TV column for Tuesday, May 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Roseanne,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Many of us doubted
this notion of reviving a show that has been gone for 20 years. ABC
only took eight episodes, tossed into the last gasps of the season.
Then, instantly, “Roseanne” soared.

This episode shows
why. An almost-perfect half-hour (except for some oafish moments for
Jackie), it leaps nimbly from broad comedy to sharp one-liners and
some moments of solid drama. Most shows have no feeling for
blue-collar, modest-income life; in this episode, all those details –
health benefits, co-pays, waitress jobs – are crucial. They lead to
some revealing moments ... and to some big laughs.

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

A terrific series
ends just the way it should – often weirdly funny, occasionally
just weird.

The first half-hour
starts with the world's worst wedding toast and ends with one of the
world's worst baby names. In between are a wedding curse and a mom
(Jamie Lee Curtis) who assures Jess: “You'll get it right next
time.” The second episode has lots of strange things about moving
out of the loft. It has sharp lines -- “You know who else liked
balconies? Hitler” -- a flashforward and a truly odd twist.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rise” season-finale, 9:01 p.m., NBC.

Everything has
pointed to this moment: In a hard-scrabble town, a high school opens
the gritty musical, “Spring Awakening.” Along the way, we've seen
deep personal troubles for the actors and their families. The
directors had a big fight; the principal demanded sharp cuts in the
play.

At times, this has
seemed wildly unlikely. Still, there's a subtle brilliance to the
dialog, the directing and the acting. This finale leaves us with
mixed emotions, but with respect for a great craftsmanship.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Attending a memorial service for a friend lost at sea, Gibbs has
key questions: Was there foul play? And is the guy really dead?

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. On Monday, the final eight contestants sang and viewers
voted. Tonight, the top three will advance to next week's finale and
the bottom two will be ousted. Then the three who are in-between will
compete for the remaining spot in the final four.

“Cinderella,” 8
p.m., TNT. Kenneth Branagh, not usually a fairy-tale guy, directed
this gorgeous film. There are other good 8 p.m. movies -- “The
Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) on AMC, “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011) on
CMT – but HBO's “Snatched” is only so-so, despite Amy Schumer
and Goldie Hawn.

“The Middle,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. A week from the finale of a terrific, nine-year
series, Frankie is desperate to keep everyone together. She tries to
convince Axl not to take a job in Denver.

“Black-ish”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC. This show startled viewers by having the
parents separate. Tonight, Dre has a sleek dream-house in the canyon,
but Bow things it's a bad place for the kids to visit.

“NCIS: New
Orleans” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. Like many TV heroes,
Pride (Scott Bakula) bends the rules; unlike most, he faces a grand
jury indictment for abuse of power. Now he assembles a team that
includes a hacker (Tom Arnold), a lawyer, a journalist and a retired
Green Beret.

“Chicago Med”
season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC. Well, at least no one can be accused of
overacting. An absurd number of huge events are packed into this
hour, many of them involving people the doctors already know. The
characters seem not just stoic, but almost unaware. While
experiencing a cascade of tragedy and triumph, pretty people reveal
little urge to emote.

TV column for Monday, May 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Superior Donuts” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

For two seasons,
“Donuts” has had a precarious balance – smart dialog from its
lead characters, alongside buffoonish behavior from the others. A
sampling shows that will continue tonight.

No one seems happy
that Franco will spend the summer in Italy, studying art with his
girlfriend Tavi. Arthur frets about hiring a summer sub ... Sofia
regrets not expressing her own feelings for Franco ... and everyone
feels Tavi's all wrong for him. Then a crisis causes people to
rethink their lives.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

A week from the
final performance, Blake Shelton is in good shape again.

In the first 13
editions, Shelton has had six winners, Adam Levine has had three, no
one else has had more than one. Now we're down to the final eight
singers – three with Shelton, two apiece with Alicia Keys and Kelly
Clarkson and (uncharacteristically) only one with Levine. Tonight,
they sing and viewers vote. On Tuesday, we'll learn who will be in
the final four next Monday and Tuesday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Royal Wedding Watch,” 10 p.m., PBS.

