TV column for Sunday, Feb. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Disneyland at 60,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

On a hot July day in
1955, Disneyland opened, transforming the notion of a family
vacation. Now (seven months tardy), the anniversary is celebrated
with lots of new people singing old songs.

Derek Hough hosts
and does a “Mary Poppins” tune with Dick Van Dyke; also, Elton
John sings “Circle of Life” (which he co-wrote) and Tori Kelly
sings “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog. Then there's
Ne-Yo, Little Big Town, Pentatonix, Jessie J., Fall Out Boy and
Kelsea Ballerini – plus one modern Disney hit, Idina Menzel singing
“Let It Go.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

When it comes to
making TV comedies in front of an audience, James Burrows is clearly
the best. The son of Broadway writer Abe Burrows (“Guys and Dolls,”
“Can-Can,” etc.), he masters the subtleties of rhythm and timing,
while adding just the right sight gags to get a big pay-off.

Burrows directed
most of the episodes of “Cheers” and “Will & Grace,” many
of the ones of “Taxi” and “Frasier,” plus the pilots of
“Friends,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men” and
more. Now most of the stars of those shows will gather for clips and
laughs and a comedy mega-reunion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Downton Abbey,” 9-10:15 p.m., PBS.

After tonight,
“Downton” will pause for a week and then have its March 6 finale;
an elegant, six-year tradition will end. For now, viewers wonder if
the earl's daughters will marry ... well, commoners.

Last week, Bertie,
an estate manager, proposed to Edith; she hesitated, unsure about
telling him she has an illegitimate daughter. Mary reluctantly
watched Henry in a car race; when his friend died in a crash, she
broke off the relationship. Now both women reach crucial points. This
is far from a great episode; the stony exteriors of some characters
block out real romance. Still, it's a key night in a great series.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. A rerun has Lisa becoming a show-biz kid. Then a
new episode has Kate McKinnon (talking) and Natalie Maines (singing)
sharing the role of a homeless woman.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. After a shocking event in the U.S., the president sends
Elizabeth to find out how it could have happened.

“The Walking
Dead,” 8 and 9 p.m., AMC. First is a rerun of last week's
season-opener, which had a big start and a spectacular (if hard to
believe) mega-battle finish. Then the new episode finds a scavenger
run become much tougher than expected. That repeats at 12:35 p.m.,
following “Talking Dead” (10:01), a rerun of the subtly clever
“Better Call Saul” opener (11:01) and “Comic Book Men”
(12:05).

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. This well-crafted (and underappreciated) show is
pushing toward its May 8 series finale. Tonight, Alicia joins a
secret panel to advise the government on a controversial case. Also,
Carrie Preston is back as the neatly off-center Elsbeth, with Will
Patton as her ex-husband.

“When Calls the
Heart” season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., Hallmark. A century ago, a
Canadian town keeps struggling to recover from a mining disaster.
Tonight's episode – slick and pleasant, if a tad shallow – skims
through a troubled preacher, a crooked insurance man, a mournful
orphan and more.

“Vinyl” and
more, 9 p.m., HBO. Last week's spectacular debut saw Richie, on the
verge of selling his recotd label, separately witness a killing and
the collapse of a concert hall. Now comes the aftermath, including
the signing of a punk-rock singer (James Jagger, whose dad Mick
produces the show). That's followed by the season-openers of “Girls”
(Marnie's wedding) and “Togetherness,” at 10 and 10:30.

“Brain Games,” 9
p.m., National Geographic. An interesting hour proves the differing
responses of people who do and don't believe in religion.

“Billions,” 10
p.m., Showtime. Brilliantly written and played, this centers on the
battle of a Wall Street trader (Damian Lewis) and a district attorney
(Paul Giamatti). In a potent scene, they finally negotiate.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 20


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Jeff Gordon's Daytona 500 Kickoff Celebration,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For decades, Gordon
was one of NASCAR's top stars. He won 93 races and four overall
Sprint Cup championships. Telegenic and articulate, he married models
and was a frequent talk-show guest. Now he's retired at 44 and
covering NASCAR for Fox, starting with the Daytona 500 at 1 p.m. ET
Sunday.

