TV column for Tuesday, Oct. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Frontline” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Here's a crisp
overview of Donald Trump's battles, many within his own party. Rod
Rosenstein, it says, is a lifelong Republican who was in the
Federalist Society and helped investigate Bill Clinton. He fumed,
because Trump ordered him to find reasons to fire James Comey ...
then blamed it on him.

With Jeff Sessions
(a Republican) recused, Rosenstein put Robert Mueller (another
Republican) in charge of the Russia probe. Weaving through this,
“Frontline” says, was the view of the late Roy Cohn, once Joe
McCarthy's advisor and then Trump's “mentor and confidante”: If
in trouble, go on the attack.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“This Is Us” and “New Amsterdam,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

Last week, a doctor
agreed to give Kate fertility help ... and Toby took a risk, ditching
his anti-depressants. Now it's time for Kevin's movie premiere –
and for a flashback to college decisions.

Then it's
“Amsterdam,” which is as overcrowded as Max's life. He has
cancer, his wife has a perilous pregnancy and he's running a hospital
where he fired most of the cardiologists. His personal scenes are
solid; the patients' stories – a Haitian ritual, a heavily
medicated kid – are merely OK.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mr Inbetween,” 11:32 p.m., FX.

This oddity is
becoming one of our favorite shows ... which is a shame, because it's
leaving as quickly as it came. This first season has only six
half-hour episodes, two per Tuesday.

Last week, we met
Ray, a quiet Aussie who's a loyal friend, a warm dad and a
professional killer. In tonight's first episode, his friend is robbed
by a Russian brother-in-law; the result is chaotic and quite
hilarious. In the second episode, Ray almost ends up in a fight at an
anger-management session; it's a funny episode that then takes some
dark, chilling turns.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Great American Read,” 8 p.m., PBS.

As a kid, Gillian
Flynn recalls, she told a Kansas City librarian that “I like scary
books and I like books that have people dying.” The librarian gave
her “And Then There Were None,” the 1939 Agatha Christie tale.
Now “I read it at least once a year.”

Later, in her
mid-30s, “I was getting married and it seemed like a really good
idea to write a dark story about marriage.” The result, “Gone
Girl,” now sits alongside Christie's book in the list of Americans'
100 favorite novels. They're both viewed in this fairly good hour,
which looks at villains.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A Navy lieutenant was killed in his hot tub. The team probes his
odd neighbors.

“Gifted,” 8
p.m., Fox. We didn't really know there are any mutant lawyers
(although we'd suspected so). Now Thunderbird contacts one, hoping
she'll help him find the Inner Circle.

“The Outpost”
finale, 9 p.m., CW. After giving the big guys a two-week head start,
the CW will start its season next week. First, there are summer shows
to wrap up -- “Burden of Truth” on Wednesday and this one:
Returning from a the wastelands, Talon finds the Outpost has changed.
Facing Dred, she's torn between getting revenge and saving her
friends.

“FBI,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Eight people are fatally poisoned at a New York deli. Now Bell
and Zidan (Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki) find an unlikely suspect.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Somewhere in New Orleans, there's a
bombmaker. Hannah Khoury, who replaced Pride during his medical
leave, joins the search.

“Mayans MC,”
10-11:30 p.m., FX. There are already plenty of tough forces at play,
including the drug cartel, the bikers and the rebels – led by kids
and a young nun. In this excellent episode, we also meet ex-military
rogues ... and see a new side of EZ's quiet dad, played by the
terrific Edward James Olmos.

TV column for Monday, Oct. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Neighborhood” debut, 8 p.m., CBS.

For Calvin (Cedric
the Entertainer), this is a big day: His “yardecue”-- a
mega-barbecue in his front yard, is a neighborhood tradition. Then
his new neighbor, Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield) arrives with wife,
son, hugs and handshakes. They're white, the other neighbors are
black and Calvin is unhappy.

We're not sure where
this will go, but it starts fairly well. As played by Cedric, a
close-minded guy seem oddly likable ... especially when his sons,
more open to change, offer a counterpoint.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Happy Together” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

For a while, Harry
Styles was living a double life. He was a big-deal pop star with One
Direction, but secretly lived in the suburban-type home of Ben
Winston and his wife and daughter.

