Best-bets for April 17: envy, murder and a giant

1) “Envy,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Serayah (shown here) – who made an impressive TV debut in “Empire” (as Tiana, Hakeem’s es-wife) gets the title role, sort of. Learning she has a prosperous half-sister, she suddenly wants it all. This is the second faith-based film produced by Bishop TD Jakes, based on novels about the seven deadly sins. “Lust” was last week; production on “Greed” was delayed by the pandemic. The others – including, alas, sloth and gluttony – may take a while. Read more…

Teen conquers complex role

In rare moments, a master actor gets to play a double or triple role.
That includes comedy guys – Eddie Murphy, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers – and various Englishmen who become Jekyll and Hyde. And now, sort of, there’s Chiara Aurelia.
No, you probably haven’t heard of her. She’s 18 and has had some roles … five of them playing the younger version of a main character. But when “Cruel Summer” debuts (9 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, on Freeform), she has virtually a triple role – the same teen-ager (Jeanette, shown here, center, at the start), over three summers that transform her completely.
“Each year kind of represents a different element of all of our lives,” Aurelia told the Television Critics Association. “You know – the darkness, the sadness, the youthfulness.” Read more…

Best-bets for April 16: violins in China, vampires in Romania

1) “Van Helsing” season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. After four seasons with Vanessa Van Helsing (shown here) in a near-future world, this goes back to the roots of vampire-hunting: It starts its final season with three episodes set in old Romania. This opener was beautifully directed by Jonathan Scarfe, a gifted actor (and son of Canadian star Sara Botsford) who later will return to his role as Axel. Jack (Nicole Munoz) has been flung into the past, told only to “kill the Dark One.” That’s not easy, amid castle schemes. Read more…

Best-bets for April 15: “Mom,” “Moodys” mirth

1) “Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS. Only five episodes remain in this show’s great, eight-year run. For a time (after “Big Bang” left), this was TV’s best comedy. It slipped a tad this season, with Anna Faris (as Christy) leaving; still, it has sharp scripts and one of TV’s great characters. That’s Bonnie, perfectly played by Alison Janney, who has two Emmys in the role … plus five in other roles and an Oscar. Tonight (shown here), after a fairly funny “United States of Al” at 8:30, Bonnie is jealous of Tammy’s success. Read more…

Best-bets for April 14: tough reality, tougher fiction

1) “Tough as Nails” finale, 8 p.m., CBS. The final four compete for the top prize of $200,000 and a truck. There’s Sarah Burkett, 41, a pipe welder; Scott Henry, 44, a construction superintendent; “Swifty” Sanders (shown here), 43, a steelworker; and “Zeus” Ontai, 29, a lineworker. The others stick around for the team competition; Ontai is on part of one team, with the other finalists on the other. Read more…

A TV rarity: An old script was brought to life

Scattered around Hollywood, it seems, are warehouses (or hard drives) stuffed with scripts.
They’ve been purchased and pondered and then ignored. Few survive; one exception is the “Big Shot” series, which starts streaming Friday (April 16) on the Disney+ service.
“When Disney+ started, they … said, ‘Have you seen any scripts over the years that didn’t get made that you might like?’” John Stamos (shown here) – who stars as a guy who was once big in men’s college basketball, but now coaches high school girls – told the Television Critics Association. Read more…

Best-bets for April 13: Three intense dramas return

1) “Prodigal Son” return, 9 p.m., Fox. Here’s talent from all over the British Isles. Tom Payne (from England) stars, with Michael Sheen (Wales) as his dad, who’s a doctor and a convicted serial killer. Now Catherine Zeta-Jones (also Wales) has joined the cast as the prison doctor. And Alan Cumming (Scotland) arrives as a British detective. Cumming (showh nere with Bellamy Young) has an over-the-top style that dominates, but the hour ends with a great scene between Sheen and Zeta-Jones. Read more…

Best-bets for April 12: Comedies offer pregnancy, promotion

1) “Breeders,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:04. Last week’s episode (rerunning ar 10:31) found Ally (Daisy Haggard) reluctant to tell Paul (Martin Freeman) she’s pregnant. Tonight, they hesitantly ponder their future. These are people in their 40s; it’s already been difficult to raise two children (shown here in a previous flashback), with a new crisis arriving tonight. The result subtly mixes dabs of comedy and drama. Read more…

Small-town Wales propels big-time actors

It took a mere half-century for two sorta-neighbors to meet and work together.
That’s on “Prodigal Son” (9 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox), which has just returned from a month-long break. Michael Sheen co-stars and Catherine Zeta-Jones has joined the cast; they play doctors at a prison (shown here), with a key difference: She’s an employee, he’s a prisoner.
Here are two people who grew up in the same southwestern area of Wales, at the same time, yet never quite met. “We actually have childhood friends” in common, Zeta-Jones told the Television Critics Association. “My mom and dad know his dad.” And yet, they’d “never met before; I’d admired (him) from a distance.”
That distance was about 5,000 miles. Zeta-Jones, 51, became a Hollywood star – an Oscar-winner (“Chicago”), married to an Oscar-winner (Michael Douglas) – while Sheen, 52, was starring in British theater and TV. Read more…

Best-bets for April 11: a horror hello, a shameful goodbye

1) “The Nevers” (shown here) debut, 9 p.m., HBO. Victorian-era society seems far removed from fantasy horror. Still, 19th-century England gave us Frankenstein and Hyde and Jack the Ripper and more. And now it’s the backdrop for a cosmic event, leaving many people (women, mostly) as “the touched.” An orphanage patron (Olivia Williams) shelters them, a brothel owner (James Norton) pursues them and a cop (Ben Chaplin) feels torn. Read more…