TV column for Saturday, Feb. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Airplane” (1980) and more, all day, Sundance Channel.

If you get Sundance
-- via cable or satellite or sheer luck – catch a day of quick,
bright laughs from the Zucker brothers. The highlight is “Airplane,”
ranked No. 10 on the American Film Institute's comedy list, at noon
and 10 p.m.; its sequel (1982), which the Zuckers didn't do, is at 2
p.m. and midnight.

There's more, thanks
to their “Naked Gun” films, complete with Leslie Nielsen,
Priscilla Presley and a heroic-seeming O.J. Simpson. They're at 4
p.m. (1988), 6 p.m. (1991) and 8 p.m. (1994).

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

Wedged between big
events – border-blocking and new Supreme Court nominee on one side,
Super Bowl on the other -- “SNL” should have a lot to have fun
with.

Kristen Stewart, the
“Twilight” star who's not usually linked with humor, has her
first time as host. Alessia Cara is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “NFL Honors,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

On the eve of the
Super Bowl, the NFL honors its best. There will be some entertainment
– Keegan-Michael Key, best known as President Obama's “anger
interpreter,” will host; trumpeter-singer Spencer Ludwig will
perform – but the emphasis will be on awards.

That includes most
valuable player, plus awardsfor the year's top rookie, coach,
comeback, defensive player, offensive player and more. Also, the Hall
of Fame inductees will be announced.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Frozen” (2013), 9 p.m., Disney.

This is a splendid
night for kids to watch animated films ... or for grown-ups to record
them for later.

At 6 p.m., the
Cartoon Network has “Happy Feet Two” (2011); at 7 and 9, AMC has
“Megamind” (2010). And at 9, Disney offers this modern classic,
winner of Academy Awards for best animated feature and for its power
ballad, “Let It Go.”

Other choices
include:

Harry Potter
marathon, 7 a.m., Freeform. Here are the first five Potter films, at
7 and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30, 5:30 and 9 p.m. The last three will be
repeated Sunday, leading into the two-part finale.

More movies, cable.
HBO has Steven Spielberg's jaunty “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) at
5:35p.m. and E has “The Hangover” (2009) at 7 and 9:30. At 8 p.m.
ET, IFC has Stanley Kubrick's “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and
Turner Classic Movies has Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at
Tiffany's” (1960).

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Michael Ironside guests as Eric's old boss. He's in the
FBI and wants Eric to negotiatewith a racist group that threatens to
set off bombs in New York City.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun is built around the Navy custom of a “tiger
cruise,” when spouses and kids can be aboard. Now a body has been
found and the team heads there to investigate.

“Whatever Happened
To?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey. Cable recently had a mini-series about
New Edition, the Boston group that soared and split. Now this looks
at the group that three of the men formed afterward. Also included
are looks at country singer Ty Herndon and paralympian Amy Purdy.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
11 p.m., Fox. This rerun starts with an odd challenge: Chefs are
given three of the ingredients, but must race to the buzzer to get
the others.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

TV's traditions keep
being broken by “Crazy.” It has a quirky style – complete with
song-and-dance numbers – and great quality. It has abysmal ratings
... yet has been renewed for a third season.

The plot got
stagnant for a while, but now it's leaping ahead. After kissing her
boss in the elevator, Rebecca panicked and scheduled her wedding with
Josh in just two weeks. Her dad showed up, her mom sent a dress, the
pressure built. Will there actually be a wedding tonight? Possibly,
but don't count on it. Josh has a moment of introspection, which is
not his natural state.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Lego Movie” (2014), 8 p.m., TBS, and others.

This is a night
stuffed with entertaining movies, two of them animated. There's
“Despicable Me” at 9:03 p.m. on Disney and this delight on TBS.

More entertaiment?
At 7 p.m., Freeform has the second Harry Potter film (2002). At 8,
HBO has “Deadpool” (2016), E has “Wedding Crashers” (2005)
and Starz has the “Ghostbusters” remake (2016). At 8 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies has “The Birds” (1963), an erratic Alfred
Hitchcock film.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m., PBS.

