TV column for Monday, Dec. 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

This is finale week for the singing competitions, first
“Voice” and then (Wednesday and Thursday) “X Factor.” Each has its final three
acts get one last chance to impress voters, with the results the next day.

For “Voice,” Blake Shelton has been shut out, after coaching
three straight champions. Adam Levine – the only other person to coach a winner
– has Tessane Chin and Will Champlin; Christina Aguilera has Jacquie Lee.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas,” 9
p.m., Fox.

The overeager Sid (John Leguizamo) manages to break Manny’s
favorite ornament and (on Christmas Eve, no less) destroy Santa’s workshop.
Ellie and Diego (Queen Latifah and Denis Leary) rush to help.

It’s a fun rerun, on a night when families don’t need cable
to catch animation. Fox follows at 9:30 with “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury”;
from 8-9 p.m., you can catch catch two clever “Prep & Landing” tales on ABC
or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on CW.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Double features, cable.

Here’s some more family fun, this time putting a film
(strong on sight gags) and its sequel back-to-back.

FX has “Night at the Museum” (2006) at 6 p.m. and “Night at
the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009) at 9. ABC Family has Tim Allen’s
terrific “The Santa Clause” (1994) at 7 p.m. and the OK “Santa Clause 2” (2002)
at 9.

Other choices include:

“Almost Human,” 8 p.m., Fox. Set in 2048, this gives us a
problem we needn’t worry about (yet). There’s a black market for mechanical
hearts, which are being stolen from people. Also, the hearts can be shut off by

“Home Alone” (1980), 8 and 10:30
p.m., AMC. Here’s another family delight, filled with great sight gags.

“Mermaids: The Body Found – Extended Cut,” 8 and 10 p.m., Animal
Planet. Stylishly filmed but oddly conceived, this pretends to be a documentary
about the discovery and cover-up of actual mermaids.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Caroline has a great
make-out session with Max’s teacher (Gilles Marini), then has a reason to
regret it.

“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. Mike, a cop, ponders
life-changing decisions after being shot during a robbery.

“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Christy has ended her affair with a
co-worker, but now her mother starts one with the boss, Chef Rudy (French

“Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Forgive the first couple minutes, which have generic verbiage about theater and
life. Once that ends, we get portraits of two fascinating young playwrights as
their shows are mounted. Terrell McCraney, young and black and gay, grew up in
Miami’s inner city; Rajiv Joseph, with Indian-American roots, grew up in
Cleveland and spent three Peace Corps years in Africa. We see their works take
interesting journeys.

“The Sing-off,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. The seven remaining groups
sing hits from the past.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 15

WEEKEND’S MUST-SEE: “Survivor” finale, 8 p.m. Sunday, CBS,
with reunion at 10.

After 13 years, this show still finds fresh ways to stir
things up. This time, it had related duos, promptly pitting them against each

On Wednesday, former champion Tina Wesson won a Redemption
Island contest that sent her daughter (Katie Collins) home. Wesson stays on the
island with Laura Morrett and the just-arrived Hayden Moss; on the mainland are
Ciera Easton (Morrett’s daughter), Tyson Apostal, Monica Culpepper and Gervase
Peterson. On Sunday, one of them wins $1 million.

WEEKEND’S MUST-SEE II: “Psych,” 9-11 p.m., USA.

Other series – “Scrubs,” “Fringe,” “Buffy” – have had
musical episodes, but not like this. It’s a two-hour movie with 14 new songs,
many with full production numbers.

While working on a “Jack the Ripper” musical, it seems, a
playwright went mad. Now he’s escaped; murders begin anew.

The songs (by Adam Cohen and “Psych” creator Steve Franks)
ripple with clever references to the characters and show business. They’re
skillfully sung by series regulars (led by James Roday and Dule Hill) and guests,
including Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) and Winona Ryder as escapees. Hill, a former
dance star, doesn’t get to show his skills; he does, however, do a closing song
that wraps up a fun film.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” 9 p.m.,
National Geographic.

Cable loves people who are in the northern wilderness for a
reason – prospecting, rescuing, truck-driving, plane-flying and such. Now,
however, it puts then there just for fun.

One three-person team has former soldiers; others have
mountaineers, woodsmen and a mix. Each week, they get a few supplies and a
destination, with varied of ways to get there.

The show would be better if it included points for second
and third-place. Still, it provides an intriguing look at interesting people in
near-overwhelming situations.

Other choices include:

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the final new episode
until March, people scramble to stop Pan from creating a new curse that could
kill everyone in town.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. A radiation leak at the nuclear
plant suddenly turns Springfield into a snow capital. Tourists swarm, prices
soar and Marge takes in boarders.

