TV column for Saturday, Feb. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST'-SEE:
“Planet Earth II” debut, 9 p.m., AMC, BBC America and Sundance;
also, 6 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. MT on BBC America.

The first “Planet
Earth” series (which BBC America reruns from 6 a.m. ET today to 11
a.m. Sunday) was stunning, winning a Peabody Award, two Television
Crtitics Association prizes and four Emmys.

A decade later, this
superb sequel starts with a look at islands. One early scene –
snakes chasing iguanas – is way too long and brutal, but the rest
is a delight. We see the imposing, 10-foot-long Komodo dragon ... and
1.5 million penguins on a stark, volcanic rock .... and 50 milliuon
crabs racing across Christmas Island. Also, David Attenborough slyly
narrates a sloth's rush (sort of) to a lustful call.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Dave Chappelle, all day, NBC and Comedy Central.

We can savor the
work of a comic genius, past and present. From 11:15 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
Comedy Central reruns 18 episodes of “Chapelle's Show”; that's
the series – mostly with short films – that Chappelle walked away
from a decade ago, turning down multi-million-dollar offers.

Then “Saturday
Night Live” (11:29 p.m., NBC) reruns its post-election episode.
Chappelle's monolog (plus Kate McKinnon's opening song and
Chappelle's sketch with Chris Rock) did much to soothe viewers who
were mourning the results.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Flushed Away” (2006), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

This is good news
for families – an ABC animation weekend. On Sunday ABC has
“Tangled,” an epic (with action, humor and music) from its parent
company, Disney. But first is this droll British tale.

An upscale rat
suddenly finds himself in the sewers of London, learning to survive.
Classy actors – Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, David
Suchet – provide voices. The result won four Annies (the animation
award), including best script.

Other choices
include:

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Eric, a hostage negotiator, sees things from the othert
side, when he's one of the people held hostage. As he tries to save
lives from the inside, Sarah leads her first negotiation.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Monday's episode, Carter must escape from
his bizarre, police-station heist, then deliver the money to his
former Army colleague. Meanwhile, he has only two trusted colleagues
inside the Counter Terrorism Unit, trying to plug a leak.

Basketball, 8 p.m.
ET, TNT. On the eve of the pro all-star game, here are the contests
for slam dunks and three-point shooting.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun of the pilot film, a tech billionaire wants to
finance and take control of a police precinct. There's potential
here, but the central character is difficult to like.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Here are
the first episodes of this Thursday-night documentary series. The
first views censorship, whic crushed Lenny Bruce, then was shattered
by Richard Pryor, George Carlin and more. The second views women,
with their own fight against comedy limits. Stuffed with clips, these
are intelligent, surface views of complex subjects.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Pride (Scott Bakula) is already viewed
skeptically by the FBI. Now he stirs ill-will by helping a former
Navy analyst (Tom Arnold) who's a murder suspect.

Kevin Hart shows, 9
p.m. to 1:25 a.m., Comedy Central. Sandwiched around Hart's fairly
funny “The Wedding Ringer” (2015) at 10 p.m. are stand-up
specials at 8 p.m. and 12:20 a.m.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The History of Comedy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

How tough was the
comedy business for women? Treva Silverman says she thought she had a
great interview for Johnny Carson's show ... then was told “the
guys wouldn't be comfortable” with a woman in the writers' room.
She would go on to win two Emmys with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Gail Parent recalls
being the only woman among 100 variety-show writers; Rosie O'Donnell
says in 1979 the stand-up circuit only had six women. This episode
(the second in a series, with reruns on Saturdays) views the female
pioneers and the shows, especially “Saturday Night Live,” that
soared.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Scandal,” 9 p.m., ABC, and more.

ABC has already
renewed all three of its regular Thursday shows for next season, a
key step. During the time when they were missing, the night fell
apart.

