TV column for Monday, Aug. 21


PLEASE NOTE: This column was compiled before one thing was added -- the presidential address on military issues in Afghanistan. That's scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, with adjustments varying. CBS, for instance, expects to simply delay "Mom" until 9:30, remove "Life in Pieces" and have "Scorpion" at 10, as scheduled. In the Pacitic zone, its primetime schedule will say intact.

 

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Eclipse coverage, everywhere.

It's the first total
eclipse in the U.S. in 38 years ... and the first to cross both
coasts in 99 years. News channels and the Weather Channel will pay
attention, from start (1:15 p.m. ET) to finish (2:48 p.m.).

And yes, there's
more. The Science Channel reruns Sunday's preview at 11 a.m. ET, then
goes live from noon to 4 p.m., ABC, CBS and NBC have specials from
1-3 p.m. At night, Science has a new hour at 9:02 p.m. ET, with
scenes (and early experiment results) from the day. PBS has already
prepared an interesting “Nova” hour for 9 p.m., explaining the
science; it will freshen it with scenes from the day.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m. CW.

Lots of guest stars
show up in this rerun, setting up some bigger moments Tuesday.
Arriving here are Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules”) and Teri Hatcher (Lois
Lane in “Lois & Clark”) as Gar and Rhea, king and queen of
the Daxamites. When they try to retrieve their son Mon-El, things
turn nasty.

More important,
perhaps, is the arrival of Darren Criss (“Glee”) as the Music
Meister. By the end of the episode, he'll be whisking Supergirl away
... to Tuesday's jaunty rerun of the “Flash” musical.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Loaded,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Once you get past
the accents – a steep hurdle – this is a delight. It follows four
British blokes who made a fortune on a cat videogame, then sold the
company for millions to greedy Americans.

Tonight, Leon steps
into the glitzy world of his American overlord (Mary McCormack) while
Ewan stays back to do the work. Josh scrambles for a way to finance
his girlfriend's scheme and Watto simply looks for a friend ... or a
hobby ... or, really, anything.

Other choices
include:

“The Good Karma
Hospital,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
This formula keeps working: Take people from staid, stable worlds and
whisk them to little towns where life is quirkier. From “Northern
Exposure” to lots of Acorn shows (“Doc Martin,” “Agatha
Raisin,” “800 Words,” “The Heart Guy”) that keeps working.
This time, a young British doctor, unhappy with her life, moves to a
coastal village in India. The medical stories are way too quick and
simple, but the charm lingers.

“Bachelor in
Paradise,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. One of the guys from the
just-concluded “Bachelorette” shows up, brandishing a date card.

“Mom,'” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In an excellent rerun, Christy and her mother worry about Jill,
on the anniversary of her mother's suicide.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC. This episode will strike you as either quite clever or one
of the most sacrilegious pieces to reach American TV. Consider your
own tastes before sampling it. And be warned.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30, CBS. One of the girls gets shaky advice about her school
project; the other is unhappy about the birthday present (a butterfly
kit) from her grandfather. Also, Matt and Colleen try to babysit for
Lark; in the TV tradition, things goes terribly wrong.

“Midnight, Texas,”
10 p.m., NBC. Manfred had been doing fine with his new life, building
a relationship with Creek (Sarah Ramos). Now his secrets catch up
with him; so does Hightower.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Panelists range from Olivia Culpo, the
svelte cellist and Miss Universe 2012, to Gabriel Iglesias, the
non-svelte comedian. Others are actors Craig Robinson and Mary Lynn
Rajskub.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Nineties” conclusion, 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news), rerunning at midnight.

Four times now,
producers have dissected a decade in smart-but-fun ways. This one had
the serious stuff in the middle, ending with looks at the Internet
(rerunning at 8 and 11 p.m. today) and music.

Emerging from the
hair-band '80s was a surge of deep, passionate music. Two of the top
voices (Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur) died young, but fresh forces
emerged – from country to gangsta rap to the Lilith Fair. They
shared “the messy, chaotic, fallible experience of being human,”
Alanis Morissette says, Then came what one person calls the
“palette-cleaning,” from boy bands to Spice Girls.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Endeavour” season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

As pledge drives
conclude, most PBS stations (check local listings) return to their
regular line-ups. That's great news in the week ahead, with excellent
science shows Monday and Wednesday; it's merely OK tonight, with an
opener that is beautifully filmed, but has a so-so story.

