TV column for Friday, Oct. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Bill Murray has
always taken show-business on his own terms. He refuses to have an
agent, keeps ignoring offers ... yet has done David Letterman's show
44 times, including the first and last CBS ones.

Letterman and others
spoke, as Murray became the 19th winner of the annual
award for American comedy. They praised him and mocked his reclusive
nature. “You and I are as close as two people can be, considering
that one of them is you,” Steve Martin said. The two-plus-hour
ceremony Sunday (being trimmed to 90 minutes) also had Aziz Ansari,
Jimmy Kimmel, Dan Aykroyd and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, Fox; preview at 7:30.

One person who will
NOT be watching tonight's Bill Murray special is Bill Murray.
Throughout his life, he's been a passionate fan of his home-town
Chicago Cubs. He's gone to the games, talked them up, led the singing
of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Now, at last, the Cubs are in
the World Series.

Tonight – game
three in the best-of-seven series with the Cleveland Indians -- is
the first time in Murray's 66 years that there has been a Series game
at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks, the Major League leader in earned
run average (2.13), starts for the Cubs.

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

Here's an abrupt –
and much-needed – pivot. Yes, Rachel Bloom has been terrific at the
star and co-writer, while also doing big musical numbers. But the
flightiness of her character is wearing thin.

Tonight has no songs
for Bloom – but one for each of her talented co-stars. Vincent
Rodriguez III (who plays Josh) has done two Broadway musicals; he
blasts a rock song about a sexy ping-pong player. Santino Fontana
(Greg) has done four and drew a Tony nomination. Donna Lynn Champlin
(Paula) has also done four; she beautifully trills the fond wish:
“Maybe this dream won't poop in my face.”

Other choices
include:

“Friday the 13th”
(1980), 6 p.m., AMC. The pre-Halloween weekend starts with this so-so
film and its sequels, at 8 p.m. (1981) and 9:59 (1982). There are
other scare tales, including “Lost Boys” (1987) at 8 p.m. on VH1
and a peek at long-ago horror, with “Dracula” (1931) and “The
Mummy” (1932), at 8 and 9:30 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Battling an enemy who killed his mentor, MacGyver must
disable a bomb near the United Nations building. Naturally, his only
tools are a rope and a wrench.

Charlie Brown films,
8 p.m., ABC. Two creepy notions – Halloween and elections –
combine. There's the 1966 “It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
and the 1972 “You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.”

Also, families can
catch the animated “Hotel Transylvania” (2012), at 8 and 10 p.m.
on FX.

“Vampire Diaries,”
8 p.m., CW. Here's a show that treats every week like Halloween.
Tonight, Stefan, Bonnie and Caroline race back to North Carolina, to
save the latest target of Enzo and Damon.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. On Halloween, Kono and Adam are kidnapped yet again.
Also, the team investigates a crooked medium who may have literally
been scared to death.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner. ponders a
whistleblower's claims of corruption in his department. Also, Frank's
son (Donnie Wahlberg) probes a case in which a car struck a woman
under suspicious circumstances.

“Wolf Creek,” 10
p.m., Pop. Eve, a vengeful teen-ager, stalks Mick in the Outback. To
see why, catch the first two episodes, at 8 and 9 p.m.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Great Indoors” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Jack (Joel McHale)
has had a hands-on life, savoring and writing about the outdoors. Now
his magazine boss (Stephen Fry) tells him to work in the office;
he'll be with young people who are busy blogging, tweeting and
getting participation trophies.

Here is a classic
battle of the generations. It's sometimes a tad goofy – few major
shows include a baby bear – but crisply crafted by pros. Fry (Hugh
Laurie's former comedy partner) adds brief bursts of fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Life in Pieces” season-opener, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

Shows often try too
hard in their pilot films, tossing in extra layers of sex and/or
silliness. Surprisingly, “Pieces” does that to open its season in
a new timeslot.

