TV column for Thursday, Oct. 13

“Legends of Tomorrow” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

In its first season,
“Legends” had epic stopries. Heroes and villains leaped across
time; superpowers soared, super egos collided, worlds wobbled. What
was missing, perhaps, was a human scale.

Gradually, there's
been a makeover. Several of the original characters -- Hawkgirl,
Hawkman. Captain Cold – are gone; tonight, another key one seems to
be leaving. Arriving is a wide-eyed historian (Nick Zano) who has no
special powers; he's just what the show needs. This hstarts and ends
with references to “Arrow” and “Flash”; in between is a
jaunty tale of a bomb, two Einsteins and world crisis.

“Falling Water” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Here are three
strangers – a cop, a security chief, a trend-spotter. Each has a
busy life and dark dreams; they don't yet realize that the lives and
the dreams are inter-connected.

In its first hour,
“Falling Water” isn't yet compelling ... but it could get that
way quickly. Producer Gale Anne Hurd – a sci-fi master, from
“Terminator” to “Walking Dead” -- has a richly diverse cast,
with French star Lizzie Brochere, black British actor David Ajala and
Will Yun Lee, a U.S. native with Chinese and Korean roots. Their
characters are gradually descending into a creepy semi-reality.

ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX.

Meandering almost
aimlessly through one person's life, this show is alternately fun and
perplexing. Pamela Adlon plays someone a lot like herself – a
semi-employed actress with three daughters, an English mom and an
iffy love life. Most of it is chaotic, but in an interesting way.

Tonight, three
encounters with males cross generation lines in odd ways. There's
more, with her

daughters, her
friend and her daft mom. It's often random, occasionally funny and
usually interesting.

Other choices

Football preview,
7:30 p.m. ET, and kick-off, 8:30, CBS. The Denver Broncos, starting
their post-Peyton era with a strong 4-1 record, visit tough-luck San
Diego. The Chargers have won one game (by 24 points) and lost four
... by a total of 14.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. A booze cruise turns serious, when a body is discovered.
The case soon involves the world of deep-sea treasure-hunting.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. When the spokesman for the store chain is accused of a
nasty crime, Dina decides to have mandatory drug-testing. Meanwhile,
Cheyenne can't stop talking about her baby; also, Amy and Jonah have
a day of dares and pranks.

“The Good Place,”
8:30, NBC. As Michael's reluctant assistant, Eleanor is given a key
task. Now it's harder for her to cover up her secret: She only got
the good afterlife due to his bureaucratic error.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. For Mike (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), the veteran catcher, this is
doubly complicated: An injury could cost him his spot in the All-Star
Game; also, his general manager (Mark Consuelos) has just signed a
star catcher from Cuba. Meanwhile, Ginny – the first female in the
majors – finds it's difficult to balance her carteer and her
personal life.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Liz and the team chase an eco-terrorist who has a link
to Alexander Kirk. Also, Tom takes things into his own hands.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. It's another brutal week for Annalise.
The Bar Association finds damaging information about her; a
disciplinary action could jeopardize her young client. Also, Frank –
once her trusted assistant – commits yet another shocking deed.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 12

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Hummingbirds are
like guardian angels or secret Santas: People like them ... but
rarely see them. The tiniest of birds, they can fly – even
backwards and upside-down – at astonishing speeds.

Many scientists and
filmmakers prefer bigger, slower creatures. But now Ann Johnson Prum
makes her second hummingbird documentary, using splendid slow-motion
footage and new research. One person returns to his native Colombia,
to study the birds' rapid drinking; others study scarce-oxygen use
in Peru and mating in Costa Rica. Yes, we see hummingbirds mate; not
surprisingly, it's quite quick.

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Romance keeps
complicating things for the Lyons. Lucious fumes as things heat up
between his ex-wife and Angelo (Taye Diggs), the slick and handsome
councilman. Also, his son Jamal is falling for emerging singer Tessa
... who may be interested in someone else.

Other complications
emerge. Anika – Lucious' wife-of-convenience – is back, after
surviving the fight that killed Rhonda. And Jamal confronts Freda,
who shot him. It's a violent (but romantic) world.

