TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 13

“Second Chance” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

Jimmy Pritchard was
a bad father and a tough sheriff who resigned amid corruption
charges. Insisting he was framed, he sank into alcohol, was killed by
an intruder ... and was resurrected by tech wizards.

Yes, this is
fiction, but it's good, solid stuff, more of a character drama than
goofy a fantasy. Rob Kazinsky – Warlow in “True Blood” -- plays
the resurrected Jimmy, now with new physical powers and a
determination to make it up to his son (Tim DeKay of “White
Collar”) and granddaughter.

II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Animals are clever
about self-protection, you know. (You'd be, too, if lions and tigers
kept trying to eat you.) Starting a terrific, three-week series on
wildlife wisdome, this views defensive mechanisms.

Some animals are
masters of camouflage, but zebras have a more-lasting approach: Their
stripe pattern creates illusions that perplex predators. Then there's
outright trickery: The harmless king snake copies the deadly coral
snake; burrowing owls even makes a vocal sound to imitate a

ALTERNATIVE: “Teachers” debut, 11 p.m., TV Land.

These six young
teachers share a deep disinterest in their work. One lectures to kids
about her divorce and the importance of abandoning dreams; others
range from conservative Christianity to liberal political
correctness. None of them seem to pay much attention to the kids.

In the wrong hands,
this could be brash or silly; “Teachers,” however, is in the
skilled hands of the Katydids. Six clever comedians – each
happening to have a variation on the name “Kate” -- started this
show Online. You can see that here, with a style that is short, odd,
but (generally) quite funny.

Other choices

(1972), 6:30 p.m., Sundance. Burt Reynolds' best film goes against a
terrific Eddie Murphy double feature on IFC -- “Beverly Hills Cop”
(1984) at 8 p.m.. and “48 Hrs.” at 10:30. Also, at 8 p.m., HBO
has Reese Witherspoon in the interesting, true-life “Wild”

“American Idol,”
8 p.m., Fox. After a couple two-hour auditions last week (with
another two-hour show Thursday), “Idol” trims to an hour tonight
to make room for “Second Chance.”

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The older kids find their worlds quaking: Axl starts a
disappointing internship; Sue is challenged by a professor who wants
her to quit being so optimistic.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Lily is planning a sleepover with her friends from the
Vietnamese dance troupe. Meanwhile, Gloria and Cam try to steal some
much-needed hot pepper.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. Last week's opener closed with a distraught mom (Lili
Taylor) calling police; her teen son, she said, had been drugged and
raped. Now the second episode (brilliantly done, again) finds the
quiet agony of an investigation ... and the scurrying by the head of
a school's leader and its basketball coach – played by Felicity
Huffman and Tim Hutton, last season's stars.

“Younger,” 10-11
p.m., TV Land. In a fairly good season-opener, Liza (two-time
Tony-winner Sutton Foster) has finally told her boyfriend that she's
really 40. At work, however, people still think she's in her 20s ...
a point that gets complicated when her daughter returns from college.

“It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia” and “Man Seeking Woman,” 10 and 10:30 p.m.,
FXX. Both comedies use exaggeration for fairly good effect. “Sunny”
sees Frank bump his head and revert back almost a decade, bringing
some big laughs. And “Man”? Last season, someone dated Hitler;
this year, Josh's dream girl is dating Jesus ... played with solid
earnestness by Fred Armisen.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 12

(In Western time zones, please double-check the
times for the non-cable shows surrounding the State of the Union

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

Barack Obama's final
“State” talk comes at a time when people are paying attention to
the news.

ABC and CBS will
continue coverage to 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC and PBS until 11; news
channels will go on forever. Fox tends to switch to local news at 10,
with the follow-up continuing on cable's Fox News.

ALTERNATIVE: “Shadowhunters” debut, 9 p.m., Freeform.

Yes, “Freeform.”
Starting today, it's the name for ABC Family ... which has been Fox
Family, Family Channel and Christian Broadcast Network. This show
reflects its push for a hip/zesty image.

That starts with
Clary's mom deciding to tell her something the day AFTER her 18th
birthday. A day sooner would have helped Clary deal with all the
demons and danger she'll confront today. That seems a tad contrived –
well, a LOT contrived – but the rest works. Clary is simultaneously
tough and fragile and beautiful. The action is brisk and the violent
show offers a sort of ... well, freeform fun.

ALTERNATIVE II: More fantasy, 9 and 10 p.m.

Outside of the news
coverage, your top choices are fantasy. At 9 is “Shadowhunters”
or MTV's “Teen Wolf” or CW's “iZombie” ... in which Liv is
livid: Someone killed the star of TV's “Zombie High.”

And at 10 is the
second episode of MTV's “Shannara Chronicles.” In the opener --
gorgeous visually, so-so otherwise – Wil was handed some elfstones
and told he has a magic destiny. Now he'd better figure out quickly
how to use them, because he and Amberle have been kidnapped.

Other choices

“NCIS.” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun of the season's second episode finds Gibbs – recovered
from surgery and sporting a new look – helping a DEA agent with
whom he shares a tragic past.

