TV column for Saturday, March 8

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

Lena Dunham grew up on “Saturday Night Live,” even taking
notes as she watched it. She’s become a fresh force on TV, writing and starring
in a show (“Girls”) that changes drastically from week to week.

Viewers can catch the next episode (which takes some dark
plunges) at 10 p.m. Sunday on HBO. First, Dunham, 27, hosts “SNL,” started 11
years before she was born. The music guest is The National.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Trip to Bountiful,” 8-10 p.m.,

Back in 1953, Horton Foote wrote this gentle tale of an old
Houston woman who vows to return to her home town. That year, it was a “golden-age”
TV drama and a Broadway play, both starring Lillian Gish.

That was just the start. There was a 1985 movie (winning an
Oscar for Geraldine Page) and a 2013 Broadway revival (winning a Tony for
Cicely Tyson). This film has some of the Broadway people, led by Tyson, 80. Blair
Underwood, Vanessa Williams and Keke Palmer co-star.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time,” 9 and 10 p.m.,

After an 11-week break, this lush series finally returns to
new episodes Sunday. First, we can catch up.

The most recent episode – people race to stop Peter Pan from
putting a curse on Storybrooke – airs at 10. An earlier episode, at 9, has Hook
and David seeking a map that has a way out of Neverland.

Other choices include:

“The Amazing Race,” 8 and 9 p.m, CBS. In a change, CBS reruns
the season’s first two “Race” hours.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 8 p.m., ABC. Kimmel’s studio is
conveniently located across the street from the theater where the Academy Awards
are handed out. That made it easy for Kevin Spacey to catch the ceremony and
this post-Oscar special, which reruns tonight.

“Almost Human,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, two genetically
enhanced children have died suddenly. Also, Kennex is troubled by flashes from
the past; he visits a “recollectionist.”

“The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun has Ryan and the
FBI continuing the search for Lily Grey. Then Ryan’s past actions haunt him,
endangering his niece, who is a cop

“When Calls the Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. Elizabeth – the schoolteacher
in frontier Canada – has big ups and downs in her maybe-romance with Jack, the
Mountie. Also, her sister visits, offering a link to her privileged, big-city

“Ripper Street,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Trouble continues in
1890s London. Now a gang of female kidnappers have taken a member of the county

“The Gabby Douglas Story” (2014), 10 p.m., Lifetime. Fresh
from “Bountiful,” Lifetime reruns this recent ratings success, about the young Olympics
gymnastics star. Imani Hakim, who played the young sister on “Everybody Hates
Chris,” stars as Douglas from ages 14 to 16.

TV column for Friday, March 7

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

Here is epic TV, comedy-style, with Bollywood-type musical
numbers. And it neatly fits the show.

Marty and Debbie are known for saying “no”; their gluten-free
pancakes and fun-free lives draw shrugs from their kids. Their neighbors, all
from another planet, savor anything big and splashy. Invited to an Indian
wedding, they see Bollywood videos and love the sheer excess.

That brings witty music, in an episode cleverly written by Scott
Weinger, the voice of Disney’s Aladdin.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS; and “The
Inside Job,” 9:01 p.m., TNT.

In the overcrowded reality field, these Stephen Lambert
shows (plus his “Secret Millionaire”) stand out, skillfully mixing human
touches and secret-person twists. Tonight, “Boss” detours; three CEO’s who have
already been undercover – at Menchie’s, Twin Peaks and PostNet – send employees
for a second look.

Then “Job” has its variation: Three people apply for a job,
unaware that the fourth is an undercover employee … with viewers unsure (at
first) who it is. Last week’s opener was good; this one is better, with
wonderfully mismatched candidates doing flashy-splashy things for an Online
shoe company.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Holes” (2003), 8:30 p.m., ABC Family,
and more.

Smart and well-crafted, this is a kids’ story that delights
some grown-ups. Shia LaBeouf, 16 at the time, is sent to a camp where kids dig
and fill holes. Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive”) directed beautifully.

The night also has strong 8 p.m. films, led by the Martin
Scorsese classic “Goodfellas” (1990) on IFC and “Friday Night Lights” (2004) –
no match for the series, but still first-rate -- on AMC. For general popularity
at 8, there’s “Wedding Crashers” (2005) on TBS, plus two animated hits -- “Planes”
(2013) on Starz and “How to Train Your Dragon” (2010) on FX.

Other choices include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Even school-lunch detractors don’t
expect this: Someone killed a food scientist and mixed his remains into the
cafeteria food. Meanwhile, Brennan gets s belated bachelorette party.

