TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 30


TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: State of the Union address, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC,
Fox, PBS and news channels.

Sure, there are
years when viewers grab their remotes when a speech begins. But this
is a time of big news – government shutdown, immigration changes,
tax overhaul and more. Networks will fill two hours, including the
Democratic response by Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, Robert's grandson.

CNN and Fox News
will be in Washington, starting at 6 a.m. ET; Fox stays there until 2
a.m. CNN hits full preview mode at 7 p.m. and reruns the talk at
midnight. And there's even some satire “The Daily Show” and “The
Opposition” will be live, at 11 and 11:30 p.m. ET on Comedy
Central.

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

This is CW's chance
to steal a bit of the audience. As the only major broadcast network
to skip the speech, it brings extra attention to “Lightning,”
which is a solid, serious show – almost too serious.

The action portions
are brief – partly because Jefferson Pierce's powers are so quick
and thorough; the quiet parts are prolonged, as he tries to avoid his
destiny. Adding to the story are his two daughters: The 16-year-old
wants to have sex – Jefferson's chat with her boyfriend is just
creepy – and her older sister is discovering her superpowers. It's
a fairly good hour, worth seeing ... or recording for post-speech.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Bellevue,” 10 p.m., WGN America.

In a gritty stretch
of rural Canada, questions prevail. The star hockey player has been
wearing a skirt and visiting the reservation; now he's missing. The
best cop (Anna Paquin) is has been haunted by the mysterious man who
ruined her childhood; in last week's opener, he terrified her
daughter.

Now the search
builds and cops learn secrets. This eight-week miniseries is
overstated, but involving.

ALSO: “We'll Meet
Again,” 8 p.m., PBS.

When Mount St.
Helens erupted in 1980, the impact was fierce. The death toll was 57
... and would have been higher, if geologist David Johnston (one of
the victims) hadn't given strong warnings.

Now Ann Curry talks
to two survivors. One wants to thank Johnston's family; another wants
to find the National Guard helicopter pilot who saved her ... an
event so life-changing that she became a career Guardsman. The
stories are dramatic; the “searches” to find the people are,
alas, kind of lame.

Other choices
include:

“The Hulk”
(2003), 7-10 p.m., WGN America, and more. Some cable networks start
early, to grab people who are skipping the speech. At 7:30, FX has
the popular “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014); at 7:46, Starz has
“Rough Night” (2017), a female comedy with a clever plot and
adequate execution.

”Super Bowl
Greatest Commercials,” 8 p.m., CBS. This has been an annual
pleasure. The new edition includes a “Man vs. Beast” theme –
five spots featuring sports stars against five featuring animals.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. In both episodes, Jessica has schemes
about her son Evan. In the first, she tries to keep him from learning
that Nancy Kwan didn't win the Olympics; in the second, she pushes
him to be student of the month, to spite her nemesis (Angela Kinsey).

“Citizen Rose,”
8-10 p.m., E, rerunning at 10. This reality-style documentary follows
actress/activist Rose McGowan, before and after she and others went
public with sex-abuse allegations.

Movies, 9 p.m.,
cable. As the speech begins, some viewers will look for last-second
alternatives. There's Tom Hanks' “Apollo 13” (1995) on Sundance
and Tom Cruise's “Knight and Daye” (2011) on CMT, plus “Goonies”
(1985) on Syfy and “Ella Enchanted” (2004) on Freeform.

“Baskets,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunning at 11. Most episodes – including last week's
season-opener, rerunning at 10:30 – are solemn and are sort on
laughs. Here's an exception, with great moments as soon as Martha
(the wonderfully droll Martha Kelly) is brought into the story.

 

TV column for Monday, Jan. 29


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Valor” and “The Brave” season-finales, 9 p.m., CW; 10 p.m.,
NBC.

Two military shows
end their 13-episode seasons, back-to-back. Both have women in key
roles, in a genre that used to be all-male.

