TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 28 (Pacific Time version)


(This version of the Tuesday TV column is strictly for the Pacific Time Zone, where the presidential speech is complicating things. For other zones, scroll down to the next one.)

TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: Presidential address, 6 p.m. PT, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS
and cable.

This isn't an
official “State of the Union” address, but follows a pattern that
Barack Obama used eight years ago: A new president is invited to
speak to Congress, laying out his legislative goals.

With the follow-up,
this is expected to run until 7:30 p.m. PT on ABC, CBS, and Fox
(leaving stations with a half-hour) and 8 p.m. on PBS; the cable
news channels can go on forever..

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

Did you ever wonder
how many cats are semi-bigamists – drifting between unsuspecting
families? Now Winston learns his cat has been doing that; a tense
(and funny) custody battle ensues.

Another clever
storyline introduces Asif Ali as Schmidt's almost-too-perfect
executive assistant. An OK one finds that knowing Nick makes Jess
seem cool to her students.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Face Off,” 4-10 p.m., Syfy.

You can catch up on
the entire season of this well-made competition show. That starts at
4 p.m., with 16 make-up artists arriving; in the hours ahead, they
create everything from aliens to twisted trees.

That leads to the
new hour at 9. Inspired by post-apocalyptic vehicles, they must
create characters that might fit into, perhaps, a “Mad Max” or
zombie-survivor film.

POST-ADDRESS
SCRAMBLING: Everywhere.

With the speech
throwing things off in other time zones, networks are moving things
around.

On the West Coast,
Fox and NBC will give the 9 p.m. hour back to local stations; NBC,
however, will be back at 10 p.m. PT with a “The Wall” rerun. CBS
and ABC have comedy reruns (“Kevin Can Wait” and “American
Housewife” at 9 p.m.; CBS gives the next two hours to stations, but
ABC returns at 10 with “20/20.”

Other choices
include:

“The Treasure of
Sierra Madre” (1948), 5 p.m. PT, Turner Classic Movies. John Huston
won Academy Awards for his script and his direction ... and his dad
(Walter Huston) won for supporting actor. Another gem is “O Brother
Where Art Thou” (2000), at 8 p.m. opn CNT.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's the second night of auditions, with Gwen Stefani back
in a spinning red chair, alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and
Alicia Keys.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the season's third episode, a Marine sergeant has
died in a fall from a building. Breaking confidentiality, Dr.
Confalone (Laura San Giacomo) suggests a murder probe.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform. Alongside some so-so stories, there's s strong one.
Emma is pregnant – she blames bad medical advice – and feels that
the dad (Jesus, still recovering from his head injury) is in no shape
to hear about it. She turns to his foster brother, Brandon, for some
moving moments.

“The Mick,”
8:30, Fox. Mick stands up for her nephew, feeling the school may be
discriminating against him. Meanwhile, his siblings learn surprising
thing about their housekeeper Alba.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., Freeform. Good intentions and good performances
can't always make up for stupid plot twists. The basic story (about
black-student protests) is strong, with some moving moments – and,
alas, some awful plot twists. One requires rage because a black
student has a rich, white father; the other has an absurdly inflated
idea of the money value of a college baseball telecast.

“Taboo”
season-finale, 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:23. James is planning his
escape, but Prince Regent is making his push to finally destroy him.

 

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 28 (excluding Pacific Time)


TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: Presidential address, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox,PBS and cable.

This isn't an
official “State of the Union” address, but follows a pattern that
Barack Obama used eight years ago: A new president is invited to
speak to Congress, laying out his legislative goals.

With the follow-up,
this is expected to run until 10:30 p.m. ET on ABC, CBS and NBC and
to 11 on PBS and (in a change of plans) Fox; the cable news channels
can go on forever..

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

Did you ever wonder
how many cats are semi-bigamists – drifting between unsuspecting
families? Now Winston learns his cat has been doing that; a tense
(and funny) custody battle ensues.

Another clever
storyline introduces Asif Ali as Schmidt's almost-too-perfect
executive assistant. An OK one finds that knowing Nick makes Jess
seem cool to her students.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Face Off,” 4-10 p.m., Syfy.

