TV column for Friday, Nov. 13


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Undateable,” 8 p.m., NBC.

In an era of slick
editing and effects, it's fun to catch NBC's passion for live shows –
“Saturday Night Live,” key “Voice” episodes, the so-so “Best
Time Ever” and the annual musicals, with “The Wiz” coming Dec.
3. And tonight happens to be especially lively.

First is
“Undateable,” a comedy set in a bar; like “SNL,” it's ragged
and erratic, but fun. Then switch to PBS at 9 p.m. for “Live at
Lincoln Center.” This edition (see next item) isn't really live –
despite the title – but is live on tape, which is close; it reminds
us of the joy and difficulty of live theater.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Back in 1930, George
Kaufman had already written 20 Broadway shows, including Marx
Brothers classics and “The Front Page”; Moss Hart, 25, had
written one show, which quickly died out-of-town.

Hart, still
impoverished, visited Kaufman's penthouse; a Pulitzer-winning
partnership was starting. That was recounted in Hart's “Act One”
memoir, which was adapted for the stage by James Lapine. It bogs down
a bit in the second half, but is beautifully staged. Tony Shalhoub
and Andrea Martin skillfully juggle multiple roles, while Santino
Fontana captures the appealing idealism of youth and theater.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Breakthrough,” 4 and 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., National
Geographic.

This six-part
documentary series is Geographic at its best – top people making
perrsonal films about big subjects. Before the third hour – movie
director Brett Ratner looks at brain research, at 9 p.m. Sunday –
here are reruns of the first two.

At 4 p.m., Peter
Berg views efforts to stop pandemics; that includes a moving account
by an Ebola survivor. At 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., ambitious, Paul Giamatti
sees how robotics have gone from sci-fi silliness to real life. In an
intriguing segment, a paraplegic uses his brain to move his bionic
legs.

Other choices
include:

“W/Bob &
David,” anytime, Netflix. Two decades ago, Bob Odenkirk and David
Cross created brilliant sketch comedy in HBO's “Mr. Show.” They
went on to separate fame with “Better Call Saul” and “Arrested
Development,” respectively, but now they've linked for fresh
sketches.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last year, at 12, Logan Guleff became the
show's second champion. Now he's back to give advice. Also,
contestants create cupcake frosting and a scallop dish.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's not always easy for sisters to work
together. Kristin asks Mandy to design the restaurant uniforms ...
then balks at Mandy's creative process. Meanwhile, their sister Eve
wants her annoying friend Cammy to move in with the family for a
while.

“It's a Mad, Mad,
Mad, Mad World” (1963), 8-11 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This
sprawling comedy has people chasing after missing money. It's uneven,
but a chance to re-visit some greats – Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar,
Mickey Rooney, Edie Adams, Jonathan Winters, Jimmy Durante and more.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Back in 1994, Margaret Cho starred in “All-American
Girl”; its failure, she implied later, came because ABC was hung up
on ethnic stereotypes. It would take 21 years before the network
launched another comedy with a Korean-American star (Ken Jeong).
Tonight, she guests as his sister, a more-successful doctor; when she
invites him on his talk show, his jealousy overflows.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Two familiar TV people have guest roles. Julie Benz
(“Dexter,” “Defiance”) plays a San Francisco cop, probing the
murder of five Chinese arms dealers. Kristoffer Polaha (“Live
Unexpected,” “Backstrom”) plays a charming con man whose
partner was killed.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A serial killer threatens Danny's wife Linda and their
kids. Now Linda worries about the future of Danny's job and their
marriage.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

With sharp writing
and perfect performances, “Mom” had the rare ability to make even
bad news seem funny. Losing a job ... losing out on a custody weekend
with your son ... wrapping up a court-ordered penalty? All of that is
faced with wit and fun.

But is it funny to
meet someone who's been broken by addiction and abuse? Surprisingly,
yes. Christy and her mom attempt to seem casual, while hiding their
valuables. It's a great scene in a dandy episode.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“2 Broke Girls” season-opener, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

It's been an odd
roller-coaster for this comedy. After four years of not-bad ratings
on Mondays, it was put on the shelf (along with “Mike &
Molly”), slated as a mid-season replacement. Then the return came
quicker – and in a much better timeslot -- than anyone had
imagined.

