TV column for Thursday, May 21

“Red Nose Day,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

This has been a
British tradition for three decades -- a mega-special every two
years, to raise money for charity. Now it reaches the U.S., with the
“Funny or Die” people linking with British producers.

There will be music
– guests include John Legend, Coldplay and the “Voice” judges
-- but the emphasis is on comedy, via sketches, videos and more.
There will be comedy people – Will Ferrell, Neil Patrick Harris,
Jack Black, Martin Short, Nick Offerman, Steven Merchant – and
others. They include Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pine,
Reese Witherspoon, Bill Gates and Simon Cowell.

II: “Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m, Fox.

If you missed last
week's terrific debut, catch the 8 p.m. rerun. Recovering from a car
crash, a federal agent (Matt Dillon) found himself in a little town
where time is twisted and no one ever leaves.

He was searching for
two colleagues. Now one is dead and the other (Carla Gugino) has an
alternate existence. He has ominous enemies (Terrence Howard, Melissa
Leo) and one ally (Juliette Lewis), who joins his escape plan. None
of this makes sense yet, but it's deep and compelling along the way.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Odd Couple,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Today marks the
start of TV's four-month summer season, when hit shows retreat into
reruns. It's also a good time to reconsider shows that may have been
slighted – especially this one.

When it debuted,
critics grumbled that its stars (Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon) are
no match for the people in the original series (Jack Klugman, Tony
Randall) or movie (Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon). Maybe not, but they
do a good job and each episode gives them material that's quick,
slick and reasonably clever. Catch this rerun of the pilot film, then
give the show a summer chance.

Other choices

“500 Questions,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Most nights, this show – which started Wednesday –
will get one hour. Tonight, however, is one of two two-hour nights;
the other is the finale, next Thursday.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Amy has some genuine doubts about the future
of her relationship with Sheldon ... especially after he applies for
a one-way mission to Mars.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. It's time for separate TV's. Grown-ups have “Dirty Harry”
(1971), a solid Clint Eastwood cop film on AMC; kids have “Cars 2”
(2011), which is fun despite a so-so spy plot. Also, “The Poseiden
Adventure” (1972), a high-energy escape tale, is 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Here's the episode that started the second season, helping
nudge “Mom” from a pretty good show to one of the best. Christy
– who's had alcohol and gambling addictions – plunges her family
toward homelessnes. Also, she helps someone (Jaime Pressley) who's
fresh from rehab.

“Mike &
Molly,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. The wit level of the night drops 50 percent
when this joins CBS' Thursday line-up. This rerun of the noisy
season-opener sees Molly land a book deal.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Freshly fired in London, Sherlock wants to work for the
New York police again ... but needs Watson's approval. Also, he
brings Kitty, a young apprentice.

“Jimmy Kimmel
Live,” 10 p.m., ABC. Tuesday's episode gets a quick, primetime
rerun, offering a promo push for ABC and its Disney owners. George
Clooney, who stars in Disney's “Tomorrowland,” guests; so does
the woman who was ousted when guys got to choose between two
“Bachelorette” stars.

TV column for Wednesday, May 20

By Mike Hughes

“The Late Show with David Letterman” finale, 11:35 p.m., CBS.

Twice, David
Letterman has entered a wasteland and made it thrive. First was NBC's
late-late spot, behind Johnny Carson; Letterman, then 34, brought
fresh, off-center wit. Then was CBS' latenight: Letterman, 46, was at
his peak; ratings and praise soared.

That faded: NBC's
Jay Leno couldn't match Letterman in quality of humor, but easily
topped him in quantity, with longer monologs and more comedy bits.
Leno returned to No. 1. Still, Letterman has been a huge plus to CBS
(for 22 years) and to viewers. Tonight, witth details scarce, he says

II: “Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS, with reunion at 10.

This edition has
shown what many people suspected – blue-collar folks are better
survivors. Of the six people in the “blue-collar” tribe, three –
an oil driller (Mike Holloway), a general contractor (Rodney Lavoie)
and a barrel racer at rodeos (Sierra Dawn Thomas) – have reached
the final five.

That's compared to
only one each from “white-collar” (corporate executive Carolyn
Rivera) and “no-collar” (Will Sims, a bartender and would-be
actor). Tonight, someone wins $1 million.

ALTERNATIVE: “Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

A fairly good first
season concludes with an ambitious and richly detailed episode. Dre's
dad (Laurence Fishburne) spins a tale about his great-great
grandfather, a hard-scrabble ice hauler.

That gives the
show's regulars a chance to play 1920s archetypes. Others get flashy
little guest roles, including Mary K. Blige, Zendaya and – as the
villain –Sean Combs. Filmed with all the flair of a period-piece
movie, this is fairly clever and thoroughly entertaining.

