TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

Back in the1940s and
'50s, this terrific film reminds us, we looked for quick solutions.
The atom bomb ended World War II; DDT conquered malaria and typhus.
Soon, Americans obsessed on pesticides; they sprayed them on crops,
kids, schools and pools, with little testing of the long-range
effects.

The lone voice of
caution came from Rachel Carson. After decades of day jobs to support
her family, she had finally become a popular author. Her “Silent
Spring” mined obscure science reports about the dangers. Tonight's
film doubles as great biography and a portrait of a nation changing
its priorities.

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

Last week was huge
for this well-crafted show: It jumped to No. 5 in the Nielsen
ratings, won a People's Choice Award (favorite new drama) and was
renewed for two seasons.

And tonight? All we
know is that series creator Dan Fogelman says it's “a big episode”;
also, Chrissy Metz, as Kate, has a powerhouse scene. She's “going
through this kind of thearapeutic exercise class. (Metz is) wonderful
in the episode,” Fogelman said. There's also a key romantic
decision by Kevin and trouble at work for Randall. In flashbacks,
their parents try a separate 10th birthday party for each
kid.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The New Edition Story,” 9-11 p.m., BET.

This zesty story
starts with a chaotic night in 1997: Bobby Brown was opening for the
group (New Edition) that had fired him. He went on and on, until
others tried to tug him away; a fight followed.

It was a bizarre
moment ... especially when you consider the start. Tonight, launching
a three-day mini-series, we see youthful idealism and musical joy.
In a tough Boston neightborhood, kids barely into their teens won a
talent contest and signed with Maurice Starr. They had hit records, a
successful tour ... and virtually no money. It was the start of a
journey that wouild mix personal chaos and buoyant music.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Outsiders” season-opener, 9 p.m., WGN America,
rerunning at 10 and 11.

In the first season,
battle lines hardened. The mountain is owned by the coal company, but
has been occupied for generations by the Farrells, who have their own
rules. “Big Foster” (David Morse) took charge after killing his
mother. Now he's believed to be dead and his maybe-widow may take
over.

Things start with a
fierce battle – mostly imagined, it turns out – followed by
crises for “Lil Foster” (Ryan Hurst) and others. It's a strong
start, with high stakes and high-octane characters.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a change-of-pace, this focuses on Jimmy Palmer, who is
Ducky's assistant medical examiner. After a hit-and-run probe, he
ends up on a ledge with a stranger who may jump.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. Aly (Nasim Pedrad) is back and Winston – her boyfriend
and former police partner -- throws a surprise party. Also, Jess and
Party learn something about themselves during a hike.

“The Mick,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. Barely removed from being a low-life drifter, Mick pursues
a rich businessman. He quickly learns she's not the prize he'd
expected.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Aubrey faces a moral dilemma, when he learns his dad is back.
Also, Booth and Brennan investigate the murder of someone from their
past.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Here's a new crisis for Pride (Scott
Bakula): He's on a deep-sea oil rig that's on the verge of exploding.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. This wraps up a three-week, six-hour series. Last week
viewed the political gridlock that gripped most of the Obama years;
tonight analyzes how Donald Trump managed to win.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Quantico” return, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

After struggling in
a tough Sunday slot, “Quantico” finally gets a break – a comfy
place behind “The Bachelor” on Mondays. This episode that seems
perfect for the switch.

It's long on
exposition; Alex (Priyanka Chopra) is in custody, with interrogation
that semi-explains a way-too-tangled plot. It's also slick and sexy;.
These CIA recruits hear their trainer (Blair Underwood) give a crisp
message about the productive use of seduction. Then they're sent to a
wedding party to seduce specific people. The result is sleek, sensual
and, ultimately, even more tangled than usual.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30, CBS.

Next week, CBS gives
a proper send-off to “The Odd Couple,” airing its last two
episodes back-to-back. That leaves a hole tonight ... which, barring
a late change, will be filled by this terrific rerun.

