TV column for Wednesday, May 11


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

Scattered through
the animal world are amazing bits of teamwork. One set of whales
blows a stream of bubbles, surrounding and herding its prey; another
shatters an ice floe, leaving a seal helpless.

When wolves stalk
bison, there's team strategy on both sides. And, this delightful hour
shows, some partnerships link different species. Hippos submerge, so
fish can eat their bugs ... and even clean their teeth. One bird
guides a wolverine to its prey, then grabs the leftovers; another
guides humans.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

The strong ABC
comedies are a week from their season-finales. That means some
promising episodes tonight, led by this one: DeDe (Shelley Long) is
finally getting remarried.

Jay, her ex-husband,
is delighted; Claire and Mitchell, her offspring, fret about a
wedding toast. And Manny has convinced the family to go there by
train. Along the way, his mom, Gloria, ends up in coach ... Cam and
Phil obsess on a famous author whose onboard ... and others discover
rail romance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX, repeating at 11:04.

When ABC ran “The
Day After” in 1983, the impact was immense: More than 100 million
Americans – then a record – saw the film and its brutal view of
the world after a nuclear attack.

This episode
includes a long scene of people watching that film. Some are shaken;
others see their work – several Russian spies, one FBI agent – as
crucial to preventing war. Then it's back to business ... including
destroying decent lives. Elizabeth cruel trick shatters a friend's
husband.

Other choices
include:

“Underground,”
1-11 p.m., WGN. You can catch this entire, ambitious season in one
gulp. It starts with slaves in 1857 Georgia, then sees them plot an
elaborate escape attempt. The season-finale debuts at 10 p.m.,
rerunning at 11, midnight and 1 a.m.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. With last week's elimination of Kyle Jason (a real-estate
agent from Detroit), there's only one person left from the original
“brawn” tribe. That's Cydney Gillon, a Georgia body-builder;
tonight, she faces two from “beauty” and two from “brawn,”
trying to make next week's finale.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Here's a persistent debate: If kids have no rules in
college, will they still follow some during summer vacation? Axl and
Sue try to stand firm; meanwhile, their brother tries to figure whom
he's up against for middle-school valedictorian.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Every TV family seems to have its secrets, but these are
harsher than most: Cookie finally tells Jamal what happened to the
father (Chris Rock) of Freda the rapper: He was killed in prison, on
the orders of Lucious – Jamal's father and Cookie's ex-husband.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m.. NBC. When a reality-dating-show
contestant says she was raped, Benson investigates ... and becomes
part of the show.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Racing to catch someone who shot her police partner,
Burgess shoots a black teen honor student. The public rages, a trial
nears and her colleagues search for evidence.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Derek Hough – the frequent “Dancing With the Stars”
winner – returns to his acting role: He and Juliette are busy
pushing for Oscars for their “Shenandoah Girl” movie. Also, Rayna
scrambles to protect her daughter; Scarlett dislikes Gunnar's
attention to Autumn (Alicia Witt).

TV column for Tuesday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“New Girl” and “Grandfathered,” 8-9:30 p.m., Fox.

Fox's clever (and
undernoticed) comedies have their season-finales. The key is a “New
Girl” two-parter at 8 and 9 p.m., centering on the Schmidt-Cece
wedding; that surrounds a a sharp “Grandfathered.”

The past two
episodes have humanized the rich-and-handsome Jimmy (John Stamos).
Now he has a corporate-mogul girlfriend, but last week he was warmly
kissing Sara (Paget Brewster), the mother of his grown son. That
leads to some great moments – and to the opposite of all movie
airport scenes.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Person of Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS.

For Reese (Jim
Caviezel), anonymity is important; even his old CIA colleagues think
he's dead. Now, however, a crisis involves one of his old missions;
he might be spotted by his old boss, played by Keith David (the
narrator for many of the Ken Burns documentaries).

