TV column for Thursday, May 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

TV's best comedy
finds romance going forward and going haywire. That starts with the
season-finale: Sheldon, whose relationship with Amy is growing, urges
Leonard and Penny to set their wedding date.

Then a clever rerun
(recently switched) is at 9:30. In her new job as drug-company
representative, Penny is sort of fun and flirty; a sad-sack doctor
(Billy Bob Thornton) obsesses on her.

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

Nearing the end of
its 10th – and, maybe, last – season, “Bones” has
two episodes that gnaw at the psyche of Brennan (Emily Deschanel).

In the first, she
feels her own similarity to a private-school student who may have
been killed by bullies; then she starts to doubt if it really was
murder. In the second, she has last-minute questions – two days
before execution – about whether Alex Rockwell is a serial killer.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

The early flaws have
been ironed out now and one key thing remains: “Crime” may be the
best-acted series ever; talented people tackle deep, naturalistic
dialog ... while facing unrelenting close-ups

A teacher was
killed, with his wife barely surviving. Police seemed sure about
their suspect ... until his girlfriend confessed and offered details
A few characters seemed over-the-top, but now they've mellowed or
departed. What remains are deep portraits of people transforming
under pressure.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p;m., ABC. All the personal disputes – yes, there are plenty of
them – must be put aside when a catastrophe intervenes.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8 p.m., NBC. Robert Vaughn, 82, is the core
of this rerun. He plays a famous author whose sixth wife (Marcia
Cross) battles his daughters.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:30 and 9 p.m., CBS. There's no “Mom” tonight, but there are two
new episodes of this show, which has been sharply funny so far. In
the first, Felix is an annoying (of course) yoga teacher. In the
second, Oscar is inimidated by dating someone who had dated Murph
(Geoff Stults), a handsome chap who played big-league baseball.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. With a menacing Russian assassin in the U.S., Liz meets
with a Soviet official ... and then learns her mother's identity.

“Scandal,” 9
.m., ABC. The president has had plenty of trouble with his
vice-presidents. The latest, Susan Ross, continues to defy him; now
she hires Olivia to help a Navy woman.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Sutton Foster – a two-time Tony-winner who stars in
cable's “Younger” -- guests. She plays a scientist, in a murder
story centering on beekeepers.

“The Comedians,”
10 p.m., FX. Let's credit Josh Gad for playing a wonderfully weird
version of himself. Tonight, he obsesses on a possible movie role,
annoying his TV co-star, Billy Crystal.

 

TV column for Wednesday, May 6


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

Here's an important
lesson for all of us; never ask the kids: “When you're a parent, is
there anything you'll do differently than I did?” The problem, it
seems, is that kids will answer.

Frankie (Patricia
Heaton) asks that and is soon wallowing in regrets. That's during a
hiliarious Mother's Day episode that includes a tea party, some
wayward gifts, Frankie's own mom (played by four-time Oscar-nominee
Marsha Mason) and even some dabs of emotion.

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

Straining to
recapture its old dominance, “Idol” shakes up its formula.
Tonight, it sends the final four (not three) to their home towns. It
trims to three (not two) for next week's finale ... which will be a
week earlier than usual.

Last week, Tyanna
Jones was dumped, leaving one woman (Jax) amd three guys (Clark
Beckham, Nick Fradiani and Rayvon Owen). Tonight, each chooses one
song and has two others chosen by the judges and by mentor Scott
Borchetta.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

As the U.S. entered
World War II, people may have considered it a distant war. Actually,
this film says, it was close to home: Nazis sank 609 ships in
American waters, costing 5,000 lives.

The history portions
of this film are intriguing. The other portions -- searching for a
U-boat that was sunk near New Orleans -- are so-so.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Two weeks from the finale, the former “blue-collar”
tribe has a majority. Last week, Yahoo executive Shirin Oskani was
ousted, leaving two “white-collar” people, with one “no-collar”
(Will Sims) and four blue. Before tonight's ouster, people get a
chance to help an orphanage.

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Getting a pretty and chatty pet
sounds promising, but this terrific rerun offers the down side:
Parrots latch on emotionally, dominate lives ... and can live 80
years.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. This is set in the 1980s, when music videos soared.
So Adam schemes with his mom., planning a video that would help his
sister get into the Juilliard music school.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Alex finds herself tied for valedictorian with her
nemesis. Now this may be decided by the one gym class neither has
finished.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Even in easy times, Juliette was tough to work for; now
her people suspect post-partum depression. Also, one secret (Deacon's
cancer) is out; another (the Will-Kevin romance) may be there soon.

“Schitt's Creek,”
10 p.m., Pop. In the drolly clever opener, a once-wealthy family
owned nothing except a town it couldn't sell. Now (after 9 and 9:30
p.m. reruns) the season-finale has a possible buyer.

