TV column for Sunday, Dec. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Muppets,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Sixty years ago, Jim
Henson proved that goofy kid stuff can co-exist with smart humor for
grown-ups. That approach keeps working for many companies (especially
Pixar) ... and for the Muppets that the late Henson created. Here's a
chance to savor four reruns from their Tuesday series.

At 8 p.m., a
stressed Kermit tries a yoga retreat, where he meets Jason Bateman;
that leaves Scooter feeling overwhelmed at work. At 8:30, Kristin
Chenoweth stirs up dissension in the band. At 9, Dave Grohl has a
drum-off with Animal; at 9:30, Mindy Kaling helps preparations for a
Christmas special.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Back in 2000, “CSI”
(plus “Survivor”) transformed CBS from stodgy and fading to
semi-stodgy and winning. So the network wisely let it return for a
big-deal finale, which reruns here.

A bomb explodes in a
casino, paralyzing Las Vegas. Soon, Grissom and Willows (William
Petersen and Marg Helgenberger) are back in town, alongside regulars
played by Ted Danson, Jorja Fox and more ... plus Melinda Clarke as
Lady Heather. A case is solved and a romance is settled.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC, with preview at 7.

Using its “flex
schedule” option, NBC has grabbed a game in which both teams have
shots at titles. The New York Giants are 6-8, the Minnesota Vikings
are 9-5, but each is a game out of first in its division.

The Vikings are at
home, setting up next week's regular-season finale in Green Bay.
Barring a late change, the Giants will be without star receiver Odell
Beckham, who has a one-game suspension.

Other choices
include:

“Harry Potter”
films, 7 a.m. to midnight, ABC Family. The final movies air back to
back, at 7 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. That sets up the two-film
finale at 5 p.m. (2010) and 8:45 p.m. (2011).

“The '80s,” noon
to 6 p.m., repeating 6-11 p.m., National Geographic. This reruns a
quick romp through a big-money time. It pauses for a new “StarTalk”
at 11, then has more reruns to 3 a.m.

“Undercover Boss,”
8 p.m., CBS. Here's the second of three Sunday episodes, before a
brief Friday run. Going undercover, the head of Nestle Toll House
Cafe finds she doesn't meet her own standards.

“The Simpsons”
and more, 8-9:30 p.m., Fox. Three episodes from last Christmastime
are rerun. First, Marge bars Homer after he goes drinking on
Christmas Eve. Then Craig Robinson returns as the Pontiac Bandit on
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” At 9 p.m., “The Family Guy” meets Jesus
at the mall.

“Downton Abbey,”
9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A week from the excellent
opener of the final season, here's a chance to recall how last season
ended. When the family heads to the estate of Rose's new
father-in-law for some hunting, secrets emerge. Then it's back to
Downton, where the Christmas party brings a surprise departure ...
and a bigger-surprise proposal.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. In the season-opener, Phil accidentally
drove away, leaving Carol at a gas station. In this rerun, he
scrambles (with no cell phone or walkie-talkie) to find her.

“The Royals,” 10
p.m., rerunning at 11:30, E. There's some unexpected bonding of Queen
Helena and Princess Eleanor; also, Liam investigates Domino. The
previous two episodes rerun at 8 and 9 p.m.; they're also at noon and
1 p.m., wrapping up a marathon that starts at 7 a.m.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 26


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Sound of Music,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

When “Music”
reached Broadway in 1959, it piled up praise, five Tonys (including
best musical) and big business. Now, 56 years later, it still
thrives.

Last Sunday, ABC had
a sing-along version of the Julie Andrews movie; six days later, NBC
reruns the live version it did in 2013. Carrie Underwood is so-so as
an actress, but sings beautifully; that's fine here, because the
splendid music is far more important than the so-so story.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Bones” and “Sleepy Hollow,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

By all logic, these
shouldn't link. “Hollow” is pure fantasy, with 230-year time
travel, plus spirits, spectres and the occasional headless horseman;
“Bone” has just-the-facts scientists and FBI agents.

These reruns,
however, stitched them cleverly. First, the “Hollow” people
arrive to retrieve a headless corpse; there's a crime to solve, plus
fun moments between know-it-alls Brennan and Ichabod.Then Booth and
Brennan visit Sleepy Hollow, but depart before the fantasy stuff
begins. The night ends with a sensational battle involving once-dead
Redcoat soldiers.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “When Calls the Heart,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.

