TV column for Monday, Nov. 16


“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

Already a very good
mini-series, “Fargo” becomes a great one as it focuses Ed and
Peggy Blomquist in small-town Minnesota. She (Kirsten Dunst) is a
beautician, with dreams of attending a self-help seminar; he (Jersse
Plemons) is a butcher, with dreams of buying the shop.

Both dreams faded
after they accidentally killed Rye Gerhardt. Last week, the Gerhardts
sent people to kill Ed. As he quietly told Peggy afterward: “The
shop burned down and I killed another fella – maybe two.” Now the
search – for Ed and Peggy and for Rye's brother Dodd – grows in
wild ways.

II: “Supergirl,” 8 p.m. CBS.

People have talked a
lot about “having it all” and “supermoms” and such. Still,
nothing compares to Kara tonight: She has her magazine job ... and
watches her boss' son ... and (as Supergirl) must simultaneously
prevent two bombings. Also, she frets about whether James Olsen
thinks she's cute.

That's in a good
episode that mixes action, fun and an extra complication: Lois Lane's
beautiful-and-smart sister (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) wants James back; a
superlife gets even more complicated.

ALTERNATIVE: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Sure, Valencia knows
what guys like. (Hint: It's sex.) But Rebecca knows what parents
like; now she plans to make a great impression, mingling with Josh's
big, Filipino family during Thanksgiving.

There are solid
laughs there, juxtaposed with the tough times faced by Greg, the nice
guy Rebecca overlooks. He's played by Santino Fontana, a Broadway
star who was the prince in the “Cinderella” musical, At one
point, Greg even sings a passionate ballad; this is a truly talented

ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Jyoti Singh insisted
she'd be a doctor, some day starting a rural hospital. To pay for med
school, she worked full-time at a call center; to help, her parents
sold their ancestral land. Then, near graduation, she went to the
“Story of Pi” movie; on the way home, she was raped and killed.

The case brought
passionate protests about India's attitudes toward women. So will
some of the comments here by those convicted: “A girl is far more
responsible for rape than a boy .... A decent girl won't roam around
at 9 o'clock at night.” Grotesque global attitudes are magnified

Other choices

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. In a busy, three-night stretch last week, “Voice”
trimmed from 20 singers to 12. Now it's back to two nights, with one
person to oust.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Alexa PenaVega was ousted by
viewer-vote ... shortly after getting a perfect score from judges.
Her husband Carlos is still in the running, alongside Bindi Irwin
(who also had a perfect score), Nick Carter, Tamar Braxton and Alek

“Pioneer Woman's
Ultimate Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., Food Network. There's still time to
plan a throwback holiday. Ree Drummond prepares such not-everyday
items as maple-whiskey turkey and pumpkin-gingersnap cheesecake with
salted caramel sauce.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Blackmailers want toforce the team to break into the
United Nations and help assassinate a deadly arms dealer.

“Minority Report,”
9 p.m., Fox. After spending early weeks on the fringe, Wilmer
Valderrama's role as Det. Blake expands; we learn his back story and
he's nudged into the core of the plot. Still, that story – a cop
using someone who can see crimes before they happen – remains
fairly flat and uninvolving.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. This plot keeps popping up – including last month on
“NCIS”: Agents (or cops or such) pose as a couple when going
undercover. This time, it's Jane and Weller.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 15

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Big bursts of humor
pepper this hour. Yes, there are serious stories – one (a
driverless car causes an accident) interesting, the other (an
election-board vote) not. But there's also the fun of campaign

As Peter runs for
president, a story says he and his wife haven't slept together in
three years. This is the stickiest kind rumor ... one that happens to
be true. Now staffers – including Eli, wedged into a micro-office –
must manufacture a fake relationship to impress a potential donor
(Vanessa Williams).

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

With “Blood &
Oil” ratings crumbling, ABC took drastic steps: It trimmed the show
to 10 episodes – only three remain – and yanked it for this week,
doubling up on “Once Upon a Time.”

That's good news for
viewers, because “Once” tends to have impressive visuals and
imaginative plots. Both hours include King Arthur and Merlin: In the
first, they battle Emma and her friends; in the second, they cross
paths with imposing women – Merida (from “Brave”), Ruby (an
alternate form of Little Red Riding Hood) and Mulan.

ALTERNATIVE: “Into the Badlands” debut, 10 p.m., AMC.

