TV column for Saturday, Oct. 11

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.


The National League’s championship series begins, with the
San Francisco Giants at the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s the first time this
season that baseball reaches prime time on a broadcast network.

Until the World Series, cable gets most of the action. Fox
Sports 1 will have the weekday National League games; TBS has the American
League. The latter includes 4 p.m. ET today, with Baltimore -- the only team among
the top four in the regular season to survive the first round – hosting Kansas

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Hunger Games” (2012), 8-11:02
p.m., ABC Family.

A recent PBS documentary (“Makers”) reminded us of this
film’s place in Hollywood history: It proved that action-adventure – once the
Stallone/Schwarzenegger turf – could be ruled by a female star.

The story has a government forcing 24 teens into an
elaborate war game to the death. When her sister is chosen, Katniss (the terrific
Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. The result made $408 million
in the U.S. and Canada, $691 million worldwide. Its sequel brought $424 million
and $847 million, with the two-part finale set for the pre-Thanksgiving
weekends of this year and next.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Survivor’s Remorse,” 9 p.m., Starz,
rerunning at 9:30, 11 and 11:30.

Recent pro-football controversies focused on the cultural
and generational gaps over the idea of parents “whupping” their kids. Now comes
a fresh take, from another angle.

Last week’s debut (rerunning at 8:30) introduced a likable
young basketball star, moving to Atlanta with his entourage. Tonight, his mom (great
work by Tichina Arnold) cheerfully tells an interviewer about the beatings she
delivered. It’s a sharp episode … written, ironically, by Mike O’Malley, who
offered a much different view of parenting when he played Kurt’s dad on “Glee.”

Other choices include:

Racing, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC. Here’s NASCAR, from Concord, N.C.
That’s on a rare Saturday with no prime-time football on a broadcast network.
Cable has lots of it, of course, led by an ESPN doubleheader – Alabama (ranked
No. 7) at Arkansas at 6 p.m. ET; Mississippi (No. 3) at Texas A&M (No. 14)
at 9.

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. Barring a late change
– a problem on Saturdays – this will be a rerun of Wednesday’s episode. A
congressman’s sex scandal leads to a probe of Online gaming.

“Person of Interest,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from April,
Reese and Shaw infiltrate a class reunion.

“NCIS: New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of the
excellent season-opener. It’s a case that Pride (Scott Bakula) takes
personally, involving a young man he had mentored.

“Intruders” season-finale, 10 p.m., BBC America. James
finally realizes the immensity of the organization that took his wife (Mira
Sorvino). Also, Richard is on the run and young Madison has a fatal fight.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Here’s the third
straight new episode … and the second straight with a former cast member. This
time it’s Bill Hader, with Hozier as music guest. Last season, Hader  brought his popular Stefon character to Seth
Meyers’ “Weekend Update” farewell. Now Stefon may be back; in the first two
weeks, “Update” has been greatly expanded.


TV column for Friday, Oct. 10

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Live from Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

In the burlesque houses of 1937 New York, Chauncy Miles
plays a “nance,” a broad parody of a gay man. In real life, he’s gay; it is, he
says, a bit “like a Negro doing blackface.”

Now officials are arresting gays and cracking down on
burlesque; his world is fading. “The Nance” mixes so-so comedy with quietly
affecting drama, salvaged by Nathan Lane’s Tony-nominated performance. This
production (not live, despite the title) brings TV viewers a flawed but
interesting stage experience.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS; earlier,

CBS has the week’s new episode, with Danny (Donnie Wahlberg)
temporarily switching police partners. Also, his brother Jamie tries to
re-claim an arrest that was taken by a pompous detective. And their dad (Tom
Selleck), the police commissioner, clashes with the archdiocese when he speaks about

That’s preceded by reruns at 4 and 5 p.m. on WGN America
(Danny tries to stop a Mob war, then probes a case involving a sleeper cell)
and then on Ion: At 7 p.m., Danny accidentally shoots an undercover cop. At 8,
Jamie gets a new police partner; at 9, their sister re-opens an old rape case
their dad worked on.

TONIGHT’S DISAPPOINTMENT: “Cristela” debut, 8:31 p.m., ABC.

When ABC re-did the pilot film, we had high homes. Cristela
Alonzo is a smart and likable comedian; the script she co-wrote had some OK
gags. Most of it was heavy-handed, but that could have been fixed.

It wasn’t, alas. “Cristela” has a decent concept, with
Alonzo breaking family tradition to become a law-firm intern; however, it’s
bluntly written and poorly acted. The best line (about poison) is borrowed;
it’s been credited to Winston Churchill in 1912. We’ll hope future material is
less than a century old.

Other choices include:

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Joely Fisher guests as Ed’s
assertive girlfriend. Since Ed (Hector Elizondo) owns the business, she thinks
he should be its public face, not Mike (Tim Allen).

“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a first, with racers
on Scotland’s Shetland Island in Scotland, herding sheep. Nine teams remain,
after the ouster of a dating duo and Miami realtor sisters.

