TV column for Friday, March 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Fringe,” 9
p.m., Fox.

Don't you hate it when thieves aren't
restricted by gravity? They seem to have an unfair advantage.

For “Fringe” – a high-quality
show on a low-viewership night – that's one of the problems. A
bigger one involves the fact that Walter (John Noble) ruptured the fabric of the
universe, by journeying into the alternate world; now he tries to
slow the damage he's done.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS.

For the second straight week, this
focuses on the past of Danny, well-played by Donnie Wahlberg.

A former Marine war hero, now homeless,
has been killed; Danny – a police detective and an ex-Marine –
takes the case personally. In a separate story, someone has planted
the false rumor that his dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner,
is running for mayor.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Beast
Hunter,” 9 p.m., National Geographic.

For years, Pat Spain says, 19th-century
scientists scoffed at stories of a hairy, man-like beast that walked
the jungles. When a missionary returned with a skull in 1847, they
learned about gorillas.

Then what of the other legends? In
1910, newspapers told of dinosaur-like creatures. Spain travels to
the Congo Basin, where he gets first-hand reports and (as usual)
nothing substantive.

Like the show's first two episodes (one
of which reruns at 10), this is all about possibilities. Viewers must
settle for interesting glimpses of a dense jungle and the Pygmy
people who survive there.

Other choices include:

– “The Defenders,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Accused of killing a yoga instructor, a husband and wife want
separate lawyers. The firm temporarily dissolves, so Morelli and
Kaczmarek can each take one.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Kim Cattrall (“Sex and the City”) traces
the grandfather who abandoned her mother and aunts. She emerges with
disturbing news.

– “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”
(2008, FX) or “School of Rock” (2003, TBS), 8 p.m. This a good
night to catch a family film. FX has an animated sequel (rerunning at
10) with delightful animal characters. TBS has Jack Black as a
musician pretending to be a teacher; the result (rerunning at 10:40)
is well-made, with Richard Linklater directing and Mike White writing
and co-starring.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. Welcome
to the sort of world “Gossip Girl” knows – with rich kids in an
elite Manhattan school. Tonight, police investigate the murder of a
popular and gifted student.

– “Supernatural,” 9 p.m., CW.
When virgins are disappearing, the guys jump to the obvious
conclusion that dragons are responsible. Less obvious is how to
defeat a dragon.

– “Monk,” 9 p.m., MyNetwork. The
first time John Turturro played Adrian Monk's agoraphobic brother
Ambrose, he won an Emmy. Here's a rerun of his second episode; this
time, Ambrose seems more interested in Natalie than the case. That
follows an 8 p.m. rerun in which Natalie is a murder target.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy.
Pauline Collins has been on British TV for more than four decades;
she also won a Tony and was nominated for an Oscar for “Shirley
Valentine.” Now, at 70, she plays the ex-love of Merlin's mentor,
Gaius. Merlin can't convince him that she's under a spell, in a plot
to kill the king.

TV column for Thursday, March 10


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

As it starts the weekly elimination
nights, “Idol” loads up on star power.

Adam Lambert, its runner-up in 2009,
performs. So does Ditty-Dirty Money, with Skylar Gray. Also, David
Cook, the 2008 champion, has recorded this year's farewell song, a
remake of Simple Mind's 1985 “Don't You (Forget About Me).” That
will be in the background tonight when one of the memorable young
singers exits.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

When this wonderful series started,
Leonard's love life seemed hopeless. Now he incites jealousy.

He's been dating Priya, Raj's gorgeous
sister. Now she's upset about all the time he spends with his
ex-lover Penny. Meanwhile, Howard has a magic trick that drives
Sheldon crazy.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Parks and
Recreation,” 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Next week, this show plans a new
episode – a particularly good one – set at the harvest festival.
First, however, here's a rerun with some great moments.

The flu is sweeping through Pawnee and
Ann is overwhelmed at the hospital. April is the world's worst
patient; Chris (Rob Lowe) is the most worried, fearful of any
imperfection. Leslie is the most reluctant, insisting she should be
at the festival-planning meeting; she gets there, but her mind
wobbles.

Other choices include:

– “Wipeout,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. It's
an all-rerun night on ABC – in sharp contrast to the all-new CBS
and Fox. This one, from last June, links 12 single men and 12 single
women into “blind date” duos, then has them try wild obstacles,
seeking a $100,000 prize.

– “Perfect Couples,” 8:30 p.m.,
NBC. This rerun has some funny moments, as Dave concocts excuses for
why an attractive and cheerful young woman is his hiking partner.

“Rules of Engagement,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. When Russell goes on a
date, Timmy is his interpreter. Also, Jeff plans to surprise Audrey
by actually remembering their anniversary.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. An ex-cop, killed in prison, had a list of people he
suspected of killing his wife.

