An annual tradition on CBS for decades, the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament (noon), or "March Madness," begins today in earnest. In addition to CBS, games will also be airing throughout the day on TBS, TNT and Tru TV.
There were years when the arrival of prime-time basketball offered the network its only chance to reach a wide audience. But that has not been the case for some time now, since CBS became the highest-rated network. But basketball still might reach younger male viewers who aren't exactly glued to "NCIS."
In addition to CBS' NCAA competition on prime time, the cable network CBS Sports has scheduled more than 90 hours of live coverage and encore programming during the 2013 tournament. "NCAA March Madness 360" (2:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.) offers continuing highlights of the day's action.
---While popular, college basketball coverage hardly eclipses the ratings of other sports programming, like NFL football. And there is interesting counterprogramming for non-sports fans.
"Glee" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) has long played up the distinctions and similarities between the arts crowd and sports cliques. Tonight, the teen performers dive deep into their guilty pleasure songbook to warble some groan-worthy tunes.
A form of musical chairs unfolds as fans vote a second finalist off "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
And far from the locker room, "The Vampire Di aries" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) flashes back to Damon's decadent lifestyle in New York during the heyday of disco in the 1970s.
---As if the weather did not seem apocalyptic enough, the Weather Channel explores grim, "what if" scenarios on "Forecasting the End" (9 p.m., TV-G). Tonight, experts contemplate the arrival of a rogue planet in our solar system large enough to affect the Earth's orbital path.
---A candidate for the Supreme Court is discovered in an affair with Olivia's new client (Lisa Edelstein) on "Scandal" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Edelstein ("House, M.D.") is no stranger to Washington D.C.-based dramas. She appeared in the pilot episode of "The West Wing" as a fetching law student moonlighting as an escort. After she spends the night with Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), he inadvertently leaves his White House pager with his one-night stand. Pagers? I haven't thought of them since watching VH1's "I Love the '90s: Part Deux."
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
---Winter X Games (7 p.m., ESPN) resume in Tignes, France.
---The gang goes on a class trip on "Community" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Families enter a parallel domestic universe on "Wife Swap" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Emily tries to help Skip buckle down in order to graduate on "1600 Penn" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Before returning home, four special ops veterans train local rangers to capture poachers on "Battleground: Rhino Wars" (9 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-14).
---Meredith fears for her unborn child on "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Contestants compete to land a spring wardrobe in the windows of the Lord & Taylor department store on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
---Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter star in the miniseries "Top of the Lake" (8 p.m. and 9 p.m., Sundance, TV-14), which is well worth catching. Directed by Jane Campion.
---Playing with placebos on "Anger Management" (9:30 p.m., FX, r, TV-14).
---A cold case may explain a recent spate of rapes and murders on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
A gifted lawyer (Orson Welles) mounts a doomed defense on behalf of two university snobs who murder a boy as part of a theoretical game in the 1959 drama "Compul sion" (8 p.m., TCM), based on the Leopold and Loeb case of the 1920s. The sensational trial also inspired Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 drama "Rope."
---A prospective boss reminds Pam of Michael Scott on "The Office" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG ).
---Cat and Vincent turn a new page on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14 ).
---Dale and Emily try to rekindle their romance on "1600 Penn" (9:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Paul Rudd is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central, r ).
---Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Bobby Lee, Morgan Murphy and Kurt Braunohler are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E! ).
---Paola Antonelli sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central, r).
---Jay Leno welcomes Dwayne Johnson, Chris Paul and Atlas Genius on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC ).
---Ellen Pompeo, Brad Keselowski and Lianne La Havas appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC ).
---Amy Poehler, Kevin Pollak and Ke$ha appear on "Conan" (midnight, TBS, r, time approximate due to basketball coverage ).
---Tina Fey, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Solange appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r, time approximate due to basketball coverage ).
---Anderson Cooper, Thandie Newton and Brandi Carlile visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC ).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Quentin Tarantino on "The Late Late Show" (1:35 a.m., CBS, r, time approximate due to basketball coverage).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy gmail.com.