TV column for Wednesday, March 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Neighbors”
season-finale, 8:30 p.m., ABC.

From the start, this comedy – with
outer-space aliens learning our ways, helped by a suburban family –
has drawn opposite reactions. Some people consider it fresh and
inventive' some just say it's goofy.

Now “Neighbors” wraps its season
early, so a new comedy can borrow the slot. First – in an episode
with some clever moments – the aliens try an important custom, the
Earthling wedding. Mark Hamill (“Star Wars”) and George Takei
(“Star Trek”) have guest roles.

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

Some lively moments have come when
contestants tried the music of Motown Records. Now that goes even
further, with the music of Detroit in general.

Let's hope that includes the Motown
label and beyond – Bob Seger, Aretha Franklin, Ted Nugent, Jack
White, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop, MC5,maybe even the Winans gospel greats.
Detroit's been a great music town; for the eight survivors – three
male, five female – this could be a fine night.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Psych,” 10
p.m., USA.

This pleasantly offbeat show has
bounced along for seven years, with a phony psychic solving crimes.
Now its 100th episode is sometimes too loud, sometimes too
silly, but often fun.

In a prologue, we learn that Shawn and
Gus helped convict a rock star of murder. Now they're invited to a
mansion, where people keep almost dying. This copies parts of the
“Clue” movie complete with multiple endings; viewers will choose
the killer, via Web or Twitter. Guest stars include Garrett Morris,
Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren and Curt Smith,
formerly of Tears for Fears.

Other choices:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
“favorites” keep prevailing; only two have been ousted so far,
compared to five “fans.” The tribes were re-shuffled and there
are now four in each tribe. The Bikal trobe has two fans (Michael
Snow and Julie Landaur); Gota has the other three.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Frankie has always kept her house in a state of semi-manageable
chaos. Now her sister Janet (Molly Shannon, formerly of “Saturday
Night Live”) arrives to help, while Frankie studies for a class.
Alas, Janet's hyper-organized style is a clumsy (and funny) mismatch.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. This hour ends with a sudden, moving moment
from Olivia (Mariska Hargitay). Until then, it's a fairly frustrating
episode that has a well-defined villain (sharply played by the
talented David Marciano) and a frustratingly vague victim.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Cam and Claire think they're a great team on the house-flipping
project; then they collide and need a third person (Wendi
McLendon-Covey, who plays crazy Liz on “Rules of Engagement”) to
break the deadlock. Also, Phil tries to teach the kids fix-up skills.

– “Suburgatory,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.
Father and daughter are both supposed to solve other people's
problems tonight. George must stop Noah from living with his toddler
in a high-end hotel after his marriage crumbled; Tessa must teach
Fred (Chris Parnell) to be hip.

– “Chicago Fire,” 10 p.m., NBC. A
failed rescue attempt grips emotions in the firehouse.

TV column for Tuesday, March 26


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

“Don't you know how to win?”
Raylan's boss asks him. “Can't you enjoy anything?”

Apparently not. Last week, he triumphed
by getting fugitive Drew Thompson into FBI protection. But now he
obsesses on rescuing Ellen May, the sweet prostitute Drew loves.

That's not easy: Boyd wants to get her
and silence her; the Detroit mob wants to get her and silence Drew.
Forces converge in a busy episode, filled with terse eloquence.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl”
(Fox) or “Go On” (NBC), 9 p.m.

Pick either show and you should get a
fair amount of comedy fun.

On “New Girl,” Nick goes to his
father's funeral; his brothers squabble and his mother insist on an
Elvis theme. Things range from warmth to humor, as Jess steps into
her Presley persona.

We haven't seen the “Go On,” but it
brings a “Friends”reunion: Courteney Cox guests as a quirky blind
date for the widowed Ryan (Matthew Perry).

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Splash,” 8
p.m., ABC.

Last week's opener was a mixed
blessing: The opening was spectacular, the rest was lame, with diving
points seemingly awarded for sympathy, not performance. Also,
Katherine Webb only wore her bikini during practice, but switched to
a modest one-piece for the competition.

Only five contestants dove last week,
with Keshia Knight Pulliam (one of the better divers) sent home. Now
we see the other five – from football giant Ndamukong Suh to Chuy
Bravo, Chelsea Handler's 4-foot-3 sidekick. Others are actors Drake
Bell and Nicole Eggert and ex-Playmate Kendra Wilkinson.

Other choices tonight include:

– “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,”
8-9 p.m., CW. Seven years after scoring with th 1964 “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the same producers and writer tried a
different holiday. Peter (Casey Kasem) oversleeps (hey, it's a
Sunday), endangering Easter. Danny Kaye plays Seymour S. Sassafras.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m.,, CBS. Everyone
onboard is a murder suspect,– including McGee's dad, the admiral.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Here's the second half of the pilot film for a series about a
mobile team, led by John Corbett and Kim Raver. The “NCIS: LA”
guys help them chase terrorists.

– “Dancing With the Stars,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's time for the show's first ouster.

– “Golden Boy,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
rich philanthropist has been killed in her apartment. Also, Clark's
troubled mom (Polly Draper) is back, wanting her police-detective son
to help with a loan shark.

