TV column for Saturday, June 27

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

J.K. Simmons has
ranged from the silliness of insurance commercials to the fierce
intensity of “Oz” and “Whiplash.” So we shouldn't be
surprised that he stepped easily into hosting this rerun.

Simmons did a
version of his “Whiplash” character, berating drummers ... until
former “SNL” guy Fred Armisen showed some genuine talent. That
followed a weak opener (Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch on Super
Bowl eve), part of a mixed night. The lows were lame, the highs
included a “Teachers Snow Day” video and the hilarious Jebidiah
Atkinson (Taran Killam) attacking the Grammys.

II: “A Country Wedding,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

A country-music
singer (Jesse Metcalfe) is preparing to marry a gorgeous movie star.
First, he returns to sell his family farm, a place he hasn't been for
decades. Next door, his childhood friend (Autumn Reeser) has a rescue
ranch that's being foreclosed.

You can probably
guess the rest; Hallmark doesn't like surprises. The real surprise,
however, is Metcalfe. First known as the teen hunk on “Desperate
Housewives,” then the star of the new version of “Dallas,” he
emerges as a solid singer, debuting three excellent country songs.

ALTERNATIVE: “Scream” marathon, 7 p.m., MTV.

On Tuesday, MTV will
launch its “Scream” series, with a new generation of teens being
scared and/or killed in Lakewood. First, however, we can revisit the
1996 original, which had Kevin Williamson's witty script, Wes
Craven's sharp direction and a terrific young cast.

That's followed by a
preview of the series at 9:30 p.m. and then the sequels at 9:38 p.m.
(1997), 1 a.m. (2000) and 3:30 a.m. (2011). If that seems too late
for screaming – it is, you know – then catch the four films
Sunday at 12:45, 3:40, 7:08 and 9:30 p.m.

Other choices

“Teen Beach 2,”
11 a.m., Disney. Here's a second chance to see this film, which
debuted Friday (and also airs at 8 p.m. Sunday). The original film
had modern surfers somehow end up inside a 1960s beach musical,
altering its plot. In the sequel, the characters from the movie visit
them in real life.

“The Island” and
“American Ninja Warrior,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., NBC. Two macho shows
offer reruns. First is a June 1 episode in which the guys scramble to
find fresh water; then is a June 17 one, with “Ninja” try-outs in

“BattleBots,” 8
p.m., ABC. In a switch, ABC has scratched its rerun of a fairly good
“Astronaut Wives Club” episode. Instead, it reruns Sunday's
opener of this battling-robot competition.

“CSI Cyber,” 8
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, nine planes that left from the same airport
face a Wi-fi attack.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. After their successful sting operation,
three FBI agents were killed in an explosion. In this rerun, the team
tries to find who's responsible.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz. James thinks his Miami trip – squelching an enemy and
frolicking with his mistress – was a success. Now come the
complications from his wife, her sister and the young driver they
both lust for. It's a fairly good hour, with some pivotal moments.

“Jonathan Strange
& Mr. Norell,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Trying to help the British
battle Napoleon's army, Strange finds some disturbing ancient magic.
The show, alas, no longer has its strong lead-in; “Orphan Black”
concluded last week and “Atlantis” returns at 9 p.m. today.

TV column for Friday, June 26

“In Performance at the White House,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local

For a rousing hour,
gospel voices soar. There are traditional greats (Shirley Caesar,
Rance Allen, Tamela Mann) and crossovers. Catch Lyle Lovett, Emmylou
Harris, Rodney Crowell, Darlene Love, Rhiannon Giddens (of Carolina
Chocolate Drops) and Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child).

The formal setting
can't catch the full power of gospel, but even half-wattage is
impressive. Then Aretha Franklin, a preacher's kid, wraps things up
powerfully. Some PBS stations follow with a rerun of a White House
country concert with Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, the Band Perry
and more.

“Teen Beach 2,” 8-10 p.m., Disney.

The original “Teen
Beach Movie” was a big hit, with its blend of pop music and goofy
plot: Maia Mitchell (the terrific “Fosters” co-star) and Ross
Lynch (“Austin & Ally”) played Mack and Bradty, modern-day
surfers who were swept inside a 1960s movie, promptly altering the
romances in the film.

