TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 9

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

After missing three
weeks (two of them for baseball), “Empire” is back and big. The
opening minutes ripple with energy and danger, focusing on Shine
(played by Xzibit) and his talented sister Nessa.

Shine has linked
with Lucious in the old crime days and the recent music days. But in
the previous episode, Lucious and his son Trai gave him a beating;
now Shine is back with guns and thugs. There's much more, as youngest
son Hakeem battles one brother (Jamal) over music and another (Trai)
over Nessa. That peaks with a live-stream concert that's both wildly
unlikely and thoroughly entertaining.

“Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield,” 10 p.m., PBS.

Alongside the horror
of recent wars, there have been medical miracles. Among the severely
wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who reached combat hospitals, this
special says, 96 per cent survived. Within four days, the average one
was back in the U.S., where more innovations awaited.

This interesting
hour is reported by Bob Woodruff, who barely survived a bomb in Iraq.
Now, a decade later, he shows us advances in prosthetics, robotics,
wheelchairs, tourniquets and more.

ALTERNATIVE: “Jay Leno's Garage” season-opener, 10 p.m. ET, CNBC.

Deep emotions seem
to link people and their vehicles, Leno finds. He takes a sentimental
ride with wrestler Bill Goldberg, goes camping in one of the
Volkswagen buses collected by comedian Gabriel Iglesias and hits the
racetrack with a Ferrari collector.

Leno also sees the
1967 Corvette that Joe Biden loves ... and arranges a race between
Biden and Colin Powell. This reruns at 1 a.m., with previous episodes
rerunning at 8, 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and midnight.

Other choices

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. It's time for the first individual-immunity challenge.
Meanwhile, the tribes are starting to even out: “Gen X” had four
of the first five ousters, but “Millenials” have had two straight
– Jessica Figueroa, 23, a bartender, and then Michaela Bradshaw,
25, who does vacation-club sales.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. When felines went from Asia to the Americas, they found a
world where they can be the top predator. Many – from the jaguar to
the Canadian lynx – rule the wilderness, but some are at our
doorstep; a classic photo showa a mountain lion near the “Hollywood”
sign. Wrapping up a terrific two-parter, this also shows the
development and dominance of the house cat.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. This hour focuses on metals – and the chance to touch history.
One person examines the wrought-iron strength of a discarded piece of
the Eiffel Tower. Another was bumped slightly while examining a
Chinese sword; he became the first person cut by it in 2,400 years.
Backed by strong visuals, this hour takes us from gold to
laboratory-made creations with special strengths.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Jay has always savored his refuge ... but now his
son-in-law Phil may become a member. Meanhile, Cam isn't giving
Mitchell the full scope of what his play is about.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. A college student regains consciousness, unwaware that
she's been raped. Also, Richard Lewis plays a comedian who collapsed
onstage; Annabeth Gish plays the mother of a terminally ill teen-ager
who wants to die on her own terms.

“Rectify,” 10
p.m., Sundance. Trying to adjust after 19 years in prison, Daniel
finds life more difficult with his new roommate. Also, his sister
(Abigail Spencer of “Timeless”) meets a former classmate.

More cable drama, 10
p.m. This has become cable's strongest hour, including “America
Horror Story” on FX and “Sugar” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“Horror” reruns at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.; “Sugar” reruns at 1
a.m. ... with previous episodes from 7-10 p.m., plus 11 p.m. and

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 8

Election coverage, 7 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS; 8 p.m., Fox;
earlier on cable.

After all that
commotion, it's finally time to count the votes and declare some
winners. Cable channels start early – 4 p.m. ET for CNN, 5 p.m. for
MSNBC, 6 p.m. for Fox News – and end late.

Broadcast networks
will wait until 7 p.m. ET, then keep going. PBS plans to stop at
midnight; others plan to go to 2 a.m. ET, with local stations getting
brief cut-ins and then (at 11 p.m.) a full newscast. Fox will start
at 8 – which, after all, is when polls start to close – and stop
at 10; many of its stations will have a local hour, then rejoin the
network coverage.

Political humor, cable.

This has been a
great year for satire, so there's no reaaon to stop now. With CBS
busy, Stephen Colbert slides over to Showtime; his live hour is 11
p.m. ET, 8 and 11 p.m. PT.

