TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“America's Got Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

It's not often that
the the No. 1 show in the Nielsen ratings is forced to take a
two-week vacation. That happened here, as “Talent” faces an
Olympics pause.

Now it's back and
continues its live auditions. There are 12 acts scheduled, including
comedian Julia Scott, singing group Linkin' Bridge (four
tough-looking, sweet-sounding guys from Louisville) and Grace
VanderWaal, 12, the singer-songwriter who had the show's most-watched
audition ever.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Better Late Than Never” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

Four stars go far –
FAR – from their comfort zones, in Asia. William Shatner, 85,
climbs 800 steps to view a Japanese mountain. George Foreman squeezes
his giant frame into a “capsule hotel room” the size of a
refrigerator. Henry Winkler greets people; Terry Bradsahw sings a lot
and longs for steak.

All of this is quite
contrived – filmed like a reality show, but with one comedian as
one of the writers and another as the “sidekick.” At the best,
it's harmless and goofy; at the worst, it's a huge descent for men
who have won championships, saved planets and jumped a shark.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Halt and Catch Fire” season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m.,
AMC.

When this started,
Joe MacMillan was the protagonist, scrambling to get a piece of the
1983 computer business. In a remarkable transition, he's now the
spectre in the distance ... not showing up until late in the first
hour. With Jobs-like flourish, he seizes ideas and lives, turning
them into profit.

On the flip side are
Donna and Cameron, with a company that's gone from games to chat
rooms to big dreams. Donna's husband, Gordon, helps ... while fuming
that Joe stole his idea. Now new people emerge – including a
financier, played by Annabeth Gish – in a sharp, smart opener.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “America's National Parks,” 9 and 11 p.m.,
National Geographic.

A new chapter offers
a fresh look at the Grand Canyon, focusing on wildlife. The narration
is so-so, but the footage offers vivid viewa of creatures that have
mastered life in rocky places.

That's surrounded by
reruns, visiting the Gates of the Arctic park in Alaska (8 p.m. and
1:05 a.m.) and the Olympic National Park in Washington (10:05 p.m.
and 12:05 a.m.). Also, NatGeo Wild, which varies by time zone, has
the Grand Canyon chapter at 9 p.m. and midnight ET, 6 and 9 p.m. PT.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Gibbs is working again with his former mentor T.C.
Fornell (Joe Spano), after two British prisoners have escaped and
reached the U.S. Also, while apartent-hunting, MdGee tries to figure
out how Tony got such a lavish place.

“Pretty Little
Liars,” 8 p.m., Freeform. All season, the young women have been
bedeviled by the villain known as Uber. A week from the
season-finale, they try to prove it's rich-boy Noel Kahn.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. With Jackson missing, Mitch and Abraham scramble to find him
before the bad guys do. Also, Jamie leads a desperate attempt to get
the Russians to drop out of the Noah Objective.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. This visit to our world gets uncomfortable for Lucifer. In
a rerun, he feels jealousy for the first time. Meanehile, Dr. Linda
(Rachael Harris) helps probe the murder of a therapist.

“Dead of Summer,”
9 p.m., Freeform. This really goes beyond the job description for
camp counselors. A week before the season-finale, they try an
exorcism, to rid the camp of its evil.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a Navy lieutenant has been
killed during a secret visit to a general's hotel room. There's a
request that Pride break protocol in the investigation.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Late Night With Seth Meyers,” 12:37 a.m., NBC.

The landscape of TV
satire – crucial during this political year – has been fractured.
Comedy Central suddenly cancelled “The Nightly Show”; beginning
tonight, “@Midnight” (which is no longer at midnight) takes over
the 11:30 spot on that channel; fans of political humor must look
elsewhere.

The award-winning
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is 10:30 p.m. Mondays on TBS.
This time, alas, it's rerunning a special that's merely fairly good.
“The Daily Show” (11 p.m., Comedy Central) is often brillint, but
also a rerun. But Meyers is new, with fresh material after a two-week
Olympic break.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mom,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

Bonnie's family tree
is filled with bad mothers. She's been a bad one herself, but at
least she stayed; tonight. we meet the mom who left her. The role –
if you're keeping track, a great-great-grandmother – goes to
Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn, 83; Oscar-nominee June Squibb, 86, also
gets some laughs.

