TV column for Thursday, March 24


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

Two weeks from the
show's finale, only five people remain. Last week, Tristan McIntosh
was sent home; that means the last person to be an “Idol”
champion will be La'Porsha Renae, Trent Harmon, Sonika Vaid, Dalton
Rapattoni or MacKenzie Bourg.

They'll each do two
songs tonight, mentored by Sia (who will also sing) and Steve Van
Zandt. Also, Katharine McPhee will sing “Somewhere Over the
Rainbow.” After being the “Idol” runner-up to Taylor Hicks in
2006, McPhee became a TV star, singing (“Smash”) and not
(“Scorpion”).

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Catch” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

Shonda Rhimes
usually fills our Thursdays with soap-style dramas. Now she's
produced a sleek show with the look of a crime-catcher movie; the
show's stars also get a change-of-pace.

There's Mireille
Enos, the forlorn cop in “The Killing”; now she's a glamorous
private eye. And there's Peter Krause, a good-guy type in
“Parenthood” and “Sports Night” and more; now he cons her out
of everything, setting off a slick cat-and-mouse game.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Killing Jesus” (2015, National Geographic) or “Hop”
(2011, Disney); both 8 p.m., cable.

Somehow, Easter has
become filled with dizzying extremes. It brings stories of torture,
triumph and persecution, plus bunnies, jelly beans and colorful eggs.
These films take care of both ends.

“Killing Jesus,”
adapted from Bill O'Reilly's book, does a competent job of covering
Jesus' entire life, from King Herod (Kelsey Grammer) to Pilate
(Stephen Moyer). “Hop” is a clever tale in which an amiable
slacker (James Marsden) meets E.B. (animated, with Russell Brand's
voice), a free spirit who really doesn't want to follow the career of
his dad, the Easter Bunny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Portlandia” (IFC) or “Baskets” (FX), both 10
p.m.

Oddly, two shows
directed (and, often, written and produced) by Jonathan Krisel have
been airing simultaneously. Both are billed as comedies, but only one
has remained that way.

“Portlandia” --
with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein doing short bits – keeps
going for big laughs. Tonight has a hilarious moment in which they
deal with a restaurant that simply brings the ingredients. By
comparison, “Baskets” started with humor and then seems
determined to plunge Chip (Zach Galifianakis) into despair. Tonight
brings a few laughs, but mostly shreds the pieces of his life.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, CBS and
TBS. With doubleheaders today and Friday, the NCAA tournament trims
from 16 teams to eight. Tonight, CBS has Villanova and Miami at 7:10
p.m. ET and Kansas and Maryland at about 9:40; TBS has Oklahoma and
Texas A&M at 7:37 ET, Oregon and Duke at about 10:07.

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse,” 8 p.m., NBC. Setting up next week's season-finale, the
world finally realizes that the government has no plan to prevent the
apocalypse. There's an effort to spring Rhonda (Jenna Fischer) from
jail; Jude's funeral attracts Jamie and Ariel ... who ponders an
identity switch.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Alex leads a long procedure involving three organ
transplants. Also, Meredith considers dating again and Jackson
finally learn that April is pregnant.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. There are big moments for Olivia personally – finally,
information on Jake's sleek fiancee – and professionally: She must
fix a big error by Mellie.

“Project Runway
All-Stars,” 9 p.m., Lifetime. While McPhee is guesting on “Idol,”
Megan Hilty – who played her nemesis on “Smash” -- guests here.
This week, there's an evening gown competition.

“Shades of Blue,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) had promised officials that
the heist would lead to the arrest of her crooked boss Wozniak (Ray
Liotta). But the heist went bad, the money is missing, Wozniak is
still free and Harlee is scrambling.

 

TV column for Wednesday, March 23


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

Here's a plot that
always clicks: Waking up, a guy remembers nothing ... including why a
dead woman is in his bed. That idea worked for “X-Files,” “Law
& Order” and more; now it does again.

The guy is Joo Joo,
a police informant. There are some big leaps in logic, plus a weak
sub-plot concerning Dr. Rosewood's staff. Still, there are also
tender character moment for Villa and for Joo Joo; that puts
“Rosewood” in good shape for next week, when it will lead into
“Empire.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

In some ways, this
is your standard marital drama ... albeit a marriage-of-convenience,
involving Russian spies imbedded in 1980s America. Still, there's
also the harsh underpinning: When needed, these two people will
commit murder, sometimes with up-close brutality.