Also, Comedy Central
has a marathon of election-themed segments, with.“South Park”
reruns at 8 p.m. and compilations of “Tosh.0” and “Drunk
History” at 10 and 10:30. A live “Daily Show” hour is at 11
p.m., simulcast on MTV, VH1. TVLand and Spike; Comedy Central reruns
it at 12:41 a.m., after a live “@Midnight” at 12:06 a.m. ET, with
Whitney Cummings, Ron Fuches and Paul Tompkins.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

This is the only big
(well, not-tiny) broadcast network that is skipping the election.
Here, it offers the “Flash” season-opener, which is both
interesting and a tad frustrating.

Barry has managed to
create an alternate universe. His mother was never killed, his dad
was never convicted, his life is happy. But his memories and his
powers are fading; he has to try to re-launch his romance. And then
there's Kid Flash (who's good) and Reverse Flash (who's not) to worry

Other choices

Pretty pictures, 3
p.m. to midnight ET, Weather Channel. There's no election-turmoil
here. For nine hours, the channel promises to have “the most
beautiful, awe-inspiring and calming weather video and scenery every
captured on tape.”

“Madagasacar 3”
(2012), 6 p.m., FX. Families can escape the election, via animated
fun. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (2014) follows at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Election Night
Viewing Party,” 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., TVOne. Roland Martin and guests
talk about the presidential race and about others (California,
Delaware, etc.) with black candidates.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. The election-night films include a clever comedy about an
imposter president (“Dave,” 1993, Pop), plus a Jim Carrey comedy
(“Yes Man, 2008, AMC), a cowboy film (“Tombstone,” 1993, CMT)
and the pleasant-enough “Cookie-Cutter Christmas” (2014,

“No Tomorrow,” 9
p.m., CW. Here's a chance to try this well-made (and undernoticed)
show about a woman who plans too much and a man who plans nothing ...
because he feels a meteor will destroy the Earth. Tonight, Evie (Tori
Anderson) starts to wonder if Xavier (Joshua Sasse) is merely crazy.

“The View Live
Election Special, 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., ET, Lifetime; also, 6 and 9 p.m.
PT. In Times Square, the hosts talk to D.L. Hughley, Kathy Najimy,
Mario Cantone and Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe whom
Donald Trump referred to as Miss Piggy, There are also video messages
from Kathy Griffin, Lena Dunham, Will Forte, Tom Bergeron and more.

“Saving Hope,”
11 p.m. and midnight, Ion. It takes a while to get past the central
gimmick -- Dr. Charles Harris' spirit roams the hospital where his
body lies in a coma. Beyond that, this show (like most Canadian
dramas) is solidly made. Tonight, Dr, Alex Reid, Harris' fiancee,
treats bombing victims and feels remorse. Erica Durrance (Lois Lane
in “Smallville”) and Michael Shanks (“Stargate”) star.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 7

“The Odd Couple,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.

At times, Garry
Marshall dominated the TV-comedy world. One year, he produced three
of the four top-rated shows -- “Happy Days,” “Laverne &
Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy.”

He also produced all
three TV versions of “Odd Couple” ... and had a guest role last
spring, as Oscar's estranged dad. After Marshall's death this summer
(at 81), the show planned this episode. Oscar must meet his late
dad's friends -- played by former stars of Marshall's shows. They
include Ron Howard, Penny Marshall (Garry's sister), Cindy Williams,
Pam Dawber, Marion Ross and Anson Williams.

II: Election previews, 10 p.m. and beyond.

The bad news is that
tonight will be riddled with political ads. The good news is that you
can find lots of election-eve shows, both serious – PBS repeats its
“Frontline” profiles at 10 p.m. -- and funny.

Well, mostly funny,
starting with“The SNL Election Special,” at 10 p.m. on NBC.
“Saturday Night Live” -- in a good year for quality and a great
one for ratings – has excerpts from its political sketches. Then
there's “Full Frontal” at 10:30 p.m. on TBS, “The Daily Show”
at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central and all the talk shows at 11:35 p.m.
and 12:37 a.m.; if nothing else, it's been a great race for comedy.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

Don't save all your
mental energy for Tuesday's election; there's also some important
voting tonight.

