TV column for Tuesday, March 25

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

Sometimes, this is all it takes to make great comedy – two
quirky characters and a good reason for their dialog to spin in wild

That’s Jess and Nick, on the morning of a birthday party.
Wracked by hangovers, they must assemble a 1-year-old’s toy while contemplating
their future. She wants to live by a lake, with two kids who named themselves;
he wants to live on Mars, with a son named Reginald VelJohnson. There’s a gap

Two other hangover tales are pretty good, but the Jess-Nick
one would make a great one-act play.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Justified,” 10 p.m., F

Here is “Justified” at its best – sometimes dry and droll
and quirky, but with huge stakes.

That starts with a powerful, game-changing scene before the
opening credits; it ends with several jolts. In between, great guest stars –
Mary Steenburgen, Michael Rapaport, etc. -- link with regulars who have
mastered this odd world of Kentucky crooks and feds, mixed with interlopers
from Detroit and Florida.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of the Jews,” 8-10 p.m.,

Over five hours on two Tuesdays, Simon Schama offers a story
that spans the globe and 2,500 years.

Much of that scope was forced upon the Jews. They were
driven from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome; they became essential to the
European economy, after Christian rules banned loaning money for interest …
then were exiled again: In 1290, King Edward I drove them from England; in 1492,
while Spain was discovering a new world, it expelled an old one. These are
dramatic stories, told passionately.

Other choices include:

“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Will the glee club really fold? April
and Holly (Kristen Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow) hatch a plan to save it;
also, Rachel and Santana try to patch things up after their fight.

“The 100,” 8 p.m., CW. On the eve of the second episode,
here’s a rerun of the fairly good pilot film, with 100 teen prisoners
dispatched to see if the Earth is finally inhabitable.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s the start of a two-parter that’s
a pilot for a spin-off. In New Orleans, Gibbs works with agents (Scott Bakula,
Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan) and the coroner (CCH Pounder).

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The computer system
controlling Russian missiles may be in jeopardy.

 “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
season-finale 9:30, Fox. Forever bucking authority, Jake (Andy Samberg) always
seems near being suspended. Now he goes over the edge, in a funny episode that
sets up next season.

“Growing Up Fisher,” 9:31 p.m., NBC. Joyce gets a job at her
ex-husband’s office, promptly becoming … well, too Joyce. It’s a funny story,
slowed by a weaker one involving Henry and the girl next door.

“Creature Shop Challenge,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Sure, this is a
lot like the show (“Face Off”) that precedes it. Still, it’s bigger -- contestants
create workable, camera-ready creatures – and better. The prize is bigger, too –
a job in the Creature Shop that was created by the late Jim Henson. His son
Brian is chief judge, with Gigi Edgley (from “Farscape,” a terrific Henson
show) as host.

TV column for Monday, March 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS.

We’re now a week away from the finale of this quirky and
clever series.

Next Monday, Ted finishes telling his kids how their parents
met. First, there’s a different wedding to worry about – with both Barney and
Robin getting last-minute jitters. Ben Vereen plays the minister.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Switched at Birth,” 8 p.m., ABC

In the “spring finale,” two generations fret about careers.
Does Regina really want her cushy job with a cruel businessman? Does Daphne
want to be a doctor, sometimes helping people she fears or hates?

Both stories are excellent; two others, involving Kathryn
and Toby, are lame. But the highlight has Bay trying to uncover Emmett’s
Internet girlfriend; it propels “Switched” into a strong place.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “None of the Above” and “The Numbers
Game” debuts, 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic.

Welcome to a full evening aimed at the brain. Really. It
starts with “Brain Games” reruns at 8 and 8:30 p.m. and ends with a rerun of
Sunday’s “Cosmos” at 10. In between are these debuts.

“None” is a trifle, a mixture of experiments and bar-room
tricks; “Numbers” does much more, opening with a statistical examination 0heroic
tendencies. We meet some real heroes and see that they’re scarce: An experiment
has people seem to come across a man tugging away a woman’s purse. Only three
of 10 people (mostly young and fit) tried to help; several ran the other way.

Other choices include:

“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The first round of “battles”
continues today and Tuesday.

Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. It’s time for
the first elimination, in a field filled with variety. The dancers range from
young pop singers (Cody Simpson, 17, James Marlow, 23) to Billy Dee Williams,
76, and Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida last summer at 64. They range
from a fierce former hockey player (Sean Avery) to a brainy math expert (Danica
McKellar, the “Wonder Years” co-star).

“The Fosters,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. It should be a joyous
day, with Callie and Jude set to be adopted, but this hour also shovels in the
troubles – alcoholism, Alzheimer’s and ADHD, plus bureaucracy and pregnancy and
more. It’s well-acted, but almost monotone in emotion … then ends fiercely.

“Bizarre Foods America,” 9 p.m., Travel. In Alaska, Andrew
Zimmern ranges from moose to muskrat. That launches a season that will take him
from rattlesnakes in Texas to Peru, Canada and Colombia.

“Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. Archer has already lost one load of cocaine
and found another. Now, in a perversely funny episode, he’s on a plane, heading
straight to a kingpin’s lair.

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. When a valuable defense
asset is stolen, the clues point to a Russian operative known only as Ivan.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. A Wall Street murder case becomes
much deeper when it’s learned that the victim was an informant for a federal
attorney who is Captain Gates’ estranged sister.

TV column for Sunday, March 23

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “American Dream Builders” debut, 8
p.m., NBC.

Anything (almost) that cable does, the broadcast networks
can overdo. “Dream” takes the general approach of many HGTV show, then piles things
to overload.

A dozen top designers or builders are split into two teams.
Each team re-does an entire house in a week, with no mention of budget.
Advising are Nate Berkus, Eddie George (once a football star, now a landscape
architect) and Monica Pedersen; but judging are the neighbors. “Dream” has rich
visuals and gorgeous designs, but it’s way too busy; often, the designs zip
past us in a few seconds.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Last week, people took the obvious step: If this kid insists
he’s Jacob – who died 30 years ago – then test his DNA … and the body that’s
buried. Now we learn what they found … and things get more complex.

Meanwhile, Bellamy (Omar Epps), the federal agent, works
with his only colleague Maggie, a doctor whose dad is sheriff and mom died
trying to rescue Jacob. They scramble to find a link between Jacob and Caleb
(also back from the dead) … and they trace Caleb’s criminal past.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Wild Hawaii,” 8 and 9 p.m., NatGeo

Don’t expect any bikini-beach scenes here; in fact, don’t
expect many people.

We do meet a snowboarder (really) and someone who surfs
mega-waves; we meet a whale researcher and people with the unenviable task of
catching, studying and releasing 500-pound seals. But mostly, this is about
nature; gorgeously filmed, it ranges from soaring predator owls to creeping
turtles, from dueling whales to garden eels that dance with the current while
rooted to the bottom of the sea.

Other choices include:

Basketball, all day, CBS and cable. CBS has three games
today (noon, about 2:30 and 5 p.m. ET), instead of four. (That fourth game is
on TruTV, so CBS can return to its primetime shows.) Others each have a
doubleheader – 6 and 8:30 p.m. on TNT, 7 and 9:30 p.m. on TBS.

“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m. (or later, with basketball
overrun), CBS. So far, the twins, the YouTube hosts and Team Kentucky have been
ousted. Now the eight surviving duos are fishing in Sri Lanka.

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. or later, CBS. Now that Alicia is
being questioned in an election-fraud probe of her husband, she needs her
law-firm partner Cary as her lawyer.

“Believe,” 9 p.m., NBC. Trying to protect gifted young Bo,
Jake finds they’re trapped in Manhattan. They meet a woman who has been
mourning her son for decades.

“Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. Brutality and faith both play a
role in survival.

“Drop Dead Diva” season-opener, 9 p.m., Bravo. If you can
accept the fact that a lunch lady shows up at her lawyer’s office in a hair
net, then maybe you’ll buy the rest. One story line – Owen’s good-time brother
arrives – is quite clever, but the others simply leave us grumbling in

“The Redemption of Henry Myers,” 8-10 p.m., Hallmark Movie
Channel. Solid, somber and understated, this is the story of an old-West
outlaw, nursed back to health by a devout family. Produced by former
presidential candidate Rick Santorum, it’s slow and predictable, with a worthy
message about humanity.

“Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. The notorious Pascal LeMarchal
arrives; also, Emily and Victoria battle publicly.

“Crisis,” 10 p.m., NBC. Like CBS’ “Hostages,” this is about
a hostage sceme with White House links; and like that failed show, we don’t
believe a moment of it. Not the arbitrarily nasty teen … not the girl mumbling
about music … not the easily molded grown-ups … and certainly not the FBI agent
(Rachael Taylor) who seems like an exaggerated version of all the lunk-headed
male cops in bad old shows.

“Girls,” 10 p.m., HBO. This erratic but oft-terrific show
wraps its season on the opening night of Adam’s play. Hannah gets news that
could have a big effect on her life.

TV column for Saturday, March 22

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all day, CBS and cable.

This time, there’s no pause for news or talk shows. CBS
gives us four straight NCAA tournament games; two cable networks add two

The CBS games are at noon ET and about 2:30 p.m., then 5 and
about 7:30; TNT is 6 p.m. and about 8:30, TBS is 7 and about 9:30. There are
eight more games Sunday, leaving us with the sweet 16.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Muppets” (2011), 8-10 p.m., Disney.

On the day after “Muppets Most Wanted” opens in theaters,
Disney reruns the previous gem.

Jason Segel co-wrote and starred in it, with Amy Adams –
light years away from her “American Hustle” role – as his sweet his girlfriend.
Bret McKenzie (from the Flight of the Conchords duo) wrote “Man or Muppet,”
which won an Oscar, and other witty songs that were nominated for other awards.
The result is a family film in the true sense – witty enough for parents to
watch with their kids.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci’s Demons” season-opener, 9
p.m., Starz; reruns at 10 and 11.

