TV column for Sunday, April 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mad Men” season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC.

Last season ended with lives crumbling. Don Draper was
suspended at work and disgraced at home.

And now? The season starts with one of the show’s great
ad-campaign pitches, then finds more disarray. Can Don feel joy on either
coast? Can Peggy find her way? What about Roger’s decadence and Joan’s ambitions?
In “Mad Men” style, this is deep and subtle; with 14 episodes left, the show
has work to do.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Inside the Hunt for the Boston
Bombers,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

A compelling story is retold through a technique that is
odd, but successful.

Real interviews are re-created, with actors playing the people
– police, victims, friends – involved with last year’s bombing. A few actual
officials are also included, plus staged action scenes. It’s an odd hybrid, but
the underplayed style creates a powerful story that even finds some happy

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bletchley Circle” season-opener,
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the 1940s, these Englishwomen were busy and vital,
helping crack codes. Then the war ended and they resumed dull, secretarial
lives … until a crime-solving crisis stirred them.

Now the second season begins with a silly contrivance – a former
colleague refuses to defend herself on murder charges. That evolves into a
fairly good tale, the first of two two-part mysteries..

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Years of Living Dangerously”
debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

In a West Texas town, a drought left the factory closed and
the people jobless. Scientists pointed to long-term climate change;
townspeople, instead, quoted Scripture.

That’s in the start of a series that has stars and others
probing effects of climate change. Tonight, Harrison Ford is in Indonesia, New
York Times reporter Thomas Friedman is in Syria and Don Cheadle meets a conservative-Christian
scientist with an ability to communicate the crisis to her fellow Texans.

Other choices include:

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In search of Prince Eric, Ariel
confronts Hook in both worlds.

“Signed, Sealed and Delivered” debut, 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. A
decade after her “Touched by an Angel” ended, producer Martha Williamson has
this movie launching a series. Eric Mabus and Kristen Booth lead a team that
delivers lost letters to their goals, transforming lives.

“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Bellamy and Father Tom try to
deal with townspeople’s growing fears.

“Masterpiece Classic: Mr. Selfridge,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Glitter and tragedy link in a fund-raiser for massacre victims. As
the war looms, men prepare to enlist … and Lord Loxey prepares to profit.

MTV Movie Awards, 9 p.m., MTV. Conan O’Brien hosts an awards
show known for its offbeat fun.

“Nurse Jackie” and “Californication” season-openers, 9 and
9:30 p.m., Showtime. For “Californication,” the final season begins with Hank scrambling
for the life and the lover he abandoned; tonight’s final scene belts him. For “Jackie,”
once a comedy-drama, tonight is all dark drama.

“Silicon Valley,” 10 p.m., HBO. In a sharp episode, we learn
that there are complications to selling a sliver of your computer company for

“Veep,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. After the so-so season-opener, here’s
a brilliant episode. As a presidential candidate, Selena Meyer needs an instant
stand on abortion; what she has is a cacophony of advice.

TV column for Saturday, April 12

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Friends With Better Lives,” 8:30 p.m.,

Fresh from a big launch (after the “How I Met Your Mother”
finale), this was promptly bumped by the NCAA basketball finals. Now – two days
before it settles into its Monday slot – the pilot episode reruns.

Kevin Connolly and Majandra Delfino play husband and wife,
awaiting their second child and wondering if their friends are happier. Jules
(Brooklyn Decker), beautiful and in love, is; the others aren’t. Will (James
Van Der Beek) pines for his estranged wife; Kate (Zoe Lister-Jones) is in
perpetual anger. Her character is the weak link in a show that tries too hard
in this pilot, but could be worth sticking with.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 10 and 11:29
p.m., NBC.

Seth Rogen has his third turn as host, with Ed Sheeran as
the music guest. Before that, there’s a shortened rerun of last week’s episode,
with Anna Kendrick and Pharrell.

That started mildly, then soared with a mega-music number
that included the whole cast. She did more musical numbers, all of them clever
and partially making up for another so-so “Weekend Update.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Yukon Vet” debut, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

Here’s one life that really is worthy of a reality show. Dr.
Michelle Oakley lives in the Yukon with her
(a firefighter) and kids; she has her veterinary practice just across the
border in Alaska.

For vast stretches, she’s the only person to treat anything
from pets to sled dogs to animals rescued from the wild and placed in a
preserve or a bald-eagle sanctuary. She does this with humor and the
soft-spoken way of the North. Filmed in the autumn, “Yukon” offers likable
people and gorgeous backdrops.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” 9 p.m.,

Last week’s powerful episode saw Leonardo da Vinci steal a
ship and (with its former slaves as crew) head to the New World. Tonight, he tries
to cross the Atlantic with makeshift navigation notions.

