TV column for Saturday, March 22



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all day, CBS and cable.


This time, there’s no pause for news or talk shows. CBS
gives us four straight NCAA tournament games; two cable networks add two
apiece.


The CBS games are at noon ET and about 2:30 p.m., then 5 and
about 7:30; TNT is 6 p.m. and about 8:30, TBS is 7 and about 9:30. There are
eight more games Sunday, leaving us with the sweet 16.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Muppets” (2011), 8-10 p.m., Disney.


On the day after “Muppets Most Wanted” opens in theaters,
Disney reruns the previous gem.


Jason Segel co-wrote and starred in it, with Amy Adams –
light years away from her “American Hustle” role – as his sweet his girlfriend.
Bret McKenzie (from the Flight of the Conchords duo) wrote “Man or Muppet,”
which won an Oscar, and other witty songs that were nominated for other awards.
The result is a family film in the true sense – witty enough for parents to
watch with their kids.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci’s Demons” season-opener, 9
p.m., Starz; reruns at 10 and 11.


Last season ended with Florence in crisis. A mob was
storming the palace; Lorenzo de Medici was gravely wounded. Only Leonardo da
Vinci – master of medicine, weaponry, art and love – can save him.


His idea is both gruesome and compelling. Meanwhile, his
friends try to follow the plan to catch a ship to South America; Lucretia
Donati – mistress to da Vinci and de Medici, spy for Rome – is also entwined.


Yes, much of this is iffy historically. Still, it’s smartly
written and superbly filmed. A year ago, this da Vinci was just another TV
playboy; now he bears the future of the Renaissance.


Other choices include:


More family films, cable. Two more films are witty enough
for grown-ups or kids. .“Shrek” (2001), 7 p.m. on the Cartoon Network, is an
animated delight. “The Pink Panther” (1963), 8 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies,
isn’t a cartoon (except for the delightful opening credits), but has brilliant
sight gags.


“Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe,” 8 p.m., ABC. Here’s
a quick rerun of Tuesday’s special, a blatant ad for Marvel. We would object to
all this hype, except that most of it is actually true.


“Ripper Street,” 9-10:15 p.m., BBC America. The murder of a
newspaper boy exposes a larger scheme.


“Crisis,” 10 p.m., NBC. On the eve of the second episode,
here’s another chance to see the opener, with an elaborate kidnapping plot. The
result is more ambitious than CBS’ failed “Hostages” but has the same problems
with strained credibility and a story that’s likely to be stretched out for too
long.


“Ghetto Klown,” 10 p.m., HBO. The notion of a crying clown,
wracked by pain, is a cliché, we’re told; plenty of comedians (from Bill Cosby
to Jerry Seinfeld) have had joy and balance. Still, John Leguizamo seems to
live the cliché. Hugely talented and successful, he finds personal agony that
he puts in his one-man shows. Here, he describes rage toward his parents, two
wives, some co-workers, his best friend and, especially, himself. It’s a
painful journey, spiced with Leguizamo’s knack for humor and warmth.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Jonah Hill hosts
this rerun, with music from Bastille.


TV column for Friday, March 21



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: Basketball, all day, CBS and cable.

By the end of the day, the NCAA tournament will be down to
32 teams, ready for a new round. Before that, however, possible mismatches
loom; you rarely get much buzz about a Duke-Mercer game, which is how CBS
starts its day at 12:15 p.m. ET; cable starts at 12:40 (TruTV), 1:40 (TBS) and
2:10 (TNT).


Still, there are some games that are expected to be tight.
Try Gonzaga and Oklahoma State (4:40 p.m. ET, TNT), then Memphis-George
Washington (6:55, TBS) and Kentucky-Kansas State (9:40, CBS).


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CW.


The notion is simple – put four clever guys on stage, toss
in some odd situations plus props and limits, then see what happens. It could
be awful … except that these guys are really sharp.


A few ideas die, but most soar. Watch people riff on things
you don’t want to hear from your veterinarian (“your goat was delicious”),
things you should say about your house but not your mate (“wow, your backyard
is huge”) or things you shouldn’t shout out during sex (“what are you doing
over there?”). Or watch Wayne Brady improvise a song about Tara Lipinski; these
guys are good. 


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


For a time, John Lennon seemed lost in America. He drank
heavily; he left his wife Yoko Ono for what he called his “lost weekend” – actually,
18 months with May Pang and much alcohol.


Then he returned to Ono and transformed. Their son Sean was
born; Lennon spent five years at home, baking cookies and taking Sean to
Central Park. He had finally returned to the studio when he was killed in 1980.
This rerun offers rich detail, with comments from Ono, Pang and others.


Other choices include:


“Rake,” 8 p.m., Fox. Kate Burton (“Scandal,” “Grey’s
Anatomy”) shows up here as a murder suspect. Things get tough when her lawyer
(Greg Kinnear) becomes a suspect in the murder of the mayor.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. For once, Boyd’s father
and grandfather agree on something. Both oppose the school counselor’s
suggestion that he take medication for attention-deficit disorder.


