TV column for Sunday, Oct. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:35 p.m. and 1:10
a.m.

Just in time for the
Halloween season, this ratings-champion starts its seventh season,
with Negan's actions haunting Rick's group. And if you need to catch
up or hear commentary, that's easy.

AMC has been
rerunning the entire series this week; the sixth season starts at
3:30 a.m. today and starts its finale at 7:30 p.m. Also, Chris
Hardwick and guests will discuss the opener on “Talking Dead,” at
10:06 p.m. AMC also has the season-openerof Kevin Smith's “Comic
Book Men” at 12:40 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m., Fox.

Last week's
“Treehouse of Horror” was a minor disappointment, but don't fret:
Tonight brings a new episode at 8 – Homer seeks a promotion,
Krusty's candy is suspect – and last year's “Treehouse” at 7.

That rerun starts
with a clever song from John Kricfalusi (the “Ren and Stimpy”
creator), peppered with old Hanna-Barbera characters. The first full
segment (Sideshow Bob kills Bart ... often) is heavy-handed and gory,
but the next two are terrific. A witty variation on “Godzilla”
starts in black-and-white and then goes Hollywood epic; then the kids
use new radiated powers for good and (mostly) evil.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In last week's
genial opener, a harried widow (the terrific Kelley Hawes) moved her
family to a Greek island in 1933. Now her pension still hasn't
arrived and her four kids are in chaos.

Lawrence, an
unpublished writer, hangs with heavy-drinking Germans ... one of whom
Margo is ga-ga for. Leslie is instantly in love with a local woman.
And young Gerald – who later recalled this in three books –
continues his obsession with animals. Then a crisis pulls together
these mismatched (and likable) souls. This is still a good time to
jump into an amiable, six-week series.

Other choices
include:

Football preview, 7
p.m. ET, and kick-off, 8:30, NBC. The Seattle Seahawks – now 4-1
after Russell Wilson pulled off a late comeback last Sunday, visit
Carson Palmer's Arizona Cardinals.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. When a Navy machinist is slain, the hunt
for the killer takes the team all over the city. Bar Paly, the
Russian-born model from Israel, returns as Anna Kolchek, pairing with
Callen while Sam assists Hetty.

“Berlin Station,”
9 p.m., Epix. Last week's opener slogged for a while, then ended
starkly, with the death of a courier for the whistleblower called
“Thomas Shaw.” Is that a collective name? Is murder a sharp
detour for an idealistic effort? We start to see details, in a fairly
good episode ... leading to an OK “Graves” -- heavy-handed lead
character, but great support – at 10.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. These five survivors have decided they need
a road trip. Alas, they soon wear on each other's nerves; in
particular, Gail (Mary Steenburgen) is at her breaking point.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. When American activists are arrested in
China, Elizabeth hits a negotiations stalemate. Meanwhile, her
husband feels one of her former students is their cyber-stalker.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. In her CIA training, Alex faces a drill that tests stress
levels. And in the future, a terrorist organization demands a trade,
to end the stand-off.

“The Strain,” 10
p.m., FX. Opposite extremes jolt us, in a pivotal and high-octane
episode. The bad news: New York is overrun; even the police are
fleeing. The good: Eph and Dutch are close to perfecting their
device. And it's nasty-vs.-nasty, as Palmer pushes to extract
vengeance.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 22


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

On an
election-fueled hot streak, “SNL” has had high ratings and strong
(if inconsistent) quality. Now it has its fourth straight new
episode, this time with extra starpower.

Tom Hanks has his
ninth turn as host – he's also popped up in seven other episodes –
and Lady Gaga (who has hosted once) has her fourth turn as music
guest. And yes, Hanks has been busy: His subtly superb “Sully” is
wrapping up a strong run and his flashier “Inferno” will open
Friday.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Good Witch: Secrets of Grey House,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

In “Good Witch,”
sweet-spirited Cassie (Catherine Bell) is a widow who has an inn, a
teenager and an ability to sense (and, sometimes, change) things.
It's an amiable, small-town series that won't be back until April;
still, every witch should have a moment in October, so here's a
movie.

