TV column for Wednesday, May 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX.

For now, Ray Stussy
is in the clear. Police don't suspect murder-by-air-conditioner; they
rarely do.

Ray and his
girlfriend nudged the A-C unit out the window, squashing a
blackmailer. Losing Ray's instructions, that guy had gone to the
wrong house and committed the wrong crime (murder). As Ray scrambles,
his brother – both men are played by Ewan McGregor – tries to
avoid a very hostile takeover. Meanwhile, the police chief (whose
stepfather was the first murder victim) revisits the scene.

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

It's been a month
since this comedy – one of TV's best – had a new episode. But
we're in a “sweeps” ratings perious now; “Modern Family: will
be rerun-free for three weeks.

Tonight, the women
and girls (plus Luke and Manny) show their support for
gender-equality ... in very different ways. Also, Phil and Jay
disagree about their parking lot attendant (Niecy Nash).

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

Dolphins are natural
TV stars. They spin and surf, leap and cavort; they're visually
spectacular.

Earlier, “Nature”
used “spy cams” -- robots that looked like creatures, but had
cameras – on land. Now this two-week series uses then in the
oceans. Chances are, most of this footage came from conventional
cameras, not the spies; still, the results are great. We see dolphins
link in hunting, playing and romance; we also see a merger into a
stunning, 3,000-dolphin “mega-pod.”

Other choices
include:

“Guardians of the
Galaxy” (2014), 7:30 p.m., FX, or “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 8
p.m., Freeform. We can watch “Guardians” to get ready for its
sequel to hit theaters Friday ... and watch “Dancing” before has
its version of the Broadway musical, May 24.

“Shots Fired,” 8
p.m., Fox. Things have crumbled for Preston and Ashe. Their
evidence-was-planted theory was refuted; now the state is replacing
them. Also, a riot left a murder victim's brother in jail. Now Ashe
scrambles to find new evidence ... just as another video damages the
image of a young cop.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Last week brought another meltdown. Stunned when Cookie
rejected his marriage proposal, Angelo (Taye Diggs), the mayoral
front-runner, blurted out self-incriminating things while his
microphone was on. Now their relationship turns toxic.
“The
100,” 9 p.m., CW. It's time for some mega-combat, to see which
group gets shelter from the deadly acid-rain storm. And one character
says it for all of us: “This is what mankind chooses to do with its
final day – another battle?” Sure, it's a terrific battle,
bringing the end of some major characters; still, it seems like a
so-so plot device for a story about rebuilding civilization.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. As Zoey starts her two-day college orientation, her
dad is tearful. He should be; he failed to turn in her housing
application, creating a instant crisis.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. As the accidental president prepares for
his first international summit, his wife tries to decide whether to
return the kids to Washington.

“Underground,”
10 p.m. ET, WGN America; reruns at 11:03 p.m. and 12:06 and 1:09 a.m.
Last week brought drastic steps: Noah retrieved Rosalee – who
burned down the Macon plantation house as they left ... Elizabeth
turned to to theft and blackmail, to finance the escapes ... and
Ernestine was plunging through the swamps with her captor. Now come
the aftershocks, a week before the season-finale.

TV column for Tuesday, May 2


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

Most weeks,
“Nine-Nine” is just having some goofy fun. Tonight, however, it
takes a surprisingly serious turn; it does it well ... and even
leaves room for some solid laughs.

As played by Terry
Crews, a former pro football player, Sgt. Terry Jeffords is an
imposing figure. Now he's accosted by a patrolman, before he can say
he's a fellow cop. This is racial profiling, but what can be done?
There are some talky scenes that work only because of Emmy-winner
Andre Braugher's skill as Captain Holt. Alongside them is buoyant
comedy, as Jake and Amy try to watch Terry's kids.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Robert Ripley was
his era's Ed Sullivan – an ordinary guy (bad voice, clumsy manner)
who brought extraordinary things to the public. He turned his
newspaper cartoon into the “believe it or not” empire.

Ripley loved the
exotic – people who walked on fire or ate razor blades, a guy who
walked down stairs on his head. He was like P.T. Barnum, with a
difference: Barnum lied; Ripley traveled the globe to gather proof he
was telling the truth. Here's a rerun of a delightful profile.

