TV column for Thursday, June 29

“Zoo” season-opener (CBS) and/or “The Mist” (Spike), both 10

Two tales from
superauthors will now collide each Thursday. James Patterson's “Zoo”
starts its third season, while Stephen King's “Mist” -- which
reruns at midnight – has its second episode.

“Zoo” now jumps
ahead a decade: The creatures have been cured, but new “hybrids”
loom and Jackson (James Wolk) tries to lead kids to safety; also,
Mitch (Billy Burke) is still alive (sort of), but frozen. “The
Mist” had a terrific debut that left interesting characters in
three spots – a shopping mall, a police station and a church – as
a deep fog encased the town, bringing with it some sort of killer

“Battle of the Network Stars” opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

Lisa Whelchel and
Kim Fields return to their youths. When they were “Facts of Life”
stars, ages 20 and 15, they were on “Battle,” then an
empty-headed series of specials; now, at 54 and 48. they're back.

This has been turned
into a summer series, with different teams each week. Tonight's hour
– which also airs Saturday – has Whelchel and Fields on a “TV
Kids” team, along with Nolan Gould of “Modern Family,” Corbin
Bleu of “High School Musical” and Joey Lawrence. They face a “TV
Sitcoms” team of Bronson Pinchot, Tom Arnold, Dave Coulier, AJ
Michalka and Tracy Gold.

ALTERNATIVE: “Forrest Gump” (1994), 6:30-10 p.m., Spike; and/or
“Philadelphia” (1993), 8:41-10:50 p.m., Starz.

Tom Hanks' Academy
Awards came back-to-back; now those films overlap. One is a goofy
fable, the other a dead-serious drama loosely based on two real-life
AIDS fights, but both are prime Hanks.

They lead a great
movie night. At 5 p.m., FXX has the superb “Gone Girl” (2014) and
AMC has Steven Spielberg's “Jurassic Park” (1993), with its
sequel (1997) at 8. At 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has
blistering work from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1966
“Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Also, Freeform has the Harry
Potter finale at 4:45 and the “Twilight” beginning at 7:55.

Other choices

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 8 p.m., NBC. Chris Hardwick is a guest on this show and
then host of “The Wall” at 9 ... plus hosting “@Midnight” (at
midnight, Comedy Central) and doing any AMC talk shows and ... well,
anything else that Steve Harvey isn't doing.

“Boy Band,” 8
p.m., ABC. Last week's opener trimmed the field (30 guys, ages 14-24)
to 18, split into three groups. It also saw one of the groups perform
dynamically. Now we see the second one prepare and perform; the
judges – Nick Carter, Emma Bunton, Timbaland – trim it from six
guys to five.

“The Big Bang
Theory” and “Life in Pieces,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS. On a night
overflowing with new episodes, these are the lone reruns. “Big
Bang” has everyone adjusting to Raj living with Leonard and Penny;
“Pieces” has Greg pushing to be best man at his brother's

“Big Brother,” 9
p.m., CBS. After Wednesday's opener, the show settles into its
routine – 8 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays, 9 p.m. Thursdays.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT. Two strong forces – Juliette and Avery – are arguing
about Hallie's sound. Also, Maddie finds out who's responsible fo the
bullying on social media.

“Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. An amusement-park disaster floods the hospital with
victims. Elsewhere, TC's survival depends on keeping his wounded
captor alive.

“The Gong Show,”
10 p.m., ABC. Musicians really should avoid oral multi-tasking. In
last week's opener, someone played the harmonica with a tarantula in
her mouth; tonight, an opera singer performs while eating cake. Tommy
Maitland (actually, Mike Myers in character) also introduces
ballet-dancing zombies and dinosaurs re-enacting the first Olympics.

TV column for Wednesday, June 28

“Little Big Shots: Forever Young,” 8 p.m., NBC.

At 14, Thomas Kelly
became the leader of a gospel quartet; he's still doing that now ...
89 years later. The Masters of Harmony are high-quality Detroit
singers who made one adjustment to his age – shortening their
concerts. “The breath isn't what it was years ago,” said Kelly,
now 103.

He's been retired
from Chrysler for 41 years and has other interests, including his
great-great-grandchildren. But he remains the leader and lead singer,
avoiding accompaniment. “I'll be a cappella until I leave this
world,” he said. You can catch Kelly and others, including a
gymnast who's only 91.

