TV column for Friday, Jan. 25


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

For Esther Povitsky,
being overlooked has become a good career move. Small (5-foot) and
unflashy, she was a co-creator and star of “Alone Together,” a
witty show (cancelled by Freeform after two seasons) about two
unnoticed souls. She's done 16 episodes of this show, often in the
background.

Now she moves
upfront. Nathaniel, the handsome boss, is being rejected again by
Rebecca. He and Maya (Povitsky) bond over their feelings of
unrequited love.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC.

TV people, it seems,
really don't like the outdoors. Last Friday, the “MacGyver” guys
went in he woods for survival training; they were promptly confronted
by criminals. Ten days earlier, “Black-ish” had Dre take the kids
camping; instead, he schemed to take them to an upscale hotel.

And tonight?
Inspired by the gorgeous movie “Legends of the Fall,” Louis wants
to spend his 40th birthday camping with his family.
Appalled, the kids try to talk him out of it.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Awards marathon, 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

On Sunday, the 25th
annual Screen Actors Guild ceremony will include a Lifetime
Achievement Award for Alan Alda. First, here's a 48-hour marathon
featuring previous winners of the award.

Those go in order,
skipping some. The first winner, Eddie Cantor, stars in “Strike Me
Pink” (1936) at 8 p.m. The third, Bob Hope, is in “Road to Bali”
(1953), at 10. The fourth, Barbara Stanwyck, has “Baby Face”
(1933) at 11:45; the sixth, James Stewart, has “Broken Arrow”
(1950) at 1:15 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” return and more,
Netflix.

It's been a great
little run for this show – four seasons and four Emmy nominations
for best comedy series. Co-created by Tina Fey, the show had Kimmy
(Ellie Kemper) emerge from 15 years in a bunker; now here's the
second half of the final season, with six episodes.

That leads a crowded
night for Netflix. There are debuts of the Korean adventure “Kingdom”
and the British drama “Black Earth Rising,” plus the second
season of the British “Medici: The Magnificent.”

Other choices
include:

Figue skating, 8-11
p.m., NBC. Here are the women's finals for the U.S.championship.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., Fox. Being the new human-resources director
isn't much fun, Kyle decides. On his first day, two people submit
complaints about his father-in-law Mike.

“Speechless,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Dylan is appalled to find that people think she's
like her mom. Now she works hard to be different.

“Great
Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS. John Patrick Shanley has an Oscar for
writing “Moonstruck” and a Tony and a Pulitzer for “Doubt.”
Now the latter has been turned into a Minnesota Opera production.
Mathew Weiner plays a priest, with Christine Brewer as an iron-fisted
principal, confronting him with suspicions that he's been abusing the
only black student. Denyce Graves plays the student's mother.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from last season, McGarrett makes a
heartbreaking mistake, when a bank heist is in progress. Junior and
Adam back him up.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from October, Frank investigates a Special
Victims Unit detective at the same time that his own life may be
endangered by a former police detective. Also, his son Jamie is
transferred to a troubled precinct and his daughter Erin re-opens an
old case.

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Broad City” season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

It's the final
season for “Broad City,” a show that viwers will clearly miss.
It's a prime example of creators-driven TV – quirky, uneven, often
funny, always feeling authentic and enjoyable.

Abbi Jacobson and
Ilana Glazer play New Yorkers a lot like themselves. In this opener,
they walk from one end of Manhattan to the other, meeting old friends
and new problems. It's a fun stroll.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Good Place” season-finale, 9:30 p.m., NBC.

In many ways, this
is the opposite of the deliberately ragged “Broad City.” It's a
slickly filmed comedy, using special effects to add to its wild plot
shifts. The result has been showered with praise, including a Golden
Globe nomination and the Television Critics Association's top comedy
prize.

Now comes yet
another change in format. Michael (Ted Danson) wants to prove that
the system is rigged against anyone reaching the good afterlife; he's
bringing in new people for a try-out.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Gotham,” 8 p.m., Fox.

