TV column for Tuesday, March 14


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

It's has been an
amazing first season for “Us.” A show without the usual elements
– cops, crooks, courts, doctors – has caught on with the dramas
of real life. In just 17 episodes, it's made us care deeply about
three siblings and (partly through flashbacks) their parents.

Now NBC promises
turning points for Randall (who just quit his job), Kevin (who slept
with his ex-wife and got a job offer from movie director Ron Howard)
and Kate. And in flashbacks, their dad – who had been drinking –
tries to drive two hours to catch their mom's rock concert.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Trial & Error” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., NBC.

Larry (John Lithgow)
may not have killed his wife, but he's a bad defendant. He
roller-skates through blood ... interrupts the 9-1-1 call to talk to
the cable guy ... and fails to mention his past offenses.

Then again, he
doesn't exactly have a dream team. There's a novice lawyer, a
clueless investigator (wonderfully played by Steven Boyer) and a
receptionist (Sherri Shepherd) who doesn't recognize faces. Add a
mock-documentary style and you have the funniest NBC comedy in years.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “People Icons,” 10 p.m., ABC.

After tragedy, this
hour tells us, there can be love and happiness. “Baby Jessica”
was trapped in a well for 58 hours; she's now married to Danny
Morales, who watched the ordeal on TV. Laura Scruggs lost a hand and
an eye in a propeller accident; she later married “E News” host
Jason Kennedy.

Then there's Austin
Hatch. At 8, he and his dad were the only survivors of a small-plane
crash; almost a decade later, he was the lone survivor of another
plane crash that killed his dad and stepmom. Now he's ready to
graduate from the University of Michigan and marry former U-M
volleyball star Abby Cole.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Water & Power: A California Heist,” 9 and
10:30 p.m., National Geographic.

In the middle of
California's water wars stand Sarah Ervin and her fiance, Michael
Lunsford. “It's really rough when you have to go places to take a
shower,” she says. They're in Tulare County, where more than 1,000
wells went dry, while California agriculture was having a record
year.

This beautifully
filmed documentary takes us through the history of a state where, it
says, agriculture is 2 percent of the economy, with 80 percent of the
water. It follows “water brokers” who buy land and dig deep –
draining neighbors' water table. As one man puts it: “It's
literally a race to the bottom.”

Other choices
include:

“Tangled: Before
Ever After,” 7-8:05 p.m., Disney. Before the series debuts March
24, Disney keeps showing this extra-length special. It has the same
stars (Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi) and songwriters as the film; other
reruns are at 2 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, 5 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 p.m.
Friday.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. Reagan (Megan Fox) is back; she's still Nick's girlfriend
... even though Jess and Nick have been spending a lot of tie
together. Also, Schmidt and Cece obsess over home security.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Fulfilling a sailor's dying wish, Gibbs re-opens a case ... and
makes a discovery.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. It's an all-NCIS, no-rerun night for
CBS. First, a Marine with a spotless record suddenly assaults six
people and vanishes; then, Tammy's ex-husband – who embezzled $80
million in Katrina relief funds – is back and accused of killing a
crime boss' son.

“Love on the Air”
(2015), 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. On March 26, this
channel will have the new “Murder She Baked” movie, the sixth
film with the talented team of director Kristoffer Tabori and
producer-star Alison Sweeney; now here's a chance to re-see the first
one, a clever tale with Sweeney and Jonathan Scarfe as duelling radio
hosts.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Stan, the FBI guy, and Oleg, his Russian colleague, face
the repercussions of their complicated history together.

TV column for Monday, March 13


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

It's time to choose
between two women with opposite roots. Raven Gates, 25, is a
Southerner from Hoxie, Ark.; Vanessa Grimaldi, 29, is a
way-Northerner from Montreal.

Gates is a former
prom queen who played some high school basketball (three games, seven
points) and owns a boutique. Grimaldi is a special-ed teacher with a
modest TV resume -- three small acting roles and co-hosting two
episodes of “Can Your School Rock?” Like her, Viall, 36, is a
Northerner; he grew up near Milwaukee, went to the University of
Wisconsin, Milwaukee and sold technology in Chicago.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Superior Donuts,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Let's give this an
“A” for effort and a “C” for execution. It ponders bias –
logical for a show whose characters (three black, five whites)
include two cops, an Arab businessman and a Jewish shopowner.

