TV column for Friday, April 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Yes, we've had
plenty of documentaries about the 1992 Los Angeles riots – three so
far, with another on Sunday. But now, on the eve of the 25th
anniversary, is a gem. It's crafted by John Ridley, whose recent
projects -- “American Crime” and “Guerrilla” -- establish him
as TV's next great producer-writer.

Ridley brings an
outsider's perspective. In '92, he was quite new to Los Angeles, a
young black man who'd grown up as an opthamologist's son in suburban
Milwaukee. His film gives a full say to all sides – cops, angry
blacks, peacemakers, and victims, black, white and Korean; it's a
deep and moving film.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “First Dates,” 8 p.m., NBC.

In the first three
weeks, we've seen a lot of good matches and a few bad ones. But now
comes the worst rejection -- walking out before the food arrives, at
an upscale restaurant? And, oddly, the departing person seemed like
the weak end of the conversation.

There's another
awful date here, plus some that are filled with charm and hope.
That's the beauty of first dates and “First Dates”: Amid all the
failures, we see nice people in (maybe) life-changing moments.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Undercover Boss” return, 8 p.m., CBS.

Somehow, this show
is still around and still fooling people when a new worker (the boss
in disguise) arrives with a camera crew. Here's the first of four new
Friday episodes, part of the shift that sent “Amazing Race” to
Thursdays, with “Training Days” wrapping its run on Saturdays.

This time it's
Michael Roper, CEO of the Taco Bueno chain of 175 restaurants. He
flubs the job of working a forklift in the warehouse. Also, he hears
a worker's complaint about upper management.

Other choices
include:

“Moulin Rouge”
(2001), 6:50 p.m., Starz. Visually, this Baz Luhrmann films is
splendid, one of the most gorgeous films ever. Try to catch it on a
big-screen TV ... and try to ignore the fact that is has a weak plot
and settles for average singers (Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman) doing
OK songs.

“The Toy Box,” 8
p.m., ABC. Walking a dog is OK, but it would be much more fun to walk
a dinosaur. One of tonight's creations is a dinosaur you can take for
a walk. Others are multi-generational dolls, an action game with
colors, a slingshot connected to a parachute and a building system
involving cards. “Rosewood” season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. A
jewelry-store heist seems to be the work of a talented group crime
group. Also, Dr. Rosewood wants one of his people to start a West
Coast branch of the lab.

"Lethal Weapon," 9 p.m.,Fox. The tacky "You the Jury" has been abruptly shelved, replaced by reruns of this fairly good cop show. Tonight, all the victims are members of the same church.

“Latin Music USA,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. In the first half of this two-week rerun, we see the
era of mambo and cha-cha move into the creation of salsa.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A key witness is emerging from a coma and must be
protected.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny is helping Russian operatives search for a
dangerous Russian who arrived on a diplomatic visa. Meanshile, his
sister tries to learn who tampered with evidence; their dad, the
police commissioner, faces a sensitive case involving the archbishop
(Stacy Keach).

TV column for Thursday, April 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Two things are clear
about this deceptively terrific series: No show matches it for taking
a dead-serious subject, yet sprinkling in just enough laughs. And for
all the brilliance of Allison Janney – who has seven Emmys, two of
them as Bonnie – we shouldn't overlook Anna Faris as her daughter
Christy.

Tonight, it's Faris'
turn. Things start with Marjorie – the rock everyone else turns to
– secluding herself. Then Christy, who's never been able to turn to
mom, really needs someone. We won't

reveal the plot
twists, except to say Faris is perfect and “Mom” again mixes
comedy and despair.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Kicking & Screaming” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

This show started
with 10 people who seemed hapless in the wild, then teamed each with
a survivalist. After dumping the goofier types, it has three novices
who are semi-reasonable.

One, Claire
Schreiner, is an athlete – a state champion gymnast in high school
and a successful hurdler and high-jumper in college; she's married to
“Insider” correspondent Michael Yo. Another, Juliana Herz, is
fit; she's a model and Harry Potter fan who drew attention when
dating Joe Jonas. The third, Natalie Casanova, has mostly been busy
with her YouTube channel, which deals with videogames.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Soundtracks,” 10 p.m., CNN (barring breaking news).

