TV column for Saturday, Nov. 11

Veterans Day marathons, cable.

Four channels load
up with a rich variety of shows. At the top, there's the
Oscar-winning “Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), at 5 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies; there's also a rerun of Tuesday's powerhouse
start of the “Long Road Home” mini-series, at 9 and 11:30 p.m. on
National Geographic.

And there's much
more: Sundance has “MASH” -- the series, 2-9 p.m., and then the
movie (1970), 9 and 11:45; History and NatGeo have documentaries;
we'll list them (and other films) separately.

“Will & Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC.

OK, we were
skeptical about bringing this back after an 11 year break. But “Will
& Grace” has been perfectly re-assembled; it has the same
actors, same producers and – most importantly – same director.

Ever since “Cheers,”
Jim Burrows has been TV's comedy master. Here, he's molded (or
re-molded) a gem. Now the show has a long football break, so we'll
have to settle for reruns; this one – Jack's grandson goes to
gay-conversion camp – is sometimes overwrought, but mostly a

ALTERNATIVE: “Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer,” 8-10:02
p.m., Lifetime.

There was a time
when Hollywood seemed to feel a movie needed beautiful people,
beautiful places and an interesting story. In that case, this has two
out of three.

We see Pistorius
(the paralympic champion) and his girlfriend (a model and TV
personality who also had a law degree) as stunning people in gorgeous
places. Still, the story of her death and his murder trial brings no
interesting twists and turns. Mostly, we see flashes of splendor and

Other choices

Veterans Day films,
9 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Not all military movies were
created equal, of course. “Best Years” -- eight Oscars, including
best picture – is beloved; “Green Berets” (1968), is not. The
latter is at 11:15 a.m. ET, after Strategic Air Command” (1955) at
9. Then come “Where Eagles Dare” (1968) at 2 p.m. ET, “Best
Years” at 5, “No Time for Sergeants” (1958) at 8, “Sergeant
Rutledge” (1960) at 10:15 and “Sergeant York” (1941) at 12:15

“American War
Generals,” 9 a.m., National Geographic. Eleven current or retired
generals were interviewed for this documentary. It's followed by
“Inside the Afghanistan War” at (11 a.m.) and “Inside” films
on World War II (1 p.m.), Iraq (4) and Vietnam (6).

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder case links to a gang Torres once
infiltrated undercover.

“The Warfighters,”
8 p.m. to 4:02 a.m., History. This reruns last year's series about
the Special Forces fight against terror. The channel also views the
Third Reich (7-11 a.m.) and repeats its “World Wars” series (11
a.m. to 5 p.m.). At 5, it has “Fury,” a 2014 Brad Pitt movie.

8:30 p.m., NBC. The funniest scene comes early in this rerun, with
Jonah immensely incapable of stopping a thief. Soon, his co-workers
are talking about security ... and mocking him.

“S.W.A.T.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the pilot, which did a fairly good job
of mixing slam-bang action with deeper issues. Shemar Moore is solid
as a cop with community concerns.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On NBC's “Carmichael Show,” Tiffany
Haddish was mostly ignored. Then “Girls Trip” pushed her to the
top; now she hosts “SNL,” with music from Taylor Swift.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 10

“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

This has been a
spectacular year for Diane Guerrero. She continues (as Maritza, the
con artist) on “Orange is the New Black” and has been a big boost
to “Superior Donuts,” as the food-truck owner who bedevils Arthur
and intrigues Franco. And now she's back as Jane's best friend Lina.

It's a big episode
for her: Her wedding is near and her groom-to-be – a cautious
accountant – is planning a 1940s murder mystery. Lina grumbles
about having “to learn new words for my bachelorette party; what
the hell is a dowager?” There's much more, including a surprise
about Jane's boyfriend.

“Inhumans” finale, 9:01 p.m., ABC.

