TV column for Friday, March 12




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Who Do You Think
You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Like many people, former football star
Emmitt Smith knew the extremes of racism mainly from books. Born in
Florida in 1969, he had never seen “whites only” signs; his
family rarely discussed them.

Now this compelling hour visits horrors
of recent generations. His great-great-grandparents were born into
slavery; it's likely, he's told, that his
great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a white rapist.

Along the way, he finds colorful names
for places (Burnt Corn, Ala.) and people (Prince Albert Puryear was
his great-great-great-grandfather and the son of Mariah).

He stares at “property lists” that
include cattle, feed and his ancestors. He visits places where they
may have been sold. And he brings a sense of calm-amid-rage that
makes this journey feel quietly heroic.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Numb3rs”
season finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

After six fairly strong seasons, this
show has what could be its last episode. This slot goes to the
basketball tournament for two weeks and then to a high-octane
hospital show, “Miami Medical.”

First, we see Charlie and Amita get
married. They promptly delay their London honeymoon, as they help
probe who stole the gun of his brother, the FBI agent.

Other choices include:

– “America's Next Top Model”
opener, 8 p.m., and “High Society” debut, 9:30 p.m., CW. Here's a
quick rerun of Wednesday's shows. “Model” goes from 32 women in
Los Angeles to 13 sharing a New York flat. “High” is a reality
show focusing on oft-photographed socialite Tinsley Mortimer, as she
ends her marriage and downscales (slightly) her life. She's likable
enough, but the show includes two people so acidic that viewers may
quickly be repulsed.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
A routine estate sale gets a fresh complication: For years, a little
girl's soul has been trapped in this fiercely haunted house.

– “House,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of the hour that had House returning to work, claiming to be a
new man. He promptly finds a patient who takes medical suggestions
online; he also finds disputes between Foreman and “Thirteen.”

– “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”
(2005), 8-11 p.m., Bravo. Written by director Judd Apatow and star
Steve Carell, this story keeps taking odd detours. Some are lame, but
others give fun moments to a great cast that includes Seth Rogen,
Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Catherine Keener and Jonah
Hill.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS. This is
one of those flashbacks episodes, glimpsing Allison's early days. At
her wedding, she worries about how her increasing visions will affect
the marriage. Kathy Baker – a three-time Emmy-winner for “Picket
Fences” – and Bruce Gray return as Joe's parents. Ellen Geer
plays Allison's grandmother … just as her dad Will Geer played the
“Waltons” grandfather.

– “Caprica,” 9 p.m., Syfy. In
last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), Joseph Adama searched for
his late daughter in the virtual world. Tonight, that search builds.
Meanwhile, the late Zoe finds that her escape plane is complicated.
Also, her mother struggles with visions and learns a dark secret.

TV column for Thursday, March 11




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

This show is still in its hurry-up
stage, dumping four people a week. At the end of tonight, however, it
will have its final 12 and start dropping only one a week.

Those dozen will find some fame – as
can be seen by tonight's guests.

Last season, Scott MacIntyre finished
eighth and Matt Giraud was fifth. During breaks, the two piano men
jammed; in the “Idol” finale, they planned to do “Tell Her
About It” with Billy Joel, who wrote it.

That fell through when Joel couldn't be
there, but tonight they'll do it without him. That's on the same day
MacIntyre's album comes out. It's already his sixth album, at age 24;
always in a hurry, MacIntyre had his first college degree at 19.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Archer,” 10
p.m., FX.

Hollywood loves showing ex-lovers
bickering. This episode adds to the fun by having that happen during
a wild car-and-motorcycle chase through Paris.

Soon, Sterling Archer and Lana both
feel they have job offers from a competing spy firm. For him, that
would mean his mother would no longer be his boss.

“Archer” has moments that gets
crude, graphic and simply excessive. Still, it's often very funny,
especially in this episode, a week before the season finale.

Other choices include:

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. First is a rerun of a good episode in which Owen hires a former
Iraq colleague (Kim Raver), stirring jealousy; also, Izzie returns,
bringing her former mentor (Joel Grey), now slipping into Alzheimer's
disease. Then is a new case in which Richard wants to tackle a
difficult operation. He's no longer the chief, though, so Derek will
decide.

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Katharine McPhee, a former “American Idol” runner-up, plays the
step-daughter of Pierce (Chevy Chase). Jeff is supposed to help them
get along; that becomes complicated when she seems interested in
Jeff.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. Jim
is just back from paternity leave and Dwight is causing him trouble.
Meanwhile, Andy and Erin try their first date; Michael tries to
please the new owner (Kathy Bates).

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a boy may be linked to a past case.