II: “Big Brother” opener, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Seventeen summers
ago, this combined with “Survivor” to propel a new era.
Approximately 4.7 zillion reality shows have died since then, but
“Big Brother” remains ... albeit in a flashier format.

There are fresh
twists; this year, contestants will be tempted with money, power or
safety ... but will face consequences for each. And there's an
emphasis on frisky contestants. One guy is 55, but the rest are 21 to
37; a few have sober careers (an engineer, a microbiologist) but the
field also includes four salespeople, two fitness people, a
dog-walker, a dance teacher, a concierge and a radio personality.

ALTERNATIVE: “Jay Leno's Garage” season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m.,

The opener
celebrates cars that are American-made, using only American parts.
Leno ranges from George W. Bush's Ford pickup truck to challenging
Wanda Sykes to a minivan race.

The second hour asks
whether big is really better. Leno ranges from a hot-dog shaped car
to a Marine mega-vehicle. He consults with the 6-foot-2 J.B. Smoove
(who drives an enormous Lincoln) and the 6-8 Brad Garrett. These
rerun at 11 p.m. and midnight; previous episodes are at 7 and 8 p.m.
and 1 a.m.

Other choices

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. First, the home chefs cook with shellfish. Then they
tackle a specialty of Gordon Ramsay, one of the show's judges.

“Kingdom,” 8 and
11 p.m., DirecTV and AT&T. Nate has lost chances in the ring,
ever since rumors circulated that he's gay (which he is). Now Lisa
gets him a fight on short notice.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. This issue-oriented comedy varies
wildly, with NBC leaving some uncertainty about which episodes will
air. One episode expected tonight – a good one -- has Jerrod
witnessing a shooting. The other could be a new one about porn
addiction or a rerun with Maxine (the gorgeous Amber Stevens West)
debating the world's obsession with beauty.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. The parents get involved when Manny and Luke run against
each other for senior-class president. Also, Martin Short plays a
marketing guru who offers advice to Haley.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10 p.m., ABC. Tonight's panelists have great dance moves,
anyway. Cheryl Burke took both Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith to
“Dancing With the Stars” championships; Wanya Morris (of Boyz II
Men) finished fourth on the show. They join Rachel Dratch and Natasha

“This Is Us,” 10
p.m., NBC. In some excellent flashback scenes, we see Jack and
Rebecca argue about starting a family. We also learn about their
passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

season-opener, 10 p.m., TV Land. This all started with Liza (Sutton
Foster) landing a job by lying about her age. As last season ended,
she finally told the truth to her friend Kelsey. Also, she kissed her
boss, leading to a break-up with her true love Josh. Now the
aftershocks begin.

TV column for Tuesday, June 27

“The Bachelorette” (ABC) or “America's Got Talent” (NBC),
8-10:01 p.m.

Usually, these
summertime powerhouses avoid a collision; it's “Bachelorette” on
Mondays, “Talent” on Tuesdays, big ratings for both. But
“Bachelorette” lost a week to basketball and makes it up tonight.

For “Talent,”
this is the fifth round of auditions. For “Bachelorette,” it's a
journey to Scandinavia: One guy has a day date with Rachel Lindsay in
Sweden; others try Viking-style games in Norway.

“iZombie” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW.

The third season of
this clever series concludes with high stakes – as usual.

Liv, beautifully
played by Rose McIver, went from being a diligent doctor to a
reluctant zombie who works in a mortuary, solving cases; tonight, the
network says, she'll learn a shocking truth. Meanwhile, Major (her
former fiance) is still reeling; and Blaine has a big-deal business

ALTERNATIVE: “Downward Dog” season-finale, 10:01 and 10:30 p.m.,

Nan's project is
ready to launch big-time – sprawling across buildings, billboards
and storefronts. That leads to a crisis in the first episode and sets
up a major decision in the second ... which may never be resolved,
because ABC doesn't plan to bring the show back next year.

The Nan story is
so-so; much better is a journey through the psyche of her dog, whose
thoughts we keep hearing. In the first, he fancies himself as Nan's
protector; in the second, he aspires to his wolf heritage. He is,
alas, a city dog who's best at cuddling; the result is both funny and

ALTERNATIVE II: “The Story of China,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

More than three
centuries before Europe started its Renaissance era, we're told here,
China flourished. Its Song Dynasty was aglow in arts, education and
humane government. One college (now Hunan University) began in the
year 976..

