TV column for Monday, Sept. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Young Sheldon” debut, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

The TV season gets
off to a torrid start – TV's best comedy (“The Big Bang Theory”)
at 8 p.m., promptly followed by its spin-off ... which happens to be
the best new show.

The old Sheldon (Jim
Parsons) narrates tales of when he was a 9-year-old high school
student. Zoe Perry is perfect as his mom ... a role her real mom
(Laurie Metcalf) has on “Big Bang.” This is from the “Big Bang”
producers, but has no studio audience; it's sweeter and quieter, but
a gem in its own way.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Doctor” debut, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

TV is fond of
geniuses with slim social skills. They fill “Big Bang” and
“Scorpion”; now we meet Dr. Shaun Murphy, whose talent is
obscured by his youth and his autism. The medical staff has many
doubters ... but it also has a key supporter who's been his mentor.

This could feel
contrived, but it has gifted people: Freddie Highmore (“Bates
Motel”) stars, with Richard Schiff (“West Wing”) as the mentor;
David Shore (“House”) is the producer.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Me, Myself and I” debut, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

If “This Is Us”
had been a comedy, it might feel like this – bouncing between three
phases of one guy's life. At 14, he's a wide-eyed inventor ... at 40,
he's seen a divorce shatter his confidence and his creativity ... at
65, he's a prosperous mogul.

He's played by Jack
Dylan Grazer, Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette – who bear no
resemblance to eac h other. If you can get past that, you can savor a
clever comedy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10.

The Tet Offensive
had failed, but few people knew. Not the North Vietnamese, who were
fed lies about its success; not the Americans, who were shocked by
images of combat in the streets of Saigon.

Now anti-war
sentiment is growing, spinning the 1968 election in odd directions.
Ken Burns' masterful documentary tells that story tonight,
interspersed with strong personal glimpses. We meet a POW ... a
Japanese-American war hero ... a small-town idealist. And we hear the
moving story of two brothers – one a West Point man and a
battlefield leader, the other a deserter.

Other choices
include:

“So You Think You
Can Dance” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox. Here are the final four dancers;
all are deeply talented and most focus on contemporary dance. There's
Koine Iwasaki, 20; Taylor Sieve, 19; and Les Ishimoto (who also does
hip hop), 19. The exception is Kiki Nyechek, 26, with Latin ballroom.

“The Voice”
season-opener (NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), both 8-10
p.m. For one night, we have reality overkill. Two dance shows collide
with “The Voice,” which adds Jennifer Hudson, alongside Blake
Shelton, Adam Levine and Miley Cyrus.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last season ended with Sheldon shocking Amy
(and us) by proposing. Now we learn her answer; also, Laurie Metcalf
returns as Sheldon's mom.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
9 p.m., CBS. After a successful first season, this got an odd
makeover: Encouraged by good ratings for two episodes with Leah
Remini (Kevin James' “King of Queens” co-star), CBS decided to
keep her and kill James' wife. Tonight, Remini helps a quick wedding
for his daughter.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Ever since the show started, people have wished there was
a way for Katharine McPhee (the “American Idol” runner-up who
plays Daphne) to sing. It turns out that the show has other good
voices; now they combine to sing “Everything is Absolutely Genius.”

“The Brave,” 10
p.m., NBC. This is one of three new military shows, each with an
elite team zooming in for rescues or whatever. It's all sleek and
slick and ... well, a sort of adequate adventure.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 22 (slightly out of order)


(This is the Friday column, slightly out of order. If you scroll down, you'll find Sunday, then Saturday, then Thursday.)

 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A week before their
season starts, all three of CBS' Friday shows rerun their finales.
That starts with “MacGyver,” which has been bumped often lately,
by football and by “Big Brother.”

In this version of
the show – as in the original – Murdoc is a prime villain. Now he
has hired a former cellmate to pose as a lab technician ... and then
kill everyone in the Phoenix complex.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “America's Got Talent” (NBC) or “MasterChef” (Fox), both
8 p.m.

Two days after
naming their champions, these shows have reruns. That's fairly
logical for “Talent,” which reruns its big-deal, two-hour finale,
complete with guests and commotion.

