TV column for Monday, June 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

“This town has
changed,” a Washington insider says here. “It's toxic now.” And
“BrainDead” -- the summer's dandy surprise – is the cure for
any toxicity.

On one hand, it's a
sharp satire of a world unable to compromise; both sides care about
gamesmanship, not progress. On the other, it's goofy sci-fi. In the
first two weeks (summarized by the clever opening song), worm-like
creatures crawled into several heads, changing behavior. Laurel, an
idealistic newcomer, suspect something; she's also interested in a
charming-but-sneaky guy from the other party.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Moving quickly, this
show is down to eight guys. Now they're in Buenos Aires, with mixed
success.

Wells gets a
one-on-one stroll with JoJo, with a chance to be in a performance-art
piece. Chase and Derek are unhappy about being in a two-on-one date.
The other five try some neighborhood fun that soon becomes too
competitive. And at one point, ABC says, JoJo walks out of the rose
ceremony.

TODAY'S
ALTERNATIVES: Shark shows, all day, Discovery; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.,
NatGeo Wild.

In the midst of
summertime joy, cable smacks us with its annual shark attack. On
Sunday, Discovery launched its 29th “Shark Week”; Wild
countered with its fourth “Shark Fest.”

The latter has six
days of mostly reruns, including today's “Blitzkrieg Sharks” at 8
p.m., “Shark Alley” at 9 and “Shark Kill Zone” at 10.
Discovery has eight busy days, starting today at 9 a.m. At 7 p.m., a
scientist studies the declining number of great whites near an
Australian island. (This is a problem?) At 8 and 9, we're near
Guadalupe; at 10:04, ““Sharks Among Us” discusses simply
co-existing.

Other choices
include:

"Very British Problems," any time, www.acorn.tv. Christmas, it seems, is a real problem for Englishfolk; by nature, they find gift-giving uncomfortable and greeting strangers worse That's discussed in the first of four fun hours, with comments by people who are famous in England and sometimes (James Corden, David Tennant) in the colonies.

“BET Awards,”
6-9:30 p.m., BET. If you missed this show Sunday (an overcrowded
night), here's a second chance. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis
Ross (the “Black-ish” stars) host a night that has music by
Usher, Alicia Keys, Maxwell, Future and Bryson Tiller ... plus a
tribute performance to Prince, by his former colleague Sheila E..
plus D'Angelo, Janelle Monae and The Roots.

Swimming, 8 p.m.,
NBC. Over the next five nights, NBC will have finals to determine the
U.S. Olympic swim team. Preliminary heats will be on the NBC Sports
Network, tonight starting at 6:30 p.m.; add “American Ninja
Warrior” (9-11 p.m., NBC) and it's a high-adrenaline night.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Now that “Big Brother” is borrowing its Thursday slot, this
is the only night CBS has for “Mom,” one of TV's best comedies.
In this rerun, Candace (Sara Rue), who's living with Christy's
ex-husband, fumes: Her rich father (Harry Hamlin) is attracted to
Christy.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, we meet Sylvester's estranged dad (Jeff
Fahey). A retired general, he says an African dictator has a
dangerous weapon from World War II.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. In his 70s, Thomas Edison told two magazines
that he would like to invent a “necrophone” -- a device to talk
to spirits on the other side, if they exist. Now this episode
imagines he had already created such a device, earlier in his life.
He joins a haunted-house probe.

“UnReal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. After a lot of work has been
done, Darius tells Rachel his secret and is ready to leave the show.
She's desperate to change his mind.

“Mistresses,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Joss pushes hard to get a public-relations client,
but her past brings trouble. And Kate (Harry's sister) isn't finding
the carefree American dating life she'd expected; now she's unhappy
that her former fiance is dating someone else.

 

TV column for Sunday, June 26


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(if you get Showtime): “Roadies” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

Writer-director
Cameron Crowe has had triumphs (“Jerry Maguire”) and failures
(“Aloha”), but whenever he returns to music, he's been at his
best. From his teen-aged journalism to “Almost Famous” and “Pearl
Jam Twenty,” he's brought depth and passion to the rock world.

Now comes his
perfect vehicle – following the people who make a tour work. We
meet the old boss (Ron White), the new one (Rafe Spall), the cool
heads (Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino), the wide-eyed believer (Imogen
Poots). There's sex, music, humor, drama, idealism and masterful
dialog.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Game show night, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

“Celebrity Family
Feud” was a surprise ratings hit last summer, so now ABC hopes to
triple the impact. “Feud” returns at 8 p.m., wth Steve Harvey
toying with the famlies of Kellie Pickler, Lance Bass, Ernie Hudson
and NeNe Leakes. Then it's “$100,000 Pyramid” at 9 and Alec
Baldwin's “Match Game” at 10.

