TV column for Sunday, Dec. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Frozen” (2013) and “Encore,” 8 and 10 p.m., ABC.

It's Kristen Bell
night on ABC, while celebrating the art of Broadway-style belting.
First is “Frozen,” a new classic that blends gorgeous animation
and big ballads sung by Bell and Idina Menzel.

Then comes a unique
reality show Bell produced: She assembles people who – 20 years ago
– did “Into the Woods” as their high school musical. Now –
boosted by Broadway directors and coaches – each returns to his or
her original role. These middle-age folks have just two weeks to
recapture their youth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bob's Burgers,” 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fox.

For the first time
in its eight-season existence, this animated show has a one-hour
episode.

Linda plans a
holiday party at the restaurant, to spread neighborhood cheer. When
her prized ornaments are stolen, she starts questioning the guests.
The kids, however, have an alternate theory: They suspect this was
the work of The Bleaken, who is the anti-Santa.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season (or mid-season) finales, cable.

From amour to
zombies, this is a key night. The zombies are on AMC's “Walking
Dead,” which starts rerunning the season at 1:39 p.m.; its
“mid-season finale” is at 9 p.m., repeating at 11:28 (after the
10:28 p.m. “Talking Dead”). Then comes an eight-week break.

The love is on
“Outlander,” at 8 p.m. on Starz. Jamie's nephew Ian is missing
and an old adversary seems to be involved; Jamie and Claire race
through the Jamaican jungles, trying to rescue Ian.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Movie adventures, cable.

Back in 1977, two
friends proved that wide-eyed adventures can be brilliantly crafted.
Steven Spielberg gave us “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”;
George Lucas had “Star Wars.” Now the former is at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies; the latter is 1:30 p.m. on TNT, with sequels
at 4:15 and 7:01.

They compete with
two more triumphs: James Cameron's “Terminator 2” (1991) is 8
p.m. ET on BBC America; George Miller's “Mad Max: Beyond
Thunderdome” (1985) is 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Viceland.

Other choices
include:

“Miracle on 34th
Street” (1947), 3 p.m., Sundance, rerunning at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45
p.m. By

modern standards,
this is slow and stiff. Still, it's a classic, complete with a
9-year-old Natalie Wood.

“You Can't Fight
Christmas,” 7-9 p.m., TV One. Yes, most Christmas movies are kind
of fun. (There are new ones tonight on Ion and on both Hallmark
Channels.) Still, the stars seem to look the same; the plots seem to
feel the same. Here's the exception: The immensely likable Brely
Evans plays a designer, desperate to save a classic, black-owned
hotel. The plot is predictable, but the cast – including Persia
White as a sleek villain – is terrific. There are even some songs,
two of them sung by Evans.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Bart is missing and the whole town searches.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A skilled assailant is determined to avenge
her father's death by killing a Brazilian diplomat.

“Counterpart,” 9
p.m., Starz. J.K. Simmons has been all over our TV and movie screens,
mainly as villains (including his Oscar-winning “Whiplash” role)
and in quirky insurance commercials. What he rarely gets to be,
though, is the central figure. Now he plays a lowly bureaucrat who
learns what his agency really does. This is an early peek at a series
that starts Jan. 21.

“Madame
Secretary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth isn't really the hostess type,
but she hosts a holiday party in hopes of getting votes for a treaty.
Also, her husband scrambles to prove collusion with the Russians.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mary Poppins” (1964), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Over the next two
nights, ABC lets families snuggle together for classic movies –
recent (“Frozen” is Sunday) and not. This one is a delight, No. 6
on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.

Julie Andrews won an
Academy Award, as the magical and strong-willed nanny; Dick Van Dyke
drew a supporting-Oscar nomination as her Cockney friend. There were
four more Oscars and seven more nominations, including best picture.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Cartoons, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Families may need to
keep their recording devices busy tonight. At the same time as “Mary
Poppins,” here are reruns of three shows – fairly good, very
popular -- that have already aired once this season.

“Rudolph the Red
Nosed Reindeer” is at 8. That's followed by the jaunty “Frosty
the Snowman” at 9 p.m. and its disappointing sequel, “Frosty
Returns,” at 9:30.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: More classic movies, cable.

“Mary Poppins”
collides with two more films considered all-time classics.

At 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies has “Woman of the Year” (1942), with Katharine
Hepburn and Spencer Tracy colliding amid sharply comic dialog. And at
8 p.m. on the USA Network is “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946), with
James Stewart, Donna Reed and an abundance of Christmas warmth.

Other choices
include:

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. This rerun has it all. There's a sharp,
dead-serious monolog by Will, lecturing the much-younger guy he's
dating. And there's some hilarious sight gags with Grace and Karen,
putting a modern spin on the old scene with Lucy and Ethel stuck in a
shower.

“The Gifted,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a fairly good rerun, Blink has pushed her powers too
far, collapsing. Now Caitlin and Eclipse make a risky effort to get a
crucial serum.

