TV column for Sunday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Big Love” (9
p.m., HBO) and “Detroit 1-8-7” (10:01 pm., ABC) finales.

We're not fans of “Big Love,” but
it will be interesting to see how this five-year story of a multiple
marriage wraps up. Bill thought Margene was 18 when she became his
third wife; she was 16, leaving him with statutory-rape charges. Also
wobbling are his new Senate job, his store and Barb's future.

“Detroit 1-8-7” has grown immensely
since its just-the-facts debut. Last week, quiet Fitch had a reunion
with his son; it was superbly played by real-life father and son,
Michael and Vadim Imperioli.

Now Fitch's New York enemy is in town,
putting the son in danger. The unit tries a trap … while also
probing a brutal murder. It's the last episode of the year (and maybe
forever) for an improving show.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Shark Tank”
season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

After a decent start last summer, this
show is back and better, adding Mark Cuban to its investor panel.

Now it gets one Sunday, before sliding
to Fridays. Pitching ideas are a Tennessee chef with a shrimp-burger
idea, an Oregon winemaker and more. Two sisters impress by
franchising dance classes inside pre-schools. Also, we follow up on
last year's notion of “Classroom Jams,” a learning DVD set.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bringing
Ashley Home,” 8-10 p.m. ET, Lifetime Movie Network.

Libba Phillips was diligent, her sister
Ashley was fun. Childhood was easy for Ashley; grown-up life was not.
She was bipolar (undiagnosed until late) and addictive; then she
vanished.

This takes an honest look at a true
story, alternately uplifting and crushing. It's propelled by great
performances – A.J.Cook as Libba, Jennifer Morrison (in the
opposite of her “House” role) as Ashley.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, all day. CBS confines
itself to three daytime NCAA-tournament games – noon, 2:30 p.m. and
5 p.m. ET. Then it switches to its usual primetime shows, handing the
night games to cable. They're on TNT (6 and 8:30 p.m.),. TBS (7 and
9:30 p.m.) and TruTV, formerly Court TV (7:30 p.m.).

– “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m.,
Fox. The first rerun has Bart making an award-winning film, which
Homer takes credit for; the second finds little sympathy, when
Mr.Burns is told he's dying.

– “America's Next Great
Restaurant,” 8 p.m., NBC. The nine survivors leap into a tough
situation, running a Chipotle at lunch time. Then all (except
Meltworks and Saucy Balls) are told they should consider changing
their names; all must add a catch phrase. Some stand firm; others
make big changes – “Hicks” becomes “Grillbillies: Urban grill
with Southern attitude.” It's another excellent hour.

– More reality, everywhere. It's
wall-to-wall reality on ABC, CBS and NBC, from 8-10 p.m. (and beyond,
for NBC). At 8, ABC has “Secret Millionaire”; at 9, NBC's
“Celebrity Apprentice” – with Lisa Rinna gone – gives each
team two campers to stage a Manhattan “experience.” CBS' shows
(“Amazing Race” and “Undercover Boss,” 8 and 9 p.m.) may
start late in some time zones, because of basketball.

– “Breakout Kings,” 10 p.m., A&E.
Robert Knepper was brilliant as “T-Bag” in “Prison Break.”
Now he guests as the same character in this terrific show. When T-Bag
escapes, the team must catch him.

– “Miami Vice,” 10 p.m., CBS (but
likely to be delayed by basketball in some time zones). A
delivery-truck driver and a housewife have been killed; the team
scrambles to find a connection.

 

 

TV column for Saturday, March 19


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

The NCAA field has quickly been trimmed
from 68 teams to 32. Now CBS can handle half the games.

It puts together four straight – at
noon, 2:30, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Cable networks have doubleheaders at 6
and 8:30 p.m. on TNT and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on TNT.

There's more on Sunday, of course. Then
the tourney will have its sweet 16.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Harry's Law,”
8 p.m., NBC.

If you're not into basketball or kids'
movies, this might be a good time to sample this ratings hit. David
E. Kelley (“Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal”) has his usual mix
of whimsy, rich dialog and strong issues.

This rerun happens to be a rough night
for marriage. One woman (Ann Cusack) says she arranged for her
husband to have an affair, to spice up their marriage; it got
out-of-hand, so she wants a divorce. Another says her husband locked
her in he basement, after learning of her affair.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Time After
Time,” 9 and 11 p.m., Hallmark; repeats at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Three mismatched elements try to
co-exist. One is a pleasant portrait of a small town; a reporter
returns and works at the local paper. Another is a passionate
argument over the possible effect of a mega-store.

The third has Richard Thomas in a
bizarre, time-travel twist. That seems to be in the wrong movie, but
bring some odd appeal. Despite flaws. “Time After Time” is fairly
involving and likable.

TONIGHT'S ODDER ALTERNATIVE: “The
Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway,” 10 p.m., HBO.

Clearly, this audience has seen Pee-wee
before – maybe in his old Saturday-morning CBS show. It loves him
instantly; it roars at every new element.

