TV column for Saturday, Jan. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Planet Earth: Blue Planet II” debut, 9-10:30 p.m., BBC America,
Sundance, IFC and WE.

Here is epic
television – global and ambitious. Over four years and 125
expeditions, teams made 4,000 dives in 125 countries, emerging with
6,000 hours of film. The result is gorgeous visually and musically,
with a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

Early on, we see
sweet parenting by bottle-nosed dolphins. One fish seems good-natured
as a female ... then turns mean after transforming into a male.
Another retreats to its favorite spot, to diligently crack open a
shell. “Fish are much cleverer than you might suspect,” David
Attenborough tells us.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Basketball, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC.

We finally have
football-free Saturdays – no college games, no Saturday pro-playoff
games. So now ABC makes pro basketball a weekly event.

That starts with a
collision at the top. The Houston Rockets – led by James Harden,
the league's top scorer – host the defending champion Golden State
Warriors, with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. The No.
1 Western Conference team visits No. 2; maybe we don't need football.

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

After a month of
reruns, “SNL” is in a new-show streak. Last week was hosted by
Sam Rockwell; next week, Will Ferrell returns to host the show for
the first time.

Tonight, it's
Jessica Chastain, a two-time Oscar nominee for “The Help” and
“Zero Dark Thirty,” now starring in Aarron Sorkin's “Molly's
Game.” Troye Sivan is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story,”
8-10:32 p.m., Lifetime.

Hollywood's top
people – from Cagney to De Niro and Pacino – have thrived on
playing crime bosses. Now Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones gets her
turn; a profile of Blanco follows at 10:32.

Blanco was 17,
Lifetime says, when she reached the U.S. on a fake passport. Living
in Queens with three sons, she began to thrive in the drug business,
using kids and old people and beautiful women as mules. She moved to
Miami and expanded; she's been suspected of ordering more than 200
murders.

Other choices
include:

“The Four,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of Thursday's show, the third of six.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a tech-savvy husband and wife
are linked to hacking the Treasury Department. Nell and Eric (Renee
Felice Smith and Barrett Foa) go undercover in a couple's retreat to
find them; while they're gone, a tech specialist (Scott Grimes) from
San Diego fills in.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. This reruns the episode in which Jack's first
day as a Lyft driver does not go well; among other things, he's hits
his odd neighbor (Molly Shannon). Also, Grace's old friend Larry
decides he's in love with Will.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Two people who started in clever sketch-comedy
troupes link in this rerun. Mark McKinney (“Kids in the Hall”)
plays Glenn, the store manager; now we meet his wife, played by Kerri
Kenney (“The State”). They have to conduct personal business at
Amy's party.

“One Winter
Weekend,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. Cara (Taylor Cole) has sworn off
dating. Then there's a reservation mix-up during a snowboarding
weekend; she and her friend share a chalet with two guys.

“Falling Water,”
10 p.m., USA. We're early in the second season of this series, which
has three strangers finding that they're entwined in bizarre dreams.
Tonight, they deal with the pain Shadowman has caused them, in real
life and in dreams; also, Woody infiltrates the mayor's dreams.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters: Lorraine Hansberry,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Hansberry grew up
amid comfort and rage. Her dad prospered in Chicago real estate; he
also battled segregation, often with no success. When she was a teen,
he died and her life went into overdrive.

In Harlem, she
became a newspaper writer at 24, then an editor and a playwright. At
28, she saw her Raisin in the Sun” triumph on Broadway. She would
live only six more years, fighting biases -- loudly for civil rights
and feminism, silently for gay rights. Here is a beautifully crafted
profile, superbly using photos, her writing and the memories of
people who knew this profound force.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken,” 9 p.m., NBC.

This second season
continues its makeover, while continuing to be high-octane. This
time, Bryan (Clive Standen) is transporting a key witness in a murder
case; yhen the plane crashes.

Now he needs all the
survival skills his father taught him; he must find a way out of the
woods, while ducking a team of mercenaries. Meanwhile, Santana tries
a plan to find the downed plane.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Black Lightning,” 8 p.m., CW.

Here's a second
chance to see the series-opener, before the second hour – another
good one – airs Tuesday. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams)
abandoned his superhero chores nine years ago; instead, he focuses
his heroics on being a school principal and a dad.

Then the crime world
intrudes on his daughters. A reluctant hero may be nudged back into
action. The result mixes solid character moments with brief bursts of
high-voltage action.

