TV column for Sunday, May 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Country Countdown Awards,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Luke Bryan, who's
been co-hosting the Academy of Country Music awards lately, has
another show to dominate. He leads with seven nominations, including
artist of the year and two of the five best-single nods -- “Strip
It Down” and (with Karen Fairchild) “Home Alone Tonight.”

Bryan is scheduled
to perform; so are Thomas Rhett (four nominations), Florida Georgia
Line (three) and Carrie Underwood (two). There's more, as time (an
hour shorter than other awards shows) allows.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Grantchester” season-finale, 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Much of this season
has been a deep dive into despair. Seduced by a clergyman, a teen
became pregnant. She urged her friend to induce a miscarriage; she
died and he was hung for murder.

All of that has
shattered a good-hearted vicar (James Norton) ... who has lost his
true love and is in a tiff with his best friend, a cop. Is there a
logical way to wrap up all of this? Surprisigly, yes. Beautifully
written and filmed, this terrific hour finds a moving finish to the
main story, yet has time for key moments involving the vicar's
assistant, his housekeeper, his friend and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Last week brought
shellshocks to Alicia. Her kids finally learned she's divorcing ...
just as her son announced he's marrying and moving to France. Jason
said he wants to be with her ... but that he's not the stay-in-one
place kind. And plans moved ahead for an all-female law firm.

But tonight, her
husband's criminal trial dominates everything. All sides have
lawyers; even Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) is involved. That sets
up next week's finale of a terrific, seven-year series.

Other choices
include:

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. First, a rerun has kids ranging from a
yodeler to an orchestra conductor. Then a new hour has brief looks,
including 7-year-olds who are a rapper and a theater critic.

“Radio Disney
Music Awards,” 7-9 p.m., Disney. This one will be stuffed with
young singers. Taped Saturday night, it's scheduled to include Ariana
Grande, Kelsea Ballerini, Hailee Steinfeld, Flo Rida, Laura Marano,
Zara Larsson and more, including Jordan Smith, the most-recent
“Voice” champion.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. With the Pakistani government crumbling, the U.S.
considers a plan to grab its nuclear weapons.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. We're two weeks from the end of this bizarre – and often
compelling – tale, with no idea how it could end. Claire, wrapping
up her race for governor, understands the scheme hatched by her
daughter Bella: Have Ben – who says he was a captive with Adam –
pretend to be Adam. But now Bella has fresh doubts ... and the
villain's wife has an FBI agent captive in her cellar.

“The Story of
God,” 9 p.m.. National Geographic. This excellent series sees how
religions view evil. That's part of an ambitious night: At 8 p.m., a
new “Explorer” follows a dangerous climb in Myanmar; at 10,
“Cradle of the Gods” visits a Turkish sanctuary that's 7,000
years older than the pyramids.

“Game of Thrones,”
9 p.m., HBO. Last week's season-opener was full of dark news. Jon
Snow remains dead (for now, at least), Daenerys was captured and Arya
was overwhelmed by her blindness. And now that he's in charge, Tyrion
learned how troubled the city is that Daenerys fled.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Sherlock learns who was behind the attempt to kill his
father.

TV column for Saturday, April 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Jazz at the White House,” 8 p.m., ABC.

Some great musicians
link to entertain the Obamas and us. The concert was scheduled for
Friday, with a few people who aren't usually linked to jazz –
Aretha Franklin, Sting and Buddy Guy.

Mostly, though, this
is full of jazz greats, young (Esperanza Spalding, at 31, has four
Grammys) and old (Herbie Hancock, 76, has 14 Grammys, including an
album-of-the-year). Others include Terence Blanchard, Diana Kroll,
Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, Al Jarreau, Chick Corea, Hugh Masekela,
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Danilo Perez, Trombone Shorty, the Rebirth Brass
Band and many more.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Frozen” (2013), 8 p.m., Disney.

The Disney animation
people have had a lot of good movies and a few great ones. Here's one
of the greats, with gorgeous visuals and soaring songs, led by “Let
It Go.”

