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.

TV column for Sunday, Oct. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC; “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.

On Halloween-eve,
one rugged show has barely started its season and another is
concluding. Last week's “Dead” drew 17 million viewers (almost
topping football to reach No. 1), some of them appalled by a brutal
scene. That episode reruns at 7:55 p.m. today, leading into the new
one at 9 (rerunning at 12:40 a.m.): Reaching an established haven from
zombies, the group is instantly skeptical.

Then “Strain”
ends its season, with Eph trying a device that could control the
creatures. It may be too late: Police have fled, the city is falling,
the Master reveals himself for a winner-takes-all battle.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Quantico,” 10 p.m., ABC.

“It's getting
harder to pretend,” Alex says. “I don't know what lie I just
told.” Hey, it's even harder on us, as the show juggles schemes and
deceptions in two time frames.

In one, Alex is on
the run from terrorists. In the other (a year earlier), she and Ryan
face an intense trainer (Blair Underwood) and a colleague who's an
English enigma. Some of this is way too thick; still, some moments in
the second half of this hour – clever plot twists one moment, a
wonderfully human moment from Leigh the next – make this tangled
jungle worth tackling.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

At first, the goal
was just to survive. Louisa (Keeley Hawes), a widow, moved to a Greek
island in 1933, with her four eccentric kids. Money was short, jobs
were scarce, things were falling apart.

But in this third of
six terrific episodes, the focus moves to love or friendship. One son
falls out of a romance and into jail; another finds friendship with a
mysterious stranger. Louisa is charmed by a Scandinavian man ... but
not his accordion. And she meets a rich woman, played by Leslie
Caron, 85.

Other choices
include:

Halloween comedies,
cable. Hey, this holiday isn't all zombies and such. The “Addams
Family” films (1991 and 1993) are 3:15 and 5:20 p.m. on Freeform.
And “Young Frankenstein” (1974) – Mel Brooks' brilliant,
black-and-white spoof – is 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

More movies, cable.
“Psycho” (1960), Alfred Hitchcock's black-and-white classic, is 7
p.m. ET on BBC America, And the original, splendid “Star Wars”
(1977) is 8:05 p.m. on TBS, surrounded by its “Revenge of the Sith”
(2005) prequel, at 5 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.

Sports collision, 8
p.m. ET, Fox; and 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. The fifth World Series game –
Indians and Cubs, at Wrigley Field – clashes with a match-up of
suprising football teams: The Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) visit the
Dallas Cowboys (5-1).

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. There's trouble for Hook in the past (kidnapped
by Captain Nemo) and the present, where the Evil Queen sows suspicion
between him and Henry. Also, there are efforts to help Agrabah and to
rescue Archie from Zelena,

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. This has been a blur for Eric. He learns more
secrets about his slain wife; he also learns that Danny is actually a
detective. Soon, he's suspecting everyone.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. After a bombing, Elizabeth is criticized for ignoring
the Angolan election. Meanwhile, her husband is closer to finding
stolen antiquities.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In the 100th episode of this dependable show, a
murder case points to the field of asteroid research. And when the
unit gets a commendation, the captain pushes to include his star
consultants, Holmes and Watson.

TV column for Saturday, Oct. 29


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

Donald Trump has
already declared “SNL” to be a “boring, unfunny show”; now we
can re-visit the core of his non-amusement: This is a rerun of the
season-opener, with some harsh moments.

Alec Baldwin took
over as Trump in an opening debate. The episode also had the Trump
kids in “Family Feud” and introduced “Melania's Moment,” with
Cecily Strong. Audiences have apparently approved; last week's
episode topped many primetime shows in ratings and was 50-percent
shows a year ago. Margot Robbie hosts this rerun and has a funny bit
as an ordinary guy's gorgeous wife.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: World Series, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with preview at 7:30.

Sure, college
football is big on Saturdays. Tonight, Nebraska (ranked No. 7) visits
Wisconsin (No. 11) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN; Clemson (No. 3) visits
Florida State (No. 12) at 8 p.m. on ABC.

But this time,
baseball offers a worthy alternative. Tonight is scheduled to be only
the second World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years; the
Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians, in the fourth game of the
best-of-seven series.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 4:30, 7
p.m., VH1.

On Friday, PBS
showed Bill Murray winning the annual Mark Twain Prize for comedy.
Now we can savor two of his examples, each perfect for families to
catch on the weekend before Halloween.

Dan Aykroyd, Harold
Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Murray play guys trying iffy devices to save
ordinary folks (starting with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) from
increasingly imposing spectres. Like this year's remake, these films
offer a sly mixture of small verbal humor and big sight gags.

Other choices
include:

“The Blob”
(1958), 10:30 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This low-budget film
has endured, partly because it's in color and stars Steve McQueen. It
leads a day of micro-films, some well-regarded (“Village of the
Damned,” 1961, 3:15 p.m.) and some not (“Earth vs. The Flying
Saucers,” 1958, 6:30).

“Addams Family”
(1991) and “Addams Family Values” (1993), 5:15 and 7:30 p.m.,
Freeform. Here's some more mildly spooky fun on Halloween weekend.
The films repeat at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Zombieland”
(2009), Syfy, or “Halloween” (1978), AMC; both 7 p.m. Now the
messier stuff begins. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg fight
zombies; also, Jamie Lee Curtis eludes a slasher, in a film with a
tiny budget and strong craftsmanship. She's also in “Halloween II”
(1981), at 9 p.m.

“Pure Genius,” 8
p.m., CBS. Here's a second chance to see Thursday's pilot film, with
a tech billionaire setting up a hospital filled with top equipment.
The machines are interesting; the people aren't.

“How We Fight,”
8 p.m., Fox News Channel. Bret Baier leads a look at military policy
over the past eight years. He includes the currtent Defense Secretary
(Ash Carter), two previous ones (Robert Gates and Leon Panetta), plus
generals David Petraeus, John Kelly, Carter Ham and more.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. This reruns an episode from last March, the first of
Shemar Moore's final three episodes. Morgan (Moore) has been
kidnapped and others scramble to find him; Thomas Gibson, who was
dropped at the end of the season, co-stars and directed the episode.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. We re-meet singers Debbie
Gibson and Jennifer Holliday and talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael.