TV column for Saturday, March 3


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

This could draw a huge audience, with
Lindsay Lohan hosting and Jack White as music guest.

Skeptics will grumble that Lohan –
battered by personal problems – shouldn't be working live. Still,
she's an experienced pro; at 25, Lohan has starred in seven big
movies and many small ones; one (“Prairie Home Companion”) showed
she could hold her own with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Being Human,”
9 p.m., BBC America.

Already a good series, this has gone
through a massive makeover. George died last week, just as Nina and
Mitchell had done earlier. That leaves Annie the ghost and Tom the
werewolf protecting Eve.

As the orphaned baby of two werewolves,
Eve is apparently crucial role in the world's future. Now come three
visitors, one a vampire; that leads to two tautly superb scenes at a
pawn shop.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “We'll Take
Manhattan,” 8-10 p.m., Ovation.

As the 1960s began, fashion photography
– like much of life – was dull and stagnant. Then came David
Bailey, with his leather jacket, East End accent and country-girl
model, Jean Shrimpton.

Their story is told with some
exaggeration and much style, on a channel generally found on digital
cable or satellite. Aneurin Barnad and Karen Gillan (“Doctor Who”)
are terrific in the leads.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Blue-Eyed
Butcher,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime and/or “Deadly Sins,” 9-10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery.

People seem to kill loved ones a lot.
Lifetime has true-story reruns at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; then “Blue-Eyed
Butcher” tells of Susan Wright, who stabbed her husband 193 times.
The early flashbacks are fairly monotone; things soar after the
stabbing, as Wright (well-played by Sara Paxton) lapses into denial.

“Deadly Sins” starts a seven-week
series, with two true stories in the hour. One has a therapist, 40,
launching a romance with a 15-year-old girl; another has lesbian
lovers scheming to get parents' money. Both repeat the same tacky
re-creations too often, but theey have interesting stories to tell.

Other choices include:

– “The Godfather Saga,” 10 a.m.
to 8 p.m. ET; reruns 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., AMC (7 to 5 and 5 to 3 PT).
After making two great “Godfather” films, Francis Coppola
re-arranged the scenes chronologically. He re-crafted an epic story,
going from Robert De Niro to Marlon Brando to Al Pacino.

– “Smash,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a
dandy rerun, the producer (Anjelica Huston) scrambles for money.

– “CSI: NY,” 8 p.m., CBS. Ne-Yo,
the music star, plays a suave and charming hit man in this rerun.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. Grissom is gone, but this rerun includes his mother
(Emmy-nominee Phyllis Frelich) and ex-girlfriend (Oscar-winnr Marlee
Matlin). Both are deaf, part of a story involving the murder of the
director of a scholarship fund at a school for the deaf.

– “20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. This
two-hour special views bizarre afflictions.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. A young woman has been killed at her
engagement party and her fiance (Timothy Busfield) is shattered. The
story involves mail-order brides and the Russian mafia, so Capt.
Cragen goes undercover as a lonely bachelor.

TV column for Friday, March 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Gifted Man,”
9 p.m., CBS.

Things rarely go well for the women in
Patrick's life. His wife Anna died, but still appears to him in
visions. Last week, his high school girlfriend died.

Now the woman who received Anna's heart
is seriously ill. This is the season-finale of a solid show that
added a key twist last week, when Michael kissed Kate, the doctor he
hired to run the clinic.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Right
Stuff” (1983), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies.

The story of the original astronauts is
told with a rare mix of epic visuals and offbeat humor.

The result drew eight Academy Award
nominations including best picture, winning for score, editing, sound
and sound editing. Director Philip Kaufman cast the astronauts
beautifully, with great work from Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Dennis
Quaid, Fred Ward and, especially, Ed Harris as John Glenn.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Cat in the
Hat,” daytime (check local listings), PBS.

This is the 108th
anniversary of the birth of Theodor Geisel, who worked wonders with
his Dr. Seuss books. That's being marked in libraries, schools,
theaters (“The Lorax” opens today) and on TV.

The “Cat” series has a marathon of
four half-hours, two of them new. One takes kids on a tour of the
four seasons; the other visits baby animals that transform when they
grow up … then meets nature's exceptions – a swimming cat, a
running bird, a fish that walks on mud.

These offer the rhymes and glowing art
of Seuss style, but lack the grown-up appeal of true Seuss.

