TV column for Monday, Nov. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Creative TV people
hate “network notes,” the oft-lame suggestions from executives,
Jerry Seinfeld tells the audience. For his show, the network
suggested he add a woman. And... well, Julia Louis-Dreyfus became one
of the most-honored people in TV history. “This person is a network
note.”

She's won eight
Emmys for acting. And now she's the 21st person (and sixth
woman) to get the annual comedy prize.The night starts with a
hilarious film, then has a few so-so ones, plus mostly funny roasts
and tributes. Even her breast-cancer diagnosis, 14 months ago, is
fodder for humor. It's a fun night.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Dancing With the Stars” finale, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

For the first five
weeks, this show only ousted women; then the tide turned. The
remaining women – actress Evanna Lynch and model Alexis Ren -- keep
surviving; now they're in the finals. Actor Milo Manheim and radio
personality Bobby Bones are also there, after four other men were
ousted.

Last Monday, it was
reality-show guy Joe Amabile and actor Juan Pablo di Pace ...
bringing dissent. That night, di Pace had perfect scores (his fourth
and fifth) on both dances. But the show adds viewers' vote from he
previous week and he was sent home. “There's no justice,” judge
Len Goodman said.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Little Drummer Girl” opener, 9-11:40 p.m., AMC.

Two years ago, AMC
soared with “The Night Manager,” a six-hour-plus thriller based
on a John le Carre novel. Now it tries again – same length
(continuing Tuesday and Wednesday), same author.

Does it work? No and
yes. On one hand, the story is bizarrely obtuse. After the first
hour, viewers still don't know what this is about; neither does the
central character, On the other hand, this is one of the best
characters we've seen, played brilliantly by Florence Pugh, 22. Some
of her scenes with Alexander Skarsgard – at the Acropolis or
learning what people already know about her – are stunningly good.

Other choices
include:

“Agatha Raisin and
the Wizard of Evesham,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Imagine Lucy Ricardo moving to an English village and solving
murders. That's Agatha, first as a weekly series, now as a bundle of
monthly movies. Once a fast-paced Londoner, she returns (after a
break-up) to the quaint village, which is now gaga over a new
hairdresser. The result is loose, daft and, as usual, fun

"The Lion King”
(1994) and “Cinderella” (2015), 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Freeform.
This is Disney at its best – two films (one animated, the other
not) that have gorgeous visuals and strong emotions.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, the show trimmed from 24 singers to 12 –
three per judge. But then Kelly Clarkson added a fourth: Lynnea Moore
survived the comeback round and got to decide whose team to join.
Tonight, the 13 finalists sing and viewers vote.

“Welcome to the
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. Dave's mother (Marilu Henner) arrives
for Thanksgiving ... and is instantly uncomfortable with his black
friends.

“Magnum P.I.,”
9 p.m., CBS. A teenager has escaped from her kidnappers. Now her
parents hire Magnum, a former prisoner of war, to talk with her and
find her captors.

“Mars,” 9 p.m.,
National Geographic. The federation reluctantly co-exists with the
private mining operation ... then sees things get difficult.

“Manifest,” 10
p.m., NBC. Ben and Vance scramble to find the missing passengers from
their flight. Also, Cal is back in school, trying to relate to
friends who are now five years older than he is.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. After a treatment created a complication, the
patient must reveal a secret to her husband. Also, doctors struggle
with a patient's parents, who oppose vaccinations.

 

 

 

 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS.

 

 

Creative TV people
hate “network notes,” the oft-lame suggestions from executives,
Jerry Seinfeld tells the audience. For his show, the network
suggested he add a woman. And... well, Julia Louis-Dreyfus became one
of the most-honored people in TV history. “This person is a network
note.”

