TV column for Thursday, July 21


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

This strange
presidential season has drawn huge ratings. Now comes a key step,
with Donald Trump's acceptance speech. Will it be the muzzled Trump,
reading a Teleprompter? The chaotic one, meandering about? People
will be watching variously with fondness, disgust or mere curiosity.

The big networks
will limit coverage, but PBS will fill primetime. The cable news
networks will focus heavily and Comedy Central adds a fresh touch –
tonight's “Daily Show” (11 p.m.), will be live.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Life in Pieces,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Ann Guilbert's TV
comedy career spanned 56 years, peaking with regular roles on top
series. She was Laura's friend Millie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
and Fran's grandmother Yetta on “The Nanny.”

Before her death
last month at 87, Guilbert's final two roles were on “Life in
Pieces,” as the kids' great-grandmother. Tonight, Tyler takes his
sexy girlfriend to see her. Also, his annoying Uncle Mikey (Greg
Grunberg of “Heroes”) visits, setting everyone on edge.

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

At first, this seems
like your typical episode – lots of brash talk, lots of attitude, a
little music, a fair amount of humor. Then, in the midst of it, is a
truly brilliant scene.

The bass player,
Rehab, has written a 29-song cycle about the potato famine. He and
Bam Bam (yes, the drummer) meet with actor Campbell Scott. The scene
starts with a fairy-tale coloring book, evolves into a “Hamilton”
obsession; playing a perverse version of himself, Scott is perfect.
The rest – Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) being overwrought – is
clever, but familiar; the Scott scene is dryly hilarious.

Other choices
include:

“Bones”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. This oft-pleasant drama dives deep into
the darkness tonight. “The Puppeteer,” who turns his corpses into
marionettes, is back and seems to obsess on Brennan. It's a good
story – especially for viewers who have been with “Bones” from
the start – but a frustrating one. There are lots of red herrings
and false alarms, followed by a cliffhanger until next season.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. A small dispute between Sheldon and Leonard
keeps growing, forcing everyone else to take a side.

“Live From
Comic-Con,” 8 p.m., Syfy. Once just a specialized oddity, San
Diego's event has become a centerpoint of pop culture For each of the
next three days, Will Arnett wiil interview stars on an outdoor stage
and introduce clips.

“Greatest Hits,”
9 p.m., ABC. This jumps to 1990-95, complete with Boyz II Men's
“Motownphilly,” En Vogue's “Free Your Mind,” Seal's “Kiss
From a Rose” and Montell Jordan's “This Is How We Do It.” Then
there are newer stars: Alessia Cara does U2's “One” and Little
Big Town does Oasis' “Wonderwall”; Bonnie Raitt and Audra Day
have cross-generation duets -- Raitt's “Love Sneakin' Up On You”
(a 1995 Grammy-nominee) and Day's 2016 “Rise Up.”

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Annalynne McCord (“90210”) guests as a sey
operative. Vincent is undercover with her when Cat, his wife, learns
she's an assassin.

“Home Free,” 9
p.m., Fox. This is down to its final four contestants. Each will win
a home for a personal hero, but on Aug. 4, the winner will get the
best home AND $100,000.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. After seeing a horrific event, Teresa must
push her plans forward. Also, her friend Brenda has reached Dallas
safely, but needs money; she creates a makeshift drug ring.

TV column for Wednesday, July 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Republican convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS ... or dramas,
10 p.m., cable.

It's a key night for
the convention, with vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence speakig.
The big networks again hope to limit it to an hour, but others will
step in: PBS fills all of prime time; cable news obsesses all day.
And “The Daily Show” is there in Cleveland, at 11 p.m. on Comedy
Central.

The complication in
many time zones? On cable, the 10 p.m. slot has suddenly become a
treasure chest, with enough great dramas to exhaust your recorder
device. We'll eye them individually.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mr. Robot,” 10:01 p.m., USA.

Last week was big
for this terrific show. There was a great, two-hour debut Wednesday,
followed by four Emmy nominations (including best drama series and
Rami Malek as best actor) the next morning.

Elliot (Malek) is
still trying to shed the imaginary nemesis – in the physical form
of his late father – who pushed him to hack banks and shatter the
economy; it isn't easy. His old friend Angela gets an inside view of
E Corp. And after forcing E Corp to burn $5 million, hackers may be
going too far.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

Two moments tonight
pack fierce power. The first comes as a total surprise; we won't
spill any details. The second focuses on the crisis that began last
week.

