TV column for Monday, March 12

“Jane,” 8 p.m., National Geographic and NatGeo Wild; reruns at

When Jane Goodall
reached Tanzania, she was 26, with no college education or science
background: She was becoming the first person to do a close-up study
of chimpanzees in the wild.

At 83, she still has
a research station there, continuing to study generations of chimps.
She also has a doctorate and world fame. This is an epic story, with
sweeping emotions in her own life and in the lives of the chimps.
“Jane” (shown commercial-free) tells it beautidully. It uses
gorgeous film by Hugo van Lawick (Goodall's ex-husband) and
resounding music by Philip Glass, plus Goodall's own rich writing.

“Good Girls,” 10 p.m., NBC.

These women have
already learned a life lesson: Robbing a grocery store and grabbing
$500,000 isn't as much fun as it seems. The money belonged to a gang
that wants it back; some of it has already been spent, so now they
women must do a dangerous favor for the gangsters.

Two side stories –
a church crisis for Ruby, a custody meeting for Annie – are so-so.
The main plot, however, has this show's knack for serious drama,
sprinkled with occasional comedy.

ALTERNATIVE: “American Idol” (ABC) or “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10

Two music-reality
giants collide. “Idol” is the original one and spent years at No.
1 in the Nielsen ratings; “Voice” is the latecomer that helped
topple it.

Now, after missing a
year and jumping networks, “Idol” is back. Its opener Sunday
offered talented contestants, feel-good stories and likable judges.
There's Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan ... who's a lot like
the guy he used to host award shows with, Blake Shelton of “The

ALTERNATIVE II: “Mary Kills People” season-opener, 10 p.m.,

By the end of the
first season, Mary and Des had strayed far from their original plan
to simply help dying people end their lives. They framed Grady for
the deaths of their patients; also, Des took a prison sentence to
protect her. Now he's out and their world gets more complicated.

She's in Mexico to
buy deadly drugs .... they're both dealing with a patient who adds a
moral complication ... and Des meets a mysterious beauty (Rachelle
Lefevre) who launches a season-long crisis. It's a strong hour,
stylishly filmed.

Other choices

“The Departed”
(2006), 6:30-10 p.m., AMC. This tangled crime tale won the Academy
Award for best picture, plus Oscars for the editing, the screenplay
and director Martin Scorsese. On the light side, Turner Classic
Movies has early Elizabeth Taylor, including “National Velvet”
(1944) at 8 p.m. ET.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. A music superstar's life has been threatened. Now Lucifer,
who has known other hellish conditions, enters the world of arena

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Its Thursday spot goes to basketball this
week, so TV's best comedy slides to a Monday. This rerun finds Raj
with divided loyalties: His friend Bernadette suspects that his
sometimes-lover Ruchi is trying to steal her job.

“Young Sheldon,”
9 p.m., CBS. Here's another Thursday show, temporarily displaced. To
satisfy his mother, 9-year-old Sheldon goes on a quest to find one
friend in high school.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv, the reluctant zombie, keeps assuming the personality
of the murder victim whose brain she's just eaten. That gets messy
tonight, when she munches a romantic-novel buff. It's a funny story,
sandwiched inside a serious one (continuing next week) about a serial

“The Good Doctor,”
10 p.m., ABC. A patient has the option of dangerous surgery that
could change his life. He asks Shaun – a doctor with little life
experience – what he would do.

TV column for Sunday, March 11

“American Idol” return, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

An eon or two ago,
“Idol” grabbed attention by insulting young singers. That's hard
to believe now; after skipping a year and switching networks, the
show is going for lots of feel-good moments.

This opener goes six
minutes before the first audition; after 20-plus minutes of show
time, we've only heard two singers. The emphasis is on getting us to
know – and like – them. Sure, some people are quickly bumped; one
is easy to dislike, another seems suspiciously like a put-on. But
mostly, we see people who have talent, individuality and, in several
cases, original songs. It's a strong start.

