TV column for Sunday, March 28




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Life,” 8 and 9
p.m., Discovery.

Most humans will lean to the first
hour, about mammals. There's maternal warmth, as elephants combine to
raise their young; when a baby is sinking into the mud, the
grandmother nudges the mom aside and performs the rescue. There's
macho energy as humpback whales race after a lone female.

Still, the second hour, on fish, tops
that for sheer beauty. There's splendid footage of the “convict
fish,” the “weedy sea dragon” and more. The gobies attach to
rocks and climb a 400-foot waterfall; the Japanese mudskippers spend
hours out of the water, feeding and fighting.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Castle,”
10:01 p.m., ABC.

If you missed Monday's episode, catch
this quick rerun. Richard Castle, the crime novelist, adds a strong
ally (an FBI agent, played by Dana Delany) and a stronger enemy.

The latter reads Castle's novels and
obsesses on the fictional Nikki Heat and the cop she was based on,
Kate Beckett. There's a big finish that sets up the next episode,
Monday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece
Classic: Sharpe's Challenge” (PBS) or “The Pacific” (HBO), both
9 p.m.

Here are two stories about soldiers –
one fictional, the other about real-life Marines.

For 14 films, from 1993-97, Sean Bean
portrayed Sharpe. He started as a rogue-ish sergeant, given a field
promotion; he retired as a lieutenant colonel who helped stop
Napoleon.

Now Bean is back at 50, with Sharpe
trying to rescue his friend in India. Padma Lakshmi (the “Top Chef”
host) plays a scheming beauty, with Toby Stephens (Mr. Rochester in
“Jane Eyre”) as her lover.

Meanwhile, “The Pacific” offers a
break after the ferocity of Guadalcanal. In Australia, the men are
greeted as heroes; Robert Leckie, unaccustomed to family warmth,
finds respite with a beauty and her Greek-immigrant mom. Beautifully
filmed, the hour subtly captures joy and despair.

Other choices include:

– Basketball, 1 p.m., CBS. After this
double-header, we'll know the final four for the men's tournament.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Here's a Palm Sunday surprise – Homer in the Holy Land. At first,
he's mainly interested in the breakfast buffet. Then an eccentric
tour guide (Sacha Baron Cohen) takes over.

– “Celebrity Apprentice,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. So far, the teams have each lost once,with Carol Leifer
and Sinbad being ousted. Now the third task involves designing a
four-page advertising section.

– “Desperate Housewives,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. In a rerun, judgments abound. People consider Gabrielle a bad
parent; a motel maid considers Bree a tramp. Also, Susan and Karl
fight over Mike.

– “Sons of Tucson,” 9:30 p.m.,
Fox. Ron befriends a cop and hatches a scheme involving prescriptions
across the border. Meanwhile, the boys want to make a movie.

– “Breaking Bad,” 10 p.m., AMC.
This carefully crafted drama sometimes needs a burst of fresh energy.
It gets that tonight with the return of Bob Odenkirk as the lawyer
who calls himself Saul Goodman. He helps Jesse with a big step;
meanwhile, Walt wobbles as hit men get closer.

 

TV column for Saturday, March 27




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: College basketball,
noon ET, ESPN; 1 p.m. ET, CBS.

The women have trimmed their field to
16 now, with four games on cable today. They're at noon, 2 p.m. and 9
p.m. on ESPN, then at 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

Meanwhile, the men are down to their
final eight. CBS has double-headers today (1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.) and
Sunday, to decide this year's final four.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Kids' Choice
Awards,” 8 and 10 p.m.; “Victorious” debut, 9:30 p.m.; all
Nickelodeon.

This is the night when Nickelodeon
dominates young viewers. Its award show delivers comedy (Kevin
James), music (Justin Bieber and Rihanna), slime and silly
categories.

How silly? Kristen Stewart is in
“cutest couple” twice – with Robert Pattenson and Taylor
Lautner of “Twilight.” They face a blue couple in “Avatar”
and Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House.

After that show is the debut of
“Victorious,” which requires some patience. The first half –
performed at full-volume scream – is quite awful, but sets up the
rest: A regular teen (played by Victoria Justice of “Zoey 101”)
is at Hollywood Arts High School with odd classmates and an odder
teacher. There are some fun moments there, including a cleverly
written game of “alphabetical improv.”

Other choices include:

– “V,” 8 and 9 p.m. ABC. This
show finally returns Tuesday with new episodes. First, these reruns
set it up. The visitors from outer-space draw mixed reactions. Erica
(Elizabeth Mitchell) protects them, Ryan (Morris Chestnut) gathers
opposition, Chad (Scott Wolf) does news stories and starts to have
doubts.

– “The Andromeda Strain” (2008),
8 p.m. to midnight, A&E. Michael Crichton's novel, originally
filmed in 1971, has been stretched into this mini-series. There are
flashy moments at first, as a space satellite brings a fierce virus.
Soon, however, we have the tense drama of scientists scrambling for a
solution. Mikael Salomon beautifully directed a cast led by Benjamin
Bratt and Rick Schroder.

