TV column for Friday, April 29


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hell's Kitchen” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

The final two chefs
share one thing with host Gordon Ramsay – a complicated childhood.
For Ariel Malone – a country-club chef from Hackensack, N.J. -- the
tricky part was fitting in. At her school, she's said, she was the
only Jew and one of about five blacks.

For Kristin Barone,
who grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., there was more. She's said she
was under house arrest (for unspecified reasons) when her probation
officer suggested cooking. She went on to culinary school and became
a line cook in Chicago. Now the winner gets a head-chef job in Las
Vegas.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Many of us can
empathize with Drew Wu. Surrounded by monsters at his job, he's a
normal human.

Or, at least, he was
until he was scratched during a recent fight. Now Wu, a police
sergeant, is showing wolf-like urges; tonight, a fight gets him into
trouble. Meawhile, Adalind meets the mysterious Bonaparte and is
forced to make a choice; also, Hank's relationship with Zuri deepens.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The National Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In the midst of the
Depression and the pre-war years, the parks got big boosts. Franklin
Roosevelt was a major supporter ... as his distant relative (fifth
cousin) Theodore had been. He pushed for parks in the Everglades of
Florida, the Tetons of Wyoming and the High Sierra of California.

And he launched the
Civilian Conservation Corps. For almost a decade, the CCC had as many
as 300,000 young men at a time, planting trees and building or
upgrading parks, national and local. That story helps lead to
Saturday's finale, in this rerun of Ken Burns' superb documentary
series.

Other choices
include:

“Captain America:
The Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
(2015), 7 and 9:20 p.m., Starz; or “Thor” (2011), 8-11 p.m., FX.
Marvel characters are taking over our TV screens. The surge began
when Kenneth Branagh directed “Thor,” with fellow Shakespearean
Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Tonight, we can also catch Captain America on
his own or with Thor and his other action pals

“Shark Tank,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC. Now that “Last Man Standing” and “Dr. Ken”
have finished their seasons, this show gets two hours. Tentative
plans call for a rerun and a new episode – including a fresh way
for people to access umbrellas during the rain.

“The Amazing
Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week saw the elimination of Zach King (a
video-editing whiz on the Vine site) and his wife Rachel, barely
nipped by Frisbee guys Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson. Two weeks from
the finale, five duos remain.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. There's more action, with “Terminator 3” (2003) on IFC.
Also, there's the brilliant satiric comedy “Pleasantville” (1998)
on TV Land. And three dandy light adventures -- “Red” (2010) on
TNT, “Ocean's Eleven” (2001) on AMC and the delightful
“Ghostbusters” (1984) on VH1.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A college student has been kidnapped by a dangerous
vigilante. Also, Max (Masi Oka) is shipwrecked with Flippa and
Kamekona.

“Nothing Left
Unsaid,” 9 p.m., CNN. Here's perfect synergy: As soon as Anderson
Cooper finishes his own show (8 p.m.), we see this involving
documentary, which was originally on HBO; it's a memoir with Cooper
and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a witness flees, Erin searches for him, helped by
the department's investigator (Steve Schirripa of “Sopranos”).
Also, her brother Danny probes a convenience-store robbery and their
father Frank, the police commissioner, is urged to attend a Police
Union party.

TV column for Thursday, April 28


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

After a weak episode
last week, “Bones” bounces has one that's strong – albeit with
lots of gore and a “to be continued” story. It starts with
Christine (Booth and Bailey's daughter) imagining a monster in the
closet ... then reminds us that there are real monsters that could
invade their home.

Hodgins is still
surly, but it's no longer a relentless monotone. And adding Karen
(Sara Rue), the semi-loopy profiler, adds some fun to a darkly
involving tale.

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

Recent episodes, all
terrific, introduced Adam (William Fichtner). After overcoming
reluctance about his wheelchair, Bonnie (Allison Janney) is falling
for him ... except that now she suspects he's cheating.

Meanwhile, Christy
is determined to take her final exams, on a day when she's very sick;
it's a going-to-the-hospital kind of sick. In a week when CBS has
been switching around its “Big Bang” episodes, “Mom” provides
a dependable comedy choice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, Comedy Central.

The movies have put
a fresh spotlight on gifted Comedy Central stars. First was
“Trainwreck” with Amy Schumer; tonight, Key & Peele's “Keanu”
reaches theaters. Now the channel has both acts.

