TV column or Sunday, Oct. 29


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

Here's our vote for
the best TV show people aren't watching. It has everything – smart
writing, subtly terrific actors, strong visuals – except an
audience.

Last week, the focus
pivoted to Casey. She's the sweet-but-shallow assistant to Jane (an
intense TV producer) and the secret lover of Jane's ex-husband. She
planned the kidnapping of Jane's daughter, to expose her as a bad
parent; then last week ended with Casey dead and her sister and the
girl missing. Tonight, the search expands, while Jane and her ex
alternate between rage and regret.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS.

It's mid-life crisis
time for Louisa ... except no one agrees on how mid- she is. A friend
politely guesses she's 35, but that would involve having a son at 13;
her daughter's suggestion (50) is not well-received.

This is the 1930s
and Louisa – played by the terrific Keeley Hawes, 41 – is a widow
who moved her British brood to a Greek island. She's dating an
Englishman whose ex-lover (her landlady) has a retaliatory affair
with her son. Mid-life can be complicated – and lightly
entertaining.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Cable dramas, 9 p.m.

This pre-Halloween
weekend has always been a time for “The Walking Dead” to thrive.
Tonight, however, it collides with the season-finales of two
pay-cable powerhouses.

On Showtime's “Ray
Donovan,” Ray may be forced into a brutal act. And on HBO's “The
Deuce,” the business could expand – but only with more Mob
involvement; that leaves the brothers (both played by James Franco)
at odds. Also, Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the brainy ex-hooker, is
soaring in the emerging porn-film world; now she's a director and
she's savoring the red-carpet experience.

Other choices
include:

“Flint,” 10
a.m., Lifetime. This channel tends to switch its plans, so be wary.
This rerun of an excellent new film was originally set for 4 p.m.;
also, a planned “Watcher in the Woods” rerun is gone.

Animated movies, 6
p.m., FX, and 6:55, Freeform. Families can find the light side of
Halloween. FX has “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) at 6 and its sequel
(2015) at 8 and 10. Freeform has “Monsters, Inc.” (2001) at 6:55
and “Monsters University” (2013) at 9.

Sports, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox and 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. On Fox, it's the fifth game of baseball's
best-of-seven World Series, with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the
Houston Astros. On NBC, it's pro football; the Pittsburgh Steelers
(5-2) visit the Detroit Lions, who are 3-3 and coming off a bye week.

“It's the Great
Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” 8-9 p.m., ABC. Earlier this month, ABC had
a slightly shortened version of this 1966 cartoon classic. Here's the
full version, followed by a rerun of “You're Not Elected, Charlie
Brown.” which includes the Great Pumpkin.

“Poldark,” 9
p.m., PBS. After being a prisoner-of-war in France, Dr. Enys has
trouble re-adjusting to the gentle life of his wife Caroline. Also,
George tries to trap Poldark's brother-in-law Drake.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A banker with ties to a Russian mogul has
been killed, so Sam goes undercover as a day trader. Also, Callen
fears trouble, when one of his aliases faces credit-card theft.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. The White House tries to work out a compromise with the
Senate opposition. (Yes, this is fiction.) Also, Elizabeth has
trouble finding a new chief of staff

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Flint,” 8-10:04 p.m., Lifetime; rerunning at 12:02 a.m.

There were many ways
to tell this sprawling story. It could have been stuffed with
political rage ... or scientific detail ... or deep tragedy. All
would fit a film about the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

But this approach is
solid: Hire a top director (Bruce Beresford of “Driving Miss
Daisy”) and gifted actresses (Marin Ireland, Jill Scott, Betsy
Brandt, Queen Latifah); focus on the true story of regular people
battling officials and experts. The one flub was giving Latifah a
fictional character who nudges the plot along. “Flint” is 95
percent true; why make us guess which parts are the other 5 percent?

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “David S. Pumpkins Special,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

A year ago,
“Saturday Night Live” offered a bizarre “Haunted Elevator”
sketch. In an unthrilling thrill ride, every stop seemed the same –
an unscary chap named Pumpkins (Tom Hanks), surrounded by two
skeleton dancers (Mikey Day and Bobby Moynihan).