ALTERNATIVE: “We Will Rise,” 9 p.m., CNN, repeating at midnight,

Globally, we're
told, 62 million girls aren't in school. Now we meet some African
girls who overcame the odds. One makes and sells doughnuts to pay
school fees; another goes straight from school to chores, then
studies from 9-11 p.m. Others move away from home or make marathon
daily treks.

These are heroes who
get encouragement here from Michelle Obama (as part of her “Let
Girls Learn” project), actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto and
CNN's Isha Sesay, a Sierra Leone native. This is a flawed documentary
that becomes terribly repetitious; at times, however, the idealism
soars through.

Other choices

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. It's time for the first rewards challenge ... and then the
fourth elimination. The “Gen-X” team has ousted two people so
far, the latest being the oldest competitor, Paul Wachtel, 52.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) has been taking things seriously
since his baby was born. Now he frets when a string of burglaries
reaches his neighborhood. Also, his son connects with an old friend
who may be linked to criminal activity.

8:30 p.m., ABC. Savoring his new freedom with Kenneth as a handler,
JJ decides to go out on the town. In his wheelchair, he soon gets
free food, baseball-game admission and more.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Nathan Fillion's “Castle” is gone now, but he guests
here as star weatherman Rainer Shine. Phil is delighted to meet him
... until the guy's interested in his daughter.

“Frequency,” 9
p.m., CW. In last week's well-made opener, Raimy learned she really
can use the ham radio to have her late father affect events from 20
years ago. Nowshe has a big request – prevent her mother from being

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Ever since the terrific pilot film, we
(and the new president) have wondered who's responsible for the
attack that killed most of the government officials. Now he finds out
... and weighs the possibilities of a war and of a domestic outbreak.

“Documentary Now,”
10 p.m. ET, IFC. In its second season of witty mock-documentaries,
this show again includes a musical tale. This one pretends to be a
farewell concert of a 1980s new-wave band.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 11

“This is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

After the brilliant
pilot film, we still weren't sure. Could “Us” retain its quality?
Once we got over the surprise of its time-hopping format, would it
still compel us? It does, with subtlety and depth.

At the core were
people expecting triplets. One baby died, but they promptly adopted a
black baby who'd been abandoned. Now we meet those three as adults –
an actor who left a hit show ... his twin, overwhelmed by her weight
... and their stepbrother, who has just found his dying biologic
father. Tonight, we find fresh secrets and surprises; we get deeper
glimpses of good people, flailing at life.

II: “The Middle” season-opener, 8 p.m., ABC.

In Frankie's mind,
her son Axl will find someone who is bright and beautiful. Now ...
well, he's halfway there with April. The guys instantly like her;
only Frankie seems to notice that she's totally clueless.

April is wonderfully
played by Greer Grammer, a former beauty queen (and “Awkward”
co-star) who is Kelsey's daughter and Spencer's half-sister. There
are some big laughs here, alongside mild ones in stories about Axl's
brother (the first day of high school) and sister (pondering a change
in her major).

ALTERNATIVE: “Halt and Catch Fire” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m.,

After a painfully
slow start, “Halt” has transformed; the final two weeks of this
third season are sensational. Last week concluded with the suicide of
Ryan, the computer genius being sought by federal officials. Joe –
once impenetrable, in a Steve Jobs mold – was shattered.

Tonight -- shortly after word arrived that there will be a fourth and final season -- we jump
ahead four years, with big surprises about where they are now.
There's Donna, who created the Mutiny start-up with her husband
Gordon and the eccentric genius Cameron ... whom they later ousted.
All of them have become richer, deeper characters, ready to collide
over a new idea.

Other choices

Nine-Nine” and “New Girl,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. This is billed
as a crossover – which would have been a good idea. Instead, it's
two unrelated episodes that share one scene. That scene with Jake and
Jess – shown from a different viewpoint in each show – is great;
the rest is fairly funny.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. During a “tiger cruise,” with kids and others aboard the
ship, a body is found.

