TV column for Thursday, Nov. 6


TV column for
Thursday, Nov. 6)

By MIKE HUGHES

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“White Collar” season-opener, 9 p.m., USA.

For five brainy
seasons, white-collar criminals have been caught by an unlikely pair.
Neil (Matt Bomer) is a scam-master; Peter (Tim DeKay) is the only FBI
agent who was smart enough to catch him.

They're friends, but
Neil still has his schemes – even though he's limited by an ankle
tether.

Now the final,
six-episode season starts in chaos. Neil has ditched his tether and
vanished. Peter scrambles to find him and bring down the Pink
Panthers gang.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mom,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Last week's
season-opener reminded us that this is a sharp, funny show, mostly
worthy of its new slot behind “Big Bang Theory.” It also launched
an odd plotline: After missing work because of her dad's illness,
Christy (Anna Faris) tried gambling to get the rent money; she won,
but was promptly robbed.

Now she's in a
low-end motel with her two kids and her mom (Allison Janney) – who
tries to pierce Christy's misguided optimism. Kevin Pollak is back as
the dad, with Jaime Pressly as Jill, leaning on Christy as her
Alcoholics Anonymous sponser.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Gracepoint,” 9 p.m.,, Fox, or “Olive Kitteridge,”
7-11 p.m., HBO.

Beautifully crafted,
these miniseries have much in common. Each views small-town life
darkly; each has quiet, naturalistic dialog, delivered with
understated perfection.

The difference is
that you can catch HBO's full story in one chunk; during these four
hours, you'll keep wanting to strangle and/or hug Olive (Frances
McDormand). For “Gracepoint,” this is the sixth of 10 hours.
Tonight, suspicion piles onto Jack (Nick Nolte), a convicted
pedophile. There's superb work by Nolte, Michael Pena (as the father
of the murdered boy) and Anna Gunn (as a cop).

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. The subject turns to immigrants, as the team probes human
trafficking and as Arastoo and Cam talk of marriage. Ironically,
Phyllis Logan – who played O'Brien, a scheming staffer, on “Downton
Abbey” -- plays a harsh employer, suspected of killing her former
maid.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Amy and Bernadette decide to re-create a prom
night on an apartment rooftop. Naturally, this confuses Sheldon.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Convinced that Jake isn't really guilty, Olivia looks for
more information.”

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Last week, “Men” launched its final
season, pushing it in a bizarre direction. Fearing it will take
forever to be approved for adoption as a single dad, Walden wants
Alan to join in a fake marriage. That could happen tonight, complete
with Michael Bolton singing.

“The McCarthys,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. In last week's dandy opener, Ronny reluctantly agreed
to be his dad's assistant coach. Now comes a bigger challenge –
having family members express their feelings.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Sherlock finally gets a fresh chance to team with Watson
(Lucy Liu). His apprentice Ophelia, jealous of their rapport, soon
complicates things.

“Covert Affairs”
return, 10 p.m., USA. With six episodes left this season, Annie
(Piper Perabo) is in crisis. Belenko has shot Ryan (Nic Bishop), her
lover; next, he may go after Arthur (Peter Gallagher), her mentor,
who is running Ryan's security firm. She rushes to Istanbul.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 5


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

In a three-hour
swirl, we'll hear most of country's stars. Carrie Underwood and Brad
Paisley, the hosts, will perform; so will at all five best-album
nominees – Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church
and Dierks Bentley. Bryan, Lambert and Urban are also up for
entertainer of the year.

The other two
entertainer nominees (Blake Shelton and George Strait) aren't
scheduled, but plenty

of others are. They
include Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Kacey Musgrave and
several groups – Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, the Band Perry
and Florida Georgia Line.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “How We Got to Now,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Some Americans have
too much heat, some have too much cold. Why not take the ice and ship
it South? One man did ... and it melted. He kept trying, until he
fashioned shipping and ice houses that worked. Real ice became a
semi-treasure in the 19th century ... until artificial
refrigeration replaced it.

This terrific hour
visits an all-ice hotel in Quebec and (really) an indoor ski resort
in torrid Dubai. It views hot cities that tripled their populations
in one air-conditioned decade.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “From Russia With Love” (1963), 7:30 p.m., and “The
Game” debut, 10 p.m., BBC America.

First is the sort of
British spy thriller that Americans prefer – tough,
straight-forward, with a clear-cut hero and a smattering of sex and
glitz. Then is the sort of six-week, tangled tale the British may
prefer.

Joe, a young spy who
may or may not have betrayed his country a year ago. Now a Russian is
ready to defect and to reveal bits of an ominous plan. Can we trust
him? Or Joe? Or his boss, who's simply called Daddy? There's no way
to tell, in an opener that's both fascinating and frustrating.

Other choices
include:

-- “The Mysteries
of Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. When a woman is found dead on a party bus,
Laura finds herself probing a beauty empire.

-- “Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Maybe we've musjudged sloths.
Scientiests said they sleep 16 hours a day, but that's in captivitiy;
in the outdoors, a researcher found them sleeping nine hours and
rarely being, well, slothful. This delightful hour starts with a
rescued homebody named Velcro, then traces the lives of his
counterparts in the wild.

