TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The X-Files,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Here's a giddy
surprise: This show's 214th episode, late in its 11th
season, may be its best ever. The basic theme – technology taken
to obsess – has been around forever, from “Frankenstein” to
rampant robots-gone-wild. But now, writers Kristen Cloke and Shannon
Hamblin perfectly re-imagine it for our time.

Their story starts
in the most impersonal restaurant ever, then spreads to drones,
self-driving cars, home-security systems and much more. Virtually no
dialog is needed; Mulder and Scully are the only humans in sight
until the final two minutes ... which provide the right ending for a
great hour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Survivor” opener, 8-10:01 p.m., CBS.

Remember when we
thought this would be a fad? Well, it's time for the 36th
edition, leaning heavily on the first 35. This is called “Ghost
Island” and is sprinkled with reminders of past mistakes.

The 20 contestants
range from Michael Yerger, 18, a Knoxville real-estate agent, to
Angela Perkins, 42, who retired as an Army captain and started a
construction company near Cincinnati. There are students, a teacher,
a yoga instructor, a fishing guide, a model and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Maigret” debut, any time, www.britbox.com.

Jules Maigret has
been solving crimes almost forever. He's in 75 Georges Simenon novels
and 28 short stories, plus plenty of movies and TV series. At least
11 actors have played him, including Charles Laughton, Michael
Gambon, Richard Harris and now – surprisingly – Rowan Atkinson.

In books, Maigret is
big, broad-shouldered and French. Atkinson is none of those; he's a
comedy genius (“Mr. Bean,” “Black Adder”) who's dead-serious
here. The first film (“Maigret Sets a Trap”) is a quiet tale with
a retro feeling; the second (“Maigret's Dead Man”) is a big, busy
story of multiple murders.

Other choices
include:

“The Looming
Tower” debut, any time, Hulu. It's a strong day for the streaming
networks. Alongside Britbox is a very American – and painfully real
– drama. Jeff Daniels stars as someone facing bureaucratic tangles,
while warning of the type of attack that then happened on Sept. 11,
2001.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. Martha Plimpton plays a therapist who must approve
before Liz can return to FBI duty. Also, tonight's target is someone
who molds alibis for killers.

“Bridge on the
River Kwai” (1957), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Four days
before the Oscars, here's a night of best-picture winners, all set in
wartime. “Kwai,” slow and elegant, is followed by “Patton”
(1970) at 11 p.m., “From Here to Eternity” (1953) at 2 and
“Casablanca” (1942) at 4:15 a.m.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Cassidy (Dean Winters) makes
trouble again. Now his testimony causes a mistrial; a doctor, accused
of sexually abusing his patients, goes free.

Modern Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. For the first time in six weeks, we get a new episode.
This one is full of Valentine's Day aftershocks. Mitchell and Cam may
have ruined the day for Luke, so they try to make amends. Jay also
botched the holiday, so Phil suggests a drastic solution.

“Ameican
Housewife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Katie takes the field-day competition
way too seriously.

“Designated
Survivor” return, 10 p.m., ABC. After a long break, the show
returns to find the president deep in grief, 10 weeks after his wife
died in a car crash. Aides nudge him toward a therapist (Timothy
Busfield). Then, however, he faces a crisis that tests him as
commander-in-chief.

“Waco” finale,
10-11:08 p.m., Paramount. For 51 days, there was a standstill.
Federal forces massed outside the Waco compound, while a negotiator
tried to get a compromise with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.
Then things exploded, leaving 76 dead. This mini-series views the
tragic finish.

“The Assassination
of Gianni Versace,” 10 p.m., FX; rerunning at 11:13 p.m. and 12:26
and 1:45 a.m. Riddled with insecurities, Andrew Cunanan kept finding
ways to sabotage his life. This hour starts with him at the top,
sharing an old man's wealth; he ruins it all, descending toward the
murders that this well-made (but painful) mini-series is all about.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Unsolved” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

In the hip-hop
world, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (also known as The Notorious
B.I.G.) were giants. Then both were slain in drive-by shootings, six
months apart; they were 25 and 24.

Neither case has
been solved, but this 10-week mini-series jumps between two probes, a
decade apart. Jimmi Simpson and Josh Duhamel are terrific as the lead
cops ... and in this first hour we get beyond any “rap war”
cliches. Shakur, we're told, was an intellectual with an imposing
library; Smalls was a sweet spirit who loved his mom. Alternately
friends and enemies, they left a perplexing tale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Even the strongest
shows retreated during the Olympics, Now these two – among the top
shows in Nielsen ratings – are back to new hours, after two weeks
of reruns.

