TV column for Monday, Oct. 28

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Pete Holmes Show” debut, midnight,

Vertically, vocally and geographically, Holmes seems to fit
the job.

He’s 6-foot-5 – the same as former late-night host Craig
Kilborn, an inch above Conan O’Brien (whom he follows). He’s from
Massachusetts, the same as O’Brien and Jay Leno. And he’s the voice of the “E-Trade
baby,” in popular commercials he sometimes helps write.

A sampling indicates he’s clumsy but clever. One sketch
(“X-Men”) is brilliant, others are very good. In the opener, his guest is
comedian-actor Kumail Nanjiani (“Franklin & Bash”) and he visits Jon

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 9 p.m., CBS.

This wraps up the three-week stretch in which “Big Bang”
reruns fill in on Mondays. Tonight, in a funny episode, Howard and Raj try to
learn why Sheldon seems to disappear at 2:45 p.m. daily.

The Monday shift began when CBS yanked “We Are Men” and
nudged “2 Broke Girls” to 8:30 p.m. “Mike & Molly” will take the 9 p.m.
slot, with a hilarious episode Nov. 4 and then two overwrought ones.

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

Chastity Salas lives with her mom in a South Bronx homeless
shelter; she’s a gifted poet eyeing top colleges. Stephanie Alvarado’s dad
moved the family from El Salvador to escape violence, then found violence in
Chicago; she’s a top student, even helping in Senegal and speaking at a
teachers-union rally.

At first, Darlene Bustos of Tulsa lacked their optimism. She
says her pregnancy (before her sophomore year) was almost intentional; now she’s
rebuilding her life. These stories – and boys’ stories next week – are told in
rich detail, peppered by the recollections of Latinos who overcame past hurdles.

Other choices include:

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Things got
scrambled when the wrong phone numbers were shown on the screen. As a result,
no one was ousted last week and only the judges’ votes carry over. Tonight,
each duo dances twice – once by itself and then in a group number

“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The “knock-out round”
begins, with contestants choosing their songs.

“The Graduate” (1967), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. This
became a true classic, thanks to Mike Nichols’ brilliant direction and Dustin
Hoffman’s breakthrough performance.

“Seduced and Abandoned,” 9 p.m., HBO. Following Alec Baldwin
and writer-director James Toback to the Cannes Film Festival, this movie has
opposite extremes. The good side: Talented people discuss the changes in
getting a movie made; their views are smart and thoughtful. The other: Toback
seems more like a huckster when pursuing financing for a shaky idea, sort of a
new version of “Last Tango in Paris.”

“Hostages,” 10 p.m., CBS. Last week’s dumbfounding episode
had the parents risk their lives so their teen children could escape … only to
have the lunk-headed son blow it. This hour has the mom (a brainy surgeon) be
the foolish one. She meets the kidnapper on his turf; also, her troubled sister

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Liz must probe a beautiful
corporate terrorist … while also being confronted by her husband … who insists
the box of fake passports is simply someone framing him.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 27

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. (or later, with
football overrun), CBS.

For months, Alicia and Cary have planned to start their own firm,
taking many of the clients with them. Now that leaks out; Will lashes back with
rumors and restraining orders, schemes and security guards.

This is about as visceral and kinetic as a lawyer show can
be. The one flaw involves using Alicia’s husband the governor as a last-minute
plot device. That offends on multiple levels and feels like the gods-from-above
endings to ancient Greek plays; it’s the lone flaw of a great hour.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “American Blackout,” 9-11 p.m.,
National Geographic.

A decade ago, a cascading power failure left 55 million
Americans and Canadians without electricity, many for two days. Now imagine
something bigger – a cyber-attack that darkens the nation for 10 days.

That’s dramatized in this compelling film, which pretends to
use raw, home-camera footage. We range from a clueless Manhattan couple to a
clue-filled disaster-preparer. Despite some fuzzy, shaky footage, “Blackout” is
compelling; you’ll never again see a can of peaches stir so much dramatic

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Civil War 360” debut, 8 p.m., Smithsonian.

This notion of political chaos, it seems, came long before
there was a Vietnam War or a Tea Party. More than 150 years ago, Irishmen in
New York raged at the draft and at the idea of freeing slaves.

They rioted[MH1] ;
they attacked the wealthy (who could buy their way out of the draft) and
lynched blacks. Already short of soldiers, Abraham Lincoln had to send troops
to stop fellow Northerners.

Such strong stories are told here, as host Ashley Judd
explores the Northern side of the war. The next two weeks have Trace Adkins
viewing the South and Dennis Haysbert surveying slaves’ lives.

