TV column for Thursday, Jan. 25


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

After being crunched
every week by “The Big Bang Theory,” this likable show catches a
break: “Big Bang” slides to 9 p.m., to make room for a special
... just as “Superstore” has one of its best episodes.

Cheyenne – never
strong-minded – has conflicting advice from her mom (who's just out
of jail) and Amy. Glenn and Dina argue about their surrogate-birth
agreement. And Jonah and Kelly plan a long weekend of lust and jigsaw
puzzles ... only to have it disrupted by hilarious debates over
mythology.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“MVP: Most Valuable Performer,” 8 p.m., CBS.

OK. we know that pro
football players are good at some things – blitzing and blocking
and general mayhem. But now we can see their other skills.

Joe Thuney, of the
champion and Super Bowl-bound Patriots, is on the same level as Kevin
Zeitler of the winless Browns. Thuney masters Rubik's cube; Zeitler
offers dog tricks. Corey Nelson of he Broncos is a poet;,Alex Collins
of the Ravens does Irish step-dancing. There's much more tonight,
including three archers, three cooks, a juggler and lots of
musicians.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Portlandia,” 10 p.m. ET, IFC, rerunning at 1 a.m.

In the final season
of this neatly offbeat show, we want to savor each episode. Tonight
does have some one-joke bits that run too long, but it also has
clever moments with a self-congratulating duo that starts a women's
health clinic ... without having any health education.

And it has two bits
that cleverly show the male tendency to seize a situation. One is a
sandwich commercial (really); the other has a law firm honoring –
sort of -- its first female partner.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. When a young boy is admitted, he has a deep impact on
the doctors. Also, April faces a surprising patient and Jo continues
to confront her estranged husband.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a very funny rerun, Leonard flubs a radio
interview. That brings disdain from other physicists and a meeting
with an angry administrator (Regina King).

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. This reruns the episode with Nick Offerman,
the real-life husband of Megan Mullally. He plays a charismatic guy
who might date both Will and Grace.

“Great News,”
9:31 p.m., NBC. The bad news is that this good (but not great) show
is ending its 13-episode season tonight. The good news is that Tina
Fey (one of the show's producers) is back; that sets up the
confrontation that may or may not end Chuck's career.

“Young Sheldon,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. What privileges does a family bond provide? Sheldon's
dad goes too far in this rerun, asking his mother-in-law for her
brisket recipe. She refuses, setting off a mismatched battle of wits
that is sometimes excessive, but mostly quite funny.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. The team is ready for Christmas vacation – yes, this is
a rerun – when a crisis arrives: Someone has stolen from a drug
cartel, setting up retaliation.

“Top Chef,”
10:15 p.m., Bravo. These shows love to make things difficult. In
“Project Runway All-Stars” (9 p.m., Lifetime), designers must
create “ball gowns” using actual balls. And in “Top Chef,”
two teams have just days to create a complete restaurant concept.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The X-Files,” 8 p.m., Fox.

At times, “X-files”
seems like an anthology, leaping wildly between styles. There are
thick, tangled tales advancing the overall plot ... quick ones with
self-contained quirks ... and Darin Morgan ones.

Those are the
strange ones. “It's what I like,” he said, “but it drives them
crazy.” The “them” includes his older brother Glen and other
producers. In the previous season, they stepped aside when he wrote
and directed the “were-monster” episode, which got a bit too
silly. This time, he's writer-director for a delight. We won't spoil
the plot, except to say that Brian Huskey is perfect as Reggie
Something.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Waco” debut 10 p.m., Paramount.

Let's think of this
as the birth of a cable network. Paramount officially began last
Thursday ... but did it with a show from its previous identity as
Spike. Now comes something that fits the new image – a network
hoping for the big-screen feel of its parent company, the Paramount
movie studio.

In this six-week
mini-series, Taylor Kitsch plays David Koresh, leader of the Branch
Davidian group, with Melissa Benoit as his wife. Michael Shannon
plays the government negotiator, scrambling to avoid what eventually
happened – two confrontations that left more than 80 people dead..