This is the 50th
year for the Lincoln Center's “Mostly Mozart Festival,” so
tonight's broadcast does it up big. There are new performances of
Mozart's first symphony and hislast ( the 41st,
“Jupiter”), plus his 12th piano concerto, with Richard
Goode.

And there are clips
from this summer and from past fests, That includes “Mozart
Dances,” choreographed by Mark Morris. It also includes a David
Lang piece for 1,000 voices.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. MacGyver must catch a corrupt FBI agent who framed someone
for murder. Don't worry; Mac has a fish scaler and some fishing wire
to work with.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. When a former child star is killed, Dr. Rosewood explores
friendship and apartment technology. The result is earnest, but
mostly flat and uninvolving.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Eve's parents want her to focus on choosing
a college. When she makes up her mind, they have second thoughts.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Since its spot next week will go to Charlie Brown, “Dr.
Ken” airs its Valentine's Day episode early. Molly dismisses the
holiday; Allison wants it to be low-key ... then isn't so sure. Also,
there's your usual case of love-poem mistaken identity.

“Emerald City,”
9 p.m., NBC. Last week ended with Dorothy meeting the Wizard and
holding him at gunpoint. Now we learn more about his past ... and why
he already knows her. It's a fairly good episode that ends with
another jolt.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Probing a case involving shark fins, the team finds
something bigger: A former leprosy colony in Hawaii may be the hiding
place for a Nazi war criminal.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a gang leader is killed, the Reagans rush into
action. Danny probes the possibility that a probation officer was
romantically involved with the shooter; his dad, the police
commissioner, meets a rival gang leader (played by Method Man),
hoping to prevent a gang war.

TV column for Thursday, Feb 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Superior Donuts” debut, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

This little shop
keeps resisting change. Its neighborhood faced decline and then
gentrification; still, Arthur (Judd Hirsch) just kept making his
doughnuts. Now his new employee (Jermaine Fowler) has dreams and
schemes about everything from wi-fi to social media to new doughnut
toppings.

At the core,
“Donuts” is like any show set in a bar-diner-cafe-salon; it's
found a place for funny (if stereotypical) characters to breeze in
and out. Such shows can be as great as “Cheers” or as awful as
“Alice”; this is slightly closer to the former, thanks to quick,
slick lines, delivered by a skillled cast.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Powerless” debut, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Life is complicated
in a town stuffed with superheroes and supervillains. They fill the
sky, climb the buildings, scatter debris; in the first comedy from DC
Comics (the Batman/Superman people), Bruce Wayne's clumsy cousin has
a company that tries to invent protective products.

Vanessa Hudgens
(“High School Musical”) plays a wide-eyed newcomer whose
co-workers include Danny Pudi (“Community”) and Ron Funches, who
is 130 pounds lighter than his “Undateable” days, but still
terrific in support. The result is big and broad; it's uneven, but
usually quite funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Training Day” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

There are plenty of
flaws here, none of which will really matter: “Training Day”
should become a huge ratings success. This hour instantly delivers
what the pilot of “Pure Genius” (which it replaces) failed to
have – passionate people we can care about.

Bill Paxton plays a
Los Angeles detective whose mindset is somewhere in the Texas Ranger
days; Justin Cornwell is a straight-arrow detective trainee. Early
episodes are awash in torture, shoot-outs, villainous foreigners and
such. It's wildly overwrought, but filled with reasons for viewers to
care.

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

Archie Andrews'
life, which was sweet in the comics, has become tangled. In last
week's opener, he feuded with Jughead, kissed Veronica (the new girl,
formerly rich until her dad was arrested) and upset Betty, the sweet
girl next door. Also, he had sex with his music teacher and overheard
a gun shot.

