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.

TV column for Monday, May 23


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: “The Oprah Winfrey
Show,” daytime.

Over the next three days – the final
three of the official TV season – Winfrey will say goodbye.

The last episode is secret, but
reporters caught a taping of the two leading into it. Barring a late
change, today's show has music by Beyonce, Josh Groban, Jackie
Evancho and Patti LaBelle, plus lots of people dropping in. They
include Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Madonna and Dakota Fanning.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Too Big to
Fail,” 9-10:45 p.m., HBO.

Here's a true, world-in-peril story. It
goes back to 2008, with Wall Street teetering toward a Depression.

At first, “Too Big” is too fast,
trying too hard. It's well into the story, before pausing to explain
how the crisis began. Still, that's the lone flaw of a film that has
an energetic look (from “L.A. Confidential” director Curtis
Hanson) and a suberb cast.

The closest thing to a villain here is
Dick Fuld (James Woods), who ducks one deal, sabotages another, then
sees Lehman Brothers go bankrupt. The closest to a hero is Treasury
Secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt). Still, he also makes
mistakes, as the financial system edges toward collapse.

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

Ashley Hebert admits her attitude –
“I'm the most skeptical person you'll ever meet” – doomed her
on “The Bachlor.” Think of that as good luck; instead of ending
up with quick-breakup Brad Womack, she now has 25 guys to choose
from.

They include lawyers, a butcher, a
winemaker, a solar-power mogul and an overqualified chap who has a
Harvard doctorate, has run 39 marathons and has been to 70 countries.

One guy lifts the tiny Hebert (a dance
instructor and dental student) up for a dance; another tosses her
over his shoulder. And one wears a mask all night. Really.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars,” 8
p.m., ABC. With Ralph Macchio ousted, the three finalists dance.
Football star Hines Ward, 35, faces actresses Kirstie Alley, 60, and
Chelsea Kane, 22.

– “House” season-finale, 8 p.m.,
Fox. Dr. House makes a decision that may change his relationship with
Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein, who's leaving the show). Meanwhile,
Shohreh Aghdashloo plays a performance artist whose injuries may be
self-inflicted.
– “Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure,” 8-10 p.m.,
Disney. Ashley Tisdale returns to her “High School Musical” role
as Sharpay, the self-centered teen. She heads to New York with
Broadway dreams.

– “The Chicago Code,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. This smartly crafted cop show is the year's best series to NOT
be renewed for next season. In tonight's finale. Jarek addresses a
long-ignored family issue, Colvin gets another visit from an FBI
agent (Adam Arkin) and both link in a push to stop a corrupt
councilman.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. For once, “Men” needn't feel guilty about being a rerun; all
of the other CBS comedies are, too. This is the one in which Charlie
finally learns that Rose's “husband” is actually a manikin. Also,
Rose learns about Alan's Ponzi scheme.

– “Clash of the Commercials: USA
vs. the World,” 10 p.m., CBS. Lots of commercials will be shown and
20 – half from the U.S. – will compete in several categories.
Viewers will pick an overall favorite.

TV column for Sunday, May 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Jesse Stone:
Innocents Lost,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

There's a dark depth to the Stone
movies, showing an honest cop, pounded by life.

Tom Selleck – who stars, produces and
co-wrote the script (using the late Robert B. Parker's characters)
has mastered it. Things may be too stylized – everyone talks the
same here – but it works.

Jesse (Selleck) still lives in the
seaside town where he lost his police-chief job. He sometimes helps
the state police, but his obsession is with finding out who killed a
local girl he'd befriended. With no badge, few friends and much
intensity, a decent man pushes ahead.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Billboard
Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

This show simply honors people with the
most record sales and air time. Appropriately, the performers are
from the top of the charts – Ke$ha, Cee Lo Green, Rihanna, Black
Eyea Peas, Ne-Yo, OneRepublic, Taio Cruz, Far East Movement, Nicki
Minaj, Pitbul, Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban.

Ken Jeong (“Community”) hosts, with
special awards for Neil Diamond (who performs) and Beyonce.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece
Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Here's a fresh chance to see one of the
best TV movies ever.