“Deception” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

Our hero has been a
master liar, making big money by conning the public. Now that skill
is needed by law-enforcement, to catch bigger crooks and meaner

We could be
describing “The Mentalist,” which was a CBS hit. But this version
involves a magician whose career has been built on a lie. The result
is reasonably entertaining.

ALTERNATIVE: “Timeless” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC.

The first season had
a terrific star (Abigail Spencer as Lucy), a catchy concept (chasing
someone through time) ... and a flaw: When the hero's goal is to
change nothing, the drama choices are sparse.

Now that's partly
been fixed; Lucy has bigger concerns. An evil organization wants to
bend history and own the world; her mother – enmeshed in the evil –
has kidnapped her and taken her to a World War I battlefield. In a
fairly good hour, her friends try to repair their machine and rescue

Other choices

Basketball, all day.
Most college conferences have already finished their tournaments, but
a few conclude today ... shortly before the NCAA reveals its
tournament pairings (6-8 p.m. ET on TBS). It will be the Ivy League
at noon ET (ESPN2), Atlantic 10 and SEC at 1 p.m. (CBS and ESPN),
Sunbelt at 2 p.m. (ESPN2) and American Athletic at 3:30 p.m. (CBS).

“American Ninja
Warrior: USA vs. The World,” 7-10 p.m., NBC. The obstacle course is
tackled by teams from North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

“O.J. Simpson: The
Last Confession,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. In 2006, there were big plans for
“If I Did It,” with Simpson discussing – hypothetically, he
said – murders. After a backlash. the book and a Fox special were
dumped. Now this is built around Simpson's taped interview with
publisher Judith Regan.

“Pillow Talk”
(1959) and “Lover Come Back” (1961), 8 and 10 p.m., Turner
Classic Movies. Doris Day and Rock Hudson made plenty of bad movies,
but these two films are slick, smart and fun.

“The Arrangement”
season-opener, 9 p.m., E. In the first season, Megan (a talented
unknown) auditioned for a role opposite a movie star. She was soon
offered a contract by a Scientology-type group, to marry him. Now she
prepares for a mega-wedding and the movie that could change her life.

Secretary,” 10 p.m., CBS. While facing big things in her personal
life – her husband's abrupt career decision, her college roommate's
suicide attempt – Elizabeth has a complication at work: Acting on
the advice of his psychic, the president of Sri Lanka is resisting a
trade agreement.

“The Royals”
season-opener, 10 p.m., E. It's good to be king ... especially after
spending two years on a deserted island. Robert gains popularity on
tour ... unaware that his younger brother Liam and bodyguard Jasper
have information that could destroy him.

TV column for Saturday, March 10

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Sterling K. Brown
has already shown he's a master of subtly crafted drama. He's won
back-to-back Emmys, for “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and then
for “This Is Us.”

Now comes a detour
into comedy, hosting “SNL,” with James Bay as music guest. That's
during a busy “This Is Us” stretch: In an emotional hour Tuesday,
we learned the back story of the foster daughter who moved back in
with Randall (Brown) and Beth; next week, the season finale has
Kate's wedding.

II: Basketball, everywhere.

Here are
high-octane, high-stakes moments – the championship games of a
dozen conferences. The commotion starts at 11 a.m. ET, with America
East on ESPN2; it ends at 10 p.m. with Western Athletic Conference on
ESPNU and Pac12 on Fox Sports1.

There's much more.
CBS has Mountain West at 6 p.m., Fox has Big East at 6:30, others are
crowded. ESPN2 has MEAC at 1 p.m., SWAC at 5, MAC at 7 and Southland
at 9. ESPN has Big 12 at 6 and the ACC at 8:30; ESPNU has Big Sky at
8. Add some semi-finals and you have a packed day.

ALTERNATIVE: “Planet Earth,” all day, BBC America.

This show and “Blue
Planet” (its underwater spin-off) have delivered some truly great
television – gorgeous films and music, with intelligent narration.
Now we can see how they do it, with the new “The Making of Blue
Planet II,” at 9 p.m. and midnight.

