TV column for Sunday, Feb. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Walking Dead” return, 9 p.m., AMC.

Booming back for the
second half of its 16-episode season, “Dead” doesn't dawdle. One
potent scene comes before the opening credits; another, a
mega-battle, is wildly improbable, yet involving.

The zombies have
overrun (well, overshuffled) Alexandria. Rick and others try to blend
in, while edging toward safety; be prepared for some deeply
disturbing moments ... and some triumphant ones. This reruns at 11:02
p.m. (after “Talking Dead”) and 12:32 a.m. (after “Comic Book
Men”).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“An SNL Valentine” and “The Tonight Show Valentine's Day
Special,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Some people might
want to spend Valentine's Day with romance, not zombies. Not to
worry; there are a couple solid movies (see below) and these two
specials.

The first takes old
“Saturday Night Live” sketches involving love and such. The
second simply lets Jimmy Fallon rerun sone of his favorite moments,
the way Johnny Carson used to.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Vinyl” debut, 9-11 p.m., HBO.

It's 1973 and the
music world is quaking. New styles – disco, punk, hip-hop – are
growing; so are drugs and porn. A music mogul (Bobby Cannavale) had
great instincts; now he may have to sell his company.

He's a hard guy to
like, even on the network of killers from Jersey and Atlantic City
and the Seven Kingdoms. But you'll like the chaotic swirl around him.
Terence Winter (who co-wrote the pilot) and Martin Scorsese (who
directed it) have produced a film even richer than their “Boardwalk
Empire.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Anything for Love,” 9 p.m., Hallmark.

A big-time developer
(Erika Christensen) feels guys only like her for her money; a friend
tests that by listing her on a dating site as an executive assistant.
A nurse (Paul Greene) goes the other way; a friend lists him on the
same site as a doctor.

Yes, that's
contrived and predictable; on Valentine's Day, we might want the
predictably pleasant. This one is well-cast and has enough clever
twists to help us wrap up the holiday.

Other choices
include:

-- More Valentine
movies. Hallmark starts its marathon at 11 a.m., with a different
(well, not terribly different) film every two hours. And UP debuts a
fairly good alternative, at 7 and 9 p.m. ET. “Love Finds You in
Valentine” has a law-school grad inherit the family ranch, with Ed
Asner as her crabby grandfather and Diogo Morgodo (Jesus in the
“Bible” mini-series) as the foreman. You'll predict the rest, but
this is handsomely filmed and fairly engaging.

-- And more movies.
There are big ones tonight, led by the gorgeous “Frozen” (2013)
at 7 p.m. on Disney and the classic “Casablanca” (1942) at 8 p.m.
ET on Turner Classic Movies.

-- “Madame
Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. While supervising the effort to find
people who stole uranium, Elizabeth also faces a Saudi Arabia crisis
that could endanger a key arms deal.

-- “Wild Sri
Lanka: Sea of Giants,” 8 p.m., NatGeo Wild. A three-hour portait of
the island starts with this truly gorgeous look at its sea creatures,
many of them mammoth and great survivors.

-- “Cooper
Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Now we face the
ultimate tragedy – losing your cell phone. It's an uneven episode,
but ends well.

-- “The Good
Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. After seven seasons of smart and
underappreciated drama, this is launching its final nine episodes.
That starts with Alicia returning to her old law firm.

-- “Downton
Abbey,” 9 p.m., PBS. Maybe this is appropriate on Valentine's Day:
In an excellent episode, there are major turning points – maybe
good, maybe not – in the romances of Mary and Edith.

-- “Brain Games”
season-opener, 9 p.m., National Geographic. In London, this slick,
fun hour looks at quirks of the brain, ranging from being startled to
expanding memory.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 13


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

So far, Melissa
McCarthy has a perfect record: She's hosted “SNL” three times and
received an Emmy nomination (best guest actress in a comedy) each
time. Those go neatly with her three nominations (and her lone win)
for best actresss in a comedy, for “Mike & Molly.”

