TV column for Friday, May 6


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

A tremendous season – with dueling
worlds and dueling Walters – ends tonight.

Last week, the alternate-world Walter
used the machine to try to save his world and destroy ours. The team
desperately tried to find and heal Peter, then get him inside the
machine. They succeeded – except that when he emerged he was in his
own future, after a devastating attack.

That's where things start tonight. Fox
says one member of the team will die during the hour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “CSI: NY,” 9
p.m., CBS.

Yes, the “CSI” shows sometimes skip
the crimes and work on crimesolving. Not tonight, though; there are
two spectacular bursts of action – one very early and one late.

That's in a story that started last
week, centering on Mac's former training officer and partner (Peter
Fonda). A man they arrested long ago is out of prison and filled with
rage. Mac's sure there's more to the story; he's right, but there are
some fierce moments before he finds out.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Football barely appears in this
episode, which has some deep drama.

The best moments involve Becky (the
superb Madison Burge), who fled after arguing with her dad's new
wife. Now she's staying at the home of Billy Riggins, whose wife is
both resentful and protective.

Also, Buddy retrieves his son, Vince
argues with his dad and the school dance brings fresh crises.

Other choices include:

– “The Nate Berkus Show,” times
and stations vary, daytime. A pre-Mother's Day show has an audience
filled with moms and surprises for several women, including Berkus'
own mom.

– “Cinema Verite” (2011), 7 p.m.,
HBO. Here's another chance to see this excellent movie about the PBS
series (“An American Family”) that was a forerunner to reality
shows.

– “Flashpoint” season-opener, 8
p.m., CBS. This solidly made Canadian series has done dependable duty
for CBS, spanning into the summers. Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon and
Amy Jo Johnson play members of a strategic response unit; tonight, a
man escaped from a prison transport and is on the run.

– “Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC. In
his final guest spot as one of the sharks, Mark Cuban makes a
million-dollar offer. There are lots of pitches, including a
fireman's life-saving idea. Others ideas range from a wedding
business to a line of male-oriented candles.

– “Man Caves” season-opener,
8:30 p.m., DIY. Tony Siragusa, the sports commentator and former
pro-football lineman, again links with contractor Jason Cameron to
give guys their dream spaces. Tonight, someone gets a garage designed
around his passion for extreme sports.

– “Dual Survival,” 9 p.m.,
Discovery. What would happen to air-boaters, if their vehicle broke
down in the Everglades? Tonight, the guys try to get out of the
'glades on foot.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Family members who live near Frank Reagan, the police commissioner,
have been killed. Also, the gun of Frank's son Jamie, a street cop,
is missing; Jamie suspects this is payback for his prove of a secret
organization of police.

 

TV column for Thursday, May 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Grey's Anatomy”
and “Private Practice,” 9 and 10:01 p.m., ABC.

It's a double wedding night for ABC,
complicated by the usual obstacle – parents.

On “Anatomy,” Callie's dad has
slowly accepted the notion of a lesbian marriage; Arizona's dad is
generally crabby. And on “Practice,” Cooper's parents are
instantly cool to Charlotte.

There's more. On “Anatomy,” Alex
nears the chief residency, Meredith and Derek face a life-changing
decision. On “Practice,” Violet faces an ethics probe; Addison
tries to fix her friendship with Naomi.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang
Theory” and “Rules of Engagement,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

First, TV's best comedy has
relationships at stake. Raj tries to cure his inability to speak to
women; his sister continues her romance with Leonard … while Penny
asks Bernadette to spy on them.

Then “Rules” finds Jeff and Audrey
overblessed: Their surrogate (played by Sara Rue) may have twins.
Also, Russell (David Spade) tries to impress a woman by throwing a
citizenship party for Timmy.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Blade Runner”
(1982), 9 p.m., BBC America.

One of the great science-fiction films
has stylish direction by Ridley Scott and perfect casting.

Harrison Ford plays a rumpled
detective, assigned to find killer androids. The supporting actors
(many of them then unknown) include Daryl Hannah, Sean Young, William
Sanderson and a relentlessly scary Rutger Hauer.

Other choices include:

– “American Idol,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Tonight, “Idol” trims to its final four.

– “Precious Life,” 8:30-10 p.m.,
HBO. In Gaza, Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar says, hope is rare.
“Whatever happens,” one boy tells him, “we are already dead.”
Now a young Gaza woman is desperate: Two of her children have already
died of medical ailments; to save her 4-month-old son, they must
raise $55,000 and find a bone-marrow donor. Ongoing wars complicate
things, but this remains an encouraging story of caring humans in
overwhelming conditions.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. In the show's 250th episode, the deadly Nate
Haskell is still free. Now he kidnaps Langston's ex-wife, played by
Tracee Ellis Ross (“Girlfriends”).

