TV column for Thursday, Oct. 11


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

It was an iffy
notion, reviving a show after a dozen years. “Will & Grace”
could have seemed fun-but-creaky ... sort of like the revived “Murphy
Brown.” Instead, it actually seems better than ever. Credit sharp
writing, a fine cast, master director James Burrows ... and an
eagerness to have big plot twists.

One twist happened
off-camera, before this episode began; the reactions are hilarious.
Another offers tonight's main plot: Karen is missing. Each of these
self-consumed characters had a warning, which was ignored. Sprinkled
in are great little bits involving the concepts of “forever” and
of beard dye.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Place,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

In the 69-year
history of TV situation-comedies, this is unprecedented: “Good
Place” started with a clever concept ... then keeps changing it. In
the current version, four people have returned to Earth, unaware that
they met in the afterlife; they have one last chance to learn to be
good.

Michael (Ted Danson)
and his all-knowing assistant try to manipulate them, but he's lost
his angelic powers. There are great twists tonight ... and then a
final moment that may change this again,

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon,” 8-9
p.m., CBS.

For the first time,
it's a double-Tam day. At 8:30, we get the usual view of Tam: The son
of Vietnamese immigrants, he was young Sheldon's only friend.
Tonight, Sheldon – torn by the fact that his dad wants him to keep
a secret – visits for a sleepover.

Before that, the
adult Tam makes his first “Big Bang” visit, when Leonard probes
the past friendship. The night also offers Sheldon's brother as a boy
and as a hardy grown-up (Jerry O'Connell).

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

The concept of
“regime change” can get messy; the ensuing chaos can be worse
than the departed despot. That's the case here: With Lucifer dead, a
nasty wannabe has emerged.

Now Sam must try to
rescue Castiel, while worrying about more: The bad news is that his
brother Dean is missing; the worse news is that Dean's being is
occupied by the scheming archangel Michael. (Hey, you kind of expect
this from a show called “Supernatural.”) The result is messy, but
well-played.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Tonight's issues are large (to save a life, Alex makes a
questionable decision) and small: Meredith shows up for work, already
done up for her blind date.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. With the baby shower coming, Amy schemes to stock up on
supplies.

“All American,”
9 p.m., Fox. Here's an instant rerun of Wednesday's premiere. It's a
fairly good (but flawed) culture-clash story of a teen football star,
moving from a tough neighborhood to Beverly Hills.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Constance Zimmer, the Emmy-nominated “UnReal” star, returns
to the comedy side. She plays Christy's law-school professor, who
needs too much emotional support.

“Murphy Brown,”
9:30, CBS. When she brought this show back, producer Diane English
promised it would keep an eye on current news. Now it has juggled its
episodes, to insert one in which Murphy reluctantly recalls a
sexually abusive professor. The result has modest humor and righteous
rage.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. While facing an attack from the
governor, Annalise is defending a rich man accused of killing his
usiness partner.

TV column for Wednesday, Oct. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Million Little Things,” 10 p.m., ABC.

In only its third
week, this has a pivotal episode – and a terrific one. The show
started with the suicide of Jon, a big-deal businessman who was the
glue for these friendships. We soon learned that his wife was having
an affair with his friend Eddie. We also learned that Gary's new
girlfriend has secrets.

Tonight, things
implode. What makes this show work so well is the range of reactions.
Humans have different responses to devastating news; now that variety
is beautifully written and played.

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

This is how you
should spend Labor Day weekend – especially if you're a handsome
teen with a torso sculpted by the gods: Archie has a pool party, a
joy ride, then a pond swim with his friends.

And then ... he may
learn if he's been convicted of murder. “Riverdale” is like that,
leaping between bright teen drama and overwrought gothic soap. The
murder charge is ludicrous, but so is someone going to incarceration
wearing a bow tie. “Riverdale” has strong filming and acting,
weak logic.

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

Spencer Paysinger's
life has had an epic feel. He grew up in a tough neighborhood, then
managed an academic transfer to Beverly Hill High. He was a football
star there and played seven pro seasons – four (including a Super
Bowl ring and, later, 14 games as a starter) with the New York
Giants.

Now he's the
“executive consultant” for this drama: A coach lures a talented
teen from a tough neighborhood to Beverly Hills. There are moments
here – a quarterback sabotaging his team, a coach unable to use two
receivers – that defy logic, but there's also a solid,
culture-clash drama.

Other choices
include:

“Chicago Med,” 8
p.m., NBC. Ethan faces a complicated situation involving a boy rushed
to the hospital. Also, he and Natalie can't figure out Elsa, the new
third-year medical student.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the season's first two weeks, Cookie and Lucious have
had fierce setbacks. They were blackmailing Eddie into giving back
the record label ... but then he was killed. They found a new star
... then saw her swiped away. Now comes a comeback attempt, built
with family acts.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. There are a lot of secrets floating around, so it's time for
some to be revealed. Simone learns one about Mateo, the record-label
chief; Star learns one that has her taking family more seriously.
Also, Cassie links with a businessman (Chad Michael Murray) and Alex
helps a super-fan.