Maybe zombies aren't
the scariest thing on AMC. After the 9 p.m. “Walking Dead” (a new
threat appears during an attempted return to Alexandria), we meet
stone-faced Sunny. He has a tattoo mark for each of the 404 people
he's killed so far ... and he's the show's hero.

This is a world
where guns were banished; sticks, swords, fists and gore prevail.
Visually, “Badlands” is truly impressive; emotionally ... well,
so far it's merely stoic.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Breakthrough,” 9 p.m., National Geographic.

On six Sundays, this
ambitious series has a key Hollywood figure look at a big-deal
subject. The first two were good; this one – Brett Ratner, director
of the “Rush Hour” films, on brain research – is better.

Unlike the previous
filmmakers, Ratner doesn't narrate; that job goes to Adrien Brody,
whose voice is ideal. Ratner focuses on great visuals and clever
storytelling. We learn that the sub-conscious makes decisions (often
incorrectly), long before the conscious knows. Memories deteriorate,
as shown when people try to describe 9/11. And for brains battered
by disease or combat stress, there may be solutions.

Other choices

Contessa,” 1 p.m., Food Network. With Thanksgiving only 11 days
away, it's time to see the lives of the fortunate. Ina Garten does
some of the cooking, but her neighbor Bobby Flay (the star chef)
smokes a turkey and shares his recipes for chopped salad and potato

Football, preview at
7 p.m. ET and kickoff at 8:30, NBC. After almost winning the Super
Bowl last year, the Seattle Seahawks have floundered to a 4-4 start.
They host the Arizona Cardinals, 6-2.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has someone stealing Homer's
smoker, just before a cooking contest. The second has the “Futurama”
crowd going back in time, to warn Homer.

Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In the
second-to-last episode, the prime story is peaking. Viewers know the
homeless woman was the mother of Adam ... whose father is Ralph
Whelan, a powerful official. They don't know who killed her, but are
quite sure it wasn't Ramu, the prosperous farmer now on trial for
murder. Meanwhile, Sarah still threatens to reveal Alice's secret.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The trainees start to suspect their individual assignments
are connected. And in the flashforward, Alex suddenly feels there's a
second bomb in New York City.

“The Royals”
season-opener, 10 p.m., E. The first season started with the death of
Prince Robert, heir to the throne; his brother Liam had to get
serious. It ended with the death of their dad, King Simon; with Liam
and his sister declared illegitmate, Simon's brother Cyrus reigns
while schemes grow.


TV column for Saturday, Nov. 14


Rock concerts, cable.

TV rarely gives us
music, unless there are awards or viewer- votes involved. But
tonight, it has some big-time stars, past and prest.

U2, still one of the
top acts on the planet, has a Paris concert at 9 p.m. on HBO;
meanwhile, the Oprah Winfrey Network has the “Legends” series at
the Apollo Theatre. The new hour has the dynamic Earth, Wind &
Fire at 10 p.m. and at 1 a.m.; reruns have the Isley Brothers (7 p.m.
and 2 a.m.), Smokey Robinson (8 and 11 p.m.) and Gladys Knight (9
p.m. and midnight).

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

Elizabeth Banks
seems to be an ideal guest. She's already had three Emmy nominations
as a guest star – two for “30 Rock,” one for “Modern Family.”
Now she hosts “SNL,” with music from Disclosure.

Sure, Banks isn't as
high-profile as this season's other hosts – Donald Trump, Tracy
Morgan, Amy Schumer and Miley Cyrus, with Matthew McConaughey hosting
and Adele singing next week. But the Trump episode was a
disappointment, flatly written and played; now maybe “SNL” can

ALTERNATIVE: Football or debate.

Critics have
grumbled that too many people treat presidential debates as sporting
events, with winners and losers. Tonight, three of the big-four
networks have either college football or a debate.

At 7:30 p.m. ET,
Stanford (ranked No. 11) hosts Oregon on Fox. At 8 p.m. ET, Baylor
(No. 6) hosts Oklahoma (No. 15) on ABC. And at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, it's the
Democratic debate in Des Moines ... where some people will worry
about Iowa hosting Minnesota, at 8 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.

Other choices

“One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest” (1975), 7-10 p.m., Sundance. Jack Nicholson's
anti-authority persona stirs an asylum in a classic. It won Oscars
for best picture, Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, director Milos Forman
and the script. The American Film Institute calls it the 33rd-best
American movie ever.

