TV column for Thursday, Feb. 6

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC.

For two decades, Jay Leno has hosted “Tonight,” providing
clever monologs, OK conversations and (usually) top Nielsen ratings. Tonight,
he says farewell.

His first guest 20 years ago (Billy Crystal) will also be
his first guest tonight. Garth Brooks will also be there plus, perhaps,
surprises. Then Leno says goodbye … not voluntarily, but (we’ll guess) with

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Winter Olympics, 8 p.m. ET, NBC.

Most Americans know that any Olympics are big and flashy and
exciting; still, few care about anything beyond figure-skating and (now that
Lindsay Vonn is injured) Shaun White on a snowboard.

The solution is to add more of both. Tonight (on the eve of
the opening ceremony), the Olympics launch two new events. There’s slope-style
snowboarding and – similar to team gymnastics in the summer – team
figure-skating. It begins tonight with the short programs for individuals and
pairs, then concludes Saturday and Sunday. Also tonight is freestyle skiing,
with the women’s moguls.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Spoils of Babylon,” 7:30 to 10:30
p.m., IFC.

Once a simple plaything for Will Ferrell and writer Adam
McKay, Funny or Die keeps growing. Now it has a new production facility, some
series and this mini-series.

Well, a micro-series, with six half-hours telling a soapy
tale at hyper-speed. Ferrell pretends to be author Eric Jonrosh and takes other
roles. Tim Robbins plays the patriarch, with Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire as
his daughter and adoptive son, who have a forbidden romance. The first five
episodes rerun tonight, leading to the 10 p.m. finale, with Winston (Haley Joel
Osment) scheming revenge.

Other choices include:

“Lincoln” (2012), 7 p.m., Showtime. A strong film night
begins with Steven Spielberg’s moving epic.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s an odd Valentine’s
Day double date – the married Howard and Bernadette head to wine country with
the thoroughly unconsummated Sheldon and Amy. That leaves Penny and Leonard,
who still haven’t defined their relationship.

“American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox. After Wednesday’s “Hollywood
or Home” detour, the “Hollywood Week” round begins. A week from now, the
semi-finalists will be chosen.

More movies, 8 p.m., cable. Here are exact-opposite
classics. Disney has “The Little Mermaid” (1989), a gorgeous cartoon; Turner
Classic Movies has “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” with Richard Burton and
Virginia Woolf perfectly handling the fiercely acerbic dialog.

“Rake,” 9 p.m., Fox. Keegan (Greg Kinnear) should understand
this client: To cover her gambling debts, she told the insurance company her
son has cancer.

“Reign,” 9 p.m., CW. The focus again turns to the gifted
Megan Follows as Queen Catherine. She throws scandalous charges at Bash; he
promptly points out her own scandals

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Holmes probes the murder of an
emerging ballet star, while Watson looks at the possible abduction of a homeless




TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 5

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

The new “Idol” producers warned us they would shake things
up, fighting the lull that happens between the auditions and the live episodes.
Now that happens in a sort of nasty way.

Young singers arrive with their gold tickets, ready to savor
the Hollywood round. Instead, they’re told tonight is a “Hollywood or Home,” with
instant performances. Some people will promptly be sent home.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Broad City,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy

On one level, we have Ilana (Ilana Glazer), overwrought,
oversexed, underskilled. Tonight, she’s the world’s worst temp worker, while
handling the office of (ironically) a temp agency.

On another is Abbi (Abbi Jacobson), quiet, caring and
unnoticed. Tonight, her handsome neighbor asks for a favor; fate will conspire
against her, as always. We find Abbi immensely appealing; other viewers – fans
of the wretched “Workaholics” at 10 – may prefer Ilana. Either way, it’s kind
of fun.

NIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond,”
10 p.m., BBC Americas.

Last week’s opener introduced Ian Fleming long before he
created James Bond. A bad stockbroker, a good lover and a skittish boyfriend,
he was no match for his heroic brother. Then World War II began.

Now he has a desk job with the
Navy and shows his first noble impulses. That comes while bouncing between two
beauties – one young and idealistic, the other (played by Lara Pulver) a
schemer who dates a mogul but lusts with Fleming. Their key scene is both
politically incorrect and powerfully done.

Other choices include:

“From Russia With Love” (1964), 7:30-10 p.m., BBC America.
Before watching tonight’s “Fleming,” savor this second Bond film. It’s tough
and intense, with occasional hints of the glitz that would follow.

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After visiting
distant locations, “Nature” reruns one of its most accessible hours, a light
and entertaining “duckumentary” on the world of ducks.

