TV column for Sunday, May 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “National
Memorial Day Concert,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Each year, on the eve of Memorial Day,
this offers an epic-scale concert – big crowds (on the Capitol
Lawn), big orchestra (National Symphony) and big voices. Pia Toscano,
the “American Idol” belter, should fit perfectly into a concert
that has gospel's Yolanda Adams and classical's Hayley Westenra, plus
Daniel Rodriguez, remembered as the singing cop who performed during
Sept. 11 memorials.

There's more, including blues great
B.B. King, “Idol” winner Kris Allen and comments by hosts Gary
Sinise and Joe Mantegna, plus Colin Powell and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Killing,”
10 p.m., AMC.

Last week's episode ended fiercely:
Stan Larsen brutally beat the teacher suspected of killing his
daughter – unaware that police had just realized their suspicions
were wrong.

Now lives are collapsing for the
Larsens and for Sarah Linden, the obsessed police detectivd. And now
Linden has a new suspect and a possible breakthrough.

This is another brilliant episode –
with richly layered characters and darkly gorgeous filming.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Real
Story,” 8 and 11 p.m., Smithsonian.

Each week, this well-made series looks
at the true stories behind movies. Tonight is “Jaws.”
This
documentary views a similar story – true-life attacks along the New
Jersey coast in 1916. It mixes re-creations and new scientific
studies of shark behavior.

We hear of a 1916 hero: Stanley Fisher
died while fighting a shark that attacked a 12-year-old boy. There
are random facts – worldwide, sharks only killed five people and
injured 60 last year – and an argument for a colorful world:
Studies show that 90 per cent of shark victims are wearing dark
clothes.

Other choices include:

– Oprah marathon, Oprah Winfrey
Network. The all-weekend event – timed to follow the last new
episode of Winfrey's talk show, – includes two movies she produced.
“David & Lisa” (1998), with superb performances by Lukas Haas
and the late Brittany Murphy, is at 2 p.m.; “Before Women Had
Wings” is at 4. A rerun of Gayle King's “after party” is at 6,
with a new “Behind the Scenes” at 8.

– Racing, 5:30 p.m. ET, Fox. Sorry,
there are no Fox cartoons tonight. Instead, we get the Coca-Cola 600,
the longest race in the NASCAR series.
– Animated movies, cable.
At 6 p.m., FX has “Madagascar 2” (2008) and The Cartoon Network
has “Shrek the Third” (2007). At 7, ABC Family has the fun “Bolt”
(2008). At 8 and 10, FX has “Kung Fu Panda” (2008). And at 9, ABC
Family has the sweetly poignant “WALL-E” (2008).

– “William & Kate” (2011),
8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a rerun of an adequate film, depicting
Prince William and Kate Middleton as likable, lusty college students,
negotiating a complex courtship.

– “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004),
9-11 p.m., NBC. In this sequel, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still
being chased by hit men … and still doesn't know why. Much action
follows.

– “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. Justin Bieber entertains a family while its Texas
trailer is being replaced by a new home.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun (following a pair of “Undercover Boss” reruns), a
sugar-refinery explosion reveals a surprise about one of the
employees.

TV column for Saturday, May 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Baby Mama” (2008), 8
and 10 p.m., Ion; “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29, NBC.

This is a good night to savor “SNL”
people, past and present.

First, the old “Weekend Update”
co-anchors star in a funny-enough movie. Tina Fey plays the
responsible type; Amy Poehler plays the schemer she hires as a
surrogate mother. This was written (adequately) and directed
(sharply) by Michael McCullers, who was a new “SNL” writer
alongside Fey in 1997; he soon left to write two “Austin Powers”
sequels; she stayed for nine years and stardom.

Then catch a rerun from this “SNL”
season. Zach Galifianakis hosts, using parts of his wonderfully odd
stand-up act; Jessy J is the music guest.

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

Here's a quick rerun of Monday's
opener, with Ashley Hebert, a dance teacher and dental student.

Straining to impress her, various guys
bring a poem, a guitar and dental floss. One lifts up the tiny Hebert
to dance; another hoists her on his shoulder. One wears a mask;
another falls asleep.

Hebert seems way too amused by most of
this. Hey, it's more fun than studying gum disease.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Oprah marathon,
Oprah Winfrey Network.

Trying to borrow the heat from her
talk-show finale, Winfrey's network has an all-Oprah day.

That includes two TV films she
produced: “The Wedding” (1997), 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., stars Halle
Berry in a buoyant setting; “Before Women Had Wings” (1998), 8-10
p.m., has Winfrey helping kids battered by their parents' alcoholism
and despair.

There are also “Master Class”
profiles of Winfrey (6-8 p.m.) and Maya Angelou (10 p.m.). From 3-6
p.m. are Gayle King's “after party” for the finale and a “Behind
the Scenes” of the post-Oscar show.

