TV column for Tuesday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Rise,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The first week was a
breeze. “Rise” started after the “This Is Us” season-finale
and ended with an emotional peak: high school kids burned their
“Pirates of Penzance” costumes, sang and insisted on doing the
“Spring Awakening” musical. Passions soared.

Now comes the hard
part – taking the “This Is Us” slot and tackling personal pain.
The theater director (Josh Radnor) battles his assistant director
(Rosie Perez), the principal, the football coach and even his own
son. Deeply layered emotions are uncovered, in an hour that's
beautifully written and played.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “For the People,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Here is the “Grey's
Anatomy” formula, skillfully cloned. Attractive young people –
this time lawyers – bumble through their personal lives while
conquering (mostly) their jobs.

One case (involving
doctors and opioids) is a mis-step; the lawyers try something absurd,
then get a huge break. The other, however, has an Arab-American
lawyer reluctantly defending a neo-Nazi; his summation is brilliant.
Beyond that, we get great personal glimpses: The tough clerk (Anna
Deavere Smith) and the strident defense lawyer (Britt Robertson)
become much deeper and more interesting.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Adam Ruins Everything,” 10:30 p.m., TruTV.

Once a year, viewers
re-discover this channel during the basketball tournament and wonder
what it does the rest of the year. Mostly, it has low-budget
reality-comedy shows, one of them (“The Carbonaro Effect”) a
delight ... plus this little gem, in which Adam Conover deflates
myths.

Now “Adam” has
its first animated episodes, a six-week stretch that starts with the
Revolutionary War.. Legends about Paul Revere, George Washington and
soldiers are deflated, complete with footnotes.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. Here are two reruns, kicking “Bull” back to 10 p.m.
The first – probing an apparent suicide -- brings back Patrick
Labyorteau as Bud Roberts ... a character he played in this show's
predecessor, “JAG.” The second has Nick and Ellie go undercover
as a criminal couple.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. In the show's final season, it gives us the last battle
between Frankie (the 5-foot-2 Patricia Heaton) and her imposing
neighbor (the 6-foot Brooke Shields).

“Shadowhunders”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Freeform. “What you saw was real,” one cop
tells another. “The legends are true.” All of them, apparently;
this world has werewolves, warlocks, vampire and (fortunately)
heroes. Clare is being promoted to full “shadowhunter” status and
honored ... because people don't know her secret: She frittered the
one angelic wish away. Tonight's hour has lots of flash and action
(plus some terribly gory moments), alongside pretty people grasping
for truths.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. Reluctant heroes are fine, but this otherwise-solid show
goes too far. Its ninth episode is still about the reluctance of its
hero and, now, his younger daughter; only the older daughter embraces
her superpowers. The result has lots of angst, followed by brief
bursts of action.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's almost time for the 65th birthday of Pops
(Laurence Fishburne, who's only 56). When Dre helps Junior plan it,
he gets new a perspective on his dad's life.

“Modern Family,”
9:30, ABC. In a rerun, Alex's parents realize she's self-sufficient
in college.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. Manning and Choi go to a homeless encampment, to
deliver a baby under tough circumstances. Also, Rhodes and Bekker
disagree about a boy with a chronic disease.

TV column or Monday, March 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Here's a fresh sort
of theme week -- “great movie endings.” And no, that doesn't
mean happy, Hollywood ones. Coming up in the 8 p.m. slot are “The
Graduate” on Tuesday, “Breakfast at Tiffany's” on Wednesday,
“Sunset Boulevard” on Thursday and “The Third Man” on Friday.

Tonight's theme is
“going out with a bang.” (Remember, don't expect happy.) That
starts with this gem, ranked No. 42 on the American Film Insititute's
all-time list. It's followed by “The Lady From Shanghai” (1945)
at 10 p.m., “King Kong” (1933) at 11:45 and “Easy Rider”
(1969) at 1:45 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Good Girls,” 10 p.m., NBC.

“I'm so tired of
almost being shot,” one woman says. That's understandable; in the
midst of Michigan suburbia, they ran out of money and robbed a
grocery store; now they're sinking deeper into crime.

