TV column for Friday, Oct. 27

“Michael Jackson's Halloween,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A generation ago,
Jackson conquered the holiday. His 1983 “Thriller” had a
14-minute video, complete with zombies and a werecat. It became the
first music video in the National Film Registry; Billboard named it
the best Halloween song ever.

Now Jackson's music
has been turned into an animated special, with the voices of Jim
Parsons, Christine Baranski, Brad Garrett, Lucy Liu and more. It
starts with a young couple entering an odd hotel ... and ends, as it
should, with an animated version of a dancing Michael Jackson.

“Blindspot” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

Two years ago, this
was one of TV's hottest newcomer. Its opening – a naked amnesiac at
Times Square, clueless about her tattoos – seized attention.

Last year, ratings
fell on a tougher night. Now – on an even tougher night –
“Blindspot” has a makeover. For 18 months, we're told, thus FBI
team has been apart. Now a crisis brings it back together ...
including “Jane Doe,” who somehow has a fresh batch of tattoos.

ALTERNATIVE: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Rebecca really is
kind of crazy, after all. Last week, she burst into a church and
confessed (musically) to all her mis-deeds; now she's arguing with
her childhood self, while concocting an even crazier plan.

The result is a
broadly funny hour that doesn't have Rebecca in either musical
number. One is so-so, but the other is a master-stroke – deadpan,
dreary Heather is forced to sing an inspirational ballad, with lines
like “today is tomorrow's yesterday” and “I am the moment, the
moment is me.”

ALTERNATIVE II: “Live From Lincoln Center: Falsettos,” 9 p.m.,

As its
Broadway-on-Fridays string starts, PBS is showing the vast range of
musical styles. Last week's opener (“She Loves Me”) was simple
and melodic, with a boy-meets-girl tale; that's not “Falsettos.”

boy-meets-boy-and-divorces-girl-who-marries-his-therapist. It has
virtually no dialog, depending on overlapping and complicated song
lyrics. It's incredibly clever, while remaining difficult for the
audience. The first half, starting in 1979, ranges from a spectacular
Stephanie J. Block romp to a tender Christian Borle ballad. The
second starts in '81, as AIDS spreads.

Other choices

“Stranger Things,”
any time, Netflix; or “Psycho” (1960), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies. Here are some acclaimed choices for Halloween-time. The
American Film Institute picked “Stranger Things” as one of its 10
programs of the year; it picked “Psycho” as the 14th -best
American film of all time; the next horror film on the list (“Silence
of the Lambs”) was all the way down to No. 74.

World Series, 8 p.m.
ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30. After two games in Los Angeles,
baseball's classic moves to Houston – a place it's not accustomed
to. In 55 previous seasons, the Astros had only been to one World
Series and had never won a Series game.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane's romance with Adam (Tyler Posey of “Teen Wolf”)
is zooming; now she wants him to meet her son. Rafael, who dislikes
the idea, is busy trying to get his hotel back.

“MacGyver,” 9
p.m., CBS. Starting an hour later than usual, this has the team
abandoning its Halloween plans, so it can resue the vice-president's
son in the Bermuda Triangle.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny probes a murder and Jamie tries to save a young
woman who overdosed. Also, their dad, the police commissioner, reacts
when the mayor bans solitary confinement.

10 p.m., Syfy. In last week's opener, Calvin's mom became deathly ill
and his dad (Mario Van Peebles) was beheaded. All of this upset
Calvin ... who must not know what kind of show this is. Now those
parental problems are addressed. Directed by Van Peebles, it's a
great-looking hour that blends some action and lots of dead-serious

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 26

“Superstore,” 8 p.m., NBC.

With its broad
setting – an entire mega-store, filled with diverse people --
“Superstore” can concoct big stories. Tonight, two dandies build
to hilarious moments.

