TV column for Friday, Feb. 28



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.


The season opens with a surprise -- two careful, cautious
men are suddenly at war. Hannibal Lecter, a therapist and serial killer, and
the FBI’s Jack Crawford are trying to kill each other.


It’s fierce, jolting … and a gimmick. This is a
flash-forward to the end of the season; “Hannibal” promptly returns to its
natural pace – slow, sleepy, elegantly acted. Will Graham (the brilliant Hugh
Dancy) is in jail, unable to convince anyone that Lecter has framed him; the
final scene is stunning.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: Business reality shows, all night,
four networks.


Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” starts its season at 8 p.m., opposite
CBS’ “Undercover Boss,” with ABC’s “Shark Tank” at 9. And filling out the
night, TNT debuts two shows from those producers.


“Inside Job” (9 p.m.), from the “Undercover” producer, is
kind of fun; four people compete for a job, unaware that one is a spy for the
employer. “Save My Business,” from the “Nightmares” producer, is merely OK;
Peter Jones, a 6-foot-7 British entrepreneur, grumbles about and then fixes a
business.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Casablanca” (1942), 8-10 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies.


Two days before the Academy Awards, it’s appropriate to
catch this masterpiece.


“Casablanca” won Oscars for best picture, its direction and
for a screenplay filled with lines that have become eternal. In 1997, the
American Film Institute picked “Casablanca” as the second-best movie ever,
trailing only “Citizen Kane”; in a 2007 revision, it put it No. 3, behind
“Kane” and “Godfather.”


Other choices include:


“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. What’s it like to have Brennan – ever
observant, never emotional – on the jury at your murder trial? We see in this
rerun … and then see a fresh murder case that follows.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Eve has a secret boyfriend
and her mom nudges her into a heart-to-heart talk. Then her sisters learn that
both teens will be at the same ROTC sleepover.


 “The Neighbors,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Debbie invites her old friends to an Oscar party. Feeling left out,
the neighbors from outer space plan an extreme party; Erik Estrada and Carrot
Top play themselves.


“Jazz and the Philharmonic,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). This concert links jazz greats – singer Bobby McFerrin, trumpeter
Terence Blanchard, pianists Chick Correa and Dave Grusin – with the Henry
Mancini Institute Orchestra, in Miami.


“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. Pete is confronted by the
girlfriend he left (without telling her) for Afghanistan.


“Raising Hope,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. The new boyfriend (Tommy
Chong) of Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) dares her to take chances … a challenge
soon faced by her daughter and grandson.


“Helix,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Alan Farragut and Julia Walker –
once married to each other, both still doctors at the Centers for Disease
Control – make a daring attempt to destroy the virus.


“Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. Often terrific, this show makes
a detour tonight, with an hour so brutal that even revenge leaves viewers
feeling awful.


TV column for Thursday, Feb. 27



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.

This show has the remarkable ability to change form each
week. Tonight’s excellent episode is more drama than comedy (albeit with funny
moments peppered in), with three tales.


One has Duncan (John Oliver) making a romantic move at
Britta, who promptly faces an identity crisis; another is a supernatural tale
with Chang. But the real gem has Abed and Hickey (Jonathan Banks, the
Emmy-nominated hit man from “Breaking Bad”) in a neatly crafted, two-man
mini-play.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Scandal” return, 10 p.m., ABC.


After their Dec. 12 episodes, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”
vanished for 11 weeks.


Now they’re back and Olivia has a challenging new role. There’s
a jolting announcement from Vice-President Sally Langston and a look at aftershocks
to Mellie, when she was raped by her father-in-law.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Red Road” debut, 9 p.m.,
Sundance.


In a backwoods town, hard-scrabble groups co-exist. There
are whites, blacks and members of an American Indian tribe that is still
scrambling for federal recognition.


Now a quiet cop juggles crises. His wife (Julianne
Nicholson) blames Indians for her brother’s death, 20 years ago; she snaps when
their daughter dates an amiable Indian teen. Now a visiting student has
vanished and a giant ex-con (Jason Momoa) has returned; Nicholson and Momoa are
superb.


Other choices include:


“Countdown to the Oscars,” 8 p.m., ABC; “And the Oscar Goes
To …,” 9-11 p.m., CNN. Three days before the Academy Awards, we get a full
night of documentaries. ABC profiles Jonah Hill and Lupita Nyong’o and views
stars’ early days; CNN’s film (which aired on Turner Classic Movies) is a fun
history ride, with great clips and comments … and a reminder that acceptance
speeches can (occasionally) be interesting.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Two big decisions loom
-- Wolowitz considering another space mission; Leonard buying a table.


