TV column for Sunday, Feb. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Grammy awards, 8-11:30 p.m. ET, CBS (5 p.m. PT, rerunning at 8:30).

James Corden will
host, surrounded by music's best. He'll perform; so will Adele, Bruno
Mars, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Metallica, Kelsea Ballerini,
Lukas Graham, Chance the Rapper and more.

And yes, there will
be the “Grammy moment” combinations viewers love. It's new star
Maren Morris with Alicia Keys, The Weeknd with Daft Punk, John Legend
with Cynthia Ervo, Anderson Paak joining A Tribe Called Quest.
Several people will link for tributes to Prince and George Michael.
And a “Saturday Night Fever” tribute will have Demi Lovato, Andra
Day, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Walking Dead” return, 9 p.m. AMC, rerunning at 11:12
p.m.

This season started
with brutal murders by The Saviors. (If you must relive that, the
entire season reruns today, starting at 11:20 a.m.) Now Rick wants to
attack the Saviors – if he gets more manpower.

That might come from
Gregory and The Hilltop ... or Ezekiel and The Kingdom. This is a
strong, if mixed, hour. One scene, involving two vehicles and a
zombie horde, reaches a peak in sheer mayhem.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season-openers, cable.

First, “Missing”
(8 p.m., Starz) follows the new notion of a sorta-series, with new
stories under an umbrella title. This time, a young woman says she's
the girl who disappeared 11 years ago. Two gifted British stars,
Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey, play her parents.

Then “Girls” (10
p.m., HBO) starts the final season of a sometimes-brilliant, six-year
run. Hannah has surrounded herself with overthinkers; now she falls
for an uncomplicated surfing instructor.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Mercy Street,” 8 p.m., PBS.
At its best, this
is first-rate. Two Virginia sisters are pushed in opposite directions
by the Civil War. A doctor (two-time Tony-winner Norbert Leo Butz) is
strong at everything ... except books and tests.

And at its worst?
The new commander is cartoonish. And tonight centers on a “surprise”
that viewers will detect in 4-5 seconds, tops.

Other choices
include:

Grammy previews, 4
p.m. ET, E; 6 and 7 p.m., Fuse. Also, red-carpet coverage is 6-8 p.m.
on E and 7:30-8 on CBS ... trimming “60 Minutes” to 30 minutes.
And E has a post-Grammy show at 11:30.

“Not So
Valentine's Special,” 7 p.m.. Nickelodeon. Here's a notion that
worked at Christmas – assemble Nick stars for a holiday story.
These ae people from “Henry Danger” (Jace Norman), “School of
Rock” (Breanna Yde), “The Thundermans” (Kira Kosarin, Jack
Griffo) and “Nicky, Ricky, Dick & Dawn” (Lizzy Greene,Casey
Simpson). They find an evil cupid, determined to destroy the holiday.

“The Blind Side”
(2009), ABC, or “Fast & Furious 6” (2013), NBC, both 8-11
p.m. It's tough to compete with the Grammys and “Walking Dead,”
so two networks simply rerun popular movies.

“Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 9 p.m., PBS. Last week, after some bureaucratic detours,
teenaged Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Tonight finds them in
love and in lust ... but also finds him frustrated by his lack of a
function. Some storylines remain so-so, but this one develops
strongly.

“The Weapon
Hunter” season-opener, 9 p.m., Smithsonian. When convoys were being
ambushed in Vietnam, soldiers created their own “gun trucks.”
Here, host Paul Shull works with them to re-create one ... and to
re-create an attack. The show is mildly interesting, but the vets are
instantly likable.

“Black Sails,”
9:01 p.m., rerunning at 11:03, Starz. Last week's episode (rerunning
at 11 a.m.) found pirates and peril. Edward Teach (the future
Blackbeard) was blockading the port, determined to kill Eleanor ...
whose husband Rogers was taking a fast ship, hoping to reach her
wealthy grandfather. And John Silver (the future Long John) barely
escaped capture from Max. Now the battles continue.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Alec Baldwin hosts
tonight ... which does seem kind of redundant. The guy has been on 10
of the 13 shows this season, each time with his glowering portrayal
of Donald Trump.

