TV column for Wednesday, April 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Justified,” 10
p.m., FX.

“I had every intention of livin' a
simple life, raisin' my boys and keepin' house,” Mags Bennett, one
of TV's great characters, tells federal Marshal Raylon Givens
tonight.

Then life intervened. She became the
matriarch of a Kentucky crime family, a central figure in the eternal
war between the Bennetts and the Givens clan. Now her son has killed
Raylan's beloved aunt; there are brilliant bursts of dialog and
passion, leading to next week's season-finale.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “American
Idol,” 8-9:30 p.m., Fox.

The final six singers dig into the
songs of Carole King. Its a great collection to choose from.

King had some big songs she cut
herself, including the two-sided hit “It's Too Late” and “I
Feel the Earth Move.” But she soared with tunes sung by others –
“Natural Woman,” “You've Got a Friend,” “One Fine Day,”
“Up On the Roof, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Love
My Tomorrow?”

She even wrote rowdy rock songs,
“Locomotion” and “Chains.” The “Idol” finalists should
have fun.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Royal wedding
previews, everywhere.

Cable continues its royally obsession
and now NBC jumps in. For four months, it says, it's been taping
preparations; now Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira host “Inside the
Royal Wedding,” at 8 p.m.

And cable? TLC reruns a good special
(“Wild About Harry,” about Prince William's younger brother) at 8
p.m. and a lightweight one at 10. “Royal Collections” includes
one woman stuffs her home with 10,000 items; another who spent
$150,000 for four Diana dresses, then ignored them for years.

Others jump in. BBC America has “Prince
William's Africa” (an interesting story, ineptly told) at 8. The
Biography Channel has “William & Kate” from 8-10 p.m. and
Kate Middleton alone at 10.

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last
week, David Murphy and Juliet Wolfe was sent to Redemption Island,
already occupied by Matt Elrod (who's been there almost from the
start) and Mike Chiesel. Eight others remain on the mainland.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Age
is sneaking up on Frankie in this rerun. A clerk assumes she's
shopping for adult diapers; also, she won't admit she's thrown out
her back.

– “Better With You,” 8:30, ABC.
Mia and Casey want to postpone the wedding until after their baby is
born. That creates a logistic nightmare, including a bridal-shop
owner who won't give a refund.

– “Modern Family,” 9 and 10:30
p.m., ABC. Both reruns catch key days for Phil and Claire. On their
anniversary, they're having sex when the kids walk in; on Valentine's
Day, they spice up the relationship by pretending to be other people,
having an affair.

– “The Voice,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. In
a late change, NBC reruns Tuesday's “debut.

– “Breaking In,” 9:30, Fox.
People are skeptical when Melanie's ex-con father suddenly shows up.

– “Happy Endings,” 10 p.m., ABC.
In a change, ABC is inserting an episode with Damon Wayans as guest
star. He plays the father of Brad (played, appropriately, by Damon
Wayans Jr.); they have a non-verbal relationship – until Brad's
wife nudges him to have a “dad date” and express his feelings.

 

TV column for Tuesday, April 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice”
debut, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

The newest music competition starts by
establishing a contrast with “American Idol.”

These four judges have their backs to
the singers. If someone likes one, he spins around and sees who's
been chosen for the “team” he'll mentor; if more than one judge
does, the singer chooses.

One judge is Blake Shelton, who was
great in similar duty for “Clash of the Choirs.” Others are Cee
Lo Green, Adam Levine (of Maroon 5) and the gifted and controversial
Christina Aguilera.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Glee,”
8-9:30 p.m., Fox.

Don't expect Fox to let an “American
Idol” competitor start easily. It throws in an expanded “Glee,”
to intrude on the opener of “TheVoice.”

This one is built around Lady Gaga
songs. Also, Lauren and Quinn compete to be prom queen, Santana
schemes, Rachel has a key decision and Emma confronts her obsessions.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings) and “Body of Proof,” 10:01
p.m., ABC.

Each week, the above-average “Body”
shows an intense medical examiner (Dana Delany) solving a murder.
Tonight, the case pulls her back to the high-society world she once
new.

Before that, catch a rerun of a superb
“Frontline,” showing how real-life medical examiners vary.

If the body of Michael Jordan's father
had been found a few miles away, the murder would have been probed
with North Carolina's sophisticated system. Instead, this was in a
South Carolina county; its medical examiner was a building inspector,
a previous one was blind. The autopsy was done in a garage, 100 miles
away; then the body was cremated, because there was no refrigeration.

Other choices include:

– “The Biggest Loser,” 8-9 p.m.,
NBC. Down to its final seven, the show trims to an hour.

– “Black in Latin America,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Less than a decade after slavery
was abolished in Cuba, Henry Louis Gates says in this strong
documentary, a black man was one of the key leaders in fighting for
independence from Spain. Cuba would soon be a land of racial
equality, leaders said; then the U.S. took control, propelling it
toward fierce racism.

