TV column for Thursday, April 17

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,

Boosting the season-finale of “The Crazy Ones,” CBS leads
into it with reruns of TV’s best comedy. The first has Sheldon punish Leonard
and Penny confront Lucy; the second is a comic gem.

Raj concocts a scavenger hunt that could be done by the three
couples. When Leonard questions those pairings, Penny feels (correctly)
insulted; couples switch, competitive juices flow. Penny pushes to outsmart the
physicists, Bernadette turns bossy, Leonard and Amy bond and comedy soars.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: Season-finales, 9 and 10 p.m., three

Three shows have their last new episodes of the season. That’s
mostly a good thing; cutting back on reruns, the networks will mostly have
short-run shows borrow their slots.

At 9 p.m., “The Crazy Ones” has two episodes: Gordon (Brad
Garrett) is the centerpiece of a campaign to save a library; then Marilu Henner
plays the ex-wife of Simon (Robin Williams), holding the deciding vote on
selling the firm. And at 10 and 10:01? ABC’s “Scandal” has Election Day, with
both sides willing to do anything. NBC’s “Parenthood” has turning points for
Amber and Ryan, for Sarah and Hank, and for Victor. Also, Haddie’s back from college
and Adam and Crosby relive childhood pranks.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Life Below Zero” season-opener, 9
p.m., National Geographic; reruns at 11.

In the first season (which has reruns starting at 3 p.m.),
we met fascinating Alaskans, including Sue Aikens, who runs a hunting camp 80
miles from any road. She’s alone for most of the year, including the time a
bear attacked and left her for dead; tonight, she pre-emptively hunts one.

Agnes Hailstone (an Inupiaq native) and her husband Chip
(from Montana) feed their seven kids with moose-hunting expeditions; Andy and
Kate Bassich need a salmon fishing wheel to feed their 26 sled dogs. Erik
Salitan hunts for food. These are people with quietly compelling lives.

Other choices include:

More snow, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., Animal Planet. Cable’s icy
obsession continues. Colliding with “Life Below Zero,” Animal Planet has a
rerun (“Railroad Alaska”) at 7 p.m., followed by new hours (“Alaska: The Last
Frontier” at 8, “Ice Cold Gold” at 9 and 10) and then lots more reruns.

“Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. The community college’s first
dean, we’re told, was a rich and reclusive genius. The study-group people
search for his old lab … while Chang secretly spies on them.

“Parks and Recreation,” 8:30 p.m., NBC. Leslie and Ben run
an auction to fun the unity concert.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 9 p.m., ABC. Acceptance speeches may be a
touchy subject for Sandra Oh; who’s had five Emmy nominations, but no wins. In
last week’s episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), Cristina (Oh) learned she’s nominated
for a major award. Tonight, she wants Meredith to help write a possible speech,
but wants to go there alone. Also, there are key moments for Callie and Arizona
and for April and Jackson.

“Veep,” “Silicon Valley” and “Game of Thrones,” 9-11 p.m.,
HBO. Sunday’s shows rerun in a different order. “Veep” is particularly funny,
as Selena panics over having to actually take a stand.

“NCIS,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. In a transplanted rerun, the NCIS
and Coast Guard probe an oil-rig explosion.

TV column for Wednesday, April 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

For seven years, Joe Hutto befriended the mule deer in the
Wyoming mountains. Some would eat from his hand; one groomed him with his
tongue. He developed relationships that were warm, uplifting and – amid the
savagery of animals and humans – tragic.

Beautifully filmed and narrated, this matches his lighter “My
Life as a Turkey,” as a “Nature” classic.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The 100,” 9 p.m., CW.

This began with a great concept – 100 teen prisoners sent to
a post-nuclear Earth, to see if it’s habitable – and a flaw: To pump up the
drama, it exaggerated the antagonism of humans under pressure.

Now that’s been settled – especially in this excellent hour.
On Earth, Clarke has just had sex with Finn; in the space station, her mom has
broken rules by sending a makeshift craft to Earth, piloted by young Raven. As
the space station loses oxygen, people must be sacrificed – unless there’s some
sign of hope on Earth. This hour deftly mixes triumph, tragedy and deep

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Unusually Thicke” debut, 10 and
10:30 p.m., TV Guide Network.

At 67, Alan Thicke is a chunk of TV history. He wrote theme
songs for silly comedies (“Diff’rent Strokes,” “Facts of Life”) and starred in
a better one (“Growing Pains”). He wrote and produced a late-night show that
was acclaimed (“Fernwood 2 Night”) and hosted in one that wasn’t (“Thicke of
the Night”).k

He did game shows in his native Canada and has had a busy
personal life, including three marriages and two sons, one (Robin) a rock star.
All that’s been missing is a reality show; he starts one tonight.

Other choices include:

“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The new voting system,
heavy on social media, has been tough on women. Last week, the talented and
vibrant Malaya Watson was ousted; that leaves only Jessica Meuse and Jena
Irene, alongside five men. For tonight, each contestant has chosen a song for each
of the others; now each singer does one of the six choices offered.   

