TV column for Friday, Oct. 2


TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “Dr. Ken” debut, 8:31 p.m., ABC.

Friday
nights used to be fun, you know. ABC said “TGIF” means “thank
goodness its funny”; various networks had John Ritter, Ray Romano,
Ellen Degeneres and George Lopez on Fridays.

And
now? ABC keeps trying, with the OK “Last Man Standing” at 8 p.m.
and various shows at 8:30. Now it has Ken Jeong (a former doctor in
real life), playing a wisecracking doctor. All of the cliches are
there, including a wise wife, bureaucratic boss, odd son and popular
daughter. The story has some fairly funny moments that could have
been salvaged by a more-skilled actor.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE II: “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., Fox.

While
ABC gropes at Friday comedy, we might as well savor the reruns of two
Tuesday debuts. Each has a clever concept that neatly fits its star.

Often
enough, TV characters suddenly learn they are fathers; this one (John
Stamos) simultaneously learns he's a grandfather. Then Rob Lowe plays
an actor who portrays a lawyer on TV; when the show is cancelled, he
returns home and figures he can help his brother (Fred Savage) at a
real law practice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “In Performance at the White House,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings)

From
Paul Simon in 2007 to Willie Nelson this year, the almost-annual
Gershwin Prize has honorted popular songwriters. Here's a rerun of
the 2012 event, honoring Burt Bacharach, now 87, and Hal David, who
died later that year, at 91.

Stevie
Wonder, the second Gershwin winner, performs. Also included are
Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Michael Feinstein, Rumer and jazz-trumpeter
Arturo Sandoval.

Other
choices include:

“Last
Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike (Tim Allen) makes a suggestion
that seems revolutionary these days: Maybe his grandson could just
walk home from school. Meanwhile, his daughters try to keep a secret
from their mom; also, there's a meeting for “doomsday preppers.”

“Best
Time Ever” (8 p.m., NBC) and “Scream Queens” (9 p.m., Fox).
Maybe Friday is the new Tuesday. Both of these hours ran Tuesday, as
did the Fox comedies. “Best Time” is a loose collection of stunts
and such; on “Scream Queens,” the dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) dares
to change the school mascot.

“America's
Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. Next week, CW starts launching its
fall line-up. With that in mind, this show moves to its regular
night; tonight, eliminated contestants get a second chance.

“Hawaii
Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Someone has threatened to detonate hidden
bombs, unless an arsonist (played by former fighting champion Randy
Couture) is released.

“Blue
Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny is probing a possible serial killer.
Meanwhile, his sister considers applying for a judgeship and their
dad, the police commissionert, is accused by a mayoral candidate
(Mary Stuart Masterson) of investigating her husband.

“POV,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Art and activism are risky in
China, this documentary says. Al Weiwei spent 16 months in
confinement. He resumed making art, but also mocked the government.
He even installed four web-cams in his home, to give the public the
same views the spies have.

“The
Jacksons: Next Generation” debut, 10 p.m., Lifetime. This reality
show follows the brothers in 3T, a music group. Taj, Taryll and TJ
Jackson (41, 39 and 34) are the sons of Tito Jackson and the nephews
of the late Michael Jackson and other members of The Jacksons.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 1


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC.

Don't
expect a calm, casual return; this is crisis mode. :Liz (Megan Boone)
– an FBI agent who didn't know her mother was a Russian spy -- has
been framed; Red (James Spader) plans their escape.

The
result is high-stakes and high-octane. It keeps straining
credibility, but is so good that we willingly suspend disbelief. That
story (and one involving Red's aide Dembe) will continue next week.

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

Suddenly,
suspiciously, a lead character vanishes. Colleagues and spouse are
bewildered; a rogue mission is suspected. Yes, this sounds familiar.
“Castle” has started the past two seasons that way; now “Bones”
does the same. Booth is missing; he may be dead or crooked or both.

An
outside investigator (Kim Raver) arrives, spitting out some ludicrous
dialog, while the others (and viewers) remain perplexed. Gradually,
the story grabs us ... just in time for the “to be continued”
note.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sleepy Hollow” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

This
time-travel thing can gets sticky. Ichabod Crane, transported from
the Revolutionary War he believed in, visits a colonial-themed
restaurant – complete with “Eggs Benedict Arnold.”

That
provides a light interlude for a strong episode. Crane is re-united
with Abbie (now an FBI agent) and her sister. There's a new monster
in town and a potent villainess is on the way. “Sleepy Hollow”
offers solid characters, stylish visuals, occasional shocks ... and,
tonight, some restaurant humor.

Other
choices include:

“Heroes
Reborn,” 8 p.m., NBC. Tommy actually seems happy now, with new
popularity at school and a girl (whom he secretly loves) he can show
his powers to. Meanwhile, Carlos considers his late brother's role as
a secret superhero, Noah tries to make sense of this ... and crises
loom; a mogul shows that she's determined to destroy anyone with
special powers.

Football,
8:30 p.m. ET CBS, with pre-game at 7:30. For the second time in four
weeks, the Thursday game has the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have a 2-1
record this season, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured last week,
putting Michael Vick at quarterback. He faces the Baltimore Ravens,
who are 0-3.

