TV column for Friday, March 24


 

TONIGHT'S
MUST-RECORD: “The Godfather” (1972), 7 p.m., AMC; and/or “The
Wizard of Oz” (1939), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

At first glance,
these have nothing in common. One has mobsters seeking money and
power; the other has good souls seeking a brain, a heart and a way
back to Kansas.

Still, they share
what's important – great quality. The American Film Institute puts
“Godfather” at No. 2 all-time (behind only “Citizen Kane”)
and “Oz” at No. 10; in different ways, both are remarkable.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(for some): “Grimm,” 8 p.m., NBC.

The trouble with a
walk-through mirror is that it might be two-way. Sure, we can stroll
through it to visit the underworld, but what if someone from that
world comes here, flashing green eyes and waving a semi-animated
stick? That happens tonight, setting up next week's series finale.

Along the way, there
is death, gore, fear – this is not for kids – and a dab of
reality. Giving her daughter some protective powder, Adalind says to
think of it as fairy dust. The girl promptly remind her that “fairies
aren't real.” No, just witches, werewolves, beasts and sticks that
turn into snakes.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration” and “American Masters:
Norman Lear,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For a couple
decades, situation comedies tended to be bad or bland. Exceptions --
“Lucy,” “Dick Van Dyke” -- were rare, Then everything
changed: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” debuted in September of
1970, Lear's “All in the Family” came four months later. Each
launched a TV force.

Lear kept turning
out smart sitcoms; the MTM, company, led by Moore's then-husband
Grant Tinker, did the same, then added great dramas. For a time, they
elevated the TV experience. Now PBS reruns a 2015 portrait of Moore
(who died Jan. 25 at 80) and a 2016 one of Lear, still working at 94.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 7 and 9:30 p.m. ET, CBS; 7:15 and 9:45 p.m.,
TBS.

As the tourney trims
to eight teams, TBS has the ones that pulled upsets. At 7:15, South
Carolina (seeded 7th in its 16-team region) faces Baylor
(3rd); at 9:45, Wisconsin (seeded 8th) faces
Florida (4th).

CBS, by comparison,
has the teams we expected. At 9:30, there's a collision of the two
winningest schools in tourney history, UCLA (11 championships) and
Kentucky (eight). At 7, North Carolina (with five titles, tied for
third with Indiana and Duke) faces newcomer Butler.

Other choices
include:

“The Originals,”
8 p.m., CW. In last week's season-opener, we saw Klaus still chained
in the dungeon by Marcel. Now his siblings are cured and awake; they
join Hayley's effort to save him.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Mike feels it's time for the newlyweds to
move out; then he learns something that gives him second thoughts.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. When Clark and Connor plan a surprise wedding, the event
soon grows. There's music by the band Train; there's also a trick to
get Allison to come.

“Reign,” 9 p.m.,
CW. In Scotland, Mary ponders the political repercussions if she
marries Lord Darnley. And in France, King Charles has disappeared,
leaving his mother to salvage things.

“Sleepy Hollow,”
9:01 p.m., Fox. After getting an advance glimpse of a world ruled by
Dreyfuss, the team scrambles to stop the billionaire mad man from
coming to power.

“Crossroads,” 10
p.m., CMT. Here are two talented musicians who have made mid-career
adjustments. Once known for Hootie and the Blowfish, Darius Rucker
went country; once known as Johnny Cougar, John Mellencamp developed
a deeper, more personal style of music.

TV column for Thursday, March 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 7 and 9:30 p.m. ET, CBS. 7:15 and 9:45, TBS.

Here's a new round
of the NCAA tournament starts. That means another week without CBS'
Thursday comedies (“Big Bang” and such) and its Friday cop shows.
The soap operas, however, are safe.

Tonight's games
start with one of the surprises – Michigan (seeded No. 7 in its
16-team region) beat No. 2 Louisville; now it faces No. 3 Oregon. The
other games have the expected teams – Gonzaga (No. 1) and West
Virginia (No. 4) at 7:15 on TBS ... Kansas (No. 1) and Purdue (No. 4)
at 9:30 on CBS ... and Arizona (No. 2) and Xavier (No. 3) at 9:45 on
TBS.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Superstore,” 8 p.m., NBC.

