TV column for Tuesday, April 27




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

Sure, “Glee” is full of young-pop
appeal; tonight, however, it boldly sets that aside. The teen-idol
types – Cory Monteith, Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff – are ignored,
while others soar.

Early on, there's a gorgeous solo by
Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt. Later, there's a spectacular one by
Amber Riley. And in between, Kristen Chenoweth has three numbers, two
of them superb.

Chenoweth returns as April –
alcoholic, beautiful, lusting after the now-divorcing Will (Matthew
Morrison). When those two link on “One Less Bell to Answer,” we
get the two gifted Broadway stars, at their high-octane best. Wrapped
into all this are two touching stories as Mercedes tries to lose
weight and Kurt tries to link with his guy's-guy dad.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dancing With
the Stars” (ABC) or “American Idol” (Fox), 8 p.m.

“Stars” trims to six dancers
tonight. “Idol,” already at six, begins its new round.

At first, “Idol” voters pulled
nasty surprises – ousting Lilly Scott and (until the judges used
their only “save” to keep him) Michael Lynche. Since then,
however, the ousters have been logical – Andrew Garcia, then Katie
Stevens and (last week) Tim Urban. With few weak links left, things
get tougher.

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

The attack against childhood
vaccinations has linked some strong forces. They includes a TV star
(Jenny McCarthy), an activist (Robert Kennedy Jr.), a businessman
(J.B. Handley) and a writer (Jennifer Margulis) who has a doctorate
and four childen. Passionately, they suggest a link between the
increase in shots and the increase in autism and other disorders.

Still, this hour says, that has been
studied many times. No study found vaccinations leading to disorders;
as people resist, we may lose the “herd immunity” that comes with
everyone is vaccinated.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The night
job of an NCIS lie-detector specialist leads to murder.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A Navy officer was killed, after being caught up in the world of
Hollywood glamor.

– “Lost,” 9 p.m., ABC. The show
pauses for a rerun, focusing on Richard Alpert. Next week, it starts
the final push toward its two-hour series finale on Sunday, May 23.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Facing her former boss (Kevin Conway) in court, Alicia isn't sure if
she should use personal information.

– “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. Lots
of people have nasty enemies here. Ava killed her abusive husband,
then distracted his brother Boyd, before Raylan (the U.S. marshal)
wounded him. Also, people are quite upset at Raylan, for killing a
crook in Miami. Now Boyd is in prison, Raylan is sleeping with Ava
(against his boss' orders) and two hit men are around, one competent
and one not. It's a complicated hour that's sometimes logical and
always interesting.

– “Food Party” (10 and 10:15
p.m.) season-opener and “Dinner With the Band” debut (10:30
p.m.), Independent Film Channel. First is a truly bizarre show that
has fringe artist Thu Tran, plus puppets and food and such. Then is a
show in which Sam Mason, a chef, invites musicians to his Brooklyn
loft; he starts with talented singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright.

TV column for Monday, April 26




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

Viewed in calmer, quieter times, the
1968 events in the Vietnamese village of My Lai are almost impossible
to grasp.

Here are average-seeming Americans, now
in their 60s, explaining why it seemed logical at the time to kill
virtually every man, woman and child – as many as 507 people
overall.

The strength of this superb documentary
is that it makes it horribly understandable. There was a haze of
confusion, fear and faulty intelligence. The men genuinely believed
they were heading into battle with the Viet Cong; they failed to
adjust to what they found.

Emerging is a sympathy for anyone
enmeshed in war, including the Americans. “I thought drink would
make it go away,” one says, 40-plus years later, “(but) the
memories keep coming back, coming back.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Chuck,” 8
p.m., NBC.

A lot has changed since we first met
Chuck, the computer geek who accidentally consumed important CIA
secrets. His sister is moving; his friend (Morgan) knows he's a spy
and is (sort of) helping.

More importantly, his protector (Sarah)
is also his lover. Now they're ready to run away together.

