TV column for Thursday, April 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Scandal” finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

No TV series – at
least, none in prime time – has taken viewers on so many wild
rides. People were killed, a presidential election was rigged, lovers
became enemies, heroes became deeply suspect.

At the core has been
Olivia, once merely a “fixer” (Michael Cohen style) and then at
the core of power. She's the chief of staff for President Mellie
Grant and even briefly ran B613, the brutal, secret unit that's been
run by her father, Rowan, and ex-lover, Jake. Last week, Olivia
finally exposed B613. Now come the congressional hearings, with
everyone – including Olivia's ex-colleagues and the president.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Roseanne,” all day, cable.

The “Roseanne”
revival – filled with sharply funny moments – has caused a rush
to the past. Next Tuesday, ABC will rerun the reboot's first four
episodes; meanwhile, cable grabs the originals.

They're weekdays on
TV Land (4:30-5:30 a.m.) and CMT (10 a.m. to noon). And on Wednesday,
the Paramount Network started rerunning them in order, from 4-6 p.m.
weekdays. Today has a bonus, with the fifth episode – focusing on
George Clooney – at 3:30. And when these finish today, switch to
Lifetime. It has “Roseanne's Nuts,” the 2011 reality show, from
6-10:02 p.m. and 11:02 p.m. to 2 a,.m,

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Yes, we should
celebrate the return of great old comedies -- “Will & Grace”
(with a rerun at 9 p.m. today on NBC) and “Roseanne” (seemingly
everywhere, all the time).

But let's also savor
TV's best current comedy. Like those two, “Big Bang” has sharp
dialog, before a studio audience, by gifted actors (including Johnny
Galecki, who was great in Tuesday's “Roseanne”). Tonight, writer
Neil Gaiman brings a sudden boom to Stuart's sagging comic-book
store. Also, Penny makes an astronomy discovery, but Raj takes
credit, causing longtime friendships to wobble.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. On the night “Scandal” leaves, there are other
Shonda Rhimes productions to savor. Tonight's twists range from
serious – Jo must step in for Bailey and Meredith in the middle of
major surgery – to goofy: In a plot twist used by many shows (most
recently “Mom”), Arizona shares cookies provided by a patient ...
but is unaware of their ingredients.

“A.P. Bio,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. A funny sub-plot – every teacher trying to impress the
visiting superintendent – partly obscures the unfunny cruelty of
the show's main character.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Marjorie has always been the steady force here, but now she has
a meltdown in a store. Soon, Christy is considering getting someone
else – played by Yvette Nicole Brown of “Community” and “The
Mayor” -- to be her sponsor.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. Here's another Shonda show: Andy and Jack each want the
captain's job held by her father until his health trouble. They've
been sharing the interim job, but now must compete in a drill test
with 18 other candidates. While they're away, Travis is in charge of
the station.

“Howards End,” 9
and 10 p.m., Starz. Here are reruns of the first two episodes of this
four-Sunday miniseries. They're fairly good, while establishing the
people and the parameters of 1910 England; the next two are terrific,
with deeply nuanced characters.

“Champions,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. In a fairly good plotline, Michael insists on meeting
his paternal grandmother. In a lame one, he's in charge of spiffing
up the gym's web site.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. After a fire at a drug cartel's property, money is
missing.

TV column for Wednesday, April 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Riverdale,” 8 p.m., CW.

In the midst of a
dark series, filled with betrayal and despair, it's time for ...
well, the high school musical. Really. Fortunately, this one is
“Carrie,” a dark tale of teen vengeance.

Kevin, the director,
goes with typecasting. Veronica plays the mean girl, Betty the nice
one, Cheryl the vengeful one, Archie the great friend; that matches
real life ... or did, until the show started inexplicably having
Archie go bad. The songs are blended into the hour, via rehearsals
and the show. The result? Musically, it's first rate, with talented
young performers; storywise, it remains a rather shrill soap opera.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Originals” (9 p.m. CW) and “Krypton” (10 p.m., Syfy).

This is a great time
for fantasy fans, with filmmakers able to deliver stunning scenes.
“Krypton” continues to deliver epic visuals, even when the
stories (including tonight's) are quite brutal.

