TV column for Friday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Vegas” and
“Blue Bloods” season-finales, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

These shows have dominated Friday's
ratings by offering cop stories with character twists. Now each has a
tale linked to righteous revenge.

For “Vegas,” that centers on Ralph
Lamb (Dennis Quaid) , the real-life rancher who was hired as sheriff
in 1960s Las Vegas. He links with his enemy, mobster Vince Savino
(Michael Chiklis), to get the man responsible for killing his wife
and putting an assistant district attorney in the hospital.

For “Blue Bloods,” it involves the
Reagan cops – the police commissioner, a detective and Jamie, a
patrolman. They combine to persue the gang members who killed Jamie's
police partner Vinny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Jake
Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In the wrong hands – well,almost any
hands – the ukelele can be incredibly dull. Shimabukuro, however,
transforms this lowly instrument into a powerful source of jazz,
blues, rock and classical.

Tadashi Nakamura has directed
beautifully, mixing concert snips and profile portions. We hear about
a Hawaiian kid who was alone at night, watching his brother while his
divorced mother worked. He played obsessively … and mastered the
ukelele universe.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci's
Diaries,” 9 p.m., Starz; repeats at 10:05.

After broad-based episodes, here's a
detour, focusing on Leonardo da Vinci's trial for “sodomy.” That
was the word for homosexuality, which was accepted in Florence, but
forbidden elsewhere in Italy.

The final portions strain believability
to the breaking point. Still, great actors tackle sharp dialog in an
intense setting; and for the first time, we see depth to da Vinci's
fractured relationship with his father.

Other choices include:

– “Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Here's a follow-up hour, meeting some of the employees who have fared
the best and worst. On the minus side, some tell about being fired.
On the plus? One has gone from homeless shelter to homeowner, another
from minimum wage to franchise-owner.

– “Fashion Star,” 8 p.m., NBC.
With help – and, sometimes, distractions – from ousted
contestants, the three finalists each create a collection for each of
the three retailers. Then a champion is chosen.

– “The Incredibles” (2004), 8
p.m., Disney. Her;s animated fun about a family of superheroes,
suddenly emerging from witness-protection-program obscurity.

– “Touch” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.
Jake and Amelia are at the core, as the Aster Corps tries to harness
their brains and dominat the world economy. Jake's dad (Kiefer
Sutherland) scrambles to find them.

– “Maron,” 10 p.m., IFC. This
low-key comedy evolved from a podcast that clever comedian Marc Maron
does from his garage. Tonight starts with a chat with his opposite,
the hyper-macho Denis Leary. Soon, Maron tries a manly task: Remove a
dead animal from under his house.

– “A River Runs Through It,”10
p.m., Sundance. Beautifuly directed by Robert Redford – who isn't
in the film, except as narrator – this views two brothers who grow
up as opposites amid the beauty of Montana. Craig Sheffer and
then-newcomer Brad Pitt are perfect in the leads.

TV column for Thursday, May 9


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

Tonight, we learn who will be in next
week's finale. It will be the first all-female finish since 2004
(when Fantasia topped Diana Degarmo) and a can't-miss proposition;
each of the final three – Angie Miller, Kree Harrison and the
amazing Candice Glover – has immense talent.

Before the results tonight, there will
be performances. Alicia Keys sings “Tears Always Win”; Lauren
Alaina, last year's runner-up, sings “Barefoot and Buckwild.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Glee”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

It's time for the regional show-choir
contest, with a tough opponent. That's Hoosier Daddy, from Indiana,
with the powerful Frida Romero (“Idol” runner-up Jessica Sanchez)
singing lead.

Still, there are bigger things to worry
about. Rachel may have her “Funny Girl” audition … Ryder may
learn the identity of his anonymous Internet love … and after
hesitating, Blaine may propose to Kurt.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS.

Viewers had suspected that Irene Adler
– Sherlock's one true love – isn't really dead.

Now she arrives, played by Natalie
Dormer, who is Margaery on “Game of Thrones” and was Anne Boleyn
on “The Tudors.” That leads into next week's two-hour season
finale.

Also, Holmes takes a case from someone
claiming to be Moriarty.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Relationships get fresh twists: Raj has an awkward date with
Lucy (the funny Kate Micucci); Sheldon and Amy have a surprise turn
during “Dungeons & Dragons.”

– “Community” season-finale, 8
p.m., NBC. For each of its four seasons, “Community” has faced
low ratings and cancellation rumors. It's there now, just as the
study group faces a new crisis – Jeff (Joel McHale) has enough
credits to graduate from community college. Meanwhile, people
re-visit an episode last season which showed alternate fates for
characters; now they see only the darkest ones.