– “30 Rock,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. In
the previous episode – which was, alas, a month ago – Jack wooed
a gorgeous CNBC reporter (Elizabeth Banks). Now she learns NBC is
being sold to a cable company.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Already poisoned, a scientist has only hours to live. She wants the
team to catch her killer.

– “True Crime With Aphrodite Jones”
debut, 10 p.m., ID (Investigation Discovery). Jones, a true-crime
author, will dig into a past case each week, starting here with Laci
Peterson. Some of this seems to involve manipulating the facts to fit
a story. Modesto, Cal., a city of 189,000 people, is passed off as
“a small town” and “a close-knit town”; also, Jones seems to
require all people to grieve in the same way. Still, it's compelling
to again hear (via police recordings) Scott Peterson's audacious lies
to his mistress.

– “Private Practice,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Addison must make difficult decisions involving a surrogate
mother who is carrying three babies. Sam's girlfriend (Christina
Chang) soon disagrees with her.

 

 

TV column for Wednesday, March 10




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Psych”
season-finale, 10 p.m., USA.

Set against splendid backdrops, this is
a stylish episode.

One villain (Ally Sheedy) is in prison,
but another is free. Elaborate traps are set, trying to kill Shawn
and his friends in the manner of old Alfred Hitchcock movies.

The result isn't completely satisfying,
but it does provide some visual splendor along the way.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Human
Target,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Here's an Indiana Jones-style
adventure, on a TV budget.

An archaeologist has found a fortune in
the South American jungle. Everyone wants it, including soldiers and
a slick crook and a beautiy (Leonor Varela) who was once Chance's
lover.

Some of the escapes stretch credibility
to the extreme. Along the way, however, we get gunfights, explosions,
a daring air rescue and beautiful people who won't admit they're in
lust and in love.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “First Love,
Second Chance” opener, 10 p.m., TV Land.

As an exchange student from Australia,
Garry couldn't believe his luck: He was staying with the family of a
cute California blond named Star. Then came a misunderstanding and a
split.

Now, almost 30 years later, the show
brings them back together. She's been married (and divorced) twice,
he never has. She has lots of complications, including her five kids
and her roommate.

They live in different hemispheres, but
they're interesting people, getting this show off to a good start.

Other choices tonight include:

– “America's Next Top Model”
opener, 8-9:30 p.m., CW. Things start in Los Angeles, with the field
trimmed from 32 models to 12. They move into a loft, with a 13th
contestant.

\– “Mercy,” 8 p.m., NBC. Veronica
still won't deal with shock from the restaurant shooting and from her
year in Iraq. Instead, she plunges back into work and into her
romance with Dr. Sands.

– “Scrubs,” 8 p.m., ABC. Medical
tests bring bad news for Cole and for Kelso.

– “The Middle,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
In a fairly funny episode, teen Axl finally finds true love – at
least for now. Also, things go bad when Sue lets her little brother
see a horror movie.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Phil has a warm Internet friendship with his former girlfriend; he's
surprised that his wife has a problem with this. Also, Mitchell
finally stands up to his boss.

– “American Idol,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Twice in a row, the men have had so-so nights. Each time, only one
guy – Casey James the first week, Michael Lynche the second –
stood out. Now Jermaine Sellers and John Park are gone; the eight
survivors try to get spots among half of next week's final 12.

– “High Society,” 9:30 p.m., CW.
At the core of this reality show is Tinsley Mortimer, 33, who grew up
rich, married richer, is photographed often and recently split from
her husband. Now she has a modest (by her standards) New York
apartment. She and her sister seem likable enough, but this opener
adds repugnant society people Jules Kirby and Paul Johnson Calderon,
who could chase viewers away.

– “Ugly Betty,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
At least two people secretly fear they were responsible for the fire
that destroyed Betty's family's home. Meanwhile, she's dating an
annoying fireman, to speed up the official report. Also, Broadway
star Brian Stokes Mitchell plays a friend from Wilhelmina's old
days.

TV column for Tuesday, March 9




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Parenthood,”
10 p.m., NBC.

This second episode, like the first,
dangles moments of hope and humor. Then it sometimes snatches them
away – sort of like in real life and real parenthood.

Lauren Graham keeps finding extra
humor, as a smart bartender who has moved home with her teen kids.
Peter Krause is solid as an executive with a troubled son and an
ideal (he thinks) daughter.

Then there are the other siblings.
Tonight brings good moments for Dax Shepard (as a non-commital sort
who's just learned he's a dad) and Erika Christenson (as a slick
lawyer, frustrated by the parental perfection of a stay-at-home mom).

The peak links all four and a marijuana
stash. At that moment, “Parenthood” is a terrific series.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “American
Idol,” 8-9 p.m., Fox.

