TV column for Thursday, March 21


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all
day.

The college tournament is about to
consume our TV sets and our lives. Today, all 16 games will be live,
with four apiece on CBS and three cable channels.

CBS has one double-header at noon ET,
pauses at about 5 p.m. for news and such, and starts another at 7;
TruTV has double-headers at 12:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., with a pause
at about 5:30.

The others each have four games
straight through; TBS starts at 1:30 p.m., TNT at 2.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:”1600 Penn,”
8:30 and 9:31 p.m., NBC.

Basketball wipes out “The Big Bang
Theory” tonight, leaving comedy fans to scan other networks. This
broad (and, sometimes, quite funny) White House comedy should be fun.

One focus is on Skip, the president's
slacker (but well-meaning) son. In the first episode, his step-mom
nudges him to get the final credit for college graduation; in the
second, he watches his siblings while their parents have a date
night. Meanwhile, Marshall (the presidential spokesman) forms an
unllikely bond with D.B., who impregnated Becca, the president's
daughtr … and Marshall's true love.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Throughout last season, Jessica Sanchez
displayed an impressive voice and a modest persona. The tiny teen
(5-foot-1) kept doing big ballads, finishing as runner-up.

Sanchez – Mexican on one side,
Filipina on the other – has been singing since she was 2 and
reached national TV at 10 (“Showtime at the Apollo”), 11
(“America's Got Talent”) and 16 (“Idol”). At 17, she's
adjusting her image slightly. Ne-Yo is producing and writing several
songs on her upcoming album. Tonight, prior to the ouster of a
contestant, they'll link for “Give Me Everything (Tonight).”

Other choices include:

– “Warehouse 13,” 6 p.m. to 5
a.m., Syfy. The second half of this clever show's season isn't
scheduled until April 29. While you're waiting, the first half reruns
at 7 p.m., plus one extra rerun at 6.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. Dean
Pelton wants people to help recruit a rich student – a goal that
upsets the wealthy Pierce. Also, Abed has a new fraternity and
Shirley thrives in gym class.

– “Apocalypse Now” (1979),
8-11:15 p.m., IFC. Francis Coppola's Vietnam epic is a classic, with
strong work from Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando and more.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. This
reruns the first half of a two-parter in which Andy learns his world
changed – and Erin started dating someone else – during his
three-month voyage. Also, Pam applies for a job that would be near
Jim in Philadelphia … and meets a boss a lot like Michael Scott.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The doctors find running a hospital is difficult. Also, Meredith
worries about the well-being of her baby-to-be; Callie and Arizona
try to spark their romance.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden
plays an FBI agent, convinced that a string of rapes is connected to
an unsolved one from 25 years ago. She has a prime suspect (Harold
Perrineau of “Lost”), but Benson and Amaro have doubts.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. Told to
extract an agent from Morocco, Archer and Lana find a surprise.

– “Scandal,” 10:02 p.m., ABC.
This time, Olivia is at odds with the White House. She's representing
a powerful CEO (Lisa Edelstein of “House”) who had a torrid
affair with the Supreme Court nominee.

TV column for Wednesday, March 20


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

After seeing five straight guys win,
“Idol” may be heading the other way. Last week, women were the
top three vote-getters; men were the bottom four, with Curtis Finch
going home.

Now the nine survivors are back to
perform Lennon-McCartney songs. Also, we'll learn which person –
Charlie Askew or Aubrey Cleland – was chosen by viewers for the
11th spot on tour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The
Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.

A week before its season finale, this
smartly offbeat show has another fun effort.

Bethenny Frankel – who's big on Bravo
reality shows – guests as an arrogant and fast-talking
entrepreneur. Debbie tries to sell her a purse and soon learns that
her neighbor (an alien from another planet) has mastered two Earthly
customs – driving a hard bargain and running a sweat shop.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC.

By now, some viewers expect comedy from
Dean Winters. He's been Mayhem in commercials and he was Dennis
Duffy, New York's last remaining beeper salesman, in “30 Rock.”

But he's also been intensely serious,
from a convict in “Oz” to a cop (and Tommy's brother) in “Rescue
Me. He was a police detective in the first season of “SVU”;
tonight, he faces a rape charge.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 6:30 p.m., TruTV. On
Thursday, the college basketball tournament will start to consume CBS
and three cable networks. First, here's an appetizer – a
doubleheader with the two winners getting the final spots in the
64-team field. That gives them the “honor” of facing powerhouses
on Friday.

– “Duck Dynasty,” 7-11 p.m. and
midnight to 3 a.m., A&E. Here's a seven-hour marathon (pausing
briefly to rerun the “Bates Motel” pilot) of bayou reality.

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. After
losing (and dumping Francesca Hogi) the first week, the “favorites”
dominated, with four straight “fans” eliminated. That ended last
week, with the favorites losing and dropping Brandon Hantz; things
change again tonight, with a shake-up in the two tribes.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Dave
Foley has some fine moments in this rerun, as Brick's guidance
counselor. The surprise, however, is his big brother Axl – slacker,
athlete, popular kid. When he and Sue accidentally end up on a
project together, we see how well that can work for him.

