TV column for Thursday, May 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Red Nose Day” specials, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

Americans know
Richard Curtis as the writer of amiable movie pleasures -- “Love
Actually,” “Notting Hill,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”
and such. But more than 30 years ago, he also launched an annual
British telethon for charities; Americans tried it as “Idol Gives
Back” and now this.

It's the third U.S.
year, with a slight change. There will be two separate, reality-type
hours (we'll list them separately) plus a variety-show type hour at
10. That includes Jack Black, Ben Affleck, Yvette Nicole Brown, Paul
Rudd, Patrick Dempsey and more, including a skit with the “Love,
Actually” stars.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Love Connection” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

The 1983 show has
been spiffed up with lots more noise and lights, a new host (Andy
Cohen) and an altered concept. A contestant dates three people. The
daters rate each other from 0-10 on looks (one gap tonight is 9-5)
and talk about how it sent; the audience guesses which person will be
chosen.

The flash and awe
are overwrought, but Cohen is perfect. When the second contestant
says she'd never dated a white guy, he has great fun with it ...
especially when it's a guy in plaid who takes her ax-throwing. The
first half – involving an amiable, 6-foot-6 bloke -- is OK; the
second is a delight.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Top comedies, CBS and ABC.

Yes, this is the
first day of the summer season, stuffed with reality and reruns.
Right now, however, it seems like fun: On one night, we have reruns
from TV's three best comedies.

At 8 p.m., CBS has
“The Big Bang Theory”; Raj brings over all four of his
ex-girlfriends, to give him dating advice. At 9, it has a terrific
“Mom”; Bonnie's ex-girlfriend (Rosie O'Donnell) tries to lure
Christy away from college with a real-estate job. And at both 9 and
9:30, ABC has “Modern Family”; both episodes center on Phil
convincing his father-in -law to join him in a real-estate scheme.

Other choices
include:

“Beat Shazam”
debut, 8 p.m., Fox. Jamie Foxx hosts a game that has teams competing
to identify songs. Then the winner must faces Shazam – a
song-recognizing app.

“American Ninja,”
8 p.m., NBC. Here's a celebrity special for “Red Nose Day.” Some
of the celebrities are known as athletic; they include baseball's
Nick Swisher, Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton, dance champ
Derek Hough and beefy “Arrow” star Stephen Amell. Others are
comedians Nikki Glaser and Jeff Dye, TV journalist Natalie Morales
and actors Erika Christensen and Mena Suvari.

“The Goldbergs,”
8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Adam tries out for the tennis team, so he
can be with his friend Chad.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31, CBS. This fairly good (but inconsistent) show won't
be back next year, so enjoy the rerun. Tonight, Human Resources tells
Jack to quit giving harsh job assessments.

“Running Wild,”
9 p.m., NBC. This “Red Nose Day” special has Julia Roberts
joining Bear Grylls to get vaccines to a rermote African village.
They need to do it quickly, while dealing with heat, crocodiles and
baboons. They also talk about her life and feast on a goat's head.

“The Amazing
Race,” 10 p.m., CBS. A week from its million-dollar finale, the
race has four teams, each linking two strangers. Tonight, they're in
Seoul, Korea.

“Black-ish,” 10
p.m., ABC. The comedy spree continues with this and a 10:30
“Speechless.” In this one, Thanksgiving stirs the feud between
Pops' sister (Lorraine Toussant) and ex-wife (Jenifer Lewis).

TV column for Wednesday, May 24


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

What started as a
fairly good mini-series grew into a terrific one. Subtlety is like
that, sometimes.

The story began with
a black cop killing an unarmed white teenager. The state sent a
prosecutor and investigator (both black) ... who soon added a second
case, a black teen killed by a white layman who was alongside the
police. Now a key cop has been killed, rage seethes on both sides and
the cases are going to the grand jury. It's a great finish, somehow
both subtle and fiercely emotional.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Survivor” finale, 8-10 p.m., CBS, with reunion at 10.

It's been a busy
week for reality finals -- “The Voice” and “Dancing With the
Stars” were Tuesday and now “Survivor” finds its 34th
million-dollar winner. This is the edition with people considered
“game changers” in previous years; half the finalists emerged
from the two “Brains-Beauty-Brawn” editions.

Aubrey Bracco, 30
(“Brains”) finished 2nd previously; Tai Trang, 51
(“Beauty”) finished 3rd; and Sarah Lacina, 32
(“Brawn”), finished 11th. And the other finalists?
Troyzan Robertson was 8th previously; Brad Culpepper was
15th and Cirie Fields is in her fourth edition. She's been
3rd, 14th and 17th..