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

Forever stretching
for big laughs, “Great News” has mixed success. It spends too
much time on its broadest characters – Chuck (John Michael Higgins)
the newscaster, Carol, the intern (Andrea Martin) – instead of
Carol's likable daughter Katie (Briga Heelan).

Sometimes, the
result is ragged; tonight's second episode, focusing on Chuck's
war-zone reporting, is so-so. And sometimes, it's quite splendid. The
first episode has Chuck trying to do the news while concealing a
temporary blindness; it's simultaneously ridiculous and hilarious.

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

If time-travel
becomes popular, try to not visit the London slums of the Victorian
era. In this reality show, modern people try to replicate life there.
“It's insane,” one woman says. “This is relentless.”

A retiree (in our
time) has 16 hours of intense work in a bell factory ... an amputee
tries to hand-craft furniture ... kids make matchboxes and sell
flowers; they're copying an 1860s era that had no social security,
disability pay or mandatory schooling. This reality show introduces
life without safety nets.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS,. It's time for heroes on horseback. After a Marine is killed in
a national park, the team works with mounted police to probe similar
park murders.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Wisely, Frankie bought Axl's graduation present months in
advance. Not so wisely, she forgot where she hid it.

“Prison Break,”
9 p.m., Fox. Emerging from its weak start, the show clicked last
week. As ISIS overwhelmed the Yemen capital, guards fled and Michael
and Linc escaped with some other prisoners. Now the guys scramble and
Michael offers an explanation for his missing years. It's a lame one
– as are many of the show's details – but there's enough
excitement to help us forget that it's nonsense.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv keeps munching victims' brains, hoping to land murder
clues. She also temporarily absorbs the victim's personality ... a
problem tonight, when the victim is a dominatrix.

“Genius,” 9
p.m., National Geographic. Last week's terrific opener bounced
between 1894, when Albert Einstein was a student, and 1922, when he
was an esteemed professor in a Germany teeterig toward Hitler. Now we
see his romance with Mileva Maric, the Serbian genius who was the
class' only female . That reruns at 11, sandwiching the 10 p.m.
season-opener of the brainy “Breakthrough.”

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., NBC. Pride may have proof that Mayor Hamilton is
crooked.

TV column for Monday, May 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Lucifer” return, 9 p.m., Fox.

Many people say
they'd go through Hell for someone, but Lucifer really did it. He
revisited his old world, to find a cure for Chloe the cop. Then,
alas, he learned that their romance was manipulated by other-worldly
forces. He promptly retreated ... and returns tonight with Candy, a
ditzy stripper

That leads to some
broad comedy moments for Lindsey Gort (who's excellent as Candy) and
Lauren German as Chloe ... and, for a time, as a pseudo-Candy. Some
of this feels contrived, the case-of-the-week is kind of simple, but
there are enough fun, flashy moments to keep us watching.

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

Alongside its warmth
and wit, “Jane” often has a turbo-charged, telenovela plot. Here
is one of those nights. It continues its murder mystery, gives Jane
some quieter drama about her long-lost friend, adds an
uncharacteristic dab of politics and has a very characteristic burst
of romance.

Rogelio is newly
passionate about his ex-lover Xo, Rafael has a revived love for his
ex-wife Petra ... and Jane thinks Fabian has a great body. Now that
she's a widow and an ex-virgin, that may suffice.

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

For Heather
Linebaugh, this was a quick route out of rural Pennsylvania. She was
18 when she joined the Air Force, 20 when she began working with
drone teams. “They were always trying to kill people,” she says
here. “They always wanted to blow people up.”

Now she's a licensed
masseuse and is being treated for post traumatic stress disorder. We
meet her and two other former drone analysts. We also meet survivors
from one of the best-known failures, when a drone-supervised strike
killed 23 civilians, including children. Drone warfare gets a richly
human face.

