TV column for Thursday, April 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Siren,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

As
angry-mermaid-captured-by-evil-military stories go, this is
surprisingly good. Once you get past the odd part – tails are shed
and regenerated with surprising ease – it's solidly written and
crafted.

A mermaid attacked
Chris (a fisherman); then both were taken to a military facility. A
second mermaid came ashore to find her ... promptly killing an
abusive guy. As friends look for Chris tonight, we have a pivotal
episode. “Siren” is shot in British Columbia, adding extra
strength; that includes gorgeous scenery, native Americans (or native
Canadians) in key roles and a quiet decency to most characters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS.

For a while, “Mom”
was optional: It's a terrific comedy, but so is NBC's “Will &
Grace.” But now the latter has finished it new shows and retreated
to reruns; it's time for “Mom” to soar again.

Tonight, the women
bring an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to a prison. Bonnie's old
acquaintance is there and is bitter; two 6-foot alpha-females –
Allison Janney and Kristen Johnston – battle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Atlanta,” 10 and 10:39 p.m., FX.

If you missed last
week's episode, catch the rerun at 10:39. It was an instant classic –
wildly unrelated to anything else the show has done, but thoroughly
memorable. Donald Glover, the show's creator-star, played Ern for
only a moment ... but did most of the episode as a strange, sad man
in whiteface.

That's sandwiched by
the new episode at 10, rerunning at 11:30. If poses the modern
question of whether a party is really happening if you're not texting
about it.

Other choices
include:

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. An immigration agent shows up ominously at the
hospital, looking for an employee. Also, a patient wants to enjoy her
final days out of the hospital; Alex resists.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a brilliant scientist (Peter MacNicol)
invites Sheldon to his remote cabin , the othe guys some along. That
leaves the women free to make some new plans, because Amy considers
the bachelorette-party ideas too tame.

“A.P. Bio,” 8:30
p.m., NBC. The best character in this so-so show is the school
principal (Patton Oswalt), a mixed bundle of zest and despair. In
this OK episode, his world starts to wobble.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. Here's another nod to the show's “Grey's Anatomy”
roots. Miranda Bailey, the hospital's medical chief, visits the
station where her husband (formerly a surgeon) is a firefighter and
EMT. Most o the team is called to an accident scene.

“Champions,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Growing up in Ohio, Michael had little feel for his
maternal roots in India. Now that he's in New York (studying music
and living with his dad, Vince), he might bond with other
Indian-American teens. Also in this fairly good episode, Vince wants
some Americana – a weekend in the woods. Michael is appalled;
Vince's employees are delighted the boss will be gone.

“Scandal,” 10
p.m., ABC. Cyrus' scheme to take over the White House reaches a new
extreme: Now Olivia must testify against her friend and client, the
president.

“SWAT,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. When an ex-convict holds a family captive, things escalate
dangerously. Also, Street's romances are getting tangled; he asks
Chris if she'll manage his online dating profile.

TV column for Wednesday, April 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Expanse” season-opener and “Krypton,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
Syfy.

Wednesdays have
become the showcase for Syfy, the night to bunch its most ambitious
shows. Last week, “The Magicians” ended its season; now “Expanse”
steps into the same slot. There's a three-way war between Earth, Mars
and the asteroid belt; a ship's crew finds itself trapped between
forces.

That's followed by
“Krypton,” the visually splendid series about the man who will be
Superman's grandfather. As he tries to save his lover, he's captured
by rebels. This tangled episode expands TV's wretched obsession with
torture. Flaws and all, however, it remains interesting.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Nova” and “GI Jews,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS.

Here are two views
of World War II. First, a rerun of a moving documentary that was
filmed in Lithuania, where a Jewish city was obliterated and as many
as 100,000 people were executed. Researchers find the tunnel where 11
men escaped; they also talk to some of their descendants.

