TV column for Thursday, March 6



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

“Idol” is busy harvesting its pas. Candace Glover, the 2013
winner, sang last week; tonight, Phillip Phillips, the 2012 champion, sings “Raging
Fire.” Also, the Irish band Kodaline does “All I Want.”


Last week, Kristen O’Connor – a pleasant singer without a
specific fan base – was ousted, trimming the field to 12. On Wednesday, each
sang something related to “Home”; tonight, one will be sent home.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Chicagoland” debut, 10 p.m. ET, CNN;
reruns at 1 a.m.


Here is great documentary-making, with depth and passion. On
eight Thursdays (rerunning Saturdays at 8 and 11 p.m. and Sundays at 10 p.m.
and 1 a.m., it will view Chicago from all sides. It follows Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
but also the people enraged by his school-closings. It finds compelling people,
particularly Elizabeth Dozier, a young high school principal.


The same producers’ “Brick City” (about Newark) won a
Peabody Award, but this is even better. It has a brighter look … has music and
narration … and has Chicago, a complex city, ready for its close-up.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” return
(8 p.m., ABC) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), 9-11 p.m., ABC Family.


We can spend the entire night in Wonderland, with two tales
imagining Alice as a young adult.


The movie has story problems – a battle-scene finale? – but also
has the immense talent of Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton; before that,
“Once” has fresh twists: Alice reluctantly links with Cyrus and the Red Queen
to rescue the Knave; when the Red Queen is captured, Jafar takes over her
castle.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Review” debut, 10 p.m., Comedy
Central.


We hear a lot of bad things about stealing, addiction and
proms, but how do we know for sure?


Now critic Forrest MacNeil (played by Andy Daly) tries and
reviews each. This is tough on his intern and his prom date (his babysitter),
but he remains enthusiastic. The offbeat humor keeps growing.


Other choices include:


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After feuding, Sheldon
and Howard might go to Houston together.


 “Saint George” debut,
9 p.m., FX. George Lopez is a smart comedian, but he’s surrounded by foolishness
here. He plays a sweet-spirited teacher (with a foul-hearted mother) who keeps
working after making a fortune. There’s potential, but the supporting
characters – especially his boss – are wildly overblown.


“The Red Road,” 9 p.m., Sundance. The compelling opener (rerunning
at 8) saw a cop’s addled wife (the superb Julianne Nicholson) in a hit-and-run
accident. In this well-crafted hour, the cop tries a cover-up.


“Suits” return, 9 p.m., USA. Amid its suffocating cynicism, this
tries to insert bits of humor and heart. Mostly, however, the cynicism crushes
the rest.


“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. At a presidential event, Fitz faces
a harsh reality.


“Sirens” debut, 10:01 and 10:31 p.m., USA. In “Rescue Me,”
Denis Leary brilliantly mixed deep drama with small bits of loopy comedy. Now
Leary (as a producer, but not an actor) skips the deep stuff in this story of
Chicago paramedics. Some moments are hilarious; many are just goofy.


TV column for Wednesday, March 5



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mixology, 9:31 p.m., ABC.


Early in this witty half-hour, our narrator (Jason Bateman)
sums up an engaged couple: “Liv and Jim like scrapbooking, cheese and the
entire CBS comedy line-up. (They) make the safe choice.”


ABC shows rarely make safe choices. They take big risks,
fail often and occasionally succeed. “Mixology” is hugely risky, devoting the
entire season to one night at a singles bar. It has one character who’s
overbearing (Bruce, the know-it-all) and many who are delightful. Tonight
focuses on two of the best: Ron is British and solemn; Liv is, alas, engaged to
Jim.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.


Life was already tangled for the people who calls themselves
Philip and Elizabeth; they’re Russian spies who have lived as Americans in a
contrived marriage for decades. Last week, someone killed another spy couple,
even killing their daughter; now Elizabeth (Keri Russell) obsesses on
protecting her own kids.


There’s little time for that, in another involving hour. She
and Philip face separate crises … while a walk-in at the Russian office causes
a stir­­, especially with a double agent working there.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Flipping Out” season-opener, 10
p.m., Bravo.


Last season (rerunning from noon to 10 p.m.) brought angst for
Jeff Lewis, but now things brighten. The economy is better and he has big remodeling
jobs at the homes of actors George Eads and Mark-Paul Gosselaar; also, he has a
new paint product and his assistant, Jenni Pulos, is married and pregnant.


Naturally, Lewis finds ways to complicate things in this OK
episode. He teases Pulos, argues with his demolition man and launches a search
for a 4-foot-6-inch person to become a dancing paint can.