There are prolems
with “POI,” including Caviezel's relentlessly blank performance
and a tendency to stretch believability too far for even sci-fi fans.
At the core, however, are strong and emotional episodes that play he
final season in Monday-Tuesday bursts for six weeks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Manager,” 10 p.m., AMC.

At first, John Pine
(Tom Hiddleston) seemed like your typical hotel manager. But behind
that subservient surface is an ex-soldier with a steely resolve that
neither side can control.

Certainly not the
weapons mogul (Hugh Laurie); John – or whatever his real name is –
has tricked his way into his inner circle. But now the London
spymasters who aided his ruse find that they can't rein him in,
either. In tonight's chapter of a John leCarre mini-series, he shows
some fierce independence.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Rob Schenck has
spent his life on the conservative side of issues. An Episcopalian
priest, he was a zealous anti-abortion protestor and became an
advisor to right-wing politicians and groups.

But a Navy shipyard
shooting, within signt of his apartment, caused him to ask a
question: Is it inconsistent to be pro-life AND pro-gun. Later, he
met the mother of the teen who was killed at a gas station because
his radio was too loud; it took two trials to convict the shooter,
who used Florida's “stand your ground” law. Despite Schenck's
slow, droning aproach, this is an involving documentary.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Last week, the team chased British spy Jacob Scott; then someone
shot T.C. Fornell (Joe Spano), Gibbs' former mentor. Now – a week
from the final episode and the departure of Michael Weatherly as Tony
– Fornell hovers near death and the search for Scott continues.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Linking with a Homeland Security agent (Ivan
Sergei), the team probes the connection between the murder of a Navy
diver and reports of an impending attack.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. As the virus grows, officials have no solution. Outside the
containment zone, Lex is expected to be the calm (and deceiving)
voice of reason; inside, his girlfriend and too-few police face a
dissolving world. The result has some good moments, but has trouble
finding strong drama even in this world-at-peril point.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. In the Marvel universe, movies and TV shows
interlock. Now events from the movie “Captain America: Civil War”
require the registration of inhumans. That sets up next week's
two-episode finale, with Daisy's prediction of a major character's
death.

“BattleBots,” 10
p.m., ABC. This summer show gets an early boost: Tonight's special
introduces the 12 teams that will have their robots collide in weekly
battles.

“First
Impressions” debut, 10:30 p.m, USA. Here's a reality show that
focuses strictly on celebrity impressions, adding some starpower.
Freddie Prinze Jr. hosts, Dana Carvey is the guest expert and there's
a celebrity guest each week, starting with Steve Carell.

TV column for Monday, May 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Person of Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS.

For the next six
weeks, some of our rerun-woes will be swept aside: The final “POI”
season will be at 10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; in the process, it
has a big, us-vs.-them sci-fi story to work out.

Finch and Root trt
to salvage the machine, but that's tough; its facial-recognition is
shaky and it has trouble telling the good guys from the bad. Reese
and Fusco have a big backlog, which means some gun battles. Great
moments co-exist with odd quirks, including an immensely inept
assassin.

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

Three days from now,
TV's best comedy will end its ninth season. As a minor bonus, we get
Monday reruns, sandwiched between new episodes of “Mike &
Molly” and “The Odd Couple.”

This is a typically
funny episode, from the time when Amy and Sheldon had split. Despite
an awful first date with Dave (Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the
British “Office”), she tries another. Also, Sheldon has a song
stuck in his head; Howard and Raj obsess on the one fan of their
band.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Just turning 30,
“Dub” Lawrence was the youngest sheriff in his county's history.
Among other things, he created the first SWAT team in Utah. He was
defeated for re-election, but that history would later haunt him: The
team he created shot and killed his son-in-law.

Lawrence, 70, has
gone on to probe what happened there and elsewhere. His conclusion:
There was no reason to shoot someone who was a threat only to
himself; police have become so militarized that tragedies occur. This
is a slow-moving story that works because Lawrence is such a vibrant
presence.

