TV column for Wednesday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Things have been
rough, ever since Cookie (Emmy-nominee Taraji Henson) had her
spectacular break-up -- captured on live microphone – with Angelo,
the mayoral candidate. She blames his family for the crisis and takes
things into her own hands; she also eyes a new plan for the Las Vegas
venture.

Meanwhile, one of
her sons (Andre) lashes out; another (Jamal) reaches a breakthrough
on his song.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Season finales, “Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS; or “Black-ish,”
9:31, ABC.

The season doesn't
officially end until two weeks from today, but a few shows are making
an early exit. For “Black-ish,” that allows a clever summer show
(“Downward Dog”) to get an early start next week; tonight detours
from baby-shower plans, after Bow's pregnancy has complications.

And for “Minds,”
the early exit lets its spin-off have two hours next week. Tonight
brings back Shemar Moore, who spent 11 seasons on the show, before
leaving a year ago. He plays Derek Morgan, back with a lead that
might help Reid catch the elusive Mr. Scratch; Jane Lynch returns as
Reid's mother.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Underground” season-finale, 10 p.m. ET, rerunning
at 11, midnight and 1 a.m.

Here is a
high-stakes story, a desperate dash to freedom. Noah reaches the safe
house with his pregnant love Rosalee and her brother James. But
viewers know Cato – once part of their escape, but now scheming
with Patty to catch Harriet Tubman – was already there, pretending
to be a runaway.

Now the former
colleagues collide. Meanwhile, the nearly blind Daniel begs for help,
leading to Elizabeth's drastic decision. Harriet is recruited by John
Brown's people. And August, the slave-catcher, strains to keep
control of Ernestine, Rosalee's unpredictable mother.

Other choices
include:

“Lincoln” (2012)
and “Bridge of Spies” (2015), 6:30 and 9 p.m., Showtime. Steven
Spielberg's style is slower and subtler now, but he's still the
world's best director, Here are true stories, beautifully crafted.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS. The second half of this two-parter again uses “spy-cams”
to get fresh views of dolphins. We see their romantic side, offering
a seaweed bouquet. And we see them as skilled hunters.

“Shots Fired,” 8
p.m., Fox. Two weeks before the finale of this complex story, there's
still much to straighten out. A potential murder weapon has been
found in the Joey Campbell case and Preston and Ashe are being
pressured to take advantage of it. Also, there's an altercation and a
rash decision.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mitchell and Jay both seek alone-time ... and end up at
the same resort. Cam doesn't know what to do when Mitch is gone. And
Phil and Claire aren't happy empty-nesters.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Last week, this hit a violent extreme – a brutal battle,
to see which clan would get the only shelter from the acid rain.
Octavia won – in a fight that killed Roan, Ilian and more – but
it was all moot; Clarke had already seized the shelter for her
people. Now she faces the consequences.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. The president's first international summit
goes awry, when an explosive article is published. Meanwhile, Hannah
learns about the conspiracy's next target.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:13, 12:25 and 1:37. This can be
simultaneously brilliant and bizarre. Last week, the police chief had
a fascinating search into the past of the murder victim (her former
father-in-law), then decided “that didn't have anything to do with
... “ Well, with anything, really. In the final minutes, she was
handed a real clue. Tonight, we see more pressure on Ray Stussy
(whose scheme started this) and his brother Emmit, both played by
Ewan McGregor.

TV column for Tuesday, May 9


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

One of TV's happier
mini-trends has involved bursts of Broadway-style music. There have
been musical episodes (“Scrubs,” “Fringe,” “Once Upon a
Time”) or more (“Glee,” “Galavant,” “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend”); other shows have at least added a song; that's
what “The Middle” does here.

