TV column for Thursday, Nov. 12

“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.

“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

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.

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

“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

“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

“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

“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.

“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

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.

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

“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

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.

“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.

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

“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

“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

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 8

“Agent X” debut, 9
and 10 p.m.,

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

one knows he exists, except for his boss the new vice-president
(Sharon Stone) and her know-it-all aide
In a sharp start, he faces a
worthy opponent
(Olga Fonda).

The Good Wife,” 9:30
p.m., CBS.

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

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.

ALTERNATIVE: “Home Fires” series finale, 8 p.m., PBS (check local

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.

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.

choices include:

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
King Arthur's
castle to swipe his
broken Excalibur

preview, 7 p.m.
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.

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 –
then a
new episode, with Lisa having a rich friend.

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
any of the debates.

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.

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.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 7

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Like lovers in a bad
movie, NBC and Donald Trump hit all the extremes. The network fired
him from “Celebrity Apprentice” and dumped the beauty pageants
(Miss USA, Miss Universe) it co-owned with him. “SNL” mocks him a
little; Seth Meyers (12:37 a.m. weekdays) mocks him a lot.

Still, Trump draws
big ratings. Here's his first turn as “SNL” host; Sia is the
music guest.

II: Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS.

After way too many
mismatches, Louisiana State (ranked No. 2) visits Alabama (No. 4).

That overshadows the
other network games. At 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox, Washington (4-4, but
fresh from a 49-3 pounding of Arizona) hosts No. 12 Utah; at 8 on
ABC, Minnesota (4-4 after a loss by inches to Michigan under its
interim coach) visits No. 3 Ohio State. And there's much more, on

ALTERNATIVE: “Jackie: Behind Closed Doors,” 9-11 p.m. ET, Reelz.

Back in 2011, this
obscure channel drew an audience when it took over “The Kennedys,”
a mini-series that others had abandoned. Now, four years later, it
has a Kennedy-stuffed month.

That starts today
with reruns of assassination documentaries (one offering a bizarre
theory) from noon to 3 p.m. ET. The “Jackie” documentary debuts
tonight and a “Kennedy Files” series will be 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Also, the mini-series reruns Nov. 16-19 (9-11 a.m. ET) and Nov. 21-22
(noon to 4 p.m. ET).

Other choices

Movies, 6 p.m. and
beyond, cable. A great movie night starts with “Jerry Maguire”
(1996) at 6 p.m. on CMT. At 7, FX has Tom Hanks in the true-life
“Captain Phillips” (2013). At 8 p.m., IFC has the fun
“Ghostbusters” (1984) and CNN has a quietly moving Glen Campbell
documentary (2014). And at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has Sally
Field's Oscar-winning role in “Norma Rae” (1979).

“Dr. Dee: Alaska
Vet” debut, 8 p.m., Animal Planet; reruns at 11:04. Dee Fornell
spends some of her time in a modern veterinary clinic in Fairbanks, a
city of 30,000. At other times, however, she's fluing her plane to
remote places. This opener includes a trip above the Arctic Circle.

“Tangled” (2010)
and “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), 8 and 10:10 p.m., ABC Family. Fairy
tales get new and old spins. These also air Sunday at 6 and 8:10.

“Da Vinci's
Demons.” 8 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10. Usually terrific, “Demons”
has an off-night, falling into TV's current obsession with torture.
It starts and ends its hour that way; in between, Leonardo --
enraged after seeing Turks kill his father – tries to align with
his enemies in the Vatican.

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:30, 11 and 11:30. Buckets of
blood seem to flow through this second episode. (Bruce Campbell, the
star, says at one point he was blinded by spouting fake blood; you'll
believe that tonight.) Still, this show's jaunty style and occasional
humor keeps us watching. Tonight, one of Ash's hardware-store
co-workers races to protect her mother.

“Dr. Who,” 9
p.m. ET, BBC America. The British, with other troubles, now face
shape-shifting Zygons.

“Legends,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. The Isley Brothers perform at the

“Marie” (1985),
10:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. For Fred Thompson, who died of
lymphoma Sunday at 73, this was a career switch. He was a lawyer who
played himself in this movie ... then became an actor ... then, for
eight years, a U.S. senator ... then an actor and presidential