TV column for Wednesday, June 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Little Big Shots” season finale (8 p.m.) and more, NBC.

If some hockey
moments had gone the other way, this line-up would have been bumped.
But the Penguins won, wrapping up the finals in six games; now
“Shots” ends its season as scheduled. Steve Harvey brings back a
12-year-old Welsh singer, a 10-year-old pianist and a 4-year-old
worship leader.

That's followed by a
good, new “Carmichael” episode at 9 (Jerrod is near a mall
shooting) and a “Superstore” rerun (there's a one-day sales goal)
at 9:30. At 10, an excellent This Is Us” rerun has Randall's
adoptive mother secretly meeting his birth father.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Steve Harvey's Funderdome,” 10 p.m., ABC.

It's a two-network
night for Harvey, with shows on NBC at 8 and ABC on 10. You'll also
find his talk show, syndicated to individual stations; and ABC has
his “Celebrity Family Feud” at 8 p.m. Sundays.

This one is sort of
a mix of “Shark Tank” (entrepreneurs pitching products) and
“World of Dance” (circular theater and screaming crowd). The
difference is that the audience decides who gets the funding. This
episode (rerun from Sunday) has loud people pitching so-so ideas.
Saving the show is Harvey, who keeps slowing things down to add a
much-needed human touch.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS.

From Janis Joplin to
Willie Nelson, talented singers keep moving to Austin, Texas. Now, it
seems, they're everywhere ... which Darius Rucker finds here.
Pretending to be a 62-year-old teacher, he sees talent in a club and
on a street-corner; an open-mic host glows with her music and
likability.

Then Rucker starts
to sing; “Is that Hootie?” someone whispers. It is, sort of; once
the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, Rucker is now a country star
who offers an amiable touch in this rerun.

Other choices
include:

“The Handmaid's
Tale,” any time, Hulu. The acclaimed first season concludes; you
can also binge on the previous nine episodes.

“Queen Sugar,”
7-11 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Six days before the second season
starts, it's catch-up time. Here are the final four episodes of the
first year; the full season will rerun Sunday.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Over the first two weeks, the judges picked an appealing
bunch of home chefs. Now those 20 finalists must make something using
the 12 most popular ingredients.

“Kingdom,” 8 and
11 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T. With his championship intact and no
commitments, Ryan seemed ready to get big-time offers. Instead, he
went drinking with Garo and signed a three-fight deal; now Lisa must
prove her worth as manager. Meanwhile, Jay (retired from fighting, he
says) sees a chance for a real-estate deal with Ryan, Also, Alvey has
a health scare and Lisa has a date.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Rushing to catch a flight, Mitchell and Cameron are
fighting the effect of sleeping pills. Also in this rerun, Phil and
Claire accidentally meet Alex's new boyfriend.

“Blood Drive”
opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. This is, Syfy says, in the grand tradition
(well, semi-grand) of “grindhouse” movies. An honest cop and a
dangerous beauty link for a gory, cross-country race.

“Fargo,” 10
p.m., FX. This northern world has been chaotic since Emmit Stussy
accidentally killed his brother, Ray. Now – a week from the finale
of a terrific tale – Emmit has wandered into the police station,
ready to talk. Nikki, who was Ray's fiancee, has been on the run, but
wants to negotiate.

TV column for Tuesday, June 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Downward Dog.” 8 p.m., ABC.

The main characters
in this clever show sample some new worlds tonight. For Nan, who's a
human, that's the corporate sleekness of Manhattan; it's a huge leap
from her Pittsburgh home. And for Martin, who's a dog, it's the
outside world on trash day; he soon has a feeding frenzey.

These are neatly
layered characters, skillfully played by Allison Tolman (from the
first “Fargo” series) and by ... well, a dog plus Samm Hodges'
voice. They make this a pleasant summer surprise.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“World of Dance,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Here's the last of
the three audition rounds, before duels begin next week. Performers
range from a couple soloists (one tap, one contemporary) to hip hop
from the 19-member Chapkis Dance Family.

One group tonight
may seem familiar. Jabbawockeez was the first winner of Randy
Jackson's “America's Best Dance Crew” in 2008; it has done the
other big shows (“Dancing With the Stars,” “So You Think You
Can Dance”) plus commercials and rock tours and launched a
nine-person Las Vegas hip hop show. Other styles tonight are ballroom
and flamenco, plus lots of jazz and contemporary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Genius,” 9 p.m., National Geographic, rerunning at
11.

Previous episodes –
three of them rerunning from 6-9 p.m. -- leaped deftly between the
young and old Albert Einstein. But now, a week from the two-hour
finale, is a key moment: Einstein – already famous – is grilled
by a U.S. consul, to see if he can move from Nazi Germany to America.

