TV column for Sunday, Sept. 7

MUST-SEE: “9/10: The Final Hours,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic.

The story
of Sept. 11, 2001, has been told often and well, but here’s a compelling
variation. It starts on Sept. 10, then moves into the morning of the tragedy.

We meet
people who had brief contact with the terrorists – serving them at a Pizza Hut,
checking them in at the airport. We meet those who barely missed disaster. And
we meet a man whose sister treated their mom to a birthday dinner at the World
Trade Center restaurant … then died the next morning, in the same building.
There are deeply human moments.

MIGHT-SEE: “Utopia” debut, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The new TV
season begins today … sort of. The official start is still two weeks away, but
this reality needs extra time. For a while, it will be settling into Tuesdays
and Fridays.

In a wilderness,
15 strangers try to build a civilization. They include a doctor, a lawyer, a
chef, a construction guy and more … including a former drug dealer and a
self-described “hillbilly MacGyver.” There’s a pastor; others include a fan of tantric
sex, a believer in “polyamorous relationships” and someone who calls herself “six
feet of twisted steel and sex appeal.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

The three-part “Breathless” concludes with a cascade of
secrets. For a cocky surgeon, his wife and a cowering anesthesiologist there’s
a dark deed in wartime Burma. For another surgeon, it’s an affair with an older
woman. For his wife, it’s her secret sister (another nurse) have a demented

Some points are logical, and some – especially involving the
anesthesiologist’s search for another job – make no sense. What started as a
sleek, 1960s drama concludes as an odd (but interesting) soap opera.

Other choices include:

“Saving Private Ryan,” 8-11:45 p.m., TNT. Here is Steven
Spielberg’s epic, World War II masterpiece.

Football, 8:20 p.m. ET, with preview at 7, NBC. The first
Sunday of the pro season wraps up with Peyton Manning’s old team (the
Indianapolis Colts) visiting his new team (the Denver Broncos).

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.  There’s a surplus of suspects, when a worker
at a top-dollar matchmaking service is killed.

“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. The final season begins
with glimpses of Nucky’s troubled boyhood, long before he ruled Atlantic City.
That’s against the backdrop of dealings in Havana, as he dreams of a post-Prohibition
windfall. There are other snippets of stories, some turning violent, in a show that’s
often hard to follow, but remains fascinating along the way.

“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Six days before the show’s
two-hour finale, we see complications in Lee Anne’s upcoming trial – a possible
jury-tampering and a growing romance between the competing lawyers. Meanwhile,
Vi’s ex-husband faces a malpractice charge that points to a bigger problem.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s powerful episode saw
Jim Kent (Sean Astin) killed by his colleagues, after it was clear he’d been
infected. Tonight, Eph races to protect his own family.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 6

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or
later, with football overrun), NBC.

Like any “SNL,” this rerun is inconsistent; like some, it
has great moments. That’s led by the “Black Jeopardy” sketch, with Louis C.K.
as Brigham Young University’s African-American history professor.

C.K. got an Emmy nomination for this episode; he didn’t win,
but did win for a script for his own cable show. The music guest is Sam Smith.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Brittany Murphy Story”
(Lifetime) or “Houdini” (History), both 8 p.m.

Here are movie portraits of two show-business lives cut
short. Murphy was a gifted actress in movies (“Jersey Girls”) and TV (“David
and Lisa”), who died at 32, of complications including pneumonia; Harry Houdini
was a master magician who died at 52, of a ruptured appendix.

“Houdini” is a mini-series that debuted Monday and Tuesday
and now reruns in one chunk, until 11:32 p.m. Erik Weisz goes from a tough
childhood – son of an unemployed rabbi in Wisconsin – to world fame. We see him
(played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody) battled frauds and befriending world

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Chair” debut, 11 p.m., Starz.

Here’s an intriguing experiment: Take two very different
filmmakers. Give them the same script (which they’re free to change), setting
(Pittsburgh) and modest budget. Then release both movies.

At first, the “Chair” debut gets mired in insider talk about
artistic intentions. Then it comes alive when we see how different these people
are. Shane Dawson, a YouTube star, is a just-do-it guy who wants to boom ahead,
starring in the film; Anna Martemucci is an NYU Film School grad and indie-film
favorite, tending toward doubts and rewrites. He adds jokes, she adds character
drama; this should be fun.

Other choices include

Movies, all night, cable. Things start early, with the epic “Avatar”
(2009) at 5 p.m. on FX and the charming “Love Actually” (2003) at 7 p.m. on
Oxygen. Other winners include “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980), at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies and “Forrest Gump” (1994), at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.

