TV column for Sunday, April 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Making History,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

While taking a
two-week break, this fun show left its time-trekkers in jeopardy. Now
they're being eyed warily by Al Capone; if a baseball bet they
suggested fails, he'll shoot them.

Hey, the bet –
Black Sox to lose the 1919 World Series – is a good one, if you
come from the future. Deb Revere also gives Capone some advice:
“Maybe you could be nicer to people, instead of killing them.”
She's Paul's daughter, played delightfully by Leighton Meester; the
other two travellers are from modern times. This episode offers funny
views of changes in everything from crime to marriage.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week's hour
ended with a fierce jolt. From the beginning, “Crime” has built
strong sympathy for Shae, the teen prostitute. Working in a video
sex-chat house, she argued with a colleague ... who impulsively
stabbed – and killed – her. There were quick plans to dump the
body.

Now Dustin feels
he's unsafe in the house. He contacts Kimara, the social worker who's
already torn by a colleague's insistence that she lie. Meanwhile, the
marriage of Nicholas and Claire (Timothy Hutton and Lily Taylor)
crumbles, causing their nanny to take a drastic step.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mary Kills People” debut, 10:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Like many women
these days on TV (and in real life), Mary is tugged in all
directions. She's a doctor and a divorced mom; in her spare time, she
secretly assists suicides, breaking the law.

She has a dark view
of life; her colleague doesn't. As played by Caroline Dhavernas
(“Hannibal,” “Wonderfalls”) and Jay Ryan (“Beauty and the
Beast”), they're interesting opposites. Now the crises come.
There's one in the first few minutes, with two big ones near the end
of this fairly good hour.

Other choices
include:

Riot documentaries,
3:45 p.m., Showtime and 8 and 11 p.m., Smithsonian. Between now and
Saturday (the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots),
TV will take many looks at what happened. Showtime reruns Friday's
“Burn, (bleep), Burn.” The Smithsonian offers a fresh edition of
its “Lost Tapes” concept. It paints a vivid portrait, using only
footage from the time.

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun, ranging from a
4-year-old barber to acrobatic roller-skaters. Then a new hour
includes a 6-year-old “snail whisperer” and a 5-year-old pianist.

“Masterpiece: Home
Fires,” 9 p.m., PBS. After a cascade of woe, last week's episode
offered a sudden surprise: The butcher's son, assumed to be killed in
combat, is home. Now the family faces a disturbing discovery; also,
Dr. Campbell's family receives some joyous news.

“When Calls the
Heart” season-finale, 9 p.m., Hallmark. As Cody lies seriously ill,
two doctors disagree on whether he needs surgery. Abigail (Lori
Loughlin) must make the call.

“Guerilla,” 9
p.m., Showtime. John Ridley is the master of moral dilemmas and mixed
emotions. That's true in his “American Crime” and in this complex
drama. Nudged by his intense girlfriend (Frieda Pinto), a
mild-mannered teacher helped a radical escape from prison, Now they
grope futilely for their next step. It's a strong hour that even adds
a human touch to the brutal cop who's pursuing them.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. A magician dies during a classic routine; murder is
suspected.

“Feud” finale,
10 p.m., FX. Joan Crawford's fine movie career ended, alas, with
“Trog.” Sometimes listed among the all-time worst, it had her as
a scientist, trying to tame an ape-like creature. That's where we
find her now, as Bette Davis – whose career outlasted Crawford's by
17 years – ponders the years that were wasted on their feud.

TV column for Saturday, April 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Soundtracks,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

Rippling with rage
and hope, this hour offers a strong start to an unusual series.

Each hour has music
that's linked to key moments in history. The opener (which debuted
Thursday) ranges from the death of Martin Luther King to the election
of Barack Obama and the start of the “Black Lives Matter”
movement. We hear Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and more. Emotion soars
as Aretha Franklin sings “People Get Ready” and Sam Cooke
proclaims “A Change is Gonna Come.”

