TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 27 (out of order)_


(Here's the TV column for
Tuesday, Jan. 27, slightly out of order; scroll down and you'll find Thursday, then Wednesday, then Monday.)

 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Here's classic
Americana – a small-town Midwesterner, uneducated and ambitious,
invents things and remakes the world. If he also turns out to be a
bit greedy ... well, most stories have rough edges.

Thomas Edison was 7
when he moved from Milan, Ohio, to Port Huron, Mich. His dad had a
shop; Tom, with three months of schooling, had jobs; on trains, he
sold candy and newspapers (which he wrote and printed himself) and
had a lab. Then he began inventing things, buying patents, hiring
squadrons of workers. He helped create light bulbs, phonographs,
movies and more; it's a great story.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.

As the season opened
last week, Raylan was building a case against Boyd Crowder for his
past sins – which are plentiful. Then Boyd came up with a new one –
robbing the bank and blasting safe-deposit doors, hoping to find lots
of money; instead, he found documents that may or may not be
valuable.

In an excellent
episode tonight, Raylan pumps Boyd's fiancee for information. He
scowls at real-estate schemers and confronts one of their people,
large in body and, perhaps, small in IQ.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sons of Liberty” finale, 9-11 p.m., History.

The first two
chapters – rerunning at 5 and 7 p.m. -- take us to this crucial
point. At Bunker Hill, a rag-tag group of Americans prepares to face
an organized and well-armed British unit.

Tonight, the
Revolutionary War begins, Fiery rebels (Sam Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren)
and moderates (John Adams, John Hancock) link with a stern George
Washington.

Other choices
include:

“Parks and
Recreation,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. Here are issues that consume
Leslie and the Pawnee people. First, the Gryzzl company may be
invading privacy; then there's a fight to save JJ's Diner.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. David McCallum, 81, gets the focus in this rerun. Ducky
(McCallum) sees that a case points to his former best friend (Alice
Krige), now estranged. He heads to London to meet her.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a chief warrant officer is
killed and his wife is kidnapped for ransom.

“Discovering Lucy
Angel,” 9 p.m., AXS. Here's a family venture – a mom and her
grown daughters forming a country-music trio, with the dad as manager
and his sons helping. They're likable folks and their music is good
(if infrequent). Tonight brings decisions on the first single ... and
then a party.

“Strange
Inheritance,” 9 p.m., Fox Business Network. Debuting this week
(Mondays through Thursdays), this show traces the results of odd
bequests. Some are pleasant – a rare coin, for instance – and
some are difficult; one involved taking over a 900-acre bug museum.

“The Mindy
Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Shonda Rhimes – who produces all three
of ABC's Thursday dramas – shows up on another night and another
network, in another genre. She plays the beer-pong champion of
Dartmouth alumni; Peter is determined to beat her.

“Forever,” 10
p.m., ABC. As an Englishman who's more than 200 years old, Henry
(Ioan Gruffudd) sticks to classical music. Abe (Judd Hirsch) tries to
expand his tastes in this rerun, while Henry is probing a murder that
may be linked to the dispute over rights to a jazz classic.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Parenthood" finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

For six-plus seasons
of high quality and low ratings, “Parenthood” has given us the
drama of ordinary (almost) life for one family. Now its finale faces
birth-and-death extremes.

Amber has her baby;
her mom (Lauren Graham) is ready to marry, but first Hank (Ray
Romano) wants approval from her gravely ill father (Craig T. Nelson).
Adam (Peter Krause) ponders the fate of two enterprises – the
recording studio he started wth Crosby and the academy launched by
his wife. TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: All night, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

On the first day of
the “sweeps” ratings period, ABC's Thursday shows return from two
months of rest or reruns. On “Grey's Anatomy” (8 p.m.), Derek
prepares to move cross-country; on “Scandal” (9), we see the
abduction of Olivia from her point of view. Then it's “How to Get
Away With Murder.”

