TV column for Thursday, Nov. 13


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

Last week, people
badgered Jack (Nick Nolte) about a long-ago crime; he committed
suicide. Now we start with his funeral – then leap into a new
crisis that grips one of the lead cops.

“Gracepoint” is
even better than the British miniseries it's based on. There's one
flaw tonight: Carver's reaction to a surprise visitor is way out of
line, even for his troubled character. Still, everything else is
superb, especially Anna Gunn as the police detective whose son was
the best friend of the slain boy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Mom” and “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31 and 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Both comedies
started the season late (because of football) and with unusual story
arcs. On “Mom,” Christy lost the rent money, leaving four people
homeless; on “Men,” Walden is intent on adopting a child ... and
has even entered a sham marriage with Alan, to boost his chances.

Both shows have had
funny moments, but “Men” has also settled for cheap, heavy-handed
humor. We're skeptical about tonight, when these straight guys must
persuade a social worker that they're in love. More promising is
tonight's “Mom,” with Christy renting a house that has an iffy
past.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Newsroom,” 8 p.m., HBO; and/or “Dumb and Dumber”
(1994), 8:30-11 p.m., Comedy Central.

Jeff Daniels covers
opposite extremes tonight. On Comedy Central, he and Jim Carrey have
the title roles, with lots of sight gags. The result brought lots of
money, little praise and a sequel that opens Friday, 20 years after
the original. And on HBO, he's in what could be called “Smart and
Smarter.”

Written and produced
by Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing”), “Newsroom” has razor-sharp
dialog, amid the pressure of a cable news channel, In this rerun, the
Boston Marathon bombing happens while the team – fresh from a
disastrous story, due to a bad source – is hesitent report
something first.

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. A murder victim was a big-time hedge-fund manager who may had
gone bad. The case soon becomes personal for Aubrey, the FBI
newcomer.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. One of the show's funniest episodes came when
Sheldon took Penny to the hospital. Now it's Leonard who's getting
minor surgery ... and Sheldon who panics.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Amelia faces fresh troubles as people learn of her past
addictions.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. With the nation's security at stake, the president and
Jake (Scott Foley) are busy feuding over Olivia.

“The McCarthys,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. In the show's terrific pilot film, Ronny was chosen
as his dad's new assistant basketball coach – a surprise since he
neither knows nor cares about basketball. Now his brothers (Joey
McIntyre and Jimmy Dunn) look for other jobs; they soon coach against
each other.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Tonight, we get two helpful pieces of information, via
fiction: Math-puzzle competitions can be deadly; also, Phil Simms
(the former quarterback) is a fine knife-thrower.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. A woman is charged with killing her
family's nanny while under heavy medication. Meanwhile, we learn more
about the relationship between Annalise's husband and his late
student; Rebecca and Bonnie find that their loyalty to Annalise has
been shaken.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Prime time, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

First comes a boost
fr om “The Voice” (8 p.m.), making a rare Wednesday stop; we
learn which of the 20 finalists are in the top 12. Then comes the
completion of a two-night, three-show crossover.

That started on
Tuesday's “Chicago Fire,” with the discovery of a box of child
pornography. Now the probe heads to New York on “Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m.), then returns to town on “Chicago
P.D.,” in search of the porn-ring boss.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II:
“How We Got to now” conclusion, 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Hedy
Lamarr's epic life ranged from sexy stardom to a a scientific
breathrough. In 1933, she was fully nude in the movie “Ecstasy”;
in '41, she hatched an idea that could have changed World War II.
“Frequency hopping” would eventually be at the core of the
cell-phone revolution.

The
military rejected the idea at first, then embraced it ... a frequent
theme. Other inventors crafted a way to use sound echoes; rejected
at first, sonar later helped spot submarines, icebergs, fetuses and
the Titanic. This hour ponders sound (including the rise of radio),
ending a terrific, six-week series.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Goldfinger” (1964) and “The Game,” 7:30 and 10
p.m., BBC America.

For the second
straight Wednesday, BBC America offers opposite views of the spy
game. “Goldfinger” was the third of the James Bond films and the
first to fully capture the formula – glitter, sex, action, soaring
music and brief tension – that moviegoers love; then “Game”
turns much darker.

In the 1970s,
England fears a nuclear attack. Joe (Tom Hughes) is a young spy,
obsessed with avenging the death of a Russian woman he loved; Daddy
(Brian Cox) is his boss, possibly losing his grip. This episode
wavers -- Joe seems really inept at surveillance – before ending
powerfully.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Things always seem to go wrong here. Brick breaks the
lawnmower; also, the kitchen sink crashes through the floor.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Barry's bad at Trivial Pursuit, Adam is worse at
dodgeball. Eventually, however, the family tries to save the job of
the gym teacher who badgered Adam.

“Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Sure, it seems kind of logical for Manny to
learn Spanish; his mom, after all, is from Colombia. The problem? He
wants to learn French, instead; also, his mom hires a tutor (Nicholas
Gonzalez) who seems way too handsome.

“The
100,” 9 p.m., CW. Last week brought major changes: Marcus put Abbey
in charge, while he headed out on a rescue mission; Clarke almost
succeeded in escaping the mountain compound. Tonight, Clarke is
betrayed; also, the mismatched trio of Bellamy, Finn and Murphy tries
a rescue mission.

“Blackish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. The kids dislike a low-price restaurant from Dre's
past. That leads to a crackdown, with the kids told to get jobs ...
and neighbors assuming the family has money problems.

“Nashville,”
10 p.m., ABC. For the next couple episodes, this entwines with other
ABC shows. Here, Rayna sings on “Dancing With the Stars”; next
week brings the CountryMusic Association awards.

“Fix
My Choir,” 10 p.m., Oxygen. Here's the second episode of this show,
with choirs helped by Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child fame) and
singer-preacher Dietrck Hadden, whose “Preachers of L.A.” has new
episodes at 8 and 9 p.m. Tonight is the L.A. Inner City Mass Choir,
an underfunded youth group held together by the idealism of director
Jeffrey Caprich.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Draper Kauffman was
on his honeymoon when he got word that the Navy needed him
immediately; he paid the bellboy $5 to say he couldn't find him. The
next day, he got his assignment: Create a team of “frogmen” who –
with only swim trunks and fins – could disable the barriers to
D-Day ships.

Two decades later,
that team would evove into the SEAL (Sea-Air-Land) unit, high-tech
and highly skilled. It faced fierce Vietnam duty, performed
spectacular rescues and killed Osama bin Laden. This Veterans Day
documentary has clumsily written narration and odd detours, but a
great story to tell.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Living with your
ex-lover, it seems, can put a crimp on your dating life. Jess and
Nick learn that here, soon weaving a lie. The result is no match for
last week's hilarious big-lie episode, but has its moments.

One such moment
comes while Schmidt is moping because his ex-girlfriend Cece may get
breast-reduction surgery. That links with the Jess/Nick lie, to
create a splendid misunderstanding.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Veterans Day shows, cable.

An epic “Concert
for Valor” will be live from Washington, D.C., complete with Bruce
Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, Eminem,
Jessie J., Dave Grohl, the Black Keys and Metallica. That's at 7 and
10 p.m. on HBO, which plans to open its signal for non-subscribers.

There's more -- “A
Hero's Welcome,” 9 p.m., Food Network ... the “Dogs of War”
opener (with service dogs helping veteran), 10 p.m, A&E ... And
movies. At 8 p.m. ET, for instance, Turner Classic Movies has “The
Fighting Sullivans” (1944); at 8:30, AMC has Clint Eastwood's
“Heartbreak Ridge” (1986).

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Doubling its usual Tuesday length, this is the second
half of the top-20-singers portion. On Wednesday, we'll learn which
12 will survive.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The murder of a retired master sergeant points to a charity
scam.

“Selfie,” 8
p.m., ABC. Eliza had worked hard to nudge Henry into a romance. Now
that he's there, he's too distracted to be her mentor; naturally, she
tries to create a break-up.

“Modern Family,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. With “Manhattan Love Story” canceled
(deservedly), ABC has been scrambling. Tonight, that brings a rerun
of the episode that saw Alex visiting the Cal Tech campus. Soon, her
dad and siblings are part of a psychology experiment.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A murder victim was a Navy officer who had
top-secret security clearance. Now the team must determine if any
intelligence information was breached.

“The Real Death
Valley,” 9 p.m., Weather. In a barren section of Texas, the border
wars are 70 miles north of the border. This disturbing report tells
of people dying while skirting a roadblock.

“Forever,” 10
p.m., ABC. Henry can't die, but he can feel pain .... as a sexy
dominatrix is ready to demonstrate. Also, Abe (Judd Hirsch) is
visited by his two-time ex-wife (Jane Seymour).

TV column for Monday, Nov. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Ice Warriors,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Rico Roman lost his
legs in a 2007 explosion in Afghanistn. After a year in a hospital,
someone suggested sled hockey. “How many Hispanics do you see play
hockey?” he recalls saying. “No way.”

Now he links with
two other ex-soldiers, on one line of the U.S. paralympic team; the
second line has “kids,” ages 15, 16 and 20. On one end, their
sticks dig into the ice as they propel to almost 35 mph; on the
other, they offer ambidextrous hockey shots. It's a great story, told
perfectly by director Brian Knappenberger, composer John Dragonetti
and some amazing athletes, going for Olympic gold.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Here a special-deal
episode, something “Castle” does well: Rick(Nathan Fillion) feels
he's been transported into an alternate universe, where he and
fiancee Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) have never met.

