TV column for Sunday, March 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Frozen Planet”
debut, 8 and 9 p.m., Discovery.

The Arctic and Antarctica are outsized
worlds. A bear can weigh almost a ton; an iceberg can be the size of
Manhattan. In these splendid documentaries, animals seek love
(briefly) and food (obsessively).

There's humor, as one penguin builds
its nest by stealing stones from another … who seems blissfully
unaware. There's ferocity, as giant walruses battle, with tiny
penguins seeming nonchalant nearby. And there's stunning precision,
as whales' synchronized swimming knocks penguins off their ice-floe
safety.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Desperate
Housewives,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Last week ended with a jolt, when Mike
Delfino was killed by a drive-by gunman. Tonight brings the funeral
and flashbacks from his widow Susan and friends.

All of them have another problem: They
had thought they'd covered up the death of Gabrielle's abusive
father-in-law, who was killed by Carlos to protect her. Now the probe
is re-opened.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, noon
ET, CBS.

By the end of the night, the NCAA
tournament will have its sweet 16.

CBS has a tripleheader, then gives the
fourth game (at 7:30 p.m.) to Tru TV. There are also doubleheaders at
6 p.m. on TNT and 7 p.m. on TBS.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Life is
Short,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.

This series ripples with the darkly
wicked wit of writer-producers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
It's a mock-documentary that pretends that actor Warwick Davis is
vain and foolish.

In some hilarious scenes, he meets the
charlatan who is his spiritual adviser, then manages to insult a
Catholic and a Scientologist. Also, he bungles some promising
romances.

Other choices include:

– “Oprah's Next Chapter,” 7-11
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. The first two hours rerun Winfrey's
Steven Tyler interview. Then is a new two-parter with Lady Gaga.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. In both worlds, there's trouble for Snow White (Ginnifer
Goodwin). In the fairy-tale world, she's under a spell; Prince
Charming tries to stop her from killing the Evil Queen. In the modern
world, she's charged with killing the wife of Charming's equivalent.

– “Bob's Burgers,” 8:30 p.m.,
Fox. Amid a bank's hostage crisis, the robber needs burgers.
Suddenly, Bob is at the core, as a go-between. The result is much
funnier than last week's season-opener.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m. (or
later, with a basketball overrun), CBS. Michael J. Fox has already
done four episodes as Louis Canning, the cunning lawyer, receiving an
Emmy nomination. Now he again battles Alicia in court; this time, she
has money trouble and reconsiders his standing job offer.

– “The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m.,
AMC. The season finale finds Rick facing doubts about his leadership.

– “Luck,” 9 p.m., HBO. Enraged by
an apparent murder, Ace (Dustin Hoffman) shows his fierce intensity.
Also, an accident has a sharp impact on Jo (Jill Hennessy).

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS (or
later, with a basketball overrun). When a popular tennis coach is
killed, there's a personal connection to Calleigh (Emily Procter).

TV column for Saturday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all
day.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to 32
now, so CBS doesn't have to share as much with cable networks. It has
half of today's eight games and three of Sunday's eight.

Today, CBS' first game is at noon, with
others at about 2:30, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Other doubleheaders start at 6
pm. on TNT and at 7 p.m. on TBS.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Harry's Law,”
8 p.m., NBC.

This likable-enough show from producer
David E. Kelley finally moved into a regular timeslot last Sunday,
getting decent ratings. Add in these Saturday reruns and you have an
OK weekend habit.

Tonight, Harry (Kathy Bates) defends a
guy who bought a kidney. Tommy defends twins whose shared husband
died; Roseanna (Jean Smart) isn't sure which twin to prosecute. The
stories may get silly, but the people are talented: Smart has three
Emmys, Kelley has 10, Bates has an Oscar.

TONIGHT'S ALTERATIVE: “Chasing
Leprechauns,” 8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark; and/or “Leprechaun's
Revenge,” 9 p.m., Syfy.

On St. Patrick's Day, we have to make
up our minds: Leprechauns are fun or fierce.

Hallmark prefers fun. Its film has an
Irish village requiring an odd environmental impact statement: Before
an area is developed, it must be certified as leprechaun-free. An
American businessman (Adrian Pasdar) must work with a local bartender
(Irish actress Amy Huberman).

And Syfy prefers ferocity. When a teen
(Courtney Halverson) picks a red shamrock, she unleashes a killer
leprechaun who could destroy the St. Patrick's Day parade. The story
is so-so, but ther are strong performances from Halverson, Billy Zane
and William Devane, playing three generations of O'Haras.

Other choices include:

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 10 a.m. to 1
a.m., WE. This may be designed for people wildly disinterested in
basketball. It's 15 hours of Jennifer Love Hewitt seeing dead people.

– “Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
switch, ABC is inserting this episode. Ideas ranges from a cake mix
for dogs to a towel design that allows someone to change in and out
of a swimsuit in public.

– “Die Hard” (1988), 8 p.m., AMC.
Bad guys control a high-rise – except for a rogue cop (Bruce
Willis) who's inside. A smart script combined with John McTiernan's
superb direction.

– “20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Here's
another round of “My Extreme Affliction.”

