TV column for Saturday, April 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Steven Spielberg
films, cable.

Here are two early triumphs of a
Hollywood master, each with Richard Dreyfuss. “Jaws” (1975) is
7:50 p.m. on Cinemax; “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
is 8 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies.

Each shows the Spielberg knack for
making every scene richly cinematic. There's also “Indiana Jones
and the Temple of Doom” (1984) at 8 p.m. on Bravo. It's
disappointing by Indiana Jones and Spielberg standards – but way
better than almost anything anyone else does.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “America's Most
Wanted,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

On the eve of its 25th-anniversary
special, Fox re-visits a show that helped start it.

When “AMW” began on April 10,
1988), Fox had only been in prime time for a year. It needed a boost
– and got it from this scrappy little show, which searched for
crime suspects.

That continued for 23 seasons. Last
spring, Fox canceled “AMW” – which now airs Fridays on Lifetime
– but agreed to quarterly specials. Here's this season's final one,
viewing global suspects.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “20/20,”
9-11 p.m., ABC.

Los Angles' Sunset Boulevard offers
soaring triumphs, from rock stars to movie stars. It also offers
crashing failures – runaways, addicts, prostitutes and more.

This special talks to people who have
seen extremes in the past. It also meets current dreamers – teens
at Hollywood High …. Lauren Little, the powerhouse rocker for Queen
Caveat … and a young man who grew up in foster homes, fought in the
military and now uses the GI Bill to study drama.

Other choices include:

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has three seemingly unrelated murders.

– “Undercover Bridesmaid,” 8-10
p.m., Hallmark. A bride's father (Gregory Harrison) hires a bodyguard
(Brooke Burns) as a fake bridesmaid. Yes, it's sort of “Miss
Congeniality” at a wedding.

– “Legends of the Fall” (1994),
8-11 p.m., AMC. A so-so story gets splendid treatment. That includes
Oscar-winning cinematography and a great cast. Anthony Hopkins plays
a Montana rancher with feuding sons, played by Brad Pitt, Aidan
Quinn and Henry Thomas; Julia Ormond also stars.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
The head of a surf company has been killed. Since Kono (Grace Park)
used to be a pro surfer, she investigates her old world.

– “Alien Tornado,” 9-11p.m.,
Syfy. All that weird weather we've seen lately? Instead of blaming it
on global warming or coincidence, here's a more logical answer:
Outer-space aliens are doing it. A farmer's daughter and a famous
weather blogger team up to fight them. You'll need to suspend
disbelief, mostly about a weather blogger being famous.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a quick rerun, a rape casts doubt about a
man Benson helped convict long ago. It's a strong hour, impacting her
relationship with her police partner (Danny Pino) and her lover
(Harry Connick Jr.).

TV column for Friday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Fringe,” 9
p.m., Fox.

Even with a tiny audience, “Fringe”
has persisted. Science-fiction shows – especially smart ones like
this – do well overseas, so the studio can get by with less money
from Fox.

If this fourth season is the last,
producers promise, the two-week finale (called “Endgame”) will be
satisfying. First, comes a “Fringe” tradition – the 19th
episode (in 22-episode seasons) is a mind-bender.

This one jumps ahead to the year 2036.
The Fringe team and the Others are in a crucial battle.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rules of
Engagement,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

This show refuses to die. It has
returned to its plush Thursday slot, plus occasional weekend reruns.

Tonight we get the season-opener, after
Russell (David Spade) realized he had married the loopy Liz (Wendy
McClendon-Covey) during a drunken cruise. He tries to get out of it;
she won't budge.

That part is quite funny, in a broad
way. The rest, including Jeff trying to talk dirty, is mostly lame.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Magic City,”
10 p.m., Starz.

By the end of this third episode, we
see Ike Evans as one of TV's classically flawed figures.

He's often a decent guy, struggling to
maintain his hotel in 1959 Miami Beach. But his silent partner is the
brutal Ben Diamond. When his boyhood friend led a labor strike, Ike
asked Ben to take care of it.

Now Ike suspects that Ben went too far;
so does the FBI. The result is strong and bittersweet drama.

Other choices include:

– “A Cinderella Story” (2004) and
“Another Cinderella Story” (2008), 7 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. He
are two modern variations on the classic tale: Regular teens –
played by Hilary Duff in the first film and Selena Gomez in the
second – have regal and romantic encounters.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?,” 8
p.m., NBC. This rerun has Reba McEntire tracing her roots. That
includes an ancestor's painful journey to America and a dark moment
in U.S. history.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Mike and Carl have had an annual pilgrimage to the Chicago Cubs'
home opener. In this rerun, Mike tarnishes the tradition by bringing
Molly.

– “Need to Know,” 8:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Ray Suarez looks at the border patrol.