In “Valor,” it's
Nora (Christina Ochoa), a helicopter pilot; she may be ready to
confess her secret. And in “Brave,” it's Patricia (Anne Heche).
She usually runs things from headquarters, but last week, she went
overseas to gather information. Now she's trying to guide Dalton's
high-stakes mission.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Waco: Madman or Messiah” conclusion, 9-11:03 p.m., A&E;
rerunning at 12:03 a.m.

It was almost 25
years ago that more than 80 people died in the siege of the Davidian
compound, near Waco, Texas. Now TV is re-examining a slow-building
tragedy.

One approach is the
six-week “Waco” mini-series that debuted Wednesday on the
re-dubbed Paramount Network, with a richly textured performance by
Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh. The other is this documentary;
Sunday's opener reruns at 7 p.m., leading into this conclusion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Girlfriends,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

Long ago, these
three sang in a girl group; then their lives split wildly. Sue
(Miranda Richardson) is a glamorous magazine editor, in a perpetual
affair with her boss ... Gail (Zoe Wanamaker) is a divorced crossing
guard ... Linda (Phyllis Logan) and her husband are ready for retired
life.

Then come the jolts
– death, demotion, deceit; like “Mistresses,” this gets soapy
in a hurry, salvaged by good actors. In support are Matthew Lewis and
Daisy Head as young lovers and Anthony Head (Daisy's dad) as the
boss. Two Heads are better than one and lots of talented people save
an iffy tale.

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

This requires lots
of patience. The first portion – simply following Dylan, who is
young, affable and homeless – moves slowly; its seems as drifting
and aimless as its subject.

Stick around,
though. In the second half, we get a textured portrait of Dylan.
Filmmaker Nanfu Wang shows that a simple-seeming life can hold
fascinating contradictions.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. TV used to have “Bowling For Dollars”; now
it's “Bowling for Romance”? The women go bowling, with only the
winning team staying for the after-party. Also, two dates are on
opposite vessels – a 100-foot yacht and a swamp boat.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. A chemistry teacher (and former drug cook) has been
killed. Lucifer and Pierce go undercover to learn who did it. Also,
Maze is attracted to someone she used to hate.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. Last week, Nicolette (Emily VanCamp) became suspicious
of Dr. Hunter (Melina Kanakaredes); now she vows to find missing
paperwork. Also, a war buddy visits Conrad.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Negative views can sting: Franco is shocked by a bad
grade from his art teacher; Arthur obsesses on finding out who gave
his shop a bad Online review.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. The team must protect a nuclear facility that's endangered
by a tsunami.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. A patient's honesty may cost him a chance for
surgery.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Grammy awards, 7:30-11 p.m. ET, CBS.

This is the 60th
Grammy night, so it will be longer and larger; it will also be live
on both coasts. James Corden will host from Madison Square Garden,
with Spike Lee directing.

There will be key
combos -- Miley Cyrus with Elton John, Emmylou Harris with Chris
Stapleton, Zuleyka Rivera with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. Jon
Baptiste and Gary Clark Jr. will do a tribute to Chuck Berry and Fats
Domino; Eric Church, Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne will do a
tribute to . ; Las Vegas victims. Also performing: Lady Gaga, Bruno
Mars, U2, Pink, Kendrick Lamar, Sza, more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Queen Elizabeth's Secret Agents” debut, 10 p.m., PBS.

The first Queen
Elizabeth stepped into a world of schemes and plots. Her solution
remains familiar, four centuries later – create a secret service,
to spy on and catch the enemies.

That story is told
(rather stiffly, alas) in a series of documentaries, mixing
re-enactments and talking heads. The opener jumps ahead to the time
after her death; her agent learns of schemes to kidnap the new king
and convert him to Catholicism. Fierce anti-Catholic retribution
follows.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Simpsons,” 4 p.m. to midnight, FXX and Fox.

After almost 30
years, this show remains smart and funny. There are new episodes on
Fox (albeit, a rerun tonight) and a cascade of reruns on cable and
local stations.

Tonight's Fox
episode (8 p.m.) whisks us to a Medieval world where Marge's mother
has been turned into an Ice Walker. Soon, Homer is trying to lead a
feudal uprising. Meanwhile, FXX has more reruns from 4-8 p.m., then
the terrific “Simpsons Movie” (2007) at 8 and 10.

