TV column for Thursday, Dec. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Disney Prep & Landing,” 8 p.m., ABC, with sequel at 8:30.

Sure, Santa gets
lots of attention; there have also been movies and specials about his
wife, his brother, his daughters, even his toymakers and reindeer.
But no one pays much attention to the advance men.

Like a rooftop
version of a NASCAR pit crews, they are skilled and high-tech,
preparing each landing site. Now they're featured in these animated
reruns, from 2009 and 2011; each is slick, fast-paced and modestly
entertaining. They'll also un Dec. 23 on ABC and Dec. 22 and 25 on
Freeform.

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

In its final season,
“Big Bang” has been taking big plot twists ... many of them
showing up in this delightful rerun. Stuart finally has a girlfriend
... complicating life for Howard and Bernadette, by bringing her home
with him. And Raj is tenuously heading toward an arranged marriage.

All of this is
overshadowed by the big problem: Penny and Leonard find they have
different ideas about when and if to have kids. Keith Carradine is
back as Penny's father.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Baroness Von Sketch Show,” 9 p.m. ET, IFC.

As networks drift
into reruns and holiday specials, try this show, plus a previous
episode rerunning at 9:30. Four women combine for quick, smart
sketches, each just the right length for maximum laughs.

A few bits –
pre-surgical shaving, time-travel as a device for self-pleasuring –
are strictly adult. Still, many of the funniest moments work for
anyone. Watch a server being stingy with the condiments ... or a
variation on the girl who strolls into a guys' playground basketball
game ... or Romeo trying to charm a defensive Juliet. “Technically,”
she cautions, “anything you write about me is child pornography.”

Other choices
include:

“No Sleep 'Til
Christmas,” 11 a.m., Freeform. Like the network's other new
Christmas films, this has a sharp concept and rich production values.
Unlike the others, it's well-cast and perfectly played. Odette
Annable and her husband Dave are excellent as insomniacs who become
platonic sleepmates.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Glenn's new training system is driving Amy crazy. Also,
Cheyenne and Mateo are concocting a new business.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Here's the episode – a fairly good one – from
last April, introducing John Sturgis. Not really challenged by high
school, Sheldon audits a collge class taught by Sturgis (Wallace
Shawn) ... whom he soon decides would be perfect to date his
grandmother.

Christmas shows,
9-11 p.m., ABC and NBC. ABC has the mid-section of its three-week
“Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” this time focusing
on cookies and bread. NBC counters with a quick rerun, stuffed with
previous “Saturday Night Live” Christmas sketches.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Searching for the perfect “secret Santa” gift, Christy
finds that Adam has been hiding something from her mother. Also,
Tammy needs to get a job or her probation will be revoked.

“Murphy Brown,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Last week, Murphy's son lost his job on the Wolf
Network (a lot like Fox), when he refused to deliver a commentary
deriding “fake news.” Now he gets some encouragement from his mom
and her morning-show colleagues.

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., TruTV. After a rerun marathon that
starts at 7:30 a.m., this dandy show begins its fifth season. Michael
Carbonaro is a skilled magician who creates fresh, hidden-camera
surprises. Tonight, for instance, he's at a return counter and finds
things inside a toaster.

TV column for Wednesday, Dec. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Little Big Shots” and “A Legendary Christmas,” 9 and 10
p.m., NBC.

Over the past three
years, “Little Big Shots” has been a springtime (and beyond)
delight, with kids forever astonishing Steve Harvey. Now here's a
holiday special; it turns to young stars from past episodes,
including singers Angelica Hale and Miles Caton and best friends
Buddy and Reagan.

That's followed by a
rerun centering on John Legend's new album. The music – including
one song apiece from Stevie Wonder and Esperanza Spalding – is
good; the comedy is quirky. Done in an old-time style, it's sometimes
lame, but has funny bits from Kris Jenner, Derek Hough and Awkwafina.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Haley's pregnancy is
a big deal, preparing to make this a real rarity – a
four-generation comedy. She wants to tell everyone as a Christmastime
surprise ... but can't seem to find the right time.