Now comes her fourth
time, with Kanye West in his sixth turn as music guest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Presidential debate, 9-11 p.m. ET, CBS.

Now that Iowa and
New Hampshire are doe grabbing the spotlight, South Carolina gets its
turn. It has the Republican primary next Saturday and the Democratic
one a week later – three days before “super Tuesday” puts 10
states fully up for grabs.

So now we get the
Republican debate in Greenville, S.C. John Dickerson, CBS' political
director, will anchor, with Major Garrett of CBS and Kimberley
Strassel of the Wall Street Journal. Dickerson will stay in
Greenville on Sunday, to anchor “Face the Nation.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Lovers or zombies, cable.

Sunday will see the
collision of two vital days – Valentine's Day and, of course, the
return of “The Walking Dead.” Both will have warm-ups tonight;
try not to mix them up.

AMC has already
started its four-day, non-stop marathon of “Dead” reruns, leading
to the new hour at 9 p.m. Sunday. Meanwhile, Hallmark has romantic
movies from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Sunday. Most are reruns, but
9 p.m. brings the debuts of “Valentine Ever After” (city women
sentenced to community-service in cowboy country) today and “Anything
For Love” on Sunday.

Other choices
include:

“Safe Haven”
(2013), 6-8:30 p.m., USA. Lasse Hallstrom brings quiet quality to
everything he does, including this understated movie about a newcomer
(Julianne Hough) in a seaside community.

“NBA All-Star
Saturday” preview at 7 p.m. ET and coverage at 8, TNT. On the eve
of their all-star game, the pros have the popular slam-dunk and
three-point-shot contests, plus more.

Racing, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox. Warming up for the NASCAR season, this is a relatively short,
non-points race in Daytona Beach.

“Scandal” and
“How to Get Away With Murder,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. With the NBA
holding its all-star weekend, ABC doesn't have a Saturday game. It's
filling the gap with reruns of shows that returned Thursday.
“Scandal” starts six months after the break-up, “Murder” a
few weeks after the shooting.

“Pride” (2014),
8 p.m., Showtime. When a strike paralyzed Britain's mining towns in
1984, a gay-rights group decided to donate money, choosing Onllwyn, a
tiny village (now with 1,200 people) in Wales. The result brought a
merger of opposites, neatly captured in this low-key and well-crafted
movie.

“Steel Magnolias”
(1989), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This drama-comedy-tragedy
has a great cast, from Shirley MacLaine to almost-newcomer Julia
Roberts. Other 8 p.m. films include “The Devil Wears Prada”
(2006) on E, “Grumpy Old Men” (1993) on CMT and “Furious 7”
(2015) on HBO.

“Black Sails,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. With civilization overtaking the
former pirate island, Vane and Teach (also known as Blackbeard) need
a bold plan.

 

TV column for Friday, Feb. 12


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

For the first time,
“Race” has something in common for all 11 duos: Each includes one
or (usually) two Internet or social-media stars. These are people
known for dancing, unicycling, Frisbee-throwing, modeling or simply
talking about things – beauty or pop culture or themselves.

We'll meet a
mother-daughter, a father-daughter and a mother-son, plus friends, a
dating couple, an engaged couple and newlyweds Zach and Rachel King.
He's known for his six-second trick videos; now they'll start their
marriage by dashing to Mexico City and then, perhaps, around the
globe.

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

By the time he was
7, B.B. King was working the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta.
Fortunately, he was also toying with his pastor's electric guitar.
Self-taught, he would move to Memphis twice – the first time in a
hurry (after damaging a tractor), the second time after working off
his tractor debt.

His music continued
to soar until his death last year at 89. This splendid film includes
new raves from the greats – Clapton, Santana, Raitt, Cray, Bono,
Richards and more.

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

Fresh from its Super
Bowl halftime blast, Coldplay now offers the soundtrack for this
episode. In the background, we'll hear “Amazing Day,” “Birds,”
“Everglow” and “Adventure of a Lifetime.”

