TV column for Monday, Sept. 22

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Gotham” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

Each year, directors and technical people keep getting
better; writers stay about the same. Viewers get dramas that are stunning to
look at, so-so to think about; now “Gotham” is a prime example.

The story is kind of monotone: In Gotham City before Batman,
there’s one honest cop; nastiness and torture prevail. Alongside that is a
potent look and feel. In an elusive time – partly 1940s noir, partly now –
tough men (and a superb Jada Pinkett Smith) growl through their richly
cinematic lives.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Forever” debut, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

This “might seem a little implausible,” Dr. Henry Morgan
(Ioan Gruffud) says. Or a lot; for 200 years, he’s been dying and returning.
Now he’s a medical examiner, with one friend (Judd Hirsch) who understands.

In most hands, this would be nonsense. But Gruffud adds British
precision; the visuals dazzle and the stories are smart. There’s too much
Sherlock-ian know-it-all, but noone said this would be plausible.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE III: “The Voice” and “The Blacklist, 8
and 10 p.m., NBC.

Starting their seasons, here are two shows that propelled
NBC back to the top. That starts with Pharrell Williams moving into a “Voice”
chair, alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani.

Then “Blacklist” finds Red still battling Berlin, while
facing a new villain, Lord Baltimore; Liz is bouncing back from confronting her
scheming husband. The brilliant Mary-Louise Parker joins the show.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Ed Koch’s story is so big and brash that this re-telling is
wildly entertaining. Koch startled his mayoral opponent, Mario Cuomo, by somehow
getting the endorsement of a prime Italian political boss. He gathered black
support by implying he would preserve the neighborhood’s hospital – then closed

He ducked questions of his sexuality (back when that was an
issue), then raged at “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo” signs. Soon, he was prominently
holding hands with former Miss America Bess Myerson. Koch, who died last year
at 88, comments extensively during this jaunty view of past and present.

Other choices include:

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, track
star Lolo Jones was the first celebrity ousted. Now the second week begins,
with a results show Tuesday.

“The Big Bang Theory” season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.
It’s a double helping of TV’s best comedy. Upset by the Leonard-Penny
engagement, Sheldon has fled; now Amy and Leonard try to retrieve him.
Meanwhile, Penny applies for a job at Bernadette’s company, with Steven Root as
the boss.  

“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS. Already stuffed with geniuses (via “Big
Bang” and “Elementary”), CBS adds more: A high-IQ team is drafted to prevent
disaster; as in “Big Bang,” a beautiful waitress (Katharine McPhee) provides
balance. There’s potential here, but the opener strains believability.

“Sleepy Hollow,” 9 p.m., Fox. Things are never easy for
Ichabod Crane, who ended last season buried in a coffin by his eternal son (the
superb John Noble). Meanwhile, police Capt. Irving is jail on murder charges
and Jenny is in an accident. This epic-looking show should fit well with “Gotham.”

“Dallas” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., TNT. Bobby is cheated
by the cartel and links with his former sister-in-law Sue Ellen. Her son John
Ross risks everything; Bobby’s son Christopher rushes to save Elena.

“Under the Dome” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. With the dome
closing in, there’s an exit possibility.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 21

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife” season-opener, 9:30
p.m., CBS, or later with football overrun.

There’s no casual build-up here; the season starts at
full-throttle, with schemes whirling wildly. Cary plunges into a bizarre crisis
…. Alicia (his law partner) is urged by Eli to run for state’s attorney … That
idea upsets the governor (Eli’s boss, Alicia’s husband) and endangers Cary.

All of this happens while Diane is scheming to leave one law
firm – the one with her name on it – and link with Alicia and Cary. It’s all
kind of dizzying; still, it’s beautifully done and actually makes sense.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Jane Marple has spent a lot of time in drawing rooms and
quaint villages, but not now. She’s vacationing for her health in the
Caribbean; naturally, murders follow her there.

There are a few flaws: Two women (Molly and Lucky) are hard
to tell apart …. island accents are random … and (in Agatha Christie style)
Jane knows way too much all at once. Still, it’s a fun story, with great
characters in a splendid setting; a second Marple tale, “Greenshaw’s Folly,”
follows at 9:30.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Secret Life of Cats,” 10 p.m.,
NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 1 a.m.

Alongside lots of cute close-ups, we get neat facts. Cats
have 30 times better smell than humans and six times better night vision, but
they have poor close-up vision and see no colors except blue and yellow.

More compelling are the real-life stories. We meet the cat
that survived a 19-story fall without breaking a bone … the one that kept
nudging its human, just in time to prevent a gas explosion … and the cat that
was nasty to everyone else, but a loving friend to a blind dog.

Other choices include:

“60 Minutes,” 7:30 p.m. or later, CBS. The 47th
season begins, for the longest-running primetime show in TV history. Next are
“Monday Night Football” and “20/20,” this fall starting their 44
and 37
th seasons; outside prime time, “Today” and “Tonight” are
turning 61 and 60.

