TV column for Wednesday, March 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Sherlock” and “Broadchurch” openers, 8 and 10 p.m., BBC
America.

Here is British
greatness, back-to-back. Over the next three weeks, this cable
channel reruns the first season of PBS' “Sherlock” films, with
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in modern London. Steven Moffat's
witty scripts link with sleek direction and with stars (Benedict
Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) who would soon become famous via
“The Imitation Game,” “Fargo” and “The Hobbit.”

Tonight's film leads
to the second-season opener of “Broadchurch,” which was brilliant
last year. David Tennant is back as the troubled cop who came to a
seaside town in time to solve (barely) a murder.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“CSI: Cyber” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

In her Oscar-winning
“Boyhood” performance, Patricia Arquette showed a beautifully
calibrated range of emotions. Now “Cyber” asks her to use maybe 8
percent of that skill.

The “CSI” shows
lean toward cold, just-the-facts crimesolving. This one is even more,
focusing on computer crimes. Arquette heads the unit, which includes
macho Elijah Mundo (an FBI guy played by James Van Der Beek) and lots
of cyber-types. In the OK opener, they tackle a kidnapping trend.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Idol” and “Empire,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

“Idol” has a
talented and varied batch of guys, we learned last Tuesday. Ranging
from growling rock to quiet ballads, they drew praise from the
judges. Now, in the season's first live show, we learn which eight of
the 12 guys survive to sing again tonight; the women will do the same
on Thursday.

Tonight's hour leads
into a key “Empire,” as Cookie discovers the dark scheme of
Anika, the fiancee of her ex-husband Lucious. With his record company
wobbling, all three of his sons are busy. Jamal gets close to a top
star; she's played by Estelle, who won a Grammy for “American Boy”
back in 2008.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. With the battle round starting next week, the show
pauses to rerun highlights from its blind auditions.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. When it comes to survival, will the blue-collar,
white-collar or “no-collar” tribe prevail: Last week brought a
white-collar loss, with So Kim (a retail buyer) the first one ousted.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Everyone's uncomfortable tonight. Sue has to take her
little brother to a science-fiction convention. Their mom overdoes
some flirting with her older son's friend. And their dad has to
prepare his father (played by Jerry Van Duke, 83) for his drivers'
test.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Last week's brilliant episode saw cyber-snooping spur
the mistaken belief that Haley eloped with Andy the nanny (Adam
DeVine). Now her acttual feelings become complicated when he's rushed
to the hospital. Also, Claire and her dad argue about a TV
commercial.

“The Breakfast
Club” (1985), 9-11 p.m., ABC Family. Judd Nelson's past and present
collide tonight. Nelson, 54. continues his “Empire” role as Billy
Beretti, Lucious' nemesis; here, he's a tough teen in John Hughes'
flawed-but-worthy tale of mismatched kids communing during detention.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Some classic actors collide, when Dre and Rainbow plan to
renew their wedding vows. That ignites conflicts between his
traditional dad (Emmy-winner Laurence Fishburne) and her hippie
parents (Emmy-winner Beau Bridges and Tony-nominee Anna Deveare
Smith).

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan guest, as Rayna prepares for
the anniversary of her induction into the Grand Old Opry. She wants
Deacon and her daughters to perform with her.

TV column for Tuesday, March 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.

As morning intrudes,
Jess and Cece begin what some call a walk of shame. Still in
nightclub dresses, high heels and a hangover haze, they take the long
walk home, complete with detours and flashbacks.

If this had been
stretched into an entire episode, it would have been a
“Seinfeld”-style classic. Instead, it's paired with a story
(Coach and his cellist girlfriend) that's merely OK. Still, some
moments – especially with Josh Gad (Broadway's “Book of Mormon”)
helping concoct a musical -- are hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Agents of SHIELD” return, 9 p.m., ABC.

After a three-month
break (filled by “Agent Carter”) the team is back, with plenty to
worry about.