In one, a real body
has been discovered ... but people keep assuming it's just a clever
Halloween display. In another, Amy messes with Jonah's dating app,
causing complications for him and for Kelly (played by the delightful
Kelly Stables). Stick around for the the Jonah-Kelly confrontation
... and, especially, for the guy in the coroner shirt; these are
great comedy moments.

II: “Will & Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC.

For the first weeks
of the season, the return of “Will & Grace” has been able to
triumph. CBS had Thursday football; NBC had the comedy audience to
itself. Soon, that ends: Next Thursday, both networks have comedies,
making life more complicated; a week later, NBC takes over football.

So enjoy “Will &
Grace” while it has the night to itself. The first four shows have
ranged only from very funny to hilarious, even adding a few serious
moments. Tonight, there are career possibilities – a senior
partnership for Will and a big decorating job for Grace. Also, Jack
owns half of a lottery winner.

ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:04.

Hardly any TV shows
seem to include this line of dialog: “Frankie, I'm sorry I threw
your phone in the sink.” This one does, then goes into other
bizarre directions.

There are great
moments of confusion during a power black-out and at a
home-improvement store. Then Sam has a long monolog that consists
mostly of the word “No.” She's played by Pamela Adlon, who also
directed the episode, written by Louis C.K.; the result is a truly
odd delight.

Other choices

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. It's a one-night baseball break, while the World Series
moves from Los Angeles to Houston. That provides time for this hour
(a cop-killer puts pigs' heads on his victims) at 8 and “The
Orville” (a planet re-creates the 21st century, but with
people voting on punishments) at 9.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. This hour focuses on Dr. Megan Hunt, played by Abigail
Spencer, the talented “Timeless” star. After disappearing a
decade ago in Iraq, she's suddenly returned. Tonight, flashbacks show
what happened; also, she and her brother Owen work on old wounds.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Mellie prepares for a nuclear summit. Also, Quinn has an
important client.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m.,
CW. Chastity Dotson guests as Onyx. She leads a rogue team that
breaks into Kord Industries and steals something lethal.

“Van Helsing,” 9
p.m., Syfy. If gore is good at Halloween time, this is clearly too
much of a good thing. One story has Vanessa Van Helsing -- a vampire
hunter like her ancestor – discover a refuge for kids. That one's
OK, but another – a vampire stalks a juvenile detention center –
is merely disgusting.

“Great News,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live” plays an
old college friend, now married, with a house and kids. Katie tries
to impress her by going to a cool Halloween party.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Last week, Casey was promoted and life was good. That
vanishes quickly, when he and Sevaride disagree about the best way to
save a teen. Also, the flashy Hope (Eloise Mumford) continues to
cause problems; now she and Kidd battle over a payroll issue.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 25

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In zoos, otters seem
to be pure fun and frolic. But in the wild, this excellent
documentary says, they're remarkably skilled as predators and as

They can run 18
miles an hour on land or cover 25 miles a day in the water. They can
stay underwater for four minutes, covering 1,300 feet. Their bodies
form a torpedo shape, blessed with a powerful tail, a flexible spine
and an underwater sense of smell. That's all encased in fur that's so
warm that otters were hunted for coats. Fortunately – for them and
for us -- they survived.

II: “The Goldbergs,” 8 p.m., ABC.

For four-plus
seasons, this has been under the radar – no Emmy nominations, scant
attention, adequate ratings. But it has persisted, offering a fairly
clever look at family life in the 1980s.

Tonight's episode
does double-duty – it's the 100th one overall and it
starts a night of four Halloween tales. When Adam and his girlfriend
disagree about costumes, his dad suggests his own approach – just
give the lady whatever she wants. This backfires for the teens –
and creates aftershocks for the parents.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Shannara Chronicles,” 10 p.m., Spike.

Not long ago,
fantasy epics seemed possible only in movie theaters or on HBO. Not
any more; you'll find them on ABC, CW and Fox ... and on basic-cable
shows like this. Based on Terry Brooks sprawling novels, it was
filmed in New Zealand, which is “Lord of the Rings” turf.