“Finding Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. When love lives
stumble, two guys try a temporary housing swap. Owen (country singer J.T.
Hodges) quickly likes Manhattan; Sean likes nothing about small-town North
Carolina … except Owen’s sister (Tricia Helfer). The rest is pleasantly

Football, 8:30 p.m., NBC. On the verge of wrapping up a
division title, the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. It’s time for the big wedding … and
for Emily to unleash the new phase of her revenge plan. New complications
arise, of course.

“Treme,” 9 p.m., HBO. On New Year’s Eve, New Orleans greets
2009 with a mixture of optimism (Barack Obama’s inauguration nears), fear (the
Katrina effects linger) and disputes. It’s another well-made (if scattered)
episode of an excellent show in its final weeks.

“Getting On,” 10 p.m., HBO. After three funny weeks, here’s
a somber episode, only partially redeemed in the final minute.

TV column for Saturday, Dec.14

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Cartoons, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Two short-and-snappy songs were stretched into eternal,
animated specials.

One (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” at 8 p.m.) was
overstretched to an hour, with all sorts of plot detours. The other (“Frosty
the Snowman,” at 9) is a jaunty half-hour; it’s followed, alas, by the clumsy
“Frosty Returns” at 9:30.

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

After seeming to fade away for a while, John Goodman is back
and busy.

Goodman hosts tonight, with music from Kings of Leon, and
has a new movie, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” He just finished a cable miniseries,
“Dancing on the Edge,” and next month stars in “Alpha House,” an Internet
series on Amazon. And if you must, you can also hear his long-ago voice in
tonight’s “Frosty Returns.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Christmas movies, everywhere.

Two oldies return tonight. At 8 p.m., NBC has “It’s a Wonderful
Life” (1946); at 7 and 9:45, AMC has “White Christmas” (1954). The latter has Bing
Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and lots of Irving Berlin songs …
including the title one, which appeared 12 years earlier in “Holiday Inn.”

Alongside these, new TV films arrive. At 8 p.m., Hallmark
has Haylie Duff in “Hats Off to Christmas” and Lifetime has “Christmas in the
Bayou”; at 7, 9 and 11 p.m., UP (formerly the Gospel Music Channel) has Malinda
Williams in “Marry Me For Christmas.”

Other choices include:

“The Little Mermaid” (1989), 8 and 9:45 p.m., ABC Family.
Families can savor this cartoon, which won Academy Awards for its zesty score
and for the song “Under the Sea.”

“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here’s a
rerun of Monday’s opener, featuring four families that go all-out to turn their
yards into holiday spectacles. All four are likable and upbeat; the show’s one
problem is that host/judge Michael Moloney is way too enthusiastic, making it
all feel one-note.

“Bonnie & Clyde,” 8 p.m., History. If you missed this
two-part mini-series Sunday and Monday, here’s a chance to catch the whole
thing in one gulp.

“CMA Country Christmas,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Jennifer Nettles of
Sugarland hosted this feel-good concert, rerunning tonight. It’s filled with
country stars -- Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins,
Darius Rucker Kellie Pickler, Jake Owens, Hunter Hayes – plus others. That
includes Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Michael W. Smith, actress Lucy Hale … and Willie
Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”; he, of course, has a new “Duck the Halls” CD.

“Atlantis,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Hunting in the mountains,
the men find an abandoned baby.

“Christmas in Conway” (2005), 10 p.m., Hallmark. ABC’s
recent “Hallmark Hall of Fame” film gets a quick cable rerun. The concept – a
man’s grand gesture for his dying wife – is flawed, but it’s beautifully
filmed, with Andy Garcia and Mary-Louise Parker leading a top cast.

TV column for Friday, Dec.13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Trouble seems to follow McGarrett everywhere, including a
Pearl Harbor memorial service. There, he sees an apparent attempt to murder a

That leads to a probe that goes back 70 years, to the
Japanese-American internment camps. The hour skillfully blends flashbacks,
historical footage and strong guest work from James Saito and Jack Axelrod. It
uses the inherent decency of the Five-0 crew to reflect on an indecent chapter
of U.S. history.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Even for Marty and Debbie, who are Earthlings, gift-giving
is difficult. One daughter wants a car, the other wants a pony and their son
wants a Princess Leia doll.