Other choices
include:

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week ousted Super Bowl star Von
Miller and actress Kim Fields. The six survivors were close in
judges' two-dance scores – 56 for Nyle DiMarco; 55 for Wayna
Morris, Ginger Zee and Paige VanZant; 52 for Antonio Brown and 51 for
Jodie Sweetin.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Turning serious a week before the
series finale, the show has Molly helping her former student, who's
pregnant and homeless. Then she wants everyone on their best
behavior, for the visit by an adoption agency.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Professor Strange (BD Wong) keeps evading arrest while
doing his nasty experiments; Bruce and Sabrina (the future Batman and
Catwoman) may take action. Meanwhile, Azrael is back and the Penguin
wants revenge.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. Things get tricky when you believe in past
lives: A boy has killed a suffragette, to avenge his past self being
killed. Harry Houdini and Conan Doyle dig into that old case.

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. A week before the season-finale (and the departure of
Stana Katic), the show has Castle on another of his murder theories.
This time, he figures the Antichrist might be responsible.

“Blindspot,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Some of TV's best episodes have come from forced
confinement – quarantines, jury rooms and such. Now there's a
lockdown at FBI headquarters.

“Damien,” 10:08
p.m., A&E. While Castle frets about the Antichrist on ABC, this
show follows someone who reluctantly learned he really is the
Antichrist. In this season-finale, he faces a sacrifice.

TV column for Sunday, May 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Good Wife” finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

Some people assume
that all praise-worthy, award-worthy dramas are on cable. “Good
Wife,” however, has been a splendid exception. In seven years, it's
drawn 39 Emmy nominations, winning for star Julianna Margulies
(twice) and for other actresses (three times).

Now the finale
starts in mid-crisis. Last week, Peter decided to accept a plea
bargain ... but too late; the jury was already returning. What's the
verdict? Will Alicia leave Peter now for her company's detective?
Will her new firm survive turmoil? We may see, as an excellent show
says farewell.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Masterpiece: Wallander” return, 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Kurt Wallander fits
the Swedish landscape – calm, quiet, solitary, a tad bleak. Now
he's transplanted to a police conference in South Africa; there, he's
asked to help find a Swedish woman who went missing.

The result is a good
mystery (as usual), with wonderfully underplayed work by its star,
Kenneth Branagh. It's also the beginning of the end: Wallander will
be back in Sweden on the next two Sundays, as a great, 12-movie
series reaches its emotional conclusion.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of God” conclusion, 9 p.m., National
Geographic.

In this sprawling
series, Morgan Freeman has spanned the globe to see how religions
answer the great questions. Now he ends with a big one: Are there
miracles, or just stunning coincidences?

Freeman starts and
ends with amazing survivors: One, a widow-washer, fell 47 floors;
another had cancer so extreme that he was given only months to live.
The latter – almost two decades later – calls it a miracle; the
former doesn't: Why would God miraculously save him and not his
brother, who fell with him? Such questions are part of an eternal
dialog ... and Freeman is ideal to lead it.

Other choices
include:

“Talladega Nights”
(2006), 6:30 p.m., and “American Speed: The True Story of NASCAR,”
9 and 11 p.m., CMT. First is some amiable silliness, with Will
Ferrell as a champion driver; then is a new documentary, viewing how
NASCAR began and grew into a mammoth force.