“The Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. Speaking of
long-lasting shows, this is the all-time scripted leader, starting its 26th
season next week. Tonight’s first rerun has Bart mastering voodoo dolls; the
second has Marge vowing to quit having friends … until Lisa makes the same vow.

“Madam Secretary” (8:30 p.m. or later, rerunning at 10:30).
Once a top CIA analyst, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is happy teaching and living on a
horse farm with her family. Then the president (Keith Carradine) needs her as
secretary of state. To its credit, this resists the cliché of a fractured home
life; Tim Daly provides a handsome and caring mate. Beyond that, the opener is
bland and so-so.

“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. After resting all summer, ABC’s
Sunday shows start their seasons next week. First, catch up on their
season-finales. “Once Upon a Time” (8 p.m.) and “Revenge” (10) surround this
one; it has many more formerly dead people returning to town, turning things chaotic.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Packing visual and emotional
power, this grips us. Now the heroes plunge into tunnels, in search of the strain’s
master. That leaves Eph’s son to watch Nora’s confused mother.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 20

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

A week before “SNL” opens its 40th season, it
reruns the episode that closed the 39
th, with Andy Samberg hosting
and St. Vincent as music guest. It’s uneven (as usual), but has its moments.

The best come is the opening, a clever sketch about the fight
between Solange and Jay Z; the worst is a return of the one-note “kissing
family” sketch. Even that one is semi-salvaged by a flood of past stars. This
busy night includes Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, Fred Armisen, Maya
Rudolph and more.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”
conclusion, 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10.

Franklin Roosevelt talked longingly of retiring, spending
long days staring at the sunset; Eleanor did not, she knew only action. They
loved each other, Daisy Suckley (his friend and admirer) said, but “the fact
that they could not relax together or play together is the tragedy of their
joint lives.”

He died at 63, less than a month before victory in Europe,
but not before propelling the United Nations and the GI Bill. She lived to 78,
becoming a powerful UN force. The end of this superb series is boosted
immensely by the memories of Edna Gurewitsch, who became Eleanor’s warm friend
56 years ago.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Cedar Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark.

Maybe blondes don’t have more fun, after all. This hour has
four of them, spread over two generations; each is forlorn, ranging from a
shattered marriage to mere suspicion. By comparison, half the brunettes are
quite cheerful, including Olivia (Andie MacDowell), who is a judge and
dispenser of wisdom.

The result is an OK drama in a gorgeous setting. Its
depiction of newspaper work is wildly off-kilter, but that sets up a new crisis
at the end of the hour … and may create another grumpy brunette next week.

Other choices include:

Football, 7:30 and 8 p.m. ET. Fox has Oklahoma (ranked No.
4) at West Virginia at 7:30 p.m., but ABC may have the top game – Clemson (No.
22) at Florida State (No. 1) at 8. There’s much more, on cable.

Movies, 7:50 and 8 p.m., cable. “Rio” (2011), an animated
delight, is at 7:50 p.m. on Disney, launching a great movie night. At 8, there’s
a clever drama (“Julie & Julia, 2009, Bravo), plus action (“Transformers:
Dark of the Moon,” 2012, FX) and Matthew McConaughey in the OK “The Lincoln
Lawyer” (2011, TNT). But the best may be the sharply witty “His Girl Friday”
(1940), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Things get complicated in this rerun,
when a link is found between a murder victim and the boyfriend of Diane
Sterling (Melinda McGraw), who’s the ex-wife of both Gibbs and Fornell.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder of
a railroad security guard points to a possible terrorist plot involving a

“Beyonce and Jay Z,” 9 p.m., HBO. We can expect some
powerful moments from this power couple. Wrapping up their tour, this concert
was taped last weekend in Paris; it’s part of a strong HBO night, with Ben
Stiller’s “Walter Mitty” (2013) at 7 p.m.

“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The Doctor must break
into the universe’s most dangerous bank.

 “Hell on Wheels,” 9
p.m., AMC. Campbell hires a new federal marshal. That’s part of a big Western
night, with “Rio Bravo” (1959), a Howard Hawks classic with John Wayne, at 6

TV column for Friday, Sept. 19

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0” and “Blue Bloods,” 9
and 10 p.m., CBS.

A week before these ratings-leaders start their seasons,
they rerun the season-finales. First, “Five-0” includes the return of Nick
Jonas (as computer-hacker Ian Wright) and Mark Dascascos (as Wo Fat, escaped
from prison). To save his kidnapped daughter, Grover (Chi McBride) must steal
$100 million.

Then Danny is put on modified duty, after looking into an
off-limits case. Suspicious, he passes it on to his dad (Tom Selleck), the
police commissioner … who is soon startled by what he finds.

TONIGHT’S ODDITY: “Z Nation,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

The public passion for zombies seems to be ongoing. Last week’s
hyperactive opener drew 1.6 million viewers, huge by Syfy standards; now, after
that fierce episode, “Z” has at least a bit of plot.

