TVcolumn for Saturday, March 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Game Change,”
9-11 p.m., HBO.

It was the sort of bold stroke that
makes history, builds nations, sometimes crumbles: John McCain chose
Sarah Palin – two years away from being a small-town mayor – as
vice-presidential candidate.

Palin brought charm, charisma and a
void in foreign affairs. This film – adapting a book that was built
from interviews of campaign aides – describes a smart person who
began to crumble under pressure.

Julianne Moore is amazing as Palin and
Ed Harris is superb as McCain. But the real star is the story itself,
a stunning tale of a big-time campaign gamble that, for a while,
scored big.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Q'Viva,” 8-10
p.m., Fox.

Even if their marriage is ending, their
show is continuing: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony visited Latin
America to find singing and dancing talent.

Tonight – in the second of five weeks
– they visit seven countries and Puerto Rico. Among other things,
Anthony tries the “pointy shoes” dance craze that's big in
Mexico.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Of Two
Minds,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.

When their mother dies, Billie (Kristin
Davis) faces a steep challenge: She must raise her schizophrenic
sister (Tammy Blanchard), without harming her own marriage and
children.

The result is beautifully written and
acted, but tough to watch. There's a certain monotony to waiting for
the next emotional disaster; we admire “Minds,” while not being
sure we're glad we watched.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, all day. Here are the
championship games in many of the conference tournaments. CBS has
Conference USA at 11:30 a.m. ET and Pac-12 at 6 p.m. ESPN has Big 12
at 6 p.m. and Big East at 9 p.m.; ESPN2 has Mid-American at 8 p.m.,
Big West at 10 and Western Athletic Conference at midnight. Even the
new NBC Sports Network has Mountain West at 7.

– “Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC. On
the eve of the show's return, we get a rerun with odd twists. One
client has a gorilla; the other (Erica Durance, who was Lois Lane on
“Smallville”) avenges abused women while dressed as Wonder Woman.

– Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Tonight's
emphasis is on fun films that scored big at the box office. There's
one major comedy – “The Hangover” (2009) on TBS – and three
light adventures: “Charlie's Angels” (2000) is on Oxygen,
“National Treasure” (2004) is on TNT and the dandy “Speed”
(1994) is on AMC.

– “My Extreme Affliction,” 9
p.m., ABC. Here's a two-hour special from “20/20.”

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. The kidnapping of a boy stirs suspicions in
his family and among others in the Romani (often referred to as
“Gypsy”) community.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Last week's Lindsay Lohan show had big ratings and so-so
humor. Now Jonah Hill hosts, with music by the Shins.

TV column for Friday, March 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Mentalist,”
9 p.m., CBS.

Let's credit CBS for packing lots of
scripted shows – mostly new episodes, not reruns – into Fridays.

Last week, “A Gifted Man” finished
its new hours; next week is the basketball tournament. To fill the
gap, CBS inserts this new “Mentalist”: The team tries to learn
who killed a terminally ill man.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “House,” 11
a.m. to 5 p.m., USA; then 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Oxygen.

In the final season of TV's best drama,
we'll take reruns anywhere we can find them.

Tonight peaks at 10 p.m. with the hour
that aired after the 2008 Super Bowl. In Antarctica, a psychiatrist
(Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino) has a mysterious illness; House must
treat her via webcam.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Portlandia,”
6 p.m. to 2 a.m., IFC (Independent Film Channel).

Rippling with offbeat wit, “Portlania”
warmly mocks Portland, Oregon, as a super-hip place where people are
forever in touch with their feelings. Fred Armisen (“Saturday Night
Live”) and Carrie Brownstein blend into lots of well-meaning
characters in the sketches.

The season finale, at 10 p.m., has a
new brunch spot drawing massive lines. Prior to that, the entire
season reruns – starting with the most-recent episode at 6 p.m. and
going in reverse. Then come more reruns, interrupted by 15 minutes of
“Comedy Bang! Bang” at 10:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m.

Other choices include:

– “Jersey Shore,” all day, MTV.
This continues until 6 a.m. Monday. You were warned.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Jerome Bettis grew up in Detroit, becoming a star running
back for the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Visiting
Kentucky, he learns of a great-great-grandfather who sued a corporate
giant during the segregation era.

– “Alice in Wonderland” (2010),
8:30-11 p.m., ABC Family. Tim Burton turns his great visual touch
onto this classic story. He has no good way to end the film, except
for a so-so battle scene; still, there are great moments for Mia
Wasikowska and a supporting cast that includes Johnny Depp as
(naturally) the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway
as the red and white queens.

