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.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 27


ONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.
The first two weeks weaved a zesty tangle. Jane was
accidentally inseminated; the biologic father (her boss) doesn’t know that his
wife was having an affair with his best friend (now slain … or that his sister
has an affair with his stepmother. Meanwhile, Jane doesn’t know her biologic
father is a telenovela star.
All of this would be silly, if it weren’t done with wry wit
… and with Gina Rodriguez as a pure-hearted heroine. Tonight, she’s ready to be
an ex-virgin – maybe. The church and hotel-room scenes are gems.
TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “2 Broke Girls” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
CBS.
For five weeks, “The Big Bang Theory” has propped up CBS’
Monday line-up. Now “2 Broke Girls” must take over; to make it easier, its
opener borrows the tabloid starpower of Kim Kardashian West.
 A producer of her
reality show wants to film at the cupcake window. Max is skeptical; Caroline,
who used to be as rich as a Kardashian, wants the publicity, but has never seen
the show.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James
Brown,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.
Here is the best kind of music biography – one made by and
for people who love music. At times, this Mick Jagger production simply sits
back and watches Brown with awe. Stunning dance moves and great vocal riffs were
backed by gifted jazzmen who were ready to improvise to his moves.
Alongside that are deep analyses of the music and the man.
Brown’s parents deserted him; he grew up in an aunt’s brothel. He trusted no
one; that made him a great performer (copying no one) and a cruel employer. One
band member recalls needing to pull a pistol on his boss; it’s part of a great
portrait.
Other choices include:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. ABC’s Halloween
week has the eight dancers (Jonathan Bennett was ousted last week) split into
teams, dancing to Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” or to “Time Warp” from “Rocky
Horror.” Also, Ella Henderson sings “Ghost,” Nikki Yanofsky does “Necessary
Evil.”
“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The “knock-out round” begins,
with Taylor Swift as key advisor. Teammates compete, this time choosing their
own songs; the loser will be dumped or “stolen.”
“Gotham,” 8 p.m., Fox. This is almost biblical: A killer
targets the first-born children of Gotham’s elite.
“The Millers,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. It’s time for Tom and Carol
(Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale) to officially end their marriage. Suddenly,
both hesitate.
“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS. Team members face two imposing
challenges – passing psychological tests and helping Paige (Katharine McPhee)
convince her son to go to his school’s Halloween party.
“American Dad,” 9 p.m., TBS. Desperate to prove they’re
better than military drones, the guys steal a king’s jewel-encrusted inhaler.
Humor follows, but sporadically.
“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. Liz needs to pump Red for
information about the nasty world of poaching.
“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Here’s the worst kind of
serial-killer – one who’s really good at social media.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 26


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).
Separated by two centuries, masterful writers molded a
terrific tale. Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” came out in 1813; P.D. James
published “Death Comes to Pemberley” in 2011, when she was 91.
James (known for the Dalgliesh mysteries) jumped ahead six
years, to find Elizabeth and Darcy planning a ball. Many invited guests are
coming, plus two uninvited ones – the scoundrel Wickham and his wife, Elizabeth’s
fun sister Lydia; then comes a murder and some clever detours and suspects.
Anna Maxwell Martin is OK as Elizabeth, with Matthew Rhys (far from his
“Americans” role) solid as Darcy.
TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Baseball or football.
This is one of the few times when baseball and pro-football
collide on broadcast networks. The World Series continues (barring a sweep) at
8 p.m. ET, with the Kansas City Royals at San Francisco.
Meanwhile, two top quarterbacks battle at 8:20 ET in New
Orleans. Aaron Rodgers’ Packers, surviving close calls, have won four straight
for a 5-2 record; Drew Brees’ Saints are 0-4 on the road, 2-0 at home.
TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Day of Expedition,” noon to 11 p.m.,
National Geographic.
For 11 hours, we see people take stunning risks; some fail. “The
Man Who Doesn’t Breathe” (6 p.m.) is an OK look at a guy trying to break his
record of 22 underwater minutes without breathing. Far more gripping are “Die
Trying” episodes: One (7 p.m.) views the 2008 tragedies on the K2 mountain;
another (10 p.m.) follows two Australians trying to be the first to walk to the
South Pole and back, unassisted.
In between (8-10 p.m.) is the premiere of “Mammoths
Unearthed.” In an unforgiving stretch of Siberia, two rugged American
scientists find amazing, 30,000-year-old wooly mammoth artifacts.
Other choices include:
“Manhattan,” 11 a.m. to midnight, WGN America. Richly
crafted by director-producer Thomas Schlamme, this series views the early days
in Los Alamos. Here’s the entire first season in one gulp.
“Star Wars Rebels,” 7 p.m., ABC. Already a hit on cable (9
p.m. Mondays, Disney XD), this hour has added one scene for ABC. Set just
before Luke Skywalker’s emergence (but after the prequel trilogy), this is on a
planet where a ragtag group led by Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) battles the
Imperial force.
“Madam Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. Pleading with the president
to help with a West African crisis, Elizabeth finds unexpected consequences.
“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. The wonderfully quirky Elsbeth
has been a great opponent and colleague for Alicia. Now they must link when
each has a client accused of economic espionage.
“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Martin still hasn’t told Maggie
that he’s now among those returned from the dead. That becomes crucial as she
treats many of the returned, struck by a mysterious disease.
“Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. Emily used to dream of her father,
David Clarke, returning and being cleared. Now that he’s back, however, he’s
under Victoria’s evil control; Emily tries to repair relations.
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. The women
(Jorja Fox, Elisabeth Shue, Elizabeth Harnois) plan to relax at a conference.
Naturally, there’s a mass shooting.