The result gets
complicated, especially when one of the kids is getting bullied,
another wants a super birthday party ... and a third finds a bleeding
guy on her bed. “Good Girls” occasionally goes overboard –
especially with a new store-return scam – but it mostly mixes
comedy and drama effectively.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jackie Robinson,” 9-11 p.m., PBS; concludes
Tuesday.

Robinson grew up in
Pasadena, far from the sunny scenes we see at Rose Bowl time. Blacks
were allowed to use the pool once a week; afterward, it was drained
and refilled. His brother was a track hero, running with Jesse Owens
... then got a job sweeping the streets.

Jackie would go on
to UCLA, the Army and a crucial role. Outspoken, he shut himself down
and focused on breaking baseball's color barrier. It's a big, deep
story, superbly told in this Ken Burns film.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

This show is an
actor's dream, with zombies assuming the personalities of the brains
they've munched. Liv continues to be a hopeless romantic, but now the
scheming Blaine is a truth-teller and, near the end, Major is
strutting like a wrestler. Also, Clive conjures up an alternate
personality for a video contact.

This wraps up the
search for a serial-killer, but leaves other stories stretching on.
And for the first time, Major meets the zombie-power church led by
Blaine's dad; Robert Knepper (“Prison Break”) frolics.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol”
(ABC) and “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10 p.m. “Idol” is still in its
auditions, bouncing between four cities; “Voice,” however, starts
its “battle rounds.”

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 8 p.m., CW. Are our TV sets being overtaken by the
occult? Leading into “iZombie,” this hour has magical totems
bedeviling Sara and Rory. And at 8 p.m. on Fox, “Lucifer” probes
murders that seem way too much like ones from 60 years ago.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. In the midst of a lush Charity Ball, someone has dumped
a “Jane Doe” at the hospital. Conrad and Nicolette conspire to
get her admitted.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Randy (Katey Sagal), who just passed her detective's
exam, faces a new problem: Her former supervisor wants help with a
sexual-abuse charge filed against him.

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. Elective surgery would allow a young patient to smile
for the first time. Shaun – who pretty much never smiles –
doesn't see the need for that.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. These geniuses might not be good at alligator-hunting. Now
they need to catch a specific 'gator in the bayou, to prevent a
mosquito-borne virus from spreading.

TV column for Sunday, March 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Little Big Shots” season-opener, 7 and 8 p.m., NBC.

This has become a
big ratings winner for all the right reasons. Steve Harvey is a
terrific host and the kids he introduces are remarkable.

Some of the ones in
the opener harness a specific skill; one does mega-math, one knows
presidential trivia another – a cute 4-year-old – sings a
dead-serious “My Way.” Others, however, have great acts by any
standards. A contortionist, a “bubble artist” (really) and a
gospel singer are immensely gifted.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Right now, TV is in
a Bill Hader stretch. This weekend, Hader hosted his old show, NBC's
“Saturday Night Live”; next Sunday, he launches his new show,
HBO's “Barry.” And tonight, he voices a fairly clever take-off on
old TV detective shows.

The heist involves
Joan Mirot's 1940 painting “The Poetess.” Homer falls in love
with it (even frolicking inside it, in a fantasy scene) and is a
prime suspect when it's stolen. We get all the cliches, as a cop
mutters odd quips, flirts openly, then cracks a preposterous scheme.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Instinct,” 8 p.m., CBS.

There are two key
ingredients for a TV mystery – a distinctive central character and
a clever plot; by that standard, “Instinct” is a half-success.
Its plot is one of those silly ones where the killer keeps planting
clues for the convenience of the crimesolvers; its main character,
however, is terrific.

Dylan Reinhart (Alan
Cumming) is a professor who writes about psychopathic behavior.
Beneath an academic image is a guy with lethal skill. Now he links
with a cop (Bojana Novakovic) who seems to keep shedding partners;
together, they solve murders.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, all day.
CBS starts the NCAA tournament coverage early, with games at noon,
2:30 and 5 p.m. ET; it gives a fourth game (at 7:30) to TruTV, so
“Instinct” can get a big start. Other games are at 6 and 8:30
p.m. on TNT and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on TBS. At the end of it all, the
field will be down to 16.

