TV column for Tuesday, Feb.19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Sammy Davis Jr. did
it all. An awesome dancer and gifted actor, he also had a rich,
baritone voice; he had, Billy Crystal says, an abundance “of talent
and insecurity.” All sprang from his early start.

At 3, he won $10 in
a talent contest; at 8, he was the real star of an Ethel Waters short
film. He never spent a day in school and said he had 3rd-grade
writing skills. As his career soared, he drew controversy. One side
raged about his mixed marriage; the other groaned when Davis – who
earlier was snubbed by John Kennedy – campaigned for and hugged
Richard Nixon. It was a fascinating life, told in rich detail.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “This Is Us,” 9 p.m.,, NBC.

This terrific show
has lots of stories to juggle. Tonight, it sets the others aside and
focuses on Beth. We know she's been flailing since losing her job. We
also know she's intense and driven; now we see why.

After hearing that
her mother had a fall, Beth drives there with her cousin, confronting
rich memories and mixed emotions. As played by Phylicia Rashad, the
mom has always been relentless, determined that her daughter succeed;
in flashbacks, we meet the late father (Carl Lumbly), a gentle soul.
We begin to see what shaped Beth then ... and see a transformation
now.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “At Home With Amy Sedaris” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
TruTV.

Alongside TV's big
plunges, we have quirky little ones like this. It made just 10
half-hours for its first season, showed the last one 14 months ago,
and finally returns.

Sedaris pretends to
have a home show, then wanders in odd directions. Cole Escola dons
one of his wigs to be Chassie the neighbor; Matthew Broderick plays
an “expert” on tonight's subject, which is teenagers. The show
starts and ends cleverly, sags in the middle, but remains
interesting.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The murder of a defense contractor is linked to a password McGee
used as a teenager. The plot thickens when someone breaks into his
home to steal his archaic high school computer.

“Good Trouble,”
8 p.m., Freeform. Callie is ready to tell the judge her secret before
Ben does: She's a co-op mate of Malika, who's in the case they're
working on. Also, Gael wants legal help from Callie.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Interning at his dad's office, Junior gets off to a shaky
start. Also, Kyra has an aptitude for chemistry, but doesn't want to
trasfer to a magnet school.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. Just when she needs it the most, Lauren can't access her
powers. That leaves Caitlin to protect them. Also, Reeva reveals her
dark plan to take over the Inner Circle.

“FBI,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. When a reporter is killed, the case is linked to previous cases
... and to a traumatic event in Maggie's life.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. The team re-links with a conspiracy
journalist, after the source of his latest story is killed. Also,
Hannah's former partner offers a jolting revelation about an old
case.

“New Amsterdam,”
10 p.m., NBC. The focus shifts to Floyd (making progress in his
personal life) and Sharpe (facing a case that hits close to home.
Also, Iffy uncovers a patient's surprising past.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“America's Got Talent: The Champions” finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

It's time to pick a
winner -- from a field that grew at the last minute. The show had
picked its top 10 in a careful fashion – two per week for five
weeks. It emerged with six singers (two of them operatic), plus a
comedian, a magician, a sand artist and knife throwers.

But then came last
week's surprise, with two “wild cards” added: Jon Dorenbos is a
magician who spent 15 years in pro football, as a “long snapper”
for kickers. Darci Lynn Farmer, 14, is a ventriloquist who became the
American champion in 2017. Now they're part of a top-10 that turned
into 12.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Good Doctor,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Daniel Dae Kim adds
a second job now, as both producer and co-star. Kim spotted the show
in his native Korea and brought it to ABC, giving the network one of
its few hits. The former “Lost” star – who left “Hawaii
Five-0” after a pay dispute – said he wasn't sure if he would act
on “Good Doctor.”

Now he takes over as
the new chief of surgery, bringing a quick crisis. After seeing
Shaun's blunt honesty with a distraught mother, he questions keeping
him on staff.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

These guys have a
quick route to joy: “I just want to skate,” one says. Early
scenes capture their zest. Keire Johnson, Zach Mulligan and Bing Liu
– black, white, Asian – have a common passion.

But life and
adulthood intervene. Zach has a baby and frequent arguments with his
girlfriend; Keire leaves home after fights with his father and needs
work, in a city (Rockford, Ill.) where jobs are scarce. And Liu? He
became a camera pro, but kept returning to shoot his friends' lives.
This film – which has drawn raves and an Oscar nomination – is a
passionate look at life, violence and skateboarding.

Other choices
include:

“Ben-Hur”
(1959), 4 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. As Oscar week begins, here are
some true classics. This is followed by “High Noon” and “The
Quiet Man” (both 1952) at 8 and 9:45 p.m. ET.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Only seven women remain – including the two
(Caelynn and Hannah B) who won state titles in last year's Miss USA.
Tonight, Colton Underwood takes them to his Denver home town, for
adventures ranging from snowboarding to a mini-concert by country's
Brett Young.