You can catch up on
the entire season of this well-made competition show. That starts at
4 p.m., with 16 make-up artists arriving; in the hours ahead, they
create everything from aliens to twisted trees.

That leads to the
new hour at 9. Inspired by post-apocalyptic vehicles, they must
create characters that might fit into, perhaps, a “Mad Max” or
zombie-survivor film.

MORE ALTERNATIVES:
Cable and CW.

If you insist on
skipping the speech, there are first-rate movies. At 8 p.m., CW has
“O Brother Where Art Thou” (2000); at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies has “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948).

And there are 9 p.m.
series. New episodes are on “Face Off” (above), Freeform's
“Switched at Birth” (see below) and WGN America's “Outsiders.”
Reruns include “Black Sails” on Starz, an excellent “Billions”
on Showtime and the “Riverdale” opener – well-made, in its own
oddly dark way – on CW.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's the second night of auditions, with Gwen Stefani back
in a spinning red chair, alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and
Alicia Keys.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the season's third episode, a Marine sergeant has
died in a fall from a building. Breaking confidentiality, Dr.
Confalone (Laura San Giacomo) suggests a murder probe.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform. Alongside some so-so stories, there's s strong one.
Emma is pregnant – she blames bad medical advice – and feels that
the dad (Jesus, still recovering from his head injury) is in no shape
to hear about it. She turns to his foster brother, Brandon, for some
moving moments.

“The Mick,”
8:30, Fox. Mick stands up for her nephew, feeling the school may be
discriminating against him. Meanwhile, his siblings learn surprising
thing about their housekeeper Alba.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., Freeform. Good intentions and good performances
can't always make up for stupid plot twists. The basic story (about
black-student protests) is strong, with some moving moments – and,
alas, some awful plot twists. One requires rage because a black
student has a rich, white father; the other has an absurdly inflated
idea of the money value of a college baseball telecast.

Comedies, 10:30
p.m.., ABC and CBS. These networks plan to fill the vacant half-hour
with reruns of “American Housewife” and “Kevin Can Wait”,
respectively; NBC plans a shortened “The Wall.”

 

TV column for Monday, Feb. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“When We Rise,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Less than two
generations ago, gays spent their lives in secrecy and fear. Then
profound changes began in attitudes, in laws and in life. Now Dustin
Lance Black – an Oscar-winner for his “Milk” script – gives
us the full sweep in four nights (skipping Tuesday), focusing on
three real-life people.

Cleve Jones was a
young Quaker protestor from Arizona. Ken Jones was a black sailor,
back from Vietnam. Roma Guy was a women's-rights advocate, back from
Africa. All three – beautifully played by newcomers – converged
on early-1970s San Francisco, where the world was about to change.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice” opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The nine weeks
between “Voice” seasons were brutal for NBC. Ratings sagged,
“Celebrity Apprentice” drooped, even latenight shows stumbled.
Now the show is back, with red chairs spinning.

Gwen Stefani returns
from her break and Miley Cyrus (a terrific boost to the show) steps
aside. Stefani joins Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys, as
auditions begin.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

We first met Bryan
Mills as a retired CIA agent, played by Liam Neeson (then 56) in an
action movie. Now we move further back; as played by Clive Standen,
35, he's on a train ride with his sister, to visit their parents.
Then his Green Beret past provides a fierce jolt.

This has the same
appeal as the movie – sharp action, skillfully executed. Storywise,
it's so-so; a mid-hour surrender is especially lame. Still, there's
enough action to help NBC re-find Monday viewers.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Code of a Killer,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

In British films, we
expect breakthroughs to emerge from London or Oxford or such. But
this fascinating, true story emerged from Leicestershire, a
mid-England county of a million people.

In 1983 and '86,
15-year-old girls were killed in adjoining villages. As it happened,
Leicestershire has a research university where a young scientist
studied the possibility of DNA fingerprinting. Those fact converged
for an historic change in crimesolving; the result is skillfully told
over three hours.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8 p.m., ABC. Last week, Nick Viall visited the homes of the final
four women. Next he's supposed to invited three to separate,
overnight stays in the “fantasy suite” ... in Lapland. First,
Andi Dorfman – who rejected him in the 2014 “Bachelorette” --
shows up with a suggestion.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. Carter and Grimes, former Army Ranger colleagues, struggle
to make a deal with the leader of a smuggling ring, to locate the
terrorists. Also, there's progress in finding the leak.

