TV column for Wednesday, May 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Originals,” 9 p.m., CW.

Even if you haven't
been watching “Originals” -- and you probably haven't – this
hour is worth trying. It starts well, ends sensationally and adds a
terrific character to the series.

This flashes back to
when Elijah decided to shed painful memories and to avoid endangering
others; he had his memory wiped away. Now he's unaware that he's a
vampire ... or what a vampire is. He meets Antoinette, played by
Jaime Murray, a gifted fantasy actress from “Once Upon a Time”
(Fiona), “Defiance” (Stahma) and “Warehouse 13” (H.G. Wells).
“Originals” gets a terrific new vampire.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Shelley Long is back
as DeDe, Mitchell's mom. When she arrives unexpectedly, he and Cam
realize the effect she has on their lives.

And for Mitch's
sister Claire? It seems that the safest time to disappoint her is
after her spa day. Now her husband and their three kids each have bad
news they want to deliver during that brief window.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Colony” season-opener, 10 p.m., USA.

In the first two
seasons, Will and Katie (Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies)
strained under the rule of outer-space aliens and their human
collaborators. Now – aided by a former collaborator official --
they've escaped from walled-off Los Angeles and fled to the
mountains.

This is peaceful,
pastoral ... and temporary. They have an important device, but can't
get it to the Resistance. The hour offers strong action and the quiet
drama of good people in an awful situation.

Other choices
include:

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last week, Lucious and Cookie hit Eddie hard – parading
angry women in front of his biggest backer. Now they try to finish
him off, while Cookie strains to complete a promise – reuniting a
former cellmate, now dying, with the ballerina who is her biologic
daughter.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Tonight, people must confront their personal issues: A safety
threat throws them into a lockdown. Also, Naolmi Campbell returns as
Alex's upscale mother, paying a sudden visit.

“Nova Wonders,”
9 p.m., PBS. Midway through this intresting hour, we meet one of the
“poop donors.” These are people – generally young and athletic
– who are paid $40 per bowel movement. The results are turned into
pills for some internal ailments. That's just one piece – albeit
the weirdest one – in a look at still-early studies of the microbes
inside people, and their effects for bad and good,

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Still facing an investigation from a tough
lawyer (Michael J. Fox), the president is also negotiating to free an
American held prisoner in a foreign country.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:04 p.m. and 12:08 and 1:30 a.m. The gap
between Philip (trying to retire from the spy business) and Elizabeth
(more intense than ever) keeps growing. Last week, she killed two
people while a young child was in the next room; he refused to lure a
young woman into a kidnapping. Now, in a subtly solid episode, their
lives retreat into near-silence.

“Archer.” 10
p.m., FXX, rerunning at 10:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Last week's opener
ended with a crippled plane. Now Pam, Fuchs and a princess are
parachuting into an island jungle, while Archer tries to find a place
to land. Also, a jilted bride fumes. It's a fast, fun bit of animated
comedy-adventure.

“Brockmire,” 10
p.m. ET, IFC , rerunning at 1 a.m. At times, the Brockmire character
simply becomes repetitious, an uninteresting pile of bad behavior.
Fortunately, Charles – his assistant, sidekick and boss – adds
some redeeming humanity. Tonight, his foul family arrives for his
birthday.

TV column for Tuesday, May 1


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

Most shows will
settle for a couple good characters, with plus some stock ones to
bounce off. Not “Rise”; even its side characters bristle with
depth and human complexity.

We were ready to
dismiss the football coach and his daughter as cliche; now they draw
deep empathy. Tonight, Stephanie J. Block – a musical-theater star
who has a PBS special Friday – has a great scene as the mother of
the sexually unsure Simon. Then there's Sasha, who was almost
invisible until her pregnancy storyline; tonight's scene with her
transgender friend is one of the best anywhere this year.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Pauley Perrette has
a special spot in TV history. This is her 355th episode as
Abby – 351 here and four on spin-offs. That's one behind Mark
Harmon as Gibbs, two ahead of David McCallum as Ducky.