That one received an
Academy Award (best song), as did the movie (best animated feature).
Now you can catch it today or at 5:15 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “White House Correspondents' Dinner,” about 7:30
p.m. ET, news channels, including CNN and C-Span.

Once an obscure
night for political junkies, this has become a comedy delight. That's
partly because of President Obama's knack for elaborate monologs ...
and partly because of the clever routines by many of the hosts,
especially Seth Meyers and Conan O'Brien.

Now the host is
Larry Wilmore, a late-bloomer. After years as a successful writer and
obscure actor, he launched “The Nightly Show” last year at 53,
showing a sharp wit; now he visits Washington.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The daughter of the Secretary of the Navy (Leslie Hope) has been
kidnapped. Now the team links with the FBI to find her.

Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame ceremony, 8 p.m., HBO. Each year, this brings some first-rate
music and interesting comments. This year's inductees show the vast
range of rock – from N.W.A. (the fifth rap act in the Hall) to Bert
Berns, who died at 38, after writing such songs as “Under the
Boardwalk” and “Piece of My Heart.” Others are Chicago, Cheap
Trick, Deep Purple and Steve Miller.

“National Parks,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. The final chapter of Ken Burns' superb documentary
starts in 1946, when a newly mobile, post-war nation started
discovering its parks in massive numbers.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. After saving someone's life, a mystery man
simply disappears. Research shows he may be a soldier who was
captured in Afghanistan, long ago.

“Marvel's Captain
America: 75 Heroic Years,” 9 p.m., ABC. This rerun conveniently
provides some promotion for the Captain America film that will debut
Friday (May 6).

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. Still grasping for political
progress in Paris, Jamie and Claire plan an elaborate dinner party..

“Chris Hardwick:
Funcomfortable,” 10 p.m., Comedy Central. Hardwick visits San
Francisco, which he says should have its symbol be R2D2 -- “a shiny
gay robot who just wants to help people.” Skipping his nerd-humor,
he has fairly funny – and occasionally hilarious – comments about
sex and such.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Last week, the show made a late decision to
skip its planned rerun (Peter Dinklage and Gwen Stefani), instead
showing music by Prince, plus heartfelt comments from Jimmy Fallon.
Now it has another rerun, before the season's final new episodes.

TV column for Friday, April 29


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hell's Kitchen” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

The final two chefs
share one thing with host Gordon Ramsay – a complicated childhood.
For Ariel Malone – a country-club chef from Hackensack, N.J. -- the
tricky part was fitting in. At her school, she's said, she was the
only Jew and one of about five blacks.

For Kristin Barone,
who grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., there was more. She's said she
was under house arrest (for unspecified reasons) when her probation
officer suggested cooking. She went on to culinary school and became
a line cook in Chicago. Now the winner gets a head-chef job in Las
Vegas.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Many of us can
empathize with Drew Wu. Surrounded by monsters at his job, he's a
normal human.

Or, at least, he was
until he was scratched during a recent fight. Now Wu, a police
sergeant, is showing wolf-like urges; tonight, a fight gets him into
trouble. Meawhile, Adalind meets the mysterious Bonaparte and is
forced to make a choice; also, Hank's relationship with Zuri deepens.

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

In the midst of the
Depression and the pre-war years, the parks got big boosts. Franklin
Roosevelt was a major supporter ... as his distant relative (fifth
cousin) Theodore had been. He pushed for parks in the Everglades of
Florida, the Tetons of Wyoming and the High Sierra of California.

And he launched the
Civilian Conservation Corps. For almost a decade, the CCC had as many
as 300,000 young men at a time, planting trees and building or
upgrading parks, national and local. That story helps lead to
Saturday's finale, in this rerun of Ken Burns' superb documentary
series.

Other choices
include:

“Captain America:
The Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
(2015), 7 and 9:20 p.m., Starz; or “Thor” (2011), 8-11 p.m., FX.
Marvel characters are taking over our TV screens. The surge began
when Kenneth Branagh directed “Thor,” with fellow Shakespearean
Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Tonight, we can also catch Captain America on
his own or with Thor and his other action pals

“Shark Tank,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC. Now that “Last Man Standing” and “Dr. Ken”
have finished their seasons, this show gets two hours. Tentative
plans call for a rerun and a new episode – including a fresh way
for people to access umbrellas during the rain.

