TV column for Tuesday, Dec. 12

“The Long Road Home,” 10 p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at

These days, Eric
Bourquin is a reassuring sort. Tall (6-foot-3) and sturdy, he's a
husband and father of four, a retired sergeant first class with 16
years in the Army. Jon Beavers, who plays him, calls him a “sweet
circus bear”; Martha Raddatz adds: “He's fought ... hard to be a
good person.”

Now we see what that
fight has been. This hour – the seventh of eight, based on
Raddatz's superb book – flashes back to his troubled boyhood and
then to 2004. His men are trapped, his platoon officer is wounded,
rescue attempts have failed. Bourquin faces the roughest moments in a
brutal life.

II: “Gwen Stefani's 'You Make Me Feel Like Christmas',” 9 p.m.,

Even while skipping
this edition of “The Voice,” Stefani wasn't far away. Last
Tuesday, she visited the show to join boyfriend Blake Shelton in “You
Make Me Feel Like Christmas,” a song they wrote with two others.
Now, right after “Voice,” they'll sing it on her special.

She'll also do
Christmas classics, from the cheery “Jingle Bells” to the sexy
“Santa Baby.” Other guests include people who are musical (Ne-Yo)
and funny (Chelsea Handler, Ken Jeong, Seth McFarlane).

ALTERNATIVE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

We don't expect
anything to frighten Rosa. She scares people – even co-workers –
not the other way around. But now she's afraid to tell her parents
she's bisexual; Jake is brought in to help.

That provides some
funny moments (and a few warm ones), in a fairly good episode that
also includes the return of the steel-willed Gina. It's followed by
another episode – Capt. Holt owes a difficult favor – to form
what Fox calls the “fall finale.”

Other choices

“The Long Road
Home,” 7-10 p.m., National Geographic. If you need to catch up,
here are the three most recent episodes. They lead into tonight's
compelling hour and next week's finale.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. On Monday, the show's top eight people performed and
viewers voted. Now we'll learn which ones will be propelled into next
week's finals.

“Greatest Holiday
Commercials Countdown,” 8 p.m., CW. Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight
offer a list of the 12 best holiday commercials, plus other odd ones
from around the world.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The focus shifts to Sloane (Maria Bello) and Torres (Wilmer
Valderrama). Protecting a senator in Afghanistan, they must rush him
back to the U.S,, where his son is hospitalized.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Each of the ABC comedies (8-10 p.m.) offers a different
twist on Christmas. In this case, Dre goes to the office party
without getting a doctor's help managing diabetes.

“World's Most
Famous Tiger,” 9 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild. Machli was born in an India
National Park where the tiger population was fading. She would live
longer (20 years) and have more litters (four) and offspring (11)
than virtually any tiger in the wild; before her death last year, she
would be called the world's most-photographed tiger and the main
force for replenishing the park's population. This profile is the new
hour alongside reruns, in a “Big Cat Week” line-up, from 4 p.m.
to 3 a.m. ET.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Ex-Mayor Hamilton (Steven Weber) is
scheming to get out of prison. To stop him, Pride must find
Hamilton's mystery partner.

TV column for Monday, Dec. 11

“The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

We're a week from
the finale now, with Blake Shelton again dominating. He's already had
five of the 12 champions; Adam Levine (with three) is the only other
person with more than one.

This time, Shelton
has three people – Chloe Kohanski, 23; Keisha Renee, 30; and Red
Marlow, 40 – in the final eight. Levine has Addison Agen, 16, and
Adam Cunningham, 38. Jennifer Hudson has Noah Mac, 17, and Davon
Fleming, 25. Miley Cyrus has only Brooke Simpson, 26.

“Lucifer,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Last week brought a
key episode, with the capture of Sinnerman. He's the villain whom
Lucifer blames for everything – kidnapping him, stealing his devil
face and restoring his wings.

Now Lucifer – who
also has a perfectly pleasant human face – is desperate to get that
alternate one back. The problem is that someone else's life isin
danger. Also in this “fall finale,” Chloe's daughter meets
Lucifer's mother and questions her own relationship with her father.

ALTERNATIVE: “Better Late Than Never” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

This was last
summer's big surprise. An odd bit of non-fiction fluff – the
overseas misadventures of four old guys – it had only four
episodes. But ratings were high, even for young viewers, and it's

We again see William
Shatner, 86, go into unknown universes with Henry Winkler, 72, Terry
Bradshaw, 69, and George Foreman, 68. Tonight includes a nude park in
Munich, some Oktoberfest partying and a chance for “a Julie Andrews
moment” high in the Alps. Then the show will wait until Jan. 1 to
resume its season, which will range from para-sailing to bullfighting
to a Bradshaw body wax.

Other choices

“A Night at the
Movies,” 6:45-8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This 2011
documentary looks at the all-time great Christmas films. It has
interviews with Chevy Chase (“Christmas Vacation”), Karolyn
Grimes (“It's a Wonderful Life”), Margaret O'Brien (“Meet Me in
St. Louis”) and more.

“The Great
Christmas Light Fight,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Usually, these
mega-displays are the work of one family; now, in a first for
“Fight,” neighbors have combined for a synchronized light show.
That's in the first hour; the second includes a mountainside display
and a home that survived Hurricane Harvey.

