TV column for Wednesday, May 27

“iHeartRadio Country Festival,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

After languishing on
the CW, the “iHeart” specials have moved up to a bigger network
and bigger ratings. This one packs starpower, starting with hosts
Jennifer Nettles and Darius Rucker.

There's much more --
Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert, Justin
Moore, Sam Hunt and Tyler Farr, plus Craig Robinson, disc jockeys,
Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Big & Rich and
Jessie James Decker with her husband, football player Eric Decker.

“”Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

It was a good season
for ABC, with first-year shows that were diverse, distinctive and
clever. Here's one example, rerunning a fairly good pilot film.

Dre (Anthony
Anderson) is an ad man married to a doctor. He has a comfy life ...
and a fear that his kids don't feel their black roots. That's
verified by the fact that his son now wants to be Jewish, so he can
have a bar mitzvah. As a one-shot story, this is terrific; as the
start of an ongoing series, it's OK.

ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local livings).

Viewers like the
long-shots, the underdogs (or underpigs) who beat the odds. So
they'll love the creatures in this dandy rerun. Chris P. Bacon is a
pig whose back legs don't function; Roofus is a golden retriever
who's blind and has two bad legs. They thrive, thanks to both
enthusiasm and technology.

That prosthetic
technology also provides forelegs for a pony, a beak for a swan, and
a tail for an alligator. This gem will make you feel good about
people, science and the power of a positive pig.

Other choices

“The Briefcase”
debut, 8 p.m., CBS. A decade ago, Joe Bergin was laid off from his
corporate job. He and his wife started an ice cream-truck business,
but they're struggling to support their daughters, now 15, 13 and 12.
Suddenly, they're given $101,000; they can keep it all ... or share
some with Dave Bronson, a wounded Iraq veteran whose wife (a nurse)
is expecting their second child. What they don't know is that the
Bronsons face the same choice; it's the first chapter in

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. The nine-day quiz show is on the eve of its finale.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last week's opener chose 22 home cooks. Tonight, they have
their first challenge with “mystery box” ingredients. Then the
elimination round involves baking an apple pie.

debut, 9 p.m., Fox. Sure, it sounds easy to throw yourself toward the
middle of a target. But these people are jumping from an 18-wheel
truck ... or leaping from a helicopter ... or being propelled by a
giant slingshot. And that's just the first round, heading toward a
weekly $50,000 winner.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This rerun finds the Dunphys vowing to change, after a
near-death experience on a car ride. Claire will be more care-free,
Phil will be a take-charge guy, Luke will fulfill a bucket list and
his sisters will stop fighting. Or not.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Verne Troyer, the 2-foot-8 actor who was
Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, swaps with Hines Ward, the former
football star and “Dancing With the Stars” champ.

“Soul Man,”
10:30 p.m., TV Land. While broadcasrt networks obsess on games, cable
has some scripted comedies. Here, Stamps obsesses on a self-help
program. That follows a “Hot and Cleveland” (10 p.m.) with clips
and bloopers. Earier, “Young & Hungry” (8 p.m., ABC Family)
has Gabi tempted to take a Swiss internship

TV column for Tuesday, May 26

“America's Got Talent” and “I Can Do That,” 8 and 10 p.m.,

First is the
season-opener of “Talent,” a ratings hit each summer. The
auditions begin; expect lots of noise, odd moments and occasional

Then is the debut of
its companion piece. Each week, we meet three acts that do amazing
and/or bizarre things; this opener has the Harlem Globetrotters, Penn
& Teller and AirRealistic. Then the six regulars, working in
duos, try to join in. They str dancer Cheryl Burke, comedian Jeff
Dye, actor Alan Ritchson and singers Joe Jonas, Nicole Scherzinger
and Ciara.

“Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” return, 8-9 p.m.,

The important thing
is to skip the first few minutes, when an overzealous introduction
spoils most of the hour. After that, thrtr'd a gentle quiz show,
filled with likable people.

