TV column for Saturday, March 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, CBS.

With only two eight teams left in the
NCAA tournament, viewers no longer have to jump between broadcast and
cable. CBS can do it all, leaving room for most of its primetime
shows.

Today's games are at 4:20 and about
6:55 p.m. ET; Sunday's are at 2:10 and 4:55.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Saturday
Night Live” (NBC) or “Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Standup” (Comedy
Central), both 11:30 p.m.

“SNL” has a rerun, with Russell
Brand as host and Chris Brown as music guest. Going against it is a
new stand-up special by its former star.

Macdonald rambles on subjects that
aren't naturals for comedy – death, missing women, murder and
alcoholism. Most of it is dark and bleak; some of it is surprisingly
funny. Then he ends with O.J. Simpson – the subject that got him
fired from “SNL”; his new comments are brief and hilarious.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY: “Mildred Pierce”
(1945), 8-10 p.m., Turner Classic Movies.

Watch this film tonight and the HBO
mini-series that starts Sunday. The combination will cure you of any
belief that movies were better in the old days.

This version – a human drama,
disguising as a murder story – was highly regarded. Joan Crawford
won an Oscar for best actress; there were nominations for best
picture, screenplay, black-and-white cinematography and (in support)
Ann Blyth and Eve Arden.

It is, indeed, beautifully acted,
directed (by Michael Curtiz) and filmed. By modern standards,
however, it's blunt and heavy-handed, with hideous plot twists and a
central character who makes no sense.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars” (8
p.m.) and “No Ordinary Family” (10 p.m.), ABC. In a change, ABC
starts by rerunning the “Dancing” season-opener, then has a new
“Family.” Stephanie (Julie Benz) is zoomed to the future, where
she sees doom; that sets up the season finale, on April 5.

– “Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC.
This rerun has Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye”) as a transgendered
performer and Richard Kind as Harriet's former boyfriend, whose
current client seems guilty.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. In the rerun of a poor episode, a former member of a
Manson-type gang, just out of prison, has been killed.

– “Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS.
A kidnapped woman has been killed. Robert Knepper – a great villain
in “Prison Break” and “Heroes” – guests in this rerun, as
the devoted son of a former movie star.

– “Shut Up & Sing” (2006), 9
p.m., CMT. Country music was crippled when stations blacklisted the
Dixie Chicks for their political views. This award-winning
documentary follows the Chicks afterward; Cecilia Peck (Gregory's
daughter) co-directed with two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a woman with a clean image is
found dead in a fountain, after a promiscuous night. David Krumholtz
(“Numb3rs”) guests.

TV column for Friday, March 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Shark Tank,” 8
p.m., ABC.

The ideas swirl past by. Toygaroo lets
parents send back toys and get others, Netflix. Vurtigo has
high-powered pogo sticks. First Defense has tiny nostril filters.
Wake 'N Bacon is an alarm that cooks.

And this season brings a big
improvement: Mark Cuban – the young Internet billionaire who owns
the Dallas Mavericks – has joined the investors' panel, stirring
big money: “This guy we've never met before walks in and we give
him a chance to be a millionaire,” Cuban said. A good show gets
better.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, CBS
and TBS.

By the end of the night, the NCAA
tournament will have its elite eight.

First are two doubleheaders: CBS has
North Carolina and Marquette at 7:15 p.m. ET, Ohio State and Kentucky
at about 9:45; TBS has Kansas and Richmond at 7:27, Florida State and
Virginia Commonwealth at about 9:57.

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

After pausing for a couple weeks of
reruns, this above-average show still has three new hours.

Tonight, we follow Steve Buscemi, whose
best roles – from “Reservoir Dogs” to “The Sopranos” and
“Boardwalk Empire” – are as crooks. Appropriately, he traces a
maternal great-great-grandfather who seems to have a tarnished Civil
War record.

Still coming are hours on Gwyneth
Paltrow (scheduled for next Friday) and Ashley Judd.

Other choices include:

– “Triangle: Remembering the Fire,”
6:30 p.m., HBO. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the
New York City fire that killed 146 people – women and girls mostly
– and launched a new era of unions and government regulation. Here
is a rerun of a moving documentary; for another, go to www.pbs.org,
under “videos” and “American Experience.”

– “Smallville,” 8 p.m., CW. With
basketball on CBS, this is the only scripted show at 8 p.m. on a
big-five network. It's a rerun, with Clark and Lois facing
wedding-eve woes. One of the bigger problems: All the people in town
have lost their memories.

