TV column for Wednesday, April 27


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

As last week's
episode ended, a high-stakes crisis was beginning. Martha knows her
husband “Clark” is really a KGB agent who tricked her into using
her job to spying on the FBI. She simply walked out.

Now the FBI wants to
arrest her, the KGB wants to whisk her out of the country ... but
neither can find her. This is a strong, taut hour ... which suddenly
goes limp, two-thirds of the way through. A scene with three
teen-agers seems wildly misplaced; other scenes slow to half-speed
... but do lead to a quietly telling scene between Philip (the fake
“Clark”) and his other wife, the KGB's Elizabeth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.

The families on
ABC's Wednesday comedies seem to have lots of neighbor problems. On
“Modern Family,” the Dunphys clashed with Ronny and Amy, who had
a boat in their front yard; on “Middle,” little Frankie (Patricia
Heaton) faced the towering and brassy Rita Glossner, played by Brooke
Shields.

Now Frankie has a
new problem: Mike and friends built her a a patio; she wants to relax
there ... but the neighbor kids make it difficult. Meanwhile, Sue and
Lexie have a dorm room that's great – almost.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Few Good Men” (1992), 7-10 p.m., WGN America; or
“The American President” (1995), 8:31 to 11 p.m., Pop.

Aaron Sorkin has
become the great American screenwriter, with an Oscar (“Social
Network”), Emmy (“West Wing”) and Golden Globe (“Steve
Jobs”). Now we can revisit the start of his career.

“Men” was a
Broadway hit that took him to Hollywood; with Rob Reiner's perfect
direction and a great cast, it was nominated for a best-picture
Oscar. “President” re-linked him with Reiner, this time for a
lighter tale of love amid romance. It also whetted appetites: Michael
J. Fox liked playing a political staffer, so he went on to “Spin
City”; Sorkin liked writing about politics, so he created “West
Wing.”

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the show ousted its biggest contestant – Scot
Pollard, 6'11, who was on five teams over an 11-year pro-basketball
career. That cuts the original “brawn” tribe to two people, the
same as “brains”; “beauty” has three.

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's time to re-save a life; a heart-transplant patient
has been seriously injured in a car crash. The case brings strong
memories for Alex, Jesse and Millicent.

“The National
Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Already a successful
businesman, Stephen Mather struggled with bipolar disorder and found
solace in nature. He began pushing for a separate National Park
Service, which was created on Aug. 25, 1916. This chapter of Ken
Burtns' splendid film views the early years with Mather in charge,
including his struggle to add the Grand Canyon.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Hakeem faces problems from a generation above and below.
On one side, his dad (Lucious) is maneuvering to take away his
leadership of the record label; on the other, there's the son that's
on the way, via Anika. Hakeem ponders what he really thinks of being
a dad.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, everyone has the same idea at the same time:
Sneak into an elegant house that Phil is selling.

“Time Traveling
Bong,” 9:30-11 p.m., Comedy Central. If you missed this
three-parter last week, you can see the whole thing in one gulp now.
As the name suggests, it's goofy, ragged and mostly fun.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Desperate to get Maddie back without going to the courts,
Rayna and Deacon even ask for Teddy's help in prison. Also,
Juliette's tour success stokes Layla's jealousy.

“Underground,”
10 p.m., WGN America. The seven runaway slaves have reached Kentucky
now, with Rosalee and Cato trying a daring scheme to get the medicine
needed for Cato's wounds.

TV column for Tuesday, April 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 8, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

In a late (and wise)
switch, Fox is airing the episode that followed the 2014 Super Bowl.
That finds Jess and Cece landing an invitation to Prince's party ...
which the guys vowed to crash. It's a pretty good episode; more
importantly, it gives us another chance to see the late Prince.

Also, it reminds us
that this is a fun show. Earlier tonight, “New Girl: has two
versions of a sitcom staple – the bachelor party gone bad. The
first is for Schmidt (8 p.m.), the second for Cece (8:30).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC.

You rarely get a
really funny episode about choosing a name. Here, however, that works
perfectly.

The Huangs have
Korean names, endowed with deep meaning ... and American ones chosen
rather frivolously. This episode has funny accounts of why the
parents are Jessica and Louis; it shows how random the kids' names
are ... and reflects Eddie's dreams of a being a mogul with a
street-smart name. It includes basketball stars Jalen Rose and
Shaquille O'Neal, plus a funny final bit with Grandma Jenny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Grandfathered,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

This funny-enough
show has had one obstacle: Jimmy (John Stamos) – handsome,
prosperous and sort of shallow – has been tough to empathize with.
Now, after a six-week break, that's tackled head-on.

