TV column for Thursday, March 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“How to Get Away with Murder” season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

On a night stuffed
with live distractions – basketball, “American Idol,” St.
Patrick's Day parties -- “Murder” wraps up its little, 15-episode
season.

In its first season,
Viola Davis won an Emmy as Annalise, the law professor who usually
had a steely grip on her students and her life. Now, however, chaos
seems to surround her and she needs to get away; also, Frank tries to
come to grips with what he's done and Wes learns more about his past.

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

We're only three
weeks away from the final episode of a show that has changed lives
and changed TV. Adam Lambert – a powerhouse talent who was
runner-up to Kris Allen in 2009 – will perform; also, the
six-person field will be trimmed and viewers will vote.

Last week, they put
Avalon Young, Lee Jean and Sonika Vaid in the bottom three. Vaid
responded with a passionate ballad and was spared; now she facers
the immensely talented La'Porsa Renae and Trent Harmon, plus Tristan McIntosh, Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg. It should be a strong
finish.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Basketball, all day, four networks.

Over the next four
days, the NCAA tournament will consume CBS – sorry, no soaps, no
“Big Bang” -- and three cable networks. CBS starts its first
doubleheader at 12:15 on, ET with Duke facing North Carolina,
Wilmington and then with Baylor and Yale. After a news break, a 7:10
p.m. doubleheader has Indiana and Chattanooga and then Kentucky and
Stony Brook.

Meanwhile, cable has
a dozen more games. TruTV has doubleheaders at 12:40 and 7:27 p.m.
ET, TNT at 1:30 and 6:50 p.m. and TBS at 2 and 7:20 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Colony” season-finale, 10 p.m., USA.

Last week, the split
in the Bowman home hit a peak: Will, working with the collaborator
government, had a plan for his family to escape; on the same night,
his wife Katie – a resistance fighter against the alien overlords –
had a military action.

She prevailed,
apparently killing a key alien. Tonight, the aftershocks are fierce,
as Will scrambles to shield her. It's a well-made hour, but
constricts itself by making the aliens an unbeatable force.

Other choices
include:

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse,” 8 p.m., NBC. Two weeks from the season-finale, things
are chaotic. Jamie finally found his wife, but their daughter has
been kidnapped by his evil twin Ariel. A priest (Rob Lowe) finds
himself increasingly drawn to a nun. And plans to stop the meteor
have sputtered,

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Life gets complicated when Richard switches pairings for
residents and attending physicians.. Meanwhile, Arizona tries a risky
step for a woman expecting quadruplets.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Last week found the president having quickie affairs; his
ex-lover Olivia was reluctantly advising his ex-wife Mellie, now a
senator and presidential hopeful. Also, his aide Cyrus lied to
convince an honest governor to run for president. Tonight, Olivia
continues spying on Jake, the ex-lover who last week announced his
engagement to an upper-crust lawyer.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Chances are, many of this show's fans will be watching
basketball tonight. So NBC tosses in a rerun, with Liz in jail and
Red scrambling to protect her.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. Harlee pushes ahead with her scheme to do the heist,
get immunity for her crew and nail Wozniak (Ray Liotta), her
crooked-cop boss. Then things go wrong.

“Real World”
season-opener, 10 p.m., MTV. It was back in 1992 – eight years
before “Survivor,” a decade before most reality shows – that
this brough a fresh concept to TV. Now, in its 31st
edition, it copies its descendants a bit: Roommates who fail to do
some tasks will be sent home early.

TV column for Wednesday, March 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Nashville” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

On the verge of its
biggest moment – the wedding of Rayna and Deacon -- “Nashville”
took a three-month break. Now it's back ... and throwing in all sorts
of soap-style detours.

Many of them feel
contrived, but a few are substantial because they focus on troubled
Juliette. Only one person knows she was responsible for Jeff
Fordham's death; only a few (including her estranged husband Avery)
know she's in rehab. Alongside all the soapiness are some tender
songs, skillfully sung by Charles Esten (Deacon), Clare Bowen
(Scarlett) and Lennon and Maisy Stella (Rayna's daughters).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

This series starts
by imagining there's a sort of federal superteam that jets around the
world, rescuing Americans overseas. Gary Sinise is in charge and soon
needs an old colleague (Alana De La Garza).

