TV column for Saturday, Feb. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dreamgirls”
(2006), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

At times, Hollywood shuns one of its
grandest traditions. It ignores movie musicals.

Then it remembers. On Sunday, the
Academy Awards will have a tribute to the musicals of the 2000s,
including “Chicago,” “Les Miserables” and this film, which
you can savor tonight.

The film ripples with great music,
beautifully done. There' strong work from Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Anika
Noni Rose, Oscar-nominated Eddie Murphy and, especially,
Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “On the
Waterfront” (1954), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Now for the exact opposite of a
colorful musical. Filmed in black-and-white, acted with intensity,
this gritty film was a best-picture Academy Award-winner and one of
the best-acted movies of all time.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint won
Oscars for actor and supporting actress. The film didn't get a
supporting-actor win, probably because so many people – Rod
Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J.Cobb – were nominated. All lost to
Edmond O'Brien in “The Barefoot Contessa.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Melissa &
Joan: Joan Knows Best?” 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., WE.

Amid a sea of reruns, we get the
season-opener at 9. It's an odd hour, as usual, with viewers never
really sure how real this reality show is.

Did Joan Rivers, a lifelong
heterosexual, lean toward a lesbian involvement at 79? Did Melissa
Rivers' ex-husband – half of a messy divorce case – move back in
for a few days, just as her relationship with a “pornography king”
slowed? It's tough to say, but these are entertaining people.

Other choices include:

– “Killing Lincoln,” 7 p.m.,
National Geographic; repeats at 9 p.m., 11 p.m., 1 a.m. If you missed
Sunday's debut of this well-made film, here are four new chances.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of the season-opener. The teams searches for Harper Dearing
(Richard Schiff of “West Wing”), whose bomb ripped through the
NCIS headquarters.

– “Meddling Mom,” 8 and 10 p.m.,
Hallmark Movie Channel. Think of this as a well-meaning flub. TV
rarely focuses on Latino families; it does here, with Sonia Braga
embedding herself in her daughters' lives. The cast is gorgeous, but
most of this plays like clumsy comedy from the 1950s.

– “Chicago Fire,” 9 p.m., NBC.
There should be enough to worry about here, with a bad batch of
heroin on the streets. Beyond that, Casey has family problems,
Dawson has a secret and Severide has an old gripe with the lieutenant
who is filling in at the station.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and
11:29 p.m., NBC. Both are reruns, the first with Christoph Waltz.

– “Vanity Fair's Hollywood,” 10
p.m., CBS. For generations,Vanity Fair magazine has been writing
about Hollywood. Now here's a special, on the night before the
Academy Awards.

– “Independent Spirit Awards,” 10
p.m., IFC. Forget about mega-movies. This Oscar-eve ceremony, hosted
by Andy Samberg, honors films made with “uniqueness of vision”
for under $20 million. The best-picture field, for instance, has two
Oscar nominees (“Silver Linings Playbook” and “Beasts of the
Southern Wild”) plus “Bernie,” “Keep the Lights On”and the
wonderful “Moonrise Kingdom.”

TV column for Friday, Feb. 22


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

Rosetta Nubin was born in 1915 in
Cotton Plant, Ark. Her dad was a sharecropper; life was basic.

But when she was 6, her mom, an
evangelist, moved her to Chicago. The little girl – standing on a
church piano to sing – was an instant star.

She would blend the spiritual and the
secular into a rousing sound. As Sister Rosetta Tharpe, she seemed to
influence Elvis Presley's singing, Chuck Berry's guitar-playing and
more.

In Europe, at least, people savored her
talent. This British documentary closes with TV footage from 1964
England and 1970 Denmark; a great talent soars.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “CSI: NY,” 9
p.m., CBS.

Despite solid, top-20 ratings, this
show –which draws an older audience than advertisers want – has
an unclear future. Here is the final new hour of its shortened,
17-episode season.

An unarmed man has been shot by police.
Now the team rushes to solve the case, as unrest grows.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Winter's
Bone” (2010), 8-10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

Before “Hunger Games” and “Silver
Linings Playbook,” Jennifer Lawrence starred in this gem.

She plays an Ozarks teen with a
helpless mother, young siblings and a crisis: Her dad jumped bail;
the family will lose is home unless she can bring him back or prove
he's dead.

That requires negotiating the unwritten
rules of mountain life. Quietly brilliant, “Bone” drew Academy
Award nominations for Lawrence, John Hawkes (as Teardrop), best
picture and its script.

Other choices include:

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. This is when a director must be a diplomat: Mike is leading a
pageant, with his daughter as Annie Oakley and his boss as Buffalo
Bill. Another daughter is flirting with an oblivious cast member.

– “Malibu Country,” 8:30, ABC.
Lillie Mae (Lily Tomlin) is in a good position here, as people jockey
to give her the best birthday present. What she wants is her daughter
(Reba) on her bowling team.

