TV column for Thursday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

Here is great
television, 11 years in the making. Everyone arrives for the wedding
of Sheldon and Amy.

We've seen his
mother (Laurie Metcalf) often and met the adult version of his
brother (Jerry O'Connell) last week. Now we add his sister and more,
including Amy's parents; they're played by Kathy Bates and Teller
(the quiet half of Penn-and- ) in a great bit that recalls Marcel
Marceau in “Silent Movie.”

All the others (plus
Mark Hamill) are there; even Kripke gets a great closing moment. Big
laughs mingle with brief warmth, all of it true to the characters.
TV's best comedy hits a new peak.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Young Sheldon” season-finale, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

After the highs of
“Big Bang,” we settle in for the quieter approach of this
pleasant comedy. After seeing these people have great moments as
grown-ups, it's good to see them a generation earlier.

Sheldon is 9 here
and obsessing over the romance of his grandmother (Annie Potts). He's
nudging her toward a Sheldon-esque math prof (Wallace Shawn); she's
also dating a furniture guy (Richard Kind). It's an OK episode that
includes his brother, sister, dad (who died prior to “Big Bang”)
and delightful mom ... played perfectly by Zoe Perry, whose real-life
mom (Metcalf) has the same role in “Big Bang.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Chicago Fire” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

Wisely, NBC wrapped
its comedies a week early, to avoid tonight's CBS powerhouse.
Instead, it has two episodes of “Fire,” with many of the
characters in transition.

Boden, the battalion
chief, ponders a major career move, then faces an obstacle. Kidd
(Miranda Mayo) has trouble getting time with Sevaride ... and
distrusts the motives of his ex-lover Renee, who has suddenly
returned to his life. And Dawson has complications at home
(disagreeing with her husband Casey on a key decision) and at work; a
paramedic, she answers a call that quickly turns dangerous.

Other choices
include:

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a transplanted rerun, a
promising music student has disappeared at a clown bar (really),
leaving a clown as a suspect in a body-less murder trial. The story
also lets Stone visit his troubled sister and Fin get a visit from
his son and daughter-in-law.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. We thought Gotham City was already in chaos; tonight, Fox
tells us, it reaches total anarchy. Bullock, Gordon's old partner,
steps in, taking the lead at the police department.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Geena Davis is back as Nicole Herman, the former head of
fetal surgery; once the mentor of Arizona, she now has a promising
opportunity for her. Meanwhile, one of the hospital people is
seriously injured, causing everyone to reflect.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's almost time for the new captain to be named. Pruitt
Herrera, the retiring captain, warns his daughter Andy not to be
disappointed. Also, Ben (Jason George) is mad at Pruitt for telling
Dr. Miranda Bailey (Ben's wife) how dangerous this job is. Then comes
some big-time danger.

“Mom”
season-finale, 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Over five seasons, this has
found big laughs –and some deep tragedy – involving the lives of
recovering alcoholics. In tonight's first episode, Bonnie (Allison
Janney) ends up in jail; in the second, her daughter (Anna Faris)
slides into old habits.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The team is supposed to protect a former CIA agent who is
trying to bring down a drug kingpin.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. Five days after his oft-hilarious “Saturday Night Live”
episode, Donald Glover wraps up his show's season. This reruns at
10:33 and 11:19 p.m.

TV column for Wednesday, May 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Chicago P.D.” season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

Sure, we've grumble
that NBC's Chicago shows can be bland, with quick amd convenient
stories. Not tonight; the few minutes here are as raw and consuming
as anything we've seen lately.

Olinsky, the veteran
cop, is in prison; Voight (Jason Beghe) is furious ... and is ready
to sacrifice everything for him. Then some news changes everything.
This part s tough, tense ... and over quickly; the rest sometimes
slides downhill. Torture – whether by cops or crooks – is bad
ethics and bad drama. There's nothing dramatic about a one-sided
fight, which happens too often after a strong start.

