TV column for Sunday, May 25



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “National Memorial Day Concert,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings), rerunning on many stations at 9:30.

This emotional evening should start strongly, when “American
Idol” winner Caleb Johnson sings the National Anthem. Then the National
Symphony backs more great voices from country (Jennifer Nettles, Danielle
Bradbery), Broadway (Megan Hilty) and classical (Anthony Kearns, Jackie
Evancho).


Mixed in will be passionate stories from Afghanistan, Iraq
and (nearing its 70
th anniversary) D-Day.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “American Dream Builders,” 7-9 p.m.,
NBC; then “Turn” and “Mad Men,” 9-11 p.m., AMC.


First, NBC is down to its last two people. Each (with some
help) will remodel a California beach house; one will win $250,000.


Then switch to AMC for a new hour of “Turn” (the
Revolutionary War spy drama) and the mid-season finale of “Mad Men.” Don gets a
troubling letter and Peggy is part of a risky venture; the series will be back
later, for its final eight hours.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Normal Heart,” 9-11:15 p.m. Sunday,
HBO.


Seething with righteous rage, “Heart” is both great and
flawed. Both traits center on Ned Weeks, the character whom writer Larry Kramer
patterned after his own anger and frustration in the 1980s.


Certainly, Weeks/Kramer had good reason to rage. As his
friends died of AIDS, officials did little. Still, his perpetual fury is
counter-productive … and feels like contrived drama. Fortunately, there’s quiet
depth from Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts.  “Heart” is tough to watch, but stirs emotions
the way art should.


Other
choices include:


“The Good
Wife,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. These reruns ran on consecutive weeks in January,
with Will battling Alicia in court. In the first, he uses his knowledge of her
weaknesses; in the second, backed by three Bruce Springsteen songs, their trial
has separate juries for each client.


“Believe”
and “Crisis,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Both shows, which won’t be back next season,
are overlapping into the summer season for a couple weeks. In the first, Bo has
a dark vision; in the second, kidnappers push parents into a missions that
could ignite a global war.


“Nurse
Jackie,” 9 p.m., Showtime. Jackie has picked a rough day to kick her
pill-addiction cold-turkey. In a good episode, her daughter has surprises, good
and bad. Prentiss’ departure has left Zoey despondent and Coop lobbying for his
job … while facing an arrogant outsider.


“Californication,”
9:30 p.m., Showtime. Hank’s success at work depends on convincing Julia
(Heather Graham) that she’s an actress, not a dental assistant. An OK episode ends
well.


“Motive,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of Wednesday’s well-crafted season-opener, we know
instantly who the killer is … but not why he would kill a guy who was seemingly
a stranger.


TV column for Saturday, May 24



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Sports takeover, three networks.

TV’s official season ended, just as summer and winter sports
were overlapping. So tonight, sports take half the big-four networks and more.


Fox starts its Saturday-night baseball at 7:15 p.m. ET, with
different regions getting St. Louis at Cincinnati, Washington at Pittsburgh and
Kansas City at the Los Angeles Angels. NBC has hockey at 8 p.m. ET, with
Chicago at Los Angeles. And ESPN has basketball play-offs at 8:30, with Indiana
at Miami.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Celebrity Wife Swap,” 8 p.m., ABC.


As an actress, Isabella Hoffman has been busy and
successful. She was the love interest in the four-season “Dear John”; she’s
been a regular on many shows -- a police captain in “Homicide,” a doctor in
“Providence,” a professor in “JAG” – and then became a busy guest star.


Her personal life has been more difficult, with the drug
problems of former boyfriend, Daniel Baldwin. Now she lives with their 17-year-old,
autistic son. In this rerun, she swaps homes with Jermaine Jackson’s wife;
she’s dazzled by the grand estate and the expanse of clothes, shoes and
cologne.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” 8 p.m. to
midnight, Starz.


One of TV’s best dramas often goes unnoticed. You can catch
up with the four most-recent episodes tonight … or catch the full season at
noon next Saturday, leading to the 9 p.m. season-finale.


Tonight’s reruns starts with Leonardo da Vinci in South
America, where he feels the Vault of Heaven will have the answers to life. He’s
a captive alongside two friends and his enemy Rialto. Back in Italy, Prince
Lorenzo Medici is also a captive and Lucrezia (both men’s ex-lover) is
maneuvering. “Demons” mixes sharp dialog, epic visuals and stories that ripple
with imagination, sometimes nearing overkill.


Other choices include:


“Mike & Molly,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a terrific
season-opener, the show swerved in the wrong direction. Determined to write a
crime novel, Molly goes on a ride-along episode. This episode (and the
funeral-home one that followed) turned a good character into a dim-witted
cartoon.


“The Dirty Dozen” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. A
rousing tale – with prisoners becoming a World War II unit – became a
box-office hit, due to ideal timing. It had Lee Marvin, fresh from his Oscar, Jim
Brown, fresh from football retirement, John Cassavetes, Ernest Borgnine and
Charles Bronson


“Anna Nicole” (2013) and “Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret”
(2013), 8 and 10 p.m., Lifetime. This network likes true-story movies about
women with tabloid-friendly lives.