One story is
definitely for adults. The grandfather (James Brolin) has one of
those times the Viagra-type ads warn about, with the effects lasting
more than four hours. Another has Tommy wrestling a woman. A third
introduces Tyler's teen bride's odd parents, zestfully played by
husband and wife Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. The fourth story,
much better, has people trying ineptly to hide a party.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Project Runway” shows, all night, Lifetime.

After luring
“Runway” from Bravo, Lifetime keeps finding ways to stretch it
out. It's tried spin-offs and a reality show about the models; last
week, it launched “Project Runway: Fashion Startup” ... an
almost-exact copy of “Shark Tank,” except with designers.

Tonight starts at 6
p.m. with three “Runway” reruns. At 9, a new episode finds the
contestants going to Universal Studios in Orlando, then using that
for inspiration. Then the second “Startup” is at 10:32.

Other choices
include:

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET (preview) and 8:25 (game), NFL Network. This is an in-between week
– after the Thursday games have ended on CBS, but before they start
on NBC. Viewers will need cable or satellite to catch Jacksonville
(2-4) at Tennessee (3-4).

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Returning to its Thursday home, TV's best
show leads a night of terrific comedies (and, alas, a lame drama).
Now Penny – who had dropped her acting career – learns she
actually has fans from the “Serial Ape-ist” movie; she's invited
to a sci-fi convention.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. After two nights stuffed with Halloween episodes on ABC,
here's a stray one on NBC. Dina launches an investigation that could
keep workers away from trick-or-treat time.

“Pitch,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Sandwiched between its World Series nights, Fox schedules some
fictional baseball. Rumors swirl that Blip, Ginny's friend from her
minor-league days, will be traded.

“Mom”
season-opener, 9:01 p.m., CBS. Bonnie has never been easy to live
with, you know; her boyfriend (William Fichtner) learns that after
moving in. Their love/bicker relationship drives her daughter Christy
to distraction ... and to renew her search for romance, in a brisk,
funny episode.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Alexander Kirk, the show's current supervillain, has
cut a deal with some master hackers. Red and Liz see that as an
opportunity to catch him.

“Pure Genius”
debut, 10 p.m., CBS. Did CBS accidentally swallow a robot? Like the
“Bull” opener, this is short on human connection and long on vast
walls of screens and read-outs and such. Neither of the lead
characters (Dermot Mulroney and British actor Augustus Prew) is very
interesting and the first case feels like a medical-show cliche. The
tech screens, however, are impressive.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

For the second
straight night, ABC stacks four Halloween episodes. The peak could be
“Modern Family,” with its three households and its tendency
toward holiday fun.

At the Dunphy home,
Luke's in danger of having the worst party of the year; his family
tries to save it. At the Tucker-Pritchett home, Cam faces his
Halloween nemesis; Lily and Mitchell may help. And what about Jay,
the patriarch? He wants Manny to deliver a memorable trick on an old
enemy.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Simply watching
giraffes for an hour would be reward enough. These graceful giants
bring beauty and efficiency; they can even survive the desert
without water, squeezing moisture from leaves.

But added here is a
feel-good story: An Australian scientist moved to Africa with his
wife and kids; together, they work to preserve giraffes. Now Ugandan
veterinarians join them, for an ambitious plan to capture 20
creatures, truck them four hours and then ferry them across the Nile,
to bountiful turf.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rectify” season-opener, 10 p.m., Sundance.

“I didn't think it
would end this way,” Daniel says quietly. Neither did we, actually.
By now, most shows would have seen their protagonist exonerated;
instead, he took a deal that involves a confession (to a murder he
may not have committed), parole and banishment from Georgia.

So this final season
begins with him slogging through life at a Nashville halfway house.
It's painfully slow, as usual; in the final minutes, however, Daniel
has a long monolog – delivered with Emmy-worthy skill by Aden Young
-- that reminds us why “Rectify” has drawn praise and a Peabody
Award.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Political films, Turner Classic Movies.

