TV column for Sunday, April 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Game of Thrones” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

If you get HBO, your
night is set, with the season-openers of “Thrones,” “Silicon
Valley” (10 p.m.) and “Veep” (10:30). If you don't ... well,
visit someone; kingdoms are wobbling, lives are changing.

While other
Lannisters try to rebuild their crumbling power, Tyrion (Peter
Dinklage, who's won two Emmys in the role) scrambles to rule the city
of Meereen. Two of the dragons are still there, but Daenerys – who
once ruled the city and all three dragons -- is now lost and in
danger. Meanwhile, the Wall is in peril, after the apparent death of
Jon Snow. Good people seem to die a lot here.

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

Next week wraps up
what has been a deep, dark season. It started with Sidney (the
village vicar) wrongly accused of an affair with a teen-ager; she
died after asking her friend Gary to induce a miscarriage. Later,
Geordie (Sidney's police pal) was shot and almost killed.

Now it's Geordie who
faces serious accusations, with Sidney scrambling to clear him. At
the same time, Sidney tries -- with the help of his long-time friend
(now married to someone else) -- to stop Gary's execution. It's as
emotional hour, lightened (slightly) by Sidney's assistant and by his
housekeeper.

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

This should be a
pleasant time for Alicia: She's hosting a party to celebrate the
upcoming marriage of Howard and Dorothty (played by Jerry Adler, 87,
and Mary Beth Pell, 76).

But tonight – two
weeks before the finale of a first-rate series – everything is
going wrong. Also, Peter – Dorothy's son, Alicia's husband – is
heading to another trial; Eli asks Jason to investigate him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Little Giant,” 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

The making of a bull
elephant faces steep barriers, this documentary says: Gestation is
almost two years, childhood is 13 years ... with a third of the
babies dying in the first year.

We see why in this
quietly involving film. In East Africa, a young male must keep up
with his matriarchal herd, in a marathon trek that confronts drought,
humans and some eager lions.

Other choices
include:

“Leverage,” 9
a.m. to 11 p.m., Ion. Each Sunday, Ion has a marathon of this
smart-but-overlooked series. Today starts with the team infiltrating
a car-theft ring; it ends with a valuable potato. Really.

“The Simpsons,”
7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun in which Bart savors – for a
while – the notion that he's a sociopath. Then a new episode finds
the mismatched Simpson and Flanders families taking a trip to the
Grand Canyon; a crisis ensues.

“Madame
Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. Some truly strange twists have seen
Elizabeth's college-prof husband (Tim Daly) involved in heavy-duty
spy stuff. Now he's dispatched – along with his CIA boss (Jill
Hennessy) and a colleague (Carlos Gomez) -- to get the world's most
wanted terrorist.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. Brilliantly crafted through each perverse twist, this
reaches a precarious point. Claire, running for govrnor, now realizes
that her cherub-faced daughter Bella is the ultimate schemer, even
training Ben to pose as her brother Adam. Now Claire prepares for her
debate. This pseudo-Adam is eyed by Claire during his latenight walks
and by Nina the cop at his therapy session. “Last Man on Earth,”
9:30 p.m., Fox. This odd (and sometimes funny) episode faces the
latest crisis: With Tandy apparently sterile, someone else must
volunteer to impregnate Carol, in order to continue the human
species. Meanwhile, Gail keeps drinking and there's a fresh twist in
the final minute.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. John Noble – who has been superb as a “Fringe” star
and a “Sleepy Hollow” co-star – returns to his role as
Sherlock's dad, Morland. This time, it's perilous: When his employee
is killed, Morland becomes his son's prime murder suspect.

TV column for Saturday, April 23


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Monsters University” (2013), 8 p.m., ABC.

From Batman and
Superman to Captain Kirk or the Muppets, our heroes seem to get
prequels. So Mike Wazowski and Sullivan – heroes of the 2001
“Monsters, Inc.” -- deserved this one.

Sulley (John
Goodman), the son of a famous monster, is a big man on campus; Mike
(Billy Crystal) is a newcomer with a problem – he's just not scary.
A friendship and an animated hit emerges.

TODAY'S MIGHT-SEE:
More animation, Freeform.

This is a golden age
for animated movies – well-written ones that appeal to most kids
and some adults. So now ABC has one movie and Freeform (formerly ABC
Family) has four more.

