TV column for Sunday, March 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Mad Men”
season-opener, 9-11 p.m. AMC.

To marvel at the cynical world of these
1960s ad men, we need to see them from fresh eyes. Tonight, that's
provided by Don Draper's new wife, a young French-Canadian.

She just wants to give him a surprise
birthday party and a sexy song – except he hates surprises and
birthdays and personal attention. That provides the core of a fun
episode that starts and ends with the effects of a childish stunt at
another ad agency.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Finding Your
Roots,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Henry Louis Gates is a master at
digging into people's roots. In these hours, he has ideal subjcts.

The first one has Branford Marsalis and
Harry Connick Jr., who came from opposite directions to become
masters of New Orleans music. In the second, he has civil-rights
leader John Lewis and one of the people (Newark Mayor Cory Booker)
who has thrived in the next generation.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Good
Wife,” 9 p.m (barring a basketball overrun), CBS.

If you forgive the weak, anti-climactic
ending, this is a terrific episode.

Alicia suddenly finds herself on a
police review board, surrounded by intense people (played by Matthew
Perry, Charles Dutton and more) who know the turf. At the same time,
she has to worry about office politics … and her attempt to buy
her old house … and an FBI probe of Kalinda.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 2 p.m. ET, CBS. Here's
another doubleheader in the NCAA tournament. By the end of the night,
we'll hav the final four for next Saturday in New Orleans.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 5:30
p.m. Cartoon Network. It's not a cartoon, but it is a great film,
with enough magic, music and whimsy for kids or grown-ups.

– “Best in Show” (2000), 8-10
p.m., Ion. Christopher Guest's film pokes gentle fun at dog shows. It
assembles lots of masters of deadpan improvisation, including Parker
Posey, Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
and – prior to her “Glee” fame – Jane Lynch.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Amid last week's moving funeral for Mike, two women decided to
change their lives. Now Lynette tries to get Tom back; Gabrielle
scrambles to find a big-money job, so Carlos can quit his.

– “Luck” finale, 9 p.m., HBO.
Ambitious and brilliantly acted, “Luck” was battered by troubles
– a complex story, an excess of characters and horse-racing lingo.
Ultimately, it was the deaths of horses during filming that caused it
to be cancelled early in the filming of a second season. Now we can
catch what was planned as the first-season finale. Walter and Gus
have top horses in the Western Derby, Ace (Dustin Hoffman) has a
surprise visitor, Jo – kicked by a horse while she was pregnant –
struggles.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m. (barring
a basketball overrun), CBS. A corruption scandal brings the return of
a ruthless lawyer (Malcolm McDowell). Also, Calleigh (Emily Procter)
faces a life-changing decision.

– “GCB,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Carlene
(Kristen Chenoweth) welcomes her uncle (Bruce Boxleitner, with a
party that has people dress as favorite Texans. Meanwhile, Heather
the Realtor is after his 500 acres.

TV column for Saturday, March 24


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, 4:20
p.m., CBS.

Now the NCAA tournament gets really
serious: Winners get a spot in the final four.

CBS has a doubleheader today and
another one Sunday. The winners reach New Orleans next Saturday, with
the championship game two days later.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Wizard of
Oz” (1939), 6:30 p.m., Cartoon; also 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

No this isn't a cartoon, but it seems
to fit the Cartoon Network. Kids can embrace the magic; grown-ups can
savor the music, the visual beauty and the sense of other-world
adventure.

This also starts a big movie night.
While others have flimsy competition against baskeball, cable zooms
in with strong movies, especially at 8 p.m.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Fairly
Legal,” 8 p.m., NBC.

This cable show – from the USA
Network, NBC's sister channel – could hook you instantly.

There, in tight close-up, is Kate Reed,
beautiful and bitter. Her marriage is ending, her dad is dead and
she's spent months away from his law firm; besides, she dislikes the
business and switched from being a lawyer to a mediator. Now a glib
guy picks the wrong time to hit on her.

That's the start of an excellent
episode, marred only be a so-so legal story. There's a better story
in the next USA episode; it reruns at 9 a.m. Sunday and 11 p.m.
Wednesday, with a new one at 9 p.m. Friday.

Other choices include:

– “Q'Viva,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The
first three episodes saw Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony traveling
Latin America, to find singers and dancers. Now they've brought them
back to Los Angeles, but there's another round of auditions, before
choosing people for a big show.

– “The Blind Side” (2009), 8
p.m., ABC Family. Here's a rarity – an earnest, honored movie
that's also immensely popular. It tells of a rich couple (Sandra
Bullock, Tim McGraw) that took in a homeless teen who became a
football star and honor student. With lots of humor and warmth, the
film landed an Oscar for Bullock and a nomination for best picture.