“The Obama Years:
The Power of Words,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian, repeating at 9, 11 and
midnight. Here is a powerful way to view a life – six crucial
speeches and the people who helped mold them. Two – convention
speeches by an obscure senator (2004) and a presidential nominee
(2008) – reflected great optimism; two, after mass murders,
reflected despair. The others were black-history milestones – one
after Obama's militant pastor drew attacks, the other on the 50th
anniversary of the Selma march.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Based on a play about Chicago gentrification, this
comedy returns to that theme tonight: Franco protests his apartment
building being turned into luxury apartments.

“Africa's Great
Civilizations” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS. We hear much about Egypt,
less about the Kingdom of Kush, to its south. For 13 centuries, it
was a powerful force; for a century, it even ruled Egypt. Now Henry
Louis Gates continues his knack for popularizing black history; in
three nights (continuing Wednesday and Thursday), he revisits ancient
spots and sees new discoveries. Tonight's first hour views the
beginnings of man; the second views the spread of Christian and Islam
religions.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A friend of Happy has been living in a bubble, to protect
her immune system. Now that's been damaged by a storm; the team must
find a way to move her.

 

 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“When We Rise,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Less than two
generations ago, gays spent their lives in secrecy and fear. Then
profound changes began in attitudes, in laws and in life. Now Dustin
Lance Black – an Oscar-winner for his “Milk” script – gives
us the full sweep in four nights (skipping Tuesday), focusing on
three real-life people.

Cleve Jones was a
young Quaker protestor from Arizona. Ken Jones was a black sailor,
back from Vietnam. Roma Guy was a women's-rights advocate, back from
Africa. All three – beautifully played by newcomers – converged
on early-1970s San Francisco, where the world was about to change.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice” opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The nine weeks
between “Voice” seasons were brutal for NBC. Ratings sagged,
“Celebrity Apprentice” drooped, even latenight shows stumbled.
Now the show is back, with red chairs swiveling.

Gwen Stefani returns
from her break and Miley Cyrus (a terrific boost to the show) steps
aside. Stefani joins Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys, as
auditions begin.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

We first met Bryan
Mills as a retired CIA agent, played by Liam Neeson (then 56) in an
action movie. Now we move further back; as played by Clive Standen,
35, he's a former Green Beret, on a train ride with his sister, to
visit their parents. Then his past provides a fierce jolt.

This has the same
appeal as the movie – sharp action, skillfully executed. Storywise,
it's so-so; a mid-hour surrender is especially lame. Still, there's
enough action to help NBC re-find Monday viewers.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Code of a Killer,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

In British films, we
expect breakthroughs to emerge from London or Oxford or such. But
this fascinating, true story emerged from Leicestershire, a
mid-England county of a million people.

In 1983 and '86,
15-year-old girls were killed in adjoining villages. As it happened,
Leicestershire has a research university where a young scientist studied the possibility of DNA fingerprinting. Those facts converged
for an historic change in crimesolving; the result is skillfully told
over three hours.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8 p.m., ABC. Last week, Nick Viall visited the homes of the final
four women. Next he's supposed to invited three to separate,
overnight stays in the “fantasy suite” ... in Lapland. First,
Andi Dorfman – who rejected him in the 2014 “Bachelorette” --
shows up with a suggestion.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. Carter and Grimes, his former Army Ranger buddy, struggle
to make a deal with the leader of a smuggling ring, to locate the
terrorists. Also, there's progress in finding the leak.

“The Obama Years:
The Power of Words.” 8 p.m., Smithsonian, repeating at 9, 11 and
midnight. Here is a powerful way to view a life – six crucial
speeches and the people who helped mold them. Two – convention
speeches by an obscure senator (2004) and a presidential nominee
(2008) – reflected great optimism; two, after mass murders,
reflected despair. The others were black-history milestones – one
after Obama's militant pastor drew attacks, the other on the 50th
anniversary of the Selma march.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Based on a play about Chicago gentrification, this
comedy returns to that theme tonight: Franco protests his apartment
building being turned into luxury apartments.