Gordon seems fond of
this race; he won it three times and met his first wife there. Now he
hosts a beach-club party that has musicians, drivers and celebrities,
plus Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Rosewood,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Blessed with a great
time slot (leading into “Empire”), “Rosewood” crashed. It was
shelved, then moved to Saturdays, where shows go to die. New episodes
start March 5; first, the pilot film reruns.

As it happens, the
show neatly matches the blue-sky Florida beauty Fox wants in Daytona.
“Rosewood” is set in Miami; our handsome hero (Morris Chestnut)
is a pathologist who zooms around in his yellow convertible, helping
an attractive police detective (Jaina Lee Ortiz). Visually, it's a
gorgeous show; storywise, the whole reluctant-allies stereotype wears
thin almost instantly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Grammy rerun, 7-11 p.m., Pop.

Here's a true rarity
– an award show so good that it's worth seeing twice. From the
high-octane opener by Taylor Swift, Monday's show captured the
youthful zest of rock, pop and hip hop.

But at times, naked
vocal power – from Adele or (with the passionate “Girl Crush”)
Little Big Town – was enough. And in a rare step, the show zoomed
to Broadway twice – for a number from “Hamilton” and then to
see its brilliant creator (Lin-Manuel Miranda) give an acceptance
speech in rap.

Other choices
include:

“Tarzan” (1999),
11:30 a,m., Freeform. The former ABC Family launches a splendid
marathon of Disney cartoons. There's “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) at
1:30 p.m., “The Princess and the Frog (2009) at 3:30, “Monsters,
Inc.” (2001) at 5:45, “Brave” (2012) at 8 and “Aladdin”
(1992) at 10.

Movies, 7 p.m. and
later, cable. At 7, Hallmark has “Anything for Love,” a clever
film it debuted on Valentine's Day; Sundance has a dandy Tom Cruise
double-feature, with “Top Gun” (1986) at 7 and “A Few Good Men”
(1992) at 9:30. At 7:30, FX has zombies and Brad Pitt, with “World
War Z” (2013). And at 8, IFC offers great fun with “Ghostbusters”
(1984); its sequel (1989) ia at 10:15.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Callen is
on a rogue mission and even Sam doesn't know where he is. Hetty
demands that his operation be shut down and be be found.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. A graffiti artist in Detroit is taking things too far,
incorporating body parts into the work. Also, Dr. Lewis (Aisha Tyler)
has trouble finding time for her work and her fiance.

“Doctor Who,” 9
p.m., BBC America. Petronella Osgood, a scientist working for the
UNIT military operation, has been kidnapped. The Doctor, Clara and
UNIT search the galaxy.

“Black Sails,” 9
p.m., Starz. Facing near-certain death, Silver pushes Captain Flint
to take action.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Here's the episode Adam Driver hosted,
shortly after the latest “StarWars” (in which he co-stars) had
made a fortune. It reruns on the eve of the season-opener of “Girls,”
in which he also co-stars.Chris Stapleton, who won two Grammuys on
Monday, co-stars.

 

 

 

TV column for Friday, Feb. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Carole King's life
has been filled with rich contrasts. She created the soundtrack for
love and angst, co-writing “One Fine Day,” “It's Too Late,”
“A Natural Woman” and hundreds more. Still, she once said, “even
as a teen-ager, I was an old Jewish lady inside”; after she
finished writing a classic-to-be (“Will You Sill Love Me
Tomorrow?”) she left to play canasta with her mother's friends.

King has been a city
kid in the East, a suburbanite, a molder of the California sound and
now an Idaho activist. It's a fascinating story, beautifully told
here and rippling with great music.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week's opener –
pitting 11 duos of Internet and social-media stars -- was a
non-elimination one. That was a relief for Blair Fowler (who does
beauty and fashion tips) and her dad Scott (a doctor); they finished
last, but survived.

