Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik
Few things bring more pleasure than watching a deservedly hit comedy firing on all cylinders. Such is the case with this week's rollicking The Big Bang Theory (Thursday, 8/7c on CBS), which no matter how long we've enjoyed it still manages to show that it has new tricks up its sleeve — notably, Simon Helberg's gift for celebrity impressions. They come in handy as Howard assumes the role of dungeon master in a game of Dungeons & Dragons on what's supposed to be a boys' night, soon invaded by the gal pals when their plans for a Vegas getaway crap out. "I've never played Dungeons & Dragons with girls before," whines the resistant-to-change Sheldon, to which Penny answers: "Don't worry, sweetie, no one has." Big boom!
It's also a strong episode for relationship development, as Raj ducks out early for another awkward date with the pathologically unassertive Lucy (Kate Micucci, as funny here as she is on Raising Hope), and a roll of the dice forces Sheldon and Amy to confront their intimacy (or lack thereof) issues. Genius comedy from start to finish.
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On the flip side, you could while away an entire hour wondering why it's taking so long for NBC's wearily played-out The Office to take its final bow. (Indicative of a show that never knew when to call it quits, it has now decided to expand its May 16 finale to an hour and 15 minutes, following an hour-long valentine retrospective from NBC News. Enough already. Who do they think they are, Cheers?) This week's hour-long episode (9/8c) is a reminder of what a fun-free workplace this has become, with Dwight now in charge, Andy off auditioning for The Next Great A Capella Sensation TV show — a talent-show parody that was funnier and more organic when 30 Rock did it — and Jim once again back in Scranton finding new ways to subversively break the dictatorial Dwight's "no-nonsense streak" without the boss knowing it. Business as usual, only less so.
More promising (though un-previewed), NBC's Community (8/7c) revisits its "darkest timeline" while Jeff considers life after Greendale, now that he has enough credits to graduate. ... And for the last word in Thursday night comedy, how about "ewwww." Which is the only imaginable response to the scenario on CBS' Two and a Half Men (8:31/7:31c), when Walden begins dating a 22-year-old (guest star Hilary Duff), and faster than you can say Demi Moore, he's fallen for the girl's foxy, or possibly cougar-y, grandmother (Marilu Henner).
SONGBIRDS: By the end of Fox's American Idol (8/7c), the two finalists will be chosen for next week's climactic reveal. If Candice isn't one of them, I may think twice before watching. Special performers on the results show include Alicia Keys and Season 10 runner-up, Lauren Alaina. ... It's decision time on the finale of Fox's Glee (9/8c) as well, as Rachel learns the fate of her Funny Girl callback in New York, while New Directions heads to Regionals, where the top competition is the Hoosierdaddies (I approve!) led by last year's American Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez (as Frida Romero).
CREEPSHOWS: In an episode deliciously titled "Sorbet," NBC's Hannibal (10:01/9:01c) welcomes The X-Files' Gillian Anderson as Dr. Lecter's new therapist — good luck shrinking that head — with the delightful name Bedelia Du Maurier. Will, naturally, is still having nightmares during which he channels Abigail's serial-killer dad, yet finds time to help the BAU investigate a murder that may involve organ harvesting — or maybe the return of the Chesapeake Ripper. ... There's no good time for a power outage on The CW's The Vampire Diaries (8/7c), but it really sucks when it happens just before graduation, sparking an invasion by some good and bad ghosts. ... Vincent and Cat go on a public date on The CW's Beauty and the Beast (9/8c), and they're surprised it doesn't end well why?
Some more sweeps/nearly-end-of-season highlights, by network:
ABC: Setting up next week's cliffhanger, Grey's Anatomy (9/8c) prepares for a storm-of-the-century, while Meredith experiences a pregnancy crisis among other presumed shocks for these long-tormented docs. ... On the truly addictive Scandal (10:02/9:02c), the White House reels from its latest you-know-what — thanks, Mellie! — and woe as well is Olivia, who's metaphorically stabbed in the back (but by whom?).
CBS: Flashbacks reveal Finch's personal connection to The Machine, while in real time, he and Reese fight to save it from Root and the Decima organization in the season finale of Person of Interest (9:01/8:01). ... Moriarty (or at least someone claiming to be the mysterious villain) rears his head on the penultimate Elementary (10:01/9:01c) as Sherlock remembers love-of-his-life Irene Adler (Natalie Dormer of The Tudors and Game of Thrones, inspired casting).
THE THURSDAY GUIDE: Having flamed out with scripted shows in the 8/7c time period all season, it's time for ABC to break out the big balls again for another silly season of Wipeout, which always magages to pull a comparatively decent rating. ... We're at the semifinals stage of GSN's The American Bible Challenge (9/8c), with the Wagner Warriors, Women of Faith and Girls of Grace battling it out, possibly even turning the other cheek if necessary, while Kirk Franklin raises the roof with a performance of "Stomp." ... Nick Cannon's Big Surprise (E!, 10/9c) is for his beloved grandparents in Temecula, Calif., for whom he arranges a surprise makeover of their home (which he had earlier bought for them) while he reminisces about his childhood, long before we began worrying about who in America had talent.
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