It's already a dandy
episode, with humor at college and at home. Then comes that buoyant
musical number, cleverly written by Marcy Heisler (the sister of the
show's co-creator) and Zina Goldrich.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Great News,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

With its big, broad
style, “Great News” stretches for big laughs ... then
overstretches. Tonight's first episode is terrific, with Carol
bemoaning the staff's failure to bond. It briefly satirizes a loopy
show, “Morning Wined Up,” then has her steal its wine; the
transformation is often hilarious.

Then the second
episode pushes too hard. Chuck's dream is to write the news show's
theme song; Carol's is to have her daughter be an on-camera star.
Both make the characters and situations seem too cartoonish; after
one great episode, “Great News” is merely good.

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

Who knew life AFTER
a prison break would be so tough? Last week, Michael and two others
escaped during an ISIS takeover of Yemen. But they killled a rebel
leader and became national enemies.

That sets up the
weakness and strength of this show. The bad: It creates situations so
impossible that even when the heroes overcome them, the viewer feels
unsatisfied. The good: Along the way, there are exciting moments of
high-stakes, high-energy television.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Victorian Slum House,” 8 p.m., PBS.

In last week's
opener, modern people found it painful to re-create life in the 1860s
slums. Now they jump ahead a decade and ... ? “The 1870s got a lot
worse,” one man says.

The decade – this
may sound familiar – included overseas competition, immigrant
workers and restrictive regulations. (Suddenly, 7-year-olds couldn't
work in a factory; older kids could only do a half-day.) Wages
dropped and people got by, barely; tonight, one family takes a
drastic step.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Viewers will learn who's in the bottom three and will save
one. That sets up next week's live semi-finals, with the top eight.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Like “Great News,” this has a
big cast, a broad scope and intermittently funny results. The first
episode has a “Hangover” feel; after a wild convention night,
people can't quite remember what happened. The second sees diligent
Amy panic as her exam nears.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. It was three-and-a-half years ago that McGee (Sean Murray)
introduced his girlfriend Delilah (Margo Harshman). She works for
Defense and they are what CBS calls “adorable geeks.” She's been
missing from the show since October, but now their wedding is near
... as she's being hospitalized for stress. Also, the team probes the
death of a healthy petty officer.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv's life gets complicated when she munches the brain of a
murder victim and assumes some of the characteristics. Once a
diligent doctor, she now eats a frenzied narcissist.

Documentaries, 9 and
10 p.m., PBS. First is an “American Experience” rerun of
January's excellent Bonnie-and-Clyde profile. Then a new “Frontline”
focuses on public-housing problems.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. It's time for Pride (Scott Bakula) to again
be an action hero. He's tracking one of the mayor's accomplices, who
starts a deadly shoot-out.

TV column for Monday, May 8


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

We'd always assumed
Lucifer would be really good at generating rage and sparking fire;
it's kind of his thing. But his time on Earth, where he's fallen for
Chloe the cop, have mellowed him.

Now his mom and
brother want him to ignite a flaming sword that they'll use to break
through Heaven's gate; to do that, he must be in touch with his
feelings (the angriest kind). In a good episode, that goes on at the
same time that he and Chloe work a murder case at an upscale school.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Kevin Can Wait” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

Last week, the “King
of Queens” stars re-united, when Leah Remini was a guest star. She
cajoled her former police partner (Kevin James), now retired, into
joining an investigation of an art dealer.

Now they extend the
probe, causing him to miss the Mets' “fantasy camp” with his
friends. Also, his wife tells off her boss and their future
son-in-law finds his “dream job” is a disappointment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Maybe this should
move to ESPN; the athletes are dominating. The show started with five
of them and four remain; of the other seven contestants, only singer
Normani Kordei is still around.

