TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 4


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live Best of Christmas,” 9-11 p.m. NBC.

Each year, “SNL”
puts together many of its old Christmas sketches. And yes, after 44
years it has plenty to choose from. They go as far back as Dan
Aykroyd as a toy executive, selling “shards o' glass” for kids to
play with ... or are as recent as Kate McKinnon describing Santa's
nasty helper.

“SNL” has had
Eddie Murphy as Mr. Robinson in a Santa hat, Steve Martin with his
Christmas wish, Kristen Wiig as a ditzy ornament hanger and Jimmy
Fallon as ... well, almost everyone on a holiday album. And Adam
Sandler has sung: “It's time to celebrate Chanukah, I hope I get a
harmonicah.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Conners” and “The Kids Are Alright,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC.

This has quickly
established itself as (Thursdays excluded) the best comedy hour on
TV. “Conners” has been a delight – almost as good as when
Roseanne was there – and “Kids” has had clever stories.

Tonight, the Conners
are suspicious of Jackie's unemployed boyfriend (Matthew Broderick),
especially after she gives him an expensive Christmas present; also,
Darlene gets dating advice from an unlikely source. Then there's
chaos when Peggy Cleary – already with seven boys – suspects
she's pregnant.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Gifted,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Did you ever shrug
at a show and think, “Nothing really happened”? Not this time. In
one crowded hour – filled with whiz-bang moments – worlds are
shaking.

Lauren convinces her
parents that Dr. Risman's research is evil and must be destroyed. Her
brother Andy is appalled to find sweet-seeming Rebecca trapped in a
windowless cube by Reeva -- who has a massive uprising planned ...
unless Thunderbird can figure it out first. The results are
spectacular.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Norma Rae” (1979), 8-10:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

As Sally Field tells
it in her new memoir (“In Pieces,” Grand Central Publishing), her
then-boyfriend Burt Reynolds was not happy when she got this script.
“He threw it across the room at me, saying it was a piece of (crap)
and ... accused me of simply wanting to play a whore.”

Others disagreed.
“Norma Rae” -- a deeply involving portrait of the union movement
in small-town America – won Oscars for Field and its music; it was
nominated for the script and for best picture.

Other choices
include:

“The Flash,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the 100th episode of this likable series,
the Flash has a plan to stop Cicada. Alas, it would involve time
travel with his grown daughter ... who is already in a time before
her birth.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The lead suspect in a robbery has been released from prison. Now
the team tries an undercover stakeout.

“FBI,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. When a key witness and a marshal are killed, the team tracks a
man who leaked lethal information.

"Lethal Weapon,” 9
p.m., Fox. It's not too soon, apparently, for Christmas episodes.
While working a home-invasion case, Cole tries to get in the spirit
for his first Christmas with his daughter and Murtaugh hopes to
convince his son to return from Costa Rica.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Now that the two brothers are sharing a room, they seem to
be turning it into a frat house; their sister and grandmoher object.
Also, Dre says his wife has “broken bird syndrome,” forever finding
needy friends.

“The Rookie,” 10
p.m., ABC. After a fun afternoon with a Make-a-Wish kid, Nolan and
Bishop have a tougher time – patrolling with a movie director as
their ride-along.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. The murder of a Navy contractor leads to a
major surprise: For decades, the guy secretly had two families.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Good Doctor,” 10 p.m., ABC.

One of the great
plot devices is to isolate strangers in a confined space. It works in
a jury room, a lifeboat, a space ship. A 1993 quarantine episode of
“Chicago Hope” was one of TV's best hours.

So now “Good
Doctor” goes there, just before taking a five-week break: Two
people collapse in the airport; the diagnosis leads to a drastic step
– a hospital quarantine during the holidays.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

Some dreams are too
big for one house to hold; in the first hour, Carter Oosterhouse
visits them. That includes a park that has a fire-breathing dragon
and take-away toys.

There's a farm that
has a Christmas village, plus wire-frame peacocks, camels and
reindeer. And a settlement, complete with historical cabins, a
nativity scene and a lit-up water wheel. And a mill that includes
more than 3,000 antique Santas and four million lights.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Pop Up Santa,” 9:30-11 p.m., Freeform.

