TV column for Thursday, May 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grey's Anatomy” and “Station 19” season-finales. 8 and 9
p.m., ABC.

The TV season
officially ends Wednesday, so lots of shows are wrapping up,
including these two: One finishes its 14th season; the
other its first.

“Grey's Anatomy”
will tie “ER” next season, becoming roughly the fifth-longest
drama series ever, It's stingy about tonight's plot details;
“Station 19” isn't. The final interviews are here, to choose a
new station chief; Andy hopes for the job, which her dad held. Then a
massive skyscraper fire changes everything. Also, Ben (Jason George)
– formerly a “Grey's” surgeon – passes a rookie milestone.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Gotham” season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox.

Fans will have to
savor this one for a long time. Fox says “Gotham” won't be back
until mid-season – football will consume its Thursdays next fall –
and that will be the final season.

Lately, Gotham City
has been consumed by crime and chaos. Now Detective Gordon is warned
that more destruction is coming; he faces a potentially devastating
decision. Meanwhile, Barbara Kean rallies her underworld forces and
young Bruce Wayne hits a turning point.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Life in Pieces” season-finale, 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

CBS' other Thursday
comedies ended last week, so now “Pieces” gets an hour to itself.
Jen and Greg get some surprising news in the first half-hour, then
struggle to keep it secret in the second.

Colleen and Matt
send a video thank-you that seems to please no one; also, they have
an awkward situation with their surrogate. And young Samantha? In the
first episode, she wants a second piercing in her ear; in the second,
her parents plan a surprise birthday party which, of course, goes
badly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance,” 6-8 p.m.,
Lifetime.

We really didn't
expect to like this movie. Lifetime's “William & Kate” film
was a tad dull ... possibly because the real-life people are dull.
This one, however, is mostly a pleasure; if the real-life Prince
Harry and Meghan Markle are half this interesting, we like them both.

Ignore the first
flashback scenes. From the moment these two meet, they're a delight.
Markle seems bright, funny and strident; Harry is an interesting
blend of sensitive and fun-loving. Parisa Fitz-Henley (“Midnight,
Texas”) and newcomer Murray Fraser make them people worth spending
time with.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon was already bitter when he wanted the
“Professor Proton” hosting job and it went to Wil Wheaton. In
this rerun, he wants a guest spot on the show ... and that goes to
Amy.

“Supernatural”
season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. An impulsive decision could alter life for
one of the brothers.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m.,
CW. With a new ally, Oliver has what CW calls an epic final battle
with Diaz.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. On May 30, a new summer edition will
start on Wednesdays. First, however, there are a couple specials,
This one is an “all-star” edition with Allyssa Beird, Jessie
Graff, Jesse Labreck, Flip Rodriguez and “Cowboy Ninja” Lance
Pekus.

“SWAT”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”) is back
as Street's mom, now out on parole and endangering his career. Also,
the team races to prevent terrorist bombings.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. Here's one show that will continue into the summer,
sparing us some rerun overload. Tonight, an emir has been
assassinated and team members are hired to protect a prince. They
soon realize the killer is closer than they'd thought.

TV column for Wednesday, May 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Modern Family” season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

ABC's entire
Wednesday line-up – a good one -- ends its season. The night
generally starts and ends well (with “The Goldbergs” and
“Designated Survivor”); in-between are two OK comedies and one
terrific one. That's “Modern Family,” winner of five Emmys for
best comedy series.

Tonight, it has
large-scale set-ups: Phil sneaks off to “Hero-Con,” dressed as
his favorite character ... and then commits the ultimate fan faux
pas. Gloria throws an epic-scale dinosaur party for young Joe ...
only to have her nemesis – Dr. Donna Duncan (Jane Krakowski) –
throw a bigger party next door.

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

When “Empire”
focuses on music or family, it's terrific; when it turns to business
schemes, it gets tangled up. Tonight is business, occasionally dull
and often defying credibility.

