TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Parks and Recreation” season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

This quiet comedy
has been a modest success. Ratings have been mild, but praise and
awards have been strong. Amy Poehler has received an Emmy nomination
in each of its five seasons; the show has had five other Emmy nods
(including best comedy series), but no wins.

Now the final season
starts. Leslie battles for park land. Then she and Ron (Nick
Offerman) try to rescue Jamm from Ron's ex-wife – played by Megan
Mullally, Offerman's real-life wife.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The North Carolina
of the early 1960s was an American favorite. On TV, it was the
setting for Andy Griffth's Mayberry; in real life, it was the South's
most moderate state. Then, bizarrely, it became the home of the
largest Ku Klux Klan chapter.

This well-made film
shows how the Klan fueled the frustrations of low-income whites.
(Becoming a Klansman was “the happiest day of my life,” one man
says.) It follows Bob Jones' organizing skills as leader ... and his
downfall, after taking the fifth amendment concerning money
discrepancies.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Face Off” season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy.

Three previous
winners – Rayce Bird, Anthony Kosar and Laura Tyler – return to
coach five-person teams of aspiring movie make-up people. They split
up a field of talented contestants (from an 18-year-old cosmetology
student to a 41-year-old collision technician) who soon craft odd
creatures.

One of TV's best
reality competitions, this is filled with people who master their
craft. Ve Neill, a judge, has three Oscars; Rick Baker, this week's
mentor, has seven. McKenzie Westmore, the host, doesn't have any ...
but her dad, Michael Westmore, won for “Mask.”

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The team looks for a homegrown terrorist. Marisol Nichols and
Joe Spano play federal agents who help.

“The Big
Interview” (8 p.m.) and “Discovering Lucy Angel” (9 p.m.,
repeating at 9:30), AXS TV; repeating, 10 p.m. to midnight. This
music channel sees Dan Rather start his season by interviewing
Wynonna Judd; next week is Carlos Santana. Then is the debut of a
reality show about an emerging trio of generically attractive
country-music blondes ... one of whom is a grandma and the mother of
the other two. The family is moderately interesting; its music (used
too sparingly) is buoyant.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. An admiral's daughter is the prime supect in
a double murder.

“Agent Carter,”
9 p.m., ABC. Peggy is close to finding the stolen technology ...
until the arrest of Jarvis reveals a secret that complicates things.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. A storage-unit fire yields clues on who might have
started the blaze that killed Shay. Also, Boden's dad (Richard
Roundtree) arrives, bringing unwanted parenting advice.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). This probes Russian chief Vladimir
Putin.

“My Big Fat
Fabulous Life” debut, 10 p.m., TLC. Whitney Thore's “fat girl
dancing” videos drew millions of viewers. Most didn't realize her
weight gain (to 5-foot-2, 390 pounds) was fairly recent, caused by
polycystic ovary syndrome. He reality-show debut follows a “Kate
Plus 8” debut at 9.

 

TV column for Monday, Jan. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, with pre-game at 8.

The first
college-playoff year worked beautiflly. This championship game has
two teams with 13-1 records, each riding a late-season surge.

Oregon's only loss
was Oct. 2; since then, it has scored at least 42 points each game,
including 51-13 in its conference championship and 59-20 in the Rose
Bowl. Ohio State lost on Sept. 6, while adjusting to losing its
starting quarterback. It lost another quarterback, but won big
(59-0) in the conference championship and upset top-ranked Auburn in
the Sugar Bowl. Now they collide; it should be fun.

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

With football to
worry about, CBS juggles the schedule. It has drama reruns
(flip-flopping their order); it also inserts the third run of the
“Big Bang” season-opener.

After wanderig off,
Sheldon finally wants to be retrieved in Arizona. Leonard heads
there, with Amy joining him. Meanwhile, Penny is ready for
life beyond being a Cheesecake Factory waitress; she interviews with
Bernadette's boss, played by the terrific Stephen Root.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Friends to Lovers?” debut, 10 p.m., Bravo,

After a while, it
seems, that mysterious line between friendship and romance becomes impossible to cross. Or does it? In the weeks ahead, we'll see three pairs
try.

One involves two gay
men; the others are man-woman duos. Attractive and likable, they have
strong friendships, despite some big differences. In this appealing
opener, people nervously suggest a first date.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE
II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m, PBS (check local listings).

As a graduate
assistant in New York University's prestigious film school, Darius
Monroe never told faculty members what his documentary would be. It
involved a past he'd never mentioned.

As a Texas teen,
Mason had good grades and college ambitions. He also heard about his
family's gnawing money problems; with two friends, he robbed a bank.
“The Evolution of a Criminal” starts slowly, then gathers
emotional power, as Monroe visits his past and the people he hurt.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Fates vary wildly this week. Some women have a
cozy bikini pool party; some are shooting zombies with paintballs.
Some race tractors; one has a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.
At the end, Chris Soules has to trim the field from 22 to 17.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Here's a second chance to see this show's fairly good
pilot film, with Oscar-nominees Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson as
founders of a record label.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. In CBS' only non-rerun tonight, Mike feels
guilty after flirting.

