TV column for Saturday, Nov. 1


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

For its 40th
season, “SNL” keeps bringing back former cast members to host.
It's already had Bill Hader and Sarah Silverman; now the fifth new
episode has Chris Rock.

Rock was just 25
when he joined “SNL” in 1990; he stayed for three years, ranging
from a Michael Jackson impersonation to creating Nat X, a hard-core
critic. He went on to do movies, produce a terrific TV show
(“Everybody Hates Chris”) and soar in stand-up; now he hosts,
with Prince as music guest.

TONIGHT'S
CAN'T-AVOID: Sports overload, everywhere.

Why have a
500-channel universe, if they all carry the same thing? Three of the
big-four networks have college football; the fourth (NBC, at 8 p.m.
ET) has the Breeders Cup Classic horse race.

Ironically, none
those has a match-up of top-20 teams. For that, you need ESPN, with
Auburn (ranked No. 3) at Mississippi (4) at 7:15 p.m. ET and Arizona
(12) at UCLA (22) at 10:30. Fox has Stanford at Oregon (5) at 7:30;
at 8, CBS has Notre Dame (10) at Navy and ABC, varying by region, has
Illinois at Ohio State (16) or Oklahoma State at Kansas State (9).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “First Blood” (1982) and “Rambo” (1985), 7:30
and 9:30 p.m., AMC.

This is one of the
strangest movie-sequel combinations ever – film that are skillfully
crafted, yet totally different in tone. They have little in common
except Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo.

In the first, he's a
former Green Beret who uses his skills to elude cops (for a while)
after being wrongly arrested. In the second, he's pulled from prison
and sent on a Vietnam rescue mission. The result is
wildly exaggerated, but also an example of top-notch
action-moviemaking.

Other
choices include:

"Transformers
Rescue Bots" season-opener, 1 p.m. ET, Discovery Family Channel.
The animation is primitive and the song is a mess, but stick around.
This pleasant-enough show has Transformers making rescues, not
warfare. The opener has some humor and an island of non-lethal
dinosaurs.

Movies,
7 p.m., cable. For light fun, Jim Carrey's "Bruce Almighty"
(2003) is on ABC Family. For something more serious, catch Spike
Lee's "Do the Right Thing
" (1989)
on USA.

"Hocus
Pocus" (1993), 8 a
nd
10 p.m., Life
ttme.
Some people just won't admit Halloween is over, Lifetime has Bette
Midler and others as revived witches; also, MTV has "Fright
Night" (2011) at 9:30.

"Doctor
Who," 8 and 9 p.m., BBC America. First, a rerun finds trees
springing up so quickly they might take over the Earth. Then a new
episode brings a dilemma in the Neversphere.

"Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit," 9 p.m., NBC.
This
reruns the episode that brought
Amaro (Danny
Pino) back to the
unit. Demoted to street
cop, he handles a crash involving a troubled starlet. Later, she's
charged with statut
ory
rape of a 15-year-old boy; Benson suspects there are other villains.

"Saturday
Night Live," 10 p.m., NBC. This 2008 rerun has Josh Brolin
hosting, with music by Adele.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 31


TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “
Grimm,”
9 p.m.,
NBC.

What
would Halloween be without an Octopus-faced creatue who uses his
tentacles to steal memories? We met him in last week's season-opener,
which brought a problem: Suddenly, Nick has lost his power to spot
demons in disguise.

Fortunately,
“Grimm” has an excellent new character. Trubel (newcomer
Jacqueline Tuoboni, 21) was a tough street kid, unaware of her power
... or of people trying to capture her. She's already beheaded one
villain; now she has a fierce fight.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE II: “Utopia” and “Gotham,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Once
considered a key to Fox's comeback, “Utopia” has been
semi-ignored. It went from twice a week to once to (with the World
Series) nothing last week. So tonight's hour views two weeks of
progress in building a wilderness civilization.

Stick
around and you'll find a rerun of Monday's stylish “Gotham.” A
new drug causes euphoria and then death. Also, Oswald Cobblepot (the
flauture Penguin) wedges into Maroni's inner circle and Fish Mooney
schemes against Falcone.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

Yes,
there are some light choices for families to watch after
trick-or-treating. ABC Family has the delightful “Beetlejuice”
(1988) at 7 p.m. and the disappointing “Casper” (1995) at 9;
Disney has “Girl vs. Monster” (2012) at 9.

Mostly,
however, these are for grown-ups. That includes “Nightmare on Elm
Street” (1984) at 6:30 p.m. on IFC, “Silence of the Lambs”
(1991) at 8 p.m. on BBC America and the offbeat “Shaun of the Dead”
(2004) at 9 on Comedy Central.

Other
choices include:

Roseanne,”
noon to 2 p.m. and 7:40 to 10 p.m., WE. Each year, this show
delivered the freshest and funniest Halloween episodes. Here's a
chance to catch them again, in two chunks.

