TV column for Monday, Feb. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Voice” season-opener, 8-10:01 p.m.,

Vaulting out of the Olympics, NBC thas this ratings-leader,
followed by “Blacklist” and more.

This is the mid-season edition of “Voice,” with half the
judges (Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green) gone on tour or whatever. Blake
Shelton and Adam Levine remain, joined by Usher and Shakira.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

It’s time for Juan Pablo Galavis to visit the home towns of
the final four.

There’s Atlanta with Andi, 26, an assistant district attorney­­­­
… Sacramento with Clare, 32, a hair stylist …  Kansas City, Mo., where Nikki, 26, a pediatric
nurse, challenges hin to ride a mechanical bull … And Sarasota, Fla., where he
watches the 8-year-old son of Renee (32, a real-estate agent) play Little

He’ll choose three women … and we’ll promptly learn the next
step, in a transplanted Tuesday episode.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Late Night with Seth Meyers” debut,
12:35 a.m., NBC.

Stepping into his new world, Meyers has many of the people who
were with his dozen years at “Saturday Night Live,” where he became the gifted
head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor.

One guest is Amy Poehler, his “Update” co-host; another is
Joe Biden … often their target. “SNL” also provided his producers and Alex
Baze, his head writer. And in the surprise, Fred Armisen – a sometimes-rocker
and frequent comedy talent -- is the band leader.  The music guest is A Great Big World.

Other choices include:

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Just five weeks from
its finale, this show finds a wedding-day crisis. Barney has a hangover and friends
scramble to concoct the “Stimson hangover fixer elixir.”

“2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Invited to the loft of Nicolas
(Gilles Marini), Caroline brings friends.

“Mike & Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. Mike nudges Molly to see a

“Dallas” season-opener, 9 p.m., TNT. In this version of
Texas, everyone is beautiful, most people are lying and many of them live in
one Southfork ranch house. Now Elena (Jordana Brewster), the brainy and
educated daughter of a Southfork maid, has slid to the dark side; she lies a
lot, albeit beautifully.  

“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. With Christy obsessing on her
boyfriend, her oft-irresponsible mom helps out.

“Nashville Wives,” 10 p.m., TNT. Strange bedfellows fill
Nashville, we’re told. Gary Chapman’s marriage went from Christian-music
favorite Amy Grant to a former Hooters waitress 23 years his junior. Raul Malo
of the Mavericks is married to half of high-energy twins. Bryan White is trying
to revive his career just as his wife tries to re-start hers. These are
interesting people in a colorful and musical city.

“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Liz is an honest FBI
agent, but now Red convinces her to try a heist in the midst of an elaborate
party at the Syrian embassy.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 23

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Amazing Race” opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

An “all-star” edition begins, with 11 duos starting a
35,000-mile race that will cover 11 countries – including China, Sri Lanka and
Malaysia – on four continents.

Eight duos have done this once before. There are newlyweds,
an engaged couple, twins, father-and-son, cousins (the “Afghanimals,” who
finished fourth this fall) and three sets of friends, including unemployed
Kentucky guys and singers from the country group Stealing Angels.

And three duos have done this twice– the Harlem Globetrotters
and Oklahoma cowboys have been runners-up; Margie O’Donnell and her hearing-impaired
son Luke Adams have reached third place.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Downton Abbey,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

The season ends with elegance – Rose’s debutante party at
the palace. That brings the Americans – Cora’s mother (Shirley MacLaine) and
her son (Paul Giamatti).

“Are you excited?” an American asks Daisy. “I’m never
excited,” she responds. That typifies the American-English contrasts that spice
this fairly good episode … especially when the greats (MacLaine and Maggie
Smith) collide. There are also crises, with Bates’ iffy past being a problem
AND a solution.

TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: Olympics finale, 6:30 a.m. ET, 2-6
p.m., 7-10:38 p.m., NBC.

The gold-medal hockey game is live at 6:30 a.m.; then things
wrap up with delayed events.

The afternoon has the gold-medal finishes of the four-man
bobsled and the men’s 50-kilometer ski. At night, there’s an overview at 7 p.m.
and the closing ceremony at 8:30, rerunning at 11:35 p.m.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Growing Up Fisher” debut, 10:38
p.m., NBC.

For the second straight night, NBC introduces a surprisingly
good comedy that has warmth and wit.

This one (based on the childhood of writer DJ Nash) has a
kid with divorcing parents. The dad (J.K. Simmons) is a lawyer who hid his
blindness; the mom (Jenna Elfman) is in delayed adolescence. Except for one
mis-step – the kid’s friend feels like a situation-comedy contrivance – this is
beautifully nuanced.