A year ago, a fire
took everything from a family of six – the house, the photos, even
the dad's Army

medals. Now there's
a surprise, in one segment of this feel-good special.

Other surprises
include a baby shower at a military base, a celebration at Children's
Hospital and an epic family reunion. Helping are ballerina Misty
Copeland and former football star DeMarco Murray.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Finding Joy,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

The giant letters on
the tidy bedroom wall spell “JOY”; that's the owner's name, not
her condition. Since her break-up, Joy has lived a tidy and joyless
life. She liked her old job as a copy editor, fixing verbs and
pronouns and such; she hates her new one, plunging into new
situations for a video blog.

Amy Huberman wrote
and stars in “Joy,” which is always likable and sometimes
hilarious. Acorn – which also has her excellent “Striking Out”
-- is releasing two other shows today: There's the fairly good
“Brokenwood Mysteries,” plus “Vidago Palace,” a culture-clash
Spanish romance with sub-titles.

Other choices
include:

“The Truth About
Christmas” and “Life Size 2,” 11 a.m. and 5:25 p.m., Freeform.
These movies have equally unlikely concepts – a politico who tells
the truth, a doll who comes to life. Both have some clever moments
and great visuals, but so-so casting and overwrought performances.

“Santa Clause”
films, cable.The original (1994) – a good one – is 7:25 p.m. on
Freeform. Its sequel (2002) is 8 and 10:30 p.m. on AMC ... with the
third one (2006) at 8:55 p.m. Tuesday on Freeform.

The Voice,” 8-10
p.m., NBC. The show's top 10 – three each with Kelly Clarkson and
Blake Shelton, two each with Adam Levine and Jennifer Hudson –
perform and viewers vote.

“Arrow,” 8 p.m.,
CW. Oliver is out of prison now and his secret identity (as the Green
Arrow) has been revealed. Not to worry; a new Arrow emerges, in a
high-octane episode.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. These transplanted reruns are so-so
by “Big Bang” standards, terrific by most standards. In the
first, Sheldon and Amy try to use scientific methods to choose a best
man and a maid of honor; in the second, Bill Gates visits Penny's
workplace.

“The Nightflyers,”
10 p.m., Syfy. Sunday's opener was grisly and unappealing. That
reruns at 11 a.m. on Syfy and 11 p.m. on USA. In this second episode,
panic spreads.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Garth: Live at Notre Dame,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

As a Tulsa
teen-ager, Garth Brooks savored arena rock concerts. His own music
has a country flavor, which works fine; despite a 12-year slowdown,
he's sold 148 million albums, trailing only the Beatles. But for his
concerts, he brings a rock flair; a 1993 NBC special had fire, rain
and a flying Garth.

Now there's no more
slowdown. After three years of global touring, Brooks is hitting
American stadiums. That started with this one, the first concert in
the 88-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Life Size” and “Life Size 2,” 2:35 and 9 p.m., Freeform.

Back in 2000, a
13-year-old Lindsay Lohan starred in a fairly good TV movie, playing
a kid whose doll (Tyra Banks) comes to life. That reruns this
afternoon; tonight is the sequel, with Banks returning.

The result has much
in common with Freeform's “The Truth About Christmas” -- great
concept, rich production values, clever moments ... but so-so
casting, hyper performances and attitude changes that happen at jet
speed. Both are good holiday films that could have been much better.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime) or “Dirty John”
(Bravo), 10 p.m.

This has suddenly
become cable's finest hour, with two fascinating, real-life stories.
It's the second episode for “Dirty John,” with an attractive
designer (four times divorced) falling for a guy who says he's an
anesthesiologist. Tonight, her daughters' doubts grow, leading to big
moments next week.

And it's the third
week for the compelling “Escape,” which is superbly directed by
Ben Stiller. There are amazing performances, led by Patricia Arquette
as an unhappy prison worker. Tonight, two of the prisoners -- both
have had sex with her -- push ahead with their immensely difficult
escape plan.