– “The Office,” 8:31-10 p.m.,
NBC. A week before the series finale, here's a rerun at 8:30 and a
new hour at 9. To save his marriage, Jim gave up a big opportunity.
Now he's Dwight's assistant, hiring his own assistant. Also, Dwight
wants to propose to Esther; Angela brings her baby to work.

– “Two and a Half Men” season
final, 8:31 p.m., CBS. To no one' surprise,Walden (Ashton Kutcher,
35) is dating a hot young woman (Hilary Duff, 25). To everyone's
surprise, he's more interested in her worldly grandmother (Marilu
Henner, 61).

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The doctors brace for a superstorm heading toward Seattle.

– “Person of Interest” season
finale, 9:01 p.m., CBS. The world is apparntly full of evil
organizations. Tonight, Reese and Finch battle one (Decima) to save
the machine; Carter fights another (HR) while trying to catch Cal
Beecher's killer.

– “Hannibal,”10:01 p.m., NBC.
Hannibal Lechter – who's a killer, viewers know, – has been a
therapist for cops, but who is his therapist? Tonight, he sees one,
played by Gillian Anderson of “The X Files.”

TV column for Wednesday, May 8


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

In a year stuffed with great female
singers, we see the the final three visiting their home towns.

For Kree Harrison, 22, that'sWoodville,
an East Texas town of 22,000. For Angie Miller, 19, it's Beverly, a
Massachusetts town of 40,000, near historic Salem. And for Candice
Glover, it's St. Helena Island, off the Southern edge of South
Carolina, with 8,700 people and a rich Gullah culture.

Each chooses one song and is given two
others – one by judges and one by mentor Jimmy Iovine.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Modern
Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Comedies are often at their best when
plunking all thecharacters in a fresh location for an episode.

It was a bowling alley for “Roseanne,”
a mall parking ramp for “Seinfeld,” a science-fiction convention
for “Community.” And now the entire family is at a roller rink.

There, Haley teaches her sister to
flirt and Phil teaches Gloria to skate spectacularly. Cam is busy
trying to seem cool around Mitchell's successful ex-boyfriend. Claire
wants to avoid her dad, who wants her to take over his business.
Also, Luke and Manny must choose someone for a “My Hero” essay.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

TV usually says we've ruined life for
the animals; now here's the opposite. Suburbia, says Cornell
professor Jay Boulanger, is “pretty much the perfect habitat for
deer.”

So they thrive; in a century, the
number of North American deer has gone from 1 million to 30 million.

No wonder: A doe, less than a year old,
can have a fawn (or twins or triplets). Quick and nimble, deer make
up for bad sight with great smell and hearing; they may consume nine
pounds a day, but can eat almost any vegetation. This charming hour
ranges from elusive albinos to an overrun New York town.

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. With
the finale Sunday, this show is down to its final six people. Only
Eddie Fox and Sherri Beithman are “fans,” playing for the first
time. Brenda Lowe, John Cochran, Dawn Meehan and Erik Reichenbach are
all “favorites” from previous years. Tonight, each gets a visit
from a loved one; then we learn who will be in the finale.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Two
big events – Mothers Day and prom – loom. One sees Frankie fret
about another bad present; the other sees Axl profit from his musical
ask-a-girl-to-prom service.

– ”Family Tools,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Jack wasn't much of a handyman, but he may not be any better at his
new job, in the corporate office. Meanwhile, Mason's odd girlfriend
draws doubters.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. After years on the now-departed “Law &
Order: Criminal Intent,” Eames (Kathryn Erbe) arrives to help with
a sniper crisis.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. A ghost-hunter has been killed. Still, we're guessing
the killer is a living being.

– “Nashville,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Rayna and Juliette – two generations of stars, often in conflict –
are nominated for Country Music Association awards. Their record
label throws a combined party.

– “Million Dollar Listing,” 10
p.m., Bravo. The second season adds Luis Ortiz to the real-estate
mix.

TV column for Tuesday, May 7


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

Last week's episode ended wonderfully,
when Nick – usually indecisive – swept Jess out of the elevator
and back to their apartment. They consummated their relationship.

Now her father – played by Rob
Reiner, sort of in the opposite of his old “All in the Family”
duties – suddenly shows up, as complications build. Jess has a
chance at a promising new job, one day before Cece's wedding. Also,
Winston has unrealistic hopes for a surprise birthday party.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Body of
Proof,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Just as Megan is on a serene date with
a handsome chap (Luke Perry), a crisis builds.

A plane crash has left more than 50
people dead and others injured. Tommy, the cop who is Megan's
ex-love, is in a crash en route to the investigation. Now the medical
examiner's office is filled with bodies … and with injured
survivors who want to stay near their loved ones.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Constitution
USA” debut, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

During a steamy summer in Philadelphia,
our founding fathers weren't into transparency;they kept the windows
closed, so no one would overhear. For four months, sweaty men in wool
clothes molded what Peter Sagal calls “the owners' manual for a new
nation.”

