TV column for Wednesday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “How to Live With
Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)” debut, 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Polly (Sarah Chalke) has left her
husband, who means well but doesn't do well. With her daughter, she
moves in with her mom (Elizabeth Perkins) and step-dad (Brad
Garrett). What can go wrong?

Almost everything, it turns out. She's
an attentive mom; they're inattentive grandparents, spilling secrets
about dates and Santa and such. Juggling clever character moments
with broad sight gags, this opener is worthy of its spot behind
“Modern Family.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Middle,”
8 p.m., ABC.

To boost its new show, ABC has fresh
episodes of its other three Wednesday comedies.

That starts with a fun one, reminding
us that love isn't logical. Mismatched with a brainy girlfriend, Axl
keeps sort of breaking up in funny ways; also, his mom is crushed by
a mismatch on “The Bachelor.”

And with Sue accidentally on the tennis
team; her dad teaches her: “Sports isn't about being nice.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Doctor Who”
(8 p.m.) and “Spies of Warsaw,” 9-11 p.m., BBC America; they
repeat at 11 p.m. and midnight to 2 a.m.

First, we see David Tennant at his
breezy best in a 2007 “Who.” He and Martha (Freema Agyeman) are
trapped in 1969, with Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) in the future,
trying to save them. Mulligan went on to be an Oscar-nominee (for “An
Education”); Agyeman went on to the current “Carrie Diaries”
and Tennant went on to things great (“Hamlet”) and not (this
one).

Wildly miscast , he playing a stoic war
hero, caught in the intrigue leading to World War II. The story –
which concludes next week – has its moments, but the film feels
stiff and clumsy, despite gifted actors.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. In a female-dominated year, tonight's theme is “classic rock –
no ballads.” That could hinder some women, but Candice Glover and
Kree Harrison rocked powerfully last week; all five female finalists
remain, while three of the five guys are already gone.

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Six
“fans” have been ousted – Julia Landauer was the latest –
alongside only two “favorites.” Now the tribes merge; individual
challenges begin, starting with yucky eating.

– “Suburgatory, 8:30 p.m., ABC. Now
that Dalia is being nice to her, Tessa frets about what she really
wants. Meanwhile, Tessa's dad worries about being one of the guys in
the local calendar.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Phil and Claire have opposite parenting views on everything,
including Haley quitting her job. Then they see a family that's like
a future version of their own.

– “ET” (1982), 9-11:30 p.m., Ion.
This great movies has warmth, humor and zestful adventure.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. Kate Danson, 33, is surrounded by TV's best. Her father
(Ted Danson) stars here; her husband (Jesse Bochco) is a “Dallas”
director whose dad led “NYPD Blue” and more. She plays a lawyer,
in a story about what might be a serial killer's lair.

– “Best Ink,” 10 pm., Oxygen. The
season starts with a good host (rocker Pete Wentz) and a bad contest,
in which spray-painted murals are difficult to see. The elimination
contest is more interesting, with quirky clients. One micro-manages;
another has high expectations and a low threshold of pain.

 

TV column for Tuesday, April 2


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

It all started with an odd discovery –
a stash of drugs and cash at the home of Raylan's crooked dad.

That was stolen from the Detroit mob
long ago by Drew Thompson … who then transformed himself into
Sheriff Shelby Parlow. Now Raylan has captured Drew and rescued Ella
Mae, the sweetly dim prostitute Drew loves. Boyd Crowder is desperate
to hush Ella Mae and get money from the mob; this could be a strong
finish to what has been a great season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The New Normal”
season-finale, 9-10 p.m., NBC.

Force are rushing together now. David
and Brice near their marriage …. which may not happen before their
adoptive baby is born. Bryan's mom (Mary Kay Place) arrives, adding a
complicating voice.

Even choosing the baby's name brings
disputes … and new about how Goldie chose Shania's name.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Kind Hearted
Woman” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

David Sutherland's films let us step
inside real lives, without reality-show glitz. This one – like the
previous “Farmer's Wife” and “Country Boys” – has been
slow, difficult and worth the trouble.

We met Robin Charboneau emerging from
rehab and trying college, while fighting for custody of her children.
This involves two states (North Dakota and Minnesota), two court
systems (tribal and federal) and two countries (U.S. and Canada).
Sometimes her own worst enemy, she remains worth rooting for.

Other choices include:

– “Splash,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Ndamukong Suh has conquered football opponents, but the diving board
was another matter. Last week, he was the second person ousted (after
Keshia Knight Pulliam in the opener). Eight divers remain, including
Brandi Chastain, a late addition (after Chuy Bravo's injury), who
beat Suh in last week's dive-off. Afterward, “Dancing With the
Stars” also ousts someone.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of the episode that showed Abby's roots. An investigation
triggers memories of her at 10 (played by Brighton Sharbino), working
on her first mystery.

