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.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Image Awards,”
8-10 p.m., NBC.

Black History Month is big on PBS and
cable, smaller elsewhere. But on its first day, NBC has the NAACP
awards, with Steve Harvey hosting and music by Gladys Knight, Wyclef
Jean and Common.

The awards – shows and individuals –
cover movies, TV, music and books. Best-movie nominees are “Red
Tails,” “Flight,: “Django Unchained,” “Good Deeds” and
“Beasts of the Southern Wild.” TV has dramas (ABC's “Scandal”
and “Grey's Anatomy,” HBO's “Treme,” “True Blood” and
“Boardwalk Empire”) and comedies (“Glee,” “Mindy
Project,”“Modern Family,” “The Game” and “Soul Man”).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Malibu
Country,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.

In its own broad and brash way, this
has some funny moments.

Reba's son was urged to write a one-act
play based on something he knows. When she finds it and has an
informal reading, the story – a cheating husband, a smack-talking
redheaded wife – sounds familiar.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Shakespeare
Uncovered,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

With an entire theater company to
support, William Shakespeare turned to what his audiences loved –
epics based on British history. He told of Richard II … and the
duke who overthrew him to become Henry IV … and his son (Henry V),
first a disappointment and then a triumphant warrior.

Now – as a mini-series is being
filmed incorporating them – these hours trace all those stories.
Derek Jacobi and Jeremy Irons host, making rich use of historic
settings, film clips and more.

Other choices include:

– “Batman” (1989), 7:15 p.m.,
Independent Film Channel, or “Batman Begins” (2005), 8 p.m., TNT.
Choose between two darkly stylish visions of the hero, played by
Michael Keaton or Christian Bale.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Inspired by her dad's patriotism, Eve joins the Junior ROTC.
Then she has a chance meeting with a female armory gunner.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m.,CBS. A young
pizza maker has been carjacked. Now the police suspect that the car
wasn't what the crooks were really after.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Here's a rerun of Monday's episode, the show's second. It offers a
strong – and sometimes startling – focus on a sweet-faced nanny.
She's key to Joe Carroll's plan to kidnap his own son; she's also in
an emerging love triangle.

– “Carrie Diaries,” 9 p.m., CW.
Now for the rerun of a gentler Monday episode, with Carrie learning
why her dad told her not to see Sebastian. It's a good hour, despite
her tendency to blurt too much.

– ”Spartacus,” 9 p.m., Starz. The
rebels have their most daring goal – overthrowing an armed, gated
Roman town. Meanwhile, a tough opponent is ready. Julius Caesar –
portrayed here as a rock-star type, handsome and untamed – is
working with Marcus Crassus, the earnest, self-made businessman.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Danny tries to determine why a man, covered with rat bites, has been
thrown from a moving car. Meanwhile, his dad the police commissioner
(Tom Selleck) tries to be diplomatic when a bigoted radio host comes
to town.

– “Banshee,”10 p.m., Cinemax.
This all seemed too easy at first, when an ex-con took the identity
of incoming Sheriff Lucas Hood, in the town where his ex-lover is now
married to the prosecutor. Now this strong hour starts with him in
mid-crisis, scrambling in a heist gone bad. Things build from there.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Three
soothsayers order Arthur to legalize magic in Camelot.