TV column for Thursday, April 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

With sharp dialog
and beautifully defined characters, “Mom” has shown a knack for
simultaneously getting laughs and emotions from pivotal moments.

Twice, that's
involved deaths – of Christy's father and of the teen-ager she
befriended; now it's Bonnie's birth mother. We finally met her
(played by Ellen Burstyn) last season. After her death, Bonnie and
Christy learn she was holding a big secret.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MasterChef Junior.” 8 p.m., Fox.

When it comes to
cuisine, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often have modest expectations.
“Usually, we get hot dogs and burgers,” one girl says here.

Not this time. As
the Scouts finish their hike and pitch their tents, a dozen young
chefs are preparing pork chops plus two side dishes. Afterwards, the
losing team faces a fresh challenge – bake macaroon treats, with
any choice for stuffing; the choices include lemonade,
peanut-butter-and-jelly and bacon. Yes, bacon macaroons; life is kind
of fun, when all the chefs are age 13 or younger.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, ABC.

Right now, ABC is
all about conspiracies and crises. Tonight's “Scandal” (9 p.m.)
keeps probing the scheme that killed the president-elect – not to
be confused with plot on ABC's “Designated Survivor,” killing
almost everyone in power. As the team gets close, one of its people
is in grave danger.

That's sandwiched by
the 8 p.m. “Grey's Anatomy” (Stephanie making a mistake while
treating a colleague) and the 10 p.m. “The Catch” (the team tries
to learn why someone is working to destroy Margot's firm). Life is
very complicated for pretty people who happen to be on ABC.

Other choices
include:

“We Bought a Zoo”
(2011), 5:30 p.m., FX. Yes, this is the movie Jimmy Kimmel mocked at
the Oscars, in his fake feud with Matt Damon. Still, it's a pleasant
film, based on the true story of a family that bought an old zoo.
It's starts an amiable family night, with “Despicable Me 2”
(2013) at 8 and 10 p.m.

“Forrest Gump”
(1994), 7 and 10 p.m., AMC. In a change, AMC runs this terrific
Oscar-winner twice.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. By nature, Sheldon's not a collaborative guy.
Now, however, he pushes himself: On the same day, he's working on
projects with Amy and with Leonard and Howard.

“Superstore,” 8
p.m., NBC. Trying to raise quick money for their wedding, Cheyenne's
fiance starts working at the store. That's during the spring
cleaning, when Amy and Garrett start an investigation, sifting
through old photos. Also, Jonah pushes to get Glenn's approval.

“The Great
Indoors,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Jack tries to be a good guy, smoothing
the relationship between his ex-lover Brooke's fiance Paul and her
dad (Stephen Fry). He takes them to a bar ... where Paul has a good
time, gets drunk and disappears.

“Chicago Med,” 9
p.m., NBC. What happens when a high-tech hospital must go old-school?
A hacker has shut down the computer system and demands a ransom.
Doctors scramble; Goodwin, trying to keep the huspital afloat, is
suddenly visited by her ex-husband and his new girlfriend (Garcelle
Beauvais).

“Blacklist:
Redemption,” 10 p.m., NBC. As tensions rise between Scottie and
Howard (Famke Janssen and Terry O'Qyuinn), Tom tries an unexpected
source for help.

"Brockmire" takes us to the bottom of the baseball wor


Baseball isn't just about superstars and super plays, you know. It's also about desperate minor-leaguers and a drunken announcer with a bad sportcoat and a worse attitude. That's in "Brockmire," which debuts Wednesday (in the middle of the season's first week) and reruns often. Here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

For TV baseball,
this is Opening Week.

Sunday had the Cubs
and Yankees and such. Monday had the rest. And Wednesday has the
Morristown Frackers.

The where?
Morristown is neither real nor enviable. It's “the worst town in
America,” said Joel Church Cooper, producer of the new “Brockmire”
series. It's “as if the Khmer Rouge ran through Mayberry.”