“Hollywood Game Night,” 9 p.m., NBC. Sean Hayes produces
this show and is one of the players tonight … as it takes over the time slot,
shelving his own “Sean Saves the World” plus “The Michael J. Fox Show.”


“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. The show returns amid discontent.
Meredith is angry at Derek for reneging on a promise; Arizona and Callie decide
whether or not they’ll stay together.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. This show has now
swapped time slots with “The Crazy Ones.” Tonight, Alan wants Lyndsey to choose
between him and Larry.


“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. After a month-long break, the
show returns with consternation. Julia and Joel have split; Crosby and Jasmine
have moved in with his parents, while work is done on their home.


“Vikings,” 10 p.m., History. The first season’s finale saw Ragnar
have sex with Princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). Now she visits his world,
creating quick aftershocks. First, however, it’s brother-vs.-brother when
Ragnar fights for King Horik and Rollo for Jarl Bork. The result is brutal and fairly
unsatisfying.


“Portlandia,” 10 p.m., IFC. This oft-wonderful show launches
its new season of short-form comedy.


TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 26



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Survivor” opener, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

The battle of the reality giants resumes tonight. It’s
“Survivor” – which started the U.S. splurge in 2000 – against “American Idol,”
which took over the TV world two years later. Both have slipped a bit, so “Survivor”
has a fresh theme – “brawn vs. brains vs. beauty.”


Each tribe starts with three men and three women. “Brawn”
has, among others, two cops, a martial arts instructor and former
pro-basketball all-star Cliff Robinson. “Beauty” includes a model, a former NFL
cheerleader and a former Miss Kentucky Teen USA. “Brains” has two lawyers and a
nuclear engineer.


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


Here’s the phase that people seem to prefer: Finalist
perform live each Wednesday; viewers vote and one is ousted the next night.


Last week, viewers and judges set the line-up, with seven
females (ages 16-24) and six males (17-24). Now each has chosen a song that
says “this is me”; on Thursday, we’ll see who is the first to go.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans” season-opener, 10
p.m., FX.


Last season was a rough one for “Phillip” and “Elizabeth.”
Soviet spies who have been in a contrived American marriage, they prepared to
divorce. Then they were almost discovered and she was shot.


Tonight starts with him on some quick, slick missions as she
recovers and returns home. Then a third mission turns fierce; it’s a great hour
with (as usual) stellar work from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.


Other choices include:


“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). As soft and
soothing as a lullaby, this film captures a year on Ireland’s Shannon River. It
offers gorgeous visions of everything from bats to butterflies.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Chicago PD,” 9
and 10 p.m., NBC. The “SVU” case involves a rude comedian (Jonathan Silverman)
who may have triggered a rape. Also, a story begins in that hour and continues
in the next one, as Chicago faces a string of rapes and murders.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Having lost a social
chairmanship to his nemesis, Phil obsesses when their sons face each other in
wrestling. Also, Gloria must chaperone a museum trip.


“Mixology” debut, 9:30 p.m., ABC. Newly split from his
fiance, a decent chap arrives at a bar, fueled by alcohol and bad advice. This
season, we’ll see that night, each week from a different perspective. Tonight’s
humor is sometimes blunt, but mostly quick and clever, with flashbacks to liven
the fun.


“Legit” season-opener, 10 p.m., FXX. Jim Jefferies (the
Australian actor playing himself) is at a low point, after blowing a big role.
Things get worse when Dr. Drew Pinsky suggests he quit watching porn and attend
sex-addict therapy. The result teeters between the crude and the clever, but
ends well.


“Ali G: Rezurection,” 10:30 p.m., FXX. A decade ago, Sacha
Baron Cohen did a dozen sometimes-brilliant half-hours of “Da Ali G Show” for
HBO and British TV, doing hidden-camera work as Ali and other odd chaps. Now
Cohen re-introduces those 12 episodes, plus six previous ones only shown in
England.


TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 25



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “About a Boy” and “Growing Up Fisher,” 9:01
and 9:31 p.m., NBC.

After cozy, Olympic debuts, these comedies TAKE semi-comfy
spots behind “The Voice.” Both mix wit and warmth, while taking full advantage
of being filmed movie-style. A studio-audience comedy could never match the
pool party (complete with bikinis, high-dive and tiger) in “Boy” tonight.


“Boy” does strain a little, taking its lead character (David
Walton as a self-centered womanizer) to the edge of being irredeemable. By
comparison, all the “Fisher” people (led by J.K. Simmons as a blind lawyer and
Jenna Elfman as his divorcing wife) are instantly likable.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Mind Games” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.


Brilliant and bipolar, Clark (Steve Zahn) is an expert on
manipulation techniques. He’s also fragile and decent; his brother Ross (Christian
Slater), an ex-con, is neither.