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Schitt's Creek” and “Let's Get Physical,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., Pop.

First, “Creek”
offers some quiet, Canadian comedy. Previously, a rich family learned
that it owns nothing, except a broken-down town with a silly name.
That includes a motel where business is finally lively ... except now
there's a problem with a dead guy. It's a subtly funny season-opener.

Then is the debut of
a big, broad, American-style comedy. Matt Jones, who's soft-bodied
Baxter on “Mom,” inherits a gym. Jane Seymour is his mom, with
Chris Diamantopoulos and AnnaLynne McCord as his sleek competition.
This lacks the wit of “Mom” or “Creek,” but has a fair bit of
fun.

Other choices
include:

“The Amazing
Race,” 8-10 p.m., CBS. Two duos have been eliminated so far; the
other nine are in the French beauty of St. Tropez and Provence. One
fails to read its clue; two others go head-to-head.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. This show sends its characters in opposite directions: As
the teen-agers become deeper and more interesting, the grown-ups just
get more absurd. Now Betty's dad turns ridiculous, with Josie's mom
coming close. All of that centers around a “celebration” of the
genocidal general whose statue is in the center of town.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. The show temporarily jumps ahead to the 1990s, in a
pilot for a spin-off series. It's set at the academy, where Mr.
Glascott is now in charge of teachers with wildly differing views. He
adds his sister (Nia Long) to the staff and she brings her
strong-willed daughters.

“American
Housewife,” 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Here are two new episodes,
sandwiching a “Modern Family” rerun recalling celebrity
encounters. In the first, Katie takes her son out of school for the
day, after he has a meltdown over something minor. In the second, she
takes herself to a favorite hideaway.

“Viking”
season-finale, 9 p.m., History. Here's the ultimate battle for
Kattegat. One side will be decisively defeated, the History Channel
says, and a legendary warrior will head home.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. After a van explodes during a street festival, evidence
points to a Muslim cop who is missing. Burgess, who helped train him,
is desperate to prove his innocence.

“Knightfall,”
10:02 p.m., rerunning at 11:02. History. The Paris Temple is under
siege.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“We'll Meet Again” debut, 8 p.m., PBS.

Here are lives that
were shattered by biases, more than 75 years ago. Reiko Nagumo was
bullied by her California classmates, then sent with her family to a
Japanese internment camp. Peter Engler was terrorized in Germany and
then Shanghai, where his family was sent to the Jewish ghetto.

Now Nagumo wants to
find the classmate who remained her friend; Engler wants to meet the
daughter of the people who made ghetto life tolerable. These are
richly human stories, well-told by Ann Curry.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

There are only six
episodes left this season, one following the Super Bowl, so we have
to pay attention.

Tonight, Kate
contemplates a gift for Toby and Kevin keeps trying to mold a new
life. He walked out of his TV show, tried theater, had a good role in
a Ron Howard movie, then resisted much-needed knee surgery and ended
up in rehab for pill addiction. Now out, he helps Randall and Beth
with a project.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Quad” season-opener. 10 p.m., BET.

From the start,
“Quad” has blended opposites. It has a gifted star (Tony-winner
Anika Noni Rose) and serious subjects – a campus-rape accusation
spanned last season – alongside broad soap opera.

Now this second
season has a new overall story to worry about: The college teeters
near bankruptcy; its president (Rose) considers merging this
historically black college with a state university and its white
students. That sparks some quick protests.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Bellevue” debut, 10 p.m., WGN America.

Now for the opposite
of the campus setting on “Quad.” We're in a tough, blue-collar
world.

Annie (Anna Paquin)
was a teen when her dad died 20 years ago. She became like him – a
cop, tough and focused, maybe to excess. She has a smart daughter and
a warm relationship with the girl's dad; she also has a habit of
throwing herself dangerously into each case. The personal glimpses
here are excellent; the crime stories are extreme, trying too hard to
seize our attention quickly.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A teen-ager has witnessed a hit-and-run accident. After McGee
and Torres visit her home, however, the entire family flees.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. In last week's opener, a school principal reluctantly
changed to his old ways: To save his daughters, he became a
crimefighting superhero. Now he wants to forget about that, focusing
on his family (including his ex-wife) and work. Criminals, alas,
aren't going away. Like the opener, this blends well-crafted human
drama with some bolts of high-energy action.