With a fantasy
author and her editor staying in the inn, Cassie has as plan – a
Halloween festival based on the author's novels. She also tries to
nudge a romance; her own romance, alas, faces a problem: During the
festival, Sam (James Denton) is tied up with a busy time at the
hospital.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Identity Thief” (2013), 8:30-11 p.m., NBC.

Sandy (Jason
Bateman) is a mild-mannered guy whose life is uneventful ... until
someone (Melissa McCarthy) steals his identity. Now he must try to
find her in Florida and bring her to Denver.

This works because
Bateman is an ideal straight man, giving McCarthy room to roar. In
starring roles, she's sometimes excessive; here, as someone with a
gleeful lack of morals, she brings solid laughs.

Other choices
include:

Football, all day.
The tightest match-up could be ESPN's Arkansas-Auburn game, at 6 p.m.
ET. At 8, Fox has Mississippi at Texas Tech; ABC has powerhouse Ohio
State at Penn State.

“North by
Northwest” (1959) and “Jaws” (1975), 5:30 and 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies. These have nothing in common – except that they're
wildly entertaining works by masters (Alfred Hitchcock, Steven
Spielberg). They lead a strong night that, at 8 p.m., has “The Dark
Knight” (2008) on TNT, “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (2010) on FXX
and Oscar-winner “No Country for Old Men” (2007) on IFC.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Social issues intrude, when Jonah doesn't want to sell
guns and Glenn doesn't want to allow morning-after pills. Those parts
of this rerun are OK; better are some goofy moments involving trying
to get a bird out of the store.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. For Jack (George Eads), this rerun is personal. His former
CIA partner (and former girlfriend) went missing in Venezuela,
shortly after finding evidence about an international arms dealer.
Now the team tries to rescue her; she's played by Amy Acker of
“Person of Interest.”

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun from last spring, personal plans go astray. DiNozzo
bores his date; McGee and Delilah disagree about whether to discuss
work during dinner. More importantly, agents separately spot flaws in
what had seemed like a cut-and-dried case.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. It's been 32 years since Jim
Bullock announced that he's HIV-positive; it's been 20 years since
the AIDS-related death of his partner. His own career – which
peaked when he was a comedy and game-show star known as Jm J Bullock
– has continued. Here are updates on him; on actress/activist
Victoria Rowell; and on Nick Carter, who had a three-million-selling
album at 13 and filed for bankruptcy at 26.

“Son of Zorn,”
11 p.m., Fox. It's not easy to be a cartoon superhero in non-cartoon
suburbia. In this rerun, Zorn embarrasses his son and also is asked
to move his boxes out of his ex-wife's garage.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 21


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

Suddenly, TV has
re-discovered the joy of musicals. Fox had “Rocky Horror” on
Thursday; coming are “Hairspray” on NBC (Dec. 7) and “Dirty
Dancing” on ABC. And here's “Crazy,” which has at least two big
numbers – with Emmy-winning choreography and Emmy-nominated songs –
each week.

That's fortunate,
because tonight's comedy portions are so-so; the songs, by
comparison, are a delight. One may (or may not) be the first time
you've heard people sing during sex. The other is surely the first
time you've heard someone proclaim: “I'm like a sexy fashion
cactus.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Here's another
network that savors musicals. Tonight, PBS starts its “Fall Arts
Festival,” which includes a fairly good “Gypsy” (Nov. 11) and
is hosted by Broadway's Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Appropriately, it
starts with a portrait of how Miranda created and starred in
“Hamilton,” the hip hop musical that drew raves, sell-outs, 11
Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize. This starts shortly before the
rehearsals began. With a new apartment and (soon) a new son, Miranda
prepares to transform theater.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Wolf Creek,” 10 p.m., Pop.

The opener
(available on www.poptv.com) hit
with fierce intensity. (To avoid spoilers, skip the rest of this
item.) Vacationing in the Outback, Americans met an amiable Aussie
... who suddenly killed them.

That much is similar
to the “Wolf Creek” movie, which had the same villain (John
Jarrett) and the same writer-director (Greg McLean). The difference
is that this time, one woman survived. Eve (superbly played by Lucy
Fry) is 19 and intent on revenge. This is a six-part mini-series that
meshes with the movie; indeed, the lone surivivor in that film will
re-appear in the final two episodes.