The
Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week, Whitney Duncan and Keith
Tollefson – engaged, from Nashville – were ousted. Now the seven
surviving duos find themselves suspended above the mountains of
Morocco.

Last
Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike tries to give Mandy financial
advice about her fashion business.

Cristela,”
8:31 p.m., ABC. Cristela's big Halloween-party plans mostly go awry.
Her mom – who hates Halloween and prefers Day of the Dead – soon
becomes the party's star with her morbid stories.

Hawaii
Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. On Halloween, someone is copying the murders
from a slasher film. Also, McGarret must n rescue Jerry (Jorge
Garcia), who's been kidnapped by the counterfeiters he was tracking.

Michael
Feinstein at the Rainbow Room,” 9 p.m., PBS. Feinstein, a terrific
interpreter of the great American composers, performs. Most PBS
stations follow at 10 with a typically flat and lifeless hour of “Art
in the 21st Century.”

Penny
Dreadful,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime. On Halloween, Showtime reruns
the first two hours of this lushly crafted (and sometimes creepy)
series.

Blue
Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. An international felon keeps narrowly
avoiding murder charges. Now Danny – butting heads with his new
boss – and Frank scramble to find more evidence.

Constantine,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a troubled mining town, John meets his new ally, Zed
(Angelica Celaya).

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The McCarthys” debut, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

This is what only
CBS seems able (or willing) to do: Make a situation comedy in front
of a studio audience, with an emphasis on quick, slick jokes. Yes,
“McCarthys” sometimes tries too hard, with blunt jokes that
should have been scuttled; more often, we see sharp lines delivered
by a skilled cast

Brian Gallivan
created this with some autobiographic touches. Ronnie (Tyler Ritter,
John's son) doesn't share his family's obsession with Boston sports;
his mom (Laurie Metcalf) likes that about him, his dad and siblings
are flabbergasted. They're a loud-but-loving bunch ... classic CBS
folks.

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

In its first season,
this show had sharp wit, an Emmy (for Allison Janney) and fairly good
ratings. Now it moves to Thursdays, behind “Big Bang Theory”;
ratings could soar.

Christy (Anna Faris)
is a recovering alcoholic who has put her life back together. Now we
learn she's bungled the finances; there's no rent money, so she could
be homeless, along with her mom (Janney) and kids. Complicating
things, she's agreed to help a newly sober friend (Jamie Pressly).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway All Stars” opener, 9 p.m., Lifetime.

Fresh from finishing
its 13th season, “Runway” brings back recent
contestants, with Alyssa Milano hosting. Only two people – Chris
March from season 4, Jay Sario from 7 – will strain viewers'
memory. Three people – Helen Castillo, Justin LeBlanc and
Alexandria van Bromssen – are from Season 12.

From Season 11 is
winner Michelle Lesniak, plus Samantha Black, Benjamin Mach and
Patricia Michaels. From 10 is winner Dmitry Sholokhav, plus Fabio
Costa, Gunnar Deatherage and Sonja Williams. From both is Kate
Pankoke, who was returned by fan vote and became a double loser.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that Thursday-football returned to
cable-only, TV's best comedy is back in its real home, on Thursdays.

“It's the Great
Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” 8 p.m., ABC. The 1966 cartoon classic
(so-so humor, charming characters) reruns, followed by the 1972
“You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.”

“Gracepoint,” 9
p.m., Fox. As this 10-part series reaches its halfway mark, it's
suddenly overloaded with suspects. Two townspeople have hidden pasts
and even the priest is acting wierd. That's part of a good episode
that also pauses to humanize the troubled lead detective and his
colleague.

“Bad Judge,” 9
p.m., NBC. What's worse than a bad judge? A bad juror, maybe; Rebecca
has jury duty.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9 p.m., CBS. As the 12th and final season begins,
Walden has a health scare and vows to get new priorities ... and,
maybe, to become a father.

“Elementary”
season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. Fired from his London job, Sherlock
returns home with a young interne (Ophelia Lovibond) and a problem:
Watson (Lucy Liu), his former colleague, is now a top detective.
He'll need her approval before he can get any New York police cases.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Things suddenly get serious for Asher,
the privileged Ivy Leaguer: The team's client is someone his dad
sentenced, long ago. Also, flash-forwards show what Asher will be up
to on the murder night.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 29


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

Claire, we've learned, loves a grisly-ghoulish kind of Halloween.
Her husband Phil figures it's his turn to build “Awesomeland,”
which is light-hearted fun.

Then things are stirred up by their mischievous new neighbors
(Andrea Anders and Steve Zahn). Despite a weak sub-plot – Mitchell
flounders in court because the stenographer is in costume – this is
a fun episode, leading an ABC night of Halloween comedies.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The 100,” 9 p.m., CW.

In its first season, this was merely a survival tale – albeit a
good one: Teen prisoners were dumped onto Earth, to see if it was
finally habitable. But now the story spins in fresh directions.