All three shows are
from Shonda Rhimes, with a cinematic feel and a great sense of
character ... even when it's a tad excessive. Or A LOT excessive, in
the case of “Scandal” ... which has Olivia convinced that Cyrus
schemed the whole thing – being elected vice-president and then
having the president-elect killed on election night. Tonight, he
insists on his innocence and the team finds shocking information.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “MasterChef Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox; “Project Runway
Junior,” 9 p.m,, Lifetime, repeating at 10:34.

One show is just
starting, another is near its finale and both are stuffed with whiz
kids. In a charming opener last week, “MasterChef” chose eight
young cooks; now it chooses its other 12 finalists.

And “Runway”?
Recent episodes (rerunning from 6-9 p.m.) trimmed it to five teens,
14-17, preparing for next week's finale. There are three girls (two
started in fashion after watching “Runway”) and two boys (one
didn't start sewing until taking a home-ec class at 12). They're
varied – one from each coast, plus a Louisiana guy, a Michigan girl
and a headscarf-wearing Muslim girl from Mankato, Minn.

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

Small-town tragedies
can be large – murders and affairs and such – or subtle, with the
closing of a theater that's crucial to youth culture. Tonight, all of
those merge in a strong episode.

As always, this is a
mixed blessing. One character is accurately described as “a stock
character from a '90s teen movie”; another (Betty's mom) is almost
as absurd. But flaws and all, this is a solid episode. Tonight,
“Riverdale” disposes of its worst plot element and offers fresh
insights on Jughead.

Other choices
include:

“RED” (2010) and
“RED 2” (2013), 6:30 and 9 p.m., Syfy. Bruce Willis tries to
retire to suburbia ... a life choice that's apparently not available
to former secret-agent killers. These are big, clever films, with
great support from Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker
and many more.

“Grey's Anatomy.”
8 p.m., ABC. The surgical residents want to spend their time fretting
about the next step by Eliza, the consultant who has been altering
their program. For now, however, they're tangled in a battle among
the attending physicians. Also, April has a tough first day in her
new duties.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon and Amy have a modest sex life –
once a year, on her birthday – but he still managed to talk about
it to co-workers. Now she's furious.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, Bonnie managed to ruin her great romance with Adam.
Now she's making everyone miserable, so Christy begs him to take her
back.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. We always knew Brent Spiner – who played Data in
“Star Trek” tales – could be a master criminal. Now he plays
someone who will plan the perfect crime, for a price.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Once fiercely potent, Annalise is
determined to take down the district attorney and assistant who
robbed her of her power.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Doubt” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

If nothing else,
let's credit this show for trying hard. It surrounds its star
(Katherine Heigl) with an Oscar-nominee (Elliott Gould) and two
Emmy-nominees (Laverne Cox and Dule Hill). It's a courtroom drama
that adds smidgens of humor, romance and even a dazzling bicycle
ride.

“Doubt” will
have one ambitious case winding through the season, cable-style, but
will also settle smaller ones along the way. And that's the problem
tonight: Neither case – the short one or the start of the long one
– is terribly interesting. Heigl and other defense lawyers face,
for now, weak opposition.

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

The first two
chapters (available at www.pbs.org)
captured intimate, life-in-the-wild views of animal cunning and love.
Now the mid-section of a five-week series eyes friendships that go
beyond family.

Some are simple
convenience; birds groom crocodiles, fish give hippos an underwater
spa. More elaborate is a mutual-protection society, when birds
deliberately set nests alongside crocodiles. When the croc has gone
to the water, the birds protect its nest from a lizard ... but signal
when they need more help. Other stories include group efforts by
wolves and by meerkats, to find their missing young.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Madiba,” 3:54 to 10 p.m., BET.

Here is the history
of Nelson Mandela in one sprawling package, filmed in South Africa by
gifted actor-turned-director Kevin Hooks. The opener concluded with
Mandela (Laurence Fishburne) acquitted after a six-yeat court case;
the second (rerunning at 6 p.m.) saw the shift to guerilla violence.

Now the third (8
p.m.) finds Mandela finally released after 27 years in prison. The
end of apartheid is coming, but so are crises, personal (his marriage
to Winnie is troubled) and political.