Meanwhile, his ex-lover Lucrezia slips into the Vatican
dungeons, hoping to free her father, who was imprisoned by his lookalike the
Pope. And Prince Lorenzo de Medici is in disguise and on the road, hoping to
form an alliance and save Florence. Three strong stories add up to a powerhouse

Other choices include:

“Castle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Maybe ABC has too many spots that
need reruns. A “Resurrection” rerun had been scheduled here … then was shuffled
to Tuesdays to fill in for the yanked “Mind Games”; plugging this spot is a
“Castle” rerun in which a young pop star is found dead in an alley.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. Mimi Rogers returns as
Walden’s mom and Lynda Carter is … well, Lynda Carter. In this rerun, Alan has
lusted at her since the “Wonder Woman” days and wants a date.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. Occasionally, a film achieves both
epic scope and intimate depth. Here are two best-picture Oscar-winners – “Titanic”
(1997) on Bravo and “Gladiator” (2000) on AMC.

“Ripper Street” season-finale, 9-10:15 p.m., BBC America.
Corpses are found in a slum tenement. Also, police rivalries rage; Reid and
Drake are desperate to confront the evil Inspector Jedediah Shine.

“48 Hours,” 10 p.m., CBS. Uta Von Schwedler, a research
scientist in Salt Lake City, was found dead in her bathtub. Most people assumed
it was suicide, but her 17-year-old son risked everything on his belief that her
ex-husband (his father, whom he was living with) did it. Susan Spencer recounts
the story.


TV column for Friday, April 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Neighbors” season-finale, 8:31
p.m., ABC.

For two seasons, this neatly off-center show has delighted
some people and been scorned by others.’ Now its future is uncertain … a fact
that’s referred to often in this witty episode.

Dick’s scheming brother has convinced everyone to go back to
the home planet. It’s time for farewells … except that Dick’s family faces
indecision caused by a romance, an early admission to college, a pregnancy …
and the wobbling friendship with the only Earthling family in the neighborhood.
The result makes a great transition episode … or a clever finale for a show
that was quirky and underappreciated.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

For Will Graham, falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned,
this is a pivotal episode. Could he finally be cleared of charges that he’s the
mass murderer? Will anyone believe his wild accusation that the real killer is
his therapist, Hannibal Lecter?

We’ll find some of that tonight as the lone survivor
struggles with her memory. She’s played by Anna Chlumsky, once a 10-year-old
star of “My Girl” and now, at 32, a co-star of HBO’s dandy “Veep.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Rio” (2011), 8 p.m., FX; reruns at 10:02.

A terrific movie night includes a chance to see this animated
delight on the day its sequel opens.

In the snowy North, a sweet-spirited bird (Jesse Eisenberg) feels
he’s the last of his kind. Then there’s word of a female (Anne Hathaway) in Rio
de Janeiro. A grand adventure begins, blending humor with music and colors that
reflect Rio at its most joyous.

Other choices include:

“Unforgettable,” 8 p.m., CBS. After catching a deadly
assassin, Carrie must co-operate with her to stop a terrorist plot.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike (Tim Allen) starts to
worry about his dad (Robert Forster). Soon, Vanessa is talking to the girls
about taking care of them when they grow old.

More movies, 8 p.m., cable. “The Hangover” (2009, TBS) and “The
Help” (2011, TNT) were huge box-office hits, for opposite reasons. “Hangover”
aimed for loose fun; “The Help” is a sometimes-sobering view of changing race
relations, with lots of fun scattered in. Also at 8, IFC has “Aliens” (1986), with
writer-director James Cameron flashing the skill that would propel “Terminator”
and “Titanic.”

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A bad tip leads McGarrett and
Danny to a building that’s rigged to explode.

More movies, 9 p.m., cable. Two long-ago films were
well-crafted pioneers. The original “Footloose” (1984, CMT) was one of the
first movies to sometimes have a stylish, music-video feel; “Bullitt” (1968), a
Steve McQueen cop film, had one of the first great car chases.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. While probing the murder of a
college professor, Danny has a new concern: He’s facing an ethics investigation
that his dad, the police commissioner, didn’t tell him about.

“Mountain Monsters,” 10 p.m., Destination America. The guys
search for a West Virginia creature believed to be nine-feet tall and
1,000-plus pounds. As in the season-opener (rerunning at 9), they build an
enormous trap that, viewers will quickly guess, has zero chance of catching

TV column for Thursday, April 10

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Two and a Half Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

When Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher started working on “That
‘70s Show,” they might have seemed worlds apart. She was 14, a Ukraine native;
he was 19, an Iowa native.

They went on to other lives (including his marriage to Demi
Moore), then re-united. Now they’re engaged, she’s pregnant and she guests
tonight; she plays Vivian, viewed by Walden (Kutcher) as ideal.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC.

“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” finished early, so ABC is
plugging other shows into this key hour.

On some Fridays, “Shark Tank” offers little more than guys
in suits, arguing about percentages. That might not interest viewers waiting
for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” but for tonight ABC chooses an hour that will
interest (or enrage) women. The first pitch ignites a war between the panel’s
men and women; the last re-ignites that fight. It’s all quite messy and
sometimes fun.

