TV column for Monday, Dec. 29

“State of Affairs,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

After just six
episodes, NBC gives us a catch-up night. Here are half of them –
the first, fourth and (from last Monday) sixth.

We meet Charleston
(Katherine Heigl), a CIA agent who can't recall details of the attack
that killed her fiance; now his mother (Alfre Woodard) is president.
At 8 p.m., Charleston absurdly exceeds her authority ... At 9, Nick,
a handsome adventurer, departs to probe the text threats they've been
getting ... At 10, Nick faces brutal interrogation, while Charleston
and the president face a crisis in Qatar.

II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

The Golden Globe
list startled some viewers. On the TV-comedy side, “Jane” is
nominated for best series and best actress (Gina Rodriguez) ... in a
show that can't crack the top 100 in the weekly ratings.

So now is the
perfect time to start catching up with this skillful blend of comedy
and soap-style telenovela. Tonight reruns the third episode, with
Jane at a turning point. Accidentally inseminated (via clinic error),
she planned to give the baby to the biological father; now she has
doubts about his wife ... and about her own engagement. Also, her
grandmother tries to keep her from her father, a TV star.

ALTERNATIVE: “Branson Famous” debut, 10 p.m., TruTV.

TV's first reality
musical (well, semi-reality) eyes the Baldknobbers Jamboree, for 55
years a family-run show in Branson, Mo. Now Tim and Patty Mabe agree
that they need a youth injection.

Heather Gentry is
logical, but she's also fresh and flirty. She could distract Brandon
Mabe ... who was previously distracted by Megan McCombs; they each
divorced and have been together for three years. People argue about
this – and sometimes look straight into the camera and sing about
it. It's terribly wierd and artificial, yet oddly entertaining; also,
Brandon is a terrific country singer.

Other choices

Animation, 8-10
p.m., ABC. Things start with “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown,” an
OK cartoon from 1986, with Charlie lugging “War and Peace” to the
party. That's followed by “She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown,”
which came out around the time of the 1980 Winter Olympics; Snoopy is
Peppermint Patty's figure-skating coach. At 9 is the 1976 “Rudolph's
Shiny New Year.”

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Hal Linden, 83, as the apartment's
original tenant. If he doesn't claim he still lives there, Max and
Caroline might be evicted.

Movies, 8 p.m., HBO
and 10 p.m., Showtime. Tonight, we need pay-cable. HBO has “42,”
with Harrison Ford excellent as Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson's
mentor. Showtime has “Silver Linings Playbook,” an
Oscar-nominated delight, with Bradley Cooper and Oscar-winning
Jennifer Lawrence.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Let's give this some respect; it's
tonight's only non-rerun, outside of cable. The guys-only fishing
trip is jolted when Carl invites Victoria, Molly's sexy sister.

“Revelation: The
End of Days,” 9-11 p.m., History; concludes Tuesday. While the rest
of us are giddily between holidays, this mini-series offers six
fictional characters, describing the world ending via war, plague and
more. Can we at least say “bummer”?

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. In a rerun from last spring, Beckett's probe of her
mother's murder goes terribly wrong. Now she and Castle are on the

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 28

“High School Musical” (2006), 8 p.m., Disney Channel.

For a while, a
generation seemed oblivious to musicals; ten this one sparked a
revival. It had a lame script – the start seems taken directly from
“Grease” -- but amiable pop songs handled by Zac Efron and other
likable young stars. Kenny Ortega provided the vibrant direction and

The sequels (2007
and 2008) air at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, each preceded by the
previous one. And next Saturday, ABC has “Hairspray” (2007), with
Efron in support. With “Glee” returning (Jan. 9), live shows on
NBC and two films (“Annie” and “Into the Woods”) in theaters,
musicals are back.

Football, all day.

On the final day of
the regular season, there's much at stake. Yes, 10 teams have already
cinched playoff spots, with only two spots uncertain. Still, there's
much to be determined today -- division titles, first-round byes,
home-field advantage and more.