Now Winston (who
produces James Corden's shows) has turned that into a comedy. The
humor is mild, but the cast is solid, led by Damon Wayans Jr. and
Amber Stevens West (“The Carmichael Show”).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV: Dark Money,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

As elections neared,
Montanans were startled. Their mailboxes were filled with political
fliers; many made nasty accusations ... but most were only attributed
only to vague committees.

Reporters tried to
keep track of them, but papers were trimming back and capitol bureaus
were closing. This follows one reporter who crashed in friends'
cabins while struggling to keep up with the lobbying labyrinth. A
strong personal story coincides with a compelling study of democracy
in invisible hands.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Halloween shows, cable.

On the first day of
October, cable is already obsessing.

FXX has two dandy
animated movies, “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) and its sequel
(2015) at 5 and 7 p.m., repeating at 9 and 11. Freeform starts with
animated films -- “ParaNorman” (2012) at 5 and “The Nightmare
Before Christmas” (1993) at 7:10, then has “Hocus Pocus” (1993)
at 8:50. And the Food Network starts Halloween reruns at 2 p.m., with
a new “Halloween Baking Championship” hour at 9.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice”
(NBC) and “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC), 8-10 p.m. One show
(“Voice”) is busy adding contestants, the other is shedding them.
Last week, comedian Nikki Glaser was the first to go.

“The Resident,”
8 p.m., Fox. Now that Conrad's father is the hospital's new chairman
of the board, Dr. Bell is fuming. Also, dancer/actress Jenna Dewan
plays a beautiful sales rep for medical devices.

“Lawrence of
Arabia” (1962), 8 p.m. to midnight ET, Turner Classic Movies. Epic
visuals link with a great, real-life story. The result won seven
Academy Awards, including best picture, and is No. 7 on the American
Film Institute's all-time list.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Don't you hate it when someone steals your fish? This guy
– a military veteran, like Magnum – really does; it's a 300-pound
tuna worth $350,000.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Last week's opener ended with a surprise: Lea, Shaun's
former neighbor and mabe love interest, is back. As he deals with
that, he argues with Dr. Melendez about treating a gravely ill
hospital janitor. Meanwhile, Dr. Glassman is becoming a demanding
patient.

“Requiem,” 10
p.m., NBC. Last week's intriguing debut found passengers emerging
from a ordinary-seeming flight ... only to be told that five years
had elapsed. Now they deal with the gap. One person tries to connect
with his son; another finds that her boyfriend has married her former
best friend.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“God Friended Me” debut, 8:30 p.m. (but 8 p.m. PT), CBS.

Miles has a podcast
that promotes atheism. His sister (a student and bartender) tolerates
this; their dad (a preacher) doesn't. Then Miles is told that God has
friended him on Facebook.

He assumes it's a
trick ... but if so, it's an impressive one, filled with inexplicable
events. Miles doesn't know where this is going; we don't either, but
it's a fairly interesting ride. Brandon Michael Hall (“The Mayor”)
stars, Violett Beane and Suraj Sharma are his collegues and the
terrific Joe Morton is his dad.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Poldark” season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS.

Clouding this series
is one harsh fact: Ross Poldark turned down a shot at elected office;
by doing so, he turned the fate of villagers over to the richest and
cruelest men.

Now the problems
peak: Amid starvation, grain is being shipped away, where it can get
a higher price. A riot ensues ... putting lives in the hands of the
local magistrate. All of that -- against the backdrop of alternate
romances for Ross, his wife and her brother -- makes for a sharp and
passionate hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Simpsons” and “Bob's Burgers”
season-openers, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox.

These two episodes –
the 150th for Bob and the 665th for the
Simpsons – have much in common: Both have fairly good scripts; both
spice that up with some delightful songwriting.

For “Simpsons,”
it's one song – the big finale for a movie based on Bart's tale of
a brief stay in Heaven; but for “Burgers,” there are many. Tina
is told she's boy-crazy; she disagrees (“I'm boy-focused”), but
it's still an issue during boy-band try-outs: Each guy seems to put a
pop love song in her head. It's time for such lyrics as: “I hate
the way I love you/I love the way I hate you/I kind of want to date
you.”

