TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Black Lightning” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

For years, Jefferson
Pierce unleashed rage and lightning (literally) on the crooks in his
town. That made little dent on crime, but did huge damage to his
soul, his psyche and his family life. He set it aside and focused on
being a good dad and a great school principal.

But now, nine years
later, crime has intruded on his daughters. Despite his ex-wife's
warnings, he may return to his days as Black Lightning. The result is
surprisingly well-made; like CBS' “S.W.A.T.”, it manages to
juggle boom-bang action with a strong sense of community and black
lives that matter.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“LA to Vegas,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For decades, actors
Dylan McDermott and Durmot Mulroney have been confused for each
other. There was even a “Saturday Night Live” sketch about it.
Now, for the first time, they share an episode ... playing, of
course, long-time enemies.

Captain Dave
(McDermott) is injured, so the more-successful Captain Steve
(Mulroney) steps in. The result isn't as funny as the show's first
two episodes, but does have its moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Quietly brilliant,
rarely displaying emotion, Alfred Loomis seemed to do it all. He was
a big-time lawyer, then a Wall Street millionaire. In his spare time,
he worked on inventions, ranging from ultrasound to the emerging
field of microwaves and radar.

Then came a
remarkable move: Desperate, British scientists decided to share all
their secrets with the U.S. That brought key breakthroughs in radar.
Loomis financed and led a hurried operation that changed the course
of World War II. It's a fascinating story that's been mostly untold.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the
crossover story from a year ago. Abby's think-tank is compromised and
a theoretical terror playbook is missing. In the second hour, McGee
and Torres head to New Orleans in search of the playbook.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. In the middle of a tough case – an escaped patient
went mysteriously mad and was killed – the cops have personal
problems: Riggs' anger explodes again; Murtaugh and his wife face big
decisions about their son.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week's hour (at Kevin's rehab) brought a sort of
emotional exorcism. Now the siblings return to day-to-day life: Kate
shops for her wedding dress, Kevin tries a new lifestyle, Randall
explores the past of his birth father. In flashbacks, their parents
take them to the mall.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Dre is running a campaign to prepare black parents for
“the talk” -- the warning they give children for the real-world
biases they'll face.

“Modern Family,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. In a surprising move, ABC has canceled “The Mayor”
and inserted reruns. In this one, Jay's friend Shorty visits ... but
spends more time with Gloria.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. Doctors struggle with decisions about a baby born with
an addiction.

“This Time Next
Year” debut, 10:02 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. Cat Deeley
introduces a show that will follow people's year-long efforts to
remake their lives. One woman hopes to lose 100 pounds, another plans
to be a bodybuilder. One man plans to give a kidney to his fiance;
another hopes to walk again. And a couple tries to overcome 15 years
of infertility.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Selma” (2015), 7 and 10 p.m., FX, and more.

Here is the perfect
movie for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with a powerful portrait of
King's historic Alabama march. It won an Oscar for best song
(“Glory”) and was nominated for best-picture. The Golden Globes
also nominated director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo.

Also at 7, the Oprah
Winfrey Network has the excellent “The Butler” (2013); both films
have Winfrey in support. And Turner Classic Movies includes “Sounder”
(1972) at 4 p.m. ET, Sidney Poitier's “Patch of Blue” (1965) and
“A Warm December” (1972) at 6 and 8 and “Daughters of the Dust”
(1991) at 10.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Gifted,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

In a worthy effort
to have fewer reruns, Fox has shows sharing timeslots. Next week,
this slot goes to “The Resident” (after its Sunday debut); first,
“Gifted” wraps its season with a two-hour burst.

Dr. Campbell (Garret
Dillahunt) attends an anti-mutant summit, hoping to take his program
national; the mutants try a dangerous mission to stop him. Meanwhile,
their own headquarters is attacked.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens: I Am Not Your Negro,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS.

In 1979, James
Baldwin – the brilliant novelist and essayist – described his new
book. It would be a personal account of the lives and deaths of
Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. When he died eight
years later (at 63), however, he had finished only 30 pages.

Now filmmaker Raoul
Peck has, in a way, completed a film version of the book. He mixes
Baldwin's words (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), with news footage and
more. The result – an Oscar-nominee for best documentary feature –
is beautifully crafted.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: NAACP Image Awards, 9 p.m., TV One, with red-carpet
at 8.

Anthony Anderson
hosts a star-stuffed night. Three movies -- “Get Out,” “Girls
Trip” and “Marshall” -- have five nominations apiece. They're
up for best film, alongside “Detroit” and “Roman J. Israel.”

Chadwick Boseman –
who plays Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” -- is up for
entertainer of the year. He faces musicians Jay-Z, Bruno Mars and
Chance the Rapper, plus Issa Rae (the “Insecure” creator and
star) and Ava DuVernay, the “Queen Sugar” producer whose “Selma”
also airs tonight.

