TV column for Sunday, May 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Little Women,” 8 p.m., PBS; concludes next Sunday.

Some 150 years after
she was created, Jo March still grabs viewers and compels actresses.
She's been played by Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson and Winona Ryder
in movies, Susan Dey on TV, Sutton Foster in a Broadway musical. Now
Maya Hawke – in her first film role – is perfect.

There are top pros –
Angela Lansbury, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, Dylan Baker – in
support, but this is about the sisters, especially Jo. At 15, she
tries to follow society's rules ... yet somehow soars above them.
It's a great role that Hawke – daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan
Hawke – masters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Timeless” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

After her heroics
with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman became a scout and a
spy for the Union during the Civil War. Now the time-travelers swoop
in to help her.

The evil Rittenhouse
team promptly strikes back. In the second episode, Jiha – the
engineer who helped create the time machine – has been captured.
She escapes, but finds herself helpless in San Francisco's Chinatown
in 1888. Her colleagues try to save her.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Mother's day shows.

The surprise is
“Good Witch,” at 9 p.m. on Hallmark. This Mother's Day episode is
all about fathers. A bad dad visits Abigail, decades after leaving
her. A future dad frets that he won't be worthy. And a future stepdad
has a fine moment. It's a so-so hour, but does have some warmth.

If you prefer
something about mothers, Pop has “Stepmom” (1998) at 7 p.m. and
“Steel Magnolias” (1989) at 10. Turner Classic Movies has
“Sounder” (1972) at 3:30 p.m. ET, “I Remember Mama” (1948) at
5:30, “Mildred Pierce” (1945) at 8 and “Stella Dallas” (1937)
at 10:30.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Masterpiece: Unforgotten” finale, 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS.

The first two
episodes introduced four good people – a teacher, a nurse, a
lawyer, a cop – linked to a bad thing: One of them murdered an
abusive jerk, a generation ago.

Now we learn who did
it. This isn't original; it borrows key ideas from great mysteries in
the past. It is, however, beautifully written and subtly played,
providing a compelling finish.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers,”
7, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox. It's a three-episode night, with only the
first one a rerun. The third is a Mother's Day tale, enmeshing the
family in a real-estate scheme.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The final five perform and viewers vote. Next Sunday,
the two-night finale will begin.

“Harry &
Meghan: A Royal Romance,” 8-10:22 p.m., Lifetime. Six days before
the royal wedding, Prince Harry is played by newcomer Murray Fraser.
Meghan Markle is Parisa Fitz-Henley, a Jamaican-born actress who was
Reva on “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones” and Fiji in
“Midnight, Texas.”

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The victim in a federal-prison murder was
the adopted daughter of a notorious counterfeiter. The team
investigates.

“Million Dollar
American Princesses,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian; also 11:15. This show
has had fascinating looks at Americans who married royally. Now it
profiles Markle and adds historical perspective.

“The Royals”
season-finale, 10 p.m., E. Things look iffy for King Robert: Willow,
his bride-to-be, has doubts ...; Others are planning a coup .... And
his mom has a hair-yanking fight with Willow's mom.

TV column for Saturday, May 12


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

Fresh from a
terrific outing last week with Donald Glover and a cascade of guests,
“SNL” hopes to close its season with two strong, female-driven
weeks.

Each has a smart
writer-producer-actress as host – Amy Schumer tonight, Tina Fey
(the former “SNL” head writer) next week. Kacey Musgreaves is
tonight's music guest, with Nicki Minaj next week.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) and “Frozen” (2013), 6:55
and 9 p.m., Freeform.

Here are two
box-office champions, giving us a family-friendly double-feature. One
is live-action, the other is animated, but both offer gorgeous
visuals and zesty songs.

“Beast” took its
songs from the 1991 cartoon, adding a lush look; “Frozen” had
original songs, including thr Oscar-winning “Let It Go.” Both
scored big. One source (boxofficemojo.com) puts them at No. 12 and 11
respectively, all-time; combined, they made $905 million in the U.S.
and Canada, $1.64 billion worldwide. You can also catch them at 2:55
and 5 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Patrick Melrose” opener, 9 p.m., Showtime,
repeating at 10 and 11,

For any good actor,
this is a dream project; for some good viewers, it's a nightmare. By
the end of the first hour, Benedict Cumberbatch has pushed his
immense talent in every direction. It's an amazing performance;
whether it's an enjoyable one depends on the viewer's attitude.

