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.

TV column for Wednesday, May 9


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

One night after “The Voice” picked
its winner, “Idol” has its final four perform. Two tiny teens –
Jessica Sanchez, 16, and Hollie Cavanagh, 18 – remain, alongside
the eccentric Phillip Phillips, 21, and the remarkable Joshua Ledet,
20.

They'll spend part of tonight with a
California-music theme; then viewers vote. On Thursday, we'll learn
which three have survived and will get home-town parties this
weekend.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Crime Scene
Investigation” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

Remember when NBC really had “must-see
TV”? Two glory-days stars link tonight.

There's Ted Danson of “Cheers,” who
took over this season as the “CSI” star; tonight, we learn of he
character's past troubles. And there's Peri Gilpin (“Frasier”);
tonight, she's introduced as his wife.

Meanwhile, there's a fresh crisis.
Three bodies have been found near a campaign dinner.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “White Heat”
debut, 10 p.m., BBC America.

In modern times, Charlotte (Juliet
Stevenson) visits a London flat. The owner has died; now his old
flat-mates gather and churn memories.

There are strong ones. We flash back to
1965, with Charlotte played by Claire Foy (the star of “Little
Dorrit” star and the troubled sister in the nw “Upstairs
Downstairs”). Bright and independent, she lives with a beautiful,
blonde art student; a cocky, wealthy activist; an earnesimmigrant and
more. This seems to be the start of deep and well-crafted drama.

Other choices tonight:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Only
six people remain and one will be ousted tonight. That sets up
Sunday's two-hour finale.

– “Nature,” 8p.m., PBS. White
may be a great color for lions in the circus, but it's a problem when
trying to hide in the jungle. In 35-plus years, we're told, only
three white lions have reached adulthood in the South African wild.
This film follows beautiful white cubs whose dad has apparently died.
With their mom, aunt and two cousins, they face steep odds.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Axl
is starting to feel the four-leave clover he picked was cursed. For
the second time, he accidentally asks “Weird Ashley” to the prom.
And his friend asks Sue – giving Axl the gloomy prospect of
double-dating with his sister.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
George is clearly attracted to Eden – who arrived as the surrogate
mother for Noah and his wife. Now that she's moved in with George, he
has misgivings.

– Modern Family, 9 p.m., ABC. Here's
an episode filmed at Disneyland – where distractions grow: Gloria
has spiked heels, Haley has her boyfriend, Mitchell and Cam have
trouble keeping up with little Lily, who has a tendency to dash away.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. There's been a string of attacks on gays. The
latest victim was about to marry the son of Tutuola (Ice-T); Tony
Hale and Jane Addams are guest stars.

– “Around the World in 80 Plates”
debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. Cooking becomes a global adventure, in this
fast-paced show. The first episode has American chefs racing
(literally) between London pubs. Then they take over two of them,
trying to instantly master the local tastes..

TV column for Tuesday, May 8


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

Carrie, the cop who remembers
everything, has one gaping exception: She can't remember the man she
saw in the woods, when she found her sister's body.

Now she finally has a suspect –
played by Elias Koteas, who was excellent as the commander in last
summer “Combat Hospital.” A few twists are absurd, but mostly
this is a strong, solid hour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Fashion Star”
and “The Voice,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

Now that “Biggest Loser” has ended
its season, there's more room.

“Fashion Star”moves ahead a couple
hours, for its second-to-last episode. This time, department-store
buyers request specific pieces; then half the contestants are ousted,
leaving three for the finale.

And in “Voice,” we'll learn which
of the four powerhouse singers is the champion.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “L.A.
Complex,” 9 p.m., CW.

This Canadian series portrays wide-eyed
newcomers to Los Angeles' show-business scene.

Last week, things came too easily: Abby
landed a guest role … Tariq worked with (and slept with) a hip-hop
star … Alicia met a decent guy. Now this hour seems intent on
crushing them again … then finds interesting ways for them to
bounce back.

It also toys with Raquel (Jewel
Staite), a former star whose career has sagged. The result is often
flawed and overwrought, yet remains interesting.

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Prom time
throws the school into high energy. Brittany, as class president,
takes charge. King and queen candidates campaign. And outcasts create
an alternative party.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
high-tech world keeps giving us new things to fret about; now a bug
has been found inside the tooth of a probationary agent. Meanwhile,
it's time for Jimmy Palmer's bachelor party. Richard Schiff (“West
Wing”) and Jamie Lee Curtis are guest stars.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Probing a Russian sleeper cell, Kensi and Deeks (Daniela Ruah
and Erik Christian Olsen) pretend to be a married couple,
house-sitting in the suburbs.

– “New Girl” season-finale, 9
p.m., Fox. Ducking all advice, Nick (Jake Johnson) is ready to move
back in with Caroline, who keeps ruining his life, First, there's a
trip to the desert. Winston faces his fear of the dark, Jess and Nick
face a coyote, Schmidt and Cece reach a turning point.

– “Iron Men” debut, 9 p.m.,
Weather. We meet construction people who walk on beams in New York –
which is reportedly windier than Chicago. They're likable guys doing
gutsy work, in a moderately interesting reality show.

– “United Stats of America”
debut, 10 p.m., History. In his lifetime, we're told, the average
American male will spend 198 months watching TV, five months on hold
and only two months having sex. Such statistics ripple through this
series, hosted by twin comedians Randy and Jason Sklar.

– “Private Practice,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Pete makes a key decision, after seeing an argument over a
patient. Also, Jake (Benjamin Bratt) steps in, when Amelia may be
heading back to drug addiction.

TV column for Monday, May 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC.

The final four perform and viewers pick
a champion. They have a varied group to choose fro,.