And “The
Originals” opens its season with its own visual splendor and
personal pain. Klaus is causing chaos in Paris (where his brother
Elijah is a piano player with no memories). Hayley is in New Orleans
where (jumping ahead in time), there's been seven years of peace.
Their teen daughter –a terrific addition to the show – is in
boarding school. Soon, the peace is broken and the drama starts to
build.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV: Bill Nye, Science Guy,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Nye has shown a
knack for re-invention. An engineering grad from Cornell, he became
the science guy on daytime TV, with a goofy sense of humor. A
kid-show star, he turned to serious debates and now argues
passionately that an “anti-science” bias has crippled our war on
climate change.

There have been
detours. This interesting documentary points to Nye's fear of ataxia
(an ailment that struck the rest of his family, but spared him) ...
his “trust issues” ... and his desire for the spotlight. When Nye
agreed to debate a creationist, the tape helped fuel the man's
massive fundraising burst.

Other choices
include:

“Lord of the
Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), 6:59 to 10:23 p.m., Starz.
It's a night for great movies. There's this Oscar-winner plus (8 p.m.
ET on Turner Classic Movies) “Casablanca” (1942) – which is No.
3 (behind “Citizen Kane” and “Godfather”) on the American
Film Institute's all-time list.

“Nova,” 8-10
p.m., PBS. Leading up to Earth Day on Sunday, PBS has shows for kids
– daily “Cyberchase” episodes -- and grown-ups. “Nova”
follows scientists' efforts to grasp weather details.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Even after last week's heart attack, Cookie refuses to
slow down. It's a busy time for everyone, as Lucious and Andre try to
upend Eddie's scheme to take over the company.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. For Take 3 -- three young women with talent and determination –
things are never easy. Now they're battling Noah Brooks for a coveted
track from a hot producer; also, Alex (of Take 3) and Noah revisit
their time together. And Carlotta re-opens her salon after a fire
nearly destroyed it.

“Criminal Minds”
season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m.,, CBS. After two hours tonight, things
still won't be settled. There's a cliffhanger, CBS says, to be
settled in the 14th season. Before that, someone is
targets part of people's brains; also, a former FBI agent has a story
that puts his credibility in doubt.

“Modern Family, 9
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Shorty is visiting from Costa Rica. He ends up
paying more attention to Gloria than he does to his friend Jay.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. In this fictional White House, the hacking
is getting more serious: Now a therapist's private tape have been
leaked, raising doubts about the president's fitness. That launches a
five-week stay for Michael J. Fox, in a story that quickly defies
credibility

TV column for Tuesday, April 17


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

This is exactly how
to revive a long-vanished show: Keep everything that worked the first
time ... but find ways to freshen it. Tonight's opening moments are
pure “Roseanne,” with a brash (and very much illegal) revolt
against self-checkouts. Then come the new touches.

We meet the mother
of Roseanne and Jackie – played by Estelle Parsons, 90, who won her
Oscar (for “Bonnie and Clyde”) a half-century ago. Then it's
Darlene's husband – played by Johnny Galecki, her boyfriend in the
original series. Their first scene is masterfully written and
played..

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Black Lightning” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

After a strong
start, this series got repetitious, with similar
reluctant-to-be-a-hero stories each week. Now an excellent episode
gets things back on track.

Government
operatives are on the hunt – first for a way to harness the
metahumans, then for a chance to capture Jeff (Black Lightning). Near
death, he's in his mentor's cabin with his daughters – one known as
Thunder, the other not yet accepting her superpowers – and their
mother. Also hunting is the vile Tobias. The hour has key flashbacks
to Jeff's childhood, plus lots of high-voltage action.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Civilizations” opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

PBS is at its best
when offering epic images – pyramids and predators, mountains and
monarchs – spiced with a dab of purple-prose commentary. Now it
does that on a global scale.

