TV column for Sunday, May 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Billboard Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

These people work
hard to assemble stars, past and present. There's an award to Celine
Dion, who will sing ... and another to Britney Spears, who will do a
medley of her hits. Madonna will perform a tribute to Prince. And
there are duets – Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Nick Jonas and
Tove Lo.

There's much more,
with music by Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Fifth Harmony, Ariana Grande,
Pink, the Go-Gos, Meghan Trainor, Shawn Mendes, DNCE and even a new
Adele video.It should be fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Masterpiece: Wallander” finale, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Here's the 12th
and final movie about police Det. Kurt Wallander. Most have been set
against the stark Scandinavian countryside; all have richly reflected
that same pensive mood.

But now there's an
added element, as Wallander's memory fades. After he left his pistol
in a restaurant, he had to turn in his badge; still, he pushes ahead
with a complex case involving his daughter's father-in-law.
Brilliantly performed (as usual) by Kenneth Branagh, “Wallander”
ends emotionally.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Preacher” debut, 10-11:30 p.m., AMC.

As each intriguing
scene rolls by, a thought builds: “Hey, this is fascinating; I
wonder what it's about.”

There are preachers
who explode (literally) in Africa and Russia. There's makeshift
anti-aircraft fire in Kansas ... a violent bartender miles above
Earth ... a barroom brawl between a pastor and a pack of Civil War
re-enactors. Each scene is beautifully directed by Seth Rogen and
Evan Goldberg, who helped adapt the graphic novel. Still, we wish we
knew what it was about; we'll stick with it to find out.

Other choices
include:

Red-carpet coverage,
6-8 p.m. ET, E. This cable channel handles the fashion-gushing duties
for the Billboard awards. ABC skips that and has the “America's
Funniest Home Videos” season-finale at 7.

“Psycho” (1960),
6:30 and 11:30 p.m., and “Nebraska” (2013), 9 p.m., Sundance. An
evening of black-and-white movies? It works because these two films –
an Alfred Hitchcock thriller and a drama-comedy with deep characters
– are beautifully crafted.

“All the Way,”
6:45 p.m. , HBO. If you missed the debut Saturday, here's another
chance. On Broadway, this won Tonys for best play and best actor; now
the movie again has Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson, this time with
Anthony Mackie (Falcon in “Avengers:) as Martin Luther King.

“The Simpsons,”
7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. First, a rerun finds an off-brand of drink
hurtling Bart and Lisa into puberty. Then the season-finale puts
Margein prison and forces Homer to do housework.

“Bob's Burgers,”
8:30 and 9:30 p.m., and “Family Guy,” 9 p.m., Fox. It's
season-finale time for all of Fox's animated shows. For “Burgers,”
the second episode happens to be its 100th overall.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. This comedy has been inconsistent, but hits
its stride whenever people start debating a controversial subject. It
so, the next couple episodes are promising – they view
porn-addiction tonight and Donald Trump next Sunday.

“Masterpiece: Mr.
Selfridge” finale, 10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This is
a show that stayed too long. Its start – brashly creating a London
deparrtment store – was fascinating; the end, with Harry
Selfridge's gradual decline, has been monotone. Still, the final few
minutes are excellent.

 

TV column for Saturday, May 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live” season-finale, 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Fred Armisen has
managed to spend most of his life in New York. He grew up on Long
Island, spent a decade on “SNL,” then became the band leader for
Seth Meyers' late show. He leaves occasionally – making short,
delightful seasons of “Portlandia” – but keeps returning.

Now Armisen – who
used to portray Barack Obama -- is back to host his old show,
wrapping a season that's had some fun with the political chaos.
Singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is the music guest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “All the Way,” 8 p.m., HBO, repeating at 12:55 a.m. and at
6:45 p.m. Sunday.

The movie “Selma”
showed Lyndon Johnson as a go-slow guy, clashing with Martin Luther
King over civil-rights marches. On Broadway, however, there was an
opposite view -- Johnson as a fierce force, charming and bullying, as
he pushed the historic Civil Rights Act through a reluctant Congress.

