TV column for Tuesday, April 1



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Mindy Project” return, 9 and 9:30
p.m., Fox.


This hour starts with a cautionary message about airplane
sex. Then it becomes much more.


Mindy has rarely been in charge of her romantic destiny.
Even tonight, she bounces between Danny (the colleague who adores her) and
Cliff. The hour starts moderately well, then becomes hilarious at a funeral and
beyond. Mindy grapples with a sex tape, an illness and her old boyfriend (Bill
Hader).


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.


Last week, we met characters who may be around next season,
in a spin-off.


That’s in New Orleans, where Gibbs’ friend (Scott Bakula)
runs a scruffy NCIS office in the music district, with transplants from Alabama
(Lucas Black) and, newly arrived, Chicago (Zoe McLellan). These are interesting
characters in a great setting. Tonight, the story wraps up; Gibbs and Bishop
help the New Orleans people probe the murders of a congressman and more, while
others chase Washington leads


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Inside Amy Schumer” season-opener,
10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.


Funny things happen when the absolutes of scripture collide
with the shifting, wordy morals of modern life. That contrast soared in Lena
Dunham’s Adam-and-Eve sketch on “Saturday Night Live”; now Schumer has a
brilliant bargaining session with God (played, of course, by Paul Giamatti).


The rest is a quick mix of interviews, stand-up and
sketches, some brashly sexual and some quite clever.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “The Story of the Jews” conclusion,
8-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).


There was a time, Simon Schama tells us, when Jews thrived
at the top of the culture in Germany, Austria and beyond. Felix Mendelssohn,
Giacomo Meyerbeer, Arnold Schoenberg and others led worlds of music, art and
thought. Then came anti-Jewish diatribes, from Richard Wagner to Adolf Hitler.


Schama’s second hour watches Jewish towns crumble everywhere,
including his maternal roots in Lithuania. It follows the great sweep to
America, where a Jew co-wrote the consummate songs of the 1930s, reflecting
despair (“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”) and hope (“Over the Rainbow”). That
ends powerfully, going from “Rainbow” to the Holocaust; the third hour is a
deep – and beautifully balanced – portrait of Israel, described by Schama as
the uneasy merger of “aspiration and reality.”


Other choices include:


“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. The show flashes ahead to a point months
after the glee club folded. Now many of the people are in New York, where
Rachel is a Broadway star, Mercedes is recording an album and others struggle.
Blair and Sam move in with Kurt; Artie finds the streets of New York are tough.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The team searches for
Kensi in Afghanistan.


“About a Boy,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. When Marcus gets to be home
alone, he soon must be rushed to the emergency room by his neighbor Will … who
promptly falls for a gorgeous doctor.


“Growing Up Fisher,” 9:31 p.m., NBC. Joyce (Jenna Elfman) is
trying new things since her divorce … which is why Mel finds marijuana in their
daughter’s bag. Meanwhile, their son has a quest.


“Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. As Art – Raylan’s friend and boss –
lingers in critical condition, Raylan obsesses on nailing Darryl Crowe for the
shooting. Others focus on the missing heroin stash; the result – mixing in Ava’s
prison ordeal – is a fairly good hour, setting up what could be a huge season-finale
next week.


TV column for Monday, March 31



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “How I Met Your Mother” finale, 8-9:01
p.m., CBS.


For nine years, we’ve seen Ted in the future, telling his
kids everything EXCEPT how he met their mother. Now we’re down to the final chance,
at the time of the Robin-Barney wedding day.


Future-Ted (Bob Saget) must finish telling his kids (Lyndsy
Fonseca and David Henrie, 18 and 16 when their scenes were filmed) how he met
their mom (Cristin Milioti). Expect it to be odd and funny.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Friends With Better Lives” debut, 9:01
p.m., CBS.


Like newcomers to a brash party, comedy pilot films often
try too hard; they’re louder, cruder, less funny. With that in mind, “Lives”
could become terrific once it calms down.


The opening scene is heavy-handed; the big party moment near
the end is wildly unlikely. In between, however, is sharp dialog from likable
actors. Kevin Connolly and Majandra Delfino are terrific as parents, wondering
if their childless friends aren’t happier. Brooklyn Decker – better known as a
swimsuit model than an actress – is surprisingly good as a carefree friend:
James Van Der Beek and others join in.


TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: Baseball openers, all day.


It’s opening day for most teams, with 13 games sprawled over
a dozen hours.


ESPN offers a doubleheader – the Cubs at the Pirates at 1 p.m.
ET, the Cardinals at the Reds at 4 p.m. And ESPN2 tops that with three games,
in more-civilized times for the West Coast; it’s Red Sox-Orioles at 3 p.m. ET,
Rockies-Twins at 7 p.m. and Mariners-Angels at 10.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens: Medora,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).


Here is “Hoosiers” or “Friday Night Lights” in reverse; it’s
a tender portrait of an Indiana town whose basketball team can’t win.