“Africa's Great
Civilizations” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS. We hear much about Egypt,
less about the King of Kush, to its south. For 13 centuries, it was a
powerful force; for a century, it even ruled Egypt. Now Henry Louis
Gates continues his knack for popularizing black history; in three
nights (continuing Wednesday and Thursday), he revisits ancient spots
and sees new discoveries. Tonight's first hour views the beginnings
of man; the second iviews the spread of Christian and Islan
religions.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A friend of Happy has been living in a bubble, to protect
her immune system. Now that's been damaged by a storm; the team must
find a way to move her.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy Awards, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC.

We know the start
will be fun, because host Jimmy Kimmel brings great material to
everything he does. After that? The show's new producers have chosen
some humorless presenters, but there's hope for the music.
Oscar-nominated songs will be sung by Justin Timberlake, Lin-Manuel
Miranda (with Auli'i Cravalho, the teen “Moana” star), Sting and
John Legend – who will do two “La La Land” songs.

Yes, “La La Land”
-- a gem with a unique feel – could dominate. Still, there are
upset prospects -- “Manchester By the Sea,” “Lion,”
“Moonlight” -- and the acting categories are wide open.

TONIGHT'S WARM-UP:
Red-carpet and more.

You can easily spend
the whole day on the Oscara. Start with a rerun of Saturday's
Independent Spirit Awards, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. ET on IFC;
the nominees (for modest-budget films) included “Manchester” and
“Moonlight.” Also, E starts its Oscar-preview marathon at 1 p.m.
ET.

Then the red-carpet
shows begin; they're 5-7:30 p.m. ET on E and 7-8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Later, the post-Oscar shows start; they're 11:30 p.m. ET on E and
12:05 a.m. ET (delayed to 10 p.m. PT) on ABC.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Billions,” 10 p.m. Showtime, and more.

Last week, this show
ended with U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) wobbling. His
foe, Axe (Damian Lewis), had escaped prosecution ... and gave a $5
million bonus to Rhoades' estranged wife. That's being viewed as a
bribe and the attorney general seems ready to fire him.

There's much more,
in a smart and winding plot that includes Danny Strong (the brilliant
writer of “Game Change,” “Recount” and “Empire”) as Axe's
target. That's on a night when broadcast retreats to reruns and such,
but cable – AMC, HBO, Showtime, Starz and Hallmark – has new
scripted shows.

Other choices
include:

“Roots,” 11 a.m.
to 1 a.m., Sundance. This epic mini-series – one of the
most-honored in TV history – had its 40th anniversary
last month. Its sequel airs Monday and Tuesday.

“Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 4-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Instead of
throwing the season-finale against the Oscars, many stations will
rerun the entire series so far; some will even re-rerun all or part
of it, after 11. The best moments come early, when a tiny teen (18
years old, variously listed at 5-foot and 4-11), with little
preparation, became queen. She emerges as a strong force ... as does
Prince Albert.

“60 Minutes,” 7
and 8 p.m., CBS. Here are two new hours, the first billed as “60
Minutes Presents.”

“The Simpsons,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Homer takes Grampa to Cuba,
in search of better health care. In the second, he coaches the
lacrosse team with Milhouse's dad, who's too needy.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, the
NCIS hasn't been able to find its mole; a Washington boss sweeps
Hetty and Granger aside and takes over. Also, a Syrian mission goes
awry, leaving one team member seriously injured.

“The Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. One of the Alexandria people must navigate life
inside the Saviors' compound. That reruns at 11:08 p.m., surrounding
a “Talking Dead” episode at 10:09.

More drama, 9 p.m.,
cable. On HBO's “Big Little Lies,” Celeste (Nicole Kidman) wants
counseling with her abusive husband. On Hallmark's “When Calls the
Heart,” a boy tells a big little lie about a bear. On Showtime's
“Homeland,” Carrie follows a fresh lead. And on Starz' “Black
Sails,” the Navy has retreated; that turns the seas near the island
into a fierce war zone.

