TV column for Thursday, July 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Democratic convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and cable.

Now the race reaches
full-speed, as Hillary Clinton becomes the first major-party female
nominee for president. Cable news channels will pay attention all
day; PBS jumps in at 8 p.m. ET.

Still, the big
networks will wait until 10, when the Democrats are expected to have
Chelsea Clinton and then her mom. Afterward, Comedy Central's “The
Daily Show” has a rare live episode at 11 p.m. and CBS' Stephen
Colbert continues his two-week stretch of live shows at 11:35.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Reality show overload, 8 and 9 p.m.

While waiting for
the sorta-reality of politics, we can catch some semi-sorta-reality.
At 8, “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” has a rerun – Zac Efron
in an Appalachian mountain range – before its new season starts
Monday and Tuesday; at 9. CBS' “Big Brother” has an eviction.

Spanning both is a
two-hour edition of Fox's “Home Free,” with three people left.
This is the good-hearted show that lets each contestant win a new
home for a personal hero. The difference is that the homes get better
each week; the winner (next Thursday) gets $100,000 AND the best one
for the hero.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” 10 p.m., FX,
rerunning at 11:03.

At first, this was
mainly the story of Johnny Rock (Denis Leary), a one-hit star,
suddenly backing Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies), the talented daughter he'd
never met. But now it's branching out.

There's the new
career of Ava (Elaine Hendrix), his back-up singer and lover; Hendrix
is terrific, but Leary's jealousy funk soon becomes one-note. There's
the Broadway show written by Rehab; in a great scene last week
(rerunning at 10:31), it was co-opted by Campbell Scott. And there's
the mismatched romance of Flash (John Corbett, 55) and Gigi (Gillies,
23); tonight, they have a pivotal scene.

Other choices
include:

“Jurassic Park”
(1993) and “Men in Black” (1997), 5:30 and 8:45 p.m., FX. Here's
an entertaining double-feature for convention-skippers. Other movies
range from “The Big Year” (2011, 8 p.m., CMT) – a quietly
charming comedy-drama, with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black
as bird-watchers – to “Our Brand is Crisis” (2015, 9 p.m, HBO),
a well-made but relentlessly cynical political tale.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This terrific show thrives when splitting off
an odd duo. In this rerun, Bernadette and Sheldon skip a
wine-tasting, because she's pregnant and ... well, he's Sheldon.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. John (James Brolin, 76) had seemed content with his
white hair and grandpa goofiness; tonight, he tries to look young and
hip. Also in this rerun, Heather frets about her daughter's piano
reccital and Matt meets Coleen's mother (Mercedes Ruehl).

“Greatest Hits,”
9 p.m., ABC. Kelsea Ballerini, the show's co-host, does a medley of
songs first done by Shania Twain, Bridney Spears and Maroon 5. Also,
Fifth Harmony does a Destiny's Child medley; duets link the hits of
Lee Ann Womack and Rachel Platten, Pat Monahan and Kenny Loggins.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 9 p.m., NBC. Here's a “ladies night” with Meredith
Vieira, Julia Stiles, Bellamy Young, Natalie Morales, Hannah Davis
and Raven-Symone.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Despite a “beast bounty” and a hunt,
Vincent and Cat try to return some nomralcy to their lives. Also,
Tess takes a big risk to protect Vincent.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. Teresa's drug-dealing had prospered under
Camila. Now, however, Camila is short on supply, long on debt and
tempted to give her up.

TV column for Wednesday, July 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week, “Tyrant”
had one of the most powerful (and jolting) hours anywhere. Jamal, the
deposed tyrant, was killed in his hospital bed, by his long-suffering
son; then Jamal's brother Bassam– once a Pasadena pediatrician, now
the new president – watched his own daughter being slain by rebels.

Now strong forces –
retaliation, remorse, grieving – swirl, at the start of the
presidential campaigm. There are more jolts, but the key is the
subtle perfection of the stars – led by Adam Rayner and Jennifer
Finnigan – and writing. “It's amazing,” one man says, “how
much damage we can do from a distance.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Democratic convention and/or cable dramas, 10 p.m.

