TV column for Thursday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

We had never figured Wolowitz for a
space hero, but there he is as this gem begins: He's in the cockpit,
with Mike Massimino (a real-life astronaut, playing himself) and a
Russian cosmonaut.

That leads to flashbacks: Did Howard
and Bernadette marry before take-off? Was his mom (as usual) always
heard and never seen? Did Amy get to wear her maid-of-honor dress?
Did Sheldon behave?

You've probably guessed some of the
answers, but this is still a delight to watch.

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

Here's one of the show's key turning
points – the selection of the final three.

Those are the ones who get big
welcoming parties this weekend in their home towns. The person ousted
tonight merely joins a distinguished list (Chris Daughtry, Tamyra
Gray, etc.) finishing fourth.

Also, there will be performances by
past champion David Cook and judge Jennifer Lopez.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Office”and “Parks and Recreation,” 9-10 p.m., NBC.

With the season officially ending in
13days, many shows wrap up tonight. That includes these two comedies,
each working on a major storyline.

For “Office,” it's the rise and
fall of Andy. He works as a janitor at the office, hoping for a
comeback.

And for “Parks,” it's Leslie's city
council race against Bobby Newport, the rich guy who is good-spirited
and clueless. On election day, a poll shows them in a virtual tie.

Other choices include:

– “Vampire Diaries,” 8 p.m., CW.
This is another of the night's many season-finales. Through
flashbacks, Elena recalls when her parents were alive. Also, Stefan
and Damon leave on a mission.

– “Rules of Engagement,”8:30
p.m., CBS. As her surrogate nears birth, Audrey is still botching her
preparations for motherhood. She keep breaking the doll she's been
practicing on.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The surgical interns must make their final decisions on which job
offers to accept. Romance choices are also tough; Mark is torn
between Lexie and Julia.

– “The Secret Circle,” 9 p.m.,
CW. In another season-finale, Cassie (the terrific Britt Robertson)
links with Diana and Faye, to battle the witch-hunters,

– “Mary Mary,” 9 p.m., WE. With
both sisters pregnant, the tour has been canceled and the future of
the singing duo is shaky

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
On the eighth anniversary of the murder of his wife and daughter,
Patrick Jane gets a message from Red John. He soon loses focus on the
current case and endangers his career (again).

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). For 4,000 years, nomads have wandered the
Tibetan mountains, often herding yaks. “Summer Pasture,” a fairly
interesting documentary, catches some of their traditions, plus
modern twists. We see a summer fair … a shopping trip into town …
and a switch to gathering caterpillar fungi, which suddenly draw
big money because of perceived medicinal value.

– “Scandal,”10:01 p.m., ABC. Kate
Burton (Meredith's late mom on “Grey's Anatomy”) plays the
vice-president here. Tonight's episode flashes back to the primaries,
to show her fractured relationship with the president. Also, Gideon
probes the past of Amanda Tanner, the president's accuser.