Week's TV top-10 for Monday, March 25


1) “Abby's”
debut, 9:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC. A quarter-century after “Cheers”
closed its doors, NBC has a new Thursday bar. It's outdoors and
probably illegal. Its proprietor (Natalie Morales) is a foot shorter
than her best customer (Neil Flynn) or her worst obstacle (Neil
Franklin), but she's an ex-Marine and people obey her. Be warned that
many critics dislike “Abby's”; we disagree and find two of the
barflies (played by Jessica Chaffin and the massive Leonard Ouzts)
hilarious. See what you think.

2) “What We Do in
the Shadows” debut, 10 p.m. Wednesday, FX. Now for a comedy that
many critics find brilliant. It's from the deep, droll wit of Jemaine
Clement of “Flight of the Conchords.” He and fellow New Zealander
Taika Waititi made a micro-budgeted movie about vampires who live
among us in eccentric obscurity. Five years later, it's a series with
two great additions – an ever-hopeful assistant and an “energy
vampire,” so dull that he sucks energy from the room. The result is
an odd delight.

3) “Jane the
Virgin” season-opener, 9 p.m. Wednesday, CW. As a variation on a
telenovela, “Jane” delights in silly, soapy plot twists. And in
the final minute of last season, it topped itself: Michael – the
late husband Jane has mourned for years – is alive. That takes some
explaining ... which this hour does skillfully. The result has a big
impact, especially on Jane. Gina Rodriguez -- already a Golden
Globe-winner – has a seven-minute monolog that's simultaneously
funny, forlorn and Emmy-worthy.

4) “Into the
Badlands” and more, AMC. “Badlands” only has eight episodes to
wrap up its sprawling story. The first aired Sunday and reruns at
8:59 p.m. today; the second follows at 10. Both have the “Badlands”
touch – epic action scenes that dazzle us, despite being gory and
impossible to believe. That's in a big week for AMC. At 9 p.m.
Sunday, it has the “Walking Dead” season-finale, then reruns an
“enhanced” version of the pilot film for “Killing Eve,” which
starts its second season a week later.

5) Sports collision,
Thursday. Here's the kind of day that keeps fans busy or dizzy. Yes,
Thursday starts the second week of the college basketball tournament;
CBS has games at 7 and 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT at 7:15 and 9:45. But that's
also opening day of the baseball season, always a big deal. All 30
teams have games and ESPN offers a tripleheader, featuring vintage
franchises: The Yankees host the Orioles at 1 p.m. ET ... the Dodgers
host the Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. and the Red Sox visit the Mariners at
7.

5) “American
Idol,” 8-10 p.m. today, ABC. The two music powerhouses have finally
wrapped up their auditions. Tonight, NBC's “The Voice” starts its
“battle rounds,” while “Idol” continues its “Hollywood
Week,” which started Sunday. That's the stretch that packs young
singers into the Orpheum Theatre, where they must try group and solo
numbers. It sets up a key phase: “Idol” will start its live
episodes on Monday, April 15 and will have coast-to-coast voting via
ET/PT simulcasts on five Sundays.

6) “Miracle
Workers” finale, 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, TBS, rerunning at 11:30. So
you want high stakes? Try this: Unless our heroes prevail, mankind
will be destroyed. That wraps up a series that isn't for everyone,
but ripples with wit. God (Steve Buscemi) is disenchanted with Earth.
He'll destroy it unless some minions (led by Daniel Radcliffe) pull a
true miracle, getting shy strangers to kiss. So far, their efforts
have failed badly ... and have caused deaths. Now they only have an
hour left to save the world.

7) “The
Blacklist,” 8 and 9 p.m. Friday, NBC. It was easy to forget this
smart show, when it was exiled to Fridays. But on a night when CBS
dramas are on a basketball break, “Blacklist” gets two hours; the
first has an intriguing a plot: In real life, Robert Vesco was a
fugitive con man. He reportedly died in Cuba in 2007, at 71; some,
however, claimed he faked his death. Now “Blacklist” has Stacy
Keach, 77, playing Vesco, being hunted by Red. In the second hour,
Liz investigates an organization of assassins.

8) NAACP Image
Awards, 9 p.m. ET Saturday, TV One, rerunning at 11:30. This is the
50th year for the awards and the sixth straight with
Anthony Anderson as host. That's been friendly turf for him; for four
straight years, “Black-ish” has been named best comedy, with
Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as best comedy actor and actress. This
year, the best-movie category is especially strong, with “Black
Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “The Hate U Give,” “Crazy
Rich Asians” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

9) “Masterpiece:
Mrs. Wilson,” 9 and 10 p.m. Sunday, PBS. Ruth Wilson always knew
her grandfather was no ordinary chap. He wrote 24 spy novels; he was
a wounded World War I veteran, a professor and more. And when he died
in 1963, his wife of 20-plus years learned of another wife and family
... and then another ... and then more deceptions. Fortunately, Ruth
is a gifted actress; she produced this film and stars as her
grandmother. It's a fascinaing story that will be told in three hours
on two Sundays.

