TV column for Sunday, Aug. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“MTV Music Video Awards,” 9 p.m., MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central;
rerunning at 11:20.

Once a year, MTV
remembers music videos; then it does it up big. Tonight, it has Miley
Cyrus hosting, Kanye West getting a Vanguard Award and Taylor Swift
(in the 8 p.m. pre-show) debuting a video.

And there are lots
of performances – Pharrell Williams, Demi Lovato, Macklemore &
Ryan Lewis, Tori Kelly, Weeknd, A$AP Rocky and Twenty One Pilots.
Kendrick Lamar leads with five nominations, including
video-of-the-year, alone (“Alright”) and with Swift (“Bad
Blood”). They face Beyonce (“7/11”), Ed Sheeran (“Thinking
Out Loud”) and Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars (“Uptown Funk”).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Save My Life, Boston Trauma” finale, 10 p.m. Sunday, ABC.

Tossed around the
weekend schedule, this well-made ABC News series hasn't had the
attention it deserves. Tonight's finale sees the results of two
falls: A young woman, about to win a rock-climbing event, fell 25
feet; a man tried to stop his wife from plunging down the stairs, but
they both fell.

Also, a man's wife
and kids fume because he didn't take his blood-pressure medicine ...
then turn somber when they learn he could die or lose his leg.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Explorer” return, 8 p.m., National Geographic; and
“Elephant Queen” 9 p.m., NatGeo WilD.

Back in 1985, when
basic-cable channels were scrambling for anything new, “Explorer”
arrived. Produced by National Geographic, it bought documentaries
from around the world. It drew praise and awards, while shuffling
between five cable channels ... then disappeared in 2012.

Now it's back and
ambitious. This opener uses a fake elephant tusk to trace the link
between the slaughter of elephants and the arming of warlords. It's a
grim hour, but afterward switch channels; NatGeo focuses on one
elephant-family's trek, reminding us why these animals are worth
saving.

Other choices
include:

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
NBC. A weekend filled with pre-season football concludes with two
teams that have had opposite success. The Arizona Cardinals were 11-5
last season, but are 0-2 this pre-season; they visit the Oakland
Raiders, who were 3-13 last season, landing receiver Amari Cooper as
the No. 4 draft choice overall. He's caught four passes for 62 yards
this pre-season, with the Raiders at 1-1.

“Tangled”
(2010), 8-9:45 p.m., Disney. A weekend stuffed with animated hits
concludes with this musical version of the Rapunzel tale.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. Garret Dillahunt (“Raising Hope”)
guests in this rerun, as the best police detective in New York. Jake
is happy he's there ... until he plans to ask Amy for a date.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. Shaken by the attack in Iran, Elizabeth
tries to prevent ecological disaster in the Amazon. Also, she and her
husband disagree about their son's security at his new school.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m. Sunday, AMC, rerunning at 10:01. Like last week's
opener (which reruns at 7:30 p.m.), this is relatively light on gore
and strong on character depth and emotion. We're still in the first
moments of a zombie apocalypse, through the eyes of two smart, decent
people, beautifully played by Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis. They know
something is wrong and want to flee to the desert, but must retrieve
his son, her daughter and her drug-addicted son.

“The Strain,” 10
p.m., FX. As soon as “Fear” ends, you can switch to another
well-crafted horror story. As vampire-like creatures (including his
wife) roam New York, Eph gropes for his son's respect. Now they must
work together, performing impromptu surgery under field conditions.

“Falling Skies”
finale, 10 p.m., TNT. For five seasons, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), once
an American history professor, has led a guerilla fight against alien
conquerers. Here's the final showdown.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Inside Hurricane Katrina,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic; also
at 11 p.m.

It was 10 years ago
today that Hurricane Katrina reached Louisiana, delivering brutal
damage. Two months later, National Geographic aired this compelling
film; now it's back, with a few updates.

Yes, this is a type
of footage and information we've had before. Still, there's fresh
power in re-assembling it into a sharp package, showing how it all
evolved. The first half praises agencies for advance efforts; the
second condemns their failure to adjust and react to a transforming
tragedy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Cars” (2006), 8-10:30 p.m., ABC.

