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.

TV column for Tuesday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Switched at
Birth” season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC Family.

The first season of this surprisingly
good series has come in two batches – 10 episodes last summer, a
dozen more wrapping up now.

Bay grew up rich; Daphne, who is deaf,
grew up with a struggling single mom. Then they learned they'd been
switched at birth; they're beautifully played by Vanessa Marano and
Katie Leclerc.

Now it's their prom night. Also, Angelo
(Giles Marini) is back; he's the one who abandoned Daphne, but is the
biologic father of Bay.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Fashion Star,”
10 p.m., NBC.

Yes, we have doubts about this
overwrought reality competition. Still, it has interesting people.

Watch Nzimiro Oputa, 28, a Detroit
native who quit his engineering job to design clothes. Or Kara
Laricks, 38, a former 4th-grade teacher. Or Oscar Fierro, 37, the
tiny Texan who grew up in an impoverished El Salvador town; he clowns
often, weeps often.

It's an emotional night for them and
others; maybe “Star” will grow on us.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Massachusetts was a primitive colony
when people began harvesting beached whales. Soon, boats were built;
in Nantucket, pacifist Quakers became skilled whale-killers.

America's first global industry grew,
By 1840, 735 of the world's 900 whaling ships were American.

This superb rerun by Ric Burns (Ken's
brother) eyes two stories: The Essex was rammed by a giant whale in
1820. Twenty years later, deckhand Herman Melville met the son of one
of its eight survivors and read an account. He would write “Moby
Dick,” considered the first great American novel.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When
classified information is leaked, Samantha Ryan (Jamie Lee Curtis) is
brought back to work with Gibbs. Sean Astin is a guest star.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. There's been a shooting outside the Vietnamese consulate, which
was about to be the site of an international conference.

– “The River,” 9 p.m., ABC. The
trial run ends, with “Dancing With the Stars” taking the slot
next week for its results show. Tonight, there's chaos when a crew
member is shot by an unknown killer.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Jess
(Zooey Deschanel) hesitantly dates the wealthy dad (Dermot Mulroney)
of one of her students. That's the start of a two-part episode.

– “Make It or Break It,” 9 p.m.,
ABC Family. On Monday, “Make It” starts its third season –
starting the Olympic push of its character (teen gymnasts) during
this Olympic year. First, here's the second-season finale; we're at
the world championship, with Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner guesting.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun takes a nasty twist on real life: A mother, considered
guilty by many, is killed after she was acquitted. Marcia Gay Harden
and Rita Wilson are guest stars.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.
Tonight wraps up the fierce (and nasty) race for sheriff. That's
fairly anti-climactic, but there are a couple other potent scenes,
centering on Quarles (Neal McDonough). He's confronted by a gunman,
then confronts Raylan; at those points, “Justified” is a great
show.

TV column for Monday, March 19


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

This is what the first six episodes
built up to: The “Marilyn” musical has a showcase for investors.

Its songs are great, so what could go
wrong? A lot. The building is too hot and everyone is distracted –
Ivy by her medication and her overbearing mother (Bernadette Peters)
… Karen, her back-up, by a record-producer audition … Juliet, the
lyricist, by her affair with Martin Swift (Will Chase).

Tonight brings great moments for the
producer (Anjelica Huston) and dynamite songs for Peters, Katharine
McPhee (as Karen) and Chase (as Martin).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dancing With
the Stars” opener, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

The new season brings the usual mixture
of celebrities and semi-celebrities.

There are former child stars Jaleel
White and Melissa Gilbert – yes, Urkel and Laura Ingalls – and
current young actor Roshon Fegen, 20. There are singers (Gladys
Knight, Gavin DeGraw), TV personalities (Sheri Shepherd, Maria
Menounos), great athletes (football's Donald Driver, tennis' Martina
Navratilova) and more actors (William Levy, of Spanish-language TV,
and Jack Wagner.

There's even a classical singer
(Katherine Jacobs) who looks like a movie star. This could be fun.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Pretty Little
Liars” season finale, 8 and 10 p.m., ABC Family.

For two seasons, these four young women
have had ominous text messages from “A.”

Now they – and we – finally learn
who this is. That happens at the Junior League Masquerade Gala.

Other choices include:

– “Antiques Roadshow,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Most stations have wrapped up their
pledge drives now and offer the second half of a “Roadshow” from
Honolulu. The next step is iffy, though; a scheduled presidential
debate was nixed Thursday, after Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum bowed
out.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Dr.
House's mother (Diane Baker) arrives, just as he's in the middle of
another perplexing case: A young man (Michael B. Jordan of “Friday
Night Lights”), about to propose marriage, has suddenly gone blind.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. It's a no-rerun Monday on CBS (and on ABC and NBC). When
Barney plans to move in with Quinn (Becki Newton), the others scheme
to break them up.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Max and Caroline get a sort of spring break from their shabby
lives: They're dog-sitting in a posh apartment.

– “Two and a Half Men, 9 p.m., CBS.
Here's a mismatch: Alan's brash mom (Holland Taylor) meets Lyndsey's
mom, played by the soft-spoken Georgia Engel.

– “Alcatraz,” 9 p.m., Fox. A
former prisoner with musical leanings is back, more violent than
ever.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In an episode of the original “Five-0,” Ed Asner played a master
thief. Now, 37 years later, he plays the same guy, helping clear
McGarrett's sister (Taryn Manning).

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. On
the opening night of “Dancing With the Stars,” this show offers a
murder during a similar dance competition. Also, Castle's mom wants a
favor from a critic who once gave her a scathing review.

TV column for Sunday, March 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Frozen Planet”
debut, 8 and 9 p.m., Discovery.

