TV column for Sunday, May 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Good Wife” finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

Some people assume
that all praise-worthy, award-worthy dramas are on cable. “Good
Wife,” however, has been a splendid exception. In seven years, it's
drawn 39 Emmy nominations, winning for star Julianna Margulies
(twice) and for other actresses (three times).

Now the finale
starts in mid-crisis. Last week, Peter decided to accept a plea
bargain ... but too late; the jury was already returning. What's the
verdict? Will Alicia leave Peter now for her company's detective?
Will her new firm survive turmoil? We may see, as an excellent show
says farewell.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Masterpiece: Wallander” return, 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Kurt Wallander fits
the Swedish landscape – calm, quiet, solitary, a tad bleak. Now
he's transplanted to a police conference in South Africa; there, he's
asked to help find a Swedish woman who went missing.

The result is a good
mystery (as usual), with wonderfully underplayed work by its star,
Kenneth Branagh. It's also the beginning of the end: Wallander will
be back in Sweden on the next two Sundays, as a great, 12-movie
series reaches its emotional conclusion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of God” conclusion, 9 p.m., National
Geographic.

In this sprawling
series, Morgan Freeman has spanned the globe to see how religions
answer the great questions. Now he ends with a big one: Are there
miracles, or just stunning coincidences?

Freeman starts and
ends with amazing survivors: One, a widow-washer, fell 47 floors;
another had cancer so extreme that he was given only months to live.
The latter – almost two decades later – calls it a miracle; the
former doesn't: Why would God miraculously save him and not his
brother, who fell with him? Such questions are part of an eternal
dialog ... and Freeman is ideal to lead it.

Other choices
include:

“Talladega Nights”
(2006), 6:30 p.m., and “American Speed: The True Story of NASCAR,”
9 and 11 p.m., CMT. First is some amiable silliness, with Will
Ferrell as a champion driver; then is a new documentary, viewing how
NASCAR began and grew into a mammoth force.

“Madam Secretary”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. After surviving last week's
terrorist-hunting ordeal, Henry (Tim Daly) is ready for ordinary life
again. He makes waffles, organizes mini-golf ... and finds himself in
the midst of crucial family moments. At times, this is a surprisingly
light hour, complete with a great scene for a speech-writer. But at
the core are fresh crises for Henry's wife (Tea Leoni), the secretary
of state. The result mixes humor, emotion and a big change for next
season.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. This blossomed quickly into a surprise ratings
hit, so NBC wants to extend the season. Tonight, it shows top-10
moments from the first eight episodes.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. This tangled drama reaches a key point: It's election day
for Claire, who continued her run after learning (and keeping secret)
that the return of her son Adam was a ruse by her daughter Bella.
“Adam” is actually Ben; tonight, he and Bella both spill secrets.
Also, Nina tries to get a confession from Doug ... unaware that his
loved one, Jane, has FBI agent Clements captive.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. After some funny moments early, this
suddenly reminds us of the basics: This is, after all, a show about
the few survivors of a global virus. It's a tough transition.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. A week before the season-finale, it's time for these
people to graduate and become FBI agents. Flashing forward, Alex
learns that one of her classmates was deceitful.

“Elementary”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. Sherlock learns that a global crime
organization was at the heart of the murder attempt on his father.
The effort to fight back is hampered by father-son issues.

TV column for Saturday, May 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Brie Larson had done
lots of work (comedy and drama) that went unnoticed. She did
situation comedies and was a wild teen on Showtime's “United States
of Tara”; she did independent movies, including “Greenberg” and
“Short Term 12.”

Then another indie,
“Room,” changed her life. She won every best-actress award,
including an Oscar. At 26, she hosts “SNL,” which returns from
two weeks of reruns; Alicia Keys is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Houdini & Doyle,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Let's give this an A
for its concept and a C-minus -- at best -- for everything else. In
real life, Harry Houdini (the magician) and Conan Doyle (author of
Sherlock Holmes novels) were mismiatched friends. Doyle clung to a
belief in ghosts and spiritualism, notions that Houdini worked to
debunk.

