TV column for Friday, March 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

One negative review
has paralyzed Jane's writing career. Now there's an “inner critic”
-- whom we see and hear, in a great double-role for Gina Rodriguez –
assessing everything she does.

We're not sure why
the show is sensitive about this. Critics have – very correctly --
savaged other shows (including its new lead-in, “Dynasty”), while
showering “Jane” with praise. It's been nominated for Television
Critics Association and Critics Choice awards; it's won a Peabody and
an American Film Institute award. It's a fresh, smart show that
needn't worry about critics, inner or outer.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., and more, CBS.

This has been a
tough stretch for CBS' Friday-night crime shows. They retreated to
reruns during three Olympics weeks ... and will step aside next week,
to make roon for the college basketball tournament.

So viewers will want
to catch new episodes when they can – including three tonight. That
starts with a complication: A mobster became an informant ... but
then was kidnapped and taken to Chernobyl; Mac, Jack and Riley try to
find him. Meanwhile, Bozer is trying to keep a secret from Matty.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Streaming shows, everywhere.

For Netflix, it's a
time for female heroes, fictional -- “Collateral,” with Carey
Mulligan as a cop, debuts a day after Marvel's “Jessica Jones”
launched its second season – and real: Malala Yousafzai, the
Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize at 17 – is
interviewed by David Letterman.

There's much more
today: Amazon's sharply written “Sneaky Pete” and Netflix's
“Love” start their second seasons. “The Tunnel” debuts on
Amazon, shortly after two other debuts: “The Oath” is on Crackle”
and “Hard Sun” -- a compelling mix of cop show and
end-of-the-world sci-fi – is on Hulu.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Dynasty” return, 8 p.m., CW.

Blessed with all the
advantages – a familiar name, lush settings and big, soap-style
twists – this show has still stumbled in the ratings. Now, after a
month on the shelf, it's back on a new night.

Blake Carrington's
wife Cristal is trying to cover up an impulsive mistake that could
implode their marriage. His daughter Fallon tries some dangerous
charades and his son Steven shows his darker side.

And then? The
original “Dynasty” didn't soar until Blake's ex-wife Alexis
showed up. In this new version, she'll be played by Nicollette
Sheridan, but there are four episodes before she arrives.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In last week's opener, 40 kids – a bright and likable
bunch – were sifted to 24. Now they face two tests, one
alphabetical (really), the other involving fruit tart.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Tiana travels through the Bayou on her
coronation day, leading to a live-changing encounter. And in Hyperion
Heights, Sabine's culinary dreams may get sidetracked.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. On the 100th episode of this
visually impressive show, Coulson finally reveals the deal he made
with Ghost Rider.

“Taken,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. A kidnap victim is the wife of a senator who was a war hero.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Adam's plan to stop organized crime in Hawaii has gone
bad: He used deadly chlorine gas as bait, but now the bad guys have
it. Also, he's not sure of Jessie's allegiance.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m.,CBS. While Frank tries to choose between two candidates for a
top job, his offspring have their own complications. Danny probes the
murder of a guy who had two separate families. Erin wants Anthony
(her investigator) to probe his former partner.

TV column for Thursday, March 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Allison Janney keeps
piling up the statues, all of them well-deserved. Her latest is an
Academy Award for her brilliant work as Tonya Harding's caustic
mother in “I, Tonya”; it goes alongside seven Emmys – two for
comedy (“Mom”) and five for drama (“The West Wing” and
“Masters of Sex”).

Here's her comic
side, with a fresh target: Back from food-addiction rehab, Jill
brings her new life coach (Kristen Chenoweth). It's fun to see the
6-foot Janney and the 4-foot-11 Chenoweth at war. Then the story
slides from comedy to drama – a shift that “Mom” has always
done well.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Champions” debut, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

From baseball to
parenting, Vince has managed to sabotage everything in his life. Now
he runs the family gym in Brooklyn, when bits of his past arrive. His
old girlfriend (Mindy Kaling, who produces the show) visits briefly;
their 15-year-old son may stay, while studying musical theater.

There are plenty of
sharp, clever moments here, plus a major flaw: Yes, viewers like a
bad-boy type who causes trouble, but Vince (like the guy in “A.P.
Bio”) takes it too far. He brushes off his son and betrays his
well-meaning brother. We may like this show eventually, but it will
take a while.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Showtime at the Apollo,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week's opener
was terrific and this hour is even better. On the surface, it's just
a talent show, with the audience creating a winner ... and booing
some acts off the stage. Still, it's also more.

It has a skilled
host (Steve Harvey), a weekly guest star (tonight, Macklemore), a
lively crowd ... and amazing acts. There's a magician, a 7-year-old
rapper and two gifted singers, one with stunning talent. And this
week brings a remarkable moment – an act booed off the stage, then
brought back. Credit Harvey for that. “That man needs a kidney, he
can have two of mine,” a salvaged performer says.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that they have two babies, Howard and
Bernadette figure someone should stay home with them – but which
one will do it? Also, Leonard scrambles to land the perfect venue for
the Sheldon/Amy wedding.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. At school, Sheldon has had exactly one friend. Now he
adds a second one, an older kid who introduces him to a new field of
science.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. The vice-president's plane has been hacked. Colleagues
must move quickly to save Cyrus and David.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Jennifer Lopez does double duty here, playing
herself and her “Shades of Blue” character. Also, a baby shower
causes Will and Grace to second-guess their life choices.