Other choices
include:

Streaming, any time.
Lisa Kudrow guests in the season-opener of “Grace and Frankie,”
the Jane Fonda/Lily Tomlin comedy. That's on Netflix; so are the
animated “Trolls” and the scary-things movie “The Open House.”
Also, Amazon has the second half of the tween “Just Add Magic”
season.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. Can top athletes be taught to cook a masterful dish?
Tonight, the finalists try to teach their signature dishes to gymnast
Jordyn Wieber, football's Ricky Williams and Shawne Merriman and
basketball's Reggie Miller and Candice Park.

“Bllindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. Reade's girlfriend, a journalist, helps a rush to thwart a
terrorist plot.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Amy Smart guests as a con artist who pretends to be the
wife of “Duke Jacoby” ... who doesn't really exist. “Duke” is
actually an alias Jack used in the CIA.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The corpse of a diamond-smuggler has been stolen; foul
play is suspected. Phillip Phillips, the former “American Idol”
champion, plays the partner of the smuggler, willing to do anything
to retrieve contraband.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Is it possible to prevent the destruction of
the Earth? The team finds that an unexpected person may be the key.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Len Cariou, 78, gets the focus. He plays Henry, a
former police commissioner – a job now held by his son (Tom
Selleck). And he's a key witness who keeps meddling in a case ...
then provides valuable information.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Portlandia” season-opener, 10 p.m., IFC; reruns at 1 a.m.

The good news is
that one of TV's cleverest shows is back; the bad is that this is its
final season.

For seven years,
Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein have offered a fond (but piercing)
satire, creating a Portland filled with wispy, artsy emotions.
Tonight's main story involves reviving an old protest band; it's
smart and has real rockers (including Henry Rollins), but kind of
one-note. Much better is a hilarious bit that embeds a live podcast
inside a police department.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Grey's Anatomy” return, 8 p.m., ABC.

For two months, ABC
had a giant hole on its best night. It filled it (rather shakily)
with cooking and specials and such. But now all three Thursday shows
are back.

That starts here,
with a search for whoever hacked the hospital's computer system.
Also, Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) confronts her abusive
husband.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Lip Sync Battle Live,” 9-10:07 p.m., Paramount
Network.

A new cable network
arrives – sort of. Actually, Paramount is the new name for Spike;
it will keep some of Spike's shows -- “Ink Master,” “Bar
Rescue” and “Lip Sync Battle.”

Big shows are
coming: a “Waco” mini-series (Jan. 24), comedies (March 7, June
7) and “Yellowstone” -- an epic Kevin Costner series from the
“Windy River” writer-director – June 24. But the network launch
is this live “Lip Sync,” devoted to Michael Jackson's music. It
has Neil Patrick Harris, Hailee Steinfeld, Taraji Henson, Laverne Cox
and Cirque du Soleil. Other “Lip Sync” episodes rerun to 1 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Portlandia,”
5:30-11:15 a.m., IFC. To get in the mood for the opener, we can catch
these reruns.

“The Four,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. The six-week music competition reaches its midpoint.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. While his three friends have steady romances,
Raj continues to wobble. Now he learns that his new girlfriend (Beth
Behrs of “2 Broke Girls”) is married. Walton Goggins, who played
angry guys in “Justified” and “The Shield,” plays her angry
husband.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Bonnie and Adam find wide disagreement over their wedding. Also,
Christy (Bonnie's daughter) and Patrick (Adam's brother) have trouble
setting up the mood for sex.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. A dozen years ago, Bobby Cannavale played
Vince, Will's boyfriend, for much of the season. Now he's back; Grace
tries to keep Will from making a scene at Vince's wedding.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. The first half of the final season ended with a bizarre
jolt: Under the direction of Rowan (Olivia's father), the pregnant
Quinn was kidnapped. Now her friends scramble to find her.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. The second half of the season begins
with Laurel and her baby clinging to life. Also, Annalise is
distraught and police probe Simon's accidental shooting.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“American Crime Story,” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

The first “ACS”
mini-series brilliantly re-told a story (O.J. Simpson) we thought we
already knew. Now this one takes a less-known event and fills it with
rich human details.

It starts with the
Miami slaying of designer Gianni Versace, then flashes back to its
roots and ahead to the manhunt. We meet Versace, his life partner
(Ricky Martin) and more. We meet the killer (Darren Criss), who's
both a charmer and a habitual liar, longing for the Versace-style
life he couldn't have.

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

Red (James Spader)
has faced some menacing criminals so far. But now -- for the show's
100th episode -- his target is played by Nathan Lane.

Yes, Lane's usually
out for laughs; five of his six Emmy nominations and five of his six
Tony nominations have been for comedies. But now he plays a cunning
manipulator, intent on regaining his family fortune. Meanwhile, Liz
(Megan Boone) studies one of the most dangerous people on Red's list.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 8 p.m., CW.

First, we should
respect any teen show that uses the words “Dickensian,”
“Byzantine” and “Lovecraftian” in the first six minutes.
We're far above the “like, you know, man” turf.

