TV column for Friday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Gershwin Prize,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

When he was growing
up in Detroit, Smokey Robinson tells the audience, “there was music
in my house every day, all day long.” There was blues, jazz, pop
and more; all blended into his writing.

Robinson wrote his
own hits and some of the best songs -- “My Guy,” “My Girl,”
“Get Ready” -- for other Motown acts. And now we hear his music
done by modern talent. It's a splendid night, with great moments from
Aloe Blacc, Esperanza Spalding, Ledisi, JoJo, BeBe Winans and Corinne
Bailey Rae.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Reign” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

As the final season
begins, this island has two queens and many schemes. Elizabeth rules
England and is heralded by Protestants; Mary has Scotland and the
Catholics. Still in her early 20s, Mary is also thw widow of France's
king and is (some feel) a threat to Elizabeth's throne. It's a
complicated world.

Now Mary tests the
loyalty of her brother James. Also, both sides ponder a marriage to
the powerful Lord Darnley. This is complex material, handed to a cast
that tends to be merely adequate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

It's time for a
witch hunt ... literally. The Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio, in a role
that requires perhaps 12 percent of his talent) rounds up every girl
in the village. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Lucas have slipped Silvie –
with her mysterious, magical powers – away, trying to reach Glinda
(Joely Richardson).

Then there's the
glittery Lady Ev – now Queen Ev – and her tortured relationship
with Jack, who has so many prosthetics that he's sort of a tin man.
Yes, this is a wild re-imagining of “Wizard of Oz” ... so wild
that it's sometimes inpenetrable. At least the visuals are impressive
and tonight's ending is solid.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “John Lewis: Get in the Way,” 10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

At 23, Lewis was the
youngest speaker at the March on Washington; at 77, he's the senior
Georgia congressman. In between were endless strong stands – being
clubbed, sprayed and jailed for a cause.

This is a stirring
story – sturdy enough to overcome the film's style. In an approach
that's too common, there is no narration and little structure. But a
great story, even when poorly told, is worth catching.

Other choices
include:

“Be My Valentine,
Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Valentine,” 8-9 p.m., ABC.
One was written by Charles Schulz in 1975; the other was assembled in
2002, after his death, from his old comic strips. Both are low-key,
fairly amiable ... and dominated by romantic mix-ups and miscues.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Back in the late 1960s and early '70s, California's
“Zodiac Killer” killed at least five people, wounded two others
and claimed 37 murders. Those cases remain open; now Mac suspects
that the killer has returned.

“The Grapes of
Wrath” (1940). 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. John Steinbeck's
story of a family leaving the Dust Bowl is powerful in any era that
has working-class troubles and lives in transition. The American Film
Institute puts this at No. 23 of all time; there were seven Oscar
nominations (including best picture), with wins for director John
Ford and supporting actress Jane Darwell.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. Finally realizing where the talisman might be hidden,
the team races to find it. Returning to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod and
Jenny revisit key pieces of their past.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett and Danny are spending Valentine's Day with
their girlfriends, but the others have a murder to solve: The victim
was taking a class on how to land women.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. It's a night for moral dilemmas: Danny probes a man
(Robert Sean Leonard) suspected of killing a former drunken driver.
His sister Erin asks her investigator (Steve Schirripa) to wear a
wire in order to incriminate his old friend.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

Here is instant
variety. There's a California blonde from wine country, a burly
Mississippi guy who loves football and family. There are kids (ages
8-13) with roots in Peru, Jamaica, Mexico and Spain. There's Justise
(both parents ae cops) who says she has “my whole life planned out
for me.”

There are children
of privilege; also, there's someone who grew up with four siblings in
a trailer in Sweetwater. Texas. She needed a fundraiser to get here
... a fact that charms judge Gordon Ramsay; in Scotland, he needed a
charity to buy his first chef's uniform. Slick and likable, this is a
strong start.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Powerless,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

TV's biggest night
(in ad sales) has been flooded with new shows lately. Tonight has the
season-opener of “MasterChef Junior,” the third episode of
Riverdale, the second of “Training Day” and of this show.