Winning the opener
were Dana Alexa Boriello and Matt Steffanina (her fiance and
dance-video partner). In a footrace, they edged Tyler Oakley and
Korey Kuhl, friends and Youtube colleagues.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

This is a good night
for light films, led by “Men in Black” (1997) on Bravo, “The
Devil Wears Prada” (2006) on Oxygen and the musical delight “Little
Shop of Horrors” (1986) on TV Land.

On the serious side:
The bizarre and compelling “Fight Club” (1999) on VH1, the
high-octane “Vinyl” (2016) opener on HBO and the true war story
“Black Hawk Down” (2001) on BBC America. Filled with fierce
action, “Down” drew two technical Oscars and a nomination for
director Ridley Scott.

Other choices
include:

“Sleepy Hollow,”
8 p.m., Fox. Now that Abbie has been rescued, she and Ichabod and
Jenny try to resume normal life. Alas, normalcy is elusive –
especially when the Kindred turn evil.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Eve's new band sounds so awful that Mike
schemes to break it up. Meanwhile, Mandy babysits her nephew Boyd
with Kyle.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30,
ABC. Everyone heads to a wedding, with shaky results. Some catch the
wrong wedding; Allison doesn't want to be there, mostly because Ken
is such a bad dancer.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Melanie Griffith returns as Danny's mom, now being
questioned by the FBI. Meanwhile, McGarrett links with an autistic
young man whose only friend has been killed.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. A call from Monroe's relative in Germany leads to jolting
information about Nick's ancestors.

“Alonzo Bodden:
Historically Incorrect,” 9 p.m., Showtime. Bodden – a brilliant
comic who was runner-up in the second “Last Comic Standing” and
winner of the third – does a stand-up routine.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Erin is devastated when a man she recently let free is
accused of a cop-killing. Meanwhile, her brother Danny searches for a
missing policeman and their dad is still battling the mayor over his
re-appointment as police commissioer.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 18


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Like no other
current show, “Mom” can veers between broad comedy and stark
tragedy. It tries that again tonight; the result isn't one of its
better episodes ... but is far better than most shows.

One story involves a
teen addict (Emily Osment) who's helped by Christy and her AA
friends. Another has a wedding, with Rhea Perlman as a reluctant
in-law. There are funny moments – and then a jolt.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

“Idol” is ready
to trim to its final 14 people for its final season. Last week, 12
performed and seven advanced; now the same thing happens this week.

On Wednesday, 12
more (ages 15 to 28) sang; now they'll duet with past stars and seven
will survive. The returning people include winners (Fantasia, Ruben
Studdard, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Scotty McCreery, Caleb Johnson,
Nick Fradiani) and some of the more respected rejects -- Chris
Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Constantine Maroulis, Lauren Alaina and
Haley Reinhart.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “London Spy” finale, 10 p.m., BBC America.

After four achingly
slow (yet brilliantly acted) episodes, “Spy” suddenly hit
overdrive in last week's final minutes. Danny (the superb Ben
Whishaw) found that his friend and mentor had killed himself.

This finale does, at
least, answer questions about Alex, Danny's lover: Who killed him?
Why? Was Frances (Charlotte Rampling) really his mother? This is
nowhere near the sort of satisfying finish that frustrated viewers
deserve. Still, it wraps things up in a way that's simultaneously
distant and involving.

Other choices
include:

All day, History.
First is a “Vikings” marathon -- the final five episodes of the
second season at 7 a.m. and (starting at noon) the entire third
season. The fourth starts at 10 p.m., with Ragnar seemingly on his
death bed. Then “Join or Die” debuts; Colin Ferguson and guests
discuss history's worst political blunder at 11:01 p.m. and worst
medical advice at 11:31.

