TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 5


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

After a slow
build-up, “Talent” suddenly hits overdrive. Over the next two
weeks, it will trim the field from 22 acts to 10; they'll collide
Sept. 19, with one becoming the million-dollar champion.

Tonight's round has
three singers (Evie Clair, Johnny Manuel, Yoli Mayor), plus singing
ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer and singing ukelele player Mandy
Harvey. It also has a dancer (Merrick Hanna), dog act (Sara &
Hero), comedian (Preacher Lawson), magician (Eric Jones) and extreme
roller-skaters Billy and Emily England, plus an extra wild-card
choice. The results will be told at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Experience” conclusion, 8-10 p.m., PBS.

The first half of
this terrific rerun was upbeat. Walt Disney resisted the money men,
took big chances and won. “Snow White” (1938), the first
feature-length cartoon, scored artistically and financially.

Now come the
complications. A strike left bad feelings on both sides ... the
gorgeous “Bambi” would fail (at first) to break even ... and war
was squeezing European business. Disney had some comeback hits, then
seemed to lose interest ... until two more triumphs appeared: “Mary
Poppins” would become his only best-picture winner; Disneyland
would reshape family vacations.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bold Type” season-finale, 9:01 p.m., Freeform.

One of TV's
unrelenting cliches is the bad boss. If the boss is the main
character – whether at a police station or a business – he's
fine; if not, then his main function is to get in the way.

That's one of many
things that make “Bold” refreshing. The story has three women at
a magazine, where the boss (Melora Hardin) is smart and caring; she's
a key part of this episode. Last week, Jane took a new job, but
didn't tell anyone ... Sutton romanced a co-worker ... And Kat almost
went overseas with her lover, whose visa was denied. Now all three
stories move forward.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “American Horror Story: Cult” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Over its first six
seasons, “AHS” has offered a vast range of sadism and savagery.
So what causes characters to tremble as this season starts? Donald
Trump has been elected president. “I'm just so scared,” one
person says. “We all are,” another responds.

By the end of the
seven-minute opener, we know that FX isn't restricted by the politics
of its parent company, Fox. Trump isn't a killer here, but his
supporters may or may not be. Like previous editions, this is
brilliantly acted (especially by Sarah Paulson) and filmed, but too
brutal for many viewers.

Other choices
include:

Comedies, 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. Animated and live-action reruns offer education storylines. On
“The Simpsons” (8 p.m.), Mr. Burns starts a for-profit
university; on “Family Guy” (9), Peter is the temporary
principal. “The Mick” (8:30 and 9:30) has Mick battling the
system.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. These people are already action-adventure heroes, so why not add
a cowboy touch? In this rerun, they link with a Mounted Police
sergeant, to solve crimes in a national park.

“The Fosters”
mid-season finale, 8 p.m., Freeform. It's never good when the
immigration people show up at prom. Tonight, that forces Ximena –
the Roller Derby kid who's in Callie's art class – to make a
crucial decision. Also, Grace's mom talks frankly to Brandon about
his engagement to her daughter.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. In this upscale, white-collar family, the younger
son gets career test results pointing him to a blue-collar future. In
the second rerun, Dre has jury duty.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a chaplain has been killed and
Pride feels he's found a link between the mayor (Stephen Weber) and
illegal activities.

“Manhunt:
Unabomber,” 10:01 p.m., Discovery. A week from the finale, the FBI
hopes to overwhelm Ted Kaczynski in his cabin. First, Jim Fitzgerald
must use forensic linguistics to get a search warrant.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 04


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“CBS Fall Preview,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Why would we spend a
half-hour watching CBS praise itself? Well, partly because the
network's new shows (especially “Young Sheldon” and “Me, Myself
and I”) really are better than the competition.

And partly because
CBS surrounds this with great reruns: At 8 p.m., “Big Bang” has
Penny ponder going to Comic-Con; at 9 p.m. on “Mom,” Christy
becomes protective, after her son is caught smoking pot. At 9:30 on
“Life in Pieces,” Jen – whose doctor is her brother-in-law –
gets a second opinion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Midnight, Texas,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Last week's episode
wrapped up the original story powerfully. The serial killer, it
turned out, was the brother of Creek; their dad had been covering for
him. Now the brother is dead, the dad's been banished and Creek
(Sarah Ramos of “Parenthood”) is distraught. And a new crisis
arrives.

