TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Kennedy Center Honors,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

For decades, this
has been one of TV's best shows. It slipped a bit, after replacing
producer George Stevens Jr. (as evidenced by tonight's dreary,
six-minute opening), but remains a classy delight.

There is “All in
the Family” producer Norman Lear, described by J.J. Abrams as “a
95-year-old superhero.” There's great music – a Latin beat for
Gloria Estefan, rap rhythms for LL Cool J – and a dynamic dance
tribute for Carmen de Lavallade. And Nicole Richie calls her adoptive
dad Lionel “the happiest person I know,” leading into a great
tribute with Luke Bryan, Stevie Wonder and Leona Lewis.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Major Crimes,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT; repeats at 11:02 p.m. and
12:03 a.m.

After a dozen years
of self-contained episodes (seven years as “The Closer,” five as
“Crimes”), this show has switched in its final season to three
multi-part tales. Tonight, the final two episodes of the second story
rerun at 7 and 8 p.m.; then we get the first half of the final one.

There's a sudden
death of a key cop – possibly linked to the escape of Philip Stroh,
the cunning killer played by Billy Burke. Meanwhile, Rusty finds some
advice and some frustration.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Sultan and the Saint,” 8-9 p.m., PBS.

By 1219, the
Christians and Muslims had seen waves of death. This was the fifth
Crusade, each one determined to kill or convert all Muslims. “Destroy
that vile race,” Pope Urban II had written.

Then the weather
left the attackers paralyzed. They could have been slaughtered ...
but were saved by extraordinary kindness from the Sultan of Egypt.
Why? This interesting film – dramatized, but with lots of narration
from Jeremy Irons – credits Francis of Assisi (the future St.
Francis). He had risked his life to have long conversations with the
Sultan; two deeply decent men ended the cycle of death.

Other choices
include:

“The Godfather”
(1972) and “Godfather II” (1974), 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., AMC, then at
5:30 and 9:30. Here are great movies. One is No. 2 (trailing only
“Citizen Kane”) on the American Film Institute's all-time list;
the other is No. 32 ... and the only sequel in the top 100. Both won
best-picture Oscars.

“Happy New Year,
Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph's Shiny New Year,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. Did you ever notice that the great Christmas cartoons vastly
outnumber the good New Year's ones?

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun from early in the season, Gibbs and McGee have been
rescued, but the effects aren't certain. A doctor (Laura San Giacomo)
must approve before they can resume work.

“The Mick,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Mick begins to suspect that
Jimmy is having an affair with an heiress. In the second – an
interesting, quirky one – the kids visit their parents in jail.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 9 p.m., NBC. Next week, this show will take a Monday spot
and “Ellen's Game of Games” will be Tuesdays. To get us ready,
they have reruns at 8 and 9 p.m. today. In this one, the guys visit a
nude park in Munich and have “a Julie Andrews moment” atop the
Bavarian Alps.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the so-so season opener, Dr. Charles
(Oliver Platt) gets a chance to speak at the trial of the patient who
shot him.

“Married at First
Sight: Jamie and Doug Plus One,” 10:02 and 10:32 p.m., Lifetime.
Like most dating shows, “First Sight” has had few lasting
matches; Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner are an exception. Strangers when
they married, they've been together three years, with a four-month
old baby. They were profiled last week, in a film that reruns today
at 7 and 8 p.m. and at 11:02 p.m. Now we see details of their new
life – indecision about day-care issues and about Jamie's mother's
involvement with the baby.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC.

TV has given us
approximately 7.2 zillion Christmas shows, old and new, this month.
But here's the one that (alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas”)
ranks as the best of all.

It started with a
great Dr. Seuss book. Then animation genius Chuck Jones added the
voices of Boris Karloff (narrating) and June Foray (as Cindy Lou
Who), plus Thurl Ravenscroft, booming the song.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Magical Christmas Celebration,” 10 a.m. to noon, ABC (9-11 a.m.
PT).

By mid-morning, some
people might be worn out by the holiday frenzy. It's time for bright
colors and cheery music. This has Christmas Day parades at Disney
parks, plus pre-recorded music.

Nick Lachey hosts
(with Julianne Hough) and joins his band (98 Degrees) for “Season
of Love.” Other performers include Ciara, Darius Rucker, Jason
Derulo, Lea Michele and Fritz and the Tantrums.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife Holiday Special,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS.