The rest of the day
has masterful reruns. The original “Planet Earth” is 6 a.m. to 2
p.m.; “Planet Earth 2” is 2-9 p.m., with two of its hours
rerunning at 10 and 11.

Other choices

“The Lion King”
(1994) and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), 6:40 and 8:50 p.m.,
Freeform. Here are two of the all-time great cartoons. Grown-ups can
catch switch to HBO at 8 for “My Cousin Rachel” (2017). It's a
dark Daphne du Maurier story (is that redundant?), with great work
from Rachel Weisz.

Basketball pre-game
(8 p.m. ET) and game (8:30), ABC. We really need more basketball
tonight? Alongside all those college games, ABC has the pros, with
San Antonio at Oklahoma City.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. This dandy rerun brings back Harry Connick Jr.
as Grace's ex-love. It turns out that he's still listed as her
emergency contact. That's followed at 8:30 with a “Superstore”
that has Jonah trying to help Amy get the hot new video game.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun of the season-opener finds Gibbs and McGee captive in a
Paraguay jungle, where they were fighting rebels. The team kees
searching for them.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun involves an erratic whistleblower
who says Pride is her mentor. She kidnaps him, to make him help find
a serial killer who targets young women.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of Thursday's episode. It's a
good one, with gifted contestants ... a vibrant song from Macklemore
... and a great moment in which Steve Harvey intervenes to semi-save
a performer.

“Falling Water,”
10 p.m., USA. The team tries a sting to to catch Taylor Bennett and
his daughter. Also, Taka and Alex hope Shadowman's daughter will lead
them to him.

TV column for Friday, March 9

“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

One negative review
has paralyzed Jane's writing career. Now there's an “inner critic”
-- whom we see and hear, in a great double-role for Gina Rodriguez –
assessing everything she does.

We're not sure why
the show is sensitive about this. Critics have – very correctly --
savaged other shows (including its new lead-in, “Dynasty”), while
showering “Jane” with praise. It's been nominated for Television
Critics Association and Critics Choice awards; it's won a Peabody and
an American Film Institute award. It's a fresh, smart show that
needn't worry about critics, inner or outer.

“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., and more, CBS.

This has been a
tough stretch for CBS' Friday-night crime shows. They retreated to
reruns during three Olympics weeks ... and will step aside next week,
to make roon for the college basketball tournament.

So viewers will want
to catch new episodes when they can – including three tonight. That
starts with a complication: A mobster became an informant ... but
then was kidnapped and taken to Chernobyl; Mac, Jack and Riley try to
find him. Meanwhile, Bozer is trying to keep a secret from Matty.

ALTERNATIVE: Streaming shows, everywhere.

For Netflix, it's a
time for female heroes, fictional -- “Collateral,” with Carey
Mulligan as a cop, debuts a day after Marvel's “Jessica Jones”
launched its second season – and real: Malala Yousafzai, the
Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize at 17 – is
interviewed by David Letterman.

There's much more
today: Amazon's sharply written “Sneaky Pete” and Netflix's
“Love” start their second seasons. “The Tunnel” debuts on
Amazon, shortly after two other debuts: “The Oath” is on Crackle”
and “Hard Sun” -- a compelling mix of cop show and
end-of-the-world sci-fi – is on Hulu.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Dynasty” return, 8 p.m., CW.

Blessed with all the
advantages – a familiar name, lush settings and big, soap-style
twists – this show has still stumbled in the ratings. Now, after a
month on the shelf, it's back on a new night.

Blake Carrington's
wife Cristal is trying to cover up an impulsive mistake that could
implode their marriage. His daughter Fallon tries some dangerous
charades and his son Steven shows his darker side.

And then? The
original “Dynasty” didn't soar until Blake's ex-wife Alexis
showed up. In this new version, she'll be played by Nicollette
Sheridan, but there are four episodes before she arrives.

