TV column for Sunday, April 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Killing”
(AMC) or “The Borgias” (Showtime), both 10 p.m.

Each Sunday, these two collide. One is
brooding, the other brash; both are brilliantly crafted.

“Killing” is spending 13 weeks on
one crime, with deep portraits of the cops, the suspects and the
grieving parents. Tonight, the police find key pieces – we won't
learn what – of the victim's secret life.

“Borgias,” by comparison, is full
of Vatican spectacle. Tonight, we learn more about the political
schemes of 15th-century Italy; one pawn in those schemes, Lucrezia
Borgia, gets married. There's a great wedding-reception scene
involving her mother.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Extreme
Makeover:Home Edition” return, 8 p.m. ABC.

Now that “Secret Millionaire” has
finished its trial run, this show is back.

Tonight, it goes to Wichita to help
Carl Hall. A former star athlete, he had a busy life with his wife
and four kids; then, a hear ago, a car accident left him paralyzed.
Now the Halls gets a sports vacation while builders and designers
remake their home.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “What Happened
in Waco,” 8 and 11 p.m., CNN.

The 1993 stand-off between federal
agents and the Branch Davidian cult ended with 86 people dead, 24 of
them children. This documentary calmly and colorlessly views mistakes
on both sides.

It visits two survivors –
apparently, the entire current flock of Branch Davidian – who meet
each Sunday. Also, a man who left the cult has cleared the land, with
hopes for a religious gathering.

Other choices include:

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Two years ago, a fire swept through Victoria in
Australia, killing 173 people and scorching a million acres. Then,
almost instantly, a comeback began. Animals recovered, plants grew,
trees survived – all of it recorded beautifully.

– “Human Planet,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
Discovery. Here's the mid-section of this gorgeous series. Tonight
follows Inuit fishermen in the Arctic, then goes to Burma, Ethiopia
for life in jungles and grasslands.

– “Lemonade Mouth” (Disney) and
“The Shunning” (Hallmark), both 8-10 p.m. Here are quick reruns
of two fairly good films, viewing opposite youths – rockers on
Disney, an Amish woman on Hallmark.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Fresh from a kidney transplant, Susan obsesses on gambling.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Packing a lot into three weeks, this
“Upstairs Downstairs” sequel is beautifully done but crowded.
Tonight has good news for Agnes, dark dealings for her self-centered
sister. Also, a new housekeeper is ushered into and out of the story.

– “Game of Thrones” debut, 9
p.m., HBO. It's a slow start for this epic and violent, 10-week
fantasy series. We need the whole hour to start to know the
characters – even longer to care about them.

– “The Fall of Sam Ax” 9-11 p.m.,
USA. Bruce Campbell's “Burn Notice” character gets his own movie,
a prequel to the “Burn Notice” series.

– “TV Land Awards,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
TV Land. This starts with Liza Minnelli singing “New York, New
York,” then piles up TV memories with Michael J. Fox, John
Travolta, Bill Cosby and more.

– “River Monsters,” 10 p.m.,
Animal Planet. In a strong hour, Jeremy Wade traces stories of a
giant, killer snake in New Zealand. He finds a fierce eel that fits
the description.

TV column for Saturday, April 16


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Shunning,”
9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

Katie Lapp's life is quiet and orderly.
Her Amish family is loving; her marriage is coming.

Then she changes her mind and is
shunned, even by her parents. Complicating things is the arrival of
an outsider with a secret.

The story – from Beverly Lewis' novel
– often seems forced, but the execution is first-rate. Michael
Landon Jr. offers his gentle directing touch here, with a fine cast
led by Danielle Panabaker as Katie and Sherry Stringfield as the
outsider.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Truth Be
Told,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Candace Cameron Bure plays a marriage
counselor who may land a dream job on a radio talk show.

The catch: People might distrust a
marriage expert who's not married. Visiting a media mogul, she wants
a widower (David James Elliott) and his kids to pretend to be her
family.

The result is the latest in a series of
family-friendly movies that started on NBC, then moved to Fox.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Law &
Order: LA,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

Here's a second chance to see Monday's
episodes, which launched the show's revamp.

The first hour is messy and violent,
but accomplishes its purpose – taking Morales (Alfred Molina) out
of the district attorney's office and into the police station. That
pays off in the second hour, when Molina's masterful work sparks a
strong interrogation scene.

Other choices include:

– Playoffs, all day. This is opening
day of the NBA playoffs, with basketball games set for 3:30 p.m. ET
on ABC and 5:30, 8 and 10:30 on ESPN. It's also opening week for the
NHL playoffs; there's hockey at 1 p.m. on NBC and at 7 and 10 p.m. on
Versus.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a shoot-out at a gun store may be linked to
a young woman's suicide.

