TV column for Saturday, Nov. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Christmas Everlasting,” 8 p.m., Hallmark.

On Christmas Eve of
1951, “Hallmark Hall of Fame” debuted with something big – an
original opera. “Amahl and the Night Visitors” would become a
classic. “Hall” would follow with Shakespeare, Shaw and more ...
then with prestigious movies; “The Promise” won five Emmys,
including best movie.

This is only the
second “Hall” film of 2018. Lucy (Tatyana Ali) returns to her
home town for her sister's funeral, still harboring guilt about an
earlier accident. She meets her uncle (Dennis Haysbert), her ex-love
(Dondre Whitfield) and his mother (Patti LaBelle); she also learns a
secret about her sister.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Robbie the Reindeer” and its sequel, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

No, these aren't
your usual holiday cartoons. They're British, droll and clever,
produced by Richard Curtis (the “Love Actually” writer) as
fundraisers. CBS redubbed them, with Ben Stiller as Robbie, Hugh
Grant as Blitzen, Britney Spears as Donner, Leah Remini as Vixen and
Jim Belushi as Santa.

Robbie's dad
(Rudolph, apparently) was one of Santa's greatest. The son, alas,
hasn't qualified to make the team. Now he tackles the Reindeer Games,
coached by Old Jingle (Jerry Stiller, Ben's dad).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946), USA, or “A
Christmas Story” (1983), TNT; both 8 p.m.

We can sort of
celebrate Christmas Eve a month early. Both films are scheduled for 8
p.m. Dec. 24 -- “Wonderful Life” on NBC, “Christmas Story” on
TBS. And both happen to have an early run tonight.

“Wonderful Life”
-- ranked No. 20 on the American Film Institute's all-time list –
is a black-and-white Frank Capra film with Jimmy Stewart and deep
warmth. “Christmas Story” is a darkly funny look at a 1940s
holiday, through the eyes of a boy who just wants a BB gun.

Other choices
include:

“Forrest Gump”
(1994), 11:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., Paramount. In a day stuffed with
classics. “Gump” is No. 76 on the AFI list; “All About Eve”
(1950), 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies, is No. 28.

“Despicable Me”
(2010), 3:10 p.m., Freeform. If you like this animated delight –
and you probably will – then jump to FXX for its sequel, “Minions”
(2015), at 8 and 10. In between, Freeform has the dandy
“Finding Nemo” (2003) at 5:15.

“National Dog
Show,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Thursday's event.
John O'Hurley anchors, with David Frei as the expert commentator and
Mary Carillo inside the show ring.

“Every Day is
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Toni Braxton stars in this
variation on “A Christmas Carol,” with support from her sister
Towanda, plus Gloria Reuben and Michael Jai White.

“The Story of
Santa Claus,” 9-10 p.m., CBS. Santa (Ed Asner) is a gentle toymaker
who just wants to make kids happy. This animated musical has Betty
White as his wife and Tim Curry as the eldest elf.

“Christmas on
Honeysuckle Lane,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Colliding with the second half of other newmovies, on Lifetime and
Hallmark, this has Alicia Witt returning to her late parents' home,
finding a surprise that propels a journey.

“The Saturday
Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. There's rerun tonight, before “SNL”
returns next week to a live episode, with Claire Foy hosting and
Anderson Paak as music guest.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m., NBC.

One of the all-time
great shows keeps bouncing around the TV universe. It's already been
on TBS once this season ... will return there on Dec. 6 ... then will
be back to NBC on Dec. 25.

Catch it as often as
possible. This started with a great Dr. Seuss story, simultaneously
funny and warm; then Chuck Jones -- the animation genius behind the
Road Runner – provided great visuals. Add Boris Karloff as narrator
and Thurl Ravenscroft's booming song and you have a true classic.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
More animation, everywhere.

This may be why God
created recording devices. Suddenly, we have cartoon overload.

NBC follows “Grinch”
with “Trolls Holiday” at 8:40. ABC has “Santa Claus is Comin'
to Town” from 8-9 p.m. and CBS has the jaunty “Frosty the
Snowman” at 8 ... followed, alas, by the lame “Frosty Returns”
at 8:30. You could always switch to cable, but ... well, Freeform has
an animated-movie marathon from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; FX has the same,
from 4 p.m. to midnight.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Romanoffs” finale, any time, Amazon Prime.