Meanwhile, her dad
doesn't have the right idea of a family Christmas: He keeps borrowing
the tree for the houses he's selling. And her grandfather Jay has
trouble with unwelcome visitors.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “All American,” 9 p.m., CW.

The big night –
the Homecoming game, with the conference championship at stake –
arrives just as personal problems are wobbling. The quarterback (and
coach's son) is dating a cheerleader from the other team ... while
raging because his sister once had sex with Asher, his star receiver.

Now Asher has been
suspended for drunken behavior, putting extra pressure on Spencer ...
who already has complications juggling his roots in a tough
neighborhood and his high school life in Beverly Hills. In a strong
episode, he tries to help his friend Coop extricate herself from the
gang life.

Other choices
include:

“Mickey's Once
Upon a Christmas” and “Twice Upon a Christmas,” 1:30 and 3
p.m., Freeform. These animated specials came out in 1999 and 2004,
compiling lots of stories – three in the first film, five in the
second – about Mickey, Minnie, Donald and such.

“Finding Nemo”
(2003), 6:30 p.m., Freeform. Taking a break from its holiday films,
Freeform offers this animated classic. If you prefer Christmas
movies, there are 8 p.m. choices, including “Christmas at
Graceland” (Elvis music in the background) on Hallmark and “Every
Day is Christmas” (a variation on “Christmas Carol”) on
Lifetime.

“Empire” and
“Star,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here are reruns of the season's second
episodes, both so-so. First, Cookie and Lucious are jolted by the
problems competing with their old label; then Star's pregnancy is
revealed by Mateo in an audacious publicity stunt.

“Ellen's Game of
Games,” 8 p.m., NBC. It's a night of Christmas-themed games.

“SEAL Team,” 9
p.m., CBS. The team brings everything together, for a final attempt
to stop one of Mexico's most lethal drug kingpins.

“Single Parents,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. It's a complicated Christmas: Angie is bad at
choosing a present for Owen, Will seems bad at choosing a present for
his daughter and everyone has Santa issues.

“A Million Little
Things,” 10 p.m., ABC. On the first Christmas since Jon's suicide,
friends try to keep things cheerful. His widow, however, still hasn't
told their children she's pregnant.

TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Darci Lynne: My Hometown Christmas,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Darci Lynne Farmer
was already a pageant winner (International Mini Miss), when she
asked her parents for a dummy. She got one for her 10th
birthday and learned ventriloquism ... quickly. At 12, she won
“America's Got Talent,” with a mixture of comedy and music.

Now, at 14, she's
back home in Oklahoma City for this special. It includes fellow
Oklahomans Toby Keith and Kristen Chenoweth, plus Hunter Hayes and
Lindsey Stirling.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CW.

Here's the
conclusion of the three-night, crossover srory that began with an
unsettling moment: Oliver (Green Arrow) and Barry (The Flash) each
woke up in the other's body.

They were unhappy
about this and went to get help from Supergirl. Now she's bringing
her cousin (Superman, who tends to be very helpful) to help with an
epic battle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tree of Life: A Concert for Peace and Unity,” 8
p.m., PBS.

The “Schindler's
List” music – composed by John Williams, performed by Itzhak
Perlman – reflected the horrors of the Holocaust. Now it's been
used to mark the modern tragedy, when a gunman posted anti-Semitic
rants, then killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

This Pittsburgh
Symphony concert has Perlman and doing three “Schindler's”
pieces. It also has music by Ravel, Brahms, Shostakovich, David
Zehavi and Edward Elgar.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Letters From Baghdad,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

Like other wealthy
Englishpeople, Gertrude Bell studied at Oxford and traveled abroad.
Unlike them, she learned the languages, the history and the customs.
She wrote books about the Middle East, then became a top official;
she pushed for the creation of Iraq and was a key advisor to its
king.