– “The Suite Life Movie,” 8-9:35
p.m., Disney. After two comedy series, the twins now get their own
movie. Cody has a prestigious internship in marine-biology – a
notion that goes bad when Zach loses a billion-dollar submersible
vehicle. Soon, they're lured to a mysterious twin-research project.
When they begin to feel each other's pain, they have a new way to
fight each other..

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
terrific show continues to put Olivia in tough situations. Now she
struggles to survive in the alternate world.

– “Time After Time” (2011), 9-11
p.m., Hallmark. Here's another chance to see this movie, which
debuted last weekend. It has mismatched elements – ranging from
small-town drama to a time-travel element – but remains fairly
likable.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. A
little guy, slightly built, keeps winning in Camelot's tournament,
with the help of a magic ring. Merlin fears disaster when he faces
King Uther.

TV column for Thursday, March 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Office”
and “Parks and Recreation,” 9-10 p.m. NBC.

First is a key moment for Michael, as
he proposes to Holly. Meanwhile, the office has a garage sale.

Then “Parks and Recreation” follows
up on last week's harvest-festival episode. To everyone's surprise,
the festival went well. Now Leslie brainstorms for a new idea, during
a camping retreat.

The real fun involves seeing all the
anti-campers in the parks department. April is wonderfully morose (as
usual), Tom loads up on expensive paraphernalia and Chris (Rob Lowe)
is back.

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

This is a tough one, the night when
(barring a judges' save) someone just misses the top 10 and the
“Idol” tour. When that happened to the talented Alexis Grace two
years ago, she seemed devastated.

A few people who finished 11th
have found some fame; they include Matt Rogers, Kevin Covais and
Mikalah Gordon. Others who finished 11th – Paige Miles,
Amanda Overmyer, Stephanie Edwards, Charles Grigsby – promptly
disappeared.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “John Oliver's
New York Stand-Up Show,” midnight, Comedy Central.

Oliver, one of the best comedians
around, starts the new season by explaining why he can use any
profanity he wants: “I'm British and anything sounds adorable
coming out of my mouth.”

It does, actually. Soon, this hour
mixes strong language and sharp wit. Kyle Kinane and Glenn Wool are
good, Rory Scovel is so-so and Pete Holmes closes the night with some
hilarious work.

Holmes reflects on pretending to like
museums and on South Dakota (“my second-favorite Dakota”), where
a store gives a free doughnut to Vietnam veterans. (“You know, it
was all worth it.”) He also meets the information era: “Google on
your phone is like having a drunken know-it-all in your pocket.”

Other choices include:

– Basketball, CBS and TBS. The NCAA
tournament is down to 16 teams and two networks. CBS has San Diego
State and Connecticut at 7:15 p.m. ET and Duke and Arizona at about
9:45; TBS has Florida and Brigham Young at 7:27 p.m., Wisconsin and
Butler at about 9:57.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. Abed,
the film buff, gets a surprise party with a “Pulp Fiction” mode.

– “Perfect Couples,” 8:30 p.m.,
NBC. It's time for bachelor and bachelorette parties for Vance and
Amy. Alas, Amy has forgotten to tell Julia she'll be the wedding's
maid of honor.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Clinical trials cause a fuss tonight. The Chief desperately wants his
wife in one for Alzheimer's disease, but she insists she doesn't need
it. Meanwhile, the diabetes trial is a focal point in the competition
to be chief resident.

– “30 Rock,” 10 p.m., NBC. Liz's
show is on involuntary hiatus; skeptics doubt it will return.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. Last
week's episode (rerunning at 10:30) jumped back and forth about
whether Sterling Archer has cancer. Tonight's funny (albeit violent)
follow-up starts there, with Sterling discovering a fake-pill
scandal.

– “Outsourced,” 10:30 p.m., NBC.
Did Rajiv really slap Gupta? Todd weighs wildly conflicting versions
of what really happened.

TV column for Wednesday, March 23


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

In some ways, this is one of the most
important “Idol” weeks.

Anyone who survives it is in the top
10; that involves a tour with 50-plus arena shows and a taste of
fame. The person voted out has the frustration of finishing 11th.

In the first two weeks, the guys have
been secure. The bottom three has had Haley Reinhart (twice), Karen
Rodriguez (twice), Ashton Jones and Naima Adedapo, with Jones and
Rodriguez being ousted.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Mr. Sunshine,”
9:31 p.m., ABC.

As a Canadian teen, Matthew Perry was
an emerging athlete, high in the junior tennis rankings.

Now, he finally gets to mix that with
comedy. There's a celebrity tennis tournament at the arena and Ben
(Perry) is paired with Alonzo – who doesn't know that both of them
have been Alice's lover.

