TV column for Friday, May 13


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

A successful season wraps up with the
Reagans facing a secret cop group, the Blue Templar.

Jamie Reagan (Will Estes) was asked to
secretly investigate the group – and was told that his brother Joe
was killed while doing the same. Now a drug bust brings signs of
police corruption; their dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner,
starts a confrontation with Templar.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Smallville”
finale, 8-10 p.m., CW.

On another network, this would be a big
deal: “Smallville” is ending a 10-year run; only 13 primetime,
non-anthology dramas have lasted longer.

Alas, this show started on one network
(WB), was shuffled to another (CW, via merger) and has had low
ratings; its finale is fairly low-profile.

Clark Kent (Tom Welling) has
transformed from a shy Kansas farm kid to the big-city reporter who
will become Superman. Tonight, his boyhood nemesis, Lex Luthor
(Michael Rosenbaum) returns.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Dual
Survival” (8 and 9 p.m.) and “Swamp Brothers” debut (10 and
10:30), Discovery.

This may cause you to adjust your
Central Florida vacation plans. First is a “Survival” rerun in
the Everglades; then – after a new Thai-jungle “Survival” –
we get the macho “Swamp Brothers” debut.

Rob Keszey has a farm in Bushnell,
Fla., raising and selling venomous snakes, tarantulas and more. Now
his brother Stephen, a Manhattan bartender and self-described
“normal, sane person,” joins him

Soon, he's distracting a crocodile
while Rob grabs her eggs for safe-keeping. He's chasing wild hogs,
hauling a huge python and watching Stephen slow a neighbor's lion so
a veterinarian can treat her mate.

Other choices include:

– “Friday Night Lights,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. The East Dillon Lions have a fierce rematch with the team they
forfeited to last year. It's a high-octane hour, with contrasting
moments of human drama; there's some odd bonding for the players and
some jolts for the coach's daughter, a college freshman.

– “Kitchen Nightmares,” 8-10
p.m., Fox. With “Fringe” done for the season, Gordon Ramsay gets
the whole night. First, he helps Zeke's Restaurant in New Orleans;
then a rerun re-visits previous spots.

– “CSI: NY” season-finale, 9
p.m., CBS. If this seventh season is the show's last – a
possibility – tonight's hour may be a logical farewell. Mac (Gary
Sinise) has a near-death experience. Now he's trying to wrap up his
only unsolved case.

– “Camelot,” 10 p.m., Starz.
Arthur reluctantly links with his half-sister (and enemy) Morgan. She
invites his knights to a feast; then both combine when the castle is
attacked.

– “Charlie Sheen's Hollywood Black
Book,” 10 p.m., TV Guide; repeats at 11. Things have been quiet on
the weird-Charlie front lately, but here's a summary of Sheen's
career.

– “Lore: Deadly Obsession,”
midnight, Investigation Discovery. This is a truly vile and
despicable movie, a low moment for any cable channel. The story – a
1978 Sacramento killer who drained his victims' blood – is worked
for every awful detail; making things worse is shabby filming
(designed to create a documentary feel) and horribly heavy-handed
acting and writing.

 

TV column for Thursday, May 12


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

First, we get some starpower: Jordin
Sparks, the 2007 winner, performs; Steven Tyler offers the video of
his first U.S. solo single, “(It) Feels So Good.”

Then one person from the final four
will be dumped. There are two Southern teens – Lauren Alaina brings
a pageant pleasantness; Scotty McCreery gives country music a
sophistication beyond his years. There's also Haley Reinhart, an
Illinois beauty with wide range, and James Durbin, a Californian who
spices hellfire rock with some amazing high octaves.

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

Already a wonderful comedy, “Big
Bang” improved greatly with the addition of Melissa Rauch as
Bernadette, the perfect match – smart, but odd – for Wolowitz
(Simon Helberg).

The two are engaged now, but he still
lives with his overbearing (but unseen) mom. Tonight, he breaks the
news – and his mom ends up in the hospital.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Parks and
Recreation,” 9:30 and 10 p.m., NBC.

With many great characters, this comedy
can go in any direction. It proves that with opposite episodes.

The first is kind of loud and jangly.
Most of it is set in Tom's nightclub, where colleagues assume fake
personalities in order to push his drink concoction. Andy and April
get thoroughly into the task; also, Leslie drinks way too much and
yells at her best friend Ann.

The second is quieter and even has some
sweet moments. Leslie and Ben are ready to fall in love – except
that their boss (Rob Lowe) has banned any relationship; he has also,
alas, sent them on a road trip together. Meanwhile, Andy and April
sputter about her answer in a mock game show.

Other choices include:

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. The
season ends with the second half of a paintball episode. Study-group
members disagree about strategy, but are a passionate team.

