TV column for Monday, March 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice”
(NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), both 8-10 p.m.

For “Dancing,” the introductory
show is over now and the winnowing begins. Tonight, judges and
viewers vote; on Tuesday, we'll have the first elimination.

That goes against powerhouse “Voice,”
wrapping up this “battle round” phase. Each song is a duet by
teammates; then the captain chooses a winner and sends the other one
home. By the end of tonight, we'll have the 24 survivors who begin
live shows next week.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Confessions of
a Shopaholic” (2009), 8-10 p.m., CW.

Sophie Kinsella's “Shopaholic”
novels rippled with witty words, clever twists and shopping. The
movie version loses most of that, except for the shopping.

The script – about a well-meaning
ditz – is weak, but director P.J. Hogan gives it a lush, big-city
look,somewhere near the “The Devil Wears Prada” turf. He also has
a gorgous and likable cast, led by Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy and
Krysten Ritter; all help nudge the film toward adequacy.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Make It or
Break It” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC Family.

“This is where your dreams become a
reality,” the girls are told. “Or where they're left behind.”

It is, in short, an Olympic year. Now
Kaylie, Payson and Lauren head to the USA Training Center, where
they'll find new coaches and new rivals.

“Nothing's ever going to separate
us,” one girl proclaims. But endless distractions loom, including a
boyfriend, a new rival, a surpise … and even the possibility that
Lauren's perfume makes her dizzy.

Other choices include:

– “The Secret Life of the American
Teenager,” 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., ABC Family. Fresh from winning an
Independent Spirit Award in “The Descendants,” Shailene Woodley
is back as Amy, whose pregnancy launched the series. Reruns lead into
a new hour at 8, rerunning at 10. Now that Amy's engaged, she seems
more interested in diplomas – high school, college, grad school –
than a wedding.

– “Alcatraz,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. In
the season-finale, the team seems close to finding the secrets behind
the returning Alcatraz prisoners – and finding th killer of
Rebecca's police partner.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. An all-rerun night for CBS starts here. Appalled that
Barney is dating someone without researching her on the Internet, his
friends intervene.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Walden's mother (Mimi Rogers) and his ex-wife (Judy Greer) try
to seize control of his company. Oddly, he wants help from Alan.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
One of the “NCIS: Los Angeles” characters – Kensi Blye, played
by DanielaRuah – helps examine a photo. Also, McGarrett ends up in
a mixed martial arts match.

--”Smash,” 10 p.m., NBC. Grace
Gummer arrives as the daughter of this would-be musical's producer
(Anjelica Huston). That's a relationship these actresses can
understand. Gummer's mother (Meryl Streep) is an Oscar-winner; so are
Huston and her father (John) and grandfather (Walter).

– “Castle,: 10:01 p.m., ABC. After
a bomb goes off at an Occupy-type protest, Castle tries to
re-construct the 47 seconds before the explosion.

TV column for Sunday, March 25


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

To marvel at the cynical world of these
1960s ad men, we need to see them from fresh eyes. Tonight, that's
provided by Don Draper's new wife, a young French-Canadian.

She just wants to give him a surprise
birthday party and a sexy song – except he hates surprises and
birthdays and personal attention. That provides the core of a fun
episode that starts and ends with the effects of a childish stunt at
another ad agency.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Finding Your
Roots,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Henry Louis Gates is a master at
digging into people's roots. In these hours, he has ideal subjcts.

The first one has Branford Marsalis and
Harry Connick Jr., who came from opposite directions to become
masters of New Orleans music. In the second, he has civil-rights
leader John Lewis and one of the people (Newark Mayor Cory Booker)
who has thrived in the next generation.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Good
Wife,” 9 p.m (barring a basketball overrun), CBS.

If you forgive the weak, anti-climactic
ending, this is a terrific episode.

Alicia suddenly finds herself on a
police review board, surrounded by intense people (played by Matthew
Perry, Charles Dutton and more) who know the turf. At the same time,
she has to worry about office politics … and her attempt to buy
her old house … and an FBI probe of Kalinda.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 2 p.m. ET, CBS. Here's
another doubleheader in the NCAA tournament. By the end of the night,
we'll hav the final four for next Saturday in New Orleans.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 5:30
p.m. Cartoon Network. It's not a cartoon, but it is a great film,
with enough magic, music and whimsy for kids or grown-ups.

– “Best in Show” (2000), 8-10
p.m., Ion. Christopher Guest's film pokes gentle fun at dog shows. It
assembles lots of masters of deadpan improvisation, including Parker
Posey, Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
and – prior to her “Glee” fame – Jane Lynch.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Amid last week's moving funeral for Mike, two women decided to
change their lives. Now Lynette tries to get Tom back; Gabrielle
scrambles to find a big-money job, so Carlos can quit his.

