TV column for Friday, Oct. 7

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Vanessa (Nancy
Travis) is a science teacher who can reel off reasons to avoid
smoking. But she's also under stress ... and leaning toward starting
a long-dormant habit. This strains the vow that has held her marriage
together: Mike (Tim Allen) will never listen to her problems or offer

A secondary story is
so-so, but the main one offers a sharp story and clever lines. After
hearing Vanessa vent, her daughter's sole reply is: “I heard that
your generation likes diaries; here's a pen.”

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Last week,we met
Claire Forlani as an FBI profiler. Tonight, she confronts a familiar
problem for TV characters – waking up with a dead stranger in her

Soon, she joins
McGarrett in the hunt for the chess-piece killer. Also, Kono (Grace
Park) meets a former surfing competitor who's now a disabled and
homeless war veteran.

ALTERNATIVE: “Timeless,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Expecting big things
from “Timeless,” NBC has given it endless promotion, a great
Monday timeslot (where “Blacklist” and “Blindspot” thrived)
and now a quick rerun of the opener.

The concept –
chasing a villain who stole a time machine – is fun and the people
in pursuit are appealing. Abigail Spencer – who's been superb in
cable's “Rectify” -- plays a historian, with Matt Lanter as a
soldier and Malcolm Barrett as their reluctant pilot. Still, the plot
gets too tangled and Spencer's character is required to be brilliant
one moment, daft the next. Let's call this a maybe.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Dream On,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local

Almost two centuries
ago, French writer Alexis de Tocqueville toured the U.S, marveling at
the optimism and the American dream of a middle-class life. Now John
Fugelsang retraces his roots.

He finds dreams
deferred. A New Orleans woman lost her job after Hurricane Katrina
... a Detroit man's pension was trimmed by the city's bankruptcy ...
an Atlanta woman spends $24 a week to get to her minimum-wage job ...
a former honor student's 15-year jail prison sentence for drugs will
cost Florida $500,000. It's a dark journey, brightened by some
good-hearted people who beat the odds.

Oter choices

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Just as the team extracts a key witness, he's shot. Not to
worry, MacGyver has a driver's license and a hand-sanitizer; that
should be enough for a medical procedure.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. Even your experienced chefs might not have done much
work with ostrich cuts. Now competitors must do that, using other
ingredients they can gather quickly.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30,
ABC. Ken Jeong's real-life daughter Zooey guests as a stalker,
staring through the window at Albert. Meanwhile, Ken – an aspiring
comedian – is surprised when Pat (Dave Foley) is chosen above him
to host the company banquet.

“Getting Ahead,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Amid a national debate over
raising the minimum wage, Tavis Smiley visits California, where it's
already happened. He meets some workers whose lives were transformed,
others who had their hours cut. He also has two experts, one on each
side of the issue. It's a good report, somewhat hindred by the fact
that California's economy is so atypical.

“The Exorcist,”
9 p.m., Fox. Kat struggles with the fact that her friend Julia is
dead. Meanwhile, Marcus and Tomas get shocking news when they take
footage of the Rance home to papal emissaries.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny insists on pushing a case, after a young woman
who was held captive resists pressing charges. Meanwhile, his brother
has a chance to be technical advisor on as TV show; their dad, the
police commissioner, must deal with a police fundraiser who used a
fake cop car.

Lewis Black, 10
p.m., Comedy Central, rerunning at 1 a.m. Here's a new hour with
Black, whose darkly angry style may fit the national mood. That's
followed by a rerun with the brilliant Trevor Noah at 11 and new
half-hours with Mike Recine and Jacqueline Novak at 12 and 12:30 a.m.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 6

“Superstore” and “The Good Place,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.

Here's the new
normal for NBC's Thursdays – an uneven but entertaining
“Superstore,” followed by a terrific “Good Place.” The latter
continues last week's story, when Eleanor learned she's not the only
bad person mistakenly given a good afterlife; the “silent monk,”
it seems, is neither silent nor a monk.