Last week, Emily
(Vanessa Hudgens of “High School Musical”) was enthusiastic about
her new job, at a company that tries to protect folks from a messy
world of superheroes and supervillains. Now she has trouble being
both a boss and a friend to the workers. They're a fun bunch –
played by Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and Christina Kirk – but they
mostly obsess on the Fantasy Super Hero League.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 9 p.m., CW.

Archie Andrews' life
seemed sunny in the comics and cartoons. Now things keep turning
darker.

Last week, Cheryl –
the absurdly exaggerated villain – seemed to confess to her
brother's murder; now we learn what she meant. Archie wants to tell
police he heard a gunshot in the woods ... but doesn't want them to
know he was there romancing his music teacher. Mixed into this is a
new story about cyber-bullying. It is all very earnest and
well-filmed ... but overstuffed with soap-opera excess.

Other choices
include:

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Caught up in Valentine fervor, Amy and Glenn do some
botched matchmaking. Also, Jonah goes undercover to catch a serial
shoplifter.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When Sheldon is his most annoying, the guys
come up with the perfect distraction – tickets to a historic
railroad. Also, Raj and Stuart end up alone with the baby.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Jack (Joel McHale) clearly still has a
thing for Brooke. At her re-engagement party, he insults her fiance,
then keeps bumbling the apology.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. As Olivia and her colleagues scramble to uncover the plot
– including assassination – that led Cyrus to the presidency, he
faces a national crisis.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. This may be the perfect match for Bonnie (played by 6-foot
Allison Janney) – David James Elliott, the 6-foot-4 former “JAG”
star. He plays a handsome (and sober) stranger; Christy soon frets
that he'll ruin Bonnie's promising romance with Adam.

“Training Day,”
10 p.m., CBS. This show continues its tour of
foreigners-as-hideous-villains. Latinos loomed in the opener ...
Russians are coming next week, with Asians the week after that ...
and tonight, of course, are Arabs. A former menber of Mummar
Gaddafi's Amazonian complicates a kidnapping.

“Blacklist,” 10
p.m., NBC. Melora Hardin guests as a sophisticated crook targeting
Red's businesses.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This has become an
ABC specialty – holiday episodes from each comedy. Tonight, six
days early, we get Valentine's Day tales, peaking with the
Emmy-winning “Modern Family.”

Elizabeth Banks and
Nathan Fillion are back as guest stars. Also returning is “Clive
Bixby,” the alter-ego Phil summons when trying to spice his
marriage. Meanwhile, Valentine complications include Manny's dating
indecisiveness and a secret admirer for Haley.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

The second “spy in
the wild” chapter studies animal intelligence. We see the use of
tools, both copied – oragnutans use soap and a saw – and
original. Tools are neatly crafted by crows, otters and more.

Most delightful is
the use of trickery. A squirrel pretends to hide a nut, then scampers
off with it while a thief searches futiley. A drongo sounds his alarm
so meerkats will disperse ... then steals their food; when they quit
falling for that, he starts mimicking their own alarm sound, with
renewed success.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Madiba,” 6-10 p.m., BET.

In last week's
opener (rerunning at 6 p.m.), viewers had to overlook the fact that
Laurence Fishburne, 55 and burly, doesn't remotely resemble Nelson
Mandela from ages 21 to 32. Once they got past that, they had an epic
story, filmed in South African by gifted actor-turned-director Kevin
Hooks.

That ended with
Mandela and his colleagues acquitted of treason, after a case that
lasted six years, including long chunks of prison time. He returned
home, where Winnie was expecting their second child. Tonight's
chapter (8 p.m.), the second of three, has the tug between politics
and guerrilla warfare.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Legion” debut, 10 p.m., FX,

It was four years
ago that Dan Stevens left “Downton Abbey,” leaving his character
(Matthew) dead and fans stunned. Since then, his career has been
so-so – until now. Next month, he has the half-title role in
“Beauty and the Beast”; first, he has this spectacular acting
role.

