TV column for Monday, Jan. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Story of God” season-opener, 9 p.m., National Geographic,
repeating at midnight.

Mixing intelligence,
curiosity and gorgeous visuals, the six-episode first season followed
Morgan Freeman on a global tour of religion. Some of that is rerun
here, gathering views on miracles (6 p.m.), evil (7) and creation
(8), plus – at 10 p.m., rerunning at 1 a.m. -- the basic question:
“Who is God?”

Now there's a brief
new season. On three Mondays, we'll meet, among others, the keeper of
the sacred Lakota pipe .... a 9-year-old Minnesotan, believed by
Tibetan monks to be a re-incarnated lama ... a missionary, held
captive in North Korea for two years ... and New Mexicans, speaking
in tongues.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Howie Mandel All-Star Comedy Gala,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

Each year, this
special gathers some top comedians at Montreal's “Just For Laughs”
festival. This time, the results vary wildly.

A few people
(including Mandel) bring surprisingly weak material; a few shine, led
by Alonzo Bodden and newcomer Matt Donaher, who is a witty cross
between Woody Allen and Steven Wright. Between those extremes are Tom
Papa, Iliza Shlesinger, J.B. Smoove, Russell Peters and Jay Pharoah.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “800 Words,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

There's a quiet
charm here that suggests “Northern Exposure,” “Eureka” or
“Men in Trees.” It's the fun of a city guy, suddenly moving to a
small town that's seems to be benignly daft.

Last season, an
Australian columnist moved to coastal New Zealand with his
teen-agers. As the new season starts, his daughter is living with her
grandparents, his job is wobbling, his old editor has moved in with
him ... and there's a festival, big on fireworks. All of that is done
with quiet charm and wit.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Some viewers have been grumbling about the fact
that one of the women (Liz Sandoz) had already had sex with Nick
Viall, whom she met at a wedding. Tonight, he sends her home, absorbs
some criticism, and persists with more dating and ousters.

“The New Celebrity
Apprentice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week saw the men have their first
ouster (football great Eric Dickerson) and the women had their third
(reality-show person Snooki Polizzi). Now they must design a
motorcycle ad campaign and then a candy for billionaire Warren
Buffett.

“Beyond,” 9
p.m., Freeform. There are some sweet moments here, as Holden – a
7th-grader before his 12-year coma – dares to ask
someone for a date. Mostly, though, this sticks to the dark side:
What happened to his friend? Who is the looming man in the yellow
jacket? Is Willa right about the realm his mind visited during his
coma? We get few answers tonight, as the darkness thickens.

“Lucifer,” 9:01
p.m., Fox. Romance problems keep building for Lucifer: Two of his old
loves have been killed; also, his scheming mom is trying to influence
his romance with Chloe the cop.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30, CBS. Only three episodes remain for this oft-funny show.
Tonight, Oscar wants his friend Murph to try to top a penguin in
predicting a hockey winner.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. Don't you hate it when the only person who can save you
has been dead for 90 years? Lucy has been kidnapped and taken to the
1893 World's Fair; she needs Harry Houdini.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Let's forget stories of
dismay on a reservation; here are people who speak fondly of life
with their Shoshone and Arapaho tribesmen in Wyoming. They want to
create a museum ... but must borrow artifacts. Traveling to Chicago
are a recent college grad, a teen powwow princess and a Vietnam
veteran who ponders why anyone would live in a city. Beautifully
filmed, the documentary captures a pace and mood that's seems light
years from Chicago.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Victoria,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Alexandrina was
supposed to be a minor asterisk un history. She was tiny –
alternately listed as 5-foot and 4-foot-11 – and ignored. Her
mother gave her lots of dolls and little education; if the kid did
become queen before she was 18, her mom might rule as regent.

And then? When King
William IV died in 1837, his niece was 18 years and 27 days old. She
changed her name to Victoria and took control. Here's a sweeping
story, with a 10-hour season covering the start of a 63-year reign.
Jenna Coleman (“Doctor Who”) stars, amid gorgeous visuals and
deep emotions.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Simpsons” and “The Mick,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

For the first time
in its 28 years, “Simpsons” has an hourlong episode. Trying to
relive his glory days, Mr. Burns comes across a mysterious music
mogul. Taraji Henson, the “Empire” star, is a guest voice, along
with Snoop Dogg, Common and RZA.

