TV column for Friday, May 5


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

For seven seasons,
this has been comfortably near the top of the Nielsen ratings. Now it
wraps up its year with Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) as a target, after
intercepting a large drug shipment.

His brother Jamie
(Will Estes) works on his own to track a serial killer who focuses
on the elderly. And the mayor confides his retirement plans to their
dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Lucifer” and “Lethal Weapon,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Things are tough
when adding Satan is considered an ethical upgrade. But the
previous Friday show, “You the Jury,” was horribly tacky; it's
been dumped early and the night now has reruns.

The first simply
repeats Monday's “Lucifer,” a pretty good one. After going
through Hell (literally) to find Chloe's antidote, Lucifer simply
disappeared. Now he's back, with a weak explanation and a stripper
named Candy (Lindsey Gort), in a detour that's goofy, but fun. Then a
stalker is obsessing on Dr. Cahill (Jordana Brewster), causing her
colleagues to dig into her life.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “I Love Dick,” any time, www.amazon.com/video.

A weak night for
broadcast and cable happens to be a strong one for streaming. And in
its very eccentric – and very adult – way, this is thoroughly
involving.

In a sparse,
academic Texas community, Dick (Kevin Bacon) has a strong-and-silent
cowboy persona. He used to make million-dollar sculptures; now he's a
professor, a gallery-owner and the object of the separate obsessions
of a married couple (Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne). These are gifted
actors, as are Roberta Colidrez, India Menuez and others. For all its
quirks, it's easy to love “I Love Dick.”

Other choices
include:

More streaming,
Netflix. It's a busy day for the channel, with a new season of the
science-fiction “Sense8,” plus a movie (“Handsome,” with Jeff
Garlin as a homicide detective) and a documentary (“The Mars
Generation,” filmed at the space center in Huntsville, Ala.).

“Captain America”
(2011), 5:30 p.m., FX. Here's the start of a night of popular movies,
As 8 p.m., you can catch its sequel (2014) on FX, “Selena” (1997)
on E or the original “Star Wars” (1977) on TNT.

Reality shows, 8
p.m., ABC, CBS and NBC. Three shows scrap for the same audiene. NBC's
“First Dates” has been a delight and ABC's “Toy Box” has its
c harms; CBS has “Undercover Boss.”

“The Sugarland
Express” (1974), 8 p.m, ET, Turner Classic Movies; or “Jurassic
Park” (1993), 8 p.m., AMC. One channel has Steven Spielberg's first
feature film, with a young couple on the lam; the other finds him
with bigger budgets and peak skills, turning dinosaurs into
mega-villains.

“Latin Music USA,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. The second half of a miniseries that debuted in 2009,
this sees music help propel the Chicano movement. It also traces the
Latin-pop surge at the turn of the century.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. After McGarrett gets a tip, the team races to prevent a
terrorist attack.

“Reign,” 9 p.m.,
CW. There are schemes everywhere now. Mary is trying to seize the
English throne; the younger son of her former mother-in-law is trying
for French power, with the support of Spain.

TV column for Thursday, May 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Superstore” season-finale, 8:30 p.m., NBC.

Some shows fit into
a steady groove; “Superstore,” however, varies widely in plots
and in quality. Some episodes (like last week's wedding one) are
merely OK; tonight, however, is hilarious.

It starts weakly as
the store manager can't decide whom to fire and Ben tries to lessen
the effect of calling Amy “sexy.” But then comes a meeting to let
people vote on the firing; democracy, it seems, is really funny.
After that, the tornado sirens blare. This is big-scale -- and, at
times, big-laugh – TV.

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

TV's best shows
thrive during “sweeps” ratings periods. They have new episodes
... and sometimes bonus reruns. That's what happens tonight.

First is a new
episode in which the guys finally finish their Air Force project ...
then have an unpleasant surprise. Then is a rerun of one of the best
episodes: It's time for Bernadette to have her baby ... and it's also
Amy's birthday, when she and Sheldon have their annual sex. Two big
moments collide.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Star Wars” films, all day, cable.

TBS lets the story
unfold chronologically. The prequel trilogy (1999, 2002 and 2005) is
at 6:40 and 9:26 a.m. and 12:20 p.m.; the original trilogy (1977,
1980 and 1983) is at 3:12, 5:42 and 8:17 p.m.

And there's more, if
you switch channels. The original characters re-appear in “Star
Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), at 7, 9:21 and 11:42 p.m. on
Starz. There's strong science-fiction here – and, outside the “Star
Wars” galaxy, superb sci-fi in James Cameron's “Aliens”
(1986), from 8-11 p.m. on IFC.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “MasterChef Junior,” 8 p.m., Fox.

The kids have
already been judged by kitchen celebrities, but none like this: It's
the Swedsh Chef, of Muppets fame; he has a lot of presumably worthy
things to say, if only we could understand him.