As the lone woman at
the top, she drew opposite reactions. She was arrogant and diffident,
some said, and spent a fortune on clothes; she was curious ad
attentive, others said. It's a rich story, told mostly through her
letters and old photos and footage, in this intriguing documentary.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Here are the last cuts, before next week's two-night
finale. Kelly Clarkson still has three singers; Blake Shelton and
Jennifer Hudson each have two; Adam Levine has only one.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. While probing a murder, the team find an unidentified, newborn
baby.

“The Conners,” 8
p.m., ABC. The two sisters in this terrific comedy have often been
opposites. Now that peaks when Becky helps Darlene's daughter keep a
secret from her.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Heading out to a Christmas Day movie, the family hits an
impasse. Dre wants to see a film about Rosa Parks and civil rights;
everyone else wants an action-movie blockbuster.

“Black
Lightning,” 9 p.m., CW. Jennifer didn't want to be part of this
superhero world. But last week she disappeared, causing her parents
and sister to panic. In tonight's fairly good episode, she's trying
to help the severely wounded Khalil, while Cutter – Tobias' new
hitwoman – tries to finish her kill.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Pride's father (Stacy Keach) had been taken
hostage, along with Dr. Wade (CCH Pounder). To save them, Pride has
to do a series of tasks.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. The games have a Christmas theme, in a
special that has Ana Gasteyer, Tony Hale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ron
Funches, Lauren Ash and Jameela Jamil.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“CMA Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

When stars arrived
last month for the Country Music Association awards, many of them
stayed for an extra day. They taped this concert – a cheery, annual
one that gives holiday songs a Nashville flair.

Reba McEntire hosts
a night that has two Bretts (Eldredge and Young) and a Brad
(Paisley), plus Martina McBride, Dustin Lynch, the Isaacs, Old
Dominion and Dan + Shay. There are also people from beyond
country-music. They includes Amy Grant – whose Hallmark special was
set for tonight, then moved a week earlier -- plus Lindsey Stirling,
Michael W. Smith and Tony Bennett with Diana Krall.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “No Sleep Til Christmas,” 9-11 p.m., Freeform.

Lizzie is a
big-money event planner with a well-controlled life; Billy is a
small-money bartender with an uncontrolled life. What they share is
trouble sleeping; then Lizzie – desperate to get some rest before
her New Year's Eve wedding – suggests that they become platonic
sleepmates.

Like the other new
Freeform films (“The Truth About Christmas” and “Life-Size 2”),
this has a good concept, a clever script and strong production
values. The others are poorly cast and too frantic; “Sleep,” by
comparison, gets great work from Odette Annable and her husband Dave.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW.

We all know how
annoying it is to wake up in someone else's body and then find the
other guy now occupying our body and we try to explain it to our
friends but they don't understand and ....

OK, maybe we don't
know what it's like. But that's what happened to Oliver and Barry
(Green Arrow and The Flash) on Sunday. Tonight – in the mid-section
of a three-night crossover – they join Supergirl on a trip to
Gotham City ... where they're pointed toward the notorious Arkham
Asylum.

Other choices
include:

“Explorer” (6
p.m. and 1 a.m. ET) and “Mars” (9 p.m. and midnight ET), National
Geographic. First, “Explorer” includes one of the real-life
proposals for a Mars mission – an attempt at human hibernation.
Then we see the the fictional Mars mission. Last week (rerunning at 7
p.m. ET), a mysterious illness spread through the colonies; this
week, the first baby is born on Mars.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, both of Adam Levine's singers were plunked
into the bottom three. Reagan Strange got viewers' instant save;
DeAndre Nico was ousted, along with Dave Fenley from Blake Shelton's
team. Now we're a week from the two-night finale; Kelly Clarkson
still has three singers, Shelton and Jennifer Hudson have two apiece,
Levine has only Strange.

