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Archive for Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Network TV season all but over

May 22, 2012

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The network season all but wraps up tonight, with Fox and ABC firing their big guns, NBC on to its biggest summer series “America’s Got Talent,” and CBS airing two repeats of “NCIS” that will probably come close to attracting the biggest audience.

A winner emerges tonight on “Dancing With the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC). Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath. The top two square off on the penultimate episode of “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox), leading up to Wednesday’s sure-to-be over-the-top extravaganza. Meanwhile, the gang graduates from William McKinley High School on “Glee” (8 p.m., Fox), offering that musical comedy an interesting chance to reboot and reinvent itself next season with brand-new talents and melodic melodrama.

• Normally, broad historical surveys have a sedative effect on me. But not “Civilization: The West and the Rest with Niall Ferguson” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings). The author and historian travels to 11 countries over the four-hour, two-week series to explore why Europe and North America have dominated the world economy, culture, science and faith for the last five centuries. It also ponders whether that era of supremacy has run its course.

At the beginning of the 15th century, Western Europe was a violent, unhealthy and politically divided place. China had bigger ships and a more advanced civilization. The Arab world had better science and military technology. What happened? What are the principles, or “killer apps,” as Ferguson calls them, that put the West on top for half a millennium? And what are the signs, if any, that things may be changing?

I’m no Niall Ferguson, but I know that one of the great traditions of Western civilization is predicting its decline and fall.

• A span of 20 years may not seem like much to Niall Ferguson, but it’s the whole history of “Dateline NBC” (9 p.m.). The anniversary will be celebrated tonight by contributors past and present, including Lester Holt, Jane Pauley, Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana and Bruce Greenwood star in the 2009 adaptation of “Star Trek” (7 p.m., FX).

• Raquel begins to question the motives of her funders on “The L.A. Complex” (8 p.m., CW).

• A disaster necessitates a call to the Coast Guard on “Deadliest Catch” (8 p.m., Discovery).

• “Frontline” (9 p.m., PBS) investigates the perils of cellphone towers.

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