Other choices include:

“The Proposal” (2009), 8-10 p.m., ABC. To avoid being
deported, an executive (Sandra Bullock) wants to marry her young assistant. The
result starts very well, but fades near the end.

“The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS. Airing earlier than usual
(with a “Good Wife” rerun nudged back to 10 p.m.), this show has a rerun with
the team closing in on Red John.

“Wicked Tuna,” 9 p.m., National Geographic. Last week’s
season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.), saw Tyler McLaughlin struggle without a crew,
but catch a tuna. Now he hires two friends – and has more trouble.

“True Detective,” 9 p.m., HBO. At first, only Cohle (Matthew
McConaughey) was crumbling; now Hart (Woody Harrelson) and his wife (Michelle
Monaghan) are shattered; the acting is stunningly good.

“Girls,” 10 p.m., HBO. When her boyfriend finally has some
success, Hannah plans a fun party. Naturally, chaos and comedy ensue, in a good

TV column for Saturday, Feb. 22

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Figure-skating gala, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET,
NBC Sports Channel, then NBC.

In many ways, this is the best way to see Olympic figure-skating.
The pressure and judges are gone.

Maybe Canada’s Patrick Chan can bounce back from his
disappointing long-program skate. Maybe there will be more brilliance from the
Russian pairs and the American and Canadian dance duos. The gala reruns on NBC
in prime time (8-11:30 p.m.) and (trimmed to an hour) at midnight.

“About a Boy” debut, 11:07-11:30 p.m., NBC.

After countless flops, NBC finally has two likable comedies
and is giving them an Olympic launch. “Boy” is tonight, “Growing Up Fisher” is
10:30 p.m. Sunday and then both move to Tuesdays.

Both mix emotion with the laughs. That’s natural for “Boy,”
which is based on a Nick Hornby novel and a Hugh Grant film, then adapted by “Parenthood”
producer Jason Katims. The boy and his fretful mom (Minnie Driver) move next to
a callous chap (David Walton), setting up a strange and funny friendship.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m.,

This amiable frontier series from Michael Landon Jr. follows
a young teacher in a Canadian mining town. At first, all three of tonight’s
stories seem stiff and lame, but two of them end beautifully.

The teacher (Erin Krakow) struggles with a 14-year-old boy
who can’t read and with a Mountie who keeps botching his romantic gestures. Her
friend Abigail (Lori Loughlin) was widowed by the local mine disaster and
struggles to find a new place in life; the result should help nudge this show

Other choices include:

More Olympics, all day. Men’s hockey has its bronze-medal
game today (10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) and the gold-medal game Sunday (6:30
a.m. ET, NBC). Meanwhile, NBC has medals in parallel slalom snowboarding –
women this afternoon (2:30-6 p.m.), men at night (8-11:07 p.m.). Other finals:
In the day – women’s 30-kilometer skiing, men’s biathlon relay; at night, team
pursuit in speedskating.

“Shrek the Third” (2007), 8-10 p.m., ABC. The “Shrek” films
continue to delight most kids and some grown-ups. This time, Shrek must quickly
find the proper successor for his late father-in-law, the king.

“Daytona 500 Bash at the Beach,” 8 p.m., Fox. The race
starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, but here’s a one-hour sample of the two-day party that
precedes it. It features well-known drivers – Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick,
Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhart Jr., etc. – plus music by Cee Lo Green, DJ Irie
and more.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 9 p.m., CBS. A fire at a
music venue kills four people. This rerun is a sort of “Cheers” reunion, with
Ted Danson investigating the club owner (John Ratzenberger).

The “Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The season starts
with fierce action – an angry cop on a rampage, a noisy jailbreak. The latter
does nothing for the story, but the former pushes these 1890 London cops into a
new Chinatown, with martial arts and potent drugs. The star of a two-parrter,
it’s a hard-driving story that introduces an evil cop and David Merrick of “Elephant
Man” fame.

“Wicked Tuna,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Here’s a rerun
of Sunday’s season-opener, with Tyler McLaughlin working his boat solo. It
reruns at midnight, surrounded by last season’s finale at 9 and 11.


TV column for Friday, Feb. 21

TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m.
and 1-2 a.m., NBC; also, cable.

We’re into the last two full days of competition now, with
medals on the line.

The NBC Sports Network has the men’s hockey semi-finals at
6:30 and 11:30 a.m. ET. And NBC? In the afternoon, women have free-style ski
cross and the biathlon; at night, it’s the women’s slalom and lots of speedskating
– women have 1000-meter, men have 5,000-meter relay and 500-meter.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 8-11 p.m., CBS.

Next week, shows will end their retreat into reruns. For
now, we might as well catch three repeats of a solidly made show about the
family of New York police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck).