This desperate city
is even more tattered now. Officials have resisted sending soldiers
to help Gordon keep peace; Ed Nygma (also known as Riddler) learns he
fired a rocket, killing hundreds ... but has no memory of doing it or
why he would want to.

This hour starts
powerfully, fades into overemphasis on torture, then rights itself.
It also offers a key lesson: When yokels have you tied down and
attached to electric wires, it's best not to refer to them as
“anthropomorphic nincompoops.” They may not understand the first
word, but they know the second.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Other Two” debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central.

Hey, it's tough
enough to be a struggling performer. Brooke is a dancer who hasn't
danced lately; Cary is an actor who might get a spot in a commercial,
as man-who-smells-passed-gas.

But now their
13-year-old brother Chase has a hit song, thrusting him toward
Bieber-esque fame. Their mom (Molly Shannon) and Chase's manager (Ken
Marino) obsess on him. The siblings are free to attach to his fame;
it's a funny story about two lost-but-likable souls.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Both reruns have great moments from
Teller (the silent half of the Penn-and-Teller magic act), as Amy's
dad. They also have OK stories involving Raj – starting a feud with
Neil deGrasse Tyson and trying to consummate his relationship with
Anu.

“Siren”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Freeform. “Something is wrong,” Ryn says.
You think? She's a mermaid who's mostly on land ... her sister was
killed ... the siren song is stuck in several men's heads ... and now
deep-sea thunder creates chaos with whales, sea lions ... and more
merfolks. As strange as it all sounds, his Vancouver-filmed drama is
acted and directed with a quiet, Canadian quality.

“Fam,” 8:31 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. This continues to be a pleasant surprise, with neatly
flawed people, sharp dialog and occasional oversteps. In the first
episode, a funny one, Shannon follows her dad's crooked example by
stealing and pawning a watch. In the second, her sister wants private
sex time.

“The Orville,” 9
p.m., Fox. There's a surprising change in the personal life of Dr.
Claire Finn.

“A Million Little
Things,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. This flashes back to one day prior to the
day – Jon's suicide, the discovery of his wife Delilah's affair
with Eddie – when everything crumbled. We see Jon struggling and
Delilah planning to tell him the truth. Also, Maggie arrives in town,
hoping for a new life.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Bonnie and Nate work on their alibis.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Magicians” season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy.

At first, Quentin
and the others were wary college students, trying to harness their
magic powers. They learned well; last season, they prevented the
world from losing all its magic.

Their reward, alas,
was to have their memories wiped. Now each thinks he or she is a cop,
a fashion editor, a DJ and more; only Alice has her memory ... and
she's imprisoned, with a truly famous guy in the next cell.
Meanwhile, new students arrive, unaware of why they're there. If you
missed the first three seasons, don't worry; just settle back and
savor the sharp-but-bizarre wit.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grown-ish,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

Under its sparkling
surface – pretty people, vibrant college setting, dabs of comedy –
this “Black-ish” spin-off sometimes explores complex issues of
human interaction. Here's a prime example.

The world disparages
men who have one-night stands. But what about Nomi? She's bisexual,
but has an endless string of one-night stands with straight women. Is
she an evil heartbreaker ... or just a fun-loving student ... or
something else? Adding a key story for Ana, this is a smart, engaging
episode.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: The Dictator's Playbook,” 10 p.m., PBS.

Benito Mussolini was
a violent kid, this documentary says. At 11, he was expelled from
school for knifing a classmate; more fights followed, along with
arrests. Then violence became a political policy. “He was going to
make Italy great again,” historian Marla Stone says here.

Mussolini promoted
his own image, derided outsiders (especially Russian Communists),
attacked newspapers and disrupted the judicial system. Then he went
too far: His army, strained by its Ethiopian takeover, struggled
against Greece and collapsed in World War II. It's a fascinating
story.

