TV column for Sunday, May 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Quantico” season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

This has been a
rarity – a quick ratings success. Viewers forgave the show's
excesses and savored its terrific star (Priyanka Chopra) and its
two-part plots, leaping between FBI training and future cases.

Now – on a night
stuffed with ABC finales – i's graduation day at Quantico; next
season will be rooted elsewhere. And flashing forward, the agents
scramble to get the people behind New York attacks; Alex (Chopra) has
a face-to-face confrontation with a terrorist.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Once Upon a Time” season-finale, 7-9 p.m., ABC.

Here's where ABC's
finale-flurry starts – with an ambitious two-parter that poses a
sobering thought: Maybe this world would be better off without magic.

That's what young
Henry thinks, with good reason: Robin Hood is dead, Regina is
grieving, Gold has stolen the Hades crystal and life looks dark; the
kid starts a rogue mission to destroy all magic. Also, the good guys
scramble to open a portal and return Merida and others to
Storybrooke.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

From its beginning
(nine years and 10 movies ago), “Wallander” has matched the
Swedish landscape – slow, stark, solemn and oddly beautiful.
Kenneth Branagh has brilliantly played a smart cop who pushes ahead
diligently, through any personal troubles.

But now, at just 55,
he's showing dangerous signs of forgetfulness, just as he tackles a
tough case: A woman's body has been found, a teen-ager is missing and
a young biker is suspected. Some parts don't make much sense now, but
they become clear next week, in the final film of a great series.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7:30 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun, with Lisa pondering a one-way
trip to Mars. Then the season-finale has a quirk: The final three
minutes (on both coasts) will be live, with some version of the Homer
character answering viewers' questions.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. The nine-episode season was such a success
that it sticks around for reruns. This one ranges from a pool prodigy
to an 11-year-old dancer on Janet Jackson's tour.

“The Queen at 90,”
8-10 p.m., Smithsonian. On April 21, Elizabeth II had her 90th
birthday. This ambitious documentary includes comments from many of
her family members.

“The Family”
season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC. By now, viewers know this was all a
compelling scam. Adam died in captivity; his sister trained Ben (a
fellow captive) to pretend to be him, advancing the political career
of her mother, Claire. Now Claire visits the place where the boys
were held. Police close in on the villain (Doug), while an FBI agent
nears death. And Ben gets shattering news.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. Maxine (Amber Stevens West) is visited by
her rich father. Ironically, West does have a rich-and-famous father
(Shadoe Stevens, a radio star and actor). Here, the dad is played by
Adam Arkin ... whose own rich-and-famous dad is AlanArkin.

“Last Man on
Earth” season-finale, 9:30 p.m., Fox. Last week offered a terrific
send-off for Mike (Jason Sudeikis), the astronaut who recently
returned to Earth: He wrote a note and quietly left, so his brother
wouldn't see him die. Alas, now the brother goes after him; it's a
lame ending to a good season.

“NCIS,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Gibbs' surgeon (Jon Cryer) is thrilled to be
involved in a case.

TV column for Saturday, May 14


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

This has been a busy
year for “SNL,” ranging from politics to Prince and from satire
to silliness. Now it's ending with a stretch of three straight new
epiosodes.

Last week was
Oscar-winner Brie Larson; next week, Fred Armisen returns to host the
show he was a regular in for a decade. And tonight, Drake doubles as
host and music guest. He does both easily: Before becoming a rap
star, he spent eight years as an actor (under the name Aubrey Graham)
on the Canadian teen drama “DeGrassi: The Next Generation.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Blind Side” (2009), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

On a break from its
busy basketball-playoff coverage, ABC detours slightly to show one of
the best sports movies lately. It tells of the relationship between a
wealthy family and Michael Oher, who went from a troubled teen to a
pro football player, now a key blocker for Cam Newton's Carolina
Panthers.

“Blind Side”
stretched the truth, apparently, but did it with a skillful blend of
humor and warmth. Sandra Bullock won a well-deserved Academy Award
and the film was nominated for best picture.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tulips in Spring,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

Rose grew up on a
tulip farm, which is sorft of logical. (Is there a Tulip who grew up
on a rose farm?) In the tradition of such stories, she moved to the
city, where she has a fancy job (interior design) and an overbearing
boss, played byt Kelly Rowan, the movie's only well-known star.

Also in that
tradition, she must suddenly return home, providing a chance to
re-evaluate her life. This will rerun at 3 p.m. Sunday, giving us
plenty of chances for springtime tulips and Rose.

Other choices
include:

“The Jungle Book”
(1967), 10 a.m., Freeform. Here's another of those dandy marathons of
Disney's animated classics. The first two -- “One Hundred and One
Dalmations” (1961) is at noon -- later had non-cartoon versions.
They're followed by “Tarzan” (1999) at 2 p.m., “Ratatouille”
(2007) at 4:30, “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) at 7, “Monsters
University” (2013) at 9:15 and “Aladdin” (1992) at 11:45.