– “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead
Man's Chest” (2006), 8-11 p.m., ABC. Here's the second of three
large (too large, at times) adventures with Johnny Depp, Keira
Knightley and Orlando Bloom.

– More movies, 8 p.m., cable. There
are romantic comedies, good – “Knocked Up” (2007) on E – and
great – “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) on TV Guide. And there's
Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994) on ABC Family
and “Lemony Snicket” (2004) on TBS.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
This reruns the episode that added Taryn Manning as McGarrett's
sister. Balthazar Getty plays a dangerous prison escapee, with D.L.
Hughley as a fellow inmate.

– “Braxton Family Values,” 9
p.m., WE. Here's another chance to see the interesting start of a
reality series that shows Toni Braxton and her four younger (and
noisier) sisters.

– “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Giving a rape-prevention talk at his
daughter's college, in this rerun, Stabler comes across an accusation
and a denial.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. In the rerun of a good episode, Gwyneth Paltrow hosts and
Cee-Lo Green does the cleaned-up (“Forget You”) version of his
hit song.

TV column for Friday, April 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Friday Night
Lights” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

One of TV's best shows starts its final
season. Some people have already seen it on DirecTV; others can savor
13 great weeks, with a little football and a lot of blue-collar
drama. It's so beautifully understated that one of the most moving
monologues is five words long: “I'm going to miss this.”

We start in late August, as the last of
the show's original teens, Landry and Julie, head to college. Most of
the others are gone now; one (Tim) is in prison, after taking the rap
for his brother's chop-shop.

Julie's dad is the football coach who
last season was nudged from powerful Dillon High to ragged East
Dillon. His wife joins him now as guidance counselor, building a
great season of underdog drama.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Lemonade
Mouth,” 8-10 p.m., Disney; repeats Sunday and Tuesday.

The five teens in detention have much
in common. All are musicians and misfits; all are brainy and (of
course) attractive. They form a band.

That propels a movie that is low on
believability, high on vibrant music, OK on drama. Director Patricia
Riggen – whose previous films were in her native Mexico – gives
it a stylish look and gets solid work from actors who are mostly
unknown and likable.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Fringe,” 9
p.m., Fox; “Sanctuary” return, 10 p.m., Syfy.

William Bell's consciousness still
lingers inside Olivia; tonight, her colleagues scramble to free her.
Then a strong science-fiction night continues with “Sanctuary”
returning in mid-crisis.

Searching for her father, Magnus
(Amanda Tapping) took her team to the underground world of Praxis.
They were condemned to death – which, on this show, can be
temporary. Tonight mixes action, special effects and Magnus'
confrontation with the Praxis ruler, played by the terrific Polly
Walker.

Other choices include:

– “Chaos,” 8 p.m., CBS. Posing as
lawyers, the guys are distracted by an arms dealer's daughters.

– “CSI:NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a big-deal lawyer (Gregory Harrison) reports a jewelry heist
at his penthouse. The case soon grows into something much bigger.

– “Dateline,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. One
story tells of the effort to solve a restaurant murder that happened
21 years earlier; the other views the deaths of two ambitious New
Jersey brothers, the Kissels.

– “Killer Outbreaks,” 9 p.m.,
Animal Planet. It was one veterinarian, this fascinating documentary
said, who helped solve a 1999 crisis. She found similarities between
bird, animal and human diseases; scientists did a quick detour and
identified the West Nile virus. That story launches a six-week series
viewing outbreaks that linked the animal and human worlds.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun, Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, re-opens a
case that gripped him 25 years ago. Also, his son (Donnie Wahlberg)
probes the murder of an escort.

– “American Restoration,” 10 and
10:30 p.m., History. In a dusty desert setting near Las Vegas, Rick
Dale keeps the scattered remains of our pop-culture past. Now we see
him do remarkable work in restoring them. Tonight's gem is partly
artifact, partly replica: An old Coke cooler turns into a combination
cooler and hot-dog stand, a red-and-chrome memory machine.

TV column for Thursday, April 14


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

Wrapping up Steve Carell's final
season, the show makes the most of the transition. Tonight, it brings
in his replacement – Will Ferrell.

No, Ferrell won't really be the new
guy; he's only signed for four episodes. Still, tonight Deangelo
Vickers (Ferrell) starts training to replace Michael (Carell). Dwight
pouts; others try to impress

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Paul
Reiser Show” debut, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

A dozen years ago, Reiser ended the
seven-year run of “Mad About You.” He was 43, rich, at leisure.

Now Reiser plays himself, an at-home
husband ad dad. Some of it is the understated comedy he's known for;
there are two great scenes with Larry David, the master of
comedy-about-nothing.