10) “Mamma Mia!
Here We Go Again” (2018) and more, HBO. Here's a rare sequel that's
much better than the original. “Mamma Mia” used the scant
Broadway plot -- barely enough to support the ABBA songs -- and let
non-singers do them. This sequel has a rich, multi-generation plot
and gifted singers – Lily James, Meryl Streep, even Cher. It's 8
and 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday – leading to the “Case
Against Adnan Syed” finale at 9 and the season-openers of “Barry”
and “Veep” at 10 and 10:30.

Five TV best-bets for Sunday, March 24


1) “Prince Charles
at 70,” 8 p.m., PBS. At an age when many people are retired,
Charles is is still preparing for one job (king) and pushing hard
for current charities and tasks. He “goes to dinner ridiculously
late at night,” his son Harry says, then works until falling asleep
at his desk. He doesn't see his grandchildren enough, adds son
William, but “when he's there, he's brilliant.” This warm
documentary, conflicting with Diana-era reports, shows a decent,
diligent man.

2) “Masterpiece:
King Charles III,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After
watching Charles do his gentle work, it's fun to see this rerun,
imagining him at the core of power, As king, he faces a crisis of
conscience, unwilling to do what's considered a formality, signing a
bill into law. On Broadway, this drew Tony nominations for best play
and for Tim Pigott-Smith, who repeats here as Charles.

3) “Into the
Badlands” return, 10:25 p.m., AMC. Now for the opposite of those
restrained Englishfolk. This hour starts and ends with spectacular
martial arts – none of it believable and all of it exciting and
vibrantly filmed and choreographed. There are only eight episodes
left, with one tonight (after the season's second-to-last “Walking
Dead”) and another in the show's new Monday timeslot.

4) Basketball, CBS
and cable. By the end of tonight, the NCAA tourney will have its
sweet 16. CBS has games at noon and 2:30 and 5 p.m. ET, but lets
cable (TNT, TBS, TruTV) have the night. That allows new episodes of
“God Friended Me,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Madam
Secretary.”

5) “Tricky Dick,”
9 p.m. ET, CNN. This starts with Richard Nixon's only election
losses – a razor-tight presidential race in 1960 and a fairly close
(300,000-vote margin) one for California governor in '62. He tells
reporters they “won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more”
... then changes his mind. The hour ends with an intriguing question:
Did his people sabotage the 1968 Vietnam peace talks?

Five TV best-bets for Saturday, March 23


1) “Kids Choice
Awards,” 8 p.m., Nickelodeon, repeating at 9:30. Each year, this
has lots of stars and lots of slime, with big personalities as hosts
-- DJ Khaled tonight, after two years with John Cena and one with
Blake Shelton. Action films dominate, with favorite-movie nominations
for “Black Panther,” “Aquaman” and “Avengers: Infinity
Wars”; they're joined by “Mary Poppins Returns” and two Netflix
teen movies, “The Kissing Booth” and “To All the Boys I've
Loved Before.”

2) Basketball, CBS
and cable. The NCAA field has already been trimmed from 68 to 32;
today and Saturday, half of them will be ousted. CBS has today's
first three games, at noon and 2:30 and 5 p.m. ET; then cable takes
over – 6 and 8:30 p.m. on TNT, 7 and 9:30 on TBS, 7:30 on TruTV.

3) Figure-skating,
8-10 p.m., NBC. While tall people race around basketball courts, tiny
people will be swirling on ice. Here's an edited version of the men's
and women's world championships, from Japan. You can also catch this
at 1 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.

4) “Mental
Samurai,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here's a quick rerun of Tuesday's opener.
Varied people – form attorney to astronaut – sit in a swooping
chair and try to answer 12 questions in five minutes. Rob Lowe is a
talented host and the game has play-along fun ... until the memory
category stops the fun.

5) “Saturday Nigh
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. At 24, Halsey has already lived lows –
homelessness, bullying, bipolar disorder – and highs. She's had
albums reach No. 2 and No. 1 on the Billboard charts, with two
singles (“Without Me” and, with Chainsmokers, “Closer”) at
No. 1. And she's sung on “SNL” three times; this reruns the
third, which she also hosted.

-- Mike Hughes, TV
America

Week's seven TV best-bets for Sunday, March 24


(Today)

“Prince Charles at
70”

8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). At an age when many people retire, Charles prepares
for one job (king) and pushes hard at current tasks. He “goes to
dinner ridiculously late at night,” his son Harry says, then works
until falling asleep at his desk. He doesn't see his grandchildren
enough, adds son William, but “when he's there, he's brilliant.”
This warm documentary, conflicting with Diana-era reports, shows a
decent, diligent man. At 9 p.m. is a rerun of a smart drama, “King
Charles III.”