“Dateline,” 8-10
p.m., NBC. While others have football or politics, NBC offers its
news magazine, followed by a “Saturday Night Live” rerun at 10.

“Dr. Dee, Alaska
Vet,” 8 p.m., Animal Planet, rerunning at 1:06 a.m. In last week's
opener – rerunning at 9:01 and 11:04 p.m. today -- we met Dr. Dee
Thornell, who leaves her modern veterinary clinic in Fairbanks and
flies to distant places. In tonight's new hour, she holds a
spay-and-neuter clinic in a village's laundromat. She also aids the
difficult birth of a calf at a large ranch.

“Da Vinci's
Demons,” 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10. This oft-superb series has
taken a bizarre detour in its final season. Last week's episode
(rerunning at 3:25 p.m.) ended with Leonardo in a torture chair. He's
still there, fantasizing an alternate life – with periodic jolts to
perplex and upset us. Even some brilliant filming and acting can't
redeem it.

“The Help”
(2012), 9 p.m., CMT. A nimble touch, including humor and humanity,
helps us absorb a difficult subject – race relations and class
differences in 1960s Mississippi.

“Dr. Who,” 9
p.m. ET, BBC America. Once a comedy guy (in “The League of
Gentlemen”), Mark Gatiss has become a gifted writer of “Sherlock”
and “Who” episodes ... and even of three “Poirot” movies. His
story tonight has “found footage,” with The Doctor on a
38th-century space station.

“The Lincoln
Lawyer” (2011) 10 p.m., Pop. Before his career soared, Matthew
McConaughey did this movie, from a Michael Connelly novel about a
makeshift lawyer working out of his car. It feels more like a novel
or a TV movie than a big-screen one ... which makes it
pleasant-enough cable viewing.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 12 (slightly out of order)

(Here's theNov. 12 TV column, a tad out of order; Nov, 13 is right below this.)

“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

With sharp writing
and perfect performances, “Mom” had the rare ability to make even
bad news seem funny. Losing a job ... losing out on a custody weekend
with your son ... wrapping up a court-ordered penalty? All of that is
faced with wit and fun.

But is it funny to
meet someone who's been broken by addiction and abuse? Surprisingly,
yes. Christy and her mom attempt to seem casual, while hiding their
valuables. It's a great scene in a dandy episode.

“2 Broke Girls” season-opener, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

It's been an odd
roller-coaster for this comedy. After four years of not-bad ratings
on Mondays, it was put on the shelf (along with “Mike &
Molly”), slated as a mid-season replacement. Then the return came
quicker – and in a much better timeslot -- than anyone had

CBS belatedly
realized that the so-so “Angel From Hell” -- slated for tonight –
would be the weak link in a great comedy night. “Angel” was
delayed to February, replaced by “Broke”: The government has
plans to bulldoze Han's diner and Max and Caroline's cupcake window;
people converge on City Hall.

ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway Junior” debut, 9 p.m., Lifetime,
rerunning at 10:02.

Right now, kids are
overrunning our reality shows. Last Friday, Fox started its
“MasterChef Junior” season; now this “Runway” variation has a
dozen designers, ages 13 to 17.

Tim Gunn will be the
grown-up in charge, alongside model Hannah Davis. The judges are
Kelly Osbourne, Aya Kana (editor of Cosmopolitan and Seventeen) and
Christian Siriano, who has proven young people can design. He was 22
when he won “Runway” (the real one) in 2006.

Other choices

“The Notebook”
(2004) and “The Lucky One” (2012), 6 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. All
films based on Nicholas Sparks films were clearly not created equal.
“Notebook” is beautifully nuanced and deeply moving; “Lucky
One” leaves viewers shouting “Just tell her” and “I told you

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. There's heavy emotional pressure, as the team works on a
longtime patient. Meanwhile, Arizona is ready to date again; Bailey
wants Ben to throw out their new roommate.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon may be ready to sample the dating

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. After several great episodes, this show had a lame
one last week. We'll hope it rebounds tonight, as baby Lark gets much
of the focus: Her parents try to hire a nanny; her grandfather makes
a wooden puppet that everyone seems to like ... except Lark.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. As the president negotiates a peace deal, Olivia learns
key information.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Both sides make progress in finding Liz, while Tom has a
setback in his effort to exonerate her.

