TV column for Sunday, Dec. 1



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife” and “The Mentalist,”
about 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., CBS.


For “Good Wife,” it’s time to celebrate (briefly). This is
its 100
th episode, there’s a Christmas party … and Alicia could
inherit. There are problems, of course, and Lockhart/Gardner firm is fighting
the will.


And for “Mentalist,” it’s a fresh start. Patrick Jane has
finally beaten Red John; we flash ahead two years. Jane has found peace and
pleasure, then gets a surprising job offer.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Christmas in Conway,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.


Bad concepts can sometimes -- not often – become good
movies. Here, a guy make a grand gesture for his dying wife; we can find him
simultaneously advirable and foolish


 Still, this is a classy
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” production. John Kent Harrison (“What the Deaf Man
Heard”) directed beautifully, as usual. He has a strong cast (led by Andy
Garcia, Mary-Louise Parker and Mandy Moore), a great-looking film and an
emotional finish that semi-compensates for a bad idea.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Treme” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.


The “Treme” parts are always greater than the whole. Indeed,
we’re not sure there is a whole; are these stories going anywhere, or will they
– like John Goodman’s character – inexplicably plunge overboard?.


We mayor may not  find
out over these final five weeks. Tonight starts in 2008, with New Orleans
celebrating the election while still staggering three-plus years after
Hurricane Katrina. There’s great music – including a dandy piano solo from
Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of New Orleans – and lots of interesting
characters and situations, which may or may not be resolved.


Other choices include:


Movie series, all night. The first three “Star Wars” films
(1977, ’80 and ’83) are at 3, 6 and 9 p.m. on Spike; they overlap with thne
“Ghostbusters” films (1984 and ’89), at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on VHI.


“Silver Bells,” 7, 9 and 11 p.m., UP. The former Gospel
Music Channel now dubs itself “America’s Christmas Channel,” with music, movies
and more. Here, Bruce Boxleitner plays an overwrought guy, sentenced to bell-ringing.
It’s mostly so-so, but has some good moments near the end.


“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Flashbacks tell us how
Henry ended up with mean Regina.


“Soul Train Awards,” 8-10:30 p.m., BET and Centric. The
classic stars – Chaka Khan, Smoky Robinson, Gladys Knight – perform along with
newer generations. There’s music from Jennifer Hudson, Ruben Studdard, Tamar
Braxton, Faith Evans, T.I., Candice Glover, Eric Benet and more.


“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. The mid-season finale finds
the Governor eyeing revenge.


“Getting On,” 10 p.m., HBO. Last week’s terrific opener
introduced perverse characters – beautifully played by Alex Borstein, Laurie
Metcalf and Niecy Nash -- at an extended-care unit. Now the show adds Mel
Rodriguez as Patsy De La Serda, the new supervising nurse. Large and fragile,
he’s bubbles slogans about treating the patients as cruise-line customers; he
clashes neatly with the cynicism around him.


“Brody Stevens: Enjoy It,” midnight and 12:30 a.m., Comedy
Central. Stevens was already working on a comedy series produced by his friend
Zach Galifianakis, we’re told here, when he had a breakdown. He ranted,
berated, drove away his friends; they had him institutionalized … then helped
his comeback. That story is told in a documentary series that is (like Brody)
alternately fascinating and disturbing.


TV column for Saturday, Nov. 30



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Flight Before Christmas,” 8 p.m.,
CBS.


Some of the best animated shows emerge far from the
U.S.  They need only some redubbing and
some trimming to suit our attention factors.


This one was an award-winning Finnish movie about a reindeer
who can’t fly, but wants to join his father, who may be a member of Santa’s
Flying Forces. It was trimmed in half, with Emma Roberts voicing the lead role
and Norm MacDonald plays our hero’s mentor, a clumsy squirrel.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “National Dog Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.


If you missed this event Thursday – hey, Thanksgiving gets
kind of crowded – here’s a quick rerun.


The show has become popular because of its blitz speed (just
two hours for a 1,500-dog show) and light approach. Commentator David Frei is a
dog expert, but the others are amiable laymen. John O’Hurley (“Seinfeld”) hosts,
with Mary Carillo – former tennis star, known for Olympic coverage – as reporter.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Let It Snow,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.


He grew up in a homespun winter resort, where customs are
savored. She’s an executive for her dad’s company, which makes all resorts
slick and corporate. He splashes mud on her and they bicker cutely.


Did we mention that both of them (Candace Cameron Bure and
Jesse Hutch) are attractive? The rest bears zero surprises, but “Snow” looks
and feels amiable. Alan Thicke is trapped in a small (thankfully) and ludicrous
role, but Bure -- making her third Christmas film -- glows.


Other choices include:


Football, 7 p.m., Fox, and 8 p.m., ABC. The big game is
actually at 3:30 p.m., when CBS has top-ranked Alabama at 4
th-ranked
Auburn. At night, Fox has Notre Dame (ranked No. 25) at Stanford (No. 7); ABC
has UCLA (22) at Southern Cal (23), with more on cable


“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (2011), 8-11
p.m., ABC Family. The Harry Potter epics conclude. Alternatives? “As Good as It
Gets” (1997, 7:30 p.m., TV Guide) won Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt;
“Traffic” (2000, 8 p.m., Sundance) won four, including director Steven
Soderbergh.


