TV column for Monday, May 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Roots” debut, 9 p.m., History, A&E, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie
Network.

Back in 1977, the
original “Roots” caused a sensation. Passionately tracing Alex
Haley's family back to pre-slavery Africa, it gave many viewers their
first deep look at the black experience.

Now that's being
remade into a quicker version, continuing through Thursday. Like the
original, this has a newcomer as Kunta Kinte, but backs him with
familiar stars. Laurence Fishburne plays Haley; others include Anika
Noni Rose, Anna Paquin, Mekhi Phifer, Forest Whitaker, James Purefoy
and T.I. The opener reruns instantly, at 11:15 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox.

At 10, Merrick has a
house full of robots, some of which he designed himself. When he saw
robotic-style dancing, he jumped in ... at a good time: This year,
“Dance” switches to ages 8-13.

There ate plenty of
talented kids, including Lev – French-born, Russian roots, living
in California by way of the Czech Republic; he's studied dance for
half his 10 years. Or Ava; at 13, she's 5-foot-10 ... an inch above
host Cat Dooley (who towers over most adult dancers) and 10 inches
above judge Paula Abdul. These kids aren't as good as the grown-ups
in years past, but they're likable and entertaining.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mistresses” season-opener, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Let's credit ABC for
delivering a lush-looking (albeit terribly soapy) summer series
centering on likable women. As the season starts, all three find
their lives at turning points.

Karen is adjusting
to being a mom ... but her nanny (Jerry O'Connell) is making
advances. Joss is taking her romance with Harry (her sister's
ex-husband) to the next level ... but is still haunted by memories of
Wilson and the murder trial. April is living with Marc (Harry's
colleague) ... but worries that he can't find steady work and that
her daughter is growing up too fast.

Other choices
include:

“World War II in
Color,” 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., American Heroes Channel. The 13-hour
series reruns, followed by the two-part “Storming Normandy,” at 9
and 10 p.m. Also on this Memorial Day, PBS (check local listings)
views the impact on soldiers, at 9 (“TED Talks”) and 10 p.m.
(“POV”).

“Saving Private
Ryan” (1998), 5-9 p.m., History. Making a truly great war film,
Steven Spielberg gave a sober respect to soldiers, but also crafted a
stirring adventure. Other films fitting Memorial Day include “Lone
Survivor” (2013) at 8 p.m. on FX; “Where Eagles Dare” (1969),
at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies and, logically, “Memorial
Day” (2012), at 8 p.m. on CW.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. In last week's opener, JoJo
Fletrcher ousted six guys and kept the other 20 – including Jordan
Rodgers (a former college quarterback, like his big brother Aaron),
who got her “first impression rose.” Now she dates Derek, a
banker; others go on group activities, including firefighter training
and a trip to ESPN's “SportsNation.”

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. After planning to return “Supergirl” to Mondays, CBS
switched. Tentatively slated is the episode in which a computer virus
turns the team's “smart house” into a death trap.

“Lost in the
West,” 8 p.m., Nickelodeon. Here's the final chapter of a
three-night, three-hour comedy mini-series, with time-traveling teens
in the Old West.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. Emily Hampshire has already been doing great
work in two series – as troubled Jennifer in “12 Monkeys” and
untroubled Stevie in “Schitt's Creek.” Now she guests as a beauty
who claims to be a medium. Houdini is frustrated that he can't figure
out how she does it.

“Person of
Interest,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. Reese and Fusco find themseles trapped
inside their police precinct station, along with armed gang members.
Also, Root makes a jolting discovery

TV column for Sunday, May 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“National Memorial Day Concert,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.
(check local listings).

Each year, the
concert blends strong emotion and great music. This one has the Beach
Boys doing a medley of joyous hits. It also has country's Trace
Adkins and two “American Idol” people -- 2016 winner Trent Harmon
(doing the National Anthem) and 2006 runner-up Katharine McPhee.

There's also the
National Symphony and two opera stars with crossover skills. Alphie
Boe has done British reality shows: Renee Fleming has ranged from
“Sesame Street” to the Macy's parade.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Carmichael Show,” 8 p.m., NBC.