Then there's a
transplanted “Mick,” with Kaitlin Olson as a drifter who's
suddenly in a mansion, watching (sort of) her sister's rich kids. Now
everyone has forgotten her nephew's birthday; to make up for it, they
all go to wild – and, at times, quite funny – extremes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Football, 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox.

A half-century ago,
the Green Bay Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL
championship. Temperatures hit 15-below, the wind-chill was 38-below
and the Packers won what was dubbed the Ice Bowl. Now those teams
meet again ... but in cozy, indoor comfort in Dallas.

That follows a game
(1:05 p.m. ET, NBC), with the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Kansas
City Chiefs. Today's winners face Saturday's winners, for spots on
Feb. 5 in the Super Bowl.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Real Mad Men of Advertising” finale, 9 p.m.,
Smithsonian.

As the 1960s took
hold, advertising transformed. There was was the subtle, underdog
appeal of Volkswagon (“think small”) and Avis (“we're No. 2, we
try harder”), the unsubtle push for “the Pepsi generation.”
There was humor and, beginning in 1967, vibrant color.

Still, this
interesting hour says, the ad agencies themselves resisted change.
They slowly began putting blacks in their ads ... but rarely hired
them for key jobs. Men ruled; when Mary Wells, creator of the Braniff
airline campaign, was denied a promised position in charge, she
started her own agency.

Other choices
include:

“Masterpiece:
Sherlock,” 7-9 p.m., PBS. Here's the last of this year's three
movies. Holmes and Watson (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman)
confront some long-buried secrets.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Among others, we'll meet someone who
models in the nude, someone who lost 365 pounds by walking and a
former pro football player who's now an opera singer. “Madam
Secrtetary,” 9 p.m., CBS. From the start of the season, Elizabeth
has pushed a fresh approach to foreign aid. Now she and her staff fly
to Africa to launch it – and find the Chinese there, with an aid
package of their own. Also, Daisy and the assistant secretary for
African affairs tour the continent.

“Homeland”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Showtime. Fresh storytlines ripple through
this brilliantly acted episode. Quinn – who barely survived
terrorists' chemical injection – is resisting treatment. Saul meets
the president-elect, who considers dismantling operations. Carrie
works to help Muslims who were jailed. And a young Muslim creates a
video site about terrorist history.

“The Young Pope,”
9 p.m., HBO. Paolo Sorrentino follows the Italian tradition of
abstract, offbeat filmmaking. His strange “The Great Beauty”
(2013) won an Oscar for best foreign-language film; now he's mixed
the specific and the abstract, with Jude Law as the first American
pope.

“Elementary” 10
p.m., CBS. It's another double-Holmes night. An hour after finishing
“Sherlock,” catch him (in modern New York) seeking the link
between a dead clown and a weaponized virus.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“In the Heat of the Night” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Two of the world's
finest actors collide powerfully. Rod Steiger is a small-town
Southern cop, tough and biased; Sidney Poitier is a big-city police
detective who was visiting his family and is soon questioned about a
murder. His bosses asked him to stay and work on the case.

Yes, that story
(from a John Ball novel) is contrived, but it was adapted beautifully
by Stirling Silliphant. The film won five Oscars, including ones for
Steiger and Silliphant, plus best picture. Director Norman Jewison
was nominated; Poitier wasn't, but had won four years earlier.

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

After skipping new
episodes for three Saturdays (two of them on holidays), “SNL” is
back.

Hosting is Felicity
Jones, who drew an Oscar nomination as Stephen Hawking's wife in “The
Theory of Everything,” then entered pop culture as Jyn Erso in
“Rogue One.” Sturgill Simpson is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Football, 4:35 p.m. ET, Fox; and 8:15 p.m., CBS.

The first round of
pro play-offs was short on suspense: All four home teams won, by an
average of 19 points. Now those four winners go on the road, visiting
the teams that had byes.

