TV column for Sunday, Nov. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS.

It's a dark and
stormy night (really), propelling this fun show to its best episode
yet. Battered by the storm, the modest house holds five Durrells and
four guests, plus a mule, two ducks and more.

Moods darken ... the
housekeeper talks of imminent death ... and a medium insists on a
seance. There are moments of deep perspective, on subjects ranging
from widowhood to pimples. And throughout it all, “Corfu” manages
to be enjoyable, filled with people we love to know, even on their
darkest day.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Madam Secretary,” 10:30 p.m. (10 p.m. PT), CBS.

Actually, the goal
here is to see anything that is NOT on ABC. Last week, ABC showed a
disdain for its viewers: It dumped “Ten Days in the Valley” late
in the week, with little warning. We were left with two people dead,
a girl missing and a reminder that the big networks can't do
serialized shows.

“Valley” will
move to Saturdays, starting Dec. 16. For now, switch to CBS; its
drama episodes are usually self-contained (not serialized) and air
when expected. Tonight, Elizabeth wants to go ahead with plans to
hold her human-trafficking conference, despite an ambassador's
misdeed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Ghosted,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Last Sunday, the Fox
comedies had to step aside to make room for the World Series. Now
they're back – including this show, which would have been perfect
for the weekend before Halloween.

After an incident at
an elite country club, Max and Leroy must go undercover. Alas, they
soon get way too invested in their characters. Annie (Amber Stevens
West), who grew up in such clubs, tries to help.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun of last year's “Treehouse of
Horrors,” the show's 600th episode; it includes a
“Hunger Games” take-off and a killing spree by Lisa's imaginary
friend. Then a new episode introduces a crisis: Grampa can hear what
people are saying about him.

“The Real
Housewives of Atlanta,” 8 p.m., Bravo. After eight noisy years on
the show, NeNe Leakes skipped last season. Now she's back; so is Kim
Zolcia-Biermann, so their fights resume.

“Masterpiece:
Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS. Beautifully filmed and acted, this still has
a problem – one of the most maddening heroes on TV. Ross Poldark is
honest, earnest and brave; he's also subborn to a fault. His inaction
gave evil George a chance to ruin lives; now he faces another chance.
That's in an hour that ranges from gentle moments to thundering
melodrama, with orchestra at full crescendo.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Things start to go badly after the
survivors move into a mansion that was owned by a cartel leader.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. When his former partner goes rogue, Deeks
is considered the only person who can bring him in.

“Good Behavior,”
10 and 11:01 p.m., TNT. This time, Letty and Javier could be facing
life in prison ... unless they can come up with another perfect scam
to save themselves.

And more, 9, 10 and
11 p.m., cable. At 9 on Starz (after “Outlander”), “The
Girlfriend Experience” starts its season. At 10 on Showtime (after
“Shameless”), “SMILF” debuts; it's like an indie movie –
ragged, inconsistent, but with an interesting central character. And
at 11 on AMC (after “Walking Dead” and “Talking Dead”), a
“Dead” co-star has the season-opener of “Ride With Norman
Reedus.”

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 4


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

After a two-week
break, “SNL” has a new episode and a couple big-name stars: The
music guest is Miley Cyrus; the host is Larry David ... who has often
worked for – and against – this show.

From 1980-82, he was
a regular on “Fridays,” ABC's copy of “SNL”; few people
noticed him or the show he was on. In '84-'85, he was an “SNL”
writer, appearing on camera a few times. Then came a two-decade gap,
filled with “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and such.
He returned to “SNL” to portray Bernie Sanders, bringing praise,
an Emmy nomination and now his second hosting gig.

TONIGHT'S
TOUGH-TO-AVOID: Sports, everywhere.

Each Saturday, our
TV sets become sports bars. At 8 p.m. ET today, that takes the
big-four networks.

Mostly, there's
college football: On CBS, Alabama (ranked No. 2) hosts Louisiana
State (No. 19) ... On ABC, Miami (10) hosts Virginia Tech (13) ...
And on Fox at 7:30, Michigan hosts Minnesota. Providing variety –
but not much of it – is NBC, with the Breeders' Cup horse race.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 6 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

This is a great
night for movies ... and an awful one for anything else except
sports. So we might as well enjoy a film – especially today's great
TCM line-up.