Other choices
include:

Grammy red-carpet
coverage, 5:30 p.m. ET, E, and 6:30, CBS. There's two hours on E and
one on CBS. Even before that, E has its Grammy preview at 3:30 p.m.;
Fuse has one at 9 and 10 a.m.

“Scandalous,” 7
and 8 p.m., Fox News. First is a rerun of the series-opener, focusing
on the Bill Clinton impeachment probe. Then a new hour views a
subject that seems newly timely -- the sexual harrasment charges by
Paula Jones, who was an Arkansas state employee when Clinton was
governor.

“Faith Under
Fire,” 8 p.m., Lifetime; or “Waco: Madman or Messiah,” 9 p.m.,
A&E. Here are two stories of real-life crises. On Lifetime, Toni
Braxton plays the Georgia mom who calmly talked down a school gunman;
on A&E, a documentary focuses on David Koresh and the Waco siege.

“Ghosted,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. It's Halloween – yes, this is a rerun – and the bureau
is overwhelmed with paranormal activity. Leroy has bigger concerns:
He's going trick-or-treating with his son -- who really wants to go
to a party ... and soon is infected with a virus from a demon cat.

“Neighbors”
(2014), 9-11 p.m., NBC. Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne)
just want to settle into a quiet home with their baby; then a noisy
fraternity moves in, forcing retaliation. The movie would have been a
delight, if they had concocted something clever; they didn't and it's
merely so-so.

“Victoria,” 9
p.m., PBS. The men have been botching foreign affairs lately, so
Queen Victoria decides to take over. She takes the royal court to
France and confronts King Louis Philippe.

“LA to Vegas,”
9:30 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of the opener, a fun one that
introduced the mismatched people in a short-run air route. Kim Matula
plays a stewardess who keeps having to solve problems, especially
with a wayward captain (Dylan McDermott).

“The Alienist,”
10 p.m., TNT. In a rerun of Monday's opener, a criminal profiler –
something new, back then – tries to find a serial killer in 1890s
New York.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 27


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

Will Ferrell returns
to the show that made him famous. When he arrived in 1995, “SNL”
was at one of its low points. When he left, seven years later, it had
Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler and a sharp comedy sense. Ferrell
was portraying Alex Trbek, George W. Bush and more.

He took that Bush
role to Broadway and HBO, then became a movie star and TV producer.
The company he co-founded, Funny or Die, makes “Drunk History,”
“LA to Vegas,” “No Activity” and more. Now Ferrell hosts for
the first time in six years; Chris Stapleton is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Planet Earth,” all day, BBC America.

This is television
at its best – technically stunning, esthetically gorgeous, with
solid science at its core. The original, 11-hour “Planet Earth”
(2001) won two Emmys and was nominated by the Television Critics
Association as the year's best movie or mini-series.

Now that reruns from
noon to 9 p.m. and from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., sandwiching its
gorgeous spin-off: At 9 p.m. is the second episode of “Planet
Earth: Blue Planet II,” reaching Antarctica.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story,” 8-10:02 p.m., Lifetime.

In 2013, a young man
entered a Georgia elementary school with an AK-47 and 500 bullets. He
was greeted by the soothing presence of the bookkeeper. “Don't feel
bad, baby,” Tuff told him. “My husband just left me after 33
years .... I've got a son who's multiple disabled. It's all going to
be well.”

For 25 minutes –
while the school evacuated -- she stayed on the line with a 9-1-1
operator, while also talking to the gunman. Toni Braxton plays Tuff,
with Trevor Morgan as the gunman and Yaya DaCasta (“Chicago Med”)
as the operator. A profile of Tuff is at 10:02 p.m., with the film
repeating at 11:02.

Other choices
include:

“Rocky” (1976)
and “Chuck” (2016), 6:20 and 8:20 p.m., Showtime. Separated by 40
years, here's the terrific Sylvester Stallone film, followed by one
about the real-life boxer who partly inspired it.

