TV column for Sunday, April 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Into the Badlands” season-opener, 10:02 p.m., AMC; reruns at
1:05 a.m.

Life is tough
enough, for a single dad whose baby has a fierce fever. But now add
the annoyance of thieves and assassins and such. That's what Sunny
faces, as he returns after months away. The Widow is consolidating
her power and holds his young protege, M.K., prisoner.

This opener is
filled with epic action scenes. Yes, they tend to be gory, gruesome
and wildly unrealistic. Still, they're done with a style that is
lyrical, balletic and stunning to watch. It's an appealing start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Symphony For Our World,” 7 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild; reruns at 2
a.m.

Here is an hour of
sheer, uninterrupted beauty – an Earth Day special that introduces
an orchestral piece. as a backdrop for nature scenes.The music feels
unexceptional, but the visuals are gorgeous.

Soon, we're,soaring
above the mountains, diving deep into the ocean, savoring natural
beauty. There are no commercial interruptios, but there's also no
narration or context. The best approach is just to slow down your
life, settle back and intake an hour of magnificence.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Timeless,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Robert Johnson's
place in history has never been clear. Supporters say he was a
musical genius, father of the blues; others say that his early death
– at 27, in 1938 – leaves us with myths and legends.

Tonight, however,
the team travels the smoky juke joins of the Depression era, to
preserve his place. A fourth seat has been added to the time machine,
so now its creator, Connor Mason, can join.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Howards End,” 8 p.m., Starz; and “Masterpiece:
Unforgotten,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Two British tales
have their third parts. For “Unforgotten,” a gritty murder
mystery, that concludes the story; for “End,” a gorgeous drama,
there's one more week. And yes, both are easy to join now.

Set more than a
century ago, “End” has the compelling contrast between the
vibrant Schlegel sisters and the dour Winslows. Now Margaret Schlegel
(Hayley Atwell) may rent a home from Henry Wilcox (Matthew
Macfadyen), as her sister lobbies for an impoverished clerk.
“Unforgotten” has traced the names in the diary of a young man
killed 39 years ago. The result is dark, grim and beautifully acted.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The viewers finally get a say. They'll vote tonight,
after the top 14 contestants perform; on Monday, they'll learn who's
in the top 10.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. There's double trouble for Charles: His
food truck was destroyed by a fire ... and Pimento is the insurance
agent. Also, Amy is choosing her wedding dress.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Some $10 million in bitcoin has been stolen.
Now Sam is working undercover with Hidoko (Andrea Bordeaux), using an
identity that has probably been compromised.

“Westworld”
season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., HBO. The first season of this fantasy
epic won four Emmys (in technical areas) and was nominated for 17
more. Now – after a 16-month pause – the second season begins,
with the androids becoming powerfully self-aware.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth has been trying to negotiate a security
agreement involving gang violence in South America. Now that's been
complicated by a kidnapping.

“Deception,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Cameron has been reluctant to work with the police,
but not now: After his former girlfriend is robbed during fashion
week, he insists on joining the investigation.

TV column for Saturday, April 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Sports and/or “Concussion” (2015).

It's playoff time
now for two pro sports. Hockey is on NBC at 8 p.m. ET; basketball is
on cable all day. TNT has Philadelphia and Miami at 2:30 p.m. ET and
Portland and New Orleans at 5; then ESPN has Houston and Minnesota at
7:30 and Oklahoma City and Utah at 10.

But for
counterpoint, catch “Concussion” at 8 p.m. on BET. It's a vivid
reminder that any sport – in this case, football – can botch its
priorities. Will Smith brings subtle perfection to Dr. Bennet Omalu,
the Nigerian native whose landmark, 2005 study of football brain
damage was, for a time, ignored.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Even if you're not
excited about this year's contestants, you should catch this rerun of
Monday's outing. In duets, it linked 12 of them with pop-music stars,
many of them thoroughly talented.

Two have turns with
Lea Michele, of “Glee” and Broadway fame. Also having two duets
are Bebe Rexha, Colbie Caillat, Cam and Banners; having one apiece
are Allen Stone and Rachel Platten.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The X-Files,” all day, BBC America.

