TV column for Wednesday, April 25


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

At times, “Empire”
is just a splashy soap opera; singers, young and attractive, are
surrounded by sex, sizzle and uptempo music. At other times, however,
great actors collide.

One “Empire”
star (Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard) battles Forest Whitaker (an
Oscar-winner) for control of the record label. Another (Oscar-nominee
Taraji Henson), in flashbacks, battles her mom (Alfre Woodard, who
has four Emmys). These are great scenes in a strong episode.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Code Black” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

This is a semi-new
notion -- an action-adventure hospital show. “Night Shift” did
that by having combat veterans as its doctors and patients; “Code
Black” added Dr. Ethan Willis (Rob Lowe), an Army colonel, last
season; now Willis does field work with a skeptical EMT (Moon
Bloodgood).

The problem here is
... well, the rest of the show. Several parts – overwrought laymen,
a camera-wielding doctor – are mostly absurd. Still, this hour's
final 10 minutes are first-rate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova Wonders” opener, 9 p.m., PBS.

Usually a solid and
sober hour, “Nova” switches tone for this six-week series. It has
quick glimpses, flashy graphics and amiable hosts. These three
people, young and diverse, seem like amiable infomercial hosts, but
are actually a mathematician, a neuroscientist and a computer
scientist.

Some of tonight's
experts also seem young and hip. One guy admits it's odd that he's
seen spiders have sex thousands of times; it's quite dramatic, he
says, because each suitor could end up as “mate or meal.” People
probe animals' ability to learn humans' language; they also study
animals' own communication.

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

In this final
season, the gap between Elizabeth and Philip has widened drastically.
Embedded in 1980s American suburbia, they're Russian spies. But she's
become fiercely intense; he's dropping out.

That gap grows in
this hour's final minutes. His move surprises us; hers doesn't –
similar things have happened often recently – but this one still
hits with jolting power. It's a strong hour.

Other choices
include:

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. Intent on learning Red's secrets, Liz goes to an
unexpected source.

“Riverdale,” 8
p.m., CW. Last week, the school musical ended violently; now Archie
leads the effort to see what happened. At 9, “The Originals” has
Klaus returning to New Orleans, stirring dark magic.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Claire is planning a 10th-anniversary
party for her dad and Gloria. Phil wants to include a magic trick
with Gloria.

“Suits”
season-finale, 9-11:05 p.m., USA, rerunning at 12:04 a.m. Here's our
first chance to see Meghan Markle's wedding. It's the fictional one,
of course. Rachel (Markle's likable “Suits” character) marries
Mike and leaves the show; the real-life wedding with Prince Harry is
still a month away. This finale is encased in office politics. The
first hour is OK; the second, a pilot for a spin-off, is dreary.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Probing the president's fitness for
office, a lawyer (Michael J. Fox) starts interviewing the staffers.

“Archer”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 10:30. This animated comedy
thrives on chaos. There's lots of it in this funny episode, including
a screeching bride, island royalty and a faulty plane.

“Brockmire”
season-opener, 10 p.m., IFC. After sinking to the bottom of the
minors, this former Major League baseball announcer is on his way
back up. He's in New Orleans, just a step from the Majors; he also
has a high-rated podcast; naturally, he'll find a way to foul things
up. It's an erratic start, ranging from a brilliant (albeit very
adult) opening rant to some sophomoric plot twists.

TV column for Tuesday, April 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Roseanne,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Sure, we were
skeptical about this. Bring a show back after a 21-year gap ... and
after Roseanne Barr had done lots of unfunny things ... and after
she'd even killed off the husband?

But “Roseanne”
works beautifully. It toys with viewers – getting laughs out of the
Dan-is-dead thing and the two actresses playing Becky. It ages
smoothly. Once perplexed parents, Dan and Roseanne are now perplexed
grandparents, riding out life's quirks. Now the first four episodes
rerun. The first two get heavy use of the two Beckys; the fourth has
great moments when David (Johnny Galecki) returns.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The 100” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

For more than half
the hour, this offers remarkable television; after that it's ...
well, just “The 100.”

