TV column for Saturday, April 7


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

Chadwick Boseman has
been playing some powerful figures, both real (Jackie Robinson, James
Brown, Thurgood Marshall) and fictional (Black Panther). The next
step is to host “SNL.”

That's tonight,
after a stretch of reruns on three Saturdays, during the basketball
tournament and then on the eve of Easter. This is the first “SNL”
for Boseman ... and for his music guest, Cardi B.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Ransom” season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

There rwas a time
when Saturdays were considered real nights for TV networks. In the
1970s, CBS had its best shows – from Archie Bunker and “MASH”
to Carol Burnett – that night. Not any more.

Now CBS is doing us
a favor by filling the void with this Canadian transplant. Eric
Beaumont (based on a real-life negotiator) has been solving hostage
crises worldwide. As the second season begins, his own daughter has
been kidnapped; to save her, he's supposed to do some ethically
questionable tasks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Paterno,,” 8 p.m., HBO.

In his HBO films, Al
Pacino has mastered the extremes – renowned people whose lives
crashed. Phil Spector and Jack Kevorkian ended up in prison; Roy Cohn
descended into dementia.

Now Pacino takes on
Joe Paterno, a football coach so beloved that he had a statue at Penn
State. Then came reports of an assistant's sex-abuse, and of
inaction by Paterno and others. The statue came down; Paterno's job
(and, soon, his life) ended. It's a powerful story, with one of
Hollywood's great actors.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Trading Spaces” opener, 8-10:10 p.m., TLC.

When “Spaces”
debuted in 2000, it wiped away all the niceties of design shows. The
redesigns were done quickly, cheaply ... and with no input from the
homeowners. Many went well, some crashed, most were interesting. The
show created four spin-offs, two books and lots of commotion.

It was canceled
after eight seasons – but now returns a decade later. That's with
the original host (Paige Davis), carpenters (Ty Pennington, Carter
Oosterhouse) and designers (Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder, Hildi
Santo-Tomas, Doug Wilson, Frank Bielec and Laurie Smith), plus some
promising newcomers.

Other choices
include:

Epic movies, all
day, cable. Occasionally – but not often – a big-budget, action
film also has a gifted director and a strong story. Here are prime
examples: The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2001-3) airs at 1:59,
4:45 and 8 p.m. on Starz; “Jurassic Park” (1993) is 8 p.m. on
Syfy.

Basketball, preview
at 8 p.m., ET, game at 8:30, ABC. The college season has ended now,
but the pros haven't even started their playoff marathon. Tonight,
Houston hosts Oklahoma City.

“Will &
Grace,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Jack's career as a Lyft driver
doesn't start well; he runs over his odd neighbor (Molly Shannon).
Karen goes to bail him out ... and soon needs bail herself.

“Superstore,”
8:30 p.m., NBC. The store offers amnesty if employees have anything
to confess. They do, of course; in a rerun, Garrett and Cheyenne
ponder how to take advantage.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun has Torres' partner suddenly disappear during a
stakeout. The probe points to a long-ago murder. Also, Ducky's friend
(Susan Blakely) offers him a new opportunity.

“Nate &
Jeremiah by Design” season-opener, 10:10 p.m., TLC. After the
commotion of “Trading Spaces,” here's a design show in which the
homeowners do have a say. In the opener, they couldn't afford their
dream home, but they want Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent to create a
dream kitchen.

TV column for Friday, April 6


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

In this
four-generation show, it's easy to overlook Jane's grandmother Alba.
Her lines are in Spanish (with sub-titles); her life is often set
aside while she's being a caretaker for others.

Tonight, there's
still a lot to take care of, with her daughter recovering (wearily)
from a masectomy. Still, Alba is supposed to study for her
citizenship exam, while reconsidering a past romance. That happens
during a mild-but-pleasant hour, with Jane's life relatively at
peace. She's with Rafael now ... and on a double-date with his
ex-wife, who's newly bisexual and dating her gorgeous lawyer.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's another
multi-generation story, the sort that “Blue Bloods” is known for.
A woman convinces Danny to re-examine a murder case ... upsetting his
sister Erin, who decided not to prosecute the case because of a lack
of evidence. That comes at a time when Erin is facing her ex-husband
in court.

