TV column for Thursday, March 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

TV's best comedy
rarely tries for a heart-tugging “very special episode.” Still,
it responded when Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Howard's mom, died of
cancer at 62.

Earlier, we saw
Howard learn his mom had died; now he wants his friends to savor the
final food she'd prepared. That's in the 8 p.m. episode, which also
has Leonard fuming about Sheldon getting credit for an article they
co-wrote; in the 9 p.m. rerun, the guys reluctantly shop with Penny
and Amy.

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

The “Idol”
pattern used to be steady – performances and viewer voting on
Wednesdays, results Thursdays. With ratings slipping, however, that's
getting a nudge.

This week, the show
announced its top 12 on Wednesday; they perform tonight and viewers
vote. Next week, the Wednesday slot goes to the two-hour “Empire”
finale; on Thursday, we'll learn which 10 survived and they'll
perform. Then “Bones” takes Thursdays and “Idol” slides back
to Wednesdays.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Few shows have hit
the dizzying extremes of “Crime.” On one hand, it gets superb
work from two Oscar-winners: Writer John Ridley (“12 Years a
Slave”) created vivid characters and dialog, Tim Hutton imbues Russ
(a grieving father) with deep layers of pain, guilt and bewilderment.

On the other, it
goes overboard. History tells us that people are often at their best
in crises; instead, Russ is surrounded by bickering, bull-headed
jerks. His ex-wife (Felicity Huffman) becomes almost cartoonish in
her rage and bias; others are way too similar ... yet, in some ways,
fascinating.

Other choices
include:

“Citizenfour”
(2014), 7 p.m., HBO. Here's the Oscar-winner for best documentary
feature. As a socio-political document about Edward Snowden's release
of secret documents, it's important; as a movie, it's only a tad
above watching paint dry.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. When an earthquake shakes the hospital, Maggie is stuck
in the elevator and Meredith's surgery is imperiled.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A visitor has insider information that could take down the
White House.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Thursday's crimesolvers keep becoming murder suspects.
Last week, it was Sherlock Holmes; now it's Liz (Megan Boone), the
FBI agent. A suspect in the harbormaster murder, she's questioned
about the task force's relationship with Red, a big-time criminal.

“Mom,” 9:30,
CBS. Violet (Sadie Calvano, 17) has an older boyfriend (David
Krumholtz, 36). Her mother and grandmother are not pleased.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. An apparent road-rage victim had already been
flash-frozen.

“Dig,” 10 p.m.,
USA Network. In last week's opener, an American attache in Israel
(Jason Isaacs) kept making mega-mistakes ... including not admitting
he'd been with a young woman the night she was killed. Tonight's
chapter again strains credibility, but weaves an intriguing tale on
three fronts: A killer tries to stop a red heifer (fulfilling a
biblical prophesy) from being transported ... Identical boys have
been raised separately and coldly ... And the murder case points
toward big schemes and prophesies.

TV column for Wednesday, March 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Idol” and “Empire,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

First, “Idol”
will reveal its top 12; they'll sing Thursday, in a two-hour edition.

Then one of the
show's alumni is back: Jennifer Hudson only finished seventh on the
show, but she soon won an Oscar and became a recording star; here,
she plays Michelle, working with Andre. That's on the season's
second-to-last “Empire,” which has become a big ratings hit. Also
guesting are Mary J. Blige (as someone from Lucious' past) and
Raven-Symone.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

If you missed last
Thursday's opener, you can catch it now. Be warned, however: This is
a tough ride, even by murder-addiction-assault standards; it's rough
on the characters and, often, on the viewers.

Tonight's rerun
starts with Russ (Tim Hutton) asked to identify his son's body. It's
quiet and matter-of-fact at first, then builds as we meet suspects –
some only remotely involved – and as Russ' abrasive ex-wife
(Felicity Huffman) arrives. The results is brilliantly acted and
emotionally brutal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sherlock” and “Broadchurch,” 8 and 10 p.m., BBC
America.

Last week, BBC
America linked two superb series. It reran PBS' “Sherlock”
opener, then started the second “Broadchurch” season with Joe
Miller reneging on a plea bargain; he pled not-guilty to killing his
son, creating new turmoil. Also, Alec faced a past failure when
Claire arrived, needing help.

Now the second
“Sherlock” film plunges Holmes into the Chinese crime scene. Then
the Miller trial gets a surprise; also, Alec and Ellie arrange a
meeting for Claire, bringing aftershocks.

Other choices
include:

“America
Reframed,” any time, www.worldchannel.org.
Laury Marker Sachs fit neatly into the verbal world of New York City.
She was an actress, wrote a successful play and thrived with her
husband, their two children and lots of friends; then, in her late
40's, her mind began to go blank. “Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like
Laury” is a moving (but difficult to watch) portrait of
frontotemporal dementia.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. The hardy “blue-collar” tribe remains intact. The
first week dumped So Kim (a retail buyer) from “white-collar”;
the second dumped Vince Sly (a coconut vendor) from “no-collar.”

