TV column for Tuesday, May 27



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “America’s Got Talent” season-opener,
8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

Each year, this show dominates summer ratings. Nick Cannon
hosts, with a noisy set of judges – Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Mel B (Scary
Spice of Spice Girls fame) and Heidi Klum.


Here is a wide-open competition. In the first eight seasons,
some of the winners have been mainstream singers; others, however, have
included a dog act, a ventriloquist, a dancer/mime and an opera singer.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry’,” 8-9 p.m.,
Fox.


Remember the early years of “American Idol,” when young Ryan
Seacrest and odd Simon Cowell would squabble? Who would have imagined that both
would be successful producers, colliding in a timeslot?


Cowell produces “Talent”; Seacrest produces this thoroughly
entertaining dating show. It never tells the 12 American women that the mystery
bachelor is Prince Harry, but makes them think so. Most of the fun comes in the
vast gap between British reserve and American zest.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Shift” debut, 10:01 p.m.,
NBC.


A gifted doctor who won’t follow orders? From Hawkeye Pierce
to Doug Ross, TV has been there often; in this case, the bureaucrat who keeps
firing him is (until tonight’s final minutes) a cardboard cliché.


Still, some things redeem “Shift.” There’s the setting – an emergency
room in San Antonio, near several military bases, with many of the doctors
being Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And there’s the shift chief (Jill Flint,
who had a similar role in “Royal Pains”), bringing depth to a show that
desperately needs it.


 Other choices
include:


“Extreme Weight Loss” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC. At 19,
Ty finds that his size (6-foot-4,480 pounds) is blocking a promising baseball
career; at 32, Charita (5-6, 310) struggles with two jobs, to support a husband
and three kids. Both start year-long programs … and one is the show’s first to
quit.


“Coming Back” conclusion, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Viewing combat veterans, this solid report avoids easy solutions. One man exaggerated
his military record, another has trouble staying with his family, a third tries
a near-impossible task of making a college baseball team, after losing a leg
and being away from the game for a decade. Still, we see wounded veterans
succeed, including one in Congress.


“Holy Smokers,” 8 p.m., Destination America. Throughout the
South, we’re told, barbecues top bake sales as church fundraisers. Here’s a
competition between three churches, one of them an all-biker group. It’s a fun
hour of good-hearted intensity … especially in the first round, when one team
grills freshly killed squirrels – dubbed “tree rats” and “road kill” by the
others – and another has doves.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the 100th
episode, someone claims to be Callen’s father.


“Little Women: LA” debut, 9 p.m., Lifetime, repeating at
11:01. These six are like most reality-show stars, often fun and sometimes
obnoxious. The difference is that they range from 3-foot-7 to 4-foot-4.


“Celebrity Wife Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Six years ago, courts decided
the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter. Now she lives in an unstructured
home with her dad (Larry Birkhead), her cousins and his sister … who swaps
lives with the highly organized girlfriend of racecar driver Helio Castroneves.


“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week ended with one cop (Gus)
accidentally shooting another (Molly). Now we pick up there and see Lorne Malvo
in Fargo, seeking revenge. Also, we learn what happened after Lester planted
evidence to cover up his own involvement in two murders. It’s another clever
and quirky hour.


TV column for Monday, May 26



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “MasterChef” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

Gordon Ramsay now has four Fox shows scattered through the
season, ranging from sweetness among kids to rants at professional chefs. This
one has amateurs, with Ramsay -- and colleagues Graham Elliot and Joe
Bastianich -- well-behaved.


Tonight, 30 contestants each bring a signature dish; that usually
means a rich variety in food and people.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “24,” 9 p.m., Fox.


This taut, tough show can stir us with any style. Some
episodes – like the two-hour opener – have slam-bang action; others can pack
power without leaving the room.


Until tonight’s explosive (literally) final minutes,
everything happens in three London buildings. Mostly, we get close-ups of
people talking – but the talk is intense and disaster is imminent. A device has
been created that could seize control of American drones, causing mass
destruction.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The World Wars,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
History; continues through Wednesday.


Sure, you may have heard these stories before. Still,
they’re told here in personal, compelling ways; tonight, we see how the first
world war deeply affected the giants of the second one.


Some started badly: Winston Churchill planned a navy debacle;
Adolph Hitler was rejected twice, by art schools and the Austrian army. Others
thrived; Benito Mussolini, once an anti-war journalist, became a sharpshooter; George
Patton mounted guns on cars, then was put in charge of tanks.


Other choices include:


“Pearl Harbor,” (2001), 7 and 10 p.m., AMC. There are plenty
of war movies tonight, but put this dim-witted one at the bottom. Better are
the Vietnam scenes in “Forrest Gump” (1994), 8-11 p.m., ABC Family; or the excellent
Afghanistan documentary “Restrepo” (2010), 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.


