TV column for Sunday, Feb.12


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

We can expect emotional moments. The
surviving Beach Boys re-unite for a live performance (with Maroon 5
and Foster the People) for the first time in 20-plus years. Glen
Campbell – who has been touring during early stages of Alzheimer's
disease – performs with BlakeShelton and the Band Perry.

There will be duets – Rihanna and
Coldplay, Carrie Underwood and Tony Bennett, Kelly Clarkson and Jason
Aldean – and an electronica tribute with Chris Brown, Foo Fighters,
David Guetta and more. Also performing: Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Nicki
Minaj, Taylor Swift, Maceo Parker and Diana Krall.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE: “The Walking Dead,”
1:30-10 p.m., AMC.

If you missed some previous zombie
action, don't fret. The second season reruns, starting at 1:30 p.m.

Then comes the third-season opener at 9
p.m., rerunning at 11:01 p.m. Rick tries to calm people after a
horrific discovery; then he and Glenn search for Hershel, who
wandered into town.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Downton Abbey,”
9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

A week before the season-finale, this
week is filled with life-and-death moments. There are major changes
for the paraplegic Matthew and others; a Spanish flu rushes through
the mansion.

Thomas has a hoarding scheme, Mary's
fiance has a spying scheme, Sybil and Tom Branson (the chauffeur)
ponder a new life. Bates' troubles build … and two kisses come as
stunning surprises.

Other choices include:

– Grammy preview, 6-8 p.m., E and TV
Guide Network. Both channels will be on the red carpet.

– “60 Minutes,” 7 p.m., CBS. This
include an interview with Adele, whose Grammy performance will be her
first live one since her throat surgery.

– “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. On Valentine's Day, the Storybrooke folks have a
women's-night-out. In fairy-tale land, there's a beauty-and-the-beast
tale, with Emilie de Ravin (“Lost”) as Belle.

– “Wild Mississippi,” 8-11 p.m.,
Nat GeoWild. Filmmakers spent a year on the Mississippi River.

– “The Man Who Can Fly,” 8 p.m.,
National Geographic. This guy doesn't fly, but he climbs mountains
and leap off with a soaring suit and parachute. Alongside dull
moments are ones of immense beauty.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Think of this as the anti-Valentine, with love gone bad. Julie
returns, six months pregnant. Bree spirals into lust and alcohol.
Lynette, tries her first affair since separating from Tom; it doesn't
go well.

– “MLK: The Assassination Tapes,”
9 p.m., Smithsonian; repeats at midnight. Back in 1968, University of
Memphis professors wisely saved everything relating to the
sanitation-workers' strike and the assassination of Martin Luther
King. Now those have been woven into a compelling hour.

– “Luck,” 9 p.m., HBO. In an OK
episode, the gambling team – with its secret winnings – conspires
to buy the horse that Escalante inexplicably risked and lost in a
claim race.

– “Comic Book Men” debut, 10
p.m., AMC. With an ideal lead-in (“Walking Dead”), this reality
show follows the guys in Kevin Smith's comic-book store in New
Jersey.

– “Full Metal Jousting” debut, 10
p.m., History. In its effort to be increasingly macho, cable has
real jousting – not the theatrical stuff – with painful clashes.
It's maximum fierce, moderate interesting.

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Smash,” 8
p.m., NBC.

Propelled by a big “Voice” lead-in,
Monday's debut drew 11.5 million viewers – the most NBC has had in
that slot in more than three years. If you missed it, though, here's
a second chance.

You'll see the fictional creation of a
Broadway musical, via a songwriter (Deborah Messing), producer
(Anjelica Huston), director and – especially – the actresses
competing to play Marilyn Monroe.

Megan Hilty is good; Katharine McPhee
is awesome. They do songs – some of them originals from the
“Hairspray” composers – in stunning, Broadway-worthy style.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Cougar Town,”
9, 9:30 and 10-11 p.m., ABC.

For two seasons, this show has provided
erratic comedy that included some great moments. A new season
Tuesday, but here's a sampling from last year.

There's the byplay of these odd
friends. In the first episode, they set up a “council,” with
fines; in the second, they have the annual competition to give Jules
(Courteney Cox) the best birthday present.

There's also a turning point for her
son Travis. In the first episode, she's reluctant to interfere with
his decision. In the third, everyone follows him to Hawaii, turning
it into a vacation.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Cupid,” 8
p.m., Hallmark; reruns at 10.

Eve Lovett (Joely Fisher) seems to have
the perfect name, job (talk-show host) and look for a romantic.

Alas, she's given up at love.Then an
odd guy (Jamie Kennedy) insists he's from “Cupid, Inc.”

Like last year's Hallmark film for
Valentine weekend (“Smooch”), this is light and semi-silly.
Still, it's pleasantly played and kind of fun.

Other choices include:

– “The Lion King” (1994), 7:30-9
p.m. Disney. Here's another chance to catch this cartoon classic.

