TV column for Monday, April 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hubble's Cosmic Journey,” 10 p.m., and “StarTalk,” 11 p.m.,
National Geographic.

This is “the great
American comeback,” one scientist says: The Hubble space
telescope's launch (25 years ago this coming Friday) was a flop,
yielding fuzzy pictures. Three years later, a repair job led to
stunning images of galaxies and star clusters that Earthlings had
never seen.

That's told
passionately by the key people ... and by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who
then launches the cable version of his “StarTalk” podcast. The
opener, with George Takei of “Star Trek,” ranges from serious to
silly; Tyson gets great support from Charles Liu (like Tyson, an
astrophysicist) and Leighann Lord.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

There are four
episodes left to wrap up a terrific and tangled first season.
Tonight, Jane (Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez) scrambles to fix
her relationship with Rafael, who is – due to a clinic's error –
the father of her baby-to-be. Her mom reluctantly tells a secret to
Rogelio, the telenovela star; her grandma has a flashback to show who
pushed her down the stairs.

There's more. Jane's
ex-fiance, a cop, learns more about the crime syndicate. Rafael's
estranged wife, a crook, is in trouble and must save herself. We told
you this gets tangled.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Great Invisible,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings) under “Independent Lens”; also, 10 p.m. ET, Pivot.

Five years ago
today, the Deepwater Horizon – described by one worker as a
state-of-the-art oil rig, “like the Titanic” -- exploded. Eleven
men were killed and oil gushed to Louisiana.

This
slow-but-powerful documentary has strong comments from survivors,
telling of safety cutbacks ... and of marathon delays in the British
Petroleum settlement pay-outs. The film was produced by Jeff Skoll
(“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Lincoln,” “The Help”), who
also created the Pivot network.

Other choices
include:

“Malcolm X”
(1992), 5:30-10 p.m. ET, Pivot. This may be the perfect day to hunt
for Pivot, which is available by satellite, cable and www.pivot.tv.
Prior to “Great Invisible,” catch an “Angry Planet” look at
Australian wildfires at 5 p.m. ET, followed by Spike Lee's masterful
Malcolm X portrait.

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Now the show has its top 10. Last week, Brian
Johnson and 16-year-old Mia Z were sent home; Deanna Johnson (no
relation) and Corey White were in the bottom four.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week, Suzanne Somers was ousted, on
a night that had low judges' scores for the older stars – Somers,
Patti LaBelle, Robert Herjavec – and for Noah Galloway and Chris
Soules. At the top were Rumer Willis, Nastia Liukin and Riker Lynch.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Kathy Bates makes her second appearance as
Peggy's childhood friend Kay. She's deeply depressed, which matches
Peggy perfectly, but Molly tries to perk her up.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Wrapping up a first season that's been a quick ratings
success, the team has a fresh crisis: Walter's car is teetering at
the edge of a cliff.

“Time Traveling”
debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Travel. Brian Unger blends wit and facts,
while offering odd glimpses of the American past. The first half-hour
visits epic structures – the Woolworth Building and the Golden Gate
bridge. The second goes to Tombstone, Ariz., to tackle “gunfight at
OK Corral” myths, then to Nevada ranches where the rich and famous
would spend six weeks waiting to divorce.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. The show finally tackles the mystery of what happened
during Rick Castle's two-month disappearance.

TV column for Sunday, April 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11:30 p.m., CBS.

For its 50th
ceremony, the ACM is thinking big. The event will be in the Dallas
Cowboys' stadium, complete with special awards for the biggest
winners from the past – Garth Brooks, George Strait, Kenny Chesney,
Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and a reunited Brooks &
Dunn.

Most of them will
perform; so will hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan and more -- Brad
Paisley, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean,
Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and Eric Church.
Also, Christina Aguilera and Nick Jonas will mix in for duets.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Veep,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.

Now that she's
president, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) wants to worry about bigger
things – such as world peace. Alas, image questions persist.