Clarke (Eliza
Taylor) saved her friends, but is alone on a scorched Earth,
desperate to find food, water and people. This is a one-person drama,
beautifully done. Then it reverts to lots of combative chaos. We see
her friends in space and we see new characters reach Earth. People
strut and fuss and pick fights.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Genius” opener, 9 and 10 p.m., National Geographic;
reruns at 11:01.

The first season
focused on two eras – the older Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) in
World War II and the younger one, struggling to be noticed. Now
“Genius” tries to duplicate that with Pablo Picasso.

Again, a movie star
plays the older part. Antonio Banderas is fine, but this Old Picasso
isn't very interesting. Young Picasso is ... when “Genius” slows
down. In the first hour, we see Picasso at ages 0, 9, 13-14, 16,
18-19 and 56. We leap back and forth dizzyingly; we see romances with
women we've never met. Gorgeously filmed, “Genius” finally works
in the second hour, when it sticks to two eras.

Other choices
include:

“Thor: The Dark
World” (2013), 7:30 p.m., FX. It's a busy movie night for action,
with this film and “Atomic Blonde” (2017), at 8 p.m. on HBO.
There's also a pleasant comedy -- “The Wedding Ringer” (2015), 8
p.m., E – and a bonus: At 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has “The
Apartment” (1960), a beautifully nuanced, black-and-white drama
with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

“NCIS,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. In the first hour, Drew Carey (a former Marine Reserve)
plays a Marine retiree who sends packages to current soldiers;
cyanide is found in one of them. The second – a rerun, nudging
“Bull” to 10 p.m. -- has Ducky spot a missing murder weapon on an
antiques show.

“Civilizations,”
8 p.m., PBS. Some of the most imposing sculptures went unseen for
millennia. It was in 1863 that people began finding Olmic heads –
some almost 10 feet high – in a southern Mexico jungle; it was 1974
when terracotta soldiers – thousands of them, originally – were
found in Chinese farm country. Both reflect an obsession with the
human form, examined in this fairly good hour.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. As opening night for the high school musical gets closer, “Rise”
keeps piling up the troubles. There's a pregnancy, an affair, a
crumbled marriage, a flailing attempt at heterosexuality. One guy
even feels he's failing in opposite worlds – football and theater.
We're a half-step away from frogs and locusts here ... but “Rise”
is so well-done that it keeps us watching and rooting.

“Married at First
Sight,” 9 p.m., Lifetime.This is “decision day,” when we're
supposed to learn if the three couples – each a marriage of
strangers – will stay together. Part of that was settled last week,
however, when Molly Duff and Jonathan Francetic said they're breaking
up.

“New Girl,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. Schmidt frets about his daughter's interview at a
prestigious pre-school. Now he asks Jess, a former school principal,
to prepare her.

“Deception,” 10
p.m., ABC. Borrowing the “For the People” timeslot, this launches
a two-parter, concluding Sunday. Cameron is trying to stop the
Mystery Woman from pulling off a jewelry heist.

TV column for Monday, April 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Carpool Karaoke” special, 10 p.m., CBS.

When James Corden
arrived from London, he saw that Californians are forever stuck in
traffic jams. “Carpool Karaoke” was born; it became a streaming
series and two Emmy-winning specials.

This third one
starts with Corden joining Reggie Watts for a Bruno Mars-style
number. He shows clips of this season's karaokes and has a new one
with Christina Aguilera. And he shows “Crosswalk the Musical”; it
includes Kunal Nayyar of “The Big Bang Theory” and Iain Armitage
of “Young Sheldon” (which have reruns from 8-10 p.m. today), plus
Allison Janney and Anna Faris of “Mom.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Unreal” season-finale, 9 and 10:02 p.m., Lifetime.

Life is never easy
on “Everlasting,” the TV dating show. Now Serena – the venture
capitalist who became the show's first female centerpiece – is
trying to narrow things to the final two guys. Rachel tries to nudge
her ... then has a shocking discovery about Dr. Simon, the therapist.

Meanwhile, Quinn,
the “Everlasting” producer, pushes to oust Gary, the network
president.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon,” 8-10 p.m.,
CBS.

In comedies, CBS
tends to have a dual existence – loudly adequate shows on Mondays,
cleverly funny ones on Thursdays. Tonight's temporary fix is simply
to move Thursday reruns to Monday.

