TV column for Wednesday, May 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Idol” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

In its peak years,
the “Idol” finale could make the Earth quit spinnning. People
stopped everything to see who might be the next Kelly/Carrie
superstar. Everything – guest stars, fuss, ratings – was huge.

Now? We can still
expect lots of guests and fuss, plus pretty good ratings. Tuesday's
show began with the final three singers – Jax, 18, Clark Beckham,
22, and Nick Fradiani, 29; one was ousted, two sang and viewers
voted. Tonight, after much commotion, we'll learn who was chosen.

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

Sue has spent her
teen years in a state of unjustified enthusiasm. She keeps having big
dreams that shatter; her parents settle for modest dreams that ...
well, still shatter.

So now Sue's cheery
about her graduation. Her mom merely wants the party to go well; her
dad just wants a good seat and an early exit after the ceremony.
Naturally, much of this will fade; still, there are enough neat
twists to make us glad we stuck with this often-funny and always
likable show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

So you think you had
a tough childhood? Meet the 3-month-old black bear whose mom emerged
from hibernation too early; they're soon encased in a Minnesota
winter. Or the goat, less that a week old, descending a perilous
cliff ... then running back up, with a wolf in pursuit.

There's much more in
“Animal Childhood.” Some moments are sweet and funny, some are
gripping, as inexperienced mother elephants try to nudge their babies
across a raging river; all are well-crafted.

Other choices
include:

“The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. Melissa Joan Hart guests in this episode,
which centers on the murder of a young filmmaker.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. A week from the finale, the old “blue-collar” tribe
remains in control. It has four of its six people; “white-collar”
(Carolyn Rivera) and “no-collar” (Will Sims) have one apiece.

“CSI: Cyber,” 9
and 10 p.m., CBS. The first season concludes with a flurry – one
new hour aired Tuesday, with two more tonight. In the first, a
power-outage masks a robbery and murder; in the second, Avery
(Patricia Arquette) confronts the hacker who put her patients'
secrets Online and Krumitz (Charley Koontz) confronts the man who
killed his parents.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Alex isn't the type to skip school, but her dad and
siblings insist on the “senior skip day” tradition. Also, Gloria
schemes a way to break up Manny and his girlfriend.

“Sing It On”
debut, 9 p.m., Pop (formerly TV Guide Channel), repeating at 10. Back
in his college days, John Legend directed the glee club and was named
best soloist in the quarter-finals of the national tournament. Now he
produces this series, tracing five clubs before and during the
competition. Two each are from Florida State and Northeastern, with
one from Illinois.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Andre has just found a consummate way to upset his
parents: He joings the Young Republicans.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Deacon hovers near death; Juliette obsesses on finishing
her album.

TV column for Tuesday, May 12


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

Getting a one-week
jump on other shows, “Idol” is ready for its winner ... almost.
Last week, it dropped Rayvon Owen, leaving its final three. Jax –
18, from East Brunswick, N.J. -- faces two guys: Clark Beckham, 22,
is from small-town Tennessee; Nick Fradiani, 29, is from suburban
Connecticut.

Tonight, one of
those three will be dismissed, the others will do three songs apiece
and viewers will vote. On Wednesday, after much commotion, the show
will have its 14th champion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-9
p.m.

Think of this as a
handy warm-up on “Idol” night: These two each have a results
show, choosing the people for two-night finales next Monday and
Tuesday.

For now, only
Pharrell Williams has two “Voice” singers, Sawyer Fredericks and
Koryn Hawthorne; there's one apiece for Blake Shelton (Meghan
Linsey), Adam Levine (Joshua Davis) and Christina Aguilera (India
Carney). Meanwhile, “Stars” has actors Rumer Willis and Riker
Lynch, plus war veteran Noah Galloway and Olympic-champion gynmast
Nastia Liukin.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In 2013, this report
says, a fierce strain of salmonella began sending 40-percent of its
victims to the hospital. It spread to 634 people in 29 states; most
had eaten Foster Farms chicken.

The company could
have done a voluntary recall ... as Cargill had quickly done with its
turkey, years earlier. It refused, arguing that it had passed federal
inspections. This compelling report finds fault with the testing
system ... and the company ... and the federal government (for
failing to grant recall powers) ... and somewhat to home cooks,
fighting a safett battle they sometimes lose even when being
diligent.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The second chapter of Ken
Burns' superb documentary sees Teddy Roosevelt step into the
presidency.

“NCIS”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. A finale-filled night starts with an
overseas bombing. There's an emotional loss for the team, which
probes a terrorist group that recruits American teens.

“NCIS: New
Orleans” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. With a syndicate remaining a
step ahead of investigators, Pride suspects there's a mole. Steven
Weber, Dylan Walsh and Stacy Keach return.

“Agents of SHIELD”
season-finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC. An all-out battle requires Coulson
(Clark Gregg) to make sacrifices and to stir fresh dissension.