Fresh from its
Christmas-movie avalanche, Hallmark pauses for a New Year's Eve
story. This series won't start its third season until February, but
it gives the opening episode an early start.

“Heart” is set a
century ago, in a Canadian frontier town that switched to lumber
work, after being decimated by a mining disaster. As the new year
nears, Elizabeth (Erin Krakow), the beautiful teacher, may have a
fresh start with Jack, the earnest Mountie. Rosemary – Jack's
former fiance, back when she was a flighty actress – has a new
adventure with Lee, the sawmill owner.

Other choices
include:

Football, all day.
With no bowl games Friday or Sunday (to avoid competing with
Christmas or the pros), six are squeezed into today, the first and
last (both on ESPN) starting at 11 a.m. and 9:15 p.m. ET. The best
may be the Sun Bowl, at 2 p.m. on CBS; Miami and Washington State
have 8-4 records.

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. The first rerun includes
Christmas troubles and the second includes doggie doings. Also, we
see the home damage done by a ladder and a crane.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a hospital patient with a contagious
and lethal form of bird flu. Now there's been a kidnapping, aimed at
turning this into a weapon.

“Da Vinci's
Demons” finale, 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:05. This
sometimes-great series concludes on two fronts. In battle, Leonardo
tries lure the Turks to an open field; meanwhile, his friends
Lucrezia, Sophia and Zo are desperate to escape from prison.

“Dr. Dee: Alaska
Vet,” 9 and 11:03 p.m. Animal Planet. Preceded by a rerun marathon
that starts at 4 p.m., this new episode includes, we're told, an
effort to save an important reindeer. (Aren't all reindeer
important?) Also, Dee tries to rescue puppies at a remote village and
find them new families.

“Gladiator”
(2000), 9 p.m., CMT. This powerful portrait of an honest man forced
into deadly work brought five Academy Awarfds, including best picture
and best actor (Russell Crowe).

“One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest” (1975), 10 p.m., AMC. Like “Gladiator,” this
anti-authority classic won five Oscars, including best picture and
actor (Jack Nicholson). Louise Fletcher won or best actress.

TV column for Friday, Dec. 25


TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Disney Christmas parade, 10 a.m. to noon, ABC.

Each year, this
offers a cheery backdrop to Christmas-morning fun. This year brings
lots of floats – including new ones for “Star Wars” and the
upcoming “Finding Dori” -- and music.

Most performers –
Seal, Jason DeRulo, Reba McEntire, Ariana Grande, Andy Grammer,
Charlie Puth and Charles Perry – will do one of their own songs,
plus one for Christmas or from a Disney movie. The parade portions
are live, with anchors who have sports roots – Robin Roberts
(formerly of ESPN) and Jesse Palmer, the former pro quarterback and
former “Bachelor” guy.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Andy Griffith Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

Following the
success of its “I Love Lucy” specials, CBS does the same with
Griffith – two episodes (one Christmas, one not), with color added
by computer. They're from 1960 and '61, with Ron Howard – now a
masterful filmmaker – appearing briefly at ages 6 and 7,

By modern standards,
these are slight. The premises – a lonely grouch, awful pickles --
are stretched; the punchlines are scarce. Still, both episodes are
partly saved by brilliant moments from Don Knotts.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Some of England's
best shows have Christmas Day episodes. Those can be big; one
Christmas, stunned viewers saw “Downton Abbey” kill Matthew. This
year, Americans can join in, catching the new Christmas episodes of
“Doctor Who” (9 p.m. ET on BBC America) or “Midwife.”

The “Midwife”series
began – quite darkly – in the 1950s, with young nurses (some of
them nuns) facing tragedy amid suffocating poverty. Now it's 1960 and
things may be brightening, as a TV crew prepares to televise
carolers. Then someone goes missing and a desperate hunt begins.

Other choices
include:

“A Christmas
Story” (1983), all day, cable. This delightful film reruns every
two hours on two channels. On TNT, for instance, the final times aree
1, 3 and 5 p.m.; TBS has noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m.

