TV column for Thursday, Nov. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
Christmas specials, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

On Wednesday, NBC
had its three-hour flurry of holiday music and humor; now it's ABC's
turn.

That starts with two
fairly good animated reruns, based on movies: “Olaf's Frozen
Adventure” and “Toy Story That Time Forgot” are at 8 and 8:30
p.m. Then “Magical Holiday Celebration” is 9-11 p.m.. There's
music from Jordan Fisher (who hosts with Sarah Hyland), Gwen Stefani,
Meghan Trainor (joined by Brett Eldredge), Aloe Blacc, Maddie Poppe
and Andrea Bocelli with his son Mateo.

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

“Big Bang”
remains TV's best comedy by having sharp dialog and richly defined
characters. The actual plot tends to be secondary ... but not this
time.

In a rerun of the
season's second episode, Sheldon and Amy are perplexed by their
wedding gift from Leonard and Penny. That takes them on a journey
that's a delight to follow. Also, there are key changes in the
long-dormant romantic lives of both Raj an Stuart.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Christmas movies, cable.

Two Robert Zemeckis
films collide, each using the performance-capture technology that
he's fond of. That means several people can be played by Tom Hanks in
“Polar Express” (2004), at 7 and 9 p.m. on AMC, and by Jim Carrey
in “A Christmas Carol,” (2009) at 6:40 p.m. on Freeform.

It's an interesting
notion ... but one that drains some of the human impact. Instead, you
might try the witty “Santa Clause” (1994) at 8:50 p.m. on
Freeform, or “Christmas Everlasting,” at 8 p.m. on Hallmark. The
latter, starring Tatyana Ali, is the latest from the prestigious
“Hallmark Hall of Fame.”

Other choices
include:

“LEGO Jurassic
World,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. This animated tale is set prior to
the story in the 2015 “Jurassic World” movie. Claire Dearing must
get three dinosaurs across the park, for a new, super-secret exhibit.
She hires an animal behaviorist she's never met.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Sheldon's mom tells him not to read a
mature comic book. He decides it's time to break away from her tight
control.

“Legacies,” 9
p.m., CW. Elections can get nasty, even when mere mortals are
involved. Now these supernaturally gifted students are forming an
honor council.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Grace is fuming because her boyfriend (David
Schwimmer) won't let her meet his daughter. Will defends the guy ...
then has his own problems, via his mom (Blythe Danner).

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Christy just started law school, but now she's competing
for a key internship. Her mom has a more difficult task – watching
Tammy (Kristen Johnston) after oral surgery.

“SWAT,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. What do SWAT people do on their day off? Hondo hunts a serial
rapist; the team tries to settle a hostage situation ... with a
wanted felon as one of the hostages.

“12 Angry Men”
(1957), 10:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Sometimes all you need
is a room and a great script. Reginald Rose wrote this jury drama for
TV; Henry Fonda bought it, hired Sidney Lumet to make his
movie-directing debut and starred. The result drew Oscar nominations
for Rose, Lumet and the movie. It follows an opposite type of gem,
the sleek-but-smart “Charade” (1963) at 8 p.m. ET.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 28


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“A Legendary Christmas,” 10 p.m., NBC.

In a season of
sameness, let's credit John Legend and Chrissy Teigen for trying
something different. It's partly a music special, but also mocks the
style of lame comedies from TV's olden days.

Legend does one song
apiece with Stevie Wonder and Esperanza Spalding, along with several
solos. Those songs – some of them originals and many shot in a
lush, music-video style – are quite good. And the comedy? Well,
some is as lame as the old shows that are being mocked. Still, there
are clever bits with Awkwafina and Kris Jenner and even a funny dance
from Derek Hough. It's an entertaining hour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

Yes, Legend is in
this one, too. But here, he shares attention with a mega-tree and
lots of singers.

There's Martina
McBride, Brett Eldredge, Diana Ross, Kellie Pickler, Pentatonix and
Darci Lynn Farmer, the singer/ventriloquist who was 12 when she won
the 2017 “America's Got Talent.” There's also a duet with Tony
Bennett and Diana Krall; the “Today” people will anchor.

