TV column for Monday, March 1

Mother” (8 p.m.) and “Rules of Engagement” season-opener
(8:30), both CBS.

With the Olympics gone, CBS returns to
new episodes. This “Mother” is funny, but erratic; the happy
surprise is that “Rules” has a good episode tonight and an even
better one next week.

Tonight involves keeping people “on
the hook” – not telling them there's no chance for romance. A
beauty (Carrie Underwood) has hooked Ted, who has hooked a nice
librarian; Lilly, who's married, still can't reject her old high
school beau. It's all big and broad and, on occasion, quite funny.

Then “Rules” has Jeff (Patrick
Warburton) in his usual state. He doesn't know how to text; he
doesn't know his secretary is flirting with him. The two intersect

finale, 8 p.m., with follow-up at 10:05.

A sometimes-messy ediction ends with
Jake Pavelka, the 32-year-old pilot, facing opposite choices.

There's Tenley Molzahn, 25, who works
in college admissions. And there's Vienna Girardi, 23, who says she's
a marketing representative. Skeptics – there seem to be many –
say she's a dancer and Hooters girl. Each has one more date with
Pavelka, before his decision.

Order,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

NBC's mega-makeover is a mixed deal.
Taking Jay Leno's old 10 p.m. slot are two new shows (the excellent
“Parenthood” and the promising “Marriage Ref”) and three
transplanted ones. “Law & Order” tries two episodes tonight,
then settles back to one.

Both of tonight's hours have young
people committing horrendous acts. Both are fairly solid and
workmanlike, but nothing more – with one exception.

Late in the first hour, Lupo (Jeremy
Sisco) tells the others ( Anthony Anderson, Linus Roache) of a
problem on the witness stand. We're reminded that the show has
terrific – if underused – actors.

Other choices include:

– “Chuck,” 8 p.m., NBC. This
terrific show begins its post-Olympic run with Chuck in a bind. He's
supposed to cook dinner for his sister, brother-in-law and gorgeous
co-worker (Kristin Kreuk of “Smallville”). First, he must go
undercover as the world's most dangerous assassin.

– “American Experience,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Dolley Madison's father followed
the Quaker decision to free slaves. He soon went bankrupt; later, a
widowed Dolley would marry the slave-owning James Madison. He was a
small and uncharismatic bachelor; she was a dynamic social force who
helped him become president. She would, this terrific film says, make
the White House a social structure and “First Lady” a job
description. She would even save George Washington's portrait.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Charlie returns from Las Vegas with a new wife – who's not
Chelsea. Stacy Keach and John Amos are guest stars.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30
p.m., CBS. When Sheldon goes to traffic court, he misses a chance to
meet a hero, comic-book creator Stan Lee.

– “Diary of a Call Girl” and “La
La Land,” 10 and 11 p.m., Showtime. First is an OK (and
great-looking) episode, as Hannah considers a real romance. Then the
loopy “La La” ends its season with a shaky episode that has some
hilarious moments.

– “Tonight,” 11:35 p.m., NBC. Jay
Leno returns on the backs of Olympic stars – Lindsey Vonn tonight,
Shaun White on Tuesday, Apolo Ohno on Wednesday. Also tonight –
Jamie Foxx and Brad Paisley.

TV column for Sunday, Feb. 28

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Winter Olympics
finale, noon to 6 p.m., 7-10:30 p.m., NBC.

There are still a couple gold medals
left to be settled. That includes the final hockey game (at 3:15
p.m.) and the men's 50-kilometer cross-country ski ordeal.

And there will be time to talk about
what's already happened. From 6 a.m. to noon, MSNBC reruns the
Champions Gala for figure skaters and looks at the winners

In the evening, the games hold their
closing ceremony. NBC pauses for a “Marriage Ref” preview and
local news, then shows a closing party in Vancouver, from 11:35 p.m.
to 12:35 a.m.

Classic,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Englishmen keep re-making this. Alfred
Hitchcock did a 1935 film; others followed in '59 and '78.

The story has a quick and breezy
appeal, thrusting an almost-ordinary chap into an adventure.

An ex-spy (Rupert Penry-Jones) happens
onto a murder. He becomes a suspect, flees and lets himself be
mistaken for someone else – which brings extra problems.

Amid schemes to ignite the first world
war, lots of people aren't who they say they are. In one frantic day,
he's forever fleeing with a mystery woman (Lydia Leonard). Despite
stretching credibility, “39 Steps” is great fun, making fine use
of the period and of the British countryside.

Other choices include:

– “The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, the show's first grandmother-granddaughter team was
ousted, when Jody Kelly, 71, and Shannon Foster, 22, finished last.
That came a week after the married Dana and Adrian Davis were dumped.
Now nine duos race from Chile to Argentina.

– “Ben Hur” (1959), 8 p.m. to
midnight, Turner Classic Movies. A week before Oscar night, here's an
epic that won 11 Academy Awards. The Roman-era tale is too long and
overstuffed, but impressive.

