TV column for Wednesday, April 1


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

Now merely a hit
show – instead of a mega-hit -- “Idol” is loading up on guest
stars and memories. Next week, it brings back Jennifer Hudson, along
with Iggy Azaelea, Jason Derulo and Florida Georgia Line. And
tonight, Kelly Clarkson performs and mentors, as contestants tackle
her songs.

There are eight
left, after two women – Adanna Duru and Maddie Walker – were
ousted. That followed the previous week's “save” of Qaasim
Middleton; he survives, with one person ousted tonight.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Cancer” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS.

In the four decades
since declaring war on cancer, scientists have faced extremes. Fresh
approaches emerged, were heralded, then failed; researcherslearned
how complex and evolving cancer is.

In its final night,
this excellent series has some deeply disturbing scenes; two people
are told on-camera that there's no hope. Still, there's also been big
progress in prevention – the smoking rate has been cut in half –
and treatment; for many types of cancer, the survival rate has
soared. And emerging is the idea of reworking patients' own immune
system; that showed great leaps in the years this was being filmed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Dovekeepers” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., CBS.

After lots of
soap-style extremes, the key characters are now in seclusion. There's
Shirah (Cote de Pablo), who masters herbal medicines so skillfully
that she's considered a witch; and there's Yael (Rachel Brosnahan),
with her daughter (who spent years disguised as a warrior boy) and
son.

After fierce raids
on Roman soldiers, their people are atop the Masada, an awesome
fortress built by King Herrod. Below those steep cliffs, a vengeful
Flavius plans his attack. This overwrought tale – told to historian
Josephus (Sam Neill) – is salvaged by the epic look provided by
director Yves Simoneau.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Big Time in Hollywood, FL,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central.

Last week's opener
had a wonderfully dark, daft twist: Told to leave home and get jobs,
brothers had a scheme to finance their filmmaking. They hired an
actor to play a drug-dealing kidnapper, demanding $20,000 from their
parents. Alas, the mom called the police -- who killed the perplexed
actor.

Now the cover-up
begins, alongside an “intervention” (for a fake drug habit),
clumsy escapes and a weak-link friend. In half-hour bursts, we get a
broad – and very funny – comedy-adventure movie.

Other choices
include:

“The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. Dodging her own birthday, Laura works a murder
case. Kathie Lee Gifford plays a psychiatrist helping work the case.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. It's an all-new night for ABC comedies, starting with some
lessons in niceness. When Axl's girlfriend says he's mean to his
sister, he tries to feign being a good brother. Also, Mike starts to
wonder if he was a bully to his hapless brother Rusty (Norm
Macdonald).

The Goldbergs,”
8:30, ABC. This comedy night surely needs at least one April 1st
reference. Tonight, an April Fools Day joke escalates into a war
between Adam and his brother. Also, their sister is thinking about
skipping college and focusing on being a singer.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. It isn't easy second-guessing Jay. His kids offer to pay
back long-ago loans, assuming he'll decline. And his son-in-law Phil
thinks a high-tech grill is a perfect present.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Swiping from recent headlines,
this hour sees a student make rape charges against a fraternity. Rob
Morrow plays an assertive TV host.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Voight is linked to a teen whose botched robbery led to
two murders.

TV column for Tuesday, March 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Weird Loners” debut, 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Most of these people
are attractive and all are alone. Caryn dates the wrong men; Stosh
beds the wrong women (including his boss' fiancee). Zara leaves men;
Eric stayed home with his parents.

Now circumstances
throw them together. The upcoming episodes have key flaws, making the
guys too extreme to care about; this opener, however, is a dandy.
Producer-director Jake Kasdan (“New Girl”) skillfully molds a
likable cast, led by Becki Newton. One scene -- lip-reading a wedding
– is hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

You really are what
you eat, it seems. Last week, Liv (the reluctant zombie) munched the
brains of a dead artist and became wildly passionat; tonight, she
munches a hit man and turns stone cold.

She also has her
weekly crime story -- a byproduct of working in a morgue. That part
is OK and some of the performances are so-so; still, “iZombie”
scores whenever Liv (Rose McIver) transforms.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Dovekeepers,” 9-11 p.m., CBS; concludes
Wednesday.

Lots of mismatched
elements are thrown into a crowded, four-hour package. You'll find
epic history, grand visuals and a bizarre string of soap-opera plot
twists.

Josephus, the
ancient historian, described 900-plus Jewish rebels facing Roman
attackers on the hilltop fortress of Masada. Two women survived,
presumably fueling his account. This story (based on Alice Hoffman's
novel) adds love, rape, gender-disguise, superstition and brutality.
It often seems excessive, but Cote di Pablo is solid in the lead and
director Yves Simoneau provides an epic look.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Here's the show that de Pablo left. Tony (her former boyfriend
on the show) is working with his current girlfriend (Marisol
Nichols); his dad (Robert Wagner) arrives to meet her.