“Finding Your
Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Lately, Soledad O'Brien
has been viewing the African-Cuban roots on her mother's side. In
this excellent hour, Henry Louis Gates gives her a look at her dad's
side ... and at the Irish roots she shares with two other guests,
Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher. Opposite people (politically) turn out
to have much in common.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. Jess is dating a guy (Taran Killem of “Saturday Night
Live”) who's tremendously dull ... but has fun parents (Henry
Winkler and Julie Haggerty). It's a fairly funny show, spiced by
Nick's efforts to be both a pal and the boss.

“Pretty Little
Liars,” 8 p.m., Freeform. Returning for mid-season, the show jumps
ahead five years. Many of the young women have big-city jobs in
glamorous fields: Now, however, Ali begs them to return to town for
the trial of the person who anonymously tormented them for years.

“The Killing
Field,” 10:01 p.m., Discovery. Last week, this documentary series
introduced a fascinating person – a retired Louisiana cop,
re-opening a 1997 murder investigation. Tonight, the probe continues,
with no guarantee that the case will be resolved.

“Born This Way,”
10:01 p.m., A&E. The first season concludes for this praised
series about young adults who have Down syndrome. Megan tries to help
Elena and says goodbye to her new friends.

Comedies, 10:30
p.m.. ABC and CBS. Tentative plans call for reruns of “The
Goldbergs” (Barry finally gets a dog) and “Mike & Molly”
(Kathy Bates plays Peggy's depressed friend).

TV column for Monday, Jan. 11

Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN Classic.

For one night,
college football grabs our attention. It's the national championship
game, with teams that made it clear they belong here. Undefeated
Clemson silenced doubters by beating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl,
37-17; Alabama (13-1) crushed Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl,

Now they collide in
Arizona, with cable giving it the Super Bowl treatment. ESPN has
“GameDay” at 4 p.m. and a “Championship Drive” special at 6;
then four channels have a preview at 8.

“Telenovela,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Bright and broad,
this show seems to have everything except subtlety.

That'd obvious
tonight, when we see the feud between two prime-time soap operas.
Even at a charity project – building a house for a low-income
family – the casts battle wildly. Many moments are overwrought, but
the story ends cleverly.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelor,” 8 p.m., with follow-up at 10:01.

While some shows
retreat into reruns tonight, this one booms ahead. It's possible that
many of the “Bachelor” buffs aren't big football fans.

Tonight, Ben Higgins
takes 10 women to a high school, asking them to re-live teen
memories. Six others go to the “Love Lab,” to test who has the
best connection with him. And the first one-on-one date is spiced by
movie stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube and music from Amos Lee.

Other choices

“Midwinter of the
Spirit,” any time,
Americans are used to seeing Anna Maxwell Martin playingt the normal
one in “Bletchley Circle” and many “Masterpiece” tales.
Here's a much-different character and story (complete with exorcism),
released over the next three Mondays.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Amy (America Ferrera) has to bring her son to work – a
violation of the rules. When she gets an assignment, Jonah is the one
who has to keep the kid a secret.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. In the rerun of a good episode, Kara is torn between three
duties – stopping two bombings and babysitting for Cat's son.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun offers another tough day at the office: The
team tries to stop a nuclear-powered satellite from crashing into
Southern California.

“The Biggest
Loser,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Both hours involve the temptations of
food. In the first, contestants face a trivia test in a food court;
in the second, they must pull food trucks ... with the losers eating
(selectively) from the trucks' contents.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. Chasing a tip, Sam and Callen are

Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This documentary is
called “Autism in Love,” but don't get your hopes up. Yes, one of
the stories is an upbeat tale that is warmly involving. The other
two, however, are tough rides that involve the loneliness of feeling

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 10

Golden Globe awards, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

Ricky Gervais is
back as host, after a three-year break. His first two times (2010-11)
were sharp, funny and maybe too caustic; his third (2012) was bland,
Now he returns, with lots of stars to poke at.

Nominated for best
movie drama are “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Carol,” “Room,”
“Spotlight” and “The Revenant.” Up for best movie comedy or
musical are “The Martian,” “Trainwreck,” “Spy,” “Joy”
and “The Big Short.” There are also TV categories ... and quirks.
“The Martian” is a comedy? The Globes will always be a bit weird
... but fun.

II: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

After winter breaks,
some of TV's best dramas are ready again. “Wife” has had only one
new hour in the past five weeks; now it's back with a big one.

As Peter pushes his
presidential campaign in Iowa, the bus is packed. His family is
there, along with his former campaign chief Eli (Alan Cumming) and
the crafty Ruth (Margo Martindale), who replaced him. With
personalities clashing, Peter plans a politically dangerous stunt.

ALTERNATIVE: “Galavant,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Returning to his
kingdom, Richard learns that the monarchy has been replaced by an
odd, new concept. People explain (by song) that everyone gets to vote
... except, of course, for women and Gypsies and poor people and,
well, lots of others.

