TV column for Thursday, April 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Will & Grace” season-finale, 9 p.m., NBC.

This season has
brought a pleasant surprise: Old comedies can be revived; if the
right people are in charge, they can be as good as ever. We've seen
that with “Roseanne” and with this delight.

Those shows are
opposites in some ways: One is blue-collar mid-America, the other is
upper-income New York; one centers on a Trump supporter, the other
clearly doesn't. But both are loud, brash, distinctive and (despite
excesses) funny. Tonight loads up guest stars -- Robert Klein, Blythe
Danner, Alec Baldwin. Karen's scenes are sometimes crude and juvenile
... but, like the rest, are also funny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon,” 8 and 8:31 pm.,
CBS.

Even on a big “Will
& Grace” night, we can still catch TV's best comedy and its
spin-off.

Tonight, Leonard
learns a jarring fact: Sheldon is president of the tenants
association; he decides to run against him. Also, an unidentified
drone has landed in Howard's backyard. Then “Young Sheldon”
brings back a familiar plot: Sheldon's being bullied and his parents
have opposite advice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “ATL” (2006), 7:05 to 10 p.m., BET; then “Atlanta,”
10 p.m., FX.

Atlanta has reached
the upper levels of pop culture – when merely its name (or part of
it) is a title. First is a movie about young skaters – rappers T.I.
and Big Boi star -- pondering their next step in life.

That one drew
moderate approval from critics, but “Atlanta” has drawn cascades
of praise. Donald Glover, the creator and star, won Emmys as both
best actor and director of a comedy; the Golden Globes also named him
best actor ... and named the show best comedy. And tonight's episode
(which reruns at 10:42 and 11:22)? FX says only that Darius – Paper
Boi's right-hand man – “is trippin'.”

Other choices
include:

“Jersey Shore,”
all day, MTV. Remember that old show, with beachdwellers drinking and
shouting? In case you've forgotten, MTV starts a rerun marathon at
4 a.m. Then it brings those people back for a “Jersey Shore Family
Vacation” from 8-10 p.m., rerunning at 10.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Amelia, DeLuca and Koracick try a risky, groundbreaking
procedure. Also, Richard's sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous is
admitted with a “do not resuscitate” note.

“Siren,” 8 p.m.,
Freeform. Last week, the military grabbed a mermaid -- plus a
fisherman she attacked – and took them to a secret lab. Now her
sister (bewildered by life on land) and his friends search for them.
Yes, this sounds weird; still, it's solid and subtle and fairly
well-made.

“A.P. Bio,”
8:31 p.m., NBC. We're not sure how this oft-witless show gets a spot
alongside clever NBC comedies. Tonight, Jack is enraged when he meets
his late mom's ex-lover (Michael Gross).

There are some funny
moments involving a parenting class, but not many.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Bonnie doesn't have much experience being the stable one.
Now she has to, after her boyfriend faces a devastating loss.

“Champions,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” guests as
Michael's uncle – a guy so rich, hip and and handsome that Vince
desperately hopes he has a fatal flaw. A second storyline – the
guys try celibacy, to be better role models – is so-so, but overall
it's a funny episode.

“Scandal,” 10
p.m., ABC. Olivia had just vowed to change her ways. Now, however,
Mellie wants her to find a way to get rid of Cyrus forever.

TV column for Wednesday, April 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“I Am ... MLK Jr.,” 9-10:30 p.m., BET and Paramount.

As Andrew Young
recalls it, Lyndon Johnson kept saying he didn't have enough power to
pass a civil rights bill. Then Martin Luther King said it was time to
get him the power. “I thought, 'Here you are, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds,
not a dollar in your pocket, and you're going to give the president
power?'”

Then King did it;
his Selma march stirred public passion and the bill's passage. On the
50th anniversary of King's death, this film powerfully
tells his story, through people who were there then and people who
marvel now. Van Jones points out that King was only 26 when he led
the historic bus strike.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Empire” and “Star,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

“This music
business is like a game of chess,” one “Star” character says.
True, perhaps ... but chess rarely makes great television. Both of
these hours spend too much time on business moves, spiced briefly by
music – not enough of it in “Empire” -- and by personal
stories.