In primetime,
non-cartoons, they're topped only by a few people from long-ago shows
or from the “Law and Order” shows, and by Kelsey Grammer as
Frasier on many shows. And now Perrette is leaving. Tonight --
alongside a crime story -- Abby wins a dinner-for-two at an upscale
restaurant in an igloo. (Really.) She has to decide which co-worker
to bring. And next week, she says farewell.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Civilizations,” 8 p.m. Tuesday, PBS.

Two potent forces –
art and religion – often blend and sometimes collide. This hour
includes ancient images (35,000 or more years old) and thoroughly
modern ones. In London, St. Paul's Cathedral – which began services
in 1697 – has a modern video installation alongside gorgeous, old
sculptures. Richly detailed and beautifully filmed, this hour leaps
from the Acropolis to Stonehenge, from Leonardo da Vinci to a driver
in India who paints grand spiritual images on the side of his truck.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS.

When hurricanes
battered Texas and Florida, Laura Sullivan reports, federal help
moved quickly. But seven months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is
still short of electricity, water and hope.

Why? She starts with
finances: The Puerto Rican government, its current governor says, had
a “Ponzi scheme” of loans to pay off loans; Wall Street enabled
it and profited. As the economy crumbled, the infrastructure was
ignored. Also, disaster plans were sluggish. Tarps, sent elsewhere
for another storm, weren't replaced; inexperienced companies failed
to get new ones. Federal flubs continue.

Other choices
include:

“Roseanne,” 8
p.m., ABC. The previous episode saw Roseanne's mom (Estelle Parsons,
90) arrive after being ejected from her nursing home. Now Roseanna
and her sister argue about where she'll live.

“The Middle,”
8:30, ABC. Brick might ruin the prom, Axl didn't give his sister a
birthday card, but their dad has a bigger problem: He can't figure
out the new TV remote.

“LA to Vegas,” 9
p.m., Fox. In the season-finale, Ronnie applies for a job with
another airline, possibly endangering her relationship with Bryan.
And Captain Dave is ready to propose to Patricia.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Most of last week's season-opener was a terrific, one-woman
drama, with Clarke surviving a scorched Earth. In the final minutes,
it deteriorated to a lot of macho strutting and fighting. Now it
deteriorates further, inside the bunker, as Octavia reluctantly
gropes for control.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A current case matches one that Gregorio
(Vanessa Ferlito) studied during FBI training. She contacts her old
behavioral science professor.

“Genius,” 10
p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at 11. After jumping around
wildly in its two-hour opener, “Genius” has an OK episode
focusing on two key times for Pablo Picasso. As a young man, mourning
his friend's suicide, he meets an admirer (T.R. Knight) and launches
his work's “blue period.” At 61, he meets Francoise Gilot, 21, a
brainy painter who resists and intrigues him.

TV column for Monday, April 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
Elementary” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

What if the world's
smartest detective was no longer smart? Or was no longer a detective?
Sherlock Holmes faces those questions, as he worries about his health
and his drug addiction.

Like too many
“Elementary” episodes, this opener brushes past its
crime-of-the-week easily, with things falling conveniently into
place. Like few of them, it lets Jonny Lee Miller go beyond Holmes'
deadpan. Miller is a terrific actor, it seems, and this hour is worth
trying.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Dancing With the Stars” opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC .

Athletes have
thrived on this show. In one stretch, they provided four straight
champions. Now “Stars” pushes that too far; perhaps: All 10 of
its celebrities are athletes.

A couple of them
(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tonya Harding) are household names. Some
(baseball's Johnny Damon, recent Olympians Adam Rippon and Jamie
Anderson) come fairly close. And the others? Well, many viewers are a
little behind on the names of softball pitchers or luge guys..

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction” debut,
10:05 p.m., AMC.

This is like an epic
textbook of sci-fi filmmaking. Tonight, alone, we meet the top
directors – Spielberg, Lucas, Nolan, Cameron (who does the
interviews), Scott and more. We meet technicians, actors, even the
woman inside the “E.T.” suit. We also see clips of great movies.