Other choices
include:

“A Christmas
Carol,” 8:30 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies; 9 p.m. ET, GetTV.
First is a 1938 film with Reginald Owen. Then is a 1999 one, with
Patrick Stewart as a truly great Scrooge.

More Christmas,
cable. At noon on the Food Network, Martina McBride has a holiday
cooking special. At 1:05 p.m., Freeform has “Mickey's Once Upon a
Christmas.” And at 10 p.m. ET, Ovation and Reelz have the National
Christmas Tree lighting, with music.

“Merry Wish-mas,”
7, 9 and 11 p.m. ET, TV One. The Christmas-movie field gets even
busier, with TV One jumping in. This has the usual plot –
successful woman returns to her home town – and stars Tamala and
David Mann, Kim Fields and Towanda Braxton. Other new films are on
UpTV (7 and 11 p.m.), Hallmark (8 p.m.), Lifetime (8), Ion (9) and
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries (9).

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Homer tries to balance time spent with Lisa and Bart.

“Scandalous”
opener, 8 p.m., Fox News. The second season eyes Ted Kennedy and the
Chappaquiddick tragedy. We're sure it's a coincidence, but the first
season also looked at a Democrat, Bill Clinton.

“Birth of a
Pride,” 9 p.m. and midnight ET, NatGeo Wild. Many films are mainly
about the filmmaker; that's not Dereck Joubert's style. He filmed
this (with his wife Beverly) beautifully, then wrote and narrated it.
He stayed off-camera, keeping the focus on the strong story of two
lionesses, in a region that had lost its other lions. A fairly good
film, “Tree Climbing Lions,” follows at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

“The Victoria's
Secret Fashion Show Holiday Special,” 10 p.m., ABC. Lest we get
bored by all these semi-dressed women, there's music by Bebe Rexha,
Shawn Mendes, Kelsea Ballerini, Halsey, Rita Ora, Leela James, The
Chainsmokers and The Struts.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 1


TODAY'S MUST-TRY:
“25 Days of Christmas” start, 7 a.m., Freeform.

This used to be the
start of TV's Christmas season – a cascade of movies and cartoons,
starting Dec. 1. And now? Hallmark had the season's first new movie
two weeks ago; Lifetime and others followed.

Now comes Christmas
quantity. At 9:05 a.m. is “Home Alone 3” (1997), without Macaulay
Culkin; that's preceded by “Santa Paws 2,” without ... well,
pretty much anyone. Things get better at night -- “Santa Clause 3”
(2007) at 5:25 p.m., “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) at
7:35, Jim Carrey's “Grinch” at 9:15 and “Life Size” (2000) –
a pretty good movie with Lindsay Lohan at 13 – at 11:55.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Christmas Holiday Party,” 8 p.m., Disney.

ABC and the Disney
Channel are both borrowing Freeform's “25 Days of Christmas”
banner this year.

That sort of
explains why Freeform is rerunning ABC's recent holiday special, at
11:15 a.m. today ... and why some of the same stars show up in this
half-hour. There's music by Gwen Stefani, Brett Eldredge, Jordan
Fisher, Asher Angel and Meg Donnelly.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Football, all day.

The day is stuffed
with conference championships – including a tripleheader on ABC.
It's the Big 12 at noon ET, (Texas and Oklahoma), American Athletic
Conference at 3:30 p.m. (Memphis and Central Florida) and the
Atlantic Coast Conference (Clemson and Pittsburgh) at 8.

There's more,
elsewhere. At 4 p.m. ET, CBS has the SEC, with top-ranked Alabama and
Georgia. At 7:45 p.m., ESPN has the Mountain West Conference, with
Fresno State at Boise State. And at 8, Fox has the Big Ten, with its
surprising match-up of Ohio State and Northwestern.

Other choices
include:

Animation marathon,
8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., AMC. In the 1960s and '70s, the Rankin/Bass
company had a flood of holiday specials. “Rudolph” and “Frosty”
became classics, annually on CBS; others were (sometimes) adequate.
Until now, those others provided a large chunk of the “25 Days of
Christmas” line-up. This year, however, AMC gets them first. “The
Year Without a Santa Claus” (5:45 p.m.) is popular; others --
“Leprechauns' Christmas Gold” at 1:15 p.m.? -- are not.