She's won eight
Emmys for acting. And now she's the 21st person (and sixth
woman) to get the annual comedy prize.The night starts with a
hilarious film, then has a few so-so ones, plus mostly funny roasts
and tributes. Even her breast-cancer diagnosis, 14 months ago, is
fodder for humor. It's a fun night.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Dancing With the Stars” finale, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

For the first five
weeks, this show only ousted women; then the tide turned. The
remaining women – actress Evanna Lynch and model Alexis Ren -- keep
surviving; now they're in the finals. Actor Milo Manheim and radio
personality Bobby Bones are also there, after four other men were
ousted.

Last Monday, it was
reality-show guy Joe Amabile and actor Juan Pablo di Pace ...
bringing dissent. That night, di Pace had perfect scores (his fourth
and fifth) on both dances. But the show adds viewers' vote from he
previous week and he was sent home. “There's no justice,” judge
Len Goodman said.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Little Drummer Girl” opener, 9-11:40 p.m., AMC.

Two years ago, AMC
soared with “The Night Manager,” a six-hour-plus thriller based
on a John le Carre novel. Now it tries again – same length
(continuing Tuesday and Wednesday), same author.

Does it work? No and
yes. On one hand, the story is bizarrely obtuse. After the first
hour, viewers still don't know what this is about; neither does the
central character, On the other hand, this is one of the best
characters we've seen, played brilliantly by Florence Pugh, 22. Some
of her scenes with Alexander Skargard – at the Acropolis or
learning what people already know about her – are stunningly good.

Other choices
include:

“The Lion King”
(1994) and “Cinderella” (2015), 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Freeform.
This is Disney at its best – two films (one animated, the other
not) that have gorgeous visuals and strong emotions.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, the show trimmed from 24 singers to 12 –
three per judge. But then Kelly Clarkson added a fourth: Lynnea Moore
survived the comeback round and got to decide whose team to join.
Tonight, the 13 finalists sing and viewers vote.

“Welcome to the
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. Dave's mother (Marilu Henner) arrives
for Thanksgiving ... and is instantly uncomfortable with his black
friends.

“Magnum P.I.,”
9 p.m., CBS. A teenager has escaped from her kidnappers. Now her
parents hire Magnum, a former prisoner of war, to talk with her and
find her captors.

“Mars,” 9 p.m.,
National Geographic. The federation reluctantly co-exists with the
private mining operation ... then sees things get difficult.

“Manifest,” 10
p.m., NBC. Ben and Vance scramble to find the missing passengers from
their flight. Also, Cal is back in school, trying to relate to
friends who are now five years older than he is.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. After a treatment created a complication, the
patient must reveal a secret to her husband. Also, doctors struggle
with a patient's parents, who oppose vaccinations.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Escape at Dannemora” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at
11:05.

The real-life story
was fascinating: In the summer of 2015, two convicted killers escaped
from a New York prison, setting off a massive, three-week manhunt.

Even more compelling
are the people, brilliantly captured by director Ben Stiller and his
amazing cast. Using a bizarre voice and persona, Patricia Arquette is
stunning as “Tilly” Mitchell. We see her with the men (Paul Dano,
Benicio del Toro) who will escape ... with her husband (Eric Lange)
... and -- in amazing scenes taken from real transcripts -- with the
state's inspector general (Bonnie Hunt).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Woman in White” finale, 10 p.m., PBS.

Last week's episode
delivered a double shock. First, viewers saw (and mourned) sweet
Laura, lowered into her grave. Then we learned that it wasn't her at
all; her husband had buried a lookalike – Anne Catherick, the
mysterious “woman in white” -- and kept Laura in a mental
institution.

Now her sister had
used bribes to get her out ... but can they restore her old life? At
five hours, this mini-series started slowly, but ends beautifully.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Inside North Korea's Dynasty,” 7-11 p.m., National
Geographic.

This documentary
traces the 70-year history of North Korea, which has remained under
the rule of one family. The first two hours, rerun from last week,
view the 46-year reign of Kim Il-Sung and the 17 years of his
movie-obsessed son Kim Jong-il ... who even kidnapped a South Korean
director and star.