-- “The Red Band
Society,” 9 p.m., Fox. After a two-week baseball break, this show
injects some more young-and-pretty faces. Daren Kagasoff (“The
Secret Life of an Amercain Teenager”) plays the ward's newest teen
patient; actress-singer Mandy Moore plays a doctor who is Dr.
McAndrew's ex.

-- “The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Rippling with almost non-stop action, this episode also has
two key distinctions: It completes some neat character flips,
switching who are the hard-liner; it also has some of the most
impressive aventure-hero women in TV history.

-- “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. After hearing scary
stories from their babysitter, three girls head into the woods. Soon,
one is injured and the others are missing.

-- “Chicago PD,”
10 p.m., NBC. When a 10-year-old girl is killed, the only way to get
information is to have Ruzek and Atwater go undercover as inmates.

-- “American
Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX. Troubles everywhere: Desiree (Angela
Bassett) has a health scare. Also, Stanley and Maggie want to kill
all the circus freaks.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 4


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

Some of TV's
funniest moments come during the brief blips when someone clumsily
tries to lie. Now that's extended for an entire, hilarious episode.

Before Winston
graduates from the police academy, he must pass a home visit from a
no-nonsense cop (Cleo King). Jess chooses that moment to tell her
loftmates she accidentally has a giant bag of meth. The lies cascade,
just as Schmidt is fuming about his ex-lover Cece's date. The humor
keeps building, right up to the great finish, when Winston's
quasi-brother (Marques Ray) arrives.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Selfie,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

This show's superb
pilot film (a take-off on “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady”) was
all about Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan), whose only social skills were
in social media.

But we soon learned
that her mentor Henry (John Cho) also needs a social makeover. In
tonight's first episode, he fidgets during a weekend retreat; in the
second, he's clueless in romance. Both episodes have moments when the
humor is too broad and blunt, but then manage to redeem themselves.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings); then
election results.

With control of the
Senate at stake, the results are crucial. You can catch them all
night on the news channels and at 10 p.m. on ABC, CBS and NBC. First,
PBS has some compelling political history.

In 1973, F. Edward
Hebert refused to put a woman and a black man on his House Armed
Services Committee. Overruled, he only gave them one chair to share.
In 1997, the Senate only had two women; now it has 20, enough to
override the government shutdown. “It was the women of the Sentate
who said, 'We're going to reach out” across party lines, Elizabeth
Warren (D-Massachusetts) says here.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. The world always seems better with kids
around. Gordon Ramsay quits shouting, Joe Bastianich almost smiles;
cooking is fun again. That's what happens tonight, with 16 chefs,
ages 8 to 13. Some can't lift the equipment, some need stools, two
cry. Mostly, however, we get laughter, optimism and dishes that look
good and (the judges insist) taste right.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Delilah (Margo Harshman), McGee's girlfriend, is back. Now
working for Defense, she finds a break in a controversial case and
needs NCIS help.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the season's second
episode, with Tony (Michael Weatherly) of “NCIS” helping. A
sailor has bubonic plague and his shipmates must be found.

“Marvel: 75 Years
From Pulp to Pop,” 9 p.m., ABC. This traces the journey from the
1939 Timely Comics to Marvel, which is now a powerhouse in comics, TV
and (especially) movies.

“Life Below Zero”
return, 9 p.m., National Geographic. Even when you live above the
Arctic Circle, spring can be a mess; the quick meltdown endangers Sue
Aikens' equipment. South of the Circle (slightly), Andy Bassich
builds a cabin, Glenn Villeneuve makes a bridge and Agnes Hailstone
teaches her five daughters how to shoot caribou.

“The Mindy
Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. This is that rare show that didn't slump
when its key characters became a couple; Mindy and Danny still have
plenty to fight about. She's chronically late, he's obsessively
punctual. It's a dandy episode filled with key guest stars –
Allison Tolman (“Fargo”) as a romance author, Rhea Perlman as
Danny's mom, Niecy Nash as a Dr. Fishman and even Yeardley Smith (the
voice of Lisa Simpson) as a mammogram doctor.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“15 Songs That Changed Country Music," 10:01 p.m., ABC.

In past years, Robin
Roberts preceded the Country Music Association awards with a batch of
Nashville interviews. This time, two days before the awards, she
tries to pinpoint songs that triggered changes.

ABC isn't saying
which they are, except that the hour ranges from Hank Williams to
Taylor Swift. There will be performances by Martina McBride, Lady
Antebellum, Hunter Hayes and Kacey Musgravees, plus comments and
memories from Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

After a close call,
Jane's virginity is still intact. The alternative is a hurry-up
wedding, one week away.

That leads to some
quick humor (especially involving the well-meaning priest) and some
dead-serious moments. One bridal-salon scene is gorgeous; another
scene offers heartbreak. It's complicated (in clever, telenovela
ways), so be sure to catch the first minutes, when the narrator tries
to explain it all.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Olive Kitteridge” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., HBO.

