TV column for Saturday, Oct. 14


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

This wraps up a
stretch that “SNL” announced for the start of the season –
three straight new episodes, each with a top music guest. It was
Jay-Z in the opener (hosted by Ryan Gosling), then Sam Smith (with
Gal Gadot hosting) and now Pink.

The host, Kumail
Nanjiani, was relatively unknown until recently; he's co-starred as
computer guys in two cable series, “Franklin & Bash” and
“Silicon Valley.” But then he co-wrote and starred in “The Big
Sick,” an autobiographical delight that's both warm and funny; now
comes the “SNL” spotlight.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Will & Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC (or after “SNL” on the
West Coast).

Here's another
chance to see Thursday's episode, the third in the revived series. It
doesn't match the hilarity of the first two, but is still way funnier
than almost anything on TV.

Grace is
hospitalized and her emergency contact is still her ex-husband Leo
(Harry Connick). It's a chance to bring up old issues ... and a
chance for Will to fume that he's not the contact. Also, Jack and
Karen are in the unfamiliar situation of doing good for others.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Halt and Catch Fire” series finale, 9 p.m., AMC,
rerunning at 11:14.

This ambitious tale
of computer pioneers has had an odd arc. At first, it was slow and
grim and impersonal; then, in this fourth and final season, it began
to have deep character moments.

And now? The story
sort of peaks during the first half of this two-hour-plus finale. It
drifts into a long, quiet goodbye ... then has some final minutes
worth catching. Most of its characters end up surprising us, which is
the sign of a good – albeit frustrating – series.

Other choices
include:

Sports, everywhere.
There's lots of college football, of course, including ABC's 8 p.m.
ET game, with Southern California (ranked No. 13) hosting Utah. But
baseball is starting its league play-offs. It's the National League
on TBS and the American League on Fox or Fox Sports1, with World
Series spots at stake. Also, there's boxing at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox
and 10 p.m. on Showtime.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Riley, the young computer whiz, has disappeared, shortly
after hacking into the National Security Agency and possibly
triggering world war. This is not a good thing, so Mac tries to find
her. Also in this rerun, Bozer has his first mission.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC (or later, West Coast). In a rerun, the store is
adding new employees – including Amy's daughter. Amy turns to Jonah
for advice about adjusting her parenting style.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, an NSA agent has disappeared
while tracking an ISIS cell. To find him, Callen must go undercover
as a patient in a mental hospital.

“The Wonder List,”
9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Last week, this series opened
with a fascinating look at Patagonia. Tonight is Madagascar.

“School of Rock”
(2003), 9-11:30 p.m., Bravo. Dewey (Jack Black) is drifting through
life as a rock guitarist, with little money or ambition. Then he lies
his way into a substitute-teaching job ... and finds he has a knack
for encouraging music. That might sound merely OK, but it's
surprisingly good. Mike White (who co-stars) wrote a sharp script and
Richard Linklater directed it perfectly.

Hip-hop Awards, 10
p.m. to midnight, BET. Here's a rerun of the Tuesday event. Even if
you already know who won, you can catch music by DJ Khaled (who
hosts), Flo Rida, T-Pain, Trina and more.

TV column for Friday, Oct. 13


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

For two seasons,
“Crazy” has offered a special blend: Its comedy has been clever,
but inconsistent; its musical numbers have been delightful, rippling
with witty lyrics and vibrant choreography.

And as the third
season starts? The two music numbers are superb, as usual; one has a
'50s soda-fountain feel, the other jumps back to pioneer days. And
this time, the comedy is also first-rate: Plotting revenge on Josh,
who left her at the altar, Rebecca hatches some truly ill-advised
schemes. Vincent Rodriguez III, who usually plays Josh, has great
moments as someone she hires.

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

In the old days,
each Grammy show had a rousing gospel number. That's revived here, in
the Grammys' “Legends” awards; Kirk Franklin brings a choir to
honor Shirley Caesar, who also sings soaringly.