In real life,
England was hit with fierce weather in 1962-3. In 350 years, only two
winters have been colder; by late December, some areas had 20-foot
snowdrifts.

That's the backdrop
for this story. Milk is scarce, toilets are frozen, people are
desperate; the midwives face waves of tragedy. An old woman has
survived decades of abuse; a young, unmarried woman shivers while
waiting to give birth. There are dark moments here, plus good news
that pushes “Christmas miracle” to an extreme. Despite it all,
there's the quiet joy of good people getting by.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Murdoch Mysteries,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

This gentle Canadian
drama – which is also on the Ovation network as “The Artful
Detective” -- begins its 11th season of catching crooks
in 1890s-or-so Toronto. And it starts with a rare crisis: Murdoch has
been framed for murder, several of his men were shot and his wife is
missing.

Throughout it, he
remains as sturdy as Dudley Do-Right. This streaming service will
release the new season over 18 Mondays. Also today, it has the season
finales of solid series from Australia (“A Place to Call Home”),
New Zealand (“Brokenwood Mysteries”) and England (“Love, Lies &
Records”).

Other choices
include:

“The Christmas
Train” (2017), 12:30 p.m., Hallmark. The holiday marathons wrap up
on Freeform, Ion, TBS and TNT (both with “Christmas Story” every
two hours to 8 p.m.), and on both Hallmark channels. One highlight is
this film, from the prestigious “Hallmark Hall of Fame.”

Basketball, 3 p.m.
ET, ABC. An impressive tripleheader starts with Golden State at
Cleveland. That's followed by Washington and Boston at 5:30 and
Houston and Oklahoma City at 8. If you need more, ESPN has
Philadelphia and New York at noon ET; TNT has Minnesota and the
Lakers at 10:30 p.m.

“iHeartRadio
Jingle Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW. This rerun is stuffed with pop
stars, including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Fifth Harmony and two
First Direction guys – Liam Payne and Niall Horan.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 8 p.m., p.m., Fox. Fifth Harmony is in this rerun, too,
along with Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, DMX and host Steve Harvey.

“When Calls the
Heart,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. This amiable series – set in a Canadian
frontier town – offers a movie-length special: Local people are
eager to place their desires on a Christmas “wishing tree.”

“Doctor Who,”
9-11 p.m. ET, BBC America. A new film offers key moments: Peter
Capaldi ends his three-season stay as the 12th Doctor ...
David Bradley (“The Strain”) portrays the first Doctor ... and
Jodie Whittaker, 35, becomes the 13th Doctor, breaking a
male monopoly on the role.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun from a year ago, the team faces gun-runners on
Christmas Eve.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Christmas Story” (1983), 8 p.m. and beyond, TBS; or “It's a
Wonderful Life” (1946), 8-11 p.m., NBC

When people argue
about the best Christmas movies ever, they sometimes settle on these
two. “Wonderful Life,” with James Stewart, has the warmth;
“Christmas Story” has a tad of warmth, but mixes it with a
refreshingly cynical sense of humor.

Fortunately, you can
catch both. This is the annual, 24-hour marathon for “Christmas
Story,” which re-starts every two hours. Catch it at 8 p.m., 10,
midnight, etc., through 6-8 p.m. Monday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

As the 1990s began,
the notion of a Disney animated feature was wobbling. With an
occasional exception (“Little Mermaid,” perhaps) there hadn't
been a great one in more than 20 years.

Then “Beauty”
won Oscars for its title song and its score; it was nominated for
four more, including being the first cartoon up for best picture.
That would quickly be followed by “Aladdin,” “Lion King” and
the Pixar revolution; Disney became rich enough to buy ABC, where
this gem reruns tonight.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Movies, 4 p.m. to 12:06 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Today, the channel
lives up to the “classic” in its name. That includes “Christmas
in Connecticut” (1945) at 4 p.m. ET, “The Bishop's Wife” (1947)
at 8 and “The Bells of St.Mary” (1945) at 10.

All are in
black-and-white, but making up for that is “Meet Me in St. Louis”
(1946) at 6 p.m. ET. Director Vincente Minnelli, a former set
designer, bathed it with glorious color. Judy Garland – whom he
soon married – introduced a great song, “Have Yourself a Merry
Little Christmas.” That one didn't even get a best-song Oscar
nomination ... but another tune -- “The Trolley Song” -- did.