Franco is fuming,
after being frisked for no reason; a forum is held ... and an
accusation is leveled. At times, this is just a standard sitcom,
inserting its most buffoonish character for no reason. At other
times, it makes a passable swipe at a solemn subject discussed by
good people.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Most Powerful Man in the World,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN
(barring breaking news), repeating at midnight.

Springing from
opposite worlds, these men lead giant nations. Vladimir Putin grew up
in Soviet poverty, Donald Trump in American wealth. Trump has the
assets of a rich nation ... but has checks and balances; Putin has
few of those, as he leads a nation with great resources and a
wobbling economy.

Now Fareed Zakaria
views the Russian leader's unfettered power. He uses his own
interview with Putin, plus ones with reporters, with Robert Gates (a
defense or CIA director with three presidents) and with Henry
Kissinger, now 93 and recalling his 15 one-on-one meetings with
Putin.

Other choices
include:

“Islands of
Australia,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Martin Clunes is a British actor, best known to Americans as the “Doc
Martin” star. Now, however, he offers a charming tour of islands.
That includes one founded by Bounty mutineers and another whose
population is tiny (one person) and eccentric.

“Howie Mandel
All-Star Comedy Gala,” 8-10 p.m., CW. Here's a rerun of a Montreal
special. Some people (including Mandel) brought weak material, but
Alonzo Bodden and Matt Donaher were great and others – Tom Papa,
Iliza Shlesinger, J.B. Smoove, Russell Peters – were fairly good.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. Carlos Bernard returns as Tony Almeida, one of the best
“24” characters. This episode, the seventh of 12, finds both
Rebecca and Carter needing help.

“Young &
Hungry” and “Baby Daddy” season-openers, 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
Freeform. For a network once called “ABC Family,” the first show
is a jolt – a loud blur of jokes about impersonal sex, STD's and
body-part texting, punctuated by bad puns and lame jokes. Afterward,
it's a relief to see “Baby Daddy” offer a fairly skillful version
of a farce, with cascading misunderstandings.

“Man With a Plan,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Adam and Andi finally meet the wife of his employee
Lowell – and are surprised. She's played by Jenna Dewan Tatum, the
beautiful dancer-turned-actress.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. While his police precinct is looking for an auto-theft
mastermind, Gideon finds that his father needs help.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. You don't really expect to see these young geniuses on a
jungle safari. But now they're in the Amazon, looking for a rare
monkey that has the antibody for a cure.

TV column for Sunday, March 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“American Crime” opener, 10 p.m., ABC.

This is the one
timeslot that didn't need any more quality shows. Cable gives us
“Feud,” “Billions” and “Girls”; broadcast has serious cop
shows. Add any more and our VCR's (or minds) will implode.

Still, “American
Crime” has been brilliant in its first two editions; the lone catch
is that this edition starts very slowly. In North Carolina, we're
told, there will be a murder -- but we don't know who or when.
Meanwhile, we meet people – two teen prostitutes, a caseworker, a
migrant worker, farm owners. These are subtle sketches of interesting
people, leading – maybe – to something compelling.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Feud,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:09 p.m. and 1:29 a.m.

The terrific pilot
film (rerunning at 12:17 a.m.) laid the groundwork: Joan Crawford and
Bette Davis deeply dislike each other, but they dislike unemployment
more. They're tackling the movie (“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?)
that could revive their careers.

Now it's the movie's
first day. Crawford has been doing her beauty regimen for an hour;
Davis wakes up and reaches for a cigarette. These two agree on
nothing ... except they don't like the young actress who's been
flirting with the director. It's another smart and stylish episode.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Making History,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Dan has been using
his dad's time-travel duffel bag – well, why not? – to zoom to
colonial times. There, he can dazzle Deborah Revere with his forward
thinking and with Celine Dion songs.

But now he's ruined
everything; her dad, Paul, is way too upset to do any midnight
riding. Dan must go back and revive the revolution and save his
friend Chris. Some of the gags – especially involving Chris'
tea-sipping pal – are lame, but the colonial take on gun rights is
both sly and terribly funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Shades of Blue,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Here is pent-up
anger on all sides. The bad news is that it gets repetitious – a
crescendo of rage, with few moments of caution or conscience; the
good is that it's a dizzying journey along the way.