Other choices
include:

“The Outer
Limits,” 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Comet TV. Here's a May Day marathon
from this science-fiction channel, on various apps and digital
channels. See www.comettv.com.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Athletes have always done well on this
show, but never like this. All five of them remain – Olympians
Simon Biles and Nancy Kerrigan, plus guys from football, baseball and
rodeo. Five of the other seven have been sent home – the latest was
actress Heather Morris – leaving only singer Normani Kordei and
former “Bachelor” star Nick Viall.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. When the show returned last week, Ed Nygma (the future
Riddler) mourned the fact that he'd killed his friend, the future
Penguin. Ah, but in the final moments we saw that Poison Ivy had
rescued Penguin. Now he struggles for a comeback; so does young Bruce
Wayne, held captive. And Jim Gordon probes his dad's death. It's a
quite strong (and violent) hour.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Cedric the Entertainer guests as Franco's disapproving
dad. He surprises his son by showing up for his art show at the
doughnut shop.

“The Great
Indoors,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. While renewing its other comedies, CBS
was slow to decide about this and “2 Broke Girls.” Now it tests
“Indoors” without a cozy “Big Bang” lead-in. Jane Leeves
(“Frasier”) plays the new girlfriend of Roland (Stephen Fry).

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Wedding days are always kind of complicated, but this one
is especially so for Toby and Happy. First, they have to put out a
tunnel fire that turns catastrophic.

“Quantico,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Alex links with Owen to infiltrate the Collaborators
... then has doubts.

TV column for Sunday, April 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Radio Disney Music Awards,” 7 and 9 p.m., Disney.

Remember when
Britney Spears seemed unique as a young pop singer? Now the Disney
universe is filled with similar singers; Sofia Carson, Hailee
Steifeld and Kelsea Ballerini will do a Britney medley.

The night opens with
a number from the upcoming “Descendants 2,” then has a “Moana”
medley from the film's star, Auli'i Cavalho, plus Alessia Cara and
Jordan Fisher. Also performing are Train, Erin Bowman, Julia
Michaels, Grace VanderWaal and Noah Cyrus, Miley's 17-year-old
sister.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Home Fires,” 9 p.m., PBS.

This series often
takes a dim view of people during World War II, depicting a
sweet-looking village filled with un-sweet bias, bitterness and
grievances. There's some of that tonight: Claire's abusive husband is
regaining strength; Frances faces agony involving her late husband's
factory and his affair.

This time, however,
that's balanced by some upbeat moments. Romances move forward, the
butcher learns about his son, Joyce has an important visitor ... and
the entire community comes together.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

After watching agony
in old England, you can find some more in modern North Carolina.
Nicholas and Claire have a home life so toxic that last week their
nanny left with their son. Jeanette split from her husband and his
kin, due to their treatment of migrants; then she had no one to help
her sister.

There's more
tonight. The nanny – who speaks little English – is under arrest
and frantic. Kimara convinces Dustin to tell police about the murder
of Shae, the teen prostitute; aftershocks are harsh.

Other choices
include:

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. When was the last time you saw a
contortionist who was also a good archer? At 8 p.m., a 10-year-old
shows she's good at both. Other kids show talents ranging from
pizza-tossing to merely staring. That follows a 7 p.m. rerun that
includes a “snail whisperer.”

“Making History,”
8:30 p.m., Fox. Some people dream big about time-travel. Chris,
worried about losing tenure at his college, merely wants John Hancock
and Sam Adams to improve his history class.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. Problems are global – Jay is kidnapped in France,
Henry suspects an attack in Israel – and domestic: Jason schemed to
use his parents' money to impress a girl.

“The Good Witch”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Hallmark. The good news is that Grace (Bailee
Madison) feels Nick (Rhys Matthew Boyd) is ready to ask her out. And
the baf: This year, a spring blossoming never happened; that void has
had an effect on local women.

“LA 92,” 9 p.m.,
National Geographic. The fifth recent documentary about the Los
Angeles riots is a fairly matter-of-fact compilaion. It's no match
for Friday's ABC film, but is still fairly interesting.

“American Gods”
debut, 9 and 10:05 p.m., Starz. Remember all those ancient gods? Some
of them still exist, it seems, linking with higher-tech moderns. This
starts a new series – with supporting roles for Gillian Anderson,
Cloris Leachman and more – that' follows the 8 p.m. “White
Princess” show.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) finally learns that her
daughter Christina has been getting texts ostensibly from her dad.
That's a problem, because Harlee secretly killed the guy.

