TV column for Friday, March 23

“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

Comedy, drama and
tragedy co-exist easily in this well-crafted show. Tonight, Jane's
mom struggles through decisions involving her breast cancer;
repercussions ripple through her family.

Much of that is
quietly moving; alongside that, however, are dandy comedy moments.
There's Petra's clumsy grasp for a new romance ... and Jane's
misunderstanding about it; there's also a mud-bath scene with Jane
and her mom. These are gifted comedy/drama actresses, skillfully
guided by Justin Baldoni, who plays Rafael and had already proved in
documentaries that he's also a terrific director.

“Taken,” 9 p.m., NBC.

There's one more
Friday without CBS cop shows, so NBC wants to grab some audience.
Tonight, it has a tense episode that has Hart (Jennifer Beals) going
rogue, on a solo mission deep into Russia.

Her absurd plan is
almost impossible to pull off; also, there are way too many pregnant
pauses and flashbacks. Once you forgive that, however, this is a
strong hour, with compelling scenes on a speeding train.
Spies-on-a-train has always been something Hollywood does well.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

A half-century
before the recent high school walk-outs, a massive movement began in
Los Angeles. Teens walked out, protests erupted, the Chicano movement
surged. Joining it was Oscar Zeta Acosta, a lawyer with loud ties,
loud voice and flowered briefcase.

He was fictionalized
in his friend Hunter Thompson's book (“Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas”) and movie (“Where the Buffalo Roam”). He was big,
colorful ... and then gone, disappearing in 1974, at 39. This is an
odd story, told in an odd way. Actors, playing Thompson and
others,talk to the camera.

Other choices

“Trumbo” (2015),
6:53 p.m., Starz. The story of Dalton Trumbo, a writer blacklisted
for his political beliefs, is told with a deft, light touch, thanks
to Bryan Cranston's performance and John McNamara's script. It starts
a strong movie night that includes, at 8 p.m., “The Social Network”
(2010) on Pop, “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) on HBO and Ron
Howard's “In the Heart of the Sea” (2015) on AMC.

Basketball, CBS and
TNT. Tonight's games include all four of the top-seeded teams
remaining in the NCAA tournament. Kansas faces Clemson at 7 p.m. ET
on CBS ... Villanova has West Virginia at 7:20 on TBS ... Duke sees
Syracuse at 9:30 on CBS ... and Purdue has Texas Tech at 9:50 on TBS.

Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. Kids this age (8 to 13) really shouldn't be
thinking about weddings. Tonight, they prepare a lunch service –
lamb and pan-seared halibut – for 75 wedding guests.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. David Morse continues his guest spot as Crawford – who
spends a day with Roman under strange circumstances. Also, a CIA
source threatens to tear the team apart.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Rogers tries to prove Tilly's innocence in the
death of the Blind Baker. Also, Ivy tries to make amends with

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Facing steep odds, Fitz and Simmons try to
seal the rift.

“All-Star Comedy
Jam,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Bill Bellamy hosts, introducing Bruce
Bruce, Aida Rodriguez, Huggy Lowdown and Brian “Da Wildcat”

TV column for Thursday, March 22

“Station 19” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

Shonda Rhimes keeps
producing good shows about pretty people who deal with life, death
and complicated romances. “Grey's Anatomy” mastered the genre;
now it has a well-made spin-off.

We're still in
Seattle, which works well for this: Its firefighters are also
emergency medical technicians; in this case, one of them (Ben Warren)
is also a former surgeon from “Grey's.” This opener focuses on
Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz); her dad is the captain, her lover is his
lieutenant and her life is tangled.

II: “Chicago Fire,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

This is fighting
fire with fire – literally. As ABC debuts its firefighter/paramedic
show, NBC gives a double slot to its own version. What's more, it has
excellent hours with major turning points.

There are key
personal stories – especially for Otis, Brett and Severide – plus
some big plots. The firefighters meet a troubled couple in the first
hour and face gunfire in the second. Those tend to unfold too
conveniently; still, “Fire” work whenever events wash across the
oft-stoic faces of quietly caring men. “Communication isn't your
first language,” Severide is told in a great closing scene.

