TV column for Sunday, April 15

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

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.

“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?

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

“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

“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.

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

“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).

TV column for Saturday, April 14

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC (or later, with hockey

John Mulaney spent
six years as an “SNL” writer. Among other things, he and Bill
Hader created Stefon, the hilarious character who recommends New
York's most bizarre night spots.

Some writers (from
Garrett Morris to Tina Fey and Leslie Jones) have gone on be on-air
stars, but Mulaney found his success elsewhere. He's thrived as a
stand-up comic and briefly had his own situation-comedy. Now he has
his first chance to host “SNL”; Jack White is the music guest.

II: “The Crossing,” 8 p.m., ABC .

If you missed this
show's first two episodes (10 p.m. Mondays), there's still time to
catch up. “Crossing” joins ABC's “For the People” (10 p.m.
Tuesdays) as perhaps the season's best new shows.

In this rerun of the
opener, people suddenly wash ashore near a quiet coastal town. We
won't spoil any surprises, except to say there's a sci-fi twist;
Steve Zahn is terrific as the sheriff.

ALTERNATIVE: “Trading Spaces” (8 p.m.) and “Nate and Jeremiah
By Design” (10:07), TLC.

Here's the second
half of the “Spaces” return. It doubles as a reunion episode –
including highlights of the original series, which ended a decade ago
– and the start of the new one. In the latter, a woman wants a “mom
cave” and her neighbors want a multi-purpose room.

That's followed by
the season's second episode for designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah
Brent. This time, they try to fix a 16-year construction debacle and
make a home safe for a visiting grandbaby.

Other choices

“Star Wars”
(1977), 11:15 a.m., TNT. Here's the great movie that started it all.
It's followed – in a rather jumbled order – by “The Phantom
Menace” (1999) at 2 p.m., “Return of the Jedi” (1983) at 5 and
then the excellent revival “The Force Awakens” (2015) at 8 and

“Monsters, Inc.”
(2001), 4:10 p.m., Freeform. A stretch of animated fun begins. This
is followed by “Monsters University” (2013) at 6:20 p.m. and the
delightful “Inside Out” (2015) at 8:50.

“Teen Beach Movie”
(2013) and “Teen Beach 2” (2015), 6 and 7:50 p.m., Disney. In a
clever concept, teen surfers (Maia Mitchell and Ross Lynch) crash –
finding themselves in the middle of a 1960s movie musical. In the
sequel, the characters from the movie visit the couple in the modern

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. For a hostage negotiator, Eric seems to be on the wrong
end a lot. In last week's season-opener, his daughter was taken
hostage; now, he and his colleague Zara are hostages.

Hockey, 8 p.m. ET,
NBC. The playoffs begin with classic teams. Toronto has won the
Stanley Cup 13 times, second only to Montreal (24 wins). It visits
Boston, which has won six times, trailing those two and Detroit (11)
and tied with Chicago. At the same time, ESPN has a basketball
playoff game.

“Elvis Presley:
The Searcher,” 8-11:30 p.m., HBO. The world has had plenty of Elvis
documentaries, but here's a two-parter (8 and 9:49 p.m.), with time
to dig into details.

“Trust,” 10
p.m., FX. In one swoop, you can catch up on this excellent retelling
of the Getty kidnapping case. The first three episodes rerun at 10
and 11:27 p.m. and 12:51 a.m. The fourth episode in the 10-week
mini-series is at 10 p.m. Sunday.

TV column for Friday, April 13

“Blazing Saddles” (1974), 9:30 p.m., AMC.

This is a night for
big, broad comedy movies – many of them with Will Ferrell. He stars
in the fun “Talladega Nights” (2010) at 6:30 p.m. on CMT and
(with Kevin Hart) in “Get Hard” (2015) at 8 p.m. on TNT. He also
has a small role in the entertaining “Wedding Crashers” (2005),
at 8 p.m. on E.

But the night's best
– and broadest – movie predates Ferrell. Mel Brooks linked with
four others (including Richard Pryor) to write “Blazing Saddles,”
the story of a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) in the old West. In
2000, the American Film Institute called it the sixth-funniest
American movie ever.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

In a detour from the
usual stories, this hour partly focuses on Junior Reigns (Beulah
Koale). Trapped in a ravine, he's soon reflecting on his troubled
relationship with his father.

