TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 15


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

Here's one of the
season's better surprises – a smart and well-crafted show, in a
genre (sci-fi/soap) where things could be goofy. This follows the
basic idea of the 1999 “Roswell” series: Growing up in Roswell, a
waitress dismissed talk of a 1947 UFO crash; then she saw some
other-worldly powers.

This reboot adds
modern touches. There's a strong Latino flavor ... The waitress --
played by the terrific Jeanine Mason, who is Cuban-American and a “So
You Think You Can Dance” champion -- is a brainy scientist, helping
out at her dad's diner ... And immigration policies loom large.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us” return, 9 p.m., NBC.

TV's best drama is
back after a six-week break, with complications abounding. Kate and
Toby are getting ready for their baby boy. Randall's campaign for
city council wraps up, amid deep trouble; he's been running far
behind and the race created a dispute with his wife, who has him
sleeping on the sofa.

Also, Kevin meets
someone from Zoe's past ... while we ponder the surprise: He isn't
sure that his uncle Nicky died in Vietnam ... and at the end of the
previous hour, viewers seemed to see Nicky, alive now.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience: The Swamp,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

At first, people
were determined to drain Florida's Everglades. A Philadelphia
businessman bought four million acres in 1881, with plans for canals;
heavy rains ended that. Then Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward
announced in 1905 that he was taking over the project; he reclaimed
only 12,000 acres.

Others faced
disasters; then, in 1934, Franklin Roosevelt created Everglades
National Park. Slowly, people decided wetlands are key to the
environment. “Swamp” skillfully tells a sprawling story.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY:
“Temptation Island” opener, 10 p.m., USA.

On one hand, this is
just a reboot of a brash and tacky show. Four couples, together for
years, spend a month on the island ... where 24 men and women (fit,
attractive, assertive) try to seduce them.

Still, there are
people to care about. Evan Smith, 28, was a 6-foot-7 basketball
player with two modest seasons (11 games, 18 points, 9 rebounds, 6
assists) at Southern California. It was during the second season that
his father disappeared; the husband of his dad's mistress was later
convicted of killing him. Now Smith has been reluctant to marry Kaci
Campbell, his girlfriend of nine years. Temptation awaits.

Other choices
include:

“Finding Your
Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS. Felicity Huffman and Michael K. Williams had
opposite starts. She grew up comfortably in Colorado, going to prep
schools and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; he grew up in an East
Flatbush appointment. Now both have been TV stars (“Desperate
Housewives” and “The Wire, respectively) and both want to learn
about a long-absent biological father; surprises follow.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Charlie Robinson plays a Marine serving a life sentence for
murder. An old tape-recording left by the victim gives him a fresh
shot at exoneration.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Delicate arguments surface over skin color. Dre and Bow
are angry that their daughter wasn't lit propely in her class photo;
their son says there's unspoken “colorisim” in the family.

“New Amsterdam,”
10 p.m., NBC. Barely surviving his collapse, Max has agreed to do
chemo-therapy and to delegate. That's difficult, as two of his
doctors (Reynolds and Bloom) face personal crises.

“Drunk History”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy Central. Dropping its usual format,
this spends the entire half-hour on the creation of the
“Frankenstein” story. It's a funny one, with Evan Rachel Wood as
the author, Seth Rogan as the doctor and Will Ferrell barely
recognizable as the monster.

More comedy. At 10
p.m., TV Land has the return of “Teachers.” At 10:30, Comedy
Central has the season-opener of “Corporate”; it's sometimes very
funny and sometimes just sledge-hammer blunt.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Good Doctor” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

The first half of
this two-parter brought Christmastime chaos. A few doctors (including
Shaun) were inside a quarantine zone; the others were outside. A
marrow donor was outside; the recipient was in. Shaun had a
breakdown, Dr. Lim's son had an asthma attack and a baby was about to
be born.

And then, despite
the holiday theme, “Good Doctor” took a five-week break. Now we
finally get the conclusion, a good one. There are crises and
confrontations, but there are also some quiet moments with emotional
depth. In the waiting room, Lea displays all the people skills that
the others lack.

