TV column for Thursday, Aug. 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Home Free” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

TV's most generous
show lets each contestant win a house for a personal hero. Tonight,
however, a champion will get the best house for the hero ... plus
$100,000 for himself or herself.

These are easy
people to root for. Maggie is a long-haired blonde whose hero is the
older brother who took care of her after their father left. James is
a white-bearded guy whose heroes are his parents, who have lost
everything. Nick is a wouded war veteran whose hero is the guy who
saved his life.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Greatest Hits” season-finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

The previous hours
were carefully packaged, each bringing back music from a five-year
stretch. Now the finale loosens up; it's live, with music from the
1980s, '90s and 2000s.

Ariana Grande will
do a Whitney Houston tribute; from Montreal, Celine Dio will sing “My
Heart Will Go On.” There's much more, with Arsenio Hall and Kelsea
Ballerini hosting.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Code Black,” 10 p.m., CBS.

After taking a
couple weeks off, “Code Black” returns with a rerun of its
excellent pilot film. Based on the Los Angeles hospital that has the
nation's busiest emergency room, it has energy and passion. Melissa
Gay Harden plays the residency director and Luis Guzman is the senior
nurse, Now they have four new residents, including Christa (Bonnie
Somerville, 42), making a mid-life switch. At times, this sinks into
daring-rulebreaker cliches; more often, it's a strong look at good
people under pressure.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Olympic warm-up, three channels.

On the eve of the
Olympic ceremony, NBC has an 8 p.m. hour that includes past and
present stars – swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, sprinter
Usain Bolt, beach-vollyeball star Kerri Walsh Jennings and the U.S.
women's gymnasts.

Meanwhile, a soccer
round is already starting; the women were Wednesday and the men are
today. That's on the NBC Sports Network at noon, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m.
ET and on USA at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. ET.

Othetr choices
include:

“Dark Shadows”
(2012) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005), 6 and 8:30
p.m., Freeform. Here's a Johnny Depp double-feature; “Charlie,”
in particular, is brilliantly crafted. Depp also appears briefly in
“21 Jump Street” (2012), a fun film based on the TV show that
launched his career.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm in the Middle”)
guests as a psychiatrist who's session with Leonard brings surprises.
Also in this funny rerun, Sheldon and Raj make a science discovery;
Howard and Bernadette have “empty-nest syndrome” with Stuart
gone.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun comes after the temporary break-up of Matt
and Colleen; Heather and Jen try to comfort him. And John (James
Brolin), who tends to be a bit goofy, is feeling bad about his
granddaughter growing up; he buys a rather silly pet.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. The show pauses to rerun its season-opener,
with Vincent and Cat expecting a regular life. Naturally, it's soon
disrupted.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. Both friends face crises in their
drug-dealing. Teresa is sent out on a midnight mission that's
life-threatening. Brenda puts her crew in danger, due to a lack of
supply.

“Ripper Street,”
10 p.m. ET, BBC America. Wrapping up a story that started last week,
Drake tries to solve a case involving the murder of an Indian-born
lawyer.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Each year, this
Nashville special focuses on upbeat music and bouncy fans. This time,
hosts Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett do a duet; so do Luke Bryan and
Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Elle King, Chris Young and Cassadee
Pope, Lady Antebellum and Cam, Rascal Flatts and Maren Morris.

Genres are crossesd;
it's Martina McBride with Steven Tyler, Little Big Town, with
Pharrell Williams and a choir. Also planned are solos from Carrie
Underwood, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Jason
Aldean, Eric Church, Cole Swindell, Florida Georgia Line and more.

TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-SEE: “Spillover: Zika, Ebola & Beyond,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Two days before the
Olympics' opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, we get a chilling
reminder of one of its threats – the rise of zika virus,
endangering people in Brazil and beyond.

This well-crafted
(and disturbing hour) takes a broader view. It shows how ebola spread
from remote African villages, almost becoming a pandemic that would
have killed millions globally. It shows how other diseases have had
similar routes, with zika leaping from unknown to crisis.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Kingdom” season-finale, 9 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T.

