TV column for Thursday, Feb. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American Idol”
and “Glee,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

After sending way too many people to
Hollywood, the mostly-new “Idol” judges choose the final 40.

Then “Glee” celebrates Valentine's
Day properly, with the marriage of Will (Matthew Morrison) and Emma
(Jayma Mays). The wedding brings past glee-clubers back to town.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY: “Zero Hour”
debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

Credit this show for sheer ambition: It
spans centuries and continents, involving the future of the world.

A gentle newsman (Anthony Edwards)
finds his wife has been kidnapped, encased in a mystery. Now he's
reluctantly teamed with an FBI agent (Carmen Ejogo), while his young
reporters work separately.

“None of this makes any sense,”
Ejogo says, drawing no disagreement. If you can suspend disbelief,
you'll enjoy an epic story from “Prison Break” creator Paul
Scheuring. It's a little like “The Da Vinci Code,” but with
Catholic clerics as sturdy heroes, trying to save us all.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE : “50 Ways to
Leave Your Lover,” 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

As Valentine's Day creates new
romances, it might be time to think of an exit strategy. Here are
true stories of wronged women who took extreme steps –
head-butting, genital-gluing (really), ice pick-stabbing and using a
car as a battering ram. Kids, don't try these at home.

These stories are re-enacted by actors,
but many of the real people also offer comments.

Other choices include:

– “Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood,”
11 a.m., many PBS stations (check local listings). Jason Mraz, a
two-time Grammy-winner, is a fan of the late Fred Rogers. Here, he
offers new versions of Rogers' opening and closing themes. The rest?
The characters are a delight; the story is mostly for age 2 or so.

– Animated movies, cable. Here are
two gorgeous Pixar films to choose from – “Finding Nemo” (2003)
at 7:30 p.m. on Starz; “WALL-E” (2008) at 8 p.m. on Disney.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Raj and Stuart throw a “lonely people party,” while the
others rush to find the right holiday gifts.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. While
everyone else has a Valentine tale, “Community” goes with
Halloween. Pierce is accidentally trapped in his panic room and the
others wander his mansion.

– Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Want some
Valentine's Day romance? Turner Classic Movies has “Gone With the
Wind” (1939); Hallmark has “Be My Valentine” (2013). One has
Clark Gable; the other has William Baldwin. One is a classic.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Depressed about being alone on Valentine's Day, Walden
(Ashton Kutcher) asks Kate (Brooke D'Orsay) for another chance.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The hospital plummets toward financial ruin.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Repercussions are expected, when Erin breaks up with Andy.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. After opening to brutal reviews and record-low
ratings, “Do No Harm” was yanked after two episodes. Instead,
this rerun finds a teen kidnapped after following her older sister to
a party. Rollins decides to re-connect with her own troubled sister.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Sherlock Holmes is showing concern for Watson; now he wants to teach
her self-defense. Meanwhile, Detective Bell has been attacked … and
the prime suspect is dead.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Survivor”
opener, 8-9:30 p.m., CBS.

It's the second “fans vs. favorites”
edition, with colorful forces on both sides.

The “fans” include a fireman, a
bartender and a racecar driver. There's also Matt Bischoff, who
enters beard contests; “I may look like some bad … dude (but)
there's definitely a sensitive, loving side to me,” he said in a
CBS video.

Two of the “favorites” – Erik
Reichenbach and Brandon Hanz – gave up their immunity necklaces and
were promptly voted out. Others, says teammate Corinne Kaplan,
include some “legitimate nut jobs.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

On Halloween eve, all four ABC comedies
focus on the holiday – or on the holiday gone wrong.

Here, Phil and Claire re-create their
alter-egos, Clive and Juliana. She ends up in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Gloria fumes when kids keep
interrupting her romance with Jay. And Mitchell and Cam wake up from
a party with hangovers and a question: Why is Dylan now living with
them?

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Southland”
season-opener, 10 p.m., TNT.