From the beginning,
this was one of TV's really bad ideas. Hidden inside a moon colony,
it had a king who couldn't speak (or, apparently, tweet) because his
voice was too powerful ... a queen who used her red hair like a
lethal lasso ... and a princess with a 2,000-pound teleporting dog.

They were overthrown
by his evil brother and banished to Hawaii. But now they've returned
to the moon – the big dog helps with such things – for a final
confrontation. Then ABC will stalling for a couple weeks, before
finally starting the “Agents of SHIELD” season.

ALTERNATIVE: “Landmarks Live: Foo Fighters,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

By rock 'n' roll
standards, Dave Grohl is eternal. He did the last four years of
Nirvana and has led the Foo Fighters for 23 years and four
best-rock-album Grammys. Still, that's meager by Greek standards.

Grohl marvels at
Poseidon's temple, which has lasted almost 2,000 years. “And I have
to replace my roof every eight years,” he says. Then his band plays
in the theater of the 2,500-year-old Acropolis. It's a booming show,
loud enough to wake the gods ... who, of course, are probably nearby.

Other choices

(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 7 and 9:30 p.m., AMC. Long
before it was fashionable, these delightful films showed that special
effects could link with clever dialog.

Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. Last week's terrific hour ended with
Rebecca falling apart. Friends phoned her mom; Rebecca agreed to go
home. Now she heads cross-country to Westchester, to bond with her
mother. In California, her friends struggle with mixed emotions.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. While Jane and Weller hunt for hackers, the others try to
hide a secret.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. In Ecuador, a presidential candidate's heart transplant is
sabotaged by a rebel group. Fortunately, MacGyver can help with a
heater and tabasco sauce.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A killer has two personalities – one violent and one
childlike. He's chased by the team – including a stress-management
expert, to help manage McGarrett's health.

Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS. Almost a decade ago, PBS followed a
young composer with an ambitious project – a hip hop musical that
reflected his Puerto Rican roots. Good choice: “In the Heights”
won four Tonys, including best musical and best score; Lin-Manuel
Miranda went on to make “Hamilton” and Broadway history. Here's a
rerun of the 2009 special about making the show.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny – whose wife, a nurse, died recently, protects
a nurse from her violent ex-boyfriend. Also, his dad (the police
commissioner) hears a theory about an inmate's death.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 8

Country Music Association awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

This plans to have a
big opener, linking Keith Urban, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Eric
Church and more. The night has pop stars – Niall Horan (with Maren
Morris) and Pink – and country combos.

It will be Kelsea
Ballerini and Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Dierks
Bentley and Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Kane Brown. Carrie
Underwood – who hosts with Paisley – has a solo number; so do
Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Alan
Jackson, Thomas Rhett, Jon Pardi and Urban, plus Brothers Osborne,
Little Big Town and Old Dominion.

“Riverdale,” 8 p.m., CW.

Already a
surprisingly good show, “Riverdale” is even better when it
focuses on its best character. Smart and sensitive, Betty has good
friends, a mean mother and a complicated teen life.

Yes, the plot gets
overheated at times – especially with that ridiculous mother.
Jughead's a gang member, Reggie's a drug dealer, Veronica's dad is a
white-collar felon ... and now Betty (played with subtle skill by
Lili Reinhart) is getting calls from a serial killer. Tonight's
ending is powerful. .

ALTERNATIVE: “Empire,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Sure, it's good to
have one of TV's best shows back, after a two-week World Series
break. Still, this hour sees a bad plotline spinning out of control
and has relatively stiff, stagnant music. The former is a familiar
problem for “Empire”; the latter definitely is not.

The plot has Lucious
straining to retrieve his memory, with help from Claudia (Demi
Moore); Cookie denies it all to reporters and has them watch him
supervise a retro album. Also, Hakeem has a bizarre solution to his
custody fight. Fortunately, “Empire” is always interesting ...
even on an off night.

