TV column for Monday, April 8


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, 9 p.m.
ET, CBS.

Over 66 games, this year's college
tournament has had strong ratings and solid surprises.

Of the dozen top-seeded teams (three
per region), only one made it to the final four. As favorites fell,
interest grew; now we have the last two. CBS strips out it regular
Monday line-up, except for a couple comedy reruns that precede the
game in most areas and follow it on the West Coast.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Castle,”
10:01 p.m. ABC.

This rerun finds “Castle” at its
breezy best, probing a murder at a science-fiction convention.

It's a parody of sci-fi in general and
“Star Trek” in specific, done with affection. Jonathan Frakes –
who directed two “Trek” movies and co-starred in “Star Trek:
The Next Generation” – directs. The captain seems like early
William Shatner – whose song closes the show. Guest stars include
Armin Shimerman (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), Ed Quinn
(“Eureka”) and Erin Way (“Alphas”).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “50 Children,”
9 to 10:05 p.m., HBO.

Back in 1939, one woman recalls, Jews
could leave Austria … but had nowhere to go. “Everyone could get
out, but no one would let us in. Everybody could have been saved.
Everybody.”

Most Americans ignored the situation,
bt Gilbert Kraus took action. A lawyer, he gathered 50 unused visas
and 50 American sponsors. He and his wife Eleanor left their
comfortable Philadelphia home and entered Nazi Austria. It was a long
shot that worked; the story is told quietly and eloquently.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC)
or “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10:01 p.m. Even against basketball, these
shows boom ahead. “Voice” continues auditions; “Stars” starts
a new week, with Lisa Vanderpump and Andy Dick still around. They
were in the bottom two the first time, but Dorothy Hamill left for
medical reasons; they were in the bottom three last week, but Wynonna
Judd was ousted.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS.
This rerun catches a party for the opening of the cupcake shop.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. In space, it turns out, you can hear a scream. In this
terrific rerun, Wolowitz – orbiting in the space station – hears
his mom and wife screaming on the phone.

– “Home Alone” (1990), 9-11 p.m.,
ABC Family. The art of the sight gag peaked with this loose gem.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Americans have spent $1 trillion for its
war on drugs, filmmaker Eugene Jarecki says, with little progress. He
ranges from prisoners to politicians; he also finds deep emotion when
talking to a beloved maid from his childhood home.

– “Top of the Lake,” 10 p.m.,
Sundance. Next week is the two-hour finale to a seven-hour
mini-series that is slow, dark, grim and beautifully done. Tonight
starts with the darkest moment – Robin (Elisabeth Moss) recalling a
multiple rape when she was 15. Then she's back to her maybe-futile
police job, searching for a pregnant 12-year-old who vanished months
ago. There are key moments tonight.

– “Revolution,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.
Just as she's patching her relationshp with her daughter, Rachel
leaves on a major mission. Meanwhile, Neville is distrusted by Monroe
and captured by Miles.

TV column for Sunday, April 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Academy of Country
Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

From the opening number – hosts Blake
Shelton and Luke Bryan jamming with Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert and
Brad Paisley – this should be full of crossover appeal. That
includes music by Stevie Wonder, Kelly Clarkson and Jewel, plus a
Dick Clark tribute with Garth Brooks and George Strait.

There's much more, in a packed night.
Other performers include Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kenny
Chesney, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Hunter Hayes and
Dierks Bentley, plus Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and The Band
Perry.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Mad Men”
season-opener, 9-11:08 p.m., AMC.

Don't get used to tonight's sunny,
tropical start. The story soon returns to wintertime New York, for
some serious – and well-crafted – ruminations on life, loss,
death and beyond.

Also, of course, there are advertising
emergencies – a small one for Don Draper, a big one for Peggy
Olson. And in the “Mad Men” tradition, there's anger, humor and a
dab of marital infideltiy.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Call the
Midwife,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In a strong and emotional episode, the
young women each face a personal crisis.

Jenny re-meets Jimmy, the guy she liked
(but rejected) last year. Chummy ponders bringing her husband and
becoming a mission nurse in Africa. And Cynthia is eyed warily, after
a medical tragedy.

Other choices include:

– “Erin Brockovich” (2000), 6-9
p.m., AMC. Leading into “Mad Men,” AMC reruns this superb film,
an Academy Award nominee for best picture. Julia Roberts won an Oscar
for her work as a real-life secretary who used smarts and sex appeal
to battle a corporation.

– Red-carpet preview, 6:30-8 p.m.,
GAC (Great American Country). CBS is busy with “60 Minutes,” so
this cable channel handles the Academy of Country Music preview.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). “Mr. Selfridge” opened last week,
with a zestful American opening a London department store. In this
excellent episode, he stirs controversy by moving cosmetics to the
front. He continues his affair with a singer, while his wife meets a
painter.

