TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's one of those crossover episodes
that CBS likes. Mac (Gary Sinise), a widower, wants to surprise his
girlfriend by visiting her in Las Vegas. He's the one who's
surprised: She's missing.

He turns to his friend D.B. (Ted
Danson) for help. That will wrap up in Friday's “CSI: NY.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS.

During his 60 years of nature programs,
David Attenborough has seen species vanish. One moving clip shows him
on Galapagos Island with Lonesome George, a giant turtle who was the
last of his kind.

Still, this excellent hour – wrapping
up a three-week series – also has upbeat moments. The World
Wildlife Fund began in 1961. National parks were created in Africa
and beyond. Borneo and Malaysia took strong steps to protect birds
and turtles. Some species are better now than a half-century ago.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

Like last week's opener, this is a taut
hour that will churn viewers with mixed emotions.

We're in the early 1980s, with an
average-seeming couple (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) in suburban
Washington, D.C. They're actually Soviet spies, groomed for this, in
an arranged marriage.

Tonight, they're being rushed to plant
a bug in the home of Casper Weinberger, the U.S. Secretary of
Defense. Doing that will require them to bully decent people and to
strain their ethical limits.

Other choices include:

– “Tron: Legacy” (2010), 7:30
p.m., FX. Back in 1982, “Tron” had a techno-whiz (Jeff Bridges)
enter his computer program. Now comes a sharp sequel: Decades later,
Bridges is still in there; his son tries to rescue him. If you miss
it tonight, you can also catch it at 6:30 p.m. Thursday or 7:30 p.m.
Friday.

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. A new round begins, with lots of work to do. In all, 276
hopefuls went to California. Eight days from now, we'll see that
total trimmed to 40.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
After lots of reruns, ABC has all-new Wednesday shows. Here, Sue has
a class project to prove smiles are contagious. Her parents can't
smile; Axl may not get a scholarship.

– “Everything is Illuminated”
(2005), 8 and 10 p.m., Sundance. A quiet American heads to the
Ukraine, to dig into his family's past. Liev Schreiber adapted the
novel and directed, giving it a neatly offbeat look; Elijah Wood gave
the lead character a stylized feel that's calm, bloodless and
intriguing.

– “Charlie Wilson's War” (2007),
8-10 p.m., IFC. Now for a more-mainstream film, with Tom Hanks as a
real-life congressman. There's great work from director Mike Nichols
and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

– “The Neighbors”, 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. Debbie finds that she can't talk to her daughter about romance.
Unfortunately, she can offer romantic advice (ineptly) to the
neighbor boy who is from outer space.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Competition can be nasty, we find. Phil has just been taught by his
dad to golf; now they're facing Pepper (Nathan Lane) and Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Manny is intent on getting the lead in Cam's school
production of “Phantom of the Opera.”

 

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Juliette's pop-princess persona – a star in short-shorts, singing a
zesty song amid dancers and glitter – soars early in this hour.
Then she says she's thinking of a change. “There's thinkin' about
something and there's just doin' it,” Deacon tells her. What
follows provides the high point in an erratic-but-interesting hour
that's also stuffed with an excess of soap-style twists.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Smash”
season-opener, 9-11 p.m.,NBC.

The first season had brilliant musical
numbers, a great cast and soapy excess. Now a makeover begins.

As “Bombshell” – the musical
about Marilyn Monroe – seeks a Broadway spot, we meet distractions.
There's a star (played by Jennifer Hudson) and a cocky young
singer-composer (Jeremy Jordan).

Jordan's portions are fairly strong;
Hudson's are superb. It's a good (but not great) new beginning.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl,”
9 p.m., Fox.

Jess is clearly disturbed that Nick,
one of her roommates, suddenly kissed her. It meant nothing, she says
– although, she grants, “I saw through space and time for a
moment” – but it was all wrong.

She's dating a handsome guy, the sort
who fixes things; Nick mostly breaks things. Now she fumes … while
Schmidt crash Cece's Indian-American dating event. The result is, at
times, extremely funny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Vegas,” 10
p.m., CBS.

For Vince Savino (Michael Chiklis), the
scheme to get rid of Mob boss Rizzo has worked. He triggered a
confrontation with Deputy Sheriff Jack Lamb, who killed Rizzo.

Now Lamb hesitates: Should he tell the
truth to his brother, the sheriff? Should he tell his lover, Mia
Rizzo, that he has killed her father. That plays alongside two more
plots, in a strong episode.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Experience,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Long before the Apple-Google-Facebook
days. Northern California was already the gathering point for young
genius. At the core of that was Robert Noyce, a preacher's son from
small-town Iowa.

At 29, Noyce and seven colleagues left
Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory and created their own unit, working
with Fairchild. They created the integrated circuit and, a dozen
years later, started Intel – launching the microprocessor and the
roots of a $100-billion industry. It's a great story.

Other choices include:

– “The Taste, 8 p.m., ABC. The
competition portion begins, with a comfort-food theme. Each judge has
a four-person team; with blind tastings, a judge could end up dumping
on someone from his team.