In a week of
Halloween films, TCM scares us with politics. At 8 p.m. ET is John
Ford's “The Last Hurrah” (1958), with Spencer Tracy as a mayor,
trying one more run. Then are three classics to record.

“All the
President's Men” (1976, 10:15 p.m. ET) has reporters in their
historic roles as truth-tellers. “The Best Man” (1966, 12:45
a.m.) is a black-and-white film about an honest man in a messy race.
“The Candidate” (1972, 2:45 a.m.) foresaw a new era, when
ad-making glitz would dominate.

Other choices
include:

World Series, 7:30
p.m. ET preview and 8 p.m. game, Fox. Here's the second game of the
best-of-seven series.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. The Halloween-comedy spurt begins with Adam's fondess
for Stephen King books. He tries horror-writing, with the monster
based on his mom; she's not pleased.

“Speechless,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Jimmy is upset by the end of a tradition – the
family dressing up for Halloween. Meanwhile, the kids are busy with
the holiday: Ray and Dylan work the school's haunted mansion; JJ gets
drunk at a party, endangering Kenneth's job as his companion.

“Frequency,” 9
p.m., CW. Raimy's dad, 20 years in the past, is nearing the date when
her mom was abducted (and, soon, killed). Communicating across time,
father and daughter (both cops) question the same person and try to
see if they can change events ... again.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. The neighborhood has a Halloween-time “mischief
night,” which Ruby and her grandkids promptly take too far. Also,
Dre tries to re-establish himself as a master prankster.

“Secrets of the
Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). We've learned a lot
about Egypt 3,000 years ago ... and little about Europe at the same
time. But now researchers examine “the British Pompeii,” a
seaside village that was abandoned after a fire and then was
semi-preserved in mud. This fairly interesting film shows discoveries
ranging from weapons and fortresses to fabrics and foreign trade.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

After settling for a
quite-good episode last week, “Us” has a brilliant one tonight.
It's even better than the pilot film ... which was one of the best
hours this season.

At the core are
three generations of Pittsburgh Steeler fans – from dad-alone to
dad-daughter passion. Also spanning generations is a question TV
rarely asks: Must married people always seem cheery about becoming
pregnant? And late in the hour, we get a funny-solemn view of the
vagaries of death and life.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

Norman Lear;s dad
always had a scheme, always expected to triumph; when Lear was 9, he
saw his dad go to prison and was mostly on his own. He would keep his
dad's optimism ... and would triumph. “He's the most influential
person in the history of television,” producer Phil Rosenthal says
here.

Lear, now 94, turned
his dad into Archie Bunker. At one point, he had six of TV's 10
most-seen shows; at another, he walked away from it all and
campaigned for the concept of liberty. This gorgeous film captures
his mistakes (with family, with shows) and even one lie; it also
captures stunning triumphs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Middle” (8 p.m.) and more.

Ever since the
“Roseanne” years, ABC comedies have had Halloween episodes that
were thoroughly entertaining. Here are four straight ones ... with
another crop arriving Wednesday.

That starts with the
Hecks facing plenty of distractions. Sue keeps trying to get her room
back from Brick; their brother Axl is cracking from the pressure of
being nice around his girlfriend. And Frankie gets a shock: If she
ever divorces, all three kids would choose to stay with Mike.

Other choices
include:

Baseball preview
(7:30 p.m. ET) and game (8 p.m.), Fox. For the past 113 autumns, the
World Series has been a major part of American life. Now it begins,
continuing on Wednesday, Thursdau, Saturday and (if needed) Sunday
and next Tuesday and Wednesday.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After a petty officer is kidnapped and escapes,the team finds a
connection to her missing husband. Also, Abby (Pauley Perrette) knits
personalized gifts for the new agents.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Here's the second night of “knockouts” -- teammates
competing with each other, this time choosing their own songs. Tim
McGraw and Faith Hill are mentors.

