TV column for Wednesday, April 6


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

No viewer time is
being wasted tonight. If “Empire” isn't giving us music, it's
delivering dramatic lightning bolts, sort of like a soap opera
overdrive.

Last week, Hakeem
cast the deciding voice, throwing his father out of the record
company. He was prombtly put in charge by Camilla (Naomi Campbell),
his secret lover. But this is a world in which people usually have at
least one hidden scheme; tonight, muchof that unfolds. The final
minurtea are outrageously large and empirically dramatic.

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

Tonight, viewers get
their last chance “Idol” votes ... ever.

Last Thursday, one
person (MacKenzie Bourg) was bumped and the other three each sang
three songs. La'Porsha Renae andTrent Harmon were superb, as usual;
Dalton Rappattoni was the same on two of his songs, then was
uncharactertically so-so on his third. Now we'll find out who has
survived; there will be more songs and one more chance to vote. On
Thursday, a 15-year powerhouse ends its run.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hap and Leonard” conclusion, 10 p.m., Sundance.

After a great start,
the second half of this six-week mini-series has seen Hap and Leonard
held hostage or under gunfire from a bizarre villain (superbly played
by Jimmi Simpson) and his fierce girlfriend.

This final episode
leaps between three times: Hap – whose ex-wife hid the money and
ran -- is ducking bullets alongside Leonard, who is severely wounded.
We also flash forward ... and flash back to the night these guys
(then boys) met. It's a dark (but well-crafted) finish to a fairly
good tale.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. This has been a brutal episode for contestants' health.
Last week, Neal Gottlieb (an ice cream entrepreneur) became the
second person with a medical evacuation. That leaves his former
“brains” tribe with three people, the same as “brawn.” Now
those two have three people each and a power struggle, while the
former “beauty” tribe has four.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Sue obsesses over one of her teachers. Also, Frankie and
Mike agree to see the parents of Brick's girlfriend Cindy ... and
find her just as odd as Cindy.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. On a weekend in the Hamptons, Ben finds himself
torn between Sam (Daniella Monet) and Zoey. Back home, his mom has a
new suitor (Jonahan Silverman).

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. The two boys volunteer to wach Lily, so all the
grown-ups can have fun. Naturally, things go wrong ... especially
after the fire alarm goes off.

“The Real
Housewives of New York City,” 9-10:30 p.m., Bravo. The eighth
season starts with women familiar (Bethenny Frankel is ready to date
again) and new: Julianne Wainstein had a globetrotting childhood,
became a fashion designer, married a financier and now stays home
with their two children.

“Rogue,” 9 p.m.,
Audience Network (via DirecTV and AT&T). After chasing the
cunning Maya for two episodes, Ethan suddenly found her in his
apartment. Now she's begging for help ... and offering a big payday.
This is dangerous stuff, complete with a valuable flashdrive and
multiple murders. Meanwhile, Richard Schiff has great moments as a
super-lawyer, suddenly facing possible disgrace.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. After slogging for weeks, the story of Nina –
imprisoned in Russia – suddenly reaches a crescendo. Meanwhile,
Puilip and Elizabeth are filled with questions. Do they really want
their Russian bosses to kill the pastor whom their daughter confided
in? And will they die of the stolen virus that has stricken their
handler? It's a strong hour.

 

TV column for Tuesday, April 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The People vs. O.J. Simpson” finale, 10 p.m., FX, repeating at
11:33.

Over nine episodes,
this has been a marvel of great storytelling. Brilliantly written,
directed and acted, it has brought rich depth to a real-life story
people thought they already knew.

Now the
prosecution's case, once a sure thing, has been overwhelmed by a
top-dollar defense team, racial sub-texts and the recorded racism of
a police detective. Playing prosecutor Chris Darden, Sterling Brown
has brought subtle perfection. Now watch Darden's quietly emotional
scenes with Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark. And stick around for
the closing footnotes to some odd human history.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Idol” retrospectve, 8-9:30 p.m., Fox.

Over the next three
days, “Idol” will get the send-off it deserves. Flaws and all,
it's given us fresh music stars and (alongside “Survivor”) has
propelled the good sie of the reality-TV revolution.

