TV column for Thursday, Nov. 30

A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Back in 1965, CBS
was in a hurry. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” had been a hit
the year before; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was still a
year away. The network wanted another holiday hit. It turned to
Charles Schulz and his “Peanuts” comic strip. And since time was
tight; it didn't interfere.\

Schulz and director
Bill Melendez ignored TV traditions. They used real kids for the
voices ... a sparse animation style ... a jazzy score ... and even a
bit of Scripture. They created a masterpiece. The classic, which has
moved to ABC, will be followed by short bits, called “Charlie Brown
Christmas Tales.”

“Magical Holiday Celebration,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Remember when “boy
bands” ruled the pop-music world? There will be hints of that here.
Hanson -- which soared 20 years ago, when the brothers were 12, 14
and 17 – will perform. So will In Real Life, which was created on
the reality show “Boy Band.” Nick Lachey (of the boy-band 98
Degrees) hosts.

That's from the
Disney parks. Julianne Hough also hosts, with Jesse Palmer doing
reports. Other performers are Ciara, Darius Rucker, Jason Derulo, Lea
Michele and Fitz and the Tantrums.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Orville,” 9 p.m., Fox.

It's tough to
believe, but this show is already a week away from its season-finale.
“Orville” started before the other shows, only filmed 13 episodes
and will hold one of those until next season.

So tonight, we get
the year's second-to-last episode. A spatial anomaly causes harrowing
effects on all living things. Also, Kelly finds that Lt. Lamarr is
smarter than he lets on; she wants him promoted.

Other choices

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. At this pace, young Bruce Wayne will never become Batman;
he's currently in a downward spiral of teen angst. Alfred tried to
snap him out of it.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Leonard tryies to remember where he put an
investment that could be valuable. That leads to an old tape,
revealing a secret about his relationship with Penny.

“The Christmas
Train,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. This film – under the prestigious
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” umbrella – debuted Saturday and will
rerun often (including 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday). Desperate
to get home for Christmas, a man takes a train ride with intriguing

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. What happens if a NASA scientist dares to disagree
with Sheldon? The 9-year-old convinces his family to take a road
trip, so he can prove his point.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:32 p.m., Lifetime. It's time to re-assemble everyone for the
reunion episode. Kentaro Kameyama, the winner, will be there. So will
the people who came close – Ayana Ife, Brandon Kee and Margarita
Alvarez – and the controversial Buitendorp twins. Shawn left the
show to give a better chance to Claire ... who was promptly dismissed
for designing outside of the work room.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Bonnie is injured, leaving repercussions. Now she and her
boyfriend are both in wheelchairs. And now Christy – unskilled and
clueless – must take over as building manager.

“S.W.A.T.,” 10
p.m., CBS. Disguised as a SWAT team, burglars have invaded three
upscale homes. Now the real cops must figure out what they were
searching for.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 29

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Here is a truly
extraordinary hour. Skipping all the quick-cut styles of modern
drama, it simply puts two great actresses – occasionally with a
third – in a small room, to bare their souls.

The guest star is
Melora Walters, as an apparent victim who – at first – can't
remember anything. It's a huge, Emmy-worthy performance, hitting all
the extremes; the perfect counterpoint comes from Emmy-winner Mariska
Hargitay as the understated Det. Benson. Occasionally adding Joanne
Going as Walters' sister, this has a smart plot (twisty and grueling
to watch), perfectly performed.

“Christmas at Rockefeller Center,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Here's more proof
that it's Christmas time – an hour that culmiates with the lighting
of a mega-tree.

There will be music,
some of it seeming familiar. On Monday, Matt Eldridge was on ABC and
Pentatonix had its own NBC special. They perform tonight, along with
Gwen Stefani (whose NBC special will be Dec. 12), Jennifer Nettles,
the Tenors and Leslie Odom Jr.

II: “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo Theatre,” 10 p.m.

OK, it's still
possible to have a music special without a Christmas theme. In this
case, Mars – the vibrant Super Bowl performer who's won five
Grammys – is at the historic New York theater.

