TV column for Saturday, April 2, slightly out of order


(This is the Saturday TV column, a tad out of order. If you scroll down to the next one, that's Sunday, April 3)

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 6 p.m. ET, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

It's final-four
time, as the NCAA tournament nears its peak. Tonight's winners will
collide Monday, for the college championship.

Of the four teams
seeded No. 1 in their regions, only one survived. That's North
Carolina; in the second game (about 8:49 p.m.), it faces Syracuse –
which (at No. 10) ia the fourth-lowest seed ever to get this far. The
first game, tipping off at 6:09 p.m., has two No. 2 seeds, Villanova
and Oklahoma.

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

OK, enough of those
way-too-tall basketball people. On the flip side, Peter Dinklage,
4-foot-5, hosts.

Dinklage, 46, has
done a few of the standard little-person roles, but mostly has veered
toward independent films. In 2003 (the same year he did “Elf”),
he starred in “The Station Agent,” drawing raves, two acting
awards and 10 nominations. He's had Emmy nominations in every season
of “Game of Thrones,” winning twice; now he hosts “SNL,” with
Gwen Stefani as music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Figure skating, 9 p.m., NBC.

The World Figure
Skating championships are wrapping up in Boston. Most of that has
been confined to cable, including the pairs finals, at 2 p.m. today
on the NBC Sports Network. But the women, as usual, will get
primetime, big-network attention.

Gracie Gold and
Ashley Wagner have combined to win the past five U.S. championships,
but each has had to settle for one fourth-place in the world event.
They're on the U.S. team with Polina Edmunds, who at 17 has already
finished second twice in the nationals.

Other choices
include:

“Clueless”
(1995), 7 p.m., Freeform. This dandy comedy starts a strong movie
night on cable. At 8 p.m., there's “Star Trek Into Darkness”
(2013) on FXX, the animated “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) on FX,
Amy Schumer's clever “Trainwreck” (2015) on HBO and two great
Eddie Murphy performances – “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984) on IFC
and “Dreamgirls” (2006) on BET.

“Mirror Mirror”
(2012), 8-10 p.m., ABC. The Snow White story gets a big-budget
treatment here, with stars and special effects. Julia Roberts is the
evil queen and Lily Collins is the sweet heroine, with lots of others
– Sean Bean, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and more – in support.

“Rush Hour,” 8
p.m., CBS. The network really wants to make sure we see this pilot.
Just two days after it debuted (on a strong CBS night), it reruns
here. Aiming to match the 1998 movie's mixture of action and humor,
this has Jon Foo as a quiet Hong Kong cop and Justin Hires as a loud
American cop. They're forced together, on a case that packs a family
impact for Foo.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, a murder trial brings competing duelling
testimony from two skilled pathologists – Dr. Rosewood (Morris
Chestnut) and his father (Vondie Curtis-Hall).

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. This rerun finds Lucifer needing an unlikely ally, as he
tries to learn what's n the stolen container. Also, Chloe makes some
key progress in the Palmetto case.

“Amy Schumer: Live
at the Apollo,” 10 p.m., HBO. Fresh from watching Schumer's movie,
HBO viewers will want to re-visit her stand-up special from October.

ALSO: If you need to
catch up on “The Walking Dead” before the season-finale (9 p.m.
Sunday), this is the time. The first half of the season reruns at 8
p.m. today, then promptly re-reruns at 5 a.m. Sunday. The second half
starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, leading into the finale.

 

TV column for Sunday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

For five years,
Blake Shelton was the ACM co-host, giving it a country-party feel.
Now he'll merely sing; so will his ex-wife Miranda Lambert, who links
with Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top) and Keith Urban.

Luke Bryan will
return as host, this time with Dierks Bentley. Both will perform; so
will Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Tim
McGraw, Little Big Town, Sam Hunt, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton,
Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line and more, including duets –
Dolly Parton with Katy Perry, Chris Young with Cassadee Pope, Kelsea
Ballerini with Nick Jonas.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
iHeartRadio Music Awards, 8 p.m. ET, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

Here's proof that
the music world is way too fragmented: In some time zones, two award
shows will air simultaneously. This one leans toward pop music –
and seems to assume that no one could possibly be interested in pop
AND country.