Now Hanks and Peter
Dinklage introduce this animated special. It includes the voices of
Day, Moynihan and Streeter Seidell (the trio that wrote the original
sketch and this special) plus Hanks. Pumpkins and his skeleton
sidekicks show kids (sort of) the true meaning of Halloween.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Sports, 8 p.m. ET.

Baseball's big night
collides with just another Saturday of college football.

For baseball, it's
the fourth game of the best-of-seven World Series on Fox, with the
Dodgers at the Astros. For football, ABC and ESPN2 have -- varying by
region – Clemson (ranked No. 7) hosting Georgia Tech and Oklahoma
(No. 10) hosting Texas Tech. Bigger games are in the daytime, led by
Penn State (No. 2) at Ohio State (No. 6), at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Other choices
include:

“Cinderella”
(2015), 5:45 p.m., TNT. Director Kenneth Branagh turned this old tale
into a classy and gorgeous drama for any age. That's followed by
Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent” (2014) at 8 and 10:01.

“Monsters, Inc.”
(2001), 7:20 p.m., and “Monsters University” (2013), 9:25 p.m.,
Freeform. Families can take a gentle approach to the Halloween
season, with these animated tales of benign monsters. Another
pleasant choice is “Yogi Bear” (2010), from 9-10:30 p.m. on
Nickelodeon.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from a year ago, a city-wide
search looks for evidence about the murder of a Navy machinist who
had a high security clearance. Also, the mole investigation
continues, with Anna Kolcheck (Bar Poly) working with Callan and Sam
working with Hetty.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. During a dinner with his mother (Wendie
Malick), Sebastian is snatched. The kidnappers want to use his gaming
skills to help a prison break.

“The Wonder List,”
9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Bill Weir visits northern
Alaska, where one side praises the salmon run and the other dreams of
finding billions in gold and copper.

“Dirk Gently's
Holistic Detective Agency,” 9 p.m. ET, BBC America. Last season, we
met Bart Curlish, an assassin who was convinced she must kill Dirk,
even though she'd never met him. Now she's back, again played by
Fiona Dourif, Brad's daughter; she spins an investigation in new
directions.

“Saturdaty Night
Live,” midnight, NBC. The annual collection of old Halloween
sketches has been shortened to an hour, to make room for Pumpkins.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Michael Jackson's Halloween,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A generation ago,
Jackson conquered the holiday. His 1983 “Thriller” had a
14-minute video, complete with zombies and a werecat. It became the
first music video in the National Film Registry; Billboard named it
the best Halloween song ever.

Now Jackson's music
has been turned into an animated special, with the voices of Jim
Parsons, Christine Baranski, Brad Garrett, Lucy Liu and more. It
starts with a young couple entering an odd hotel ... and ends, as it
should, with an animated version of a dancing Michael Jackson.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Blindspot” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

Two years ago, this
was one of TV's hottest newcomer. Its opening – a naked amnesiac at
Times Square, clueless about her tattoos – seized attention.

Last year, ratings
fell on a tougher night. Now – on an even tougher night –
“Blindspot” has a makeover. For 18 months, we're told, thus FBI
team has been apart. Now a crisis brings it back together ...
including “Jane Doe,” who somehow has a fresh batch of tattoos.

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

Rebecca really is
kind of crazy, after all. Last week, she burst into a church and
confessed (musically) to all her mis-deeds; now she's arguing with
her childhood self, while concocting an even crazier plan.

The result is a
broadly funny hour that doesn't have Rebecca in either musical
number. One is so-so, but the other is a master-stroke – deadpan,
dreary Heather is forced to sing an inspirational ballad, with lines
like “today is tomorrow's yesterday” and “I am the moment, the
moment is me.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Live From Lincoln Center: Falsettos,” 9 p.m.,
PBS.

As its
Broadway-on-Fridays string starts, PBS is showing the vast range of
musical styles. Last week's opener (“She Loves Me”) was simple
and melodic, with a boy-meets-girl tale; that's not “Falsettos.”