Yes, it blew up an
alien city before Hydra could get it. Still, the alien Obelisk has
transformed Raina into something inhuman and has given Skye powers
she can't yet control. Skye's dad Cal (Kyle McLachlan) and former
SHIELD agent Ward are scheming. And there may be a spy on the team.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.

Walker is on the run
now, wounded and deadly. Amid a massive manhunt, there are key
distractions.

Raylan greets the
arrival of Winona and their baby. His nemesis Boyd is on an emotional
country jaunt with Ava, who is his lover and previously was his
brother's abused wife and vengeful killer. That lets two terrific
actors (Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter) mine a rich range of moods
and passions.

Other choices
include:

“Hell's Kitchen”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox. After using up all his niceness on
“MasterChef Junior,” Gordon Ramsay rages anew. There's plenty to
yell about: One chef forgets to turn the oven on; another insists:
“I'm not really used to people spitting out my food.” Let's hope
not.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun with hints of “Captain Phillips,” Gibbs finds
himself on a ship controlled by pirates.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC. This is a big night for Eddie's mom, who's been
invited to the country club. It's a discouraging one for Eddie:
Honey's hot step-daughter has been hired to babysit.

“The Artist”
(2011) and “The King's Speech” (2010), 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies. Here's a chance to see (or record) two superb films,
each of which won Oscars for best picture, director and actor.
“Speech” has Colin Firth as King George VI, struggling with his
stuttering; “Artist” is in the style of a black-and-white silent
film, with Jean Dujardin as a fading star

“NCIS: New
Orleans.” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a petty officer killed
shortly before he could propose. There's no sign, however, that his
girlfriend actually exists.

“The Mindy
Project,” 9:30, Fox. After opening her fertility clinic, Mindy
finds it's not easy to attract patients when you have zero experience
in the field.

“Forever,” 10
p.m., ABC. For generations, people have threatened to reveal the fact
that Henry has eternal life. We see one example in 1865, when his
first wife (Jane Alexander) threatened to tell; we also see a modern
example, as truth-and-openness issues cloud his investigation of
hackers.

TV column for Monday, March 2


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Following” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

Things should be
fine now: Joe Carroll is on Death Row and Ryan (Kevin Bacon) is back
is in good stead with the FBI; so is his niece Max, who has a joyous
lesbian wedding as this hour begins.

Soon, of course,
things collapse; “the killing is only beginning,” Ryan warns.
It's staged in grisly tableaus, led by a guy who's whacko in a Norman
Bates kind of way. So far, he's not very intertesting; instead, we
can focus on the complexities of Ryan's mind and his life.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Next week, Chris
Soules will make his choice. Two big-city medical people are left –
Whitney, 29, a fertility nurse in Chicago and Becca, 25, a
chiropractic nurse in San Diego; one could face the possibility of
marrying a 33-year-old farmer in small-town Iowa.

First, the show
pauses tonight to let the women comment on Soules and on each other.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Chasing Life,” 9 p.m., ABC Family ... and others.

TV executives are
busy buying and adapting shows from overseas. That works occasionally
with scripted shows (from “All in the Family” to “The Office”)
and often with reality.

“Chasing Life”
is from a Mexican series about a young cancer patient; tonight,
fearing a recurrence, she ranges from religion to pot. Also at 9
p.m., CW has the clever “Jane the Virgin,” adapted from
Venezuela; in a rerun tonight, Jane faces a career choice. And at
10:01 p.m., ABC reruns the first hour of “Secrets and Lies”;
adapted from Australia, it's a tensely terrific crime mini-series.

