TV column for Monday, Feb. 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Mad Love”
debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Ben and Kate are people we root for,
especially on Valentine's Day. She (Sarah Chalke) is smart and
beautiful; he (Jason Biggs) is warm and optimistic.

Larry and Kate are the sidekicks TV
requires. He (Tyler Labine) is loud and scruffy; she (Judy Greer) is
consumed with pessimism.

Mix them together, atop the Empire
State Building, and you have fireworks (literally). “Mad Love”
has lots of cliches, but uses them well; next week, “Rules of
Engagement” moves to Thursdays.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Chicago
Code,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week's terrific debut ended with a
jolt. A gunman aimed for Teresa Colvin, the new police commisioner;
he killed her aide, who had given her his bullet-proof vest.

Was the shooter sent by the alderman?
By the cop she just demoted? A search builds.

Don't make any assumptions here. “Code”
– from “Shield” creator Shawn Ryan – is a smart show with
complex characters; this episode again shows that it's the season's
best new broadcast-network drama.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: “Jake and the
Never Land Pirates,” 8:30 a.m. and noon, Disney Channel.

This marks the start of Disney Junior.
For now, that's a block (4 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, 4-9 a.m.
weekends) on Disney; next year, it will be all day, replacing
SoapNet.

Most of the shows were already around –
“Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” (9 and 11:30 a.m.), “Handy Manny”
(9:30 a.m.), “Babar” (10 a.m.) and more. The animated “Jake,”
however, is new.

Three cheery kids say they are pirates;
the real pirating, however, is attempted by Captain Hook and Mr.
Smee. (Both characters look and sound like they did in Disney's
“Peter Pan.”) The result looks great, makes little sense and has
zesty music from Captain Bogg & Salty. Junior is off to good
start.

Other choices today include:

– “Cheaters,” 9 a.m., G4
(generally via satellite or digital cable). Countering the Valentine
spirit, here are13 hours of people cheating on mates. At 10 p.m. is a
report from the Adult Entertainment Expo.

– “The Martha Stewart Show,” 10
a.m., Hallmark. Last-minute Valentine's Day tips include heart-shaped
cookies and crafts. At 11 a.m., “Martha Bakes” has cheesecake; at
11:30 is a rerun of Lucinda Scala Quinn making her husband's holiday
favorite, tender sirloin steak, plus chocolates.

– More Valentine, PBS (check local
listings). A new “Clifford” has the big red dog seeking the
perfect Valentine gift; there are also holiday episodes of “Cat in
the Hat,” “WordGirl” and more.

– “The Bachelor,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.
This may or may not be your idea of Valentine romance. Brad romps
with six women in Anguilla, before dumping two. Three of the women
grab bikinis for a Sports Illustrated shoot – and Michelle insists
on being photographed lying atop Brad's torso.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. A
patient's feud with her sister gets in the way of any treatment.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Lily surprises Marshall on Valentine's Day. Meanwhile,
Robin spends the day with her single girlfriends, while Ted and Zoey
try to figure out their relationship.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In the last new episode scheduled until Charlie Sheen returns
form rehab, Charlie finally learns that Rose's “husband” is a
mannequin

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Castle's woe: His friend is a killer or Beckett is arresting an
innocent man.

– “The Late Show With David
Letterman,” 11:35 p.m., CBS. Sports Illustrated swimsuit models
read the top-10 list and reveal this year's cover.

 

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Grammy Awards, 8-11
p.m. Sunday, CBS.

The Grammys keep merging great talents.
That peaks tonight with divas – Jennifer Hudson, Christina
Aguilera, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams and Florence Welch – in an
Aretha Franklin tribute.

There are many such combinations,
ranging from Justin Bieber with Usher to Gwyneth Paltrow with Cee Lo
Green and the Henson puppets. There are also solo numbers from Mick
Jagger, Barbra Streisand, Miranda Lambert, Muse and all five
album-of-the-year nominees – Eminem, Katy Perry, Arcade Fire, Lady
Gaga and Lady Antebellum. This should be fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Masterpiece
Contemporary,” 9 p.m. Sunday, PBS.

Some novels can be simultaneously
fascinating and frustrating. “Any Human Heart,” a three-part
mini-series adapted from a novel, is like that.

We follow one man for 60 years, with
four actors ( including Matthew Macfadyen and Jim Broadbent), sharing
the role. This is elegantly crafted, but he's a mere cipher, a
nonentity surrounded by large people and larger forces. They're
intriguing; he's merely there.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m.,
Fox. In the first episode, a rerun, Marge revisits her old “cool
moms” friends. In the second, a new one, she dares to change her
towering blue hair.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS. Amid the
soaring beauty of the Himalayas, there's a surprising variety of
life, from snow leopards to red pandas. This hour catches glorious
views.

– “Harry's Law,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
NBC. After much floundering, NBC finally has a successful drama. New
episodes prosper at 10 p.m. Mondays, with David E. Kelley's mixture
of humor and drama. Now the show's first two hours rerun. We see a
patent attorney start her storefront law office and shoe store.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Lynette refuses to pose for a family picture with her mom's
obnoxious new husband (Larry Hagman). Meanwhile, Susan has some
potential medical help and Mike tries to determine if his biological
son (Zach Young) shot his own adoptive father Paul Young.