What happens then makes this a pivotal
episode. For train fans, there's romance. For fight fans, there are
two in which our heroes are handcuffed together. Some of this is
silly; most of it is fun.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-9:32 p.m., ABC. Last week, the show lost its biggest draw, when
Kate Gosselin was ousted. Now it's down to seven contestants.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Sarah
Wayne Callies, who was excellent as Dr. Sara Tancredi on “Prison
Break,” guests. Doctors are perplexed by her illness and by her
open marriage. Meanwhile, there are new complications for Taub's wife
(Jennifer Crystal, Billy's daughter) and Wilson's ex-wife and current
girlfriend (Cynthia Watros of “Lost” and “Titus”).

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, both brothers face guys' worst fears – Charlie
that he's not providing sexual satisfaction, Alan that his hair is
thinning.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9:31
p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Leonard is unhappy that his mom (Christine
Baranski) is visiting – and appalled that she gets along so well
with Sheldon.

– “Romantically Challenged,” 9:32
p.m., ABC. This comedy has been juggling its episodes. The one it had
planned to debut with last week was pushed to May 3; this one was
nudged ahead: Lisa (talented Kelly Stables) pries into the love life
of her sister Rebecca (Alyssa Milano); Rebecca retaliates.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun involving the death of an Arctic explorer, Castle realizes he
may finally have a killer who's too smart for him.

– “Nurse Jackie,” 10 p.m.,
Showtime. Julia Omond arrives as O'Hara's gay lover, ready for fresh
passion. Meanwhile, Jackie revives her affair with Eddie. Amid some
serious moments, this excellent episode scatters solid laughs,
including Dr. Cooper posing for ads saying: “If Looks Could Cure.”

– “United States of Tara,” 10:30
p.m., Showtime. As a tornado whirls past, everyone is huddled in a
basement – and Tara is leaping between her alternate characters.
It's a good episode for a so-so show.

 

TV column for Sunday, April 25




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece
Classic,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the first half of “Small Island,
two women entered marriages of convenience. Hortense, a Jamaican
teacher, wanted a life in England; Queenie wanted to avoid being sent
back to her family's pig farm.

Now World War II is over; Hortense and
husband rent a room from Queenie – who's pregnant by a Jamaican
man. Big changes are coming for the characters and for London. The
first half was fairly good; this second half – beautifully written
and warmly acted – is superb.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “River
Monsters” season-opener, 10 p.m., Animal Planet.

Each week, Jeremy Wade tackles fierce
and scary fresh-water creatures. This time, he tops himself.

The target is a stingray in Thailand.
It has size – said to be 16 feet long and 1,300 pounds – and the
same type of venom that killed Steve Irwin. Wade shows understandable
caution, in a strong hour.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “TV Land
Awards,” 9 and 10:30 p.m., TV Land.

Nostalgia should overflow tonight, with
awards for “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Charlie's Angels”
(including a video tribute to the late Farrah Fawcett), “Bosom
Buddies” (re-uniting Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari) and “Love
Boat.”

Tim Allen hosts and there's music from
Jack Jones (singing the “Love Boat” theme) and honoree Blondie.
Also, the cast of “Glee” gets a “future classic” award; a
“Glee Club Choir” includes solos from David Hasselhoff and Marilu
Henner.

ALSO TONIGHT:

– “When Love Is Not Enough: The
Lois Wilson Story,” 9-11 p.m., CBS. In 1989, “Hallmark Hall of
Fame” had “My Name is Bill W.,” the story of the Alcoholics
Anonymous co-founder. It drew praise, an Emmy for James Woods and
five more nominations. Now Hallmark tells that story (via the same
screenwriter), this time through Bill's wife. Winona Ryder is
excellent, but addiction stories face a fundamental flaw: If the
characters can't control their actions, there's little room for deep
drama.

