TV column for Wednesday, March 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

This show really
didn't expect to be here right now, in a comfortable time slot. But
“Doubt” was a ratings disaster and was dumped after two episodes.
Now, after a one-week gap, “Borders” steps in.

The series has Gary
Sinise lead a high-tech team, rescuing Americans overseas. Sometimes,
it just saves one or two people; tonight, an entire, 23-person church
group has vanished in Tanzania.

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

So far, Sandra
Diaz-Twine has been unbeatable. She was the Season 7 champion, then
returned for Season 20 (on the “Villains” team for “Heroes vs.
Villains”) and won again. Now she's 42 -- a law secretary, married,
with two kids -- and back, in what the show calls a confluence of
“game changers.”

She faces two other
champions: Tony Vlachos, now 43, won Season 28; a Jersey City
bodybuilder and cop, he was on the “Brawn” team. J.T. Thomas,
32, won Season 18, then was on the “Heroes” team in Season 20,
finishing 10th. Others range from two runners-up to four
who finished 14th or worse.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Underground” season-opener, 10 p.m. ET, WGN
America, rerunning at 11:01 p.m. and 12:03 and 1:04 a.m.

At noon ET, the
entire first season reruns, setting up tonight's tense situation.
Yes, seven slaves escaped, but now many have been killed or captured.
Noah is charged with murder, while his lover Rosalee is on the run
with Harriet Tubman (Aisha Tyler, who arrived at the end of the first
year).

The white folks
range from abolitionist lawyer John Hawkes, grasping for a courtroom
way to save Noah, to slave-catcher Patty Cannon. At the plantation,
Ernestine is back in the fields, her mind wobbling. This is
unrelenting stuff; tonight's hour is beautifully crafted, but filled
with brutal jolts.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Designated Survivor” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

This show took a
three-month break, after a high-stakes episode. It was inauguration
day for the president (Kiefer Sutherland), once a lowly cabinet
official and now the lone survivor of a Capitol bombing. Now a sniper
aimed at him; Hannah (Maggie Q) intervened, but someone was shot.

Tonight we learn who
that is. Hannah, whose evidence has been stolen, ponders revealing
MacLeish's role in the Capitol bombing. And Emily frets that her new
boyfriend Aaron may be the Capitol mole.

Other choices
include:

“Greenleaf,” 7
p.m. to 2 a.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. A week before the start of the
second season, here's a chance to catch up. The first season's final
four shows rerun, with the final three re-rerunning form 11 p.m. to 2
a.m. Also, the final eight will rerun from 3-11 p.m. Sunday.

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Hilarie Burton is back as a DEA agent, helping the guys
get key information on the cartel's next move. Riggs is clearly
attracted to her ... and is getting more impulsive.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. An arrest has been made in the murder of Otis, Simone's abusive
foster father. Meanwhile, Star advances her relationship with Hunter;
Carlotta tells why she kept a secret for years.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Jane Krakowski is back as Dr. Donna Duncan, Gloria's
nemesis, challenging Gloria to do more at school. Also, Phil faces
pressure at the charity basketball game.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. When Diane gets a white doll for her birthday, her
mom tries to exchange it for a black one. That launches a look at
biases in the media and in Dre's own outlook.

“Man Seeking
Woman” season-finale, 10:31 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 11:31 p.m. and
1:31 a.m. This is the hour that didn't seem possible: Josh (Jay
Baruchel) is getting married. After two seasons of failure (some of
it hilarious), he met Lucy (Katie Findlay); it's time for the
wedding.

TV column for Tuesday, March 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

For the last couple
weeks, viewers have been left to wonder about Kevin's romantic
detour. Last week, the show was bumped by a presidential talk; the
week before, it focused solely on Randall.

So now we're back to
Kevin, on the premietre night of his play. He's already had romances
with his co-star and with the playwright; then he startled viewers by
calling on Sophie, his ex-wife from long ago. Tonight, their
relationship deepens; also, Randall,whose biologic father died, hosts
an unusual party.

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

By now, the world
seems to realize this is one of TV's best shows. Each year, it's made
the American Film Institute's top-10 list; each year, it's been
nominated by the Television Critics Association for best drama,
winning twice ... this past year, the Emmys also nominated it for
best drama and more.