The Arctic and Antarctica are outsized
worlds. A bear can weigh almost a ton; an iceberg can be the size of
Manhattan. In these splendid documentaries, animals seek love
(briefly) and food (obsessively).

There's humor, as one penguin builds
its nest by stealing stones from another … who seems blissfully
unaware. There's ferocity, as giant walruses battle, with tiny
penguins seeming nonchalant nearby. And there's stunning precision,
as whales' synchronized swimming knocks penguins off their ice-floe
safety.

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

Last week ended with a jolt, when Mike
Delfino was killed by a drive-by gunman. Tonight brings the funeral
and flashbacks from his widow Susan and friends.

All of them have another problem: They
had thought they'd covered up the death of Gabrielle's abusive
father-in-law, who was killed by Carlos to protect her. Now the probe
is re-opened.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, noon
ET, CBS.

By the end of the night, the NCAA
tournament will have its sweet 16.

CBS has a tripleheader, then gives the
fourth game (at 7:30 p.m.) to Tru TV. There are also doubleheaders at
6 p.m. on TNT and 7 p.m. on TBS.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Life is
Short,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.

This series ripples with the darkly
wicked wit of writer-producers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
It's a mock-documentary that pretends that actor Warwick Davis is
vain and foolish.

In some hilarious scenes, he meets the
charlatan who is his spiritual adviser, then manages to insult a
Catholic and a Scientologist. Also, he bungles some promising
romances.

Other choices include:

– “Oprah's Next Chapter,” 7-11
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. The first two hours rerun Winfrey's
Steven Tyler interview. Then is a new two-parter with Lady Gaga.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In both worlds, there's trouble for Snow White (Ginnifer
Goodwin). In the fairy-tale world, she's under a spell; Prince
Charming tries to stop her from killing the Evil Queen. In the modern
world, she's charged with killing the wife of Charming's equivalent.

– “Bob's Burgers,” 8:30 p.m.,
Fox. Amid a bank's hostage crisis, the robber needs burgers.
Suddenly, Bob is at the core, as a go-between. The result is much
funnier than last week's season-opener.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. (or
later, with a basketball overrun), CBS. Michael J. Fox has already
done four episodes as Louis Canning, the cunning lawyer, receiving an
Emmy nomination. Now he again battles Alicia in court; this time, she
has money trouble and reconsiders his standing job offer.

– “The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m.,
AMC. The season finale finds Rick facing doubts about his leadership.

– “Luck,” 9 p.m., HBO. Enraged by
an apparent murder, Ace (Dustin Hoffman) shows his fierce intensity.
Also, an accident has a sharp impact on Jo (Jill Hennessy).

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS (or
later, with a basketball overrun). When a popular tennis coach is
killed, there's a personal connection to Calleigh (Emily Procter).

TV column for Saturday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all
day.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to 32
now, so CBS doesn't have to share as much with cable networks. It has
half of today's eight games and three of Sunday's eight.

Today, CBS' first game is at noon, with
others at about 2:30, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Other doubleheaders start at 6
pm. on TNT and at 7 p.m. on TBS.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Harry's Law,”
8 p.m., NBC.

This likable-enough show from producer
David E. Kelley finally moved into a regular timeslot last Sunday,
getting decent ratings. Add in these Saturday reruns and you have an
OK weekend habit.

Tonight, Harry (Kathy Bates) defends a
guy who bought a kidney. Tommy defends twins whose shared husband
died; Roseanna (Jean Smart) isn't sure which twin to prosecute. The
stories may get silly, but the people are talented: Smart has three
Emmys, Kelley has 10, Bates has an Oscar.

TONIGHT'S ALTERATIVE: “Chasing
Leprechauns,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark; and/or “Leprechaun's
Revenge,” 9 p.m., Syfy.

On St. Patrick's Day, we have to make
up our minds: Leprechauns are fun or fierce.

Hallmark prefers fun. Its film has an
Irish village requiring an odd environmental impact statement: Before
an area is developed, it must be certified as leprechaun-free. An
American businessman (Adrian Pasdar) must work with a local bartender
(Irish actress Amy Huberman).

And Syfy prefers ferocity. When a teen
(Courtney Halverson) picks a red shamrock, she unleashes a killer
leprechaun who could destroy the St. Patrick's Day parade. The story
is so-so, but ther are strong performances from Halverson, Billy Zane
and William Devane, playing three generations of O'Haras.

Other choices include:

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 10 a.m. to 1
a.m., WE. This may be designed for people wildly disinterested in
basketball. It's 15 hours of Jennifer Love Hewitt seeing dead people.

– “Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
switch, ABC is inserting this episode. Ideas ranges from a cake mix
for dogs to a towel design that allows someone to change in and out
of a swimsuit in public.

– “Die Hard” (1988), 8 p.m., AMC.
Bad guys control a high-rise – except for a rogue cop (Bruce
Willis) who's inside. A smart script combined with John McTiernan's
superb direction.

– “20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Here's
another round of “My Extreme Affliction.”

– “Fashion Star,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
NBC. In a change, NBC reruns Tuesday's debut. It's sort of a “Project
Runway” on hyperdrive – booming music, quickie fashion shows,
even store buyers pushing buttons to make bids. Still, the designers
are interesting: One guy weeps; another insults the women judges.

– “Being Human,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
BBC America. The focus is on baby Eve, who'scrucial to the future of
mankind. Annie the ghost protects her; so (at first) does another
ghost, a charming guy.

– “Off Their Rockers,” 10:30
p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the special, hosted by Betty White, that
had seniors pulling hidden-camera tricks. This will turn into a
series on April 4.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Charles Barkley hosts this rerun, with Kelly Clarkson as
the music guest.