Superman movies,
12:02 p.m., Syfy. This channel is obsessing on “Krypton,” the
Superman prequel it will launch Wednesday. Today, it has Christopher
Reeve's four films in reverse order – at 12:02 (1987), 2:10 (1983),
5:04 (1981) and 8 p.m. (1978). In the Hollywood tradition, alas, the
series started well and got increasingly worse with each sequel.
Cartoon movies follow at 11:39 p.m. and 1:24 a.m.

“Genius Junior,”
9 p.m., NBC. It's great to celebrate smart kids ... and prove, as one
contestant puts it: “America isn't as dumb as it seems.” Still,
this would be better as a one-shot special; as a series, it drains
our attention quickly. The kids are smart and likable – as is host
Neil Patrick Harris -- but two of the contests just involve memory;
others lack variety (wrong answers are rare) or play-along factor.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Granger's daughter, a former spy, is in
witness protection. Now she's taken away from safety, to help find a
spy who has an arsenal of bomb materials.

“The Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. The leaders of Hilltop face a challenge when
visitors arrive.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. Wouldn't you hate to learn that your favorite racecar
driver worked undercover for a power-hungry agency from the future?
That happens to Wyatt tonight.

“Royals,” 10
p.m., E. While some people are rounding up potential brides for King
Robert, others are investigating him. Also, Jasper – sometimes the
royal bodyguard – goes rogue at a press conference.

TV column for Saturday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Finian's Rainbow” (1968). 5:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

On St. Patrick's
Day, wise souls do their celebrating at home, where it's safe and
comfy. One of the best ways is this musical gem, directed with zest
and skill by Francis Coppola. Fred Astaire is Finian, with Tommy
Steele as his greedy leprechaun; Al Freeman Jr. is hilarious in
support.

TCM fills its day
with other Irish films, most of them dead-serious. But if you prefer
evil leprechauns, you're in luck. Syfy has a marathon of them, from 8
a.m today to 6 a.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “For the People,” 10 p.m., ABC.

There's a good
chance you missed this opener on Tuesday, when it collided with
another terrific debut (NBC's “Rise”). But next Tuesday, “Rise”
moves an hour earlier and you can see the season's best new shows,
back-to-back. To get ready, catch this rerun.

We meet six young
lawyers – three for the defense, three for the prosecution -- with
interlocking personal stories. Each is interesting; most are played
by newcomers (except for Britt Robertson as Sandra). They're
surrounded by skilled pros, including Anna Deavere Smith and Hope
Davis.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

For eight years,
Bill Hader was a prime force on “SNL,” especially with his
bizarre Stefon. He left the show five years ago and has been back to
host once ... promptly getting an Emmy nomination.

Now, eight days
before the start of “Barry” -- a clever HBO show in which he
plays a hit man -- he hosts again. Arcade Fire is the music guest.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, all day,
CBS and cable. The NCAA tournament field has quickly been trimmed
from 68 to 32. Now CBS has another four-game marathon, at noon, 2:30,
5 and 7:30 p.m. ET. There are also doubleheaders on TNT (6 and 8:30
p.m.) and TBS (7 and 9:30).

“Chicken Little”
(2005), 2:30 p.m., Freeform. Families that don't want to obsess on
basketball can spend the day with animation. This is followed by “The
Princess and the Frog” (2009) at 4:30 p.m. and then two of the best
-- “Toy Story” (1995) at 6:35 and “Toy Story 2” (1999) at
8:35.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last Saturday, Fox reran half of its opener,
with 20 girls competing for 12 spots; now here's a rerun of the
boys. That's followed at 9 by “Showtime at the Apollo” rerun.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. This show often has good moments when it
nudges Debra Messing into Lucy territory. It does that in this rerun,
when she and Will try a live TV commercial.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. In this rerun, Mateo has been injured at work. He
doesn't want to file for compensation, for fear his immigration
status will be revealed.