CBS belatedly
realized that the so-so “Angel From Hell” -- slated for tonight –
would be the weak link in a great comedy night. “Angel” was
delayed to February, replaced by “Broke”: The government has
plans to bulldoze Han's diner and Max and Caroline's cupcake window;
people converge on City Hall.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway Junior” debut, 9 p.m., Lifetime,
rerunning at 10:02.

Right now, kids are
overrunning our reality shows. Last Friday, Fox started its
“MasterChef Junior” season; now this “Runway” variation has a
dozen designers, ages 13 to 17.

Tim Gunn will be the
grown-up in charge, alongside model Hannah Davis. The judges are
Kelly Osbourne, Aya Kana (editor of Cosmopolitan and Seventeen) and
Christian Siriano, who has proven young people can design. He was 22
when he won “Runway” (the real one) in 2006.

Other choices
include:

“The Notebook”
(2004) and “The Lucky One” (2012), 6 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. All
films based on Nicholas Sparks films were clearly not created equal.
“Notebook” is beautifully nuanced and deeply moving; “Lucky
One” leaves viewers shouting “Just tell her” and “I told you
so!”

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. There's heavy emotional pressure, as the team works on a
longtime patient. Meanwhile, Arizona is ready to date again; Bailey
wants Ben to throw out their new roommate.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon may be ready to sample the dating
world.

“Live in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. After several great episodes, this show had a lame
one last week. We'll hope it rebounds tonight, as baby Lark gets much
of the focus: Her parents try to hire a nanny; her grandfather makes
a wooden puppet that everyone seems to like ... except Lark.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. As the president negotiates a peace deal, Olivia learns
key information.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Both sides make progress in finding Liz, while Tom has a
setback in his effort to exonerate her.

“VH1 Big Music in
2015,” 9-11 p.m., VH1. Viewers have already been voting (by Twitter
and Instagram) for the VH1 Artist of the Year. We'll learn the winner
at the end of this concert; first, here's music by the nominated
groups (Hozier, X Ambassadors) and individuals – James Bay, George
Ezra, Ella Henderson, Tori Kelly, Elle King, Miguel, Rachel Platter
and Nate Ruess.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a role that requires perhaps 12 per cent of his immense
talent, John Noble (“Fringe”) plays Sherlock's unflinching dad
Morland. We met him briefly at the end of last week's season-opener,
when he offered to use his influence to get Sherlock's job back. The
Morland portions tonight are stiff and flat, but the mystery –
murder at a research lab – is a good one.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

By now, you'd assume
Lucious Lyon would be barely hanging on. He's been investigated,
imprisoned, investigated some more. His kin almost pulled a takeover,
then started their own record label. Still, he thinks of going
global; he huddles with Jago Locke (Patrick Mulvey), head of a
streaming company.

At the competing
Lyon Dynasty label, his ex-wife Cookie pushes to be part of a
televised fundraiser. Their son Hakeem works on developing his new
star Laura, played by the gifted Jamilia Valazquez.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

After being bumped
by the country-music awards last week (and overshadowed by the World
Series the week before that), ABC's strong Wednesday comedies can
frolic.

In this one, Phil
has some personal insecurities, while all three of his kids have
trouble. Luke is caught driving without a license, Alex is seen
leaving a liquor store and Haley and Dylan bump into her former
boyfriend Andy, who's with Beth. Also, Cam wants to market Gloria's
family's hot sauce.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Brain,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

From the beginning,
this fascinating hour says, most people have social instincts. One
test goves babies a show with nice and naughty puppets; afterward
each chooses to hold the nice one.

Some instincts
involve our face “mirroring” someone else's; tests show that
people whose faces are stiffened by Botox have trouble reading
others' expressions. And when social contact fails? One person
describes 400-plus days in solitary confinement; another describes a
lifetime of Asperger's syndrome ... and a test that seems to have
accidentally alleviated the problem.