The contestant is a
pastor and the host (Jeff Foxworthy) is a Georgia guy who knows all
the right biblical references. Some questions are absurdly easy. (How
many minutes are between 2:43 and 3? How many states border at least
one other state?) Some are surprisingly tough. (How many planets are
bigger than Earth?) All of it is overhyped, but still offers modest
summer fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

Most scripted shows
have closed for the season, but this well-made (and offbeat) show has
three more new episodes. Tonight, things get fairly personal.

The victim is
connected to Major (Liv's former fiancee). In the morgue, she eats
his brains – she does that a lot – to learn more about him; soon,
she's alternating between paranoia and a secret computer.

Other choices

“500 Questions”
(8 p.m.) and “Extreme Weight Loss” (9-11 p.m.), ABC. First the
nine-day quiz show continues, heading to its Thursday conclusion.
Then “Extreme” introduces twins who were 13 when their mother
went to jail, leaving them in charge of two younger sisters. Now
weighing 381 and 378 pounds, these men, 42, start a year-long fitness
program with Chris and Heidi Powell.

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This chapter of Ken Burns'
superb film starts in 1920, with a then-healthy Franklin Roosevelt as
New York governor with a bright future.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun night for CBS starts with an explosion at a global
conference. While his team works on it, Gibbs tries to help Fornell
(Joe Spano), who rages after his wife's murder.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Amid Mardi Gras celebrations, there's a
murder to solve. Also, we see the strained relationship between Pride
(Scott Bakula) and his dad (Stacy Keach).

“Hell's Kitchen,”
9 p.m., Fox. The final five chefs have 45 minutes to prepare a
small-plate meal.

“Person of
Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. Reese had been keeping his identity secret
while working as a police detective. Now his worlds entwine, when
people he's protecting are targes of a police probe.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Enrtitled “Obama at War,” this
hour traces the events since 2011 that found the U.S. forced to work
with a brutal Syrian dictator, to face the even-worse ISIS.

TV column for Monday, May 25

“Driving America,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

With all those
vacant miles, Americans were in a rush to create cars. Oliver Evans
drove a 30-foot, steam-powered boat-on-wheels in 1805; a century
later, Henry Ford mastered the assembly line. Other great inventions
would follow, including motels, drive-ins, windshield wipers and the

Here's a splendid
dash through two centuries of car history. It offers smart narration,
sharp experts (led by pop professor Robert Thomson and writers Larry
Edsall and Hannah Elliott), slick editing and a desire to include
everything -- from artful design to potent engineering, in a nation
in perpetual motion.

“The Bachelorette,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Last week took care
of the big questions: Guys chose their “bachelorette” -- Kaitlyn
Bristowe, the dance teacher, topping Britt – and she got down to
business. She had her first kiss (Chris, the dentist) and first
make-out session (Shawn B., the personal trainer); then the
dismissals began.

One guy (Ryan M., a
junkyard man) was dismissed early after drinking; another (Brady, a
singer) left to pursue Britt. Kaitlyn dumped four more, including the
part-time exotic dancer and the “amateur sex consultant.”
Tonight, the 19 survivors learn comedy and boxing from Amy Schumer
and Laila Ali.

ALTERNATIVE: “Texas Rising” debut, 9 p.m., History; repeats at

After getting big
ratings with “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible,”
History has another epic tale. Directed bty Roland Joffe (“The
Killing Fields”), the eight-hour story – continuing Tuesday and
next week – tells of the Lone Star revolution and the creation of
the Texas Rangers.

Bill Paxton stars as
Sam Houston. Others include Olivier Martinez (as Gen Santa Anna),
Kris Kristofferson (as Andrew Jackson), , Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta
and Thomas Jane.

ALTERNATIVE II: Memorial-day films, everywhere.

