TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 18

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

In sheer quantity, this is the biggest “Idol” week -- three
nights (instead of two) and five hours.

Tonight, 15 females – ranging from Bria Anai and
tuba-playing Malaya Watson, 16, to Kristen O’Connor, 24 – take the stage. In a
cruel step, judges will send five home; only 10 will perform for viewer votes.

Also, we’ll learn the final male spot chosen by viewers. The
survivor – Neco Starr or Ben Briley – will be one of the 15 guys Wednesday; on
Thursday, viewer votes and judges’ wild cards choose the final 13.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30
p.m., 1-2 a.m., NBC; also cable.

There’s no figure-skating today – the women start Wednesday
-- but plenty of medals.

This afternoon, men have their finals in Nordic combined
large-hill skiing and the 10,000-meter skating ordeal. Tonight’s skiing has
women on the giant slalom and men on freestyle halfpipe; also, women have the
3,000-meter skating.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Alexander Cassatt ran the nation’s largest corporation
(Pennsylvania Railroad), but wasn’t your stereotype mogul. The brother of
acclaimed impressionist Mary Cassatt, he had a taste for art and splendor.
Visiting her, he savored the Paris railroad terminal and other architectural gems.

Penn Station soon became a marvel of engineering (seven miles
of tunnels under two rivers) and design. New Yorkers loved it in 1910 … then
saw it torn down for Madison Square Garden in ’63, spurring the city’s
historical-preservation laws. This film is part of a superb, three-documentary
night on PBS.

Other choices include:

“American Experience,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here’s
the rerun of another film that deftly blends engineering triumph and social
issues. The Grand Coulee Dam provided strong employment during the Depression
and a surge of Washington State agriculture after World War II. But it also
blocked access to one of the world’s best salmon rivers, crippling a native

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of reruns starts with the team
using Twitter in a missing-person search.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Still emotionally battered,
Deeks returns to work while the team probes a murder at a company that is
working on a classified vaccine.

“Killer Women,” 10 p.m., ABC. Molly (Tricia Helfer) may be
able to solve a long-ago murder case. To do so, she’ll have to deal with the
sexist retired Texas Ranger who originally worked it;

“Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Kids have
mastered the art of finding friends and fame on the Internet, author Douglas
Rushkoff tells us. We meet a tiny skateboarder who makes funny videos, a
diligent fan who uses her room as a “Hunger Games” publicity factory, a bubbly
guy who went from One Direction fan to YouTube star with 3.8 million
subscribers. Close behind them, Rushkoff cautions, are corporations slyly
slipping mentions and ads into the videos.

“The Tonight Show,” midnight, NBC. Jimmy Fallon’s second
night is awash in starpower – Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and Lady Gaga.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 17

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”
debut, midnight, NBC.

On the day Jimmy Fallon was born, “Tonight” was a week shy
of its 20
th birthday. Now he’s in charge.

Fallon starts strong, with Will Smith tonight, Jerry
Seinfeld on Tuesday and – two names you rarely here together – Michelle Obama
and Will Ferrell on Thursday. He’ll also emphasize music, including U2 tonight,
Lady Gaga on Tuesday, Justin Timberlake on Friday … and his own classy house
band, The Roots.

Next week, Fallon settles in at 11:35 p.m., giving his old
slot (12:35 a.m.) to Seth Meyers.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Juan Pablo Galavis has shown a taste for educated
professionals. His final six women include a lawyer, a nurse, a science
educator and (really) an opera singer.’

Now they’re in Miami, where he has an emotional reunion with
his daughter. He has to choose the final four, whose home towns he’ll visit
next week.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.,
1-2 a.m., NBC.

This may be the best chance for Americans to go gold in
figure-skating, with the ice-dancing finals. In 2010, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and
Scott Moir edged the U.S.’ Meryl Davis and Charlie White; since then, Davis and
White have won two world championships and soared in the team event.

They compete again, on a day that also includes medals for
men in large-hill ski jumping, freestyle skiing aerials and snowboard cross.

Other choices include:

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” about 10 a.m. (check local
listings), PBS. This cartoon – too one-note for adults, charming for
pre-schoolers – launches a week devoted to kids’ feelings.

“Breadwinners” debut, 7:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. So there you
are, zooming around in your bread-delivery rocket truck; suddenly, you’re
called to a high-crime neighborhood ruled by biker ducks. This is a fast and
funny start to a cartoon that then moves to 11 a.m. Saturdays.

“Star-Crossed,” 8 p.m., CW. When a spaceship crashes, a
little girl shelters a boy. A decade later, both are gorgeous (she’s played by
Aimee Teegarden) and the aliens are being mainstreamed. The result adequately
mixes teen drama and metaphors for racism, immigration and more.