Leonard and Penny
are ready for their second wedding, this time for family and friends.
We meet her angst-ridden mother (Katey Sagal) and drug-dealing
brother (Jack McBrayer). We'd already met his dad (Judd Hirsch) ...
who promptly spent the night with Sheldon's mom (Laurie Metcalf) –
to the disapproval of his ex-wife (Christine Baranski). Those guest
stars total six Emmys and immense talent.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Back in 1964, the
story drew international furor: Kitty Genovese was beaten and killed,
while 38 New Yorkers watched and failed to intervene, or even to call
police. Bill Genovese, her brother, was so dismayed that he proved
his own valor by going to Vietnam, where he lost both legs.

But then came doubts
about the story. Bill began an 11-year search, finding fresh
information about his sister, the killer and the neighbors; he also
found that the New York Times, known for its accuracy, was simply
wrong. This documentary is clumsy and poorly crafted, but has a
compelling story to tell.

Other choices
include:

“Celebrity
Apprentice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, the men-vs.-women concept
vanished: The women lost for the fourth time in five contests, with
Kyle Richards ousted; the teams were reshuffled, with Jon Lovitz
booted. Tonight, the teams work on a health-food brand and a Harry
Potter attraction.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. After sending two of the women home, Nick Viall takes
the others to his home town of Waukesha, Wis. One has a romantic date
... and most are put to work on a farm.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane finds it hard to resist meddling in other people's
relationships ... especially anything involving her mother.

“The Story of
God,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. In last week's season-opener
(rerunning at 8 p.m.), this richly crafted series viewed people who
are considered “the chosen one.” Tonight, Morgan Freeman finds
varying ideas about Heaven and Hell.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. Villains from two eras combine, when Flynn rides with
Jesse James. To catch them, the team links with a famous sheriff.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A man is teetering at the edge of an enormous sinkhole ...
which, alas, could destroy Los Angeles' water supply.

“Summer House,”
10 p.m., Bravo. In last week's series opener, lots of great-looking
people partied and had sex. Of course, that's mostly what happened in
the previous season-opener of “Vanderpump Rules” (9 p.m. Mondays,
Bravo). There may be a trend here.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mercy Street” season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

Chaos keeps bubblng
in this Virginia mansion, which was converted into a Union hospital.
The dentist (a Confederate spy) almost bombed President Lincoln, then
attacked someone who detected him. As doctors rush to save the
victim, Allan Pinkerton (head of Union intelligence) stares and
glowers.

Meanwhile, Dr.
Summers frets about losing his new Washington job. Also, an activist
arrives to help her fellow ex-slaves. There's more, including a
furtive romance. Much of this is too frantic, too overwrought ... yet
holds our interest, with compelling characters in mid-crisis.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 3:05 pm. ET Fox, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS.

It's high-stakes
football, with the winners going to the Super Bowl. The first could
be an air war. Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons – the top-scoring team
by 100 points – host the Green Bay Packers, who have a troubled
pass defense, but a great quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and an
eight-game winning streak.

Then Tom Brady's New
England Patriots – with a lofty 15-2 record – host the Pittsburgh
Steelers, who rode a tough ground game to last week's no-touchdown,
18-16 win over Kansas City.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Homeland,” 9 p.m., Showtime.

Carrie (Claire
Danes) has put her old life behind her now. She's out of the CIA,
running a defencants' law firm and spending time with her daughter.
Except, of course, that her old life never goes away.

The legal work is
painful, defending a young man who has a pro-terrorist Web site.
Also, Carrie may or may not be advising the female president-elect.
(That's asked and answered in this hour.) And she's temporarily
caring for Quinn, the ex-colleague with a shattered mind and troubled
soul. That leads to tonight's final scene, which reminds us that
Danes may be the best drama actress of her generation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Victoria,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Enough of the
life-and-death world of “Homeland” and “Mercy Street.” It's
time for some fun, watching the would-be romances of the rich and
foolish.

