TV column for Tuesday, May 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Middle” series finale, 8:30-9:30 p.m., ABC.

For nine seasons,
this has been a clever (if erratic) look at an almost-ordinary family
in a very ordinary place. It's drawn scant attention – the only
Emmy nomination was for make-up – and OK ratings.

Now it has a good
send-off. Yes, it's still erratic; Sue has lame scenes in the first
half-hour, a great one in the second. But it also has moments of wit
and warmth. Axl is taking a job in Denver. His brother takes it in
stride (he's already remodeling their room), their mom tries a brave
face and their dad remains stoic. Then is the final family drive –
emotional, realistic and (often enough) funny.

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

In just eight weeks,
this has proven important points: Yes, there's still an audience for
comedies about mid-income, mid-American life. Yes, comedies done with
a studio audience still work. And yes, Roseanne Barr – who so often
seemed ready to implode – remains smart and funny.

There are serious
moments, as Dan has a crisis of conscience, and funny ones with
Darlene and Becky. And this may be the first show that manages to
turn a flood into a season's happy ending.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Voice” finale, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

First, is an
hourlong recap of Monday's final performances. Then – from 9-11
p.m. -- we get lots more music, some commotion and then the new
champion.

Blake Shelton, who's
already had six of the 13 winners, has half of this year's final four
– Spenca Baker and Kyla Jade. Adam Levine, a three-time winneer,
has no one. Alicia Keys, who's had one winner in her two previous
seasons, has Britt Buchanan. Kelly Clarkson, in her first season,
has Bryn Cartelli.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Great American Read,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

What are Americans'
100 favorite novels? A poll came up with an intriguing list, which is
discussed here. It has books that are handed to schoolkids (“Tom
Sawyer,” “Charlotte's Web,” “Little Women,” “Alice in
Wonderland,” “Anne of Green Gables”) and one that isn't (“Fifty
Shades of Gray”).

It goes from the
1678 “Pilgrim's Progress” to the 2011 “Martian.” It has
classic names (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, two
Brontes), plus Stephen King, James Patterson and Agatha Christie. It
has “Handmaid's Tale,” “Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,”
“Color Purple” and more.

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. The first of the Marvel mega-movies linking
superheroes, this starts a strong movie night. At 8 p.m., catch “The
Outsiders” (1983) on Sundance, “Steel Magnolias” (1989) on Pop
or “Pulp Fiction” (1994) on BBC America. At 8:15, HBO has its new
“Farenheit 451.”

“NCIS”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS. Officials feel that the man who tortured
Sloane (Maria Bello) in Afghanistan was killed. Now, however, she
insists he's living in the District of Columbia.

“The Flash”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. Battling DeVoe, the team has a surprising
ally.

“The 100,” 9
p.m., CW. Ignoring the advice of her brother and Clarke, Octavia
leads her people toward Shallow Valley. Also, Clarke's mother and
Kane adjust to new challenges.

“For the People”
season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC. This terrific lawyer show – we
consider it the season's best new series – never got the attention
it deserved. Next season, it will wait until mid-season and join the
powerhouse Thursday line-up, with other Shonda Rhimes productions.
Tonight, Sandra defends a scientist suspected of spying for the
Chinese government. Also, Jay and Kate collide in court.

“48 Hours: NCIS,”
10 p.m., CBS. This starts a second batch of hours relating real-life
NCIS cases.

TV column for Monday, May 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Idol” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

After a one-year
break, “Idol” is ready to pick its 16th champion. On
Sunday, the final three singers performed and viewers voted. Now,
after much commotion, one will win.

Gabby Barrett, 17,
is from Munhall, a steel town of 11,000, alongside Pittsburgh ...
Caleb Lee Hutchinson is from Dallas, an Atlanta suburb of 12,600 ...
Maddie Pope is from Clarksville, a Tennessee town of 1,400, and had a
graduatig class of 22. Tonight, one of them will be a winner.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“TheVoice,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The “Idol” votes
have aleady been counted, but there's still time to affect “Voice.”
Tonight, the final four singers perform and viewers vote; on Tuesday,
there will be a winner.