One man seems to have zombie-immunity. Now our heroes (led
by Tom Everett Scott) must reluctantly take him cross-country, to a California
lab. Tonight, they only get as far as New Jersey before needing a dangerous
mission to get more fuel.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,”
8 p.m., PBS; rerunning at 10.

As war neared, this terrific documentary says, the majority
of Americans even opposed accepting refugees. The U.S. military was ranked 18
its Army (smaller than Romania’s) had rifles designed in 1903. An isolation
movement ranged from Charles Lindbergh to students Gerald Ford and John

Franklin Roosevelt hesitated until resistance to the war
faded. Republicans chose a non-isolationist (Wendell Willkie), who endorsed a
draft before he did; Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s quick declaration of war erased
any doubts. Amid a massive build-up, the Depression vanished; so did social-reform

Other choices include:

“Utopia” and “Red Band Society,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Getting
a small head start on other networks, Fox wraps up the second week of “Utopia”
and reruns Wednesday’s OK opener to “Red Band”: In a children’s hospital,
mismatched teens find snatches of joy, agony, humor and, maybe, romance.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Chuck
has two woes; he’s separated from his wife and his purebred dog has become
pregnant via Mike’s mutt. In the second, Eve’s boyfriend disagrees with her
plan to wear her ROTC uniform to the prom.

“Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here’s one
final rerun of the first season. Grylls heads into Utah canyons with former
two-sport star Deion Sanders, who had never been camping before.

“Girl Meets World,” 8:30 p.m., Disney. When Cory gives a
living-history assignment, his daughter and her friends are swept back to 1961
New York.

“Mean Girls” (2004), 9 p.m., ABC Family. Tina Fey wrote this
clever script about a new student, tugged between two cliques. Lindsay Lohan
leads a terrific cast that includes Rachel McAdams and Lacey Chabert, plus
“Saturday Night Live” alumni -- Fey, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows and Ana Gasteyer.

“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. The hospital tries a new
operating-room procedure. Its administrator continues to wheel and deal, now
with used equipment. Also, Cornelia reconsiders her engagement.   

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 18

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” 8
p.m., PBS; rerunning at 10.

Here’s the key chapter in this superb, seven-night
documentary. It finds Franklin Roosevelt starting his presidency of a troubled
land – unemployment nearing one-third, nine million savings accounts lost to
bank failure, hope fading. In his first 100 days, he remade the financial
system and launched programs.

This includes his flaws, both personal (his long affair with
sixth-cousin Daisy Suckley) and political (failure with price-fixing, caution
on civil rights, over-reaching on court-packing). But it focuses on a
steamroller of fresh programs – from Social Security to dams to three million
Civilian Conservation Corps jobs.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Scandal,” 9-11 p.m., ABC; and/or
“Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs” (2014), 8-10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

Tony Goldwyn is busy playing leaders, good and bad. He plays
Jeffs, who in real life was billed as “the man with 80 wives”; head of a fundamentalist
church, he was convicted of sex with girls ages 15 and 12.

And on ABC, he’s President Fitzgerald Grant, who has been
Olivia’s most important client and lover. Now – setting up next week’s
season-opener – is a rerun of the two-hour season-finale. As his re-election
campaign slumps, Fitz may ignore Olivia’s advice; the final hour is set on
Election Day.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m.,

The assassins persist. Nessa’s brother was killed; last
week, she seemed to die in an explosion.

Now this eight-week mini-series ends beautifully. The story
is way too complicated, with Israeli, Palestinian, American and British forces
all scheming. Still, this final chapter is so richly filmed, written and acted
that it packs great emotional power.

Other choices include:

“Sleepy Hollow,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. On Monday, “Hollow” starts
its second season, linking with the equally cinematic “Gotham” debut. Setting
it up, here’s a rerun of the season-finale: Ichabod learns a secret about
George Washington’s death; Capt. Irving makes a painful decision and worlds

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. Settling into its new
timeslot, the show reruns the season finale. Colleagues say farewell to
Cristina, then face chaos after an apparent terrorist act.

Football, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS. When CBS launched its half-season
package of Thursday games, the mood was dampened by the evolving stories about
fired star Ray Rice. We’ll see if that changes in the second game, with Tampa
Bay (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1); both lost Sunday, Tampa Bay on a last-minute
field goal.

“Project Runway,” 9 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 10:31.
Usually designing for sleek models, the contestants spend this episode making
clothes for girls.

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 10 p.m., NBC. This show is getting
a big push. Its opener debuted Wednesday after the “America’s Got Talent”
finale and reruns tonight, after the season’s second “Biggest Loser.” This hour
often feels forced, but star Debra Messing and director McG keep it

“Married” and “You’re the Worst,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., FX.
Both shows – the so-so “Married” and very funny “Worst” – wrap up their first
seasons. In “Married,” everyone visits AJ in rehab. In “Worst,” Jimmy and
Gretchen are reluctantly realizing that they like each other for reasons beyond