Houswife” debut, 8:30 p.m., ABC. Here is a someone's extreme
sacrifice for her kids – moving to upscale suburbia. There, they
have top schools ... and she'll forever gripe about the super-slender
neighbors, sipping artificial drinks and making artificial
conversation, There's potential here, but much of it is written and
delivered in a sledge-hammer style, especially by star Katy Mixon.

“Fresh Off the
Boat” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC. Last season, Ken Jeong was Gene,
Louis' jealous brother. Now it's time for Louis to take the family to
Hong Kong, for Gene's wedding. He's hoping he can feel sorry for his
brother; don't count on it. This episode is inconsistent, but has
enough great moments – a bizarre wedding film, a video-style
daydream about shoes – to keep us entertained.

9-11 p.m., PBS. Some of the election's toughest subjects are
confronted over the next two weeks. Next Tuesday is terrorism in
Europe; today is a two-hour look at the war against ISIS.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. After a quick, slick opening-- sort of an
all-star revue of gay celebrities – the show settles into its
story: Kenny wants to start a high school club for other gay kids;
the result brings some laughs, especially from its first member.
Also, his mom flounders at romance.

“Chicago Fire”
season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. As usual for NBC's Chicago shows, this
is quick and competent, without being more. The comedy scenes –
involving florid “firehouse fiction” -- are great, but the big
drama scenes seem forced asnd arbitrary.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 10

“Supergirl” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

After a year on CBS,
“Supergirl” offers the first episode it made for CW. It's a big
one; arriving are Superman ... and a mysterious alien ... and an
assassin ... and Lex Luthor's adopted sister.

There's a lot of
action – you expect that with two superpeople zooming around –
plus humor and warmth. Some of that comes because Kara, strong and
confident as Supergirl, is indecisive about her career and her
romance. And some of it comes from Calista Flockhart as her boss.
With the filming moving to Vancouver, Flockhart won't be a regular
this season; for tonight, at least, she's here and great.

II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Miracles do happen
(occasionally), people do change, lives do transform. And now Sheldon
and Amy are actually sharing an apartment and a bed.

We're not talking
about sex. (That's already happened once and he's promised to make it
an annual event.) But we are talking about Amy sleeping beside the
world's most maddening bedmate. By “Big Bang” standards, this
episode is merely OK; by any other show's standards, it's a delight.

ALTERNATIVE: “Scorpion,” 10 p.m., CBS.

In real life, space
ships hardly ever lift off on their own, thrusting laymen into the
stratospere. But that happened to kids in the “Space Camp” movie
and it happens to Walter here. Now a team of geniuses must find a way
to get him back ... even when his own brain is turning foggy.

The first half of
this hour is terrific; the second skids into odd turf, with a
terribly specific hallucination. That's the sort of thing has worked
well on “Star Trek,” but it doesn't quite fit “Scorpion,”
which leans closer to reality. It stirs up lots of disbelief ... but
also, fortunately, stirs strong emotion.

Other choices

“The Code,” any
time, Through three
decadesin the U.S. (including seven seasons of “Without a Trace”),
Anthony LaPaglia has returned often to work in his native Australia.
Now he's a tough villain in this six-part cyber-tale. It's the second
“Code: mini-series, focusing on a brilliant-but-fragile hacker
(superbly played by Ashley Zuckerman), his girlfriend and his

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01, ABC. The show trims to once a week ... and does it
with a shortage of guys. So far, four men (and no women) have been
eliminated; the only survivors have been the athletes – swimmer
Ryan Lochte, driver James Hinchcliffe and retired football star
Calvin Johnson.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The “battle round” begins, with coaches sending
out two of their people for a duet duel. Added as mentors are Joan
Jett, Sammy Hagar, Bette Midler and Charlie Puth.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Don't you hate it when someone is having more fun
than you are? After hearing all the laughter in his wife's book club,
Kevin wants to spice up his guy gatherings.

“2 Broke Girls”
season-opener, 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. After five years of struggling,
Max and Caroline are part-owners of the diner, which they've
converted to the Dessert Bar. As the opening nears, however, Sophie
is having her baby. Andy Dick is in both episodes, with 2 Chainz in
the second.