And “Superstore”?
It suffers from cartoonish characters – especially the manager and
assistant – and moments that are too silly. Still, it has likable
people and some solid plots: Tonight, Jonah doesn't want to sell guns
and Glenn doesn't want to sell morning-after pills. Ethical conflicts

“iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

It's already been a
big week for this youth-oriented network, with two series debuts and
two season-openers. Now that wraps up today and Friday, with tapes of
this two-night event in Las Vegas.

Ryan Seacrest hosts,
The opening night included U2, Britney Spears, Drake, Pitbull, Usher,
Sting, Billy Idol, Florida Georgia Line and – designated as the
“rising star” -- Los 5.

ALTERNATIVE: Sports overload, 8:30 p.m. ET CBS; 5 and 8:30 p.m. ET,

After a week off,
CBS returns to Thursday football, with two teams that are 1-3 . Last
week, the 49ers blew a two-touchdown lead and lost to the
injury-riddled Cowboys, 24-17; the Cardinals rolled up the yardage,
but lost to the Rams 17-13 ... and may have lost quarterback Carson
Palmer via concussion.

Their game competes
for attention with baseball and the start of the American League
play-off series. The first game has the wild-card winner at Texas.
The secpond has Rick Porcello (22-4, with a 3.15 earned run average)
and the Red Sox visiting Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) and the Indians.

Other choices

“The Stand,” 6
p.m. to 2 a.m. ET, IFC. As Halloween gets closer, cable channels are
loading up on anything scary. This 1994 Stephen King post-plague
mini-series runs on IFC, then goes to Pop from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday. Gary Sinise stars, with Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee
and more.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. This pushes family troubles to an extreme: There's a car
crash at a funeral; the entire bickering group ends up at the
hospital. Meanwhile, Arizona returns from New York and is instantly
caught between Alex and Andrew ... whose surgical career was almost
ended when Andrew beat him brutally. Also, Ben takes on a new
parenting role.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. If you missed Sunday's much-praised opener of HBO's
“Westworld,” you can catch it tonight. Other strong 8 p.m.
choices include “Jerry Maguire” (1996) on Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries, “Men in Black” (1997) on AMC and “The Dark Knight:
(2008) on TNT.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Tempers rage when the Padres face the Cardinals ... whose
pitcher broke the finger of one of the Padre players in a fight.
Also, Ginny is upset when she spots her former boyfriend on the team;
and the Padre manager (Dan Lauria) scrambles to save his his job.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Annalise hands the class a murder case
so controversial that even the jaded members of the “Keating 5”
feel their morals are being strained.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Miles McGrath is a “criminal incubator” who
finances crimes. Now Red goes to extremes to find him, hoping that
will lead to Alexander Kirk.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:02. After meandering a bit, this finds
tonight's main story: “I've already blown it,” Sam's daughter
says. After years of pointless socializing, she's 16 and has done
nothing toward college and life. Not even remotely a comedy, this
episode has great moments.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 5

“Frequency” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

The atmosphere does
funny things to soundwaves, it seems. On an odd night, we can hear
people from far away. On an odder night, we can hear someone from
decades away.

At least, that's
what happened in the 2000 movie, when a man started talking to his
late father. Now the TV version has a young cop talking to her dad, a
slain cop, assumed to be corrupt. If we can suspend any disbelief
(and, perhaps, common sense), it's an engaging tale, skillfully
filmed and acted. I's more personal – and a tad better – than
NBC's “Timeless,” but has a similar ending to the opener.

“Empire,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Mariah Carey shows
up tonight, playing – surprise? -- a music diva. Also. Cookie
continues to be drawn to the handsome councilman (Taye Diggs). Mix in
the romantic competition for emerging pop star Tiana and you have
plenty for pop-culture buffs. Alongside that, however, is a serious

Last week, Andre –
smart, diligent, bipolar, newly widowed – moved some things from an
old apartment. When a white neighbor phoned and white cops arrived,
things escalated, thrusting the Lyon family into what could become a
fresh Chicago controversy.