Eddie (Forest
Whitaker) is scheming to take control of the record label and sell it
to a tech guy; Lucious and Cookie have a counter-scheme – a
high-tech rent party – that looks way too easy here. There are
plenty of complications; the music, however, is good.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW.

Last week brought
fierce jolts: Hiram Lodge (Veronica's dad) had manipulated a gang war
to tear the South Side apart. To prevent it, Jughead surrendered
himself to be beaten by the enemy. As the hour ended, his dad was
carrying his maybe-lifeless body.

Is Jug dead? We find
out tonight. We also learn who's elected student-body president and
mayor; and we see Betty battered by guilt about her family's
homicidal past. Much of this hits soap-opera extremes, including one
bizarrely random kiss. Still, “Riverdale” has characters we can't
stop rooting for.

Other choices
include:

“Thee Blacklist”
season-finale, 8 p.m., NBC. One key question has lingered: Whose
bones are in that duffel bag? Red and Liz have been scrambling to
find out; today, NBC promises, viewers will know.

“The Goldbergs”
season-finale, 8 p.m., ABC. Rejected by Lainey for the prom, Barry
plans a mega-prank. And when Erica announces her college plans, her
furious dad makes her pay for rent and food.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. A week from the season-finale, relationships are still tangled.
Jahil (Benjamin Bratt) explores his pas love for Carlotta (Queen
Latifah) ... Simone and Angel consider fleeing, after getting a
discouraging letter about immigration ... And Alex ditches Noah at an
important event.

“Nova Wonders,”
9 p.m., PBS. Two of our favorite things – computers and brains –
are compared in this fascinating hour. Some computers master one
skill – from chess to driving to voice recognition – beautifully;
brains master many things, with a fraction of the energy. The hour
also profiles Rana el Kaliouby, an Egyptian-born computer whiz who
doubles as a likable co-host for ths show.

“Designated
Survivor” season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC. The president has enough
trouble dealing with the hacker and the Congressional investigation.
Then a natural disaster threatens the lives of two staffers.

“Inside the Royal
Wedding,” 10 p.m., NBC. Other networks have already had their
specials, often focusing on the bride. Now Savannah Guthrie and Hoda
Kotb focus on the wedding. They talk to people who will be there ...
who worked other mega-events ... or who are experts in fashion and
such.

“SEAL Team,” 10
p.m., CBS. Jason (David Boreanaz) hides the severity of his
concussion, so he can lead a final mission to avenge Echo Team's
deaths.

TV column for Tuesday, May 15


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

Many of us doubted
this notion of reviving a show that has been gone for 20 years. ABC
only took eight episodes, tossed into the last gasps of the season.
Then, instantly, “Roseanne” soared.

This episode shows
why. An almost-perfect half-hour (except for some oafish moments for
Jackie), it leaps nimbly from broad comedy to sharp one-liners and
some moments of solid drama. Most shows have no feeling for
blue-collar, modest-income life; in this episode, all those details –
health benefits, co-pays, waitress jobs – are crucial. They lead to
some revealing moments ... and to some big laughs.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “New Girl” series finale, 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

A terrific series
ends just the way it should – often weirdly funny, occasionally
just weird.

The first half-hour
starts with the world's worst wedding toast and ends with one of the
world's worst baby names. In between are a wedding curse and a mom
(Jamie Lee Curtis) who assures Jess: “You'll get it right next
time.” The second episode has lots of strange things about moving
out of the loft. It has sharp lines -- “You know who else liked
balconies? Hitler” -- a flashforward and a truly odd twist.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rise” season-finale, 9:01 p.m., NBC.

Everything has
pointed to this moment: In a hard-scrabble town, a high school opens
the gritty musical, “Spring Awakening.” Along the way, we've seen
deep personal troubles for the actors and their families. The
directors had a big fight; the principal demanded sharp cuts in the
play.

At times, this has
seemed wildly unlikely. Still, there's a subtle brilliance to the
dialog, the directing and the acting. This finale leaves us with
mixed emotions, but with respect for a great craftsmanship.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Attending a memorial service for a friend lost at sea, Gibbs has
key questions: Was there foul play? And is the guy really dead?

