TV column for Thursday, Nov. 27


THIS MORNING'S
MUST-SEE: “Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC
and CBS.

Each year, the
parade offers size and spectacle. This year, it has a dozen marching
bands, 1,000 clowns, 1,300 dancers and cheerleaders, 16 giant
balloons, Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil and 27 floats, bearing
singers (Renee Fleming, Idina Menzel, Nick Jonas, KISS), Muppets and
more.

The result annually
draws huge ratings for NBC, which adds some extra performances; this
year, it has the casts of five Broadway shows and its own upcoming
“Peter Pan.” CBS counters with music from Taylor Swift and the
Broadway casts of “Pippin” and “Matilda.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The McCarthys,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.

On Thanksgiving, the
family's big challenge seemed to be Jackie's sudden interest in
cooking. Alas, there's s steeper one: Gerard (Joey McIntyre) has
re-united with his acid-tongued girlfriend Katrina.

Think of it as a
heartwarming (sort of) holiday episode – the oft-squabbling
McCarthys are now united by the common cause of hating Katrina.
Despite a tendency to sometimes reach too hard for jokes, this is
mostly a sharp and funny episode.

ALL DAY: Football,
12:30 p.m. ET, CBS; 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox; 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.

For years,
Thanksgiving football wallowed in mismatches. The Detroit Lions, who
started this custom, lost nine straight times, including scores of
34-12, 41-9 and 47-10.

But the Lions won
(big) last Thanksgivng and have been winning (small) this season.
They face the Chicago Bears to start a tripleheader; then it's
Philadelphia at Dallas and Seattle at San Francisco.

ALL DAY II:
Marathons, cable.

There are some good
ones today, led by National Geographic's well-crafted “Life Below
Zero” (9 a.m. to 3 a.m.) and two terrific batches of network
reruns: FXX starts “The Simpsons” at 4 p.m., with the movie
(2007) at 10 p.m.; Pivot picks top “Friday Night Lights” hours,
from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

For a mini-marathon,
try “The Carbonaro Effect” -- a dandy mixture of magic and
hidden-camera – from 8-11 p.m. And more: “The Transporter” (a
Canadian action drama), 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., TNT; “Nature's
Weirdest,” noon to midnight, BBC America; “Blue Bloods,” noon
to 7 p.m. ET, WGN; “Pawn Stars,” 4-11 p.m., History; “Homicide
Hunter,” 8 p.m. to midnight, Investigation Discovery.

Other choices
include:

Dogs, noon to 2
p.m., NBC, 8-10 p.m., Fox. Fresh from the parade (which it repeats
from 2-5 p.m.), NBC has “The National Dog Show,” which draws big
ratings each year. At night, Fox debuts “Cause for Paws”;
produced by Hilary Swank (who hosts with Jane Lynch), it ranges from
rescue heroes to funny videos to stars – Josh Duhamel, Scarlett
Johansson, etc. -- introducing dogs for adoption.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's last season's Thanksgiving episode, a
funny one that finds everyone at the Wolowitz house ... where
Leonard fumes about Penny's past Las Vegas mistake.

Movies (each 2014),
8 p.m., cable. Family films include the dandy “Lego Movie” on HBO
and “Northpole” (great visuals, so-so story) on Hallmark. For a
different sort of family, “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” is on the
Lifetime Movie Network.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. No longer homeless – her mom became a building manager –
Christy worries about other relationships: Her parents are back
together and her ex-husband has a girlfriend.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Now that his adoption plans have fallen
through, Walden tries fostering a 6-year-old ... with, at first,
shaky results.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. A murder leads to a probe of the illegal diamond trade.

“All-Star
Non-Denominational Christmas Special,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. The
channel assembles its stars for an hour that will be repeated at the
same time for four straight nights.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live Thanksgiing," 9-11 p.m., NBC.

For its 40th
season, “SNL” is piling up memories. That includes this special,
which debuted last year.

Flashing past us
were decades of quirky moments – Paul Simon in a turkey suit, Adam
Sandler singing “The Turkey Song,” Anna Gesteyer as Martha
Stewart, Christopher Guest as Ed Grimley's dad.