Then, in the final
10 minutes, each unleashes fierce passion. For “Empire,” that
requires a thoroughly ill-advised confession, but the results are
powerful. For “Star,” key plot points overlap with a potent
gospel number from Queen Latifah, Brandy Norwood and perpetual
superstar Patti LaBelle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

As the summit
meeting nears, people on both sides fret. Some Russians feel Mikhail
Gorbachev is too soft and should be overthrown; some Americans
whisper that Ronald Reagan is becoming forgetful.

One person who
hasn't gone soft is Elizabeth (Kerri Russell). Her husband has
retired as a Soviet spy, but she's more driven than ever, letting it
batter her emotionally. Their daughter is also learning the spy
business; in a strong conclusion to a good episode, Paige finally
sees how serious her mom's work is.

Other choices
include:

“Sicario”
(2015), 7:30-10 p.m., FX. It's a messy night for drug kingpins, with
this film plus Al Pacino's “Scarface” (1983) at 8 p.m. on IFC.
Other 8 p.m. choices include “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
(2015) on TNT, “Girls Trip” (2017) on HBO and Francis Coppola's
“Outsiders” (1983) on Sundance.

“Blacklist,” 8
p.m., NBC. The team converges on a murder case, hoping to recover
information it needs to bring down Ian Garvey.

“Famous in Love”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Freeform. As last season ended, a press
conference between two co-stars – newcomer Paige and pop-culture
star Rainer – took a bizarre twist: Jake, her longtime pal, burst
in and declared his love. Now we learn whom she's chosen; we also
find roadblocks to the movie that's supposed to make her a star.
Slickly filmed, this is filled with soapy excesses; still, one scene
– showing a guerilla way to get a mansion for an indie movie – is
quite clever.

“Alex, Inc.,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Hollywood savors the slapstick of someone trying to
be in two places at once. Now that happens to Alex; it's a so-so
episode, but some funny moments come from the addition of Hillary
Anne Matthews as Alex's assistant.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Gloria has always said Javier (Benjamin Bratt) is
Manny's dad. But now we meet a former boyfriend (Gabriel Iglesias)
who looks a lot more like Manny.

“Black America
Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. Here's another key
film airing on the 50th anniversary of King's death. This
one, a rerun, is the second half of Henry Louis Gates' excellent
documentary, tracing generations of American history.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. There's information that a “dirty bomb”
is in the U.S. Now the president (Kiefer Sutherland, who used to save
us from bombs on “24”), leads the rush to find it.

TV column for Tuesday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“For the People,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week, a
brilliant episode put the show's best characters (Kate and Sandra) on
a collision course. Now comes a total detour – a focus on what was
(until now) the least-interesting character.

Seth is a blandly
handsome guy who broke up with his girlfriend after she beat him in
court. Now his mother wants him to fight an environmental disaster in
his Nebraska home town. “I'm not that kind of lawyer,” he says.
Her question -- “Then what kind of lawyer are you?” -- launches a
terrific hour. TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Black America Since MLK: And
Still I Rise,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

As a boy, Henry
Louis Gates watched the TV news in awe. He was in a peaceful West
Virginia town; elsewhere, blacks were creating a civil-rights
revolution. Gates would go on to become a Harvard professor and a PBS
producer. This two-night documentary rerun skillfully captures
generations.

Tonight looks at
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and more, while asking: “How did we
go so far ... and have so far to go?” Tuesday's film – on the
50th anniversary of King's death -- views recent successes
and setbacks, including mass incarceration and the “re-segregation”
of many schools.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Roseanne Barr, everywhere.

Last week's
“Roseanne” opener – brash, blunt, often very funny – drew a
big audience. It was so big that ABC hurriedly reran it on Sunday ...
and TLC is rerunning “Momsters: When Moms Go Bad” episodes from
noon to 2 p.m. ET, because Roseanne Barr appears (fairly briefly) as
the host.

Then it's time for
the new episode (8 p.m., ABC) of “Roseanne,” which manages to
tour three generations. Tonight, Roseanne argues about the way her
grandkids are being raised ... and fumes when Dan gets her an
elevator chair ... a sure sign that she's getting old.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Legion” season-opener, 10-11:30 p.m., FX,
rerunning at 11:30.

