TV column for Sunday, Feb. 19


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Good Fight” debut, 8 p.m., CBS and CBS All Access.

The
good news is that this sequel keeps all the qualities of the Good
Wife” -- great characters, sharp dialog, shifting ethics. The bad:
After tonight, it will only be on the All Access streaming service.

As
it starts, one person (Diane Lockhart) is ending her law career;
another (Maia Rindell, a family friend of Diane) is starting hers.
First, they'll battle an all-black law firm that includes Lucca
Quinn, Diane's former colleague. Then a financial jolt shatters
everything – and propels us toward All Access.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “Paley Center Salutes,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Back
on Nov. 15, 1926, this was considered an epic: One show reached 25
radio stations. It had an orchestra, four dance bands, a vaudeville
duo, Will Rogers and opera stars; NBC was born.

Its
video efforts would be more gradual; in 1946, the few NBC-TV shows
included “Geographically Speaking,” “Esso Newsreel” and “I
Love to Eat.” This 90-year celebration (three years late) focuses
mainly on TV – which NBC once ruled. We can explect lots of clps,
plus Kelsey Grammer (who hosts), Tina Fey, Ted Danson, Jennifer
Lopez, Blake Shelton, Amy Poehler, Noah Wyle, Bob Costas and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tangled” (2010), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Six
years before triumphing with “This Is Us,” Dan Fogelman and Mandy
Moore combined for this Disney animated film. He wrote it, inserting
sly humor for grown-ups; she voiced and sang the lead role as a
feisty Rapunzel, maneuvering an unwitting hero (Zachary Levi) to help
her.

The
result has served Disney well; a new series (with Moore and Levi
again voicing the leads) debuts as a movie on Martch 10 and a series
March 24). First, here's a channce to catch the original.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Billions” season-opener, 10 p.m., Showtime,
rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The
first season (rerunning from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) had a collision of
opposites. Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) is a U.S. attorney,
well-born and stridently ethical. Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is a
blue-collar billionaire, straight-talking and ruthless; so far, he's
deflected all investigations.

Now
a sampling shows that the quality will continue this season.
“Billions” is filled with dark schemes and dialog that is
crackling good ... even when it becomes almost too thick to follow.

Other choices
include:

“The
Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Lisa and Bart
investigate Krusty's new candy bar. Then a new episode finds two
surprises: Homer is a chess champ; Bart experieces guilt.

Basketball,
8 p.m. ET, TNT. Last season ended with LeBron James and the Cleveland
Cavaliers topping Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Now
those two collide in the all-star game. Curry has a Warrior teammate
(Kevin Durant) starting and another (Draymond Green) in reserve ...
alongside Russell Westbrook of the Rockets, who is No. 1 in scoring
AND No. 3 in assists.

“Victoria,”
9 p.m., PBS. In many circles, news of a pregnancy only sparks joy. In
this solid episode,

it
sparks a debate: If the queen dies in childbirth, who will rule as
the baby's regent?


Big Little Lies” debut, 9 p.m.,
HBO. At a trendy school in an upscale community, three opposites
become friends. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is vibrant and social;
Celeste (Nicole Kidman),
whose marriage
is envied, is guarded; Jane (Shailene Woodley) has less money and
less to say. These are vivid characters, soon stirred by an
accusation, a murder, secrets and more.

“Elementary,”
10 p.m., CBS. Several professional video-game players – yes, that's
a profession – guest in this episode, in which a former pro is
killed during a live video
stream.

“Crashing”
debut, 10:30 p.m., HBO. Pete Holmes created this promising series, based on
the
early, floundering years
of his
stand-up comedy career.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 17; slightly out of order


(This is the Friday, Feb. 17 column, a tad out of order. For Saturday one, scroll down one more.)

By Mike Hughes

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The early episodes
were way too thick and tangled, twisting the “Wizard of Oz” story
beyond recognition. But now, in the eighth of 10 episodes, things are
starting to make sense.

We learn more about
Tip, who seemed to transform from boy to girl. And about Lucas,
Dorothy's lover. In visually splendid scenes, Dorothy, Lucas and
young Sylvie are in the all-white world of Glinda (Joely Richardson).
The story's weak point involves the relationship between Jack and
Queen Ev ... but that may change: In tonight's final minures, the
Wizard gallops in with his anti-witch army.