Some Fox stations
will catch two straight division-championship games – Carolina at
Atlanta at 1 p.m. ET, Detroit at an oft-frozen Green Bay at 4:25.
Then NBC – exercising its flex-scheduling option – gets another
championship game, with Cincinnati at Pittsburgh at 8:25; it should
be fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Comeback” season-finale, 10-11 p.m., HBO.

After her career hit
bottom, Valerie (Lisa Kudrow) tried a primitive reality show. Then
came a break, an Emmy nomination ... and trouble. Her husband is
gone; Mickey (her beloved hairdresser) is badly ill.

Some critics rave
about this show, but we find the lead character one-note; two scenes
with her former co-stars are painfully monotonous. Still, “Comeback”
does close its season with surprising warmth.

Other choices

Marathons, cable.
AMC has “Breaking Bad” from 10 a.m. to 5:12 a.m., taking it from
the compelling pilot film to midway in the second season; there will
be more Monday. Also, Starz reruns the entire first season of its
fairly good “Black Sails” pirate series, from 3 p.m. to 11:10

“Revenge,” 8-11
p.m., ABC. Networks are using this slow time to let viewers catch up,
with nights of three straight reruns. It's “Revenge” tonight
(starting with the FBI closing in on Victoria), then NBC's “State
of Affairs” on Monday and ABC's “Forever” on Tuesday.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Homer and Bart are on the Relation Ship
cruise, to salvage parenting skills. That, of course, leaves Marge
with the fantasy football team.

“The Librarians,”
8 p.m., TNT. If you think global warming is already a threat, imagine
if the sleeping dragons wake up. Flynn (Noah Wyle) is back, trying to
prevent that.

Nine-Nine,” 8:30, Fox. A funny rerun has the captain demanding an
annoying set of drills. Meanwhile, Jake obsesses on the one mobster
who eluded his undercover sting.

“The Mentalist,”
9:30 p.m. (or later, with football overrun, but 10 p.m. PT), CBS. Surrounded by
reruns, CBS has an all-new night. Here, Patrick Jane is suspicious
during a chance encounter; soon, he has a murder case.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10:30 p.m. (or later, but 11 p.m. PT), CBS. A 10-year-old case is
re-opened; Dean McDermott plays a suspect.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 27

“Saturday Night Live,” 10 p.m., NBC.

When Jimmy Fallon
returned to host the show last Christmastime, he was ready to try
anything. He became singers -- Michael Buble, Barry Gibb, Harry
Styles, even Pitbull – plus Scrooge and more.

Now a shortened
version of that eruns at 10 p.m., with Justin Timberlake as music
guest and others – Madonna, Paul McCartney – popping in. Another
rerun, with Martin Freeman, is at 11:29.

Indiana Jones and Harry Potter films, all day, cable.

For different
generations, these are the heroes – a brawny archeologist and a
brainy wizard – who spark movie adventures. Spike has “Raiders of
the Lost Ark” (1981) at 12:32 p.m., then its sequels at 3:17, 6:13
and 9:18 p.m.; the first and third are the best – but all are
skillfully directed by Steven Spielberg.

By comparison, the
eight Harry Potter films had four directors. ABC Family has the first
(2001) at 7 a.m., the second (2002) at 10:30 a.m. and the third
(2004) 2:30 p.m. It skips the fourth and has the next ones (2007,
2009) at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.; the final two are 5:30 and 9 p.m.

ALTERNATIVE: Bowl games, all day.

The second Saturday
of bowl season is packed with five games, none odder than this: The
Duck Commander Independence Bowl (3:30 p.m. on ABC) has no team with
a winning record; Miami and South Carolina are each 6-6. And the
naming rights were bought by the people in “Duck Dynasty.”

That's logical, sort
of. Phil Robertson, the duck patriarch, was a star high school
quarterback who started for Louisiana Tech. He quit after two so-so
years, but the guy who replaced him (Terry Bradshaw) did just fine.
CBS has the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m.; ESPN has bowls at 1, 4:30 and 8.

