TV column for Thursday, April 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grey's Anatomy,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

OK, now this show
has our attention again. Last week, it stunned viewers by killing
Derek (Patrick Dempsey), after he rushed to help accident victims.
Now his wife Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) could be considered the only
person who has been a central character from the start of the show.

“Anatomy” takes
up two hours tonight; “Scandal” will return May 7 and 14, when
both shows wrap up their seasons. For tonight, April makes a decision
that baffles Jackson. Also, Bailey and Ben disagree and Callie's
policeman patient is back.

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

A terrific second
season has seen Christy (Anna Faris) on the move. Her gambling debts
led to eviction and to moving around, before her mom Bonnie (Allison
Janney) got a job as an apartment supervisor.

But Bonnie lost her
sobriety, the two keep fighting .. and now Christy is moving again,
this time alone. That leads to a mixture of broad humor, quiet warmth
and the sort of dark jabs that two skilled actresses handle
perfectly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Backstrom” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

A murder case
sprawls into an Indian reservation, giving Backstrom three problems:
He has no authority there ... his ex-fiance's new lover (Adam Beach)
has full authority ... and Backsrom's domineering dad (Robert
Forster) is the local sheriff.

The case itself gets
a quick and disappointing treatment. That gives more time for some
solid character moments – important for what is likely to be the
show's last episode.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. There's a new episode at 8 and then
a rerun, with friends rallying to defend Leonard and Sheldon from an
Internet attack on their science paper.

“Casual Vacancy”
conclusion, 8 p.m., HBO. J.K. Rowling's novel centers on a council
vacancy that will decide if the village keeps its community-services
building. Surrounding that are intriguing characters like Krystal,
desperately trying to tame her drug-addicted mother and raise her
brother. It's a richly crafted story, but be warned: Rowling treats
her people harshly, making this a rough ride.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Felix reveals a secret about himself.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. The bodies of Chinese-American women are being smuggled
out of the country. As the team investigates, Red decodes information
embeded in The Fulcrum. That follows an 8 p.m. rerun in which he
faces a new villain, Lord Baltimore.

“American Crime,”
10 p.m., ABC. With public pressure building, Carter's court date is
pushed up. Also, his girlfriend's incendiary statement stirs
reactions.

“The Comedians,”
10 p.m., FX. With their show delayed, the two stars (playing perverse
versions of themselves) grasp for outside help. Billy Crystal has
some fairly good scenes with Mel Brooks, but the highlight comes when
Josh Gad gets the “Frozen” songwriters to create a hilarious
song. He closes the show with it ... leading into an
even-odder-than-usual “Louie” at 10:30.

“The Red Road,”
10 p.m., Sundance. For Rachel, a cop's teen daughter, troubles build.
Fearing she inherited mental problems, she overdosed on her mom's
pills; also, her boyfriend Junior may be out to kill Levi. Meanwhile,
Rachel's mom ditches the pills and says her own dad may have key
secrets.

TV column for Wednesday, April 29


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: All night, NBC.

First is an 8 p.m.
rerun of Wednesday's “Chicago Fire.” It's a so-so hour with some
lame detours, but it sets up the compelling (if nasty) shows that
follow. “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit” cops trace a pattern of rape-murders in New York and Chicago.

The court scenes
defy credibility, but by then viewers will be deeply invested. The
series regulars are solid; superb as the prime suspect is Dallas
Roberts, who's been the “Unforgettable” district attorney,
Alicia's “Good Wife” brother and the scientist who tried to kill
the “Walking Dead” governor.

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

Now “Idol” is
down to its final five -- the three men and two women who will be
doing the show's tour this summer. Tonight, each plans to do one song
reflecting his or her “soul” and one reflecting a judge's home
town. (Harry Connick, Jr., from New Orleans, will join that by
singing “City Beneath the Sea.”)

Then we'll learn
who's in the bottom two from last week's voting, with viewers saving
one via Twitter. Last week, they saved Rayvon Owen and ousted Quentin
Alexander.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Casual Vacancy,” 8-10 p.m., HBO; concludes 8-9
p.m. Thursday.