Football, 6:30 p.m. ET Fox. The first college week was
filled with mismatches, but now come a terrific collision of opposites. Last
year, Oregon had the nation’s No. 2 offense, in yards-per-game; Michigan State
had the No. 4 defense. Now MSU (ranked 7
th) visits Oregon (ranked 3rd).

More sports, everywhere. ABC has NASCAR at 7:30 p.m., but
others obsess on football. Michigan visits 16
th-ranked Notre Dame
(7:30 p.m. on NBC); Virginia Tech is at 8
th-ranked Ohio State (8
p.m. on ESPN).

“Person of Interest,” 8 p.m., CBS. For once, the machine
doesn’t have the answer. In this rerun, all it can do is spit out five numbers;
the team must figure out what to do from there.

“Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz; reruns at 10. Accompanying a
rent-collection journey, Claire begins to understand the good and evil of these
rugged Highlanders. It’s a fairly well-made episode, but leaves viewers suspended,
virtually in mid-sentence.

“Leftovers,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Failing to find his wife
in Seattle, Jack returns home … and finds her there, seeming distraught and

TV column for Friday, Sept. 5


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Stand Up to Cancer,” 8 p.m, on ABC,
CBS, NBC, Fox, Ion and at least 26 cable channels, plus Hulu and Yahoo.

For the fourth time, Hollywood people combine to raise money
and awareness for fighting cancer.

We can expect lots of music, including Jennifer Hudson,
Ariana Grande, Dave Matthews, The Who and Lupe Fiasco linking with Common.
Other celebrities will be on-air (including Katie Couric and Pierce Brosnan,
who were widowed by cancer) or on phones. Instead of phoning pledges, people
can register at
to have a celebrity possibly call them this weekend.

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

Occasionally, this show departs from its island beauty and
tackles an international adventure.

This one sends Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and
Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), both former Navy officers, to Afghanistan.
There, they try to rescue a boy whose family previously saved her life.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Masters of Illusion,” 8 p.m., CW,
and “Wizard Wars,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

For a brief summer stretch, it’s been possible to catch two
magic shows on Fridays. That ends now – Syfy debuts a zombie show next Friday –
so tonight is the final chance.

First, “Masters” has tricks Nathan Burton, Jonathan
Pendragon and more. Then “Wizards” has magicians devise with mismatched props;
in this rerun, that includes tarot cards and a pirate costume.

Other choices include:

“Grown Ups 2” (2013), 6:15 p.m., Starz; “Grown Ups” (2010),
8 and 10:30 p.m., FX. This was why techno-geniuses created cable? So we could
have our choice of Sandler-Spade movies?

“The Unauthorized ‘Saved by the Bell’ Story,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.
Here’s a repeat of Monday’s film, about an empty-headed teen comedy that became
a launching point for stardom.

“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” 8:30 p.m., CW. In a rerun, the
improvised-comedy team is joined by actor Gary Anthony Williams and by Mel B of
Spice Girls fame.

“America’s Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. This rerun sees the
14 finalists move into their house.

“Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). On the next two Fridays, PBS will portray painters (Wiley and
James Whistler) who may be opposites, but draw great praise. “Grace” watches
Wiley recruit ordinary people and transform them via designer clothes and

 “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox.
A rerun starts with a rich girl’s body being found in a national park. She may
be the latest victim of the Ghost Killer and has a surprising connection to
another victim.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny finds a man wandering the
park, covered in his girlfriend’s blood and unsure what happened. Also in this
rerun, Danny’s brother Jamie is in trouble after helping an off-duty cop hide
the fact that he was drunk when catching an armed robber.

“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. This 1900-era hospital often seems
drenched in one-note despair. The administrator is a body-snatcher … the chief
surgeon is a drug addict … his assistants are vile to the lone black doctor,
who deliberately puts a patient at risk. But at the end of this hour, the beefy
ambulance driver has a scene (at the paupers’ burial grounds) that resonates
with quiet beauty and emotion.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC, with
preview at 7:3

Here’s a tradition, reminding us that pro-football is a big
deal: Three days before the other teams start, the annual opener with has two high-profile
teams and a celebration concert.

This time, Green Bay is in Seattle, site of a notorious game
two years ago. (The final-play call, a winning Seattle touchdown, drew so much
fury that the league promptly settled its referee strike.) First, Pharrell
Williams (who also joins “The Voice”) performs. Then Al Michaels and Chris
Collinsworth call the game.

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

After tonight, we’ll have to accept the temporary notion of
no “Big Bang” on CBS’ Thursday. Starting next week, the network has a string of
eight pro football games.

