TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE;
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Randall has always
been an achiever and a perpetual worrier. Abandoned as a baby – and
adopted by a warm-but-hectic family – he's groped for his place in
the world. Now we see that in two eras.

In flashbacks, he
strains to meet his birth parents; in the present (wonderfully played
by Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown), he has second thoughts about his
own plan to be a foster and adoptive parent. There's much more in the
past (his adoptive dad's troubles with alcoholism) and in the
present: Kevin starts work on a Ron Howard movie ... and Kate
promptly goes gaga over Sylvester Stallone.

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

With its big, broad
plots, this comedy can sometimes score big. Here's a terrific
example.

Mick was happy
staying in her sister's mansion and watching the kids ... until the
money was cut off. Now come prison visits to both parents, with wild
results. There's a spectacular fight ... and cheery games between a
tyke and tough prisoners. None of this gives us much confidence in
prison security ... but most of it is quite funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Flash” season-opener, 8 p.m,, CW.

The CW's most
popular show has an air of breathless urgency. Good guys and villains
race and flash furiously, while world-at-stake music roars. And this
time, at least, the story matches that tone.

A fierce samurai –
yes, samurai – will destroy the city, unless he gets a
confrontation with The Flash. But Barry (that's the Flash) has been
sent away to guard the speed force and may never be back. Can the
team win without him? Can he be brought back ... and would he be the
same if that happened? And what about Caitlin Snow, who turned into
the evil Kid Frost? The answers arrive mid-crescendo.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Working with the police, Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) is on a
stakeout ... when his partner disappears. Also, Ducky gets an offer
from his friend Darwin (Susan Blakely).

“Hip-Hop Awards,”
8-10 p.m., BET. DJ Khaled hosts and performs. Other performers
include Flo Rida, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Trina, Luke Campbell, Gucci
Maine, Yo Gotti, Migos and many more.

“The Vietnam War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. Lyndon Johnson is overwhelmed by the war he
inherited. The South Vietnam leaders are corrupt or ineffective; the
Viet Cong are increasingly well-armed. His solution is to expand the
war effort, but to keep that a secret from the public.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's not easy to make a comedy out of a dead-serious
subject, but “Black-ish” does that often. This episode views
postpartum depression. Bow, who has raised four children quite
cheerfully, is staggered by No. 5. There's some broad humor at first,
followed by some solid moments.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Jake is out of prison now and ready for
a case ... if the captain will let him. Add some broad humor with
Rosa and Pimento and you have a fairly good episode.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In an episode that was scheduled for last
week, then delayed, the team searches for a Russian operative who
was in the U.S. to give information about sleeper agents.

“Adventure
Capitalists” season-opener, 10 p.m., CNBC. This fairly interesting
show is a sort of outdoor “Shark Tank,” with ex-athletes testing
– and maybe investing in – products. This season, gymnast Shawn
Johnson East joins skier Jeremy Bloom and football's Dhani Jones,
plus (tonight) Tony Gonzalez. They range from a portable gym to a
pontoon boat with its own hammock.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Supergirl” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

For two weeks, CW
ducked and let the big guys start their seasons. Now it launches
everything – two new shows and eight returning ones – in one
crowded week. That includes five fantasy shows and lots of shows
centering on smart women; “Supergirl” leads both categories.

Tonight's hour has
big action scenes at the start and near the end, with lots of somber
talk in-between. (Ever since sending her boyfriend away, Supergirl
has been bummed.) Also, the second action scene introduces a woman
(Odette Annable) rushing to save her daughter; she'll be big in the
weeks ahead.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Valor” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

OK, the CW people
realize that women can be super without capes and tights. Nora
(Christina Ochoa) is a helicopter pilot, strong and sturdy ... except
for a crisis that could shatter anyone. Her chopper crashed; she and
her commanding officer escaped – then decided to lie about the
whole thing.

That lie strains the
show's credibility ... and stirs up the rest of the plot. They
struggle to keep their secret ... while trying to uncover big ones.
There are flaws here, but Ochoa is a break-out star.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Gifted,” 9 p.m., Fox.

