TV column for Friday, Nov. 6


“Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Chita Rivera's
high-energy career is visited with a dizzying mix of elements. There
are great movie and TV clips, peppered with memories from Rivera and
friends, all interweaved with a current concert.

Her dance moves are
toned down these days ... but not bad for an 82-year-old, 22 years
after a car accident required 16 pins in her leg. And the clips are
sensational; from “West Side Story” to “Bye Bye Birdie,”
“Sweet Charity,” “Chicago” and this year's “The Visit,”
we see a vibrant talent.

“MasterChef Junior” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

Kya has been cooking
for five years now and tells us she has “a really sophistcated
palate”; she's 8 years old. Then there's Addison, 9, who says she's
“the best kid baker in the whole world” ... and 22 others, ages
8-13, many with that same sort of agreeable confidence.

Tonight, they do
many things that grown-ups would envy: They make a perfect burger,
concoct a sweet dessert and batter Gordon Ramsay's head. Well, it's a
pinata, shaped like his head, and they're supposed to smash it;
that's part of a fun hour that's filled with lots of fast-paced
stunts and tasks.

ALTERNATIVE: “World's Funniest” season-opener, 9 p.m.

Funniest Home Videos” proved long ago that viewers savor a chance
to see real people fall, fail, flop and, at times, get hit in the
groin. Now “Funniest” -- using only Internet videos – puts that
into overdrive. Its hyperactive approach sometimes gets in the way,
but the clips are great.

One man does achieve
smooth dance moves on a rooftop, but another's idea – somersault
off a roof and into a trash can – fails spectacularly. We see
dancers break a mirror and bump a forehead; there's also a greedy
chipmunk, a woman pursued by an amorous deer, an overwrought marriage
proposal and more.

Other choices

“Casino Royale”
(2006), 7 p.m., Syfy. This really isn't sci-fi, but it is a good
James Bond film, with a few flaws and a lot of fun. Also, “Charade”
(1963) -- a sleek, Parisian jaunt with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn
– is at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's sometimes tough to work for your dad.
When Kristin wants to oversee a project, she finds Mike (Tim Allen)
acting more like her father than her boss.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. After his teen daughter admits to sipping beer, Ken
decided to give her an illustration of alcohol's bad effects.
Naturally, the experiment goes terribly wrong.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Island dates always seem so sweet on “The Bachelor.”
McGarett's first date with Lynn is on a deserted isle ... where,
alas, a Mob boss will kill to keep his hide-out secret.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Last week's season-opener ended with Nick searching for the
people who kidnapped Trubel. Now he has new complications, protecting
his nemesis Adalind and their baby.

Awards,” 9-11 p.m., Pop. Don't let the title throw you off. This
ceremony is held in Los Angeles, with winners split evenly between
American (Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer) and British
(James Corden, Orland Bloom and director Sam Mendes).

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Anthony Edwards plays the owner of the Mustang that
Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt.” It's been stolen and Danny and
Baez try to find the thief.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 5

“Mom” season-opener, 9:01 p.m., CBS.

One of TV's best
shows is back (at last) and in top form. Last season, “Mom”
showed a rare knack for being quietly moving AND loudly funny. Now
its third season opens on the serious side.

Allison Janney
already has two Emmys as Bonnie, who's had a life of excess. Now she
meets the mom (Ellen Burstyn) she hasn't seen since she was 4. That
means Burstyn, 73, is playing a great-great-grandmother; in this
family, generations come quickly. There are deep emotions here, but
“Mom” remains very funny. Three great actresses (Anna Faris plays
a mere grandmother) blend perfectly.

II: “Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

This was supposed to
be opening night for “Angel From Hell” ... until CBS pushed it to
February. That makes sense; “Angel” would have been the weak link
among strong comedies. Still, there's a vacancy.

Next week, “2
Broke Girls” will take over the 9:30 spot; tonight, “Big Bang”
-- which aired Mondays while CBS had its Thursday-football run –
does double duty: At 8 p.m., Leonard and Penny learn what viewers
already know -- Sheldon had been ready to propose to Amy. At 9:30, a
funny rerun has Penny considering giving up her high-paying drug-rep
job, so she can audition for a movie.

ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway” finale, 9-11:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Last week's two-hour
episode (rerunning at 7 p.m.) turned the final three designers into a
final-four. Tim Gunn used his “save” to extend the say of Edmond
Newton, 37.

Now Newton is going
to Fashion Week in New York, with his emphasis on fancy gowns. Also
going are Ashley Nell Tipton, 24, with plus-size models; Candice
Cuoco, 27, with an avante-garde look; and Kelly Dempsey, 31,
approaching casual fashions with an un-casual focus.

