TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 16

“Black Lightning” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

For years, Jefferson
Pierce unleashed rage and lightning (literally) on the crooks in his
town. That made little dent on crime, but did huge damage to his
soul, his psyche and his family life. He set it aside and focused on
being a good dad and a great school principal.

But now, nine years
later, crime has intruded on his daughters. Despite his ex-wife's
warnings, he may return to his days as Black Lightning. The result is
surprisingly well-made; like CBS' “S.W.A.T.”, it manages to
juggle boom-bang action with a strong sense of community and black
lives that matter.

“LA to Vegas,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For decades, actors
Dylan McDermott and Durmot Mulroney have been confused for each
other. There was even a “Saturday Night Live” sketch about it.
Now, for the first time, they share an episode ... playing, of
course, long-time enemies.

Captain Dave
(McDermott) is injured, so the more-successful Captain Steve
(Mulroney) steps in. The result isn't as funny as the show's first
two episodes, but does have its moments.

ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Quietly brilliant,
rarely displaying emotion, Alfred Loomis seemed to do it all. He was
a big-time lawyer, then a Wall Street millionaire. In his spare time,
he worked on inventions, ranging from ultrasound to the emerging
field of microwaves and radar.

Then came a
remarkable move: Desperate, British scientists decided to share all
their secrets with the U.S. That brought key breakthroughs in radar.
Loomis financed and led a hurried operation that changed the course
of World War II. It's a fascinating story that's been mostly untold.

Other choices

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the
crossover story from a year ago. Abby's think-tank is compromised and
a theoretical terror playbook is missing. In the second hour, McGee
and Torres head to New Orleans in search of the playbook.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In the middle of a tough case – an escaped patient
went mysteriously mad and was killed – the cops have personal
problems: Riggs' anger explodes again; Murtaugh and his wife face big
decisions about their son.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week's hour (at Kevin's rehab) brought a sort of
emotional exorcism. Now the siblings return to day-to-day life: Kate
shops for her wedding dress, Kevin tries a new lifestyle, Randall
explores the past of his birth father. In flashbacks, their parents
take them to the mall.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Dre is running a campaign to prepare black parents for
“the talk” -- the warning they give children for the real-world
biases they'll face.

“Modern Family,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. In a surprising move, ABC has canceled “The Mayor”
and inserted reruns. In this one, Jay's friend Shorty visits ... but
spends more time with Gloria.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. Doctors struggle with decisions about a baby born with
an addiction.

“This Time Next
Year” debut, 10:02 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. Cat Deeley
introduces a show that will follow people's year-long efforts to
remake their lives. One woman hopes to lose 100 pounds, another plans
to be a bodybuilder. One man plans to give a kidney to his fiance;
another hopes to walk again. And a couple tries to overcome 15 years
of infertility.