Now that story is
simply flipped, with the beach-movie characters showing up in the
nowadays world of Mack and Brady. This will rerun at 11 a.m.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday ... and probably much more.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Last Ship,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

Here's a rare
cable/broadcast crossover. TNT had this season-opener on an
overcrowded night last Sunday and has the second episode at 9 p.m.
this Sunday; now it borrows CW on a quiet Friday.

The first season
began with Eric Dane as captain of a Navy ship that was secluded from
a global virus. He tried to keep the ship safe, while a doctor (Rhona
Mitra) scrambled for a cure. She found one, but corrupt officials
stood in the way. Tonight, some of the crew members join an
underground effort.

Other choices

Soccer, 7:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. With a Women's World Cup championship just three wins away,
the U.S. faces China. Don't expect a high-scoring thrill factor.
Three of China's four games have ended 1-0; the U.S. has only allowed
one goal in four games ... and that's been followed by 333 shut-out
minutes. The Americans have only totalled three goals in their last
three games, including a 0-0 tie on Fox.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Wednesday's

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Many choices are light, including “Bridesmaids” (2011) on
Oxygen, “Notting Hill” (1999) on Pop and the family fun of
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”
(2014) on Starz. But there's also “The Departed” (2006), Martin
Scorsese's richly layered Oscar-winner, on IFC, plus “Batman
Begins” (2005) on TNT and “Pirates of the Caribbean” (2003) on

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, William Forsythe plays an old-school
private-eye, helping probe the murder of a young woman who secretly
worked for an escort service.

“True Detective,”
9 p.m., HBO. Here's another chance to catch last Sunday's

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Long ago, someone killed a colleague of Henry (Len
Cariou). Now Henry's son (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner,
pushes for evidence to get a conviction.

“Lisa Lampanelli:
Back to the Drtawing Board,” 10 p.m., Epix. The problem here isn't
Lampanelli's harsh and abrasive language; in the right hands, that
can be very funny. The problem is that for the first half of the
show, she fails to accompany it with wit. There are eventually some
clever moments – her dog, she explains, is “as useless as a
Kardashian in a library” -- but they require a long wait.

TV column for Thursday, June 25

“Under the Dome” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Here's the show that
revived the notion of scripted, summertime series on the big
broadcast networks. It drew big ratings and another Steven Spielberg
summer show (“Extant”) followed. Others were encouraged; tonight
has eight scripted, non-rerun hours on the networks.

On “Dome,”
townspeople had hope for escaping via tunnels; now that plan triggers
more oddities. Also, we meet someone (former “CSI” star Marg
Helgenberger) who may have some explanations. And Eriq La Salle
(“ER”) plays the CEO of the energy company run by Dale Barbara's

“Rookie Blue” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC.

Last season ended
with a bomb exploding in the police stations. The repairs, it seems,
provided a three-week vacation for these telegenic and sexually
charged cops. Andy (Missy Peregrym, the show's likeable star) and Sam
savored a rural retreat; Diaz found a hot-blooded (and married)

Much of that is soon
wiped aside. There's jolting news for Sam and a harsh surprise for
Diaz; a crisis for Andy soon has the entire precinct involved. This
is a serialized hour, leaving everything in limbo. But with one
exception – a flat, one-dimensional visiting detective – it's
solid and well-made.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Astronaut Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC..

It's easy to gripe
about this portrait of the wives of the first U.S. astronauts. The
view of journalism is absurd; a “crisis” – Marge Slayton fears
people will learn she's a divorcee – is hardly compelling.

Still, “Club”
remains interesting. Based on a non-fiction book, it's a
larger-than-life story, with interesting people. When Annie Glenn,
shy and stammering, tries to duck a meeting with the un-shy Lyndon
Johnson, we see the raw drama of an amiable average soul, caught up
in giant events.