“Cars 2” (2011),
likable despite a lame spy plot, starts this at 4:15 p.m.;
“Despicable Me” (2010), which launched all those minions, is at
7. The fun “Incredibles” (2004), is at 9 and “Wall-E” (2009)
is at 11:45. All four films resurface on Sunday, each two hours
earlier.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Unlikely Animal Friends” return, 8 p.m., NatGeo
Wild.

It's tough to be the
new kid on the block or the new critter at the zoo. At Cincinnati's
zoo, however, Blakely is a personal welcome wagon. He's an Australian
shepherd who becomes a short-term friend to newcomers; his friends
have ranged from foxes and an ocelot to a warthog and a wallaby.

That's one of many
charming, low-key tales of inter-species interaction. A lion and a
tiger nuzzle; a tree kangaroo climbs in the woods by day and on its
owner's back at night. Cats – who seem to be good at this –
befriend a pot-bellied pig and a Flemish giant rabbit.

Other choices
include:

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 12:30 p.m., USA. Here is Steven Spielberg's
superb adventure, followed by its sequels – the fairly good “Temple
of Doom” (1984) at 3:01 p.m., the delightful “Lost Crusade”
(5:35 p.m.) and the merely OK “Crystal Skull” (2008) at 8:22 p.m.

More movies, 7 p.m.
and beyond, cable. There are two great, Oscar-winning performances
tonight – George C. Scott in “Patton” (1970), at 7 p.m. on
Sundance; and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” (1968), at 8 p.m.
ET on Turner Classic Movies. At 7:30, Pop has Aaron Sorkin's clever
“American President” (1995). At 8 are adventures -- “Jurassic
World” (2015) on HBO, “The Fugitive” (1993) on IFC and
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (2011) on FX.

“American Grit,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Here are quick reruns of the first two hours, both
similar. After an interesting start, they close out with a sort of
torture, pushing people near the point of collapse. In one episode, a
person does collapse, in what's way too close to being snuff-TV.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last Saturday, CBS caught many people by
surprise, pulling its movie (“Hear My Song”) and replacing it
with reruns. This time, the rerun is expected: The team searches for
a teen girl who is missing and may have been recruited by terrorists.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. In 18th-century
Paris, Jamie is busy with political moves and Claire, using her 1948
nursing skills, is considered a gifted healer.

“Amy Schumer:
Mostly Sex Stuff,” 9:58 p.m. and midnight, Comedy Central. Two days
after launching the fourth season of her sketch show, Comedy Central
reruns a Schumer stand-up special.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. On the eve of his “Game of Thrones”
season-opener, “SNL” reruns the episode with Peter Dinklage
hosting. Gwen Stefani is the music guest.

TV column for Thurday, April 21 (slightly out of order)


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Inside Amy Schumer” season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

This has had three
previous seaons, but now Schumer is a full-scale movie star. The
opener is erratic, as usual – the unscripted sex chats are so-so, a
fake commercial goes overboard – but has great moments.

Schumer does a
variation on the “most interesting man” commercials. And pitches
Lin-Manuel Miranda (the “Hamilton” creator and star) an awful
version of a hip-hop Betsy Ross musical. And – adding some sharp
satire – sees her medical care taken over by an all-male
Congressional committee.

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

In the “Mom”
world, big laughs and deep emotions co-exist. That's especially true
tonight, in one of the best episodes of one of TV's best shows.

Bonnie (Allison Janney) is giddy about her new lover (William
Fichtner) ... who doesn't get her obsession with Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings; he will. Her daughter Christy fumes about the arrival of
Travis, who was the boyfriend of the late Jodi. He's the one who
bought drugs, then fled before the ambulance arrived.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Back to the Future” trilogy, 6 p.m. (1985), 8:30
(1989) and 11 (1990), AMC; and/or “Time Traveling Bong,” 10:30
p.m., Comedy Central.

Time-travel can take
all forms, from the dead-serious “Terminator,” “12 Monkeys”
and “Time After Time” to the sheer fun of these two. “Future”
is the all-time best, with a great original film and two fairly good
sequels. “Bong” is loose and loopy, but finds some big laughs.

In Wednesday's
opener, two cousins (Ilena Glazer and Paul Downs, both of “Broad
City”) puffed their way to Salem and to dinosaur days. Now they
visit cavemen, slavery and Michael Jackson's childhood. The result a
little lame (and a bit crude) at first, but gets much funnier on
Michael's turf.

