TV column for Sunday, Jan. 18


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

Riding a new high,
the once-struggling “Masterpiece” now adds new series alongside
“Downton Abbey.” Tonight, it introduces Sidney Chambers, a World
War II veteran who is now a clergyman,

zooming around his
village by bicycle while accidentally solving crimes.

As played by James
Norton (accurately described by “Masterpiece” chief Rebecca Eaton
as “gorgeous”), Sidney remains optimistic, despite a doomed love;
he forms a mismatched friendship with a semi-weary cop, skillfully
played by Robson Green, a “Masterpiece” favorite.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS, followed by “Scorpion.”

By the end of the
night, we'll know who's in the Super Bowl. At 3:05 p.m., Fox has the
Packers at Seattle; then CBS has the Colts at New England ...
followed (at 10 p.m. ET or so) by “Scorpion.”

That's a key spot
for a first-year show that's already a ratings hit. “Scorpion”
had planned an episode with David James Elliott as a memory-impaired
officer, then slid that to Monday. Tonight, the team tries to find a
mole inside the CIA; also, Paige (Katharine McPhee) teaches Walter
to flirt.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Galavant,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Over the past two
Sundays, Galavant has launched his quest to win back his former love
Madalena. Now (a week from the finale) he reaches her castle, unaware
that she prefers being queen (“I really like stuff”) ... And that
the princess – who loves Galavant – has been forced to lead him
into a trap.

There's some funny
stuff here, sparked by two guest roles – Weird Al Yankovic as a
monk who's taken a vow of song, Rickey Gervais as Xanax, the
feel-good advisor. Weaved in are some witty songs; an early one –
with Madalena's mirror images singing back to her – is especially
clever.

Other choices
include:

“Bridesmaids”
(2011), 8-11 p.m., NBC. Here's the zillionth rerun of a broadly funny
comedy, which Kristen Wiig co-wrote and starred in during her
“Saturday Night Live” days.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A quiet episode sets the tone for
bigger moments ahead, as we worry about Lady Mary's tryst ... and the
war memorial ... and Cora's overattentive friend ... and who killed
the valet who raped Anna Bates (Golden Globe-winner Joanne Froggatt).

“Shameless,”
9-10 p.m., Showtime. It's a busy Father's Day for Frank, one of the
world's worst dads His daughter gropes for romance on the day before
her ankle-tether is removed ... one son (breaking family tradition by
going to college) has a summer job, another schemes revenge on a
bigoted pastor.

“Girls,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. In a big detour, this Manhattan-centric show send Hannah to
Iowa, for a writers' workshop. It's fun to see her in a world where
apartments are huge and bikes are unlocked.

“Togetherness,”
9:30, HBO. The husband-wife relationship remains only moderately
interesting. Better are the scenes between her sleek sister and his
lumpy friend, sharing the house during tough times. That's followed
by an OK “Looking,” with Patrick facing a health scare.

“Revenge,” 10
p.m., ABC. Jack and David race to stop Emily and Victoria from
killing each other.

“Episodes,”
10:30, Showtime. Last week, Matt LeBlanc (playing a perverse verion
of himself) learned that half his money was embezzled. Now come
great moments, as he ponders cutting back.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

After three weeks of
reruns, this show is back to new episodes.

Kevin Hart hosts,
the day after his “The Wedding Ringer” opened, with Sia as the
music guest. Coming next week is Blake Shelton (host and music
guest); that points to the 40th anniversary special Feb.
15.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Whitney,” 8 p.m., and “Bobby Brown: Remembering Whitney,”
10 p.m., Lifetime.

Back in 1995, Angela
Bassett starred in the splendid “Waiting to Exhale.” Her co-star
was Whitney Houston, then 31, three years after “The Bodyguard”
and luminous.

Now Bassett makes
her directing debut in a film focusing on the years (through '95)
when Houston's career was at its peak; so was her romance and
marriage to Bobby Brown. Yaya DaCosta plays Houston, but Deborah Cox
offers the vocals for “I'm Every Woman,” “I Will Always Love
You” and more. Afterward, a special has Brown interviewed by Shaun
Robinson of “Access Hollywood.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Musketeers” season-opener, 9-10:15 p.m., AMC.

On a rerun-stuffed
night, new cable series offer a counterforce. Next week, Starz has
the excellent season-opener of its “Black Sails” pirate tale;
tonight, it reruns the entire first season from 2-10 p.m.

Tonight brings the
debut of the awful “Bella and the Bulldogs” and the season-opener
of this ambitious show. The musketeers search for the escaped Comte
de Rochefort; then a key official is captured.

Other choices
include:

“Empire,” 8 and
9 p.m., Fox. Here's a quick chace to catch up with the start of this
promising series. In the first rerun, Lucious (Terrence Howard)
prepares to put his company on the stock market, just as he faces
crushing health news ... and his ex-wife returns from prison. In the
second, she helps with a crisis.