All 20 singers will
perform and viewers will decide instantly, via Twitter or the “Voice”
app. The top two vote-getters from each of the four teams will be
propelled to next week's round. That leaves three people on each
team; coaches can save one and send two home, giving the show its top

Other choices

“Deep Water,”
any time, This
four-week mini-series is Australian, but the plot points –
gay-bashing, secrets and a frightened, undocumented immigrant –
could also fit the U.S. Yael Stone (Lorna Morello in “Orange is the
New Black”) plays a cop whose murder case could span decades.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. All season, this show's four athletes
had seemed invulnerable. That ended last week, when swimmer Ryan
Lochte was ousted. Surviving are gymnast Laurie Hernandez, driver
James Hinchcliffe and former football star Calvin Johnson, plus
singer Jana Kramer and actresses Marilu Henner and Terra Jole.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. Adam Sandler guests toight, CBS says. (It says it like
this is a good thing.) The episode has Kevin's old police partner
being way too happy with his fit new partner.

“Julie &
Julia” (2009), 8-11 p.m., Freeform. The true story of a food
blogger is juggled with flashbacks to Julia Childs' early years. It's
a delight, beautifully played by Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

“2 Broke Girls,”
9 p.m., CBS. Earl (Garrett Morris, 79) fears that he can't keep up
with his new girlfriend (Telma Hopkins, 68). Meawhile, Max and Randy
may go beyond their texting relationship.

“USO – For the
Troops,” 9 p.m., PBS. Stuffed with big names and good intentions,
this portrait of the USO at 75 is only so-so. The best moments are
historical, ranging from 1940s segregation to 1960s dissent, plus the
buoyant Bob Hope ... whose 57th and final tour was at 87.
Newer scenes (a Craig Morgan tour) and interviews (from Jon Stewart
to George W. Bush) are surprisingly bland.

10:01 p.m., ABC. After her controversial TV interview, Hayes tries to
soothe the impact on the Senate campaign of her mother, a former
First Lady. Meawhile, she's re-opened the case of a low-income guy,
convicted of killing the rich woman whose family took him in.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 6

“Madam Secretary,” 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. PT), CBS.

Two days from a
real-life (and really rough) election, we might prefer to switch to a
make-believe one. President Dalton's re-election campaign is
wobbling; his aide tries to lure back big donors.

Meanwhile, a CIA
agent has been arrested by French intelligence. Elizabeth, the
secretary of state, must negotiate a release ... without de-railing
an important U.S.-France state dinner. Also, there's a lead in
finding who's been stalking her family.

II: “Secrets and Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This complicated
(and well-made) mini-series finds troubles on both sides. Detective
Cornell (Julliette Lewis) faces the second anniversary of her police
partner's death, which is still unsolved; meanwhile, her ex-husband
arrives with difficult news.

In her current case,
she's been suspecting that Eric (Michael Ealy) killed his wife. Now a
visitor leads Eric to a startling discovery. He starts to suspect
everyone – especially his brother Patrick.

ALTERNATIVE: “MTV Europe Music Awards,” 8 p.m., MTV, rerunning at

Lots of talented
people will be here, few of them from Europe. Beyonce and Justin
Bieber lead with five nominations; Adele (the token European) has
four, followed by Drake, Rihanna and The Weeknd.

Bebe Rexha hosts,
with performances by Bruno Mars, OneRepublic, Kings of Leon, Shawn
Mendes, Dnce ... and, yes, some occasional people from Europe. Zara
Larsson is Swedish, Lukas Graham is Danish and Matin Garrix and
Afrojack are Dutch DJ's.

Other choices

(1995), 5 and 9 p.m. ET, BBC America. Two decades ago, Mel Gibson
established himself as an Oscar-winning director. Now his epic film
appears on the same weekend that “Hacksaw Ridge” (directed by
Gibson) reaches theaters. There's more action at 8, with “Guardians
of the Galaxy” (2014) on FX, “The Dark Knight” (2008) on TNT
and the triumphant “Terminator 2” on IFC.

Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS. “I've given you a loving, happy
home,” Louisa (Keeley Hawes) screeches in a very non-happy way.
Things soon get much worse for her family, including the world's
worst “yachting” date ... and then rebound. It's a jaunty chapter
of a splendid mini-series.

“Who Killed
JonBenet?” 8-10:02 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 12:02 a.m. Here's a
quick rerun of Saturday's movie. The prime gimmick – the fictional
voice of JonBenet Ramsey narrating the investigation of her murder –
is tawdry and tacky. Beyond that, however, is a solid account of a
botched case, one in which both the family and the officials kept
making things difficult.