Performers include
Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Iggy Azalea, Zayn, Fetty Wap, Meghan
Trainor, DNCE and Chris Brown. Also, Maroon 5 and Pitbull perform by
remote from the NCAA Music Festival.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of God” debut, 9 p.m., National
Geographic.

Now for TV on an
epic scale, both geographically and philosophically. Morgan Freeman
travels the globe, gathering wide-ranging beliefs – including ones
tonight on death and the afterlife.

Over six weeks,
Freeman will range from the Vatican to the former center of the Mayan
empire, from the Dead Sea and the Ganges River to a church that was
started post-Katrina in New Orleans. The result is beautifully filmed
and is filled with compelling details.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Walking Dead” season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC.

While Freeman seeks
divine truths, others are just happy to elude zombies. Tonight, Rick
and friends rush to the Hilltop to save Maggie. Also, we glimpse
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the fierce Negan.

And if all of this
needs explanation, don't worry: Before the finale, the complete
season reruns, starting at 5 a.m.; after it, people will discuss
things on “Talking Dead,” at 10:30. That's followed at 11:30 by a
rerun of the season-finale of “Fear the Walking Dead,” the
prequel that returns next Sunday.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, all day,
cable. On opening day, we get a TV triple-header. At 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
has St. Louis at Pittsburgh; at 4 p.m., ESPN2 has Toronto at Tampa
Bay and at 8:30, ESPN has the Mets at the Royals. Most of the
other teams start Monday, with three games on ESPN and another on
ESPN2.

Hart-felt TV. Comedy
Central reruns Kevin Hart stand-up shows at 7:53, 8:55 and 9:53 p.m.
... then repeats the last two at 11 p.m. and 12:04 a.m. And FX has
Hart's “Ride Along” (2014) at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Call the Midwife”
season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Against the cheery
backdrop of Easter 1961, the nurses find a tragedy – a baby born
with no functioning limbs. Despite some hard-to-believe characters
and instant attitude shifts, this is a warm and involving story.

Town hall, 8 p.m., Fox News. Two days before the Wisconsin primary, Donald Trump faces questions in Milwaukee from Greta Van Susteren and the studio audience.

“Grantchester,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Tonight's hour, like last week's
opener, is complex and intelligent, this time involving schemes and
spies. Meanwhile, one thread from the opener lingers, as a teen
remains in jail for trying to help a pregnant friend. That's followed
by an OK “Mr. Selfridge.”

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. Police have a plan to lure the man suspected of kidnapping
Adam a decade ago. But that involves using Adam as bait, setting off
new shellshocks.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. For the survivors, the goal is to
repopulate the Earth. That gets complicated in an OK episode: Phil
and Carol have tried for six months; Todd secretly has sex with two
women and is eyed by a third. And what happens if Phil's brother
(Jason Sudeikis) finally arrives?

 

TV column for Friday, April 1


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS.

For two weeks, CBS'
Friday shows took a basketball break. They were missed ... especially
because this is the only network with three hours of full-budget
Friday series.

That starts with
“Race,” which is currently pitting Internet and social-network
stars. Just ousted were Erin White Robinson and Joslyn Davis, who do
celebrity news; previously dumped were a funny stewardess and her
daughter, plus one duo that gives beauty tips and another that
juggles and does parkour. Seven remain; tonight, for the first time,
“Amazing Race” reaches Armenia.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Sure, TV is obsessed
with youth and beauty. Still, it pauses here to point out that
obsession in others.

Someone seems to be
stealing youth from some people and selling it to others. But who's
doing it ... and what happens to the people who are stolen from? It's
a fairly good episode that also includes some pivotal moments for
Renard, the police captain who may run for mayor.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dead 7,” 8-10 p.m., Syfy; “Banshee,” 10 p.m.,
Cinemax.

It's an action night
on cable – with the second show being much more serious. That's
“Banshee,” well-crafted and fierce; as it opens its season, the
sheriff returns to town and faces a serial killer.

And “Dead 7”?
That's your standard zombie boy-band western. The villain is
Apocalypta (Debra Wilson); chasing him, of course, are gunmen played
by guys from singing groups: Nick Carter wrote and produced; he's
also one of the gunmen, alongside Howie Dorough (his Back Street Boys
colleague), Joey Fatone of 'N Sync, Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees and
more.