Things never get easy for John Cooper
(Michael Cutlitz). Rehab and surgery cured his addiction and the back
pain that spurred it. Still, he's a gay cop who seems alone, even
when he's in a relationship.

Now he's training an ex-Marine who had
two Afghanistan tours. His old trainee (Ben McKenzie) is partnered
with Sammy (Shawn Hatosy), a decent guy in a toxic custody fight.

Then there's Detective Lydia Adams,
with emotional work by day and a crying baby at night. These are
people worth caring about, even when the show's raw camera style
makes the story hard to follow.

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). In a Canadian wilderness, fierce foes compete.
Buffalo can weigh a ton; wolves can team up to down a prey 10 times
their size. This film has emotional moments; it would be stronger,
however, with a narrator instead of the filmmaker's random comments.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike
makes a classic Valentine mistake: A text intended for his wife goes
to a co-worker. Also, Sue is happy to be invited to the dance by
ex-boyfriend Matt.

– “The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. Things are different on Earth, Jackie and Larry learn. She's
considered beautiful, he's not; on their home planet, it's the
opposite. Now he fumes and she spends Valentine's Day with Debbie, in
a nightclub called Hell.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Marcia Gay Harden is back for her fourth time
as FBI agent Dana Lewis. She's probing rape-murders around the
country; Harold Perrineau (Michael Dawson in “Lost”) is her prime
suspect, but Benson and Amaro have doubts.

-- "The Big Bang Theory," 9:30 p.m., CBS. In a late change, CBS has trimmed the "Survivor" opener by a half-hour and inserted this funny rerun. Howard's wife feels he should move out of his mom's house.

– “Suburgatory,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.
More Valentine woe: George must sit through an 18-course meal from
Chef Jerome (played by Michael Voltaggio, the sixth “Top Chef”
champion). Tessa talks Ryan into going to an art-house movie, then is
surprised by their reactions.

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.
After telling her kids about the divorce, Rayna moves ahead with a
romance and with the first deal for her new label, signing Scarlett
and Gunnar. Meanwhile, Avery is wobbling and Juliette is working on
dumping her glitzy-pop style.

– “Necessary Roughness,” 10 p.m.,
USA. A couple of so-so stories involve T.K. and the team. Beyond that
is an important story that continues next week: Dani must learn why
the quarterback is struggling.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 12


TONIGHT'S SHOULD-SEE: State of the
Union address, 9 p.m. ET, everywhere.

With his second term just beginning –
complete with new cabinet member and new proposals – people should
be interested in what Barack Obama has to say. And with the 2016
election talk beginning, they'll be interested in Sen. Marco Rubio's
Republican follow-up.

NBC and PBS (check local listings) plan
to continue to 11 p.m. ET; ABC, CBS and Fox expect to be done at
10:30. And the news channels, of course, go on and on.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Comedies, 10:30
p.m. ET, ABC and CBS.

After hearing all that political talk,
you might want to settle back with a comedy rerun.

ABC has “Modern Family,” with
Claire and Cam rushing to get a rundown field ready for the Little
League playoffs. They do it so well that they want to become
house-flippers.

CBS has “Mike & Molly” finding
tough times as newlyweds. For one thing, there are thank-you notes to
write; for another, Vince is sick and Molly's mom has vanished,
leaving the couple to care for him.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Face”
debut, 9 p.m., Bravo and Oxygen.

First was “The Voice,” then “The
Taste” (8 p.m. today on ABC) and now “The Face.” Each gives
mentor-judges their own four-person teams; this is an Oxygen series,
but Bravo simulcasts the opener.

There's an international feel to the
supermodel judges – Naomi Campbell from England, Coco Rocha from
Canada, Karolina Kurkova from Czechoslovakia – and to the
contestants, from Australia, China, Russia and, yes, the U.S. Nigel
Barker – a perennial “America's Next Top Model” judge – is
the host.

