TV column for Friday, Dec. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Next week, the show
will have its million-dollar winner. First, however, it trims to
three duos.

Last week saw Jim
and Misti Raman (the married dentists) finish first for the fifth
time; Brooke Adams and Robbie Strauss (the dating wrestlers) were
last, but it was a non-elimination week. Also surviving: Bethany
Hamilton – famed for continuing to be a top surfer after losing an
arm to a shark – and her husband Adam Dirks; plus food-science
co-workers Maya Warren and Amy DeJong.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

The season concludes
Tuesday, with a young chef winning $100,000. We can warm up for it
with these reruns of the last two episodes.

First, six chefs are
split into two teams, each with a restaurant. Then four survivors are
given Alaskan king salmon and challenged to prepare something with
minimal ingredients.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Tim Allen, everywhere.

Did someone appoint
Allen to be TV's Christmas king? His “Last Man Standing” (8 p.m.,
ABC) finds him offering a generous Christmas gift (with conditions)
to Kristin and Ryan; there's more, on cable.

Allen stars in the
clever “Santa Clause” (1994) at 7:30 p.m. on ABC Family and
voices Buzz Lightyear in the oft-wonderful “Toy Story” tales. The
Disney Channel has “Toy Story 3” (2010) at 6:40 p.m. and the
somewhat-disappointing “Toy Story That Time Forgot” half-hour at
8:30.

Other choices
include:

“The Librarians,”
8-10 p.m., CW. This show got off to a strong start Sunday on TNT,
with 5.4 million viewers immediately and 7.3 million overall that
night. Now that debut gets a second run, this time on CW. Expanding
the “Librarian” cable movies, this has a new team – Rebecca
Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth and John Kim – rescuing
artifacts ... starting with King Arthur's crown.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. For Cristela, Christmas is the season to prepare tamales.
But what about her law-office co-workers? Josh mistakes a joke for an
invitation and shows up; the boss and his flashy daughter find one
thing in common at their own home – neither has any ability to
prepare a feast.

“Live From Lincoln
Center,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It was 80 years
ago that George Balanchine started the School of American Ballet;
later, it began annual workshop performances. This one, the 50th,
has an all-Balanchine program, with portions of “Coppelia,” “Swan
Lake” and more.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Christmastime in Hawaii finds McGarrett nudging Danny to
steal a tree. Also, a poisoning case has Max (Masi Oka) clashing with
another medical examiner.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC, Travelers really need to be more careful. Now one brings a
blood-sucking legend to Portland, which had enough troubles without
it.

“Constantine,”
10 p.m., NBC. John and Chas go to Mexico, putting them closer to The
Rising Darkness. Meanwhile, Zed's past comes back to haunt her.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Three community leaders have been killed in apparent
hate crimes. While Danny tries to find the killer, his dad (the
police commissioner) wants to make sure this is viewed seriously.
Also, Danny's unhappy that his wife, after being mugged, wants to
carry a gun.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 11


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

The show's 200th
episode is done in the style of a 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Everything is retro, from the color palette and mood music (both a
tad harsh, by modern standards) to the '50s attitudes.

Brennan is convinced
she can be a good cop; the guys (including her dad, the police chief)
scoff at that. On her own, she traces Booth, a good-hearted thief.
She links with dinosaur experts, convinced that science can help
solve crimes. All of the “Bones” regulars are woven into a
wonderfully clever hour.

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

For nine weeks of
low ratings and high quality, this show has developed a rich set of
characters, in the seaside town where young Danny Saldano was killed.
Tonight, we find out who did it.

Vince, a foul man,
is in jail, but there are plenty of other suspects. There's Mark
(Danny's dad and Vince's boss), who had an affair with Gemma. Or
Susan, who says she's Vince's biologic mother. Or Paul, the priest
who has a thing for Danny's mom. Or Tommy, who was once Danny's best
friend. Det. Carver, nudged toward medical leave, hopes to salvage
something from the computer Tommy battered.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dinosaur 13,” 9-11 p.m., CNN.

In 1990, this
compelling films says, only 12 tyrannosaurus rex skeletons had been
excavated, none more than 40 percent complete. Then came Sue, 80-per
cent complete; under 115-degree heat, she was unearthed by the Black
Hills Institue, to be the center of a museum in Hill City, S.D.,
population 900.

What followed was a
fierce tangle of federal and tribal laws. Mixed in, says dinosaur
expert Robert Bakker (who has a Yale doctorate) was academia's bias
against people with mere bachelor's degrees. Beautifully crafted,
“Dinosaur 13” will grip your emotions, enroute to a sort of happy
ending,

Other choices
include:

“The Taste,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. In last week's opener, the four judges chose
four-person teams (“Voice”-style) and had their first challenge.
Nigella Lawson's team lost and sent one person home; tonight, two
more will go, after creating a seafood dinner for Eric Ripert.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Amy has created a Victorian Christmas party;
Sheldon wants revenge on her, for making him celebrate. Meanwhile, a
bird is loose in a contamination-free lab.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Christy had a lot of misdeeds during her drinking years.
Now she tries to atone to some people ... but not her ex-husband. Her
mom does admit her own marital sins.