The bizarre
presidential race has been a big boon for satirists. “The Daily
Show,” Seth Meyers and “Full Frontal” have taken big swipes;
others, including “Saturday Night Live,” have taken modest ones.
But the situation comedies have ignored it; the TV era of Archie
Bunker is long past.

“Carmichael” is
the exception, a sometimes-funny show that argues issues from both
sides. Tonight, Jerrod's dad (the talented David Alan Grier) has met
Donald Trump and is a convert; Jerrod's girlfriend (Amber Stevens
West) is appalled. Soon, others jump in ... and Jerrod decides to go
to a Trump rally.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Ninja Warriors All-Stars,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

A surprise ratings
hit in recent summers, “Ninja Warriors” will start its new season
Wednesday. First, it gives us this warm-up.

The show's hosts
have each chosen a five-person team, including at least one woman and
one newcomer. Now those teams tackle supersized obstacles.

ANY-TIME
ALTERNATIVE: “Doctor Thorne,” www.amazon.com/prime.

Some viewers may not
want a Sunday of race cars (see below) and ninjas; they'll mourn the
fact that there won't be a new “Masterpiece” until June 19. Not
to worry: Julian Fellowes, the “Downton Abbey” creator, has
adapted Anthony Trollope's 1858 novel, introducing each of the four
episodes.

Tom Hollander has
the title role, managing the extensive finances of a loud bloke (Ian
McShane). He's hidden the identity of sweet Mary (newcomer Stefanie
Martini), who is tossed around in schemes of marriage and money. This
lacks the warmth of “Downton,” but does have the class-conscious
humor.

Other choices
include:

More Harry Potter,
all day, Freeform. On the day that ABC airs the second Potter film,
its sister channel has the third and fourth (7 and 10:30 a.m.), then
jumps to the final three (1:30, 5 and 8:45 p.m.).

Car-racing, all
afternoon and beyond. First is the Indianapolis 500, at noon ET on
ABC, with a preview at 11. Then – giving sufficient time to refill
our drink mugs and chip bowls – is the NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.
That's 5:30 p.m. ET from Charlotte, N.C.

“Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), 8-11 p.m., ABC. Last Sunday,
Kenneth Branagh brought his “Wallander” mysteries to a somber
conclusion. Here's a younger and cheerier Branagh, in a great
supporting bit as an ego-driven magician. It's a mostly good story,
with a lame finish.

“Undercover Boss,”
8 p.m., CBS. The CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery doffs his
suitcoat, dons dreadlocks and, perhaps, heightens his native Jamaican
accent, to go undercover.

“Preacher,”
9-10:30 p.m., rerunning at 11:31. For the second straight Sunday, AMC
runs the big, movie-style opener. That gives us another chance to
admire its cinematic whoosh ... and another chance to figure out what
it's all about. Stunning scenes seem to collide, some of then
involving a small-town preacher. Maybe they'll tie together in the
second episode, on Monday, June 6.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Last season ended oddly, with Holmes turning violent and
relapsing into drugs. In this rerun of the season-opener, the police
won't give him work ... and may file criminal charges. His father
(the superb John Noble) arrives, unrequested.

 

TV column for Saturday, May 5


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Lost in the West” debut, 8 p.m., Nickelodeon.

It's always
disconcerting to hear a friend say: “I think I accidentally
invented a time machine.” In this case, the machine propels Chip
and Dave to the old West, where they'll try to save their town's
future ... and to return in time for the Homecoming dance.

We'll see if they
actually want to return. In this opener, they find attractive teens
who are ready to teach them cowboy-and-Indian skills. This starts a
three-night, three-hour comedy mini-series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Madoff,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

It's good to see TV
rediscover the art of the mini-series – telling a long story, but
giving it an ending. Whether dealing with fiction (“Fargo,”
“American Crime”) or fact (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”),
this can be a great way to tell a story ... far better than, say,
“The Family,” which left us in permanent limbo.

In this case, ABC
tells the dark story of Bernie Madoff, convicted of cheating many
people – including friends and charities – out of fortunes.
Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner lead a solid, serious cast.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “King Kong” (2005), 8-11 p.m., NBC.