“Hook” (1991), 8
p.m., ABC Family; or “Finding Neverland” (2004), 9 p.m., AMC.
Here are two takes on Peter Pan. First is Steven Spielberg's OK film,
with Robin Williams as a middle-aged Pan. Then Johnny Depp and Kate
Winslet are excellent as the “Pan” author and a young widow he
admires.

“Cancer,” 9-11
p.m., PBS. This mid-section of a three-night documentary introduces
another involving current case -- a heroic cancer doctor, facing
cancer herself. It also continues its historical account: We're now
in 1971, with Richard Nixon declaring war on cancer ... which becomes
a long, slow war.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. Jess must crash a funeral, to remove a revealing text.
Also, two “Saturday Night Live” alumni visit – Nora Dunn as
Schmidt's mother, Nasim Pedrad as Winston's police partner.

“One Big Happy,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert) is attracted to Kate, a
beauty in her gym; now come hurdles: Lizzy doesn't know if Kate is
gay; Kate doesn't know Lizzy is pregnant. There are some sharp lines
here, sabotaged by the show's fondness for cheap and witless
throw-away lines.

“Forever,” 10
p.m., ABC. The team's first cold case is really cold – mummified
returns from 30 years ago. Working on it, Henry recalls a romance
that failed because she was aging and he wasn't.

 

TV column for Monday, March 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Cancer” opener, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Two master
filmmakers – Barak Goodman (“Clinton,” “My Lai”) and Ken
Burns (“Civil War”) link, backed by the rich research of Dr.
Siddhartha Mukherjee's book.

The result sprawls
over three nights and six hours, juggling opposite styles. On one
hand, cameras tonight follow current kids with cancer; each story is
disturbing, some are heartbreaking. On the other, there is the sort
of history that Burns masters: People have written about cancer for
4,000 years, but didn't understand it enough to mount a concerted
effort until the 1960s. It's a big story, beautifully told.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

The nice thing about
being a star is that you get to mock Justin Bieber to his face. “I
feel like I'm roasting you for the entire world,” comedian Jeffrey
Ross tells him.

Other comics also
savor the opportunity, including Kevin Hart (who hosts), Hannibal
Buress, Chris D'Elia, Natasha Leggero and “Saturday Night Live”
newcomer Pete Davidson. There are also some non-comics taking shots,
includikng Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Martha Stewart and Shaquille O'Neal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Returned,” 10:01 p.m., A&E.

Like the French
series this is based on, this series beautifully captures muted
emotions. Small-town people quietly reflect pain and confusion, as
loved ones return unchanged, years after they died.

Simon died on his
wedding day. Camille was 15 when she died four years ago; now she
pretends in public to be a cousin, enraging her twin sister. Now we
learn more about little Victor; we also meet a woman who offers an
eloquent view of the agony of a life that simply never ends.

Other choices
include:

“Jamaica Inn,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. Here's a
fairly good finish to this dark, Daphne du Maurier tale starring
Jessica Brown Finlay. Beginning today, this streaming service has all
three chapters.

“Keeping Up With
the Kardashians,” 7 a.m, to noon, 4-7 p.m., 8-10 p.m., E. The 9
p.m. spot was supposed to go to “Fashion Police” ... until that
show imploded after a stray comment about dredlocks. Kelly Osborne
and Kathy Griffin quit; “Police” was yanked until fall.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Redfoo became the first star
ousted. Chris Soules (“The Bachelor”) and Charlotte McKinney
survived, but they're in trouble. Judges gave them a 21 and 26 out of
40. Those were the bottom scores; others went as high as a 34 for
Nastia Liukin.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Here's the second of three “knock-out” nights.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Protecting a key witness, the team is on the run, with the
cartel in pursuit.

“Bates Motel,” 9
p.m., A&E. “Chaos seems to swirl around you,” a cop (and
ex-lover) tells Norma tonight. Last week, a hotel resident died in
her arms, while handing her a flashdrive. In a good episode tonight,
some scary types want to retrieve it.

“Strange
Inheritance,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox Business. What happens to odd
collections? The first half-hour involves 140 vintage tractors; the
second has 72 portraits of Battle of Little Big Horn warriors.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. When a larger-than-life lawyer is killed, the list of
suspects is enormous.

TV column for Saturday, March 28


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Kids Choice Awards,” 8-9:30 p.m., Nickelodeon.

No longer a mere
Jonas Brother, Nick Jonas is everywhere now, from Broadway musicals
to TV series and successful records. Tonight, he's the host and opens
the show with his singles: “Jealous” and “Chains” reached No.
7 and 25 on the Billboard charts.

Also, 5 Seconds of
Summer sings “What I Like About You”; Iggy Azalea and Jennifer
Hudson link on “Trouble.” If the past is a sign, there will be
big-name presenters ... one of them hit by green slime.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: Figure-skating and “Saturday Night Live,” 8-10 and 11:29
p.m., NBC. Even on a basketball weekend, other sports survive. At the
international skating finals in Shanghai, the U.S. is led by Ashley
Wagner (winner of three of the last four nationals) and Gracie Gold,
who won the nationals in 2014 and finished second this year.