The clips ranged
from Dan Aukroyd to Will Ferrell, from Macauley Culkin to Gwyneth
Paltrow, plus several stars – John Belushi, Chris Farley, Brittany
Murphy, more – who are no longer around.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Movies, 8 p.m., CW and cable.

CW has the ideal
film to show on a holiday-eve travel day: John Hughes' “Planes,
Trains & Automobiles” (1987) has Steve Martin and John Candy
facing unending transportation woes.

Cable tops that, led
by the all-time classic “Gone With the Wind” (1939) on AMC.
There's the comedy gem “Tootsie” (1982) on TV Guide Network ...
action with “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) on FX ... and drama
with Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning work in “Training Day”
(2001) on TNT.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“The Odd Squad” debut, times vary (check local listionngs), PBS.

Something goofy is
happening to a basketball team; special agents Olive and Otto
scramble for a solution, with lab help from Oscar. The result has a
smidgen of math information (mostly just what numbers add up to 13)
and a lot of fun. There are sight gags and likable young actors; we
especially enjoyed Millie Davis, 7, as the juicebox-guzzling boss,
Ms. O.

Each half-hour has
two such stories, sandwiched by quirky shorts. Many stations will
have the hour-long opener at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., then will air the
half-hour show at 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8, 9
and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here are three of the show's
lightest and most accessible episodes. They look at turkeys, ducks
and deer.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Many shows are retreating to reruns on this holiday eve,
but “Survivor” booms ahead. It's now at the halfway point, with
nine of the original 18 surviving.

“A Charlie Brown
Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., ABC. An all-rerun night at ABC starts with
this 1973 cartoon, with the caterers (Snoopy and Woodstock) planning
a feast of toast and popcorn. The hour is rounded out by the
Mayflower segment of “This is America, Charlie Brown.”

“Cars 2” (2011),
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Despite a few weak story twists – Mater ends
up in a spy plot – this is a fun film, ideal for families to catch
on a holiday eve.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. While Alex tours the Cal Tech campus, her father and
siblings take part in a psych experiment.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Rayna is determined to sign emerging star Sadie – played
by Laura Benanti, who knows music. She's done seven Broadway musicals
(winning a Tony in “Gypsy”) and was Elsa Schrader in last year's
“Sound of Music” on NBC.

“Blade Runner”
(1982), 10 p.m., Sundance. Here's yet one more terrific movie, this
one superbly directed by Ridley Scott. Harrison Ford plays a
futuristic detective, with great supporting roles for Daryl Hannah,
William Sanderson, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and others.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Dancing With the Stars” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC, with preview at
8.

If you were betting
at the start of this week, you'd focus on the pros who are paired
with celebrities.

Derek Hough has won
five times; now (with Bethany Mota) he's chasing his third title in
four years. Mark Ballas won early championships with Olympians Shawn
Johnson and Kristi Yamaguchi; this time (with Sadie Robertson) is his
eighth in the final four. Valentin Chmerkovsky (with Janel Parrish)
hasn't won, but his brother Maksim did; Witney Carson (with Alfonso
Ribeiro) is only in her second try.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Comedies tend to be
in top form with Thanksgiving episodes. Now here's this season's
final new one.

Naturally, Schmidt
has a fresh take on the holiday – each person bringing a date for
someone else. That notion can work wonderfully; three decades ago,
Sam and Diane gave each other hilarious “Cheers” dates. Now we
can look forward to some modern mismatching.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Return to the Wild,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Growing up in a
financially comfortable (and emotinally difficult) family, Chris
McCandless was an athlete and an idealist. He graduated from Emory
University and, at 24, vowed to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
His body was found in an abandoned bus that explorers used for
shelter.

That short life has
been the subject of a Jon Krakauer book, a Sean Penn-directed movie,
a documentary, several magazine articles and endless debates. Here's
another look, using fresh interviews and newly available letters from
McCandless.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Just as many viewers fret about Thanksgiving travel, this show
gives us a double nightmare: Tony, Ellie and her husband (Jamie
Bamber of “Battlestar Galactica”) are grounded at an airport that
faces a heightened terrorist threat.