We flash back a
year, to when he was, in Sara's words, “a vapid shell of a man ...
a stunning shell, (but) just an abyss of emptiness and
self-obsession.” We glimpse his demanding dad (Paul Sorvino) and
the life he rebuilt after learning he has a son (Sara's boy) and a
granddaughter. After a parade of women he kept forgetting, he's now
dating a big-time executive. We're starting to warm up to him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Manager,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Jonathan (Tom
Hiddleston) was a quiet manager at an upscale hotel, when he found a
document showing Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) selling weapons to
terrorists, he contacted British officials, who ignored him. One
mid-level official, however, was impressed. Tonight – in the second
chapter of this John le Carre tale -- she envisions wedging him deep
inside Roper's inner circle.

It's an ambitious
plan that seems to require both brilliance and sheer luck. Tonight's
hour strains credibility; the reward, however, is a chance to see two
subtly gifted actors in an epic story.

Other choices
include:

“American
Experience” and “The National Parks,” 8 p.m. and 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Two compelling films rerun. The first tells
of the 1910 fire that took three million Northwest acres; it also
describes Ed Pulaski, struggling valiantly to save his firefighters.
Then is the second chapter of Ken Burns' film, now eyeing the years
shortly before the 1916 formation of the National Parks Service.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a seaman has been killed before testifying to a
grand jury. Probing the case, the team finds a human-trafficking ring
that was believed to have been stopped years ago.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. There are serious things to worry about,
with an apparent suicide that may have been a murder. Still,
colleagues have time to give Pride an Internet-dating profile.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. Last week, we saw the start of a fierce virus in an Atlanta
hospital. Officials rushed to set up a quarantine zone, possibly
dooming everyone inside. In a fairly good episode tonight, we see the
aftershocks: Lex, a heroic cop, is outside the wall, fretting about
those inside – including his girlfriend Jana and his friend Jake.
Now there's a new crisis: A teen-ager partied with the family of
“patient zero”; she hasn't been found and could be outside the
containment zone.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Severide has been watching Holloway's young son at the
fire station, while she testifies in court. Now, however, that leads
to a tough situation.

ALSO: TV and movies
have gradually learned to appreciate rock music. For the old days,
catch Tuesday Weld's low-budget “Rock Rock Rock!” (1956) at 8
p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies. In modern times, TV has focused on
Prince's legacy? At 8 and 9 p.m. ET, AXS reruns a “Rock Legends”
hour on him and then the documentary, “Slave Trade: How Prince
Re-made the Music Business.”

TV column for Monday, April 25


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

No show works harder
than “Jane” to keep us entertained. It has the narrator's
interjections, terse and funny ... And words popping up on the screen
... And tonight, it even adds variations on silent-movie scenes. All
of those -- plus gorgeous sets -- supplement a hyper-busy,
telenovela-style plot.

Tonight, that plot
slows down (until the final minutes), to allow some well-crafted
character moments. There's an ethical crisis for Jane and a career
crisis for her fiance Michael. And the arrival of Petra's twin
continues to bring both humor and drama – two things “Jane”
does well.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Mike & Molly” return, 8 p.m., CBS.

After five years of
adequate ratings – and after movie stardom for Melissa McCarthy –
this comedy's final season has been ignored. CBS ran six episodes in
January and February, then re-shelved it.

Now the final seven
will air; there's one tonight, then two apiece for the next three
Mondays. Tonight, Mike (Billy Gardell) finds a stray dog; Molly
(McCarthy) has trouble warming up to it.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The National Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In 1903, two
remarkable men visited the Yosemite Valley. John Muir was a Scottish
native, a nature activist and, at times, a loner; Theodore Roosevelt
was president. They walked, talked, camped and observed; Roosevelt
soon expanded Yosemite National Park and more.

Interest kept
growing; on Aug. 25, 1916, a separate National Parks Service was
created. As the 100th anniversary nears, PBS reruns Ken
Burns' superb six-night, 12-hour documentary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Lucifer” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week, Lucifer
faced duo threats – a venomous preacher and Malcolm Graham, the
corrupt cop who died and was retrieved from Hell. Then the preacher's
body was found and Lucifer was arrested.