First are the final two episodes of last season, bringing
the Reagans together to battle the gang leader who led to the death of someone
close to them. Then, at 10 p.m., is an episode that splits them apart: Frank’s
daughter Erin, an assistant district attorney, releases a cop-killing suspect
for lack of evidence.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

While Sting’s popularity was soaring, his gritty home town
(Wallsend, alongside Newcastle) stumbled; its famed ship-building ended in 2007.
Now he’s written his first musical, “The Last Ship.”

That’s scheduled to open this summer in Chicago, but first
Sting has an album and this concert, in which he talks about the show and (with
others) does the music. The result is generally good and for one dazzling
moment – a gorgeous duet that was somehow cut from the musical – great.

Other choices include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Last week offered a Valentine’s Day
rerun of the wedding of Booth and Brennan. Now they try a honeymoon in Buenos
Aires … then, of course, interrupt it to help solve a case.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. The first episode
has some thoughtful moments for Mike (Tim Allen), after his dad (Robert Forster)
casually mentions spanking little Boyd. The second has John (Jonathan Taylor
Thomas, who was Allen’s “Home Improvement” son) complicating Kristen’s life: He’s
her boss, an ambitious young man, contrasting sharply with Ryan.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. It’s a strong adventure night,
including Oscar-winning performances by Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight,” 2008,
AMC) and Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs,” 1991, IFC). Also, try “Avatar”
(2009, FX) or “Transformers” (2007, TBS).

“Shark Tank,” 9 p.m., ABC. This new episode ranges from Southern-style
breakfast food to a Portland, Oregon guy who powers the blenders on his juice
cart by pedaling a vintage bike.

“Enlisted” and “Raising Hope,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Here
are so-so reruns. The first finds Pete in an endless battle with Jill Perez, to
prove who is the better soldier. The second has “Burt Bucks” bartering.

“Banshee” 10 p.m., Cinemax. This powerful hour starts solemnly
(with a medical emergency) and ends explosively (literally). In between, Sheriff
Hood vows to disrupt the town’s crime boss. Some of the best moments involve
Hood’s relationship with his sometimes-skeptical deputies.

“The Tonight Show,” midnight, NBC. Justin Timberlake doubles
as the prime guest and the music act.

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 20

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics, 8-11:30 p.m., NBC.

This is the big night, with the gold-medal winner for
women’s figure-skating. There are plenty of strong contenders, including the
top 2010 medalists (Yuna Kim of South Korea and Mao Asada of Japan), plus
15-year-old Russian sensation Julia Lipnitskaia and Americans Gracie Gold and
Ashley Wagner.

Earlier, this airs live at 10 a.m. on the NBC Sports
Network, so beware of spoilers. Also live is the women’s gold-medal hockey
game, at noon on NBC; at night, NBC has the gold-medal finals in free-style
skiing for men’s cross and women’s halfpipe.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,”
midnight, NBC.

Here are two names you rarely hear together – Michelle Obama
and Will Ferrell. They have nothing in common except that both are tall and
linked to presidents, by marriage or by portraying George W. Bush on “Saturday
Night Live,” Broadway and HBO.

Tonight, both are guests, along with music by Arcade Fire. It
should be fun.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Bob Newhart’s first “Big Bang” guest shot brought big laughs
and an Emmy. Now here’s a rerun of his second visit, another funny one.

Again, he plays Sheldon’s former childhood hero, the guy who
was Professor Proton on TV. Now he needs help and turns to Leonard; offended,
Sheldon tries to befriend TV’s Bill Nye, the science guy.

Other choices include:

“The Taste” finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. First, the final four
must create “rich and poor” dishes, inspired by exotic ingredients. Then the
three survivors make breakfast, lunch and dinner in two hours.

“American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. In the past two nights, 11
people were abruptly sent home, with the other 20 performing for viewer votes.
Now the winners, plus judges’ wild-card picks, make up the final 13.

“Rake,” 9 p.m., Fox. Keegan represents a restaurant owner
(Michael Imperioli) charged with bigamy. The case becomes tougher with word of
the guy’s other romances.

“The Crazy Ones,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Simon and his business
partner (Robin Williams and Brad Garrett) debate compromising their values to
land a key client. Also in this rerun, Lauren is stuck in a costly bra.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Walden
partying with Jenny and her hot friends.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. Next week, this show and “Grey’s
Anatomy” will finally return to new episodes, after a 10-week break. First,
here’s the previous new episode, with the aftershocks of exposed secrets.

“Killer Karaoke”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Tru TV. It’s entirely possible that this show – like karaoke
itself – should never be experienced when sober. We did and mostly saw people
screeching (and forgetting to sing altogether) while nasty things were done to
them. A few moments in the half-hour (now hosted by Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray)
are clever; more are just loud.