TV column for Saturday, Jan. 24


 

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

In its 40 seasons,
this show has only had about 20 people pull double-duty – hosting
and being music guest in the same show. From Desi Arnaz to Frank
Zappa, they're an interesting bunch.

A few country-music
people – Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift – have had host-and-music
nights. Now Blake Shelton – already a big deal on NBC from “The
Voice” -- gets his turn.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 8-11 p.m., NBC,

Here are the women's
finals, filled with familiar names from last year's Olympics.

Gracie Gold finished
4th then, with Ashley Wagner 7th and Polina
Edmunds 9th; now comes the new battle for the national
title, with NBC airing the free-skate portion. The men (rarely given
primetime spots) have their finals from 4-6 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Black Sails” season-opener, 9 p.m., Starz,
rerunning at 10 and 11.

Even the pirate
world has regime changes, it seems. Flint is a brilliant captain, but
he's also brutal and a liar; as last season ended, the crew voted him
out. Now he's set aside, with only John Silver – whom he hates –
to scheme with. Meanwhile, the treasure remains heavily guarded;
Flint seems finished.

Tonight and next
week, we'll see him scheme and scramble. And back on the pirate
island, Eleanor is losing control; she may need nasty Vane, in an
episode that is tough, taut and well-crafted.

Other choices
include:

“Grease” (1978)
and “Grease 2” (1982), 7 and 9:30 p.m., ABC Family. In the first
film, bouncy music and bright stars saved a lame story; the sequel
simply couldn't be saved. For a really superb use of music, catch a
Turner Classic Movies pairing of best-actress Oscar-winners – Sissy
Spacek in “Coal Miner's Daughter” (1980) at 8 p.m. ET, Barbra
Streisand in “Funny Girl” (1968) at 10:15 p.m. ET.

“Mirror Mirror”
(2012), 8-10 p.m., ABC. An evil queen (Julia Roberts) takes control
of the kingdom. She banishes the sweet Snow White (Lily Collins,
daughter of rock star Phil Collins) ... who needs the help of seven
rebels. You may have heard the story already.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener,
Finlay (Elisabeth Shue) deals with a bomb planted in her car; Russell
(Ted Danson) gets a call from someone who says he's the Gig Harbor
killer. Guest stars include Mark-Paul Gosselaar (as twins) and Mark
Valley.

“Philomena”
(2013), Showtime. Amazing and mostly true, this story was crafted
beautifully by director Stephen Frears, co-writer and co-star Steve
Coogan and the amazing Judi Dench. She finds stunning twists, while
searching for the man she gave up as a baby, long ago.

“Stalker,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a bride has been shot during the ceremony.
Beth and Jack must determine if the shooter was the same person who
stalked her previously.

“The Musketeers,”
9-10:15 p.m., BBC America. A kidnapper doesn't realize he's a become
a kingnapper. He grabbed King Louis, who was disguised as a commoner.

“Nightwatch,” 10
p.m., A&E. Two days after its debut, here's another chance to see
this non-fiction detour for Dick Wolf, the producer of the “Law &
Order” and “Chicago” cop shows. In New Orleans, his crew
follows the night-time police, fire and the emergency medical people.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Masters,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Ricky Potash's
grandfather rippled with money and magic; he was a Wall Street
accountant who spent his free time with great magicians. Ricky liked
him and disliked his parents; when the grandfather died, the boy, 17,
left home and became Ricky Jay, a magic master.

He did magic in
bars, in comedy clubs, at rock concerts; he also became a favorite of
movie director David Mamet. This profile is so-so by “Masters”
standards, but splendid by Friday-TV standards.

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

In the rerun of an
earnest epispde from last season, an attempted murder leads to the
investigation of a murder that happened the World War II internment
camps.

The case itself
seems too unfold way too easily. Still, it's a solid and serious
story, using Pearl Harbor memorials for its backdrop and Hawiian
history for its roots.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “12 Monkeys,” 9 p.m., Syfy.

In last week's
terrific opener, time-traveler Cole was whisked back to prevent an
epidemic that would destroy most of civilization. He killed Goins
(the mogul responsible), but the disaster persisted.

Now he must return
to find Goins' daughter, confined to a mental institution, and learn
about the elusive “12 Monkeys” organization. But time-travel is
shaky and he's supposed to avoid shattering the timeline of Dr.
Cassandra Railly. The result is tough, taut, sometimes violent and
often intriguing.

Other choices
include:

“Thor: The Dark
World” (2013) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014),
7 and 9 p.m., Starz. An action double-feature launches cable's
popcorn-movie night. For comedy, try “Bridesmaids” (2011) at 7:30
p.m. on E or Amy Adams' delightful “Enchanted” (2007) at 8 and 10
p.m. on Bravo.