ALTERNATIVE: “Nova,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Here is epic
television, both visually and in theme. The subject is nothing less
than the history of man; traveling the globe, anthropologist Niobe
Thompson marvels at the skills of our ancestors.

How did they survive
with few tools, in ancient Africa? Thompson watches the San Bushmen
at work. How did they reach the North? Not accepting the “land
bridge” as the sole answer, he follows the stunning skill of
Polynesian mariners. And how did they survive the freeze? In charming
scenes, he lives among the Chukchi reindeer herders in Arctic

Other choices

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Riggs is the troubled one, shattered by his wife's
death. But Murtaugh has his own crisis: After theft and two murders,
a prime suuspect is his former training officer.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. The teams get a chance to mingle with each other. So far,
each has lost one person. The Gen X team dropped Rachel Ako, 37, a
recruiting director; the Millennials dropped Mari Takahashi, 31, who
has a millenial-style job -- hosting shows on Smosh, a games channel
on YouTube.

season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. Being a newly elected mayor is hard
enough, but Oliver must also slip off and fight a fierce new villain.
There's potential here, but it's soon wasted amid a deluge of
brutality, torture and more; our “hero” even manages to kill two
people with his bare hands.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. With Luke and Manny in the same class, there can always
be complications. Now they both run for class president, with their
parents getting involved.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Here's another school-election episode. With his son
running for class president, Dre tries to coach him on appealing to
the masses.

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Thrust into the presidency, the previously
obscure Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is about to give his first TV
interview. He's distracted, however, by a high-level security breach.
Meanwhile, an FBI agent (Maggie Q) is developing a theory about the

“Full Frontal,”
10:30 p.m., TBS. For the second straight week, this show moves to
Wedmesdays, so Samantha Bee can take swipes at a debate.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 3

“Conviction” debut, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Hayes Morrison has
glided through a golden life. Bright, beautiful and the president's
daughter, she found that even law school was easy. But now an arrest
has forced her into a compromise: To avoid drug charges, she must
lead a New York unit that will re-examinine past convictions.

It would be easy to
dislike Hayes, except she's played by Hayley Atwell, the “Agent
Carter” star. Her show gives ABC a solid, crime-of-the-week tale,
to go alongside its cascade of serialized stories.

“Timeless” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

The trouble with a
time machine is that someone might steal it, disrupting the fabric of
time. That happened to H.G. Welles in “Time After Time” (coming
soon to ABC) and it happens here.

An enigmatic rogue
(Goran Visnjic) has swiped the machine and is heading to the
Hindenburg. In pursuit is a shaky prototype with a historian (Abigail
Spencer, the superb “Rectify” co-star), a soldier and a reluctant
pilot. “Timeless” throws in everything, including humor, drama
and action; it overloads at times, asking the historian to be both
brilliant and dim, but has enough to keep us watching.

ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
As American society quaked in 1968, TV news shows
remained polite and distant. People rarely shouted or interrupted.
Then ABC had William Buckley and Gore Vidal collide on convention

Words sparked,
Buckley exploded. “Now listen, you queer,” he said, “stop
calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and
you'll stay plastered.” Here is a compelling view of what came
before and after ... and of a TV world that has drastically changed
its tyle. We would never want to go back to the antiseptic days of
old ... but we do wish people would quit interrupting each other.

Other choices

“The Voice”
(NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10 p.m. On one show,
the blind auditions continue; on the other, there's sheer spectacle,
dancing to large routines with a Cirque du Soleil setting. Eleven
celebrities remain, after the ousters of actor Jake T. Austin and
politician Rick Perry.

“Supergirl,” 8
and 9 p.m., CW. In reruns of the final two first-season episodes, Non
and Indigo rule the city (via mind control) and endanger the world.
New episodes start next week.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week, Howard rashly promised to have the
invention ready for the military in two months. Now the guys rush to
finish and Sheldon even tries an energy drink.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8:31p.m., CBS. The first two episodes have been fairly funny.
Tonight, Kevin hires someone to do his housework, then takes credit
for it.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. Already a favorite of fantasy fans (via “Battlestar
Galactica”), Tricia Helfer has a growing role here as Lucifer's
mon. She's spotted at a bloody crime scene, claiming her innocence.

season-opener, 9:01 and 10 p.m., CBS. Next week, this settles into a
10 p.m. slot, with four comedies as the lead-in. First is a two-hour
opener, with the fate of the nation at stake: Hackers control U.S.
aircraft and warships, pointing their weapons at U.S. cities. The
team tries to regain control.

