TV column for Saturday, April 16

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
was just 21 when she joined “SNL,” back in 1982. Her three-year
stay included two of the show's worst years and then the start of its

She would go on to
much better things -- “Seinfeld” and “Veep” and 16 Emmy
nominations for acting, winning five times. Still, she's never
returned to host “SNL.” Now eight days before “Veep” starts
its new HBO season – she does, with Nick Jonas as the music guest.

“Hear My Song,” 8-10 p.m., CBS.

For 65 years,
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” has delivered some of TV's best moments.
It started with the “Amahl” operetta, peaked with “Promise”
and other Emmy-winning movies ... and then, oddly, was dumped off to
cable-only. Now it returns to CBS, but on TV's weakest night.

This story – a
tough-luck kid joins a fancy boychoir – lacks believability at ever
turn. Still, it's crafted exquisitely by director Francois Girard and
a cast that includes Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates.

ALTERNATIVE: “Confirmation,” 8-10 p.m., HBO.

At the same time as
“Hear My Song,” here's another movie that's thoroughly
unbelievable. The difference is that this one really happened, during
a bizarre stretch in 1991.

When civil-rights
pioneer Thurgood Marshall retired from the Supreme Court, George H.W.
Bush chose Clarence Thomas, a black conservative who opposes
affirmative action. It was a controversial choice ... even before
Anita Hill, a law professor, accused him of sexual harassment. Kerry
Washington and Wendell Pierce star, with Greg Kinnear as Joe Biden
and Treat Williams as Ted Kennedy.

Other choices

“Back to the
Future” (1985), 4 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., AMC. Here are some more
chances to see this fun adventure. It's sequels air at 6:30 p.m.
(1989) and 9 p.m. (1990).

Fights, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox, and 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. It's combative overkill, taking up half
the big-four networks. Fox's Ultimate Fighting Championships card is
topped by Tony Ferguson against Khabid Nurmagomedov; NBC's boxing
includes the WBO cruiserweight title fight between Krzystof Glowacki
and Steve Cunningham.

Funniest Home Videos,” 8 and 9 p.m. Here are two reruns, the first
one having 10 videos compete for a $100,000 mid-season prize.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Jerrod is delighted to have tickets
to see his childhood comedy hero, Bill Cosby. His girlfriend, citing
all the date-rape accusations about Cosby, refuses to go. That sets
off a thoughtful (and sometimes quite funny) family debate.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. Last week's season-opener
(rerunning at 11:55 a.m. and 8 p.m.) offered a quick jolt – a dazed
Claire returning to 1948, but pregnant with the child of Jamie, her
husband in 18th-century Scotland. Then it flashed back, as
she and Jamie arrived in France. Now they're living at his cousin's
estate and struggling for a way to prevent the Jacobian rebellion.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. A decade ago, Greg Smith
received a Master's Degree from the University of Virginia. He was
16, a kid in a hurry. He was reading at 2, started high school at 7
and college at 10. Now we see what he's been up to since; the hour
also visits Genie Francis – who was soaps' mos popular actress, on
“General Hospital” -- and model Iman.

“Party Over Here,”
11 p.m., Fox. Here's a “best of” collection of sketches from the
first season. It's followed at 11:30 by a “Cooper Barrett's Guide
to Surviving Life” rerun, with the return of Cooper's angry


TV column for Friday, April 15

“Back to the Future” (1985) and sequels (1989, 1990), AMC.

Few movies have
offered the sheer fun of the the first “Future.” Robert Zemeckis
co-wrote and directed this time-travel tale, with Steven Spielberg
producing. The result has all the Spielberg touches – action,
adventure, a find cast (led by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd)
and a general “wow factor.”

Now the entire
trilogy airs twice today – first at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 4
p.m., then at 6:30, 9 and 11:30 p.m. It returns Saturday at 4, 6:30
and 9 p.m.; the.first film is also 11:30 p.m. Saturday on AMC and
then 8 and 10:30 p.m. Sunday on Sundance.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31 p.m., ABC.

ABC has two shows
filled with Asian-Americans, but they differ sharply, “Fresh Off
the Boat” (on Tuesdays) has some clever moments; “Dr. Ken”
tends to be blunt and heavy-handed.

