TV column for Sunday, March 8


TONIGHT''S MUST-SEE:
“Battle Creek,” 10 p.m., CBS.

There are plenty of
crime shows; CBS alone has 11 of them, taking half its turf. Still,
this is the only one in which cops chase a maple-syrup cartel ... or
accuse someone of NOT selling marijuana.

That's part of the
odd charm of “Battle Creek,” which centers on the pairing of a
rumpled local cop (Dean Winters) and an immaculate FBI guy (Josh
Duhamel). Tonight, they get great help from Aubrey Dollar as a
warm-hearted clerk and Janet McTeer (a two-time Oscar nominee) as
their boss.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Revenge,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

After resting for a
week to make room for the “Secrets and Lies” debut, “Revenge”
has fresh schemes.

Margaux unloads her
verbal ammunition at both Emily and Jack, causing some strong
reactions. Also,

Emily's dad ponders
staying around. And Natalie tells Victoria why she's in the Hamptons.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Night of Too Many Stars,” 8 p.m., Comedy Central,
rerunning at 10. How much would you pay to commit a crime with John
Oliver or to take a bow with Louis C.K.? Then again, what about
getting Chris Rock to agree to “sell our” and do an instant
commercial? (Tommy Hilfiger gave $35,000 for that.) That's all part
of this taped fundraiser for autism education.

Robert Smigl, the
voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, organized this event a decade
ago, after his son was diagnosed as autistic. Jon Stewart hosts, with
Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Maya Rudolph, Paul Rudd,
Will Forte, Gilbert Gottfried and too many more, including Triumph.

Other choices
include:

“The Princess
Bride” (1987), 7:30 p.m., Pop, or “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Fairy tales keep being great fodder for modern tales. “Bride”
is a love story brightened by little comic gems. “Once” finds
Snow White and Prince Charming facing a witchly trio in the olden
days and – in their modern forms, as Mary Margaret and David – in
Storybrooke.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth needs some diplomacy abroad – Turkey has
released a damaging video – and at home, after her son punches a
bully.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Alicia prepares for a key interview. Also, Canning
(Michael J. Fox) pushes the firm for a settlement in his eviction
case.

“Girls,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. In a fairly good episode, we learn that Hannah's terribly normal
parents are just as perplexed by life as she is. So are her friends
... but one actually has a joyous moment.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Last week's debut ended sharply (after a
few slow spots), with Phil (Will Forte) agreeing to marry Carol
(Kristen Schaal) ... mostly because she may be the last woman on
Earth. Now we see the aftershocks.

“Togetherness”
season finale, 9:30, HBO. There are turning points for each of the
four characters, in a fairly good ending to what has been a flawed
series about deeply flawed people.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week's two-hour opener saw a murder probe
suddenly focus on Ben (Ryan Philippe), who had reported finding a
neighbor boy's body in the woods. Complicating things were his own
affair and his refusal, at first, to allow a DNA test. Tonight, he
faces key revelations and chases the boy's father, whom he considers
the killer.

TV column for Saturday, March 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“In an Instant,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

During an evenig
rush-hour in August of 2007, a massive Minneapolis bridge – eight
lanes, spanning the Mississippi River – collapsed. Thirteen people
were killed; 145 were injured.

This film focuses on
the rescues, mixing first-person accounts and re-creations. A woman
was submerged, inside her car; a bus with 63 children was stuck
precariously, near a burning truck. This follows Friday's excellent
“Instant” about an Alaskan plane crash; next Saturday brings a
grizzly attack.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Last Man on Earth” (Fox) or “Battle Creek” (CBS),
both 8 p.m.

Last weekend was
overcrowded, with three distinctive debuts. These two offer another
look, before their second episodes air at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox and
then 10 p.m. on CBS.

“Battle Creek”
is full of droll, clever wit, as a rumpled cop (Dean Winters),
earnest but ill-equipped, is paired with a too-perfect FBI guy (Josh
Duhamel). “Last Man” is bigger and broader, with Will Forte as
possibly the only guy who survived a global virus. The first
half-hour is an extended – overextended, at times – series of
sight gags; Kristen Schaal provides great counterpoint in the second
half-hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Roman Holiday” (1953), 8 p.m., Turner Classic
Movies.

A great movie night
is led by this black-and-white classic. Audrey Hepburn, 24 at the
time, was perfect as a princess in disguise, meeting an American
journalist (Gregory Peck).

“Holiday” was
nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture. It won for Hepburn,
its costumes and its script ... an award that originally went to Ian
Hunter, who was a front for his friend Dalton Trumbo, then on
Hollywood's blacklist during the red-scare era.

Other choices
include:

“Twilight”
(2008), 6-9 p.m., ABC Family, and more. This vampire-love epic starts
a night that has great movie variety. Families can savor “Finding
Nemo” at 7:30 p.m. on Disneys; grown-ups get the Oscar-nominated
“Descendants” (2011) at 9 p.m. on Pop. Comedies include the
clever “Baby Mama” (2008) at 7:30 and 9:40 p.m. on Oxygen and the
disappointing “Neighbors” (2014) at 8 p.m. on HBO. Action fantasy
films at 8 p.m. are “John Carter” (2012, TNT) and “X-Men: First
Class” (2011, FXX).