– “Big Love,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Marilyn (Sissy Spacek) has a scheme that affects Bill's political

– “Cold Case,” 10 p.m., CBS. You
probably shouldn't invite these people to your wedding: Bored, team
members spend their time deciding if the bride killed her previous

– “How to Make It in America,” 10
p.m., HBO. The guys are still scheming to launch their Crisp jeans
line with little money. That's part of an OK episode that has some
funny moments after Rachel, the designer, meets an old college friend
who is saving lives.

– “Brothers & Sisters,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Last week's episode started with one jolt (Rebecca's
miscarriage) and ended with another – Luc, Sarah's lover, returning
from France. Now both are key in a fairly good episode. Unlike the
talkative Walkers, Rebecca wants to be alone. Meanwhile, Luc's visa
troubles have the entire family scheming, including some cute nods to
“The Graduate.”

– “The Marriage Ref,” about
10:30 p.m., NBC. Jerry Seinfeld produced this show and will be in the
first couple episodes. By his description, at least, this sounds like
fun: Couples' disputes are taped and shown to a panel of non-experts;
then one guy (comedian Tom Papa) arbitrarily says who's right. The
opener (Thursday) will have Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin and Kelly Ripa;
first, here's a half-hour preview.


TV column for Saturday, Feb. 27

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

After being bumped by the Olympics
twice, this shows returns.

Jennifer Lopez will double as the host
and the musical guest. Also, we wouldn't be surprised to see some
Olympic sketches.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Winter Olympics,
1-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m., NBC.

For people who savor the pure beauty of
figure-skating, this is ideal. Tonight is the “Champions Gala.”

Now the rules are gone and the
medal-winners can entertain. Instead of just putting a bunch of jumps
together, they can put on a show.

That includes the two men who had a
close and controversial race – Evan Lysacek (gold) of the U.S. and
Evgeni Plushenko (silver) of Russia – and more. It should be fun.

Other events have their gold-medal
finals today. The afternoon has men's and women's speedskating
pursuit; the evening has men's Alpine skiing slalom. Others start in
the afternoon and have their finals at night; they include the
four-man bobsled and the parallel giant slalom.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Order of
the Phoenix” (2007), 8-11 p.m., ABC. Harry's in trouble for using
magic outside of school. More troubles include the hard-edged Dolores
Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) and the demonic Lord Voldemort (Ralph
Fiennes). In defense, Harry starts a rebel group.

– “Numb3rs,” 8 p.m., CBS. This
rerun centers on kids: Charlie and Amita talk about having some; Don
and his team search for a geneticist's daughter who's been kidnapped
and may be a clone.

– “Cold Case,” 9 p.m., CBS. This
rerun flashes back to 1944, when the first women pilots flew
non-combat missions. It's a good hour, with guest spots by Michael
Learned (“The Waltons”) and John Aniston (“Days of Our Lives”),
Jennifer's dad.

– “Survivors,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. The excellent opener had survivors scrambling to create a
world after a fierce virus has killed most people. Last week's hour
(rerunning at 8 p.m.) turned surprisingly dark, with rogues and
criminals. This one finds a more interesting balance between greed,
fear and humanity. Amid the terror, there are hints of civilization.

– “Beauty and the Beasts: A Dark
Tale,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy. In a ragged village, Belle (Estella Warren)
is a fairly typical washerwoman's daughter. (Except, of course, that
she has collagen lips, dyed blonde hair and a great mini-skirt.) Now
she finds the woods has two scary-looking chaps, one good and one
evil. This is a low-rent version of the fairy tale, offering action,
extreme gore and an almost random combination of actors with and
without talent.

– “Pit Boss” season finale, 10
p.m., Animal Planet. This reality show focuses on “Shorty” Rossi,
the little person (4-foot tall) whose pit bulls almost outweigh him.
Tonight, he tries a car wash, to raise money for his dog-rescue

– “Titanic” (1997), 10:15 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies. Eight days from now, James Cameron's “Avatar”
will be a big factor on Oscar night. First, here's a chance to catch
his previous film, a superb blend of big-scale action and intimate
drama. It won 11 Oscars, including best picture, And it follows
another best-picure winner – the fun-and-sexy “Tom Jones”
(1963) – at 8 p.m.

TV column for Friday, Feb. 26

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Image awards, 8-10
p.m., Fox.

Each year, this NAACP show brings
stars, idealism and bursts of great music.

This time it's live, with two double-nominees as host. Anika Noni Rose is nominated for her voice work in "The Princess and the Frog" and for her brilliant supporting work in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." Hill Harper is nominated for his "CSI:NY" work and for his book. Honorary awards go to Tyler Perry, who builr his own studio and backlot in Atlanta, and to Wyclef Jean, an activist for his native Haiti.

Best-movie nominees are “Blind Side, “Invictus,”
“Precious,” “Princess and the Frog” and Michael
Jackson's “This Is It.”

In TV, the dramas are “Grey's
Anatomy,” “Cold Case” and three cable shows – “Hawthorne,”
“Lincoln Heights” and “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”
The comedies are “Glee,” “30 Rock,” “Ugly Betty,” Perry's
“House of Payne” and “Everybody Hates

There are plenty of top names nominated
in acting (Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx) and music, where the
best-album choices are from Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Mariah
Carrey, Mazwell and Jay-Z.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Winter Olympics,
3-5 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m. and 12:05 to 1:30 a.m., NBC.