“Pyramid,” Kathy
Najimy soon proclaims, is “the best-constructed game show in the
world.” It is, at least, for those with quick minds. Najimy – a
“Celebrity Poker,” “Weakest Link” and “Gameshow Marathon”
champ – keeps up with Rosie O'Donnell, Anthony Anderson, Sherri
Shepherd and others.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “BET Awards,” 8-11:30 p.m., BET, MTV, VH1, Spike,
Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

For five-plus years,
Sheila E. was a star of the Prince world -- variously his
percussionist, singer, opening act and fiancee. Now she'll do a
Prince tribute, with D'Angelo, Janelle Monae and The Roots.

That's part of a
star-stuffed night, with music by Usher, Alicia Keys, Maxwell,
Future, and Bryson Tiller. Then there are all the awards, with
categories for music, acting, videos and sports; Drake leads with
nine nominations. Special honors go to actors Samuel L. Jackson and
Jesse Williams. Six channels combine, but BET is alone for the
red-carpet at 6 p.m., after-party at 11:30 and rerun at 12:30 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Season-finales, 9 p.m. to 11:15 p.m., HBO.

On an overcrowded
night, many viewers will be glued to HBO for three straight finales.

First is an expanded
“Thrones.” At 10:15, “Silicon Valley” has Pied Piper looking
shaky, but Dinesh's chat app thriving; Laurie prepares to leave and
Gavin's comeback is threatened. And at 10:45, “Veep” has Selena
preparing for inauguration; her daughter gets a makeover and Mike
suffers from exhaustion.

Other choices
include:

Olympic trials, 7-11
p.m., NBC. Here are the finals to determine spots on the U.S. Olympic
team. It's men's platform diving at 7 p.m., swimming events at 8 and
women's gymnastics at 9.

“Dancing on the
Edge” debut, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This richly
crafted, six-week series (which previously ran on Starz) follows a
black jazz leader in 1933 London, facing biases and making great
music. That's followed by an “Endeavour” mystery movie at 9 and
“The Tunnel” at 10:30.

“Explorer” (8
p.m.) and “I Am Rebel” (9), National Geographic. First is a
fairly stark, somber visit to Verunga National Park in the Congo,
where the new warden battles poachers. Then is a fun romp – Kevin
Mitnick describes his transition from a lonely teen hacker to a 1980s
fugitive on the most-wanted list ... and then to an advisor to
companies trying to thwart people like him.

“Flower Shop
Mystery: Dearly Depotted,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. For the fourth straight Sunday, this channel debuts a
mystery movie. This one also launches a series of films, with Brooke
Shields as a flower-shop owner who, of course, will keep stumbling
across murders.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Sherlock probes the murder of a fertility-lab
worker and finds that her secret personal life leaves an abundance of
suspects.

“The Jim Gaffigan
Show,” 10 p.m. Sunday, TV Land. Gaffigan is happy to get a movie
audition ... except the character is named “Ugly” and Alec
Baldwin figures Jim won't need any make-up. Add funny stories for his
wife (Ashley Williams) and her colleague (Michael Ian Black) and you
have a dandy episode. An even better one (a rerun, based on his real
Twitter controversy) follows at 10:30.

 

TV column for Saturday, June 25


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“In an Instant,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

It was 25 years ago
that a gunman stormed into a Utah hospital, demanding to see the
doctor who had performed a tubal ligation on his wife. The doctor hid
and phoned police; that led to an 18-hour crisis for the hostages,
including nurses, babies and a patient who gave birth during the
ordeal.

“Instant”
planned to use the story as last week's season-opener, then delayed
it for a week because of the Orlando shootings. Now it's scheduled
for tonight, with re-enactments and first-person interviews.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

How universal is
Adele's popularity? In one sketch, a family can agree on nothing –
except her.

Fortunately, Adele
is the music guest, singing “Hello” and “When We Were Young.”
Matthew McConaughey hosts, ranging from a cheerful blues singer to a
messy cook on a talk show. Since this rerun is from November, there
are also sketches about Syrian refugees and “Star Wars”
auditions.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on Wheels,” 9 p..m., AMC.