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

Two gifted actresses
collide. Taraji Henson has three Emmy nominations, two as the fierce
Cookie; Alfre Woodard has 16 Emmy nominations, winning four times.
We've already seen Woodard in brief flashbacks as Cookie's troubled
mom, but now Cookie visits and they confront a complicated past.

Meanwhile, Eddie
(Forest Whitaker) continues his effort to grab the record label that
Cookie and Lucious started 20 years ago. Eddie tries a power play
during a showcase for the anniversary album.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 9 p.m., CW.

“This doesn't make
any sense,” one character says helpfully. Hey, that ship sailed
long ago, as the sunny town from the Archie comics kept getting
darker and meaner. That gets more extreme tonight.

There's the war
between the tough South Siders (led by Jughead and his ex-con dad)
and the others (including Veronica's scheming dadand Betty's daft
parents). And there's an enigma: After the Black Hood was apparently
killed, someone in a black hood has attacked people. Now things get
noisier and nastier; we would have left long ago ... except this
nonsense is sharply written, filmed and acted.

Other choices
include:

“Jurassic Park”
(1993), 7:05 p.m., and “The Colony,” 10 p.m., USA. Last week,
Will and Katie took their family on the run, before thier cabin was
raided by collaborators for the aliens. They don't realize that
Snyder is still working for the other side; tonight brings a risky
attempt to contact the Resistance.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. One of the villains on Red's list is suddenly after
Samar. When she goes missing, the Task Force gets involved. Also, Red
heads to Costa Rica, hoping to stop an underground auction for the
duffel bag full of bones.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. After being sidelined, Star – young, ambitious and talented –
seizes a chance to stand out. Meanwhile, Jahil (Benjamin Bratt)
clashes with Andy and Angel.

“Nova Wonders,”
9 p.m., PBS. For its third hour, this quick and slick show asks
pop-culture questions: Might other planets be populated? And what
efforts are being made to contact or hear them?

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. The focus is on Haley tonight. Things go badly when she
meets the parents of Arvin (Chris Geere of “You're the Worst”)
and she has a reunion with her ex-boyfriends.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Life is tough for a president's lawyer, in
real life and in this fictional tale. Tonight, Kendra Daynes is in a
dangerous situation that risks the life of another staffer.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Jesse (Luiz Guzman), the head nurse, has been a
no-nonsense guy; that changes when his brother is brought to the
hospital, after being pinned by a warehouse collapse.

TV column for Tuesday, May 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Pauley Perrette says
farewell tonight, already part of TV history. This is her 358th
episode as Abby – 352 on this show, plus two each on two spin-offs
and “JAG.” Temporarily, that's one more than Mark Harmon as Gibbs
and two more than David McCallum as Ducky.

And yes, a few
people have topped that. Numbers vary, but we'll ignore daytime,
cartoon and promo episodes. Our list includes three “Gunsmoke”
actors (569 to 641 episodes), four in “Ozzie and Harriet” (434 to
460), two in “Law & Order” land (393 and 442) and Kelsey
Grammer's Frasier (467).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Season finales, 8 p.m. Fox (“Lethal Weapon”) and 9 p.m., CBS
(“Bull”).

In the final 16 days
of the season, finales are starting to pile up. For “Lethal
Weapon,” Riggs faces a death threat ... and a demand from Molly to
make a decision about their future. Also, Murtaugh has extra
responsibility at work, changing the relationship with his police
partner, Riggs.

And “Bull”?
Usually, this jury consultant maneuvers a “not guilty.” This
time, however, the verdict is”guilty”; Bull's team regroups to
try to avert a death sentence.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rise,” 9 p.m., NBC.

For a show stuffed
with gritty realism, “Rise” can sometimes be maddeningly
unrealistic. Changing a high school musical drastically in the final
days before opening? The notions strains credibility.

“Rise” has
strained before ... and won us back with great scenes. Tonight, one
of the most fractured relationships – the theater director and his
son -- has some subtly moving moments. And Robbie – star of the
musical AND the football team – stirs emotions that are up there at
the “This Is Us” level.