“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. Someone is sabotaging Pete’s plans
for an impressive parade.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Three murders are linked to a
crashed Chinese spy satellite. Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) and Melanie Griffith are
back in recurring roles.

“Raising Hope,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Burt and Virginia find their
vacation sagging when the resort isn’t what was expected. Back home, Jimmy and
Sabrina want Hope to have a half-sibling.

“Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. Last week’s wretched excess is
brushed aside and “Banshee” is back in form. This hour starts and ends with
spectacular action scenes, with emotions packed in the middle.

“Blue Bloods,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. A caller said she will kill
the drunk driver who killed her parents and then will kill herself. Danny
rushes to find her.


“Save Our Business,” 10:01 p.m., TNT. Easily the lesser of
TNT’s business-reality shows, this hour involves a makeover of a family’s
martial-arts studio. It’s OK, but uses endless repetition.


TV column for Thursday, March 6

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

“Idol” is busy harvesting its pas. Candace Glover, the 2013
winner, sang last week; tonight, Phillip Phillips, the 2012 champion, sings “Raging
Fire.” Also, the Irish band Kodaline does “All I Want.”

Last week, Kristen O’Connor – a pleasant singer without a
specific fan base – was ousted, trimming the field to 12. On Wednesday, each
sang something related to “Home”; tonight, one will be sent home.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Chicagoland” debut, 10 p.m. ET, CNN;
reruns at 1 a.m.

Here is great documentary-making, with depth and passion. On
eight Thursdays (rerunning Saturdays at 8 and 11 p.m. and Sundays at 10 p.m.
and 1 a.m., it will view Chicago from all sides. It follows Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
but also the people enraged by his school-closings. It finds compelling people,
particularly Elizabeth Dozier, a young high school principal.

The same producers’ “Brick City” (about Newark) won a
Peabody Award, but this is even better. It has a brighter look … has music and
narration … and has Chicago, a complex city, ready for its close-up.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” return
(8 p.m., ABC) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), 9-11 p.m., ABC Family.

We can spend the entire night in Wonderland, with two tales
imagining Alice as a young adult.

The movie has story problems – a battle-scene finale? – but also
has the immense talent of Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton; before that,
“Once” has fresh twists: Alice reluctantly links with Cyrus and the Red Queen
to rescue the Knave; when the Red Queen is captured, Jafar takes over her

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Review” debut, 10 p.m., Comedy

We hear a lot of bad things about stealing, addiction and
proms, but how do we know for sure?

Now critic Forrest MacNeil (played by Andy Daly) tries and
reviews each. This is tough on his intern and his prom date (his babysitter),
but he remains enthusiastic. The offbeat humor keeps growing.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After feuding, Sheldon
and Howard might go to Houston together.

 “Saint George” debut,
9 p.m., FX. George Lopez is a smart comedian, but he’s surrounded by foolishness
here. He plays a sweet-spirited teacher (with a foul-hearted mother) who keeps
working after making a fortune. There’s potential, but the supporting
characters – especially his boss – are wildly overblown.

“The Red Road,” 9 p.m., Sundance. The compelling opener (rerunning
at 8) saw a cop’s addled wife (the superb Julianne Nicholson) in a hit-and-run
accident. In this well-crafted hour, the cop tries a cover-up.

“Suits” return, 9 p.m., USA. Amid its suffocating cynicism, this
tries to insert bits of humor and heart. Mostly, however, the cynicism crushes
the rest.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. At a presidential event, Fitz faces
a harsh reality.

“Sirens” debut, 10:01 and 10:31 p.m., USA. In “Rescue Me,”
Denis Leary brilliantly mixed deep drama with small bits of loopy comedy. Now
Leary (as a producer, but not an actor) skips the deep stuff in this story of
Chicago paramedics. Some moments are hilarious; many are just goofy.

TV column for Wednesday, March 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mixology, 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Early in this witty half-hour, our narrator (Jason Bateman)
sums up an engaged couple: “Liv and Jim like scrapbooking, cheese and the
entire CBS comedy line-up. (They) make the safe choice.”

ABC shows rarely make safe choices. They take big risks,
fail often and occasionally succeed. “Mixology” is hugely risky, devoting the
entire season to one night at a singles bar. It has one character who’s
overbearing (Bruce, the know-it-all) and many who are delightful. Tonight
focuses on two of the best: Ron is British and solemn; Liv is, alas, engaged to

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

Life was already tangled for the people who calls themselves
Philip and Elizabeth; they’re Russian spies who have lived as Americans in a
contrived marriage for decades. Last week, someone killed another spy couple,
even killing their daughter; now Elizabeth (Keri Russell) obsesses on
protecting her own kids.