Other choices include:

– “Frontline,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). How did the U.S. government reach the edge of the
fiscal cliff, barely managing a temporary escape? This hour views a
White House that couldn't hold together a deal and a House that was
paralyzed by a Republican split. “More conservative members thought
that sitting down with the president was a big mistake,” said
Speaker John Boehner, who had internal clashes with Majority Leader
Eric Cantor.

– NCIS: Los Angeles, 8 p.m., CBS.
This transplanted rerun catches the NCIS team in tatters. Callen
(Chris O'Donnell) has been suspended; Heddy (Linda Hunt) tries to
adjust to being a retiree.

– “Citizen Kane” (1941), 8-10:30
p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. In one bold stroke, 25-year-old Orson
Welles showed how stylishly filmed and directed a movie can be. The
result drew nine Oscar nominations, winning only one. Welles was
nominated as director and actor but, ironically, won as “co-writer”
of a script that was written almost entirely by Herman Mankiewicz.

– “Young Guns” (1988), 9 p.m.,
CMT. The young guns of Hollywood assembled for this popular film
about Billy the Kid and his first gang. Emilio Estevez leads a cast
that includes his brother Charlie Sheen, plus Kiefer Sutherland, Lou
Diamond Phillips and Durmot Mulroney.

– “Reef Wranglers” debut, 9 p.m.,
Weather Channel. Most of this channel's shows have been dead-serious,
man-against-the-weather ones. This is an exception, visiting
easygoing Southerners who make artificial reefs. In the episode we
saw, there's even an eating contest; it's OK, but far from
compelling.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. When
Raylan finds a severed foot, he suspects there may have been foul
play. Also, Boyd and Ava decide their drug business should add some
upper-income clients.

– “Millionaire Matchmaker,” 10
p.m., Bravo. Two days early, the show has its Valentine special.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 11


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Monday
Mornings,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Each hour of this show reflects the
immense range of writer-producer David Kelley.

There are patches of humor. Jonathan
Silverman – whose real-life wife Jennifer Finnigan plays the
dead-serious Dr. Ridgeway – has a guest role as the only indecisive
chap amid Type-A surgeons.

There's also rage. Two Broadway titans
– Alfred Molina and Bill Irwin – let loose at each other.

But “Mornings” isn't afraid to add
quiet sentiment. Molina scenes with a 13-year-old patient are among
the best on any show this season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rules of
Engagement,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

The long delay – almost nine months
between new episodes – did no harm (or good). In its second episode
since returning, “Rules” remains both flawed and funny.

Yes, Adam remains way too goofy. But
tonight's cycling misadventures draw bigger laughs when his fiancee
sees them via his helmet camera.

And yes, Russell's sexual adventures
are overwrought. But that brings fun when Audrey decides her baby
can't have the name of anyone he has sullied; “Gladys” and
“Beatrice”may be the only choices.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

We're a week from the home-town visits
and Tierra LiCausi somehow remains.

She's 24, a leasing consultant from
Denver … and maybe the most disliked contestant since Vienna
Girardi, three years ago. Alas, Jake Pavelka chose – and soon shed
– Vienna, so anything is possible.

Tonight – during a date to a private
island in the Caribbean – AshLee Frazier tells Sean Lowe what she
(and others) think of Tierra … who responds during a shopping date.
There's also a date with Lesley Murphy and a group date with the
other three, to see a sunrise. Then Lowe chooses his final four.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Abby Elliott (“Saturday Night Live”) plays Ted's new
girlfriend. He realizes she's unstable, but is reluctant to break up
with her.

– Little Women (1933), 8-10 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies. This week, TCM has a grand ride through movie
history. It has “Citizen Kane” on Tuesday, “Gone With the
Wind” on Thursday and “Ben-Hur” on Saturday. Start here, with
George Cukor directing a 29-year-old Katharine Hepburn.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Ryan (Kevin Bacon) may have to sacrifice himself to save is sister.
Also, things are more complicated, now that one of the kidnappers has
added his personal hostage. That's in an episode that is
well-crafted, but way too extreme in its use of confinement and
torture.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Max suddenly sees how the rich folks live: She wins some award-show
tickets and ends up on a jet with Caroline and rapper 2 Chainz.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Some
of this clever show's best moments have come while visiting a soap
opera and a science-fiction convention. Now it's time for murder on a
reality show, “The Wives of Wall Street.” Guest stars include
Gail O'Grady and Gina Torres, who co-starred with “Castle” star
Nathan Fillion in “Firefly,” playing his loyal soldier Zoe.

