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

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

“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.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 17

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

On the day Jimmy Fallon was born, “Tonight” was a week shy
of its 20
th birthday. Now he’s in charge.

Fallon starts strong, with Will Smith tonight, Jerry
Seinfeld on Tuesday and – two names you rarely here together – Michelle Obama
and Will Ferrell on Thursday. He’ll also emphasize music, including U2 tonight,
Lady Gaga on Tuesday, Justin Timberlake on Friday … and his own classy house
band, The Roots.

Next week, Fallon settles in at 11:35 p.m., giving his old
slot (12:35 a.m.) to Seth Meyers.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Juan Pablo Galavis has shown a taste for educated
professionals. His final six women include a lawyer, a nurse, a science
educator and (really) an opera singer.’

Now they’re in Miami, where he has an emotional reunion with
his daughter. He has to choose the final four, whose home towns he’ll visit
next week.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.,
1-2 a.m., NBC.

This may be the best chance for Americans to go gold in
figure-skating, with the ice-dancing finals. In 2010, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and
Scott Moir edged the U.S.’ Meryl Davis and Charlie White; since then, Davis and
White have won two world championships and soared in the team event.

They compete again, on a day that also includes medals for
men in large-hill ski jumping, freestyle skiing aerials and snowboard cross.

Other choices include:

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” about 10 a.m. (check local
listings), PBS. This cartoon – too one-note for adults, charming for
pre-schoolers – launches a week devoted to kids’ feelings.

“Breadwinners” debut, 7:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. So there you
are, zooming around in your bread-delivery rocket truck; suddenly, you’re
called to a high-crime neighborhood ruled by biker ducks. This is a fast and
funny start to a cartoon that then moves to 11 a.m. Saturdays.

“Star-Crossed,” 8 p.m., CW. When a spaceship crashes, a
little girl shelters a boy. A decade later, both are gorgeous (she’s played by
Aimee Teegarden) and the aliens are being mainstreamed. The result adequately
mixes teen drama and metaphors for racism, immigration and more.

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. A four-rerun comedy
block begins with Barney trapped in a fight between his mom and his

“Breath of Freedom,” 8-10 p.m., Smithsonian. Still in
uniform from World War II, Hosea Williams asked for water at a whites-only bus
stop. He was beaten and dumped at a black mortuary; he recovered, led a civil-rights
march and was attacked by police. Compelling stories like that fill this film.
We meet ex-soldiers who became a judge, a jazz great (Jon Hendricks) and
secretary of state (Colin Powell).

“The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox. Ryan catches a suspect who
remains dangerous after being captured.

“Mike & Molly,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Scrambling for laughs,
the show is willing to trash a main character. On a ride-along with her police husband,
Molly behaves like an idiot.

“Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In
the Texas border town of Laredo, Hispanics showed patriotism by celebrating
George Washington’s birthday. Now it’s a 116-year tradition, done to dizzying
excess, with $15,000 gowns. This fairly interesting film focuses on two
debutantes: Rosario is a skeptic; Laurita already has several crowns and now is
her family’s 13
th woman in the pageant.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Rick feels that a mean girl may
have been killed by a telekinetic teen. 

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 3-6 p.m., 7-11 p.m.,
11:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m., NBC; also, cable.

Americans used to mock ice-dancing … until this year, when
it became the best chance for a U.S .figure-skating medal. Now they’ll follow world
champions Charlie White and Meryl Davis in the short program.

This afternoon has women’s speedskating, two-man bobsled and
the grueling, 15-kilometer biathlon. Tonight has medals for women in snowboarding
cross and for men in Alpine super-G skiing and the 10-kilometer cross-country
relay; late-night continues the ice-dancing.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Downton Abbey,” 9-10:15 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

A week before the season finale, the village fair is here
and romance is possible. We see potential matches for Tom … and for Matthew’s
mom … and even for hard-pressed Mr. Molesely. We continue to see two possibilities
for the distant Lady Mary.

But there are crises, too. Edith is pregnant and her lover
has disappeared in Nazi Germany. Daisy agonizes (as usual), as Alfred plans a
visit. Rose’s interracial romance stirs controversy. And Bates – who has a temper
and (almost) a murder conviction – may have figured out who is his wife’s
rapist. Many of these are tossed off way to briefly … but with such elegance that
we forgive the short-cuts.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Wicked Tuna” season-opener (National
Geographic) or “The Walking Dead” (AMC), both 9 p.m, cable.

Let’s credit cable for booming ahead against the Olympics.
Last week, the “Dead” season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.) brought huge ratings;
now the second episode (rerunning at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.), brings fresh

Meanwhile, “Tuna” is back. The second season’s final nine
episodes will rerun, starting at noon. Then the new episode captures amiably
eccentric captains in Gloucester, with young Tyler McLaughlin facing multiple
problems. He’s working alone, against three- and four-man boats. He’s mocked
and crowded; also, his former mentor TJ Ott has just arrived.

Other choices include:

“Up” (2009), 8-10 p.m., ABC. Brilliantly crafted, this Pixar
gem keeps surprising us. The opening is both beautiful and heartbreaking; the
rest is just fun, as a boy and a grumpy man float off to adventures.

Basketball, 8 p.m., TNT. New Orleans hosts the pro all-star
game, often high-flying and high-scoring.

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in
which Alicia’s firm gets its first client – who might have to choose between
being deported and being a murder target.

“The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from November,
Patrick Jane gathers all the Red John suspects (played by Malcolm McDowell,
Reed Diamond and more) in one spot … then finds a complication.

“Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, a murder suspect insists
he’s a time-traveler.

“Girls,” 10 p.m., HBO. Marnie plans a sweet, seaside weekend
with her friends, talking and bonding. But with these people, talk is dangerous;
the result is sometimes funny, often dark and always well-done.

“Looking,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. A change-up episode focuses only
on Patrick and Raul. The result is sexually graphic at first, then talky but
skillfully written and acted.