TV column for Wednesday, April 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Middle” and “Modern Family,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

For situation
comedies, 21st birthdays can be funny and foreboding. Now
we get two of them.

First, it's Axl's
turn; he's so busy partying that he won't help his dad move a
freezer. Then a “Modern” rerun eyes Haley's 21st. The
family hesitently agrees to celebrate in a bar and to get her a car.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The mid-section of
the three-week “Animal Homes” starts with master builders.
Beavers dam a stream (to give depth for an underwater entry), then
build a fortress, with moat, mud room and family room.

The Eastern wood rat
also builds inner chambers, to support its hoarding habit. Birds try
varied approaches -- living cliffside ... hiding bits of food in
trees everywhere ... and deliberately choosing the domain of a hawk,
which ignores small birds and smites their predators. It's a
delightful hour, leading into an intriguing (but complicated) “Nova”
that takes a broad overview of math.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Big Time in Hollywood, FL,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central.

Cable keeps getting
stars to play twisted versions of themselves. There's Matt LeBlanc in
“Episodes” and Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in “The Comedians”;
now it's Cuba Gooding's turn.

This is a desperate
and dangerous version, so deep in drug trouble that he steals money
during an audition. Now he's in rehhab; that's where the show's main
characters ended up, after trying to trick their parents out of seed
money for a film. Tonight, liars link in dark and funny ways.

Other choices
include:

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 7-11 p.m., TruTV. With talent in magic and improv, Michael
Carbonaro brings a fresh twist to hidden-camera shows. This rerun
marathon also continues from midnight to 3 a.m.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. Qaasim Middleton didn't last long after judges saved
him. They kept him from finishing 11th, but last week he
was in the bottom two; viewers saved Rayvon Owen and Middleton
finished eighth. Now the survivors (four men, three women) will sing
American classics.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, Halli Ford (a law student) became the third
person from the original “no collar” tribe ousted. Three from
“white collar” and two from “blue collar” are also gone;
tonight, one of the 10 remaining survivors crafts a fake idol.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Barry tries to impress people in both
episodes, by getting a job and by attempting athletic skill. Also,
the first episode sees Adam failing Spanish; the second has Erica
trying to teach her mom about voting.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Amaro reluctantly
goes to the wedding of his dad (Armand Assante, 65) and a
28-year-old. Then the place becomes a crime scene.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Christina Aguilera guests as Jade St. John, a hot star who
was once engaged to scheming music executive Jeff Fordham (Oliver
Hudson).

“Million Dollar
Listing New York” season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Here's Luis Ortiz,
removing everything from a multi-million-dollar condo, so it can be
staged and sold .... except now the owner says he's not moving. Such
moments make this fun, despite the people being immensely unlikable.

TV column for Tuesday, April 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Justified” series finale, 10 p.m., FX.

For six splendid
seasons, this show has followed the formula of the late, great
novelist Elmore Leonard: Colorful characters collide, with dialog
that ranges from acerbic to brilliantly verbose.

Now Raylan, a U.S.
marshal, has gone rogue. He was chasing Boyd, who was chasing Ava,
who stole the money Boyd stole from Markham. Then Raylan had to pause
to bring a wounded cop to the hospital; he was promptly arrested. A
good guy is in custody and lots of bad ones are roaming free in
backwoods Kentucky; we can expect a violent (but articulate)
farewell.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Eddie's parents
really aren't into the notion of having fun. Now, alas, volunteering
is mandatory; his dad has to coach basketball and his mom co-directs
the school play.

The basketball part
is a disappointment, with scenes that are witless and overlook the
fact that players have foul limits. The other part, however, is a
delight. Handed a bland play in which every role is equal (or equally
bad), Eddie's mom replaces it with a stern diatribe about work ethic.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Escape From a Nazi Death Camp” and “Frontline,”
9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Wednesday will mark
the 70th anniversary of British forces liberating the
Bergen-Belsen death camp. That was four days after Americans reached
Buchenwald, 10 weeks after Russians reached Auschwitz.

That's marked with
two specials. The first tells of the 300 men who escaped from the
Sobibor camp; the second reruns a documentary shot by Alfred
Hitchcock and others. “Frontline” found it in 1985, finishing and
running it. Some scenes are fiercely upsetting; the flaw involves the
narration by Trevor Howard, whose upper-class accent makes him sound
bored by these epic and grotesque events.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Gibbs could get another chance to be an action hero; he and
Ellie Bishop head to Afghanistan, where a Marine may be held captive.
Also, McGee's face is on the new NCIS recruitment brochure ... a fact
that Tony is not happy about.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. A carjacking took a Navy commander's car –
with a baby inside. Now the team must decide if this was random or
targeted.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Schmidt regrets trying to understand Jess' and
Cece's fight.

“North by
Northwest” (1959), 9 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. One of
Hitchcock's greatest movies has an ordinary chap (Cary Grant) in
chases that take him to Mount Rushmore. It co-stars Eva Marie Saint
... who also helps lead an 8 p.m. ET tribute to Robert Osborne's 20
years at TCM.

