TV column for Thursday, March 14


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

It's time for the first weekly ouster
episode. Tonight (barring a save), one person will be sent home.

First, there's music. Bon Jovi does
“Because We Can,” the 10 finalists combine for a song from the
upcoming animated film “The Croods” … and Phillip Phillips,
last year's winner, is back.

Phillips' first album reached No. 4 on
the Billboard chart and its first single “Home” reached No. 6.
Now he does its second single, “Gone, Gone, Gone,” which people
may eventually dread: It will be this season's exit song, performed
during ousters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Two and a Half
Men,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

In last week's funny, offbeat episode,
Alan argued with Walden; he moved out … and moved in with Herb
(Ryan Stiles). These two men share an ex-wife and a solemn view of
life.

Alan eventually moved back, but now he
and Walden are concerned about Herb's despondency. They try to cheer
him up … then end up celebrating too hard.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Braxton
Family Values” season-opener, 9 p.m., WE; repeats at 10.

Life keeps changing for the vibrant
Braxton sisters.

Toni – a music great with six Grammys
– got her first lead role in a cable movie (Lifetime's recent
“Twist of Faith”). Towanda and Trina are patching up
relationships; Traci is big on motorcycles.

But the big change is in Tamar, who's
now obsessing on her own music (“Love & War” reached No. 57
on the Billboard chart and No. 13 on the R&B/hip-hop chart) and
her own cable show. As this season starts, the others take a trip to
Italy, while talking about the missing Tamar.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. So far, Howard has only talked about his mom; now he debates
whether to open a letter from his dad. Also, Leonard and Penny host a
“grown-up” cocktail party.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Everyone is trying to figure out why Chang lost his memory. Dean
Pelton wants to use this for a medical-research grant; Abed wants to
turn it into a documentary film.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 8:30
p.m. NBC. Two people from HBO's departed “Bored to Death” have
guest roles. Jason Schwartzman (who starred) plays the owner of a
video store that Leslie hopes to rescue; Jenny Slate (who played
Stella, his pot-smoking girlfriend) plays Tom's bad employee.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Tension
has been building between the teachers, Will and his ex-student Finn.
In a turnaround, club members give them an assignment. Also, Santana
is suspicious of Brody's job.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The new hospital administration created chaos, with one of the
doctors considering leaving. That comes while doctors try juggle
several difficult transplants.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. For
the first time, Dr. Watson (Lucy Liu) takes on a solo case, searching
for a woman who left a tearful video farewell, mentioning a murder on
a subway platform. Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes gets interested in the
subway-murder part.

– “Scandal,” 10:02 p.m., ABC.
Scott Foley has jumped from one ABC Thursday show to the next. On
“Grey's Anatomy,” he was Henry, in a marriage-of-convenience with
Teddy; now he attracts Olivia. Meanwhile, the president has been
shaken by the election scandal and doesn't know whom to trust.

TV column for Wednesday, March 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Neighbors,”
8:30 p.m., ABC.

Always weird and sometimes hilarious,
this show gives the neighbors a new adventure each week.

They are, after all, from another
planet; that fact is known by only one Earthling family. They keep
trying to master our ways and tonight they're learning a dilly –
the Broadway musical.

Soon, they're doing their songs –
clever ones from composer Alan Menken, who has won eight Oscars for
Disney cartoons. A sub-plot (involving kids' resistance) is so-so,
but the main story is a delight.

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

Last week, the show finally named its
finalists. There are four teens (two 18, two 19) and six others,
ranging from 21 to 25.

Tonight, each is told to do a song
that's been done by one of the 11 previous “Idol” winners. That
includes the current champion, Phillip Phillips, who will performs in
the results show Thursday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Psych,” 10
p.m., USA.

James Roday has managed to find full
employment during this show's seven-year run. He's written 14
episodes, directed six of them and stars in all of them; now he does
all three in a witty tour de force.

Mimicking everything from “The Blair
Witch Project” to “Continental Divide,” he pretends the entire
hour was done with video cameras, during a search for Bigfoot. Shawn
(Roday), the fake psychic, is enthusiastic about the search; Gus is
not. Then come the surprises – some goofy and most just fun.

Other choices include:

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, Frankie invites Marines for Thanksgiving dinner. That might
not be a big favor: Her parents (Jerry Van Dyke and Marsha Mason)
spend the time bickering,

– “Modern Family,” 9 p..m., ABC.
This rerun catches a key time for Manny. After 14 years, he soon will
not be an only child; his parents try to compensate with a big
birthday party. Also, Phil and Claire fret when Haley is hanging out
with a much-older guy.

– “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”
(1975), 9 p.m. to midnight, Ion. After buying th rights to the 1963
Broadway play, Kirk Douglas hoped to produce and star in the the
movie version. That fell through and he gave the rights to his son
Michael, who produced a triumph. “Cuckoo's Nest” swept the Oscars
for best picture, director (Milos Forman), actor (Jack Nicholson),
actress (Louise Fletcher) and adapted script. It was the first film
to do that since the 1934 “It Happened One Night.”