“Modern Family,”
9:30, ABC. In a rerun, Phil plans a magic trick for Jay and Gloria's
10th anniversary.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Family roots have an impact tonight.
Lasalle (Lucas Black) returns to Alabama, after getting a call from
his family; Pride (Scott Bakula) works a murder case that takes him
to the night club where his mother used to sing.

“Drunk History”
and “Another Period” season-openers, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central. Here are opposite versions of TV's new emphasis on women:
“Drunk” amiably views three real-life heroes -- one disguised as
a man to fight in the Revolutionary War ... another catalogued art
stolen by Nazis ...and Clara Barton, with no nursing training,
boosted battlefield care. Alas, “Period” -- sometimes funny,
often overwrought -- reduces suffragettes to NAGS (Newport
Association of Gal Spinsters).

More comedy
season-openers, 10 and 10:30 p.m., cable. At 10 on FX, “Baskets”
offers a mournful sort of comedy; both twins are unemployed, so their
mom decided to buy and revive the rodeo. More promising is “The
Detour,” at 10:30 on TBS. On the run, the family reaches Alaska.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Resident,” 9 p.m., Fox.

After stumbling
badly in Sunday's opener, “Resident” rights itself. The show
focuses on Conrad (Matt Czuchry), a gutsy, third-year resident who
breaks all the rules -- which he needs to, with an awful chief of
surgery (Bruce Greenwood) – and teaches a newcomer to do the same.

That's fine (and
familiar), but in the opener he was mostly just mean and overbearing.
In tonight's first minutes, that changes; Conrad becomes a hero worth
rooting for. Some of the situations still strain credibility – as
does the chief's awfulness – but “Resident” is now easy to
watch and to like.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Brave,” 10 p.m., NBC.

The first season –
just 13 episodes – is wrapping up. It closes with a two-parter that
ends next Monday.

“Brave” gives
most of its attention to the action people in the field. Their boss
(Anne Heche) sticks to thinking and fretting at headquarters. Now,
however, the team finds a piece of her past; soon, shes in Turkey.
James Tupper, Heche's boyfriend, guest-stars as Alex Hoffman; after
the filming ended, they announced they're ending their 10-year
relationship.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) and “Alienist”
debut, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., TNT.

First is some quick,
slick fun: “Ultron” puts many of the Marvel heroes together, for
lots of boom-bang action, mixed with decent dabs of humor and
character. Then comes a step into the past.

It's 1896 and boy
prostitutes are being brutally killed. Teddy Roosevelt, New York's
new police commissioner, tries something new: Lazlo, a criminal
psychologist (called an alienist back then) links with a newspaper
illustrator and with a secretary (Dakota Fanning) who wants to be a
cop. Yes, Teddy (a future president) and Dakota (a former child star)
are sort of colleagues.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

As Oakland's new
police chief, Sean Whent was considered a reformer in 2013. The
department had been under federal oversight for a decade; he created
intensive training about ethics and responsibility.

This documentary
spends much of its time on that, jumping between action in the field
and training talks by Whent and others. Then comes the detour: Whent
is accused of covering up a charge that 14 Oakland cops had sex with
a young sex worker, some when she was 17. He resigns; then two
interim chiefs resign within nine days. This film is solid, well-made
and quite disturbing.