“Madam Secretary”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. After surviving last week's
terrorist-hunting ordeal, Henry (Tim Daly) is ready for ordinary life
again. He makes waffles, organizes mini-golf ... and finds himself in
the midst of crucial family moments. At times, this is a surprisingly
light hour, complete with a great scene for a speech-writer. But at
the core are fresh crises for Henry's wife (Tea Leoni), the secretary
of state. The result mixes humor, emotion and a big change for next
season.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. This blossomed quickly into a surprise ratings
hit, so NBC wants to extend the season. Tonight, it shows top-10
moments from the first eight episodes.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. This tangled drama reaches a key point: It's election day
for Claire, who continued her run after learning (and keeping secret)
that the return of her son Adam was a ruse by her daughter Bella.
“Adam” is actually Ben; tonight, he and Bella both spill secrets.
Also, Nina tries to get a confession from Doug ... unaware that his
loved one, Jane, has FBI agent Clements captive.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. After some funny moments early, this
suddenly reminds us of the basics: This is, after all, a show about
the few survivors of a global virus. It's a tough transition.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. A week before the season-finale, it's time for these
people to graduate and become FBI agents. Flashing forward, Alex
learns that one of her classmates was deceitful.

“Elementary”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. Sherlock learns that a global crime
organization was at the heart of the murder attempt on his father.
The effort to fight back is hampered by father-son issues.

TV column for Saturday, May 7


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

Brie Larson had done
lots of work (comedy and drama) that went unnoticed. She did
situation comedies and was a wild teen on Showtime's “United States
of Tara”; she did independent movies, including “Greenberg” and
“Short Term 12.”

Then another indie,
“Room,” changed her life. She won every best-actress award,
including an Oscar. At 26, she hosts “SNL,” which returns from
two weeks of reruns; Alicia Keys is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Houdini & Doyle,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Let's give this an A
for its concept and a C-minus -- at best -- for everything else. In
real life, Harry Houdini (the magician) and Conan Doyle (author of
Sherlock Holmes novels) were mismiatched friends. Doyle clung to a
belief in ghosts and spiritualism, notions that Houdini worked to
debunk.

So this imagines
that they spent a lot of time together in 1901 London, solving cases
alongside Scotland Yard's first female constable. The setting
provides some great visuals and the era creates obstacles that help
the story. Still, this plot (rerun from Monday) is so-so, at best.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Sports flurry, ABC, NBC and cable.

Half the big-four
networks have play-off games. It's hockey (Pittsburgh-Washington) at
7:15 p.m. ET on NBC, basketball (Golden State-Portland) at 8 on ABC.
There's more in the afternoon and late-night.

And there's a bonus,
on Mother's Day eve: “The Real MVP” (8 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning
at midnight) tells of Wanda Durant, a single mother at 21, keeping
her two sons out of trouble; Kevin Durant would become a basketball
superstar. Cassandra Freeman stars, in a movie produced by Queen
Latifah.

Other choices
include:

Kentucky Derby, 4
p.m. ET., NBC. After the two minutes of excitement, you can catch a
movie about a previous winner. “Secretariat” (2010) isn't a great
movie – that's “Seabiscuit” -- but it's a fairly good one, with
Diane Lane excellent as the horse's no-nonsense owner.

“Thor: The Dark
World” (2013), 7:30 p.m., FX. Marvel continues to take over our TV
time. This movie is followed at 10 p.m. by “Captain America: The
First Avenger” (2011). HBO counters at 8 with “Fantastic Four”
(2015). And the Disney XD channel has Marvel animation, from 8 p.m.
to midnight.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. Speaking of superheroes, these high-IQ characters wear
heroic costumes in this rerun. They're undercover on a movie set in
Kazakhstan, trying to disable a nuclear missile.

“Beauty & the
Beast – When Kate Met Chapo,” 8 p.m. ET, Fox News. Geraldo Rivera
(no, he's not the beauty of the beast) reports the odd story of the
friendship between actress Kate del Castillo and druglord Joaquin
(“El Chapo”) Guzman. Subjects include their secret meeting with
Sean Penn, Guzman's extradition status and his fascination with
Donald Trump.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a suspect may be obsessed with medical
experiments.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:55 and 10:50. Jamie and Claire re-unite,
but a past event endangers their relationship.

“Beverly Hills
Cop” (1984), 9-11:15 p.m., Sundance. This should be the prototype
for any fish-out-of-water film. Clever moments alternate with
whiz-bang action, all perfectly handled by Eddie Murphy.