Perfectly played by
Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, these are Russian spies, deep
undercover. Their American-born kids didn't know; now their daughter
– who's been dating the son of their FBI neighbor – does. And now
comes a tense mission involving U.S. grain exports to the Soviet
Union.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “People Icons,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Over the next few
weeks, this will take new looks at people in pop culture and beyond.
Coming up are hours on survivors, on celebrities who died young and
on those named “Sexiest Man Alive.”

First is a look at
famous couples, present (Kate and William, Beyonce and Jay-Z,
Michelle and Barack) and past. In the 1960s, Elizabeth Taylor and
Richard Burton dominated attention. They married and divorced twice;
their “Cleopatra” behavior almost bankrupt a big movie company.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-RECORD: “The Night of the Iguana” (1964), 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies.

Yes, ABC shows us
Burton's chaotic romance. But TCM also fills the week with reminders
that he was a serious and gifted actor. This black-and-white film is
flawed, but has the touch of masters – John Huston directing
Burton, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner and more, in an adapted Tennessee
Williams play.

That's followed by
“Anne of the Thousand Days” (1969) and “Look Back in Anger”
(1959) at 10:15 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET. “Cleopatra” and “Virginia
Woolf” will be Wednesday and Thursday

Other choices
include:

“Amy Schumer: The
Leather Special,” any time, Netflix. Don't expect any
administration-bashing here; Schumer taped this stand-up special
before the election. She's always been terrific discussing
relationships and sex; now she adds a new subject – suddenly being
famous.

“Titanic”
(1997), 5 and 9:30 p.m., AMC. In recent years, the Academy Awards
have gone to films that few people saw. Now we can flash back to a
time when voters and filmgoers agreed: Great at both the epic visuals
and the intimate drama, “Titanic” swept the Oscars while setting
a box-office record.

“NCIS,: 8 p.m.,
CBS. McGee's apartment has been torn apart, apparently for a good
reason: It was previously owned by a criminal who hid something
valuable.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 p.m., ABC. This show, set in the '90s, finds the boys
mourning the death of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. And during couples
game night, their mom's competitive nature flashes.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A JAG lawyer who works on highly classified
cases has disappeared. Another lawyer (Chelsea Field) asks her friend
Pride to look into it.

“Chicago Justice,”
10 p.m., NBC. This has a tough Sunday slot, so NBC is introducing it
on other nights. Here, one Muslim student has been killed by another,
who says he was preventing terrorism.

TV column for Monday, March 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

For the second
straight Monday, a transplanted rerun of TV's best show is propping
up some so-so comedies. We'd complain about it , except ... well,
this is a really good rerun.

At the core is some
secrecy: Penny has been slipping Leonard's cellectibles into storage;
Amy hasn't told anyone her apartment repairs are done and she no
longer needs to share a spot (in Penny's old apartment) with Sheldon.
Also, Sheldon and Amy have an “on location” edition of “Fun
With Flags.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelor,” all night, ABC.

This is the week
some viewers savor, when the guy invites the final three women to
separately spend a night in the “fantasy suite.” It's supposed to
be a will-they-or-won't-they thing ... except they almost always
will; that's sort of what the show is about.

Taking away some of
tonight's impact is the fact that one of the three (Raven Gates)
already had her night with Nick Viall. That leaves Rachel Lindsay
(already named the next bachelorette) and Vanessa Grimaldi. After
the fantasies are fulfilled (or not), a “Women Tell All” special
is from 9:01 to 11 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Origins” debut, 9 p.m. ET, National Geographic,
rerunning at 11.

The most important
discovery in human history? Using smart narration (from Jason Silva)
and potent visuals, this opener convincingly argues that it was fire.
Some 14,000 years ago, people were using that for protection, warmth
and cuisine; it offered a strong impetus for communities.

Much later, new uses
emerged. In 1232 AD, the Jin Dynasty used fire (via gunpower) to
repel the Mongol hordes. In 1666, fire destroyed 13,000 London homes
... and led to the creation of a modern city. In 1926, the rocket was
created, eventually leading to space travel and to worries of
annihilation.

