TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Country Music
Association awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Things are expected to start zestfully:
Blake Shelton sings “Footloose” with Kenny Loggins … who
co-wrote and performed the song (No. 1 on the Billboard chart) 28
years ago.

That launches a night that adds rock
touches. Natasha Bedingfield sings “Easy” with Rascal Flatts;
Lionel Richie sings with Rascal Flatts (again), Little Big Town and
Darius Rucker. And Glenn Campbell – the country star who was once a
rock guitarist – will be the focus of a medley by three guitar
stars, Keith Urban, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley.

It's a big night for Paisley, who also
co-hosts with Carrie Underwood and joins her for “Remind Me.”
Other performers include Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Lady
Antebellum, Chris Young, Jason Aldean, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Eric
Church, the Band Perry and the Zac Brown Band.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Up All Night,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

With ABC's comedies getting a week off,
this is the time to sample NBC's show.

At 8 p.m., Chris and Reagan (Will
Arnett and Christina Applegate) finally get to go out. They leave the
baby behind with Ava (Maya Rudolph) … who meets a neighbor (Jason
Lee) who impresses her.

Then is a rerun of a terrific episode,
flashing back to the baby's birth. Reagan has a meticulous “birth
plan”; Chris figures he'll return to work in a few days. They're in
for large surprises and sharp comedy.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Whitechapel,”
10 p.m., BBC America.

Two weeks ago, we met an upper-crust
Englishman, groomed for fast promotion. Then came a case he couldn't
shake, with a Jack the Ripper expert and a series of Ripper-like
murders.

That story started slowly, but ends
powerfully, as the team tries to prevent a copy of Jack's final
murder. A taut thriller pace is linked with a solemn British sense of
quiet honor.

Other choices include:

– “Vietnam in HD,” 7-11 p.m.,
History. First is a rerun of Tuesday's excellent opener, with
Americans expecting to win quickly. At 9, the Tet offensive brings
the fighting to the streets of Saigon.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). The harpy eagle, in Venezuela, stands three feet
tall, has a six-foot wingspan and moves with deadly speed. This
documentary has way too much self-centered narration, with the
filmmaker telling his feelings; still, it great footage of a
compelling bird.

– “Harry's Law,” 9 p.m., NBC. All
of this show's original quirks and charm are gone now; this is simply
a standard, talky lawyer show. Still, some of the talk is
well-crafted. One story tonight – a town that bans foreign cars –
is so-so; the other – a Chinese baby who was kidnapped – draws
deep emotion.

– “Coast Guard Alaska” debut, 9
p.m., Weather Channel. Off the Southern edge of Alaska, Kodiak Island
has 5,000 brown bears and a tough mission: Based here, the Coast
Guard spans huge distances for rescues and more. There are no big
moments tonight, but there are solid people worth meeting.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. Three people died in a crash, but four brains were
found at the crash site.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Glee,” 8 p.m.,
Fox.

When this show began, Kevin McHale was
mostly in the background. As Artie, doing dance routines while
confined to a wheelchair, he was mostly providing a sight gag.

Now he has a stronger role. Tonight,
Artie is directing the club as it prepares to do “West Side Story.”
Meanwhile, Finn has a college recruiter and Coach Beiste has an
admirer.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “In the
Spotlight,” 10 p.m., ABC.

On the eve of the Country Music
Association awards, Robin Robers has her second Nashville special.

Roberts follows Kenny Chesney and Faith
Hill on tour and also has reports dealing with opposite emotions: She
follows Sugarland in its return to Indiana, where five people were
killed when the stage collapsed during the duo's concert; she follows
Scotty McCreery, the “American Idol” winner, back to high school
and spends a day with runner-up Lauren Alaina.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Vietnam in
HD” debut, 9-11 p.m., History.

This was supposed to be the 1960s
version of shock-and-awe: American troops poured into Vietnam, amid
talk of an eight-week victory.

Then they saw how difficult this would
be. In one early battle, they were outnumbered 8-1, surviving only by
massive bombing; in another, they fought fiercely to win a hill, then
left six days later.

These stories are vividly told by some
of the people there – soldiers and reporter (and Bronze Star
winner) Joe Galloway. Skillfully mixing film and memories, it's a
strong start to a three-night series.

Other choices include:

– “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of
Awesomeness,” 5:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Like Monday's opener, this
episode ripples with verbal wit and sharp sight gags; unlike that
one, it has quite a bit of mild cartoon violence, so some parents
might say no. This adventure pairs the wide-eyed Po and the cynical
Tigress.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A plane
carrying caskets with soldiers' bodie, has crashed. DNA evidence,
however, clashes with military records.

– NCIS: Los Angeles, 9 p.m. CBS. The
team heads into Mexico, in search of deadly material.