For the second
straight Wednesday, a key convention night collides with cable's best
drama hour.

News networks will
focus on the convention and PBS will be there throughout prime time.
But ABC, CBS and NBC want to settle for a single hour, at 10 p.m. ET.
That's when Democrats plan to stack their big names – Barack Obama,
Joe Biden and vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine; in the Eastern and
Central zones, however, it's also when cable-drama peaks, including
“Tyrant,” “Mr. Robot” and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Wayward Pines” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

All of this began
with a drastic plan: With the Earth near extinction, Dr. Pilcher
froze some people; when the planet had healed, they were released
into this precise village, protected by a giant wall.

In the interim,
however, “Abbies” (aberrant creatures) evolved; now they're
preparing to attack. Jason, the late Pilcher's successor, prepared to
re-freeze everyone ... except there are barely pods for half of them.
As he tried to choose, he learned what his lover didn't know: She's
also his birth mother. He attacked her and she killed him; now Theo
must make decisions affecting the future of humans.

Other choices
include:

“Greenleaf,”
7-11 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. First are reruns of the three most
recent episodes. Then, at 10 p.m., the church matriarch becomes
suspicious of her daughter Grace's investigation. Also, Grace's
brother Jacob presents a TV plan to their dad, the bishop.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. This week, “Talent” is starting its live
phase – two hours of performances on Tuesdays, a one-hour results
show Wednesdays.Tonight – colliding with new hours of “Big
Brother” and “MasterChef” -- we learn which of Tuesday's 12
acts will move forward.

“Young and
Hungry,” 8 p.m., Freeform. As they head to speed-dating, Gabi and
Josh challenge each other: He can't say he's rich; she has to tone
down what he calls her “hotness.” A sampling indicates this could
be good one ... while “Baby Daddy,” at 8:30, could be mostly just
loud and oafish.

“Night Shift,” 9
p.m., NBC. Suddenly, everything goes wrong: A bomb explodes near the
hospital, the nurses go on strike, doctors face a tough choice ...
and TC realizes he might know the bomber.

“American Gothic,”
9 p.m., CBS. Now that they face suspicion in the “Silver Bell
Killer” cases, the Hawthornes confine themselves to the family
mansion ... and start to turn on each other. The exception is scary
Garrett ... who goes on a camping trip with Christina, the daughter
of the first SBK victim.

“The A Word,” 10
p.m., Sundance. As people grope for ways to help Joe, who's 5 and
audistic, we begin to get deeper views of his elders. Tonight, the
visiting therapist is someone from his mother's past ... forcing both
parents to take critical new looks at their lives.

“Mr. Robot,”
10:01 p.m., USA. Trying to banish Mr. Robot from his imagination,
Elliott befriends the iffy Ray (Craig Robinson). Also, Dom (Grace
Gummer), the FBI agent, makes a key discovery.

TV column for Tuesday, July 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“MadTV” opener, 9 p.m., CW.

For 14 seasons,
“MadTV” brought latenight comedy sketches to Fox. Now – after a
seven-year gap – it steps into prime time, with eight new people
and rotating alumni.

Clearly, their
strength isn't political satire; two of tonight's efforts are merely
loud and lunk-headed. Other things, however, work well: A “Game of
Thrones” sketch, trying to explain a tangled plot, is a delight.
And when a Trump-type character ia plunked into “Thrones,” the
result is quite clever. By summer standards, at least, “MadTV”
has potential.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hotel Hell” season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox.

After selling his
children's-book company in 1997, Jim Landoll went in a different
direction – building a giant, castle-like home in Ohio's gorgous,
Mohican River area.

He lost the building
in a 2009 divorce, but his ex-wife has found it difficult to make
Landoll's Mohican Castle a financial success. Now Gordon Ramsay
advises her to pass more work to their son.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shane” (1953), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Years ago, TCM
proclaimed an “Every Great Western (Except 'Shane') Film Festival.”
This year's cowboy festival (which concludes Wednesday) tops that: It
has the other greats AND “Shane.”