Other choices

“Boom” debut, 8
p.m., Fox. Tom Papa, the comedian who hosted Jerry Seinfeld's “The
Marriage Ref,” hosts tihis quiz show, which has a twist: A wrong
answer might bring syrup or slime or such.

“Big Brother,” 8
p.m., CBS. This is the second half of the two-night season-opener.
Next Thursday, “Big Brother” moves to 9 p.m. and has its first

“The Crimson Wing”
(2008), 8 and 11:30 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Here's another chance to see
this beautifully filmed Disney nature movie, focusing on Africa's
annual million-flamingo convergence.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Halfway through its 10-week run, this fascinating drama
rested last week, to make room for golf. Now it's back, with what
could be a key episode: Ethan (Matt Dillon) starts learning details
who these townspeopl are and how they came to Wayward Pines.

“Mistresses,” 9
p.m., ABC. Lasr week's two-hour opener managed to shift its identity
in its second half, turning lighter and more likabler. The
wet-blanket Savi fled (Alyssa Milano has left the show) and a lighter
character was added, with Jennifer Esposito as a rich woman who's
great at business and awful at spying on her husband. Tonight, Karen
playing a life-saving medical door.

“Aquarius,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week ended, bizarrely with the fictional cop Hodiak
(David Duchovny) delivering a fierce beating to Charles Manson. Only
the intervention of a young cop (who was undercover, trying to
befriend Manson) prevented a murder. Now Hodiak sinks into despair;
some of these scenes might seem well-done, if they hadn't been inside
such a one-not, perpetual-growl show.

“Hannibal,” 10
p.m., NBC. Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) returns, obsessed with catching
Hannibal Lecter. Jack (Laurence Fishburne), distracted by his wife's
failing health, wants Will to abandon the search.

TV column for Wednesday, June 24

“Mr. Robot” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

After the first
eight minutes, you'll be hooked. The gem of TV's summer season, “Mr.
Robot” has brilliant writing, stylish direction and a memorable new

Rami Malek is 34, an
American with half-Egyptian roots (he's the pharaoh in “Night at
the Museum” films); he brings an unblinking intensity to a great
role. Elliot fits TV's favorite niche, the Sheldon-Sherlock-Scorpion
guy who's brilliant, but socially clumsy. For him, however, the
stakes are bigger. He's a computer hacker who sees injustice, fights
evil and feels people are following him. They are.

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

For its 17th
summer, this show aims for a bigger look and fresh detours. The house
itself is now twice as tall, to allow for a 22-foot-high “wave
wall”; it also has a roof that people can walk on and see through.
And each week, two guests will arrive to set off that week's twists.

Still, the basics
remain -- telegenic housemates, sometimes with bad behavior. There
are 14, ranging in age from 22 to 33, including a wrestler, a poker
player, a poker dealer and a dentist. Coming up are episodes at 8
p.m. Thursday and Sunday; next week, Thursday moves to 9 p.m., with
the first eviction.

ALTERNATIVE: “First Peoples” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Here are fresh looks
at the start of human history. The second hour follows the
traditional view that modern humans began in Eastern Africa 200,000
years ago, but then finds variations. Could there have been a second
starting point in Western Africa? Was there inter-species breedng
with Neanderthals?

By comparison, the
first hour seems almost current, viewing the Americas. It views the
first signs of humans here (13,500 and 13,800 years ago), and raises
new questions: Did the first people come by boat from Polynesia, with
others coming later by ice bridge? DNA research brings some

Other choices

“America's Got
Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. Both
shows still have more auditions, but they pause to rerun previous
ones. “Talent” has highlights of what's happened so far; “Ninja”
reruns its Houston try-outs.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. The show's 99th episode brings two everyday
sort of challenges: Make an exceptional breakfast dish in 45 minutes;
also, make a TV dinner.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. It's a night of audience-pleasers, for kids – the delightful
“Rio” (2011) on Disney – and grown-ups. That includes adventure
(“Divergent,” 2014, on HBO), comedy (“Sex and the City, 2008,
on E) and both, with Eddie Murphy's terrivic “Beverly Hills Cop”
(1984) on CMT.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. For a senior citizen, Pops (George Segal) tends to
celebrate Halloween hardily. In a rerun, he accidentally sets off a
fire and is evicted; now Adam has his Grandpa living with him.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In this rerun, video from the wedding reveals that Phil
is responsible for the cold that has been hitting everyone on the