The teen queen says
she wants to remain single; other royals seem determined to make a
match. Most of the prospects are dim; then there's Albert, an obscure
German prince with an interesting mind. Nothing is decided tonight,
but it's fun watching Jenna Coleman field the possibilites.

Other choices
include:

“Jesse Stone”
movies, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Skillfully written, directed and acted, these films offer subtle
elegance, with Tom Selleck as a small-town police chief. Here are the
seven most-recent ones, from “Death in Paradise” (2006) to “Lost
in Paradise” (2015).

Figure-skating, 4-6
p.m. ET, NBC. The women had the primetime spotlight Saturday. Now the
men compete for their U.S. championships ... at a time when most
viewers will obsess on football.

“Ted” (2012),
8:30-11 p.m., NBC. Seth MacFarlane is big on Sundays, with Fox
cartoons (including “Family Guy” at 9 p.m. today); NBC counters
with a movie – a teddy bear comes to life – he wrote, directed
and co-starred in. Other top movies include the brilliant “Gone
Girl” (2014) at 8 p.m. on FX and the hilarious “Pink Panther”
(1963) and its sequel, at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“The Young Pope,”
9 p.m., HBO. The first public homily by Pope Pius XIII leaves
confusion. Now he asks Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) to present his
vision.

“Quantico,”
10 p.m. Sunday, ABC. On Monday, this moves to its new timeslot, a
comfy one behind “The Bachelor.” First, here's a final Sunday
rerun (nudging the “Conviction” finale back to next Sunday). Alex
and her colleagues scramble to destroy the biological weapon.

Hunted,”
10 p.m. ET, CBS (or later, with football overrun). CBS takes
advantage of the big football lead-in to launch
this
reality show,
which then
moves to Wednesdays.Think of it as high-tech hide-and-seek: Nine
teams try to disappear in the U.S., while skilled pros try to find
them.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Beaches,” 8 p.m., Lifetimem rerunning at 12:02 a.m.

Back in 1988,
“Beaches” stirred big emotions and big box-office. It offerered
the ups and downs of a friendship between a rich kid and a
hard-scrabble singer.

Now it's been remade
with Nia Long and Idina Menzel. The script is fairly good – even if
some of the fights do seem contrived – and Allison Anders, once a
favorite in indie-movie circles, has directed it beautifully. Menzel
beautifully sings two songs from the original movie -- “Wind
Beneath My Wings” and the 1930s “The Glory of Love” -- plus a
gorgeous new one, “The Last Time.”

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Figure-skating, NBC,

It's time for the
U.S. Figure Skating Championships. This afternoon (3-6 p.m. ET), we
have the finals for pairs and dance. Tonight (8-11 p.m.) is the big
draw – the women's finals, with all of last year's medalists
(Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds, Ashley Wagner) returning.

The men, as usual,
get a lesser spot. That's from 4-6 p.m. ET Sunday.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
R&B groups, 12:54 to 9:55 p.m., BET.

On Tuesday, BET will
launch an ambitious mini-series about New Edition. First, here's a
nine-hour marathon of films about rhythm-&-blues groups, real and
fictional.

First is a
collection of past performances, with “The 'Soul Train' Life of New
Edition.” At 2:08 p.m. is “The Temptations,” the 1998 NBC mini
about the Motown group. And at 6:36 p.m. is “The Five Hearbeats”
(1991); Robert Townsend co-wrote (with Keenen Ivory Wayans), directed
and starred in this story of a fictional group's rise and fall.

Other choices
include:

“RED” (2010) and
“RED 2” (2013), 6 and 8:30 p.m., USA. Bruce Willis plays a spy –
the licensed-to-kill sort – who tries to retire to suburbia.
Retirement isn't an option, it seems; these gems have great
supporting casts, including Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and
Mary-Louise Parker.

More movies, all
night. At 6 p.m., Sundance has the powerhouse drama of Rob Reiner's
“A Few Good Men” (1992). At 7, AMC has the epic “Titanic”
(1997). At 8, TNT has the Sandra/Bullock/George Clooney “Gravity”
(2013), which dominated the technical Academy Award categories and
was nominated for best picture. And at 9:25 on Freeform, Menzel and
others soar in “Frozen.”