The semi-finals of the men's hockey
tournament will be split over two networks. NBC has one game at 3
p.m.; CNBC has the other at 9:30.

In the evening, key stars are back:
Lindsey Vonn is in the slalom. Apolo Ohno – already with a
U.S.-record seven medals – is in the 500-meter and in the
5,000-meter relay, both with gold-medal finals.

There are more gold-medal finals. Women
have the parallel giant slalom snowboard in the evening and the
1,000-meter quarterfinals late-night.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons Movie” (2007),
7-9 p.m., FX. In a clever cartoon comedy, Springfield is encased in a
dome. It's Homer's fault, of course.

– “Blades of Glory” (2007), 8-10
p.m., ABC. After a fierce feud, two figure-skaters (Will Ferrell and
Jon Heder) become the first all-male pairs team. It's a funny idea
and some of the skating scenes are great; other moments stretch

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, the father of Eli (Jamie Kennedy) has a massive heart
attack. That creates a reunion with Eli's mom – still unable to
cross over, 10 years after her death.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Allison's visions get especially serious in this rerun: She may be
able to stop a bio-terror attack.

– “Flower Girl” (2009), 9-11
p.m., Hallmark. Marla Sokoloff plays a flower-shop owner who is
forever working on other people's weddings. It's a flowery film that
looks great and feels pleasant.

– “The Life and Times of Tim,”
9:30 p.m., HBO. After a terrific season-opener last week, here are
two more comic, animated tales. In one, Tim meets the suspended
priest who's ready to return to work; in the other, he takes a trip
to Atlantic City and sees someone familiar.

– “Numb3rs,” 10 p.m., CBS. This
rerun involves a gambling ring dealing with big-money
Russian-roulette games. Also, Charley and Don worry about their dad's

– “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” 10
p.m., Starz. Triumphing in the ring, Spartacus envisions being
re-united with his wife. If something goes wrong, however, he
considers an escape.


TV column for Thursday, Feb. 25

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

Here's the first elimination show.
“Idol” dumps two men and two women, trimming a strong to 20.

Also, two of last year's leaders are back. Allison Iraheta (who finished fourth) sings "Scars"; Kris Allen (the winner) sings "Let It Be."

Before winning, Allen had missionary trips to
Morocco, South Africa and Thailand; now he'll show footage of his
trip to Haiti for the United Nations Foundation. Viewers will be
asked to donate money in advance of this year's “Idol Gives Back.”

TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Olympics, 3-5 p.m., 8
p.m. to midnight, 12:35-2 a.m., NBC; plus cable.

Women on ice will offer opposite moods
tonight. They'll swirl sweetly, crash fiercely.

The figure-skating finals are tonight,
with a preview this afternoon and follow-up late-night. Even without
an American among the favorites, that's expected to be a big ratings

Before that, however, MSNBC wraps up the
women's hockey tournament. The bronze-medal game (Finland and Sweden) is 2 p.m.; the
gold-medal game (U.S. and Canada) is 6:30.

There's skiing tonight (barring weather
delays). The men have Nordic combined and the gold-medal finals of
freestyle aerials.

10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Classic country music calls for great
sidemen and Willie Nelson has them all here. His band has steep
talent at fiddle, banjo, steel guitar and more – including Mickey
Raphael's great harmonica work.

They back up songs from Nelson's
upcoming “Country Music” CD. These are classics of people in
agony (“Your Poison Love,” “Dark as a Dungeon,” “Man With
the Blues,” “Cry, Cry Darling,” “You Done Me Wrong”) or
making futile efforts at self-medication in “Whiskey River” and
“Drinking Champagne (and Feeling No Pain).” That's classic

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Things
have been tough for the heroic. In this “Heroes vs. Villains”
edition, the first two weeks have dumped heroines – Jessica “Sugar”
Kiper and Stephenie Lagrossa; tonight, CBS says, one of the strongest
women takes a big chance.

– “The Deep End,” 8 p.m., ABC. A
charity event, put on by the ex-married Cliff and Susan, is coming up
in this hour – the last of the season, and maybe forever. Staffers
try to wrap up tough cases involving a dishonest insurance company
and a young client facing jail time for texting a photo.

– “Hotel Rwanda” (2004), 8-10
p.m., MyNetwork. This true story of a hotel manager, scrambling to
save lives amid the Rwanda massacres, drew steep praise. There were
Oscar nominations for star Don Cheadle, co-star Sophie Okonedo and
the script.

– “Nancy Drew” (2007), 8-10 p.m.,
ABC Family. Emma Roberts – Eric's daughter, Julia's niece – stars
in this mystery. It's pleasant enough, but seems like a TV tale, not
a movie; now it's in its rightful place.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun catches a point when the hospital merger left the
emergency room in chaos. After a burn victim dies unexpectedly, the
Chief interrogates the doctors.

– “The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, the team tries to learn who was behind a violent crime in
its office.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, no witnesses will speak out after a
shoot-out in Koreatown.