Other choices
include:

“22 Jump Street”
(2014), 7:05 p.m., Starz, or “21 Jump Street” (2012), 7:30 p.m.,
FXX. You can choose between the sequel or the original ... which is
lots of fun. The original even has a dandy visit by Johnny Depp as
Tom Hanson ... a role he originated on TV, 28 years ago.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. This week the show has a third night, with results for the
top 20.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie's big plans for the Homecoming tailgate go astray
when her mother joins the party. Also, Axl is sick, so Brick is the
big hope for the tailgate contest.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. These rage all the way from the innovative “Easy Rider”
(1969) on Sundance to the warmly moving “Notebook” (2004) on ABC
Family. There's the youth-favorite “Karate Kid” (1984) on AMC and
Ben Affleck's intense and praised “The Town” (2010) on TNT.

“Nova: Making
North America,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In the middle
of Kansas, a zillion miles from big water, scientists point to a
fossil of a 14-foot fish. It all goes back to the era when a
mega-lake ruptured the continent. And it's part of an intriguing
history that makes mid-America the ground zero for dinosaurs.

"Strange Inheritance" season-opener, 9-11 p.m. ET, Fox Business Network. Here are real-life stories of people who inherited George Washington's wallet, a gold mine and, apparently, the only autographed photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Then there's tonight's opening half-hour -- the instant inheritance of 240 military vehicles.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. After injuring other people and herself, a woman can't
remember what happened. Also, an illegal immigrant's son is diagnosed
with cystic fibrosis.

“Men Women Wild”
debut, 10:02 p.m., Discovery. Nothing stirs (or shatters) romance
like a crisis in the wild. Survivalist couples are dumped into scary
places – snakes and snow and such – for 21 days.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 10


TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: “Debt of Honor,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the Revolutionary
War, this film says, 42 percent of wounded Americans died; in
Afghanistan, it was 9 per cent. Our ability to save soldiers' lives
has soared; our ability to deal with the aftermath has not.

Ric Burns' film
juggles history, analysis and compelling stories. Tammy Duckworth
(now in Congress) tried to operate her helicopter, unaware her legs
were gone. J.R. Martinez, now a “Dancing With the Stars”
champion, endured five minutes in a burning tank.Thomas Lynch, an
undertaker and poet, describes his dad and another
machine-gunnermkilling 250 men one brutal World War II night.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

It's time for
another international adventure. Tony andMcGee rush to Sudan on a
murder-kidnapping investigation, after insurgents have attacked
olunteer doctors.

That links Tony with
Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson), a former girlfriend whose husband
was one of the doctors attacked. Also, Jon Cryer is back as Gibbs'
eccentric doctor.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Grandfathered,” 8 p.m., Fox.

It can be tricky
turf, when two people seem to have nothing in common except having
created a child. In a fairly good episode tonight, that's visited in
two generations.

Jimmy (John Stamos)
– who, at 50, still obsesses on young women – turns to Sara
(Paget Brewster) for dating advice; things get acerbic at times.
Their son Gerald (Josh Peck) is still in love with Vanessa (Christina
Milian), the mother of his child; her idea of a just-sex relationship
draws mixed emotions.

Other choices
include:

“Iwo Jima: From
Combat to Comrades,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). For five
wretched weeks, this film says, a tiny (eight-square-mile) island saw
a hellish collision. Some 22,000 Japanese soldiers were deep in
tunnels, vowing to die before surrendering; 70,000-plus American
attacked. Remarkably, some survivors have found peace; on the eve of
Veterans Day, this emotional film traces Americans (plus a handful of
Japanese), meeting on the island for the battle's 70th
anniversary.

“The Muppets,” 8
p.m., ABC. Kermit the Frog trying yoga? Well, his limbs do seem
flexible and his soul – working with his ex-love Miss Piggy –
seems stressed. At a retreat, he meets an equally stressed Jason
Bateman. Meanwhile, Scooter is left in charge of Piggy's show.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8:30, ABC. Eddie is turning 12 now – not quite a
teen-ager, but close enough to be ominous. He even breaks a family
tradition by planning a separate birthday party at the mall.