Medora’s factory closed and its jobs vanished. Its people
(less than 700) feel closing the school would be the final blow. Medora High –
with 33 boys and 39 girls – plays schools 10 times as big. It’s had a scoreless
quarter, 40-point losses, a winless season.


The 6-foot-5 center dropped out for a while and now crashes
with a friend while his mom is in rehab. The beefy power forward has a reading
disability. A guard lives with his grandmother and has never really met his
dad. These are people you’ll root for, in a beautifully understated
documentary.


 Other choices
include:


“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Athletes thrive
on this show, but not last week. Swimmer Diana Nyad and former hockey player
Sean Avery were the first to be ousted.


“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The battle round continues
today, Tuesday and next Monday.


“Eva Marie Saint,” 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies, repeats
at 11:30. Beating the odds, Saint is a star with a 62-year marriage. At 88 when
this was taped, she spins stories with wit and charm.


“On the Waterfront” (1954), 9 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies. Now for Saint’s Oscar-winner. Possibly the best-acted movie ever, this
won eight Academy Awards, including best picture and star Marlon Brando.


“Mom,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Christy has trouble with two
generations. Her parents are fighting; her daughter is reluctant to go to the
prom, now that her her pregnancy is so prominent.


“None of the Above” and “The Numbers Game.” 10-11 p.m.,
National Geographic. First, we see someone yank a tablecloth under the
silverware … at 115 miles an hour. Then, on the eve of April Fool’s Day, we see
the art of the scam and who is the most vulnerable. Both are mildly
entertaining.


“The Blacklist,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. An insurance man convinces
people to become contract killers.


TV column for Sunday, March 30



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

OK, now they have our attention. After years of quietly
creating deep drama, “Good Wife” jolted viewers last week by killing its
second-best character (Will Gardner) in a courthouse shooting.


Josh Charles had said he wanted to leave; but, no one
expected anything so conclusive. Now come the aftershocks: For Alicia, Will was
both a great friend (the only person to help her return to the workforce) and
an imposing enemy; for Diane, he was co-head of the law firm. Now feelings must
be sorted out.


TODAY’S MUST-SEE II: Sports overload, all day.


First, the NCAA basketball tournament finds its final four.
Two of the teams were decided Saturday on TBS; the other two will emerge from
games at 2 and 4:30 p.m. ET today on CBS.


Then fans can switch to ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, for the sort-of
baseball opener, with the Dodgers at San Diego. Other teams have their opening
day on Monday; also, two previous games in Australia count in the standings. That
means the Dodgers – the biggest-payroll team – could have a 3-0 record before
anyone else plays; they may replace the Yankees as baseball’s most-hated team.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Selfridge” season-opener, 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings).


People change, this classy “Masterpiece” series says …
especially when you jump ahead five years.


Agnes was a quiet clerk, sometimes working with Henri, the
charming store designer; now she’s back from Paris to become the store’s
display chief, he’s back from New York in despair. Harry, the store owner, had
been ruining his life with affairs; now he seems reformed. His personnel
director has three pre-schoolers and no sleep; their best customer has a nasty
husband who just returned. There’s much more, including the impending World War
I; the stories are fairly good and the settings are elegant.


Other choices include:


“The Departed” (2006) and “No Country for Old Men” (2007), 5
and 8:15 p.m., IFC. Here’s a chance to watch (or record) two best-picture
Oscar-winners back-to-back. Both are tough, complex crime stories that also won
Oscars for their directors and adapted screenplays.


“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week, the show lost a
fan-favorite duo. Margie O’Donnell and her hearing-impaired son Luke Adams has
finished third and eighth in previous editions; this time, they again were
eighth. Tonight, the seven surviving duos face an exhausting challenge in Sri Lanka.


“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. Homer is hired as a World Cup
soccer referee – well, why not? – and confronts an elaborate bribery scheme.


“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Sure, the first person to return
from the dead was an innocent kid. But the second was Caleb, who had robbed a
bank shortly before his death … and has now vanished after someone killed Dale.
Two enemies – the sheriff and the federal agent – link to find him.


“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. After endless horror, Rick
is still startled by tonight’s brutality.


 “Revenge,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Newly single, Emily uses her free time to tackle an old mystery.


“The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. To catch art thieves, Patrick
Jane plans a dangerous sting operation.


TV column for Saturday, March 29


 

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


Louis CK returns as host, which has to be good news. His
previous turn was excellent, including one bit -- Abraham Lincoln in a bar, with
a freed (and disgruntled) slave – that’s a classic.


That was 16 months ago, when CK had suspending his brilliant
cable show (“Louie”) and would go on to do some movies (“American Hustle,” “Blue
Jasmine”). “Louie” will finally return May 5; first, CK – who used to help
write the “TV Funhouse” bits for “SNL” – is back as host, with Sam Smith as
music guest.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, 6 p.m. and about 8:30
p.m. ET, TBS.


The NCAA tournament is now just a step from its final four.