– “Accidentally in Love,” 9 p.m.,
Hallmark. A warm-hearted waitress (Jennie Garth) and a cold-hearted
actor (Ethan Erickson) meet cute and argue a lot. The result is
contrived, but fun.

– “Big Love,” 9 p.m., HBO. For a
mini-moment, there's good news and a Senate compromise for Bill. Then
things crumble as usual, complete with rancor and a murder attempt.

– “Episodes,” 9:30 p.m.,
Showtime. Matt LeBlanc does wonderful work here, playing a perverse
version of himself. Tonight, he and his nemesis Beverly crash
(literally), then have some great scenes.

– “Shameless,” 10 p.m., Showtime.
Can Frank be cleaned up and sobered up long enough to attend
parent-teacher sessions? Fiona (the terrific Emmy Rossum) scrambles
to help her siblings survive. It's a good episode, despite one
too-nasty bit at the end.

– “Brothers & Sisters,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Valentine's Day finds some people (including Nora) alone,
others struggling … and Saul's loved one (Richard Chamberlain)
trying to influence a food critic.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Hairspray”
(2007), 9-11 p.m., ABC.

This buoyant film came at the right
time. “High School Musical” and other Disney Channel films had
shown that musicals can be fun; “American Idol” and “So You
Think You Can Dance” had helped.

Then came “Hairspray,” which had it
all: John Waters' tale of a 1950s dance show in Baltimore … the
wonderful Broadway songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman … the
direction of Adam Shankman (a “Dance” judge) … the clever
casting of Zac Efron and newcomer Nikki Blonsky.

Casting John Travolta was pointless,
but everything else about “Hairspray” works wonderfully.

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

The great films of three generations
are packed together tonight.

The 1930s? Families can catch “The
Wizard of Oz” (1939) on Turner Classic Movies or “Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) – the first animated feature, spiced
with great songs – on ABC Family.

The 1970s? “The Godfather” (1972),
Francis Coppola's triumph, is on AMC.

The new century? “Pride &
Prejudice” (2005) proved that few words are needed, when a great
director (Joe Wright) has a richly expressive star (Keira Knightley).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sunset
Limited,” 9 p.m., HBO.

One man (Tommy Lee Jones) is forlorn,
for little reason. Another (Samuel L. Jackson) is optimistic, for
even less reason. He has just saved this stranger's life; now, they
talk.

Don't expect any more. “Sunset
Limited” doesn't offer explanations, an ending or names for the
characters. It just talks. But the words (from Cormac McCarthy) and
the actors are superb.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Accidentally
in Love,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

Here's the opposite of “Sunset
Limited.” It's forced and frenetic; it's also bright and fairly
likable.

A car accident involves a waitress
(Jennie Garth) with a big heart and an actor (Ethan Erickson) with a
big ego. Contrivances pile up, some pleasant and one (a little girl
going blind) excessive. Still, there's just enough wit here to keep
up tolerating the rest.

Other choices include:

– Auto racing, 8 p.m. ET, Fox. The
NASCAR season starts with the Budweiser Shootout. It isn't long
(187.5 miles) and doesn't offer championship points, but it suggests
longer, louder things ahead.

– “Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC. In
a rerun, Tommy Jefferson (Christopher McDonald) tries to tone down
his courtroom antics and Adam is comforted by his ex-fiancee (Jordana
Spiro of “My Boys”).

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. An “agent needs assistance” brings a crisis, in this rerun.

– “CSI: Miami,” 9 p.m., CBS. The
man who killed Horatio's wife has broken out of prison and gone on a
rampage. In a rerun, team members scramble to figure out where he'll
be next.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. Rebecca Mader of “Lost” guest-stars in this rerun,
as a pregnant hit-and-run victim who may be linked to a married
politician.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. This rerun has Maria Bello as a drug-addicted
woman who is missing. Benson, caring for the woman's son, obsesses on
the case.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Russell Brand – who makes things interesting when
working live – hosts, with Chris Brown as the music guest.

 

TV column for Friday, Feb. 11


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

The good news, for Friday viewers:
“Blue Bloods” is finally back on this night, where it dominates
ratings. That follows a successful, four-week experiment on
Wednesdays.

The bad: This Wednesday-Friday thing
used up lots of new episodes; now CBS reruns one from mid-November:
When DNA evidence is compromised, three men are released, putting a
Reagan in danger.

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

When Olivia finally escaped from the
alternate world, some viewers assumed that part of the story was
done. Tonight's hour, however, is set there, where things have
changed.

The alternate Broyles was killed, after
helping Olivia escape. The alternate Olivia is back with her beau.
And the alternate Walter (yes, Walternate) tries to protect his world
from a bio-terrorist.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Onion News
Network,” 10 p.m., IFC.

This fake newscast pauses to celebrate
what it claims is its fifth anniversary. Here are greetings from Mike
Huckabee (“I know you could crush me like a folksy eggshell”),
Rachel Maddow and more.

