TV column for Saturday, Aug. 2

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Crossbones,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

This series has a talented movie star (John Malkovich), plus
action, exotic settings … and, alas, a story viewers don’t seem to care about.
Now its two-part finale has been exiled to a Saturday.

Malkovich plays Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard
(despite having only a wimpy white beard); Julian Sands is Jagger, the British
officer obsessed with killing him. Now Teach sets sale with a shaky crew.
Jagger prepares to attack his island; Lowe – originally a spy hired by Jagger –
has divided loyalty.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Sandwiched by “48 Hours” crime stories, this rerun finds
Danny (Scott Caan) with double trouble.

One problem is that he and McGarrett are held captive by an
escaped convict who wants them to prove him innocent. (That’s been a common
plot lately and was in Friday’s “Blue Bloods” rerun.) A bigger problem: His
daughter Grace has punched someone at school.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Drama marathons, cable.

At 9 p.m. today, “Power” has its first-season finale on
Starz and “Hell on Wheels” has its fourth-season opener on AMC. Both are
intense dramas; both also have marathons to help us catch up.

“Power” starts rerunning its first season at 1:30 p.m.; in
the finale, Ghost holds a nightclub party, hoping to get out of the drug
business … while the assassin known as Pink Sneakers gets closer. “Hell” starts
rerunning its third season at 11 a.m.; the new hour finds the aftermath of a
brutal winter: Work is at a standstill, Durant is broke, Elam is considered
dead, Cullen and his pregnant wife are captive.

Other choices include:

“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jaimie
Alexander repeats her movie role as Lady Sif, trying to protect the team from Lorelei.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. This
above-average show is now getting a triple run in the summer – its regular
Tuesday slot, plus two more on Saturdays. Tonight’s first rerun has Jake (Andy
Samberg) with a string of failed cases; in the second, he has a crush on the
medical examiner.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. The highlight for tonight (or for
almost any night it’s on) is “Titanic” (1997), on ABC Family. But there are
also lighter films worth catching, led by “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) on
Bravo, Drew Barrymore’s “Never Been Kissed” (1999) on E and the original,
delightful “Pink Panther” (1963) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Thursday’s episode,
Jessica finds shocking news about Ryan.

“Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda,” 9 p.m., Syfy. Long before the
“Sharknado” films (which rerun at 5 and 7 p.m.), Roger Corman was a master of
making fun (but, sometimes, silly) adventures for micro-budgets. He still is at
88, producing this sequel that somehow stars Conan O’Brien.

“Turn,” 10 p.m., AMC. In a rerun of the OK opener, Jamie Bell
(“Billy Elliot”) plays a colonist, torn between his father’s British loyalty,
his friends’ revolution and his wife’s desire to stay out of it.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Jim Parsons hosts
this rerun, with music by Beck.

TV column for Friday, Aug.1

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Magic, 8-8:30 and 9-10 p.m., CW.

There are some talented magicians out there now, ones who
mix trickery with humor and showmanship. Now we see some of them on mostly
family-friendly Fridays.

First “Masters of Illusion” reaches its third network. Dean
Cain introduces eight acts in a busy half-hour. Then – after a pause for “Whose
Line Is It Anyway?” – is a rerun of Wednesday’s “Fool Us.” Four talented acts
try to fool Penn and Teller … who then do a classic trick that’s very clever
and a tad gory.  

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Verdi’s “Requiem Mass” is a grand creation, conductor
Gustavo Dudamel says here. “The theatrical elements of the piece are amazing.”
That makes it ideal for this passionate conductor, these musicians (the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, plus choir and soloists) and this setting.

The Hollywood Bowl is where Dudamel first led the
Philharmonic, as a 24-year-old guest conductor. “Everybody has been here,” he
says, backed by clips ranging from the Beatles to the Beverly Hillbillies. Now –
at 33, the orchestra’s music director for five years – he leads a vibrant night
at the Bowl.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Jane Fonda films, all day, Turner
Classic Movies.

For its annual “Summer Under the Stars,” TCM spends each
August day with one actor. Fonda is first, with lots of light films and then the
intense “China Syndrome” (1979) at 5:45 p.m. ET.

Her recent American Film Institute tribute is at 8 and 11
p.m. ET, surrounded by two terrific Oscar-winners: Lee Marvin won best actor in
her cowboy comedy “Cat Ballou” (1965), 9:15 p.m. ET; Fonda won best actress in
the detective thriller “Klute” (1971) at 12:15 a.m. ET.

Other choices include:

“Hell on Wheels” marathon, 3 p.m., AMC. This gritty western
starts its fourth season Saturday, after rerunning the first three. The pilot
introduces a former Confederate officer, a former slave and a corrupt
businessman. Their fate keeps changing, amid the relentless effort to finish the
transcontinental railway.