When we see a story
through a troubled mind, that can be good and bad news. The good
includes limitless possibilities for writer-producer Noah Hawley (who
also does the “Fargo” series) and his directors. The scenes are
imaginative; the visuals are spectacular.

And the bad? Viewers
don't know if what they're seeing is real or imagined. David (Dan
Stevens) has been rescued by fellow mutants, but his mind is infected
by Amahl Farouk, the parasitic Shadow King. What goes on inside it
tonight is both stunning and frustrating.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. When a 10-year-old, orphaned refugee is the target of gangs,
Gibbs is given protective custody.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Tonight is filled with people trying to juggle opposites. It's
football vs. theater ... tough-love parenting vs. warm-love teaching
... strong independence vs. allowing your emotions to emerge. It's
depressing at times, but well done; in particular, Rosie Perez has
some great moments

“L.A. to Vegas,”
9 p.m., Fox. Don Johnson guest as the airline owner. Mid-flight, he
learns officials are waiting to arrest him; his response is to try to
hijack his own plane and take it to Mexico.

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. Fresh from her high school graduation, Sabrina suddenly
isn't sure she wants to go to Yale. Also, her brother wants to
“re-brand” himself before starting high school.

“Splitting Up
Together,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Settling into their separate-but-nearby
lives, both people are on new turf: Martin tries to be a responsible
parent; Lena tries to be a casual dater. Neither has an initial knack
for it, in an uneven episode that has some good moments.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. An underground poker game seems to target
people with access to a Navy research lab; now Percy and LaSalle go
undercover. Also, Pride's daughter visits.

TV column for Monday, April 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Crossing” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

In a tiny town along
the coast, no one expects big things. Then there's something very big
-- 47 people washed ashore. Where did they come from? How is this
possible?

If you suspend all
disbelief and skepticism, you'll find a compelling concept,
well-crafted. Most shows would have cast some granite-looking chap as
sheriff; this one has Steve Zahn, who used to play stoners and
geniuses. Our only worry now is the habit of broadcast networks –
including ABC – to yank a show midway in its serialized story. If
ABC lets “Crossing” flow, we're in for a good time.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, TBS and TNT.

This is the big one,
the championship game of the NCAA tournament.

Both channels have
the game, but TBS also has a preview show (7 p.m. ET) and a follow-up
(about 11:30). Catch it all and you have five-plus hours of
commotion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Young Sheldon,” 8:31, CBS.

Many “Young
Sheldon” episodes are soft and sweet and pleasant. A few, like this
rerun, are hilarious.

Sheldon's dad has
been rushed to the hospital, putting the grandmother (Annie Potts) in
charge. She's not your typical caregiver ... and George Jr. isn't
someone who follows instructions. That leads to some great moments.

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

Like many other
Iranian immigrants, Shahin Najafi was living in poverty and obscurity
in Germany. Then one of his songs enraged clerics; they issued a
fatwa, with a $100,000 reward for killing him. For a time, he was
hidden away by the same journalist who hid author Salman Rushdie
after a fatwa.

Called “the
Rushdie of rap,” Najafi caught on. “My songs didn't make me
famous,” he says here. “The fatwa did.” This documentary
catches his brash exterior, his quaking fears and his surprising
romance -- to the granddaughter of the man the Ayatollah Khomeni
chose as prime minister after the revolution.

Other choices
include:

“The Good Karma
Hospital,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
The first season offered a charming blend of comedy and drama, as a
young British doctor moved to a small-town hospital in India, her
ancestral homeland. Now the second season starts well, with a heat
wave, a black-out and candle-light surgery.

“American Idol”
(ABC) and “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10 p.m. For the “Idol”
singers, it's the first time performing for an audience; then the
field is trimmed to 24. And for “Voice,” the “knock-outs”
begin. Once again, teammates battle each other; this time, each gets
to choose his or her own song. And this time, past winners –
Cassadee Pope, Jordan Smith, Chloe Kohansi and Chris Blue – will be
mentors.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. It's a good Monday for CBS – because
most of it is borrowed from better nights. In the first “Big Bang”
rerun, a seven-year-old video reveals a secret about Penny and
Leonard. In the second, Sheldon and Amy try a math approach to
wedding-planning.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. This rerun includes a busy stretch for Nicolette, who
discovers secrets about two doctors, Hunter and Okafor.