“Girls” and
“Crashing,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO. First, Hannah meets a
once-admired writer whose reputation has been battered. Then Artie
Lang, who's been frank about his drug and rehab problems, guests;
Pete gets to open for him and goes to extremes to keep him clean and
sober.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 25


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
“Big Cat Week,” noon to 7 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild; and more.

If you missed this
week, don't fret; all six of its TV premieres rerun today That starts
with the splendid “African Cats,” an epic that Disney showed in
theaters in 2011. It concludes with “Soul of a Cat” tracing the
parallels between housecats and the big cats in the wild.

That still gives you
time to switch to BBC America for the second “Planet Earth II”
episode, at 9 p.m. and midnight. There's great fun in the scenes with
grizzlies scratching and flamingoes dancing, but this starts and ends
with the ultimate big-cat footage – compelling views of the elusive
snow leopard.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Sports overload, everywhere.

How thoroughly does
sports dominate our TV tonight? In prime time, it has three of the
big-four networks ... plus five major cable channels and lots of
minor ones.

ABC has pro
basketball at 8:30 p.m. ET, with the Chicago Bulls, clinging to a
playoff slot, visiting LeBron James and the conference-leading
Cleveland Cavaliers. NBC has hockey at 8 p.m. ET, with the Pittsburgh
Penguins, second in their conference, hosting Philadelphia. And Fox
has boxing at 8 p.m. ET, with Deontay Wilder defending his
heavyweight title against Gerald Washington.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independemt Spirit Awards,” 5-7:30 p.m., ET, IFC;
rerunning at 10 ET.

On the eve of the
Academy Awards, this honors independent films (generally, with
budgets under $20 million). And yes, there are good ones. Two
best-picture nominees (“Moonlight” and “Manchester By the Sea”)
are also up for Oscars; today, they face “Jackie.” “Chronic”
and “American Honey.”

There should be fun,
with comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney hosting. Acting nominees
include Oscar-nominees Casey Affleck, Viggo Mortensen, Natalie
Portman, Ruth Negga, Isabelle Hubbert and Lucas Hedges, plus Annette
Bening, Craig Robinson, Shia LaBeof, Molly Shannon and many more.

Other choices
include:

-- "Roots," 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sundance. Shortly after its 40th anniversary, we can catch one of the most honored shows in TV history. It reruns at the same time Sunday; then its sequel will be split between Monday and Tuesday.

“The Hobbit”
trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014), 1, 4:30 and 8 p.m., TNT. Here's a chance
to catch all three films from “Lord of the Rings” director Peter
Jackson.

More movies, 7 p.m.
and beyond. At 7, AMC has Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning “Departed”
(2006). At 7:30 ET, sandwiched between the award telecasts, IFC has
the dandy “Speed” (1994). And at 8, try “Hotel Transylvania”
(2012) on FXX or Tom Hanks' “Captain Phillips” (2013) on FX.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. To rescue a kidnap victim, Eric must dig into the secrets
of her father, a senator. Meanwhile, his efforts to keep his own
daughter safe go awry.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 and 10 p.m. ET, CNN, barring breaking news. First is a
rerun of last week's hour, a solid examination of women in comedy.
Then an OK hour views the knack of finding laughs in real life. Jerry
Seinfeld, a master of that, met Larry David, who keeps notes about
life's odd details ... and was devastated when he once lost the
notebook. Their “Seinfeld” is linked here with “All in the
Family,” “Roseanne” and others, sometimes finding large laughs
in life's small moments.

“For Peete's
Sake,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. This reality show focuses on
actress Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, former pro quarterback
Rodney Peete. Now she and her brother are in her home town of
Philadelphia, looking for a place to bury the ashes of their dad,
Matt Robinson, who was the original Gordon on “Sesame Street” and
later was a “Cosby Show” producer-writer.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 11 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the amiable opener, eight kids
get spots in the top 20.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or later, with hockey overrun), NBC. Emma Stone hosts this rerun, with music by Shawn Mendes.