Despite the title,
this isn't live. Mars opens it atop the marquee, does some street
scenes and performs songs from his “24K” album, which opened a
year ago at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard chart.

ALTERNATIVE: “Vikings” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., History.

Five years ago, this
began with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) rising as a tough and heroic
leader. Now he's been killed and his son Ivor has been on a vengeance
spree. He killed his brother Sigur and led a raid that brought the
death of the Saxon king and the sacking of a church.

That was a mistake,
because Heahmund, the bishop of Sherborne, has become his new enemy.
In real life, Heahmund (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers of “The
Tutors”) was a warrior-bishop, before being killed in battle in
871; both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches named him a

Other choices

“Survivor,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. With 10 contestants left, the show has a double

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. After pausing for a rerun last week, Fox's best drama is
back. Work on the 20th-anniversary album halts, when
producers say Eddie Barker (Forest Whitaker) pushed them too hard.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Star has double trouble: She's jealous because Noah spends more
time with Alexandra. Also, their trio has only two weeks to prepare,
after Ayanna moves up the showcase date.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. People recall their celebrity encounters. Jay served on
a jury with a football icon ... Phil showed a house to a musical hero
... And Manny met an esteemed playwright and an actor/comedian.
Naturally, none of these turned out as expected.

“Titantic: 100
Years Later,” 9 p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at 11. It's
been 105-and-a-half years since the epic ship sank, but interest
continues. This rerun has James Cameron (who wrote and directed the
1997 movie). At 10 p.m. is another rerun, “Save the Titanic”; Bob
Ballard – who discovered the ship 73 years after its sank – meets
descendants of the men who built it.

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. On a secret mission to Afghanistan, the
president meets two infamous warlords and isn't sure whom to trust.
Also, Seth (Kal Penn) has a run-in with police that jeopardizes his
White House job.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 28

“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

In a remarkable,
three-week stretch, this has focused on the past and present worlds
of the siblings. First was Kevin, buckling fom pain-killers after
refusing needed surgery. Then was Kate, reeling from her miscarriage.
And now it's Randall, their adopted brother.

He clings to his
foster daughter, as she ponders college choices. That brings
flashbacks to his own choice – Ivy League or the historically black
Howard University – and more. Subtly and superbly played by
Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown, this is one of TV's best characters.

“Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” 8 p.m., CBS.

It was back in 1939
that a little poem celebrated a mocked deer with a glowing nose. A
decade later, that became a hit song ... and 15 years after that, it
became this stop-motion animation special.

Some stretching was
needed, to turn a two-minute tale into an hour; there are odd
detours, including an abominable snow monster. We've always had
misgivings about this one, but it set the stage for the masterpieces
-- “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole
Christmas” -- that followed.

ALTERNATIVE: “Snowglobe” (2007), 12:30 p.m. Freeform, and more.

This channel hasn't
made many Christmas movies lately. (This year, it has one new one;
the Hallmark channels have 18.) That's unfortunate, because its films
tend to be distinctive.

“Snowglobe” has
sharp dialog and a smart plot – a young woman (Christina Milian)
transported to a too-perfect world inside a globe. That's followed by
two more originals from the channel -- “The Mistle-Tones” (2012)
at 2:30 and the witty “Angry Angel,” which debuted Monday, at
4:40. Then Freeform returns to films that were in theaters, starting
with “Christmas Vacation” (1989) at 6:50.

Other choices

“The Flash” and
“Legends of Tomorrow,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW. Here's the conclusion of
the the story that started cleverly Monday. The heroes from four CW
shows face evil variations of themselves, from a Nazi-ruled alternate
world. In addition to Flash and the Legends, the team has Supergirl,
Arrow, Citizen Cold, The Ray, Felicty Smoak and Iris West ... whose
wedding to Flash was rudely interrupted.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. The guys probe a murder in a hospital. Also, Murtaugh
fumes when he learns that his daughter is secretly dating the son of
his neighbor and nemesis.

