TV column for Sunday, April 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Academy of Country
Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

The last year has been packed for Blake
Shelton, including hits, marriage and “The Voice.” Now he
co-hosts (with Reba McEntire), sings and is up for entertainer of the
year and best male performer.

His wife Miranda Lambert – up for
best album and female performer – also performs. So do Kenny
Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Jason
Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Sara Evansand Chris Young, plus Band
Perry, Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum.

Also planned is an award-show first:
Martina McBride and Pat Monahan (of Train) sing “Marry Me” during
the wedding of a couple that met during a support group for the
widowed.

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

In many ways, Charles Dickens “Great
Expectations” is a truly goofy tale. It starts with an escaped
convict at the seashore, ends in London society, takes odd twists in
between.

Still, people keep filming remakes,
this one spread over two Sundays. It's boosted immensely by Gillian
Anderson's wonderfully wacky performance as Miss Havisham.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVES: “The
Killing,” 8-10 p.m., AMC, or “Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO.

Two hugely ambitious series – each
richly crafted, but difficult to follow – start their second
seasons.

“Killing” startled viewers last
year by failing to solve its murder. It ended with a suspect (and
mayoral candidate) being shot by the dim friend of the victim's
family. In tonight's hours – brilliantly crafted, as usual –
only a few things are straightened out.

“Thrones” finds cruel Joffrey on
the Iron Throne, challenged on all fronts. In the North, Robb Stark
has captured his uncle. In the East, Daenerys leads a desert trek. On
the Dragonstone island, Stannis aligns with a priestess. It's a
tangled hour, livened by Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage as brash, little
Tyrion.

Other choices include:

– “Finding Your Roots,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). In an intriguing journey through
name-change tangles, we learn the roots of Barbara Walters and Harlem
educator Geoffrey Canada.

– “Titanoboa: Monster Snake,”
8-10 p.m., Smithsonian. In a Colombian coal mine, researchers found
fossils from what might have been the Earth's first rainforest. They
even made a replica on one creature – a snake that might have been
48 feet long, weighing 3,000 pounds.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Last week found good news for Gabrielle (a big-money job as a
personal shopper) and bad for Bree (arrest as a murder suspect) and
Lynette (flubbing her plan to win back Tom). Tonight, Bree tries to
hire a top defense lawyer, played by Scott Bakula.

– “Wicked Tuna” debut, 10 p.m.,
National Gographic. Off the coast of Gloucester, Mass., a single tuna
can be worth from $1,500 to $20,000. In the opener, we follow five
crews through bad advice, bad luck (one has its anchor line severed)
and occasional success.

– “Jo Koy: Lights Out,” 10 p.m.,
Comedy Central. Koy gives an adequate comedy concert, built on
recollections of his mom's under-reaction and his own (naked)
over-reaction to an earthquake.

– “Saving the Titanic,”10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Heading into the 100th
anniversary of the Titanic's sinking (April 14-15), TV has major
documentaries. This is a fairly good one, strong on re-enactments. It
shows workers struggling to slow the sinking, giving time for people
to escape.

TV column for Saturday, March 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, 6 p.m. ET,
CBS.

Other networks go into hiding tonight,
when CBS has the final four of the NCAA tournameent.

First (with tip-off at about 6:09) is
an intra-state battle.Louisville (30-9) faces Kentucky (36-2) –
which was the only team, top-seeded in its bracket, to survive.

The second (estimated at 8:49) has
Kansas (31-6) and Ohio State (31-7).The winners collide Monday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable.

There's a cascade of broadly
entertaining films tonight, for those who aren't basketball buffs.

“Dreamgirls” (2006, 8 p.m.) has
vibrant music and a perfect cast that includes Beyonce, Anika Noni
Rose and the Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson. “Toy Story” (1995,
ABC Family, with the sequl at 10) is an animated delight.
“Bridesmaids” (2011, HBO) and “Iron Man” (2008, FX) are
flawed but fun.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Kids Choice
Awards, 8-9:30 p.m., Nickelodeon.

While some networks shy away from
basketball's day, Nick airs its biggest show.

It has one movie star (Will Smith) as
host and others (Zac Efron, Emma Stone) as presenters. It has music
by Katy Perry and by the British group One Direction.

Perry has the most individual
nominations – for favorite singer, song (“Firework”) and
cartoon voice (Smurfette). Other nominees range from Johnny Depp to
Lady Gaga to America's best-known reserve, Tim Tebow. Presenters
include Cee Lo Green, Chris Rock, Chris Colfer and Heidi Klum, plus
Michelle Obama giving Taylor Swift a philanthropy award.

