TV column for Monday, June 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS.

For the past eight
months, viewers have been confident that TV's two best comedies (“Big
Bang” and “Mom”) would be there every Thursday. Now things get
trickier; “Big Brother,” which debuts Wednesday, gets the 9 p.m.
Thursday slot, displacing “Mom” for the rest of the summer.

So “Mom” --
which had been going twice a week – now settles for Mondays. In
tonight's rerun, Christy (the terrific Anna Faris) is the only one
who wasn't told Jill is pregnant; she feels left out.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Preacher,” 7:58 and 9 p.m., AMC.

First is a rerun of
the season-opener, which aired Sunday. Jesse -- the ex-con clergyman
with a vocal superpower – has heard that God is on Earth; he's on
the road with his lover Tulip and their gabby vampire friend Cassidy.
Soon, there's a car chase, a horrific encounter and a clue.

Then comes a new
episode, with an old acquaintance and his truly odd nightclub act.
Both hours skitter quickly from whimsy to brutality (often involving
semi-innocent bystanders) to appealing bits if humor or emotion.
“Talking Preacher” is at 10 p.m. and all three rerun at 11 p.m.,
12:02 a.m. and 1:02 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For three decades,
“POV” has given summer-TV some of its finest moments –
documentaries that have (as the title implies) a strong point of
view. This opens with three films about refugees; the second and
third, both brief, are merely OK, but the first beautifully traces
four years in a teen's life.

Dalya Zeno was 13
when her world crumbled. Her parents separated; as Syrian kidnapping
increased, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles, to live with her
brother. She became the only Muslim in an all-girl Catholic school.
“I feel like I'm on a different planet,” she said. The result is
quietly compelling.

Other choices
include:

“Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory” (2005) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010),
6:30 and 9 p.m., Syfy. Both films show the visual mastery of Tim
Burton. The first, a triumph, also does a good job of telling its
story; the second does not.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Here's the final episode before
everyone moves overseas. (That happens in an episode transplanted to
Tuesday.) Tonight, we're in South Carolina, where Rachel Lindsay
dates Jack Stone, her semi-clone; he's 32, she's 31, they're both
Dallas lawyers and dog-lovers.

“Shadowhunters,”
8 p.m., Freeeform. Alec feels he can mend relations with the
Downworlders. Also, Jace and Clary are summoned by the Seelie Queen.

“Stitchers,”
9:01 p.m., Freeform. It's usually easy to mine the mind of a dead
person, but not this time. The murder victim was a secret agent whose
memories are tangled in visual codes.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. This show has a charmed summer, following “Mom”
on Mondays and “Big Bang” on Thursdays. This rerun brings the
family together for football tailgating.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. It isn't every day – or even every century – that
someone gets stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits. But in this rerun, Walter
must rescue a woman there, before she runs out of oxygen.

“Still
Star-Crossed,” 10:01, ABC. Someone has been scheming to reignite
the Montague-Capulet feud; now Rosaline and Benvolio go undercover to
figure out who it is. Also, Lord Montague reluctantly welcomes his
manipulative sister Tessa.

TV column for Sunday, June 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Prime Suspect: Tennison” debut, 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

We met Jane Tennison
a quarter-century ago, when she was put in charge of some reluctant
policemen. Perfectly played by Helen Mirren, she was a good cop,
heavy on smoking, drinking and regrets.

But now we flash
back. It's 1973 and she's just starting her career; young and
middle-class, she's in a tough area ruled by men. Stefanie Martini
captures both the wariness and the wide-eyed optimism. Tied into that
is a sharp story that continues for two more movie-length chapters.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
BET Awards, 8 p.m., BET (with pre-show at 6), MTV, VH1 and Spike.

Earlier this year,
BET scored with a mini-series about New Edition. Now that group –
formed 39 years ago – returns to perform and to get the Lifetime
Achievement Award.

That's in a show
that's hosted by Leslie Jones and stuffed with performers -- Bruo
Mars, Big Sean, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Future, Migos, Trey Songz,
Tamar Braxton and more, with a humanitarian award for Chance the
Rapper. All the channels except Spike have the post-show at about
11:30

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “From the Ashes,” 9 and 10:30 p.m. ET, National
Geographic.