First, the team
needs information from Paul Triff (French Stewart); in exchange, it
gives him a 48-hour furlough in his former home – where McGee now
lives. Then Isler, an FBI special agent, asks Pride to help with an
off-the-books probe; Percy (Shalita Grant) joins, working undercover
as a getaway driver.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “On the Waterfront” (1954), 8 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies.

An all-Oscar
February wraps up wonderfully, with best-picture winners today and
Wednesday. Tonight includes “All the King's Men” (1949) at 10
p.m. and Laurence Olivier's “Hamlet” (1948) at midnight.

First is a
black-and-white gem; Elia Kazan's “On the Waterfront” may be the
best-acted movie ever. Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint won actor
and supporting actress Oscars; Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb or Karl
Malden might have won, if they weren't all in the same
supporting-actor category.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “We'll Meet Again,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Each week, this
doubles as a lesson in recent history. Previous hours have ranged
from the Holocaust to civil rights; now comes a stark reminder of
what gays faced in the 1950s.

“The rest of your
life will be a living Hell,” a lecturer warns. When the University
of New Hampshire adds a club for homosexuals, the state's biggest
newspaper demands: “Boot the pansies out.” Now we meet two men
who survived those times and want to find the people who brought
comfort and support. One search is fairly easy; the other involves
finding someone living a free-form life in the redwoods.

Other choices
include:

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. The Heck kids head in many directions: Sue celebrates her
21st birthday at a bar with her mom ... Brick is at a
sci-fi convenion with his dad ... And Axl heads to Ohio in the RV, to
make a toast at Kenny's wedding.

“This Is Us,” 9
p.m., NBC. After an Olympic break, this starts the season's final two
episodes. Kate and Toby go to Las Vegas for their pre-wedding fun; in
a flashback, we see her parents' anniversary.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. There are lots of slow moments, as Jefferson vows to kill
Tobias, who killed his dad. There's also the most pointless fight
scene since Batman battled Superman. Still, if you stick around,
there's a key moment at the end.

“American Creed,”
9 p.m., PBS. Two Stanford professors – Condoleezza Rice (the former
secretary of state) and David Kennedy (the historian) – search for
common ground among disparate Americans. They find strong moments
from the famous (Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon) and the others;
they even find a tad of agreement between people from the Tea Party
and MoveOn.org.

“Chicago Med,”
10 p.m., NBC. It's a tough time for Dr. Manning: Recovering from a
head injury (that came after witnessing a drive-by shooting), she has
a teen patient with an overbearing older husband.

“The Quad,” 10
p.m., BET. The college president – played by the gifted Anika Noni
Rose – is being charged with driving with Xanax in her system. Now
she points to the cop's history of racial profiling.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Voice” opener and “Good Girls” debut, 8 and 10 p.m.,
NBC.

Fresh from its
Olympic dominance, NBC figures to have a big night. It has “Voice,”
adding Kelly Clarkson – the first “American Idol” champ – as
coach; then it's the heavily promoted “Good Girls.”

Christina Hendricks
(“Mad Men”), Mae Whitman and Retta play women who have had bad
choices, bad men and/or bad luck; so they rob a store. It's a poor
idea, in a show that's riddled with flaws and credibility gaps.
Still, “Good Girls” has interesting people and the energy to zoom
past any bad parts.

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

This began as quirky
fun, a light, bright tale about an inadvertent zombie who eats murder
victims' brains and uses their memories to find the killers. Since
then, extra plot elements have piled on.

Now Seattle is a
walled city, where zombies are fed manufactured rations ... a
workable plan, unless new zombies are created (a capital offense) or
rations are swiped for the black market. Tonight, Liv gets the brain
of a football zealot and one of the guys gets the brain of a nudist.
(Yes, the other way around might have been interesting.) A murder is
solved easily; the rest lingers on.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Series debuts, 9:30 p.m., CBS; 10 p.m., AMC.

The CBS series,
“Living Biblically,” is a disappointment – a bad idea, poorly
executed. Jay R. Ferguson plays an ordinary guy who decides he's
going to follow every rule in the Bible. That notion worked fine for
a non-fiction book; as a comedy, however, it simply turns people into
buffoons.

AMC's show,
“McMafia,” is more promising. James Norton (an earnest vicar in
PBS' “Grantchester”) plays a sturdy businessman, being pulled
into his family's international crime dealings.

Other choices
include:

“Ackley Bridge,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. In a tough
English town, a school merger links the white and Asian students. We
meet a free-spirited teacher, suddenly in charge of her wayward
daughter ... the prinicpal and her husband, who's a teacher
struggling with the impact ... And a teen who pleases no one with her
attempts to assimilate. If you can get through accents, you'll find a
good drama-comedy.

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. It's time for the “overnight dates.” Arie
Luyendyk Jr. hopes to spend nights with the final three – Becca
Kufrin, 27; Kendall Long, 26; and Lauren Burnham, 25.

“Get Out”
(2017), 8 p.m., HBO, and more. With the Oscars coming Sunday, here's
a chance to see a best-picture nominee. Also, Turner Classic Movies
has best-picture winners, through Wednesday. Tonight includes “Best
Years of Our Lives” (1946) at 8 p.m. ET and “Mrs. Miniver”
(1942) at 11.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Fawz's son is working at the doughnut shop, which may or
may not be a good thing: Franco encourages him to skip college and
focus on being a DJ.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The subject – sort of
– is rats; we meet people who study them, who like them, who kill
them. But the realy subject is Baltimore and all the biases that can
shape a city. This is an oddly fragmented film, yet has an impact in
its own eccentric way.

“Unreal”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Lifetime. Fresh from “The Bachelor,” we
can switch to a series that offers a dark vision of such shows. This
time, the producers are manipulating a “Bachelorette” type.

“The Good Doctor,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Shaun's teen-aged patient has been confined to home
her entire life with heart problems, but has a huge number of online
friends.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 25


TONIGHT'S DOMINANT
FORCE: Winter Olympics, 3-6 p.m., 7-10:30 p.m. ET, NBC.

For one more day,
the Olympics will rule TV viewership.

That starts quietly,
with the cross-country skiing finals. Then, at 7 p.m., an “Olympic
Gold” hour takes an overview of the 18-day event. That's followed
by the closing ceremony at 8 and a so-so comedy at 10:30. On the West
Coast, “Gold” is at 4 p.m. and the rest airs twice – 5 and
7:30, 8 and 10:30.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Victoria” season-finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS.

This is a big, busy
episode, written and played with subtle skill.. Romances are
resolved, for good and bad, and a culture clash flares: It's
Christmas, a holiday that Queen Victoria and other English folks
shrug off; Prince Albert (like many of his fellow Germans) wants to
do it up big.

Beyond that,
however, is a bigger issue: England had banned slavery in 1833, four
years before Victoria took the throne, but it lingered in the U.S.
That propels two plot lines.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Walking Dead” return, 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning
at 11:23.

The first half of
the season ended with fierce jolts. Negan was loose, the sanctuaries
were in ruins, the good guys were retreating into the sewers
(literally). And Rick's son was near death, via zombie bite.

If you want to
reminisce, the first half of the season reruns at noon, with an
expanded version of the finale at 7:30 p.m. At 9, the season begins
its second half, which will run eight weeks. While Rick ponders the
aftershocks, the battle continues in other cities.

ONE MORE
ALTERNATIVE: “Ash vs. Evil Dead” season-opener, 9 p.m., Starz,
rerunning at 10:30 p.m., midnight and 12:52 a.m.

So now Ash is the
home-town hero; he slashed the villain and brought peace to Elk
Grove, Mich. What's next? Naturally, he opens an “Ashy Slashy”
hardware store and sex-toy emporium.

Ash (Bruce Campbell)
thinks that way. His celebration skids to a halt, however, when: a)
On a show like “Antiques Roadshow,” someone foolishly reads the
Book of the Dead aloud, bringing back Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and
disaster; and b) Ash learns he has a teen daughter and a soon-to-be
headless wife. This is done in the brash “Ash” fashion – noisy,
gruesome, alternately overwrought and quite clever.

Other choices
include:

“The Lion King”
(1994), 5:10 p.m., Freeform. This is another chance to savor one of
the great animated movies. It's followed by “Ratatouilee” (2007)
at 7:15 p.m.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 7 p.m., Fox. Here's a good episode that found the
captain's one flaw – a gambling obsession. That starts a night of
comedy reruns, including “Simpsons” (Grampa finally hears what
people say about him) at 8 and a fairly funny “LA to Vegas” (a
substitute pilot) at 9:30.

Reality shows, 8-10
p.m., CBS and ABC. CBS wraps up “Big Brother: Celebrity Edition.”
ABC runs “The Bachelor: The Women Tell All” earlier than usual;
the show's “overnight dates” are Monday.

“When Calls the
Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. The future of this frontier town rests
partly on getting a railroad depot ; Abigail tries to convince the
company. Also, Elizabeth mentors Julia, who is teaching.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a million-dollar weapons theft
is linked to a charity event. The team gets Mosley (Nia Long) added
to the guest list, with Sam and Callen working security.

“Life, Liberty &
Levin” debut, 10 p.m. ET, Fox News Channel. Mark Levin, who has a
radio show, starts a weekly cable show. In the opener, he interviews
economist Walter Williams.

“A.P. Bio,”
10:30 p.m., NBC (7:30 and 10:30 p.m. PT). The second episode, like the first, is clouded by
the fact that this teacher is cruel to kids who don't deserve it.
Still, there are some funny moments when Niecy Nash lets loose, as
the union representative at a disciplinary conference.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Planet Earth: Blue Planet II,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC America; also
12:30 a.m.

The sea and shore
have a tangled relationship, this terrific episode shows us. Each
year, Arctic penguins spend a frigid month on land, shedding their
old coats and waiting for new ones to grow. After 10 years, a sea
turtle swims 700 miles to its birthplace, to start a new generation.

Others commute
regularly – and perilously. A puffin flies 20-plus miles to snag
one fish for its baby ... then must survive pirate birds on the way
back. In Brazil, shore crabs wait for the tide to go out, then
rock-hop to an algae-covered island ... eluding deadly eels. All of
this is filmed beautifully.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Winter Olympics, 8 p.m. ET, NBC.

On the last full day
of the games, the figure-skaters have their “gala.” Tossing out
all those fussy rules and requirements, they can simply entertain us.
Also, there's bobsledding at night and speed skating and
cross-country skiing from 3-6 p.m. ET.

The NBC Sports
Network has speed skating at 9:30 a.m. ET, but mostly wraps up
tournaments. Hockey has its bronze-medal game at 6:30 a.m. (rerunning
at 2 p.m.) and gold-medal at 10:30 p.m. Men's curling has gold at 3
a.m. (rerunning at 4 p.m.); women have bronze at 11 a.m., gold at 7:05 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cat Ballou” (1965), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Lee Marvin was your
consummate TV tough guy. He'd been busy since 1950, ranging from
golden-age dramas to three “M Squad” seasons. At 41, he was
strong, solid ... and only semi-known.

Then came this role:
In the Old West, Jane Fonda hires a gunslinger; she expects a hero
and gets a dreary drunk. Marvin was perfect and people told him he
was a sure thing for a best-supporting-actor Oscar. Instead, he aimed
higher; now he leads a night of best-actor winners. Art Carney's
“Harry and Tonto” (1974) is at 10 p.m. ET, with Daniel Day-Lewis'
“There Will Be Blood” (2007) at 12:15 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“The Walking
Dead,” all day, AMC. After a long break, “Dead” will start the
second half of its eighth season at 9 p.m. Sunday. First, here's a
refresher. The sixth season is rerunning today, with seventh-season
reruns starting at 4:59 p.m.; the current season starts its reruns at
noon Sunday.

“Catch Me If You
Can” (2002), 5-8 p.m., TNT. This sleek Steven Spielberg film starts
a strong movie night. There's sorta-romance with “Fifty Shades of
Grey” (2015) at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on E, plus lots of action --
“Bourne Identity” (2002) at 7:30 on Paramount, “Avengers”
(2012) at 8 on FX and double Tom Cruise -- “John Wick” (2014), 5
p.m., Paramount; “Mission Impossible 2” (2000), 8 p.m., Starz.

More sports, Fox and
ABC. For Fox, it's a night of “ultimate fighting” -- preliminary
bouts at 6 p.m. ET, then Josh Emmett and Jeremy Stephens at 8. For
ABC, it's basketball – a pre-game show at 8 p.m. ET and the Golden
State Warriors (as usual) hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 8:30.

“Big Brother:
Celebrity Edition,” 8 p.m., CBS. Don't worry, it will be over soon;
the finale is Sunday.

“Notes From the
Field,” 8 p.m., HBO. It was a quarter-century ago that Anna Deavere
Smith began mastering a new art form: She would interview people on
all sides of a crisis, the portray them in a one-woman show. Here's
her new one, viewing an often-fierce criminal justice system.

“The Lion King”
(1994), 8:45 p.m., Freeform. Throughout the Olympics, cable has had
top animated movies. Here's one of the best, filled with gorgeous
sights and sounds, One of its Elton John/Tim Rice songs -- “Can
You Feel the Love Tonight?” -- won an Academy Award; two others
were nominated.

“Falling Water,”
10 p.m., USA. Shadowman manages to stay a step ahead of Taka and
Alex. Also, Boerg remembers his lost sister and Burton is ready to
face his past, with Tess' help.