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

This rerun, from
October, is stuffed with starpower. There's Lady Gaga doing “A-Yo”
and “Million Reasons.” And Tom Hanks hosting and showing up in
every sketch, even “Black Jeopardy.”

And there's Alec
Baldwin, in two sketches. He does an airplane one alongside Hanks.
And he's Donald Trump, with a script that forces him to boast: “I've
even got the best Baldwin brother, Stephen.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” 8-9:35 p.m.,
HBO.

In her short life,
Lacks saw tough times. Born in Virginia, she died at 31 in Baltimore.
She was a tobacco-field worker, a 14-year-old mother, a steelworker's
wife ... and a key part of history.

Decades later, her
descendants learned that her cancer cells had been harvested for
perpetual research. Now Oprah Winfrey has produced this film and
stars as Lacks' daughter. George C. Wolfe, a Broadway icon – five
Tony awards and 19 nominations – directed and co-wrote it.

Other choices
include:

“Doctor Who,”
7:50 and 9 p.m. ET, BBC America. First is last week's season-opener,
introducing the Doctor's new companion. As played by newcomer Pearl
Mackie, she was thoroughly surprised by the evil lady who kept coming
in and out of puddles ... and, of course, by the Doctor who spans
time and space. Then, in a new episode at 9 p.m. (rerunning at
midnight), they have their first full adventure; on another planet,
they visit a spectacular city that's inexplicably empty.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS.In a rerun, the NCIS finds a warehouse full
of counterfeit purses, plus a trail leading to stolen government
funds. And Nell, usually busy analyzing, joins in field work.

“American
Housewife,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns involve Katie's
combative nature. In one, she fights back after being sold defective
bags; in the other, she urges Viv to stand up to her husband.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. In its first three seasons, this show has won
Peabody, American Film Institute and Television Critics Association
awards. Now here's a chance to catch a couple reruns. In the first,
Bow (Golden Globe-winner Tracee Ellis Ross) convinces Dre to try
anger-management class. Then Pops' sister (Lorraine Toussaint)
revives her feud with Pops' ex-wife (Jenifer Lewis).

“Training Day,”
9 p.m., CBS. A gang-related shooting accidentally killed a community
organizer.

“The Son,” 9
p.m., AMC. In 1849, young Eli has a life-or-death fight for survival.
He survives – sorry about the spoiler – and in 1915, we see him
and other McColloughs taking the fight to the enemy.

“Class,” 10:05
p.m., rerunning at 1:05 a.m., BBC America. In last week's debut, Ram
saw his soccer-star world shattered by prom-night disasters. Now he
tries to keep his distance from the other students; alas, he soon
witnesses the work of a skin-peeling dragon.

TV column for Friday, April 21


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

Tonight's fun hour
delivers important dating tips for guys. We probably shouldn't flirt
with the waitress ... and definitely shouldn't ask for her phone
number. Also, we apparently shouldn't be chatting with another woman
on the phone, right before the date ... then refuse to admit it.

And some women are
quite specific. One is bright and beautiful and (for the four years
since college) alone; she has a long list of dealbreakers, including
cats. Others have larger concerns: One left when a guy started
talking about whips; another has twice learned she was dating married
men.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Matilda” (1996), 8-10 p.m., Freeform.

People keep
belatedly discovering this dark delight. Its story is from Roald
Dahl, whose books -- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The
BFG,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” --
combine childlike wonder and grown-up cynicism.

The tale – later
turned into a Broadway musical -- introduces a little girl (Mara
Wilson) who has nasty parents and special powers. Danny DeVito
directed it sharply and co-starred as, of course, a villain.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “You the Jury,” 9 p.m., Fox.

An Indiana law,
signed by Mike Pence, allowed businesses to reject customers for
religious reasons. After gay-rights protests and threats of boycotts,
it was quickly amended. In the interim, however, a pizza-restaurant
owner said he would refuse to cater a gay wedding; he faced instant
controversy.

Now that owner
(Kevin O'Connor of Memories Pizza) is scheduled to be the defendant,
in a show that has a court setting, with viewers choosing the result.
The first two episodes (involving accusations of murder and racial
bias) went from bad to wretched. We'll see how this does with a
sensitive subject.