– “Art in the Twenty-First
Century,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). One artist, David
Altmejd, admits he paints a lot better than he talks. That should
have been a clue to this show, which simply has the artists talk,
with little structure. The work – by Altmejd, Lynda Benglis, the
animator-artist Tabaimo and the duo called “assume vivid astro
focus” – is great; the talk isn't.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun from a year ago, the body of a beautiful woman is found in the
trunk of a stolen Ferarri. That leads to a family of car thieves –
and a rush to find the killer.

– “The Ricky Gervais Show”
season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO. Gervais and Stephen Merchant (the
“Office” co-creators) chat with a friend, Karl Pilkington,
mocking his ideas mercilessly; then the chats and ideas are turned
into cartoons. Tonight's opener has some scattered fun, plus the
usual problem: Pilkington isn't as daft (and they aren't as clever)
as Gervais and Merchant seem to think.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This rerun has Danny trying a romantic weekend with his wife,
despite a murder case. Meanwhile, his younger brother Jamie goes
undercover in a Mob family.

TV column for Thursday, April 19


 

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Yes,
“Scandal” has all the best “Grey's Anatomy” qualities –
sharp, ricochet dialog in tough situations. But it adds one extra
element: At times, these people are on the wrong side.

In
the opener, they stifled someone who claimed an affair with the
president – then learned she might be telling the truth. She
returns tonight, along with the complex case of a suspected rapist.
Beautifully acted and written, “Scandal” puts smart people onto
shaky ethical turf.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “American Idol,” 8-9 p.m., Fox.

A
week after viewers almost ousted Jessica Sanchez, we'll see if
they've become more reasonable. That time, judges were able to rescue
Sanchez; now their only “save” is gone and any ouster is final.

Before
that, there's music: LMFAO sings “Sorry For the Party Rocking”;
Kris Allen, the 2009 winner, sings “The Vision of Love.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings; in East Lansing, Mich., for instance, this runs at 8 p.m. on WKAR World, 23.4 digital.)

Back
in 2006, Chris Paine's documentary asked, “Who Killed the Electric
Car?”

Then
everything changed again. Gas prices soared; so did imagination and
invention.

Paine's
“Revenge of the Electric Car” meest small-scale individuals: Elon
Musk made an Internet fortune from PayPal, then risked much of it
making the Tesla. Greg “Gadget” Abbott does conversions.

And
we meet giants. Nissan's Carlos Ghosn plunged $6 billion into the
Leaf; General Motors' Bob Lutz, who helped kill electric cars,
championed the Volt. It's a big story, told with zest and fun.

Other
choices include:

– “The
Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from Halloween time,
Sheldon tries to scare people.

– “Beach
Party” (1963) and “Muscle Beach Party” (1964), 8 and 10 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies. The four-day beach spree ends with the first
in movies a string of films that had Annette Funicello and Frankie
Avalon. The first one has occasional wit, the second doesn't, but
both are bright and harmless.

– “30
Rock,” 8:30 p.m., NBC. Desperate to get Paul (Will Forte), Jenna
plans a public breakdown. Meanwhile, Jack arranges a blind date for
Liz and finds trouble with his plan to manufacture couches.

– “The
Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. Returning from his romantic mission, Andy is
soon at war with Nellie (Catherine Tate). Also, Kelly is torn between
regular-guy Ryan and a seemingly perfect hunk, played by Sendhil
Ramamurthy of “Heroes” and “Covert Affairs.”

– “Grey's
Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. As the doctors scramble for post-residency
positions, Cristina is in demand and some others aren't. Meanwhile,
Richard faces a harsh reality when he visits his wife at a home for
people with Alzheimer's disease. And a teen – played by the
terrific Vanessa Marano of “Switched at Birth” – has lost her
memory, leading to a national search for her identity.

– “Parks
and Recreation” return, 9:30 p.m., NBC. The next three Thursdays
wrap up Leslie's run for city council. That starts with a quick
obstacle: Pushing for the parks budget, she may have doomed the
animal shelter. It's an erratic episode, with funny moments when
April is in charge.

– “The
Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. There's been a murder on an odd island
off the coast of California, Now the team probes a batch of strange
suspects.

– “Kathy”
debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. Already a Bravo star via comedy specials and
her reality show, Kathy Griffin takes the next step: This is a
weekly, prime-time talk show.

TV column for Wednesday, April 18


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

Last week, viewers gave this a nasty
spin. They put the show's best singers – Jessica Sanchez and Joshua
Ledet – in the bottom three, with a good singer, Elise Testone. And
they put Sanchez last.

Fortunately, the judges get one “save”
a season and used it. Past history, however, is ominous.

The first person saved (Matt Giraud in
2009) would have finished seventh, he was ousted at No. 5. The
second, Michael Lynch, would have been eighth, he was No. 4. The
third, Casey Abrams, would have been 11th; he was No. 6.
Now we'll see if the gifted Sanchez can leap to the top.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Don't Trust
the B in Apartment 23,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

In last week's dandy opener Chloe
bedeviled her new roommate June. Now that she knows June won't budge,
she actually sets hr up with a smart, handsome guy who's a good
listener.