That won Tony awards
for best play and Bryan Cranston's performance. Now it's been adapted
into a movie, with Cranston again starring; Anthony Mackie – Falcon
in the “Avengers” films – plays King.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Spymasters,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

This is the sort of
serious subject newsmagazines often skip. Under the “48 Hours”
banner, CBS talks to all 12 people who have led the CIA. “I found
that I was making decisions on life and death,” Leon Panetta
(2009-2011) says.

Donald Trump has
said he'd using waterboarding and more, but others have said torture
is immoral and produces unreliable results. “The agency is not
going to do this again,” Michael Hayden (2006-9) says.

Other choices
include:

Sports overload,
three networks. The playoffs gain momentum, with both hockey (St.
Louis at San Jose, 7:15 p.m. ET, NBC) and basketball (Cleveland at
Toronto, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). At the same time, Fox starts its
Saturday-night baseball line-up at 7:15 p.m. ET; varying by region,
it has Rangers-Astros, Cubs-Giants or Nationals-Marlins.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Fresh from seeing Tony's emotional departure Tuesday, viewers
can catch him in full-heroic duty, in this rerun of the
season-opener. While a quirky surgeon (Jon Cryer) struggles to save
Gibbs, Tony and a CIA agent (Mimi Rogers) head to Shanghai, hoping to
take down the villains.

“Toy Story”
(1995), 8-10 p.m., ABC. Two decades ago, the first full-length Pixar
film transformed the movie business. It had a great concept (the
after-hours lives of classic toys), an Oscar-nominated script and
computer animation. It's had two sequels (with another coming), two
TV specials and more. From “Finding Nemo” to “Inside Out,”
Pixar has emphasized wit while making a fortune.

“Despicable Me”
(2010), Disney; or “Despicable Me 2” (2013), FX, both 8 p.m. In
life after “Toy Story,” animated movies dominate, including this
overload. Fortunately “2” reruns at 10:30.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:05 and 11:09. The time in Paris has been
harrowing for Claire and her husband. Now he's in prison for dueling
and she's in the hospital, where doctors struggle to save her and her
unborn baby. Also, the king asks her to judge two men accused of the
dark arts.

“Dr. K's Exotic
Animal ER: Gloves Off,” 10 p.m., NatGeo Wild. The “Dr. K”
series follows Dr. Susan Kelleher in South Florida; at 9 p.m., it
opens its season with a sumo dragon, a macaw and more. Then this
spin-off includes laser treatment for birds.

“Party Over Here,”
11 p.m., Fox. The season-finale of this sketch-comedy show is also
its second “best-of” compilaton.

TV column for Friday, May 20


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“I Love Lucy,” 8-9 p.m., CBS.

This is the latest
special to add color to old “Lucy” episodes ... and also the
best. Some episodes – from the days when the show had only two or
three writers – were sparse on laughs until reaching the big sight
gags. This one, with five writers, starts quite well, then keeps
getting better.

Lucy plans to steal
the ultimate Hollywood souvenir – John Wayne's footprints and
signature at the Grauman theater. By the time Wayne shows up in the
second half-hour, the humor is cascading; instead of one big sight
gag, there's a crescendo of them, each expertly handled by Lucille
Ball.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Grimm” season-finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

When one character
asks what happened, the reply -- “too much” -- is succinct and
accurate. Way too much happens, in a two-parter that sets some record
for facial transformations and fight scenes. One fight – Nick
attacks Capt. Renard (newly elected mayor) in the precinct station –
is truly absurd.

There are, of
course, good reasons to be mad at Renard. He's part of a scheme that
killed a candidate and forced Adalind – Nick's enemy-turned-lover –
to move in with Renard. Other plot details include Nick's late lover
Juliette (now the alive Eve), a magic splinter and (despite a good
finish) too much.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Shining” (1980), 7-10:30 p.m., AMC, and more.

Some great talents –
Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, Jack Nicholson – combined for a
scary film that's brilliantly crafted, despite running too long.