Other choices
include:

“Love on the Air”
(2015) and “Candles on Bay Street” (2006), 7 and 9 p.m., Hallmark
Movies & Mysteries. No, all Hallmark films aren't identical. This
first one has a clever script about feuding radio personalities, with
Kristoffer Tabori skilfully directing Alison Sweeney and Jonathan
Scarfe. The second has a bigger “Hall of Fame” budget, with a
young woman (Alicia Silverstone) returning home.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Thomas Lennon, the clever writer-actor from “Reno 911”
and “The Odd Couple,” plays an ambulance-chasing lawyer linked to
the cartel. Now the cops must protect him.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Missy Elliott guests as a top singer/producer who shows up at a
fundraiser. Meanwhile, Alexanndra gets a tempting offer from her
mother (Naomi Campbell). And the pastor tries to repair the
relationship between trans-gender Cotton and her mother (Queen
Latifah).

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. This began darkly, with a hesitent return to an Earth that
had been destroyed by radiation a century earlier. Now it's all
happening again: As radiation consumes the planet, Clarke must
prepare a list of the 100 people who will be saved inside the ship
... unless someone comes up with a quick alternative. It's a good
episode, despite so-so detours involving the “flame” symbol of
power.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. At home, Jay doesn't feel needed; Gloria has hired Gary
(Peyton Manning) to coach Joe and serve as a handyman. Still, Phil
needs Jay to invest in a fix-up project.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Anthony Anderson has described growing up in Compton,
amid gang violence and police brutality. Like his character, Dre, he
got out and prospered. Now this episode sends Dre back to a funeral
in Compton, where he feels survivor's remorse.

“Chicago, P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. A torched house leaves little to work with. There's a
young boy and a victim who's burned beyond recognition; with few
clues, the team starts to discover secrets.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 14


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

For a tense week in
1992, this story was compelling. On Ruby Ridge in Idaho, it seemed,
loners had a face-off with a near-army of federal agents; there was
gunfire, deaths and a stalemate.

Much later, people
analyzed a tangle of over-reaction; the federal government gave Randy
Weaver's family a multi-million-dollar settlement. Now that story is
richly told from all angles. We meet some of the key officials
involved and the former Green Beret who volunteered to negotiate.
Most compellingly, Weaver's eldest daughter recalls a kid's-eye
memory of a lethal nightmare.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Valentine's Day, everywhere.

Yes, this is the
holiday. (We can pause if you need to rush out and buy something.)
Several shows have already had special episodes, but now the others
take their turns.

In the daytime, that
includes ABC's “The Chew” and CBS' entire line-up – a singles
day on “Let's Make a Deal,” couples day on “The Price is
Sight,” Valentine themes on soaps and “The Talk.” At night,
there are holiday episodes of NBC's “This Is Us” (9 p.m.) and
comedies – Fox's “New Girl” (8 p.m.), ABC's “Ameican
Housewife” and “Fresh Off the Boat” (8:30 and 9 p.m.).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

A half-century ago,
a former Marine climbed the University of Texas tower and began his
sniper fire. Over the next 96 minutes, he killed 14 people and an
unborn baby, wounded 31 and spread terror.

The story has been
told before, but not like this. Ignoring the shooter, “Tower”
interviewed the people who were on the ground, including a survivor
and the hero who saved her. It turned their stories into a form of
animation, mixed with news clips. The result brings fresh humanity to
a compelling story.

Other choices:

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 10 p.m., CBS. In the first hour,
everything goes wrong for Abby's think tank; she's found with a bomb
and a theoretical terror playbook has been stolen. In the second
hour, McGee and Torres pursue the playbook in New Orleans.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. When the water pipes burst, Frankie and Mike squabble so
furiously that their kids declare an intervention.

“The Mick,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. When her attempts at discipline fail, Mick makes a drastic
decision: She'll quit being “the cool aunt.”

