TV column for Saturday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

This strange, noisy
election has propelled the ratings of comedy shows. Now they get
their last shots before the electon -- “SNL” tonight, then “Full
Frontal,” “The Daily Show” and more on Monday.

Ironically,
tonight's host is an Englishman, comfortably separated from American
chaos. That's Benedict Cumberbatch, known to PBS viewers as Sherlock
Holmes and to moviegoers as Doctor Strange. His musical guest is
Solange, still known – despite praise for her album – as
Beyonce's sister.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Who Killed JonBenet?” 8-10:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Two decades ago, the
body of JonBenet Ramsey – the 6-year-old winner of beauty pageants
-- was found. The case remains unsolved, stirring new projects on CBS
(in September), Investigation Discovery (rerunning from 9 a.m. to
noon today) and now Lifetime.

This one is a
scripted movie, mostly from the police perspective. It has some tacky
moments – with JonBenet's fictional voice narrating – but also
tells a strong story. We see huge mistakes by the parents (resisting
talking to police) and by officials. There's a documentary at 10:02
and the film reruns at 12:02 a.m.; both will also air at the same
times on Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Pitch,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Now that it's seen
real-life baseball history (the Cubs winning the World Series), Fox
offers some fictional history: It reruns the pilot film of its series
about the first female in Major League baseball.

Ratings on Thursdays
have been weak, which is unfortunate. “Pitch” is a solid drama,
with well-drawn characters and a mostly reasonable sense of the game.
Ginny Baker brings depth and believability, as the pitcher who has
worked her way up through the minors. Dan Lauria is the skeptical
manager, with Mark Consuelos as the general manager and Mark-Paul
Gosselaar as the team's star catcher.

Other choices
include:

“Alien” (1979)
and “Aliens” (1986), 6 and 8:30 p.m., AMC. Ridley Scott's
original film drew extra attention as a sci-fi epic with a strong
female (Sigourney Weaver) at the core. And “Aliens” has its own
distinction – a sequel from a different director (James Cameron)
that's brilliantly crafted.

“As Good as it
Gets” (1997), 7-10 p.m., Pop. James Brooks – a master of TV
comedy, including “The Simpsons” -- wrote and directed this gem
about a cranky guy, a waitress and more. Jack Nicholson and Helen
Hunt won well-deserved Academy Awards.

Sports, 8 p.m. ET,
everywhere. NBC has the Breeders Cup horse race, while football fills
the other networks. CBS has top-ranked Alabama at Louisiana State
(ranked No. 13); ABC counters with Nebraska (No. 10) at Ohio State
(No. 6). There's much more in the afternoon and on cable.

Political profiles,
8 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Here's another rerun of the
profiles of Hillary Clinton (8 p.m.) and Donald Trump (10 p.m.); they
re-rerun at midnight and 2 a.m.

“Walk the Line”
(2005), 8:30 p.m., CMT. It's a good night for Oscars ... and for true
stories, well-told, about music. This is about Johnny Cash, with
Reese Witherspoon winning as June Carter; “Coal Miner's Daughter”
(1980) is 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies; Sissy Spacek won as
Loretta Lynn.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. As a violent case – involving murder and a drug cartel
– unfolds, it starts pointing toward Murtaugh's former training
officer (Ted Levine). During the turmoil, Murtaugh (Damon Wayans)
seeks time with his wife and Riggs (Clayne Crawford) resorts to his
vices.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Kim Fields was 10 when she
became Tootie in “Facts of Life”; Jamie-Lynn Sigler was 18 when
she became Meadow in “The Sopranos.”From these opposite
(VERY opposite) starts, both found fame. Now we re-meet them at 47
and 36, respectively, plus Rocco Dispirito, a chef who had a
primetime reality show on NBC.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 4


TONIGHTS MUST-SEE
(if you have Netflix): “The Crown,” any time, Netflix.

Two key moments in
British history – each involving a young queen – become
miniseries this season. Victoria was young (barely 18), small
(5-foot) and unprepared; she would reigh for 63 years. Her story that
will reach PBS' “Masterpiece” on Jan. 17.