More movies, cable.
A strong night starts with “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984), a splendid
Eddie Murphy romp, at 7:15 p.m. on AMC. At 8, there's one
disappointment -- “Pan” (2015) on HBO – and lots of fine
alternatives: “Batman Begins” (2005) on IFC, “The Hangover”
(2009) on TNT and another chance to see Prince's “Purple Rain”
(1984) – slim story, great visuals and music – on VH1.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Monday's episode, a 12-year-old
takes revenge too far: He says he shot a suffragette to avenge a
murder in his past life.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. This show has already finished its season
(and loaned its Monday slot to “Person of Interest”), so we have
to catch reruns elsewhere. Tonight, a woman has gone missing, four
years after Sam led her to political asylum; the team searches.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Someone misunderstands the notion of a
care-free Mardi Gras. In this rerun, Pride (Scott Bakula) and the
mayor (Steven Weber) are taken hostage during a party.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. Formerly a nurse in 1940s
England, Claire uses her medical skills in the 18th century.
That's part of her scheme to block a deal that would finance the war.

Late laughs, 11 p.m.
to midnight, Fox. First is the sketch show “Party Over Here.”
Then, at 11:30, is a rerun of the fairly good pilot film to “Cooper
Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life.” Coop – his own life in
disarray – deals with the mistakes of a well-meaning roommate.

TV column for Friday, May 13


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Amazing Race” finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

This started with a
fresh twist – 11 duos, each with at least one social-media star.
Now eight are gone and the final three rush from Shenzin, China, to
Santa Barbara, Cal., for a million-dollar prize.

There's Cole
LaBrant, a teen who does six-second comedy videos on Vine; he's
racing with his mom, Sheri. And Tyler Oakley, who talks to
eight-million subscribers on YouTube; he's with Korey Kohl, his
friend since childhood. And Matt Steffani and Dana Bariello, YouTube
dancers who are engaged.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Hawaii Five-0” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

The “Five-0”
people have been chasing Gabriel Waincroft, the crime figure whose
late sister (Dr. Maila Waindroft) was married to Lt. Chin Ho Kelly.
Now they have him ... and must protect him. He's been shot and
they're under attack by a rival gang, in an olf warehouse in Oahu's
Chinatown.

That's in the first
hour; in the second, Danny and McGarrett are working undercover to
crack a meth ring. Danny may have to blow his cover, however, in
order to save McGarrett's life.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jumping the Broom” (2011), 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The bride and groom
(Paula Patton and Laz Alonso) are a fine combination, but their
families – meeting for the first time, during the wedding weekend –
offer a mismatch.

Her mother (Angela
Bassett) is upscale, from Martha's Vineyard; his mother (Loretta
Devine) is blunt and Brooklyn. Mike Epps, Meagan Good, Brian Stokes
Mitchell, Pooch Hall and more are in support.

Other choices
include:

“Friday the 13th,
Part III” (1982), 9 a.m., Spike. Today is a Friday-the-13th,
so someone has to show us these horror films. Spike aired the first
two overnight Thursday, then shows the rest of them today. That
includes “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” (1984)
at 11:30 a.m.; ignoring all truth-in-titles standards, there were
more movies, showing at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

“Despicable Me”
(2010), 6 p.m., Freeform; and “Despicable Me 2” (2013), 8 p.m.,
FX. It's almost a double-feature, overrun by minions. The first
movie, however, overlaps with a half-hour of the second.

“The Vampire
Diaries” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. Hey, it's tough out there for a
vampire. Damon, Enzo and Caroline ponder drastic steps, to save
Bonnie. They may have to go into the Armory, with help from the twin
daughters of Caroline and Alaric. Enzo tries to keep Bonnie
pre-occupied; when that fails, Damon may have to make the ultimate
sacrifice.

“The Originals,”
9 p.m., CW. A week before the season-finale, Vincent and Kol travel
to the ancestral world, hoping to put an end to the witches and
reclaim their city. Also, Freya faces a dire prophecy.

“Jazz,” 9-11
p.m., PBS (check local listings). This chapter – the eighth of 10 –
views the decade after World War II, when jazz began to splinter. It
saw cool vs. hot, East vs. West, traditional vs. Modern.

“Grimm,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. A week before the season finale, the mayoral election is near.
Renard keeps his supernatural fury hidden from viewers, as
politicians tend to do.

“Freddy Vs. Jason”
(2003), 10 p.m., Spike. Our day has a messy (but appropriate) ending,
when Freddy Kruger (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) resurrects Jason
Voorhees (“Friday the 13th”). Just be glad there are only one or
two Friday-the-13ths in a year.

TV column for Thursday, May 12


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

Defying most
traditions, TV's best comedy keeps getting better. Once confined to a
four-person core, it now has six neatly mismatched regulars and some
great side characters.

Now they're thrown
together when Sheldon's conservative mom is in town at the same time
as Leonard's recently divorced parents. They're played, respectively,
by Laurie Metcalf and by Judd Hirsch and Christine Baranski; add
those three and you have 25 Emmy nominations and six wins.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Scandal” season-finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

This show loves to
shock us – especially in season finales. Last week, it dumped most
presidential candidates. A secret tape revealed that a billionaire
businessman was just saying outrageous things to get the nomination;
he then planned to reverse directions in the general election. (How
do they make up this stuff?) He promptly dropped out.

