TV column for Monday, Jan. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN Classic.

For one night,
college football grabs our attention. It's the national championship
game, with teams that made it clear they belong here. Undefeated
Clemson silenced doubters by beating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl,
37-17; Alabama (13-1) crushed Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl,
38-0.

Now they collide in
Arizona, with cable giving it the Super Bowl treatment. ESPN has
“GameDay” at 4 p.m. and a “Championship Drive” special at 6;
then four channels have a preview at 8.

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

Bright and broad,
this show seems to have everything except subtlety.

That'd obvious
tonight, when we see the feud between two prime-time soap operas.
Even at a charity project – building a house for a low-income
family – the casts battle wildly. Many moments are overwrought, but
the story ends cleverly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelor,” 8 p.m., with follow-up at 10:01.

While some shows
retreat into reruns tonight, this one booms ahead. It's possible that
many of the “Bachelor” buffs aren't big football fans.

Tonight, Ben Higgins
takes 10 women to a high school, asking them to re-live teen
memories. Six others go to the “Love Lab,” to test who has the
best connection with him. And the first one-on-one date is spiced by
movie stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube and music from Amos Lee.

Other choices
include:

“Midwinter of the
Spirit,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Americans are used to seeing Anna Maxwell Martin playingt the normal
one in “Bletchley Circle” and many “Masterpiece” tales.
Here's a much-different character and story (complete with exorcism),
released over the next three Mondays.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Amy (America Ferrera) has to bring her son to work – a
violation of the rules. When she gets an assignment, Jonah is the one
who has to keep the kid a secret.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. In the rerun of a good episode, Kara is torn between three
duties – stopping two bombings and babysitting for Cat's son.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun offers another tough day at the office: The
team tries to stop a nuclear-powered satellite from crashing into
Southern California.

“The Biggest
Loser,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Both hours involve the temptations of
food. In the first, contestants face a trivia test in a food court;
in the second, they must pull food trucks ... with the losers eating
(selectively) from the trucks' contents.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. Chasing a tip, Sam and Callen are
kidnapped.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This documentary is
called “Autism in Love,” but don't get your hopes up. Yes, one of
the stories is an upbeat tale that is warmly involving. The other
two, however, are tough rides that involve the loneliness of feeling
different..

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Golden Globe awards, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

Ricky Gervais is
back as host, after a three-year break. His first two times (2010-11)
were sharp, funny and maybe too caustic; his third (2012) was bland,
Now he returns, with lots of stars to poke at.

Nominated for best
movie drama are “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Carol,” “Room,”
“Spotlight” and “The Revenant.” Up for best movie comedy or
musical are “The Martian,” “Trainwreck,” “Spy,” “Joy”
and “The Big Short.” There are also TV categories ... and quirks.
“The Martian” is a comedy? The Globes will always be a bit weird
... but fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

After winter breaks,
some of TV's best dramas are ready again. “Wife” has had only one
new hour in the past five weeks; now it's back with a big one.

As Peter pushes his
presidential campaign in Iowa, the bus is packed. His family is
there, along with his former campaign chief Eli (Alan Cumming) and
the crafty Ruth (Margo Martindale), who replaced him. With
personalities clashing, Peter plans a politically dangerous stunt.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Galavant,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Returning to his
kingdom, Richard learns that the monarchy has been replaced by an
odd, new concept. People explain (by song) that everyone gets to vote
... except, of course, for women and Gypsies and poor people and,
well, lots of others.

That launches an
hour ranging from clever satire to general goofiness, all of it laced
with witty songs. Galavant keeps trying to raise an army and free
Isabella -- whose personality has been transformed by dark magic. He
only soldier (a fierce one) is attracted to Richard, her childhood
friend.

Other choices
include:

Football, 1:05 p.m.
ET, NBC, and 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox. On the second day of the pro
play-offs, the two NFC Central leaders have separate games. The
Minnesota Vikings (11-5) host the Seattle Seahawis (10-6); then the
Green Bay Packers (10-6) visit the Washington Redskins (9-7).

Golden Globe
red-carpet, 6 p.m. ET E and 7 p.m., NBC. Ryan Seacrest leads the E
coverage, which is preceded by a Globe preview at 4 p.m.; NBC steps
in an hour before the ceremony.

“Million Dollar
American Princesses,” 7 and 8 p.m., Smithsonian. First is a rerun
of last week's season-opener, viewing the marriages of movie stars
and royalty; Grace Kelly thrived, Gloria Swanson and Rita Hayworth
didn't. Then an excellent new hour views women who found new lives in
Europe, as savvy friends and patrons of greats, from Picasso to
Pollock, from Stravinsky to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“Madame
Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. An unexpected development endangers the
Russian peace deal. Also, Elizabeth is nudged into a crisis at the
International Space Station.

“Cooper Barrett's
Guide to Surviving Life,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Sometimes clever and
sometimes just weird, “Guide” is a fun look at the first few
years after college. This episode (the second) gets its best moments
from guest star Paula Abdul.