“Weird Loners,”
9:30, Fox. Owing $1,000 to an enforcer named Tulip (hey, it's just a
name), Stosh plans to scam his cousin. Like last week's episode, this
has funny moments, but paints both men so extremely that they're
difficult to care about.

“One Big Happy,”
9:30, NBC. Luke and his lesbian friend Lizzie have savored a peaceful
life of farm markets and such; now his quick marriage to Prudence
brings a nudging toward adventure. The early scenes have shabby,
throwaway jokes, but they do set up an exceptionally funny hospital
scene.

“Jimmy Kimmel
Live,” 10 p.m., ABC. Ever since Disney (which owns ABC) bought
Marvel, it has pushed synergy. A new “Agents of SHIELD” at 9
(showing how Melinda became The Cavalry) leads into Kimmel and the
stars of “Age of Ultron,” which opens May 1. There are the
Chrises (Hemsworth and Evans), plus Scarlett Johannson, Robert Downey
Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner.

TV column for Monday, April 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Voice” (NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-10:01
p.m.

Last week was busy
for “Voice,” trimming from 20 singers to 12. Now tonight's show
stuffs a dozen performances into two busy hours; then viewers vote,
with the top 10 announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, “Dancing”
is down to eight stars (well, semi-stars), after dropping Michael Sam
last week. Willow Shields, the 14-year-old “Hunger Games”
co-star, led the judges' scores with 39 out of 40; at the bottom were
Chris Soules (“The Bachelor”) and Suzanne Somers, with 27 and 28.

TONIGHT's MIGHT-SEE:
“Gotham,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Jada Pinkett Smith
has gripped fame in many ways -- as a producer (“Hawthorne,”
“Latifah,” “Annie”), wife (Will), mom (Jaden, Willow) and
actress. Now this role offers some of her best moments.

She's Fish Mooney,
held in an evil asylum and hatching a brilliant and perverse escape
plan. That storyline is excellent; others – involving Oswald
Cobblepot and introducing Milo Ventimiglia as The Ogre – are so-so,
laced with brutality that's despicable for an 8 p.m. show based on a
comic book.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Bates Motel,” 9 p.m., A&E.

Last week saw Norma
Bates – brilliantly played by Vera Farmiga – hit extremes. She
managed to blackmail powerful people, with the sheriff's help ...
then learned that her older son was secretly housing her brother (his
dad) who had raped her.

Tonight starts with
Norma in mega-meltdown. Someone is stalking the sheriff ... and her
son is sliding closer to being the Norman we know from “Psycho.”
It's a strong hour, ending powerfully.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Driver,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

Classic “crime
noir” tales often told of an ordinary guy being tugged into the
quicksand o lawbreaking. Here's a variation of that, fuelled by the
understated perfection of David Morrissey.

He's Vince, a
British cabbie whose fine-looking life – bright wife, home, two
kids – is crumbling. Then a driving job brings easy money and iffy
impact. Stick with the mini-series, which this streaming service
releases over three Mondays. This first chapter is fairly good; the
third (April 27) is superb.

Other choices
include:

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Max likes a hot-looking co-worker at The High
Restaurant. Alas, the owner (Sandra Bernhard) has a no-hookup
policyfor employees.

“Sleeping Beauty”
(1959), 8 p.m., Disney. Here's a cartoon classic, for families to
watch together.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30,. CBS. Margo Martindale, an Emmy-winner from
“Justified,” guests as the estranged sister of Mike's acerbic
mom.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Walter is jolted when he learns Cabe's secret about a
past mission.

“Turn,” 9 and 10
p.m., AMC. Abe, a spy for George Washington, is determined to
infiltrate the pro-British forces in New York City.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Alongside the usual
frustrations of youth, this film says, many teens lack a steady home.
In Chicago, we see them in emergency shelters or group housing or a
teacher's basement. The film is often moving and sometimes
heartbreaking..

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. When a 1980s star is killed, Castle gets help from people
who played action heroes long ago. Ted McGinley is a guest star.

TV column for Sunday, April 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“A.D.,” 9 p.m., NBC.

“Why won't this
business end?” one leader groans. “Why couldn't this Jesus stay
dead?”

Don't expect that.
Last week's opener ended with the rolling away of the stone in front
of the tomb; this week ends with the resurrection. Richly film and
acted, “A.D.” deftly mxes familiar biblical moments and
speculation of what officials were saying and doing. The Romans
provides the intensity and action that modern viewers seem to need.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MTV Movie Awards,” 8 p.m. ET, MTV, rerunning at 10 and
midnight.

If nothing else, MTV
makes sure its award shows are fun. In two busy hours, it will have
music (Fall Out Boy and the cast of “Pitch Perfect 2”), comedy
(Amy Schumer hosts) and starpower.

