TV column for Saturday, Nov. 15


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

Woody Harrelson has
been a dead-serious drama actor lately. He drew an Emmy nomination
for his brilliant “True Detective” work; the next “Hunger
Games” film – he's been in all three – opens Friday.

Still, Harrelson
started in comedy, as an Emmy-winner on “Cheers.” Now he hosts
“SNL” for the third time ... and the first time in 22 years;
Kendrick Lamar is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Northpole,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.

For scattered
moments, this film looks and sounds glorious. Those are the moments
when we visit Santa's home town, a visual delight; or when “American
Idol” winner Candice Glover sings hymns.

For the rest of the
time ... well, it's a mostly OK story (little boy sparks Christmas),
before the plot takes an awful plunge. This is the sort of story that
would have crumbled instantly, if people had just answered questions.
We'll have to ignore that and enjoy the intermittent magic.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Missing” opener, 9 p.m. Starz, rerunning at 10.

We meet Tony (James
Nesbitt) at the bottom. He's drinking heavily and wandering this
French town,. showing a photo to strangers. When their son
disappeared eight years ago, we learn, Tony and his wife (Frances
O'Conner) went through different reactions.

This is the start of
an eight-week mini-series, bouncing between the original search and
the renewed one. Brilliantly acted, it dives to the edge of total
despair ... then grabs us in tonight's final minutes.

Other choices
include:

Football, all day.
The biggest game is in the afternoon, with top-ranked Mississippi
State visiting 5th-ranked Alabama.
Nighttime games include Auburn
(No. 3) at
Georgia (20)
at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN, Texas at Oklahoma State at 7:30 on Fo
x
and Florida State (No. 2) at Miami at 8 p.m. on ABC,
r

“Aaliyah: The
Princess of R&B,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Before dying in a plane
crash at 22, Aaliyah packed in a lot of life. At 10, she sang on
“Star Search” and with Gladys Knight, her uncle's ex-wife. At 14,
she recorded a hit album; at 15, records (which she later disputed)
said she married R. Kelly. She had more hits – more than 50 million
of her albums have been sold worldwide – and she reportedly was a
straight-A student in Detroit's public schools. She's portrayed here
by Alexandra Shipp.

“The Lego Movie”
(2014), 8 p.m., HBO; or “On the Waterfront” (1954), 8 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic, Movies. These movies have approximately zero in
common except that they're beautifully made. “Lego” is bright and
bouncy; “Waterfront” is dark and deep, possibly the best-acted
film ever.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun that see Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness)
re-visit her past as a computer hacker. Probing murders in San Jose,
she meets her ex-lover (Paulo Costanzo).

“Atlantis”
season-opener, 9 p.m., BBC America. The second season starts a year
after the first ended. With her father dead, Ariadne is the young
queen of a troubled land; she needs help from Jason, while Pasiphae
– her enemy, his mother – wants him dead.

“Beyond the
Headlines,” 10:01 and 11:02 p.m., Lifetime. After the Aaliyah
movie, here's another look at her life.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 14


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hollywood Film Awards,” 8 p.m., CBS; preview at 7:30, post-show
at 10.

After 17 years of
obscurity, this ceremony suddenly reaches CBS ... which calls it the
start of the awards season and a predictor of the Oscars. Not really.
This shows up six weeks before the Oscar deadline, with different
categories; last year, the two had almost nothing in common.

Still, this could be
a fun Friday. Queen Latifah hosts, Janelle Monae sings and top stars
are scheduled, from Adams and Affleck (Amy, Ben) to Witherspoon and
Woodley (Reese, Shailene). Joining the usual categories are ones for
comedy film, blockbuster film, breakthrough star, “new Hollywood”
and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Shark Tank,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This began as a
short-run, August oddity. Based on a Japanese show, it had people
pitch ideas to investors who might join them with their own moey.

Now, five years
later, “Shark Tank” has strong ratings, lots of reruns (8 p.m.
weeknights on CNBC), an Emmy Award ... and this 100th
episode. All six “sharks” will recall their favorite moments;
they'll also hear new pitches, ranging from dairy-free cheese to a
substitue for plywood used when a storm nears.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hitmakers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The music masters,
Craig Kallman say, “are just voracious, obsessive music fans.”
They're people like Seymour Stern, so excited by a Madonna demo that
he asked her to audition in his hospital room; he promptly signed
her. Or Kallman, who signed Bruno Mars after a few acoustic songs.
“That was a one-listening signing of a guy who, at that point, was
sleeping on couches.”

There are fewer such
people now, this slick documentary says, as big labels rule. But
there are also fresh routes. “Thank God for the Internet,” says
gifted singer Sharon Jones. “That's how I got heard.”

Other choices
include:

“The Concert for
Valor,” 7-10 p.m., HBO. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's Veterans Day
concert with Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson,
Metallica, Dave Grohl, Jessie J and more.

“The Incredibles”
(2004), 7-9 p.m., Disney; and/or “Ice Age: Continental Drift”
(2010), 8 and 10 p.m., FX. Families have appealing, animated choices.
Disney follows with “Star Wars Rebels” at 9 and 9:30.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When Kyle has a minor motorcycle accident,
Mandy worries about him and Ed worries about the insurance rate.
Also, Eve finally gets to play on the football team.

“Cristella,”
8:30, ABC. A law-firm intern, Cristella is in the uncomfortable spot
of helping someone oppose equal pay for women. At home, she's glad to
see that her sister out-earns her brother-in-law.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of Monday's episode, with the Penguin
manipulating the battle between the Falcone and Maroni mobs ... and
Gordon thinking maybe he shouldn't have spared his life. “Grimm,”
9 p.m., NBC. There's some progress in restoring Nick's power. That's
key because Trubel, who is new to this, has been the only one who can
recognize demons ... and Wu is increasingly suspicious of her. And
now an ancient creature seems to be asphyxiating people with clay.

“Constantine,”
10 p.m., NBC. John's troubled friend Gary Lester visits ... and
accidentally lets loose a “hunger monster” whose victims eat
themselves to death.

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).