TV column for Friday, Dec. 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Many dramas have
started their holiday breaks. They have nothing new until January ...
or mych later. But “Five-0” is going the opposite way – with
two new episodes, instead of one.

Both have unusual
themes and both focus on Danny (Scott Caan). In the first, he's one
of four people quarantined after last weeks bio-weapon; then he's
shot in the hospital. Clinging to life, he imagines a future for
everyone. In the second hour, he's telling a Christmas Eve story to
his son Charlie. It describes a “Five-0” case involving bad
Santas and a miracle; real-life military veterans are guest stars.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Exorcist” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

For nine weeks,
we've seen a decent man (John Cho) haunted by a fierce force. He's
raising foster kids on a Washington island, demonized by a being that
takes the shape of his late wife (Alicia Witt).

Father Ortega and
Father Keane desperately try an exorcism, while Mouse (Keane's former
love) has her own extreme methods. Someone, Fox says, will make the
ultimate sacrifice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Shop Around the Corner,” 1940, 8 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies; “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946), 8 p.m.,
USA.

Two Jimmy Stewart
classics share the night. “Wonderful Life” is the big one during
the holiday season; NBC will run it on Christmas Eve. And “Corner”
is the amiable tale of co-workers who don't realize they're falling
in love with each other, via anonymous letters.

And yes, that's a
plot that's copied often. A Hungarian play in 1937, it became this
movie, then was adapted into two more films – “In the Good Old
Summertime” (1949) and “You've Got Mail” (1998). It also became
the musical “She Loves Me,” which reached Broadway in 1963, 1993
and 2016.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Streaming networks.

Two series returns
to Netflix -- Ashton Kutcher's comedy “The Ranch” and the
obstacle competition “Tthe Beastmaster” -- and a new show reaches
Amazon Prime. That's “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” with Jean-Claude
Van Damme pretending his film career has just been a front for his
work as a spy.

Netflix also has
“Wormwood,” a six-parter from documentary master Errol Morris.
And it has a holiday movie – “Christmas Inheritance,” written
by Dinah Eng, a longtime writer/editor for Gannett papers. Eliza
Taylor (“The 100”) plays an heiress, working for her keep while
stranded in a small-town inn.

Other choices
include:

“Hollywood
Christmas Parade,” 8-10 p.m., CW. It's the 86th parade,
in a place that knows spectacle. There will be big balloons, plus
celebrities hosting (Erik Estrada, Dean Cain, etc.) and waving.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. Fearing there's an enemy somewhere in the FBI, Jane and
Weller run a covert operation out of their apartment.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. This Christmas party isn't going as planned: The police
arrive to arrest Mac, who built a bomb that caused a fatal explosion.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC, We finally learn what the captors have in
mind. And in space, Coulson realizes, simply escaping is not an
option.

“Savage Kingdom,”
9 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild. With “Big Cat Week” in its final two
nights, Wild reruns the season's first three episodes (6-9 p.m.),
followed by this new one, with lions' bloody battles.

“Twice Upon a
Christmas” (2001), 10 p.m. ET, GetTV (via digital or Dish). “Once
Upon a Christmas” (2000), at 8 p.m., is a warm film about Santa's
daughter (Kathy Ireland) trying to save Christmas by reviving the
interest of one family. Now this sequel adds some clever satire: Her
evil sister Rudolfa is even on a home shopping network, selling
pieces of the North Pole.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Taraji's White Hot Holidays,” 9:02 p.m., Fox.

Things have been
booming for Taraji Henson. Her “Empire” just finished the first
half of its season, she stars as “Proud Mary” in theaters Jan. 12
... and here's her second Christmas special.

She again has Jussie
Smollett -- who's her son Jamal on “Empire.” There will be
classic stars (Chaka Khan, Faith Evans,Salt-N-Pepa) plus Ciara,
Fergie, the Ying-Yang Twins and Tony-winner Leslie Odom Jr. And
there's humor, with Jay Pharoah, Tituss Burgess and Niecy Nash.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “iHeart Radio Jingle Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW.