Earlier in the day,
the films are light -- “Support Your Local Sheriff” (1969) at
2:15 p.m. ET, “Judge Roy Bean” (1972) at 4, “Hearts of the
West” (1975) at 6:15. Then is the story of a quiet gunman (Alan
Ladd) who defends homesteaders, but can't really find a home. It won
an Oscar for its cinematography and was nominated for six more; the
American Film Institute puts it at No. 45 on its all-time list.

Other choices
include:

Democratic
convention, all day, cable news channels; 8 p.m., PBS. 10 p.m. ET,
ABC, CBS and NBC. On its second night, the convention will try to
pack all its key speakers into the final hour, when the big networks
are there. Bill Clinton, now an opening act for his wife, is expected
to speak; so are the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and
Eric Garner, whose deaths stirred controversy.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. On Monday, we'll see JoJo Fletcher
make her choice. First, Fletcher and the guys comment on what's
happened so far.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the Thanksgiving episode, the team races to find
a bone-marrow donor for a sailor whose two siblings were killed in
duty. Lindsay Wagner guests as Ellie's mother.

“Hello World,” 8
p.m., Animal Planet. Here's a marathon of six half-hours, setting
nature scenes against pop music. First are reruns with Usher and
Christina Aguilera songs, then new episodes with Steven Tyler, Ellie
Gouldig, Joan Jett and Dave Matthews. The whole thing repeats at
11:03 p.m. and 3 a.m.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Struggling to find a cure, the team faces a dangerous venom
dealer in Portugal. Meanwhile, Jackson (James Wolk) shows
increasingly erratic behavior.

“Dead of Summer,”
9 p.m., Freeform. Despite all the scary stuff going on at the summer
camp, the owner (Elizabeth Mitchell) decides it's a great time to
take the kids into the woods overnight. And if you want to catch up
on those scares? The previous episodes will rerun, starting at 4:30
p.m.

“Scream,” 10
p.m., MTV. Apparently, we're supposed to spend the summer in fear.
Fresh from “Dead of Summer,” we can switch to this, with Emma and
Audrey learning why the killer is targetting them.

TV column for Monday, July 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Democratic convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and cable.

Now the spotlight
shifts away from Donald Trump (yes, it does that occasionally) and
Cleveland and over to Hillary Clinton and Philadelphia. Cable news
channels will pay attention all day, PBS will start at 8 p.m., but
the biggest networks will wait until 10 p.m. nightly, through
Thursday.

As a result, all of
the key speakers will be crammed into that hour. Tonight, tentative
plans include Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama and immigration activist
Astrid Silva. Also, “The Daily Show” has its second “the road
to” special at 11 p.m.; last Monday's was quick and slick and
moderately funny.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Last week, JoJo
Fletcher, 25, visited the home towns of the final four -- Chase
McNary, 27; Luke Pell, 31; Robby Hayes, 27; and Jordan Rodgers, 27,
the brother of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now she dumps one of
them and takes the others to Thailand.

In the show's
tradition, she'll invite each to stay overnight with her in the
“fantasy suite”; traditionally, the guys say yes. There's a
“bachelors tell all” special Tuesday and the finale next Monday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “MadTV 20th Anniversary Reunion,” 8 p.m.,
CW.

For 14 years,
“MadTV” provided sketch humor, some of it clever and some not.
Six years after it was cancelled, the show re-assembled many of its
people. Now – on the night before it's relaunched with new stars,
CW reruns the reunion. This was, it turns out, a talented bunch.

There's
Keegan-Michael Key, who went on to the brilliant “Key and Peele.”
And Alex Borstein, of “Getting On” and “Family Guy.” And Ike
Barinholtz, a “Mindy Project” writer and co-star. And Nicole
Sullivan, Artie Lang, Aries Spears, Michael McDonald, Will Sasso and
other funny and/or odd souls.

Other choices
include:

“A Merry Murdoch
Christmas,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
“Murdoch Mysteries” have prospered for nine seasons in Canada
(reaching the U.S. as “The Artful Detective”), with an 1890s
elegance. So it's strange to see just how clumsy this Christmas movie
is. It reduces two men to cartoonish absurdity and makes Murdoch
unable to grasp that someone might wear a mask. Even Scooby Doo knows
that.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Nine young dancers remain; tonight, one
will go.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Allison Janney has another Emmy nomination in this role; she
already has six Emmys, two for “Mom.” You can see why tonight, as
Bonnie (Janney) faces a health scare.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Caroline in Hollywood, where people
want to portray (and revise) her life story. Since this is Hollywood,
Caroline (played by Beth Behrs, 31) ends up on a date with a studio
mogul (George Hamilton, 76).