The plot, however,
isn't all lovey-dovey. It starts with a double-murder involving
marital infidelity; soon, McGarrett and his colleagues are recalling
their Valentine's Day misadventures.

Other choices
include:

“Be My Valentine,
Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Valentine,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC. Both cartoons were written by Charles Schulz, but the
second was produced after his death. In the first (from 1975),
Charlie desperately hopes for at least one card; in the second,
(2002), he tries to dance with Peppermint Patty, while others have
their own romantic woes. Schulz died 16 years ago today, at 77.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
8 p.m., Fox. Ichabod and Sophie continue trying to rescue Abbie,
while villains grow stronger. Abbie's sister faces a different foe –
their dad, played by James McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”).

“Tootsie” (1982)
and “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies. Two of Dustin Hoffman's best films are paired during TCM's
Oscar-month marathon

“Girl Meets
World,” 8:30, Disney. With the ABC comedies pre-empted tonight, you
might try this one (which is usually pleasant enough) from the “Boy
Meets World” producers. Maya and Farkle are caught cheating at
school; also, Auggie pomders what he wants to be when he grows up.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. As an ancient ritual kills people in Portland, Nick is having
little luck finding the serial killer. To help, Monroe goes
undercover.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
9 p.m., Fox. Being timely, Gordon Ramsay has teams make a Mardi Gras
dish. Less timely: They also do Cinco de Mayo and 4th of
July dishes. Then comes another Ramsay implosion.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny finds trouble at home – his niece is arrested
when police find drugs in her car – and at work: Many women take
credit for killing a guy they worked with.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 11


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

Christy's nevere
been good at resisting temptation, you know. Like her mom (the brassy
Bonnie), she's a recovering alcoholic; like her mom AND her daughter,
she was a pregnant teen-ager.

But now comes
towering temptation. When a handsome hunk (Joe Manganiello) joins her
AA group, she falls instantly in love. She also knows that the rules
forbid a romance. Another story has Bonnie accompanying Jill (Jamie
Pressly) to an elegant fundraiser. That one is big and broad, with a
great sight gag; the real fun, however, is watching the quiet
perfection of Anna Faris as Christy.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Grey's Anatomy” return, 8 p.m., ABC.

For almost three
months, viewers have semi-patiently tolerated stop-gap reality shows.
Now the wait is over; all three Shonda Rhimes dramas – great
characters, sometimes-soapy plots – are back.

That starts with a
patient attacking Meredith, who hovers near death. Penny finds her
and the entire staff springs into action. “Scandal” and “How to
Get Away with Murder” follow, on a big night.

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

For this final
season, “Idol” is trying to mine memories from its first 14
years. Tonight, it brings back many of the past people – some of
them winners, some not – as mentors and duet partners.

On Wednesday, half
of the show's top 24 performed. Now we'll see those 12 mix with the
returning people and we'll learn who's through. Next week, the same
thing happens to the other 12.

Other choices
include:

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse,” 8 p.m., NBC. Already bizarre, this became even wierder
when we learned that mild Jamie has an evil twin. Now he's held
hostage by the twin's ex-girlfriend. Rhonda and Leanne (Jenna Fischer
and Megan Mullally) try to steal from a gruff loner (Nick Offerman,
Mullally's husband), while others fret about a comet destroying
Earth. This is inconsistent, but worth trying.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. What can Sheldon and Amy do for Valentine's
Day? Naturally, they have a live edition of his “Fun With Flags”
podcast. Also, Raj is suddenly pondering two women, Leonard and Penny
face being older and Howard and Bernadette find a surprise in the hot
tub.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Kat Von D plays a tattoo artist (which she is),
misspelling Tim's valentine tattoo. Josh Groban plays a guitar-store
clerk (which he isn't), hitting on Tyler's girlfriend.

Debate, 9-11 p.m.
ET, PBS and CNN. PBS' Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchor a
Democratic debate from Milwaukee. It's the first one after the New
Hampshire primary; Republicans are Saturday on CBS.