– “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. What
starts as an arson investigation soon takes Nick into the dangerous
world of fire-dancing, where a woman (Danielle Panabaker) endangers
his relationship with Juliette.

– “Catch Me If You Can” (2002),
9-11 p.m., TNT. Steven Spielberg directed this jaunty tale, with
Leonardo DiCaprio as a real-life guy who scammed his way into
occupations. Tom Hanks is the FBI agent in perpetual pursuit; John
Williams' music sets the bright tone.

– “The Ultimate
Fighter”season-opener, 9-11 p.m., FX. Originally taped in advance,
“Survivor”-style, this show now switches to a format of live
matches. This opener starts with 32 mixed-martial-arts fighters, then
promptly trims the field to 16.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This solid cop show keeps finding new ways for the family members to
collide. Now Danny, a cop, is interrogated by his sister Erin, an
assistant district attorney.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. When
the knights find a shrine in the forest, they uncover a tormented
spirit.

 

TV column for Thursday, March 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS.

TV's best comedy gets back-to-back
episodes. Both focus on Sheldon (Emmy-winneer Jim Parsons) and his
iffy status as Amy's boyfriend.

In the first, he catches a two-day
videogame marathon, instead of accompanying her to a birthday party.
In the second, a rerun, Penny coaches him after he seems unimpressed
by Amy's accomplishment.

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

Last week's brilliant opener showed us
the basics: Michael sometimes wakes in a world in which he and his
wife are mourning the son who died in a car crash; at other times,
the wife is dead and the son is not. One world is in his imagination,
but we can't tell which; each has its own therapist, its own partner
for Michael (a police detective), its own cases.

In tonight's strong hour, we learn that
he has the same boss (Laura Innes) in both worlds. She frets about
his sanity; he can't tell her he's probing a crime in one world by
using a clue from the other.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Saving Face,”
8:30 p.m., HBO.

Just 11 days after winning the Academy
Award for best short documentary, this has its cable debut. Yes, it's
well-crafted, important and affecting; it's also, however, extremely
hard to watch.

Many Pakistani women have had their
faces scarred by acid, often by angry husbands or spurned boyfriends.
Now some people push for new laws and for tougher prosecution; also,
Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a plastic surgeon, returns to his homeland to
help rebuild faces and lives.

Other choices include:

– “Jersey Shore,” 11 a.m., MTV.
Maybe you could cancel all your plans, get some beer – a LOT of
beer – and stare at the Jersey folks. This 91-hour marathon will
continue until 6 a.m. Monday.

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Tonight brings the first elimination. Also, Lauren Alaina, last
year's runner-up, sings her new single, “Georgia Peaches.”

– “30 Rock,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Kenneth, the former page, goes against Liz in his new job.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Richard performs his 10,000th surgery. It's not a joyful
time, though; he sees the early signs of his wife's Alzheimer's
disease.

– “Project Runway,” 9 p.m.,
Lifetime. Tonight, we learn who will be the three finalists in this
“all-star” edition. Also, a design is chosen to be sold
nationally.

– “Japan Tsunami:Caught on Camera,”
9 p.m., TLC. Tapes of the 2011 disaster are woven together.

– “Up All Night,” 9:30 p.m., NBC.
Chris and Reagan are intent on befriending a cool gay couple.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Catherine Dent (“The Shield”) is back as FBI agent Susan Darcy.
She wants Patrick Jane to help in a case involving a woman who was
killed after meeting someone Online.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. In this
offbeat show, even death is temporary. Katya – the sexy Russian spy
who was Archer's true love – has been revived as a robot. The
resulting episode is less funny and more raunchy than usual, but has
its moments.

TV column for Wednesday, March 7


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

Until now, “Idol” has made all its
contestants follow the same theme. Some weeks, that's easier for the
men, some for the women.

Now comes a detour: The six women will
do Whitney Houston songs; the seven men will do Stevie Wonder songs.
Then viewers vote, setting up the first elimination Thursday.

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

The new guy in school (Dan Byrd of
“Cougar Town”) seems to have a secret. Tess decides he's gay.

That's part of a funny rerun. It
includes a couple of great scenes from Rex Lee – formerly Lloyd on
“Entourage” and now the hapless Mr. Wolfe.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “I Am Bruce
Lee,” 9-11 p.m., Spike.