“The
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. It's the first day on the job for Tina
(giving piano lessons) and Malcolm (retail sales). Neither goes as
expected.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. Lynn Whitfield guests as Mina's mother, a famous
Nigerian surgeon. Meanwhile,a setback causes Bell to finally have
doubts about the Quovadis medical devices.

“Magnum, PI,” 9
p.m., CBS. After being bumped twice by “Big Brother,” the show –
renewed for next season – is back with Magnum learning about a
major heist. It's being planned by his former girlfriend (Jordana
Brewster), the one who caused him to end up in a prisoner-of-war
camp.

“The Passage,” 9
p.m., Fox. One of the “viral” people has escaped, causing panic.
Brad is upset when Amy volunteers to help the search in an unsual
way.

“Manifest”
season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC. Griffin schemes to go public about the
callings. Ben and Michaela fear that would be a grave threat to the
passengers.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Elvis All-Star Tribute,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

A half-century after
Elvis Presley's triumphant “comeback special,” here's a
celebration. Blake Shelton hosts and opens the night with “Trouble”
and “Guitar Man”; he closes it with “If I Can Dream,” joined
by Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes, Darius Rucker, Post Malone and
Presley's voice.

There's much more,
from gospel (Underwood and Yolanda Adams) to Adam Lambert rocking
“Blue Suede Shoes.” There are ballads (Alessia Cara does “Love
Me Tender”) and pop, with Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran, John Legend,
Jennifer Lopez, Dierks Bentley, Kelsea Ballerini, Josh Groban and
more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Some pop-culture
forces – Elvis music, “Star Wars” stories – can keep being
revived and re-imagined.

In this case, we
glimpse the original characters – Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO
– alongside some sharp new ones, led by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and
Finn (John Boyega). With lots of action and strong visuals, the force
is ready for a new generation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Animation, 7 p.m., everywhere.

NBC adds “How To
Train Your Dragon” (2010) -- a fun piece of animated action – to
a night that already has plenty of early-evening choices.

At 6:55 p.m.,
Freeform has “Zootopia” (2016). At 7 and 8 p.m., Fox has “The
Simpsons”; with two Krusty-centric episodes: In a rerun, he flees
and joins the circus; then, in a new episode, he makes a movie about
his youth ... and tells Bart and Lisa about their parents' romance.

Other choices
include:

Alison Sweeney
marathon, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. In a
sea of sameness, Sweeney's movies tend to stand out; here are
examples, including a new one. Her “Murder She Baked” films rerun
at 11 a.m. and at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. That leads to “Chronicles
Mysteries: Recovered” at 9; it's the first of three films with
Sweeney as a crimesolving podcaster.

“God Friended Me,”
8 p.m., CBS. Miles is told to friend a young baseball pitcher. That
gives him a chance to reconnect with a former teammate, now the kid's
coach.

Basketball, 8 p.m.
ET preview and 8:20 tip-off, TNT. After a long weekend of
preliminaries, it's time for the NBA All-Star Game.

“Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 9 p.m., PBS. Leaked photos were apparently a problem
long before the Facebook generation. While preparing for a grand
ball, Victoria frets about photos that went public.

“Margaret: The
Rebel Princess,” 10 p.m., PBS. Princess Margaret's original plan
(marrying a divorced Army captain) was quashed by authorities. Seven
years later, she married Antony Armsrong-Jones. It was 1960 and this
hour views their marriage against the backdrop of a changing society.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, the White House is
attacked. The episode's gimmick – former secretaries of stae Colin
Powell, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright playing themselves –
is OK; the rest is excellent.

“SMILF,” 10:30
p.m., Showtime. This is supposed to be the start of something new for
Bridgette – an entire weekend for herself, while her son is with
his dad. The result is an odd drift into the surreal.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Planet Earth: Dynasties” finale, 9 p.m. ET, BBC America and IFC,
9 p..m. ET/PT, AMC and Sundance; rerunning at 12:25 a.m. ET, BBC
America.

So you think you've
had tough days? Try this: It's 40 below zero and you're outside,
sheltering the baby under your legs. Your mate will be back in a few
weeks with some food; just wait.

That story was
beautifully told in the movie “March of the Penguins”; now it's
retold here, with extra crises. There are chicks that get lost ...
and ones that are kidnapped by chick-less adults. There's even a
cave-in ... leading to an heroic escape by one parent and then to a
rare intervention by filmmakers. Beautifully filmed, edited and
scored, this finale is the best chapter of a superb, five-week
series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Ransom” season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

This Canadian series
is loosely based on two real-life hostage negotiators, Laurent
Combalbert and Marwan Mery. Now they have guest roles as themselves,
as th third season opens.

A man has been
killed and his widow is threatened. Eric (Luke Roberts) try to
negotiate a payoff.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 8 p.m. ET, TNT.

This is all-star
weekend for the pros. That peaks a 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday, with the
all-star game; tonight, we get some specials at 5 p.m. ET and then
the skills contests at 8.