A three-day, 34-film
marathon concludes on Turner Classic Movies, including two war-film
classics -- “From Here to Eternity” (1953) at 12:30 p.m. ET and
“Patton” (1970) at 10:15 p.m. ET. Even better is Steven
Spielberg's triumphant “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), at 6 p.m. on

And there are films
you don't need cable for. At 8 p.m., CW has “Memorial Day”
(2011), with a boy discovering the footlocker of his grandfather
(James Cromwell). At 9, PBS (check local listings) debuts “The
Homefront,” which follows military families.

Other choices

“Blaze and the
Monster Machines,” 11 a.m., Nickelodeon. In the ominous setting of
Dragon Island, a good-hearted monster truck (yes, this is animated)
races the cheating Crusher. We won't reveal the result, but adults
will approve and kids will find it moderately entertaining.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Try-outs begin as fit folks tackle an
obstacle course.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. There are four more nights for this nine-day quiz show.

“Top Gear,” 8-11
p.m., BBC America. It's a big day for vehicles, from “Blaze” to
“Driving America” to “Top Gear,” a wonderfully clever
British series. In this two-parter, the three guys try to drive
across Burma (long closed to Westerners) and literally build a bridge
on the River Kwai.

return, 9 p.m., CBS. After loaning its spot to the failed “Stalker,”
this ratings-success returns. In a rerun, the young geniuses have a
key task: Boost peace talks and prevent World War III.

“Grace of Monaco”
(2014), 9-11 p.m., Lifetime. Nicole Kidman stars as former movie star
Grace Kelly, with Tim Roth as her husband, Prince Ranier of Monaco.

“”The Island”
debut, 10 p.m., NBC. Think of this as “Survivor” without the
gimmicks. Fourteen men – four of them embedded film-crew people –
spend a month on an island, finding their own food. There's a
firefighter and a former police chief, plus a doctor, a lawyer, an
engineer, a shoe salesman and more.

TV column for Sunday, May 24

“National Memorial Day Concert,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings), with most stations repeating at 9:30.

Each year, on the
eve of Memorial Day, this Capitol Lawn concert lets music and
memories entwine passionately. That should be especially true when
Gloria Estefan – whose dad had rough times in Vietnam and at the
Bay of Pigs – sings “Comingt Out of the Dark.”

There's more, from
“Voice”-winner Tessanne Chin and Tony-winner Laura Benanti, young
actor-singer Jason Dolley, classical singers Katherine Jenkins and
Russell Watson and the National Symphony.

“Battle Creek” finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

A terrific series
concludes with an episode that is odd, upsetting and somehow
appropriate. Last week, we finallylearned more about Russ, the tough
and scruffy cop who (it turns out) was a teen poet; we also saw
progress in his unspoken love for Holly. Now, as the series ends, we
learn about Milt.

What makes him so
obsessively by-the-book? As a gunman pursues him, we flash back to
his time as a California cop. It's a good story and almost a double
role for Josh Duhamel, who's been constricted until now. Then comes a
jolting ending .... which may be the best way for this strange gem to

ALTERNATIVE: “A.D.,” 9 p.m., NBC.

As other shows
retreat into reruns, NBC still has new hours of “A.D.” and
“American Odyssey” to run deep into June. And tonight, it has one
of the most dramatic moments in the early years of Christianity.

So far, Saul of
Tarsus has been an unrelenting enemy of Peter and of this new
religion. Now, on the road to Damascus, is the moment that propels
him to become Paul, a pillar of the church. Meanwhile, Claudia's
nightmare becomes true and Pilate's fate worsens.

Other choices

War films, all day,
Turner Classic Movies. At the mid-section of a three-day, 34-movie
marathon, the highlight is “MASH” (1970), at 10 p.m. ET. Don't
expect the stars or the subtlety of the TV series that followed. This
is a fairly broad tale of wartime medical people who just wanna have
fun. But it has some clever moments and, in Robert Altman, a master

2:45-11 p.m., Starz. Here's the complete second season, so far. That
will rerun again next Saturday, leading into the season-finale.