“One Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., TV One. Here’s a throwback to
the days when TV had holiday variety shows. The husband-wife duo of DeVon
Franklin and Meagan Good host, with music by Marvin Sapp, Angie Stone, Lidisi,
Chante Moore and more, including 3WB which has three Winan brothers.


“The Story of Santa Claus,” 9 p.m., CBS. A homeless Claus?
That happened long ago, this 1996 animated tale says, when Santa and his wife (Ed
Asner and Betty White) were evicted. They tried to go to an orphan island, but
an ill-wind blew them to the North Pole and a scheming elf (Tim Curry).


“Atlantis,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Last week’s opener had
Jason (of Argonaut fame) find the missing island. Now an old man asks him to
find his daughter.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Paul Rudd has his
third turn as host, this time with One Direction as music guest. Also, there’s
a shortened rerun at 10 p.m.


TV column for Friday, Nov. 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8
p.m., ABC.

OK, now the season really starts. Primetime tonight brings
five Christmas cartoons, nine Christmas movies, and a combined Christmas
episode … but nothing that can match this 1966 gem.


A great Dr. Seuss story was co-directed by Chuck Jones, the
genius behind many Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons.  Everything clicked, including Boris Karloff’s
narration and Thurl Ravenscroft’s song.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


To most of the world, Barbra Streisand’s 1967 Central Park
concert was a spectacular success. But Streisand, the perfectionist, said she
missed some lyrics … and didn’t do another live show for 26 years.


She needn’t had worried. This tape of a live concert in her
home town of Brooklyn shows that Streisand is still the master at 71. She
gently caresses the words one moment, passionately belts them the next.


All the classics are there – “People,” “Evergreen,” “The Way
We Were,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” – plus surprises and guest spots by Il
Volo, trumpeter Chris Botti and (with a gorgeous film he directed and sang in)
her son Jason Gould. Despite contrived dialog and needy applause lines, this is
a triumph.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Garth Brooks: Live From Las Vegas,”
9-11 p.m., CBS.


Garth Brooks was at the top – certified as the
highest-selling American solo act ever – when he retired in 2001 to focus on
raising his three daughters. He came back eight years later, for a Vegas show.


Now here’s a tape of its final performance. Brooks, 51,
talks about his influences – from George Jones and Merle Haggard to James
Taylor and Bob Seger – and offers a musical journey through his life.


Other choices include:


“A Golden Christmas 3” (2012) and “My Santa,” 7 and 9 p.m.,
Ion. This network is now part of the Christmas-movie overload. Tonight, it
reruns last year’s film about romance and golden retrievers, then debuts one
about a department store Santa who happens to be the real one’s son.


More cartoons, 8-9 p.m. Two sister channels compete with
each other; CBS has “Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas” and “The Elf on the
Shelf,” while CW airs the hour-long “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Meanwhile, ABC follows the great “Grinch” with the OK “Shrek the Halls.”


“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. This rerun has Booth and Brennan going
undercover on a dance show.


“Good Luck Jessie: New York Christmas,” 8-9 p.m., Disney.
Two comedies link tonight. Scouting colleges in New York City, the “Good Luck
Charlie” teens meet Jessie Prescott of “Jessie.”


“Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. The first episode has
a new owner take over the store, demanding new ideas. The second has Sabrina
taking steps to adopt Hope.


“Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. A rash of vigilantism may be linked to
an old Spanish myth. Meanwhile, Juliette learns more about Nick’s mom and Adalind
gets a jolt during her ultrasound exam.


“Dracula,” 10 p.m., NBC. The good news: This show finally
overcomes its biggest flaw – the coldly distant façade of Grayson (Dracula’s
alternate identity); one is only in a dream scene, but the other is during a
richly passionate dance. The bad: TV’s obsession with torture hits a brutal low
tonight.


TV column for Thursday, Nov. 28



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 9 a.m.,
to noon, NBC and CBS.

The parade itself has lots of oomph. There are 11 marching
bands, 1,600 cheerleaders, 15 big balloons and 30 floats – many with singers (Megan
Hilty, Austin Mahone, Ariana Grande, etc.) lip-syncing.


Still, each network adds other acts for its cameras. NBC has
the Rockettes and the casts of Carrie Underwood’s upcoming “Sound of Music” and
Broadway’s “Matilda” and “Motown”; CBS has Lady Antebellum and the Broadway
casts of “Cinderella,” “First Date” and “A Night With Janis Joplin.”


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Lady Gaga and the Muppets’ Holiday
Spectacular,” 9:30-11 p.m., ABC.


The sometimes-sexy Lady Gaga turns family-friendly tonight,
with Kermit the Frog and pals.