Adam Levine may be
less interested tonight; for the first time in 10 editions, he
doesn't have anyone in the final four. Blake Shelton (who's already
had six winners in 13 rounds) has two finalists, Spensa Baker and
Kyla Jade; Kelly Clarkson has Bryn Cartelli, Alicia Keys has Britt
Buchanan.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dancing With the Stars” finale (ABC) or Miss USA
(Fox), 8 p.m.

Two days before the
end of the official TV season, the night overflows with competition.
On Fox, it's a beauty pageant, hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey ...
20 years after she won the Miss Teen USA title.

And “Stars”
wraps up its quick, all-athlete edtion. The finale has a football
star (Josh Norman) and two Olympic skaters, one popular (Adam Rippon)
and one infamous (Tonya Harding).

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. The first rerun is a hilarious one in
which Bernadette is past her due date for giving birth. The second
has Shelton battling Kripke for the right wedding venue.

“The Grapes of
Wrath” (1940) and “Casablanca” (1942), 8 and 10:15 p.m. ET,
Turner Classic Movies, Here are two all-time classics; the American
Film Institute puts them at No. 23 and No. 3 all-time.

“Man With a Plan”
season-finale, 8:30 p.m., CBS. This will be the last new episode for
a while; CBS has renewed “Man,” but for mid-season. Tonight, Andi
can't find work and suggests a business plan with Adam. Also, he's
doing a renovation for his demanding parents (Stacy Keach and Swoosie
Kurtz).

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. Ravi and Clive work togeter to solve a case. Also, Major
pulls a surprisng move on Liv.

“The Terror”
finale, 9-10:30 p.m., AMC. With their ship still stuck in the Actic,
the crew must face a deadly confrontation with the demonic Tuunbaq.
It's a deadly hour, bringing major steps for the captain (Jared
Harris) and for the native known as Lady Silence.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. The murder of Watson's former psychologist causes her to
reconsider the direction of her life.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). For years ACORN battled
landlords and bosses; “it was win after win,” said Bertha Lewis,
who became its CEO. Then it was a big loss, triggered by videos of
staffers being helpful to someone who said she was starting a teen
brothel. The videos are sometimes deceptive, Lewis said, but showed
“a lack of supervision and oversight.” Here are intriguing
glimpses of Lewis and of Hannah Giles who, at 20, launched and
starred in the videos.

TV column for Sunday, May 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Billboard Music Awards, 8 p.m., NBC.

Expect lots of
female power tonight. Ariana Grande opens, Kelly Clarkson hosts and
Janet Jackson receives the Icon Award. Clarkson and Jackson sing –
the latter her first TV performance in nine years.

There will be lots
of duets -- Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato, Macklemore and Kesha,
Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue, Shawn Mendes and Khalid. Zedd and Maren
Morris will do “The Middle,” joined by Grey. Also: Ed Sheeran (in
Dublin), Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa and John Legend.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Idol,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

It's music-overload
time. While many stars gather for the Billboard Awards, ABC seeks a
new star.

That's down to the
final three people. Tonight, Maddie Poppe, Gabby Barrett and Caleb
Lee Hutchinson perform and viewers vote. On Monday, we'll have the
16th “idol.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece: Little Women” conclusion, 8-10:05 p.m.,
PBS.

The first hour
focused on all four March sisters, each different and each
fascinating. But now it focuses on the one great character. On film –
from Katharine Hepburn in 1933 to Maya Hawke now – Jo has been a
wonderful tangle of steel and warmth.

There are also rich
little portraits of the others – the less-complicated Amy, their
wise and patient mother, the good-spirited guy next door. But most of
all, Jo lives forever.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers”
season-finale, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. By the second episode, Bob is
thinking of leaving the restaurant business. Then a couple wants to
have its wedding at the burger place.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In the first hour, a shoot-out brings
a tragedy (Sam is shot) and a break – information about the man who
kidnapped Mosley's son five years ago. That leads to the ninth-season
finale, with a daring mission to find the son in Mexico.