Other choices include:

– “Doctor Who” marathon, 6 a.m.,
BBC America. Taking a break from new episodes, this show reruns all
of the ones so far that have the terrific pairing of Matt Smith as
The Doctor and Karen Gillam as Amy Pond. Their entire first season
runs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the first five hours of this second year
are from 4-9 p.m., 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and (skipping one hour), 2-6 a.m.

– Baseball, 7 p.m. ET, Fox. Taking no
chances here, Fox has six games, choosing them by region.

– “Shrek the Third” (2007), 7
p.m., Cartoon; “Bolt” (2008), 9 p.m., ABC Family. Here's an
animated double feature, for family fun. “Bolt” – with a dog
surprised to learn his superhero status is only as a TV actor – is
an odd delight.

– More movies, cable. Three big ones
– each an Academy Award nominee for best picture – collide.
“Terms of Endearment” (1983, 7 p.m., TV Guide) won that Oscar and
four others. “Pulp Fiction” (1994, 8 p.m., Independent Film
Channel) won for its script; the wonderful “Raiders of the Lost
Ark” (1981, 8:30, USA) won in five technical categories.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 and 10 p.m., NBC. The first rerun finds a fire whipping through
Malibu; someone may have used it to hide a gruesome crime. The second
finds a casino worker killed in his bathtub – which leads to
discovery of a larger scheme.

 

TV column for Friday, May 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

The TV season officially ended Sunday,
but “Lights” – one of the great dramas – is still going
strong. It has seven more episodes in this final season, including a
strong one tonight.

Coach Eric Taylor takes his East Dillon
team against the Dillon High powerhouse he used to coach. He has
endless distractions – including a Web site exposing players'
juvenile crime records.

His original quarterback (now
parapalegic and a sports agent) is visiting; his new quarterback has
an overzealous dad supervising college recruitment. Also, his
daughter retreated from college, after a brief affair with a married
teaching assistant. Life is complicated; football is fierce.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Jamie
Oliver's Food Revolution,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

In the show's first season, Oliver
tried to transform the eating habits of one West Virginia town. Now
comes a much bigger target – the massive Los Angeles school
district.

This show aired on Tuesdays last month,
but was yanked after two weeks of limp ratings. Now it's on
less-competitive turf, starting with reruns of those two episodes.

Banned (for now) from schools, Oliver
tries demonstrations. In the first hour, he pours a mountain of sugar
– the difference, he says, between chocolate and white milk in the
schools; in the second, he dresses as a tomato and hands out healthy
meals. In both, he works to change fast-food tastes.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Patton”
(1970), 8-11 p.m., AMC.

On Memorial Day weekend, AMC has a big
war film each night. Sunday's “Pearl Harbor” is lame, but the
first two – “Patton” and Saturday's “Apocalypse Now” –
are superb.

Both were co-written by Francis Ford
Coppola, with his great ear for male dialog. “Patton” managed to
be remarkably fair, capturing both the strengths and the flaws of
Gen. George Patton.

The result piled up Academy Awards for
best picture, director (Franklin Schaffner), actor (George C. Scott,
who refused to accept it), script, editing, sound, and
set-decoration.

Other choices include:

– “Bones,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The
first rerun involves the remains of a ballet dancer who had wanted to
switch to hip-hop. The second has a body – with links to a modern
crime – found on an old slave ship.

– “Smallville,” 8 p.m., CW.
Here's a rerun of the opener for the 10th and final
season. Lois finds Clark's body and removes the kryptonite, allowing
him to return to life.

– “Flashpoint,” 8 p.m., CBS.
This well-made series pauses for a rerun, before returning to new
episodes next week. Tonight, a woman (Kelly Rowan of “The O.C.”)
has kidnapped two young children; police scramble to find what they
have in common.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a woman seems to have literally been scared to death. Then
other eerie things start to happen.

– “CMT's Next Superstar,” 9 p.m.,
CMT. The final three singers have four days to create a music video.
Next week, the two survivors will sing in Nashville's historic Ryman
Auditorium.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun, a gangster's son is killed and the police commissioner's son
(Donnie Wahlberg) digs into the world of the Russian mob.

TV column for Thursday, May 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You
Can Dance” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

After a year away, Mary Murphy returns
as a judge and gets a treat – Atlanta try-outs overflowing with
good dancers. The second hour, in San Francisco, isn't quite as
dynamic, but it's still worthy.

This opener has occasional emotion. We
meet a young woman who learned that her dad was secretly unemployed
and her family would be homeless; the only joy in her life is dance.

Mostly, however, we just see great
dancing. It's a high-octane start, full of youthful energy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rookie Blue,”
9-11 p.m., ABC.

Last summer, this was a surprise
success – proof that a scripted show can work on a network in the
summer. The second season starts June 23, but here's a chance to
re-see the first two episodes.

The bad news: An absurd twist imagines
that police can't handle the arrest of an undercover cop. The good:
There's a great cast (led by Missy Peregrym) and the strong work we
get from Canadian shows.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Code Wars:
America's Cyber Threat,” 9 p.m., CNBC.