– “Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Last week's strong opener left forces in a state of mutual
discomfort. The next two episodes set up a powerhouse one on April
21.

– “Shameless” season finale, 9
p.m., Showtime. Fiona's latest plan might get the family some money,
just as Lip finally graduates. Then news about their shameless dad
changes everything.

– “House of Lies” and
“Californication” season finales, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Showtime.
First, Marty puts his master plan into motion; then Hank rushes a
rock star to his gig – only to have the show stopped by a proposal.

– “Red Widow,” 10:01p.m., ABC.
With one exception – a new “Celebrity Apprentice,” at 10 p.m.
on NBC – this is a night of reruns for ABC and NBC. At least, this
is a dandy rerun; it's the pilot film, showing how a suburban wife
became a widowed drug-dealer.

TV column for Saturday, April 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, 6:09
p.m. ET and about 8:49 p.m., CBS.

Tonight, we learn who will be in the
NCAA championship game Monday.

Of the four teams that were top-seeded
in the regions, Louisville is the only one that's still around.
Tonight – after losing Kevin Ware to a compound leg injury – it
faces ninth-seeded Wichita State.

Afterward, two No. 4 seeds, Syracuse
and Michigan, collide. This could be fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II:“Orphan Black,”
9 p.m., BBC America.

Slick, smart and deeply human, this
show gets better each week.

In last week's opener, street-smart
Sarah (the superb Tatiana Maslany) kept seeing women who look like
her. One committed suicide; Sarah snatched her purse and her identity
– perilous one as a cop.

Another was killed in Sarah's car. The
next steps – covering up a body, uncovering secrets – are
difficult and compelling.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Smash,” 9
p.m., NBC

After a soaring start, “Smash”
faded in the ratings and has just been banished to Saturdays. Still,
it tells an interesting story – Broadway musicals in the making –
with great songs and voices.

Karen left “Bombshell” (the Marilyn
Monroe musical) to join the emerging “Hit List” show. Now she's
fallen for the composer … unaware of his druggie past (and, maybe,
present). Tonight, things crumble.

Now Ivy stars in “Bombshell” –
and is jolted to learn that Tom has hired her mom (Bernadette Peters)
to play her mom. Now Tom tries to soothe things with a surprise; Liza
Minnelli is a guest star.

Other choices include:

– “The Voice,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Here's a rerun of Tuesday's episode, with the fourth night of
auditions.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, the parents try to focus on a different kid for each day of a
three-day weekend. That means paintball with Axl, a sci-fi book
convention with Brick … and an overbooked, 17-item itinerary with
Sue.

– “Doctor Who,” 8 p.m., BBC
America. The doctor takes Clara to the rings of a planet that is
having its festival. Unfortunately, there will be a sacrifice.

– “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), 8
p.m. to midnight, Turner Classic Movies. Sweeping visuals help tell
the true story of an Englishman who led an Arab revolt. The result
won seven Oscars, including best picture and director (David Lean).
Peter O'Toole and co-star Omar Sharif were nominated.

– “How to Live With Your Parents
(For the Rest of Your Life,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Here' a second chance
to see the fun pilot film. An earnest mom (Sarah Chalke) returning to
her mom's chaotic world.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Here's a quick rerun of Monday's solid episode, with sudden changes
in surroundings. Claire is in Joe's hide-out, desperate to find her
kidnapped son; the FBI people are in a former armory that Joe seems
to be using for weapons and training.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and
11:29 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun, with Bruno Mars as host and music
guest. Then Melissa McCarthy has her second turn as host, this time
with music from Phoenix.

TV column for Friday, April 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Vegas” return,
9 p.m., CBS.

On Tuesdays, this show drew strong
ratings and one gripe from advertisers – too few young viewers. Now
it's been nudged to Fridays, where the audience is older anyway.

Tonight, the sheriff (Dennis Quaid)
pursues a pimp who has under-age hookers. A federal agent is willing
to let the pimp free if the only witness focuses on Vince Savino, the
Mob's casino boss.

It's a good story that adds rich depth
to Mia Rizzo (Sarah Jones), Savino's business chief … and Jack Lamb
(Jason O'Mara), the sheriff's deputy and brother, who loves her and
killed her mobster dad .

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Happy Endings,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Here are two new episodes of this
comedy, each including woes for Dave's food-truck business. In the
first, it's stolen; in the second, Dave wants to sabotage his
competitor.

Then there are personal quirks. In the
first, a hair-salon owner (RuPaul) gives Max gossip about Jane and
Alex; in he second, Penny tries to re-connect with her dad (Andy
Richter) before her wedding.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Michael
Feinstein's American Songbook,” 9 and 10 p.m. PBS (check local
listings).

