TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Madiba” and “The Quad,” 8 and 10 p.m., BET.

Black History Month
gets off to a big start tonight. “Quad” (with the terrific Anika
Noni Rose) is a promising series – more on that later – and
“Madiba” tells an epic story over three Wednesdays.

Based on Nelson
Mandela's two autobiographies, this was filmed in South Africa and on
Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 prison years. He's
played by Laurence Fishburne, with Orlando Jones as Oliver Tambo,
David Harewood as Walter Sisulu and Terry Pheto as Winnie Mandela.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Showtime at the Apollo,” 8 p.,m., Fox.

Anything that Steve
Harvey does seems to draw an audience, whether its “Little Big
Shots” or “Family Feud” or assorted specials. On Sunday, he
returned to Miss Universe; now he's back at the Apollo Theatre, a
piece of Harlem history.

It opened in 1914
and became the Apollo in '34, the year a teen-aged Ella Fitzgerald
tried the audition night. We'll get a sampling of the audtions here,
but Harvey will also introduce comedian Gabriel Iglesias and music by
Chaka Khan, I.T. with Meek Mill and Quavo with RaRa.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The 100” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

Last season, Clarke
saw disasters all around her. Octavia killed Pike who had killed
Lincoln. Titus accidentally killed Lexa, who was alternately Clarke's
enemy, colleague and lover ... except Lexa sort of exists in the
Flame, which Clarke used to kill ALIE, an artificial intelligence
controlling minds.

But ALIE claimed she
(it?) was the only force preventing another nuclear disaster. Has
Clarke doomed the world? Can King Roan be brought back from
near-death? Will the Ice Nation rule? This is loud and messy, with
militaristic music forever booming; still, you won't complain that
nothing happened.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. Here are some standard, interesting wildlife scenes,
occasionally with an extra touch – some ground-level glimpses were
shot from cameras inside animatronic creatures. This may be the first
time you've been under an elephant – or (really) inside a
crocodile's mouth.

“The Penguins of
Madagascar” (2014), 8 and 10 p.m., FX. After co-starring in three
“Madagascar” movies – and starring in a delightful TV series –
these animated penguins get their own spy adventure.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. The three women are performing at a fancy charity event, but
their manager (Benjamin Bratt) wants Alexandra – not Star or her
half-sister Simone – to sing the lead. Hey, this show isn't called
“Alex”; Star (Jude Demorest) schemes to get attention.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. With the “sweeps” ratings period starting Thursday,
ABC has another all-rerun night. Haley (Sarah Hyland, 26) is still
adapting to dating an older guy, weatherman Rainer Shine (Nathan
Fillion, 45); a day with his daughter doesn't go as planned.

“The Magicians,”
9 p.m., Syfy. It's a wild hour – alternately funny and dead-serious
– on three fronts: Julia is trying to control The Beast (who, of
course, is singing show tunes) ... Eliot finds that being king
requires agriculture and an adjustment in sexual preferences ... and
the others are back at the college, scrambling to find the missing
battle magic.

“The Expanse”
season-opener, 10-11:35 p.m., Syfy. The first season ended with the
crew escaping from Eros. Now they deal with the aftermath, then try a
daring raid in search of information.

“The Quad”
debut, 10 p.m., BET, rerunning at 11:34. Anika Noni Rose is a
stunning talent. Her performance as a novice secretary in HBO's “The
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” was brilliant; she's done Broadway
(winning one Tony, nominated for another), was the lead voice in “The
Princess and the Frog” and has had had lots of TV recurring roles.
Now, belatedly, she's the star. She plays the first female president
of a historically black college ... where her daughter, a rapper, is
a key rebel.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Late in the 19th
century, this excellent film says, Boston had a transportation
tangle. Packed into less than a square mile were almost 400,000
people and 8,000 horses, with noise, manure and chaos.

London had tried a
subway, but a coal-powered train made the esperience sooty and
shabby. Then Frank Sprague, an American naval office, invented the
electric subway; Bosto began digging. There was opposition and –
after a gas line was accidentally cut -- a deadly explosion. Still,
it took just two years to build; on the opening day in 1897, 250,000
people rode America's first subway.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Yes, this is a rerun
– there are a lot of those, two days before the “sweeps”
ratings period begins – but it's a good one. At Thanksgiving time,
the three adult siblings have a last chance to visit their family
cottage, before their mother sells it. Memories stir; emotions soar.