Far less logical is
Fox: It reruns a seemingly random “MasterChef” hour. This one
trimmed the field from seven home chefs to six, with competitions
involving chopsticks and pasta.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Some Like It Hot” (1959), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Here is a true
classic, named by the American Film Institute as the funniest
American film ever. It has a great concept (guys, on the run,
disguising as members of an all-female band), a clever
writer-director (Billy Wilder) and the perfect stars (Jack Lemmon,
Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe).

That list, created
in 2000, includes four of tonight's TCM films. The Marx Brothers' “A
Night at the Opera” (1935) , at 10:15 p.m. ET, is No. 12; Rob
Reiner's brilliant “This is Spinal Tap” (1984). at midnight, is
No. 29; and Charlie Chaplin's “Modern Times,” at 1:45 a.m., is
No. 35.

Other choices
include:

“Twilight Saga”
finale, 5:35 to 11 p.m., Freeform. The epic story of vampires,
werewolves and young love reaches its conclusion. “Breaking Dawn”
(2011) is at 5:35 p.m., with its sequel (2012) at 8:30.

“The State,”
7-11 p.m., National Geographic. After debuting over two nights this
week, the mini-series reruns in one chunk. It's a fictional story of
four people leaving England to join ISIS in Syria.

“Battlestar
Galactica,” 8-11 p.m., Syfy. This is one of Syfy's finest deeds –
reviving a lame old space show and injecting it with smart scripts
and great visuals. Tonight is the 2003 mini-series, with Earth's lone
survivors in a rag-tag collection of ships. Then the first season
reruns from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and from 6 to midnight Sunday.

“Beat Shazam,” 9
p.m., Fox. The teams in this rerun are a mother and son, two music
teachers and two lunch ladies. They tackle the music of Elton John,
Shakira and more.

“On Two Fronts:
Latinos & Vietnam,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. From the first days,
Latinos played a big role in Vietnam; Everett Alvarez Jr., a pilot,
was the second American prisoner of war and spent 8-and-a-half brutal
years in confinement. That was at the same time that thie Chicano
protest movement was growing. Both stories unfold in this 2015
documentary, rerunning before Ken Burns' Vietnam film returns Sunday,
for the second half of its 10-day run.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The team tries a risky plan to rescue girls held in a
sex-trafficking ring.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m.. Danny has intercepted a package with millions of dollars. It
was intended for a drug cartel, which is not pleased.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Star Trek: Discovery” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

For one hour,
broadcast TV has its sixth “Trek” series. Then, alas, it retreats
to a pay-extra streaming service; CBS All Access has the second
episode immediately, with the rest arriving on 13 Sundays.

There are other ways
this is expected to differ from previous editions: It may be a tad
darker and a lot more serialized. It's also the first one that gives
top billing to the first officer (Sonequa Martin-Green of “Walking
Dead”), rather than the captain (Jason Isaacs). James Frain – a
scheming villain in “Gotham” and “White Princess” -- plays a
good guy, Spock's dad; Rainn Wilson and Michelle Yeoh also star.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.

As the second half
of Ken Burns' brilliant documentary begins, President Johnson is
still talking of victory. “The enemy has been defeated in battle
after battle,” he says. Then comes the Tet Offensive.

To the North
Vietnamese, it was a disappointment: More than two-thirds of the
84,000 soldiers they sent were killed or wounded; the expected
civilian uprising never happened. But to Americans at home, the
images were startling. In Saigon, enemy soldiers were inside the
embassy compound ... and in front of the presidential palace ... and
occupying the main radio station. Opinions began to shift sharply.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Who Shot Biggie & Tupac,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Tupac Shakur and
Biggie Smalls are considered among the all-time greatest rappers, men
with sharp lyrics and imposing personalities. They feuded fiercely
... and were killed at 25 and 24.