Other choices
include:

“Roseanne,” 8
p.m., ABC. So far, D.J. has been almost invisible; tonight, he gets
his own plotline, admitting that post-military life has been
difficult. Meanwhile, his family has a bigger problem: It must
befriend the neighbors, in order to use their wi-fi.

“The Middle,”
8:30, ABC. Back at William-and-Kate time, we learned that Frankie is
obsessed with royal weddings. Now Sue and Brick try to win her a
London trip for the Harry-and-Meghan wedding.

“New Girl,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., Fox. Winston is increasingly anxious about impending
fatherhood, so Jess takes a drastic step – finding his long-lost
dad (JB Smoove). Meanwhile, Schmidt finally goes back to work. And
Nick's plan to propose to Jess is thrown off yet again.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Above the planet, Bellamy searches for a potential way
home. And on Earth, Clarke and the young orphan girl deal with a
possible new threat.

“For the People,”
10 p.m., ABC. So far, we've seen the tenuous friendship/romance
between Roger (Ben Shankman), head of the prosecutors, and Jill
(Hope Davis), head of the defense lawyers. Now that becomes fragile
during a case involving a DEA raid.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. Using first-hand accounts and secret footage filmed by
activists, this hour tells of the Myanmar military's crackdown on a
Muslim minority, includig rape and murder.

“Genius,” 10
p.m., National Geographic. Packed and passionate, this hour flashes
between two key times in Pablo Picasso's life. As a young romantic,
he falls wildly, franticly in love; as a young artist, he rages that
he lacks the distinctive flair of Henri Matisse. And in his 60s, he
seems helpless to save his friend from the Nazis or his lover from
madness.

TV column for Monday, May 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY: “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” season-opener, 10:01 p.m., NBC.
In the first three seasons, this well-made series has seen Grylls take celebrities far from their comfort zones. Now a new season has dancer Derek Hough and tennis star Roger Federer, plus actors Keri Russell, Don Cheadle, Lena Headey, Scott Eastwood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Uzo Aduba.
That starts with Gordon-Levitt, the former “3rd Rock” kid, in Kenya. His fear of heights is tested when he climbs and rappels. He also milks a camel and he battles a crocodile for a water buffalo's carcass.
TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.
Last week brought the ouster of two popular athletes – Jamie Anderson, a snowboarder with an Olympic gold medal, and Johnny Damon, who won World Series with the Red Sox and Yankees.
That leaves eight athletes, ranging from the 5-foot-2 Tonya Harding to the 7-foot-2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Tonight each has two dances, the second one a team event. Judges' scores will be combined with viewers' votes from last week; then two athletes will be sent home.
TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Keeping Faith,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
Eve Myles was terrific in the “Torchwood” series, but now comes something bigger, broader and more intriguing. She plays Faith Howells, on a maternity break from the small-town law office she runs with her husband. She likes to drink with friends, hug her kids, live a busy and semi-chaotic life.
Then ... well, we won't spoil any surprises. By the end of the first hour of this eight-hour mini-series, Myles is encased in confusion, chaos and fear ... an ideal playground for a gifted actress.
TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Two years ago, a protest spiraled. Two Oregon ranchers had been arrested for starting fires on federal lands; protestors gathered ... then took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which Theodore Roosevelt had established in 1908 as a sanctuary for birds and waterfowl.
Nudged by social media, others came. “You've got cowboys with guns, holding a bird sanctuary (and talking) about American tyranny,” one man recalls. It was high drama ... but one with no easy ending. Filmmaker David Byars followed the 41-day event and its aftermath, skillfully capturing both sides.
Other choices include:
“Kevin Can Wait” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. Kevin re-unites with is old band ... and Vanessa (Leah Remini) realizes that a long-ago encounter with that band changed her life.
“Lucifer,” 8 p.m., Fox. There are troubles for Lucifer – he may be pursuing the wrong suspect; also, a phone call changes everything  – and for his age-resistant mom, Charlotte. She risks her safety.
“Time Capsule,” 8 and 11 p.m., Smithsonian. For Americans, 1968 began in horror (the Tet offensive) and ended in triumph (the Apollo 8 circling the moon). In between were waves of tragedy. This strong hour takes us through them, including first-hand accounts by a soldier who was pinned down in Vietnam and Apollo commander Jim Lovell, who felt his odds of returning barely topped 50-50.
“The Resident,” 9 p.m., Fox. Still trying to find evidence to incriminate Dr. Hunter, Nicolette now has a bigger problem, when her sister is rushed to the emergency room. And a patient who has helped ex-cons now has a mysterious ailment; doctors look for answers among the people she's helped.
“The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Three days before “Big Bang” has the wedding of Sheldon and Amy, this rerun shows them trying to use science to determine their best man and maid of honor.
“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. A reality show contestant has been killed. As it happens, another contestant is a war criminal who may be a skilled killer.    
“Crossings,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Jude (Steve Zahn) has reason to feel overwhelmed: He's a small-town sheriff whose turf was reached by refugees from the future. As he seeks help from a former colleague, he has to confront his past. Also, there's a setback in the plan to re-unite Reece with her daughter.