“Disney's Fairy
Tale Weddings: Holiday Edition,” 8 p.m., Freeform. Amid its usual
movies -- “Elf” (2003) at 5:50 p.m., “Polar Express” (2004)
at 9 – Freeform will pause to show two real-life weddings. It
describes the Disneyland one as “intimate”; the Disney World one
has a “Frozen” theme.

“The Gifted,” 9
p.m., Fox. After relentlessly pursuing people with special powers,
Jace (Coby Bell) reaches a moral crossroads. In the “fall finale,”
he must turn something over to Dr. Campbell.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Keith David, whose rich voice has narrated great Ken
Burns documentaries (“Jazz,” “The War,” “Jackie Robinson,”
more), plays someone who falls sick in the doughnut shop. Franco
convinces the others to help him.

“Countdown to
Arie,” 10 p.m., ABC. Back in 2012, Arie Luyendyk Jr. was runner-up
on “The Bachelorette.” Now, at 36, he'll be the next “Bachelor.”
The Dutch-born race driver (whose dad is a two-time Indianapolis 500
winner) is profiled here. There are also updates on couples.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Yes, the team occasionally saves the world. Tonight, while
waiting for the result of Cabe's trial, it's a smaller task: Save a
dog that's stuck in a cistern.

TV column for Sunday, Dec. 10

“Frozen” (2013) and “Encore,” 8 and 10 p.m., ABC.

It's Kristen Bell
night on ABC, while celebrating the art of Broadway-style belting.
First is “Frozen,” a new classic that blends gorgeous animation
and big ballads sung by Bell and Idina Menzel.

Then comes a unique
reality show Bell produced: She assembles people who – 20 years ago
– did “Into the Woods” as their high school musical. Now –
boosted by Broadway directors and coaches – each returns to his or
her original role. These middle-age folks have just two weeks to
recapture their youth.

“Bob's Burgers,” 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fox.

For the first time
in its eight-season existence, this animated show has a one-hour

Linda plans a
holiday party at the restaurant, to spread neighborhood cheer. When
her prized ornaments are stolen, she starts questioning the guests.
The kids, however, have an alternate theory: They suspect this was
the work of The Bleaken, who is the anti-Santa.

ALTERNATIVE: Season (or mid-season) finales, cable.

From amour to
zombies, this is a key night. The zombies are on AMC's “Walking
Dead,” which starts rerunning the season at 1:39 p.m.; its
“mid-season finale” is at 9 p.m., repeating at 11:28 (after the
10:28 p.m. “Talking Dead”). Then comes an eight-week break.

The love is on
“Outlander,” at 8 p.m. on Starz. Jamie's nephew Ian is missing
and an old adversary seems to be involved; Jamie and Claire race
through the Jamaican jungles, trying to rescue Ian.

ALTERNATIVE II: Movie adventures, cable.

Back in 1977, two
friends proved that wide-eyed adventures can be brilliantly crafted.
Steven Spielberg gave us “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”;
George Lucas had “Star Wars.” Now the former is at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies; the latter is 1:30 p.m. on TNT, with sequels
at 4:15 and 7:01.

They compete with
two more triumphs: James Cameron's “Terminator 2” (1991) is 8
p.m. ET on BBC America; George Miller's “Mad Max: Beyond
Thunderdome” (1985) is 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Viceland.

Other choices

“Miracle on 34th
Street” (1947), 3 p.m., Sundance, rerunning at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45
p.m. By

modern standards,
this is slow and stiff. Still, it's a classic, complete with a
9-year-old Natalie Wood.

“You Can't Fight
Christmas,” 7-9 p.m., TV One. Yes, most Christmas movies are kind
of fun. (There are new ones tonight on Ion and on both Hallmark
Channels.) Still, the stars seem to look the same; the plots seem to
feel the same. Here's the exception: The immensely likable Brely
Evans plays a designer, desperate to save a classic, black-owned
hotel. The plot is predictable, but the cast – including Persia
White as a sleek villain – is terrific. There are even some songs,
two of them sung by Evans.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Bart is missing and the whole town searches.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A skilled assailant is determined to avenge
her father's death by killing a Brazilian diplomat.

“Counterpart,” 9
p.m., Starz. J.K. Simmons has been all over our TV and movie screens,
mainly as villains (including his Oscar-winning “Whiplash” role)
and in quirky insurance commercials. What he rarely gets to be,
though, is the central figure. Now he plays a lowly bureaucrat who
learns what his agency really does. This is an early peek at a series
that starts Jan. 21.

Secretary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth isn't really the hostess type,
but she hosts a holiday party in hopes of getting votes for a treaty.
Also, her husband scrambles to prove collusion with the Russians.

TV column for Saturday, Dec. 9

“Mary Poppins” (1964), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Over the next two
nights, ABC lets families snuggle together for classic movies –
recent (“Frozen” is Sunday) and not. This one is a delight, No. 6
on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.

Julie Andrews won an
Academy Award, as the magical and strong-willed nanny; Dick Van Dyke
drew a supporting-Oscar nomination as her Cockney friend. There were
four more Oscars and seven more nominations, including best picture.