“Mary Kills
People,” 10 p.m., Lifetime. Last week's opener left two crises for
Mary, a doctor whose second job (an illegal one) is assisted suicide.
Her potential client is actually an undercover cop; also, her
daughter's friend found some of her deadly drugs and almost died.
That second part is set aside until late in this hour, but the first
provides some fairly solid, taut drama.

TV column for Saturday, April 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Dreamgirls” (2006), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

As
soon as this vibrant musical reached Broadway, people wanted to make
it into a movie.
When
they did – 25 years later – they got it right,
adding
some new songs and ideal casting.

A
Supremes-type group
emerges,
with Beyonce as the gorgeous Diana Ross-type star,
alongside
Anika Noni Rose and
Jennifer Hudson.
Jamie Foxx is the record-label owner,
who dumps Hudson and replaces her with Sharon Leal. Hudson won an
Oscar and
there were
nominations for Eddie
Murphy, in support, and for
three songs
that were in addition to the vibrant
Broadway ones.

TONIGHT'S
ODDITY:
“Training Day,” 8 p.m.. CBS; “Training Day”
(2001), 8:30 p.m., BET.

The acclaimed movie
and the un-acclaimed TV show collide. The film (also at 5 p.m.
Sunday) won an Oscar for Denzel Washington, as an intense – and
sometimes corrupt – cop, training Ethan Hawke.

The series gave a
similar role to Bill Paxton, who died after this first season was
filmed. He played Frank, who is training a young cop (Justin
Cornwell) and dating a madam (Julie Benz). Now some of her
prostitutes are missing; Frank probes an eccentric Hollywood
producer.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: White House Correspondents Dinner, all night, CNN.

This has become a
strong comedy event, with sharp hosts and with elaborate comedy from
Barack Obama. And this year? Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show”
will host; Donald Trump – who fumed at Seth Meyers and Obama during
the 2011 dinner – will be the first president in decades to skip
it.

That sets up
alternatives – Trump holding a rally in Pennsylvania, Samantha Bee
hosting an alternative comedy event (with music from Elvis Costello)
at 10 p.m. on TBS. The dinner will also have serious First Amendment
speeches; CNN will look in on it from 7-11 p.m. ET, with the laughs
coming late.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 8-11
p.m., HBO.

As the definition of
“rock and roll” keeps expanding, the annual ceremony gets more
interesting. This one (held earlier this month) ranged all the way
from Joan Baez to Tupac Shakur, with stops for Pearl Jam, Journey,
Yes, ELO and Nile Rodgers of Chic ... plus tributes to Chuck Berry
and Prince.

There were guest
performances – Alicia Keys did Shakur, Lenny Kravitz did Prince,
Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Indigo Girls joined Baez – and
tributes. Bob Dylan spoke (via video) about Baez; David Letterman was
there to talk about Pearl Jam. Now HBO trims it into a three-hour
show.

Other choices
include:

Harry Potter films,
7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Freeform. Here, in order, are five of the first
six Potter films (skipping only “Order of the Phoenix”), at 7 and
10:30 a.m. ad 2:30, 5:30 and 9 p.m.. Those final three will rerun
Sunday, leading into the two-part finale.

The Good Witch,” 11
a.m. to 11 p.m., Hallmark. On Sunday, Hallmark launches a new season
of the “Good Witch” series. First, it reruns six of the movies,
starting with the mild-but-pleasant 2008 film that had a odd and
benevolent woman (Catherine Bell) move into a small town.

Hockey, 3 and 8 p.m.
ET, NBC. The first play-off game has the Rangers at Ottawa; the
second has Pittsburgh at Washington.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first rerun has the kids making
dishes inspired by their families. The second is a retrospective
special that includes looks at past winners and other favorites.

“The Son,” 9
p.m., AMC and Sundance, rerunning at 10 on AMC. In 1849, young Eli
starts to question his loyalties; in 1915, old Eli (Pierce Brosnan)
finds past family deeds bring aftershocks.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC (or later, with hockey overrun). In the last
rerun for a while, Aziz Ansari hosts, with Big Sean as music guest.
Coming up are three straight new episodes.