Bruce Lee seemed to pack many lifetimes
into his 32 years.

He was a tough guy who won real-life
street fights and did push-ups with one thumb. He was also a cha-cha
champion and an addicted “General Hospital” fan.

He was born in San Francisco, became a
child star in Hong Kong, then returned to th U.S. as an unknown,
becoming a star in the U.S. and a superstar overseas. It's a great
story, told with plenty of clips – even an early audition interview
– plus comments by his wife, his daughter and more.

Other choices include:

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. This
reruns the New Year episode, in which everyone was arbitrarily given
resolutions to follow. The toughest: Brick must read less; Mike must
smile more.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Josh Gad (star of the Broadway hit “The Book of
Mormon”) plays a neighborhood guy who became an Internet
billionaire. Phil doesn't seem pleased.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. This rerun (nudging “Rock Center” to 10
p.m.) peaks with an intense and beautifully acted scene with Benson
(Mariska Hargitay) and a suicidal youth (Cameron Monaghan). There's
also a good (albeit very brief) role for Miranda Lambert, as a
victim.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31 p.m.,
ABC. After three straight reruns, this is ABC's only new comedy. Alex
and Jane conspire to convince Dave that something didn't happen; he's
sure it did.

– “Revenge for Real,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. “Revenge” takes a two-week break, leaving room for
non-fiction murder stories. Tonight focuses on Ted Ammon, his
glamorous wife Generosa (who was portrayed by Poppy Montgomery in the
cable movie “Murder in the Hamptons”) and her electrician
boyfriend.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) has some bad luck in this
rerun: She's on a helicopter that's been hijacked.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. When a deadly spider is loose, people retreat to a lake house.
They learn that Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) is dating the former
fiancee of Joy (Jane Leeves).

– “Million Dollar Listing: New
York” debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. The stakes are high, the apartments
and condos are beautiful … and, alas, the featured salesmen are
unlikable.

TV column for Tuesday, March 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Comedies, 8-10
p.m., Fox.

With “Glee” on a break, Fox has
cobbled together a four-comedy night.

That starts with “Raising Hope,”
which has Katy Perry playing Sabrina's odd cellmate in a jail. Then
comes a mismatch – the sometimes-awful “I Hate My Teenage
Daughter” at 8:30, the oft-wonderful “New Girl” at 9. A vastly
improved “Breaking In” starts its second season at 9:30.

Last year, “Breaking” – with a
team testing (and beating) security systems – had slick schemes and
so-so humor. Now Megan Mullally is added as, at first, a mystery
figure; the result is a big jump in humor.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Justified,”
10 p.m., FX.

The opening credits haven't popped up
yet and there's already been a fierce jolt. “Justified” is like
that, but in this case events start to frame Raylan Givens.

Other events frame Boyd Crowder. (To be
fair, both are easy to frame.) There are flaws, with things working
out too easily; still, this hour has the show's knack for sharp
dialog and great characters.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Election
results, all night.

This is “Super Tuesday,” with 10
states voting and the Republican nomination at stake.

The news channels will obsess on this
all night, but broadcast will also jump in. NBC has a primetime hour
at 10 p.m.; ABC follows with “Nightline” at 11:35.

Other choices include:

– Concerts, 8 and 9:30 p.m., WCET.
First a Beatles re-creation from Rain, The night's second
pledge-drive concert has Yanni in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a Navy lieutenant has been killed through forced
over-hydration. Meanwhile, Ducky (David McCallum, 78) has a gorgeous
girlfriend (Cheryl Ladd, 60).

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Jamie-Lynn Sigler (“Sopranos”) plays Ed's daughter, whose
youth-appeal ideas replace what Mike was doing.

– “Cougar Town,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) plays a college photography prof. Bobby
falls for her instantly, but his son Travis won't introducer her to
him.

– “The Luck of the Irish” (2001),
8:30 p.m., Disney. It's bad enough to lose your lucky charm; now
imagine that your parents keep getting smaller because … well,
they're becoming leprechauns. Ryan Merriman stars in a fun film that
gets us in the mood for St. Patrick Day.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun has the team searching for a software creator who is
linked to a cyber attack on the Defense department.

– “Jane By Design” season-finale,
9 p.m., ABC Family. Ben knows about Jame's double life – a shy high
school student who is also a fashion-designer, pretending to be an
adult. She may have to quit … but Fashion Week is near and her work
is needed.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun finds a lottery winner killed, leaving plenty of suspects.