“Scandal,”
9 p.m., ABC. A new job takes Olivia away from Washington, D.C. ...
where the president is trying to figure out who caused his latest
problems.

“Project
Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. The emphasis turns practical this
week – creating designs that can be reproduced and sold Online.
Ciara is the guest judge.

“How
to Get Away With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week's season-opener
had big moments for Annalise (Emmy-winner Viola Davis): A
flashforward showed her shot and gravely wounded; other scenes saw
her figure out that Bonnie – one of the lawyers working for her –
killed Rebecca. Now Annalise faces a tough time as a defense lawyer
(for rich siblings) and as a trial witness.

“The
Player,” 10 p.m., NBC. Kane is stunned by what he learns at his
ex-wife's funeral.

“The
Daily Show,” 11 p.m., Comedy Central. Wrapping up his first week,
Trevor Noah has his first musical guest, Ryan Adams.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 30


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “Code Black” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

This
all started with a doctor's documentary about his old workplace. Ryan
McGarry showed a Los Angeles emergency room where the most extreme
code (rare in most places) happens almost daily.

Now
that's been turned into a fictional series with a tough, gritty feel.
We meet four new residents (one, Bonnie Somerville, with a
complicated past), the senior nurse (Luis Guzman) and their
no-nonsense chief (Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden). Some of this has
the usual just-play-by-the rules cliches; mostly, however, “Code
Black” is a strong, solid drama.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

This
show teeters between being a sleekly terrific musical drama and
merely being a silly soap opera in the style of “Dynasty” -- a
title it partly borrows tonight. The silliest parts involve a
prosecutor who flashes big cleavage and withholds medicine;
fortunately, the music and the office politics are first-rate.

Last
week, Lucious squelched one uprising in prison and another – from
ex-wife Cookie and two of their sons – at the record company. Now
Cookie strikes back, boosted and hindered by her mercurial son
Hakeem. The action is fast and flashy ... when it manages to avoid
dynastic soap suds.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Last
week, we met Sam Trull, an American who spends her days in Costa
Rica, with sloths hanging on her. One of the sweetest sloths, hit by
pneumonia, was clinging to his life and clinging to her.

Now
that story concludes and we see Trull at work, nudging another sloth
to swim and to be alone at night. Two other stories – also
involving animal orphans – are from Australia, involving fruitbats
and kangaroos. In each case, we get ernest humans, cute critters and
gentle, feel-good stories.

Other
choices include:

“The
iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. The second half of this
special has a Jackosn (Janet) and a Jonas (Nick), plus Blake Shelton,
The Weeknd, Puff Daddy, Prince Royce and Fall Out Boy.

“Survivor,”
8 p.m., CBS. A decade after his brother was a “Survivor”
champion, Vytas Baskauskas had an opposite fate: Last week, Baskauska
(who finished 10th in 2013) became the first person
eliminated. Now the remaining 19 compete; tonight, none of the tribes
is puzzled by a classichallenge.

“The
Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Last week ended with Sue sitting in her
brightly decorated half of a dorm room ... staring at the empty half
next to her. Now she waits ... then finds that having a roommate
isn't a sure road to happiness. Meanwhile, her brothers have their
own school adventures.

“The
Fluffy Movie” (2014), 8:30-11 p.m., Fuse. This music-oriented
channel has had lots of changes, since merging with SiTV. Now it
debuts a new look and emphasizes two of its stars – Gabriel
“Fluffy” Iglesias in a stand-up comedy film, followed at 11 by
“Big Freedia,” a reality show about the person who popularized
“bounce music.”

“Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. With money tight, Mitchell and Cam become
landlords. Meanwhile, Alex doesn't want to make a big deal of her
move to college; she even tells her parents the wrong day.

“Chicago
P.D.” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. Bokeem Woodbine guests as a
heroin kingpin who tops Chicago's most-wanted list. He kidnaps an
intelligence detective, setting off a furious search. Also, Lindsay
is in a downward spiral and Olinsky tells a secret from his past.

“Nashville,”
10 p.m., ABC. Last week's season-opener found Juliette raging at
Rayna, living away from her husband and baby and seeming ready to
crumble. Now she does – during a live TV show.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 29


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Grinder” debut, 8:30 p.m., Fox.

In
real life, Rob Lowe is a lawyer's son who plays lawyers (and others)
on TV. And here? He plays a lawyer's son who played a lawyer on TV
... until the show was canceled. He retreats home and decides to
“help” at the family law office with his father (William Devane)
and brother (Fred Savage).

He's
short on knowledge and long on charisma; his brother is the opposite.
Now they're mismatched in all the right ways. The result is a neatly
assembled comedy, thoroughly entertaining.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Grandfathered” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

After a shabby first
week of the season (introducing the fairly lame “Minority Report,”
“Scream Queens” and “Rosewood”), Fox is springing back with
two of the year's best new comedies. Neither has a lot of huge-laugh
moments, but each is consistently funny, with a great concept and
smart casting.