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 10 a.m. and 9:15 p.m., Paramount. Steven
Spielberg's great film returns with its sequels. The OK “Temple of
Doom” (1984) is at 6:15; the delightful “Last Crusade” (1989)
is 1 and 11:47 p.m.

“A Twist of
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. A single mom and a single dad
accidentally mix up their presents. That's a new movie, surrounded
by previous Christmas ones, from noon to 4 a.m.

“Mingle All the
Way,” 8-10 p.m.. Hallmark. In this new film, a young woman has
created an app that finds platonic partners for social occasions. It
promptly matches her with a like-minded guy.

“Christmas
Wonderland,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Emily
Osment has ranged from loud comedies to deep performances in Chuck
Lorre productions (“Mom,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The
Kominsky Method”). Here, she has the standard role of a city woman
returning to her home town.

“Clash of Tigers”
and “Regime of the Queen,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild,
rerunning at midnight and 1 a.m.. The mid-section of “Big Cat
Weekend” has these new views of female tigers and lions.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Claire Foy hosts, with Anderson Paak as
music guest.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW.

Tonight, all the
characters step into unfamiliar territory: Rebecca is being truthful,
Nathaniel is being nice, Josh is living on his own. Complicating
things, Rebecca visits her mom (Tovah Feldshuh) ... who isn't someone
you would want to be truthful with.

It's a strange hour,
one in which the only two music numbers go to the guest star
(Feldshuh). Still, those are clever numbers and the rest is generally
fun. Josh's struggle with form-fitting bed sheets is a delight.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

It all seems so
logical when Batman and Spiderman leap out to catch a bad guy. In
this case, an urban vigilante makes his latest citizen's arrest, then
is killed. Tackling the case, the team dives into the world of comic
books and super heroes.

That's in a night
with CBS returning to new episodes of its Friday shows. (Last week,
it had Christmas cartoons and a “Five-0” rerun.) Also in this
hour, Adam is closer to learning who killed his sister.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Big Cat Weekend,” NatGeo Wild.

Let's forget about
the epic match-ups. Tonight's first new hour (9 p.m. ET) has pumas
vs. penguins; the second (10) has jaguars vs. sea turtles. We won't
spoil any surprise, but you might guess the winners.

That helps launch a
three-day flurry that has lots of reruns, plus two new hours each
night. Tonight's are beautifully filmed; we expect that from NatGeo,
but we also get a frequent flaw: These films spend too much time on
the search and the searcher, instead of the result. That's especially
true of the second film; the first, with Boone Smith traveling the
world to see pumas pounce, is quite well-done.

Other choices
include:

“A Christmas
Prince: The Royal Wedding,” any time, Netflix. Here's the sequel to
last year's film. Netflix also has a French action comedy (“The
World is Yours”) and a series (“Death by Magic”) trying tricks
that have killed magicians in the past. Amazon Prime settles for a
documentary series (“Inside Jokes”) tracing comedians ... five
days before launching a delightful “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
season.

Football preview, 7
p.m. ET, and game, 8 p.m., Fox. Saturday will bring a flood of
conference championship games. The Pac 12 gets a head start here,
with Utah and Washington.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. The stakes are high again: A stolen vial could start a
global pandemic.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. Schemes by Remi (also called Jane Doe) bring trouble for
her and Weller.

“A Very Nutty
Christmas,” 8-10:03 p.m., Lifetime. Melissa Joan Hart produced and
stars in this new film. She plays a grumpy baker whose boyfriend has
broken up with her at Christmastime. Then she wakes up with a guy in
her home who may or may not be the Nutcracker Prince.

“Midnight, Texas,”
9 p.m., NBC. As if there weren't already enough supernatural beings
in this little town, Fiji seeks outside help from her fellow “light
witches.” Also, Olivia's past haunts her.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck) makes a controversial decision to
raid a housing complex, arresting anyone with an outstanding warrant.
Meanwhile, his son Danny is contacted by a woman he sent to jail.And
his granddaughter Nicky has a boyfriend with ulterior motives.