“The Vietnam War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. Ken Burns' 10-part masterpiece concludes on a
sobering note. Saigon falls, the war ends and some people return,
decades later, to the worst moments of their lives.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged back an hour by “Rudolph,” this puts the emphasis on
supporting characters. McGee finds his apartment has been torn apart,
in search of something hidden by the previous renter, a convicted
killer. Also, Vance is nudged by a congresswoman to go into politics.

“The Mayor,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the flawed-but-fun pilot, a young
rapper runs for mayor as a publicity stunt ... then is startled to
find he won.

“Victoria Secret
Fashion Show,” 10 p.m., CBS. This year's show is in Shanghai, so
Chinese pop star Jane Zhang joins Harry Styles, Miguel, Leslie Odom
Jr., and lots of slender women.

“Drunk History,”
10 p.m., Comedy Central, rerunning at midnight. Here are true
Christmas tales, retold by people who are drunk – in some cases,
too drunk. Teddy Roosevelt's kids insist on a tree ... Charles
Dickens publishes “A Christmas Carol” ... and Washington crosses
the Delaware. That one also includes Alexander Hamilton, who's
featured in a 10:30 rerun. Other reruns are from 8-10 p.m.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 27

“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CW.

Don't you hate it
when you're in a life-and-death struggle – battling a monster,
robbing a nobleman in Sherwood Forest, etc. -- and people keep
bugging you about a wedding RSVP? That's happens (often) at the sart
of this hour; on the eve of the wedding of Barry Allen (he's the
Flash) and Iris.

Those scenes are
silly, but they follow a dead-serious one in an alternate world run
by the Nazis. This hour is like that – sometimes witty, sometimes
warm, sometimes violent, but always well-done. It offers a strong
start to a crossover story that spans four shows, from 8-10 p.m.
today and Tuesday.

II: “CMA Country Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Each year at
Christmastime, TV re-discovers music. It doesn't need awards, doesn't
pause for lame acceptance speeches; it just has back-to-back music,
in this case with Nashville stars.

Reba McEntire hosts
from the Grand Ole Opry. She has other veterans -- Alan Jackson,
Trisha Yearwood, gospel's CeCe Winans – and younger people. There's
Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Chris Young, Dustin
Lynch, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, CB30 and Dan and Shay.

“A Very Pentatonix Christmas,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Fresh from all those
country stars, we can switch channels and catch more music.

Pentatonix first
reached NBC in 2011, for the third “Sing-Off” season, pitting a
cappella groups. It won and has gone on to win three Grammys. Now its
special includes an Oscar-winner (Jennifer Hudson), an “America's
Got Talent” winner (13-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer) and a TV icon
(Jay Leno).

ALTERNATIVE: “Angry Angel,” 9-11 p.m., Freeform.

Allison (Brenda
Song) is living a modern-style, impersonal life, including
sex-without-involvement. (This isn't your typical Christmas movie ...
or what you got when this was called The Family Channel.) Then she
dies and her contact (Jason Biggs) says she doesn't have nearly
enough points for Heaven.

Yes, that makes her
angry ... especially since she's not very good at doing good. There
are clever moments here, in a movie that will repeat often during
Freeform's “25 Days of Christmas.”

Other choices

“Lucifer” and
“The Gifted,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here are reruns of a
season-opener and a series premiere. In the first, Lucifer wakes up
in the desert, with wings and with no idea what happened. In the
second, a family goes on the run, after both teens are sought because
of their special powers.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. Sometimes an undercover job can go sideways. As a
janitor in a car dealership, Kevin accidentally sells a car; now he
could be salesman-of-the-month.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m.,
CW. Now that the wedding has been botched, our heroes have a
challenge: Fight people who are identical to them, but are Nazis.
That story concludes Tuesday.

“Dog & Beth:
Fight of Their Lives,” 9-11 p.m., A&E. For eight seasons of
“Dog the Bounty Hunter,” viewers saw Dog and Beth Chapman as
tough, tanned and strong people, catching crooks. Now this
documentary sees Beth, 50, in her struggles with throat cancer.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. At work, Shaun remains skilled and confident; tonight,
he backs a difficult procedure to help a young boy from the Congo who
as severe heart anomalies. In the rest of life, he's unsure; his
latest encounter with his neighbor Lea leaves him confused.