That includes a Gaga-Frog duet, plus ones with Elton John,
RuPaul and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Also, a moment for the ages – “Deck the Halls”
and “Jingle Bells,” sung by Beaker, Animal and Swedish Chef.


TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: Football, three networks.


For the first time, viewers can catch a pro tripleheader on
Thanksgiving, without needing cable.


First are the annual games, this time with each home team
leading its division. The Lions (6-5) host the Packers (5-5-1) at 12:30 p.m. ET
on Fox; the Cowboys (6-5) host the Raiders (4-7) at 4:30 on CBS.


Then the evening game – previously on the NFL Network –
moves to NBC, with the Ravens hosting the Steelers at 8:30 p.m.; each is 5-6,
but only a smidgen from the last playoff spot. Cable adds two 7:30 p.m. college
games – Mississippi at Mississippi State on ESPN, Texas Tech at Texas on Fox
Sports.


Other choices include:


“National Dog Show,” noon to 2 p.m., NBC. This has become an
annual ratings hit, with John O’Hurley, David Frei and Mary Carillo. The parade
then reruns on most stations from 2-5 p.m.


“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., ABC. This amiable
cartoon has its 40
th anniversary, with Snoopy and Woodstock again
being awful holiday caterers. Rounding out the hour is the Mayflower portion of
the cartoon miniseries “This is America, Charlie Brown.”


“The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox. This is a busy night for Demi
Lovato; she’s a judge and a performer in this hour, then guests on “Glee.”
Michael Buble also performs and two of the final eight will be sent home.


“The Crazy Ones,” 8:30-10 p.m., CBS. It’s a night of CBS reruns.
After “Big Bang Theory” (Sheldon’s Christmas memories) we get three “Crazy Ones,”
culminating with daddy-daughter driving lessons.


“Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Kurt’s band dislikes the venue for its
first gig; Adam Lambert and Lovato again have guest roles. And back in Ohio,
the club feels Blaine is too controlling in his plan for nationals.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jay and Gloria
plan a surprise party for Manny’s 14
th birthday.


“The Returned,” 9 p.m., Sundance. Here’s the fifth chapter
of an eight-week French (with English sub-titles) tale in which the dead quietly
return, unaware of passing time. Slowly and skillfully, it reaches its core.
Tonight, we learn about the slasher … and the rage between father and returned
son … and what happened to Lena, who crumbled after the return of her sister,
who told friends she’s a cousin.


“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Sherlock searches for the
partner of a slain blackmailer.


TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 27


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “SNL Thanksgiving Special,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

The second “Saturday Night Live” season had barely started when there was a classic Thanksgiving moment. Paul Simon started to sing “Still Crazy After All These Years”; then he walked off, telling producer Lorne Michaels he really didn’t like singing in a turkey suit

There have been many such moments in the 37 years since then. This special includes “Ed Grimley’s Thanksgiving,” “Swerski’s Super Fans Thanksgiving,” “The Bird Family” and more.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Just before we eat any creatures on Thanksgiving, we can meet them in amiable reruns.

“My Life as a Turkey” re-creates the year in which writer Joe Hutto imprinted himself as the “mother” of newly hatched turkeys. That’s followed by light portraits of ducks and deer.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Alabama & Friends,” 9 p.m., Great American Country

For three decades, the group Alabama was a country giant. It saw 21 straight singles hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart (not counting one Christmas single), then soon added 13 more. The group quit touring in 2004, but returned this year; this concert offers songs from a tribute album.

In Ryman Auditorium, Alabama classics are sung by Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Trisha Yearwood, Jamey Johnson, the Eli Young Band and Florida Georgia Line. Also, Alabama does one new song.

Other choices include:

 “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Two singers – Kaya Cohen and Tim Olstad – were dumped last week, leaving things even; each of the four judges has two remaining. Now those eight sing and viewers vote.

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. On a night stuffed with reruns, reality shows are still new. This one is at the midway point, with seven people in the merged tribe and three others on Redemption Island.

Movies, 8 p.m. CW and cable. As people race home for the holidays, CW has “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987), a fun Steve Martin film about getting home for the holidays. It faces three greats – “Gone With the Wind” (1939) on AMC, “As Good as It Gets” (1997) on TV Guide and “Field of Dreams” (1989) on Turner Classic Movies.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the season-opener, Frankie insists that the whole family take Axl to college. Along the way, both of his siblings have crises.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. This rerun brings back Elizabeth Banks as Sal, the wild-living pal of Cam and Mitchell. Suddenly, she’s getting married and wants them to both be best man.

“Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. This rerun catches the aftershocks of the season finale. Rayna is in the hospital after a crash, her ex-husband has learned his mistress is pregnant and her daughter has learned that Deacon – now awaiting his jail sentence – is her father.

“Haunted Highway” season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. Fresh from “Dancing With the Stars,” Jack Osbourne returns for six new episodes of this show. The opener has foggy results (as most such shows do), but a great setting. Off the Florida coast, Dry Tortugas was the site of a harsh federal prison. It held Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted (wrongly, some people feel) after giving medical aid to John Wilkes Booth.