TV column for Monday, May 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Smash”
season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

Things have crumbled during the Boston
try-out of “Bombshell,” the Marilyn Monroe musical. Audience
reaction to the downbeat ending was tepid; the star was poisoned and
quit.

Now “Bombshell” needs a new song
and a new star – either Karen or Ivy. Karen, thoroughly distracted,
ignored a marriage proposal from her boyfriend … who promptly slept
with Ivy.

Things would crumble, but there's great
talent here. Stick around; a splendid season ends triumphantly.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: American
Masters, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Parts of Johnny Carson's story were
transparent. He was a quiet Nebraskan, shy and soft-spoken. He was
polite, heard-working, well-read, given to anonymous philanthropy.

And parts were the opposite. He was
distant and difficult. He was a womanizer and someone who handled
alcohol badly. He was intriguing, as this richly detailed documentary
shows.

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

“Our entire relationship is about
you,” Wilson tells House. “My dying is about me.”

Or not. House isn't ready for his only
friend to die. This, like everything else, will be about House.

Yes, there's also a story about a
medical patient. That's merely a back-drop; in the House-Wilson
scenes, we see gifted actors (Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard)
digging into deep material.

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC. The auditions begin, with Howard Stern
inheriting Piers Morgan's judging slot. He promises to be
family-friendly – even being a bit of a hugger – but also says
he'll be one of those rare judges (like Morgan or Simon Cowell) who
tell the truth..

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8-9
p.m., CBS. The half finds Lily in labor, with Marshall frantically
trying to return from Atlantic City. The second finally reveals
Barney's intended bride; also, flashbacks show Ted going after the one
who got away.

– “Two and a Half Men”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. Jake is graduating. Really.

– “Make It or Break It”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC Family. As they battle for spots on the
Olympic team, Payson changes her floor routine and Kaylie is stunned
by her drug-screening results.

– “Mike & Molly”
season-finale, 9:31 p.m., CBS. By now, you know the comedy cliches
for weddings – from a bad hair day to family members who meet and
mate. All of those pop up here, sometimes done way too broadly. Stick
around, though; the final minutes deliver clever moments (especially
in the choir's song choice) and even some warmth.

– “The Bachelorette season-opener,
9:31-11 p.m., ABC. For a shy Southerner, Emily Maynard has seemed
awfully busy. She was engaged to NASCAR driver/owner Ricky Hendrick,
but he died in a plane crash. While raising their daughter, she was
chosen by Brad Womack on “The Bachelor,” but they broke up. Now,
at 26, she gets to choose from 25 guys.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A shooter guns down one member of the Five-0 team and forces another
to decide which loved one will survive.

TV column for Sunday, May 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:”Desperate
Housewives” series finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

A once-great series has faded a bit,
but there's still room for a big finish.

The final crisis began earlier this
season, when Gabrielle's stepfather attacked her. Protecting his
wife, Carlos accidentally killed him; then everyone conspired to hide
(unsuccessfully) the body.

Now Bree is on trial for murder – and
is falling for her lawyer (Scott Bakula). Her friends have plenty of
distractions: Renee's upcoming marriage seems wobbly …. Lynette's
divorce seems near …. Mrs. McClusky, who is dying, wants to remain
at home … and Katharine Mayfair (Dana Delany) is back.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Survivor,”
8-11 p.m. CBS.

The all-female finale starts with five
survivors – Christina Cha, Chelsea Meissner, Alicia Rosa, Kim
Spradin and Sabrina Thompson. Over the next two hours, we'll see two
of them voted out.

Then it's time for the finish, with the
jury choosing a million-dollar winner. A reunion follows at 10.

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

These modern-day Sherlock Holmes tales
can vary wildly. Last week's opener was nimble and fun; this one –
adapting “Hounds of Baskerville” – is tough and taut and scary.

It opens with a little boy confronting
terror. Then we see him again as a young man (played by Russell Tovey
of the British “Being Human”), with the same horror battering his
mind.

That sets the tone. This film is visual
and stylish and – since Sherlock is there – quite smart.

Other choices include:

– “Eureka,” 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.,
Syfy. Clever and (often) surprising, this series is in its final
season. New episodes air on Mondays, but here are 14 reruns. That
peaks at 7 p.m., with a sensational trilogy that bends the
character's perception of time. The 10 p.m. episode has them dealing
with the aftershocks.

– “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m.,
Fox. First is a rerun, as people infiltrate Homer's dreams, to solve
his bed-wetting problem. Then a new episode finds reactions to the
secret marriage of Ned and Edna.

– “America Funniest Home Videos,”
7 p.m., ABC. Here's the first half of the season-finale, pitting
previous $100,000 winners. Next Sunday, one wins a lifetime pass to
Disney resorts.

– “Once Upon a Time”
season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC. Regina is actually doing something good
in modern times – helping Emma try to save Henry. In fairy-tale
land, she's still the Evil Queen: Prince Charming tries to escape
from her, unaware that Snow White has already bitten the poison
apple.