Sports, 8 p.m. ET,
ABC and Fox. Taking no chances, ABC set the champion Golden State
Warriors for the first and second weeks of Saturday-night NBA games.
Tonight, the preview is at 8 and the Warriors host the Celtics at
8:30. Fox counters with mixed martial arts, with Ronaldo Souza and
Derek Brunson.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, McGee spends hours on a victim's ham radio, trying
to find a key witness. Also, Torres surprises Palmer with a generous
donation to a playground project.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. Bobby Cannavale spent most of one season on
the show, as Will's boyfriend Vince. Now he visits the reboot: In a
rerun, it's Vince's weddig and Will might make a scene.

“Superstore,”
8:30, NBC. There are corporate plans to upgrade the store, but the
staff soon learns that could bring problems. Also, Cheyenne
accidentally volunteers to be Glenn's surrogate; as a teen who's
already had one baby, she's in no hurry to have another.
“SEAL
Team,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun sees Clay's first day with Jason's
team, a rough one. The goal is to bring a Russian scientist and wife
across the Afghan border, as Chinese and Russia troops close in.

“Falling Water,”
10 p.m., USA. Life gets complicated when you fret about two worlds.
Taka tries to find Shadowman in the real world; Tess and Burton
search for a missing dreamer in the dream world.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

The previous episode
(two weeks ago), was fairly good, with Rebecca following her
therapist's advice and dumping her former boss. Here's a much better
one, as her return-to-work plan goes astray. It's time for a big
scheme ... and a big music number, “The Horny, Angry Tango.”

Alongside that are
some great moments from Heather, played with dry precision by Vella
Lovell. She'd been happy as a student and bartender ... until she ran
out of classes; now she gropes for a new life.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hell's Kitchen,” 8 p.m., Fox.

A week from the
finale, this “all-star” edition has its final four. There's one
woman (Michelle Tribble, 24) and three men – Nick Bond, 28; Ben
Walenka, 36; and “Milly” Medley, 37.

Tonight, their
families visit ... and vote on the dishes, which are served
anonymously. Then contestants take turns running the kitchen – with
each given a dish with a wrong ingredient. Three will advance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “One Day at a Time” and more, any time, Netflix.

This mixes youthful
stars and some old TV tradition. It remakes a 42-year-old series and
has Rita Moreno, 86, as the grandmother and Norman Lear, 95, as one
of the producers. Its second season arrives on a day filled with
Netflix debuts.

There's the “Llama
Llama” cartoon series, based on kids' books ... And “Dirty
Money,” a documentary series about respected companies doing evil
things. And “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” with Will Forte as
Doug Kenney, a brilliant humorist (National Lampoon, “Animal
House”) who died at 33.

Other choices
include:

“Bruno Mars: Live
From the Apollo,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a change, CBS is resting
“MacGyver” and rerunnig this hour. Think of it as a promo for
Sunday's Grammys, which will also include Mars.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. Wile the team rushes to stop an arms deal, Jane and Weller
join a mysterious man from her past, to find a missing person,

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. It's a night for popular and well-made films – animated
(“LEGO Movie,” 2014, Nickelodeon), comic (“21 Jump Street,
2012, FX) or action (“Hunger Games,” 2012, TNT). There's also a
bit of “Hunger Games” feeling in “Lord of the Flies” (1963),
8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Yes, this has been wild. One woman faked her death, then
was killed; another hospitalized herself after seeing an imaginary
guy ... then found he's unimaginary. Still, the best moments in
tonight's episode (a good one) involve everyday struggles of
parenting: Jane and Rafael scheme to get their son into a better
school; her dad ponders his belated second round of fatherhood.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the opener, a new doctor is overwhelmed
by his mentor, a third-year resident. Alas, the mentor is a total
jerk, the chief of surgery is wildly corrupt and the viewer is soon
being taxed. Fortunately, the second episode (Monday) corrected some
of that.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, McGarrett and Alicia (Claire Forlani)
have been hunting a serial killer – until he captures them. Now the
team tries a rescue.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Danny (Donnie
Wahlberg) ponders retiring. Then his sister (Bridget Moynahan) asks
for help on a case involving her ex-husband.