“Constantine,” 8
p.m., NBC. Throughout Brooklyn, thousands of people – including
Chas' daughter -- have mysteriously slipped into comas. John
scrambles to learn why.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. This reruns an episode that put a serious
issue into a comedy setting: Mike learns that his grandson hasn't
been vaccinated for chicken pox.

“Cristela,” 8:30
p.m., ABC. This rerun see Josh trying to impress the boss by feigning
an interest in sports. Alas, he assumes Mark Cuban (the Dallas
Mavericks owner) is there to fix the reifrigerator.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Monroe has been kidnapped and his life hangs in the balance. Now
Nick leads a search; also, Juliette learns the new reality of her
life, now that she's a Hexenbiest.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Danny and Baez face an attack when they're
transporting drugs. She's seriously wounded; he's trying to track
down the drug cartel involved.

“Helix,” 10
p.m., Syfy. In last week's odd season-opener, the team reached a
creepy island controlled by the cult led by Brother Michael (Steven
Weber). Tonight, there's a warning to get out.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

TV shows, like
people, can grow and improve; most don't, this one has done it
quickly. In its first season, “Mom” was sometimes funny,
sometimes just goofy; now here's a dead-serious detour.

At the core is Anna
Faris as Christy, who became a teen mom, as did her daughter Violet
(Sadie Calvao) and mother Bonnie (Allison Janney). These are skilled
actresses; in the first season, Janney won an Emmy, her sixth. Now
Bonnie has reunited with Christy's dad (Kevin Pollak); life is
blissful ... until a sudden change shows off the depth of this cast
and of “Mom.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Backstrom” debut, 9 p.m.., Fox.

Imagine Dr. House
probing crimes, not diseases. He would be rude, crude, sometimes
bigoted; he would also catch killers in oddly entertaining ways.

That's Everett
Backstrom, created in Swedish novels. Hart Hanson wrote the script,
using the same formula that works for “Bones” -- an eccentric
genius, short on social skills, with complementary people nearby.
Rainn Wilson brings the same quirky touch he did to Dwight in “The
Office”; others – led by veteran Dennis Haysbert and newcomer
Genevieve Angelson – offer the skills Backstrom lacks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC.

One week from its
finale, this terrific series faces issues of life and death and more.
At the core is Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), making a medical decision with
his wife (Bonnie Bedelia).

Their sons, Adam and
Crosby, dispute their recording-studio business. Their daughter Sarah
makes a key decision. And Sarah's daughter Amber is rushed to the
hospital, as she goes into labor.

Other choices
include:

“The Taste”
finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. First, the final five chefs make a dish that
uses opposite concepts. Two are ousted and the others have two hours
to make a three-course dinner.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun brings hilarious moments, as
Sheldon and Raj test to see if they might survive salt-mine research.
Amy provides their skeptical link to the outside world.

“The World's Worst
Mom” debut, 9 p.m., Discovery Life. The opener introduces a mom who
quickly frays the patience of her son, her husband and viewers.

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Joining a group for adoptive fathers, Walden
finds it a nice relief from being around Alan.

“The McCarthys,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. For Ronny, the gay assistant basketball coach, this
gets complicated. He's dating the referee whom his dad (the coach)
hates.

“Babylon,” 10
p.m., Sundance. Skillfully blending comedy and drama, this British
series watches a sleek public-relations whiz (Brit Marling) try to
guide an unflinching police chief (James Nesbitt). Tonight, the drama
part takes over, with a bomb threat and a jolting finish.

“Archer,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunning at 10:30. Archer really should start reading his
instructions. In a funny episode, he's on a treacherous
mountain-climbing expedition and knows he's supposed to kill someone
... but forgot to learn who is the target.

“Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. A two-parter begins with Watson starting her job as
an insurance investigator. She and Holmes both probe a threat to
young Kitty.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Black-ish,” 9:31 and 10 p.m., ABC.

The bad news is that
ABC is all-reruns tonight. The good is that good shows are being
repeated... including double helpings of “Modern Family” (9 and
10:30) and of “Black-ish.”

In its first
episode, Dre's mother (Jenifer Lewis) arrives; she fills him with
food and attention, while creating instant problems for his wife,
Rainbow. Then comes the Halloween episode: Dre wants to maintain the
family tradition of wild pranks; the kids, alas, have lost interest.

TONIGHT MUST-SEE II:
“American Idol” and “Empire,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

These shows – one
full of music, one about music – fit neatly, getting “Empire”
off to a strong ratings start. Now “Idol” starts its final week
of auditions (concluding Thursday) and “Empire” continues.

Tonight, Lucious
Lyon takes his family to his Philadelphia roots, to show what their
lives would be like if he hadn't become a record mogul. Also, he
encourages his son's relationship with a hip-hop star.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Horror Story” season-finale, 10 p.m., FX.