Other choices include:

– “Kitchen Nightmares,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. “Fringe” will rest for a month, before returning with
the final eight episodes of its season. That leaves room for this
two-parter, at a Burger Kitchen in Los Angeles.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?,” 8
p.m., NBC. Reba McEntire has known some things about the roots of her
father, a rodeo champion, but little about her mother's family. Now
she learns of a heart-breaking journey to the U.S. and about one of
the darkest eras in U.S. history.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The police commissioner (Tom Selleck) helps a prominent reporter who
was attacked. Meanwhile, his son Jamie finally wraps up his
undercover assignment.

– “Dateline,” 10 p.m., NBC. “The
Hansen Files” returns, with Chris Hansen using hidden cameras to
reveal scams and more. Tonight, he researches day-care operators and
confronts some about their criminal records. Afterward, “Files”
will be included in the “Dateline” at 7 p.m. Sundays in March.

– “Spartacus,” 10 p.m., Starz.
Last week's episode ended spectacularly. Trying to rescue three
comrades, the gladiators did much more. The stadium burned down,
causing Romans to die or flee. Now the rebels prepare to defend their
new base, while facing their own in-fighting.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy.
Believed dead, Lancelot is back. Now he wants to re-start his
relationship with Guinevere – whom Arthur had decided to marry.

TV column for Thursday, March 1


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

Over the last two nights, 25
semi-finalists – ages 15 to 28 – have performed. .

Tonight, we'll learn which ones the
viewers have voted into the finals. The judges will give a few some
of the others one more chance, before naming wild-card choices,
emerging with 12 (or so) finalists.

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

Michael wakes into a grim world. He and
his wife survived a car accident that killed their son.

But the next time he wakes, it's the
son who survived and the wife who died. One of these worlds is
strictly in his imagination … but which one?

This might sound like silly fantasy,
but it's actually a smart psycho-drama. Michael (Jason Isaacs) is an
analytic cop who approaches it logically. He wears a separate
wristband to remind him what case he's on; he has sharp therapists
(played by Tony-winners Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong), each insisting
this is the true world. And he faces crime cases, sometime weaving
together in both worlds.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang
Theory, 8 p.m., CBS.

Katie Leclerc has been terrific over
the first two seasons of cable's “Switched at Birth,” playing
someone who's deaf. She isn't deaf in real life, but did learn sign
language in high school and later found she has Meniere's disease,
which affects her hearing.

Here's a variation: Penny decides that
a deaf beauty (Leclerc) is ideal for Raj, who can't talk to women.

Other choices include:

– “30 Rock,” 8 p.m., NBC. Frank
has a fake romance with Liz (Tina Fey), so his mom (Patti LuPone)
won't know he's dating Lynn (Susan Sarandon). Also, Kenneth learns
how to face a business nemesis.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 8:30,
NBC. Last week, Leslie agreed to cut back to part-time while focusing
on her city-council race. Now she finds trouble: Her opponent has a
big-time consultant; also, things falter at work and her boss is
supposed to interview candidates for her job.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. In
Florida, Dwight wants to make an impression by giving the store a
big, theatrical opening. Back in Scranton, Andy shows up with an
embarrassing injury..

– “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. OK, it isn't really live; it's a rerun of the special that
followed the Academy Awards on Sunday, with movie stars and an
outdoor concert by Coldplay.

– “Up All Night,” 9:30 p.m., NBC.
Ava's talk show is bought by her idol – who promptly puts a former
military man in charge. Eve Best (“Nurse Jackie”) and Steven
Pasquale (“Rescue Me”) guest.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Patrick Jane meets a former client from his days as a
fake psychic; she wants help finding her kidnapped son.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Nudged back an hour, this reruns the hour that came after Teddy's
husband died during surgery. She pushes Cristina for details. Also,
surgery begins on conjoined twins.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. In a
so-so episode, Archer's busy sex life takes a surprising detour. That
endangers the latest mission, involving the Russian leader who may be
his father.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Middle” (8
p.m.) and “Modern Family” (9 p.m.), ABC.

This is a key day, in two ways. It's
the final day of “sweeps,” the four-week stretch when TV tries
harder; it's also Leap Day, which only shows up ever four years.

Now both comedies have someone born
that day. On “Middle,” the Hecks almost forget Sue's birthday. On
“Modern Family,” Mitchell frets about making Cam's party special;
also, Phil has Leap Day plans.

There's more on “Middle,” with
Frankie raising money for Brick's social-skills-impaired group.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Psych”
return, 10 p.m., USA.