“Survivor,” 8 p.m., CBS. At its mid-point, the show has evened
out. Nine people remain and nine are gone – split with three apiece from the
original “beauty,” “brains” and “brawn” tribes.

“Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The mid-section
of “Inside Animal Minds” views the use of senses. A scientist, for instance,
found that wolves rely mostly on smell; dogs use all the senses.

 “Modern Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Cam is a hyper-competitive coach of the kids’ football
team. At work, Claire tries to prove she’s not just the boss’ daughter; at
home, her husband Phil tries – with many obstacles – to teach their kids about optimism.

“Mixology,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. Jessica (a single mom with a
sexy look) has sent a naked photo to Ron (the droll Englishman), then instantly
regrets it and wants him to delete it. Meanwhile, Liv complicates their
relationship; also, Bruce catches a break when a woman arrives who’s into

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. For the second
straight week, “CSI” has a cannibalism theme. This time it’s accidental;
contestants on a reality show learn they’ve eaten human flesh.

TV column for Tuesday, April 15

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Fargo” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Don’t expect the same characters or plot of the 1996 movie masterpiece.
Still, we get the same setting (small-town Minnesota), attitude (unsuspecting)
and dialog style (brilliantly understated).

Lester (Martin Freeman) is ignored by most people and
bullied by some. Then Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) arrives, with mischief
and menace; brutal things happen, in a town not prepared for this. The result
is sometimes funny, sometimes tragic but always superbly crafted.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Break-ups are difficult (and sometimes hilarious), these
shows tell us.

Jess and Nick pretend to their friends that they’re still
together … and pretend to each other that they’re not devastated; clumsy lies
make great comedy. Then Mindy tries macho-style dating after her break-up with
Danny; Max Greenfield (Schmidt on “New Girl”) has some good moments as her
prime target.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Inside Amy Schumer,” 8 and 10:30
p.m., Comedy Central.

What would it be like if writer Aaron Sorkin’s intense “West
Wing” style went from the White House to a fast-food restaurant? Tonight’s new
episode (the 10:30 one) has a superb take-off, with Josh Charles as the
high-pressure boss. It also opens with a great sketch, illustrating the danger
of surprise parties.

Last week’s episode (rerunning at 8) also has a gem, with
four friends whose consciences are only moved by calorie consumption. Still,
Schumer remains inconsistent. Each episode includes a four-guy sketch that
starts with a mildly funny notion, then stretches it endlessly and drearily.

Other choices today include:

“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Tying into plot
twists in the new “Captain America” movie, we get a rerun of last week’s
episode and then a new hour. First, the team is trapped, with a traitor in its
midst. Then it chooses an unlikely hiding place, soon discovering SHIELD

“Pioneers of Television,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
The jump from stand-up comedy to situation comedy is traced via Jerry Seinfeld,
Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen and Bob Newhart.

 “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Artie
must tell past partners the results of his test for sexually transmitted

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A Navy officer may have been killed in
a random bar fight … or may have been targeted because of what he knew about an
attack on a female officer.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Returning to the field
after her ordeal, Kensi talks with Deeks about their relationship. Meanwhile,
an agent is suspected of helping the smuggler he was investigating.

“The Address,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Setting aside his usual style of rich storytelling, Ken Burns simply lets the
camera visit a school where boys with learning disabilities memorize the
Gettysburg Address. The result is OK by other standards, so-so compared to
Burns’ usual gems.

“Celebrity Wife Swap” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. Halima
Jackson lives in elegance with her husband Jermaine; Isabella Hoffman shares a
small home with her autistic son, 17, whose dad (Daniel Baldwin) is trying to
repair relationships after a decade of drug addiction. Now opposite lives are briefly

“Awkward” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., MTV. Jenna starts her
senior year, but some things remain the same: She’s humiliated at school and at

TV column for Monday, April 14

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mom” season-finale, 9:30 p.m., CBS.

A lot of humor – and a tad of warmth – is found tonight inside
a hospital.

In one room, teen Violet is having her baby. In another, her
grandfather is recovering from a heart-attack; her grandmother (Allison Janney)
is lusting, moments before becoming a great-grandmother. In between is Christy,
racing between new and old lives while wrapping up the first year of her

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

The opening scenes show us just how the world has changed. In
1968, talk-show figure David Susskind called Muhammad Ali a fool, a felon, a
disgrace; in 2005, George W. Bush gave him a Medal of Freedom.

In the 37 years between, Ali changed a little and life
changed a lot. At first, people mocked his religion and condemned his draft
resistance; later, they considered him a passionate piece of history. Great
clips mix with strong interviews, especially with his brother, an ex-wife
(Khalilah) and a daughter (Hana).

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Warehouse 13” return, 9 p.m., Syfy.

There are only six episodes left for a dandy show, so everything
is shoveled into this crowded hour.