Other choices
include:

Jesse Stone films, 9
a.m. to 11p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. So far, there have
been nine Stone movies, most of them excellent, with Tom Selleck as a
police chief. Here, in order, are seven of them.

“The Lion King”
(1994), 7:50 p.m., Freeform; “Frozen” (2013), 8 p.m., ABC. Two of
Disney's all-time best animated movies collide.

“Masterpiece: The
Durrells in Corfu” season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS. This pleasant trifle
follows a young British widow (Keeley Hawes) raising her kids with
little money, on a Greek island in the late 1930s. Tonight's pleasant
episode finds Margo swearing off love (she now prefers soap
sculpture) and her brother Gerry having an excess of it: His three
girlfriends don't know about each other.

“Family Guy”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox. Starting a two-parter, Brian falls for a
gravely ill woman.

“Rel,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. In the season-opener we met Rel, who's been in a funk
since his wife left with the kids. Now he tries to motivate himself
by inviting his dad (Sinbad), sister and friend for lunch. Then comes
the new crisis: A local gang holds his clothes hostage in the laundry
room.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles” season-opener, 9:30 p.m. (but 9 p.m. PT), CBS. As a cartel
boss puts a bounty on them, several people – Callen, Sam, Kensi,
Deeks -- are severely injured in Mexico, unable to communicate with
the rest of the team. Back home, a retired admiral (Gerald McRaney)
looks for help.

“Magnum P.I,”
10:30 p.m. (but 10 p.m. PT), CBS. In a late switch, this rerun was
yanked from Saturday and inserted here. It's a sleek adventure,
filled with great (albeit exaggerated) action.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live” season-opener, 11:29 p.m., NBC.

How much has life
changed? Flash back to 2002, when Matt Damon hosted the
season-opener. With four months of events to satirize, he told the
audience: “There was one thing that happened this summer that I
really wanted to do.” Then he re-enacted the break-up of Justin
Timberlake and Britney Spears. Compare that to now, when every summer
day has seemed like an “SNL” sketch waiting to happen. Adam
Driver hosts and Kanye West is the music guest; we don't know what
the show will start by making fun of ... but it probably won't be a
pop-star break-up.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
College football, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC, NBC and Fox.

This is one of those
nights when three of the four big networks have games. That happens
whenever Notre Dame's home games – the only ones NBC carries –
are at night.

As it happens, all
three have ranked teams colliding. At 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC has Ohio
State (ranked No. 4) at Penn State (No. 9) and NBC has Stanford (No.
7) at Notre Dame (No. 8); at 8:30, Fox has Brigham Young (No. 20) at
Washington (No. 11).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Indiana Jones films, all day, Paramount Network.

This network –
formerly Spike and The National Network and The Nashville Network –
is still groping for an identity. It had a good series
(“Yellowstone”) this summer ... and has the great Indy films
often.

Today starts with
the lesser (but entertaining) ones – Indiana Jones and the “Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull” (2008) at 2 p.m. and “Temple of Doom”
(1984) at 5. Then it has the great ones -- “Last Crusade” (1989)
at 8 and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) at 11. On Sunday, each
is three hours earlier.

Other choices
include:

“Doctor Who,”
all day, BBC America. We're still eight days from the season-opener –
and from the first time The Doctor is a woman – and this channel is
already obsessing. Its marathon continues through Sunday night at
12:05 a.m. ET, then resumes at 10 a.m. Monday.

More football, all
day. You could start at noon ET with Clemson (No. 3) hosting Syracuse
on ABC or West Virginia (No. 12) at Texas Tech (No. 25) on ESPN2.
There's much more, all day.

“Jane Fonda in
Five Acts,” 5:40 p.m., HBO. Here's another chance to see this
richly crafted film. A big and complicated life is related with an
abundance of clips and with Fonda's own frank comments.

