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

“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

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”

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

“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.

TV column for Thursday, March 27

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Viewers have gone a lot of places with Dr. Cristina Yang in
the past deade. There have been break-ups, feuds, job shifts and medical
triumphs; Sandra Oh, who plays her, has won a Golden Globe and had a string of
six straight Emmy nominations.

Now she gets a key episode: Approaching a key decision, Yang
imagines her life after either choice.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “American Idol” and “Surviving
Jack,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

“Idol” has seen shrinkage in the ratings and now in the
timeslot. Starting tonight, the results show trims to a half-hour; Janelle
Monae will sing “What Is Love” (from “Rio 2”) and someone will be ousted.

The cutback would be fine, if it made room for a worthy
show. Alas, “Surviving Jack” is barely adequate; it’s the second failed attempt
to get laughs from Justin Halpern’s memories of his quirky dad. William Shatner
played a fictional version of him on “(Bleep) My Dad Says”; now -- adapted from
another Halpern book – Christopher Meloni plays the dad of teens, taking tough
love to hateful extremes.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Chicagoland,” 10 p.m., CNN.

This terrific documentary series has introduced some
compelling Chicago people, led by Elizabeth Dozier, a high school principal who
is passionate about her students. Now we learn her own story.

Dozier’s dad was a prisoner; her mom was a nun who became
pregnant, quit the order and became a teacher. After thriving in schools and then
business, Dozier became a crusading educator. It’s a tough job and this episode
– against the cheery backdrop of music festivals – shows it can be a painful

Other choices include:

Basketball, 7:15 p.m., CBS. A new round of the NCAA
tournament starts with two teams – Dayton and Stanford -- that each pulled two
upsets last week. That’s followed at about 9:45 by UCLA and Florida. On cable,
TBS has Baylor and Wisconsin at 7:47 p.m. and Arizona and San Diego State at
about 10:17.

“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” 8 p.m., ABC. The
friendship of Alice and the Knave faces a big challenge. And in a flashback, we
see a bigger challenge, when he hunted her.

“Hollywood Game Night,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. Thursdays are
usually TV’s best situation-comedy night, but not this week. CBS has
basketball; NBC has these two reruns. The only new sitcoms are the George Lopez
and Charlie Sheen shows (“Saint George” and “Anger Management”), from 9-10 p.m.
on FX.

“The Red Road,” 9 p.m., Sundance. A week from its fierce
finale, this well-crafted drama stirs up fresh complications, as Kopus (the
giant ex-con) creates an elaborate scheme. Harold – the once-honest cop who’s
been covering up his wife’s hit-and-run accident – finds himself wedged in.

“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president’s kids prepare for a
live TV interview.

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. This is a good time for both
Sarah and Joel, who have finished work projects. Max, however, is depressed
about the school field trip; his dad plans a cheer-up adventure.

“Review,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. After a
clever start, this show spiraled downhill with last week’s divorce episode.
Things get worse tonight, when Forrest -- who samples and reviews life’s experiences
-- is asked to sleep with a celebrity. The result is often dark and occasionally

TV column for Wednesday, March 26

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

The perfect farce is a rare pleasure. From British plays to
“Pink Panther” movies to the occasional “Frasier” episode, it requires
confusion, secrets and doors that open and close at just the right time.

Here’s a great example, as the grown-ups go to Las Vegas. Secrets
range from a manikin to a bachelor party and a magic-show audition. Fred
Armisen guests; Stephen Merchant, the 6-foot-7 Englishman who is Ricky Gervais’
comedy partner, is ideal as the butler who has this madness buzzing around him.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Psych” finale, 9-10:07 p.m., USA.

For eight seasons, this show has milked (and, at times,
overmilked) a fun gimmick: Shawn (James Roday) is a cop’s son who learned to be
a great observer. When he couldn’t land a regular police job, he started – with
his reluctant pal Gus (Dule Hill) – a phony psychic agency, consulting with

This final episode has one good storyline -- another great
observer keeps topping him – and a lame one, with Shawn usable to tell Gus he’s
leaving. “Psych” juggle wit and excess, but it does find the perfect situation
for a dysfunctional duo – stealing their old drivers-education car, with two
sets of controls.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The 100,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week’s opener set up a terrific premise – 100 teen
prisoners, sent back to see if the Earth is finally inhabitable. For dramatic
convenience, it made everyone unrealistically antagonistic (even by
teen-prisoner standards), but still worked.