On Fox today, it's
the Seattle Seahawks at the Atlanta Falcons; on CBS, the Houston
Texans visit Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Sunday has
Steelers-Chiefs and Packers-Cowboys.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “To Tell the Truth,” 8 p.m., and “The Match
Game,” 9 and 10, ABC.

Suddenly, the ABC
line-up was thrown into flux. The network had announced that next
Thursday (Jan. 19) would be when its powerhouse Thursday line-up
would finally be restored. To prepare us, two of the shows (“Grey's
Anatomy” and “Scandal”) would have reruns tonight.

Good plan – soon
scuttled. The Thursday re-boot was pushed back to Jan. 26. We'll have
to wait a week ... and tonight, we'll have to settle for some
game-show reruns.

Other choices
include:

Sandra Bullock
films, cable. You can catch Bullock's Oscar-winning work in the
terrific “Blind Side” (2007), at 5:35 p.m. on Freeform, Or try a
comedy double-feature on E – the so-so “The Proposal” (2009) at
7 p.m. and the fun “Miss Congeniality” (2000) at 9:30.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Murtaugh – with a temporary new partner –
and Riggs are caught in a turf war. On one side is a Koreatown gang;
on the other is a new generaion of drug dealers.

“Star.” 9 p.m.,
Fox. This rerun starts powerfully. After accidentally taking an
overdose, Simone imagines being coaxed musically by her late mother
and her half-sister Star. From there, Star schemes to make a music
demo and enter a contest; the result is flawed, but has some great
moments.

“The Incredibles”
(2004), 9-11 p.m., Disney. After trying retirement in suburbia, a
superhero family returns to work. The result is a fun, animated film.

“Lip Sync Battle,”
10 p.m., Spike. In a rerun of the season-opener, actor Channing Tatum
competes with his wife, dancer-actress Jenna Dewan-Tatum.

“Caraoke
Showdown,” 11 p.m., Spike. This reruns the opener, with Craig
Robinson hosting a karaoke competition inside a car.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Grimm,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Last week's
season-opener left Nick at the edge of disaster. The mayor-elect is a
monster (literally); so are other officials, including a judge. Nick
defeated a batch of hit men, thanks to a magic stick (don't ask) and
a girl's voodoo doll. But now a SWAT team is ready to attack.

This hour takes some
tangled strategic twists, as schemes collide with counter-schemes.
Still, it's a well-made hour – a solid start to a Friday-the-13th
that's filled with appropriately spooky stuff.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW.

The latest good news
is that “Crazy” has been renewed for next season; micro-mini
ratings can't kill a show, at least on CW. The other good news is
that “Crazy” has ended its stagnant stretch; the plot is now
leaping forward, with some dandy twists ... and, as usual, a couple
clever music numbers.

Rebecca is convinced
that her deep love for Josh can withstand anything. But what happens
when a sunnily shallow California guy meets a world of deep and
gloomy thinkers? There are some dandy surprises here, with Tovah
Feldshuh and Patti LuPone as her mother and her rabbi.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Two decades ago,
rebels invaded the Japanese embassy in Peru; a four-month hostage
crisis began. Fiveyears later, Ann Patchett's “Bel Canto” novel
imagined an opera diva as a hostage.

Now comes the next
logical step – an opera about a novel about an opera singer. Renee
Fleming organized this project for the Chicagoe Lyric, with
Peruvian-born composer Jimmy Lopez and Cuban-born playwright Nilo
Cruz. The result, introduced by Fleming, is shown tonight. It's a
muscular, red-blooded piece, with a talented cast led by Danielle de
Niese as a diva-in-crisis.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. When their helicopter crashes, Mac and Jack are in remote
Kazachstan, where a war criminal has Jack's gun. This will require
some inventiveness.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. People apparently do different things while
bonding. The girls decide to have a slumber party; their dad and his
poker buddies decide to prepare for colonoscopies.

“Alexander and the
Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (2014), 8:30 p.m.,
Disney. It's not easy to turn a delightful little kids' book into a
full movie story. But this has been translated into a fairly
enjoyable family story of an 11-year-old who's heading toward a truly
awful party.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Molly's boyfriend is quitting his pre-med studies to be an
artist. Her dad, the doctor, doesn't approve.