Other choices
include:

“21 Jump Street”
(2012), 5:30 p.m., FX. This starts a night of light, fairly fun
movies. The “Mamma Mia” musical (2008) – great ABBA songs,
so-so singers – is 8 p.m. on HBO; the original “Ice Age”
cartoon (2002) is 9 p.m. on Nickelodeon.

“Famous in Love,”
7 and 10 p.m., Freeform. Before or after “Matilda,” you can catch
a rerun of this season-opener, which debuted Tuesday. Bella Thorne
plays a radiant,would-be actress, suddenly thrust into fame. She's
terrific; the rest of the story, alas, is overwrought soap opera.

“The Toy Box,” 8
p.m., ABC. Building blocks have been around almost forever, but here
are variations. One involves large tubes for life-size creations;
another has sinkable blocks for the swimming pool. Also competing are
inventors of a game, a dog-shaped lightbox and “Emotiplush,” a
therapy doll.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. The murder of a teacher pushes Villa and Dr. Rosewood into
an investigation of human-trafficking.

“Craft in
America,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). One hour views
art crafted from nature – wood, fiber and beyond. The other meets
musicians and the people who crafted their instruments – Joan
Baez's guitar, Rhiannon Giddens' banjo and more.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m.. CBS. People have speculated on why John Kennedy's cabinet
officials were in Oahu, shortly before his assassination. In this
rerun, the murder of a conspiracy theorist pulls the team into that
question.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This reruns a busy hour for Danny (Donnie Wahlberg).
He's searching for a witness to testify against a gang leader. And
with his dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, he asks a
detective (Steve Schirripa of “The Sopranos”) to probe a mob
attack on Lt. Gormley.

TV column for Thursday, April 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Blacklist” return, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

NBC doesn't have
many strong dramas and can't afford to keep any good ones on the
shelf. Still, that happens: “This is Us” ended its season;
“Blacklist” was gone for two months.

Now it's back, with
two hours. In the first, the search continues for Dembe (Hisham
Tawfiq), who may or many not have tried to kill his boss and
benefactor “Red” Redington (James Spader). In the second hour,
memories push Red on a collision course with someone who's trying to
crush him.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “The Great Indoors,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

Most Thursdays, CBS
has a fun mini-binge – four comedies, two of them (“Big Bang”
and “Mom”) terrific. This time, that's trimmed to make room for
an extra “Amazing Race” hour; fortunately these two comedies have
terrific reruns.

On “Big Bang,”
Sheldon cringes when a geologist (Brian Posehn) gets the MacArthur
“genius” award; in Sheldon's view, a true genius can't be a
geologist ... or anyone else who's not Sheldon. On “Indoors,”
Jack – accustomed to the sprawling outdoors – finds himself
sharing Clark's micro-apartment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Married at First Sight,” all night, Lifetime.

Here's the fourth
edition of an odd experiment: At 8 p.m. (repeating at 11:32), we see
experts link three couples – people who have never met. At 9, the
people have two weeks to prepare to marry; at 10:17, they finally
meet each other ... at the wedding. After six weeks, they must decide
if they'll stay married.

Does it work? Of the
12 couples over the first four seasons, seven decided to stay ... but
only three are still together now. That success rate (25 percent) is
worse than typical marriages – but better than “The Bachelor.”
This time, in Chicago, the women are 30, 30 and 31; the men are 33,
26 and 26.

Other choices
include:

Music, 7:50 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies. First is a short with Jimmy Dorsey's
orchestra. Then are two musicals – Gene Kelley and Frank Sinatra in
the classic “On the Town” (1949) at 8, Doris Day and Gordon
MacRae in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” at 10, plus another
music short at 9:49. “Scandal,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. After
celebrating its 100th episode last week, the show peers
backward in this first hour; it shows how Olivia met Fitz and how
each person joined her team. Then, in a new hour, she prepares for
the electoral-college fight; also, there's a new victim.

