TV column for Saturday, Nov. 9



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Miss Universe” pageant, 9-11 p.m.,
NBC.

A bastion of capitalism – owned by Donald Trump, no less –
visits Moscow tonight.


Lots of Americans will be there including Olivia Culp, the
current Miss Universe. Steven Tyler (also a judge) and Panic at the Disco
perform; Thomas Roberts of MSNBC hosts, alongside England’s Mel B.


Also performing will be Emin, who has roots nearby: He was
born in Azerbaijan,where his wife’s father is president. Still, Emin is closer
to the Trump type: The son of a real-estate mogul, he studied business at New
York University and started a Madison Avenue shoe store.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Football, everywhere.


Nick Saban’s past and present collide, when Louisiana State
visits Alabama, at 8 p.m. on CBS. LSU, ranked No. 13, won a national title
under Saban; Alabama (No. 1) has won three with him so far.


That’s on a night when three of the big-four networks have
football. At 7 p.m., Fox has Texas at West Virginia; at 8, ABC has Notre Dame
at Pittsburgh.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Thundermans,” 6, 9 and 9:30
p.m., Nickelodeon.


Let’s not give any points for originality: This show clones
Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” (likable teen girl in a family with secret
powers) to an extreme. It copies the casting of a gorgeous Latina mom and
chunky white dad, then varies slightly be adding a twin brother who aspires to
be a supervillain.


At least, “Wizards” is a good show to copy, with lots of
sight gags. In the rerun at 6 and 9:30, the twins battle each other with pranks;
in the new episode at 9, Phoebe has a crush on the guy coming to dinner.


Other choices include:


“Dirty Dancing” (1987) and “Grease” (1978), 6:30 and 9 p.m.,
ABC Family. Music, romance and nifty dance moves fill these two popular films.
The first is richly crafted; the second is OK.


“Saturday Night Live,” 8 and 11:29 p.m., NBC. Two reruns air
tonight – a trimmed-down one and then one with Miley Cyrus doubling as host and
music guest. That one starts cleverly (old Miley warns new Miley not to do the
Video Music Awards), goes downhill (a mock music video with Republican congresspeople
is crude and witless), then recovers. And yes, Cyrus sings well.


“A Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Dolly Parton has
a supporting role here. Desiree Ross plays a biracial Appalachian girl who
defies her mother by entering a Dollywood singing contest.


“Dancing on the Edge,” 9 p.m., Starz. Last week saw friends
celebrate as Jessie recovered from a brutal attack; then came the quick
reversal and her death. Now the band she sang for plays at her funeral. Its
leader – still convinced he saw young Julian near the murder scene – becomes a
prime suspect. Trouble builds, propelling this stylish, 1930s mini-series to
next week’s finale.


“Torchwood: Miracle Day,” 9 p.m., BBC America. In the
second-to-last episode of this mini-series rerun, the world plunges into recession,
the team is on the run and Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) switches sides.


TV column for Friday, Nov. 8



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

For a splendid moment in 1970, immense talent converged.
George Furth wrote great comedy; Stephen Sondheim wrote songs that rippled with
brilliance. “Company” won five Tonys, including best musical.


Now here’s a masterful revival, perfectly cast and staged.
Neil Patrick Harris is Bobby, 35 and single, surrounded by 13 friends and lovers.
The scenes about marriage are good; others are great.


Catch Christina Hendricks as a ditz, Anika Noni Rose leading
“Another Hundred People”; hear Patti LuPone’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” and Katie
Finneran’s “Getting Married Today.” It’s great television.   


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.


This clever comedy has found a way to link with “Shark Tank,”
the show it precedes.


Debby figures she has the perfect product – a purse that
doubles as a secret wine flask. She gets on the show – most of the real
“sharks” are there – with hilarious results. Also, Marty meets his videogame
nemesis and – on this Disney-owned network – Abby does a wild take-off to a classic
Disney song.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “JFK: The Final Hours,” 8-10 p.m.,
National Geographic.


John Kennedy’s schedule was hopelessly packed. He raced from
San Antonio to Houston to Dallas; he kept adding new stops, kept plunging into
the crowd. He was so tired at the hotel that he didn’t notice he was sleeping
next to a Van Gogh original. The next morning, he went to a breakfast alone …
then (through aides) quietly insisted his wife show up.


Moments like this are beautifully told by people who were
there … including narrator Bill Paxton, who was then 8. The result starts a
busy stretch, leading to Nov. 22, the 50
th anniversary of Kennedy’s
death.