“Good Witch,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. Last week, this show got off to a decent start in
ratings and in quality. Now, as the town prepares for its Heritage
Festival, a frightened young woman checks into Cassie's inn.

“CSI: Cyber,” 9
p.m., CBS. If you missed Wednesday's debut, here's a quick rerun.
It's an OK, just-the-facts crime story, requiring Patricia Arquette
to use only a fraction of her Oscar-winning talent.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Ichabod hopes to get help from the angel
Orion; Katrina hopes to find some humanity in Abraham.

“Black Sails,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunnking at 10:02. In the aftermath of a massacre,
Eleanor risks her life. Also, Captain Flint and John Silver get news
from the outside world that changes everything.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the
movies, hosts; country's Zac Brown Band is the music guest.

TV column for Friday, March 6


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“In an Instant” debut, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

After some tough
times in Iraq, Don Evans wanted a quiet life amid Alaskan beauty. He
and his pregnant wife were flying to a native village (pop. 85),
where they would share teaching duties.

Then the plane
crashed, killing the pilot and a passenger. The Evanses and their
children (then 8 and 10) struggled to stay alive. It's a gripping
story that they relate, aided by re-enactments. More survival tales
are ahead, including a Minneapolis bridge crash (Saturday) and a
grizzly attack (March 14).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Helix,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

On a remote island,
a possible centerpoint for the virus, a cult leader (Steven Weber)
has shown a Jim Jones sort of control. That part of the story is
resolved powerfully, even flashing ahead 35 years.

Much of it happens
before the Centers for Disease Control doctors arrive, Now they must
ponder what happened, who survived and whether they must exit
quickly.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox.

“Funny Girl”
towers over tonight. The splendid 1968 movie musical – with Barbra
Streisand's Oscar-winning performance – is at 8 p.m. ET on Turner
Classic Movies. Also, there's the fictional “Glee” plot.

Rachel starred in
Broadway's “Funny Girl” revival, triumphed ... then abandoned the
show to do a bad TV comedy; tonight, she tries to return to New York
stardom. That's just two weeks from the series finale; meanwhile,
Dalton Academy burns down and the Warblers must merge with New
Direction.

Other choices
include:

“The Amazing
Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. So far, all of the “blind date” couples
have survived, while two dating couples – a pilot and a stewardess,
a computer guy and a medical assistant – have been ousted. Now one
couple does much better ... with a key question popped at the end of
this leg.

“Braveheart”
(1995), 8 p.m., AMC, or “Argo” (2012), 9 p.m., FX. Take your
choice of best-picture Oscar-winners. One has epic action, the other
adds humor, but both are based on true stories and have gifted
director-stars – Mel Gibson and Ben Affleck, respectively.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. With Danny and Chin arrested, McGarrett again needs the
help of Joe White (Terry O'Quinn) and former war pilot Frank Bama
(Jimmy Buffett).

“12 Monkeys,” 9
p.m., Syfy. Here's an instant reminder that limited-run series are
much better than unlimited ones. Last week's hour – with Cole
calling in an airstrike to kill the virus and himself – would have
been a perfect ending. Instead, the show now begins some so-so
detours.

“Cesar 911,” 9
p.m., NatGeo Wild. In the Latino culture, Cesar Millan tells us here,
weekly family dinners are crucial. So in an OK episode, he struggles
to help a man who's been banned from the dinners until his dog is
better behaved.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Someone breaks into Erin's apartment and attacks her
co-worker. Also, her brother Jamie finds a pipe bomb and their dad,
the police commissioner, probes a charity.

“Banshee,” 10
p.m., Cinemax. Amid terrific flashbacks (showing how the escaped
convict now called Sheriff Hood first met Job), “Banshee” takes
its torture obsession to hideous overload.

TV column for Thursday, March 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS.

In its second
season, this has reached “Big Bang” and “Modern Family”
heights, as one of TV's best comedies. That's due to sharp writing
and a confluence of gifted comedy actresses.

You'll see that in
the opening scene, when Christy (the wonderful Anna Faris) and her
mom (five-time Emmy-winner Allison Janney) try to avoid visiting
their friend (Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer) in prison. It's a
beautifully played scene ... and the start of an episode that toys
with religion in a way that is clever and respectful and then – in
a final dream scene – both bizarre and hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Dig” debut, 10 p.m., USA, rerunning at 11:23 p.m. and 12:47 a.m.

As an attache to a
U.S. embassy in Israel, Peter (Jason Isaacs) is simply supposed to
nab a murder suspect. Then some moments – both splendid and eerie –
with a young redhead plunge him toward ancient prophesies and a
modern cover-up.