Overrun by
barbarians, the people retreated, started over ... and were overrun
again. A century later, the Ming Dynasty began, with harsher rule and
the Great Wall. Michael Wood tells those stories briskly, while
strolling through the locations – including that university, which
is now 1,041 years old.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a vice-admiral's computer has been hit by
ransomware. McGee and the others have 34 hours to find and stop the

“Lethal Weapon,”
8 p.m., Fox. Forever turning old movies into new TV, networks
occasionally get it right. Tonight's rerun of the pilot film offers a
prime example. It started with a script that avoids making these men
cartoonish; then it put solid actors in the roles. Damon Wayans is
the old cop, trying to play it safe; Clayne Crawford is the young
one, a widower with a reckless disinterest in staying alive.

Nine-Nine,” 9:30, Fox. In a fun rerun, Jake has his first case back
at the precinct. There's even a brief crossover scene, with Jess
(Zoey Deschanel of “New Girl”) offering citizen involvement.

“Animal Kingdom,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 9:57. For weeks, the guys have been
planning their first major heist without “Smurf” (Ellen Barkin)
in charge. It's a big one, involving a mega-church, but now Craig has
his doubts. Also, young Javi (from a dangerous crime family) visits

“World of Dance,”
10 p.m., NBC. Here's the second night of “duels” -- two similar
acts compete, with judges sending one of them home. Last week
reminded us that the dancers are terrific ... but couldn't possibly
be as good as the screeching audience and ever-raving judges seem to
think they are.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun involves the death of a Marine
corporal, who was killed while racing during his spare time. The team
suspects this wasn't an accident.

TV column for Monday, June 26

“Mom,” 9 p.m., CBS.

For the past eight
months, viewers have been confident that TV's two best comedies (“Big
Bang” and “Mom”) would be there every Thursday. Now things get
trickier; “Big Brother,” which debuts Wednesday, gets the 9 p.m.
Thursday slot, displacing “Mom” for the rest of the summer.

So “Mom” --
which had been going twice a week – now settles for Mondays. In
tonight's rerun, Christy (the terrific Anna Faris) is the only one
who wasn't told Jill is pregnant; she feels left out.

“Preacher,” 7:58 and 9 p.m., AMC.

First is a rerun of
the season-opener, which aired Sunday. Jesse -- the ex-con clergyman
with a vocal superpower – has heard that God is on Earth; he's on
the road with his lover Tulip and their gabby vampire friend Cassidy.
Soon, there's a car chase, a horrific encounter and a clue.

Then comes a new
episode, with an old acquaintance and his truly odd nightclub act.
Both hours skitter quickly from whimsy to brutality (often involving
semi-innocent bystanders) to appealing bits if humor or emotion.
“Talking Preacher” is at 10 p.m. and all three rerun at 11 p.m.,
12:02 a.m. and 1:02 a.m.

ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For three decades,
“POV” has given summer-TV some of its finest moments –
documentaries that have (as the title implies) a strong point of
view. This opens with three films about refugees; the second and
third, both brief, are merely OK, but the first beautifully traces
four years in a teen's life.

Dalya Zeno was 13
when her world crumbled. Her parents separated; as Syrian kidnapping
increased, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles, to live with her
brother. She became the only Muslim in an all-girl Catholic school.
“I feel like I'm on a different planet,” she said. The result is
quietly compelling.

Other choices

“Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory” (2005) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010),
6:30 and 9 p.m., Syfy. Both films show the visual mastery of Tim
Burton. The first, a triumph, also does a good job of telling its
story; the second does not.

Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Here's the final episode before
everyone moves overseas. (That happens in an episode transplanted to
Tuesday.) Tonight, we're in South Carolina, where Rachel Lindsay
dates Jack Stone, her semi-clone; he's 32, she's 31, they're both
Dallas lawyers and dog-lovers.

8 p.m., Freeeform. Alec feels he can mend relations with the
Downworlders. Also, Jace and Clary are summoned by the Seelie Queen.