Other choices include:


“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. A monsoon drenches the survivors,
while the “brains” tribe tries to stop its skid. In the two-hour opener, it
lost a pro poker player and the president of the Miami Marlins. It still has a
lawyer, a nuclear engineer, a student and an accountant.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Forced to actually take some
vacation days, Mike re-learns that Brick can be annoying. Also, Sue
overcompensates after her work gets a bad review Online.


“Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Urged by his daughter to
avoid suburban lifestyle, George heads into New York City with Fred (Chris
Parnell), with surprising results.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Cam is in charge of the spring
dance and fumes at the popularity of a returning teacher. Claire chaperones at
the dance, so Phil takes their daughter to a Realtors’ banquet, trying to
impress her. Meanwhile, Mitchell is perplexed by his new boss and work
environment.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. An Elvis
impersonator and a bird have been killed. Somehow, these two are connected.


“Legit” and “Ali G: Rezurection,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., FXX.
This may be the darkest hour on TV.  “Legit”
has Jim (Australian actor Jim Jefferies) telling a black-humor joke that kills –
literally; in a bleak way, what follows is quite funny. “Rezurrection” reruns
episodes of HBO’s “Da Ali G Show,” with Sasha Baron Cohen posing as various
foreigners; tonight’s mid-section – Borat learns American dating – is hilarious.


TV column for Tuesday, March 4



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Perception,” 10:01 p.m., TNT.

This smart series often keeps Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith) in
the background. As a grad assistant, he patiently helps Pierce, whose mind is
brilliant and erratic, including chats with imaginary people.


Now Max moves to the foreground – first with an offer from
the dean (LeVar Burton), then with a surprise visitor. The resulting story is a
little about race and a lot about loyalty and (as usual) perception.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “About a Boy” and “Growing Up Fisher,”
9:01-10 p.m., NBC.


These are excellent comedies – better ones, perhaps, than
their network deserves.


NBC debuted both during the Olympics and scheduled the
second episodes for last Tuesday. Instead, without warning, it apparently reran
the first episodes, bewildering viewers and killing momentum. Now it finally
runs the second episodes – a fairly good “Boy” and a terrific “Fisher.”


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Goldbergs,” 9:01 p.m., ABC.


Then again, you could skip “Boy” and catch a fairly good
“Goldbergs.” It starts poorly – people being mean to family members for no
reason – and ends well.


Adam’s obsession with “Goonies” propels a chance to help his
grandfather. Stick with it to the end, for some fun involving a real-life
boyhood friend of Adam Goldberg, who created this oft-fun show.


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


Last week ended with a shoot-out in the Mexican desert. Now
Boyd has four bodies to dispose of and a lot of drugs to slip across the
border.


Meanwhile, Raylan has a fresh problem. Kendall, a troubled
teen, is encased in a mess that includes a jumpy “uncle,” a quick-witted “aunt”
(these people are rarely truthful about their identities) and a vengeful
stranger. It’s a good episode, even though none of the stories have sharp
endings.


Other choices include:


“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC. Agent John Garrett (Bill
Paxton) arrives as Coulson races to save Skye.


“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. As their graduation looms, Tina, Blaine
and Sam try an all-night lockdown in school. Meanwhile, Elliot (Adam Lambert)
is caught in the feud between Rachel and Santana.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Someone is killed, Tony is probed … and
the witness is his dad (Robert Wagner).


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Was a fish-market
explosion an act of terrorism or a drug deal gone bad? Meanwhile, Granger
(Miguel Ferrer) and Kensi are in Afghanistan, chasing “White Ghost.”


“Trophy Wife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. The trouble with promises is
that you might have to keep them. Bert was promised a special party if he read
100 books; now Pete and Kate must deliver.


“Mind Games,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week’s opener plunged
darkly in the final minute, when we learned that Ross had bribed his brother’s
girlfriend to leave him, crushing his spirit. Worried that the secret will get
out, he hires a con woman (the terrific Jaime Ray Newman), who will stick with
the show.


TV column for Monday, March 3



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Wrapping up nine seasons of clever comedy, this show booms
toward its March 31 finale.


Tonight, we find wedding-day chaos. The bride, Robin, has a
big problem -- a fight with her friend Lily; the groom, Barney, has a small one
– choosing a suit from his endless collection. Guest stars include Lucy Hale
(as Robin’s sister), Jon Heder and Chris Kattan.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Those Who Kill” debut, 10 p.m.,
A&E.


From “Wallander” to “The Killing” to “The Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo,” Scandinavians have given us some of our deepest and darkest
crime dramas. This series fights right in.


Catherine (Chloe Sevigny) is a cop with a troubled past and
a shaky future. Thomas (James D’Arcy) is a professor with a good marriage and a
bad habit of sinking into a killer’s thoughts. Both characters have been done
before (often), but they are beautifully written (Glen Morgan of “X-Files,”
adapting a Danish show), acted and filmed, with Pittsburgh matching the gloomy
beauty of Scandinavian tales. Tonight’s hour – way too nasty for many viewers –
wraps up a story, while setting up intense personal issues.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT.