– “Raising Hope,” 8-9 p.m., Fox.
Before becoming a favorite of critics with “My Name is Earl” and
“Raising Hope,” writer-producer Greg Garcia did “Yes, Dear.”
Now two of that show's stars (Mike O'Malley and Liza Snyder) guest in
tonight's second episode, playing people who come across an
incriminating video from Burt and Virginia. In the first episode,
Hope is on her favorite TV show.

– “Pioneers of Television,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). In a way, the 1977 “Roots” and
1983 “Thorn Birds” were opposites – one a steeply important
account of U.S. history, the other a frilly tale of forbidden love.
Both, however, had rich production values and giant ratings. This
hour – diligent in its details, so-so in its execution – features
them while viewing TV's mini-series era.

– “The Bachelor,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.
This second “Bachelor” night is a one-shot move. ABC is waiting
until after next week's State of the Union speech, before revamping
Tuesday with “Body of Proof.”

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p..m.,
CBS. The entire team is undercover, posing as a tactical force.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. The
search for Drew Thompson – the fugitive who was once presumed to be
dead – takes Raylan to Kentucky's hill country, where things turn
dangerous.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Monday Mornings”
debut, 10 p.m., TNT; repeats at 12:05.

One of TV's best writers is back and in
top form. David Kelley (“Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal”) has
his first hospital show since “Chicago Hope,” filled with deeply
detailed characters.

Based on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's novel, this
spends some of its time at the Monday-morning meetings when doctors
ponder mistakes. Great actors – led by Alfred Molina and Ving
Rhames – get blistering bursts of dialog …. while one (Keong Sim)
offers only a few words. It's great television.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “How I Met
Your Mother” and “Rules of Engagement,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

First, “Mother” returns to
delightful turf – Robin's teen years as Robin Sparkles, Canadian
pop star. Barney has found a TV biography filled with Canadian icons,
from Alan Thicke to Alex Trebek.

Then “Rules” – oft-shelved,
never-canceled – starts its seventh season. One story (Adam's
ping-pong obsession) is lunk-headed, but others – Jennifer's sex
dreams, Liz as a roommate – work quite well.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Mea Maxima
Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.

The theme – a priest's sexual abuse –
has been done often, but never with such compelling people.

They were sent to St. John's School for
the Deaf, in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis. The Catholic-run
school had an appealing setting and a charismatic head, Father
Lawrence Murphy.

In 1973, the boys told the archbishop
he'd been molesting them. It took more than a year to remove Murphy;
he was simply re-assigned and continued as a priest for his remaining
25 years.

“Culpa” views the resistance by
Vatican officials … including the cardinal who would become Pope
Benedict XVI. It's a compelling story, often told passionately by
sign language with voiceovers.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Things move to Montana, with 11 beautiful women in plaid shirts.
There's a two-on-one date and an eight-person relay that includes
some exceptionally inept canoing. And a date with Lindsay includes a
helicopter ride above Glacier National Park.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. New duty
for the artistic Angela: She goes undercover at a roller derby.

– “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 8-10
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. This started with a smart script about
real-life bank robbers, then added sleek direction, Oscar-winning
cinematography and a great cast. Estelle Parsons won an Oscar; Warren
Beatty, Faye Dunaway and others were nominated.

– “Jerseylicious,” 8 p.m., Style.
Tonight's life lesson: A guy shouldn't bring his mom to his debut as
an underwear model. Also, near the end of the hour, people screech
some more.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Jealousy – seething ominously until now – explodes among the
kidnappers, in another strong episode. Also, the FBI has a tough time
telling who's a victim.

– “Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT. Last
week's overwrought season-opener revealed that “Rebecca” – whom
Christopher briefly married – is Cliff Barnes' scheming daughter
Pamela. Now he tries to link her to a crime; also, his step-mom (a
sturdy sort until now) keeps crumbling because of a kidnap scheme.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A 1973 episode, “Hookman,” has been rewritten slightly. Now a
double-amputee has been killing cops for revenge. McGarrett is
targeted for something his father did.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Beckett may link a new murder to the man who killed her mother.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Super Bowl, 6:30
p.m. ET, CBS.

For the first time, the game has two
brothers coaching opposite teams.

Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers had
the league's third-best defense during the regular season and its
best offense in the post-season – let by a quarterback (Colin
Kaepernick) who has only started in nine pro games. John Harbaugh's
Baltimore Ravens have a quarterbac (Joe Flacco) who turned hot in the
post-season and a defensive star (Ray Lewis) in his 17th
and final season. Beyonce is at halftime.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Elementary,”
about 10:30 p.m. ET, CBS.

This version of Sherlock Holmes is sort
of high-middle – not as good as the brilliant new “Sherlock”
films on PBS, but terrific by any other standards.

Fresh from kicking his drug habit,
Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has moved to nowadays New York. Dr. Watson
(Lucy Liu) was hired by his dad to be a “sober companion,” then
stayed for free.