 “Bad Teacher,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Meredith wants to date the rich father of one of her
students. Alas, the student refuses to give her permission.


“Orphan Black,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The clones have fresh
hope: Sarah may be able to follow clues to the roots of the experiment; Cosima
may have a way to treat her illness.


“In the Flesh,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Returning from the
grave, Freddie Preston hopes to win back his wife (formerly widow), who’s
living with another man.


TV column for Friday, May 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “In Performance at the White House,” 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is a great TV week for music. “American Idol” and “The
Voice” had their finales, country had its tribute to the troops and PBS’ “National
Memorial Day Concert” is coming Sunday. Now PBS fills a gap by rerunning last
month’s “Women of Soul” concert.


Here are some greats – Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Jill
Scott, Melissa Etheridge – joined by newcomers Janelle Monae, Ariana Grande and
Tessanne Chin. And many stations follow by rerunning the “Memphis Soul” concert
in the White House; it mixes classic stars (Mavis Staples, Sam Moore, etc.)
with Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Alabama Shakes and more.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hannibal” finale, 10:01 p.m., NBC.


In the first minutes of this season, “Hannibal” pointed to
this moment: It flashed forward to a fierce fight between Jack (Laurence
Fishburne), the FBI guy, and Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer and cannibal.


Then “Hannibal” spent the season getting there. Now Jack
realizes Lecter framed Will, the decent-but-fragile consultant. NBC isn’t
bringing it back, so let’s hope this hour wraps things up.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Labyrinth” conclusion, 8-10 p.m.,
CW.


During an archeological dig, Alice sensed a connection with
Alais (Jessica Brown Findlay, who was Lady Sybil in “Downton Abbey”), a 13
th-century
Frenchwoman. The story leaped between both lives.


We saw Alice in the modern world, pursued by thugs who think
she found a vital artifact. And we see Alais, facing a castle siege by the
Pope’s army. The story’s conclusion is dark and violent, but manages to tie
together a fairly good story that spans centuries and emotions.


Other choices include:


“Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS. “Unforgettable” has ended
its Friday run, but will start its third season June 29, in a
summertime-Sundays line-up. Now “Boss” returns with reruns, starting with the
CEO of the Utah Jazz. Joining the Dunk Team, he becomes (among other things) a
human hoop.


“24,” 8 p.m., Fox. On an overcrowded Monday, you might have
missed this episode so here’s a second chance. As forces pursue Jack Bauer in
London, he heads to the U.S. embassy; he’s trying to prevent the assassination
of the U.S. president, who currently faces a verbal barrage when speaking to
Parliament.


“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun of Thursday’s debut
starts with a wildly over-the-top car chase and shoot-out; it later adds unlikely
foot chases. In between, however, is a deep, cable-style drama about a young
cop who remains loyal to the crime boss who was his boyhood protector.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A zombie-like man is shot on
Halloween. Soon, the Five-0 team scrambles to stop someone from doing
experiments on humans. Also in this rerun, Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce
Willis and Demi Moore, returns as Sabrina, the girlfriend of Max (Masi Oka).


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m.­, CBS. A little girl may have been
kidnapped; her mother denies it, but Danny feels her story doesn’t add up. Also
in this rerun, Frank visits a priest who was arrested for drunken-driving.


“Chrome Underground” debut, 10 p.m., Discovery. This reality
show offers a different kind of global treasure hunt – finding and bringing
back valuable old cars. It involves big money in dangerous places, so the car
buffs bring along an ex-Marine. The opener seeks a 1937 Bugatti in Mexico City.


TV column for Thursday, May 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing” season-opener, 9-11
p.m., NBC.

The idea – a competition for stand-up comedians – offers
great summer fun, filled with sharp one-liners. But over the past 11 years, NBC
has behaved like a bad boyfriend, alternately loving and leaving it.


Once, it liked the show so much that it added an instant
fall edition … then failed to air the final episode. NBC skipped two summers
(2005 and 2009), then abandoned “Last” entirely after the summer of 2010. Four
years later, it brings it back with a new host (J.B. Smoove), strong judges (Roseanne
Barr, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters) and a fresh concept, skipping
open auditions and inviting 100 pros.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.


At times, this has the qualities of cable-style dramas, good
(deeply conflicted characters) and bad (obsession with torture). At other
times, it’s an old-fashioned cop show, with an overwrought car chase plus unlikely
foot chases. (Why do TV cops rush cram the front door, stationing no one in the
back?)


It’s an odd hybrid, but viewers will get involved with an
otherwise-honest cop who has a secret loyalty to the crime boss who’s been his friend
since boyhood. An attractive young cast is anchored by skilled pros -- Terry
O’Quinn and Cliff Curtis – as the leaders of the cops and crooks respectively.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Labyrinth,” 8-10 p.m., CW; concludes
Friday.