It's a sensational
moment in a mixed night. The show starts mildly and ends vibrantly,
with an all-star group singing Sly Stone's “Dance to the Music.”
The night honors former outsiders – Stone, Nina Simone, Velvet
Underground – and insiders, with younger singers helping out. Andra
Day is superb with both the sweet “Georgia On My Mind” and
Simone's blistering “Mississippi Goddam.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

On other nights,
little CW is easy to overlook. Beginning tonight, however, it easily
has the best Friday line-up – first “Crazy” and then this
immensely entertaining comedy-drama.

Jane is a sweet
soul, entangled in a wild, telenovela life. She was accidentally
inseminated (a clinical error), her husband died, she's falling for
Rafael (her baby's biologic father) ... but she's just re-met her
former teen-age love. There's much more, explained by funny, dueling
narrators. That includes the evil twin – hey, we said “telenovela”
-- of Rafael's estranged wife, providing a great closing twist.

Other choices
include:

“Mindhunter” and
more, any time, Netflix. It's a big night for the streaming network,
which has assembled top Hollywood talent. David Fincher (“Gone
Girl,” “The Social Network”) produces “Mindhunter” -- with
Jonathan Groff probing serial killers – and directs the first two
episodes. Also, Dustin Hoffman stars in the movie “Meyerowitz
Stories” with Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and more.

“Love, Actually”
(2008), 7:30-10:30 p.m., CMT. This gentle gem leads the movie night.
Als, families have “Shrek Forever After” (2010) at 8 p.m. on
Nickelodeon or the first three Harry Potter films at 12:30, 4 and 8
p.m. on Freeform.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the fairy-tale world, Henry asks for help
finding Cinderella. In Seattle, he offers unrequested help to
Jacinda, the Cinderella-type who's desperate to see her daughter.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A high-stakes casino has an imposing vault; MacGyver has
cuff links and wire. Yes, it's a mismatch.

“The Exorcist,”
9 p.m., Fox. At a foster-home on a maybe-haunted island, Andy tries
to help a girl who's afraid to go outside. Also, Tomas and Marcus
have a new possession case. And church leaders track down a rogue
operative (Zuleikha Robinson) with a one-woman crusade against
demons.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. To stop a crime spree, the team needs the help of an old
friend.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. As Erin prosecutes a human-trafficker, the judge is
found dead. Now her brother Danny looks for foul play. Meanwhile,
their dad, the police commissioner, battles the mayor (Lorraine
Bracco); the city council speaker (Whoopi Goldberg) devises a
possible solution.

TV column for Thursday, Oct. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Will & Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC.

By all logic,
Grace's emergency contact should be Will. They've been friends for 20
years; they finish each other's sentences. But now she's hospitalized
and the contact is ... her ex-husband Leo.

That lets the show
bring back Harry Connick, while pondering a failed marriage of good
people. Meanwhile, Karen and Jack – who aren't really into helping
others – are at an inner-city program for kids. The result can't
match the hilarity of the first two episodes, but it is well above
average.

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

In most areas –
its style, its sound, its settings – this show is beautifully
crafted. Then it sometimes wounds itself with a surplus of nastiness
or a shortage of logic.

Ask yourself this:
If you had just spent $2 million on an artifact that others seem to
covet, would you promptly leave it overnight with a portly scientist
and his grandson? Moments like that cloud a strong hour that, among
other things, uses a library and a museum as great backdrops for
whiz-bang action.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things,” 10 p.m., FX, repeating at 11:04.

This amazing show
can leap in and out of dead-serious turf, while we still think we're
watching a comedy. Now the focus is on Sam's mom (Celia Imrie), an
exasperating soul who even tries to get a second mortgage on a house
she doesn't own. And then ... she slides downhill.