The season started
with a title fight between near-brothers – Jay Kulina (Jonathan
Tucker) and Ryan Wheeler (Matt Laura), who was trained by Jay's dad,
Alvey. Jay, targetting Ryan's injury, won.

Now it's time for
the rematch and Jay is the one who's wounded, this time emotionally:
His lover Ava (Alicia's sister) was murdered. Jay is shattered; so is
Alvey, who has just had an angry break-up with Lisa Prince. Now the
fight goes on, Alvey helps a friend and a fierce season ends.

Other choices
include:

Olympics, 6 p.m. ET,
NBC Sports Network. Even before the openig ceremony, women's soccer
starts its first round. This match has the U.S. and New Zealand;
others are at 11:30 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports
Network and at 3 and 5 p.m. ET on USA.

“MasterChef,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. Settling into its new night, the show puts two
episodes back-to-back. Contestants make a three-layer birthday cake,
cook for 100 hungry farmers and then have an hour to create a breakfast
dish using a hazelnut spread.

“America's Got
Talent” (NBC) and “Big Brother” (CBS), 8 p.m. Add these to
“MasterChef” and you have a reality-show overload. The good
news: With ABC's country concert, CW's magicians and PBS' documentary
(“Koko – The Gorilla Who Talks”), 8 p.m. is a no-rerun hour for
broadcast networks.

“The Night Shift,”
9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Set in a San Antonio hospital here many of the
doctors are ex-military, this has established TC (Eoin Macken) as an
action-hero surgeon. In tonight's first hour, he throws himself into
a gravel pit, trying to save someone from being swallowed up. In the
second, he's arrested in a bar brawl. Also, Scott (Scott Wolf) has
emotional moments with a patient and with Annie.

“American Gothic,”
10 p.m., CBS. A “silver bell killer” revelation – which Brady
doubts – leaves the family in chaos. Alison's mayoral campaign is
sinking, Cam's sobriety is tested (again) and there are fresh doubts
about both Garrett and Jack.

“Mr. Robot,”
10:01 p.m., USA. Elliot has been trying to quit the hacking crisis he
started, but that isn't easy, Meanwhile, Dom (Grace Gummer), the FBI
agent, heads to China to investigate.

And more, cable. The
10 p.m. slot has become summer-TV's best hour. On the Oprah Winfrey
Network's “Greenleaf,” we see the aftermath of a church shooting.
On Sundance's “The A Word,” there's a difficult effort to get
some friends for Joe, the 5-year-old with autism.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 2


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bachelor in Paradise” opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Now that
“Bachelorette” has concluded, it's time for this looser notion of
pretty people mixing and matching at a Mexican resort. That includes
seven women from this year's “Bachelor.”

Amanda Stanton
finished fourth, topping Emily Feguson by one week and Leah Block by
two. Others – Haley Ferguson (Emily's twin), Jubilee Sharpe, Lace
Morris and Izzy Goodkind – went early. They join two more women and
seven men, five of them (including the notorious Chad Johnson) from
the just-finished “Bachelorette,” with the possibility of late
additions.

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

On a night that's
overrun with reality shows, here's one new, scripted hour. Sweeping
globally, a bizarre virus has been causing animal to turn vicious.

Now the team heads
to a quaint English town, where there may be evidence about the
triple helix. To get answers about a cure, Mitch (Billy Burke)
focuses on the past of Jackson (James Wolk).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Three days before
the opening ceremony, PBS has a night of Olympic documentaries. That
starts (at 8 p.m.) with a portrait of the 1936 games in Nazi Germany
and ends (see 10 p.m.) with a young female boxer. In between is this
view of a U.S. rowing team at thos '36 games.

These were the
classic underdogs, blue-collar guys – one had been living alone in
the woods, hunting for food – competing with Ivy Leaguers at home
and Hitler's team in Berlin. The story is beautifully told, with a
rich portraits of some of thepeople.