Other choices

“Hugo” (2011),
6:51 p.m., Starz. This gorgeous Martin Scorsese film – winner of
five Oscars for technical skill – leads a strong night of
early-starters. “Moneyball” (2011, AMC) and “Kingsman” (2015,
FX) are at 5 p.m., “Ray” (2004, Showtime) is 5:25, “Titanic”
(1997, Sundance) is 5:30.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. Dembe goes undercover in a human-smuggling ring ... then

Documentaries, 8 and
9 p.m., cable. “Danica,” at 8 p.m. on Epix, profiles racing
champion Danica Patrick. “The Story of Us,” 9 p.m. on National
Geographic, views the power of fear and intolerance.

“Dynasty,” 9
p.m., CW. How do you nudge a remake into a new era? This show thought
it was doing that by making its key women high-flying corporate
executives. Then it gave them attitudes that would fit a 1980 bimbo
story. Moguls scheme and strut, hoping to get a magazine cover.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Here's another show we're glad to have back after a two-week
baseball break. Ayanna (Michael Michele) is a steel-willed record
executive, but now she's intimidated by her father (Richard
Roundtree), a legendary music mogul. Also, her assistant (Elijah
Kelley) is part of a duo put together by Jahil (Benjamin Bratt).

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. When everyone in a seemingly ideal family is killed, a
drug dealer becomes a suspect. Then an investigator is dead and the
case gets complicated.

“You're the
Worst,” 10 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 10:30. Tonight, both people
float far from their comfort zones: Jimmy's on a witty, NPR radio
show; Gretchen experiments with step-parenting. Throw in some goofy
self-parody from Ben Folds and you have an odd and fun episode.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 7

“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

At its finest, “This
Is Us” has hours like this – able to move us and surprise us,
while remaining smart and believable. Sure, it's odd that so many
people deliver perfect monologs in one episode. Still that's worked
for the Shakespeare/Sorkin types and it works wonderfully tonight.

Randall is at the
core – his adoption proceedings ... his struggles to be a foster
dad ... his unknowing role in the life of his biologic father,
William. In the past, we see a turning point for William; in the
present, we see ones for Kate and Kevin. There are ups, downs and
powerhouse emotions.

II: “The Long Road Home,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic;
repeating at 11.

This was the most
mundane of duties – escorting sewage trucks through a Baghdad
suburb, to their dumping point. Then everything changed; an ambush
left Americans fighting against fierce odds.

That story was told
with rich detail in Martha Raddatz's book. Now it's a potent
mini-series that starts today (repeating Saturday, during a Veterans
Day marathon) and has six more weekly hours. We see this crisis
through the eyes of the trapped soldiers, the would-be rescuers and
the people back home.

ALTERNATIVE: “Lethal Weapon,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Hey, this whole idea
– living in a trailer by the ocean – worked for Rockford; why
can't Riggs do it? Apparently because it's public land and he was
trespassing; tonight, he's homeless and clueless.

That's part of a
jaunty episode, with lots of broad humor (Thomas Lennon is back as a
needy lawyer) and some emotion, thanks to gifted director Eric
Laneuville and to Clayne Crawford. Fans of “Rectify” already knew
Crawford is a strong drama actor; now he puts extra layers under
Riggs' brash surface.

Other choices

(2015) and “American Horror Story,” 7 and 10 p.m., FX. A fun
secret-agent tale is followed by dead-serious terror. “Horror,”
which repeats at 11:12 p.m., is a week from its finale.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A convicted felon insists he was framed by the NCIS. Now Gibbs
re-opens the case, joined by Fornell (Joe Spano), the lead
investigator. Ducky starts it with a new autopsy.

“The Vietnam War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. Two wars collide, with Iraq on cable and Vietnam on
PBS. This chapter catches the aftermath of the Tet offensive; it also
has the moving story of two brothers.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. As Diane reaches a key point in life, the other females
are there to help. And the males? Mostly, Dre frets that he'll never
again beat his son in basketball.