The normal approach
– empathy for a protagonist – won't work. We must dismiss Patrick
(at least in this opener) as a lost cause – a rich junkie, wading
in self-pity. Then we can even be amused. “Life isn't just a bag of
(crap), but a leaky one,” he says. Replies the bellboy: “That is
the general consensus, sir.”

Other choices
include:

“The Lion in
Winter” (1968) and “The Fortune Cookie” (1966), 5:30 and 8 p.m.
ET, Turner Classic Movies. These two – a grand historical drama and
a black-and-white comedy – are total opposites. But each has an
Oscar-winning performance, from Katharine Hepburn and Walter Matthau,
respectively.

“American Idol,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, the final seven singers perform. On
Sunday – a week before the two-night finale – a new episode will
have the five survivors.

“MasterChef
Junior,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. On Friday, we'll have a new champion.
For now, this rerun has the kids cooking for alumni of the show ...
and then making dishes inspired by their grandmothers.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. This show is about Eric, a hostage negotiator; in its
second season, most of the hostages seem to be his kin. There was his
daughter ... and then Eric himself ... and now his mother, a renowned
surgeon who's kidnapped and told to perform heart surgery on a crime
boss.

“Dunkirk”
(2017), 8 p.m., HBO. Last year, films rediscovered a defining moment
in history. “Dunkirk” viewed it on the ground, with soldiers and
laymen; “Finest Hour” viewed it from the top, with Winston
Churchill. Each drew an Oscar nomination for best picture; “Finest
Hour” won for Gary Oldman's performance and his makeup, “Dunkirk”
won in three technical categories. “Dunkirk” was also a
box-office hit, so our grumbling – great visuals, little story –
can be ignored.

“Nate &
Jeremiah By Design,” 9:06 p.m., TLC. The guys redesign the main
room of a youth homeless shelter. That's followed at 10:09 by a
rerun, with a client who's had six years of contractor woes.

“Showtime at the
Apollo,” 11 p.m., Fox. This offers an amiable mix of serious
singers (some of them superb), quirky novelties and Steve Harvey's
offbeat hosting. Here's a rerun of the May 3 hour.

TV column for Friday, May 11


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Meghan Markle: An American Princess,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

We're eight days
from the wedding of Prince Harry and Markle – an uncommon commoner
who recently had a fictional wedding on “Suits.” Naturally, the
networks are gearing.

CBS had its Markle
special last Friday; Lifetime and Smithsonian will have theirs on
Sunday ... a day before PBS starts a “Royal Wedding Watch” week.
Tonight, it's Fox's turn. This documentary includes people from
Markle's past and her half-sister; it also has journalist Piers
Morgan and Paul Burrell, who was Princess Diana's butler.

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

For eight seasons,
this has provided a sturdy cap for one of TV's finest hours. It's at
its best when it finds a way to involve the entire family – Frank,
the police commissioner; his dad, the former commissioner; his sons
Danny and Jamie, both cops; and his daughter Erin, a prosecutor.

That happens
tonight. Six wrongly convicted men have been released, after nine
years in prison. Riddled with guilt, Frank wants his family to probe
the case. Danny wonders if the men have taken revenge with drive-by
shootings; meanwhile, Jamie is caught in a life-threatening
situation.

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

A four-week series
of intimate concerts wraps up with what was really the starting
point: Producing “Falsettos” for PBS, Andrew Wilk was impressed
by Andrew Rannells, whom he calls “a wickedly charming star.” He
suggested a concert special, then added ones with three more Broadway
stars.

The others –
Sutton Foster, Leslie Odom Jr., Stephanie J. Block – already had
shows ready; Rannells, Wilk said, “had no show, so he had to build
his from the ground up.” Here it is; Rannells – who has Tony
nominations from “Book of Mormon” and “Falsettos” and was
Elijah on “Girls” -- performs.