After last week's
high-voltage opener, life is shaky. “Mutants” are tolerated
(barely) ... then are arrested if they cause any damage. Now Polaris
is imprisoned; so is Reed Strucker, a federal prosecutor who helped
his kids flee when he learned they're mutants.

Tonight, he faces
interrogation and his kids try to protect the mutant hideaway. The
Struckers are way too screechy and grumbly, but “Gifted”
effectively mixes human drama with big-deal special effects.

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

Not everyone is into
shows about superpowers or sturdy soldiers. For others, there are the
reality shows (see below) or a CBS line-up led by TV's best comedy.

Sheldon tends to
stress about everything ... including picking a wedding date. So Amy
hopes to introduce him to his lasidback side. Also, Raj and Stuart
are gaga about Bernadette's new co-worker.

Other choices
include:

Sports overload, all
night, cable. The baseball playoffs continue, with a National League
double-header on TBS (5:30 and 9 p.m. ET) and American League games,
if needed, on Fox Sports1. These collide with “Monday Night
Football,” with the Bears and Vikings at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

“The Voice”
(NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10 p.m. For “Voice,”
this is the final week of auditions. “Stars” has already dumped
two people, but skipped that last week. Tonight, each celebrity
dances to music from a “most memorable year.”

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. Trying to catch his kidnapper, Lucifer searches for the
mysterious Sinnerman. Others feel he's overobsessing ... until they
learn more about the history of Pierce (Tom Welling of “Smallville”),
the new police lieutenant.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
9 p.m., CBS. The focus shifts to Kevin's younger kids. Jack has been
lying about a peanut allergy, to fit in with the others. And Sara?
When his boss (Leah Remini) suggests she has a secret boyfriend,
Kevin goes undercover to find out.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Young and autistic, Dr. Shaun Murphy is difficult to
communicate with. But as they race back with a donated organ, Dr.
Browne tries to link with him.

“The Brave,” 10
p.m., NBC. When an international arms-dealer is coming to Mexico,
Patricia (Anne Heche) launches a risky plan. Also, Noah learns about
Hannah's past troubles in the field.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Episodes” finale, 10 p.m., Showtime.

For five seasons and
40 episodes, this has provided witty satire of the TV world, while
drawing only tiny audiences. Now the 41st and final
episode wraps it all up brilliantly.

Co-created by David
Crane (who did the same for “Friends”), this has Matt LeBlanc as
a perverse version of himself. This Matt is a hapless dolt who keeps
ruining the career of a British, husband-wife writing team. There's
much more tonight, with moments that are hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Madam Secretary” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

At home, Elizabeth
and Henry face chaos and an emptying nest. Their older daughter is
traveling for work; their younger daughter is starting college -- and
their son wants her room to be a game room.

At work, things are
even messier: Henry insists on hiring the young Russian he
endangered. Elizabeth meets with a foreign official who promptly
dies; she suspects foul play. “I realize that murdering your
diplomats is all the rage these days,” the president says. But not
in the U.S.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS.

On most levels, this
is a masterful show – epic in scope, splendid in visuals, but with
smart dialog handed to gifted actors. Still, there are times when
Ross Poldark strains believability.

Tonight's plan –
entering French territory, to learn if his friend Dr. Enys is alive
in captivity – seems wildly foolish. Far worse, however, was his
decision to reject a magistrate position ... leaving it in the hands
of the evil George. Poldark, a champion of the common man, has given
them a brutal kick.

TONIGHT'S
DISAPPOINTMENT: “Masterpiece: The Collection,” 10 p.m., PBS.

There was every
reason to expect a “Downton/Victoria/Poldark”-type gem. This has
a promising story – a fictional designer, much like Christian Dior,
shakes Paris in 1947 – and a gifted creator: From “Popular” to
“Pretty Little Liars,” Oliver Goldstick has known how to be smart
and ... well, popular.

But then? For
starters, this is an oddly homely show; to provide post-war
authenticity, it is dark and dingy. So is the plot, which piles on
gloomy motives; high fashion has rarely seemed so lowly.