In the 9 p.m. film,
we see the darkest side of Jong-il – the emergence of the nuclear
program. When he died (unexpectedly, at 70) in 2011, his son Kim
Jong-un – 28, Swiss-educated, basketball-obsessed – took over.
The final hour ranges from charming quirks to murders, sometimes
brutal and public.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Marge has been a stay-at-home mom for a long time (a
LONG time), but tonight she's intent on changing that.

“Masterpiece:
Durrells in Corfu” season-finale, 8 p.m., PBS. Sure, sometimes the
circus comes to town ... but does the circus come to an island? That
seems wildly illogical, but it triggers some fresh fun. Also in this
excellent hour are major changes in three romantic relationships.

“Masterpiece:
Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS. Last week's so-so hour included one powerful
moment: A nephew suddenly pointed out the obvious – Elizabeth's son
looks a lot like Ross and not like her husband. Now – after two key
flashbacks – we see her take a desperate measure to soothe her
husband's doubts. It's a great hour that includes both some sweet
romance and a sudden, jolting tragedy.

“Shark Tank,” 9
and 10 p.m., ABC. Yes, Alec Baldwin's show was supposed to return to
the 10 p.m. spot tonight. After just four weeks of low ratings, it's
being exiled to Saturdays, beginning Dec. 10. Last week, it stepped
aside for a Robin Roberts special and ABC decided not to bring it
back to Sundays; for now, that hour has “Shark Tank” reruns and
holiday specials.

“My Brilliant
Friend” debut, 9 p.m., HBO. Like other HBO shows, this is smartly
written and richly crafted; unlike the others, it's in Italian, with
subtitles. It's based on a novel about decades of on-and-off
friendship, starting in girlhood.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. The vice-president has a crisis: The surrogate carrying
her future grandchild has been arrested in Laos for human
trafficking.

ALSO: Holiday
movies, cable. Sure, there are Christmas movies – including new
ones at 8 p.m. on Hallmark and 9 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
But Thanksgiving comes first; at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has
“Plymouth Adventure” (1952), about the epic Mayflower journey.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 7 and 8:30 p.m., TBS.

Christmas is still
38 days away ... Thanksgiving is next ... but TV already delivers one
of its best moments. This ranks alongside “A Charlie Brown
Christnas,” at the top.

Dr. Seuss wrote the
funny-yet-warm script, Chuck Jones added the great animation, Boris
Karloff narrated and Thurl Ravenscroft sang about that mean one, Mr.
Grinch.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Christmas in Graceland,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.

TV will soon be
overrun by new Christmas movies. This one, at least has a fairly
interesting star (Kellie Pickler) and setting (Memphis) ... and a
great voice in the background.

That's Elvis
Presley; the guy did everything well, from rock to ballads, gospel
and the six Christmas songs included here. And the story? Pickler
plays a Chicago banking executive, sent to her Memphis home town to
close a deal,taking over a folksy bank. She soon bumps into
(literally) her former boyfriend. The plot is predictable, the acting
and dialog are stiff, but the sights and sounds are great.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE (sort of): “Return to Christmas Creek,” 9-11 p.m.,
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

A hard-working young
woman in Chicago returns to her folksier home town for Christmas.
There, she meets the guy she knew long ago and ...

(!) Wait a minute
(!) .... This is basically the same plot as Pickler's movie, on the
same night. Hallmark repeats itself so often that it now overlaps.
Tori Anderson, who was so good in the “No Tomorrow” series,
stars, with Steven Weber and Kari Matchett in support. As usual, the
guy is played by some guy.

TONIGHT'S REAL
ALTERNATIVE: “A Murder in Mansfield,” 9-11 p.m., Investigation
Discovery.

When Collier Landry
was 12, he was an impressive trial witness – sometimes smiling and
joking – accusing his father of killing his mother. The dad, a
doctor, was convicted; Collier stayed in Mansfield (an Ohio city of
47,000), where his foster parents adopted him.