On one hand, PBS
doesn't usually pay much attention to weddings; on the other, it pays
A LOT of attention to all things British. So now it has new hours at
10 p.m. through Thursday and 10:30 Friday.

Meredith Vieira
joins British co-host Matt Baker in London, with Anita Rani in
Windsor, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are scheduled to have
their ceremony at 7 a.m. ET Saturday. The hosts will talk to experts,
including Lucy Worsley, the chief curator for rhe royal palaces.

Other choices
include:

“The Hunger Games”
(2012) and its sequel (2013), 5 and 8 p.m., TNT. Here's a night of
big-deal adventure. Other top movies are “Forrest Gump” (1994) at
7:45 on Freeform and “Steel Magnolias” (1989) at 8 p.m. on Pop.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Fresh from its hilarious
season-finale Thursday, “Big Bang” brightens Monday with two
reruns. The first mixes people, getting fresh results when Sheldon
bonds with Penny and Leonard with Amy. The second throws Raj into a
dangerous triangle, with Beth Behrs (“2 Broke Girls”) as his
lover and Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as her unhappy husband.

“Lucifer”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. A sudden death leaves people in shock,
while the try to find the killer. Then, Fox says, Lucifer has an
ephiphany and Maze tries to mend a friendship.

“Harry and Meghan:
A Royal Romance,” 8-10:06 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a quick rerun of
Sunday's movie, adding some behind-the-scenes footage with stars
Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley. It's followed by reruns of a
documentary (10:06 p.m.) and the movie (11:02).

“The Resident”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox. When Nic (Emily VanCamp) tried to catch
the misdeeds of Dr. Hunter (Melina Kanakaredes), the doctor
retaliated by sabotaging Nic's work. In a desperate attempt to help,
Conrad needs a favor from someone he promised never to ask.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. People really aren't supposed to be killed during
Revolutionary War re-enactments, you know. When someone is, Holmes
and Watson investigate.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. For six seasons on “The
Americans,” Keri Russell has played a lethal Soviet spy, embedded
in 1980s America. Now, as the show nears its finale, she tries
another challenge – tackling volcanic rocks and a mysterious canyon
on the Canary Islands. Meals – crickets, plus undigested seeds from
a pigeon carcass – aren't up to Hollywood standards.

 

TV column for Sunday, May 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Little Women,” 8 p.m., PBS; concludes next Sunday.

Some 150 years after
she was created, Jo March still grabs viewers and compels actresses.
She's been played by Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson and Winona Ryder
in movies, Susan Dey on TV, Sutton Foster in a Broadway musical. Now
Maya Hawke – in her first film role – is perfect.

There are top pros –
Angela Lansbury, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, Dylan Baker – in
support, but this is about the sisters, especially Jo. At 15, she
tries to follow society's rules ... yet somehow soars above them.
It's a great role that Hawke – daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan
Hawke – masters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Timeless” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

After her heroics
with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman became a scout and a
spy for the Union during the Civil War. Now the time-travelers swoop
in to help her.

The evil Rittenhouse
team promptly strikes back. In the second episode, Jiha – the
engineer who helped create the time machine – has been captured.
She escapes, but finds herself helpless in San Francisco's Chinatown
in 1888. Her colleagues try to save her.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Mother's day shows.

The surprise is
“Good Witch,” at 9 p.m. on Hallmark. This Mother's Day episode is
all about fathers. A bad dad visits Abigail, decades after leaving
her. A future dad frets that he won't be worthy. And a future stepdad
has a fine moment. It's a so-so hour, but does have some warmth.

If you prefer
something about mothers, Pop has “Stepmom” (1998) at 7 p.m. and
“Steel Magnolias” (1989) at 10. Turner Classic Movies has
“Sounder” (1972) at 3:30 p.m. ET, “I Remember Mama” (1948) at
5:30, “Mildred Pierce” (1945) at 8 and “Stella Dallas” (1937)
at 10:30.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Unforgotten” finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS.

