TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Rizzoli & Isles” mid-season finale,
9 p.m., TNT, repeating at 11:02.

Cable’s most-watched summer, scripted show will take a few
months off after tonight. First. It has a fresh case … and a chance to leave Jane
(Angie Harmon) in mortal danger again.

Jamie Bamber, who was Apollo on “Battlestar Galactica,”
plays an assistant district attorney whose mistress is murdered. He becomes the
top suspect; Jane has doubts … and then has danger.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “NCIS,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

Three weeks before “NCIS: New Orleans” opens, here’s a rerun
of the two-parter that set it up: When a congressman is slain, Gibbs heads to
New Orleans, where, his friend (Scott Bakula) has an NCIS bureau.

With two assistants (Lucas Black and Zoe McLellan, a Northern
transplant), he has a tattered office that fits the city’s charm. They tackle a
fairly good mystery, helped by a wise coroner (CCH Pounder), Gibbs and Ellie Bishop
(Emily Wickersham); the other NCIS people work the Washington angles.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Story of ‘Frozen’,” 8-9 p.m.
Tuesday, ABC.

Just before Christmas in 1844, Hans Christian Andersen
published a story his Danish countrymen could relate to: “Snow Queen” had love
and treachery, in a land that became encased in ice.

Almost 170 years later, Disney’s turned that into a gold
mine. “Frozen: passed $400 million in the U.S. and Canada box office (the fifth
highest ever) and $1.2 billion globally. This special visits the stars (Kristen
Bell, Idina Menzel) and the husband-wife composers, who went from naughty
Broadway (“Avenue Q,” “Book of Mormon”) to Disney warmth. It also views the
landscape the animators studied.

Other choices include:

“Houdini,” 7-10:31 p.m., History. First is a rerun of the
opener, with Harry Houdini emerging from a tough childhood to become a master
showman. The finale, at 9, sees him among world leaders.

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a change, Fox has a quick
rerun of Monday’s episode. It starts with the final six contestants running a
high-end restaurant … with Gordon Ramsay as their consultant.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m. to midnight, FXX. The marathon has
ended now, but these reruns will dominate this network’s prime time today,
Thursday, Friday and next Monday.

“New Girl” and “The Mindy Project,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.
Here are reruns of the season-finales. First is the romantic cruise that Nick
and Jess planned before their break-up; they’re going ahead with it, but
inviting their friends. Then Mindy reads a newspaper account of her own romantic

“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. A dozen acts
perform; on Wednesday, half will survive.

“Bitchin’ Rides” debut, 9 p.m., Velocity. This has all the
standard reality-show elements, including fun co-workers and a bad beard. The
highlight tonight, however, involves three gorgeously restored vehicles – a 1934
Dodge (in one family for 80 years), a ‘48 Ford truck and a ’67 Impala, rigged
up so it can be quiet on the streets, but roar when the neighbors (and cops)
aren’t around.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. Sam was once on a
protection detail for a little girl. Now she’s 10 and missing … and someone has
stolen the software for a vital project her dad was lead engineer on.  

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 31

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “MDA Show of Strength Telethon,” 9-11
p.m., ABC.

At its peak, the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon was
huge. In 1976 – the year Frank Sinatra brokered an on-air meeting between host
Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, 20 years after their split – it stretched for 21-plus
hours on 213 stations, seen by 85 million people.

Lately, it’s been trimmed. This is the fourth without Lewis,
the second as a two-hour ABC special. The music -- taped in Nashville and Los
Angeles -- includes country (Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, LeAnn Rimes) and rock/pop
(Fall Out Boy, Jason Derulo, Bret Michaels, R5, Matt Nathanson, American Authors).

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Falling Skies” season-finale, 9 and
10:01 p.m., TNT.

For four seasons, Tom Mason and others have battled the
alien invaders. Now comes a key chance to attack the Espheri power core.

Naturally, there are complications. A new Espheri attack is
feared; Lexi – Tom’s part-alien, fast-growing daughter – is back and taking drastic
steps, with mankind’s future at stake.

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

“Do you think life is always like this, playing tricks on
us?” asks Angela, a young nurse loaded with brains and ethics. It certainly is
in “Breathless,” a beautifully filmed three-parter filled with secrets.

In early-‘60s London, Dr. Powell has a wartime secret that
encompasses his rich wife, his forlorn colleague and a brooding police
inspector. Angela has a secret past with Jean … who has a marriage of mutual
deception with Dr. Truscott. Most of that is left elegantly in limbo, waiting
for next week’s finale.

Other choices include:

Marathons, all day. FXX continues its “Simpsons” marathon
until Monday night at midnight. AMC continues its habit of running “Breaking
Bad” on Sundays, from 5 p.m. to 1:05 a.m.; this stretch is from the third
season. And Spike has all the Indiana Jones films, at 11:30 a.m. and 2:12, 5:07
and 8:10 p.m.