John Stamos portrays
a slickly handsome womanizer, which doesn't surprise us. Then he
learns he has a son (Josh Peck).and a granddaughter. In an instant,
he's gone from in-control to dazed-and-confused. Peck, a former
kids-cable star, and Christina Milian give solid support to the
perfectly cast Stamos.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline,” 10 p.m, PBS (check local listings).

For years, Ken
Dornstein was a story editor for “Frontline,” PBS' superb
documentary series. Now he's tackled the mega-story that has
overshadowed his life.

Dornstein was 19
when his older brother David died in the 1988 bombing of an airliner
that crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland. Investigators came up with 10
suspects tied to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but only one was
convicted ... and he was released a decade later, when he had cancer.
Now Dornstein begins a three-week probe that is involving, despite
spending way too much time on process.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Gibbs has a new look, setting off rumors. Stirring things is his
obsession with a case that seems to have strong personal links.

“The Muppets,” 8
p.m., ABC. After a great opener last week, “Muppets” settles into
a fairly good episode. As Miss Piggy implodes, her colleagues decide
she needs a boyfriend ... not just any guy, but the golden-voiced
Josh Groban. But is a happy Piggy even more dangerous than a grumpy
one?

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. After his girlfriend dumps him, Eddie drifts
into despair, playing the same song over and over. Also, his dad
suddenly groans about not having a daughter.

“Agents of SHIELD”
season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC. The team faces double trouble – the
disappearance of Simmons and a confrontation with a team that's
interested in finding people with extra powers.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a blogger with top-secret documents is
killed, the case leads to dark secrets about a Bolivian mission.

“Scream Queens,”
9 p.m., Fox. Last week's debut introduced a sorority and two skeptics
– the dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Grace the reformer (Skyler
Samuels). Tonight, Grace learns secrets and the dean appoints a new
mascot.

More, 10 p.m. NBC
had planned to slide Neil Patrick Harris' live “Best Time Ever”
to 8 p.m., beginning today; now it stays at 10, at least for another
week. Meanwhile, ABC's show for that slot (“Wicked City”) is
still a month away; instead, here's a rerun of Sunday's so-so
“Quantico.”

TV column for Monday, Sept. 28


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” debut, 11 p.m.,
Comedy Central.

As
a bizarre presidential campaign grows, one thing has been missing:
The brilliant, biting satire of “The Daily Show” -- winner of11
best-variety-show Emmys – went on hold when Jon Stewart left.

His
replacement is a South Africa native, 31, who's only been in the U.S.
for four years. Noah is a gifted comedian with tough experiences; his
mother was jailed for having a mixed-race child. Now we can catch his
humor and see his first guest, Kevin Hart. For additional topical
humor, catch NBC at 12:35 a.m.; Seth Meyers has been brilliant since
deciding to open his show at a desk, news-style.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week's
season-opener reminded us that this is still TV's best comedy ... and
still knows how to surprise us. Yes, Leonard and Penny finally
married; then she learned that the woman he kissed on the North Sea
is still a co-worker. They fumed and retreated to separate
apartments.

Now he must confront
that co-worker. And Sheldon – crushed by Amy breaking up with him,
when he had planned to propose – plans a special episdoe of his
“Fun With Flags” podcast.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week, the
season started bizarrely. Beckett got a mysterious phone call and
disappeared. She soon was linked with shoot-outs; she resurfaced to
save Castle's life ... then vanished again.

It was a fascinating
start, but it was too similar to last season, when Castle
disappeared. It also seemed wildly unlikely ... but now we'll learn
more. Tonight, the story is told from Beckett's viewpoint.

Other choices
include:

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last week, the season started with a jolt –
straight-arrow Jim Gordon committing a robbery and murder (of a
crook), in order to get his police job back. He had leaned to the
dark side; now it sometimes looks like this whole, well-crafted show
has gone there. It opens the hour with a burst of torture and murder.
Then Gordon goes to work, chasing the insane-asylum escapees.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Matt has a “bad date” with Colleen, which is
considered a good thing. Also, he walks in on his parents being
intimate; his mom promptly has a family therapy session.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. The young geniuses head to Cuba, to help their FBI
handler. A friend from his past wants help catching a Serbian war
criminal.

“Minority Report,”
9 p.m., CBS. Dash again links with a cop, trying to stop crimes in
advance. It's hard to do without the siblings who share his ability
to foresee crimes; he tries to reach out to them.

“Chasing Life”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC Family. Everything seems to be changing:
April and Beth prepare their trip to Rome, Greer is returning to
Boston and Brenna has mixed feelings about Finn.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., CBS. The true identity of “Jane Doe” continues to perplex
everyone – including Jane herself. She's troubled by brief shards
of memory; meanwhile, Weller has a hunch who she is. Also, one of her
tattoos suggests an Air Force pilot has lethal intentions.

“I'll Have What
Phil's Having” debut, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After
triumphing as writer-producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Phil
Rosenthal found an enviable mission – traveling the world to sample
food. This opener is in Japan, ranging from a hectic, alley
restaurant to a mellow rural retreat. It lacks the brilliance of
Anthony Bourdain's similar shows, but is still an amiable journey.