There’s little time for that, in another involving hour. She
and Philip face separate crises … while a walk-in at the Russian office causes
a stir­­, especially with a double agent working there.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Flipping Out” season-opener, 10
p.m., Bravo.

Last season (rerunning from noon to 10 p.m.) brought angst for
Jeff Lewis, but now things brighten. The economy is better and he has big remodeling
jobs at the homes of actors George Eads and Mark-Paul Gosselaar; also, he has a
new paint product and his assistant, Jenni Pulos, is married and pregnant.

Naturally, Lewis finds ways to complicate things in this OK
episode. He teases Pulos, argues with his demolition man and launches a search
for a 4-foot-6-inch person to become a dancing paint can.

Other choices include:

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. A monsoon drenches the survivors,
while the “brains” tribe tries to stop its skid. In the two-hour opener, it
lost a pro poker player and the president of the Miami Marlins. It still has a
lawyer, a nuclear engineer, a student and an accountant.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Forced to actually take some
vacation days, Mike re-learns that Brick can be annoying. Also, Sue
overcompensates after her work gets a bad review Online.

“Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Urged by his daughter to
avoid suburban lifestyle, George heads into New York City with Fred (Chris
Parnell), with surprising results.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Cam is in charge of the spring
dance and fumes at the popularity of a returning teacher. Claire chaperones at
the dance, so Phil takes their daughter to a Realtors’ banquet, trying to
impress her. Meanwhile, Mitchell is perplexed by his new boss and work

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. An Elvis
impersonator and a bird have been killed. Somehow, these two are connected.

“Legit” and “Ali G: Rezurection,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., FXX.
This may be the darkest hour on TV.  “Legit”
has Jim (Australian actor Jim Jefferies) telling a black-humor joke that kills –
literally; in a bleak way, what follows is quite funny. “Rezurrection” reruns
episodes of HBO’s “Da Ali G Show,” with Sasha Baron Cohen posing as various
foreigners; tonight’s mid-section – Borat learns American dating – is hilarious.

TV column for Tuesday, March 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Perception,” 10:01 p.m., TNT.

This smart series often keeps Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith) in
the background. As a grad assistant, he patiently helps Pierce, whose mind is
brilliant and erratic, including chats with imaginary people.

Now Max moves to the foreground – first with an offer from
the dean (LeVar Burton), then with a surprise visitor. The resulting story is a
little about race and a lot about loyalty and (as usual) perception.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “About a Boy” and “Growing Up Fisher,”
9:01-10 p.m., NBC.

These are excellent comedies – better ones, perhaps, than
their network deserves.

NBC debuted both during the Olympics and scheduled the
second episodes for last Tuesday. Instead, without warning, it apparently reran
the first episodes, bewildering viewers and killing momentum. Now it finally
runs the second episodes – a fairly good “Boy” and a terrific “Fisher.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Goldbergs,” 9:01 p.m., ABC.

Then again, you could skip “Boy” and catch a fairly good
“Goldbergs.” It starts poorly – people being mean to family members for no
reason – and ends well.

Adam’s obsession with “Goonies” propels a chance to help his
grandfather. Stick with it to the end, for some fun involving a real-life
boyhood friend of Adam Goldberg, who created this oft-fun show.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week ended with a shoot-out in the Mexican desert. Now
Boyd has four bodies to dispose of and a lot of drugs to slip across the

Meanwhile, Raylan has a fresh problem. Kendall, a troubled
teen, is encased in a mess that includes a jumpy “uncle,” a quick-witted “aunt”
(these people are rarely truthful about their identities) and a vengeful
stranger. It’s a good episode, even though none of the stories have sharp

Other choices include:

“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC. Agent John Garrett (Bill
Paxton) arrives as Coulson races to save Skye.

“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. As their graduation looms, Tina, Blaine
and Sam try an all-night lockdown in school. Meanwhile, Elliot (Adam Lambert)
is caught in the feud between Rachel and Santana.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Someone is killed, Tony is probed … and
the witness is his dad (Robert Wagner).

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Was a fish-market
explosion an act of terrorism or a drug deal gone bad? Meanwhile, Granger
(Miguel Ferrer) and Kensi are in Afghanistan, chasing “White Ghost.”

“Trophy Wife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. The trouble with promises is
that you might have to keep them. Bert was promised a special party if he read
100 books; now Pete and Kate must deliver.

“Mind Games,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week’s opener plunged
darkly in the final minute, when we learned that Ross had bribed his brother’s
girlfriend to leave him, crushing his spirit. Worried that the secret will get
out, he hires a con woman (the terrific Jaime Ray Newman), who will stick with
the show.