TV column for Friday, May 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Celebrity Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS.

The young singers
have been talking with someone who says he's Jackie Middleton, a
62-year-old teacher. Then he startles them with his singing. “Is
that Hootie?” one person whispers.

It is, sort of.
Darius Rucker – of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, before he became
a country star – was in disguise, scouting for talent. He was in
Austin, Texas, an amiable place; the open-mic host (simply named
Jocelyn) glowed with likability Singers showed solid, working-folk
passion. By the end of this hour – the first of two “celebrity”
editions – you'll root for them all.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

Throughout this
season, the team has been trying to track a sex-trafficking ring. Now
McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) risks his life, in a daring attempt to
rescue young girls.

The case shakes Kono
(Grace Park), who makes a life-changing decision. That ends the
seventh season, in a week stuffed with season-finales; “Shark Tank”
also concludes tonight, with three finales Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Race” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., TNT.

On Thursday, Charles
Barkley offered a powerful look at black rage in Baltimore and an OK
view of Muslim-Americans in suburban Dallas. Tonight, his first hour
stumbles; its subject – race in Hollywood – is too broad to get a
handle on. But the second hour, in Atlanta, is strong.

Barkley talks to
undocumented immigrants and others, ranging afar. He even hears
Richard Spencer, who coined the word “alt-right,” talk fondly of
“white privilege.” And he wraps up with what this series does
well – getting people together for food, drinks, laughs and hugs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

For Bill Murray,
2016 was the year of large and small miracles. The big one: The Cubs
won the World Series; Murray romped in the clubhouse. Another one: He
won this comedy prize.

There's only one
winner each year and Murray is the 19th. In this rerun,
the presenters include David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, plus Aziz
Ansari, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Bill Hader and more.

Other choices
include:

“Home Alone”
(1990), 7:30 and 10 p.m., CMT. This sight-gag delight starts a big
movie night. At 8 p.m., Pop has “Thelma & Louise” (1991) and
FX has “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013). Turner Classic Movies
has 1967 masterpieces “The Graduate” and “In the Heat of the
Night,” at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.

“First Dates,” 8
p.m., NBC. What does it take to gets strangers to merge romantically?
At one table, it's science-fiction; at another, it's the Chicago
White Sox. And at another, someone brings a game.

“The Toy Box,” 8
p.m., ABC. A week from the finale, the creations range from
curly-haired dolls to a “candy press” to form treats in odd
shapes.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Monday's fairly good episode, Lucifer is
supposed to power a flaming sword. Alas, his inner rage has mellowed
and he can't do it.

“Lethal Weapon,”
9 p.m., Fox. Thomas Lennon (Felix in the recent “Odd Couple”)
plays an ambulance-chasing lawyer linked to the Mob. In this rerun,
Riggs and Murtaugh link with with a DEA agent (Hilarie Burton),
trying to protect him.

“48 Hours: NCIS,”
10 p.m., CBS. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service began 51 years
ago ... and became famous 14 years ago, via CBS' “NCIS.” That
series has had 330 episodes, two spin-offs and No. 1 ratings; now CBS
News eyes real NCIS cases. Another hour is coming May 23.

TV column for Thursday, May 11


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

TV's best comedy
wraps up its 10th season. Don't fret, it's already been
renewed for two more; also, there are plenty of reruns coming up ...
including one at 8:30 p.m. today.

First, the new one:
Back in the second season, an attractive grad student (played by Riki
Lindhome) seemed very taken with Sheldon; now, eight years later,
she's Dr. Ramona Nowitzke, visiting while Amy is away to Princeton.
At 8:30, Sheldon and Amy describe their disastrous trip to his Texas
home. Then catch the season finales of two more shows, one great
(“Mom”) and one good (“Life in Pieces”).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Riverdale” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

Last week, the
murder of Jason Blossom was finally solved. He was slain by his dad,
who killed himself before the police could get him. Also, we learned
that Betty's and Jason's families are related ... which is why her
parents were desperate to break off her sister's romance with him.