“No Tomorrow,” 9
p.m., CW. Catch the excellent opener, before the second episode airs
Tuesday. A careful planner falls for a guy who lives as if the world
is ending ... which, he's convinced, it is.

10:01 p.m., ABC. Hayes (Hayley Atwell) – the brainy, beautiful and
sometimes bratty daughter of an ex-president – picks the second
case for her unit, which looks for wrongful convictions. Long ago,
three youths confessed to rape ... but did they do it? The story is
quite good and Atwell is excellent. Still, “Conviction” is hurt
by two things – an artificial (and absurd) five-day limit for each
case and a universal cynicism that makes each character seem the

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 9

SHOULD-SEE: Presidential debate, 9-10:30 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, Fox and
PBS, plus CNN. Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Business, C-SPAN, Telemundo and

The first debate
drew a record 84 million viewers; the second will have one less
channel (NBC is busy with football) and a lot more competition.
Still, it's expected to draw a crowd.

This one has a town
hall format, with a room full of undecided voters. They'll ask half
the questions; the others will come from CNN's Anderson Cooper and
ABC global-affairs chief Martha Raddatz.

“Divorce” and “Insecure” debuts, 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO.

Just as the debate
is starting (in the Eastern and Central time zones, anyway), HBO
offers top-shelf entertainment. At 9 p.m. is the second episode of
the richly crafted “Westworld”; afterward are two funny and
distinctive new comedies.

At 10, we see Sarah
Jessica Parker in a quietly crumbling marriage with Thomas Haden
Church; then their friends' noisy battle inspires her to seek a
divorce. And at 10:30, relative newcomer Issa Rae scores big --
co-writing, co-producing and starring as someone awash in

ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC; and baseball, 4:08 and 7:38
p.m., TBS.

A half-hour before
the debate starts, NBC has the kick-off of a strong match-up: Eli
Manning and the New York Giants (2-2) visit Aaron Rodgers and the
Green Bay Packers (2-1, after a bye week). Both quarterbacks have
been a Super Bowl most valuable player; indeed, Manning has done it

Complicating life
further, the American League playoffs resume, after a one-day pause.
It's the Cleveland Indians at the Boston Red Sox and then the Texas
Rangers at the Toronto Blue Jays.

Other choices

Jesse Stone movies,
1-9 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Slow, smart and richly
detailed, these Tom Selleck movies are beautifully crafted. Here are
the four most-recent ones.

“Autumn in the
Vineyard,” 5 p.m., Hallmark. Debates would be more fun if we felt
the squabbling people might fall in love. That's a possibility in
this OK film, set amid the beauty of wine country.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Storybrooke is overrun with newcomers, as
complications grow. In a flashback, Cinderella goes to the ball and
meets her prince; nowadays, she wants fo find her step-family and
settle scores. Also, Snow White helps Jekyll find a lab, while Regina
tries to bribe Hyde.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Homer gives his son a valuable lesson in hate – more
specifically, how to hate sports teams from Boston. He even includes
a road trip to the city.

“Son of Zorn,”
8:30, Fox. Here's a rerun of the pilot film – big, broad, goofy
and, at times, funny. Zorn returns to his ex-wife and son in
suburbia; he doesn't fit there, only partly because he's a cartoon.

“Blunt Talk,”
8:30 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:30 and 10:30. Marriage proposals are
a good idea almost any time ... except when you're undergoing a
rectal procedure live on TV. That happens in a busy and erratic
episode that has its moments. “Ash vs. Evil Dead” precedes it at
8, 9 and 10.

Shores” season-finale, 9 p.m., Hallmark. Yes, the Hallmark channels
are doing their best to lure us from the debate. Tonight, Trace
(Jesse Metcalfe) and Abby hope to revive their romance; that's at the
same time as a new “Gourmet Detective” film on Hallmark Movies &

ALSO: Some people
will skip it all and watch a cable movie. The best of the bunch is
“No Country for Old Men” (2007), an Oscar-winner for best
picture, at 8 p.m. ET on IFC. Others include “The Hangover, Part
III” (2013) at 8 p.m. on FXX and “The Blind Side” (2009) at
8:30 on Freeform.