Last week, the shows were flipped at
the last minute – the men on Tuesday, women on Wednesday –
because of an illness. The result was the same as before – strong
performances by the women, bland ones for the men.

Now the women are back to Tuesdays.
With Haeley Vaughn and Michelle Delamor gone, the field is down to
eight and the show is down to an hour.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “White Collar”
season finale, 10 p.m., USA.

At times, this show tries too hard: It
sets up impossible tasks, then uses luck to accomplish them.

That happens tonight, when Neal must
steal a securely guarded music box. If he gives it to a rogue FBI
agent, he may finally be back with his elusive lover Helen.

It all defies credibility, but there
are good moments along the way. They involve Alex (a beauty with
Neal's knack for theft), Peter (the good FBI agent) and Peter's wife,
a sane civilian amidst schemers.

Other choices include:

– “90210” (8 p.m.) and “Melrose
Place” (9 p.m.), CW. After a long break, both have new episodes. On
“90210,” Adrianna and Gia are closer after an Alcoholics
Anonymous meeting; on Melrose, Amanda (Heather Locklear) plans a
party for her billionaire boyfriend (Billy Campbell).

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a
Marine has been shot, the team finds surprises in his life.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A sailor, killed while street racing, had confidential Navy
equipment in his car.

– “Lost,” 9 p.m., ABC. Last
week's hour (rerunning at 8 p.m.) showed Sayid on the island and in
the alternate existence. This does the same for Ben, whom we see as a
mild-mannered teahcer.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here's a
rerun of a terrific episode. It sent the glee club to sectionals amid
emotional chaos over Quinn's pregnancy and the wedding day of Ken and
Emma – who is clearly in love with Will, the glee-club leader.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Last week, Peter returned home to work on his new defense. That
continues tonight, with the hard-edged Eli (Alan Cumming) on his
team. Meanwhile, Peter's good wife defends a lawyer accused of
murder.

TV column for Monday, March 8




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rules of
Engagement,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

When was the last time you saw a really
funny show about suspected wife-beating?

Somehow, this one works. It goes to
great means to create a misunderstanding, then milks it.

This is as elaborate as a British farce
or an old “Three's Company” episode. Yes, it's politically
incorrect; it's also quite funny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The
Bachelor: Jason and Molly's Wedding,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

For 12 straight editions, “The
Bachelor” fell short of marriage. Now it has one: Jason Mesnick –
who chose someone else, then changed his mind – is shown in his
recent wedding to Molly Melaney.

They even have guest stars: He chose
Gavin DeGrow to sing “Follow Through”; she chose Jason Castro
withy “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

People from previous editions show up,
including some that are still together – Trista and Ryan Sutter,
Charlie O'Connell and Sarah Brice, Jillian Harris and Ed Swiderski.
Alas, only the Sutters (from “Bachelorette,” not “Bachelor”)
are married.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Top Gear,”
8 p.m., BBC America.

Jay Leno visits his favorite show,
defending his car obsession. “I have one wife and 150 cars,” he
says.

It's better, he argues, to come home
reeking of transmission fluid than of cheap perfume.

He also tries the show's racetrack –
something his own show copies poorly. That's part of a fun episode
that peaks with attempts to create a car commercial.

It's the season finale, but don't fret:
The new season starts next week.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Laura
Prepon (“That '70s Show”) plays a blogger who keeps telling the
world about everything at the hospital, getting suggestions from
readers.

– “Chuck,” 8 p.m., NBC. Chuck
needs to instantly flash spy stuff in his mind. When the flashes
suddenly disappear, he's dropped from a mission – then faces
trouble alone.

– “Trauma,” 9 p.m., NBC. Yes, it
felt like this show was canceled. After dropping Leno from prime
time, however, NBC re-discovered it still has six new episodes of
this paramedic show. Tonight, Nancy finally faces fear; also, Rabbit
and Marisa treated the wounded at a bank robbery.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Nothing is permanent for Charlie, including a break-up. After
splitting, he and Chelsea have a one-night stand.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30
p.m., CBS. At a garage sale, the guys spot a ring from “Lord of the
Rings.” Chaos ensues.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. A
murder is linked to a domination parlor. Castle becomes a client.

– “Diary of a Call Girl,” 10
p.m., Showtime. Last week, Hannah hesitantly started dating Duncan,
the publisher who knows she's also Belle, the prostitute and author.
Tonight, things spin out of control when they meet the wrong people
on a date. It's a fairly good episode of an inconsistent series.

– “Be Good Johnny Weir,” 10:30
p.m., Sundance. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10), saw Weir
skating poorly in Moscow. Now he's in Japan as the series nears its
Olympics finale on March 22.