TV column for Wednesday, March 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Imaginary Mary” pilot, 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Alice is bright and
beautiful, tall and confident, running her own business. As played by
Jenna Elfman, she's enviable ... except, in the TV tradition, she's a
total klutz about romance.

Now she meets a
great guy who has three kids. That triggers the return of the
imaginary friend from her childhood – a nifty combination of
puppetry, special effects, voice work (Rachel Dratch) and bad advice.
The result is smart and quirky, a neat counterpoint to ABC's other
clever comedies.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS.

Baiae was once the
centerpoint of lust and power. Nero had a bayside villa there; so did
Caesar, Cicero, Mark Anthony and more. This was a place for sex,
alcohol ... and murder. Then it crumbled.

In the
fourth-century AD, seismic activity caused more than half the city to
sink into the sea. Now this fascinating hour offers many views. It
visits the surviving part of Baiae and dives to see the rest, much of
it well-preserved underwater. And it re-visits the city's rich and
nasty history.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shots Fired,” 8 p.m., Fox.

By the end of this
second hour, “Shots” has weaved a richly layered case, leaving
doubts on all sides. When a black cop killed an unarmed, white youth,
the governor assigned a lawyer and an investigator, both black. The
cop seems like a decent sort, despite a joking reference to “killing
crackers.”

But we have to
wonder who leaked that comment. Other rifts grow – between
preachers ... between the lawyer and his football-star brother ...
between the investigator and her daughter's father. “Shots” has
too many in-your-face moments; real conversations are rare. Still,
it's a beautifully detailed drama.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. Here are gorgeous glimpses of the Yosemite national park,
from all sides. We see the trees (some nearly 300 feet high) ... the
animals (including mountain goats, re-introduced) ... and the people,
there for hang-gliding or cliff-climbing or scientific research.
There's much to study, as the California drought creates peril –
which the giant sequoias seem immune to.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Cookie, we're told, feels a bit guilty about her encounter
with Lucious. (You think? She merely took a baseball bat to every bit
of glass in the record label's upscale office.) Others share her rage
at Lucious for installing Anika as the artistic director. Now his
mother and his son Tariq take aim at Anika. Another son, Jamal, works
with Tory (Rumer Willis) in the studio.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. There's a setback for Clarke (the group's leader) and her
mom (the doctor). Meanwhile, Jaha finds a lead to the mysterious
Second Dawn.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m,, ABC. An offbeat episode views five-minute bursts. Haley and
Rainer have that time to evaluate their relationship, before his
birthday cake arrives. Mitch and Cam have five minutes to catch a
plane ... Manny has five minutes to find parking space – with his
parents' “help” -- and get to the movie ... and Phil and Claire
get a five-minute, surprise introduction to Alex's boyfriend.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Rainbow (Golden Globe-winner Tracee Ellis Ross) stirs
up trouble. She criticizes the rap star Dre is representing; she also
wants the family to eat less fast food.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Emily settles into her new role as chief
of staff, while Hannah makes fresh discoveries about the bombing. But
President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) can't obsess on these close-up
problems. A crisis in an African country forces him to turn to an
unlikely source.

“Legion,” 10
p.m., FX, repeating at 11:30. Over the first seven weeks, viewers
have seen David flash through forms of what may or may not be
reality. Now here's the expanded season-finale.

TV column for Tuesday, March 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Trial & Error,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Clues keep swirling
past the lawyers. Last week, both sides wanted to find the stick that
Larry (John Lithgow) might have used to kill his wife. Then his dog
politely dug it up in the front yard.

As that is examined,
more clues arrive – a will, a bank account, an old cablecast,
abandoned golf clubs, even a severed limb. That last one creates some
lame moments, which will be forgiven: Mostly, “Trial” has a
wonderfully subtle, straight-faced approach to a small town filled
with fine absurdity.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bones” series finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week, this
sometimes-sleepy drama ended its hour with a boom: Kovac had escaped
and planted bombs in the lab; one was de-fused, but the others
exploded.

Now we face the
questions: Who survived? What about Angela's pregnancy ... or
newlyweds Cam and Arastoo ... or Brennan, whose potent mind has been
weakened by the blast? This isn't a great hour, but it offers a
decent end to the 12th and final season of the
longest-runnng scripted show in Fox history.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dead Reckoning,” 8-11 p.m., PBS.