It's
boy-meets-boy-and-divorces-girl-who-marries-his-therapist. It has
virtually no dialog, depending on overlapping and complicated song
lyrics. It's incredibly clever, while remaining difficult for the
audience. The first half, starting in 1979, ranges from a spectacular
Stephanie J. Block romp to a tender Christian Borle ballad. The
second starts in '81, as AIDS spreads.

Other choices
include:

“Stranger Things,”
any time, Netflix; or “Psycho” (1960), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies. Here are some acclaimed choices for Halloween-time. The
American Film Institute picked “Stranger Things” as one of its 10
programs of the year; it picked “Psycho” as the 14th -best
American film of all time; the next horror film on the list (“Silence
of the Lambs”) was all the way down to No. 74.

World Series, 8 p.m.
ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30. After two games in Los Angeles,
baseball's classic moves to Houston – a place it's not accustomed
to. In 55 previous seasons, the Astros had only been to one World
Series and had never won a Series game.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane's romance with Adam (Tyler Posey of “Teen Wolf”)
is zooming; now she wants him to meet her son. Rafael, who dislikes
the idea, is busy trying to get his hotel back.

“MacGyver,” 9
p.m., CBS. Starting an hour later than usual, this has the team
abandoning its Halloween plans, so it can resue the vice-president's
son in the Bermuda Triangle.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny probes a murder and Jamie tries to save a young
woman who overdosed. Also, their dad, the police commissioner, reacts
when the mayor bans solitary confinement.

“Superstition,”
10 p.m., Syfy. In last week's opener, Calvin's mom became deathly ill
and his dad (Mario Van Peebles) was beheaded. All of this upset
Calvin ... who must not know what kind of show this is. Now those
parental problems are addressed. Directed by Van Peebles, it's a
great-looking hour that blends some action and lots of dead-serious
dialog.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Superstore,” 8 p.m., NBC.

With its broad
setting – an entire mega-store, filled with diverse people --
“Superstore” can concoct big stories. Tonight, two dandies build
to hilarious moments.

In one, a real body
has been discovered ... but people keep assuming it's just a clever
Halloween display. In another, Amy messes with Jonah's dating app,
causing complications for him and for Kelly (played by the delightful
Kelly Stables). Stick around for the the Jonah-Kelly confrontation
... and, especially, for the guy in the coroner shirt; these are
great comedy moments.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Will & Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC.

For the first weeks
of the season, the return of “Will & Grace” has been able to
triumph. CBS had Thursday football; NBC had the comedy audience to
itself. Soon, that ends: Next Thursday, both networks have comedies,
making life more complicated; a week later, NBC takes over football.

So enjoy “Will &
Grace” while it has the night to itself. The first four shows have
ranged only from very funny to hilarious, even adding a few serious
moments. Tonight, there are career possibilities – a senior
partnership for Will and a big decorating job for Grace. Also, Jack
owns half of a lottery winner.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:04.

Hardly any TV shows
seem to include this line of dialog: “Frankie, I'm sorry I threw
your phone in the sink.” This one does, then goes into other
bizarre directions.

There are great
moments of confusion during a power black-out and at a
home-improvement store. Then Sam has a long monolog that consists
mostly of the word “No.” She's played by Pamela Adlon, who also
directed the episode, written by Louis C.K.; the result is a truly
odd delight.

Other choices
include:

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. It's a one-night baseball break, while the World Series
moves from Los Angeles to Houston. That provides time for this hour
(a cop-killer puts pigs' heads on his victims) at 8 and “The
Orville” (a planet re-creates the 21st century, but with
people voting on punishments) at 9.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. This hour focuses on Dr. Megan Hunt, played by Abigail
Spencer, the talented “Timeless” star. After disappearing a
decade ago in Iraq, she's suddenly returned. Tonight, flashbacks show
what happened; also, she and her brother Owen work on old wounds.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Mellie prepares for a nuclear summit. Also, Quinn has an
important client.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m.,
CW. Chastity Dotson guests as Onyx. She leads a rogue team that
breaks into Kord Industries and steals something lethal.