Meanwhile, Jamie's
police partner has been shot on duty. And Frank (Tom Selleck) – the
police commissioner and the father of Danny, Erin and Eddie – faces
an angry cops, after the mayor (Lorraine Bracco) fails to defend them
at a press conference.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Overload, any time, Netflix.

This is one of those
Fridays when Netflix floods us wih choices. One scripted series --
“Troy: Fall of a City,” with ancient Greeks at war – is new;
another -- “Money Heist,” in Spanish, with English sub-titles –
is starting its second season.

There's also an
animated series (“The Boss Baby: Back in Business”), a
non-fiction series (“Fastest Car,” with home-made vehicles) and a
movie (“Amateur,” with a teen basketball star being heavily
recruited). And there's David Letterman, interviewing Jay-Z.

Other choices
include:

“The Outsiders”
(1983), 7-9 p.m., AMC. Francis Coppola's teen gem starts a strong
movie night. That includes pals Matt Damon (“The Martian,” 2015,
8 p.m., FX) and Ben Affleck (“The Town,” 2010, 8 p.m., IFC).
“Casino” (1995) is 8 p.m. on VH; “Wayne's World” (1992) is 9
p.m. on Comedy Central.

“Dynasty,” 8
p.m., CW. We sort of knew there would be trouble now that Alexis
(Nicollette Sheridan) has arrived. Tonight, she and her daughter
Fallon fight for the love of her son Steven.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. Henry has a promising job prospect in New York,
but it would be tough to leave Hyperion Heights ... especially after
new information in the “Candy Killer” case. And in a flashback,
we see Hook help him prove himself to Ella.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Amy Smart is back as Dawn, who's now working for the CIA.
Her supervisor's death is suspicious and the trail leads to a dirty
CIA agent and a counterfeiting ring.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Frankie Faison plays a hit man whom McGarrett's father
failed to arrest. Now he's ready to confess and to show where he
buried the bodies

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9:01 p.m., ABC. The team tries to find and save Coulson,
who has to team with some surprising allies.

“One Strange
Rock,” 10 p.m. ET, NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 1 a.m. If you haven't
caught this terrific show Mondays on the National Geographic Channel,
you can try reruns on its sister channel. Tonight, it looks at
storms, including the cosmic ones that created and then reshaped
Earth.

TV column for Thursday, April 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Will & Grace” season-finale, 9 p.m., NBC.

This season has
brought a pleasant surprise: Old comedies can be revived; if the
right people are in charge, they can be as good as ever. We've seen
that with “Roseanne” and with this delight.

Those shows are
opposites in some ways: One is blue-collar mid-America, the other is
upper-income New York; one centers on a Trump supporter, the other
clearly doesn't. But both are loud, brash, distinctive and (despite
excesses) funny. Tonight loads up guest stars -- Robert Klein, Blythe
Danner, Alec Baldwin. Karen's scenes are sometimes crude and juvenile
... but, like the rest, are also funny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon,” 8 and 8:31 pm.,
CBS.

Even on a big “Will
& Grace” night, we can still catch TV's best comedy and its
spin-off.

Tonight, Leonard
learns a jarring fact: Sheldon is president of the tenants
association; he decides to run against him. Also, an unidentified
drone has landed in Howard's backyard. Then “Young Sheldon”
brings back a familiar plot: Sheldon's being bullied and his parents
have opposite advice.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “ATL” (2006), 7:05 to 10 p.m., BET; then “Atlanta,”
10 p.m., FX.

Atlanta has reached
the upper levels of pop culture – when merely its name (or part of
it) is a title. First is a movie about young skaters – rappers T.I.
and Big Boi star -- pondering their next step in life.

That one drew
moderate approval from critics, but “Atlanta” has drawn cascades
of praise. Donald Glover, the creator and star, won Emmys as both
best actor and director of a comedy; the Golden Globes also named him
best actor ... and named the show best comedy. And tonight's episode
(which reruns at 10:42 and 11:22)? FX says only that Darius – Paper
Boi's right-hand man – “is trippin'.”