We learn of new chaos, ever since
someone noticed that the Constitution had a 1987 expiration date. And
that 90 per cent of things are popular because people are bored .
Some of the bits go too far, but much of this is hilarious.

Other choices include:

– “Clifford's Puppy Days,”
daytime (check local listings), PBS. Here are two charming, Valentine
stories. In the first, Clifford and Daffodil struggle to get Emily
Elizabeth the best holiday card and present; in the second, Emily
frets that a big event is coming up and she doesn't know how to
dance.

– “Reagan,” 7-9 p.m., HBO. Here's
a second chance to see this richly detailed view of Ronald Reagan,
who was born 100 years ago last Sunday. Especially insightful are the
comments of his son Ron.

– “The Defenders,” 8 p.m., CBS.
The current stars of the Blues Brothers battle each other in court.
Dan Aykroyd plays a crabby judge; Jim Belushi is defending a young
man who was arrested with 30 bricks of cocaine … maybe after being
manipulated by a woman he met on spring break.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Tim McGraw was 11 before he learned his father was Tug
McGraw, the baseball pitcher; he didn't really know him well until
much later. Now the country music star studies his late father's
roots, going back to the early days of America.

– “The Graduate” (1967), 8 p.m.,
and “Forrest Gump” (1994), 10 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. The
Oscar preview continues with two great films. “The Graduate” was
nominated for seven Oscars, with Mike Nichols winning as best
director; “Gump” won six Oscars, including best picture.

– “CSI:NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. Ne-Yo,
the music star, plays a suave and charming hit man.

– “Your OWN Show,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
Oprah Winfrey Network. In the first hour, the final five conrestants
work with Suze Orman. In the second, the final three face a press
outing.

– “Gold Rush: Alaska,” 10 p.m.,
Discovery. The novice miners are digging deeper than ever, leading to
problems with flooding and cave-ins.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Office,” 9
p.m., NBC.

Even on a holiday, it seems, many
people dislike public displays of affection. Now Holly – doing
temporary duty at the Scranton branch – and Michael are ga-ga; that
leads Gabe to call a Valentine's Day meeting to discuss PDA policy,
with hilarious results, in an excellent episode.

Gabe has a subtler approach with Erin –
a clue hunt … which gets complicated when her ex-boyfriend Andy
helps. Also: Even with a marital bed waiting at home, Jim and Pam
consider sex at the office.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Perfect
Couples,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Dave was innocent enough: While
dog-walking, he was joined by a cheery and attractive stranger.

He didn't tell his wife Pam about it,
though – and his subsequent excuses soon have Vance and Amy
entangled in the schemes. Those stories provide some very funny
moments, in NBC's pre-Valentine comedy blitz, from 8-10 p.m.; another
story – Rex covering up his financial woes – is weaker.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Grey's
Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Thatcher Grey – the recovering
alcoholic and oft-missing father of Meredith and Lexie – is back in
the hospital. This time, he has a tattooed girlfriend in her 20s.

Meanwhile, Mark has a new scheme for
keeping an eye on Lexie. And Alex battles with Dr. Lucy Fields, the
new obstetrician; she's played by Rachael Taylor, a Tasmanian beauty
who was Maggie in “Transformers” and has been chosen for ABC's
“Charlie's Angels” remake.

Other choices include:

– “Mad Hungry,” 10 a.m.,
Hallmark. Lucinda Scala Quinn makes a Valentine dinner with her
husband's favorite food, from tender black pepper sirloin steak to a
chocolate dessert.

– “Clifford the Big Red Dog,”
times vary (check local listings), PBS. The network is loading up
with Valentine cartoons. In this one, T-Bone has well-meaning plans
to baby-sit … until the tempting Mimi arrives; in a separate
episode, Cleo overdoes a Valentine surprise for Clifford and T-Bone.

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
The month-long auditions marathon finally ends.

– “The Big Bang Theory,”8 p.m.,
CBS. At 70, Jessica Walter seems to be everywhere. She's a regular on
“Retired at 35” and in the animated “Archer”; tonight, she
guests as a wealthy woman who will give the college money … if
Leonard is romantic with her.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Valentine's Day brings crises: Troy and Abed lust for the same sexy
librarian; Britta pals with someone she assumes is a lesbian; Jeff
tries to be a loner – with an extreme lack of success. And Pierce,
overloaded on pain pills, keeps seeing a little man (Andy Dick).

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. A body is found in a box donated to a thrift shop.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 9:30
p.m., NBC. Megan Mullally returns as the ex-wife of Ron Swanson –
played by her real-life husband, Nick Offerman. They drive each other
to lust and rage, in an episode that is sometimes very funny and
sometimes just overwrought.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A witness is killed while under Van Pelt's protection.

– “Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy,”
10 p.m., Sundance. It was 58 years ago that de Givenchy started his
fashion business. He would quickly become a superstar, best-known for
dressing Audrey Hepburn. As his 84th birthday nears, this
stylish film offers his memories, with English sub-titles.

– “Archer,” 10 p.m., FX. In a
so-so episode, Sterling Archer faces a paternity test.