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. On Monday, the final eight contestants sang and viewers
voted. Tonight, the top three will advance to next week's finale and
the bottom two will be ousted. Then the three who are in-between will
compete for the remaining spot in the final four.

“Cinderella,” 8
p.m., TNT. Kenneth Branagh, not usually a fairy-tale guy, directed
this gorgeous film. There are other good 8 p.m. movies -- “The
Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) on AMC, “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011) on
CMT – but HBO's “Snatched” is only so-so, despite Amy Schumer
and Goldie Hawn.

“The Middle,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. A week from the finale of a terrific, nine-year
series, Frankie is desperate to keep everyone together. She tries to
convince Axl not to take a job in Denver.

“Black-ish”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC. This show startled viewers by having the
parents separate. Tonight, Dre has a sleek dream-house in the canyon,
but Bow things it's a bad place for the kids to visit.

“NCIS: New
Orleans” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. Like many TV heroes,
Pride (Scott Bakula) bends the rules; unlike most, he faces a grand
jury indictment for abuse of power. Now he assembles a team that
includes a hacker (Tom Arnold), a lawyer, a journalist and a retired
Green Beret.

“Chicago Med”
season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC. Well, at least no one can be accused of
overacting. An absurd number of huge events are packed into this
hour, many of them involving people the doctors already know. The
characters seem not just stoic, but almost unaware. While
experiencing a cascade of tragedy and triumph, pretty people reveal
little urge to emote.

TV column for Monday, May 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Superior Donuts” season-finale, 9 p.m., CBS.

For two seasons,
“Donuts” has had a precarious balance – smart dialog from its
lead characters, alongside buffoonish behavior from the others. A
sampling shows that will continue tonight.

No one seems happy
that Franco will spend the summer in Italy, studying art with his
girlfriend Tavi. Arthur frets about hiring a summer sub ... Sofia
regrets not expressing her own feelings for Franco ... and everyone
feels Tavi's all wrong for him. Then a crisis causes people to
rethink their lives.

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

A week from the
final performance, Blake Shelton is in good shape again.

In the first 13
editions, Shelton has had six winners, Adam Levine has had three, no
one else has had more than one. Now we're down to the final eight
singers – three with Shelton, two apiece with Alicia Keys and Kelly
Clarkson and (uncharacteristically) only one with Levine. Tonight,
they sing and viewers vote. On Tuesday, we'll learn who will be in
the final four next Monday and Tuesday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Royal Wedding Watch,” 10 p.m., PBS.

On one hand, PBS
doesn't usually pay much attention to weddings; on the other, it pays
A LOT of attention to all things British. So now it has new hours at
10 p.m. through Thursday and 10:30 Friday.

Meredith Vieira
joins British co-host Matt Baker in London, with Anita Rani in
Windsor, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are scheduled to have
their ceremony at 7 a.m. ET Saturday. The hosts will talk to experts,
including Lucy Worsley, the chief curator for rhe royal palaces.

Other choices
include:

“The Hunger Games”
(2012) and its sequel (2013), 5 and 8 p.m., TNT. Here's a night of
big-deal adventure. Other top movies are “Forrest Gump” (1994) at
7:45 on Freeform and “Steel Magnolias” (1989) at 8 p.m. on Pop.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Fresh from its hilarious
season-finale Thursday, “Big Bang” brightens Monday with two
reruns. The first mixes people, getting fresh results when Sheldon
bonds with Penny and Leonard with Amy. The second throws Raj into a
dangerous triangle, with Beth Behrs (“2 Broke Girls”) as his
lover and Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as her unhappy husband.

“Lucifer”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. A sudden death leaves people in shock,
while the try to find the killer. Then, Fox says, Lucifer has an
ephiphany and Maze tries to mend a friendship.