“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. How reluctant is Debbie to
visit her wild mother (Rhea Perlman)? She takes along the neighbors – who are,
literally, from outer space – to make things more normal.


“Enlisted,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Pete tries to distance
himself from his brothers.


“Raising Hope,” 9:30, Fox. Just as Virginia stops believing
in the supernatural, her husband finds a guy (Mike O’Malley) has been living in
their bomb shelter. He tries to persuade her the house is haunted.


“Blondie’s New York,” 10 p.m., Smithsonian. In its ragged,
1970’s era, New York had a surge of punk-rock bands. Only one had Deborah
Harry, a beautician/barmaid with a unique way of writing and delivering lyrics.
She growled “One Way or Another,” but gave “Heart of Glass” a wispy feel. It
reached No. 1 in 16 countries, this OK documentary says, sparking an album that
has sold 20 million copies.


“Hannibal,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Beverly Katz secretly confers
with Will – who urges her to prove that Hannibal Lecter is the real serial
killer.


TV column for Thursday, March 20



TODAY’S MUST-SEE: College basketball tournament, all day,
CBS and cable.

For the next four days, the NCAA tourney will dominate four
channels. On CBS stations, even the soap operas and some syndicated talk shows
will step aside; David Letterman will be nudged back an hour.


CBS starts with an all-Ohio affair – Dayton and Ohio State
at 12:15 p.m. ET, with Western Michigan and Syracuse at about 2:45. It takes a
news break, then has Wofford and Michigan at 7:10 and Arizona State and Texas
(its best chance for a close match-up) at 9:40. The cable channels go straight
through, each with four games; that starts at 12:30 p.m. ET on TruTV, 1:40 on
TBS, 2:10 on TNT.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.


At 20, Keke Palmer drifts easily from musicals (“Joyful
Noise”) to cartoons, from kid comedy (“True Jackson”) to drama (“Akeelah and the
Bee.”). Now she’s on the drama side, as an expectant mother.


Meanwhile, Meredith hires a research assistant for her own
study. And on his birthday, Richard is invited by Bailey to scrub in on what
might be the case of a lifetime.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Chicagoland,” 10 p.m., CNN.


Chicago seemed giddy as it neared last year’s July 4
celebration. We see a music festival, a comedy event and the gay-pride parade;
we see some teens in an intense theater production and one propelled to a
career as a chef. We see graduations, including an academy that has every
student going to college.


But summer is also the most dangerous time. Over the long
Fourth weekend, more than 70 people were shot, a dozen of them killed. Dr.
Andrew Dennis struggles in an effort to save a bystander, then learns details
of the man’s life. These are moving moments in the third chapter of a great
documentary series.


Other choices include:


“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” 8 p.m., ABC. Jafar (Naveen
Andrews) causes big trouble. Now Alice learns about his prisoners; the Red
Queen can only be saved if the Knave gives him key information.


“Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. The team decides the perfect way
to re-unite Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) with his son (David Cross) is a
rousing game of “Dungeons & Dragons.”


“American Idol,” 9 p.m., Fox. Tonight, barring a save, the field
trims from 10 to nine. First, Jennifer Lopez (one of the judges) sings “I Luh
Ya Papi”; also, Royal Teeth does “Wild.”


“The Red Road,” 9 p.m., Sundance. Trying to cover up his
troubled wife’s involvement in a hit-and-run accident, a cop must co-operate
with a giant drug dealer who knows the truth. Tonight ends powerfully.


“Scandal,” 10 p.m., ABC. There’s White House consternation
when Sally sets a meeting with the NRA.


“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. While Sarah frets about her
advertising project, one of her kids (Amber) tries to nudge the other (Drew) to
get his life back. Also, their cousin Max has trouble understanding his
classmates during a school trip.


“Review,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. After plunging into such
experiences as stealing and racism, Forrest (played by Andrew Daly) goes even
darker tonight. The result is funny in a very down sort of way.


TV column for Wednesday, March 19



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Survivor” (CBS) or “American Idol”
(Fox), both 8 p.m.

Each Wednesday, the original reality giants collide.
Tonight, each is at a pivotal point.


“Survivor” has seen its “brains-brawn-beauty” theme collapse;
the “brains” tribe lost three people in four weeks (“beauty” lost the other),
so they’ll re-form into two tribes. Meanwhile, “Idol” has found its top 10 for
a tour; tonight, they do songs that reached the top 10 sometime between 2010
and now.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The 100” debut, 9 p.m., CW.


Our story starts almost a century after nuclear radiation
made the planet uninhabitable. The only sure survivors were people on space stations;
generations later, they send 100 young prisoners back to Earth.


In theory, they’ll monitor life down there … sort of like
the Greek dramas, with the gods controlling from above. These young rebels,
however, defy the plan.  Ramping up the
drama, “100” creates antagonism that’s unrealistic, even on a planet of
prisoners. Still, it has an interesting plot and a telegenic cast, led by Eliza
Taylor and Marie Avgeropoulos as young opposites, pragmatic and passionate.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.