In California, he
was successful in his career as a cinematographer, but not in his
relationships. After 26 years, he sought closure in Mansfield and at
his father's prison. The result, by Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple, is
well-made, but tough to watch, with none of the satisfying moments
true-crime fans expect.

Other choices
include:

Football, all day.
For the first time in its 32 years, “College GameDay” (9 a.m. to
noon ET) is in Orlando. That's where Central Florida (9-0, ranked No.
11) tries to extend its 21-game winning streak; at 8 p.m. on ABC, it
faces Cincinnati (9-1, No. 24). Other games start at noon. At 2:30
p.m. on NBC, Notre Dame (No. 3) hosts Syracuse (No. 12); at 7:30 p.m.
on Fox, Oklahoma (No. 6) hosts Kansas.

“Toy Story”
(1995), 2:50 p.m., Freeform. Here's the trilogy, with sequels at 4:50
(1999) and 6:55 (2019); “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) follows at 9:25.

More animation. An
“Elf-on-the-Shelf” cartoon is at 6 and 7:30 p.m. on TBS, with
“Elf's Pets: Santa's St. Bernard's Save Christmas” at 6:30 and 8.
Starz has “Monsters University” (2013) at 6:05 and the brilliant
“Inside Out” (2015) at 7:50,

“Bull,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) often aids defense attorneys, but
now the district attorney's office wants a favor: Help prosecute a
fraternity after a hazing incident led to a drowning.

“Jonestown: Terror
in the Jungle,” 9-11 p.m., Sundance. Sunday will be the 40th
anniversary of the mass suicide by Jim Jones and his followers.
Here's the first half of a two-night documentary.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Steve Carell hosts for the first time in a
decade, with Ella Mae as music guest. That follows one of the show's
best moments ever – Pete Davidson's apology to Congressman-elect
Dan Crenshaw, who responded beautifully.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Chi McBride wrote
this episode, which lets him act alongside some of the all-time
greats. It's Thanksgiving and Grover (McBride) is visited by his
parents, played by Oscar-winner Lou Gossett, 82, and music star
Gladys Knight, 74. Clouding that is his rivalry with his brother
(Clifton Powell).

And yes, there's
also a case: A thief was crushed to death by an empty safe.

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

TV loves to push its
most mismatched characters together. For some shows (especially “Big
Bang”) the result can be wonderful; here, it's at least fairly
good.

Separate road trips
have Rebecca with Darryl, Paula with Josh, and Heather with
Nathanial. Like the trips, this hour gets tiresome at times, but ends
sharply. And like any good trip, it needs a musical interlude; this
one has a dandy, summarizing the Beach Boys' career by mashing three
clever takeoffs.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“The Kominsky Method” debut, any time, Netflix.

Great television
doesn't necessarily require big budgets, big sets, big anything. Just
put two gifted talents in a confined space, preferably with another
genius off-camera.

This show's second
scene has two Oscar-winners – Michael Douglas, 74, and Alan Arkin,
84 – in a restaurant booth. The result is funny, warm and perfectly
done. Much of the credit should go to writer-director Chuck Lorre; he
makes TV's best comedies (“Big Bang,” “Mom”), but here's a
richly layered piece, getting great work from everyone, including
guest stars Emily Osment and Susan Sullivan.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS.

After delivering
full-scale musicals -- “An American in Paris” and “The Sound of
Music” -- on two straight Fridays, PBS takes a smaller step. At 10,
it reruns a look at Lin-Manuel Miranda (before “Hamilton”)
developing “In the Heights”; at 9, John Leguizamo develops “Latin
History for Morons.”

We see flashbacks to
Leguizamo's early years; “I've never seen anyone with this talent,”
actor Mark Ruffalo says. And we see him at 54, a half-century after
emigrating from Colombia. “How is it,” he asks, “that my son is
going through the same racial rights-of-passage that I did?”