ALTERNATIVE: “Portlandia” finale, 10 p.m. ET, IFC, repeating at 1

The eighth and final
season ends with an atypical episode. That's unfortunate, because the
typical ones – stuffed with odd sketches – range only from really
strange to strangely hilarious.

The finale follows
plans for the Portland marathon, which the mayor (Kyle MacLachlan)
obsesses on. There are fairly funny moments for guests Dolly Wells,
Cherry Jones and Tessa Thompson ... and for Fred Armisen and Carrie
Brownstein, who have created wonderful bits in the past. You can
relive the entire season form 5:30 to 10 p.m. ET, then catch last
week's episode again at 12:30 a.m.

Other choices

Basketball, CBS and
cable. Already down to 16 teams, the NCAA tournament rushes toward
its final four. CBS has games at 7 p.m. ET (Nevada and Loyola of
Chicago) and about 9:30 (Kentucky and Kansas State). TBS has games at
7:30 (Michigan and Texas A&M) and about 10 (Gonzaga and Florida
State). There's more Friday, then games this weekend to fill the four

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Jackson has savored time with Maggie, but now he must
focus on groundbreaking surgery. And Jo, stymied on her contest
submission, helps Bailey treat an ex-astronaut.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Glenn is upset with the notion that Target is hiring his
people; he tries to retaliate. Meanwhile, Kelly and Jonah might
actually move in together.

“A.P. Bio,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. You have to give a show some credit for managing a brief
scene that combines Flava Flav, Bill Nye (the science guy) and Steve
Jones of the Sex Pistols. Beyond that, this is a moderately funny
episode in which grim Jack tries to write a feel-good book.

“Project Runway,”
9 p.m., Lifetime. Designers create resort wear inspired by Candy
Crush lands.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunning at about 11:15. Last week's episode (rerunning at
about 10:38) showed that everyone in Atlanta seems to want Earn's
money; tonight, he decides life is also tricky in the white-folks
world of Marietta.

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. You might want to
record this epic for some time when you have four hours handy. It
follows “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) at 8.

TV column for Wednesday, March 21

“Krypton,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

The original story
was kind of simple: A planet was blowing up, so some kindly leaders
sent their baby to Earth, where he became quite super. Now we learn
it was more complicated.

We meet the future
Superman's quietly heroic great-grandparents ... and his unquietly
heroic great-great-grandfather. Stomped by a three-faced (literally)
despot, they've raised a strong young man whose grandson will someday
be Earth's greatest hero. Visually splendid, this also has a smart
and epic story.

“The X-Files” season-finale, 8 p.m.

This season has had
its best moments in stand-alone hours, ones that fully savor the
show's quirky edges. It had some of its lesser moments in the opener,
clogged with the show's overriding arc.

Now we're back to
that arc. Mulder and Scully scramble to find their son; the Cigarette
Smoking Man also wants to find him ... and maybe to have mega-power.
Gillian Anderson, who plays Scully, says this is her last season;
producers say only that they'll wrap up some things and leave others
open. We'll see.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” conclusion, 10
p.m., FX; rerunning at about 11 p.m., midnight and 1:30 a.m.

For eight weeks,
this has given us the complex stories of two opposite men. Versace
(Edgar Ramirez) and Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) were handsome,
smart, charming and gay. But Versace also had talent; Cunanan simply
had a blur of increasingly large lies.