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. A four-rerun comedy
block begins with Barney trapped in a fight between his mom and his

“Breath of Freedom,” 8-10 p.m., Smithsonian. Still in
uniform from World War II, Hosea Williams asked for water at a whites-only bus
stop. He was beaten and dumped at a black mortuary; he recovered, led a civil-rights
march and was attacked by police. Compelling stories like that fill this film.
We meet ex-soldiers who became a judge, a jazz great (Jon Hendricks) and
secretary of state (Colin Powell).

“The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox. Ryan catches a suspect who
remains dangerous after being captured.

“Mike & Molly,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Scrambling for laughs,
the show is willing to trash a main character. On a ride-along with her police husband,
Molly behaves like an idiot.

“Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In
the Texas border town of Laredo, Hispanics showed patriotism by celebrating
George Washington’s birthday. Now it’s a 116-year tradition, done to dizzying
excess, with $15,000 gowns. This fairly interesting film focuses on two
debutantes: Rosario is a skeptic; Laurita already has several crowns and now is
her family’s 13
th woman in the pageant.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Rick feels that a mean girl may
have been killed by a telekinetic teen. 

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 3-6 p.m., 7-11 p.m.,
11:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m., NBC; also, cable.

Americans used to mock ice-dancing … until this year, when
it became the best chance for a U.S .figure-skating medal. Now they’ll follow world
champions Charlie White and Meryl Davis in the short program.

This afternoon has women’s speedskating, two-man bobsled and
the grueling, 15-kilometer biathlon. Tonight has medals for women in snowboarding
cross and for men in Alpine super-G skiing and the 10-kilometer cross-country
relay; late-night continues the ice-dancing.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Downton Abbey,” 9-10:15 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

A week before the season finale, the village fair is here
and romance is possible. We see potential matches for Tom … and for Matthew’s
mom … and even for hard-pressed Mr. Molesely. We continue to see two possibilities
for the distant Lady Mary.

But there are crises, too. Edith is pregnant and her lover
has disappeared in Nazi Germany. Daisy agonizes (as usual), as Alfred plans a
visit. Rose’s interracial romance stirs controversy. And Bates – who has a temper
and (almost) a murder conviction – may have figured out who is his wife’s
rapist. Many of these are tossed off way to briefly … but with such elegance that
we forgive the short-cuts.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Wicked Tuna” season-opener (National
Geographic) or “The Walking Dead” (AMC), both 9 p.m, cable.

Let’s credit cable for booming ahead against the Olympics.
Last week, the “Dead” season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.) brought huge ratings;
now the second episode (rerunning at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.), brings fresh

Meanwhile, “Tuna” is back. The second season’s final nine
episodes will rerun, starting at noon. Then the new episode captures amiably
eccentric captains in Gloucester, with young Tyler McLaughlin facing multiple
problems. He’s working alone, against three- and four-man boats. He’s mocked
and crowded; also, his former mentor TJ Ott has just arrived.

Other choices include:

“Up” (2009), 8-10 p.m., ABC. Brilliantly crafted, this Pixar
gem keeps surprising us. The opening is both beautiful and heartbreaking; the
rest is just fun, as a boy and a grumpy man float off to adventures.

Basketball, 8 p.m., TNT. New Orleans hosts the pro all-star
game, often high-flying and high-scoring.

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in
which Alicia’s firm gets its first client – who might have to choose between
being deported and being a murder target.

“The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from November,
Patrick Jane gathers all the Red John suspects (played by Malcolm McDowell,
Reed Diamond and more) in one spot … then finds a complication.

“Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, a murder suspect insists
he’s a time-traveler.

“Girls,” 10 p.m., HBO. Marnie plans a sweet, seaside weekend
with her friends, talking and bonding. But with these people, talk is dangerous;
the result is sometimes funny, often dark and always well-done.

“Looking,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. A change-up episode focuses only
on Patrick and Raul. The result is sexually graphic at first, then talky but
skillfully written and acted.


TV column for Saturday, Feb. 15

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Olympics, all day, NBC and cable.

Some fans will be up early, to watch hockey. The U.S. and
Russian teams collide at 7 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network, while the women
start quarterfinals at 7:30 a.m. on MSNBC. Others will wait for NBC.

The afternoon (3-6 p.m.) has medals for the women in
1500-meter short-track and the five-kilometer, cross-country relay and for men
in skeleton. The evening (8-11:30 p.m.) has medals for women in super-G Alpine
skiing and for men in many things – 1,000-meter short-track, 1500-meter
speedskating and large-hill ski jumping. Latenight (midnight) has women’s
curiling, with the U.S. and Sweden.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Whole Gritty City,” 9-11 p.m.,

New Orleans seems to be filled with extremes – glorious music
and glowing spirits, gnawing poverty and brutal crime rates. For kids, says
Wynton Marsalis, “their refuge (is) the band room. It’s their safe haven from
the tyranny of low expectations.”

