TV column for Friday, Feb. 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox; or “Pitch Perfect” (2012), 8:30 p.m.,
ABC Family.

Sure, “Glee” is
fading, now a tiny blip on the ratings radar. Still, it had a huge
impact, spurring interest in musicals, glee clubs and more. That
includes “Pitch Perfect,” the popular college-choral-group movie
starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow and more.

Meanwhile, “Glee”
pushes toward its March 20 finale. During a Burt Bacharach week,
Mercedes tries to nudge Rachel back to New York; Brittany and Santana
hope to do some family convincing.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

The team faces a
powerful – and unseen – criminal. Kono (Grace Park) learns the
villain's identity and soon is fighting for her life.

Also, Kono may break
up with Adam because of his family's past crime ties. And Michael
Imperioli (“Sopranos”) begins a multi-episode stay as a former
New York mobster with a Hawaiian hair solon.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.

In sheer,
shoot-em-up ferocity, this may be the biggest TV hour ever. A cascade
of firepower leads to some wrenching, up-close violence. There are
gripping visuals and richly developed characters.

Chayton and his
Redbone band attack the police station with a cascade of bullets.
Inside is the sheriff, his ex-lover deputy (who has just learned he's
an ex-con with a fake identity), more deputies and prisoners – most
of them nasty and Proctor worse. Then there's a former (maybe) Nazi;
it's a lethal mix.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Shakespeare Uncovered,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

These hours are
hosted by Morgan Freeman and David Harewood, reminding us that
Shakespeare is no longer whites-only. They discuss “The Taming of
the Shrew” and “Othello,” which they starred in.

Remarkably, Harewood
was the first black actor to play Othello for the National Theatre in
England. Until then, the role went to whites in blackface –
including, Harewood says, the “utterly ridiculous” make-up
Laurence Olivier had in a 1965 movie. That aside, these hours offer
entertaining looks at opposite plays – a broad, brash “Shrew”
by a playwright in his 20s, a brooding tragedy a decade later.

Other choices
include:

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. A neighbor's security camera causes Mike to
fume about privacy issues ... until the footage shows him that one of
his daughters misbehaved.

“Cristela,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Cristela has a chance to be her boss' temporary secretary
– which means actually getting paid. But is that really better than
being an unpaid law intern?

“12 Monkeys,” 9
p.m., Syfy. For way too much of this hour, the show skips its crucial
time – 2015, when Cole (a time-traveler) and Dr. Railly try to
prevent a devastating plague. Instead, we flash to his future –
2035 (on the run) and 2043 (with the time-machine scientists). Those
moments help define the relationship between Cole, a hardened
pragmatist, and Ramse, his friend and moral compass.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A big-money building had set aside one-fifth of its
apartments for modest-income people. Now one has been killed; Danny
and Baez investigate.

“Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. The greatest movie
year ever, many people say, was 1939. Here are examples -- “Wuthering
Heights” at 8 p.m. ET, then “Wind” and (at 2 a.m. ET) “The
Man in the Iron Mask.”

TV column for Thursday, Feb. 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Blacklist,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

After the Super
Bowl, this show returned with a sleek, frenetic episode – sometimes
unbelievable, but always involving. If you missed it, skip the next
paragraph and watch it at 8 p.m.

That episode saw Red
let himself be captured, so he'd be taken to a top-secret detainment
plan and warn of an escape plan. It was a bad idea that got worse
when officials fired a missile at the facility. Now Red has barely
survived; a bad guy (Ron Perlman) has captured Liz and swept her away
via helicopter. He plans to use high-tech methods to learn what she
saw on the night of Red's fire.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Allegiance” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

A newcomer to the
CIA, Alex is a rising star. Fitting the current TV trend, he has a
strong mind and weak social skills; also, he doesn't know that his
parents and older sistert are embedded Soviet spies.

Yes, that requires a
major coincidence. And yes, it copies heavily from FX's “The
Americans.” At least, NBC was wise enough to steal from a good
show. Hope Davis and Scott Cohen, as the parents, do a solid job of
breathing emotion into a shaky concept.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Fortitude,” 10 p.m. ET, Pivot, repeating at 1 a.m.