Other choices include:

– “Star Wars” (1977), 5 p.m.,
Spike. In a slight shift, Spike has this classic at 5 p.m. and its
sequel (“Empire Strikes Back,” 1980) at 8.

– “Cops” and “Bones,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. In a late change, Fox is pulling these two off the shelf.
They replace many “Q'Viva,” which some Fox stations will air
latenight.

– “Escape Routes” debut, 8 p.m.,
NBC. Here's the start of a reality competition that sends teams on a
road trip, maybe in the “Amazing Race” style.

– “Hornet's Nest,” 8 and 10 p.m.,
TNT. Patricia Cornwell's novel had a deputy police commissioner and a
reporter probing serial murders. Sherry Stringfield and Virginia
Madsen star.

– “20/20,” 9-11 p.m., ABC. Here's
another round of “My Extreme Affliction.”

– “Being Human,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. A cranky neighbor is accidentally killed by Annie the ghost.
Also, romance troubles: Hal goes on his first date in 50 years; Tom
falls for Allison, the werewolf.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two talented Emmy-winners are in this rerun,
when Benson (Mariska Hargitay) asks a tough defense lawyer (Andre
Braugher) to help her brother.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Fresh from seeing Katy Perry sing (and maybe get awards)
at Kids Choice, viewers can see her comedy side. She hosts this
rerun, with Robyn as music guest.

TV column for Friday, March 30


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

Rita Wilson is an actress who produced
the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”with her husband, Tom Hanks.
Her own life has included lots of cheerful trips to her parents'
roots in Greece.

Now she digs deeper, beyond the cheery
parts. She travels to Bulgaria, where her dad was in a labor camp; he
eventually reached the U.S. (unable to speak English) and mold a new
life. “You always got this enormous sense of gratitude from him,”
Wilson said.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “CSI: NY”
and “Blue Bloods,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

After being gone for a while, Friday's
steadiest scripted shows are back, with fresh murders to solve.

“CSI:NY” was gone for seven weeks.
Tonight, Lee Majors plays a retired detective, returning when a fresh
case seems to reflect one that stumped him years ago.

“Blue Bloods: was only gone for a
two-week basketball break. Now it's back, with an ethical dilemma:
The “no questions asked” buyback program lands a gun tied to a
crime Danny is investigating.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Great
Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Rebuilding from its earthquake and
fires, San Francisco decided to be a center of culture. Five years
later – on Dec.8, 1911 – the San Francisco Symphony debuted; it
stuck to afternoon concerts at first, because the theater had bigger
shows at night.

The symphony grew to global fame. Here,
alongside historical briefs, ia a tape of the 100th-birthday concert;
Michael Tilson Thomas conducts a lively night, with Itzhak Perlman
and Lang Lang soloing.

Other choices include:

– “Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS.
This is another show that took a two-week break. Tonight, the head of
Yankee Candle goes undercover.

– “Star Wars” (1977), 8 p.m.,
Spike. Here's the re-edited version (now called “Star Wars IV”)
from 1997. It's part of a night of popular films, including
“Crocodile Dundee” (1986) at 7:45 p.m. on CMT and “The Blind
Side” (2009) at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. Peter
recognizes a case that no one seems familiar with.

– “Supernatural,” 9 p.m., CW.
Here's an imposing opponent – a vengeful creature than can only be
seen when you're drunk.

– “True Justice” debut, 9 p.m.,
Reelz. Remember the old days, when a movie or TV series would simply
be an odd assemblage of running, driving, hitting and shooting?
Remember when Steven Seagal was a star? Those days are revived in
this series, in which every bust (and some conversations) becomes a
war zone. Seagal (as the police boss) refuses to emote, but sometimes
breaks bones.

– “Spartacus,”10 p.m., Starz. The
season finale finds Spartacus facing steep odds. His ragged rebels
are on Mt. Vesuvius, with Roman troops massing below. There's no way
to win – unless, they take a big risk. The result has lots of
brutal men (as usual for the show) and amps up the female ferocity.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. The
season-finale finds Arthur feeling defeated and unworthy to take
over as king. Merlin's solution is to show him this magical sword,
stuck in a stone.

TV column for Thursday, March 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory” and “Rules of Engagement,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

After being bumped by basketball for
two weeks, TV's best comedy is back.

That's “Big Bang.” (Tonight,
Sheldon thinks he hears the voice of Mr. Spock – spoken by Leonard
Nimoy, now semi-retired from acting at 81.) This season, CBS has
stuck two so-so shows behind it; now it returns to its default
position, the funny-enough “Rules.”

Tonight, Jeff (Patrick Warburton) tries
to prove he can be romantic. Also, Adam (Oliver Hudson) claims his
fiance has a sex tape; it may be a ruse to stir up Russell (David
Spade).

