TV column for Thursday, March 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

TV's best comedy
rarely tries for a heart-tugging “very special episode.” Still,
it responded when Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Howard's mom, died of
cancer at 62.

Earlier, we saw
Howard learn his mom had died; now he wants his friends to savor the
final food she'd prepared. That's in the 8 p.m. episode, which also
has Leonard fuming about Sheldon getting credit for an article they
co-wrote; in the 9 p.m. rerun, the guys reluctantly shop with Penny
and Amy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The “Idol”
pattern used to be steady – performances and viewer voting on
Wednesdays, results Thursdays. With ratings slipping, however, that's
getting a nudge.

This week, the show
announced its top 12 on Wednesday; they perform tonight and viewers
vote. Next week, the Wednesday slot goes to the two-hour “Empire”
finale; on Thursday, we'll learn which 10 survived and they'll
perform. Then “Bones” takes Thursdays and “Idol” slides back
to Wednesdays.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Few shows have hit
the dizzying extremes of “Crime.” On one hand, it gets superb
work from two Oscar-winners: Writer John Ridley (“12 Years a
Slave”) created vivid characters and dialog, Tim Hutton imbues Russ
(a grieving father) with deep layers of pain, guilt and bewilderment.

On the other, it
goes overboard. History tells us that people are often at their best
in crises; instead, Russ is surrounded by bickering, bull-headed
jerks. His ex-wife (Felicity Huffman) becomes almost cartoonish in
her rage and bias; others are way too similar ... yet, in some ways,
fascinating.

Other choices
include:

“Citizenfour”
(2014), 7 p.m., HBO. Here's the Oscar-winner for best documentary
feature. As a socio-political document about Edward Snowden's release
of secret documents, it's important; as a movie, it's only a tad
above watching paint dry.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. When an earthquake shakes the hospital, Maggie is stuck
in the elevator and Meredith's surgery is imperiled.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A visitor has insider information that could take down the
White House.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Thursday's crimesolvers keep becoming murder suspects.
Last week, it was Sherlock Holmes; now it's Liz (Megan Boone), the
FBI agent. A suspect in the harbormaster murder, she's questioned
about the task force's relationship with Red, a big-time criminal.

“Mom,” 9:30,
CBS. Violet (Sadie Calvano, 17) has an older boyfriend (David
Krumholtz, 36). Her mother and grandmother are not pleased.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. An apparent road-rage victim had already been
flash-frozen.

“Dig,” 10 p.m.,
USA Network. In last week's opener, an American attache in Israel
(Jason Isaacs) kept making mega-mistakes ... including not admitting
he'd been with a young woman the night she was killed. Tonight's
chapter again strains credibility, but weaves an intriguing tale on
three fronts: A killer tries to stop a red heifer (fulfilling a
biblical prophesy) from being transported ... Identical boys have
been raised separately and coldly ... And the murder case points
toward big schemes and prophesies.