Other choices
include:

“The
Detectorists,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Slow and droll (those are British traits) this is also fairly clever
(another British trait). It follows the lives of two chaps who spend
their spare time with metal detectors. Lance (Toby Jones) learns that
his favorite turf has been sold. Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and his wife
(Rachael Stirling) have financial trouble and must stay with her
mother (Diana Rigg, who is, indeed, Stirling's mother). The result is
fun, in its own quiet way.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Reign continues her rampage and Supergirl – in a
dreamlike state – can 't help. Mon-El asks Brainiac to retrieve
her; soon, the Legion of Superheroes arrives.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 9 p.m., NBC. In Barcelona, the guys range from lingering
lunches to tango dances. Terry Bradshaw and Henry Winkler also find
moments of nudity.

“Chain of
Command,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. Put this one under good
intentions. The idea is to show the lives of the key people (generals
and a few sergeants) who lead the military. The result? These people
seem steady and sturdy ... but not particularly interesting.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Trapped inside a bunker, the team needs help from Tony's
ex-girlfriend and her husband, who is Toby's nemesis.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Shaun skipped work and had a road trip
with his neighbor Lea. Now he's at the hospital – where the surgery
to separate twins falters – with a decision.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 14


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

The first season saw
an ill-prepared 18-year-old become Queen Victoria, ruler of an
empire. Now she's 21, with the first of her nine children. Her
husband and aides want to shield her from the outside world ... which
has big problems. British troops are trying a futile retreat from
Afghanistan.

Richly crafted,
“Victoria” gives us a queen who tries hard – sometimes failing.
To help the domestic silk producers, she holds a ball in which
everyone wears silk. The image – England's one-percenters, dressing
expensively during a time of poverty – is brutal for her image ...
but elegant for TV viewers.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Family Guy,” 9 p.m. Fox,

In its 16tth season,
“Family Guy” trails only “The Simpsons,” as the
longest-lasting half-hour comedy in TV history. Now here's its 300th
episode.

We expect something
substantial; soon, a major character has literally ripped another to
shreds. (Did we mention that one is a dog and the other is a teddy
bear?) That leads to a mixture of emotion and goofiness. There's an
erratic, stop-and-start nature, with enough fairly good moments to
hold us.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Trophy,” 9 p.m. ET and PT, CNN, barring breaking
news.

Back in Teddy
Roosevelt's day, big-game hunting was a two-way challenge. Today,
this well-detailed documentary says, people can buy vacations that
seem to include a sure kill. They can buy four of the “big five”
-- lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant – for $130,000; the fifth
(rhino) is $350,000.

Some want more; one
woman groans that her husband won't let her bag a giraffe. “He says
it's too expensive and we don't have room in our house.” There are
alternate proposals, including one to outsmart poachers by ranching
rhinos, removing a horn (that's $250,000 in Vietnam) every two years.

Other choices
include:

Football, 1 p.m. ET,
CBS and 4:30 p.m., Fox. The Steelers host the Jaguars and then the
Vikings host the Saints. Next week, today's winners face Saturday's
winners, for spots in the Super Bowl.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Feeling that the end of the world is near, Mr. Burns has
everyone tested to see who's worthy of being saved. Among the
Simpsons, there are surprises.

“Ride Along”
(2014), 9-11 p.m., NBC. With a hole in its schedule, NBC inserts a
Kevin Hart comedy.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. In what's called the “winter finale,”
Karl (Fred Armisen) – who was in prison when the virus spread -- is
introduced to the rest of the group.

“Madame
Secretary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Here's a familiar-sounding story: When
the president threatens Russia with military force, officials worry
about his mental state.

“The Chi,” 10
p.m., CBS. Last week ended with a jolt: Coogie, a charismatic kid,
had found a teen's body. He stole the shoes and necklace ... and was
mis-identified as the killer. Ronnie, the victim's dad, threatened
and accidentally killed him. That was seen by Kevin ... who told
Coogie's brother Brandon. Now Ronnie begins to grasp his mistake as
Det. Cruz has two killings to straighten out.

“Divorce” and
“Crashing” season-openers, 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO. As the the
second seasons begin, Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) sees her divorce
become official. Then Pete Holmes – a good-natured, devout guy –
starts to doubt his faith after a wild night with famed atheist Penn
Jillette.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 13


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

Sam Rockwell hosts,
six days after a big night at the Golden Globes. He was named best
supporting actor, in the terrific “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,
Missouri” ... which also won for best drama movie, actress (Frances
McDormand) and script (Martin McDonagh, who also directed).

And yes, Rockwell
does comedy; in his breakthrough role, he played an offbeat version
of Chuck Barris, working as a spy. Now it's his first turn as host;
Halsey has her first time as music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Football, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC; 8:15 p.m., CBS.

After getting a week
off, the two conference leaders start their title push.

The Eagles host the
Falcons ... who controlled the ball most of the time in last week's
win over the Rams. Then the Patriots host the Titans, who came from a
21-3 halftime deficit to upset the Chiefs, 22-21. The winners will
face Sunday's winners, for spots in the Super Bowl.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Flushed Away” (2006), 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Ever since Charles
Dickens' time, the British have been good at culture clashes and at
instant changes of status: So here's another: An upscale mouse gets
flushed down the drain; scrambling to get home, he must link with a
sewer rat.