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

After being bumped
on two Wednesdays, this above-average show is back, with crises
resuming.

On one hand, it
continues to have smart dialog, delivered by skilled actors who are
filmed beautifully. On the other, it requires people to act absurdly,
for plot convenience; tonight, it's Gary's turn. This episode may
also trigger a much-needed constitutional amendment banning all dream
scenes. But despite all flaws, “A Million Little Things” has lots
of little things that keep us watching.

Other choices
include:

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. We know that Archie is innocent, but Veronica's attempt to
prove it gets her in trouble. Meanwhile, Betty is getting to the
roots (25 years ago) of the dangerous gargoyle game.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Weighed down by the strain of the new business, Cookie
recalls the old days. Things won't get any easier: Her sister Candace
is vindictive and Kingsley has a new power move.

“The Christmas
Contract,” 8-10:03 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a rerun of the
Thanksgiving-night movie that brought together four actors from“One
Tree Hill” ... which has a reunion special rerunning at 10:03.
Hilarie Burton plays someone returning to her Louisiana home after a
break-up. Other “Hill” people are Danneel Ackles and Robert
Buckley (as her friend and the friend's brother) and Antwon Tanner.

“All American,”
9 p.m., Fox. Strong, solid drama continues to co-exist with
soap-opera excess. Some of the characters (especially Asher) seem
contrived, but at tonight's core is a good story that uses the tough
neighborhood to blend Spencer, his lifelong friend Coop and Layla's
music-mogul father.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Haley needs advice from her mom about her career and
about Dylan. Meanwhile, their coaching style brings some sensitivity
training for Jay and Cam.
“Star,” 9 p.m., Fox, and “Magnum
P.I.,” 10 p.m., CBS. More than 40 years after soaring on Broadway
(“Pippin”) and in TV (“Roots”), Ben Vereen remains a vibrant
star at 72. Here, he plays Carlotta's dad in a new “Star” and a
client – insisting a late girlfriend has contacted him – in
“Magnum.”

“Single Parents,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. It's time for the parents to revive abandoned
passions. That includes heavy-metal guitar for Angie,
weather-reporting for Will and romances for the others.

“Conan Without
Borders,” 10 p.m., TBS. This time, Conan O'Brien visits Japan.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Amsterdam” mid-season finale,10 p.m., NBC.

For a guy who wears
his heart on his sleeve, this is too much: A patient, lingering near
death, carries a strong connection to Max's childhood pain.

That story is told
with deep emotion, surprising subtlety and great work from guest star
Andrea Syglowski. It's part of a strong hour that includes one crisis
for Dr. Kapoor and two for Dr. Bloom (played by the terrific Janet
Montgomery) ... and then a moving finale, with a cliffhanger jolt.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Back in 1939, the
Montgomery Ward department store asked Robert May to create a tale it
could use in its Christmas coloring book. His idea – an outcast
deer with a heroic nose – is now eternal.

A decade later, that
became a song, written by Johnny Marks (May's brother-in-law) and
sung by Gene Autry. In various versions, it would be the second
highest seller (behind “White Christmas”) in music history. And
in 1964, it became this animated classic, which reruns annually.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Conners,” 8 p.m., ABC.

The two Beckys
collide again, in a follow-up to last week's terrific episode.

Last season, Becky
(Lecy Goranson) was supposed to be a surrogate for Andrea (Sarah
Chalke ... who had the Becky role when Goranson was in college). But
doctors said she had little chance of conceiving and the deal fell
through. Now, ironically (and accidentally), Becky is pregnant; she
meets Andrea. Meanwhile, Darlene faces a sleazy customer and her Aunt
Jackie wants a chicken coop.

Other choices
include:

“Revenge of the
Nerds” (1984) and “Crocodile Dundee” (1986), 6 and 8 p.m.,
Sundance. It's a good night for '80s movies – these fun films or
the potent “Soldier's Story” (1984), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner
Classic Movies. On the flip side, this year's Oscar-winner, “The
Shape of Water,” is 8 p.m. on HB0.