Other choices
include:

“New Worlds,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. After a
slow start, this four-parter has become a potent view of British
cruelty at home and in Massachusetts, before the Revolutionary War.
Tonight, Beth (once rich, now exiled to America) sees life from the
Indian perspective. The finale is next Monday.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Another villain arrives tonight, with a gifted actor in
the role. This is Dr. Dulmacher; we already know he's been kidnapping
kids and selling them for body parts. He's played by Colm Feore, a
gifted Canadian who's been a favorite of critics since the 1993
“Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.” And tonight, Fish
(Jada Pinkett Smith) seems to be linking with him.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode with Lindsay Lohan as a jumpy
bride who can't decide what kind of cake she wants ... and can't
decide much else.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Mike's mom – who already has plenty of
time to grumble about things – suddenly announces she's retiring.
Now Molly wants to plan a retirement party.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team must protect Cabe's ex-wife, after
she finds key evidence.

“The Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. Texas ranch life can be dangerous, we find. First, a
rancher accidentally shoots his wife; then a young football star is
critically injured at a party. Both cases are worked by TC who, by
the end of last week's opener, was back on staff and back with
Jordan.

“Shahs of Sunset”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. The fourth season begins for this
sometimes-controversial reality show about prosperous young
Iranian-Americans. At the Persian New Year celebration, Mike picks a
fight with Asifa Mirza's boyfrfiend and Reza tries to be a
peacemaker.

TV column for Sunday, March 1


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Battle Creek” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

A Hollywood
tradition – mismatched cop duos – is done with wit and subtle
skill. Russ (Dean Winters) is a small-town police detective, rumpled
and ragged; Milt (Josh Duhamel) has just arrived from Detroit as an
FBI agent, blessed with optimism, technology and leading-man looks.

They have
interesting colleagues -- including Janet McTeer (a two-time Oscar
nominee) as Russ' boss – and sharp stories. This opener, written 12
years ago by Vince Gilligan before he did “Breaking Bad,” is a
dandy; in the weeks ahead, producer David Shore (“House”)
continues the surprises and the wit.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Secrets and Lies” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

One morning in
suburbia, Ben (Ryan Phillippe) is racing back; during his jog in the
woods, he says, he found a body. Soon, the murder case dominates this
pleasant neighborhood and beyond.

Complicating things
is the fact that Ben and others have their own secrets. Yes, he's
flawed ... but is he a killer? With one exception – the usually
terrific Juliette Lewis turns a cop into a cardboard character --
“Secrets” is beautifully written and acted. There are eight more
hours, at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Last Man on Earth” debut, 9-10 p.m., Fox.

At a time when
same-same comedies are floundering, this one is daringly different.
The first half of this hour has exactly one actor (not counting brief
flashbacks); the second half doubles that.

Will Forte plays the
only guy, seemingly, to survive a global virus. That leads to an
endless string of bittersweet sight gags that are clever at first,
then wear thin. Then he finally meets his dream girl ... or, as
played by Kristen Schaal, a hiliarious variation of his dreams. From
there, “Last Man” shines.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Downton Abbey” season-finale, 9-11
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The Crawleys are
headed out for a game-hunting vacation, presided over by Rose's
grumpy new father-in-law and his bigoted butler. Back home, the staff
can relax ... or worry about Anna's murder charges.

What follows is mild
– the Anna portions are a bit lame – yet elegantly entertaining.
There's a key departure and then, in the final minutes, a character
connection that is quietly delightful.

Other choices
include:

“Argo” and “Zero
Dark Thirty” (both 2012), 5:30 and 8 p.m., FX. These real-life
stories of international crises drew Oscar nominations for best
picture. “Argo,” which includes some fun moments, won; “Zero”
is compelling, despite its overemphasis on torture.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. After a 10-week break, this lush show returns
to find the people in Storybrooke relaxing – for a moment – after
banishing Mr. Gold. Alas, he's busy linking three classic villains
whom the show introduced briefly in December – Maleficent, Ursula
and Cruella De Vill.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. This show and “The Good Wife” are both back from
six-week breaks. Tonight, Elizabeth's staff can't find the corruption
in her micro-loan program.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. It's time for the wedding of Charles'
dad and Gina's mom. All Jake (Andy Samberg) must do is don a tux, get
the ring and help catch a crook; what could go wrong? OK, you
probably guessed what, but it's astill a sharp, funny episode.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Can a TV producer be sued for a character who's clearly
based on a real person? Diane and Cary work the lawsuit for Colin
Sweeney (Dylan Baker), while Alicia focuses on her election campaign.
Ed Asner plays a big-time political contributor.