Barry, formerly a
Pasadena pediatrician, has reluctantly followed the family business,
becoming temporary president of his Middle Eastern homeland. Now his
daughter has been kidnapped; rebels insist she'll only be traded for
his wife. Stark and startling, it's a key moment in a great series.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The A Word,” 10 p.m., Sundance.

In last week's
opener, we met well-meaning people in small-town England, including
parents who kept denying that 5-year-old Joe is autistic. That denial
– straining viewers' patience – was a rare flaw in a smart and
subtle series; now we're past that and “A Word” gets deeper and
richer.

Joe's mom wants him
home-schooled; his dad suggests a live-in facility. His uncle has his
own worries, in the aftermath of his wife's affair during her medical
residency; now she's jobless, in a town where a potential employer
dislike her. These are interesting people, groping with changing
lives.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Suddenly, everything in that well-stocked pantry has a
price tag; contestants have $20 (and five minutes of shopping time),
then must create four entree dishes.

“Ghostbusters”
(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 8 and 10:30 p.m., AMC. Yes,
the new “Ghostbusters” movie is a delight. But so were these two
originals, rerunning here.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. As Ben prepares to go out with Sam (Daniella
Monet of “Victorious”), they're clearly not in sync: She's
thinking elaborate date, he's thinking immediate sex. Also: Tucker's
dad wants to date a young co-worker ... unaware she's already
Tucker's lover.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Tonight, we learn how Pilcher – the founder of this
human refuge in the future – found his “chosen one.” Also, Theo
and Xander react to Jason's fatal error.

“Modern Family”
and “Black-ish,” 9 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. Oddly, these are the only
broadcast-network shows to get best-series Emmy nominations this
year. In tonight's reruns, Phil feels left out when his wife is
running the closet company; Diane makes a documentary about her
brother and basketball.

“Greenleaf,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Yes, there's yet another strong 10 p.m.
cable drama. You can catch its three previous episodes from 7-10
p.m., then watch Mac prepare to be named Memphis man of the year,
while squirming: The IRS continues its audit; Grace continues to
probe his involvement in sex abuse and her sister's suicide. Also,
the church matriarch's father suddenly arrives.

 

TV column for Tuesday, July 19


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Containment” finale, 9 p.m., CW.

Flaws and all, this
has given us a high-stakes drama in the midst of summer silliness.
With a virus racing through central Atlanta; a containment zone was
set up. Inside, people scramble to keep order, to profit from
disorder, or to escape. Outside, they argue and look for solutions.

Lex now knows that
this was triggered by an accident at a federal lab, with Dr. Lommers
(Claudia Black) in charge. Still, he must join her in preventing
escapes ... unaware that his girlfriend is one of the people trying
to get out. Inside the cordon, Jake tries to protect Dr. Cannerts and
a possible cure.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Shooter” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Like the “Mr.
Robot” debut on USA last summer, “Shooter” has an opening
segment that beautifully describes its central character. Unlike
“Robot,” it follows with so-so moments.

We're not convinced
that the Secret Service would need a master sniper to guard against
an enemy sniper .... or that it would fail to respond to his call on
the crucial day. Especially unconvincing is the TV-style squabbling
among law agencies. That's a shame, because “Shooter” has
established a deep and interesting character, solidly played by Ryan
Phillippe; let's hope it has better things for him.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-RECORD: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars
More” (1965) and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (1968); 8 and
9:45 p.m. and midnight ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Cowboy films are
filling TCM's Tuesdays and Wednesday this month, but not usually like
this. These three linked the brash style of director Sergio Leone
with the innovative music of Ennio Morricone. Don't expect much of a
story; do expect visual touches that directors have tried to match
ever since.

Oh yes, star Clint
Eastwood has also gone on to do well. He's even become a great
director, but not in the Leone style; for proof, catch his “American
Sniper” (2014), at 7:45 p.m. on Cinemax.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Republican convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBS, PBS
and cable.

The formal
convention is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.; cable news networks
will be there, but the broadcast guys will wait until 10. That's when
Republicans are expected to have their main speakers.