It's a last-chance
place for the players on this independent-league team ... and for Jim
Brockmire, whose voice and sportcoat suggest another era. “His
sensibility is from the past,” said Hank Azaria, who created him in
“Funny or Die” shorts. “It's like he's caught in a time loop.”

Once a famed
announcer, Brockmife had “a career-ending, public meltdown, live on
the air, after discovering his beloved wife's serial infidelity,”
said Jennifer Caserta, president of the IFC network.

He sank into alcohol
and despair and Morristown. There Jules (Amanda Peet) will try
anything to save the team she owns. “She's a baseball fanatic,”
said Peet – who's not.

Peet's father and
sister are athletes, but her own knowledge is lacking. “When I
watch a baseball game, I don't understand what's interesting about
it,” she said. “Nobody ever makes it to first base.”

(Brockmire makes it
well beyond first base with Jules, of course. He also manages to
narrate their sex.)

The baseball games
were filmed in a now-vacant stadium in Macon, Ga. The place has rich
tradition – Macon was a minor-league home of Pete Rose, Tony Perez
and, well, Bobo Newsom and Hippo Vaughn.

It also has Georgia
weather. The pilot was filmed in July, when “it's as hot as the
surface of the sun,” Azaria said.

This is a tough
place to play baseball or to make television. It's where young
players and old announcers go for their one last chance.

-- “Brockmire,”
10 p.m. ET Wednesdays, IFC

-- First two
episodes are April 5, rerunning at 11:02 p.m. and 12:01 a.m. ET

-- They also rerun
at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, 7:45 a.m. Sunday, 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday
(April 11) and often April 12

TV column for Wednesday, April 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Shots Fired,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Each week, this show
gets deeper, richer and more involviing. By the end of this hour, it
has a beautifuly layered set of people and problems.

The story began with
a black cop killing an unarmed, white 19-year-old. Then it expanded
to look at the murder of a black teen; now there's another shooting
and more. We feel the pain of the cop and of his victim's mother; we
see forces, including the governor and her opponent, converging on
this town.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Major Crimes,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

If you look at it in
one way, this is one of TV's longest-lasting scripted shows. It spent
seven years as “The Closer” and – keeping many of the same
people – is wrapping up its fifth as “Crimes.”

Now a murder probe
turns messy, leaving a battle between Raydor (Mary McDonnell) and the
deputy chief (Camryn Manheim); also, the squad wonders if terrorism
is involved. This starts a two-part season-finale that concludes next
week. The show's been renewed for its sixth – or 13th
season.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS.

The genius of
Leonardo da Vinci went far beyond painting. He was also a musician
and an engineer, filling his notebooks with ideas for robots, machine
guns, flying machines, diving suits and more.

But like others –
from Edison to Jobs – that doesn't mean he invented these things.
Some were drawings, never tested; others took old ideas, even ones
from ancient Greece and the Islamic golden age. Often, da Vinci's
skill was in recognizing a good idea and improving on it. Someone
else thought of the parachute, but he said the material should be
waxed flax; here, his ideas are skillfully shown.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Archer,” 10 p.m. FXX; and/or “Brockmire,” 10
p.m. ET, IFC.

Since life is rarely
easy, two shows with a similar appeal open on the same night and (in
the Eastern and Central zones) the same timeslots. Each is smart,
offbeat and, at times, quite adult.

For its eighth
season, “Archer” transports its characters to a private-eye tale
in 1947 Los Angeles; that reruns at 11:03 p.m. and 1:33 a.m.
“Brockmire” has its best moments early, as an esteemed
sportscaster (Hank Azaria) has a foul-tongued breakdown on the air.
He ends up in a battered town with a baseball team and its idealistic
owner (Amanda Peet); that reruns at 11:02 p.m. and 12:01 and 1 a.m.
ET.