This “Inspector
Morse” prequel is in 1960s Oxford, where Morse's life is grim. His
one true love has left; his sergeant's exam has been sabotaged. Now a
new mystery starts with a swimming-pool body; also involved is a
device called a computer, which can sometimes find answers within a
few hours.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season-openers, cable.

The broadcast season
is still a month away, but cable gets a big head start. At 9 p.m.
(rerunning at 11), TNT's “The Last Ship” has its two-hour opener,
with the virus endangering food globally. Then come “Survivor's
Remorse” at 10 p.m. on Starz and “Dice” at 10:30 on Showtime.

But what we're
excited about is “Episodes,” at 10 p.m. on Showtime. In four
tiny-but-brilliant seasons (and only 34 episodes), this has sharply
satirized much of TV, with Matt LeBlanc deftly playing a lunkheaded
version of himself. As the season starts, he's confined to hosting an
awful gameshow.

Other choices
include:

Gymnastics, NBC.
Here are the national championships. The men will be shown live, from
1-2:30 p.m. ET; the women, on tape, will be 7-9 p.m.

“The Simpsons,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. After being bumped for two straight weeks (by
“American Grit” and “Teen Choice Awards”), this dandy show
offers two reruns partly focusing on Grandpa. In one, he's whisked to
Cuba for medical care; in the other, he learns he'll be a father
again.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. Tentatively scheduled is a rerun that starts
with teams of male and female comedy people. Then it's the families
of Louie Anderson and Christina Milian.

“Funderdome,” 9
p.m., ABC. A 9-year-old wants to market a way to keep foods separated
on your plate. She appears (with her mom) to compete with the
creation of a sleepover kit for kids. Other proposals range from
litter boxes to a way to exercise while play video games on your
phone.

“Game of Thrones,”
9-10:15 p.m., HBO. Despite all the cable newcomers, this show – now
a week from its season-finale – remains the clear leader. Tonight,
Jon Snow leads his ragged band on a mission north of the wall; the
odds against him, however, may be too steep.

“Chesapeake
Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. Abby is settling in now and send her
daughters to their first day at a new school. Meanwhile, there are
disputes between her ex-husband and her boyfriend Trace ...
complicated by the fact that Trace has some fresh interest from a
Nashville record label.

“Great American
Eclipse,” 9:02 p.m. ET, Science Channel, rerunning at 12:08 a.m.
Here's a preview of the eclipse that will reach the U.S. at 1:15 p.m.
ET Monday. This hour will rerun at 11 a.m. ET Monday, leading into
four hours of live coverage.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Tonight's celebrities are mostly known for
comedy. It's Richard Kind vs. Rachel Dratch, then Margaret Cho vs.
drama/comedy guy Michael Rapaport.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Halt and Catch Fire” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., AMC.

Many shows start
well and decline gracefully; “Halt,” somehow, has gone the
opposite way. Once an OK series about the early days of computers, it
starts its fourth and final year brilliantly.

We've jumped ahead
to the 1990s, with people scattered. Gordon has a fairly successful
server company, with Joe staying in basement to dream bigger things.
Cameron, Joe's ex-lover, was supposed to be helping; instead, she's
married and living in Japan, working on games. Donna, Gordon's
ex-wife, is making a fortune funding start-ups. Tonight, they link,
with intensity, depth and warmth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Princess Diana: Her Life, Her Death, the Truth,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

As the 20th
anniversary of Princess Diana's death (Aug. 31) nears, TV is loading
up specials. National Geographic had a new one Monday; PBS has a
rerun and a new one next Tuesday. And now CBS, which was early with
this, reruns its own special from May.

Gayle King anchored
from Althorp, the estate where Diana grew up and is buried. She
interviewed close friends and people ranging from Diana's
public-relations chief to the choreographer of a charity performance
where the princess danced with glee.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nineties,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news).

After watching the
fictional brilliance of “Halt and Catch Fire,” you'll want to see
this documentary rerun. (Don't worry, it airs again at 1 a.m. ET and
then at 8 and 11 p.m. ET Sunday.) Using hindsight, it brings focus to
the Internet world that the “Halt” characters try to master.

We see the opposite
giants – the charismatic Steve Jobs, temporarily on the outside;
the deceptively mild Bill Gates, quietly consolidating power. The
government finally squelched his monopoly, but the real change, this
hour says, was from outside: Google brought a key step to
democratizing the Internet.