Yes, that's
animated. Lots of classy British and Australian actors -- Kate
Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, David Suchet, Bill Nighy --
provide the voices.

Other choices
include:

More animation, all
day. Freeform starts this with the clever “Cars” films at 12:05
(2006) and 2:40 p.m. (2011). It follows with “Hercules” (1997) at
5:10, the lovely “Up” (2009) at 7:15 and “Ratatouille” (2007)
-- yes, another rat with high aspirations -- at 9:25. Disney has the
“Tangled” movie (2010) at 7 and 9:35 p.m., sandwiching the series
at 8:40. FX has “Book of Life” (2014) at 2, “Hotel
Transylvania“ (2015) at 4, “Despicable Me” (2013) at 6 and
“Minions” (2015) at 8 and 10.

“The Four,” 8-10
p.m., ABC. Here's a quick rerun of Thursday's episode, the second in
a six-week run.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. Nick Offerman – whose wife (Megan Mullaly)
co-stars – plays a charismatic guy who stirs lust from both Will
and Grace. Also in this rerun, Karen (Mullaly) and Jack seek medical
help, after a commercial jingle is stuck in their heads.

“Bullitt”
(1968), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Some people remember this for
Steve McQueen's work as the consummate loner cop. Others remember it
for one of the first of the great car chases.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. It's time for crackdowns, in this rerun: Dina asks
Cheyene for help in policing social-media accounts, after a video
goes Online. Also, Glenn suspects Mateo of fraud.

Movies, 9 p.m.,
cable. On the heavy side is Showtime's “The Girl on the Train”
(2016). On the light side, Hallmark's new “Frozen in Love” has
two strangers needing image makeovers.

“The Vet Life”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Animal Planet. This series about Texas
veterinarians was nudged in serious directions by Hurricane Harvey.
Tonight, the vets deal with the effects on animals.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Gershwin Prize,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

Here is some truly
great musical television. Tony Bennett is honored, in a night that
has short films, no speeches and superb music.

There are gorgeous
duets early (Josh Groban and trumpeter Chris Botti) and late (Stevie
Wonder and Gloria Estefan). There are familiar stars – Vanessa
Williams, Michael Buble, Savion Glover, Brian Stokes Mitchell –
plus strong moments from emerging singers Lukas Nelson (Willie's
son), 29, and We McDonald, 18. Then Bennett – still in great voice
at 91 – wraps up his own tribute.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken” season-opener, 9 p.m., NBC.

The first season –
with a young version of Bryan Mills, the hero Liam Neeson played in
the movies – had only modest success. Instead of dumping the show,
NBC has rebuilt it.

Now Bryan (Clive
Standen) is in a secret Mexican prison, where brutal fights happen
daily. Things can't get any worse ... but do, when he and a young
migrant girl are taken by human traffickers. Back at headquarters,
his boss (Jennifer Beals) gets powerful new software that might help
find him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Lately, Rebecca's
obsessive nature has ruled (and ruined) her life. Now she's sort of
obsessed with shedding obsessions. She even fantasizes the show's
nine top characters combining to sing the zesty message: “Without
love, you can save the world.”

Alas, Rebecca isn't
good at saving anything, including a friend's struggling
party-planning business. In a fairly funny hour, she leaves her
everyone struggling. That include three hunky guys, delivering the
topless (and unconvincing) musical message: “Fit, hot guys can have
fun too;”

Other choices
include:

Streaming shows, any
time. There have been plenty of rock-biography movies, but how about
a polka biography? Jack Black plays Jan Lewan,who was famous and
jailed, in “Polka King.” That arrives today on Netflix, as does
the second half of the “Disjointed” season, with Kathy Bates
trying to re-launch her pot business. Also, Amazon starts a sci-fi
anthology, “Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.”

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. The team has a lot of internal disputes now, but it tries
to put them aside. After all, nuclear warheads are missing. This is
considered a major problem.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox, Three tough challenges are packed into the hour,
including this one: Taste a dish (without being told what's in it)
and then re-create it.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Old relationships return: Jack heads to his class reunion,
hoping to confront the guy who beat him for Homecoming king. Mac is
competing with his fomer girlfriend (Ashley Tisdale), now a CIA
operative, in a robotics contest; then he helps her when she's
hacked.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Grover (Chi McBride) gets an intensely personal moment,
dealing with a man who is threatening suicide.

Sci-fi shows, 9 p.m.
On ABC's “Agents of SHIELD,” the team is finally back together
... and promptly faces an undefeated Kree warrior. That goes against
Fox's rerun of the “X-Files” season-opener. Focusing on the
show's overall arc, the hour has rich, heightened dialog, but no real
ending. And the Syfy channel? At 8 p.m., it has a marathon of the
clever cartoon “Futurama.”

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Anthony, who does detective work for Erin, has been
shot. Now she asks her brother Danny – who happens to be Anthony's
enemy – fo find out who did it. Meanwhile, Jamie's in the middle of
a dangerous stand-off and Nicky prepares to take the police exam.