TV column for Thursday, March 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Family” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

Here's more proof
that ABC can match anyone – even cable – in great drama. “Family”
-- which promptly moves to Sundays -- ranks alongside its current
“American Crime” and upcoming “Secrets & Lies.” Each uses
a crime story as the start of a deeply layered character drama.

We won't spill the
plot – try to avoid the ads, which say way too much – except for
this: A decade apart, this family gets two huge jolts, the second one
leaving bigger mysteries. There's brilliant work by Joan Allen (as
the matriarch), Alison Pill (her daughter) and Andrew McCarthy (a
convict).

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

The show has its top
10 now, with more performances tonight – includiong a couple other
stars. Demi Lovato does “Stone Cold” and “Confident”; Harry
Connick does “(I Do) What We Do.”

Also, we learn which
eight have survived ... then vote on who will be back next week. The
line-up includes four men and six women, ages 15 to 24.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Colony,” 10 p.m., USA.

Two weeks from its
season-finale, this show has seemingly tied itself into unbeatable
knots. Aliens (never shown) have taken control, using Earthlings as
collaborators. Desperate to get his younger son back, Will (Josh
Holloway) has joined the government.

What he doesn't
realize is how deeply his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) is into the
resistance. Tonight, that peaks: He has a lead on catching Broussard,
the resistance leader she's high on. In a house full of secrets and
disclosures, some high-pressure moves aim for opposite goals.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Over 12 seasons, Meredith has transformed from a nervous
resident to an experienced surgeon. Now a patient from her first
surgery is admitted with a new aeurysm, this time as Amelia's
patient. Meanwhile, Arizona ponders whether to resume dating.

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse,” 8 p.m., NBC. In the sixth of 10 episodes, these
farflung stories finally start to merge. The skeptical priest (Rob
Lowe) finds Jamie and tells him about his roots. Rhonda (Jenna
Fischer) finds her son ... the hacker who has (for now) escaped from
Jamie's evil twin Ariel.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. A fairly good rerun catches Sheldon and Amy
post-break-up. He's jolted that she's dating somene, played by
Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the British “Office.

Demate, 9-11 p.m. ET, Fox News Channel. The Republicans debate in Detroit. All five survivors are expected, including Donald Trump, who skipped a previous Fox debate after grumbling about Megyn Kelly.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. A health scare sends Bonnie into a panic. Christy tries to
be supportive ... which isn't easy when you have a high-maintenance,
high-panic mom.

“How to Get Away
with Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. As Annalise begins a dangerous plan to
protect her team from Philip, Wes pushes for information about his
mother's death.

“Baskets,” 10
p.m., FX. This semi-comedy slogs down when focusing on dismal Chip
Baskets (Zach Galifianakis). It's better when veering to two people
played with deadpan precision by non-actors – Eddie the rodeo owner
(Ernest Adams) and Martha (Martha Kelly), Chips' only friend. So
tonight's episode – an odd road trip with Chip, Eddie and Martha
–is one of its best in an uneven series.

“Adam Devine's
House Party” season-opener, 12:30 a.m., Comedy Central. The show
moves to Hawaii, where each half-hour continues to have three
comedians and a slight situation-comedy overlay. That part tonight is
OK, but two of the comedians are superb: Jacob Williams is droll and
witty; Chris Garcia has a brilliant bit playing his own father, a
hard-working immigrant with a silly son.

TV column for Wednesday, March 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Real O'Neals” debut, 8:30 and 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Eileen O'Neal
(Martha Plimpton) wants to have the most envied family in the parish,
always doing things just right. Then a cascade of secrets pour out in
one loud (and funny) scene.

That pilot --
overwrought, but fun – is one of two episodes airing today, before
“O'Neals” moves to Tuesdays. In the second, Eileen tries to “fix”
her gay son Kenny ... who's still figuring out how to break up with
his girlfriend. Also, Kenny – prone to imaginary conversations –
turns to Jimmy Kimmel.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rosewood” return, 8 p.m., Fox.

After slumping in
the fall, the show returns big-time – new hours on Wednesdays,
reruns on Saturdays – with a busy plot. A serial killer seems to be
targeting Dr. Rosewood (Morris Chestnut) ... whose romance get
complicated ... while his poiice colleague lusts with his brother
(Taye Diggs).