“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. For her first
one-on-one dates, Andi Dorfman chooses Eric, an explorer, and Chris, a farmer.
Others are taken to a “male exotic revue” where they face expectations. One
later apologizes for his behavior, before the field is trimmed from 19 to 16.


“Memorial Day” (2011), 8-10 p.m., CW. After finding his grandfather’s
footlocker, a 13-year-old asks about World War II. Later, he uses some of those
memories as a soldier in Iraq.


“American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
In four brutal years, the Civil War took 750,000 lives, we’re told. It spurred
profound changes in nursing, medical care, burial and attitudes. This
beautifully crafted Ric Burns documentary, which aired in 2012, gets a Memorial
Day rerun.


“American Ninja Warrior” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC. This
obstacle-course competition returns, after an 8 p.m. special with highlights
from last season.


“Petals on the Wind,” 9-11 p.m., Lifetime. The “Flowers in
the Attic” remake was so-so, despite the talented Heather Graham and Ellen
Burstyn, as perverse mother and grandmother. Here’s the sequel.


“Born Schizophrenic,” 10 p.m., Discovery Fit & Health. A
“Psych Week” of documentaries, starting tonight, includes this involving – and,
often, painful -- story. By age 11, Jani has found a cheerful life, with the
help of medication; but her brother Bodhi, 6, had developed the disorder more
fiercely.


TV column for Sunday, May 25



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

This emotional evening should start strongly, when “American
Idol” winner Caleb Johnson sings the National Anthem. Then the National
Symphony backs more great voices from country (Jennifer Nettles, Danielle
Bradbery), Broadway (Megan Hilty) and classical (Anthony Kearns, Jackie
Evancho).


Mixed in will be passionate stories from Afghanistan, Iraq
and (nearing its 70
th anniversary) D-Day.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “American Dream Builders,” 7-9 p.m.,
NBC; then “Turn” and “Mad Men,” 9-11 p.m., AMC.


First, NBC is down to its last two people. Each (with some
help) will remodel a California beach house; one will win $250,000.


Then switch to AMC for a new hour of “Turn” (the
Revolutionary War spy drama) and the mid-season finale of “Mad Men.” Don gets a
troubling letter and Peggy is part of a risky venture; the series will be back
later, for its final eight hours.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Normal Heart,” 9-11:15 p.m. Sunday,
HBO.


Seething with righteous rage, “Heart” is both great and
flawed. Both traits center on Ned Weeks, the character whom writer Larry Kramer
patterned after his own anger and frustration in the 1980s.


Certainly, Weeks/Kramer had good reason to rage. As his
friends died of AIDS, officials did little. Still, his perpetual fury is
counter-productive … and feels like contrived drama. Fortunately, there’s quiet
depth from Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts.  “Heart” is tough to watch, but stirs emotions
the way art should.


Other
choices include:


“The Good
Wife,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. These reruns ran on consecutive weeks in January,
with Will battling Alicia in court. In the first, he uses his knowledge of her
weaknesses; in the second, backed by three Bruce Springsteen songs, their trial
has separate juries for each client.


“Believe”
and “Crisis,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. Both shows, which won’t be back next season,
are overlapping into the summer season for a couple weeks. In the first, Bo has
a dark vision; in the second, kidnappers push parents into a missions that
could ignite a global war.


“Nurse
Jackie,” 9 p.m., Showtime. Jackie has picked a rough day to kick her
pill-addiction cold-turkey. In a good episode, her daughter has surprises, good
and bad. Prentiss’ departure has left Zoey despondent and Coop lobbying for his
job … while facing an arrogant outsider.


“Californication,”
9:30 p.m., Showtime. Hank’s success at work depends on convincing Julia
(Heather Graham) that she’s an actress, not a dental assistant. An OK episode ends
well.


“Motive,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of Wednesday’s well-crafted season-opener, we know
instantly who the killer is … but not why he would kill a guy who was seemingly
a stranger.


TV column for Saturday, May 24



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Sports takeover, three networks.

TV’s official season ended, just as summer and winter sports
were overlapping. So tonight, sports take half the big-four networks and more.


Fox starts its Saturday-night baseball at 7:15 p.m. ET, with
different regions getting St. Louis at Cincinnati, Washington at Pittsburgh and
Kansas City at the Los Angeles Angels. NBC has hockey at 8 p.m. ET, with
Chicago at Los Angeles. And ESPN has basketball play-offs at 8:30, with Indiana
at Miami.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Celebrity Wife Swap,” 8 p.m., ABC.


As an actress, Isabella Hoffman has been busy and
successful. She was the love interest in the four-season “Dear John”; she’s
been a regular on many shows -- a police captain in “Homicide,” a doctor in
“Providence,” a professor in “JAG” – and then became a busy guest star.


Her personal life has been more difficult, with the drug
problems of former boyfriend, Daniel Baldwin. Now she lives with their 17-year-old,
autistic son. In this rerun, she swaps homes with Jermaine Jackson’s wife;
she’s dazzled by the grand estate and the expanse of clothes, shoes and
cologne.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” 8 p.m. to
midnight, Starz.