Stories range from funny to
dead-serious. Tonight, Holmes reluctantly works with a criminal
profiler.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Downton
Abbey,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Last week brought the show's toughest
moment, when Lady Sybil died during childbirth.

That occurred after her father balked
at the idea of an emergency C-section. Now – his judgment
questioned on all sides – he fumes about the baby having a Catholic
baptism. “The world isn't going your way,” Lady Mary tells him.
“Not any more.

With Bates still in jail and the
finances wobbly, the family desperately needs good news.

Other choices include:

– Betty White, three networks. White,
who just turned 91, is everywhere today. Separate “Golden Girls”
marathons are on Hallmark (9 a.m. to 3 a.m.) and WE (12:30 p.m. to 1
a.m.). Also, NBC has her “Off Their Rockers,” from 7-9 p.m.

– Cute pups, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., Animal
Planet, 7-9 p.m., ABC. The annual “Puppy Bowl” has 12 hours –
well, two hours repeated six times – of cute dogs and more. ABC's
“America's Funniest Home Videos”counters with reruns that include
a dog park (7 p.m.) and dog costumes (8).

– More marathons: “Storage Wars,”
which started Saturday, goes to 11:30 p.m. Others are “NCIS” on
USA (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.), “Walking Dead” on AMC (3 p.m. to 3:27
a.m.), “Reed Between the Lines” on BET (4 p.m. to midnight) and
“Dancing With the Stars” on Game Show (5p.m. to 2:30 a.m.). The
Food Network starts reruns of “Rachel Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off”
at 6 p.m., with a new hour at 10.

– “Live From New York:The First
Five Years of Saturday Night Live,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. This is the
best of the “SNL” documentaries, taking a frank view of a time
overflowing with drugs and genius.

– “Girls,” 9 p.m., HBO; repeats
at 10:05 and 11. Maybe people should always dine alone. This episode
has two separate gatherings, each triggering a cascade of harsh
words. The best moments involve Shoshanna, wonderfully played by
Zosia Mamet, the daughter of David Mamet and Lindsay Crouse.

– “Modern Family,” 10 and 10:30
p.m., ABC. The first rerun visits the first day of school – college
for Haley, kindergarten for Lily. The second ponders two giant steps
– a vasectomy for Phil, a job for Cam.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “NFL Honors,”
9-11 p.m., CBS.

Back in his high school days, Alec
Baldwin was a football star and the coach's son. Now he mixes with
the greats; he'll host,with past stars – Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith,
Barry Sanders – presenting.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, pro
football names its most valuable player, coach of the year and best
comeback, plus the best single play. There are offensive and
defensive categories for rookie of the year and player of the year.
Also, OneRepublic performs.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Saturday
Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Last week, Adam Levine hosted, but
didn't sing; tonight – via rerun – he sings, but doesn't host.
And next Saturday, as it happens, Justin Bieber will do both.

Levine and his Maroon 5 band perform
“One More Light” and “Daylight.” Jeremy Renner hosts and
ranges from playing the piano to playing a clueless guy, identifying
his brother at a morgue. There are a couple of Paula Broadwell
sketches and Gov. Chris Christie shows up on “Weekend Update.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Betty &
Coretta,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were
considered opposites, the mainstream hero and the fringe firebrand.
Long after their deaths, however, their wives became friends.

Coretta Scott King raised four children
and ran the King Center. Betty Shabazz raised six daughters, got two
graduate degrees and became a professor and college administrator. In
this film, on the second day of Black History Month, they're
portrayed by Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige;

Other choices include:

– “American Ninja Warriors,” 8
p.m., NBC. Here are highlights of the past season of this competition
show, which is on G4, a cable channel owned by NBC.

– “War of the Worlds” (2005),
8-11 p.m., ABC. This version of the H.G. Wells classic focuses on a
guy and his daughter (Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning), scrambling for
survival. It isn't one of Steven Spielberg's better films, but it's
well above average by any other standard.

– More movies, 8 p.m.,, cable. One of
the all-time classics – “Casablanca” (1942) – airs on Turner
Classic Movies. It goes against two great films that are more recent
– “A Few Good Men” (1992) on AMC and “The Dark Knight”
(2005) on TNT.

– “Pride & Prejudice” (2005),
8:30 p.m., E. Add this one to a great movie night. Director Joe
Wright and his star, Keira Knightley, found maximum emotion with
minimal dialog.

– “Chicago Fire,” 9 p.m., NBC.
From the start of the series, firefighters have blaming Casey and
others for a colleague's dead in a fire. In this rerun, Cruz
confesses something to Casey; also, Casey is caught in the middle of
a argument between his mother (Kathleen Quinlan) and sister.

– “Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. In this Victorian section of London, a cholera outbreak
brings panic. Officials rush to find any patterm to its spread.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Fin (Ice-T) is convinced that his former
brother-in-law is wrong accused of a brutal attack on a priest.