TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Crime” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC.

Last year's “Crime”
was an achingly brilliant journey with all the people surrounding a
murder probe. This second season has different characters, but some
of the same actors (Tim Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Elvis Nolasco), the
same creator ... and the same gripping sense of human detail.

This starts with a
voice reporting an alleged rape; then it flashes back, with no quick
hints about the victim or the perpretator. We're at an upscale
private school that prides itself on diversity. A mom (beautifully
played by Lili Taylor) sees the pain of her son and his girlfriend.
Then emotions build.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Idol” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

What has this show
meant to some young fans? “'American Idol' is what I base my life
off of,” one teen says here. Another lives on a distant ranch, with
no electricity; twice a week, she says, her dad would crank up the
the generator so she could watch “Idol.”

Now they audition in
Atlanta and Denver, as the final season begins. So do others, ranging
from huge vocal gymnastics to a quiet ballad sung with heart-tugging
simpliciy and beauty. And so are some shaky talents who somehow get
approved; “Idol” is far from its days of Simon Cowell put-downs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” season-opener,
10 p.m., FXX.

The comedy of
exaggeration can be tricky. Tonight's “Man Seeking Woman” opener
(10:30 p.m., FXX) tries it and soon becomes one-note; “Sunny,”
by comparison, keeps concocting new, funny twists.

The gang wants to
sell its creation to a board-game executive, so the entire episode
involves playing it with him. Wonderfully wierd, with oddly
expandable rules, the game brings great detours, including some
hilarious sculpture-charades. Then Frank (Danny DeVito) takes things
to extremes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Particle Fever” (2013), 10 p.m., PBS.

This is science on
an epic scale. Underground at a quiet Swiss village, the Large Hadron
Collider stands 300 feet and is variously estimated at $5 to $10
billion. It helps find answers to the start of life.

Now its story is
told by skilled people. “Fever” is co-directed by David Kaplan (a
physicist) and by a Hollywood sound engineer who has a physics
doctorate. Sharply edited by Walter Murch, a three-time Oscar-winner,
it ranges from animation to interesting people. Some are veterans,
their lives' work at stake; one is a young post-doctoral student,
zipping around on her bicycle, being part of epic science.

Other choices
include:

“The Myseries of
Laura” return, 8 p.m., NBC. After taking six weeks off, “Laura”
returns with an “urban treasure hunt” -- from gritty rooftops to
a symphony hall – that becomes a murder case.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Beautifully directed by Penny Marshall, “Big” (1988, E) is
full of charm, with Tom Hanks as a 12-year-old kid suddenly in a
grown-up's body. Meanwhile, the third “Night at the Museum” film
(2014, HBO) is a pleasant trifle. And MTV has an instant rerun of
“The Shannara Chronicles,” a big-budget adventure in the mode of
“Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.”

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. The sixth season finally begins, as the
second half of a comedy block with “2 Broke Girls.” Mike and Carl
try couples counseling, after their police partnership wobbles.

“People's Choice
Awards,” 9-11 p.m., CBS. Jane Lynch is busy filling every night. On
Tuesday, she hosted the season-opener of NBC's “Hollywood Game
Night”; on Thursday, she'll star in the opener of “Angel From
Hell.” In between, she hosts this, with music from Jason Derulo and
Shawn Mendes.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Two stories involve friendships with couples. Jay is
sensitive about the fact that the guy is in his 80s; Phil is
challenged by the fact that he always ends up with the check.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. This wraps up the two-night, three-show link between
the Chicago dramas. Police investigate, after four of a doctor's
patients have chemo overdoses.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grandfathered,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Dr. Phil McGraw
isn't a medical doctor (nor are Dr. Laura, Dr. Dre or Dr. Pepper),
but tonight he plays one on TV. That's in a funny scene, as Jimmy
(John Stamos) has his first health check-up in decades.

It's neatly
juxtaposed with two other stories: Jimmy's granddaughter faces minor
surgery (as her parents feign calmness) and his aides try to figure
out what's locked in his safe. Like other “Grandfathered”
episodes, this is quick and slick; unlike some, it's also very witty.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: More comedies, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The disappointing
“Scream Queens” is gone and Fox has rebuilt and improved its
Tuesday line-up, with four situation comedies. That starts when the
“New Girl” season-opener has an engagement party implode: Jess
foolishly invites Cece's mom ... and Nick botches getting her at the
airport.

