Sure, with “Sherlock,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Girls,” “Nurse Jackie” and more, Sunday’s overcrowded with great TV, but what to watch the rest of the time? Each Monday, we bring you this guide to five noteworthy highlights from the other six days of the week.
“House”: Series Finale
Fox, Monday, May 21st at 8pm
After eight seasons, Fox’s Hugh Laurie medical drama is long past its prime (there’s even been a case in which the answer was actually lupus), but anyone who’s ever harbored a fondness for the cranky, brilliant Dr. Gregory House (or Laurie’s enjoyably irascible performance) may want to check in on this two-hour series finale — a closing episode, “Everybody Dies,” and a retrospective hour entitled “Swan Song” — in which James LeGros plays a drug addict patient who forces House to reexamine his own choices. Series creator David Shore co-wrote and will direct the finale, which will reportedly include appearance from former castmembers Olivia Wilde, Kal Penn, Amber Tamblyn and Jennifer Morrison.
“Civilization: The West and the Rest with Niall Ferguson”
PBS, Tuesday, May 22nd at 8pm
Why have Western civilizations dominated global culture in the past five centuries? And is the East now coming into the forefront? Historian Niall Ferguson (who in addition to being a TV figure is also an author, a Harvard professor, a Newsweek columnist and the inspiration for “The History Boys”) hosts this two-part PBS documentary series (the second episode airs May 29th) based on his controversial book of the same name, and argues how six “killer apps” lead to the rise of the West — competition; science; modern medicine; democracy; consumerism; and the (Protestant) work ethic. Ferguson covers everything from medical advances to the ubiquity of denim jeans in the series, which will be streamed online after its broadcast.
Showtime, Wednesday, May 23rd at 9:35pm
Just out on DVD, Tristan Patterson’s dreamy doc about Southern California skateboarder Josh “Skreech” Sandoval is also airing on Showtime. The film tracks a year in Sandoval’s life as he comes to terms with the fading of his pro career prospects and new fatherhood — the perpetually stoned 23-year-old’s days of partying, riding pools and hardcore music may be coming to an end, though the gorgeous cinematography from Eric Koretz make this 2011 SXSW award-winner more than just a coming-of-age portrait — as Indiewire’s own Eric Kohn wrote, the film “delivers the cinematic equivalent punk rock candy.”
“Awake”: Series Finale
NBC, Thursday, May 24th at 10pm
Finer than your average network drama, “Awake” seemed destined from the beginning to be canceled, with its themes on mourning and its knotty premise about a cop (Jason Isaacs) who splits his time between two seemingly equal realities, one in which his wife survived a terrible car accident, and another in which his son did. And since NBC quietly let it be known two weeks ago that “Awake” wouldn’t be coming back for a second season, here’s hoping this week’s season-turned-series finale offers some closure.
“Paul Simon: Under African Skies”
A&E, Friday, May 25th at 10pm
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger (“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”) followed Paul Simon back to South Africa for the 25th anniversary of “Graceland” in this documentary, which opened in limited release in theaters earlier this month. The film tracks Simon as he reunites with the original band that played on the acclaimed album, and delves into the controversy surrounding the recording, including accusations of musical theft and the fact that in making the work Simon violated the United Nations’ cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa.
Also worth a look: It’s the season for season finales — this week, among others, there’s one for “Glee” on Tuesday, May 22nd at 9pm on Fox; “Modern Family” on Wednesday, May 23rd at 9pm on ABC; and “Revenge” on Wednesday, May 23rd at 10pm on ABC. Elsewhere, Debra Winger guest-programs a night on TCM, choosing “The Night of the Iguana,” “Wings of Desire,” “Rififi” and “Gilda,” starting at 8pm on Tuesday, May 22nd; Alex Trebek hosts the 2012 National Geographic Bee on Thursday, May 24th at 8pm on the National Geographic Channel; Breckin Meyer creator a show — “Men at Work” — that premieres on TBS on Thursday, May 24th at 10pm; Emma Rossi Landi and Alberto Vendemmiati documentary “Left by the Ship,” about the Amerasian children of American servicemen in the Philippines, airs on PBS’ Independent Lens on Thursday, May 24th at 10pm;