TV column for Saturday, May 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S
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
blues.

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
include:

“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.”

TV column for Friday, May 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Superstar Duets,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Here's the sort of
thing that soars during Grammys and other award shows: The Academy of
Country Music has assembled lots of intriguing combinations.

Many are
cross-generational -- Luke Bryan and Ronnie Milsap, Joe Nichols and
Clint Black, Sam Hunt and Dwight Yoakam, Miranda Lambert and Patty
Loveless, Keith Urban and John Anderson, Cole Swindell and Alan
Jackson, Eric Church and Marty Stuart. Others are just fun match-ups;
Lady Antebellum links with Brandy Clark ... and there's Brooks &
Dunn & Reba.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is billed as a
history of the American Ballet Theatre, but don't take that too
seriously. More than half the film isn't about the ABT; it's a
gorgeous essay about dance in general and ballet in particular.

Ric Burns provides
stunning visuals and has found a rarity – people who can talk well
about their art. Eventually, he gets to the ABT, which is
fascinating. Other companies had one prime choreographer; the ABT
juggled superstars – Georges Balanchine, Agnes DeMille, Jerome
Robbins, even Mikhail Baryshnikov. It became daring and traditional,
balletic and theatrical, an intriguing place.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “World's Greatest Dogs,” 8 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

The title is no
exaggeration – these dogs really are great. Some are just for fun –
the world's fastest canine skateboarder, a stunt dog who can leap
wildly off a roof, confident someone will be there.

Others bring emotion
–a two-legged dog who savors life; a surfing dog who gently nudges
an autistic boy into the sport. It's an enjoyable hour, launching a
two-day “Barkfest.” There's “Cesar 911” at 9 p.m. and “Is
Your Dog a Genius” at 10; they repeat from 11 to 2. Saturday brings
a Cesar Millan marathon from 7 a,n, to 5 p.m. and more, including a
doggy edition of “Unlikely Animal Friends” at 9.

Other choices
include:

“Scream 2”
(1997). Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson re-capture
the first film's mix of scares and laughs. The survivor is in college
now, when a movie about the attacks opens ... and a new outbreak
begins. Neve Campbell stars, with Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle
Gellar and more.

“The Amazing Race”
finale, 8 p.m., CBS. This started with the question of which couples
would do better – ones that had been dating or total strangers.
That was answered quickly: Three of the five “blind-daters” are
still in the race; only one dating couple is there and it finished
fourth last week, surviving only because it wasn't an elimination
week. Tonight, one duo wins $1 million.

“Grimm”
season-finale, 8 p.m., NBC. Nick has good reasons to be upset. His
love, Juliette, has transformed into a nasty hexenbiest .... A
dangerous little girl, Diana Schade-Redard, is being swept away ...
and now comes a horrendous package. He's ready to go to war, aided by
the guys and a return of tough Trubel. It's a high-action hour, with
twisty endings that are at least semi-satisfying,

“Cedric's Barber
Battle,” 8 p.m., CW. The competition moves to South Central Los
Angeles, where talented barberts try to re-create money and cars on
the back of heads.

“Messengers,” 9
p.m., CW. The seventh angel appears. Meanwhile, Erin somehow thinks
she can give her daughter a quiet birthday.

“Bitten,” 9
p.m., Syfy. OK, we know that Elena (the only female werewolf) has
been captured by Aleister, the only male witch. Tonight, we learn how
there happens to be a male witch; then – in a tough and stylish
episode – we see pivotal points for Elena's freedom and Savannah's
soul.

“Lost Girl,” 10
p.m., Syfy. You never know whom you might meet on a dating Web site.
In this case, it's Bo, the bisexual succubus, going undercover.

TV column for Thursday, May 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Wayward Pines” opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

Like “Lost,”
this opens with a guy in a suitcoat lying in the woods, dazed and
confused. And like “Lost,” he – and viewers – soon begin an
intriguing, reality-bending journey.

He's a federal agent
(Matt Dillon), wandering into a town where nothing makes sense. Who
are these people? What are they hiding? He's had previous post-trauma
hallucinations, so is his mind wobbling? For now, we'll assume
producer-director M. Night Shyamalan knows where he's going, as he
did with “Sixth Sense” and “The Village.” There's great
support from Carla Gugino, Terrence Howard and more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Grey's Anatomy” and “Scandal” season finales, 8 and 9
p.m., ABC.