Other choices

More marathons,
cable. WGN American reruns the complete first season of “Manhattan”
-- set in the early days of the atomic-bomb project – from 9 a.m.
to 10:30 p.m. Also, Starz has the first six episodes of “Missing”
-- a compelling story of someone's obsessive search for his son –
from 5-11:30 p.m.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun, Brennan is the speaker at a forensic-science
convention. Naturally, a body is found; plenty of people volunteer to
help or to use their products; also, Hodgins is a suspect.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. Chin's life is in danger, when a probe leads to a
possible serial killer.

“The Grand
Budapest Hotel” (2014), 8-9:45 p.m., HBO. This odd gem could get
fresh attention, now that it has Golden Globe nominations. In comedy
categories, it's up for best movie and actor (Ralph Fiennes); in
general categories, Wes Anderson is nominated for best director and

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. An undead Weeping Lady (from Ichabod's past) causes

“Mysteries of
Laura,” 9 p.m., NBC. Probing a Koreatown murder in this rerun,
Laura comes across a lively karaoke scene, tries poker and meets her
estranged father (Robert Klein).

“Mean Girls”
(2004), 9 p.m., WE. This is one of two fun comedies; the other is
“Bridesmaids” (2011), at 8 p.m. on Oxygen. Other strong movies:
the gorgeous “Black Stallion” (1979), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner
Classic Movies ... the smart “Good Will Hunting” (1997), at 8:30
on TV Guide ... and “Michael Sam,” a documentary on pro
football's first openly gay player, at 9 on the Oprah Winfrey


TV column for Friday, Dec. 26

“Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For one quirky
moment last season, “Glee” turned back its own clock. It
pretended this episode had been filmed (and shelved) in 2012; that
let kids be back in school, with old relationships restored.

In Ohio, teens
compete in tree-trimming and for Christmas-pageant roles; in New
York, a “Sexy Claus” creates chaos. Songs -- “Away in the
Manger,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Mary's Boy Child” and a
Nativity rendition of “Love Child” -- get us in the mood for the
final “Glee” season, starting Jan. 9.

II: “Now, That's Funny,” 8-9:30 p.m., CBS.

This look at TV
comedy, assembled by the Paley Center, airs it on the logical
network. Lately, only CBS has been able to turn comedy into steady
ratings hits ... and to do it in front of a live audience.

This special
includes two terrific CBS shows (“Big Bang Theory” and “Mom,”
which has a rerun at 9:30), plus two undernoticed Fox gems (“Mindy”
and “New Girl”) and shows on ABC (“Modern Family”), NBC
(“Parks and Recreation”) and cable (“Episodes,” “Key and

ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local

Earlier this month,
stations nudged this terrific Bing Crosby profile around their
pledge-drive schedules. If you missed it then, you can catch this
quick rerun.

Some people know
Crosby as the easygoing singer (with 45 No. 1 hits) and low-key actor
... or as the intense dad whose son wrote an angry, tell-all book.
There's much more, though. He was a technology buff who launched the
idea of recorded radio shows ... a sports buff who co-owned the
baseball Pirates and created pro-am golf tournaments ... and a genial
dad after he started over, in a second marriage.

Other choices

Marathons, cable. At
the top of the list are “Doctor Who” (all day, BBC America) and
“The Simpsons” (8 p.m. to midnight, FXX). There's more: “The
Listener,” a solid Canadian series, is 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Ion;
“Power” -- with a drug kingpin tryingt to focus on his classy
nightclub and his tangled romance – has its entire first season,
from 3 p.m,. to 11:20 p.m.
“Saturday Night Live in the '80s,”
6-8 p.m., VH1. Mixing candor and humor, this catches “SNL” as it
went from fad to fixture. It's followed by looks at the '90s (8 p.m.)
and 2000's (10 to midnight). “Caught on Camera,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.
Here's the second of two Friday specials, with odd moments captured
by cell phones, news crews and more. Nick Cannon hosts.