Marsalis, the jazz great who grew up there, hosts this “48
Hours” special. It focuses on three band leaders preparing their kids for Mardi
Gras, and on five of the kids, each touched by violence.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m. and cable.

At the midpoint of Black History Month, cable has two Oscar-winners
for best picture. “In the Heat of the Night” (1967, 9 p.m., USA) pairs two of
the greats; Sidney Poitier plays a big-city police detective who works a case
with a bigoted sheriff, played with Oscar-winning perfection by Rod Steiger. “Crash”
(2004, 9:45 p.m., Showtime) is a rich tapestry of racial moments, large and
small, in modern Los Angeles.

And if you just want great music, “Dreamgirls” (2006) is
8-11 p.m. on ABC. Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar in her acting debut, working
alongside Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

Other choices include:

“Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Keegan represents three
Amish bakers who shaved the beard off a bishop. He also meets someone he doesn’t
need – a woman who shares his obsession with gambling.

“Person of Interest,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds it tough
for the guys to stay anonymous, when they try to save a tech billionaire who
has massive resources of his own.

“The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Ryan and his niece
struggle to stay ahead of the FBI.

“Atlantis,” 9 p.m., BBC America. In the conclusion of a
two-part story, Jason tries to rescue Ariadne, who has been sentence to

“When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. It’s time for the
Miners’ Games … and maybe for Jack to loosen his overprotective approach to

“Black Sails,” 9 p.m., Starz. Last week’s episode (rerunning
at 8 p.m.) ended powerfully when Eleanor – enraged by an attack on her lesbian
lover – banned Rackham from captaining one of the ships. Now the aftershocks
begin. Her father is retrieved from house arrest and we get hints of Captain
Flint’s secret. In the final minutes, fresh events bring more brutality and

TV column for Friday, Feb. 14

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Valentine’s Day specials, 8 p.m.

Romance is everywhere tonight. On a “Bones” rerun (Fox),
Booth and Brennan marry. Movies include ones that are fairly new one (“Chance
at Romance,” Hallmark), lame (“The Prince & Me,” 2004, ABC Family) and
splendid – “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993, TV Guide) and “The Family Man” (2000,

Then there are ABC cartoons, gentle and bittersweet.  Charles Schulz wrote the 1975 “Be My Valentine,
Charlie Brown” (8 p.m.); “A Charlie Brown Valentine” (8:30) was made in 2002
from his cartoons.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.,
12:05-1:05 a.m., NBC; also cable.

Tonight, someone moves into Scott Hamilton turf, as the
men’s figure-skating champion.

And more medals are handed out: The men have super-combined
Alpine skiing. Women have the skeleton and the freestyle skiing aerials.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS; and
“Dirty Sexy Funny,” 11 p.m., Epix.

Two sides of Donnie Wahlberg are on display tonight. On a “Blue”
rerun, he has his usual one – taut and intense. He finds a dazed man who is
covered with his girlfriend’s blood and has no idea what happened.

Then there’s a burst of goofy fun. In “Dirty,” Jenny McCarthy
introduces female comics, dropping some clever films in between; Wahlberg (her
real-life boyfriend) is a delight as bad Internet dates. As for the comics, the
first two – Justine Marino and Tammy Pescatelli – are excellent; the others are

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Helix,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

So far, the dark dealings in this Arctic research lab have
perplexed viewers and the Center for Disease Control team. Clearly, Dr. Hatake
and his adopted son have a hidden agenda.

Now a strong hour adds their boss, played zestfully by Jeri
Ryan. She’s smart, scheming, charming and evil. Meanwhile, most people infected
by the virus have a zombie-like rage, but one (Dr. Julia Walker) seems to be
getting better. Also, an Arctic native probes who has been kidnapping her

Other choices include:

“East of Eden” (1955), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.
James Dean stars in Elia Kazan’s classic drama.

“Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In
London, the National Theatre celebrates its first 50 years with a flurry of
brief scenes from dramas, comedies and a few musicals. It’s only mildly
entertaining, but the talent – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Derek
Jacobi, more – is stunning.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Jorge Garcia
(“Lost”) is a conspiracy theorist, helping a probe.

“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here’s a second chance to see the
clever pilot film, as a tough soldier (Geoff Stults) is demoted to a platoon of
inept ones – including his two brothers.

“Raising Hope,” 9:30, Fox. In the rerun of an OK episode, a
stranger (Jeffrey Tambor) has been spying.

“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover 2,” 10 p.m., Investigation
Discovery. Think of this as a bitter-but-fun anti-Valentine. Three true stories
mix re-enactments and real women who exacted extreme revenge.

“Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. Our hero had been doing fine
with his fake identity (as Sheriff Hood, even squelching the real Hood’s son)
and his stash of diamonds. Now both matters implode.