– “America's Most Wanted,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. In a sort of anti-Valentine, this eyes on crimes of
passion.

– “A Charlie Brown Valentine,”
8-9 p.m., ABC. Charlie finally gets up the nerve to phone the little
red-haired girl. Alas, he promptly dials the wrong number.

– “Dog Whisperer,” 8 p.m., Nat
Geo Wild. Thie show's 150th episode has a Valentine theme.
Cesar Millan helps two likable couples whose relationships are harmed
by jealous or angry dogs.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. In a fairly good episode, Valentine crumble when Mike meets
Molly's former boyfriend.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. This rerun has a murder – apparently done via electric
chair – linked to a legendary Las Vegas crime.

– “The Firm,” 9 p.m., NBC. This
failing show has been exiled to show new episodes on Saturdays.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. When an actress is raped; the audience assumes
this is part of the show.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. This has been a dandy year for Zooey Deschanel, the “New
Girl” star. Ahe has her first time hosting “Saturday Night Live”;
Karmin is the music guest.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 and 9
p.m., cable.

In olden days, people dismissed fantasy
and science fiction as Hollywood's toy department; talented directors
made serious movies. Then Steven Spielberg and his colleagues began
merging fanciful stories with splendid cinema skills; tonight, we get
three dazzling examples.

Spielberg's “Close Encounter of the
Third Kind” (1977) is 8 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies; his “Raiders
of the Lost Ark” (1981) is 9 p.m. on Bravo. And his “Raiders”
star, Harrison Ford, is in Ridley Scott's brilliant “Blade Runner”
(1982), at 8 p.m. on AMC. Watch one; record the others.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY: “Who Do You Think
You Are?” and “Grimm,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

Back in NBC's glory days, its chief
(Brandon Tartikoff) wouldn't schedule shows back-to-back unless he
could imagine someone enjoying both. This combination, alas, would
leave him perplexed.

“Who” is an interesting search
through family histories. Last week, Martin Sheen had an intriguing
journey to rebel roots in Ireland and Spain; now Marisa Tomei has her
turn. She heads to Italy, pursuing rumors that her great-grandfather
was murdered for being a gambler and womanizer.

And “Grimm”? This hour starts
stylishly, has a great guest turn by Amy Acker, but is mostly just a
series of searches and fights. It has no substance; maybe it thought
the previous show took care of that.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” season-finale, 10:30
p.m., Independent Film Channel.

For the first five episodes of this
perversely funny season, Todd (David Cross) has sunk deeper. A
transplanted American, he keeps lying and bungling in London; now
he's on trial.

His own witnesses just seem to get him
in more trouble. Alice hopes to gather key proof that she and Todd
are innocent; but can she get to the trial on time?

Other choices include:

– “A Gifted Man,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Michael testifies in defense of a former patient. That leaves a woman
so distraught that she holds the clinic staff hostage

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. Two
deaths – one from an arrow, the other from a fall down the stairs –
seem unrelated. Then a connection is uncovered.

– “Michael Feinstein's American
Songbook,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Feinstein has a
couple chances to catch previously unheard songs from master
songwriters. Some stations will follow at 10 with a rerun of last
week's hour, including a fun look at “soundies” – visual
jukeboxes from the 1930s.

– “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox. Olivia,
Peter and Walter find themselves trapped in a town, unable to get
out.

– “Flashpoint,” 9 p.m., Ion. This
rerun is an example of the solid drama this Canadian cop show
delivers. Called to a phony bomb threat, the police find a bigger
crisis back at headquarters.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Timothy Busfield, the “thirtysomething” Emmy-winner, plays a
suspect who faces an imposing witness: His daughter says God told her
that her dad killed her mom.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy.
Morgana uses her magic to make Merlin an assassin aiming for Arthur.

– “Spartacus,” 10 p.m., Starz.
Yes, this has its usual violence, gore and more. This time, it also
brings a powerful emotional high and low. Both come late in the hour,
centering on the search for Naevia.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “30 Rock,” 8-9
p.m., NBC.

Valentine's Day – filled with mixed
blessings – dominates both episodes.

Liz and Criss (James Marsden) want to
do something romantic – after they buy a dining room table. Tracy
and Frank try to help Lutz get a date; Jack entertains his
mother-in-law (Mary Steenburgen).

Also, Jenna needs help with her
performance segment of “America's Kidz Got Singing.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Grey's
Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.

On Valentine's Day, couples find
babysitters so they can go out. Meredith and Derek use Lexie, the
baby's aunt; Callie and Arizona use Mark, the biologic father.

Meanwhile, the emergency room is
overrun by Valentine disaster. A girl is allergic to coffee; a man is
run over by a car, while chasing his frustrated girlfriend.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Love at First
Byte,” 9 p.m., CNBC.