“Christmas in
Mississippi,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Jana Kramer has managed to
juggle multiple careers. A singer – in 2013, the Academy of Country
Music named her best new female – she's had a busy acting career,
including three seasons on “One Tree Hill.” Here, she co-stars
with Wes Brown; also at 8 p.m., Maggie Lawson (fresh from the “Psych”
movie) has “Christmas Encore” on Hallmark.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. In a funny rerun, people rush to re-open the store
... while pondering repercussions of things they did during the
tornado.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. Riggs heads to Mexico, to avenge his wife's murder.
Murtaugh heads there after him; later, both face investigations about
their actions.

More new Christmas
movies, 9 p.m. “Runaway Christmas Bride” is on Ion; “The
Christmas Cottage” is on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. James Franco has just opened an eccentric
film -- “The Disaster Artist,” based on the story behind the
creation of what's considered one of the all-time bad movies. Now he
hosts “SNL,” with Sza as music guest.

TV column for Friday, Dec. 8


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Some great foresight
went into molding this show, three years ago. Yes, Rachel Bloom –
who co-created it, co-writes the songs and stars as Rebecca – is an
immense talent. But “Crazy” made sure all the supporting roles
were filled by people with Broadway-style skills; it can move in any
direction.

Tonight, it turns to
Paula, Rebecca's long-suffering friend. Donna Lynne Champlin –
who's done five Broadway shows -- even belts a song about the male
organ. Some viewers – well, many viewers -- will find it terribly
inappropriate; others will find the song hilarious and the episode
clever.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

This is the last new
episode until January, so we might as well savor it. It offers
another tricky balance between family and law-and-order duties.

A man has bravely
rescued a woman from a hostage situation. Now Jamie, a street cop,
wants his sister, a prosecutor, to drop all charges aainst the guy;
she feels conflicted. Meanwhile, her other brother (Danny) is probing
a car-theft ring; the leader, Victor Lugo, is someone he's confronted
in the past.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Crown” new season, any time, Netflix.

In the first season,
we saw Elizabeth II become queen at 25 ... something she didn't
expect would happen for decades. The series drew raves, three Emmys
and nine more nominations, including best actress (Claire Foy) and
best drama series.

Now it's 1956, four
years into her reign, with troubles involving world affairs and
family affairs. That's part of a busy day for the streaming services.
Netflix also debuts a movie, “El Camino Christmas”; Amazon Prime
has the second season of the non-fiction “Grand Tour,” with the
witty “Top Gear” guys.

Other choices
include:

“Christmas Carol”
variations, all day. In theaters, some people are catching “The Man
Who Invented Christmas,” the story of Charles Dickens writing the
great 1 percent/99 percent tale. And today, we can see the acclaimed
Alastair Sim version (1951, 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies), plus
less-acclaimed versions with Jim Carrey (2009, 2:45 p.m., Freeform)
and Seymour Hicks (1935, 9:45 p.m. ET, TCM).

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. To stop a terrorist plot, the team goes undercover at a
movie set.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Desperate to free herself and wake Anastasia,
Victoria makes a deal that could cost a life. In a flashback, we
learn of Lady Tremaine's connection to another fairytale.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Remember the “House” (airing after the Super Bowl)
that had the doctor doing a long-distance exam of a woman in
Antarctica? Now comes a variation: A college research ship is
stranded in the Arctic; Mac has a video (and emotional) link with the
group leader. Also, Jack kidnaps Elwood (Billy Baldwin), Riley's
bad-news dad, to learn what he's up to.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Four people – McGarrett, Danny, Tani and Junior –
are exposed to a deadly bio-weapon. Now the rest of the team has only
eight hours to find an antidote.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., Daisy risks everything, in an effort to save
Simmons.

“Superstition,”
10 p.m., Syfy. The Dredge is being quite grumpy now. It is torturing
Calvin, to make him release the evil demons; also, its minions are
converging on the Founders Day Festival.

TV column for Thursday, Dec. 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Orville” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

Wait a second ... a
season finale already? Doesn't it seems like the season just started?
Tonight, “S.W.A.T.” has only its sixth episode; on Friday,
“Agents of SHIELD” has only its second.

Let's credit the
networks for trying to avoid reruns. “Orville” started early –
three episodes before the season officially began – only made 13
episodes and will save one for next season. It steps aside for
specials next week, a rerun or two and then a short-run music show.
Tonight, the ship crash-lands on another planet; also, Ed and Kelly
(who's his First Officer and ex-wife) consider getting back together.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “The Great American Baking Show,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Here's the second
half of ABC's effort to keep things cheery and rerun-free in
December. “The Great Christmas Lights Fight” (Mondays) and this
show each get a quick, three-week run.

This one – adapted
from a British show – had “Holiday” in its title last season.
That was removed, but it still airs in December, with holiday-worthy
food. That starts here with cake and morning treats. Anthony “Spice”
Adams – a starting defensive lineman during most of his nine-year
pro football career – hosts with Ayesha Curry. Paul Hollywood and
Johnny Iuzzini are judges.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Psych: The Movie,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

For eight years,
this offered the sort of light adventure basic-cable was known for.
Shawn (James Roday), a cop's son, was merely a sharp observor, but
pretended to be a crime-solving psychic.