“Big Time in
Hollywood, FL,” 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. With big dreams and
tiny talent, the brothers keep stumbling. Already fooled by a
malicious movie star (Cuba Gooding Jr., in a perverse version of
himself), they've now been kidnapped. Also in this funny episode,
couples therapy prods their dad's daydreams.

TV column for Tuesday, May 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl” and “Weird Loners” season-finales, 9 and 9:30
p.m., Fox.

This is how comedies
should end seasons – with laughs and with key turning points for
characters. “Girl” (which will be back next year) and “Loners”
(which probably won't) both pull that off.

“New Girl” has
the departure of Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), moving to New York with
his cellist girlfriend; that leads to talk of “clean breaks,”
some lame moments and then a terrific ending. “Loners” has Stosh
and Caryn pursuing the same bisexual beauty; it's fairly funny, with
a big finish.

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

It's time for Henry
(Ioan Gruffudd) to collide with his ultimate nemesis. Adam is (like
Henry) an immortal; he can be killed, but won't stay dead. And in the
previous episode, we learned that he killed Henry's one true love,
the mother of Henry's son Abe (Judd Hirsch).

Now they collide,
scrambling for an artifact that may have mystical qualities. It's a
strong episode, complete with the terrific John Noble (“Fringe,”
“Sleepy Hollow”) in a guest role.

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

The ebola outbreak
spread swiftly through three African nations, this compelling report
says. The first death was on Christmas Day of 2013; the spread was
fanned by misdiagnoses, rumors, local funeral practices and a
sluggish World Health Organization response. “We did not have the
knowledge,” says Liberian president Ellen Sirleaf. “We did not
have the equipment .... We were confounded.”

It was finally
contained after more than 10,000 deaths and the possibility of many
more. This hour offers a chilling look at a tragedy that could have
been much worse.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Ken Burns' brilliant
documentary reruns, this time as a weekly series. It start tonight
with Teddy Roosevelt, continues through June 16 with Franklin and
Eleanor.

“The Voice”
(NBC) and “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), 8 p.m. Most weeks,
“Voice” dumps two people and “Stars” drops one; now, with
each down to its final six, that's reversed. “Voice” plans to
drop one singer; “Stars” had announced a double-elimination for
last week, then moved it to tonight.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, the team solved one case, but found a bigger crisis
that it confronts tonight: A terrorist group is using the Internet to
recruit kids for bombing missions.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A string of murders seems partly aimed at
Pride (Scott Bakula).

“Undateable,”
9-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a live episode, for a show stuffed with
stand-up comedians who like to improvise. They're joined by two young
actresses, formerly from teen comedies: Victoria Justice
(“Victorious”), 22, plays a singer whom two guys obsess over;
Bridgit Mendler, also 22, is the bar's waitress, tempted to return to
her bad-news boyfriend.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Never that strong at people skills, Liv changes after
eating the brains of a radio host who specialized in relationships.

“Person of
Interest” season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. Reese is stuck in a battle
between two crime bosses, Elias and Dominic. Theat leaves Finch and
Root scrambling to save the machine from Samaritan.

TV column for Monday, May 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“David Letterman: A Life on Television,” 9:30-11 p.m., CBS.

Back in 1982, NBC
gave its late-late spot to David Letterman, 34. He'd been a
weatherman, a game-show player, a regular on Mary Tyler Moore's
variety show; he'd also had a failed daytime show.

But latenight was
perfect for a quiet eccentric. Letterman did 11 years on NBC, then
turned a wasteland (CBS' 11:35 p.m. spot) into, for a time, the
center of the late-night universe. The show has faded lately, but
remains a key part of TV history. He'll retire May 20, after 33
latenight years and 6,028 episodes. Ray Romano hosts this special,
filled with clips of guests, top-10 lists, “stupid pet tricks”
and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

In one swoop last
week, Blake Shelton went from top to bottom. He had been the leader
with three finalists, but viewers sent two of them – Hannah Kirby
and Corey Kent White – home.

Now Shelton and Adam
Levine – who have had a combined six winners in seven editions –
have only one contestant apiece, Meghan Linsey and Joshua Davis
respectively. Christina Aguilera has India Carney (saved by Twitter
votes last week) and Kimberly Nichole; Pharrell Williams has Sawyer
Fredericks and Koryn Hawthorne.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Kurt Cobain: Montge of Heck,” 9-11:15 p.m., HBO.

Cobain's life almost
ended before the fame began. As an early teen, he weighted himself
down on a railroad track and watched a train streak toward him. It
turned out to be on the other track.

A quick and
compelling life followed, captured here with honesty and detail.
Authorized by his estate and co-produced by his daughter (an artist),
this is stuffed with Cobain's own journals, artwork and recordings,
supplemented by new animation, interviews and more. The result is a
rich and complex portrait of a life that ended way too soon (in 1994,
at 27), but made a big impact.