Other choices
include:

“Riverwalk,” 8
p.m., CW. Here's a problem that many high school kids face (sort of):
The SAT exams, important for college acceptance, are here; Betty and
Jughead are supposed to prepare for them instead of worrying about
the Gryphons & Gargoyles people and murders and such.

“Schooled,” 8:30
p.m., ABC. This “Goldbergs” spin-off brings back Beverly
Goldberg, helping Lainey (a new teacher) and Glascott (the principal)
deal wih an overbearing parent.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. As he prepares a presentation about students' goals, Cam
has to deal with a bully. Also, Jay has technical trouble with his
video conference.

“The Masked
Singer,” 9 p.m., Fox. The first three weeks have dumped and
unmasked a comedian (Tommy Chong) and two football players, Terry
Bradshaw – who's also had five country-music albums -- and Antonio
Brown. Nine contestants remain, some of them real singers.

“All American,”
9 p.m., CW. Filled with rage over the killing of her friend, Coop is
sinking deeper into gang life. Also, Jordan spends time wih his
grandfather, creating problems for his dad (Taye Diggs).

“Schitt's Creek,”
10 p.m., Pop. Ever since the “Fawlty Towers” days, TV characters
have schemed to impress hotel or restaurant critics. Now it's
Johnny's turn. That repeats at 11:29 p.m., sandwiching reruns of last
week's funny, season-opening episodes at 10:30 and 11.

“Suits,” 10
p.m., USA. At least, we can't accuse this of dumbing-down TV. Set in
an upscale firm, it has lawyers with big cases and big vocabularies.
The problem is that so many seem interchangeable. Each character has
the same bulldog approach; each conversation has the same biting
sting. Tonight, that centers on a maybe-fixed boxing match. Other
crises arrive, overwhelming Louis' start as the boss.

 

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Conners” season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC.

It's been a wild
year for the show once known as “Roseanne.” ABC aired eight
episodes last spring, drawing huge ratings. It made the show the
anchor of its Tuesday line-up ... then fired Roseanne Barr after her
tweet. Then the show was salvaged without her and renamed.

The result has had
sharp wit (most of the time) and fairly strong ratings. Now its
season ends amid turmoil: Darlene (Sara Gilbert) could move to
Chicago with Ben, taking her kids and disappointing her dad (John
Goodman). She's set to go; then David (Johnny Galecki) suddenly
re-appears.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Roswell, New Mexico,” 9 p.m., CW.

It's the 10th
anniversary of the day Rosa and a friend died in a car crash. That
stirs emotion in her sister Liz, a scientist who just returned ...
and the friend's brother, who blames Rosa and all immigrants ... and
Max, a Roswell cop hiding the fact that he and his siblings are
descended from a 1947 UFO crash.

Yes, much of that
sounds silly and soap-ish. It could have been, except that it's
written and filmed with surprising skill. This is another strong
hour, with final explosions of passion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS.

Danny Smith had only
been a coal miner for a dozen years, when he came down with the worst
stage of black-lung disease. “I was scared I was dying,” he says
here. “And I was.”

Such stories ripple
through Appalachia, this report says; miners are getting sick younger
and quicker. A former mining-safety official, calls it “a gross
example of regulatory failure.”

Other choices
include:

“Big Brother:
Celebrity Edition,” 8 p.m., CBS. The second night of this quirky
show brings a real oddity – a Tuesday without “NCIS.” But “FBI”
and “NCIS” have their regular spots at 9 and 10.

“Finding Your
Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS. Three newswomen probe international roots. Ann
Curry's dad, a career Navy man, married her mom, whom he met during
post-war occupation of Japan. Christiane Amanpour's dad is Iranian
and mom is English; Lisa Ling's parents are from China and Taiwan.

“American
Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS. In 1910, a forest fire raced through the
American West, burning three million acres and killing 87 people,
mostly firemen. This reruns a compelling documentary.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. Forces in Lauren's dreams keep pushing her to join her
brother on the dark side. Her solution, a shaky one, is to never go
to sleep.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. Jack's widow and his three children all wonder how many
secrets he kept from them. Also, we learn more about his Vietnam
years.