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

Brad (Mark-Paul
Gosselaar) is a tough federal agent, accustomed to following orders.
Now he's told to bring a young orphan to a secret facility, where
she'll face unauthorized medical tests.

Soon, we have a
blend: This is a drama about ethics, but it's also action-adventure
and sci-fi, plus a hint of sort-of vampires. It's skillfully directed
and filmed and young Saniyya Sidney delivers both intelligence and
charm. Still, it never really answers a question it asks: Why not
just get another kid?

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

The collision of two
crooked doctors reaches a peaks powerfully tonight, in a big, busy
episode.

Meanwhile, Nicolette
looks for a doctor for her new clinic and Conrad's dad hovers near
death. Also, Devon – who walked away from his wedding because he
loves Julian – now can't find her; she was killed (apparently) by
the crooked employer she was about to expose.

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

Back in the 1930s,
Louisiana businessmen had a fresh idea: Import nutria – sort of
mega-rodents – from Argentina and raise them for their fur. That
was fine for a half-century, until the fur market crashed. Now the
state finds itself with 20-pound swamp rats, ravenous beasts
destroying the wetlands.

It's a tough
situation, but this quirky film also finds interesting approaches. A
fisherman gets a $5 bounty for each nutria tail. A jazzman (Kermit
Ruffin) barbecues nutria outside his concerts. Righteous Fur makes
clothes of pelts. Some nutria are pets and one is a minor-league
baseball team's mascot.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. In the first week, Colton Underwood sent seven women
home. That gives him a mere 23 to deal with, ranging from a
phlebotomist to two who were contestants in last year's Miss USA,
from North Carolina and Alabama. Now the latter has the first
one-on-one date.

“America's Got
Talent: Champions,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In the opener, the most famous
“Got Talent” contestant – singer Susan Boyle, a British
runner-up in 2010 -- advanced. So did comedian Junior Lawson, who was
in the American top 10 in 2017. Eight others (including Bianca Ryan,
the first American champ) were dumped. Now it's time for 10 more
contestants.

“Gretchen Carlson:
Breaking the Silence” debut, 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Carlson – whose
suit was a first step in the downfall of Fox News founder Roger Ailes
– gathers sexual harassment stories nationwide.

“Magnum P.I.,” 9
p.m., CBS. Magnum helps a woman find her cousin, a Russian fugitive.

“Bull,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Diana Lindsay (Jill Flint) has been Bull's opponent in court and
his lover and/or nemesis in life. Now he helps her, when her niece is
charged with robbery.

“Manifest,” 10
p.m., NBC. Captain Daly, who piloted the plane, is being blamed for
its trouble. Ben and Cal try to clear his name ... and soon uncoverr
a conspiracy.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Valley of the Boom” opener, 9 and 9:58 p.m. ET, National
Geographic, rerunning at 11 and 11:58.

For a wild and weird
time in the 1990s, Silicon Valley was full of money and short of
logic. Geeks, earnest and idealistic, created new internet ideas;
financiers descended.

This six-part tale
follows two good ideas (Netscape and TheGlobe) and a scam (Pixelon).
It's mainly a standard drama, including Steve Zahn's delightful
portrayal of the scam guy. But there are also talking-head moments
from the real people ... or an actor playing a real person ... or an
actor playing an unreal person. There are rappers, a young math whiz
and more; an odd story is told in oddly delightful ways.

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

You think we have
crises? Try this: Revolution is surging through the continent. Mobs
are at the gate, demanding changes from the leader ... who chooses
this moment to go into labor with her sixth child.

It's a tense time in
1848, beautifully captured. And we meet two newcomers, each complex:
Feodora is the queen's older sister, fleeing from her marriage to a
penniless prince in Germany. Lord Palmerston is a charismatic
politician who would go on to be prime minister (twice). It's a
splashy role for Laurence Fox, who was given little to do during all
his years as the “Inspector Lewis” sergeant.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Style,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring
breaking news).

The 1940s and '50s,
profiled in the first hour, had comfortable conformity and Eisenhower
efficiency. Then the '60s began. Jacqueline Kennedy “knew who the
French designers were,” historian Douglas Brinkley says in the
second hour. “I promise you, Mamie Eisenhower didn't.”