And Elizabeth II? At
25, she was jolted by her dad's early death; so far, she's reigned
for 64 years. Peter Morgan – whose “The Queen” script crisply
captured the older Elizabeth – now focuses on the early days.
Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn in “Wolf Hall”) stars and a sampling is
impressive.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Thisis the show's
150th episode, with a big story and lots of guest stars.
Catherine (Michelle Borth) is back, with jolting news: McGarrett's
mother Doris (Christine Lahti) was captured while trying to free Wo
Fat's imprisoned father. She's about to be executed ... unless the
team can save her. Also, Sara is moving to Mexico, after Chin loses
his appeal to have her adoption delayed.

Emma Schlamme –
the daughter of Lahti and director Thomas Schlamme – plays Doris in
flashbacks. Also, Sarah Carter returns as Lynn Downey who is (like
Catherine) one of McGarrett's ex-girlfriends.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

As a kid in
Depression-battered Texas, Alvin Ailey was far from the fine-arts
scene. But his mother found work in California and he found dance; at
28, after moving to New York, he triumphed with “Revelations,” a
glorious piece backed by resounding gospel and blues classics.

Now, 56 years later,
his company performs it, offering a superb final 35 minutres. That's
the night's only piece created by the late Ailey; it's preceded by
three modern pieces and by backstage comments.

Other choices
include:

“For Love of the
Game” (1999), 7:40 p.m., Starz. On the week the baseball season
ended, we can enjoy Sam Raimi's quiet and crisply crafted film, with
Kevin Costner as a veteran pitcher. That's followed at 10 by a rerun
of the very un-quiet “Ash vs. Evil,” which Raimi produces, based
on films he directed.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Even by MacGyver's standards, this is a tough task: Go
undercover as a prison inmate ... help a drug kingpin escape (using
only batteries and salt) ... and then track him.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Fridays really need some pleasant comedies
– even adequate, middle-of-the road ones. So after Charlie Brown
bumped them last week, it's good to see this show and “Dr. Ken”
return. Mike (Tim Allen) is having trouble with the notion that his
youngest and smartest daughter Eve (Kaitlyn Dever) is taking a “gap
year”; he tries to give her a lesson in the real world.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30
p.m., ABC. Ken's friends have been mocking him because he can't speak
Korean; now he joins his son's classes in the language..

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW. After a great start, “Crazy” has
let Rebecca's Josh-or-Greg thing stretch way too long. It diverts
from that a little with the musical numbers – there's only one
tonight, but it comes early and is wonderfully witty – and more;
tonight, Donna's crises are key. But then it's back to that story.
This episode has some clever moments, partial resolution ... and more
fidgeting.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A key witness in Danny's case has been killed shortly
before testifying. Now Danny's sister Erin angers him by putting her
own investigator (Steve Schirripa) on the case.

“Wolf Creek,” 10
p.m., Pop. The fourth chapter of this six-week mini-series finds Eve
tracking a cold case while hoping for a clue about Mick – who
killed her family and continues his murder spree.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 3


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

Amid the swirling
chaos of Bonnie's life were two years when Jeanine (Rosie O'Donnell)
provided food, shelter and sex. “I'm not bi-sexual,” Bonnie
clarrifies. “Just easygoing.”

Now Jeanine is back,
stirring up everyone. The episode starts weakly, then soars when
O'Donnell arrives. Soon, Bonnie's boyfriend is re-thinking sexual
possibilities; her daugter is re-thinking her own life. It's another
reminder that “Mom” and Allison Janney (as Bonnie) are among TV's
best.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Great Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

In the sharp debut
last week, Jack (Joel McHale) got bad news: After years writing about
the outdoor world, he had to work in an office with the tech
generation. It was a funny start, but what's next?

We get a fun sample
here, when all those techies aid his Online romance. “Dating isn't
a group activity,” he groans. “This isn't Utah.” But yes, he
does need help. A few moments are too cartoonish, but “Great
Indoors” is mostly a smart, funny show that mocks both sides of the
generation gap.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rosewood,” 8 p.m., Fox; and “How to Get Away With
Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC.