Amid waves of pain,
last week closed with some bedded bliss. It was Durant, the crooked
railroad man, with Maggie, the hotel-owner; and Cullen with Fong, the
translator who disguises as a man.

Now we start there
... and, of course, soon find fresh pain. To break through a
mountain, Cullen is making perilous use of nitroglycerin; to salvage
his schemes, Durant has a daring new one. As usual, “Hell”
skillfully delivers fresh twists and surprises; tonight's final
minutes bring both joy and shock.

Other choices
include:

Diving, 4:30-6 p.m.,
NBC Sports; 8-9 p.m., NBC. Here are springboard finals, to choose
this year's Olympic team. The men are on cable; then the women are on
NBC.

“Center Stage: On
Pointe,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 12:02 a.m. In 2000, the
movie “Center Stage” inhabited two worlds: Ostensibly a teen
film about ballet students, it was a classy drama directed by
Nicholas Hytner – who lbecame Sir Nicholas, head of England's
National Theatre. Now comes a belated sequel, directed by the
music-video maker called Director X. The students are new, but Peter
Gallagher returns as the boss, now pressured to give this ballet
group a young, hip feel.

Gymnastics, 9-11
p.m., NBC. These are the men's finals, for spots on the Olympic team.
The women have their finals Sunday.

Boxing (9-11 p.m.
ET, CBS) and more sports, everywhere. It's a crowded night, with
baseball (7 p.m. ET) on Fox, Olympic trials on NBC and the
consolation game of the Copa America Centenario soccer tournament, at
8 p.m. ET on FX. Into this crowded turf, CBS adds Keith Thurman
defending his welterweight title against Shawn Porter.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. In last week's episode
(rerunning at 8 p.m.), leaders sent the Highlanders north, toward the
Redcoat troops. Now Jamie is desperate to prevent a slaughter.
Meanwhile, Claire tries to comfort Alex Randall, who comes up with an
extreme plan.

“The American
West,” 10 p.m., AMC. Last week, this excellent documentary saw
President Grant bring peace by pledging that whites would stay out of
Lakota territory in the Black Hills. Then George Custer shattered
that by announcing the discovery of gold. Tonight, Grant scrambles to
preserve order; also, Allan Pinkerton is hired to stop Jesse James.

“The Grinder,”
11:30 p.m., Fox. As school-play auditions approach, the contrasts
between the brothers are obvious: Ethan wants to be an actor like his
uncle, not in the tech crew like his father.

TV column for Friday, June 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Gymnastics, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Every four years,
Americans re-discover their interest in women's gymnastics. This is
one of those years, with the Olympics coming up, Aug. 5-21.

In 2012, the U.S.
women won three gold medals -- for team overall, individual overall
(Gabrielle Douglas) and floor (Aly Raisman). Now Douglas, 20,
Raisman, 21, and others compete for the five spots on the Olympic
team. NBC has them tonight; the finals are Saturday (men) and Sunday (women).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

This is a Tom
Selleck rerun night. There are five of his terrific Jesse Stone
movies on cable, plus this solid series in which he's Frank Reagan,
New York's police commissioner.

Tonight, the focus
is on Frank's kids. Erin, an assistant district, takes over a case
and must find a witness, aided by the department's investigator
(Steve Schirripa of “The Sopranos”). Jamie, a street cop, and his
police partner (played by actors who are 37 and 35) go undercover as
an elderly couple.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Adventures in Babysitting,” 8 p.m., Disney.

This is the
channel's 100th original movie, going back to the lovely
little “Tiger Town” in 1983. For a while, some involved serious
issues, including racism; lately, the focus has been on teen fun.
That has included some vibrant musicals, plus comedies like this one,
which remakes a 1987 hit.

This time, there are
two babysitters, one diligent and one not. When the latter (Sofia
Carson of “Descendants”) bungles her first job, the other
(Sabrina Carpenter of “Girl Meets World”) must help. That means
taking all of the kids on a big-city adventure.

Other choices
include:

Jesse Stone
marathon, 1-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Slow and
somber, the Stone movies are also beautifully crafted. Most are
directed by Robert Harmon; all star Selleck as a former big-city cop,
now a small-town police chief. The final four Stone films for CBS
(2009-12) are at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m., followed by “Lost in Paradise”
(2015), the first Hallmark one, at 9 p.m.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. This reruns the episode that introduced Joy Bryant
(“Parenthood”) as Dr. Rosewood's cardiologist and potential love
interest. Meanwhile, Villa need a new police partner.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun catchs a key time for Kensi
(Daniela Rush) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen). Just as they
announce that they're moving in together, they're assigned to guard
her ex-fiance, who has an Afghanistan-contact list that people are
willing to kill for.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, a promising young boxer has been killed.
The prime suspect is the outspoken champion.

