TV column for Saturday, Dec. 26






TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Doctor Who,”
7:45 and 9 p.m., BBC America.

A great duo – writer-producer Russell
Davies and actor David Tennant – ends its “Doctor Who” run.

First is a rerun of last week's
terrific “Waters of Mars.” At the end of that, this Doctor (the
10th one in 46 years) sensed that his death may be near.

Sure enough, the new film is entitled
“The End of Time.” The Master is reborn, leading a battle that
ranges from the ruins of London to the Immortal Gate. This film
concludes next Saturday, ending the great Davies-Tennant era.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Shrek 2”
(2004), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Christmas is gone, but families still
want to do some watching together.

This animated comedy starts with the
king and queen (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) unaware that their
daughter has married an amiable ogre. Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz
voice the newlyweds, with Eddie Murphy providing comic relief.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Knocked Up”
(2007), 8 p.m., E.

The key thing is that Ben and Alison
are likable people.

Sure, they're an odd match. She
(Katherine Heigl) is a TV person, tall and slim and beautiful. He
(Seth Rogen) lumpy and sluggish, in a perpetual adolescence with his
drinking buddies. When she becomes pregnant after their one-night
stand, however, they do their best.

The second film (after “40-Year-Old
Virgin”) directed by Judd Apatow, this adds fine supporting roles
for Jason Segal, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and some great mini-moments
from Kristin Wiig.

Other choices include:

– Football, all day, ESPN. The
tripleheader starts at 1 p.m. with Ohio and Marshall, then has
Pittsburgh and North Carolina at 4:30 and Boston and Southern
California at 8:30. They play in bowls bearing the names of assorted
products.

– “Music and Lyrics” (2007), 7-9
p.m., TBS. Writer-director Marc Lawrence and actor Hugh Grant
currently are linked in the fun “Did You Hear About the Morgans”;
here's their previous effort, also kind of pleasant. Grant plays a
slumping songwriter, revitalized by a novice (Drew Barrymore).

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, an NCIS agent has been killed. Now Gibbs and Tony head to the
desert, to find a woman who may have key information. Mira Furlan
(“Lost”) guests.

– “Mercy,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a
night of NBC reruns, Veronica realizes she may be pregnant, while her
marriage crumbles. And Dr. Sands (JamesTupper), who was her lover in
Iraq, finds a new romance.

– “Laws & Order,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. When a stockbroker dies, a deadly brawl may follow.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Carol Burnett plays a former Rockette, now
running a strip club that seems linked to several murders.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, Rick Castle has an offer that could end his work with police
detective Kate Beckett. First, they probe the case of a woman's body
found in a manhole.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Taylor Swift doubles as host and musical guest.

 

TV column for Friday, Dec. 25




TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE: “Disney Parks
Christmas Day Parade,” 10 a.m. to noon, ABC,

Each year, this offers bright colors,
cheery music and much hype.

There will be some serious moments:
Celine Dion sings “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”; Yanni offers his
choral arrangement of “O Holy Night.”

Mostly, however, this is light fun.
There's music from Stevie Wonder, Kris Allen, the Jonas Brothers,
Demi Lovato and Steve Rushton and Anika Noni Rose. With Regis Philbin
recovering from surgery, Kelly Ripa anchors alone from Disney World;
Ryan Seacrest will be in Disneyland.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “'Til Death,”
8-10 p.m., Fox.

After stumbling in the ratings, “Death”
was shelved, then had four episodes dumped into this low-viewership
evening. Still, there could be some no-rerun fun here.

The first and fourth episodes have
Kenny (JB Smoove) facing trouble – as a mall Santa and then as a
houseguest, when his wife throws him out. The second involves Eddie's
parents (Valerie Harper and Jerry Adler); the third has his wife
befriending his former girlfriend.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: “Dirty Dancing”
(1987) noon, 2 p.m., etc., to midnight, TV Guide Channel.