Sunday's opening
leaped between tragedy and humor, while introducing cranky, crabby
Olive (Frances McDormand). Now the conclusion sheds most of the
humor, while somehow getting us to like her.

Olive badgered her
son (improperly), disliked his wife and in-laws (properly) and
belittled her saintly husband. Now old age strikes: In some ways,
she's not ready; in others, she's always been there,

Other choices
include:

“Frozen” (2013)
and “Monuments Men” (2014), 7:15 and 9 p.m., Starz. Here's an
exceptional double-feature – first Disney's animated gem, then a
George Clooney film – sometimes contrived, but always entertaining
– about the real-life effort to preserve art masterpieces in the
final days of World War II.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, after all the Halloween-time
commotion, Tommy Chong and Antonio Sabato Jr. finished in the bottom.
Sabato was sent home; Chong – at 76, one of the oldest dancers in
the show's history – has reached the final seven.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's the last “knock-out round” night. It's
followed by a recap on Tuesday and then the live episodes, beginning
next week.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. As battles between the Falcone and Maroni mobs get fierce,
Gordon regrets not killing “The Penguin” when he had a chance.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. With Katrina in deep danger, Abbie and Ichabod rush to
the rescue.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. After an Iranian nuclear scientist is killed, Red warns
that a cunning hitman has been hired to retaliate by killing an
American scientist.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In India, the
once-thriving city of Kanpur is crippled by black-outs. The power
company promises 18 hours of electricity a day but, this film says,
often falls short. We meet Ritu, whose career crashed when she tried
to enforce rules ... and Loha, 28, whose mission was to thwart her,
becoming a neighborhood hero with his ragged ways
to steal power.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Death Comes to Pemberley” conclusion, 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

P.D. James' clever
tale has plunked the “Pride and Prejudice” characters into a
smart mystery. Elizabeth and Darcy are happily married, of course,
but others flounder. Her bubbly sister Lydia married the rascal
Wickham; Darcy's earnest sister Georgina loves one man, but is
courted by another.

Now Wickham is
charged with killing his friend Captain Denny. Other mysteries
involve the creepy woman in the woods and the father of Louisa
Bidwell's baby. Clever twists are laid over well-drawn characters, in
a mini-series that is beautifully filmed and (mostly) perfectly cast.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

After a baseball
break, Fox's Sunday comedies are back and welcome. That starts and
ends adequately: A “Simpsons” rerun (last year's Halloween tale,
with a rwo-headed Bart/Lisa) at 7 p.m. and “Mulaney” (John's
friend Jane disapproves of anyone he dates) at 9:30, are so-so, with
some good moments.

More promising is
“Nine-Nine” and the return of Captain Holt's nemesis, Deputy
Chief Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick). There's a mole in the precinct; Holt
scrambles to plug the leak before Wuntch finds out.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Olive Kitteridge,” 9-11 p.m., HBO; concludes
Monday.

Like the mini-series
bearing her name, Olive is terribly hard to like. She grumps and
grumbles; she gnaws at her saintly husband and others. She pushes a
cliche (the stolid New Englander) to its edge.

But stick with her
and you'll find cleverly concealed decency. Stick with the
mini-series, too. At first, it stockpiles tragedy; gradually, it adds
range and humor. Emmy-winner Jane Anderson's sharp script isolates
four stories from Elizabeth Strout's novel; Lois Cholodenko has
directed a great cast, led by Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and
(in a huge change from her “Ruby Sparks” role) Zoe Kazan.

Other choices
include:

“Goldfinger”
(1964), 6:30 p.m., BBC America. The third James Bond film – and the
first big, glitzy one – is great fun. It's followed at 9 by the
Britannia Awards. Honorees range from Emma Watson, 24, to Judi Dench,
79. Others are Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Leigh and
Mark Ruffalo.

“Bob's Burgers,”
7:30 p.m., Fox. There's really no reason – except for the calendar
– to discard Halloweeen already. Now Fox offers one more story and
it's a pretty good one. Rumors of ghosts prevail; soon, Tina is
dating a shoebox (really) and is considered cool.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Determined to stop Mr. Burns' fracking operation, Lisa
brings in a state assemblywoman (Jane Fonda). Romance intervenes.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the past, Belle needs Anna's help in her
struggle to regain her memory. In the present, she tries to nudge her
husband into telling her where the Snow Queen is.

“Madam Secretary,”
about 8:31 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth takes her daughter on a government
trip to India ... then is separated from her by an earthquake.

“The Good Wife,”
about 9:30, CBS. Matthew Goode is playing both sides of the law
tonight. On PBS, he's excellent as Wickham, the handsome heel who's
on trial for murder. Here, he's the prosecutor who has just found
potent new evidence in Cary's drug trial. That's in an hour that also
adds David Hyde Pierce (the four-time Emmy-winner for “Frasier”)
as a TV commentator who may run against Alicia.

“Revenge,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. David Clarke finally meets Nolan Ross, who used
techno-skills to help clear Clarke's name. Meanwhile, the downward
spiral of Charlotte (Clarke's daughter) deepens.