“American
Housewive,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. It's time for the “Zombie Run.”
Katie – trying to top a neighbor – focuses on the “run”; her
husband and younger daughter obsess on being zombies.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 p.m., ABC. Halloween is Louis' favorite holiday, but his
wife is focusing only on writing horror novel. Their younger kids
ponder costume choices and Eddie is excited about a chance to party
with the high school kids.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 9:30, ABC. Kenny is pumped up about Halloween, which he
calls “the gay Super Bowl.:” His mom soon regrets letting him
host a party. Meanwhile, his siblings plan an epic prank.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A private plane crashes in the bayou,
killing three sailors.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. After saving a sick street kid from a tunnel fire,
Stella scrambles to get him help. Also, Casey need help with a
persoal matter and Severide has a chance to travel luxuriously.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

Some shows outlive
their titles: “Empty Nest” got full, “@Midnight” moved to
before midnight, “Two and a Half Men” lost its half. This one,
however, remains accurate. Married, with a 1-year-old son, Jane is
still a virgin. A clinical error impregnated her; her new husband is
recovering from a shooting.

Much of tonight's
hour is merely OK, but in the final minutes, things click. There's
Jane's dad, starring in a wonderfully bizarre telenovela about the
Statue of Liberty. There's Rafael's evil wife Petra, being
impersonated by her more-evil sister. And there's a hint that some
day, Jane might be a non-virgin.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Man With a Plan” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

For comedy fans,
this is a good week – mostly. It's a return to sitcom-stacks (four
straight shows, from 8-10 p.m.), Mondays through Thursdays on CBS or
ABC. That's great, with one catch: CBS is putting all its best
comedies on Thursdays; tonight's shows, by comparison, are merely OK.

This one has the
usual combination – a slick, semi-exasperated wife (Liza Snyder,
who did “Yes, Dear”) and a sort of dolt-ish husband (Matt
LeBlanc, who's done much better shows). She's returning to work, so
he figures he can help with the kids; he can't, of course, because
he's a TV dad.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “19-2,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

What started as a
French-language series in Montreal has been remade in English.
Sharply written and perfectly played, it gives fresh life to the
cop-show genre. You can catch the first two seasons – if so, skip
the spoilers in the next paragraph – or start now with the third
one.

The mole inside the
precinct was finally exposed and killed himself. Now cops have other
secrets: Some were there during the suicide ... Nick helped his
crooked cousin ... the commander downplayed a spouse-abuse case.
Rumors swirl ... and a sensational traffic case diverts everyone's
attention.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. With Amber Rose gone, eight celebrities
remain. That includes all four athletes, but one (Calvin Johnson) had
as close call last week, before Rose was ousted.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Two superheroines blend, when Supergirl protects the
president –played by former “Wonder Woman” star Lynda Carter.
Also, the alien-vs.-human rights issue heats up.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. Remember when CBS' best comedies crowded into Mondays?
Here's a reminder, with Ray Romano guesting on Kevin James' show.
During the great “Everybody Loves Raymond” years, Romano guested
four times on James' “King of Queens.”

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. We'd always assumed Lucifer is an action-movie fan. Now
his favorite star has been killed and a rival is a suspect. Also,
Lucifer and Uriel (Michael Imperioli) fight about their mom.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Quick and jokey, this has emerged as the best of the
Monday comedies. Tonight, Oscar asks Felix to help save his favorite
bar. Felix, of course, tends to overdo; with the owner (Fred Willard)
out of town for a few days, he takes over.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. Desperate to stop Flynn, the team chases him to Nazi
Germany.

“POV,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). When they learned that their infant son
was dying of cancer, Ryan and Amy Green entered a long medical blur.
But theyalso fashioned a warm life for all three sons ... and a
videogame about the experience. Following the Greens for 18 monthsl,
filmmakers emerged with a warm (if depressing) portrait of good
people facing a cruel turn.