Now the shows' stars
link, when Ken (Ken Jeong) joins a club that includes an aquaintance
(Randall Park of “Boat”). That story starts pooly, but ends
fairly well; funnier moments involve Ken's kids and his co-workers,
with Pat (Dave Foley) now divorced and sleeping at the office.

ALTERNATIVE: “Grimm,” 9 p.m., NBC.

This world seems to
be full of moving targets. Adalind is turning back into a hexenbiest,
Wu seems to be turning into a werewolf and the late Juliette – or
part of her – turned into the new Eve.

While trying to sort
through all of this, Nick (the cop and, sometimes, hexen-hunter) has
a fresh sort of creature to ponder: A teen has been beheaded,
samurai-style. That part provides a taut adventure, while we ponder
other plotlines, including Captain Renaud's ambition and Monroe
exploring the tunnel.

Other choices

Baseball, all day.
It was 69 years ago today that Jackie Robinson played his first
Brooklyn Dodgers game, breaking the color barrier. Ken Burns'
masterful documentary concluded with glimpses of Jackie Robinson Day,
when everyone wears his 42 – the only number retired by every team.
Now you can see this year's Jackie Robinson Day in local games ...
and on the MLB cable network. It has the Rockies at the Cubs at 2:20
p.m. ET and the Giants at the Dodgers (now in Los Angeles) at 10:10
p.m. PM.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Bill Engvall once had his own comedy
series; it was OK, the actress playing his daughter (Jennifer
Lawrence) was much better. Now he guests here, as the new minister.
He's supposed to counsel Kyle ... and soon is counseling Kyle's
future father-in-law, Mike.

“The Amazing
Race,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week, the show ousted Blair Fowler – who
gives beauty tips on the Internet – and her father Scott. That
leaves six duos, each with someone who has social-media fame.
Tonight, they're in Dubai, racing camels and swimming with sharks.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Maybe someone has seen too many Iron Man movies: The
military's high-tech, indestructible suit has been stolen.

“Hell's Kitchen,”
9 p.m., Fox. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) trimmed the
field to five. Now the survivors face individual challenges –
preparing a school-lunch dish for teens and taking turns as Gordon
Ramsay's sous chef.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A serial killer attaches a message taunting Danny
(Donnie Wahlberg).

“Ghost Brothers”
debut, 10 p.m., Destination America. The cable world has no shortage
of ghost-hunting shows, but this one says it's the first with an
all-black team. Tonight's hour, the first of six, visits former
slave quarters in Derry, La., where there have been rumors of the
aftershocks of voodoo.

TV column for Thursday, April 14

“Bones” return, 8 p.m., Fox.

This mild-mannered
show stunned viewers, when a bombing left Hodgins paralyzed from the
waist down. Now “Bones” returns, solving crimes while facing
dilemma: The best thing for Hodgins' body is total rest; the best
thing for his mind is to return to work with his friends and his

As usual, “Bones”
has an OK mystery – this one involves a slain defense lawyer –
and adequate human drama. This hour, however, is elevated a notch by
T.J. Thyne's excellent work as Hodgins.

II: “Grey's Anatomy,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.

A physical crisis in
the first hour soon leads into an ethical one in the second.

When a child is
missing, the hospital goes on lockdown. That leaves Ben (Jason
George) trying to operate on a pregnant woman without the right
equipment ... and leaves Baily (Chandra Wilson), as chief of surgery,
to deal with him afterward. That carries over to the second hour, in
which Arizona makes a key decision and April and Jackson try to put
their toubles aside, for the sake of the baby.

ALTERNATIVE: “American Grit” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

Somehow, TV's best
night is being transformed into a mass of muscle. At 8, NBC has
“Strong”; at 9, Fox has wrestler-turned actor Jon Ceda and lots
of other macho types.

We meet four combat
veterans, one of them credited with 32 kills. They'll divide 16
sturdy contestants – a cop, wrestler, trainer, lumberjack, Roller
Derby queen and more – into four-person teams. At its best, “Grit”
has high-octane action; at its worst, it sometimes (like “Survivor”)
veers close to torture.