– “Modern Famiy,” 9 p.m., ABC. In
a rerun, Gloria's mom (Elizabeth Pena) and sister arrive from
Colombia, bringing baby name, family traditions and emotional
baggage.

– “Suburgatory,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.
Everyone needs reassurance tonight. Dallas feels she'll never match
George's ex-wife, teen Tessa feels she's lost her vigor and Noah has
a discovery about his psychiatrist.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. At his high school reunion, David Phillipd finds that
the prom queen has been killed. Soon, the team is working the case.

– “Dukes of Melrose”debut, 10:30
p.m., Bravo. This reality show focuses on two guys who specialize in
finding used fashions and selling them to upscale customers.

TV column for Tuesday, March 19


 

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

The droll dialog is so brilliant that
“Justified” crackles even while people wait.

That happens tonight. Raylan has
captured Drew Thompson, but the Detroit mobsters want to grab him.
Raylan waits in one spot, Boyd schemes in another. And one of the
best scenes involves a highway phone chat between two Iraq veterans.
There are great moments and a surprise ending.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox.

Nick is suddenly serious about his work
… and Jess is surprised to find that turns her on.

But will anything come of it? Stick
around, through one poor plotline (Schmidt obsesses on a fish) and
one complication – Nick's hot boss, played by Odette Annable of
“House” and “Breaking In.” It all leads to final minutes that
are odd, chaotic and sometimes hilarious.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Pretty Little
Liars” and “Twisted,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.

One series ends its season as another
has an early start.

In “Liars,” Spencer is back from
the a mental home. She says she's fine, but her friends have doubts.

Then is the advance opener of
“Twisted,” which will be a summer series. A 16-year-old (Avan
Jogia) is back from juvenile detention, re-meeting the two girls from
his childhood – one thriving and one not. His mom (Denise Richards)
has faded since his troubles; now there's a murder and he's a
suspect.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Splash”
debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

Many people know Katherine Webb look
great in a bikini; most assume Louie Anderson does't. But how are
they at the high dive?

We'll find out soon. Greg Louganis
trains five of the 10 contestants tonight, with one eliminated. They
range in height from 7-foot-2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to 4-foot-3 Chuy
Bravo. Some thrive in swimwear, including Nicole Eggert (“Baywatch”),
ex-Playmate Kendra Wilkinson and Webb, a Miss Alabama USA who found
fame when her boyfriend was a bowl-game quarterback. Others include
athletes (football's Ndamukong Suh, skiier Rory Bushfield) and actors
(Drake Bell, Keshia Knight Pulliam.)

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here are
opposite duties – probing the death of a bomb-detection specialist
in Afganistan … and helping the NCIS director interview potential
nannies.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This starts a two-parter that introduces a mobile team working
inside two massive trucks. That doubles as the pilot for a series
(“NCIS: Highway”?) that would star John Corbett, Kim Raver and
Scott Grimes.

– “Go On,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a
change, this above-average comedy will ends its season with new
episodes on four straight Tuesdays. Tonight, Ryan (Matthew Perry)
finds he's not happy, even though his sports-talk radio show is No
1.He tries some matchmaking, which misfires.

– “How We Invented the World,” 9
and 10 p.m., Discovery. This series starts with looks at the
development of cell phones and skyscrapers.

– “Smash,” 10 p.m., NBC. While
Ivy's musical wobbles, “Bombshell” may finally get a break,
thanks to Eileen's daughter.

.– “Golden Boy,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Busy investigating a murder, Clark isn't sure whether he should allow
his mother (Polly Draper of “thirtysomething”) into his life, now
that she's quit drinking.

TV column for Monday, March 18


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Dancing With
the Stars” opener, 8-10:01 p.m.,ABC.

Athletes have dominated, winning seven
of the 15 championships. So keep an eye on skater Dorothy Hamill or
gymnast Alexandra Raisman; either could become the fourth Olympic
gold-medalist to win.

Or try boxer Victor Ortiz. Or Jacoby
Jones, whose 108-yard return jolted the Super Bowl.

Then again, viewers like reality people
(currently, Sean Lowe and Lisa Vanderpump) or people with complex
pasts (Andy Dick, Kellie Pickler, Wynonna Judd). They all debut
tonight, plus comedian D.L. Hughley, actor Ingo Rademacher and young
actress-dancer Zandaya.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Continuum”
season-finale, 10 p.m., Syfy.

Time-travel is complicated enough,
without new layers.

This smart show started solidly, when a
cop (Rachel Nichols) in 2077 spotted an escape scheme by convicted
terrorist. She was whisked with them to 2012. A young techno-whiz –
who would be famous in her time – created a cover story that got
her into a police force.

Now is the day when, future history
says, a fierce explosion will happen. From there, “Continuum”
piles on layer after layer. Once we figure it all out – if we
figure it out – this could be a terrific hour.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Top of the
Lake” opener, 9-11 p.m., Sundance.