And then the French
didn't matter as much. Dennis Christopher – then a fashion
assistant and later the “Breaking Away” star – leads a fun
account of Americans' triumph in France. With a dizzying number of
clips, stills and experts, this series opener offers little depth,
but offers a fun ride through history. TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II:
“True Detective” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

The first “True
Detective,” back in 2014, was a triumph; the second, a year later,
was not. That led to a long pause and now – almost three-and-a-half
years later – a reboot.

Mahershala Ali, 44 –
who already has an Oscar (“Moonlight”) and a Golden Globe (“The
Green Book”) -- plays an old cop whose memory is fading as he
recalls a case for a true-crime documentary. We flash back to 1980
and '90, with Ali probing the case in small-town Alabama. Carmen
Elojo is his wife, with Stephen Dorff as his police partner and Sarah
Gadon as the reporter.

Other choices
include:

“Critics Choice
Awards,” 7-10 p.m., CW. Fresh from finally getting a major award (a
Golden Globe for “The Kominsky Method”), TV's best comedy
producer, Chuck Lorre, gets a career prize. The cast of his “Big
Bang Theory” will present it. There are tons of other awards, for
movies and TV.

“God Friended Me,”
8 p.m., CBS. Miles receives two jolts: The “God account” sends
him 76 friend

suggestions. Also,
his sister moves in with him, when her apartment is being fumigated.

“A League of Their
Own” (1992), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Penny Marshall, who
died last month at 75, was a gifted comedy actress and a talented
director who peaked with “Big” in 1988 and then this terrific
film, capturing the wartime era of professional women's baseball.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A Syrian, delivering evidence that chemical
weapons were used on civilians, is brutally attacked. Kensi stays at
the crime scene when he's pinned behind a vehicle.

“Rel,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. After his daughter has trouble at school, Rel drives from
Chicago to Cleveland.

“Dirty John”
finale, 10 p.m., Bravo. For seven weeks, this true-crime miniseries
has shown John Meehan seducing and then terrorizing his wife and her
daughters. This has been too drawn-out, but fascinating; now comes a
fierce finish that viewers will find was worth the long ride.

TV column for Saturday, Jan. 12


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Football, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC; and 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox.

After four-plus
months, this is the final Saturday of the football season. The
college guys are done; after today, the rest of the pro play-offs
will be on Sundays.

Today, the Kansas
City Chiefs (12-4) host the Indianapolis Colts, who were 10-6 and
then had a 21-7 play-off win over Houston. Then the Los Angeles Rams
(13-3) host the Dallas Cowboys, who were 9-7, then edged Seattle,
24-22. Next week, the winners face Sunday's winners for Super Bowl
spots.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Good Doctor,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

The first rerun
finds a young couple facing a painful choice. It's the second rerun,
however, that is key to the show's return Monday.

Two patients
collapse at the airport. Shaun and Dr. Lim treat them ... and learn
that this is an airborne infection. Soon, the hospital is
quarantined, in a story that will continue at 10 p.m. Monday.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“A River Runs Through It” (1992), 5:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Many people insist
that some day – maybe after retirement – they'll write a novel.
Norman Maclean actually did it; he was 74, a retired University of
Chicago English prof, when “River” came out. A short novel, it
reflected his own days growing up with his brother, the sons of a
Montana preacher.

Robert Redford, a
fan of Montana fly-fishing, filmed it on location, with Tom Skerritt
as the dad and Craig Sheffer as one of the sons. The other son was a
breakthrough role for Brad Pitt, then a Redford-looking guy who had
mostly been doing TV, plus “Thelma & Louise.”

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE
II: “RBG” (2018), 8 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

On Friday a scripted
movie (“On the Basis of Sex”) reached many theaters, portraying
the fascinating life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here's the documentary,
a good one, that also tells the story.

Even with a Columbia
University law degree, Ginsburg couldn't get a job with a New York
firm. She retreated to academia, then did volunteer work for the
ACLU, winning key women's-right cases before the Supreme Court. Now,
at 85, she's in her 25th year on the Court.