Other choices
include:

“ET.” (1982), 7
p.m., Showtime. Steven Spielberg's film – a wonderful classic for
any age – leads a strong movie night. Other premium channels have
action hits from 2015 -- “Insurgent“ at 7:55 p.m. on HBO,
“Ant-Man” at 9 on Starz. And basic cable? “Moulin Rouge”
(2001) -- so-so music, but gorgeous videos from director Baz Luhrmann
– is 7 p.m. on Freeform; “Bridesmaids” (2011) is 8 on Oxyten.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
8 p.m., Fox.There's only one day left to stop The Hidden One from
becoming all-powerful. Abbie and Ichabod try a step that's both
desperate and dangerous.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Mike (Tim Allen) is convinced
Kyle is getting ready to propose to his daughter Mandy.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. This rerun finds staffers straining to avoid working on a
Saturday.

“Jazz,” 9 and 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here are the first two hours of Ken
Burns' brilliant, 10-hour documentary series from 2001.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. When a body is found in the water off Oahu, the probe
leads to much more – a slave-trade operation based on a fishing
boat. Also, there's a new twist in chases: Danny comandeers a bus to
go after the guy who stole his car.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Nick (Michael Nouri) was the last person Frank (Tom
Selleck) arrested as a police detective. Now Nick is out of prison,
rehabilitated ... but linked to a murder.

TV column for Thursday, March 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

After being bumped
by basketball for two weeks, TV's best comedy is back. Leading into a
season-finale (“Life in Pieces”) and a series debut (“Rush
Hour”), it gives CBS a big night.

Tonight, Sheldon has
another perosnal tragedy – his laptop breaks. That leads to a
revelation for Amy. Also, Leonard and Howard lie to their wives, in
order to catch the early screening of a movie.

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

A TV tradition ends
next week, with the final night of this final season. First are the
cheery moments when the singers go back home. It's all-Southern (as
are many “Idol” finales), with Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae
in Mississippi, Dalton Rapattoni in Texas and Mackenzie Bourg in
Louisiana.

The complication is
that one of them is already doomed, finishing fourth in last weeks
votes. Tonight, we'll learn who it is; the others will each sing
three songs and Keith Urban, a judge, will sing one.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rush Hour” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

For years, CBS has
asked viewers to go from Thursday comedies to a heavy-duty drama. Now
it eases the transition, with a show that mixes humor and humanity
alongside the action and violence.

Jon Foo and Justin
Hires take roles filled by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the 1998
movie – a quiet Hong Kong cop and a never-quiet American cop.
Hires' ex-partner (Aimee Garcia) sees his good side; his boss (Wendie
Malick) doesn't. Produced by a comedy guy (Bill Lawrence of “Scrubs”)
and directed by a light-action guy (Jon Turteltaub of “National
Treasure”), this is an OK way to end a fun night.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hoff the Record,” 9 p.m. ET, AXS.

Not enough people
have heard of AXS; too many have heard of David Hasselhoff. When the
two link, however, the result is a drolly clever surprise.

AXS is the Mark
Cuban channel that ranges from music to Dan Rather. Hasselhoff is the
“Knight Rider” and “Bay Watch” guy who sang on the Berlin
Wall, then almost self-destructed. Wisely, he plays a Hoff who's full
of himself; he brought down the Berlin Wall, he says, and can do that
to the Wailing Wall and the Wall of China. Alas, in England he meets
people who match his self-delusion.

Other choices
include:

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse” season-finale, 8-9 p.m., NBC. Here's the episode this
clever (but inconsistent) series has pointed to. Rhonda and Leanne
break out of jail (again); Jamie breaks out of the vault. They all
head to the bunker to ride out the apocalypse ... but then face
another barrier.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 and 9 p.m., CBS. A good first season ends with a pair of new
episodes. In one, Tim insists on wearing a “Cinderella dress”
while rooting for his team in the basketball tournament. In the
other, John and Joan reveal a secret they've been keeping from their
three kids for 35 years.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Olivia gets powerhouse information about one of the
presidential candidates. Now her team scrambles to verify it.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. Last week's opener saw a handsome schemer (Peter Krause)
bilk a glamorous accountant (Mireille Enos). Now she obsesses on
finding him, distracting her from a high-profile job. Also, he finds
that he must quickly pull another scam.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. Fresh from Jennifer Lopez's second-to-last week as an
“Idol” judge, you can see her season-finale as a semi-corrupt
cop. She scrambles to get immunity for her crew.