Other choices

“Strong,” 8
p.m., NBC. After its advance episode Wednesday, this reality show –
women working with male trainers to build their strength – moves to
its regular slot.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the funny Thanksgiving-time
episode. Sheldon and Amy decide to hang out (as just friends, alas)
at the aquarium; Howard reluctantly joins the others, serving meals
at a soup kitchen.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. There's good news for Felix: He'll finally have a
sleepover with Emily. And better news for Oscar: He can have a
Felix-free party when his roommate is gone.

“The Blacklist,”
9 p.m., NBC. This two-parter started last week, with word that
thieves were targetting a nuclear weapon. Now the task force has one
member in danger; it must go with Red's odd tactics.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Christy nudges her mom to date the terrific-seeming guy
(William Fichtner) she just met. Then she has second thoughts, after
learning more about him.

“Hoff the Record,”
9 and 9:30 p.m. ET, and “Gotham Comedy Live,” 10 p.m. ET, AXS.
This quietly clever show imagines David Hasselhoff as a dolt, trying
to re-invent himself in London. In this funny episode, he sees a
future as a United Nations ambassador. That's followed by a rerun,
with a wayward product endorsement; then Hasselhoff's “Baywatch”
pal Pamela Anderson hosts stand-up comedy.

“Game of
Silence,”10 p.m., NBC. In the opener, we met four guys who went to
a brutal detention home at 13. One went on to become a skilled
lawyer; the others wobbled. Now their rage has resurfaced and two
people are dead. Some of this feels forced, especially Gil's one-note
fervor and Jackson's obsession with secrecyfrom his fiancee. Once you
forgive that, the rest is a fairly solid drama.


TV column for Wednesday, April 13

“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Early in this hour,
Cookie explains that all she wants is “a nice, happy birthday
dinner – no drama.” Who thinks that will happen? The Lyon family
drips with drama; it's over-the-top, but fascinating.

Last week, her
ex-husband Lucious and their son Hakeem had separate schemes: Soon,
Camilla had killed her lover and herself; the Lyons had their record
company back. This hour ends with its own set of shockwaves,
skillfully handled by by Paris Barclay, one of TV's best directors.
We learn about Lucious' agonized boyhood and more; it's a
drama-drenched soap, with a beat you can dance to.

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

We're used to the
lethal version – big cats raiding African villages to kill the
livestock, villagers retaliating with hunting parties, both sides
adding to the body count. In India, however, it's different.

Despite problems as
the number of lions (now about 500) grows, forces co-exist
peacefully. The lions chase smaller animals that destroyed crops, but
usually ignore the rest; there's interesting footage of people
casually strolling near deadly creatures. When a lion does kill a
cow, that's shrugged off; when one kills a man, it's set free. It had
been surprised by the man and was nice enough to resist eating him.

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

The perilous lives
of Philip and Elizabeth (Russian spies, embedded in 1980s America)
hit a new low last week. A virus leak almost killed their handler and
left them quarantined. Their disappearance raised new questions for
their daughter and for their neighbor, the FBI agent.

It also brought
doubts from Martha about her husband “Clark” ... who's really
Philip in disguise. Now those complications are pressing together.
It's a solid episode that reminds us to resist being spies.

Other choices

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, the merged tribe ousted Nick Maiorano, a
personal trainer originally in the “Beauty” tribe. Remaining are
three people apiece from “Brains,” “Brawn” and “Beauty.”
Tonight, CBS says, a separation in tribes leads to a sabotage.

“The Voice,” 8
p.m., NBC. Over the past two nights, viewers have heard each judge's
five surviving singers. Tonight, judges learn which two finished at
the top ... then save one of the other three.

“Strong” debut,
9-11 p.m., NBC. Other shows have been about losing weight, but this
time that's just a slice of it. The 10 women will be paired with 10
male trainers, to work on strength, attitude and more. The show
promptly moves to 8 p.m. Thursdays, with one person ousted each

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Claire tries to hide a stray dog from Phil; Gloria
resists Jay's insistance that he wants no new friends. Also, Cam
rents the upstairs to a Christian rock band.

“Face Off,” 9
p.m., Syfy, rerunning at 11. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8
p.m.) started the final round, with two young Californians (Rob Seal,
20, and Walter Welsh, 26) and Melissa Ebbe, 36, of Milwaukee. Given
two teammakes apiece, they started creating make-up for two
characters in a short horror film. Tonight, they finish the film and
learn who won.