Allanon has been
captured and Wil has a rescue plan – albeit a bad one. This hour
continues TV's wretched obsession with torture. It also has so-so
dialog delivered by varied actors, some of them unskilled. But the
finish is big, brash and exciting; for a few minutes, Spike is truly

Other choices

World Series, 8 p.m.
ET, Fox; preview at 7:30. The Dodgers host the Astros, in the second
game of the best-of-seven series. It's the 19th World
Series for the Dodgers ... and the second for the Astros.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. By now, this once-pleasant town is in panic. Moose and
Midge were attacked by a gunman, Miss Grundy was killed ... maybe by
the same guy who shot Archie's dad. Now Archie has a gun and an
attitude; his pal Jughead is struggling in a gang-infested school.
This sound excessive, but it's salvaged by strong acting, solid
dialog and skillful directing.

“Doctor Zhivago”
(1965), 8-11:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. On a big screen, a
half-century ago, this was a triumph. Still, modern viewers might
want a brisker film. At 7:30 p.m. is “Honey, I Shrunk the Kid”
(1989) on CMT. At 8 are “Jurassic World” (2015) on FX and
“Poltergeist” (1982) on FXX.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil and Claire still want a big-deal Halloween, but
they can't find much interest. Also, Mitchell and Cam are strained by
the slow remodeling of their kitchen.

“The Story of Us,”
9 p.m ET., National Geographic. For an hour about love, this gets dark;
one story involves warf ... another has ritual whipping ... a third
sees orphans being unattended and unloved. Still, two other stories
perk us up; one views arranged marriage, the other has warm help for
the homeless.

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president must win back public
confidence, after a senator lies about their conversation. Meanwhile,
Hannah and the British agent probe an international murder.

“You're the
Worst,” 10 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 10:34. In a fairly good episode,
people are dealing with the past. That's toughest for Lindsay, whose
mom (an actress) is self-absorbed and frustrating.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 24

“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

In the final moments
last week, we learned that Kate is pregnant. Tonight comes another
last-minute revelation, this time about her father and his family.

That's in an hour
that keeps teetering toward disaster. After refusing knee surgery,
Kevin is desperate for drugs; his adoptive brother Randall is
floundering in his new role as a foster dad. Add flashbacks of their
dad's troubles and you have shattering moments ... which – with its
usual skill -- “This Is Us” manages to make deep and stirring.

II: “The Middle” (and more), 8 p.m., ABC.

This is something
ABC does best: In the final week before Halloween, it gives us blocks
of situation-comedy episodes. Most are light, holiday ones; most are
quite funny.

That two-night
string starts with this show's eighth and final Halloween episode.
Frankie (Patricia Heaton) learns a woman died in this house, 50 years
ago; now she and Brick are convinced it was murder and try to solve
it. Meanwhile, Axl feels Sue is keeping him from alone time with

ALTERNATIVE: “The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

Fantasy shows don't
always have to be deadly serious. This episode is mostly silly.

We meet Becky,
charmingly played by Sugar Lyn Beard. She used to have nothing but
bad luck; then she became a meta named Hazard, whose good luck goes
bad for others. It's a fun notion, alongside some serious moments
involving Wally West and the brief return of Dr. Wells (Tom

Other choice

“World War Z”
(2013), 7:30 p.m., and “American Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX.
Here's the flip side of all that sitcom fun for Halloween. Brad Pitt
fights vampires; then terror consumes a Midwestern town.