The first two
episodes introduced four good people – a teacher, a nurse, a
lawyer, a cop – linked to a bad thing: One of them murdered an
abusive jerk, a generation ago.

Now we learn who did
it. This isn't original; it borrows key ideas from great mysteries in
the past. It is, however, beautifully written and subtly played,
providing a compelling finish.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers,”
7, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. It's a three-episode night, with only the
first one a rerun. The third is a Mother's Day tale, enmeshing the
family in a real-estate scheme.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The final five perform and viewers vote. Next Sunday,
the two-night finale will begin.

“Harry &
Meghan: A Royal Romance,” 8-10:22 p.m., Lifetime. Six days before
the royal wedding, Prince Harry is played by newcomer Murray Fraser.
Meghan Markle is Parisa Fitz-Henley, a Jamaican-born actress who was
Reva on “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones” and Fiji in
“Midnight, Texas.”

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The victim in a federal-prison murder was
the adopted daughter of a notorious counterfeiter. The team
investigates.

“Million Dollar
American Princesses,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian; also 11:15. This show
has had fascinating looks at Americans who married royally. Now it
profiles Markle and adds historical perspective.

“The Royals”
season-finale, 10 p.m., E. Things look iffy for King Robert: Willow,
his bride-to-be, has doubts ...; Others are planning a coup .... And
his mom has a hair-yanking fight with Willow's mom.

TV column for Saturday, May 12


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

Fresh from a
terrific outing last week with Donald Glover and a cascade of guests,
“SNL” hopes to close its season with two strong, female-driven
weeks.

Each has a smart
writer-producer-actress as host – Amy Schumer tonight, Tina Fey
(the former “SNL” head writer) next week. Kacey Musgreaves is
tonight's music guest, with Nicki Minaj next week.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) and “Frozen” (2013), 6:55
and 9 p.m., Freeform.

Here are two
box-office champions, giving us a family-friendly double-feature. One
is live-action, the other is animated, but both offer gorgeous
visuals and zesty songs.

“Beast” took its
songs from the 1991 cartoon, adding a lush look; “Frozen” had
original songs, including thr Oscar-winning “Let It Go.” Both
scored big. One source (boxofficemojo.com) puts them at No. 12 and 11
respectively, all-time; combined, they made $905 million in the U.S.
and Canada, $1.64 billion worldwide. You can also catch them at 2:55
and 5 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Patrick Melrose” opener, 9 p.m., Showtime,
repeating at 10 and 11,

For any good actor,
this is a dream project; for some good viewers, it's a nightmare. By
the end of the first hour, Benedict Cumberbatch has pushed his
immense talent in every direction. It's an amazing performance;
whether it's an enjoyable one depends on the viewer's attitude.

The normal approach
– empathy for a protagonist – won't work. We must dismiss Patrick
(at least in this opener) as a lost cause – a rich junkie, wading
in self-pity. Then we can even be amused. “Life isn't just a bag of
(crap), but a leaky one,” he says. Replies the bellboy: “That is
the general consensus, sir.”

Other choices
include:

“The Lion in
Winter” (1968) and “The Fortune Cookie” (1966), 5:30 and 8 p.m.
ET, Turner Classic Movies. These two – a grand historical drama and
a black-and-white comedy – are total opposites. But each has an
Oscar-winning performance, from Katharine Hepburn and Walter Matthau,
respectively.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, the final seven singers perform. On
Sunday – a week before the two-night finale – a new episode will
have the five survivors.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. On Friday, we'll have a new champion.
For now, this rerun has the kids cooking for alumni of the show ...
and then making dishes inspired by their grandmothers.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. This show is about Eric, a hostage negotiator; in its
second season, most of the hostages seem to be his kin. There was his
daughter ... and then Eric himself ... and now his mother, a renowned
surgeon who's kidnapped and told to perform heart surgery on a crime
boss.