Cartoons, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Families may need to
keep their recording devices busy tonight. At the same time as “Mary
Poppins,” here are reruns of three shows – fairly good, very
popular -- that have already aired once this season.

“Rudolph the Red
Nosed Reindeer” is at 8. That's followed by the jaunty “Frosty
the Snowman” at 9 p.m. and its disappointing sequel, “Frosty
Returns,” at 9:30.

ALTERNATIVE: More classic movies, cable.

“Mary Poppins”
collides with two more films considered all-time classics.

At 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies has “Woman of the Year” (1942), with Katharine
Hepburn and Spencer Tracy colliding amid sharply comic dialog. And at
8 p.m. on the USA Network is “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946), with
James Stewart, Donna Reed and an abundance of Christmas warmth.

Other choices

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. This rerun has it all. There's a sharp,
dead-serious monolog by Will, lecturing the much-younger guy he's
dating. And there's some hilarious sight gags with Grace and Karen,
putting a modern spin on the old scene with Lucy and Ethel stuck in a

“The Gifted,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a fairly good rerun, Blink has pushed her powers too
far, collapsing. Now Caitlin and Eclipse make a risky effort to get a
crucial serum.

“Christmas in
Mississippi,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Jana Kramer has managed to
juggle multiple careers. A singer – in 2013, the Academy of Country
Music named her best new female – she's had a busy acting career,
including three seasons on “One Tree Hill.” Here, she co-stars
with Wes Brown; also at 8 p.m., Maggie Lawson (fresh from the “Psych”
movie) has “Christmas Encore” on Hallmark.

8:30 p.m., NBC. In a funny rerun, people rush to re-open the store
... while pondering repercussions of things they did during the

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. Riggs heads to Mexico, to avenge his wife's murder.
Murtaugh heads there after him; later, both face investigations about
their actions.

More new Christmas
movies, 9 p.m. “Runaway Christmas Bride” is on Ion; “The
Christmas Cottage” is on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. James Franco has just opened an eccentric
film -- “The Disaster Artist,” based on the story behind the
creation of what's considered one of the all-time bad movies. Now he
hosts “SNL,” with Sza as music guest.

TV column for Friday, Dec. 8

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

Some great foresight
went into molding this show, three years ago. Yes, Rachel Bloom –
who co-created it, co-writes the songs and stars as Rebecca – is an
immense talent. But “Crazy” made sure all the supporting roles
were filled by people with Broadway-style skills; it can move in any

Tonight, it turns to
Paula, Rebecca's long-suffering friend. Donna Lynne Champlin –
who's done five Broadway shows -- even belts a song about the male
organ. Some viewers – well, many viewers -- will find it terribly
inappropriate; others will find the song hilarious and the episode

II: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

This is the last new
episode until January, so we might as well savor it. It offers
another tricky balance between family and law-and-order duties.

A man has bravely
rescued a woman from a hostage situation. Now Jamie, a street cop,
wants his sister, a prosecutor, to drop all charges aainst the guy;
she feels conflicted. Meanwhile, her other brother (Danny) is probing
a car-theft ring; the leader, Victor Lugo, is someone he's confronted
in the past.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Crown” new season, any time, Netflix.

In the first season,
we saw Elizabeth II become queen at 25 ... something she didn't
expect would happen for decades. The series drew raves, three Emmys
and nine more nominations, including best actress (Claire Foy) and
best drama series.

Now it's 1956, four
years into her reign, with troubles involving world affairs and
family affairs. That's part of a busy day for the streaming services.
Netflix also debuts a movie, “El Camino Christmas”; Amazon Prime
has the second season of the non-fiction “Grand Tour,” with the
witty “Top Gear” guys.

Other choices

“Christmas Carol”
variations, all day. In theaters, some people are catching “The Man
Who Invented Christmas,” the story of Charles Dickens writing the
great 1 percent/99 percent tale. And today, we can see the acclaimed
Alastair Sim version (1951, 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies), plus
less-acclaimed versions with Jim Carrey (2009, 2:45 p.m., Freeform)
and Seymour Hicks (1935, 9:45 p.m. ET, TCM).

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. To stop a terrorist plot, the team goes undercover at a
movie set.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Desperate to free herself and wake Anastasia,
Victoria makes a deal that could cost a life. In a flashback, we
learn of Lady Tremaine's connection to another fairytale.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Remember the “House” (airing after the Super Bowl)
that had the doctor doing a long-distance exam of a woman in
Antarctica? Now comes a variation: A college research ship is
stranded in the Arctic; Mac has a video (and emotional) link with the
group leader. Also, Jack kidnaps Elwood (Billy Baldwin), Riley's
bad-news dad, to learn what he's up to.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Four people – McGarrett, Danny, Tani and Junior –
are exposed to a deadly bio-weapon. Now the rest of the team has only
eight hours to find an antidote.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., Daisy risks everything, in an effort to save

10 p.m., Syfy. The Dredge is being quite grumpy now. It is torturing
Calvin, to make him release the evil demons; also, its minions are
converging on the Founders Day Festival.