TV column for Friday, Oct. 23

“Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The “Billy Elliot”
movie (2000), with a boy savoring ballet in a macho mining town, was
a gem. It was turned into a Tony-winning musical, which reaches TV
here and is first-rate ... with drawbacks.

Elton John and Lee
Hall provided resounding songs, making great use of the striking
miners for a booming male chorus. Hall's book is surprisingly dark,
however, and director Stephen Daldry reduces those miners to
cartoonish oafs, before reversing that after intermission. The
dancing is splendid, but quite sparse until the extra finale – a
sensational number mashing 25 gifted actors who have been Billy.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Jay Leno is back to
what he seems to savor – buying cars, fixing cars, talking about
cars. His “Jay Leno's Garage” is on CNBC, with new eisodes at 10
p.m. Wednesdays and reruns often ... including overnight tonight at 4
a.m.; and now he plays a car buff here.

Mike (Tim Allen) is
delighted to get a 1967 Impala as a present. Then the previous owner
(Leno) keeps dropping by with spare parts and unrequested advice.

ALTERNATIVE: “Belief,” 8 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

This richly crafted
series is near its finish now. On the sixth of seven nights, we see
people go to extremes, mentally and physically. In Morocco, a teen
works toward reciiting all 80,000 words of the Qur'an; in France and
Spain, a 65-year-old hopes to re-connect with Catholicism in a
500-mile walk.

Another story views
too teens – a Jewish cellist and a Muslim flutist – brought
together by an Israeli orchestra. And in China, a young monk masters
kung fu, but has trouble with the spiritual levels.

Other choices

II” (1981), 7:30 p.m., AMC. We're back to that same Halloween
night, with the killer still loose and Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) in
danger. John Carpenter didn't direct the sequel, but he co-produced
it, created a first-rate music score and co-wrote it, providing a
terrific finish to a long night.

8 p.m., Fox. This reruns an hour with conflicting extremes. Visually,
“Gothan” is as striking as ever. Still, the main story -- a
hostage situation at a charity fundraiser – is prolonged and

“Truth Be Told,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Desperate for quick attention, comedies often
overload early episodes with sex talk, sometimes clever and often
not. Last week's opener had a dim-witted debate over whether the
babysitter was a porn star. Now the guys ponder lying to their wives
about going to the Adult Films Awards; also, a wife fumes when women
send nude photos to her husband.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Will Yun Lee (“The Wolverine”) plays the ex-boyfriend
of Ken's wife. Now the guy is a hot and successful doctor ... and Ken
is supposed to speak at a tribute for him.

“Rosewood,” 9
p.m., Fox. Remember the bad old cop shows, where the boss kept
getting in the way and then some idiot made an unforced confession?
That happens (clumsily) in this awful rerun.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. We can probably expect this one to be high-octane. The
team is racing in a “tough mudder” competition. It's also
interrogating stunt bikers, searching for the killer who escaped by
jumping his motorcycle across rooftops.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny joins the hunt for escaped convicts, after
learning that one of them is someone he helped wrongfully convict.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 22

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Lots of elements are
stuffed inside a busy murder mystery. People talk a little about
“Project Runway” and a lot about fantasy football; they meet the
new lab assistant – a wise soul played Betty White, 93.

One story –
involving sexual dystfunction, nature and a dart gun – gets way too
silly; another – Brennan has killed a key character in her novel –
keeps bouncing back cleverly. And yes, in the middle of all these
agreeable diversions, there's a murder story that makes sense.

“Project Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime, repeating at 11:02.

Now that “Bones”
has politely mentioned “Runway,” we can try it. Previous episodes
rerun from 4-9 p.m., leading us to a key point: The final four
designers go to Los Angeles, to create looks worthy of red-carpet
use. Then judges will decided who goes to New York's Fashion Week for
the two-part finale.

Remaining are Edmond
Newton, 37; Kelly Dempsey, 31; Candice Cuoco, 27; and Ashley Nell
Tipton, 23 ... who can't quite become the show's youngest winner.
That distinction goes to Christian Siriano, this week's guest judge.
He was 22 when he won in 2008; now he has a $5-million-a-year fashion

ALTERNATIVE: “Grey's Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC.

It's time for the
big dinner party that the half-sisters, Meredith and Maggie, almost
forgot they were hosting. Maggie can redeem herself by cooking ...
except she's suddenly called to the hospital.

So April takes over
the kitchen ... partly so she can avoid Jackson. Meanwhile, Arizona
frets about the new girlfriend of her ex-lover Callie. Life is
complicated, even when no one is busy saving lives.

Other choices

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET preview and 8:30 kick-off, CBS. Before the season started, this
looked promising, with Seattle (which had come within an interception
of winning the Super Bowl) visiting San Francisco (8-8 last year).
Alas, both are mired in the bottom with 2-4 records; the 49ers are
dead-last in scoring, at less than 17 points a game.

“Heroes Reborn,”
8 p.m., NBC. As played by Masi Oka, Hiro was one of the best
characters in the original “Heroes.” Now he finally returns, with
the world in danger.