Other choices
include:

“A Happy Yule
Log,” 5 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Monday, Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Yes, it's a 23-hour stretch of a dog, a cat and some
kittens, in front of a fireplace, plus Christmas tunes.

“How Murray Saved
Christmas,” 7:30 p.m., NBC. The original, hour-long cartoon rippled
with smart songs and wittty lines. This is a half-hour version,
following “Trolls” at 7.

More cartoons, 8-10
p.m., Fox. It's a night of Christmas cartoon reruns. Krusty and his
daughter spend the holiday with “The Simpsons” at 8. A fun “Ice
Age” special is 8:30, followed by “Family Guy” (Peter's a mall
Santa) At 9 and “Bob's Burgers” (an intense gingerbread-house
competition) at 9:30.

“Last Tango in
Halifax Holiday Special,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After
their late-in-life marriage, Alan and Celia have another belated
adventure – co-starring in community theater. That story provides a
light backdrop for some dark moments: Through flashbacks and a
confession, we learn why their daughters are in agony. This is a
harsh hour, complicated by accents that are tough to follow.

“I Love Lucy”
and “Dick Van Dyke Show” specials, 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In a change
of plans, CBS will rerun these specials, two days after they aired.
Both add color to black-and-white episodes. “Lucy” flashes back
to some great moments; the Van Dyke episodes are merely so-so.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the show's 150th episode,
Isaiah Washington plays a police chief who refuses to go when he
reaches the mandatory retirement age. Also, an ex-cop disappears,
after telling Danny she'll make amends to someone she helped wrongly
convict.

Christmas services.
At 11:30 p.m., NBC will go to the Vatican for midnight Mass; at
11:35, CBS will be at Fairfield University in Connecticut, for music
and reflections.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Christmas Story” (1983), 8 p.m. and beyond, TBS; or “It's a
Wonderful Life” (1946), 8-11 p.m., NBC

When people argue
about the best Christmas movies ever, they sometimes settle on these
two. “Wonderful Life,” with James Stewart, has the warmth;
“Christmas Story” has a tad of warmth, but mixes it with a
refreshingly cynical sense of humor.

Fortunately, you can
catch both. This is the annual, 24-hour marathon for “Christmas
Story,” which re-starts every two hours. Catch it at 8 p.m., 10,
midnight, etc., through 6-8 p.m. Monday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

As the 1990s began,
the notion of a Disney animated feature was wobbling. With an
occasional exception (“Little Mermaid,” perhaps) there hadn't
been a great one in more than 20 years.

Then “Beauty”
won Oscars for its title song and its score; it was nominated for
four more, including being the first cartoon up for best picture.
That would quickly be followed by “Aladdin,” “Lion King” and
the Pixar revolution; Disney became rich enough to buy ABC, where
this gem reruns tonight.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Movies, 4 p.m. to 12:06 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Today, the channel
lives up to the “classic” in its name. That includes “Christmas
in Connecticut” (1945) at 4 p.m. ET, “The Bishop's Wife” (1947)
at 8 and “The Bells of St.Mary” (1945) at 10.

All are in
black-and-white, but making up for that is “Meet Me in St. Louis”
(1946) at 6 p.m. ET. Director Vincente Minnelli, a former set
designer, bathed it with glorious color. Judy Garland – whom he
soon married – introduced a great song, “Have Yourself a Merry
Little Christmas.” That one didn't even get a best-song Oscar
nomination ... but another tune -- “The Trolley Song” -- did.

Other choices
include:

“A Happy Yule
Log,” 5 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Monday, Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Yes, it's a 23-hour stretch of a dog, a cat and some
kittens, in front of a fireplace, plus Christmas tunes.

“How Murray Saved
Christmas,” 7:30 p.m., NBC. The original, hour-long cartoon rippled
with smart songs and wittty lines. This is a half-hour version,
following “Trolls” at 7.

More cartoons, 8-10
p.m., Fox. It's a night of Christmas cartoon reruns. Krusty and his
daughter spend the holiday with “The Simpsons” at 8. A fun “Ice
Age” special is 8:30, followed by “Family Guy” (Peter's a mall
Santa) At 9 and “Bob's Burgers” (an intense gingerbread-house
competition) at 9:30.

“Last Tango in
Halifax Holiday Special,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After
their late-in-life marriage, Alan and Celia have another belated
adventure – co-starring in community theater. That story provides a
light backdrop for some dark moments: Through flashbacks and a
confession, we learn why their daughters are in agony. This is a
harsh hour, complicated by accents that are tough to follow.