The mid-season
finale showed the students scrambling for proof that their
professor's husband impregnated and killed Lila. He attacked them,
Wes killed him with a trophy and they began their cover-up ... with
the prof fashioning her own cover-up. Tonight, she calls them in to
talk to police.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Fortitude” debut, 10 p.m. ET, Pivot.

Nestled bleakly in
the Arctic Circle, the town of Fortitude has miners, research
scientists and a few townspeople, running the Midnight Sun hotel and
bar. It also has a cop who rarely confronts crime.

Then come the
shell-shocks – an egimatic beauty ... a sexual affair ... a
fiercely ill boy ... an illegal artifact ... a murder. “Fortitude”
has two master actors – Sir Michael Gambon as an elderly nature
photographer and Stanley Tucci as a cop from the mainland. Mostly,
however, it offers talented newcomers, a smart script and sprawling
backdrops (filmed in Iceland) that sweep us to another world.

Other choices
include:

“The Biggest
Loser” finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC. We're down to the final thrrr
ex-athletes. Before the train-at-home phase, Sonya Jones (a former
softball all-American) went from 283 to 163 pounds .... Toma
Dobrosavljeveic (soccer) went from 336 to 199 ... Rob Guiry (a rugby
coach) went from 483 to 302.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon feels he's too comfortable to have a
breakthrough.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Last week's excellent episode involved the death of
Christy's dad. Tonight, she has to do damage control, when her
forlorn mother starts acting out.

“Backstrom,” 9
p.m., Fox. With a serial arsonist loose, the fire department asks
cops for help. The case unfolds a bit too easily and the back story –
Backstrom's childhood bullies are now firefightrers – is so-so.
Still, there are great moments for the supporting cast, led by Dennis
Haysbert, Thomas Dekker and Genevieve Angelso. Flaws and all,
“Backstrom” remains entertaining.

“Babylon,” 10
p.m., Sundance. At first bright and satirical, “Babylon” ended
last week with a jolt: Plagued by his sexual affairs, the police
chief committed suicide. Now his PR chief – incorrectly linked to
the affairs – hesitates. It's a great hour, with dabs of humor
alongside deep ethical dilemmas.

“Wizard Wars”
return, 10 p.m., Syfy. This cleverly crafted series has two duos
compete with each other, then face the resident magicians, quickly
crafting an illusion. The results tonight offer a terrific blend of
craft and showmanship.

“Breaking
Greenville” debut, 10:30 p.m., Tru TV. In Greenville, Miss., we
watch two stations with opposite morning anchors. Small and perky,
Lucy Biggers is a Kelly Ripa fan; she marvels when her competitor,
Callie Carroll, does a live weigh-in at 173 pounds. It's a fun start
to this reality show.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Americans” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

One crowded hour
offers this show's dizzying extremes. Early on, there's a fierce,
smash-gut action scene; at the end, sex and violence merge
powerfully. And in between is subtle character drama.

Elizabeth and Philip
(Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are 1980s suburbanites ... except
that they're really Russian spies, planted there decades ago. Now
their bosses want to recruit their teen daughter, who knows nothing
about this.We're in a richly drawn maze of ethical choices. Even
tonight's final shock is transformed via quick expediency; the spy
world can turn anything into an advantage.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Welcome to the
southern-most post office on Planet Earth. A former British research
station in Antarctic, 700 miles south of Argentina and Chile, it's
open four months a year. An average of two ships a day unload
tourists to send post cards and view its museum, gift shop ... and
3,000 penguins.

This charming hour
splits time between the four women who work there – including a
teacher and a law-school grad – and the penguins. Those penguins
are sometimes charming, sometimes rude – stealing nests, stealing
stones, cheating on a spouse – and usually great fun to watch.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Idol” and “Empire,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

In this year's
auditions, judges insist, the San Francisco auditions were the best.
Now we'll see them, spread over the next two nights and leading into
dramas.

Tonight, “Empire”
has Lucious trying to steal a top act from a rival record company.
One son (Jamal) struggles with his songwriting; another (Hakeem) sees
his mom try to overcome their estrangement.