TONIGHT'S MUST-TAPE: “Community,” 8
p.m., NBC.

Forever overwhelmed by “Big Bang,”
this show deserves better. Tonight's episode is a prime example.

One story is a clever take-off on views
that corporations might have people-type rights. To land a franchise
in the student union, a “corpora-human” named Subway is created.

Also, the self-involved Jeff finds he
once slighted someone he can't even remember. It's an inconsistent
episode, but has some terrific moments.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Great
Performances,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For the next two nights, Michael Tilson
Thomas dominates PBS. On Friday, he'll be doing what we expect,
conducting the San Francisco Symphony. First, however, is a more
personal story.

Thomas' grandparents were stars of
Yiddish theater. He wrote and narrates this show, which has Broadway
actors Judy Blazer and Shuler Hensley singing and acting the roles of
Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky. Some of the songs seem loud and silly,
but it's still an entertaining show.

Other choices include:

– “Missing,” 8 p.m., ABC. For
Becca (Ashley Judd), the search for her kidnapped son takes her to
Portofino, Italy. Things are complicated when her suburban friend
(Aunjanue Ellis) arrives, with no idea that Becca is a former CIA
agent. She's soon entwined in a high-octane boat chase.

– “Grey's Anatomy, 9 p.m., ABC. In
a rerun, the emergency room is stuffed with holiday woes; also, there
are iffy plans for a romantic night with Derek and Meredith and with
Callie and Arizona.

– “Awake,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a
fairly good episode, Michael's alternate worlds are getting more
difficult: He's a murder suspect; his wife finds a job in another
city.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Probing the murder of a casino employee, Patrick Jane meets a
magician he worked with, back when he had a stage act, pretending to
be a psychic.

– “Mary Mary” debut, 10 p.m., WE.
In this reality show, we meet Mary Mary, the sister duo that has won
two Grammys in gospel categories and has had six albums reach No. 1
or 2 on Billboard's gospel charts. Things start tonight with a
Thanksgiving concert.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. In a change, ABC reruns a crossover episode: Cooper brings Erica
to Seattle Grace, where the “Grey's Anatomy: people might try some
risky surgery.

TV column for Wednesday, March 28


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

At its best – including tonight's
first episode – “Bent” feels like a pretty good movie. It has
clever dialog,an avalanche of characters and a complex plot that ties
together neatly.

At its worst – including the 9:30
episode – it's still sort of fun.

The first has Pete (David Walton)
scheming to break up Alex (Amanda Peet) and the surgeon she's dating;
it gives attention to Gary, played by Jesse Plemons, one of the
terrific “Friday Night Lights” people. The second has a party for
Alex's work, with Larry Miller as her doubting boss.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Missing,”
10 p.m., ABC.

Before catching the third episode of
this compelling series Thursday, try this rerun of the second.

Becca (Ashley Judd) has been shot in
Paris and plunges into the river. She survives – “Missing” goes
too far in making her beat impossible odds – and keeps searching
for her kidnapped son.

As a former CIA agent, she knows who
can help and who might be a villain. “Missing” will stretch
things over 10 episodes, but it's a great ride, with action and
intrigue in Europe.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Whitechapel,”
10 p.m., BBC America.

Last season, Detective Inspector
Chandler solved cases that re-created London's most famous crimes.
Now he goes a step further: Hire a crime historian who might find
clues helpful to other cases.

He has a tough one to start with –
four people killed inside a locked tailor sharp. This story – the
first of three two-week mysteries – is dark and tough, but
ultimately makes sense.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. Last week, judges praised Erika Van Pelt's makeover and her
singing; viewers ousted her. Tonight, the survivors ( five men, four
women) do songs from their idols.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m.,PBS (check
local listings). Over the next three weeks, PBS reruns its excellent
documentary about the oceans' giants. This opener views the
underwater life of dolphins and whales.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Indianapolis hosted this year's Super Bowl, setting up this rerun:
Frankie wants to volunteer, so she can see the game.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Life is still complicated after you get the cute guy, Tessa finds in
this rerun. For one thing, her dad frets about sex and starts a game
night; for another … the guy isn't nearly as interesting after you
have him.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a switch, ABC inserts a rerun with Cam and Mitchell interviewing
prospective birth mothers. Also, Claire and her dad become
competitive about a school project.

– “Nothing Personal,” 9 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. The bad news from this interesting series is
that lots of people try to kill spouses and such. The good: Some
hired killers are wildly incompetent. This story – with a solid
emergency-room nurse as the intended victim – takes that to an
extreme.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a body has been found at a circus-type
sideshow, leaving plenty of offbeat subjects.