Flipping Channels: Person of Interest — Rage Against the Machine?

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CBS hasn't seen many pilots garner the audience reaction Person of Interest generated during testing two years ago. The response was so great the network programmers promptly dislodged CSI from the plum 8 p.m. Thursday spot it had enjoyed since its debut in 2000.

The Jonathan Nolan show has certainly exceeded expectations over its first two seasons. Most weeks it ranks in the Top 20, sometimes the Top 10, and has become a cornerstone helping CBS dominate the most cherished weeknight for advertisers. It has also continually explored intriguing issues regarding the ethics of operatives Finch (Michael Emerson) and Reese (Jim Caviezel).

While Finch created the incredible information system known as "The Machine" to help stop crimes, he's spying on people without their knowledge or permission and without governmental authority. He and Reese insert themselves into all types of situations, and while their motives are always good, their tactics raise thorny questions about abuses of power and technology.

The second season finale Thursday (WTVF-Channel 5, 8 p.m.) gives viewers even more insight into the Machine's operation, as Reese and Finch battle to save it from a megavirus that was uploaded by Finch's former colleague Stanton (Annie Parisse). Some familiar faces return for this episode, among them agent Samantha Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Root (Amy Acker), who wants to destroy both Finch and Reese but gets special pleasure from intellectual duels with Finch.

"We're going to give viewers big answers that will hopefully pose a few big questions," Nolan told TV Guide. The answers to those questions should prove even more compelling.

Viva (or Abajo?) las Vegas
CBS was almost as high on Vegas when the season started as it had been about Person of Interest. While there were some worries about it being a period piece (set in the '60s), the feeling was the serialized storyline about the battle between a Las Vegas sheriff and an imported Chicago mobster had enough sizzle to click with audiences who would enjoy seeing the evolution of America's premier glamour and gambling center.

But despite a high-powered cast that included Dennis Quaid as sheriff Ralph Lamb and Michael Chiklis as mobster Vince Savino, Vegas has been erratic, both artistically and ratings-wise. It did well in overall audience, but bombed among the select 18-49 group whose preferences rule programming decisions, especially at the networks.

The show started at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, then shifted to Fridays in midseason. It is definitely on the bubble in terms of renewal, and odds don't look good. But the first year concludes May 10 (WTVF-Channel 5, 8 p.m.) with a blockbuster finale, at least in terms of outcome.

Lamb and Savino join forces against someone both fear and hate: Porter Gainsley (Michael Ironside). Not only does Gainsley want to take over Savino's empire, it turns out that years ago he killed Lamb's wife. He's also tried to eliminate ADA Katherine O'Connell (Carrie-Anne Moss), and for good measure threatened Lamb's brother Jack (Jason O'Mara).

Vegas is the brainchild of gifted journalist turned writer/director Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese's essential collaborator on GoodFellas and Casino, who envisioned the show merging elements of a classic Western with an urban drama. It hasn't always worked out, but the forthcoming episode will either reboot for a second year — or fall dead in the street.

Glee's seasonal swan song
It's never been on my "must watch" list, but for those who enjoy Glee, the show wraps another year Thursday (WZTV-Channel 17, 8 p.m.) with an episode heavy on music and tying up loose ends.

Perhaps the biggest news is the return of American Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez, once more portraying Hoosierdaddies lead vocalist Frida Romero. In addition, there are more details about the New Directions' members performances and outcomes in the Regionals.

Some old characters return, the catfish storyline will have some repercussions, and the question of whether Rachel (Lea Michele) gets a job in Funny Girl will be answered. Last month Fox renewed Glee for two more seasons, so it definitely has a faithful following. It's also one of the few entities on commercial TV that can stimulate record sales, something that's made it manna for cross-marketing purposes.

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