“Meth Storm,”
10-11:40 p.m., HBO. This documentary puts our opiod crisis in human
terms. It goes to rural areas, where money and jobs are scarce and
meth-addiction is rampant.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 26

“Miss Universe” pageant, 7-10 p.m., Fox.

Two years ago, this
pageant couldn't stop making headlines. First, NBC cut all ties with
Miss USA and Miss Universe, which it co-owned with Donald Trump. Then
host Steve Harvey read the wrong name for the Miss Universe winner
... just as the Academy Awards would do the next year.

Now we're back to
the basics: Harvey is still host ... NBC and Trump are no long owners
... And close to 100 attractive women will be in Las Vegas, to see
who succeeds Iris Mittenaere of France.

II: Soul Train Awards, 8-10 p.m., BET.

It's been more than
a decade since “Soul Train” ended its long – 35 years, 1,100
episodes – and influential run. Since then, there have been reruns
(Aspire, Bounce, YouTube), cruises and this show.

Erykah Badu has her
third time as host, with Toni Braxton getting a lifetime award.
She'll perform, as will her sister Tamar; other performers include
Kirk Franklin, Keyshia Cole, Jessie J, Luke James, Ledisi, Daniel
Caesar, Major, Tank, Ro James, Le'Andria Johnson, DVSN, Method Man
and U-God.

ALTERNATIVE: “Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian,
rerunning at midnight.

Few lives have had
as many bizarre twists as Hearst's. An heiress, she was kidnapped at
19 .... She proclaimed allegiance with her kidnappers and was
convicted (and later pardoned) for bank robbery.

And now? At 63,
she's a widow, a grandmother and a philanthropist who acted in John
Waters movies and whose shih tzu and bulldogs have recently won top
prizes at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It's a fascinating
story, told here simply – no interviews, just the original tapes
and news clips.

ALTERNATIVE II: Christmas movies, cable.

Candace Cameron
Bure, a Hallmark favorite, has a double role tonight. In “Switched
for Christmas” (8 p.m., Hallmark), she plays twins who decide to
trade lives ... while agreeing to have no romance.

And at 9 p.m., there
are two choices: “A Joyous Christmas” (Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries) has an author reluctantly visiting her home town.
“Snowmance” (Ion) gets a bit less realistic: Each year, Sarah
creates a snowman version of a boyfriend; then ... well, some magic
strikes, “Frosty” style.

Other choices

“No Activity,”
any time, CBS All Access. The first two weeks have been hilarious in
their own dry-dialog way. An inept cop (Tim Meadows) accidentally
disrupted a stake-out and shot one of the suspects. Soon, an Internal
Affairs guy (J.K. Simmons) and a substitute crook (Will Ferrell)

Funniest Home Videos,” 7 and 8 p.m., ABC. First is a rerun,
including misadventures in the outdoors. Then a new episode includes
a raccoon trying to seem like a household pet ... a truck driver who
forgot to put his brakes on ... and someone paying too much attention
to a phone at a food table.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. PT), CBS. Joelle Taylor, a CIA agent,
wants Callen's help after escaping from a kidnapping. Callen,
however, starts to question her back story.

“Good Behavior,”
10 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 11:01. This combination – a scam woman
and a hit man – has had its problems. Now Letty (Michelle Dockery
of “Downton Abbey”) decides it might be best to leave Javier and
return to her old life. That may not be easy.

“Madam Secretary,”
10:30 p.m. (10 p.m. PT), CBS. Elizabeth and her staff worked to get a
Mexican cartel dealer extradited to the U.S. But now he's escaped and
they're desperate to find him.

ALSO: On a night
when broadcast choices are limited, cable has plenty of new episodes.
That includes Starz (“Outlander” at 8, “The Girlfriend
Experience” at 9), AMC (“Walking Dead” at 9), HBO (“Curb Your
Enthusiasm” at 10) and Showtime (“Shameless” at 9, “SMILF”
at 10, “White Famous” at 10:30).