“The Flash,” 8
p.m., CW. Nora is still bitter about her father's disappearance. But
that's in the future; she has transported to our time (before her
birth), which gets complicated. Meanwhile, her dad (or dad-to-be) is
busy with his Flash duties, trying to stop the powerful Weather
Witch.

“The Kids Are
Alright,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Mike decides that Eddie is having sex and
tries to offer advice. That leads to an argument with Peggy over how
involved they should be in their kids' lives.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. So far, Junior hasn't done much during his “gap year”
before going to college. His dad puts him to work as an intern ...
and Junior is soon upset by co-workers' comments.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. It's time for Randall to debate his city council opponent.
Other storylines trace his late father via flashbacks (trying to get
through to his brother) and in the present, with Kevin visiting the
Vietnamese spot where he served.

“NCIS” and
“FBI,” 9:01 and 10 p.m., CBS. Nudged back an hour by “Rudolph,”
both have reruns. The NCIS headquarters is evacuated; the FBI probes
the murder of 18 young women.

“The Rookie,” 10
p.m., ABC. After an assault, Nolan and others try to capture a cop.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 26


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

Sure, we string up a
few lights, add a Santa and feel we've beautified the neighborhood.
Not when you compare us to these families: One has 72 themed
Christmas trees indoors; others go outdoors – 300 inflatables for
one family, a wire-frame forest for another, a 26-foot-tall reindeer
for another.

And all of that is
in the first hour; Taniya Nayak chooses a winner. (Can you imagine
having 72 trees or 300 inflatables and being a loser?) In the second
hour, Carter Oosterhouse ponders one house filled with nutcrackers
and another that fills the outdoors with synchronized lights, music
... and cannon fire.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Resident” mid-season finale, 8 p.m., Fox.

It's a high-stakes
night, with everything at risk – Devon's marriage, Julian's
integrity, Conrad's father's life. This is a strong hour, stuffed
with cliffhangers, but it also requires some only-on-TV thinking.

In real life, would
you get into a car with a bunch of angry-looking strangers? Would you
wait until your wedding day – with guests from three continents –
to ponder whether you want to marry? TV people do tha sort of thing.
It provides high-tension drama ... if we're willing to suspend
disbelief.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All day, National Geographic Channel.

For years, NatGeo
had kinda-good reality shows. Few were special; none were National
Geographic-worthy. Then new CEO Courteney Monroe pushed for big
moments; we see that in all these shows.

First is a rerun
marathon of the passionate “Story of God”; spanning the globe,
Morgan Freeman sees religions' views on everything from Heaven and
Hell (11 a.m. ET) to the apocalypse (7). At 8 p.m. ET, a “One
Strange Rock” rerun views Earth's love/hate relationship with the
sun. And at 9 and midnight, the “Mars” drama finds a new crisis,
when a solar flair wipes out communication.

Other choices
include:

“Elf” (2003), 7
and 9 p.m., AMC. Another channel joins the overload. Tonight has
Christmas-movie reruns on Lifetime and both Hallmark channels; now
“Elf” offers this fun Will Ferrell film, followed at 11 p.m. by
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), with Maureen O'Hara
and a young Natalie Wood.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Lynnea Moorer keeps surviving close calls. She was
the lone survivor of the six-person “Comeback Stage.” That put
her in the top 13 ... where she was in last week's bottom three; she
survived yet again, with Tyler James and Sandy Redd sent home. Kelly
Clarkson still has four singers; Black Shelton has three, Adam Levine
and Jennifer Hudson only have two each.

“Arrow,” 8 p.m.,
CW. Oliver, an honest man in prison, makes a decision that will
affect the rest of his life, the network says, and will affect the
people around him.

“The
Neighborhood,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Dave knows nothing about
home-repairs and admits it; Calvin knows very little about it, but
won't admit it. They link in a fairly funny rerun; that follows a
transplanted “Big Bang” rerun, a good one in which Raj finally
rebels against Howard's put-downs.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Cyndi Lauper plays a lawyer with shaky ethics, in this
rerun, which has Magnum looking for evidence to acquit the father of
one of TC's football players.

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Here's another mid-season finale, this one with lots of
Christmastime troubles.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Shaun learns a lesson in empathy. Also, a patient wants
a procedure that would keep him from acting on his impulse to be a
pedophile.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 25


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Truth About Christmas,” 9 p.m., Freeform.

