TV column for Friday, Dec. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“I Love Lucy Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

This has become an
annual pleasure – two black-and-white half-hours, with color added
by computer. The first is unchanging – a Christmas special that has
flashbacks to some of the show's greatest scenes ... including the
hilarious one involving taking Lucy to the hospital to have her baby.

The second isn't
nearly on that level: Lucy schemes her way into being a fashion-show
model, then shows up with a sunburn. It needs some extreme stretches
to get there, but the pay-off is fairly good.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 7 and 9:45 p.m.; “The
Wizard of Oz” (1939), 7:30 p.m., TNT.

Here are two
all-time greats, side by side.

“Grinch” is a
mini-masterpiece, a splendid blend of two masters, Dr. Seuss and
animation chief Chuck Jones. And “Wizard of Oz” -- No. 10 on the
American Film Institute's all-time best-movie list – blends whimsy,
drama, great music and Judy Garland.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color, ”
9-10 p.m., CBS.

Like “Lucy,”
this takes two episodes of a great, black-and-white show and adds
color by computer. But unlike “Lucy,” it didn't choose
particularly good episodes.

One has Laura (Mary
Tyler Moore) going blonde; the other has her flustered, when a
painter – whom she posed for clothed – makes the portrait a nude.
We're guessing these were chosen to honor Moore, who died in January
at 80; she's great in both, but the scripts are merely OK.

Other choices
include:

“Fuller House,”
any time, Netflix. It's the second half of the season for this “Full
House” update. Also arriving today on Netflix is “Bright,” a
Will Smith sci-fi film.

Animation, 1:15 p.m.
and beyond, cable. By now, kids may need some pre-holiday diversion.
Freeform moves first, with “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town” at
1:15, “The Year Without a Santa Claus” at 2:20 and the fairly
good “Arthur Christmas” (2012) at 3:20. FX counters with “Puss
in Boots” (2011) at 4, “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014) at 6 and
“Minions” (2015) at 8 and 10. Also, AMC has “Ice Age” 2002) a
8 p.m. and “Happy Feet” (2006) at 10.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. This edition is down to its final eight, but now
it pauses for two reruns, going back to when 12 people remained. The
first deals with the most popular “Hell's Kitchen” dishes, plus
Gordon Ramsay's signature dish. The second involves the food habits
of early humans.

“Shark Tank,” 8
p.m., ABC. “Once Upon a Time” has finished the first half of its
season and won't be back until March 2. For tonight, “Shark Tank”
visits its old night with this rerun, including an additive to make
coffee taste better.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Fitz, the weapons and technology guy, is
obsessed with finding his colleagues. Now he gets some unexpected
help from the self-serving Lance Hunter.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun involves an ex-con who took the fall for
someone else. Working as his bodyguard, Danny decides to go after the
real culprit.

“A Christmas
Carol” (1999), 10:15 p.m., TNT. Patrick Stewart is a blistering
Scrooge, in one of the best versions of this classic tale. It's also
available (via digital or Dish) at 8 p.m. ET on GetTV.

TV column for Friday, Dec. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“I Love Lucy Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

This has become an
annual pleasure – two black-and-white half-hours, with color added
by computer. The first is unchanging – a Christmas special that has
flashbacks to some of the show's greatest scenes ... including the
hilarious one involving taking Lucy to the hospital to have her baby.

The second isn't
nearly on that level: Lucy schemes her way into being a fashion-show
model, then shows up with a sunburn. It needs some extreme stretches
to get there, but the pay-off is fairly good.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 7 and 9:45 p.m.; “The
Wizard of Oz” (1939), 7:30 p.m., TNT.

Here are two
all-time greats, side by side.

“Grinch” is a
mini-masterpiece, a splendid blend of two masters, Dr. Seuss and
animation chief Chuck Jones. And “Wizard of Oz” -- No. 10 on the
American Film Institute's all-time best-movie list – blends whimsy,
drama, great music and Judy Garland.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color, ”
9-10 p.m., CBS.

Like “Lucy,”
this takes two episodes of a great, black-and-white show and adds
color by computer. But unlike “Lucy,” it didn't choose
particularly good episodes.

One has Laura (Mary
Tyler Moore) going blonde; the other has her flustered, when a
painter – whom she posed for clothed – makes the portrait a nude.
We're guessing these were chosen to honor Moore, who died in January
at 80; she's great in both, but the scripts are merely OK.

Other choices
include:

“Fuller House,”
any time, Netflix. It's the second half of the season for this “Full
House” update. Also arriving today on Netflix is “Bright,” a
Will Smith sci-fi film.

Animation, 1:15 p.m.
and beyond, cable. By now, kids may need some pre-holiday diversion.
Freeform moves first, with “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town” at
1:15, “The Year Without a Santa Claus” at 2:20 and the fairly
good “Arthur Christmas” (2012) at 3:20. FX counters with “Puss
in Boots” (2011) at 4, “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014) at 6 and
“Minions” (2015) at 8 and 10. Also, AMC has “Ice Age” 2002) a
8 p.m. and “Happy Feet” (2006) at 10.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. This edition is down to its final eight, but now
it pauses for two reruns, going back to when 12 people remained. The
first deals with the most popular “Hell's Kitchen” dishes, plus
Gordon Ramsay's signature dish. The second involves the food habits
of early humans.