“On the Menu,” 8 p.m., TNT. The show’s second hour has four
interesting home chefs, from a 22-year-old tech guy who cooks with his mom to a
58-year-old marketer who likes to sing opera music in the kitchen (and maybe in
his future restaurant). People assume he’s ultra-Italian, he says, but he’s
really Russian-Polish-Jewish. The winner will have a specialty appear on the
Denny’s menu, starting Saturday.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. After robbing a bus, women
have something that makes them a target.

“Gotham,” 9 p.m., Fox. In this rerun, Oswald Cobblepot (the
future Penguin) is back and working for a crime boss. Also, someone is killing
corrupt people and attaching them to weather balloons.

“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. Set in the early 1900s,
“Knick” launched a crisis last week, with naval warfare keeping cocaine from
New York. Hospitals are desperate; Dr. Thackery, an addict, is worse. This hour
– well-made, but extremely grim – finds him at his low point, while two other
doctors face crises.

“Standup Revolution,” midnight, Comedy Central. It’s a busy
night for Gabriel Iglesias, co-starring in “Cristela” and hosting “Revolution.”
The latter starts and ends well, but has sub-par comedians.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 9

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Bad Judge” and “A to Z,” 9 and 9:30
p.m., NBC.

Last week’s “A to Z” opener was a gem, introducing the
thoroughly likable (and mostly opposite) Andrew and Zelda. Now they pretend to
be nonchalant, with Andrew even dating a co-worker.

By comparison, last week’s ”Bad Judge” was frantic and
erratic, but had its moments. Tonight’s episode focuses on the judge’s old van,
a reminder of parties past; the start of the half-hour is overwrought, the
ending is kind of sweet. In between, the judge (Kate Walsh) rules on a
self-possessed pop star.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Gracepoint,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Until a few days ago, this seemed to be a serene seaside
town. Then a boy’s body was found on the beach and a murder investigation
began. People are fearful or suspicious or merely confused.

In this episode – the second of 10 – we begin to see small
cracks in pretty lives. Almost everyone has a flaw and/or a secret, including the
cop (David Tennant) who is new in town and leading the investigation. “Gracepoint”
is a beautifully crafted view of ordinary people under pressure.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “How to Get Away with Murder,” 10
p.m., ABC.

Annalise has a small case (a misdemeanor) that suddenly gets
much bigger. Also, she’s asked to take the biggest case around – representing the
star quarterback who’s linked to his girlfriend’s disappearance. Before
agreeing to that one, she tries to make sure her husband wasn’t involved.

That goes alongside some more flash-forwards to the murder
night. We learn that someone else was nearby, in addition to the four
law-school students.

Other choices include:

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. Owen, a former combat doctor,
introduces Callie to veterans, hoping her robotic-limb work can help. Geena
Davis, who was in the season-opener, is back as Dr. Herman.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. When a radio host is killed, Rodolfo
(an intern) helps with the probe. Booth has survived his ordeal, but Brennan worries
about his mental state and Aubrey is still trying to impress him.

Football, 8:25 p.m., CBS. So far, CBS has been cursed by
blow-outs; in its first four Thursday games, the halftime score was a combined
97-10. This could be the first close one, with Indianapolis at Houston; they’re
tied for the division lead with 3-2 records.

“Scandal,” 9 p.m., ABC. Already an ABC star via “Lost” (as
Penny Widmore) and “Flashforward,” Sonya Walger guests here. She wants her
friend Olivia to help find her daughter.

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. As the family anxiously waits
for word on the health of its patriarch (Craig T. Nelson), other problems
build. Julia confronts Joel about their relationship; Sarah ends up in a complicated
situation, after trying to bond with the daughter of her boyfriend Hank (Ray

“Inside Homicide” debut, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery.
Only 15 percent of American homicide detectives are females, producers say.
This non-fiction show will alternate between three. The opener is in Atlanta,
where Summer Benton finds fresh layers to a woman’s report that she killed an

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 8

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Goldbergs,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.

As MTV spread, everyone seemed to start a garage band. It
helped to have wigs, enthusiasm and maybe a garage. Now Adam and his brother
Barry take their turn (loudly).

The result whips us through the extremes of failed rock and
foiled romance, offering the life-cycle of a band in one day. Add their mom’s
plan for a second wedding – she’d prefer harps, actually – and you have a dandy
1980s memory … directed by Fred Savage, whose “Wonder Years” preserved the ‘60s.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Derek Hough is already the star of ABC’s “Dancing With the
Stars.” In 13 editions, he’s reached the final four 11 times, including five
championships and two runners-up. He continues there, but adds acting.

Hough plays a movie star who will be opposite Juliette in
the Patsy Cline movie … if she manages to conceal her pregnancy. The other big
secret involves Will, who is gay, married and a country star; his wife is ready
to blackmail him. Also, Rayna and Luke finally announce their wedding date.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Horror Story”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Some “Horror” seasons have been so dreary that we’ve fled
quickly; this one is different. The setting is a “freak show” in 1952 Florida.
In silent (mostly) background roles, actors range from Jyoti Amge (20 years
old, 2-foot, ¾ inch) to Erika Ervin, 6-foot-8; in the front is a relentless, would-be
star (Jessica Lange).