To save the town,
Joe had to reveal that he's a fallen angel. Now an ancient killer is
after him; it's a fierce performance by Breeda Wool, the towering
redhead who was Faith (the Southern Christian lesbian) in “Unreal.”
High-octane action continues to mix with strong character drama.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Biggie,” 8-11:01 p.m., A&E.

The Biggie Smalls
here is far from the gangster he rapped about. He was “a fun, jokey
guy,” a friend says; he was well-read, another says. He “always
had something to make you laugh,” his mother says.

She was a Jamaican
immigrant; his dad left when he was 2, so she was busy working and
putting herself through school. Her son – originally Christopher
Wallace, later The Notorious B.I.G. -- started rapping at 12,
switched to drug-dealing, then switched back. At 19, he soared; “we
were like kids in the multi-billion-dollar industry,” Sean “Puffy”
Combs says. Then a bizarre feud left him dead at 24.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Loaded” finale, 11:10 p.m., AMC.

“Loaded” burst
onto the summer as a bright anomaly. For once, AMC was having fun; it
gave us four blokes who'd made millions from a videogame, without
figuring out life. Then things crumbled.

Ratings were low –
let's blame the thick accents – and the show has been pushed to a
later timeslot. And last week, all of the lives fell apart, making
the show seem less unique and fun. Tonight's finale can only
partially repair that. Fans will have to wait until “Preacher”
runs twice (9 and 10:05 p.m.) ... offering, again, a show that is
brilliantly crafted, while leaving viewers both intrigued and
perplexed.

Other choices
include:

“Daniel Tiger's
Neighborhood,” 9:30 a.m., PBS; and 4:30 p.m., PBS Kids channel
(check local listings). What does a king do, anyway? In this special,
Daniel becomes king for a day, tackling royal duties. Don't worry,
there's no warfare, no beheading, no affairs; PBS has other shows for
that. Instead, he's instructed to simply be kind. The result is quite
one-note, but “Daniel” remains a charming show.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The two-week finals begin in Las Vegas.

More reality, 8-10
p.m., ABC and Fox. On ABC, “Bachelor in Paradise” continues, with
young love and/or lust. And on Fox, “Dances With the Stars” is
down to its final seven terrific dancers.

“Chandra Levy: An
American Murder Mystery,” 8-11:06 p.m., TLC . Levy was a grad
student from California, who worked as a paid intern in the federal
government. Shortly before graduation in 2001, she disappeared; her
remains were found a year later. The mystery – never completely
solved – stirred interest, especially with reports of an affair
with her congressman. Here's a long documentary.

“The Reagan Show,”
9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news); reruns at 12:30 a.m. Using
archival material, this traces Ronald Reagan's skilled use of the
media. Its debut tonight has been pushed back an hour, because of
storm coverage; this is also set for 10 .m. Saturday, rerunning at
2:30 a.m.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Before getting Toby and Happy to the altar, the team faces
a tunnel fire.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 3


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

For CBS, the
steadiest of the networks, this is a rare detour: It promoted “Candy
Crush” heavily, hoped for a new summer hit ... and saw it die in
the ratings. The final episodes were diverted to Saturday.

We won't complain,
because doubling “NCIS:LA” fills a need. This is tonight's only
scripted drama on a big-four network. The first rerun has the team
working an abduction case while missing two of its people – one in
the hospital and the other (Hetty) being probed about the leak. In
the second, a maintenance man saves a life; then the team uncovers
his dark past.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Masterpiece: Endeavour,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

The season's first
two “Endeavour” episodes were disappointing: They were so busy
offering bits of 1960s flavor – a primitive computer, a Beatles-era
band – that they didn't tell an interesting story.

Now that obsession
is gone and an adequate tale unfolds. In a busy hospital, we find a
prisoner who's a key witness ... and the police commissioner who's
ill ... and lots of unexplained deaths. We also find strong suspects;
this time, Det. Endeavour Morse has a good case to probe.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Rowling/Yates marathon, Freeform and HBO.

The Freeform channel
has another Harry Potter marathon ... which it seems to have
perpetually.

This one has the
final five movies at 7 and 10:40 a.m. and at 1:50, 5:30 and 9 p.m.
And elsewhere, there's more: At 7:40 p.m., HBO has “Fantastic
Beasts and Where to Find Them”; J.K. Rowling (the Potter
creator)wrote the screenplay and David Yates (who directed the last
four Potter films) directed. The result is short on story, but long
on great characters, fun creatures and dandy visuals.