Last season ended with Florence in crisis. A mob was
storming the palace; Lorenzo de Medici was gravely wounded. Only Leonardo da
Vinci – master of medicine, weaponry, art and love – can save him.

His idea is both gruesome and compelling. Meanwhile, his
friends try to follow the plan to catch a ship to South America; Lucretia
Donati – mistress to da Vinci and de Medici, spy for Rome – is also entwined.

Yes, much of this is iffy historically. Still, it’s smartly
written and superbly filmed. A year ago, this da Vinci was just another TV
playboy; now he bears the future of the Renaissance.

Other choices include:

More family films, cable. Two more films are witty enough
for grown-ups or kids. .“Shrek” (2001), 7 p.m. on the Cartoon Network, is an
animated delight. “The Pink Panther” (1963), 8 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies,
isn’t a cartoon (except for the delightful opening credits), but has brilliant
sight gags.

“Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here’s
a quick rerun of Tuesday’s special, a blatant ad for Marvel. We would object to
all this hype, except that most of it is actually true.

“Ripper Street,” 9-10:15 p.m., BBC America. The murder of a
newspaper boy exposes a larger scheme.

“Crisis,” 10 p.m., NBC. On the eve of the second episode,
here’s another chance to see the opener, with an elaborate kidnapping plot. The
result is more ambitious than CBS’ failed “Hostages” but has the same problems
with strained credibility and a story that’s likely to be stretched out for too

“Ghetto Klown,” 10 p.m., HBO. The notion of a crying clown,
wracked by pain, is a cliché, we’re told; plenty of comedians (from Bill Cosby
to Jerry Seinfeld) have had joy and balance. Still, John Leguizamo seems to
live the cliché. Hugely talented and successful, he finds personal agony that
he puts in his one-man shows. Here, he describes rage toward his parents, two
wives, some co-workers, his best friend and, especially, himself. It’s a
painful journey, spiced with Leguizamo’s knack for humor and warmth.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Jonah Hill hosts
this rerun, with music from Bastille.

TV column for Friday, March 21

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all day, CBS and cable.

By the end of the day, the NCAA tournament will be down to
32 teams, ready for a new round. Before that, however, possible mismatches
loom; you rarely get much buzz about a Duke-Mercer game, which is how CBS
starts its day at 12:15 p.m. ET; cable starts at 12:40 (TruTV), 1:40 (TBS) and
2:10 (TNT).

Still, there are some games that are expected to be tight.
Try Gonzaga and Oklahoma State (4:40 p.m. ET, TNT), then Memphis-George
Washington (6:55, TBS) and Kentucky-Kansas State (9:40, CBS).

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CW.

The notion is simple – put four clever guys on stage, toss
in some odd situations plus props and limits, then see what happens. It could
be awful … except that these guys are really sharp.

A few ideas die, but most soar. Watch people riff on things
you don’t want to hear from your veterinarian (“your goat was delicious”),
things you should say about your house but not your mate (“wow, your backyard
is huge”) or things you shouldn’t shout out during sex (“what are you doing
over there?”). Or watch Wayne Brady improvise a song about Tara Lipinski; these
guys are good. 

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

For a time, John Lennon seemed lost in America. He drank
heavily; he left his wife Yoko Ono for what he called his “lost weekend” – actually,
18 months with May Pang and much alcohol.

Then he returned to Ono and transformed. Their son Sean was
born; Lennon spent five years at home, baking cookies and taking Sean to
Central Park. He had finally returned to the studio when he was killed in 1980.
This rerun offers rich detail, with comments from Ono, Pang and others.

Other choices include:

“Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox. Kate Burton (“Scandal,” “Grey’s
Anatomy”) shows up here as a murder suspect. Things get tough when her lawyer
(Greg Kinnear) becomes a suspect in the murder of the mayor.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. For once, Boyd’s father
and grandfather agree on something. Both oppose the school counselor’s
suggestion that he take medication for attention-deficit disorder.

“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. How reluctant is Debbie to
visit her wild mother (Rhea Perlman)? She takes along the neighbors – who are,
literally, from outer space – to make things more normal.

“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Pete tries to distance
himself from his brothers.

“Raising Hope,” 9:30, Fox. Just as Virginia stops believing
in the supernatural, her husband finds a guy (Mike O’Malley) has been living in
their bomb shelter. He tries to persuade her the house is haunted.

“Blondie’s New York,” 10 p.m., Smithsonian. In its ragged,
1970’s era, New York had a surge of punk-rock bands. Only one had Deborah
Harry, a beautician/barmaid with a unique way of writing and delivering lyrics.
She growled “One Way or Another,” but gave “Heart of Glass” a wispy feel. It
reached No. 1 in 16 countries, this OK documentary says, sparking an album that
has sold 20 million copies.

“Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Beverly Katz secretly confers
with Will – who urges her to prove that Hannibal Lecter is the real serial