“A Night at the
Movies,” 8-9:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. George Lucas
discusses the fantasy classics, from “King Kong” and “Wizard of
Oz” to “2001” and “Back to the Future.”

Animated films, 8
p.m., cable. As the holiday nears, families can watch together.
Disney has “WALL-E” (2008); FX has “Madagascar 3” (2012),
which it reruns at 10.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. As the team prepares its annual Thanksgiving
dinner, it finds the re-emergence of a case that the medical examiner
(CCH Pounder) has studied for years. Dean Stockwell guests as the
councilman's dad, providing a “Quantum Leap” reunion with Scott
Bakula.

“Marry Me,” 9:01
p.m., NBC. Now that he's engaged to Annie, Jake figures he should
work harder at bonding with her parents. They're very different,
even though they're both guys named Kevin.

“About a Boy,”
9:30, NBC. Chris Diamantopoulos arrives as a handsome and charismatic
drama teacher. He casts Marcus as Romeo, appeals to his mom ... and
makes Will jealous.

“Jay Leno: The
Mark Twain Prize,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). If you
missed this terrific special Sunday, catch it now. It ripples with
great “Tonight Show” clips and with barbs from Leno's friends.
“Success didn't give him a swelled head,” Garth Brooks says.
“Nature did that.”

TV column for Monday, Nov. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

We're down to the
final four now, as the two-night finale begins. On Tuesday, we'll
have a winner.

Alfonso Ribeiro had
a big head start; he starred in Broadway's “Tap Dance Kid” at 12,
then danced with Michael Jackson in a popular commercial. Now –
after dancing last week while injured – he faces three young women:
Sadie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” actress Janel Parrish and
Internet star Bethany Mota, whose partner Derek Hough is already a
five-time champion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In its first season,
“The Millers” overcame so-so scripts via two huge advantages –
TV's best comedy director (James Burrows) and a cozy Thursday slot
behind “Big Bang.”

This year, moved
away from that slot, it quickly crashed. Now it's been cancelled,
with “Mike & Molly” returning to Mondays next week. Filling
the slot tonight is a rerun of the “Big Bang” season-opener; it's
a funny one, with Leonard and Amy on a road trip to retrieve the
runaway Sheldon.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Booze Traveler,” 10-11 p.m., Travel; or “Chug,”
10:30, National Geographic.

We kind of expected
Thanksgiving Week shows to focus on food or ... well, thanks.
Instead, cable networks debut two similar and moderately entertaining
shows about alcohol.

“Chug” goes to
Kuala Lumpur, where people don't ask what year a bottle is from; they
can climb trees, pick a naturally fermented fruit and soon drink it.
In “Traveler,” Jack Maxwell sees Turkey's mixed attitude toward
alcohol. Its founding father (Mustafa Ataturk) savored it, he says,
and died at 57 of cirrhosis of the liver. Now politicians ban
advertising it ... yet Istanbul consumes a billion liters a year.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The top 10 perform and viewers vote; on Tuesday, two
will be ousted.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Young Bruce Wayne (the future Batman) is becoming more
prominent in the show. Tonight, he and Selina (the future Catwoman)
are hiding from killers.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. The jaunty fun of the early episodes is gone now, but
this remains an appealing drama with likable characters. Now Jane has
broken up with her fiance and kissed her boss ... whose estranged
wife has many problems – including a gagged Czech hit man in her
closet.

Crowd Control”
debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic. Each year, Daniel Pink
says, 13,000 people are killed while speedinerg, 6,000 are killed
while jaywalking. He toys with possible solutions, from cash rewards
for slow drivers to stark signs (“Be late, not dead”) and
game-playing diversions at intersections. He also tries to prevent
misuse of special parking spaces by mounting photos of the disabled.
Some notions succeed, some fail thoroughly, most are fairly
interesting.