(Monday)

“American Idol”

8-10 p.m., ABC. The
auditions are over and “Hollywood Week” -- fun for fans,
frustrating for contestants – is here. Singers try group and solo
numbers, amid general tumult. That starts today and continues Monday
– when NBC's “The Voice” begins its “battle rounds.” And if
you skip both shows? AMC's “Into the Badlands” returns for its
last eight episodes. The first – visually stunning, but needing
extreme suspension of disbelief – is 10:25 p.m. today and 8:59 p.m.
Monday, with the second at 10.

(Tuesday)

“Miracle Workers”
finale

10:30 p.m., TBS,
rerunning at 11:30. So you want high stakes? Try this: Unless our
heroes come up with something, the Earth will be destroyed. That
wraps up a series that isn't for everyone, but ripples with wit. God
(Steve Buscemi) has become disnchanted wih the place. He'll destroy
it unless some minions (led by Daniel Radcliffe) can pull a true
miracle, by getting shy strangers to kiss. So far, their efforts have
failed badly ... and have caused deaths. Now they only have an hour
left to save the world.

(Wednesday)

“What We Do in the
Shadows” debut

10 p.m., FX. The
dead return, on a wonderfully weird night. At 9, CW's “Jane the
Virgin” opens its season by explaining how Jane's husband –
mourned years ago – can be back; it's a fine hour, including Gina
Ridriguez's dandy, seven-minute monolog. And at 10, “Shadows”
portrays vampires living quietly in New York. This reflects the dry
wit of co-creator Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) and
has great supporting characters – an ever-hopeful aide and an
“energy vampire” who dulls up our lives.

(Thursday)

“Abby's” debut

9:30 p.m., NBC. A
quarter-century after “Cheers” closed, NBC has a new Thursday
bar. This one is outdoors and maybe illegal. Its proprietor (Natalie
Morales) is a foot shorter than her best customer (Neil Flynn) or her
worst obstacle (Neil Franklin), but she's an ex-Marine and people
approach her cautiously. Many critics dislike this show, but we think
it's sharp and fun; some of the biggest laughs go to two of the
regular customers, drolly played by Jessica Chaffin and the massive
Leonard Ouzts.

(Friday)

“The Blacklist”

8 and 9 p.m., NBC.
It was easy to forget this smart show, after it was whisked to
Fridays. But on a night when CBS dramas are on a basketball break,
it gets two hours and the first has an intriguing a plot: Robert
Vesco, a fugitive conman, reportedly died in Cuba in 2007, at 71;
some, however, claimed he faked his death. In this hour, Stacy Keach,
77, plays Vesco, being hunted by Red and the task force. In the
second hour, Liz probes an organization of assassins, hired to kill
former intelligence agents.

(Saturday)

Basketball or NAACP
Image Awards

Many people will
obsess on the NCAA tournament; games are 6 and 8:30 p.m. on TBS,
determining half the final four. But consider the Image Awards –
the 50th overall and the first on TV One. There's a
preview at 8 p.m. and a live show at 9, rerunning at 11:30. Anthony
Anderson hosts for the sixth time – and may see his “Black-ish”
named best comedy for the fifth. Best-movie nominees: “Black
Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “The Hate U Give,” “Crazy
Rich Asians” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Five TV best-bets for Friday, March 22


1) “Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., Fox. After a slow, this episode jumps into two
strong stories. One has Eve noticing that her big sisters are taking
advantage of the exchange student; there are some big laughs,
perfectly maneuvered by Kaitlyn Dever and Krista Yu, with Tim Allen
directing. The other has Rev. Paul (Bill Engvall), who's at a
crossroads, have some key moments with Kyle.

2) “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW. One important lesson tonight is: If
you're torn between three lovers, it might help to list their traits
on a board. The other lesson: It's really important to erase the
board afterward. That's in a fairly good episode that sets up a key
possibility for next week.

3) Basketball, CBS
and cable. Most Fridays, we can depend on CBS to deliver three hours
with heroes stopping bad guys. Not tonight or next week, with the
college tournament taking over. Today, CBS includes a good match-up
(Cincinnati-Iowa) at 12:15 p.m. ET and a silly one (Duke and the
winner of a “first four” game) at 7:10. Also: Tennessee-Colgate
at 2:45 and Virginia Commonwealth-Central Florida at 9:40. There's
more on TBS, TNT and TruTV.

4) “Blindspot”
and “Blacklist,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. With the CBS shows on the
shelf, we can turn to NBC for action-adventure. First, Jane must ask
an old enemy for help; then Liz and the task force resume their
search for The Corsican, while Cooper appeals to the White House on
Red's behalf.

5) “Great
Performances: Birgit Nilsson,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
lisitings). Nilsson's father bought her a piano when she was 5 and
loved her music ... but as a hobby. He sent her to study homemaking
Instead, she reached Stockholm, where a teacher called her “a
farmer's daughter who ... hoots like a foghorn.” Others disagreed,
as Nilsson soared. This is a so-so film, but has a good story to
tell. “She was just a country girl from Sweden,” one woman says,
“who became this amazing diva.”