If you can get this
new relatively channel (via satellite, digital cable or individual
shows on www.pivot.tv), catch
“Fortitude,” a British gem filmed in Iceland and set in an Arctic
town.

The two-hour opener
(rerunning at 11 p.m. ET) had an artifact found in the melting
glacier, causing an ecologist to consider banning a hotel project. He
was killed; one young researecher (Vincent) was arrested and another
(Natalie) is missing. Now he governor is nervous and the man who
tried to sell the artifact is on the run. An American-English cop
(Stanley Tucci) ponders an intriguing enigma.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. First is a new episode, with an
Online bully attacking a paper by Sheldon and Leonard. Then is a
terrific rerun, with the women staging a rooftop “prom night.”

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. The team races to find Olivia.

“Backstrom,” 9
p.m., Fox. A murder at a cult-like church gives Backstrom a chance to
grumble about religion. His rants are overwrought and the case is
absurdly easy, but the show is again saved by its side characters,
including the only one who makes Backstrom human – his former
fiancee (Sarah Chalke).

“Two and a Half
Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Two weeks from the series finale,
complications build. Lyndsey wants Alan to move in; Walden ponders
breaking up with the social worker.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. School is back in session, there's a
new case ... plus the lingering question: The students keep trying to
cover up their murder of their professor's husband.

“Babylon,” 10
p.m., Sundance. Intriguing and schizophrenic, this started as a witty
satire of police bureaucracy ... then turned serious after the police
commissioner killed himself. Now it's a solid drama about his former
public-relations chief, grasping to keep her power in the
administration. However, it leapa to a so-so story about four street
cops, with accents that are tough for Americans to follow.

“Broke A$$ Game
Show” debut, 11 p.m., MTV. The notion of a makeshift game show has
been done quite well on cable, in “Oblivious” and “Cash Cab.”
Now comes a new, semi-adequate try, with two guys simply rolling
through the city streets with a shopping cart, questions and cash.

TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 3 (out of order)


(This is the TV column for Tuesday, Feb. 3; scroll down and you'll find Wednesday, Feb. 4.)

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

For 15 years,
Schmidt and Nick have been a part-time business team, concocting bad
ideas. So far, Schnick Industries has made ... well, nothing. But now
it has a pitch session with Lori Grenier, of “Shark Tank” and
home-shopping fame.

What follows is a
wondrous series of mis-steps and bumbles. We'll overlook a lame
sub-plot – Coach and Winston invest in Cece's education – and
savor some hilarious, Schnick-style moments.

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

In his 200-plus
years, Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) has faced the joy and despair
of immortality. He's seen the darkest edges of humanity, but this
hour goes deeper and darker than ever.

It starts with the
murder of a man who had made a fortune from art the Nazis stole from
the Jews. Now Henry flashes back to his family's own dark secret,
while solving the murder. It's a solemn, solid hour that also gives
Abe (Judd Hirsch) a peek at his own roots.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Back in 1910, the
U.S. Forest Service was only five years old, with little experience
fighting fires. Then one swept across the Northern Rockies. In 36
hours, it devoured three million acres (the size of Connecticut),
destroyed towns and killed 78 firefighters, plus many more who had
delayed deaths.

“The Big Burn”
is based on a book by Timothy Egan, whose previous book led to PBS'
brilliant “The Dust Bowl.” Like that one, this has
socio-political context, dramatic storytelling and richly human
moments; we see Ed Pulaski, who saved lives while surviving (barely)
a searing ordeal.

Other choices
include:

“Parks and
Recreation,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. Once profoundly unambitious,
April is now busy. In the first episode, she's managing the wedding
of Donna and Joe. In the second, she accompanies Leslie to Washington
and ponders her future; back home, Andy looks for the perfect job for
her.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After a slow stretch – two new episodes in nine weeks – this
ratings hit is back in business. Tonight, a murder victim was about
to be the first openly gay Medal of Honor winner.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. A Naval officer has received a lethal dose
of radiation. Now the team races to solve the murder of someone who
has not yet died.