At 8 p.m., “Big
Bang” has a hilarious episode set on the baby's birthday ... which
is also Amy's birthday and the day she annually has sex with Sheldon.
At 9:30, it has Leonard's mother bonding with Penny ... something
she's never really done with Leonard. In between are two glimpses of
young Sheldon. In the first, he discovers comic books; in the second,
he uses statistics to help the football team.

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

Wendell Berry has
all the proper credentials – a Master's Degree from the University
of Kentucky, a fellowship at Stanford, teaching time at both schools
plus four more. He's been published more than 50 times, from novels
to chapbooks. But for more than a half-century, he's also owned and
worked a farm.

That makes Berry,
83, an ideal commentator on rural change. This quietly moving film
views a world that transformed when family farms were replaced by big
machines, big spreads and big corporations.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol”
(ABC) and “The Voice” (NBC), 8-10 p.m. On Sunday, “Idol”
viewers had their first chance to vote; tonight, we see the film
field from 14 to 10. Meanwhile, “Voice” has its top 12 perform.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. In a moving episode last week, Myr'nn finally admitted his
mind is fading. Tonight, he causes psychic disturbances; his son (the
Martian Manhunter) tries contain the chaos.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Tonight's murder victim portrayed a knight in role-playing
games. When Liv munches his brain, she becomes like a oe-person
Renaissance Faire.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. So far, Dr. Bell (Bruce Greenwood) has been able to
conceal his surgery failures. This one might be more difficult: His
patient caught on fire.

“Good Girls,” 10
p.m., NBC. After bouncing between drama, comedy and tragedy, “Good
Girls” turns darkly serious. A guy who knows their secrets is in
jail. Should they tell the gang leader, who might be able to snuff
out the problem ... or would that make them killers? It's a grim, and
fairly good, hour.

“The Crossing,”
10 p.m., ABC. Yes, this is a time-travel, sci-fi show. Still, one of
the things that makes it work is the solid humanity of the sheriff
(Steve Zahn). Tonight, trying to save his son, he has a risky request
for a federal agent. Also, surprises emerge about two time-travelers
– Hannah and young Leah.

 

TV column for Sunday, April 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Into the Badlands” season-opener, 10:02 p.m., AMC; reruns at
1:05 a.m.

Life is tough
enough, for a single dad whose baby has a fierce fever. But now add
the annoyance of thieves and assassins and such. That's what Sunny
faces, as he returns after months away. The Widow is consolidating
her power and holds his young protege, M.K., prisoner.

This opener is
filled with epic action scenes. Yes, they tend to be gory, gruesome
and wildly unrealistic. Still, they're done with a style that is
lyrical, balletic and stunning to watch. It's an appealing start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Symphony For Our World,” 7 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild; reruns at 2
a.m.

Here is an hour of
sheer, uninterrupted beauty – an Earth Day special that introduces
an orchestral piece. as a backdrop for nature scenes.The music feels
unexceptional, but the visuals are gorgeous.

Soon, we're,soaring
above the mountains, diving deep into the ocean, savoring natural
beauty. There are no commercial interruptios, but there's also no
narration or context. The best approach is just to slow down your
life, settle back and intake an hour of magnificence.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Timeless,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Robert Johnson's
place in history has never been clear. Supporters say he was a
musical genius, father of the blues; others say that his early death
– at 27, in 1938 – leaves us with myths and legends.

Tonight, however,
the team travels the smoky juke joins of the Depression era, to
preserve his place. A fourth seat has been added to the time machine,
so now its creator, Connor Mason, can join.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Howards End,” 8 p.m., Starz; and “Masterpiece:
Unforgotten,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Two British tales
have their third parts. For “Unforgotten,” a gritty murder
mystery, that concludes the story; for “End,” a gorgeous drama,
there's one more week. And yes, both are easy to join now.

Set more than a
century ago, “End” has the compelling contrast between the
vibrant Schlegel sisters and the dour Winslows. Now Margaret Schlegel
(Hayley Atwell) may rent a home from Henry Wilcox (Matthew
Macfadyen), as her sister lobbies for an impoverished clerk.
“Unforgotten” has traced the names in the diary of a young man
killed 39 years ago. The result is dark, grim and beautifully acted.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The viewers finally get a say. They'll vote tonight,
after the top 14 contestants perform; on Monday, they'll learn who's
in the top 10.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. There's double trouble for Charles: His
food truck was destroyed by a fire ... and Pimento is the insurance
agent. Also, Amy is choosing her wedding dress.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Some $10 million in bitcoin has been stolen.
Now Sam is working undercover with Hidoko (Andrea Bordeaux), using an
identity that has probably been compromised.