By rough count, he's
hosted 15 times and shown up a dozen other times, not counting the
Trump spree. He's been Tony Bennett, Rick Perry, Saddam Hussein and
Pope John Paul. He's introduced Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Tina
Turner, Luciano Pavarotti and more; tonight, it's Ed Sheeran.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“24: Legacy,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

In a late change,
Fox has decided not to rerun “APB” tonight. That lets it air both
“24 episodes,” which gets viewers ready for the third one, at 8
p.m. Monday.

That's a good idea
... with one catch: The first episode (airing after the Super Bowl)
reminded us how good “24” can be; it was sleek, taut and
exciting. The second reminded us how absurd it can be: Needing $2
million in an hour, our hero somehow decided to rob the police
evidence room.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Hard Day's Night” (1964), 10 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies.

Long before “Buddy
Holly Story” and “Straight Outta Compton” and such, the
standard was simple: Rock-music movies were usually clumsy and
stupid. Then came “Hard Day's Night”; it had no real plot, but
Richard Lester's direction perfectly matched the sheer joy of the
Beatles music.

Now that leads a
great movie night. At 8 p.m., youcan catch “Avatar” (2009) on
Syfy ... or “Bourne Identity” (2002) on TNT ... or the first
“Lord of the Rings” movie (2001) on FXX.

Other choices
include:

“The Walking
Dead,” all day, AMC. At 9 p.m. Sunday, “Dead” will return for
the second half of this seventh season. First, this marathon brings
us there. That starts at 1 a.m. today, with the fifth-season opener;
the sixth-season opener is 5:45 p.m. today, the seventh is 11:20 a.m.
Sunday.

“Ransom.” 8
p.m., CBS. A French couple had hired a surrogate to have a baby. Now
the surrogate – who needs quick medical help – has been kidnapped
and Eric is brought in to negotiate.

Basketball, 8:30
p.m. ET, ABC, with preview at 8. Kevin Durant faces his old team. His
Golden State Warriors, with pro basketball's best record, visit
Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 p.m., CNN (barring breaking news). Here's a quick rerun
of Thursday's opener, which viewed the perilous relationship between
comedy and censorship. This documentary series is stuffed with quick
clips and commentary; next week, it views women in comedy.

“Pete Holmes:
Faces and Sounds,” 9:50 p.m., HBO. Next weekend, HBO will debut
“Crashing,” loosely based on Holmes' early days as a comedian.
First, here's a rerun of his stand-up hour.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. John Amos has ranged from
early classics (“Roots,” “Good Times”) to recurring roles in
“West Wing,” “Men in Trees” and more; here's a view of him at
77. Also profiled are singers Gloria Gaynor, 67, whose “I Will
Survive” dominated the close of the 1970s; and Montell Jordan, 48,
now a worship minister in Georgia.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
11 p.m., Fox. In this rerun, each of the remaining chefs gets a
chance to run the kitchen ... but their supervisors try to trick them
into errors.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Gershwin Prize,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

When he was growing
up in Detroit, Smokey Robinson tells the audience, “there was music
in my house every day, all day long.” There was blues, jazz, pop
and more; all blended into his writing.

Robinson wrote his
own hits and some of the best songs -- “My Guy,” “My Girl,”
“Get Ready” -- for other Motown acts. And now we hear his music
done by modern talent. It's a splendid night, with great moments from
Aloe Blacc, Esperanza Spalding, Ledisi, JoJo, BeBe Winans and Corinne
Bailey Rae.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Reign” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

As the final season
begins, this island has two queens and many schemes. Elizabeth rules
England and is heralded by Protestants; Mary has Scotland and the
Catholics. Still in her early 20s, Mary is also thw widow of France's
king and is (some feel) a threat to Elizabeth's throne. It's a
complicated world.

Now Mary tests the
loyalty of her brother James. Also, both sides ponder a marriage to
the powerful Lord Darnley. This is complex material, handed to a cast
that tends to be merely adequate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

It's time for a
witch hunt ... literally. The Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio, in a role
that requires perhaps 12 percent of his talent) rounds up every girl
in the village. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Lucas have slipped Silvie –
with her mysterious, magical powers – away, trying to reach Glinda
(Joely Richardson).