Other choices
include:

“The Mentalist,”
8 p.m., CBS. The focus is again on Abbott, neatly underplayed by
Rockmond Dunbar. With his old boss (Dylan Baker) going after him, he
needs help from Patrick Jane.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a college student's
troubles started with a modeling ad. Soon, she was in
online-pornography and then an apparent rape victim.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This rerun is stuffed with guest stars: Steve Zahn
(“Treme,” “Mind Games”) and Andrea Anders (“Joey,”
“Better Off Ted”) play the noisy new neighbors; Tyne Daly, the
six-time Emmy-winner, is Lily's tough teacher.

“Black-ish,”
9:31-11 p.m., ABC. For the second straight week, ABC has made late
switches in its comedies; now we get three straight “Black-ish”
reruns. In the first , Andre wants his son to have more black
friends. In the second, he tries to invoke a “Team Johnson”
family approach. In the third, the kids have lost interest in the
tradition of Halloween pranks.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Murder victims have dollar bills pinned to their
chests, in this rerun. Voight jumps into the case when his friend is
involved.

“It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia” and “Man Seeking Woman,” 10 and 10:30 p.m.,
FXX. First is a semi-odd episode about the return of a reputed
cannibal. Then is an ultra-odd one, complete with a talking hand and
a missing male member; it's clearly not for general audiences.

“Kart Life”
debut, 10 p.m., Tru TV. At a go-kart track in South Haven, Ind., we
meet three boys and one girl who have shots at the top. We also meet
their parents, pouring money and emotion into this. Some are likable,
most are not, but the result is moderately interesting.

 

 

 

T

TV column for Monday, Jan. 26


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials” and “Scorpion,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. This popular special is in its 15th year, now
with the public voting. Boomer Esiason, who has played in a Super
Bowl (his Bengals lost to the 49ers, 20-16), hosts with Katharine
McPhee, who hasn't.

Afterward, stick
around to see McPhee in a “Scorpion” rerun. She's Phoebe, a
waitress who brings normality to a team of geniuses; tonight, she
prepares her son for the arrival of his dad (Brendan Hines). Also,
three people – one of them a brilliant hacker – have escaped from
prison.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Sons of Liberty” mid-section, 9-11 p.m., History.

If you missed
Sunday's opener, catch it at 7 p.m.; or see the full mini-series,
from 5-11 p.m. Tuesday.

The opener gave us a
hot-headed Sam Adams, ignoring the caution of his cousin John and a
mealy-mouthed John Hancock. Now things get serious; tonight starts
with the Boston Tea Party and ends with the ride of Paul Revere and
Dr. Joseph Warren ... a key figure in this version. There are
excesses – an escape during the ride seems way too easy – but
it's a ripping-good tale of righteous underdogs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Night Will Fall,” 9-10:30 p.m., HBO.

As Allied troops
liberated the World War II death camps, their cameramen caught
jolting views of human horror. Soon, top filmmakers were crafting a
documentary; even Alfred Hitchock was involved.

Then politics
intervened and the film was scrapped. Almost 70 years later,
restorers finished it; now this documentary skillfully weaves
elements. Portions of the film are merged with memories of the people
involved, plus a history of the film. The result is brutal to watch,
but compelling.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Yes, brash people tend to get noticed; at a lake
party, two women each shed half their bikinis. Still, Chris Soules'
three sisters pick a shy woman for a one-on-one date.

“Celebrity
Apprentice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The first hour, fortunately, avoids
the heavy-handed question of who can get rich friends to donate the
most money. Instead, each team arranges a boat tour, with the
customers choosing a winner.

“Top Gear”
season-opener, 8:30-10 p.m., BBC America. Backed by the droll wit of
writer-producer-star Jeremy Clarkson, this car show has long been
popular in the U.S. and England. A rerun marathon started at 6 a.m.
Sunday, setting up the new episode.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane is juggling jobs as a teacher, a waitress ... and
now an aspiring scriptwriter on her dad's telenovela. Meanwhile, her
mom regrets an uncharacteristic vow of chastity ... and Jane's
ex-boyfriend (a cop) is spying on her current boyfriend, Less
humorous than the earlier episodes, this packs together a busy night
of drama.

