TV column for Wednesday, March 14

“Life Sentence,” 9 p.m., CW.

Last week's opener –
as bright and bubbly as its lead character – grabbed our attention.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer at 16, Stella (Lucy Hale) had been
living life to the fullest; then she learned she'd been cured. At 23,
she has little education and no skills; she's married to an
Englishman she barely knows.

Now she's learning
how much everyone has sacrificed for her. Her siblings are drifting;
her parents are divorcing and broke. Somehow, this is throughly
entertaining. One of tonight's final scenes – with the entire
family gathered in the yard – offers a masterful mix of humor and

II: “Speechless,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Others can grump and
grumble about jury duty, but not Maya. This is a chance to ditch her
chaotic home, read a novel, have snacks and get paid. It's a big,
funny notion that Minnie Driver masters – even doing a
song-and-dance number. And it brings back Sarah Chalke as her enemy,

That's in the second
episode; Driver also has the best moments in the first one, as we
learn her dark family secret. J.J.'s stories – directing a horror
film and trying online dating – are fairly good; another story,
with Ray being ignored by his dad, is lame until the final couple

ALTERNATIVE: “The X-Files,” 8 p.m., Fox.

“I've always
wondered how this was going to end,” Mulder says. So have we; in 11
seasons (sprawled over 25 years) and 218 episodes, “X-Files” has
seemed eternal. But Gillian Anderson (as Scully) says she's leaving;
others may do the same, making this possibly the second-to-last
episode of a great show.

Well, a
great-but-erratic show. “X-Files” works like an anthology,
varying wildly from week to week. Two weeks ago, its near-wordless
episode was brilliant; this one is not. Fiona Vroom is terrific as a
former TV star, but the rest is a clumsy mixture of gory
organ-harvesting and thick philosophy.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Trauma,” any time, Britbox.

There are some
gifted actors and smart writers back in the Old World, it seems.
We've already learned that via PBS and the Acorn streaming service;
now Britbox adds a new stream of quality.

In this three-part
mini-series John Simm plays a grieving father whose life – at work
and home – is crumbling; he focuses his rage on a sturdy surgeon
(Adrian Lester). “Trauma” is tough to watch, but Simm is
brilliant. This is the rare character that we can simultaneously
bring fear and sympathy.

Other choices

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. As Liz probes a case from early in her career, she also
talks with her therapist (Martha Plimpton) about her dark side.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Jughead makes a major discovery about Hiram Lodge,
Veronica's scheming father. That comes just as Archie has a new
worry: Is his dad (now running for mayor) a Lodge stooge?

“9-1-1,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Here are some supersized problems – a homeless man crushed in
a garbage truck, a mother and son in a crashed elevator and extreme
hoarders entombed in their home.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jay convinces everyone to vacation on a
houseboat. Also, Mitchell runs into his former love interest.

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president faces multiple problems: A
video surfaces, showing him visiting prison; also, a demostration has
deeper ties to him than people realize.

“The Assassination
of Gianni Versace,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:30 p.m., and 1 a
.m. A week before the finale of this well-crafted mini-series, we
view some shaping moments – Versace as an emerging designer, Andrew
Cunanan (his assassin) growing up with a brutal father.