“Deception,” 9
p.m., ABC. The second episode will be Sunday, so here's a last chance
to catch the fairly good opener. A magician has been dazzling
audiences, mostly due to a major secret. Now he's partly exposed,
just as the FBI forces him to help catch crooks.

“48 Hours,” 10
p.m., CBS. This true-crime hour has one of its best lead-ins (at
least in the Eastern time zones), coming right after basketball.

TV column for Friday, March 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” (1958), 6 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Elizabeth Taylor
could have spent her career working with simple scripts and bland
stars; instead, she kept trying daring roles. This Tennessee Williams
story is one of her best; Taylor plays Maggie, a sizzling sex symbol
to everyone except her husband (Paul Newman).

That's preceded at
4:40 p.m. by an “Intimate Portrait” of Taylor and followed by
some more of her films. She's with Katharine Hepburn in Williams'
“Suddenly, Last Summer” (1959) at 8 p.m. and then with Marlon
Brando in the botched “Reflections of a Golden Eye” (1967) at
10:15.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

First of all, make
sure the room doesn't have any young fans of the Tooth Fairy or Santa
Claus; both are discussed frankly. Then settle in for an hour that
mixes some comedy with solid drama.

As she struggles
with writer's block, Jane is told it might help to focus on the side
characters. The show does just that, viewing Rafael's sister and
ex-wife and Jane's mom. The final minute is moving.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Striking Out,” any time, www.acorn.tv,
and more.

Every Friday seems
to be big for Netflix. This time, that includes two series, one
that's fiction (“On the Block,” focusing on inner-city Los
Angeles teens) and one that's not (“Wild Wild Country,” probing
deaths in an Oregon commune). There's even a new “Benji” movie,
based on the 1974 cute-dog gem.

But tonight includes
another streaming service. On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, Acorn has
the second season of this above-average Irish series. The cases are
small and sometimes disappointing, but the main character – whose
makeshift law firm collides with a big,arrogant one – is easy to
root for.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Stephen Hawking shows, 4-11 p.m., Science Channel.

In the wake of
Hawking's death (Wednesday, at 76), this channel and others have
already rerun some of his shows. Here are more – three hours of
“Into the Universe” and then “Stephen Hawking's Grand Design,”
confronting powerful issues of God and the meaning of life.

“Into the
Universe” also reruns from 8-11 p.m. Saturday on Discovery. Also,
“Theory of Everything” (2014) is on streaming services; Eddie
Remayne won an Oscar for his great work as Hawking.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, all day.
The second full day of the NCAA tournament starts at 12:15 p.m. ET on
CBS, 12:40 on TruTV, 1:30 on TNT and 2 on TBS. Your best chances to
see a tight game (according to the seeding) are that CBS opener (Providence-Texas A&M), then
3:10 p.m. on TruTV (Butler-Arkansas), 4:30 p.m. on TBS
(Texas-Nevada), 6:50 on TNT (Creighton-Kansas State) and 9:50 on TBS
(Missouri-Florida State).

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. For the next two Fridays, CBS' cop shows will step aside
for basketball. That makes this a logical time to try NBC's shows.
Tonight, a prisoner warns of a dangerous plot ... but the team isn't
sure this is the truth. Zapata is caught between the FBI and the CIA.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Ignoring Tilly's warning, Rogers strikes a deal
with Eloise. And in a faraway realm, Hook confronts Ahab about a
talisman that could free Alice.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. We've always kind of taken gravity for
granted. Now evil forces are at work; the team tries to find
gravitonium (a mythical element in Marvel tales) to save the world.

“Taken,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. A nuclear scientist has long been thought to be dead. Actually,
he's in a North Korean prison; now Bryan and Santana try to extract
him.

“The Quad,” 10
p.m., BET. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's episode, a key one: The
trustees make it clear that they plan to merge this historically
black college with a mostly white. state-operated school.