Keep in mind,
however, that textbooks aren't always fun. Cameron and Spielberg
quickly agree that it's important to maintain a child-like sense of
wonder. Then they an others get tangled up in talk of metaphors and
such. Cameron even manages to use the phrase “psychosexual
biomechanoid”

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012), 5 p.m., FX. While waiting for Cameron's show to debut, we can
choose between sci-fi films – all of them strong on action, not
metaphors. Others include “Independence Day” (1996) at 6 p.m. on
AMC, “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) at 7:29 p.m. on
Syfy and “Transformers: Age of Extinction: (2014) at 8 p.m. on FX.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Now that “American Idol” has trimmed to one
new night a week, this show has the music audience to itself.
Tonight, the top 11 singers perform.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 p.m., CBS. After helping his daughter buy a business, Kevin shows
he's a “silent partner” who's incapable of silence.

“Man With a Plan,”
8:30, CBS. Adam's troubles range from his daughter having a pet snake
to his father (Stacy Keach) having an irritable personality.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. Malcolm-Jamal Warner steps in as the hospital's new star
surgeon. As he arrives, Conrad and Devon are trying to save the live
of Bradley, who fell through the hospital skylight.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. This has had plenty of low-comedy moments, turning its
side characters into buffoons. But it has times when important
subjects bounce around. Tonight, officials are on a sweep, looking
for undocumented immigrants; Sofia (Diane Guerrero), the food-truck
owner, is distraught. Soon, everyone -- including Randy (Katey
Sagal), the cop – is in the debate.

“Good Girls,”
season-finale, 10:01 p.m. , NBC. This could have worked splendidly as
a one-year, 10-episode mini-series. Tonight's hour manages to wrap
things up neatly ... then unwraps them to set up a second season. By
the end, viewers won't be sure they really want to return.

TV column for Sunday, April 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Howards End” finale, 8 p.m., Starz (rerunning at 9:30 and 11:10
p.m. and 1:09 a.m.) and/or “Masterpiece: Unforgotten” opener,
9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

These well-made
British mini-series are total opposites. “Howards End” is sort of
what we'd expect from “Masterpiece” -- a 1910 novel, elegantly
filmed. Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen are perfect as mismatched
souls. If you missed the first three parts, catch them, starting at
5:02 p.m.

And “Unforgotten”
is what we don't expect – a gritty murder story, visually homely,
with difficult accents, but worth the effort. This three-parter, like
the previous one, starts with the discovery of a long-ago body. It
takes half the opener to learn the identity; by then, we've met
interesting suspects.

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

Grandpa learns an
important lesson: Never make a deathbed confession, unless you're
sure about dying. That's in episode No. 636 ... which puts “Simpsons”
first among all scripted, primetime series.

“Gunsmoke” had
635, “Lassie” had 588 (in many versions); skipping anthologies,
it's “Peyton Place” 514) and “Law & Order” (456). This is
the 29th “Simpsons” season, topping 20 for “Gunsmoke”
and “Law & Order,” 17 for “Lassie,” 15 for “ER,” 14
for “Dallas,” “Knots Landing” and “Bonanza.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, Hallmark.

We can forget about
murders and such and get to the basics – pretty people with basic
problems in pretty places. At 5 p.m., a rerun of Saturday's “The
Beach House” has few surprises and isn't particularly well-acted,
but has the lush look and feel we expect from “Hall of Fame”
movies.

That's followed at 7
by “My Favorite Wedding” (2017), with Maggie Lawson as a young
doctor, trying to be a good maid of honor. At 9 is the season-opener
of the pleasant “The Good Witch.” Sam (James Denton) searches for
a legendary ring to give Cassie (Catherie Bell) as their engagement
ring.

Other choices
include:

“Cinderella”
(2015), 5:45 p.m., TNT. Back-to-back are two fun fairy tales; the
first is live-action and the second -- “Shrek” (2001), at 8 p.m.
-- is animated. Other strong choices: The “Fiddler on the Roof”
(1971) musical, 4:45 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies, and “Jurassic
Park” (1993), 7:10 p.m. on Syfy.