Randall is fuming
about the fact that his adoptive mother had long been secretly in
contact with his father. (We flash back to him at 9, already seeking
his parents.) And visitors arrive, including Kevin's cynical co-star
in a play and the show's uncynical playwright, leading to some
delightful moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Some people might
remember Super Bowl XXVI as the one in which Bills back Thurman
Thomas missed the first few plays because he'd lost his helmet. It
was a sign; the Redskins scored the first 24 points, pushing the
Bills to the second of four straight Super Bowl losses.

But others remember
something more: It was when two awed boys watched Cindy Crawford
stride to a Pepsi machine in jean shorts and undershirt. Now – 25
years and five days later – Crawford will discuss that commercial;
other classics will be featured in a countdown. This was originally
set for 8 p.m., then nudged back to make room for an 8 p.m. report on
the Supreme Court nomination.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Launching a string of four ABC comedy reruns, Sue is in
the unfamiliar position of wanting to break off a relationship; she
turns to Axl, who has great experience at this.

“The Mick,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. No more hiding in embarrassment over their parents' arrest
and flight: The kids head back to the country club ... where Aunt
Mick soon gets in a fight with society ladies.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A tutor of rich kids has been killed. Suspects range from the
victim's roommate to various disgruntled parents.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged back an hour by the commercials special, this rerun
involves a Marine sergeant's fall from a building. Using privileged
information from a patient, a doctor (Laura San Giacomo) suggests it
be treated as a murder investigation.

“Outsiders,” 9
p.m. ET. WGN America, rerunning at 10:01 and midnight. These mountain
people hate confinement, so last week's opener had their darkest
moments -- “Big Foster” tied in someone's basement; “Little
Foster” jailed, after fighting a mob. Now both men rage, in a
strong hour. Also, Big Foster's “widow” takes over as ruler,
quickly facing a dilemma when an all-female clan seeks refuge.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. Patton Oswalt returns to his double role as
Billy and Sam Koenig, triplets (Oswalt has also played the third one)
who are agents. The team rushes to save them.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Official reports say Mosul –
Iraq's second-largest city – has been reclaimed by the army. This
recent visit, however, adds jolting details. Even in the parts of the
city the army controls, it shows, ISIS snipers and suicide bombers
make real life impossible.

TV coumn for Monday, Jan. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Odd Couple,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

In many ways, this
has seemed like the ideal CBS comedy. Taped in front of an audience
(a notion the other networks have abandoned), it has slick, quick
laughs and a likable cast led by Matthew Perry.

Still, CBS has been
iffy. The second season sat on the shelf for seven months, before
being shown. This third is ending after 13 episodes; Perry grants
he's not expecting a fourth. Still, it's good that the last two
episodes air together, giving an hour of low-key fun. In the first
episode, Oscar grumbles when Felix wants them to go to church and
support Dani's singing; in the second, the men fight and split.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Gotham” mid-season finale, 8 p.m., Fox.

This could well be
the most visually spectacular hour in TV history. It has swirling
carnival rides, a house-of-mirrors showdown and unrelenting action
and emotion, all at an operatic fervor.

It also may be the
most brutal and masochistic. The people change, but the notion –
one man captive, while others wreak destruction, physical or verbal
– persists; even young Bruce Wayne beats someone fiercely. All of
this is getting somewhere; by the end of the hour, lives have
transformed and we'll be anxious for the show's return April 24. But
the journey to get this far is truly brutal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman,” 11 p.m., GetTV.

For a brief moment,
Mary Tyler Moore's career was wobbling. After triumphing on “The
Dick Van Dyke Show,” she'd made on big movie (“Thoroughly Modern
Millie”) and several little ones. She'd done a musical that flopped
so badly that it folded befiore getting to Broadway.

Then Van Dyke asked
her to be in his special and gave her the best lines. Critics raved,
ratings soared, CBS gave her a deal ... and the MTM company was born,
creating quality TV. After Moore's death (at 80), here's a chance to
see the show on Dish network (373) or a digital substation (check
www.get.tv/get-the-channel).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Witness For the Prosecution,” any time,
www.acorn.tv.

Agatha Christie's
short story keeps being remade. It's been a play, a Billy Wilder
movie and at least five TV versions. Its stars have included Marlene
Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Ralph Richardson, Diana Rigg, Edward
R.Robinson and Sarah Churchill; Ben Affleck plans to direct and star
in it for next year.