Now it starts a big
finale. Tonight looks back at 15 crowded years. On Wednesday, the
final two will get their last chance to draw viewer votes; three
immense talents – La'Porsha Renae, Trent Harmon and Dalton
Rapattoni – are in the running for those spots. Then one will
become the final champion on Thursday, a night stuffed with music by
Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and other winners.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Secrets of Saint John Paul,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

For three decades,
Pope John Paul II had a deep friendship with Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.
Both were Polish natives, but she became a college professor, author
and philosopher in the U.S.; he became pope in 1978. As a cardinal,
he visited her and her husband in the U.S.; later, she visited the
Vatican.

Officials seemed to
hide the relationship, but this well-made film simply reminds us that
a man and woman can be friends. Now comes a further reminder – 343
letters he wrote to her, showing a deep, intellectual connection and
the exchange of ideas.

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012), 7-10 p.m., FX; and/or “Agents of SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Marvel has become so powerful that it competwa with itself. On cable,
it has a big-budget action movie; on ABC, the team tries to prove
that Daisy's horrifying vision of the future isn't inevitable.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Identity theft can be nasty if you're a federal agent. Someone
who stole Tony's identity is blackmailing senators.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. In the opener, the family accidentally
revealed all of its secrets to its fellow parishioners. Now comes a
tougher step – revealing them to a disapproving grandmother
(Frances Conroy). The result has some big laughs and then a strong
finish.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. New Orleans is known for its funeral
processions, but now a Navy lieutenant is killed during one. The team
must determine if the two deaths are related.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Once a diligent med-school grad, Liv (an accidental zombie)
keeps becoming a lot like the departed people she munches. But now
she eats a conscientious student ... and becomes kind of like she was
when this all started.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 9:30, Fox. It's time for two deceptions: Cops combine
to create a fake funeral; Amy goes undercover, to get key information
from an inmate (Aida Turturro of “The Sopranos”).

“To Kill a
Mockingbird” (1962), 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here's a
true classic, No. 25 on the American Film Institute's list of the
best American movies. It was nominated for eight Oscars (including
best picture) and won for best set design (in a black-and-white
film), for Horton Foote's adaptation of Harper Lee's novel and
Gregory Peck's performance as a sturdy lawyer amid racial crises.

TV column for Monday, April 4


TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball and/or baseball, all day.

One season ends,
another begins and sports fans (plus beer companies) will be giddy.
That peaks with the college championship game, at 9 p.m. ET on TBS
(which has a preview at 7), TNT and TruTV.

Meanwhile, this is
opening day for most of major league baseball. There were four
season-openers Sunday and one will be Tuesday, but that leaves 10
today (weather permitting), including a tripleheader on ESPN –
Houston at the Yankees at 1 p.m. ET, Seattle at Texas at 4 and the
Dodgers at San Diego at 7:10. At 10 p.m. ET, the packed day wraps up
with the Cubs at the Angels.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

The bad news is that
many networks retreat into reruns on a big sports night. There are no
new episodes schedued on CBS, Fox or CW.

And the good? This
lets us re-see funny episodes of TV's best comedy. Both of these
episodes are from the tenuous time when Sheldon and Amy had broken
up. In the first one, Barry Kripke mentions he wants to date her;
also, the women try to help Stuart attract female customers. In the
second, everyone is shocked to know Sheldon had been ready to
propose.

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

Even on the
basketball day, these two boom ahead. “The Voice” wraps up its
“knockout rounds,” getting its top 20. Next week (after a recap
Tuesday), the live rounds begin.

And “Stars?”
Geraldo Rivera – who got all the way to the finals of “Celebrity
Apprentice” -- had the opposite luck here; last week, he became the
first celebrity ousted. In the judges' scores that carry over to this
week, Mischa Barton is at the bottom, with Paige VanZant and Wanya
Morris tied at the top.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“The Detectorists,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

Slow and droll (even
by British standards), this show scattered moments of humor and drama
in the lives of two guys who spend their empty time – they have a
lot of it – with metal detectors. This six-episode season starts
with a visual rush, then has a quiet tale with impressive stars.

Toby Jones – who
has ranged from Truman Capote to Karl Rove – is Lance, who may try
to restart his dating live. Mackenzie Crook is Andy, with an
anthropology degree, no job, a working wife (Rachael Stirling) and an
imperious mother-in-law ... played by Dame Diana Rigg, Stirling's
real-life mother.