Now “100” adds some depth, as people slowly realize they’re
in this together. Rushing to rescue a guy who was kidnapped, the teens see
secrets of the post-holocaust Earth. The adults – on a space station that is
running out of everything – scramble for solutions. The result is flawed, but

Other choices include:

“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week, MK Nobilette was
the third woman dumped in four weeks of ousters. Five men and four women remain;
now each does a song backed by Rickey Minor’s band.

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Three tribes merged into two last
week -- and someone from the old “brawn” tribe was finally ousted. Cliff
Robinson, the former basketball pro, was dropped; there are now five people
each from the original “brawn” and “beauty,” only three from “brains.”

“Arrow,” 8 p.m., CW. Leading into “100,” CW cranks up the
young-female action. The Huntress is back, taking hostages; one is Laurel –
whose sister Sara shows up in her Canary disguise, to do battle.

“Mixology,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Last week’s nasty moment – when obnoxious
Bruce made his friend stand up the sweet waitress – still fouls things. That’s
the down side tonight; the good side has some great scenes involving two people
– the bartender and the Englishman – for whom life has been too easy.

“Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Dr.
David Livingstone was a complicated man, this interesting hour says. He was a
missionary, an abolitionist, a developer of malaria medicine. Still, new research
also shows the complex morals he juggled during years of exploring in Africa.

“The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week ended with a jolt.
When the Russian spies (who call themselves Phillip and Elizabeth) tried to
kidnap a Russian-Jewish scientist, two men attacked them. They captured one,
the other grabbed the scientist … and now things are deeply tangled. One great
scene involves Phillip and his captive; another involves Elizabeth and the
woman Phillip married under another identity.

"Doll & Em," 10 and 10:25 p.m., HBO. After toying with being a comedy-drama in its first week, this three-week, six-episode show seems to forget about the comedy part in its second week. The relationship between these friends faces challenges that are difficult and subtle, but not funny or involving.

TV column for Tuesday, March 25

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

Sometimes, this is all it takes to make great comedy – two
quirky characters and a good reason for their dialog to spin in wild

That’s Jess and Nick, on the morning of a birthday party.
Wracked by hangovers, they must assemble a 1-year-old’s toy while contemplating
their future. She wants to live by a lake, with two kids who named themselves;
he wants to live on Mars, with a son named Reginald VelJohnson. There’s a gap

Two other hangover tales are pretty good, but the Jess-Nick
one would make a great one-act play.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Justified,” 10 p.m., F

Here is “Justified” at its best – sometimes dry and droll
and quirky, but with huge stakes.

That starts with a powerful, game-changing scene before the
opening credits; it ends with several jolts. In between, great guest stars –
Mary Steenburgen, Michael Rapaport, etc. -- link with regulars who have
mastered this odd world of Kentucky crooks and feds, mixed with interlopers
from Detroit and Florida.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of the Jews,” 8-10 p.m.,

Over five hours on two Tuesdays, Simon Schama offers a story
that spans the globe and 2,500 years.

Much of that scope was forced upon the Jews. They were
driven from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome; they became essential to the
European economy, after Christian rules banned loaning money for interest …
then were exiled again: In 1290, King Edward I drove them from England; in 1492,
while Spain was discovering a new world, it expelled an old one. These are
dramatic stories, told passionately.

Other choices include:

“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Will the glee club really fold? April
and Holly (Kristen Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow) hatch a plan to save it;
also, Rachel and Santana try to patch things up after their fight.

“The 100,” 8 p.m., CW. On the eve of the second episode,
here’s a rerun of the fairly good pilot film, with 100 teen prisoners
dispatched to see if the Earth is finally inhabitable.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s the start of a two-parter that’s
a pilot for a spin-off. In New Orleans, Gibbs works with agents (Scott Bakula,
Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan) and the coroner (CCH Pounder).

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The computer system
controlling Russian missiles may be in jeopardy.

 “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
season-finale 9:30, Fox. Forever bucking authority, Jake (Andy Samberg) always
seems near being suspended. Now he goes over the edge, in a funny episode that
sets up next season.

“Growing Up Fisher,” 9:31 p.m., NBC. Joyce gets a job at her
ex-husband’s office, promptly becoming … well, too Joyce. It’s a funny story,
slowed by a weaker one involving Henry and the girl next door.

“Creature Shop Challenge,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Sure, this is a
lot like the show (“Face Off”) that precedes it. Still, it’s bigger -- contestants
create workable, camera-ready creatures – and better. The prize is bigger, too –
a job in the Creature Shop that was created by the late Jim Henson. His son
Brian is chief judge, with Gigi Edgley (from “Farscape,” a terrific Henson
show) as host.