“American
Masters,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This reruns a profile
of Jimi Hendrix, the former paratrooper who mastered the electric
guitar and wowed audiences at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals,
then died at 27.

“Greenleaf,” 9
p.m. to midnight, Opran Winfrey Network. Here's a second chance to
see the first three episodes of this well-made drama, eyeing an
extended (and wobbly) family and the big church it runs.

ALSO: Today, Netflix
releases “The Fundamentals of Caring” (an indie film starring
Paul Rudd) and more episodes of the “Dragons: Race to the Edge”
series. Also available this week: On Acorn, “Raised by Wolves,” a
brash and sometimes funny British comedy; on Crackle, “Dead Rising:
Endgame,” virtually non-stop action, as Jesse Metcalfe splatters
zombies while trying to save the world.

TV column for Thursday, June 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “Life in Pieces,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
CBS.

Lately, networks
have re-discovered the notion of stacking four comedies from 8-10
p.m.; this fall, CBS and ABC will each do that twice. So it's too bad
that CBS is going the other way this summer – breaking up its
Thursday four-plex to make room for “Big Brother.”

All we can do is
savor the two Thursday comedy reruns that remain. “Big Bang” has
a great one; it celebrates Sheldon's birthday, with Leonard's
ex-girlfriend (Sara Gilbert), plus Wil Wheaton and Adam West, TV's
Batman. “Pieces” includes, among other things, a floundering
search for the right nanny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” 8:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

Three years ago,
Gaffigan tweeted (fairly accurately) that no man on Earth cares what
a woman's nails look like. He was hit by a cascade of criticism,
claiming he was a mysogynist and more. Now that's become a great
episode mocking political correctness, with Zachary Quinto perfect as
the prosecutor.

This is one of two
episodes that launched the season Sunday on TV Land and are now
visiting some other channels. Oddly, it's placed after a so-so
episode – Jim seeks a “calling” – at 8 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Queen of the South” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Try to skip the
first two minutes, which reveal way too much. Also, forgive the final
15 minute, which turn melodramatic and a tad absurd; in between is a
bracing adventure.

Teresa is a
hard-luck beauty who finds joy and luxury with her drug-dealing
boyfriend; then it all changes. Alice Braga -- a movie star
(including “City of God”), like her aunt Sonia – is Teresa,
with Justina Machado (“Six Feet Under”) as her vibrant friend and
Joaqim de Almeida as a kingpin.

Other choices
include:

“The Croods”
(2013), 6-8 p.m., FX. This pre-historic family comedy is part of a
busy night for animated movies: FX follows with “Hotel
Transylvania” (2012) at 8 and 10 p.m. Also, Starz has “The Good
Dinosaur” at 7:25 p.m. and Disney has “Finding Nemo” (2013) at
8.

“Pride and
Prejudice” (2005), 7 p.m., Oxygen. It's also a night of great movie
romances, let by this one, beautifully directed by Joe Wright. Also:
“Dirty Dancing” (1987) at 8 p.m. on Pop and the musical “West
Side Story” (1961) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. This case stretches all the way to Antarctica. An explorer's
body has been found there ... apparently 10 years after he was
murdered. That makes Dr. Edison a prime suspect.

“BattleBots,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC. The first round begins, with robots in three-minute
matches. There are 48 teams, ranging from teens to NASA scientists;
today and next Thursday, that will be cut to 24.

Reality overload, 9
p.m., everywhere. OK, a little variety please. When “BattleBots”
has its second hour, all four major networks will have reality shows.
This will be the second night for CBS' “Big Brother” and for
Fox's “Home Free,” a feel-good show that gives away a house each
week. And “Spartan” -- the team obstacle race – moves into its
regular spot at 9, after a rerun at 8.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Cat may be pregnant, which means the world
might have another beauty or beast or combination. Meanwhile, Vincent
is targeted and J.T. is kidnapped.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Rushing to a fog-shrounded accident scene, the doctors put
their own lives in danger. Also in this rerun: Jesse (Luis Guzman)
loses confidence after his heart attack; the condition of Carla
(Shiri Appleby of “UnReal”), Malaya's ex-girlfriend, is
deteriorating.