Other choices include:


“MasterChef Junior” finale, 8 p.m., Fox. The finalists – Dara,
12, and Alexander, 13 – will prepare a three-course dinner. Then one will be
named the best young chef in America.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When a snowstorm hits, Eve
is ready for big money with her annual snow-shoveling business. Her neighbor
beats her to it, leading her dad to offer a lesson in capitalism.


“Pete’s Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. Repeating Christmas
day after day? This flat film comes across as a bad copy of “Groundhog Day” and
Jay Mohr’s 2006 “Christmas Do-Over.”


“Sleepy Hollow,” 9 p.m,, Fox. Here’s a rerun of Monday’s
episode. Midway through what was already a good hour, it brought in John Noble
(the brilliant “Fringe” star) for a great seen as the “Sin Eater.”


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This is tough police work:
While doing an undercover investigation, McGarrett must watch the baby newly
adopted by his sister (Taryn Manning).


“The Lylas” debut, 9 p.m., WE, rerunning at 10. There’s
potential in the portrait of four sisters (talented and, mostly, beautiful) launching
their singing group. Still, the opener has too much weeping, some of it
transplanted (jumping forward to their mothers’ death) and some overwrought.
One sister weeps about leaving kids behind; all claim it’s a hurdle to be Bruno
Mars’ sisters. We’ll hold our sympathy for that.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny investigates the murder
of a Wall Street trader with a gambling problem. His dad, the police commissioner,
is in the midst of a probe of excessive force.


TV column for Thursday, Nov. 7



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Bob Newhart’s first “Big Bang” was a gem. CBS ran it three
times and Newhart won his first Emmy at 83.


Now he’s back, again as TV’s former Professor Proton. When
he asks Leonard for advice, Sheldon gets jealous, retaliating by turning to
TV’s Bill Nye, the science guy.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Voice” (NBC) or “The X Factor”
(Fox), 8 p.m.


“X Factor” is now the third show to have to adjust voting
because of a graphics mistake onscreen. (Previously, similar glitches hit “American
Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars.”


Tonight, all 13 people will re-do their “save me” songs and
viewers will re-vote, with results announced next Wednesday. Also tonight, “Voice”
has a transplanted results hour.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Pandora’s Promise,” 9-11 p.m., CNN.


For years, documentaries have shown the dangers of nuclear
power. Here’s a jolt in the other direction.


We may have gone too far, it says. One wretchedly designed
Soviet facility (Chernobyl) may have frightened us away from our best hope for
clean energy. With industrialization racing around the globe, wind and solar
power can’t keep up. And besides, many people quickly returned to Chernobyl.


Director Robert Stone starts with the human factor – major
eco-activists who have switched to pro-nuke – and then layers in the numbers.
At the least, this will stir interesting arguments.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Returned,” 9-10:15 p.m., Sundance.


Who would have guessed that one of the year’s best shows
would be a French mini-series (with English sub-titles) about the return of the
dead? Beautifully shot and subtly acted, this is a marvel.


In last week’s opener, teen Camille walked into her home, unaware
that she’d died four years earlier. As her parents avoid attention tonight, we
see this is no isolated case.


Other choices:


“Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. After going a month without a new episode,
“Glee” is back and asking its characters the semi-crucial question: Is your
music closer to Katy Perry or Lady Gaga? Also, there are top guest stars.  Demi Lovato shows up, right after her regular
“X Factor” duties; Adam Lambert plays Starchild, a flashy singer who is
auditioning for Kurt’s new group.


 “Grey’s Anatomy,” 9
p.m., ABC. The simmering troubles between former best friends Meredith and
Cristina peaks with a betrayal. Also, April and Matthew make a key decision.


 “The Crazy Ones,” 9
p.m., CBS. Josh Groban plays someone with a stalker-type song about Sydney.


 “The Michael J. Fox
Show,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. As Mike prepares to interview Gov. Chris Christie, he’s
distracted by his sister temporarily moving into the apartment.


“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Rhys Ifans, who was The Lizard
in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” returns to his role as Sherlock’s brother. He
needs help with a case that has a personal connection.


TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 6



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The X Factor,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

With no more World Series to fret about, “X Factor” is back
and in its prime. Its final 12 acts perform tonight; viewers vote and two will
be ousted Thursday.


The show could prosper now … except it will keep colliding
with more music. Tonight, it faces the country-music awards; on Thursday, its results
face the transplanted “Voice” results.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Country Music Association awards,
8-11 p.m., ABC.


Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host and join a long list
of performers. It includes Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Kacey
Musgraves, Lady Antebellum, the Band Perry and Florida Georgia Line.