Other choices include:

Sports showdown, 8 p.m ET., Fox and NBC.  For one night, the World Series and
Sunday-night football collide. Fox has the former, with Boston at St. Louis for
the fourth game of the best-of-seven series. NBC (with kick-off at 8:20) has
old rivals, one of them stumbling. The Vikings (1-5) host the Packers (4-2).

“Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
There are big changes in the hot-and-cold romance of Moray and wealthy
Katherine. That story and glimpses of earnest shopgirl Denise are entwined with
an oddly melodramatic tale of a rude barber who grabs a position in the store.

 “Drop Dead Diva,” 9
p.m., Lifetime. Life gets complicated when you die and return to life in
another body. Now that she’s become Jane, our heroine still keeps an eye on the
mother (Sharon Lawrence) of her old, departed self. That mom now faces a sticky
court case; there are scattered moments of fun.

“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. Chalky White’s grip on the
black community is challenged in some jolting moments. Also, there’s crackling-good
dialog between Nucky and Sally (Patricia Arquette).

“Eastbound & Down,” 10 pm., HBO. Kenny faces the
ultimate challenge, to stifle himself.

“The Mentalist,” 10:01 p.m. or later, CBS. A key member of
the Visualize conspiracy has been killed. Patrick Jane investigates, hoping to
find a clue to Red John.




TV column for Saturday, Oct. 26

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Baseball, 8:07 p.m. ET, Fox; with pre-game
at 7:30.

The third game of the best-of-seven World Series moves from
Boston to St. Louis, in a new-old place.

This Busch Stadium (the third with that name) is only seven
years old, but it has already seen the Cardinals win two World Series. Outside
are statues of seven Cardinal greats including Stan Musial … reminding us that
nothing is certain.  A career .331
hitter, Musial was .256 in four World Series, with only one home run and eight
RBI; baseball is interesting that way.

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

After pausing for a week of reruns, “SNL” is back to the

Tonight, Edward Norton has his first time as host, with
Janelle Morae as music guest. Next week is Kerry Washington, with Eminem.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Good Witch’s Destiny” or “Zombie
Night,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark and Syfy.

Here are the opposite extremes of Halloween. Choose one;
mock the other.

The sweet side has “Destiny,” the sixth film with Catherine
Bell as a gorgeous and good-hearted witch. In sweet Middleton, lots of small
problems appear; some require magic, more simply need logic.

The dark side is on Syfy, where zombies – everyone’s
favorites these days – are loose. This is especially gory, with even young kids
mutilated. Shirley Jones – whose Oscar-winning career has gone from Broadway to
“The Partridge Family” – has her first chance to play a blind zombie. Daryl
Hannah and Anthony Michael Hall star in a sort of “Night of the Living Dead

Other choices include:

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from a year
ago, Walden dates Charlie’s old stalker, Rose.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8:3 p.m., CBS. This rerun came after the break-up
of Andy and Caroline. Now he has closed his candy store; she goes to a psychic
who describes her future love life.

“Elementary,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a man was originally
listed as dying of a heart attack. Sherlock doubts that, once he learns the man
was on Moriarty’s hit list.

“The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC. Liz has two matters to probe,
one on her own (investigating her husband) and one at work: Red says a top
Chinese spy has asked him to translate documents.

“Dancing on the Edge,” 9 p.m., Starz. Last week’s opener
followed a jazz band in 1930s London, with admirers (some royal) and bigots.
Tonight, the leader (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his superb singer (Angel Coulby)
move ahead, nudged by a reclusive fan (Jacqueline Bisset). It’s a strong
episode -- albeit one that leans on coincidence and odd actions -- that ends
with a jolt.

“The Monster Project,” 10 p.m., NatGeo Wild. In 1609, a Vermont
pioneer said he saw a giant sea monster; ever since, sightings have been
reported in Lake Champlain. Now Judah Friedlander (“30 Rock”) and
cryptozoologists visit the site and hear stories. That wraps up a three-hour
project (repeating at 11 p.m.) that includes reports of a bloodsucking beast in
Texas and a flying giant in New Jersey.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Simpsons,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

TV people seem split over whether Halloween week needs humor
or horror. NBC goes for the latter with “Dracula” (see next item) and “Grimm”;
Fox goes for these fun reruns.

First is this year’s “Treehouse of Horror.” It has a clever
“Cat in the Hat” take-off, then puts Bart’s and Lisa’s heads on one body
fueling sibling rivalry; it also has a so-so “Freaks” take-off. Then last
year’s “Treehouse” starts with the Mayan calendar and the world ending in 2012;
if memory serves, it didn’t.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Dracula” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

One image of vampires – seductive, sexual, other-worldly –
has been burned into our minds.

