TV column for Saturday, March 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 6 and about 8:45 p.m. ET, TBS.

It's final-four
time, with one match-up that's a surprise and one that's not.

The non-surprise is
the second game; Kansas and Villanova were top-seeded in their
regions. The surprise is the first one: Michigan (which finished
fourth in the Big Ten) was seeded No. 3; Loyola of Chicago was seeded
No. 11. After tonight, one of them will be a step from the
championship.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Ten Commandments” (1956), 7 p.m., ABC, and more.

Once considered a
classic Hollywood epic, “Ten Commandments” won one Oscar (for
special effects) and was nominated for six more, including best
picture. By modern standards, it seems stiff and flat; still, it
draws strong audiences each year, on the eve of Easter.

Also airing today
are “Heaven Is For Real” (2014) at 12:30 p.m. on UpTV and the
massive “Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner
Classic Movies. The former moves to Lifetime on Sunday ... the same
day that the holiday's light side will be shown, via “Hop” and
“Easter Parade.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All day, National Geographic Channel.

First, we can catch
the entire, richly crafted “Story of God.” All nine episodes are
there (albeit in a different order), with Morgan Freeman crossing the
globe to ask religion questions. The result – both intelligent and
visually gorgeous – airs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m ET.

Then, from 8-11 p.m.
ET, is “Killing Jesus” (2015). Skillfully made – something we
expect from producer Ridley Scott – it has Stephen Moyer as Pilate
and Kelsey Grammer as Herod and narrator.

Other choices
include:

“Pocahontas”
(1995), 1:05 p.m., Freeform. It's all-day animation. The splendid
“Up” (2009) is at 3:05, with “Ratatouille” (2007) at 5:15,
“Despicable Me” (2010) at 7:55 and “Lilo & Stitch” (2002)
at 10.

“Genius Junior,”
8 and 9 p.m., NBC. Tentatively scheduled are reruns of the first two
hours of this show, with Neil Patrick Harris flinging questions at
super-bright kids.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. First, the kids display an important skill –
making lots of milkshakes in a hurry; then comes a
chicken-and-waffles dish. That's followed at 9 by “Showtime at the
Apollo.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the season's second episode, Gibbs and McGee are
back from their jungle hostage ordeal, but must get psych clearance
from Dr. Confalone (Laua San Giacomo). Meanwhile, the body of a
missing Navy officer has been found in a cemetery.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Patton (Daryl “Chill”
Mitchell) must work with his ex-wife (Kelly Hu), after her research
project has been hacked.

“Home by Spring,”
9-11 p.m., Hallmark. This gets complicated: Loretta (Poppy Drayton)
is an event-planner, disguising as her boss. To help a guy impress
his prospective father-in-law (country-music star Kix Brooks), she
arranges a getaway at a hotel in her home town. But her former
boyfriend runs the hotel, her current one is pretending to be someone
else and ... well, it's all quite tangled.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Kevin Hart hosts a rerun, with music from
the Foo Fighters.

TV column for Friday, March 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., CBS.

On a night when the
other networks have high churn and low ratings, CBS has had the same
crime shows drawing strong ratings each Friday. The exception was a
two-week basketball break.

Now Mac is back ...
and has the Coltons with him. In the original “MacGyver” series,
this was a bounty-hunter family, with Della Reese as Mama Colton and
Cleavon Little, Richard Lawson and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Frank, Jesse
and Billy; they even had a pilot for their own series. Now they
return, with Sheryl Lee Ralph as Mama; her team and Mac's are seeking
the same person, for different reasons.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Here's another show
back from a two-week break. Alex O'Loughlin directs, with the focus
on others.

Danny (Scott Caan)
meets the ex-wife of the man who shot him; she tells how he saved her
life during a domestic dispute in New Jersey. Adam is framed for
murdering the crime boss he was tracking; also, Tani and Junior are
assigned to walk the beat for a day, as uniformed cops.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dynasty,” 8 p.m., CW.