“A.P. Bio,” 9:30
p.m., NBC. From what we've seen, Toledo, Ohio, is a fine place. It
has a great art museum, a major university and Mudhens. (That last
one is a triple-A baseball team.) Still, this episode asks whether a
teacher will reduce himself to dating a Toledoan. While fretting, he
manages to mistreat his students again. He does make a late
turnaround, but that seems abrupt and artificial.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Laurel gets fresh information about the
night Wes was killed, leading to a confrontation. Also, people
prepare for new questions about Simon's case.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. What's life like when you can't even trust your drug
dealer? Things start with a deal gone bad, then descend into more
trouble, all of it addressed nonchalantly.

TV column for Wednesday, March 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Life Sentence” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

Stella always knew
this would be brief and pleasant. She had a fatal disease; her family
gave her love, attention and much of its money. She married and
treated life as a brief honeymoon.

And then? Well, she
found herself cured and clueless; like most of us, she suddenly needs
a longer vision. This story may sound contrived, but Lucy Hale makes
it work. As Stella, she injects every scene with a sense of wonder.
“Life Sentence” manages to mix comedy, tragedy and youthful zeal.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Hap and Leonard” season-opener, 10 p.m., Sundance.

By the end of the
remarkable, five-minute prelude, you'll know this is an exceptional
show. And that's before Leonard burns down his neighbor's house ...
and before the guys drive into redneck turf.

This is rural Texas
in the 1980s and the guys are opposites. Leonard is black, gay and a
Vietnam vet; Hap is white, straight and a draft resister. Both have
anger issues; Leonard has burning-houses issues. This six-week
mini-series has them plunging into a tough town, searching for their
friend Florida Grange. Stylishly filmed, it has a wonderfully
off-center approach.

TONIGHT'S CAN'T TRY:
“Heathers,” Paramount Network (formerly Spike).

It's been an uneven
start for this network. Its first new show (“Waco”) was
well-made; its second wasn't. “Heathers” has some clever moments,
but is mostly blunt and heavy-handed.

It was set to debut
at 10 p.m. today, but Paramount has said it's being delayed, due to
the Florida high school shooting. Nothing in the pilot seemed similar
to the Florida tragedy, but that may be later.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 8 p.m., CW.

For a moment,
Jughead tries to remind Archie how tangled their lives – and the
plots – have become: “Your best friend's girlfriend is your
girlfriend's best friend.”

Jughead loves Betty
(yes, they're called Bughead) and Archie loves Veronica Lodge (no,
they're not Varchie). Betty – the shy one -- has also kissed Archie
and Veronica. One tangle links the mayor and the police chief;
another links Kevin and Moose ... whose girlfriend Midge suspects
nothing. Now the couples retreat to Veronica's country place, the
Lodge lodge; it's a strong episode.

Other choices
include:

“The X-Files,” 8
p.m., Fox. A little boy has been brutally attacked by an animal.
Naturally, Mulder suspects darker forces are involved.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week's opener dumped Stephanie Gonzalez and Jacob
Derwin. Now -- much sooner than usual – there's a tribe swap.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. When his niece reports a
classmae for sexual assault, Carisi starts a police probe. Stone,
however, soon has problems with the case.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., CBS. Jay overhears part of Gloria's conversation about
spanking; he makes the disastrous assumption that she's telling her
bedroom wishes. Also, now that Mitchell finally has a good job, he
and Cam plan a party to flaunt his success.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Someone hacked the missile that is
supposed to bring water to stranded astronauts. Now the president
needs help from the Russians ... who are quite good at hacking.

“The Assassination
of Gianni Versace,” 10 p.m., FX; rerunning at 11:30. This is a
beautifully made mini-series with a stubborn disregard for
chronology. Tonight, it captures the moment two people blossomed:
Donatella Versace (Penelope Cruz) was escaping the shadow of her
talented brother; Andrew Cunanan was escaping a low-income life with
his troubled mother.

TV column for Tuesday, March 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mister Rogers, It's You I Like,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Here's a feel-good
hour, filled with warm memories of Fred Rogers. One moment, he's with
musical greats – Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Itzhak Perlman,
Yo-Yo Ma. The next, he's hugging Koko the gorilla, touring a factory,
or watching the birth of a kitten. For each, he brings a sense of
quiet wonder.

We also meet people
who grew up watching him. John Lithgow, Judd Apatow and Esperanza
Spalding talk warmly; “Mr. Rogers and some of my best therapists
shaped who I became,” Sarah Silverman says. Carroll Spinney (the
Big Bird guy) sees him as proof “you can be sweet and nice and
real, too.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “This Is Us,” 9 p.m., NBC.

We're a week from
the season-finale of this terrific show, with an emphasis on Sterling
K. Brown.

