TV column for Saturday, March 21


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Animated movies, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., ABC Family.

Kids don't want to
spend the weekend watching you scream at basketball players and
referees, right? Instead, you can cuddle in front of Disney films
that range from good to great.

At the core are two
classics -- “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) at 8:45 p.m. and
“Cinderella” (1949) at 10:30. They're surrounded by “Mulan”
(1990) at 3 p.m., “Princess and the Frog” (2009) at 5, “Little
Mermaid” (1989) at 7 and “Pocahontas” at 12:15 a.m.; Sunday
repeats everything, two hours sooner.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II:
Basketball, all day.

OK, maybe you do
want to spend the day screaming. CBS has four straight NCAA
tournament games; the first is at 12:15 p.m. ET, with others at about
2:35, 5:10 and 7:30.

At night, there are
also doubleheaders starting at 6 p.m. ET on TNT and 7 on TBS. That's an
eight-game day, with eight more Sunday; at the end of the weekend,
basketball will have its “sweet 16.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Black Sails,” 9 p.m., Starz; rerunning at 10:02 and
11:05.

A week from the
season-finale – and two weeks from the “Outlander”
season-opener – this well-crafted pirate adventure still has some
big issues to settle.

Looming since the
start of the season is the Urca gold; now Rackham goes after it.
Meawhile, Flint and Miranda make peace with their past and he
prepares to enter Charles Town. And Eleanor declares war.

Other choices
include:

“Secrets and
Lies,” 8 p.m., ABC. On the eve of the next new episode, you can
catch up with the efforts of Ben (Ryan Philippe), who can't remembert
what happened the night a neighbor boy was killed. Tonight, he learns
what his daughter was doing; he also begins to suspect Dr.
Richardson's family.

“Backstrom,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the rerun of a fairly good episode, Backstrom and his
team have three days to rescue a kidnapped girl. Also, Sgt. Almond
(Dennis Haysbert) has another concern: His storefront church is three
months behind on the mortgage and could face foreclosure.

“Good Witch,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. Four years ago, a “Good Witch” movie introduced
Abigail. Like her distant cousin Cassie (Catherine Bell), she has
some magic powers, unlike her, she has little restraint. Now she
returns; the kids are soon charmed, but Cassie is hesitant.

“In an Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. This series has gripping, first-person accounts of
survivial. Tonight, we meet a woman who was beaten, put in a garbage
can and locked in a wintertime storage shed.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Nick Hawley confronts his former caretaker,
with the help of Ichabod, Abbie and Jenny. And Frank Irving, the
former sheriff, adjusts to his post-death life.

“Aloha Vet”
debut, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. This reality show focuses on Dr. Scott
Sims, a Hawaiian veterinarian who reaches his patients – wild and
domestic – via horse, plane or ATV.

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 10 p.m. to midnight, TruTV; rerunning from 2-4 a.m. Once a
year, during early rounds of the basketball tournament, people
discover this channel (formerly Court TV). It has lots of odd shows
and a few good ones, led by this one: Michael Carbonaro is both a
magician and a charming actor who's skilled at improvising. He gives
hidden-camera shows a fresh, funny approach.

TV column for Friday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Glee” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

It's time to
celebrate a show that started hot and faded quickly. In its six
seasons, “Glee” has given us a zesty mix of vibrant music,
optimistic characters and perverse humor.

Tonight's first hour
goes back to 2009, when the glee club was being formed. The second
jumps to 2020, to see, among other things, whether Rachel (Lea
Michele) did become a Broadway star.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II:
Basketball, all day.

Here are 16 more
NCAA tournament games, starting with one – Kansas and New Mexico
State – that could be a nasty mismatch. That's 12:15 p.m. ET on
CBS; more promising is the Georgia-Michigan State game at 12:40 p.m.
on TruTV; others start at 1:40 p.m. on TBS and 2:10 on TNT.