“Santa Claus is
Comin' to Town,” 11:30 a.m. and midnight, ABC Family. It's the
final day of “25 Days of Christmas,” a fine idea on a channel
that, alas, is in transition. Next month, ABC Family becomes Freeform
... which may explain why it had zero new Christmas shows this year.
Today's best stretch has “Toy Story That Time Forgot” at 4:30
p.m. and “Elf” (2003) at 5.

“Belief,” 4 p.m.
to 3 a.m., Oprah Winfrey. This richly crafted, global look at faith
runs from 4-11 p.m., then reruns four of its episodes.

“CMA Country
Christmas” (ABC) or “iHeartRadio Jingle Ball” (CW), both 8 p.m.
Take your choice of music genre tonight, for a rerun stuffed with
stars. ABC includes Jennifer Nettles, Martina McBride, Darius Rucker,
Jewel and LeAnn Rimes; CW includes Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Nick
Jonas.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. The young chef get some young tastes to
satisfy. They cook at a birthday party for other kids ages 8-13.

“Blue Bloods,” 9
and 10 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Erin desperately needs to get a
key witness (Dan Hedaya, of “Cheers” fame) back to New York; her
brother Danny is in charge. In the second, their dad (Tom Selleck)
battles an investigative reporter (Leslie Hope).

“Erin Brockovich”
(2000), 9:30 p.m., TNT. Julia Roberts superb, Oscar-winning
performance leads a strong movie night. “Forrest Gump” (1994) is
6 and 9 p.m. on Spike, with the animated “Turbo” (2013) at 7 p.m.
on FX, the first “Harry Potter” (2001) at 7:15 on ABC Family and
Martin Scorsese's “Hugo” (2011) at 8 on TV Land. At 9 are quick
reruns of Dolly Parton's “Coat of Many Colors” on NBC and Mariah
Carey's “Christmas Melody” on Hallmark.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 8 p.m., ABC.

On Christmas Eve, we
get an extra chance to savor a classic. Alongside its understated
humor, this cartoon has warmth, earnestness and a dandy, jazzy score.

Wrapping up the hour
are shorts based on “Peanuts” cartoons. At 9 p.m. (a late switch
for ABC) is a rerun of “It's Your 50th Christmas,
Charlie Brown,” with music by Sarah McLachlan, Boyz II Men, David
Benoit and Kristin Chenoweth – who won a Tony award playing
Charlie's little sister.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Movie classics, NBC and cable.

Two Christmas Eve
traditions return, when NBC reruns “It's a Wonderful Life” (1949)
from 8-11 p.m. and cable launches its marathon of the witty “A
Christmas Story” (1983).

You can choose your
time for “Story.” It starts at 7 p.m. on TNT and 8 p.m. on TBS,
then re-starts every two hours on each, for 24 hours. If you must
know what happens next, “A Christmas Story 2” (2012) – with
Ralphie as a teen, obsessing on a car -- is every hour on CMT, from
10 a.m to 2 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Cartoons, all day.

Many kids need to be
distracted from their Santa obsessions. Fortunately, cable helps out,
starting with ABC Family. It has older cartoons from 7-10 a.m., then
returns with brisk, modern ones – the “Prep & Landing”
tales and “Toy Story That Time Forgot” -- from 5-6:30 p.m.

By then, FXX has
joined in. It has “Simpsons” reruns (many holiday-themed) from
5-8 p.m. and the terrific “Simpsons Movie” (2007) at 8 and 10. FX
joins in with three animated movies – action in “Rise of the
Guardians” (2012) at 7 p.m., humor in “Turbo” (2013) at 9, both
in “Kung Fu Panda 2” at 11.

Other choices
include:

Marathons, all day,
cable. While the “Doctor Who” blitz continues on BBC America, a
mega-marathon has just begun. At midnight, the Science Channel began
showing every episode of “Mythbusters” in order. That's 11 days,
248 episodes, 2,950 experiments ... and 900 explosions. That sets up
the show's final season, which will be on both Discovery and Science.

Football, noon and 8
p.m. ET, ESPN. On Christmas Eve, it can be fun to watch people in the
tropical part of the world. So today brings the Bahamas Bowl, with
Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee, each 7-5; tonight has the
Hawaii Bowl, with Cincinnati (7-5) and San Diego State (10-3). Also
at 8, the NFL Network has San Diego at Oakland.