– “Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory” (2005), 8:30-11 p.m., ABC Family. Three great talents –
director Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman and Johnny Depp were at
their best – in this buoyant gem.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Sam is contacted by a man he knew years ago – and
who is soon killed. On a lighter note, Deeks and Kensi are undercover
at a dog show.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. On a
guys' night out, Nick and Schmidt are attracted to a beauty (Brooklyn
Decker) who is attracted to sadness. Also, Jess' relationship with a
loftmate changes.

– “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m.,
Fox. Entitled “Pretty Man,” this is a sort of “Pretty Woman”
take-off. Mindy accidentally meets a handsome prostitute and needs to
bring him to a dinner party.

– “Golden Boy,” 10 p.m., CBS. At
a subway shooting, the bullets seem to be from the gun that killed
the brother of Detective McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville) years ago.

– “Smash,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.
Here's the final Tuesday episode, before “Smash” is exiled to
Saturdays. A veteran star (Bernadette Peters) oins the “Bombshell”
cast, despite a rift with her daughter Ivy.

TV column for Sunday, March 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece
Classic,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

On one side was the unstoppable Harry
Selfridge (Jeremy Piven); on the other were unflinching Englishmen.
He was an American who felt department stores could be fun; they
distrusted fun.

That true story, in 1906 London, is
told in a grand mini-series, adding soap-style romances. Some are
sort of true – Selfridge loved many women, including his wife –
and some are giddy fiction, done by talented actors in interesting
settings.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bible”
and more, cable.

Biblical days provide grand films for
Easter. There are old ones – Turner Classic Movies has epics at
7:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET, plus “The Robe” (1953) at 8
p.m. – and new ones.

Reelz reruns its new “Barabbas.”
with Billy Zane, from 4-8 p.m. and again at midnight. History reruns
the first four weeks of its epic “The Bible,” starting at noon.
The final portion – crucifixion, resurrection and beyond – debuts
from 8-10 p.m.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Game of
Thrones” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

A sprawling spectacle with seven
kingdoms, this story is hard to follow and worth the effort.

Among the Lannisters, tiny Tyrion
(Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage) wants power and respect; Lord Tywin
(Charles Dance) will give him neither. Among the Targaryens. Daenerys
(Emilia Clarke) wants warriors alongside her three baby dragons;
buying them is extremely distasteful.

And among the Baratheons, Cersei (Lena
Headey) wants to still be queen. But her husband Robert is dead, her
young son Joffrey is king and his bride-to-be Margaery resists her
cynicism. There's much more scheming by beautiful and dangerous
people in beautiful and deadly places.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 2 p.m. and about 4:30 p.m. ET,
CBS. The college tournament finds the rest of its final four.

– Family fun, all day. The classic
“Wizard of Oz” (1939) is 5:30 p.m. on Cartoon, while ABC Family
repeats some of Disney's greatest cartoons – “Alice in
Wonderland” (1951) at 3:30 p.m., “Mulan” (1998) at 5:05, “The
Lion King” (1994) at 7, “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) at 9.

– More Easter films. Irving Berlin's
“Easter Parade” (1961) is 6 p.m. ET on TCM; “The Carpenter's
Miracle,” a well-made contemporary film, is 7, 9 and 11 p.m. on
GMC.

– Charlie Brown cartoons, 7 and 7:30
p.m., ABC. First is the 1974 “It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie
Brown”; then the 1966 “Charlie Brown All Stars” sees the
baseball team near its 1,000th straight loss.

– “Call the Midwife”
season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Juggling idealism
and agony, “Midwife” again captures rich waves of emotion. One
woman has an abusive husband who hates her mother; another faces
perilous childbirth aboard a Swedish ship.

– Baseball, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. The season
starts with the Houston Astros' first American League game, hosting
the Texas Rangers.

– “Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. Here's
a Halloween episode on Easter, with masquerade-ball vengeance.

– :”Vikings,” 10 p.m., History.
There's been a shaky balance, as Ragnar defied the local ruler
(Gabriel Byrne) by sailing west, but gave him most of the booty.
Tonight, that changes with a sudden, startling attack. Brutal but
well-crafted, “Vikings” turns killers into victims we care about.

 

TV column for Saturday, March 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Doctor Who”
and “Orphan Black,” 8 and 9 p.m., BBC America.

Fresh from its well-deserved Peabody
Award, “Who” starts the final eight episodes of its season.
Written by the brilliant Steven Moffat, it says there's something
sinister in the wi-fi. (Yes, we'd always suspected that.) The Doctor
and Clara (Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman) are on the case.

Then comes the surprise: “Orphan
Black” is a new Canadian show, smartly written, directed and acted.

Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) is a drifter
who grabs the purse of a dead woman who looks just like her.
Naturally, she steals the identity and quickly fids new crises. The
result is compelling.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Elementary,”
about 9 p.m., CBS.

When the baketball games end, try to keep your TV set on. This is an exceptionally good rerun.

Sherlock Holmes is doing iffy
experiments in a hospital morgue, when he confronts a possible murder
… and then a series of murders. This starts with crackling humor,
then then turns serious.