“I Love Lucy”
and “Dick Van Dyke Show” specials, 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In a change
of plans, CBS will rerun these specials, two days after they aired.
Both add color to black-and-white episodes. “Lucy” flashes back
to some great moments; the Van Dyke episodes are merely so-so.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the show's 150th episode,
Isaiah Washington plays a police chief who refuses to go when he
reaches the mandatory retirement age. Also, an ex-cop disappears,
after telling Danny she'll make amends to someone she helped wrongly
convict.

Christmas services.
At 11:30 p.m., NBC will go to the Vatican for midnight Mass; at
11:35, CBS will be at Fairfield University in Connecticut, for music
and reflections.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Ten Days in the Valley,” 10 p.m., ABC.

This mini-series was
growing -- from good to great -- when ABC foolishly pulled it. Now
it's back and it's compelling. Two events have merged – the
kidnapping of Jane's daughter (by her assistant, now dead) ... and
the corrupt cops who are enraged that Gus told her details she's
using in her TV show.

Yes, this requires
some extreme coincidences, but it's still potent. Tonight, Jane's
sister – already furious that her husband never told her about a
long-ago fling with Jane – discovers a huge secret. And Bird –
the seemingly honest cop – begins figuring details of the original
raid by his corrupt colleagues.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Football, all day, ESPN; 8:30 p.m., NBC.

This looked like a
mega-day – three bowls and the pros. ESPN has the Birmingham Bowl
at noon ET, with South Florida (9-2) and Texas Tech (6-6) ... the
Armed Forces Bowl at 3:30, with Army (8-3) and San Diego State
(10-2) ... the Dollar General Bowl at 7 with Toledo (11-2) and
Appalachian State (8-4).

And “Sunday Night
Football” arrives a day early, to avoid Christmas Eve. The game –
Vikings at the Packers – seemed huge when it was scheduled ...
until Packer star Aaron Rodgers was injured. Now his team (7-7) is
out of play-off contention and the Vikings (11-3) have clinched the
division title.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cinderella” (2015), “The Wizard of Oz” (1939),
5:45 and 8 p.m., TNT.

Here's instant proof
that great family films don 't have to be animated.

First, Kenneth
Branagh directs a classic tale, giving it the same care he does when
adapting Shakespeare. Then we re-see “Oz”; it's a piece of
Hollywood history, listed as No. 10 on the American Film Institute's
list of all-time best movies.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY:
“The Great Christmas Lights Fight,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

The network's
decision to pull “The Great American Baking Show” has rippled
over several nights. ABC had planned to rerun “CMA Country
Christmas” tonight ... but needed that to plug the Thursday
“Baking” hole; now a “Lights Fight” rerun (with gingerbread
houses) fills tonight's hole.

This began after
several women accused Johnny Iuzzini (a “Baking Show” judge) of
sexual harassment. A crackdown on individuals is admirable, but
there's a broader question: Should an entire show be tossed out
because one person – not even the key person -- may have acted
badly elsewhere?

Other choices
include:

Christmas movies,
7:10 p.m. and beyond, cable. Tonight's only new movie is “Christmas
Getaway,” at 8 p.m. on Hallmark. But there are strong reruns, led
by two comedies -- “Christmas Vacation” (1989) at 7:10 p.m. on
Freeform; “Scrooged” (1988) at 8 p.m. on AMC – and George C.
Scott's lush “Christmas Carol” (1984), at 10 p.m. on AMC.

More movies, cable.
Not everyone is seekig holiday escapism. One alternative is “The
Quiet Man” (1954) – John Ford's acclaimed John Wayne film – at
8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies; another is the true holocaust
story “The Zookeeper's Wife,” at 8 p.m. on HBO.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 8 p.m., CBS. To catch Pride's nemesis, a dangerous plan
begins: Sebastian, a forensics scientist, goes undercover; Patton
(Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) uses his gambling skills.

“The Gifted,” 8
p.m., Fox. Lauren and her brother Andy are still getting used to the
fact that they have mutant powers. Now they try to combine them, to
help take down Sentinel Services.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. The murder victim is the bodyguard of a famous singer.
Now Murtaugh must turn to his daughter for background on the singer.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m. or later, NBC. It's a rerun, on a night when
football will delay the show in some time zones.