“NCIS: LA,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun sees Hetty being investigated in Washington;
also, a corruption probe finds one of the team members compromised.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. Back from war, the sheriff's son is acting strangely.

“Scorpion,” 9:59
p.m., CBS. These geniuses aren't exactly military-type heroes. Now,
however, they're needed to grab the technology from a military plane
that was shot down in Bosnia.

“Eye Candy”
debut, 10 p.m., MTV. After four upbeat seasons of “Victorious,”
Victoria Jackson turns serious. She plays Lindy, who dropped out of
college, moved to New York and became a computer hacker, focused on
finding her abducted sister. Now she may have a lead in finding a
cyber-stalker.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Forbidden from working with Kate or her colleagues, Rick
gets a private-eye license and hopes to handle the same cases. The
plan soon sputters.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Golden Globe awards, 8-11 p.m. ET and PT, NBC.

For the third
straight year, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host. We can expect lots of
sharp humor from them and the presenters, including Tom Hanks,
Kristen Wiig, Seth Meyers, Kevin Hart, Lily Tomlin, Anna Faris,
Melissa McCarthy and former host Ricky Gervais.

In movies, dramas
are strong (“Selma,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “The
Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything” ), comedies are
quirky (“Birdman,” “St. Vincent,” “Pride,” “Grand
Budapest Hotel,” “Into the Woods”); TV has “The Good Wife,”
“Downton Abbey,” “Jane the Virgin” and lots of cable.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Chimpanzee” (2012), 8-10 p.m., NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 11.

Each Earth Day, the
Disney people debut a gorgeous nature film in theaters. Now six of
the movies will skip all the Disney-owned channels and go to NatGeo,
starting with this beauty.

In the African rain
forest, a band of chimps lives among lush food choices ... making it
the target of a bigger, nastier crew. There's humor, violence,
tragedy ... and then a remarkable twist involving an orphaned
3-month-old chimp and the cranky leader. The result is richly moving.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season-openers, 9-11 p.m., HBO and Showtime.

The two pay-cable
giants stuff tonight with openers, led by strong ones at the start
and finish.

At 9 p.m., HBO's
“Girls” has a dizzying shift, with Hannah (a zealous
city-dweller) going to Iowa for its writing workshop; today's
transitional episode is fairly good and next week's is a delight.
Even better is Showtime's “Episodes,” at 10:30. Matt LeBlanc
plays a perverse version of himself, an actor in an awful TV comedy.
He was happy to see it cancelled ... then appalled to see it
un-cancelled.

Other choices
include:

Football, 1:05 p.m.
ET, Fox and 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS. The Packers host the Cowboys and then
the Broncos host the Colts, with the winners a step away from the
Super Bowl.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). On the same night that it's up
for a Golden Globe, this classy drama has key moments, both personal
(Lady Mary's tryst) and global: Despite Robert's grumbling, a radio
arrives so people can hear the king's speech.

“Ultimate Survival
Alaska,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. The second episode of this
terrific race has all the elements, from dog sleds to river rafts,
with grand adventure and near-tragedy.

“Shameless”
season-opener, 9-10 p.m., Showtime. Fiona's back from prison, working
as a waitress and in a chaste relationship with her boss. Her
brother is on college break, re-adjusting shakily to his rough life.
Their older sister tries hard to shock their dad Frank ... who, if
course, is unshockable. Back from his deathbed, Frank has a grand
project, in a sharp (and sometimes funny) episode.

“Togetherness”
debut, 9:30, HBO. This starts shakily, with a stale husband-wife
relationship, but then gets much better when two troubled souls –
his lumpy friend, her flighty sister (Amanda Peet) -- arrive.

“The Good Wife,”
10 p.m., CBS. An hour later than usual, due to football, this show –
another Globe-nominee – has the key debate between Alicia and Frank
Prady (David Hyde Pierce).

“Looking”
season-opener, 10 p.m., HBO. These gay friends depart San Francisco
for a vacation that's supposed to involve no drugs, no sex and many
trees. Plans change, sometimes thoroughly.

“House of Lies,”
10 p.m., Showtime. Marty is back from prison (flashbacks tell us what
happened), Jeannie is pregnant and their seedy consulting firm is
crumbling in funny ways.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hawking” (2004), 10 p.m., Discovery.

On Sunday, the
Golden Globes will include a face-off between two superb movies, each
with a brilliant portrayal of a real-life British genius. It's Eddie
Remayne as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and
Benedict Cumberbatch as computer pioneer Alan Turing in “The
Imitation Game.”

First, here's a
twist: A decade ago, Cumberbatch starred in this TV film about
Hawking. The result brought praise and BAFTA (the British equivalent
of Emmy) nominations for him and the film.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC, and 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox.

After getting byes
last week, the NFL's top-seeded teams each host a game. If they win,
they'll face the winners of Sunday's games, for spots in the Super
Bowl.

First, Tom Brady and
the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens. Then Russell
Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks host the Carolina Panthers ... who
still don't have a winning record.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and 11:29 p.m. (or later,
with football overrun), NBC.