– “The Goodbye Girl” (1977), 8
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. After lots of hit plays, Neil Simon
wrote this wonderfully witty script directly for the screen. He got
an Oscar nomination; others were for best picture and for Richard
Dreyfuss (who won), Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings.

– More movies, 8 p.m., cable. It's a
can't-miss time, including George Clooney's “O Brother, Where Art
Thou?” (2000) on AMC and Quentin Tarantino's two-film “Kill Bill”
(2003) on IFC. Jesse Eisenberg is in “Zombieland” (2009) on FX
and the amiable little “30 Minutes or Less” (2011) at 9 p.m. on
Starz.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, some rich kids on a spring-break cruise are kidnapped by
pirates. Vanessa Minnillo plays a deckhand, with Nick Lachey (her
real-life husband) as her fiance.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Benson and Haden (Harry Connick Jr.) finally
have a romantic weekend planned. It's promptly interrupted when a
young prostitute is missing.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. This rerun has Anna Faris as host, with music by Drake.

TV column for Friday, March 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Fairly Legal, 9
p.m., USA.

In the season-opener last week, Kate's
life transformed. Her marriage was ending, her boat blew up
(accidentally) and her dad's law firm was in a tug between his young
widow and a brash newcomer.

All of that improves what was already a
good show. Kate – formerly a lawyer, now a mediator who hates the
law – struggles for the firm's soul.

That's the backdrop for a terrific
episode this week. Kate struggles with the ethical complexities of an
organ-transplant list … while fighting an angry mobster and some
cold-eyed feds.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, CBS
and TBS.

CBS starts with Baylor and Xavier.
Tip-off is 7:15 p.m., with a second game (Kentucky and Indiana) at
about 9:45.

TBS also has a doubleheader. It's Ohio
and North Carolina tipping off at 7:47 p.m., then Kansas and North
Carolina State at about 10:17. Tonight's winners join the four from
Thursday – each just one win away from making the NCAA tournament's
final four.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Who Do You
Think You Are,” 8 p.m., NBC.

On Sunday, PBS' excellent “Finding
Your Roots” returns. First, try this well-made series.

Helen Hunt has never known much about
one side of her family. Her dad (Gordon Hunt, a top director of
cartoon-voice sessions) was young when his mother dies. Now Helen
digs in, finding great-great-grandparents who helped launch Wells
Fargo and fought for women's rights.

Other choices include:

– “The Princess and the Frog”
(20009), 7:30-9:25 p.m., Disney. Flowing with the feel and music of
New Orleans, this cartoon has Anika Noni Rose as the young woman
whose kiss is crucial.

– “Nikita,” 8 p.m., CW. Having
just learned a secret about Cassandra, Michael and Nikita head to
Moscow to confront her.

– “Supernatural,” 9 p.m., CW. Sam
is in a mental institution and it's Satan's fault. Really.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. Peter
chases a killer who seems to be targeting love. “Fringe” had
disappeared for a month, but Fox says this will be the first of eight
straight new episodes.

– “The Lion King” (1994), 9-11
p.m., ABC Family. Combine this with “The Princess and the Frog”
and you have a Disney double feature (with 25 minutes of overlap at
9). Both films were done with traditional, hand-drawn animation, not
the computer style savored by Disney's Pixar division.

– “In Plain Sight,” 10 p.m., USA.
One of Mary's problems involves a hoarder in the witness protection
program. Her bigger problem: Her mom is gone, leaving no one to help
Mary watch her baby.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. As a
two-parter begins, Morgana leads an attack on Camelot.

– “Spartacus,” 10 p.m., Starz. A
week before the season finale, the fractured rebel forces are bracing
for a Roman assault. Spartacus tries to unite his people; on the
other side, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) tries to free herself from the
men who control her fate.

TV column for Thursday, March 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE : “Awake,” 10
p.m., NBC.

Here's a fresh twist on this terrific
series, which finds a cop envisioning two worlds, only one of them
(he's not sure which) real.

Now he meets his son's former
babysitter (superbly played by Brianna Brown, who was Lisa Niles on
“General Hospital”); she's crumbling in one, thriving in the
other. The contrast has a deep impact.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Missing,” 8
p.m., ABC.

Last week's powerhouse episode saw a
suburban widow (Ashley Judd) rush to Europe to find her kidnapped
son. We eventually learn what he didn't know: She's a former CIA
agent, tough and talented.

She needs to be. The opener saw her
surviving fierce fights, then plunging into a river after a gunshot.