“VH1 Big Music in
2015,” 9-11 p.m., VH1. Viewers have already been voting (by Twitter
and Instagram) for the VH1 Artist of the Year. We'll learn the winner
at the end of this concert; first, here's music by the nominated
groups (Hozier, X Ambassadors) and individuals – James Bay, George
Ezra, Ella Henderson, Tori Kelly, Elle King, Miguel, Rachel Platter
and Nate Ruess.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a role that requires perhaps 12 per cent of his immense
talent, John Noble (“Fringe”) plays Sherlock's unflinching dad
Morland. We met him briefly at the end of last week's season-opener,
when he offered to use his influence to get Sherlock's job back. The
Morland portions tonight are stiff and flat, but the mystery –
murder at a research lab – is a good one.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 13

“Undateable,” 8 p.m., NBC.

In an era of slick
editing and effects, it's fun to catch NBC's passion for live shows –
“Saturday Night Live,” key “Voice” episodes, the so-so “Best
Time Ever” and the annual musicals, with “The Wiz” coming Dec.
3. And tonight happens to be especially lively.

First is
“Undateable,” a comedy set in a bar; like “SNL,” it's ragged
and erratic, but fun. Then switch to PBS at 9 p.m. for “Live at
Lincoln Center.” This edition (see next item) isn't really live –
despite the title – but is live on tape, which is close; it reminds
us of the joy and difficulty of live theater.

II: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Back in 1930, George
Kaufman had already written 20 Broadway shows, including Marx
Brothers classics and “The Front Page”; Moss Hart, 25, had
written one show, which quickly died out-of-town.

Hart, still
impoverished, visited Kaufman's penthouse; a Pulitzer-winning
partnership was starting. That was recounted in Hart's “Act One”
memoir, which was adapted for the stage by James Lapine. It bogs down
a bit in the second half, but is beautifully staged. Tony Shalhoub
and Andrea Martin skillfully juggle multiple roles, while Santino
Fontana captures the appealing idealism of youth and theater.

ALTERNATIVE: “Breakthrough,” 4 and 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., National

This six-part
documentary series is Geographic at its best – top people making
perrsonal films about big subjects. Before the third hour – movie
director Brett Ratner looks at brain research, at 9 p.m. Sunday –
here are reruns of the first two.

At 4 p.m., Peter
Berg views efforts to stop pandemics; that includes a moving account
by an Ebola survivor. At 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., ambitious, Paul Giamatti
sees how robotics have gone from sci-fi silliness to real life. In an
intriguing segment, a paraplegic uses his brain to move his bionic

Other choices

“W/Bob &
David,” anytime, Netflix. Two decades ago, Bob Odenkirk and David
Cross created brilliant sketch comedy in HBO's “Mr. Show.” They
went on to separate fame with “Better Call Saul” and “Arrested
Development,” respectively, but now they've linked for fresh

Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last year, at 12, Logan Guleff became the
show's second champion. Now he's back to give advice. Also,
contestants create cupcake frosting and a scallop dish.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's not always easy for sisters to work
together. Kristin asks Mandy to design the restaurant uniforms ...
then balks at Mandy's creative process. Meanwhile, their sister Eve
wants her annoying friend Cammy to move in with the family for a

“It's a Mad, Mad,
Mad, Mad World” (1963), 8-11 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This
sprawling comedy has people chasing after missing money. It's uneven,
but a chance to re-visit some greats – Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar,
Mickey Rooney, Edie Adams, Jonathan Winters, Jimmy Durante and more.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Back in 1994, Margaret Cho starred in “All-American
Girl”; its failure, she implied later, came because ABC was hung up
on ethnic stereotypes. It would take 21 years before the network
launched another comedy with a Korean-American star (Ken Jeong).
Tonight, she guests as his sister, a more-successful doctor; when she
invites him on his talk show, his jealousy overflows.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Two familiar TV people have guest roles. Julie Benz
(“Dexter,” “Defiance”) plays a San Francisco cop, probing the
murder of five Chinese arms dealers. Kristoffer Polaha (“Live
Unexpected,” “Backstrom”) plays a charming con man whose
partner was killed.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A serial killer threatens Danny's wife Linda and their
kids. Now Linda worries about the future of Danny's job and their