TV column for Tuesday, April 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Roseanne,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This is exactly how
to revive a long-vanished show: Keep everything that worked the first
time ... but find ways to freshen it. Tonight's opening moments are
pure “Roseanne,” with a brash (and very much illegal) revolt
against self-checkouts. Then come the new touches.

We meet the mother
of Roseanne and Jackie – played by Estelle Parsons, 90, who won her
Oscar (for “Bonnie and Clyde”) a half-century ago. Then it's
Darlene's husband – played by Johnny Galecki, her boyfriend in the
original series. Their first scene is masterfully written and
played..

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Black Lightning” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

After a strong
start, this series got repetitious, with similar
reluctant-to-be-a-hero stories each week. Now an excellent episode
gets things back on track.

Government
operatives are on the hunt – first for a way to harness the
metahumans, then for a chance to capture Jeff (Black Lightning). Near
death, he's in his mentor's cabin with his daughters – one known as
Thunder, the other not yet accepting her superpowers – and their
mother. Also hunting is the vile Tobias. The hour has key flashbacks
to Jeff's childhood, plus lots of high-voltage action.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Civilizations” opener, 8 p.m., PBS.

PBS is at its best
when offering epic images – pyramids and predators, mountains and
monarchs – spiced with a dab of purple-prose commentary. Now it
does that on a global scale.

Kenneth Clark's 1969
“Civilization” stuck to art in the Western world; this series, by
comparison, spans five continents, sometimes spectacularly. Liev
Schreiber narrates, with guest presenters. In the opener, Simon
Schama visits empires (including the Mayans) that were survived only
by art and architecture.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A prisoner escapes when the transport vehicle crashes into a
lake. Complicating things: The only witness is blind.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Beautifully crafted, “Rise” often seems intent on torturing
its characters and its viewers. The coach, who has seemed almost
decent lately, regresses into deep jerkdom .... The theater director
remains bull-headed ... Lilete's mom, who failed to stand up to her
boss, suddenly did it so violently that she lost her job and our
sympathy ... And new problems appear. It's way too much ... except
that the final minutes resonate with rich emotion. That will bring us
back for another week.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. A therapist suggests Dre and Bow try a date night. Also,
the kids have varying ideas for what to do with a bounce house after
the party.

“New Girl,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. After last week's terrific season-opener, we find lives in
chaos. Schmidt and Cece can't get any sleep, Nick can't get a story
idea, Jess can't get anything to do a work. There are some very funny
moments, especially after Jess and Cece mix alcohol and rage.

“For the People,”
10 p.m., ABC. This is a frustrating enigma: Shonda Rhimes has
produced the best totally new show of the season, one that matches
her “Grey's Anatomy” in great writing and fascinating characters.
Still, viewers haven't even sampled it. Next week, another show will
borrow its spot; try this hour which includes a difficult defendant,
accused of stealing items intended for hurricane victins.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. All that Pride wants is a fun night at the
bar with his lady friend. Then thieves take everyone hostage.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. John McCain played a key role in last week's documentary,
a compelling look at Donald Trump's battles with Republicans. Now the
show offers a portrait of McCain.