“Just Go With It”
(2011, ABC) or “Blended” (2014, HBO), both 8 p.m. The world
conspires to make sure we see a contrived and semi-adequate Adam
Sandler movie. Both involve vacations: On ABC, he asks an employee
(Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his ex-wife in Hawaii; on HBO, his
African trip has him meeting the woman (Drew Barrymore) he once had
an awful date with.

“Bella and the
Bulldogs” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Even by kid-comedy
standards, this is an awful show. The concept (cheerleader becomes
quarterback) is good and the star (Brec Bassinger) is likable, but
everything else – writing and performance – is done with
sledge-hammer bluntness.

“The Graduate”
(1967), 9 p.m., Sundance. Mike Nichols won a well-deserved Oscar for
his direction of this classic, starring then-unknown Dustin Hoffman
as a young man unsure of his future.

“Bridal Wave,”
9-11 p.m., Hallmark. At an island retreat, a bride-to-be (Arielle
Kebbel) has doubts.

“The Goldbergs,”
10:30, ABC. In a rerun, both brothers have trouble with competition.
Adam's woes involve dodgeball; Barry can't seem to beat his sister in
a new game called Trivial Pursuit.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 16


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“12 Monkeys” debut, 9 p.m., Syfy.

As the world faces
Ebola fears, Syfy has back-to-back dramas involving global virus
outbreaks – each triggered by an evil businessmen. “Helix” is
fairly good; “Monkeys,” from the 1995 movie, is better.

A sleek scientist is
confronted by a ragged stranger with an odd claim: He's from the
future and she's a key person – he's not sure why – in preventing
a plague that will destroy most of mankind. What follows is a complex
and well-crafted race through two periods and dizzying plot
complications.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“World's Funniest Fails” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

Borrowing ideas from
cable and the Web, this show offers some of the biggest flops and
fumbles and such on the Internet.

That already works
well for “Tosh.0” on Comedy Central. Here, Terry Crews – the
amiable “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” co-star and former pro football
player – hosts, with comedians commenting. Also, a “fail of the
week” will be named.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

Two best-picture
Oscar-winners collide, differing sharply in tone. “Gladiator”
(2000, AMC) is tough and solid, with Russell Crowe at war; “Forrest
Gump” (1994) is clever and whimsical, with Tom Hanks strolling
through large chunks of modern history.

If you prefer recent
action films, there's the “Star Trek” reboot (2009, FX) and
“X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), HBO. Also, at 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classsic Movies has Richard Dreyfuss' Oscar-winning work in Neil
Simon's dandy “The Goodbye Girl” (1977), which was nominated for
best picture.

Other choices
include:

“Constantine,” 8
p.m., NBC. This sometimes-nasty show used to be at 10 p.m., away from
some youngsters' eyes. Now it moves up two hours (with “Grimm”
staying at 9); tonight, John takes a big risk by summoning a demon
inside him, to face a fierce attack.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike's business needs a security firm and
he wants to hire his neighbor Chuck. Vanessa is against it,
especially because she needs a favor from Chuck's wife.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Cristela tries to figure out who taught her niece to be a
bully.

“Glee,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Last week's opener brought Rachel and Kurt back to town, where
they re-created the glee club with exactly four members. Now the
rebuilding begins.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a neuro-surgeon (shortly before surgery)
leads to a 40-year-old mystery. Also, McGarrett's car is stolen by an
unlikely culprit.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A homeless teen insists his aunt has been murdered.
Jamie (a street cop) ask his brother Danny (a police detective) to
help on the case.

“Helix”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. The first season centered on Arctic
research, where a virus was being developed. Now the second season
seems almost like “Lost 2,” in a good way. It comes complete with
a creepy island and – in tonight's final moments -- a 40-year time
jump.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

After looking
splendid at the Golden Globes, Jennifer Lopez returns to the
less-glitzy neighborhood of her roots. The auditions are in Long
Island, but we see her visit the Bronx neighborhood where she grew up
with her father (a computer technician), mother and two sisters.

Adam Lambert fills
in as judge. He subbed for Keith Urban, who was back home in
Australia for the funeral of his father-in-law, Antony Kidman, a
biochemist and psychologist who died at 75.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The World Dog Awards,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

Humans get plenty of
awards, so now dogs have a turn. This show has some moments for
real-life heroes, but focuses on show business.

Hosting is George
Lopez, whose “Beverly Hills Chihuaha” is nominated for best dog
movie in the past 25 years – a category that excludes Lassie, Benji
and Rin Tin Tin. The other nominees are “Marley & Me,”
“Turner & Hooch,” “Beethoven” and “Air Bud.” Jason
Gann is a presenter and a nominee for best actor playing a dog ...
which he really does in “Wilfred”; the others in the category
just do voices.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Babylon,” 10 p.m., Sundance.

Last week's debut
introduced a public-relations whiz (Brit Marling), trying to manage
the image of London's blunt police chief (James Nesbitt). Now we see
just how good this show can be, as they face a crisis: Arrested on
drug charges is the son of the deputy mayor who has been battling the
police.