– “New Girl,” 9:01 p.m., Fox.
When Jess' friend Cece visits, there are plenty of complications.
Schmidt puts the move on her; also, she convinces Jess that Nick is
interested in her romantically.

– “Raising Hope,” 9:31 p.m., Fox.
Jimmy fumes when Sabrina's latest suitor is 13 years old. Also, his
grandmother swallows a gold tooth and his parents ponder the messy
task of getting it back.

– “Women, War and Peace”
conclusion, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). When the Cold War
ended, people heralded a peaceful era. Instead, there's been an
average of 30 wars a year, mostly in smaller countries. There are
many reasons, including the dispersement of former Soviet weapons,
this sharp overview says. Meanwhile, women have often been the prime
victims and the key peacemakers.

– “Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX.
Clay (Ron Perlman) has already spun out of control, scheming to get
rid of Tara. He goes even further tonight, in a horrific scene with
Gemma.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Julie &
Julia” (2006), 9 p.m., Lifetime.

Two real-life stories have been deftly
weaved together by writer-director Nora Ephron.

One has Julia Child moving to Paris in
1948 and learning – clumsily, at first – French cooking. The
other has a modern New Yorker vowing to use Child recipes every day
for a year.

Wonderfully played by Meryl Streep and
Amy Adams, both women are delights.

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

This show's debut mostly lived up to
its promises.

There were well-crafted reports from
Harry Smith (a jobs boom in North Dakota) and Kate Snow (rich
foreigners visiting so they can have American-born babies). Brian
Williams, the anchor, added humor with a short report and a
delightful Jon Stewart chat. Only a Richard Engel report fell short.

Tonight, Williams meets Tina Fey – a
promising combination – and Engel reports on why the relatively
small country of Greece has shaken the world's economy. Also, Dr.
Nancy Snyderman reports on a girl who had a forced sterilization (in
the U.S., in 1968) at 13.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: “Kung Fu Panda:
Legends of Awesomeness,” 5:30 p.m., Nickelodeon.

This is a terrific trend: DreamWorks
creates a popular, animated movie – first “Madagascar,” then
“Kung Fu Panda.” After sequels, it adds a TV version that
crackles with wit and sight gags.

For “Panda” most of the voice
actors have changed – the exceptions are Lucy Liu and James Hong as
Viper and Mr. Ping – but the fun remains. It airs at 5:30 p.m.
weekdays; in this opener, Po ignores the no-food-here rule; he soon
destroys the training facility and empowers a dangerous enemy.

Other choices include:

– “The Sing-Off,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.
There are only six groups left, so they each perform twice – a rock
classic and a country hit. Also, they link in the opener to do “Wake
Up,” the Arcade Fire song.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. The friends recall what happened to during Hurricane
Irene.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Trying to make some extra money with a cleaning business, the
women find a huge challenge – a hoarder's apartment.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Alan is especially grumpy, now that his mom is busy
re-decorating the beach house for Walden.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Jamie
Bamber (“Battlestar Galactica”) plays a respected man who has
been keeping a dark secret. When he confesses, it may compromise his
ability to be saved medically.

– “Bored to Death,” 10 p.m., HBO.
This fun episode is a busy one for Ted Danson as George. He has a
music teacher (played by Danson's wife Mary Steenburgen), goes to
counseling with Jonathan and investigates a competitor's restaurant.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. An
Atlantic City casino-owner has been killed in New York. Kate stays in
town for the investigation, but Rick figures it will be more fun to
be in Atlantic City.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Don't expect anything middling here.
Visually and emotionally, “Time” is big and plush.

Tonight, we learn how Snow White and
Prince Charming met. It's a sweeping adventure; it also may be the
first time you'll hear someone say: “You've got a lot of anger
there, don't you Snow?”

We also see a modern story, as a
nameless man lies in a coma and a teacher feels linked. They are, a
boy tells them, the transformed Charming and White; epic battles are
on the way.

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

This year's “Masterpiece
Contemporary” has only two new weeks; fortunately, they're great
ones.

Tonight, an old spy (Bill Nighy) is
wedged between forces. His best friend (Michael Gambon) is married to
his ex-wife and gives him documents; he tries to keep his life and
his pension.

Written and directed by David Hare
(Oscar-nominated for his great “The Reader” and “The Hours”
scripts), this is tangled but worthy. A great cast include Rachel
Weisz, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on
Wheels” debut, 10 p.m., AMC.

The Civil War is over, but not much has
changed for Elam Ferguson and other blacks. With a former slave-owner
as their boss, they work on a railroad, which will make a corrupt man
rich.

Still, this boss fits no stereotypes.
He freed his own slaves, then fought for the South; now he's on an
unstated mission of revenge and these two will become unlikely
allies. The result is sometimes way too gory, but it's written, acted
and filmed with skill and intensity.