This is a night of
music overload – two specials on Fox ... some music-stuffed
animation on ABC ... and this special (which reruns Dec. 25), sifted
from a concert filled with pop stars.

Taylor Swift sang
alone and with Ed Sheeran. Two former One Direction guys – Niall
Horan and Liam Payne – were there, singing separately. Others
included Camila Cabello, Fifth Harmony and The Chainsmokers. Some
included Christmas songs, but many stuck to their pop hits.

TONIGHT'S SURPRISE:
“Olaf's Frozen Adventure,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This is virtually
unprecedented – showing up for free on TV, immediately after people
paid to see it.

In theaters, this
“Frozen” spin-off had a limited run as the 21-minute prelude to
“Coco.” The big movies -- “Frozen” and “Coco” -- are
wonderful; this short, however, is merely fairly good. Its plot --
Olaf racing to find a Christmas tradition for the palace – is lame;
the four songs are sort of pleasant. As free family fun – leading
into the zesty, animated rerun “Prep & Landing” -- it's kind
of fun.

Other choices
include:

“The Fake News
With Ted Nelms,” 7:50 p.m., Comedy Central. If you missed this
hilarious hour Wednesday, catch this quick rerun. Ed Helms – whose
“The Hangover Part III” (2013) precedes this at 5:30 – plays it
straight, as the anchorman for a truly inept newscast.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 8 p.m., Fox. For 103 years, the Apollo Theater has brought
the greats to Harlem, from Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson to the
Jacksons and Prince. Steve Harvey hosts this special, which ranges
from newcomers to Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, Fifth Harmony and DMX.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Halley happened to be born on Amy's birthday
... which is also the day for Amy's annual sex with Sheldon. Now
birthday parties are planned for both of them.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. It's time for another road trip. This time, the three
guys go from Texas to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch a space-shuttle
launch.

“The Great
American Baking Show,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. It's dessert and cookies
week, including gingerbread houses and towers of macaro0ns.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) has been offering solid support,
whenever the others have trouble – which is often. Now it's her
turn, after her husband's stroke.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. This is a step above most cop shows, beccause of the depth
of Hondo (Shemar Moore), the squad leader. That's vital tonight: His
boyhood friend, in prison, worries about a son's gang involvement;
also, a squad member has mixed feelings about his late grandfather.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Fake News with Ted Nelms,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

Other fake newscasts
-- “Daily Show,” Samantha Bee,” “Weekend Update” --
cleverly satirize real events. Now for something different: Fast and
funny, it satirizes only newscasts themselves..

Ed Helms surveys a
world where Donald Trump is in a well, a reporter is in a tree and
commentators are clueless. He promotes upcoming reports (“virtual
pornography for the elderly”; “can humans eat sunshine?”) and
more. We get answers from real politicians – but to fake questions.
It's mostly fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Golden Globes 75th Anniversary Special,” 9-11 p.m.,
NBC

The first Globe
ceremony was a modest affair at the Twentieth Century Fox studio. It
had six awards, half going to Fox's “The Song of Bernadette,” its
star (Jennifer Jones) and its director (Henry King).

Now, almost 74 years
later, we get this “75th anniversary” special. Eric
McCormack and Debra Messing – whose “Will & Grace” has
never won a Globe, despite 27 nominations – host. They'll have
clips of hosts and winners, plus a poll of Globe voters, choosing the
best of all the best-movie winners.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Empire” and “Star,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Fox is quick to call
something the “fall finale,” even if it will be back soon. But
this time, it means it: After tonight, Wednesdays go to reruns, then
football, then a 10-week run of “X-Files” and “9-1-1.”

So let's savor these
dramas while we can. First, Cookie and Lucious try to take down Diana
DuBois (Phylicia Rashad). Then it's finally time for the showcase
that is crucial to Star and her trio; the group's manager (Queen
Latifah) has more to worry about, with her salon facing multiple
crises.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist,” 9 p.m., National
Geographic, rerunning at midnight.

Last week's
compelling opener (rerunning at 11 p.m.) offered an overview of
Fossey, who spent 18 years studying Rwanda's mountain gorillas. Now
this hour (the second of three) goes back to her roots, then traces a
dark stretch before she was killed. This is an odd construction, but
it works.