Sprawling sections of rural New Zealand
add flavor to this strong, six-week, seven-hour mini-series.

We see a serene lake where a pregnant
12-year-old tries to drown herself. And a wilderness where she
disappears. And a blank terrain where the enigmatic GJ (Holly Hunter)
has a women's camp.

A city cop (Elisabeth Moss) works the
case and soon finds new deaths. Jane Campion (“The Piano”) has
directed and co-written a tale with the quality of “The Killing”
… plus a timely conclusion.

Other choices include:

– “The Biggest Loser” finale,
8-10 p.m., NBC. When viewers last saw Jeff Nichols, he had shed 123
pounds, to 265; Danni Allen had lost 95, to 163. Both were sent home
to keep working; tonight, they go for the $250,000 prize (based on
percentage of weight loss) against someone chosen by viewers – Joe
Ostaszewski (239 pounds, after losing 125) or Jackson Carter (230,
after losing 98), the show's first openly gay contestant. Also, we
see the transformations of three teen and of those eliminated
earlier.

– “The Secret Life of theAmerican
Teenager,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. This began with quiet teen Amy
(Shailene Woodley) being pregnant via handsome Ricky (Daren
Kagasoff). Woodley has gone on to be a talented actor (winning awards
in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now”), Kagasoff has
not. As the fifth season starts, the couple is planning a wedding –
complicated by her odd gown choice.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Serial-killer Joe Carroll manages to contact Ryan, saying he'll go to
extremes to meet his ex-wife, who's in hiding. Also, some of his
followers are back.

– “Deception” conclusion, 10
p.m., NBC. The good news is that NBC stuck with this show and will
reveal Vivian's killer tonight. The bad: It also has a cliffhanger,
for a show with zero chance to return.

– “Bates Motel” debut, 10 p.m.,
A&E. You didn't think Norman Bates became crazy all on his own,
did you? We meet him long before “Psycho,” as a sensitive teen,
starting a new life with his manipulative mom. It's a dark and
disturbing tale, but beautifully acted by Freddie Highmore and Vera
Farmiga.

TV column for Sunday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Bible,”
8-10 p.m., History.

After generations of despair, the
descendants of Abraham had found peace in Jerusalem. Now trouble
returns, with a brutal Babylonian leader and new generations of
slavery. At times the savagery is fierce; an event described in print
(eye-gouging, for instance) feels much worse on-screen.

Still, there's hope. The second hour
introduces Jesus; he resists temptation and gathers his first
disciple. Propelled by Keith David's strong narration, “Bible”
advances toward its Easter Sunday finale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Red Widow,”
10:01 p.m., ABC.

For Marta, the mission has been clear:
Get back to real life, after shedding a debt that began when her
brother Irwin stole drugs from crime-boss Schiller (Goran Visnjic).

Now, however, Irwin is back, with new
schemes. Their dad – a mid-level Russian mobster – refuses to
help him. Marta (the excellent Radha Mitchell) finds herself sinking
deeper into crime.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Kingdom of
the Ocean” conclusion, 8-10 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

Like last week's opener, this is filled
with gorgeous scenes.

Sharks hunt; dolphins frolic. The blue
whale – with a heart as big as a small car – fills the screen.

Then the second hour gets a bit
grittier. We see creepy crawlers who prowl the ocean floor; we also
meet sand creatures that alternate their lives between the water and
the shore.

Other choices include:

– “Finian's Rainbow” (1968),
11:30 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. A St. Patrick's Day marathon of
Irish films goes from 9:45 a.m. to midnight, with this one near the
top of the list. Francis Coppola – no, he's not Irish – turned a
Broadway musical into a wonderfully visual movie gem.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Now that Mary Margaret has stopped her, Regina vows revenge.
Meanwhile, an outsider has somehow reached the impenetrable
Storybrook with his son.

– “Revenge,” 9 p.m., ABC. Still
suspected in Amanda's death, Victoria and Conrad start a charity in
her name. Jack, her widower, remains suspicious. Also, Emily again
confronts someone from her past.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Cary's father (John Shea) brings in some new business. Also, Alicia
and Will are at a coroner's inquest that allows only three questions
per witness.

– “Girls,” 9 p.m., HBO. This
witty series wraps up its season with an episode that Lena Dunham
directed, co-wrote (with Judd Apatow) and stars in. She plays Hannah,
with one day to finish her book.

– “The Quiet Man” (1952), 9:30
p.m. to midnight ET, Turner Classic Movies. John Ford's classic –
with John Wayne as a boxer returning to Ireland – is an appropriate
way to wrap up St. Patrick's Day. It's preceded at 8 p.m. by Ford's
trilogy of Irish tales, “The Rising of the Moon” (1957).

– “Vikings,” 10 p.m., History.
The odd plot of this mini-series squelches some enthusiasm. Yes,
Ragnar has resisted Viking traditions and sailed west, plundering an
English monastery. But now the chieftain (Gabriel Byrne) claims all
the booty; Ragnar heads back, this time confronting soldiers.