Patrick Swayze brought a grand
combination – Texas macho appeal, mixed with the dance skills he
learned in his mom's studio. Now, three months after his death (at
57, of cancer), here he is at his best.

It's 1963 and “Baby” (Jennifer
Grey) will soon be in the Ivy League. First, her dad – a too-busy
doctor – takes the family to a Catskills resort. She discovers
dancing, the working class and Swayze.

Forgive a couple of odd plot twists.
Grey and Swayze are perfect, alongside strong period flavor. Kenny
Ortega (“High School Musical”) choreographed, backed by lots of
great old songs and one new one (“Time of My Life”) that won an
Oscar.

Other choices include:

– “A Christmas Story” (1983),
every two hours, to 8 p.m., TBS. Here's the annual marathon of a
perverse classic, filled with nostalgia and dark humor.

– “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate
Factory” (1971), 1 p.m., ABC Family. The “25 Days of Christmas”
celebration concludes with a good movies. This amiable one is
followed by the “Miracle on 34th Street” remake (1994)
at 3:30 and two runs of the animated delight “The Incredibles”
(2004) at 6 and 8:30.

– “A Very Gilly Christmas,” 8-10
p.m., NBC. Here's a second chance to catch this collection of
holiday-themed “Saturday Night Live” sketches, hosted by Kristen
Wiig's Gilly character.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
A night of CBS reruns starts with Melinda helping a family after a
freak accident.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS. On a
missing-person case, Allison suspect the woman's children. They're
played by James Van Der Beek (“Dawson's Creek”) and Morena
Baccarin, the alien leader in “V.”

– “Grandma Got Run Over By a
Reindeer” (CW) or “A Golden Christmas” (Ion), both 9 p.m. Here
are a couple more holiday reruns – a quirky cartoon or a movie that
has little to do with Christmas, but benefits from the talented
Andrea Roth (“Rescue Me”).

– “Numb3rs,” 10 p.m., CBS. The
team must scramble, after getting a late tip that the wrong person is
about to be executed. Meanwhile, Charlie schemes to help his school
break its infinite basketball losing streak. Pau Gasol and Jordan
Farmer of the Los Angeles Lakers play themselves.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 24




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Christmas specials,
8 p.m. everywhere.

On a night when families obsess on
Christmas, there are plenty of diversions, all reruns.

“Disney's Prep & Landing” (ABC)
is an amiable bit of computer animation, about the high-tech elves
who prepare each house for Santa's arrival.

More choices? NBC has “It's a
Wonderful Life” (1946), the Frank Capra classic. MyNetwork shows
the Hollywood Christmas Parade. TBS starts its 24-hour marathon of “A
Christmas Story” (1983), with its wry mixture of nostalgia and dark
satire.

Still, some PBS stations (check local
listings) will have the night's best show: Faith Hill's “Soundstage”
special has a great singer backed by a lush orchestra; it also has
the best new Christmas song in decades, “A Baby Changes
Everything.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Gavin &
Stacey Christmas Special,” 10 p.m., BBC America.

Getting started on this comedy-drama
isn't easy. The characters have working-class British accents that
befuddle Americans; they've also had two seasons of tangled
relations.

The show was created by James Corden
and Ruth Jones, who gave themselves fairly small roles – plus one
key moment, near the end of this special. They are Smithy and Nessy,
who met and mated in Wales. She's still there with their baby and her
new boyfriend; he's back in England, home of his best friend Gavin
and Gavin's sweet, Welsh wife Stacey.

Now the families converge and Gavin has
a secret. Relax and enjoy an odd hour of humor and warmth.

Other choices include:

– “Mickey's Christmas Carol,” 11
a.m., ABC Family. Subtle, brief and beautifully crafted, this
Oscar-nominated, 1983 cartoon is one of the best Christmas classics.
It's part of a cartoon marathon (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.) ranging from
excellent (“Winnie the Pooh & Christmas Too” at 11:30 a.m.)
to awful (“'Twas the Night Before Christmas” at 1 p.m. and 6:30
p.m.), concluding well from 8-11 p.m. with “Santa Claus is Comin'
to Town,” “The Year Without Santa Claus” and “A Miser
Brothers' Christmas.”