“Scandal”
return, 9 p.m., ABC. We jump ahead to six months after Olivia broke
up with the president. As they deal with it in different ways, her
firm handles a case that could lead to a national crisis.

“How to Get Away
With Murder” return, 10 p.m., ABC. A few weeks after Wes shot
Annalise (Emmy-winner Viola Davis), she faces a tough recovery. Wes
and the other students deal with the aftermath.

“Portlandia,” 10
p.m., IFC. Vincent the goth (Fred Armisen) tries the beach. There's
also “Baskets” at 10 or 11:03 p.m. on FX, but its episode crosses
the line between dark comedy and deep despair.

“London Spy,”
10-11:15 p.m., BBC America. After continuing its sleepy pace, “Spy”
suddenly has a fierce urgency (complete with pounding drum beat) in
the final minutes, setting up next week's finale.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Chicago P.D.,”
9-11 p.m., NBC.

In a crossover
episode last season, Chicago and New York cops tracked Dr. Gregory
Yates (Dallas Roberts). He then did two more “SVU” episodes as a
convicted serial killer in prison.

Now it's crossover
time again. With word that Yates has fled his New York prison,
Chicago cops Lindsay and Dawson (Sophia Bush and Jon Seda) fly east.
Then there's a triple homicide in Chicago that matches his approach;
Benson and Fin (Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T) head there to help.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

For it's first new
episode in a month, this show finds a story that easily encompasses
everyone: Jay is retiring and his daughter Claire will take over his
closet company. First, she figures there has to be a massive cleaning
at her own house ... except her husband and kids can't part with
anything.

Jay's wife Gloria
figures she'll spend more time with him by learning to golf. Her
reluctant teacher is his son Mitchell ... whose husband Cam is
fretting about Jay's new hobby, piloting a plane.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Memory is infinitely
variable, this fascinating documentary says. Some people can't
remember what just happened; an 11-year-old boy can remember every
detail since he was 8.

And memories can be
manipulated. Old ones are erased; a man who feared spiders now can
casually watch one climb his hand. New ones are artificially added.
Studying police interrogation techniques, a researcher has learned
how disturbingly easy it is to create false memories, intentionally
or not.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8 p.m., Fox. Mixing up its approach in its final season, “Idol”
has half of its top 24 perform tonight. On Thursday, they'll link
with past favorites for advice and duets. This group ranges from two
15-year-olds (Gianna Isabella and Jeneve Mitchell) to Jordan Sasser,
27.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). For a young moose, this says, the
odds are steep. There are wolves and bears, plus brainworm, winter
ticks and other health issues; only 30 per cent survive the first
year. In a sprawling Canadian park, Hugo Kitching follows a moose and
her new calf for a year; he also follows the progress of a second
calf. With some U.S. footage added, this is an involving hour

“Young &
Hungry,” 8 p.m., Freeform. In last week's season-opener, Josh had
second thoughts about financing a music-festival food venture with
his brother and Gabi. Now he's there with a mega-tent, preparing for
a big night with her. A sampling indicates some laughs and some
overdrawn moments.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30, Freeform. The problem in Ben's relationships, Riley decides, is
... well, Ben. She starts a makeover. Meanwhile, his brother's effort
to get a good sleep may lead to bigger problems.

“Second Chance,”
9 p.m., Fox. Mary, the tech tycoon with a fatal illness, is being
targeted by players in a game that predicts deaths. Meanwhile, her
brother finds a glitch in the re-incarnated Pritchard.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. Before things turned ugly at the party, we've learned,
Eric and Taylor had expected to have consensual sex. Their admission
– midway through a rape investigation – hasn't made things
easier. An attempt to show schoolwide empathy goes astray ...
Taylor's mom plans to continue the lawsuit ... and there are protests
when only Latino students are suspended after a fight.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Odell Beckham Jr., the football star, plays himself,
nudging his coach to the hospital. Beau Bridges plays the coach, with
his real-life daughter Emily as his daughter.