Meanwhile, McGarrett
and Jerry have their own potential crisis. Catherine (Michelle Borth)
says uranium may be hidden on an abandoned island; a suspected
terrorist could be planning dirty bombs.

II: “Jane the Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW.

For much of the
hour, this is way too one-note. Problems cascade, from Xo's
breast-cancer treatment to Rogelio's mini-series and an angry split
between Jane's lover and her grandmother.

Then “Jane”
rights itself in the final minutes. This series – a zesty
adaptation of a Spanish-language telenovela – views the tricky turf
of adapting a telenovela. It's a clever end to a so-so hour.

ALTERNATIVE: Creepy stuff, all day, cable.

Each Friday the
13th, the world tries to creep us out. That's true today
in movie theaters and in cable's netherworlds. Syfy has the original
“Leprechaun” (1993) at 9 p.m., preceded by its seven sequels (in
reverse order) at 7 a.m.. Yes, seven -- even leprechaun “In the
Hood” (12:53) and “In Space” (2:53).

Other creepiness is
scattered -- “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on FX
Movies ... “Friday the 13th” (2009) at 10:30 p.m. on HBO2 ... and
an “Ash vs. Evil Dead” episode at 11 on Starz.

Other choices

“Lost in Space,”
any time, Netflix. Maybe they'll get it right this time. The original
series was so-so and the 1998 movie drew tepid reviews. Now the
sequel has some talented people, including Toby Stephens (“Black
Sails”) as the dad and Parker Posey (an indie-movie favorite) as
Dr. Smith.

Junior,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. A two-hour eisode finds the kids taking
over the kitchen in an upscale hotel. Then the survivors have 45
minutes to create dishes inspired by their families.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Here are brief roles for two greats – Ed Asner, 88, a
seven-time Emmy-winner, and Piper Laurie, 86, a three-time
Oscar-nominee. They play a couple on a private jet that Mac and Jack
commandeer, after a former Navy SEAL has kidnapped a billionaire's

“Taken,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. It appears that an innocent man is being framed for a bomb blast
in Washington, D.C. Also, Kilroy tracks down a notorious hacker.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Yes, things are quite serious: One agent's
life hangs in the balance, while others try to neutralize a weapon
that could lead to the destruction of Earth.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, probes
the rise in settlements of lawsuits against cops. Meanwhile, one son
(Jamie) is investigated after a car chase and another (Danny) rushes
to find a girl. Also, a grandson (Sean) has won an essay contest.

TV column for Thursday, April 12

“Siren,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

angry-mermaid-captured-by-evil-military stories go, this is
surprisingly good. Once you get past the odd part – tails are shed
and regenerated with surprising ease – it's solidly written and

A mermaid attacked
Chris (a fisherman); then both were taken to a military facility. A
second mermaid came ashore to find her ... promptly killing an
abusive guy. As friends look for Chris tonight, we have a pivotal
episode. “Siren” is shot in British Columbia, adding extra
strength; that includes gorgeous scenery, native Americans (or native
Canadians) in key roles and a quiet decency to most characters.

“Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS.

For a while, “Mom”
was optional: It's a terrific comedy, but so is NBC's “Will &
Grace.” But now the latter has finished it new shows and retreated
to reruns; it's time for “Mom” to soar again.

Tonight, the women
bring an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to a prison. Bonnie's old
acquaintance is there and is bitter; two 6-foot alpha-females –
Allison Janney and Kristen Johnston – battle.

ALTERNATIVE: “Atlanta,” 10 and 10:39 p.m., FX.

If you missed last
week's episode, catch the rerun at 10:39. It was an instant classic –
wildly unrelated to anything else the show has done, but thoroughly
memorable. Donald Glover, the show's creator-star, played Ern for
only a moment ... but did most of the episode as a strange, sad man
in whiteface.

That's sandwiched by
the new episode at 10, rerunning at 11:30. If poses the modern
question of whether a party is really happening if you're not texting
about it.

Other choices

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. An immigration agent shows up ominously at the
hospital, looking for an employee. Also, a patient wants to enjoy her
final days out of the hospital; Alex resists.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a brilliant scientist (Peter MacNicol)
invites Sheldon to his remote cabin , the othe guys some along. That
leaves the women free to make some new plans, because Amy considers
the bachelorette-party ideas too tame.

