TV column for Sunday, May 8


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

The final four duos race through Brazil
and Florida, with a million-dollar prize at stake.

The teams have sisters (LaKisha and
Jennifer Hoffman), father and daughter (Gary and Mallory Ervin),
friends (Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew) and teammates (Herb Lang
and Nate Lofton).

Some are athletes; LaKisha coaches
basketball, Jennifer coaches volleyball. Some are in show business;
Glassenberg is an actor, Kanew is a producer, Mallory Ervin is a
singer and a recent Miss Kentucky. Lang and Lofton, as Harlem
Globetrotters, do both, as athletes in show business.

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

A week before the two-hour season
finale, “Housewives” has moments of broad comedy – often way
too broad and sometimes defying logic. Still, there are serious
matters at the core.

Felicia poisoned the food Susan brought
to Paul. Gabrielle's daughter fears – correctly (?) – that
there's a stalker. Lynette and Tom battle over power within the
family. Bree and a cop battle over everything.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Killing,”
10 p.m., AMC.

This hour starts with quietly seething
emotions and ends with an enigma. In between are brilliantly
understated performances, led by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton as
grieving parents.

Last week ended with Mitch Larsen
(Sexton) taking the prime suspect on a dark and silent car ride. Now
police scramble to prevent a second murder. “The Killing” takes
too long – this is only the sixth of 13 episodes – but it's a
richly crafted journey.

“CSI: Miami”
(CBS) or “Brothers & Sisters” (ABC), both 10 p.m.

Take your choice of season-finales.
Each offers what amounts to a crisis in its universe.

On ABC, it's an emotional crisis; much
goes wrong at the wedding of Sarah and Luc. For CBS, it's
life-and-death stuff; Horatio has finally re-captured the last of the
escapees; then the plane crashes.

Other choices include:

– “Waitress” (2007), 6:30-9 p.m.,
Lifetime. Here's a gentle gem, with Keri Russell as a pregnant
waitress and pie-maker. The late Adrienne Shelly wrote, directed and
co-starred beautifully.

– “Celebrity Apprentice,” 8-11
p.m., NBC. Two hours is already too much, so now imagine tonight –
three hours and two firings, as the teams produce a comedy show and a
promotional video.

– “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Over three weeks, we'll see the bears of Alaska.
This beautifully filmed opener visits the state's peninsula, until
the salmon season ends.

– “Masterpiece Classic,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Last week's “South Riding” opener
introduced an earnest teacher in 1934 England and two of her best
students. Lydia lives in the slums; Midge lives in a mansion, but her
mom is in an asylum and her dad is going bankrupt. Tonight, we learn
more about Midge's mom and see a new tragedy. Beautifully acted, this
sets up next week's finale.

– “Game of Thrones,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Tyrion Lannister – tautly played by the 4-foot-5 Peter Dinklage –
starts this hour by venturing into the enemy turf of House Stark; he
concludes it with an inn confrontation with Lady Stark. In between,
Jon Snow meets an immensely incompetent trainee

 

-- “CSI: Miami”
(CBS) or “Brothers & Sisters” (ABC), both 10 p.m. Take your choice of season-finales, each with what amounts to a crisis in its universe. On ABC, it's an emotional crisis; much
goes wrong at the wedding of Sarah and Luc. For CBS, it's
life-and-death stuff, as the plane with a captured
escapees crashes.

 – “Journey of the Bonesetter's
Daughter,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Amy Tan's family
history is operatic in its despair. She turned part of it into a
best-seller; then composer Stewart Wallace, turned the book into an
opera. This interesting documentary watches the show merge cultures
and continents.

– “Treme,” 10 p.m., HBO. More
than a year after Hurricane Katrina, the problems keep building. Now
they're crime-related – a break-in at one spot, a fierce rape at
another. An honest cop (David Morse) and an earnest lawyer (Melissa
Leo) are overwhelmed by the odds.

TV column for Saturday, May 7


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

After a string of reruns, “SNL”
starts this season's final push of new shows. Next week has Ed Helms
(of “The Office”) and Paul Simon; tonight has Tina Fey, with
music from Ellie Goulding.

Fey spent nine seasons on the show; she
was head writer for seven of those and co-anchor of “Weekend
Update” for six. Now she's back for her fourth time as host.

Past times have included her searing
parodies of Sarah Palin, but there are plenty of other possible
subjects tonight, ranging from the royals to Osama bin Laden.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Three Weeks,
Three Kids,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark; repeats Sunday.

At 25, Jennifer Mills offers an easy,
breezy image – reddish hair, red motorbike, bright clothes, bright
smile and few grown-up responsibilities. Then she's in charge of her
sister's kids for what's supposed to be a few days; lives will
transform.

This brings few surprises, one unlikely
plot stretch and much charm. Anna Chlumsky makes Jennifer very
likable, amid mild humor and emotion; the result is a fairly good
effort for Mother's Day weekend.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Lady Gaga
concert, 9 p.m., HBO.

The first half of this concert is big
and brash and … well, robotic. The music and the visuals are
powerful, but they seem too contrived to allow any human involvement.

Then the star sits at the piano for
“Speechless,” some talk and more. A connection is formed.

Viewers can finally sense that
pre-gaga, she was Joanne Stefani Germanotta, self-described “loser
kid” at Catholic schools in New York. She studied dance, piano,
acting, voice; “I never have lip-synced,” she tells the audience,
“and I never will.” And at 25, she had five sold-out shows at
Madison Square Garden, 20 blocks from where she grew up; the
contrivances become forgivable.

Other choices include:

– Documentaries, 3-11 p.m., National
Geographic. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, the channel has
assembled a marathon of its key documentaries. The first two hours
are specifically on the search for bin Laden; the others are no the
Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath.

– Basketball, 5 p.m. ESPN and 8 p.m.,
ABC. The NBA play-offs begin their annual incursion into broadcast
prime time, where they'll soar next month. Today, ESPN has Oklahoma
City at Memphis, tied at one game apiece; ABC has the Boston Celtics,
trailing 2-0, hosting the Miami Heat.

– “Chase,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a new
episode, the U.S. marshals compete to see who can clear the most
cases in a hurry; that soon turns dead-serious. More dangerous is
Daisy's decision to ignore procedures while chasing a man who harmed
her.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a Marine was beaten to death in his back yard.

– “Extraordinary Moms,” 8-9:30
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. On Mother's Day eve, Julia Roberts hosts
a profile of moms, famous (Hilary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell,
Christiane Amanpour) and not.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Kensi Blye, one of the NCIS agents, is shot during a bank
robbery, in this rerun.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a scheme uses kidnapping to rob banks.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. This rerun involves a college rape that was
videotaped and shown over a campus-wide system.

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.