With all of these
misbehaving parents, the kids take over. Betty confronts her mom;
Cheryl (Jason's sister) takes matters into her own hands. Also,
Archie and Veronica grow closer.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “MasterChef Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox.

At times, this show
seems a tad sadistic. Tonight, it takes the youngest contestant – a
10-year-old, given to emotional bursts – and makes her the captain
during a high-pressure project. Then it has the kids use tiny quail
eggs, which are tough for anyone to master.

Eventually, things
are settled (sort of) with hugs and such. We get our final four for
the semi-finals.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Race,” 9-11 p.m., TNT; concludes Friday.

Charles Barkley –
better known for basketball and funny commercials – turns serious
here, with a two-night look at race relations. Tonight's second hour,
involving Muslim-Ameticans, is fairly good; the first is better,
showing how complex and agonizing black-white issues can be.

“Baltimore is a
city of pain,” Diane Butler tells him. “Pure pain.” Her son,
Tyrone West, died while in police custody, setting off rage and
violence. Barkley captures some of this, but also catches a low-key
night of food and laughter. Such gatherings, he says, are “one of
the coolest things about being black.”

Other choices
include:

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8 p.m., NBC. Now that “Superstore” has
ended its season, “SVU” does double duty, with new episodes on
Wednesdays and reruns on Thursdays. Tonight, a suspect claims that
genetics forced him to commit rape.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. The doctors face a difficult case involving a dangerous
patient. Also, Amelia comes to Owen's support, after he gets
life-changing news.

“Mom”
season-finale, 9:01 p.m., CBS. After her mother's death this season,
Bonnie met a black half-brother she'd never kown about. Now she needs
his help, as she faces tax trouble.

“Life in Pieces”
season-finale, 9:31 p.m., CBS. Last week's funny episode had troubles
grow during flights to Mexico for the wedding of Colleen and Matt: A
passenger had a severe allergic reaction to a cookie that Greg gave
him ... Joan and John's dog swallowed the wedding ring ... and the
bride and groom missed the last flight. Now they wonder if they'll
ever get married; also, they meet “Buddy Daiquiri,” a hotel
lounge singer played by Richard Marx.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. When Liz is the target of a mercenary, Red has to turn
to a surprising source for help. Also, Ressler must scramble to stay
ahead of Agent Gale's investigation.

“The Catch”
season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC. A betrayal – yes, another one –
could change everything.

TV column for Wednesday, May 10


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

Things have been
rough, ever since Cookie (Emmy-nominee Taraji Henson) had her
spectacular break-up -- captured on live microphone – with Angelo,
the mayoral candidate. She blames his family for the crisis and takes
things into her own hands; she also eyes a new plan for the Las Vegas
venture.

Meanwhile, one of
her sons (Andre) lashes out; another (Jamal) reaches a breakthrough
on his song.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Season finales, “Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS; or “Black-ish,”
9:31, ABC.

The season doesn't
officially end until two weeks from today, but a few shows are making
an early exit. For “Black-ish,” that allows a clever summer show
(“Downward Dog”) to get an early start next week; tonight detours
from baby-shower plans, after Bow's pregnancy has complications.

And for “Minds,”
the early exit lets its spin-off have two hours next week. Tonight
brings back Shemar Moore, who spent 11 seasons on the show, before
leaving a year ago. He plays Derek Morgan, back with a lead that
might help Reid catch the elusive Mr. Scratch; Jane Lynch returns as
Reid's mother.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Underground” season-finale, 10 p.m. ET, rerunning
at 11, midnight and 1 a.m.

Here is a
high-stakes story, a desperate dash to freedom. Noah reaches the safe
house with his pregnant love Rosalee and her brother James. But
viewers know Cato – once part of their escape, but now scheming
with Patty to catch Harriet Tubman – was already there, pretending
to be a runaway.