“Downton Abbey,”
9 p.m., PBS. Think of this as a hammock episode. Last week's
season-opener was terrific; more good ones are coming, but this
mostly sets them up. Debates continue about the site of the
Carson-Hughes wedding ... and about the future of the hospital and of
Thomas' job.

“Cinderella”
(1950), 10 p.m., ABC Family. This great classic wraps up an animation
marathon. It follows “Hercules” (1997) at 1 p.m., “Tarzan”
(1999) at 3, “Despicable Me” (2010) at 5:15 and the splendid
“Finding Nemo” (2003) at 7:30.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 9


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

Packed with
starpower – Amy Poehler and Tina Fey host, with Bruce Springsteen
as the music guest – this rerun needed none of them for its best
moment. That was a broadly funny opening sketch, a Republican debate
with a bullying Donald Trump and a forever-frustrated Jeb Bush.

The hosts soon have
some great moments – reprising their Sarah Palin and Hillary
Clinton roles; also, hosting “Meet Your Second Wife” -- and some
average ones. They show up only briefly in a mild “Weekend Update,”
but this is a night so packed that Paul McCartney hops onstage
unannounced.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Cooper Barrett's Guide to Life,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Fresh from college,
Cooper has no idea what he wants from life or love. He's still a kid,
mostly, and his brother – married and prosperous – sees a second
chance to enjoy the childhood he missed.

In this opener (a
rerun from Sunday), the brother gives him a giant TV set ... leading
to giant problems that sprawl over several years. Things get
overwrought at times, but this is mostly funny.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Football, 4:20 p.m. ET on ABC and 8:15 p.m., CBS.

The pro playoffs
begin, with wild-card teams visiting some of the division-winners.

It's Kansas City
(11-5) at Houston (9-7) at 4:20 p.m. ET on ABC, then Pittsburgh
(10-6) at Cincinnati (12-4) at 8:15 p.m. on CBS. There will be more
-- Seattle at Minnesota and Green Bay at Washington -- on Sunday.

Other choices
include:

“Hercules”
(1997), 3:15 p.m., ABC Family. An animation marathon begins. That's
followed by “Tarzan” (1999) at 5:30, “Despicable Me” (2010)
at 7:30 and “Finding Nemo” (2003) at 9:30. The Disney Channel
counters with “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009) at 8.

“Black-ish,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. In a late addition, ABC is inserting four reruns of
this show, which often visits topical areas. It starts with a pretty
good one that has Dre's son use the “n” word during a talent-show
rap. In the second episode, Dre considers buying a gun; in the third,
his dad admits he hasn't been to the doctor in years. And in the
fourth, his co-worker's work ethic is questioned.

“Bordertown,”
8:30 p.m., Fox. The issues are hot, but the humor is so-so in this
rerun of Sunday's cartoon opener. Our hero is a border guard who gets
his wish, a mega-wall at the Mexican border.

“Rosewood,” 9
p.m., Fox. If nothing else, this show gives us gorgeous Miami
settings; this rerun visits the art scene. When an FBI agent joins
the case, he endangers the lesbian romance of his former fiance Tara
and her lover Pippy; he also complicates Hornstock's efforts to
become police chief.

“Steve Jobs: The
Man in the Machine,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at 11. Barring a
late change, here's a rerun of the richly detailed portrait of Jobs,
the genius who co-created Apple (and came back to rescue it) and
nurtured Pixar. We see the contrasts of a man who could espouse
hippie ideals, yet behave like other tax-dodging moguls, even trying
to resist child-support payments.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. This is second-chance night for mid-season pilots.
There are the Fox comedies and this show, with Jennifer Lopez as a
police detective, forced to spy on her colleagues.

“Animal House”
(1978), 10 p.m., Sundance. Here's a rarity – a low-budget, anarchic
comedy, done to perfection. It wraps up a double feature with stars
from the first “Saturday Night Live” crew – Chevy Chase in
“Vacation” (1983) at 8 p.m. and John Belushi in this one.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“In Performance at the White House,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In a swirl of change
in 1965, Congress launched the Civil Rights Act, medicare and the
National Endowment for the Arts. This concert celebrates the NEA's
50th anniversary with a superb concert.

The music ranges
from century-old blues by Queen Latifah to rousing hip-hop from her
idol MC Lyte. It goes from the joy of Smokey Robinson's “My Girl”
to the wrenching power of Usher singing Marvin Gaye's “Mercy, Mercy
Me” and Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald reprising their
“Ragtime” duet. There's James Taylor, Keb' Mo', Usher, Trombone
Shorty and the remarkable Esperanza Spalding

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

This may be CBS'
favorite plot now, with two cops trying “couples therapy” for
their work relationship. Mike and Carol did that Wednesday on “Mike
& Molly”; McGarrett and Danny try tonight.

And yes, there's
also a crime story. This hour flashes back to Kamekona's dangerous
youth.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cinderella” (2015, Starz) and “The Hundred-Foot
Journey” (2014, Showtime), both 8 p.m.

Feel-good tales –
with the hero overcoming steep odds – are sometimes disparaged.
Still, they're the fabric of storytelling; when done by gifted pros,
they are hugely entertaining.