– “Gran Torino” (2008), 8:30
p.m., HBO. This tale – an angry old man (Clint Eastwood) fumes
about his Hmong neighbors – sometimes seems stiff and forced. It's
leading, however, to a great finish.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.
(barring a basketball overrun), CBS. Sam feels torn, after learning
that his former Navy SEAL colleagues may be involved in the murder of
a drug dealer.

– “Law & Order,” 9 p.m.,NBC.
The murder of a reporter leads to a probe of affairs centering on the
host of a daytime talk show.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. A girl says she was raped in the stairwell of
her apartment building. Her story is perplexing, though, so Benson
and Stabler rush to verify it.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. Wealthy
people are being killed in home invasions. To investigate, Kate must
step into the unfamiliar turf of the rich and famous.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the second hosting stint by Jon Hamm of
“Mad Men.” Michael Buble is the musical guest.

TV column for Friday, March 26




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Jamie Oliver's
Food Revolution,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

In the solid series-opener – which
debuted Sunday and reruns at 8 p.m. – Jamie Oliver arrived from
England. He had chosen Huntington, W.Va. (which topped a government
list for obesity and poor health) to spread his campaign of better
food.

Lacking the American style of political
correctness, Oliver soon called the women “dear” and “sweetie”
and called a school cook a “lunch lady.” He met resistance from
the cooks, a disc jockey and kids who liked pizza for breakfast. He
was encouraged by a pastor and a family that wanted to learn.

In tonight's new hour, he makes
progress with the family and gives a teen a personal cooking lesson,
but continues to face trouble at school.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, 7
p.m., CBS.

The network jumps between four games,
three with Big Ten teams. Ohio State faces Tennessee at 7:07 p.m.,
Michigan State faces Northern Iowa (fresh from its upset of
top-ranked Kansas) at about 9:37 and Purdue faces Duke at 9:57. The
only game without a Big Ten team starts at 7:27, with St. Mary's
(fresh from upsetting Villanova) and Baylor.

By the end of the night, we'll have the
elite eight, with weekend games trimming that to four.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Chandon
Pictures” debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m., Sundance.

Tom Chandon mostly films weddings and
children's parties, but he says he's a “documenteur.” So far,
his only proof is,“Oh No, Bonzo: The Clown Who Killed a Child.”

He struggles ahead, aided by a
cameraman and an overstressed office manager, in this clever
Australian series starring and written by Rob Carlton. Tonight's
opener has some wildly funny moments involving a wedding between
cousins; the second episode is bittersweet, at career day in his old
school.

Other choices include:

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Joseph and Mary Broderick lived quietly, but had
Emmy-nominated actors as their son (James) and grandson (Matthew).
Now Matthew digs into their past. He walks the World War I field
where his grandfather (later a mailman) was wounded, and the Civil
War field where a great-grandfather was killed. This is the mildest
of the seven hours in this well-made series, but still has some good
moments.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a good
rerun, a football player faces a series of symptoms, before try-outs.
Foreman's underachieving brother (Orlando Jones) arrives and soon is
part of House's schemes.

– “Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars,” 8
p.m., Disney Channel. Featured in kids' books, Harriet now goes
higher-tech. She wants to be the official school blogger. To do so,
she starts spilling secrets about the teen-idol star of a movie her
dad is producing.

– “Caprica” season-finale, 9
p.m., Syfy. In last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), Daniel
began to realize that the avatar of his late daughter Zoe is hiding
inside a Cylon. Now he sets a deadline for re-setting the Cylon; Zoe
must find a way to save herself.

– “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” 10
p.m., Starz. There's new trouble for the gladiators: On his 15th
birthday, Numerius is given control over them.

 

TV column for Thursday, March 25




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “FlashForward,”
8 p.m., ABC; and “Fringe,” 9 p.m., Fox.

For viewers who want good fantasy
fiction, this has become (alongside Fridays) the best night.

“FlashForward” has new episodes
every week, as people struggle with the visions – six months in the
future – they had during the black-out. Mark pushes Lloyd about
their future phone call; Zoey scrambles to avert Demetri's death.
Aaron tries to learn why the Jericho unit is going after his
daughter.

“Fringe” will be back to new
episodes next week. First comes a terrific rerun.

Some force was able to smite a single
building in Manhattan, killing almost everyone. Walter feels this
reflects on something he worked on decades ago … and involves a key
link to Olivia.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, 7
p.m. ET, CBS.

The sweet-16 showdowns begin for the
men's tournament, with CBS' approach varying by region.

In Salt Lake City, top-seeded Syracuse
faces Butler at 7:07 p.m.; second-seeded Kansas State faces Xavier at
about 9:37. In Syracuse, the top seeds each face a team that pulled a
big upset. It's second-seeded West Virginia and Washington at 7:27,
top-seeded Kentucky and Cornell at 9:57.