“Pride &
Prejudice” (2005), 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., Oxygen. Here's a masterful
film, with director Joe Wright and star Keila Knightley showing you
don't need much dialog to film a classic.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Skipping Christmas detours, CBS has reruns of
its terrific Thursday line-up. Here's a collision of opposites –
the mothers of Sheldon (Laurie Metcalf, who has three Emmys and seven
nominations) and Christine Baranski (one win, 12 nominations).

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. In a funny episode from last February, Christy is promoted
to manager ... and promptly finds that life doesn't get any easier.

“The Great
Christmas Tree Light Fight,” 10 p.m., ABC. This amiable show has
ordinary (almost) people with spectacular displays. After three
Mondays, it gets a Thursday hour.

Church services,
11:35 p.m., two networks. NBC goes to the Vatican, for services in
St. Peter's Basilica, CBS visits an interfaith service at an
Episcopal church in San Francisco.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “How Murray Saved
Christmas,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.

Many people know
that “Grinch” is one of the great half-hours in TV history.
Mixing the verbal wit of Dr. Seuss and the animation brilliance of
Chuch Jones, it's a classic.

Not as many see that
“Murray” is a worthy companion piece. Mike Reiss (“The
Simpsons”) wrote a wonderful script, filled with Seuss-style
rhymes, about the home town of figures from all the holidays. As a
one-hour show, this has drawn little attention; now it's trimmed in
half, to wrap up a great hour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Adele Live in New York City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

OK, this isn't
really live; it's a rerun of a special that also wasn't live on then,
either. But it is New York City and is Adele; introducing her as “a
once-in-a-generation artist,” Jimmy Fallon is telling the truth.

There are no
gimmicks, no costume changes, just a gifted singer-songwriter. She
starts (logically) with “Hello,” ends with “Rolling in the
Deep,” the stunning song that won two of her five Grammys in 2011.
Now comes her first concert in four years ... and it's worth the
wait.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Kid shows, all day.

Kids may be getting
restless now, needing some holiday animation. ABC Family has “Santa
Claus is Comin' to Town” at 3:15 p.m., “Rudolph and Frosty's
Christmas in July” at 4:15, “Frosty's Winter Wonderland” at
6:30 and the gorgeous little “Mickey's Christmas Carol” at 7.

Then others take
over at 8. Disney reruns its “Lion King” spin-off, “The Lion
Guard”; FX mixes live-action and aniatione for “Alvin and the
Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” (2011), repeating it at 10 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “'I Love Lucy' Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

Each year, this
offers a pair of colorized “Lucy” half-hours. The first never
changes – it's a Christmas episode, with flashbacks to great
moments, including the preparations to “calmly” go to the
hospital when Lucy says it's time for the baby; the second has a
different classic each year.

This year has her
prepare over and over to recite a Vitameatavegamin commercial,
unaware of the high alcohol content in each spoonful. In both, the
set-ups are a bit slow and stiff by modern standards, but the
pay-offs – with sight gags and verbal riffs by a comedy master –
are great fun.

Other choices
include:

“Doctor Who,”
all day, BBC America. The “Who” marathon continues until 6 a.m.
Dec. 30. At 7 and 9 p.m. today, it has Christmas episodes from 2005
(“The Christmas Invasion”) and 2010 (a “Christmas Carol”
variation); at 8 is the episode that introduced comedy star Catherine
Tate as a runaway bride.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the season's second episode, the takeover
attempt has failed, but Cookie persists. She starts a rival label,
with Hakeem trying to create a girl group.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie decides the family will stay home and watch
Christmas services on TV. That starts a string of six comedy reruns,
the first four with holiday themes.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30, ABC. Distressed by holiday apathy, Beverly creates “Super
Hanukkah” ... which starts to look suspiciously like Christmas.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. This usually films on Oahu, but moved to the more-rural
Big Island for this Christmas rerun. A cowboy has been killed and Max
must work with a rival medical examiner.

“Michael Buble's
Christmas in Hollywood,” 10 p.m., NBC. Alongside comedy –with
William Shatner, Blake Shelton and more – this rerun has music by
Buble, Celine Dion, Tory Kelly and Sharon Jones. Songs range from the
new “The More You Give” to “White Christmas” ... which
probably also shows up in the 1957 “Happy Holidays with Bing and
Frank,” at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.