“Rogue,” 9 p.m.,
Audience Network (via DirecTV and AT&T). A brilliant Emmy-winner
as a good-guy schemer in “West Wing,” Richard Schiff is just as
great as bad-guy schemer Marty Stein. He struggled with (and
accidentally killed) Talia, half-sister of his gangster client
Marlon. Tonight, a DEA agent (sharply played by Sarah Carter) goes
after him fiercely. Meanwhile, Ethan and Mia try to learn about the
hitman he killed; it's a powerhouse episode that manages to throw
everyone into disarray.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. The Triple Exes (Gunnar, Scarlett and Avery) are on the
road with Autumn Chase, played by Alicia Witt. At home, Deacon
distrusts Cash's interest in his step-daughter Maddie.

TV column for Tuesday, April 12

“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

After receiving a
restraining order, one should always ... well, exercise some
restraint. That's not Jess' strong suit, you know. She soon pursues
Sam (David Walton) with unrestrained zeal. What follows – involving
a pick-up truck, a car wash and Selena Gomez music – is flat-out

A second plot –
involving a trendy nearby bar and its owner (Busy Phillips) – is
also quite funny. It adds up to one of the best episodes for a show
that doesn't get nearly enough attention.

II: “Jackie Robinson” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., PBS.

The first half of
the story was all triumph. Breaking baseball's color barrier,
Robinson was rookie of the year, then most valuable player; his
Dodgers kept winning championships. The rest gets tangled.

Robinson took a
business job and struggled with politics. Disappointed in John
Kennedy (for choosing Lyndon Johnson as vice-president) and then in
Richard Nixon (for not phoning Martin Luther King), he ended up with
Nelson Rockefeller. He fought for civil rights, but clashed with
militants. Two of his children thrived and one stumbled. Even for a
hero, this excellent film shows, real life is complicated.

ALTERNATIVE: “Game of Silence” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

An idyllic childhood
was suddenly pierced by a tragedy. Soon, four 13-year-olds were in a
brutal detention center. One bounced back neatly; now he's a top
lawyer, with a rich and beautiful fiance. The others, however,
couldn't shake the horrors; 25 years later, a fresh tragedy pulls
them back together.

Similar themes have
been used previously in movies (“Sleepers,” “Mystic River”)
and on TV (“Black Donnellys”), with boyhood violence returning to
overshadow adult years. “Game” -- which moves to Thursdays after
tonight – does it quite well, making this gripping, yet painful to

Other choices

“The Mindy
Project” return, any time, Hulu. The second half of the season
starts, with episodes doled out one-per-week. This one finds Mindy
and Jody hosting some college girls who are in New York to get their
eggs frozen. Alas, they're kind of wild and Mindy is distracted by
romance with Danny.

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. This is the middle of a three-night week for “Voice.”
On Monday and today, viewers hear the top 20 and vote. On Wednesday,
we'll learn which 12 will move on.

“NCIS” and
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 8-10 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of January's
crossover. On a private-plane flight from New Orleans to Washington,
D.C., the passengers are poisoned. That means the prime suspect is
the chef – Abby's brother (Tyler Ritter). Now Gibbs heads to New
Orleans, where Pride probes the involvement of a Russian sleeper
cell. Sebastian flies to D.C. to work with Abby.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Here's another chance to see the pilot
film, with all the family secrets pouring out in one public burst.
It's a bit excessive, but also quite funny.

season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. As the second season of this clever show
ends, there's even a song from Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty). That's
at Vaughn's rager, which Liv crashes; this follows another new hour
at 8 p.m., with Vaughn getting meaner and Liv having Blaine as an
ulikely ally.

Nine-Nine,” 9 p.m., Fox. Many people know Dennis Haysbert as the
insurance-commercial guy, but to Fox viewers he'll always be the
sturdy President Palmer from “24.” Here, he plays an FBI agent;
his friend Capt. Holt asks him to help with a seemingly impossible

“Limitless,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Naz (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) has been
accused of funding terrorism. Working to clear her, Brian and Rebecca
come across a family secret she's been keeping.