On one level, this well-made
documentary says, computer theft affects regular people. We meet
someone who swiped two million Social Security numbers and used them
to charge $86 million.

On another, international issues are at
stake. The Pentagon has been pierced by Chinese hackers …. Iran's
nuclear program was set back six months by unknown hackers, with
Americans and Israelis suspected …. In 2007, the high-tech Estonia
saw its banking system paralyzed for days.

Other choices include:

– “The Gayle King Show,” 9-11
a.m., Oprah Winfrey Network; repeats at 9-11 p.m. Here's an
“afterparty,” discussing the last new episode of “The Oprah
Winfrey Show.” It's expected to include Hugh Jackman, Diane Sawyer,
Rita Wilson and Stedman Graham, plus producers, fans and more.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. An all-rerun night on CBS has Sheldon breaking up with Amy.

– “How to Die in Oregon,” 8-10
p.m., HBO. In the 18 years since it was legalized in Oregon, more
than 500 people have used physician-assisted suicide. This
documentary – slow, but involving – focuses on three people. In
particular, we meet Cody Curtis, 54; she keeps the lethal
pharmaceuticals “in reserve,” while facing ups and downs in
liver-cancer treatment.

– “Real Housewives of New York
City,” 8-11 p.m., Bravo. After a pair of reruns, we get a new
episode at 10, with the women vacationing in Morocco. Hotel staffers
face high demands and wealthy women accuse each other of stealing
hangers. “It's so high school,” one says accurately.

– “4th and Forever”
debut, 9 p.m., Current TV. For decades, Long Beach Polytechnic High
School has sent kids from hard-scrabble roots to pro-football wealth.
This excellent documentary series ranges from one guy with a shot at
Harvard to another trying to escape the gangs with his baby. It feels
like the great “Friday Night Lights” series – complete with a
quarterback whose dad hasn't seen him play.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The team is perplexed by a murder inside a well-guarded compound.

– “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”
finale, 10:30 p.m., Showtime. For four seasons, “Diary” has had a
great star (Billie Piper), lush visuals and pointless stories.
Tonight, Belle considering quitting the business.

TV column for Wednesday, May 25


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: “The Oprah Winfrey
Show” (check local listings).

Winfrey says her goal was simple: “I
just wanted to be a guest host on 'Good Morning America.'”

Her agent resisted. “There weren't
going to be any more black people on network television, he said.
They've already got Bryant Gumbel.” She dropped her agent and
raised her ambitions.

Over 25 seasons, her show changed
viewing habits, reading habits, even (perhaps) voting habits. It made
many people (including Winfrey) rich. Now here's her last new
episode.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American Idol”
finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Tonight, we learn which country teen –
Scotty McCreery or Lauren Alaina – is the winner. Before that, all
13 finalists will be back and we'll be reminded how much variety this
season once had.

Producers have been quiet, but Steven
Tyler is expected to perform; Bono and the Edge may perform. David
Cook will be there to sing this year's exit song; Haley Reinhart may
be do an original song.

Then there are the pairings – Casey
Abrams singing with Jack Black, James Durbin with one of his
heavy-metal idols and more. Expect some country stars – and then a
country-style winner.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Comedy thrives on mistaken assumptions
and this episode has some dandy ones.

Soon, Cam manages to be ejected from a
bakery. Phil implies that he's married to the sexy Gloria. And Claire
and Mitchell are trapped in their old tree house.

All of this unfolds on Jay's birthday.
The season ends with big laughs and some poignant moments.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., CBS. Both of these terrific reruns find ways to put Penny
and Sheldon together. First, she gives him acting lessons (to improve
his teaching); then she accompanies his first sort-of date; that's
with the Sheldon-like Amy, perfectly played by Mayim Bialik.

– “America's Next Top Model,”
8-10 p.m., CW. The entire season reruns now. CW has enough trouble
filling its regular season, without worrying about summers.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's
almost summer vacation and Frankie is worry-free. Except that Brick
hasn't been doing his required daily journal … Axl hasn't been
doing his required community service … and Sue won't be honored
unless she can prove she's hade perfect attendance.

– “Modern Family,” 8:30, ABC.
This rerun (prior to the new episode) finds Mitchell and Cameron
delighted with the stranger who is using their hot tub.

– “Master Class,” 9-11 p.m.,
Oprah Winfrey Network. Shortly after Winfrey's last new episode of
her syndicated show, viewers can catch this rerun, in which she
reflects on her life.

– “Cougar Town,” 9:31-10:30 p.m.,
ABC. Forlorn about his break-up, Travis quits college and moves to
Hawaii. Naturally, his mom and friends follow him there and try to
make it a party. The result is inconsistent, but has some very funny
moments.

– “Happy Endings,” 10:30 p.m.,
ABC. A hapless friend is suddenly getting married, making people
insist Penny (Casey Wilson) is now the group's biggest loser. Also,
the bride worries that Alex – who walked out on her own wedding –
will jinx this one. It's a funny episode with bits of key human
drama.