With its Miami
settings and telegenic cast, “Rosewood” is a great-looking show.
Alas, the case falls into place way too easily and parts of the show
– expecially involving the police captain – are pure TV-hokum. In
particular, a country-club confrontation by Rosewood's mother seems
way too contrived.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS; and “Hell's Kitchen,” 9
p.m., Fox.

Now that “American
Idol” has trimmed to one night a week, these shows have reality
fans to themselves. For “Survivor,” this is the second
“brains-brawn-beauty” edition; “brawn” dominated the first
one, but this time it has lost the first two people, Darnell Hamilton
and Jennifer Lanzetti.

Meanwhile, “Hell's
Kitchen” has its top 10 (as does “Idol,” on Thursdays).
Tonight, they hear guitarist Steve Vai, have two competitions and
(winners only) have a paintball battle.

Other choices
include:

“A Year in Space,”
8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). One day after astronaut Scott
Kelly was set to conclude his record 334-day mission, some PBS
stations will have an all-space evening. This hour will be followed
by reruns of “Nova” (profiling Neil Armstrong) and Tuesday's
“American Experience,” with an interesting look at pre-NASA
pioneers in the Air Force.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. Each season, this has an homage to a 1980s movie; it's
done “Goonies” and “Ferris Bueller,” so now comes “Dirty
Dancing.” Erica plans to make that the theme to the school dance.
Her mom helps, then realizes there's a backlash. Worse, Erica's dad
tries to dance.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. It's time for some farce-style mix-ups. Everyone
seems to guess wrong about who wants to date whom, or (in one case),
what the sexual preference is.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. What do you do when life gets way too busy? Claire
secretly hires a personal assistant; Jay and Gloria cut corners while
parenting, without telling each other.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Probing the exploitation of
Catholic schoolgirls, the team finds a web of corruption involving
cops, judges, proscecutors and legislators.

“CSI Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. Transplanted from its usual Sunday spot, this show has
Python kidnap Avery's surrogate daughter. To find her, the team must
decipher elaborate puzzles.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. Next week is the season-finale of what has been a
brilliant mini-series, clearly one of TV's best. Last week, with a
bullied teen in jail for shooting someone who grabbed him on the
schoolgrounds, the coach (Tim Hutton) blamed the school
administration. Then his daughter told him she's the one who sold
drugs to the shooter. Now the aftershocks build.

 

TV column for Tuesday, March 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Election coverage, everywhere.

This is “Super
Tuesday,” a day that will do much to decide the presidential
nominees. Ten states have Republican and Democratic primaries; two
states and American Samoa have variations. In one busy day, almost
one-quarter of convention delegates will be chosen.

Cable news channels
will obsess on this, with coverage from 6 p.m. ET to at least 1 a.m.
Broadcast networkwill have updates during the night (and digitally);
and at 10 p.m. ET, there will be hourlong reports on CBS, NBC, ABC; PBS (check local listings) follows at 11 p.m. ET.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Muppets” season-finale, 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

A pretty good show
with pretty bad ratings, “Muppets” is halting its season after
only 16 episodes. It starts this hour with an episode that is (as
usual) erratic, but fun.

After Miss Piggy
breaks her ankle, Kermit decides to do part of the show from her
hospital room. Alas, she mistakes the morphine drip for a call button
and gets pretty silly. There are some moments – including music by
Willie Nelson – and then a closing nudge to her faded romance with
Kermit. That's addressed in the second half-hour, with Jack White as
guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” 10 p.m., FX.

Two opposite forces
collide. On the defense is Johnnie Cochran, a master of language and
pizzazz; on the prosecution side is Christopher Darden -- quiet,
earnest, upset by Cochran's racial allegations.

As played by
Courtney Vance and Sterling Brown, they are compelling. The
understaffed prosecutors battle Cochran's grand gestures, including
an outrageous one: Before the jury (mostly black) visited Simpson's
home, he stripped away photos of white friends, replacing then with
blacks and African art. There's much more in a great hour, including
an eerie final moment with police witness Mark Fuhrman.