– “Luck” finale, 9 p.m., HBO.
Ambitious and brilliantly acted, “Luck” was battered by troubles
– a complex story, an excess of characters and horse-racing lingo.
Ultimately, it was the deaths of horses during filming that caused it
to be cancelled early in the filming of a second season. Now we can
catch what was planned as the first-season finale. Walter and Gus
have top horses in the Western Derby, Ace (Dustin Hoffman) has a
surprise visitor, Jo – kicked by a horse while she was pregnant –
struggles.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m. (barring
a basketball overrun), CBS. A corruption scandal brings the return of
a ruthless lawyer (Malcolm McDowell). Also, Calleigh (Emily Procter)
faces a life-changing decision.

– “GCB,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Carlene
(Kristen Chenoweth) welcomes her uncle (Bruce Boxleitner, with a
party that has people dress as favorite Texans. Meanwhile, Heather
the Realtor is after his 500 acres.

TV column for Saturday, March 24


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, 4:20
p.m., CBS.

Now the NCAA tournament gets really
serious: Winners get a spot in the final four.

CBS has a doubleheader today and
another one Sunday. The winners reach New Orleans next Saturday, with
the championship game two days later.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Wizard of
Oz” (1939), 6:30 p.m., Cartoon; also 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

No this isn't a cartoon, but it seems
to fit the Cartoon Network. Kids can embrace the magic; grown-ups can
savor the music, the visual beauty and the sense of other-world
adventure.

This also starts a big movie night.
While others have flimsy competition against baskeball, cable zooms
in with strong movies, especially at 8 p.m.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Fairly
Legal,” 8 p.m., NBC.

This cable show – from the USA
Network, NBC's sister channel – could hook you instantly.

There, in tight close-up, is Kate Reed,
beautiful and bitter. Her marriage is ending, her dad is dead and
she's spent months away from his law firm; besides, she dislikes the
business and switched from being a lawyer to a mediator. Now a glib
guy picks the wrong time to hit on her.

That's the start of an excellent
episode, marred only be a so-so legal story. There's a better story
in the next USA episode; it reruns at 9 a.m. Sunday and 11 p.m.
Wednesday, with a new one at 9 p.m. Friday.

Other choices include:

– “Q'Viva,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The
first three episodes saw Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony traveling
Latin America, to find singers and dancers. Now they've brought them
back to Los Angeles, but there's another round of auditions, before
choosing people for a big show.

– “The Blind Side” (2009), 8
p.m., ABC Family. Here's a rarity – an earnest, honored movie
that's also immensely popular. It tells of a rich couple (Sandra
Bullock, Tim McGraw) that took in a homeless teen who became a
football star and honor student. With lots of humor and warmth, the
film landed an Oscar for Bullock and a nomination for best picture.

– “The Goodbye Girl” (1977), 8
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. After lots of hit plays, Neil Simon
wrote this wonderfully witty script directly for the screen. He got
an Oscar nomination; others were for best picture and for Richard
Dreyfuss (who won), Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings.

– More movies, 8 p.m., cable. It's a
can't-miss time, including George Clooney's “O Brother, Where Art
Thou?” (2000) on AMC and Quentin Tarantino's two-film “Kill Bill”
(2003) on IFC. Jesse Eisenberg is in “Zombieland” (2009) on FX
and the amiable little “30 Minutes or Less” (2011) at 9 p.m. on
Starz.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, some rich kids on a spring-break cruise are kidnapped by
pirates. Vanessa Minnillo plays a deckhand, with Nick Lachey (her
real-life husband) as her fiance.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Benson and Haden (Harry Connick Jr.) finally
have a romantic weekend planned. It's promptly interrupted when a
young prostitute is missing.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. This rerun has Anna Faris as host, with music by Drake.

TV column for Friday, March 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Fairly Legal, 9
p.m., USA.

In the season-opener last week, Kate's
life transformed. Her marriage was ending, her boat blew up
(accidentally) and her dad's law firm was in a tug between his young
widow and a brash newcomer.

All of that improves what was already a
good show. Kate – formerly a lawyer, now a mediator who hates the
law – struggles for the firm's soul.

That's the backdrop for a terrific
episode this week. Kate struggles with the ethical complexities of an
organ-transplant list … while fighting an angry mobster and some
cold-eyed feds.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, CBS
and TBS.

CBS starts with Baylor and Xavier.
Tip-off is 7:15 p.m., with a second game (Kentucky and Indiana) at
about 9:45.

TBS also has a doubleheader. It's Ohio
and North Carolina tipping off at 7:47 p.m., then Kansas and North
Carolina State at about 10:17. Tonight's winners join the four from
Thursday – each just one win away from making the NCAA tournament's
final four.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Who Do You
Think You Are,” 8 p.m., NBC.