Now consider their neighbors from another planet, totally
perplexed. Larry’s gift-giving scene is big, broad and hilarious.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Grimm,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

Before taking a break, this show gives us two episodes that
have nasty myths come to life. The first involves creatures in the sewer; the
second has an evil Santa stealing bad boys. Also in the second, Monroe’s
Christmas surprise for Rosalee goes awry.

Meanwhile, Adalind is in Europe. In the first hour, she
meets Prince Viktor, who’s intent on avenging the death of his cousin Eric; in
the second, Capt. Renard is closer to finding her.

Other choices include:

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mandy, usually the
self-absorbed one, arranges a special Christmas present for the family’s
housekeeper. Also, Mike and Vanessa disagree on whether they should let their
grandson think his new elf doll is magical.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Brennan has been shot. At
the hospital, she has visions of her mother that defy her usual logic.

“Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Burt – Jimmy’s
well-meaning but dim dad – is the focus of both episodes. First, he wants to be
elected mayor, just so his wife can plug in the town Christmas tree. Then both
investigate a corporate scandal linked to the decline in bees.

“Nikita,” 9 p.m., CW. Nikita’s efforts for a fresh start hit
instant trouble when a drug czar intervenes.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m, CBS. Public opinion has been stirred
up. Danny finds resistance while probing a bombing; his dad, the police commissioner,
finds more when dealing with someone who punched an aggressive cop.

“Haven,” 10 p.m., Syfy.  This is the season finale, but leaves viewers
with little sense of closure. The goal is to send William back to the
Netherworld, but that requires identifying the four people who come from the other
side. He and Abby (fighting to suppress her darkness) are two of them; the
others bring surprises. Meanwhile, Duke’s own dark-side fight (a rather foolish
plot twist) brings more trouble.

TV column for Thursday, Dec.12

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8:30
p.m., Cartoon.

One of Hollywood’s greatest half-hours is working its way
through the cable and TV world. “Grinch” will move to TBS at 8 p.m. Friday,
return to the Cartoon Network for two more turns (9 p.m. Wednesday, 6 p.m. Dec.
21), then do Christmas Eve on ABC.

Catch it often; this is that rare show that has it all – a
great story (from Dr. Seuss), brilliant animation (co-directed by Chuck Jones)
and three ideal voices.  Boris Karloff
narrates, Thurl Ravenscroft sings and June Foray is Cindy Lou Who. The voices
of Frankenstein’s monster, Tony the Tiger and Rocky Squirrel combine for a

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Millers,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

TV loves to have one generation try to deceive another; now
that expands a bit, with two generations ganging up to fool a third.

Carol’s parents (Jerry Van Dyke and June Squibb) don’t know
that she’s left her husband … or that her son Nate (Will Arnett) has divorced
his wife. Now everyone must pretend they’re back together; they work at it so
hard that Nate thinks about trying to reconcile.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Christmas Movies, cable.

This month overflows with Christmas movies that were made
for TV. Still, there are also strong ones that were shown in theaters.

Tonight, ABC Family has dandy comedies, starring two of the
original “Saturday Night Live” guys. Chevy Chase’s “National Lampoon’s
Christmas Vacation” (1989) is at 7 p.m., Bill Murray’s “Scrooged” (1988) is at

The gem, however, is “Love Actually” (2003), from 8-11 p.m.
on AMC. Writer-director Richard Curtis deftly weaved together unrelated holiday
tales, ranging from a young, lovestruck prime minister (Hugh Grant) to an old,
naked rock star (Bill Nighy). They vary, but add up to great fun.

Other choices include:

“The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox. One act is expected to be sent
home tonight, with the other three propelled to next week’s finale. Before that
happens, however, we get guest performances from Jennifer Nettles (of Sugarland
fame) and Enrique Iglesias.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. With Sheldon gone home
to Texas, the others start to ponder how much he’s changed their lives

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. This day is supposed to be
all about April’s wedding, but other problems prevail. Former friends Meredith
and Cristina continue to argue; Derek gets a life-changing call.

“The Returned,” 9 p.m., Sundance. A week before its finale,
this brilliant mini-series has two brothers racing to elude the police … while
one of the cops is trying to flee with her lover. Meanwhile, people realize
that Camille’s false claims led two parents to commit suicide.

“The Crazy Ones,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Ashley Tisdale guests as
the firm’s new intern. She’s the bratty daughter of an important client … which
makes Sydney (also a boss’ daughter) ponder her own image.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. This Christmas episode
– not the warm-and-huggy type – includes errant carol lyrics and the ex-wife of
Alan’s transgender girlfriend.

“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. A man who bilked his clients
out of their money has been killed. That leaves Sherlock Holmes with an
overload of suspects.