TV column for Saturday, Feb. 8

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 2:30-6 p.m., 8-11 p.m.,
midnight to 1 a.m., NBC.

The first full day of competition will hand out gold. For
men, that’s in the new slope-style snowboarding, with Shaun White hoping to add
it to his previous half-pipe wins; for women, it’s freestyle moguls skiing.

Meanwhile, another new event -- team figure-skating –
continues. The women and ice-dancers have their short programs; pairs skaters,
who got an early start Thursday, do their full routines.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox.

If you missed this show’s jaunty debut, here’s a second
chance. Greg Kinnear plays a handsome lawyer who keeps digging himself into
trouble with gambling, lust and sheer foolishness.

One simple task – turning a giant tuna into cash – gets
complicated; another – watching a serial killer plead guilty – gets worse. It’s
a fun start, with Sam Raimi, who did the Spider-Man trilogy, directing.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), 8-10:30
p.m., ABC.

This true store from the 1980a resonates powerfully in any
era when good jobs are scarce.

Chris Gardner is losing his money, home and family. He
grasps for hope, including an unpaid internship. This is tough to watch, but done
with subtlety and skill, especially by Will Smith and his son Jaden.

Other choices include:

More Olympics, cable. Unlike the NBC events, which are tape-delayed,
cable will be live. Given the time-zone differences, that means early starts
for the NBC Sports Network – including a 3 a.m. ET women’s hockey game between
the U.S. and Finland – plus MSNBC and the USA Network.

“The Walking Dead,” all day, AMC. The rerun marathon
continues, pointing to Sunday’s mid-season return.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Walden dates
an injury-prone model.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. On the serious side, HBO has the
solid “42” (2013), with Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford as Jackie Robinson
and Branch Rickey, breaking baseball’s racial barrier. On the fun side: “Red”
(2010) on TNT, “Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011) on FX, “The Devil Wears Prada”
(2006) on Oxygen,

“The Millers,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. In a so-so rerun, Nathan schemes
to get his parents back together by having them divide items with sentimental

“The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun goes back to the
Red John days, with four suspects confronted. Meanwhile, the team probes the
killing of a software engineer by drone strike.

“Black Sails,” 9 p.m., Starz. The pirates are still
landlocked, gathering men and ships to chase a grand treasure. Captain Flint
claims he knows the route … but it exists only in the memory of the scheming
John Silver. Eleanor Guthrie, a bisexual beauty, runs the pirate-refuge island
that includes her ex-lovers, Max (a prostitute) and Vane (a fierce captain).
Late in this hour, power shifts explosively.

“The Middle,” 10:30 p.m., ABC. Frankie and Mike think
they’ll have a romantic weekend watching her sister’s house … except they can’t
master the technology. Meanwhile, Sue tries to keep order at home.


TV column for Friday, Feb. 7

MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics opening ceremony, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., NBC.

Now that
Renee Fleming has sung the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, viewers are used
to an opera star in a sports stadium. Tonight, Anna Netrebko sings the Russian
National Anthem.

music is a Russian specialty, so others – pianist Denis Matsuev, violist Yuri
Bashmet, the Moscow State Chamber Choir – are expected. There will also be
fireworks and spectacle, but probably nothing to match 2012’s James Bond and
Mary Poppins in London. 

MIGHT-SEE: “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Like most
shows, “Bones” won’t waste a new episode against the Olympics ceremony. Unlike
some, it chose its rerun carefully.

The story
involves the murder of a man already dying of cancer; a lame detour involves a
crime-solving computer system. More importantly, Booth and Brennan are nudged
into planning their wedding; that sets up next week’s hour … which, on
Valentine’s Day, reruns the wedding.

ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Walker grew up poor in Georgia, the daughter of a sharecropper and a maid. Her
parents resisted having her work the fields; she thrived in school and
graduated from Sarah Lawrence.

Her novel
“The Color Purple” won a Pulitzer Prize and became an epic movie and musical,
while drawing attacks for its view of black men. Two days before her 70
th birthday, this beautifully crafted
film offers a woman surrounded by bright colors and complicated relationships.

choices include:

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. These reruns focus on the sisters. First,
Vanessa convinces Mandy to dump Kyle; then Eve’s snow-shoveling business

Movies, 8
p.m., cable. Strong choices include a family delight (“The Muppets,” 2011,
Disney), clever comedies (“Knocked Up,” 2007, TBS; “National Lampoon’s
Vacation,” 1983, TV Guide) and a deep drama. “From Here to Eternity” (1953,
Turner Classic Movies) won eight Oscars, including best picture.

Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This season-opener started with woes everywhere –
McGarrett in prison with Wo Fat, Kono on the lam with Adam. Then Catherine was

9 p.m., Fox. Resisting the trend, Fox has two new comedies tonight. In this
one, Pete tries to fit into his new duties; the husband of a deployed soldier
makes that difficult.

Hope,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Ignoring all experience, Virginia feels Burt will buy an
expensive anniversary present. She takes him to a dude ranch with a hyper
cowboy (Keith Carradine).

Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Brother and sister link in this rerun, when Danny (a
police detective) and Erin (an assistant district attorney) probe a rich man
who escaped conviction.

10 p.m., Cinemax. In a detour, this high-octane series has a broodingly
beautiful hour, shifting between reality and daydreams as Hood retrieves Carrie
from prison. A few other actors (including the brilliant Zeljko Ivanek) show
up, leading to a visually stunning finish.

“Late Night
with Jimmy Fallon,” 12:05 a.m., NBC. A half-hour earlier than usual, Fallon has
Andy Samberg and the Muppets on his final late-night gig, before taking over
“Tonight” on Feb. 17.


TV column for Thursday, Feb. 6

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC.

For two decades, Jay Leno has hosted “Tonight,” providing
clever monologs, OK conversations and (usually) top Nielsen ratings. Tonight,
he says farewell.

His first guest 20 years ago (Billy Crystal) will also be
his first guest tonight. Garth Brooks will also be there plus, perhaps,
surprises. Then Leno says goodbye … not voluntarily, but (we’ll guess) with

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

Most Americans know that any Olympics are big and flashy and
exciting; still, few care about anything beyond figure-skating and (now that
Lindsay Vonn is injured) Shaun White on a snowboard.

The solution is to add more of both. Tonight (on the eve of
the opening ceremony), the Olympics launch two new events. There’s slope-style
snowboarding and – similar to team gymnastics in the summer – team
figure-skating. It begins tonight with the short programs for individuals and
pairs, then concludes Saturday and Sunday. Also tonight is freestyle skiing,
with the women’s moguls.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Spoils of Babylon,” 7:30 to 10:30
p.m., IFC.

Once a simple plaything for Will Ferrell and writer Adam
McKay, Funny or Die keeps growing. Now it has a new production facility, some
series and this mini-series.

Well, a micro-series, with six half-hours telling a soapy
tale at hyper-speed. Ferrell pretends to be author Eric Jonrosh and takes other
roles. Tim Robbins plays the patriarch, with Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire as
his daughter and adoptive son, who have a forbidden romance. The first five
episodes rerun tonight, leading to the 10 p.m. finale, with Winston (Haley Joel
Osment) scheming revenge.

Other choices include:

“Lincoln” (2012), 7 p.m., Showtime. A strong film night
begins with Steven Spielberg’s moving epic.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s an odd Valentine’s
Day double date – the married Howard and Bernadette head to wine country with
the thoroughly unconsummated Sheldon and Amy. That leaves Penny and Leonard,
who still haven’t defined their relationship.

“American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. After Wednesday’s “Hollywood
or Home” detour, the “Hollywood Week” round begins. A week from now, the
semi-finalists will be chosen.

More movies, 8 p.m., cable. Here are exact-opposite
classics. Disney has “The Little Mermaid” (1989), a gorgeous cartoon; Turner
Classic Movies has “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” with Richard Burton and
Virginia Woolf perfectly handling the fiercely acerbic dialog.

“Rake,” 9 p.m., Fox. Keegan (Greg Kinnear) should understand
this client: To cover her gambling debts, she told the insurance company her
son has cancer.

“Reign,” 9 p.m., CW. The focus again turns to the gifted
Megan Follows as Queen Catherine. She throws scandalous charges at Bash; he
promptly points out her own scandals

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Holmes probes the murder of an
emerging ballet star, while Watson looks at the possible abduction of a homeless




TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The new “Idol” producers warned us they would shake things
up, fighting the lull that happens between the auditions and the live episodes.
Now that happens in a sort of nasty way.

Young singers arrive with their gold tickets, ready to savor
the Hollywood round. Instead, they’re told tonight is a “Hollywood or Home,” with
instant performances. Some people will promptly be sent home.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Broad City,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy

On one level, we have Ilana (Ilana Glazer), overwrought,
oversexed, underskilled. Tonight, she’s the world’s worst temp worker, while
handling the office of (ironically) a temp agency.