“The Goldbergs,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds Adam obsessing on the
title role in “Jesus Christ Superstar”; when he doesn't get it,
his mom plans an alternate show. The second sees the guys giving
Erica a hard time, when she can't part with her New Kids on the Block
memorabilia.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This rerun finds the Dunphys crammed into a hotel room
while their home is treated for mold. Naturally, Phil considers it an
adventure and Claire has her doubts.

“The 100” season
finale, 9 p.m., CW. When Clarke became a “guest” at Mount
Weather, she suspected dark schemes. She escaped, but now leads the
tough job of freeing the others. Also in this above-average
science-fiction drama, Jaha (Isiah Washington) pushes to find the
City of Light.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. A hacker has caused a roller-coaster to crash.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Phillip and Elizabeth – the Russian spies embedded in
1980s America – have troubles everywhere. There's a family secret
to hide ... and KGB business in South Africa ... and now Martha –
married to Clark (Phillip's alternate identity) – is shocked by a
discovery.

TV column for Tuesday, March 10


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

Surrounded by the
flotsam of his life – liars, lovers, cops and crooks – Raylan
summarizes: “I've gotta admit there's a small bit of me that's
gonna miss this when it's over.”

And a large bit of
us; with only six episodes left in its final season, “Justified”
still crackles with some of TV's best dialog. There's only a
smattering of action tonight and even that is capped with a neat
verbal exchange. And watch Raylan and his eternal foe Boyd, as they
argue about which classic story they're fulfilling – cowboy hero or
“Moby Dick”; either way, “Justified” is terrific.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Robert Wagner has
been busy in Hollywood for 65 years. He's gone from movie leading-man
roles (Prince Valiant, Jesse James) to recently playing Santa Claus
opposite his wife, Jill St. John. And he's recurred here as the dad –
sometimes helpful, sometimes not – of Tony (Michael Weatherly).

This time he's
helping. A valuable painting has been stolen; Tony needs his dad's
black-market contacts.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Marvel superheroes, everywhere.

Maybe this is the
day Marvel officially takes over our TV sets. The first “Captain
America” film (2011) is at 7:30 p.m. on FX ... the second one
(2014) is 8:15 a.m. and 6:40 p.m. on Starz ... and both go against
Marvel's “Agents of SHIELD,” at 9 p.m. on ABC, bringing back
Marvel's potent Lady Sif.

Jaimie Alexander has
already played her in two “Thor” movies and one “SHIELD”
episode. Now she's back, with a problem: After facing a mysterious
warrior, she's lost her memory.

Other choices
iclude:

“Fresh Off the
Boar,” 8 p.m., ABC. There's only one other Chinese kid at the
school, so Eddie tries to befriend him. As it happens, the kid's name
is Phillip Goldstein and they have nothing in common.

“America
Reframed,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Some stations air
“Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury,” a moving view of memory
loss. Beginning Wednesday, it's at www.worldchannel.org.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. This rerun brings some wildly funny moments, when Winston
must pass a home-inspection, for his police-academy training. Jess
has something big to hide.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. Here's a key episode, before a break
until summertime. Bay surprises Emmett ... who's busy on a one-day
class project, making a film about their romance. Kathryn pushes the
musical she wrote with Toby; Regina is stunned when Eric considers
selling the coffeeshop.

“Miles O'Brien: A
Life Lost and Found,” 9 p.m., CNN. When O'Brien lost his left arm
last year, he was 55, already a top TV newsman from 16 years at CNN
and then six with his own company, creating a half-dozen impressive
PBS films. He went through dark times after the accident, he tells
Sanjay Gupta here, then bounced back. We see him on a 300-mile bike
ride and returning to piloting a plane.

“The Mindy
Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Religion gets a double look tonight. A
priest promptly dies after hearing Danny's confession; now Danny
scrambles to find a new one who can offer absolution. Also, Jeremy
wants everyone to attend his one-man play, “Confessions of an
Catho-holic.”

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Severide wants a break for an old friend who needs a
second chance.

TV column for Monday, March 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelor” finale, 8 p.m., ABC, with follow-up at 10:01.

You rarely see a
contest in which the grand prize is a lifetime in a town of 429
people.

Tonight, Chris
Soules, 33, chooses between Whitney, 29, a fertility nurse in
Chicago, and Becca, 25, a chiropractic assistant in San Diego. The
winner may end up at his farm near Arlington, Iowa – an hour from
Wateroo one way and from Mason City (the prototype for “The Music
Man”0 the other.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Returned” debut, 10 p.m., A&E.

After a long walk
home, a teen sees stunned stares. She doesn't realize she died four
years ago.

That's the quietly
compelling start for what could be (like the French show it's adapted
from) a great series. We meet her twin sister – now four years
older than her and drinking heavily – and her separated partents.
Their dad has sex with a barmaid who claims that's a way for her to
channel the dead; her mom is with a guy (Jeremy Sisto) who counsels
parents of kids who died (temporarily?) four years ago.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hotel Amazon” debut, 10 p.m., Travel.