Now some of that
gets straightened out, in a mixed hour. “Riverdale” has sharp
writing, a cinematic look and a fine cast. But for a bright kid,
Archie seems wildly naive about his affair; for the teacher, this
could be felony turf. And the show's prime villain is absurd, leading
to tonight's ridiculous finish.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Year”
(2010) and “Due Date” (2011), 5:45 and 8 p.m. ET, IFC. Leading
into the delightful “Portlantdia” at 10, here are two gently odd
comedies. One has Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as
birdwatchers; the other has Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis
rushing cross-country.

“Gone Girl”
(2014), 7-10 p.m.,FX. If you don't know the plot to this one already,
settle back and let it soak in. It's a gem, from “Social Network”
director David Fincher.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. As Eliza officially steps into her duties, others know
she's there to revamp the surgical residency. Richard and others make
sure she gets off to a rough start.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This is the first day of “sweeps” -- a
four-week stretch when ratings count for more and rerunsare scarce.
Here, Leonard fumes because Penny's brother is coming.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Last week's season-opener was bizarre. It now seems that
Cyrus maneuvered it all – getting nominated as vice-president,
having the presidential candidate killed shortly after being elected,
faking a comatose shock ... and having a witness killed. Now
flashbacks view the campaign.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Even sober these women are silly. Now they accidentally
eat pot brownies.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week saw a stunned Annalise
(superbly played by Viola Davis) in jail, accused of killing Wes. Now
there's a confession.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Madiba” and “The Quad,” 8 and 10 p.m., BET.

Black History Month
gets off to a big start tonight. “Quad” (with the terrific Anika
Noni Rose) is a promising series – more on that later – and
“Madiba” tells an epic story over three Wednesdays.

Based on Nelson
Mandela's two autobiographies, this was filmed in South Africa and on
Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 prison years. He's
played by Laurence Fishburne, with Orlando Jones as Oliver Tambo,
David Harewood as Walter Sisulu and Terry Pheto as Winnie Mandela.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Showtime at the Apollo,” 8 p.,m., Fox.

Anything that Steve
Harvey does seems to draw an audience, whether its “Little Big
Shots” or “Family Feud” or assorted specials. On Sunday, he
returned to Miss Universe; now he's back at the Apollo Theatre, a
piece of Harlem history.

It opened in 1914
and became the Apollo in '34, the year a teen-aged Ella Fitzgerald
tried the audition night. We'll get a sampling of the audtions here,
but Harvey will also introduce comedian Gabriel Iglesias and music by
Chaka Khan, I.T. with Meek Mill and Quavo with RaRa.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The 100” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

Last season, Clarke
saw disasters all around her. Octavia killed Pike who had killed
Lincoln. Titus accidentally killed Lexa, who was alternately Clarke's
enemy, colleague and lover ... except Lexa sort of exists in the
Flame, which Clarke used to kill ALIE, an artificial intelligence
controlling minds.

But ALIE claimed she
(it?) was the only force preventing another nuclear disaster. Has
Clarke doomed the world? Can King Roan be brought back from
near-death? Will the Ice Nation rule? This is loud and messy, with
militaristic music forever booming; still, you won't complain that
nothing happened.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. Here are some standard, interesting wildlife scenes,
occasionally with an extra touch – some ground-level glimpses were
shot from cameras inside animatronic creatures. This may be the first
time you've been under an elephant – or (really) inside a
crocodile's mouth.

“The Penguins of
Madagascar” (2014), 8 and 10 p.m., FX. After co-starring in three
“Madagascar” movies – and starring in a delightful TV series –
these animated penguins get their own spy adventure.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. The three women are performing at a fancy charity event, but
their manager (Benjamin Bratt) wants Alexandra – not Star or her
half-sister Simone – to sing the lead. Hey, this show isn't called
“Alex”; Star (Jude Demorest) schemes to get attention.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. With the “sweeps” ratings period starting Thursday,
ABC has another all-rerun night. Haley (Sarah Hyland, 26) is still
adapting to dating an older guy, weatherman Rainer Shine (Nathan
Fillion, 45); a day with his daughter doesn't go as planned.