Their first case is
a tough one: Three volunteers have disappeared in Thailand and a
storm threatens to obliterate any evidence. The result is a fairly
solid mystery-adventure hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

For people who are
great at keeping secrets, Philip and Elizabeth have suddenly turned
chatty. They told their daughter that they're foreigh spies; now
Philip tells Martha (whom he married under his alternate identity as
Clark) that he murdered the co-worker who was onto them.

Both create fresh
problems – as does Philip's friendship with a neighbor's wife. A
flawless guy shows some odd slips ... and is plagued by a fierce
boyhood incident, which we see in flashbacks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Fargo” (1996) and “Hap and Leonard,” 8 and 10
p.m., Sundance.

There's a special
artform to building a show around quiet people. “Fargo” (terse
Northerners) mastered that; “Hap and Leonard” (droll Southerners)
does a fairly good job.

In the late '80s,
Hap (James Purefoy) has a mountain of bills and one friend; that's
Leonard, who is black, gay and a Vietnam veteran. In last week's
opener, Hap's ex-wife (Christina Hendricks) arrived, telling of a car
no one can find, with a million dollars in stolen cash. That part
stretches crediblity; Hap's cynicism strains our patience. But as Hap
links with her hippie friends tonight, the result is fun.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, 6:40 and
9:10 p.m. ET, TruTV. These games – Holy Cross and Southern, then
Michigan and Tulsa – determine the final two spots in the 64-team
NCAA tournament.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. So far, the “brawn” tribe has lost three people (half
its total); brains lost one and “beauty” had a medical
evacuation. Now things are complicated when the teams are reshuffled.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Sue andAxl spend spring break at home – challenging
Brick's role as the one kid at home. Meanwhile, their dad has a new
reason to fume at his brother (Norm Macdonald).

“Mob Wives”
finale and “Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn” debut, 8 and 9 p.m.,
VH1; repeating at 10 and 11 p.m. and at midnight and 1 a.m. First,
“Mob” has its reunion hour, including Ang with an update on her
cancer treatments. Then we see four families check into Jenn Mann's
rehab center.
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Here are
emptations for married folks: Phil gets secretive about a client who
is “his type”; his wife Claire seems pleased with extra attention
from a yoga instructor.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, the murder of a security-company owner
points toward a much bigger scheme.

“Underground,”
10 p.m., WGN; rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 and 2 a.m. Last week we met
a varied group of slaves, linkinh to plan a complex, 600-mile trek to
freedom. Now we also see problems on the other end, as slave-catchers
maraude in Philadelphia. It's a well-crafted hour, but tough to
watch.

TV column for Tuesday, March 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Lives are changing
and no one seems happy about it. Cece is moving in with her fiance
Schmidt ... Winston wants to quit having Aly (whom he secretly loves)
as his police partner ... and the usually cheery Jess actually hates
her boss (Elizabeth Berkley) and her job.

This script (by
Nasim Pedrad, who plays Aly) has some funny moments, especially from
Winston's new – and immensely incompetent – partner. And along
the way, there are life-changing moments.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Crowded” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., NBC.

These days, most new
comedies (including “New Girl”) are filmed movie-style, with lots
of settings and no studio audience. “Crowded” is an exception:
Slick and jokey, it's taped multi-camera, with an audience ... and
with James Burrows, the multi-camera master, as director and
producer.

Burrows has had
great shows -- “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Will & Grace”
and more; lately, he's sunk to “The Millers” and “Mike &
Molly.” Alas, “Crowded” -- which will promptly move to Sundays
-- is another so-so one. Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston play
empty-nesters whose daughters (Mira Serafina and Miranda Cosgrove)
return; humor – sometimes clever, often not -- follows.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” 10 p.m., FX.

As the trial
continues, lives implode in compelling ways. Johnnie Cochran, usually
in control, is blasted by his past. Robert Kardashian starts to
wonder if his friend O.J. could actually be guilty. And the
friendship of defense lawyers Marcia Clark and Chris Darden reaches a
high and then a low.

All of this is is
skillfully written and beautifully played, with great moments for
Courtney Vance (Cochran), David Schwimmer (Kardashian), Sarah Paulson
(Clark) and Sterling Brown (Darden).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Of Gods and Prophets,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week's opener
left us with a bitter after-taste. Blindly following a prophet, King
Saul (beautifully played by Ray Winstone) slaughtered a harmless
tribe. The aftermath cost the life of his would-be son-in-law; it
also blew his chance to unite the 12 tribes of Israel.