“Street Art
Throwdown,” 9 p.m., Oxygen. Considered vandalism by some and an
energetic art form by others, “street art” now gets a show of its
own. It's a lot like all the other shows – including the excellent
“Face Off,” at the same time on Syfy – but fun to watch. In the
opener, artists climb to a towering billboard, descend to a creepy
tunnel, and do good work in bad conditions.

“Being Mary Jane”
season-opener, 10 p.m., BET. Crushed by her break-up, Mary Jane
(Gabrielle Union) is dangerous to her friends, her family and her
goldfish. At an elegant dinner party, she implodes. What follows is
an hour of rage and regrets. It's difficult to like Mary Jane, but
easy to root for her. With the exception of her mother (poorly
written and acted), this is a sharp, well-played hour.

“Justified,” 10
p.m., FX. Smart and sexy, alternately fierce and fragile, Ava Crowder
has gradually become one of TV's great characters. Formerly Boyd
Crowder's sister-in-law (before killing her abusive husband), she's
now his fiance ... except that Raylan (a U.S. marshal and her
ex-lover) is forcing her to inform on him. Tonight, Joelle Carter
does great work as Ava, trapped between forces.

TV column for Wednesday, Feb. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat” debut, 8:30 and 9:31 p.m., ABC.

Eddie Huang figures
he would have been happy staying in Washington, D.C., surrounded by
hip-hop music and hip Chinese-American friends. But when he was 11,
his family moved to Orlando.

This situation
comedy has little to do with Huang's oft-angry memoir; still, it;s an
enjoyable look at a newcomer to suburban strangeness. His mom is
reduced to a sitcom stereotype, but the rest of “Boat” has solid
humor. After launching alongside ABC's Wednesday hits, it will be
dispatched to Tuesdays.

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

Rippling with giant
plot twists that are downright operatic, this ratings-success keeps
aiming big. Tonight's hour starts and ends with mega-twists, with
more scattered between.

Parts of this make
no sense. How could a basic music video (cavorting in front of a
green screen) be $1 million over budget? But for all its excesses,
“Empire” scores with music, passion and Taraji Henson.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nashville” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

Here's the country
cousin of “Empire,” suggesting that Nashville can be just as
treacherous as the hip-hop world. Rayna was oblivious to two things
that viewers knew – that she really loves Deacon and that he has
liver cancer; she almost married Luke, then called it off on their
wedding day,

Now there's rage –
cars and guns can be dangerous to wedding cakes and champagne bottles
– and more, in a good (if overwrought) hour: Layla, whose husband
Will is gay, tried suicide ... Gunnar fights for custody of Micah ...
Sophie has a gun ... and the Juliette/Avery marriage starts shakily.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8 p.m., Fox. These judges are an agreeable lot and they sent more
than 200 singers to the “Hollywood Week” round. Now more than
three-fourths of those hopefuls will be sent home quickly. Over the
next two weeks, we'll see the field trimmed to 48.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Frankie's Aunt Edie has died; now the entire family is
accompanying her body by train to South Dakota. The result brings
arguments, crises and sudden life changes.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. As a teen, Luke spends less time with his dad; Andy
(Adam DeVine) fills in. Also, Mitchell finds revelations when working
with his sister Claire at their dad's company.

“Earth: A New
Wild,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Over five hours
on four Wednesdays, we'll see new ways that humans and animals
co-exist. The first hour has Jane Goodall and her chimps, plus
delightful footage of pandas, born in captivity but trained for
“re-wilding.” The second ranges from Africa to the Arctic. It
includes a fascinating look at the Saiga antelope, on a remarkable
comeback after losing 95 per cent of its herd in the lawless years
after the Soviet empire fell.