Then is a new film
about the 550,000 Jewish-Americans who were in the war – sometimes
facing anti-Semetism from colleagues. It interviews some Henry
Kissinger, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

The chasm between
these people keeps expanding. Both are Russian spies, embedded in
Washington suburbia. Elizabeth, however, is hard-core; her husband
Philip, a supporter of Gorbachev's moderation, has dropped out of the
spy business and is running their travel agency, which faces
financial trouble.

Last week, their
daughter (a novice spy) had a frightening view – her blood-soaked
mom, alongside a murder victim. In tonight's strong hour, the
aftershocks split the family even further. Meanwhile, their neighbor,
the FBI guy, worries about his Russian informants, the feuding Sofia
and Gennadi.

Other choices
include:

“Harry Potter: A
History of Magic,” 8-9:30 p.m., ABC. In June of 1997, a British
publisher released a book that eight others had rejected. The Harry
Potter series would go on to set records in literature and then in
movies, totaling an estimated $25 billion. This special visits a
British Library exhibit that was timed to the 20th
anniversary. Appropriately, it's followed at 9:30 by a “Masters of
Illusion” rerun.

“Empire,” 8
p.m., Fox. When a health scare strikes, Cookie tries to keep the
company steady. That isn't easy: Eddie's motives are being
questioned; also, Jamal makes a shocking revelation on live TV.

“Hollywood
Darlings” season-opener, 8:31 p.m., Pop. This faux reality show
follows three former child stars. Tonight, Jodie Sweetin tries a
celebrity dating service, Beverley Mitchell scrambles to get her kids
into a pre-school and Christine Lakin tries method-acting when she's
cast as a Russian prostitute.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Quavo plays himself in this hour. The studio is recruiting him –
upsetting Noah, who harbors ill feelings from the past. Also, Angel's
mother returns, revealing family secrets.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mira Sorvino plays Haley's daft boss, looking for a new
product that works like peppers; now Haley hopes to convince Gloria
to sell the company her salsa.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. After a deadly explosion, the president
declares war. Then Hannah, an FBI agent, learns that the emir is
hiding a lethal secret.

“Chicago P.D.,”
10 p.m., NBC. Some stash-house robberies point to a surprising
suspect.

TV column for Tuesday, April 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Elton John: I'm Still Standing,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

For more than four
decades, Elton John has been rolling out hits; he reached No. 1 six
times in the 1970s alone. Now this tribute starts with Miley Cyrus
doing a dynamic “The Bitch is Back”: it ends with John, 71, doing
“Philadelphia Freedom,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “I'm
Still Standing.”

Lady Gaga is there,
of course; she dons an Elton look to do “Your Song.” There's John
Legend, Alessia Cara, Sam Smith, Chris Martin, Ed Sheeran, Shawn
Mendes, Sza, Kesha and more, including country's Little Big Town
(doing “Rocket Man”), Miranda Lambert and Maren Mason.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “New Girl” season-opener, 9:30 p.m., Fox.

As the seventh and
final season begins, we jump ahead three years. That means it's been
a decade since Jess became the daft “new girl” in this loft.
She's no longer new, but she's still daft and delightful.

Now she's with Nick,
whose dad (Rob Reiner) keeps reminding him to propose to her. Nick
wants to, but he faces a bigger decision – whether to tell his best
friend Schmidt that his mustache is awful. This is going on while
Schmidt orchestrates a culturally relevant third-birthday, ranging
from Wonder Woman to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's a big, busy and--
often – hilarious episode.

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

Here is TV at its
most raw. During a tough hour, three families have painful
confrontations – some quietly, the first one loudlyl. Also, two
romances have key moments.

Unlike “This Is
Us,” which usually has this timeslot, “Rise” feels no
obligation to make us feel good. It does have some wonderfully upbeat
moments, then ends with a knee to the groin – figuratively and
literally. But like “This Is Us,” it has great depth. Characters
we were ready to dismiss – including the football coach and his
once-snooty daughter – now get new layers; that's a sign of quality
drama.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS.

As the health-care
debate began, says Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa), Donald Trump “was not
particularly engaged in policy details.” When the House passed a
version with no chance in the Senate, he declared victory. He was
“spiking the football at the 50 yard line,” says Rep. Tom Cole
(R, Okla).