“Grandfathered”
and “The Grinder” slide to 8:30 and 9:30; in between, “Brooklyn
Nine-Nine” takes the 9 p.m. slot with a funny and farflug episode.
Charles battles his nasty ex-wife, Amy turns accident-prone and ...
in some very funny scenes, Gina suddenly becomes an interrogator.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med,” 9 and 10 p.m..
NBC.

For the first time,
NBC loops all three of its Chicago shows. That starts when one of the
firefighters is critically wounded in a knife attack. Cruz asks
police to help search for the temperamental young Freddie. And a fire
call leads to the rescue of somone who apparently attempted suicide.

Then things move to
the hospital, where Dr. Rhodes is accused of being too slow to start
surgery on the stabbing victim. Also, police begin to doubt if there
really was a suicide attempt.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Finding Your Roots.” 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

For modern people,
it can be shattering to take a close, personal look at slavery. In
this beautifully crafted season-opener, Donna Brazille (who led Al
Gore's presidential campaign) and artist Kara Walker become deeply
emotional when hearing stories of their enslaved ancestors.

Then there's Ty
Burrell, the “Modern Family” dad. After hearing family rumors
that he has a black ancestor, he's delighted to learn about her – a
pioneering Oregon homesteader. But he's shaken by the flip side of
the story: Another ancestor was a rapist whose slave had his baby at
13.

Other choices
include:

“Teen Wolf,” 11
a.m. to 10 p.m., MTV. This is a big day for MTV, launching its
“Shannara” epic. Leading into that, it reruns the first half of
the “Teen Wolf” season, then has a new episode at 9. Scott and
Stiles set their differences aside, as they rush to save the sheriff
from the infection.

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Here's another crossover
tale. When the passengers and crew of a private plane are poisoned,
the chief suspect is Abby's brother (Tyler Ritter), a New Orleans
chef. While Gibbs heads to New Orleans to work with Pride on the
investigation, Sebastian goes to Washington to link with Abby (Pauley
Perrete) on the forensics.

“Hollywood Game
Night” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC. This amiable show settles into
its new slot, again with Jane Lynch hosting. Writer-director Kevin
Smith is joined by five actors known for comedies – Dave Foley,
Helen Hunt, Tony Hale, Justin Long and Alyson Hannigan.

“Frontline”
return, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Benjamin Netanyahu
rose to power and controversy with hard-line rhetoric. As Israeli
prime minister, he's clashed often with President Obama, especially
ofer the Iran treaty. This profile interviews people close to both
men.

“Limitless,” 10
p.m., CBS. Bradley Cooper is a guest star on the show he produces.
Eddie Morra – the character he played in the “Limitless” movie
– is a senator now, surviving an assassination attempt. Afraid
people will learn of his use of the superdrug NZT, he wants Brian to
sabotage the investigation.

“The Shannara
Chronicles,” 10 p.m., MTV. For 38 years, Terry Brooks has been
writing epic novels about a world of elves, trolls and a demonic
presence. Now, after the success of HBO's “Game of Thrones,” his
tales are being turned into MTV's most expensive series. Filmed in
New Zealand (as were the “Lord of the Rings” movies), this
focuses on two telegenic young people – a female warrior and a man
who is just learning of his healing powers.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 4


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelor” season-opener, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Ben Higgins is a
small-town Indiana guy, ready for a big-time adventure. After
finishing third on “The Bachelorette,” he's now ABC's 20th
“Bachelor.”

Higgins grew up in
Wabash, a town of 11,000, where he played quarterback, taught Sunday
School and took a missionary trip to Honduras. He sold software in
Denver, finished third on “Bachelorette” ... and now has 28 women
to choose from. That includes identical twins from Las Vegas, a Texas
cowgirl, a lawyer, a dentist, a war veteran ... and, we're told, an
esthetician and a “chicken enthusiast.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Biggest Loser” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Ever since this show
began in 2004, Bob Harper has been “the nice one,” nudging people
into exercise without seeming nasty about it. Now he takes over as
the host. He'll still offer some work-out advice, but most of that
will be handled by returning trainers Dolvett Quince and Jennifer
Widerstrom.

Seven of the duos
are people who know each other, but the eighth provides a fresh
twist: Richard Hatch, the first “Survivor” winner, will be paired
with former “Voice” contestant Erin Willett.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Superstore” and “Telenovela,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
NBC.