Now the former
colleagues collide. Meanwhile, the nearly blind Daniel begs for help,
leading to Elizabeth's drastic decision. Harriet is recruited by John
Brown's people. And August, the slave-catcher, strains to keep
control of Ernestine, Rosalee's unpredictable mother.

Other choices
include:

“Lincoln” (2012)
and “Bridge of Spies” (2015), 6:30 and 9 p.m., Showtime. Steven
Spielberg's style is slower and subtler now, but he's still the
world's best director, Here are true stories, beautifully crafted.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. The second half of this two-parter again uses “spy-cams”
to get fresh views of dolphins. We see their romantic side, offering
a seaweed bouquet. And we see them as skilled hunters.

“Shots Fired,” 8
p.m., Fox. Two weeks before the finale of this complex story, there's
still much to straighten out. A potential murder weapon has been
found in the Joey Campbell case and Preston and Ashe are being
pressured to take advantage of it. Also, there's an altercation and a
rash decision.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mitchell and Jay both seek alone-time ... and end up at
the same resort. Cam doesn't know what to do when Mitch is gone. And
Phil and Claire aren't happy empty-nesters.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Last week, this hit a violent extreme – a brutal battle,
to see which clan would get the only shelter from the acid rain.
Octavia won – in a fight that killed Roan, Ilian and more – but
it was all moot; Clarke had already seized the shelter for her
people. Now she faces the consequences.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president's first international summit
goes awry, when an explosive article is published. Meanwhile, Hannah
learns about the conspiracy's next target.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:13, 12:25 and 1:37. This can be
simultaneously brilliant and bizarre. Last week, the police chief had
a fascinating search into the past of the murder victim (her former
father-in-law), then decided “that didn't have anything to do with
... “ Well, with anything, really. In the final minutes, she was
handed a real clue. Tonight, we see more pressure on Ray Stussy
(whose scheme started this) and his brother Emmit, both played by
Ewan McGregor.

TV column for Tuesday, May 9


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

One of TV's happier
mini-trends has involved bursts of Broadway-style music. There have
been musical episodes (“Scrubs,” “Fringe,” “Once Upon a
Time”) or more (“Glee,” “Galavant,” “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend”); other shows have at least added a song; that's
what “The Middle” does here.

It's already a dandy
episode, with humor at college and at home. Then comes that buoyant
musical number, cleverly written by Marcy Heisler (the sister of the
show's co-creator) and Zina Goldrich.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Great News,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

With its big, broad
style, “Great News” stretches for big laughs ... then
overstretches. Tonight's first episode is terrific, with Carol
bemoaning the staff's failure to bond. It briefly satirizes a loopy
show, “Morning Wined Up,” then has her steal its wine; the
transformation is often hilarious.

Then the second
episode pushes too hard. Chuck's dream is to write the news show's
theme song; Carol's is to have her daughter be an on-camera star.
Both make the characters and situations seem too cartoonish; after
one great episode, “Great News” is merely good.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Prison Break,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Who knew life AFTER
a prison break would be so tough? Last week, Michael and two others
escaped during an ISIS takeover of Yemen. But they killled a rebel
leader and became national enemies.

That sets up the
weakness and strength of this show. The bad: It creates situations so
impossible that even when the heroes overcome them, the viewer feels
unsatisfied. The good: Along the way, there are exciting moments of
high-stakes, high-energy television.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Victorian Slum House,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In last week's
opener, modern people found it painful to re-create life in the 1860s
slums. Now they jump ahead a decade and ... ? “The 1870s got a lot
worse,” one man says.