Other choices
include:

Presidential interviews, 7-11 p.m., Fox News. Back in 1912, Wisconsin was one of the first states with a presidential primary. Now, 104 years later, it has regained some of its importance this. Fox takes the rare step of talking to each Republican candidate for an hour, with a separate audience -- John Kasich (with Greta Van Susteren) at 7 p.m., Ted Cruz (with Megyn Kelly) at 9, Donald Trump (with Sean Hannity) at 10.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Galavan tries to strike a deal with young
Bruce Wayne ... and sends Barbara Kean after Jim Gordon.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. Here's the third run of the pilot film. It's a fairly good
one, with Lucifer visiting from Hell. When a woman he knows is
killed, he starts working with police.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Sylvester, not the tough-guy type, goes undercover in
prison ... then must be rescued. Alana De La Garza (now in “Beyond
Borders”) is the Homeland Security chief in this rerun.

““Blindspot,”
10 p.m., NBC. After chemical weapons are stolen from a truck, the
team races to stop a terrorist plot. And as shards of memory return,
Jane has a perplexing one involving Weller.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Leith, N.D., had a
population of 16 in 2010, swelling to 24 after the oil boom. It has a
mayor, a council and a bar. Then a man who proclaimed himself “one
of the most famous racists in the world” arrived, bought a dozen
parcels (sometimes for $500 apiece) and invited white supremacists to
move in. In a county of only 2,400 people, the sheriff and his three
deputies were overwhelmed. As the town fights back, it becomes a
dramatic story.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. The murder of an armored-car driver leads to an old case.
The problem: The case was handled by Esposito, who may have withheld
key information.

TV column for Saturday, April 2, slightly out of order


(This is the Saturday TV column, a tad out of order. If you scroll down to the next one, that's Sunday, April 3)

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 6 p.m. ET, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

It's final-four
time, as the NCAA tournament nears its peak. Tonight's winners will
collide Monday, for the college championship.

Of the four teams
seeded No. 1 in their regions, only one survived. That's North
Carolina; in the second game (about 8:49 p.m.), it faces Syracuse –
which (at No. 10) ia the fourth-lowest seed ever to get this far. The
first game, tipping off at 6:09 p.m., has two No. 2 seeds, Villanova
and Oklahoma.

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

OK, enough of those
way-too-tall basketball people. On the flip side, Peter Dinklage,
4-foot-5, hosts.

Dinklage, 46, has
done a few of the standard little-person roles, but mostly has veered
toward independent films. In 2003 (the same year he did “Elf”),
he starred in “The Station Agent,” drawing raves, two acting
awards and 10 nominations. He's had Emmy nominations in every season
of “Game of Thrones,” winning twice; now he hosts “SNL,” with
Gwen Stefani as music guest.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Figure skating, 9 p.m., NBC.

The World Figure
Skating championships are wrapping up in Boston. Most of that has
been confined to cable, including the pairs finals, at 2 p.m. today
on the NBC Sports Network. But the women, as usual, will get
primetime, big-network attention.

Gracie Gold and
Ashley Wagner have combined to win the past five U.S. championships,
but each has had to settle for one fourth-place in the world event.
They're on the U.S. team with Polina Edmunds, who at 17 has already
finished second twice in the nationals.

Other choices
include:

“Clueless”
(1995), 7 p.m., Freeform. This dandy comedy starts a strong movie
night on cable. At 8 p.m., there's “Star Trek Into Darkness”
(2013) on FXX, the animated “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) on FX,
Amy Schumer's clever “Trainwreck” (2015) on HBO and two great
Eddie Murphy performances – “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984) on IFC
and “Dreamgirls” (2006) on BET.

“Mirror Mirror”
(2012), 8-10 p.m., ABC. The Snow White story gets a big-budget
treatment here, with stars and special effects. Julia Roberts is the
evil queen and Lily Collins is the sweet heroine, with lots of others
– Sean Bean, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and more – in support.

“Rush Hour,” 8
p.m., CBS. The network really wants to make sure we see this pilot.
Just two days after it debuted (on a strong CBS night), it reruns
here. Aiming to match the 1998 movie's mixture of action and humor,
this has Jon Foo as a quiet Hong Kong cop and Justin Hires as a loud
American cop. They're forced together, on a case that packs a family
impact for Foo.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, a murder trial brings competing duelling
testimony from two skilled pathologists – Dr. Rosewood (Morris
Chestnut) and his father (Vondie Curtis-Hall).