“Big Bang” has already moved to Mondays (its temporary
home), but offers one more rerun here: Splitting from “string theory” physics,
Sheldon needs break-up comfort from Penny. Also, Howard feels humiliated after
he and Bernadette have a double date with Raj and Emily.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m.,

Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has finally figured out the high
price her brother paid to free her from Gaza: Their wealthy family’s school
gave preferential admission to Israeli soldiers; it also let Israeli spies
monitor the entire phone system from Palestinian territories.

She explodes in some fierce scenes, but there’s more in
question: Who killed the school’s whistle-blower? And who knows that the boy born
in Gaza is the son of Nessa (via rape), not of her translator?

Other choices include:

“Dirty Dancing” (1987) and “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”
(2004), 6:30 and 9 p.m., ABC Family. This double-feature starts with the warm
tale of a teen learning about dancing and romance in the 1960s Catskills. Then
we see a similar story in 1958 Cuba. Jennifer Gray stars in the first film,
Romola Garai – a PBS and BBC America favorite – in the second. Patrick Swayze
is in both, the second briefly.

“The Quest,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. We’re now a week from the
two-hour finale of this show, which creates the ultimate adventure for
game-players. Tonight involves, among other things, a dragon’s lair.

“The Millers,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. When his dad (Beau Bridges)
announces he’s dating a much younger woman, Nathan (Will Arnett) does some
spying in this rerun, to see if she’s after his money.

“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. Medical crises play a big role here.
The murder victim had lupus; the marijuana clinic where she worked (and was
treated for pain) has suspects. Also, Wendell Bray returns to his lab work,
with disconcerting news about his cancer treatment.

“Project Runway,” 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Contestants must
come up with avant-garde clothes that withstand rain and other elements. That’s
preceded at 8 p.m. by a shortened rerun from last week, with designs inspired
by jewelry and by a trip to the museum.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance” finale, 8-10
p.m., Fox.

In its first 10 seasons, “Dance” saw only one tap-dance
specialist reached its final four; none got further. Now there are two more.
Each is 20, each grew up far from the dance centers – Zach Everhart in
small-town Georgia, Valerie Rockey in the Indianapolis outskirts. Each leaps beautifully
into other styles.

They’re in tonight’s finale with two gifted 18-year-olds. Rickey
Ubeda, of Miami, has a pixie-like charm; Jessica Richens, of California, is
sometimes a mobile sex symbol. The votes are already in; before a winner is announced,
we’ll see the top 20, a dance crew and an Enrique Iglesias/Sean Paul song.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Extant,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Two weeks before the finale, this complex plot is starting
to come together.

Molly (Halle Berry) became pregnant during a solo space
mission. Now -- as the powers of her offspring grow quickly -- she grasps
Yasumoto’s scheme for eternal life. Meanwhile, Sparks has doubts about being
part of all this; if he backs off, however, Anya will take over.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The League” season-opener, 10 p.m.

Wednesday is the only weeknight that FXX doesn’t stuff with
“Simpsons” reruns. Instead, it offers a movie – “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012),
from 7-10 p.m. ET -- followed by a new “League” and an old “Ali G.” (Ali visits
the FBI; Borat goes hunting.) The latter two rerun from 11 p.m. to midnight ET.

In “League,” the fantasy-football season begins with Kevin
in double dismay: His wife is champ and Andre is confident. The trophy is named
Shiva (after an old nemesis); now the guys happen to join the mourning custom
of “sitting shiva.” They botch it, in an episode that’s often wild and
sometimes funny.

Other choices include:

“The Goldbergs,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. This four-rerun string ends
with an exceptionally funny episode at 9:30, as teen Barry takes the car on his
own. Earlier, Beverly meddles in the dating lives of her dad (George Segal) at
8 p.m. and her younger son Adam at 9. In between, Adam obsesses on “Goonies.”

“America’s Got Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Tonight, we learn who’s
in the second half of this season’s top 12. That follows an 8 p.m. hour that
recaps the acts that performed Tuesday.

“Modern Family,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. Here are two
chances to see Ty Burrell, who recently won his second Emmy as Phil. In the
first rerun, he’s supposed to help Gloria sell her old apartment; in the
second, he takes everyone to Australia, to scatter his mother’s ashes.

“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week ended powerfully, with
a drug lord hiring a hit man to get Sonya, the American cop who’s been probing
his dealings. Now she’s been captured and Marco scrambles.

“Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV Land. Newly elected to the
city council, Elka (Betty White) is drunk with power. Joy (Jane Leeves) is
happy with Mitch (Tim Daly), but Simon (Craig Ferguson) is back.

“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. One motorcyclist has
killed another. While Cat probes that case, Leo makes a startling discovery
after disputing an amateur basketball game.