Other choices
include:

“The Real
Housewives of New York City,” all day, Bravo. Tinsley Mortimer was
once called the most photographed socialite in New York, with her own
reality show (“High Society”) and lipstick shade. After her
arrest last year (allegedly trespassing at an ex-boyfriend's Florida
home), she returns to the city at 41. She joins Bethenny Frankel (now
divorced), Ramona Singer (offering dating tips at 60) and others.
That's at 9 p.m., rerunning at 10 and 11:30; reruns of last season
start at 6 a.m.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. One of Jane's tattoos leads the team to a death at a
foster home.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Every festive occasion for the Lyon family seems to blow
up, sometimes spectactularly; now it's time for a birthday party, as
Hakeem turns 21. Also, Angelo (Taye Diggs) starts to think Cookie's
criminal activity isn't just in the past; she may harm his mayoral
campaign.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. It's time for Phil's dad (Fred Willard) to have his
wedding, with a Roaring '20s theme. It's also time for Cameron to
finally stand up to his imposing sister.

“Black-ish,”
9:31 p.m., ABC. Raven-Symone returns as Dre's sister; he's soon
jealous of her relationship with their dad. Also, Zoey is urged by
her parents to bring her brother to a party.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Determined to re-set his presidency after
all the chaos, Kirkman releases an agenda. Then a statement by his
wife (Natascha McElhone) threatens to derail it. Also, Hannah (Maggie
Q) is in danger, after getting closer to the truth about the
conspiracy.

TV column for Tuesday, April 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

At first, Liv was
almost alone, surrounded by non-zombies who were unaware. Now her
ex-fiance Major is also a zombie; others – her friend Peyton, her
mortuary boss Ravi, Clive the cop – know her secret. “Is it too
late to say I kind of like being out of the loop on some of this?”
Clive asks.

Probably; fresh
storylines start tonight. There are organized zombies, scheming to
seize the city ... and zombie-haters, spreading rumors ... and a nice
kid who was once Clive's neighbor. As usual, there's a mixture of
clever humor and deep despair. It's a fairly good hour, with a better
one next week.

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

Three stories bounce
around this half-hour, with mixed results. The best is about the
curious dynamics of neighborhood guys; Mike Heck is accused of
poaching a plumber. Another has Frankie unable to accept the fact
that her daughter won't tell her about her secret crush.

The silliest story
has Brick finally getting to visit his brother in college. That one
is so-so, but leads to a big finish to a pleasant half-hour with the
Hecks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Prison Break” opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

The good news is
that “Break” retains all the qualities it had when it started
11-plus years ago. There are intense characters, quick surprises and
a richly cinematic feel.

And the bad? This
fourth edition is a like Gilda Radner saying “Never mind!” After
all the agony of helping Linc escape, his post-prison life is a mess.
He's deep in debt, on the run and miserable. We won't spoil any
surprises from there, but this does make the previous editions seem
like a waste.

Other choices
include:

“Last Days of
Jesus,” 8-10 p.m., PBS. In the last 12 days of the Easter season,
we get fresh insights into what happened 2,000 years ago. As
historians study new archaeological finds and old histories, they
feel that power politics in Rome played a big part in the decision to
kill Jesus.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A vice-admiral's computer has been infected by “ransomware.”
If McGee and others can't stop it in 34 hours, his personal and
professional files will be destroyed. Also, Alex (Jennifer Esposito)
must help her mother (Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl), after a “911”
text.

“New Girl,” 8
p.m., Fox. In the season-finale for this fun (and undernoticed) show,
Jess is finally ready to tell Nick she still has feelings for him.
Meanwhile, Aly helps Winston re-connect with someone and Cece and
Schmidt receive big news.

“Trial &
Error,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. So far, this terrific comedy has seen
a novice lawyer handling a big murder case on his own. Now his boss
arrives, creating chaos. The defendant (John Lithgow) takes things
into his own hands, with disastrous results.