Other choices
include:

“Addams Family”
(1991), 4 p.m., Freeform. Here's an entertaining start to a night of
Halloween treats. The sequel (1993) is at 6:10 p.m., followed by two
Tim Burton films -- “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) at 8:20 and
“Frankenweenie” (2012) at midnight.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A train has been sabotaged and MacGyver doesn't have a
repair kit, so ... Oh wait, he does have a curtain rod, an armrest
and a toothpick; maybe that will be enough.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. After a surprising elimination, the contestants have
head-to-head competition in a seafood challenge.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike (Tim Allen) can choose a theme for the
family's Halloween party; he decides that each person must dress as
someone else in the family. Soon, tempers flare.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. On Halloween, Allison frets that her son doesn't get
scared. Not to worry, Ken tells a Korean ghost story (acted out by
his co-workers) that could frighten anyone.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Kono and Adam are finally re-united, when he's released
from prison. Also, someone has stolen weapons from a gun range and
plans to make a deadly statement.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Judy Reyes, the “Scrubs” and “Devious Maids”
star, plays an activist who isn't a citizen. Erin and her
investigator (Steven Schirripa) try to keep her from being deported.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Four decades ago, a
quirky little musical became a midnight-movie sensation. But can that
high-octane, audience-participation mood be captured on TV? Kenny
Ortega (“High School Musical”) tries hard, with original star Tim
Curry as narrator and with brief glimpses of a pretend movie
audience.

In the big
production numbers, Ortega stirs great fun. Otherwise, the zesty
music is paired with a so-so, shock-for-shock's-sake story. Laverne
Cox is OK in the lead; Adam Lambert has one great song and there's
strong work from Victoria Justice and Broadway's Reeve Carney and
Annaleigh Ashford.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “CMT Artists of the Year,” 9-10:30 p.m., CMT.

In a night stuffed
with starpower, CMT honors five acts that dominated country music
this year – Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Thomas
Rhett and Florida Georgia Line. There's also a “breakout” award
for Kelsea Ballerini and a career award for Shania Twain.

Others join, going
beyond country. Meghan Trainior, Jill Scott and Ballerini will sing
the Twain tribute. Swedish star Zara Larsson and Rhett will do a
mashup of his “Die a Happy Man” and her “Never Forget You.”
There's more, including Karen Fairchild and Bryan with their “Home
Alone Tonight.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Superstore” and “The Good Place,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., NBC.

So far, these shows
– one pretty good, the other (“Good Place”) terrific – have
had Thursday comedy viewers to themselves. That ends soon: CBS'
comedies return next week; NBC takes over Thursday football on Nov.
17. So let's savor these shows while they're here and thriving.

On “Superstore,”
it's dog-adoption day; also, new parents Cheyenne and Bo have a
fight, getting opposite advice from Amy and Glenn. On “Good Place,”
Eleanor – assigned to the nice afterlife due to bureaucratic error
– is still trying to learn from Chidi how to be good; she goes on a
journey with him.

Other choices
incude:

“Concussion”
(2015), 10 a.m. and 6:55 p.m., Starz. This true story offers a
powerful look at football brain damage and at the NFL's years of
denial. Will Smith is perfect as the quietly crusading doctor.

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET preview and 8:30 p.m. game. For the last of its five Thursday
games, CBS has two classic (albeit struggling) teams. The Chicago
Bears, 1-5 after a last-minute home loss, visit the Green Bay
Packers, 3-2 with an uncharacteristically sputtering offense.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Meredith and Bailey have patients who need the same
liver trtansplant. Also, Owen needs help while babysitting and Amelia
struggles to tell him important news.

“Supernatural,”
9 p.m., CW. Over the past couple episodes (starting with last
season's finale), we've met Mary, the guys' mother. Now she helps
Dean search for Sam, while a new problem emerges: Lucifer has taken
over the body of a rock star (played, of course, by Rick
Springfield).

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Details keep emerging about Frank's
troubled past. Also, there's a surprising twist in the mystery of the
“Annalise killer” flyers.

““The
Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. When Red takes action to stop Alexander
Kirk, Liz's loyalties are divided. Meanwhile, the team searches for a
killer who targets revolutionary inventors.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX. This show has some episodes that are oddly entertaining
– including the one that reruns at 10:30 today – and others that
are merely odd. This is the latter type, involving Sam's reluctant
friendship with a Mormon mom. The result isn't quite a comedy or a
drama.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 19


TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: Presidential debate, 9-10:30 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox,
PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox Business, C-Span, Univision and
Telemundo.

