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On TV: 'The Americans,' 'Roseanne,' 'Love' and 'Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling'

The TV menu is full over the next few days. Let's take a look:

If ever a series has gotten a boost from the Trump administration, it is FX's "The Americans."

The ongoing Russian investigation has made the Soviet spy series seem timely as it begins its sixth and final season at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the pay-cable network.

The season opener reveals that family man Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) has happily walked away from the spy game as his stressed wife Elizabeth (Keri Russell) is joined by daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) in trying to influence or sabotage arms reduction talks between America and the Soviet Union.

The riveting episode has a terrific musical soundtrack and a couple of neat twists on both the American and Russian sides as the reign of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev is tested by critics in his country during the Reagan Administration years.

Network television's rediscovery of its past continues at 8 p.m. Tuesday with the return of ABC's "Roseanne." The premiere quickly and cleverly deals with one elephant in the room: How John Goodman's character Dan returns since he died in the show's previous life that ended in 1997.

ABC's decision to bring this popular comedy back to life seemed like a good idea considering Roseanne's politics mirror that of working-class Trump supporters.  But I suspect viewers watch sitcoms to avoid politics.

With "American Idol" about to air its final audition episode Sunday, the fate of local contestant Erika Hill will be known.

Hill has told friends that she is on the singing competition program. However, she didn't make the first four audition episodes and may not appear Sunday, either.

But that doesn't mean she hasn't qualified for a trip to Hollywood. According to a publicist for the ABC program, some singers move on to Hollywood without appearing on an audition episode. If Hill isn't on Sunday's final audition program and still is heading to Hollywood, she can announce it after the episode ends.

According to ABC, Hill is a graduate of Immaculata Academy and Canisius College and lives in South Buffalo. She auditioned in New York City.

A Baptist minister from Buffalo, Vernal Harris, is featured in a PBS documentary, "Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death," that airs at 9 p.m. Monday on WNED-TV and PBS stations across the country. The two-hour program from award-winning film producer Helen Whitney is narrated by award-winning actress Sharon Stone.

According to a release, Harris is one "of nine men and women grappling with the universal questions posed by our mortality. It presents intimate, candid portraits of these individuals from all walks of life, ages, backgrounds and religions, for whom death is no longer a far-off abstraction. Each of them has been shocked into mortality and are forever changed. The film invites us into these rare and intimate conversations: the ones we yearn to have, but too often turn away from, until it is too late."

The release suggests that Harris has been asking questions because of family tragedies. It states that Harris' "religious faith was nearly shattered when his two sons died from sickle cell disease. The death of his sons interfered with the way he felt about God because he could not understand why he took them away. However, it was restored by a dream in which he visited his son, Paul. He found strength again in his beliefs against death."

SUNY Buffalo State College graduate Lazuras Lynch is part of Food Network history. A week ago, Lynch, who previously worked on the network's digital series "Comfort Nation, " headlined the network launch of  "Chopped U" as its first original Snapchat program. It is modeled after the popular series that airs on the Food Network.

It is a six-week show airing on Snapchat's Discover page, with episodes airing on Snapchat's Search feature after they air on Sundays. The program is available in all English-speaking countries and some select countries worldwide.

According to the Food Network, the program "pins two young food aficionados in direct culinary competition to battle it out in the kitchen. Contestants are given 30 minutes and four mystery ingredients to create a delicious and unique dish, to be judged by Lazarus, who is also a "Chopped Champion."

I've been a fan of the Netflix series "Love" through the first two seasons. It is a goofy romantic comedy starring Paul Rust as Gus Cruikshank, a people-pleasing teacher to young stars,  and Gillian Jacobs as Mickey Dobbs, a complicated and self-destructive radio talk show producer. I'm more than halfway through season 3 and love it even more. My favorite episode is the one in which Gus is tested when Mickey gets sick and she claims she doesn't want him to disrupt his fun plans by taking care of her. More men have failed that test than any math or English test.

Judd Apatow, one of the creators and producers of "Love," gives a loving tribute to his late friend and mentor in "The Zen Dairies of Garry Shandling." It premieres on HBO Monday and Tuesday. The biographical documentary is rich in details but long at four and a half hours. Off of extended clips viewed at the Television Critics Association meetings in Los Angeles in January, any fan of "The Larry Sanders Show" or "It's Garry Shandling's Show" shouldn't miss it.

I became a big fan of CBS play-by-play man Brian Anderson during University at Buffalo's men's basketball games in the NCAA tournament. He's been mentioned as an eventual replacement for Jim Nantz years from now and I can see why. He does play-by-play and analysis simultaneously.

I've been critical of CBS' Spero Dedes when he has done play-by-play of Buffalo Bills games, especially when he worked with former analyst Solomon Wilcots.  But he has done strong work during the tournament, including the two St. Bonaventure basketball games.

Remember the days that sports backups like Channel 4's Paul Peck and Channel 2's Adam Benigni stayed forever? Shannon Shepherd's move to Fox Sports San Diego after two years at Channel 4 means four backups have left in the last three years. Shepherd joins Channel 4's Tom Martin and Lauren Brill and Channel 2's Jonah Javad, who also have gone to bigger markets. I've seen Brill's work in Cleveland via social networks and noticed significant improvement since her Channel 4 days. I'm told that Shepherd's role in San Diego will primarily be behind-the-scenes rather than in front of the camera.

I wasn't a fan of sportscaster Nick Filipowski when he was a backup at Channel 7 and stumbled over words. But he really has improved now that he is at Channel 4.

 

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