TV column for Saturday, March 15 (Sunday's is below this)

(Please excuse a slight laps in chronology. This is the TV column for Saturday, March 15. If you scroll dwn below this, you'll find the Sunday one.)


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Cosmos,” 8 p.m., Fox; and “Believe,” 10
p.m., NBC.

Here’s a second chance to try two terrific openers, before
their second episodes air at 9 p.m. Sunday.

“Cosmos” is non-fiction, with the sweeping stories of Carl
Sagan’s 1980 series, boosted by modern special effects. “Believe” is – we truly
hope – non-fiction, with a gifted 10-year-old girl intensely sought by one
group and protected by another. It makes its villain way too inept, but
otherwise has strong characters and great action scenes, sharply directed by
Alfonso Cuaron, the Oscar-winner for “Gravity.”

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Summer Dreams,” 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Mike Tollin has thrived by producing youth dramas (including
“Smallville”) and comedies. Often, he comes back to sports, scripted (“Coach
Carter,” “The Bronx is Burning,” “One Tree Hill”) or not (“30 For 30,” “The
Franchise,” “The Real Rocky”).

Now he’s produced a documentary movie on pro basketball’s
summer development league, which runs for 10 high-octane days in Las Vegas. “Dreams”
focuses on two first-round draft picks – Michael Carter-Williams of the
Philadelphia 76ers and Shane Larkin (son of baseball great Barry Larkin) of the
Dallas Mavericks. It also follows Lauren Holtkamp, trying to be the NBA’s
second current female referee.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Black Sails” season-finale, 9 p.m.,

In one crowded hour, here is everything you’d expect in a
pirate tale. There’s deceit, overthrow, a sea storm, cannon fire, topless maidens
and buried treasure.

And most of it is done by gifted British actors. Two scenes
with Captain Flint (Toby Stephens, the son of Oscar-winner Maggie Smith) and
his long-time friend are superb.

Other choices include:

“Castle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Castle and Beckett try to
trace the background of a baby handed to a priest by a dying man.

Action movies, 8 p.m., cable. Bravo has “The Fast and the
Furious” (2001), with Paul Walker as a young street-racer. AMC has “Rocky III”
(1982), with the odd notion of Mr. T as ultimate obstacle.

More movies, cable. Here are master directors: “Sugarland
Express” (1974, 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies) was Steven Spielberg’s first
movie in theaters, based on the true story of a young couple being chased
across Texas. “No Country for Old Men” (2007, 8 p.m., IFC) is a best-picture
winner from the Coen Brothers, whose script included large chunks of great
dialog from Cormac McCarthy’s novel.

“When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. This frontier-Canada
tale sometimes lacks variety, with all its strong-silent men and women. It
added variety last week, when the schoolteacher’s giddy younger sister arrived.
She promptly fell for a handsome stranger who had a wound and a gun. Tonight,
that story builds; things seem way too easy (again), but it’s a likable tale.

“Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC America. As a police wagon is
traveling through the Whitechapel district, an Irish bomber escapes and kills a
member of parliament.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Drake
doubles as host and music guest.  

TV column for Sunday, March 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

On a night stuffed with new series, this fifth-season show
reminds us that it’s still one of the best.

Last week’s terrific episode saw a new investigation into
the election-night corruption that helped elect Alicia’s husband. That
continues as she frets over a key speech, stirring flashbacks. There’s also a focus
on Elsbeth (delightfully played by Carrie Preston), who keeps a sharp mind
hidden under a giddy façade.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Cosmos,” 9 p.m., Fox.

You may have heard of “survival of the fittest,” but here’s “survival
of the friendliest” – the process that saw the most docile wolves evolve into
dogs. You’ve heard of “natural selection,” but here’s “artificial selection” – humans
breeding dogs that have the preferred traits.

Those examples are part of one of the best – and most
entertaining – explanations of evolution we’ve seen. Backed by great visuals,
Neil deGrasse Tyson shows a respect for the “soaring, spiritual” process that
has survived five global disasters, to shape our world.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Believe” (NBC) or “Resurrection”
(ABC), both 9 p.m.

The scheduling demons are out to get us again. Both shows
aired strong pilot films with supernatural touches; now both have been plunked
into the same slot.

Try “Believe,” because its great pilot set up a solid premise
– a tough, escaped criminal protects a supernaturally gifted 10-year-old …
unaware this is his daughter. We haven’t seen its second episode, but the
second “Resurrection” is a mild disappointment. After a great start – people inexplicably
returning home, years after their deaths – it shovels in unbelievable amounts
of rage from most townspeople, reducing the story to an angry-white-male stereotype.

Other choices include:

“The Red Road,” 7-10 p.m., Sundance. Here are the first
three hours of a series (10 p.m. Thursdays) that has rich layers of human flaws
and strengths. A cop finds his honesty shattered when his fragile wife goes too
far; suspicions resonate throughout a troubled town.