At 3:15 p.m. ET, it
has “2001: A Space Odyssey” which was dazzling on a big screen.
(The American Film Institute puts it at No. 15 all-time.) At 8 is
“The Big Sleep,” a Bogart-Bacall classic. In between is this
masterpiece; No. 42 on the AFI list, it won two Oscars (for Estelle
Parsons and its cinematography) and was nominated for eight more,
including best picture and stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Other choices
include:

Movie series, 9
a.m., Freeform; 5 p.m., AMC. On AMC, we get the first two films in
the brilliant “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, at 5 (2001) and 9 p.m.
(2002). On Freeform, the final five Harry Potter films are at 9 a.m.
(2005) and at 12:40 (2007), 3:50 (2009), 7:30 (2010) and 11 p.m.
(2011); they rerun Sunday.

Marvel movies,
cable. There are plenty of comic-book heroes to divert us. Epix has
the first “Iron Man” (2008) at 8 p.m.; HBO2 has “The Incredible
Hulk” (2008) at 8:30. And FX has a triple-feature -- “Iron Man 3”
(2013) at 3 p.m., “The Avengers” (2012) at 6 and “Thor”
(2011) at 9.

Lighter movies,
cable. Families have the brilliant “LEGO Movie” (2014) at 9 p.m.
on Nickelodeon and the adequate “Smurfs” (2011) at 8 on Disney.
Grown-ups have “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) at 7:30 p.m. on
MTV, the acclaimed “Get Out” (2017) at 8 p.m. on HBO and a fairly
good CMT double-feature -- “Along Came Polly” (2004) at 7:30,
“Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011) at 9:30.

“The Lost Wife of
Robert Durst,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Long before being a suspect in
two murders, Robert Durst married Kathie McCormack, a dental
hygienist. Nine years later – after several fights – she
disappeared, shortly before graduating from medical school. Katharine
McPhee has the title role.

“Dirk Gently's
Holistic Detective Agency,” 9 p.m. ET, BBC America. This story is
both wonderfully imaginative and difficult to join in progress,
complete with an alternate world. Some of its people have somehow
plunked into our world; Todd's sister is a prisoner in theirs. It's
all amiably odd.

“The Wonder List,”
9 p.m., CNN (barring breaking news). Instead of watching the “Lord
of the Rings” movies, you can visit New Zealand (where they were
filmed) with Bill Weir.

... And boxing. This
sports-crazed night also has people hitting each other. That's 9 p.m.
on Showtime and 9:45 p.m. on HBO.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 3


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

At first, this hour
seems to go too far; Rebecca lashes out, ripping her friends with
brutal accuracy. Then comes the delightful detour – a log daydream,
in the style of a horror revenge film.

Rebecca sings its
opening song with bluesy passion; the closing song is from ... well,
a mystery singer who's off-camera for a while. That's part of a
hilarious finish; catch it all, including the faux credits.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

All of the Reagans
are tied up in tough cases tonight. Danny, a police detective, probes
a basketball player's death, suspecting a link to a drug gang. His
sister Erin, a prosecutor, revisits the case of a man she may have
wrongfully convicted, years ago.

Their brother Jamie,
a street cop, has been working on an eviction case. Now the
archbishop (Stacy Keach) approaches their dad, the police
commissioner, on the issue.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances: Present Laughter,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Actors seem to love
playing actors – especially playing ones who are self-absorbed and
self-pitying. Clifton Webb starred in this show's first Broadway run,
71 years ago; Noel Coward (who wrote it) came a decade later,
followed by George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Kevin
Kline.

We can see why Kline
would want to do it; he gets to roar, primp and posture Less
understandable is why viewers would want to see it. The lines are
overwritten and wildly overplayed. Some characters – especially the
inexplicable Roland Maule – make even Kline seem like a pillar of
restraint.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Halloween (continued), 9 p.m.

Wasn't all this
spookiness supposed to end Tuesday? The TV people give us perpetual
Hallo-gloom.