Miss Piggy even
joins the competition. (No, the menu doesn't have ham, pork or
frog-legs.) At 41, she competes with six kids ages 10 to 13. This
hour turns out to be a let-down, but has fun along the way.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Duos face difficult tasks tonight. Alex and Eliza
disagree about a young patient ... April and Andrew have a fiery
patient with a giant, inoperable heart tumor ... Stephanie and Ben
face decisions that could affect their careers.

“Scandal.” 9
p.m., ABC. With the future of the country wobbling, Olivia and Fitz
clash with her scheming father Rowan. Also, Jake has surprising
tacticts to deal with the mystery woman.

“Riverdale,” 9
p.m., CW. Last week, police found a gun in Jughead's dad's trailer,
promptly arresting him for Jason's murder. But that rings false to
Archie and Veronica; they had searched the place shortly before that
and found nothing. Now they rush to clear their friend's father.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Responsibility can be tricky. Bonnie is in charge of her
boyfriend's dog. On a bigger scale, Jill is now a foster mom; she
takes the teen-ager to see her birth mother, who is in rehab.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:31 p.m., CBS. All season has been pointing toward the wedding of
Matt and Colleen; now it's coming up in Mexico ... but getting there
isn't easy. Greg and Jen give there baby his first plane ride ...
Joan and John try to smuggle their dog aboard ... Heather and Tim
have punctuality problems ... and the bride and groom are bumped from
their flight.

“The Blacklist,”
10 p.m., NBC. Tonight's target has the ability to manipulate
memories, That has Liz starting to doubt some of the things she
recalls.

It's a big, big-box set ... but is it tornado-ready?


As TV critics, we get to see a lot of sets. Some ("The Mentalist," for instance) are kind of bland; others -- from "Chuck" to "West Wing" to "Big Bang Theory" -- are impressive. Near the top of the list is "Superstore" -- a set so realistic that you check to make sure you brought a credit card. Now, ironically, that show is about to be belted Thursday (May 4) by a tornado. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Step into the
“Superstore” set and you're tempted to (varying with your
upbringing) buy or browse or maybe shoplift.

Try to show
restraint, though. “We're not allowed to touch anything,” Ben
Feldman said.

He's one of the
stars of a show set in a big-box store. And he has a really big box
to play in: This “Cloud 9” store is 22,500 square feet, said
production designer Michael Gallenberg; that's still less than half
the size of a typical K-Mart ... but way bigger than most shows have.

And now it will get
a shaking. In Thursday's season-finale, a tornado heads toward Cloud
9.

“Superstore” is
like that, with a potential for big plot shifts. At times, it's
stories are personal – Cheyenne's wedding last week ... Mateo's
undocumented status previously ... the perpetual fondness of Jonah
(Feldmain) for Amy (America Ferrera), whose marriage is floundering.
At other times, it has big-scale moments.

“I never intended
this to be an ambitious show production-wise,” producer Justin
Spitzer said in a note to TV critics. “But over the course of the
last season, we've had a fire, pyrotechnic dancers, a helicopter”
and more, leading into “a giant tornado. We're the 'Game of
Thrones' of network comedy.”

And like “Thrones,”
it's expansive. The set is designed so directors can go anywhere
without special lighting. “You turn on the (overall) lights and
you're ready to go,” Gallenberg said.

If “Superstore:
makes fun of something – well, that's a store brand. “The junk is
always SuperCloud,” he said. Everything else is real. “We have
over 2,500 licensing agreements.”

They range from
everyday items to classy gadgets. “If I get fired,” Feldman said,
“I'm going to steal the drone.”

That won't happen
this season, though. For now, there's a tornado to deal with.

 

-- “Superstore”
season-finale, 8:30 p.m. Thursday (May 4), NBC, following a rerun at 8

 

TV column for Wednesday, May 3


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

For now, Ray Stussy
is in the clear. Police don't suspect murder-by-air-conditioner; they
rarely do.

Ray and his
girlfriend nudged the A-C unit out the window, squashing a
blackmailer. Losing Ray's instructions, that guy had gone to the
wrong house and committed the wrong crime (murder). As Ray scrambles,
his brother – both men are played by Ewan McGregor – tries to
avoid a very hostile takeover. Meanwhile, the police chief (whose
stepfather was the first murder victim) revisits the scene.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

It's been a month
since this comedy – one of TV's best – had a new episode. But
we're in a “sweeps” ratings perious now; “Modern Family: will
be rerun-free for three weeks.

Tonight, the women
and girls (plus Luke and Manny) show their support for
gender-equality ... in very different ways. Also, Phil and Jay
disagree about their parking lot attendant (Niecy Nash).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Dolphins are natural
TV stars. They spin and surf, leap and cavort; they're visually
spectacular.

Earlier, “Nature”
used “spy cams” -- robots that looked like creatures, but had
cameras – on land. Now this two-week series uses then in the
oceans. Chances are, most of this footage came from conventional
cameras, not the spies; still, the results are great. We see dolphins
link in hunting, playing and romance; we also see a merger into a
stunning, 3,000-dolphin “mega-pod.”