“Dunkirk”
(2017), 8 p.m., HBO. Last year, films rediscovered a defining moment
in history. “Dunkirk” viewed it on the ground, with soldiers and
laymen; “Finest Hour” viewed it from the top, with Winston
Churchill. Each drew an Oscar nomination for best picture; “Finest
Hour” won for Gary Oldman's performance and his makeup, “Dunkirk”
won in three technical categories. “Dunkirk” was also a
box-office hit, so our grumbling – great visuals, little story –
can be ignored.

“Nate &
Jeremiah By Design,” 9:06 p.m., TLC. The guys redesign the main
room of a youth homeless shelter. That's followed at 10:09 by a
rerun, with a client who's had six years of contractor woes.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 11 p.m., Fox. This offers an amiable mix of serious
singers (some of them superb), quirky novelties and Steve Harvey's
offbeat hosting. Here's a rerun of the May 3 hour.

TV column for Friday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Meghan Markle: An American Princess,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

We're eight days
from the wedding of Prince Harry and Markle – an uncommon commoner
who recently had a fictional wedding on “Suits.” Naturally, the
networks are gearing.

CBS had its Markle
special last Friday; Lifetime and Smithsonian will have theirs on
Sunday ... a day before PBS starts a “Royal Wedding Watch” week.
Tonight, it's Fox's turn. This documentary includes people from
Markle's past and her half-sister; it also has journalist Piers
Morgan and Paul Burrell, who was Princess Diana's butler.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Blue Bloods” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

For eight seasons,
this has provided a sturdy cap for one of TV's finest hours. It's at
its best when it finds a way to involve the entire family – Frank,
the police commissioner; his dad, the former commissioner; his sons
Danny and Jamie, both cops; and his daughter Erin, a prosecutor.

That happens
tonight. Six wrongly convicted men have been released, after nine
years in prison. Riddled with guilt, Frank wants his family to probe
the case. Danny wonders if the men have taken revenge with drive-by
shootings; meanwhile, Jamie is caught in a life-threatening
situation.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Live From Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m, PBS.

A four-week series
of intimate concerts wraps up with what was really the starting
point: Producing “Falsettos” for PBS, Andrew Wilk was impressed
by Andrew Rannells, whom he calls “a wickedly charming star.” He
suggested a concert special, then added ones with three more Broadway
stars.

The others –
Sutton Foster, Leslie Odom Jr., Stephanie J. Block – already had
shows ready; Rannells, Wilk said, “had no show, so he had to build
his from the ground up.” Here it is; Rannells – who has Tony
nominations from “Book of Mormon” and “Falsettos” and was
Elijah on “Girls” -- performs.

Other choices
include:

Bridezillas,” 7
p.m., WE TV. After this hour, you can catch a double-feature of
wedding troubles on E, with “27 Dresses” (2008) at 8 p.m. and
“Bridesmaids” (2011) at 10:30. Try to not let Harry and Meghan
watch TV tonight. If they do, they might cancel the wedding.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. The curse has been broken and the people of
Hyperion Heights are celebrating ... which may be premature. The Wish
Rumple has a scheme to preserve the Dark One powers. Henry, Roni,
Weaver and Rogers travel to the dark realm, setting up next week's
series finale.

“Undercover Boss:
Celebrity Edition” debut, 8 p.m., CBS. Here's an idea that was
tested last season (with singer Darius Rucker) and worked well:
Disguise a celebrity, who can then meet – and sometimes mentor --
aspiring talent. That starts wit Gabrielle Douglas, the
Olympic-champion gymnast.

“Inside Out”
(2015), 8:30 p.m., Disney. This smartly written comedy leads a busy
night for animated movies. At 8 p.m., Nickelodeon has “Happy Feet
Two” (2011); at 8:50, Freeform has “Brave” (2012).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Terry O'Quinn, the “Lost” star, is back as Joe
White, who was McGarrett's mentor. He's held captive; McGarrett links
with Junior's SEAL team in a rescue attempt.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Daisy's future as “destroyer of the worlds”
could change.

“David Tutera's
Celebrations,” 10:05 p.m., WE. After a night of marital woe
(“Bridezillas,” “Marriage Boot Camp”), we need some cheer.
Dancers Twitch and Allison hire Tutera for a baby shower.