TV column for Thursday, Nov. 8

“The Good Place,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

When was the last
time you saw a really good situation-comedy episode about the
relationship between determinism and free will? That's quite rare,
but this smart show keep surprising us.

Eleanor (Kristen
Bell) is convinced that everything she does was programmed by her
past. Michael (Ted Danson) disagrees ... and has the footage to make
his point. He's recorded every moment in every variation of her
afterlife. The result is punctuated with quick, clever scenes.


II: “Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Who knew that jigsaw
puzzles and closet-cleaning could be good for the soul? “Mom” --
that rare combination of big laughs and capsule human insights –
surprises us that way.

Marjorie, newly
widowed, lures Bonnie into a puzzle day; Jill, perpetually wealthy,
lures Christy and Wendy into cleaning her mega-closet. Alongside the
fairly good humor, we get fresh views of women who could easily have
become comedy cliches.

“The Big Bang Theory” and “Murphy Brown,” 8 and 9:30 p.m.,

“Murphy” has
been mildly disappointing so far, but we can't resist a guest-star
line-up like this: Charles Kimbrough is back as retired anchorman Jim
Dial, getting a lifetime award. Other guest stars are Katie Couric,
John Larroquette and Bette Midler -- repeating her long-ago role as
Murphy's worst secretary.

That's on a night
that starts with the never-disappointing “Big Bang”; it brings
back Amy's wonderfully mismatched parents, played by Oscar-winner
Kathy Bates and silent magician Teller. The latter is distracted by
(ironically) Howard's magic tricks, so Sheldon must bond with Bates'
stern character.


ALTERNATIVE: “Legacies,” 9 p.m., CW.

Like many teens,
Lizzie is having a really bad day. She fought with her dad, got
assigned trash pick-up and had a drink spilled on her. Also, a
gargoyle came to life and attacked her.

All of that follows
last week's episode, when the Savatore School kids – frustrated
because they couldn't reveal their powers – started a fight at the
football game. So far, “Legacies” is neatly juggling a teen soap
opera and a high-octane (and sometimes gory) special-effects

Other choices

“The Social
Network” (2010), 7:17 p.m., Starz. As Facebook faces fresh crises,
here's Aaron Sorkin's brilliantly written film about its early days.
That's followed at 9:21 p.m. by “Pennant Fever,” which also feels
current: In an amiable comedy, Jimmy Fallon plays a Red Sox fan
during a pennant chase.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Preparing to launch her foundation, Catherine (Debbie
Allen) sets a secret meeting with Meredith and Koracick. Also, a
nurse, seven months pregnant, collapses.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Amy learns she doesn't have any maternity leave. Also,
Jonah and Garrett are in charge of hiring seasonal help; Eden Sher,
who was the oft-failing Sue in “The Middle,” guests.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. It's a life-changing moment for Sheldon – his first
video game.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Another show comes up with a key guest star.
This one is Jon Cryer, who replaces Jack in a play Karen is
producing. Also, Will learns that Grace's lover (David Schwimmer) has
a child he hasn't told her about

“How To Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. To appease their moms, Conner and
Oliver seek a church for their wedding. Also, Annalise starts to
doubt the governor's dedication to her cause.
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TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 7

“Empire,” 8 p.m., Fox.

When the World
Series ended early, “Empire” was able to offer a new episode –
a good one – last week. There was joy for Jamal, when he and his
lover (who is HIV-positive) proposed simultaneously; and there was
rage for Hakeem, after a personal song he wrote was recorded by Tiana
and Blake.

Now Hakeem is camped
out in the studio, insisting that his rage is fueling his best music
ever. Jamal is told he's spending too much time away from work. And
their parents compete to find new talent.

“All American,” 9 p.m., CW.

This culture-clash
series started with Coach Baker (Taye Diggs) recruiting Spencer, a
football star from the tough Crenshaw neighborhood, to play at
Beverly Hills High. Now Spencer lives with him in Beverly High
weekdays, with a hardy allowance ... seemingly breaking all rules for
high school sports.