Racing, 5:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. Sorry, cartoon fans; the night has been commandeered by
NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, in Charlotte, N.C.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. This new quiz show will continue nightly, through

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Running a restaurant is tough, Eddie's
dad finds in these two episodes. First, he needs to have a
sexual-harassment seminar; then a billboard is vandalized.

Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun offers a universal problem:
Don't you hate it when you have are problems with the China-Japan
peace talks AND with your daughter's sleepover?

Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. As Odelle (Anna Friel) keeps eluding and
surviving in North Africa, schemes are probed in New York: Peter
reluctantly pacts with a corporate head; Bob learns more about
Harrison's lover, who has been pretending to be a reporter.

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. In a transplanted rerun, crime-scene pictures show up on a
Web site.

TV column for Saturday, May 23

“Rio” (2011), 7:30-9:30 p.m., ABC Family.

A weak night for
many grown-ups is a great one for kids and animation. That peaks with
this gem, in which a Minnesota macaw – it got there by accident –
learns he may have a mate in Brazil. Then “Rio” offers a cascade
of bright colors, zesty music and clever writing.

It's joined by
“Horton Hears a Who” and “Kung Fu Panda” (both 2008) at 5:30
and 9:30 p.m. FXX counters with “Ice Age” cartoons -- “Dawn of
the Dinosaurs” (2009) at 6 p.m. and “Continental Drift” (2012)
at 8 and 10.

II: “In an Instant” return, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

An Iraq war veteran,
Don Evans wanted a quiet life amid natural beauty. He and his
pregnant wife would share a teaching job, living in a native village
(pop. 85) in Alaska with their kids, 8 and 10.

But their plane
crashed, killing the pilot and a passenger; amid snow and cold, the
Evanses struggled to survive. It's an involving rerun, skillfully
told with re-enactments and first-person memories.

ALTERNATIVE: “Baseball, “ 7:15 p.m., ET Fox, with pre-game at 7.

Seasons overlap
tonight, creating as sports surplus. That includes the start of Fox's
Saturday baseball package; varying by region, it has
Cardinals-Royals, Angels-Red Sox or Orioles-Marlins.

Meanwhile, two
winter sports are (finally) in the conference finals of their
playoffs. It's hockey on NBC, with the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago
Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET ... and basketball on ESPN, with the Golden
State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks at 9 p.m. ET.

Other choices

War films, all day,
Turner Classic Movies. Over the next three days, 34 films will fill
the Mermorial Day weekend. That goes from “Journey for Margaret”
(1942) at 6 a.m. ET today to the much-loved “Best Years of Our
Lives” (1946) at 10:30 p.m. ET Monday, and beyond. Tonight jumps
from Sean Connery's somber “The Hill” (1965) at 5:45 p.m. ET to
the high-octane “Dirty Dozen” (1967) at 8.

2-10 p.m., Starz. A week away from the season-finale, the first
season reruns from 2-10 p.m.; we see Claire, a 1945 English nurse,
swept away to the Scottish Highlands of 1743. The second season
reruns from 2:45-10 p.m. Sunday and again next Saturday, leading into
the season-finale.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. This new quiz show continues nightly, through Thursday.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. As a college professor, Henry (Tim Daly) rarely gets
involved with international deals. In this rerun, however, his wife
(Tea Leoni), the secretary of state, uses his position as leverage
during negotiations with Pakistan. Also, a reporter threatens to
publish leaked documents.

“Blue Bloods,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Danny and Baez are taking
confiscated drugs to the incinerator. Their convoy is attacked, she's
injured and he battles the cartel.

“Orphan Black,”
9 p.m., BBC America. After learning Coady's plans, Paul makes a
dangerous move.

“Where Are They
Now,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. This visits singer Lisa Loeb,
chef Curtis Stone and Taylor Armstrong, formerly of “Real
Housewives of Beverly Hills.” In 2011, her estranged husband,
accused of abuse, committed suicide; she remarried in 2014.