– “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. Booth
uses his military training to pursue Jacob Broadsky, the snper. Also,
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top plays Angela's dad, insisting on naming her
baby.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun (originally scheduled for last week, then moved), Andy holds a
seminar and Erin wants help in Scrabble.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
There's a shake-up, when LaRoche takes over the CBI and puts Cho in
charge of the team. Meanwhile, the team probes the murder of a
doctor, with plenty of suspects.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has new interns arriving while their elders are in flux.
Arizona tries to make up with Callie; Teddy must make a decision for
Henry during surgery.

– “30 Rock,” 10 p.m., NBC. The
next couple episodes – a rerun tonight, a new one next week –
focus on the reality show about Tracy's wife. Tonight, cameras visit
his workplace.

TV column got Wednesday, March 9


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

This season was supposed to be an
ongoing collision between two of the show's most intense players. Rob
Mariano would lead one team, Russell Hantz the other.

Then it quickly crumbled: After winning
the first two immunity challenges, Hantz's tribe threw the third so
it could vote him out.

It was an instant change for Hantz, 38,
who finished second and third in previous editions. Now his only hope
is to keep winning one-on-one challenges on “Redemption Island”;
that starts tonight with Matt Elrod, 22, a pre-med student who last
week beat Fransesca Hogi on the island.

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

The real competition finally begins,
after the 13 finalists were chosen last week.

At one extreme are three high school
students. Lauren Alaina, 16, is a sophomore and a cheerleader; Thia
Megia, 16, is a junior and guitarist-pianist; Scotty McCreery, 17, is
a junior and a baseball pitcher.

At the other are 26-year-olds. Naima
Adedapo is a University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee dance grad who
teaches hip hop and African dance; Paul McDonald studied biomedical
science at Auburn.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Nothing
Personal” debut, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

“Big Sal” Miciotta says he was in a
hospital waiting room when he got the assignment. His first thought:
“Doesn't anyone here know how to kill somebody? My wife is giving
birth here.”

But he took the job and killed Larry
Carrozza, without asking why. It might have been because Carrozza –
a married mortician, 30, with three kids – had an affair with a
mobster's daughter; it might have been involved a dispute with her
brother over profits from a scheme that stole gas taxes.

That story – told by some of the key
people – is interesting. The filming is much too dark and
monotonous, but the narration (by Steve Schirripa of “The
Sopranos”) is solid.

Other choices include:

– “America's Next Top Model,” 8
p.m., CW. The models get makeovers, whether they want to or not.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. In the first rerun, Frankie and Mike decide their kids will no
longer rule the house. In the second, Axl studies football for the
Super Bowl.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Mitchell and Cameron are disturbed that a stranger is
using their hot tub … until they notice that the guy (James
Marsden) is a handsome hunk.

– “Mr. Sunshine,” 9:31, ABC.
Crystal's son has secretly been living in the candy room – not a
place where he exercises self-control; Ben reluctantly helps.
Meanwhile, Crystal rages against Smurfs.

– “The Real World” season-opener,
10 p.m., MTV. Back in 1992, this was ahead of the reality-show trend.
For its 25th edition, it has seven young strangers living
together in Las Vegas.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. Two guest stars have fun moments here. Isaiah Mustafa (from the
Old Spice commercials) plays a basketball coach whose life collapsed
when LeBron James left town; Jon Lovitz plays a homeless opera singer
who could be Joy's ticket to a green card.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. Sent
back to Harlan County, Raylan finds the usual suspects: His dad has
violated his electronic tether rules, Boyd is involved with the
payroll-robbery scheme.

TV column for Tuesday, March 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Southland,” 10
p.m., TNT.

As “Southland” teeters toward
limbo, this well-made episode works either way.

It could be just a good season-finale.
If the show doesn't return, however, it's a first-rate farewell.

On Ben's final day as a rookie,
personal crises swirl. His training officer, John Cooper has refused
to report his bad back, for fear he'll be confined to desk duty;
instead, he's descended into pain-pill addiction. One detective is
awaiting word from his ex-wife on the birth of their baby; another
has been sleeping with a younger man … who is the son of her police
partner.

All of this continues alongside the
usual police work, including Ben's sensational roof-top fight. It's a
dandy way to end a season or – let's hope not – a series.

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

A gifted, Oscar-winning actress links
with an excellent show – again. Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Holly
Holliday, the free-spirited substitute teacher.

This time, she takes over for the
sex-education teacher; she and Will teach his club. Meanwhile, Emma –
whom Will still loves – leads the Celibacy Club and has a serious
talk with Carl (John Stamos).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: All night,
Comedy Central.