Other choices
include:

“Pride &
Prejudice” (2005), 6:30 and 9:40 p.m., Oxygen; or “Some Like It
Hot” (1959), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here are two more
great movies. “Pride” remakes a classic brilliantly, thanks to
the visual touch of director Joe Wright. “Hot” is a
black-and-white gem: The American Film Institute put it at No. 22 on
the list of best American movies ... and at No. 1 in the list of
funniest movies.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. The show returned last week with Hodgins showing some zest ...
until word came that his paralysis seems non-reversible. Now he
fumes, in a way that is believable but terribly repetitious. There
are also some stabs at humor, plus a so-so case about the death of an
anti-feminist.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Three days before the “Game of Thrones”
season-opener, we see the gang watching the show at a viewing party.
That's when a Sheldon-Leonard dispute explodes.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This comedy tends to be quick, slick, funny ... and
overlooked. Tonight, Oscar dates the young nanny of his neighbor
Charlotte (Teri Hatcher); Emily insists that she and Felix finally do
something that she prefers.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Flashbacks show more about how Jake joined the bad guys.
Meanwhile, Olivia finally learns of his plan ... but it's already in
motion and she must hurry,

“American Grit,”
9 p.m., Fox. The problem with this reality show – alongside all the
macho speeches – is basic: The racing is fun, but the rest is
merely torture, seeing who will collapse first. That becomes brutally
obvious during the final minutes here, complete with an ice-water
immersion ordeal.

“Game of Silence,”
10 p.m., NBC. There's some solid drama, as three men investigate the
warden, guards and inmates who brutalized their boyhood. The show's
lone weakness is Gil, a character who is wildly overwrought. He
dominates this hour, re-visiting a former guard who's given key
testimony.

TV column for Friday, April 22


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hell's Kitchen,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week's episode
(rerunning at 8 p.m.) brought a surprise, with Gordon Ramsay dumping
two people instead of one. Departing were Jared Bobkin (the only
remaining guy) and Manda Palomino.

That leaves Ashley
Nickell, 27, of Orlando; Kristin Barone, 27, of Chicago; and Ariel
Malone, 26, of Hackensack, NJ. Tonight, they try some 40-minute
speed-cooking, then take turns working the hot plate for dinner
service. Afterward, Ramsay will decide which two are in next week's
finale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Dr. Ken,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.

In real life, Ken
Jeong's switch went smoothly: Fresh from his medical degree, he
started doing stand-up comedy during his residency in New Orleans. He
won a contest there and soon was full-time funny.

That doesn't make
good fiction, though, so now we get a variation: Dr. Ken's college
buddy (played by Jeff Ross) is a stand-up and urges him to give it a
try. In proper sitcom style, it doesn't go well.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mission Critical: Orangutan on the Edge,” 9 p.m.,
NatGeo Wild.

This is Earth Day,
which people take seriously. Disney usually opens a big-screen nature
film – this year's is being delayed until 2017 -- and NatGeo Wild
fills the night with specials.

Its reruns deal with
cougars (7 p.m.), leopards (8 and 11 p.m.) and the elephants that
survived Mozambique warfare (10 p.m.). And this new hour follows
biologist Tim Laman and his wife, Cheryl Knott, as he photographs
rain-forest orangutans. There are some rare views from a treetop
camera; also, there's an involving chance to follow one orangutan
female through tragedy and romance.

Other choices
include:

“Thunderbirds Are
Go,” any time, Amazon. Back in the 1960s, some kids were wowed by
the science-fiction action delivered by “Thunderbirds”
marionettes. This new version – following a rescue team in 2060 –
switches to computer animation and seems ... well, adequate.

“The Amazing
Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. For the second time, Cole LaBrant – known for
his six-second comedy videos on Vine – finished in last place with
his mother Shari ... and for the second time, they found it was a
non-elimination round. Now the six duos continue, with Frisbee stars
Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson in first place.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Wrapping up its season a month early (as
does “Dr. Ken”), this has Mike (Tim Allen) getting a surprise
party to celebrate his 25th anniversary working at Outdoor
Man.

“Wreck-It Ralph”
(2012), 8-10 p.m., Disney. This cleverly written animated film – a
videogame bad-guy tries to change -- leads a night filled with
entertaining films. Also at 8 are “The Help” (2011) on CMT,
“Avatar” (2009) on FX and Eddie Murphy's triumphant “Beverly
Hills Cop” (1984) on IFC.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. New kinds of monsters keep finding Portland. This one seems to
liquify and remove all its prey's bones.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A chemical spill helps six inmates – including Kono's
husband Adam – escape.