Other choices
include:

“Jersey Shore,”
all day, MTV. Remember that old show, with beachdwellers drinking and
shouting? In case you've forgotten, MTV starts a rerun marathon at
4 a.m. Then it brings those people back for a “Jersey Shore Family
Vacation” from 8-10 p.m., rerunning at 10.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Amelia, DeLuca and Koracick try a risky, groundbreaking
procedure. Also, Richard's sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous is
admitted with a “do not resuscitate” note.

“Siren,” 8 p.m.,
Freeform. Last week, the military grabbed a mermaid -- plus a
fisherman she attacked – and took them to a secret lab. Now her
sister (bewildered by life on land) and his friends search for them.
Yes, this sounds weird; still, it's solid and subtle and fairly
well-made.

“A.P. Bio,”
8:31 p.m., NBC. We're not sure how this oft-witless show gets a spot
alongside clever NBC comedies. Tonight, Jack is enraged when he meets
his late mom's ex-lover (Michael Gross).

There are some funny
moments involving a parenting class, but not many.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Bonnie doesn't have much experience being the stable one.
Now she has to, after her boyfriend faces a devastating loss.

“Champions,”
9:30 p.m., NBC. Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” guests as
Michael's uncle – a guy so rich, hip and and handsome that Vince
desperately hopes he has a fatal flaw. A second storyline – the
guys try celibacy, to be better role models – is so-so, but overall
it's a funny episode.

“Scandal,” 10
p.m., ABC. Olivia had just vowed to change her ways. Now, however,
Mellie wants her to find a way to get rid of Cyrus forever.

TV column for Wednesday, April 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“I Am ... MLK Jr.,” 9-10:30 p.m., BET and Paramount.

As Andrew Young
recalls it, Lyndon Johnson kept saying he didn't have enough power to
pass a civil rights bill. Then Martin Luther King said it was time to
get him the power. “I thought, 'Here you are, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds,
not a dollar in your pocket, and you're going to give the president
power?'”

Then King did it;
his Selma march stirred public passion and the bill's passage. On the
50th anniversary of King's death, this film powerfully
tells his story, through people who were there then and people who
marvel now. Van Jones points out that King was only 26 when he led
the historic bus strike.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Empire” and “Star,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

“This music
business is like a game of chess,” one “Star” character says.
True, perhaps ... but chess rarely makes great television. Both of
these hours spend too much time on business moves, spiced briefly by
music – not enough of it in “Empire” -- and by personal
stories.

Then, in the final
10 minutes, each unleashes fierce passion. For “Empire,” that
requires a thoroughly ill-advised confession, but the results are
powerful. For “Star,” key plot points overlap with a potent
gospel number from Queen Latifah, Brandy Norwood and perpetual
superstar Patti LaBelle.

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

As the summit
meeting nears, people on both sides fret. Some Russians feel Mikhail
Gorbachev is too soft and should be overthrown; some Americans
whisper that Ronald Reagan is becoming forgetful.

One person who
hasn't gone soft is Elizabeth (Kerri Russell). Her husband has
retired as a Soviet spy, but she's more driven than ever, letting it
batter her emotionally. Their daughter is also learning the spy
business; in a strong conclusion to a good episode, Paige finally
sees how serious her mom's work is.

Other choices
include:

“Sicario”
(2015), 7:30-10 p.m., FX. It's a messy night for drug kingpins, with
this film plus Al Pacino's “Scarface” (1983) at 8 p.m. on IFC.
Other 8 p.m. choices include “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
(2015) on TNT, “Girls Trip” (2017) on HBO and Francis Coppola's
“Outsiders” (1983) on Sundance.

“Blacklist,” 8
p.m., NBC. The team converges on a murder case, hoping to recover
information it needs to bring down Ian Garvey.

“Famous in Love”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Freeform. As last season ended, a press
conference between two co-stars – newcomer Paige and pop-culture
star Rainer – took a bizarre twist: Jake, her longtime pal, burst
in and declared his love. Now we learn whom she's chosen; we also
find roadblocks to the movie that's supposed to make her a star.
Slickly filmed, this is filled with soapy excesses; still, one scene
– showing a guerilla way to get a mansion for an indie movie – is
quite clever.