For the second
straight week, this above-average comedy gets to escape the massive
shadow of “The Big Bang Theory.” Set in a giant store, it can
range from silly to serious.

On the light side,
Glenn is hounded by an Internet “troll”; Amy (America Ferrera)
helps him fight back. On the flip side, Mateo has a chance for a
promising transfer ... until his undocumented-immigrant status gets
in the way. Jonah and Cheyenne offer legal advice; Dina and Garrett
battle corporate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Beaches” and “Love By the 10th Date,”
8 and 10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

We're accustomed to
the typical Lifetime movie, the ones with women in jeopardy or
dismay. But at times, the network aims higher. These films, which
debuted in January, are strong examples.

“Date” started
with a clever -- if very adult -- script. Guys don't fall in love
until the 10th date, we're told; these women haven't made
it to 10. “Beaches” didn't have to worry much about the story: It
uses the basics of the 1988 film, this time with Nia Long and Idina
Menzel -- who beautifully sings the songs from that movie (“Wind
Beneath My Wings,” “Glory of Love”) and the new “The Last
Time.”

Other choices
include:

“Casablanca”
(1942), 6 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here's a true classic. The
American Film Institute puts it at No. 3 all-time, behind only
“Citizen Kane” and “The Godfather” -- which will air Friday
on AMC, the same night that “Wizard of Oz” is on TCM. Alert your
recording device.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Last month, Maggie Pierce's mother breezed in and made a
warm impression on most people – but not on her daughter; she left,
without telling her she has breast cancer. Now she's back, with
Maggie still perplexed. Also, Owen and Amelia work out their
problems.

“Powerless,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. The boss is on a witch hunt and suspects several of
his people (Danny Pudi, Ron Funches, Jennie Pierson). Meanwhile, the
good-spirited Emily (Vanessa Hudgens) tries to help Jackie ... who
doesn't seem to want to be helped.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. After learning more about the Vargas assassination, Olivia
asks Huck to do one of his most difficult tasks.

“Planet Earth II,”
9 p.m. ET, BBC America. We visit the grasslands, where towering grass
is an advantage – even a caribou can hide – or a problem: A bird
leaps frantically, so its courting ritual can be seen. Consider this
rerun a warm-up for Saturday, when a terrific urban-animal hour
debuts.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. In the season's first two episodes, this too-slick show
was brightened by the ragged scrambling of Alice's hapless younger
brother Tommy (T.R. Knight, the former “Grey's Anatomy” star).
Then we learned he's slicker than we'd thought; he even bugged the
computers, trying to find a way to access the millions strangers put
in his account. Tonight, Alice starts to learn the truth.

“The History of
Comedy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN. Barring another late change, this will look
at racial humor ... and at the times when comedy bridges cultural
divides.

TV column for Wednesday, March 22


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

In tonight's final
minutes, the show reaches a bat-swinging, glass-shattering peak. It's
spectacular; in other hands, it would also be excessive. “Empire,”
however, earns its extremes with small moments.

The opening scene
also has spectacle, as Lucious introduces his new “Inferno”
project. But alongside the flashy bits are quieter scenes, especially
linking Jamal with a friend – played by Rumer Willis, the daughter
of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore – he met in rehab. Noise and all,
you'll root for these people.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Designated Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Yes, the long
mid-season lay-off was annoying. Now, however, comes the flip side –
the show has enough new episodes to be rerun-free, through the final
day (May 24) of the season.

And it has a lot of
story to tell, as the accidental president (Kiefer Sutherland) grasps
for control. Tonight, a journalists reveals classified information
during a press briefing; Seth (Kal Penn) scrambles to limit the
damage. Also, Hannh (Maggie Q) learns more about MacLeish's role in
the conspiracy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shots Fired” debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

This starts with a
too-familiar scene: A young man has been shot; he's unarmed, a
policeman is waving a gun, neighbors are congregating. But this time,
the cop is black and the victim is white; the governor (Helen Hunt)
promptly sends a black prosecutor and investigator (Stephan James and
Sanaa Lathan).