World Series, 8 p.m.
ET, Fox. The Los Angeles Dodgers host the start of the best-of-seven

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m. to midnight, FXX. For decades, TV has had some of its
cleverest moments with the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.
(Also, alas, some of its messiest; this year's episode was gory and
dim-witted.) Now we get marathons of those episodes today, Thursday
and Friday, and then Sunday, Monday and a 13-hour Halloween splurge

“Hit the Road”
and “Loudermilk,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T. Here are the
second episodes of two mismatched shows. “Road” remains deeply
disappointing, giving us no reason to like anyone involved;
“Loudermilk,” however, is a fun comedy-drama about an acerbic
loner, grasping for a life.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. While the other ABC comedies go for Halloween, “Black-ish”
is the exception: Its focus is on game night and an intense round of

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 9 p.m., CW. Now that Amaya is back, Stein tries to
diagnose her condition. Also, the team manages to cause trouble
(again), while chasing a rogue time-traveler in the future,

“CSI: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Sebastian has lab skills, but he's
suspended after questions about his actions during a foot chase. Now
his colleagues scramble to clear him.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 23

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Next week, we go
back to the norm – lots of fairly pleasant situation comedies on
Monday, but none that is exceptional. “Big Bang” -- TV's best
sitcom – will return to Thursdays.

So this week, let's
savor its final Monday: Sheldon and Raj are upset when Amy and Howard
work together; they want Bernadette to intervene. And surrounded by
geniuses, Penny often seems like the wisest person; tonight, she
learns a new strategy for dealing with Sheldon.

“Lucifer” and “The Gifted,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

As the Halloween
season stuffs us with make-believe, we could settle in for a couple
offbeat hours. First, Chloe the cop finds herself working with two
guys; she's investigating a high-end reform program with Lucifer and
questioning the feelings Lt. Pierce (Tom Welling) may have for her.

Then the mutants
plan to attack Sentinel Services, the government group that's been
hunting them. To prepare, Eclipse seeks out a friend with a dark
past; also, the siblings try to combine their powers.

ALTERNATIVE: Tim Burton marathon, Freeform.

Three of Hollywood's
top talents keep combining. There's Burton, the producer-director ...
Johnny Depp, the consummate actor ... and Danny Elfman, who composes
wonderfully odd music.

Freeform has their
brilliant “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) at 11 a.m. and their
disappointing “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) at 1:35 p.m. Others
vary widely (often due to script problems), but are interesting.
“Dark Shadows” (2012) is 4:10 p.m., with “Sleepy Hollow”
(1999) at 6:50 and then animation -- “The Nightmare Before
Christmas” (1993) at 9:20 and “Frankenweenie” (2012) at

Other choices

(1978), 9 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., AMC. On a nothing budget, John
Carpenter created a scary classic that others kept trying to copy.
Jamie Lee Curtis returned for the pretty good “Halloween II”
(1981), at 7 p.m., and “Halloween H20” (1998) at 5. Other sequels
are at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m.

“The Voice”
(NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10:01 p.m. NBC has the
second half of its “battle” round tonight and Tuesday, with 12
pairs of teammates trying to top each other. Meanwhile, ABC – which
ousted actress Sasha Pieterse last week – has dances that symbolize
movie genres.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Three decades after starring in the “Supergirl” movie,
Helen Slater has been playing Supergirl's adoptive mother. Now it's
time for her other daughter Alex (a bio-engineer, like her mom) to
marry Maggie, a cop. First, Maggie tires to reach out to her father,
played by Carlos Bernard.

“Valor,” 9 p.m.,
CW. As the secrets keep gnawing at her, Nora turns more and more to
vices. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Ian and the offbeat CIA agent Thea
ponder the next step in a rescue.

“Me, Myself and
I,” 9:30, CBS. At 14, Alex must perform in a talent show. At 40, he
considers tracking down his biological father. And at 40, he finally
meets the boyfriend of his one true love.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Is it possible to have a virtual heist, taking virtual
hostages? Apparently; that happens tonight, when the team visits a
tech convention.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. On a mass level, doctors race to learn why a
maybe-deadly allergy is sweeping through the hospital. On the
personal side, Shaun tries to understand why a patient (who resembles
his late brother) isn't being told the truth by his parents.