--”Harry's Law,” 8 p.m., NBC. Harry
(Kathy Bates) wins – leading to more problems. When her client is
found not guilty of rape and murder, the victim's brother and father
hold everyone hostage.

– “Celebrity Apprentice,” 9-11
p.m. NBC. For one overwrought week, two Mark Burnett productions
collide. While “Survivor” wraps up, “Apprentice” sets up next
week's finale. That starts by firing one of the final three –
Arsenio Hall, Clay Aiken or Aubrey O'Day. The other two – joined by
eight returning celebrities – will each organize, promote and star
in a charity event.

– “The Borgias,” 10 p.m.,
Showtime. In the midst of all this papal lust and corruption,
lighting strikes St. Peter's Basilica; the pope takes this as a sign.
Meanwhile, his son Cesare has an unusual form of job-seeking: He
wants to steal the Medici gold, to prove his worthiness to lead the
pope's Army.

TV column for Saturday, May 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m., ABC
and cable.

You can watch one adventure series
begin, another end, or a third somewhere in between.

The newest is “Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (2011) on HBO, with the young wizard's
showdown. Then there's “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End”
(2007) on ABC; it's the third “Pirates” film and the last one to
keep Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom alongside Johnny Depp.

Still, it's tough to top “Raiders of
the Lost Ark” (1981) on Bravo,” the work of masters. Steven
Spielberg directed, George Lucas hatched the story, Lawrence Kasdan
(“Body Heat,” “Big Chill”) wrote the script, Harrison Ford
starred and John Williams wrote the soaring music.

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

This show seems to perk up when an old
cast member – Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, etc. – returns
… and maybe when a current one is leaving.

So we're hopeful about tonight's
episode, with Will Ferrell back as host …and, possibly, with
several current stars just a week from their final episodes. Usher is
the music guest.

 

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Backstory:
Joe Nichols,” 11 p.m., GAC; also at 4 and 9 p.m. Sunday.

Joe Nichols' low point might have come
from his dad. Nichols said he was beaten so brutally that he went to
school with broken ribs.

Or from his mom. Nichols and his
brother were suddenly dropped off in her cousin's cabin, he said;
they stayed for six months, without a change of clothes.

Or maybe from himself; as his country
career soared, he sank into drugs, alcohol and despair. He bounced
out of it all, returning to the top. The story is told with admirable
honesty by Nichols, his brother, his wife and key mentors.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Louis C.K.:
Live at the Beacon Theatre.” 10 p.m., FX.

At 44, Louis C.K. has sort of become a
fresh comedy face. His innovative situation comddy (“Louie”)
starts its third season June 28; last year, it drew four Emmy
nominations.

C.K. has a do-it-yourself approach: He
writes, stars and produces, doing it for a low budget and avoiding
network interference. This stand-up special went even further: He
originally aired it only on his Web site, charging $5 apiece; it
topped $1 million, some of it donated to charity.

Other choices include:

– “Racing, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox.
Here's the Southern 500 from Darlington, S.C.

– “CSI: Miami,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Diane Farr (Megan in “Numb3rs”) guests in this rerun, playing the
author of best-selling vampire books. She's consulted because a body
– upside-down in an old mansion – looks like a vampire victim.
Orlando Jones and Johnathon Schaech play her chef and her editor.

– “Blazing Saddles” (1974, CMT)
or “'About Last Night” (1986, TV Guide), 8 p.m. Add these
comedies to a strong movie night. “Saddles” is Mel Brooks'
consummate cowboy satire; “Night” – adapted from David Mamet's
one-act play – has Rob Lowe and Demi Moore in a modern romance.

– “Notes From the Heart Healer,”
8 and 10 p.m., Hallmark. Here's the third movie starring Genie
Francis as an advice columnist. Her husband (Ted McGinley) plans a
first-anniversary celebration; then she literally finds a baby on her
doorstep.

– “NCIS,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this
rerun, the victim had a costume under his Navy uniform. He was in a
secret society of heroes;Tony – working with his former fiance
(Perrey Reeves) – looks for the killer.

– “Scream” (1996), 10 p.m.,
Showtime. This is the top tier of horror films, with a clever script
(by “Dawson's Creek” creator Kevin Williamson), sharp direction
(by Wes Craven) and a great cast led by Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox
and – in a terrific little prologue – Drew Barrymore.

TV column for Friday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Common Law”
debut, 10 p.m., USA.

If the USA Network had its way, the
world would be attorney-free. “Fairly Legal,” at 9 p.m., has an
ex-lawyer who's a mediator; “Law” has an ex-lawyer who's a cop.

“The world needs good cops more than
it needs good lawyers,” Wes (Warren Kole) insists. He happens to be
a great cop – partnered with a great (but opposite) one.

Travis (Michael Ealy) is loose,
instinctive, given to one-night romances; Wes is tight, precise,
unable to get over his ex-wife lawyer. They provide sharp dialog
while catching bad guys. Despite a few exaggerations and arbitrary
chases, “Law” is a sturdy cop show spiced with crisp humor.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS.

There's a flurry of season-finales
tonight, including this solidly crafted show.