That's in the second
of two terrific reruns tonight. In the first, Bonnie's daughter
Christy is determined to take her college test, despite being gravely
ill.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Syndicate,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

An old British
estate – think of “Downton Abbey,” two generations later – is
wobbling. The earl (Anthony Andrews), his wife (Alice Krige) and her
son are deep in debt. Only five staffers remain; they're underpaid,
but still link with the gardener (Lenny Henry) who obsesses on the
lottery.

Then come huge
shocks – involving the lottery, the earl and young Amy (Daisy Head,
the “Guilt” star). Unfolding is a superb mini-series. Throughout
the six parts, twists and surprises keep adding extra depth. A smart
script gets excellent performances from everyone and a brilliant one
from Henry.

Other choices
include:

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Fresh from its 17-day Olympic spree, NBC
has shows that have scored well in summer ratings. Tonight, this one
airs the finals for Philadelphia try-outs; 30 people have qualified,
including four women, the highest female total for a city so far.

“So You Think You
Can Dance” (Fox) or “Bachelor in Paradise” (ABC), both 8-10
p.m. With the Olympics done, reality shows try to recapture viewers.
“Dance” is down to its final six; “Paradise” is far from
paradise and one woman insists on crying.

“Too Close to
Home” debut, 9 p.m., TLC, repeating at 11:02. The former network of
Gosselins, Duggars and Honey Boo Boo tries an upgrade, with its first
scripted show. Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed this
eight-parter about a woman going from Southern poverty to Washington
notoriety.

“Rizzoli &
Isles,” 9 p.m., TNT. A mortician is found in a casket at his
mortuary. Foul play is suspected.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun, Felix has a new scheme: His
girlfriend Emily should go out with Oscar, so the two can get over
their animosity.

“Running Wild with
Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC. Far from the comfort of her life after
“Friends,” Courteney Cox was dropped off along the Irish
coastline. She and Grylls must climb jagged peaks and descend cliffs
... nourished by maggots found on rotting sheep.

“The Making of the
Mob: Chicago,” 10 p.m., AMC. With no more Prohibition to profit
from, Joe Accardo turns to Las Vegas. A problem comes when Sam
Giancana angers young Robert Kennedy.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Olympics closing ceremony, 8-10:30 p.m., NBC.

Like the opening
ceremony, this is expected to be small in budget, but big in color,
sound and spectacle.

The ceremony will
celebrate Brazil's pre-history, including a rich heritage of wall and
cave-paintings. It will have music, including singer-songwriter
Lenine, winner of two Latin Grammys. And Pele – the soccer
superstar who missed the opening ceremony for health reasons – is
expected to be there. Also, stick around at 10:30 p.m., for a short
sampling of the upcoming “Voice” season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Inspector Lewis” finale, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

A 29-year tradition
concludes with a story that is – like its central character --
quiet and competent.. Kevin Whately has been playing Rob Lewis, off
and on, since 1987. This was Sgt. Lewis in “Inspector Morse”
tales, then an inspector. Widowed, he's now dating Dr. Laura Hobson,
the forensics leader.

Some of the
Morse/Lewis stories have been slow and plodding, but not this one. It
starts briskly with a bombing in academia, then adds affairs and
schemes, plus personal stories for both Lewis and his colleague
(Laurence Fox). “Inspector Lewis” concludes with quiet class.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Chesapeake Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark.

The “Chesapeake
Shores” movie was a good one, in the standard Hallmark way –
pretty people and places, pleasantly predictable stories. But for the
series, “Shores” added writer-producer John Tinker.

Here is a throwback
to TV's prime, when Tinker's dad (Grant) ran NBC and his brother
(Mark) ran “St. Elsewhere.” John won an Emmy on that show, wrote
for “Chicago Hope” and others, co-created and produced “Judging
Amy” ... and then almost vanished. He brings intelligence to a
solid family drama.

Other choices
include:

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., AMC. After pausing for three months, this
starts showing the final six episodes of its second season. At 9 p.m.
(rerunning at 12:30 a.m.), Nick's dark past is revealed after he
enters a dangerous landscape. Before that, however, you can catch up
on everythig that's happened so far, starting at 7 a.m. with the
first signs of zombies in Los Angeles.