This little series – three hours on
two Fridays – juggles good musics (several songs by Feinstein, plus
a great Christine Ebersole one in the opeer), so-so reality, classic
clips and interesting conversation.

The best talk is in the first hour
(involving musicals). Stephen Sondheim discusses the drinking of
Lorenz Hart and other composers; “a lot of us medicate ourselves.”
Feinstein visits an archives, filled with notes he wrote when he was
Ira Gershwin's assistant … before Gershwin's widow fired him.

The best clips are in the second hour
(involving dance), including a 13-year-old Liza Minnelli.

Other choices include:

– “Fashion Star,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Working in duos – not their favorite style – the designers must
create two separate garments that create a cohesive style.

– “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. This
isn't what we expect from jury duty: Rosalee determines that the
defense attorney is using his supernatural powers to set a killer
free.

– “Spartacus,” 9 p.m., Starz;
reruns at 10. Next Friday, this series – impressive in visuals,
excessive in brutality – ends its run with a crescendo of tragedy
and triumph. Leading up to it is this lesser hour; given a chance,
the escaped slaves show all the ugliness of their former captors.

– “Tron” (1982), 9-11 p.m., BBC
America; and “Tron: Legacy” (2010), 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., FX. The
original was a fairly good film that sent a guy (Jeff Bridges) inside
his own computer program. The clever sequel finds him (Bridges,
again) still there, with his son trying to retrieve him.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Danny probes the murder of a devoutly religious woman who was keeping
a relationship secret from her family,

– “Vice,” 11 p.m., HBO. In the
Philippines, we're told, “the gun has become an acceptable manner
of political communication.” The governor of one province needed a
150-vehicle military caravan, to register for re-election; the last
time he registered, 57 people – including his wife and sisters –
were killed. That story and one about Afghanistan launches a series
with two tough stories each week.

TV column for Thursday, April 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Hannibal”
debut,10:01 p.m., NBC.

Let's ignore the title. Sure, Hannibal
Lecter is a character here; still this is a prequel to “Silence of
the Lambs.” No one knows he's a cannibal; he's a psychiatrist,
working with the hero, Will Graham.

Like many of TV's best characters –
from Dr. House to Sherlock Holmes – Will has a strong mind and weak
social skills. He's an FBI profiler who can step inside killers'
minds.

And like House and Holmes, he's played
by a gifted Englishman. Hugh Dancy's work is worthy of an Emmy … to
accompany the two his wife, Claire Danes, already has. Bryan Fuller
(“Pushing Daisies”) has crafted a show that remains compelling,
despite some excessive gore.

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

Carrie Underwood is this show's biggest
success story. She's had nine singles reach No. 1 on Billboard's
country chart, three more hit No. 2 and seven in the top 20 for all
music.

Now she sings “See You Again”;
Casey James – who's had one single reach No. 24 on the country
chart – does “The Good Life.” Underwood was the show's 2005
champion, James finished third (to Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox)
in 2010; barring a save, someone will finish seventh tonight.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Tabatha Takes
Over” season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo; repeats at 11:30 p.m. and 1:30
a.m.; other episodes rerun today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.:

After seeing a Nashville salon, Tabatha
Coffey is – as usual – unhappy.

The owner is a shopping zealot with
$100,000 in debts, while her salon is short of supplies. One stylist
takes three-hour naps; another used to party hard, then show up three
hours late. One customer ended up being there for six-and-a-half
hours; another found the door locked, with no bell.

Things work out, including a great
hairstyle for country star Jana Kramer. This fifth season starts
well.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After a two-week basketball break, TV's best comedy is back.
Three guys – Sheldon, Leonard and Raj – are competing for tenure
and the women get involved.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Jake was happy dating an older woman, Tammy, but now he
cheats with her 18-year-old daughter. Jaime Pressly, 35, plays Tammy,
with Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”), 21, as her daughter … and
Scott Bakula, 58, as the daughter's recent boyfriend.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
When several patients develop infections, one doctor worries that
she's at fault. Meanwhile, Meredith and Derek take some preventative
action for their children.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. The
biggest problem for “Hannibal” is that “Elementary” is so
similar, with its own gifted English actor (Jonny Lee Miller)
outsmarting crooks. Tonight, he tries to stop a scheme to rob a vault
in the midst of a giant snow storm.

– “Men at Work” season-opener, 10
p.m.. TBS. Milo (Danny Masterson) reluctantly uses social-media
trickery to attract women.The story is so-so, partly rescued by sharp
handling of the punch lines.

– “Scandal,” 10:02 p.m., ABC.
Olivia's relationship with Jake (Scott Foley) heats up, just as her
ex-lover, the president, is at a low point with his wife. Also, an
old case now seems suspect.