That includes CBS'
“Hawaii Five-0,” where Halloween-time murders seem to mirror
island folklore ... And Fox's “Exorcist,” where the demon at the
foster home finally reveals his presence ... And Syfy's “Z Nation,”
with an OK episode that ranges from quietly touching moments – Lucy
pays deeply to keep Murphy (her father) alive – to our ultimate
fear: a Franken-zombie with a machine gun.

Other choices
include:

“Alias Grace,”
any time, Netflix. A decade after “The Handmaid's Tale,” Margaret
Atwood wrote this novel, based on an Irish immigrant accused of
helping kill her boss. Now Sarah Polley – once the young star of
“Road to Avonlea,” now a brilliant writer-director – has
written this six-part Canadian mini-series. American viewers will
spot Anna Paquin, Zachary Levi and Paul Gross in support.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. In Nigeria, rebels plan a fierce fire at an oil wellhead.
Now Mac must extinguish it, using a cassette player and a plastic
bucket.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. The old team is back together, but the tattoos – and the
missions – are new. Now a dangerous foreign power wants to highjack
a satellite.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mekia Cox plays two women who face key events.
In the fairytale world, she's Tiana; desperate to save her kingdom,
she sees a soothsayer. And in Seattle, she's Sabine, Jacinda's best
friend. Their business venture wobbles when Victoria (Gabrielle
Anwar) interferes.

“Inhumans,” 9
p.m., ABC. We're a week from the finale of this ignored (deservedly)
show. Tonight, the king returns to his moon world, unsure if he can
make peace with the brother who overthrew him.

“Supernatural,”
10 p.m., Syfy. Last week, Isaac was killed, a fact that peeved him
after his wife returned him to life. This has happened often over
the centuries, it seems. Now he's gone on a mission, leaving his wife
and son to fight local demons; he sends a mysterious half-human to
help them.

TV column for Thursday, Nov. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

For five weeks, a
great comedy line-up was scattered about. “Big Bang” was on
Mondays; “Young Sheldon” had one episode there ... then waited
with the others for CBS' Thursday football to end.

Now it has and “Big
Bang” starts the night with two dandy stories. In one, Howard and
Bernadette are simultaneously bed-ridden, with a baby to care for. In
the other, Sheldon somehow sees himself as the successor to Professor
Proton, his boyhood TV idol. That brings great scenes with Bob
Newhart, 88.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Will & Grace” (NBC) or “Mom” (CBS), both 9 p.m.

It's the first show
of the season for “Mom” and the last (for a while) for “Will &
Grace.” For this one week, two top comedies collide. Last week,
Will turned down a big-money law partnership, to work in Grace's
design business. Now that has a rocky start; also, Karen has a
personal tragedy.

That will step aside
next week, when NBC takes over Thursday football. “Mom,” however,
will stay. Tonight, Bonnie's romance dilemma steals Christy's chance
to focus on the exam she needs to get into law school. Some side
stories are so-so, but the mother-daughter tale is, as usual, great
fun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “S.W.A.T.” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

Yes, this show
borrows bits of the original “S.W.A.T.” There's a slice of the
theme song, at the end; there are some of the same character names –
Hondo Harrison, Jim Street, Deacon and Luca.

That's as far as it
goes, though. The 1975 team wouldn't recognize this Hondo (Shemar
Moore), a black cop with a strong sense of community and of
conscience. Some of the characters around him – the young rebel,
the bad-guy cops – are cliches; Hondo, however, will hold our
attention for a while.

Other choices
include:

“Gotham” and
“The Orville,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Boosted by a strong World
Series, Fox has its high-octane Thursday. First, Professor Pyg
strikes fear; then a rescue mission seeks Dr. Finn and her sons.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. For five weeks, this above-average show had access to all
the comedy fans. Now – in its final week before a football break –
it faces powerhouse “Big Bang.” One story – Glenn frets about
a mole in a delicate area – is childish; the other – Jonah's
health plan – ends hiltariously.

“The Good Place,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Last week brought an emotional crisis for the
all-knowing, non-human Janet. Grieving a past romance with Jason, she
created her own mate ... and did it badly. He provides much of the
humor in a moderately funny episode that has Michael grasping for
solutions.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. The first episode established this as the season's
best new show. Now – six weeks later – we finally get a second,
as Sheldon tries to get his first friend.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. While Cyrus tries to get congressional approval for war in
Bashran, Quinn's firm has the difficult job of watching the niece of
that country's president.

