TV column for Friday, Feb. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Touch”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

In its first season, this was a good
idea that almost – but not quite – worked. Martin (Kiefer
Sutherland), an earnest widower, strained to understand the deep
concepts in the mind of his autistic son … and how they connected
to ideas and events around the universe.

Now it seems to click. Martin meets
Lucy (Maria Bello), whose daughter – also blessed with a deep mind
– is missing. They probe the sort of global ties that creator Tim
Kring first tackled in “Heroes.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rock Center,”
10 pm., NBC.

This news magazine has had solid
reports, a popular anchor (Brian Williams) … and a small audience.
It has moved from Mondays to Wednesdays to Thursdays to a half-step
from oblivion.

Its Friday slot begins tonight, with
plans (subject to change) for light features. Kate Snow profiles
sisters, ages 12 and 10, who are averaging one endurance event a
week. Lester Holt interviews a Polish captain whose emergency landing
saved 230 lives. Natalie Morales talks to the husband and wife who
surveyed couples and wrote “The Normal Bar.” Then Willams sums up
the week.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Shakespeare
Uncovered,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Everyone, it seems, has played Hamlet.
Here, David Tennant talks with Jude Law and shows scenes of Laurence
Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, Derek Jacobi and, well, David
Tennant.

They've had plenty of options; three
versions were considered official by some people. One – possibly an
attempt to recall the play by memory – says: “To be or not to
bee, aye – there's the point.”

In the second hour, Trevor Nunn eyes
“The Tempest.” It's a skillful end to a three-Friday season.

Other choices include:

– “The Job,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
leaders of non-fiction TV – Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) and
Michael Davies (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”) – link for a
show that has five people compete for one job. In the opener, that's
an assistant-manager spot at a Palm Restaurant, with some on-the-job
testing. The result is just adequate, but does have helpful tips for
job-seekers … mostly of the what-not-to variety.

– CSI:NY, 9 p.m., CBS. On Wednesday,
Mac (Gary Sinise) was in Las Vegas, searching for his girlfriend;
D.B. Russell (Ted Danson), of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
joined himthe second half of this crossover takes them to New York,
short of time to save her.

– “Alpha Dogs” debut, 9 and 9:30
p.m., Nat Go Wild. These small-town, Indiana guys are bearded, burly
and blunt. They could be mistaken for a biker gang; actually, they
train elite dogs for the military and law enforcement. The result is
a mildly interesting reality show.

– “Spartacus,”. 9 p.m., Starz;
repeats at 10. There are brutal horrors early in this hour, as the
rebels seem just as cruel as the Romans they're trying to overthrow.
Then come new twists, with the arrival of outsiders AND a Roman unit
led by Crassus' young son. Their collision ends spectacularly.

– “True Justice,” 9 p.m., Reelz.
The best way to catch an Albanian kingpin, Steven Seagal decides, is
to kill his top aide, so you can watch what the leader does next.
That's not the officially recommended procedure (one hopes), but it
sets up enough action to fill more than half the show.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Newly appointed as a Hasidic leader, a man dies suddenly. His older
brother, who wanted th appointment, is one of the suspects.

 

– “Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.
Things keep getting more complicated for a thief who has taken the
identity of a small town's sheriff. In a good episode tonight,
complications are nasty (a hostile biker gang) and pleasant (a
lustful young Amish woman).

 

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

On the night NBC finally brings
“Community” back, TV's best comedy counters with an episode that
re-shuffles everything.

The lovers have lived separately –
Penny in her messy apartment, Leonard in his neatly nerdy one. But
now Sheldon has finally gone too far; Leonard throws away the
“roommate” agreement and moves across the hall to be her new
roommate.

TONIGHT'S MIST-SEE: “Archer,” 10
p.m., FX.

In tough, taut roles, Ron Leibman has
been a sensational. He won an Emmy (for “Kaz”) back in 1979 and a
Tony in '93. And now, at 75, he has a dandy animation-comedy role.

Leibman voices the guy who suddenly
married Sterling's mom (Jessica Walter). She owns a spy agency and
has been a high-flyer, with a life of sexual trysts. He's the
mild-mannered owner of car dealerships.

Or is he? Stick around, as Sterling
needs a rescue; it's a dandy comic adventure.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Community”
season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

Yes, this episode is wildly
inconsistent. That's true of many stop-and-go comedies that are
filmed movie-style, without an audience. In scattered moments,
however, it's daft and original.

This is the first day of the
fourth-and-final school year and we partially see it via “Abed TV.”
That's all in the mind of Abe imagines an old-style comedy, even
re-casting one of his classmates. Many portions fall flat; others
remind us that we're still glad “Community” is back.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. Some deep cuts are coming. When the “Hollywood round” began,
there were 276 singers; a week from now, that will be down to 40.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. It's been three months since “Men” had an episode
featuring Jake. In the interim, Angus T. Jones, who plays him,
called the show “filth,” then apologized. Now Jake – a
teen-ager who's in the Army – arrives with a 36-year-old
girlfriend, played by Jaime Pressly.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Finn
organizes a “diva week” for the glee club. And in New York, Kurt
finally speaks out about Rachel's arrogance.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
It's time to choose someone new as the face of Seattle Grace
Hospital; that should be easy, in a place full of pretty people.
Also, April brings in an emergency case; Jackson and Alex work with a
transgender couple.