On another is Abbi (Abbi Jacobson), quiet, caring and
unnoticed. Tonight, her handsome neighbor asks for a favor; fate will conspire
against her, as always. We find Abbi immensely appealing; other viewers – fans
of the wretched “Workaholics” at 10 – may prefer Ilana. Either way, it’s kind
of fun.

NIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond,”
10 p.m., BBC Americas.

Last week’s opener introduced Ian Fleming long before he
created James Bond. A bad stockbroker, a good lover and a skittish boyfriend,
he was no match for his heroic brother. Then World War II began.

Now he has a desk job with the
Navy and shows his first noble impulses. That comes while bouncing between two
beauties – one young and idealistic, the other (played by Lara Pulver) a
schemer who dates a mogul but lusts with Fleming. Their key scene is both
politically incorrect and powerfully done.

Other choices include:

“From Russia With Love” (1964), 7:30-10 p.m., BBC America.
Before watching tonight’s “Fleming,” savor this second Bond film. It’s tough
and intense, with occasional hints of the glitz that would follow.

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After visiting
distant locations, “Nature” reruns one of its most accessible hours, a light
and entertaining “duckumentary” on the world of ducks.

“How to Raise an Olympian,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here’s one more
preview hour, before the Winter Olympics begin, with early-starting events
Thursday and the opening ceremony Friday.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Police
rush to save a missing boy who needs insulin.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Claire and Phil rarely know
what the kids are up to. Now they’re spying on Luke; meanwhile, Haley doesn’t
want them to know about her photography exhibit.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. One case involves
a body found in Mexico; the other involves a couple whose bodies are found on
the driveway.

“Top Chef,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Last week’s hour (rerunning at 9
p.m.) launched the two-part finale; it sent three chefs to Hawaii, joined by
Louis Maldonado, who won a return via “Last Chance Kitchen.” Now it’s time to
pick a winner.

“Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC. On the eve of Jay Leno’s
farewell, the guests include Sandra Bullock and Blake Shelton.  


TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 and 9:30
p.m., Fox.

Fresh from its big spurt – two Golden Globes and a spot
behind the Super Bowl – this comedy offers a rerun and then shifts to its new timeslot
with a new episode.

First is the pilot film, with Andy Samberg as a wise-guy police
detective who bungles the arrival of Captain Holt (Andre Braugher), his new
boss. Then the cops converge on Holt’s home for his birthday; they finally meet
his husband … and manage, again, to make a bad impression.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Dazzled by the show’s debut, some viewers have grumbled that
subsequent episodes were too ordinary … or too rare. There were only two new
ones in a seven-week stretch.

Now producers promise bigger moments are coming. Tonight,
pursuing the Clairvoyant, the team boards a mystery train that may be headed to
certain death. In a brief role, one passenger is played by Stan Lee … the
longtime Marvel chief who, at 91, stars in a new cartoon series (on Hub) and

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 8-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

First is a rerun, the second half of “The Amish.” Then is
the two-hour “The Amish: Shunned.”

Don’t expect any of the hyper emotions in fiction about the
Amish. Instead, this is a slow and graceful film, offering a warm look at both

We meet some former Amish who have thrived, including Naomi
Kramer, who -- with an 8
th-grade, no-science education – put herself
through college and became a nurse. We meet others who had a rougher time; we
also feel the pain of the families they left behind. The result is rich in
human emotion.

Other choices include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The murder of a Port Authority officer
offers hints of where to find Parsa.

“Dads,” 8 p.m., Fox. Trying to create a Mafia videogame, the
guys bring in a real Mob boss.

“Winter Gold,” 8 p.m., NBC. NBC keeps nudging us toward the
Winter Olympics. There are previews today and Wednesday, some events get an
early start Thursday and the opening ceremony is Friday.

“The Biggest Loser” finale, “9-11 p.m., NBC. Last week,
Chelsea and Jennifer were ousted, leaving only Bobby, Devin and Rachel.
Tonight, one of them wins $250,000.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Jess convinces Nick that he can be
friends with his ex-friend. Meanwhile, Schmidt and Coach have separate schemes
to use Schmidt’s loft for a romantic encounter.

“The Goldbergs,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. Adam’s teen sister repairs a
fragile relationship with her mom … then sneaks off to a college party.
Meanwhile, his brother assures Adam that boys and girls can’t be friends.

“Trophy Wife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. It’s always a mistake,
perhaps, to go into business with your husband’s ex-wife. Kate learns that
tonight. Also, Rob Corddry plays a combative karate instructor.

“Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. A Mob revenge plot brings fresh