TONIGHT ALTERNATIVE: Northern visions, all night, National
Geographic and Animal Planet.

As our world becomes excessively civilized, viewers grope
for the opposite. That explains why two channels fill the night with non-fiction
shows on the Northern frontier.

National Geographic obsesses on “Life Below Zero,” following
people in the Alaskan bush. Reruns start at 3 p.m., leading into an hour (9
p.m., repeating at 10) that summarizes the first season and peeks at the
second. Then comes “Alaska State Troopers” at 10 p.m. and more “Below Zero” reruns
until 3 a.m.

Animal Planet counters with Northern shows from 7 p.m. to 6
a.m., including new hours of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” at 8 p.m. and the treasure-hunting
“Ice Cold Gold” at 9 and 10.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon needs comforting
when he abandons his passion for the string theory of physics. Also, a clumsy
double date has Raj and Emily with Howard and Bernadette.

“Blazing Saddles” (1974), 8-10 p.m., AMC. Here is writer-director
Mel Brooks at his best, sometimes excessive but often terribly funny. His story
of a black sheriff in cowboy days has some classic moments.

“Parks and Recreation,” 8:30 p.m., NBC. In an earlier
season, there were hilarious moments when Leslie (Amy Poehler) was wracked by
the flu. Now flu season has again ripped through town; she and Andy are both
sick, while trying to book acts for the unity concert.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. Derek and Callie are working
with a machine that recognizes emotions. (On this show, a machine like that
could hit overload.) Also, Cristina is up for a big award.

“The Crazy Ones,” 9:31 p.m., CBS.  Fresh from the Kutcher-Kunis pairing, CBS has
another interesting one. Robin Williams and Pam Dawber, the “Mork and Mindy”
stars, play possible lovers.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. With his campaign sputtering, the
president considers ignoring Olivia’s advice.

“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. A pickpocket dies of anthrax
poisoning. Now Sherlock Holmes must get to the source by figuring out whose
pocket was picked.

TV column for Wednesday, April 9

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

After dumping four women in five weeks, viewers turned
things around last week – almost. They gave the fewest votes to Sam Woolf, 17,
who has adequate talent and great teen appeal.

Then judges used their lone save to keep him. Now the final
five men (Woolf, Caleb Johnson, C.J. Harris, Alex Preston and Dexter Roberts)
and three women (Jessica Meuse, Jena Irene and Malaya Watson) do songs from the
1980s; viewers vote and – with no save option left – someone will be ousted

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

These aren’t your usual hardy heroes. Driftwood was born
without rear feet, Roofus (who is blind) has defective front legs, Journey whas
no front left paw.

They’re dogs whose lives were transformed by prosthetics. We
also see a bird’s new beak, an alligator’s new tail; we meet Chris P. Bacon, a
pig scooting around on a wheeled device (assembled from a child’s toys) to
replace his rear legs. This feel-good hour ripples with delightful creatures
and more. It shows how animals have benefited from progress in people
prosthetics, and vice versa. 

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The 100,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week, Clarke learned it was her mother (not her friend
Wells) who turned in her dad, leading to his execution. She could finally make
up with Wells … who was promptly killed by little Charlotte.

Now the aftershocks rage, in an interesting (if overwrought)
hour. Trying to resettle Earth almost a century after nuclear devastation, the
teen ex-prisoners debate a primitive sense of justice. Back on the space
station, Clarke’s mom, a doctor, gropes desperately for a way to reach Earth
and help them.

Other choices include:

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.
First is a rerun of the episode that saw Benson testifying in the trial of her
attacker. Then a new episode finds him escaping and targeting her.

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Newly merged into a single tribe,
the survivors include four people from the original “Beauty” tribe and three
apiece from “Brains” and “Brawn.” Tonight, they have what CBS says is the
wildest hunt ever for an immunity idol.

Movies, 8 p.m. and beyond, cable. Maybe the 1980s were
splendid after all. Three terrific action films add great character touches.
“Beverly Hills Cop” (1984, 9 p.m., CMT) is mostly light-hearted; “Die Hard”
(1988, 8 p.m., AMC) is fun action and “Glory” (1989, 8:30 p.m., BBC America) is
serious and compelling.

“Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Just how smart
are creatures? Crows shape sticks into grub-hunting tools, a cockatoo picks
locks, a raven solves a puzzle almost instantly. This bird-brain hour launches
a three-week look at animal intelligence; dogs and dolphins are next.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. This rerun has guest roles for
Adam DeVine (Gloria’s new nanny), Fred Willard (Phil’s widowed dad) and Nathan
Lane (Pepper, planning the wedding for Cam and Mitchell).  

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. Now we have
two networks obsessing on cannibals. NBC’s “Hannibal” continues on Fridays;
here, the CSI people learn that a cannibal isn’t working alone.