– Movies, 8 p.m., cable. The top
movie is “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002, TNT), the
mid-section of a great trilogy. Two others are beautifully crafted
stories of men in crises – George Clooney's “The Perfect Storm”
(2000, AMC) and Tom Hanks' “Apollo 13” (1995, Encore). Also, “50
First Dates” (2004, TBS) is a sweet-spirited comedy with Drew
Barrymore and Adam Sandler.

– “The Office,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
NBC. First is a rerun, with Michael obsessing on competition with
China. Then a new episode offers the grim prospect of Dwight as
acting manager.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Meredith is on edge, facing interviews about the chief residency and
about adoption. Meanwhile, Callie struggles with being away from her
baby for the first time.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. Last week, the “Dick & Jane killer”
kidnapped Langston's ex-wife. Tonight, Langston confronts him in the
house where the killing began.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Symphony members hardly ever seem to be murder suspects. They are
tonight, after a young violinist is killed.

TV column for Wednesday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Better With You”
season-finale, 8:30 p.m., ABC.

TV comedies are at their best during
births and weddings. Now this episode has both.

Mia suddenly decides she wants to be
married before her baby arrives. That requires some scrambling,
including propping up a judge (Edward Herrmann) from a nearby
hospital room. The last couple minutes are so-so, but the rest is
hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “American
Idol,” 8-9:30 p.m., Fox.

This show has its final four now, with
no one invincible.

Last week, a weeping Lauren Alaina was
in the bottom two for the first time; a week earlier, the other teen,
Scotty McCreery, was there. They've survived, alongside James Durbin
and Haley Reinhart.

Tonight, they tackle the songs of Jerry
Leiber and Mike Stoller, both 78. There are great ones to choose from
– rowdy (“Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “I'm a Woman,”
“Kansas City”), funny (“Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,”
“Love Potion No. 9”) and soaring. It's too bad Jacob Lusk was
eliminated a week before he could do “Stand By Me,” “On
Broadway,” “Lovin' You” or “There Goes My Baby.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Cougar Town,”
9:31 p.m., ABC.

In real life, Ian Gomez (who plays
Andy) is married to actress-writer Nia Vardalos; she turned their
romance into the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Now this show
toys with reality.

Andy seems to be the only one in his
universe who doesn't speak Spanish. His brother, who's angry with him
about that, visits and brings his too-flirty wife, played by
Vardalos.

Other choices include:

– “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. With
the finale in four days, five people (including perpetual contestant
Rob Mariano) remain on the mainland, four (including perpetual
survivor Matt Elrod) on the island. One is eliminated tonight; on
Sunday, eight will compete for chances to be questioned by the
jurors.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Here's another danger of text-messaging: Axl sends a prom invitation
to the wrong girl.

– Lady Gaga concert, 8-10 p.m., HBO.
Yes, Gaga is everywhere these days. Tonight, she's reportedly a
mentor on “American Idol” and her concert is a plot point on
“Modern Family.” Here's a rerun of the actual concert. The first
half seems a bit contrived and robotic, but then Gaga starts to
insert passion.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – a Tony-winner for his “In the Heights”
music and lyrics – plays a dog-trainer who gets advice from Jay.
Also, Phil and Claire trade off on who is the disciplinarian;
Mitchell isn't sure about going to the Lady Gaga concert when Cameron
is sick.

– “Happy Endings,” 10 and 10:30
p.m., ABC. This series began with Alex running away from her wedding
with Dave; now comes the question of whether they have removed or
will remove the tattoos with each other's names. In the second
episode, Penny dates the gang's favorite high school teacher.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Rita Wilson – the wife of Tom Hanks and the
producer of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – plays the mother of a
teen boy who is found asleep and naked in a young woman's bedroom.

TV column for Tuesday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

First is “Greatest Results Show
Performances,” with clips from the six-season, 12-edition “Dancing”
run. Then, at 9 p.m., a new hour picks the final four, after more
performances.

Adele sings a classic – “Natural
Woman,” with Cheryl Burke and Louis Van Anstel dancing – and her
new song, “21.” Also performing are brothers Hefa, Solano and
Tu'iniua Tuita, ages 19, 16 and 12.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II”
“Worst.Prom.Ever” (MTV) or “How the States Got Their Shapes”
(History), both 10 p.m.

MTV reminds us of something “Buffy
the Vampire Slayer” once proved: Every human activity is somehow
funnier when done by someone in a prom dress.

In this case, two school stars – the
hottest girl, the best student – are jailed, alongside a hopelessly
romantic guy in a tuxedo; we flash back to see why, then jump ahead.
The story suffers from being stretched to movie length, but it's
still fun; Haley Ramm is excellent as good-girl Heather.

If prom comedy eludes your age group,
switch to History, where “States” finds great fun. We see why
Illinois swiped Chicago away from Wisconsin; also in Illinois, we see
the stunning-scary “Asian carp” leaping in a river and we meet
the governor of the semi-mythical state of Forgottonia.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Months ago, PBS scheduled “Bhutto,”
about a fascinating figure in modern Pakistani history. It debuts
now, just as the Osama bin Laden story raises fresh questions about
Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto had all the advantages –
wealth, Harvard education, a political party founded by her late
father. She also had one disadvantage: She was a woman, in a land
totally run by men.

