TV column for Saturday, Feb. 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Devil Wears
Prada” (2006), 9-11 p.m., ABC.

A fun novel has been deftly adapted
into a movie. Anne Hathaway is just right as the brainy college grad,
interning at a fashion magazine; Meryl Streep is subtly perfect as
her demanding boss.

The master stroke involved choosing
David Frankel to direct. Earlier, he'd captured urban glamor in
episodes of “Sex and the City” and “Grapevine.” Now he brings
cosmopolitan class to “Prada.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Smash, 8
p.m., NBC.

Barring a late change, here's another
chance to see this terrific show's third episode.

Karen (Katharine McPhee) is devastated
by just missing the lead in a Marilyn Monroe musical. She returns
home for a bridal shower and a sampling of real life in Iowa.

Meanwhile, the musical must fill the
Joe DiMaggio role. Will Chase – who has done eight Broadway
musicals – plays the front-runner.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Independent
Spirit Awards,” 10 p.m., IFC.

On the eve of the Academy Awards, the
Independent Film Channel celebrates modest-budget movies.
Best-picture choices include two films (“The Descendants” and
“The Artist”) up for the same award at the Oscars; they face
“50/50,” “Beginners,” “Drive” and “Take Shelter.”
Seth Rogen of “50/50” hosts.

Other Oscar nominees who are up for
Spirits are actors Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”) and Jean
Dujardin (“The Artist”), actress Michelle Williams (“My Week
With Marilyn”) and, in support, Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”)
and Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”).

Other choices include:

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Jeff plans to surprise Audrey by remembering their
anniversary. Also, Timmy has to be Russell's translator on a date.

– “The Preacher's Wife” (1996), 8
p.m. ET, Flix. This film was scheduled prior to the death of Whitney
Houston, who has the title role. The story is so-so, but the gospel
music is vibrant, with help from Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom),
Lionel Richie, Jennifer Lewis and more.

– More movies, 8 p.m., cable. On
Oscar eve, Showtime has “The King's Speech” (2010), which won
four Academy Awards, including best picture, actor (Colin Firth),
script and director. Turner Classic Movies has “Grapes of Wrath”
(1940); it won for director John Ford and supporting actress Jane
Darwell and was nominated for five more, including best picture.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. Alan finds troubles, fresh from the hospital, in this
rerun.

– “The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, one person has been killed on a rich family's compound
and another is missing.

– “Witchslayer Gretl,” 9-11 p.m.,
Syfy. What happened after Hansel and Gretel (or Gretl) faced that
killer witch? This story comes decades later, with lots of action
deep in the woods. Younger actors fight and scream a lot; midway in
the film, Shannen Doherty arrives as a mysterious, malevolent force.

 

– “Being Human,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. While the American version (Mondays on Syfy) is in its
second season, the British original starts its fourth. The
third-season finale (rerunning at 8) brought deadly changes. Now the
new season has another key death, plus a flash-forward, a baby (of
werewolf parents) who's crucial to the future and more. It's a
spectacular hour.

 – “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Charlie Day of “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
hosts this rerun, with music by Maroon 5.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 24


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

Here's something big and rare – a TV
production of a Tony-winning musical. “Memphis” shimmers with
great voices and powerhouse songs, in the style of early rock 'n'
roll.

That said, “Memphis” also has huge
flaws. It's based loosely on Dewey Phillips, a real-life character
who went from spinning records at a department store to bringing
black music to a white radio audience. Fast-talking and hyper, he was
bizarre character; this version of him is merely cartoon-ish.

A fictional romance has been added,
with little benefit. Mostly, just savor the great sounds.

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

Things don't go well for Michael's
women. His wife Anna is dead (but keeps appearing to him); now his
high school girlfriend apparently has a terminal illness.

She's played by Maggie Siff, who is
great as Tara in “Sons of Anarchy.” Michael will go to extremes
for her – unless Anna (the dead one) can stop him.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Spartacus,”
10 p.m., Starz.

Amid all the usual elements – blood,
gore, dismemberment – this hour finds an epic situation.

Three men were captured and are
scheduled to die in gladiator games; Spartacus and his people try a
daring rescue. The result is as nasty as usual, but leads to a finish
that's worthy of a mega-movie.

Other choices include:

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Blair Underwood has had questions about both sides of his
family. He's had obstacles, but now there are some breaks and a
chance to meet a relative.

– “Ali” (2001), 8-11 p.m., BET.
This ambitious Michael Mann film portrays a decade in the chaotic
life of Muhammad Ali. There were Oscar nominations for Will Smith as
Ali and Jon Voight as Howard Cosell. The strong cast has Jamie Foxx,
Mario Van Peebles, Mykelti Williamson, Ron Silver and more.

– “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. If you
think fight clubs are rough, imagine a ritualistic one in the
creature world. Nick finds one while investigating a double murder;
soon, he must defend Monroe.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. Peter
and the others go to extremes to stop life-threatening events.

