TV column for Friday, Feb. 6

(Please note: Due to a temporary glitch, I'll put the TV columns here for a while. This is just short-term, though; mostly, this will be used for blogs.)


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Friday Night Lights," 9 p.m., NBC.
"Let's not make this into a big soap opera," Matt Saracen's grandfather says tonight.
Still, that's just what this episode is. On a bye week (no game for the Dillon High football team), there are powerful interactions behind key characters.
The plot twists might be soap-like, but the acting is in a brilliantly naturalistic style. Deep emotions are projected quietly.
Jesse Plemons, as Landry, is the master of this. His scenes with Tyra (Adrienne Palicki), his former girlfriend and permanent friend, are superb.
There are other great moments here. Saracen (Zach Gilford) connects with the mom (Kim Dickens) who deserted him. Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) explodes in protecting his former star Smash Williams (wonderfully played by Gaius Charles). This is soap-opera of the highest order -- and maybe the best-acted show on TV.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "Flashpoint," 9 p.m., CBS.
This show has one key thing in common with its NBC competitor -- an ability to draw emotion with strong-and-silent characters.
The Canadian cops in "Flashpoint," like the Texas football players in "Friday Night Lights," waste few words. Tonight, a sniper is targeting Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon). There are no histrionics here, just decent people, calmly facing a crisis.
TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: "Jockeys" debut, 9 p.m., Animal Planet.
All of the interesting shows are at the same time tonight, so warm up your VCR and grumble about life being unfair.
This series focuses on the 115-pound humans who try to control 1,200 pound horses at 40 mph. The opener contrasts Aaron Gryder, 39, and Joe Talamo, 18. It also introduces Chantal Sutherland, a young Canadian jockey who is trying a difficult switch: She's moving to California to live with her boyfriend, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. All of these riders come across as likable people in a dangerous business.
Other choices include:
-- "Cops," 8 and 8:30 p.m., and "America's Most Wanted," 9 p.m., Fox. With NASCAR borrowing Saturday this week, these shows are running a day earlier than usual. (This is only a one-time thing; next Friday, Fox debuts the compelling "Dollhouse.") In the 8:30 episode, "Cops" returns to Broward County, the Florida spot where it started in 1989;
-- "Ghost Whisperer," 8 p.m., CBS. Even in death, an overbearing mother clings to a dark secret.
-- "Howie Do It," 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. Both episodes include tricks played on models. In one, they're told they'll be posing in diapers; in the other, they're supposed to sell a fake cologne.
-- "The Rosa Parks Story," 9-11 p.m., Lifetime. Beautifully directed by Julie Dash, this film gets great work from Angela Bassett, as the young woman whose arrest sparked a surge in the civil rights movement.
-- "Finding Nemo" (2003), 9 p.m., Disney Channel. If kids can stay up late enough, they'll love this animated film; if not, this is more work for your VCR.
-- "Numb3rs," 10 p.m., CBS. A foreign ambassador says his limited-edition sneakers have been stolen. Soon, cops find that there's big money and crime in sneaker-collecting.
-- "Psych," 10 p.m., USA Network. The guys feel a pathological liar is finally telling the truth. Now they must convince authorities, in time to prevent an assassination.   

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 5

(Please note: Because of a temporary glitch, I'll put the daily columns back here for a while. This is only short-term, however; mostly, this site will be for blogs.)


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Grey's Anatomy," 9 p.m., and "Private Practice," 10:02 p.m., ABC.
It's a big night for Derek (Patrick Dempsey) in two shows.
On "Grey's Anatomy," he has a ring and he's looking for the right time to propose to Meredith. And in "Private Practice," he gets a call from his ex-wife Addison; her brother Archer (Grant Show) has had a severe seizure and she needs Derek's advice. That sets up an episode next week in which the two shows entwine.
There's more, in both hours. In the first one, Lexie wants Mark Sloan to stop keeping their relationship secret. In the second, Violet (Amy Brenneman) is ready to tell colleagues she's pregnant.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Movies, 8 and 9 p.m., cable.
This is a night of great movies of every sort.
Want light, bright fantasy? Catch "Big" (1988) at 8 p.m. on WE or "Splash" (1984) at 9 p.m. on Hallmark. Both star Tom Hanks; both were directed beautifully by former ABC situation-comedy stars -- Penny Marshall and Ron Howard respectively.
Want serious drama? At 8 p.m., AMC has "Mystic River," a darkly intense drama, superbly directed by Clint Eastwood. At 9, Lifetime has the subtle perfection of Helen Mirren in "The Queen" (2006); Bravo has "Good Will Hunting," with Matt Damon co-writing and starring in a compelling story of a street tough who happens to be a math genius.
Other choices include:
-- "Ugly Betty," 8 p.m., ABC. Betty faces an important financial decision, but she's distracted by the renewed attention from Jesse.
-- "Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother," 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. In a late move, CBS slides in reruns from two terrific Monday comedies. In the first, a young grad student is inexplicably attracted to Sheldon; in the second, Britney Spears gives a good comic performance as the giddy receptionist for Ted's love interest.
-- "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a drug lord's daughter, who was slain, seems to have had several had blood types.
-- "The Office," 9 p.m., NBC. Michael's branch is somehow considered a success, Now he's on a tour to speak at other branches, with Pam as his driver.
-- "30 Rock," 9:31 p.m., NBC. This Emmy-winner keeps having TV's top guest stars. Tonight it's Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," playing a handsome doctor who is Liz's new neighbor. By coincidence, Hamm is going against long-time girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt, who is starting a three-week stay as Jen on "Grey's Anatomy."
-- "The Beast," 10 p.m., A&E. A jewelry-store executive is apparently stealing to pay off extortionists.
-- "ER," 10:01 p.m., NBC. In its final season, this show keeps bringing back characters from the past. Now it's Dr. Morgenstern (William H. Macy), visiting a former mentor who is gravely ill. Meanwhile, Gates and Morris work on a tough case and Sam is surprised when her sister (Shannon Woodward of "The Riches") visits.   

