TVision: Networks trot out hit shows’ finales

Monday, May 11, 2009 at 1:27am

Leonard Nimoy will make a guest appearance on the Tuesday night seaon finale of 'Fringe,' which has already been renewed for another season.

The May sweeps truly intensify this week with a heavy slate of finales. But perhaps the most interesting news aside from some prime examples of stunt casting concerns rumors that CBS might actually be considering canceling one of its CSI franchises.

These procedurals have helped that network become the most popular in terms in total viewers throughout this decade and have also spawned a legion of imitators and been responsible for the shift in thematic emphasis on crime and mystery programs from quirky characterization and elaborate plotting to lab techniques and evidence gathering.

While as recently as two weeks ago it was assumed all three CSI shows were sure bets for renewal, there are now rumblings that the fortunes of both CSI and CSI:NY are uncertain. CSI remains the top-rated scripted drama on network television, but the audience drop this season has been sizable (some weeks in double-digits) and now it’s evident that no one thought William Petersen’s departure would prove this significant.

Although all three are still probably good bets to return, the Thursday night edition of CSI at 8 p.m. and a special showing of CSI:NY in the 9 p.m. time slot (both WTVF-5) now take on added meaning.

Unfortunately, newcomer Laurence Fishburne is getting a lot of the blame for the dip, despite being heavily praised by the show’s producers. In retrospect, it might have been much better to make the switch at the start of the season rather than in the middle, but that’s now ancient history.

Leonard Nimoy’s guest appearance on Fringe Tuesday night on WZTV-17 at approximately 8 p.m. (or whenever American Idol decides to end) has been touted everywhere.

Of course Fringe has already been renewed. But Wednesday’s last Lie to Me, with special guest Mekhi Phifer, may prove critical to that show’s fortunes. Likewise, network observers will be closely watching the ratings for the final installments of Castle (Monday, 9 p.m., WKRN-2), My Name is Earl (Thursday, 7 p.m. WSMV-4) and Flashpoint (Friday, 8 p.m., WTVF-5).

The free flow of dubious speculation and outright misinformation via the Internet also makes things difficult when predicting which shows will return. NBC has already had to deny two reports that Medium had been renewed, insisting they haven’t yet made a decision, and they remain resolutely silent on the fate of Law & Order. The same holds true with CBS about Cold Case, The Unit and Without a Trace, and ABC about The Unusuals and Better Off Ted.

Meanwhile, many of the shows that are definitely on the fall schedule also have some blockbuster developments planned for their wrap-up episodes. The great Carl Reiner is guest starring on Monday’s House (7 p.m. WZTV-17) in a show that also offers the ramifications of last week’s final scenes between House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Those who prefer a comedic twist can catch The Big Bang Theory's finale at the same time that will see things change once more in the on-again, off-again Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) situation.

Lost ends another excellent season with a two-hour finale Wednesday at 8 p.m. Jack (Matthew Fox), Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Ben (Michael Emerson) are all in the spotlight for this episode, which nicely sets the stage for next year’s last season. The CW’s Thursday Smallville (CW-58 at 8 p.m.) ends its year with a powerhouse installment.

There’s a wedding on Grey's Anatomy (Thursday, 8 p.m., WKRN-2) and some sequences that have to be seen to be believed (or at least appreciated) on 30 Rock (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., WSMV-4). There may or may not be a wedding on The Game (Friday, 7:30 p.m., CW-58), while unexpected complications threaten Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) on Ghost Whisperer (Friday, 7 p.m., WTVF-5).