TV column for Wednesday, April 13


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

Early in this hour,
Cookie explains that all she wants is “a nice, happy birthday
dinner – no drama.” Who thinks that will happen? The Lyon family
drips with drama; it's over-the-top, but fascinating.

Last week, her
ex-husband Lucious and their son Hakeem had separate schemes: Soon,
Camilla had killed her lover and herself; the Lyons had their record
company back. This hour ends with its own set of shockwaves,
skillfully handled by by Paris Barclay, one of TV's best directors.
We learn about Lucious' agonized boyhood and more; it's a
drama-drenched soap, with a beat you can dance to.

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

We're used to the
lethal version – big cats raiding African villages to kill the
livestock, villagers retaliating with hunting parties, both sides
adding to the body count. In India, however, it's different.

Despite problems as
the number of lions (now about 500) grows, forces co-exist
peacefully. The lions chase smaller animals that destroyed crops, but
usually ignore the rest; there's interesting footage of people
casually strolling near deadly creatures. When a lion does kill a
cow, that's shrugged off; when one kills a man, it's set free. It had
been surprised by the man and was nice enough to resist eating him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

The perilous lives
of Philip and Elizabeth (Russian spies, embedded in 1980s America)
hit a new low last week. A virus leak almost killed their handler and
left them quarantined. Their disappearance raised new questions for
their daughter and for their neighbor, the FBI agent.

It also brought
doubts from Martha about her husband “Clark” ... who's really
Philip in disguise. Now those complications are pressing together.
It's a solid episode that reminds us to resist being spies.

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the merged tribe ousted Nick Maiorano, a
personal trainer originally in the “Beauty” tribe. Remaining are
three people apiece from “Brains,” “Brawn” and “Beauty.”
Tonight, CBS says, a separation in tribes leads to a sabotage.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Over the past two nights, viewers have heard each judge's
five surviving singers. Tonight, judges learn which two finished at
the top ... then save one of the other three.

“Strong” debut,
9-11 p.m., NBC. Other shows have been about losing weight, but this
time that's just a slice of it. The 10 women will be paired with 10
male trainers, to work on strength, attitude and more. The show
promptly moves to 8 p.m. Thursdays, with one person ousted each
episode.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Claire tries to hide a stray dog from Phil; Gloria
resists Jay's insistance that he wants no new friends. Also, Cam
rents the upstairs to a Christian rock band.

“Face Off,” 9
p.m., Syfy, rerunning at 11. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8
p.m.) started the final round, with two young Californians (Rob Seal,
20, and Walter Welsh, 26) and Melissa Ebbe, 36, of Milwaukee. Given
two teammakes apiece, they started creating make-up for two
characters in a short horror film. Tonight, they finish the film and
learn who won.

“Rogue,” 9 p.m.,
Audience Network (via DirecTV and AT&T). A brilliant Emmy-winner
as a good-guy schemer in “West Wing,” Richard Schiff is just as
great as bad-guy schemer Marty Stein. He struggled with (and
accidentally killed) Talia, half-sister of his gangster client
Marlon. Tonight, a DEA agent (sharply played by Sarah Carter) goes
after him fiercely. Meanwhile, Ethan and Mia try to learn about the
hitman he killed; it's a powerhouse episode that manages to throw
everyone into disarray.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. The Triple Exes (Gunnar, Scarlett and Avery) are on the
road with Autumn Chase, played by Alicia Witt. At home, Deacon
distrusts Cash's interest in his step-daughter Maddie.

TV column for Tuesday, April 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

After receiving a
restraining order, one should always ... well, exercise some
restraint. That's not Jess' strong suit, you know. She soon pursues
Sam (David Walton) with unrestrained zeal. What follows – involving
a pick-up truck, a car wash and Selena Gomez music – is flat-out
hilarious.

A second plot –
involving a trendy nearby bar and its owner (Busy Phillips) – is
also quite funny. It adds up to one of the best episodes for a show
that doesn't get nearly enough attention.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Jackie Robinson” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS.

The first half of
the story was all triumph. Breaking baseball's color barrier,
Robinson was rookie of the year, then most valuable player; his
Dodgers kept winning championships. The rest gets tangled.