An FBI man obsesses
on a cop (Jennifer Lopez), even hiring a lookalike hooker. He's
already got the cop to snitch on her boss (Ray Liotta); now he's
working on the boss. That leads the two men on an escalating path of
mutual-destruction; tonight's final minutes are fiercely powerful.

Other choices
include:

“Grease” (1978),
6:20 p.m., Freeform. First, catch this long-ago teen musical, with
great music and lame story ... then try “Teen Beach Movie”
(2013), at 9 p.m. on Disney, with modern folks transported to an old
story. Also, the terrific “American Hustle” (2013) is 7 p.m. on
FX, leading into “Feud.”

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun of last week's
season-opener, a delight that ranged from a 5-year-old Lincoln expert
to a great 12-year-old singer. Then a new hour has a 4-year-old give
Steve Harvey (in wig) a haircut; it has an animal caller, acrobatic
roller skaters and more.

“Time After Time,”
9 p.m., ABC. As H.G. Wells tries to fix his time machine, he worries
about by Dr. John Stevenson – known as Jack the Ripper in Wells'
era and as The Key Killer in ours.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Last week's delightful detour explained the
drone that had bewildered survivors. It was a well-meaning search by
an outsider (guest star Kristen Wiig) – and was shot down by
Melissa (January Jones). Now that story is promptly ignored; the gang
is locking up Melissa for her own good, while pondering medications.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Wrapping up a two-parter, Sherlock tries to prove that a
string of murders is linked to a government conspiracy. Also, his
young mentor Kitty has important news.

“Billions,” 10
p.m., Showtime. Axe (Damian Lewis) keeps wanting more; now he feels
he must have a pro-football team. He's willing to do anything –
even appear charitable. There are other strong moments involving his
wife, his top aide and more, peaking powerfully in the final minutes.

TV column for Saturday, March 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(families): “Kids' Choice Awards,” 8 and 10 p.m., Nickelodeon.

This is Nick's big
night, when it assembles starpower. The awards are for movies, TV and
music, with Kevin Hart and Justin Timberlake leading the nominations.
But the emphasis is on fun.

Jon Cena, the
wrestler-turned-actor, hosting. He'll also be a prime prospect to be
slimed, as will the various guests, including Hart, Demi Lovato,
Zendaya, Ellen DeGeneres, Nick Cannon and all the Chrises (Pratt,
Pine, Evans). Also, there's music by Little Mix, Camila Cabello and
Machine Gun Kelly.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(grown-ups): “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

This has been a big
time for shows that talk about politics. Serious or silly, pro-Trump
or anti-, they've seen their ratings jump. “SNL” has prospered
while sticking with topical humor in every opening bit, in every
“Weekend Update” and sometimes beyond.

Tonight, Scarlett
Johansson has her fifth turn as host; Lorde has her first official
turn as music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Planet Earth II,” 9 p.m. and midnight ET, BBC
America.

You expect great
wildlife scenes from islands and jungles (featured in previous
weeks). But now we're in deserts, where the temperatures can top 120
and water is scarce. Again, the footage is superb.

We see lions
prowling, with nowhere to hide ... and moles so good at hiding that
we only spot creepy movements of the sand. We see seven billion
locusts swarm in Madagascar, eating 40 tons a day. And we see the
search for water: Birds fly two hours, store one-third their body
weight, and take it home for the babies; beetles climb huge dunes, to
absorb the mist at the top ... then are eaten on the way down.

Other choices
include:

“Tangled: Before
Ever After,” 1 and 7:30 p.m., Disney. This is the 65-minute special
that launches a “Tangled” series, with the same stars (Mandy
Moore, Zachary Levi) and songwriters who did the movie. Disney is
giving it a big push, including a lead-in of its gem,”Frozen”
(2013) at 5:45 p.m.