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse,” 8-9 p.m., NBC. What started as a comedy-drama has shed
most of its humor lately, but remains a thoroughly watchable
adventure. As a comet streaks toward Earth, we see the decency in a
cynical priest (Rob Lowe) and in a timid librarian (Jenna Fischer)
who accidentally became a fugitive. More complicated is hapless
Jamie, who has learned that his wife isn't really dead and that he
has an evil twin, Ariel.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When people learn that Bernadette is
pregnant, they decide it's time for joyous karaoke. Still, Howard
has his worries ... which leave Bernadette worried.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Fretting about getting older, John (James Brolin)
starts toying with his appearance. Also, we meet Colleen's mother,
played by Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl. And Greg and Jen go to a
birthday party filled with overreaching parents.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. When the founder of an Internet site is killed, Red
surveys the crime scene and knows who did it. Also, Liz ponders
options for her baby.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Annalise recovers from the shooting,
flashbacks tell us more about her. Also, her students grasp for some
normalcy.

“Baskets,” 10
p.m., FX. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10:30) went too far,
draining its characters (and viewers) of hope. This episode
(rerunning at 11), reboundd nicely, when Chips' mom (wonderfully
played by Louie Anderson) asserts herself.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Survivor” opener, 8-9:30 p.m., CBS.

When “Survivor”
launched a “brains vs. brawn vs. beauty” theme two years ago, it
seemed like a mismatch: Three of the first four people ousted were
“brains.” Then that settled down; the final six included three
brains, three brawn and no beauty,

Now comes the second
try, with six-person tribes. “Brains” includes a doctor, a
chemist and a quantitative strategist; “Beauty” has a bartender
and “Big Brother” villain Caleb Reynolds And “Brawn”
includes a body builder, a bounty hunter and former 6-foot-11
basketball pro Scot Pollard.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Brilliantly crafted
and deeply disturbing, “Crime” has the ability to shake and
shatter viewers. It does that tonight, with its most potent episode.

At the core is
Taylor, bright and distant. When photos of a teen party hit the
Internet, his mom charged he'd been raped. That's when he said he'd
gone there for gay, consensual sex with a basketball star. Rage and
repercussions have followed; tonight, all of that peaks in a
stunning, jolting moment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In the Patagonian
desert, near the southern tip of Argentina, a shepherd came across
the largest bone ever found. A dinosaur femur, it's almost eight feet
long – five times the size of a human femur. Scientists soon found
200 more bones from seven dinosars, in what's considered a new
species.

“Nature” traces
the story of a 121-foot long, 77-ton creature. David Attenborough,
who's been doing nature shows for 60 years, seems genuinely awestruck
when he sees the completed re-creation.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Here's a new kind of culture shock: It turns out that
Brick has never seen a movie in a movie theater. His parents rush to
fix this ... but that leads to a new issue.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. Daniella Monet, who co-starred in the
“Victorious” and “Fred” series, plays the beauty who shunned
Ben in high school. Now she applies for a job at his bar.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. In 1991, two German tourists in the Alps found the oldest
naturally preserved mummy in history. More than 5,100 years ago,
scientists say, he was murdered and left in the ice. After two
decades of isolation, the bones were allowed to be examined by an
artist creating a replica.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Now that Claire has taken over for her dad (Jay) as head
of the company, she's acting ike a big-time businessperson; Phil
feels ignored. Also, Jay is bothered by the attention given to a
store's life-size cut-out of his wife Gloria. He and Manny try a
poorly planned heist.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Here's a transplanted rerun of an episode
shortly after Amy broke up with Sheldon. Stephen Merchant, co-creator
and co-star of the British “Office,” plays her date; Adam Nimoy –
who is planning a movie about his father, Leonard – plays himself.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Christa (Bonnie Somerville) must ignore her feelings about
Grace (Meagan Good) when they work together to help a troubled teen.

“Broad City”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy Central. This clever (if inconsistent)
show has drawn Critics Choice nominations for best comedy in each of
its first two seasons. The third starts with Abby and Ilana searching
for a public bathroom and facing wardrobe malfunctions en route to a
gallery.