English villages
usually seem like such pleasant places, full of vicars and knitters
and good-hearted folks who occasionally solve murders. But fresh from
her Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling wrote this one about a town
filled with selfish schemers.

On one hand,
Rowling's novel is brilliantly written and the characters are
beautifully portrayed here. On the other, there's a monotone nature,
reserving the cruelest twists for good people. It's a tough ride.

Other choices
include:

Soap stuff, 6:30 to
8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Pop. There are fewer soap-opera
fans these days, but Pop (formerly the TV Guide Network) wants them.
It reruns CBS' soaps (“Bold and Beautiful,” “Young and
Restless”) at 6:30 and 7 p.m., then at 8 has “Queens of Drama,”
with former soap stars planning a new show; tonight, Donna Mills
seeks help from Joan Collins. That reruns at midnight, following
reruns (11 and 11:30 p.m.) of the episodes that debuted after the
daytime Emmys.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Ever since the tribes merged, members of the old
“no-collar” tribe have been doomed. Last week, Jenn Brown, a
sailing instructor, was the third straight to depart. Only Will Sims
remains, alongside four from the old “blue-collar” tribe and
three from “white-collar.”

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The backdrop is spectacular – the
Chinese Himalayas, near a city named Shangri-La. Thirty years ago, Xi
Zhinong was the first person to film the snub-nosed Yunnan monkeys in
the wild; now his film crew spent two years there. This documentary
focuses a little on the filmmakers, but mostly crafts an involving
story of two half-brother monkeys.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Claire's being combative in this rerun. She doesn't want
Phil to get a new videogame system; also, she tries to bribe the
school principal, so Luke can get an award.

“Black-ish,”
9:30, ABC. When his teen daughter rebels, Dre wants to crack down.
His wife Rainbow prefers the gentler approach her patents used.

“Ripper Street”
season-opener, 10 p.m., BBC America. Jumping ahead four years, we
find that Reid's team has split ... then is re-united to try to catch
some daring train robbers.

“Schitt's Creek,”
10 p.m., Pop. This is the flip side of Pop, its only time with
scripted shows. The clever “Creek” comedy has reruns at 9 and
9:30 p.m. and this new episode – Johnny (Eugene Levy) plans a
surprise party for his wife (Catherine O'Hara) -- at 10. The “Impress
Me” comedy is at 10:30.

TV column for Tuesday, April 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Last Days in Vietnam,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Forty years ago
today, Saigon was in chaos. North Vietnamese troops were close; for
government loyalists, the ragged exit of April 29-30 seemed like
their only chance.

Many created
makeshift plans; by truck, boat and helicopter, they reached the
American ships. And hundeds were simply abandoned, when a White House
order arbitrarily ended the evacuation early. It's a dramatic story,
beautifully told by Rory Kennedy (Bobby's daughter), in an
Oscar-nominated film.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Weird Loners,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.

These two people are
truly frightened of commitment: Stosh can't handle two days with his
son; Zara withers at the notion of “taco Tuesday” coming every
week.

So they both lie.
Stosh has experience and skill in such things; Zara doesn't. That's
in an episode that keeps the show's best habits – sharp dialog,
handed to skilled actors – and avoids its worst ones.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dancing With the Stars,” 8 p.m., ABC.

On June 1, 2005, ABC
tried a modest summer fling, based on a British show. There were only
six contestants, none of them stars; it was all over in six weeks,
with Kelly Monaco edging John O'Hurley.

Now, five weeks
early, “Stars” celebrates its 10th anniversary. After
a 45-person opening number, it anges from Monaco to a duel of the
most-recent champs, Meryl Davis and Alfonso Ribeiro. One bit has
seven football stars, three of them – Donald Driver, Hines Ward and
Emmitt Smith – champions.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's time to trim the field from eight to six.