On a night of
competing reality shows, these comedies provide a handy counterpoint.
After some advance samplers last month, they settle into their
regular slots with episodes that are silly, but fun.

At the store,
workers have mock Jonah, after finding a mannequin that like him;
when Cheyenne considers giving her future baby up for adoption, two
colleagues push themselves as perfect parents. At the telenovela, Ana
(Eva Longoria) – a Latina who doesn't speak Spanish – has a date
with the network head (Zachary Levi), a non-Latino who speaks it
well. Also, there are rumors of a ghost.

Other choices
include:

“The Notebook”
(2004) and “The Lucky One” (2012), 6 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.
Clearly, all movies made from Nicholas Sparks novels aren't equal.
“Notebook” is masterful and deeply moving; “Lucky One” is
contrived, leaving the audience to shout: “Just tell her, stupid.”

“Superhuman,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The 12 contestants in this special are regular humans
in most areas – except each has one extraordinary skill. Now those
skills – sight, smell, touch, taste, memory, etc. -- are
challenged, with chances to win $100,000. Kal Penn, formerly of
“House” and “Battle Creek” -- hosts.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. The evil Astra has been captured by the DEO, the
organization monitoring extra terrestials. That might be a good thing
... except that now her husband has captured Hank, the DEO head,
leading to a standoff. Also, Kara (who is Supergirl) tries to
convince her boss she isn't.

“Paris Terror
Attack: Charlie Hebdo,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. Thursday will mark the
anniversary of the day terrorists killed 11 people at a satirical
magazine in Paris. This documentary uses interviews and news footage
to trace the three-day search that led to a shoot-out and hostage
rescue.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Life keeps getting complicated for these geniuses. They're
on a rescue mission to Antarctica, where Happy (Jadyn Wong) is lost
in a blizzard.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. After a security guard is killed by
radiation poisoning, Deeks and Kensi go undercover at a former
nuclear-power plant.

“Bachelor Live,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. For the next four Mondays, ABC will follow “The
Bachelor” with a show talking about what just happened. Chris
Harrison will host this, as he does “The Bachelor.”

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Galavant,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Here was one of last
season's great experiments – a musical mini-series, with eight
half-hours telling of knights, damsels and daring. Linking the
“Tangled” team – writer Dan Fogelman, composer Alan Menken and
lyricist Glenn Slater – it was bursting with offbeat wit.

Now we get a
truncated version, with the first and last half-hours, plus the
fourth and sixth ones. It sets up a second season, which will take
the 8-9 p.m. spot on the next five Sundays.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Football, all day, ESPN.

No, those bowl
marathons Thursday and Friday didn't suffice. Now ESPN has four games
in a row.

At noon ET, the
TaxSlayer Bowl has Georgia and Penn State. That's followed by the
Liberty Bowl (Arkansas and Kansas State) at 3:20 p.m., the Alamo Bowl
(Oregon and Texas Christian) at 6;45 and – for the insatiable fan –
the Cactus Bowl (Arizona and West Virginia) at 10:15 p.m. ET.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015), 8
p.m., HBO.

The original
“Marigold” was a surprise hit, bringing grown-ups back to
theaters, in a summer filled with action films. Now this sequel has
much of the charm and fun of the first.

Once skeptical,
Muriel (Maggie Smith) now tries to help Sonny (Dev Patel of “Slumdog
Millionaire”) finance a second hotel. An inspector is coming, but
they don't know who it is. That part of the plot is borrowed from
“Fawlty Towers” and others, but we won't gripe. Directed by John
Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) and filled with British stars
(Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, etc.), this is a delight,

Other choices
include:

“Ash vs. Evil
Dead,” 4:15 to 9:45 p.m., Starz. Here's the entire first season,
with all of its gore, whimsy, action and, at times, humor. The
season-finale – ridding the world of the Evil would bring a steep
cost – is at 9 p.m., rerunning at 9:40, 10:20 and midnight.

“The Grinder,”
7-11 p.m., FX. This sharp comedy got off to a slow start in the
ratings. Now Fox will launch a re-constructed line-up Tuesday,
putting it at 9:30 p.m.; first, cable offers a marathon of what's
happened so far. In the clever pilot at 7, Dean (Rob Lowe) returns to
the family law office, after playing a big-deal lawyer on TV.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Penguin rushes to rescue his mother ... then
plans revenge on Galavan, who had kidnapped her.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. This may be the team's toughest task – passing a psych
test. Also in this rerun, Paige frets when her son is reluctant to go
to his school's Halloween party.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, people have been impersonating
military personnel. The mystery deepens when one has a Navy jacket
issued to someone who was thought to have been killed in Afghanistan.