A train passenger,
proper and polite, reluctantly hears a story from a seatmate. Soon,
there's a flashback and then flashbacks-of-flashbacks; a deep and
tortured life unfolds ... bringing a compelling finish.

The result –
boosted by Hugh Skinner's skilled and far-ranging performance –
wraps up a brilliant series from Matthew Weiner, the “Mad Men”
creator. The anthology was filmed in seven countries on three
continents; from its opener (envy of an ancestral apartment in Paris)
to last week's riveting look at a Russian adoption, this has been TV
at its best.

Other choices
include:

College sports, all
day, Fox. To sports fans, the weekend has already started. Fox has
football at noon ET (Nebraska-Iowa) and 8:30 p.m.
(Washington-Washington State). In between, it wraps up the Las Vegas
Invitational basketball tournament, which has Texas, North Carolina,
UCLA and Michigan State; the consolation game is at 4 p.m. ET, with
the championship at 6:30.

“Penn &
Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. At first, CW had yet another cartoon
(“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”) in this spot. In a burst
of common sense, it moved it to 9, putting Penn & Teller here.

“Price, Prejudice
and Mistletoe,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. The title is catchy, but the plot
is the usual: Successful in the city, a woman (Lacey Chabert) returns
home, where she meets a guy she used to know. The other new movie --
“Poinsettias for Christmas,” 8 p.m., Lifetime – has a woman
returning home to help her dad (John Schneider) with the poinsettia
farm. She meets a guy.

“Magnum, P.I.,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a transplanted rerun, Magnum is hired to test an
art-lover's security system. When the guy is murdered, our hero
becomes the prime suspect.

“Great
Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. As a Broadway director, Hal
Prince has a stunning record -- “Cabaret” and “Candide” and
“Company,” “Follies” and “Fiddler” and “Forum,” plus
“Evita” and “Phantom” and more. At 90, he has great stories
to tell ... but this special doesn't tell them very well. Despite
ample clips, it tends to drone; a great life is told adequately,

“The Wall,” 9:10
p.m., NBC. Here's a special edition, with holiday-themed questions.
Cassandra, a pastor fro Aurora, Ohio, teams with her daughter
Victoria, a social worker.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, McGarrett learns that his mentor (Terry
O'Quinn) is being held hostage. He links with a SEAL team for a
dangerous rescue attempt.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 22


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
“Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS.

Here's a cheery sign
that the Christmas season is here – a mega-event with 12 bands, 26
floats, 59 balloons, 1,000 clowns, 1,200 dancers-or-cheerleaders and
one Santa.

NBC will have its
“Today” people anchoring and will add music by John Legend,
Martina McBride, Diana Ross, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora and Pentatonix.
CBS has Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight anchoring, adding the casts
of the “Dear Evan Hansen” and “King Kong” musicals; on the West Coast, it will show the parade at about 1 p.m. PT, after football..

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II:
Post-parade shows.

Many viewers will
stick with NBC after the parade, catching the National Dog Show at
noon. Quick and slick, it packs an entire, 192-breed show into two
upbeat hours.

Others prefer
football. The pros have Bears-Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS,
Redskins-Cowboys at 4:30 on Fox, Falcons-Saints at 8:20 on NBC.
College also has two games – Colorado State at Air Force at 3:30
p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network and Mississippi State at Mississippi at
7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Musicals, cable.

One way to wrap up a
warm holiday is to savor a musical. Cable has three good ones.

Starz has the
animated gem “Frozen” (2013) at 1:07 and 8 p.m. ... HBO has “The
Greatest Showman” (2017) at 8; despite its flaws – songs that
feel too similar, amid a rose-colored view of the complicated P.T.
Barnum – it's a crowdpleaser. And TBS has “The Wizard of Oz”
(1939) at 6 and 8:15 p.m.; it's a classic, No. 10 on the American
Film Institute's all-time list.