Other choices

Football pre-game
shows (6, 7:30 and 8 p.m. ET) and kick-off (8:25 p.m. ET), NFL
Network. After seven weeks of high-rated simulcasts on CBS, the
Thursday games are now cable-only (TV stations in the two teams' home
towns). Tonight, the undefeated Bengals host the 2-6 Browns.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. A new resident transfers to the hospital ... where
people are buzzing about a patient who accidentally sent his sex tape
to the entire congregation.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. After a mostly terrific stretch on Mondays, this
sharp comedy moves to its regular night, always with four separate
stories about the family. Tonight, Colleen's ex-boyfriend (Jordan
Peele) continues causing trouble; he's trying to steal her dog and to
push his business venture.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. A top advisor to the head of the U.S. National
Clandestine Service has gone missing, Red and Liz search for him,
facing danger.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Olivia's company has a new client, but she's busy
obsessing over her own secrets. Meanwhile, the president tries to
repair his image, then makes a startling discovery.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two people who have been Annalise's
lover are linked when Eve defends Nate, who faces a new murder
charge. Also, the team has a defendant who is accused of badgering
someone who then committed suicide.

season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. Last season's finale strained
believability, as Sherlock nearly beat a man to death, then resumed
his old heroin habit. Tonight offers a slow, morose tale; even the
mystery is weak. The only good news comes late, when John Noble
(“Fringe”) joins the cast.


TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 4

Country Music Association awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Lots of familiar
names are here: Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley host and perform
for the eighth straight year. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, who host
the competing ACM awards, also perform; so do Miranda Lambert, Jason
Aldean, Zac Brown, Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line.

But there will be
fresh combinations – Keith Urban and John Mellancamp, Dierks
Bentley and Lindsey Stirling, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake,
Reba and Brooks & Dunn, Eric Church with Thomas Rhett, Hank
Williams Jr. and Fall Out Boy. Also performing: Sam Hunt, Kacey
Musgraves and more.

“Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW.

NBC's “Constantine”
was a ratings failure ... at least by big-network standards; CW's
“Arrow” is a hit ... at least by micro-network standards. That
makes them sort of equal, so here's a crossover.

Flashbacks show that
Constantine (Matt Ryan) owes Oliver a favor; sometimes, a guy really
needs a friend with exorcist-type skills. Sara has been brought back
to life, creating lots of fierce-female battles. Ryan, a talented
guy, seems out of place near the stiff acting and dialog of “Arrow.”
So does director John Badham, who once knew greatness with “Saturday
Night Fever” and “War Games.”

ALTERNATIVE: “Nova: Making North America” opener, 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings)..

If all our teachers
were like this, we might have actually learned something in geology
class. Kirk Johnson of the Smithsonian Institution combines sweeping
landscapes and impressive special effects.

We see a continent
that's been in constant – albeit gradual – change. There are
palm-frond fossils in Alaska, remnants of vast sand dunes that
coveredd the West, a massive lake in the Midwest, a mountain range in
Manhattan. There are signs of a giant rift that almost split us in
two. This hour, launching a three-week series, ranges from a current
volcano in Hawaii to a long-ago one in Minnesota.

Other choices

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. This show is at its worst when focusing on the captain,
who seems like a collection of bad scenes from old cop shows. Now
he's a murder suspect; an awful first scene signals what's ahead.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rosewood's police colleague fumes after seeing him
kiss her psychiatrist. “This thing we're doing, it's like a virus,”
Rosey says. It certainly feels like one.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Disney has “Enchanted” (2007), a clever tale with a
princess transforming from a cartoon into Amy Adams. Sundance has
“The Outsiders” (1983), Francis Coppola's richly emotional film
stuffed with young stars -- Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane,
Patrick Swayze and more.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. The early end of the World Series means this ratings-hit
only had to miss one week. Now it's back, with Lucious and Cookie
setting aside their fierce fights, to protect their kids.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. A reality show about a devout
family has presented its 13-year-old as virtuous and virginal. Now
she's pregnant and police investigate.

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 9:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. In many time
zones, this will be strictly something to record. A great epic, it
continues until 2 a.m. ET.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Here's the question most medical shows include: What if
you must decide whom to treat first, a wounded cop or the man who
shot him?

“The Brain,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Even basic decisions seem to be
affected by physical factors few people understand. We meet a woman
who is normal in other ways, but lost the decision portion of her
brain; a grocery-store trip is a blur. We see how much easier it is
to decide life and death if – like a drone pilot – we're not
directly involved. And we learn that lap dancers make more money at
different points in their menstrual cycle; the decision to hand over
money is affected by pheromones.


TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 3

The Grinder, 8:30 p.m., Fox.

A tough start for
Fox got even worse when the World Series ended early. The good news
for viewers: This show and “Grandfathered” -- good comedies,
still waiting to be discovered – can return.

On “Grinder,”
Dean (Rob Lowe) realizes that women only like him because of his
former TV show. Then his high school sweetheart (Christina Applegate)
professes to be a book person who doesn't own a TV. It's a sharp
episode, with great moments for Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Dean's

“Grandfathered,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Two straight guys
pretending to be gay? That tattered old plot suggests a lot of bad

“Grandfathered” manages to add some fresh twists tonight. It's
all tied into parents' current desire to impress pre-school
admissions people ... and Jimmy's (John Stamos') desire to impress a
beauty (JoAnna Garcia Swisher). There are fairly funny moments as he
pretends to be his son's gay lover.