“Chicago P.D.”
10 p.m., NBC. Continuing a “Chicago Fire” story, the team closes
in on a suspect in the arson that killed Shay.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Last week ended with a woman being choked to death,
after confessing to her lover that she was a Russian spy. Now Phillip
turns a tragedy into an advantage – disposing of the body (it's
terribly messy) and compromising the killer. Then, in a solid hour,
we're back to the ongoing debate over whether Phillip and Elizabeth
should tell their teen daughter about their secret life.

“It's Always Sunny
in Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FXX. A health inspector is coming, on
the worst possible day: The bar is full of chickens, the toilet is
clogged and Frank has no shoes. What follows is a furious crescendo
of visual humor, some of it excessive and some quite funny.

TV column for Monday, Feb. 2


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Scorpion” (CBS) or “Jane the Virgin” (CW), both 9 p.m.

Yes, it makes a
difference what network you're on; these two first-year shows have
received praise ... and opposite fates. In a recent week, “Scorpion”
finished No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings; “Jane” -- despite wit,
sparkle and a Golden Globe for its star – finished No. 107 out of
110.

Tonight, “Scorpion”
has a rerun about a computer guy with an algorithm to create hit
songs; he helps trace the murder of a music blogger. If you've
already seen it, try “Jane.” Tonight, Jane continues to write for
her dad's telenovela; Rafael frets that his father has the hotel
enmashed in crime connections.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Celebrity Apprentice,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

By the time he chose
Joan Rivers as his 2009 champion, Donald Trump was a fan. “She was
76 years old,” he recalled. “She had more strength, more brain
power. I'll never forget. We had athletes (who) were exhausted after
a couple weeks, and Joan was killing.”

She returned as
board-room advisor in two rounds of this edition; then, he said, she
visited his office in September. “I said, 'She'll be around
forever. She is unbelievable.'” A few days later, she died during
an outpatient endoscopy exam for her throat. Tonight's second hour
has her final board-room appearance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Foyle's War,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

The rich legacy of
British dramas is in good hands everywhere now – PBS (where
“Masterpiece” keeps expanding on Sundays), BBC America and Acon,
a streaming and DVD service.

On the next three
Mondays, the final “Foyle's War” episodes will debut; on Feb. 16,
all eight seasons (most of them previously on “Masterpiece”) will
be available. That said, today's film sometimes feels slow and
stilted. In 1946, Christopher Foyle is searching for spies, secretly
aided by his former military driver. The result is solid and sturdy,
if (at times) a tad sleepy.

Other choices
include:

“The Bachelor,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Carley and Britt get one-on-one dates, while the
other nine end up with white-water rafting ... and one plunges into
the water. Also, Kelsey's burst for attention goes awry.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Two great characters collide anew, when Fish Mooney (Jada
Pinkett Smith) reveals a secret about Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord
Taylor), the future Penguin.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Oleg is moving in with Sophie (Jeennifer Coolidge) ...
who promptly starts throwing out his stuff.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. In the show's 100th episode,
Molly is shocked to learn that Mike hasn't been to a doctor in more
than a decade.

“Strange
Inheritance,” 9 p.m., Fox Business Channel. We meet a man who
assumed the coin he inherited (a 1913 Liberty nickel) was a fake ...
but then learned it could be worth millions. He heads to an auction
house to find out.

“Independent Lens:
A Path Appears,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Deep poverty
isn't confined to distant places. We see a deserate quest for
education in Haiti ... and in West Virginia. Returning to her native
state, Jennifer Garner sees a boy reach pre-school and a woman –
one of 12 people sharing a rented trailer – return to school. This
documentary has so-so execution, but a big story to tell.

“Mud, Sweat and
Gears,” 10 p.m., BBC America. If you like sheer destruction (many
folks do), this is your hour, as two teams convert cars into
demolition vehicles, then attack a sort of ghost town. It's noisy and
chaotic (with no way of resolving disputes), but will appeal to
smash-and-crash buffs.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. In his private-eye work, Castle is supposed to learn if
someone's husband is having an affair. He learns much more,
witnessing a murder ... but has trouble proving it.