Some more big films
follow at 8 p.m. on cable, including two Steven Spielberg classics.
He directed “Jaws” (1975, IFC) and produced “Back to the
Future” (1985, VH1). Also at 8: “Captain America: The First
Avenger” (2011, FX) and “Walk the Line” (2005, CMT), the
excellent Johnny Cash film.

Other choices
include:

“Easy A” (2010),
8-10 p.m., Fox. Emma Stone drew strong reviews for her performance as
a smart teen who's overlooked until she contrives a tale about sex
with an older guy.

“Masters of
Illusion” season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., CW. When ABC's comedies
ended their seasons, Fridays became way too ... well, grim. Now this
show provides summertime fun. Dean Cain hosts, introducing a
fast-paced collection of magicians. Jonathan Pendragon is in both of
tonight's episodes.

“The Originals”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. Doom looms for the Mikaelson siblings.
Overrun by his enemies, Klaus goes on trial for centuries of
misdeeds. Elija and Freya scramble to save their family.

“Jazz,” 9-11
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The ninth of 10 chapters in Ken
Burns' terrific documentary views the late 1950s. As rock soared,
jazz lost some of its popularity. Still, the free-jazz sound drew new
fans and persistent debates.

“Undercover Boss”
and “Blue Bloods,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS. For now, CBS will have new
episodes of “Boss” on both Sundays and Fridays – where it will
be followed by drama reruns. Tonight has the head of United Real
Estate Group, followed by an unspecified “Blue Bloods.”

“Banshee” series
finale, 10 p.m., Cinemax, rerunnin at 11 and midnight. Brutal,
lustful and well-crafted, this has been a solid surprise. zit
concludes with Hood ready to leave town – almost.

“Wynonna Earp,”
10 p.m., Syfy. A serial killer targets Wynonna as the next victim.
That's a poor choice, in a series based on a graphic novel about a
beautiful demon-fighter in the West.

TV column for Thursday, May 19


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

This is the starts
the final week of the “sweeps” ratings period and of the official
TV season. Tonight (and six more nights) will be stuffed with
season-finales. Still, this rerun is today's best show.

It's a story that
had a five-year build-up: Sheldon and Amy finally consummate their
relationship. That includes some wonderful dream scenes, with Bob
Newhart as the late Professor Proton; even posthumously, Proton is a
funny guy. The result was the season's best episode of TV's best
comedy.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

For the previous
three episodes, Red (James Spader) and the team have focused intently
on one goal: Find the people responsible for killing Liz.

Now, NBC says, this
season-finale has them getting close ... until there's a major
detour: A betrayal leaves the team rushing to save one of its own.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Grey's Anatomy” and “The Catch,” 8 and 9-11
p.m., ABC.

The Shonda Rhimes
dramas tend to end their seasons with jolts. Last week's “Scandal”
-- with Jake having two vice-presidential offers AND a gun to his
head – was a prime example. Now “Anatomy” has Callie and
Arizona continuing their custody fight, while Jo reveals she's kept
secrets from Alex.

That season-finale
is followed by another – spread over two episodes – on “The
Catch.” Alice makes a push toward bringing down Ben's associates,
then ends up in jeopardy. Meanwhile, his boss Sybil Griffiths is in
town, ordering an ambition heist, pulled off during a high-end
wedding.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-RECORD: Teen movies, all night, Turner Classic Movies.

For a brief spurt,
American International Pictures delivered youthful entertainment on
tidy budgets. Tonight's line-up start and ends with goofiness --
“Beach Party” (1963) at 8 p.m. ET and “Dr. Goldfoot and the
Bikini Machine” (1965) at 5 a.m., ET. In between are some serious
attempts.