In the aftermath of
the Sept. 11 attacks, music's first reaction was to praise heroes and
comfort victims. New songs were written – Alan Jackson's “Where
Were You,” Bruce Springsteen's “The Rising” -- and others were
repurposed, from “We Are Family” to “Only in America” and
“Sounds of Silence.”

But after that wave
of unity, this strong documentary says, divisions widened in country
music. Some songs rippled with pro-war fury; when Natalie Maines'
made an anti-war remark, stations blacklisted the Dixie Chicks. Bill
O'Reilly called them “foolish women who need to be slapped around.”

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. It's the first day of a “sweeps” period,
a four-week stretch when ratings count for more. That means all the
key shows have new episodes, including TV's best comedy. Tonight,
Leonard frets when Penny considers a job offer from her former
boyfriend.

“Superstore,” 8
and 8:30 p.m., NBC. In a late switch, this show will have reruns at 8 p.m. -- tonight is the "ladies' lunch" -- and new episodes at 8:30. There's a fairly good one tonight, involving Cheyenne's wedding ... and a much better one next week, when a tornado roars toward the store.

 

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. A new threat to the White House sets up a crisis (yes,
another one) next week.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. We're two weeks from the season-finale, when Colleen
marries Matt. Meanwhile, she goes to her future brother-in-law, a
doctor, hoping he'll keep her problem secret.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. An artful bounty hunter is targeting Red's closest
associates.

ALSO: The
pro-football draft starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and the NFL Network.
It wraps up the first round at about 11:30, then returns Friday. ESPN
will talk about it for an hour before the draft ... and for an
eternity afterward.

TV column for Wednesday, April 26


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

“Empire” is a
supersized show -- big music, big emotions, big plot twists. And this
hour seems bigger than most, peaking with a definitive moment for
Cookie (Taraji Henson) and Angelo (Taye Diggs).

Other big moments
involve Lucious' complicated relations with his brother and with
Giuliana (Nia Long), who -- long ago -- loved him and robbed him. Eva
Longoria has a small role (for now) as a Las Vegas official; Rumer
Willis has a bigger one as Tory Ash, a powerful – and angry –
singer.

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

Over five richly
layered hours, this show has offered the complexities of race
relations. So far, there have been no charges on either death –
white victim shot by black cop; black victim shot by (a witness says)
a white deputy. Rage simmers, especially around a fiery black pastor
(Aisha Hinds).

As the governor
(Helen Hunt) gropes for a solution, the two state investigators find
fresh roadblocks. Ashe (Sanaa Lathan) is consumed by her
child-custody battle. There are great scenes that show us just how
skilled Lathan is ... and how flawed and troubled Ashe is.

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

Last week's opener
was classic “Fargo.” The first scene made little sense – the
same was true in the previous “Fargo” edition -- and the others
were wierdly brilliant.

Ewan McGregor stars
as brothers. Emmit learned that the people who loaned him money hope
to sieze his parking-lot empire. Ray (a parole officer) sent Maurice
(a parolee) to steal a stamp from Emmit; alas, he went to the wrong
house, killed a stranger (the sheriff's father-in-law, no less) and
tried to blackmail Ray ... whose girlfriend killed Maurice via
falling air-conditioner. It's that kind of show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Handmaid's Tale,” any time, Hulu.

The first thing to
know is that this adaptation of a classic novel is beautifully
crafted. It's visually compelling, with a great cast led by Elisabeth
Moss, Joseph Fiennes and Ann Dowd.

The second thing is
that it is, quality and all, a brutal ride. We quickly learn the
basics of a world in which the few fertile women are merely there for
childbirth; from there, it's solemn and suffocating.