CBS starts its
evening at 7:10 p.m. ET with Duke in another mismatch, but follows at about 9:30 with
St. Johns and San Diego State. Other doubleheaders start at 6:50 p.m.
on TBS, 7:20 on TNT and 7:27 on TruTV.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Yes, “Glee” has
a great young cast, led by the amazing Lea Michele, 28. Still, this
terrific rerun (from 2004) looks back at one of the most gifted young
performer of all.

Judy Garland was 14
when she started co-starring with Mickey Rooney, 16 when she started
filming “The Wizard of Oz” and “Babes in Toyland,” 21 when
she started “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Her voice soared; her life
wobbled. This film makes extensive use of tapes she made for an
unpublished book.

Other choices
include:

Movie musicals, 7:30
p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. First is the 1955 “MGM Parade” TV
series, with clips of Garland, Bert Lahr and Gene Kelly. Then is a
Julie Andrews marathon -- “Darling Lili” (1970) at 8 p.m. ET,
“Star” (1968) at 10:30 and “Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) at
1:30 a.m.

“Grimm,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Back from a five-week break, “Grimm” has a dark twist on the
“lucky rabbit's foot” notion: A human corpse's foot was removed.
Monroe and Rosalee go undercover to investigate.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. There's excitement at first, when Mandy
gets a dream opportunity – an internship with a top designer. Then
there's confusion, when she says she can't go.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. In Mexican-American tradition, the quinceanera
(celebrating a girl's 15th birthday) is big. Now the
family has been invited to one. For Cristela, that brings a flashback
to her first date; for her mom, it's a chance to impress, so she
wants Cristela to bring her law-office colleage Josh.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Sure, this sounds silly: Inadvertently zombified, a medical
resident works in a morgue so she can munch brains ... then finds
she's temporarily absorbing memories of murder victims. Still,
there's wit sprinkled into the story; if you missed Tuesday's debut,
catch its rerun now.

“12 Monkeys,” 9
p.m., Syfy. The bad news is that “12” takes another detour – a
wildly unlikely step by Cole's friend Ramse that seems designed only
to prolong the show. The good news is an expanded role for Emily
Hampshire, who's having a great year here (as mad Jennifer Goines)
and in “Schitt's Creek.”

“Unlikely Animal
Friends,” 10 p.m., NatGeo Wild. A farm dog mothers an orphaned
fawn; a rat and cat become friends. Also, an autistic boy connects
with a flock of chickens.

 

TV column for Thursday, March 19


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

This is a big night
for “Idol”: Jennifer Lopez performs ... the show, moving to
Wednesdays-only, has its final Thursday ... and one person (barring a
“save”) is ousted, finishing 11th. That can be rough.

Each year, the top
10 singers frolic on a three-month tour, No. 11 vanishes; when the
talented Alexis Grace just missed in 2009, she seemed devastated.
Yes, there are exceptions: One tour took 11 people; one No. 11 (Matt
Rogers) became a likable TV host and guest. Still, this should be a
tense night.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II:
Basketball, all day, four networks.

The first full round
of the college basketball tournament starts at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS,
with Notre Dame and Northeastern. There are four games apiece today
on CBS (sorry, no “Big Bang Theory”), TruTV (starting at 12:40
p.m.), TBS (1:40 p.m.) and TNT (2:10).

At night, CBS starts
with a good match-up -- Cincinnati and Purdue at 7:10 p.m. ET –
then has a Kentucky mismatch. The cable doubleheaders start with
Villanova and Lafayette,at 6:50 p.m. on TBS, North Carolina and
Harvard at 7:20 on TNT and Utah and Stephen F. Austin at 7:27 on
TruTV.

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

Matthew Rhys has
been on a hot streak. He does Emmy-quality work in FX's “The
Americans” ... starred in a good TV movie (“The Scapegoat”) and
a terrific mini-series (“Death Comes to Pemberley”) ... and is
credited with writing “a rousing tale” this dandy episode is
based on.