Other choices
include:

“The Story of
God,” 2-11 p.m. ET, National Geographic. Three days before Nat Geo
launches Morgan Freeman's superb “The Story of Us,” it reruns his
previous series, another terrific one.

“The Toy Box,” 7
p.m., ABC. Maybe this is what we all need to enrich our lives – a
portable miniature-golf set that can be adapted into 25 different
course. Other ideas range from a sort of dance-charades game to a
robotic flower that blossoms and changes colors as the player
concentrates.

“Ghosted,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. Fresh from its clever opener, this jumps straight to its
Halloween episode. Leroy takes his nephew trick-or-treating ... then
sees reality beat make-believe: Infected by a demon cat, the kid has
a zombie-like virus. Meanwhile, the bureau faces Halloween-night
overload.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a counterfeiter's daughter comes to
town, Sam goes undercover as a financier. Also, Callen links with
Anna (Bar Paley), to trace her family's scheme.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Tandy (Will Forte) scrambles to get away
from Pamela (Kristen Wiig). Also, Chris Elliott plays a guy who's
been stranded on an island for years.

“Ten Days in the
Valley,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week, we met Jane (Kyra Sedgwick), a
loving mom and a hard-working TV writer-producer, trying to do it all
alone. When her daughter was kidnapped, she kept complicating the
investigation with her secrecy – especially about the drug-dealer
she summoned that night. Tonight, she sneaks away. This is a very
well-made show ... albeit with a frustrating character.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 7


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

Last week's
season-opener topped 7 million viewers (not counting delayed
viewing). That was shy of last season's politics-fueled opener (8.3
million), but better than any other opener since 2008,

More importantly,
the show was slick and funny ... a so-so opening sketch, followed by
several sharp ones and a wickedly funny “Weekend Update.” Now Gal
Gadot hosts, with music from Sam Smith.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Will & Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC.

This has been the
young season's happiest surprise: After 11-plus years of dormancy,
the show has returned as sharp as ever – or sharper. Four gifted
actors (plus guest stars) handle slick, smart dialog, perfectly
molded by director James Burrows. And then there are the sight gags.

The opener had a
good one, an Oval Office pillow fight; this second one has a great
one – Grace and Karen caught in a shower, as the water rises. That
was funny with Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance, 55 years ago; it's
hilarious now. Add a dead-serious monolog by Will and you have a
great rerun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Spielberg,” 8-10:30 p.m., HBO.

Here are two master
filmmakers. One, of course, is Steven Spielberg: From “Jaws” and
“ET” to the Indiana Jones films, he mastered the art of the
blockbuster; then – from “Schindler's List” to “Lincoln”
and “Bridge of Spies” -- he showed he's also good at deeply
detailed dramas.

The other is Susan
Lacy, who made this film. She created PBS' “American Masters” and
ran it for two decades, setting a new standard for deep biographies.
Now she's taken that skill to HBO.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Wonder List” debut, 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring
breaking news).

As a young man, Doug
Tompkins savored the outdoors. He started two companies (North Face
and Esprit), made a fortune and then bought land in Patagonia. He
took two million acres (bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island
combined) and donated them for national parks in Chile and Argentina.

This is a feel-good
story ... but it also brings objections from locals who have lost
their chances for hunting and farming. Bill Weir tells the story with
warmth, depth and gorgeous scenery.

Other choices
include:

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET, ABC, and 8 p.m. ET, Fox. ABC has Michigan (ranked No. 7) hosting
Michigan State; Fox has Washinton State (No. 11) at Oregon. And
cable, of course, has much more.

“Wisdom of the
Crowd,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of Sunday's pilot film, with a
tech mogul (Jeremy Piven) using his fortune to tackle high-tech
crimesolving. Like last year's failures (“Pure Genius,” “APB”),
this has lots of computer screens, but few people to care about.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Jonah digs into Garrett's past and Amy feels Dina has
anxiety. Also in this rerun , Mateo and Cheyenne try to avoid work by
claiming they were close to the late Brett.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. While Pride is on a deep-sea oil rig, a gas
leak is discovered, creating fears of an explosion. Also in this
rerun, Sebastian starts his NCIS training.