Now the presumptive
candidates are Mellie (the former first lady) and Francisco Vargas
(being

manipulated by
Cyrus, who has another jolt ready). Now they name their choices for
vice-president.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Blacklist,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Today and next
Thursday, this two-part season-finale has the team obsessing on
finding who killed Liz.

The result will take
Red outside his comfort zone, NBC says; that's something, because
he's comfortable almost anywere. It also will take him outside the
law.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. A week before the season-finale, one relationship (Owen
and Amelia) is moving forward. Another (Callie and Arizona) has
deteriorated into a custody fight.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. Tonight's murder victim was a “fixer” who made people's
problems go away – usually. Meanwhile, Aubrey is busy: He gets
information about his father's whereabouts; also, the criminal
behaviorist (Sara Rue) asks him for a date.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Felix's girlfriend has a “curse” that ruins every
birthday. Now he plans to make it up to her. Also, Oscar has trouble
with the son of Charlotte (Teri Hatcher).

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Christy's daughter Violet had seemed uncommonly (for this
show) settled; she was engaged to Gregory, an academic sort. Now
they've broken up and there are differing explanations. Linda Lavin
guests as Gregory's mother.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. A week before the two-hour season-finale, Ben and Rhys
(Peter Krause and John Simm) try to free Leah (Nia Vardalos of “My
Big Fat Greek Wedding) from FBI custody.

“Archer,” 10
p.m., FX. Life is different – and kind of seedy – now that the
team is doing private-eye work. A husband and wife each separately
want the other seduced, to see if they'll cheat. In a sometimes-funny
episodes, opinions vary on who shouls do the seductions.

“Game of Silence,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. This mini-series veers wildly between strong drama
and odd twists. Tonight's best moments come when Shawn finds an
alternate way to get rid of his friend's killer. The bad: Gil's usual
explosions ... and Shawn's odd decision to bring Gil back to a
shoot-out scene.

TV column for Wednesday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Scattered through
the animal world are amazing bits of teamwork. One set of whales
blows a stream of bubbles, surrounding and herding its prey; another
shatters an ice floe, leaving a seal helpless.

When wolves stalk
bison, there's team strategy on both sides. And, this delightful hour
shows, some partnerships link different species. Hippos submerge, so
fish can eat their bugs ... and even clean their teeth. One bird
guides a wolverine to its prey, then grabs the leftovers; another
guides humans.

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

The strong ABC
comedies are a week from their season-finales. That means some
promising episodes tonight, led by this one: DeDe (Shelley Long) is
finally getting remarried.

Jay, her ex-husband,
is delighted; Claire and Mitchell, her offspring, fret about a
wedding toast. And Manny has convinced the family to go there by
train. Along the way, his mom, Gloria, ends up in coach ... Cam and
Phil obsess on a famous author whose onboard ... and others discover
rail romance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX, repeating at 11:04.

When ABC ran “The
Day After” in 1983, the impact was immense: More than 100 million
Americans – then a record – saw the film and its brutal view of
the world after a nuclear attack.

This episode
includes a long scene of people watching that film. Some are shaken;
others see their work – several Russian spies, one FBI agent – as
crucial to preventing war. Then it's back to business ... including
destroying decent lives. Elizabeth cruel trick shatters a friend's
husband.

Other choices
include:

“Underground,”
1-11 p.m., WGN. You can catch this entire, ambitious season in one
gulp. It starts with slaves in 1857 Georgia, then sees them plot an
elaborate escape attempt. The season-finale debuts at 10 p.m.,
rerunning at 11, midnight and 1 a.m.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. With last week's elimination of Kyle Jason (a real-estate
agent from Detroit), there's only one person left from the original
“brawn” tribe. That's Cydney Gillon, a Georgia body-builder;
tonight, she faces two from “beauty” and two from “brawn,”
trying to make next week's finale.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Here's a persistent debate: If kids have no rules in
college, will they still follow some during summer vacation? Axl and
Sue try to stand firm; meanwhile, their brother tries to figure whom
he's up against for middle-school valedictorian.

“Empire,” 9
p.m., Fox. Every TV family seems to have its secrets, but these are
harsher than most: Cookie finally tells Jamal what happened to the
father (Chris Rock) of Freda the rapper: He was killed in prison, on
the orders of Lucious – Jamal's father and Cookie's ex-husband.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m.. NBC. When a reality-dating-show
contestant says she was raped, Benson investigates ... and becomes
part of the show.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Racing to catch someone who shot her police partner,
Burgess shoots a black teen honor student. The public rages, a trial
nears and her colleagues search for evidence.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Derek Hough – the frequent “Dancing With the Stars”
winner – returns to his acting role: He and Juliette are busy
pushing for Oscars for their “Shenandoah Girl” movie. Also, Rayna
scrambles to protect her daughter; Scarlett dislikes Gunnar's
attention to Autumn (Alicia Witt).