“Powerless,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. Don't you hate it when you're set for a pleasant
company retreat and then the boss says everyone must stay and work,
because Dr. Psycho has released a toxic gas? That happens here; Emily
(Vanessa Hudgens) tries to make the most of it.

“The Amazing
Race,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. These episodes go from Tanzania –
where two duos have friction over a previous incident – to Norway,
where the racers build a 13-story bonfire.

“Kicking and
Screaming,” 9 p.m., Fox. We learn which three duos will be in next
week's finale.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. Alice is surprised by someone from her past who needs
help. And Ben must work with Margot, to keep a 16th-birthday
party from getting out-of-hand.

“Soundtracks”
debut, 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). This
series looks at music linked with major moments in history. The
opener involves the Martin Luther King assassination and beyond,
ranging from James Brown's “Say It Loud” to Kendrick Lamar's
recent “Alright.”

TV column for Wednesday, April 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Fargo” debut, 10-11:30 p.m., FX.

The first two
editions were classics, among the best TV shows ever. Solid crime
stories were enmeshed with wonderfully odd Northerners, good and bad.

This new one is set
in 2010, with Ewan McGregor as both Emmit Stussy, the “parking lot
king of Minnesota,” and his bitter brother Ray, a parole officer
whose girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who was so good in
“BrainDead”) is a parolee with a passion for bridge. Carrie Coon,
a Midwesterner (from Ohio and Wisconsin, married to noted Chicago
playwright Tracy Letts) plays the sheriff.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS.

There was a time,
this film says, when Lithuania's capital city was a great center of
Jewish culture. Almost half the people were Jews; they had 100
synagogues and the world's largest Jewish library.

Then the Nazis
obliterated it all, killing 70,000 Jews and destroying the buildings.

A few survivors,
however, came up with an amazing plan to dig a tunnel to freedom.
This hour is partly a scientific account of the search for evidence;
that's fairly dry and dull. Alongside that, however, is a richly
human story of the survivors and their descendants, who learn details
of long-ago heroics.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shots Fired,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Sent to this town to
probe one murder, Ashe and Preston (Sanaa Lathan and Stephan James)
are now deep into a second. There's a black victim, a white victim
and simmering racial suspicion.

Tonight, the lone
witness to the Joey Campbell murder makes a startling identification.
Also, Ashe deals with the anger issues that may keep her from custody
of her daughter. Despite all the rage and fear in “Shots Fired,”
the final minutes of this terrific hour bring muted emotions and some
sweetness.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8-10
p.m., CBS. So far, seven of the 20 contestants have been eliminated.
Now the tribes merge and two people are ousted, in a double episode.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. The giant armadillo seems to defy study; huge (often
three-foot long, or five-foot counting the tail), it emerges at
night, in the South American wilderness. Now night-vision cameras
bring surprises: These guys tend to burrow a new home every two days;
the abandoned ones are quickly taken over by anything from mice and
snakes to foxes and ocelets. It's a fun hour.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. This reruns the episode that launched the second half of
the season. It's a good one, starting with musical dazzle and ending
with fierce flashes of rage. Also, Jamal meets another musician in
rehab, played by Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi
Moore.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Phil figures his romance needs a jolt; he
steps into his alter-ego, Clive Bixby. Also, Jay shows parental
favoritism; Haley and Sal both confront men in their lives.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. This rerun has Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) pondering her
own feelings about her mixed-race heritage, when her son brings home
a white girlfriend.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) has a task
previous president didn't face – completing the creation of a new
Supreme Court. Meanwhile, there are jolts for his aide (Kal Penn) and
for the FBI agent (Hannah Q) who has gone undercover.

“Hap and Leonard”
finale, 10 p.m., Sundance. Last week seemed to wrap it up: The pastor
had killed the kids; Hap and Leonard are heroes ... even if the
sheriff (played by the great Brian Dennehey) takes credit. But now
there's a final twist; it's a slow, morose, but moving finish to a
fine, two-season series.