Afterward, NBC
switches to the sport – well, semi-sport -- of wrestling. Dwayne
Johnson, who wrestled as The Rock, has his fourth turn hosting “SNL”;
George Ezra is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Katy Perry: Prismatic World Tour,” 8 p.m., Epix.

Here is a rock
concert of epic, Gaga-Madonna proportions. It has it all – talented
dancers, spectacular sets and costumes and – in the midst of this,
a cascade of hit songs.

Perry frolics,
jokes, jumps rope and pulls people from the audience; she gives her
pizza to an 8-year-old girl and takes a selfie with a young woman who
arrived in a swimsuit. “You're gonna hear me roar,” she
announces. This is all so big that you'll doubt she'll top it for
the closing “Firework”; she does.

Other choices
include:

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 5-10 p.m., Tru TV. This hidden-camera show is a gem,
thanks to Michael Carbonaro's skill as a magician and an
impromisational comedian. Here are reruns of 10 episodes.

Basketball, 6 p.m.
ET, TBS. Now we learn who will be in the NCAA tourament's final four.
There's this doubleheader today, followed by a CBS one at 2 p.m.
Sunday.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 8 p.m., CBS,. This reruns a Christmastime episode that
sees Pride going to Afghanistan, after a suspect is found wearing the
jacket of somone who was believed killed there.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here's a second chance to see last week's
episode, before a new one arrives Sunday. When Ben sees an autistic
boy wandering on his own, he wonders if someone – the boy, his mom
(Melissa Gilbert) or his brother – is involved with the murder.

“In an Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. This series skillfully mixes re-enactments and the
memories of survivors. Tonight, it views a 1991 crisis, when four
young men had 50 hostages in a Sacramento electronics store. The
result left seven people dead and 14 wounded.

“Black Sails”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Starz. This richly crafted pirate show runs
its season in one gulp. Previous episodes start at noon; then this
new one finds Flint adding an unlikely ally, Silver making a
sacrifice and Vane's crew wanting a change.

“Cat Ballou”
(1965), 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This cowboy comedy classic
made Lee Marvin an Oscar-winner and a star.

TV column for Thursday, March 26


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

Cyndi Lauper is busy
conquering all media. She was a rock-pop singer with eight top-10
singles, two of them (“Time After Time” and “True Colors”)
reaching No. 1. She also won a 2013 Tony for her “Kinky Boots”
score. Now comes her fourth “Bones” episode as Avalon Harmonia,
self-styled psychic.

After resting for 15
weeks, “Bones” returns with a smart script that ties a murder
probe into issues of belief in the unseen – from religion to an
invisible friend. Booth is a doubter; Avalon is not.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Basketball, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS, and 7:47 p.m., TBS.

Now that it's down
to the sweet-16, the NCAA tournament shrinks to a watchable size: CBS
(that means no “Big Bang Theory” tonight) and TBS, each with two
games today and two more Friday.

CBS starts with
Notre Dame -- winner of two straight tight games -- against Wichita
State, which upset a high-ranked Kansas team. At about 9:45 p.m., it
has Kentucky (undefeated and unrelenting) and West Virginia. TBS has
two top-seeded teams – Wisconsin (facing North Carolina) and then
Arizona (facing Xavier at about 10:17 p.m. ET) Today's winners will
be back Saturday, eyeing spots in the final four.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Backstrom,” 9 p.m., Fox.

As Backstrom spews
invective randomly, our reactions vary. Some of this is aimed at
police colleagues, who can shrug it off. Much is aimed at
overprivileged women in the “Real Housewives” mold; we're
starting to like this guy. Then he turns on poor people at a free
kitchen; the fun vanishes.

Between insults, he
must solve the murder of the only good woman in a rich-and-nasty
group. Also, his doctor and his ex-fiancee try to nudge him into
healthy living – something Backstrom avoids cleverly.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. So far, Meredith still isn't sure Derek has been
cheating on her. Now, apparently, they finally talk about it; also,
Owen is startled to see his mother admitted to the hospital.

“Revenge,” 9
p.m., ABC. Cyrus is pressured to move up his wedding date. Also,
David launches his plan aimed at taking down B613.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Disabled people are being kidnapped for experiments on
immortality.

Stand-up comedy, 9
amd 10 p.m., Comedy Central. On the night begore “Get Hard” --
Kevin Hart's second movie in two months – debuts, here are two of
his stand-up hours. “I'm a Grown Little Man” is from 2009;
“Laugh at My Pain” is from 2011.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. Last week ended with a jolt: Not only is Ben a murder
suspect, but now he has a smart stalker; as this hour starts, he's
trapped inside his own car, in a dark parking lot. “Archer,” 10
and 10:30 p.m., FX. First is the start of a two-parter that FX calls
the show's “most fantastic journey ever”; that story – and the
season – conclude next week. At 10:30 today is a rerun of last
week's dandy episode, from a tale by Matthew Rhys (“The
Americans”), who voices a role.

“The Slap,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Rosie (Melissa George) is vehemently pushing her
court case against Harry (Zachary Quinto), who slapped her unruly
5-year-old. She's so vehement that even her husband starts turning
against her ... until her rough time nudges him to mention key
information.