A hospital is the old turf of Watson
(Lucy Liu), who let her doctor's license lapse after a patient died.
After the early fun, “Elementary” delivers some quietly moving
drama.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Ten
Commandments” (1956), 7-11:44 p.m., ABC, but some stations delay it to 8 p.m.l or “The Carpenter's
Miracle,” 7, 9 and 11 p.m. today and Sunday, GMC (formerly Gospel
Music Channel).

Here are two choices that fit neatly
into the night before Easter.

“Ten Commandments” is ABC's annual
film, with Charlton Heston working miracles. By modern standards,
it's epic and ambitious, but also terribly stiff.

Meanwhile,GMC adapts a novel about a
guy whose small-town neighbors feel he's performed a miracle. The
TV-news portions are absurd, but the rest works well. There's great
work from star Cameron Mathison and director K.T. Donaldson; that's
the latest screen name for Kristoffer Tabori, whose dad (Don Siegel)
crisply directed “Dirty Harry” and other Clint Eastwood films.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 4:20 and about 6:55
p.m. ET, CBS. After 60 games and much commotion, the college
tournament is ready to find its final four. Today and Sunday, CBS has
doubleheaders; the winners head to Atlanta next Saturday, for spots
in the March 8 finals.

– “Alice in Wonderland” (1951)
and more, 5:30 p.m., ABC Family. The Easter weekend is filled with
great family films. That includes this cartoon triple feature – the
delightful “Alice,” beautifully drawn “Mulan” (1998) at 7:05
and richly emotional “The Lion King” (1994) at 9.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 6:30
p.m., Cartoon. On this family-friendly night, here's a true classic.

– “Dateline,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In
a change, NBC inserts this news magazine.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
In a rerun, Joe Carroll sends two followers to grab his ex-wife; Ryan
rushes to get their first. Two other followers, Emma and Jacob, have
a troubled reunion.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and
11:29 p.m., NBC. The first rerun has Jamie Foxx hosting and Ne-Yo as
music guest; the second has Justin Bieber doing both.

TV column for Friday, March 29


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

Through a career that has spanned 53
years, 31 books and a cascade of awards, Philip Roth has given us a
stream of guys who are overwhelmed by life and sex and more.

So it's reassuring to know that the
real Roth, 80, is a surprisingly comfortable person, with humor,
balance and fond memories of family and friends. He talks about his
books and life; with added insights from other authors. His boyhood
friends and his current friend, Mia Farrow, describe someone who
wouldn't qualify as a fictional character, because he's way too
at-ease.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, two
networks.

Tonight's final game is all-Florida,
but it should draw national attention: At about 10:07 p.m. on TBS,
Florida (seeded No. 3 in its 16-team region) faces Florida Gulf
Coast, the first 15th-seed to get this far.

The other games include only one
surprise: Oregon (a 12th-seed), faces top-seeded Louisville at 7:15
p.m. on CBS. Other games – Kansas and Michigan at 7:37 p.m. on TBS,
Duke and Michigan State at about 9:45 p.m. on CBS

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Happy
Endings” return, 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

After a two-month break, “Endings”
has four straight Fridays of two new episodes. It won't be easy – a
youthful comedy, on a night with few young viewers – but tonight's
episodes have good moments.

In the first, Penny and Max desperately
try to stop night-texting their love interests. Also, Brad's job at a
kids' gym is wobbly because of mismanagement by the owner (David Alan
Grier).

In the second, Max pretends to be
straight, because a cute blonde (Abby Elliott) has Bulls tickets.

Other choices include:

– “Fashion Star,” 8 p.m., NBC.
While creating summer fashions, contestants work in teams, with mixed
success. One is sent home; another becomes the season's first to sell
to all three stores.

– “Spartacus,” 8-11 p.m., Starz.
In two weeks, this huge – and hugely violent – series will end.
First, however, it takes a week off and shows the three previous
episodes. Crassus leads a Roman assault on the slave rebels, despite
a feud between his son and his best soldier, Julius Caesar. Then
Spartacus and his men disagree on whether to attack Rome or flee into
anonymity.

– “Chicago” (2002), 8-10 p.m.,
Showtime. Here's the Oscar-winner that revived movie musicals … and
that was part of the musical tribute at this year's Academy Award
ceremony.

– “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC. Violence
in video games is bad enough, but now there's violence at a videogame
company. Also, Juliette's hallucinations are becoming clearer.

– “Cult,” 9 p.m., CW. When Sky
turns ill, Jeff races to find a drug that can cure her.

– “True Justice” season-finale, 9
p.m., Reelz. “There have been uncounted, unsolved murders,” a
federal agent fumes, all linked to the mysterious Elijah Kane (Steven
Seagal). But who is he? Viewers know he has high-level approval, in a
search to retrieve the triggering device to a nuclear bomb. Tonight,
that concludes in an hour that has, as usual, maximum action and
minimum acting.

--”Iron Man” (2008), 10 p.m. to 1
a.m., FX. This adventure makes no effort to be believable, but Jon
Favreau directed it skillfully, with strong work from Robert Downey
Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.