Other choices

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In last week's opener, 40 kids – a bright and likable
bunch – were sifted to 24. Now they face two tests, one
alphabetical (really), the other involving fruit tart.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Tiana travels through the Bayou on her
coronation day, leading to a live-changing encounter. And in Hyperion
Heights, Sabine's culinary dreams may get sidetracked.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. On the 100th episode of this
visually impressive show, Coulson finally reveals the deal he made
with Ghost Rider.

“Taken,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. A kidnap victim is the wife of a senator who was a war hero.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Adam's plan to stop organized crime in Hawaii has gone
bad: He used deadly chlorine gas as bait, but now the bad guys have
it. Also, he's not sure of Jessie's allegiance.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m.,CBS. While Frank tries to choose between two candidates for a
top job, his offspring have their own complications. Danny probes the
murder of a guy who had two separate families. Erin wants Anthony
(her investigator) to probe his former partner.

TV column for Thursday, March 8

“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Allison Janney keeps
piling up the statues, all of them well-deserved. Her latest is an
Academy Award for her brilliant work as Tonya Harding's caustic
mother in “I, Tonya”; it goes alongside seven Emmys – two for
comedy (“Mom”) and five for drama (“The West Wing” and
“Masters of Sex”).

Here's her comic
side, with a fresh target: Back from food-addiction rehab, Jill
brings her new life coach (Kristen Chenoweth). It's fun to see the
6-foot Janney and the 4-foot-11 Chenoweth at war. Then the story
slides from comedy to drama – a shift that “Mom” has always
done well.

“Champions” debut, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

From baseball to
parenting, Vince has managed to sabotage everything in his life. Now
he runs the family gym in Brooklyn, when bits of his past arrive. His
old girlfriend (Mindy Kaling, who produces the show) visits briefly;
their 15-year-old son may stay, while studying musical theater.

There are plenty of
sharp, clever moments here, plus a major flaw: Yes, viewers like a
bad-boy type who causes trouble, but Vince (like the guy in “A.P.
Bio”) takes it too far. He brushes off his son and betrays his
well-meaning brother. We may like this show eventually, but it will
take a while.

ALTERNATIVE: “Showtime at the Apollo,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week's opener
was terrific and this hour is even better. On the surface, it's just
a talent show, with the audience creating a winner ... and booing
some acts off the stage. Still, it's also more.

It has a skilled
host (Steve Harvey), a weekly guest star (tonight, Macklemore), a
lively crowd ... and amazing acts. There's a magician, a 7-year-old
rapper and two gifted singers, one with stunning talent. And this
week brings a remarkable moment – an act booed off the stage, then
brought back. Credit Harvey for that. “That man needs a kidney, he
can have two of mine,” a salvaged performer says.

Other choices

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that they have two babies, Howard and
Bernadette figure someone should stay home with them – but which
one will do it? Also, Leonard scrambles to land the perfect venue for
the Sheldon/Amy wedding.

“Young Sheldon,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. At school, Sheldon has had exactly one friend. Now he
adds a second one, an older kid who introduces him to a new field of

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. The vice-president's plane has been hacked. Colleagues
must move quickly to save Cyrus and David.

“Will &
Grace,” 9 p.m., NBC. Jennifer Lopez does double duty here, playing
herself and her “Shades of Blue” character. Also, a baby shower
causes Will and Grace to second-guess their life choices.

“A.P. Bio,” 9:30
p.m., NBC. From what we've seen, Toledo, Ohio, is a fine place. It
has a great art museum, a major university and Mudhens. (That last
one is a triple-A baseball team.) Still, this episode asks whether a
teacher will reduce himself to dating a Toledoan. While fretting, he
manages to mistreat his students again. He does make a late
turnaround, but that seems abrupt and artificial.

“How to Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. Laurel gets fresh information about the
night Wes was killed, leading to a confrontation. Also, people
prepare for new questions about Simon's case.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. What's life like when you can't even trust your drug
dealer? Things start with a deal gone bad, then descend into more
trouble, all of it addressed nonchalantly.