In its best moments,
this series has been fresh, clever and imaginative; in its worst,
it's still been interesting. Now this cable channel re-visits it from
the start.

The pilot film –
with just-the-facts Dr. Dana Scully linking with believe-anything Fox
Mulder – is at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET. (That's 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
PT.) The next nine episodes rerun between 11 and 8, with eight of
them re-rerunning from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The marathon resumes at 6
a.m. ET Monday.

Other choices
include:

Trading spaces, all
day, TLC. First is a cascade of reruns from the show's original run,
which ended a decade ago. They start at 1 p.m., followed at 7 by a
rerun of last week's episode, with designers Ty Pennington and Carter
Oosterhouse getting a shot at designing, From 8-10:07 p.m. (rerunning
at 11:07) is a new episode, with parents and their son remodeling
each other's bedroom.

“Raiders of the
Lost Ark” (1981), 6 p.m., Paramount Network. Steven Spielberg's
masterful adventure is sandwiched by the superb “Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade” (1989) at 3 and 9 p.m. Two lesser Indy films --
“Crystal Skull” (2008) and “Temple of Doom” (1984) – are at
9 a.m. anad noon.

More movies. The
vibrant “High School Musical” and its sequel (2006 and 2007) are
6 and 7:50 p.m. on Disney. Tina Fey has two films, one clever (“Mean
Girls,” 2004, 7 p.m., E) and one not (“Sisters,” 2015, 8 p.m.,
FXX). And Freeform's animation marathon peaks with “Finding Nemo”
(2003) at 9:25.

Racing, 6:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. Does anyone think we needed more sports events today?
Colliding with basketball, baseball and hockey, we get a NASCAR race
from Richmond, Va.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. A CIA spy – pretending to be a diamond dealer as she
travels with her family – has been kidnapped in Vienna. Eric
travels there with Oliver, who gets an interesting job offer.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This reruns the episode that introduced Maria Bello as
Jacqueline Sloane. She's a forensic psychologist and Vance, the NCIS
director, pushed for her transfer from California to Washington. That
comes just as a storm creates a black-out, in the midst of a
kidnapping probe.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the episode hosted by Sam
Rockwell, prior to his Oscar for the brilliant “Three Billboards
Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Halsey is the music guest.

TV column for Friday, April 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Live From Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Most networks skip
music, except for award shows, but not PBS. At 10 p.m., it has a
high-octane will.i.am concert; at 9, it launches this four-Friday run
of intimate concerts by Broadway stars.

That starts with
Sutton Foster, who has a musical-theater knack for gorgeous sounds
that evoke deep emotion. She has two Tony awards; Leslie Odom Jr.
(next week's star) has one, for “Hamilton.” Stephanie J. Block
and Andrew Rannells have two nominations each. All four are also TV
actors. Foster starred in “Bunheads” and “Younger”; her guest
star tonight is Jonathan Groff of “Glee.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Jane the Virgin” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

For a moment, it
might seem like everything is in place. Jane is happy with Rafael ...
which is fortunate because (due to a clinical error) they already
have a son. Her mom Alba passed her citizenship test. Her dad Rogelio
is finally turning his telenovela into a U.S. mini-series.

Alas, this season –
a good one – ends with new complications. Rafael has a secret. Alba
rejects plans for a celebration. And Rogelio's co-star (played by
Brooke Shields) spends a week with him, so they can be believable as
a married couple; she soon takes that role-playing too far.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 10 p.m., PBS.

This probably wasn't
what Queen Victoria expected when she dedicated the Royal Albert Hall
in 1871, naming it after her late husband. Yes, the hall has hosted
the English National Ballet for 20 years, summer classical concerts
for 75, Handel's “Messiah” for 142 years. But this is something
else.

There's an
electronic host, flashing lights, then will.i.am, working solo and in
the Black Eyed Peas. Fergie is no longer with the group, but British
singer Lydia Lucy steps in. The upbeat, dance-pop sound gets a bit
repetitious, but you'll agree with the familiar lyrics: “Tonight's
gonna be a good, good night.”

