Chastain and Jennifer
Lawrence face Naomi Watts, Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard.

– “Wicked Tuna,” 8 p.m., National
Geographic. There's a protocol to tuna fishing, we're told; if one
boat finds a good spot, the others stay away. But then come all the
exceptions: Someone is mad … or having a bad run of luck … or
just got there sooner. In an OK episode, tempers flare.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
There are money problems everywhere: Will and Diane confront their
creditors; Alicia gets a job offer that includes financial risk.

– “Girls” and “Enlightened,”
9 and 9:30 p.m., HBO. In an odd quirk, both shows have characters
sampling cocaine, with quick highs and lows. “Enlightened” is
pretty good, with Levi struggling at the same rehab center Amy loved.
“Girls” has one of its best episodes, a wildly perverse outing in
which Lena, working free-lance, can make $200 by doing drugs and
writing about it on the Internet.

– “TheMentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
25-year-old case may involve Red John AND the Visualize group.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 26


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

Adam Levine is your all-purpose NBC
star. He coaches on “The Voice,” visits Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon
and did the New Year's Eve show. Twice, his Maroon 5 band was the
“SNL” music guest.

Now he has his first time as host;
Kendrick Lamar is music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Figure-skating,
3-6 p.m. and 8-11p.m., NBC.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships
dominate the weekend.

The duo and dance finals are this
afternoon; then the women have their solo finals tonight. Things wrap
up from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, when the men have their finals. On both
days, the commentary is by Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezick and others.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Goodnight For
Justice: Queen of Hearts,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel.

Luke Perry returns to the role of John
Goodnight, an honest judge riding the frontier circuit. Always on the
move, he lacks a home or a friend; a canny beauty (Katharine
Isabelle) easily attracts him.

There's a catch, of course: Lots of
people want to capture or kill her, possibly with good reason.

We'll have to forgive some slow
stretches. And the fact that the best line is stolen from “Butch
Cassidy.” And that the villain (Rick Schroder) has widely variable
competence. This is still an OK part of a cowboy day, following “Mail
Order Bride” (2008) at 4 p.m. and “Hannah's Law” (2012) at 6.

Other choices include:

– “Snow Beast” (2011), 7 p.m.;
and “The Abominable Snowman” (1996), 9 p.m., Syfy. This
double-feature could cure any temptation to go outdoors in the winter
time. Large beasts lurk.

– “The Taste,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.
Here's a rerun of Tuesday's opener. It's identical to “The Voice”
– four celebrities choosing people before seeing them – with two
key differences: There are no spinning chairs and, alas, no chances
for viewers to form an opinion. Until TV's transmit tastes, this will
be so-so.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sam has disappeared during undercover work in Sudan.

– “Chloe” (2009), 8-10 p.m.,
Lifetime Movie Network. What might have been just another seductress
tale becomes much more, thanks to gifted director Atom Egoyan and a
great cast. Convinced that her husband (Liam Neeson) is cheating on
her, a woman (Julianne Moore) hires a young beauty (Amanda Seyfried)
to lure him. Then come the extra layers of depth and suprise.

– “Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. This is set in a Victorian London neighborhood that was
terrorized by Jack the Ripper. An honest cop (Matthew Macfadyen, who
was Mr. Darcy in the most recent “Pride & Prejudice”) and a
decadent doctor try to catch crooks. Tonight, they find a youth gang
that's sort of “Oliver Twist” turned deadly. Like last week's
opener, it's dark and dreary, but well-made.

– “Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual,”
9 and 9:30 p.m., WE. These episodes see Lauper making a
public-service announcement and trying to dine alone with her
husband. They rerun from 10-11 p.m. and midnight to 1 a.m.; others
(Cannes and Coney Island) rerun from 8-9 p.m. and 11 p.m. to
midnight.

– “20/20, 10 p.m., ABC. After a
couple of 8 p.m. tries, the Saturday edition moves to 10.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Following”
(Fox) or “Carrie Diaries” (CW), both 9 p.m.

Mondays are overcrowded; Fridays are
not. So here's a rerun of whichever show you missed Monday.

At one extreme is the “Following”
opener – intense, gory (way too gory in one scene) and
well-crafted. Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI guy, with James
Purefoy as a smart serial killer.

At the other is the second “Carrie
Diaries” – fun and frothy. We meet Carrie Bradford before her
“Sex and the City” days; tonight, she tell lies to retain her
suburban teen life and her Manhattan dreams.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS.

Next Thursday, a new “sweeps” month
begins and most reruns disappear. Before that, however, this show and
“CSI: NY” both go back to their season-openers.

An old enemy (Michael Madsen) seeks
revenge on Danny by kidnapping his police partner (Jennifer
Esposito). Meanwhile, Jamie meets his new partner and a young cop
(Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical”) is shaken after
accidentally shooting an innocent man.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Spartacus”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Starz; repeats at 10.

