TV column for Saturday, April 8


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

This is a big TV
week for Louis CK. On Tuesday, Netflix debuted his stand-up special,
an ambitious one ranging from religion and abortion to the daily
chaos of parenting; now he returns to host “SNL.”

His three previous
rounds have been among the show's best, with classic moments that had
him as a forlorn Abraham Lincoln and as the only white contestant (a
Black history professor from Brigham Young University) on “Black
Jeopardy.” This time, his music guests are The Chainsmokers.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Training Day,” 9 p.m., CBS.

The good news is
that CBS is resisting the rerun cascade on Saturdays. Pairing this
show with “Ransom” (a Canadian transplant), it has two hours of
new, scripted shows.

And the bad news is
that this is merely an end-of-the-line night. “Training Day”
failed during its Thursday run; now its final seven episodes begin
their Saturday exile. Tonight, Frank (the late Bill Paxton) obsesses
on bringing down a defense lawyer who has helped clients eliminate
witnesses.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Son” debut, 9 p.m. Saturday, AMC (repeating at
11:08) and Sundance.

Saturdays can be a
splendid night for westerns, AMC has shown. The cable channel has
already given us “Broken Trail,” “Hell on Wheels” and “The
American West”; now comes an epic series.

We meet Eli in his
tragic, frontier youth; then we jump ahead to 1915. As played by
Pierce Brosnan, he's a steely patriarch, trying to keep his South
Texas cattle ranch going, as resistance grows in Mexico. Many viewers
will dislike the brutal portrayal of American Indians and the fierce
use of torture; beyond that, however, is a visually and emotionally
sprawling portrait of a world in transition.

Other choices
include:

“Titanic”
(1997), 6:30 p.m., VH1; or “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of
the King” (2003), 8 p.m., TNT. Both films proved it's possible to
have a big-budget action film that's also skillfully crafted. Each
made a fortune at the box office and won a pile of Oscars, including
best picture.

“Safe Haven”
(2013), 6:30 p.m., E. Two Nicholas Sparks stories run back-to-back.
“The Last Song” (2010), at 9 p.m., is merely OK, boosted by
decent work from Miley Cyrus; “Safe Haven,” however, stands out
because it's perfectly directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. When a family is held hostage, Eric becomes suspicious: He
learns this is the second time the dad has been kidnapped.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Thursday's amiable hour, the
kids cook for an enthusiastic crowd – Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
who have just finished hiking and setting up camp. Then the losing
team bakes macaroons – choosing stuffing that ranges from lemonade
to bacon.

Basketball, 8:30
p.m. ET, with preview at 8. Here are two teams that have already
solidified their places in the pro play-offs, which start April 23:
San Antonio hosts the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Prison Break,”
9 p.m., Fox. This reruns Tuesday's season-opener. Like previous
editions, it has sharp writing and a cinematic feel; it also,
however, brings a sense of disillusionment. After all that effort to
break Linc out of prison, it turns out that he's sad, solemn and on
the run.

“Kevin Hart:
Seriously Funny,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. The night wraps up with
reruns from some sharp stand-up comics – Hart at 10 and 11 p.m. and
Chris Rock at 12:05 a.m.

TV column for Friday, April 7


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

On a night stuffed
with three new reality shows, this is the winner. Produced by Ellen
DeGeneres, it has the same qualities – a sleek look and thoroughly
likable people – that make her “Little Big Shots” a hit.

This show simply
chooses blind dates, then tapes them at an upscale restaurant. In the
hour we saw (tentatively the opener), it mostly aimed for logical
matches – two self-described geeks ... a towering military woman
and a guy hobbling from a basketball injury ... a widow and a warmly
clever widower. But there's also a mismatch that seems almost
mischievous; it adds a counter-spin to a fun hour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., CBS.

With all those
reality shows, we turn to CBS for its specialty – solid, scripted
shows that wrap up a story each episode. This one has Murdoc, the
villain from the old and new “MacGyver.”

The team has
intercepted a message, telling Murdoc whom to assassinate. Now Mac
must pose as the killer, to save the target and learn why the hit was
ordered.

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

In 2011, Robyn
Gardner, 35, went to Aruba with Gary Giordano, 50. Gardner – who
had just lost her dental-office job -- had met him on the Internet a
year earlier, but had met him only occasionally ... and had a steady
boyfriend. Later, Giordano said she'd been swept away by waves; she's
never been found.

Police – eyeing a
$1.5-million insurance policy (still in dispute) in his name –
arrested him, but didn't file charges. Now lawyers – plus Giordano,
Gardner's sister and more – argue this in a civil case. That hour
is tentatively set for the debut of “Jury,” which is both quite
interesting and terribly tacky.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Toy Box” debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

It isn't easy, we're
told, to develop a new toy. One person borrowed $50,000 from his
kids' college fund; another sold his house and took the family on a
recreational-vehicle tour to sell his idea. A third said she's spent
33 years and $350,000; at times, she and her husband had to move in
with friends.

Even now, they're
far from their goal. Tonight, five people present ideas ... three
move to a panel of kids ... and one is the winner. Except that the
winners of each episode then compete, with only one given the
go-ahead. It's a long shot, but in the opener, the inventors and the
kids are a delight.