“Heartbreakers,” 1-4 p.m., Investigation Discovery. The entire,
eccentric series reruns in one clump, with true stories of warped love, portrayed
by past TV stars. First, a preacher (Jack Wagner) has a long affair with the
wife of his finance chairman. Then a school secretary (Tracey Gold) lusts with
the principal (Christopher Knight) and the coach. In the third, a guy tells his
bride he’s secretly in the CIA.

“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Both reruns test Homer’s
honesty. In the first, he buys a valuable painting at his neighbor’s garage
sale. In the second, he’s a World Cup referee, getting bribe offers.

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. In the second new episode of
the weekend, Carrie disputes the notion that a bombing was terrorism. Homeland
Security is in charge, but she investigates on her own.

“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Here’s another one with two new
episodes this weekend. As Lee Anne’s sex-discrimination suit nears, her sex
tape – she says she was drugged – is leaked to the public.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. This powerhouse hour re-visits a
classic theme – a band of heroes, trapped in a small spot as monsters loom.
This time, it’s a convenience store; there’s some arbitrary dawdling to extend
the story, but it’s a mostly terrific episode, with the team adding two people
and losing one.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 30

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11 a.m. to 11
p.m., TV Land; then 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Here are 13-and-a-half hours of “SNL” reruns, with some great
moments. The cable marathon starts with Jennifer Aniston hosting and ends with
Betty White. Its best stretch has Jerry Seinfeld (12:11 p.m.), followed by “best-of”
specials for Jimmy Fallon (1:22), Alec Baldwin (3:30) and Amy Poehler (5:44).

Later, switch to NBC. It has Lady Gaga as host and music

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Unforgettable” and “Reckless,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS.

In a bonus for viewers, CBS is speeding the summer runs for
both shows (and for “Extant”), clearing the way for a fast fall start Sept. 21.
That means these two have new episodes tonight and Sunday.

First, Carrie and Al probe an elite prep school, after a
prominent parent is killed. Then Roy wants Terry to testify against Lee Anne;
her sexual-discrimination case will get a fresh jolt Sunday.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Football, all day.

Get used to it, this is what Saturdays will look like for
several months. Today’s games start at noon ET and continue to about 2 a.m.,
absorbing prime time on ABC, Fox and more.

ABC has the top-rated teams – No. 2 Alabama facing West
Virginia at 3:30 p.m., No. 1 Florida State visiting Oklahoma State at 8. Fox
has No. 15 Southern California hosting Fresno State at 7:30 p.m. Better
match-ups are on ESPN – Clemson (No. 16) at Georgia (No. 12) at 5:30 p.m.,
Wisconsin (No. 14) at Louisiana State (No. 13) at 9. There’s much more; there
always is.

Other choices include:

Movies, 7 p.m., cable. “Jerry Maguire” (1996, WE) is a great
film, beautifully cast … “Parenthood” (1989, TV Guide) is Ron Howard’s uneven
but interesting comedy-drama … “Sharknado 2: The Next One” (2014, Syfy) isn’t
much of a movie, but it’s still fun in its own deliberately ragged way.

“Rio” (2011), 8-10 p.m., ABC Family. Shivering in Minnesota,
Blu feels he’s the last bird of his species; then there’s word of a possible mate
in Rio de Janeiro. That whisks us to a world of glowing colors and grand music,
in an animated delight for any age.

“Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz. Suddenly in the wrong place (the
Scottish Highlands) and wrong year (1743), Claire is anxious to get back to
1940s England; she plans an escape. Don’t get your hopes up – this is, after
all, a series – but do expect a tenderly solemn scene that adds much-needed

“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. After last week’s fuss for
the 12
th Doctor debut (rerunning at 7:15 p.m.), the show settles
down to its weekly duty. Tonight, a Dalek fleet surrounds a rebel ship.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Amaro
has gone too far again, putting him in trouble with Internal Affairs. Also in
this rerun, a rape and robbery case includes a suspect Benson knows.

“Intruders,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Last week’s opener was
both compelling and scattered. This hour settles on two strong stories: An
ex-cop searches for his wife; a little girl is on the lam, pursued by the hit
man who regrets his moment of mercy. Both tales are beautifully filmed; some
day, they may merge.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 29

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Masters,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Two tragedies – polio at age 7, her father’s departure at 12
– profoundly affected Dorothea Lange. She became observant and artistic, a New
Jersey kid who graduated from Columbia and moved west.

It was there that her photos of Depression-era people –
rippling with pain and hope – caught attention. Her work (for the Farm Security
Administration and others) set a standard for photography as a social force.
This documentary by her granddaughter (Dyanna Taylor, an award-winning
cinematographer) spends too much time on footage of exhibit preparations, but
is otherwise superb.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “George Strait: The Cowboy Rides
Away,” 7-9 p.m., CMT; repeats at 10.

A spectacular career semi-concluded on June 7, when Strait,
62, sang to 104,000 people in Arlington, Texas. He’ll continue to record and do
occasional concerts, but says he won’t tour.