Each month, we're told, about one-tenth
of Americans check an Online dating site.

Some try elaborate methods; people
spend hours answering hundreds of questions. Others simply throw out
lots of names. Bored at a bar, a young woman searches her phone app
for single guys living nearby.

Sometimes, the matches work. Samantha
Daniels meets couples, including one – reportedly the first
computer-linked couple – still married after a half-century.

Other choices include:

– “The Princess Diaries” (2001)
and “Princess Diaries 2” (2004), 6 and 8:30 p.m., ABC Family. The
first film is a quiet pleasure, with an American teen (Anne Hathaway)
learning that her grandmother (Julie Andrews) is queen of a tiny
country. The second is fairly lame.

– More movies, cable. At 7:30 p.m.,
BET has “Training Day,” with Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning
performance as a crafty and corrupt cop. At 8, AMC has “Christine”
(1983), a surprisingly good Stephen King tale about a boy's love for
his killer car; Encore has Tom Hanks in the delightful Penny Marshall
film “Big” (1988). At 8:30, Disney has “WALL-E” (2008), an
animated gem.

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
After way too many auditions, the Hollywood round begins.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon must take vacation time from his job. His solution is to
go to Amy Farrah Fowlwer's workplace, the neurobiology lab.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. Pam
is back from maternity leave. Also, Dwight has a special assignment
at company headquarters; he and Andy must decide who to bring with.

– “Braxton Family Values,” 9
p.m., WE. For all their fights – including one shown in the 8 p.m.
rerun – Tamar and Vince are still together. She's the family diva –
flashy and feisty; he's a music producer, triumphing with Lady Gaga
and others. Then he's hospitalized in intensive care; it's an
emotional hour.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In the midst of a murder trial, Patrick Janes searches for fresh
proof.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). A Swedish TV station has reports dealing
with U.S. racial strife from 1968-75. Here are Angela Davis, Stokely
Carmichael and others at a black-power peak. Linked with new music
and commentary, this is erratic, but has interesting moments.

– “Inside Comedy,” 11 p.m.,
Showtime. Friends from Chicago comedy are interviewed. Steve Carell
is amiable, with little to say; Jane Lynch discusses a performing
passion that began when she was 8.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 8


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

Mere humans think they can outsmart
raccoons. They don't have a chance against animals that are wise,
resourceful and endlessly adaptable.

The creatures started in tropical
climates, then kept moving north. Now, the film says, Toronto is the
raccoon capital of the world. It shows 'coons figuring out locks,
doors, zippers … and life; it says they apparently keep track of
garbage night, then turn it into a party.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Happy Endings,”
9:31 p.m., ABC.

In the last couple years, James Wolk
has established himself as a brilliant – and thoroughly likeable –
drama star. He teacher with Tourette's in “Front of the Class,” a
charming con artist in “Lone Star.”

Now hemoves over to the light side, in
a three-episode run. He plays Grant, who broke up with Max (Adam
Pally) last year on Valentine's Day; they bump into each other
exactly a year later.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit, 10 p.m., NBC.

Lots of guest stars pop in here.
Michael McKean plays a sexual predator, with Miranda Lambert as one
of his victims and Robert Klein as his lawyer. Harry Connick Jr.,
also passes by briefly.

Still, the real focus is on a hostage
crisis played by two talented actors – Emmy-winner Mariska
Hargitay and Cameron Monaghan, 18, a “Shameless” co-star. It's
beautifully played.

Other choices include:

– “Person to Person,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Back in 1953, Edward R. Murrow launched this show, visiting the
homes of the rich and famous. Now it's back as occasional specials
with Charlie Rose and Lara Logan. Tonight, they visit the homes of
George Clooney and Jon Bon Jovi and the office of Warren Buffett.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Valentine's Day is botched (again) by Mike. Meanwhile, kids struggle
with writing assignments – Brick on love, Axl on a life-changing
moment.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Now that Tessa has the love of a cute guy, she has misgivings about
it. Also, her dad finds some condoms in her laundry and goes into
panic mold. That leads to a funny scene, as George learns of all the
sexual possibilities and combinations.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Phil is so busy trying to impress his new business partner (Greg
Kinnear) that he doesn't notice him flirting with Claire. Also,
Cameron and Mitchell stay with Jay.

– “Rock Center,” 9 p.m., NBC.
This excellent news magazine moves to its new night.

– “Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. As
Emily and Daniel prepare for their engagement party, complications
appear. The biggest complication is his imposing grandfather (William
Devane).

– “Top Chef: Texas,” 10 p.m.,
Bravo. Restaurant patrons probably don't like the notion of a
blindfolded chefs. That's the challenge tonight, which starts with
four chefs, but also lets another compete for a chance to return; the
multi-part finale starting next week.

--”Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. A rock star (Huey Lewis) comes to town and Victoria (Wendie
Malick) assumes they'll resume their old relationship.