Other choices
include:

“Cars” (2006),
5:45 p.m., Freeform. This launches a fun film night. Its sequel
(2011) is at 8:25 ... The first Indiana Jones films (in reverse
order) are at 6 (1984) and 9 p.m. (1981) on the Paramount Network ...
“Big” (1988) is 8 p.m. on CMT. And “The Thrill of It All”
(1963), with Norman Jewison directing James Garner and Doris Day in a
witty Carl Reiner script, is 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. With 12 kids left, the challenges
involve speed (making as many egg benedict dishes as possible in 15
minutes) and pleasure (unique dishes with chocolate).

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Did you ever notice how often TV heroes manage to be
kidnapped or taken hostage? Now it's Mac's turn, when his friend's
bank is robbed.

“Futurama,” 8
p.m. to 2 a.m. Hypnotoad will show up throughout the night, with his
habit of putting people into dangerous trances. He's in some of the
episodes (starting with the “Bender's Big Score” movie, from 8-10
p.m.) and will also show up with his logo and hypnotic interruptions.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. People are wary of Ruby (Dove Cameron), the
genetically engineered teen who describes herself as “the destroyer
of worlds.” Now the team tries to stop her.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Lady Sophie, a teenage British royal, is missing. Harry
Langford, who was supposed to be protecting her, is desperate to find
her.

“Meghan Markle: An
American Princess,” 10 p.m., CBS. A month before the royal wedding,
CBS News profiles the actress who is marrying Prince Harry.

TV column for Thursday, April 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Scandal” finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

No TV series – at
least, none in prime time – has taken viewers on so many wild
rides. People were killed, a presidential election was rigged, lovers
became enemies, heroes became deeply suspect.

At the core has been
Olivia, once merely a “fixer” (Michael Cohen style) and then at
the core of power. She's the chief of staff for President Mellie
Grant and even briefly ran B613, the brutal, secret unit that's been
run by her father, Rowan, and ex-lover, Jake. Last week, Olivia
finally exposed B613. Now come the congressional hearings, with
everyone – including Olivia's ex-colleagues and the president.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Roseanne,” all day, cable.

The “Roseanne”
revival – filled with sharply funny moments – has caused a rush
to the past. Next Tuesday, ABC will rerun the reboot's first four
episodes; meanwhile, cable grabs the originals.

They're weekdays on
TV Land (4:30-5:30 a.m.) and CMT (10 a.m. to noon). And on Wednesday,
the Paramount Network started rerunning them in order, from 4-6 p.m.
weekdays. Today has a bonus, with the fifth episode – focusing on
George Clooney – at 3:30. And when these finish today, switch to
Lifetime. It has “Roseanne's Nuts,” the 2011 reality show, from
6-10:02 p.m. and 11:02 p.m. to 2 a,.m,

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

Yes, we should
celebrate the return of great old comedies -- “Will & Grace”
(with a rerun at 9 p.m. today on NBC) and “Roseanne” (seemingly
everywhere, all the time).

But let's also savor
TV's best current comedy. Like those two, “Big Bang” has sharp
dialog, before a studio audience, by gifted actors (including Johnny
Galecki, who was great in Tuesday's “Roseanne”). Tonight, writer
Neil Gaiman brings a sudden boom to Stuart's sagging comic-book
store. Also, Penny makes an astronomy discovery, but Raj takes
credit, causing longtime friendships to wobble.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. On the night “Scandal” leaves, there are other
Shonda Rhimes productions to savor. Tonight's twists range from
serious – Jo must step in for Bailey and Meredith in the middle of
major surgery – to goofy: In a plot twist used by many shows (most
recently “Mom”), Arizona shares cookies provided by a patient ...
but is unaware of their ingredients.

“A.P. Bio,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. A funny sub-plot – every teacher trying to impress the
visiting superintendent – partly obscures the unfunny cruelty of
the show's main character.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Marjorie has always been the steady force here, but now she has
a meltdown in a store. Soon, Christy is considering getting someone
else – played by Yvette Nicole Brown of “Community” and “The
Mayor” -- to be her sponsor.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. Here's another Shonda show: Andy and Jack each want the
captain's job held by her father until his health trouble. They've
been sharing the interim job, but now must compete in a drill test
with 18 other candidates. While they're away, Travis is in charge of
the station.