The season
officially ends next Wednesday, which brings tonight's rush. It's the
last Thursday of the Nielsen-ratings season and the “sweeps”
ratings period; eight network shows have season-finales.

These two follow the
tradition of Shonda Rhimes productions – little advance
information, but the expectation that something big will happen. Last
week on “Anatomy,” as people adjusted to Derek's death, a tunnel
collapsed and the Richard/Catherine wedding was postponed; now those
stories continue. On “Scandal,” the probe of B613 grows and
Mellie gets her election results.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Elementary” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

From its start three
years ago, this has been an especially dark view of Sherlock Holmes.
We met him as a recovering heroin addict who saw life morosely;
Watson was hired to keep an eye on him.

So we shouldn't be
surprised by this grim episode. Holmes' former Alcoholics Anonymous
sponsor has been kidnapped by his former drug dealer. A search –
desperate, dreary, but well-played – begins.

Other choices
include:

Movies, 6:45 p.m.
and later, cable. Families can savor “Up” (2009) at 6:45 p.m. on
Disney. Grown-ups have the bracing “Road to Thunderdome” (1992),
the second “Mad Max” film, at 7 p.m. on Spike; also, Colin Firth
stars in the true (and quietly moving) “The Railway Man” (2013),
at 8 p.m. on Showtime.

“Vampire Diaries”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. This show began six years ago with Elena
(Nina Dobrev) as a sweet teen, drawn to Stefan, who has baggage: He's
older (by about 145 years), he's a vampire and his brother Damon is
nasty. Gradually, she learned that she's descended from the wicked
Katerina, who loved both guys. Now Dobrev is leaving the show; Elena
must choose a brother and a life.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8, 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. The first rerun has Howard
finding airport trouble on the way back from his mom's funeral. In
the second, Sheldon overreacts to Leonard's surgery; in the third,
the guys try to find some meaning in a late professor's research.

“The Odd Couple”
season-finale, 8:31 p.m., CBS. This show has been consistently funny
so far. Now an IRS audit ignites a fresh argument between Oscar and
his wife (Lauren Graham).

“The Blacklist”
season-finale, 9 p.m., NBC. With Liz being framed, Red has to use his
connections to try to help. Also, Cooper gets some shocking news and
the team isn't sure whom to trust.

“Reign”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. As Mary works to stop Conde, the obstacles
are tough: Her husband doubts her loyalty to France; her
mother-in-law plots against her.

“American Crime”
finale, 10 p.m., ABC. Brilliantly acted, this series has strained
credibility but kept us involved, as additional lives were ruined in
the aftermath of a murder. Now comes the verdict.

TV column for Wednesday, May 13


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

In its peak years,
the “Idol” finale could make the Earth quit spinnning. People
stopped everything to see who might be the next Kelly/Carrie
superstar. Everything – guest stars, fuss, ratings – was huge.

Now? We can still
expect lots of guests and fuss, plus pretty good ratings. Tuesday's
show began with the final three singers – Jax, 18, Clark Beckham,
22, and Nick Fradiani, 29; one was ousted, two sang and viewers
voted. Tonight, after much commotion, we'll learn who was chosen.

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

Sue has spent her
teen years in a state of unjustified enthusiasm. She keeps having big
dreams that shatter; her parents settle for modest dreams that ...
well, still shatter.

So now Sue's cheery
about her graduation. Her mom merely wants the party to go well; her
dad just wants a good seat and an early exit after the ceremony.
Naturally, much of this will fade; still, there are enough neat
twists to make us glad we stuck with this often-funny and always
likable show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

So you think you had
a tough childhood? Meet the 3-month-old black bear whose mom emerged
from hibernation too early; they're soon encased in a Minnesota
winter. Or the goat, less that a week old, descending a perilous
cliff ... then running back up, with a wolf in pursuit.

There's much more in
“Animal Childhood.” Some moments are sweet and funny, some are
gripping, as inexperienced mother elephants try to nudge their babies
across a raging river; all are well-crafted.

