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).

TV column for Wednesday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Bent” debut, 9
and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

“Can I be honest?” the building
contractor (David Walton) says.

“Doesn't seem like it,” his
would-be client (Amanda Peet) replies quickly.

She's a lawyer and a divorced mom. Her
sex life is stagnant; his is not. They're perfect for TV comedy.

“Bent” has sharp dialog, skillful
stars and great a great supporting cast, including Jeffrey Tambor,
Jesse Plemons (“Friday Night Lights”) and J.B. Smoove.

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

If you missed this show's terrific
opener, catch this rerun on the eve of the second episode.

When a teen disappears in Europe, his
widowed mom (Ashley Judd) searches. We soon learn she has bigger
skills – and faces a bigger plot – than we had imagined.

The result has intensity, intelligence
and great action scenes. The only problem is that it's a serialized
show, giving readers no real satisfaction tonight … or, probably,
on Thursday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Interior
Therapy,” 9 p.m., Bravo.

Maybe all of TV's despots need a good
meal.

On “Flipping Out,” Jeff Lewis is
arrogant, antsy and abusive; on this show – living with clients for
a five-day makeover – he downright pleasant. Tonight – served by
a great cook – he mellows further.

That's in a home so stuffed with art
that there's little room for design. Lewis finds clever solutions.

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). In 2009, a bush fire seared a million acres of
Australia's Victoria. But nature is resilient; so is man. This rerun
traces the comeback,

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Some
kids claim their dog ate the homework, but in this rerun Brick says
his brother did. That's what happens when you make a map out of
dough.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Tessa's dad wins an Atlantic City trip and brings the
guys.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has Phil panicking after not getting the results of his
medical test. Also, Manny's dad (Benjamin Bratt) reappears.

– “Nothing Personal,” 9 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. Making a fortune from the “Deep Throat”
porno film, mobsters became fat and greedy, this documentary says.
They were so greedy that they stole from each other and a hit man was
hired. And so fat that one man absorbed multiple bullets and
survived.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. When she was 12, Elisabeth Harnois was Alice in the
Disney Channel's “Adventures in Wonderland.” Now she's Morgan,
helping probe a murder at a wedding that had an “Alice in
Wonderland” theme; also, Hodges tries to convince his mom (Jaclyn
Smith) that he's dating Morgan.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. At 82, Ed Asner can still be the young one. Here, he's the
president of a country club the women want to join. They need Elka
(Betty White, 90),who knows him.

TV column for Wednesday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Bent” debut, 9
and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

“Can I be honest?” the building
contractor (David Walton) says.

“Doesn't seem like it,” his
would-be client (Amanda Peet) replies quickly.

She's a lawyer and a divorced mom. Her
sex life is stagnant; his is not. They're perfect for TV comedy.

“Bent” has sharp dialog, skillful
stars and great a great supporting cast, including Jeffrey Tambor,
Jesse Plemons (“Friday Night Lights”) and J.B. Smoove.

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

If you missed this show's terrific
opener, catch this rerun on the eve of the second episode.

When a teen disappears in Europe, his
widowed mom (Ashley Judd) searches. We soon learn she has bigger
skills – and faces a bigger plot – than we had imagined.

The result has intensity, intelligence
and great action scenes. The only problem is that it's a serialized
show, giving readers no real satisfaction tonight … or, probably,
on Thursday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Interior
Therapy,” 9 p.m., Bravo.

Maybe all of TV's despots need a good
meal.

On “Flipping Out,” Jeff Lewis is
arrogant, antsy and abusive; on this show – living with clients for
a five-day makeover – he downright pleasant. Tonight – served by
a great cook – he mellows further.

That's in a home so stuffed with art
that there's little room for design. Lewis finds clever solutions.

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). In 2009, a bush fire seared a million acres of
Australia's Victoria. But nature is resilient; so is man. This rerun
traces the comeback,

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Some
kids claim their dog ate the homework, but in this rerun Brick says
his brother did. That's what happens when you make a map out of
dough.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Tessa's dad wins an Atlantic City trip and brings the
guys.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has Phil panicking after not getting the results of his
medical test. Also, Manny's dad (Benjamin Bratt) reappears.

– “Nothing Personal,” 9 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. Making a fortune from the “Deep Throat”
porno film, mobsters became fat and greedy, this documentary says.
They were so greedy that they stole from each other and a hit man was
hired. And so fat that one man absorbed multiple bullets and
survived.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. When she was 12, Elisabeth Harnois was Alice in the
Disney Channel's “Adventures in Wonderland.” Now she's Morgan,
helping probe a murder at a wedding that had an “Alice in
Wonderland” theme; also, Hodges tries to convince his mom (Jaclyn
Smith) that he's dating Morgan.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. At 82, Ed Asner can still be the young one. Here, he's the
president of a country club the women want to join. They need Elka
(Betty White, 90),who knows him.

TV column for Tuesday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Switched at
Birth” season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC Family.

The first season of this surprisingly
good series has come in two batches – 10 episodes last summer, a
dozen more wrapping up now.

Bay grew up rich; Daphne, who is deaf,
grew up with a struggling single mom. Then they learned they'd been
switched at birth; they're beautifully played by Vanessa Marano and
Katie Leclerc.