When it comes to
pure visual oomph, Peter Jackson is a marvel. His “Lord of the
Rings” trilogy soared.

But “Rings” had
a big story to tell and exactly the right amount of time to tell it.
This film -- like the “Hobbit” films – is a case of having too
much time and too many toys. The action scenes are beautifully done,
but some of them seem to be wedged into the story for no apparent
reason.

Other choices
include:

“Dr. No” (1962),
1 p.m., AMC. You can choose your favorite James Bond. There's Sean
Connery in this film, which reruns at 12:30 a.m. ... Roger Moore in
“For Your Eyes Only” (1981) at 3:30 p.m., Pierce Brosnan in
“GoldenEye” (1995) at 6:30 and Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale”
(2006) at 9:30.

“Bridesmaids”
(2011), 6 and 9 p.m., E. It's mostly a light-fun for cable movies.
This Kristin Wiig film is rerun often. Meanwhile, Disney has a Demi
Lovato double-feature, with “Camp Rock 2” (2010) at 8 p.m. and
“Princess Protection Program” (2009) at 9:50. At 8 p.m., we also
see two old pros, Robert De Niro in the fairly good “The Intern”
(2015) on HBO, Bill Murray in the better (and more-layered) “St.
Vincent” (2014) on Showtime. And at 9, Pop has Tom Hanks'
delightful “Big” (1988).

“500 Questions,”
8-9 p.m., ABC. Here's the second night of this game show. There's
another hour Saturday, then a pause before the final, two-hour
episodes Tuesday and Wednesday.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a cult has apparentlty
brainwashed a government worker into spilling classified secrets. Now
Deeks and Kensi go undercover in the cult, while others try to stop
the secrets from being sold.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:01 and 11:02. Claire and Jamie try to
get his grandfather to help fund the fight.

“Walk the Line,”
10 p.m. CMT. Viewers who saw PBS' excellent Highwaymen profile Friday
will also want to re-see this excellent film, focusing main on the
romance of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. The rerun season begins, with details
pending.

TV column for Friday, May 27


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

The Highwaymen
provided a staggering convergence. “They were the Dream Team of
country music ... the Mount Rushmore,” Toby Keith says here. Each
man brought an epic story, says another country star, Marty Stuart.
“They were four movies, four folk heroes, four great lives being
lived.”

Which is too much
for one hour. Laced with great music, this merely eyes intersection
of those lives. Johnny Cash launched Kris Kristofferson's career;
mellow Willie Nelson and intense Waylon Jennings were opposites ...
but they brought depth, Ray Benson says, at a time “when Nashville
had no soul.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Masters of Illusion” (8 and 8:30 p.m.); “Penn & Teller:
Fool Us” (9), CW.

Last week, CW opened
its summer season a tad early, with two new “Illusion” episodes.
Now – with low viewership during the holiday weekend, it retreats
slightly, with a pair of reruns from last season. It follows with a
rerun hour in which people try to stump the Penn & Teller duo.

At least, CW keeps
finding ways to offer offbeat fun in the summer. The magicians on
these shows are unknown to most of us, but they tend to be talented
and, especially, entertaining.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox; and beyond.

In a TV business
where comedies dream of having 100 episodes, “Simpsons” will pass
the 600 mark next season. That gives it plenty of reruns to show
everywhere.

So tonight, Fox
reruns two episodes – a Valentine one, with Prof. Fink inventing an
algorithm to have lonely people fall in love, and one with a gifted
folk singer struggling with substance abuse. There's much more:
“Simpsons” shows up today on cable's FXX (6 p.m. to midnight) and
on local stations.

Other choices
include:

“The Matrix”
(1999) and “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003), 6 and 9 p.m., AMC. This
double-feature launches a fantasy Friday. The second “Harry Potter”
film (2002) is at 6:30 on Freeform, with “Ant-Man” (2015) at 7 on
Starz and “The Avengers” (2012) at 8 on FX.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. Here's the second night of this quiz show, with people
trying to answer 500 questions without three straight mistakes. It
continues Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Alice in
Wonderland” (2010), 8 p.m., TNT. On the night when its sequel
reaches theaters, this film reflects the immense talent of director
Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman and actor Johnny Depp. Still, the
ending – a battle scene, for some reason – doesn't match the
rest.