Helping out at an archeological dig, Alice (Vanessa Kirby)
senses what she later calls “800-year déjà vu.” Does she really have a link to
Alais (Jessica Brown Findlay), from the 13
th century? Who is the old
man (John Hurt) who seems to bridge the two? And why are dangerous people after
Alice?


Based on a best-seller, “Labyrinth” requires coincidences
and supernatural twists, plus moments of brutality. Still, it’s a Ridley Scott
production, richly capturing both eras. Findlay, formerly Lady Sybil on
“Downton Abbey,” is especially good in (after “Winter’s Tale”) her second
time-span story this year.


Other choices tonight include:


“The Bachelorette,” 8-9:30 p.m., ABC. Here’s a quick rerun
of Monday’s opener.


“Hollywood Game Night,” 8-9 p.m., NBC. There are still some
new hours left, to spark the summer start of “Last Comic Standing” and (next
Thursday) a new comedy. Tonight has three “Hot in Cleveland” stars (Valerie
Bertinelli, Wendi Malik and Jane Leeves), plus Mekhi Phifer, Billy Eichner and
Andy Richter.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Who needs new shows,
when you have TV’s best comedy? This rerun has everyone going to Howard’s
mother’s house for Thanksgiving, despite Sheldon’s objections.


“The Millers,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Nathan tells his
mom make someone else her chauffeur.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. Walden is determined
to show he’s a man’s man. Also in this rerun, Alan learns what Lyndsey never
told him: She and Larry have broken up.


“Modern Family,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Phil and Claire
have conflicting surprises at the school fair.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun probes a
home-invasion case in Captain Gregson’s home. His wife is played by Talia
Balsam, who is best-known as an ex-wife – to George Clooney in real life and to
Roger Sterling (played by her real-life husband John Slattery) on “Mad Men.”


TV column for Wednesday, May 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Idol” finale, 8-10:06 p.m.,
Fox.


On the final night of the official TV season, Caleb Johnson
or Jena Irene will become the 13
th “Idol” champion. This year’s top
10 will perform, including third-place Alex Preston, singing with Jason Mraz.


Mraz is in swarm of guest singers. Some are country
(Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum), many are rock or pop (Demi Lovato, Kiss,
John Legend, Phillip Phillips, Paramore, Aloe Blacc); Darius Rucker is both.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE (second option): “Survivor” finale, 8
p.m., CBS, with reunion at 10.


For the first time, the two reality-competition giants let
their finales collide. After years of Sunday finales, “Survivor” goes
eye-to-eye with “Idol.”


Surviving are two people from the “brains” tribe, two from
“brawn” and (reassuringly) none from “beauty.” The brawny ones are Tony
Vlachos, 39, a cop, and Yung “Woo” Hwang, 29, a martial arts instructor; the
others are Kass McQuillen, 41, a lawyer, and Spencer Bledsoe, 21, a student.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Modern Family” season finale and
“Mixology” finale, 9 and 9:31 p.m., ABC.


Here’s another big-draw event: Cam and Mitchell, the most
popular characters in one of TV’s best comedies, are getting married. We can
expect many complications and many guest stars – including Nathan Lane,
Elizabeth Banks, Adam DeVine and Barry Corbin.


Most people abandon ABC after “Modern Family,” which is
unfortunate. Despite occasional flaws – most centering on the Bruce character –
“Mixology” is an interesting comedy experiment, with a whole season packed into
one matchmaking night. Tonight’s finale mixes things up, with occasional
surprises.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-RECORD: “Motive” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
ABC.


Often, ABC spices a reality-strewn summer with some Canadian
dramas – “Rookie Blue,” “Combat Hospital” and (beginning last year) this show.
Some are hits; all (being Canadian) reflect subtle skill.


“Motive” starts by telling us who is the killer and who is
the victim; we stay to learn why it happened and how the police will find out.
This opener finds a faked suicide; the victim was trying to find a woman who
was widowed years ago. It’s a complex tale that ties together neatly.


Other choices include:


“The Middle” season-finale, 8-9 p.m., ABC. Last week, Sue –
who rarely succeeds at anything – won her family a Disney World vacation. Now we
see it, filled with complications – the long drive from Indiana, Brick pushing
for a detour to meet his Online girlfriend, Axl fretting about his
college-freshman grades.


 “Revolution,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Let’s assume this is the series finale, since NBC isn’t bringing it back
next fall. Tonight, Miles, Monroe and Charlie plan to attack the Patriots, then
must scramble to avert a larger war.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” season-finale, 9
p.m., NBC. Last week, Detective Amaro gave a brutal beating. Now he faces the
consequences and a new case involves someone connected to Benson.


“The 100,” 9 p.m., CW. In last week’s episode (rerunning at
8), Clarke and Finn – the most sensible of these young settlers on a ravaged
Earth -- tried to broker a peace with the locals, called Grounders. Tonight, Murphy
returns, claiming the Grounders tortured him. Also, a virus spreads through the
camp.


“Chicago P.D.,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Lindsay finally confides her
crisis to Voight, her boss and father figure.