OK, what would you
do if you won $54,000 on “Wheel of Fortune”? Stephan Jablonski, a
firefighter, gave his money to a friend, Rusty Johnson, to build a
lodge in the middle of Peru's Amazon jungle.

This six-part
reality show ripples with rich details. Johnson – married to a
native and employing her family – savors the local pace; Jablonski
doesn't. He fumes and frets, nudging the project along.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “New Worlds” finale, any time,
www.acorn.tv.

Skillfully crafted -- and thoroughly grim -- this views the old (England) and new (Massachusetts) world in the late 17th century. The once-wealthy Beth was banished
to America; she married a native, then killed the man
responsible for slaying his tribe.

In England, Abe (Jamie Dornan of
“50 Shades of Grey”), a rebel she admired, is imprisoned. Today,
this streaming service has the finale and the full, four-part seres. Next Monday, it starts a three-part mini-series based on Daphne Du Maurier's “Jamaica Inn.”

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. By the end of the first hour, each judge will have a
12-person team. The “battle round” begins, with Meghan Trainor,
Nick Jonas, Lionel Richie and Ellie Goulding as mentors.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. No one would expect Sophie's wedding shower to go
smoothly. It's broken up by a hostage situation.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. These nerds seem to be everywhere. Now they're in Eastern
Europe, aiding peace talks to prevent a world war.

“The Following,”
9 p.m., Fox. In the third season of a one-season story, things keep
getting more cruel and bitter. We have followers of followers,
increasingly batty, with a horrendous step tonight.

“Bates Motel”
season-opener, 9 p.m., A&E. Norman Bates is 18 now, still
sometimes falling asleep in bed alongside his mom. His half-brother,
Max Thieriot, disapproves; Max also wants to switch his
marijuana-growing business to the legal side, despite the sheriff's
protection. Meanwhile, Norman is about to get fresh career and
romance possibilities, in a maybe-adequate hour.

“The Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. Weddings play a key role. Two teens, returning from
theirs, are in a car crash. Also, a woman wants to wed her fiance
(deployed to Iraq) before their baby is born.

TV column for Sunday, March 8


TONIGHT''S MUST-SEE:
“Battle Creek,” 10 p.m., CBS.

There are plenty of
crime shows; CBS alone has 11 of them, taking half its turf. Still,
this is the only one in which cops chase a maple-syrup cartel ... or
accuse someone of NOT selling marijuana.

That's part of the
odd charm of “Battle Creek,” which centers on the pairing of a
rumpled local cop (Dean Winters) and an immaculate FBI guy (Josh
Duhamel). Tonight, they get great help from Aubrey Dollar as a
warm-hearted clerk and Janet McTeer (a two-time Oscar nominee) as
their boss.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Revenge,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

After resting for a
week to make room for the “Secrets and Lies” debut, “Revenge”
has fresh schemes.

Margaux unloads her
verbal ammunition at both Emily and Jack, causing some strong
reactions. Also,

Emily's dad ponders
staying around. And Natalie tells Victoria why she's in the Hamptons.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Night of Too Many Stars,” 8 p.m., Comedy Central,
rerunning at 10. How much would you pay to commit a crime with John
Oliver or to take a bow with Louis C.K.? Then again, what about
getting Chris Rock to agree to “sell our” and do an instant
commercial? (Tommy Hilfiger gave $35,000 for that.) That's all part
of this taped fundraiser for autism education.

Robert Smigl, the
voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, organized this event a decade
ago, after his son was diagnosed as autistic. Jon Stewart hosts, with
Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Maya Rudolph, Paul Rudd,
Will Forte, Gilbert Gottfried and too many more, including Triumph.

Other choices
include:

“The Princess
Bride” (1987), 7:30 p.m., Pop, or “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Fairy tales keep being great fodder for modern tales. “Bride”
is a love story brightened by little comic gems. “Once” finds
Snow White and Prince Charming facing a witchly trio in the olden
days and – in their modern forms, as Mary Margaret and David – in
Storybrooke.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth needs some diplomacy abroad – Turkey has
released a damaging video – and at home, after her son punches a
bully.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Alicia prepares for a key interview. Also, Canning
(Michael J. Fox) pushes the firm for a settlement in his eviction
case.

“Girls,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. In a fairly good episode, we learn that Hannah's terribly normal
parents are just as perplexed by life as she is. So are her friends
... but one actually has a joyous moment.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Last week's debut ended sharply (after a
few slow spots), with Phil (Will Forte) agreeing to marry Carol
(Kristen Schaal) ... mostly because she may be the last woman on
Earth. Now we see the aftershocks.

“Togetherness”
season finale, 9:30, HBO. There are turning points for each of the
four characters, in a fairly good ending to what has been a flawed
series about deeply flawed people.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week's two-hour opener saw a murder probe
suddenly focus on Ben (Ryan Philippe), who had reported finding a
neighbor boy's body in the woods. Complicating things were his own
affair and his refusal, at first, to allow a DNA test. Tonight, he
faces key revelations and chases the boy's father, whom he considers
the killer.