“Shark Tank,” 8
p.m., ABC. “Once Upon a Time” has finished the first half of its
season and won't be back until March 2. For tonight, “Shark Tank”
visits its old night with this rerun, including an additive to make
coffee taste better.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Fitz, the weapons and technology guy, is
obsessed with finding his colleagues. Now he gets some unexpected
help from the self-serving Lance Hunter.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun involves an ex-con who took the fall for
someone else. Working as his bodyguard, Danny decides to go after the
real culprit.

“A Christmas
Carol” (1999), 10:15 p.m., TNT. Patrick Stewart is a blistering
Scrooge, in one of the best versions of this classic tale. It's also
available (via digital or Dish) at 8 p.m. ET on GetTV.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Mom," 9:01 p.m., CBS.

This terrific show
has the rare ability to be solidly serious and wildly funny, almost
simultaneously. Last week, it turned serious with Marjorie's husband
felled by a stroke; now it does it again, with Christy and Bonnie
finding a break-in at their apartment.

Things get worse
when they find a personal connection. Filled with subtly gifted
actresses, “Mom” does serious well ... and has enough big laughs
to keep it enjoyable.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Life in Pieces,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.

On a typical week,
this has four mini-stories in a half-hour. But now it goes from mini-
to micro.

A dozen stories are
packed into this half-hour. The first -- Greg playing air-guitar --
and the last tie together. The others range wildly. Some are
hilarious; one is just a collection of double-entendres, bound to
tickle some 12-year-olds. “Pieces” is always inconsistent, but
tonight it's mostly great fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Great News,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Carol (Andrea
Martin) manages to overdo the little things in life ... and to
mega-overdo the big ones, including Christmas. The first episode
illustrates that with funny flashbacks, then shows nowadays, with
Carol getting the office ready for Christmas; there's even a funny
“Christmas Carol” take-off.

Both episodes also
focus on Chuck (John Michael Higgins), the anchorman. In the first,
his estranged son (Will Sasso) visits. In the second, he and Carol
resist sensitivity training.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (8 p.m.) and “CMA
Country Christmas” (9-11 p.m.), ABC.

The good news is
that the network is rerunning “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at 8
p.m. This cartoon (followed by briefs, called “Charlie Brown
Christmas Tales”) is one of TV's great moments.

And the bad? Once
again, ABC has shown a deep disrespect for its viewers. Earlier, it
pulled a terrific mini-series (“Ten Days in the Valley”) in
mid-crisis; now it has yanked “The Great British Baking Show”
after two of its three episodes. We're glad to re-see these stars –
Kelly Clarkson, Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Darius Rucker, many
more – perform, but can viewers ever count on ABC?

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the excellent
season-opener, starting with Amy's reaction to Sheldon's rather
eccentric marriage proposal.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. For Georgie, this is the ultimate torture: To keep
his spot on the football team, he has to be tutored by his little
brother Sheldon.

“Saturday Night
Live Christmas,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. Here are highlights from 43 “SNL”
seasons.

“The Orville,” 9
p.m., Fox. This show has already finished its season, but it gets one
rerun. The crew rescues a stranded ship and Ed (Seth MacFarlane)
finds its captain (Charlize Theron) to be attractive.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. Christmas vacation is canceled for the SWAT guys. A drug
cartel is out for blood, after its gold bars are stolen.

“The Princess
Bride” (1987), 10 p.m., Pop. Rob Reiner's film is a delight. Its
stars (Cary Elwes, Robin Wright) get great support from Mandy
Patinkin, Billy Crystal, Wallace Shown, even Andre the Giant.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Survivor” finale, 8 p.m., CBS, with reunion at 10.

This was an
intriguing concept – three tribes, billed as “heroes, healers and
hustlers.” The “healers,” alas, had trouble; only Mike
Zahalsky, 43, a urologist, is in his final five. The “hustlers”
did fine; they usually do. They have Ryan Ulrich, a bellhop, and
Devon Pinto, a surf instructor, both 23.

And the “heroes”
? Ashley Nolan, a lifeguard, was ousted last week; Ben Driebergen,
34, a Marine, and Chrissy Hofbeck, 46, a financial analyst, remain.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Movies, NBC and cable.

Two days before
“Pitch Perfect 3” reaches theaters, the original (2012) is at
8:30 p.m. on NBC. We can again see Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and
friends enter a singing competition.

That's on a strong
movie night. At 7:30 p.m. are big genre films – “Mad Max: Fury
Road” (2015) on Syfy, the final “Twilight Saga” (2012) on MTV.
At 8 are 1980s classics -- “St. Elmo's Fire” (1985) on Showtime,
“Dirty Dancing” (1987) on WE and the splendid “Say Anything”
(1989) on Pop.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist,” 9 p.m., National
Geographic.

The first two
chapters offered a fascinating portrait of Fossey, the Californian
who studied mountain gorillas close-up in Rwanda. Now much of this
finale is like an unsolved-mysteries hour.