Other choices
include:

“Breakfast at
Tiffany's” (1961), 5:45 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Truman
Capote's slight story is boosted by a luminous Audrey Hepburn and by
Henry Mancini's Oscar-winning music. Other top films include “The
Goonies” (1985) at 6:30 p.m. on Syfy and “Good Will Hunting”
(1997) at 9 on Pop.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. Two decades after loggers and miners left, a national park
in the Austrian Alps is reverting to its natural state. Beautifully
filmed, this captures some of its life. There are the lynx,
re-introduced and making a quick impact. And owls, with some dandy
courting scenes. And the trees themselves, with strong insights into
their defenses ... and even their communication with other trees.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Returning after three weeks off, this has Clarke trying to
keep the peace, after people hear of Jaha's discovery. Also, Jasper
and Bellamy go on a quest.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. First is a new episode, with Rashida Jones as
Bow's sister; she's Bow's opposite, fresh from a reality show. Then
is a semi-new one: Zoey's college visits bring a flurry of memories
and flashbacks.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. As the president ponders vice-presidential
possibilities, Wells and Atwood return from North Dakota with a key
new lead.

“Underground,”
10 p.m. ET, WGN America, rerunning at 11, midnight and 1 a.m. We can
spend Wednesdays savoring the dramatic power of Aisha Hinds. After
dominating tonight's “Shots Fired,”

she plays Harriet
Tubman on this show. Tonight, Noah (Aldis Hodge) must rework his
plan.

TV column for Tuesday, April 25


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

Young, bright and
frustrated, Katie (Briga Heelan) is trying to make her mark at a news
show. One anchor (John Michael Higgins) is stuck in the past, the
other (Nicole Richie) is stuck in trends and their boss (Adam
Campbell) is no help. Then ... well, Katie's mom (Andrea Martin)
becomes an intern.

The result is, at
times, a terrific comedy, with skilled actors handling sharp
material. At other times? Well, the depiction of newsgathering is
quite absurd; also, the overinvolved-mom bits can go too far. They
works well in the first episode, gets excessive in the second, but
are better in the episodes ahead.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Genius” opener, 9 p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at 10:15.

Albert Einstein's
life had a Hollywood scope. It ranged from school failures to
brilliant breakthroughs; it included passionate politics, colorful
romances and even some violin-playing. Walter Isaacson created a
best-selling biography; now Ron Howard has turned it into an
ambitious series.

This opener catches
Einstein as a troubled student (Johnny Flynn) in 1894 and a beloved
professor (Geoffrey Rush) in a 1922 Germany that teetered toward
Hitler. The dialog feels forced at first, but Howard directed
beautifully and the story sparks when Einstein roomed with a
different sort of family.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Prison Break,” 9 p.m., Fox.

After three weeks of
frustrating detours, this edition starts to make sense ... sort of.

Michael remains in
the Yemen prison where he's been for four years. He was asked (for
iffy reasons) to go there and free a fierce radical; now those two
hate each other and remain behind bars. ISIS troops approach to take
over – and, perhaps, kill everyone. Michael's brother is also in
Yemen, trying to help; back home, “T-Bag” tries to uncover a
bigger plot. It's a big, strong hour, after three so-so ones.

Other choices
include:

“Cinderella”
(2015), 7:12 p.m., Starz. For decades, Kenneth Branagh has been a
classy actor and director of Shakespearean dramas and more. Now he's
brought quality and depth to a kids' tale. Other key films are at 8
p.m. – George Clooney in the jaunty “Ocean's Eleven” (2001) on
CMT, Oprah Winfrey in the true story “The Immortal Life of
Henrietta Lacks” (2017) on HBO.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m,,
CBS. This rerun starts with a hit-and-run investigation and
eventually has Jimmy Palmer on a ledge, trying to stop someone from
jumping.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8 p.m., Fox. As the police prepare to dump one
precinct, people scramble for an attention-grabbing case. In a good
episode, Jake and Charles figure this may be their last job together.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv's habit – munching the brains of murder victims and
taking on their characteristics – can wear on her colleagues. This
time, she's become the ultimate office gossip.