Brilliantly acted
and filmed, this is still tough to watch. There's been none of the
offbeat touches that made the O.J. Simpson series (by the same
people) so fascinating; instead, it slides deeper into tragedy. Now
the end: Already wanted for four murders, Cunanan nears his final

Other choices

“The Martian”
(2015), 7-10 p.m., FX. This smart and entertaining Matt Damon film
launches a good movie night. “Transformers” (2007, 8 p.m., TNT)
is fun; “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961, 8 p.m. ET Turner Classic
Movies) has the luminous Audrey Hepburn and a great Henry Mancini

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Archie Andrews – maybe the sunniest person in the
comic-book universe – keeps getting darker here. Now he's
perilously close to being a villain, as he helps Veronica's dad in a
scheme that would decimate the South Side. Betty and Veronica also
keep getting more ominous; tonight, “Riverdale” slides
precariously between drama and overwrought soap opera.

season-finale, 8:30 p.m., ABC. Last week, JJ was put in charge of the
student film project. After a shaky start, he came up with a
well-received horror film. Now it goes to a film festival.

season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox. Yes, there are a lot of season-finales
tonight. (Next Wednesday has the return of Fox's “Empire” and
“Star” and the debuts of two ABC comedies.) This one includes a
domestic disturbance and a horrific motorcycle accident, plus Bobby
(Peter Krause) trying dating.

“Life Sentence,”
9 p.m., CW. Everyone is grappling for a new life now. Stella, free of
cancer, tries to be a patient advocate ... her sister goes to a
writers' camp ... and their dad tries dating. It's a fairly good
episode with, once again, the best drama scenes going to their mom.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. It's time to taste the high life: Gloria and Mitchell
are invited to a party at Oprah's house, but can't bring anyone else;
the family stays in the country home of Haley's new boss.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. To catch a meth ring, Upton (Tracy Spiradakos) must go
back to an old undercover identity. And Voigt, feeling increasing
pressure from Woods, needs a favor.

TV column for Tuesday, March 20

“Rise,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The first week was a
breeze. “Rise” started after the “This Is Us” season-finale
and ended with an emotional peak: high school kids burned their
“Pirates of Penzance” costumes, sang and insisted on doing the
“Spring Awakening” musical. Passions soared.

Now comes the hard
part – taking the “This Is Us” slot and tackling personal pain.
The theater director (Josh Radnor) battles his assistant director
(Rosie Perez), the principal, the football coach and even his own
son. Deeply layered emotions are uncovered, in an hour that's
beautifully written and played.

II: “For the People,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Here is the “Grey's
Anatomy” formula, skillfully cloned. Attractive young people –
this time lawyers – bumble through their personal lives while
conquering (mostly) their jobs.

One case (involving
doctors and opioids) is a mis-step; the lawyers try something absurd,
then get a huge break. The other, however, has an Arab-American
lawyer reluctantly defending a neo-Nazi; his summation is brilliant.
Beyond that, we get great personal glimpses: The tough clerk (Anna
Deavere Smith) and the strident defense lawyer (Britt Robertson)
become much deeper and more interesting.

ALTERNATIVE: “Adam Ruins Everything,” 10:30 p.m., TruTV.

Once a year, viewers
re-discover this channel during the basketball tournament and wonder
what it does the rest of the year. Mostly, it has low-budget
reality-comedy shows, one of them (“The Carbonaro Effect”) a
delight ... plus this little gem, in which Adam Conover deflates

Now “Adam” has
its first animated episodes, a six-week stretch that starts with the
Revolutionary War.. Legends about Paul Revere, George Washington and
soldiers are deflated, complete with footnotes.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. Here are two reruns, kicking “Bull” back to 10 p.m.
The first – probing an apparent suicide -- brings back Patrick
Labyorteau as Bud Roberts ... a character he played in this show's
predecessor, “JAG.” The second has Nick and Ellie go undercover
as a criminal couple.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. In the show's final season, it gives us the last battle
between Frankie (the 5-foot-2 Patricia Heaton) and her imposing
neighbor (the 6-foot Brooke Shields).

season-opener, 8 p.m., Freeform. “What you saw was real,” one cop
tells another. “The legends are true.” All of them, apparently;
this world has werewolves, warlocks, vampire and (fortunately)
heroes. Clare is being promoted to full “shadowhunter” status and
honored ... because people don't know her secret: She frittered the
one angelic wish away. Tonight's hour has lots of flash and action
(plus some terribly gory moments), alongside pretty people grasping
for truths.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. Reluctant heroes are fine, but this otherwise-solid show
goes too far. Its ninth episode is still about the reluctance of its
hero and, now, his younger daughter; only the older daughter embraces
her superpowers. The result has lots of angst, followed by brief
bursts of action.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's almost time for the 65th birthday of Pops
(Laurence Fishburne, who's only 56). When Dre helps Junior plan it,
he gets new a perspective on his dad's life.