Bhutto was elected prime minister twice
and removed twice. She was killed in 2007, before she might have been
elected anew. “Bhutto” is fascinating, despite being too light on
the corruption accusations (detailed by the New York Times) against
Bhutto and her widower (now Pakistan's president).

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
port-to-port killer has infiltrated the agency.”

– “Black in Latin America”
finale, 8 p.m. (check local listings), PBS. Dark in complexion,
partly African in roots, Vicente Guerrero was a top general in the
Mexican revolution; he was also the country's second president and
emancipated its slaves in 1829. That's one of the interesting stories
Henry Louis Gates tells, while visiting Mexico and Peru.

– “In Search of Food,” 8 p.m.,
Ovation. Over the next three days, Barton Seaver will look at the
trend of getting food from nearby farms. That starts with this
charming Minneapolis trip. Things then get more urban, with New York
on Wednesday and San Francisco on Thursday.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. The death of a Navy SEAL may lead to the crucial canister.

– “Becoming Chaz,” 9 p.m., Oprah
Winfrey Network. A documentary showcase debuts with this film about
the gender transformation of the former Chastity Bono, born the
daughter of Sonny Bono and Cher. Afterward, Rosie O'Donnell leads a
discussion at 10:30 p.m.

– “The Voice,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a
good duet, the singers blend; in a bad one, they compete. Now each
person sings with a team member, with one of the two chosen as a
winner.

– “Body of Proof,” 10:01 p.m.,
ABC. Megan needs help from her mom (Joanna Cassidy), a judge.
Meanwhile, Samantha (the excellent Sonja Sohn) is shaken by a
cop-killing case.

 

 

TV column for Monday, May 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American
Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Next week, “Experience” has a
moving portrait of the freedom riders. First, however, is this
musical interlude: Alongside civil-rights clips and memories, we get
freshly filmed performances.

The songs are stirring; the
interpretations are amazing. Alongside old-timers (Richie Havens,
Blind Boys of Alabama) we hear magnificent work from such current
stars as John Legend, Joss Stone and Wyclef Jean. Stick around for
the closing credits, with people taking turns on “We Shall
Overcome.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Movies, cable.

Three brilliantly made films, spanning
almost a half-century, air tonight.

At 8 p.m/, “Lawrence of Arabia”
(1962, Turner Classic Movies) tells a true story, sprawling across
the desert. At 8:05, “Pulp Fiction” (1994, Independent Film
Channel) has Quentin Tarantino's clever, Oscar-winning script and
sharp direction. At 9, “Alice in Wonderland” (2010, Starz) is
flawed – why depend on a final fight scene? – but benefits from
Tim Burton's stunning visual sense.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Justice for
Natalee Holloway,” “Vanished,” 8 and 10 p.m., Lifetime.

The combination seems logical: First, a
movie depicts the pivotal year in which Beth Holloway finally saw
officials close in on the man suspected of killing her daughter
Natalee. Then the real-life Beth hosts a series about disappearances;
the opener views Natalee and a missing San Diego family.

The problem is that the two shows
clash. The Beth Holloway we see in “Vanished” is smart, calm and
precise; like John Walsh – who has followed the murder of his son
with decades of criminal-catching – she's a solid TV host. The one
portrayed by Tracy Pollan in the movie quivers with obsession.

That matches the movie's overwrought
style, with quick-jolt scenes and strident music. There's a
soap-opera feeling to a story that didn't need any extra hype.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Kendra Wilkinson was ousted. That
leaves Chelsea Kane (who was in the final two) plus Kirstie Alley,
Ralph Macchio, Hines Ward and Romeo.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Trying to
win a bet with Wilson, Dr. House obsesses on a troubled boxer.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Ted is about to make a key decision about Zoey (former
“House” star Jennifer Morrison). Naturally, all his friends offer
opinions.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Over the next three weeks, “Men” reruns one of its more
bizarre stretches. That's when Charlie obsesses on Rose (his former
stalker) now that she says she's married.

– “Stargate Universe”
series-finale, 9 p.m., Syfy. Cable has had at least one “Stargate”
series ever since 1997. Tonight, however, the only survivor ends
after just two seasons. In an episode appropriately called
“Gauntlet,” the ship learns that drones are waiting in ambush
near each gate.

– “Bethenny Ever After,” 10 p.m.,
Bravo.The season-finale is preceded by reruns, starting at noon.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. A
beauty-pageant contestant has been killed, plunging Castle and a
disappoving Beckett into a world of gowns and sequins. Michael McKean
– looking a lot like Donald Trump, owner of the Miss USA operation
– plays a rich businessman who owns the pageant.