The Disney people
want us to watch animated hits this weekend. The Disney Channel had
“Brave” on Friday and follows with the gorgeous “Mulan”
(1998) at 8 p.m. today and“Tangled” on Sunday. And tonight, ABC
(owned by Disney) adds to the primetime animation..

In “Cars,” race
whiz Lightning McQueen suddenly finds himself in the broken-down town
of Radiator Springs. There, he meets all sorts – including a clunky
tow truck -- and finally finds real life.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Blunt Talk” and “Survivor's Remorse,” 9 and
9:31 p.m., Starz.

It's no surprise
that this “Blunt” episode is terrific. In last week's opener,
Patrick Stewart was brilliant as a news-talk host; he raged, cowered,
fought, interviewed himself and then (given the wrong medication)
collapsed. Now he comes to, while envisioning a dance number, and
faces fresh crises.

The real surprise,
however, is the “Remorse” that follows. The season-opener (like
the first season) was a comedy-drama that rarely included any comedy.
But tonight's episode – involving domestic violence to guys, not
usually a funny subject – gets big laughs. The two shows repeat at
10 and 11:05 p.m.

Other choices
include:

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
CBS. The Seattle Seahawks visit the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks
were 12-4 last year, but lost their first two pre-season games; the
Chargers, 9-7 last year, won their first two.

“Cedar Cove,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. Jack (Dylan Neal) risks his job to help Jeri, his
colleague and boss. Also, Paul (Colin Ferguson) warns Olivia to be
wary of Liz.

“Doctor Who”
marathon, 8 p.m. ET, BBC America. Here are three reruns with the
Doctor travelling with Amy (Karen Gillan). She fights aliens with
Vincent Van Gogh at 8 p.m., is endangerted (along with the TARDIS) at
9:15 and is quarantined at 10:30. Those rerun at 11:30 p.m., 12:45
a.m. and 2 a.m.

“Hell on Wheels,”
9 p.m., AMC, repeating at 10. In Salt Lake City, Cullen and Durant
meet with President Grant to discuss the railroad's future. Also, the
Swede launches his plan against the Mormons.

“Hannibal”
finale, 10 p.m., NBC. Somehow, this show managed to do three seasons
while drawing few viewers. Now it has the final effort by Will (Hugh
Dancy) to catch serial-killer Francis Dolarhyde, using Hannibal
Lecter. Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) warns that he's putting too many
lives in danger.

“Last Man
Standing,” 10:30, ABC. In a rerun of the season's second-to-last
episode, Vanessa tries to set up a date for her youngest daughter
Eve. But Eve may already have a suitor; Mike and his neighbor Chuck
(Jonathan Adams) figure it's Chuck's son.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Taraji Henson – whose “Empire” work
brought her Emmy and Television Critics Association nominations –
hosts the rerun, with music by Mumford & Sons.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 28


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Defiance” and “Dark Matter” season finales, 8 and 9-11p.m.,
Syfy.

This third season
brought another fierce foe for Defiance, the scrappy town that was
once St. Louis. Townspeople resisted the Earth Republic and the
Vitanis Collective; then came T'evgin and Kindzi, warriors from the
near-extinct Omec race. Tonight, our heroes try a suicide attack.

That's followed by
the final two “Dark Matter” episodes. In the first, a simple
rescue mission builds into an ordeal; in the second, secrets finally
emerge and a betrayal is revealed.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. (check local
listings).

No, you don't have
to be a classical-music buff to like this one. It's a night of lush
sounds, with Zubin Mehta conducting the Vienna Philarmonic, against
the gorgeous backdrop of the Schonbrunn Palace.

That starts with a
trumpet fanfare and ends (as always) with a Strauss waltz. In
between, there's much more, including two Edvard Grieg pieces – the
“Peer Gynt” suite and a piano concerto with Rudolf Buckbinder --
and Jean Sibilius' stirring “Finlandia,” which became Finland's
secret national anthem.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS.

The cop shows step
aside tonight, when CBS finally gets its turn at primetime,
pre-season football. Fox, NBC and ESPN already had their first
pre-season games; now CBS – which has Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and
Tracy Wolfson as its main broadcast team – has a two-night spree.

Saturday will have
Seattle at San Dieto; first, tonight has Detroit at Jacksonville,
both 1-1 in the pre-season. The Lions finished 11-5 last season, but
promptly lost defensive star Ndamukong Suh; the Jaguars were 3-13,
then lost top draft choice Dante Fowler to a practice-time injury.