The world has
pondered war crimes and genocide for 70 years, with opposite
extremes: A Japanese general ordered his troops to retreat to the
hills ... then was convicted for the crimes of men who disobeyed him.
Nazi war criminals were given new identities, in exchange for spying
for the U.S.

And in modern times,
results are elusive. In Rwanda, a man admitted mass murder and
apologized; he was forgiven and now is a friend of the brother-in-law
he once beat brutally. Exhaustively researched, this is a fairly
involving documentary, despite stiff writing, editing and narration.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The long career of Bruce McGill has ranged from “Animal House”
to being Korsak on “Rizzoli & Isles.” Here, he's a cranky
Vietnam veteran, needed as a key murder witness.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. This show has had other big changes – marriage,
break-ups, new jobs and more – but here's the biggest: Schmidt
considers using his first name. Also, Jess and her dad (Rob Reiner)
help each others with their romances.

“The Mick,” 8:30
p.m., Fox. When a cyber bully attacks Sabrina, Mick ponders revenge.

“American
Housewife,” 8:30 and 9 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Katie plans a
surprise birthday party for her son Oliver. In the second, she's
appalled when her husband befriends her nemesis' husband.
“Switched
at Birth,” 9:01 p.m., Freeform. Young-adult life is complicated for
Bay and Daphne. Trying to pay their electric bill, they hold a
“lights on party.” That gets complicated when Toby overhears
disability jokes ... and when Simone arrives, looking way too
glamorous and successful.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A contagious “super virus” has infected
a unit of Seabees – and Dr. Wade (CCH Pounder), who was infected
during an autopsy. Now all of New Orleans is at risk.

“People Icons,”
10 p.m., ABC. From Mel Gibson in 1985 to Dwayne “The Rock”
Johnson last fall, People magazine has annually chosen the world's
sexiest man. John Kennedy Jr., then 27, was the youngest and the only
non-actor; Harrison Ford, 56, was the oldest. Four men – George
Clooney, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Richard Gere – were chosen
twice. Here's a look at the history.

 

TV column for Monday, March 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “The Great Indoors,” 8 and 9:30
p.m., CBS.

For two straight
weeks, TV's best comedy night has been bumped by basketball. It will
be back this Thursday; first, two of the shows get a Monday warm-up.

“Big Bang” has
already been renewed for two more years, plus a “Young Sheldon”
spin-off; in this rerun, Sheldon feels he and Amy have the perfect
genes and should reproduce. “Great Indoors,” an above-average
show, is one of the few CBS comedies not yet renewed. Tonight, in a
new episode, the young staffers are too easily swayed by Jack's
nemesis, an outdoors TV host played by Chris D'Elia.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Quantico,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Times are tough for
these gorgeous people. “We definitely need to get better lives,”
Shelby says.

Definitely. Their
romances have crumbled and their new CIA-FBI task force is shaky; its
leader (played by Hunter Parrish, who was the older son in “Weeds”)
is excessively unlikable. And now they're probing a case involving
“fake news” -- pseudo-news stories designed so Internet readers
will believe them. It's a complex hour, filled with sharp dialog,
quick twists and a key closing moment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

The first thing you
notice about this group is the sense of fun and the play on words.
These are, the filmmakers say, “fierce, unapologetic, feminist
women of color” in East Los Angeles, the birthplace of the Chicano
movement. They have bicycle rides each full moon, as the Ovarian
Psycos Cycle Brigade.

Beyond that are the
deeper issues. “I've been an at-risk youth,” co-founder Xela de
la X says. “Now I'm an at-risk adult.” She says she ran away
often to avoid her abusive dad, now she's a mom. “Will I be able to
protect my rage? Do I even know how to love?” She and others try
zesty re-invention.

Other choices
include:

“Jack Taylor”
and “Asylum,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Americans know Iain Glen as Jorah (Daenerys' loyal aide) in “Game
of Thrones” or Sir Richard (who almost married Lady Mary) in
“Downton Abbey.” In Ireland, however, he's this gritty detective,
with three new movies. The first is well-made, but seems determined
to set a record on the misery meter. A quick cure is “Asylum,” a
mostly hilarious comedy about an American whistleblower, taking
refuge in an obscure London embassy.