– “Thoroughbred,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Two days before the Kentucky Derby, this
great-looking film captures a year in the life of the horse world,
peaking with the 2009 Derby.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. Last
week, Michael said farewell, with Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell)
stepping into his job. Tonight, however, people learn what Deangelo
is really like.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 9:30,
NBC. Everyone in town, it seems, is jealous of neighboring Eagleton.
That's where people are taller, thinner and richer; it's where town
meetings have chefs and great gift bags. Now, in a funny episode, a
wall revives the dispute between Leslie (Amy Poehler) and her former
friend (the wonderful Parker Posey), who's now an Eagleton parks
official.

– “30 Rock” season-finale, 10
p.m., NBC. The season is also ending for Liz's show. She's ready to
relax in the Hamptons – until Tracy takes the house next door.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
When a prison guard is killed outside a jewelry store, Patrick Jane
suspects a prisoner was involved. Rigsby must question his own
father.

TV column for Wednesday, May 4


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

A great season – filled with vivid
characters and taut dialog – concludes.

This is set in a hard-scrabble Kentucky
world, where the Givens and Bennett clans have been fighting for a
century. Raylan Givens went away to become a U.S. marshal, but was
sent back here.

He's grown distant from his boss and
close to his ex-wife Winona. He and Winona dream of moving away –
except there's still trouble. Boyd Crowder is armed and evil; Loretta
McCready – young, steel-willed and vulnerable – may need saving
again.

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

Now that voters have ditched their
gender bias, “Idol” seems headed for a strong final month.

At first, five females were dumped. Now
Paul McDonald, Stefano Langone and Casey Abrams are gone. Haley
Reinhart and Lauren Alaina keep surviving; last week, neither was in
the bottom three.

Tonight, the final five each do a song
from the 1960s and one from now. That may show the immense range of
James Durbin and Jacob Lusk; Scotty McCreery is best when he stays
personal and intimate.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Witness: DC
9-11,” 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel.

In the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden's
death, networks have juggled their schedules to insert new shows and
reruns. Here's a prime example of the latter; mixing homevideos with
news footage and police and fire tapes, it re-creates the attack on
the Pentagon and the rescue of the people inside.

National Geographic follows that with
“Giuliani's 9-11” on Thursday and “Inside the Green Beret” on
Friday, then returns everything in a nine-hour marathon Saturday.

Other choices include:

– Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last
week, Julie Wolfe was ousted. With the number of survivors shrinking,
CBS says, a strong alliance must now worry about internal battles.

– “Secrets of the Dead,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). For almost 40 years, scientists have
pondered the terracotta warriors. Here are 8,000 clay soldiers,
life-sized and unique, created for the tomb of China's first emperor.
How could they have been created in two years, using the technology
of 4,000 years ago? The soldiers and the settings are fascinating;
the rest, alas, is fairly drab and dry.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
There's a Mother's Day emphasis to many of ABC's comedies tonight,
starting with this one: Frankie claims that a good gift for the day
would be to simply be left alone.

– “Better With You,” 8:30, ABC.
Mia's dad insists on haggling to get her a top-of-the-line stroller.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
The two moms, Claire and Gloria, want to spend Mother's Day hiking
through nature with their kids – who are skeptical of this whole
being-outdoors thing.

– “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). A century ago, an explorer found the abandoned Machu
Picchu, in the Peruvian mountains. This hour follows new studies of
the city and its people.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. After a strong start – including “Footloose”
and the TV version of “Fame” – Lori Singer has been mostly
missing from screens for the past 14 years. Here, she plays an
adoptive mother whose baby was abandoned; John Stamos plays her
fiance.

TV column for Tuesday, May 3


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “How the States
Got Their Shapes” debut, 10 p.m., History.

From its opening moments, this hour is
sheer fun. There is Brian Unger in a border bar; the drinks are
served in Tennessee, the rest rooms and pool table are in Georgia.
Except that if an old surveying error ever gets rectified, the whole
place will be in a no-alcohol Georgia county.

That starts a lively jaunt. Unger
already did this in a special, but now he has 10 hours instead of
two.

He detours for some wildly unrelated
moments – next week, in Illinois, he's barraged by leaping fish
called “Asian carp” and visits the fictional state of
Forgottonia. Still, much of the first hour sticks to a theme of water
affecting the map – especially power grabs of chunks of the
Colorado River.