Other choices
include:

“Finding Your
Roots,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here are three people
whose families fled from prejudice. Julianna Margulies' kin were
among the Jews fleeing Romania ... Asar Nafisii was 48 when she moved
from Iran (which had imprisoned her father for years) to the U.S.;
she then wrote a best-selling memoir. And Lidia Bastianich, the chef?
Her homeland (Istris) went from Italy to Yugoslavia to Croatia. As
biases against Italians grew, she fled with her family at age 12.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Just as a case seems to be open-and-shut, each staffer finds
something worng with the statement of a witness.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Navy captain is killed during a radio
show, the team must find the shooter and protect the radio
personality.

“Agent Carter”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC. Next Tuesday, “Agents of SHIELD”
reclaims its time slot. First, this show wraps up its 10-hour interim
run, with high stakes: Peggy heads on a mission she may not return
from; her only hope is for Howard Stark to eliminate the ominous
“zero matter.”

“American
Experience,” 9 p.m. (check local listings). Once NASA got started,
Americans obsessed on its astronauts. But before that, this
interesting hour says, the Air Force had a separate program testing
man's limits. At the time, people felt a 12-G (12 times the pull of
gravity) impact would be lethal; one test pilot survived (barely) at
46.2-G.

“The Grinder.”
9:30 p.m., Fox. For once, Stewart (Fred Savage) really needs the
skills his brother Dean (Rob Lowe) showed on his TV show. Alas, Dean
has abandoned that and gone to law school.

“Tour Group”
debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. This reality show sees 11 people tackle exotic
vacations. It includes two small-town brothers who had never left the
U.S., estranged twin sisters, a soul-searching divorcee and a woman
who is engaged (for the 13th time) and deciding whether to
marry.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Blindspot” return, 10 p.m., NBC.

After a three-month
pause, the show returns with Jane Doe held captive by someone who
says he's a friend. Soon, the team is chasing a crashed airliner ...
and is held captive yet again.

Fortunately, Jane's
kind of good at escaping. This is a high-octane episode that also has
some great scenes for Patterson (Ashley Johnson), the tech wizard,
back at headquarters. And it raises questions at the heart of the
show: Was all of this – tattoos and memory loss and more – really
Jane's idea?

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Voice” opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

This is the part
viewers seem to like the most – judges with their backs to the
singers, then spinning their big red chairs around and fighting to
get the best people on their teams.

Often, two men
prevail. Blake Shelton has had four champions, with three for Adam
Levine, one apiece for Usher and Pharrell Williams. This edition has
Shelton, Levine, Williams and Christina Aguilera.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “He Named Me Malala,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., National
Geographic.

Even in her pre-teen
years, Malala Yousafzai was an activist. At 11 and 12, she wrote an
anonymous blog, describing Pakistani life under Taliban control. She
became the centerpiece of an effort to get education for girls ...
and, at 15, was shot three times close-up.

Somehow, she
survived and became the youngest Nobel laureate ever; at 18, she
remains both a student and an activist. Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim
(“An Inconvenient Truth”) has crafted a gentle and deeply moving
documentary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Gotham” return, 8 p.m., Fox.

For 56 years, Mr.
Freeze has been menacing Gotham City in comics, movies and TV
episodes. He's been played by Otto Preminger, Arnold Schwarzenegger
and other menacing types.

Now, however, comes
a different version: He's a kindly (sometimes) chap, determined to
find a way to freeze his wife and thaw her once there's a cure. We
met him briefly before the show's three-month break, but now he's at
the core of a tough and richly crafted episode.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Down to his final three, Ben Higgins invites each
to an overnight stay in the “fantasy suite.” JoJo, 24, is a
real-estate developer in Dallas; Caila. 24, sells software in Hudson,
Ohio; and Lauren B., 25, is a flight attendant based in California.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. Rebecca and Josh head to Los Angeles to
present their case. There, they meet B.J. Novak (“The Office”),
playing himself, and confront their feelings for each other.