This second episode
finds Saul desperate as an enemy army nears. He's unaware that his
concubine is a spy ... and that there are big things ahead for the
shepherd (David) who is his harpist.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, 6:30 and
9 p.m. ET, TruTV. On Thursday, the NCAA tournament sprawls across
four networks. First are games today and Wednesday, setting the final
four spots in the 64-team field.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. For its 300th episode, the show returns to a subject
it has emphasized – wounded veterans. Taye Diggs plays a lone
survivor, key to Gibbs' re-investigation of an ambush in Iraq.

“Pretty Little
Liars” season-finale, 8 p.m., Freeform, rerunning at 10. A stalker
is threatening to kill all the “pretty little liars,” if they
don't reveal who killed Charlotte.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a sailor is killed by a party bus in
the French Quarter, Brody (Zoe McLellan) is convinced this is related
to the death of her own sister.

“Brides &
Prejudice” debut, 9-11 p.m., FYI. In its first two years since
replacing the Biography Channel, FYI has been trying distinctive
relationships shows, including “Married at First Sight,”
“BlackLove” and “Kocktails With Khloe.” Now this series
starts with three couples who face biases. One is gay; the others
cross racial and religious lines.

“Limitless,” 10
p.m., CBS. Desperate to break away from Sen. Morra, Brian splits from
the FBI and heads to Russia, looking for the woman who may have an
alternative vaccine.

TV column for Monday, March 14


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

Ben Higgins has
already told Lauren Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher that he loves them.
This would be fine, except for the whole monogamy thing; now he's
supposed to choose one.

Higgins, 26, is a
6-foot-5 software salesman from small-town Indiana. Bushnell, 25, is
a flight attendant; Fletcher, also 25, is a real-estate developer. At
10, we'll see the aftermath.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “BET Honors” (BET) and “The Voice” (NBC), both 8-10 p.m.

Patti LaBelle has
had a spectacular career – two Grammys, two Emmy nominations, two
No. 1 singles. Now, at 71, she's on both shows. BET has tributes
(rerunning at 10 p.m.) to her, director Lee Daniels, music producer
L.A. Reid, former attorney general Eric Holder and businesswoman
Mellody Hobson.

“Voice” spends
its first hour wrapping up auditions. The second starts the battle
rounds and adds mentors – LaBelle with Christina Aguilera, Tori
Kelly with Adam Levine, Sean “Diddy” Combs with Pharrell Williams
and – in an odd twist – Gwen Stefani with her mate, Blake
Shelton.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Damien,” 10 p.m., A&E; or “Gotham,” 8 p.m.,
Fox.

How dark can a show
go, before turning monochromatic? Both shows push that to an extreme;
they're brilliantly filmed and acted, yet sometimes sink into
one-note extremes.

For “Damien,”
that's understandable. This is the story of a nice guy learning he's
the antichrist; we expect it to be dark. This hour, its second, is
beautfiully done by Ernest Dickerson, a master director of movies
(“Juice”) and TV (“The Wire,” “Dexter,” “Treme”). And
“Gotham”? Somehow, it has mined all the darkness from the Batman
story – especially in this revenge episode – and ignored the
rest.

Other choices
include:

“Janet King,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. Marta
Dusseldorp became an Australian star as the central figure – a
nurse, returning home after 20 years – in “A Place to Call Home.”
Now she stars in this solid mini-series. Returning from maternity
leave, she's prosecuting a tangled assisted-suicide case.

“Baseball
Legends,” 6-9 p.m., Smithsonian. The first two episodes –
rerunning at 6 (Henry Aaron) and 7 p.m. (Babe Ruth) -- had strong
stories, marred only by verbal detours from a “mythologist.” The
third – Lou Gehrig, at 8 p.m. – alas, has many more detours and
spends less of an interesting story: An overweight mama's boy from
New York, Gehrig transformed into a college kid and multi-sport star.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. Back in 1991, “Seinfeld” had a
great episode about trying to intercept a voice-mail message. In this
rerun, that idea moves into the text-message era, complete with Steve
Jobs' ghost and a musical debate over the word “textastrophe.”
It's a clever hour, complete with Rebecca (Golden Globe-winner Rachel
Bloom) singing a ballad about self-loathing.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CBS. After taking a week off, the show is back with a twist:
Exposed to red kryptonite, Kara suddenly turns on everyone, including
her friends.