Other choices
include:

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 6 a.m., Sundance, repeating at 11 a.m. and 4 and 9
p.m. When Ted Turner bought MGM, he seemed most excited about owning
this epic (No. 6 on the AFI list) and “Wizard of Oz.” Now we can
catch both classics on the same day.

“Inside Out”
(2015), 8:01 a.m. and 2:52 p.m., Starz. This brilliantly written film
launches an all-day animation spree on Starz. Freeform starts its own
marathon with “Mulan” (1998) at 2 p.m.

“MasterChef
Junior: Celebrity Showdown,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. One battle has Alyson
Hannigan and her daughter facing Lil Rel Howery and his daughter.
Others team celebrities with past junior contestants; it's Terence
Howard vs. Eric Stonestreet and former football stars Jerry Rice vs.
Emmitt Smith.

“The Christmas
Contract,” 8-10:03 p.m., Lifetime. The story (a fake romance, to
impress an ex-boyfriend) is stuffed with people – Hilarie Burton,
Robert Buckley, Danneel Ackles, Antwon Tanner – from “One Tree
Hill,” which has a reunion special at 10:03. This is one of two new
8 p.m. Christmas films; Hallmark's “Christmas at the Palace” has
a skater and (of course) a prince

“Meghan's New
Life: The Real Princess Diaries,” 9 p.m., ABC. This hour eyes
Meghan Markle's new life. Interviewees include Daisy Goodwin (who
created the “Victoria” TV series) and two women named Victoria
(Murphy and Arbiter), a name tha was rare in England before the young
queen took it. Some day, the country may be full of Meghans.

“I'm Coming Home,”
10 p.m., ABC. Produced by Whoopi Goldberg, this special sees
homecoming visits by Kristin Chenoweth (Tulsa), Daymond John (Queens)
and Jake Owen (Vero Beach, Fla.).

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
New Christmas movies, 8 p.m., Lifetime and Hallmark.

On the eve of one
holiday (Thanksgiving), cable begins its full-throttle surge toward
the next one. On each of the next five nights, these two networks
will each have a new Christmas film.

Tonight's plots are
similar, as usual – a young woman (played by a former TV-series
actress) travels from the big-city to a smaller spot that has charm.
Hallmark's “Christmas at Grand Valley” whisks Danica McKeller
(“Wonder Years”) from Chicago to her home town. Lifetime's “My
Christmas Inn” takes Tia Mowry-Hardrict (“Sister Sister”) going
from San Francisco to the Alaskan inn she inherits.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “A Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

This has become an
annual feature, mixing in various sketches. There are plenty to
choose from.

Thanksgiving
sketches have had Kristen Wiig as Penelope, Rachel Dratch as Debbie
Downer, Martin Short as Ed Grimley, Bill Murray confined to the
children's table. Adam Sandler had his turkey song, Julia
Louis-Dreyfus played a college student who had turned vegetarian and
guest star Josh Hutcherson played a guy whose girlfriend (Vanessa
Bayer) is a turkey ... but might be willing to eat her own kind.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Little Drummer Girl” finale, 9 p.m., AMC,
rerunning at 11:35.

Over the first two
nights, we've seen the complex and compelling relationship between
opposites. He (played by Alexander Skarsgard) is 6-foot-4; she
(Florence Pugh) is 5-4. He's Jewish, she's Gentile; he's a secret
agent who hides his emotions, she's a Shakespearean actress who
flashes hers.

Amid arguments and
bits of romance, he nudged her toward a dangerous mission: Pose as
the girlfriend of a terrorist, so she can get close to his lethal
brother. This adaptation of a John Le Carre novel started way too
slowly, but ends with fierce power, fueled by Pugh's deep, Emmy-worth
work.

Other choices
include:

“Mulan” (1998),
4:30 p.m., Freeform. Waiting for the holiday, families can savor some
animation. This gorgeous film is followed by “Brave” (2012) at
6:30 p.m. and “Zootopia” (2016) at 8:30.

“iHeartRadio Music
Festival,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Over the next two nights, this rerun has
Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, Shawn Mendes,
Kygo, Imagine Dragon and Panic! At the Disco.