“Living
Biblically,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In CBS' only non-rerun tonight, Chip
tackles one of the toughest commandments – that thing about not
telling lies.

“Good Girls,” 10
p.m., NBC. This task – laundering all the counterfeit money
gangsters can provide – is becoming way too big. Now the women hire
some help, while their personal lives crumble.

TV column for Sunday, April 1


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

For one delightful
episode, most of the characters are shuffled aside. Inside an
interrogation room and nearby, three terrific actors navigate a
cleverly winding script.

Andre Braugher won
an Emmy as a blistering interrogator in “Homicide” ... Andy
Samberg won a Golden Globe as Jake in this show ... and Sterling K.
Brown has won back-to-back Emmys. Now they're locked in verbal
combat, with Brown as the murder suspect. The result takes dizzying
twists.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Before it became a
full-scale musical and movie, “Superstar” was just a collection
of great songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was a concept
album and then a concert.

Now it returns to
its roots, with an Easter-night concert, performed live (taped for the West Coast) in a Brooklyn
armory. John Legend sings the role of Jesus, with Sara Bareilles as
Mary Magdalene and Alice Cooper as King Herod. Broadway stars fill
other key spots, including Tony-winner Brandon Victor Dixon in the
flashy role of Judas and Tony-nominee Norm Lewis as Caiaphas.
Musically, this could be splendid,

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Call the Midwife,” “Masterpiece: Child in Time,”
8 and 9 p.m., PBS.

Aren't Easter and
spring linked to brightness and joy? Instead, tonight has gloomy
extremes. “Midwife” has can't-win situations – an impoverished
mom with a debilitating disease and a self-administered abortion
attempt. There's a feel-good approach to the regular characters, but
it's not enough.

Then “A Child in
Time” has parents struggling after their daughter disappears.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Kelly Macdonald are superb, but the
characters – and the viewers – are simply overwhelmed.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Easter movies.

If you're looking
for holiday joy, try “Hop” (2011), at 11:30 a.m. and 9:50 p.m. on
Freeform; it's a fun trifle, with live actors and an animated Easter
bunny. Or try “Easter Parade” (1948), at 8 p.m. ET; it's stuffed
with Irving Berlin songs ... as is “Holiday Inn” (1942), which
follows at 10.

And the serious side
of Easter? “Risen” (2016) is 9:30 a.m. on UpTV. “King of Kings”
(1961) is 5 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies. And “Heaven is For
Real” is 8 and 10:02 p.m. on Lifetime.

Other choices
include:

“Ice Age: The
Great Eggs-capade,” 7 p.m., Fox. Would anyone really entrust their
soon-to-hatch eggs to Sid (John Leguizamo)? Several people do; then
pirate-bunny Squint steals and hides the eggs. That leads to
history's first Easter egg hunt, in a rerun that includes Taraji
Henson and Gabriel Iglesias.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. A clown-mask stunt goes terribly wrong, sending two
people to unfamiliar turf – Bart to prankster rehab, Krusty to
regional theater.

“Instinct,” 8
p.m., CBS. A young man is killed after leaving his family's religious
community. Now there are too many suspects and too many secrets.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Mosley (Nia Long) assigns Callen to join her
on a mission to catch someone from her past. Also, a killer has been
putting on shows for high-paying voyeurs.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. On the 20th anniversary of an embassy
bombing, emotions are high.

“Trust,” 10
p.m., FX. Here's one of the key differences between this series and
the movie “All the Money in the World.” In the film, J. Paul
Getty's security chief (played by Mark Wahlberg) was a fairly average
chap; here (played by Brendan Fraser), he's a big, booming Texan who
wears a Stetson and dominates every situation. In this excellent
episode, he's sent to Rome to investigate.

“Barry,” 10:30
p.m., HBO. Life is getting complicated for Barry (Bill Hader), the
glum hit man, The guy he was supposed to kill (an aspiring actor) is
dead, but now gangsters are after Barry, his boss is pushing him ...
and he kind of likes being in the acting class. It adds up to a busy,
interesting episode.