Last week, Philip
and Elizabeth were showered with crises: Their neighbor accused him
of sleeping with his wife ... Their daughter told her pastor they are
spies ... Their handler put them in charge of a deadly, stolen virus.
Now each crisis brings fear and impact, in a tough and well-crafted
hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Sci-fi movies and/or shorts, all night, cable.

These days, fantasy
films get big budgets and big respect. Tonight, cable has two
“Avengers” films – the original (2012) at 7 p.m. on FX and its
spectacular sequel (2015) at 6:35 on Starz. It also has the
beautifully made – but relentlessly dark -- “Batman Begins”
(2005) at 8 p.m. on TNT.

But long ago? Turner
Classic Movies has a marathon of cheapies: Two “Batman” shorts
(1943) are at 8 p.m. ET, followed by two chapters each of serials for
“Batman and Robin” (1949) at 9, “Superman” (1948) at 10,
“Atom Man vs. Superman” (1950) at 10:45, “Green Hornet”
(1940) at 11:30 and more.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the tribes were shuffled and Anna Khait, 26, a
pro poker player, was sent home. That leaves four members of her
original “Beauty” tribe, compared to five of “Brains” and
three of “Brawn.” Tonight, we're told, they all compete for a
hearty food reward.

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. The show's opener, airing Tuesday, was a mixed blessing –
great star (Melissa George) and hyper story, leaning toward soap
excess. Now, as “Heartbeat” steps into its regular slot, the
excess grows. The story, about conjoined adults, is mostly
over-the-top.

“Schitt's Creek,”
8 p.m., Pop. This oft-clever series follows a once-rich family, now
living in its only asset – a broken-down town. Tonight, the mom
wants to join a singing group, the dad borrows office space at the
garage and their daughter is living with a guy who has mixed feelings
about this.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Some people have too little time; Phil and Claire try a
Paris vacation while exhausted. And some have too much time; Jay, now
retired, has an epic remodeling project.

“Rogue”
season-opener, 9 p.m., DirecTV and AT&T. One story has Ethan
hired to nab a mysterious beauty; another involves scheming Marty
Stein. Both are slick, monotone and entertaining. The second benefits
from great work by Sarah Carter as an intense cop and Richard Schiff
as Marty, her target.

“Criminal Minds:
Beyond Borders,” 10 p.m., CBS. The so-so second episode finds big
trouble for Americans in Mumbai. One is missing; another is near
death, after an organ-harvesting.

“Hap and Leonard,”
10 p.m., Sundance. The first half of this six-week mini-series
included some droll fun. Now, however, “Hap” takes a nasty turn:
The money has been found, but part of its is beyond repair. There are
schemes and counterschemes; Jimmi Simpson – brilliant as a
supernerd in “Breakout Kings” -- is great again, this time as a
drug dealer.

TV column for Tuesday, March 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Heartbeat” debut, 9 p.m., NBC.

Like many soap
heroines Alex (Melissa George) is blonde and beautiful, with a
tangled life. Her ex-husband, a gay rock star, helps with their kids.
She lives with one surgeon and is smitten by another.

But Alex happens to
be a brilliant surgeon herself, one of the best. Beautifully played,
she's tough and skilled. This first hour is fairly good; the second
(8 p.m. Wednesday, its regular slot), is overwrought.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The People v O.J. Simpson,” 10 p.m., FX.

At first, this
splendid hour says, jurors were happy in their hotel. Then came the
rules – no TV (except old tapes), no swimming, censored newspapers.
Over eight months, there was dismay and dismissals.

Meanwhile, we see
the trial proceed. Tonight, a prosecution witness withers; then the
hour ends with a bombshell that thrusts us toward the final two
episodes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Beyond the Tank” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

Sometimes, it's
smart to settle for pretty good. Three years ago, ABC dumped “Body
of Proof” from this slot, despite OK ratings; since then, it's
spent a fortune on shows that failed instantly. This year alone it
had “Wicked City” and “Of Kings and Prophets,” now cancelled
after two grisly episodes.

So it retrieves back
this “Shark Tank” spin-off. Tonight, Mark Cuban and Barbara
Corcoran deal with two companies whose stales stagnated; Kevin
O'Leary calls one that was rejected.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “You Me Her” debut, 9 p.m., Audience Network
(DirecTV and AT&T).

Jack and Emma are
bright, attractive people, married (to each other) with children.
They're also in a sexual slump. Then they learn of “escorts” who
offer everything except (supposedly) sex.

