TV column for Thursday, Jan. 11

“The Four,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Last week's opener
saw two of the top four singers toppled. Elanese Lansen lost to
16-year-old Zhavia, Blair Perkins lost to Saeed Renaud. Lex Lu
survived and Ash Minor wasn't challenged.

It was a noisy,
hype-filled night that finally fulfilled a Simon Cowell prophesy.
Fifteen years ago, Cowell predicted the “American Idol”
contestants would be competitive and back-stabbing; instead, most
were young, small-town kids who seemed to like each other. But “Four”
has people with more of a big-city, hyper-competitive mood. Amid much
commotion, strident, strutting attitudes prevailed.

“Project Runway All Stars,” 9 p.m., Lifetime.

While Fox was
introducing its flashy/splashy “Four” last week, Lifetime
launched a “rookies vs. vets” notion. That hour reruns at 8 p.m.,
followed by a new round that's all about “distressed” fashions.

As it turns out,
these “rookies” have lots of experience. Two (Amanda Valentine
and Kelly Dempsey) were runners-up in a regular “Runway”; others
finished third, fourth or fifth. Still, none has done an all-star
edition; the vets have, finishing as high as third (Helen Castillo,
Ken Laurence) among all-stars.

ALTERNATIVE: “Young Sheldon,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A serious issue is
wrapped up here in waves of humor. Sheldon – the 9-year-old genius
– has discovered Dungeons & Dragons. He's playing it with his
two friends (one smart, one not). Then his mother spots a devil in
the game and feels it's time for religious intervention.

Sheldon refuses; his
mom insists; in 1980s Texas, church usually prevails. The show isn't
as funny as “Big Bang Theory” (with the grown-up Sheldon), but
this episode pushes for some good laughs.

Other choices

Critics Choice
Awards, 8-10 p.m., CW. Four days after the Golden Globes, we get the
next round. Up for best movie are three chunks of 20th-century
history (“The Post,” “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour”) and a
great batch of indie-type films -- “Lady Bird,” “The Big Sick,”
“Get Out,” “The Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,”
“The Florida Project” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Right before young Sheldon struggles with
religion, the old one boots Amy out so he can work alone ... then
gets surprising help from Penny.

“The Lego Movie,”
8-10 p.m., Nickelodeon. This is a comedy gem; even the songs are
clever. Other movies are “Pitch Perfect 2” (2015) at 8 p.m. on FX
and the classic “Ghost” (1990) at 9 p.m. on Starz.

“Truth & Lies:
The Tonya Harding Story,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. The bizarre story –
with schemes, goons and swirling theaters -- is in movie theaters.
Here's a documentary look.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Christy's long-distance relationship with Patrick (Steven Weber)
is stumbling, so she fits an old boyfriend. Also, her mom – not
good at self-denial – tries to give up coffee.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Jack's first day as a Lyft driver doesn't go
well: He hits his odd neighbor (Molly Shannon). Also, Grace's old
friend Larry announces he's in love with Will..

“Making a Model”
debut, 10 p.m., Lifetime. As soon as the second “Runway” round
ends, viewers can try this show. Yolanda Hadid has seen her daughters
(Gigi and Bella) become top models. Now she trains six aspiring
models, who share an apartment with each other ... and with their

TV column for Wednesday, Jan. 10

“Alone Together” debut, 8:30 p.m., Freeform.

People keep assuming
Esther and Benji are a couple, which she corrects. “Just because
we're both small and undesirable doesn't mean we're dating,” she

She stays at his
place, because ... well, he has a great home (his parents' house) and
she has no home. That puts them near tall beauties, which doesn't
help her tattered self-esteem. These two are cleverly written and
played by Esther Povitsky (who also plays Maya, the nerdy secretary,
on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Benji Aflalo. They're instantly
likable ... and, despite what she says, kind of desirable.