Robinson took a
business job and struggled with politics. Disappointed in John
Kennedy (for choosing Lyndon Johnson as vice-president) and then in
Richard Nixon (for not phoning Martin Luther King), he ended up with
Nelson Rockefeller. He fought for civil rights, but clashed with
militants. Two of his children thrived and one stumbled. Even for a
hero, this excellent film shows, real life is complicated.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Game of Silence” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

An idyllic childhood
was suddenly pierced by a tragedy. Soon, four 13-year-olds were in a
brutal detention center. One bounced back neatly; now he's a top
lawyer, with a rich and beautiful fiance. The others, however,
couldn't shake the horrors; 25 years later, a fresh tragedy pulls
them back together.

Similar themes have
been used previously in movies (“Sleepers,” “Mystic River”)
and on TV (“Black Donnellys”), with boyhood violence returning to
overshadow adult years. “Game” -- which moves to Thursdays after
tonight – does it quite well, making this gripping, yet painful to
watch.

Other choices
include:

“The Mindy
Project” return, any time, Hulu. The second half of the season
starts, with episodes doled out one-per-week. This one finds Mindy
and Jody hosting some college girls who are in New York to get their
eggs frozen. Alas, they're kind of wild and Mindy is distracted by
romance with Danny.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. This is the middle of a three-night week for “Voice.”
On Monday and today, viewers hear the top 20 and vote. On Wednesday,
we'll learn which 12 will move on.

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8-10 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of January's
crossover. On a private-plane flight from New Orleans to Washington,
D.C., the passengers are poisoned. That means the prime suspect is
the chef – Abby's brother (Tyler Ritter). Now Gibbs heads to New
Orleans, where Pride probes the involvement of a Russian sleeper
cell. Sebastian flies to D.C. to work with Abby.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Here's another chance to see the pilot
film, with all the family secrets pouring out in one public burst.
It's a bit excessive, but also quite funny.

“iZombie”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. As the second season of this clever show
ends, there's even a song from Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty). That's
at Vaughn's rager, which Liv crashes; this follows another new hour
at 8 p.m., with Vaughn getting meaner and Liv having Blaine as an
ulikely ally.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 9 p.m., Fox. Many people know Dennis Haysbert as the
insurance-commercial guy, but to Fox viewers he'll always be the
sturdy President Palmer from “24.” Here, he plays an FBI agent;
his friend Capt. Holt asks him to help with a seemingly impossible
heist.

“Limitless,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Naz (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) has been
accused of funding terrorism. Working to clear her, Brian and Rebecca
come across a family secret she's been keeping.

TV column for Monday, April 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jackie Robinson,” 9-11 p.m., PBS, concluding Tuesday.

A great story is
retold here by TV's best storytellers. Ken Burns co-produced and
co-directed the film with his daughter and son-in-law, who co-wrote
the script. The result ripples with Burnsian depth.

Robinson was 1 when
his family moved from Georgia to Pasadena, where bigotry took new
forms. (Blacks were only allowed in the pool once a week.) He built
his personal popularity as a four-sport star, had a sharp temper ...
then reined it in while breaking baseball's color barrier. There are
great first-person accounts here, especially from Rachel Robinson,
who's been widowed for 44 of her 93 years.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Detour” debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m., TBS.

A Canadian husband
and wife are bringing fresh zest to American comedy. First was
Samantha Bee; her “Full Frontal” (10:30 p.m. Mondays) crackles
with satirical wit. Now comes Jason Jones; each helps write the other
one's show ... helping create some hilarious moments.

Jones plays a dad
taking his wife (Natalie Zea) and kids on a road trip, while keeping
secrets. The best scenes are quiet and wry; two of them –
car-pushing in the first episode, a sex talk in the second – are
superb. The moments when the parents spin out of control feel
contrived, but it's still a fun ride.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hunters” debut, 10:06 p.m., Syfy.

Flynn, an FBI agent,
is a tough guy who's seen a lot --- but nothing like this. When his
wife disappears, he learns of a fierce, other-worldly threat ... and
of a secret government organization fighting it.

Emerging is a
sharply-crafted tale of enemies hidden amongst us. Gale Anne Hurd –
who has produced great fantasy, from “Terminator” to “Walking
Dead” -- has a pretty good one here. As with “Dead,” she skips
name stars – the exception is a menacing Julian McMahon – and
goes with talented unknowns. Britne Oldford is especially good as
Regan, an outsider wherever she is.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Why They Hate Us,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at
midnight.

