NCIS (Tuesday, 5/14, 8/7c, CBS)
There are ghosts both literal and figurative in NCIS's finale, which brings back one character who was killed off two years ago and another who hasn't been seen for more than a decade. It should be bait enough for hard-core NCIS-heads that late, lamented mentor Mike Franks (Muse Watson) makes his second posthumous appearance as an otherworldly sounding board for Gibbs (Mark Harmon). But sometimes a guy needs a lawyer even more than he needs a conscience. Enter John M. Jackson as A.J. Chegwidden, who was a regular on JAG when that series launched NCIS as a spinoff 10 years ago. "It is a big stretch of time" after which to revive a character, says NCIS executive producer Gary Glasberg, "yet there's a connection to those JAG characters that's similar to the way people feel about our characters." He says the story "isn't necessarily JAG-related" but reintroduces A.J. as an attorney who's now working in the private sector. Gibbs is in need of expert legal counsel because he's in hot water with a Department of Defense investigator (Colin Hanks) over the team's aggressive handling of a Mossad leader's assassination. As for Franks's latest spiritual appearance, hints Glasberg, it involves a few phantasmagoric scenes "that will leave people questioning whether what they're seeing is real or not real, and how it's informing Gibbs's decision making."
Modern Family (Wednesday, 5/22, 9/8c, ABC)
The Emmy-winning comedy closes out its fourth season by tackling an unexpectedly somber subject: the death of Phil's mom. Still, insists executive producer Steve Levitan, fans shouldn't expect "a very special episode of Modern Family. We definitely didn't want to do that. We wanted to deal with one of the major experiences that people have in their lives and try to do it in a way that felt right for the tone of our show." In other words, there will still be plenty of laughs, many of which come courtesy of the extended family as they travel to Florida with Phil (Ty Burrell) for the funeral. Gloria (Sofia Vergara) enlists Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) for help with an outstanding warrant in the state; Jay (Ed O'Neill) runs into a fling from 40 years ago; and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) falls in with a gang of old women at the retirement village where Phil's dad (returning guest star Fred Willard) lives. "We tried to strike a balance between the heartfelt and touching and the really funny," says Levitan, "and we're very happy with how it turned out."
New Girl (Tuesday, 5/14, 9/8c, Fox)
Cece (Hannah Simone) and Shivrang (Satya Bhabha) prepare to tie the knot, but they might not get all the way down the aisle: Her jealous ex, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and his pal Winston (Lamorne Morris) mount a last-minute effort to derail the big day. Taylor Swift makes a special appearance as a wedding guest named Elaine. "She's a fan of New Girl, and I'm a huge fan of hers, so I was trying not to totally geek out," creator Liz Meriwether says. "She was quoting lines from the show, improvising, throwing in jokes. She nailed it." The outcome of Cece's nuptials is up in the air, but Meriwether promises a big decision will be made about the future of the Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) romance. Says Meriwether, "I'm hoping that people will feel like there's some resolution."
For more Finale Preview scoop on How I Met Your Mother, Community, Revenge and more, pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, May 2!
- Arts & Entertainment