“A.P. Bio,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. The best character in this so-so show is the school
principal (Patton Oswalt), a mixed bundle of zest and despair. In
this OK episode, his world starts to wobble.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. Here's another nod to the show's “Grey's Anatomy”
roots. Miranda Bailey, the hospital's medical chief, visits the
station where her husband (formerly a surgeon) is a firefighter and
EMT. Most o the team is called to an accident scene.

9:30 p.m., NBC. Growing up in Ohio, Michael had little feel for his
maternal roots in India. Now that he's in New York (studying music
and living with his dad, Vince), he might bond with other
Indian-American teens. Also in this fairly good episode, Vince wants
some Americana – a weekend in the woods. Michael is appalled;
Vince's employees are delighted the boss will be gone.

“Scandal,” 10
p.m., ABC. Cyrus' scheme to take over the White House reaches a new
extreme: Now Olivia must testify against her friend and client, the

“SWAT,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. When an ex-convict holds a family captive, things escalate
dangerously. Also, Street's romances are getting tangled; he asks
Chris if she'll manage his online dating profile.

TV column for Wednesday, April 11

“The Expanse” season-opener and “Krypton,” 9 and 10 p.m.,

Wednesdays have
become the showcase for Syfy, the night to bunch its most ambitious
shows. Last week, “The Magicians” ended its season; now “Expanse”
steps into the same slot. There's a three-way war between Earth, Mars
and the asteroid belt; a ship's crew finds itself trapped between

That's followed by
“Krypton,” the visually splendid series about the man who will be
Superman's grandfather. As he tries to save his lover, he's captured
by rebels. This tangled episode expands TV's wretched obsession with
torture. Flaws and all, however, it remains interesting.

“Nova” and “GI Jews,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS.

Here are two views
of World War II. First, a rerun of a moving documentary that was
filmed in Lithuania, where a Jewish city was obliterated and as many
as 100,000 people were executed. Researchers find the tunnel where 11
men escaped; they also talk to some of their descendants.

Then is a new film
about the 550,000 Jewish-Americans who were in the war – sometimes
facing anti-Semetism from colleagues. It interviews some Henry
Kissinger, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and more.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

The chasm between
these people keeps expanding. Both are Russian spies, embedded in
Washington suburbia. Elizabeth, however, is hard-core; her husband
Philip, a supporter of Gorbachev's moderation, has dropped out of the
spy business and is running their travel agency, which faces
financial trouble.

Last week, their
daughter (a novice spy) had a frightening view – her blood-soaked
mom, alongside a murder victim. In tonight's strong hour, the
aftershocks split the family even further. Meanwhile, their neighbor,
the FBI guy, worries about his Russian informants, the feuding Sofia
and Gennadi.

Other choices

“Harry Potter: A
History of Magic,” 8-9:30 p.m., ABC. In June of 1997, a British
publisher released a book that eight others had rejected. The Harry
Potter series would go on to set records in literature and then in
movies, totaling an estimated $25 billion. This special visits a
British Library exhibit that was timed to the 20th
anniversary. Appropriately, it's followed at 9:30 by a “Masters of
Illusion” rerun.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. When a health scare strikes, Cookie tries to keep the
company steady. That isn't easy: Eddie's motives are being
questioned; also, Jamal makes a shocking revelation on live TV.

Darlings” season-opener, 8:31 p.m., Pop. This faux reality show
follows three former child stars. Tonight, Jodie Sweetin tries a
celebrity dating service, Beverley Mitchell scrambles to get her kids
into a pre-school and Christine Lakin tries method-acting when she's
cast as a Russian prostitute.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Quavo plays himself in this hour. The studio is recruiting him –
upsetting Noah, who harbors ill feelings from the past. Also, Angel's
mother returns, revealing family secrets.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mira Sorvino plays Haley's daft boss, looking for a new
product that works like peppers; now Haley hopes to convince Gloria
to sell the company her salsa.

Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. After a deadly explosion, the president
declares war. Then Hannah, an FBI agent, learns that the emir is
hiding a lethal secret.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Some stash-house robberies point to a surprising