Other choices
include:

Racing, 7 p.m. ET,
NBC. This NASCAR night is from Bristol, Tenn.

“The Social
Network” (2010), 7 and 9:30 p.m., Bravo. Record this film and watch
it as a sequel to all those shows about '90s Internet. Aaron Sorkin's
script sometimes toys with the truth, but brilliantly captures the
next revolution, when Facebook began in 2004.

More movies, cable.
At 7 p.m., FXX has Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of
Wall Street” (2013). At 8, Syfy has “Terminator 2” (1991) and
FX has the fun spy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2015). At
8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has a stylish gem, “The Manchurian
Candidate” (1962). And families? Freeform has an animation marathon
and, at 8 p.m., Disney repeats the vibrant musical “Descendants 2.”

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 8 p.m., ABC. This is, perhaps, why God
created technology: So we could keep re-seeing this home-video of a
man losing his pants while being chased by a goose.

“$100,000
Pyramid,” 9 p.m., ABC. Tentatively scheduled is a rerun filled with
football players. Cam Newton and Brandon Marshall face each other,
Eric Decker faces speed-skater Apolo Ohno and Michael Strahan hosts.

“In an Instant,”
10 p.m., ABC. Much of tonight seems to be about the Internet, for
good or bad. This rerun tells of a Las Vegas woman who met a man
online; he attacked her and left her for dead.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Jimmy Fallon hosts this fun rerun, with
Harry Styles – whom Fallon has impersonated – as the music guest.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is an annual
custom -- classical music that's elegant enough to please even the
non-classical viewer. The Vienna Philharmonic performs on the the
grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace in Austria.

The night starts
with dynamic Dvorak pieces -- first with the orchestra alone and then
joined (superbly) by soprano Renee Fleming. She returns for some
mellow Rachmaninoff numbers; then the orchestra soars, with
Stravinsky, Humperdinck, John Williams and (as usual) a Strauss
waltz.

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

No day, it seems, is
safe for love. This rerun is set on the most romantic day of the year
(Valentine's), on maybe the most romantic spot in the U.S. (Hawaii);
and, of course, there's trouble.

McGarrett and Danno
are celebrating with their girlfriends. The rest of the team,
however, is probing the murder of a man who was taking a class on how
to land women.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Now for a visit to
the glitziest spot in the U.S. That's Las Vegas, where Caesar's
Palace celebrates its 50th birthday. In this reun, the 12
remaining chefs split into two teams and serve 50 people.

The guests will
sample food from both teams and vote. The losing team then faces a
pressure test, with one chef being sent home.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dark Matter,” 9 p.m., Syfy.

It's been a wild
journey for the man once known simply as Four – one of the
perplexed people on the spaceship Raza, devoid of all memories.
Eventually, he learned he was the son of the Zairon emperor; he
seized the throne and his former name, Ryo.

Now he's captured
his former friend Two, refusing to release her unless the Raza people
give him the deadly Blink Drive he needs to win a war. He invites
them to his palace, in a pivotal episode that mixes intense drama
with brief bursts of swirling action.

Other choices
include:

“Home Alone”
(1990), 5:55 to 8:20 p.m., Freeform. Filled with great sight gags,
this starts a fun movie night. There's “Wedding Crashers” (2005)
at 7 p.m. on Spike and “Charlie's Angels” (2000) at 7:19 on
Starz. At 8, there's “The Avengers” (2013) on FX, “Men in
Black” (1997) on AMC and Tom Hanks in both “Forrest Gump”
(1994) on VH1 and “You've Got Mail” (1998) on Pop.

“Big Brother,” 8
p.m., CBS. For the next two Fridays, “MacGyver” will be shelved.
It's replaced by an extra “Big Brother” this week and by football
next week.

“Masters of
Illusion, 8 p.m., CW. This new episode has magicians Xavier Mortimer,
Billy Kidd, Scott Pepper, Chris Randall, Joshua Jay, Greg Gleason and
Murray SawChuck. There's more magic, via reruns, with another
“Masters” at 8:30 and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” at 9.

“Killjoys,” 8
p.m., Syfy. Even a good science-fiction show can try too hard,
getting tangled in complex storylines. What started as a
intergalactic romp becomes – tonight, at least – way too thick.
Aneela (played by Hannah John-Kamen, who also stars as Dutch) is
obsessed with finding Delle Seyah, who was kidnapped by Aneela's top
aide Gander. She brutally tortures him, in a darkly troubled hour.