“You Me Her”
seson-opener, 8:30 and 11:30 p.m., Audience Network (DirecTV/AT&T).
So now it's official, with a name for it – a “throuple,” a
“polyamorous relationship”: Jack and Emma, who are married, have
added Izzy to their relationship. All is well ... except Jack quit
his job, Emma hates her job, Izzy's friend is bitter and neighbors
disapprove. Quiet humor mixes with occasional lush romace.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. Kevin frets about the opening of his play ... Randall has
double stress, over work and his father's ailment ... Kate shares
secrets with Toby ... And in a flashback, Valentine's Day doesn't go
as planned for their parents.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. When Boden overrides a decision by the chief of another
fire house, his people face repercussions.

ALSO: Some PBS
stations carry the World Channel digitally; at 8 p.m., it debuts a
gorgeous “America ReFramed” profile of Edythe Boone, a
self-taught East Harlem artist who became a triumphant muralist in
San Francisco. If you don't get World? Past shows are Online at
www.worldchannel.org.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 13


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Valentine's Day,” 8-11 p.m., Lifetime, and more.

On the eve of the
holiday, TV offers a helpful warm-up. There's a Valentine theme to
“General Hospital” (times vary, ABC) and to “Man With a Plan”
(8:30 p.m., CBS), plus this movie..

At the end of a
great career, Garry Marshall directed this film, “New Year's Eve”
and “Mother's Day,” each with a splendid cast and a sprawling,
so-so story. “Valentine's Day” ranges from Shirley MacLaine to
(briefly) Taylor Swift, plus Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica
Alba, Jamie Foxx and more.

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

OK, how does he get
out of this one? Carter needs $2 million to keep crucial info away
from terrorists; his solution last week was to break into a police
evidence room. Cops tend to get terribly possessive about that stuff;
as the hour ended, he was still in the room, facing armed resistance.

Can he get out? (It
may help that he's attached deadly devices to two cops.) Can he
deliver the money on time? “24” tends to be so crisply made that
even such absurdities keep us watching.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Celebrity Apprentice” finale, 9 p.m., NBC.

OK, this time Donald
Trump was telling the truth: Since he left, the “Apprentice”
ratings really have crashed. Now-- after a helpful lead-in from “The
Wall” at 8 p.m. -- the show limps to its finish.

On one side is Boy
George, who was well-known 33 years ago. On the other is Matt Iseman,
who is known only as an “American Ninja Warrior” host. Next
Monday, “Ninja Warrior” has an all-star special ... trying to
revive an NBC night that died as soon as “Voice” took a break.

Other choices
include:

“Crownies,” any
time, www.acorn.tv. Marta
Dusseldorp seems to be all over Australian TV and this streaming
service. She stars in “A Place to Call Home,” “Jack Irish,”
“Janet King” ... and this series, which showed King's earlier
years as a chief prosecutor. Made in 2011, it reaches the U.S. now
with a flashy start: A law-office party leads to a scandalous leak of
secret documents.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Last week was rough on Nick Viall and the women.
Tonight, ABC claims, he walks out on them, leaving everything in
limbo.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. A terrific show with dismal ratings, “Jane” keep
being renewed – and keeps making daring plot shifts. This is the
biggest one – killing Michael (Jane's true love) and jumping the
story ahead five years. Characters have mellowed, the humor has
softened and this hour is mostly an uptempo drama ... with a big
kicker of a plot twist at the end.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. After spending a bundle for police upgrades, Gideon (Justin
Kirk) goes on a ride-along with Murphy (Natalie Martinez).They come
across a robbery that causes him to rethink things.

“Superior Donuts,”
9, CBS. One moment, this episode is making sophomoric jokes, based on
the fact that a character is named Tush; the next, it's trying a
sophisticated story about crime and guns. The two approaches don't
work well together, but “Donuts” remains mildly likable.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. These geniuses have faced some tough assignments that
turned them into action heroes. This one could be an easier fit:
They're undercover at a chess tournament.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Daryl Davis is a
boogie-woogie piano man who has worked with the greats. When not
doing music, he meets Klansmen, often becoming the only black man in
their lives. This is a fascinating story – told in a haphazard,
unedited sort of way.