– “Gold Rush,” 9 p.m., Discovery.
Todd, who can be stubborn, takes the bulldozer out on the ice; it
doesn't go well. That's preceded by an 8 p.m. rerun, filled with
equipment trouble.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. An
undercover cop has been killed. He was a friend of the Reagans; as
Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) searches for the killer, his wife worries
about his obsession.

– “Dateline,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Police said Bob Ward, a millionaire developer, shot his wife to death
in their Orlando, Fla., mansion; he says he was trying to stop her
from shooting herself. Complicating the issue was a bizarre video
showing him dancing in his jail cell, a few days later; Dennis Murphy
reports.

– “Portlandia,” 10 p.m., IFC.
Since this terrific comedy is set in Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge of
the Portland Trailblazers shows up. He plays the boyfriend of someone
(Penny Marshall) who disrupts the 10th anniversary of the
women's book store. Also, reruns are at 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “E.T.” (1982),
8-10:30 p.m., AMC.

As the Academy Awards near, it's time
to settle back with a truly great movie.

Currently, Steven Spielberg's “War
Horse” is up for best picture; composer John Williams is nominated
for it and for “Tintin.” Here's a chance to see them at their
best, 30 years ago.

The story of a boy and his outer-space
alien, “E.T.” manages to be warm, funny and exciting, almost
simultaneously. It won Oscars, for Williams' score, plus the sound,
sound effects and visual effects, and was nominated for five more,
including best-picture and Spielberg's perfect direction.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Grey's
Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” 9 and 10:02 p.m., ABC.

From its first episode, with Ellis Grey
(Meredith's brilliant mom) shattered by Alzheimer's disease,
“Anatomy” has faced the pain of family members' illnesses. Now
both these shows are there.

On “Anatomy,” Richard Webber sees
the impact for the second time. He was Ellis' lover; now his wife
Adele (Loretta Devine) sinks deeper into Alzheimer's. And on
“Practice,” Sam's sister (the superb Anika Noni Rose) is crushed
by mental problems.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “POV,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Before NASCAR, some kids try the 70-mph
blur of the World Karting Association. “Racing Dreams” follows
three of them, with mismatched lives.

Josh Hobson is an A student in
Michigan, financed by family, friends and a golf fundraiser. Annabeth
Barnes and Brandon Warren are in North Carolina; her blue-collar
parents love racing, his grandparents have much love, little money
and some shielding from his alcoholic father.

Fans know this was shot five years ago.
Josh and Annabeth now have Web sites; her first stock-car season was
a reality show. Still, this offers a deep look at the fast life from
contrasting perspectives.

Other choices include:
– “The
Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,CBS. Astronaut training is tough and
Wolowitz has second thoughts. Sheldon feels he has a much bigger
problem: His barber is sick.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Jerry has been forgotten again. This time, it's his birthday.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. With
many of the people gone to Florida – where Dwight is fighting for a
vice-presidency – the people back home are strained and have to
work late.

– “Filthy Rich,” 9 p.m., CNBC. In
Malibu and other playgrounds, we see $10 million homes; we hear of
people paying even more for yachts and planes. Then comes the
disturbing part: These are officials in countries – from Africa to
the former Soviet Union – plagued by poverty. They loot the wealth
from oil and other resources, then live big in the U.S. It's a
disturbing report.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The leader of an anti-cult group had been killed. Now Patrick Jane
again investigates Bret Stiles (Malcolm McDowell), a cult leader.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. The
urbane Ray, it seems, is from backwoods West Virginia, where his
brother is a violent drug farmer. That sets up a fun episode, with
Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”) as guest voice.

– “Inside Comedy,” 11 p.m.,
Showtime. Last week's half-hour zipped between three comedians, with
little content. This is the opposite: The entire half-hour is Larry
David chatting with David Steinberg (who sometimes directs his “Curb
Your Enthusiasm”); it's droll and funny.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 22


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

Five weeks after auditions began,
“Idol” is finally ready to have a workable group.

Tonight, survivors of the Hollywood
round get one more chance to perform. Then judges start announcing
the semi-finalists.

The others will be named Thursday. Next
week has three nights and the choice of finalists.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “One Tree Hill,”
8 p.m., CW.

When this show debuted in 2003 on the
WB, it focused on half-brothers: Nathan (James Lafferty) was rich;
Lucas (Chad Michael Murray), raised by a single mom, wasn't. They had
the same father, the same sort of basketball talent and the same
TV-style good looks.

Many of the characters have departed
since then; so has the WB network. Now “Hill” is at the mid-point
of its final, 13-episode season. Lucas returns, to help Haley search
for Nathan.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,”
8-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Whales have nature's biggest brains
and, alas, biggest penises. This excellent, three-part documentary
briefly mentions the latter (which can be nine feet long); more
often, it shows results of the former.

We see stunning footage of whales
scheming an elaborate fish round-up; under a “sea giants” theme,
we also see similar smarts from dolphins.