TV column for Sunday, May 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Call the Midwife” season-finale, 8 p.m., PBS.

It's been a tough
year for fans: Trixie left for alcohol rehab; Barbara, young and
vibrant, contracted a fast-moving ailment and died. (One actress was
taking maternity leave; the other was departing.)

Now we see waves of
pain, especially from Barbara's widower, a popular clergyman. Other
problems are small (bad back, bad TV set) and large (a global
tragedy). The crises range from a teen's pregnancy to an old man's
dementia, but “Midwife” finds ways to end the season with good
feelings.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Last Man on Earth” season-finale, 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Over the next few
weeks, we'll have a cascade of finales. Some will be good, some bad;
this one, alas, is closer to a shrug.

Seven survivors of a
global outbreak have bonded ... and even have a pregnancy, the first
hint that humans might persist. Now they're ready to leave their
mansion and find a new home. Tonight brings detours and it's easy to
forget this is a comedy; then again, no one said the apocalypse has
to be funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Unforgotten,” 9 p.m, PBS.

The first three-week
“Unforgotten” tale was intriguing, with one disappointment: The
four suspects were each interesting, but their stories didn't
entwine. This time, that's no problem.

We've learned that
the victim – whose body was found after 25 years – was a foul
person. We've met the suspects – a teacher, a lawyer, a pediatric
nurse, even the widow, noe a police detective. By next week's finale,
they'll link in a story that copies from mystery classics, but is
compelling on its own.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. We're down to the final seven singers now,
reportedly doing Prince songs. Then viewers vote; next Sunday – a
week from the finale – we'll only have five.

“Sweetbitter”
and “Vida” debuts, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Starz. “Sweetbitter” is
based on the novel Stephanie Damler wrote after years of waitressing
in upscale New York. “V ida” has two Mexican-American sisters –
opposites in most ways – forced by circumstance to return to their
old neighborhood.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Rosa is in the middle of a lethal
crisis, while the others are forced to stay back. Jake frantically
tries to find a way to help.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Marine is killed by a nerve gas, the
team works with the FBI. Also, we learn something important about
Deeks: He'd like to quit this job and open a bar.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. As she deals with a refugee crisis, Elizabeth has to be
caautious: A writer is shadowing her, hoping to have a tell-all book.

“Timeless,” 10
p.m., NBC. A week from the two-hour season-finale, the time-travel
team heads to the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. They soon
find they're not there to protect the president.

“I'm Dying Up
Here” season-opener, 10 p.m., Showtime. When this started last
year, comedy careers were wobbling; not any more. Ron – who's
living in a closet (literally) – has a TV sitoom. Cassie has a TV
special and, maybe, an agent; Goldie has a $2 million offer for her
club. Can anything go wrong? Definitely; alongside some sharp
one-liners, “Dying” offers the ominous feeling that life is
crumbling.