“I have no mind
left,” Fossey wrote after two gorillas were killed, “no reason
for being.” She tortured poachers, kidnapped (briefly) a boy, fired
a gun near tourists. Her dark finale was looming.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. A week from the finale, this is down to six people.
There's one from the “Healers” tribe (a urologist), two from
“Hustlers” (a bellhop and a surf instructor) and three from
“Heroes” (a Marine, a lifeguard and, inexplicably) a financial
analyst.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Two of our jolliest concepts – Christmas and Archie
Comics – link to create fierce nastiness. Tonight “we end this”
terror, Archie promises; fortunately, he's telling the truth.

“The Librarians”
season-opener, 8 p.m., TNT. At its best, this series offers a
mystical, bigger-than-life adventure; at its worst, it's just goofy.
This episode (the first of two, repeating at 10 and 11) is a little
of both, but leans to the good side. There's a global search, with
the terrific John Noble as villain.

“Dynasty,” 9
p.m., CW. Christmastime visitors – Blake's cruel dad, Cristal's
crooked sister – arrive. Like “Riverdale,” this has an
overwrought plot; the difference is that “Riverdale” is
skillfully crafted.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mitchell figures that Cam's sister Pam has stayed way
too long; now he sees an opportunity to nudge her out, when her
ex-boyfriend (James Van Der Beek) arrives.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. On Christmas Day, religious extremists
refuse to evacuate, as a forest fire surrounds them. And after the
First Lady's testimony, the family is changed forever.

“Happy,” 10
p.m., Syfy. Cable has thrived with the likable anti-hero, but this
show has a thoroughly unlikable one. Tonight he remains nasty, even
with his kidnapped daughter's invisible friend.

 

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE”
“The Long Road Home,” 10 p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at
11.

These days, Eric
Bourquin is a reassuring sort. Tall (6-foot-3) and sturdy, he's a
husband and father of four, a retired sergeant first class with 16
years in the Army. Jon Beavers, who plays him, calls him a “sweet
circus bear”; Martha Raddatz adds: “He's fought ... hard to be a
good person.”

Now we see what that
fight has been. This hour – the seventh of eight, based on
Raddatz's superb book – flashes back to his troubled boyhood and
then to 2004. His men are trapped, his platoon officer is wounded,
rescue attempts have failed. Bourquin faces the roughest moments in a
brutal life.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Gwen Stefani's 'You Make Me Feel Like Christmas',” 9 p.m.,
NBC.

Even while skipping
this edition of “The Voice,” Stefani wasn't far away. Last
Tuesday, she visited the show to join boyfriend Blake Shelton in “You
Make Me Feel Like Christmas,” a song they wrote with two others.
Now, right after “Voice,” they'll sing it on her special.

She'll also do
Christmas classics, from the cheery “Jingle Bells” to the sexy
“Santa Baby.” Other guests include people who are musical (Ne-Yo)
and funny (Chelsea Handler, Ken Jeong, Seth McFarlane).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

We don't expect
anything to frighten Rosa. She scares people – even co-workers –
not the other way around. But now she's afraid to tell her parents
she's bisexual; Jake is brought in to help.

That provides some
funny moments (and a few warm ones), in a fairly good episode that
also includes the return of the steel-willed Gina. It's followed by
another episode – Capt. Holt owes a difficult favor – to form
what Fox calls the “fall finale.”

Other choices
include:

“The Long Road
Home,” 7-10 p.m., National Geographic. If you need to catch up,
here are the three most recent episodes. They lead into tonight's
compelling hour and next week's finale.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. On Monday, the show's top eight people performed and
viewers voted. Now we'll learn which ones will be propelled into next
week's finals.

“Greatest Holiday
Commercials Countdown,” 8 p.m., CW. Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight
offer a list of the 12 best holiday commercials, plus other odd ones
from around the world.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The focus shifts to Sloane (Maria Bello) and Torres (Wilmer
Valderrama). Protecting a senator in Afghanistan, they must rush him
back to the U.S,, where his son is hospitalized.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Each of the ABC comedies (8-10 p.m.) offers a different
twist on Christmas. In this case, Dre goes to the office party
without getting a doctor's help managing diabetes.