He's already won an
Emmy here – a year after his Emmy for “The People vs. O.J.
Simpson.” Last week, Randall (Brown) found his former foster
daughter and her mom living in a car; tonight, they try re-bonding.
Then? Three days befoe the season-finale, Brown will host “Saturday
Night Live.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” season-finale, 10
p.m., ABC.

It's the final show
of the first – and, presumably, only – season. After endless
troubles in this timeslot, ABC is going another way next week: It
will debut “For the People,” a sharply written lawyer show from
Shonda Rhimes, who produces all the network's Thursday hits.

“Kevin”
certainly tries hard, with a clever plot, a likable star (Jason
Ritter) and, tonight, a key guest star. Leslie Jones of “Saturday
Night Live” arrives from Heaven, to help the overwhelmed Yvette.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The show decided it needs a two-hour follow-up to
Monday's turmoil. The key people -- Arie Luyendyk Jr., Becca Kufrin
and Lauren Burnham – will be there.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A retired Marine has been sending hundreds of packages to
current soldiers. When cyanide is found in one of them, Giggs
scrambles to clear his name.

“LA to Vegas,” 9
p.m., Fox. Colin is crestfallen when his divorce papers arrive.
Captain Dave's solution is to take him and the others for a
men's-night-out.

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. When Sabrina loses her fake ID, her brother offers to
concoct a new one ... but only if he can have a night out with her
and her friends.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. This gets complicated: A congressional aide
is missing, shortly after a hit man rescued her from two men posing
as FBI agents.

Baskets,” 10 p.m.,
FX. The show's two best – and most-contrasting – characters
dominate this episode. The ever-upbeat Christine (Louie Anderson)
whisks the ever-doubtful Martha (Martha Kelly) to a women-in-business
conference in Las Vegas. The result is well-played, with sly swipes
of humor.

“Unsolved,” 10
p.m., USA. This mini-series started sharply last week, with two cops
trying to solve the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Now
one (Jimmi Simpson) heads to Las Vegas to look for a possible link; a
decade later, a second (Josh Duhamel) briefs a task force on the main
theories.

TV column for Monday, March 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelor” finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

The normal pattern
is basic: A two-hour finale, a final choice ... then, that same
night, a cheery “After the Rose” hour. For two of the bachelors,
however, things went awry.

This may be the
third. ABC says it has “one of the most emotional, stunning endings
to any 'Bachelor' season” and has set up a two-hour follow-up for
Tuesday. Tonight, Arie Luyendyk Jr., 36, a former race driver, is
supposed to choose Becca Kufrin, 27, a publicist from Minneapolis; or
Lauren Burnham, 25, a technology salesperson from Virginia.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Good Girls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

It seemed like such
an easy plan. Three middle-class Michigan women needed money; they
would just rob the grocery store where Annie (Mae Whitman) works.
What could go wrong?

Lots, it seems. The
manager recognized Annie and tried sexual blackmail; Beth (Christina
Hendricks) intervened and he ended up bloody and beaten. Also, a
street gang had money in the store's safe; it wants it back, but some
has been spent. Tonight's fairly good hour mixes humor and dark
desperation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

This fourth season,
which started last week, has a split personality. Yes, there's still
some humor – mainly when Liv (the terrific Rose McIver) munches the
brains of a murder victim, assuming that person's personality and
memories. Tonight, she becomes a country-club snob.

Alongside that is
the dark story of a walled city where brains are black-marketed to
zombies. Tonight, Major – a soldier and Liv's sometimes-lover –
faces fierce problems. Also, Angus (Blaine's dad) has become a zombie
zealot. It another great role for Robert Knepper, who was T-Bag in
“Prison Break.”

Other choices
include:

“Delicious”
second season, any time, www.acorn.tv.
The first season quickly brought the death of Leo, a celebrity chef
and womanizer. In this four-part follow-up, his gorgeous widow
(Emilia Fox) and his talented first wife (Dawn French) continue his
castle restaurant, after coming into a pile of money. It's an offbeat
story, whimsically narrated by the late Leo, who adds sly humor to a
solid drama.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. A murder probe reveals Hollywood's dark side. Also,
Lucifer – an expert on darkness – has a scheme to help Cain.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Life can change drastically when you raise the price of
doughnuts. Tonight, that move attracts the hipster crowd that Arthur
has always disliked.

“The Alienist,”
9 p.m., TNT. Sara (Dakota Fanning) seems confident at her job, as
secretary to New York police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt. But when
she visits a hospital, she confronts her past: After her father's
suicide, she had a breakdown and was sent to a sanatorium.

“Living
Biblically,” 9:30, CBS. In last week's opener (a rather lame one),
Chip decided to follow all the rules in the Bible. Tonight, he makes
a life-changing decision -- abandoning his smartphone.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. The team unknowingly walks into a bank while it's being
robbed. Now these geniuses are being held hostage.

More cable dramas,
10 p.m. On AMC's “McMafia” (rerunning at 11:16 p.m.), Alex is
lured into a venture to harm Vadim's business in Prague. And in
Lifetime's “Unreal,” fights break out among guys on a
“Bachelorette”-type reality show.