– “Fashion Star,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
NBC. In a change, NBC reruns Tuesday's debut. It's sort of a “Project
Runway” on hyperdrive – booming music, quickie fashion shows,
even store buyers pushing buttons to make bids. Still, the designers
are interesting: One guy weeps; another insults the women judges.

– “Being Human,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
BBC America. The focus is on baby Eve, who'scrucial to the future of
mankind. Annie the ghost protects her; so (at first) does another
ghost, a charming guy.

– “Off Their Rockers,” 10:30
p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the special, hosted by Betty White, that
had seniors pulling hidden-camera tricks. This will turn into a
series on April 4.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Charles Barkley hosts this rerun, with Kelly Clarkson as
the music guest.

TV column for Friday, March 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “In Plain Sight”
season-opener, 10 p.m., USA.

For four seasons, Mary Shannon (Mary
McCormack) has been a solid TV character.

A federal marshal in the witness
protection program, she's tough, cynical, no-nonsense. She fumed at
her wayward sister and flighty mom; she rarely opened up to lovers or
colleagues.

Now the final season begins with a big
detour: Mary has a baby; the control freak has an uncontrolled life.
A so-so crime story (with a big action jolt in the middle) is boosted
by character moments.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, all
day.

This is the second day of full-throttle
tournament – four networks, each airing two doubleheaders.

For CBS (dumping its soaps and cop
shows), that starts at noon and 7 p.m. Other doubleheaders are on Tru
TV (12:30 and 7:15 p.m.), TBS (1:30 and 6:45) and TNT (2 and 7:15).
By the end of the night, we'll have 32 teams for the new round
Saturday and Sunday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Who Do You
Think You Are?”8 p.m., NBC.

Martin Sheen has spent much of his life
as a battler, arrested for protests in the U.S. and abroad. Now this
excellent rerun finds that trait on both sides of his family.

One uncle was imprisoned for fighting
the Ireland-England compromise called the Irish Free State; another
received a life sentence (later softened) for fighting Franco in
Spain.

Sheen is impressed by that, but less
pleases about an 18th-century relative – a judge who
sentenced others for moral violations, while having a wife, a
mistress and six illegitimate children.

Other choices include:

– “Nikita,” 8 p.m., CW. Amanda
must turn to Nikita for help, when agents are being slain one-by-one.

– “Game Change” (2011), 8 p.m.,
HBO. If you still haven't seen this film, catch it now. Assembled
from interviews with campaign staffers, it catches the drama of
thrusting the unknown Sarah Palin, just two years removed from being
a small-town mayor, into the jaws of a national campaign.

– “Standing in the Shadows of
Motown” (2002), 8-10 p.m., Sundance. There are interview portions,
but mostly this is a great concert film. The back-up musicians from
Motown hits are re-united for performances that also include Joan
Osborne, Ben Harper, Chaka Khan, Montell Jordan and more.

– “Supernatural,” 9 p.m., CW. A
ballerina dances herself to death. As you may have already assumed,
the problem involves cursed slippers.

– “Fairly Legal” season-opener, 9
p.m., USA. Depressed and divorcing, Kate (Sarah Shahi) is at a bar,
where she does verbal battle with a brash stranger. It's a great
opening scene, stting up the show's sharp makeover. Kate is a
lawyer-turned-mediator who hates lawyers and courtrooms; still, she
now owns part of her dad's law firm, battling his widow (Virginia
Williams) and a newcomer (Ryan Johnson). Tonight's case is
unexceptional, but the internal struggles are first-rate.

– “Spartacus,” 10 p.m., Starz. A
colleague offers the ultimate revenge: Spartacus can kill the wife of
the Roman who had his wife killed. Then, of course, complications
pile up. As usual, this is beautifully filmed but absurdly gory.
There's even a flashback, vividly recalling one man's goriest deeds.

TV column for Thursday, March 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Missing” debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

A widow (Ashley Judd) desperately
searches for her teen son in Rome. She's on her own, surrounded by
killers and confusion.; fortunately, she has skills that viewers (and
her son) didn't know about.

The result is one of the season's best
new shows. Judd is brilliant, the European backdrops add texture and
the action scenes – including two fights and a sensational
motorbike chase – are movie-quality.

The catch? This is serialized,
continuing the story each week. It's both exciting and frustrating.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Touch” (9
p.m., Fox) and “Awake” (10 p.m.), NBC.

If you've ever doubted that we're in a
golden age for TV drama, just go from “Missing” to these two.

On three different networks, you'll see
show with smart scripts, deep emotions and superb direction.

“Touch” repeats its pilot film
(which was shown Jan. 25), before starting new episodes next week. A
widower (Kiefer Sutherland) realizes something special is happening
in the mind of his mute son.

“Awake” is the intense story of a
cop who's jostled between two realities, one imaginary. Tonight, he
tries to use information from one world to find the son who has been
kidnapped in the other..

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, all
day.

Here's a major change in the NCAA
tournament: Every game will be shown nationwide.