– Royalty specials, 8-11 p.m., TLC.
First come reruns – “William, Kate & 8 Royal Weddings” at
8, “Untold Stories of a Royal Bridesmaid” at 9. The latter has
India Hicks, who (at 13) was one of two bridesmaids in charge of
Princess Diana's record 25-foot train. At 10 and 10:30, the bland
“Sell” shows people with royal souvenirs; this may be your one
chance to see the American Toby Jug Museum.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Callen's former partner is responsible for the violent takeover
of a Navy recruitment center.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In the rerun of an interesting episode, the firm must quickly decide
whether to represent someone accusing a prominent official of
unwelcome sexual advances.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Beaten brutally 11 years ago, Mark
Hogancamp lost his memory. He created an alternate world – a World
War II one populated by dolls. He photographed them, creating stories
of heroism, horror and romance. Then his work was discovered and
shown in a Greenwich Village gallery; it's a moving story, with deep
pain and strong artistry.

 

TV column for Monday, April 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dancing With the
Stars” and “Better With You,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. Last week,
Petra Nemcova was the fourth “Dancing” celebrity ousted. Now a
new round begins.

Afterward, an excellent comedy episode
includes a “Dancing” pro. Derek Hough had one of the show's best
scores, while winning with Nicole Scherzinger (as did his sister
Julianne while winning with Apolo Anton Ohno). Here, he has a funny
bit as Casey's dance instructor; Larry King also guests.

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

The Stonewall Inn never had the feel of
historic significance, this compelling documentary says. It was a
Mafia-owned dive in New York, with bad drinks and cheap décor.

In 1969, homosexuality was illegal in
every state except Illinois, giving the Mob profit potential. It
owned gay bars like this one and bribed the police, which made only
token raids on quiet days.

Then, on a busy June weekend, cops
inexplicably raided the packed bar, spurring the gay-rights
revolution. “Stonewall Uprising” uses old films and memories to
show the pain of an underground life.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Wild About
Harry,” 10 p.m., TLC.

As his brother nears his royal wedding,
this film pauses to view the transformations of Prince Harry.

He went from a sweet and fun-loving kid
before his mother's death to being a teen known for wild nights. Not
helping was his dad's decision to let the boys have their own
downstairs nightclub.

Then he transformed anew – maybe
because of Army duty in Afghanistan or his intermittent romance with
Chelsy Davy, a free-spirited South African. Overcoming its horribly
overwritten narration, this documentary skillfully assembles clips
and interviews to portray a life-in-progress at 26.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
terrific rerun, a just-discovered medicine jar crumbles in a teen's
hand, leaving her with symptoms of smallpox. Now the hospital is in
quarantine.

– “William & Kate: A Royal Love
Story” (TLC) or “Prince William & Catherine: A Royal Love
Story” (Oprah Winfrey Network), both 8 p.m. The same story gets
told in two ways.

– “Gossip Girl,” 9 p.m., CW. In
the week of the royal wedding, Blair's own prince visits –
secretly, he thinks – from Europe. There's much fuss over that and
another semi-crisis: Lily, under house arrest in her penthouse, is no
longer in the social swirl. This will be of interest only to “Gossip
Girl” buffs.

– “Restrepo,” 9 p.m., National
Geographic. In a late change, the channel is re-running this
excellent, Oscar-nominated documentyary plus a tribute to its late
co-director,. Tim Hetherington, 40, was killed last week while
covering the war in Libya; for “Restrepo,” he and Sebastian
Junger spent a combined 10 months with a U.S. unit in Afghanistan,
capturing the quiet passion of soldiers.

– “Royally Astounding: 30 Defining
Days of the Monarchy,” 9 p.m., TLC. This one is just a blitz of
short clips of major events for the royal family, adding little
depth.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In a
startling early scene, a retired detective is ready to tell Beckett
something about the murder of her mother … until a sniper guns him
down.

TV column for Sunday, April 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Beyond the
Blackboard,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

For the third time, “Hallmark Hall of
Fame” has a superb story of a real-life teacher.

Like the previous ones – “Front of
the Class,” “The Water is Wide” – we meet a young person in a
nearly impossible situation. In this case, Emily VanCamp (“Brothers
& Sisters”) is excellent as a newcomer in a tattered classroom
for migrant kids. Emmy-winner Jeff Bleckner directed beautifully.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece
Classic,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the finale (for now) of this
“Upstairs Downstairs” sequel, it's 1936. Agnes (the superb Keeley
Hawes) is pregnant; her shallow sister and the chauffeur are drawn to
Fascism.

Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard),
Agnes' husband, loses his cool exterior as he raises a Jewish orphan
and finds a secret in his family. Some of this is rushed and
melodramatic, but most is beautifully done.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Royal
programming, cable.