“Archer”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. No longer wanted by the CIA, the agency
settles for detective work in California ... where only Figgis
qualifies for a license. Then – as happens in most Los Angeles
private-eye stories – a glamorous woman walks in with a desperate
plea. It's a promising start for this animated show for grown-ups,
mixing humor and action.

TV column for Wednesday, March 30


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

Four months ago,
“Empire” ended the first half of its season with shellshocks:
Hakeem voted with Camilla (Naomi Campbell) to push his dad out of the
record company. Also, someone pushed Rhonda – the pregnant wife of
Hakeem's brother Andre -- down the stairs.

Now comes a fierce
hour of revenge, regret and recovery. As usual, it unfolds with the
absurd speed of a soap opera ... yet remains compelling because of
strong emotions, a gifted cast and great music. Some of the best
moments, late in the hour, come from the talented Jamila Velazquez as
newcomer Laura.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rosewood,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Given a golden
opportunity this fall – as the lead-in to “Empire” --
“Rosewood” failed in the ratings. But now it has a second chance
... and has a change-of-pace episode.

The case is kind of
absurd, with an unforced confession. Still, it's a springboard to
other things: There's the friendship of the captain (whose fourth
marriage is ending) and an old colleague .... And a brilliant monolog
in which Dr. Rosewood contrives an intense tale involving Villa, the
cop ... And a chance to show off Villa variously in bikini, evening
gown and short-shorts; each is a good look for her.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Damian Aspinall, a
millionaire entrepreneur, runs an animal santuary in England; Dr.
Rebecca Atencia, a veterinarian, treats and nurtures orphaned chimps
in the Congo. Both have returned animals to the wild, leaving
questions: Would the animals still know them? What are their memories
and emotions?

We find out here.
Atencia seeks a chimp she released two years ago, Aspinall searches
for a gorilla he knew five years ago, others seek a cheetah, an
elephant and more. This hour adds occasional comments from experts,
but remains mostly just a warm, feel-good show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Emerging networks.

“The Path” (any
time, Hulu) arrives today, with an intriguing notion: Eddie (Aaron
Paul) is a longtime member of a cult whose leader (Hugh Dancy) used
to be the loved one of Eddie's now-wife. Suddenly filled with doubts,
Eddie has trouble saying anything about it.

Also “Rogue” (9
p.m., the Audience Network, via DirecTV and AT&T) finds two
tricky pursuits. Deakins fumes when her prime witness was murdered in
prison; Ethan chases a mysterious beauty who has a valuable
flashdrive. The latter story switches direction, during a tough, taut
episode.

Other choices
include:

“Terminator”
(1984), 7:10 p.m., Starz. Sharply written and directed by James
Cameron, this sci-fi classic starts a strong movie night. Disney has
the animated “Horton Hears a Who” (2008) at 8 p.m.; Turner
Classic Movies hasd “The Artist” (2011) – a silent,
Oscar-winning delight – at 9:30 p.m. ET.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, Peter Baggenstos, an emergency-room doctor, was
the second person from the original “Brains” team to be ousted.
Now a merger involves the four remaining “Brains” and “Beauty
people and the three from “Brawn.”

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's another big, broad story – this one complete with a
backward-talker and hospital-room sex. Some parts, including an
over-the-top grandmother, go way too far. Still, the lead character
(Melissa George) is so likable that “Heartbeat” is sometimes
adequate.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Gloria is way too excited about jury duty.
Her husband Jay is much less excited about being the pre-school
helper.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Troubles keep building for Philip and Elizabeth, since
they tried to recruit their teen daughter to join them as Russian
spies. Now she's told her pastor; their Russian handler may help, but
he has bigger concerns, shipping a deadly virus. The hour ends
powerfully.

“Hap and Leonard,”
10 p.m., Sundance. What started as a quirky delight has skidded, with
two straight episodes in which the guys are held hostage. It's a
great showcase for the talented Jimmi Simpson as the villain; still,
the surprises wear off and the brutality lingers, in this
second-to-last episode.