This long, loud
campaign feels like it's been going on for decades. Now we have the
final debate; it's back to the format of the first one, this time
with Chris Wallace of Fox News as the moderator.

Wallace says he
won't fact-check; that's up to the candidates ... and to follow-ups.
The big networks plan to go to 11 p.m., the news channels longer.
After the previous weekday debate, “Daily Show” (11 p.m., Comedy
Central), Stephen Colbert (11:35, CBS) and Seth Meyers (12:37 a.m.,
NBC) went live.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frequency,” 9 p.m., CW.

It you've already
overdosed on the election, don't fret. There are some other fairly
good choices, including the only big (well, semi-big) broadcast
network that's skipping the debates.

Raimy found she
could chat with her dad (a cop, like her) via a radio signal that
bounces back 20 years. They can change the past ... sometimes
creating new disasters. Their changes wiped out her romance and left
her mother dead ... at least for now. Can they change the past again?
Can they catch the serial killer before he kills her mom ... 20 years
ago? It's a bizarre plot, but executed with solid competence.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Halloween shows, all night, Freeform.

Some 18 years –
and two network name-changes – ago, “13 Nights of Halloween”
was born. Now it's back, this time with Charli XCX -- a successful
singer-songwriter-producer at 24 – as the host.

Tonight starts and
ends with Tim Burton films -- “Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
at 5:30 p.m. and “Corpse Bride” (2005) at midnight. At 7 p.m. is
the TV premiere of “Monsterville” (2015), an R.L. Stine tale with
Katherine McNamara (“Shadowhunters”) and Dove Cameron. At 10 is
“Hocus Pocus” (1993), with Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah
Jessica Parker as witches sent to modern Salem.

Other choices
include:

More Halloween
movies, cable. There's lots of heavy-duty vampire stuff tonight; AMC
continues its “Walking Dead” reruns from 6 p.m. to midnight and
FX has Brad Pitt's “World War Z” (2013) at 7:30. But there's also
the light side: “Twitches Too” (2007), at 7:10 p.m. on Disney,
has Tia and Tamera Mowry as twins (which they are) and witches (which
they're not), searching for their biological father.

“It's the Great
Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Toy Story of Terror,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC. Here's more Halloween, via animation – a 1966 tale
that's so-so, but beloved; a 2013 one with some good moments.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. So far, the older people have had a tough time. The
“Millennials” tribe has only lost one person; “Gen X” has
lost three ... including the two oldest ones, Paul Wachtel, 52, and,
last week, Lucy Huang, 42. Tonight, there's a hunt for an immunity
idol.

"Nature,” 8 p.m.,
PBS. Vianet D'jenguet spent part of his youth in Paris, where his dad
(a doctor) was known as a malaria expert. He became a nature
cameraman; in this warm portrait, he visits his native Republic of
Congo. There are gorgeous wildlife views, plus a human connection:
D'jenguet meets some of the last of the indigenous Forest People ...
and hears them praise his great-grandfather, a healer.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Murtaugh pondes the psyche of a suspect (a former Navy
SEAL) who is similar to his police partner Riggs (also ex-military).
That spurs Riggs to open up about his past.

“Documentary Now,”
9, 9:30 and 10 p.m., IFC. This is perfect fot the debate-skipping
skeptic. It's a brilliant fake political documentary, with Bill Hader
as a perverse variation on James Carville.

“Berlin Station”
and “Graves,” 9 and 10 p.m., Epix. Here are reruns of Sunday's
debuts – a well-crafted (but monotone) spy tale and then a loose
(and sometimes goofy) tale of an ex-president. They're preceded at
7:15 by “Mr. Holmes” (2015), a fairly good film with Ian McKellan
as a fading Sherlock.

“You're the
Worst,” 10-11:30 p.m., FX. At 10:30, just as the debate wraps up
(in some time zones), “Worst” reruns last week's episode. There
are great moments from Ben Folds and at a memorial for Jimmy's dad.
Also, Edgar seeks pot for his PTSD; that sets up a new episode at 10,
rerunning at 11.