“Howards End,” 9
and 10 p.m., Starz. Here are reruns of the first two episodes of this
four-Sunday miniseries. They're fairly good, while establishing the
people and the parameters of 1910 England; the next two are terrific,
with deeply nuanced characters.

“Champions,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. In a fairly good plotline, Michael insists on meeting
his paternal grandmother. In a lame one, he's in charge of spiffing
up the gym's web site.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. After a fire at a drug cartel's property, money is
missing.

TV column for Wednesday, April 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Riverdale,” 8 p.m., CW.

In the midst of a
dark series, filled with betrayal and despair, it's time for ...
well, the high school musical. Really. Fortunately, this one is
“Carrie,” a dark tale of teen vengeance.

Kevin, the director,
goes with typecasting. Veronica plays the mean girl, Betty the nice
one, Cheryl the vengeful one, Archie the great friend; that matches
real life ... or did, until the show started inexplicably having
Archie go bad. The songs are blended into the hour, via rehearsals
and the show. The result? Musically, it's first rate, with talented
young performers; storywise, it remains a rather shrill soap opera.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Originals” (9 p.m. CW) and “Krypton” (10 p.m., Syfy).

This is a great time
for fantasy fans, with filmmakers able to deliver stunning scenes.
“Krypton” continues to deliver epic visuals, even when the
stories (including tonight's) are quite brutal.

And “The
Originals” opens its season with its own visual splendor and
personal pain. Klaus is causing chaos in Paris (where his brother
Elijah is a piano player with no memories). Hayley is in New Orleans
where (jumping ahead in time), there's been seven years of peace.
Their teen daughter –a terrific addition to the show – is in
boarding school. Soon, the peace is broken and the drama starts to
build.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV: Bill Nye, Science Guy,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Nye has shown a
knack for re-invention. An engineering grad from Cornell, he became
the science guy on daytime TV, with a goofy sense of humor. A
kid-show star, he turned to serious debates and now argues
passionately that an “anti-science” bias has crippled our war on
climate change.

There have been
detours. This interesting documentary points to Nye's fear of ataxia
(an ailment that struck the rest of his family, but spared him) ...
his “trust issues” ... and his desire for the spotlight. When Nye
agreed to debate a creationist, the tape helped fuel the man's
massive fundraising burst.

Other choices
include:

“Lord of the
Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), 6:59 to 10:23 p.m., Starz.
It's a night for great movies. There's this Oscar-winner plus (8 p.m.
ET on Turner Classic Movies) “Casablanca” (1942) – which is No.
3 (behind “Citizen Kane” and “Godfather”) on the American
Film Institute's all-time list.

“Nova,” 8-10
p.m., PBS. Leading up to Earth Day on Sunday, PBS has shows for kids
– daily “Cyberchase” episodes -- and grown-ups. “Nova”
follows scientists' efforts to grasp weather details.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. Even after last week's heart attack, Cookie refuses to
slow down. It's a busy time for everyone, as Lucious and Andre try to
upend Eddie's scheme to take over the company.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. For Take 3 -- three young women with talent and determination –
things are never easy. Now they're battling Noah Brooks for a coveted
track from a hot producer; also, Alex (of Take 3) and Noah revisit
their time together. And Carlotta re-opens her salon after a fire
nearly destroyed it.

“Criminal Minds”
season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m.,, CBS. After two hours tonight, things
still won't be settled. There's a cliffhanger, CBS says, to be
settled in the 14th season. Before that, someone is
targets part of people's brains; also, a former FBI agent has a story
that puts his credibility in doubt.

“Modern Family, 9
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Shorty is visiting from Costa Rica. He ends up
paying more attention to Gloria than he does to his friend Jay.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. In this fictional White House, the hacking
is getting more serious: Now a therapist's private tape have been
leaked, raising doubts about the president's fitness. That launches a
five-week stay for Michael J. Fox, in a story that quickly defies
credibility