Olympics, daytime.
On the final day, most things will be live. Men's basketball has its
bronze game at 10:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and gold at 2:15
p.m. on NBC; men's volleyball is 8 a.m. ET on USA for bronze, 12:15
p.m. on NBC for gold. NBC also has the rhythmic gymnastics group
finals at 11 a.m. ET; NBC Sports Network has men's boxing and
wrestling finals at 12:30.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. It's athletes against comics. Kristi Yamaguchi,
the Olympic-medalist figure-skater, and her husband, former hockey
pro Bret Hedican, face Tommy Davidson and family. Then basketball's
Jalen Rose and friends face Dave Foley and family.

“$10,000 Pyramid,”
9 p.m., ABC. One round has Yvette Nicole Brown and Fred Willard;
another has Joy Behar and John Michael Higgins.

“J.L. Family
Ranch,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The good news
is that Hallmark diverted from its usual path; the bad is that it did
it poorly. Jon Voight plays an ex-sheriff, clinging to ranchland
sought by his enemy (James Caan); Teri Polo and Melanie Griffith
co-star. “J.L.” tries the slow verbal patterms of the prairie;
soon, however, it fades into a drab tangle of bureaucracy.

“BrainDead,” 10
p.m., CBS. There's animostiy between senators Wheatus (whose brain
was invaded by the alien bugs) and Healy (whose sister Laurel is
battling the bugs). Now Wheatus probes Healy history ... straining
the relationship between his staffer and Laurel.

“The Voice,”
10:30 p.m., NBC. The new “Voice” season won't start until Sept.
19, but NBC can't resist using this Olympics springboard. Here is a
half-hour look at auditions; we'll see Blake Shelton and Adam Levine
with their new colleagues, Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Olympics, 8 p.m. to midnight, NBC.

There's still a
cascade of gold medals to be won, mostly in prime time. For men, that
includes 1500 meter, 5000 meter, javelin and platform diving; for
women its high jump and 800-meter. And for both, there are the
4-by-400-meter relays.

There's more in the
daytime, which we'll list separately, and then latenight on NBC, from
12:30-5 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rush Hour” finale, 8 p.m., CBS.

The “Rush Hour”
movies seemed like they would continue forever. There were four of
them, stretched over nine years, with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker
making a fortune.

The TV series,
however, seemed to vanish in an instant. Eight episodes were shown on
Thursdays, failing in a strong timeslot; five more were exiled to
Saturdays. Still, we're promised that there will be a strong finish.
Lee (Jon Foo) has tried to extricate his sister from the crime life.
Now he and Carter (Justin Hires) have a chance, going undercover at a
meeting of rival crime lords.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Animated movies, all day, cable.

While their parents
obsess on the Olympics. kids can have fun. Starz has “The Good
Dinosaur” (2015) at 7:15 p.m., Disney has “Alvin & The
Chipmunks 2” (2009) at 8 and others have marathons.

On Freeform, it's
“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (2009) at 12:30 p.m., the
original “Jungle Book” (1967) at 2:45, “Up” (2009) at 4:45,
“Tangled” (2010) at 7, “Monsters University” (2013) at 9:15
and “Brave” (2012) at 11:45. FXX has “Smurfs 2” (2013) at 2
p.m., “Puss in Boots” (2011) at 4, “Turbo” (2013) at 6 and
then the clever “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (2014) at 8 and 10
p.m.

Other choices
include:

More Olympics,
daytime. On the last full day, things start early. Live coverage
begins at 6 a.m. ET on Golf (with the final women's round), 9 a.m. on
USA (rhythmic gymnastics qualifying) and noon on MSNBC (women's
volleyball bronze) and NBC Sports Network (men's soccer bronze). Even
NBC (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) will sometimes be live. That includes the
gold-medal games in women's basketball at 2:30 p.m. ET and men's
water polo, at 4:45 p.m. ET.

“Mean Girls”
(2004), 6:35 p.m., Comedy Central. There are some movies for
grown-ups, starting with this fun Tina Fey film. At 8 p.m., FX has
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), MTV has “Napoleon Dynamite”
(2004) and VH1 has “Sixteen Candles” (1983).

