TV column for Tuesday, March 22


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

In an Emmy-worthy performance, David
Morse adds rich depth to a solid series.

“Lights” Leary, the former boxing
champ, knows he's risking his health and his head with a comeback
title bout. Near bankruptcy, he'll risk it.

Now he meets a punch-drunk ex-champ,
given rich layers of humanity by Morse. The story whip-saws in the
final minutes, establishing this as one of the best drama episodes
this season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Best in Film:
The Greatest Movies of Our Time,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

For 11 years, the American Film
Institute and CBS chose the best movies overall and in categories.
Now ABC and People magazine try to do that all in one chunk.

The public voted online, which may
explain how “Grease” reached the best-musical finals. Olivia
Newton-John is interviewed, along with Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins
and others.

There's a best-film category, plus
others for best comedy, musical, western, sci-fi and animated film;
there are ones for best action film and its kin – horror,
suspense/thriller, political/historical. Others are for best
character, line, kiss, romantic couple and “chick film.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Rainmaker” (1997), 8-11 p.m., AMC.

John Grisham's novel about a new lawyer
reached the right people here.

It was directed beautifully by Francis
Ford Coppola. Matt Damon – then an unknown, but about to be a star
– was perfect in the lead; Claire Danes was superb (as always) as
an abused woman.

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. This
reruns the first Gwyneth Paltrow episode, when she filled in for
Will.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a
teen is suspected of killing his father, Gibbs handles the
interrogation.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A Venezuelan politician's life may be in danger, after the
disappearance of the Naval Commander who was tracking his moves.

– “Destination Truth”
season-opener, 9 p.m. Syfy. The good news: We see fascinating
settings including a crumbling former prison island off Panama. The
bad: The narration is overwritten and pooyly read; also, this is
another of those shows where you almost (but not quite) see
something.

– “Traffic Light,” 9:31 p.m.,
Fox. In a terrific rerun, Adam learns Callie is wallowing in debt.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The firm represents a drug kingpin in a divorce case.

– “Our America,” 10 p.m., Oprah
Winfrey Network. Lisa Ling wraps up her seven-week season with a
film that spent two years tracing people with drug addictions in
Richland County, Ohio.

– “The Fabulous Beekman Boys”
season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Planet Green. It's fun to see
likable city guys struggle with their farm. In the first episode, Dr.
Brent Ridge obsesses on his lone llama; in the second, we get hints
of emotional scars. Reruns fill a block that goes form 5 p.m. to 3
a.m.

– “Marcel's Quantum Kitchen”
debut, 10 p.m., Syfy. Marcel Vigneron uses high-tech devices to cook
an elaborate meal. The result holds so-so interest to cooks and/or
mechanics.

 

TV column for Monday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dancing With the
Stars” opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Don't expect the sky-high ratings of
recent editions. This one lacks the polarizing contestants; there's
no Kate Gosselin, Bristol Palin or The Situation, no elderly
astronaut or actress.

Instead, there's a collection of
moderately interestng people – three top athletes (Sugar Ray
Leonard, Chris Jericho, Hines Ward), a young actress (Chelsea Kane)
and rapper (Romeo), plus more actors (Kirstie Alley, Ralph Macchio),
a Playmate, a radio guy, talkshow host Wendy Williams and Petra
Nemcova, who is a supermodel and activist who barely survived the
2004 tsunami.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Castle,”
10:01 p.m., ABC.

The previous two new episodes were
dead-serious, with the city in peril. Now comes breezy fun.

There's been a murder at the soap opera
where Rick Castle's mom (Susan Sullivan) once worked. This hour mocks
soap excesses, but also finds a squad room filled with closet fans.

And the actors know the turf. Nathan
Fillion, who stars, did three years on “One Life to Live”;
Sullivan did four on “Another World.” Guest stars include Rebecca
Budig and Cameron Mathison – who remain on “All My Children”
after a dozen years – and Corbin Bernsen. He did a year on “Ryan's
Hope” … and his mom (Jeanne Cooper) is in her 38th
year at “The Young and the Restless.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Triangle:
Remembering the Fire,” 9 p.m., HBO.

It was near quitting time on a spring
Saturday in 1911, when a fire ripped through a New York building. In
the confusion, no one alerted the 300 workers – mostly women and
girls – on the ninth floor.

One exit door was locked, another led
to a narrow stairway. The elevator operator kept returning for more
people, but within 18 minutes, 146 had died.

The result spurred the union movement,
work standards and an end to a leave-businesses-alone attitude. This
40-minute film (airing four days before the 100th
anniversary) lacks the detail of the one aired on “American
Experience,” but packs emotional power. It includes descendants of
the victims, the survivors, one of the owners and Al Smith, who
transformed from machine politician to reformer.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last
week's terrific episode found Dr. House at his lowest, after Cuddy
broke up with him. That story continues tonight, while the team tries
to save a nameless, homeless man.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Barney finally meets his father, played by John Lithgow.

– “Mad Love,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.
Kate turns spy, using security cameras when Ben works late with his
former girlfriend (Rachel Boston of “American Dreams”).

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a funny rerun, Berta takes a few days off and Charlie
promptly falls for her replacement (Tonita Castro).

– “The Chicago Code,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. The investigation of a drug boss gets complicated when his child
is kidnapped and an FBI official (Adam Arkin) intervenes. Also, Liam
fidgets in his undercover duty.

– “Harry's Law,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye”) plays a transgendered performer who
was fired after the bar-owner's wife learned of their affair. Also,
Richard Kind plays Bates' former boyfriend, who wants help on a shaky
case.

 

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.