Those unsolved
murders, separated by six months, have been probed ever since. Now
journalist Soledad O'Brien and rapper-turned-actor Ice-T try; Fox
says they have new details and accounts.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 p.m., Fox. A rerun of the show's first hourlong episode has Mr.
Burns getting messy in the music business. Snoop Dogg, Common and RZA
play themselves; Taraji Henson of “Empire” plays a mogul's
ex-wife Praline.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. While Fox is telling Biggie Smalls' story, his
widow will be competing with Ross Matthews on ABC. Faith Evans, 44,
will play with her mother and three of her children, including
Smalls' son, Christopher Wallace Jr. The second game has Olympic
gymnasts – Shannon Miller, Paul and Morgan Hamm, Dominique Dawes,
Dominique Moceanu – face swimmers.

Football, 8:30 p.m.
ET, NBC, with preview at 7. After two straight wins (by a combined 35
points, the NFL's best), the Oakland Raiders visit the Washington
Redskins, who are 1-1.

“Chesapeake
Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. A camping trip lets Abby talk with Trace
about their past and future. Also, her dad and uncle (Treat Williams
and Gregory Harrison) try to work out their differences.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. At the Ranch, survivors prepare for their
biggest threat yet.

“The Deuce,” 9
p.m., HBO. Vincent (James Franco) is finally ready to open his bar,
but the arrival of an unexpected partner causes his brother (also
Franco) to explode. Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the independent
hooker, wants to get into the film business, as the porn scene starts
to transform.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Kathy Najimy has already shown she's a whiz
at this game; now she faces Yvette Nicole Brown. The first game has
Vanessa Williams and Gary Cole.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Four days after the
election, with its people still in shock, “SNL” had some of its
finest moments.

Kate McKinnon (who
had been portraying Hillary Clinton) opened by singing a lovely
“Hallelujah.” Then Dave Chappelle – who won an Emmy for his
work here -- offered a long monolog. Later, he and Chris Rock had
some funny/poignant moments, as guys seeing their white friends get
their first taste of political despair. The music guest was A Tribe
Called Quest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Mick,” 3:30 p.m. to midnight, FXX.

Three days before
its second season begins on Fox, the entire first season reruns here.
It's worth trying.

Short on money or
ambition, Mick (Kaitlin Olson) was just drifting. Then her rich
sister ran from the law, leaving her in charge of three
overprivileged kids, She resents the responsibility, but likes the
big house, the money and (especially) the wine cellar. In her
perverse way, she also tries to help the kids.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), 8 p.m.
ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Two Hustons won
Academy Awards for this adventure classic about gold prospectors.

It was John for
directing and writing the film and his dad Walter as supporting
actor. Some 38 years later, Anjelica Huston (their daughter and
granddaughter) added a third generation of Oscar winners.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Halt and Catch Fire,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at
10:08.

This started as a
brash journey into the male-dominated world of 1980s computers.
Somehow, it has become a deeply nuanced character study, with many of
the TV's most interesting females.

Two of them once
shared a company. Now Donna is a corporate type, sleek and demanding
and working for the even-more-demanding Diane; Cameron, in a mid-life
crisis at 32, has bought big acreage and a tiny trailer. And emerging
is Haley (Donna's daughter), avoiding her schoolwork so she can work
at her dad's company. Tonight, she moves to the top of a deep and
fascinating group.

Other choices
include:

Bourne films, all
day. TNT has the trilogy – crisp action films with Matt Damon as
the guy with great skills and no memory. The movies are at 3:15
(2002), 5:45 (2004) and 8 p.m. (2007); overlapping them, at 5:55 p.m.
on HBO, is “Jason Bourne,” which brought Damon back to the role
last year.

“Along Came Polly”
(2004), 7 p.m., CMT. Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston launch a night
of fairly good comedies. At 9, you can stick with CMT for Jim Carrey
and Aniston in “Buce Almighty” (2003) or go to FX for Melissa
McCarthy's “Spy” (2015). At 8, Comedy Central has “The
Hangover” (2009).

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET ABC and 8 p.m., Fox. Those early-season mega-battles are done now
and college football settles into its weekly routine. ABC has
4th-ranked Penn State at Iowa; Fox has Notre Dame at
Michigan State. There's much more, on cable and throughout the day.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a SEAL candidate is killed, the team
reviews unorthodox training exercises. Also in this rerun, Dr. Wade
worries when her adopted son plans to join the Navy.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. Dr. Lewis (Aisha Tyler) faces a double problem in this
rerun. A man arrives believing he's her brother ... and knowing
everything about her and her family. Also, she can't get in touch
with her real sibling.