This deeply layered
documentary offers a strong concern for the people in coal
communities. Jobs end, pensions and health benefits vanish, homes
become unsellable. Coal-mining, which employed 131,000 people 25
years ago, is now below 50,000.

But little of that,
the film says, can be pinned to any Obama-era “war on coal.”
There's strong competition from natural gas. And there's a failure of
coal companies to invest in their plants; instead, they simply moved
west, abandoning Appalachia. The story is told with a rich sense for
human detail.

Other choices
include:

Steve Harvey, all
night. Harvey has his regular ABC shows -- “Celebrity Family Feud”
at 8 p.m., “Funderdome” at 9. And lest we forget him, NBC reruns
Wednesday's “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” debut at 10. It has
talented seniors, plus some almost-cheesy moments, salvaged by
Harvey.

“Despicable Me”
(2010), 8-10 p.m., NBC. The title character (Steve Carell) plans to
steal the moon. This cartoon spawned two sequels (the latest opens
June 30) and the “Minions” hit.

“My Mother and
Other Strangers,” 8 p.m., PBS. A steady force in British drama,
Hattie Morahan has great moments here. She plays a transplanted
Englishwoman in 1940s Ireland, helping her husband run the pub and
store. She dislikes the rough-hewn fishermen ... but stands up for
them passionately.

“Grantchester,”
9 p.m., PBS. Dead crows seem sort of ominous tonight. One is sent to
Sidney, the vicar; another is found in the church, with the body of a
respected doctor.

“Claws,” 9 p.m.,
TNT, rerunning at 10. Desna finds some good news in her business
push, but bad news everywhere else. There are funny moments when she
and dim Virginia try to perpetuate an alternate truth ... and some
serious ones, when her friend's hapless husband is nudged near crime.

“Preacher”
season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC. The first season saw an ex-con become a
pastor in a small town, where he met a talkative vampire and a fierce
lover. With the church and the town destroyed, they're on the road to
find God (literally). “Preacher” -- which continues Monday, its
regular night -- has great moments ... plus some that are brutal and
gory, with innocent people as undeserved victims.

“I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime. In real life, Sammy Shore has been a
fairly successful stand-up comic. He started the Comedy Store in 1972
and lost it in a divorce in '74. Under his wife Mitzi, the club (and
their son Pauly) soared; Sammy's TV stand-up career crashed, but he
has continued to get acting and club work. Tonight, however, the
fictional characters have a much harsher story, with the ex-husband
(Jere Burns) desperate for one more chance. It's a tough part of an
oft-painful hour.

TV column for Saturday, June 24


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Turn,” 9 p.m., AMC; rerunning at 10.

Last week, Abe and
his dad concocted a risky plan to free Caleb: He and his dad –
considered allies by the Redcoats – pose as being captured by the
rebels, setting up a prisoner exchange. It's a dangerous scheme that
quickly goes wrong, in this pivotal episode.

Meanwhile, there's
despair in George Washington's camp and rage in Benedict Arnold's
mansion. And Akinbode is back; an ex-slave and ex-soldier, he's
played by Aldis Hodge, fresh from “Underground.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

In her first four
times hosting “SNL,” Melissa McCarthy got four Emmy nominations.
In this fifth one, things started weakly. There was a stiff Trump
opening, a so-so host bit and a sight-gag routine that consisted
entirely of pies in McCarthy's face. And then, this rerun reminds us,
things soared.

There was a
hilarious fake commercial (an Alexa-type device for seniors) and
McCarthy returned to her wildly funny portrayal of Sean Spicer. After
a strong music break from Haim (the sibling trio), “Weekend Update”
frolicked over the Comey firing and much more. “SNL” was at its
best.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Saving Private Ryan” (1990), 5-9 p.m., AMC; or
“Forrest Gump” (1994), 6-9 p.m., VH1.

Two Tom Hanks
classics collide. “Private Ryan” is Steven Spielberg's war
masterpiece, rich in both emotion and action; “Gump” is a goofy
(sometimes) fable, with its own odd charm.

