TV column for Thursday, May 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sixties” debut, 9 p.m., CNN.

As the world quaked in the1960s, everything seemed to change
… except TV. Even in 1968-69, three of the top five shows in the Nielsen
ratings were “Mayberry,” “Family Affair” and “Gomer Pyle.”


This hour, “Television Comes of Age,” finds tiny hints of
change – two black stars (Diahann Carroll and Bill Cosby) … variety shows that
stirred with their content (Smothers Brothers) or style (“Laugh-In”) … and news
coverage with fresh vigor. It’s an OK hour, but has too broad a topic with too
little depth; on future Thursdays, better episodes (on Cuban crises, the
Kennedy assassination, etc.) have sharper focus.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox.


Deep conflicts ripple through Ryan Lopez’s troubled world.
He’s a cop (a good one, usually), secretly working for Javier Acosta, the crime
boss who protected him during childhood; one of Javier’s sons (straight-arrow
Daniel) is his best friend; the other (cruel Carlos) is his worst enemy.


In last week’s opener, Carlos killed the friend and police
partner of Ryan … who retaliated with an anonymous tip to the rival gang, which
blasted Carlos with crossfire. It was jolting … and short-sighted. In tonight’s
taut, well-made episode, police scramble to avoid a fierce gang war.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Undateable” debut, 9:01 and 9:30
p.m., NBC.


Rightly or not, Danny (Chris D’Elia) figures he knows a lot
about romance. Rightly (for sure), he figures the people around him don’t. With
help from his sister (Bianca Kajlich), he’ll guide them.


That sounds like fun … and sometimes is. Still, “Undateable”
is a very jokey show, casting stand-up comedies who try too hard to force a
laugh or add a broad gesture. It’s at its best when the laughs come naturally …
especially with the wonderfully understated humor of Ron Funches, as Shelly.


Other choices include:


“Hollywood Date Night,” 8 p.m., NBC. An all-new, all-comedy
NBC night starts here. The stars of the underappreciated (and cancelled) “Trophy
Wife,” Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford, join Arsenio Hall, actors Tony Hale
and Adam DeVine, and designer Nate Berkus.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sheldon
crestfallen after his discovery is disproven.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m., CBS. Jenny has usually been
the love-‘em-and-leave-‘em type in her lesbian romances. But now Brooke (Aly
Michalka, the former “Hellcats” star) refuses a second date; in disbelief, Jenny
turns to Walden for advice.


“The Normal Heart” (2014), 9 p.m., HBO. Shortly after
catching Jim Parsons’ comic perfection in “Big Bang,” see him deliver moving drama.
Some of the characters are overwrought, even for a time (early in the AIDS
crisis) when rage was needed. Parsons and Julia Roberts balance that with quiet
intensity.  


“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. Auditions continue, as
judges sift a 100-comedian field.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sherlock Holmes
facing a police inquiry, after an investigation goes terribly wrong.


TV column for Wednesday, May 28



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

For nine summers (and one fall), this show has offered dancers
who have talent and judges who care.  Here are the New Orleans and Chicago
auditions, with Wayne Brady and Jenna Elfman as guest judges.


There’s also a bonus that could be fun: During each of the
four audition weeks, two dance crews will perform; Justin Bieber, reportedly a
long-time “Dance” fan, has taped an introduction, asking viewers to choose their
favorite, via Twitter. The overall favorite crew will dance in the season’s finale.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Nova,” PBS (check local listings),
“The World Wars,” History; each 9-11 p.m.


With the 70th anniversary of D-Day just nine days
away, both networks boost their coverage. In the first two rounds of “World
Wars” (rerunning at 5 and 7 p.m.), we saw the key figures, from Hitler to
Patton, molded by World War I and the uneasy peace that followed; now the new
battle erupts.


Meanwhile, PBS focuses on the naval effort that sent 5,000
ships to Normandy, with a 200,000-man invasion force. This documentary shows
how engineers created ways to stop some of the mines and to make tanks
amphibious; it also scour the ocean bottom, for the hundreds of ships that were
sunk.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: World Music Awards, 8-10 p.m., NBC.


Against the glitzy backdrop of Monaco, performers are from
Europe, China and the U.S.


The Americans include Mariah Carey (winning the Icon Award
after topping 200-million mark in records sold in her career), Miley Cyrus
(performer of the year) and Jason Derulo (R&B performer of the year). Also
performing: Fall Out Boy, Flo Rida, Flip Maestro and Chris Cab.


Other choices include:


“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. A new murder may be the work
of a serial killer, endangering Chin.


Comedy, 8-11 p.m., ABC Family. As the “Melissa & Joey”
wedding nears, Joey’s mother (Faith Prince) and his estranged brother (Matthew
Lawrence, the real-life brother of Joseph Lawrence) show up.  That’s at 8 p.m., with “Baby Daddy” at 8:30
and the slight-but-pleasant “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (2009) at 9.


 “The Goldbergs,” 8:30
and 9:31 p.m., ABC. As ABC’s only new comedy to be renewed, this amiable show
suddenly gets the key summer slots behind “The Middle” AND “Modern Family.” In the
first rerun, the kids learn about their dad’s romantic past. In the second,
they see their mom’s competitive zeal.


 “Modern Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. The past can be tough to deal with in this rerun, when Jay re-visits
a closet convention and Cam takes Mitchell and Lily to his family farm.


“The 100,” 9 p.m., CW. Renewed for next season, this
well-made, futuristic teen drama still has some new episodes for this season.
Tonight, Finn risks his life and Raven has a deal for Bellamy.


“One Night Only,” 9-11 p.m. Spike. Gathering to pay tribute
to Don Rickles -- and/or roast-- him are comedy greats (Jerry Seinfeld, Jon
Stewart, David Letterman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler), plus Johnny Depp, Tracy
Morgan, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and more.


 “Motive,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Jennifer Beals guests in the season’s second episode. At first, this seems
like a simple case of self-defense during a home invasion; then complications
emerge.


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.