– :Suburgatory,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.
Wilmer Valderrama (“That '70s Show”) has great moments as Yoni,
Dallas' former boyfriend. He claims to be a new-age dog whisperer,
ready to cure her dog's depression.

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC. This
rerun catches both singers at pivotal moments. Rayna tells her kids
about the upcoming divorce and starts to sign the first act (Scarlett
and Gunnar) for her new label; Juliette is encouraged by fan approval
for a performance that was less glitzy and more passionate.

– “CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,”10 p.m., CBS. Things again turn personal for D.B.
Russell (Ted Danson) in this rerun. This time, his son's coach has
been killed and the boy is a suspect.

TV column for Tuesday, March 12


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

Here's the sort of story “Justified”
masters: An odd bunch of intense people chase one elusive goal.

That goal is Drew Thompson, who leaped
from a plane with stolen money and cocaine. In the decades that
followed, we now know, he transformed himself into Sheriff Shelby
Parlow.

Now he must flee, with or without Ellen
May, the good-hearted and light-headed hooker who could be a witness
against Boyd Crowder's wife Ava. Wonderfully played by Jim Beaver and
Abby Miller, these two are chased by federal marshals and by crooks
from Detroit and from the hills of Kentucky.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Taste”
finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

We're down to the final four now. Gregg
Drusinksy – who prepares with an elaborate yoga ritual – faces
three women: Diane DiMeo, Sarah Schiear and Charlie Sheen's private
chef, Khristianne Uy.

Tonight, one will be eliminated early.
The others will prepare a three-course meal; after blind tasting,
judges will choose the winner of $100,000 and a car.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Hell's
Kitchen,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Now for rougher side of food shows –
cooking as a cruel, combat sport.

With the raging Gordon Ramsay in
charge, “Kitchen” seems to have an unusually angry batch of
contestants. One vows that she'll show her Sicilian temper … then,
oddly, brings out a hand puppet.

The show promises to put them through
physical ordeals. For the opener, it settles for a live audience
(which only encourages an overwrought Ramsay), a bus ordeal and then
the first night of restaurant work. Ramsay throws chefs out for any
reason, then seems surprised that things are going slowly.

Other choices include:

– “Celebrity Wife Swap,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Two stars live opposite lives: Gilbert Gottfried is in New York
with his wife Dara and kids, 5 and 3; he pinch pennies, walking and
shopping in 99-cent stores. Alan Thicke lives in California with his
third wife Tanya and his 15-year-old son (the half-brother of music
star Robin Thicke); they have lavish parties, with lots of help. Now
Dara and Tanya swap lives.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun
finds Gibbs' old FBI mentor (Joe Spano of “Hill Street Blues”) as
the target of a shooting. Now Gibbs is involved; so is Diane
Sterling, the ex-wife of both men.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In this rerun, officials are surprised after a successful drone
strike of a bomb-making complex in Afghanistan. In the ruins, they
find the body of a former Marine.

– “Golden Boy,” 10 p.m., CBS.
After seeing the strong ratings for this show's two Tuesday airings,
CBS changed its mind: “Golden Boy” can stay here, nudging “Vegas”
to Fridays in April. Tonight, Clark probes a cop's off-duty death; he
also threatens to expose the relationship of two colleagues.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
The revamped version keeps pushing Megan (Dana Delaney) into the
action, alongside a handsome cop (Mark Valley). Now they duck bullets
as soon as they visit the crime site. Things get worse: The victim is
the son of a Mob boss; soon, suspects are being killed.

– “In Play” debut, 10:30 p.m.,
Golf. Jimmy Roberts is host and editor of this monthly magazine,
which has three brief-but-fascinating stories. There's a light visit
to the warehouse of Arnold Palmer, 83, and a dark visit with
Christina Kim, who went from champion to an also-run with suicidal
thoughts. And there's an Attica prisoner who makes gorgeous paintings
of golf … but has never been on a course.

TV column for Monday, March 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Bachelor”
finale, 8 p.m., ABC, with follow-up at 10:01.

Now it's time for Sean Lowe to make a
decision.

Lowe, 29, has been an insurance agent
and fitness model in Dallas and a linebacker in high school (suburban
Dallas) and college (Kansas State). Now he's supposed to choose
Catherine Giudici, 26, a graphic designer in Seattle, or Lindsay
Yenter, 24, a substitute teacher in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where her
dad is the commanding general. First, each has a final date and meets
his parents.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dallas,” 9
p.m., TNT.

One of TV's great characters gets his
respect tonight. Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing brilliantly in 14
seasons of the original, then died (at 81) during filming of this
second season of the revival.

This episode makes little use of its
“reunion” of old cast members. It reminds us that “Dallas” is
sometimes just bad soap opera, excessive one moment – people storm
into the funeral reception to berate the deceased – and out of
character (especially with Bobby Ewing and his wife) the next.

Still, it sets in motion a fresh
mystery. And the funeral is a beautifully modulated send-off for, as
one person puts it, “the most infuriating, charming scoundrel I've
ever known.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Monday
Mornings,” 10 p.m., TNT.