In some circles,
lying is greeted with a shrug; it's almost a job description. What
would happen if a professional liar couldn't resist telling the
truth?

Jillian (Kali Hawk)
is a political consultant whose lover is about to run for mayor. Just
before visiting his rich parents, she behaves badly, bringing a talk
with Santa ... and a truth curse. The result misses several chances
for humor and misplays some others; Jillian is played so frantically
that what she says doesn't quite sink in. This falls short as a
comedy, but has some surprisingly good drama moments.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Homer finally finds
his true calling – as someone who writes recaps of TV episodes.
He's so harsh, however, that Krusty the Clown almost kills him; that
leads to life-changing moments for Krusty.

That's on a strong
night for “Simpsons” fans on FXX. A marathon is 4-8 p.m.
(including Krusty episodes at 4, 4:30 and 5:30), with the terrific
“Simpsons Movie” (2007) at 8 and 10.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dirty John” debut, 10 p.m., Bravo.

As a designer, Debra
Newell had bold tastes, rich clients and success. In relationships,
this true-life miniseries says, she stumbled; after four divorces and
some bad online dates, she met John Meehan.

She was 59, he was
55, both were attractive; he said he was an anesthesiologist.
Actually, he was once an anesthesiology nurse ... before losing his
license and going to prison. This opener doesn't make it clear that
the nursing scenes are flashbacks; it also fails to show that Meehan
had an imposing torso, part of his charm. But Connie Britton is a
marvel, the glamour is there and an intriguingg story begins.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Flood,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic;
reruns at 11.

Alongside Africa's
harsh Kalahari Desert, a delta is transformed annually by the rain.
“Lions are no longer king here,” narrator Angela Bassett says.
“The flood has changed all the rules.”

Now hippos are in
control, with crocodiles and a mega-snake looming. This documentary
is similar to Nat Geo's “Savage Kingdom,” with its emphasis on
predators; some viewers will be disturbed by the violence. On the
flip side, everything else – the filming, editing, music and
narration – is magnificent.

Other choices
include:

“The Cool Kids,”
7 p.m., Fox. Sometimes loud and clever (and sometimes just loud),
this new show that has brightened Fridays. In this rerun, a pretty
good one, Margaret (Vicki Lawrence) turns 65; her
retirement-community friends insist that they take her out on the
town.

“A Shoe Addict's
Christmas” and “Jingle Belle,” 8 p.m., Hallmark and Lifetime.
This wraps up an ambitious string, with both channels having new
Christmas movies for five nights. It's also the second straight night
with a “Christmas Carol” take-off (this time with Candace Cameron
Bure on Hallmark)... and the second straight with Tatyana Ali as
someone returning to her home town (this time Lifetime).

“Soul Train
Awards,” 8 and 10:30 p.m., BET, with black-carpet preview at 7 and
post-show special at 10. Young artists perform and win awards, but
there's also a nostalgic feel: Faith Evans and Erykah Badu get
special awards ... Evans, Bell Biv Devoe and Kid 'n Play perform ...
and Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold of “Martin” are the hosts.

“God Friended Me,”
8:30 p.m., CBS.A chess star vanished a decade ago, after losing a big
match. Now Miles helps a detective who's trying to find him.

“Christmas Cupid's
Arrow,” 9-11 p.m., Ion. Yes, another new holiday movie. For past
ones, try “Love Actually” (2003) at 8 p.m. on TNT or “Holiday
Inn” (1942) at 10 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. A Navy captain was entertaining a
Pakistani general when they were robbed, losing money, jewelry ...
and classified documents.

 

“Escape at
Dannemora,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Last week's superb opener was partly
set after the 2015 prison escape, with Patricia Arquette superb as
Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, a prison worker. That reruns at 7 p.m.;
at 10, we flash back to a shattering moment for Tilly and one of the
prisoners.

“Madame
Secretary,” 10:30 p.m., CBS. After losing an election, the
president of Haiti refuses to step down. Elizabeth scrambles for a
solution that doesn't include military action.