Stevens is David
Haller, in a semi-permanent life in a mental home, with one friend
(Aubrey Plaza) and few complications. Then a beautiful patient
arrives and everything changes. David soon wonders what is real; so
do we. It's a fascinating (if perplexing) start to a promising
series.

Other choices
include:

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Suddenly, the guys are questioning the past of Cahill
(Jordana Brewster). She has a deadly stalker; also, a file about
Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) is in her car.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. The string of Valentine comedies starts with Erica
feeling the breakup blues; her mom tried to snap her out of it in
time for the holiday.

“Speechless,”
8:30, ABC. Maya is planning a Valentine surprise for her husband,
requiring help from his former roommate ... who happens to be her
former fiance. Also, Ray has a secret admirer and JJ is in charge of
distributing candygrams.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. New crises appear. Derek organizes a rally after losing a
friend, but it gets out of control. Star misses a key rehearsal, so
someone else steps in. And Eva's intentions become clear.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Zoey's plan for an anti-Valentine party gets complicated
when her friend has a date. Meanwhile, her parents plan a party to
announce the gender of their baby. It's Dre's turn to choose a name
... but his culturally relevant choice isn't very popular.

“Code Black”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. This second season has only 16 episodes,
even shorter than the first year's 18. Tonight, Jesse welcomes the
new interns at a perilous time: Doctors are working with the Centers
For Disease Control, trying to stop the outbreak that's sweeping
through the hospital.

“The Quad,” 10
p.m., BET. Last week's opener had some strengths (especially the
terrific Anika Noni Rose in the lead as Eva, a college president)
nearly overwhelmed by an overwrought plot. Two female students nearly
died – one in a band hazig, the other (Eva's daughter) by
binge-drinking. Then a body was found and a student was arrested. Now
the aftershocks begin.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Amid the horror of
the Oklahoma City bombing, officials and newsment were quick to
speculate. This seemed to have Middle Eastern roots, they said; it
was probably from organized terrorists.

Then came the truth:
This was the mostly-solo work of Timothy McVeigh, a former Army
infantryman who had received a Bronze Star in the Gulf War. After
killing 161 people, he was arrested on a traffic charge ... and came
within an hour of being released. This richly detailed documentary
details the rage that transormed and the quick investigation that
caught him.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

TV comedies love to
have their characters get accidentally high. They've done that to
John Ritter, Bob Newhart, Tina Fey, the whole “Barney Miller”
precinct; last week, it happened to the “Mom” stars.

Now it's Nick's turn
... right before his first chance to give a book-store reading. That
part is very funny; another plot – Winston's big scheme – starts
well and then goes lame. One out of two is OK.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week brought a
rarity – a Tuesday without any of the “NCIS” shows. A “greatest
commercials” special wiped out one; a last-minute news special took
the other. But now they're back, with new hours.

Both stories involve
laymen, trying their own solutions. First are “The Sherlocks” --
a seasoned group of crimesolvers, played by Jessica Walter, 76;
Richard Riehle, 68; Todd Louiso, 47; and (as Tony's dad) Robert
Wagner, who turns 87 on Friday. Then is a group of hackers (with Tom
Arnold as co-founder), trying to expose corruption in New Orleans.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Imposters” debut, 10 p.m., Bravo; then midnight,
USA.

Television suddenly
loves scam artists and imposters. “Good Behavior” just finished
its first season, “Sneaky Pete” just arrived, “The Catch”
returns March 9 ... each offering gifted con artists. Now “Imposters”
does the same – but also includes some bumbling beginners.

At first, we see a
gorgeous master (skillfully played by Inbar Lavi) at work, crushing a
decent chap. Then he strikes back – gradually joined by two of her
other victims. She's still scheming and scamming; so are they ... but
they're not very good at it. The combination works fairly well.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie's feeling bad that she won't be having any more
children. A night of watching the neighbor kid may give her a fresh
perspective on being an older parent.

“The Mick,”
8:30, Fox. Chip faces the school's “Honor Board” ... which is led
by his sister. Also, their maid manages to dent the family's luxury
car.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. In flashbacks, the kids' parents fret about their own
relationship, after getting bad news from Miguel. In current time,
Toby complicates Kate's weight-loss plan.

