Nathan Fillion, Stana katic
Time for some serious soul-searching on the usually glib Castle, so it must be the end of another season. "With any luck, this could be your last case," crows the tone deaf-as-usual Capt. "Sir" Gates as the boss lady celebrates the prospect of Kate Beckett being "headed for bigger things" — or so promises the FBI Deputy Director (guest star Kyle Secor) who recruits the sultry homicide pro for a federal task force based in Washington, D.C. And what would that mean for Beckett's still budding but not quite defined romance with Castle? "I think our plot just thickened," quips the mystery writer-turned-crime solver — though he's talking about the week's murder case, not yet aware of his squeeze's big opportunity. With Castle fuming over trust issues that expose doubts in both parties, Beckett is left at an emotional crossroads: "What happens when the music stops? What if all we were in love with was the dance?" ABC dropped the last minutes of the episode (Monday, 10:01/9:01c) from the advance screener, so it's anyone's guess what their next step will be.
Chris O'Dowd and Tom Bennett
It can't be easy to learn that one's ancestor is a literal horse's ass. But sad-sack Londoner Tom Chadwick takes such news in stride, again quite literally, as he acquires his great-grandfather's horse costume from a long-ago pantomime show, and after trying the rear end on for size, adds it to his collection of quirky family keepsakes.
HBO's droll-to-the-point-of-precious and occasionally delightful Family Tree (Sunday, 10:30/9:30c) follows Tom on an offbeat personal odyssey into his cloudy lineage. "In our clan, family is what disappears when you're not looking at it," says his retired dad, who keeps busy inventing useless objects like a fan for shoe trees. The dad is played by Michael McKean, who like the rest of the cast often talks directly into the camera, mock-documentary/improvisation style. The casting and the format are two of the more obvious signs that Tree is a Christopher Guest production.
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!
Don't you hate when this sort of thing happens? Country diva frenemies Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) both get nominated for CMA Awards on ABC's Nashville (Wednesday, 10/9c) — oh who am I kidding, we love when these things happen.
Finn Jones, Sophie Turner
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Question: Looking at the Best Drama shortlist from last year as an example, do you think many of the usual suspects like Mad Men and Breaking Bad may have their best days behind them (maybe not so much objectively as much as in short-attentioned minds of many voters), along with Homeland seeming to have edged ever-so-slightly into ludicrousness (get pacemaker serial number and induce heart attack, all without Chloe opening a socket), Downton Abbey now having a "perennial obligatory nominee" vibe, and Boardwalk Empire maybe not even deserving to make the final cut anymore, could this be the year that Game of Thrones finally breaks out of the fantasy ghetto and gets enough votes to have its name called when the big envelope is opened?
Cher loves her mom. No reason to think Rihanna doesn't, but for now, the career comes first. Two of pop's highest-profile divas take the spotlight in new docu-specials, with Lifetime's Dear Mom, Love Cher (Monday, 10/9c) going for the heart-strings as Cher pays tribute to her 86-year-old mom, Georgia Holt, who uprooted her family from Arkansas to Hollywood to pursue stardom that would take another generation to achieve. Cher performs a duet with Georgia and introduces recordings her mom taped more than 30 years ago that Cher is preparing to release commercially. Think of this as a helpful reminder if you haven't done your own Mother's Day shopping yet. Rihanna's love-fest in Fox's self-promotional vanity production Rihanna 777 (8/7c) is with the fans who follow her on a world concert tour, packing a 777 airliner along with journalists and a film crew capturing her every move.
Diana Rigg in Dr. Who (l), Game of Thrones(r)
"You're just not for everybody," comedic curmudgeon Marc Maron is told — by the more popular TV clown (at least among a comic-store backroom of Twitter nerds) Dave Foley, who plays a rather unflattering version of his real self, as does Maron, in IFC's new dark-side-of-laughter comedy series Maron (Friday, 10/9c). Sunnier than FX's Louie if only by virtue of being filmed in California, the sardonically squirm-inducing Maron alternates between slice-of-rant sitcom and self-obsessed podcast from the comedian's garage, where he vents on his unhappy personal life, his diarrhea-prone cats and his unruly, taunting Twitter following: "Who are these people? Don't they have lives?" You might well ask the same about Maron, although if he was happy (shades of Louie) there'd be no show.
Something you don't expect any NBC show that isn't The Voice to be asking: "Are you better off than a year ago?" Leave it to cockeyed optimist Leslie Knope (the sublime Amy Poehler), the hopeful heart and resilient soul of Parks and Recreation, to set herself up for a smackdown in the too-soon season finale (Thursday, 9:31/8:31c), by posing this question at a public forum that she naively sees as a "victory lap" to celebrate her one-year anniversary in office. While Leslie contends with a Pawnee version of Tea Party-style opposition — in this town, more like "sweet tea," with extra sugar in a 512 oz. cup — Andy (Chris Pratt) adopts his bumbling "Burt Macklin, FBI" persona (always a win) to solve a mystery that could change one of his co-worker's life forever. NBC is certainly better off for sticking with this show as it has improved over the seasons to become the network's most reliably enjoyable comedy — even though this already eventful and possibly pivotal episode would have been better off without the subplot involving Tom's "Rent-a-Swag" business and his contentious relationship with Jean-Ralphio's horror-show sister Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate).
It's May Day (as in: mayday!) for the Russian spies — and just about everyone else — in the taut first-season finale of FX's emotionally engrossing The Americans (Wednesday, 10/9c). Chivalry is not dead, even in the estranged not-quite-marriage of embedded KGB operatives Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), as they prepare for a dangerous mission that could be a set-up, with lots of jockeying and posturing between husband (who wants to protect while serving) and wife (who's adamant about following orders to the letter) about who's going to risk everything, including their "normal" family life, to walk into what might be a trap.
Zooey Deschanel and Dylan O'Brien
Everyone's losing it — or more to the point, remembering how they lost it — on one of this season's more uproarious episodes of Fox's New Girl, a reminder of just how potent the comic chemistry can be between Zooey Deschanel and her BFFs when they all hang together, sharing embarrassing stories (some more mortifying than others) about how their "innocence" (such as it never was) was stolen. This episode (Tuesday, 8:58/7:58c) will be especially enjoyable for fans of Max Greenfield's Fat Schmidt slapstick and for those who've been waiting for Lamorne Morris' Winston to emerge from the sidelines and get some major LOL action. Jess (Deschanel) starts the trip down Painful Memory Lane with glimpses from Prom Night, which brings suitors including Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien (Stiles!) into her life. But it's Winston's grotesque hook-up and Fat Schmidt's messy night in college with the girlfriend who would become Merritt Wever (from Nurse Jackie) that you're likely to remember. All that and another great payoff at the end. No sophomore slump for this show.