There's her
daughter, short on people skills and lacking the vital art of the
fake smile. There's an ugly painting that seems important to American
Indians. And there's a spending spree by her aide, Gary. Two
Emmy-winners, Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale – collide in scenes that
are both funny and warm.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nurse Jackie,” 9 p.m., Showtime, reruns at 9:30
p.m. and 12:10 a.m.

Last week's opener
(rerunning at 8:30 p.m.) started with Jackie at a low point -- in
jail, after a drug-fueled car crash. It ended with her sparking an
outburst from her ex-boss that could be handy in court.

Then again, she
still needs the money for a hot-shot lawyer; tonight, she scrambles
with finances and (as usual) ethics. “Nurse Jackie” has mostly
quit trying to be a comedy. In its final season, however, it's become
a good drama that has us rooting for a second chance (or 22nd
chance?) for redemption.

Other choies
include:

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Is it possible to feel sympathy for Cruella de
Vil, who has currently kidnapped Henry? Maybe. This hour includes a
flashback to her own awful childhood.

"Legends & Lies: The Real West," 8 p.m., Fox News. This hour looks at the complex reality of the cowboy gunman known as Wild Bill Hickock. It includes descendants and historians, plus archival photos.

 

“Secrets and
Lies,” 9 p.m., ABC. With just three episodes left, Ben's life
continues to collapse. The police have a damning video, his marriage
is crumbling and he's alone on Christmas Eve. Now his lawyer hatches
an alternative theory that could uncover more lies.

“A.D.,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Last week's well-crafted hour (rerunning at 8 p.m.) found
officials enraged by the opened tomb and missing body. Now come the
aftershocks, with Peter and John arrested.

“Game of Thromes,”
9 p.m., HBO. Females dominate this strong hour. Brienne of Tarth, the
warrior, faces trouble; young Arya Stark reaches Braavos, with an
uncertain future. Cersei Lannister grasps for power through her young
son, the king; Daenerys Targaryen finds that real power can be scary.
And yes, there are some men here; that includes a pivotal moment for
Jon Snow at the Night's Watch.

“Masterpiece,”
9:05 and 10 p.m., PBS. A so-so “Mr. Selfridge” ends with a jolt.
Then an excellent “Wolf Hall” finds Wolsey dead and Cromwell
trying to rush Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. By the end of last week, the Earth's known
population stood at two men and four women, all of them aware that
Phil (Will Forte) is a habitiual and inept liar.

“American
Odyssey,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Almost killed by an angry mob, an
American soldier (Anna Friel) to soothe her captors, in a fairly
strong episode.

“Revenge,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. After being attacked, Victoria takes things into her own
hands.

.

TV column for Saturday, April 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Orphan Black,” all day, cable.

You can start by
catching up on the first two seasons of a terrific show. Reruns began
at midnight on the IFC channel and continue until 9 p.m.: Once a
street waif, Sarah (the superb Tatiana Maslany) learned she's the
result of a clone scheme; her lookalikes range from a soccer mom to
an assassin.

Then the third
season opens, with Sarah searching for her twin (Helena) and using
acting skill to thwart a detective. That's 9 p.m. on IFC, AMC, WE and
BBC America, which reruns it at midnight and 3 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC.

This entertaining
show has a couple more new episodes left on Mondays. Today, however,
we can catch this rerun from October, with Rick Castle going
undercover as a 2nd-grade teacher.

That's logical
enough: An ice-cream vendor has been shot and a kid may be the only
witness.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Good Witch” season-finale, 8-10 p.m. , Hallmark.

After seven movies,
Catherine Bell's likable character has settled into this feel-good
series. There's less emphasis on Cassie's maybe-magic now and more on
her intuition and people skills.

In a sweet little
town, she's a shop-owner and innkeeper, a former mayor and the widow
of the police chief, with a daughter and two grown step-kids.
Tonight, her step-son struggles with his long-distance marriage, her
neighbor confronts a scheming ex-wife and a development scheme
endangers her store and her friend's coffee shop. They are modest
problems in a modestly involving, nice-folks drama.