“The Voice” and
“Taken,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. These reruns mirror NBC's Monday
combination – first “Voice” auditions, then some action, in a
prequel to the “Taken” movies.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. At first, Eric and his team are simply negotiating the
return of valuable paintings. Then things get more complicated, when
a gallery employee is kidnapped.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun from a year ago, a Cuban spy has
escaped and the team is shocked to learn that Anna (played by
Russian-born actress Bar Paly) helped him break out.

“The History of
Comedy,” 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET, CNN. The primetime CNN shows,
including this one, have been plagued by late changes. Tentative
plans, however, have the opener (on censorship) rerunning at 9 p.m.
and 1 a.m. ET; other reruns look at troubled comics (10 p.m.), female
comics (11) and comedy taken from the small moments of real life
(midnight).

“Hunter Street”
debut, 9:30 p.m., Nickelodeon. Based on a Dutch series, this has five
kids find that their foster parents are missing. They search for
clues, starting with their own trick-filled house.

“Jerrod
Carmichael: 8,” 10 p.m., HBO. Here's a chance to see Carmichael
doing stand-up. Viewers know him mainly from NBC's “The Carmichael
Show,” which he produces and co-writes. In its two short seasons
(19 episodes total), it's shown a fairly good topical touch; the
third starts this spring.

TV column for Friday, March 10


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Vampire Diaries” finale, 9 p.m., CW, with preview at 8.

For eight seasons,
this sweet-looking Virginia town has seen beautiful people and ugly
deeds. Now it's time for Stefan (Paul Wesley) and his brother Damon
(Ian Somerhalder) to face their greatest enemy.

This final episode
was written by Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, who combined to
develop “Diaries” from a series of books. She also directed the
episode and created or developed “The Originals,” “The Tomorrow
People” and “Containment”; he's created “Dawson's Creek,”
the “Scream” movies and more. They'll talk about the show at 8
p.m., along with their actors, past and present.

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

In Mac's
globetrotting life, crossover episodes are easy. So tonight, he meets
“Hawaii Five-0” people.

That's in the
aftermath of a massive earthquake. Mac and the team rush to Hawaii,
where they meet Chin (Daniel Dae Kin) and Kono (Grace Park). All of
them are trying to help scientists who are trapped underground with
top-secret weaponry. Naturally, bad guys are trying to get to the
weapons first.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Streaming shows, Netflix and Amazon.

Fridays are a so-so
night for broadcast and cable, but a good one if you have one of
these streaming services. Netflix has a movie (“Burning Sands,”
about fraternity hazing at a traditionally black college) and the
second season with Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust in “Love,” a Judd
Apatow comedy.

And Amazon has the
second season of “Hand of God,” with Ron Perlman as a stern judge
who went berserk after he felt he was hearing the voice of God. Now
he's charged with killing a cop; his wife (Dana Delany) has fled,
their son is dead and the voice is silent. It's a tough, well-made
show.

Other choices
include:

“Madagascar 3”
(2012), 6 p.m., and “The Penguins of Madagascar” (2014), 8 and 10
p.m., FX. It's always good to catch these penguins and their friends,
in the clever TV series or in these movies.

“Grimm,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. We don't usually turn to nursing homes as the starting point of
a murder spree. That happens tonight, after a string of brutal
deaths. Also, Eve needs help from Adalind; Renard confronts Nick
about the symbols and wants to strike a deal.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. After losing her teaching job, Vanessa
started tutoring. Now Mike wants her to expand the business ... and
gets too involved. Also, Kyle wants to be an entrepreneur.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Jonathan Banks keeps playing grim, tough-as-nails sorts.
Here, he plays Ken's imposing medical-school professor. He's Ken's
patient ... and is as imposing as ever.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. A horrific monster targets one of Diana's mentors; now
she wants the team to focus on stopping Dreyfuss – who's having a
breakthrough (with Jobe) on a secret project.

“Hawaiia Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Fresh from helping the “MacGyver” people an hour
earlier, Kono and Chin are back to their usual duties. She and
McGarrett suspect that a young, abused girl is a victim of sex
trafficking. Also, Chin and Grover probe a murder at a sober living
facility.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Jamie and his police partner suspect foul play when a
woman has an allergic reaction to her medication and her husband (an
EMT) doesn't respond to the call. Also, Jamie's sister fears she
convicted an innocent man; and their dad faces yet another
public-relations crisis.