That re quires four networks, each
carrying a pair of double-headers today. The CBS twin bills start at
noon and 7 p.m.; Tru TV 1s 12:30 and 7:15 p.m., with TBS at 1:30 and
6:45, TNT at 2 and 7:15.

Other choices include:

– “Jersey Shore,” 9:30 a.m. to 1
a.m., MTV. First is a 12-episodee rerun marathon. That leads to the
90-minute season finale at 10 p.m., rerunning at 11:30.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. Back
from its 10-week break, “Community” puts its focus on Shirley.
She has a business idea with Pierce (Chevy Chase) and a re-marriage
proposal from her ex-husband (Malcolm Jamal Warner).The result is
inconsistent, but has some fun moments – especially with two of
Shirley's friends (Jeff and Britta) being stridently anti-marriage.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Jackson's mother (Debbie Allen) swirls back into town, joining
Richard for some innovative surgery and for some flirting. Meanwhile,
there are rumors of romances – Alex with Morgan the intern, Owen
(who's married) with Emily the nurse.

– “Project Runway,” 9 p.m.,
Lifetime. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) dumped Kenley and
got down to the final three – Michael Costello, Mondo Guerre and
Austin Scarlett. Now the two-week finale begins, as they scramble to
prepare for a final fashion show.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. These are complicated times for the women. Erica (A.J. Langer)
takes a turn for the worse and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) must make a
decision about her unborn baby; also, Sam is cautioned not to try to
care for Corinne (Anika Noni Rose) at home.

– “Inside Comedy,” 11 p.m.,
Showtime. Two masters of straight-faced comedy are interviewed. Ellen
DeGeneres tells how a quiet kid from Louisiana accidentally got on a
comedy stage. Tim Coway offers little information, but great fun. Two
Conway clips – one of tiny Dorf, the other of a dentist who
accidentally shoots his hand with Novocaine – are hilarious.

TV column for Wednesday, March 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Whitney,” 8
p.m., NBC.

When Neal and Lily ended their
engagement, friends were stunned. Now he's ignoring her calls;
Whitney decides it's time for some creative spying. The result shows
what a smart show this is.

“Whitney” is bold and brash and
given to quick jokes, but this isn't the time for that. What's
remarkable is how nimbly the show finds some sensitivity – without
sacrificing much of the humor.

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

Last week, four of the women conquered
tough Whitney Houston songs. The two who failed (Elise Testone and
Shannon Magrane) ended up in the bottom with Jeremy Rosado and –
inexplicably – Jermaine Jones; Rosado was sent home.

Tonight, the survivors – six men and
six women – sing and viewers voted. On Thursday, Chris Daughtry
will perform and “Idol” will have another ouster.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE, 2.5: “Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Back in high school, Eric Stonestreet
was both a football player and a clown. That's why producers created
Fizbo, the clown identity of Cameron (Stonestreet).

Now Cam goes to a funeral for his
mentor and meets his former clown partner (Bobby Cannavale). Also,
Phil faces a fierce business competitor (Ellen Barkin).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Interior
Therapy” opener, 9 p.m., Bravo.

In the early “Flipping Out” days,
Jeff Lewis was brash and brusque and unlikable. Then the market
sagged, house-flipping slowed … and he became a better (and more
interesting) person.

This series has Lewis and assistant
Jenni Pulos redecorate a home in five days, living there and
communing with the clients – who are fun to know. In this opener we
meet a woman who was guaranteed – in her husband's wedding vows –
the right to make all design decisions.

Other choices include:

 

– Basketball, 6:40 and about 9:10
p.m. ET, Tru TV. Here are two more advance games, before the NCAA
tournament reaches full speed Thursday. Vermont and Lamar are first;
the winner must face North Carolina on Friday. Then is South Florida
and California; the winner faces Temple.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Nobody plays a newsman as well as Ed Asner, who won five Emmys for
being Lou Grant on two shows. Now he plays the editor of the local
paper, which Brick is delivering.

– “A Streetcar Named Desire”
(1951), 8 and 10:15 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Here's one of the
best-acted films in Hollywood history, with great work from Marlon
Brando, Vivien Leigh and more.

– “Holes” (2003), 8:30-10:40
p.m., Disney. A kid (Shia LaBeouf) is sent to a detention camp where
the guys simply dig and fill holes. The result is a gem for people of
any age

– “America's Next Top Model,” 9
p.m., CW. In an “Apprentice”-like detour, each team plans a photo
shoot. The result is fairly interesting and leads to one model's
screaming confrontation.

– “Nothing Personal: Murder For
Hire,” 9 p.m., ID (Investigation Discovery). Todd Garton managed to
convince friends that he was a former rock star and military hero. He
also convinced one that his wife was a trained assassin who needed to
be killed; it's an intriguing tale, in this non-fiction series.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a death photo shows up on the Internet, the team
uses the social media to learn what happened.

– “Psych,” 10 p.m., USA. A murder
sends the guys to a dating show – where they're more interested in
winning than in solving the case. This is a goofy story with a so-so
ending, but it's fun along the way.

– “South Park” and “Ugly
Americans” season-openers, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.
“South Park” starts its 16th season; “Ugly” starts
its third with an OK tale of a mini-villain in someone's body.