Fareed Zakaria may
be ideal for this. A veteran American newsman, he grew up in India,
the son of an Islamic scholar; now he explores how an oft-gentle
religion has been invoked by terrorists.

His film ranges from
1949 – an Egyptian visitor is shocked by dancing couples in
Colorado – to modern times, when an American-born firebrand
continues to have an Online impact, five years after death. He shows
some scattered moments of hatred in the Koran and the Old Testament
and asks why some are ignored and others stir blood. There are few
answers, but the search for them is fascinating.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Mischa Barton – already at
the bottom in judges' points -- was dismissed. That leaves the three
football players – Von Miller, Doug Flutie and Antonio Brown – at
the bottom with judges; Nylie DiMarco, the deaf model-actor, is on
top.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Things are mixed up now – Detective Gordon is an escaped
con ... his ex-girlfriend is in a mental home ... young Bruce Wayne
is living on the streets ... and the future Penguin is desperate
after his father's murder. Several of those plot lines are wrapped
up, in a strong episode.

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW. The previous episode ended with a
surprise – Rebecca linking lustfully with Greg. Now Greg is cheery,
Josh is gloomy and Rebecca isn't telling her friend Paula.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. To test the system, the team must break into Fort Knox ...
and then, due to circumstances, must do it again.

“The Magicians,”
9-10:06 p.m., Syfy. Using time magic, Quentin finally achieves his
goal – reaching Filory (the fictional setting of his favorite
books) with Julia. Now they realize that others have a 70-year head
start in finding The Beast.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9;59 p.m., CBS. It's been a couple years since we saw
Nate Getz (Peter Cambor), the operational psychologist. Now he's
undercover and missing; a search begins.

TV column for Sunday, April 10


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
MTV Movie Awards. 8 p.m., MTV (which repeats it at 10), plus VH1,
BET, TV Land and Comedy Central.

It's the 25th
year for this award show, which likes to be fun and ... well,
different. That includes offbeat choices for its categories
(including best fight, best kiss and best villain), its hosts (Kevin
Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and its setting (outdoors, on
the Warner Brothers lot).

There will also be
music (Ariana Grande and Halsey) and special awards (Will Smith and
Melissa McCarthy). The best-movie nominees include “Deadpool,”
“Straight Outta Compton” and sequels to four others -- “Star
Wars” (leading with 11 nominations), “Avengers,” “Rocky”
and “Jurassic Park.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Elementary,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's a double
helping of this smart show, which is settling into Sundays after
years in a comfy Thursday spot. The first hour has lots of sharp
twists and turns -- ranging from spies to poker players – and an
ending that's interesting, yet incomplete; it also has a major
revelation for Watson (Lucy Liu).

Some of that carries
over to the second hour, which switches from poker to the high-end
art world.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Fear the Walking Dead” season-opener, 9 p.m., AMC;
repeats at 11 p.m., midnight and 2 a.m.

Fresh from last
week's “Walking Dead” season-finale, the show's prequel returns.
The entire first season reruns from 2-9 p.m., catching the early days
of the zombie apocalypse, through the eyes of a couple (Cliff Curtis
and Kim Dickens) and their blended family.

Then the new season
finds them joining others to flee on the yacht owned by the
mysterious Strand. Afterward, a “Talking Dead” hour is at 10 p.m.

Other choices
include:

Fox News Sunday, 2
and 6 p.m., Fox News; also, mornings (check local listings) on Fox
stations. Chris Wallace interviews President Obama ... who will be on
the show for the first time in his presidency.

“Outlander,”
9:50 a.m. and 2:30 and 7 p.m., Starz. If you missed Saturday's
season-opener, here are fresh chances. Claire, the involuntary
time-traveler, is wandering a highway in 18th-century
garb.

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun that includes a string
quartet and sibling magicians. Then a new episode finds kids with
talents ranging from math to the fiddle.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. In the seventh of 10 episodes, this brilliant series fills
in holes with key flashbacks. We see the day Adam escaped ... And the
effect that had on his sister (Alison Pill), who helped her dad frame
their neighbor Hank (Andrew McCarthy) ... And Hank's ordeal in
prison.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. As one of the world's few survivors, you'd
think Tandy (Will Forte) would avoid jealousy. But just arrived is
his brother (Jason Sudeikis), who is taller, is better-looking, sings
Bowie ... and was an astronaut. It's a funny – and semi-painful –
episode.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. During training, Liam and Miranda are challenged to cross
the Canadian border without passports. Flashing to the future, Simon
risks his life to help Alex.