Now that’s tossed aside. After being revived in the gruesome
opening scene, this Dracula re-invents himself as a sort of a tech entrepreneur
for Victorian England. He claims to be an American, with ideas that even Edison
can’t match; and he bears grudges that go back centuries.

As played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, he’s short of charisma
and empty of charm. He states a strong case -- evil bankers and businessmen ruining
the world – but it’s tough to find the moral high ground when you tear your
enemies to shreds. With dark deeds in elegant settings, this is an odd Dracula.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Carrie Diaries” season-opener, 8
p.m., CW.

A month into the season, networks are finally getting their
Friday line-ups in place.

Now we re-meet the teen version of Carrie Bradshaw
(AnnaSophia Robb). She’s not the adventurous soul of her “Sex and the City”
future; she’s a sweet suburban teen, in her first summer in Manhattan. She’s
about to meet someone – the young version of Samantha Jones – who savors the

Other choices include:

“MasterChef Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. Only six chefs remain in
this competition for ages 8-13. Now they split into two teams to run a restaurant.
Diners don’t know the three-course meals are prepared by kids.

“Dateline,” 8 p.m., NBC. This moves to an earlier spot, so
the scary stuff can start later.

“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. This reruns an episode from
last season, with the outer-space aliens reluctantly accepting Halloween. It follows
a “Last Man Standing” rerun with “Duck Dynasty” guys.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. It’s an energetic season-opener, with
double trouble: People were turned into a zombie-like state; also, Nick was
captured by forces who might not know the trouble that brings.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. For Catherine, a seemingly
harmless surveillance job suddenly becomes life-and-death. Meanwhile, Adam may
make an extreme sacrifice to save Kono.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.  A woman denies that her young daughter has been

“Strike Back: Origins” debut, 10 p.m., Cinemax. This six-week
mini-series was filmed three years ago as a pure-British production. It lacks
the amped-up sex and action of the U.S-British series that followed; instead,
it’s a solid Iraqi-kidnapping drama with gifted British actors, including Andrew
Lincoln (the “Walking Dead” star), Colin Salmon, Johdi May and Orla Brady.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to the Family,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Overwhelmed by CBS comedies, one of the best new shows is
going unnoticed. “Welcome” takes smart, likable characters and throws them into

Junior Hernandez, valedictorian, was quietly dating Molly
Yoder, pretty and flighty. Now she’s pregnant; so is her mom (Mary McCormack).
Tonight’s question involves where the young couple will live and whether anyone
– young or old – will ever have intimacy again. There are plenty of big laughs.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

This is why NBC’s sharp Thursday shows are ignored. CBS
starts the night with TV’s best comedy.

Tonight, Sheldon makes a scientific breakthrough … then
fears it will haunt him for the rest of his life. Also, Howard comes up with a romantic
gesture to impress Bernadette … making Penny worry that she should boost her efforts
with Leonard.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Blackfish,” 9-11 p.m., CNN.

Beneath the splash and flash of Sea World, this compelling documentary
says, there’s a dark side.

Powerful whales – accustomed to broad territory and family ties
– are confined to small spaces and small lives. They sometimes rebel; the
government lists more than 70 cases of trainer injuries, some fatal. Witnesses
linked one 12,000-pound orca to a death at a small Vancouver spot … which then sold
him to Sea World, where he killed an experienced and popular trainer.

“Blackfish” talks to many former trainers, who discuss going
from optimism to disillusionment.

Other choices include:

“The French Connection” (1971), 7:45 p.m., Sundance; or “The
Departed,” (2006), 8 p.m., Independent Film Chanel. Great directors find fresh
ways to tell cop stories. Here are two of the best; each won Academy Awards for
best picture, best director (William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese) and more.

Baseball, 8:07 p.m., Fox. Here’s the second World Series
game, with the pre-game show at 7:30.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. Meredith may take over her late
mother’s project.

The Crazy Ones,” 9 p.m., CBS. A worldly client (Saffron
Burrows) stirs everyone. Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wants her as a friend;
her dad (Robin Williams) wants her sexually … as does his young protégé.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. Why would Lyndsey date
someone other than Alan? We can think of plenty of reasons, but he can’t. Now
he befriends the new boyfriend to find out.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. The First Lady has her own problem,
involving a congresswoman (Lisa Kudrow).  

“Scrubbing In” debut, 10 p.m., MTV. This reality show
follows nine young traveling nurses at work and at play, as they begin an
assignment in Orange County, Cal.

“Adam DeVine’s House Party” debut, 12:30 a.m., Comedy
Central. Each week includes some sketch moments, setting up the notion of a
mansion party. Those bits are fairly good, but the stand-up comics are wildly
inconsistent; tonight’s first one is clever, the second is astonishingly