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

Three weeks from the finale, it's time
to trim the field to five. First is a recap, pre-empting “Jamie
Oliver's Food Revolution”; then the 9 p.m. hour has lots of
detours.

James Blunt sings “I'll Be Your Man”
and Nicki Minaj does “Moment 4 Life.” Wayne Brady leads a tribute
to James Brown, who died five years ago; this would have been his
78th birthday. Also, there's dancing from the U.S. Latin
champions, plus teen ballerina Patricia Zhau.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Black in
Latin America,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The joyous culture of Brazil is savored
by many people, including kids who see the delightful animated movie
“Rio.” Now Henry Louis Gates reminds us about the horrors that
came first.

With its sugar crops thriving, Brazil
brought in more than four million slaves. That's almost 10 times as
many as came to the U.S.; it continued until 1888, a quarter-century
after the U.S. abolished slavery.

What emerged was a Brazil that blends
the Americas and Africa. At the end of the hour, Gates reveals test
results showing the percentage of African background for the people
he interviewed; he shows why Brazilians avoid such arbitrary terms as
“black” and “white.”

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Who knew
that Sue Sylvester was interested in journalism? Tonight, she revives
the school paper and plants negative things about the glee club.
Also, Sam draws some sympathy.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Tony's
former partner – played by Scott Grimes of “ER” – has been
killed.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. To protect his best friend, Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) assumes
an undercover identity he dislikes.

– “Raising Hope,” 9:01 p.m., Fox.
Jimmy learns that his dad has always been flirting with customers.
Soon, others are caught up in efforts to gain favor, in a moderately
amusing hour.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In two previous episodes, Martha Plimpton (“Raising Hope”) played
a lawyer who was a fierce opponent of the Lockhart/Gardner firm. Now
she wants it to represent her against the rival agency that has just
fired her.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). In 1954 and 1998, people found the pieces
of what was going to be a Nazi documentary. Shot in 1942 in the
Jewish ghetto of Warsaw, it filmed some scenes of abject poverty and
some staged ones of luxury. “A Film Unfinished” shows clips and
adds commentary from survivors. The result offers powerful images of
horror and deception.

TV column for Monday, May 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC.

This entertaining series leaps between
light and dead-serious episodes. Now it tries both in one night.

The story itself is heavy: Kate
Beckett's former police partner was killed. Rarely a rule-breaker,
she disobeys her boss (who is, alas, a cliché) and flies to Los
Angeles to find the killer.

Richard Castle goes along and lighter
moments follow. These two New Yorkers visit a rooftop pool, a Santa
Monica beach, Gene Simmons home and the studio where people are
adapting Castle's novel.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “House,” 8
p.m., Fox.

Candice Bergen is back as Cuddy's
mother – this time planning to sue for malpractice. That endangers
House's license … and the hospital Cuddy runs.

Meanwhile, Donal Logue – whose
excellent “Terriers” was canceled – guests. He plays someone
who becomes partially paralyzed while looking for a lost love.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable.

Three bigger-than-life talents combined
to make “Scarface” (1983, AMC) a pop-culture sensation: Oliver
Stone wrote the seething script, Brian De Palma directed and Al
Pacino starred.

It's a terrific movie, but the sheer
excess will drive some people away. They may prefer a straight action
film; “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007, FX)
brings back the attractive heroes – Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd,
Chris Evans, etc. – and adds an engimatic character.

And the sleeper choice is the hilarious
“The In-Laws” (1979, TV Guide Network). Alan Arkin plays a
dentist, enmeshed in the schemes of his daughter's father-in-law, who
claims to be a secret agent.

Other choices include:

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-9:31 p.m., ABC. Last week, wrestler Chris Jericho was ousted, with
Ralph Macchio and Kendra Wilkinson also in the bottom. They're among
the show's final six stars.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. The women scramble to soothe an argument between Marshall
and Barney.

– “Mad Love,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.
After losing Connie's camera, Larry re-traces his steps. She goes
along, soon learning much about him.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In the rerun of a funny episode, Charlie and Lyndsey (Courtney
Thorne-Smith) are becoming friends … promptly fanning Alan's
jealousy.

– “The Chicago Code,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A jury deadlocks, failing to convict a corrupt official. Now the
police commissioner and her top detective must scramble for new
evidence.

– “Make It or Break It,” 9 p.m.,
ABC Family. Emily (Chelsea Hobbs) has been the show's best character
– a hard-working, blue-collar teen, trying to conquer a gymnastics
field designed for the privileged. Now she faces another giant hurdle
… and a major decision.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A photographer (Rick Springfield) has been killed while working on a
magazine's swimsuit edition. We're guessing this episode will include
some attractive people.