“FBI,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a late switch, CBS juggled reruns of two pilot films.
“Magnum” was moved from Saturday to Sunday, with “FBI”
inserted here. As always, Saturday is the loser in that transaction:
“Magnum” had a terrific pilot; FBI had an OK one, stuffed with
lots of crises.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. “American Sniper” (2014, TNT) is Clint Eastwood's terrific
film, starring Bradley Cooper. It's a true story; by comparison,
“Baby Driver” (2017, Showtime), is pure fiction, but high-octane
fun. And “Phantom Thread” (2017, HBO)? Paul Thomas Anderson's
film has lots of style, little story, six Oscar nominations and some
perplexed filmgoers.

“The Man From
Uncle” (2015), 9 p.m., AMC. What was once a zesty TV spy series was
transformed by Guy Ritchie into a cold, stiff and impersonal movie.

“The Lion King”
(1994), 9:50 p.m., Freeform. One of the greats highlights an
animation marathon. That starts with the fun “Bolt” (2008) at
10:10 a.m. and includes the gorgeous “Frozen” (2013) at 4:40.p.m.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Cool Kids” debut, 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Sure, we prefer our
comedies to be smart, subtle and satirical. But the exact opposite
can also be fun ... if it's from people who know how to do it right.
These people do.

Martin Mull, David
Alan Grier and Leslie Jordan play guys who figure they're the cool
ones in this retirement community. Then a newcomer (Vicki Lawrence)
dares to sit at their table, replacing their late friend. The humor
is big and silly, but it works, especially from the small and silly
Jordan.

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

Mac was quitting the
Phoenix Foundation anyway, when he received a jolt: His father (Tate
Donovan) – someone he hadn't seen since he was 5 – is the man
called Oversight, who heads Phoenix.

That was in the
season finale; now – starting a CBS night of season-openers -- we
jump ahead three months: Mac has been in Nigeria, but he returns –
temporarily putting aside differences with his dad – when he learns
that Jack is the target of a deadly dictator.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Manifest” and “New Amsterdam,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
NBC.

It's been a busy
week, so you might have missed these two debuts. Both have 10 p.m.
slots (Mondays and Tuesdays), so here's a chance to catch them
earlier, with a weekend ahead.

“Manifest”
starts with a great concept; somehow, five years have passed while
these people were on a plane. It could be great; it could also be
like so many sci-fi shows that broadcast networks stretch too long or
drop too abruptly. “New Amsterdam” is a hospital show that has
its good moments ... once you get past the absurd notion of firing
the entire cardiac department in one swoop.

Other choices
include:

“King Lear,” any
time, Amazon Prime. At 81, Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins tackles one
of Shakespeare's greatest roles. He plays the crumbling king, whose
daughters –Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh – fight
for his estate. Also arriving via streaming, Netflix has the movie
“Hold the Dark” plus a new season of “Chef's Table, with David
Gelb meeting the masters.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., Fox. After six fairly successful seasons, this
was cancelled by ABC. A year later – with Mandy and Boyd recast --
it jumps to Fox and keeps its old timeslot. The opener has Ryan
making a startling announcement; that's followed by lots of mildly
amusing arguments.

“Hawaii Five-0”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CBS. It was 50 years (and eight days) ago that
“Five-0” debuted – basically with this story, which has been
partly rewritten: To catch the bad guys, McGarrett lets himself be
captured, then must survive a sensory deprivation tank.

“Art in the
Twenty-First Century,” 9 p.m., PBS. A two-week, three-hour series
concludes with this visit to San Francisco, which lures artists with
its counterculture spirit and experimental nature.

“Wynonna Earp”
season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., Syfy. In the first hour, Wynonna has
an unexpected revelation about the family curse. In the second, she
and Waverly must find a way to end that curse before the Earp line –
and, for that matter, humanity – is destroyed.

“Blue Bloods”
season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. The siblings' stories merge here: Erin
is promoted in the district attorney's office ... and Danny and Jamie
soon want her help. Also, Lou Diamond Phillips plays the drug-cartel
member who may have been responsible for torching Danny's house.

“Hispanic Heritage
Awards,” 10 p.m., PBS. Along with the awards, there will be music
by Jose Feliciano, Jesse & Joy, Fonseca and Karol G. Internet
stars Lele Pons and Rudy Mancuso will host.