Now, three years
later, we get this movie. Roday (who co-wrote it) is back, along with
Maggie Lawson as his love interest, Dule Hill as his friend and
Corbin Bernsen as his dad. A colorful batch of guest stars includes
Zachary Levi, Ralph Macchio and Jimmi Simpson.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Nashville Christmas,” 8 p.m.ET, GetTV, rerunning
at 11.

Most of us are still
learning how to get GetTV. It's one of the “digi-nets” that exist
sometimes on cable and more often on stations' sub-channels,
available by digital antenna. But this is the time to find it; all
month, it reruns Christmas specials (tonight, Johnny Cash at 9, Mac
Davis at 10), plus this new hour.

Here are four great
talents – Wynonna Judd, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis and Emmylou
Harris – joined by gospel's Ashley Cleveland and bluegrass' Dailey
& Vincent. We haven't seen the whole hour, but a sampling –
Morgan doing a gorgeous “Christmas Song,” Judd and Tillis rocking
out – is promising.

Other choices
include:

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the “fall finale,” Carmine Falcone – former Mob
boss in Gotham City – is back in town. That complicates things for
his daughter Sophia and for Det. Gordon and Penguin. Meanwhile,
Alfred tries to get through to Bruce; Nygma tries to control his
Riddler persona.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon isn't really a natural
wedding-planner, but now he tries to use math principals. Also, Raj
blames his lack of confidence on his best friend, Howard.

“The Toy Story
That Time Forgot,” 8:30 p.m., ABC; and “Toy Story” (1995), 9-11
p.m., Freeform. First, catch this fairly good special – which is
preceded by the so-so “Shrek the Halls” at 8. Then switch to
cable and savor the original movie delight.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. It's time for some serious family warfare: Sheldon's
grandma refuses to give Sheldon's dad her brisket recipe.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Steven Weber guests as the estranged brother of Bonnie's
boyfriend. Things get messy when he falls for Bonnie's daughter
Christy.

“Dian Fossey:
Secrets in the Mist,” 10 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 11. If
you missed Wednesday's debut of this compelling, three-week
documentary, here's another chance. And this time it's preceded at 7
p.m. ET by “Gorilla's in the Mist” (1988), with Sigourney Weaver
as Fossey.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 6


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

Fossey grew up in
California, with a step-father who was rich and distant. Shy with
people, she was warm with animals; at 35, she found her role in life
– studying mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

This three-week
documentary follows the controversies surrounding her life and her
murder. It mixes new footage (beautifully shot) and film from her own
cameraman. It interviews many of the key people and makes ample use
of Fossey's own writing – read by Sigourney Weaver, who played her
in “Gorillas in the Midst” (1989) ... which will rerun at 7 p.m.
and midnight ET Thursday on NatGeo Wild.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

For nine years,
we've seen Phil grasp for success in real estate. Now he's ready to
take a big chance, starting his own firm. To get in the mood, he's
trying a solo camping trip in the wild.

Meanwhile, Mitchell
decides he's going to teach Cam a lesson in gullibility and Lily a
lesson in responsibility. Naturally, this soon backfires.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Happy” (Syfy) or “Knightfall” (History) debuts,
both 10 p.m.

Two ambitious cable
hours start simultaneously. In one, don't let the title fool you.

“Happy” is
roughly the least-happy show ever. Happy is the imaginary friend of a
little girl who's soon kidnapped. He pursues a possible rescuer – a
bitter and violent chap, played by Chris Meloni; the result is loud
and frantic and not much fun. By elimination, we might try History's
series; it follows knights in the Christian-Crusade era, after the
Holy Grail has been lost in battle.

Other choices
include:

“A Very Pentatonix
Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of the Nov. 27
special, with guest stars including Jennifer Hudson, Jay Leno and
“America's Got Talent” winner Darci Lynne Farmer.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Jughead and Betty plan a welcome-home party for his dad,
who's getting out of prison. That leaves Archie and Veronica to take
over the Black Hood investigation.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. The master plan of Diana DuBois (Phylicia Rashad) is
starting to unfold. Cookie and Lucious try to take things into their
own hands, but their son Andre spirals out of control, worrying about
what's ahead for him. Also, Jamal's sobriety is put to the test.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. There are relationship complications everywhere: Noah is in a
triangle with Star and her bandmate, Alexandra ... Elliott is eager
to advance his relationship with Cotton ... And Carlotta is happy
with Maurice – but keeps her focus on her family.

“Dynasty,” 9
p.m., CW. We're reminded that Fallon is a bad daughter (she co-opts
her dad's Christmas presents as her own) and a worse ex-lover –
leaving a naked couple locked outside the fire escape. Then again,
there are few good people here, as Cristal lies to her husband and
Steven confronts a fatal error from his past. With lots of evil, but
few skilled actors, “Dynasty” becomes a chore to watch.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. After sifting through thousands of letters
to the president, the staff chooses three to answer -- one of which
may involve saving a life.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. When the daughter of a judge (John Pankow) dies, the
team probes a pill mill that's spreading into the subutbs. Also,
Voight learns who's been leaking information.