“Famous in Love,”
9:02, Freeform. Last week's opener started wonderfully, with Paige
(Bella Thorne) leaping from college student to a coveted movie role;
then it plummeted into bad soap opera. Thorne is still excellent
tonight, but the plot gets more ridiculous. Paige plans to continue
her classes while starring in her first movie ... and she expects her
dad to not find out, even though she's in the news.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A Navy SEAL candidate has been killed, a
few weeks before graduating from a controversial training. Also, Wade
frets when her adopted son wants to enlist.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. The salmon you order at a restaurant may have travelled
5,000 miles – from Alaska to China and then back the the U.S. --
author Paul Greenberg says. In this film, he eats fish three times a
day and also studies its safety. That follows a compelling “American
Experience” rerun (8-10 p.m.), describing an accident in 1980
Arkansas that almost created a nuclear disaster.

TV column for Monday, April 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Bates Motel” series finale, 10-11:06 p.m., A&E, repeating at
11:36.

When the show began
five years ago, it was pointing toward this moment: The finale would
mesh with the “Psycho” movie – dead mom, crazy Norman, more
trouble ahead.

First, we can see
how we got there. Reruns start at 7 a.m., in the middle of last
season; at 1 p.m., the current season begins. A&E isn't telling
what happens in the finale, but we can expect it to be good. Freddie
Highmore has been excellent as twisted Norman; Vera Farmiga is
perfect as his mother, now dead ... except in his mind. People will
talk about it in an after-show at 11:06, repeating at 12:34 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Gotham” return, 8 p.m., Fox.

This whole
chatting-with-dead-people thing seems to be big on Mondays. Deeply
upset about killing his best friend Oswald Cobblepot (the future
Penguin), Ed Nygma (the future Riddler) keeps seeing and chatting
with him ... just as Norman does with his mom in “Bates Motel.:

As “Gotham”
returns from a three-month break, Nygma dispenses hard riddles and
harsh penalties. Also, Gordon hears disturbing news about his
father's death. And the fake Bruce Wayne is ready to take over. As
usual, it's beautifully filmed ... but, even by Batman standards,
terribly dark.

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

Are there still some
lines that comedians shouldn't cross? What about the Holocaust, AIDS,
9/11? This sprawling documentary ranges from survivors to scholars to
comedians. Gilbert Gottfried cites the saying “tragedy plus time
equals comedy,” then adds: “But I always say, 'Why wait?'”

Some people don't
have to wait, if they're witty; we see Louis CK, Chris Rock and Dave
Chappelle get big laughs from forbidden subjects. The clips are what
make this film shine. The arguments tend to cancel each other out,
leaving us with Rob Reiner's: “It's much more fun to laugh than not
to laugh.”

Other choices
include:

“Dominion Creek”
second season, any time, www.acorn.tv.
Here's a western set in the Klondike, but filmed in Ireland, using
chunks of Irish Gaelic language, with sub-titles. Its heroes are the
Connollys, hardy and handsome, working in mine and in commerce during
the gold rush. It's well-done, but the opener of a four-hour season
is heavy with hatred, despair, murder and the looming typhoid
epidemic.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Now that the top 12 are set, the show starts its
routine: Each Monday, contestants sing and viewers vote; on Tuesday,
the bottom two are revealed and viewers choose.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Voters quickly ousted all the silly
people – Mr. T, Charo, Chris Kattan – then dumped Erika Jayne,
whose music is big in dance clubs. Still in the running are five
athletes, a singer, an actress and the recent “Bachelor” star.

“Who Do You Think
You Are?” 8 p.m., TLC. Indirectly, we get background on two
celebrities: Actress Liv Tyler looks into the background of her
father, singer Steven Tyler. A Courteney Cox rerun is at 7.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane's book has been published, but she's reluctant to
help sell it by discussing her past. Meanwhile, her dad is
intimidated by his young co-star.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. On an all-rerun night, CBS puts “Big Bang Theory” at
8 (Sheldon and Leonard try to divide their stuff), nudges “Kevin
Can Wait” to 8:30 and then reruns the “Donuts” pilot. Some of
the humor feels forced, but mostly it's quick and fun, set in a
Chicago doughnut shop.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS, Originally airing on Halloween, this episode has the gang
plunging into a deep cave system, hoping to prevent bats from
creating an eco-disaster.