Kenneth Clark's 1969
“Civilization” stuck to art in the Western world; this series, by
comparison, spans five continents, sometimes spectacularly. Liev
Schreiber narrates, with guest presenters. In the opener, Simon
Schama visits empires (including the Mayans) that were survived only
by art and architecture.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A prisoner escapes when the transport vehicle crashes into a
lake. Complicating things: The only witness is blind.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Beautifully crafted, “Rise” often seems intent on torturing
its characters and its viewers. The coach, who has seemed almost
decent lately, regresses into deep jerkdom .... The theater director
remains bull-headed ... Lilete's mom, who failed to stand up to her
boss, suddenly did it so violently that she lost her job and our
sympathy ... And new problems appear. It's way too much ... except
that the final minutes resonate with rich emotion. That will bring us
back for another week.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. A therapist suggests Dre and Bow try a date night. Also,
the kids have varying ideas for what to do with a bounce house after
the party.

“New Girl,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. After last week's terrific season-opener, we find lives in
chaos. Schmidt and Cece can't get any sleep, Nick can't get a story
idea, Jess can't get anything to do a work. There are some very funny
moments, especially after Jess and Cece mix alcohol and rage.

“For the People,”
10 p.m., ABC. This is a frustrating enigma: Shonda Rhimes has
produced the best totally new show of the season, one that matches
her “Grey's Anatomy” in great writing and fascinating characters.
Still, viewers haven't even sampled it. Next week, another show will
borrow its spot; try this hour which includes a difficult defendant,
accused of stealing items intended for hurricane victins.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. All that Pride wants is a fun night at the
bar with his lady friend. Then thieves take everyone hostage.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. John McCain played a key role in last week's documentary,
a compelling look at Donald Trump's battles with Republicans. Now the
show offers a portrait of McCain.

TV column for Monday, April 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Supergirl” return, 8 p.m., CW.

Laurie Metcalf is
everywhere these days. She's Roseanne's sister, Sheldon's mother and
now Winn's mother. That role has humor and despair – two things
Metcalf masters. Tonight, she's in a gifted cast; catch Carl Lumbly
and David Harewood, two theater pros, in some moving father-son
scenes.

In this case, the
dad is direct from Mars; alongside everything else, “Supergirl”
is dandy science-fiction. Tonight's hour gives us two big battle
scenes, complete with flying monkeys (really), a rampaging dinosaur
and ann exploding coffin. It's a super hour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Scorpion” season-finale, 10 p.m. Monday, CBS.

The season ends with
a mega-crisis. The genius team tries to rescue an African village,
while facing land mines and a sand storm.

All of that happens
the same time as a romance crisis. Paige (Katharine McPhee, the
“American Idol” runner-up) knows Walter (Elyes Gabel) has a
secret; amid chaos, their relationship may crumble,

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Idol” and “The Voice,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Both shows have
trimmed to their top 24, reaching a key point tonight.

For “Idol,” It's
the second half of the celebrity duets; singers will link with Lea
Michele, Bebe Rexha, Colbie Caillat, Rachel Platten, Allen Stone, Cam
or Banners. And for “Voice,” this is the first of three straight
live shows.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Independent Lens,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

When a water crisis
unfolded in Flint, Mich., people assumed – or, at least, hoped –
it was an isolated case. Not so, this sharp documentary says. Cullen
Hoback started the film in West Virginia – where a leak left
300,000 people with bad water – and found trends that were
reflected in Flint and beyond.

Companies did the
testing themselves, with officials rarely checking. In Illinois, a
typical fine was only $49; in West Virginia, lobbyists wrote a new
law and handed it to legislators. On a federal level, complaints were
ignored ... and that was before the Environmental Protection Agency
was dismantled.

Other choices
include:

“No Offence,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. OK,
English folks sometimes have a funny way of spelling words; they also
have a funny way of pronouncing them, which is a problem here. If you
can penetrate the accents, you'll find a clever female-cop show from
the “Shameless” and “State of Play” producer.

“Date Night”
(2010), 6-8 p.m., Sundance. This clever comedy teaches us that bad
things can happen if you swipe someone's dinner reservation. At 8
p.m., stick with Sundance for the sharp teen comedy “Pretty in
Pink” (1986) ... or switch to Pop for the terrific “Jerry
Maguire” (1996), which is also at 11.

“Lucifer,” 8
p.m., Fox. After a murder, a witness says she would have been killed
too – if she weren't rescued by a winged creature. Such a report
might make cops scoff ... but it makes Lucifer worry.