Other choices
include:

“The Mysteries of
Laura,” 8 p.m., NBC. Melissa Joan Hart guests in this episode,
which centers on the murder of a young filmmaker.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. A week from the finale, the old “blue-collar” tribe
remains in control. It has four of its six people; “white-collar”
(Carolyn Rivera) and “no-collar” (Will Sims) have one apiece.

“CSI: Cyber,” 9
and 10 p.m., CBS. The first season concludes with a flurry – one
new hour aired Tuesday, with two more tonight. In the first, a
power-outage masks a robbery and murder; in the second, Avery
(Patricia Arquette) confronts the hacker who put her patients'
secrets Online and Krumitz (Charley Koontz) confronts the man who
killed his parents.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Alex isn't the type to skip school, but her dad and
siblings insist on the “senior skip day” tradition. Also, Gloria
schemes a way to break up Manny and his girlfriend.

“Sing It On”
debut, 9 p.m., Pop (formerly TV Guide Channel), repeating at 10. Back
in his college days, John Legend directed the glee club and was named
best soloist in the quarter-finals of the national tournament. Now he
produces this series, tracing five clubs before and during the
competition. Two each are from Florida State and Northeastern, with
one from Illinois.

“Blackish,” 9:31
p.m., ABC. Andre has just found a consummate way to upset his
parents: He joings the Young Republicans.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Deacon hovers near death; Juliette obsesses on finishing
her album.

TV column for Tuesday, May 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Idol,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Getting a one-week
jump on other shows, “Idol” is ready for its winner ... almost.
Last week, it dropped Rayvon Owen, leaving its final three. Jax –
18, from East Brunswick, N.J. -- faces two guys: Clark Beckham, 22,
is from small-town Tennessee; Nick Fradiani, 29, is from suburban
Connecticut.

Tonight, one of
those three will be dismissed, the others will do three songs apiece
and viewers will vote. On Wednesday, after much commotion, the show
will have its 14th champion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Voice” (NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8-9
p.m.

Think of this as a
handy warm-up on “Idol” night: These two each have a results
show, choosing the people for two-night finales next Monday and
Tuesday.

For now, only
Pharrell Williams has two “Voice” singers, Sawyer Fredericks and
Koryn Hawthorne; there's one apiece for Blake Shelton (Meghan
Linsey), Adam Levine (Joshua Davis) and Christina Aguilera (India
Carney). Meanwhile, “Stars” has actors Rumer Willis and Riker
Lynch, plus war veteran Noah Galloway and Olympic-champion gynmast
Nastia Liukin.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In 2013, this report
says, a fierce strain of salmonella began sending 40-percent of its
victims to the hospital. It spread to 634 people in 29 states; most
had eaten Foster Farms chicken.

The company could
have done a voluntary recall ... as Cargill had quickly done with its
turkey, years earlier. It refused, arguing that it had passed federal
inspections. This compelling report finds fault with the testing
system ... and the company ... and the federal government (for
failing to grant recall powers) ... and somewhat to home cooks,
fighting a safett battle they sometimes lose even when being
diligent.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The second chapter of Ken
Burns' superb documentary sees Teddy Roosevelt step into the
presidency.

“NCIS”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. A finale-filled night starts with an
overseas bombing. There's an emotional loss for the team, which
probes a terrorist group that recruits American teens.

“NCIS: New
Orleans” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS. With a syndicate remaining a
step ahead of investigators, Pride suspects there's a mole. Steven
Weber, Dylan Walsh and Stacy Keach return.

“Agents of SHIELD”
season-finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC. An all-out battle requires Coulson
(Clark Gregg) to make sacrifices and to stir fresh dissension.

“Undateable,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Last week's episode used its gimmick (live, with
lots of guest stars) to remind us that this is a fairly enjoyable
show with lots of quick gags, some clever and some not. Here are two
new episodes, starting with Justin making a mistake in front of his
girlfriend's father.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. Casey (Jesse Spencer) is increasingly suspicious of
Nesbitt (Eric Mabius), whom he's moonlighting for. Meanwhile,
accusations about Rice continue to draw dissension among the
firefighters; then a dangerous warehouse flire bursts loose.

“CSI: Cyber,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. On the eve of its season-finale, “Cyber” borrows
this slot for an episode about someone using an Online game to trick
people into delivering illegal weapons.