“Modern Family,”
9:30, ABC. In a rerun, Alex's parents realize she's self-sufficient
in college.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. Manning and Choi go to a homeless encampment, to
deliver a baby under tough circumstances. Also, Rhodes and Bekker
disagree about a boy with a chronic disease.

TV column or Monday, March 19

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Here's a fresh sort
of theme week -- “great movie endings.” And no, that doesn't
mean happy, Hollywood ones. Coming up in the 8 p.m. slot are “The
Graduate” on Tuesday, “Breakfast at Tiffany's” on Wednesday,
“Sunset Boulevard” on Thursday and “The Third Man” on Friday.

Tonight's theme is
“going out with a bang.” (Remember, don't expect happy.) That
starts with this gem, ranked No. 42 on the American Film Insititute's
all-time list. It's followed by “The Lady From Shanghai” (1945)
at 10 p.m., “King Kong” (1933) at 11:45 and “Easy Rider”
(1969) at 1:45 a.m.

“Good Girls,” 10 p.m., NBC.

“I'm so tired of
almost being shot,” one woman says. That's understandable; in the
midst of Michigan suburbia, they ran out of money and robbed a
grocery store; now they're sinking deeper into crime.

The result gets
complicated, especially when one of the kids is getting bullied,
another wants a super birthday party ... and a third finds a bleeding
guy on her bed. “Good Girls” occasionally goes overboard –
especially with a new store-return scam – but it mostly mixes
comedy and drama effectively.

ALTERNATIVE: “Jackie Robinson,” 9-11 p.m., PBS; concludes

Robinson grew up in
Pasadena, far from the sunny scenes we see at Rose Bowl time. Blacks
were allowed to use the pool once a week; afterward, it was drained
and refilled. His brother was a track hero, running with Jesse Owens
... then got a job sweeping the streets.

Jackie would go on
to UCLA, the Army and a crucial role. Outspoken, he shut himself down
and focused on breaking baseball's color barrier. It's a big, deep
story, superbly told in this Ken Burns film.

ALTERNATIVE II: “iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

This show is an
actor's dream, with zombies assuming the personalities of the brains
they've munched. Liv continues to be a hopeless romantic, but now the
scheming Blaine is a truth-teller and, near the end, Major is
strutting like a wrestler. Also, Clive conjures up an alternate
personality for a video contact.

This wraps up the
search for a serial-killer, but leaves other stories stretching on.
And for the first time, Major meets the zombie-power church led by
Blaine's dad; Robert Knepper (“Prison Break”) frolics.

Other choices

“American Idol”
(ABC) and “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10 p.m. “Idol” is still in its
auditions, bouncing between four cities; “Voice,” however, starts
its “battle rounds.”

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 8 p.m., CW. Are our TV sets being overtaken by the
occult? Leading into “iZombie,” this hour has magical totems
bedeviling Sara and Rory. And at 8 p.m. on Fox, “Lucifer” probes
murders that seem way too much like ones from 60 years ago.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. In the midst of a lush Charity Ball, someone has dumped
a “Jane Doe” at the hospital. Conrad and Nicolette conspire to
get her admitted.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Randy (Katey Sagal), who just passed her detective's
exam, faces a new problem: Her former supervisor wants help with a
sexual-abuse charge filed against him.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Elective surgery would allow a young patient to smile
for the first time. Shaun – who pretty much never smiles –
doesn't see the need for that.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. These geniuses might not be good at alligator-hunting. Now
they need to catch a specific 'gator in the bayou, to prevent a
mosquito-borne virus from spreading.