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

Here's the third
confrontation with Dr. Madison Gray, the beautiful and cunning serial
killer, played by former “Law & Order” co-star Elizabeth
Rohm.

This time, she
stumbles into the police office, claiming to hava amnesia. Also,
she's covered with what seems to be the blood of Alicia Brown (Claire
Forlani).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Grammy Awards, 8-11:30 p.m., Pop.

Why watch a rerun of
an award show from five days ago? Because it was one of the season's
greatest shows, cleverly hosted by James Corden and filled with
brilliant moments. There were two numbers by Adele, two by Bruno
Mars, splendid productions with Beyonce, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Even when their were
miscues – Adele stopped a song and started over, Metallica's
microphone didn't work for half a song – things were fine. This is
what TV should be – live, raw and ambitious.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Basketball or ballet.

Some remarkably
skilled peopple fill our TV sets – doing things for specialized
tastes. On PBS (9 p.m.), “Great Performances” spends the next two
Fridays in Paris, viewing the New York City Ballet. Each night has
portions of two George Balanchine ballets, with the music of French
composers.

For opposite tastes,
this is the start of pro-basketball's all-star weekend. The actual
all-star game is 8 p.m. ET Sunday, but tonight has two warm-ups –
the celebrity game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and the “Rising Stars”
game, featuring rookies and second-year pros, at 9 p.m. on TNT.

Other choices
include:

“Kung Fu Panda 2”
(2011) and “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014), 6 and 8 p.m., FX.
It's an animation double-feature. Grown-ups can try “Fight Club”
(1999), 7:38 p.m., Starz, or the Oscar-winning work of Anne Bancroft
and Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker” (1962) at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. The original “MacGyver” series included the Coltons, a
tough family of bounty hunters. Now they're back, with Sheryl Lee
Ralph as the knife-wielding Mama Colton; they've already caught the
fugitive, but Mac and Jack want to extract him.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. During a search for a counterfeit-money kingpin, Dr.
Rosewood (Morris Chestnut) learns new things about the past of Det.
Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz).

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. This is a difficult time for Diana. Just as her daughter
Molly nears her 11th birthday, the girl's father returns
from duty and there are fresh revelations.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Kevin Dillon guests as Linda's brother. Now he's in
trouble with the Mob; he pleads with his brother-in-law Danny to let
him stay with him until it blows over.

“The History of
Comedy,” midnight, CNN (barring breaking news). Here's a quick
rerun of Thursday's episode, an interesting look at the past and
present of women in comedy.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST'-SEE:
“Planet Earth II” debut, 9 p.m., AMC, BBC America and Sundance;
also, 6 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. MT on BBC America.

The first “Planet
Earth” series (which BBC America reruns from 6 a.m. ET today to 11
a.m. Sunday) was stunning, winning a Peabody Award, two Television
Crtitics Association prizes and four Emmys.

A decade later, this
superb sequel starts with a look at islands. One early scene –
snakes chasing iguanas – is way too long and brutal, but the rest
is a delight. We see the imposing, 10-foot-long Komodo dragon ... and
1.5 million penguins on a stark, volcanic rock .... and 50 milliuon
crabs racing across Christmas Island. Also, David Attenborough slyly
narrates a sloth's rush (sort of) to a lustful call.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Dave Chappelle, all day, NBC and Comedy Central.

We can savor the
work of a comic genius, past and present. From 11:15 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
Comedy Central reruns 18 episodes of “Chapelle's Show”; that's
the series – mostly with short films – that Chappelle walked away
from a decade ago, turning down multi-million-dollar offers.

Then “Saturday
Night Live” (11:29 p.m., NBC) reruns its post-election episode.
Chappelle's monolog (plus Kate McKinnon's opening song and
Chappelle's sketch with Chris Rock) did much to soothe viewers who
were mourning the results.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Flushed Away” (2006), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

This is good news
for families – an ABC animation weekend. On Sunday ABC has
“Tangled,” an epic (with action, humor and music) from its parent
company, Disney. But first is this droll British tale.