Other choices
include:

“Narcos” debut,
any time, Netflix. Pablo Escobar's story was epic. A middle-class
Colombian kid – son of a teacher and a farmer – he created a
massive cocaine cartel; by 1989, Forbes magazine was listing his
personal wealth at $3 billion. Four years later, on the day after his
44th birthday, he was killed. This 10-part series tells
both the story of Escobar and of the search to get him.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's round, with
the final 12 acts performing. “Talent” went on to choose its 24
semi-finalists; half of them will perform next Tuesday.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. This reruns Wednesday's round, which is down to six
people. They split into three-person teams and take over a Los
Angeles restaurant, offering two choices for appetizers and two for
entrees. Then the losing team has a pasta challenge, with one person
ousted.

“Casablanca”
(1942), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This black-and-white film –
with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and deep-but-unstated passion –
is a true classic. An American Film Institute survey named it the
third-best American movie, trailing only “Citizen Kane” and “The
Godfather.”

More movies, cable.
At 8 p.m., Disney has “Brave” (2012), the action cartoon with a
young heroine. At 9, TBS has “Due Date” (2010), a road comedy
salvaged by the smart casting of Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey
Jr. as mismatched guys, thrown together by circumstance.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. In this rerun, Jim Gordon – a future police commissioner
– looks into the controversy surrounding Commissioner Loeb. Bruce
Wayne – the future Batman – deals with the aftermath of an
attack. And Fish Mooney's loyalty to the prisoners is questioned.

Comedy reruns. At 10
p.m., TV Land reruns “The Jim Gaffigan Show”; Jim gets a chance
to perform on Jimmy Fallon's latenight show. And at 10:30, many PBS
stations rerun the “Vicious” season-opener. It's a big, broad
episode, salvaged by the comic precision of Ian McKellen and Derek
Jacobi.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “Mom,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Always very funny,
these shows have gradually added character depth and moving moments.
That's on display a little bit in the third run of a key “Big Bang”
episode: A power outage requires a quick feast, involving all the
food that Wolowitz's late mom had been saving in the refrigerator.

And the depth is
thoroughly on display in the arc now rerunning on “Mom”:
Crumbling after her ex-husband's death, Bonnie (Allison Janney)
resumed her addiction, this time using pills for her back pain. Now
her AA friends rush to her support; her daughter Christy, who's seen
this before, won't budge. TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Mistresses,” 9
p.m., ABC.

The Calista season
is now a week from wrapping up. When Alyssa Milano quit, “Mistresses”
had her character (Savannah) flee town. The show gave her sister Joss
a new friend, the high-maintenance Calista ... who soon concocted
revenge schemes against her husband, Luca.

Now Calista has been
arrested for Luca's murder ... Joss – pondering a plea baragain,
despite her innocence -- is charged as a conspirator ... and someone
may be framing both. Karen reluctantly keeps the secret that Vivian
has had a health relapse. And April is happy with Marc ... until his
sister arrives.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Two weeks from the
season-finale – and, we're promised, the dome's dissolution –
people are still choosing sides. Joe chooses to work with Christine
(Marg Helgenberg), who tells him about the entity behind the dome;
others are in the Resistance, trying to rescue loved ones from her
Kinship.

While Barbie (Mike
Vogel) rushes to rescue Eva, Big Jim and Julia work with Hektor, head
of the corporation that wanted to harness the dome's power. He wants
to test a cure for those infected.

Other choices
include:

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 8 p.m., CW. To defeat Liam (Jason Gedrick), Cat and Vincent
may have to use their secret weapon.

“Erin Brockovich”
(2000), 8-11 p.m., AMC. A divorced mom with a two-year college
degree, a law clerk tackled a giant utility, using charm, smarts
and/or sex appeal. It's a great story, beautifully told; Julia
Roberts won an Academy Award, with nominations for the movie, the
script and Albert Finney.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. The victim may have been bullied, causing Brennan to recall her
own girlhood.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Kiernan Shipka, 15, is the guest judge, which
seems logical: The task involves putting a modern twist on a classic
design; Shipkaa spent parts of eight seasons wearing 1960s clothes in
“Mad Men.”

“Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC. Everything is changing, both personally – now that
Marlo and Sam have their baby – and professionally; after the
corruption scandal that included Commissioner Santana and Gail's
brother, the precinct will be overhauled. Andy (Missy Peregrym) feels
this may be the right time to accept an undercover job that would
have her leave town for four months.

“Documentary Now,”
10 p.m., IFC. This mock-documentary series opened last week with Bill
Hader and Fred Armisen pretending to be women in a crumbling mansion.
Now comes a quick change with a mock-doc about two journalists,
searching for a Mexican drug lord.

“Married,” 10:30
p.m., FX. Russ' mother visits, criticizing his life and praising a
stranger she met on the Internet ... and is about to join on a
cruise. There are some funny moments, but they're scattered.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 25


(TV column for
Tuesday, Aug. 25)

By Mike Hughes

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Public Morals” debut, 10 p.m., TNT, rerunning at midnight.

This may be the
logical vehicle for Edward Burns. Yes, he's an indie-filmmaker with
leading-man looks. But he's also an Irish-Catholic New Yorker whose
father and uncle were cops. So now he's writing, directing and
starring in a show set in their era.

It's early-1960s New
York, a chance for stylish visuals. Terry Muldoon (Burns) heads a
division that polices – lightly, sometimes – gambling and
prostitution. Co-stars include Katrina Bowden (“30 Rock”), Brian
Dennehy, Michael Rapaport and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hollywood Game Night,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

Let's think of this
night as a two-network crossover. First, catch “Fresh Off the
Boat,” at 8 and 8:30 p.m.; Constance Wu (who received a Television
Critics Association nomination) and Randall Park are excellent as the
oft-deludedparents; in the first rerun, she's mad at him for NOT
being jealous.

Then both are “Game
Night” contestants. They're joined by other comedy actors -- Bobby
Moynihan (“Saturday Night Live”) and Paul Scheer (“The
League”), plus Amy Smart and Randall Cobb.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Katrina: The Storm That Never Stopped,” 9 p.m.,
CNN.

As Hurricane Katrina
raged through the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, Anderson Cooper was at his
best. He told stories of victims and survivors; he also questioning
officials about slow responses.

Now Cooper returns
to look at some of the losses ... and at the impact on loved ones who
survived. That's part of TV's intense, 10th-anniversary
look at the storm. There have already been primetime specials Friday
(Fox News) and Sunday (ABC and Al Jazeera); others are scheduled
(subject to change) at 8 p.m. Wednesday (BET) and at 8 and 11 p.m.
Saturday (National Geographic).

Other choices
include:

"Dusk Till Dawn," all day, El Rey. A marathon of the first season starts at 11 a.m. Then the new season begins, with all the quirky energy, charm and ... yes, the messy, vampire-style gore that we expect from "Dusk" and director Robert Rodriguez. 

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Twelve more acts perform and viewers
vote, wrapping up the third and final leg of this round. On
Wednesday, we'll learn who's in the final 24.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. “CSI” isn't the only show to discover a cyber division. Now
a cyber guy (Matt Jones) arrives, after a Naval Intelligence officer
is killed.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Jamie (Kristin Connolly) links with another journalist, trying
to prove the Reiden company's connection to animals-gone-bad.
Meawhile, Mitch (Billy Burke) escapes from Reiden with his daughter's
medication and with the mother cell ... then confronts a flock of
angry birds.

“Below Deck”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Bravo. This reality show follows the staffers
– mostly young, single and telegenic – on a 164-foot yacht. Now
they're in the Bahamas with a hotel-owner and his friends; also,
they're expected to create a “foam party.”

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Phil had seemed enthusiastic about the
notion of repopulating the Earth, helping both Carol and the
beautiful Melissa (January Jones) get pregnant. Now Todd has arrived
and Carol suggests a monogamous (Todd-Melissa) relationship; Phil is
not pleased.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Lasalle (Lucas Black) has had a close
relationship with his brother Cade. Now Cade wakes up with no memory
of what happened the night before; his girlfriend's body is in the
trunk of his car and there's a pile of evidence against him.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunnng at 11:02 p.m. and at 12:03 and 1:07 a.m.. As
George Washington learned long ago, messy weather can help a surprise
attack. Now a sandstorm aids Barry, as his undermanned forces attack
a Caliphate base; meanwhile, his wife tries a risky plan to save
him..