“Undateable,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Last week's episode used its gimmick (live, with
lots of guest stars) to remind us that this is a fairly enjoyable
show with lots of quick gags, some clever and some not. Here are two
new episodes, starting with Justin making a mistake in front of his
girlfriend's father.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Casey (Jesse Spencer) is increasingly suspicious of
Nesbitt (Eric Mabius), whom he's moonlighting for. Meanwhile,
accusations about Rice continue to draw dissension among the
firefighters; then a dangerous warehouse flire bursts loose.

“CSI: Cyber,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. On the eve of its season-finale, “Cyber” borrows
this slot for an episode about someone using an Online game to trick
people into delivering illegal weapons.

TV column for Monday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

A year of huge
praise and tiny ratings concludes with, logically, a birth. All of
this started with Jane (Gina Rodriguez) being impregnated via clinic
error. Now the baby is coming; rushing to the hospital are the birth
father, plus Jane's former fiance, her parents and more.

That wraps up a
clever comedy-drama season. The Golden Globes nominated it for best
comedy and chose Rodriguez as best actress in a comedy; the American
Film Institute gave it one of its 10 “program of the year”
awards. Critics approved, the network renewed ... and, occasionally,
viewers watched.

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

Two powerhouses trim
for their finales next week. “Stars” has its final four, after
last week dumping Chris Soules (“The Bachelor”) and Robert
Herjavec (“Shark Tank”); that leaves actors Rumer Willis and
Riker Lynch, plus Olympic champ Nastia Liukin and war veteran Noah
Galloway.

Meanwhile, “Voice”
has Pharrell Williams as the only judge with two contestants (Sawyer
Fredericks and Koryn Hawthorne). Last week, Christina Aguilera had
the bottom two; India Carney survived and Kimberly Nichole went home.
Blake Shelton has Meghan Linsey; Adam Levine has Joshua Davis.

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

Yes, the
shabby/shaky psyches of Norman Bates and his mom are intriguing.
Still, they aren't enough to carry a series; the final moments in
this third season leave us feeling empty.

Fortunately, the
busy finale has much more going on. One key scene (the sheriff
confronts the crime boss) is powerful; another (Norman's half-brother
nudges fragile Emma) is filled with rich emotions.

Other choices
include:

“The Following,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The end of the season will be lumped into a pair of
two-hour chunks on Mondays. Tonight, Ryan (Kevin Bacon) is
increasingly reckless in his search for Theo.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Sophie learns that Olag may have an ulterior purpose for
marrying her.

“Girl Meets World”
season-opener, 8:30 p.m., Disney. By the so-so standards of teen
cable comedies, this is a first-rate show, focusing on the daughter
of the “Boy Meets World” characters. This season – with new
episodes for five straight days – her dad is no longer her teacher
and her mom has a bakery.

“Thought Crimes,”
9-11 p.m., HBO. Gilberto Valle was a New York cop whose wife found
despicable things on his computer. She reported him; dubbed the
“cannibal cop,” he faced trial. Prosecutors said he conspired on
the Internet to kidnap specific women, torture them in his basement
and cook them in a large oven; defense lawyers said it was all
fantasy – he didn't have kidnap equpment ... or a large oven ... or
a basement. This disturbing documentary raises tough questions about
thoughts as crimes.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Elizabeth Streb's
choreography isn't confined to the stage ... or to the ground. Her
dancers leap, whirl, fly, fall. Several joyously recall conquering
the odds; one recalls breaking her back and ending her career. This
documentry does a poor job of capturing dance, but a great one of
showing intriguing people.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. In the season-finale, a murder spurs a boyhood memory for
Castle.

“The Returned”
season-finale, 10:01 p.m., A&E. Rowan's last wedding day was kind
of a mess; the groom left and was killed by a car. He returned years
later – that happens in this show – but today she's supposed to
marry Tommy, the local sheriff.

 

TV column for Sunday, May 10


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

Last week, Alicia
hit a low point. A voting scandal had forced her to resign; she was a
stay-at-home mom with no stay-around kids. Then a case pushed her to
think of starting an idealistic law firm.

Now she finds a case
that reflects Chicago history – a police facility where people are
secretly detained.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Something big has
hit the precinct – a case that could involve three murders and $21
million. Jake (Andy Samberg) envisions glory; he's already thinking
in cop-memoir terms. The captain (Andre Braugher) envisions a career
destroyed by his fierce boss (Kyra Sedgwick).

That's a big and
funny story, but there's a bonus when Jeffords is desperate to
impress a visiting school class. The result – ranging from
matchmaking to crime photos – adds some more big laughs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Wolf Hall” finale, 10 p.m., PBS.

Over the past five
weeks, we've seen a vivid portrait of the power behind the throne.
Thomas Cromwell (Mark Ryland), sly and silent, struggled to get Henry
VIII (Damian Lewis) into and out of marriages.

Now comes his
toughest challege – finding a way to legally dispose of Anne
Boleyn. In a jolting story, based on real history, we see Cromwell as
cruel, smart, brutal and quietly fascinating.

