CBS pre-empts its dependable and popular Thursday-night series to present prime-time coverage of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., CBS, time approximate).
No matter who wins tonight’s NCAA games, “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) will be the most-watched program of the night. Barring some tear-stained reprieve, a second contestant will be sent home.
In tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m., NBC), the often awkward and sporadically amusing cartoon-like comedy lampoons the news media’s obsession with fear-mongering and superstition.
Leslie (Amy Poehler) has staked her reputation and the fate of her entire department on the success of the revival of the town’s Harvest Festival. Rather than report on the fun and games with a pleasant puff piece, an embittered local reporter builds up the rumor of a “curse” placed on the festival by a local Indian tribe because the happy event will take place on an ancient burial ground. The show revels in tabloid media excess, with a local station even showing a “re-creation” of evil spirits attacking Leslie, as rendered by really cheap-looking computer animation.
• Speaking of tabloid media and superstition, “Destination Truth” (6 p.m., Syfy) presents the series’ first live episode covering a St. Patrick’s Day-themed search for the so-called Banshee Ghost in County Carlow, Ireland.
According to the network press release, (that begins with the sure-fire line, “According to legend ... ”) a banshee is a female specter who lets out a wail around a house the night before one unlikely resident is slated to die. OK, I’m a skeptic, but I may gain an inkling of faith in this 100-proof blarney if I read that “Destination Truth” gets canceled tomorrow.
• “Manhunter: Fugitive Task Force” (9 p.m., A&E) returns for a third season of 23 half-hour episodes. Each installment follows a New York based crew as they search for a wanted criminal. First up: the challenge of finding the man who raped a very young victim.
Comedy, ghosts compete against March Madness What do you do when you’re the premiere sports network and your core audience is watching basketball on CBS? You show “Winter X Games Europe” (7 p.m., ESPN).
Tonight’s other highlights
• Spend St. Patrick’s Day with a wee marathon of corny old movies, from “My Wild Irish Rose” (5 a.m., TCM) to “The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady” (5 p.m.).
• Michael and Holly’s public affection make many uneasy on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).
• A viral outbreak looms on “Bones” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Reality camera lingers on the set on “30 Rock” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A prenup gets messy on “Fairly Legal” (9 p.m., USA).
Mainstream Hollywood’s efforts to capture the youth audience of films like “Easy Rider” resulted in spate of “relevant” stinkers, including “R.P.M.” (3:45 a.m., TCM), a 1970 tale of campus rebellion directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Anthony Quinn and Ann-Margret.