– “The Game,” 10 p.m., BET. In
the hour-long season-opener, the show says goodbye to a central
character: Derwin (Pooch Hall) has been traded; Bryce “Blue”
Westbrook (Jay Ellis) arrives.

– “Cougar Town,” 10 p.m., TBS.
It's a double night for Courteney Cox fans. After her guest role in
“Go On,” she has a new episode of her own comedy. Tonight, an
elderly couple buys Grayson's house and wants to be part of the fun
group on the cul-de-sac.

– “Smash,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Two
of the original “Rent” stars, Jesse Martin and Daphne Rubin-Vega,
have guest roles. Attempts to create a “Rent”-type musical
sputter, amid arguments between the composer (Jeremy Jordan) and
director (Jack Davenport).

TV column for Monday, March 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Revolution”
return, 10:01 p.m., NBC.

The first half of the season ended in
semi-triumph. After 10 episodes, Charlie had rescued her brother from
the bowels of the Monroe militia; she also saved their mother, whom
she'd thought was dead.

Now they're fleeing (with tough Miles
and nerd-smart Aaron) from a Monroe helicopter's firepower.

“Revolution” can get wildly
unrealistic, with bullets never seeming to reach the good guys. (This
flaw is undone in one jolting moment tonight.) Still, it's
well-crafted, including emotional moments tonight from two gifted
actors, Mitchell and (as bad-guy Neville) Giancarlo Esposito.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Voice”
opener, 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

This is the part viewers like most:
Judges sit with backs to the stage, a voice lights things up, the
giant red chairs swirl around … and Blake Shelton and Adam Levine
start to argue.

Sure, other details have changed.
Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green are skipping this edition, with
plans to return in the fall; Usher and Shakira take their spots.
Still, the best part remains.

Auditions continue from 8-9 p.m.
Tuesday, with all three hours rerunning at 7 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Dancing With
the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m.,ABC.

In her first two turns as one of the
professional dancers, Cheryl Burke won two championships. In hal f the
editions since then, her celebrity reached the top four.

Then, in last week's opener, judges
gave Burke and D.L. Hughley only 12 points out of 30. Tonight's
totals will be added in before the first ouster (Tuesday), but
Hughley is near extinction.

Zendaya, a young dancer-actress, leads
with 24. Kellie Pickler has 21, as do two Olympians, Dorothy Hamill
and Alexandra Raisman. There's 20 for Jacoby Jones and Ingo
Rademacher; 19 for Sean Lowe; 18 for Wynonna Judd, Victor Ortiz and
Lisa Vanderpump; 17 for Andy Dick … and 12 for Hughley.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Ted and Barney are being urged – by future versions of
themselves – to see robots battle wrestlers.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. At times,
“Bones” skillfully weaves between light comedy and serious
crime-solving. This time, alas, the gap is too big. The humor –
involving a documentary-maker (Dave Thomas of “SCTV”) – is
broad and goofy; the crime includes murder, ingested diamonds and a
severed foot.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Joe Carroll has learned where his ex-wife is hiding. Now two of his
followers try to get her … and Ryan (Kevin Bacon) tries to get
there first.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Life has been cruel to Caroline lately. The cupcake shop folded and
her office job was snatched from her; now she's been fired for
insulting the diner.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Who says grown-ups can't have rowdy spring breaks, too? Tonight,
Molly and her wild sister Victoria go on one with Victoria's friends.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A tour company receives threats; then things turn deadly.

– “Top of the Lake,” 10 p.m.,
Sundance. In the third hour of this strong, seven-hour mini-series,
Robin (Elisabeth Moss) flounders in attempts to find Tui, the
pregnant 12-year-old. The community resists her, the Women's Camp
warns her and a search of Tui's brother's home brings bad news.

TV column for Sunday, March 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Phil Spector,”
9-10:30 p.m., HBO.

Any film about Phil Spector – a
brilliant music producer, a strange person – and his murder trial
would be fascinating. But writer-director David Mamet decided to
create his own reality.

Mamet doesn't claim this is a
docudrama. He invents brilliant bursts of dialog, then gives them to
some of the world's best actors. Al Pacino soars as Spector; Helen
Mirren and Jeffrey Tambor are perfect as his wary lawyers. The result
– whether truth or fiction – is compelling.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Good
Wife,” 9 p.m. (or later, with basketball overrun), CBS.

In a neat switch of styles, this
episode covers only a few hours on St. Patrick's Day.

That starts and ends at a black-tie
dance. (Julianna Margulies, as Alicia, looks great in her red gown.)
Soon, police tell of a murder and Alicia's daughter learns her mom
was pregnant when she married.

Several people lie and one lands a
punch. There are fine moments with recurring guest stars – Matthew
Perry, Stockard Channing, Amanda Peet – plus the great John Noble
(“Fringe”) as the slain client.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bible,”
8-10 p.m., History.

Here's the fourth piece of the
five-part miniseries (with reruns of the previous ones starting at
2). It shows off the strength and weakness of the series.