– Touch, 9 p.m., Fox. Troubles build
for Martin (Kiefer Sutherland). Developments at Aster Corps force a
tough decision; also, Guillermo has been spotted and is hunting for
Martin and Jake.

– “True Justice,” 9 p.m., Reelz,
rerunning at 11. With Sarah injured, Finch gets her wish to work in
the field. That focuses on Tanaya Beatty, the stunning beauty who
players her. Finch is a Native America who grew up on a reservation;
Beatty is a Native Canadian from small-town British Columbia.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”) is making the rounds. On Thursday, it
was “Scandal”; here, he plays a rich guy who has never been
convicted of an attack on his girlfriend.

– “Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. A
hostage crisis at the high school endangers the mayor's wife and the
district attorney's daughter … who, viewers suspect, might actually
be the sheriff's daughter.

– “Out There” debut, 10:30 and 11
p.m., Independent Film Channel. Here are two new episodes of a
cartoon about a 15-year-old outsider. Fred Armisen – whose terrific
“Portlandia” is at 10 p.m. – voices Terry, the rather awful
boyfriend of Chris' mom.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Parks and
Recreation,” 8:30 and 9 p.m., NBC.

This show loves surprises – even
surprise weddings. Two years ago, Andy and April suddenly married;
last week, Ben (Adam Scott) proposed that he and Leslie (Amy Poehler)
marry at an annual fund-raiser.

Now comes the scramble to make it
happen in two hours. They have no ring, cake, minister or marriage
license. Another episode follows, with Leslie panicking when someone
swipes her speech.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Zero Hour,” 8
p.m., ABC.

Last week's opener launched a tale that
is far-fetched, but ambitious and (at times) compelling. Linking with
an FBI agent (Carmen Ejogo), Hank (Anthony Edwards) sought clues
about his kidnapped wife.

That took him to the Arctic Circle –
and to a corpse that looks like him. Tonight, he has a perilous
encounter with the kidnapper; he also seeks clues in India, while two
reporters dig through a journal.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Glory
Hounds,” 8-10 p.m., Animal Planet.

Stick with this documentary. After
starting slowly, it offers rich waves of emotion.

Camera crews were embedded into units
that use dogs to sniff out explosive devices in Afghanistan. Viewers
will have a quick affection for two soldiers with newborn babies back
home, and for Len Anderson, who could have stayed in safety as a
kennel master.

These stories involve heroics for
soldiers, dogs and one of the cameramen, an ex-Marine. “Glory
Hounds” is a self-contained movie, with a so-so beginning and a
strong ending.

Other choices include:

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Everyone heads to a science fiction convention, in an
erratic-but-funny episode. Even skeptics are involved: Pierce (Chevy
Chase) is in a focus group; Jeff (Joel McHale) is mistaken for a star
and attracts an admirer (Tricia Helfer, the “Battlestar Galactica”
seductress).

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Last week's terrific episode brought some home for Raj's vacant
love life; he met a quirky sort (Kate Micucci of “Raising Hope”)
at the comic-book store and went to coffee with her. Tonight, alas,
things go badly and he vows to never leave his apartment.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. At a singles mixer for wealthy people, Walden (Ashton
Kutcher) meets a logical match – his ex-wife Bridget (Judy Greer).

– “Grey's Anatomy,”9 p.m., ABC.
Reports of the financial crisis are spreading. Interns fret about
their jobs, Catherine (Debbie Allen) urges Jackson to move to Boston
and doctors try to lure a new investor.

– “Suits” season-finale, 10 p.m.,
USA. The firm might merge, but Mike has another problem: Rachel wants
him to sign a letter to Harvard; that might expose the fact that he
fakes being a Harvard grad.

– “Scandal,” 10:02 p.m., ABC. A
promising politician (Eric Mabius of “Ugly Betty”) hires the firm
for some high-powered matchmaking. Also, the president isn't sure
whom to trust in a kidnapping crisis.

– “Upload With Shaquille O'Neal,”
10:30 p.m., Tru TV. This is mostly a way to show funny video clips;
the fun comes from the comments of O'Neal and friends. One dandy
moment has grown-ups (dancing to electronic music) looking truly odd
and a kid (who happens to be black) looking dumbfounded. Shaq's
comment:”You never forget the first time you see white people.”

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 20


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

With 40 contestants still in the mix,
“Idol” finally has nights of performing and sifting.

Tonight, 10 males perform and five will
be sent home; on Thursday, 10 females have their turns. It all
happens again next week, leaving “Idol” with 20 people … and,
still, a long way to go.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Survivor,”
8 p.m., CBS.

At the end of last week's opener,
Francesca Hogi decided she really isn't very good at “Survivor.”
Viewers said a collective, “Duh!”

Two years ago, Hogi was the first
person eliminated. She returned now – 38, a Brooklyn lawyer – and
was again the first person ousted. There were six votes against her;
Andrea Boehlke, 23, had four.

Now Boehlke has to worry about her own
vulnerability – and the fact that the “Survivor” veterans lost
the first elimination challenge to a bunch of newcomers.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Southland,”
10 p.m., TNT.