“Alex, Inc.,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Hollywood savors the slapstick of someone trying to
be in two places at once. Now that happens to Alex; it's a so-so
episode, but some funny moments come from the addition of Hillary
Anne Matthews as Alex's assistant.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Gloria has always said Javier (Benjamin Bratt) is
Manny's dad. But now we meet a former boyfriend (Gabriel Iglesias)
who looks a lot more like Manny.

“Black America
Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. Here's another key
film airing on the 50th anniversary of King's death. This
one, a rerun, is the second half of Henry Louis Gates' excellent
documentary, tracing generations of American history.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. There's information that a “dirty bomb”
is in the U.S. Now the president (Kiefer Sutherland, who used to save
us from bombs on “24”), leads the rush to find it.

TV column for Tuesday, April 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“For the People,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week, a
brilliant episode put the show's best characters (Kate and Sandra) on
a collision course. Now comes a total detour – a focus on what was
(until now) the least-interesting character.

Seth is a blandly
handsome guy who broke up with his girlfriend after she beat him in
court. Now his mother wants him to fight an environmental disaster in
his Nebraska home town. “I'm not that kind of lawyer,” he says.
Her question -- “Then what kind of lawyer are you?” -- launches a
terrific hour. TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Black America Since MLK: And
Still I Rise,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

As a boy, Henry
Louis Gates watched the TV news in awe. He was in a peaceful West
Virginia town; elsewhere, blacks were creating a civil-rights
revolution. Gates would go on to become a Harvard professor and a PBS
producer. This two-night documentary rerun skillfully captures
generations.

Tonight looks at
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and more, while asking: “How did we
go so far ... and have so far to go?” Tuesday's film – on the
50th anniversary of King's death -- views recent successes
and setbacks, including mass incarceration and the “re-segregation”
of many schools.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Roseanne Barr, everywhere.

Last week's
“Roseanne” opener – brash, blunt, often very funny – drew a
big audience. It was so big that ABC hurriedly reran it on Sunday ...
and TLC is rerunning “Momsters: When Moms Go Bad” episodes from
noon to 2 p.m. ET, because Roseanne Barr appears (fairly briefly) as
the host.

Then it's time for
the new episode (8 p.m., ABC) of “Roseanne,” which manages to
tour three generations. Tonight, Roseanne argues about the way her
grandkids are being raised ... and fumes when Dan gets her an
elevator chair ... a sure sign that she's getting old.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Legion” season-opener, 10-11:30 p.m., FX,
rerunning at 11:30.

When we see a story
through a troubled mind, that can be good and bad news. The good
includes limitless possibilities for writer-producer Noah Hawley (who
also does the “Fargo” series) and his directors. The scenes are
imaginative; the visuals are spectacular.

And the bad? Viewers
don't know if what they're seeing is real or imagined. David (Dan
Stevens) has been rescued by fellow mutants, but his mind is infected
by Amahl Farouk, the parasitic Shadow King. What goes on inside it
tonight is both stunning and frustrating.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. When a 10-year-old, orphaned refugee is the target of gangs,
Gibbs is given protective custody.

“Rise,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Tonight is filled with people trying to juggle opposites. It's
football vs. theater ... tough-love parenting vs. warm-love teaching
... strong independence vs. allowing your emotions to emerge. It's
depressing at times, but well done; in particular, Rosie Perez has
some great moments

“L.A. to Vegas,”
9 p.m., Fox. Don Johnson guest as the airline owner. Mid-flight, he
learns officials are waiting to arrest him; his response is to try to
hijack his own plane and take it to Mexico.

“The Mick,” 9:30
p.m., Fox. Fresh from her high school graduation, Sabrina suddenly
isn't sure she wants to go to Yale. Also, her brother wants to
“re-brand” himself before starting high school.

“Splitting Up
Together,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Settling into their separate-but-nearby
lives, both people are on new turf: Martin tries to be a responsible
parent; Lena tries to be a casual dater. Neither has an initial knack
for it, in an uneven episode that has some good moments.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. An underground poker game seems to target
people with access to a Navy research lab; now Percy and LaSalle go
undercover. Also, Pride's daughter visits.