“Westworld”
season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., HBO. The first season of this fantasy
epic won four Emmys (in technical areas) and was nominated for 17
more. Now – after a 16-month pause – the second season begins,
with the androids becoming powerfully self-aware.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth has been trying to negotiate a security
agreement involving gang violence in South America. Now that's been
complicated by a kidnapping.

“Deception,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Cameron has been reluctant to work with the police,
but not now: After his former girlfriend is robbed during fashion
week, he insists on joining the investigation.

TV column for Saturday, April 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Sports and/or “Concussion” (2015).

It's playoff time
now for two pro sports. Hockey is on NBC at 8 p.m. ET; basketball is
on cable all day. TNT has Philadelphia and Miami at 2:30 p.m. ET and
Portland and New Orleans at 5; then ESPN has Houston and Minnesota at
7:30 and Oklahoma City and Utah at 10.

But for
counterpoint, catch “Concussion” at 8 p.m. on BET. It's a vivid
reminder that any sport – in this case, football – can botch its
priorities. Will Smith brings subtle perfection to Dr. Bennet Omalu,
the Nigerian native whose landmark, 2005 study of football brain
damage was, for a time, ignored.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Even if you're not
excited about this year's contestants, you should catch this rerun of
Monday's outing. In duets, it linked 12 of them with pop-music stars,
many of them thoroughly talented.

Two have turns with
Lea Michele, of “Glee” and Broadway fame. Also having two duets
are Bebe Rexha, Colbie Caillat, Cam and Banners; having one apiece
are Allen Stone and Rachel Platten.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The X-Files,” all day, BBC America.

In its best moments,
this series has been fresh, clever and imaginative; in its worst,
it's still been interesting. Now this cable channel re-visits it from
the start.

The pilot film –
with just-the-facts Dr. Dana Scully linking with believe-anything Fox
Mulder – is at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET. (That's 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
PT.) The next nine episodes rerun between 11 and 8, with eight of
them re-rerunning from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The marathon resumes at 6
a.m. ET Monday.

Other choices
include:

Trading spaces, all
day, TLC. First is a cascade of reruns from the show's original run,
which ended a decade ago. They start at 1 p.m., followed at 7 by a
rerun of last week's episode, with designers Ty Pennington and Carter
Oosterhouse getting a shot at designing, From 8-10:07 p.m. (rerunning
at 11:07) is a new episode, with parents and their son remodeling
each other's bedroom.

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 6 p.m., Paramount Network. Steven Spielberg's
masterful adventure is sandwiched by the superb “Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade” (1989) at 3 and 9 p.m. Two lesser Indy films --
“Crystal Skull” (2008) and “Temple of Doom” (1984) – are at
9 a.m. anad noon.

More movies. The
vibrant “High School Musical” and its sequel (2006 and 2007) are
6 and 7:50 p.m. on Disney. Tina Fey has two films, one clever (“Mean
Girls,” 2004, 7 p.m., E) and one not (“Sisters,” 2015, 8 p.m.,
FXX). And Freeform's animation marathon peaks with “Finding Nemo”
(2003) at 9:25.

Racing, 6:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. Does anyone think we needed more sports events today?
Colliding with basketball, baseball and hockey, we get a NASCAR race
from Richmond, Va.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. A CIA spy – pretending to be a diamond dealer as she
travels with her family – has been kidnapped in Vienna. Eric
travels there with Oliver, who gets an interesting job offer.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This reruns the episode that introduced Maria Bello as
Jacqueline Sloane. She's a forensic psychologist and Vance, the NCIS
director, pushed for her transfer from California to Washington. That
comes just as a storm creates a black-out, in the midst of a
kidnapping probe.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the episode hosted by Sam
Rockwell, prior to his Oscar for the brilliant “Three Billboards
Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Halsey is the music guest.