On Sunday, PBS' excellent “Finding
Your Roots” returns. First, try this well-made series.

Helen Hunt has never known much about
one side of her family. Her dad (Gordon Hunt, a top director of
cartoon-voice sessions) was young when his mother dies. Now Helen
digs in, finding great-great-grandparents who helped launch Wells
Fargo and fought for women's rights.

Other choices include:

– “The Princess and the Frog”
(20009), 7:30-9:25 p.m., Disney. Flowing with the feel and music of
New Orleans, this cartoon has Anika Noni Rose as the young woman
whose kiss is crucial.

– “Nikita,” 8 p.m., CW. Having
just learned a secret about Cassandra, Michael and Nikita head to
Moscow to confront her.

– “Supernatural,” 9 p.m., CW. Sam
is in a mental institution and it's Satan's fault. Really.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. Peter
chases a killer who seems to be targeting love. “Fringe” had
disappeared for a month, but Fox says this will be the first of eight
straight new episodes.

– “The Lion King” (1994), 9-11
p.m., ABC Family. Combine this with “The Princess and the Frog”
and you have a Disney double feature (with 25 minutes of overlap at
9). Both films were done with traditional, hand-drawn animation, not
the computer style savored by Disney's Pixar division.

– “In Plain Sight,” 10 p.m., USA.
One of Mary's problems involves a hoarder in the witness protection
program. Her bigger problem: Her mom is gone, leaving no one to help
Mary watch her baby.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. As a
two-parter begins, Morgana leads an attack on Camelot.

– “Spartacus,” 10 p.m., Starz. A
week before the season finale, the fractured rebel forces are bracing
for a Roman assault. Spartacus tries to unite his people; on the
other side, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) tries to free herself from the
men who control her fate.

TV column for Thursday, March 22


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

Here's a fresh twist on this terrific
series, which finds a cop envisioning two worlds, only one of them
(he's not sure which) real.

Now he meets his son's former
babysitter (superbly played by Brianna Brown, who was Lisa Niles on
“General Hospital”); she's crumbling in one, thriving in the
other. The contrast has a deep impact.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Missing,” 8
p.m., ABC.

Last week's powerhouse episode saw a
suburban widow (Ashley Judd) rush to Europe to find her kidnapped
son. We eventually learn what he didn't know: She's a former CIA
agent, tough and talented.

She needs to be. The opener saw her
surviving fierce fights, then plunging into a river after a gunshot.

That leads to the show's flaws:
“Missing” makes her almost absurdly unbeatable, forever topping
impossible odds. It's also serialized, keeping us hanging for 10
weeks.

Still, it has great action, strong
emotion, European settings and perfect performances by Judd and
others, including Cliff Curtis as the CIA bureau chief, scrambling to
keep up.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 7
p.m. CBS; 7:15 p.m., TBS.

The NCAA tournament is down to 16
teams, with a pair of doubleheaders tonight and two more Friday.

CBS starts with Syracuse and Wisconsin
(tip-off at 7:15) and follows with Cincinnati and Ohio State at about
9:45. TBS has Louisville-Michigan State (7:47 p.m.), then
Marquette-Florida (about 10:17).

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Last week, two singers were dumped – Shannon Magrane by viewers,
Jermaine Jones for failing to report arrests. That brings the top 10,
all of them making the tour. Now (barring a judges' save), that goes
to nine. Also, there will be songs by Haley Reinhart (who finished
third last year) and Lana Del Ray (whose “Saturday Night Live”
performance drew criticism).

– “Touch,” 9 p.m, Fox. An earnest
widower (Kiefer Sutherland) realizes his mute son is passing on
messages that connect the world. But how do you interpret them?
Tonight, in a fairly good hour, a pawn-shop robbery links to a young
Moscow magician, a visitor from India, a mobster and more.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Here's the rerun of a superb episode in which a weary Meredith dreams
of an alternate world in which her mom is healthy and supportive.
That brings back Kate Walsh, Emmy-nominee Kate Burton and more.

– “Project Runway,” 9 p.m.,
Lifetime. In last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), we saw the
three finalists – Michael Costello, Mondo Guerra and Austin
Scarlett – preparing. Tonight, they have their fashion shows and
“Runway” picks a winner.

– “Up All Night,” 9:30 p.m., NBC.
Work becomes more complicated for Reagan when her husband gets a
segment on the TV show she produces. Also, Henry Winkler guests as
Ava's dad.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. In a change, ABC is rerunning the episode in which Sam finds his
sister (the gifted Anika Noni Rose) in jail, heavily medicated and
near-catatonic).