“Roughing It with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a change, NBC
is exiling the final “Crossbones” hours to Saturday. Instead, it reruns Monday’s
“Roughing” opener, with Zac Efron in the Appalachians.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. Amid a torrential
Las Vegas rain – yes, it rains in the desert – a body is found. Also in this
rerun, Sanders is accuses of framing a murder suspect, seven years ago.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Chin being
probed about his father’s death, 15 years ago. Internal Affairs feels his
relationship with Malia (Reiko Aylsworth) may have hampered the investigation.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny (Donnie Wahlberg, who
also directed the hour) investigates the death of drag queen Tiffany Lamp. Also
in this rerun, Danny’s sister Erin re-examines a case after being abducted by
the suspect’s mother.

“Hannah Anderson: Anatomy of a Kidnapping,” 10 p.m., NBC. A
year ago, officials say, a 16-year-old California cheerleader was kidnapped and
her mother and brother were killed. A week later, she was rescued and the
suspect – a 40-year-old family friend – was killed by FBI agents; the story is
retold here.

TV column for Thursday, July 31

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Even by the high “Big Bang” standards, this rerun is

With her dreams of being an actress forever floundering,
Penny has a big break; she’s filmed an “NCIS” scene, flirting with Mark Harmon.
After she gathers friends to watch, the experience triggers a key change. It’s
a funny episode – Sheldon is learning about humor – and an involving one.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “You’re the Worst,” 9:30 p.m., FX.

Jimmy and Gretchen are “poison people,” a friend says; their
toxic personalities scuttle any chance for a romance with normal people. But
together, can they maintain an all-sex, no-sentiment relationship?

As this episode begins, the sex is thriving. (Consider this
very R-rated, especially in the final minute.) Then she asks for a key to his
home; a large (and funny) crisis builds inside his twisted mind.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN; “NY Med,”
10 p.m., ABC.

On a night overflowing with comedies, these excellent
documentary series offer a detour.

First, CNN visits 1968, with heroes (Martin Luther King,
Robert Kennedy) slain, Saigon overrun and politics in chaos -- Lyndon Johnson
deciding not to run again, the Democratic convention quaking.  Then “Med” starts gently with Dr. Amy
Caggiula (“nobody thinks I’m a doctor, because I’m 4-foot-11 and look like I’m
12”); it soon has the emotional story of a 2-year-old with a potentially fatal
brain ailment.

Other choices include:

“The Quest” debut, 8 p.m., ABC. Imagine “Lord of the Rings”
or “Game of Thrones” as reality shows. A dozen people are transported to a
world in which fictional creatures – dragons, ogres, agents of a dark lord –
are created via animation, prosthetics and beyond. A mixed-martial-arts
fighter, a personal trainer and a trick horse-rider compete alongside a waiter,
a bartender, a homemaker and more.

“Project Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Designers use
material found at a theater and on a movie set.

 “Welcome to Sweden,”
9:01 p.m., NBC. This episode asks us to believe that Bruce (Greg Poehler), a
big-time accountant, gave no thought to money or employment when he moved to
Sweden. Once you get past that, it’s another amiable half-hour, clever and

“Working the Engels,” 9:30, NBC. Jenna has a chance to land
a much-needed client. Alas, her mom has just ruined the computer system and her
sister is crumbling after getting divorce papers.

“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. Tonight, the show
chooses its final four comedians. Getting this far are Nicki Carr, Rocky
LePorte, Joe Machi, Rod Man and Lachlan Patterson.

“Married,” 10 p.m., FX. As his vasectomy nears, Russ likes
the concept (no more children), but not the specifics. To cheer him up, his
wife agrees to a weekend that seems romantic … until they’re in the room next
to a young couple with a more-vigorous relationship. It’s a so-so episode with good

“The Honorable Woman” debut, 10 p.m., Sundance. Two jolting
scenes – one at the start of this hour, the other at the end – will keep us watching.
Still, they frame an hour that is slow and tangled, with Maggie Gyllenhaal as a
half-Israeli baroness in a world of money, schemes and lies.

TV column for Wednesday, July 30


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Middle,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC.

This quietly clever show has never grabbed the attention it
deserves. In five seasons, it has exactly one Emmy nomination, for make-up.

Still, it remains consistent. Tonight’s first rerun, the
show’s 100
th episode is terrific, catching the town’s centennial;
Brick is zealous about the city’s motto contest, his parents are grumpy about
driving a giant cow in the parade. The second one has Dave Foley as the
counselor, when Brick shows rampant fears.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” debut, 8
p.m., CW.

Four talented magic acts perform, with the Penn-and-Teller
duo watching closely. If those guys can’t guess how the trick is done, the act
gets a spot in their Las Vegas show.

That gimmick is only mildly interesting; even when the guys
have the answer, they usually don’t share it with the viewers. More important
is the chance to see some fine work. Two acts – Mark Shortland and Young &
Strange – are thoroughly entertaining; then Penn & Teller wrap things up
with a classic gem.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” 9-11
p.m., Syfy.