Nine-Nine,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Unflinching and unwavering, Captain
Holt (Andre Braugher) seemed to have no apparent flaws. But now we
learn he has a gambling addiction ... just as Jake needs help with
undercover poker. That brings some solid laughs, alongside two
sillier stories.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. When a clinical trial is hacked, Patton
(Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) must work with his ex-wife, Dr. Anna
Yoon (Kelly Hu).

debut, 10 p.m., USA. We usually think of rural Iowa as pleasant and
pastoral. But this is 1931 and times are tough; Seth wants to stir
farmers into a revolution. He brings charisma, plus a wife who has
great beauty and great marksmanship; their opposition, however, is
ruthless. This opener is beautifully filmed and acted, but it's also
unrelenting in its anger and its fierce violence.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 6

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

This is only the
seventh week of the season and two shows have already been shelved.
The first was ABC's “Ten Days in the Valley,” yanked in
mid-crisis; the second is CBS' “Me, Myself and I,” which was
supposed to be at 9:30 p.m. today.

Now “9JKL” moves
into that spot ... leaving its old 8:30 p.m. slot vacant. Starting
next week, that goes to Matt LeBlanc's “Man With a Plan”; filling
in tonight is a hilarious “Big Bang” rerun : Bernadette gives
birth on Amy's birthday ... which is when Amy and Sheldon had planned
their annual sex.

“Superior Donuts,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Last season, this
was a fairly good show – likable, but slender and sometimes silly.
Now it's been mostly improved. Two good characters – a student and
a young cop – are gone, but a better one was added – an assertive
Latina who runs a competing food truck.

More important,
solid stories have been injected. Next week involves bias; tonight
has arguments about police overreaction ... a touchy subject when a
key character (Katey Sagal) is a cop. This weaves skillfully between
the two sides, heads in a surprising direction ... and remembers to
make us laugh.

ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local

John Coltrane's
music life was brief; he got a saxophone at 13, died of liver cancer
at 40. His impact, however, was huge. “He basically did everything
Picasso did, in 50 years less,” Bill Clinton says.

That life is vividly
recalled, with great music, an abundance of clips and Coltrane's
words, read by Denzel Washington. We hear from outsiders (Clinton,
Cornel West) and music greats. Benny Golson recalls meeting a silent
“country bumpkin” teen who had just moved to Philadelphia. Much
later, Golson was awed by Coltrane: “His mind and his heart (were)
in a place everyone should reach for.”

Other choices

Martinsson,” any time,
In Sweden, the Martinsson tales have won crime-novel awards. Now
here's an eight-part mini-series, with English subtitles. The
characters are interesting and the rural atmosphere is engaging, but
this is still a long, slow ride.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. The six surviving duos will each do two
numbers – one a three-person piece with a past contestant. There's
a runner-up (Corbin Bleu) and five champions – Rashad Jennings,
Laurie Hernandez, Alfonso Ribeiro, Kristi Yamaguchi and Kelly Monaco.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. Here's something that doesn't happen to most people:
Kevin and his security-firm boss (Leah Remini) are locked overnight
in a toy store.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. Thunderbird organizes a mission to learn what happened
after a friend was captured by Sentinel Services. Also, Blink makes a
big decision about her future.

“Rolling Stone:
Stories From the Edge,” 9-11 p.m., HBO; concludes Tuesday. On
Thursday, Rolling Stone magazine will be 50 years old. Still, it
continues to offer a youthful view of music, movies, politics and
life. This four-hour documentary talks with its reporters and its

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A week after “Superior Donuts” added a young neighbor
to argue with, “Scorpion” does the same. She's played by Tina
Majorino; meanwhile, Walter tries to track an important device
through the sewers of Los Angeles.

“Living Every
Day: Luke Bryan,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Bryan grew up on a Georgia
peanut farm and went on to Nashville stardom, even winning the
Country Music Association's top award, as entertainer of the year.
Before that, however, were shattering moments with the sudden deaths
of his older brother and sister. Robin Roberts profiles him, two days
before he'll perform at this year's CMA show.