– “Elementary,”10 p.m., CBS.
After a pretty good hour after the Super Bowl, “Elementary”
returns to its regular slot. John Hannah guests as Sherlock Holmes'
former drug dealer. Freshly arrived from London to search for his
daughter, he suggests Sherlock was a better detective before he
turned sober.

– “Do No Harm,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.
Somehow, Jason's alter-ego has broken though all the safeguards,
draining his money and dealing with evil people. The result is mostly
absurd, but has a clever finish.

– “Scandal,” 10:02 p.m., ABC. In
a pivotal episode, David, a reporter, has learned the truth about the
Cytron case. Now Olivia and her White House co-conspirators scramble
to push their cover-up..

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's one of those crossover episodes
that CBS likes. Mac (Gary Sinise), a widower, wants to surprise his
girlfriend by visiting her in Las Vegas. He's the one who's
surprised: She's missing.

He turns to his friend D.B. (Ted
Danson) for help. That will wrap up in Friday's “CSI: NY.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS.

During his 60 years of nature programs,
David Attenborough has seen species vanish. One moving clip shows him
on Galapagos Island with Lonesome George, a giant turtle who was the
last of his kind.

Still, this excellent hour – wrapping
up a three-week series – also has upbeat moments. The World
Wildlife Fund began in 1961. National parks were created in Africa
and beyond. Borneo and Malaysia took strong steps to protect birds
and turtles. Some species are better now than a half-century ago.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

Like last week's opener, this is a taut
hour that will churn viewers with mixed emotions.

We're in the early 1980s, with an
average-seeming couple (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) in suburban
Washington, D.C. They're actually Soviet spies, groomed for this, in
an arranged marriage.

Tonight, they're being rushed to plant
a bug in the home of Casper Weinberger, the U.S. Secretary of
Defense. Doing that will require them to bully decent people and to
strain their ethical limits.

Other choices include:

– “Tron: Legacy” (2010), 7:30
p.m., FX. Back in 1982, “Tron” had a techno-whiz (Jeff Bridges)
enter his computer program. Now comes a sharp sequel: Decades later,
Bridges is still in there; his son tries to rescue him. If you miss
it tonight, you can also catch it at 6:30 p.m. Thursday or 7:30 p.m.
Friday.

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. A new round begins, with lots of work to do. In all, 276
hopefuls went to California. Eight days from now, we'll see that
total trimmed to 40.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
After lots of reruns, ABC has all-new Wednesday shows. Here, Sue has
a class project to prove smiles are contagious. Her parents can't
smile; Axl may not get a scholarship.

– “Everything is Illuminated”
(2005), 8 and 10 p.m., Sundance. A quiet American heads to the
Ukraine, to dig into his family's past. Liev Schreiber adapted the
novel and directed, giving it a neatly offbeat look; Elijah Wood gave
the lead character a stylized feel that's calm, bloodless and
intriguing.

– “Charlie Wilson's War” (2007),
8-10 p.m., IFC. Now for a more-mainstream film, with Tom Hanks as a
real-life congressman. There's great work from director Mike Nichols
and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

– “The Neighbors”, 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. Debbie finds that she can't talk to her daughter about romance.
Unfortunately, she can offer romantic advice (ineptly) to the
neighbor boy who is from outer space.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Competition can be nasty, we find. Phil has just been taught by his
dad to golf; now they're facing Pepper (Nathan Lane) and Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Manny is intent on getting the lead in Cam's school
production of “Phantom of the Opera.”

 

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Juliette's pop-princess persona – a star in short-shorts, singing a
zesty song amid dancers and glitter – soars early in this hour.
Then she says she's thinking of a change. “There's thinkin' about
something and there's just doin' it,” Deacon tells her. What
follows provides the high point in an erratic-but-interesting hour
that's also stuffed with an excess of soap-style twists.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Smash”
season-opener, 9-11 p.m.,NBC.

The first season had brilliant musical
numbers, a great cast and soapy excess. Now a makeover begins.

As “Bombshell” – the musical
about Marilyn Monroe – seeks a Broadway spot, we meet distractions.
There's a star (played by Jennifer Hudson) and a cocky young
singer-composer (Jeremy Jordan).

Jordan's portions are fairly strong;
Hudson's are superb. It's a good (but not great) new beginning.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl,”
9 p.m., Fox.

Jess is clearly disturbed that Nick,
one of her roommates, suddenly kissed her. It meant nothing, she says
– although, she grants, “I saw through space and time for a
moment” – but it was all wrong.

She's dating a handsome guy, the sort
who fixes things; Nick mostly breaks things. Now she fumes … while
Schmidt crash Cece's Indian-American dating event. The result is, at
times, extremely funny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Vegas,” 10
p.m., CBS.