First, he must
convince these “strangers” -- Beckett, Ryan and Esposito – to
let a quirky crime-novelist work on a murder case. The result leads
to a pivotal point in the Castle-Beckett relationship.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

By now, we know
“Jane” can be broadly funny. It has a cunning narrator and a
telenovela-style plot that leads to statements like this one
tonight: “Petra cheated on me with my dead best friend.”

But the surprise is
that it does straight drama so well. Gina Rodriguez is terrific as
Jane and Justin Baldoni brings humanity to the rich guy who (through
a clinic mix-up) is the biological father of her baby-to-be. Now Jane
– already mad at her mom – finds someone else was withholding
information.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. This is the week the show temporarily expands to
three nights and five hours. Between today and Tuesday, the top 20
people will sing; on Wednesday, we'll see 12 survive.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After two straight close calls, Tommy
Chong has reached the final six. Last week, he was again in the
bottom two, but Michael Waltrip was sent home.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. On one level, we see Gordon (the future police
commissioner) investigate a fight club. On another, Bruce (the future
Batman), a rich orphan, tries to return to school.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. Henry (John Noble) has sent a succubus to suck the life
out of people. Ichabod and Abbie rush to stop this.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. We knew it would come to this: Someone has developed an
algorithm that artificially creates hit songs. The creator (Scott
Mescudi, who raps as Kid Cudi) joins a murder probe.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. A man who was killed by a drome was
linked to a terrorist group. Now Nell (Renee Felice Smith) need her
drone expertise to prevent a disaster.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Red heads to Moscow with his former nemesis Berlin
(Peter Stormare), who has been manipulated by someone else. Alan Alda
is back as Fitch, another enemy. Also, Liz struggles to keep her
secret from getting out.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

As his dating life
flounders, Jake (Andy Samberg) gets sage advice: Don't talk shop;
don't say you're a cop. With a sexy stranger (Eva Longoria), that
works perfectly ... and then falls apart hilariously.

One other plot twist
– Amy running for union steward – is pretty good. Another –
Gina and Charles feuding after their break-up – is quite lame until
a great pay-off in the final minute.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(if you get HBO): “The Newsroom” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

One of the smartest,
sharpest shows in TV history has been semi-ignored. After being off
the air for 14 months, “Newsroom” gets only six episodes for its
third and final season.

They'll be great
ones, apparently. Tonight, the Boston Marathon bombing catches this
cable-news operation at a bad time. The producer is on jury duty, the
anchor (Jeff Daniels) is oddly frazzled ... ande everyone is gun-shy,
after last season's trouble with bad sources. Crackling with
brilliant dialog from Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing”), this seems like
the start of a superb, six-week ending.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece Contemporary,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Last season, we met
an old spy (Bill Nighy) whose dying friend gave him vital papers. The
prime minister (Ralph Fiennes) seethed; now “Turks & Caicos”
finds our spy on a Caribbean island.

Trouble finds him.
He meets an odd American (Christopher Walken), some scheming
businessmen and a fragile beauty (Winona Ryder). Helena Bonham Carter
arrives, leading to another movie next week. Despite some flaws –
everyone seems to talk in the same, opaque way -- it's a dandy,
tropical journey.

Other choices
include:

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Emma has captured the Snow Queen ... who is way
too crafty. Also, the relationship between Regina and Robin Hood gets
complicated as they try to save his wife.

“A Cookie Cutter
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. Cable's Christmas season started
on the day after Halloween; this is already Hallmark's third new
holiday film. Tonight's tale of feuding ex-friends has a jaunty
start, a dippy finish and an adequate mid-section, salvaged by Erin
Krakow's likability.

“In the Wings on a
World Stage,” 8-10 p.m., Ovation. This documentary about a theater
tour has drawbacks. At its best, it makes you wish you were seeing
the play, instead; at its worst, people trade cliche compliments.
Still, “Wings” is well-done and the subject is grand -- Kevin
Spacey touring in “Richard III.” The theaters – from
ultra-modern in China to 2,000 years old in Greece – are stunning.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m. (or later, with football overrun), CBS. Alicia again faces the
cunning Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox), this time on a college rape
case. Also, she gears up her political campaign.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10 p.m. (or later), CBS. In an episode scheduled
previously, then delayed, the women expect some sunny fun at a
conference. Then a shooting erupts.

The Comeback,” 10
p.m., HBO. In its only season, “Comeback” had Lisa Kudrow as
Valerie, a fading TV actress, trying to re-start her career with a
reality show; the result drew some praise, three Emmy nominations and
few viewers. Nine years later, the second season begins, with Valerie
hiring a student film crew. There are a few drolly funny moments,
plus many others that just seem repetitious.

“Getting On”
season-opener, 10:40 p.m., HBO. The second season of this so-so
drama-comedy starts by giving the nurses extra layers of humanity.
Alex Bernstein and Niecy Nash are excellent as extended-care people
working with a thick-headed doctor (Laurie Metcalf).