Yes, there's a catch – a funny one.
Also, James Van Der Beek has great moments playing himself, trying to
escape everyone's “Dawson's Creek” memories.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC.

A Wall Street executive is chatting
with his wife by camera phone, when an intruder kidnaps her.

The husband is desperate; the police
are skeptical. From here, the story takes sharp twists.

This isn't nearly as good as last
week's episode, which saw Benson discover she'd helped convict the
wrong man. There's no mention of the aftermath here; it's an OK
story, boosted by great work from Chloe Sevigny, known for lots of
independent films (including “Boys Don't Cry”) and “Big Love.”

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Isaac Babcock called it a “honeymoon”; his new
wife Bjornen called it an “adventure.” They spent a year in the
2.5-million-acre River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho. They faced
problems – from wolves to her rheumatoid arthritis – and emerged
with great footage. With the auction starting at 5 p.m. on WCET, the
PBS shows move to this channel.

– “Best Friends Forever,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. Jessica's belongings have been sent cross-country. Now she
must accept the fact that she's divorcing … and Joe must accept the
fact she'll be around for a while.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Alicia Silverstone begins what will be at least a four-episode stay.
She plays the radiant Eden, a health-food buff who – in funny
scenes – puts George in the hospital.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
There are some clever moments here, as Phil and Claire decide how to
tell their son that the kindly old neighbor is dead. Also, Barry
Corbin – forever playing tough Texans – is Cam's visiting father,
promptly annoying Mitchell's dad.

– “Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. Fresh
from a seven-week break, this show finds life in chaos. Daniel is in
jail under murder charges. His mother is distraught – but also
distracted by a former lover. He's played by James Purefoy – who
played regal leaders in the “Rome” and “Camelot” series

– “America Revealed, 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). A huge network gets us around the country,
including four million miles of roads, 200,000 miles of railroads and
5,000 airports. In an excellent hour, Yul Kwon visits control centers
and views Los Angeles' rush-hour crawl from a helicopter.

TV column for Tuesday, April 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Raising Hope”
season-finale, 9:31 p.m., Fox.

Last week brought a jolt: Hope's
mother, a convicted serial killer, survived her execution.

Now she seeks custody. There's plenty
of damning information about Jimmy's parenting skills.

The trial brings a string of witnesses,
including the three stars – Jason Lee, Jaime Pressly and Ethan
Suplee – of “My Name is Earl,” which was from the same
producers. A few jokes seem forced, but many click; “Hope” – a
clever but inconsistent show – ends its season on a high note.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Glee,” Fox or
“Gidget” (1959), Turner Classic Movies, both 8 p.m. ET.

Choose your youth-flashback era. “Glee”
eyes 1977, when disco ruled; the kids do numbers from “Saturday
Night Fever.” TCM goes even further back.

Sandra Dee plays Gidget, a sweet and
slender teen in the brassy world of bikini beaches; she falls for
Moondoggie (James Darren) and Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson). It's an
OK film; “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961), at 9:45 p.m., is less OK,
but Deborah Walley and Hawaii are appealing.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Woman Who
Wasn't There,” 8-9:30 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the public
was fascinated by Tania Head's story.

She told of her fiance's death in one
tower, her own near-death in the other. She told of being rescued by
a hero who died; she guided tourists, led the survivor group, worked
tirelessly without pay.

And then the story took some stunning
twists. We won't spoil anything here; this Meredith Vieira production
lets the surprises roll out at just the right times.

Other choices include:

– “The Biggest Loser,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Reality shows often offer cruel twists. This time, the final
five reportedly rebelled, walking out and shutting down production.
“Loser” managed to retain some of them; tonight, after the
walk-out, two people advance to the finale, with the third added next
week.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Gaius
Charles, one of the talented young “Friday Night Lights” stars,
guests. He plays a Baltimore detective who works with Tony after a
fire reveals classified Navy documents.

– “Ringer” season-finale, 9 p.m.,
CW. The truth may emerge. Bridget considers telling Andrew that she's
not really her rich twin Siobhan; Henry considers telling Bridget
what really happened to Siobhan. And others – cops and crooks –
close in on her.

– “Dancing With the Stars,” 9
p.m., ABC. In a change, the judges will decide who's going home; the
bottom two in viewer votes will dance to the same cha-cha numbr.
Earlier, Train sings “Drive By” and Selena Gomez sings “Hit the
Lights.” There's also a Latino number, with Sheila E as
percussionist.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Age
differences are key here: Nick's new girlfriend may be too young;
Jess' boyfriend may be too old for her. Jess struggles with
babysitting for his pre-teen daughter.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,”9:01 to
10:02 p.m., CBS. A murdered Navy officer was leading a double life.

– “Private Practice,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Now that “Scandal” has taken this show's spot on Thursdays,
“Practice” borrows Tuesdays from “Body of Proof,” which ended
its season early. Tonight, Erica is near death; also, Pete and
Violet, both newly single, may have feelings for each other.