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dirty Dancing,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

The 1987 movie has
become a TV musical, but don't expect the vibrancy of “Hairspray”
or “Grease.” Adapted from a 2014 stage production, this confines
its music to a resort's stage and practice halls.

Before heading to
college, “Baby” (Abigail Breslin) is on vacation with her sister
(Sarah Hyland) and their parents (Bruce Greenwood and Debra Messing);
soon, she's entwined in the drama of resort dancers (Colt Prattes and
Nicole Scherzinger). A parental sub-plot is lame and Prattes is hard
to care about. Still, the music and emotion will hold us until the
overdue “Time of My Life” finale.

Other choices
include:

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8-11 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun, with a
woman convinced that a masked rapist was the same man who stalked her
previously. Then are the season's final two episodes – a hate-crime
case is complicated by deportation; a prisoner's release brings
threats of violence.

“Arrow”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. final battle with Adrian Chase looms, so
Oliver recruits some unlikely allies – Slade, Nyssa, Merlyn and
Digger Harkness.

“The 100”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. As the radiation storm nears, Earthlings
cling to their only option. Most are in a bunker, with Octavia as the
reluctant leader; her brother Bellamy is in a precarious space
capsule with Clarke and six others. At times, this hour feels like an
engineering manual; at other times, it remembers to be a human drama.
In either case, the background music blasts relentless urgency.

“Empire”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox. The final five minutes, Fox says, will
leave us speechless. We usually ignore such claims, but “Empire”
is capable of that – especially with the forces it has put in
motion. Lucious is opening his Las Vegas club with Guiliana (Nia
Long); his ex-wife Cookie wants to wreak havoc – something she's
good at. The hour also has Eva Longoria as a Vegas official and Demi
Moore -- whose daughter (Rumer Willis) plays angry singer Tory Ash –
as a nurse.

“Archer”
season-finale, 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11. This offbeat season –
told in the style of a Hollywood detective tale, wraps up with Archer
finding Woodhouse's killer.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX. While other shows finish their seasons, this 10-episode gem
is just starting its second half. As the brothers feud – now it's
Ray's turn for revenge – the cops are closer to answers.

ALSO: If you missed
the weekend's big debuts, here's another chance. At 10 p.m., Showtime
has the return of “Twin Peaks”; at 10:05, HBO has Robert De Niro
as Bernie Madoff in “The Wizard of Lies.”

TV column for Tuesday, May 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Finales of “Dancing With the Stars,” 8:30-11 p.m., ABC; or “The
Voice,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Two reality giants
conclude, with a third (CBS' “Survivor”) ending Wednesday.

For this “Stars”
edition, athletes have ruled. Rashad Jennings, 32, spent eight years
in pro football and David Ross, helped the Cubs win the World Series;
they face singer Normani Kordei, 20, of Fifth Harmony. For “Voice,”
Blake Shelton has had five of the 11 winners so far, with three for
Adam Levine and the others scattered. Now Shelton has two finalists;
Levine and Alicia Keys have one apiece.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Great News” season-finale, 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

It's been a strong
(if uneven) first season for this comedy. Now the show has been
renewed for next season and it wraps things up with a two-part story
that gives Kate (Briga Heelan) career chaos.

She's done fine with
a weak-willed boss (Adam Campbell), but now his boss – and
grandmother – arrives. Crisply played by Christina Pickles, she
stirs instant fear. “Great News” continues to have a silly view
of the newsgathering process; it also spends too much time on Kate's
mom (Andrea Martin). Now, however, she and Kate hatch a complex
scheme that ends the season sharply.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Prison Break,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Yes, this round of
“Prison Break” is wildly unconvincing, piling up coincidences,
close calls and miracle escapes. But as it nears next week's finish,
it remains thorougly exciting.

Seven years after
faking his death, Michael has escaped from a Yemen prison and is on
the run with his brother Linc and others. He's considered a terrorist
in the U.S. and an arch-villain in Yemen; now he's desperate to save
his ex-wife Sara, who's held captive by the mastermind she married
when she thought she was a widow. This is all hard to follow and
harder to believe ... yet passionate and involving.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Epic,” 9 p.m., PBS.

The songs on the old
records are gospel classics, glowing with joy and energy. But the
name of the composer is semi-obscure; now a British director searches
for the roots of Elder J.E. Burch.