Some Republican
became his enemies, including senators Bob Corker, Jeff Flake and
John McCain. But most remained quiet, this strong documentary says.
Trump did get a tax overhaul, causing former campaign chief Corey
Lewandowski to call him “ unequivocally the leader of the
Republican Party.”

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the team is desperate to convict Gabriel Hicks, the
killer who deceived Gibbs and Fornell. They offer his former cellmate
(French Stewart) a two-day furlough.

“Roseanne,” 8
p.m., ABC. The surrogacy plotline has been a clever way of including
both actresses who have played Becky. Now it reaches a key moment.

“American's Next
Top Model” season-finale (VH1) and “Deadliest Catch”
season-opener (Discovery), both 8 p.m. Here are two eternal shows.
“Catch” starts its 14th season with a studio show,
followed by a 9 p.m. episode; “Model” -- which has sometimes been
twice a year – ends its 24th edition.

“LA to Vegas,” 9
p.m., Fox. After floundering in training, the team faces a real
emergency.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. Daveed Diggs, a Tony-winner for “Hamilton,” is back as
Bow's brother.

“For the People,”
10 p.m., ABC. The focus shifts to the judge, perfectly played by
Vondie Curtis-Hall. Despite the power of the bench, he's helpless
against mandatory sentencing laws. When you catch “For the People,”
you're sure of brilliant dialog, sharply delivered; you're not sure
you'll like how it ends.

TV column for Monday, April 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

Once light and
bright (albeit gory), “iZombie” began a slow transition – and
then, last week, a big one. One rebel was caught slipping people into
the walled city – reuniting families and “zombifying” the ill.
When she was executed, Liv vowed to take over her mission.

Tonight's episode
starts as cheery as ever: Rachel Bloom – the CW's brightest light,
via “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” -- is doing a zombie version of “Rent.”
Then Liv munches her brain and becomes very theatrical ... while also
trying to lead a rebel alliance.

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

Here's a fresh twist
– two nights of duets with celebrities. Tonight's celebrities –
some working with two contestants – are Andy Grammer, Pat Monahan,
Aloe Blacc, Luis Fonsi, Bishop Briggs and Allen Stone ... plus
Sugarland, which sort of makes it a trio, not a duet.

They work with a
dozen singers. Next Monday – after more solos on Sunday – the
other 12 contestants will sing with Lea Michelle, Bebe Rexha, Colbie
Caillat and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Crossing,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week's opener –
which is scheduled to rerun Saturday – was compelling. Near a small
fishing town, 47 people washed ashore, perplexing locals. Where did
they come from?

It turns out, they
came from the future – a dreary one, as we see tonight in a
flashforward. At least one of them, Reece, seems dangerous. Tonight,
the sheriff – played with warm humanity by Steve Dahl – tries to
help; that isn't easy, with mysterious feds searching for Reece.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. As “Idol” begins its duets, “Voice” starts
its live episodes. For three straight nights, singers will perform,
followed by viewer voting.

“Legends of
Tomorrow” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW. A week before “Supergirl”
returns to this spot, we get a convergence of other DC Comics
characters. That includes Constantine, Jonah Hex, Damien Darkh and
the regulars, who are scrambling to defeat Mallus.

'”Waco: The
Longest Siege,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. April 19 will mark the 25th
anniversary of the longest siege in U.S. History – a 51-day
standoff near Waco, Texas. This documentary focuses on people who
were there at the time, including survivors, a negotiator, a
newspaper editor and more.

“Superior Donuts,”
9 p.m., CBS. In real life, the Cubs have their home opener at 2:20
p.m. ET today. And in this fictional world, Arthur (Judd Hirsch) is
trying to set a record by catching his 43rd straight
opener. But this time he doesn'a nave a ticket and must scramble.

“Living
Biblically,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. As Chip persists with trying to follow
every rule in the Bible, he finds himself arguing religion with his
mother-in-law (JoBeth Williams).