They get a strong
movie night of to an early start, as does “21 Jump Street”
(2012), at 5:30 p.m. on FX. At 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has
James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock's “Rear Window” (1954). “Birth
of a Nation” (2016), a double winner at the Sundance Film Festival,
is 8 p.m. on HBO; the fun “Wedding Crashers” (2005) is at 9 on
Comedy Central.

Other choices
include:

“The Mist,” 4
p.m., Spike. If you missed Thursday's opener, definitely catch this
rerun. It's a Stephen King tale that – like other good King films –
builds great characters before the horror begins.

“Nitro Circus
Special,” 8-11 p.m., NBC. This “circus” is actually a
high-octane competition, with skateboarders and bikers doing stunts
that defy gravity and/or logic.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
8 p.m., CBS. As Max (Masi Oka of “Heroes”) prepares to leave the
team, there's a murder at a police convention. Also in this rerun,
Jimmy Buffet returns as Frank Bama.

“The Gong Show,”
8 p.m., ABC. Yes, the idea seems strange: Revive a goofy show that
seemed to fit the disco era ... and have it be hosted by a fictional
guy, played by Mike Myers. Somehow, though, it works. The silly acts
are fun, the good ones are sharp and Myers has his own clever,
offbeat approach.

“In An Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. Back in 1994, a man with a pistol and a bomb took
over a Salt Lake City library. He took hostages, unaware that one was
an off-duty cop with a concealed revolver. Using re-enactments and
witnesses, this tells a story that included calm responses by the
librarians.

“Genius,” 9-11
p.m., National Geographic. The richly crafted series concluded here,
with Albert Einstein's Princeton years. This rerun shows what could
have been a joyous time, shattered by the health problems of his wife
and her daughter ... a rift with his son ... and despair over the
government's eagerness to use the atomic bomb and its reluctance to
help Jews fleeing Nazi German.

“Orphan Black,”
10 p.m., BBC America. Alison was once a cheery (albeit alcoholic)
suburbanite; then she was caught up in all of this clone chaos. Now
she tries to return to her roots, in an episode that is merely pretty
good ... putting it well below this show's high average.

TV column for Friday, June 23


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
: “What Would You Do” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

So you're in a cafe
when a guy approaches two young women. He's a photographer, he says,
and wants them to come to his studio. They're excited to be models;
do you step in and caution them?

This well-made ABC
News productions uses actors to make moments seem believable, then
secretly films people's responses. In addition to that models pitch,
we see a Muslim teen belittled by two white peers ... parents
disparage a guy's overweight girlfriend ... a bartender with an
overprotective boyfriend ... and a parent belittling every small
mistake her child makes. What would you do?

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Landmarks Live,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Most networks have
forgotten the sheer power of catching a top performer in concert. Not
PBS; this intermittent series takes musicians to their favorite
locations. In January, it was Alicia Keys in New York and Brad
Paisley in West Virginia; now here's more.

Next week has
classical star Andrea Bocelli in Florence; tonight has Will.i.am at
Royal Albert Hall in London. A founder of the Black-Eyed Peas (which
has a reunion in this special), he's also a producer (Michael
Jackson, Justin Bieber, U2, more) and a judge for five seasons of the
British “The Voice.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Originals” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW.

Life is complicated
in the New Orleans underworld, where witches, werewolves and vampires
collide. And now there's The Hollow – an unkillable force descended
from an American Indian witch.

With Hope's life in
danger, Vincent concocts a desperate plan. It requires a huge
sacrifice for Klaus, Elijah, Hayley, Rebekah and Freya.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Playing House” season-opener, 11 and 11:30 p.m.,
USA.

In real life, Lennon
Parham and Jessica St. Clair have been friends since they met in a
comedy troupe, 17 years ago. In this show, their characters go back
even further, to childhood.

Tonight, Maggie
(Parham) tries to be big about things, with a game night to welcome
her ex-husband's new girtlfriend. At her work, she's with a doctor
who seems ice-cold. Then there's Emma (St. Clair), who quit her job
to help Maggie; she tries to rescue Tina (Lindsay Sloane) from a
pyramid scheme.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's auditions
episode.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox, and “The Great British Baking Show,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). We can spend Fridays watching other people
cook. Fox has a rerun, with 20 home chefs making someting with the 12
most popular American ingredients. Then PBS has bread week. Before
and after that? The Food Network has a “Diners, Drive-ins and
Dives” marathon, from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. Since our heroes travel the world, it's easy to borrow
characters from other shows. In this rerun, they join Chin and Kono
(of “Hawaii Five-0”) after an earthquake.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Chin has been kidnapped by a drug cartel; the team
rushes to prevent his execution. Also in this rerun, Grover goes
undercover as a car salesman.