It's clever TV, but
faces three problems: The British accents are thick ... the side
stories about street cops are so-so ... and the show collides with a
comic gem (“Portlandia”) on IFC. “Portlandia” airs at 10 p.m.
and 1 a.m. ET., at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. PT; Babylon is 10 p.m. and 1
a.m. in both zones.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. A funny rerun finds the three women in Las
Vegas, where Penny – usually the party type – is accused of being
a “buzzkill” because of her new job. Back home, the guys want to
invent the next big thing; mostly, they find ways to procrastinate.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Like Penny in “Big Bang,” Christy never planned to be
a waitress this long. Now she takes steps toward a new career.

“Critics Choice
Movie Awards,” 9-11 p.m., A&E. On Sunday, viewers saw Golden
Globes go to “Boyhood” (drama) and “Grand Budapest Hotel”
(comedy). This time, those filma are lumped with eight others for
best picture, with Michael Strahan hosting. “Boyhood” has eight
nominations and “Grand” has 11, trailing “Birdman” (13). This
comes on the day Oscar nominations are announced.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Walden hits a snag in his plan to keep Louis:
The social worker (Maggie Lawson) learns that Walden and Alan have
only been pretending to be a gay couple.

“The McCarthys,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. Gerard (Joey McIntyre) clings to memories of sports
stardom; now his mom (Laurie Metcalf) lets him believe he's been
inducted into the high school hall of fame.

“Parenthood,” 10
p.m., NBC. Two weeks from the finale of this richly layered series,
the grandparents find mysterious rolls of film. Also, while Sarah
ponders Hank's offer, she and her sister Julia discuss their
relationship woes. And Joy intervenes in the decision about the
future of the record studio.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Holmes and Watson – each with major news for the other –
probe the murder of a brilliant bio-engineer.

“Archer,” 10
p.m., FX. The team must work with Conway Stern (Coby Bell) again,
possibly facing some resentment; last time, Lana cut his hands off.
Also, Archer and Lana pose a key question: If they're killed, who
gets their baby? His mom thinks she would qualify, but promptly loses
the tyke.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 14


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

In last week's
season-opener, Mel fell off the roof and her marriage to Joey
remained unconsummated. Back home, alas, the secret romance of her
niece and his nephew keeps being re-consummated.

Clearly, this isn't
traditional family viewing (despite the network's name); also, its
humor is inconsistent. Still, there are some sharp lines, delivered
by pros. Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence are solid in the title
roles and Taylor Spreitler, 21, is excellent as Lennox, the lustful
niece.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Mentalist,” 8 p.m., CBS.

In its final season,
this show is finally letting its stoic crime-solvers get personal.
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) is dating his former boss, Teresa Lisbon
(Robin Tunney); tonight, we meet her underachieving brother Jimmy
(Rob Belushi, Jim's son and John's nephew), who's a murder suspect.

Belushi, 34, will be
back Feb. 18, when “Mentalist” ends its seven-year run.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Debut of the channel called Pop, all day.

The TV Guide Channel
needed a makeover; it reached 80 million homes and interested few
viewers. Now it has a new name and a new emphasis, reflecting pop
culture, especially for ages 35-45 or so.

That includes the
new “The Story Behind”; its opener profiles “Everybody Loves
Raymond” at 9 p.m., rerunning at 11. There's also a New Kids on the
Block deluge, from 9-11 a.m., 4:30-6 p.m., 8-9 p.m. and 10-11 p.m.
Some previous shows remain, including the “Pop Sugar” fan show at
6 p.m., followed by soap reruns -- “The Bold and the Beautiful”
at 6:30 and “The Young and the Restless” at 7.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8 p.m., Fox. The Kansas City auditions conclude. New York is
Thursday.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie tries working odd jobs – at Mike's quarry and
(for one day) at her old used-car job. Also, Axl's grandfather wants
him to replace the damaged kitchen sink.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30, ABC Family. Lifelong friends Ben and Riley are finally lovers
so, of course, there's a crisis. He frets that she loves his brother,
a hunky hockey star. Then come anonymous notes, misunderstandings and
lots of blunt, so-so comedy, leading to a funny scene in the hockey
showers.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. The terrific Steve Zahn and Andrea Anders are back, as
awful neighbors. Now Phil brings in his dad (Fred Willard), to rally
his retiree friends for retaliation.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Last week's opener ended powerfully, with record-mogul
Lucious killing his lifelong friend Bunkie. Now the police probe
beginsl also, he and Cookie (Oscar-nominees Terrence Howard and
Taraji Henson) argue over which of their sons will be the focus of a
concert.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Working her task-force case , Lindsay needs help from
Voight.

“It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia” season-opener, 10 p.m., FXX. Legend says baseball
great Wade Boggs once drank 64 beers on a road trip, then had a great
game. (Boggs has said he doubts the specific number, but doesn't
dispute the general account; in fact, he shows up briefly tonight.)
Now the gang tries to break his record during a flight. The result is
wildly irresponsible and sometimes quite funny.

More comedy, 10:30,
cable. FXX follows with the debut of “Man Seeking Woman,” with an
extreme sort of offbeat humor. It has its moments ... but faces the
season-opener of Comedy Central's “Broad City,” which drew waves
of praise last year for creator-stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.