TV column for Saturday, Feb. 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Figure-skating gala, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET,
NBC Sports Channel, then NBC.

In many ways, this is the best way to see Olympic figure-skating.
The pressure and judges are gone.


Maybe Canada’s Patrick Chan can bounce back from his
disappointing long-program skate. Maybe there will be more brilliance from the
Russian pairs and the American and Canadian dance duos. The gala reruns on NBC
in prime time (8-11:30 p.m.) and (trimmed to an hour) at midnight.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: 
“About a Boy” debut, 11:07-11:30 p.m., NBC.


After countless flops, NBC finally has two likable comedies
and is giving them an Olympic launch. “Boy” is tonight, “Growing Up Fisher” is
10:30 p.m. Sunday and then both move to Tuesdays.


Both mix emotion with the laughs. That’s natural for “Boy,”
which is based on a Nick Hornby novel and a Hugh Grant film, then adapted by “Parenthood”
producer Jason Katims. The boy and his fretful mom (Minnie Driver) move next to
a callous chap (David Walton), setting up a strange and funny friendship.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m.,
Hallmark.


This amiable frontier series from Michael Landon Jr. follows
a young teacher in a Canadian mining town. At first, all three of tonight’s
stories seem stiff and lame, but two of them end beautifully.


The teacher (Erin Krakow) struggles with a 14-year-old boy
who can’t read and with a Mountie who keeps botching his romantic gestures. Her
friend Abigail (Lori Loughlin) was widowed by the local mine disaster and
struggles to find a new place in life; the result should help nudge this show
ahead.


Other choices include:


More Olympics, all day. Men’s hockey has its bronze-medal
game today (10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) and the gold-medal game Sunday (6:30
a.m. ET, NBC). Meanwhile, NBC has medals in parallel slalom snowboarding –
women this afternoon (2:30-6 p.m.), men at night (8-11:07 p.m.). Other finals:
In the day – women’s 30-kilometer skiing, men’s biathlon relay; at night, team
pursuit in speedskating.


“Shrek the Third” (2007), 8-10 p.m., ABC. The “Shrek” films
continue to delight most kids and some grown-ups. This time, Shrek must quickly
find the proper successor for his late father-in-law, the king.


“Daytona 500 Bash at the Beach,” 8 p.m., Fox. The race
starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, but here’s a one-hour sample of the two-day party that
precedes it. It features well-known drivers – Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick,
Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhart Jr., etc. – plus music by Cee Lo Green, DJ Irie
and more.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 9 p.m., CBS. A fire at a
music venue kills four people. This rerun is a sort of “Cheers” reunion, with
Ted Danson investigating the club owner (John Ratzenberger).


The “Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The season starts
with fierce action – an angry cop on a rampage, a noisy jailbreak. The latter
does nothing for the story, but the former pushes these 1890 London cops into a
new Chinatown, with martial arts and potent drugs. The star of a two-parrter,
it’s a hard-driving story that introduces an evil cop and David Merrick of “Elephant
Man” fame.


“Wicked Tuna,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Here’s a rerun
of Sunday’s season-opener, with Tyler McLaughlin working his boat solo. It
reruns at midnight, surrounded by last season’s finale at 9 and 11.


 

TV column for Friday, Feb. 21



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.
and 1-2 a.m., NBC; also, cable.

We’re into the last two full days of competition now, with
medals on the line.


The NBC Sports Network has the men’s hockey semi-finals at
6:30 and 11:30 a.m. ET. And NBC? In the afternoon, women have free-style ski
cross and the biathlon; at night, it’s the women’s slalom and lots of speedskating
– women have 1000-meter, men have 5,000-meter relay and 500-meter.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 8-11 p.m., CBS.


Next week, shows will end their retreat into reruns. For
now, we might as well catch three repeats of a solidly made show about the
family of New York police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck).


First are the final two episodes of last season, bringing
the Reagans together to battle the gang leader who led to the death of someone
close to them. Then, at 10 p.m., is an episode that splits them apart: Frank’s
daughter Erin, an assistant district attorney, releases a cop-killing suspect
for lack of evidence.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).


While Sting’s popularity was soaring, his gritty home town
(Wallsend, alongside Newcastle) stumbled; its famed ship-building ended in 2007.
Now he’s written his first musical, “The Last Ship.”


That’s scheduled to open this summer in Chicago, but first
Sting has an album and this concert, in which he talks about the show and (with
others) does the music. The result is generally good and for one dazzling
moment – a gorgeous duet that was somehow cut from the musical – great.