TV wants shows about
professionals, but it also wants youth; the solution is to have
students work with the pros. That's been the notions behind
“Deadline” and “Murder” and more; now Dr. Rosewood works
with top pathology students to probe a cold case, finding revelations
that shake his family.

Then “Murder”
has Annalise and her students defending siblings who are charged with
conspiring to kill their mother. And the actions of Frank, her former
aide, again lead to rough consequences.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. There's an on-location “Fun With Flags,”
plus the discovery of secrets: Penny's been moving Leonard's
collectibles into storage; Amy's been lying about her apartment, so
she can keep living with Sheldon.

“Kisses For My
President” (1964), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Five days from
an historic election, it's fun to see this clumsy comedy. Peggy Cass
plays the first woman president, Fred MacMurray is her husband and
the whole black-and-white movie feels very 1950s.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Now that it's done with the World Series, Fox still has
baseball, via well-made fiction. Ginny -- the first female Major
Leaguer – signs a big-money deal with Nike; she promptly misbehaves
and is sent to a therapist (Rita Wilson). Also guesting are Kevin
Connolly, Lyndsy Fonseca and Joanna Garcia Swisher ... who knows
baseball, as the wife of former Yankee star Nick Swisher.

Alicia Keys concert,
9 p.m., BET, rerunning at 10:36. One of the great music talents
performs in Times Square. These are songs from her “Here” album,
with Jay-Z as a guest.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. With Kelly Osbourne as a judge, teams create
three-piece outfits for a pop-up shop in SoHo.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC This starts a two-parter about a doctor who provides new
identities for criminals. Also: As Alexander Kirk's medical condition
worsens, Liz seeks guidance from Cooper.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX. Next week, this often-strange, sometimes-brilliant
season will end with strongly emotional moments. Tonight, by
comparison, is rather random. The first stories – Sam with her mom,
with a daughter and (briefly) with a lover – are often adult and
sometimes funny; the final one – involving an unwanted table – is
a mini-gem that goes from odd to downright charming.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 1


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Next week, all the
Tuesday shows will be swept aside, replaced by election coverage. So
we might as well savor them tonight, starting with this
ratings-leader.

Tonight's focus is
on a newcomer and an old-timer. Wilmer Valderrama, 36, is in his
fifth series-regular role since “That '70s Show” ended; he plays
Nick Torres, who breaks protocol when learning that a witness is
wanted by immigration agents. And Robert Wagner, 86, returns as Tony
DiNozzo's dad. He's the landlord for Tony's apartment, which Abby,
Elly and McGee are trying to sublet.

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

In last week's
episode – one of TV's best hours this season – Kate stumbled into
a job with her boyfriend's ex-wife. He fumed and she promised not to
work there; now she's up for another job.

Meanwhile, her
brother Kevin finds himself in a changing relationship. And their
adoptive brother Randall? In a flashback, we see his parents'
indecision when he tests as a gifted child. And in the present, he
starts to doubt his career choice, despite his big-money success.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “America Divided: The Rise of the Trump Nation,” 9
p.m. ET. AXS.

Dan Rather has
covered a dozen presidential races, many of them polite and proper.
Now, at 85, he asks how we ended up with a race “so low and absurd
and unworthy of us.”

Skipping any easy
answers, Rather talks to Donald Trump backers, authors and a scholar.
And he returns to Houston, where his old neighborhood (once all-white
and low-income) has become Latino and prospering. The result is a
richly detailed hour, a week before the election.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Atlanta,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:12 p.m.
and 2:19 a.m.

We all know the
feeling: We wake up one morning (well, one noon) kind of blurry;
something is missing. For Earn (Donald Glover, the show's creator),
that brings an odyssey to find his jacket.