He finds his little
church in Cheraw, S.C. He meets people who knew him ... and learns
how jazz great Dizzy Gillespie grew up in the neighborhood, savoring
Burch's music. This terrific hour also profiles the Williamson
Brothers and Curry, coal-country musicians whose John Henry song is a
classic. And a Howlin' Wolf profile brings a meeting of three gifted
bluesmen, all in their 90s.

Other choices
include:

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine” season-finale, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Last week, Jake and
Rosa met a tough cop (Gina Gershon) who may be crooked. Now they try
to infiltrate her gang. She turns out to be smarter than they
thought, in a clever two-parter that spills over into next season.

“Downward Dog,”
8 p.m., ABC. Imagine finding that your mind is so powerful it can
open doors. That's how this dog sees it, what with a chip-triggered
doggy door and various automatic lights and doors. It's a sharp,
funny take, alongside his owner's troubles involving work and
romance.

“The Flash”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. Life would be easy if it merely had one
Flash, outzooming the bad guys. Now, alas, there's Savitar, a
separate “time remnant.” Desperately, Barry battles him.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. For now, Liv and her new boyfriend are of a like mind;
they're both munching the brain of a departed daredevil, acquiring
those traits. Meanwhile, Blaine is back to his old ways.

“Bull”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. The team travels to Miami with a top
defense lawyer (Eliza Dushku), for a case so inflammatory that it
endangers the lives of the client and the jurors.

“The Real NCIS”
(CBS) or “Frontline” (PBS), both 10 p.m. Two key non-fiction
hours collide. CBS relates a past NCIS case; PBS profiles
controversial Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

TV column for Monday, May 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelorette” opener, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Channing Dungey is
used to breaking barriers, but this seemed distant. The first black
to lead a major network, she was asked about a black bachelor or
bachelorette. It might take a while, she said, because they're
usually chosen from runners-up; first, “we need to increase the
pool of diverse candidates.”

And then, less than
a year later, it all worked out: Rachel Lindsay, 31, a Dallas lawyer,
shot to the top, finishing third on “The Bachelor”; she was
promptly chosen for “Bachelorette.” After 33 editions – 21
“Bachelor,” 12 “Bachelorette” -- there's finally a black
person at the core.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice” (NBC) or “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8
p.m.

Two reality
powerhouses have their final night of competition, before naming
their champions on Tuesday. For “Stars,” two athletes –
football's Rashad Jennings, 32, and baseball's David Ross, 40 –
face singer Normani Kordei, 20, of Fifth Harmony.

And “Voice”?
Blake Shelton has dominated so far, with five of the past 10 winners;
now he has a 50/50 chance of doing it again. In the final four, he
has Lauren Duski and Aliyah Moulden; Adam Levine has Jesse Larson and
Alicia Keys has Chris Blue.

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

What started as a
quirkily adequate show has evolved into buoyant fun, as its side
characters develop. At the center is Lucifer -- glad to be here after
all those millennia in Hell -- and his brother. And now, a week
before the season-finale, there's the rich humor of their
scheming-but-daft mother (Tricia Helfer).

She's obsessed with
a flaming sword that could pierce the gate of Heaven. Meanwhile,
Lucifer bungles things with his therapist (Rachael Harris) and has a
fierce fight with Maze, who has anger issues.

Other choices
include:

“The Lost World”
(1997), 5:57 p.m., AMC. This “Jurassic Park” sequel starts a
mixed movie night. At 8 p.m., Showtime reruns Sunday's “Twin Peaks”
opener; at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has the 1962 movie that
was at the center of the “Feud” miniseries: “Whatever Happened
to Baby Jane?”

“Princess Diana:
Her Life, Her Death, the Truth,” 8-10 p.m., CBS. Having wrapped up
its Monday shows a week early, CBS has this documentary and then a
“Carpool Karaoke” special.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. What's the record for most gore in an 8 p.m. show based on
a comic book? This one – with a beheading, a behanding and lots
of fights – is somewhere up there. Also, it's no shown two
characters apparently being killed ... then returning blithely. All
of this is done with such cinematic richness that it takes a while to
grumble about the excess.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m.,CW. When the show moved to Vancouver, it lost one of its best
characters. That's Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), Supergirl's old
boss. She did the season's first two episodes, skipped the rest and
returned last week. Now she offers some advice as Supergirl battles
Rhea (Teri Hatcher). Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), Supergirl's cousin,
is also there.

“Jane the Virgin”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. It's time for Jane's birth parents to
marry. Since this is television, problems abound. Rogelio gets slme
shocking news; Jane scrambles to find the right words to say at the
wedding. Meanwhile, Petra makes a rash decision and Rafael tells
Luisa to leave.