Other choices include:

– Animation, 1 p.m. to midnight, ABC
Family. It's non-stop quality here, good for any age. That starts and
ends with Pixar's “Cars” (2006) at 1 and 9:30 p.m.; Pixar also
contributes short films at 3:30, followed by two traditional gems,
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991) at 5:30 and “Aladdin” (1992) at
7:30.

– “America in Primetime,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). After years of fathers-know-best, TV men
dads became overwhelmed and clumsy. Then Bill Cosby strode in for a
temporary reversal. That and other stories provide a skillful look at
the change in TV men.

– “Trashopolis,” 8 p.m.,
Smithsonian Channel. Some people profited immensely from New York
City's garbage, this terrific hour says. The Dutch built their
seaport on oyster shells; Robert Moses built expressways, bridges and
parks on garbage. Corrupt politicians controlled the dump sites; the
Mafia ruled the hauling services. It's a big story, starting a
five-week series on cities and their trashy pasts.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Things are more desperate, now that the body of Gabrielle's
stepfather is gone. Bree is stunned to learn who dug it up; in a very
funny scene, Gabrielle and Carlos look for potential guardians for
their daughters.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Peter reluctantly investigates Will's past mistakes.

– “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,”
9 p.m., Bravo. Life is in chaos, especially for the pregnant Kim
Zolciak. This ends with NeNe Leakes and Sheree Whitfield in an
unrelenting and illogical clash.

– “CSI Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS. Drea
de Matteo (“The Sopranos”) plays one of the players in a
high-stakes poker game that was interrupted by a masked killer.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch
Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., TBS.

No, your calendar isn't wrong. There
still are 50 days until Christmas, but cable gives us two holiday
specials – a new miniseries on Hallmark and this classic on TBS.

Back in 1966, forces linked perfectly.
Dr. Seuss' “Grinch” tale had humor and heart; co-director Chuck
Jones adding visual flair. Boris Karloff narrated; Thurl Ravenscroft
and June Foray (the voices of Tony the Tiger and Rocky Squirrel)
added the song and the voice of Cindy Lou Who. It's a masterpiece.

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

After three weeks of reruns, the show
is back to new episodes for the “sweeps” ratings period.

That includes the first hosting gig for
Charlie Day (“Horrible Bosses” and “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia”) tonight and the second for Emma Stone, next week.
Tonight's music guest is Maroon 5.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: The Pastor's
Wife, 8 p.m., Lifetime.

Back in 2006, the quiet wife of a
clergyman in small-town Tennessee killed her husband with a shotgun,
then drove away with their daughters. She was soon arrested in
Alabama.

It's a strange story, beautifully told
here. Canadian director Norma Bailey offers a sharp, distinctive
style and Rose McGowan is superb in the title role.

Other choices include:

– “The Roy Rogers Show” (noon)
and “Roy Rogers' 100th Birthday” (8:30-9:30 p.m.),
RFD-TV. This channel – via satellite and some cable systems –
celebrates what would have been the 100th birthday of the
cowboy king. There's a regular rerun at noon and a special from
Rogers' old California ranch – with interviews, plus music by his
son and grandson – at 8:30.

– Football, 8 p.m., CBS. The two
top-rated teams collide, as Louisiana State visits Alabama. And the
No. 3 team? Oklahoma State hosts Kansas State on ABC or ESPN2, on a
busy football day.

– “Harry's Law” and “Prime
Suspect,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. You have to treat these hours
cautiously: Last week, in a late change, NBC switched both of its
shows. So tonight's reruns MIGHT involve a return of Harriet's fierce
nemesis (Jean Smart) at 8 and a maybe-deadly prostitute at 9.

– More movies, 8 p.m. This is a night
for beautifully made movies, sweet (“Beauty and the Beast,” 1991,
on ABC Family) or brutal (Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning work in
“There Will Be Blood,” 2007, on AMC). Also, Turner Classic Movies
has James Dean's “East of Eden” (1955).

– “Love's Christmas Journey,” 8
p.m. to midnight, Hallmark. After success with movies from Janette
Oke's frontier novels, Hallmark tries a mini-series. After the death
of her husband and daughter, Ellie visits her brother. Natalie Hall
(“All My Children”) stars, with Sean Astin, JoBeth Williams and
more.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 8:30
p.m., TBS. Here's another great movie; your VCR could be busy.

– “Terra Nova,” 9 p.m., Fox. A
flock of dinosaur birds endangers the community in this rerun. Also,
Elisabeth learns a former love interest may be responsible for
bringing her and her family here.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. A young mother says her car was stolen with
the baby inside. When stories don't add up, police dig in..