ALTERNATIVE: “Manhattan,” 9 p.m., WGN, rerunning at 10.

Speculation, soap
opera and history share turf here, in a combination that would seem
absurd if it weren't so beautifully written, directed and acted.

Robert Oppenheimer,
head of the atom-bomb project, once wrote that he almost became
engaged to Jean Tatlock – a psychiatrist and a Communist – before
marrying someone else in 1940. Rumors of an affair weren't verified,
but here that provides the core of a story that peaks powerfully
(and, at that point, coincides with history). Also, the real-life
Albert Einstein has pushed to free the fictional Frank.

Other choices

“Best Time Ever,”
8 p.m., NBC. This grand experiment – a live, free-form show – was
only scheduled for eight weeks. It's been so-so, with a sharp host,
clever hidden-camera stunts and big finales, but other elements that
fell flat. Now it wraps up.

“The Muppets,” 8
p.m., ABC. Kristin Chenoweth sings with the band ... promptly causing
a rift.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Occasionally, this show focuses on Ducky – played by David
McCallum, 82, the former “Man from UNCLE” co-star. Tonight, he
reluctantly admits having a secret society to solve cold cases. His
colleagues are played by Jessica Walter, 74, and Richard Riehle, a
mere 67.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Brody's mom (Annie Potts) employs a genius
composer who is getting a transplant – until the heart is stolen.
Now the team scrambles to find it.

“The Voice,” 9
p.m., NBC. Now the show has its top 20, ready to start the live
rounds on Monday. First, here's a review of how things got this far.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. When one of the firehouse people faces a near-disaster,
colleagues link. Also, Herrmann tries to re-open the bar and Severide
pushes the arson investigation.

“Wicked City,”
10 p.m., ABC. Cable channels gave us killers with good – or, at
least, interesting – hearts. Now ABC inexplicably gives us a
heartless killer (Ed Westwick). The look and sound of 1982 Los
Angeles packs adrenaline, but tonight's story leans to the

TV column for Monday, Nov. 2

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

If the “Crazy”
songs were stripped away, this would be a neatly offbeat comedy.
Savor the scenes, for instance, after Harvard-educated Rebecca
ghost-writes a job application for hunky Josh.

Then there are those
songs, showing what's going on in her imagination. The first one is
sort of what a sexy video would be like, if done by an
obsessive-compulsive diva. The second – black-and-white and
1940s-style, complete with tap-dancing – has Josh's friend making
the simple plea, “Settle For Me.” Written with wit and filmed
with style, the songs make “Crazy” a delight.

II: “Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week's debut
offered the triumph of an individual – good-hearted, ignored, then
suddenly a hero. This second episode retreats from that a bit,
becoming more militaristic. Kara still has solo missions, but must
spend much of her time training with an alien-fighting organization.

That gives
“Supergirl” high-octane action ... plus villains who are super
enough to hold our interest. It also takes away some of the show's
charm; fortunately, there's enough left to keep us watching,

ALTERNATIVE: “Black Work,” any time,

Jo (Sheridan Smith)
is a British cop, flailing at life. Her husband, a police detective,
seems distant; her friend Jack, also a police detective, wants to be
more than a friend. And then ...

Well, we'll let the
surprises unfold. The three parts (released the next three Mondays),
offer intriguing twists. Smith – burdened by a rather awful haircut
– projects an overwhelmed-but-determined soul.

Other choices

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The “knock-out round” concludes, giving us the
top 20.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Hayes Grier was ousted last week,
leaving seven stars. Tonight, the solo-dance winner gets immunity;
others will have face-offs, with viewers voting.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Isn't Batman the guy who dislikes guns? This hour (set
before young Bruce Wayne became Batman) has bullets flying during two
mega battles. It also has stylish visuals, tough dialog and the
future Riddler, who accidentally killed his girlfriend without
(really) using a gun.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. For 65 years, CBS had situation comedies on Mondays. They
went from “The Goldbergs” to “2 Broke Girls,” including
“Lucy,” “MASH” and “Raymond.” That ends tonight, with
“Supergirl” plud two more dramas. Here, Paige and her son are on
a sabotaged, runaway train.

“NCIS: LA,” 9:59
p.m., CBS. Sam's former partner disappears, after buying a bomb

“I'll Have What
Phil's Having” finale, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Phil
Rosenthal says he grew up assuming Los Angeles is a taste wasteland.
His view changed during years producinng “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
This amiable hour takes us from the Farmers Market to a restaurant
run by former gang members. Rosenthal and friends – Ray Romano,
Norman Lear, etc – savor the choices.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX. Ed Blomquist (Jesse Plemons) is a decent chap who just
wants to buy the butcher shop where he works. Problems arrive with
his wife Peggy (Kirsten Dunst). First, she drove home with a killer
on the car hood; Ed had to dispose of him. Now she wants to spend the
money on a self-help seminar. That's one part of another great
(albeit violent) hour, wrapping up TV's best night.