“The Resident,”
9 p.m., Fox. A former giant of the soap-opera world returns to TV for
the first time in four years. Erika Slezak spent 42 years on “One
Life to Live,” winning six daytime Emmys. She disappeared after the
show ended in 2013, but returns now. In the episode, Conrad's former
medical professor is seeing hallucinations of her past patients.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. When Arthur (Judd Hirsch) wants Franco to do deliveries,
he finds a hitch: Franco never learned to drive. While trying to
teach him, Arthur ends up in trouble with the law.

“Good Girls,” 10
p.m., NBC. Once you're used to the big-time crime life, it's tough to
go back. The women try to do that tonight, after the investigation
tightens and Manny shuts down his operation .

TV column for Sunday, April 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

It's a night for new
songs and splendid memories. Three duets will relive hits from 25
years ago: Blake Shelton joins Toby Keith for “Should've Been a
Cowboy,” Jon Pardi joins Alan Jackson's “Chattahoochee” and
Kelly Clarkson joins host Reba McEntire's powerhouse “Does He Love
You?”

Current songs link
Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina, Keith Urban and Julia Michaels, Bebe
Rexha and Florida Georgia Line. Other performers include
nominations-leader Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan,
Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney and
many more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Call the Midwife” and “Masterpiece: Unforgotten,” 8 and 9
p.m., PBS.

Viewers were jolted
last week: Trixie – a key player since “Midwife” began six-plus
seasons ago – acknowledged her alcoholism was out of control. She
left for rehab.

The move was planned
for the final stages of Helen George's pregnancy. Tonight, “Midwife”
has one light story (a parish picnic) and two fierce ones, including
a Nigerian sailor, hiding and believed to have smallpox. It's a
fairly good hour, followed by the mid-section of the excellent
“Unforgotten.” Everyone in the diary of a long-go murder victim
has a dark secret ... but is any of them a killer?

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Walking Dead” season-finale and “Fear the Walking
Dead” season-opener, 9 and 10:10 p.m., AMC.

First is all-out
warfare, the communities combining to fight the Saviors. Then is
virtually a total reboot. For now, we see none of the usual “Fear”
people. We meet a lonely gunslinger (Garret Dillahunt) and a gutsy
truck-driver (Maggie Grace). Wandering into their world is Morgan
Jones (Lennie James).

That's the guy who
was in the first “Walking Dead” episode – eight years ago –
and re-surfaced three years later. Now he's walking the country,
quiet and bitter and the opposite of the others. It's a detour that
seems stylishly slow (but fascinating) for much of the hour, then
becomes fast and furious.

Other choices
include:

“The Problem With
Apu,” 7 p.m., TruTV. This documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu
has stirred discussions about media stereotypes ... and about Apu on
“The Simpsons.” Afterward, viewers can switch to “Simpsons”
(8 p.m., Fox), with the family discovering a rift between Moe and his
dad.

“Howards End,” 8
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 9:30. Last week's opener crafted a vivid
contrast between the Schlegel sisters (Hayley Atwell and Philippa
Coulthard) – given to fast talk, strong feelings and the color red
– and the grayness of 1906 England. In a good episode tonight, a
death alters everything.

“Legend &
Lies: The Civil War,” 8 p.m., Fox News Channel. This hour focuses
on Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery and became an
eloquent author and orator. As the North claims victory in the bloody
Battle of Antietam, he pushes Abraham Lincoln to issue the
Emancipation Proclamation.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., Fox. First, Jake is lured into a
pyramid scheme. Then he invites his newly discovered half-sister
(guest star Nasim Pedrad) to visit ... and promptly regrets it.

“When Calls the
Heart,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. This is the exact opposite of “Walking
Dead”; it has no zombies, many pleasant Canadians and (often) happy
endings. Tonight, Elizabeth, the frontier schoolteacher, has an
unexpected student; also, the community conspires to pull off a
surprise.

“A Higher
Loyalty,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. George Stephanopoulos interviews former
FBI director James Comey, two days before Comey's book (also called
“A Higher Loyalty”) reaches stores.

“Talking Dead,”
11:17 p.m., AMC. Yes, it has a lot to talk about. There's the
season-finale of “Walking Dead” (which then reruns at 12:17 and
1:27 a.m.) and season-opener of its spin-off (rerunning at 2:37).