Here's the longest
version so far, a two-part mini-series with Toby Jones, Andea
Riseborough and (briefly) Kim Cattrall. It's a cunningly crafted
story with skillful actors, but it's not for jollies. Christie is not
afraid to belt us, adding enough twists to leave us surprise, if not
terribly happy.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Here's an abrupt shift – from Waukesha, Wis., to
New Orleans. There, Nick Viall and 13 women range from a concert date
to a “haunted” plantation.

“Celebrity
Apprentice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Last week saw the ouster of three
celebritie – well, two semi-celebrities and (Chael Sonnen, Porsha
Williams) and rocker Vince Neil. Now the seven survvivors

work for a
basketball team and try to sell fitness equipment.

“Lucifer”
mid-season finale,. 9 p.m., Fox. When was the last time you heard
anyone say he was going to die for a little while, so he could
retrieve something from Hell? It's a shaky plan, even for Lucifer,
but it provides a fairly strong hour, with a desperate race to find
an antidote to save Chloe.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Ralph's classmate has disapeared, after a
field-trip run-in with a dangerous mobster.

“Amerca's Next Top
Model,” 10 p.m., VH1. We reach the halfway mark tonight, trimming
the field (orignally 14) to seven. Contestants to duo shoots at the
estate of luxury designer Phillipp Plein.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, the show settled into its new night with
the CIA trainees learning the fine art of seduction. Tonight, they
learn about betrayal; Javier Munoz, who understudied the title role
in Broadway's “Hamilton,” plays the Venzuelan official who's the
target. And flashing forward, the hostage crisis continues, with Alex
reluctantly teaming with Miranda.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mercy Street” and “Victoria,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS.

Life has been tense
for the Greens. They're Confederates, but their Virginia mansion has
become a Union hospital. In this strong hour, their daughter schemes
to seduce a Union officer and steal secrets.

There are some dark
moments ... so you'll welcome the buoyant “Victoria” episode that
follows. The teen queen may, reluctantly, be ready to marry ... but
considers the prospects to be dolts. Stick with both hours; “Mercy”
ends fiercely, “Victoria” ends joyously.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Miss Universe pageant, 7-10 p.m., Fox.

A year ago, Steve
Harvey became the Bill Buckner of beauty pageants – making a huge
error at a crucial time: He announced that Miss Guatemala had won ...
then found it was really Miss Philippines.

The crown was
shifted, Harvey was apologetic ... and now he's back to host anew.
This time, the pageant will be in the Philippines ... home of the
winner who was almost a loser.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” 2 p.m., MeTV.

The show's pilot
film has possibly the best scenes in TV comedy history -- Mary's job
interview with Lou Grant, who proclaims, “I hate spunk.” That
launches a three-hour marathon in honor of Moore, who died Tuesday at
80. The “Chucky the Clown” episode is at 3:30 p.m., with the
finale at 4:30.

MeTV is on satellite
and cable and -- in most markets – on the digital sub-station of
local stations. To find it, check www.metv.com/wheretowatch
and insert your zip code.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II:Screen Actors Guild awards, 8 and 10 p.m., TNT; 8 p.m.
ET, TBS.

There will be plenty
of TV awards tonight, including a career one for Lily Tomlin. Still,
much of the attention will be in the movie categories, which suggest
who's ahead in the Academy Award race.

The SAG and Oscar
lists of best-actor nominations are identical -- Ryan Gosling, Casey
Affleck, Denzel Washington, Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen. The
lists share three best-actress nominees (Meryl Streep, Emma Stone,
Natalie Portman) and nine of the 10 people in supporting categories.

Other choices
include:

“Black Sails,”
11:40 a.m., Starz. First, here's the third season of this epic pirate
series. Then the fourth begins powerfully at 9 p.m. (rerunning at 10
and 11), as people develop in the pre-“Treasure Island” era. John
Silver is live up to his “Long John” reputation ... Edward Teach
is heading toward his “Blackbeard” image ... and the pirate
island of Nassau is wobbling under civilized English rule.

“Tristan und
Isolde,” noon, PBS (check local listings). Grab some popcorn and
settle in for four-and-a-half hours of Wagnerian shock and awe. The
Metropolitan Opera season-opener stars Stuart Skelton, who was
Siegmund in the Met's “Ring” cycle, and Nina Stemme.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Did you ever want to meet the guy who
played Barney the dinosaur? Or the one who holds the record for
longest distance in a wing suit? Or the twins who have a restaurant
staffed only by twins? You can tonight ... but they'll be alongside
some imposters.