“New Amsterdam,”
10 p.m., NBC. Troubles expand for Dr. Bloom (the terrific Janet
Montgomery), who has been hiding her ADHD and overusing Adderall. Now
she's overruled on a diagnosis.

“Conan”
season-opener, 11 p.m., TBS. At first, TBS had a two-hour talk block
-- back-to-back hours with Conan O'Brien and George Lopez. Now it's
down to a half-hour of this trimmed show.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 21


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-TRY:
“Big Brother: Celebrity Edition” opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Let's root for
Anthony Scaramucci to make it to the end of this three-week series.
If he does, he'll have topped his 11-day stay as the White House
director of communication.

That's part of a
quirky bunch. Kato Kaelin – famed for being in O.J. Simpson's guest
house – is in the main house now. So are swimmer Ryan Lochte,
football's Ricky Williams, actor Joey Lawrence, singer Tamar Braxton
and more, including a wrestler, a bobsledder and Lindsay Lohan's mom.
Julie Chen Moonves hosts, with shows continuing on Tuesdays,
Wednesday, Fridays Sunday and beyond.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Passage,” 9 p.m., Fox.

In last week's
debut, Brad (Mark Paul-Gosselaar) was bringing in a young orphan for
involuntary testing. He began to doubt the project; using his
military skills, he took her on the lam.

Lab people insist
this is an emergency; a global epidemic requires testing a kid.
(Oddly, the show never says why THIS must be the kid.) Then there
are the lab subjects with vampire tendencies. It's a flawed show, but
an involving one, especially tonight, when a tough ex-military woman
leads Brad's defense.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Pounding through
this are some of rock's great guitar riffs, from Link Wray's “Rumble”
-- “the theme song of juvenile delinquents,” Steven Van Zandt
says – to Jimi Hendrix's variation on the National Anthem. People
know the sounds; they might not know of the guitarists' American
Indian roots.

Stuffed with music
and interviews, this documentary offers some people who had
mainstream success – Robbie Robertson of The Band, Taboo of Black
Eyed Peas – and many who should have.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: All day, Turner Classic Movies.

While Americans
celebrate Martin Luther King Day, most networks seem to ignore it.
Sure, at 9 p.m. there's a documentary on BET and a Morgan Freeman
film (“Along Came a Spider,” 2001) on Starz.

But mostly, it's
TCM. There are Sidney Poitier films at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2
p.m. ET, followed by master directors – Gordon Parks' “The
Learning Tree” (1969) and Julie Dash's “Daughters of the Dust”
(1991) at 4 and 6 p.m. At 8 is “Glory” (1989), an Oscar-winner
for Denzel Washington.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent: The Champions,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In the first two weeks, the
show has advanced two singers (England's Susan Boyle and Spain's
Cristina Ramos), a knife-throwing act (France's Deadly Games) and
comedian Preacher Lawson. He's the only American to survive, while
past champions Bianca Ryan and Darci Lynn Farmer were dumped; now 10
more acts perform.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The women range from a pirate show to a pool party.
Also, there's more sniping between Hannah Brown and Caelynn
Miller-Keys; both competed in last year's Miss USA, representing
Alabama and North Carolina, respectively.

“The Resident,”
8 p.m., Fox. QuoVadis, the medical-supply company, has been getting
away with fraud. A whistleblower was (maybe) killed; Dr. Bell was
compromised. Now one of the devices fails.

“Martin: Legacy of
a King,” 9 p.m., BET. This documentary includes comments from
rappers, poets, musicians and actors, plus activists Jesse Jackson
and Al Sharpton.

“Manifest,” 10
p.m., NBC. One of the survivors – Cal, age 10 – has disappeared.
The search takes Ben and Grace into the mountains, where they find a
surprise.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Staffers try to return to normal, after surviving the
virus and quarantine. Shaun and Dr. Glassman decide to visit Lea, who
offered key emotional support.