“The Day the '60s
Died,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Continuing the two-night
Vietnam emphasis that started Monday, PBS views the 1970 day when
four Kent State students were killed.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The murder of a Naval Intelligence officer brings back two
previous characters: Matt Jones plays Ned Dorneget, formerly a
probationary agent and now a cyber expert; Jamie Bamber (“Battlestar
Galactica”) plays Jake Malloy, a federal attorney.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Lasalle's brother is back, under
less-than-ideal circumstances: He can't remember what happened last
night and his girlfriend's body is in the trunk of his car. Despite a
mountain of evidence, Lasalle (Lucas Black) scrambles to prove him
innocent.

“New Girl,” 9
p.m., Fox. Forever fumbling in romance, Jess somehow considers
herself to be a “love doctor.” She's not, but that propels a
fairly good episode involving Coach and his classy girlfriend.

“One Big Happy,”
9:30, NBC. Last week's episode ended in mid-crisis. The original
marriage was invalidated and Prudence reluctantly revealed secrets
... including a past marriage. Now Nick refuses to re-wed, as she
nears her deadline for leaving the country. It's a so-so episode, but
ends cleverly.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. An apartment fire is linked to a rape and attempted
murder ... and to a crime from a decade ago. That brings Det. Olivia
Benson from New York, launching a crossover. This reruns at 8 p.m.
Wednesday, leading into “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit.”

TV column for Monday, April 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

It's a big week for
“Stars,” with a double elimination and a return to two-a-week
episodes. This Tuesday brings a 10th-anniversary special;
next Tuesday has a results show..

Last week, the
oldest people hir bottom; Patti LaBelle was sent home, Robert
Herjavec survived. Riker Lynch and Noah Galloway were in the bottom
four, but Lynch put himself in good shape for this week by landing
the top judges' score, 37 out of 40. Nastia Liukin and Willow Shields
had 34 apiece, with 32 for Rumer Willis, 31 for Chris Soules, 29 for
Galloway and LaBelle and 28 for Herjavec.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Voice,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

Blake Shelton
remains in control, as usual. He's already had four of the seven
champions; now he has three of the eight finalists.

Adam Levine – the
only other multi-winner – is down to one .. and would have had
zero, if viewers hadn't saved Joshua Davis. Christina Aguilera and
Pharrell Williams have two apiece.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dick Cavett's Vietnam,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Wednesday marks the
40th anniversary of Americans' final, frantic departure
from Vietnam. Now PBS' marks that with a brilliant documentary
Tuesday and with this oddly interesting film.

Cavett describes
being “about as ignorant as you can get on world affairs,” but
his talk show waded into the subject. We see people for the war
(Barry Goldwater, Herb Klein, Henry Kissinger, Hubert Humphrey) and
against (from Groucho Marx and Woody Allen to then-Sen. Wayne Morse
and future-Sen. John Kerry). Perspective comes from historians and,
especially, retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

Other choices
include:

“The Driver”
finale, any time, www.acorn.tv.
The first two chapters (already on this screening service) saw David
Morrissey as a good-guy cabbie whose live was shattered after his son
joined a cult. Lured by an ex-con friend into driving for a crook, he
sank into trouble ... which was complicated when he anonymously
rescued someone his friend had battered. Now comes a strong,
emotional finish.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. Max and Caroline seek extra money managing Nash's
modeling career. Also, Sophie and Oleg attempt what may be, for them,
impossible -- a month of pre-wedding celibacy.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Emmy-winner Margo Martindale returns as
Peggy's long-estranged sister. Finally getting to meet his aunt, Mike
finds her warmth to be opposite his mom's approach.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. Jane must focus on the baby, after learning of its breech
position. Also, she asks her ex-fiance Michael to catch Petra in a
lie.

“The Draft,” 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Used sparingly during the Civil
War, the military draft became a powerful force during World War I
and again from 1940-73. This documentary launches PBS' two-night,
five-hour block timed to the 40th anniversary of the
Vietnam war's end.

“Tales of the Grim
Sleeper,” 9-10:45 p.m., HBO). Lonnie Franklin was a friendly,
chatty man, his Los Angeles neighbors say. He also dealt in stolen
cars ... was a convicted felon ... carried a gun ... and roughed up a
woman in public. He was arrested that time, but somehow his DNA was
never taken. Only when his arrested son produced a partial match was
he suspected of killing anywhere from 10 to 100-plus women; he now
awaits trial. This documentary is interesting, but oddly disjointed.