“The Simpsons”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. After being hit by lightning, Bart feels
he sees ghosts.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine” season-finale, 8:30 p.m., Fox. For Fox, this might seem
like a logical end: Canceled after three seasons, “Nine-Nine” has
the wedding of Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy. But the show isn't going
far; it's been picked up by NBC (Samberg's old turf), which will
bring it back at mid-season. Also tonight, Gina Rodriguez (“Jane
the Virgin”) plays Rosa's potential love interest.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. The fourth season ends with an extreme: A missile is
reportedly headed toward the U.S. and the president is planning a
retaliatory strike.

“Deception,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. The team tries to stop a spy from stealing
top-secret information.

“American
Masters,” 10:05 p.m., PBS. Fresh from “Little Women,” PBS
reruns this portrait of the woman who created it ... and lived it.
Like Jo, Louisa May Alcott grew up in a world of sisters, thoughts
and words. An abolitionist and a feminist, she wrote large adventures
for young people, then re-created the deep joys and tragedies of her
family.

TV column for Saturday, May 19


TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
Royal wedding, 7 a.m. ET, everywhere.

This may require an
early wake-up. You'll need time to prepare tea and crumpets, put up
your posters and -- for sports fans – drink beer and place bets.
(Hint: The smart money is on “I do.”)

The hourlong
ceremony is only part of it. Plans (subject to late change) have
coverage starting a 4 a.m. ET on CBS, PBS and BBC America; 4:30 on
NBC; and 5 a.m. on ABC, E, Freeform and TLC. That's alongside the
perpetual coverage on the news channels.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Wedding aftermath.

Some of us may
forget to be up in time for the ceremony; others will want to relive
it all. Not to worry, there are marathon follow-ups on BBC America (9
a.m. to 4 p.m.), E (10 to 3) and news channels.

There are also
recaps. You can catch two-hour ones on BBC America at 4, 6, 8 or 10
p.m. and on CBS at 8 p.m.; one-hour ones are on E (7 p.m.), ABC (10
p.m.) and TLC (10:07).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Saturday Night Live” season-finale, 11:29 p.m.,
NBC, and more.

After a string of
sharp episodes, “SNL” had a so-so one last week, with Amy Schumer
hosting. Now there's every reason to expect an instant comeback: Tina
Fey – the former “SNL” head writer –hosts, Nicki Minaj is
music guest and this might be a night for both royal and political
satire.

And if you can't
wait for that? Two “SNL” alumni, Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon,
will cover the wedding on HBO via their alter-egos, Cord and Tish.
That's 7:30-9:30 a.m., rerunning at 9:45 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Royal movies, wedding movies.

Commoners seem to
keep marrying royalty. Here are two movies that ran in theaters –
the bland “The Prince and Me” (2004) at 10 a.m. on Freeform and
the clever “Enchanted” (2007) at 3 p.m. on E. Also, Hallmark
reruns royal romances at 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. and 12:30, 3, 5 and 7
p.m., with a new one at 9.

Others simply use
weddings for comedy fodder. E has two so-so films, “Bride Wars”
(2009) at 5 p.m. and “27 Dresses” (2008) at 8 and 10:30; USA has
the fun “Wedding Crashers” (2005) at 11:30 a.m.

Other choices
include:

Royal documentaries,
morning, cable. TLC has separate profiles of Prince Harry and Meghan
Markle, at 9 and 10 a.m,; Reelz profiles their romance at 8 a.m.,
then has other royal documentaries until 1 p.m.

“Dater's Handbook”
(2016), 10:30 a.m., Hallmark. Markle is known mainly for “Suits,”
but she did star in this Hallmark film. She plays a wedding planner
who decides to try an organized approach to dating. Kristoffer Polaha
and Jonathan Scarfe co-star.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. On Sunday, the show's top three singers will have
their last chance to draw votes, with the winner announced the next
day. First, this rerun hs the top five performing.

“Farenheit 451,”
8 p.m., HBO. Ray Bradbury's censorship tale has seemed timely in 1953
(the novel), in '66 (the FrancoisTruffaut movie) and, alas, now, with
this remake.