“Imaginary Mary,”
9:30 p.m., ABC. The show's gimmick – the return of an imaginary
friend from childhood – is only a neat bonus; strip it away and you
still have a fun story. Alice (Jenna Elfman) has been living in a
child-free world; now her new boyfriend needs some quick help with
his three kids. Like the lead character in “The Mick” (8:30 p.m.,
Fox), she does some quick improvising.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. The team finds a link between a drug ring
and the New Orleans police. That means LaSalle must investigate his
former partner in the vice unit.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 10 p.m., ABC. After two months on the shelf, this show
returns to find Hydra in control of a troubled world. Daisy and
Simmons, who uncover secrets, may be the only hope.

ALSO: If you missed
them Sunday, two shows rerun tonight. “The Kennedys – After
Camelot” (8-10 p.m., Reelz, rerunning at 11) starts a four-part
mini-series, with Katie Holmes and Matthew Perry as Jackie and Ted
Kennedy. “Black Sails” (9-10:14 p.m., Starz) concludes the epic
pirate series.

TV column for Monday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, CBS.

The college
tournament started with 68 teams, high hopes and much commotion. Now
it's down to its final two; Jim Nantz calls the game for CBS, backed
by Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson.

There will be a
pre-game show at 8:30 p.m. ET and – to get us in a good mood – a
particularly funny “Big Bang Theory” rerun at 8. That episode –
which will run after the game in the Pacific time zone – has Amy
first moving in with Sheldon, after her apartment is flooded.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Quantico,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

In a spy world in
which people avoid tangles, Clay Haas has plenty of them. His mother
is the president ... he heads the FBI-CIA task force ... and he's
engaged to a brainy beauty; she's played by Krysta Rodriguez, who
brings quirky charm to this drama and to NBC's “Trial & Error”
comedy.

Now large chunks of
his world go bad. It's an interesting hour, detoured by some verbal
overkill. In the final minutes, all the characters start sounding
like a psychology thesis. It's too much of a smart thing.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

For the second time
lately, “Lens” views a mass shooting without mentioning the
shooter. This time, it offers a deeply layered view of the survivors
of the Sandy Hook murders in Newtown, Conn.

We see the quiet
pain of some parents, outspoken anger of others. Some kids shrug off
life's horrors; some don't. We feel the mixed emotions of one mom;
her son survived, but his neighbor and best friend didn't. Mostly, we
see bright, caring humans, groping to deal with the inexplicable.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), 9:15 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies.

A half-century ago,
this showed that a film about gun-waving bank robbers can also be a
high art form, with sharp dialog and gorgeous pictures. It received
10 Oscar nominations (winning for Estelle Parsons in support and for
cinematography) and a place in movie history.

The Oscars noted the
50th anniversary by having stars Warren Beatty and Faye
Dunaway as presenters; they promptly bungled the best-picture
announcement. Now we see a Dunaway interview (from last year's TCM
festival) at 8 and 11:15 p.m. ET; her “Network” is at `12:30 a.m.

Other choices
include:

Baseball, all day.
This is Opening Day ... again. Sunday brought an early start for six
of the teams; now the other 24 begin, including four national
telecasts. ESPN has Braves-Mets at 1 p.m. ET, Padres-Dodgers at 4,
Indians-Rangers at 7; ESPN2 has Angels-A's at 10.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week saw Chris Kattan in the bottom
two, alongside Charo. He was ousted, she survived ... but faces more
trouble. Her judges' score for last week tied with Nick Viall for
second-worst; only Mr. T was lower.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. In the just-concluded “battle rounds,”
teammates competed while singing the same song; now the “knockout
round” has them working separately.

“24: Legacy,” 8
p.m., Fox. In mid-crisis, personal relationships bring complications.
Carter's wife questions his commitment to their relationship; Rebecca
gets a call that forces an important decision.

“APB,” 9:01
p.m., Fox. With his informant's life in danger, an FBI agent asks
Murphy (Natalie Martinez) for help. Gideon assists her ... and makes
a decision that could make or break his company.

“Taken,” 10:01
p.m., NBC. The team tries to help the defection of a Russian agent
... whose pregnant girlfriend makes things complicated.