“State of
Affairs,” 10 p.m., NBC. A stranded Russian submarine holds six
months of stolen American secrets. Now Charleston (Katherine Heigl)
leads the rush to get it ... while distracted by her mysterious
texter and by the new secretary of state (Nestor Carbonell).

“Eric Greenspan is
Hungry,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Joining the chase for a wild
hog, Greenspan soon learns an important self-truth: “I'm not a
runner.” He does however, enjoy the backwoods friendship afterward,
in a so-so follow-up to the channel's terrific “Eat” mini-series.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Esposito is among the subway passengers taken hostage. Now
Beckett must figure out the guman's motive.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jay Leno: The Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Here's a 90-minute
burst of big laughs. Leno closes it wittily. First, others offer
their own comedy bits (Jerry Seinfeld's postal routine is
brilliiant), introduce “Tonight Show” clips and point barbs at
Leno.

This is someone who
still works constantly, Al Madrigal says, “because $200 million in
the bank just isn't enough.” There was that one misfire: “I just
hope PBS runs this at 11 p.m.,” Garth Brooks says, “because it's
proven no one will watch Jay at 10.” After that lone failure, Jimmy
Fallon reminds us, the network dropped Leno: “He did so much for
NBC that we have to celebrate his career on PBS.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC..

Most of
the night will ripple with young pop stars. There's Taylor Swift, One
Direction, Lorde, Ariana Grande, Jesse J, Charlie XCX, Sam Smith,
Imagine Dragons, Magic and 5 Seconds of Summer.

Still,
the veterans have their moments. Garth Brooks – who won and refused
the AMA's top award back in 1996 – will be shown performing in
North Carolina, on his first tour in 13 years. Jennifer Lopez will
perform “Booty” with Iggy Azalea (who leads with six
nominations). Also performing are Pitbull (who hosts), Mary J. Blige,
Fergie, Wyclef Jean and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Newsroom,” 9 p.m., HBO.

Beyond
all his blistering rants, we sometimes forget that writer-producer
Aaron Sorkin also creates great comedy dialog. That's on full display
early, as the FBI invades the newsroom and as a young reporter
(Alison Pill) spars with her editor (John Gallagher Jr.).

Then
things turn dead-serious. The news network's future is wobbling ....
An official delivers a scary global-warming warning .... And there's
the shabby new notion of journalists amping up stories, because they
get bonuses for more page hits. The laughs fade; no one rants as well
as Sorkin.

Other
choices include:

Red
carpet, 6-8 p.m., E. Stars look pretty for the American Music Awards.

“Christmas
in Palm Springs,” 7 and 9 p.m., UP. Here's your standard tale of
kids trying to get their parents (Patrick Muldoon and Dina Meyer)
back together at Christmastime. Alas, she's instantly unlikable, he's
intermittenly jerk-ish and it becomes hard to root for them.

“How
the Grinch Stole Christmas” (7:30 p.m.) and “The Wizard of Oz”
(1939, 8 and 10:15 p.m.), TBS. On an already-packed night, TBS reruns
two of the all-time greats for kids or grown-ups.

“Madam
Secretary,” 8:01 p.m., CBS. With a gunman outside, everyone is in
lockdown. That includes a translator who could divulge a secret about
Elizabeth; it also includes Daisy's fiance, played by Sam Daly –
the son of Tim Daly (who plays Elizabeth's husband), grandson of John
and nephew of Tyne.

“The
Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. The season started with Cary arrested and
assuming he would be freed quickly. Now, instead, his drug trial
begins, alongside a possible plea bargain and jail time.

“The
Comeback,” 10 p.m., HBO. The central character (Lisa Kudrow)
continues to be way too one-note. At times tonight, the monotone is
broken up by some sly moments from Seth Rogan (who plays her
colleague) and by a rather extreme burst of HBO-style nudity.

“Getting
On,” 10:30, HBO. This muted comedy-drama has one of its best nights
on both sides. The comedy comes when the hospital's computer system
fails; the drama centers on Dawn (Alex Borstein).