“Halt and Catch
Fire,” 9 p.m., AMC; reruns at 10:15. The closing minutes last week
were brilliantly crafted and instantly jolting, as Gordon died. Now
come the aftershocks of a tangled life. Donna – once his wife, now
his competitor – must pack up. Haley -- their 14-year-old daughter
and a computer whiz in his company – retrieves a keepsake, with
Joe's help.

“The Departed”
(2006), 10 p.m., MTV. After decades of great filmmaking, Martin
Scorsese finally won his Oscars (best picture, best director) for
this richly layered cop story. His dream cast included Jack
Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Great Performances: Havana Time Machine,” 9 p.m., PBS.

As lead singer of
the Mavericks, Raul Malo has given country music two unique touches –
a soaring (almost operatic) voice and a Cuban heritage. Both are on
display here.

Malo meets musicians
in his parents' homeland, then takes them to a great spot – a
former beer garden and palace, just outside Havana, that's partly
abandoned and overtaken by the jungle. There, we hear the Mavericks,
Ivette Cepeda, Eliadel Ochoa and two truly amazing groups – Roberto
Fonseca's jazz fusion band and Sweet Lizzy Project, a superb
indie-pop group that cut its album in a tiny apartment.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Once Upon a Time” reboot, 8 p.m., ABC.

Last season could
easily have have been the last, wrapping up its storylines. “We did
it,” young Henry Mills says now. “We have our happy ending.”

Still, he's
determined to find new ones; years later -- with a new actor playing
Henry -- he finds two. In the fairy-tale world, he meets a
steel-willed Cinderella; in Seattle, he meets a struggling Cindy
type. Both are played by Dania Ramirez, who's new to the show; still,
a few of the regulars – Lana Parilla, Robert Carlyle, Colin
O'Donoghue – are back. The result has warmth, whimsy and great
visuals.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Exorcist,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Friday-night scares
are a bit iffy right now. The Syfy channel had planned to debut Mario
Van Peebles' promising “Superstition” at 10 p.m. today, right
after the offbeat “Z Nation.” That's being delayed for two weeks,
however; for now, try the reworked “Exorcist,” which juggles
three mismatched stories.

One – Tomas and
Marcus try to save a distraught woman – is terribly gruesome and
disturbing, even by horror standards. The other two, however, are
quite good. One has schemes inside the Vatican; the other has the
talented John Cho as an earnest foster father, on what may be a
haunted island.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, all day,
cable. It's a quadruple-header, if you switch channels. The second
American League games are at 2 and 5 p.m. ET on Fox Sports1 or MLBN;
the first National League games are 7:30 and 10:31 p.m. ET on TBS.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. When does diamond-theft become a good deed? When a
terrorist group is trying to get the same diamonds and exchange them
for a weapon of mass destruction.

“Third Rail With
Ozy,” 8:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Tentative plans call
for Ann Coulter, Nick Cannon and others, discussing gender in the
workplace and the “men's movement” in Silicon Valley.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. When the boss of a major crime family is killed, there
are revenge slayings across the island. The team asks an old friend
for help. Also, McGarrett and Danny sort out the details of their new
restaurant venture.

“Inhumans,” 9:01
p.m., ABC. If you missed last week's opener ... well, it was kind of
awful anyway. Maximus (whose charisma is miniumus) overthrew his
brother the king. For the royalty, the bad news is that they've lost
their power (and, in the queen's case, her hair); the good is that
they're in Hawaii.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny – who's now widowed, viewers abruptly learned
last week – probes the suspicious return of a boy who disappeared
13 years ago.

“Hispanic Heritage
Awards,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Icons will be there
to receive the awards and to give them out. (One presenter is Dolores
Huerta, 55, who started the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez
some 55 years ago.) Also, there's music by Luis Fonsi, Concha Buika,
Gaby Moreno, Locos por Juana and Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner.