TV column for Tuesday, April 15

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Fargo” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Don’t expect the same characters or plot of the 1996 movie masterpiece.
Still, we get the same setting (small-town Minnesota), attitude (unsuspecting)
and dialog style (brilliantly understated).

Lester (Martin Freeman) is ignored by most people and
bullied by some. Then Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) arrives, with mischief
and menace; brutal things happen, in a town not prepared for this. The result
is sometimes funny, sometimes tragic but always superbly crafted.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Break-ups are difficult (and sometimes hilarious), these
shows tell us.

Jess and Nick pretend to their friends that they’re still
together … and pretend to each other that they’re not devastated; clumsy lies
make great comedy. Then Mindy tries macho-style dating after her break-up with
Danny; Max Greenfield (Schmidt on “New Girl”) has some good moments as her
prime target.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Inside Amy Schumer,” 8 and 10:30
p.m., Comedy Central.

What would it be like if writer Aaron Sorkin’s intense “West
Wing” style went from the White House to a fast-food restaurant? Tonight’s new
episode (the 10:30 one) has a superb take-off, with Josh Charles as the
high-pressure boss. It also opens with a great sketch, illustrating the danger
of surprise parties.

Last week’s episode (rerunning at 8) also has a gem, with
four friends whose consciences are only moved by calorie consumption. Still,
Schumer remains inconsistent. Each episode includes a four-guy sketch that
starts with a mildly funny notion, then stretches it endlessly and drearily.

Other choices today include:

“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Tying into plot
twists in the new “Captain America” movie, we get a rerun of last week’s
episode and then a new hour. First, the team is trapped, with a traitor in its
midst. Then it chooses an unlikely hiding place, soon discovering SHIELD

“Pioneers of Television,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
The jump from stand-up comedy to situation comedy is traced via Jerry Seinfeld,
Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen and Bob Newhart.

 “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Artie
must tell past partners the results of his test for sexually transmitted

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A Navy officer may have been killed in
a random bar fight … or may have been targeted because of what he knew about an
attack on a female officer.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Returning to the field
after her ordeal, Kensi talks with Deeks about their relationship. Meanwhile,
an agent is suspected of helping the smuggler he was investigating.

“The Address,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Setting aside his usual style of rich storytelling, Ken Burns simply lets the
camera visit a school where boys with learning disabilities memorize the
Gettysburg Address. The result is OK by other standards, so-so compared to
Burns’ usual gems.

“Celebrity Wife Swap” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. Halima
Jackson lives in elegance with her husband Jermaine; Isabella Hoffman shares a
small home with her autistic son, 17, whose dad (Daniel Baldwin) is trying to
repair relationships after a decade of drug addiction. Now opposite lives are briefly

“Awkward” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., MTV. Jenna starts her
senior year, but some things remain the same: She’s humiliated at school and at

TV column for Monday, April 14

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mom” season-finale, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

A lot of humor – and a tad of warmth – is found tonight inside
a hospital.

In one room, teen Violet is having her baby. In another, her
grandfather is recovering from a heart-attack; her grandmother (Allison Janney)
is lusting, moments before becoming a great-grandmother. In between is Christy,
racing between new and old lives while wrapping up the first year of her

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

The opening scenes show us just how the world has changed. In
1968, talk-show figure David Susskind called Muhammad Ali a fool, a felon, a
disgrace; in 2005, George W. Bush gave him a Medal of Freedom.

In the 37 years between, Ali changed a little and life
changed a lot. At first, people mocked his religion and condemned his draft
resistance; later, they considered him a passionate piece of history. Great
clips mix with strong interviews, especially with his brother, an ex-wife
(Khalilah) and a daughter (Hana).

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Warehouse 13” return, 9 p.m., Syfy.

There are only six episodes left for a dandy show, so everything
is shoveled into this crowded hour.

There’s a master villain (Anthony Head), seeking control of
the warehouse that contains the great artifacts of history and of legend. Soon,
he may rule time and space. Our heroes chase him, meeting Da Vinci’s
granddaughter in the past and dire prospects in the future; it’s a wild and fun

Other choices include:

“Twenty Classic Moments,” 7 p.m. ET, and “Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Exactly 20 years ago, this
classy channel began; now it shows the same great film it started with. Oddly,
it precedes it with an hour that is clumsily written, badly edited and baldly

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. No one was
ousted last Monday, so two weeks of scores will be combined tonight. First are
tributes to ABC’s owner, Disney; that includes animation elements and an
opening number to the music of “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Little Mermaid” and

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. The murder case is tangled and
high-tech. More interesting is Cam fretting about her boyfriend’s parents, traditional
sorts who, she feels, wish he’d found someone Persian and Muslim.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. Lindsay Lohan plays a bride
who can’t decide on her cake – or anything else.

“One Last Hug,” 8 p.m., HBO. This documentary follows a
three-day camp for grieving kids. Viewers will 
feel some emotions, even if they also reject the pop psychology that
ripples through the film.

“Dallas” mid-season finale, 9 p.m., TNT; reruns at 10:01. John
Ross Ewing is clearly the late J.R. Ewing’s son; now that he’s been caught
cheating, his wife seeks revenge. Meanwhile, his mom (J.R.’s ex-wife Sue Ellen)
struggles with alcoholism; also, Christopher (Bobby’s son) has romance and a
new danger.

“None of the Above,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Shifting
its brainy Monday line-up, this channel offers back-to-back “None” episodes that
center on stunts involving blowing things up. The usual 10 p.m. show (a rerun
of Sunday’s “Cosmos”) moves to 9 and 11 p.m. This “Cosmos” episode thinks
small, going to the bottom of a dewdrop, the depths of the Earth and the neuron
network in the brain. 

TV column for Sunday, April 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mad Men” season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC.

Last season ended with lives crumbling. Don Draper was
suspended at work and disgraced at home.

And now? The season starts with one of the show’s great
ad-campaign pitches, then finds more disarray. Can Don feel joy on either
coast? Can Peggy find her way? What about Roger’s decadence and Joan’s ambitions?
In “Mad Men” style, this is deep and subtle; with 14 episodes left, the show
has work to do.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Inside the Hunt for the Boston
Bombers,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

A compelling story is retold through a technique that is
odd, but successful.

Real interviews are re-created, with actors playing the people
– police, victims, friends – involved with last year’s bombing. A few actual
officials are also included, plus staged action scenes. It’s an odd hybrid, but
the underplayed style creates a powerful story that even finds some happy

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bletchley Circle” season-opener,
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the 1940s, these Englishwomen were busy and vital,
helping crack codes. Then the war ended and they resumed dull, secretarial
lives … until a crime-solving crisis stirred them.

Now the second season begins with a silly contrivance – a former
colleague refuses to defend herself on murder charges. That evolves into a
fairly good tale, the first of two two-part mysteries..

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Years of Living Dangerously”
debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

In a West Texas town, a drought left the factory closed and
the people jobless. Scientists pointed to long-term climate change;
townspeople, instead, quoted Scripture.

That’s in the start of a series that has stars and others
probing effects of climate change. Tonight, Harrison Ford is in Indonesia, New
York Times reporter Thomas Friedman is in Syria and Don Cheadle meets a conservative-Christian
scientist with an ability to communicate the crisis to her fellow Texans.

Other choices include:

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In search of Prince Eric, Ariel
confronts Hook in both worlds.

“Signed, Sealed and Delivered” debut, 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. A
decade after her “Touched by an Angel” ended, producer Martha Williamson has
this movie launching a series. Eric Mabus and Kristen Booth lead a team that
delivers lost letters to their goals, transforming lives.

“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Bellamy and Father Tom try to
deal with townspeople’s growing fears.

“Masterpiece Classic: Mr. Selfridge,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Glitter and tragedy link in a fund-raiser for massacre victims. As
the war looms, men prepare to enlist … and Lord Loxey prepares to profit.

MTV Movie Awards, 9 p.m., MTV. Conan O’Brien hosts an awards
show known for its offbeat fun.

“Nurse Jackie” and “Californication” season-openers, 9 and
9:30 p.m., Showtime. For “Californication,” the final season begins with Hank scrambling
for the life and the lover he abandoned; tonight’s final scene belts him. For “Jackie,”
once a comedy-drama, tonight is all dark drama.

“Silicon Valley,” 10 p.m., HBO. In a sharp episode, we learn
that there are complications to selling a sliver of your computer company for

“Veep,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. After the so-so season-opener, here’s
a brilliant episode. As a presidential candidate, Selena Meyer needs an instant
stand on abortion; what she has is a cacophony of advice.

TV column for Saturday, April 12

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Friends With Better Lives,” 8:30 p.m.,

Fresh from a big launch (after the “How I Met Your Mother”
finale), this was promptly bumped by the NCAA basketball finals. Now – two days
before it settles into its Monday slot – the pilot episode reruns.

Kevin Connolly and Majandra Delfino play husband and wife,
awaiting their second child and wondering if their friends are happier. Jules
(Brooklyn Decker), beautiful and in love, is; the others aren’t. Will (James
Van Der Beek) pines for his estranged wife; Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones) is in
perpetual anger. Her character is the weak link in a show that tries too hard
in this pilot, but could be worth sticking with.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and 11:29
p.m., NBC.

Seth Rogen has his third turn as host, with Ed Sheeran as
the music guest. Before that, there’s a shortened rerun of last week’s episode,
with Anna Kendrick and Pharrell.

That started mildly, then soared with a mega-music number
that included the whole cast. She did more musical numbers, all of them clever
and partially making up for another so-so “Weekend Update.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Yukon Vet” debut, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

Here’s one life that really is worthy of a reality show. Dr.
Michelle Oakley lives in the Yukon with her
(a firefighter) and kids; she has her veterinary practice just across the
border in Alaska.

For vast stretches, she’s the only person to treat anything
from pets to sled dogs to animals rescued from the wild and placed in a
preserve or a bald-eagle sanctuary. She does this with humor and the
soft-spoken way of the North. Filmed in the autumn, “Yukon” offers likable
people and gorgeous backdrops.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” 9 p.m.,

Last week’s powerful episode saw Leonardo da Vinci steal a
ship and (with its former slaves as crew) head to the New World. Tonight, he tries
to cross the Atlantic with makeshift navigation notions.

Meanwhile, his ex-lover Lucrezia slips into the Vatican
dungeons, hoping to free her father, who was imprisoned by his lookalike the
Pope. And Prince Lorenzo de Medici is in disguise and on the road, hoping to
form an alliance and save Florence. Three strong stories add up to a powerhouse

Other choices include:

“Castle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Maybe ABC has too many spots that
need reruns. A “Resurrection” rerun had been scheduled here … then was shuffled
to Tuesdays to fill in for the yanked “Mind Games”; plugging this spot is a
“Castle” rerun in which a young pop star is found dead in an alley.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. Mimi Rogers returns as
Walden’s mom and Lynda Carter is … well, Lynda Carter. In this rerun, Alan has
lusted at her since the “Wonder Woman” days and wants a date.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Occasionally, a film achieves both
epic scope and intimate depth. Here are two best-picture Oscar-winners – “Titanic”
(1997) on Bravo and “Gladiator” (2000) on AMC.

“Ripper Street” season-finale, 9-10:15 p.m., BBC America.
Corpses are found in a slum tenement. Also, police rivalries rage; Reid and
Drake are desperate to confront the evil Inspector Jedediah Shine.

“48 Hours,” 10 p.m., CBS. Uta Von Schwedler, a research
scientist in Salt Lake City, was found dead in her bathtub. Most people assumed
it was suicide, but her 17-year-old son risked everything on his belief that her
ex-husband (his father, whom he was living with) did it. Susan Spencer recounts
the story.


TV column for Friday, April 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Neighbors” season-finale, 8:31
p.m., ABC.

For two seasons, this neatly off-center show has delighted
some people and been scorned by others.’ Now its future is uncertain … a fact
that’s referred to often in this witty episode.

Dick’s scheming brother has convinced everyone to go back to
the home planet. It’s time for farewells … except that Dick’s family faces
indecision caused by a romance, an early admission to college, a pregnancy …
and the wobbling friendship with the only Earthling family in the neighborhood.
The result makes a great transition episode … or a clever finale for a show
that was quirky and underappreciated.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

For Will Graham, falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned,
this is a pivotal episode. Could he finally be cleared of charges that he’s the
mass murderer? Will anyone believe his wild accusation that the real killer is
his therapist, Hannibal Lecter?

We’ll find some of that tonight as the lone survivor
struggles with her memory. She’s played by Anna Chlumsky, once a 10-year-old
star of “My Girl” and now, at 32, a co-star of HBO’s dandy “Veep.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Rio” (2011), 8 p.m., FX; reruns at 10:02.

A terrific movie night includes a chance to see this animated
delight on the day its sequel opens.

In the snowy North, a sweet-spirited bird (Jesse Eisenberg) feels
he’s the last of his kind. Then there’s word of a female (Anne Hathaway) in Rio
de Janeiro. A grand adventure begins, blending humor with music and colors that
reflect Rio at its most joyous.

Other choices include:

“Unforgettable,” 8 p.m., CBS. After catching a deadly
assassin, Carrie must co-operate with her to stop a terrorist plot.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike (Tim Allen) starts to
worry about his dad (Robert Forster). Soon, Vanessa is talking to the girls
about taking care of them when they grow old.

More movies, 8 p.m., cable. “The Hangover” (2009, TBS) and “The
Help” (2011, TNT) were huge box-office hits, for opposite reasons. “Hangover”
aimed for loose fun; “The Help” is a sometimes-sobering view of changing race
relations, with lots of fun scattered in. Also at 8, IFC has “Aliens” (1986), with
writer-director James Cameron flashing the skill that would propel “Terminator”
and “Titanic.”

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A bad tip leads McGarrett and
Danny to a building that’s rigged to explode.

More movies, 9 p.m., cable. Two long-ago films were
well-crafted pioneers. The original “Footloose” (1984, CMT) was one of the
first movies to sometimes have a stylish, music-video feel; “Bullitt” (1968), a
Steve McQueen cop film, had one of the first great car chases.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. While probing the murder of a
college professor, Danny has a new concern: He’s facing an ethics investigation
that his dad, the police commissioner, didn’t tell him about.

“Mountain Monsters,” 10 p.m., Destination America. The guys
search for a West Virginia creature believed to be nine-feet tall and
1,000-plus pounds. As in the season-opener (rerunning at 9), they build an
enormous trap that, viewers will quickly guess, has zero chance of catching