Now it's their prom night. Also, Angelo
(Giles Marini) is back; he's the one who abandoned Daphne, but is the
biologic father of Bay.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Fashion Star,”
10 p.m., NBC.

Yes, we have doubts about this
overwrought reality competition. Still, it has interesting people.

Watch Nzimiro Oputa, 28, a Detroit
native who quit his engineering job to design clothes. Or Kara
Laricks, 38, a former 4th-grade teacher. Or Oscar Fierro, 37, the
tiny Texan who grew up in an impoverished El Salvador town; he clowns
often, weeps often.

It's an emotional night for them and
others; maybe “Star” will grow on us.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Massachusetts was a primitive colony
when people began harvesting beached whales. Soon, boats were built;
in Nantucket, pacifist Quakers became skilled whale-killers.

America's first global industry grew,
By 1840, 735 of the world's 900 whaling ships were American.

This superb rerun by Ric Burns (Ken's
brother) eyes two stories: The Essex was rammed by a giant whale in
1820. Twenty years later, deckhand Herman Melville met the son of one
of its eight survivors and read an account. He would write “Moby
Dick,” considered the first great American novel.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When
classified information is leaked, Samantha Ryan (Jamie Lee Curtis) is
brought back to work with Gibbs. Sean Astin is a guest star.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. There's been a shooting outside the Vietnamese consulate, which
was about to be the site of an international conference.

– “The River,” 9 p.m., ABC. The
trial run ends, with “Dancing With the Stars” taking the slot
next week for its results show. Tonight, there's chaos when a crew
member is shot by an unknown killer.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Jess
(Zooey Deschanel) hesitantly dates the wealthy dad (Dermot Mulroney)
of one of her students. That's the start of a two-part episode.

– “Make It or Break It,” 9 p.m.,
ABC Family. On Monday, “Make It” starts its third season –
starting the Olympic push of its character (teen gymnasts) during
this Olympic year. First, here's the second-season finale; we're at
the world championship, with Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner guesting.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun takes a nasty twist on real life: A mother, considered
guilty by many, is killed after she was acquitted. Marcia Gay Harden
and Rita Wilson are guest stars.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.
Tonight wraps up the fierce (and nasty) race for sheriff. That's
fairly anti-climactic, but there are a couple other potent scenes,
centering on Quarles (Neal McDonough). He's confronted by a gunman,
then confronts Raylan; at those points, “Justified” is a great
show.

TV column for Monday, March 19


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

This is what the first six episodes
built up to: The “Marilyn” musical has a showcase for investors.

Its songs are great, so what could go
wrong? A lot. The building is too hot and everyone is distracted –
Ivy by her medication and her overbearing mother (Bernadette Peters)
… Karen, her back-up, by a record-producer audition … Juliet, the
lyricist, by her affair with Martin Swift (Will Chase).

Tonight brings great moments for the
producer (Anjelica Huston) and dynamite songs for Peters, Katharine
McPhee (as Karen) and Chase (as Martin).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dancing With
the Stars” opener, 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

The new season brings the usual mixture
of celebrities and semi-celebrities.

There are former child stars Jaleel
White and Melissa Gilbert – yes, Urkel and Laura Ingalls – and
current young actor Roshon Fegen, 20. There are singers (Gladys
Knight, Gavin DeGraw), TV personalities (Sheri Shepherd, Maria
Menounos), great athletes (football's Donald Driver, tennis' Martina
Navratilova) and more actors (William Levy, of Spanish-language TV,
and Jack Wagner.

There's even a classical singer
(Katherine Jacobs) who looks like a movie star. This could be fun.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Pretty Little
Liars” season finale, 8 and 10 p.m., ABC Family.

For two seasons, these four young women
have had ominous text messages from “A.”

Now they – and we – finally learn
who this is. That happens at the Junior League Masquerade Gala.

Other choices include:

– “Antiques Roadshow,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Most stations have wrapped up their
pledge drives now and offer the second half of a “Roadshow” from
Honolulu. The next step is iffy, though; a scheduled presidential
debate was nixed Thursday, after Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum bowed
out.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Dr.
House's mother (Diane Baker) arrives, just as he's in the middle of
another perplexing case: A young man (Michael B. Jordan of “Friday
Night Lights”), about to propose marriage, has suddenly gone blind.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. It's a no-rerun Monday on CBS (and on ABC and NBC). When
Barney plans to move in with Quinn (Becki Newton), the others scheme
to break them up.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Max and Caroline get a sort of spring break from their shabby
lives: They're dog-sitting in a posh apartment.

– “Two and a Half Men, 9 p.m., CBS.
Here's a mismatch: Alan's brash mom (Holland Taylor) meets Lyndsey's
mom, played by the soft-spoken Georgia Engel.

– “Alcatraz,” 9 p.m., Fox. A
former prisoner with musical leanings is back, more violent than
ever.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In an episode of the original “Five-0,” Ed Asner played a master
thief. Now, 37 years later, he plays the same guy, helping clear
McGarrett's sister (Taryn Manning).

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. On
the opening night of “Dancing With the Stars,” this show offers a
murder during a similar dance competition. Also, Castle's mom wants a
favor from a critic who once gave her a scathing review.