That launches a fun
twist on romantic-comedy notions, with subtle writing and perfect
casting. Greg Poehler (Amy's brother) is thoroughly likable as Jack,
just as he was in “Welcome to Sweden.” Rachel Blanchard is
wonderful as Emma; a restaurant scene with the rent-a-girlfriend
(Priscilla Faia) is beautifully done. Combined with Wednesday's
“Rogue” season-opener, it's a fine week for Audience.

Other choices
include:

“Last Days in
Vietnam,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). After more than a
decade of warfare, the U.S. saw the North Vietnamese overrun Saigon.
The final withdrawal (April 30, 1975), like much of the war, was
chaotic. Rory Kennedy -- whose uncle was president during the war's
early years -- made the compelling documentary, rerunning here. She
includes Vietnamese allies who got out and those who were left behind
... and the Americans who were stunned by the order to abandon them.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. As the wedding nears, the bride (Cece) is distracted by a
job. Now the groom (Schmidt) needs Jess to help with the planning.
Complicating things is his dad (Peter Gallagher).

“NCIS.” 8 p.m.,
CBS. When a Navy officer is killed, his widow and his mistress accuse
each other.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. After his daughter is attacked on campus,
Pride (Scott Bakula) finds a surveillance van filled with photos
documenting his life.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. This clever show has Rose (an involuntary zombie) munching
the brains of murder victims – absorbing memories and
personalities. Tonight, it's a research scientists.

“Stitchers”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Freeform. The idea is the same as “iZombie”
– except no brain-nibbles are needed. (“This is not zombies,” a
character says. “This is science.”) As the first season ended,
Cameron killed himself, so Kirsten could search his brain. But can he
be brought back to life? And if he can, will he (and Kirsten) be the
same people? The result is a fairly good episode.

TV column for Monday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

The new season
manages to include some Donald Trump connections. There's Marla
Maples, 52, the second of his three wives; and Geraldo Rivera, 72,
runner-up in Trump's final “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Others include a
meteorologist (Ginger Zee), a deaf model/actor (Nyle DiMarco), a
singer (Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men), three actresses (Kim Fields,
Mischa Barton and Jodie Sweetin) and four athletes – fighter Paige
VanZandt and football's Doug Flutie, Von Miller and Antonio Brown.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Gotham” (Fox) and “Supergirl” (CBS), both 8 p.m.

Choose either one
and you'll find an interesting father. For Kara, who is Supergirl,
the dad is played by Dean Cain, who's been super himself. (Two
decades ago, he starred in the Lois and Clark” series.) Tonight,
J'onn J'onzz tells how he met the dad; also, Siobhan (Italia Ricci)
plots against Kara.

And on “Gotham,”
Penguin meets his father ... who is, of course, played by Paul
Reubens of Pee-wee Herman fame. Also: Bruce tries to get
street-smarts; Gordon's role in Galavan's death could be exposed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Magicians,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

It's never wise to
push a button without knowing what it does. Penny did that at the end
of last week's hour and ended up in ... well, “Neitherland,”
which is neither here nor there. Now Quentin and Alice try to rescue
him ... even if it requires the tricky concept of “sex magic.”

Clearly, “Magicians”
keeps getting weirder. Julia has new friends toying with ''time
magic”; Eliot finds life is harder with double Margo. This hour
seems thoroughly excessive at first, but ends strongly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Vera,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

Two terrific
actresses link to start this show's sixth season. There's Brenda
Blethyn, the two-time Oscar-nominee, who is superb as a tough and
frumpy police detective. And Cush Jumbo, who plays her assistant
here, before becoming Lucca on “The Good Wife.”

In the
season-opening movie, they're in a tangled story of deceptions, amid
the sprawling beauty of rural England. After a tough start, Jumbo's
final story delivers a strong emotional impact.

Other choices
include:

“Major League
Legends,” 5-9 p.m., Smithsonian. Here's the complete, four-part
series. First are reruns—excellent ones on Henry Aaron and Babe
Ruth, a so-so one on Lou Gehrig – then a good new one on Ted
Williams. Obsessed for decades only with hitting a baseball, Williams
eventually excelled at two more things – being a Korean War pilot
and a master fisherman; his hour repeats at 11.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. Over the next two nights, the show wraps up its
“battle rounds.” Coaches choose two-person face-offs and pick a
winner ... with the chance the loser will be “stolen.”