Sample columns here

There are plenty of TV columns here, but they're just samples from the past. Let me explain:

For a month, I put each column here. I also promised newspapers, however, that I would eventually stop that.

Now that's happening. The column is spreading around the country fairly quickly. At this point (Jan. 11), it's in 12 papers (and, oddly enough, 12 states), with a combined circulation of about 600,000.

So I quit posting the columns, with the final one being for Jan. 11. I'll still keep the old ones, as samples for papers.

Mostly, this Web site is for blogs and comments. Please check out the blog part and add your thoughts. Thanks. 



TV column for Sunday, Jan. 11

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "24" season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.
For a moment, things seem civil enough. Jack Bauer is scrubbed and shaved and in a suitcoat, defending himself before a Senate committee.
Then a new crisis appears, as fierce and harsh as the previous ones. Within the first two hours, we'll see guns, brutality and imminent disaster; we'll also be reminded that "24" is one of TV's best shows.
There are moments -- especially in the next two hours, Monday -- that are simply absurd. Even with that, "24" has a kinetic energy and emotional jolt that sweeps viewers along. It also has a great new set of actors, including Cherry Jones and Colm Feore as the president and her husband.
TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Golden Globe awards, 9 p.m., NBC.
Here are some awards that actually make a difference, especially for movies.
Up for best drama are "Frost/Nixon," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Up for best comedy or musical are "Burn After Reading," "Mamma Mia," "In Bruges," "Happy-Go-Lucky and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
On the TV side, cable dominates. Among dramas, Fox's "House" faces cable's "Mad Men," "True Blood," "In Treatment" and "Dexter." For comedies, NBC's "30 Rock" and "The Office" face cable's "Weeds," "Entourage" and "Californication."
There's much more, involving stars in nice clothes.
Other choices include:
-- Football, 1 p.m., Fox and 4:45 p.m., CBS. An NFL play-off doubleheader has the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Giants and then the San Diego Chargers at the Pittsburgh Steelers. By the end of the night, we'll know which teams will battle next Sunday for the two Super Bowl spots.
-- Golden Globes previews, 4-8 p.m., three networks. Two cable channels -- E and the TV Guide Network -- have preview shows at 4 p.m. and red-carpet shows from 6-7. NBC has its own red-carpet show, from 7-8 p.m.
-- "Desperate Housewives," 9 p.m., ABC. Susan and Edie get some bonding time, when they're accidentally locked in a basement together. Meanwhile, parenting problems lead Gabrielle to turn to Carlos and Lynette to turn to her mother.
- "Cold Case," 9 p.m., CBS. A reporter was killed 20 years ago. Now fresh information shows she was investigating a plastics company; a new probe begins.
-- "Masterpiece Classic: Tess of the D'Ubervilles" conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Sweet Tess grew up poor, then was raped by the wealthy young Alec; her baby, Sorrow, died in a pauper's grave. Now she's found love with angelic Angel; life looks promising -- unless she manages, again, to say all the wrong things. This well-crafted film captures a dark era.    

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 10

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Football, 4:30 p.m., CBS, and 8:15 p.m., Fox.
It's an NFL playoff doubleheader, with the Baltimore Ravens at the Tennessee Titans and then the Arizona Cardinals at the Carolina Panthers.
That will be followed by two afternoon games Sunday; a week later, we'll know which teams are in the Super Bowl.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "The Queen" (2006), 8 and 10 p.m., Oxygen.
Peter Morgan's brilliant script captured the dilemma of Queen Elizabeth II, slow to fathom the adoration the public had for her late ex-daughter-in-law Diana.
Helen Mirren won an Academy Award for her briilliantly layered performance. There were five other nominations, including best picture.
Other choices include:
-- "Crazy Love," 1 p.m., Sundance Channel. This fascinating documentary relates one of the strangest romances in human history. Mostly, it's told directly by the people involved, Burt Pugach and Linda Riss.
-- "The Bachelor," 8-10 p.m., ABC. If you missed the season-opener Monday, here's a second chance. This offers a commitment-prone bachelor, Jason Mesnick; he's a divorced dad, 32, who unsuccessfully proposed to DeAnna Pappas in "The Bachelorette." It also has a relatively mature group of women; resisting the TV trend toward bottle blondes, many of the women look a bit like the raven-haired Pappas.
-- "Crusoe," 8 p.m., NBC. After years of separation, Robinson Crusoe's wife Susannah is finally with him on the island. Problems continue, though; Friday is missing and someone's life is in danger.
-- "Game Show in My Head," 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. This offbeat show had an agreeable debut last week. Taking instructions from through an earpiece, someone must convince strangers to do odd things.
-- "Criminal Minds," 9 p.m., CBS. A serial killer has been executed, but new murders are linked to him.
-- "Expecting a Miracle," 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Channel. After some wrong turns, a squabbling husband and wife (Jason Priestley and Teri Polo) end up in a tiny Mexican village, where the priest (Cheech Marin) is preparing for a festival. There's an admirable sweetness here, an agreeable feeling of stepping into a gentler world.
-- ""Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," 10 p.m., NBC. A Marine, pregnant by a rapist, is missing.