The decade – this
may sound familiar – included overseas competition, immigrant
workers and restrictive regulations. (Suddenly, 7-year-olds couldn't
work in a factory; older kids could only do a half-day.) Wages
dropped and people got by, barely; tonight, one family takes a
drastic step.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Viewers will learn who's in the bottom three and will save
one. That sets up next week's live semi-finals, with the top eight.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Like “Great News,” this has a
big cast, a broad scope and intermittently funny results. The first
episode has a “Hangover” feel; after a wild convention night,
people can't quite remember what happened. The second sees diligent
Amy panic as her exam nears.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. It was three-and-a-half years ago that McGee (Sean Murray)
introduced his girlfriend Delilah (Margo Harshman). She works for
Defense and they are what CBS calls “adorable geeks.” She's been
missing from the show since October, but now their wedding is near
... as she's being hospitalized for stress. Also, the team probes the
death of a healthy petty officer.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv's life gets complicated when she munches the brain of a
murder victim and assumes some of the characteristics. Once a
diligent doctor, she now eats a frenzied narcissist.

Documentaries, 9 and
10 p.m., PBS. First is an “American Experience” rerun of
January's excellent Bonnie-and-Clyde profile. Then a new “Frontline”
focuses on public-housing problems.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. It's time for Pride (Scott Bakula) to again
be an action hero. He's tracking one of the mayor's accomplices, who
starts a deadly shoot-out.

TV column for Monday, May 8


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

We'd always assumed
Lucifer would be really good at generating rage and sparking fire;
it's kind of his thing. But his time on Earth, where he's fallen for
Chloe the cop, have mellowed him.

Now his mom and
brother want him to ignite a flaming sword that they'll use to break
through Heaven's gate; to do that, he must be in touch with his
feelings (the angriest kind). In a good episode, that goes on at the
same time that he and Chloe work a murder case at an upscale school.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Kevin Can Wait” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week, the “King
of Queens” stars re-united, when Leah Remini was a guest star. She
cajoled her former police partner (Kevin James), now retired, into
joining an investigation of an art dealer.

Now they extend the
probe, causing him to miss the Mets' “fantasy camp” with his
friends. Also, his wife tells off her boss and their future
son-in-law finds his “dream job” is a disappointment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Maybe this should
move to ESPN; the athletes are dominating. The show started with five
of them and four remain; of the other seven contestants, only singer
Normani Kordei is still around.

She prospered last
week, getting a perfect 40 from the judges. Gymnast Simone Biles and
football's Rashad Jennings had a 37, with a 32 for baseball's David
Ross and a 29 for rodeo's Bonner Bolten. Now they're two weeks from
the finals, after the double ouster of Nick Viall and Nancy Kerrigan.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The top 10 singers perform and then the bottom
three will be revealed ... with viewers getting to save one. That
will leave eight for next week's semi-finals.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Things were bad enough with The Riddler creating mayhem;
now Firefly and Mr. Freeze are back. Also, Alfred starts to notice
changes in “Bruce” ... actually, a Bruce copy.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Now that Jane's birth parents are engaged, life should be
simpler. Alas, Rafael loves Petra ... who is with the maybe-killer
Chuck; and just as Jane is ready for her first casual-sex fling, she
meets a guy who wants to wait for marriage. It's a busy and fairly
good hour.

“Superior Donuts”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. The focus shifts to Maya, played by Anna
Baryshnikov, a relative newcomer with a familiar name. (She's 24, the
daughter of ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov.) When she leaves her
laptop unattended, people learn she's been studying them for her
dissertation. “The Great Indoors,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. This is
another season-finale, but with a difference: “Kevin” and
“Donuts” have been renewed for next season; “Indoors” is
still waiting. Now it's time for the company retreat – where Jack
and Emma hooked up, five years ago; they try to nudge Clark and Emma
together.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. The two-part season finale starts with the entire team
headed to the honeymoon of Toby and Happy. Then, of course, the plane
crashes near a remote island.

“The Wall,”
10:01, NBC. “Taken” finished its 10-episode season last week, so
now this game show – a ratings success in its try-out – returns
for some “sweeps”-month duty.