We won't learn until
the final minute why that's important. First, he stumbles through
misadventures. It's a good finish to a season that has left some
people raving and some, perhaps, perplexed.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox, with preview at 7:30. The World Series moves back to Cleveland,
where the Indians – leading the Cubs three games to two – are a
game away from giving the city its second sports championship this
year.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. The show pauses to look at what's happened so far, leading
to the top-20.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Sue doesn't have much experience at ending a relationship;
she turns to Axl for advice. Meanwhile, their brother Brick tries to
fit into the whole high-school-spirit thing.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 p.m., ABC. It's 1996 and the restaurant is an election
polling place. Also, Jessica reports that a worker may be
undocumented ... and finds a surprise about her own status.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Pat is starting to realize he should
probably move out. After all, the marriage has ended and Vice
Principal Murray has been hanging around with Eileen a lot. As the
kids realize how unhappy their parents were, they decide to have an
upbeat “divorce ceremony.”

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A Navy SEAL candidate – working with an
unorthodox instructor -- has been killed. Also, Dr. Wade frets when
her adopted son Danny wants to enlist.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“People of Earth” debut, 9 and 9:27 p.m., TBS.

Ozzie is an ordinary
reporter – or, at least, thinks he is – with an extraordinary
assignment: Go to a small town, where an alien-abductee support group
meets at Our Lady of Sorrows church.

He soon finds
oddness in everyone, including himself. A terrific cast – led by
Wyatt Cernac (“The Daily Show”), Anna Gasteyer and Oscar Nunez –
captures the droll humor. Some of the biggest laughs come from
surprising detours – especially the squabbling aliens and two
mismatched sketch artists.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Man With a Plan,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In the TV tradition,
Adam (Matt LeBlanc) has tickets everyone wants. Soon, he's lying
ineptly.

That much is kind of
fun; back when he was on “Friends,” LeBlanc played the bad liar
hilariously. The difference is that “Plan” tries to stretch this
into an entire episode, getting tangled in excess. We soon long for
the days of LeBlanc's “Friends” or “Episodes.” We wish TV had
something that clever to turn to now ... which it does, thanks to
cable and “People on Earth.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week ended with
the possibility that Jane might really, actually become a non-virgin
some day. Her husband, recovering from a gunshot, received good
medical news; they rushed home.

Naturally, there are
complications there. Her mother may abandon her singing career. Her
dad, already a Spanish-language TV star, is trying to sell a
telenovela to the CW. And Jane wants to expand her college thesis, to
include her grandmother's estranged sister; the grandmother is not
pleased.

Other choices
include:

Halloween films,
cable. If kids finish trick-or-treating early, they might want
something to watch while munching. At 7 p.m., Cartoon has “Lego
Scooby-Doo: Haunted Halloween” (2016) and Freeform has “Addams
Family Values” (1993). At 8 and 10 p.m., FX has “Hotel
Transylvania” (2012). And grown-ups? At 8 p.m., there's “The
Craft” (1996) on Pop and “The Ring” (2007) on WGN America.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The “knockout rounds” conclude, giving us the
top 20 for the live shows. On Tuesday, there will be a recap of
what's happened so far.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. With Maureen McCormick's elimination last
week, seven celebrities remain. That includes all four athletes, plus
Marilu Henner, Jana Kramer and Terra Jole.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. It does seem kind of logical to watch a show about Lucifer
on Halloween. Tonioght, he clashes with Chloe and she chooses a
different partner for her police work. Also, Maze (a demon in
disguise) takes Chloe's daughter trick-or-treating.

“All Access
Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. On Wednesday, ABC will have the 50th
Country Music Association awards. In this special, Robin Roberts
looks at the history and also talks with current stars, including
Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett.

“Timeless,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. It's time to visit the Alamo; don't bet on the
Texans.

ALSO: This is a good
time to catch British shows via streaming. Today, one service
(www.acorn.tv) debuts “Brief
Encounters,” an interesting-but-cliched drama/comedy about women
selling lingerie and sex toys in 1982; another (Neflix) debuts the
comedy “Chewing Gum.” A third (www.amazon.com)
recently added “Love & Friendship,” Whit Stillman's breezy
delight, adapting a Jane Austen novella.