Others will just have to relax and let
it soak in. Paul Reubens, 58, creates a grown-up variation on the
mind of a 1950s boy. Some elements are brilliant; others are merely
the best kind of ultra-quirky.

Other choices include:

– Harry Potter films, all day, ABC
Family. The first four Potter films run at 9 a.m. and at 12:30, 4:30
and 7:15 p.m.; remember to set your alarm … or wait until Sunday,
when five air, starting at 7 a.m.

– “Speed” (1994), 8 and 10:30
p.m., AMC. Everything came together perfectly here. A clever concept
– a bomb that will go off if the bus slows down – links with a
great director (Jan De Bont) and a fresh, starmaking performance by
Sandra Bullock in support.

– “Norbit” (2007), 9-11 p.m.,
ABC. Eddie Murphy plays a mild-mannered guy … and his hugely obese
wife Rasputia … and Mr. Wong, the restaurant owner who raised him.
Critics were not amused.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. This rerun, with thieves targeting young Hollywood
stars, has some authentic casting: A victim is played by Danielle
Panabaker, who worked with Paul Newman and James Woods as a teen; her
mom is played by Shawnee Smith, who was a TV star at 16.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, the sexual assault of a young
woman was shown on campus intranet. Now Stabler and Finn race to find
the victim and the attacker.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Jeff Bridges hosts this rerun. The music is by Eminem,
with an assist from Lil Wayne.

TV column for Friday, March 18


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

By the end of today, the NCAA
tournament will be down to 32 teams.

That's split over four networks. CBS
has one doubleheader at noon and another at 7 p.m.; three cable
channels join in, each with two sets of doubleheaders – TruTV at
12:30 and 7:15 p.m., TBS at 1:30 and 6:45 p.m., TNT at 2 and 7:15
p.m.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Give It Up
For Greg Giraldo,” 11:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

In a logical world, Greg Giraldo would
have been in the Jerry Seinfeld/Ray Romano stratosphere. He was
handsome, smart, an immemsely gifted stand-up comedian.

Still, he never defined himself to the
public. With one exception – a short-lived ABC comedy in 1996 –
he rarely mentioned that he was a Harvard-trained lawyer whose
parents are from Colombia and Spain.

He was a generic comedian, except
smarter than anyone else. He was terrific as a “Last Comic
Standing” judge, as a regular on Lewis Black and Colin Quinn shows
and on every roast.

This special – filled with funny
(albeit R-rated) words – has lots of comments from fellow comics.
They describe a man who was buoyant with friends and brilliant
onstage, but overwhelmed by drugs, drink and marital problems; he
died at 44, apparently from an accidental drug overdose.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone” (2001) and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
(2002), 3:30 and 7 p.m., ABC Family. Here are the first two films in
the epic Potter series. They rerun Saturday (9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.),
followed by the third and fourth films; those four return Sunday
(starting at 7 a.m.), followed by the fifth.

– “Supernanny” finale, 8 p.m.,
ABC. After six seasons, this show has its 117th and final
episode, focusing on the family left behind when Jennifer Evans died
of cancer, a year ago. “To me, this is the end of the world,”
says Michael, 6. Sean, 4, screams in rage; Dylan, 3, brings new
diapers to his dad when he needs a change. Gary Evans, overwhelmed,
struggles in a heartbreaking hour.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Only 10 when her mom died, Rosie O'Donnell never learned
much about her roots. In this rerun, she learns of the obstacles that
Irish immigrants faced.

– “Kitchen Nightmares,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. What happens after the yelling has ended, the restaurant has
transformed and Gordon Ramsay moved on? This is the second episode in
which Ramsay returns to several spots, to see if they're still
following his advice.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. An
apparent suicide gets complicated when police find a second set of
fingerprints. Soon, the team finds a woman who cannot die.

– “Beast Hunter,” 9 p.m.,
National Geographic. For more than a century, fishermen have told of
a giant sea monster off the coast of British Columbia. Pat Spain
talks to witnesses on Vancouver Island and eventually searches the
ocean floor. That's followed by a rerun of an episode that saw him
undergo a horrific initiation, to gain the confidence of natives in
the Amazon.

– “Comedy Roast,” 10-11:30 p.m.,
Comedy Central. Leading into the Greg Giraldo special is a rerun of a
recent event he would have loved to be part of – a roast of Donald
Trump.

TV column for Thursday, March 17


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

The season's first six episodes pointed
to this one: With the city near bankruptcy and the parks department
near extinction, Leslie (Amy Poehler) gambles on reviving the Harvest
Festival.

Will it work? Or will something else –
an Indian curse, a power outage, a runaway horse – ruin it?

Tonight's episode bounces between
stories and keeps building on us. As a bonus, the romance between the
always-optimistic Andy and the always-down April is back, bringing
some great moments.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II: College
basketball, all day.

In past years, CBS aired all 32
first-round NCAA games, splitting them by region.

Now comes a simpler approach, with
three cable networks joining in. Each game gets carried in full.

Today's CBS doubleheaders start at noon
and 7 p.m.; TruTV (formerly Court TV) has doubleheaders at 12:30 and
7:15. TBS is 1:30 and 6:45; TNT is 2 and 7:15.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: St. Patrick's
Day shows.