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Whipping around the
world, this interesting film catches a variety of show-shiners. One
was a lawyer, one an accountant, another a dominatrix. One is old,
the last shiner in Sarajevo; another is young, finding a new career
after a fierce traffic accident. In Bolivia, shiners hide their faces
and are considered lowly; in New York, one has zest and a bullhorn.

“One Strange
Rock,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. The first two episodes of this
splendid series rerun at 8 and 9 p.m.; then a new hour at 10
(rerunning at midnight) views our relationship with the sun.

“Good Girls,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. For these suburban women, the cime business is
booming. Then they're reminded how violent the gang-boss can be ...
and how vengeful Annie's boss can be.

TV column for Sunday, April 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Masterpiece: Unforgotten,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

Does everyone in
England have a dark secret? It seems so in this three-Sunday
mini-series. We meet four people who have only one thing in common:
Each is listed in the notebook of a young man who was killed 39 years
ago, with his body just discovered now.

Are any of these
people the killer? A relentless police detective and her assistant
try to find out, dredging up all their secrets. The result is
visually drab, but beautifully acted by Tom Courtenay and Gemma Jones
(as a trouled couple) and others. It starts poorly and gradually
becomes compelling.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Howards End” opener, 8 p.m., Starz.

OK, “Unforgotten”
isn't really what we might expect from “Masterpiece” -- a
sumptious and stylish visit to classy Englishfolk. For that, there's
this four-week cable mini-series.

E.M. Forster's 1910
novel had a free-spirited woman meeting an older (and richer) man.
The 1992 movie, with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, was beloved.
Now the story is told with Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen, extra
time and a lush look. Julia Ormond and Tracey Ullman co-star.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Instinct,: 8 p.m., CBS.

Sunday television
isn't all Englishmen. CBS has a night of solid American dramas –
albeit starting with a British actor. That's Alan Cumming, the
“Instinct” star.

He plays Dylan
Reinhart, formerly a CIA guy and now a college professor, an author
and a guy who keeps woking with police detective Lizzie Needham.
Tonight, their investigation of a chemical attack is taken over by
the FBI. They're reassigned to a murder case ... then feel the two
cases might be related.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Aerial America” and “Aerial Cities,” all
day, Smithsonian Channel.

The “Aerial
America” series swept above vast landscapes, one hour per state.
You can catch its reruns, from 6 a.m. (Kansas) to 7 p.m. (Nevada).

At 8 p.m. is the
start of a new, six-week focus on cities. Coming up are Chicago,
Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; first is Las Vegas
and its surroundings. We see the Red Rock wilderness, where climbers
show up at dawn; we also see the massive Hoover Dam, which supports a
two-million-person county in the desert. That reruns at 11 p.m. and 3
a.m., surrounded by “Aerial Africa” reruns.

Other choices
include:

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. It's time for the top-24 to perform. There are solos
tonight, then duets with celebrities on Monday.

“Killing Eve,” 8
p.m., BBC America. Here's another British drama – but with an
American star. That's Sandra Oh (“Grey's Anatomy”), who plays a
desk-bound security officer for Britain's MI5. In a powerful start,
she obsesses on a sleek and gifted killer, played by Jodie Comer.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. A string of arsons is linked to Amy's
favorite crossword author. Also, Gina help Holt with his
commissioner-candidate speech ... and everyone argues over a new car.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A notorious weapons dealer has returned to
the U.S.; now Callen and Sam link with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms. Also, Eric goes undercover at a bank.

“Madam Secretary,”
10 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth's plan for an Iran arms deal is in trouble,
after a senator says Iran financed a deadly bombing. Also, her
husband ponders a new National War College job.

“Billions,” 10
p.m., Showtime. One guy thinks he might be able to survive, pared
down to a mere $30 million; Axe – panicking because he may be down
to $300 million – is doubtful. Yes, it's hard to care about them
... even though this is accompanied by brilliant dialog. The hour
ripples with references to baseball, football and stock-market
technology. If we can follow a fraction of it, it's richly rewarding.