Kenneth Branagh
molded “Cinderella” into a lovely, live-action drama. And Lasse
Hallstrom brought a sweet beauty to the tale of competing
restaurant-owners – one (Helen Mirren) distinguished, the other a
struggling immigrant, convinced that his son's talent would suffice.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first hour starts with an odd race,
to see who can make the most deviled eggs in 12 minutes. The second
has Catherine Tosi's mom supervising, when the kids try to re-create
her favorite childhood foods.

“Reign,” 8 p.m.,
CW. Already a young widow, Catherine is being pressured to quickly
marry anew, for the sake of her native Scotland. Meanwhile, the
debate continues over who poisoned her husband, France's king. His
scheming mother Catherine is being accused.

“Undercover Boss,”
8 p.m., CBS. After filling in on Sundays, this show does the same for
Fridays, holding the 8 p.m. spot until “Amazing Race” returns
Feb. 12.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. With their college alumni race coming up,
each parent struggles to have Eve as a teammate. Also, Kristen is
skeptical when Ed hires his girlfriend at the restaurant.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30,
ABC. When Drs. Ken and Oz meet at the airport, there's trouble. Also,
Ken's wife gets way too involved in their daughter's love life.

“Matilda”
(1996), 8:45 p.m., ABC Family. Roald Dahl's dark stories have been
turned into masterful movies, led by “Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory” and this one. A little girl (Mara Wilson), surrounded by
cruelty, discovers special powers. Danny DeVito directed brilliantly
and provided some of the villainry, along with then-wife Rhea
Perlman.,

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank's former police partner is writing a tell-all
book – something that could complicate his current life as police
commissioner. Meanwhile, his son Jamie faces a sudden crisis on the
beat; the result could have major repercussions for Jamie and his
police partner.

 

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Shades of Blue,” 10 p.m., NBC; and “American Idol,” 8-10
p.m., Fox.

We can make it an
entire J-Lo night. Jennifer Lopez is back to her judging duties on
“Idol” -- tonight, the auditions are in San Francisco and Little
Rock – while starring in a new cop show.

Lopez, who grew up
in the Bronx, plays a single mom and a detective in a tight-knit
Brooklyn police unit that tends to stray from the law. When she helps
a colleague cover up a shooting, she's nabbed by investigators and
nudged to inform on the others ... while working cases with them. Ray
Liotta plays her boss and Drea de Matteo of “The Sopranos”
co-stars.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Angel From Hell” debut, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

OK, this counts as
progress: CBS made a bad “Angel” pilot, threw it out and then
made one that's sometimes bad and sometimes not. In both cases,
Maggie Lawson plays an overstressed doctor, with a good-guy brother
(Kyle Bornheimer), a widowed dad (Kevin Pollak) and a shaky
boyfriend.

Then she meets Amy
(Jane Lynch), who claims to be her guardian angel. The character is
almost identical to Bonnie on “Mom” -- a tall, slim, older woman
who revels in her vices. But Bonnie is written and played to subtle,
Emmy-winning perfection by Allison Janney; Amy, so far, is merely
blunt.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Before trying “Angel
From Hell,” we can catch the high standards of “Mom.” Tonight
Bonnie – who's not accustomed to saying “no” -- balks at
Steve's suggestion of advancing their relationship.

Meanwhile, Christy
has bigger problems. Her daughter (Bonnie's granddaughter) is engaged
to an older guy (David Krumholz) with a hard-to-please mom (Linda
Lavin). Bonnie throws them a family dinner.

Other choices
include:

“My Diet is Better
Than Yours,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Here's a quick reality show, filling
the gap until “Grey's Anatomy” and “Scandal” return Feb. 11.
It follows people using different diets and trainers.

“Heroes Reborn,”
8 p.m., NBC. There are big stakes here, including the possible
extinction of the human race. First, the immediate problems: Noah is
missing. Luke and Malia try to save Tommy ... who must link with Miko
to battle Erica. Also, Carlos and others try to free Matt Parkman's
prisoners.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Heather and Tim finally find another couple they like
to hang out with; they also find that their daughter dislikes the
other couple's son. Also, Brenda Song – the former kid-comedy star
(“Suite Life,” etc.) shows up as Matt's ex-wife.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. After a six-week break, this ratings hit returns with
Liz facing trial and Red scrambling to protect her.

“Moonstruck,”
9-11 p.m., Pop. Norman Jewison's neatly nuanced drama-comedy has Cher
as a widowed bookkeeper, falling for her fiance's goofy brother
(Nicolas Cage). It was nominated for the best-picture Oscar and had
wins for Cher, Olympia Dukakis and writer John Patrick Shanley.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Watson fumes when she learns her stepfather is writing a
crime novel, borrowing real-life work she did with Sherlock Holmes.

“The Increasingly
Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m.,
IFC. David Cross' terrific show starts with a colleague going
missing. Todd is sent back to London, to launch the latest energy
drink. Then a major soccer star is landed for a Thunder Muscle
commercial.