9:01 p.m., Freeform. It's usually easy to mine the mind of a dead
person, but not this time. The murder victim was a secret agent whose
memories are tangled in visual codes.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. This show has a charmed summer, following “Mom”
on Mondays and “Big Bang” on Thursdays. This rerun brings the
family together for football tailgating.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. It isn't every day – or even every century – that
someone gets stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits. But in this rerun, Walter
must rescue a woman there, before she runs out of oxygen.

Star-Crossed,” 10:01, ABC. Someone has been scheming to reignite
the Montague-Capulet feud; now Rosaline and Benvolio go undercover to
figure out who it is. Also, Lord Montague reluctantly welcomes his
manipulative sister Tessa.

TV column for Sunday, June 25

“Prime Suspect: Tennison” debut, 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

We met Jane Tennison
a quarter-century ago, when she was put in charge of some reluctant
policemen. Perfectly played by Helen Mirren, she was a good cop,
heavy on smoking, drinking and regrets.

But now we flash
back. It's 1973 and she's just starting her career; young and
middle-class, she's in a tough area ruled by men. Stefanie Martini
captures both the wariness and the wide-eyed optimism. Tied into that
is a sharp story that continues for two more movie-length chapters.

BET Awards, 8 p.m., BET (with pre-show at 6), MTV, VH1 and Spike.

Earlier this year,
BET scored with a mini-series about New Edition. Now that group –
formed 39 years ago – returns to perform and to get the Lifetime
Achievement Award.

That's in a show
that's hosted by Leslie Jones and stuffed with performers -- Bruo
Mars, Big Sean, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Future, Migos, Trey Songz,
Tamar Braxton and more, with a humanitarian award for Chance the
Rapper. All the channels except Spike have the post-show at about

ALTERNATIVE: “From the Ashes,” 9 and 10:30 p.m. ET, National

This deeply layered
documentary offers a strong concern for the people in coal
communities. Jobs end, pensions and health benefits vanish, homes
become unsellable. Coal-mining, which employed 131,000 people 25
years ago, is now below 50,000.

But little of that,
the film says, can be pinned to any Obama-era “war on coal.”
There's strong competition from natural gas. And there's a failure of
coal companies to invest in their plants; instead, they simply moved
west, abandoning Appalachia. The story is told with a rich sense for
human detail.

Other choices

Steve Harvey, all
night. Harvey has his regular ABC shows -- “Celebrity Family Feud”
at 8 p.m., “Funderdome” at 9. And lest we forget him, NBC reruns
Wednesday's “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” debut at 10. It has
talented seniors, plus some almost-cheesy moments, salvaged by

“Despicable Me”
(2010), 8-10 p.m., NBC. The title character (Steve Carell) plans to
steal the moon. This cartoon spawned two sequels (the latest opens
June 30) and the “Minions” hit.

“My Mother and
Other Strangers,” 8 p.m., PBS. A steady force in British drama,
Hattie Morahan has great moments here. She plays a transplanted
Englishwoman in 1940s Ireland, helping her husband run the pub and
store. She dislikes the rough-hewn fishermen ... but stands up for
them passionately.

9 p.m., PBS. Dead crows seem sort of ominous tonight. One is sent to
Sidney, the vicar; another is found in the church, with the body of a
respected doctor.

“Claws,” 9 p.m.,
TNT, rerunning at 10. Desna finds some good news in her business
push, but bad news everywhere else. There are funny moments when she
and dim Virginia try to perpetuate an alternate truth ... and some
serious ones, when her friend's hapless husband is nudged near crime.

season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC. The first season saw an ex-con become a
pastor in a small town, where he met a talkative vampire and a fierce
lover. With the church and the town destroyed, they're on the road to
find God (literally). “Preacher” -- which continues Monday, its
regular night -- has great moments ... plus some that are brutal and
gory, with innocent people as undeserved victims.

“I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime. In real life, Sammy Shore has been a
fairly successful stand-up comic. He started the Comedy Store in 1972
and lost it in a divorce in '74. Under his wife Mitzi, the club (and
their son Pauly) soared; Sammy's TV stand-up career crashed, but he
has continued to get acting and club work. Tonight, however, the
fictional characters have a much harsher story, with the ex-husband
(Jere Burns) desperate for one more chance. It's a tough part of an
oft-painful hour.