TV column for Thursday, Nov. 8

“The Good Place,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

When was the last
time you saw a really good situation-comedy episode about the
relationship between determinism and free will? That's quite rare,
but this smart show keep surprising us.

Eleanor (Kristen
Bell) is convinced that everything she does was programmed by her
past. Michael (Ted Danson) disagrees ... and has the footage to make
his point. He's recorded every moment in every variation of her
afterlife. The result is punctuated with quick, clever scenes.


II: “Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Who knew that jigsaw
puzzles and closet-cleaning could be good for the soul? “Mom” --
that rare combination of big laughs and capsule human insights –
surprises us that way.

Marjorie, newly
widowed, lures Bonnie into a puzzle day; Jill, perpetually wealthy,
lures Christy and Wendy into cleaning her mega-closet. Alongside the
fairly good humor, we get fresh views of women who could easily have
become comedy cliches.

“The Big Bang Theory” and “Murphy Brown,” 8 and 9:30 p.m.,

“Murphy” has
been mildly disappointing so far, but we can't resist a guest-star
line-up like this: Charles Kimbrough is back as retired anchorman Jim
Dial, getting a lifetime award. Other guest stars are Katie Couric,
John Larroquette and Bette Midler -- repeating her long-ago role as
Murphy's worst secretary.

That's on a night
that starts with the never-disappointing “Big Bang”; it brings
back Amy's wonderfully mismatched parents, played by Oscar-winner
Kathy Bates and silent magician Teller. The latter is distracted by
(ironically) Howard's magic tricks, so Sheldon must bond with Bates'
stern character.


ALTERNATIVE: “Legacies,” 9 p.m., CW.

Like many teens,
Lizzie is having a really bad day. She fought with her dad, got
assigned trash pick-up and had a drink spilled on her. Also, a
gargoyle came to life and attacked her.

All of that follows
last week's episode, when the Savatore School kids – frustrated
because they couldn't reveal their powers – started a fight at the
football game. So far, “Legacies” is neatly juggling a teen soap
opera and a high-octane (and sometimes gory) special-effects

Other choices

“The Social
Network” (2010), 7:17 p.m., Starz. As Facebook faces fresh crises,
here's Aaron Sorkin's brilliantly written film about its early days.
That's followed at 9:21 p.m. by “Pennant Fever,” which also feels
current: In an amiable comedy, Jimmy Fallon plays a Red Sox fan
during a pennant chase.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Preparing to launch her foundation, Catherine (Debbie
Allen) sets a secret meeting with Meredith and Koracick. Also, a
nurse, seven months pregnant, collapses.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Amy learns she doesn't have any maternity leave. Also,
Jonah and Garrett are in charge of hiring seasonal help; Eden Sher,
who was the oft-failing Sue in “The Middle,” guests.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. It's a life-changing moment for Sheldon – his first
video game.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Another show comes up with a key guest star.
This one is Jon Cryer, who replaces Jack in a play Karen is
producing. Also, Will learns that Grace's lover (David Schwimmer) has
a child he hasn't told her about

“How To Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. To appease their moms, Conner and
Oliver seek a church for their wedding. Also, Annalise starts to
doubt the governor's dedication to her cause.
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