“The Amazing
Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week saw the elimination of Zach King (a
video-editing whiz on the Vine site) and his wife Rachel, barely
nipped by Frisbee guys Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson. Two weeks from
the finale, five duos remain.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. There's more action, with “Terminator 3” (2003) on IFC.
Also, there's the brilliant satiric comedy “Pleasantville” (1998)
on TV Land. And three dandy light adventures -- “Red” (2010) on
TNT, “Ocean's Eleven” (2001) on AMC and the delightful
“Ghostbusters” (1984) on VH1.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A college student has been kidnapped by a dangerous
vigilante. Also, Max (Masi Oka) is shipwrecked with Flippa and
Kamekona.

“Nothing Left
Unsaid,” 9 p.m., CNN. Here's perfect synergy: As soon as Anderson
Cooper finishes his own show (8 p.m.), we see this involving
documentary, which was originally on HBO; it's a memoir with Cooper
and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a witness flees, Erin searches for him, helped by
the department's investigator (Steve Schirripa of “Sopranos”).
Also, her brother Danny probes a convenience-store robbery and their
father Frank, the police commissioner, is urged to attend a Police
Union party.

TV column for Thursday, April 28


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

After a weak episode
last week, “Bones” bounces has one that's strong – albeit with
lots of gore and a “to be continued” story. It starts with
Christine (Booth and Bailey's daughter) imagining a monster in the
closet ... then reminds us that there are real monsters that could
invade their home.

Hodgins is still
surly, but it's no longer a relentless monotone. And adding Karen
(Sara Rue), the semi-loopy profiler, adds some fun to a darkly
involving tale.

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

Recent episodes, all
terrific, introduced Adam (William Fichtner). After overcoming
reluctance about his wheelchair, Bonnie (Allison Janney) is falling
for him ... except that now she suspects he's cheating.

Meanwhile, Christy
is determined to take her final exams, on a day when she's very sick;
it's a going-to-the-hospital kind of sick. In a week when CBS has
been switching around its “Big Bang” episodes, “Mom” provides
a dependable comedy choice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, Comedy Central.

The movies have put
a fresh spotlight on gifted Comedy Central stars. First was
“Trainwreck” with Amy Schumer; tonight, Key & Peele's “Keanu”
reaches theaters. Now the channel has both acts.

“Key & Peele”
reruns (7:52 to 10 p.m.) are followed by “Inside Amy Schumer”
episodes – a new one (including a “Game of Thrones” sketch) at
10 p.m. and last week's sometimes-hilarious season-opener at 10:30.
After the dandy “Daily Show” and more, “Adam DeVine's House
Party” returns at 12:31 a.m., mixing good sitcom moments and
stand-up comedy that's fairly good, especially from Jen D'Angelo.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. On the relationship front, there's optimism – Meredith
urges Amelia and Owen to take a chance and become a real couple –
and despair: Callie and Arizona manage to put their friends into the
middle of their disagreement.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Mellie scrambles to get the key endorsement of the Florida
governor. Meanwhile, Olivia and Abby are locked in a public-image war
and Cyrus faces a key decision.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Fans are still dealing with the recent jolts. Two weeks
ago, Liz was apparently killed; last week was set somewhere in Red's
cloudy, confused mind. Tonight deals with a funeral, a burial and
chasing the assailants; also, Red deals with someone who knows his
secrets.

“Hoff the Record,”
9 p.m., AXS. This clever series has David Haselhoff playing a
fictional version of himself, clueless and broke. Now his manager has
booked a concert with a Balkans man who is either (versions vary) a
community leader or a warlord. Some fairly funny moments set up next
week's finale.