“Red” (2010) and
“Red 2” (2013), 5:30 and 8 p.m., Syfy. This clever romp gives
Bruce Willes (as an unretired CIA agent) awesome support, led by John
Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week quickly established who's best
and worst, neither a surprise. The athletes – gymnast Simon Biles
and football star Rashad Jennings – had the top scores; the quirky
sorts – Chris Kattan, Charo and Mr. T – had the bottom ones.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. It's the third edition of the battle rounds, with
one more on Tuesday.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. This almost-new comedy, already renewed for next season,
links two Oscar-nominated veterans. Arthur (Judd Hirsch, 82) hasn't
dated in years; now Randy (Katey Segal) points him toward her mother
(Brenda Vaccaro, 77).

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Here's more potential romance: Three years after being
widowed, Jane's ready to date. Then there's her mom, secretly in love
with Jane's dad; she just broke off her engagement with his lawyer.
And Jane's grandma, dating anew. In a bright episode, one of them has
a major change.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun of an odd episode, Walter has been
accidentally shot into space. As his team scrambles for a way to save
him, he starts hallucinating about Paige.

TV column for Sunday, March 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Masterpiece: To Walk Invisible,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Here's a fascinating
real-life story – strong enough to overcome poor filmmaking:
Overshadowed by their clergyman dad and alcoholic brother, the Bronte
sisters sitll managed to make literary history.

The problem starts
with the script, which gives way too much attention to the brother
and too little to the women who mattered. A bigger problem is the
direction: “To Walk Invisible” is visually drab and much of its
dialog is rushed or mumbled. Despite its flaws, a great story shines
through.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

The previous “Crime”
editions grabbed us instantly; this one is getting there gradually.
In its first two weeks, we met people at the edge of modern slavery –
a former teen prostitute, a battered farm worker and more. Now we get
to know people who view this from the outside.

There's a farm
recruiter with a wavering conscience ... an earnest social worker ...
a dad, searching for the son who disappeared in the fields. And
there's a woman (perfectly played by Felicity Huffman) who married
into a farm family. Now she – like viewers – tries to grasp the
size of the horror.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Shades of Blue,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Early episodes have
hit with blunt force. Wozniak (Ray Liotta) nearly killed the FBI guy
... who then killed a suspect, ordering Woz to dispose of the body.
These people are good at that; earlier, Harlee (Jennifer Lopez)
killed her daughter's nasty father and dumped the body.

Now things mellow a
bit. The daughter searches for her dad, who she thinks is alive.
Also, we grasp Wozniak's torment. It's a softer side of Woz ... which
is like the roughest part of a normal human.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Either Hallmark channel, 9 p.m.

If you're not
looking for killer cops or cruel foremen, you can safely try these.
The Hallmark Channel has the good-spirited “When Calls the Heart”;
tonight, Elizabeth struggles to get back her teaching job in this
frontier town; while waiting, she tutors some of the students after
school.

And Hallmark Movies
and Mysteries has the “Murder, She Baked” films – pleasantly
adequate tales, with Alison Sweeney as a likable baker who keeps
solving crimes. The previous ones rerun at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.; then
the new “Just Desserts” (adequate, again) has intrigue
surrounding a cooking contest.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, 2 and
4:55 p.m., CBS. On Saturday, two teams grabbed spots in the NCAA
tourney's final four. Now we find the other two; the semi-finals are
next Saturday, with the championship on Monday.

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. The new hour, at 8, includes kids who
scored big on the Internet – a girl who dressed as a hot dog on
“Princess Day” and a 4-year-old singer who's been viewed by 80
million people on YouTube. That follows a rerun of last week's
episode, with an 8-year-old slackliner, a 5-year-old lasso expert
annd a 4-year-old geography whiz.

“Bob's Burgers,”
7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. There's a “Simpsons” rerun at 7 p.m., but
the usual 8 p.m. slot is being borrowed so “Bob's” can have two
new episodes, focusing on Tina. First, she panics when learning the
aquarium – her favorite after-school refuge – may close. Then
she's recruited by the debate team ... and finds an unexpected
relationship.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS (or later, with basketball overrun). A
computer sting finds the mole who may have sold CIA documents.
Elizabeth suspects there's a larger scandal.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Pirates' gold, buried in Central Park? Sherlock and Watson
join the search for a treasure map. Also, they start to suspect that
Shinwell got away with a murder.