Other choices
include:

“Cars” (2006)
and “Cars 2” (2011), 2 and 4:30 p.m., ABC Family. This popular
double feature provides a highlight for the channel's animation
weekend. Today, that starts with “Winnie the Pooh” (2011) at 7
a.m. and contiues through “Horton Hears a Who” and “Kung Fu
Panda” (both 2008) at 7 and 9 p.m.

Hockey and fighting,
8 p.m. ET, NBC. The Stanley Cup coverage moves into NBC's prime time,
with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers. Fox counters with Ultimate
Fighting Championship bouts.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. This is clearly overkill; the victim
seems to have been killed twice. Also in this rerun, Sharon Osbourne
plays the manager of a billiards tournament.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder victims are
Marines who have sons in military academies. That has Sam (LL Cool J)
thinking about his ownn relationship with his dad.

TV Land awards,
9-10:30 p.m., TV Land. Terry Crews, the host, starts the night by
lip-synching to classic theme songs. Later, there's real music from
Jennifer Hudson and Charlie Wilson. Awards go to Betty White and to
Donny and Marie Osmond, plus the people behind “Ally McBeal,”
“The Wonder Years,” “Parenthood” and “Freaks and Geeks.”
Also, George Lopez gives a Joan Rivers tribute.

“Tatau” debut,
10 p.m., BBC America, rerunning at 1 a.m. Visiting the Cook Islands,
two Londoners take a hallucinogen and are soon immersed in Maori
mythology.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. James Franco hosts this rerun, with music
by Nicki Minaj.

TV column for Friday, April 17


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

Jascha Heifetz was
born into the old world. That was 1901 Russia; he was fiddling at 3,
taking violin lessons at 5, moving to Saint Petersburg at 9 to work
with a master. He had an American tour at 16 .. and then the world
changed around him.

As the Russian
revolution began, he stayed in the U.S. Eventually, he would live in
Beverly Hills, marry (and divorce) an actress, even write a hit Bing
Crosby song. Still, this superb film says, he kept one old-world
habit: After one lapse, he practiced intensely, remaining one of
music's all-time greats.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Messengers” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

These people seem to
have nothing in common. A nurse just got engaged; a mom has an
abrasive ex-husband. There's an earnest swimmer, a brainy astronomer,
an intense preacher, an endangered cop.

Suddenly, a
meteor-crash impacts them all. In the “X-Files” style, far-flung
events will gradually link. The difference? “Messengers” has an
overload of overwrought males. Also, “X-Files” finished a story
each week; this hour leaves us hanging. Still, it's a compelling
start that will bring us back next week.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Bitten,” season-opener, 8 and 9 p.m., Syfy.

Laura Vandervoort
found fame as Supergirl on “Smallville.” Now she's super again as
Elena, the only female werewolf; she has supernatural skills, plus
anger issues.

Her boyfriend was
beheaded three days ago. Instead of grief-counseling, she throws
herself into intense fighting and lovemaking. Some of this is very
nasty (especially for 8 p.m.), but the characters are well-drawn ...
especially this season's additions -- witches who spark tonight's
second hour.

Other choices
include:

“The Little
Mermaid” (1989) and “Happy Feet Two” (2011), 7 and 9 p.m., ABC
Family. The entire ABC Family weekend is stuffed with animated
movies, starting with Disney's lovely “Mermaid.” The marathon
continues at 8 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.

“Bad Teacher”
(2011), 8-10 p.m. Fox. Cameron Diaz plays a teacher who doesn't care
about her work ... but does like her paycheck and luring a colleague
(Justin Timberlake) whose family is rich.

“The Amazing
Race,” 8-10 p.m., CBS Two episodes are lumped together, starting
in Namibia. This edition began with some couples who were already
dating and some who were thrown together. Now three of the five
blind-daters are still in the race, alongside three of the six
existing couples.