It's set in his
native Wales, where Archer is in a sports car, Lana is in seductive
sleepwear and two revolutionaries (one voiced by Rhys) burst in. Then
the fun builds.

Other choices
include:

“Dateline,” 8
p.m., NBC. With its “must-see Thursdays” crumbling, NBC has put
“Dateline” here, moving “The Slap” (high quality, low
ratings) to 10 p.m.; “The Blacklist” stays solid at 9.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. It's time for difficult attitude adjustments: April and
Jackson try to resume normal lives ... Arizona accepts the fact that
Callie is moving on ... Meredith discusses her biggest fear about
Derek ... And a patient causes Richard and Maggie to talk about
Alzheimer's.

“Teen Beach Movie”
(2013), 8 p.m., Disney. If you're skipping basketball, you can catch
a musical night – either “Idol” or this movie at 8, then the
visually vibrant “Flashdance” (1983) at 10 on Pop.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A woman plans to reveal the sex secrets of famous figures
in Washington.

“The Jinx,” 9
p.m., HBO. Born rich, Robert Durst became a suspect in several
deaths. This film (the finale of a documentary series) aired Sunday
... the day after his arrest in connection to a 2000 murder.

“Barely Famous,”
9:30 p.m., VH1. If you missed this debut Wednesday, catch it now.
Actress Sara Foster and her sister Erin (a comedy writer) cleverly
mock Sara's status as a semi-celebrity.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. Pain radiates through everyone related to the victims
and the suspects. Each scene is brilliantly written and acted; those
scenes, unfortunately, also have a sameness.

“Dig,” 10 p.m.,
USA. Many plotlines are juggled in this busy hour, ranging from New
Mexico to old Jerusalem to a boat ride with a maybe-sacred heifer.
It's simultaneously compelling and befuddling.

 

TV column for Wednesday, March 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Empire” season-finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

With emotions in
hyperdrive (sweetened by occasional songs), “Empire” has soared
in the ratings. Those emotions peaked last week, when Lucious
admitted to a gunman that he's the biological father of the girl his
son had considered his own. We found new reasons to hate him ... or
to admire his courage.

Both views are
common in this show, where Cookie (the superb Taraji Henson),
Lucious' ex-wife, has become our favorite ex-con. Tonight, their sons
have a musical duel; Patti LaBelle also performs.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Melissa & Joey,” 8 p.m., ABC Family.

At a time when
comedies are wobbling, this has great quantity (82 episodes in its
first three seasons) and adequate quality. The stars (Melissa Joan
Hart and Joey Lawrence) are likable, the jokes are OK and the stories
– unlike tonight's “Baby Daddy” – are non-stupid. Here's the
last new one until June.

After raising her
niece and nephew, Melissa is married to Joey and obsessing on getting
pregnant. Now comes a jolt: Her nephew, who left suddenly to work
for AmeriCorps, has returned just as abruptly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Untold Story of 'The Sound of Music,'” 10 p.m.,
ABC.

Fifty years ago this
month, the “Sound” movie debuted. Many critics grumped, noting
(correctly) that the story is slim and tepid; fans cheered, noting
(also correctly) that the music and Julie Andrews are superb. One
list says only “Gone With the Wind” and “Star Wars” have sold
more tickets.

The songs still
soar, as Lady Gaga and Carrie Underwood have proven lately. Now ABC
-- which shows “Sound” annually -- views the history of the film
and the real events that it (and the Broadway musical) fictionalized
broadly. Diane Sawyer takes Andrews to key Austrian sites she'd never
visited.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. So far, the hardy “blue collar” team has been
untouched, while “white collar” lost one person (retail buyer So
Kim) and “no collar” lost two (Vince Sly, a coconut vendor, and
Nina Poersch, an advocate for the hearing-impaired). Now CBS promises
to shake up the teams.