They will reportedly
include Trumps (Tiffany, Donald Jr.), governors (Scott Walker of
Wisconsin, Asa Hutchinson of Arkasas) and a senator (Mitch
McConnell), plus Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former Attorney General
Michael Mukasey and Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting
Championship.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. George Lopez joins the panel and has the
“golden buzzer” that can send an act straight to the final 36.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder charge against a petty officer has been
tossed out for technical reasons. That doesn't clear his name,
though, so he wants to face a court martial.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 8:30 and 9 p.m., ABC. After being bumped by game shows last
week, ABC's comedies are back. These reruns find Eddie's dad making
more mis-steps: He leaves his wife to deal with the lice problem
alone; also, he plans their wedding-anniversary celebration at the
car dealership.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. On the run, Jamie finally gets to Caraquet with Logan ... only
to find it isn't the refuge she'd hoped for. Meanwhile, others try to
re-unite the team there.

“Guilt,” 10
p.m., Freeform. Things only get worse for Grace, the American
suspected of killing her roommate in London. After a tough night at
police headquarters, she's chased by paparazzi and “rescued” by a
stranger who may not have good intentions. Now her sister searches
for her.

“The Daily Show,”
11 p.m., Comedy Central. Over the next four nights, the show will
originate from Cleveland, focusing on the Republican convention. Next
week, it does the same from Philadelphia, with the Democrats – a
how-we-got-here special Monday and onsite episodes through Friday.

TV column for Monday, July 18


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

The big networks
have been semi-snubbing conventions, giving them only an hour
nightly. As a result, pack their key speakers into that spot. Early
reports say this opener will include two Benghazi survivors, two
senators (Jodi Ernst and Tom Cotton), Rudy Giuliani and Melania
Trump.

But this year,
ratings have soared for election coverage. Cable news channels will
obsess on the convention; PBS will start coverage at 8 p.m. ET.
Newscasts will be in Cleveland; so will “The Daily Show” (11
p.m., Comedy Central), which tonight has a “how we got here”
special.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Scorpion,” 9 p.m., CBS.

In a very late
switch, CBS has pushed the delightful “BrainDead” to Sundays. It
will take the 10 p.m. slot there, beginning July 24.

That lets “Scorpion”
stay at 9 p.m. Mondays for now, taking the 10 p.m. spot after the
conventions. Tonight's rerun finds the team going to Cuba, to help a
woman from Cabe's past catch a former Serbian war criminal. Alana De
La Garza returns as the head of Homeland Security.

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

This tends to be one
of the highlights of each “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” season
– a chance to visit the home towns and families of the final four.
Now JoJo Fletcher, 25, has her turn.

Chase McNary, 27, a
sales rep, is in the running; so is Luke Pell, 31, a former West
Pointer and Army officer (including Afghanistan) who has a country
band. They face former athletes: Robby Hayes, 27, was an
honorable-mention All-American swimmer at Florida State; Jordan
Rodgers, a quarterback (like his brother Aaron) led Vanderbilt to two
bowl games, then was on two pro teams' practice squads.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Making of the Mob: Chicago,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Speaking of
officials, there was a sort of tithing in 1920s Chicago, this film
says: Mobsters devoted about 10 percent of their money to bribes.
That ended when an honest judge, William Dever, becane mayor; Al
Capone moved his operation to nearby Cicero, where he strong-armed
the election process.

Capone had other
problems – including (really) a deadly florist. Dean O'Banion
“probably killed 32 people with his own hands, but he loved
flowers,” actor William Forsythe says here. From his floral shop,
O'Banion's Irish mob had a tenuous treaty with Capone's Italian mob.

Other choices
include:

“10 Years”
(2011), 8-10 p.m., CW. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, married
in real life, star in this movie about a 10-year class reunion.
Ironically, he plays someone who's hesitent to propose to her,
because his high school mate, Rosario Dawson, is there.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week, viewers got their first
chance to see the top 10 and vote. Tonight, those 10 will dance again
and one will be sent home.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Often propelled strictly by sharp dialog and great characters,
this rerun adds some dandy sigh gags here. Bonnie has a scheme to
illegally import maple syrup from Canada; soon, her daughter Christy
and two of their AA friends are involved.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, people are interested in making a
movie about Caroline's descent from wealth. Max accompanies her to
Hollywood.