Other choices
include:

Bridezillas,” 7
p.m., WE TV. After this hour, you can catch a double-feature of
wedding troubles on E, with “27 Dresses” (2008) at 8 p.m. and
“Bridesmaids” (2011) at 10:30. Try to not let Harry and Meghan
watch TV tonight. If they do, they might cancel the wedding.

“Once Upon a
Time,” 8 p.m., ABC. The curse has been broken and the people of
Hyperion Heights are celebrating ... which may be premature. The Wish
Rumple has a scheme to preserve the Dark One powers. Henry, Roni,
Weaver and Rogers travel to the dark realm, setting up next week's
series finale.

“Undercover Boss:
Celebrity Edition” debut, 8 p.m., CBS. Here's an idea that was
tested last season (with singer Darius Rucker) and worked well:
Disguise a celebrity, who can then meet – and sometimes mentor --
aspiring talent. That starts wit Gabrielle Douglas, the
Olympic-champion gymnast.

“Inside Out”
(2015), 8:30 p.m., Disney. This smartly written comedy leads a busy
night for animated movies. At 8 p.m., Nickelodeon has “Happy Feet
Two” (2011); at 8:50, Freeform has “Brave” (2012).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Terry O'Quinn, the “Lost” star, is back as Joe
White, who was McGarrett's mentor. He's held captive; McGarrett links
with Junior's SEAL team in a rescue attempt.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. Daisy's future as “destroyer of the worlds”
could change.

“David Tutera's
Celebrations,” 10:05 p.m., WE. After a night of marital woe
(“Bridezillas,” “Marriage Boot Camp”), we need some cheer.
Dancers Twitch and Allison hire Tutera for a baby shower.

TV column for Thursday, May 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” season-finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

Here is great
television, 11 years in the making. Everyone arrives for the wedding
of Sheldon and Amy.

We've seen his
mother (Laurie Metcalf) often and met the adult version of his
brother (Jerry O'Connell) last week. Now we add his sister and more,
including Amy's parents; they're played by Kathy Bates and Teller
(the quiet half of Penn-and- ) in a great bit that recalls Marcel
Marceau in “Silent Movie.”

All the others (plus
Mark Hamill) are there; even Kripke gets a great closing moment. Big
laughs mingle with brief warmth, all of it true to the characters.
TV's best comedy hits a new peak.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Young Sheldon” season-finale, 8:31 p.m., CBS.

After the highs of
“Big Bang,” we settle in for the quieter approach of this
pleasant comedy. After seeing these people have great moments as
grown-ups, it's good to see them a generation earlier.

Sheldon is 9 here
and obsessing over the romance of his grandmother (Annie Potts). He's
nudging her toward a Sheldon-esque math prof (Wallace Shawn); she's
also dating a furniture guy (Richard Kind). It's an OK episode that
includes his brother, sister, dad (who died prior to “Big Bang”)
and delightful mom ... played perfectly by Zoe Perry, whose real-life
mom (Metcalf) has the same role in “Big Bang.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Chicago Fire” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

Wisely, NBC wrapped
its comedies a week early, to avoid tonight's CBS powerhouse.
Instead, it has two episodes of “Fire,” with many of the
characters in transition.

Boden, the battalion
chief, ponders a major career move, then faces an obstacle. Kidd
(Miranda Mayo) has trouble getting time with Sevaride ... and
distrusts the motives of his ex-lover Renee, who has suddenly
returned to his life. And Dawson has complications at home
(disagreeing with her husband Casey on a key decision) and at work; a
paramedic, she answers a call that quickly turns dangerous.

Other choices
include:

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a transplanted rerun, a
promising music student has disappeared at a clown bar (really),
leaving a clown as a suspect in a body-less murder trial. The story
also lets Stone visit his troubled sister and Fin get a visit from
his son and daughter-in-law.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. We thought Gotham City was already in chaos; tonight, Fox
tells us, it reaches total anarchy. Bullock, Gordon's old partner,
steps in, taking the lead at the police department.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 p.m., ABC. Geena Davis is back as Nicole Herman, the former head of
fetal surgery; once the mentor of Arizona, she now has a promising
opportunity for her. Meanwhile, one of the hospital people is
seriously injured, causing everyone to reflect.