“The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a murder victim was a drag queen
AND a member of a secret fight club. Also, a friend (Kelly
Rutherford) takes Laura on a wild night on the town.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The Hecks learn that Darrin proposed to Sue ... and learn
what she said.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Loud and cartoonish, this show starts with an
awful plot, then piles things on noisily. Riley kept dating Ben, even
after knowing that she loved Danny (his brother) and Danny loved her.
Also, Ben and his mom wretchedly botch a secret-admirer Web scheme.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Claire grabs the last remaining first-class
seat on the plane, leaving Phil in coach. Also, Sal (Elizabeth Banks)
gets a belated baby shower.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. Someone is hacking into the dispatch system of a car
service, in order to target some of its high-end clients.

More drama, 10 p.m.,
cable. For classy hours, try FX's “The Americans” (Elizabeth has
a tough request) or BBC America's “Broadchurch” (Ellie finds some
distrubing evidence), which follows a terrific “Sherlock” at 8.
For something else, E reruns its debut of the glitzy “The Royals.”

TV column for Tuesday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

TV people just can't
stay dead these days. Post-death, they've been nasty (“Walking
Dead,” “Z Nation”), perplexed (“The Returned,”
“Resurrection”) or heroic (“A.D”). Now comes bemused.

Liv (Rose McIver), a
diligent medical resident, inadvertently attends a zombie party. She
becomes one of the undead, then gets a morgue job because she must
occasionally eat brains; as a bonus, she gets flashes of memory from
the people she devoured, helping catch killers. Rob Thomas (“Victoria
Mars”), the director and co-writer, adapts this from a comic book;
the result cleverly mixes drama and humor.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Undateable” season-oppener, 9 p.m., NBC.

In its first season,
“Undateable” had some moments that were witty – we expect that
from Bill Lawrence, the “Scurbs” and “Cougar Town” producer –
and some when the cynicism hit overload. The latter problem may
continue tonight; crass Danny teaches earnest Justin to have a
one-stand. Balancing that, however, is the addition of actress-singer
Bridgit Mendler, 22, as a wide-eyed waitress.

Mendler was very
likeable starring in Disney's “Lemonade Mouth” and “Good Luck
Charlie.” We'll hope this season is an improvement, making up for
the lame show (“One Big Happy”) that follows.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “180 Days: Hartsville,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Hartsville is a
hard-scabble town of 7,800, in a state (South Carolina) that finished
45th in the 2013 test scores. Families face cutbacks in
state funding, food programs and more; we meet a mom who leaves for
her first job at 6:15 a.m. and returns from her second at 11 p.m.

Still, local scores
are on the rise. Tracing a school year, “180 Days” is sometimes
discouraging – a parent-involvement meeting draws one person –
but often ripples with idealism and optimism.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. The battle round continues, giving NBC's comedies a big
lead-in.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here's a rerun of the fairly good pilot film,
with Eddie Huang recalling his culture shock at age 11: A big-city
hip-hop kid, he became the only Chinese-American in his Orlando
school. This pilot makes his mom cartoonish, but has enough clever
moments to hold us.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Gibbs is enraged by a scam hitting military
families.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns an episode that reunited the
“Quantum Leap” stars. Scott Bakula traces a 40-year-old case;
Dean Stockwell plays the father of his city-council enemy.

“One Big Happy,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Two longtime friends – she's gay, he's not –
agreed to conceive a baby. Then he meets someone with an irresistable
combination -- big breasts and a British accent. This is occasionally
funny (thanks to Elisha Cuthbert as the mom-to-be), but mostly just
blunt and noisy.

“The Mindy
Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Now that her pregnancy is showing, Mindy
consults a stylist.

“Justified,” 10
p.m., FX. One of the show's best characters makes a powerhouse
return. Four years ago, Kaitlyn Dever played Loretta, an orphaned
waif mentored by the local crime matriarch. She now plays the
youngest daughter on “Last Man Standing,” but tonight (at 18)
makes a key guest shot here. With guts, brains and inherited money,
Loretta throws a fresh complication into local crime schemes.