“The Halo Effect,”
8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. At 6, Raymond Mohler returned to the ward
where he'd been hospitalized, to give away half his unwrapped
Christmas presents. He's 17 now and devotes his time to making
hospitals kid-friendly; this episode profiles him.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. The local blood supply has been hacked and may be
unusable. The team scrambles to find the hacker in time for a young
girl to have a heart-transplant.

“Blindspot,” 10
p.m., NBC. The team races to find a mole in its midst ... while
Inspector Fischer (John Hodgman, who played the hapless PC in all
those Mac commercials) eyes them suspiciouly.

TV column for Sunday, March 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This third hour
continues the impact of the first two. Alongside ABC's just-emded
“American Crime” and its upcoming “Secrets & Lies,” it
proves that the big networks can deliver cable-quality drama.

Adam disappeared at
age 8 and returned – if this is really him -- a decade later, just
as his mother (Joan Allen) prepared to run for governor. Now we see
how the neighbor (Andrew McCarthy) was framed; we get glimpses of
someone who may be the real kidnapper. We get a few answers and a lot
of questions, amid deep portraits of ordinary humans facing
extraordinary stress.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Carmichael Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Jerrod (Jerrod
Carmichael, the show's co-creator) is delighted with tickets to see
his boyhood idol, Bill Cosby. But his girlfriend – appalled by the
charges against Cosby – refuses to go. Soon, she has the rest of
the family entwined in a lively debate about values, justice and
fallen heroes.

A fairly good show
during its summer try-out, “Carmichael” has become much better
now, thanks to sharp writing and the skilled pros (Loretta Devine and
David Alan Grier) playing Jerrod's parents. Tonight's second episode
give Grier some focus, as he plans a funeral for his estranged
father.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Little Big Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC.

Each year, NBC tries
a temporary Sunday makeover ... then waits impatiently for football
to return. Often, it stubbornly tries (and fails) with dramas; this
time it's going light. There are comedies at 9 and “Hollywood Game
Night” at 10 – preceded by this amiable trifle.

At 7 p.m. is a
rerun of Tuesday's “Shots: debut, starting with a delightful,
4-year-old making basketball trick shots. At 8, Steve Harvey
introduces a dazzling 4-year-old pianist, a 6-year-old choir
conductor and (really) a 5-year-old who seems to put a rooster and a
lizard to sleep. It's great fun.

Other choices
include:

“Naked and
Afraid,” 9 a.m., Discovery. Here's a rerun marathon, leading to two
new hours – an “Uncensored” at 9 p.m. and the season-opener –
in the cold of Canada – at 10.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. When Lisa volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars, her mom
is displeased.

“Cooper Barrett's
Guide to Surviving Life,” 8:30, Fox. A fun friend from college
shows up ... and soon wears out his welcome.

“Scorpion, 8:30-10
p.m., CBS. With “Good Wife” resting for the second straight week,
CBS offers this transplanted rerun. A computer virus turns the “smart
house” into a blazing death trap.

“Alaska Aircraft
Investigations” debut, 9 p.m., Smithsonian. During summers, we're
told, Alaska averages a plane crash per day, sometimes with no way to
retrieve the wreckage. This series – quiet, steady, maybe a bit
drab – follows probes, starting with one in which the pilot went
wildly off-course.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Even when there seemed to be only seven
people on Earth, two were named Phil Miller. Now one has died and the
other – going by his middle name of Tandy – feels separation
pains. Meanwhile, the six known survivors – Tandy doesn't know his
brother is alive – go through romantic tangles, in a fairly funny
episode

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. After being trained in the use of informants, the recruits
learn how difficult that is in real life. And in the flashforward,
Alex may have to spill confidential information.

“Race for the
White House,” 10 p.m., CNN. If you thought campaigns are nasty now,
look at the one with Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. This
follows an 8 p.m. town hall on CNN and TV One: Democratic candidates
field questions in Columbus, Ohio; Jake Tapper and Roland Martin
anchor.