“Grown-ish,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

This amiable
“Black-ish” spin-off debuted last week, zipping Zoey off to
college. Now the second week re-affirms what we'd suspected: This is
smart, Zoey is charming and teen life is complicated.

It was simpler, in
the days when a phone produced a conversation. Now this text
generation debates the meaning of “hook-up” and the correct
response to “U up?” Zoey has a text meltdown ... and then a funny
text/skype tangle. It's a fun and youthful episode, a perfect lead-in
for “Alone Together.”

ALTERNATIVE: “The X-Files,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Mulder and Scully
have sort of seen it all ... but not this: Richard Langly (one of the
Lone Gunmen) has sent them a cryptic video message ... 15 years after
his death.

Is this a trick? Or
a ghost? Or something much deeper and more “X-Files”? Stick with
it and you'll be amply rewarded. Yes, the bad guys seem too easy to
defeat ... and yes, there's some time spent on the show's bloated
central mythology. But mostly, this is the sort of fresh idea we
expect from X-folks.

Other choices

“Howie Mandel
Comedy Gala,” 8-9:30 p.m., CW. Last year's special was so-so, with
several people (including Mandel) failing to bring strong material.
Still, we're hopeful because some of tonight's people – Ron
Funches, Cristela Alonzo, John Heffron – have done great stand-up

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. Someone is using his powerful position to sell sensitive
information. But when the task force goes after him, Ressler is in
danger of being exposed.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. Any logical teen dreads the moment her boyfriend has
dinner with her family. Now it's Erica's turn ... and, of course,
things quickly fall apart.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This thrives on moments when all the characters are
together. Now there's a serious reason for it: Gloria rushes Phil to
the hospital, then tries to get the whole family there.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. There are still plenty of big questions and mysteries out there
– especially in outer space. Janna Levin offers a two-hour look at
what science knows (so far) about black holes.

“The Magicians”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy. The second season ended ... well,
chaotically. Ember, the god of chaos, killed his twin Umber ... and
then was killed by Quentin. In the aftermath, the parents of the gods
shut down most of the magic in the world; also, fairies invaded
Fillory. Now Quentin and Julia try to bring magic back, while Eliot
and Margo chafe at their fairy-filled world.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Burgess has had no experience working with a
confidential informant. Her first effort – trying to nail a pimp
who recruits at a women's shelter – endangers her CI.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 9

“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

There was a cascade
of tragedy as the first half of the season ended. Kate had a
miscarriage; Kevin – who skipped needed knee-surgery -- descended
into pill addiction and was arrested.

Now issues are
confronted head-on. There are flashbacks to a pivotal cabin vacation,
but most of the hour is at Kevin's upscale rehab center. It has
powerful moments from each sibling – even Randall bursts with rage–
and from their mom, Rebecca. And we get key glimpses of others –
Beth, Randall's intense wife; and Miguel, the quietly decent guy who
married Rebecca, his best friend's widow.

II: “Major Crimes” finale, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

After 13 seasons –
seven as “The Closer,” six as “Major Crimes” -- this solid
series concludes.

Last week's hour
(rerunning at 8) had the team search for Philip Stroh (Billy Burke),
the escaped serial killer. Now they fnd him; two men who have been
here from the start play key roles: Provenza (G.W. Bailey) identifies
the real Ms. Bechtal; Tao (Michael Paul Chan) is in a room with a
possible bomb.

“LA to Las Vegas,” 9 p.m., Fox.

As a skilled flight
attendant, Ronnie (Kim Matula) knows the drill: Seem calm and
cheerful, when a small problem appears. Now there's a bigger problem
– someone has quietly died mid-flight.

The solution? Ignore
him ... or cover him up ... or casually (well, semi-casually) move
the body. In other hands, this might be quite sad; in this
erratic-but-fun show, it brings some big laughs.

ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

At 55, Teddy
Roosevelt had already done it all – battlefield hero, reform
governor of New York and president of the U.S. for seven years,
creating the national parks system. But the failure of his
third-party campaign left him forlorn; he needed a new adventure, and
chose an extreme one.