“American Idol,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. The top 10 singers perform Disney tunes; then
viewers vote.

“Instinct,” 8
p.m., CBS. Is someone killing hospital patients who don't have
life-threatening diseases? To find out, Dylan and Julian go
undercover.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. It's time for the bachelor/bachelorette
parties, with mixed results. For Jake, Charles plans an elaborate
scavenger hunt; for Amy, things go awry when people realize she once
slept with one of the guys in the wedding band.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m,, CBS. Here's an unusual recovery mission --
heading into a forest to find pieces of a failed rocket launch,
possibly including a top-secret device.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. One of the first female lawyers in the U.S., Grace
Humiston was also an investigator dubbed “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.”
Now Lucy and her team travel back to 1919, to help her prove the
innocence of suffragette Alice Paul, who has been framed for murder.

“Deception,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Wrapping up a two-parter, the FBI tries to stop the
mystery woman from pulling off one of history's biggest jewel heists.
This will bee the first time, ABC says, that it shows how magician
Cameron Black achieved his illusion.

TV column for Saturday, April 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Beach House,” 9 p.m., Hallmark and Hallmark Movies and
Mysteries.

A young woman,
bright and beautiful, leaves the big-city to visit a place from her
past. She brings a secret; her mother has a bigger one. So far, all
of this is familiar turf for novels and TV shows.

But this isn't your
ordinary tale; it's “Hallmark Hall of Fame.” Each year, Hallmark
makes countless interchangeable films, but only a couple “Hall”
ones; they continue a 67-year, 81-Emmy tradition. “Beach House”
is too predictable and only adequately acted, but it blends lush
visuals and strong emotions. Amid tears and turtles, blue skies and a
fierce storm, the movie finds its place.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“White House Correspondents Dinner,” all night, cable.

In past years, this
has some great comedy moments – often from the president himself.
Donald Trump plans to again skip it (sending Sarah Huckabee Sanders),
but his name is likely to come up.

Each year has a pro
performer, with clear trends: In the past 23 years, 20 have been men;
17 have been linked to TV latenight. This time, it's Michelle Wolf, a
former writer for Seth Meyers and for “The Daily Show.” The tough
part is guessing when to look for her: CNN plans on covering the
dinner from 7 p.m. to midnight ET; MSNBC plans 9-11 p.m., which could
be a good guess for when the fun starts.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Forrest Gump” (1994), 5:35 p.m., Freeform.

A night of
entertaining movies starts with this Tom Hanks gem. There are some
fun comedies – Will Ferrell's “Talladaga Nights,” 6:30 p.m.,
CMT; and “Wedding Crashers” (2006), 7:30 p.m., Bravo.

Prefer an adventure?
At 7:30 p.m., VH1 has “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2011), wrapping up
a strong perplexed-spy trilogy. At 8, FX has “Guardians of the
Galaxy” (2014).

Other choices
include:

Sports, all day.
There are some double-headers today – hockey on NBC (Boston-Tampa
Bay at 3 p.m. ET, San Jose-Las Vegas at 8) and basketball on TNT
(Milwaukee-Boston at 8 p.m., New Orleans-Golden State at 10:30).
Also, Fox goes from Supercross at 5:30 p.m. to boxing at 8:30.

“American Idol,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. This rerun of Monday's episode gives us the show's
top 10.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS.Things get precarious: The kidnap victim used to be a guard
at Guantanamo; Eric's best chance to save him may involve working
with a former detainee who's with the kidnappers.

“Trading Spaces,”
8 p.m., TLC, rerunning at 10:07. One family, with do-it-yourself
skills, tries to help neighbors who have been struggling with their
toddler's cancer.

“Nate &
Jeremiah: By Design,” 9:05 p.m., TLC. Nate Berkus and Jeremiah
Brent design a house for a family of little people.

“Howards End,”
9:29 p.m., Starz. This excellent four-parter has its finale at 8 p.m.
Sunday; here's a chance to catch the second-to-last episode. Also,
all three episodes so far will air from 5-8 p.m. Sunday.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Will Ferrell hosts a rerun, with music from
Chris Stapleton.