“World's Most
Famous Tiger,” 9 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild. Machli was born in an India
National Park where the tiger population was fading. She would live
longer (20 years) and have more litters (four) and offspring (11)
than virtually any tiger in the wild; before her death last year, she
would be called the world's most-photographed tiger and the main
force for replenishing the park's population. This profile is the new
hour alongside reruns, in a “Big Cat Week” line-up, from 4 p.m.
to 3 a.m. ET.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Ex-Mayor Hamilton (Steven Weber) is
scheming to get out of prison. To stop him, Pride must find
Hamilton's mystery partner.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

We're a week from
the finale now, with Blake Shelton again dominating. He's already had
five of the 12 champions; Adam Levine (with three) is the only other
person with more than one.

This time, Shelton
has three people – Chloe Kohanski, 23; Keisha Renee, 30; and Red
Marlow, 40 – in the final eight. Levine has Addison Agen, 16, and
Adam Cunningham, 38. Jennifer Hudson has Noah Mac, 17, and Davon
Fleming, 25. Miley Cyrus has only Brooke Simpson, 26.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Lucifer,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Last week brought a
key episode, with the capture of Sinnerman. He's the villain whom
Lucifer blames for everything – kidnapping him, stealing his devil
face and restoring his wings.

Now Lucifer – who
also has a perfectly pleasant human face – is desperate to get that
alternate one back. The problem is that someone else's life isin
danger. Also in this “fall finale,” Chloe's daughter meets
Lucifer's mother and questions her own relationship with her father.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Better Late Than Never” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

This was last
summer's big surprise. An odd bit of non-fiction fluff – the
overseas misadventures of four old guys – it had only four
episodes. But ratings were high, even for young viewers, and it's
back.

We again see William
Shatner, 86, go into unknown universes with Henry Winkler, 72, Terry
Bradshaw, 69, and George Foreman, 68. Tonight includes a nude park in
Munich, some Oktoberfest partying and a chance for “a Julie Andrews
moment” high in the Alps. Then the show will wait until Jan. 1 to
resume its season, which will range from para-sailing to bullfighting
to a Bradshaw body wax.

Other choices
include:

“A Night at the
Movies,” 6:45-8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This 2011
documentary looks at the all-time great Christmas films. It has
interviews with Chevy Chase (“Christmas Vacation”), Karolyn
Grimes (“It's a Wonderful Life”), Margaret O'Brien (“Meet Me in
St. Louis”) and more.

“The Great
Christmas Light Fight,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Usually, these
mega-displays are the work of one family; now, in a first for
“Fight,” neighbors have combined for a synchronized light show.
That's in the first hour; the second includes a mountainside display
and a home that survived Hurricane Harvey.

“Disney's Fairy
Tale Weddings: Holiday Edition,” 8 p.m., Freeform. Amid its usual
movies -- “Elf” (2003) at 5:50 p.m., “Polar Express” (2004)
at 9 – Freeform will pause to show two real-life weddings. It
describes the Disneyland one as “intimate”; the Disney World one
has a “Frozen” theme.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. After relentlessly pursuing people with special powers,
Jace (Coby Bell) reaches a moral crossroads. In the “fall finale,”
he must turn something over to Dr. Campbell.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Keith David, whose rich voice has narrated great Ken
Burns documentaries (“Jazz,” “The War,” “Jackie Robinson,”
more), plays someone who falls sick in the doughnut shop. Franco
convinces the others to help him.

“Countdown to
Arie,” 10 p.m., ABC. Back in 2012, Arie Luyendyk Jr. was runner-up
on “The Bachelorette.” Now, at 36, he'll be the next “Bachelor.”
The Dutch-born race driver (whose dad is a two-time Indianapolis 500
winner) is profiled here. There are also updates on couples.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Yes, the team occasionally saves the world. Tonight, while
waiting for the result of Cabe's trial, it's a smaller task: Save a
dog that's stuck in a cistern.