“Feud,” 10 p.m.,
FX. With their movie (“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) ready to
open, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis push for Oscar nominations. Also,
there are reports of bad word-of-mouth.

TV column for Saturday, March 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Planet Earth II” finale, 9 p.m. and midnight ET, BBC America.

For five splendid
episodes (all of them rerunning twice today), this series has taken
us to wilderness spots around the world. Now comes its best episode
-- visiting cities.

Yes, cities. The
world's biggest concentration of spotted leopards is in Mumbai; its
most peregrine falcons are in New York City. Each night, a million
starlings descend on Rome, leaving 10 tons of droppings. At times,
humans co-operate; they feed wild hyenas in Ethiopia and monkeys in
India ... where well-fed monkeys double their usual birth rate and
gleefully pillage food from open markets.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Shots Fired” and “Empire,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

If you missed these
strong (but opposite) hours Wednesday, catch the reruns. It's the
debut of “Shots Fired,” which is a lot like ABC's brilliant
“American Crime” -- a subtle, 10-week tour of complex racial
situations. A black cop has shot an unarmed white youth; emotions
simmer.

And it's the return
of “Empire,” which isn't into subtlety. It starts with a
spectacular music number, ends with some bat-swinging,
glass-shattering spectacle. In between, however, are the moments of
subtlety and depth that make this work. In particular, Jamal and a
friend (Rumer Willis) struggle with rehab.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Animation, everywhere.

This is a big day
for families and maybe for their recording devices. It peaks in prime
time, with fairly good films at 8 p.m. on ABC (“Over the Hedge,”
2006) and NBC (“Despicable Me 2,” 2013) and a great one at 9 p.m.
on Disney (“Finding Nemo,” 2001).

But for sheer
quantity, there's FXX. It has “Epic” (2013) at 10 a.m., “Rise
of the Guardians” (2012) at noon, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
(2014) at 2 p.m., the clever “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” (2014) at
4, “Madagascar 3” (2012) at 6 and “The Penguins of Madagascar”
(2014) at 8 and 10.

Other choices
include:

“Planet Earth II,”
all day, BBC America. Leading into the finale, the entire series
reruns twice – at 10 a.m. ET and again at 3:10 p.m. And if you're
wondering how they got all these great shots, stick around for a
“making of” special, at 10:11 p.m. and 1:10 a.m. ET.

“Godfather”
films, 3, 7 and 11:30 p.m., AMC. Here is the rare case of a sequel
that added to the legacy of the original. “The Godfather” (1972)
is a classic, but its sequel (1974) was also superb, winning Oscars
for best picture, supporting actor Robert De Niro and more. The third
(1990) is merely OK.

Basketball, 6 and
8:30 p.m. ET, TBS. The NCAA tournament is down to eight teams now and
cable has its final day of glory. Today's games will decide half of
the final four; the other half emerge from games at 2 and 4:55 p.m.
ET Sunday on CBS ... which also has the.semi-finals and finals, April
1 and 3.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. Pokemon-type games may be fun, but this is going too far:
A smartphone game lured five teens to an empty castle in France; now
Eric must negotiate their release.

“The Incredible
Dr. Pol,” 8 and 9 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild. First is the 100th
episode of this popular show. Dr. Jan Pol, 74, a folksy, Dutch-born
veterinarian in central Michigan, recalls some of his cases. There's
much to recall; on the show, we're told, he's visited 321` farms,
performed 186 surgeries and stuck his arm into the rears of 409 cows.
Another new show is at 9 p.m.; previous ones start rerunning at noon.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 and 10 p.m., CNN. Barring another late change, this will
rerun episodes eyeing topical humor and then humor that bridges or
propels the racial divide.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Kristen Stewart hosts this rerun, with
music by Alessia Cara.

Also: This is an
overloaded movie night, even beyond the cartoons and “Godfather”
films. The two “Independence Day” films overlap – the original
(1996) at 8:30 p.m. on Syfy, the sequel (2016) at 8 p.m. on HBO. The
first two “Hunger Game” films are 7:20 (2012) and 10:30 p.m.
(2013) on Freeform. And Peter Sellers is hilarious in “The Pink
Panther” (1963), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.