Other choices include:

– “The Emeril Lagasse Show,” 8
and 9 p.m., Ion. First is a rerun of the opener, with Martha Stewart
and lots of product plugs. The new hour – with a zesty Sherri
Shepherd – is much better.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Continuing some of Thursday's Earth Day themes, the family has a wind
turbine and tries to save a beached whale.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Flashbacks show the ongoing relationships the housewives have
had with the “Fairview Strangler.”

– “America: The Story of Us,”
9-11 p.m., History. The start of this ambitious series ranges from
the Jamestown colonies to the Revolutionary War.

– “Tudors,” 9 p.m., Showtime.
There's grandeur, as King Henry visits the North that once stirred
with revolution: There's also an ominous feel: His teen-aged queen is
being reckless in her sexual affair.

– “The Pacific,” 9 p.m., HBO. In
a brutal and moving hour, the fighting finally concludes at Peleliu.

– “Treme,” 10 p.m., HBO. Amid the
hopeful signs in New Orleans, there are tough moments. Antoine and
Davis have rough collisions with police; Albert finds a body.

– “Breaking Bad,” 10 p.m., AMC.
As Walt settles into his new meth-lab relationship, Walt Jr. is
demanding answers about his parents' break-up.

TV column for Saturday, April 24






TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “You Don't Know
Jack,” 9 p.m., HBO.

Here are compelling portraits of two
men – opposites, yet the same – thrown together.

Geoffrey Fieger had been a theater
major; Jack Kevorkian had been a poet, a painter, a flutist. One was
a lawyer, the other a doctor, with different kinds of flair – glib
and wordy, cranky and crusty.

Al Pacino brilliantly creates a
Kevorkian who is emotional and eccentric – sometimes in control and
sometimes wobbling. Danny Huston gives us a Fieger who thrives in the
spotlight.

Barry Levinson's film won't change
views on assisted suicide. It does, however, admire the passion of
Kevorkian's true believers, perfectly played by John Goodman, Brenda
Vaccaro and Susan Sarandon.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Family films, 7
and 8 p.m.

Three movies – two about mice – aim
at broad audiences, with varied results.

ABC has “Norbit” (2007, 8 p.m.),
which critics hated. Eddie Murphy has a large wife; fat jokes ensue.

The Cartoon Network has “Stuart
Little 2” (2002, 7 p.m.), which isn't a cartoon; ABC Family has
“Ratatouille” (2007, 8 p.m.), which is. “Stuart” is a sweet
tale of a family that adopted a mouse; Hugh Laurie's role is the
definition of underemployment. “Ratatouille” is about a mouse
who's a chef; it drew strong praise for writer-director Brad Bird,
who previously did “Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Doctor Who,”
8 and 9 p.m., BBC America.

First is a rerun of last week's
season-opener, a wonderful blend of whimsy, warmth and
science-fiction.

By the end, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan)
agreed to accompany The Doctor (Matt Smith). Since he's a time lord,
he promised to get her back by the next morning (which, he doesn't
know, is her wedding day).

Then comes their their new adventure.
In the distant future, the Earth has been ruined and people on a
space ship seek a new home.

Other choices include:

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a billionaire disappears and his driver is
killed, after an energy force appears near the Empire State Building.

– “The Graduate” (1967), 8 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies. This wryly witty delight is also one of the
films being shown this weekend in the TCM Classic Film Festival in
Hollywood. Mike Nichols directed superbly, making great use of Dustin
Hoffman and of Simon-and-Garfunkel songs.

– “Law & Order,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Amy Madigan plays a lawyer, arguing that a man was wrongly convicted,
after his student assistant (Anna Chlumsky) went too far to get
testimony.