Other choices
include:

“The Get Down”
season-opener (Netflix) and “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner
Story,” any time. One streaming service has the second half of Baz
Luhrmann's immensely ambitious story of the early days of hip hop;
the other uses documentary footage and re-enactments to tell Hefner's
story.

“Fargo” (1996),
7:21 p.m., Starz. On April 19, the third season of the “Fargo”
series will begin. First, here's another chance to see the small gem
that launched it.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. Villa proves a case in her old “Little Havana”
neighborhood.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. OK, this sounds serious: The team members ae captured
and, CBS says, face certain death. Except we doubt that it's certain,
because there will be another episode next week.

“Great
Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS. It was 100 years and one day ago that
the U.S. entered World War I. PBS starts a superb documentary series
Monday. First,however, is “Young Men,” a wordless film that
brilliantly blends dance, music and richly cinematic visuals.

“Unseen Enemy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news), rerunning at 2 a.m. The modern world can do much
to prevent pandemics, this powerful World Health Day film says; it
also does much to propel them. “Enemy” shows success against
smallpox and AIDS and the fleet spread of Ebola and Zika.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. It's a tough court case for Erin: She's trying to get a
murder conviction, with her ex-husband as the defense lawyer.

TV column for Thursday, April 6


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

With sharp dialog
and beautifully defined characters, “Mom” has shown a knack for
simultaneously getting laughs and emotions from pivotal moments.

Twice, that's
involved deaths – of Christy's father and of the teen-ager she
befriended; now it's Bonnie's birth mother. We finally met her
(played by Ellen Burstyn) last season. After her death, Bonnie and
Christy learn she was holding a big secret.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior.” 8 p.m., Fox.

When it comes to
cuisine, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often have modest expectations.
“Usually, we get hot dogs and burgers,” one girl says here.

Not this time. As
the Scouts finish their hike and pitch their tents, a dozen young
chefs are preparing pork chops plus two side dishes. Afterwards, the
losing team faces a fresh challenge – bake macaroon treats, with
any choice for stuffing; the choices include lemonade,
peanut-butter-and-jelly and bacon. Yes, bacon macaroons; life is kind
of fun, when all the chefs are age 13 or younger.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, ABC.

Right now, ABC is
all about conspiracies and crises. Tonight's “Scandal” (9 p.m.)
keeps probing the scheme that killed the president-elect – not to
be confused with plot on ABC's “Designated Survivor,” killing
almost everyone in power. As the team gets close, one of its people
is in grave danger.

That's sandwiched by
the 8 p.m. “Grey's Anatomy” (Stephanie making a mistake while
treating a colleague) and the 10 p.m. “The Catch” (the team tries
to learn why someone is working to destroy Margot's firm). Life is
very complicated for pretty people who happen to be on ABC.

Other choices
include:

“We Bought a Zoo”
(2011), 5:30 p.m., FX. Yes, this is the movie Jimmy Kimmel mocked at
the Oscars, in his fake feud with Matt Damon. Still, it's a pleasant
film, based on the true story of a family that bought an old zoo.
It's starts an amiable family night, with “Despicable Me 2”
(2013) at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Forrest Gump”
(1994), 7 and 10 p.m., AMC. In a change, AMC runs this terrific
Oscar-winner twice.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. By nature, Sheldon's not a collaborative guy.
Now, however, he pushes himself: On the same day, he's working on
projects with Amy and with Leonard and Howard.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Trying to raise quick money for their wedding, Cheyenne's
fiance starts working at the store. That's during the spring
cleaning, when Amy and Garrett start an investigation, sifting
through old photos. Also, Jonah pushes to get Glenn's approval.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Jack tries to be a good guy, smoothing
the relationship between his ex-lover Brooke's fiance Paul and her
dad (Stephen Fry). He takes them to a bar ... where Paul has a good
time, gets drunk and disappears.

“Chicago Med,” 9
p.m., NBC. What happens when a high-tech hospital must go old-school?
A hacker has shut down the computer system and demands a ransom.
Doctors scramble; Goodwin, trying to keep the huspital afloat, is
suddenly visited by her ex-husband and his new girlfriend (Garcelle
Beauvais).

“Blacklist:
Redemption,” 10 p.m., NBC. As tensions rise between Scottie and
Howard (Famke Janssen and Terry O'Qyuinn), Tom tries an unexpected
source for help.

"Brockmire" takes us to the bottom of the baseball wor


Baseball isn't just about superstars and super plays, you know. It's also about desperate minor-leaguers and a drunken announcer with a bad sportcoat and a worse attitude. That's in "Brockmire," which debuts Wednesday (in the middle of the season's first week) and reruns often. Here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

For TV baseball,
this is Opening Week.

Sunday had the Cubs
and Yankees and such. Monday had the rest. And Wednesday has the
Morristown Frackers.

The where?
Morristown is neither real nor enviable. It's “the worst town in
America,” said Joel Church Cooper, producer of the new “Brockmire”
series. It's “as if the Khmer Rouge ran through Mayberry.”