“Project Runway,”
9 p.m., Lifetime. Last week, the designers went to London and
Benjamin Mach (who had lived in London for over a decade) was ousted.
Tonight, the survivors face a fashion gamble.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. This erratic-but-fun show now has a finale
date (Feb. 19). Meanwhile, the guys befriend moms at a kids' gym ...
a good idea, until Walden falls for one.

“A to Z,” 9:30
p.m., NBC. Trying to buy the perfect presents for each other, Andrew
and Zelda turn to friends for advice ... with shaky results.

“Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. Watson (Lucy Liu) is on her own now, but a bored
Sherlock jumps into her case. The only clue is that there was the
smell of nutmeg at a site where a woman disappeared.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 10


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Melissa & Joey,” 8 p.m., ABC Family.

A fresh and funny
episode sees Melissa and Joey (Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence)
in their first Christmas as a couple, arguing about whose ornament
should prevail. She concocts a tale about hers.

It's a dilly that we
see acted out. In the post-war South, the plantation owner
(Christopher Rich) is blind and broke. He doesn't know it, but he'll
lose everything unless his daughter (Hart) marries a rich guy instead
of the sturdy stable boy (Lawrence). The result is big, broad and
funny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A week from the
finale, two duos remain. Missy Payne and Baylor Wilson are a
bikini-wearing mom and daughter, 42 and 20; Jon Misch and Jaclyn
Schultz (who also look fine in swimwear) are engaged.

They face Keith
Nale, whose dad was ousted last week, and Natalie Anderson, whose
sister was the first person out. Next week, a two-hour edition will
trim to three people, then have the tribal council.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Dre wants to break a
barrier by becoming the first black Santa at the office Christmas
party. Alas, the job goes to a Hispanic woman (Ana Ortiz of “Devious
Maids”) who also happens to be attractive.

There's more holiday
trouble at home, with Jenifer Lewis in her second episode as his mom,
That sets off a battle with his wife, to see who gets to make the
Christmas dinner.

Other choices
include:

“The Mysteries of
Laura” 8 p.m., NBC. After nine straignt new episodes, this show (a
ratings success) needed to take a break. Now, after being replaced by
two seasonal specials, it's back. A fertility doctor has disappeared;
also, Laura (Debra Messing) hears that her twins are bullies at tae
kwon do class.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Brick tries to compose one of those Christmas letters that
tells people what the familiy has been up to this year. Meanwhile,
his mom vows to have a minimalist holiday.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Adam tries to maneuver a peace between his
grandfather (Paul Sorvino) and father. Meanwhile, Adam's brother is
eyed by a modeling scout.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Like “Melissa & Joey,” this show
offers a holiday fantasy. Unlike that one, it takes way too long to
unfold. The early parts – loud and witless – have Ben sagging
from holiday stress and telling a pageant lady (Mo Gaffney) he wishes
Christmas would disappear. The rest is OK and does give Tahj Mowry
(burdened with an awful character) a chance to sing.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Haley – who was thrown out of college after a drunken
night – finally turns 21. Naturally (?), her family celebrates in a
bar. Meanwhile, the kids are watching little Lily.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. As her wedding nears, Rayna realizes she's reluctant to go
on tour and leave Luke in charge of her kids. Also, Will invites
Layla on tour, then has his doubts.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. The focus is on Olinksy, played by the terrific Elias
Koteas. After a drug bust, he comes home to find his wife held
captive. Also, Spencer Grammer (Kelsey's daughter) plays a K-9
officer, working with Roman, formerly her boyfriend and police
partner.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Sons of Anarchy” finale, 10 p.m., FX.

Over seven
powerhouse seasons, “Sons” has captured the extremes. At its
best, it's juggled strong action and richly layered characters; at
its worst, it's been brutal and sadistic.

That peaked after
Jemma killed her daughter-in-law and lied about who did it,
propelling her son Jax to misguided vengeance. In last week's moving
episode, he killed her and her friend (a semi-retired cop), while his
biker club went on other shooting sprees. Tonight, he tries to sort
things out. Expect it to be long (almost two hours, followed by talk
and a 1 a.m. rerun) and potent.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC.

On Monday, five
people sang and viewers voted; now we'll learn which three advance.

Then comes the extra
step: The nine people most recently ousted will get one one more
chance and viewers will vote again; next Monday, one will join the
others for the final-four showdown.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Song by Song,” 10 p.m. ET, Ovation.

Lindsey Stirling had
an art form with no audience. “No one was interested in the
violin-dance thing,” she says in this fascinating film. She dances
while playing, confounding some; on “America's Got Talent,” Piers
Morgan said her music “sounded like a bunch of rats being
strangled.”

Then Devin Graham, a
fellow Brigham Young University student, turned her “Crystallize”
into a stunning video at Ice Castles in Colorado. It's had 100
millionviews; overall, Stirling has topped 500 million, “She's made
her fortune by re-inventing the rules,” music journalist David Wild
says.