Soon, Sam (Pamela
Adlon) is calling her brother (Kevin Pollak) and considering “a
dying-lady lonely place where mean young women put their mothers.”
Written by Louis CK and directed by Adlon, it's a unique mixture of
fun and despair.

Other choices
include:

“Supernatural”
season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. As the 13th season starts, Sam
and Dean are regrouping. Their mother died; so did Crowley, who
sacrificed himself to seal Lucifer. And Castiel died yet again. Now
the brothers disagree on how to deal with a Nephilim; also, Mary
tries to survive Lucifer.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Amy's life gets complicated when her teen daughter works
at the store.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. At a state dinner, Mellie hopes to charm her way toward
Middle East peace. If that doesn't work, Olivia has a back-up plan.
Also, Quinn's team wants to lure clients at the dinner.

“Arrow”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CW. The fifth season ended with an epic
battle. Now Oliver must deal with the aftermath of an explosion on
the island.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:32 p.m., Lifetime. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.)
brought extremes for the Buitendorp twins. They were in an
elimination duel, but Shawn dropped out to give new life to Claire
... who promptly won the $25,000 prize in the next challenge. Then
two contestants accused her of copying Margarita Alvarez's previous
design ... and of copying two thing she had in her own room. Tonight,
Tim Gunn investigates and the judges ponder a punishment. Then its
time for kid designs.

“Great News,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. The boss (Tina Fey) is ready to move on to a bigger
job. First, however, she's embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Casey manages to collide with the temporary chief.
Also, Brett gets news from her home town, providing insight into the
sexy friend (Eloise Mumford) who's visiting.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Story of Us” debut, 9 p.m. ET, National Geographic;
rerunning at 11.

Last season's “Story
of God” was epic in size and scope, yet sharp in its human
details. Now Morgan Freeman returns with an even bigger canvas: Each
week, he'll view one of life's great concepts.

That starts with
compelling views of freedom: We meet a North Korean who was born into
slavery ... And a Louisiana man who spent 43 years in solitary
confinement – as punishment, he feels, for being a Black Panther
... And an Afghan boy who disguised as a girl to help his sister,
then decided that's his true gender ... And a punk-rocker; once
imprisoned in Russia, she's free to speak out in the U.S.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Riverdale” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

This definitely
isn't the carefree bunch we knew from Archie comics. Last season,
Jughead's biker-gang dad went to prison and Cheryl Blossom's dad
killed her brother. Then the Blossom house burned down and Archie's
dad was shot by a masked gunman.

And tonight? There's
another attack, plus two intense mother-daughter confrontations.
Also, Archie showers with Veronica, who wears her pearls even when
naked. This might all seem wildly excessive ... except that it's
acted, written and filmed with exceptional skill.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Robot” season-opener, 10 p.m., USA.

Each season of this
sometimes-brilliant series ends by surprising viewers. As the first
one ended, we found that Mr. Robot is strictly imagined by Elliott,
in the image of his late father. As the second ended, we found that
Tyrell and Angela were working against Elliott ... and then Tyrell
shot him.

Now we have to worry
about that ... and more. The hackers are trying to destroy every
document that Evil Corp has – a worthy project, except that it
could destroy the world's financial system.

Other choices
include:

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Alongside its hyper-drama moments, “Empire” offers
strong music – sometimes new, sometimes from the past. Now it's
celebrating Bella's first birthday with a “princess” theme ...
which includes a tribute concert with Prince music. Isn't that what
any 1-year-old wants?

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. The red fox seems to thrive anywhere. This excellent film
follows a family in the beauty of Newfoundland, but sees others adapt
to the Arctic ... even endangering the Arctic fox. And it sees them
conquer city life in Madison, Wis., and Bristol, England.

“Mr. Mercedes”
season-finale, 8 and 11 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T. Two great writers –
David E. Kelley, adapting Stephen King – have given us vivid
characters. One is a young computer whiz who kills people and sells
ice cream; the other is a retired cop, now fearful for the people
near him.