– “Inside Comedy” season-opener,
11 p.m., Showtime. Bob Newhart tells David Steinberg some quiet
stories and Louis C.K. describes his early years, when he mainly
learned: “Failing isn't that bad.”

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Grammys, 8-11 p.m.,
CBS.

Taylor Swift opens the show at 8 p.m.,
with plenty of other stars following. That includes Carrie Underwood,
Kelly Clarkson, Frank Ocean, Justin Timberlake, Miguel, Jack White
and Wiz Khalifa, plus groups. The Black Keys will be there, plus Fun,
the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons.

Then there are the pairings – Alicia
Keys with Maroon 5, Dierks Bentley with Miranda Lambert, Bruno Mars
with Rihanna and Sting. Elton John will be with Ed Sheeran and join a
tribute to the late Levon Helm, with Zac Brown, Mavis Staples,
Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Walking
Dead,” all day, AMC.

Our TV sets are being overrun by
zombies, as “Dead” returns from a 10-week break. The second
season continues its reruns until 12:57 p.m.; then come reruns of the
first half of this season, the third.

Finally, at 9 p.m., there's a new
episode: The Governor's forces have captured Daryl and Merle; also,
Rick must decide what to do with Tyreese's group.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Girls,” 9
p.m., HBO.

Here is a truly remarkable hour, one
that is – for all the right reasons – a total change-of-pace.

Lena's life has been filled with
commotion and chaos, an artist's vision of city life, full of smart
and noisy people who barely get by. Then she meets someone who is
opposite her.

This is basically a two-person episode
– writer-star Lena Dunham, the young Golden Globe winner and
Patrick Wilson, the Broadway veteran and two-time Tony nominee. They
are opposites, in ways that leave Lena – and us – thinking about
life.

Other choices include:

-- Grammy preview, 6-8 p.m., E and TV Guide. Ryan Seacrest anchors the E red-carpet coverage, with Chris Harrison anchoring for the TV Guide Network.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) is back as Anton the Giant. In
fairytale land, he dares to descend the beanstalk; also, he causes
havoc after being kidnapped to Storybrooke.

– “Battlestar Galactica: Blood &
Chrome,” 8-10 p.m., Syfy. The “Galactica” series on Syfy was a
gem, so fans are optimistic about this. Created by David Eick and
Michael Taylor (writer-producers of “Galactica” and its kin),
it's a former Web series about the early days of William Adama; Luke
Pasqualino – who played the servant who became Lucrezia's lover in
“The Borgias” – stars. Now it's been re-edited into a movie,
with some scenes added.

– “Saturday Night Live in the
'80s,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. As the 1980s began, “SNL” fell apart.
Producer Lorne Michaels left with the original cast. With occasional
exceptions (including Eddie Murphy), the new people weren't funny.
Then the comeback began, first with Dick Ebersol producing and then
with Michaels' return. It's a colorful story, told with frankness and
with fun clips from sketches.

– “Downton Abbey,” 9 p.m., PBS.
Bates is finally free, but everything else remains scattered. Will
Matthew force a change in the estate? Will Edith try a part-time
career? And at a time when homosexuality was outlawed, could
O'Brien's vengeance put her former friend Thomas in jail? All of that
and more – including a cricket match – sets up next week's season
finale.

– “Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. The
wedding of Jack and Amanda reminds Emily what could have been.

– “Revenge for Real,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. The network is again loaning this spot to its news department,
for stories about vengeance among the rich or famous. This one
involves a Miami millionaire.