TV column for Saturday, Sept. 20



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

A week before “SNL” opens its 40th season, it
reruns the episode that closed the 39
th, with Andy Samberg hosting
and St. Vincent as music guest. It’s uneven (as usual), but has its moments.


The best come is the opening, a clever sketch about the fight
between Solange and Jay Z; the worst is a return of the one-note “kissing
family” sketch. Even that one is semi-salvaged by a flood of past stars. This
busy night includes Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, Fred Armisen, Maya
Rudolph and more.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”
conclusion, 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10.


Franklin Roosevelt talked longingly of retiring, spending
long days staring at the sunset; Eleanor did not, she knew only action. They
loved each other, Daisy Suckley (his friend and admirer) said, but “the fact
that they could not relax together or play together is the tragedy of their
joint lives.”


He died at 63, less than a month before victory in Europe,
but not before propelling the United Nations and the GI Bill. She lived to 78,
becoming a powerful UN force. The end of this superb series is boosted
immensely by the memories of Edna Gurewitsch, who became Eleanor’s warm friend
56 years ago.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Cedar Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark.


Maybe blondes don’t have more fun, after all. This hour has
four of them, spread over two generations; each is forlorn, ranging from a
shattered marriage to mere suspicion. By comparison, half the brunettes are
quite cheerful, including Olivia (Andie MacDowell), who is a judge and
dispenser of wisdom.


The result is an OK drama in a gorgeous setting. Its
depiction of newspaper work is wildly off-kilter, but that sets up a new crisis
at the end of the hour … and may create another grumpy brunette next week.


Other choices include:


Football, 7:30 and 8 p.m. ET. Fox has Oklahoma (ranked No.
4) at West Virginia at 7:30 p.m., but ABC may have the top game – Clemson (No.
22) at Florida State (No. 1) at 8. There’s much more, on cable.


Movies, 7:50 and 8 p.m., cable. “Rio” (2011), an animated
delight, is at 7:50 p.m. on Disney, launching a great movie night. At 8, there’s
a clever drama (“Julie & Julia, 2009, Bravo), plus action (“Transformers:
Dark of the Moon,” 2012, FX) and Matthew McConaughey in the OK “The Lincoln
Lawyer” (2011, TNT). But the best may be the sharply witty “His Girl Friday”
(1940), at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Things get complicated in this rerun,
when a link is found between a murder victim and the boyfriend of Diane
Sterling (Melinda McGraw), who’s the ex-wife of both Gibbs and Fornell.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder of
a railroad security guard points to a possible terrorist plot involving a
train.


“Beyonce and Jay Z,” 9 p.m., HBO. We can expect some
powerful moments from this power couple. Wrapping up their tour, this concert
was taped last weekend in Paris; it’s part of a strong HBO night, with Ben
Stiller’s “Walter Mitty” (2013) at 7 p.m.


“Doctor Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. The Doctor must break
into the universe’s most dangerous bank.


 “Hell on Wheels,” 9
p.m., AMC. Campbell hires a new federal marshal. That’s part of a big Western
night, with “Rio Bravo” (1959), a Howard Hawks classic with John Wayne, at 6
p.m.


TV column for Friday, Sept. 19



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0” and “Blue Bloods,” 9
and 10 p.m., CBS.

A week before these ratings-leaders start their seasons,
they rerun the season-finales. First, “Five-0” includes the return of Nick
Jonas (as computer-hacker Ian Wright) and Mark Dascascos (as Wo Fat, escaped
from prison). To save his kidnapped daughter, Grover (Chi McBride) must steal
$100 million.


Then Danny is put on modified duty, after looking into an
off-limits case. Suspicious, he passes it on to his dad (Tom Selleck), the
police commissioner … who is soon startled by what he finds.


TONIGHT’S ODDITY: “Z Nation,” 10 p.m., Syfy.


The public passion for zombies seems to be ongoing. Last week’s
hyperactive opener drew 1.6 million viewers, huge by Syfy standards; now, after
that fierce episode, “Z” has at least a bit of plot.


One man seems to have zombie-immunity. Now our heroes (led
by Tom Everett Scott) must reluctantly take him cross-country, to a California
lab. Tonight, they only get as far as New Jersey before needing a dangerous
mission to get more fuel.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,”
8 p.m., PBS; rerunning at 10.


As war neared, this terrific documentary says, the majority
of Americans even opposed accepting refugees. The U.S. military was ranked 18
th;
its Army (smaller than Romania’s) had rifles designed in 1903. An isolation
movement ranged from Charles Lindbergh to students Gerald Ford and John
Kennedy.


Franklin Roosevelt hesitated until resistance to the war
faded. Republicans chose a non-isolationist (Wendell Willkie), who endorsed a
draft before he did; Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s quick declaration of war erased
any doubts. Amid a massive build-up, the Depression vanished; so did social-reform
programs.


Other choices include:


“Utopia” and “Red Band Society,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Getting
a small head start on other networks, Fox wraps up the second week of “Utopia”
and reruns Wednesday’s OK opener to “Red Band”: In a children’s hospital,
mismatched teens find snatches of joy, agony, humor and, maybe, romance.