And tonight? Some of
the urgency is lost, because too many characters have supernatural
solutions. At the core, however, is Chloe, a cop who's a mere human.
Tonight, things get personal and scary for her.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week was “switch-up” time, with
new partners and no elimination; all nine celebrities remain.
Tonight, they re-create dances from “Footloose,” “Hairspray,”
“Slumdog Millionaire,” music videos and more.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Bruce Wayne gets closer to learning who's behind the
murder of his parents. Also, Detective Gordon tries to get
information from someone who was close to Galavan.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8:30, CBS. Here's a funny rerun, from the stretch when
Sheldon and Amy had split. She hesitantly tries a second date with
Dave, played by “Office” co-creator Stephen Merchant.

“Scorpion”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. In two previous episodes, Joshua Leonard
(“Blair Witch Project”) played a former team member. Now he's
back, kidnapping Toby.

“Why They Hate
Us,” 9 p.m., CNN, rerunning at midnight. With calm precision, Fareed Zakaria views the
history of trouble between Americans and Muslims. He goes back to
1949, when a conservative visitor was shocked by dancing and kissing
in Greeley, Colo.; he views modern times, when an American-born
zealot retains Internet power, five years after his death. In this
strong hour – scheduled for April 11, then delayed -- Zakaria finds
some hate-filled passages in the Koran ... and similar ones in the
Old Testament.

“Turn”
season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC. It's 1778 now and this spy business is
serious; we're reminded of that with chilling moments at the
beginning and end of the hour. In between, Abe – revolutionary spy
in a crown-supporting family – has a tough project and a giant
colleague: Angus MacFadyen has played other epic characters, from
Blackbeard to Zeus; now he's great as Robert Rogers, the fierce
turncoat.

TV column for Sunday, April 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Game of Thrones” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

If you get HBO, your
night is set, with the season-openers of “Thrones,” “Silicon
Valley” (10 p.m.) and “Veep” (10:30). If you don't ... well,
visit someone; kingdoms are wobbling, lives are changing.

While other
Lannisters try to rebuild their crumbling power, Tyrion (Peter
Dinklage, who's won two Emmys in the role) scrambles to rule the city
of Meereen. Two of the dragons are still there, but Daenerys – who
once ruled the city and all three dragons -- is now lost and in
danger. Meanwhile, the Wall is in peril, after the apparent death of
Jon Snow. Good people seem to die a lot here.

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

Next week wraps up
what has been a deep, dark season. It started with Sidney (the
village vicar) wrongly accused of an affair with a teen-ager; she
died after asking her friend Gary to induce a miscarriage. Later,
Geordie (Sidney's police pal) was shot and almost killed.

Now it's Geordie who
faces serious accusations, with Sidney scrambling to clear him. At
the same time, Sidney tries -- with the help of his long-time friend
(now married to someone else) -- to stop Gary's execution. It's as
emotional hour, lightened (slightly) by Sidney's assistant and by his
housekeeper.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

This should be a
pleasant time for Alicia: She's hosting a party to celebrate the
upcoming marriage of Howard and Dorothty (played by Jerry Adler, 87,
and Mary Beth Pell, 76).

But tonight – two
weeks before the finale of a first-rate series – everything is
going wrong. Also, Peter – Dorothy's son, Alicia's husband – is
heading to another trial; Eli asks Jason to investigate him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Little Giant,” 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

The making of a bull
elephant faces steep barriers, this documentary says: Gestation is
almost two years, childhood is 13 years ... with a third of the
babies dying in the first year.

We see why in this
quietly involving film. In East Africa, a young male must keep up
with his matriarchal herd, in a marathon trek that confronts drought,
humans and some eager lions.

Other choices
include:

“Leverage,” 9
a.m. to 11 p.m., Ion. Each Sunday, Ion has a marathon of this
smart-but-overlooked series. Today starts with the team infiltrating
a car-theft ring; it ends with a valuable potato. Really.

“The Simpsons,”
7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun in which Bart savors – for a
while – the notion that he's a sociopath. Then a new episode finds
the mismatched Simpson and Flanders families taking a trip to the
Grand Canyon; a crisis ensues.