Other choices
include:

“Guardians of the
Galaxy” (2014), 7:30 p.m., FX, or “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 8
p.m., Freeform. We can watch “Guardians” to get ready for its
sequel to hit theaters Friday ... and watch “Dancing” before has
its version of the Broadway musical, May 24.

“Shots Fired,” 8
p.m., Fox. Things have crumbled for Preston and Ashe. Their
evidence-was-planted theory was refuted; now the state is replacing
them. Also, a riot left a murder victim's brother in jail. Now Ashe
scrambles to find new evidence ... just as another video damages the
image of a young cop.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Last week brought another meltdown. Stunned when Cookie
rejected his marriage proposal, Angelo (Taye Diggs), the mayoral
front-runner, blurted out self-incriminating things while his
microphone was on. Now their relationship turns toxic.
“The
100,” 9 p.m., CW. It's time for some mega-combat, to see which
group gets shelter from the deadly acid-rain storm. And one character
says it for all of us: “This is what mankind chooses to do with its
final day – another battle?” Sure, it's a terrific battle,
bringing the end of some major characters; still, it seems like a
so-so plot device for a story about rebuilding civilization.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. As Zoey starts her two-day college orientation, her
dad is tearful. He should be; he failed to turn in her housing
application, creating a instant crisis.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. As the accidental president prepares for
his first international summit, his wife tries to decide whether to
return the kids to Washington.

“Underground,”
10 p.m. ET, WGN America; reruns at 11:03 p.m. and 12:06 and 1:09 a.m.
Last week brought drastic steps: Noah retrieved Rosalee – who
burned down the Macon plantation house as they left ... Elizabeth
turned to to theft and blackmail, to finance the escapes ... and
Ernestine was plunging through the swamps with her captor. Now come
the aftershocks, a week before the season-finale.

TV column for Tuesday, May 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Most weeks,
“Nine-Nine” is just having some goofy fun. Tonight, however, it
takes a surprisingly serious turn; it does it well ... and even
leaves room for some solid laughs.

As played by Terry
Crews, a former pro football player, Sgt. Terry Jeffords is an
imposing figure. Now he's accosted by a patrolman, before he can say
he's a fellow cop. This is racial profiling, but what can be done?
There are some talky scenes that work only because of Emmy-winner
Andre Braugher's skill as Captain Holt. Alongside them is buoyant
comedy, as Jake and Amy try to watch Terry's kids.

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

Robert Ripley was
his era's Ed Sullivan – an ordinary guy (bad voice, clumsy manner)
who brought extraordinary things to the public. He turned his
newspaper cartoon into the “believe it or not” empire.

Ripley loved the
exotic – people who walked on fire or ate razor blades, a guy who
walked down stairs on his head. He was like P.T. Barnum, with a
difference: Barnum lied; Ripley traveled the globe to gather proof he
was telling the truth. Here's a rerun of a delightful profile.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Great News,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC .

Forever stretching
for big laughs, “Great News” has mixed success. It spends too
much time on its broadest characters – Chuck (John Michael Higgins)
the newscaster, Carol, the intern (Andrea Martin) – instead of
Carol's likable daughter Katie (Briga Heelan).

Sometimes, the
result is ragged; tonight's second episode, focusing on Chuck's
war-zone reporting, is so-so. And sometimes, it's quite splendid. The
first episode has Chuck trying to do the news while concealing a
temporary blindness; it's simultaneously ridiculous and hilarious.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Victorian Slum House” opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

If time-travel
becomes popular, try to not visit the London slums of the Victorian
era. In this reality show, modern people try to replicate life there.
“It's insane,” one woman says. “This is relentless.”

A retiree (in our
time) has 16 hours of intense work in a bell factory ... an amputee
tries to hand-craft furniture ... kids make matchboxes and sell
flowers; they're copying an 1860s era that had no social security,
disability pay or mandatory schooling. This reality show introduces
life without safety nets.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS,. It's time for heroes on horseback. After a Marine is killed in
a national park, the team works with mounted police to probe similar
park murders.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Wisely, Frankie bought Axl's graduation present months in
advance. Not so wisely, she forgot where she hid it.

“Prison Break,”
9 p.m., Fox. Emerging from its weak start, the show clicked last
week. As ISIS overwhelmed the Yemen capital, guards fled and Michael
and Linc escaped with some other prisoners. Now the guys scramble and
Michael offers an explanation for his missing years. It's a lame one
– as are many of the show's details – but there's enough
excitement to help us forget that it's nonsense.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Liv keeps munching victims' brains, hoping to land murder
clues. She also temporarily absorbs the victim's personality ... a
problem tonight, when the victim is a dominatrix.

“Genius,” 9
p.m., National Geographic. Last week's terrific opener bounced
between 1894, when Albert Einstein was a student, and 1922, when he
was an esteemed professor in a Germany teeterig toward Hitler. Now we
see his romance with Mileva Maric, the Serbian genius who was the
class' only female . That reruns at 11, sandwiching the 10 p.m.
season-opener of the brainy “Breakthrough.”

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., NBC. Pride may have proof that Mayor Hamilton is
crooked.