“Game of Secrets,”
10 p.m., NBC. In the first two episodes, the guys tried to keep the
crisis – which goes back to their juvenle-detention days – to
themselves. Tonight, the women learn more: Gil finally tells his
lover Jessie; Jackson (Jessie's long-ago boyfriend) tells his
fiancee. There are some strong moments, once we get past Gil's
overdrawn character; and, in the final minutes, there are surprises.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. Alice (Mireille Enos) makes a dangerous move at Ben (Peter
Krauss), the man who scammed her. Meanwhile, her firm represents a
female Army captain who was harassed.

AND MORE: The first
round of the pro-football draft starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The
fourth chapter of “National Parks” -- encompassing the rise of
vacations-by-car – is 9-11 p.m. on most PBS stations. And at 10,
FX's “Archer” has a funny episode, the first half of a tale about
stopping jewelry robbers.

TV column for Wednesday, April 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

As last week's
episode ended, a high-stakes crisis was beginning. Martha knows her
husband “Clark” is really a KGB agent who tricked her into using
her job to spying on the FBI. She simply walked out.

Now the FBI wants to
arrest her, the KGB wants to whisk her out of the country ... but
neither can find her. This is a strong, taut hour ... which suddenly
goes limp, two-thirds of the way through. A scene with three
teen-agers seems wildly misplaced; other scenes slow to half-speed
... but do lead to a quietly telling scene between Philip (the fake
“Clark”) and his other wife, the KGB's Elizabeth.

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

The families on
ABC's Wednesday comedies seem to have lots of neighbor problems. On
“Modern Family,” the Dunphys clashed with Ronny and Amy, who had
a boat in their front yard; on “Middle,” little Frankie (Patricia
Heaton) faced the towering and brassy Rita Glossner, played by Brooke
Shields.

Now Frankie has a
new problem: Mike and friends built her a a patio; she wants to relax
there ... but the neighbor kids make it difficult. Meanwhile, Sue and
Lexie have a dorm room that's great – almost.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Few Good Men” (1992), 7-10 p.m., WGN America; or
“The American President” (1995), 8:31 to 11 p.m., Pop.

Aaron Sorkin has
become the great American screenwriter, with an Oscar (“Social
Network”), Emmy (“West Wing”) and Golden Globe (“Steve
Jobs”). Now we can revisit the start of his career.

“Men” was a
Broadway hit that took him to Hollywood; with Rob Reiner's perfect
direction and a great cast, it was nominated for a best-picture
Oscar. “President” re-linked him with Reiner, this time for a
lighter tale of love amid romance. It also whetted appetites: Michael
J. Fox liked playing a political staffer, so he went on to “Spin
City”; Sorkin liked writing about politics, so he created “West
Wing.”

Other choices
include:

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the show ousted its biggest contestant – Scot
Pollard, 6'11, who was on five teams over an 11-year pro-basketball
career. That cuts the original “brawn” tribe to two people, the
same as “brains”; “beauty” has three.

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's time to re-save a life; a heart-transplant patient
has been seriously injured in a car crash. The case brings strong
memories for Alex, Jesse and Millicent.

“The National
Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Already a successful
businesman, Stephen Mather struggled with bipolar disorder and found
solace in nature. He began pushing for a separate National Park
Service, which was created on Aug. 25, 1916. This chapter of Ken
Burtns' splendid film views the early years with Mather in charge,
including his struggle to add the Grand Canyon.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Hakeem faces problems from a generation above and below.
On one side, his dad (Lucious) is maneuvering to take away his
leadership of the record label; on the other, there's the son that's
on the way, via Anika. Hakeem ponders what he really thinks of being
a dad.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, everyone has the same idea at the same time:
Sneak into an elegant house that Phil is selling.

“Time Traveling
Bong,” 9:30-11 p.m., Comedy Central. If you missed this
three-parter last week, you can see the whole thing in one gulp now.
As the name suggests, it's goofy, ragged and mostly fun.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Desperate to get Maddie back without going to the courts,
Rayna and Deacon even ask for Teddy's help in prison. Also,
Juliette's tour success stokes Layla's jealousy.

“Underground,”
10 p.m., WGN America. The seven runaway slaves have reached Kentucky
now, with Rosalee and Cato trying a daring scheme to get the medicine
needed for Cato's wounds.