“Coupled,” 9
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Tuesday's episode, the second guy makes his
decision ... and we see how the first couple did in the time
together.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a rich recluse is found dead, surrounded by
counterfeit bills.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Two convicts have escaped. Danny is involved in the
search, but he also feels he helped one of them be wrongly convicted.

“The Gershwin
Prize,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Before he was a star,
Willie Nelson had already written one of Nashville's greatest songs,
“Crazy.” Now he gets this annual songwriting award; we'll hear
his music performed by Paul Simon (a previous winner), Rosanne Cash,
Alison Krauss, Neil Young, Raul Melo, Jamey Johnson and more,
including Nelson's son Lukas.

TV column for Thursday, May 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Red Nose Day,” 9 p.m., NBC.

This two-hour burst
of comedy (mostly), music and emotion is designed to raise money for
children's causes worldwide. Screenwriter Richard Curtis (“Love
Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) started this and
“Comic Relief” in England and “Idol Gives Back” in the U.S.,
assembling stars.

Craig Ferguson hosts
and is surrounded by other comedy people – Ellen Degeneres, Jack
Black, Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen, Ron Funches, Adam
DeVine and the Key & Peele duo. Others include Zac Efron, Kristen
Bell, Anna Kendrick, Emma Thompson, Steve Buscemi and Ludacris.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

For 11 seasons, this
show has delivered what's rare for Fox – an adequate mystery that
wraps up its story each week. Now it also helps avert summer reruns.
There are six new episodes, before “Bones” (in a late switch)
waits until mid-season to begin its final season.

Tonight's show is –
no surrpise here – sort of adequate. A Secret Service agent has
been killed, shortly before a presidential caravan; for a time, Booth
is barred from working the case. That's followed by the usual twists
and turns, plus – in the final minutes – some action, sentiment
and even humor.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “500 Questions” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

TV's summer starts
with a quick quiz event – eight hours, on five of the next seven
days. The two-hour opener is followed by one hour Friday and Saturday
and two each on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Concocted by two of
TV's better brains – Mark Burnett (the “Survivor” producer) and
Mike Darnell (head of Fox's reality shows during their boom time) –
this has people trying to answer 500 questions without three straight
mistakes. This season, the second, includes “Jeopardy” champion
Ken Jennings.

Other choices
include:

“Inside Out”
(2015), 7:24 p.m., Starz. This animated delight – witty enough for
kids and grown-ups – leads a strong movie line-up. Another all-ages
gem is “Charlie and the Chocolate Family,” at 8:15 on Freeform.
Also: At 8, HBO repeats its “All the Way,” with Bryan Cranston as
Lydon Johnson; at 9, Starz has Jimmy Fallon as a baseball zealot, in
the amiable “Fever Pitch” (2005).

“Legends of
Tomorrow,” 8 p.m., CW. In the first half of the show's pilot film,
evil Vandal Savage is close to controlling the world in 2166. Rip
Hunter goes back in time to stop him. He assembles a mismatched team
that's fun to watch, complete with a forner movie Superman (Brandon
Routh) and with the “Prison Break” stars (Wentworh Miller and
Dominic Purcell) as Captain Cold and Heat Wave.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Until next fall, the CBS comedies will be
reruns, Fortunately, these are good shows, fun to re-see. Tonight,
Sheldon is sick and everyone else suffers.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31, CBS. No experts on relationships, Oscar and Felix still try to
help their neighbors, after eavesdropping on their bickering.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn guests in a terrific rerun. She
plays the mom who abandoned Bonnie. Christy – who's been slow to
forgive Bonnie's many sins – suggests forgiveness.

“Modern Family,”
10 p.m., ABC. In a transplanted rerun, Gloria gets a family seminar
at a school auction. This is not greeted with universal enthusiasm.

“Black-ish,”
10:31 p.m., ABC. This rerun finds Dre wondering why no one in his
family has been invited to one of the neighbors' pool parties.