“Van Helsing,” 9
p.m., Syfy. If gore is good at Halloween time, this is clearly too
much of a good thing. One story has Vanessa Van Helsing -- a vampire
hunter like her ancestor – discover a refuge for kids. That one's
OK, but another – a vampire stalks a juvenile detention center –
is merely disgusting.

“Great News,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live” plays an
old college friend, now married, with a house and kids. Katie tries
to impress her by going to a cool Halloween party.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Last week, Casey was promoted and life was good. That
vanishes quickly, when he and Sevaride disagree about the best way to
save a teen. Also, the flashy Hope (Eloise Mumford) continues to
cause problems; now she and Kidd battle over a payroll issue.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In zoos, otters seem
to be pure fun and frolic. But in the wild, this excellent
documentary says, they're remarkably skilled as predators and as
survivors.

They can run 18
miles an hour on land or cover 25 miles a day in the water. They can
stay underwater for four minutes, covering 1,300 feet. Their bodies
form a torpedo shape, blessed with a powerful tail, a flexible spine
and an underwater sense of smell. That's all encased in fur that's so
warm that otters were hunted for coats. Fortunately – for them and
for us -- they survived.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “The Goldbergs,” 8 p.m., ABC.

For four-plus
seasons, this has been under the radar – no Emmy nominations, scant
attention, adequate ratings. But it has persisted, offering a fairly
clever look at family life in the 1980s.

Tonight's episode
does double-duty – it's the 100th one overall and it
starts a night of four Halloween tales. When Adam and his girlfriend
disagree about costumes, his dad suggests his own approach – just
give the lady whatever she wants. This backfires for the teens –
and creates aftershocks for the parents.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Shannara Chronicles,” 10 p.m., Spike.

Not long ago,
fantasy epics seemed possible only in movie theaters or on HBO. Not
any more; you'll find them on ABC, CW and Fox ... and on basic-cable
shows like this. Based on Terry Brooks sprawling novels, it was
filmed in New Zealand, which is “Lord of the Rings” turf.

Allanon has been
captured and Wil has a rescue plan – albeit a bad one. This hour
continues TV's wretched obsession with torture. It also has so-so
dialog delivered by varied actors, some of them unskilled. But the
finish is big, brash and exciting; for a few minutes, Spike is truly
epic.

Other choices
include:

World Series, 8 p.m.
ET, Fox; preview at 7:30. The Dodgers host the Astros, in the second
game of the best-of-seven series. It's the 19th World
Series for the Dodgers ... and the second for the Astros.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. By now, this once-pleasant town is in panic. Moose and
Midge were attacked by a gunman, Miss Grundy was killed ... maybe by
the same guy who shot Archie's dad. Now Archie has a gun and an
attitude; his pal Jughead is struggling in a gang-infested school.
This sound excessive, but it's salvaged by strong acting, solid
dialog and skillful directing.

“Doctor Zhivago”
(1965), 8-11:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. On a big screen, a
half-century ago, this was a triumph. Still, modern viewers might
want a brisker film. At 7:30 p.m. is “Honey, I Shrunk the Kid”
(1989) on CMT. At 8 are “Jurassic World” (2015) on FX and
“Poltergeist” (1982) on FXX.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil and Claire still want a big-deal Halloween, but
they can't find much interest. Also, Mitchell and Cam are strained by
the slow remodeling of their kitchen.

“The Story of Us,”
9 p.m ET., National Geographic. For an hour about love, this gets dark;
one story involves warf ... another has ritual whipping ... a third
sees orphans being unattended and unloved. Still, two other stories
perk us up; one views arranged marriage, the other has warm help for
the homeless.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president must win back public
confidence, after a senator lies about their conversation. Meanwhile,
Hannah and the British agent probe an international murder.

“You're the
Worst,” 10 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 10:34. In a fairly good episode,
people are dealing with the past. That's toughest for Lindsay, whose
mom (an actress) is self-absorbed and frustrating.