Diana Spencer grew up with a photo of
Prince Charles on her wall, we're told in “The Women Who Would Be
Queen” (8 and 11 p.m. on CNN); Kate Middleton grew up with a photo
of Prince William. Still, these country kids were opposites; Soledad
O'Brien skillfully explores the differences.

Earlier, “Charles and Di” (7-9
p.m., TLC) is a barebones special that simply replays the 1981
wedding, plus some news footage and pop-up facts. At 9, some viewers
will stick with TLC for two more specials; others will switch to
Lifetime for a rerun of its so-so “William & Kate” movie.

And BBC America? At 2 p.m., “Prince
William's Africa” is inept, but conveys the prince's passion for
the continent. From 6-8 p.m., it reruns Cat Deeley's
lightweight-but-fun tour, “Royally Mad.”

Other choices include:

– “Simpsons” marathon, 7-10 p.m.,
Fox. It's an all-Simpsons night, which is all-good. First are reruns
of two series episodes – Bart adopts a pigeon, Cheech and Chong
split. Then comes the enjoyable “Simpsons Movie” (2007) at 8,
with the entire town encased by a dome.

– “Human Planet,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
Discovery. This gorgeous series concludes with desert-dwellers and
then “Life at the Extremes,” ranging from an Indonesian tree
house to a Mongolian eagle-trainer.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Husbands are in a disapproving mood tonight. Carlos wants
Gabrielle to snub Bree; Mike wants Susan to avoid Paul Young.

– “Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO.
After last week's so-so start, this miniseries adds depth to the
family of Ned and Catelyn. Their son was pushed over a cliff, after
seeing a tryst; their daughters – Sansa and the bold Arya –
travel with their dad (becoming the king's top man) and protective
wolves.

– “Treme,” 10 p.m., HBO. This
superb mini-series starts its second season with more great music –
especially from violinist-turned-actress Lucia Micarelli – and deep
drama. Delmond and Janette are separately in New York, as a trumpeter
and chef. Back home in New Orleans, Sofia has her late father's rage.
Crime and schemes grow; David Morse and Jon Seda become regulars, as
a cop and a developer.

– “The Killing,” 10 p. m., AMC.
In another strong episode, police find a major suspect.

– “Brothers & Sisters,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Nora agonizes over her broken romance; her son Kevin
agonizes over custody of his surrogate baby. Also, Justin discovers a
secret about a sibling's birth.

TV column for Saturday, April 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Cinema Verite,”
9 p.m., HBO.

Forty years ago, the world hadn't heard
of “reality TV.” A crew was simply making a very long PBS
documentary; it would spend seven months recording the life of one
California family.

The Louds were enviable – money, good
looks, five bright and creative kids. Then their lives – and the
life of the producer of “An American Family” – began to
crumble.

People still argue about whether the
show propelled the troubles or merely recorded them. It was a
dramatic story, richly told here – with Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and
– going wonderfully against type as the filmmaker – James
Gandolfini.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Chase,” 8
p.m., NBC.

NBC opened the season with high-octane
shows from top producers. Several soon failed.

That included this one, from producer
Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI”). It has a strong star (Kelli Giddish),
a good concept (U.S. marshals chasing federal fugitives) and a
slickly impersonal feel.

Now, with five episodes left, “Chase”
returns after a three-month break. Tonight, a predator targets single
women to get at their young daughters.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Doctor Who”
season-opener, 9 p.m., BBC America.

Last season was brilliant, with a new
Doctor (Matt Smith) and new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) saving
the world anew. That re-runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, with a
recap at 8 and 10.

In between, the new season starts. For
the first time in its 47 years, “Doctor Who” filmed in the U.S.;
this episode find the Doctor linking with Richard Nixon (really) to
save the world yet again.

Other choices include:

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 6:30
p.m., Cartoon Network. On the night before Easter, overexcited
families can settle in and savor a classic. Another beautifully
crafted choice is “Jurassic Park” (1993), the Steven Spielberg
adventure, at 7 p.m. on TNT.

– “The Ten Commandments” (1956),
7-11:45 p.m., ABC (some stations will start at 8). This film – an
annual, Easter Week feature for ABC – is considered a classic,
complete with Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, epic scenes and director
Cecil B. DeMille parting the Red Sea. By modern standards, however,
it seems stiff and flat.

– “CSI:NY,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, the team has been called to an old mansion that includes booby
traps and a century-old corpse.

– “CSI:Miami,” 9 p.m., CBS. In
this rerun, a reality show star has been killed at a promotional
party.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a high-speed chase ends with the police
finding a dead passenger, but no driver.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden guests in this
rerun, as an FBI agent who returns to undercover work shortly after
being raped.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Jesse Eisenberg hosts this rerun – joined, briefly, by
Mark Zuckerberg, whom he portrayed in “The Social Network.” Nicki
Minaj is the music guest.