“Ice Age: A
Mammoth Christmas,” 8 p.m., Fox. In an amiable animated rerun, Sid
(John Leguizamo) is convinced he's on the naughty list. He tries a
tough journey, to negotiate with Santa (Billy Gardell).

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. This reruns the episode with Ed's
girlfriend (JoelyFisher) stirring trouble. She thinks Ed, the owner,
should be the face of the company, not Mike (Tim Allen).

“Mom,” 9:30,
CBS. In a rerun, Christy wants a relationship with her dad (Kevin
Pollak). Her mom is not pleased.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Tom Cavenagh as Danny's childhood
friend, now suspected of having Mob ties.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 25

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Sure, some bland
holiday shows have been thrown at us this month. But this one
(alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) is the top of the field,
a true triumph.

The delightful Dr.
Seuss book offered warmth and wit. Chuck Jones, the genius behind
many Bugs Bunny and Road Runner gems, added vibrant animation. Boris
Karloff did the narration and Thurl Ravenscroft (also the voice of
Tony the Tiger) sang the booming theme song. The result is a gem.

II: “How Murray Saved Christmas,” 8-9 p.m., NBC.

Clearly, life isn't
fair: “Murray” -- possibly the best Christmas special since
“Grinch” -- runs tonight against “Grinch.” Watch one, record
the other and enjoy.

Mike Reiss, one of
the “Simpsons” wits, wrote this book about a town where all the
holiday people – from Santa to St. Patrick – mingle. Most are
jolly; still, it's Murray (Jerry Stiller), the crabby deli owner, who
must save the day. Reiss also co-wrote songs that ripple with clever

ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings) or “Doctor Who,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC America.

Each Christmas,
British TV has special episodes of some of its best shows. Now
Americans get two of those; one is a new “Who,” encased by reruns
in a marathon that continues through latenight Sunday.

The other catches
“Midwife” in 1959, with all the '60s changes still far away. The
treatment of unwed mothers and of the mentally disabled seems grim
and Victorian. Profoundly decent people – midwives, nuns and
staffers – face immense problems, including a snowstorm. There's
great work from Miranda Hart (as Chummy) and others; even narrator
Vanessa Redgrave has brief moments on-camera.

Other choices

Disney parade, 10
a.m. to noon, ABC. In its 31st year, this special gets a
makeover, with a “Frozen” emphasis. “Let It Go” will be sung
by 12-year-old YouTube star Lexi Walker, with other songs from the
movie by Laura Marano and the Alex-and-Sierra duo. Performing
non-Frozen songs are Ariana Grande, Trisha Yearwood, GavinDeGraw,
Lucy Hale, Trey Songz, Prince Royce and Train.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of last year's Christmas episode,
people imagine what their lives would be like without Sheldon.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. In a rerun from last spring, Violet is wary about going to
her prom while very pregnant. Meanwhile, Bonnie battles with her
ex-husband, with Christy caught in the middle.

“Elf: Buddy's
Musical Christmas,” 9-10 p.m., NBC. The “Elf” movie and
Broadway musical had Buddy leaving the North Pole, after learning
he's not really an elf. Then the musical's songs were compacted into
this special. The animation style is neatly off-kilter, but the scipt
is so-so and the songs (after the zesty opener) are bland.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Walden and Alan dating
beauties ... until a jealous Lyndsey intervenes.

“Vicious,” 9:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Ash is supposed to make Christmas
dinner and Freddie (Ian McKellen) is supposed to make polite
conversation; neither is good at it, of course. In the “Vicious”
style, this is broad, blunt, heavy-handed but randomly quite funny.

“Christmas in
Rockefeller Center,” 10 p.m., NBC. Here's one last burst of holiday
music, in a rerun with Trisha Yearwood, Idina Menzel and even a duet
with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Also, many PBS stations (check local
listings) have soprano Deborah Voight with the Mormon Tabernacle