“Life in Pieces”
season-opener, 9:31 p.m., CBS. Last season ended with two jolts – a
house fire and a bride tumbling out of the balcony at a cut-rate
motel. Now both of those provide funny moments. Other stories see
young Sophia going rogue and the teen husband and wife announcing a
surprise.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX, repeating at 11:02. After a packed, two-network comedy
night, you don't have to stop; there's still this clever
comedy-drama. Tonight, Pamela Adlon, 51 – whose career is still
peaking after 35 years on TV – is lectured by her daughter on
actresses' short work-life. Also, she meets her ex-father-in-law,
played by Croatian-born actor-director-poet-producer Rade Serbedzija.

TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Frontline: Putin's Revenge” conclusion, 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

At first, this compelling hour says, Vladimir Putin
simply wanted to disrupt democracy. Weary of criticism of his own
stronghold, he wanted to show that the American system was flawed,
too.

But that kept
expanding. Russian techno-whizzes hacked into the Democrats' E-mails,
contrived comments in social media and crafted fake news reports ...
which American networks fell for. The U.S. government knew about some
of this in 2015, but was slow to react; so were the Democrats.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Claire was grumpy
when her dad married Gloria. Now she tries to make up for it, by
throwing a big 10th-anniversary party.

That won't be easy:
Claire's husband Phil is planning a magic act that involves having
Gloria appear in her wedding dress ... if she can still get into it.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Trainwreck” (2015) and “You're the Worst,” 7
and 10 p.m., FXX.

One is a popular
movie, the other is a semi-known TV series, but both find comedy on
the same turf – where sex is easy, feelings are difficult and life
sometimes feels like a collision.

“Trainwreck”
does that smartly, thanks to Judd Apatow's direction and the script
by Amy Schumer, who stars. And “Worst?” Last week's episode
(rerunning at 11:06) saw Jimmy hook up with a former classmate,
despite their mutual disdain. In a funny episode, he tries to run
with her brainy crowd.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Stan Against Evil” season-opener, 10 and 10:30
p.m., IFC.

As the ex-sheriff of
a haunted town, Stan is getting creeped out. He sort of remembers
Edie (who replaced him), but no one else does. Is she somewhere in
the past?

Occasionally gory,
Stan is mostly drolly funny. Give credit for that to comedian Dana
Gould, who wrote the clever scripts and has a small role as the
cemetery keeper.

Other choices
include:

“George Gently”
series finale, any time, www.acorn.tv.
American series aren't always good at farewells, but this British
series has a terrific one – emotional and (with one exception) very
final. There are two new movies available: In the first, Gently
probes corruption among his fellow cops; the second hsas political
intrigue ... and then the big finish.

“Bridge of Spies”
(2015), 6:35 p.m., Showtime. Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks in a
story that;s true and subtly engrossing. That starts a strong movie
night that includes James Cameron's brilliant “Terminator 2”
(1991) at 8 p.m. on BBC America and two Tim Burton films -- “Alice
in Wonderland” (2010) at 6 p.m. on Freeform and “Batman” (1989)
at 8 p.m. on CMT.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. After her father's death, author Helen Macdonald retreated
to her roots, training a goshawk in rural England. That brought her a
2014 best-seller and a Samuel Johnson Prize. For this documentary,
she repeated that with a new bird; the result has a lyrical grace and
charm.

Baseball (8 p.m. ET)
or series (8 and 9 p.m.), Fox. There's something strong either way –
the seventh and final World Series game (if necessary) or the
powerhouse “Empire” and “Star” series.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Archie Andrews – the sunny comic-book teen – has been
enraged since his father was shot. Now his vigilante efforts spiral
out of control; the mayor calls an emergency meeting.

“The Story of Us,”
9 p.m., National Geographic. After a couple fairly good episodes,
this reruns the terrific opener, viewing the difficult push for
freedom.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. A Navy ship is stranded in enemy waters.
The president must negotiate its release, without revealing why: The
technology on board would threaten U.S. security.