“Mud, Sweat and
Gears” debut, 10 p.m., BBC America. Two British car buffs are
organizing odd competitions in the U.S. -- starting with makeshift
cop cars. The result is sort of like “Top Gear,” except louder,
faster and much less clever.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Fresh from the season-opening episodes that saw Castle on
the lam, this rerun has him trying to return to normal life with
Beckett. Meanwhile, they probe a slain pool shark.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Galavant” and “Resurrection” season finales, 8-9 p.m. and
9-10 p.m., ABC.

Two distinctive
shows finish their seasons early, avoiding a face-off with Super Bowl
Sunday.

“Galavant” is a
cleverly odd musical comedy with a four-week, eight-episode run.
Galavant finally realizes that Isabella (not flighty Queen Madalena)
is the one he loves; now he must break out of prison with her ... and
then help King Richard with a duel. Then “Resurrection” sees a
church group converge to stop Rachael from giving birth; Bellamy,
Henry and Fred arm themselves in defense.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Sons of Liberty” opener, 9 p.m., History; rerunning at 11.

The names are
familiar in this three-night mini-series, but the rest feels new. Sam
Adams is a handsome rogue, brash and bold and sometimes endangering
others; John Adams, his cousin, tries to keep him calm. John Hancock
is a mousy yes-man ... until pushed too far.

We meet others,
familiar (Washington, Franklin, Revere) and not; Dr. Joseph Warren
plays a key role. At times, the characters – Hancock, especially –
can seem like hollow cartoons. Still, “Sons” -- continuing
through Tuesday – is sharply filmed, as it shows the huge odds this
rag-tag bunch faced.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Away & Back,” 8 p.m., Hallmark; rerunning at
10.

At age 11, Maggie
Elizabeth Jones has already been delightful in a movie (“We Bought
a Zoo”) and a TV series (“Ben and Kate”). Now comes a TV film,
under the classy Hallmark Hall of Fame banner.

Frankie (Jones)
obsesses on the orphaned swan eggs in her family pond. That sets off
debates between her dad (Jason Lee) and a research scientist (Minka
Kelly). Some of this feels forced and the grown-up actors are so-so;
still, director Jeff Bleckner, a two-time Emmy-winner, has created an
involving film, boosted by great settings and a likable young star.

Other choices
include:

Miss Universe
pageant, 8-11 p.m. ET, NBC. Natalie Morales of “Today” and Thomas
Roberts of MSNBC host; it's live, but Pacific stations air it twice,
at 5 and 8 . There's music by Nick Jonas, Gavin DeGraw and Prince
Royce, whose music merges urban American and Dominican influences.

Screen Actors Guild
awards, 8 p.m. ET, TNT, rerunning at 10. Awards are given for movies
and TV, including ensembles ... plus a lifetime prize for Debbie
Reynolds. It's live, making it 5 and 7 p.m. PT.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A fairly good episode finds
relationship trouble everywhere: Lady Mary makes a decision about
Tony ... Lord Merton stuns Isobel ... and Robert again battles with
Sarah, the strong-minded teacher who is Tom's friend.

“Rain Man”
(1989), 9-11:30 p.m., Ion. Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise are perfect
as a savant and his self-centered brother. One of the best movies
ever, this won Oscars for best picture and for its script, its
direction and Hoffman.

“Girls,” 9 p.m.,
HBO, rerunning at 10:30. A funny-yet-sad episode finds the friends
toying with self-destruction. At the prestigious writers' workshop in
Iowa, Hannah doesn't get around to writing, but does manage to insult
everyone. Back in New York, Marnie stumbles a little, Jessa stumbles
a lot and Shoshanna is truly odd in her first job interview.

“Masterpiece
Mystery: Grantchester,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Last
week's debut introduced James Norton as a crimesolving priest,
forming a mismatched friendship with a skeptical cop (Robson Green);
it also saw him shattered by the news that his secret love is getting
married. In tonight's excellent tale, he reluctantly attends her
engagement party ... then comes across a new murder.