TV column for Wednesday, April 22


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.

The Van Dyke boys
have gone far from their days in Danville, Ill. Dick has four Emmys,
a Tony (for “Bye Bye Birdie”) and a Grammy (for the “Mary
Poppins” cast album). Jerry had great guest spots on his brother's
show, then ranged from “Coach” to, alas, “My Mother the Car.”

Now Jerry, 83, has a
recurring role as Tag, Frankie's dad. Dick, 89, plays his estranged
brother Dutch.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

“Idol” threw a
curve at contestants this year, announcing that only the top five
contestants – compared to 10 in previous years – will go on tour.
Now – on a night when contestants will belt arena-style anthems –
we'll learn who those five are.

Last week, Rayvon
Owen and Joey Cook finished in the bottom two. Twitter votes put Owen
in the top six and sent Cook home.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Big Time in Hollywood, FL,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central.

This strange show
has emerged as an unexpected gem, with a plot that keeps escalating.
It all started with brothers trying to finance their filmmaking by
faking their kidnapping. Soon, the actor they'd hired was killed and
both brothers were in rehab for non-existent drug habits.

That's where they
met Cuba Gooding Jr. (playing a perverse version of himself) and
inadvertently helped him with a robbery. Now a berserk detective
(Michael Madsen), hired by their mom, has them at gunpoint. Things
get wilder ... and, in a dark way, funnier.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The first two weeks of the
delightful “Animal Homes” eyed individual or couple projects; now
the finale views animals that think big. Off the coast of Scotland, a
million puffins live together (alongside other birds), providing
protection. Topping that are the leaf-cutter ants of Costa Rica, with
millions of them sharing a srawling, one-acre home.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Half the original 18 contestants are gone now, with the
hardest-hit being the original “no-collar” tribe. Last week, Joe
Anglim, a jewelry designer, was the fourth no-collar ousted,
alongside three white-collar and two blue-collar.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Jay takes Cam's place on a bowling team ... unaware it's
an all-gay league. Also, Gloria and Mitchell try to show they're
still young by clubbing with the newly-21 Hayley.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Michael Rapaport – who also will guest Thursday in
FX's “Louie” -- plays an executive who happens to be both white
and street-smart. He challenges Dre's street cred and gives an
urban-market account to an inept colleague.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Teddy's music-education initiative lures the city's stars
for a gala. Rayna is getting readdy to perform with her daughters and
Deacon – who is awaiting news about his health crisis. Also, Layla
(Aubrey Peebles) ends up alongside Jade St. John (Christina
Aguilera).

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. One Arquette sister (Rosanna) has a big, flashy guest role
tonight in this OK (but way-too-brutal) hour. That contrasts with her
younger sister, the show's stars. Patricia Arquette has talent – as
proven by her new Oscar – but she plays this series in a monotone.

“Broadchurch”
(BBC America) or “The Americans” (FX) season finales, 10 p.m.,
cable. Take your choice of two richly crafted dramas. “Broadchurch”
has some major life changes; “Americans” has a trip with
Elizabeth and her daughter; also, Stan's effort to save Nina brings a
startling result.

TV column for Tuesday, April 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Fresh Off the Boat” season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC.

“Boat” spends
one episode on the subject another ABC show (“Black-ish”) keeps
returning to – the perpetual tug between assimilating and clinging
to a cultural identity.

Eddie Huang sees
himself as a hip-hop kid who should do Jamaica for world-culture day;
his mom is newly intense about their roots. Suddenly, he's
confronting chicken feet for dinner and impenetrible sounds in a
Chinese-language class. It's a funny (and good-hearted) end to a good
first season.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Frontline,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Born in Washington,
D.C., and raised in Pakistan, David Headley reflected mixed roots.
His father was a Pakistani diplomat; his mother was from Philadelphia
wealth. Eventually, he was arrested for plotting to bomb a Danish
newspaper; intelligence officials saw it as a triumph of internal
spying.

This report – from
“Frontline” and ProPublica – looks at Headley's past, including
his unpublished memoir, but raises a key question: Did the
intelligence effort really triumph ... or did it blow a chance to
prevent the Mumbai attack (leaving 168 dead) that Headley helped
plan?

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Forever” season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

This never-aging
thing has its drawbacks, we're told. Henry's one true love (Abe's
mother) left him as their age gap kept widening. Now Abe has dug out
a lead on where she went.

That leads to a
murder probe, some suspect officials and more. It's a complicated
mystery that switches direction a few times, before ending a fairly
good first season with a mixture of warmth and rage.

Other choices
include:

“Hell's Kitchen,”
8 p.m., Fox. Things start cheerily enough, with a fresh challenge:
Make three dishes – one each with beer, wine and liquor; John
Ratzenberger (Cliff on “Cheers”) helps judge. Then the main
challenge suddenly shifts tone: One contestant has a fierce physical
crisis; one team collapses.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. The field trims from 10 to eight.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun finds Gibbs dealing with copycat murders plus a bigger
problem – the arrival of two of his ex-wives (Jeri Ryan and
Melinda McGraw).