“12 Monkeys”
season-finale, 9 p.m., Syfy. Just as Cole was ready to settle for
life in the past, a mysterious woman tells him he must keep trying to
save the world from its upcoming tragedy.

“Rizzoli &
Isles,” 9 p.m., TNT. In the show's 99th episode, the
killer has imposing science skills.

“Major Crimes,”
10 p.m., TNT. Sanchez's reaction to a gruesome scene – body parts
found in a barbecue pit – seems to damage his efforts to become a
foster parent.

TV column for Sunday, July 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
News and “60 Minutes,” 6 and 7 p.m., CBS.

On the eve of the
Republican convention, CBS goes all-out. Scott Pelley expands his
newscast to an hour, from the convention floor in Cleveland; “60
Minutes” is expected to include related reports.

There's much more
elsewhere. Showtime, for instance, continues “The Circus: Inside
the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” at 8 and 8:30; and Turner
Classic Movies has two gems” “The Best Man” (1964, 8 p.m. ET),
beautifully written by Gore Vidal, is set at a convention; “Medium
Cool” (1969, 10 p.m. ET), superbly filmed by Haskell Wexler,
includes footage of the '68 Democratic convention.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
New shows, 9-11 p.m., HBO, Showtime and Starz.

If you have any of
the premium channels, this is a good night for you. If you have all
of them, your recording device might explode.

Season openers? It's
“Power” (a hard-edged drug drama) at 9 p.m. on Starz (rerunning
at 10 and 11) and “Ballers” (a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
comedy) at 10 on HBO. Debut? Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down”)
is back, now battling Walton Goggins in “Vice Principals,” at
10:30 on HBO. Ongoing are HBO's “The Night of” (9 p.m.) and
Showtime's “Ray Donovan” and “Roadies” (9 and 10).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Kids Choice Sports 2016,” 8 p.m., Nickelodeon;
repeats at 9:30.

What's left for Kobe
Bryant' to win, after five NBA championships (four times being named
the finals MVP) and two Olympic gold medals? Now he gets the third
annual Legend Award (after David Beckham and Derek Jeter), in a show
that has clips, fun and host Russell Wilson.

Stephen Curry leads
with three nominations including best male athlete, facing his
nemesis LeBron James, plus Cam Newton, Bryce Harper, Kyle Busch and
Cristiano Ronaldo. The female nominees are

Serena Williams,
Alex Morgan, Jamie Anderson, Katie Ledecky, Lydia Ko and Elena Delle
Donne.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. Both reruns eye generation gaps. First, Homer is
separated from Marge and dating someone in her 20s; then Apu's son
turns the store into a hip health-food spot.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. The first half-hour has host Steve Harvey
dealing with professional boxers. The second has the families of
Joely Fisher and skateboard star Tony Hawk.

“Mighty Ships”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Smithsonian. If you think you've had tough
moving days, try moving an entire oil rig. This hour views the ship
that does it. It's followed at 9 p.m. by “Hell Below,” a six-week
documentary tracing submarine warfare in World War II.

"Legends & Lies," 8 p.m., Fox News. After spending several episodes with American heroes, this show heads in the other direction: Tonight, it profiles Benedict Arnold.

“Masterpiece:
Inspector Lewis,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). On Aug. 8,
the final “Lewis” season will begin. First, however, we go back
to the start of the previous season: As Lewis tries to retire,
Hathaway faces his first case as inspector, a tricky one involving
neurosurgery and animal rights.

“The Last Ship,”
9 p.m., TNT. Having saved the world once, Chandler (Eric Dane) hopes
to do it again, as his plan reaches its crucial point.

“Match Game,” 10
p.m., ABC. Host Alec Baldwin works with his old “30 Rock”
colleague, Jack McBrayer, and others. The emphasis may be on humor,
with Leslie Jones and Ike Barinholtz.

“Roadies,” 10
p.m., Showtime. Kelly Ann (Inogen Poots) loves music and is perplexed
by anything else; Reg (Rafe Spall) knows nothing about music and
little about life. These are wonderful characters – opposites, yet
sharing a social naivity. When a rock-tour superstition throws them
together, the result is a subtle delight. There's more fun in a
separate story, involving a search for the wayward bass-player.