Other choices
include:

More streaming.
Lately, shows have toyed with semi-anthologies – separate films,
with only a slender connection. One example is the brilliant
“Romanoffs,” on Amazon Prime; today's film, the seventh of eight,
has Kathryn Hahn and Jay Ferguson going abroad to pursue their
legacy; another is Netflix's “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the
first of six Coen Brothers westerns. Also debuting are series –
Hulu's “The Bisexual” and Netflix's “Narcos: Mexico.”

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. An Irish officer claims to know where to find “The
Ghost,” the bombmaker.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., Fox. Nancy Travis, who is also excellent in
today's “Kominsky Method,” gets some of the focus here. Vanessa
(Travis) faces regrets in her career path.

“The Cool Kids,”
8:30, Fox. Some food snobs invite Margaret to their Thanksgiving
dinner in the retirement community. The episode includes familiar TV
veterans – Jamie Farr (“MASH”), Charles Shaugnessy (“The
Nanny”) and Julia Duffy (“Newhart”).

“Midnight, Texas,”
9 p.m., NBC. With Bobo still in danger, Fiji must take desperate
action. Also, people combine to protect a newcomer.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Erin's job in the district attorney's office gives her
separate battles with the governor and with her father, the police
commissioner.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Grey's Anatomy” and “Station 19,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

Seattle – at
least, the TV version -- seems to have an abundance of crashes,
quakes, fires and more. Now it gets a fierce wind storm, in the
“mid-season finales” for both shows.

In the first hour,
the hospital is inundated with patients; in the second, the wind
increases, creating dangerous fire conditions. For many people, that
scuttles relationships; the Station 19 people had gathered at Dean's
for a “Friendsgiving” celebration, then rush to work. But two
doctors (Alex and Jo) are pleasantly stuck at home; they make this a
second honeymoon.

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

When was the last
time you saw an existential barroom brawl, the kind that includes
demons, an angel, a philosophy student and an all-knowing woman who
has some epic martial-arts skills?

“Good Place” has
that tonight, in another of its clever detours. Michael and Janet are
in Canada, talking to the guy (Michael McKean) who seems to be doing
everything right to get points for the afterlife. Also, Eleanor wants
Chidi to know about an alternate-life romance. Then the brawing
begins.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Becoming Michelle Obama,” 8 p.m., Oprah Winfrey
Network.

Two days after
Michelle Obama's memoir goes on sale, we see this long conversation.
Taped in New York before an audience of high school girls, it ranges
from Obama's basic childhood in Chicago to her White House years, and
to complications (including couples counseling) in her marriage.

An unedited version
will be on Winfrey's podcast that day, with the second part on Nov.
19. The full interview will be on Winfrey's Facebook page at 11 a.m.
Sunday, with more in her magazine, Nov. 20.

Other choices
include:

“A Prayer for Mr.
T,” any time, Crackle. The fourth special from the “SuperMansion”
series is set on Thanksgiving. Naturally, Titanium Rex (Bryan
Cranston) has a turkey competition with Dr. Deviso ...whose turkey
transforms into a monster, with eggs hatching freakish creatures at
an alarming rate.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Setbacks loom for two prideful men: Sheldon
learns that “super asymmetry” has already been disproven; also,
Bernadette wants Stuart's girlfriend to show her how to beat Howard
in a popular videogame.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for Sheldon to study
family dynamics for a psychology project ... especially after his dad
is offered a job in Oklahoma.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. This is the episode that NBC scheduled for
last week – then bumped at the last minute for a “Voice” recap.
It has guest bits for Jon Cryer (replacing Jack in a play Karen is
producing) and David Schwimmer (keeping a secret from his girlfriend
Grace).

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. The focus shifts to two characters who were absent last
week. There's Adam, who's ready to open his bar. And Violet, whom we
haven't seen in two years. Now Christy (her mother) is nudged by
Bonnie (Violet's grandmother) to mend their relationship.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. This show has big shellshocks in each
“midseason finale,” so we can expect that tonight. The
Connor/Oliver wedding is overshadowed by talk of murder.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. When trouble comes, lawyers
tend to hire other lawyers. But Stone defends himself in court, when
a woman accuses him of sexual assault.