– “Mothman,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy. Put
this a few notches above the usual Saturday-night horror tale. It has
a talented director (Sheldon Wilson) and a good cast, led by Jewel
Staite as the heroine and Jerry Leggio as the creepy guy. It also has
a moral-choices plot, before the nasty gore begins.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. A
former baseball star has been killed on a trip to Cuba. Also,
Castle's daughter's genealogy project makes him ponder the identity
of his father.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Stephen Rea (“Crying Game”) plays an
ex-con. When his neighbor is missing, her boyfriend points to him as
the prime suspect.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Gabourey Sidibe – the teen who starred in the tragic
“Precious” – might not be associated with comedy. She hosts
tonight, with MGMT as musical guest.

 

TV column for Friday, April 23




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Who Do You Think
You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Susan Sarandon had always heard bad
things about her grandmother Anita Rigali.

This is someone who abandoned her
husband and her 2-year-old daughter (Sarandon's mother). Some people
say she became a showgirl; some say she died.

Now Sarandon finds surprises. “This
is what great, tragic novels are made of,” she says. “And (Anita)
ends up living happily ever after.”

That's no exaggeration. This excellent
series – which concludea next week with Spike Lee – makes us feel
empathy for a woman whose life took some tough turns.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Jamie Oliver's
Food Revolution” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

Oliver made some progress in
Huntington, W. Va. Then he left and the backsliding began.

The schools still have a mountain of
processed food. Many of its cooks are untrained in Oliver's methods;
some of the parents are pulling kids from his program.

Tonight, he makes one last bid to stir
interest, including a surprise concert by country's Rascal Flatts.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Gravity”
debut,” 10:30 p.m., Starz.

As this quirky opener floats by, it
feels like a first-rate, art-house movie.

Robert (Ivan Sergei) is an eye doctor
who seems terribly normal. Lilly (Krysten Ritter) works at the
cosmetics counter and seems wonderfully abnormal. They have nothing
in common, except that they failed (barely) in suicide attempts and
are now in a support group.

“Gravity” is a surprise –
especially coming from Eric Schaeffer, whose previous shows (“Too
Something” and “Starved”) were so-so. As co-creator (with Jill
Franklyn), director and co-star, he's created a gem. Ritter – in a
goth character similar to the one she played in “Breaking Bad” –
is perfect.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, a teen blacks out during a field trip, then has
hallucinations.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In this rerun, one of Eli's patients feels he's being haunted by his
sister's ghost. Meanwhile, Melinda faces another problem: She's used
to ghosts, but Aiden talks of seeing “shiny friends” who aren't
ghosts.

– “Suite Life on Deck,” 8 p.m.,
Disney. Maybe all that Earth Day stuff was contagious. Tonight, the
guys try to save the whales.

– “Wizards of Waverly Place”
(8:30 p.m.), “Suite Life on Deck” (9) and “Hannah Montana”
(9:30), Disney. These three reruns add up to a sort of movie, as
different characters end up on the cruise.

-- "Glee," 9 p.m., Fox. If you missed the terrific Madonna-music episode Tuesday, don't fret; in a late change, Fox has decided to rerun it here. The hour mixes some fairly good humor with at least eight zesty music numbers, complete with cheerleaders, stiltwalkers and marching band.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS. This
rerun has police looking for a serial killer. When the prime suspect
dies, his ghost wants Allison to clear his name; he also may help
catch the real killer.

– “Miami Medical,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A balcony collapses on two people, but one refuses treatment. Also, a
patient arrives with a huge amount of cash.

– “Merlin,” 10 p.m., Syfy. In
this re-telling of the legend, Guinevere is a mere servant. A villain
mistakes her for her master, Morgana, and kidnaps her. Soon. Arthur
and Lancelot are involved.

– “Party Down” season-opener, 10
p.m., Starz. This offbeat comedy centers on a catering team, filled
with people who feel their destiny is elsewhere. Now Henry (Adam
Scott, a Tom Cruise lookalike) is in charge and his old girlfriend
(Lizzy Caplan) is back. Joining them is a zealous stage mom (Megan
Mullally). The opener – at a party for a satanic rocker – mixes
witty humor with a drably gritty look.