Then there's the
glittery Lady Ev – now Queen Ev – and her tortured relationship
with Jack, who has so many prosthetics that he's sort of a tin man.
Yes, this is a wild re-imagining of “Wizard of Oz” ... so wild
that it's sometimes inpenetrable. At least the visuals are impressive
and tonight's ending is solid.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “John Lewis: Get in the Way,” 10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

At 23, Lewis was the
youngest speaker at the March on Washington; at 77, he's the senior
Georgia congressman. In between were endless strong stands – being
clubbed, sprayed and jailed for a cause.

This is a stirring
story – sturdy enough to overcome the film's style. In an approach
that's too common, there is no narration and little structure. But a
great story, even when poorly told, is worth catching.

Other choices
include:

“Be My Valentine,
Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Valentine,” 8-9 p.m., ABC.
One was written by Charles Schulz in 1975; the other was assembled in
2002, after his death, from his old comic strips. Both are low-key,
fairly amiable ... and dominated by romantic mix-ups and miscues.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Back in the late 1960s and early '70s, California's
“Zodiac Killer” killed at least five people, wounded two others
and claimed 37 murders. Those cases remain open; now Mac suspects
that the killer has returned.

“The Grapes of
Wrath” (1940). 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. John Steinbeck's
story of a family leaving the Dust Bowl is powerful in any era that
has working-class troubles and lives in transition. The American Film
Institute puts this at No. 23 of all time; there were seven Oscar
nominations (including best picture), with wins for director John
Ford and supporting actress Jane Darwell.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. Finally realizing where the talisman might be hidden,
the team races to find it. Returning to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod and
Jenny revisit key pieces of their past.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett and Danny are spending Valentine's Day with
their girlfriends, but the others have a murder to solve: The victim
was taking a class on how to land women.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. It's a night for moral dilemmas: Danny probes a man
(Robert Sean Leonard) suspected of killing a former drunken driver.
His sister Erin asks her investigator (Steve Schirripa) to wear a
wire in order to incriminate his old friend.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

Here is instant
variety. There's a California blonde from wine country, a burly
Mississippi guy who loves football and family. There are kids (ages
8-13) with roots in Peru, Jamaica, Mexico and Spain. There's Justise
(both parents ae cops) who says she has “my whole life planned out
for me.”

There are children
of privilege; also, there's someone who grew up with four siblings in
a trailer in Sweetwater. Texas. She needed a fundraiser to get here
... a fact that charms judge Gordon Ramsay; in Scotland, he needed a
charity to buy his first chef's uniform. Slick and likable, this is a
strong start.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Powerless,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

TV's biggest night
(in ad sales) has been flooded with new shows lately. Tonight has the
season-opener of “MasterChef Junior,” the third episode of
Riverdale, the second of “Training Day” and of this show.

Last week, Emily
(Vanessa Hudgens of “High School Musical”) was enthusiastic about
her new job, at a company that tries to protect folks from a messy
world of superheroes and supervillains. Now she has trouble being
both a boss and a friend to the workers. They're a fun bunch –
played by Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and Christina Kirk – but they
mostly obsess on the Fantasy Super Hero League.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 9 p.m., CW.

Archie Andrews' life
seemed sunny in the comics and cartoons. Now things keep turning
darker.

Last week, Cheryl –
the absurdly exaggerated villain – seemed to confess to her
brother's murder; now we learn what she meant. Archie wants to tell
police he heard a gunshot in the woods ... but doesn't want them to
know he was there romancing his music teacher. Mixed into this is a
new story about cyber-bullying. It is all very earnest and
well-filmed ... but overstuffed with soap-opera excess.

Other choices
include:

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Caught up in Valentine fervor, Amy and Glenn do some
botched matchmaking. Also, Jonah goes undercover to catch a serial
shoplifter.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When Sheldon is his most annoying, the guys
come up with the perfect distraction – tickets to a historic
railroad. Also, Raj and Stuart end up alone with the baby.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Jack (Joel McHale) clearly still has a
thing for Brooke. At her re-engagement party, he insults her fiance,
then keeps bumbling the apology.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. As Olivia and her colleagues scramble to uncover the plot
– including assassination – that led Cyrus to the presidency, he
faces a national crisis.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. This may be the perfect match for Bonnie (played by 6-foot
Allison Janney) – David James Elliott, the 6-foot-4 former “JAG”
star. He plays a handsome (and sober) stranger; Christy soon frets
that he'll ruin Bonnie's promising romance with Adam.