“The
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. Malcolm has been robbed of his
sneakers, spurring strong reactions. His dad tries to find the
culprit; his mom offers a hard-core lesson in self-defense.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Rick's lover (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) has been running an
illegal poker game. After it's robbed, she owes the Mob a fortune.

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. This reruns the third episode for Jennifer Love Hewitt. As
Maddie, the new dispatcher, she goes on a ride-along with Athena
(Angela Bassett).

“Pentatonix: A Not
So Silent Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. It's the third special for the a
capella group. This one is from Las Vegas, with Clarkson, Maren
Morris, the Backstreet Boys and Penn & Teller.

“The Great
Christmas Light Fight,” 10 p.m., ABC. To make room for the
country-music special, this week's edition is shorter and later than
usual. It will focus on some of the past's top light displays.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“CMA Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

When stars arrived
last month for the Country Music Association awards, many of them
stayed for an extra day. They taped this concert – a cheery, annual
one that gives holiday songs a Nashville flair.

Reba McEntire hosts
a night that has two Bretts (Eldredge and Young) and a Brad
(Paisley), plus Martina McBride, Dustin Lynch, the Isaacs, Old
Dominion and Dan + Shay. There are also people from beyond
country-music. They includes Amy Grant – whose Hallmark special was
set for tonight, then moved a week earlier -- plus Lindsey Stirling,
Michael W. Smith and Tony Bennett with Diana Krall.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “No Sleep Til Christmas,” 9-11 p.m., Freeform.

Lizzie is a
big-money event planner with a well-controlled life; Billy is a
small-money bartender with an uncontrolled life. What they share is
trouble sleeping; then Lizzie – desperate to get some rest before
her New Year's Eve wedding – suggests that they become platonic
sleepmates.

Like the other new
Freeform films (“The Truth About Christmas” and “Life-Size 2”),
this has a good concept, a clever script and strong production
values. The others are poorly cast and too frantic; “Sleep,” by
comparison, gets great work from Odette Annable and her husband Dave.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW.

We all know how
annoying it is to wake up in someone else's body and then find the
other guy now occupying our body and we try to explain it to our
friends but they don't understand and ....

OK, maybe we don't
know what it's like. But that's what happened to Oliver and Barry
(Green Arrow and The Flash) on Sunday. Tonight – in the mid-section
of a three-night crossover – they join Supergirl on a trip to
Gotham City ... where they're pointed toward the notorious Arkham
Asylum.

Other choices
include:

“Explorer” (6
p.m. and 1 a.m. ET) and “Mars” (9 p.m. and midnight ET), National
Geographic. First, “Explorer” includes one of the real-life
proposals for a Mars mission – an attempt at human hibernation.
Then we see the the fictional Mars mission. Last week (rerunning at 7
p.m. ET), a mysterious illness spread through the colonies; this
week, the first baby is born on Mars.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, both of Adam Levine's singers were plunked
into the bottom three. Reagan Strange got viewers' instant save;
DeAndre Nico was ousted, along with Dave Fenley from Blake Shelton's
team. Now we're a week from the two-night finale; Kelly Clarkson
still has three singers, Shelton and Jennifer Hudson have two apiece,
Levine has only Strange.

“The
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. Malcolm has been robbed of his
sneakers, spurring strong reactions. His dad tries to find the
culprit; his mom offers a hard-core lesson in self-defense.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Rick's lover (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) has been running an
illegal poker game. After it's robbed, she owes the Mob a fortune.

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. This reruns the third episode for Jennifer Love Hewitt. As
Maddie, the new dispatcher, she goes on a ride-along with Athena
(Angela Bassett).

“Pentatonix: A Not
So Silent Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. It's the third special for the a
capella group. This one is from Las Vegas, with Clarkson, Maren
Morris, the Backstreet Boys and Penn & Teller.

“The Great
Christmas Light Fight,” 10 p.m., ABC. To make room for the
country-music special, this week's edition is shorter and later than
usual. It will focus on some of the past's top light displays.