The season opens with what “Spartacus”
fans expect – an epic attack, flowing blood, rampant gore and more:
It's richly crafted, yet pushes everything – believability and
civility – to the breaking point.

Then, of course, there's mass sex
involving lots of Olympic-quality bodies, male and female.

Gradually, “Spartacus” starts a
story that can propel this final season. So far, the Romans have been
led by preening fools. Now we meet Marcus Crassus; he's tough,
earnest, rich and deceptively clever.

Other choices include:

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In the rerun of a fairly good episode, Mike clings to the only
daughter who shares his interest in sports. Also, his wife is
socially clumsy with the black neighbors.

– “Fringe,” 8-11 p.m., Science
Channel; repeating, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.. A week ago, “Fringe” ended
its five-year run on Fox. That leaves a Friday-night hole this
channel is happy to fill with reruns. Here's the two-parter with
Walter confronting Bell (Leonard Nimoy); then the alternate Olivia
poses as her.

– “Malibu Country,” 8:31 p.m.,
ABC. This rerun has Reba reluctantly trying a blind date.

– “Shakespeare Uncovered” debut,
9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Slickly produced, this offers
fresh insights via historic locations, movie clips and more. First,
Ethan Hawke discusses “Macbeth”; then Joely Richardson views two
broad comedies, “Twelfth Night” and “As You Like It.”

– “True Justice,” 9 p.m., Reelz;
repeats at 11. Last week, we met a vile human-trafficker; in an OK
episode tonight, Kane (Steven Seagal) closes in. Also, a former
colleague is killed and Kane almost – but not quite – emotes.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, Mac's friend, a fire chief, has been killed in a blaze. The
result reflects the methods of an arsonist (Rob Morrow of “Northern
Exposure”) who's just been paroled.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Janet
Montgomery, whose CBS show (“Made in Jersey”) died abruptly,
makes her second appearance here as Princess Mithian, desperately
seeking help. Alas, this is all part of Morgana's dark scheme for
revenge.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Last Resort," 8 p.m., ABC.

This show's pilot film rippled with
ethical dilemmas. Refusing to fire nuclear missiles that would have
killed four million Pakistanis, a captain moved his submarine crew to
a tropical island.

The show is slick and smart … and
never found an audience; now it ends its 13-episode run. Two forces
battle for control of the sub … making it vulnerable to a third
party that has its own agenda.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “30 Rock,” 8
p.m., NBC.

A week after “Last Resort” ends its
short run, this show will end a long one.

In each of its first three seasons, “30
Rock” won the Emmy for best comedy; for the next three, it was
nominated. Now it will wrap up its seventh and final season (just 13
episodes) next week.

Tonight, Liz tries to rescue her
variety show, while Jenna and Tracy worry more about what's ahead.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “1600 Penn,”
9:31 p.m., BC.

When this comedy debuted, we met a
good-guy president(Bill Pullman), his smart-and-glamorous second wife
(Jenna Elfman), his four kids and his crisis: His brainy daughter is
pregnant.

Three episodes later, we finally meet
the expectant father … and realize this show has depth. Under his
hunky exterior, this is a decent guy with sly wit; under her sharp
exterior, the First Daughter makes a false assumption. There are
broad sight gags, as “Penn” shows it can juggle large and small
laughs.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon insists that Stephen Hawking is now his close friend –
until an Online word game drives them part. Also, in this terrific
rerun, Penny tries a college class.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. It's been a good year for this show, but here's the
screeching exception. There are lots of jokes about three-way sex,
with minimum wit and maximum crudeness.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. The girls
set up a Sadie Hawkins Dance, so they can ask the guys out. Also,
Sam keeps pushing to prove that the Warblers cheated during
sectionals.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Here's an overload of feelings: Meredith has pregnancy hormones,
Arizona has phantom pain after losing her leg and everyone frets
about the arrival of a new doctor.

– “Chasing the Saturdays,” 9
p.m., E. In England, we're told, the Saturdays have had 11 singles in
the top-10. Now this reality show follows the five young women on a
three-month visit to the U.S. They vary sharply – from the sunny
Mollie King to Frankie Sandford, fighting depression. Mostly,
however, this rerun of Sunday's opener matches the upbeat amiability
of their music.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. The
main story – a copycat of crimes done 13 years earlier – is
so-so, but this rerun has strong moments for two supporting
characters: Watson digs for a personal detail from Sherlock Holmes;
also, Gregson shows he's an honest cop who won't cover up a possible
error.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX.
Sterling's best friend – his only one, perhaps – has been
accused of killing colleagues, stealing money and faking his own
death. It's a funny episode (despite an overload of jokes about gay
leanings), sandwiched by new round of “Anger Management” at 9:30
and “Legit” at 10:30.