season-opener, 9 p.m., USA. As the fifth season starts, things have
flipped: Mike is almost comfortable (he and Rachel are now a steady
couple); Harvey is not. Harvey (Gabriel Macht) fumes because Donna is
working for the nasty Louis; more trouble is ahead, when an upcoming
partner challenges Harvey's brash style. And coming is a big case for
Mike (Patrick Adams) and Louis.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Families have changed thoroughly from the
Ozzie-and-Harriet days ... but what about that family's descendants?
Gunnar Nelson -- grandson of Ozzie and Harriet, son of Rick, nephew
of Mark Harmon, half of the Nelsons music duo -- has a fairly new
marriage, with two step-kids; tonight, his wife swaps with the family
of Vince Neil, of Motley Crue fame.

TV column for Tuesday, June 23

“Another Period” debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

Imagine a truly
perverse “Downton Abbey,” illed with crazed Americans. Natasha
Leggero and Riki Lindhome have written that here and gave themselves
dandy roles.

They're sisters in a
1902 Rhode Island family that has too much money and too little class
and sense. Jason Ritter is their brother and Christina Hendricks
(“Mad Men”) is the new maid with schemes of her own. The opener
is a bit blunt at first, then keeps getting funnier. Soon, the family
is trying to impress a social arbitrer (Thomas Lennon) and Helen
Keller; the result is sometimes hilarious.

“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

When we met Liv in
the opener (which reran last week), she was a medical resident, tired
and somber ... especially since she inadvertently became a zombie.
Now we see what's next: As a medical examiner, she can munch the
brains of victims and get clues to their murders.

She also adds some
of the traits of the departed. After munching an artist, the drab and
dour Liv suddenly wants bright colors and lots of sex; it was a fun
hint of this show's potential.

ALTERNATIVE: “Extreme Weight Loss,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Tiffany Kasunich was
once a Temple University soccer goalie, tall and fit at 156 pounds;
Cain Myers was a high school wrestler and football player, also fit.
They met, fell in love and fell into a festive-food mode; four years
later, they weighted 260 and 357 pounds.

Now Chris and Heidi
Powell push them to get fit and get married in six months. This is
complicated by his gambling addiction (he admits to losing $250,000)
and her health woes (ulcerative colitis); it's boosted by their
outgoing personalities. Forget the “Biggest Loser” weepers; this
is a fun journey.

Other choices

“The Roosevelts”
conclusion 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The rerun of Ken
Burns' brilliant documentary wraps up Franklin Roosevelt's story and
follows the rising role of his widow Eleanor.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun mixes some light holiday moments (it aired on
Halloween week) and a serious story: A Navy commander's wife, a
therapist, has been killed.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Navy officer with a top security
clearance is killed, the team must determine if there was an
intelligence breach.

“World's Funniest”
return, 9 p.m., Fox. The show's early episodes aired (as “World's
Funniest Fails”) this spring; they were heavy-handed, but drew
fairly good ratings. Now the show returns, again with Terry Crews
hosting; tonight's hour offers clips backing the theme, “Animals:
Nature's Biggest Jerks.”

“I Can Do That,”
10 p.m., NBC. This hour (which follows “America's Got Talent”
auditions at 8) has celebrities trying to match flashy teams of
skaters, modern dancers and ballroom dancers.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Titled “Rape on the Night Shift,”
this documentary probes the sexual abuse faced by immigrant women who
have overnight cleaning jobs.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX. Last week's season-opener found the dictator reluctant to
order the death of the brother (Barry) who had planned a coup. A
hanging involved someone else, under a hood; Barry – until
recently, a Pasadena pediatrician – was dumped in the desert to die
anonymously. Yes, that defies believability on many levels; still, it
sets up strong moments tonight: Barry is stumbling, his wife is
demanding the body, his brother is trying to ignore assasination
attempts as a big oil deal nears.