“Hunger Games”
(2012), 8 p.m., ABC Family. Jennifer Lawrence's box-office champion
leads a strong movie night for cable. The taut “Fugitive” (1993)
is at 9 p.m. on Pop; Starz has a mismatched double-feature: Tim
Burton's stylish “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) is at 7:10 p.m. and
“Still Alice” (2014) -- with Julianne Moore's Oscar-winning work
as someone with early-onset Alzheimer's -- is at 9.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Red and Liz keep scrambling to avoid authorities and
clear her name. Now they need to question a woman who specializes in
executing revenge fantasies.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. Things are really uncomfortable now. A new monster
targets children; also, Pandora unleashes her most evil force yet.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Overwhelmed by her crisis, Olivia turns to an unusual
source. Meanwhile, Mellie and Cyrus continue to maneuver from the

“How to Get Away
with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Wes pushes to learn what happened to
Rebecca, he has an explosive confrontation. Also, Asher learns that
truth is elusive when you're with Annalise.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 21

“Nature: Pets: Wild at Heart,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

Sure, our pets are
descended from centuries of indoor living. Still, they have the
skills and instincts their ancestors needed to survive in the wild.
This fun two-parter offers dandy, hidden-camera proof.

Puppies practice
their pack-attack skills by tearing at pillows. A gerbil dives into a
tunnel, because that's how his kin survived in the desert. A cat
obsesses on hunting rats ... even though he has no desire to eat
them; instead, he brings them inside, alive, as his living-room

MUSTN'T SEE: “Empire” (9 p.m.) and “Rosewood” (8 p.m.), Fox.

As the intra-family
duel between record labels grows, “Empire” remains thoroughly
intriguing. On one side is Lucious Lyon's Empire label, with his son
Jamal working on new material with Ne-Yo. On the other is the upstart
Dynasty label, led by Lucious' ex-wife Cookie. Hakeem (Jamal's
brother) is creating its anthem and romancing the lead singer of its
new girl group.

Oddly, this smart
show is paired with the lunk-headed “Rosewood.” Last week had the
worst traditions of bad cop shows, including an unforced confession
and a boss who doesn't care about catching crooks.

ALTERNATIVE: Pre-Halloween deluge, cable.

In a previous
millennium, AMC and ABC Family introduced “Fearfest” and “13
Days of Halloween,” showing that the holiday can be frightful or
fun. Now they're in their 19th and 17th years,

AMC stays scary with
“The Amityville Horror” (1979) at 8 p.m.; ABC Family goes light
with the lame “Casper” (1995) at 5 p.m., the excellent “Addams
Family” (1991) at 7 and its sequel (1993) at 9. Other

networks range from
the pleasant “Twitches” (2005, with young women learning they are
twins with magic powers) at 7 p.m. on Disney to the fierce “American
Horror Story” at 10 p.m. on FX.

Other choices

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. People lose many things (notes, inhibitions, virginity) in
college. Only Sue, however, can manage to lose a brother. Brick is
visiting when she becomes distracted by a guy.

debut, 8 p.m., Game Show Network. Game shows keep finding nasty fates
for people who fail; they slime them or shoot them down a trap door
or whatever. This one traps them in an elevator.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Andy Karl is known for
musicals, on Broadway (eight of them, with a Tony nomination for
starring in “Rocky”) and the movie “Joyful Noise.” Now he
arrives as the new poliuce sergeant, in a case that involves Rollins'
fugitive sister.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Claire finds it's not easy to bring Haley and Alex to
“Take Your Daughter to Work” day. Meanwhile, Gloria's jury duty
leaves Jay with pre-school duties.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. This family usually devotes its Sundays to sports and to
preparing for SAT tests. Now an invitation to go to church leads to
surprising aftershocks.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Cress Williams (“Hart of Dixie”) arrives as the
surgeon. After getting the job (with the help of his estranged dad,
Dr. Guthrie), he soon clashes with Leanne. Meanwhile, Christa (Bonnie
Somerville) is performing a procedure on an infant, for the first
time since her own son's death.

“Chicago, P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Cases range from the trivial – an upscale dognapping
– to the tense: Voight is convinced that an attempt to kill him was
done by someone he put behind bars long ago.


TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 20

“It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Toy Story of
Terror,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Yes, TV has decided
it's already Halloween time, with nasty movies and more. But there's
also a small niche for family fun; here are two animated specials,
reflecting different eras.

The first (from
1966) is mild and modest, with the quiet pain of Linus' pumpkin-path
ordeal. The second (2013) is quicker and funnier. At an eerie motel,
toys start to disappear; the survivors band together. Carl Weathers
(as Combat Carl) joins the regulars, led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

Light-but-creepy series, 9 p.m., several channels.

“Scream Queens”
(Fox) has the frightened sorority sisters holding a slumber party ...
which, of course, some won't survive. “Stitchers” (ABC Family)
has a college student who can be “stitched” into dead people's
memories, solving cases; tonight, a Halloween party is interrupted by
a kidnapping case.

That idea –
getting memories from the deceased – is in “iZombie” (CW) ...
but Liv does it by eating victims' brains and adding their traits.
Now she munches a “trophy wife” and turns fashion-conscious.