“Shots Fired” is
similar to ABC's “American Crime” -- a 10-episode mini-series
that tackles complex racial issues. Like ABC's show, it does it with
subtlety ... and is a slow walk through uneven turf. The characters
have solid depth, with Jill Hennessy, Stephen Moyer and Aisha Tyler
strong in support.

Other choices
include:

“The First 100
Days,” 7 p.m. ET, Fox News. This show has been viewing the first
100 days of the Trump presidency. Now it pauses at the halfway mark,
for a town hall in Southern Pines, N.C. Martha MacCallum hosts, with
guests from the Trump (David Bossie) and Clinton (Robby Mook)
campaigns.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. In the show's first new episode in a month, Nas (Archie
Panjabi) finally helps Jane and Weller confront her source inside
Sandstorm.

“Nova” and
“Spillover,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The first
rerun views the battle agains Ebola, both in the field and in labs.
The second looks at diseases – including Ebola, Zika, Nipah and
West Nile – that spill over from animals to humans.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Now the “black rain” is descending, pelting people with
deadly radiation. That provides lots of fierce action ... and way too
many super-macho scenes. But the episode's final twist is enough to
(almost) make up for the excesses that preceded it.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Cam tries to throw the perfect New Year's
Day feast. Phil isn't happy when his dad (Fred Willard) brings his
new girlfriend – who is Phil's former babysitter.

“Criminal Minds:
Beyond Borders,” 10 p.m., CBS. In Colombia, an American apparently
emptied his bank account and committed suicide. The team
investigates.

“Comedy Jam”
debut, 10 p.m., Comedy Central. At least the comedians should be
having fun here, belting music onstage, sometimes with rock stars.
Tonight, Tiffany Haddish blasts “Proud Mary,” Chris Hardwick
joins Richie Sambora for “Wanted Dead or Alive” and Bobby Lee
asks the musical question, “Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?” We're hoping
he doesn't expect an answer.

TV column for Tuesday, March 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Trial & Error,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Josh isn't adjusting
well to small-town life. The bagels are bad and everyone seems to
have had an affair with a cop who's mean and married. (It's a shallow
dating pool, Josh is reminded.) There's no dry cleaner and no book
store, but four pet psychics. Also, a courtroom spectator keeps
yelling “witch.”

Now Josh represents
a murder defendant (John Lithgow) who keeps incriminating himself.
The openers, which followed the “This Is Us” season-finale last
week, were hilarious. Tonight, “Trial” moves into its regular
timeslot, with two more laugh-out-loud episodes.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bones” series finale (part one), 8 p.m., Fox.

Yes, it seemed like
“Bones” would go on forever. It's lasted 12 seasons – one more
than “MASH” or “Happy Days,” two more than “Friends,” 11
more than “My Mother the Car.” It's used 62 gallons of fake
blood, 165 gallons of silicone flesh and 400 feet of fake intestines.

Now the finale
begins, concluding next Tuesday. It starts poorly, including some
confusing time shifts, but slowly gains impact. Just as characters'
lives are transforming, a killer escapes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

This is the musical
crossover episode fans had pushed for, a chance for the young cast to
show its song-and-dance skills. It started Monday, with Darren Criss
reaching “Supergirl” as the evil Music Meister. Now he has Kara
and Barry (Supergirl and the Flash) in an alternate, song-and-dance
dimension.

They can handle it.
Grant Gustin, who plays Barry, did seven episodes of the teen musical
“Glee” ... Melissa Benoit, who's Kara, did two seasons ... and
Criss did four seasons. Others in both casts can let loose; Jeremy
Jordan (Winn in “Supergirl”) has done four Broadway musicals plus
“Smash.”

Other choices
include:

“Gone Girl,” 7
p.m., FX. A great story is propelled by perfect performances,
especially by Rosamund Pike. That starts a great movie night. “Jaws”
(1994) is 6:54 p.m. on Starz; at 8 p.m., there's “Home Alone”
(1990) on CMT, “Mean Girls” (2004) on E and “As Good As It
Gets” (1997) on Pop.

“American
Masters,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Dorothea Lange was
a pensive kid. She had polio at 7, her dad left when she was 12; she
became contemplative, an observer ... skills she used well. During
the Depression, she mastered photography as a social force. Here's a
rerun of the film by her granddaughter, Dyanna Talor. Despite
spending too much time on exhibit preparations, it's well-made.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the team must do temporary protection duty for a
congresswoman (Mary Stuart Masterson) who was threatened.

