I'm beginning to hear in my mailbag from those whose reaction to slaloms, snowboarding and skating isn't so much "Oh my!" as "Oh no!" (And we're not talking Apolo.) Personally, I love dipping in and out of the Winter Games, and NBC is giving us plenty of opportunity — not just in the network's prime-time package, but with live online streaming and selected live events (in decidedly not prime-time hours) on cable outlets including NBCSN.
But for those with an aversion to athletes on ice and snow, the TV pickings can be slim over the next two weeks, as many networks put their most popular shows on hold so as not to waste them against the Olympics juggernaut. This Tuesday is something of an exception, with plenty of promising alternatives. A quick rundown:
GETTING SERIOUS: Undoubtedly the most important and timely program of the night is on PBS's flagship newsmagazine Frontline (10/9c, check tvguide.com listings), with a literally front-line account of the Syrian civil war. Syrian-born correspondent Muhammad Ali reports "Syria's Second Front," going deep inside the ranks of moderate rebels who are not only fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but also taking on the radical faction known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). A second story focuses on the "Children of Aleppo," chronicling the "lost generation" of orphaned and dispossessed youth in this besieged nation.
Taking a longer view of history, PBS's peerless American Experience (9/8c, check tvguide.com listings) tells the real story of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid — aka Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, the Bonnie & Claude of their day.
And Nickelodeon's award-winning Nick News With Linda Ellerbee (8/7c) acknowledges Black History Month with a look back at the historic court ruling that brought racial integration to public schools, in "Black, White and Brown V. Board of Education: A Return to Segregated Schools?" Not just a history lesson, the special explores inequalities in today's education system.
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GETTING FRIVOLOUS: Fox's comedies are all new, starting with the bad news/good news that Dads is a full hour (8/7c), but it's the early season finale, so at least we won't have to put up with that witless farce any longer. Guest stars populate the better shows, with Linda Cardellini — last seen as Don Draper's downstairs mistress on Mad Men — arriving on New Girl (9/8c) as Jess's spitfire sister Abby. Sounds like fun. ... And in a sitcom throwback, Taxi's Marilu Henner checks into Brooklyn Nine-Nine (9:30/8:30c) as the girlfriend of hapless Detective Boyle (scene stealer Joe Lo Truglio).
Let's not forget TBS's wacky Cougar Town (10/9c), where the cul-de-sac's annual yard sale provides an object lesson in karma for Jules and gives Andy ammunition in his bet that wife Ellie can't go a whole day without being snarky.
GETTING DRAMATIC: Top choice, as usual, is FX's Justified (10/9c), in which Raylan seeks payback in Harlan after new squeeze Alison is attacked, while Boyd stays busy trying to protect Ava. ... Heads-up for fans of ABC's Pretty Little Liars: Don't adjust your TV, it's supposed to be black-and-white this week, as Spencer dreams her way into an episode-length film-noir homage (8/7c). This is followed by the winter premiere of Twisted (9/8c). ... Enjoy it while it lasts, as ABC's soon-to-depart Killer Women (10/9c) investigates the murder of a basketball star. But really, wouldn't you rather be watching skating?