Their compromises brought mixed. In
this clever opener, Sagal views states' rights. Some federal steps –
Hoover Dam, school integration – are now popular; others bring
debate. We meet a Montana gun enthusiast, a California marijuana
grower and a Kentucky critic of mandated toilet technology.

Other choices include:

– “Splash” finale, 8 p.m., ABC.
Last week, Brandi Chastain was sent home, trimming to the final three
– skier Rory Bushfield and actors Drake Bell and Nicole Eggert.
They'll dive tonight and judges will choose two for one last dive;
then the studio audience picks a champion.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A new case
involves a petty officer who may or may not be paranoid. At the same
time, an old case lingers: The team took personal action in pursuing
Podnar, who had killed Ziva's dad and Vince's wife; now a Defense
Department investigator (Colin Hanks, Tom's son) arrives.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Working undercover, Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) gets close to a
female contact. That seems to distress Kensi (Daniela Ruah), working
surveillance on the case.

– “The Mindy Project,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. This dandy series started with Mindy crumbling at the
wedding of her ex-boyfriend Tom (Bill Hader of “Saturday Night
Live”). She patched up her life, until learning Casey is going to
Haiti for a year. Now Mindy goes to a fraternity party and bumps into
Tom.

– “TED Talks Education,”10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). In a crowded hour, we get six speakers, a
poet, two films and two songs. The speakers have key things to say
about schools, but their messages are hurt by seeming too slick and
prepared. Still, the final speakers – Geoffrey Canada and Ken
Robinson are terrific; alongside a teen poet and a John Legend song,
they end the hour strongly.

– “Grimm,” 10:01, NBC. A Wesen's
powers could shatter Nick's relationship with Juliette.

TV column for Monday, May 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice”
(NBC) or “Rihanna 777” (Fox), both 8 p.m.

This is when “The Voice” gets
serious, with its “playoffs” round. The final 16 singers perform
today and Tuesday, with the field trimming to 12 on Wednesday.

Still, music fans could easily be lured
by Fox's film. It follows Rihanna as she promotes her seventh album
by doing seven concerts in seven countries in seven days, via a 777
jet.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Warehouse
13,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

Last week, life was semi-restored. A
global plague was averted; an evil spirit was expelled from Artie.

Now there's time for a typical (serious
and sometimes funny) crisis. This one involves a forest, an eco-group
and a park ranger named Smith – a fact that delights Pete, a “Yogi
Bear” fan.

Still, things aren't totally normal
yet. Artie feels heavy guilt about killing his friend during his
evil-spirit days. “Warehouse” skillfully sprinkles emotion amid
the fun and science-fiction adventure.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Big C:
Hereafter,” 10 p.m., Showtime.

This series – a deeply layered mix of
joy, pain and consolation – is in its final stretch now. Cathy
(Laura Linney) has ceased chemotherapy for her cancer; the series
finale is two weeks away.

Tonight's hour ends with a quiet jolt.
Before that, there are moving moments, including a great monologue by
Cathy's brother, superbly played by Tony-winner John Benjamin Hickey.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. The funny folks are gone and things get
increasingly serious. Comedian Andy Dick was dumped last week, not
long after comedian D.L. Hughley. We don't know who's next, but last
week had Jacoby Jones and Ingo Rademacher in the bottom.

– “Cinderella” (1950), 8-9:25
p.m., Disney. Here's one of the great ones, a cartoon classic.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. One of the best elements of this erratic comedy has been
the shaky relationship between the rogue-ish Russell (David Spade)
and his button-down assistant Timmy (Adhir Kalyan). Now both have
what they deserve – a better boss for Timmy, a worse aide for
Russell.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Caroline's father wants her to defend him on a TV talk show.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. After doing well on his diet, Mike binges when Molly is gone.

– “Rectify,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
Sundance. “What is it like to be free, but not exonerated,” a
reporter asks Daniel. That question is at the heart of this terrific,
six-part series. In the third part (rerunning at 9), we were reminded
that much of the town considers him a killer and wants a new trial;
in the new hour at 10, he finds friendship with his step-brother's
sweetly religious wife (Adelaide Clemens).

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Steven is 60, twice-divorced, with a
small apartment, a parking-booth job and little money; Sandy is 30.
She speaks no English; he speaks almost no Chinese. Can they make it
together? Debbie Lum started to make a film about white American men
who obsess on Asian women. She emerged with a complicated film,
alternately hopeful and painful.

– “Dear Mom, Love Cher,” 10 p.m.,
Lifetime. Georgia Holt has has an epic life, including six marriages
and (at 85 or 86) her first album. She's the focus of this film by
her daughter, Cher

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Homeland Security has taken over a seemingly ordinary crime scene.