Chris Mann has a powerful opera sound,
Josh Groban-style. Jermaine Paul has great R-&-B impact, molded
during years of backing Alicia Keys. Juliet Simms is a high-octane
rocker. And Tony Lucca has added great depth since his TV days on
“Mickey Mouse Club” and “Malibu Shore.”

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

The season's best new show is ending
strong. Tonight's hour and next week's finale have drama and romance,
plus big plot twists (sometimes too big) and big songs (all of them
great).

Last week, the Marilyn Monroe musical
prepared for its Boston trial, with a movie star (Uma Thurman) in the
lead and two hopefuls nearby. Karen (Katharine McPhee) was so
distracted that she shrugged off a proposal by her boyfriend; Ivy
(Megan Hilty) was so cunning that she promptly slept with him.

All of that builds tonight, alongside
the return of Michael Swift, whose affair almost destroyed the
lyricist's marriage. And it caps with McPhee in a gospel number
that's downright triumphant.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “2 Broke
Girls” season-finale, 8-9 p.m.,CBS.

This has helped lead a rush of
excellent, female-centric comedies debuting this year.

We've followed Max (the tough-talking
waitress) and Caroline (the former heiress), as they started a
cupcake business. Tonight, they scheme to get into a fund-raiser, so
Martha Stewart will sample the 'cakes. Stewart plays hrself and we
finally meet Caroline's embezzler dad (Steven Weber).

Other choices include:

– :Eureka,” 7-10 p,n,m Syfy. If you
missed the superb, reality-bending trilogy, catch the end of it at 7
and 8 p.m. At 9 , Fargo dealing with the aftermath – and the town
is in danger (again).

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. With Jaleel White ousted, six celebrities remain.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Only
three episodes remain in the final season of a great show. Tonight, a
patient insists on being treated only by House; he's missing, so the
other doctors pretend to consult him.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In the show's 200th episode, Alan is back from the
hospital, with Jason Alexander as his cardiologist. People shower him
with attention, but Zoey has doubts.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Next week is the season-finale wedding. Tonight, we get the
rehearsal – and, of course, lots of setbacks. Reginald VelJohnson
(“Family Matters”) and Holly Robinson Peete (“The Talk”)
return as Brother Haywood and Christina.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m.,CBS.
Steve McGarrett is finally back. While Alex O'Loughlin was in rehab
(reportedly due to pain pills after a shoulder injury), “Five-0”
had reruns and McGarrett-less episodes. Now he's back and closing in
on Wo Fat –only to find that the Japanese Mob wants them both dead.

– “Castle” season-finale, 10:01
p.m., ABC. As Beckett chases someone who shot an Army veteran, Castle
may have a chance to protect her – and to finally admit his
feelings for her.

TV column for Sunday, May 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE : “The Amazing
Race” finale, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

A 40,000-mile adventure – that's
one-and-a-half times around the Earth – started with 11 duos. Now
only four remain.

There are three couples – one
married, one engaged, one dating – plus friends who work on the
border patrol. Tonight, they start in Japan and head to Hawaii, where
one duo will win $1 million.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Desperate
Housewives,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Let's forgive the fact that last week's
stories about Gabrielle and Lynette were lame. This once-great series
is a week from its finale and worth some final attention.

Tonight, Bree nears her murder trial,
enamored with her lawyer (Scott Bakula). Also, Lynette realizes she
went too far in sabotaging Tom's job; now he might be sent overseas
for a year.

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

“You got carried away,” Sherlock
Holmes says. “The game is too elaborate.”

He's talking to super-nemesis Irene
Adler (played with icy perfection by Lara Pulver), but could just as
well be talking to Steven Moffat, who adapted the Holmes tale, “A
Scandal in Belgravia.” Master of the British “Coupling” and the
revived“Doctor Who,” Moffat is a brilliant writer, now in
overdrive.

There are quick bursts of humor, long
bursts of nudity, dizzying plot twists. Characters keep outsmarting
each other; Moffat outsmarts himself, by making it too much and too
impossible. The game is way too elaborate – yet remains
fascinating.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 7 and 8 p.m.,
Fox. First is a rerun, with Bart standing up for a fired teacher.
Then a new episode has Homer taking time off to learn to be a better
husband.

--”Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC.
In the fairy-book days, Snow White tries to round up people to attack
the Evil Queen and save Prince Charming. And in our time, Regina (the
queen's equivalent) schemes to drive Emma away, while young Henry
begs her to stay.

– “Celebrity Apprentice,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. From the original crowd of 18 celebrities, five remain –
comedians Arsenio Hall and Lisa Lampanelli, singer Clay Aiken,
actress Aubrey O'Day and reality-show star Teresa Giudice. Tonight,
they work on a hair-dryer ad and one person is fired. The others are
interviewed by John Rich and Marlee Matlin; the final two are chosen
for the last project.

– “The Big C,” 9:30 p.m.,
Showtime. Cathy strains to impress the parents of the baby she hopes
to adopt at birth. Then, of course, complications build: Her son is
distant, her brother has a phone-sex job, her husband is an opening
speaker for a “joyologist.” The result deftly blends humor, joy
and despair.

– “NYC 22,” 10 p.m., CBS. One
story involves a little boy's identity; another involves a bomb
threat. Both are fairly interesting, but they're also
hyper-melodramatic and solved at hyper-speed.

– “Girls,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. Smart
and explicit, this views the raggedly funny life of Lena, played by
newcomer Lena Dunham, the show's creator. Co-starring are two
actresses with show-business parents: Allison Williams (as Marnie) is
the daughter of newscaster Brian Williams; Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna),
who has a great scene tonight, is the daughter of writer David Mamet
and actress Lindsay Crouse.