“Patrick Melrose,”
9 p.m., Showtime. In last week's opener, we learned that Patrick is a
mess. Now – in what's virtually an hourlong flashback – we learn
why. Some of the side characters are terrific, but the main one
(Patrick's cruel and bitter father) is merely a drab monotone.

“Royally Ever
After,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. After all those reruns, Hallmark has
this new movie in which – surprise? -- a young American learns that
her fiance is a prince.

More Meghan, 10 and
11 p.m., cable. At 10, Smithsonian reruns the Markle hour of its
“Million Dollar American Princesses” series; that's preceded at 8
p.m. by “The Queen at 90” and followed at 11 by documentaries on
the Buckingham and Windsor worlds. And at 11:02, Lifetime reruns
“Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance”; it's a surprisingly good
movie ... but you may have reached overload.

TV column for Friday, May 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters: Bombshell,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

What people remember
about Hedy Lamarr is basic: “She was the best-looking movie star
ever,” Mel Brooks says here. Growing up in a prosperous Austrian
family, she posed for nude photos at 16, had nude scenes in a movie
at 18, then became a Hollywood star.

What people didn't
know was her sharp, inventive mind. She kept a lab in her movie
trailer, worked nights at home, came up with small inventions and
patented a huge one. The Navy ignored her torpedo-guidance ideas
during World War II, but began to use them in the '60s. It's a
fascinating story.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hawaii Five-0” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

The eighth season
ends for this show, a week after “Blue Blood” wrapped its season.

A Russian
nuclear-attack submarine suddenly appears off the coast of Waikiki;
soon, the team spots a Russian spy ring that's been operating almost
in the open. Meanwhile, Tani makes an unnerving discovery at Adam's
house and feels conflicted.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Once Upon a Time” series finale, 8 p.m., ABC.

For seven seasons,
this has delivered epic-size adventure. Flashing between various
realities, it's had a collision of fairytale characters, new and old.
The ideas were big; the ratings were modest.

Now it has brought
back some of the departed characters -- Emma Swan, Belle, the young
version of Henry ... and, especially, Snow White and Prince Charming.
They lead the fight against the Wish Realm's version of
Rumpelstiltskin.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Royal wedding talk, everywhere.

BBC America, which
is quite big on this, uses the entire day for royalty specials. That
peaks with looks at the weddings of William and Kate (7:30 p.m.),
Charles and Diana (8:30) and then a profile of Prince Harry and
Meghan Markle at 9. Those promptly repeat at 10:05, 11:05 and 11:35.

And yes, there's
more. There's a special at 8 p.m. on CW and two on TLC – 8 p.m. on
Harry, 9:02 on Markle. National Geographic reruns the excellent
“Diana: In Her Own Words” at 8 p.m.; that repeats at 11,
sandwiching a Harry special at 10. And PBS wraps its five-day “Royal
Wedding Watch” at 10:30.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef
Junior” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox. This started with 40 talented
cooks, ages 8-13. Now we're down to the final three, going for a
$100,000 prize. Preparing three-course dinners are Avery Meadows, 8,
of Kingwood, Texas; Beni Cwiakala, 9, of Chicago; and Quani Fields,
11, of Lawrenceville, Ga.

“Undercover Boss:
Celebrity Edition,” 8 p.m., CBS. Idina Menzel, the Tony-winning
“Wicked” star, dons disguises. She works with a wedding singer
and considers doing singing telegrams while wearing a chicken suit.
She's even supposed to sing her hit song (“Let It Go”) to
children.

“Blindspot,” 8
p.m., NBC. Jane and Weller try to finally catch Roman.

“Agents of SHIELD”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC. Coulson's life is in jeopardy. And there
are bigger issues – including the possible destruction of the
Earth.

“Life Sentence,”
9 p.m., CW. Discussing their future, Stella and Wes get a surprise.
Also, her brother – usually a ladies' man -- is thrown off by a
young woman he meets at his community service job.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A detective was gunned down before he could testify
against a career criminal; Danny investigates. Also in this rerun,
Frank investigates an attack on Garrett.