So this imagines
that they spent a lot of time together in 1901 London, solving cases
alongside Scotland Yard's first female constable. The setting
provides some great visuals and the era creates obstacles that help
the story. Still, this plot (rerun from Monday) is so-so, at best.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Sports flurry, ABC, NBC and cable.

Half the big-four
networks have play-off games. It's hockey (Pittsburgh-Washington) at
7:15 p.m. ET on NBC, basketball (Golden State-Portland) at 8 on ABC.
There's more in the afternoon and late-night.

And there's a bonus,
on Mother's Day eve: “The Real MVP” (8 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning
at midnight) tells of Wanda Durant, a single mother at 21, keeping
her two sons out of trouble; Kevin Durant would become a basketball
superstar. Cassandra Freeman stars, in a movie produced by Queen
Latifah.

Other choices
include:

Kentucky Derby, 4
p.m. ET., NBC. After the two minutes of excitement, you can catch a
movie about a previous winner. “Secretariat” (2010) isn't a great
movie – that's “Seabiscuit” -- but it's a fairly good one, with
Diane Lane excellent as the horse's no-nonsense owner.

“Thor: The Dark
World” (2013), 7:30 p.m., FX. Marvel continues to take over our TV
time. This movie is followed at 10 p.m. by “Captain America: The
First Avenger” (2011). HBO counters at 8 with “Fantastic Four”
(2015). And the Disney XD channel has Marvel animation, from 8 p.m.
to midnight.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. Speaking of superheroes, these high-IQ characters wear
heroic costumes in this rerun. They're undercover on a movie set in
Kazakhstan, trying to disable a nuclear missile.

“Beauty & the
Beast – When Kate Met Chapo,” 8 p.m. ET, Fox News. Geraldo Rivera
(no, he's not the beauty of the beast) reports the odd story of the
friendship between actress Kate del Castillo and druglord Joaquin
(“El Chapo”) Guzman. Subjects include their secret meeting with
Sean Penn, Guzman's extradition status and his fascination with
Donald Trump.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a suspect may be obsessed with medical
experiments.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:55 and 10:50. Jamie and Claire re-unite,
but a past event endangers their relationship.

“Beverly Hills
Cop” (1984), 9-11:15 p.m., Sundance. This should be the prototype
for any fish-out-of-water film. Clever moments alternate with
whiz-bang action, all perfectly handled by Eddie Murphy.

TV column for Friday, May 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Adele in New York,” 8-9:30 p.m., NBC.

As this Radio City
Music Hall concert was about to begon, Jimmy Fallon called Adele “a
once-in-a-generation talent.” Usually, that's just hype; in this
case, it's an accurate assessment.

Adele started with
“Hello” -- logically enough – and ended with her sensational
“Rolling in the Deep”; in between were other hits, including
“Skyfall” and “Set Fire to the Rain.” Now the entire concert
reruns; this version is 30 minutes longer than the original, with
five extra songs.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Blue Bloods” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

This solid drama
rarely mimics real-life events, but here's a strong exception. After
a grand jury clears a cop, someone leaks a tape that seems to show
him shooting an unarmed Hispanic man.

There's outrage from
the mayor and the public, putting pressure on the Reagans – Frank
(Tom Selleck), the police commissioner; his daughter Erin (Bridget
Moynahan), an assistant district attorney; and her brother Danny
(Donnie Wahlberg), a police detective pursuing what may have been a
revenge shooting.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Amazing Race,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A week from naming
its million-dollar winner, the race now has its final four ... and
has lost its most dominant duo. Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson are
Frisbee stars and skilled racers who finished in first place during
many rounds; last week, however, they hit a double detour and were
eliminated.

Finishing first were
Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl, who have been friends since childhood.
They face two dating couples – dancers Matt Steffanina and Dana
Boriello, videogame people Burnie Burns and Ashley Jenkins – plus
the mother-son duo of Sheri and Cole LaBrant. Tonight, they all reach
China.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: More music, cable.

If you're skipping
the Adele rerun, there's a lot more music out there in other reruns.
You could go straight from Ariana Grande and other teen-pop stars at
the Radio Disney Music Awards (7-9 p.m., Disney) to Charlie Parker in
Ken Burns' “Jazz” documentary series, 9-11 p.m. on most PBS
stations.