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Chuck
has two woes; he’s separated from his wife and his purebred dog has become
pregnant via Mike’s mutt. In the second, Eve’s boyfriend disagrees with her
plan to wear her ROTC uniform to the prom.


“Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here’s one
final rerun of the first season. Grylls heads into Utah canyons with former
two-sport star Deion Sanders, who had never been camping before.


“Girl Meets World,” 8:30 p.m., Disney. When Cory gives a
living-history assignment, his daughter and her friends are swept back to 1961
New York.


“Mean Girls” (2004), 9 p.m., ABC Family. Tina Fey wrote this
clever script about a new student, tugged between two cliques. Lindsay Lohan
leads a terrific cast that includes Rachel McAdams and Lacey Chabert, plus
“Saturday Night Live” alumni -- Fey, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows and Ana Gasteyer.


“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. The hospital tries a new
operating-room procedure. Its administrator continues to wheel and deal, now
with used equipment. Also, Cornelia reconsiders her engagement.   


TV column for Thursday, Sept. 18



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” 8
p.m., PBS; rerunning at 10.

Here’s the key chapter in this superb, seven-night
documentary. It finds Franklin Roosevelt starting his presidency of a troubled
land – unemployment nearing one-third, nine million savings accounts lost to
bank failure, hope fading. In his first 100 days, he remade the financial
system and launched programs.


This includes his flaws, both personal (his long affair with
sixth-cousin Daisy Suckley) and political (failure with price-fixing, caution
on civil rights, over-reaching on court-packing). But it focuses on a
steamroller of fresh programs – from Social Security to dams to three million
Civilian Conservation Corps jobs.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Scandal,” 9-11 p.m., ABC; and/or
“Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs” (2014), 8-10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.


Tony Goldwyn is busy playing leaders, good and bad. He plays
Jeffs, who in real life was billed as “the man with 80 wives”; head of a fundamentalist
church, he was convicted of sex with girls ages 15 and 12.


And on ABC, he’s President Fitzgerald Grant, who has been
Olivia’s most important client and lover. Now – setting up next week’s
season-opener – is a rerun of the two-hour season-finale. As his re-election
campaign slumps, Fitz may ignore Olivia’s advice; the final hour is set on
Election Day.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m.,
Sundance.


The assassins persist. Nessa’s brother was killed; last
week, she seemed to die in an explosion.


Now this eight-week mini-series ends beautifully. The story
is way too complicated, with Israeli, Palestinian, American and British forces
all scheming. Still, this final chapter is so richly filmed, written and acted
that it packs great emotional power.


Other choices include:


“Sleepy Hollow,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. On Monday, “Hollow” starts
its second season, linking with the equally cinematic “Gotham” debut. Setting
it up, here’s a rerun of the season-finale: Ichabod learns a secret about
George Washington’s death; Capt. Irving makes a painful decision and worlds
collide.


“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m., ABC. Settling into its new
timeslot, the show reruns the season finale. Colleagues say farewell to
Cristina, then face chaos after an apparent terrorist act.


Football, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS. When CBS launched its half-season
package of Thursday games, the mood was dampened by the evolving stories about
fired star Ray Rice. We’ll see if that changes in the second game, with Tampa
Bay (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1); both lost Sunday, Tampa Bay on a last-minute
field goal.


“Project Runway,” 9 p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 10:31.
Usually designing for sleek models, the contestants spend this episode making
clothes for girls.


“The Mysteries of Laura,” 10 p.m., NBC. This show is getting
a big push. Its opener debuted Wednesday after the “America’s Got Talent”
finale and reruns tonight, after the season’s second “Biggest Loser.” This hour
often feels forced, but star Debra Messing and director McG keep it
entertaining.


“Married” and “You’re the Worst,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., FX.
Both shows – the so-so “Married” and very funny “Worst” – wrap up their first
seasons. In “Married,” everyone visits AJ in rehab. In “Worst,” Jimmy and
Gretchen are reluctantly realizing that they like each other for reasons beyond
sex.


 


TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 17



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

After endless summer hours of auditions and commotion, we’re
about to get a million-dollar winner.


That could be a singer – which happened in five of the first
six seasons; this year, there’s Miguel Dakota, Emily West and 12-year-old
Quintavious Johnson. But the last two seasons have been won by specialty acts;
now we have the gymnastic AcroArmy, magician Mat Franco and music group Sons of
Serendip.


TONIGHT’S SHOULD-TRY: “Red Band Society” debut, 9 p.m., Fox.


As teens confront mortality, they find fresh drama and even
some fun. Lately, that has brought “The Fault in Our Stars,” “If I Stay,” “Chasing
Life” and now this uneven but interesting series.


A children’s-hospital wing links teens who wouldn’t be seen
with each other otherwise. Ranging from a cheerleader to a nerd, they’re united
by illness and spare time. Mix in a decent doctor and a cranky-but-caring nurse
(Octavia Spencer) and you have a fair mix of comedy, drama and (maybe) romance.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Extant” season-finale (CBS) or “The
Mysteries of Laura” debut (NBC), 10 p.m.


