TV column for Wednesday, April 22


“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.

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.

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

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

“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.

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

“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.

(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

“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.

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

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

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

“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.