Other choices include:


“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last week offered a Valentine’s Day
rerun of the wedding of Booth and Brennan. Now they try a honeymoon in Buenos
Aires … then, of course, interrupt it to help solve a case.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. The first episode
has some thoughtful moments for Mike (Tim Allen), after his dad (Robert Forster)
casually mentions spanking little Boyd. The second has John (Jonathan Taylor
Thomas, who was Allen’s “Home Improvement” son) complicating Kristen’s life: He’s
her boss, an ambitious young man, contrasting sharply with Ryan.


Movies, 8 p.m., cable. It’s a strong adventure night,
including Oscar-winning performances by Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight,” 2008,
AMC) and Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs,” 1991, IFC). Also, try “Avatar”
(2009, FX) or “Transformers” (2007, TBS).


“Shark Tank,” 9 p.m., ABC. This new episode ranges from Southern-style
breakfast food to a Portland, Oregon guy who powers the blenders on his juice
cart by pedaling a vintage bike.


“Enlisted” and “Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Here
are so-so reruns. The first finds Pete in an endless battle with Jill Perez, to
prove who is the better soldier. The second has “Burt Bucks” bartering.


“Banshee” 10 p.m., Cinemax. This powerful hour starts solemnly
(with a medical emergency) and ends explosively (literally). In between, Sheriff
Hood vows to disrupt the town’s crime boss. Some of the best moments involve
Hood’s relationship with his sometimes-skeptical deputies.


“The Tonight Show,” midnight, NBC. Justin Timberlake doubles
as the prime guest and the music act.


TV column for Thursday, Feb. 20



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 8-11:30 p.m., NBC.

This is the big night, with the gold-medal winner for
women’s figure-skating. There are plenty of strong contenders, including the
top 2010 medalists (Yuna Kim of South Korea and Mao Asada of Japan), plus
15-year-old Russian sensation Julia Lipnitskaia and Americans Gracie Gold and
Ashley Wagner.


Earlier, this airs live at 10 a.m. on the NBC Sports
Network, so beware of spoilers. Also live is the women’s gold-medal hockey
game, at noon on NBC; at night, NBC has the gold-medal finals in free-style
skiing for men’s cross and women’s halfpipe.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,”
midnight, NBC.


Here are two names you rarely hear together – Michelle Obama
and Will Ferrell. They have nothing in common except that both are tall and
linked to presidents, by marriage or by portraying George W. Bush on “Saturday
Night Live,” Broadway and HBO.


Tonight, both are guests, along with music by Arcade Fire. It
should be fun.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.


Bob Newhart’s first “Big Bang” guest shot brought big laughs
and an Emmy. Now here’s a rerun of his second visit, another funny one.


Again, he plays Sheldon’s former childhood hero, the guy who
was Professor Proton on TV. Now he needs help and turns to Leonard; offended,
Sheldon tries to befriend TV’s Bill Nye, the science guy.


Other choices include:


“The Taste” finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. First, the final four
must create “rich and poor” dishes, inspired by exotic ingredients. Then the
three survivors make breakfast, lunch and dinner in two hours.


“American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. In the past two nights, 11
people were abruptly sent home, with the other 20 performing for viewer votes.
Now the winners, plus judges’ wild-card picks, make up the final 13.


“Rake,” 9 p.m., Fox. Keegan represents a restaurant owner
(Michael Imperioli) charged with bigamy. The case becomes tougher with word of
the guy’s other romances.


“The Crazy Ones,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Simon and his business
partner (Robin Williams and Brad Garrett) debate compromising their values to
land a key client. Also in this rerun, Lauren is stuck in a costly bra.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Walden
partying with Jenny and her hot friends.


“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. Next week, this show and “Grey’s
Anatomy” will finally return to new episodes, after a 10-week break. First,
here’s the previous new episode, with the aftershocks of exposed secrets.


“Killer Karaoke”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Tru TV. It’s entirely possible that this show – like karaoke
itself – should never be experienced when sober. We did and mostly saw people
screeching (and forgetting to sing altogether) while nasty things were done to
them. A few moments in the half-hour (now hosted by Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray)
are clever; more are just loud.


TV colum for Wednesday, Feb. 19



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Olympic women’s figure-skating start,
sometime between 8 and 11:30 p.m., NBC.


After 13 busy Olympic days, we finally get to the big draw
for U.S. viewers, with the short program today and long one Thursday.


That includes the 2010 medal-winners – Yuna Kim of South
Korea (gold) and Mao Asada of Japan (silver). Then there’s Julia Lipnitskaia,
15, who skated beautifully in leading Russia to the team gold; the U.S. also
has a 15-year-old (Paulina Edmunds), but pins its hopes on Gracie Gold or
Ashley Wagner.