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. Rick and his daughter are flying to London when the air
marshal is found murdered. With Beckett's help from the ground, they
must solve this quickly.

TV column for Sunday, April 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Dramas, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

After taking a week
off for country-music awards, these shows return strongly. That
starts with a potent juxtaposition on “Madam Secretary”: A
nuclear treaty is being signed with Iran, just as its people are
killing a man for being gay ... and just as Elizabeth may help kill
her friend, who's now a fugitive.

At 9, “Good Wife”
sees Alicia resign because of voter fraud. And at 10, “Battle
Creek” sets aside its usual humor, instead telling a personal and
powerful story. Centering on the commander (Janet McTeer, a two-time
Oscar-nominee) and her adoptive son, it delivers twists, surprises
and deep emotion.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Radio Disney Music Awards, 8 and 9:30 p.m., Disney, with preview at 7:30.

Last Sunday had one
big awards show; tonight has two smaller ones for specialty
audiences.

Zendaya hosts this
teen/tween party and performs; Kelly Osbourne – who quit “Fashion
Police” after the show mocked Zendaya's dredlocks – is a
presenter and Jennifer Lopez gets a special award. Also performing:
Nick Jonas, Becky G, R5, Shawn Mendes, Sheppard, Tori Kelly, Sabrina
Carpenter, more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Daytime Emmys, 8 and 11 p.m., Pop.

Back in the days of
Susan Lucci and Oprah, this was a hot item. But soaps slipped (there
are only four left) and talk shows slowed; last year, no network
carried the awards.

Now the former TV
Guide Network steps in. Tyra Banks hosts, Betty White gets a special
award and CBS has more nominations (62) than ABC, NBC and Fox
combined. Non-daytime viewers will recognize some of the soap
nominees (Anthony Geary, Alison Sweeney and lots of guest stars),
plus the talk and gameshow hosts, including Martha Stewart, Steve
Harvey, Pat Sajak and Craig Ferguson.

Other choices
include:

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. After a five-week break, this returns
with a dandy sight gag. That sets up the problem: Jake (Andy Samberg)
tries to catch a crook with his body battered.

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. A week before the finale, Ben's discovery in
the attic adds to his tension with his wife .

“Nurse Jackie,”
9 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at 10:30. In a moving episode, Jackie has
a lowly hospital job and isn't allowed near the patients. That's hard
on her psyche, harder on the patients' health.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30, Fox. The world's known population has now expanded to
seven. In a funny episode, the newest arrival (Boris Kodjoe) makes
the other two guys justifiably jealous.

“Happyish”
debut, 9:30 p.m., Showtime, repeating at 10. On one level, this is a
clever satire of an empty corporate life. Getting in the way,
however, is a sophomoric obsession with crude language. Beavis,
Butt-Head and Bart (Simpson) would nominate this for show of the
year.

“American
Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. Almost killed by U.S.-hired mercenaries, an
American soldier (Anna Friel) tries to avoid execution by telling of
a flashdrive with vital information. Tonight – in an hour that's
sometimes well-crafted and sometimes overblown – there's a key
turning point.

“Queens of Drama”
debut, 10 p.m., Pop. Soaps are declining, but this cable channel
still wants some of the viewers. It reruns CBS' soaps from 6:30-8
p.m. weekdays. Now if follows the daytime Emmys with this reality
show; former soap stars -- Vanessa Marcil, Hunter Tylo, etc. -- try
to craft a new series.

And more: It's a big
night everywhere: On HBO, “Game of Thrones” (9 p.m.) ends with a
jolt; a fairly good “Silicon Valley” (10:02) leads to a hilarious
“Veep” (10:30). On PBS' “Masterpiece” hours, “Mr.
Selfridge” (9 p.m.) has the boss' son take over as deputy; then a
quietly potent “Wolf Hall” has doom for Thomas More and gloom for
Anne Boleyn. On NBC's “A.D.” (9), Pontius Pilate wants revenge.