An upscale rat
suddenly finds himself in the sewers of London, learning to survive.
Classy actors – Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, David
Suchet – provide voices. The result won four Annies (the animation
award), including best script.

Other choices
include:

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Eric, a hostage negotiator, sees things from the othert
side, when he's one of the people held hostage. As he tries to save
lives from the inside, Sarah leads her first negotiation.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Monday's episode, Carter must escape from
his bizarre, police-station heist, then deliver the money to his
former Army colleague. Meanwhile, he has only two trusted colleagues
inside the Counter Terrorism Unit, trying to plug a leak.

Basketball, 8 p.m.
ET, TNT. On the eve of the pro all-star game, here are the contests
for slam dunks and three-point shooting.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun of the pilot film, a tech billionaire wants to
finance and take control of a police precinct. There's potential
here, but the central character is difficult to like.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Here are
the first episodes of this Thursday-night documentary series. The
first views censorship, whic crushed Lenny Bruce, then was shattered
by Richard Pryor, George Carlin and more. The second views women,
with their own fight against comedy limits. Stuffed with clips, these
are intelligent, surface views of complex subjects.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Pride (Scott Bakula) is already viewed
skeptically by the FBI. Now he stirs ill-will by helping a former
Navy analyst (Tom Arnold) who's a murder suspect.

Kevin Hart shows, 9
p.m. to 1:25 a.m., Comedy Central. Sandwiched around Hart's fairly
funny “The Wedding Ringer” (2015) at 10 p.m. are stand-up
specials at 8 p.m. and 12:20 a.m.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The History of Comedy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

How tough was the
comedy business for women? Treva Silverman says she thought she had a
great interview for Johnny Carson's show ... then was told “the
guys wouldn't be comfortable” with a woman in the writers' room.
She would go on to win two Emmys with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Gail Parent recalls
being the only woman among 100 variety-show writers; Rosie O'Donnell
says in 1979 the stand-up circuit only had six women. This episode
(the second in a series, with reruns on Saturdays) views the female
pioneers and the shows, especially “Saturday Night Live,” that
soared.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Scandal,” 9 p.m., ABC, and more.

ABC has already
renewed all three of its regular Thursday shows for next season, a
key step. During the time when they were missing, the night fell
apart.

All three shows are
from Shonda Rhimes, with a cinematic feel and a great sense of
character ... even when it's a tad excessive. Or A LOT excessive, in
the case of “Scandal” ... which has Olivia convinced that Cyrus
schemed the whole thing – being elected vice-president and then
having the president-elect killed on election night. Tonight, he
insists on his innocence and the team finds shocking information.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “MasterChef Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox; “Project Runway
Junior,” 9 p.m,, Lifetime, repeating at 10:34.

One show is just
starting, another is near its finale and both are stuffed with whiz
kids. In a charming opener last week, “MasterChef” chose eight
young cooks; now it chooses its other 12 finalists.

And “Runway”?
Recent episodes (rerunning from 6-9 p.m.) trimmed it to five teens,
14-17, preparing for next week's finale. There are three girls (two
started in fashion after watching “Runway”) and two boys (one
didn't start sewing until taking a home-ec class at 12). They're
varied – one from each coast, plus a Louisiana guy, a Michigan girl
and a headscarf-wearing Muslim girl from Mankato, Minn.

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

Small-town tragedies
can be large – murders and affairs and such – or subtle, with the
closing of a theater that's crucial to youth culture. Tonight, all of
those merge in a strong episode.

As always, this is a
mixed blessing. One character is accurately described as “a stock
character from a '90s teen movie”; another (Betty's mom) is almost
as absurd. But flaws and all, this is a solid episode. Tonight,
“Riverdale” disposes of its worst plot element and offers fresh
insights on Jughead.

Other choices
include:

“RED” (2010) and
“RED 2” (2013), 6:30 and 9 p.m., Syfy. Bruce Willis tries to
retire to suburbia ... a life choice that's apparently not available
to former secret-agent killers. These are big, clever films, with
great support from Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker
and many more.