The strength – a big story, told with
rich detail and an appealing cast. Diogo Morgado plays Jesus, with
Roma Downey (who produced this with her husband Mark Burnett) as
Mary.

The weakness: This keeps veering
darkward, almost obsessively. We're now to the gospel (a word derived
from “good news”), but the grim schemes quickly overshadow the
Jesus joy. Also, the casting – sweet faces for the disciples,
fierce ones for the Jewish elders – borders on bias.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, all-day. CBS starts
this with a triple-header at noon ET. It will finish at 7 (or a bit
later), with cable taking over at night. TNT has two games, starting
at 6 p.m.; TBS has two, starting at 7, and TruTV has one at 7:30. At
the end of the night, the college tourney will have its sweet 16.

– “Live at Lincoln Center” and
“Masterpiece Contemporary,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS. As pledge drives
conclude, some stations (check local listings) have a big
show-business night: Kristin Chenoweth sings a tribute to Broadway's
women; then there's a rerun of “The Song of Lunch,” a neatly odd
little two-person playlet, smartly written and drolly played by Alan
Rickman and Emma Thompson.

– “Married to Medicine” debut, 9
p.m., Bravo. Fresh from the “Real Housewives of Atlanta”
season-finale at 8 p.m., we meet some more Atlanta women. Two are
doctors, four are doctors' wives, all are attractive, many are
overwrought. By talking a lot, they turn harmless comments into a
messy feud.

– “Vikings,”10 p.m., History. The
first western invasion was simple, butchering some helpless monks.
This second one takes strategy and then an all-out battle. And once
he's back, Raynar faces the tribal chief and a murder trial, in
another fairly good episode.

– “Red Widow,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Even in a multi-tasking world, Marta's life is overcrowded. Her older
son has sex; her younger son has show-and-tell. She's a widow, a
businesswoman, a police informant and a novice for Schiller, the
crime lord. In an excellent episode, things gets more complicated
when Schiller works with a big-time crook who shares Marta's Russian
roots.

TV column for Saturday, March 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Kids Choice
Awards,” 8 p.m., and “Monsters vs.Aliens” debut, 9:30,
Nickelodeon.

First, the awards show, hosted by Josh
Duhamel, promises to have lots of goofy fun, music and (as usual)
slime. Pitbull sings “Feel This Moment,” joined by Christina
Aguilera; Ke$ha sings “C'Mon.”

Then we launch the TV-series version of
an animated gem from 2009. A sampling looks promising, as a former TV
newswoman join Link, B.O.B. and Dr. Cockroach to protect the
president.

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

A 68-team field has been quickly
trimmed to 32. By Sunday night, the NCAA will have its sweet-16.

Today, CBS has half the games. It
starts at noon ET and has four straight, finishing in time for “48
Hours” at about 10 p.m.

The other four games are on cable – 6
and about 8:30 p.m. on TNT, 7 and about 9:30 on TBS.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: :”Saturday
Night Live,” 10 and 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Two days before Adam Levine starts a
new round of “The Voice,” he shows up on both reruns.

First is the episode in which Jeremy
Renner hosted, doing everything from playing the piano to acting in
most of the sketches, ranging from Gen. David Petraeus to a clueless
guy trying to identify his brother's body. Maroon 5, with Levine,
sang “One More Night” and “Daylight.”

Then is the episode with Levine hosting
and Kenrick Lamar as music guest. The best moment mocks “Carrie
Diaries” (the teen version of “Sex and the City”) by doing a
teen “Sopranos.”

Other choices include:

– “Splash,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here's a
rerun of the opener. Combine it with next Tuesday's episode and
you'll see all 10 contestants, from gifted athletes (Kareem Jabbar,
Ndamakong Suh) and bikini beauties (Katherine Webb) to … well,
Louie Anderson and Chuy Bravo.

– “Shadow on the Mesa,” 8 and 10
p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel. This western – which reruns at the
same time, plus noon and 2 p.m., Sunday – offers familiar faces,
including Kevin Sorbo Greg Evigan, Gail O'Grady and Meredith Baxter.
Still, the focus is on Wes Brown, as an avenging bounty hunter.

– “Doctor Who,” 8-11 p.m., BBC
America. A week before the new season of this terrific show, we step
back to this epic, which the British ran as a two-parter in Christmas
week of 2009. The Master is returning and could bring the end of
time. The Doctor (David Tennant) needs all-star help, with
appearances by Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tait, John
Barrowman and Timothy Dalton.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
In a run of Monday's episode, Ryan and Parker try to get around their
new FBI boss. Also, the fugitive Joe Carroll demands to meet with his
wife, who's in hiding.

– “Chicago Fire,” 9 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun from December, the firefighters are accused of stealing a
$50,000 necklace in an upscale townhouse. Also, Cruz's brother is
immersed in gang violence.

– “Chupacabra vs. the Alamo,”
9-11 p.m., Syfy. Let's give credit for the idea and the Latino
flavor, as a cop (Erik Estrada) links with his gang-member son to
fight legendary beasts at the Alamo. Alas, the performances are weak
and the creatures are so quick that they provide little visual
interest.