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In both worlds, good people
team with evil Regina. In Fairytaleland, Robin Hood tries to help break into
her castle, now seized by the Wicked Witch of the West. And in modern
Storybrooke, she works with Emma to learn who has blotted out everyone’s

“Army Wives,” 9-11 p.m., Lifetime. Before the eighth and
final season begins, here’s a look back.

“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11. After
finding a shelter spot, people wonder if life will ever be as it was. That’s
surrounded by reruns at 7 and 8 p.m. and a 10 p.m. “Talking Dead” with Melissa
McBride (who plays Carol Peletier), plus Yvette Nicole Brown of “Community” and
wrestler CM Punk.

“Revenge,” 10 p.m., ABC. Emily’s black-outs are becoming
increasingly violent.

“Crisis” debut, 10 p.m., NBC. Viewers rejected the absurd
premise of CBS’ “Hostages”; now NBC tries a similar theme. This one has a
broader scope, swiping a busload of teens, including the president’s son. It
has great side characters, including federal agents (Rachael Taylor, Lance
Gross) and a rich mom (Gillian Anderson). But its plot strains credibility and
viewers might be wary of its serialized nature.

TV column for Friday, March 14

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Jaunty and fun, this show never caught on during its
Thursday run. Now it’s been exiled to Fridays, with fewer viewers … but less
competition, making it worth trying.

Greg Kinnear plays Keegan, a smart lawyer who makes stupid
choices about women and gambling. Now his friend Ben inherits his dad’s law firm
and dares to hire Keegan … who goes to court ill-prepared.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Live From Space,” 8-10 p.m. ET (5-7
p.m. PT), National Geographic.

Here is a hugely ambitious project, focusing on Rick
Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata aboard the International Space Station … which
circles the Earth every 90 minutes. It is, Geographic points out, the first
special to have a $100-billion studio and to literally encompass the world.

Live and via tapes, the astronauts will perform experiments,
answer questions and provide a tour. Talking to them­ from Houston will be
Soledad O’Brien (also a producer of this special) and Mike Massimino, an
astronaut who fixed the Hubble Telescope … and did four “Big Bang Theory”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Banshee” season-finale, 10 p.m.,

This makes up for all the shows (“The Killing,” for
instance) that didn’t really wrap things up in their season-finales. “Banshee”
has an ending … and then another … and then several more.

The main one has the former thieves – with new identities as
Sheriff Lucas Hood and suburban mom Carrie Hopewell – seeking vengeance on her
father, with a long flashback to show why. That one has enough violence to fill
a dozen movies (or one videogame), but stick around. One post-ending ending is
fierce and blood-drenched; we’d be outraged … except that “Banshee” is so skillfully

Other choices include:

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When Eve posts one of her
dad’s outspoken video-blogs on her Facebook page, she gets a hard time from
classmates. Also, a neighborhood cop stirs a family fuss.

 “The Neighbors,” 8:30
p.m., ABC. Marty’s date-night plans with his wife go astray. Also, young Dick
instantly falls in love with the babysitter (Rachel Dratch).

 “Hawaii Five-0,” 9
p.m., CBS. A father was shot while his daughter was being removed from the
home. The team probes that, while Danny tries to re-unite his mom (Melanie
Griffith) and dad. Also, McGarrett has a key code cracked by Jerry (Jorge
Garcia, who knows decoding from his “Lost” years).

“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. When they meet three veterans
(Stacy Keach, Dean Stockwell and Barry Bostwick) who are future versions of
themselves, the brothers decide to change their lives.

“Raising Hope,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. It’s a busy time for
Virginia – a possible promotion and a chance to perform with Burt in the local

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A perverse “knock-out game” –
punching random strangers – goes way too far when it involves an expectant
mother. Also, Frank worries about an impression of favoritism.

“Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Cleverly framed by Hannibal
Lecter, Will is on trial for murder. His boss (Laurence Fishburne) admits he
may have pushed him too hard, disrupting a fragile psyche.

ALSO: As the PBS pledge drive heads into its final weekend, many stations have key show-business specials tonight. In Reno, Nevada, for instance, KNPB has "Judy Collins: Live From Ireland" at 9 p.m.... in Cincinnati, WCET reruns the superb "American Masters" portrait of Johnny Carson at 9 ... and in East Lansing, Mich., WKAR has an 8 p.m. concert by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, scattering some dandy humor amid a night of dazzling bluegrass music and (with Edie Brickell) warm ballads. Check local listings. 

TV column for Thursday, March 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Hell’s Kitchen” opener (8 p.m.) and
“American Idol” (9 p.m.), Fox.

You know life has turned upside-down when “Idol” – for
years, the most powerful show on TV – needs a lead-in boost from a man yelling
at chefs. That’s the situation now: “Kitchen” takes over the 8 p.m. slot
(Gordon Ramsay starts with 20 chefs to belittle), “Idol” moves to 9 and “Rake”
is exiled to Fridays.

That happens on a key night when “Idol” trims to 10, which
generally means everyone will be on the tour. Harry Connick Jr., one of the
judges, will do a medley; also, Mali Music will perform.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Review,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

What’s it like to make a sex tape … or be a deer hunter … or
be a racist? Most of us can only guess, but now there’s Forrest MacNeil (played
by Andy Daly); he tries and reviews experiences for us.