Two reruns offer
movie stars, along with impressive female music guests.

First is William
Shatner, from back in 1975, with his much-discussed “get a life”
sketch; Lone Justice, with powerhouse singer Maria McKee, is the
guest. Then is a show from this past Oct. 25, with Jim Carrey hosting
and Iggy Azalea as music guest.

Other choices
include:

“The Missing,”
1:30-10:05 p.m., Starz. For seven compelling weeks, we've seen a
man's desperate search for his son in 2006 (when the boy disappeared
in France) and in 2014 (with the man's marriage and life shattered).
Now the entire season (so far) reruns, followed by the finale –
well, the first-season finale, anyway – reportedly with key
discoveries. That reruns at 10:05 and 11:10 p.m.

“Galavant” and
“Agent Carter,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Here's a chance to catch up
with ambitious shows that debuted this past week. “Galavant: is a
comedy musical mini-series, spread over eight half-hours on four
Sundays; tonight, we see a knight vow to win back his true love ...
who, alas, is married to the king. “Agent Carter” has Hayley
Atwell in the role she played in two “Captain America” movies.
Now its 1946, women are marginalized, but she's needed to save Howard
Stark, who's been framed.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. Nick Jonas plays a computer whiz in this rerun. The
governor wants him to be protected by McGarrett and Grover.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the murder of a Port Authority seems to point toward
the terrorist named Parsa. Also, Ellie (Emily Wickersham) reveals her
past link to Parsa.

“Incredible! The
Dr. Pol Story,” 10 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Jan Pol was a Dutch
foreign-exchange student when he visited Michigan. He later returned
to become a small-town veterinarian with a wide-ranging practice. You
can catch his reality show (“The Incredible Dr. Pol”) today from
noon to 3 a.m.; in the midst of that is this hour – not incredible,
but fairly interesting – viewing his life, romance and more.

 

TV column for Friday, Jan. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Glee” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

There have been
plenty of misadventures – for the show and its characters – in
New York. Now it's time to return to where this once triumphed –
among gleeful kids in small-town Ohio.

Rachel is there
because her career crashed, Kurt and Blaine because their romance
sputtered. Others merely arrive (in the second hour) for Homecoming;
all agree it's time to revive the programs that Sue (now the
principal) crushed. There are weak stretches here, especially with
Kurt and Blaine, but also soaring ones, musically (from Rachel's “Let
It Go” to the new kids' uptempo slngs) and personally.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Last Man Standing” and “Cristela,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., ABC.

Here's a nod to the
old days, when ABC's comedies ruled. Two of their stars have key
guest roles.

On “Home
Improvement,” Patricia Richardson played the wife of a tool zealot
(Tim Allen); now she's the “Last Man” neighbor whose noisy tool
projects annoy Mike (Allen). Then Roseanne Barr plays the estranged
wife of Cristela's boss; she has her own law firm and takes an
interest in Cristela.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

There are some
awesome voices in this world and opera star Renee Fleming has stuffed
many into one mega-concert. Each, alas, gets only one song, leaving
time for the singers to talk to students.

The talk is good;
the singing is awesome. Catch great talents from Broadway (Norm
Lewis, Sutton Foster), pop (Sara Bareilles), country (Alison Krauss),
jazz (Dianne Reeves) and more. Hear Josh Groban turn a Charlie
Chaplin song (“Smile”) into a triumph. And yes, Fleming proves
she she can go far beyond her classical roots: She milks every bit of
pain and beauty from “Danny Boy.”

Other choices
include:

“Banshee”
season-opener, 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., Cinemax. The second season –
tough, nasty, sometimes sexy and always well-crafted – reruns; that
concludes with the sheriff (a master thief who stole the identity of
Lucas Hood) blasting his enemies, with the help of ex-lover Carrie.
There's one more man to smite and that happens in the first few
minutes of the season-opener (10 p.m., rerunning at 11 and midnight).
Then Hood finds new problems, from his angry daughter and angrier
American Indians.

“Baby Mama”
(2008), 7:52 p.m., Bravo; or “Mean Girls” (2004), 8 p.m. Comedy
Central. Tina Fey's films collide. Fey wrote the smart script to
“Mean Girls” and co-stars as a teacher advising a mistreated teen
(Lindsay Lohan). She didn't write “Baby Mama,” but stars as a
businesswoman who hires a quirky sort (Amy Poehler, who will host the
Golden Globes with Fey on Sunday) to carry her baby.

“Hart of Dixie,”
8 p.m., CW. The 10-episode season starts with an episode that had an
advance showing last month ... and doesn't need to be seen again.
There are a few bits of goofy fun involving firefighter training, but
much of the hour has Zoe throwing herself at Wade, the guy she left.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The theft of a priceless Van Gogh painting leads to an
undercover assignment for Kono and Chin (Grace Park and Daniel Dae
Kim).

“Masters of
Illusion” return, 9:30, CW. This four-episode run has Dean Cain
introducing top magicians.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), a big supporter of military
veterans, feels conflicted when he learns that several have linked to
pull off a robbery.