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. Last week, Rebecca – suddenly broke –
still managed to hop a plane, hoping to “accidentally” bump into
Josh in Hawaii. Alas, Josh wasn't going there after all ... and on
the plane seat next to Rebecca was her therapist. Tonight, Josh and
others scramble to find her.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane's dad is used to fake adventures on his telenovela,
but now he's been kidnapped for real. Also, Petra is back to work and
showing no interest in her baby.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Scott Porter – the former “Friday Night Lights” and
“Hart of Dixie” co-star -- plays Cabe's protege in Homeland
Security. When they're kidnapped in Africa, the team tries to help.

“Damien,” 10
p.m., A&E. Police are starting to notice that people keep dying –
suddenly, messily – near Damien. Meanwhile, a mystery woman
(Barbara Hershey) tries to control him. That's in an episode that
keeps getting nastier ... especially when Damien recounts a war-zone
memory.

“Blindspot,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Jane considers leaving the FBI. Also, Zapata goes
undercover to probe a death-row case.

 

TV column for Sunday, March 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Passion,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

After triumphing
with “Grease,” Fox is ready to try it again – another live
musical, sprawling across several stages. This one -- done in New
Orleans in modern dress – tells of Jesus' final hours.

Stages are on the
Mississippi River, plus a processional taking an illuminated cross
past local landmarks. Tyler Perry will narrate the show, which uses
pop songs. Jencarlos Canela, a telenovela star, plays Jesus, with
Chris Daughtry as Judas, Tricia Yearwood as Mary, Seal as Pilate and
Prince Royce as Peter, plus Christian-music stars Yolanda Adams and
Michael W. Smith.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade,” 7:30 p.m., Fox.

Maybe you've already
heard explanations for the whole Easter-bunny thing, but here's a new
one: Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo) starts an egg-sitting venture. A
single mom (Taraji Henson) rounds up customers; then a pirate bunny
(Seth Green) steals the eggs, disguises them and hides them.
Fortunately, a good bunny helps the search. After a slow start, this
is an animated delight. We'll let historians determine why “Ice
Age” has had Christmas and Easter events occur thousands of years
BC.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Unlike some other
deep dramas, this has a fast-paced plot. In its opener, Adam
staggered home, a decade after he was kidnapped at age 8. Last week's
hour (the third) showed how his father and sister framed the neighbor
(already a convicted child-molester); it also showed, possibly, the
real kidnapper.

Tonight, that pace
sometime hits extremes. A shooting is hard to believe; so are the
events in the final minute. But even when “Family” goes
off-track, it remains compelling. Several characters – led by
Adam's cold-eyed mom (Joan Allen) and conscience-ridden sister
(Alison Pill) are beautifully drawn.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, all day,
CBS and cable. By the end of the day, the NCAA tournament will have
its Sweet 16. CBS has tip-offs shortly after noon, 2:30 p.m. and 5
p.m. ET ... but then switches to Sunday dramas, with TruTV taking the
7:30 game. TNT is at 6 and 8:30 p.m. ET, TBS at 7 and 9:30.

“Little Big Shot,”
7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun of last week's fun hour,
including a dazzling, 4-year-old pianist, a 5-year-old “animal
hypnotist” and a 6-year-old choir conductor. Then a new hour ranges
from an auctioneer to twins who play in a brass band.

“The Passion of
the Christ” (2004), 7 and 9 p.m. ET, UP. This is the centerpiece of
a Palm Sunday movie marathon. You can see Jim Caviezel as Jesus here
(directed by Mel Gibson), Christian Bale in “Mary, Mother of Jesus”
(1999) at 1 p.m. ET and Jeremy Sisto in the “Jesus” mini-series
(also 1999) at 3. Other films are “The Book of Esther” (2013) at
11 a.m. and Judas (2004) at 11 p.m.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. This is supposed to be a pleasant campus tour for
Elizabeth and her daughter. Then protestors arrive, objecting to U.S.
involvement in a Chilean mining operation.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Only six episodes remain in the final season of this
well-crafted drama. Alicia's romance is interrupted by allegations
that her daughter plagiarized her college-entrance essay. Meanwhile,
colleagues have a tough case: A grieving father (Blair Underwood) put
up a billboard, calling a store-owner a murderer. Now he's being
charged with defamation.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. In the flashforward, Simon struggles with his new reality.
And in the training sessions, tensions between Liam and Drew boil
over.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. This is the new night for “Elementary,” which gives
its Thursday spot to a light action show, “Rush Hour.” Tonight,
the murder victim is someone who donned a costume and fought crime;
first, Sherlock must determine his real identity.