Kevin Hart marathon,
9 p.m., Comedy Central. This starts with some older specials, the
2009 “I'm a Grown Little Man” at 9 p.m. and the 2011 “Laugh at
My Pain” at 10. Then “Kevin Hart: What Now?” (2016), at 11, is
a movie that includes scripted elements and a stand-up gig with a
crowd of 50,000.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny's instincts tell him there's something suspicious
about the death pf a woman hit by a car. Also in this rerun, his dad
(the police commissioner) meets with someone who claims to have
evidence of abuse of power in the department.

“Wynonna Earp,”
10 p.m., Syfy. A vengeful wish goes awry. Now allies become enemies.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 17


TONIGHT'S
MUST-TRY: “Project Runway” opener, 8-9:32 p.m., Lifetime.

For
Grand Ledge's Buitendorp twins, the national spotlight returns. Two
years ago, Shawn and Claire won the first and only season of
“Twinning”; their prize ($222,222.22) has helped propel their
youthful fashion line, at www.shockandawww.com.

Now,
at 27, they're on one of the top reality shows ... and they're
competing with each other. Tonight, Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum throw the
first challenge at the 16 contestants. That includes designers from
Puerto Rico and Taiwan, plus two each from New York, Los Angeles,
Atlanta ... and Grand Ledge.

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE: “Weekend Update Summer Edition” and “Great News,”
9-10 p.m., NBC.

Last
week, this “Saturday Night Live” spin-off had a strong start,
fueled by some silly/giddy news stories. Mikey Day and Alex Muffet
played the Trump sons' Bill Hader even dropped by to become Anthony
Scaramucci. Now we'll see how the show does during a much more
sobering week.

And
in a late switch last week, NBC inserted a “Great News” rerun at
9:30. It does that again, this time with one of the better episodes:
Ater failing to get office people to bond, Carol (Andea Martin) has
her chance – a snowstorm traps everyone overnight ... and she
manages to steal wine from another show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Flipping Out” and “Girlfriends' Guide to
Divorce,” 9-11 p.m., Bravo.

It
was Bravo that launched “Project Runway” (and other innovative
shows), before Lifetime stole it. Now Bravo battles the “Runway”
night with two season-openers, one reality and one fictional.

At
9 p.m., “Flipping Out” finds Jeff Lewis simultaneously obsessing
on his own home renovation, his work for new clients and the arrival
of his baby. At 10, “Girlfriends” finds Abby (Lisa Edelstein)
and Barbara launching their Web site and desperate to involve a
celebrity; they spot one (Denise Richards) dating Abby's ex-husband.
Also, Phoebe, Jo and Delia are each drawn to new people.

Other
choices include:

“Monday
Night Countdown,” 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. Yes, the title does seem a bit
odd for a Thursday-night show. This is a preview to the pre-season
game (8 p.m. ET) with Tampa Bay at Jacksonville.

“Boy
Band,” 8 p.m., ABC. We're a week from the finale now. Tonight, each
of the eight remaining guys will sing a solo and viewers will vote.
Next Thursday, the five-guy group will be formed.

“The
Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Sheldon doesn't have much experience
with having sex or keeping secrets; now Amy's umhappy that he's
telling colleagues about their occasional (annual, actually) trysts.
Also in this terrific rerun, Raj finds life is tough without his
parents' money.

“Kevin
Can Wait,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Kevin starts an unlikely
friendship with Harry Connick, Jr. ... then starts spinning lies to
impress him.

“Battle
of the Network Stars,” 9 p.m., ABC. We can expect some good
athletes tonight. “TV Cops” (the second such team this summer)
includes former pro-football star Fred Dryer; “Sci-fi/Fantasy”
includes strongmen Lou Ferrigno and Kevin Sorbo, of “Hulk” and
“Hercules” fame.

“The
Night Shift,” 10 p.m., NBC. When the hospital is hit by a
cyber-attack, Jordan (Jill Flint) tries to overcome the chaos.
Meanwhile, TC keeps leaning toward action; he joins Rick on a SWAT
drug raid and considers returning to Syria to tie up loose ends.

“Zoo,”
10 p.m., CBS. Jackson is being held prisoner by Abigail, who wants to
extract key information. Meanwhile, his colleagues face a mid-air
crisis, when their plane malfunctions.