At 7 p.m,, Syfy's “Destination Truth”
starts a live, four-hour stay in Duckett's Grove, a beautifully
restored Irish estate which people claim has a banshee. At 8, the
Disney Channel has “The Luck of the Irish” (2001), an
above-average movie about a teen who didn't know he had leprechaun
roots. At 9, the Food Network has “Bobby's Ireland,” with Bobby
Flay sampling the cuisine.

There's more: Some PBS stations (check
local listings) have pledge-drive specials with Irish music. Also,
latenight is Irish turf, with Conan O'Brien (TBS, after basketball,
about midnight) and Jimmy Fallon (NBC, 12:35 a.m.). Jimmy Kimmel
(ABC, midnight), who's part-Irish, has the Young Dubliners.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
It's time to send the second person home, trimming the field to 11.
The people cut tonight (barring a judges' save) and next week will
just miss the show's final-10 tour.

– “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. A fierce
blizzard brings a black-out alongside other problems, large and
small. The big one – a murder case and a potential virus outbreak;
the small one – Booth and Brennan are stuck in an elevator, where
Sweets nudges them to talk about their relationship.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a
funny rerun, Valentine's Day brings gripes about the public affection
of Michael and Holly. Meanwhile, there are thoughts of sneaking off
to have sex in the workplace – even for Pam and Jim, who have their
marital bed at home.

– “Private Practice,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Moving up an hour to borrow the “Grey's Anatomy” slot, this
show has lots of personal turmoil. Fife is back, wooing Naomi with
flowers and persistence. Also, Amelia tries to help a friend who says
she'll commit suicide if tests show she has Huntington's disease.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. You
really don't see much cancer-based comedy. Still, this fairly funny
episode centers on the fact that someone – maybe Sterling, maybe
his mom – is ill. That reruns at 11:01, sandwiched around last
week's episode, a good one in which a movie star shadows the spies.

– “Off the Map,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
This show – from the “Grey's Anatomy” and “Private Practice”
producers, borrows a Thursday slot. It offers a rerun – a bit like
the movie “127 Hours” – in which a diver is trapped underwater.

– “Outsourced,” 10:30 p.m., NBC.
A heat wave brings a battle over the building's air-conditioning.

TV column for Wednesday, March 16


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

Hollywood gives us plenty of high-speed
chases. Now savor one of the lowest-speed chases in history.

One guy is dragging an oxygen tank; the
other has bad knees. The result is both funny and poignant.

That wraps up an hour that starthas
Winona dipping into the bad side – so far that Raylan might not be
able to save her. As usual, there's great dialog and beautifully
etched characters.

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

Last week, the first elimination round
proved that this is a great year for the guys.

The bottom three included none of the
six men, but almost half the seven women. Ashton Jones – a strong
singer who chose a so-so song – was ousted; Karen Rodriguez and
Haley Reinhart survived.

Now singers will choose songs from
their birth years, giving the show a 10-year range.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Waitress”
(2007), 8-10:30 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

Here's a little. Adrienne Shelly wrote
the script (which received an Independent Spirit Award nomination),
directed and took a co-starring role as Dawn, colleague to the
central character.

That's Jenna, a sweet small-towner who
is an OK waitress, a great pie-maker and a jaded wife. Keri Russell
stars, with perfect support from Nathan Fillion (as a doctor), and
more, including Shelly. She died – a workman confessed to killing –
before “Waitress” opened to acclaim from some critics.

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last
week, the show lost its prime villain when Russell Hantz lost his
“Redemption Island” duel with Matt Elrod. He's the second person
out of the game – the third, tonight, will be either Elrod or
Kristina Kell, who was banished to the island last week.

– “Minute to Win It,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Two Los Angeles Laker basketball players, Derek Fisher and
Shannon Brown, play for charity.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. The first rerun finds Frankie making a big mistake – buying a
$200 face cream that she thought was $20. The second is the Valentine
episode; Mike blurts out news of Brick's secret crush; Frankie is
happy (for a while) that Axl wants help with plans for his date.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, Mitchell and Cameron meet the woman Mitchell dated.

– “Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS.
One star leaves the show tonight and another makes a return visit.
Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster, in her final episode) goes after her
enemy, Ian Doyle. When she's in trouble, Jennifer “JJ” Jareau
(A.J. Cook) returns to try to save her.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Gifted guest stars power both reruns.
Shohreh Aghdashloo (“24,” “House of Sand and Fog”) plays a
detective linked to a case involving the murder of a district
attorney. Then Colm Feore is a billionaire. accused of sexual
abuse.
– “Mr. Sunshine,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Ben (Matthew Perry)
wants to focus on his date with a quarterback in the Lingerie
Football League. Instead, his boss (Allison Janney) needs help with
bookkeeping (an audit might catch her shifty moves) and romance
(James Taylor plays her former boyfriend).

– “Off the Map,” 10 p.m., ABC.
There's a hepatitis outbreak. Also, a doctor collapses mid-surgery.