“Sleepy Hollow”
(Fox) or “Emerald City” (NBC), 9 p.m. Fresh from “Grimm,”
this grim Friday-the-13th can continue with either show.
On Fox, Ichabod suspects that a case involves witchcraft. On NBC, the
wizard has sent people to kill Dorothy. (No, this isn't the old
“Wizard of Oz.”) She takes a big risk.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Masi Oka is leaving the show, but first his character
(Max, the medical examiner) must help investigate a murder at a
police convention.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Moonlighting as a bodyguard for a recently released
conflict, Danny uses the chance to snag a crook. Also, his brother
Jamie witnesses a lovers' quarrel between two cops; now he and his
police partner reconsider their own relationship.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Taking the Stage: Changing America,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Washington's new
monolith is the National Museum of African American History and
Culture. Now this 400,000-square-foot giant gets a Kennedy Center
tribute, with readings, music and starpower.

Oprah Winfrey, Tom
Hanks, Stevie Wonder, Dave Chappelle and more will be there. The
line-up has people from music (Christina Aguilera, John Legend,
Janelle Monae, Elijah Kelley, Common, Patti Austin, Fantasia, Shirley
Caesar, Jon Batiste, Chuck D., Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight) and
dance (Savion Glover, the Alvin Ailey troupe), plus Angela Bassett,
Chris Tucker, Will Smith and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Place,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Michael has finally
learned of his bureaucratic blunders. He brought a bad Eleanor to
this good afterlife, based on the record of a good Eleanor; he
brought Jason, a would-be DJ, thinking he was a Tibetan monk. Now
bad-Eleanor must scramble to acquire “goodness points” and stay.

That part is fairly
funny, but the big laughs come from the Jason. Truly dim, he's now
married to an all-knowing computer creation. (Really.) And in
hilarious moments, we learn how he died.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, IFC.

The terrific
“Ghostbusters” movies neatly sandwich a new “Portlandia”; you
can catch them at 7:45 (1984) and 10:30 p.m. (1989) ET, rerunning at
1:30 and 3:45 a.m. ET.

In between (at 10
p.m. and 1 a.m. ET) is the droll wit of “Portlandia,” twistng
things around. There are the nerds, fretting that they are no longer
trendy, now that hunks have learned to read and talk. And a hip
couple, transforming its life by buying a white carpet. And guys
grumblng about their lost role in history. “Why don't we ever hear
about Harriet Tubman's husband? Or Eleanor Roosevelt's?”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Nashville,” 9 p.m., CMT; also, 11 p.m., CMT and
Nickelodeon.

Yes, we can expect
to get strong drama this year, with Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz
(“thirtysomething”) taking over as producers. Tonight, Maddie
starts her internship and Avery tries doing producing work for a
YouTube sensation; also, Juliette meets her “guardian angel.”

Alongside that,
however, has been great music. Outside the show, this is the week
that Clare Bowen -- who's terrific as Scarlett – hopes to release
her first single. Bowen (a childhood cancer survivor) sings a moving
tribute to her brother, who is in remission from cancer.

Other choices
include:

“The Great
American Baking Show” finale, 8 p.m., ABC. Next week, ABC finally
has its Thursday A-list, with “Scandal” and “Grey's Anatomy.”
First, however, we have the final two amateur bakers.

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 8 p.m., CW. This rerun concludes the four-night
crossover. CW superheroes – Supergirl, Arrow, Flash – join the
Legends to fight the Dominators.Stein has a possible plan, but he's
distracted by something he created in 1987.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the guys rush to meet the
unrealistic deadline they promised for a government project. That
leads, alas, to Sheldon taking an energy drink.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. An explorers' group claims that Jack
faked his most famous expedition. Now his young co-workers try to
save his reputation.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Bonnie doesn't seem like someone who can keep a secret.
Still, she didn't tell Christy that Jill is pregnant; Christy feels
left out

-- “The
Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. This helpful: On her doorstep, Liz finds
a diorama of a future crime.