The original
“Dynasty” didn't soar until Alexis – Blake Carrington's ex-wife
– roared in at the start of the second season. That year, it jumped
to No. 19 in the Nielsen ratings; three years later, it was No. 1.

Now the remake adds
its own Alexis. As played by Nicollette Sheridan – who seems to
think this is a soap satire – her prime target is her daughter
Fallon. Soom, they're battling in a pool and Fallon is waving a gun.
“My mother really brings out the awful in me,” she understates.
This show has a lot of awful; Alexis merely adds to the volume.

Other choices
include:

“The Dangerous
Book for Boys” debut, any time, Amazon Prime. It's a busy day for
family-aimed streaming shows. This one arrives at the same day as the
second season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” with Neil
Patrick Harris still scheming to get the kids' money.

“Hop” (2011),
6:20 p.m., Disney. This amiable blend – cartoon bunny meets live
actors – leads a strong family-film Friday. Freeform adds “Up”
(2009) at 6:20 p.m. and “Ratatouille” (2007) at 8:30. Grown-ups
have “Wonder Woman” (2017) at 6:30 p.m. on HBO and two Tom Hanks
classics -- “Forrest Gump” (1994) at 6:15 on VH1 and “Apollo
13” (1995) at 8 p.m. on History.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. The Candy Killer attacks, forcing Ivy to risk
what's left of her family. And while trying to join the Witch's
Coven, Drizella faces a steep challenge.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. David Morse continues as Hank Crawford, now a prime
suspect. Tonight, Avery (Kristina Reyes) and the FBI team hope to
arrest him at a gala he's hosting.

“Taken,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Last week, Hart (Jennifer Beals) got the focus, during a
dangerous rogue mission. Now she's at the center again, trying to
stop a former journalist from leaking key names.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. Coulson finally learns the secret plan of
Gen. Hale (Catherine Dent). It could bring the end of the world, if
SHIELD doesn't help her.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In trouble with the mob, Danny's brother-in-law steals
his credit card; now Danny forces him to help take down the mobsters.
Also, Frank wants his daughter and her investigator to find out if
his old police partner is really guilty of a crime.

TV column for Thursday, March 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Will & Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC.

On a dozen episodes
of the original series, Debbie Reynolds played Grace's bubbly mom.
Reynolds died (at 84) in 2016, but her photos are prominent as the
family gathers for the late mom's birthday.

Sara Rue returns as
Grace's brassy sister Joyce, but the others have been recast –
Robert Klein as the dour dad, Mary McCormack as the cynical sister.
Add two more stories and James Burrows' directing and you have the
ideal: Sharp verbal comedy is peppered with great bursts of visual
humor.

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

For two Thursdays,
TV's best comedy sat on the bench while CBS had basketball. Now “Big
Bang” is back, with a fairly funny episode.

Penny hosts Bill
Gates at work, sending the guys into envy and/or denial. The result
isn't as funny as a typical “Big Bang”; that happens sometimes
with special-guest-star episodes. Still, this is better than just
about any other TV comedy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Young Sheldon,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Most weeks, this
settles for a quiet, sweet sort of humor. Tonight, however, it goes
for the big laughs.

Sheldon rages –
justifiably, perhaps – when his well-thought-out science project is
defeated by a pretty blonde making her hair go a-flutter. He quits
science and goes to the high school drama class, where the teacher
(Jason Alexander, a Tony-winner before TV) is obliging. The result
has some great moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Siren” debut, 8 p.m., Freeform.

“Splash” and
Disney had convinced us that mermaids are sweet and warm. Not so, it
seems. In the water, they see humans as prey; on the land, one is
overwhelmed ... but capable of flinging a guy through a windshield.
Local folks aren't aware of this, but the military is looming
ominously.