“Outsiders,” 9
p.m., WGN America, rerunning at 10, 11 and midnight. Two somber
health stories – cancer and an unwanted pregnancy – exist
alongside some fierce moments. Here is “Big Foster,” facing
banishment from the clan he ruled ... and his son “Little Foster,”
raging in jail ... and their colleagues, determined to retrieve the
all-terrain-vehicle the lawmen grabbed. It's a strong, tough hour.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. The police and fire worlds combine again, this time
when a dangerous criminal targets Lt. Casey and his firehouse.

“The Detroiters”
debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. Detroit has been the home of some
skilled ad agencies. In this show – nestled after the season-opener
of “Tosh.0” -- two guys try to start a new one. Former “Saturday
Night Live” writer Tim Robinson and actor Sam Richardson created
and starred in the show, with “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels and
alumnus Jason Sudeikis as producers.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“24: Legacy,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Fans of “24”
must take the bad with the good – even when that bad hits an
extreme. Tonight, Carter needs $2 million in an hour, to keep vital
data away from terrorists. His plan, of course, is to steal money
from the police evidence room.

It's an absurd
notion, given the time constraints, but “24” tends to ignore
absurdities. Tonight, it juggles five plots – with lots of people
overhearing other people – and even adds Gerald McRaney, who's
having a great year at 69. Somehow, it's slick and exciting enough to
have us ignore all its flaws.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Superior Donuts,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Settling into its
regular slot, this show finds a comfortable style. Sometimes mildly
topical, it's mostly just fun – a quick-paced show, done in the
traditional TV way, with a studio audience.

Tonight's silliest
parts come when the neighboring businessman (Max Jobrani) tries to
keep his wi-fi from being stolen by Maya (Anna Baryshnikov, daughter
of the ballet great) and James. Meanwhile, young Franco invents some
great doughnut flavors; the result is fairly light-headed, but fun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

The problem with
“Birth of a Nation” is basic: “It really is a great film,”
Vincent Brown, an African-American Studies professor at Harvard,
says. D.W. Griffith turned filmmaking into an artform. “Birth”
was so well-made that many people ignored or forgave its anti-black,
pro-Klan bias.

William Trotter
didn't ignore it. Harvard's first black Phi Beta Kappa, he was a
passionate newspaper editor who tried to stop the film. He failed,
but created protests in 1915 that foreshadowed the civil rights
movement. This terrific documentary blends profiles of Griffith,
Trotter and a landmark film.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “APB” debut, 9:01 p.m., Fox.

In ancient Greek
theater, gods would swoop down to the rescue; in modern TV, we want
tech gods to do the same. “Pure Genius” had a tech billionaire
finance and run the ultimate hospital; now “APB” has one finance
and run the ultimate police precinct.

The problem here is
the same one that doomed “Pure Genius”: The tech guy seems
distant and hard to care about. Still, “APB” does have some mild
strengths, including a realistic blend of failures and successes.
Paired with “24,” it gives Fox a fairly solid Monday makeover.

Other choices
include:

“800 Words,” anu
time, www.acorn.tv. Here are the
season's final two episodes of a dandy drama-comedy – sort of an
Aussie “Northern Exposure” -- about a dad who suddenly moved his
family from Sydney to a quirky little New Zealand town.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After the rose ceremony, Nick Viall takes the nine
remaining women to the island of St. Thomas ... where two dates
flounder amid tropical beauty.

“Man With a Plan,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. At school, Mrs. Rodriguez admits she had a sexy dream
about Adam (Matt LeBlanc). At home, Adam's brother (Kevin Nealon) is
jealous of time spent with Lowell.

“2 Broke Girls,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Nudged back to its new timeslot, “Girls” finds
Caroline excited about her date ... but fretting about Max running
the dessert bar on her own.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. This treasure-hunting mission goes very badly. Soon,
Walter and Paige are lost in the ocean, surrounded by sharks.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. The CIA trainees must get someone out of Germany –
not easy, with the person's death wish. In the flashforward story,
terrorists try new methods to get info from the hostages.