There’s a master villain (Anthony Head), seeking control of
the warehouse that contains the great artifacts of history and of legend. Soon,
he may rule time and space. Our heroes chase him, meeting Da Vinci’s
granddaughter in the past and dire prospects in the future; it’s a wild and fun

Other choices include:

“Twenty Classic Moments,” 7 p.m. ET, and “Gone With the
Wind” (1939), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Exactly 20 years ago, this
classy channel began; now it shows the same great film it started with. Oddly,
it precedes it with an hour that is clumsily written, badly edited and baldly

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. No one was
ousted last Monday, so two weeks of scores will be combined tonight. First are
tributes to ABC’s owner, Disney; that includes animation elements and an
opening number to the music of “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Little Mermaid” and

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. The murder case is tangled and
high-tech. More interesting is Cam fretting about her boyfriend’s parents, traditional
sorts who, she feels, wish he’d found someone Persian and Muslim.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. Lindsay Lohan plays a bride
who can’t decide on her cake – or anything else.

“One Last Hug,” 8 p.m., HBO. This documentary follows a
three-day camp for grieving kids. Viewers will 
feel some emotions, even if they also reject the pop psychology that
ripples through the film.

“Dallas” mid-season finale, 9 p.m., TNT; reruns at 10:01. John
Ross Ewing is clearly the late J.R. Ewing’s son; now that he’s been caught
cheating, his wife seeks revenge. Meanwhile, his mom (J.R.’s ex-wife Sue Ellen)
struggles with alcoholism; also, Christopher (Bobby’s son) has romance and a
new danger.

“None of the Above,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Shifting
its brainy Monday line-up, this channel offers back-to-back “None” episodes that
center on stunts involving blowing things up. The usual 10 p.m. show (a rerun
of Sunday’s “Cosmos”) moves to 9 and 11 p.m. This “Cosmos” episode thinks
small, going to the bottom of a dewdrop, the depths of the Earth and the neuron
network in the brain. 

TV column for Sunday, April 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mad Men” season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC.

Last season ended with lives crumbling. Don Draper was
suspended at work and disgraced at home.

And now? The season starts with one of the show’s great
ad-campaign pitches, then finds more disarray. Can Don feel joy on either
coast? Can Peggy find her way? What about Roger’s decadence and Joan’s ambitions?
In “Mad Men” style, this is deep and subtle; with 14 episodes left, the show
has work to do.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Inside the Hunt for the Boston
Bombers,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

A compelling story is retold through a technique that is
odd, but successful.

Real interviews are re-created, with actors playing the people
– police, victims, friends – involved with last year’s bombing. A few actual
officials are also included, plus staged action scenes. It’s an odd hybrid, but
the underplayed style creates a powerful story that even finds some happy

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bletchley Circle” season-opener,
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the 1940s, these Englishwomen were busy and vital,
helping crack codes. Then the war ended and they resumed dull, secretarial
lives … until a crime-solving crisis stirred them.

Now the second season begins with a silly contrivance – a former
colleague refuses to defend herself on murder charges. That evolves into a
fairly good tale, the first of two two-part mysteries..

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Years of Living Dangerously”
debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

In a West Texas town, a drought left the factory closed and
the people jobless. Scientists pointed to long-term climate change;
townspeople, instead, quoted Scripture.

That’s in the start of a series that has stars and others
probing effects of climate change. Tonight, Harrison Ford is in Indonesia, New
York Times reporter Thomas Friedman is in Syria and Don Cheadle meets a conservative-Christian
scientist with an ability to communicate the crisis to her fellow Texans.

Other choices include:

“Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. In search of Prince Eric, Ariel
confronts Hook in both worlds.

“Signed, Sealed and Delivered” debut, 8-10 p.m., Hallmark. A
decade after her “Touched by an Angel” ended, producer Martha Williamson has
this movie launching a series. Eric Mabus and Kristen Booth lead a team that
delivers lost letters to their goals, transforming lives.

“Resurrection,” 9 p.m., ABC. Bellamy and Father Tom try to
deal with townspeople’s growing fears.

“Masterpiece Classic: Mr. Selfridge,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Glitter and tragedy link in a fund-raiser for massacre victims. As
the war looms, men prepare to enlist … and Lord Loxey prepares to profit.

MTV Movie Awards, 9 p.m., MTV. Conan O’Brien hosts an awards
show known for its offbeat fun.

“Nurse Jackie” and “Californication” season-openers, 9 and
9:30 p.m., Showtime. For “Californication,” the final season begins with Hank scrambling
for the life and the lover he abandoned; tonight’s final scene belts him. For “Jackie,”
once a comedy-drama, tonight is all dark drama.

“Silicon Valley,” 10 p.m., HBO. In a sharp episode, we learn
that there are complications to selling a sliver of your computer company for

“Veep,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. After the so-so season-opener, here’s
a brilliant episode. As a presidential candidate, Selena Meyer needs an instant
stand on abortion; what she has is a cacophony of advice.