The grown-ups have landed, with a stern leader (Henry Ian Cusick)
and a passionate doctor (Paige Turco). Her brainy daughter Clarke is
missing – housed by survivors who are, Clarke feels, too good, to
be true. Also missing is spitfire Octavia, rescued by her boyfriend,
an enemy “Grounder.” In the space ship, Jaha has the sort of
mental adventure that seems unreal, but has been reported in
non-fiction.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “A Poet in New York,” 8-9:30 p.m., BBC
America.

Brilliant and broke, Dylan Thomas reached New York in 1953 in a
fragile state. He was a Welshman whose poetry flowed lyrically on
paper ... and glowed when read by actors or by Dylan himself. As his
39th birthday neared and his health faded, he arrived in
the U.S. to do readings.

Now another great Welsh writer (Andrew Davies, a PBS “Masterpiece”
veteran) has richly captured Thomas' final days, along with
flashbacks to his life in Wales. Tom Hollander is perfect in the
role.

Other choices include:

“Ghost Hunters,” 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., Syfy. This marathon
includes a 7 p.m. rerun of last week's episode, with semi-scary
moments in an abandoned “lunatic asylum.” Then a new hour visits
the Cincinnati Music Hall; it was built in 1878, on the site of an
insane asylum – and above a paupers' cemetery.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. The Heck kids find themselfs in
unfamiliar places. Sue is in a cornfield (to show a Charlie Brown
cartoon); Axl is in a library, where he's accidentally locked in on
Halloween.

“To Russia With Love,” 8 p.m., Epix. This sometimes-chilling
documentary views Russia's tough anti-gay approach and the
possibility – never realized – of confrontation during the 2014
Olympics.

“The Goldbergs,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Pops (George Segal) moves in,
causing consternation.

“Black-ish,” 9:31, ABC. Dre takes great pride in his
Halloween-time practical jokes. Now he faces competition, in a fairly
funny episode.

"How We Got to Now," 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). As people
scrambled
to create light, this interesting hour says, li
fe
transformed. There was the rush to kill whales for their oil, leading
to one of the first monopolies. Then Thomas Edison – who call
ed
himself "more of a sponge than an inventor" – bought all
the right patents, gathered scientists,
perfected
the lightbulb and changed the world.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "The Great Halloween Fright Fight," 8 p.m., ABC. 

Most
of us settle for putting a couple pumpkins out front; here are people
who do Halloween big. In Hollywood, movie-set builders take each
October off to give their home a super faccade; in Florida, a former
Navy guy builds a giant pirate ship.

There are more spots, some
of them compact – a family packs fierce frights into a tent – and
some sprawling. One rural spot has two acres of exhibits; another
isn't exaggerating when it calls its set-up – with old trees molded
into giant faces -- “the haunted overload.” This amiable hour
is part of ABC's busy Halloween week.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II:
Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30.

The World Series moves back
to Kansas City for the sixth game ... and, if needed, a seventh one
Wednesday.

This isn't like the
previous rounds, when the Royals and the San Francisco Giants stormed through, winning eight of nine games. The advantage has teetered
back and forth, giving Fox the prolonged World Series it needs.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Makers,” 9 p.m., PBS.

After remaking the image of
Braniff Airlines, this documentary says, Mary Wells was promised the
presidency of her ad agency. Instead, she was offered the power and
the money, but told that men wouldn't accept a woman with the title
of president. She quit and started her own agency, with such historic
campaigns as “I can't believe I ate the whole thing.”

Such accounts recall the
struggles of women in business in the 1950s and '60s. That leads to
portraits of women who
now
lead
some
of
the world's biggest
corporations; one
CEO
started as the only
woman among 100 account managers. There are stirring moments, plus a
cautionary note: As of
2010,
only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies were led by women.

Other choices
include:

NCIS,” 8
p.m., CBS. A therapist was killed. Now the team must determine if
that involved her own work or was aimed at her husband, a Navy
commander who's on a Jihad hit list.

NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Paige Turco – who also has a terrific role
as the doctor on “The 100” -- returns to her role as the wife of
Pride (Scott Bakula). This murder story is set on Halloween, when it
can take advantage of New Orleans' strong settings, including the
cemeteries where everything (due to flood rules) is above-ground.

Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Hydra disguises as SHIELD and attacks the
United Nations.

Marry Me”
and “About a Boy,” 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Mammoth Halloween
plans draw disapproval from neighbors.

Frontline,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This documentary, PBS says,
wiill view the unheeded warnings and missed opplortunities that led
to the rise of ISIS,

Sons of
Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX. “I can't believe I didn't see this
happening,” Jax says. Neither can we, actually. His vengeance
campaign – based, ironically, on lies from his mother – has
brought a fierce wave of reprisals. Now a friend is captive, with
body parts being sent to his colleagues. It's a tough, disturbing
hour.