That leads to the show's flaws:
“Missing” makes her almost absurdly unbeatable, forever topping
impossible odds. It's also serialized, keeping us hanging for 10
weeks.

Still, it has great action, strong
emotion, European settings and perfect performances by Judd and
others, including Cliff Curtis as the CIA bureau chief, scrambling to
keep up.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 7
p.m. CBS; 7:15 p.m., TBS.

The NCAA tournament is down to 16
teams, with a pair of doubleheaders tonight and two more Friday.

CBS starts with Syracuse and Wisconsin
(tip-off at 7:15) and follows with Cincinnati and Ohio State at about
9:45. TBS has Louisville-Michigan State (7:47 p.m.), then
Marquette-Florida (about 10:17).

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Last week, two singers were dumped – Shannon Magrane by viewers,
Jermaine Jones for failing to report arrests. That brings the top 10,
all of them making the tour. Now (barring a judges' save), that goes
to nine. Also, there will be songs by Haley Reinhart (who finished
third last year) and Lana Del Ray (whose “Saturday Night Live”
performance drew criticism).

– “Touch,” 9 p.m, Fox. An earnest
widower (Kiefer Sutherland) realizes his mute son is passing on
messages that connect the world. But how do you interpret them?
Tonight, in a fairly good hour, a pawn-shop robbery links to a young
Moscow magician, a visitor from India, a mobster and more.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Here's the rerun of a superb episode in which a weary Meredith dreams
of an alternate world in which her mom is healthy and supportive.
That brings back Kate Walsh, Emmy-nominee Kate Burton and more.

– “Project Runway,” 9 p.m.,
Lifetime. In last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), we saw the
three finalists – Michael Costello, Mondo Guerra and Austin
Scarlett – preparing. Tonight, they have their fashion shows and
“Runway” picks a winner.

– “Up All Night,” 9:30 p.m., NBC.
Work becomes more complicated for Reagan when her husband gets a
segment on the TV show she produces. Also, Henry Winkler guests as
Ava's dad.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. In a change, ABC is rerunning the episode in which Sam finds his
sister (the gifted Anika Noni Rose) in jail, heavily medicated and
near-catatonic).

TV column for Wednesday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Bent” debut, 9
and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

“Can I be honest?” the building
contractor (David Walton) says.

“Doesn't seem like it,” his
would-be client (Amanda Peet) replies quickly.

She's a lawyer and a divorced mom. Her
sex life is stagnant; his is not. They're perfect for TV comedy.

“Bent” has sharp dialog, skillful
stars and great a great supporting cast, including Jeffrey Tambor,
Jesse Plemons (“Friday Night Lights”) and J.B. Smoove.

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

If you missed this show's terrific
opener, catch this rerun on the eve of the second episode.

When a teen disappears in Europe, his
widowed mom (Ashley Judd) searches. We soon learn she has bigger
skills – and faces a bigger plot – than we had imagined.

The result has intensity, intelligence
and great action scenes. The only problem is that it's a serialized
show, giving readers no real satisfaction tonight … or, probably,
on Thursday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Interior
Therapy,” 9 p.m., Bravo.

Maybe all of TV's despots need a good
meal.

On “Flipping Out,” Jeff Lewis is
arrogant, antsy and abusive; on this show – living with clients for
a five-day makeover – he downright pleasant. Tonight – served by
a great cook – he mellows further.

That's in a home so stuffed with art
that there's little room for design. Lewis finds clever solutions.

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). In 2009, a bush fire seared a million acres of
Australia's Victoria. But nature is resilient; so is man. This rerun
traces the comeback,

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Some
kids claim their dog ate the homework, but in this rerun Brick says
his brother did. That's what happens when you make a map out of
dough.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Tessa's dad wins an Atlantic City trip and brings the
guys.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has Phil panicking after not getting the results of his
medical test. Also, Manny's dad (Benjamin Bratt) reappears.

– “Nothing Personal,” 9 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. Making a fortune from the “Deep Throat”
porno film, mobsters became fat and greedy, this documentary says.
They were so greedy that they stole from each other and a hit man was
hired. And so fat that one man absorbed multiple bullets and
survived.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. When she was 12, Elisabeth Harnois was Alice in the
Disney Channel's “Adventures in Wonderland.” Now she's Morgan,
helping probe a murder at a wedding that had an “Alice in
Wonderland” theme; also, Hodges tries to convince his mom (Jaclyn
Smith) that he's dating Morgan.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. At 82, Ed Asner can still be the young one. Here, he's the
president of a country club the women want to join. They need Elka
(Betty White, 90),who knows him.