“Carpool Karaoke,”
10 p.m., CBS. Last year's hour won the Emmy for best variety special,
so here's another one. James Corden opens with a musical number and
reflects on highlights this seson. Also, Katy Perry sings in the car
with him and Jennifer Lopez takes a Toddlerography dance class.

“Better Call
Saul,” 10 p.m., AMC. Jimmy tries to settle his debts. Also, Mike
makes a connections while helping Stacey with a project.

TV column for Sunday, May 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Billboard Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC (also, both 5 and 8 p.m.
PT).

The final Sunday of
the TV season brings a cascade of music. There are performances by
veterans – Cher, who's getting the Icon Award, Celine Dion marking
the 20th anniversary of “Titanic” -- and more.

The Chainsmokers and
Drake lead with 22 nominations apiece. They'll perform; so will Miley
Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran, Lorde, Sam Hunt, John
Legend, Camilla Cabello, Imagine Dragons and Florida Georgia Line.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Call the Midwife” season-finale, 8 p.m., PBS.

Even if you haven't
been watching “Midwife,” you can easily slide into this episode.
Like most of its season-finales, it raises the stakes; there's love,
marriage, birth, death and profound transitions.

In 1962 London, the
clinic has started giving birth-control pills. One of the midwives is
getting ready for her first child, after a mid-life marriage to the
doctor. Another is marrying the vicar. There are heartbreaking
moments and then a great finish. A tad simplified at times, “Midwife”
stirs emotions.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season-finales, everywhere.

This is a night to
alert your recording devices and clear your schedule. Most shows are
wrapping up; we'll mention some of them individually, but first,
let's take an overview.

It's “America's
Funniest Home Videos” at 7 p.m. on ABC and “Bob's Burgers” at
7:30 on Fox ... which wraps “Simpsons” at 8, “Making History at
8:30 and “Family Guy” at 9. CBS has “Madam Secretary” at 9
and “Elementary” at 10; AMC has “Into the Badlands” at 10.
And two dramas have two-episode finales -- NBC's “Shades of Blue”
at 9 and 10, Lifetime's “Mary Kills People” at 10:02 and 11:02.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Twin Peaks,” 9 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at 11
p.m. and 1 a.m.

Back in 1990, “Twin
Peaks” was a prototype for imaginative shows – from “Sopranos”
to “Fargo” -- in a short-run format. It was also a reminder of
what can go wrong when that's overextended.

Now it's back, with
the same director (David Lynch), writers (Lynch and Mark Frost) and
stars, including Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook and
Russ Tamblyn. The two-hour opener finds that the Homecoming queen has
been killed. That sort of thing happens in Twin Peaks.

Other choices
include:

“12 Monkeys,”
8-11 p.m., Syfy. A grand experiment concludes, with an entire 10-hour
season in one three-day stretch. Our time-traveler continues trying
to stop a virus that will shatter society.

“Making History,”
8:30, Fox. Now for a cheerier view of time-travel. This clever show –
which, alas, has been cancelled – has seen Dan bounce through time
with his girlfriend Deb Revere, Paul's daughter. His schemes caused
his friend Chris to lose his faculty job; now he tries to deal with
Chris' boss (Ben Vereen). Also, Deb tries to get John Hancock and Sam
Adams to return to their era.

“Family Guy,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Chris' girlfriend has been deported. He plans to
watch her twins for a while, but when she can't make it back, the
family takes them to Mexico. Then comes a new complication ... via
Peter's past as a sperm donor.

“Masterpiece,” 9
p.m., PBS. Here's a rare mis-step for a quality series. It's based on
the true story of the first Englishwoman to become a famous serial
killer. That's not a cheery subject, but “Dark Angel” takes it
extremes, creating a dark and dreary monotone.

“Shades of Blue,”
9 and 10 p.m., NBC. This intense season has centered on one of the
many lies by Harlee (Jennifer Lopez). She killed her abusive
ex-lover, buried the body and said he'd moved away. Now an obsessive
FBI man nears the truth, just as Harlee's boss (Ray Liotta) confronts
a betrayer.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. This show's fictional crises seem even
trickier than the real-life ones. Tonight, Russia attacks Bulgaria,
but France jeopardizes NATO by refusing to take action.

“Elementary.” 10
p.m., CBS. This could be the last new episode for a half-year or
more. CBS has ordered a new season, but not for the fall; tonight, a
gang war erupts in New York.