Or you can try two
movies built around music: “Sister Act” (1993, 8-10:30 p.m., TV
Land) is a clever comedy with Whoopi Goldberg. “Selena” (1997)
has Jennifer Lopez in a moving portrait of the Tejano star who was
killed; the Pop channel has it at 10 p.m., two hours later than
originally scheduled.

Other choices
include:

“The Help”
(2011), 7-11 p.m., BET. A grim subject – racisim among the rich in
1960s Mississippi – is viewed amiably, with great work from Octavia
Spencer (an winning an Oscar) and Viola Davis.

“Think Like a Man”
(2012), 8-10 p.m., Fox. Last summer, Steve Harvey's “Celebrity
Family Feud” was considered a big ratings surprise; it will be
back. Right now, Harvey's “Little Big Shots” has become a bigger
surprise. (Maybe some day, networks won't be so surprised.) Now Fox
wisely inserts this comedy movie based on Harvey's advice book. He
has a supporting role, in a film that stars Taraji Henson, Kevin
Hart, Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, Chris Brown and many more.

More movies, cable.
Alongside the Fox and BET movies, there are some high-octane
adventures. At 8 p.m., try the deligtful “Back to the Future”
(1985) on CMT or “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) on TNT; at 9, TBS
has “Oz, the Great and Powerful” (2013).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A member of the “Five-0” team has a strong
connection to the young daughter of a woam who was killed in her
home.

“The Originals,”
9 p.m., CW. Klaus, Elijah and Freya are desperate to dispose of
Lucien, who has left their family shattered.

“The Story of
God,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. This excellent, six-hour
documentary series concludes at 9 p.m. Sunday. First, this rerun has
Morgan Freeman asking how religions view evil.

TV column for Thursday, May 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

This terrific comedy
thrives on its mother-daughter arguments. Tonight, that's pretty much
the whole episode; great actresses collide verbally ... and, in a
hilarious moment, physically.

Christy (Anna Faris)
has had a personal triumph; her mom (Allison Janney) can't seem to
compliment her. Soon, they're exchanging sharp dialog and then having
that fight scene. There's even a dandy dream scene that returns
Janney to “The West Wing,” where she won three of her (so far)
six Emmys.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

The season's final
three episodes will continue to search for the people responsible for
Liz's death. Tonight, Red traces a link to Susan Hargrave, who is
elegant, powerful and dangerous.

She's played by
Famke Janssen, the Dutch-born actress whom movie fans know as a James
Bond villain in “GoldenEye” and as Jean Grey, transforming into
Phoenix, in the “X-Men” movies.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Archer” (FX) or “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy
Central), 10 p.m.

After the
traditional comedies on CBS, switch to cable for ones that are
offbeat, adult, erratic .... and sometimes very funny. Last week's
“Archer” (rerunning at 10:31 p.m.) saw the team guarding a
necklace worn by a faded movie star; now they're held hostage, in an
episode that reruns at 11:02.

Some of Schumer's
best moments involve satirizing gender stereotypes. Tonight
(rerunning at 1:01 a.m.) has “best-actress” nominations (in very
limited roles) and glasses that let you see what appeals to each guy.
There are other fairly funny bits, plus a warm talk with an activist
who has Down sydrome.

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. In an uncharacteristic moment, Brennan punched a suspect; now
she faces a hearing that could bar her from working with the FBI.
Meanwhile, her husband Booth has ties to a suspect in the new murder
case. And Laura Spencer (Raj's sometimes-girlfriend on “Big Bang
Theory”) is back as Jessica, Aubrey's maybe-girlfriend.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. On Sunday, Christine Baranski will wrap up a
great drama run, with the series finale of “The Good Wife.”
First, she returns to her comedy duties, as Leonard's coldly
analytical mom; her daughter-in-law Penny struggles to make a
connection.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Oscar finally has a romance with someone his age
(Teri Hatcher); now a new problem appears. Meanwhile, the Felix-Emily
romance was thriving ... until she regained custody of her pet; now
Felix must overcome his fear of dogs.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A week before the season-finale, we finally learn who will
be the presidential nominees. First, Olivia struggles to take down
Hollis Doyle, the evil oil lobbyist. And Edison Davis, her former
fiancee, feels he may have aligned with the wrong people, as Rowan
and Jake maneuver.