“The Wild Angels”
(1966, 10 p.m.) was boosted by Roger Corman's direction, Peter
Bogdanovich's help and a great score by Mike Curb (later California's
lieutenant governor). Corman's “The Trip” (1967) is 11:45 p.m.;
“Wild in the Steets” and “Three in the Attic” (both 1968) are
1:15 and 3:15 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Legends of
Tomorrow” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. Here's a re-set for the
time-travelers: Rip returns them to Central City, where they'll
decide whether to continue.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. Violence among acapella singers? A group's leader has been fired
and an ousted singer -- Jordan Fisher of Teen Beach” and “Grease
Live” -- is a prime suspect.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:30 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. In the first episode, Felix has a drastic
way to get his roommate Oscar to know his girlfriend better – have
them go on a sort-of date. In the second, he wants to impress her by
learning to drive; he asks everyone – except Oscar – to teach
him.

“The 100”
season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. Against steep odds, it's time for a
confrontation.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. A terrific season ends with Christy realizing how much it
would cost to continue college all the way through law degree. And
now that her daughter – a third-generation alcoholic – is back
home, there's something new: Bonnie, Christy's mom, tries to be a
disciplinarian.

“Rush Hour,” 10
p.m., CBS. Carter is supposed to protect a beauty who's a witness
against her brutal boss. In the tradition of such stories, he's soon
falling for her.

TV column for Wednesday, May 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Survivor” finale, 8 p.m., CBS, with reunion special at 10.

Maybe beauty will
prevail, after all. The former “Beauty” tribe emerged with half
of the final four – Michele Fitzgerald, 24, a New Jersey bartender,
and Tai Trang, 51, a San Francisco gardener.

The one “Brawn”
survivor is Cydney Gillen, 23, a Georgia body-builder; the “Brains”
survivor is Aubry Bracco, 29, a social-media marketer from Cambridge,
Mass. Tonight, one will win the million-dollar prize; then Jeff
Probst reconvenes everyone to talk about what happened.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC, and more.

It's a night of
season-finales for ABC's dandy comedies, so you'll want to see or
record them. That peaks here, with so much disarray that no one seems
to notice Alex is home for the summer. Claire is fretting about
firing someone; Phil thinks he caught Luke in bed with a girl.

Meanwhile, Claire's
dad finds that re-entering the work force is harder than he thought.
And with Cam taking a summer job out of town, he and Mitchell
disagree about sharing Lily.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Royal Pains” season-opener, 10 p.m., USA.

For years, USA
thrived on light adventures or dramas in pretty places. This one,
about a doctor in the Hamptons, was a prime example. But ratings
dropped as viewers turned to deeper and darker drtamas; this
eighth-and-final season will be limited to eight episodes.

In this opener, Hank
treats a hard-headed politician, Divya sees a career hurdle and
Jeremiah makes a shaky return. Also, Eddie (Henry Winkler) has a
surprise that draws mixed reactions.

Other choices
include:

“Nature,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The season ends with a soaring
moment, when scarlet macaws are released into the Guatemalan jungle.
Raised in captivity, they'll replenish the shrinking numbers in
nature. That's the work of a diligent rescue facility: A veterinarian
tackles his first delicate surgery on a tiny potoo; his girlfriend, a
zoologist, cares for the 700 creatures in rehabilitation.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. As Brick's middle-school graduation nears, complications
grow, His song has been cut from the program; also, Sue is supposed
to start her Dollywood job that same day.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30, ABC. Erica frets about what to put in the school time-capsule.
Adam has a bigger worry -- “Hell Week,” when the seniors harass
the incoming freshmen.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Even by raucous Lyon standards, the family fights have
been extreme lately. In this season-finale, Jamal refuses to make
music until the others settle down. And during the wedding of Hakeem
and Laura, Cookie convenes a meeting of people from her past.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC. A week before the
season-finale, Brad Garrett plays a corrections official, retaliating
after being charged with sexually assaulting female inmates.

“Chicago, P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Oliver Platt crosses over, in his role as a “Chicago
Med” psychiatrist. He's called in to help when a traumatized girl
is the only survivor of a shooting.

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. This show veered into compelling turf when Paige told
her pastor (in confidence, she thought) that her parents are Russian
spies; tonight, that's part of a crisis. Also, her mom (usually
unflinching) is dismayed about making a friend's husband think they'd
had sex. This subtly crafted hour has more twists, even extending to
the former FBI boss (Richard Thomas).