“Training Day,”
10 p.m., CBS. This show continues its tour of
foreigners-as-hideous-villains. Latinos loomed in the opener ...
Russians are coming next week, with Asians the week after that ...
and tonight, of course, are Arabs. A former menber of Mummar
Gaddafi's Amazonian complicates a kidnapping.

“Blacklist,” 10
p.m., NBC. Melora Hardin guests as a sophisticated crook targeting
Red's businesses.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 8


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

This has become an
ABC specialty – holiday episodes from each comedy. Tonight, six
days early, we get Valentine's Day tales, peaking with the
Emmy-winning “Modern Family.”

Elizabeth Banks and
Nathan Fillion are back as guest stars. Also returning is “Clive
Bixby,” the alter-ego Phil summons when trying to spice his
marriage. Meanwhile, Valentine complications include Manny's dating
indecisiveness and a secret admirer for Haley.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

The second “spy in
the wild” chapter studies animal intelligence. We see the use of
tools, both copied – oragnutans use soap and a saw – and
original. Tools are neatly crafted by crows, otters and more.

Most delightful is
the use of trickery. A squirrel pretends to hide a nut, then scampers
off with it while a thief searches futiley. A drongo sounds his alarm
so meerkats will disperse ... then steals their food; when they quit
falling for that, he starts mimicking their own alarm sound, with
renewed success.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Madiba,” 6-10 p.m., BET.

In last week's
opener (rerunning at 6 p.m.), viewers had to overlook the fact that
Laurence Fishburne, 55 and burly, doesn't remotely resemble Nelson
Mandela from ages 21 to 32. Once they got past that, they had an epic
story, filmed in South African by gifted actor-turned-director Kevin
Hooks.

That ended with
Mandela and his colleagues acquitted of treason, after a case that
lasted six years, including long chunks of prison time. He returned
home, where Winnie was expecting their second child. Tonight's
chapter (8 p.m.), the second of three, has the tug between politics
and guerrilla warfare.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Legion” debut, 10 p.m., FX,

It was four years
ago that Dan Stevens left “Downton Abbey,” leaving his character
(Matthew) dead and fans stunned. Since then, his career has been
so-so – until now. Next month, he has the half-title role in
“Beauty and the Beast”; first, he has this spectacular acting
role.

Stevens is David
Haller, in a semi-permanent life in a mental home, with one friend
(Aubrey Plaza) and few complications. Then a beautiful patient
arrives and everything changes. David soon wonders what is real; so
do we. It's a fascinating (if perplexing) start to a promising
series.

Other choices
include:

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Suddenly, the guys are questioning the past of Cahill
(Jordana Brewster). She has a deadly stalker; also, a file about
Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) is in her car.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. The string of Valentine comedies starts with Erica
feeling the breakup blues; her mom tried to snap her out of it in
time for the holiday.

“Speechless,”
8:30, ABC. Maya is planning a Valentine surprise for her husband,
requiring help from his former roommate ... who happens to be her
former fiance. Also, Ray has a secret admirer and JJ is in charge of
distributing candygrams.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. New crises appear. Derek organizes a rally after losing a
friend, but it gets out of control. Star misses a key rehearsal, so
someone else steps in. And Eva's intentions become clear.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Zoey's plan for an anti-Valentine party gets complicated
when her friend has a date. Meanwhile, her parents plan a party to
announce the gender of their baby. It's Dre's turn to choose a name
... but his culturally relevant choice isn't very popular.

“Code Black”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. This second season has only 16 episodes,
even shorter than the first year's 18. Tonight, Jesse welcomes the
new interns at a perilous time: Doctors are working with the Centers
For Disease Control, trying to stop the outbreak that's sweeping
through the hospital.

“The Quad,” 10
p.m., BET. Last week's opener had some strengths (especially the
terrific Anika Noni Rose in the lead as Eva, a college president)
nearly overwhelmed by an overwrought plot. Two female students nearly
died – one in a band hazig, the other (Eva's daughter) by
binge-drinking. Then a body was found and a student was arrested. Now
the aftershocks begin.