Other choices
include:

“ABC Fall
Preview,” 7 p.m. ET, ABC (after football on the West Coast). The
network tries to seem happy about its risky upcoming line-up. The
dramas -- “The Good Doctor,” “Ten Days in the Valley” -- are
solid, but the lone comedy (“The Mayor”) is shaky and there's a
risky gamble with fantasy Fridays, putting Marvel's “Inhumans”
following “Once Upon a Time.”

“A Country
Wedding” (2015) and “Chesapeake Shores,” 7 and 9 p.m.,
(Hallmark). First is a movie about a country star returning home for
a wedding. It's predictable, but Jesse Metcalfe is very believable
(including original music) as the singer. Then “Shores” has
Metcalfe as ... well, a country singer. (Hallmark isn't into
surprises.) While he's in Nashville, arguing with his producer, his
girlfriend Abby meets a handsome widower. Also, there's a search for
a family artifact.

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET, ABC and Fox. This is the one time when colleges get Sundays. ABC
has West Virginia and Virginia Tech; Fox is at the Rose Bowl, where
UCLA hosts Texas A&M.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, we learn the final seven acts in
the field of 21.

“Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid” (1969), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.
Starting with William Goldman's clever, Oscar-winning script, this
added Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Oscar-winning music and
cinematography. The result is a gem about the final days of cowboy
bank-robbers.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. This rerun has the top Kansas City people
competing for some of the spots when the finals begin Monday in Las
Vegas.

ALSO: Yes, there are
still a few new, scripted episodes. At 8 and 9 p.m. is Showtime's
“Twin Peaks” ... at 9 is TNT's “The Last Ship” and the season
finale of Starz' “Power.” At 10, Starz has “Survivor's Remorse:
and HBO has “Ballers” and “Insecure.”

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
College football, 8 p.m. ET, ABC.

Isn't the season
supposed to start slowly, with silly mismatches? Not this time; the
first full week of the season has the top-ranked team (Alabama),
hosting the third-ranked team (Florida State).

ABC has another good
one at 3:30 p.m., with Michigan (No. 11) and Florida (No. 17).
There's much more all day on cable. And at 7:30 p.m., Fox has what
may a mismatch: Purdue (3-9 last season) hosts Louisville, which is
ranked No. 16 and has Heisman-winner (Lamar Jackson) at quarterback.

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

When The Rock hosted
“SNL” in 2000, it seemed like a lame choice. This was a wrestler
and a pop-culture oddity; he'd done a few acting bits and was about
to be the Scorpion King in “The Mummy.”

And now? He's Dwayne
Johnson, a box-office giant and a surprisingly good comedy actor. In
this rerun of the season-finale – his fifth time as host – some
of his skits are so-so, but others are hilarious. There's Johnson in
an erectile-dysfunction commercial ... and as a fashion-focused
superhero ... and more. The rerun (with music from Katy Perry) starts
and ends mildly, but has a great mid-section.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), 8 p.m. ET; Turner
Classic Movies; or “American Sniper” (2014), 8 p.m., TNT.

On a big screen, at
least, Stanley Kubrick's “Odyssey” was a masterpiece, with a
sparse story stretched alongside visual and musical splendor.

But if you prefer
something down-to-earth, Clint Eastwood's “Sniper” is perfectly
crafted. The true story of Chris Kyle is captured with understated
passion by Bradley Cooper and Eastwood.

Other choices
include:

“The Hangover”
(2011), 7:50 p.m., Comedy Central; and 8 p.m., BET. This is why we
pay for all these cable channels – for freedom of choice. In this
case, we can choose to start at 7:50 or 8. BET reruns the film at
9:55; Comedy Central has “Hangover Part 3” at 10.

“Candy Crush,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. Old game shows seem to thrive in the summer, but
this attempt to craft a new one failed. Now CBS is dumping the final
two episodes onto Saturday, when viewership is low. Contestants
include two mother-daughter duos, several couples (married or
dating), siblings, best friends and even some Roller Derby teammates.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. If you missed this on Tuesday and
Wednesday, here's a second chance to see the final batch of people
reach the semi-finals. In tonight's rerun, a dozen acts perform; in
Sunday's, seven of them will advance, completing the field of 21.