“Switched at
Birth,” 9 p.m., Freeform. A mysterious young woman has a link to
the late Angelo (Gilles Marini). Also, Melody (Marlee Matlin) wants
her sons to make amends before her birthday.

“Face Off” and
debut of “Cosplay Melee,” 9 and 10 p.m., Syfy. First, the
well-crafted competition show has a team challenge – create a
family of deranged, murderous mutants. Then “Cosplay” is based on
the elaborate costumes at sci-fi conventions; Yvette Nicole Brown
(“Community”) hosts.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, a plane crashed in the
bayou, killing three sailors.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). As ISIS shrinks in Iraq, this
strong documentary says, a new problem grows: The militia forces that
are winning are also brutal. “This is a place of gangs, militia and
murderers,” one person tells Ramita Navai. A militia officer is
unapologetic about handling an ISIS suspect: “He's a murderer, so
he has to be tortured and killed .... Would you wait for a trial?”

TV column for Monday, March 20


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

This sort of line-up
propels ratings. The previous edition had an Olympian (Laurie
Hernandez) who became the show's champion); this has two top Olympic
stars, Simone Biles and Nancy Kerrigan.

Other years had
quirky figures from long-ago pop culture; this has two – the
massive Mr. T, 64, and the tiny Charo, 75. It also has the recent
“Bachelor” star (Nick Viall), a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus
(Chris Kattan), two singers, an actress and three athletes, one
bringing a comeback story: A rodeo accident left Bonner Bolton
paralyzed from the neck down; now he's recovered and dancing.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Man With a Plan,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

After a slow start,
this has become a fairly good comedy. The early notion – dad as a
doofus – is set aside for better, slice-of-life stories. Helping
that is a broadened cast; this is the second episode with the
talented Swoosie Kurtz (an Emmy-winner and nine-time nominee) and
Stacy Keach (a Tony nominee).

Adam (Matt LeBlanc)
is appalled that his dad (Keach) doesn't go to the doctor. His mom
(Kurtz) and others push hard. It's not a great story, but it does
have some funny moments, well-handled by pros.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

It's election time –
to decide who will be the room mom at school. Jane – formerly known
as the virgin, now “the hot-mess mom” -- faces Petra, formerly
evil and now oddly good.

We'll forgive the
character switches. At its core, this show is so bright and fun that
flaws are tolerable. Tonight, we fret about the police probe ... and
about Jane's mother's engagement (to Bruce, Jane's father's lawyer)
... and about Jane's grandmother's love life. Don't worry; the
narrator will explain it.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: All-“Taken” or all-“Psycho.”

Cable and broadcast
combine to give us two versions of characters. There's Brian Mills,
with his soldier skills: In “Taken” (2008, 8 p.m., Lifetime),
he's Liam Neeson, tearing France apart to find his daughter; in the
TV version (10 p.m., NBC), he's Clive Standen, defying orders to
rescue a girl.

And there's Marion
Crane: In the brilliant “Psycho” (1960, 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies), she's Janet Leigh, checking into a creepy motel. Now “Bates
Motel” (10 p.m., A&E) introduces her, played by Rihanna; she's
having an affair with Sam, the hardware store owner, infuriating
Norman Bates.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. The battle rounds begin, with two teammates dueling. The
coach chooses one; the other could be stolen by another coach. To
help, each coach adds a mentor; Blake Shelton has his former
award-show co-host, Luke Bryan; others have John Legend, DJ Khaled
and Celine Dion.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. As the CTU searches for Carter, Donovan has doubts about
Rebecca.

“APB,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A killer seems ready to target Gideon at a technology
convention. Police try a high-tech scanning system to find and stop
him.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. When Franco is injured, people take up a collection to
pay expenses.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The pledge drives are
over and PBS' line-up is back, sometimes with intense shows like
this. We're at a last-chance high school in the Mojave desert,
rooting for students who face fierce odds. The results leave us both
encouraged and deeply depressed.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. After the hostage crisis, the president assembles a
secret task force with Alex and friends from the CIA and FBI, trying
to uncover a global conspiracy.