Other choices
include:

“Once
Upon a Time”
season-finale, 8-10:01
p.m., ABC.
Always epic and ambitious,
Once
cranks it up a notch with a two-parter that has everything at stake.
Regina started the season by vowing to
force The Author to write her a happy ending. That won't be easy, now
that he's linked
with Mr. Gold; Regina,
Emma, Hook and
young Henry are all trying to avert disaster.

Call
the Midwife,” 8 p.m., PBS. An elderly woman refuses to leave her
husband's side, despite her own health problems. Then, at 9:05 p.m.,
PBS' “Mr. Selfridge” sets up next week's season-finale.

A.D.,”
9 p.m., NBC.
A power struggle in the
Jewish community peaks with a beautifully
played
coin-flip scene. Then comes a
passionate
battle between two opposites – Peter,
the core of the new Christian movement, and Saul of Tarsus, then its
worst enemy and later (as Paul) one of its leaders.

Nurse
Jackie,” 9 p.m., Showtime. This final season is a dandy.
Now
Jackie learns more about the plans to convert the hospital into
condos;
she
faces an ethical dilemma, says goodbye to Dr. Cooper and meets his
quirky replacement
(Tony Shalhoub).
That's followed at 9:30 by a “Happyish” that's erratic, but has
some great moments during advertising pitches.

“Battle
Creek,” 10 p.m., CBS. An escaped convict has great people skills;
his captive (Russ) doesn't. It's only a fairly good episode – on a
show that's had great ones – but has some splendid moments.

“Penny
Dreadful,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Two gifted British actors collide in
a strong episode. Timothy Dalton shows the warm side of Sir Malcolm;
Helen McCrory shows the menacing side of Evelyn Poole. There's much
more, in a terrific hour, including the return of Dorian Gray.

“Revenge”
finale, 10:01 p.m., ABC. Revenge may be sweet, but it's not eternal.
Already cancelled, the show concludes its fourth season with Emily
ready to confess.

TV column for Saturday, May 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 10 and 11:29 p.m.,. NBC.

It's time to sample
something old – almost 40 years old – and new. That starts with a
shortened version of the show's seventh episode, from December,1975;
Richard Pryor hosts, with Gil Scott-Heron as music guest. Then Reese
Witherspoon hosts a new round, with music from Florence and the
Machine.

That was Pryor's
only time hosting “SNL”; it's Witherspoon's first, but she's been
busy lately. She had three movies last year (getting an Oscar
nomination for “Wild”) and her “Hot Pursuit” opened Friday.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Series are winding
down now, so we'll have to adjust to a rerun-heavy summer. On the
night after its fifth-season finale, “Five-0” repeats the
season's second episode.

That one has
kidnappers take the young daughter of a Navy SEAL who's on a secret
mission in Afghanistan; they've swiped the wrong kid, however, and
are negotiating with the wrong family. Meanwhile, Danny (Scott Caan)
must rescue his brother by locating a missing $18.5 million.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Just the Way You Are,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

On the eve of
Mother's Day, Hallmark debuts a sweet-spirited film that promptly
repeats at 1 and 9 p.m. on the holiday. It's a mismatch – a flat,
talky script, boosted by one of the channel's favorite stars (Candace
Cameron Bure) and its best director (Kristoffer Tabori).

A steady supporting
actor for decades, Tabori switched to directing, often under the name
K.T. Donaldson. It's a field his dad mastered, but in a different
way: Don Siegel created crisp action films, including “Dirty
Harry”; Tabori offers great visual beauty. He and Bure make a so-so
story glow.

Other choices
include:

-- “Bates Motel,”
3 p.m. to 4:04 a.m., A&E. Here's a chance to catch up, before a
strong season ends Monday. The entire year, so far, reruns from 3
p.m. to midnight, with the final four episodes then repeating again.
The final two also air at noon and 1 p.m. Sunday.

-- “Jaws”
(1975), 6-9 p.m., AMC; and/or “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of
the King” (2003), 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., TNT. It's possible, you
know, to be both artful and popular. Steven Spielberg began to prove
that 40 years ago, with his shark classic; Peter Jackson reaffirmed
it with his “Rings” trilogy. This final one is flawed by a
terribly prolonged ending, but it still mixes emotion and epic
action.

-- Basketball, 8
p.m. ET, ABC. The pro playoffs finally nudge into broadcast prime
time. This game has Golden State at Memphis; it's preceded by Atlanta
at Washington, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.

-- “Backstrom,”
8 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of the episode that had Backstrom start
to realize a surprising link to his tenant Valentine (Thomas Dekker).
Also, a rocker is killed after fleeing rehab.

-- “Criminal
Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a lawyer disappears, the team digs
through his old secrets.

-- “Orphan Black,”
9 p.m., BBC America. Mark (Ari Millen) is hit in a shoot-out with the
Proletheans, the anti-clone assassins that he fled. Sarah – played
by Tatiana Maslany, who's superb in this series and in the excellent
movie “Woman in Gold” – helps, but soon is followed by a
familiar foe.

-- “Outlander,”
9 p.m., Starz. Scrambing to rescue her husband from the English
soldiers, Claire is helped by Jenny and Murdagh. That reruns at 10:05
and 11:10 p.m.; last week's episode is at 7:55.