Other choices
include:

“Midsomer
Murders,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
England really does have “ghost villages,” seized by the military
in World War II and never returned. Tyneham evacuated 225 people,
Imber (a D-Day launch site) evacuated 152. Each has a classic church,
houses, but no residents. Now the first of these four movie-length
tales imagines that the military has handed back one village, with a
single owner choosing its fate. Its a great concept ... burdened with
plot twists that strain believability to the extreme.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Dean Cain (who was ABC's Superman) continues his guest role
as Jeremiah. While his daughter Alex searches for him, his adoptive
daughter Kara investigates alien kidnappings.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. The good news is that Carter and the CTU are getting
closer to finding the terrorists' location. The bad: Amira's terror
plot is nearly ready, as she reaches a crossroads.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. As he continues to be investigated, Gideon works on using a new
technology to probe a case of a man going to extremes to get justice
for his daughter.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Reluctantly, Arthur (Judd Hirsch) actually has a day
away from work. His friends (Katey Sagal and Maz Jobrani) try to
prove this can be fun; Franco (Jermaine Fowler) tries to prove that
he can run the doughnut shop.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Nothing's ever easy for these guys. They have a simple job
at a museum ... until people try to rob a rare gem, in order to
enrich uranium.

“Bates Motel,”
10 p.m., A&E. By now, Norman is in full “Psycho” mode –
imagining arguments with his dead mother Norma ... and killing people
while dressed as her. Caleb was starting to figure this out – and
Norma/Norman smashed him. Sweet Madeleine doesn't know any of this
... and doesn't know her husband Sam is a cheater. Tonight, she
apologizes for setting Norman up on a bad date.

TV column for Sunday, March 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Feud” debut, 10 p.m., FX; rerunning at 11:12.

Old Hollywood
considered actresses expendable and replaceable. Joan Crawford,
however, refused to budge. She lined up a deal to star opposite her
long-time foe, Bette Davis, in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
Two old stars – roughly 56 and 54 – were ready to collide.

That's the setting
for the latest project from Ryan Murphy, who triumphed with “The
People v. O.J. Simpson.” Like that one, “Feud” captures the
humor and humanity of outsized personalities.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Time After Time” debut, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

TV people keep
groping for the right time-travel story; then ABC found it by going
back in time.

It went to the 1979
movie with a clever concept: Jack the Ripper steals H.G. Wells' time
machine and whooshes to our era, with Wells in persuit. That leaves
room for humor and solid drama: Wells had envisioned an idyllic
future; the Ripper prefers a loud and crude life. One is
disappointed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Making History” debut,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Now for the comic
side of time-travel. There's no fancy transporter – just a
high-tech duffel bag. And there are no high motives; our guy just
wants to seduce a colonial lass with Celine Dion tunes.

Alas, this is Paul
Revere's daughter; futuristic meddling could subvert history. It's a
sharp idea, peppered with lots of of middle-brow laughs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Shades of Blue” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC.

In the first season,
Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) saw her world crumble. She's a cop, who
helped cover up some misdeeds. An FBI agent obsessed on her, even
hiring look-alike prostitutes; he forced her to snitch on her boss
(Ray Liotta). Also, Harlee has just killed her daughter's brutal
father.

Now she must bury
one problem literally and others figuratively. This is a rough,
ragged story, ofen as fierce as most cable dramas. Along the way, it
does deliver some strong moments.

Other choices
include:

“The Good Fight,”
any time, CBS All Access. This neatly duplicates the elements of the
show it sprang from, “The Good Wife.” It has s a quirky court
case ... and current issues (fake news. cyberbullying) ... and the
start of a multi-week story, with a past villain (Matthew Perry)
looming.

“Little Big Shots”
season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC. At age 4. Brielle Milla has already
dazzled Ellen DeGeneres' show (twice) and the Internet. Now she
delights Steve Harvey with her knowledge of bones. That's part of a
fun hour, ranging from a 5-year-old Lincoln expert to a great
12-year-old singer.

“Mercy Street”
and “Victoria” season-finales, 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). This Civil War story reaches extremes – a quietly
powerful tale involving the Greens' maid ... and a noisy culmination
to hiding the body of a slain Union officer. Then Victoria, who's
pregnant, becomes an assassin's target.