“Madame
Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. Some truly strange twists have seen
Elizabeth's college-prof husband (Tim Daly) involved in heavy-duty
spy stuff. Now he's dispatched – along with his CIA boss (Jill
Hennessy) and a colleague (Carlos Gomez) -- to get the world's most
wanted terrorist.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. Brilliantly crafted through each perverse twist, this
reaches a precarious point. Claire, running for govrnor, now realizes
that her cherub-faced daughter Bella is the ultimate schemer, even
training Ben to pose as her brother Adam. Now Claire prepares for her
debate. This pseudo-Adam is eyed by Claire during his latenight walks
and by Nina the cop at his therapy session. “Last Man on Earth,”
9:30 p.m., Fox. This odd (and sometimes funny) episode faces the
latest crisis: With Tandy apparently sterile, someone else must
volunteer to impregnate Carol, in order to continue the human
species. Meanwhile, Gail keeps drinking and there's a fresh twist in
the final minute.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. John Noble – who has been superb as a “Fringe” star
and a “Sleepy Hollow” co-star – returns to his role as
Sherlock's dad, Morland. This time, it's perilous: When his employee
is killed, Morland becomes his son's prime murder suspect.

TV column for Saturday, April 23


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Monsters University” (2013), 8 p.m., ABC.

From Batman and
Superman to Captain Kirk or the Muppets, our heroes seem to get
prequels. So Mike Wazowski and Sullivan – heroes of the 2001
“Monsters, Inc.” -- deserved this one.

Sulley (John
Goodman), the son of a famous monster, is a big man on campus; Mike
(Billy Crystal) is a newcomer with a problem – he's just not scary.
A friendship and an animated hit emerges.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
More animation, Freeform.

This is a golden age
for animated movies – well-written ones that appeal to most kids
and some adults. So now ABC has one movie and Freeform (formerly ABC
Family) has four more.

“Cars 2” (2011),
likable despite a lame spy plot, starts this at 4:15 p.m.;
“Despicable Me” (2010), which launched all those minions, is at
7. The fun “Incredibles” (2004), is at 9 and “Wall-E” (2009)
is at 11:45. All four films resurface on Sunday, each two hours
earlier.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Unlikely Animal Friends” return, 8 p.m., NatGeo
Wild.

It's tough to be the
new kid on the block or the new critter at the zoo. At Cincinnati's
zoo, however, Blakely is a personal welcome wagon. He's an Australian
shepherd who becomes a short-term friend to newcomers; his friends
have ranged from foxes and an ocelot to a warthog and a wallaby.

That's one of many
charming, low-key tales of inter-species interaction. A lion and a
tiger nuzzle; a tree kangaroo climbs in the woods by day and on its
owner's back at night. Cats – who seem to be good at this –
befriend a pot-bellied pig and a Flemish giant rabbit.

Other choices
include:

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 12:30 p.m., USA. Here is Steven Spielberg's
superb adventure, followed by its sequels – the fairly good “Temple
of Doom” (1984) at 3:01 p.m., the delightful “Lost Crusade”
(5:35 p.m.) and the merely OK “Crystal Skull” (2008) at 8:22 p.m.

More movies, 7 p.m.
and beyond, cable. There are two great, Oscar-winning performances
tonight – George C. Scott in “Patton” (1970), at 7 p.m. on
Sundance; and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” (1968), at 8 p.m.
ET on Turner Classic Movies. At 7:30, Pop has Aaron Sorkin's clever
“American President” (1995). At 8 are adventures -- “Jurassic
World” (2015) on HBO, “The Fugitive” (1993) on IFC and
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (2011) on FX.

“American Grit,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here are quick reruns of the first two hours, both
similar. After an interesting start, they close out with a sort of
torture, pushing people near the point of collapse. In one episode, a
person does collapse, in what's way too close to being snuff-TV.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last Saturday, CBS caught many people by
surprise, pulling its movie (“Hear My Song”) and replacing it
with reruns. This time, the rerun is expected: The team searches for
a teen girl who is missing and may have been recruited by terrorists.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. In 18th-century
Paris, Jamie is busy with political moves and Claire, using her 1948
nursing skills, is considered a gifted healer.

“Amy Schumer:
Mostly Sex Stuff,” 9:58 p.m. and midnight, Comedy Central. Two days
after launching the fourth season of her sketch show, Comedy Central
reruns a Schumer stand-up special.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On the eve of his “Game of Thrones”
season-opener, “SNL” reruns the episode with Peter Dinklage
hosting. Gwen Stefani is the music guest.