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.

TV column for Tuesday, May 24


 

(Improved TV column for Tuesday, May
24. It slightly rewrites the first two itemss, then adds the first
bullet, on “Oprah.” To make room, it deletes two bullet paragaphs
and shortens several things.)

By MIKE HUGHES

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American Idol,”
8-9 p.m., Fox.

The biggest, broadest “Idol” season
is ending with surprising sameness. Two Southern teen-agers – one
singing country, the other country-pop – are in the finals.

Scotty McCreery, 17, of Garner, N.C.,
and Lauren Alaina, 16, of Rossville, Ga., are pleasant kids; McCreery
is Nashville-ready, with a deep voice and a manner so casual that
when he won the coin toss, he let Alaina decide if she'll sing first
or second; she chose second..

Tonight, they get their last chance to
impress viewers. On Wednesday we'll learn who won; we'll also see all
13 finalists – and remember what a wonderfully diverse group this
was.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dancing With
the Stars,” 8-11 p.m.,, ABC; or “The Biggest Loser,” 9-11 p.m.,
NBC.

At 8 p.m., “Dancing” reruns
Monday's episode. At 9, Hines Ward, Kirstie Alley and Chelsea Kane
get one more chance to impress judges. All 11 duos will be back to
dance; there will also be music by the Black Eyed Peas, the Go-Go's
and Sara Evans.

“Loser” has two sisters – Hannah
Curlee, 32, and Olivia Ward, 35 – in the finals. Tonight, we'll
learn whether viewers gave the third spot to Irene Alvarado, 26, or
Jay Jacobs, 53.

Before being sent home to work on their
own, Curlee had lost 98 pounds, Ward and Alvarado were at 108, Jacobs
at 154. The winner is chosen via percentage of original weight lost.

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

This oft-terrific show wraps up its
season in a cozy spot behind “Idol.”

We see the Ohio teens head to New York
City to compete in the finals. Guest stars include Patti LuPone (a
two-time Tony-winner for “Evita” and “Gypsy”), Jonathan Groff
(a Tony-nominee for “Spring Awakening”), Cheyenne Jackson and
teen sensation Charice. Expect some singing.

Other choices include:

– “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” 5
p.m. On the eve of her final new show, Winfrey
invites a crowd. Barring a late change, this will have songs by
Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Jamie Foxx, Rosie O'Donnell
and Kristen Chenoweth, plus comedy by Jerry Seinfeld, a poem by Maya
Angelou and appearances by Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Maria Shriver
and Simon Cowell.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. An
all-rerun night on CBS starts with a stolen purse containing
fingertips.

– “Hellcats,” 9 p.m., CW. This
show won't be back next season but we can savor this fairly good
pilot film. Aly Michalka is excellent as a tough pre-law student who
needs a cheerleading scholarship.

– “Frontline,” 9 p.m., PBS. This
documentary studies PFC Bradley Manning, who a year ago was arrested
and charged with leaking a half-million classified documents to
WikiLeaks.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS. Shelbyville is a Tennesse town of 16,000, about 30 miles from
the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. This documentary views a
different kind of hatred, aimed at Somali immigrants. It also finds
warm efforts to bridge gaps.