“Dynasty” debut,
9 p.m., CW. A brash (but bad) soap from the 1980s gets a modern
makeover. Now Krystle (Linda Evans' old role) is Cristal, a Latina;
Sammy Jo (that was Heather Locklear) is Sammy Joe, a guy. And now
everyone is a schemer, with Fallon – sleek, smart, sexy – at the
core. Still, the essentials are the same: It's an overwrought tale of
overprivileged people in overheated stories.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. There are jolts for Star – she meets a person from her past –
and for her trio, which learns it will merely be singing back-up at a
TV appearance.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Rushing to a concert, Claire has no time for Phil's
nonsense about a superstition. Also, Cam may be undermining Mitch;
Phil wants Gloria to admit she had a car accident.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Hannah finds evidence that could change
the lives of the president's family. The president, however, is busy
dealing with the possibility of a fierce pandemic.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 10


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

Randall has always
been an achiever and a perpetual worrier. Abandoned as a baby – and
adopted by a warm-but-hectic family – he's groped for his place in
the world. Now we see that in two eras.

In flashbacks, he
strains to meet his birth parents; in the present (wonderfully played
by Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown), he has second thoughts about his
own plan to be a foster and adoptive parent. There's much more in the
past (his adoptive dad's troubles with alcoholism) and in the
present: Kevin starts work on a Ron Howard movie ... and Kate
promptly goes gaga over Sylvester Stallone.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Mick,” 9 p.m., Fox.

With its big, broad
plots, this comedy can sometimes score big. Here's a terrific
example.

Mick was happy
staying in her sister's mansion and watching the kids ... until the
money was cut off. Now come prison visits to both parents, with wild
results. There's a spectacular fight ... and cheery games between a
tyke and tough prisoners. None of this gives us much confidence in
prison security ... but most of it is quite funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Flash” season-opener, 8 p.m,, CW.

The CW's most
popular show has an air of breathless urgency. Good guys and villains
race and flash furiously, while world-at-stake music roars. And this
time, at least, the story matches that tone.

A fierce samurai –
yes, samurai – will destroy the city, unless he gets a
confrontation with The Flash. But Barry (that's the Flash) has been
sent away to guard the speed force and may never be back. Can the
team win without him? Can he be brought back ... and would he be the
same if that happened? And what about Caitlin Snow, who turned into
the evil Kid Frost? The answers arrive mid-crescendo.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Working with the police, Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) is on a
stakeout ... when his partner disappears. Also, Ducky gets an offer
from his friend Darwin (Susan Blakely).

“Hip-Hop Awards,”
8-10 p.m., BET. DJ Khaled hosts and performs. Other performers
include Flo Rida, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Trina, Luke Campbell, Gucci
Maine, Yo Gotti, Migos and many more.

“The Vietnam War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. Lyndon Johnson is overwhelmed by the war he
inherited. The South Vietnam leaders are corrupt or ineffective; the
Viet Cong are increasingly well-armed. His solution is to expand the
war effort, but to keep that a secret from the public.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's not easy to make a comedy out of a dead-serious
subject, but “Black-ish” does that often. This episode views
postpartum depression. Bow, who has raised four children quite
cheerfully, is staggered by No. 5. There's some broad humor at first,
followed by some solid moments.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Jake is out of prison now and ready for
a case ... if the captain will let him. Add some broad humor with
Rosa and Pimento and you have a fairly good episode.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In an episode that was scheduled for last
week, then delayed, the team searches for a Russian operative who
was in the U.S. to give information about sleeper agents.

“Adventure
Capitalists” season-opener, 10 p.m., CNBC. This fairly interesting
show is a sort of outdoor “Shark Tank,” with ex-athletes testing
– and maybe investing in – products. This season, gymnast Shawn
Johnson East joins skier Jeremy Bloom and football's Dhani Jones,
plus (tonight) Tony Gonzalez. They range from a portable gym to a
pontoon boat with its own hammock.