Roosevelt and
Brazil's Candido Rondon would explore an uncharted tributary of the
Amazon. It would take almost 100 brutal days, plagued by disease,
doubts and death. This is a fascinating (if dreary) story,
beautifully told with old photos, the men's writing and gorgeous,
black-and-white re-creations.

Other choices

“Runaways” and
“Vera,” any time. The streaming networks reach opposite
audiences. Hulu has the first-season finale of “Runaways,”
Marvel's teen-superhero tale. Britbox has the eighth-season opener of
“Vera.” with Brenda Blethyn as a tough but caring police
detective; the Northern-England accents can be difficult, but it's
worth the trouble.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A Navy lieutenant seemed happy and successful, then committed

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Two terrific guest stars return. Tony Plana plays Riggs'
father-in-law; whie visiting him in prison, Riggs learns a secret
about his late wife. And Thomas Lennon plays Leo Gets, working with
Murtaugh to solve the murder of a mutual friend.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Both aunts are in town – Dre's sister Rhonda
(Raven-Symone) and Bow's sister Santamonica (Rashida Jones).

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. These are problems that Mick has no experience with:
Sabrina has an admissions interview with Yale; Alba must pretend to
her family that she's still a maid.

“CSI: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Sebastian, the forensics guy, is thrust
into a mystery. His high school friend Adrian calls when her business
partner is killed. But the FBI feels se's a hacker.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 8

“The Brave” return, 10 p.m. , NBC.

Seven weeks ago, a
compelling hour saw Sgt. “Jaz” Khan take a huge risk. She killed
a terrorist in an Iran hotel, then was captured. Viewers were stunned
... and had to wait until tonight for the follow-up. Now her
colleagues try to concoct a near-impossible rescue. The result –
like the previous hour – is compelling. Spurts of sharp action
accompany intense drama, with subtly perfect performances by Natacha
Karam and Mike Vogel as Jaz and Adam, and by Anne Heche as their boss
at headquarters.

II: College football, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN2.

When this year's
final four was announced, it included two teams from the SEC. There
was grumbling ... especially from the Big Ten, which retaliated by
winning seven of its eight bowl games.

Still, the SEC
proved itself by winning both semi-finals. Now Alabama and Georgia
collide in Atlanta for the national championship. ESPN starts its
pre-game show at 7:30 p.m. ET.

ALTERNATIVE: “In Cold Blood” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic

Earlier this fall, a
superb documentary retraced the slaughter of a kindly Kansas family.
Such stories are part of our current obsession with true-crime tales;
but now let's go back to the original.

Truman Capote, a
small-town native, was fascinated by the Kansas killings. His book
was gently and beautifully detailed ... then was adapted into this
involving movie. In black-and-white, Richard Brooks captured the
solemn beauty of the people and the place. Robert Blake and Scott
Wilson play the killers.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Jennifer Brea was
heading toward a sunny life. A Harvard doctoral student, she married
Omar Wasow, now a nationally known computer expert who, among other
things, taught Oprah Winfrey how to use E-mail. Then Brea was
suddenly stricken, barely able to move.

This is myalgic
encephalomyelitis, called “chronic fatigue syndrome” and
sometimes derided. No one knows why it happens or why 80-percent of
its victims are female. As Brea waits for a cure, she has linked with
sufferers around the world ... and has made this jolting,
Sundance-winning film.

Other choices

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Not all moments are equally romantic. One woman gets
a Malibu date; 15 others go to a demolition derby.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a transplanted rerun of last season's
terrific finale. Amy is away and Sheldon's former assistant is back.
She has a doctorate now and is still obsessed with him.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. After learning that the cookie jar he sold was
important to his daughter, Kevin goes on a road trip to retrieve it.
Also, his friend Kyle needs to get back to the dating world; his
first idea – Vanessa (Leah Remini) – is rejected.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 9 p.m., NBC. A trip to Germany brings light moments –
ranging from a bear to a David Hasselhoff concert – plus serious
ones, as Henry Winkler traces his family's Holocaust past.