– “I Dreamed a Dream,” 7 p.m.,
and “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 8 p.m., TV Guide Network, First is a
rerun of the special featuring Susan Boyle, who caused a stir on
British TV. Then is the wonderful film that made Patrick Swayze a
star; it will rerun Friday from noon to midnight.

– “Mamma Mia” (2008), 8 p.m.,
HBO. Forget the silly plot and the casting of some guys with so-so
voices. Here's a chance to catch joyous ABBA songs in a lovely island
setting.

– “The Middle,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a night of ABC reruns, Frankie (Patricia Heaton) frets about her
church solo. She's upset to find that her husband is fine at
organizing the holiday at home.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Claire and Phil threaten to take away their kid's Christmas. Also,
Gloria wants Colombian holiday customs and Baby Lily has troubles
with the mall Santa.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, a mobster in the witness protection program was killed.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 10 p.m., ABC.
In this rerun, Meredith and Lexie find that their father – who was
much too late in fighting his alcoholism – is back with a failed
liver.

– Christmas services, 11:35 p.m., NBC
and CBS. NBC is at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome; CBS is at St. Joseph
Cathedral in Sioux Falls, S.D., with Bishop Paul Swain and the South
Dakota Symphony.

 

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 23




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Home For the
Holidays,” 8 p.m., CBS.

This is the 11th year for
this special, which mixes passionate music with warm stories about
adoption.

This year, two of the performers were
adopted when they were young: Faith Hill also hosts; Michael Franti
tells of being adopted by a scholarly couple in Davis, Cal.

Other performers are Carrie Underwood,
Mary J. Blige, Reba McEntire and Shakira.

Other adoption stories? We hear of
Minuette and Josette Farmakis, now 18 and 16; they reportedly endured
years of abuse, before a family took them in as foster children and
then adopted them.

And we hear of Joe and Lisa Hostler,
who watched the show and – with their daughter heading to college –
decided to adopt. They chose Yvonne, who was 14 and never expected a
permanent home.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “How the
Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Here's another chance to catch this
great film.

Savor the warm and witty story by Dr.
Seuss, narratged drolly by Boris Karloff. Catch the great Chuck Jones
animation and the devious tune sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. This is one
of TV's great shows.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Great
Performances: La Boheme,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

All the expected elements are there --
two great singers (Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon) and
high-voltage music. But this was filmed as a movie, offering extra
power.

Director Robert Dornhelm catches the
immense emotion of the lovers – the joy in their first night, the
agony in their last. At times, he lets them silently emote, while
their voices soar in the background. His snowy courtyard projects
rich melancholy.

Our complaints? Some of the white
sub-titles are lost in the show. Also, the plot requires a character
change that seems exaggerated, unlikely and … well, operatic.

Other choices today include:

– “Stealing Christmas” (2003, 9
a.m.) and “Snowglobe” (2007, 11 a.m.), ABC Family. The best films
in this holiday marathon come early. First, Tony Danza is a
small-time crook, hiding out; then Christina Milian longs for the
perfect world inside her Christmas globe. You could also try the
“Santa Baby' films ( 2006 and 2009) at 3 and 5 p.m and the
lush-looking “Miracle on 34th Street” remake (1994) at
7:30.

– “Glee,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Here
are two reruns of this terrific-but-erratic show. In the first, Kurt
decides to be a football placekicker; the football scenes strain
credibility beyond the breaking point. In the second, Kristen
Chenoweth is Will's old classmate, ready to spice up the glee club.

– “Mercy,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. In
the first rerun, Veronica tries to decide if the secretyromance that
began in Iraq is over. In the second, it's becoming less and less
secret.