Agatha Christie's masterful “Murder
on the Orient Express” has an ideal star (David Suchet as Hercule
Poirot) and gorgeous filming. The final minutes are visually and
emotionally stunning.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m.,
Fox. First is a rerun, with Homer grabbing the glory for Bart's
“Angry Dad” movie. Then Ned Flanders rescues Edna Krabappel and
learns of all the men she's dated, including Homer Simpson and Joey
Kramer of Aerosmith.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Here's the conclusion of an elegant, three-part look
at Alaskan bears. Now we're in the Arctic, where polar bears need
long naps and lots of seals.

– “Celebrity Apprentice” finale,
9 -11 p.m., NBC. There's no villain this time; two popular people,
Marlee Matlin and John Rich, go for the title. Each leads a team
creating a launch party for 7UP Retro.

– “Family Guy,” 9-10 p.m., Fox.
In previous years, “Guy” did “Star Wars” and “Empire
Strikes Back” take-offs. Now it's “Return of the Jedi,” adding
Anne Hathaway, Rush Limbaugh and Carrie Fisher.

– “Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Trouble has been building since Lady Stark kidnapped Tyrion
Lannister, the “imp prince.” That peaks tonight; also peaking –
in a fierce episode – is the jealousy between Prince Viserys and
his sister Daenerys, who has married into power.

– “Treme,” 10 p.m., HBO. This
hour starts movingly with a funeral. It ends fervently with a
protest, as anger builds over the ineffectiveness of police.

– “The Killing,” 10 p.m., AMC. A
great series keeps getting better. Tonight, cops close in on a
suspect, but need a warrant. One strong moment comes when the
teacher (and murder suspect) returns to the classroom. Others center
on the grieving dad – as he helps a little girl and, later, as his
rage re-ignites

TV column for Saturday, May 21


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Chase,” 8
p.m., NBC.

Let's credit NBC for letting a show die
with dignity. Instead of just dumping this OK action show, it put the
final five episodes on Saturdays. Now here's the last of those (and
18th overall).

A case makes Annie realize her father's
life is in danger. Now she has to find him – for the first time in
20 years – and tell colleagues about her troubled past.

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

Here's the last of three straight new
episodes, wrapping up the season. There's no way of knowing if it
will be good or bad. The May 7 episode was terrific; the May 14 one
was rather awful.

And tonight? At least, there's
star-power: Justin Timberlake hosts, with Lady Gaga as music guest.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Glee,” 10
a.m. to 10:48 p.m., Oxygen.

This show has its season-finale Tuesday
on Fox, tucked neatly after the final two “American Idol”
contestants have performed. If you need to catch up on “Glee,”
here's the ideal chance.

That starts at 10 a.m. with the
sectionals arriving amid romantic chaos. Some of the stories are
good, some are overwrought, but the music is magnificent. That's led
by Sam and Quinn doing “The Time of My Life,” the competing
Warblers doing “Hey, Soul Sister” … and Rachel and Kurt doing
an exquisite “Don't Cry For Me, Argentina.”

Then come the 11 episodes that have
aired in the second half of the season. That starts (11:01 a.m.) with
the Super Bowl episode, including an unthrilling “Thriller”; it
ends with the prom episode (8:43) and the episode that ran Tuesday,
centering on Sue's sister's funeral.

Other choices include:

– Baseball, 7 p.m. ET, Fox. The
season's first inter-league weekend goes prime-time, with games
varying by region. Two (Mets-Yankees, Cubs-Red Sox) are in American
League parks and use the designated hitter; two (Rangers-Phillies,
A's-Giants) are in National League parks, making pitchers hit.

– Movies, 7 p.m., cable. The fun
starts an hour earlier than usual. Catch the beautifully cast “Fast
Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) on G4, Tom Selleck's understated
cowboy tale “Quigley Down Under” (1990) on CMT and Owen Wilson
and Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers” (2005) on TNT,.

– “Spider-Man 3” (2007), 8-11
p.m., ABC. Infected by a fungus from outer space, Spider-Man turns
evil. Supporting roles include Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace
as Sandman and Venom.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, the daughter of a U.S. ambassador has been killed; the
team rushes to find her abducted sister. Masi Oka (“Heroes”)
plays a medical examiner.

– “NCIS,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun
has team members getting their mandatory psych evaluations – while
they're in the midst of a murder probe.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun that's way too close to real life, a gunman
has burst into a politician's rally, killing her and six others;
Dekker and Rubirosa disagree on how to handle the prosecution.
Meanwhile, TJ continues his independent search for his former
partner's killer.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. This rerun has two men beaten and branded.
That stirs some memories that change the investigation.