That launches an
hour ranging from clever satire to general goofiness, all of it laced
with witty songs. Galavant keeps trying to raise an army and free
Isabella -- whose personality has been transformed by dark magic. He
only soldier (a fierce one) is attracted to Richard, her childhood

Other choices

Football, 1:05 p.m.
ET, NBC, and 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox. On the second day of the pro
play-offs, the two NFC Central leaders have separate games. The
Minnesota Vikings (11-5) host the Seattle Seahawis (10-6); then the
Green Bay Packers (10-6) visit the Washington Redskins (9-7).

Golden Globe
red-carpet, 6 p.m. ET E and 7 p.m., NBC. Ryan Seacrest leads the E
coverage, which is preceded by a Globe preview at 4 p.m.; NBC steps
in an hour before the ceremony.

“Million Dollar
American Princesses,” 7 and 8 p.m., Smithsonian. First is a rerun
of last week's season-opener, viewing the marriages of movie stars
and royalty; Grace Kelly thrived, Gloria Swanson and Rita Hayworth
didn't. Then an excellent new hour views women who found new lives in
Europe, as savvy friends and patrons of greats, from Picasso to
Pollock, from Stravinsky to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. An unexpected development endangers the
Russian peace deal. Also, Elizabeth is nudged into a crisis at the
International Space Station.

“Cooper Barrett's
Guide to Surviving Life,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Sometimes clever and
sometimes just weird, “Guide” is a fun look at the first few
years after college. This episode (the second) gets its best moments
from guest star Paula Abdul.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS. Think of this as a hammock episode. Last week's
season-opener was terrific; more good ones are coming, but this
mostly sets them up. Debates continue about the site of the
Carson-Hughes wedding ... and about the future of the hospital and of
Thomas' job.

(1950), 10 p.m., ABC Family. This great classic wraps up an animation
marathon. It follows “Hercules” (1997) at 1 p.m., “Tarzan”
(1999) at 3, “Despicable Me” (2010) at 5:15 and the splendid
“Finding Nemo” (2003) at 7:30.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 9

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Packed with
starpower – Amy Poehler and Tina Fey host, with Bruce Springsteen
as the music guest – this rerun needed none of them for its best
moment. That was a broadly funny opening sketch, a Republican debate
with a bullying Donald Trump and a forever-frustrated Jeb Bush.

The hosts soon have
some great moments – reprising their Sarah Palin and Hillary
Clinton roles; also, hosting “Meet Your Second Wife” -- and some
average ones. They show up only briefly in a mild “Weekend Update,”
but this is a night so packed that Paul McCartney hops onstage

“Cooper Barrett's Guide to Life,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Fresh from college,
Cooper has no idea what he wants from life or love. He's still a kid,
mostly, and his brother – married and prosperous – sees a second
chance to enjoy the childhood he missed.

In this opener (a
rerun from Sunday), the brother gives him a giant TV set ... leading
to giant problems that sprawl over several years. Things get
overwrought at times, but this is mostly funny.

Football, 4:20 p.m. ET on ABC and 8:15 p.m., CBS.

The pro playoffs
begin, with wild-card teams visiting some of the division-winners.

It's Kansas City
(11-5) at Houston (9-7) at 4:20 p.m. ET on ABC, then Pittsburgh
(10-6) at Cincinnati (12-4) at 8:15 p.m. on CBS. There will be more
-- Seattle at Minnesota and Green Bay at Washington -- on Sunday.

Other choices

(1997), 3:15 p.m., ABC Family. An animation marathon begins. That's
followed by “Tarzan” (1999) at 5:30, “Despicable Me” (2010)
at 7:30 and “Finding Nemo” (2003) at 9:30. The Disney Channel
counters with “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009) at 8.

8-10 p.m., ABC. In a late addition, ABC is inserting four reruns of
this show, which often visits topical areas. It starts with a pretty
good one that has Dre's son use the “n” word during a talent-show
rap. In the second episode, Dre considers buying a gun; in the third,
his dad admits he hasn't been to the doctor in years. And in the
fourth, his co-worker's work ethic is questioned.

8:30 p.m., Fox. The issues are hot, but the humor is so-so in this
rerun of Sunday's cartoon opener. Our hero is a border guard who gets
his wish, a mega-wall at the Mexican border.

“Rosewood,” 9
p.m., Fox. If nothing else, this show gives us gorgeous Miami
settings; this rerun visits the art scene. When an FBI agent joins
the case, he endangers the lesbian romance of his former fiance Tara
and her lover Pippy; he also complicates Hornstock's efforts to
become police chief.

“Steve Jobs: The
Man in the Machine,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at 11. Barring a
late change, here's a rerun of the richly detailed portrait of Jobs,
the genius who co-created Apple (and came back to rescue it) and
nurtured Pixar. We see the contrasts of a man who could espouse
hippie ideals, yet behave like other tax-dodging moguls, even trying
to resist child-support payments.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. This is second-chance night for mid-season pilots.
There are the Fox comedies and this show, with Jennifer Lopez as a
police detective, forced to spy on her colleagues.

“Animal House”
(1978), 10 p.m., Sundance. Here's a rarity – a low-budget, anarchic
comedy, done to perfection. It wraps up a double feature with stars
from the first “Saturday Night Live” crew – Chevy Chase in
“Vacation” (1983) at 8 p.m. and John Belushi in this one.