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


Here’s the second half of the battle to be a finalist.


Fifteen guys are left, ranging from Jordan Brisbane and
Briston Maroney, both 16, to Maurice Townsend, 26. Tonight, five are sent home
and the others perform. On Thursday, we’ll know the 13 finalists.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).


The honey badger isn’t really a badger, but it does love
honey … and has the smarts to get it.


This dandy documentary, filmed in South Africa, spends some
of its time in the wild, closing with a moment of bravery and ferocity. It
spends more time domestically, with a kindly chap trying to keep his semi-pet
Stoffel out of his home and his beehives. It’s a mismatch In increasingly
hilarious scenes, Stoffel opens latches, fashions ladders, clears refrigerators
and frolics with food.


Other choices include:


More Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m. and 1-2 a.m., NBC;
also, cable. In the daytime, NBC has medals in women’s 5,000-meter speedskating
and in men’s and women’a cross-country sprint – demanding events that are
neither speedy nor sprint-y. At night, there are more medals – women in
bobsled, men in Alpine skiing on the giant slalom and in snowboarding on the
parallel giant slalom.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. An all-rerun CBS night starts
with this update of a 1973 episode, with a double-amputee targeting cops. Peter
Weller (the original RoboCop) plays the villain in most scenes.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Frankie finds that
her boss (Jack McBrayer) wants to be her friend.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. This rerun of the 100th
episode has Cam trying to hide his engagement when his sister visits.


“Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. A 16-year-old
murder victim is linked to a brothel.


“Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond” conclusion, 10 p.m.,
BBC America. In the first three hours, Ian Fleming (who would go on to create
James Bond) grew from empty playboy to clever World War II spy official. Now
he’s in the field for a key adventure. It’s an exciting story … albeit with
contrivances in the romance, plus another problem: We’ll never know if this is
true or merely a Fleming exaggeration.


“The Tonight Show,” midnight, NBC. Bradley Cooper and
country star Tim McGraw guest.


TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 18



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


In sheer quantity, this is the biggest “Idol” week -- three
nights (instead of two) and five hours.


Tonight, 15 females – ranging from Bria Anai and
tuba-playing Malaya Watson, 16, to Kristen O’Connor, 24 – take the stage. In a
cruel step, judges will send five home; only 10 will perform for viewer votes.


Also, we’ll learn the final male spot chosen by viewers. The
survivor – Neco Starr or Ben Briley – will be one of the 15 guys Wednesday; on
Thursday, viewer votes and judges’ wild cards choose the final 13.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30
p.m., 1-2 a.m., NBC; also cable.


There’s no figure-skating today – the women start Wednesday
-- but plenty of medals.


This afternoon, men have their finals in Nordic combined
large-hill skiing and the 10,000-meter skating ordeal. Tonight’s skiing has
women on the giant slalom and men on freestyle halfpipe; also, women have the
3,000-meter skating.


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


Alexander Cassatt ran the nation’s largest corporation
(Pennsylvania Railroad), but wasn’t your stereotype mogul. The brother of
acclaimed impressionist Mary Cassatt, he had a taste for art and splendor.
Visiting her, he savored the Paris railroad terminal and other architectural gems.


Penn Station soon became a marvel of engineering (seven miles
of tunnels under two rivers) and design. New Yorkers loved it in 1910 … then
saw it torn down for Madison Square Garden in ’63, spurring the city’s
historical-preservation laws. This film is part of a superb, three-documentary
night on PBS.


Other choices include:


“American Experience,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here’s
the rerun of another film that deftly blends engineering triumph and social
issues. The Grand Coulee Dam provided strong employment during the Depression
and a surge of Washington State agriculture after World War II. But it also
blocked access to one of the world’s best salmon rivers, crippling a native
tribe.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of reruns starts with the team
using Twitter in a missing-person search.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Still emotionally battered,
Deeks returns to work while the team probes a murder at a company that is
working on a classified vaccine.


“Killer Women,” 10 p.m., ABC. Molly (Tricia Helfer) may be
able to solve a long-ago murder case. To do so, she’ll have to deal with the
sexist retired Texas Ranger who originally worked it;


“Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Kids have
mastered the art of finding friends and fame on the Internet, author Douglas
Rushkoff tells us. We meet a tiny skateboarder who makes funny videos, a
diligent fan who uses her room as a “Hunger Games” publicity factory, a bubbly
guy who went from One Direction fan to YouTube star with 3.8 million
subscribers. Close behind them, Rushkoff cautions, are corporations slyly
slipping mentions and ads into the videos.


“The Tonight Show,” midnight, NBC. Jimmy Fallon’s second
night is awash in starpower – Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and Lady Gaga.