“Hotel Hell,” 8
and 9 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of a two-parter that's fun to watch,
in a perverse way. The setting – in historic Harper's Ferry, W. Va.
-- is gorgeous; the manager is bizarre. A retired teacher, she even
keeps her clothes in a locked cabinet in a guest room. A
mega-makeover is coming.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. Desperate to connect with her daughters,
Vanessa gets a tattoo. Also in this rerunn, Ryan – not an
outdoorsman like his fiancee's dad – needs a lesson in camping.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Ken is ready to take full credit for giving a
sex talk to his son. Actually, it was his timid protege, Dr. Julie
Dodds, who gave the talk.

“In an Instant,”
9 p.m., ABC. Ashley Ware was 23, a nurse and a runner-up for Miss
North Dakota USA, when she was abducted in Fargo, N.D. Using her
nursing skills, she faked an asthma attack, fled, later wrestled the
man while putting pressure under his nose. That was eight years ago;
Ware – who married, moved to New York and continued nursing –
tells the story, along with re-enactments.

“Fargo” (1996),
10 p.m., Viceland. This network (formerly H2) again wraps its
Saturday with “Fargo,” a gem. That follows all seven episodes of
“Vice Does America,” from 6:30-10 p.m.: The travelers range from
hog-calling in Iowa to a creationist museum in Texas and an African
village in South Carolina.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Superstore,”10:30 p.m., NBC.

In the midst of its
mega-rated Olympic coverage, NBC pauses to show off a micro-rated
comedy. It's a special episode of the likable (if erratic)
“Superstore,” set in a time prior to last spring's season-finale.

The store plans an
Olympic-themed sale... something that triggers Glenn's frenzied
patriotism and Dina's plans for an epic closing ceremony. There's a
fictional gold medalist (played by Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night
Live”), plus several real ones – figure-skater Tara Lipinski,
speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno and gymnast McKayla Maroney. And along
the way, Mateo reveals an important secret.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Olympics, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8-10:30 p.m., 11:35 p.m. to 3 a.m.,
NBC.

With
two-and-a-fraction days left, Usain Bolt has a shot at yet another
gold medal, this time with his Jamaican team in the four-by-100-meter
relay. That's in prime time, where NBC (mixing live and tape) also
has the men's hammer, the women's pole vault and 5,000-meter and
more.

The cable channels
start live coverage early – 6:30 a.m. ET on Golf, 7 a.m. on the NBC
Sports Network and 9 a.m. on USA. CNBC starts at 5 p.m. ET, wth the
men's basketball semi-finals at 6.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

The bad news is that
cable is playing it safe, with movies it shows often. The good?
They're shown so much because they're popular, mainstream and
well-made, maybe worth seeing again.

That starts with the
first and third “Austin Powers” movies, at 6 p.m. (1997) and 8
p.m. (2002) ET on IFC; AMC has “The Breakfast Club” (1985) at
6:30 and 8:30. And at 8, there;s “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)
on FX, “The Help” (2011) on CMT, “You've Got Mail” (1998) on
Pop and more.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. In the first part of this rerun, the losers of a
previous challenge now have 90-minutes to create a three-layer
birthday cake. Then everyone is hauled to a vegetable field for the
next challenge – 75 minutes for teams to prepare a meal for 100
hungry farmers.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a fire broke out near a
top-secret government container and key information was stolen. To
learn what happened, Sam and Callen go undercover as firefighters.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Shades of Iron Man: This rerun says the government has
developed a suit that is high-tech and indestructible. It's been
stolen and the team races to find it.

“Great
Performances at the Met,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A
decade ago, Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) directed an
acclaimed “Madama Butterfly.” He died two years later, but is
still listed as the producer of this version. Directed and
choreographed by his widow Carolyn Choa and starring Kristine
Opolais, it drew raves when it opened at the Met in March.

“Killjoys,” 9
p.m., Syfy. Dutch, D'avin and Alvis head to an old research facility
on Arkyn. Meanwhile, Johnny and Pawter are trying to rally support in
the impending battle for Westerly.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun puts the spotlight on Erin, an assistant
district attorney. After a case ends with a hung jury, she takes it
over; working with the department's detective (Steve Schirripa of
“The Sopranos”), she searches for the witness who disappeared.

“Dark Matter,”
10 p.m., Syfy. Don't you hate it when your vehicle's tech devices
blink out, flinging you into an alternate reality? That happens to
the Raza tonight.