Now Clark has lost his faculty job because of an affair and
reluctantly works in a new firm with his brother, using his skills for good
and/or profit. Zahn is superb, in a great follow-up to his “Treme” work; still,
this opener is tangled and difficult to enjoy.


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


Last week, FX decided to skip a week, avoiding a
confrontation with the Olympics. Good move; this episode is way too good to
waste when people are watching something else.


Raylan is ignored by his boss and mocked by his
maybe-girlfriend, who’s not his usual bar-bimbo type. Still, he manages to find
a computer-fraud case that’s funny and interesting. The bigger deals involve
Crowders. In prison, Ava spots a scheme; in Mexico, Boyd’s in a complex deal
that ends powerfully.


Other choices include:


“The Bachelor,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. In a transplanted episode, Juan
Pablo Galavis heads to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, with the three women
he chose in Monday’s episode, after visiting four home towns,


“NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. The
ratings-leaders have new episodes, scrambling to catch defective bullet-proof
vests, then chasing for an assassin from Sam and Callen’s first case together.


“Glee” return, 8 p.m., Fox. Competition can bring frayed
emotions. Santana wins the spot understudying for Rachel in “Funny Girl”; back
home in Ohio, Tina and Artie compete for valedictorian.


“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Last week, Jess’ wild sister (Linda
Cardellini of “ER” and “Mad Men” visited. Now she jolts Jess by planning to
stay … and by eying romance with one of the loftmates.


“Frontline,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This
views the dramatic transformation, as Pope Benedict retired and Pope Francis
brought a new view of the Vatican.


“Brooklyn Nine Nine,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Facing crushing debt,
Jake (Andy Samberg) might be tossed out of his apartment … unless Gina comes up
with a scheme. Also, Holt and Jeffords hold performance reviews.


“Perception” return, 10 p.m., TNT. Did a young savant steal
a train and kill the security guard who harassed him? The case ends up being
far more complex, with some too-convenient twists. The comic sub-plot (about a
young prodigy) is lame, but the epilog is well-done.


 


TV column for Monday, Feb. 24



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Voice” season-opener, 8-10:01 p.m.,
NBC.

Vaulting out of the Olympics, NBC thas this ratings-leader,
followed by “Blacklist” and more.


This is the mid-season edition of “Voice,” with half the
judges (Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green) gone on tour or whatever. Blake
Shelton and Adam Levine remain, joined by Usher and Shakira.


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


It’s time for Juan Pablo Galavis to visit the home towns of
the final four.


There’s Atlanta with Andi, 26, an assistant district attorney­­­­
… Sacramento with Clare, 32, a hair stylist …  Kansas City, Mo., where Nikki, 26, a pediatric
nurse, challenges hin to ride a mechanical bull … And Sarasota, Fla., where he
watches the 8-year-old son of Renee (32, a real-estate agent) play Little
League.


He’ll choose three women … and we’ll promptly learn the next
step, in a transplanted Tuesday episode.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Late Night with Seth Meyers” debut,
12:35 a.m., NBC.


Stepping into his new world, Meyers has many of the people who
were with his dozen years at “Saturday Night Live,” where he became the gifted
head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor.


One guest is Amy Poehler, his “Update” co-host; another is
Joe Biden … often their target. “SNL” also provided his producers and Alex
Baze, his head writer. And in the surprise, Fred Armisen – a sometimes-rocker
and frequent comedy talent -- is the band leader.  The music guest is A Great Big World.


Other choices include:


“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Just five weeks from
its finale, this show finds a wedding-day crisis. Barney has a hangover and friends
scramble to concoct the “Stimson hangover fixer elixir.”


“2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Invited to the loft of Nicolas
(Gilles Marini), Caroline brings friends.


“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. Mike nudges Molly to see a
therapist.


“Dallas” season-opener, 9 p.m., TNT. In this version of
Texas, everyone is beautiful, most people are lying and many of them live in
one Southfork ranch house. Now Elena (Jordana Brewster), the brainy and
educated daughter of a Southfork maid, has slid to the dark side; she lies a
lot, albeit beautifully.  


“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. With Christy obsessing on her
boyfriend, her oft-irresponsible mom helps out.


“Nashville Wives,” 10 p.m., TNT. Strange bedfellows fill
Nashville, we’re told. Gary Chapman’s marriage went from Christian-music
favorite Amy Grant to a former Hooters waitress 23 years his junior. Raul Malo
of the Mavericks is married to half of high-energy twins. Bryan White is trying
to revive his career just as his wife tries to re-start hers. These are
interesting people in a colorful and musical city.


“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Liz is an honest FBI
agent, but now Red convinces her to try a heist in the midst of an elaborate
party at the Syrian embassy.