One show ends, another arrives, putting popular stars in
tricky places. For “Extant,” it’s Oscar-winner Halle Berry. Her problems merely
began when she became pregnant during a solo space mission; now her offspring
endangers the world. She hopes to re-direct the Seraphim and save us from
deadly spores.


And for NBC, it’s Emmy-winner Debra Messing, playing a
police detective who has a semi-attentive (and estranged) husband and immensely
naughty twin boys. The opening case is so-so and the light moments (especially
involving the boys) seem horribly strained. Still, Messing makes it fairly
entertaining.


Other choices include:


“Jaws” (1975), 6:15 and 9 p.m., IFC. Here’s the start of a
surprisingly strong movie night. Also starting early is “The Amazing
Spider-Man” (2012), from 7-10 p.m. on FX.


“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” 8 p.m., PBS,
rerunning at 10. The mid-section of this superb, seven-night documentary no
longer has Teddy Roosevelt to propel it. In the aftermath of his death, his
cousin Franklin seeks the vice-presidential nomination, fails, then fades for
seven years while battling polio. He bounced back in 1928 (New York governor)
and ’32 (president).


“Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s one more eviction night.
That will be followed by an episode Friday and the finale next Wednesday.


More movies, 8 p.m., cable. On a superfluously strong night,
“Crazy Heart” (2009, CMT) has Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning perfection … “Men in
Black” (1997, AMC) has humor and special effects … “Holes” (2003) has a kids’
story with sardonic wit … and “For Your Eyes Only” (1981, BBC America) has James
Bond.


“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Fresh from winning
its fifth straight best-comedy Emmy, this reruns the two-part season-finale.
Mitch and Cam get married, amid semi-chaos.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. When Sonya finally captured evil Eleanor
last week, it looked like a big breakthrough. Not so; an inter-agency battle
creates frustration in this excellent episode, propelling Marco to attempt
something absurdly dangerous.


TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 16



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Mindy Project” season-opener, 9:30
p.m., Fox.

Some shows fall apart when their lead character falls in
love; not this one. Mindy is with Danny, a decent guy who really loves her;
that brings large laughs and small bits of warmth.


She keeps telling their colleagues intimate secrets about
him; then she finds the one secret he’s been hiding. Complicating things is the
arrival of Morgan’s ex-con cousin, played by Rob McElhenney of “It’s Always
Sunny in Philadelphia.” Despite an overload of sexual content, it’s an
excellent episode.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “America’s Got Talent,” 8 and 9-11
p.m., NBC.


First is a trimmed version of last week, which saw the top
12 acts perform, with half of them sent home. Then the survivors get their last
shot to get votes, before Wednesday’s million-dollar finale.


Half are singers – Miguel Dakota, vocal powerhouse Emily
West and 12-year-old soulster Quintavious Johnson. One group, Sons of Serendip,
is a foursome ranging from vocals to cello and harp. Then there’s AcroArmy (a
platoon of acrobat/gymnasts) and Mat Franco, an amazing close-up magician.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m., FX.


Desperate to hide the truth – that she killed the wife of
her son Jax – Jemma has ruined many lives. Last week she accused a young
Chinese men of the murder; Jax tortured and killed him. Now Jax begins a brutal
assault on the entire Chinese gang … and others in the way.


The result makes for high-octane entertainment, but leaves
no one to root for.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “The Roosevelts: An Intimate
History,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10.


Teddy Roosevelt left the presidency as the most popular man
in America, this terrific chapter says, and instantly regretted not running
again. He kept trying to get back on top.


Now we see his cousin Franklin rise, sharing the same sense
of joy. And we end with the funeral of Teddy, a vibrant man who died at 60. As
one policeman said: “There was such fun in being led by him.”


Other choices include:


“Dancing With the Stars,” 8 p.m., ABC. It’s time for the
first person to be ousted. Also, Smokey Robinson and Aloe Blacc combine for “My
Girl” and the show’s three new pros link for a dance number.


More reality, 8 p.m., Fox and CBS. In an end-of-summer
logjam, all four of the top networks have reality shows here. Fox’s “Utopia”
and CBS’ “Big Brother” face “Talent” and “Dancing With the Stars.”


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. The cartel has stolen a
submarine and plans to use it to haul drugs.


“New Girl” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox. The summer-wedding
season is ending, leaving friends in despair. The result is erratic and blunt,
but has its fun moments.


“The Jennie Garth Project” debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m., HGTV.
Garth – a TV star since the original “Beverly Hills 90210” – tackles a massive
project, gutting and rebuilding her Hollywood Hills home.


“Matador,” 9 p.m., El Rey. Life is complicated for Tony, a soccer
player and undercover cop. Now the team owner knows his scheme. Also, Tony has
a body to deal with … and doesn’t know who she was.


“Finding Carter,” 10 p.m., MTV. This started with Carter learning
that the woman she considered her mother had kidnapped her when she was 3. The
first season ends tonight with another dark secret.