It's a last-chance
place for the players on this independent-league team ... and for Jim
Brockmire, whose voice and sportcoat suggest another era. “His
sensibility is from the past,” said Hank Azaria, who created him in
“Funny or Die” shorts. “It's like he's caught in a time loop.”

Once a famed
announcer, Brockmife had “a career-ending, public meltdown, live on
the air, after discovering his beloved wife's serial infidelity,”
said Jennifer Caserta, president of the IFC network.

He sank into alcohol
and despair and Morristown. There Jules (Amanda Peet) will try
anything to save the team she owns. “She's a baseball fanatic,”
said Peet – who's not.

Peet's father and
sister are athletes, but her own knowledge is lacking. “When I
watch a baseball game, I don't understand what's interesting about
it,” she said. “Nobody ever makes it to first base.”

(Brockmire makes it
well beyond first base with Jules, of course. He also manages to
narrate their sex.)

The baseball games
were filmed in a now-vacant stadium in Macon, Ga. The place has rich
tradition – Macon was a minor-league home of Pete Rose, Tony Perez
and, well, Bobo Newsom and Hippo Vaughn.

It also has Georgia
weather. The pilot was filmed in July, when “it's as hot as the
surface of the sun,” Azaria said.

This is a tough
place to play baseball or to make television. It's where young
players and old announcers go for their one last chance.

-- “Brockmire,”
10 p.m. ET Wednesdays, IFC

-- First two
episodes are April 5, rerunning at 11:02 p.m. and 12:01 a.m. ET

-- They also rerun
at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, 7:45 a.m. Sunday, 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday
(April 11) and often April 12

TV column for Wednesday, April 5


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

Each week, this show
gets deeper, richer and more involviing. By the end of this hour, it
has a beautifuly layered set of people and problems.

The story began with
a black cop killing an unarmed, white 19-year-old. Then it expanded
to look at the murder of a black teen; now there's another shooting
and more. We feel the pain of the cop and of his victim's mother; we
see forces, including the governor and her opponent, converging on
this town.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Major Crimes,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

If you look at it in
one way, this is one of TV's longest-lasting scripted shows. It spent
seven years as “The Closer” and – keeping many of the same
people – is wrapping up its fifth as “Crimes.”

Now a murder probe
turns messy, leaving a battle between Raydor (Mary McDonnell) and the
deputy chief (Camryn Manheim); also, the squad wonders if terrorism
is involved. This starts a two-part season-finale that concludes next
week. The show's been renewed for its sixth – or 13th
season.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS.

The genius of
Leonardo da Vinci went far beyond painting. He was also a musician
and an engineer, filling his notebooks with ideas for robots, machine
guns, flying machines, diving suits and more.

But like others –
from Edison to Jobs – that doesn't mean he invented these things.
Some were drawings, never tested; others took old ideas, even ones
from ancient Greece and the Islamic golden age. Often, da Vinci's
skill was in recognizing a good idea and improving on it. Someone
else thought of the parachute, but he said the material should be
waxed flax; here, his ideas are skillfully shown.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Archer,” 10 p.m. FXX; and/or “Brockmire,” 10
p.m. ET, IFC.

Since life is rarely
easy, two shows with a similar appeal open on the same night and (in
the Eastern and Central zones) the same timeslots. Each is smart,
offbeat and, at times, quite adult.

For its eighth
season, “Archer” transports its characters to a private-eye tale
in 1947 Los Angeles; that reruns at 11:03 p.m. and 1:33 a.m.
“Brockmire” has its best moments early, as an esteemed
sportscaster (Hank Azaria) has a foul-tongued breakdown on the air.
He ends up in a battered town with a baseball team and its idealistic
owner (Amanda Peet); that reruns at 11:02 p.m. and 12:01 and 1 a.m.
ET.

Other choices
include:

“The Real
Housewives of New York City,” all day, Bravo. Tinsley Mortimer was
once called the most photographed socialite in New York, with her own
reality show (“High Society”) and lipstick shade. After her
arrest last year (allegedly trespassing at an ex-boyfriend's Florida
home), she returns to the city at 41. She joins Bethenny Frankel (now
divorced), Ramona Singer (offering dating tips at 60) and others.
That's at 9 p.m., rerunning at 10 and 11:30; reruns of last season
start at 6 a.m.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. One of Jane's tattoos leads the team to a death at a
foster home.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Every festive occasion for the Lyon family seems to blow
up, sometimes spectactularly; now it's time for a birthday party, as
Hakeem turns 21. Also, Angelo (Taye Diggs) starts to think Cookie's
criminal activity isn't just in the past; she may harm his mayoral
campaign.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. It's time for Phil's dad (Fred Willard) to have his
wedding, with a Roaring '20s theme. It's also time for Cameron to
finally stand up to his imposing sister.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Raven-Symone returns as Dre's sister; he's soon
jealous of her relationship with their dad. Also, Zoey is urged by
her parents to bring her brother to a party.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Determined to re-set his presidency after
all the chaos, Kirkman releases an agenda. Then a statement by his
wife (Natascha McElhone) threatens to derail it. Also, Hannah (Maggie
Q) is in danger, after getting closer to the truth about the
conspiracy.