– “The Middle,” 8:30 and 9:30
p.m., ABC. The first rerun has Frankie (Patricia Heaton) bumbling her
daughter's plan to win a school trip; it's funny, but way too dowbeat
at times. The second has a mild clean-up accident get exaggerated
when her son casually says his mom threw a beer can at him.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In this rerun, Claire finds herself having a heart-to-heart talk with
her young half-brother Manny. Meanwhile, her dad and husband
hesitantly fly a model plane.

– “Cougar Town,” 10 and 10:30
p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Jules (Courteney Cox) has trouble in
bed; in the second, she regrets convincing her neighbor to take a
golf lesson from her ex-husband.

– “A Season for Miracles” (1999),
10:30 p.m., Hallmark. Here's one of the best of TV's Christmas films.
When two kids face a rough time, their aunt (Carla Gugino) takes them
on the lam. They stumble into a sweet town, an empty house and a
fresh start.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 22




TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Carrie
Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Even the biggest TV stars (Bing Crosby
and Andy Williams and such) only got an hour for a Christmas special.
Now Underwood, 26, gets two hours; the result is inconsistent, but
has some dandy moments.

Some of the humor bits – Underwood
trying to set up her sister with impressionists who claim to be stars
– are just lame. Others work fairly well.

Mostly, however, this rerun is about
the music, done with zest and flair. Guests include David Cook, Brad
Paisley (doing a long-distance duet, via video screen), Dolly Parton
and Sons of Sylvia. Also, Christina Applegate and Kristen Chenoweth
join Underwood for a dandy girl-group medley.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: Seuss spree,
7-9 p.m., cable.

The wonderful Dr. Seuss characters
sprawl across two networks, in cartoon form.

That starts on ABC Family with the 1971
“The Cat in the Hat” at 7 p.m., the 1973 “Dr. Seuss on the
Loose” at 7:30 and the 1983 “The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the
Hat” at 8. In particular, catch the middle one; it includes two
portraits of stubbornness – “Green Eggs and Ham” and “The
Zax” – plus “The Lorax,” a darkly brilliant tale of
development vs. ecology.

Then switch to the Cartoon Network. At
8:30, it reruns “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which ranks
alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as one of TV's greatest
moments.

Other choices include:

– “Once Upon a Christmas” (2000,
3 p.m.) and “Twice Upon a Christmas” (2001, 5 p.m.), ABC Family.
Originally made for the Pax network, these are above-average holiday
films. In the first, Santa's daughter (Kathy Ireland) must prove to
her dad that a mortal family is giving and caring. In the second,
she's in mortal turf while her greedy sister schemes to sell the
North Pole.

– “Biggest Loser: Where Are They
Now,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of a special from three weeks
ago. Mostly, it shows that former contestants tend to be thinner and
happier.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of last year's Christmastime episode: The team has to work
during the holiday, after learningt that its prime suspect has been
listed as dead for 17 years.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. When a defense contractor is killed, there are fears that
classified material is missing. This rerun leads to someone from
Vance's past..

– “Scrubs,” 9 p.m., ABC. It's
J.D.'s last day teaching at Sacred Heart, but he still needd Turk's
approval. Meanwhile, there's more trouble among the residents, who
will get more focus when J.D. leaves: Lucy has trouble with a basic
medical procedure; Drew and the cynical Denise admit they're a
couple.

– “Better off Ted,” 9:30 p.m.,
ABC. Lem's mom – played by Khandi Alexander of “CSI: Miami” –
visits. She's a brilliant scientist who promptly intimidates her son
and has an affair with Dr. Bhamba. Meanwhile, Linda is getting too
much credit or Ted's project, a light bulb that lasts forever.

– “The Jay Leno Show,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. On a day stuffed with reruns, this show (plus the two ABC
situation comedies) is new. Dane Cook is the in-studio guest and
tries the racetrack; also, there's a “Jaywalking” segment with
the public.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Alicia has three days to prove the engineers weren't responsible for
a train crash. Also, she argues with her mother-in-law about the kids
visiting their dad in prison.