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.

TV column for Tuesday, April 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Trial & Error,” 10:01 and 10:30 p.m., NBC.

For 11 odd – and
often hilarious – episodes, this has offered a defense attorney's
nightmare. He has a gabby defendant (John Lithgow), who keeps
incriminating himself ... a prosecutor (Jayma Mays) who's fiercely
focused ... and an investigator (wonderfully played by Steven Boyer)
who isn't.

Now his prospects
have faded, so he gets his client a witness coach. NBC promises that
the finale – pushed back an hour, to make more room for “The
Voice” -- will tell us who the killer is.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

For once, Ravi gets
a prime plotline. He's a medical examiner whose friends are zombies;
he's good at keeping secrets, which is important now: His former
boss, Katty Kupps, is back and totally clueless about the living
dead. Soon, Ravi scrambles for breakthroughs, medical and romantic.

The
case-of-the-week, involving a new-age philosopher, is so-so, but it's
good to see Ravi have his moments. And it's great to see the terrific
Robert Knepper returning as Blaine's nasty dad; Knepper – who's on
Fox at the same time, playing T-Bag in “Prison Break” -- does
nastiness brilliantly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline” (PBS) and more, 9 p.m.

By coincidence,
everyone takes us inside prisons at 9 p.m. today. Two shows –
fiction on Fox, documentary on Investigation Discovery – are listed
below; then there's this two-hour documentary.

The focus is on
Maine's attempt to reduce the use of solitary confinement. We follow
prisoners – ranging from a lifer to one with a short sentence –
as they go from solitary to the general population.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. By the end of the night, “Voice” will have its
top 12. Six were chosen Monday, with the rest coming via the same
system – two teams perform, viewers choose two from each team, then
each coach adds a third.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) gets the focus when a murder is
linked to a dirt-bike gang he joined during a year-long undercover
operation.

“Pretty Little
Liars” return, 8 p.m., Freeform. The second half of the seventh and
final season begins, with young lives again in chaos. Spencer probes
her connection to Mary Drake; Aria and Ezra ponder their future, now
that Nicole is back. Then come the crises, sending two people to the
hospital. And the mysterious “A.D.” sends a package that reveals
an endgame that may sprawl over the 10 final weeks.

“Prison Break,”
9 p.m., Fox. A feeling of futility hovers over this season. Michael
spent years freeing his brother Linc ... whose life soon crumbled
anyway. Now Michael is in a Yemen prison, simply trying to undo the
project that has consumed years of his life. It's a tough and
disturbing hour.

“Killing Richard
Glossip” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., Investigation Discovery. Slowly –
way too slowly – this documentary takes us through bizarre turf.
Ater a killer confessed, police apparently said he'd get a lighter
sentence if he named a co-conspirator. He named a man who had with no
police record, with no physical evidence against him. Now Glossip has
been imprisoned for almost 20 years and has had three last meals,
before stays of execution. It's a painful (and ongoing) story.

“Imaginary Mary,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. A high-achiever as an adult, Alice never went to a
prom; now she urges her boyfriend's kids to try it. That wraps up a
string of four new ABC comedies.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Sheryl Crow sings two songs -- “By
Myself” and “Halfway There” -- from her new album, but Pride
has other things to listen to; he's wiretapping the mayor.

 

TV column for Monday, April 17


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“24: Legacy” finale, 8 p.m., Fox.

In the hyper-charged
world of “24,” this sort of makes sense: Two well-meaning guys –
Tony Almeida and Eric Carter – are battling each other in a fierce
gunfight. It's sort of like the “Batman vs. Superman” movie --
nonsensical, but creating a spectacular battle.

Carter wants to
return a girl to her dad, who might then spare the life of Rebecca
Ingram. There's much more; the plot is bizarre, the intimate moments
are inept ... but even a sub-par “24” holds our interest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Quantico,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

We know that evil
collaborators have a scheme to unhinge American democracy. But what
is it and where are they aiming? Soon, there's a cross-country
scramble; there are the usual deceptions among lovers and colleagues
... plus a collision of the president (Marcia Cross) and speaker of
the house.

It's a fairly good
story, marred only by the show's one poorly crafted character. That's
Clay, son of the president, leader of the team and a guy who's hard
to believe or to care about.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Killing Richard Glossip,” 9-11 p.m., Investigation
Discovery; and/or “Independent Lens: Seed,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

These documentaries
have a similar impact: Each will enrage you about official or
corporate conduct, yet encourage you with a sea of idealists. One
(way too slow and repetitious, concluding Tuesday) follows a murder
conviction that had scant evidence; the other involves seed-company
monopolies.

Each focuses on the
worthy opposition: Sister Helen Prejean (who was portrayed by Susan
Sarandon in “Dead Man Walking”) and volunteer lawyers fight for
Glossip. People in many places – from Maine to Hawaii, plus Peru,
Norway and native reservations – combine to preserve original,
untampered seeds.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. This is the week of the “playoffs,” with
viewers having most of the say in trimming the field to 12. Tonight,
singers from two of the teams perform; viewers then choose two from
each team to survive and the coach chooses one more.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. We wouldn't want to be the one to tell
Mr. T he has to leave. That's what happened last week, however, on
another strong night for athletes. Rashad Jennings (football) and
Simone Biles (gymnastics) scored highest; David Ross was near the
bottom ... but was able to see (via TV) his former Cub teammates
raise the World Series flag in Chicago.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. Needing extra money, Franco starts working as Fawz's
assistant.

“2 Broke Girls”
season-finale, 9:30, CBS. It's time for the premiere of the movie
based on Caroline's life, as the daughter of a Madoff-type scam
artist. Brad Goreski (playing himself) has red-carpet advice for
Caroline and Max ... who also face big decisions about romance and
their lives at the diner.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. A biodome was designed for possible use on Mars. Now,
however, it's failing and dangerous; while trying to rescue two
scientists, the team is trapped inside.

“Bates Motel,”
10 p.m., A&E, rerunning at 1 a.m. We're a week from the finale,
which will take Norman to the edge of “Psycho.” Tonight, his
legal problems worsen and Romero enacts his revenge.

ALSO: On the
pay-extra channels, this is sort of Sunday II, a chance to see
anything you might have missed yesterday. There are two series debuts
– the intense “Guerrilla” at 8 p.m. on Showtime and “The
White Princess” (a sequel to the excellent “The White Queen”)
at 9 p.m. on Starz. And HBO has two season-openers -- “The
Leftovers” at 10 p.m. and “Veep” at 11:35.