She prospered last
week, getting a perfect 40 from the judges. Gymnast Simone Biles and
football's Rashad Jennings had a 37, with a 32 for baseball's David
Ross and a 29 for rodeo's Bonner Bolten. Now they're two weeks from
the finals, after the double ouster of Nick Viall and Nancy Kerrigan.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The top 10 singers perform and then the bottom
three will be revealed ... with viewers getting to save one. That
will leave eight for next week's semi-finals.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Things were bad enough with The Riddler creating mayhem;
now Firefly and Mr. Freeze are back. Also, Alfred starts to notice
changes in “Bruce” ... actually, a Bruce copy.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Now that Jane's birth parents are engaged, life should be
simpler. Alas, Rafael loves Petra ... who is with the maybe-killer
Chuck; and just as Jane is ready for her first casual-sex fling, she
meets a guy who wants to wait for marriage. It's a busy and fairly
good hour.

“Superior Donuts”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. The focus shifts to Maya, played by Anna
Baryshnikov, a relative newcomer with a familiar name. (She's 24, the
daughter of ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov.) When she leaves her
laptop unattended, people learn she's been studying them for her
dissertation. “The Great Indoors,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. This is
another season-finale, but with a difference: “Kevin” and
“Donuts” have been renewed for next season; “Indoors” is
still waiting. Now it's time for the company retreat – where Jack
and Emma hooked up, five years ago; they try to nudge Clark and Emma
together.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. The two-part season finale starts with the entire team
headed to the honeymoon of Toby and Happy. Then, of course, the plane
crashes near a remote island.

“The Wall,”
10:01, NBC. “Taken” finished its 10-episode season last week, so
now this game show – a ratings success in its try-out – returns
for some “sweeps”-month duty.

TV column for Sunday, May 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Last 100 Days of Diana,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

When Lady Diana
died, she was 36 and “the most glamorous woman in the world,”
says ABC News producer Terrence Wrong. That was in August of 1997, a
year after her divorce from Prince Charles.

Now this documentary
looks at her one summer as a single woman and at her romances with
Dodi al-Fayed and British-Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan. It uses
interviews with her butler, chef, bodyguard, personal trainer and
press secretary.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MTV Movie & TV Awards,” 8 p.m., MTV, BET, VH1, Spike and
Comedy Central; reruns on MTV at 10:10 p.m. ad 12:20 and 2:30 a.m.

The former “MTV
Movie Awards” add TV categories. The first best-TV-show nominees
are “This Is Us,” “Game of Thrones,” “Pretty Little Liars,”
“Atlanta,” “Insecure” and “Stranger Things”; the
best-movie nods go to “Rogue One,” “Logan,” “Get Out,”
“Edge of Seventeen” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

There's much more,
plus entertainment. Adam Devine hosts; Noah Cyrus (Miley's
17-year-old sister) sings with Big Sean. Also, J Balvin and Pitbull
do their song from the latest of the “Fast and Furious” films –
the first franchise to win the “Generation Award,” which usually
goes to an actor.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC.

For generations,
Broadway musicals and TV dramas have been in separate universes. Only
recently has TV thought to blend them. There have been musical
numbers, musical episodes, even (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) an entire
musical series. And now this show has its turn.

In flashbacks, Snow
and Charming give Emma a wish that causes people to break into song.
(These are original songs by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, who
received some praise for “First Date,” their 2013 Broadway
musical.) That infuriates the Evil Queen; being evil, she probably
dislikes musicals.

Other choices
include:

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun that ranges from
pizza-tossing brothers to a contortionist who's skilled at archery.
Then a new hour includes step-dancers, a 6-year-old environmentalist,
a 4-year-old color guard and triplets who have a card-throwing act.

“Disney's Fairy
Tale Weddings,” 8 p.m., ABC. A guy prepares to have his marriage
proposal secretly filmed in Disney World ... unless the hidden
microphone and ring are discovered by the security guard or by the
guy's touchy-feely girlfriend. There's more, in what might sort of be
a 90-minute commercial.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth tries to free an American journalist kidnapped
in Sudan.

