Daily Best Bets

Best-bets for Jan. 12: Octopus is a fine houseguest

1) “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS. Many teens might be expected to walk the dog or feed the cat; Laurel Scheel may have been the only one to feed and play with the octopus. Her dad, David, is a professor at Alaska Pacific University. After years of standard research, he went a step further – keeping an octopus named Heidi (shown here) in a tank in his house. Heidi surprised him by solving some obstacles, bonding (especially with Laurel) and watching TV. This rerun is light and entertaining, but also has nuggets of information. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan.10: hot football or frozen Texas

1) Football, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN2. Five weeks ago, two powerhouse teams collided; Alabama beat Georgia, 41-24, for the SEC championship. Now they do it again, for the national title, with no clear-cut favoite. Outside of that game, Georgia is 13-0, with an average score of 48-7; Alabama (shown here) is 12-1, with a 41-18 average. Tonight, one will become champion. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 9: lots of openers, great and small

1) “All Creatures Great and Small” season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS. This gentle, seven-episode season gets off to a great start. James is back home in Scotland, helping a local veterinarian; returning to England, he faces instant drama. There’s his unspoken love for Helen (they’re shown here),  who called of her wedding with Hugh, a rich land-owner; plus a fresh crisis involving her little sister. At the vet office, there’s humor (involving a dead bird) and trouble: Siegfried is hiding the fact that Tristan hasn’t yet graduated from vet school. Read more…

Week’s top-10 for Jan. 10: Superheroes & football heroes

1) Football. The college season ends today … but the pros are just starting their month-long trek to the Super Bowl. First is the college championship game (8 p.m.ET today on ESPN and ESPN2), which is simply a rematch of the SEC championship game. Alabama beat Georgia 41-24 in that one; in the rest of the season, Georgia is 13-0, with an average score of 48-7; Alabama (shown here) is 12-1, with a 41-18 average. Then the NFL takes over. It has two games Saturday, three more on Sunday and one next Monday. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 8: fierce battles in Arabia and on the football field

1) “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here’s a sweeping adventure, with deep characters and the true story of an Englishman who led Arab revolutionaries. The film won seven Oscars, including best picture and director (David Lean).It also drew nominations for Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif (they’re shown here) and for the script, written by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson — who was then anonymous, because of blacklisting. The American Film Institute puts it at No. 7 on its all-time list. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 7: stars on ice and stage

1) Figure skating,” 8-11 p.m., NBC. The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are in Nashville this week, with Olympic spots at stake. Here’s the women’s free-skate, with no clear-cut favorite. Current champion Bradie Tennell has had injuries; others include two-time champ Alysa Lieu (shown here) and 2018 Olympian Karen Chen. NBC also has coverage at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with Olympic choices announced. There’s more on the USA Network and on Peacock. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 6: tales of rage in 1955 and 2021

1) “Women of the Movement” debut, 8-10 p.m., ABC. Once a star student, Mamie Till became a young mother in Chicago. In the summer of 1955, she reluctantly let her son Emmett, 14, visit his cousins in Mississippi; he was soon abducted and killed, in a case that spurred the civil rights movement. His mother became a teacher (with bachelor and master degrees) and an activist; her story (shown here, with Adrienne Warren and Cedric Joe) is told in this six-hour, three-week mini-series and in a documentary at 10:01 p.m. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 5: new “Sam,” interrupted “Race”

1) “Good Sam” debut, 10 p.m. CBS. Shows used to stir conflict simply by having a female boss. For “Prime Suspect,” for instance, that meant instant distrust. Now a drama needs more: Samantha (Sophia Bush, 39) is young to be the chief of surgery. One of her underlings (Jason Isaacs, 58), emerged from a coma, is the former chief … and a noted surgeon …. and her father. (They’re shown here.) That sets the groundwork for strong drama and occasional humor. The opener is entertaining, despite way too much medical jargon. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 4: TV’s top shows return

1) “This Is Us” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC. From its first episode, this has been a rarity – a drama with twists, surprises and deep human emotions. Now its sixth and final season starts with lives in flux. In last year’s season-finale, Kevin’s wedding fell through and we saw signs that his sister Kate will lose her marriage. Tonight, they gather with their adoptive brother Randall (shown here with  Kevin in an earlier episode), to mark their 41st birthday. Read more…