“Grey's Anatomy.”
8 p.m., ABC. The surgical residents want to spend their time fretting
about the next step by Eliza, the consultant who has been altering
their program. For now, however, they're tangled in a battle among
the attending physicians. Also, April has a tough first day in her
new duties.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon and Amy have a modest sex life –
once a year, on her birthday – but he still managed to talk about
it to co-workers. Now she's furious.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, Bonnie managed to ruin her great romance with Adam.
Now she's making everyone miserable, so Christy begs him to take her
back.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. We always knew Brent Spiner – who played Data in
“Star Trek” tales – could be a master criminal. Now he plays
someone who will plan the perfect crime, for a price.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Once fiercely potent, Annalise is
determined to take down the district attorney and assistant who
robbed her of her power.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Doubt” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

If nothing else,
let's credit this show for trying hard. It surrounds its star
(Katherine Heigl) with an Oscar-nominee (Elliott Gould) and two
Emmy-nominees (Laverne Cox and Dule Hill). It's a courtroom drama
that adds smidgens of humor, romance and even a dazzling bicycle
ride.

“Doubt” will
have one ambitious case winding through the season, cable-style, but
will also settle smaller ones along the way. And that's the problem
tonight: Neither case – the short one or the start of the long one
– is terribly interesting. Heigl and other defense lawyers face,
for now, weak opposition.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

The first two
chapters (available at www.pbs.org)
captured intimate, life-in-the-wild views of animal cunning and love.
Now the mid-section of a five-week series eyes friendships that go
beyond family.

Some are simple
convenience; birds groom crocodiles, fish give hippos an underwater
spa. More elaborate is a mutual-protection society, when birds
deliberately set nests alongside crocodiles. When the croc has gone
to the water, the birds protect its nest from a lizard ... but signal
when they need more help. Other stories include group efforts by
wolves and by meerkats, to find their missing young.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Madiba,” 3:54 to 10 p.m., BET.

Here is the history
of Nelson Mandela in one sprawling package, filmed in South Africa by
gifted actor-turned-director Kevin Hooks. The opener concluded with
Mandela (Laurence Fishburne) acquitted after a six-yeat court case;
the second (rerunning at 6 p.m.) saw the shift to guerilla violence.

Now the third (8
p.m.) finds Mandela finally released after 27 years in prison. The
end of apartheid is coming, but so are crises, personal (his marriage
to Winnie is troubled) and political.

Other choices
include:

“Love on the Air”
(2015) and “Candles on Bay Street” (2006), 7 and 9 p.m., Hallmark
Movies & Mysteries. No, all Hallmark films aren't identical. This
first one has a clever script about feuding radio personalities, with
Kristoffer Tabori skilfully directing Alison Sweeney and Jonathan
Scarfe. The second has a bigger “Hall of Fame” budget, with a
young woman (Alicia Silverstone) returning home.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Thomas Lennon, the clever writer-actor from “Reno 911”
and “The Odd Couple,” plays an ambulance-chasing lawyer linked to
the cartel. Now the cops must protect him.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Missy Elliott guests as a top singer/producer who shows up at a
fundraiser. Meanwhile, Alexanndra gets a tempting offer from her
mother (Naomi Campbell). And the pastor tries to repair the
relationship between trans-gender Cotton and her mother (Queen
Latifah).

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. This began darkly, with a hesitent return to an Earth that
had been destroyed by radiation a century earlier. Now it's all
happening again: As radiation consumes the planet, Clarke must
prepare a list of the 100 people who will be saved inside the ship
... unless someone comes up with a quick alternative. It's a good
episode, despite so-so detours involving the “flame” symbol of
power.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. At home, Jay doesn't feel needed; Gloria has hired Gary
(Peyton Manning) to coach Joe and serve as a handyman. Still, Phil
needs Jay to invest in a fix-up project.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Anthony Anderson has described growing up in Compton,
amid gang violence and police brutality. Like his character, Dre, he
got out and prospered. Now this episode sends Dre back to a funeral
in Compton, where he feels survivor's remorse.

“Chicago, P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. A torched house leaves little to work with. There's a
young boy and a victim who's burned beyond recognition; with few
clues, the team starts to discover secrets.