Things are caving in on these Russian spies. She’s trying to
seduce an earnest young sailor into stealing classified records; his fake
marriage (to a woman who thinks he’s an American agent) is wobbling.


In their marriage to each other, the big problem is that
their daughter – who thinks this is an ordinary, suburban-American family – is
praying and going to a church. (For 1980s Russian spies, this is worrisome.)
And then, in tonight’s final minutes, there’s a fierce surprise; it’s another
great episode.


Other choices include:


“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. While Monroe tries an attack on
the Patriots, Miles and Gene look for allies.


“Who the (bleep) is Arthur Fogel,” 8 p.m., Epix. This
interesting documentary was previously yanked, ostensibly to add Lady Gaga
footage. It profiles the quiet Canadian who stages epic rock tours.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jay’s dinner reservation
is endangered when everyone (including his wife Gloria) is running late.


“Mixology,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. It’s time for Cal to have his
moment, in a potential connection with a sweet waitress … except that the
moment (like the show itself) is promptly blighted by his semi-friend Bruce.
There are some good bits -- especially with shy Liv and drolly British Ron -- but
the rest is so-so.


“Legit,” 10 p.m., FXX. At his class reunion, Jim finds some
surprisingly sweet and moving moments. There’s humor around him, however, and his
friend Steve soon descends into drunken excess.


“Doll & Em” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., HBO. It’s lucky
this airs two episodes, because the first one takes British restraint to an
extreme. Slow and dry, it sees a Hollywood star (Emily Mortimer) hire her
friend (Dolly Wells) as an assistant. The second half-hour starts to offer
brief blips of drama and comedy.


“Deal With It” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., TBS. With hidden
cameras set up in busy restaurants, people win money by following the odd
instructions that celebrities (tonight, Howie Mandel and Nick Cannon) say into
their earpieces. The result is mildly amusing.


 


TV column for Tuesday, March 18



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox.


For its 100h episode, “Glee” goes with big – and
familiar – music. Viewers chose the show’s 10 best songs, now a reunion has
people doing new versions of songs others did earlier.


The New York people (Rachel, Kurt, Santana) are back. So are
other grads (Quinn, Puck, Mercedes, Brittany), guest stars (Gwyneth Paltrow,
Kristin Chenoweth) and current glee-clubbers.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Growing Up Fisher,” 9:31 p.m., NBC.


Mel (J.K. Simmons) clearly has trust issues; he’s blind, but
doesn’t trust his guide dog. Do we really expect him to trust his teen daughter
Katie?


His ex-wife is more trusting, which may be a problem. (Did
we mention that Katie is a teen-ager?) That leads to funny moments, in an
episode that also has Henry get a glimpse at his friend’s family.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: 
“Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe,” 8 p.m., ABC.


There are good reasons to resent this special -- an hour-long
commercial for Marvel movies, with other commercials tucked inside. People keep
praising each other in hollow, actor-speak words.


We’d be more upset, except that much of the praise is
accurate: Marvel Comics had sold film rights to its top characters – Spider-Man,
X-Men, Fantastic Four; it was building a studio with what one newspaper dubbed
“second-string superheroes.” Then it soared. It hired Shakespeareans (Kenneth
Branagh, Tom Hiddleston), an Oscar-winner (Gwyneth Paltrow), an offbeat star
(Robert Downey Jr.). It mixed wit with slam-bang action, creating popular films
that don’t need hollow praise.


Other choices include:


Basketball, 6:30 p.m., TruTV. Doubleheaders today and
Wednesday will determine the last four teams in the NCAA tournament’s field of 64.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A bomb has exploded at a military
charity concert. The team ponders if it was aimed at an old rock star (Keith
Carradine) or was part of a broader plot.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When an undercover agent
is killed, the team searches for a mole. Also, Granger frets as Kensi goes
missing in Afghanistan. 


“Mind Games,” 10 p.m., ABC. The main story – subtly
influencing a politician – is weak. A secondary one, tricking a reporter, has
its moments because of the addition of Jaime Ray Newman as a scam artist.


“Justified,” 10 p.m., FX. Dewey Crowe is weaving through the
South with a truck full of cocaine. This is not good news for anyone, including
Dewey. Parts of the Crowe saga end fiercely, in a strong (if scattered) hour
that also has key moments inside the women’s prison.


“Laff Mobb’s We Got Next,” 10 p.m., Aspire. The notion of a
clean-comedy stand-up hour is good, but the execution is erratic. Some bits
score, including Barry Brewer on airliner snobbery and Debra Terry on being married
to Jesus; others are merely OK.


“Chrisley Knows Best,” 10 p.m., USA.  How do you bond with a quiet son-in-law? In a
so-so episode, Todd Chrisley tries some target-shooting and a thoughtful gift –
breast enlargement for his daughter.