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun traces a bombing in which Pride
(Scott Bakula) was a target.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. Nasim Pedrad (of “Saturday Night Live” and the
short-lived “Mulaney”) guests in this rerun, as Winston's
training officer. Also, Schmidt tries to influence a councilwoman.

“One Big Happy,”
9:30, NBC. It's nostalgia time for Nick and Prudence – a trip to
the Las Vegas chapel where they had their instant wedding. Except the
place was a scam, they're not really married ... and Prudence's visa
is running out. Like previous “Happy” episodes, this ranges from
funny to merely loud.

“Inside Amy
Schumer” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. Schumer's show
is sometimes clever, sometimes witless, usually entertaining. This
episode starts with a music video that's more crude than clever. It
follows with a sharp and witty satire of the alleged link between
football and rape.

TV column for Monday, April 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hubble's Cosmic Journey,” 10 p.m., and “StarTalk,” 11 p.m.,
National Geographic.

This is “the great
American comeback,” one scientist says: The Hubble space
telescope's launch (25 years ago this coming Friday) was a flop,
yielding fuzzy pictures. Three years later, a repair job led to
stunning images of galaxies and star clusters that Earthlings had
never seen.

That's told
passionately by the key people ... and by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who
then launches the cable version of his “StarTalk” podcast. The
opener, with George Takei of “Star Trek,” ranges from serious to
silly; Tyson gets great support from Charles Liu (like Tyson, an
astrophysicist) and Leighann Lord.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

There are four
episodes left to wrap up a terrific and tangled first season.
Tonight, Jane (Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez) scrambles to fix
her relationship with Rafael, who is – due to a clinic's error –
the father of her baby-to-be. Her mom reluctantly tells a secret to
Rogelio, the telenovela star; her grandma has a flashback to show who
pushed her down the stairs.

There's more. Jane's
ex-fiance, a cop, learns more about the crime syndicate. Rafael's
estranged wife, a crook, is in trouble and must save herself. We told
you this gets tangled.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Great Invisible,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings) under “Independent Lens”; also, 10 p.m. ET, Pivot.

Five years ago
today, the Deepwater Horizon – described by one worker as a
state-of-the-art oil rig, “like the Titanic” -- exploded. Eleven
men were killed and oil gushed to Louisiana.

This
slow-but-powerful documentary has strong comments from survivors,
telling of safety cutbacks ... and of marathon delays in the British
Petroleum settlement pay-outs. The film was produced by Jeff Skoll
(“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Lincoln,” “The Help”), who
also created the Pivot network.

Other choices
include:

“Malcolm X”
(1992), 5:30-10 p.m. ET, Pivot. This may be the perfect day to hunt
for Pivot, which is available by satellite, cable and www.pivot.tv.
Prior to “Great Invisible,” catch an “Angry Planet” look at
Australian wildfires at 5 p.m. ET, followed by Spike Lee's masterful
Malcolm X portrait.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Now the show has its top 10. Last week, Brian
Johnson and 16-year-old Mia Z were sent home; Deanna Johnson (no
relation) and Corey White were in the bottom four.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Suzanne Somers was ousted, on
a night that had low judges' scores for the older stars – Somers,
Patti LaBelle, Robert Herjavec – and for Noah Galloway and Chris
Soules. At the top were Rumer Willis, Nastia Liukin and Riker Lynch.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Kathy Bates makes her second appearance as
Peggy's childhood friend Kay. She's deeply depressed, which matches
Peggy perfectly, but Molly tries to perk her up.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Wrapping up a first season that's been a quick ratings
success, the team has a fresh crisis: Walter's car is teetering at
the edge of a cliff.

“Time Traveling”
debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Travel. Brian Unger blends wit and facts,
while offering odd glimpses of the American past. The first half-hour
visits epic structures – the Woolworth Building and the Golden Gate
bridge. The second goes to Tombstone, Ariz., to tackle “gunfight at
OK Corral” myths, then to Nevada ranches where the rich and famous
would spend six weeks waiting to divorce.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. The show finally tackles the mystery of what happened
during Rick Castle's two-month disappearance.

TV column for Sunday, April 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11:30 p.m., CBS.

For its 50th
ceremony, the ACM is thinking big. The event will be in the Dallas
Cowboys' stadium, complete with special awards for the biggest
winners from the past – Garth Brooks, George Strait, Kenny Chesney,
Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and a reunited Brooks &
Dunn.

Most of them will
perform; so will hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan and more -- Brad
Paisley, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean,
Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and Eric Church.
Also, Christina Aguilera and Nick Jonas will mix in for duets.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Veep,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.

Now that she's
president, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) wants to worry about bigger
things – such as world peace. Alas, image questions persist.

There's her
daughter, short on people skills and lacking the vital art of the
fake smile. There's an ugly painting that seems important to American
Indians. And there's a spending spree by her aide, Gary. Two
Emmy-winners, Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale – collide in scenes that
are both funny and warm.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nurse Jackie,” 9 p.m., Showtime, reruns at 9:30
p.m. and 12:10 a.m.