For Vince Savino (Michael Chiklis), the
scheme to get rid of Mob boss Rizzo has worked. He triggered a
confrontation with Deputy Sheriff Jack Lamb, who killed Rizzo.

Now Lamb hesitates: Should he tell the
truth to his brother, the sheriff? Should he tell his lover, Mia
Rizzo, that he has killed her father. That plays alongside two more
plots, in a strong episode.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Experience,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Long before the Apple-Google-Facebook
days. Northern California was already the gathering point for young
genius. At the core of that was Robert Noyce, a preacher's son from
small-town Iowa.

At 29, Noyce and seven colleagues left
Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory and created their own unit, working
with Fairchild. They created the integrated circuit and, a dozen
years later, started Intel – launching the microprocessor and the
roots of a $100-billion industry. It's a great story.

Other choices include:

– “The Taste, 8 p.m., ABC. The
competition portion begins, with a comfort-food theme. Each judge has
a four-person team; with blind tastings, a judge could end up dumping
on someone from his team.

– “Raising Hope,” 8-9 p.m., Fox.
Before becoming a favorite of critics with “My Name is Earl” and
“Raising Hope,” writer-producer Greg Garcia did “Yes, Dear.”
Now two of that show's stars (Mike O'Malley and Liza Snyder) guest in
tonight's second episode, playing people who come across an
incriminating video from Burt and Virginia. In the first episode,
Hope is on her favorite TV show.

– “Pioneers of Television,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). In a way, the 1977 “Roots” and
1983 “Thorn Birds” were opposites – one a steeply important
account of U.S. history, the other a frilly tale of forbidden love.
Both, however, had rich production values and giant ratings. This
hour – diligent in its details, so-so in its execution – features
them while viewing TV's mini-series era.

– “The Bachelor,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.
This second “Bachelor” night is a one-shot move. ABC is waiting
until after next week's State of the Union speech, before revamping
Tuesday with “Body of Proof.”

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p..m.,
CBS. The entire team is undercover, posing as a tactical force.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. The
search for Drew Thompson – the fugitive who was once presumed to be
dead – takes Raylan to Kentucky's hill country, where things turn
dangerous.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Monday Mornings”
debut, 10 p.m., TNT; repeats at 12:05.

One of TV's best writers is back and in
top form. David Kelley (“Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal”) has
his first hospital show since “Chicago Hope,” filled with deeply
detailed characters.

Based on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's novel, this
spends some of its time at the Monday-morning meetings when doctors
ponder mistakes. Great actors – led by Alfred Molina and Ving
Rhames – get blistering bursts of dialog …. while one (Keong Sim)
offers only a few words. It's great television.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “How I Met
Your Mother” and “Rules of Engagement,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

First, “Mother” returns to
delightful turf – Robin's teen years as Robin Sparkles, Canadian
pop star. Barney has found a TV biography filled with Canadian icons,
from Alan Thicke to Alex Trebek.

Then “Rules” – oft-shelved,
never-canceled – starts its seventh season. One story (Adam's
ping-pong obsession) is lunk-headed, but others – Jennifer's sex
dreams, Liz as a roommate – work quite well.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Mea Maxima
Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.

The theme – a priest's sexual abuse –
has been done often, but never with such compelling people.

They were sent to St. John's School for
the Deaf, in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis. The Catholic-run
school had an appealing setting and a charismatic head, Father
Lawrence Murphy.

In 1973, the boys told the archbishop
he'd been molesting them. It took more than a year to remove Murphy;
he was simply re-assigned and continued as a priest for his remaining
25 years.

“Culpa” views the resistance by
Vatican officials … including the cardinal who would become Pope
Benedict XVI. It's a compelling story, often told passionately by
sign language with voiceovers.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Things move to Montana, with 11 beautiful women in plaid shirts.
There's a two-on-one date and an eight-person relay that includes
some exceptionally inept canoing. And a date with Lindsay includes a
helicopter ride above Glacier National Park.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. New duty
for the artistic Angela: She goes undercover at a roller derby.

– “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 8-10
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. This started with a smart script about
real-life bank robbers, then added sleek direction, Oscar-winning
cinematography and a great cast. Estelle Parsons won an Oscar; Warren
Beatty, Faye Dunaway and others were nominated.

– “Jerseylicious,” 8 p.m., Style.
Tonight's life lesson: A guy shouldn't bring his mom to his debut as
an underwear model. Also, near the end of the hour, people screech
some more.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Jealousy – seething ominously until now – explodes among the
kidnappers, in another strong episode. Also, the FBI has a tough time
telling who's a victim.

– “Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT. Last
week's overwrought season-opener revealed that “Rebecca” – whom
Christopher briefly married – is Cliff Barnes' scheming daughter
Pamela. Now he tries to link her to a crime; also, his step-mom (a
sturdy sort until now) keeps crumbling because of a kidnap scheme.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A 1973 episode, “Hookman,” has been rewritten slightly. Now a
double-amputee has been killing cops for revenge. McGarrett is
targeted for something his father did.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Beckett may link a new murder to the man who killed her mother.