“Riverdale,” 9
p.m., CW. If you missed it the first time, you can catch the season
this summer. It's a strange one, viewing the Archie comics gang
darkly. Jughead is homeless, Veronica's dad is in prison, Betty's
sister is missing and there's been a murder. Also, Archie's having
sex with his music teacher.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Family relationships complicate this rerun. Frank works
with his most vocal critic, whose son has been killed; Jamie learns
that the mugger he shot is the son of a fellow cop.

TV column for Thursday, June 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Mist” debut, 10 p.m., Spike, rerunning at 11.

For a solid stretch,
this is simply a well-crafted drama, a slice of small-town life.
There's an overprotective mom, an underprotective dad, their fragile
teen daughter and a crisis; there's also an extremely un-fragile
woman who is looking for a treasure. It's good stuff, well-played.

But this is a
Stephen King story; what about the spooky part? That's suggested in
an opening scene and in the show's title. Like the original version
of “The Fog” (which John Carpenter made back in 1980), this shows
that a misty day can grip our fears; “The Mist” is off to a
terrific start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Gong Show” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

Tommy Maitland, the
British comedy legend, is hosting this revival, ABC tells us. Except,
there is no such person; it's Mike Myers, with lots of make-up and
cleverly corny jokes. Other fictional people have hosted shows --
Paul Reubens did one in character -- and this neatly fits “Gong”
goofiness.

Here are acts that
are stridently bizarre – a guy plays the bagpipe while riding a
unicycle (in a gorilla suit, of course); a woman plays the harmonica
with a tarantula in her mouth. Alongside all this silliness, there's
a remarkable talent, a 58-year-old who's a jump-rope master. Such
moments keep us watching.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Games, everywhere.

The big networks
have to be serious about summer Thursdays; that's when movie
companies spend a fortune on ads for films that open the next day.
While CBS has its can't-miss comedies, the other three counter with
rerun-free nights of reality and game shows, filled with youthful
energy.

Fox has already
launched its music (“Beat Shazam”) and dating (“Love
Connection”) shows; tonight, ABC debuts “Boy Band” and “Gong
Show” and NBC brings back past successes -- “Hollywood Game
Night” (pitting the casts of “Veep” and “Walking Dead”),
“The Wall” and the drama “Night Shift.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Boy Band” debut, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Didn't the era of
“boy bands” -- cute lads with choreographed moves – pass? Maybe
not; it was just seven years ago that a British TV show turned five
strangers into One Direction, which soon had No. 1 songs and
$100-million years. Now a new show tries to do the same.

Tonight, we meet 30
guys, ages 14 to 24. Some are ousted, others are in three groups of
six; one group offers an early (and quite good) sampling. Experts –
Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys), Emma Bunton (Spice Girls), Timbaland
and Rira Ora – will mold them, but viewers will choose the five-guy
group.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun, the friends ponder who will
help out when Raj – no longer backed by his parents – must move
out of his apartment.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun finds Bonnie and Christy returning to their old,
law-breaking ways.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT. Just as Maddie's career looked promising, things crumbled
last week. Juliette swiped a song intended for her ... a disc jockey
only wanted to talk about her late mom Rayna ... and her argument
with a traffic cop went viral. Now she deals with the aftermath.

“The Night Shift”
season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. In a hospital with current and former
soldiers as patients and doctors, this has action-adventure moments.
Tonight, Jordan tries a daring rescue, then has a plan to reunite her
team. Also, Mark Consuelos plays a travelling nurse with a mysterious
past.

“MacGyver,” 10
p.m., CBS. Plugging this slot until “Zoo” arrives next week, CBS
inserts one of the more bizarre episodes: Undercover, Mac must help a
drug kingpin break out of prison, then track him.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. Teresa and James confront border vigilantes.