These characters tend to toss around
1980s nostalgia, so this is ideal: They're in a fun rop that feels a
lot like the 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” complete with a
whip, a dagger, a treasure and a guest role for John Rhys Davies, the
“Raiders” co-star.

That all revolves around Despereaux
(Cary Elwes), the elegant crook our heroes kind of admire.

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

Two talented actors show up as guest
stars here.

One is Michael Weston, who was the
sharp private-eye in “House.” Five years ago, he played Benson's
troubled brother; now he's back and needing help on a custody case.
Benson turns to a tough courtroom opponent, played by Emmy-winner
Andre Braugher.

Meanwhile, Fin and Rollins probe the
case of a baby that was found by a homeless couple.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. The 12 female semi-finalists perform and viewers vote. On
Thursday, we'll have the finalists.

– “Whitney,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Whitney's reaction to a mugger surprises people. Meanwhile, Lily
needs a friend after her wedding is called off.

– “Rio” (2011), 8:15 p.m., HBO.
This cartoon is so good you won't need any kids nearby to savor it.
“Rio” glows with the vibrant music and colors of Rio de Janeiro.
The last two birds of a species are brought together; instead of
mating, they snipe a lot, while eluding bird snatchers. It's a
delight.

– “Are You There, Chelsea?” 8:30
p.m., NBC. One night before his co-star duties in the splendid
“Awake,” Wilmer Valderrama guests here. He portrays a baseball
player romancing Chelsea – played by Laura Prepon, who co-starred
with Valderrama in “That '70s Show.”

– “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Almost a year ago – on March 11, 2011 – a
tsunami triggered by an earthquake battered Japan. Viewers had
frequent views of the devastation; this reruns an hour that paused
for scientific views of what happened and what could be done in the
future.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31 p.m.,
ABC. Dave's liquor license makes his food truck a trendy success …
and causes problems for his friends.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. These CSI people usually have the highest-tech gadgets
in law-enforcement. Now a black-out forces them to work old-school.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 28


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

One of the best – and most
under-noticed – shows ends its season, with no guarantee it will be
back.

That comes during a decision time. Adam
and Crosby, must decide whether to sell their recording studio;their
sister Sarah considers moving with Mark.

Meanwhile, their sister Julia and her
husband continue the emotional roller-coaster of adoption. And a
family event brings everyone together.

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

After much dithering over auditions,
“Idol” now gets serious.

Tonight, the 12 men sing; on Wednesday,
the 12 women have their turn. Viewers will vote and on Thursday,
judges will add some wild-card picks. That will get the dozen (or so)
finalists for real “Idol.”

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

The vision of Amish life is basic: Kids
work the family farm, marry a neighbor, live peacefully.

Then come the changes, from outside –
we see a court battle over mandatory education; we also see the
aftermath of a school shooting – and within. There simply isn't
enough land for all the kids.

This excellent documentary shows the
search for new farmland. It also shows the move to factory work
nearby and the tough decision to leave and live among modern chaos.

Other choices include:

– Election coverage, cable. A week
before “super Tuesday,” cable focuses on Michigan and Arizona
primaries. CNN, for instance, has “John King USA” at 6 p.m. ET,
election focus from 7 to midnight.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A murder
victim had a top-secret clearance at a Navy research lab. Now an
international arms dealer is suspected.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Kristin has a three-way tug; she's a mom with a job, now
starting college. Meanwhile, her dad faces a neighbor's law suit.

– “Cougar Town,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Obsessed with planning the wedding, Jules has no time for anything
else (including romance) – until Travis is hospitalized.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a story that started last week, Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruhi)
became a prime murder. Now her colleagues scramble to prove her
innocence.

– “White Collar,” 10 p.m., USA.
The season-finale comes at a pivotal time: Neal faces hearings that
could free him from his ankle band. Still, he also needs to retrieve
a stolen masterpiece; his friends in the FBI are torn. It's a complex
and semi-satisfying story that ends with a jolt.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. For
Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), the primly button-down Northerner
trying to control Harlan County crime, things are complicated. On one
side, he finally finds an official to bribe; on the other, he's
squeezed by Raylan and by his boss' quivering son.

– “Southland,” 10 p.m., TNT.
Jessica Tang (Lucy Liu) has a tough day. It starts with being served
papers and ends with a shooting. Sammy's mad at Ben; Lydia makes a
decision on her pregnancy.