With its
annual-anthology format, this series tends to end each season with a
strong episode. Here's the end of a season that centers on a rag-tag
“freak show.”

Now Dandy Mott –
rich and spoiled and a mass murderer – has bought the show for a
measly $10,000. Tonight, he makes his performance debut; also, the
freaks finally have their rebellion.

Other choices
include:

“The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. At home, Laura frets about finding a
replacement nanny; at work, she's not sure if a double-murder had a
religious motivation.

“The Story
Behind,” 8:30-9:30 p.m., Pop. After debuting last week with
“Everybody Loves Raymond,” this show moves into its regular spot
by profiling “Home Improvement.”

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Amaro reluctantly attends the
wedding of his dad (Armand Assante, 65) to a 28-year-old. A fight
breaks out and Amaro faces an ethical dilemma.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds Phil tempted to edit the
wedding video, to cover up his transgression. The second (the
season-opener) finds fresh chaos when Alex returns from her summer
humanitarian mission and Cam and Mitchell return from their
honeymoon.

“The Mistress”
debut, 10 p.m., Discovery Life. Each week, an ex-mistress tries to
push others out of such relationships. The result is mostly
repugnant, with no one to really root for.

“It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FXX. The guys discover three-on-three
blind dates and Dee discovers the male art of love-'em-and-leave-'em.
The result ranges from laughs to sheer excess.

“Man Seeking
Woman,” 10:30 p.m., FXX. This oddity is filled with sight gags ...
big amd weird and (at times) funny. That peaks early, when an
exorcist tries to remove Josh's obsession with his ex-girlfriend.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
State of the Union address, 9 p.m. ET, everywhere.

President Obama's
speech (plus the Republican response by Jodi Ernst, the new Iowa
senator) will dominate the networks tonight.

Afterward, the
follow-up coverage continues. It goes to 10:30 p.m. on ABC, CBS and
Fox ... until 11 p.m. on NBC and PBS ... and approximately forever on
CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Fox Business.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Justified” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

The final season
begins with the usual “Justified” attributes – richly drawn
characters and hours that somehow juggle droll wit and sudden bursts
of violence.

Raylan's old life
has crumbled. Winona – his ex-wife and true love – has moved to
Florida with their baby daughter. His boss (as a U.S. marshal) barely
survived a shooting. Boyd, his nemesis is free and Boyd's angry wife
Ava is out of prison. Now Raylan can move to Florida, if he helps
bring down Boyd ... who, in this terrific opener, plans a bank
robbery, aided (sort of) by dim Dewey Crowe.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Living Different” debut, 9 p.m., Oxygen.

On opposite coasts,
likable young women have lives molded by religion. Hannah. a Muslim
convert, sells real estate; her clients, in the free-form California
world, eye her traditional garb warily.

In New York, Dalia
Shusterman, a widowed mom, and Perl Wolfe have a modern look and (in
their rock band, Bulletproof Stockings) a modern sound, but they
follow Hasidic Jewish rules – no shaking hands with men, no
performing when men are in the audience. They seem to have strong
talent, so we're soon rooting for them to succeed with female-only
nights at bars.

Other choices
include:

“Parks and
Recreation” (NBC) or “MasterChef Junior” (Fox), 8 p.m. Some
networks are sticking to reruns (to avoid State of the Union
complications), but these two hours are new. NBC has Leslie (Amy
Poehler) battling her old boss Ron over the future of possible park
land. Fox's cooking show presents -- briefly and behind glass – a
crocodile and a rattlesnake.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the team probes whether a murder was random or the
result of the victim's scheduled meeting with the presaident.

“Agent Carter,”
8 p.m., ABC. In a quick rerun of last week's episode, Peggy is close
to finding the stolen technology. Then Jarvis is arrested and a
secret is revealed.

“Supernatural,”
9 p.m., CW. This is the one broadcast network that's skipping the
speech. After a new “Flash” at 8 p.m. (Captain Cold and Heat Wave
pull off a kidnapping), this show finds Sam and Dean redoubling their
efforts to stop the Mark of Cain, after the massacre at the ranch.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. Settling into dorm life, Daphne finds
that someone is pranking the deaf kids; she soon challenges him.
Meanwhile, Bay faces an obsatacle in getting her work into an art
showcase; also, Regina finds a new guy, owner of a coffee house she
likes.

“Girlfriends'
Guide to Divorce,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Just as she prepares to pitch
her new idea, Abby is thrown off by the arrival of her flashy, brassy
friend (Alanna Ubach) from college days.

“Black-ish,”
10:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, things go badly when Dre insists his
kids get jobs.

“Mike &
Molly,” 10:30 p.m., CBS. This reruns the so-so season-opener, with
Molly back from the eight-week writers' workshop, already toting a
book deal.