Stern and stoic, John Cooper (Michael
Cudlitz) has become one of TV's best characters.

He's a secretly gay cop whose lover has
left him; he's finally overcome back problems (through surgery) and
pill addiction (through rehab). At work, he keeps pushing quietly
ahead.

Tonight, Cooper has powerful moments
involving his new police partner, a veteran of two hitches in
Afghanistan. Then come fierce extremes for Lydia (Regina King), a
veteran cop and new mom.

Other choices include:

– “Gladiator” (2000), 7-10 p.m.,
TNT. A strong movie night starts with this winner of five Oscars,
including best picture and actor (Russell Crowe). At 8 p.m., Lifetime
Movie Network has “The Blue Lagoon” (1980); Showtime has “The
Iron Lady” (2011), with Meryl Streep winning her third Oscar.

– “Whitney,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Whitney's wayward father has suddenly given her $5,000. Should she
use it to have a gallery showing or her photos? Or should she give it
to a needy friend?

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Frankie wants to obsess on the Oscars, but has other things to worry
about: Axl has a class trip to Chicago; Sue's gaga for one of Axl's
friends.

– “Nova” and “The Path to
Violence,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This is the
second of two primetime nights looking at the roots of violence.
Reports also continue all week on “Newshour.”

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
At her college reunion, Claire meets a professor she dated. He's
played by Maxwell Caulfield, one of the “Dynasty” and “Colbys”
stars.

– “20/20,” 10 p.m., ABC. Four
days before the Oscars, Katie Couric takes a light overview. She'll
talk to current nominees – Bradley Cooper, Sally Field, Denzel
Washington, Jennifer Lawrence – but also have highlights from past
monologues and acceptance speeches.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
10 p.m., CBS. A man dies after a brief encounter with Sara.

– “Necessary Roughness”
season-finale, 10 p.m., USA. Life may be changing, this episode says,
but a hurdle remains: In major U.S. professional sports, no active
athletes have said they are gay. Now the Hawks' quarterback may be
ready. That's in an hour with several lame stories and this strong
one.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Cougar Town,”
10 p.m., TBS.

Viewers have always known Jules and
Ellie (Courteney Cox and Christa Miller) as close pals and
wine-drinking buddies. This episode – one of the best – flashes
back to a time when they were opposites.

Cox, who grew up in a prosperous
Alabama family, has fun playing Jules as a redneck. She's as crude as
her then-husband Bobby; moving into the neighborhood, they leave
Ellie fuming.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Body of
Proof” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC.

This was already an above-average show,
with a terrific central character – Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt,
a steel-willed medical examiner – and solid mysteries. Still, it
was on the shelf for 10 months, getting a makeover that makes things
more personal.

Short-term, a kidnapping strikes Megan
directly. That propels a strong story that concludes next week.

And long-term? Her former investigator
is dead; the previous cops are gone. Now she's reluctantly working
with a handsome police detective (Mark Valley) from her past.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Smash,” 10
p.m., NBC.

It's a busy night for our recording
devices, with all of the best shows at 10 p.m.

This one catches “Bombshell” in
limbo, waiting for a Broadway go-ahead. Julia keeps rewriting it,
aided by a teacher (Daniel Sunjata of “Rescue Me”). Derek uses
the interlude to direct a concert special for a star (Jennifer
Hudson), with a young songwriter (Jeremy Jordan) scrambling for a
spot.

Some of this seems contrived, but there
are sensational moments for Hudson and others.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Mourning
the shooting death of his wife, Vance (Rocky Carroll) tries to return
to work as division chief. He soon learns devastating personal
details.

– “New Girl,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun, Jess and Nick discuss their no-sex relationship.
Then a new episode has roommates battling for a parking spot and
Winston searching for a condom.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Probing the lone survivor of a terrorist group, Kensi and Deeks
go deep into a woods.

– “Guns in America” and
“Frontline,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Over the
next two nights, PBS will have four prime-time hours looking at
violence. Tonight's first hour takes a historic look, from frontier
justice to the Newtown tragedy. The second views the childhood of
Adam Lanza, the alleged Newtown shooter.

– “Cult” debut, 9 p.m., CW. A
reporter probes a sticky question: Is a fictional TV show linked to
murders outside the show? This is a complex hour for viewers, but it
has some talented people: Rockne O'Bannon (“Farscape”) is the
writer-producer; Robert Knepper (“Prison Break”) is the prime
villain.

– “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m.,
Fox. Mindy gets a one-minute medical spot on TV.

– “Vegas,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
hot-shot producer has roared into town with a gorgeous starlet. That
creates problems for Savino, who runs the Mob's casino, and his young
assistants, Mia and Tommy.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. Yes,
this 10 p.m. spot is thoroughly overcrowded. Here, Raylan faces two
problems – a beautiful grifter and a vengeful enemy from the past.
Also, Boyd and Ava seek ways to make money from some of Harlan
County's wealthy.