“Declassified,”
9 p.m., CNN (barring breaking news), rerunning at midnight. This
rerun views the effort to catch Haji Bagcho, the Afghan man believed
to once control one-fifth of all heroin sales.

“Oprah's Master
Class,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Gladys Knight discusses a
vibrant life and career. That's a new hour, surrounded by hours that
are new (Usher, at 9 p.m. and midnight) and rerun (Steve Harvey, 8
and 11 p.m.).

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Back in its second
season – nine years ago -- “Big Bang” put Sheldon in fresh
turf: An attractive grad student (Riki Lindhome) was enamored.
Unaccustomed to attention -- or to women -- he floundered.

This May, the
season-finale brought her back. Now she's Dr. Ramona Nowitzki,
arriving at a tricky time: Sheldon's girlfriend (platonic, except for
once a year) is away at Princeton. Here's a rerun of a great episode,
propelling us to Monday's season-opener ... and then to the
delightful “Young Sheldon.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Zoo,” 10 p.m., CBS.

At a time when the
big networks were floundering each summer, CBS took bold strokes:
Each summer had a couple big-deal science-fiction dramas; the first
ones -- “Under the Dome,” “Extant” -- scored well in the
ratings, but recent ones have struggled.

Now this year's
shows are wrapping up. “Salvation” finished its first season
Wednesday; “Zoo” ends its third tonight. The team races to stop
the hybrid creatures from breaching the barrier wall.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.

The first half of
Ken Burns' magnificent documentary concludes with one of its most
involving people.

John Musgrave joined
the Marines as a teen from small-town in Missouri, filled with
patriotism and idealism. Then he saw the enemy. “My hatred for them
was pure,” he says. “I hated them so much .... and I was
terrified of them.” There was reason to be. In a fierce fight at
Con Thien, most of the unit was wounded (including Musgrave) or
killed. Officials kept insisting that the U.S. was winning.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Doc Martin” new season, any time, www.acorn.tv.

Most of the time,
this is a low-key drama-with-comedy, centering on a crusty village
doctor. He has a wife (the local teacher), a toddler, an aunt (a
retired doctor) and some pleasantly offbeat neighbors.

The season-opener
also detours toward flat-out, slapstick comedy. The pleasant-but-dim
constable has a beautiful-but-ditzy fiancee; their wedding –
complete with his ailment, her doubts and a medicated vicar – is
wildly funny. That's followed by a mostly serious episode, with Art
Malik as guest star.

Other choices
include:

-- Finales , 8-11
p.m., ABC. A week before their new seasons start, ABC's shows remind
us how the previous ones ended. “Grey's Anatomy” (8 p.m.) has a
patient escape from his room and endanger the rest of the hospital
... “Scandal” (9) has Fitz making big moves at the end of his
presidency ... “How To Get Away With Murder” (10) finally offers
details on the night of the fire and on who killed Wes.

-- “Penn &
Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. After airing reruns all summer, this
amiable magic show has some new hours to show today, Monday and next
Thursday.

-- “Gotham”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox. Jonathan Crane – also known as The
Scarecrow – may be back. There's a string of robberies in his stle.
Also, Penguin's crime scheme starts to backfire.

-- “The Orville,”
9 p.m., Fox. The original “Star Trek” was almost an anthology,
shifting in tone from week to week. So after a couple light episodes,
“Orville” moves into its Thursday timeslot with a dead-serious
drama about a one-gender culture. There are a few light, pop-culture
moments, but the drama part – well-meaning, but heavy-handed –
dominates. “Orville” is, as usual, almost adequate.

-- “Project
Runway,” 9-10:33 p.m. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8) involved
designing for good or evil; the new one lets the models having some
control, creating street-style fashions.

-- “Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the season-finale, a warehouse fire
rages. (We'll learn next week if everyone survived.) Chicago Cub
stars Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta play themselves.