Soon, a good-hearted
researcher from a bad-hearted family meets a wordless woman who seems
wary on land. Well-filmed, this is a solid look at a quiet little
place, not yet aware it's into something big.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, all day,
ESPN and beyond. It's Opening Day, a time for optimism everywhere,
and ESPN has a quadruple-header. It's the Cubs at the Marlins at
12:30 p.m. ET, the Astros at the Rangers at 3:30, the Giants at the
Dodgers at 7 p.m. and the Indians at the Mariners at 10.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Some unusual patients make an impact. Meredith treats a
transplant surgeon; April (in the middle of a crisis of faith) has a
rabbi.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Alongside the show's cascade of comedy, there's the somber
underside: These characters share a lifelong struggle with alcoholism
persists. Now Jill is losing the fight; it's a quietly moving
episode, with moderate humor.

“Champions,”
9:30, NBC. Business is dwindling at the gym, partly because a
Curves-type, women-only spot has opened nearby. Vince retaliates, in
a so-so episode.

“Scandal,” 10
p.m., ABC. After skipping a week -- for the two-hour debut of
“Station 19” (which continues at 9 p.m. today) -- “Scandal”
is back for more of its final season. Charlie is arrested for
highjacking the vice-president's plane; that sort of behavior always
upsets officials.

ALSO: “Marcia
Clark Investigates” (9-11 p.m.) and “Grace vs. Abrams” (11),
both A&E. Two former prosecutors get their moments, going back to
old cases. Clark headlines s show; Nancy Grace has verbal duels with
Dan Abrams. In the opener, oddly, both shows eye the Casey Anthony
case.

TV column for Wednesday, March 28


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

At first, we can
only wince: A demented caregiver (Demi Moore) has kidnapped Lucious
and taken him to a cabin, where he's supposed to learn to love her. A
proud show has descended into silly soapdom.

But stick around:
Tonight's final 10 minutes smartly define two of TV's best and most
complicated characters. Given great dialog, Terrence Howard and
Taraji Henson are perfect as Lucious and Cookie. Rumer Willis has the
only music number, while her real-life mom (Moore) is busy being daft
and evil.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Star” return, 9 p.m., Fox.

As Carlotta (Queen
Latifah) emerges from the hospital, her world is shattered. Her hair
salon burned down; arson investigators and insurance people are
suspicious. Now she'll learn who did and didn't die. And now her
conniving mom and sister (Patty LaBelle and Brandy) arrive.

That much is sharply
written and played. Alas, scenes involving Take 3 (which Carlotta
manages) feel as forced and overwrought as Star's ugly outfit. Alex –
whose real boyfriend is paraplegic – is faking a relationship with
a star, Noah. But is it really fake? Things get loud and angry and
often a mess.

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

This all started
with two Russian spies posing as a married couple in 1980s American
suburbia. Elizabeth (Keri Russell) was the most intense; Philip
(Matthew Rhys) sometimes wavered.

Now he has retired
from the spy business -- or is trying to, anyway – and focuses on
their travel agency. She's still intense – as shown in a sudden,
startling moment tonight. Other complications are personal – their
daughter is an emerging spy – and political: Mikhail Gorbachev's
centrist approach leaves Russian hard-liners talking overthrow. A
terrific show launches its final season with great potential.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Krypton,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

In many ways, this
Superman prequel is extraordinary. Its visuals are stunning; its
scripts are smart (mostly) and sharp. “Krypton” is easy to like –
despite gnawing flaws.

The background music
booms relentlessly. The main character (who's been told he'll be the
grandfather of the future Superman) teeters toward lunkheadedness.
And what kind of government lets a guy walk around a bar with a
computer bearing all its secrets? Or chooses a military commander via
a fight to the

death? At moments
like that, we want to exit ... except that the rest is way too good
to ignore.

Other choices
include:

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. “I don't know who you've become,” Archie's mom tells
him. Neither do we; this cheery comic-book character is siding with a
conniving businessman and challenging mobsters. That part of
tonight's hour is pretty bad; two other parts, involving Cheryl and
Betty, are much better.

“Alex, Inc.”
debut, 8:30 p.m., ABC. A family guy (Zach Braff) quits his job to try
a long shot, making his own podcast. The characters are likable and
there are reasonably amusing moments ... sort of like “Splitting Up
Together,” which reruns Tuesday's OK pilot at 9:31 p.m. today.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Haley has never been considered brilliant, but her
boyfriend (Chris Geere of “You're the Worst”) is. Now Phil and
Claire compete to seem like the smarter parent.