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. This rerun finds Lucifer needing an unlikely ally, as he
tries to learn what's n the stolen container. Also, Chloe makes some
key progress in the Palmetto case.

“Amy Schumer: Live
at the Apollo,” 10 p.m., HBO. Fresh from watching Schumer's movie,
HBO viewers will want to re-visit her stand-up special from October.

ALSO: If you need to
catch up on “The Walking Dead” before the season-finale (9 p.m.
Sunday), this is the time. The first half of the season reruns at 8
p.m. today, then promptly re-reruns at 5 a.m. Sunday. The second half
starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, leading into the finale.

 

TV column for Sunday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

For five years,
Blake Shelton was the ACM co-host, giving it a country-party feel.
Now he'll merely sing; so will his ex-wife Miranda Lambert, who links
with Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top) and Keith Urban.

Luke Bryan will
return as host, this time with Dierks Bentley. Both will perform; so
will Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Tim
McGraw, Little Big Town, Sam Hunt, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton,
Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line and more, including duets –
Dolly Parton with Katy Perry, Chris Young with Cassadee Pope, Kelsea
Ballerini with Nick Jonas.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
iHeartRadio Music Awards, 8 p.m. ET, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

Here's proof that
the music world is way too fragmented: In some time zones, two award
shows will air simultaneously. This one leans toward pop music –
and seems to assume that no one could possibly be interested in pop
AND country.

Performers include
Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Iggy Azalea, Zayn, Fetty Wap, Meghan
Trainor, DNCE and Chris Brown. Also, Maroon 5 and Pitbull perform by
remote from the NCAA Music Festival.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of God” debut, 9 p.m., National
Geographic.

Now for TV on an
epic scale, both geographically and philosophically. Morgan Freeman
travels the globe, gathering wide-ranging beliefs – including ones
tonight on death and the afterlife.

Over six weeks,
Freeman will range from the Vatican to the former center of the Mayan
empire, from the Dead Sea and the Ganges River to a church that was
started post-Katrina in New Orleans. The result is beautifully filmed
and is filled with compelling details.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Walking Dead” season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC.

While Freeman seeks
divine truths, others are just happy to elude zombies. Tonight, Rick
and friends rush to the Hilltop to save Maggie. Also, we glimpse
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the fierce Negan.

And if all of this
needs explanation, don't worry: Before the finale, the complete
season reruns, starting at 5 a.m.; after it, people will discuss
things on “Talking Dead,” at 10:30. That's followed at 11:30 by a
rerun of the season-finale of “Fear the Walking Dead,” the
prequel that returns next Sunday.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, all day,
cable. On opening day, we get a TV triple-header. At 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
has St. Louis at Pittsburgh; at 4 p.m., ESPN2 has Toronto at Tampa
Bay and at 8:30, ESPN has the Mets at the Royals. Most of the
other teams start Monday, with three games on ESPN and another on
ESPN2.

Hart-felt TV. Comedy
Central reruns Kevin Hart stand-up shows at 7:53, 8:55 and 9:53 p.m.
... then repeats the last two at 11 p.m. and 12:04 a.m. And FX has
Hart's “Ride Along” (2014) at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Call the Midwife”
season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Against the cheery
backdrop of Easter 1961, the nurses find a tragedy – a baby born
with no functioning limbs. Despite some hard-to-believe characters
and instant attitude shifts, this is a warm and involving story.

Town hall, 8 p.m., Fox News. Two days before the Wisconsin primary, Donald Trump faces questions in Milwaukee from Greta Van Susteren and the studio audience.

“Grantchester,”
9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Tonight's hour, like last week's
opener, is complex and intelligent, this time involving schemes and
spies. Meanwhile, one thread from the opener lingers, as a teen
remains in jail for trying to help a pregnant friend. That's followed
by an OK “Mr. Selfridge.”

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. Police have a plan to lure the man suspected of kidnapping
Adam a decade ago. But that involves using Adam as bait, setting off
new shellshocks.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. For the survivors, the goal is to
repopulate the Earth. That gets complicated in an OK episode: Phil
and Carol have tried for six months; Todd secretly has sex with two
women and is eyed by a third. And what happens if Phil's brother
(Jason Sudeikis) finally arrives?