Other choices
include:

“Brokenwood
Mysteries,” any time, www.acorn.tv. A big-city cop – frumpy,
smart, multi-divorced – helps a small New Zealand town probe a
murder. This opener has a fairly good story, tangled up in
tough-to-follow accents. Next week's story, with a more-direct plot,
is much easier to follow.

“Dancin With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, viewers were perplexed when
the show postponed its double-elimination for a week ... and when the
one person ousted was Willow Shields, a judges' favorite. Now two
people are supposed to be ousted Tuesday; Robert Heravec and Chris
Soules (with low judge scores) are prime prospects ... but nothing is
for sure.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Two great villains, Fish and Penguin, are at war. That's
the season-finale; also, switch around for the season's
second-to-last “Jane the Virgin” (9 p.m., CW) and Castle (10:01,
ABC).

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Nash's modeling career halts when his mom arrives.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns a mostly fun episode – the
comic-book store is re-opening – that turns serious in the final
minutes, when Howard gets news about his mother.

“Bates Motel,” 9
p.m., A&E. Norman has a remarkable encounter with someone from
his past. Meanwhile, his mom is desperate, after foolishly giving the
flashdrive (her only way to get any leverage) to the sheriff. It's a
strong hour, setting up next week's season-finale.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). As teens perform
Hawaiian traditions, this moderately involving film meets two key
people – the teacher (transgendered, now female) and the only girl
in the all-boy troupe.

TV column for Sunday, May 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Secrets and Lies” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

For nine compelling
episodes, Ben (Ryan Phillippe) has seen his life implode. That
started when he reported finding a neighbor boy's body in the woods;
soon, he was the prime murder suspect.

Last week, we
learned this is the second child-death for the mother, who ignores
her bipolar-disorder medication. Meanwhile, the police detective has
her own suspect. Tonight, we learn who the killer is.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Masterpiece,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

First is “Mr.
Selfridge,” two weeks from its season-finale. Lord Loxley's nasty
schemes ensnare Harry.

Then, a week from
its finale, the well-crafted “Wolf Hall” finds King Henry VIII
teetering. Finally married to the complicated Anne Boleyn, he's drawn
to the gently uncomplicated Jane Seymour. Behind the throne, Thomas
Cromwell has discoveries that leave him shaking (literally).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Penny Dreadful” season-opener, 10 p.m., Showtime.

Already overstuffed
with top dramas, Sunday adds one more. Amid the rich settings of
Victorian London, gifted actors play people confronting a creepy,
supernatural world.

Vanessa (Eva Green)
is stalked by demons, with Ethan and Sir Malcolm (Josh Harnett and
Timothy Dalton) feeling helpless. Also, Dr. Frankenstein's creature
insists he re-animate Brona as a companion. The doctor, alas, is also
drawn to her; she's played by the terrific Billie Piper, so that's
understandable.

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012), 6 p.m., FX, followed by “Thor” (2011) at 9 and 11:30 p.m.
A Marvel-stuffed weekend -- timed to the opening of the second
“Avengers” movie -- concludes.

“Madam Secretary”
season-finale, 8 p.m. Sunday, CBS. Last week's episode rippled with
mixed emotions for Elizabeth. She completed a nuclear treaty with the
Iranians ... then doubted they could be trusted; she reluctantly
joined a plan to kill her former friend Juliet. That failed, but
Juliet soon surrendered. Now Elizabeth must handle the interrogation.

“Game of Thrones,”
9 p.m., HBO. Alonsgside some in-between moments – a captive Tyrion
heading toward home, Jaime launching his daring rescue mission, Jon
Snow facing temptation – there are some massive ones: The High
Sparrow's extremists attack fiercely.

“Nurse Jackie”
and “Happyish,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Showtime. The “Jackie”
episode has some strong, pivotal moments ... and then an odd ending.
“Happyish” has great workplace satire; its at-home stuff is
mostly just gloomy, except for the brilliant notion of a Jewish “Dora
the Explorer.”

“American
Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. Finally escaping captivity – after being
declared dead by officials -- an American soldier (Anna Friel) was
freed at the end of last week's hour. But who can she trust and where
is freedom? The schemes are tangled, at home and abroad, in a
perplexing but involving hour.

“Battle Creek,”
10 p.m., CBS. It's another good episode, this time with a cop facing
doubts, when he insists he spotted a key fugitive in this small-ish
city.

“Veep,” 10:30
p.m., HBO. A terrific season hits a new high when the president
(Julia Louis-Dreyfus) find sudden chaos. She's excited about freeing
a journalist in Iran ... except it's kind of her fault he was there
so long. Now her tired staff fails spectacularly at home and abroad.