On a trip to
Crenshaw, the coach's son learned that his dad dated Spencer's
mother; tonight, suspicions grow. There's much more, in an hour that
ranges from lunk-headed behavior to a car emergency that manages to
merge the two worlds. “All American” keeps alternating between
sharp and lame moments.

ALTERNATIVE: “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Back in 1944, a B-24
bomber was shot over enemy territory and landed in the Adriatic Sea.
Seven men escaped, including one interviewed here, shortly before his
death at 94. The pilot and two others didn't.

In this involving
hour, we meet the pilot's daughter, talking about the hero she only
met once. We meet another woman whose father's remains were found
after more than 70 years. And we follow a task force that includes
divers, archeologists, the Croatian Navy and a special Defense
Department agency.

Other choices

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. The three-week look at cats ends with an ambitious, global
trek. One moment, we're near the jungle, where a scientist has timed
a cheetah at 58 mph; the next, we're in Mumbai, where one man has
painted spots on his dog, hoping that will keep leopards from
attacking. We hear of vanishing species ... and of a program that has
quintupled the Iberian lynx, which were down to 100.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. As the dangerous “Gryphons and Gargoyles” game consumes
Riverdale teens, we get a flashback to the days when their parents
played the same game. That lets KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse – who
usually play Archie and Jughead – portray their dads. Veronica's
evil father Hiram is played by Michael Consuelos, 21, the son of Mark
Consuelos (the adult Hiram) and Kelly Ripa.

“SEAL Team,” 9
p.m., CBS. There have been strong moments lately, starting with the
death of Jason's wife. In a great scene last week, his teen daughter
talked him out of quitting the team and staying home. Now he's back
in action, big-time; the SEALs link with the Mexican Marines, to face
the cartel.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A controversial rapper joins the concert, quickly clashing with
the Take 3 women. Simone has troubles of her own, when Jackson is
cast as her movie co-star.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Trying to get back to his roots, Cam gets a chicken.
Also, before Alex can get an important government job, her family
must be interviewed; naturally, everyone overdoes it.

“Single Parents,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Angie's son gets a lead role in “Grease,” while
Poppy's son gets a minor role. Soon, both parents are lobbying the
drama teacher.

“A Million Little
Things,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week brought revelations. Eddie learned
that Delilah is pregnant with his baby ... but they'll say it's the
baby of her late husband Jon. Regina learned that her husband almost
committed suicide. Tonight. Regina is in a position to make decisions
for him.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 6

Election coverage, all day.

As mid-term
elections go, this one is huge. Democrats hope to regain the House,
Republicans hope to expand their narrow Senate lead, both sides eye
statehouse races everywhere.

The cable channels
will obsess all day, with the big networks jumping in. Plans call for
coverage to start at 8 p.m. on PBS and ABC, 9 p.m. on CBS and NBC; on
the West Coast, PBS starts at 5 p.m. PT.

“The Gifted,” 8 p.m., Fox.

All the elements are
here tonight: Visually, the people are striking and the sci-fi scenes
are impressive; emotionally, there's surprising depth to many of the

Jace has reluctantly
linked with a vigilante group that could get trigger-happy .... Lorna
(also known as Polaris) hesitantly works with the Inner Circle and
its eerie triplets .... Caitlin wishes she could retrieve her son
from that circle, while her husband is overwhelmed by his new powers.
It's a strong hour.

ALTERNATIVE: “Casablanca” (1942) and “The Best Years of Our
Lives” (1946), 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

As a handy
alternative to the movies, TCM offers some true classics. Both are
black-and-white; both won Academy Awards for best picture, director
and screenplay.