Other choices
include:

“Hitch” (2005),
7-10 p.m., CMT, and/or “Kevin Can Wait,” 8 p.m., CBS. Kevin James
has dating problems in both shows. In the movie, a dating expert
(Will Smith) counsels him ... then has his own complications. In the
series, he's widowed, with Vanessa urging him to date one of their
clients.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. It's time to leave the mansion; for the remaining
women, there's no time for lounging and comfort. Tonight, one goes
para-sailing, another goes horseback riding and a dozen hike in the
snowy wilderness, getting a crash course from survivalists.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 9 p.m., NBC. The guys are in Spain now so, of course, they
eat a lot, take bullifghting lessons and dance the flamenco.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Now that he needs money for art school, Franco is
serious about the fact that his roommate pays no rent. Also, the guys
try to give Randy (Katey Sagal) the sort of social-media presence
that will make her ex envious.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Suspecting that his patient is lying, Shaun jumps to an
assumption about her motives. Also, Melendez's personal life could be
affecting his work.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A power outage leaves a teen pilot and his girlfriend lost
over the Pacific.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS; 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox.

Now we learn who
will be in the Super Bowl, with teams that have opposite pasts. First
are the New England Patriots, last year's champions; their
quarterback, Tom Brady, already has five Super wins in seven tries.
They host the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have never been to the big
game

Then are the
Minnesota Vikings, with a shot at history. If they win, they'll be
the first team in the game's 52-year history to play the Super Bowl
in its home stadium. Today, they visit the Philadelphia Eagles;
neither team has won a Super Bowl, in two tries for the Eagles and
four for the Vikings.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Resident” debut, about 10 p.m. ET, Fox.

When the game ends,
Fox tries to grab some fans for its new medical show. “The
Resident” will promptly move to Monday, but first it has an opener
that's high-octane enough for football folks.

There's the handsome
hero (Matt Czuchry of “The Good Wife”), a third-year resident who
charms patients, seduces a colleague and tells the boss (Bruce
Greenwood) he's a jerk. There are the idealists; one (Manish Dayal)
is new to the job, the other (Emily Van Camp) is not. “How is this
possible?” she asks at one point. It's not, really; the opener
tries too hard, defying credibility at every turn.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Counterpart,” 8 p.m., Starz; rerunning at 9 and 10.

J.K. Simmons seems
to be everywhere. He's vile – a neo-Nazi in “Oz,” an autocrat
in his Oscar-winning “Whiplash.” He's authoritative – a police
boss in “The Closer,” a psychiatrist in each “Law & Order”
series, Peter Parker's boss in “Spider-Man” movies. He's funny in
insurance commercials.

We start to assume
there's more than one of him ... and now there is. He plays a lowly
bureaucrat who learns his agency guards a crossing to a parallel
dimension. Soon, there are two of him on camera. This pilot film ran
last month and reruns three times tonight, setting up the series next
Sunday.

Other choices
include:

“Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 7-11 p.m., PBS. If you missed the terrific
season-opener, catch a rerun from 7-9 p.m. Then two new hours have
discontent growing, especially after Victoria's well-meaning attempt
to help silk-growers. She's despondent after her second baby is born;
Albert is battered by a tragedy.

“60 Minutes,” 7
and 8 p.m., CBS. The new hour follows a rerun, celebrating the start
of the 50th season.

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. Not daring to compete with football, NBC
has a four-hour block of amiable Ellen DeGeneres productions. In this
one, Steve Harvey meets lots of kids, from a 5-year-old reciting the
Gettysburg Address to a girl who dressed up as a hot dog on Princess
Day.

Screen Actors Guild
awards, 8-10 p.m., TNT and TBS. Kristen Bell hosts and Morgan Freeman
gets a lifetime award. Other awards are for individuals and for
ensembles, including the casts of “The Big Sick,” “Get Out,”
“Mudbound,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside
Ebbing, Missouri.”

“Ellen's Game of
Games,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Here's the second half of the
all-Ellen-rerun night. In this case, DeGeneres is both the producer
and host, offering lots of offbeat challenges.

“S.W.A.T.,” 9
p.m., CBS. This reruns a fairly good episode that shows “S.W.A.T.”
at its most serious. Hondo's childhood friend, now in prison, wants
his son protected from gang violence.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, a counterfeiter's daughter
reaches Los Angeles. Sam goes undercover as a financier; Callen links
with Anna Kolcheck to track the family's latest scheme.