“Harry and Meghan:
A Royal Romance,” 8-10:06 p.m., Lifetime. Here's a quick rerun of
Sunday's movie, adding some behind-the-scenes footage with stars
Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley. It's followed by reruns of a
documentary (10:06 p.m.) and the movie (11:02).

“The Resident”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox. When Nic (Emily VanCamp) tried to catch
the misdeeds of Dr. Hunter (Melina Kanakaredes), the doctor
retaliated by sabotaging Nic's work. In a desperate attempt to help,
Conrad needs a favor from someone he promised never to ask.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. People really aren't supposed to be killed during
Revolutionary War re-enactments, you know. When someone is, Holmes
and Watson investigate.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. For six seasons on “The
Americans,” Keri Russell has played a lethal Soviet spy, embedded
in 1980s America. Now, as the show nears its finale, she tries
another challenge – tackling volcanic rocks and a mysterious canyon
on the Canary Islands. Meals – crickets, plus undigested seeds from
a pigeon carcass – aren't up to Hollywood standards.

 

TV column for Sunday, May 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Little Women,” 8 p.m., PBS; concludes next Sunday.

Some 150 years after
she was created, Jo March still grabs viewers and compels actresses.
She's been played by Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson and Winona Ryder
in movies, Susan Dey on TV, Sutton Foster in a Broadway musical. Now
Maya Hawke – in her first film role – is perfect.

There are top pros –
Angela Lansbury, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, Dylan Baker – in
support, but this is about the sisters, especially Jo. At 15, she
tries to follow society's rules ... yet somehow soars above them.
It's a great role that Hawke – daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan
Hawke – masters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Timeless” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

After her heroics
with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman became a scout and a
spy for the Union during the Civil War. Now the time-travelers swoop
in to help her.

The evil Rittenhouse
team promptly strikes back. In the second episode, Jiha – the
engineer who helped create the time machine – has been captured.
She escapes, but finds herself helpless in San Francisco's Chinatown
in 1888. Her colleagues try to save her.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Mother's day shows.

The surprise is
“Good Witch,” at 9 p.m. on Hallmark. This Mother's Day episode is
all about fathers. A bad dad visits Abigail, decades after leaving
her. A future dad frets that he won't be worthy. And a future stepdad
has a fine moment. It's a so-so hour, but does have some warmth.

If you prefer
something about mothers, Pop has “Stepmom” (1998) at 7 p.m. and
“Steel Magnolias” (1989) at 10. Turner Classic Movies has
“Sounder” (1972) at 3:30 p.m. ET, “I Remember Mama” (1948) at
5:30, “Mildred Pierce” (1945) at 8 and “Stella Dallas” (1937)
at 10:30.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Unforgotten” finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS.

The first two
episodes introduced four good people – a teacher, a nurse, a
lawyer, a cop – linked to a bad thing: One of them murdered an
abusive jerk, a generation ago.

Now we learn who did
it. This isn't original; it borrows key ideas from great mysteries in
the past. It is, however, beautifully written and subtly played,
providing a compelling finish.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers,”
7, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. It's a three-episode night, with only the
first one a rerun. The third is a Mother's Day tale, enmeshing the
family in a real-estate scheme.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The final five perform and viewers vote. Next Sunday,
the two-night finale will begin.

“Harry &
Meghan: A Royal Romance,” 8-10:22 p.m., Lifetime. Six days before
the royal wedding, Prince Harry is played by newcomer Murray Fraser.
Meghan Markle is Parisa Fitz-Henley, a Jamaican-born actress who was
Reva on “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones” and Fiji in
“Midnight, Texas.”

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The victim in a federal-prison murder was
the adopted daughter of a notorious counterfeiter. The team
investigates.

“Million Dollar
American Princesses,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian; also 11:15. This show
has had fascinating looks at Americans who married royally. Now it
profiles Markle and adds historical perspective.

“The Royals”
season-finale, 10 p.m., E. Things look iffy for King Robert: Willow,
his bride-to-be, has doubts ...; Others are planning a coup .... And
his mom has a hair-yanking fight with Willow's mom.