ALTERNATIVE: “From Dusk Til Dawn,” 10 p.m., El Rey.

In real life, actor
Wilmer Valderrama and singer-actress Demi Lovato have been together
for years. So now she joins him for the season's final two episodes.

He plays tough
Carlos Madrigal, trying to take control of a powerful evil; she
arrives tonight as Maia, his sexy (and lethal) sidekick. Also
arriving is Gary Busey, whose son Jake is a regular on the show. Jake
plays Professor Aidan Tanner; his dad plays a miner who is determined
and (of course) troubled.

Other choices

“Tremors” films,
6 p.m. to 3 a.m., AMC. This network is blitzing us with two weeks of
horror. Tonight, underground-creatures films are at 6 p.m. (1990), 8
p.m. (1996), 10:15 (2001) and 12:45 a.m. (2004). On Sundays it has
“Walking Dead” ... which has reruns at 8 and 9 p.m. today on

and “The Grinder,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. With ABC's comedies
(“Muppets” and “Fresh Off the Boat”) pre-empted tonight, try
these well-conceived shows. First, Jimmy (John Stamos) throws a
big-deal party, to make up for missing his granddaughter's second
birthday. Then Stewart (Fred Savage) frets that people only like him
because of his TV-star brother (Rob Lowe).

8 p.m., CBS. This is one of the rare times when Abby leaves her lab.
She may regret it; gunmen take over a building, leaving her trapped,
with no way to reach the outside world.

New Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS An Australian lieutenant, key to nuclear
negotiations, has been killed in New Orleans. Now an Aussie
investigator arrives to help work the case.

of SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. After reluctantly sharing information with
the ATCU (Advanced Threat Containment Unit), Coulson leads a search
for the inhuman who's killing other inhumans.

9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here's a long look at one of
the most divisive issues in the presidential campaign. It views
ongoing negotiations aimed at immigration reform.

Fire,” 10 p.m., NBC. Severide reluctantly adjusts to Patterson, who
replaced him as commander. Higher up, Boden's job is on the line,
pending an internal investigation.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 19

“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week's
brilliant opener plunked a small-town, Minnesota couple into a bloody
mess. Rye Gerhardt killed three people in a diner, then stumbled into
a car driven by Peggy Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst) ... who simply kept
going. Her husband, Ed the butcher, ended up confronting Rye in the

Now Ed deals with
the body. The Gerhardts – in a power struggle with each other and
outsiders – search for Rye. And a local cop (Ted Danson) and his
state-trooper son-in-law (Patrick Wilson) investigate. Like the
previous “Fargo” miniseries, this is droll, odd and wonderfully

II: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

A few scenes here
remind us how great last week's debut was. Others remind us how
difficult it is to maintain that quality in an hourlong comedy (with
music and drama) each week.

The hilarious
opening song explains the notion: Rebecca (Rachel Green, who
co-writes the show and the songs) was a big-time lawyer who chucked
it all to move to the California town where her long-ago boyfriend
lives. Now she sees his gorgeous girlfriend ... and somehow decides
to befriend her. Some moments seem stretched and belabored; others –
especially the two music numbers – are terrific.

ALTERNATIVE: “Belief,” 8 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

Jordan Richter was a
hot young California skateboarder. At 15, he was featured in a 1991
Spike Jonze documentary; at 16 he turned pro ... and at 19 he seemed
to disappear. There were drug problems (which also plagued his
parents) and more; he retreated, sampled religions and converted to

Now he's returned to
being a skater, teacher and park designer; this hour closes with his
first trip to Mecca, joining two million pilgrims. That wraps an
episode that has a painful story of love after a debilitating crash,
then has a sweet look at a touch-free romance among Hasidic Jews.

Other choices

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The battle round continues, tonight and Tuesday.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. There was no elimination last week, when
partners were switched. Now we'll learn who's out, combining two
weeks of scores. For judges last week, Paula Deen were at the bottom;
Alexa PenaVega, suddenly paired with Derek Hough, was a perfect 10.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. The break-up of Sheldon and Amy has sparked
some great comedy this fall. Now the guys take fencing lessons from
Barry Kripke ... who expresses an interest in Amy. Meanwhile, she and
Penny and Bernadette help Stuart attract women to the comic book

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30, CBS. Teen-aged Tyler brings home a gorgeous girlfriend ... and
his parents soon make things awkward. Also, his sister gets a new
cell phone (behind her parents' backs) from her grandfather. And an
annoying colleague spots Matt romancing his girlfriend, their

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Sometimes, saving the world can get silly. To disable a
nuclear missile, the team must don odd costumes and join a “Super
Fun Guys” movie being filmed in Kazakhstan.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane is finally content with her baby, who was kidnapped
and quickly retrieved. More complicated is her love triangle with
Michael (her ex-fiance) and Rafael (the baby's father by accidental
insemination). Menwhile, her dad (the TV star) and mom could be sued
for missing a Las Vegas appearance; the solution is to perform on a
cruise ship.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. A standard hostage crisis suddenly has international
repercussions. The FBI and CIA collide, and their are doubts about
trusting Jane.