“Station 19,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's almost time for the new captain to be named. Pruitt
Herrera, the retiring captain, warns his daughter Andy not to be
disappointed. Also, Ben (Jason George) is mad at Pruitt for telling
Dr. Miranda Bailey (Ben's wife) how dangerous this job is. Then comes
some big-time danger.

“Mom”
season-finale, 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Over five seasons, this has
found big laughs –and some deep tragedy – involving the lives of
recovering alcoholics. In tonight's first episode, Bonnie (Allison
Janney) ends up in jail; in the second, her daughter (Anna Faris)
slides into old habits.

“Quantico,” 10
p.m., ABC. The team is supposed to protect a former CIA agent who is
trying to bring down a drug kingpin.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. Five days after his oft-hilarious “Saturday Night Live”
episode, Donald Glover wraps up his show's season. This reruns at
10:33 and 11:19 p.m.

TV column for Wednesday, May 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Chicago P.D.” season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

Sure, we've grumble
that NBC's Chicago shows can be bland, with quick amd convenient
stories. Not tonight; the few minutes here are as raw and consuming
as anything we've seen lately.

Olinsky, the veteran
cop, is in prison; Voight (Jason Beghe) is furious ... and is ready
to sacrifice everything for him. Then some news changes everything.
This part s tough, tense ... and over quickly; the rest sometimes
slides downhill. Torture – whether by cops or crooks – is bad
ethics and bad drama. There's nothing dramatic about a one-sided
fight, which happens too often after a strong start.

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

Two gifted actresses
collide. Taraji Henson has three Emmy nominations, two as the fierce
Cookie; Alfre Woodard has 16 Emmy nominations, winning four times.
We've already seen Woodard in brief flashbacks as Cookie's troubled
mom, but now Cookie visits and they confront a complicated past.

Meanwhile, Eddie
(Forest Whitaker) continues his effort to grab the record label that
Cookie and Lucious started 20 years ago. Eddie tries a power play
during a showcase for the anniversary album.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Riverdale,” 9 p.m., CW.

“This doesn't make
any sense,” one character says helpfully. Hey, that ship sailed
long ago, as the sunny town from the Archie comics kept getting
darker and meaner. That gets more extreme tonight.

There's the war
between the tough South Siders (led by Jughead and his ex-con dad)
and the others (including Veronica's scheming dadand Betty's daft
parents). And there's an enigma: After the Black Hood was apparently
killed, someone in a black hood has attacked people. Now things get
noisier and nastier; we would have left long ago ... except this
nonsense is sharply written, filmed and acted.

Other choices
include:

“Jurassic Park”
(1993), 7:05 p.m., and “The Colony,” 10 p.m., USA. Last week,
Will and Katie took their family on the run, before thier cabin was
raided by collaborators for the aliens. They don't realize that
Snyder is still working for the other side; tonight brings a risky
attempt to contact the Resistance.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. One of the villains on Red's list is suddenly after
Samar. When she goes missing, the Task Force gets involved. Also, Red
heads to Costa Rica, hoping to stop an underground auction for the
duffel bag full of bones.

“Star,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. After being sidelined, Star – young, ambitious and talented –
seizes a chance to stand out. Meanwhile, Jahil (Benjamin Bratt)
clashes with Andy and Angel.

“Nova Wonders,”
9 p.m., PBS. For its third hour, this quick and slick show asks
pop-culture questions: Might other planets be populated? And what
efforts are being made to contact or hear them?

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. The focus is on Haley tonight. Things go badly when she
meets the parents of Arvin (Chris Geere of “You're the Worst”)
and she has a reunion with her ex-boyfriends.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. Life is tough for a president's lawyer, in
real life and in this fictional tale. Tonight, Kendra Daynes is in a
dangerous situation that risks the life of another staffer.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Jesse (Luiz Guzman), the head nurse, has been a
no-nonsense guy; that changes when his brother is brought to the
hospital, after being pinned by a warehouse collapse.