“Project Runway
All-Stars” finale, 9 p.m., Lifetime. First, we can catch the
previous four episodes, at 5 p.m. They sift the field to the final
three – Dom Streater of Philadelphia, Ken Laurence of Atlanta and
Kini Zamora, from Hawaii. Tonight (promptly rerunning at 10:32 p.m.),
they make New York-inspired fashions from the top of the World Trade
Center.

“Rush Hour,” 10
p.m., CBS. In the “21 Jump Street” style, cops go undercover in
high school. This time, however, the cop has been killed; Carter and
Lee go undercover as school administrators.

“Game of Silence,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Returning to the juvenile-detention home where they
were brutalized, the guys start to understand Gil's ordeal. They also
learn more of the scheme led by the former warden ... whose political
campaign is being infilitrated by Jessie, who was Jackson's
girlfriend in their teen days and is now with Gil. It's a fairly good
hour, starting to put together some key pieces.

TV column for Wednesday, May 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

Philip and Elizabeth
have always felt they're on the side of good. Deeply embedded in
1980s America, they're spies, reporting back to their Russian
homeland. Still, there's a dark side they can't duck: Often, they
take advantage of innocent people, ruining -- or even ending -- their
lives.

Now that peaks
doubly: Philip (Matthew Rhys) seduced and – using a false identity
– married Martha, an FBI secretary; he must send her to Russia
before her bosses find her. Meanwhile Elizabeth (Keri Russell) has a
quick crisis involving another contact. Lives are bent, in a
beautifully acted hour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Lucious' new video
might re-spark his career, with a deeply personal look at his painful
childhood and his troubled mother. But it also brings fresh questions
from his son, Andre – who is belatedly learning that his own
bipolar disorder is similar to his grandmother's; now a dark secret
brings trouble..

And all around
Andre, there are other emotional extremes: Both of his brothers have
secret affairs; also, his wife Rhonda is starting to remember who
pushed her down the stairs, almost killing her.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Underground,” 10 p.m., WGN America.

A week from the
finale of the first season, crises overwhelm these runaway slaves.
Sam was captured and returned to the plantation, Noah was injured and
a slave-catcher (Christopher Meloni) has Rosalee.

As Cato and Noah try
to free her, “Underground” has a flaw that hurts many dramas –
creating a situation so difficult that no solution would be
believable. If you can overlook that, then catch an
otherwise-excellent episode of a well-crafted series.

Other choices
include:

“Jurassic Park”
films, cable. You can catch all four films – but not in order. IFC
has the original – Steven Spielberg's action masterpiece (1993) --
at 6 p.m.; it precedes that with the second one (1997) at 1 p.m. and
the third (2001) at 4 ... then has the third again at 10 p.m..
Meanwhile, HBO has the fourth film -- “Jurassic World” (2015) --
at 2:50 and 10 p.m.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Two weeks from the finale, the former tribes are even.
“Beauty” lost Julia Sokolowski (a college student, 19), leaving
two people – the same as for “Brains” and “Brawn.”

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. In previous years, viewers have seen Mother's Day plans
crumble. This time, Frankie tells everyone not to bother ... but then
has a new idea.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Both boys aren't sure how to ask for prom date. Luke get
advice from Mitchell and Manny from Cam ... who, of course, tends to
overdue things.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. For the finale of its 11th season, the show
tries a big story – Hotch (Thomas Gibson) has been arrested on
conspiracy charges – and two returning guest stars. Sheryl Lee
Ralph plays the ex-wife of Rossi (Joe Mategna); Frances Fischer plays
serial killer Antonia Slade.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. John Munch is TV's most eternal
police detective. He started on “Law & Order,” then did 15
seasons on “Special Victims Unit”; the same character – always
played by Richard Belzer, now 71 – has done four other cop shows,
plus two Tina Fey comedies and “The X-Files.” Now, in his first
“SVU” in two years, one of his old cases re-opens.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. When interviewed, Scarlett and Gunnar can't agree on their
own history as a music act. Also, Kelsea Ballerini plays herself and
sings “Peter Pan.”