Other choices
include:

More movies, early.
Redford's film is one of several excellent ones that get an early
start today. At 5:10 p.m., the Disney Channel has the gorgeous
“Moana” (2015). At 5:25, VH1 has the Oscar-winning “Titanic.”
(1997). At 5:35, HBO has Steven Spielberg's high-octane “Ready
Player One” (2018). And at 6, it's “The Notebook” (2004) on E
(repeating at 9) and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) on Syfy.

“America's Got
Talent: The Champions,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Monday's
opener, with 10 previous contestants, some from other editions of the
show worldwide. Two of them will advance.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun finds Hetty being tortured in Vietnam. After Eric and
Nell find a clue to her whereabouts, a rescue mission is formed,
using scant information.

“The Incredible
Dr. Pol,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild. A new season starts for
this folksy show about Dr. Jan Pol, 76, a Dutch-born vet in rural
Michigan. Counting reruns, this goes from noon to 3 a.m. ET. The new
hours, NatGeo says, will range from bull-wrangling to constipated
cats.

“A Million Little
Things,” 10 p.m., ABC. This show returns to new episodes on
Thursday, its new night. First, here's a rerun of its previous hour,
set a Christmas time.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of an episode from a year ago,
with Will Ferrell hosting and Chris Stapleton as music guest. Another
rerun is planned for 11:29 p.m., with new episodes returning a week
later.

TV column for Friday, Jan. 11


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

These two kept
creating chaos. Robert Blake was a star – from “Little Rascals”
shorts (starting at age 5) to “Baretta” and beyond; he's been
called both charming and conniving. Bonnie Lee Bakley was married 10
times and was charged with bilking lonely men out of money by mail.

Bakley was arrested
for bad checks and false identities; her claims of having
celebrities' babies were disproved. But she did have Blake's baby and
they began an uneasy marriage. He was acquitted of her 2001 murder,
but lost a civil case. This film includes past and present interviews
with Blake, now 85.

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

For four seasons,
this has offered an appealing (if erratic) blend of fairly good humor
and rilliant songs. It's been five weeks, however, since the last
episode.

Now “Crazy” is
back, with Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) deciding she needs to take her mind
off her ex-boyfriends. She does, you know. She originally moved
across the country to be near Josh. He's still there, Greg recently
came back and Nathaniel was distressed to realize he's sill in love
with her.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Streaming series.

This is a big day
for streaming, with two new series (both British) and two second
seasons.

One newcomer is
Amazon's “The Informer,” a six-parter with a novice infiltrating
what may be a terrorist ring. The other is Netflix's “Sex
Education,” with Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist whose teen son
sets up his own practice in high school. Returning? Hulu's “Future
Man” has Josh Hutcherson messig with time; Netflix's “Friends
From College” has Fred Savage, Cobie Smulders and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

At a time when
classical music was a male domain, Adella Prentiss Hughes started the
Cleveland Orchestra. A concert pianist and the city's top music
impresario, she ran it for its first 15 years.

Now here's the
orchestra's 100th-anniversary concert, plus short films on
Hughes, the orchestra's conductors and the education program. Those
films are poorly done, but the music is beautifully filmed and
played. That ranges from a gentle Mozart piece with (pianist Lang
Lang) to a rousing Ravel finish.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A soccer mom by day is a thief at night. Now she links
with Mac's team, to catch the person who hired her to steal a dirty
bomb.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC. Evan has a girlfriend ... a fact that depresses
his mom, who wants him to focus on school. Also, the movie “You've
Got Mail” has triggered guilty feelings for his father, who once
hurt a mom-and-pop business.

“The Cool Kids,”
8:30, Fox. Hank hosts a closed-circuit show at the retirement
community ... until he's replaced by Sid, who's good at dishing out
gossip.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. After a long time on the lam, Red was arrested (via a
tip from Liz) at the end of last week's season-opener. Now he tries
to extricate himself, while the team tracks a bio-hacker.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Danny's daughter is in critical condition after a car
crash.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank has second thoughts, after a cop he fired is his
waitress. Meanwhile, one son (Danny) probes the murder of a
basketball star who was linked to betting; another (Jamie) picks a
wedding venue. And his daughter eyes a possible
driving-under-the-influence case.