“Key & Peele”
reruns (7:52 to 10 p.m.) are followed by “Inside Amy Schumer”
episodes – a new one (including a “Game of Thrones” sketch) at
10 p.m. and last week's sometimes-hilarious season-opener at 10:30.
After the dandy “Daily Show” and more, “Adam DeVine's House
Party” returns at 12:31 a.m., mixing good sitcom moments and
stand-up comedy that's fairly good, especially from Jen D'Angelo.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. On the relationship front, there's optimism – Meredith
urges Amelia and Owen to take a chance and become a real couple –
and despair: Callie and Arizona manage to put their friends into the
middle of their disagreement.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Mellie scrambles to get the key endorsement of the Florida
governor. Meanwhile, Olivia and Abby are locked in a public-image war
and Cyrus faces a key decision.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Fans are still dealing with the recent jolts. Two weeks
ago, Liz was apparently killed; last week was set somewhere in Red's
cloudy, confused mind. Tonight deals with a funeral, a burial and
chasing the assailants; also, Red deals with someone who knows his
secrets.

“Hoff the Record,”
9 p.m., AXS. This clever series has David Haselhoff playing a
fictional version of himself, clueless and broke. Now his manager has
booked a concert with a Balkans man who is either (versions vary) a
community leader or a warlord. Some fairly funny moments set up next
week's finale.

“Game of Secrets,”
10 p.m., NBC. In the first two episodes, the guys tried to keep the
crisis – which goes back to their juvenle-detention days – to
themselves. Tonight, the women learn more: Gil finally tells his
lover Jessie; Jackson (Jessie's long-ago boyfriend) tells his
fiancee. There are some strong moments, once we get past Gil's
overdrawn character; and, in the final minutes, there are surprises.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. Alice (Mireille Enos) makes a dangerous move at Ben (Peter
Krauss), the man who scammed her. Meanwhile, her firm represents a
female Army captain who was harassed.

AND MORE: The first
round of the pro-football draft starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The
fourth chapter of “National Parks” -- encompassing the rise of
vacations-by-car – is 9-11 p.m. on most PBS stations. And at 10,
FX's “Archer” has a funny episode, the first half of a tale about
stopping jewelry robbers.

TV column for Wednesday, April 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

As last week's
episode ended, a high-stakes crisis was beginning. Martha knows her
husband “Clark” is really a KGB agent who tricked her into using
her job to spying on the FBI. She simply walked out.

Now the FBI wants to
arrest her, the KGB wants to whisk her out of the country ... but
neither can find her. This is a strong, taut hour ... which suddenly
goes limp, two-thirds of the way through. A scene with three
teen-agers seems wildly misplaced; other scenes slow to half-speed
... but do lead to a quietly telling scene between Philip (the fake
“Clark”) and his other wife, the KGB's Elizabeth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.

The families on
ABC's Wednesday comedies seem to have lots of neighbor problems. On
“Modern Family,” the Dunphys clashed with Ronny and Amy, who had
a boat in their front yard; on “Middle,” little Frankie (Patricia
Heaton) faced the towering and brassy Rita Glossner, played by Brooke
Shields.

Now Frankie has a
new problem: Mike and friends built her a a patio; she wants to relax
there ... but the neighbor kids make it difficult. Meanwhile, Sue and
Lexie have a dorm room that's great – almost.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Few Good Men” (1992), 7-10 p.m., WGN America; or
“The American President” (1995), 8:31 to 11 p.m., Pop.

Aaron Sorkin has
become the great American screenwriter, with an Oscar (“Social
Network”), Emmy (“West Wing”) and Golden Globe (“Steve
Jobs”). Now we can revisit the start of his career.

“Men” was a
Broadway hit that took him to Hollywood; with Rob Reiner's perfect
direction and a great cast, it was nominated for a best-picture
Oscar. “President” re-linked him with Reiner, this time for a
lighter tale of love amid romance. It also whetted appetites: Michael
J. Fox liked playing a political staffer, so he went on to “Spin
City”; Sorkin liked writing about politics, so he created “West
Wing.”

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the show ousted its biggest contestant – Scot
Pollard, 6'11, who was on five teams over an 11-year pro-basketball
career. That cuts the original “brawn” tribe to two people, the
same as “brains”; “beauty” has three.