John Ross Ewing is keeping the family traditions alive. In
the style of his late father (J.R. Ewing), he has a fiancée, a mistress, some
flirtations and endless schemes.


He’s tied in business to Bobby Ewing (J.R.’s brother) and
the decent side of the family. This is a typical “Dallas” … complete with a
barbecue and, in the final minutes, a total flip in our view of one character.


Other choices include:


“The Bachelor,” 8-9:32 p.m., ABC. A “fantasy suite” episode
usually brings bliss; last week, however, Andi (an assistant district attorney)
bailed out. Now she discusses that with other women, who confront Juan Pablo
Galavis about his behavior. This also visits the finalists – Nikki, a nurse, and
Clare, a hairstylist.


“Bates Motel” season-opener, 9 p.m., A&E. Fortunately,
this isn’t just a portrait of young Norman Bates (the “Psycho” killer). Someone
(maybe Norman) has killed the principal who befriended him. A teen – who tried
suicide after her dad was killed – is back and bitter. The result is fierce,
but well-crafted.


“Mixology,” 9:32 p.m., ABC. In a fairly good rerun, friends
nudge a dumped guy into the bar scene.


“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. A prosecutor vanished for 12
years; Diane Wiest plays the prime suspect.


“Private Lives of Nashville Wives,” 10 p.m., TNT. Nashville can
be iffy, this hour says. Gary Chapman was envied for his marriage to Amy Grant,
his songwriting and his talk show; he lost everything (including his money, in
real-estate) and took a day job. Dallas Davidson has written 16 No. 1 songs,
but tonight his wife Sarah sings to a disinterested bar crowd.


“Against the Odds,” 10 p.m., American Heroes Channel. Today,
the Military Channel takes its new name … and includes this tale of heroism.
Early in 1968, 150 Marines were sent to what was considered a simple clean-up
in historic Hue. They found 10,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers and a type of
warfare (house to house) they weren’t ready for. It’s a strong story, told by
the survivors.


TV column for Sunday, March 2



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Academy Awards, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC.


The awards will be fun, with no sure thing. “American
Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” loom large, but the other
best-picture nominees are key in several categories; they are “Her,” “Captain Phillips,”
“Nebraska,” “Philomena,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”


Last year, the producers had a controversial host (Seth
McFarlane) and a fresh surge of music. Tonight brings a gentler host (Ellen
Degeneres), but continues the music push. Pink and Bette Midler perform and more
stars -- U2, Pharrel Williams, Idina Menzel and Karen O – do the nominated
songs.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC.


While others retreat into reruns, “Dead” thrived against the
Olympics and now faces the Oscars.


Our heroes are wandering without shelter, in a zombie world;
tonight, a simple request leads to a bizarre mission. This reruns at 11 p.m. …
following a 10 p.m. “Talking Dead” that has co-stars Norman Reedus and Emily
Kinney (they play Daryl Dixon and Beth Greene) and comedy actor J.B. Smoove.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “True Detective,” 9 p.m., HBO.


On the night Matthew McConaughey might win an Oscar, he and
Woody Harrelson do Emmy-level work.


So far, we’ve bounced between two eras. They’ve been police
partners (with growing rage toward each other) 17 years ago and broken ex-cops
being interrogated today. Now, reluctantly, they get back together to revive a
case. It’s a so-so hour plot-wise, but brilliantly performed.


Other choices include:


Oscar previews, all day. Cable’s E channel starts its
red-carpet preview (with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic) at 5:30 p.m. and
its pre-preview at 1:30; ABC adds its own red-carpet show at 7.


“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), 6:23 p.m., Syfy; or “ET”
(1982), 8 p.m., TNT. Choose between Steven Spielberg’s back-to-back triumphs.


“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week’s debut saw a double
blow: The twins were ousted; William Minton (of Team Kentucky) withdrew due to
an inflamed pancreas. Mark Jackson, 47, found himself paired with Mallory
Ervin, 28, who also happens to be from Kentucky. She’s done the show twice in a
father-daughter duo, but now she’s with a stranger; tonight, their
communication problems continue.


“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Homer tries movie
piracy.


“The Voice,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. In two weeks, NBC will start filling
its Sunday gap with a pair of new dramas. For now, we get “Voice” reruns; this one
is of Monday’s season-opener.


“The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun has John Noble
(the brilliant “Fringe” star) as Alicia’s former client. He bequeaths her
millions – but her old law firm fights the will.


“Girls,” 10 p.m., HBO. So you thought Hannah was kind of
unstable? She’s a rock compared to her mom, aunts and cousin; in a funny-sad
episode, they gather under the assumption her grandmother is dying.