Beyond that,
however, please note that the rest of the show is sheer nonsense.
Early on, the mayor – with a bribe on the way – arbitrarily
closes one of the high schools, forcing enemies to merge. “Schools
don't just close overnight,” one person says, offering the voice of
reason and of viewers. Things build from there; smart references are
entangled in absurd plot developments.

Other choices
include:

“The X-Files,” 8
p.m., Fox. Sure, it's nice to have a doppelganger – an exact
duplicate of yourself. But not when the thing keeps stalking you,
making you hang yourself or crash into trees and such. That's what
happens here, in an episode smartly written by Chris Carter and
sharply directed by Kevin Hooks. There's strong work by Karin Konoval
as Little Judy Poundstoe and Little Chucky Poundstone.

“Grown-ish,” 8
p.m., Freeform. Zoey makes a deal to tutor s basketball star. Friends
suspect her interest goes beyond academics and athletics.

“Alone Together,”
8:30, Freeform. Last week's amiable opening introduced two likably
average people, in a California world of sculpted beauties. Now
Esther takes Benji on a birthday jaunt.

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Amid the big cases – including an emergency at a kids'
birthday party – the people fight personal problems. Abby (Connie
Britton) faces a decision involving her mother's descent into
Alzheimer's disease; Athena copes with a tragedy that's too close to
home.

“Dynasty,” 9
p.m., CW. Fallon's giddy life gets more serious when her birthday
gives her control of her trust. Also, Cristal's attempt to mend her
marriage runs into a fresh obstacle.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. After a night in a shaky neighborhood, Luke is missing.
Also, Chris Geere (“You're the Worst”) plays Alex's professor,
trying to give Haley a piece of his mind.

“Match Game,” 10
p.m., ABC. The emphasis, as usual, is on laughs. Panelists are
Caroline Rhea, Mario Cantone, Ana Gasteyer, Ron Funches, Cheryl Hines
and Adam Pally.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Black Lightning” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

For years, Jefferson
Pierce unleashed rage and lightning (literally) on the crooks in his
town. That made little dent on crime, but did huge damage to his
soul, his psyche and his family life. He set it aside and focused on
being a good dad and a great school principal.

But now, nine years
later, crime has intruded on his daughters. Despite his ex-wife's
warnings, he may return to his days as Black Lightning. The result is
surprisingly well-made; like CBS' “S.W.A.T.”, it manages to
juggle boom-bang action with a strong sense of community and black
lives that matter.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“LA to Vegas,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For decades, actors
Dylan McDermott and Durmot Mulroney have been confused for each
other. There was even a “Saturday Night Live” sketch about it.
Now, for the first time, they share an episode ... playing, of
course, long-time enemies.

Captain Dave
(McDermott) is injured, so the more-successful Captain Steve
(Mulroney) steps in. The result isn't as funny as the show's first
two episodes, but does have its moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Quietly brilliant,
rarely displaying emotion, Alfred Loomis seemed to do it all. He was
a big-time lawyer, then a Wall Street millionaire. In his spare time,
he worked on inventions, ranging from ultrasound to the emerging
field of microwaves and radar.

Then came a
remarkable move: Desperate, British scientists decided to share all
their secrets with the U.S. That brought key breakthroughs in radar.
Loomis financed and led a hurried operation that changed the course
of World War II. It's a fascinating story that's been mostly untold.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the
crossover story from a year ago. Abby's think-tank is compromised and
a theoretical terror playbook is missing. In the second hour, McGee
and Torres head to New Orleans in search of the playbook.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In the middle of a tough case – an escaped patient
went mysteriously mad and was killed – the cops have personal
problems: Riggs' anger explodes again; Murtaugh and his wife face big
decisions about their son.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week's hour (at Kevin's rehab) brought a sort of
emotional exorcism. Now the siblings return to day-to-day life: Kate
shops for her wedding dress, Kevin tries a new lifestyle, Randall
explores the past of his birth father. In flashbacks, their parents
take them to the mall.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Dre is running a campaign to prepare black parents for
“the talk” -- the warning they give children for the real-world
biases they'll face.

“Modern Family,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. In a surprising move, ABC has canceled “The Mayor”
and inserted reruns. In this one, Jay's friend Shorty visits ... but
spends more time with Gloria.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. Doctors struggle with decisions about a baby born with
an addiction.

“This Time Next
Year” debut, 10:02 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. Cat Deeley
introduces a show that will follow people's year-long efforts to
remake their lives. One woman hopes to lose 100 pounds, another plans
to be a bodybuilder. One man plans to give a kidney to his fiance;
another hopes to walk again. And a couple tries to overcome 15 years
of infertility.