“How to Raise an Olympian,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here’s one more
preview hour, before the Winter Olympics begin, with early-starting events
Thursday and the opening ceremony Friday.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. Police
rush to save a missing boy who needs insulin.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Claire and Phil rarely know
what the kids are up to. Now they’re spying on Luke; meanwhile, Haley doesn’t
want them to know about her photography exhibit.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. One case involves
a body found in Mexico; the other involves a couple whose bodies are found on
the driveway.

“Top Chef,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Last week’s hour (rerunning at 9
p.m.) launched the two-part finale; it sent three chefs to Hawaii, joined by
Louis Maldonado, who won a return via “Last Chance Kitchen.” Now it’s time to
pick a winner.

“Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC. On the eve of Jay Leno’s
farewell, the guests include Sandra Bullock and Blake Shelton.  


TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 and 9:30
p.m., Fox.

Fresh from its big spurt – two Golden Globes and a spot
behind the Super Bowl – this comedy offers a rerun and then shifts to its new timeslot
with a new episode.

First is the pilot film, with Andy Samberg as a wise-guy police
detective who bungles the arrival of Captain Holt (Andre Braugher), his new
boss. Then the cops converge on Holt’s home for his birthday; they finally meet
his husband … and manage, again, to make a bad impression.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Dazzled by the show’s debut, some viewers have grumbled that
subsequent episodes were too ordinary … or too rare. There were only two new
ones in a seven-week stretch.

Now producers promise bigger moments are coming. Tonight,
pursuing the Clairvoyant, the team boards a mystery train that may be headed to
certain death. In a brief role, one passenger is played by Stan Lee … the
longtime Marvel chief who, at 91, stars in a new cartoon series (on Hub) and

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 8-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

First is a rerun, the second half of “The Amish.” Then is
the two-hour “The Amish: Shunned.”

Don’t expect any of the hyper emotions in fiction about the
Amish. Instead, this is a slow and graceful film, offering a warm look at both

We meet some former Amish who have thrived, including Naomi
Kramer, who -- with an 8
th-grade, no-science education – put herself
through college and became a nurse. We meet others who had a rougher time; we
also feel the pain of the families they left behind. The result is rich in
human emotion.

Other choices include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The murder of a Port Authority officer
offers hints of where to find Parsa.

“Dads,” 8 p.m., Fox. Trying to create a Mafia videogame, the
guys bring in a real Mob boss.

“Winter Gold,” 8 p.m., NBC. NBC keeps nudging us toward the
Winter Olympics. There are previews today and Wednesday, some events get an
early start Thursday and the opening ceremony is Friday.

“The Biggest Loser” finale, “9-11 p.m., NBC. Last week,
Chelsea and Jennifer were ousted, leaving only Bobby, Devin and Rachel.
Tonight, one of them wins $250,000.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. Jess convinces Nick that he can be
friends with his ex-friend. Meanwhile, Schmidt and Coach have separate schemes
to use Schmidt’s loft for a romantic encounter.

“The Goldbergs,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. Adam’s teen sister repairs a
fragile relationship with her mom … then sneaks off to a college party.
Meanwhile, his brother assures Adam that boys and girls can’t be friends.

“Trophy Wife,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. It’s always a mistake,
perhaps, to go into business with your husband’s ex-wife. Kate learns that
tonight. Also, Rob Corddry plays a combative karate instructor.

“Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. A Mob revenge plot brings fresh

TV column for Monday, Feb. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Tonight Show,” 11:35 p.m., NBC.

A 20-year TV tradition is down to its final four days. Jay
Leno departs, with key guest s.

Tonight, he has Jimmy Fallon – who inherits the show after
the Olympics – and Betty White, 91 and making her 19
th appearance.
Coming are Matthew McConaughey on Tuesday, Blake Shelton and Sandra Bullock on
Wednesday and Billy Crystal (Leno’s first guest, 20 years ago) and Garth Brooks
on Thursday.

Ironically, Leno is being nudged out at the top. A recent
week (Jan. 21-24) saw him beat David Letterman by more than 40 percent in total
viewers and in ages 18-49.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years
of Beautiful,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Guys seem to be very interested in fashion, especially as it
relates to beachwear. This would explain the high circulation of Sports
Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition.

This special celebrates the 50th edition with old
and new views, plus interviews. It has former swimsuit models -- Heidi Klum
(who hosts), Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland, Marisa Miller, Kate
Upton – plus music from Lady Antebellum, Enrique Iglesias, John Legend, Tim
McGraw and The Fray.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “POV: American Promise,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

The idea began with optimism. Joe Brewster, whose dad learned
to read at 40, is a psychiatrist; Michele Stephenson, a law-school grad, is a
filmmaker. Their son Idris was starting at what was once an all-white private
school; the parents would record all 12 years of Idris and another black
student, Seun Summers.