“Silence,” 8
p.m., Epix. After years of huge movies (from “Raging Bull” to
“Casino” to “The Wolf of Wall Street”), Martin Scorsese made
this quiet film about Portuguese priests, in Japan to find their
mentor. It died at the box office, but drew praise and an American
Film Institute award.

“Declassified,”
9 p.m., CNN, rerunning at midnight (barring breaking news). This new
hour views the effort to catch a Chinese software pirate. It's
surrounded by reruns involving Cuban spies (8 p.m.), American
terrorists (10) and an international arms dealer dubbed “the
Peacock” (11).

“Julie &
Julia” (2009), 10:02 p.m., Starz. Two great performances spark this
charming film. Amy Adams plays the real-life woman who tried a
different Julia Childs recipe each day; and in delightful flashbacks,
Meryl Streep is the unstoppable Childs.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Richard Linklater
keeps breaking all the rules of filmmaking. He was in Texas, not
Hollywood. He made movies that meandered a little ... with dialog
that meandered a lot. He made quick little films ... and one
(“Boyhood”) that was filmed, off-and-on, for a dozen years.

These should have
flopped – and sometimes did; “School of Rock” soared, but was
soon followed by five straight box-office failures. But then came
“Before Midnight” and, especially, “Boyhood” (2014), piling
up praise, awards and audiences. Here's a deep portrait of a quiet
movie dynamo.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Diana, 7 Days,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The cascade of Lady
Diana films concluded on Thursday, the 20th anniversary of
her death. But now comes one more, viewing the week that followed.

Diana's sister calls
her a religious user of seatbelts and is bewildered by this
exception. Prince Harry, then 12, describes the intermittent shrieks
of pain he heard from onlookers during the funeral procession; Prince
William, then 15, says he was confused by that until he fully grasped
their mother's impact. Also interviewed are her brother, plus
then-prime minister Tony Blair and his press secretary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Killjoys” season-finale, 8 p.m., Syfy.

For three seasons,
“Killjoys” has skillfully mixed action, humor, character drama
and science-fiction babble. Now – with the fate of the world at
stake – the humor is dialed down a little and the action is cranked
up a lot. The babble remains; this is an hour that makes you say both
“wow” and “huh?”

Dutch is being
attacked by the overwhelming forces of her evil lookalike Aneela
(both played by Hannah John-Kamen). A plan involves disorienting the
attacking ships and killing Aneela ... except that then Dutch would
also die. There's no word on renewal, but this hour would make a good
series finale.

Other choices
include:

Football, 6 and 9:30
p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports1. Most college
teams begin their seasons Saturday, but there were a few
early-starters Thursday, with more today. CSN has Fordham at Army and
then Boston at Northern Illinois. FS1 has 8th-ranked
Washington at Rutgers.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts with the team intercepting a
message intended for Murdoc, the nasty assassin. Now Mac poses as
him.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the first half of Wednesday's show, the
final nine chefs try to re-create their favorite family breakfasts.
Then there's a tag-team challenge involving Mexican food.

“Beach Party”
(1963), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Filled with young people
who seemed to have no cares, few brains and scant clothes, these
1960s musicals were kind of fun retro romps. This is followed by its
sequel, “Muscle Beach Party” (1963) at 10. Then are so-so copies
-- “Surf Party” ('64) at midnight, “For Those Who Think Young”
(1964) at 2 a.m., “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964) at 4.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett and the others “face certain death” after
being captured, CBS tells us. Except it couldn't be that certain,
because they've continued to be in the series.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Jamie, the street cop, becomes suspicious after getting
an emergency call. His sister learns that, as assistant district
attorney, she may have helped convict an innocent man. And their dad,
the police commissioner, faces a crisis when an expose is published.

ALSO: “Narcos”
has its fourth drug-drama season today on Netflix. And cable movies?
“The Lone Ranger” (2013) -- ambitious, visual, kind of empty –
is 7:30 p.m. on CMT. Freeform has another Harry Potter weekend,
starting from the beginning at 12:30, 4 and 8 p.m. And Julia Roberts
is brilliant in “Pretty Woman” (1990, 8 p.m., Lifetime), OK in
“My Best Friend's Wedding” (1997, 7:13 p.m., Starz).