“Young Sheldon,”
9 p.m., CBS. Even when he was 9, Sheldon didn't take kindly to
doubters. In this low-key and charming rerun, he's obsessed with
disputing a NASA scientist.

The Good Doctor”
return, 10 p.m., ABC. After leaping to the top of the ratings in its
first half-season, “Good Doctor” detours: For the entire hour,
Shaun is on an impromptu road trip with his gorgeous neighbor. The
Shaun/Lia scenes are OK, boosted by two likable actors, but the
hospital scenes fail. Stiff actors struggle with a story that
includes the usual indecisive-patient cliche.

TV column for Sunday, Jan. 07

Golden Globes, 8 p.m., NBC.

Seth Meyers has
already done a terrific job hosting the Golden Globes and the White
House Correspondents dinner. Now he gets his turn at the Globes.

It's a great year
for indie-style movies. Nominees: (for comedy or musical) “Get
Out,” “Lady Bird,” “I, Tonya,” “The Greatest Showman”
and “The Disaster Artist”; (and for drama) “The Post,”
“Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name”
and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” TV newcomers
nominated are “Handmaid's Tale,” “SMILF” and “The Marvelous
Mrs. Maisel.”

“Ghosted” return, 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Amber Stevens West
has jumped smoothly between clever comedies. As soon as NBC canceled
the ambitious “Carmichael Show,” she landed a role here as Annie,
a tech worker.

Now, returning from
a five-week break, “Ghosted” nudges her into the main story:
She's an expert on the creature Max and Leroy (Adam Scott and Craig
Robinson) are tryig to find, so they bring her along. Alas, Max's
survival skills are weak; soon, they're lost in the woods.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Chi” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

Here is Chicago life
on a deeply human level. We meet Coogie, a quick-thinking schemer ...
his brother Brandon, an aspiring chef who has a job, a girlfriend, a
car and a future ... Kevin, a shy kid whose older sister is with
Emmett, a slick player ... and Jada, Emmett's take-no-crap mom.

We also meet other
grown-ups – Ronnie, a drifter whose son became a teen basketball
star ... and Cruz, a decent cop in an overwhelming job. In the first
hour, these people are thrust together by happenstance and human
frailty. The result is deftly nuanced, deeply involving ... and, at
times, hard to watch.

Other choices

“Doctor No”
(1962), 10 a.m., BBC America, Here's the first James Bond movies --
less flashy than the films that followed, but thoroughly
entertaining. BBC America follows with “Goldfinger” (1964) at
12:30 and 8:30 p.m., “Thunderball” (1965) at 3 and “From Russia
With Love” at 6 and 11. And for a fairly good comedy variation,
catch Melissa McCarthy's “Spy” (2015), at 8 and 10:30 p.m. on

Figure skating, 3
p.m. ET, NBC. Here are the finals for free dance, with Olympic-team
spots at stake.

Golden Globes
previews, 4-8 p.m., E. This is what E lives for – the confluence of
celebrities and gowns. It has a Globes preview at 4, then starts
red-carpet coverage (with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic) at 6.
Also, NBC has briefer red-carpet coverage at 7.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. At a science-technology conference, Lisa falls for a
jazz pianist (Ed Sheeran) and Bart finds he has a knack for

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When napalm is detected at a crime scene,
the team looks for possible links to terrorism.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Will Forte – the show's creator, producer
and star – keeps bringing in other “Saturday Night Live”
alumni. He's already had Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell
and more; now Fred Armisen is a guy who was in prison when the virus

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. As usual, Elizabeth has trouble at home (her daughter
is dating Dmitri, who's being followed by a Russian assassin) and at
work: The vice-president (Jayne Atkinson), fearing that Elizabeth
will be a presidential candidate, sets her up for failure.