“Christina Millan
Turned Up” season finale, 10 p.m., E. A camping trip with her
sisters deteriorates. Back home, Christina focuses on her music and
her sister gets a grand gesture from her husband.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Jimmy Kimmel post-Oscar show, 8 p.m., ABC.

Some of the best
Oscar-night humor came long after the show had ended. The Oscarcast
was strong on music, but surprisingly weak on humor; afterward,
Kimmel's special (which reruns here) perked things up. “Lie Witness
News” is so-so, but the two-part “Kimmel School of Perfect
Acting” is a gem.

Kimmel teaches Eddie
Remayne how to say “Hello, I'm a fancy British man” .... And Matt
Damon how to be a chair and a lamp. He demands that Sean Penn make
love to the camera (literally) and Susan Sarandon fill a pitcher with
tears. (“Tilda Swinton would have filled three or four.”) It's
brilliant.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Shania: Still the One,” 9 p.m., ABC.

When Shania Twain
created her Las Vegas show, she didn't settle for country casual. She
included a 13-piece band, dancers, horses, a flying motorcycle and
Vegas glitter,.

In December, Twain
wrapped up a two-year run that included 105 shows. This special
combines performances and background footage of the preparations.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Good Witch” series debut, 8 p.m., Hallmark,
rerunning at 10.

There is a worthy
goal that more shows should try: Create a fictional town, flesh out
its people, tell human stories that don't lean much on cops and
hospitals. Such shows (“Northern Exposure,” “Avonlea,” etc.),
are rare; now (with “Cedar Cove” and “When Calls the Heart”)
Hallmark has its third.

In seven amiable
movies (five of which rerun now, starting at 10 a.m.), Cassie
(Catherine Bell) showed a small dose of witch-ly powers and great
doses of goodness, Now she's widowed, with a teen, two grown
step-kids ... and a doctor (James Denton) moving next door. It's
gentle, mild and fairly pleasant.

Other choices
include:

“Jaws” (1975), 6
p.m., AMC. A strong movie night starts early, with this classic and
with “The Fugitive” (1993) at 6:15 p.m. on Sundance. There's
more, including “A River Runs Through It,” beautifully directed
by Robert Redford, at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

Hockey, 8 p.m. ET,
NBC. Yes, hockey (Rangers at Flyers) in prime time, on NBC, which
next week has boxing. Both are usually confined to the NBC Sports
Network ... which tonight has soccer.

“Motown 25,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). On the final day of Black History
Month – and one of the first days of pledge drives – many
stations are rerunning this 1983 classic. It opened with Smokey
Robinson, closed with the Supremes and had other greats in-between,
including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, the Temptations
and (doing his first TV “moonwalk”) Michael Jackson.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, somet important software has
been stolen and the lead engineer's 10-year-old daughter is missing.
She's someone Sam previously guarded in Saudia Arabia.

“Backstrom,” 8
p.m., Fox. This rerun finds a way to cut through Backstrom's icy
facade: His former fiance (well-played by Sarah Chalke) arrives to
head the Civilian Oversight Committee.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. A rerun of the Dec. 1 episode offers a battle between
good and evil.

“Black Sails,” 9
p.m., Starz. Juggling a precarious peace on her island, Eleanor
brokers a deal.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Dakota Johnson grew up around Hollywood
fame, via her parents (Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), grandmother
(Tippi Hedren) and stepfather (Antonio Banderas). She showed a nimble
comedy touch with “Ben and Kate,” then tured serious with “Fifty
Shades of Grey.” Now she's back on the light side, hosting “SNL,”
with music from Alabama Shakes.