“Life Sentence,”
9 p.m., CW. Applying for a job as manager, Stella learns another
secret about her life. Meanwhile, the family house has been sold,
forcing her dad and brother into an odd arrangement.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. While the president is in Camp David,
trying to broker a deal between warring nations, Seth and Emily are
trying to decide whether to move forward as a couple.

“Andrew Lloyd
Webber: Tribute to a Superstar,” 10 p.m., NBC. Four days before its
live, concert production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” NBC has a
special focusing on its composer.

TV column for Tuesday, March 27


TONIGHT'S OVERVIEW:
All night.

In some ways,
Roseanne Barr and Dolores Huerta are opposites. Barr is an outspoken
Trump supporter; Huerta – who once said “Republicans hate
Latinos” -- is not.

But in a bigger way,
they're the same: Savvy women with working-class smarts, they stepped
into male-dominated fields and won. They've persisted; at 65 and 87,
they are strong forces. Tonight, they're back-to-back – Barr's
comeback at 8, a Huerta profile at 9. We'll talk about them
separately.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Roseanne” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Can a show really
return after a long break? “Will & Grace” did it
successfully after 13 years; now “Roseanne tries it after 21. It
wisely adjusts the time -- Dan and Roseanne are grandparents, with no
empty nest in sight – and even finds a way to include both
actresses who have played Becky.

The opener subtly
refers to the fact that it used to say Dan had died. Still, subtlety
has never been the “Roseanne” style; many lines are written and
played like sledge hammers, but they work.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Independent Lens: Dolores,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

Popular history says
Cesar Chavez created the United Farm Workers and led it to triumph.
That's half the story. Dolores Huerta co-founded the group, became
its prime organizer, then negotiated its labor agreements. “I don't
know why he likes to argue with me,” she told a friend. “He knows
I'll win.”

The cost was steep,
physically (one attack left her in critical condition), financially
(“she always told us, 'We're poor by choice,'” a son says) and
emotionally. Her 11 children were often left with others; it took 10
months to learn her son had dropped out of school. But she kept
winning; it's a great story.

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

Kate and Sandra are
the same person, yet opposite. Each is intense, driven, an
overachiever; one is a rules-follower who works for the prosecution,
the other defends the rules-breakers. In its third episode, “For
the People” has them collide, with intense results.'

There are other
cases – a sort of silly one involving a stranded boat, an intense
one about sentencing software – but this one dominates. Britt
Robertson and Susannah Flood mold passionate characters.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A body is found on the headquarters roof, alongside bomb
material.

“The Social
Network” (2010), 8 p.m. Pop. As Facebook goes through its current
woes, we can savor this smart film about its birth. Also at 8, Disney
has its bright “Descendants 2”(2017) musical; HBO has the second
half of “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” with the first half
rerunning at 6.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Jason Katims' shows have great depth and detail. “Friday Night
Lights” and “Parenthood” were high-quality; they also never
drew big audiences, because the emotions were so complicated. Now we
see the the same thing here. There are great moments tonight for the
assistant theater director (Rosie Perez), the overprotective mom
(Broadway's Stephanie Block), even the cheating husband and his
ex-mistress. “Rise” is deep and smart ... and not easy to
embrace.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Bringing everyone together for Easter gets complicated.
Dre's family and Bow's family have different food customs; also, some
cousins scoff at an Easter egg hunt.

“Splitting Up
Together” debut, 9:30. ABC. Here's an ABC-style comedy – quick
and slick and moderately funny. A husband and wife are divorcing, but
can't afford two places. Instead, they alternate weeks, with one
living in the garage. Oliver Hudson and Jenna Fischer make these
characters bright, attractive and likable ... so much so that it's
tough to believe (or enjoy) their deep divide.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A former colleague asks for help in South
America. Pride heads there with Tammy and Sebastian.