Other choices
include:

“Coupled” (Fox)
and/or “America's Got Talent” (NBC), 8-10 p.m. It's a
reality-stuffed night, with either show leading into “Running
Wild.” For “Talent,” this is still early, with 12 acts
performing tonight. For “Coupled,” it's the finale, with people
going home alone or as couples.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. When the season started, we met John Cryer as a quirky surgeon
who saved Gibbs' life. Now, while working as a suspect's surgeon, he
finds key evidence ... and feels an immediate rush. Also in this
rerun, Tony visits Jeanne Benoit while chasing a lead in Sudan.

“MadTV,” 9 p.m.,
CW. Last week, this new edition began with a mixture of good and bad
sketches. Now comes the second round, hosted by alumni Ike Barinholtz
(“Mindy Project”) and Bobby Lee.

“Animal Kingdom,”
9 p.m., TNT, repeats at 10. The family plans what could be its
biggest crime haul yet, but police are putting pressure on J.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A Navy captan was attacked while on a radio
show and a DJ needs to be protected. Also in this rerun, Pride's
daughter visits to discuss her future.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC. The season's second episode – and the
last util after the Olympics – sees dancer-singer-actress Julianne
Hough in the African savanna, She eludes elephants and big cats,
confronts a giant snake, rappels from a cliff and passes dangerous
waterfalls.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). As a handful of
Olympians get fame and forrtune, this quietly passionate film reminds
us how the others live. Claressa Shields was 17 when she became one
of the first gold-medalists in women's boxing. Back home in Flint,
Mich., she had glory, graduation, prom ... and a $1,000-a-month
stipend. Shields will be trying for her second gold this month, but
first here's a fairly good portrait of her first Olympic year, with
its joy and frustraion.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Bachelorette” finale, 8 p.m., ABC.

At times, some fans
assumed JoJo Fletcher would choose Luke Pell – a West Point grad, a
former Army captain who fought in Afghanistan, a country-music singer
and (like Fletcher) a Texan.

Not so fast: Last
week, she sent him home, leaving three 27-year-olds – Chase McNary
and two athletes. Robby Hayes was a college swimming champion; Jordan
Rodgers was a college quarterback (like his brother, pro star Aaron),
who also had cracks at going pro. There's a follow-up hour at 10.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-TRY:
“Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC.

The new season
starts – and promptly pauses – in one big burst. On Tuesday, the
show takes Julianne Hough to the African Savanna ... then will take a
long Olympic break.

First, we see Grylls
taking pop star Nick Jonas to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With a
blizzard closing in, they rappel down a steep cliff, then try an
avalanche-prone mountain. They build a camp, eat a frozen bird, swim
across a frozen lake and do other things rarely included in pop
stardom.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Supergirl,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW.

A year ago, CBS was
pushing this as its strongest new show. Now “Supergirl” retreats
to this mini-network, with two reruns each Monday until the second
season begins.

In the opener, the
title character (Melissa Benoist) is immensely likable. “Supergirl”
slides between some moments with great character touches and others
that seem too militaristic.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Agatha Raisin,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

As a supporting
actress in “Extras” (getting an Emmy nomination) and “Ugly
Betty,” Ashley Jensen has been a delight. Now she's the star, in a
mystery romp based on novels.

A flashy, frilly
public-relations person in London, Agatha has never had a real home.
Now she's bought a house in a small town, where she plans to fit in
... possibly by cheating in the local cooking contest. Then, of
course, a body is found. Eight episodes arrive next week, but first
here's the dandy opener.

Other choices
include:

“Charlie Wilson's
War” (2007), 7:15 p.m., HBO. It's a strong political night on HBO.
First is this above-average film, with Tom Hanks handling Aaron
Sorkin's smart dialog. At 9 p.m., Alexandra Pelosi looks at political
donors. She knows the subject; her mother used to be Speaker of the
House.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Eight young dancers remain, with
viewers getting another chance to trim the field.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In the first rerun, Violet's new boyfriend seems twice her age.
(He's played by David Krumholtz, 38; she's Sadie Calvano, 19.) Then
Bonnie is tempted by her pain-pill prescription.