Tonight’s doubleheader will be followed by games Sunday
afternoon on CBS. The four winners collide next Saturday, with the championship
game two days later.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” 9 p.m., Starz;
reruns at 10 and 11 p.m.


The mob is still at the palace gate, overthrowing Florence
and convinced that Prince Lorenzo de Medici has died. He almost did, but
Leonardo da Vinci saved him by transfusing his own blood.


Also in last week’s season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.), Lucrezia
– both men’s mistress and a spy for the enemy – plunged into the sea, chained
to Zoroaster, the scammer. The prince’s brother was killed, his wife’s brother
was treacherous and evil Riario had seized a ship to take to South America,
with Nico as prisoner. Clearly, all is lost … or would be, if da Vinci weren’t
so inventive. Here’s another great hour.


Other choices include:


“Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2001-3), 1 p.m. to 1:18 a.m.,
TNT. Three great films start at 1, 5 and 9 p.m.


“Rio” (2011), 7 and 9 p.m., FX. Here’s another splendid
movie, with gorgeous animation and lively music that fit the Rio de Janeiro
setting.


“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. Waiting for its turn with
basketball, CBS offers two comedy reruns, preceding two “48 Hours” episodes.
This is a good one, with the women finding opposite results when they take
office temp jobs. Caroline gets ambitious; Max battles sexual harassment.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. With three generations of unmarried
mothers, this family isn’t accustomed to the concept of “taking it slow.” Now Christy
tries that with her new boyfriend.


“The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Joe uses his new
power over a cult to propel a deadly plan.


“Saturday Night Live,” 10 p.m., NBC. Lena Dunham hosts this
rerun, with The National as music guest. An Eden sketch -- imagining that Adam
and Eve are a lot like Dunham’s over-analytical “Girls” character and her
dolt-ish boyfriend (also named Adam) – is brilliant.


Stand-up comedy, 11 p.m. and midnight, Comedy
Central. First is a rerun with Amy Schumer, the clever comedian whose series
starts its second season Tuesday. Then is a new hour with Hannibal Buress, whose
gentle approach makes his own misadventures (often alcohol-related) seem very
funny.

TV column for Friday, March 28


 

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


Patina Miller, it seems, can do it all. She’s known for
belting Broadway tunes – a Tony nomination in “Sister Act,” then a Tony win in
“Pippin.” But she also sings jazz and gospel and rhythm-and-blues and more. And
setting the music aside, she’ll be Commander Paylor in the next “Hunger Games”
film.


At 29, she’s a star to some people and unknown to others.
Tonight, she gets a concert special.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS.


Here’s the second of two nights that trim the NCAA field
from 16 teams to eight.


CBS starts with Tennessee and Michigan, then follows with an
intra-state battle between Kentucky and Louisville at about 9:45 p.m. TBS has
the others – Connecticut and Iowa State at 7:27 p.m. ET, Virginia and Michigan
State at 9:57. Tonight’s winners collide Sunday, for two of the spots in the
final four.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Helix” season-finale, 10 p.m., Syfy.


The frigid portions of this series ends big, if not
particularly well.


To her astonishment, Julia Walker (a Centers for Disease
Control scientist) has found herself in the Arctic Circle with, among others, her
mother, father and ex-husband, plus one serum that could destroy mankind and
another that could save it. But there are few true heroes here, except for that
ex-husband (Billy Campbell); even his brother is shaky. That leads to a big
finish that we found to be so-so.


Other choices include:


Movies, 7:30 and 8 p.m., cable. The original Harry Potter
film (2001) is at 7:30 p.m. on ABC Family. There are more box-office winners at
8, one animated – “Tangled” (2010), Disney – and many high-octane – “Star Trek”
(2009) on FX, “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) on Bravo and “X2” (2003) on
AMC.


“Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox. Keegan defends Mikki’s former pimp,
accused of attacking an agent who is so influential that people refuse to be
defense witnesses.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. After some shaky years in
school, Mandy shines in fashion design … but startles her parents with her next
plan. Soon, the family is filled with clashing opinions.


“The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC. Have these
neighbors-from-outer-space become too cozy with the Earthling ways? Larry’s
father sends an imposing figure to possibly take control.


“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. Pete must rescue his soldiers, who
were tricked by the lieutenant.


“Raising Hope,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Michael Rapaport – a
terrific villain on “Justified” – steps over to the comedy side here. He moves
in, to see if the family is worthy to adopt a dog.  


“Vice,” 10 p.m., HBO. After last week’s compelling view of
glacier-melts in Greenland (bringing a deadly rise in ocean levels) and slavery
in Pakistan, this half-hour has other contentious subjects. One report views
the effects of drone strikes in Afganistan; another views the extremes taken to
get scrap metal.


“Hannibal,” 10:01, NBC. Still behind bars, Will is desperate
top stop Hanibal Lecter. His attempt to stir vigilante action sends Alana and Jack
rushing to stop him.