Dolphins slyly let other creatures do
their work, then swoop in to grab the prey. They even send sound
signals to humans, so we can link with them for a mutual fishing
spree.

Other choices include:

 

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In
an intervention of sorts, the Heck children say Frankie micro-manages
and Mike has bizarre punishments. When the parents step aside, the
kids find new trouble.

– Debate, 8 p.m. ET, CNN; rerunning
at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. After a flurry of 23 full-scale Republican
debates, there's been a lull. This one – in Mesa, Ariz. – is
expected to be the final debate before the Michigan and Arizona
primaries Tuesday and the “Super Tuesday” a week later. Avoiding
the podium format, John King will be at a table with Mitt Romney,
Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30, ABC. The
“That '70s Shows” stars keep returning to TV. Laura Prepon has
“Are You There, Chelsea?” (8:30 p.m. today on NBC) and Ashton
Kutcher has “Two and a Half Men”; now Wilmer Valderrama guests as
the younger brother of Cheryl Hines; he also co-stars in “Awake,”
which will start March 1 on NBC.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Mitchell manages to ruin one of his dad's finest golf moments.

– “Rock Center,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Medical myths keep endangering the globe's great animals; Harry Smith
reports on poaching done for the sale of rhinoceros horns. Also,
Brian Williams talks to Charles Murray (“The Bell Curve”) about
his new book about widening money gaps. Kate Snow profiles Svante
Myrick, once homeless and now, at 24, an Ivy Leaguer and mayor of
Ithaca, NY.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Benson and Haden (Mariska Hargitay and Harry
Connick Jr.) plan a weekend together. It's soon detoured by the
search for an underage prostitute.

– “20/20,” 10 p.m., ABC. Robin
Roberts tries a different sort of Oscar preview. Four days before the
ceremony, she uses old footage and interviews, to show what the
nominees did before being famous.

– “Royal Pains” season finale, 10
p.m., USA. As a doctor, Hank tries to remain calm; now he feels
crushed by the illness of his friend Jack (Tom Cavanagh). In a
lighter story, kids try daredevil videos.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 21


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

Here's the winter finale for this show,
which tends to avoid reruns. At the regional competition, the glee
club faces the Dalton Academy Warblers.

Afterward, a four-comedy night takes
over. “Glee” finally returns April 10 for its spring stretch.

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

Monday's opener ended with Bill
Clinton's presidency wobbling. Clinton was too bold domestically –
his health-care plan was too complex to get approval – and too
timid overseas; he hesitated while genocide shattered Rwanda.
Democrats lost the House and gained a new enemy in Newt Gingrich.

Now a comeback begins, nudged by
advisor Dick Morris. Clinton finds new strength after the Oklahoma
City bombing and belated resolve in Bosnia. He wins the Gingrich
face-off, survives his sex scandal and manages to leave amid
prosperity. It's a fascinating story, beautifully told.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Justified,”
10 p.m., FX.

Last week ended with Winona –
Raylan's former wife and current love – has left him.

He wants to take take time to find her,
but can't: Harlan County is a new battleground.

A slick Detroiter plans to use it as a
base for indiscriminate peddling of prescription drugs. Boyd Crowder,
however, wants to control all Harlan crime; violence erupts early and
often, in a strong hour.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A
reservist with a high security clearance is dead, in what's called a
suicide.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Mike Rowe – known for “Dirty Jobs” and endless commercials
– seems logical to play Mike's macho brother. Now he may get the
contract to build the newest store.

– “Injustice Files,” 8-10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. A dozen years ago, 17-year-old Raynard
Johnson's body was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi. It was
ruled suicide, but some people thought it was retribution for his
romances with white girls. Keith Beauchamp points to small-town
bumbling of the investigation. Adding three other cases, he shows
that lynching may still exist.

– “Cougar Town,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Last week, Grayson stunned Jules – and viewers – with a proposal.
She said yes; now he asks her father (who toys with him) and she
tries to choose a maid-of-honor.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Kensi (Daniela Ruah) is the prime suspect in a murder case.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
comedy rarely visits Jess' teaching job. Tonight, she confronts a
bully.

– “Joan and Melissa,” 9 p.m., WE.
This hour starts light, with Joan Rivers overdoing party-planning.
Then it turns serious, with a rumor about her daughter's live-in
lover.

– “Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. Big
changes are possible for Crosby, involving work (a sudden chance to
sell the studio) and romance (a camp-out with Jasmine and their son).
Meanwhile, Julia and Joel head to the hospital for the birth of the
boy they'll adopt; Sarah considers a life in New York with Mark.

– “White Collar,” 10 p.m., USA.
As a longtime baseball player and fan, Tim DeKay gets a dream job –
acting and making his directing debut in a story set at Yankee
Stadium. This week's scam seems way too easy, but there are some neat
moments with Neal, the semi-reformed con man.