Still, Reiser also stretches for bigger
laughs. He creates four funny friends, played by Ben Shenkman, Duane
Martin, Andree Daly and the terrific Omid Djalili; he also has
hilarious moments with dim-witted contestants on a game show he may
host. It's good to have him back.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Vampire
Diaries,” 8 p.m., CW.

Many teens, we assume, would enjoy
using telekinetic powers to make a history professor slam against
trophy cases at the big school dance. Now Bonnie has a good reason
for it.

She assaults the body of a friend,
because Klaus is currently inside it. (Hey, it makes sense in
context.) The result is fiercely violent and wildly visual, with a
major emotional pay-off.

Other choices include:

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. It's
time for short-run spring electives. Abed studies a TV comedy; Pierce
(Chevy Chase) falls for someone at a wine-tasting class.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts with this fun one. The guys finally
see some good in Penny's hunky boyfriend – he'll be a superhero
when they portray the Justice League.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:31,
CBS. There are some funny moments when Jeff and Adam invent a silly
game; also, Russell and Timmy have a double date.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. A shredded body leaves plenty of suspects.

– “Nikita,” 9 p.m., CW. A
seething Owen is in London, tracing a black box. That leads to the
sort of fierce, mid-day shoot-out that the gun-free Englishmen don't
really approve of.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, the father of Meredith and Lexie is again back to the
hospital and sick. This time, however, he's brought a young
girlfriend.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Freed from prison by DNA evidence, a man is promptly killed.

– “30 Rock,” 10 p.m., NBC. As her
show teeters toward cancellation, Liz searches for Tracy.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX.
Convinced that the head of the KGB is his biologic father, Archer
diverts a mission to Moscow. He soon needs to be rescued by an enemy,
in a broadly funny episode.

– “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,”
10:30, Showtime. In a good episode, Belle is overwhelmed by double
duty as a prostitute and a (temporary) madam. A fun session with a
semi-virgin offers focus; then comes a crucial and beautifully played
moment with Ben's mom.

TV column for Wednesday, April 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Happy Endings”
debut, 9:31 and 10 p.m., ABC.

These six people have been together
almost forever. Jane (Eliza Coupe) and Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) are
married and comfy; her sister Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) is marrying
their friend Dave (Zachary Knighton). Max (Adam Pally) is gay, Penny
(Casey Wilson) is luckless, both are optimistic.

Then Alex runs off on her wedding day,
spoiling everyone's happy ending and propelling a very funny show. In
the second episode, Dave sinks into a relationship too quickly,
against his will.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Slumdog
Millionaire” (2008) and “Justified,” 7:30 and 10 p.m., FX.

First, catch a delight that mixes
tragedy, action, romance and a quiz show – wrapped together neatly
with a musical finale. The song won an Oscar – one of eight for
“Slumdog,” including best picture.

Then the superb “Justified” has a
pivotal episode. Mags, the backwoods crime matriarch, is brooding
because Raylan killed her dim and dangerous son. Boyd Crowder plans
his big takeover. And Boyd and his ex-wife Winona are at a turning
point – nudged by a fierce surprise.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Comedies, 8-11
p.m., ABC.

A couple years after comedies were
crumbling, ABC expands to three hours.

That starts tonight with “The
Middle”; Mike grounds his son – which may keep him from breaking
his dad's basketball record. At 8:30, “Better With You” returns
with one sister being both promoted and fired, while another ponders
a vintage children's book.

There are also two “Modern Family”
episodes, both centering on Cameron's musical aspirations. At 9 p.m.,
he takes over the middle-school musical; in a 10:30 rerun, he drums
in Dylan's rock band.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8-9:30 p.m.,
Fox. The male domination went too far last week, when powerhouse Pia
Toscano was voted off. One judge wept, others seemed stunned, Toscano
needed a medic's help getting offstage. “Idol,” once with six
males and seven females, now has six and two.

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last
week, Matt Elrod got his sixth straight Redemption Island victory,
this time over Sarita White. That sent her home and moved him back to
the merged tribe – which, alas, soon voted him back to the island.
Tonight, CBS says, two more people will be sent there.

– “Shedding For the Wedding”
finale, 9 p.m., CW. All nine couples return after three months on
their own. Two compete for a dream wedding; the others are still in
the running to win a honeymoon.

– “Breaking In,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.
Cameron's latest task is to beat an old woman's elaborate security
system. Meanwhile, a beautiful dentist (Alyssa Milano) seems terribly
interested in his work.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. While taking care of young Calvin, Benson
searches for his drug-addicted mom (Maria Bello). Others feel she's
too involved in the case.

– “Workaholics,” 10:30 p.m.,
Comedy Central. This episode is better than last week's overwrought
debut, but all three guys still aren't easy to care about. Tonight,
they lie and scheme, so women will take them in a fancy car to a
basketball game; there are some fairly funny moments.