The resulting half-hour, like last week’s opener, is
surprisingly funny. A few moments make us cringe; most range from subtly clever
to big, laugh-out-loud surprises.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Chicagoland,” 10 p.m., CNN.

Last week’s debut (rerunning at 9 p.m.) introduced us to
compelling people, from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the critics of his
school-closings. Most involving was Elizabeth Dozier, a young principal who immersed
herself in the lives of her students.

Now we meet one of those students. Lee McCullum prepares for
college, with the effects of violence around him. He was 9 when his dad lost a
leg to random gunfire; now a friend has been killed, the third this year.
Against the giddy backdrop of a hockey championship, this hour delivers
emotional jolts.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When he visits his mom
(Laurie Metcalf of “Roseanne”), Sheldon finds a surprise that shakes his
reality. Also, there’s trouble at Raj’s latest murder mystery.

“Parks and Recreation,” 8:30 p.m., NBC. When Leslie plans a
new town slogan, she collides with two “shock jocks” (Nick Kroll and Matt
Besser) on local radio.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m., CBS. Lyndsey was happy enough
to cheat on Larry with Alan. Now she’s quite unhappy to learn Alan is sleeping
with Larry’s sister (Kimberly Williams-Paisley).

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. A non-fraternization policy
at the hospital? That’s sticky in a show that’s mostly about fraternizing.
Tonight, one doctor is suspended; another is sent to Human Resources.

“Suits,” 9 p.m., USA. This show was built on the shaky
notion that someone could perpetually fool a top law firm into thinking he went
to Harvard. Now that peaks, in an hour that manages to simultaneously be dreary
and repetitious, while stretching credibility beyond the breaking point.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. As his re-election push continues, Fitz
gets a surprise in the first presidential debate. Meanwhile, Olivia faces a big
decision and her team works for a CEO accused of murder.

“Sirens,” 10 p.m., USA. Trying to do a good deed – erasing a
guy’s porn – these paramedics sink into their own problems. The result is
erratic, but has some very funny moments.

TV column for Wednesday, March 12

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

For 11 young singers, this is a crucial week. Survivors will
be in the top 10; in past years, that’s meant two months of touring to packed
arenas, a splendid way to start a career.

And the No. 11 person? A few have found related success (Matt
Rogers as a host, Kevin Covais as an actor); most -- Alexis Grace, Amanda
Overmyer, Paige Miles, etc. – haven’t. Tonight brings movie songs.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Dalia’s world is limited by her need to be in range of
Wi-fi. She distrusts places where she doesn’t know how many likes she has. “I
like likes,” she says; she’ll even fake a few, to avoid being a hater.

Her mom has spent a lifetime trying to be liked by guys;
when these two hire a matchmaker, the result is very funny. A second story –
Tessa meets a guy who’s just like her – is so-so; a third (Lisa ponders a rash
step) is quite good and carries into future episodes.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
(2011) and “The Americans,” 6:30 and 10 p.m., FX.

Here’s a night of extraordinary drama, deep and dark and richly

“Tattoo” brings the bleak beauty that we expect from Scandinavian-based
murder mystery. Then a strong “Americans” episode includes an assassination
attempt and an amazing scene with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) making an unspoken
threat. Meanwhile, her teen daughter is closer to the ultimate secret: Both
parents are Russian spies, planted for decades inside American suburbia.

Other choices include:

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. The “Brawn” tribe still rules with
all six of its people, after “Brains” shed two and “Beauty” shed one. Tonight,
a team considers blowing a challenge, in order to oust someone.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Frankie is arrested over an
unreturned library book; yes, she suspects Brick.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Each person has a different
sort of wisdom to impart. Jay shows Luke tools … Gloria helps choose Lily’s
flower-girl dress … Cam and Mitchell lead a museum excursion.

“Mixology,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. The show’s worst and best
characters fill this half-hour. The worst is Bruce, the shallow know-it-all;
tonight, he finally gets some bits of humanity. The best are Ron, the solemn
Englishman, and Liv, not entirely sure about her dull life. Tonight, they interact
delightfully[MH1] .

“Men at Work” season-finale, 10 and 10:30 p.m., TBS. As a
welcome counterpoint to some of its low-witted, locker-room jokes, “Men”
recently added Kelen Coleman as Jude, a brainy writer. She adds some weight to
these episodes, as Tyler flounders in his attempt to date her.

“Legit,” 10 p.m., FXX. Last week, Jim met someone who’s
perfect in every way (cute, smart, sexy) but one: She’s a racist. Should he
dump her? A sharp episode sometimes plays like an R-rated “Seinfeld.”

“Ali G Rezurection,” 10:30 p.m., FXX. With a clever new
introduction, here’s an “Ali G Show” episode from a decade ago. As various
characters, Sasha Baron Cohen talks to wine-tasters, drug-dog trainers, ABC
newsman Sam Donaldson and a Southern preacher who says he turns gays straight.