“SEAL Team,” 9
p.m., CBS. Terrorists have anthrax and are ready to poison the water
supply in a Saudi city of a million people. That leads to a sharp
action hour ... and then to a detour. Tonight's final minutes set up
an emotional hour next week.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. As an assistant district attorney, Mitch has a
high-profile case – marred by an unflattering sketch from the
courtroom artist. His sister Claire has a big business deal, while
her husband Phil finds a new career when he visits their son's
college.

“Single Parents,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Douglas (Brad Garrett) and his twins seem unaffected
by the death of their guinea pig, so Poppy encourages them to not
repress their feelings.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. As the team tries to rescue a kidnapped teen, politics
gets in the way. Also, Voight and Platt try to exonerae Olinsky, the
colleague slain in jail.

TV column fo Wednesday, Oct. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A Million Little Things,” 10 p.m., ABC.

In only its third
week, this has a pivotal episode – and a terrific one. The show
started with the suicide of Jon, a big-deal businessman who was the
glue for these friendships. We soon learned that his wife was having
an affair with his friend Eddie. We also learned that Gary's new
girlfriend has secrets.

Tonight, things
implode. What makes this show work so well is the range of reactions.
Humans have different responses to devastating news; now that variety
is beautifully written and played.

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

This is how you
should spend Labor Day weekend – especially if you're a handsome
teen with a torso sculpted by the gods: Archie has a pool party, a
joy ride, then a pond swim with his friends.

And then ... he may
learn if he's been convicted of murder. “Riverdale” is like that,
leaping between bright teen drama and overwrought gothic soap. The
murder charge is ludicrous, but so is someone going to incarceration
wearing a bow tie. “Riverdale” has strong filming and acting,
weak logic.

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

Spencer Paysinger's
life has had an epic feel. He grew up in a tough neighborhood, then
managed an academic transfer to Beverly Hill High. He was a football
star there and played seven pro seasons – four (including a Super
Bowl ring and, later, 14 games as a starter) with the New York
Giants.

Now he's the
“executive consultant” for this drama: A coach lures a talented
teen from a tough neighborhood to Beverly Hills. There are moments
here – a quarterback sabotaging his team, a coach unable to use two
receivers – that defy logic, but there's also a solid,
culture-clash drama.

Other choices
include:

“Chicago Med,” 8
p.m., NBC. Ethan faces a complicated situation involving a boy rushed
to the hospital. Also, he and Natalie can't figure out Elsa, the new
third-year medical student.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the season's first two weeks, Cookie and Lucious have
had fierce setbacks. They were blackmailing Eddie into giving back
the record label ... but then he was killed. They found a new star
... then saw her swiped away. Now comes a comeback attempt, built
with family acts.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. There are a lot of secrets floating around, so it's time for
some to be revealed. Simone learns one about Mateo, the record-label
chief; Star learns one that has her taking family more seriously.
Also, Cassie links with a businessman (Chad Michael Murray) and Alex
helps a super-fan.

“SEAL Team,” 9
p.m., CBS. Terrorists have anthrax and are ready to poison the water
supply in a Saudi city of a million people. That leads to a sharp
action hour ... and then to a detour. Tonight's final minutes set up
an emotional hour next week.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. As an assistant district attorney, Mitch has a
high-profile case – marred by an unflattering sketch from the
courtroom artist. His sister Claire has a big business deal, while
her husband Phil finds a new career when he visits their son's
college.

“Single Parents,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Douglas (Brad Garrett) and his twins seem unaffected
by the death of their guinea pig, so Poppy encourages them to not
repress their feelings.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. As the team tries to rescue a kidnapped teen, politics
gets in the way. Also, Voight and Platt try to exonerae Olinsky, the
colleague slain in jail.

TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 9


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
“American Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Two major tributes
will honor Queen and the Queen of Soul. The former will be confined
to one band (Panic! At the Disco) performing the epic “Bohemian
Rhapsody”; the latter has Aretha Franklin's music with powerhouse
singers – Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin and
CeCe Winans.

That leads a night
that starts with Taylor Swift. It has other stars -- Carrie
Underwood, Mariah Carey, Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez, Ella Mai and
Camila Cabello. And it has combinations, including Ciara with Missy
Elliott, Shawn Mendes with Zedd, Benny Blanco wih Halsey and Khalid,
and more.

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

This is CW's week –
two debuts, seven season-openers and an extra night (Sundays) when it
was previously dormant. That all starts here, with a delightful new
character for an already fun show.

She's Nora, played
by Jessica Parker Kennedy – an actress so small (5-foot, 1/2 inch)
and likable that she was an elf in the “Santa Baby” movies. In a
good episode, her enthusiasm provides a welcome counterpoint to a TV
world in which the reluctant hero has become a cliche.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

The first half of
the splendid “Circus” documentary was dominated by the endless
optimism of P.T. Barnum. He kept taking big risks; in a time of
American growth, they usually paid off.

But this half starts
in 1898, after his death. Other circus men took risks – a European
tour, dangerous “flying car” acts, even a ballet (composed by
Stravinsky, choreographed by Balanchine) for elephants in tutus.
Some worked, some didn't. Crises – two fires, two world wars, a
Depression, a flu epidemic – sapped optimism. They bring the end of
the mega-tent show in 1956 ... when this ends, too abruptly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Mr Inbetween,” 11:30 p.m. and midnight, FX.