Pro Bowl, 8 p.m. ET,
ESPN. Football's best players – some of them, anyway – collide in
Florida. Lots of players dropped out because of injuries or because
they're headed to the Super Bowl. That still leaves plenty of top
quarterbacks – Drew Brees, Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins for the
NFC, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger for the AFC.

“Love By the 10th
Date,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. If you missed this film Saturday, catch
a quick rerun now. Eyeing the modern dating scene, it's sometimes
contrived, sometimes quite adult, but usually bright, clever and
likable.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. As Jay pushes for a peace treaty between Iran and
Israel, the work strains his marriage. Also, the murder of a peace
advocate endangers the plan.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Here's a variation on a familiar plot: A gunman takes
hostages, demanding that Sherlock find his son's killer in 16 hours.

“Conviction,” 10
p.m., ABC. The final show of the season – and, presumably, the
final one ever – has Hayes revisiting a case. She scrambles for a
way to free someone convicted 10 years ago.

 

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Love By the 10th Date,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.

For the second
straight week, Lifetime has a strong movie to fill the Saturday void.
Last week had tears and songs with the “Beaches” remake; tonight
finds fun in the modern datiung scene.

Gabby (Meagan Good)
is an artist with talent, a good magazine job, great friends ... and
no romance. Guys don't know they're in love until the 10th
date, she's told; she's never made it to No. 10. Now she and a friend
aim to reach 10; one friend (Kelly Rowland) interviews an elusive
reggae star, another has complications in an open marriage. Sometimes
contrived and often adult, this is bright and well-played.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Sports overload, ABC, Fox and cable.

We expect sports to
be big on cable Saturdays; tonight, the ESPN networks have college
basketball and NBC Sports Network has pro hockey's all-star weekend.
But beyond that, the big networks jump in.

On Fox, it's
“ultimate fighting” at 8 p.m. ET. On ABC, it's pro basketball,
with a preview at 8 p.m. ET and the game at 8:30. The Golden State
Warriors – with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and the
best record in the pros – host the Los Angeles Clippers, with Chris
Paul and a 30-16 record.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 6 p.m. and midnight, Bravo;
and/or “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), 8 and 10:30 p.m., AMC.

Few films have
managed to skillfully blend dance, music and emotion. Here are two of
the best.

First, Jennifer Grey
is a teen who meets a dance instructor (Patrick Swayze) in the
Catskills; as the song says, she has the time of her life. Then John
Travolta is a tough-but-earnest Brooklyn guy who conquers the disco
world, to a throbbing BeeGees beat.

Other choices
include:

“Star Wars: The
Force Awakens” (2015), 6:40 p.m., Starz. Here's a dandy
double-feature: This strong (if flawed) adventure leads into the
terrific “Ghostbusters” remake (2016) at 9 p.m. For more fun, try
two Meryl Streep films -- “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), at 7
and 9:30 p.m. on E, “Julie & Julia” (2009) at 8 p.m. on Pop.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Enrico Colantoni guests in this show from his native
Canada. He has kidnapped an engineer who designs key software. As
negotiators try to deal with him, someone else is intercepting the
emails and sabotaging the process.

“The Nice Guys”
(2016), 8 p.m., HBO. While Ryan Gosling gathers well-deserved praise
and awards for “La La Land,” catch his previous film. Its story
is a bit goofy, but the pairing is a delight: Gosling plays an
underskilled private-eye, paired with a tough and grim Russell Crowe.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Christmastime problems,
small (the “secret Santa” gifts) and large: Dr. Wade's adopted
son is a suspect, after holiday burglaries turn deadly.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. After a two-month break, this
show returns with more catch-ups. There's Phylicia Rashad, who soared
in “The Cosby Show,” then did key Broadway revivals and won a
Tony. And singer Jon Secada. And Lindsey Stirling, who drew fame a
decade ago at 20, when she used YouTube to show her blend of
electronic violin and dance.

“10th
Date: Girls Night In,” 10:02 p.m., Lifetime. The actors in the
“10th Date” movie discuss their own dating adventures,
good and bad.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. This reruns the Nov. 19 episode, with
Kristen Wiig hosting and The XX as music guests.