Ryan Murphy, who co-wrote and directed, shows the fondness
for outsiders that propelled his “Normal Heart” and “Glee” Emmys; he also shows
his usual darkness. It’s a brutal hour, redeemed by stunning work from Murphy,
Lange, Grace Gummer and more, including Sarah Paulson in a superb double role.

Other choices include:

“Arrow” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. Just as his life is
becoming semi-normal, Oliver has a new arch-villain. He’s Count Vertigo, played
by Peter Stormare … who’s also in “Blacklist” as villainous Berlin.

“The Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. A quick ratings
success, this show keeps grabbing all the high-profile subjects. Tonight, that
includes politics, a sex scandal and the gaming world.

 “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). The delightful, three-week penguin series concludes
with a look at youths learning to head out to the sea on their own.

 “Nova,” 9 and 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Already planning a new “Why Planes Vanish” hour
at 9 p.m., this show has now added “Surviving Ebola” at 10.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Demoted to traffic duty, Amaro handles the case of a troubled starlet and is
brought back into the SVU. Soon, he’s investigating her bigger problems.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Putting together the wedding
video, Phil tries to edit out the proof that he spread the cold that has infected
everyone. Also, Manny’s football trouble creates a dilemma.

“Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Dre wants his son to have more
black friends. Also, Rainbow hopes their daughter will follow her path and be a
doctor; she takes her to work on the worst possible day.

“Chicago, PD,” 10 p.m., NBC. A hired assassin continues to
hunt Halstead. Police try to convince Bembenek (now in custody) to call it off,
with no success.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 7

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Flash” debut, 8 p.m., CW.

Barry Allen showed up in a couple “Arrow” episodes. As
played by Grant Gustin, 24, he was young, eager, a bit shy, wanting to do
something big in his life; now – thanks to science and lightning – he can.

He’s The Flash, the world’s fastest man. This hour has weak
spots, but also has great visuals, a likable star and some warmth, with John
Wesley Shipp (star of the 1990 “Flash”) as Barry’s imprisoned father.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Selfie,” 8 p.m., ABC.

After last week’s delightful debut, this show gets down to
its task.

Eliza Dooley (the superb Karen Gillan), an expert only on
social media, tries a real romance with co-worker Freddy. (Yes, the names and
attitude are borrowed from “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady.”) Henry, her advisor,
hesitantly tries Facebook. Both ventures promptly hit problems.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Finding Your Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Basil Biggs couldn’t escape the horrors of his era. A free black
man in the pre-war South, he moved to Pennsylvania; then the Battle of Gettysburg
destroyed his farm. Hired to lead tghe battlefield clean-up, he re-started his
farm and his veterinary practice and became wealthy.

That story fascinates his descendant, actress Anna Deavere
Smith. In a dandy hour, we also hear about the ancestors of filmmaker Ken Burns
and newsman Anderson Cooper. Some fought for the North, some for the South, one
(in the revolution) for the British; they ranged from slaveholders to Abraham

Other choices include:

“Family Guy,” 8-9 p.m., Fox. This is a quick rerun of the
show’s crossover episode, visiting “Simpsons” turf; it’s inserted here to patch
a hole: “Utopia” was dead-last among shows on a big-four network; now it will
be confined to Fridays. The Tuesday spots will have animation for two weeks,
baseball for two more and then “MasterChef Junior.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The spotlight shifts to David McCallum,
81, as Dr. “Ducky” Mallard.

“NCIS: New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Not taking any chances,
this ratings hit again borrows characters from “NCIS.” Dangerous prisoners have
escaped; the New Orleans guys need help from Gibbs and Vance.

“Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). For decades, movies
were made for and by men. “It’s easy to make a movie for men,” producer Judd
Apatow says here. “You just blow things up.” Then came twin trends – women as
writer-directors of niche films … and “Hunger Games” spawning a billion-dollar
franchise with a female action hero. This hour offers a fairly good history of
women in Hollywood

“Hotel Impossible” season-opener and “Resort Rescue” debut,
9 and 10 p.m., Travel. In Daytona Beach, the Streamline Hotel (birthplace of
NASCAR) had holes in the ceiling and “zero tolerance” on the sign; an overhaul
begins. Afterward, “Resort Rescue” (despite the title) eyes another hotel; it’s
a so-so hour, with some good moments … including when the owner’s father
interrupts diners for a long prayer.

“Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX. Jemma’s lie – saying it was
Chinese gangsters who killed Tara – has spawned fierce warfare. Now the Chinese
have attacked the ice cream shop and the brothel, leaving blood and bodies; Jax
is ready to respond. It’s a mess that this hour manages to clean up fairly well;
along the way, there are also some great moments for Annabeth Gish, as the new