Other choices

“500 Questions,”
8-9 p.m., ABC. On the final day of the official TV season, ABC tries
the sort of stunt that launched “How to Be a Millionaire” -- a
nine-day, 11-hour quiz show. Conceived by Mark Burnett (going against
his own “Survivor” finale) and Mike Darnell (who guided a Fox era
of weirdly interesting reality), it asks people to answer 500
brain-busters, without getting three straight wrong.

opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox. It's reality overload, with two shows
starting while a third one concludes. This one has home cooks, not
pros; tonight, the judges – Gordon Ramsat, Graham Elliott and new
arrival Christina Tosi -- see 40 contestants.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). A vast stretch of North America –
some half-million square miles – is dubbed “The Big Empty.” But
even in this semi-barrten expanse, there are interesting stories. We
see eagles and hawks, secure in their rocky perches; we watch the
Greater Sage-Grouse puff and strut in semi-epic mating rituals. The
result, boosted by smart narration, is fairly interesting.

“Modern Family”
season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC. Alex is graduating from high school,
leaving everyone fretting. Her mom worries about the right gift ...
her dad is attending by skype ... and her Uncle Mitchell is keeping
secret the fact that he's been laid off.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Corrupt cops are robbing drug dealers. That wraps up a
season-finale night on NBC, with “The Mysteries of Laura” at 8
p.m. and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” at 9.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. Yes, Traci Lords' career began
chaotically. She did nude modeling at 15 and porn films (lying about
her age) at 16. At 47, however, she seems to have a traditional,
stay-at-home life with her husband and son. Here, she swaps with
actress Jackee Harry.

TV column for Monday, May 18

“The Bachelorette” opener, 9:01-11 p.m., ABC.

Life, you may have
noticed, isn't fair. “The Bachelor” airs in the heart of the TV
season, with one guy in charge; “Bachelorette” is confined to
summers; this time, there are two women ... one of whom will promptly
be voted out by the guys.

Kaitlyn Bristowe,
29, is a dance teacher from Canada, with a quick humor; Britt
Nilsson, 28, is a waitress (and former model and actress) from
suburban Detroit. Tonight, they meet 25 guys, including a dentist, a
designer, an engineer, a welder, a fashion designer and an “amateur
sex consultant.”

II: “The Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars.” ABC, both
8 p.m.

Two more
competitions peak, with final performances and viewer votes now and
winners Tuesday.

On “Voice,”
Pharrell Williams – shut out in his first turn as coach -- has half
the final four, Sawyer Fredericks and Koryn Hawthorne. Adam Levine
and Blake Shelton – who have a combined six winners in seven
editions – have Joshua Davis and Meghan Linsey respectively. On
“Stars,” war veteran Noah Galloway faces Rumer Willis (daughter
of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) and Riker Lynch.

ALTERNATIVE: “Southern Rites,” 9-10:30 p.m., HBO.

By one view, this
was a racist murder. Norman Neesmith, who slept with a gun, woke to
find two teen boys in his home. They'd been invited by his niece, but
when they ran, he killed one; Neesmith is white, the victim was black
and this was the Georgia town that recently had segregated proms.

But then come the
detours. The niece is black; Neesmith had raised her, defying taunts
from his fellow whites. What emerges is a tangled, painful picture of
a town unable to shed its past.

Other choices

“The Following,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The third and final season concludes with the FBI
chasing Theo and someone targeting FBI agents.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. It's Sophie's wedding day and Max and Caroline have a
vital mission: Get the wedding dress out of customs and to the

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. This will be the last new episode of this
show (and “2 Broke” Girls”) for a while. Both will be delayed
until mid-season of next year. In this one, Mike is supposed to
dis-invite Carl, who has just had a nasty break-up with Molly's

“NCIS: Los
Angeles” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. On a mission to Moscow, team
members must try multiple undercover identities. Also, Callen learns
a clue about his father.

Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It was a time before
complex codes and super-hackers; to disrupt a system, people simply
stole paper files. In 1971, some-almost ordinary people broke into a
small FBI office. They emerged with specifics about government
spying. In an intriguing documentary, the activists – breaking a
40-year silence – tell what happened.

“The Night Shift,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. With two snipers loose, TC and Scott scramble to
save the comatose Jordan and her unborn baby.

“The Late Show
with David Letterman,” 11:35 p.m., CBS. Two nights before
Wednesday's finale, Tom Hanks has his 60th stop on the
show. Also, Eddie Vedder sings with Paul Schaffer and the band.

TV column for Sunday, May 17

“Billboard Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

At both ends, this
had an award-show superstar. Taylor Swift opens it with her “Bad
Blood” video; Kanye West closes it. (Remember when he stormed the
her acceptance speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards?) In between,
there are plenty of other stars.

There's Britney
Spears (with Iggy Azalea) and Faith Hill (with Little Big Town).
There's Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Nicki Minaj
(twice), Wiz Khalifa and more. And Imagine Dragons performs “Stand
By Me” as a tribute to Ben E. King, who died April 30, at 75.

II: “Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge” season-finale, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Take some classy
period drama, drown it in gobs of so-so soap opera, and you have this
odd (and oddly appealing) blend. Crises swirl around Harry Selfridge.
His store launches a brash sale ... his board ponders replacing him
... and he doesn't know his fiancee is a con artist.