There are special
awards for Kevin Hart, Shailene Woodley and Robert Downey Jr. Other
awards range from silly (“best shirtless performance”) to
serious. Up for best movie are “Gone Girl,” “Boyhood,”
“American Sniper,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Fault
in Our Stars.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: '“Game of Thrones” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

This is HBO's big
night, including two comedy season-openers, one good (“Silicon
Valley” at 10 p.m.) and one great (“Veep” at 10:30). And
preceding that is “Thrones,” epic in scope and in look.

Tywin Lannister has
been slain. Now one of his offspring (tiny Tyrion) is on the run,
drinking and grumbling; another (Cersei) schemes to retain her power.
Also, Daenerys finds that keeping power is tougher when she doesn't
have her dragons for dependable back-up.

Other choices
include:

“Nurse Jackie,”
3 p.m. , Showtime. This deep drama – once a comedy, now often
dipping into tragedy – is ready for its final season. First, the
previous season reruns; then the season-opener – Jackie's in jail
and in detox – is at 9 p.m., rerunning at 9:30, 11 and 11:30.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. The Author is running loose in Storybrooke.
Emma must find him before Gold does.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9 and 9:30, Fox. Constantly evolving, this show has had
Phil (Will Forte) as a frequent and inept liar. Tonight – in a
funny-strange episode – he learns his lesson.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Alicia battles a recount effort in her election.

“Battle Creek,”
10 p.m., CBS. It turns out that Russ – the rumpled and honest cop –
has a convicted counterfeiter (Candice Bergen) for a mom. In a
terrific episode, she helps him with a case and offers some
much-needed meddling in his love life.

“American
Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. Last week ended with crises everywhere. An
American soldier (Anna Friel) is the lone survivor of an attack that
seems to be from her own people. Now – disguised as a man and
holding a flash drive that has proof of corporate corruption –
she's on the lam. It's a fairly good hour, despite an absurdly
contrived moment at a protest.

“Wolf Hall,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Cardinal Wolsey has been sent to
York, but Cromwell tries to salvage things with a hesitent King Henry
VIII. It's a subtle and involving hour.

“Lizzie Borden
Chronicles,” 10 p.m., Lifetime. This overcrowded timeslot didn't
really need any more dramas. Still, “Chronicles” had a smart
opener last week, with Lizzie cleverly disposing of the two problem
men in her life. Here's a strong follow-up, with a smart Pinkerton
detective closing in.

TV column for Saturday, April 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Movies, all day, cable.

Today is like a
master class in filmmaking, with work from the best directors. That
includes Francis Coppola's gems back-to-back – twice. “The
Godfather” (1972) and “Godfather, Part II” (1974) air at 9 a.m.
and 1 p.m. on AMC, then repeat at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Both won
best-picture Oscars. So did Martin Scorsese's “The Departed”
(2006), which airs at 5:45 and 9 p.m. on IFC, and Danny Boyle's
“Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), at 9 p.m. on Sundance.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“In an Instant,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

On Saturdays that
are clogged with reruns, “Instant” has provided well-crafted
stories that mix re-creations and the memories of survivors. We've
met people who lived through a plane crash, a bridge collapse, a
hostage crisis and near-death experiences in a corn silo and a
storage shelter.

Now there's one
final show, this time focusing on a Florida policeman and a
shoot-out.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:05 and
11:10.

There are mixed
blessings for a nurse who accidentally travels from the restrained
world of 1945 England to the macho world of 1743 Scotland. This hour
starts with the plus side, a beautifully sensual (and R-rated) scene
with her new husband; it ends with the minus side.

In between, her
knowledge of history gives her a key edge in negotiations. Her
knowledge of medicine is little help for her friend Geillis, who's
headstrong, lustful and self-destructive.

Other choices
include:

Racing, 7 p.m. ET,
Fox, and boxing, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. College basketball has finished
and pro baseball has barely started, but other sports fill in. Fox
catches NASCAR at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. NBC (which
switches to hockey next week) has Danny Garcia fight Lamont Peterson.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Granger (Miguel Ferrer)
poisoned, apparently an inside job. Hetty promptly orders a
lockdown.

More movies, cable.
“The Help” (2011), a skillful blend of comedy and dead-serious
racial drama, airs at 8 p.m. on TNT; it was nominated for best
picture and won for Octavia Spencer in support. Also, there are two
fairly good comedies -- “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008) at 8
p.m. on Bravo and “Bridesmaids” (2011) at 8:30 on USA.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the Halloween-week episode that saw a boy
disappear during the holiday ... then reappear a year later, when
another boy went missing.

Roast, 9-11 p.m.,
Comedy Central. Kevin Hart is the night's star. He hosts the Justin
Bieber roast, has a new special at 11 p.m. and has reruns surrounding
this at 7 p.m. and from midnight to 2 a.m.

“Aloha Vet”
season-finale, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Amid the beauty of Hawaii, Dr.
Scott Sims has varied duties. One goat (the luckier one) gets its
horns trimmed; another is castrated. Also, there's flea work for
Milo, a tiny dog who happens to be a good surfer and looks great in
sunglasses.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. This has been a great year for Taraji
Henson, whose “Empire” soared in the ratings. Now she hosts
“SNL,” with music from Mumford & Sons.