Last week's opener
(rerunning at 8:30 p.m.) started with Jackie at a low point -- in
jail, after a drug-fueled car crash. It ended with her sparking an
outburst from her ex-boss that could be handy in court.

Then again, she
still needs the money for a hot-shot lawyer; tonight, she scrambles
with finances and (as usual) ethics. “Nurse Jackie” has mostly
quit trying to be a comedy. In its final season, however, it's become
a good drama that has us rooting for a second chance (or 22nd
chance?) for redemption.

Other choies
include:

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Is it possible to feel sympathy for Cruella de
Vil, who has currently kidnapped Henry? Maybe. This hour includes a
flashback to her own awful childhood.

"Legends & Lies: The Real West," 8 p.m., Fox News. This hour looks at the complex reality of the cowboy gunman known as Wild Bill Hickock. It includes descendants and historians, plus archival photos.

 

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. With just three episodes left, Ben's life
continues to collapse. The police have a damning video, his marriage
is crumbling and he's alone on Christmas Eve. Now his lawyer hatches
an alternative theory that could uncover more lies.

“A.D.,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Last week's well-crafted hour (rerunning at 8 p.m.) found
officials enraged by the opened tomb and missing body. Now come the
aftershocks, with Peter and John arrested.

“Game of Thromes,”
9 p.m., HBO. Females dominate this strong hour. Brienne of Tarth, the
warrior, faces trouble; young Arya Stark reaches Braavos, with an
uncertain future. Cersei Lannister grasps for power through her young
son, the king; Daenerys Targaryen finds that real power can be scary.
And yes, there are some men here; that includes a pivotal moment for
Jon Snow at the Night's Watch.

“Masterpiece,”
9:05 and 10 p.m., PBS. A so-so “Mr. Selfridge” ends with a jolt.
Then an excellent “Wolf Hall” finds Wolsey dead and Cromwell
trying to rush Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. By the end of last week, the Earth's known
population stood at two men and four women, all of them aware that
Phil (Will Forte) is a habitiual and inept liar.

“American
Odyssey,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Almost killed by an angry mob, an
American soldier (Anna Friel) to soothe her captors, in a fairly
strong episode.

“Revenge,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. After being attacked, Victoria takes things into her own
hands.

.

TV column for Saturday, April 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Orphan Black,” all day, cable.

You can start by
catching up on the first two seasons of a terrific show. Reruns began
at midnight on the IFC channel and continue until 9 p.m.: Once a
street waif, Sarah (the superb Tatiana Maslany) learned she's the
result of a clone scheme; her lookalikes range from a soccer mom to
an assassin.

Then the third
season opens, with Sarah searching for her twin (Helena) and using
acting skill to thwart a detective. That's 9 p.m. on IFC, AMC, WE and
BBC America, which reruns it at midnight and 3 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC.

This entertaining
show has a couple more new episodes left on Mondays. Today, however,
we can catch this rerun from October, with Rick Castle going
undercover as a 2nd-grade teacher.

That's logical
enough: An ice-cream vendor has been shot and a kid may be the only
witness.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Good Witch” season-finale, 8-10 p.m. , Hallmark.

After seven movies,
Catherine Bell's likable character has settled into this feel-good
series. There's less emphasis on Cassie's maybe-magic now and more on
her intuition and people skills.

In a sweet little
town, she's a shop-owner and innkeeper, a former mayor and the widow
of the police chief, with a daughter and two grown step-kids.
Tonight, her step-son struggles with his long-distance marriage, her
neighbor confronts a scheming ex-wife and a development scheme
endangers her store and her friend's coffee shop. They are modest
problems in a modestly involving, nice-folks drama.

Other choices
include:

“Cars” (2006)
and “Cars 2” (2011), 2 and 4:30 p.m., ABC Family. This popular
double feature provides a highlight for the channel's animation
weekend. Today, that starts with “Winnie the Pooh” (2011) at 7
a.m. and contiues through “Horton Hears a Who” and “Kung Fu
Panda” (both 2008) at 7 and 9 p.m.

Hockey and fighting,
8 p.m. ET, NBC. The Stanley Cup coverage moves into NBC's prime time,
with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers. Fox counters with Ultimate
Fighting Championship bouts.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. This is clearly overkill; the victim
seems to have been killed twice. Also in this rerun, Sharon Osbourne
plays the manager of a billiards tournament.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder victims are
Marines who have sons in military academies. That has Sam (LL Cool J)
thinking about his ownn relationship with his dad.

TV Land awards,
9-10:30 p.m., TV Land. Terry Crews, the host, starts the night by
lip-synching to classic theme songs. Later, there's real music from
Jennifer Hudson and Charlie Wilson. Awards go to Betty White and to
Donny and Marie Osmond, plus the people behind “Ally McBeal,”
“The Wonder Years,” “Parenthood” and “Freaks and Geeks.”
Also, George Lopez gives a Joan Rivers tribute.

“Tatau” debut,
10 p.m., BBC America, rerunning at 1 a.m. Visiting the Cook Islands,
two Londoners take a hallucinogen and are soon immersed in Maori
mythology.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. James Franco hosts this rerun, with music
by Nicki Minaj.