“Best Years” --
the story of three men returning from World War II – also won for
its editing, its music and actors Fredric March and Harold Russell;
the American Film Institute puts it No. 37 on its all-time list.
“Casablanca” is No. 3, trailing only “Citizen Kane” and “The

Other choices

More movies, 7:30
and 8 p.m., cable. At 7:30 on FX, Matt Damon returns to his “Jason
Bourne” (2016) role. At 8, there are fun choices for people
ignoring the election. That includes “Caddyshack” (1980) on AMC,
“Mrs.Doubtfire” (1993) on Freeform and “Princess Diaries”
(2001) on E.

The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. To avoid colliding with election coverage, the show
settles for a recap.

“The Flash,” 8
p.m., CW. This reruns the season-opener, a good one that introduced a
visitor from the future. She's Nora West-Allen, the not-yet-born
daughter of Barry and Iris. As played by Jessica Parker Kennedy –
who stands 5-foot, 1/2 inch and has played an elf in two “Santa
Baby” movies – she's small, fast and zestful, a worthy addition
to the show.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. In the rerun of a fairly good episode, Jefferson Pierce
has complications everywhere. One daughter has trouble adjusting to
her new powers ... another is using hers in an unusual way ... and an
official is trying to close the school where Jeff is the principal.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. While probing a crime involving safe-deposit boxes, both
men face other problems. Cole gets alarming news from his former
mentor; Murtaugh distrusts his wife's client.

“Mayans M.C.,”
10-11:30 p.m., FX. As the 10-episode first season of this excellent
show ends, the motorcycle club has good reasons to celebrate ... but
major doubts about its future.

“The Daily Show”
(11 p.m., Comedy Central), Stephen Colbert (11:35, CBS) and Seth
Meyers (12:37 a.m., NBC). Tentative plans call for all three to be
live (in some time zones), with election humor.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 5

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

History tells us
this is an even competition -- won 13 times by men and 13 by women.
Then again, almost half the women's wins were with Derek Hough as the
partner; when he left, things changed.

So far this season,
every man has survived and five women have been ousted.

History also says
that athletes triumph here; 11 have become champions, including five
Olympic gymnasts or skaters. But last week, Mary Lou Retton, the
Olympic gymnast, was sent home. That leaves six men and two women;
tonight, they'll dance to country-music songs.

II: “The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC.

On election eve –
brace yourself for lots of political ads – we get the week's only
totally new “Voice.” On Tuesday, the show will simply have a
recap of what's happened so far.

Tonight, the
“knockout round” continues. Two teammates perform and the coach
picks one. Others could “steal” the loser ... unless the coach
uses his or her one “save.”.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Post” (2017), 9 p.m., HBO.

Maybe this is what
we need, amid all the negative ads and the talk of “fake news”:
Steven Spielberg has beautifully crafted a reminder of newspapers'
role in presenting the truth.

In 1971, as war
continued in Vietnam, the Washington Post had a leaked copy of the
Pentagon Papers, telling how this begun. It was explosive; it also
could backfire, destroying the paper financially. “The Post” drew
Oscar nominations for best picture and for Meryl Streep, as publisher
Kay Graham.

Other choices

“The Simple
Heist,” any time,
These are respected Swedish women, facing financial crises. A
gastroenterologist lost a bundle in the Chinese stock market; a
teacher found she had a bad pre-nuptial agreement. The solution? A
patient points to a “simple” bank robbery. Of course, it won't be
simple; there's even a drunk teenager in the back of the getaway car.
This six-part mini-series is an entertaining comedy-drama ... if
you're ready to spend a lot of time reading subtitles.

Neighborhood,” 8 p.m., CBS. Dave and Gemma are having a special
anniversary, so Tina has agreed to babysit their son. Calvin, as
usual, is not pleased.

“The Resident,”
8 p.m., Fox. The hospital's drug trial is going badly, with
life-threatening side effects. Now Nicolette – whose sister may be
in danger – tries to convince Dr. Bell to stop it.