“Dig” is the
sort of story that has its actors act stupidly, for the convenience
of the plot. Still, writer-producers Tim Kring (“Heroes”) and
Gideon Raff (“Homeland”) have inserted enough intriguing moments
to keep us watching through this six-week run.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Crime” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

A solemn and lonely
man, Russ (Tim Hutton) is about to sink lower: He gets a phone call,
asking him to identify his son's body. His ex-wife (Felicity Huffman)
is soon spreading rumors and rage.

Written by John
Ridley a(n Oscar-winner for “12 Years a Slave”), this 11-week
mini-series avoids TV cliches, including overwrought police. These
cops remain elentlessly calm, while other people crumble. This opener
is difficult to watch, but beautifully acted by Hutton, Huffman and
talented newcomers.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. When Sheldon applies for the private
journey to Mars – one way, staying for a lifetime – Amy sees that
as a bad sign for their relationship. Then a hilarious rerun sees a
major lab error stir trouble between Leonard and Howard ... with Raj
trying to help.

“American Idol,”
8 p.m., Fox. In the season's second live episode, we'll learn which
eight of the top 12 women have survived. They'll sing and viewers
will vote anew.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. This hour focuses on Amelia, Derek's talented (and
previously troubled) sister. She begins perilous surgery on Dr.
Herman (Geena Davis), who had accepted the belief that her tumor is
inoperable.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A tragedy leaves the White House unsure what to do about
Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney), its problematic vice-president.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Red's former lover now has him involved in a dangerous
encounter with villains whose auctions sell people and other illegal
contraband.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Holmes is the prime suspect in an old murder. And since
this happened during his addiction, he can't be sure he didn't do it.

“Vikings,” 10
p.m., History. In a fairly good hour, this sprawling saga has big
moments on three fronts: On the battlefield, King Ragnar tries to
complete a battlefied victory, as a favor to the English king who
gave him land. Back home, a traveler brings stories and dread. And in
the new settlement, the English king stares warily at the Vikings'
customs ... and lustfully at Lagertha, Ragnar's ex-wife.

Alternate version of TV column for Tuesday, March 3


(This is an alternate version of the Tuesday TV column, for areas where PBS stations are running "Jewish Journey: America" that night, as part of their pledge drives. If you scroll down from here, you'll see the Wednesday column and then the version of Tuesday for other areas. In East Lansing, for instance, "Jewish Journey" ran Monday; in Cincinnati, it will run Thursday, March 5. In others, including Reno, it runs on Tuesday, making this the correct version of the Tuesday column.) 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.

As morning intrudes,
Jess and Cece begin what some call a walk of shame. Still in
nightclub dresses, high heels and a hangover haze, they take the long
walk home, complete with detours and flashbacks.

If this had been
stretched into an entire episode, it would have been a
“Seinfeld”-style classic. Instead, it's paired with a story
(Coach and his cellist girlfriend) that's merely OK. Still, some
moments – especially with Josh Gad (Broadway's “Book of Mormon”)
helping concoct a musical -- are hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Agents of SHIELD” return, 9 p.m., ABC.

After a three-month
break (filled by “Agent Carter”) the team is back, with plenty to
worry about.

Yes, it blew up an
alien city before Hydra could get it. Still, the alien Obelisk has
transformed Raina into something inhuman and has given Skye powers
she can't yet control. Skye's dad Cal (Kyle McLachlan) and former
SHIELD agent Ward are scheming. And there may be a spy on the team.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Jewish Journey: America,” 8 p.m., PBS.

This is a story that
unfolded over more than a century. It speaks to us vividly, via
photos, then film, then the memories of people who survived the
Holocaust as children. In quietly moving ways, we see the global
changes that brought millions of Jews to the U.S.

It may seem like a
story we've heard before, but “Journey” offers fresh details. We
see emigration from Egypt, Iraq and beyond; we feel the pain of
people left behind and the triumph of some in the new land.

Other choices
include:

“Hell's Kitchen”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox. After using up all his niceness on
“MasterChef Junior,” Gordon Ramsay rages anew. There's plenty to
yell about: One chef forgets to turn the oven on; another insists:
“I'm not really used to people spitting out my food.” Let's hope
not.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Gibbs finds himself on a ship controlled by pirates.

“The Artist”
(2011) and “The King's Speech” (2010), 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies. Here's a chance to see (or record) two superb films,
each of which won Oscars for best picture, director and actor.
“Speech” has Colin Firth as King George VI, struggling with his
stuttering; “Artist” is in the style of a black-and-white silent
film, with Jean Dujardin as a fading star

“NCIS: New
Orleans.” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a petty officer killed
shortly before he could propose. There's no sign, however, that his
girlfriend actually exists.

“Forever,” 10
p.m., ABC. For generations, people have threatened to reveal the fact
that Henry has eternal life. We see one example in 1865, when his
first wife (Jane Alexander) threatened to tell; we also see a modern
example, as truth-and-openness issues cloud his investigation of
hackers.

“Justified,” 10
p.m., FX. Walker is on the run, wounded and deadly, but others are
distracted. Raylan greets the arrival of Winona and their baby. Boyd
and Ava are alone in the country, as two terrific actors (Walton
Goggins and Joelle Carter) mine a rich range of moods and passions.