After years of making deliberately loopy movies with
deliberately goofy titles, Syfy had a winner. “Sharknado” (2013), rerunning at
7 p.m., drew a big audience; now the sequel offers more of the same.

Having survived a Los Angeles tornado that flung sharks at
them, Fin and April (Ian Ziering and Tara Reid) fly to New York. Their plane is
hit by a bigger storm, with meteorologists calmly predicting 3-6 inches of
sharks. Soon, they’re battling the creatures with everything from chainsaws to
a pizza oven. Filled with odd cameos and occasional gore, “Sharknado 2” is
usually silly and sometimes fun.

Other choices include:

“So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week was
tough for dancers who specialize in Latin ballroom. Two of them, Brooklyn
Fullmer and Marcquet Hill, were ousted. That leaves 14 dancers tonight; also,
Academy of Villains – one of the groups competing for a spot in the finale –

“Tombstone” (1993, CMT) and “Escape from New York” (1981,
Sundance), both 8 p.m. These films have Kurt Russell at his gritty best. In
one, he’s Wyatt Earp; in the other, he must rescue the president, whose plane
landed in the prison island of Manhattan.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Phil’s rivalry with another
Realtor reaches obsession in this rerun.

 “Extant,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. In a late switch, CBS is nudging this show back an hour. Tonight, there
are efforts to quarantine Molly, who became pregnant during a solo space
mission. With her husband and son, she retreats to an island where her
estranged father (Lou Gossett Jr.) lives.

 “The Bridge,” 10
p.m., FX. Increasingly dark and tangled, this story sees people whose lives
crashed when drugs and money were seized. A rancher (Annabeth Gish) is on the
run … a shunned Mennonite woman has terrorized a banker. Tonight, each person’s
story wobbles and one ends with a jolt.

“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Cat found her fame by
catching the Park Slope Stalker. Now the Stalker’s wife has been killed and Cat
reluctantly leads the investigation.

“The Meltdown,” 12:30 a.m., Comedy Central. An uneven comedy
night is boosted by a wittily perverse song by Nick Offerman (“Parks and
Recreation”), about the Importance of always having a handkerchief.

TV column for Tuesday, July 29

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Mark Twain,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local

We’re five weeks from “The Roosevelts,” Ken Burns brilliant,
14-hour tale of three strong and eccentric people (Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor)
who combined to reshape America. It’s one of Burns’ best.

First, however, here’s a rerun of a less-crowded tale. Over
two Tuesdays and four hours, we’ll see the man who went from a Tom Sawyer-like
childhood to offer an appealing blend of wit and wisdom.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m.,

The long audition phase has finally ended and the show has
trimmed (somewhat) to a final 48.

Now the new phase begins, with 12 acts performing tonight
and five of them advancing on Wednesday. That process continues for a month,
until the ratings-powerhouse has its top 20.

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

Here’s that rare show that keeps getting better. Tonight,
all of the weak sub-plots involving the families have been swept aside; what
emerges is a pivotal hour, with a nation’s future at stake.

Physically recovering and emotionally fragile, Jamal is
clinging to his late father dictatorship. He was close to attacking the masses,
when his brother (until recently, a Pasadena pediatrician) brought back a
long-time opponent to create a temporary peace. Now the crisis builds; Jamal
makes a surprising compromise in public … and takes a jolting step in private.
It’s a stunning hour.

Other choices include:

“The Haves and Have Nots,” all day, Oprah Winfrey Network.
The two-day marathon continues, with all 36 epospes so far. That sets up the 9
p.m. summer finale, which the show says has a twist and a death.

“Extreme Weight Loss,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. After giving up her son
to adoption, a Milwaukee woman put on almost 200 pounds over 18 years. Now, at
347, she wants to shed pounds before meeting him; Donald Driver, the former
Green Bay Packer great, helps.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In France to retrieve an admiral’s
daughter, Tony enters a controversial crime scene.

“Holes,” 8-10:05 p.m., Disney. In a dandy change-of-style,
Andrew Davis (“Fugitive”) directed this whimsical and clever film about a kid
(Shia LaBeouf) who is sent away to simply dig and fill holes.

“Brooklyn Nine Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. The romance between
Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio, 43) and a fellow food buff (Marilu Henner, 62), was
quick, hot and charming. In this rerun, Jake tries to slow it down.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. To impress a date in this rerun,
Coach uses Schmidt’s loft … a plan that goes bad when Schmidt brings his own
date home.

“The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. A disastrous tape of
Mindy is floating around the Internet.

“Celebrity Wife Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. For Tiffany Burress,
we’re told, responsibilities are steep. With her husband (pro-football star
Plaxico Burress) retreating to his “man cave,” she does the cooking, cleaning
and child-raising; she’s also a law-firm partner and has her own clothing line.
Now she temporarily swaps with rapper DJ Paul’s fiancee, whose life is filled
with parties at home and on the Las Vegas strip.

“Covert Affairs,” 10:01 p.m., USA. Working undercover in
Paris, Annie is invited to the Russian embassy.