“Willie Velasquez:
Your Vote is Your Voice,” 10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
As the impact of the Latino vote grows, here's a strong reminder of
past obstacles, from poll taxes to Texas Rangers.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 2

“Madam Secretary” and “Elementary” season-openers, 9 and 10
p.m., CBS.

A week late, CBS'
solid Sunday line-up is in place. On “Madam Secretary,” a naval
base in Bahrain was destroyed by a storm; Elizabeth urges the
president to change his view on climate channge ... and to change his
foreign policy in general. Neither move is likely during an election

Then “Elementary”
resurrects Shinwell Johnson, a character from a 1924 Sherlock Holmes
novel. Watson saved his life when she was a surgeon; now she needs
his help in tracing a serial bomber who's suddenly back after six
years. Also, Sherlock wonders if Watson is unhappy as a detective.

“Westworld” debut, 9 p.m., HBO; rernning at 10:15 and midnight.

Back in 1973,
Michael Crichton's movie was your standard robots-gone-wild tale. A
cowboy town was set up for tourists, until a robotic killer suddenly
started working for real.

Now Jonathan Nolan
(“Person of Interest”) has come up with a fresh twist, seeing it
partly through the androids' eyes. Anthony Hopkins plays the man in
charge; Ed Harris is the gunslinger and Evan Rachel Wood is the
Western damsel, realizing her life is an artifice. This could become
something special.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Irresistable Blueberry Farm,” 9-11 p.m.,
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Ellen (Alison
Sweeney) is a Manhattan lawyer, sleek and successful. Now she must
deliver her late grandmother's letter to a person she's never known,
in a town she's never heard of.

Yes, this is your
typical Hallmark film, which makes it predictable. But it's also your
typical Sweeney film, which makes it well-crafted. As usual, she's
directed by Kristoffer Tabori, the actor who sometimes uses an
alternate name (K.T. Donaldson) when directing. As usual, Sweeney and
her colleagues deliver quiet depth; put this alongside “Westworld”
and you have something for everyone. Other choices include:

Football preview (7
p.m. ET) and game (8:20), NBC. Two strong teams,each with a 2-1
record, collide. Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs visit Ben
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Emma returns to her therapy sessions ... which
is understandable, when you consider the world around her. A
mysteriopus newcomer has a past with the Evil Queen ... who keeps
trying to lure Zelena. Also, Belle needs Hook's help to hide from her
husband, Mr. Gold.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Mr. Burns needs a virtual-reality family, so he hires
all of the Simpsons except Homer ... who finds a neighbor (Allison
Janney) who's just like him.

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead” season-opener, 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:05 and 10:10.
Imagine the ultimate scenes in most action-horror films, the ones
soaked in blood, sweat and desperation. Now string them together for
35 minutes, with little plot to slow things down. That's the “Ash”
opener, which is (varying with your tastes) sensational or the
definition of overkill. The first season reruns from 4-8 p.m.

“Blunt Talk”
season-opener, 8:35 p.m., Starz; rerunning at 9:40 and 10:45. The
people around him actually have romances, but not Walter Blunt
(Patrick Stewart). Then he feels he's seen his long-lost true love.
It's a strong start for a promising season.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. The telegenic marriage of Eric and Kate
(Michael Ealy and Jordana Brewster) ended quickly, when she plunged
to her death. Now a police detective uncovers secrets.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The first season flashed between FBI training and a future
crisis; this second one does the same, but with CIA training. There,
Alex and Ryan test their relationship; in the future, Ryan faces a
terrorist scheme to blend in with the hostages.