Other choices
include:

“Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer” (CBS) or “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town”
(ABC), both 8 p.m. At 10 p.m., many grown-ups will be watching
violent bikers or under-clad models; first, kids get a turn.

“Pretty Little
Liars,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. At Christmastime, evil Alison gets
visions of the past, present and future. Also, the girls scheme to
avenge Mona and clear Spencer's name.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. Trying to go home for the holidays, everyone's stuck in
the airport, surrounded by a storm. Billy Eichner, from the clever
“Billy on the Street,” plays an airport employee.

“Chasing Life,”
9 p.m., ABC Family. Grandparents (Ed Asner and Marion Ross) visit,
amid general confusion. They don't know that April, deep into
chemotherapy, has just broken up with her boyfriend. Or that her
sister is bisexual. It's a clumsy, so-so episode that adds an
arbitrary Christmas gimmick.

“Victoria's Secret
Fashion Show,” 10 p.m., CBS. After “Rudolph,” CBS gives kids an
hour to vanish. Then women strut in sleepwear, to music by Taylor
Swift, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and Hozier.

“NBC News
Special,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two weeks before the movie “Unbroken”
debuts, here's the real-life story. It tells of Louis Zamperini, a
former Olympics runner and college record-setter who was a World War
II bombardier, surving 47 days at sea and brutality in a
prisoner-of-war camp.

“Girlfriend's
Guide to Divorce,” 10 p.m., Bravo. All talk of an amicable divorce
fades. After fracturing her career, Abby (Lisa Edelstein) fumes at
her husband's spending. Her friend (Janeane Garafolo) is in an
escalating dispute. The result – mostly drama, with a tad of comedy
– remains fairly entertaining.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 8


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

Two terrific young
actresses get a great showcase, in some holiday whimsy. Vanessa
Marano and Katie Leclerc have been perfect as Bay and the
hearing-impaired Daphne, teens who learned they were accidentally
switched at birth. Now each wakes up in a variation of the other's
life.

Daphne (now called
Bay) has wealth and hearing; Bay (called Daphne) doesn't. Other
details have gone awry – kind of like things do in a fantasy
movie. The difference is that the girls quickly comprehend the
situation and work on it. With detours for warmth and humor, it's a
delightful episode.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Mike & Molly” season-opener, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

For its first four
seasons, this has been the definition of good-enough TV. Sometimes
heavy-handed, it's willing to transform Molly from smart to stupid
and back, for the sake of a joke. Still, it has pleasant characters
and some clever lines; we're kind of glad it's back.

Tonight, Molly
returns from writers' camp. She's smart again; so, occasionally, is
the show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Great Christmas Light Fight” season-opener, 8
and 9 p.m., ABC.

As Sabrina Soto
reaches her first house (in Springfield, Mo.), she marvels at the
sheer quantity – 110,000 lights, creating a beautifully
synchronized show. There's more (much more) ahead.

A Tennessee man has
two million lights sprawling over eight acres, plus a live-animal
nativity scene. A Texas family projects videos. A California man
(who's never been to Disneyland) has a 58-foot lighted castle and
giant, hand-painted Disney figures. Soto screams at all this (the
hour becomes repetitious) and awards $50,000 to one family; then a
second hour has Michael Moloney judging.

Other choices
include:

“”Eric Greenspan
is Hungry,” 7 p.m., National Geographic. Plunging deep into
Mississippi (where the show sometimes uses sub-titles), the chef
meets people passionabe about hunting and cooking turkey. “The
Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The final five singers perform and viewers
vote. On Tuesday, we'll learn which three will survive to next week's
finale ... along with one ousted person, saved by viewers.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. To CBS, the Christmas season means skinny women in
lingerie. Tuesday brings the annual “Victoria's Secret Fashion
Show”; tonight, two of the models (Lily Aldridge and Martha Hunt)
play themselves, renting the apartment of Max and Caroline.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., ABC Family. Last season ended with a possible romance between
foster siblings. That story will return in January, but here's a
pause for a flashback to Callie's first Christmas in the house.
Problems pile up quickly, especially with Stef's mom (Annie Potts)
there.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Life has changed since Jane broke up with Michael and
kissed the biologic father of her baby-to-be. Tonight, they exchange
secrets; also, Michael, a cop, is close to solving his big case. And
Jane's mom gets a record-company audition.

“The Red Tent,”
9-11 p.m., Lifetime. The first half of this mini-series (rerunning at
7 p.m.) ended horribly: Dinah's brothers killed all the men in the
palace (including her husband, the prince), taking her and the
treasures. Now we see her transported to another world, in a
fictional account that merges with the story of another brother
(Joseph, of dreamcoat fame). The first half was awful, but the second
is much better, thanks partly to great work from Rebecca Ferguson
(“White Queen”) as Dinah.

“Regarding Susan
Sontag,” 9 p.m., HBO. In her 71 years, Sontag poured out novels,
plays, films and (especially) essays, provoking praise and rage.
Here's a profile.

“State of
Affairs,” 10 p.m., NBC. With other worries near home –
threatening texts, a looming Senate report -- Charleston must
engineer a secret way to avert a smallpox outbreak in Panama,