“Billions”
season-finale, 10 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
From its start, “Billions” has seen two high-octane types
collide. The entire season reruns from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; then –
after the “House of Lies” season-opener and the debut of Andrew
Dice Clay's comedy series – Chuck (Paul Giamatti), the district
attorney, searches for Axe (Damian Lewis), the scheming money
gennius.

TV column for Saturday, April 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

We're in the middle
of a flurry of new episodes – Peter Dinklage last week, Julia
Louis-Dreyfus next week ... and now Russell Crowe. He's not someone
you associate with comedy – or with working live – but next
month, in the “Nice Guys” movie, he has an odd-couple pairing
with Ryan Gosling.

Tonight's music
guest is Margo Price, who went from small-town Illinois to become a
retro-country singer working with producer Jack White in Nashville.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” 9 p.m., CBS.

If you've skipped
the Wednesday episodes of this series, here's a chance to start over,
with a rerun of the fairly good pilot film.

“Borders”
imagines a high-tech team that jets around the globe to rescue
Americans. Tonight, three volunteers have disappeared in Thailand.
There, the team leader (Gary Sinise) links with an expert (Alana De
La Garza) from his past. Tyler James Williams (“Everyone Hates
Chris”) is their tech whiz.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Outlander” season-opener, 9 p.m. Saturday, Starz,
rerunning at 10:05 and 11:10; also at 9:50 a.m. and 2:30 and 7 p.m.
Sunday.

This whole notion of
involuntary time-travel can be kind of dizzying for Claire. An
English nurse, fresh from World War II, she found herself last year
amid 18th-century rebels in the Scottish highlands.

And now? Dazed,
confused and in 18th-century garb, she's wandering a
highway. This season leaps between that and her alternate life in old
Paris. There, her alternate-husband Jamie and Murtagh grasp for a
political solution and Claire – with her nurse training – is
considered a gifted healer.

Other choices
include:

“Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory” (2005), 8 a.m., Freeform; also, “The Wizard of
Oz,” 2 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here are two great movies
that kids and grown-ups can savor equally.

“The People v O.J.
Simpson,” 2 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., FX. This was a superb series,
bringing fresh depth to a story viewers thought they already knew.
Now we can catch (or record) the entire thing.

“Walk the Line”
(2005), 5:30 p.m., CMT. This excellent Johnny Cash portrait includes
great music and Reese Witherspoon's Oscar winning work in support.
It's followed at 9 p.m. by a 2015 documentary (“Johnny Cash:
American Rebel”), on a strong movie night. At 8 p.m., choices
include “Ghostbusters” (1984) on VH1, “Jurassic Park” (1993)
on AMC and the family-friendly “Enchanted” (2007) on E.

Racing, 7:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. Here's NASCAR's Duck Commander 500, from Fort Worth.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. There are plenty of undersea dangers, but this is a new
one: A scuba diver was apparently killed with a gun that had been
tossed after another murder. McGarrett investigates in this rerun,
while preparing to propose to Catherine (Michelle Borth).

Basketball, 8:30
p.m. ET, ABC, with preview at 8. In their second-to-last game of the
regular season, we see two teams with opposite fates: LeBron James'
Cleveland Cavaliers, comfortably atop the Eastern Conference, visit
the Chicago Bulls, desperate to get back into the final playoff spot.

“Nothing Left
Unsaid,” 9-11 p.m., HBO. Anderson Cooper has tackled fascinating
subjects, but here's the one he knows best: After a childhood with
much money and little affection, his mother Gloria Vanderbilt became
a vibrant force. We see her at 92, sifting through memories.

“Nikki Glaser:
Perfect,” 11 p.m., Comedy Central. Glaser has always had a knack
for adult subjects; in her stand-up act, she admits, she was talking
about sex before she'd actually had sex. Now that subject dominates
her Tuesday show (“Not Safe with Nikki Glaser”) and this
late-night stand-up special.