It’s been quite a career, including 44 singles that reached
No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart (Conway Twitty had 40) and 16 more that
topped other charts. This special is expected to include interviews plus music
at that final concert by Strait and by Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Martina
McBride, Jason Aldean, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Eric Church and Sheryl Crow.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Last Man Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,

On a quiet night, we can pause to catch one of TV’s rare
three-generation shows. Both reruns see Mike (Tim Allen) dealing with his
teen-agers and his father Bud (Robert Forster).

In the first rerun, Bud’s confrontation has Vanessa talking
to the kids about what to do when parents grow old. In the second, Mandy wants
to quit college and become a designer; Mike is dead-set against it … then finds
that Bud has complicated things.

Other choices include:

“Julie and Julia” (2009), 6 and 9 p.m., Oxygen. Bouncing
between eras, two gifted actresses are perfect in this delightful Nora Ephron
film. Meryl Streep is Julia Child; Amy Adams is the blogger who vowed to do a
different Child recipe every day.

More movies, cable. At 6:30 p.m., Miley Cyrus is fine in the
OK drama “Last Song” (2010) on ABC Family. At 8, “Avatar” (2009) – a great
fantasy adventure on the big screen, a good one elsewhere – is on FX; it faces
Tom Cruise’s “The Last Samurai” (2003) on TNT and the original, classic
“Exorcist” (1973) on IFC.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of
CBS reruns starts with a teen-ager shooting up a police station. Soon, D.B.
Russell (Ted Danson) is a hostage.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. The murder of a pool-cleaner
may lead to a terrorist plot.

“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. A man strolls into his own funeral.
Also in this rerun, an urn seems to have the remains of three people.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Frank (Tom Selleck), the police
commissioner, is not happy about meeting the new inspector general (Bebe
Neuwirth). Also, his son Danny probes the death of a teen-ager; she may have
been pushed in front of a subway car.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 28

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden” finale, 9 and 9:30
p.m., NBC.

It’s been an odd month for this neatly offbeat
Swedish-American comedy. NBC suddenly aired two episodes last week, skipped a
transitional episode entirely and now airs the dandy final pieces.

In real life, Greg Poehler was a lawyer who moved to Sweden
with his girlfriend; in the series, he plays Bruce, who did the same. In the
missing episode, life crumbled: They had a semi-breakup … her parents split,
sending the dad to the hospital in despair … and he took a three-month deal to
return home and help Amy Poehler (Greg’s sister, but not Bruce’s). Now things
are resolved in clever and amiable ways.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Defiance” season-finale, 8 and 9 p.m.,

A rough, gruff loner, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) sometimes
seems to care about no one … except Irisa, the fierce alien orphan he’s raised
as his daughter. Now her being is possessed by the Kaziri and she heads toward creating
mass destruction. He wants to stop her; his colleagues want to kill her.

There’s much more to worry about in this ambitious series.
That, includes battling the Earth Republic and facing Pilar (Linda Hamilton),
Rafe’s crazed wife, who’s on the loose after 15 years in prison.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

For many viewers, this will be a fresh journey – a chance to
visit a glorious music genre we rarely hear. Itzhak Perlman, known as a
classical master, performs the traditional Jewish music he’s always loved.

Perlman is surrounded by stunning talent, including cantor
Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, a chamber orchestra and Hankus Netsky and his Klezmer
Conservatory Band. There are also memories from Joel Grey, Neil Sadaka and
author Elie Wiesel, who recalls bringing his violin to Auschwitz.

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

For the first half of its eight-week run, this
thick-but-compelling story kept hinting at secrets. Now they to cascade. That
begins with a flashback to eight years ago, with Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and
her translator held hostage; raped by the son of an Arab official, she’s

Then we leap back to where this started. Nessa runs the
family business (a job her brother vacated); the translator’s son has been
kidnapped. As spies and journalists probe, schemes unravel.

Other choices include:

“The Quest,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Now that “Rookie Blue” has
finished its season, ABC scrambles to fill up Thursdays; tonight brings a 10
p.m. special and this double episode: There are eight role-players left, facing
fresh challenges – first a raid, then a spy. By the end of the night, only six
will remain.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. Don’t look for “Big Bang
Theory”; it temporarily moving to Mondays (starting Sept. 1), to make room for
football. Tonight, “Men” borrows the spot; Alan tries to impress his new
girlfriend (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) with the beach house when Walden visits
ex-girlfriend Kate.

“Project Runway,” 9 p.m., Lifetime. Last week’s challenge
(rerunning at 8 p.m.) was to design a gown for Heidi Klum to wear on the red
carpet gown. Tonight, designers must create offbeat wedding dresses.

“World’s Wildest Commercials,” 10 p.m., ABC. These
collections of international oddities tend to be thoroughly entertaining. Chris
Parnell hosts this one, with such categories as “animals with attitude.”

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a murder on
U.S. soil to have international impact. British agents arrive and Watson
re-evaluates her relationship with Sherlock and his brother Mycroft.