Most of that works
well, amid stylish period settings. Far shakier are the show's stabs
at romance. The ones involving Harry and his kids are so-so; one with
Mr. Grove is awful. Still, “Selfridge” survives.

MUST-RECORD: “Mad Men” finale, 10-11:15 p.m., AMC.

A classic series –
once the winner of four straight best-drama Emmys – concludes. We
can expect it to be, as always, soft, subtle and sometimes brilliant.

In recent weeks, Don
Draper has been wandering the country's mid-section, while his New
York world transforms. His ex-wife has terminal cancer; his
ex-colleague Pete has re-united with his ex-wife.

ALTERNATIVE: “Battle Creek,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

This won't be back
next year, but let's credit what it is – a smartly understated
drama that mixes character twists and humor in fresh ways ... while
solving a crime each week. Tonight's first has Milt mis-using FBI
help; the second visits Russ' old high school, bringing surprises
about him then and now.

Catch both and
you'll have a richly layered portrait of Russ -- and of his unstated
love for Holly. These are dandy hours ... leading into next weeks
truly bizarre season (and series) finale.

Other choices

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun, with Homer sent to rehab for
bullies. Then the season-finale sees the modernized elementary school
suddenly have a meltdown.

“Bob's Burger,”
7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. The season closes with two new episodes.
First, Bob tries to help his favorite samurai-movie star; then a
fairly funny episode has the landlord jacking up the rent and
manipulating a high-stakes game of water balloon.

“”I Love Lucy'
Superstar Special,” 8-9 p.m., CBS. Here are two classic “Lucy”
episodes, with color added by computer. In one, Lucy's in Hollywood,
going ga-ga about William Holden; in the other, she promises Superman
will visit her son's birthday party ... then must scramble at the
last minute.

Nine-Nine” season-finale, 8:30 p.m., Fox. An undercover case has
Jake and Amy working much too close together.

“A.D.,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Saul of Tarsus continues to brutally persecute the Christians.
Next week, we see the start of his conversion to become Paul, the new
religion's eloquent advocate.

Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. Amid huge hurdles, people get closer to the
truth. Odelle, the soldier, remains on the run ... Peter, the lawyer,
breaks into a company warehouse ... and Harrison, the activist,
finally makes contact with someone who may have answers.


TV column for Saturday, May 16

“Saturday Night Live” season-finale, 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Louis CK hosts,
which is always good news; his first two times were gems.

Each time, CK
brought his own monologs, instead of depending on something lame the
show wrote. And each time, he did a classic sketch: First, he was
Abraham Lincoln at a bar with a freed slave; then he was the only
white contestant on “Black Jeopardy.” Now he's back, with Rihanna
as music guest.

“Dancing With the Stars” and “Billboard Music Awards”
previews, 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

We'll forgive ABC
for turning the night into one big promo. It starts with a look at
the Monday-Tuesday “Stars” finale, with actor Riker Lynch,
actress Rumer Willis and war veteran Noah Galloway. They survived
this week, while Nastia Liukin, the Olympic-champion gymnast, was
being sent home.

Then is a warm-up
for Sunday's award show. There are interiviews (Taylor Swift, John
Legend, Pete Wentz), tour peeks (Ed Sheeran, Hozier) and looks at
past Billboard highights.

ALTERNATIVE: “Bessie,” 8-10 p.m. Saturday, HBO.

Orphaned at 9,
Bessie Smith had a mixed childhood, this movie says. She was raised
by a demanding sister, cherished by a warm brother, embraced by the

Smith grew into a
powerful singer who soared in the 1920s and '30s. She lived big,
spent big and teetered near collapse ... then found new audiences as
a piece of music history. This is a demanding role that fits Queen
Latifah beautifully. She sings superbly and captures a character we
can root for.

Other choices

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. With the finals coming Monday and Tuesday, here's a
rerun of the semi-finals, with five talented singers.

“Backstrom,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Backstrom is probing the murder of a sex
surrogate, when he hears disturbing news about his mothet.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Here's the episode that introduced Diane Neal as a Coast Guard
official. She helps probe a double murder, with an admiral's daughter
as the prime suspect.

“CSI: Cyber,” 9
p.m., CBS. Fans of this mid-season show can quit worrying; it will be
back in the fall, as part of a strong Sunday spot, with Ted Danson's
chracter moving over from the cancelled “CSI” to join Patricia
Arquette. In this rerun, a hacker creates a roller-coaster tragedy.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. If you missed this terrific opener Thursday, catch it
now. Matt Dillon plays a federal agent who wakes up in a strange
town, dazed and confused. M. Night Shyamalan (“Sixth Sense,” “The
Village”) is the producer and directed the opener beautifully.

“Orphan Black,”
9 p.m., BBC America. Sarah is finally re-united with Helena ... but
only because she's been captured and is at the Castor camp.

“Oprah: Where Are
They Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. This catches up with
actrtesses Charlene Tilton (“Dallas”) and Leah Remini, baseball
star Darryl Strawberry and David Kaczynski, the Buddhist leader who
helped identify his brother as the “unabomber.”