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Negotiations are difficult with bank robbers who don't
want cash.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a Christmas episode – yes, this is a rerun –
Riggs flashes back to past holidays with his late wife; Murtaugh
grumbles about his neighbor's decorations. They also combine to probe
a murder linked to a drug lord's deranged nephew.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a quick rerun of Wednesday's episode, Gladys Knight hosts a
hair show, where the emerging girl group performs one of her classic
songs.

“Beaches: The
After Show,” 10:03 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a look back at the movie
and its music.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On the day after the inauguration, Aziz
Ansari hosts a new “SNL,” with Big Sean as his music guest.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 20


TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Presidential inauguration.

The actual
swearing-in will be at noon ET, but the coverage will go on and on.
We can expect the cable news channels to obsess (as is their habit),
but the broadcast channels will also be busy.

Subject to
last-minute changes, CBS plans to go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., NBC from
10 to 3, ABC and Fox from 11 to 4. There's much more, from the
morning talk shows to the newscasts and into prime time. At 8 p.m.,
CBS has an hour; at 10, ABC has an hour and NBC has the flexibility
of “Dateline.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Landmarks Live in Concert” debut, 9 p.m., PBS.

Let's give PBS
credit for injecting performance – music, dance, theater, more –
into one of TV's weakest nights. Now it has a series of concerts,
each in a key location fot the singer.

That starts with
Alicia Keys in New York, which is logical. That's her home town and
the subject of “Empire State of Mind,” which she sang with Jay-Z;
the song was No. 1 for five weeks and won two of her 15 Grammys.
Tonight, she performs in several spots, including the Apollo Theatre.
Next week is Brad Paisley in West Virginia; six more will be this
summer, including Andrea Bocelli in Italy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Emerald City,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Stefanie Martini is
a young British actress on a mini-series spree. In her native
England, she's superb as the star of “Doctor Thorne” and the
upcoming “Prime Suspect” prequel. And in tonight's final minutes,
we meet her as Lady Ev, stepping into the life of a transformed
Jason.

This is a “Wizard
of Oz” reboot that mixes gorgeous visuals with a dark and tangled
story. Tonight, Dorothy tries to help a troubled girl, the Wizard
(Vincent D'Onofrio) has a disturbing visit to a village and young Tip
finds herself tugged by the opposite forces of Glinda (Joely
Richardson) and West.

Other choices
include:

“Ghostbusters”
(1984), 3:15 p.m. ET, IFC. From the seriousness of Inauguration Day,
we can switch to some jaunty fun. This reruns at 10:30 p.m. and 3:15
a.m. ET, with its sequel (1989) at 8, 12:45 and 5:30. Other strong
choices are at 7 -- “Forrest Gump” (1994) on AMC, “Julie &
Julia” (2009) on Pop.

“Grimm,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Life gets complicated when the mayor-elect is (literally) a
monster. Now Nick has a fresh plan to stop Capt. Renard's rise. Also,
Eve and Rosalind rush to get the spell ready.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mandy's parents want her to show less
public affection with her new husband Kyle. She'll only do it if they
also be more discreet.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Yvette Nicole Brown, the “Community” and “Odd
Couple” co-star, guests as the producer of a TV health show. She
follows Ken around ... and has him doubting his career.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW. When the Santa Ana winds blow into
town, people start questioning their relationships. Rebecca even
wonders if Josh is really the guy for her.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Reflecting real events from 1995, a suspect seeks
sanctuary from the “Nation of Hawai'i.” The result leaves the
team in conflict with a U.S. marshal (Lou Diamond Phillips).

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Here's bad timing: Someone tries a robbery while Jamie
and his police partner are on a date. Meanwhile, Jamie's brother
faces a child-abuse case that's complicated by diplomatic immunity;
their dad, the police commissioner, intervenes without jurisdiction.