“Time Traveling
Bong,” 9:30-11 p.m., Comedy Central. If you missed the first two
parts, catch them at 9:30 and10. The first – with a close call in
old Salem – is quite funny; the second starts poorly (in caveman
days), then gets better. Then fhe finale debuts at 10:30, leaping
from old Greece to the future, ruled by a company a lot like
Monsanto. There's a sharp ending to a goofy-but-fun tale.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, there are rumors of a
terrorist attack on New York. Frank (Tom Selleck) puts his police
force on high alert.

TV column for Wednesday, April 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Skin Wars” debut, 10 p.m., Game Show Network.

These contestants
vary widely. They come from Mexico, Colombia, Australia ... and
distant chunks of the U.S. One grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm;
another is from Georgia, where his mom dubbed him “Black Jesus.”
One is from Brooklyn and rarely shows her work to her Orthodox Jewish
family.

The work, after all,
involves painting directly onto near-naked bodies, The artists –
including two professional clowns and an industrial painter – do it
brilliantly. “Skin Wars” copies familiar formats, but stands out
because of a sharp, witty judge (RuPaul Charles) and remarkably
gifted contestants.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week, we saw
Lucious shoot a deeply personal video, focusing on growing up with a
troubled mother. That brought sympathy from some people ... and rage
from his son: Knowing his mother was bipolar, Lucious never told or
helped Andre, who struggles with the same affliction.

Now Andre tries to
learn more. Lucious releases the video and tries to maneuver back
into control of his company ... now led by his youngest son Hakeem,
who is in charge at a key shareholders' meeting.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Time Traveling Bong” debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy
Central.

If you use a
time-travel device, it's best to have one that controls when and
where you go. In dinosaur times, you might get stomped; in old Salem,
you might get burned .

That's something
Sharee and her cousin Jeff learn, in the start of a goofy and funny
mini-series for grown-ups. It was written by “Broad City” star
Ilana Glazer and by Paul Downs and Lucy Aniello, a co-star and
director of that show. Here, Glazer and Downs star, Aniello directs
and there's silly fun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “There Goes the Motherhood” debut, 10 p.m.,
Bravo.

At first, this is a
crisp view of opposite parents. One woman has a free-spirit style;
another locks the kids' doors from the outside. One divorcee feels
shattered; another, with four kids and a former $60,000-a-month life,
exudes optimism ... and looks great in a yellow bikini. These are
interesting people; one had a girl-group and a TV show (both with
Fergie) and married a top record executive.

Then the show goes
to Bravo's mainstay – an arbitrary party, an absurd feud. One woman
says another called her fat (she didn't) and grumbles; others offer
flimsy complaints. A strong start soon fizzles.

Other choices
include:

“Jurassic Park”
(1993), 7 and 10 p.m., AMC, or “E.T,” (1982), 8-10 p.m.,
Showtime. Here are two Steven Spielberg gems – one scary, one warm,
both brilliantly crafted. They lead a night of classics, each worth
recording -- “Die Hard” (1988) at 7 p.m. on Sundance, “Ghost”
(1990) at 7:30 on Oxygen, “Dr. No” (1962), at 8 and 10:30 p.m. ET
on BBC America.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, Debbie Wanner (a chemist) was ousted. That
leaves only two people from the original “brains” tribe, with
three apiece from “brawn” and “beauty.”

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. While probing the murder of a telenovela star, Dr.
Rosewood and Det. Annalise Villa also have personal crises. She's
re-connecting with her mom (played by Lisa Vidal of “The
Division”); he agonizes when someone has stolen his gorgeous
convertible.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This rerun finds a tough parenting week for Phil and
Claire: Luke is arrested for driving without a license; Alex is seen
leaving a liquor store.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Thomas Rhett sings “Die a Hapy Man” tonight ... but
don't expect to see happy people. Rayna and Deacon agonize when
Maddie runs away ... Juliette fumes over the link between her
estranged husband Avery and Layla. And Luke must replace Riff, who's
missing.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Slow and somber, this is the hour we knew was
inevitable. It's been fun to see the schemes of Philip and Elizabeth,
Russian spies embedded deep in 1980's America. He convinced Martha,
an FBI secretary, that he's Clark, a U.S. agent investigating her
bosses; he even married her, sort of. But now the FBI is suspicious
and he needs drastic action. This hour is painfully slow and slowly
painful ... but the final scene will bring us back next week.