After just three
weeks and six half-hours, this Aussie oddity ends its first season.
We miss it already.

This is a half-hour
drama (with odd splotches of comedy) ... except that you really need
to see these two episodes together. The first starts with an
unrelated story, then gets to the main one, sprawling into the next
half-hour. Ray – the supercalm hit man – has been grabbed by
other crooks. There are dandy detours along the way, including dialog
involving baby names and Monster Munchies cereal.

Other choices
include:

 

"Basketball: A Love
Story” debut, 7-10 p.m. ET Tuesday, ESPN. Dan Klores made a fortune
in public relations, then turned to his true love – films and
stories about athletes. Now comes a mega-project: Klores and his
people recorded more than 500 hours of interviews, molding them into
62 short films. That totals 10 two-hour parts, with two per Tuesday.
This also reruns often on ESPN.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. There's an explosion outside the home of a Navy petty officer.
His wife happens to be a reality-TV personality, leaving one of the
NCIS people starstruck.

“The Great
American Read,” 8 p.m., PBS. In “Looking For Alaska,” a boy
eyes a mismatch: “I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” That
gap is familiar to many people ... including F. Scott Fitzgerald, a
quiet Minnesotan who married a Southern dynamo. He went on to write
“Great Gatsby,” which sold 25,000 copies at first ... then soared
to 25 million. Both are in this fairly good view of books about love.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. As Kate undergoes a medical procedure, her family gathers
around her.

“Black Lightning”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CW. The cliche of a reluctant hero continues
with Jefferson Pierce and (especially) his younger daughter. But the
older daughter offers a fierce counterpoint. That's key to an episode
that's fairly good, despite several characters who feel contrived and
overwrought.

“Mayans MC,”
10-11:30 p.m., FX. Last week, we learned that EZ's father is much
more than the quiet butcher people know. Meanwhile, his son EZ
continues to prove value as a probationary gang member.

“New Amsterdam,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. While avoiding the reality of his own cancer
diagnosis, Max helps find a solution for a pregnant patient in a
tough spot. He previously created a problem by firing all of the
cardiologists except one ... who now starts building a new
department.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., PBS; concludes
Tuesday.

Americans didn't
invent the circus, of course. The name is from the Romans ... the
concept from an Englishman ... the animals from Africa and Asia ...
the trapeze act from a Frenchman named Leotard.

But Americans
created the modern image – massive size and sound, entwined with
exaggerations and lies. P.T. Barnum created the biggest shows and the
biggest lies; others tried and people approved. “I tasted life,”
Emily Dickinson wrote of the circus. The first half of this terrific,
four-hour film takes us from tiny roadshows to Barnum epics ... with
the five quiet Ringling brothers ready to challenge.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Dave (Max
Greenfield) has zero home-repair skills and admits it; Calvin (Cedric
the Entertainer) has only modest skills and doesn't. Together,
they're a poor substitute for calling the plumber.

As they work at it,
Dave's wife learns the joy of wigs; their son learns the pitfalls of
playing catch. The result is modestly entertaining – scattered
laughs and occasional warmth, from characters we sort of like, even
when they don't like each other.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “iHeartRadio Music Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

For two weeks, CW
stood politely aside while the big guys launched their networks. Now
it steps in. This week, it will have seven season-openers and two
debuts -- “All-American” on Wednesday and “Charmed” on Sunday
... the first time it's had Sunday shows in nine years.

First, however,
there's pop music. The “iHeart” line-up (Sunday and today)
includes Carrie Underwood, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Shawn
Mendes, Mariah Carey, Kygo and more, including Imagine Dragons and
Panic! At the Disco.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. So far, two women – comedian Nikki Glaser
and visually impaired skier Danelle Umstead -- have been sent home.
Now the remaining 11 are asked to choose dances that celebrate a
memorable time in their lives.

“The Resident,”
8 p.m., Fox. As the staff prepares to celebrate Conrad's third
anniversary at the hospital, Devon is drawn to the gorgeous
medical-device rep, played by dancer/actress Jenna Dewan.

“Happy Together,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Like some twentysomethings, Cooper moves a lot and
avoids being overwhelmed by stuff. Like many thirtysomethings, Jake
and Claire have an abundance of unneeded stuff. They try to pare
down, in a episode that is occasionally funny and and frequently just
goofy.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Ken Jeong – from “Community” and the “Hangover”
movies – plays a guy who learns his comatose fiancee had extensive
facial surgery. He wants to know who she really is.

“Better Call Saul”
season-finale, 9 p.m.. AMC. Jimmy tries for a key change in his
reputation.

“Lodge 49”
season-finale, 10 p.m., AMC. As the first season ends, the lodge's
fate is in limbo. Dud tries a new path and his sister reaches a
breaking point.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Trying to rest after surgery, Dr. Glassman must also
confront his relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile, Shaun and Dr.
Reznick have temporary oversight of the emergency room. And a a
decision to save a young wife may end her chances to have a baby.