“Rizzoli &
Isles,” 9 p.m., TNT. As Jane prepares to testify at a murder trial,
some key evidence goes missing. The team has only three days to keep
a killer from going free.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. After a three-month break, this above-average comedy
returns with Oscar and Charlotte (Matthew Perry and Teri Hatcher)
hesitant to advance their romance.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team must learn who's the mole inside the
CIA, stealing deadly chemicals.

TV column for Sunday, July 31


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” 8-10 p.m., Syfy.

If you want to
recall all the nuances, don't fret: The first three “Sharknado”
films rerun at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Then again, there ARE no nuances –
just lots of sharks swirling out of the sky, while Fin (Ian Ziering),
April (Tara Reed) and others bash them with clubs, swords and
chainsaws.

Now we jump ahead
five years, when the world assumes tornadoes have been prevented and
April has been killed. Never assume: Soon, sharks are swirling anew,
heading to our prized places -- Mount Rushmore, the St. Louis arch
and the Las Vegas strip. The result is goofy, gory and kind of fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Celebrity Family Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC.

One game has drivers
(including Helio Castroneves, the “Dancing With the Stars”
winner) facing Sports Illustrated models. Another has men vs. women
in the “Bachelor/Bachelorette” world.

Kaitlyn Bristowe
will be there, facing Shawn Booth (whom she chose) and Ben Zorn and
Chris Strandburg (whom she didn't). The guys also have Ben Higgins of
“Bachelor” and Tanner Tolbert, who met Jade Roper in “Bachelor
in Paradise”; they're married and she's on the women's team, with
Andi Dorfman, Sara Herron, Ashley Ioconetti and Bristowe.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Teen Choice Awards,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

John Cena has become
the summer's designated award-show host. Three weeks after leading
the ESPYs, the wrestler-turned-actor co-hosts this with Victoria
Justice. There will reportedly be music from Charlie Puth, Serayah
(from “Empire”) and Flo Rida; Justin Timberlake gets a Decade
Award.

And yes, there are
lots of awards. “Pretty Little Liars” leads with six TV
nominations. Selena Gomez and her ex-love Justin Bieber lead music.
Even “Scream Queens” is nominated. Really.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Preacher” season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC.

OK, this one won't
be getting any Teen Choice Awards. Last week's episode (rerunning at
7:55) was very gory, and not in a fun “Sharknado” way; it even
felt a beheading needed to be rerun two more times. As usual, it was
also wildly fragmented ... but many of its fragments were beautifully
crafted.

After escaping from
the sheriff, Jesse now plans to bring God to Sunday's service; he's
found a phone with a direct line to Heaven. Alas, a cowboy gunman has
been summoned from Hell to kill Jesse.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Lisa becomes a child star; her parents try
to retrieve her.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 8 p.m., NBC. Contestants include Mario Lopez, Nicole
Scherzinger and lots of comedians and comedy actors – Bill Engvall,
Marlon Wayans, Kevin Nealon and Miranda Cosgrove.

“Masterpiece:
Inspector Lewis,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Next
Sunday, “Lewis” starts its final season. First, here's last
year's season-finale: Lewis' first case is being re-opened as similar
murders appear.

“BrainDead,”10
p.m., CBS. Juggling satire, sci-fi, drama and more, this is the
summer's best show. Now the Centers for Disease Control has lost its
funding, just as it's needed most – what with alien bugs invading
minds in Washington. Laurel begs her brother, a senator, to help;
Sen. Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub), one of the brain-infested, stops him.
Also, Laurel finds herself closer to Wheatus' aide.

“Match Game,” 10
p.m., ABC. Host Alec Baldwin again has Jack McBrayer, his “30 Rock”
colleague, on the panel. Also: Niecy Nash, Kal Penn, Cheryl Hines,
Mario Cantone and Alexandra Wentworth.

“Ozzy and Jack's
World Detour,” 10 p.m., History. Back in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne was
arrested for relieving himself on a statue honoring Texans who died
at the Alamo. Now he returns there, with his son Jack. They also
visit the Johnson Space Center and the Museum of Funeral History.