It's an episode with some funny
moments, especially involving Crystal (Allison Janney), the arena's
owner. She's newly dangerous, now that she's learned to tweet.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Fact of
Faked” season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy.

A few months after Pearl Harbor,
something was spotted over Los Angeles. At 3:06 a.m., the barrage
began – 1,440 rounds were fired at it, ranging from bullets to
28-pound artillery shells.

There was a classic photo, but nothing
definitive. Was this a weather balloon? A flying saucer? A blimp that
had broken from its tether?

This hour tests theories. It also
visits the Queen Mary ship, to see if eerie footage could have been
faked. Don't expect anything too exciting, but both matters – and
other viewed briefly – are approached with an honest sense of
scientific skepticism.

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Matt
Elrod still clings to survival. Having beaten three people on
Redemption Island (including Russell Hantz), he now faces Krista
Klumpp.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. First is a new episode in which the family spends spring break
trying to throw out 20 years of junk – instead, stirring some
unfortunate memories. Then a rerun has some good moments as Sue
sneaks into an R-rated movie and a teacher (Kristin Cavallari of “The
Hills”) is unknowingly filmed for Axl's music video.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Jay would rather do anything than go to an orchestra concert. Or
would he? He feels out of place at a bar with Mitchell, Cameron,
Pepper (Nathan Lane) and other gays.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.
Winona – Raylan's ex-wife and (until now) an honest court reporter
– gave into temptation last week, swiping cash from an evidence
file. Now he's still trying to keep her from being caught, while also
worrying about a murder attempt in the courtroom. This isn't one of
the better “Justified” episodes, but that still puts it way ahead
of most shows.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. Here's what's called the “winter finale” for this fun show.
Elke (Betty White) faces trial, with a tough judge (Sherri Shepherd)
and a scheming lawyer.

– “Retired at 35,” 10:30 p.m., TV
Land. This so-so show ends its season with the anniversary of David's
parents – an event somewhat darkened by the fact that they've
separated.

TV column for Tuesday, March 22


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

In an Emmy-worthy performance, David
Morse adds rich depth to a solid series.

“Lights” Leary, the former boxing
champ, knows he's risking his health and his head with a comeback
title bout. Near bankruptcy, he'll risk it.

Now he meets a punch-drunk ex-champ,
given rich layers of humanity by Morse. The story whip-saws in the
final minutes, establishing this as one of the best drama episodes
this season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Best in Film:
The Greatest Movies of Our Time,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

For 11 years, the American Film
Institute and CBS chose the best movies overall and in categories.
Now ABC and People magazine try to do that all in one chunk.

The public voted online, which may
explain how “Grease” reached the best-musical finals. Olivia
Newton-John is interviewed, along with Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins
and others.

There's a best-film category, plus
others for best comedy, musical, western, sci-fi and animated film;
there are ones for best action film and its kin – horror,
suspense/thriller, political/historical. Others are for best
character, line, kiss, romantic couple and “chick film.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Rainmaker” (1997), 8-11 p.m., AMC.

John Grisham's novel about a new lawyer
reached the right people here.

It was directed beautifully by Francis
Ford Coppola. Matt Damon – then an unknown, but about to be a star
– was perfect in the lead; Claire Danes was superb (as always) as
an abused woman.

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. This
reruns the first Gwyneth Paltrow episode, when she filled in for
Will.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a
teen is suspected of killing his father, Gibbs handles the
interrogation.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A Venezuelan politician's life may be in danger, after the
disappearance of the Naval Commander who was tracking his moves.

– “Destination Truth”
season-opener, 9 p.m. Syfy. The good news: We see fascinating
settings including a crumbling former prison island off Panama. The
bad: The narration is overwritten and pooyly read; also, this is
another of those shows where you almost (but not quite) see
something.

– “Traffic Light,” 9:31 p.m.,
Fox. In a terrific rerun, Adam learns Callie is wallowing in debt.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The firm represents a drug kingpin in a divorce case.

– “Our America,” 10 p.m., Oprah
Winfrey Network. Lisa Ling wraps up her seven-week season with a
film that spent two years tracing people with drug addictions in
Richland County, Ohio.

– “The Fabulous Beekman Boys”
season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Planet Green. It's fun to see
likable city guys struggle with their farm. In the first episode, Dr.
Brent Ridge obsesses on his lone llama; in the second, we get hints
of emotional scars. Reruns fill a block that goes form 5 p.m. to 3
a.m.

– “Marcel's Quantum Kitchen”
debut, 10 p.m., Syfy. Marcel Vigneron uses high-tech devices to cook
an elaborate meal. The result holds so-so interest to cooks and/or
mechanics.