TV column for Sunday, May 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS, with follow-up at 10.

The “fans vs. favorites” finale
arrives with some of each.

Three “favorites” (people from
previous editions) are still around. There's John Cochran, 25, Erik
Reichenbach, 27, and Dawn Meehan, 42.

But two newcomers – Eddie Fox, 23,
and Sherri Biethman, 41 – are also there. Someone will win $1
million tonight, with a live “reunion” at 10.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Revenge”
season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

Big – but unspecified – things are
happening tonight, ABC promises. Events have been pushed in a
dangerous direction; by the end of the first hour, there's a
catastrophe.

That leads in the second hour to a
death and aftershocks. Emily reconsiders her vengeance obsession.

WEEKEND'S ALTERNATIVE: “10 Buildings
That Changed America,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Mixing wit and intelligence, this
jaunty film covers a broad range.

There are stridently vertical
skyscrapers … and a sprawlingly horizontal Frank Lloyd Wright home.
Old-time values are reflected in a Boston church and the Virginia
capitol; quirky revisionism marks the Dulles airport, the Disney
concert hall and a whimsical little house in Philadelphia.

There's also a Ford assembly plant, the
first to bring sunlight to its workers. And there's the first
full-scale, indoor shopping mall; 50,000 people came to its opening
in Edina,Minn.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons, 7 and 8 p.m., Fox.
First is a rerun, with Homer learning Grampa was once Gorgeous
Godfrey, a wrestling villainous. Then a new episode gives Bart a
beautiful piano teacher and Homer a tragedy – he's lost the last
two hairs on his head. Guests range from Justin Bieber to Sir Patrick
Stewart.

– “Call the Midwife,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). A week before the season-finale, crises
include bigoted neighbors and a verbally abusive husband. There's
also a light side: After mastering their bicycles, the midwives face
a bigger challenge – learning to zip around on a motor scooter.

– “XOX, Betsey Johnson”debut, 8
p.m., Style. Pushing 70, Johnson retains the brash, quirky design
style – and personality – that brought early fame. This reality
show catches a key time: Her company went broke, then was revived by
Steve Madden, the shoe king (and convicted white-collar criminal).
Also, her daughter is starting her own company. Another debut,
“Resale Royalty,” follows at 9.

– “Mr.Selfridge,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Another classy British show is a week from
ending its season. Tonight, Selfridge's upscale store faces downscale
competition from F.W. Woolworth.

– “Wicked Tuna” season-finale, 9
p.m., National Geographic. With only two days left in the bluefish
season, captains defy odds. It's an hour high in adrenaline,
testosterone, success and despair.

– “The Borgias,” 10 p.m.,
Showtime. Here's a strong episode, with major thunder-shocks. The
pope faces a personal scandal … his daughter fumes at her
father-in-law, who banished the son she has from a previous liaison …
and her brother ponders a political marriage.

– “Family Tree” debut, 10:30
p.m., HBO. Christopher Guest's movies are dry and droll. The British
like that sort of thing, so this is a logical step – Guest
co-created and directed an ambling British series. A guy traces his
ancestors, with odd (and, at times, quite funny) results.

TV column for Saturday, May 11


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

For seven seasons, Kristen Wiig
represented the best and worst of “Saturday Night Live.”

The best included her daft versions of
real people (from Michelle Bachman and Nancy Pelosi to Kathie Lee
Gifford) and fictional ones (Gilly, Peppy, Target Lady). The worst
was the show's tendency to build a pointless sketch around nothing
but Wiig-ing out.

She left after her “Bridesmaids”
movie soared. Now – with at least three movies coming, plus voice
work in two animated film – she hosts; Vampire Weekend is the music
guest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Sports overload,
everywhere.

The annual collision of the seasons
gets busier tonight. Summer sports include golf (2 p.m. ET, NBC) and
NASCAR (6 p.m., Fox); meanwhile, winters sports are in the first
round of the pro playoffs.

For basketball, it's a two-network
doubleheader – Oklahoma City at Memphis (5 p.m., ESPN) and New York
at Indiana (8 p.m., ABC). Also, the NBC Sports channel has hockey at
7:30 and 10 p.m.ET, unless the best-of-seven rounds were settled
early.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Shunning”and “The Confession” 7 and 9 p.m., Hallmark.

First is a rerun of a fairly good movie
from 2011; Katie Lapp, young and Amish, learned she was given up for
adoption by a non-Amish woman. Then is a new sequel, including a
mystery.

Katie was well-played by Danielle
Panabaker in the first film and now switches to Katie Leclerc, the
terrific “Switched at Birth” star. Other elements, however,
continue: Both are adapted from Beverly Lewis novels, with Michael
Landon Jr. directing and Sherry Stringfield as the birth mother.

Other choices include:

– “Smash,” 8 p.m., NBC. This show
continues to blend strong music with garish soap opera. Last week, a
“Hit List” co-creator (Kyle) was killed by a car and his
drug-addicted colleague (Jimmy) returned to the show … which a
conniving producer turned into a publicity event, for a quick
transfer to Broadway. (Did we mention garish?) Tonight, “Bombshell”
ups its push for Tony awards.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. At
Christmastime – yes, this is a rerun – Abby has holiday
excitement and Tony has misgivings about a visit from his dad (Robert
Wagner). Also, there's a murder probe.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. One case in this rerun involves death at a police K-9
unit. Another looks at the death of a divorce lawyer who had abundant
enemies.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Here's a rerun of last week's show, which was merely OK, despite
a clever opening monologue by Zach Galifianakis. The music guest is
Of Monsters and Men.

– “Origins: The Band Perry,” 10
p.m., GAC (Great American Country). Steve Perry is as a pediatrician,
but also seems to be a homemade expert on country music; that passion
spread to his three kids. This special sees them return home to
Greeneville, Tenn., near the Great Smokey Mountains; they perform the
songs that propelled them – “If I DieYoung” and “You Lie” –
and two songs from their new album.

– “Country's Family Reunion,”
midnight ET, RFD. This series (also 8 p.m. Fridays) is in a month of
Grand Ole Opry memories. Tonight includes Roy Clark, Ricky Skaggs,
Jean Shepard and more.

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.