Then the problems came – some external tragedies, some
internal. Alternately compelling, disturbing and mildly hopeful, this film
leaves questions. Do some educators and parents obsess on results while
ignoring humanity? “Promise” can spark strong debates.

Other choices include:

“Wallykazam” debut, 1 p.m., Nickelodeon. Knowledge and fun
intermingle, in this world of trolls and such. In the opener, Wally learns “S”
words while trying to keep an ogre’s pet away from purple flowers.

“The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. A generation ago, who
would have imagined Vietnam as a romantic location for a dating show? That
happens tonight, before the field is trimmed from 11 to eight.

“Antique Roadshow,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Some
30,000 people applied for the Detroit visit, we’re told, more than for any
other city. Here’s the second of three Detroit hours (followed, at 9, by
Eugene, Oregon). It has a few local nods – Marvin Gaye’s passport, a skilled
architect, a brief visit to a fascinating museum for small-company cars – and
more, concluding with an amazing photo book.

“Beauty and the Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Vincent and Cat scramble
to rescue the kidnapped J.T.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. When a mean girl is killed, other
teens become suspects.

“Inside Comedy” season-opener, 11 p.m., Showtime. Before his
Leno visit, watch Fallon (and Zach Galifianakis) chat with David Steinberg.
Also: films about Richard Pryor and Steinberg, at 8 and 9:30 p.m.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Super Bowl, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox.

Here’s a classic battle of opposites: A veteran quarterback (Peyton
Manning, 37, of the Denver Broncos) who stands back and fires … a youngster
(Russell Wilson, 25, of the Seattle Seahawks) who scrambles.

Manning threw 55 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in the
regular season; Wilson had 26 and 9. Then again, Wilson runs for over 500 yards
a season, Manning for less than 50. Add tough defenses, solid running (plus
commercials and a Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers halftime) and it’s a fun

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece,” 9 and 9:58 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

While others duck a Super Bowl confrontation, PBS pushes
ahead with its best work. At 9:58 is the last of this season’s three episodes
of the oft-brilliant “Sherlock”; Holmes faces a master blackmailer. And at 9,
“Downton Abbey” has another night of elegant soap opera.

Downstairs, there are turning points for Alfred (the
would-be chef) and Molesley (the jobless footman); also, Bates and Anna strain
for a fresh start. Upstairs, there’s agony for Edith, a dispute between
dowagers … and a birthday surprise for Robert, from his young houseguest Rose.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Marathons, cable.

Animal Planet invented this concept with “Puppy Bowl” – a
two-hour loop of frolicking pups. Today, that keeps running from 3 p.m. to 5

Now Hallmark counters with “Kitten Bowl,” a three-hour loop
from noon to midnight. AMC also has a marathon, but not a cute one: From 10
a.m. to 6 a.m., it has the first two seasons of “The Walking Dead.” There’s
another marathon next weekend, leading into the mid-season premiere next

Other choices include:

Pre-game shows, noon to 6 p.m., Fox. The annual “Road to the
Super Bowl” is at noon, followed by “Football America: Our Story” at 1 and the studio
show at 2.

More pre-game, about 6 p.m. Opera star Renee Fleming sings
the National Anthem, with Queen Latifah doing “America the Beautiful.” There’s
also a Declaration of Independence film, a coin toss and more.

“The Good Wife,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts
with Alicia learning she’s been spied on through her own computer. That’s
followed by “The Mentalist” at 9 and “NCIS” at 10.

“Girls” and “Looking,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO. Most of
cable’s key shows skip Super Bowl Sunday. HBO has “This is 40” (2012) at 7:40
p.m., resting the brilliant “True Detective”; it does, however, have these two.
“Girls” has a surprising downer, as Hannah’s world crumbles; “Looking” (set
among gays in San Francisco) also goes grim, with job setbacks, before offering
glimmers of hope in the final minutes.

“New Girl,” 10:30 p.m. or later, Fox. Jess and Cece are
invited to a party at Prince’s mansion. Naturally, the guys try to slip in.
Prince and other celebrities have guest roles.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 11 p.m. or later, Fox. Jake (Andy
Samberg, fresh from his Golden Globe award) works a case with his frequent
nemesis Amy. Meanwhile, the captain and sergeant plan a precinct makeover.
Guest stars include Fred Armisen, Joe Theismann and more.