“Empire” and
“Star,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here's a chance to revisit both
season-openers. “Empire” had a good one, as Lucious and Cookie
groped for a comeback; the final minutes had great moments by Katlynn
Simone as a young singer. “Star” had an OK one, as Carlotta's
tour plans faced complications.

Specials, 8 p.m. NBC
has a holiday-themed “Hollywood Game Night”; ABC counters with a
rerun of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, people toast their “successes” ... which
are mostly fictional.

“Single Parents,”
9:31 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun is the show's excellent
pilot, with the other parents trying to boost the non-existent dating
life of Will (Taran Killam). The second (after a “Goldbergs”
rerun) has Douglas (Brad Garrett) hosting a sleepover for the kids.

More Christmas
movies, 10 p.m., cable. Lifetime has a new one (at 10:03 p.m.), with
a flower-shop opener desperate to win a floral contest. Hallmark
reruns Saturday's “Christmas in Graceland”; the story is weak and
the acting is stiff, but there are six potent Elvis Presley songs in
the background.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“We'll Meet Again,” 8 p.m., PBS.

At its best, host
Ann Curry says, this reunion show views “transformative moments in
history – the Vietnam War, the escape by many Cubans to America,
the children of the Holocaust.”

Now we meet two
Holocaust survivors named Benjamin. One, called Ben, endured
Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau, she said, then revived his spirits
with a hospital friendship. “At 89, he wants to connect with this
boy who ... made him come back to life.” The other, called Benco,
survived several near-death experiences, she said. “He met a little
girl who (showed) he could be joyful and a child.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Kids Are Alright,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.

At 6-foot-5 and
beefy, Tim Doyle is the sort of guy you'd expect on a football field.
But his interest has always been performing, not sports ... which
reflects this episode of his excellent series.

It's set in 1972,
when Doyle was 12, a middle kid in a pack of seven boys. The same is
true here of Timmy Cleary. His brother joins the church boxing
tournament to please their dad, then drops out. Now Timmy must
choose between his dad's dreams and his own hopes for show-biz glory.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Thanksgiving
episodes usually catch TV at its best ... especially for top-quality
shows like this. Tonight, the Pearsons have an unconventional
holiday; also, flashbacks show one they had with their parents, Jack
and Rebecca, and his friend (and, after Jack's death, Rebecca's
husband) Miguel.

That follows Kevin's
trip to Vietnam last week. He learned that his girlfriend survived
childhood sexual abuse; he found that his suspicions of his dad
having a Vietnamese lover may have been unfounded.

Other choices
include:

“The Conners,” 8
p.m., ABC. Somene will announce life-changing news that no one saw
coming, ABC says. Also, Dan isn't sure Becky has lived up to her
agreement to quit drinking at work.

“The Gifted,” 8
p.m., Fox. The season began with Reeva's fierce purge of the Inner
Circle. That starts this high-voltage rerun, which then jumps ahead
six months. The Hellfire group has power, has Andy ... and may soon
have Polaris' potent baby.

“Frontline,” 9
and 10 p.m., PBS. In August, “Frontline” combined with ProPublica
for a compelling look at white hate groups, and at officials' passive
approach during the Charlottesville rally. That reruns at 10,
preceded by their new report on the rise in haters, particularly
Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group that has recruited inside the
military.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Anna Deveare is back as Bow's mom, visiting for the first
time since Bow's dad died. The family celebrates what would have been
his birthday ... but Diane has a date.

“Little Drummer
Girl,” 9-11 p.m., AMC. Last week, the show slowly – VERY slowly –
set up its basics: In 1983, Charlie is a gifted Shakespearean actress
with a sense of rage over social issues. Israelis have studied and
recruited her to pose as the girlfriend of a missing terrorist; they
hope to get her to his brother, a master bomber. Young and alone, she
tries life-and-death missions; it's a brilliant performance by
Florence Pugh, bringing his John Le Carre story to life.

“Rookie,” 10
p.m., ABC. A competition pits rookies against their training
officers.

“New Amsterdam,”
10 p.m., NBC. Max gets overly invested in a patient. Also, Kapoor
struggles with a case that hits close to home.