When you finish J.R.'s funeral tonight,
stick around to sample an under-noticed gem. “Mornings” has been
filled with brilliant dialog; tonight's episode, which we haven't
seen, amps up the personal stakes.

Dr. Villanueva (Ving Rhames) sees his
son rushed into the hospital as a stabbing victim; the chief of
surgery (Alfred Molina) returns to the operating room to work with
Dr. Napur. Also, Dr. Sung tries to save a concert violinist's career;
Dr. Tierney gets an odd request after a failed kidney transplant.

Other choices include:

– “The Biggest Loser,” 8-10 p.m.,
NBC. We're down to the final five. Tonight, one will be ousted and
two will advance to next week's finale. Then viewers choose one of
the others for the third finale spot.

– “Switched at Birth”
season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC Family. Enraged by the plan to close
Carlton School and mainstream its students, the deaf teens began a
sit-in protest in last week's excellent hour. Now Daphne has emerged
as the leader. Bay joins in, but feels betrayed – partly by
Daphne's “rehearsal” kiss with Noah, partly by the idea of
banning hearing students from Carlton.

--”The Following,” 9 p.m.,Fox.
Things are worse now, with Joe Carroll and his kidnapped son Joey
both missing. A new FBI man is in charge; Ryan (Kevin Bacon),
consulting on the case, isn't happy.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Last week, alas, we saw the storefront cupcake store fold. Now here's
a rerun from optimistic times, as Max and Caroline scrambled to raise
money for the store.

– “Kings Point,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Back in the 1970s, one person says, this Florida development seemed
like a promised land for New Yorkers, filled with bright colors,
sunny days and easy living. And now? This short documentary finds a
surprisingly hard edge, with people describing a world in which
seniors often feel lonely together. “Everybody's a user here,”
one woman says. “So you become one too.”

– “Hawaii Five-0, 10 p.m., CBS. In
this rerun, Emmy-winner Christine Lahti's has her second guest shot
as McGarrett's mom. She visits while her son probes the case of a
beheaded polo player.

TV column for Sunday, March 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC.

So far, we've known Cora only as evil
Regina's more-evil mom. She's cold and (literally) heartless.

But now we meet the young Cora,
beautifully played by Rose McGowan. She fumes at the power of the
one-percent … and makes the bizarre claim that she can spin straw
into gold.

That story blends beautifully with the
modern tale of Mr. Gold (who was Rumplestiltskin in fairytale land)
lingering near death. It's another sprawling and emotional story.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Kingdom of
the Oceans” debut, 8-10 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

Over the next two Sundays, “Kingdom”
offers four hours of epic visions.

In this gorgeous opener, we see masters
of disguise, both predators and prey. We see the giants – a newborn
whale is already 1,500 pounds – and the acrobats. Dolphins, we're
told, have casual sex, not just for reproduction; they also have
threesomes.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Escape Fire,”
8 and 11 p.m., CNN.

Americans keep seeking great health
care, this compelling documentary says. We spend $8,000 per person;
the average developed country spends $3,000. Still, we're 50th
in life expectancy.

Our system pushes more of everything –
more medications (a 10-fold increase in the past 50 years) and more
procedures. One young woman had heart-catheter surgery 27 times, with
no talk of prevention.

“Escape Fire” argues for diet,
exercise, attitude … and a front-line emphasis on preserving
health.

Other choices include:

– “Our Wild Hearts,” noon and 2,
8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel. Rick Schroder directed and
co-wrote this film, co-starring as a rancher who never knew he has a
daughter. But the real star is Cambrie Schroder, 15, Rick's daughter,
as a Malibu teen, finally meeting her dad. Two talented and likable
actors turn this into a surprisingly good film.

– “The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The nine surviving duos are in Bali, where one of them, CBS
says, makes history. Also, one racer is reduced to tears.

– “The Bible,” 8-10 p.m.,
History. On the second of five Sundays, we meet action heroes. Joshua
seizes Jericho, Samson defends it, David rises from shepherd to the
king who conquers Jerusalem.

– “Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. Fans
have had two weeks to absorb the shock: Nate hid away on the
honeymoon boat, creating an explosion that killed Amanda. Now her
friend Emily vows revenge – she's good at that – while Jack
recovers and others worry about a key laptop computer, now in the
deep.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.n., CBS.
Working for an accused drug dealer, Alicia meets his meek-looking
attorney (Wallace Shawn). As witnesses start to recant, she wonders
how meek he really is.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Lorelei – Red John's former accomplice – goes on a killing spree,
forcing Patrick Jane to make a key admission to his boss: He's the
one who helped her break out.

– “Vikings,” 10 p.m., History.
All of TV's previous anti-heroes seem downright pleasant compared to
these guys, whose lone goal when discovering a monastery is to kill,
steal and destroy.

– “Red Widow,”:10:01 p.m., ABC.
In last week's terrific season-opener, Marta's husband was killed
after two of his people stole drugs. Now she has to make good on it.
A self-described “soccer mom” improvises as a drug dealer; she
confronts deceit, blackmail and a future she never wanted.