Other choices include:

– “Vampire Diaries” (8 p.m.) and
“Supernatural” (9 p.m.), CW. Here's further proof that this is a
big fantasy-fiction night. In the first hour, Matt's mom visits and
Elena seeks her birth mother. In the second, the dead are coming to
life in his home town.

– “The Parent Trap” (1998, ABC
Family) or “Mean Girls” (2004, TBS), both 8 p.m. Here are
reminders that Lindsay Lohan was a skilled and diligent actress, long
before she became a gossip item. She was only 12 when she had the
double role in the “Parent Trap” rerun, 17 when she starred in
“Mean Girls,” for which Tina Fey wrote a witty script and
co-starred.

– “Monsters vs. Aliens” (2009,
HBO) or “Night at the Museum” (2006, FX), 8 p.m. Here are two
more films that are popular with families. “Monsters,” in
particular, is an animated delight.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
A young patient (former “Roseanne” star Sara Gilbert) wants
doctor-assisted suicide, which is legal in the state of Washington.
Teddy (Kim Raver) wants to co-operate; Owen (Kevin McKidd) rages,
flashing back to their year together in Iraq.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. The
game cheers up during happy hour – until Michael goes too far.

– “30 Rock,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Liz
re-thinks her ex-boyfriend Floyd when he returns with news.

– “The Marriage Ref,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Early on, NBC gave us a shorter glimpse of Jerry Seinfeld, Kelly
Ripa and Alec Baldwin as the non-expert panel. Here's a full-hour
version.

– “Private Practice,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Like tonight's “Grey's,” this hour deals with the medical
details of death. A husband has approved taking his wife off
life-support; a judge stops that, however, because she's a surrogate
carrying a baby.

 

TV column for Wednesday, March 24




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS, and “American Idol,” 9 p.m., Fox.

These reality giants are back-to-back,
with “Survivor” airing a day earlier than usual.

So far, the “Heroes vs. Villains”
edition of “Survivor” has been tough on heroes. Tom Westman, the
seemingly invincible firefighter, was ousted, following Jessica
“Sugar” Kuiper, Stephenie LaGrossa and Cirie Fields; among
villains, only Randy Bailey is gone. Tonight brings two eliminations.

And for “Idol,” this is a crucial
results night. The 10 survivors will go on tour this summer.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Great
Performances,” 8-9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Back in 1958, fresh from his “West
Side Story” triumph, Jerome Robbins crafted his “NY Export: Opus
Jazz” on tour to Europe. It sampled on “The Ed Sullivan Show,”
then drew tumultuous approval in Europe; audiences raved about this
“ballet in sneakers,” portraying the vibrancy of city youth.

Now two New York City Ballet soloists
have produced a new, film version, using haunting city backdrops.
This starts slowly, then becomes compelling. There's a fierce sexual
and emotional energy to these gifted young dancers in jeans, shorts
and T-shirts; directors Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes have crafted a
masterpiece. It's only 40 minutes, so stick around for a short film
about the original.

Other choices include:

– “Modern Family,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. First is a rerun in which Mitchell plants the thought that his
dad's friend (Chazz Palminteri) is gay. Then a new episode includes a
very funny scene in which Cameron's insult (of someone who studied at
Brown) sounds like a racial slur.

– “The Middle,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Frankie is busy at work, where a sales motivator (Amy Sedaris) has
stirred things up. That leaves Mike trying to help each of the three
kids.

– “Great Performances at the Met,”
9-11 p. m., PBS (check local listings). E.T.A. Hoffmann's stories
fueled two classic ballets, “The Nutcracker” and “Coppelia”;
his life fueled “Tales of Hoffmann,” this opera about an
alcoholic and lovelorn writer with a rich imagination. Bartlett Sher
– a Tony-winning director for the “South Pacific” remake –
gives it a richly visual production. The between-act interviews with
the stars – Joseph Calleja, Alan Held, Kate Lindsey, Kathleen Kim –
are quite good.

– “Fly Girls” debut, 9 p.m., CW.
For a network descended from the dandy WB, this reality show is an
all-time low. We meet five Virgin Airlines flight attendants, sharing
living quarters near a California beach. All are attractive, one is
mean, another is whiny. When those two argue, “Fly Girls”
crashes.

– “Cougar Town,” 9:30 p.m., ABC.
Trying to prove she can change in her 40s, Jules vows tp go a month
without wine … despite the fact that all her fun has been
wine-related. Meanwhile, Sheryl Crow begins a three-episode stay as a
wine representative chasing Grayson … who dates women half her age.

– “Ugly Betty,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
A chatty orthodontist (Kathy Najimy) is ready to remove Betty's
braces. Then comes a dream in which Betty never needed braces; she
was the pretty (and mean) one.

– “Ugly Americans,” 10:30 p.m.,
Comedy Central. In an OK episode, Mark asks a werewolf and his victim
to trust each other. This won't be easy, since the former has already
eaten the latter's arm.