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's time to re-save a life; a heart-transplant patient
has been seriously injured in a car crash. The case brings strong
memories for Alex, Jesse and Millicent.

“The National
Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Already a successful
businesman, Stephen Mather struggled with bipolar disorder and found
solace in nature. He began pushing for a separate National Park
Service, which was created on Aug. 25, 1916. This chapter of Ken
Burtns' splendid film views the early years with Mather in charge,
including his struggle to add the Grand Canyon.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Hakeem faces problems from a generation above and below.
On one side, his dad (Lucious) is maneuvering to take away his
leadership of the record label; on the other, there's the son that's
on the way, via Anika. Hakeem ponders what he really thinks of being
a dad.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, everyone has the same idea at the same time:
Sneak into an elegant house that Phil is selling.

“Time Traveling
Bong,” 9:30-11 p.m., Comedy Central. If you missed this
three-parter last week, you can see the whole thing in one gulp now.
As the name suggests, it's goofy, ragged and mostly fun.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Desperate to get Maddie back without going to the courts,
Rayna and Deacon even ask for Teddy's help in prison. Also,
Juliette's tour success stokes Layla's jealousy.

“Underground,”
10 p.m., WGN America. The seven runaway slaves have reached Kentucky
now, with Rosalee and Cato trying a daring scheme to get the medicine
needed for Cato's wounds.

TV column for Tuesday, April 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 8, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

In a late (and wise)
switch, Fox is airing the episode that followed the 2014 Super Bowl.
That finds Jess and Cece landing an invitation to Prince's party ...
which the guys vowed to crash. It's a pretty good episode; more
importantly, it gives us another chance to see the late Prince.

Also, it reminds us
that this is a fun show. Earlier tonight, “New Girl: has two
versions of a sitcom staple – the bachelor party gone bad. The
first is for Schmidt (8 p.m.), the second for Cece (8:30).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat,” 8 p.m., ABC.

You rarely get a
really funny episode about choosing a name. Here, however, that works
perfectly.

The Huangs have
Korean names, endowed with deep meaning ... and American ones chosen
rather frivolously. This episode has funny accounts of why the
parents are Jessica and Louis; it shows how random the kids' names
are ... and reflects Eddie's dreams of a being a mogul with a
street-smart name. It includes basketball stars Jalen Rose and
Shaquille O'Neal, plus a funny final bit with Grandma Jenny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Grandfathered,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

This funny-enough
show has had one obstacle: Jimmy (John Stamos) – handsome,
prosperous and sort of shallow – has been tough to empathize with.
Now, after a six-week break, that's tackled head-on.

We flash back a
year, to when he was, in Sara's words, “a vapid shell of a man ...
a stunning shell, (but) just an abyss of emptiness and
self-obsession.” We glimpse his demanding dad (Paul Sorvino) and
the life he rebuilt after learning he has a son (Sara's boy) and a
granddaughter. After a parade of women he kept forgetting, he's now
dating a big-time executive. We're starting to warm up to him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Manager,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Jonathan (Tom
Hiddleston) was a quiet manager at an upscale hotel, when he found a
document showing Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) selling weapons to
terrorists, he contacted British officials, who ignored him. One
mid-level official, however, was impressed. Tonight – in the second
chapter of this John le Carre tale -- she envisions wedging him deep
inside Roper's inner circle.

It's an ambitious
plan that seems to require both brilliance and sheer luck. Tonight's
hour strains credibility; the reward, however, is a chance to see two
subtly gifted actors in an epic story.

Other choices
include:

“American
Experience” and “The National Parks,” 8 p.m. and 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Two compelling films rerun. The first tells
of the 1910 fire that took three million Northwest acres; it also
describes Ed Pulaski, struggling valiantly to save his firefighters.
Then is the second chapter of Ken Burns' film, now eyeing the years
shortly before the 1916 formation of the National Parks Service.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a seaman has been killed before testifying to a
grand jury. Probing the case, the team finds a human-trafficking ring
that was believed to have been stopped years ago.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. There are serious things to worry about,
with an apparent suicide that may have been a murder. Still,
colleagues have time to give Pride an Internet-dating profile.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. Last week, we saw the start of a fierce virus in an Atlanta
hospital. Officials rushed to set up a quarantine zone, possibly
dooming everyone inside. In a fairly good episode tonight, we see the
aftershocks: Lex, a heroic cop, is outside the wall, fretting about
those inside – including his girlfriend Jana and his friend Jake.
Now there's a new crisis: A teen-ager partied with the family of
“patient zero”; she hasn't been found and could be outside the
containment zone.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Severide has been watching Holloway's young son at the
fire station, while she testifies in court. Now, however, that leads
to a tough situation.