“The Circus,” 8
and 8:30 p.m., Showtime. OK, here's one last burst of political
programming. Also, last week's show, on Joe Biden, reruns at 12:45
and 5:30 p.m.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. With a whole world to choose from, this
little band of survivors needs to find a new home. Meanwhile,
Todd's unlikely love triangle hits new roadblocks.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. In the flashforward, Alex has been rescued by Lydia, but
doesn't trust her. In the training process, trainees must decide
whether to order a drone strike.

10:30 p.m., CBS. A vigilante has been luring sexual predators by the
Internet and shaming them. When he's killed, the list of suspects is

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 5

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

This strange, noisy
election has propelled the ratings of comedy shows. Now they get
their last shots before the electon -- “SNL” tonight, then “Full
Frontal,” “The Daily Show” and more on Monday.

tonight's host is an Englishman, comfortably separated from American
chaos. That's Benedict Cumberbatch, known to PBS viewers as Sherlock
Holmes and to moviegoers as Doctor Strange. His musical guest is
Solange, still known – despite praise for her album – as
Beyonce's sister.

“Who Killed JonBenet?” 8-10:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Two decades ago, the
body of JonBenet Ramsey – the 6-year-old winner of beauty pageants
-- was found. The case remains unsolved, stirring new projects on CBS
(in September), Investigation Discovery (rerunning from 9 a.m. to
noon today) and now Lifetime.

This one is a
scripted movie, mostly from the police perspective. It has some tacky
moments – with JonBenet's fictional voice narrating – but also
tells a strong story. We see huge mistakes by the parents (resisting
talking to police) and by officials. There's a documentary at 10:02
and the film reruns at 12:02 a.m.; both will also air at the same
times on Sunday.

ALTERNATIVE: “Pitch,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Now that it's seen
real-life baseball history (the Cubs winning the World Series), Fox
offers some fictional history: It reruns the pilot film of its series
about the first female in Major League baseball.

Ratings on Thursdays
have been weak, which is unfortunate. “Pitch” is a solid drama,
with well-drawn characters and a mostly reasonable sense of the game.
Ginny Baker brings depth and believability, as the pitcher who has
worked her way up through the minors. Dan Lauria is the skeptical
manager, with Mark Consuelos as the general manager and Mark-Paul
Gosselaar as the team's star catcher.

Other choices

“Alien” (1979)
and “Aliens” (1986), 6 and 8:30 p.m., AMC. Ridley Scott's
original film drew extra attention as a sci-fi epic with a strong
female (Sigourney Weaver) at the core. And “Aliens” has its own
distinction – a sequel from a different director (James Cameron)
that's brilliantly crafted.

“As Good as it
Gets” (1997), 7-10 p.m., Pop. James Brooks – a master of TV
comedy, including “The Simpsons” -- wrote and directed this gem
about a cranky guy, a waitress and more. Jack Nicholson and Helen
Hunt won well-deserved Academy Awards.

Sports, 8 p.m. ET,
everywhere. NBC has the Breeders Cup horse race, while football fills
the other networks. CBS has top-ranked Alabama at Louisiana State
(ranked No. 13); ABC counters with Nebraska (No. 10) at Ohio State
(No. 6). There's much more in the afternoon and on cable.

Political profiles,
8 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Here's another rerun of the
profiles of Hillary Clinton (8 p.m.) and Donald Trump (10 p.m.); they
re-rerun at midnight and 2 a.m.

“Walk the Line”
(2005), 8:30 p.m., CMT. It's a good night for Oscars ... and for true
stories, well-told, about music. This is about Johnny Cash, with
Reese Witherspoon winning as June Carter; “Coal Miner's Daughter”
(1980) is 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies; Sissy Spacek won as
Loretta Lynn.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. As a violent case – involving murder and a drug cartel
– unfolds, it starts pointing toward Murtaugh's former training
officer (Ted Levine). During the turmoil, Murtaugh (Damon Wayans)
seeks time with his wife and Riggs (Clayne Crawford) resorts to his

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Kim Fields was 10 when she
became Tootie in “Facts of Life”; Jamie-Lynn Sigler was 18 when
she became Meadow in “The Sopranos.”From these opposite
(VERY opposite) starts, both found fame. Now we re-meet them at 47
and 36, respectively, plus Rocco Dispirito, a chef who had a
primetime reality show on NBC.