“Cedric's Barber
Battle” debut, 8 p.m., CW. Neighborhood barber shops, we're told,
are sometimes filled with zesty jibes and fun. Now Cedric the
Entertainer tries to capture that. Each week, three barbers try to do
difficult cuts ... while verbal jests bounce around the room.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is accused of using
excessive force. His dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, must
take sides.

“Voces,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). “Giant” (1956) brought big
stars – Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean – to Marva, a
West Texas town that has 1,900 people and separate cemeteries for
Anglos and Hispanics. This interesting film views the cultural
divide.

“Lost Girl”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. Tonight has turned into a sci-fi
festival, with “Messengers,” double-“Bitten” and NBC's
“Grimm.” Now it wraps up on a lighter note: Bo – a succubus
from the Fae world – tries to rescue her friend Kenzi, who finds
that even the Netherworld can be kind of giddy.

TV column for Thursday, April 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9:30, CBS.

After years of
reluctant sobriety, Bonnie (Allison Janney) began gulping pain pills
after an injury. Now she's in jail and her daughter Christy (Anna
Faris) is enraged. Others in the addiction group try to be
comforting; “a sick pope doesn't get this much attention,”
Christy groans.

This sounds serious,
which it is ... but somehow, it's also funny. Two superb actresses
juggle comedy and drama brilliantly, backed by great support (Mimi
Kennedy, Jaime Pressly) and a smart script.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Crime,” 10 p.m., ABC.

“I don't know how
to make things right,” Carter says. We don't either; TV's
best-acted series is also its darkest, plunging its characters into
deeper and deeper holes.

Carter and Aubrey
seem to really love each other ... but her addictions put them in
danger; now he's back in prison and she's in the hospital. Family
ties are key here: Carter's sister is a strong force ... Tony is back
in trouble for attacking his sister's nemesis ... And Barb, mourning
one son, is about to meet the fiancee of her other son; two
steel-minded women collide, sharply and darkly.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, FX.

Comedy can vary
widely, we see in a night that starts at 7:30 p.m. with “21 Jump
Street” (2012). Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are cops posing as
high school students; it's light, loopy and kind of fun.

Then at 10, “The
Comedians” has Josh Gad trying to fit into a sports night at Billy
Crystal's house. Some scenes are so-so, but others – including one
deciding on a host gift – are hilarious. At 10:33, “Louie” sees
Louis C.K. facing crises of the heart and the bowel; it's clever and
odd, but not really comedy until the final minute. Those two episodes
keep rerunning until 2:12 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. A small-plane crash in Seattle triggers memories of the
previous crash, which ultimately left two doctors (Lexie and Mark)
dead, one (Derek) with a mangled hand and another (Arizona) with an
amitated leg. Meanwhile, Owen and Amelia are feeling tension.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:01 p.m., CBS. In her new job as a drug rep, Penny
finally has a good income; now she may give it up to audition for a
movie. There's also a rerun of the terrific episode in which Amy and
Bernadette decide to have the prom they missed as teens.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Oscar has a chance to be on a TV sports show. His
agent tells him to stick to radio, but Felix – no expert on such
things – disagrees.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. Red links with his sometimes-enemy Berlin, in pursuit of
a Russian official who may have manipulated Berlin.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Needing help to push through a bill, the president finds
that his vice-president is no pushover. Meanwhile, Olivia is asked to
help after the mayor's wife is murdered.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. A murder probe leads to a potential homeland-security
issue. Also, Captain Gregson's daughter, also a cop, asks Watson to
help on a case.

“Red Road,” 10
p.m., Sundance. This show's second season is even better and deeper
than the first. Now we have the aftershocks of the police chief's
suicide and of Kopus stealing drug money. The result endangers the
new tribal chief ... and Junior ... and Junior's girlfriend, the
police lieutenant's daughter.