“Masterpiece: Home
Fires,” 9 p.m., Sunday, PBS. Teresa's life has changed profoundly
since she arrived to teach at the village school. Her secret lesbian
lover died en route to America; now she's newly engaged to Nick, the
commander of the local Royal Air Force unit. This strong and varied
hour offers the potential joy of the wedding, complicated by powerful
life-and-death moments.

“The Good Witch,”
9 p.m., Hallmark. Any town without a movie theater is flawed – even
a town as picture-pretty as this one. Now Ben considers fixing up the
old theater; also, Cassie's new guest at the inn is a friend of her
cousin Abigail.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. When a reality-show contestant is killed, the prime
suspect is another contestant – a former war criminal who may be
the most skilled killer Sherlock has faced.

“Mary Kills
People,” 10 p.m., Lifetime. Mary's complicated life is starting to
crumble. Her daughter things she's a drug-dealer ... a cop knows she
assists suicides ... and her drug source is leaning on her for
favors. Also, in this dark episode, she's sometimes a bad mom.

TV column for Saturday, May 6


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

Soaring with its
best ratings in years, “SNL” is wrapping up with three straight
new episodes. The next two hosts are clearly linked with comedy --
Melissa McCarthy and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; tonight,
however, it's Chris Pine, with music from LCD Soundsystem.

We're used to Pine
in serious, sturdy roles – Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan and such. But
he's also done comedy, including an Emmy nomination for voicing Dr.
Divizo and Robo-Dino in “SuperMansion.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Star Wars” marathon, TNT.

For the second time
in three days, we get a real viewing pleasure – both “Star Wars”
trilogies, in chronological order. TBS did that Thursday, now its
sister channel has a turn.

That starts with the
prequels, at 6:58 and 10 a.m. and 1:09 p.m. Then come the original
classics -- “Star Wars” (1977) at 4:15, “The Empire Strikes
Back” (1980) at 7 and “Return of the Jedi” at 9:47 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Batman & Bill,” any time, www.hulu.com.

In the mega-universe
of Batman and Superman and such, most people have never heard of Bill
Finger. Maybe we should; buffs say he molded Batman's look and
personality and he wrote the early stories.

This documentary
traces writer Marc Nobleman's efforts to set the record straight. We
meet an earnest optimist who loved to create, but was slower to fight
for credit. It's a difficult story to tell, with few photos
available; producers sometimes use a clever, animated approach that
fits this bat-world.

Other choices
include:

“Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), 12:35 p.m., Freeform. Two classics anchor
this splendid marathon -- “Snow White” launches it and “Frozen”
(2013) finishes it (almost) at 9. Others are “The Princess and the
Frog” at 2:40 p.m., “Brave” at 4:45, “Tangled” at 6:50 and
“Aladdin” at 11:30.

Kentucky Derby, 2:30
p.m. ET, NBC. For two minutes, horses will rule the sports world.

Sports overload,
evening. Three of the top four networks are consumed by sports
tonight. At 7 p.m. ET, Fox has two baseball teams with natioal
followings – the Yankees at the Cubs. Others are busy with
play-offs – hockey's Pittsburgh at Washington at 7:15 p.m. ET on
NBC, basketball's Golden State at Utah at 8:30 (with preview) at 8 on
ABC.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a businessman is using terrorist incidents to
manipulate the stock market. When an undercover probe is disrupted,
the team needs a new lead.

“Training Day,”
9 p.m., CBS. We're down to the final three episodes of this series,
which was finished before Bill Paxton's death at 61. Tonight's focus
is on Kyle (Justin Cornwell), who feels he's already encountered the
suspect in Afghanistan.

“The Son,” 9
p.m., AMC and Sundance, rerunning at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. on Sundance.
In 1849, young Eli makes a dangerous choice. In 1915, his
granddaughter scrambles to save the famil.

“Genius,” 10
p.m., National Geographic. In a rerun of Tuesday's episode, we see
Albert Einstein argue with – and fall in love with – the only
woman in his class, his brilliant future wife Mileva.