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Emergencies appear on a first date and on a wedding day.
Meanwhile, Buck is back in the dating scene, unsure if he'll return
to his scoundrel ways.

“Magnum PI,” 9
p.m., CBS. As a private eye, Magnum doesn't only take big cases.
Tonight, he searches for a girl's missing cat. Naturally, that leads
to discovering a murdered FBI agent.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. When a young violinist has an infected finger, the
indecision of Morgan and Shaun could affect her future in many ways.

Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Five years ago, Maine
launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, viewing treatment
of American Indian children. Startling testimony told of being
snatched from parents and forced into cruel foster families or Bureau
of Indian Affairs schools. (An old film shows the BIA director using
the words “savagery” and “barbarism.”) Unfortunately, this
film spends most of its time on the commission process, not the
powerful stories it found.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 4

“Mickey's 90th Spectacular,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

By modern standards,
“Steamboat Willie” was minor. It was less than eight minutes
long, black-and-white, with synchronized sound and no vocals. Still,
it was important -- the birth of Mickey Mouse.

Now, two weeks
early, here's his 90th birthday party. It includes music
by Meghan Trainor, Josh Groban, Tori Kelly, Leslie Odom Jr., Luis
Fonsi, NCT 127 and the Zac Brown Band. Many others will be there,
including ex-Mousketeers Sharon Baird, 75, and Bobby Burgess, 77.

“Outlander” season-opener, 8 p.m., Showtime.

It was 30 years ago
that Diana Gabaldon began writng a novel about an almost-modern
Englishwoman, time-traveling to 18th-century Scotland. A
Latina from Arizona, she had never written a novel, never been to
Scotland, never time-traveled; the result has been remarkable.

The “Great
American Read” voters named “Outlander” their second-favorite
novel, trailing only “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Now (after reruns
starting at 8 a.m.), the season-opener. Shipwrecked off the Georgia
coast, Jamie and Claire try the North Carolina frontier. That reruns
at 9:09 and 10:15 p.m.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Woman in White,” 10 p.m., PBS.

After poking along
slowly in the first two hours, this five-part mini-series is finally
rolling. Sweet Laura has returned from her reluctant honeymoon with
the sneering Sir Percival. Her sister will live with them in his
estate, while he and Count Fosco scheme to have Laura sign away her

Hartright – the
wide-eyed painter – has been banished; Anne Catherick, who escaped
from a mental institution, is still missing. As the schemes grow,
there are gorgeous visuals, plus great performances by a few older
stars and, especially, Jessie Buckley and Olivia Vinall as the

Other choices

Funniest Home Videos,” 7 p.m., ABC. This has just been renewed for
two more seasons. That will make 31 – seven more than Ed Sullivan,
the nex longest run for a primetime show that's not news, sports or
an anthology. Tonight, a forklift runs into a boat and a girl flees

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. After being bumped last week by the World Series finale,
the Fox line-up is back. Tonight, a hip new workplace arrives,
stealing employees from the power plant.

“God Friended Me,”
8 p.m., CBS. Miles is asked to talk to a cab driver who is opposed to
his daughter marrying outside their religion.

Durrells in Corfu,” 8 p.m., PBS. Sure, teen-agers get moody ... but
do they have to do it on the exact day they turn 13? Until now,
Gerald has been content with his animal obsession. But now he's
gloomy enough to ruin his bparty. Spiros is also in a funk, making
this – until the final, redeeming minutes – a surprisingly dark
chapter of a genial series.

Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS. Last week, the philandering vicar was killed
by a vengeful husband. Drake – who loves the vicar's now-widow –
is the prime suspect, so she refuses to see him. Meanwhile, Ross
battles in Parliament, unaware of troubles at his hometown bank.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. After killing a cartel hitman, Mosley (Nia
Long) is hiding.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. It's always tough when a secretary of state's spouse is
encased in controversy. That happens to Henry (Tim Daly) after his
former girlfriend is jailed in Thailand.