“Chicago Justice,”
9 p.m., NBC. Consider this de-evolution: Sundays used to have “The
Good Wife,” sometimes finding deep drama in Chicago's State's
Attorney office; now NBC uses that same office for some flat drama.
Philip Winchester, who stars, is handsome enough (and stiff enough)
to be a statue.

“Last Man on
Earth” return, 9:30, Fox. In a daring detour, the show gives us an
entire episode without its star. Instead, it adds Kristen Wiig, in
what at times is a delightful one-woman show.

“The Arrangement”
debut, 10 p.m., E. A would-be actress gives the perfect audition ...
and finds her world entangled with that of a big-deal movie star.
From there, “Arrangement” skids too close to being a Tom
Cruise/Scientology tale. Its start, however, is a delight.

ALSO: This
overstuffed night also has the return of “Once Upon a Time” (8
p.m., ABC), plus big movies. At 7, FX has the terrific “Gone Girl”
(2014) ... at 7:30, E has the TV debut of “Fifty Shades of Grey”
(2015) ... At 8, Viceland starts the Oscar-winning documentary
“O.J.: Made in America.”

TV column for Saturday, March 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Custody,” 8-10:33 p.m., Lifetime; reruns at 12:02 a.m.

Here is a quiet gem,
a deep and intelligent story of good intentions and (at times) bad
results. It's not something we expect on TV – or from James Lapine.
On Broadway, he's written and directed musicals and comedies, getting
15 Tony nominations, three wins and a Pulitzer Prize.

But now he's written
and directed a dead-serious drama – a child-custody case in which
he lets us feel each person's agony ... some of it unrelated to the
case. These are deep characters, played by the best – Viola Davis,
Catalina Moreno, Tony Shalhoub, Hayden Panettiere, Ellen Burstyn and
more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m.. NBC.

Let's think of
tonight as a reunion of the movie “The Help” ... or a reunion of
Academy Award nights. It's a chance to see Viola Davis and Octavia
Spencer pretty much back-to-back.

In 2012, both women
had Oscar nominations for “The Help”; Spencer won. This year,
Davis won for “Fences”; Spencer was nominated for “Hidden
Figures.” Now we can see Davis being dead-serious – and perfect –
in “Custody” and then Spencer hosting “SNL,” with music from
Father John Misty.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Planet Earth II,” 9 p.m. ET, BBC America, rerunning
at midnight.

You see some
surprising things in the jungle ... including dolphins. Really. River
dolphins, mostly blind in that dark setting, seem to frolic there.

Jungles cover 6
percent of the globe, narrator David Attenborough tells us, but have
half the plants and wildlife. Many thrive; some otters are the size
of men. And many are remarkable; we see a lizard that can soar 100
feet ... a gecko that virtually disappears ... and birds of paradise
with dazzling dances.

Other choices
include:

“Star Wars”
marathon, 1:55 p.m. to 4:37 a.m., TNT. Now the films have been
rearranged in the way the story unfolds. The prequel trilogy is at
1:55 p.m. (1999), 4:55 p.m. (2002) and 8 p.m. (2005). That lead into
the original film – now called “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)
-- at 11:06. “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) is at 1:52 a.m..
with “Revenge of the Jedi” (1983) at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Chicago stories,
8-11 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Wednesday's marathon,
involving all four shows. At 8 p.m., “Chicago Fire” fights a
blaze, with the “Chicago Med” people treating victims. Then
“Chicago P.D.” investigates at 9 p.m. and “Chicago Justice”
prosecutes at 10.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. In France, a girl has been kidnapped from a train. Now her
parents fear she's been sold into human trafficking.

Basketball, 8:30
p.m. ET, ABC, with pre-game at 8. The Chicago Bulls host the Los
Angeles Clippers.

Boxing, 9 p.m. ET,
CBS. Two undefeated welterweight champions collide, with the winner
getting the unified title. Keith Thurman has the WBA title; Danny
Garcia has the WBC one.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun, a drone fails to find robbers, so Gideon turns to an
unlikely source to create some electric motorcyles.

“History of
Comedy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). Remember that
cliche about the crying clown, the sad guy who makes us laugh? It's
sometimes true, people tell us here, using examples from the past –
Jonathan Winters, Richard Pryor, Robin Willians – and their own
lives. It's a good hour, preceded at 9 p.m. ET by an OK one viewing
comedy that springs from regular life.

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