One of TV’s best dramas often goes unnoticed. You can catch
up with the four most-recent episodes tonight … or catch the full season at
noon next Saturday, leading to the 9 p.m. season-finale.


Tonight’s reruns starts with Leonardo da Vinci in South
America, where he feels the Vault of Heaven will have the answers to life. He’s
a captive alongside two friends and his enemy Rialto. Back in Italy, Prince
Lorenzo Medici is also a captive and Lucrezia (both men’s ex-lover) is
maneuvering. “Demons” mixes sharp dialog, epic visuals and stories that ripple
with imagination, sometimes nearing overkill.


Other choices include:


“Mike & Molly,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a terrific
season-opener, the show swerved in the wrong direction. Determined to write a
crime novel, Molly goes on a ride-along episode. This episode (and the
funeral-home one that followed) turned a good character into a dim-witted
cartoon.


“The Dirty Dozen” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. A
rousing tale – with prisoners becoming a World War II unit – became a
box-office hit, due to ideal timing. It had Lee Marvin, fresh from his Oscar, Jim
Brown, fresh from football retirement, John Cassavetes, Ernest Borgnine and
Charles Bronson


“Anna Nicole” (2013) and “Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret”
(2013), 8 and 10 p.m., Lifetime. This network likes true-story movies about
women with tabloid-friendly lives.


 “Bad Teacher,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Meredith wants to date the rich father of one of her
students. Alas, the student refuses to give her permission.


“Orphan Black,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The clones have fresh
hope: Sarah may be able to follow clues to the roots of the experiment; Cosima
may have a way to treat her illness.


“In the Flesh,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Returning from the
grave, Freddie Preston hopes to win back his wife (formerly widow), who’s
living with another man.


TV column for Friday, May 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “In Performance at the White House,” 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is a great TV week for music. “American Idol” and “The
Voice” had their finales, country had its tribute to the troops and PBS’ “National
Memorial Day Concert” is coming Sunday. Now PBS fills a gap by rerunning last
month’s “Women of Soul” concert.


Here are some greats – Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Jill
Scott, Melissa Etheridge – joined by newcomers Janelle Monae, Ariana Grande and
Tessanne Chin. And many stations follow by rerunning the “Memphis Soul” concert
in the White House; it mixes classic stars (Mavis Staples, Sam Moore, etc.)
with Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Alabama Shakes and more.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hannibal” finale, 10:01 p.m., NBC.


In the first minutes of this season, “Hannibal” pointed to
this moment: It flashed forward to a fierce fight between Jack (Laurence
Fishburne), the FBI guy, and Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer and cannibal.


Then “Hannibal” spent the season getting there. Now Jack
realizes Lecter framed Will, the decent-but-fragile consultant. NBC isn’t
bringing it back, so let’s hope this hour wraps things up.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Labyrinth” conclusion, 8-10 p.m.,
CW.


During an archeological dig, Alice sensed a connection with
Alais (Jessica Brown Findlay, who was Lady Sybil in “Downton Abbey”), a 13
th-century
Frenchwoman. The story leaped between both lives.


We saw Alice in the modern world, pursued by thugs who think
she found a vital artifact. And we see Alais, facing a castle siege by the
Pope’s army. The story’s conclusion is dark and violent, but manages to tie
together a fairly good story that spans centuries and emotions.


Other choices include:


“Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS. “Unforgettable” has ended
its Friday run, but will start its third season June 29, in a
summertime-Sundays line-up. Now “Boss” returns with reruns, starting with the
CEO of the Utah Jazz. Joining the Dunk Team, he becomes (among other things) a
human hoop.


“24,” 8 p.m., Fox. On an overcrowded Monday, you might have
missed this episode so here’s a second chance. As forces pursue Jack Bauer in
London, he heads to the U.S. embassy; he’s trying to prevent the assassination
of the U.S. president, who currently faces a verbal barrage when speaking to
Parliament.


“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun of Thursday’s debut
starts with a wildly over-the-top car chase and shoot-out; it later adds unlikely
foot chases. In between, however, is a deep, cable-style drama about a young
cop who remains loyal to the crime boss who was his boyhood protector.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A zombie-like man is shot on
Halloween. Soon, the Five-0 team scrambles to stop someone from doing
experiments on humans. Also in this rerun, Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce
Willis and Demi Moore, returns as Sabrina, the girlfriend of Max (Masi Oka).


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m.­, CBS. A little girl may have been
kidnapped; her mother denies it, but Danny feels her story doesn’t add up. Also
in this rerun, Frank visits a priest who was arrested for drunken-driving.


“Chrome Underground” debut, 10 p.m., Discovery. This reality
show offers a different kind of global treasure hunt – finding and bringing
back valuable old cars. It involves big money in dangerous places, so the car
buffs bring along an ex-Marine. The opener seeks a 1937 Bugatti in Mexico City.