“The Grinder,”
8:30 p.m., Fox. Back in their school days, Stewart (Fred Savage) was
on the tech crew for the play; Dean (Rob Lowe), of course, was a
star. Now – when his son auditions for an acting role – Stewart
frets about whom the kid emulates.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Pride (Scott Bakula) and Sonja (Shalita
Grant) must become action heroes. Escorting a key witness, they're
attacked and on the run.

“The Kennedy
Files” debut, 9 p.m. ET, Reelz, rerunning at midnight. This series
opens with a portrait of John Kennedy Jr. As part of the channel's
Kennedy obsession this month, that's sandwiched by reruns of two
assassinaton documentaries (6-9 p.m. ET) and “Jackie: Behind Closed
Doors” (10 p.m.).

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. After the second night of performances from the “Voice”
top 20 (with the results Wednesday), here's a busy hour. A blaze has
ruined wedding plans, so Boden volunteers to host the ceremony at the
station. Chief Riddle disapproves of that ... and of Dawson
returning.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Agent X” debut, 9
and 10 p.m.,
TNT.

Cable
has plenty of her
oes
who are
flawed or wobbly or anti- or such.
Now
it adds
an old-school hero (Jeff
Hephner).
Strong,
smart and sturdy,
he's a
secret agent in the Bond caliber.

No
one knows he exists, except for his boss the new vice-president
(Sharon Stone) and her know-it-all aide
(Gerald
McRaney).
In a sharp start, he faces a
worthy opponent
(Olga Fonda).

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “
The Good Wife,” 9:30
p.m., CBS.

Christine
Lahti's superb acting career has included six Emmy nominations (and
one win) plus an Oscar nomination. Now she plays the lawyer for a
tech firm that fired
a man
who flunked a polygraph
test.

Meanwhile,
Peter's presidental campaign could bring collateral damage: His
former advisor Eli is ready to plant a story that would hurt Peter
... but would also damage Alicia.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Home Fires” series finale, 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

After
a quiet start, this series has been packed with strong stories. Even
if you've missed the first five weeks, you could still catch an
excellent finish.

In
1939, some English villagers have gone to war. One wife copes with
running the farm, another with running the church; the butcher's wife
fears for her son. The doctor is gravely ill; one daughter is widowed
and the other is having an affair. There's an abusive husband, a
bookkeeper forced to help a profiteer and more, including a
conscientious objector,
in stories told
with subtlety and skill.

Other
choices include:

Fairy
tales,
ABC Family and ABC. The two
sister channels are
on similar turf
tonight. ABC Family has a dandy double-feature of new and old --
“Tangled” (2010) at
6 p.m. and “
Sleeping Beauty” (1959)
at 8:10. ABC counters with “Once
Upon a Time”
at 8;
our heroes boldly try to slip
into
King Arthur's
castle to swipe his
broken Excalibur
sword.

Football
preview, 7 p.m.
ET,
and kick-off, 8:30, NBC. Before the
season started, this seemed like a big one – the Eagles (10-6 last
season) at the Cowboys (12-4). Alas, the Eagles are 3-4 this season;
the Cowboys have a 2-5 record and an injured quarterback, Tony Romo.

The
Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m., Fox. After a baseball break last week,
here's a rerun – the Simpsons on the home planet of Kang and Kodo –
and
then a
new episode, with Lisa having a rich friend.

The
Librarians,” 8 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 11:01. This global adventure
should fit neatly alongside “Agent X.” Tonight, an oil-rig
disaster reveals a shape-shifting monster (no, not an oil executive)
that grows whenever a lie is told. Let's hope it doesn't
hear
any of the debates.

Masterpiece:
Indian Summers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This lush
miniseries, which had such a promising start, is sliding into dark
melodrama. Last week we learned that Ralph (the viceroy's top aide)
is Adam's father. Tonight, after Adam's mother's body is found,
there's a rush to judgement.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m. Fox, and “Getting On” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
HBO. The terrific Mel Rodriguez now has back-to-back shows. On Fox,
he's Todd, facing a power problem. On HBO, he's Patsy; tonight, Dr.
James meets her replacement.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. An explosive mid-term exam sees some of the FBI
students sent home. Flashing forward, Alex is wondering if there's
anyone she can trust.