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. The show returned to Mondays last week, when CBS suddenly
shipped “BrainDead” to Sundays. In this rerun, an earthquake has
the team scrambling to prevent an explosion.

“The Making of the
Mob: Chicago,” 10 p.m., AMC. With their tenuous peace shattered,
Italian and Irish mobs are at war with each other. Al Capone emerges
on top.

“UnReal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. Quinn tries to deal with both the
show's chaos and her interest in John. Also, Rachel reveals a big
secret to Coleman.

TV column for Sunday, July 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

TV's best summer
show was suddenly yanked from its cozy Monday slot and dispatched to
Sundays. The move came so late that it left fans befuddled on Monday;
let's hope they find it here.

The perfect
counterpoint to conventions, “BrainDead” says aliens have invaded
the brains of people from both parties; it mixes humor, drama and
vivid characters. An idealistic staffer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has
finally figured out what's happening;' she begs her brother (Danny
Pino), a senator, to alert the Centers for Disease Control. Instead,
he suggests an entomologist (Margo Martindale).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Game shows, 8 p.m., ABC and NBC.

For the second
straight summer, ABC has found ratings success with a Sunday game
show. Now NBC does ... well, the same thing. It has scheduled
“Hollywood Game Night” reruns, starting with one that has Kevin
Smith, Helen Hunt, Dave Foley, Tony Hale, Justin Long and Alyson
Hannigan.

Viewers are likely
to stick with ABC's “Celebrity Family Feud,” because it's new and
has Steve Harvey hosting. Tonight, the sibling group The Band Perry
faces the family of Giuliana Rancic, whose husband Bill was the first
“Apprentice” winner. Also, the Melissa Joan Hart and Paul Sorvino
families compete.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Survivor's Remorse” season-opener, 10 and 10:30
p.m., Starz.

Last season ended
bluntly: Reaching for his pot pipe, Uncle Julius ran a red light and
was hit full-force by a truck. Now we see people deal with shock and
agony; also, Cam – whose basketball career supports the family –
struggles to keep out of the tabloids.

Until now, Starz
confined its shows to Saturdays, with little competition. Now it's
moved to Sundays, a battleground for cable's best. “Power” (9
p.m.), which has 10 hourlong episodes, started last week; “Remorse,”
with10 half-hours, catches up by airing two episodes tonight.

Other choices
include:

“Star Trek”
(2009), 5 p.m., and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), 8 and 11
p.m., FX. This weekend, theaters got the third “Trek” to star
Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock. Now here's a new
chance to revisit the first two.

Newscast and “60
Minutes,” 6 and 7 p.m., CBS. The attention shifts to the Democrats
and Philadelphia, where the convention starts Monday. Many of the
talk shows will be there today; also, CBS plans an hourlong newscast,
followed by related reports on its newsmagazine.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Selma and Patty try to break
their eternal habit of smoking cigarettes. In the second, Professor
Fink has a algorithm to pair lonely men and women.

“Masterpiece:
Inspector Lewis,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Who
knew there was this much dirt in a classics department? In this
rerun, Hathaway – once a classics student, now a cop – is
fascinated: There's a phony professor, a fraudulent book, blackmail,
affairs and brutal murders.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Eliabeth faces crises at work
– the possible whereabouts of the most-wanted terrorist – and at
home: Her daughter brings home her new boyfriend.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of the episode that brought
Mike Miller (Jason Sudeikis) to Earth. An astronaut, he fears he's
the last person alive ... unaware that his brother (Will Forte) has a
tiny gathering of survivors.

“The Jim Gaffigan
Show,” 10 p.m., TV Land. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10:33)
was the middle of a three-parter, with a star bringing Jim to
Hollywood. In this one, Jim tries to help his friend Dave.