Sandwiched between “Daily
Shop”/Colbert hours – a rerun at 7 p.m., a new one at 11 – is a
terrific block. It starts with “Onion SportsDome” (moved to 8
p.m.), then has non-stop Daniel Tosh.

His brilliant stand-up special is at 9
p.m., alongside his Web-oriented “Tosh.0,” at 8:30, 10 and 10:30.
The 10 p.m. one is new, offering “Web redemption” for Phil
Davison, the Ohio councilman whose ranting, flailing speech is a
classic in political ineptitude.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. This hour
– the start of a two-part rerun – brings back Michael Nouri as
Ziva's dad, the head of Israel's Mossad unit. The team must protect
him when he has business in Los Angeles.

– “No Ordinary Family,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. People still see Jim as a harmlesssketch artist. This rerun
finds it tough for him to keep his powers secret: He's the only
defense, when thugs overrun the police station.

– “V,” 9 p.m., ABC. A week before
the season-finale (which may be the series-finale), the aliens' plan
is peaking. They will open 538 “blue energy” reactors, powering
much of Earth; dissidents are convinced that Anna (the alien leader)
has a dark scheme. Also convinced of that are her own mother (played
by Jane Badler, who led the aliens in the original series) and
daughter.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the team races to stop hit men from striking again.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In the rerun of a good episode, Alicia learns how hard it is to work
in the military's justice system – especially when she's competing
with Cary and the judge dislikes her.

– “Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC.
This rerun – a rarity for “Parenthood” – catches a time when
Sarah was dating her boss; their all-nighter causes troubles with her
kids.

– “Detroit 1-8-7,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Forces squeeze Stone (D.J. Cotrona). A rival from his undercover
days is a murder suspect; also. his drug-addicted ex-girlfriend is
hanging around the police station.

TV column for Monday, March 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Event”
return, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

After taking too long to get there,
“The Event” finally has an interesting story.

There are the outer-space visitors,
under the benign leadership of Sophia; they've been imprisoned
(without growing older) for generations. There are also the rogues
and the visitors who escaped, living undercover. Meanwhile, Sean
(Jason Ritter) and his girlfriend Leila wonder what happened to her
father and who took her sister.

It all gathers speed now, with
surprises, twists and action. It's too bad it took this long.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Greek”
finale, 9 p.m., ABC Family.

After four seasons and erratic quality,
this series ends with both extremes.

Two plot twists are pointless. One
involves a supposed ethical crisis for law students, the other an
elaborate corporate theft; both are mostly absurd.

Still, the personal stories are wrapped
up neatly; we even learn Cappie's real name. In particular, Spencer
Grammer (Kelsey's daughter) and Jacob Zachar have given their
characters depth. As Casey and Rusty, siblings at the show's core,
they give a so-so show some decent depth.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “He Loves Me,”
9-11 p.m., Lifetime.

The mind can be a fascinating
playground – especially when we don't know if it's telling the
truth.

A high-end real-estate saleswoman
(beautifully played by Heather Locklear) has a horrifying tale of
cheating and being cheated-upon, shattering an enviable life. Her
therapist wonders if all of this is true; you'll find it hard to
guess ahead. Don't look for closure, but do expect a compelling ride.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. This show
is at its best when it toys with reality. Tonight, amid personal
tragedy, Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) has daydreams about House (Hugh
Laurie); all are in the style of vintage movies – including a
musical, another chance to display Laurie's immense talent.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. This rerun has Will Forte and Broadway's Laura Bell Bundy
as quirky co-workers for Marshall and Robin. Also, Jennifer Morrison
is back as Zoey; enrolling in Ted's class, she turns others against
his project.

– “Mad Love,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. On
a rerun-stuffed night, Brittany Snow has new episodes of two shows.
She has her regular “Harry's Law” duty and is the younger sister
of Kate (Sarah Chalke) here.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.
CBS. Charlie (Charlie Sheen) is rattled by the fact that he's dating
someone slightly older. This being Hollywood, she's played by Liz
Vassey (“CSI”) who, at 38, is seven years younger than Sheen.

– “Chicago Code,” 9 p.m., Fox.
With the possibility of inter-racial violence in Chinatown, Wysocki
must enlist the help of two opposites – Alderman Gibbons and Police
Commissioner Colvin … whose brother-in-law is involved in
suspicious dealings.

– “Harry's Law,” 10 p.m., NBC. A
drive-by shooting leads to some legal battles and a surprise
discovery – a former gang member, now a vigilante street doctor.

– “Stargate Universe” return, 10
p.m., Syfy. In a good episode, the Destiny leaders are desperate
while being attacked by an overwhelming number of drones. They try
everything from a computer trick to sending Chloe back to her alien
abductors.