ALSO: TV and movies
have gradually learned to appreciate rock music. For the old days,
catch Tuesday Weld's low-budget “Rock Rock Rock!” (1956) at 8
p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies. In modern times, TV has focused on
Prince's legacy? At 8 and 9 p.m. ET, AXS reruns a “Rock Legends”
hour on him and then the documentary, “Slave Trade: How Prince
Re-made the Music Business.”

TV column for Monday, April 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

No show works harder
than “Jane” to keep us entertained. It has the narrator's
interjections, terse and funny ... And words popping up on the screen
... And tonight, it even adds variations on silent-movie scenes. All
of those -- plus gorgeous sets -- supplement a hyper-busy,
telenovela-style plot.

Tonight, that plot
slows down (until the final minutes), to allow some well-crafted
character moments. There's an ethical crisis for Jane and a career
crisis for her fiance Michael. And the arrival of Petra's twin
continues to bring both humor and drama – two things “Jane”
does well.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Mike & Molly” return, 8 p.m., CBS.

After five years of
adequate ratings – and after movie stardom for Melissa McCarthy –
this comedy's final season has been ignored. CBS ran six episodes in
January and February, then re-shelved it.

Now the final seven
will air; there's one tonight, then two apiece for the next three
Mondays. Tonight, Mike (Billy Gardell) finds a stray dog; Molly
(McCarthy) has trouble warming up to it.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The National Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In 1903, two
remarkable men visited the Yosemite Valley. John Muir was a Scottish
native, a nature activist and, at times, a loner; Theodore Roosevelt
was president. They walked, talked, camped and observed; Roosevelt
soon expanded Yosemite National Park and more.

Interest kept
growing; on Aug. 25, 1916, a separate National Parks Service was
created. As the 100th anniversary nears, PBS reruns Ken
Burns' superb six-night, 12-hour documentary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Lucifer” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week, Lucifer
faced duo threats – a venomous preacher and Malcolm Graham, the
corrupt cop who died and was retrieved from Hell. Then the preacher's
body was found and Lucifer was arrested.

And tonight? Some of
the urgency is lost, because too many characters have supernatural
solutions. At the core, however, is Chloe, a cop who's a mere human.
Tonight, things get personal and scary for her.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week was “switch-up” time, with
new partners and no elimination; all nine celebrities remain.
Tonight, they re-create dances from “Footloose,” “Hairspray,”
“Slumdog Millionaire,” music videos and more.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Bruce Wayne gets closer to learning who's behind the
murder of his parents. Also, Detective Gordon tries to get
information from someone who was close to Galavan.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8:30, CBS. Here's a funny rerun, from the stretch when
Sheldon and Amy had split. She hesitantly tries a second date with
Dave, played by “Office” co-creator Stephen Merchant.

“Scorpion”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. In two previous episodes, Joshua Leonard
(“Blair Witch Project”) played a former team member. Now he's
back, kidnapping Toby.

“Why They Hate
Us,” 9 p.m., CNN, rerunning at midnight. With calm precision, Fareed Zakaria views the
history of trouble between Americans and Muslims. He goes back to
1949, when a conservative visitor was shocked by dancing and kissing
in Greeley, Colo.; he views modern times, when an American-born
zealot retains Internet power, five years after his death. In this
strong hour – scheduled for April 11, then delayed -- Zakaria finds
some hate-filled passages in the Koran ... and similar ones in the
Old Testament.

“Turn”
season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC. It's 1778 now and this spy business is
serious; we're reminded of that with chilling moments at the
beginning and end of the hour. In between, Abe – revolutionary spy
in a crown-supporting family – has a tough project and a giant
colleague: Angus MacFadyen has played other epic characters, from
Blackbeard to Zeus; now he's great as Robert Rogers, the fierce
turncoat.