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.

TV column for Monday, March 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane,” 8 p.m., National Geographic and NatGeo Wild; reruns at
9:34.

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.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Idol” (ABC) or “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10
p.m.

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
Voice.”

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

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
include:

“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
rock.

“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
killer.

“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


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“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
frauds.

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.

TONIGHT'S
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
her.

Other choices
include:

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.

“Madame
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


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
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.

TONIGHT'S
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
include:

“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


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S
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.

TONIGHT'S
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
include:

“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.