“Major League
Legends,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. From his tiny, boyhood home in
Mobile, Ala., Henry Aaron, 82, reflects on a remarkable life. Once
confined to hitting softballs and bottle caps (hardballs were too
expensive), he went on to break Babe Ruth's career home run record
... while enduring racist hate mail. Despite one flaw – unhelpful
asides by a “mythologist” -- this is a terrific hour.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. First is a light moment, with Sylvester on “The Price is
Right.” Then things get serious, as the team tries to infiltrate a
car-smuggling ring.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane is back with Michael now, sort of. But she fails in
the effort to make peace between Michael and Rafael, the biologic
father (via clinic error) of her baby.

“Better Call
Saul,” 10 p.m., FX. In last week's episode (rerunning at 8:56
p.m.), Mike brokered a deal to avoid a messy situation. Now Jimmy
hits a new high in showmanship and gathering clients.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. The murder victim taught English as a second language.
When students refuse to talk, Castle goes undercover as a
French-Canadian immigrant.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 28


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

Sure, the Academy
was scalded for having an all-white slate of nominees. Still, it also
has the perfect people to mock this, with a black host (Chris Rock),
producer (Reginald Hudlin) and Academy president (Cheryl Boone).
There are clever presentees, including Kevin Hart, Tina Fey and Louis
CK.

And music? We can
expect sttrong moments from Lady Gaga (“'Til It Happens to You”),
The Weeknd (“Earned It”) and Sam Smith (“Writing on the Wall”).
Those three are nominated for best song; oddly, the telecast plans to
skip the other two nominees -- “Manta Ray” and the gorgeous
“Simple Song #3.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Walking Dead,” 7-10 p.m., AMC.

OK, not everyone
wants to spend the whole evening gushing about gowns. Some would
rather see zombies munching on the back of people's heads; that
happened (a lot) in the mid-season opener.

That hour – which
started strong and ended stronger – reruns at 7 p.m. The second
hour reruns at 8, with a new episode at 9: Realizing Alexandria is no
longer secure, Rick ponders his next move.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “More Manners of Downton Abbey,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Now for the exact
opposite of zombies – proper Englishfolk, following the rules of
the 1920s.

The splendid
“Downton” has one more episode – a particularly good one –
left. Instead of wasting it on Oscar night, it will wait a week.
Filling the gap is this amiable hour, using clips and interviews,
with historical advisor Alastair Bruce explaining the customs of the
times. It's Bruce's second special; some stations will combine it
with reruns of the first one and past “Downton” episodes.

Other choices
include:

Oscar previews, all
day. For Ryan Seacrest and the E channel, this is a marathon –
previews at 1:30 p.m. ET, then the red-carpet at 5:30. ABC starts its
red-carpet coverage at 7 p.m. ET; Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan
host, with help from Lara Spencer, Amy Robach, Jess Cagle and Joe
Zee.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. The first rerun sees things go badly for Bart
after he visits a mental home. The second has him going ga-ga for his
new teacher, voiced by Sofia Vergara.

“Gooper Barrett's
Guide to Surviving Life,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Unwilling to go to her
ex-boyfriend's wedding alone, Kelly brings Cooper. Logistical
nightnmares follow, in a funny rerun.

“Ted,” 8:30-11
p.m., NBC. John (Mark Wahlberg) is happy his childhood teddy bear
came to life ... except that it's endangering his romance. Seth
McFarlane co-wrote, directed and voiced Ted.

“Last Vegas”
(2013), 9 p.m., CBS. Instead of wasting its classy dramas on Oscar
night, CBS plugs in this comedy about old friends who play a big
Vegas bash. All four stars – Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas,
Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline – have won Oscars, but definitely
not for this one.

“Vinyl,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. A tribute banquet for Richie's mentor turns nasty. That reruns
at 11:30, following new rounds of “Girls,” “Togetherness” and
John Oliver's “Last Week Tonight.”

Post-Oscar shows.
The E channel plans to start its “after party” at 11:30 p.m. ET
... when the ceremony might still be droning on. ABC has Jimmy
Kimmel's live special after local news (or at 10 p.m. PT). Guests
include Ben Affleck and J.K. Simmons (who are Oscar-winners) and Mike
Tyson (who isn't), plus Tracy Morgan, Nathan Lane, Jesse Eisenberg
and, probably, Matt Damon.