“The Magicians,”
9 p.m., Syfy. It's a wild hour – alternately funny and dead-serious
– on three fronts: Julia is trying to control The Beast (who, of
course, is singing show tunes) ... Eliot finds that being king
requires agriculture and an adjustment in sexual preferences ... and
the others are back at the college, scrambling to find the missing
battle magic.

“The Expanse”
season-opener, 10-11:35 p.m., Syfy. The first season ended with the
crew escaping from Eros. Now they deal with the aftermath, then try a
daring raid in search of information.

“The Quad”
debut, 10 p.m., BET, rerunning at 11:34. Anika Noni Rose is a
stunning talent. Her performance as a novice secretary in HBO's “The
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” was brilliant; she's done Broadway
(winning one Tony, nominated for another), was the lead voice in “The
Princess and the Frog” and has had had lots of TV recurring roles.
Now, belatedly, she's the star. She plays the first female president
of a historically black college ... where her daughter, a rapper, is
a key rebel.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 31


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

Late in the 19th
century, this excellent film says, Boston had a transportation
tangle. Packed into less than a square mile were almost 400,000
people and 8,000 horses, with noise, manure and chaos.

London had tried a
subway, but a coal-powered train made the esperience sooty and
shabby. Then Frank Sprague, an American naval office, invented the
electric subway; Bosto began digging. There was opposition and –
after a gas line was accidentally cut -- a deadly explosion. Still,
it took just two years to build; on the opening day in 1897, 250,000
people rode America's first subway.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Yes, this is a rerun
– there are a lot of those, two days before the “sweeps”
ratings period begins – but it's a good one. At Thanksgiving time,
the three adult siblings have a last chance to visit their family
cottage, before their mother sells it. Memories stir; emotions soar.

Randall is fuming
about the fact that his adoptive mother had long been secretly in
contact with his father. (We flash back to him at 9, already seeking
his parents.) And visitors arrive, including Kevin's cynical co-star
in a play and the show's uncynical playwright, leading to some
delightful moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Some people might
remember Super Bowl XXVI as the one in which Bills back Thurman
Thomas missed the first few plays because he'd lost his helmet. It
was a sign; the Redskins scored the first 24 points, pushing the
Bills to the second of four straight Super Bowl losses.

But others remember
something more: It was when two awed boys watched Cindy Crawford
stride to a Pepsi machine in jean shorts and undershirt. Now – 25
years and five days later – Crawford will discuss that commercial;
other classics will be featured in a countdown. This was originally
set for 8 p.m., then nudged back to make room for an 8 p.m. report on
the Supreme Court nomination.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Launching a string of four ABC comedy reruns, Sue is in
the unfamiliar position of wanting to break off a relationship; she
turns to Axl, who has great experience at this.

“The Mick,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. No more hiding in embarrassment over their parents' arrest
and flight: The kids head back to the country club ... where Aunt
Mick soon gets in a fight with society ladies.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A tutor of rich kids has been killed. Suspects range from the
victim's roommate to various disgruntled parents.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged back an hour by the commercials special, this rerun
involves a Marine sergeant's fall from a building. Using privileged
information from a patient, a doctor (Laura San Giacomo) suggests it
be treated as a murder investigation.

“Outsiders,” 9
p.m. ET. WGN America, rerunning at 10:01 and midnight. These mountain
people hate confinement, so last week's opener had their darkest
moments -- “Big Foster” tied in someone's basement; “Little
Foster” jailed, after fighting a mob. Now both men rage, in a
strong hour. Also, Big Foster's “widow” takes over as ruler,
quickly facing a dilemma when an all-female clan seeks refuge.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. Patton Oswalt returns to his double role as
Billy and Sam Koenig, triplets (Oswalt has also played the third one)
who are agents. The team rushes to save them.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Official reports say Mosul –
Iraq's second-largest city – has been reclaimed by the army. This
recent visit, however, adds jolting details. Even in the parts of the
city the army controls, it shows, ISIS snipers and suicide bombers
make real life impossible.