“Being Evel”
(2015), 9-11:22 p.m., History. This documentary traces the
high-profile life of stunt-star. “Evel” Knievel. It includes
comments from Knievel, George Hamilton (who played him in a 1971
movie) and stunt-guy Johnny Knoxville ... whose “Jackass 3D” is
10 p.m. today on Comedy Central.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Ryan Gosling hosts a rerun, with music from
Leon Bridges.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 1


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Rose Bowl parade, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, ABC, HGTV, Hallmark, RFD and
Univision; 11:30 to 1, NBC.

Still feeling the
aftershocks of New Year's Eve, our heads might want something
pleasant and uncomplicated. That's this parade, with 44 floats, 20
bands, 19 horse units and Ken Burns.

Yes, Burns – who
produces PBS gems – is grand marshal, a spot that has been handled
by the greats ... and by Richard Nixon, Bill Cosby, Paula Deen,
Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog. The National Park Service – which
Burns profiled beautifully – is being honored, celebrating its
100th year.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II:
Football, all day.

The first kick-off
comes before the parade ends. At noon ET on ESPN2, the Outback Bowl
has Northwestern (10-2) and Tennessee (8-4). At 1 p.m. on ABC, the
Citrus Bowl has Michigan (9-3) and Florida (10-3).

More attention,
however, will go to ESPN's triple-header: At 1 p.m. ET, the Fiesta
Bowl with Ohio State (11-1) and Notre Dame (10-2). At 5, the Rose
Bowl has Iowa (12-1) and Stanford (11-2). And at 8:30 p.m. ET, the
Sugar Bowl has Mississippi (9-3) and Oklahoma State (10-2).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVES: “Sherlock,” PBS, or “Cinderella” (1950), ABC
Family, both 9 p.m.

Two classic
characters compete. One is Cinderella, in the dandy Disney cartoon
that includes a hilarious color feud with fairy godmothers, plus the
Oscar-nominated song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”

The other is
Sherlock Holmes, suddenly back in time. Holmes was created in 1887,
but the clever “Masterpiece” version has put him and Dr. Watson
in modern times. Now – just for one movie – they're in 1895, with
a few wry references to how Sherlock tales usually unfold. All of
this should get us in the mood for Sunday's “Masterpiece,” with
the splendid start of the final “Downton Abbey” season.

Other choices today
include:

“Portlandia,” 3
a.m. today to 3 a.m. Thursday, IFC. We can immerse ourselves in the
full experience – 48 consecutive reruns of a neatly offbeat show,
with Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and friends offering sketches of
odd (but well-meaning) folks in Portland, Oregon.

All day, HGTV. Each
New Year's Day is big for HGTV. The parade (which it has
commercial-free) is followed by key series or specials and then the
introduction of a “Dream Home” that one viewer will win. This
year's home, on Florida's Merritt Island, will be introduced at 8 pm.
It's preceded by the parade, “Mexico Life” at 1 p.m., “Caribbean
Life” at 2, tiny-house shows at 3 and “Island Life” at 7.

“Great
Performances,” 7:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). PBS visits
Austria each New Year's Day, for a grand event. Julie Andrews hosts
this one, which includes the Vienna Musikverein and the Vienna Boys
Choir, plus soloists from the Vienna State Ballet.

“iHeartRadio Music
Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. For the third straight night, CW fills
its line-up with a music special. This one – the second half of a
rerun that started Thursday -- has Janet Jackson, Nick Jonas, Blake
Shelton, Puff Daddy, Prince Royce, Fall Out Boy and The Weeknd.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Mike feels his young grandson
should be able to walk home from school alone. Also, Kyle and Ed have
a doomsday-preparations meeting.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a transplanted rerun, Gibbs is on a sea exercise, when a body
is found in the water. The investigation puts him in jeopardy, on a
ship held by pirates.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 and 10 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Grover's best friend says he
saw his wife fall off a cliff, to her death; foul play is suspected.
The second has McGarrett and Danny working on their relationship,
during a stakeout; guest stars include Jon Lovitz, Cloris Leachman
and Max Weinberg.