We even meet the man
who was convicted of murdering her. That notion is dismissed by
everyone (including embassy officials, who helped him leave Rwanda
before the trial), but no one's sure who to blame. And then, in the
final minutes, this dark (and beautifully crafted) hour turns cheery.
The gorilla population has tripled in Rwanda ... gorilla tourism is
thriving ... the Fossey impact is enormous.

Other choices
include:

“Grandma Got Run
Over By a Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m., CW. In this animated rerun, young
Jake goes on a quest to find his grandmother and prove that Santa is
real.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. For years, Rosario was Karen's housekeeper,
her victim and, indirectly, her friend. Now her death leaves Karen at
her nastiest and her most vulnerable. It's a fairly good episode,
spiced by a brief, broad bit by Minnie Driver, as the former mistress
of Karen's late husband.

“The Librarians,”
8 p.m., TNT. After a good season-opener last week, “Librarians”
has an hour that's mostly just goofy. Santa's sleigh is there, along
with Ezekiel's foster mother; she considers him a disappointment and
an inept thief ... unaware that he's really a master at this.

“Speechless,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Fresh from seeing Driver in a flashy “Will &
Grace: role, catch her regular duty. In a rerun, she takes JJ on a
road trip, to find the girl who wants to give him his first kiss.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jay convinces the entire family to vacation
on a houseboat.

“The Top 12
Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time,” 9 p.m., CW. Dean Cain hosts
this rerun from last year. It airs on a night that has some
best-Christmas-film prospects: Freeform has “Christmas Vacation”
(1989) at 6:40 p.m. and “Elf” (2003) at 8:50; AMC has “Scrooged”
(1988) at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Match Game,” 10
p.m. This replaces the previously scheduled “Christmas Cribs.”
Try not to be too upset by this change.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
The Long Road Home” finale, 10 p.m. and midnight, National
Geographic.

A superb mini-series
ends with rich waves of emotion. The basis is Martha Raddatz
non-fiction book – deeply detailed and beautifully crafted –
about an Army unit tht was ambushed in 2004. Like the book, this
offers a deep respect for everyone – officers, enlisted men and
civilians (American and Iraqi).

Last week, we saw an
old method – a rooftop bonfire – show helicopters where the
Americans are located. Now the shelling of nearby areas begins,
followed by a desperate ground-forces attempt to find the men. Stick
around for updates on them ... and (at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.) for
Raddatz's documentary.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Olaf's Frozen Adventure,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Until recently, ABC
was oddly secretive about this. It would have some holiday special –
it wouldn't say what – on Dec. 14 and 19. Now we understand: “Olaf”
was still in movie theaters, in front of “Coco”; people were
paying for something that they would soon get for free.

Now that it's out
out of theaters and inside our TV sets, we can judge it by different
standards. It has a lame story, gorgeous animation and four songs
that are merely OK. By movie-theater standards, it's merely adequate;
by TV-cartoon standards, it's quite good.

THINKING-AHEAD:
“Mickey's Christmas Carol,” 7 a.m. Wednesday, Freeform.

This double-duty
idea – a cartoon designed to run in movie theaters before becoming
a half-hour TV special – has been tried before by Disney ... but
with more time separating the two.

It peaked in 1983,
with this gentle gem. Unlike other Disney cartoons, it's almost
devoid of humor. Still, it has beautiful animation and a classic
story. Set your alarm clock or recording device.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Major Crimes,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT, rerunning at
11:02 and 12:03.

It's the 100th
episode for this show ... or the 209th, if you count “The
Closer,” which led directly into it. Tonight brings the second-half
of a four-parter involving murders linked to a sports bar. Also,
Sharon (Mary McDonnell) realizes health problems might force her to
make a decision.

After this, there's
just one more four-parter, before cable's eternal cop show ends its
run.

Other choices
include:

“Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory” (2005) and “Decorating Disney,” 9:40 a.m.
and 12:20 p.m., Freeform. First is a masterful remake, with director
Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman at their whimsical best. Then is
a repeat of Monday's special, viewing holiday preparations at Disney
parks.

“A Home for the
Holidays,” 8 p.m., CBS. Each year, this has music and portraits of
adoptive families.

Now Josh Groban
hosts; also performing are Kelly Clarkson, Kacey Musgraves and Kane
Brown.

More animation, 8:30
p.m., ABC, 9:30 p.m., Fox. Here are two annual pleasures. First is
“Prep & Landing 2,” a slick look at Santa's advance men; then
is “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas,” with Sid heading to the North
Pole to get off Santa's naughty list.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. An hour later than usual, here's a rerun of the season-opener,
with Gibbs and McGee held hostage by rebels in Paraguay.

Jessica Simpson
special, 9 p.m., AXS. Each night, this channel reruns a past special
by a pop or country star. If you missed the first few (Rod Stewart,
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Faith Hill), you'll get another chance: All
of these rerun on Christmas Day, starting at 11 a.m.

“Ernest Saves
Christmas” (1988), 10 p.m., AMC. This is reasonably entertaining,
but let's make one thing clear: It is NOT one of the Christmas
classics.