Then there are the collaborations – Keith Urban with Miranda
Lambert, Hunter Hayes with Jason Mraz, the Zac Brown Band with Dave Grohl of the
Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. One tribute (for the
late George Jones) has Tim McGraw and George Strait; another (Kenny Rogers,
getting a lifetime award) has Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker and Rascal
Flatts.


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


For some, seduction is a long and lonely road. A male polar
bear spends weeks finding a female, then must romp up and down a hill, to prove
his physical worth.


For others, it’s overload. Surrounded by thousands of choices,
a flamingo tries to find his perfect match.


Those scenes and many more are in this beautifully filmed
hour. We see blue-footed boobies concoct seduction dances; we see a silverback
gorilla fake an affair, to arouse the jealousy of the desired mate. We see lust
and pride at work in the wild.


Other choices include:


“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Miles and his colleagues are
stuck in Willoughby, at a time of parental troubles. It’s Jason with the dad who
once disowned him, Charlie with the mom she barely knew.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Here’s
a key guest role for Billy Porter, who won this year’s Tony for best actor in a
musical (“Kinky Boots”). He plays a popular music teacher and reality-show
mentor, accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old.


“Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A race car that
drives itself? David Pogue reluctantly rides in one, in “Making Stuff Safer.” The
car is an attempt to copy the habits of top drivers. We also see scientists
trying to protect us from earthquakes, terrorist attacks, sports injuries and
more.


“Dateline,” 10 p.m., NBC. For now, this will take over the
abandoned “Ironside” slot.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. An
unidentified body has been found during a fierce storm. Also, Greg Sanders is
accused of framing a man for murder seven years ago.


“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FXX. In an
extra-early Thanksgiving episode, the gang invites its enemies – it’s made many
– for the holiday.


TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 5



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.


Beating TV’s long odds, Damon Wayans Jr. did two pilot films
and both were picked up. “Happy Endings” had first call, so he had to leave
“New Girl” after one episode.


Now “Endings” has ended and he’s back for several episodes.
He breezes in, ready to party like the old days, but things have changed: Nick
is with Jess, but can’t admit she’s his girlfriend. The result is fast and
funny … especially when the perfect guy (Taye Diggs) wedges into Jess’ life and
her bedroom.


TONIGHT’S MUST-TAPE: “The Goldbergs,” 9 p.m., ABC.


In TV’s perverse nature, two funny episodes are at the same
time.


This one finds Adam’s sister (the smart one) with a flawless
plan for lying to their parents, complete with cover stories. His brother (the other
one) wants to copy that, now that he has a driver’s license, but lacks the cunning.
The result builds (while their dad obsesses on the World Series), bringing big
laughs.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


Jimi Hendrix blazed to the top and died at 27; still, friends
say, this was no cliché rock star. He was “kind, considerate and fun,” one
says. He was “quiet and conservative,” another says. “When he wasn’t playing,
he was desperately insecure.”


He was a paratrooper whose Army career ended when he broke
his ankle on his 25
th jump. Then he merged blues and psychedelic
rock. Paul McCartney describes being dazzled by Hendrix in a small club, then
recommending him to the Monterey rock fest. Laced with great music, this is
richly entertaining.


Other choices include:


“The African Americans,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
While their masters slept on shore, Robert Smalls and other slaves stole the
ship they worked on; they navigated past Confederate forts and gave everything –
ship, weapons, secret documents – to the Union. This hour describes other
triumphant slaves, including Ben Montgomery; after the war, he bought the
boyhood farm of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, and thrived. It
also tells of the new segregation that then scorched the South.  


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. With Gibbs helping his dad, Tony and
McGee each want to be in charge.


“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951, 8 p.m., Turner Classic
Movies). Tennessee Williams’ searing words are performed brilliantly by Marlon
Brando, Vivien Leigh and more.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a train-yard
security man points to a terrorist threat.


“The Voice,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. This wraps up a two-night
stretch with the top 20 singers performing live. For the results, the show will
borrow the vacant hour at 8 p.m. Thursday.


“Face Off” finale, 9 p.m., Syfy. The finalists  design a swan and a sorcerer for “Swan Lake.”


“Doomsday Preppers,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. An Arizona
man builds a 140-foot escape tunnel, hiding its entrance because “secrecy is
important.” The secrets might be sturdier, of course, if he didn’t show them on
national TV.


 “In the Spotlight,”
10 p.m., ABC. On the eve of the Country Music Association awards, Robin Roberts
visits new stars (Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean) and a returning one (Shania Twain).
She also visits ABC’s “Nashville” and (aided by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton)
counts down the top five country duets.