The Reagans are diligent about their
Sunday dinners – and doubly diligent about Mother's Day. As that
arrives, however, Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, is
keeping a secret: The city faces the threat of a biological attack.
Also, his sons (both cops) have a longstanding dispute, coming to a
head.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE-SEE II:
“Fringe,:9 p.m., Fox.

The real joy now is that this is merely
a season-finale – not a series finale.

It was planned either way, as “Fringe”
teetered toward cancellation. In a recent week, it was No. 95 in the
Nielsen ratings; only six big-network shows (five of them on NBC) did
worse.

Still, overseas audiences like smart
science-fiction, making “Fringe” profitable overall; Fox will
bring it back for a final, 13-episode season. Tonight, the team tries
to prevent a world-ending disaster.

Other choices include:

– “Avatar” (2009), 6:30-10 p.m.,
FX. This combination – great visuals, so-so story – really works
better on a big screen. Still, it's an impressive film that won three
Oscars and was nominated for six more.

– “The Finder” season-finale, 8
p.m., Fox. The Stults brothers team up as (logically) brothers.
George Stults was one of the “7th Heaven” stars, with
Geoff playing his brother; Geoff stars in this one, with his brother
(yes, George) arriving with a special mission: Their dying dad wants
him to find their mother.

– “Who Do You Think You Are?” 8
p.m., NBC. Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night Live”) hasn't known
much about the Lithuanian roots reflected in his surname; much of the
history faded after his grandfather died young. Now, however, he
traces things to a great-great-grandfather, arriving in the U.S. to
face daily danger in Pennsylvania coal mines.

– “CSI: NY” season-finale, 9
p.m., CBS. While his colleagues race to find the person who shot him,
Mac is near death, his mind wandering. Jaime Ray Newman returns as
his late wife.

– “Craft in America,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). The “Art in America” series has
concluded, but here's a stand-alone episode of this sporadic series.
This hour views fabrics and textiles.

– “Magic City,” 10 p.m., Starz.
Ike bets big with Ben – his brutal business partner – on a boxing
match. His wife confronts a personal crisis: Jackie Kennedy is
skipping her party. One son will face a bigger problem – if the
photos surface showing him with Ben's naked wife; tonight, the other
son sees them.

TV column for Thursday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

We had never figured Wolowitz for a
space hero, but there he is as this gem begins: He's in the cockpit,
with Mike Massimino (a real-life astronaut, playing himself) and a
Russian cosmonaut.

That leads to flashbacks: Did Howard
and Bernadette marry before take-off? Was his mom (as usual) always
heard and never seen? Did Amy get to wear her maid-of-honor dress?
Did Sheldon behave?

You've probably guessed some of the
answers, but this is still a delight to watch.

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

Here's one of the show's key turning
points – the selection of the final three.

Those are the ones who get big
welcoming parties this weekend in their home towns. The person ousted
tonight merely joins a distinguished list (Chris Daughtry, Tamyra
Gray, etc.) finishing fourth.

Also, there will be performances by
past champion David Cook and judge Jennifer Lopez.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Office”and “Parks and Recreation,” 9-10 p.m., NBC.

With the season officially ending in
13days, many shows wrap up tonight. That includes these two comedies,
each working on a major storyline.

For “Office,” it's the rise and
fall of Andy. He works as a janitor at the office, hoping for a
comeback.

And for “Parks,” it's Leslie's city
council race against Bobby Newport, the rich guy who is good-spirited
and clueless. On election day, a poll shows them in a virtual tie.

Other choices include:

– “Vampire Diaries,” 8 p.m., CW.
This is another of the night's many season-finales. Through
flashbacks, Elena recalls when her parents were alive. Also, Stefan
and Damon leave on a mission.

– “Rules of Engagement,”8:30
p.m., CBS. As her surrogate nears birth, Audrey is still botching her
preparations for motherhood. She keep breaking the doll she's been
practicing on.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The surgical interns must make their final decisions on which job
offers to accept. Romance choices are also tough; Mark is torn
between Lexie and Julia.

– “The Secret Circle,” 9 p.m.,
CW. In another season-finale, Cassie (the terrific Britt Robertson)
links with Diana and Faye, to battle the witch-hunters,

– “Mary Mary,” 9 p.m., WE. With
both sisters pregnant, the tour has been canceled and the future of
the singing duo is shaky

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
On the eighth anniversary of the murder of his wife and daughter,
Patrick Jane gets a message from Red John. He soon loses focus on the
current case and endangers his career (again).

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). For 4,000 years, nomads have wandered the
Tibetan mountains, often herding yaks. “Summer Pasture,” a fairly
interesting documentary, catches some of their traditions, plus
modern twists. We see a summer fair … a shopping trip into town …
and a switch to gathering caterpillar fungi, which suddenly draw
big money because of perceived medicinal value.

– “Scandal,”10:01 p.m., ABC. Kate
Burton (Meredith's late mom on “Grey's Anatomy”) plays the
vice-president here. Tonight's episode flashes back to the primaries,
to show her fractured relationship with the president. Also, Gideon
probes the past of Amanda Tanner, the president's accuser.