TV column for Tuesday, March 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“This Is Us” season-finale, 9 p.m., NBC, and then ...

A great season ends
tonight, presumably with fresh waves of emotion. It's time for Kate
and Toby to marry in Las Vegas; we'll meet his parents and we'll see
someone from the past of her sister-in -law Beth; we'll even get a
glimpse of what Kate's dad would look like if he were still alive.

But the real
surprise comes afterward. In a moment of TV overkill, the season's
best new shows debut simultaneously -- “Rise” on NBC, “For the
People” on ABC. We'll look at those two separately.

TONIGHT'S 10 P.M.
MUST-SEE: “Rise,” NBC.

In a gritty,
Pennsylvania town, the steel factory has closed, the economy is
slumping, only the football team is thriving. A teacher, desperate
for something good in his life, takes over the school musical.

Writer-producer
Jason Katims does for theater what he did for football in “Friday
Night Lights” -- capturing the passion of kids who have found the
one place where they're special. Loosely based on a true story, this
often strains credibility, but is worth giving some leeway. There's
great work from Josh Radnor, Rosie Perez and their students, led by
Auli'i Cravalho, the terrific “Moana” star.

TONIGHT'S 10 P.M.
MUST-SEE II: “For the People,” ABC.

It was 13 years ago
that ABC introduced a workplace drama that was crafted to run
forever. “Grey's Anatomy” is set in a hospital; this one, also
from producer Shonda Rhimes, is in a courthouse.

It's an historic
courthouse – site of the Titanic and Rosenberg trials, home to
Aaron Burr and others.

Six young lawyers –
three defense, three prosecution – start work. Some are linked (a
friendship, a romance), some are strangers, all are interesting.
Britt Robertson – already in her sixth series at 27 – is
terrific, surrounded by strong newcomers plus Vondie Curtis-Hall and
Anna Deavere Smith.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Fosters” finale, 8 and 9 p.m., Freeform.

This is called a
“spring finale,” but it's really the end of “The Fosters” as
we've known it. The show will return briefly, for three episodes that
set up a flash-forward spin-off with two of the young people.

For now, catch an
earnest show that has a lot in common with “This Is Us” ...
including, tonight, a ceremony (graduation), a dead dad's imagined
return and some deep tears. At times, this has too much
pop-psychology, flowing too easily; at other times, it offers deep,
rich emotion. Tonight even flashes ahead, to see where people are
headed. It's been a tough and passionate ride.

Other choices
include:

Basketball, 6:40 and
9:10 p.m. ET, Tru TV, , with preview at 6. Before the big fuss starts
Thursday, games today and Wednesday will determine the last four
spots in the 64-team tourney. In experience, tonight's teams range
afar. The first game has teams (Radford and Long Island University
Brooklyn) that have never won a game in the tourney; the second has
UCLA, which leads the nation with 11 championships. It faces St.
Bonavenure, which hasn't won an NCAA tourney game since 1970.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Lots of old folks watch shows about antiques. So tonight, Ducky
(David McCallum, 84) is watching one and spots what might be the
weapon from a long-ago case.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. After a rough week, Frankie just wants to have a good cry.
Mike, however has a different issue: He got a promotion he might not
want to accept.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. First, parents ponder discipline and support,
when their kids are in trouble at school. Then come differing
responses when their son and daughter are sexually active.

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. Sabrina refuses to babysit; soon, she and Mick are in
jail.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. For 61 years, an event – now called the
Louisiana Pirate Festival – has celebrated the stories of Jean
Lafitte. Tonight, a Navy captain is killed during the festival.