There's the
slam-dunk challenge plus a three-point shooting contest filled with
the best. Previous champions Steph Curry and Devin Booker will be
there, plus Seth Curry (Steph's brother), who is the league's current
leader in three-point accuracy.

Other choices
include:

Olivia Newton-John
night, Lifetime. At 5:30 p.m., we see Newton-John star in “Grease”
(1978). Then a new movie about her life is at 8 p.m.; it reruns at
11:03, sandwiching a documentary about her at 10:03.

“America's Got
Talent: The Champions,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, the 10
finalists perform. That sets up Monday's finale, picking a winner.

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. The first rerun offers a
rare chance to see a camel grab a bag of snacks from a little girl's
hand. The second has Halloween mishaps.

“It's a Mad, Mad,
Mad, Mad World” (1963), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Bigger
isn't always better, when it comes to comedy. This Stanley Kramer
movie is followed at 11 p.m. ET by Blake Edwards' “The Great Race”
(1965). Both have big budgets, sprawling stories and some laughs ...
but not as many as Edwards got in other movies, when he simply had
Peter Sellers in a funny situation.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Here's a rerun of the season-opener: It's been a month since
Vance was kidnapped. Now Gibbs is the acting director, while his
people search worldwide.

“20/20,” 10
p.m., ABC. After being demoted from Sundays to Saturdays, “The Alec
Baldwin Show” has now vanished entirely.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Don Cheadle has ranged from dead-serious
dramas (getting an Oscar nomination for “Hotel Rwanda”) to the
quick-talking comedy of his current “Black Monday.” Now he hosts,
with Gary Clark Jr. as the music guest.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Proven Innocent” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

Madeline (Rachelle
Lefevre) learned about law the hard way. She and her brother were
convicted of killing a friend; by the time they were exonerated, a
decade later, she had a law degree.

Now she's in a small
law office with the man who freed her (Russell Hornsby) and an
eccentric investigator (Vincent Kartheiser). Tonight, she faces the
relentless prosecutor (Kelsey Grammer) who convicted her. “Proven”
tries to do a lot – a major court case every week, while Madeline
also probes her friend's murder. Some things fall into place too
easily, but it's still a smart, solid show.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

With superheroes and
animation dominating the box office, the AARP magazine has “movies
for grownups.” The winners have already been announced, but viewers
will enjoy seeing them.

There's Glenn Close
getting the best-actress award (“The Wife”), presented by her
long-ago “Fatal Attraction” star, Michael Douglas. Viggo
Mortensen gets best actor (“Green Book,” which also wins
best-picture), Spike Lee is best director (“BlacKkKlansman”) and
Shirley MacLaine gets a career award. Martin Short hosts and the
documentary award goes to “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Doom Patrol,” any time, DC Universe screening
service.

“Another superhero
show?!?” the narrator groans. Yes, but this one is different.
Alongside the whiz-bang special effects, it has humor and people who
are deeply damaged, physically and emotionally.

Two of them
transform so thoroughly that the stars only appear in flashbacks,
then provide the voice while others inhabit the costumes. It's
Brendan Fraser as Robotman and Matt Bomer as Negative Man. The others
offer meaty roles for April Bowlby as Elasti-Woman and Dianne
Guerrero as Crazy Jane ... complete with 64 personalities, each with
her own power. Expect some consternation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: More streaming.

Fridays are the
second-weakest night for broadcast networks (only topping Saturdays),
but the biggest for streaming. There are emerging services like DC
Universe, plus ones thay are already strong.

That includes
documentaries: Today, Amazon Prime debuts a four-parter on Lorena
Bobbitt, famed in true-crime circles; that's two days after Hulu
profiled music great Whitney Houston. For fiction, Netflix debuts
“The Umbrella Academy”; five siblings reluctantly re-unite, using
their powers to fight a villain.

Other choices
include:

“Beauty and the
Beast” (1991), 5:50 p.m., Freeform, and more. It's a night filled
with music. This animated delight is followed at 8 p.m. by the
terrific “La La Land” (2016) on E and “Grease” (1978) on
Lifetime ... which follows on Saturday with a movie about one of its
stars, Olivia Newton-John.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. To give its “Proven Innocent”
a boost, Fox puts two episodes of Tim Allen's show back-to-back. Mike
(Allen) officiates, when Chuck and Carol renew their vows. Then, with
Chuck away, Ed tries a new approach to the company's security duties.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Levy Tran joins the show as Desi, the newest member of the
team. She arrives during an atypical mission – escorting a
gun-sniffing dog who has a bounty on his head.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Here's another unusual assignment – protecting a
serial killer who's being stalked by an assassin ... while a
hurricane hits the island.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. As his trial nears, Red wants Dembe and Glenn to stack
the jury. (Kids, don't try that at home.) Meanwhile, the task force
investigates weaponized insects.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Even when they're off-duty, cops are required to carry
guns. Danny uses his during a gas-station robbery; the result leaves
him shaken and his family and colleagues worried.