There's a prologue –
illustrating J. Edgar Hoover's anti-Communist rage – along with
occasional flashbacks. Mostly, though, this simply has three great
actors – Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, Oscar-nominee Emily Watson and
Vincent Kartheiser of “Mad Men” -- with lives at stake.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Animal Kingdom,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

Last week, a quick
heist got Deran the money he needs to buy a bar; now he has to decide
what he'll risk to get a liquor license. Meanwhile, Baz plan a much
bigger job stealing from a mega-church ... unaware that Pope is
bonding with a young woman from the church.

Then again, Pope has
other secrets ... including the fact that he killed the mother of
Baz's daughter. And we still don't know much about Manny; tonight,
“Smurf” takes her grandson to his wake.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's the third round of auditions, with
more next week.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A sailor's dying wish is that an old murder case be re-opened.
That's a rerun, but there's an new “Real NCIS” documentary at 10
p.m.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. A new episode of this oft-clever show comes up with an
intriguing notion: Liv and Blaine both munch the brains of a
conspiracy theorist ... leading to a surge of paranoia.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. At times, this comedy can turn dead-serious.
That's clear in both of these reruns. First, family members feel
aftershocks from the election; then Bow confronts her own feelings
about being biracial, when her son brings home a white girlfriend.

“Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 9:30, Fox. The precinct has a shaky new captain (Ken
Marino). And Captain Holt? In this rerun, he and Jake are suddenly on
the other side of the interrogation table.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 10:30 p.m., ABC. Eddie's mom gives him a lesson about hard
work. That's something the family knows about. This time, it's
keeping the restaurant open on Thanksgiving.

TV column for Monday, June 12


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

The grown-ups are
back now – and that's definitely good. Last summer, “Dance”
retreated to a junior edition; now it returns to ages 18-30 ... and
instantly showcases awesome talent.

That starts with a
Hawaiian who merges modern styles and a Russian husband and wife who
make a ballroom routine (partly blindfolded) both classy and sensual;
it ends with Russian twins – who reached America two days earlier –
and stunning choreography. Once three hours a week, “Dance” is
down to one, so this opener packs one triumph on top of another. It's
overkill ... yet quite impressive.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Superhuman” debut, 9:01 p.m., Fox.

Here is a show that
tests ... well, anything. “You probably are really good at
something, but you feel it's too silly to show off,” Seth Porges
says. His own ability involves spotting a micro-difference between
two objects; that helped him to impress his now-girlfriend ... and
now helps impress a TV audience.

Other skills vary –
a perfect memory ... contorting the body into odd shapes ...
identifying the sound of any frog ... turning colors into music. This
is presented amiably by host Kal Penn; then a $50,000 winner is
chosen by judges (including a surprisingly clever Mike Tyson) and the
studio audience.

 

AND MUST-SEE III
(really): Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, with previews at 8.

For a while, it
seemed like this wouldn't be needed. The Golden State Warriors won a
record 15 straight play-off games, putting them one away from a total
sweep.

But LeBron James'
Cleveland Cavaliers roared back Friday with a 49-point first quarter,
en route to the win. Now the play-offs return to California, with the
Warriors up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.

 

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Ninja Warrior” and “Spartan,” 8 and
10 p.m., NBC.

What started as an
obscure cable show has become a summertime ratings hit. Now “Ninja”
starts its ninth season with people facing demanding obstacle
courses. Between seasons, co-host Matt Iseman – a
doctor-turned-comedian – became the first (and last) champion of
“New Celebrity Apprentice.”

And now there's a
companion show. “Spartan” also has obstacle courses, but this
involves teams.

Other choices
include:

“Betty and
Coretta” (2013), 6-9 p.m., BET. Angela Bassett and Gloria Reuben
play the widows of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. In a night for
gifted actresses, there's also Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at
Tiffany's” (1960) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies and
Jennifer Lawrence in the first half of the two-film “Hunger Games”
finale (2014), at 8 on TNT.

“Kevin Can Wait”
and “Man With a Plan,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. The first rerun –
Kevin hires someone to do his chores – has some funny moments, but
turns way too silly. The second – Adam plans the school's
Thanksgiving feast – works because of James Burrows, TV's best
comedy director.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Temporarily moving this show and “Life in Pieces” to Mondays
has boosted a so-so comedy night. In this rerun, Violet is sick ...
which is the least of her problems.

“The Putin
Interviews,” 9 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at midnight. Over a
two-year period, Oliver Stone had more than a dozen interviews with
the Russian president. Now that's been boiled down to a four-part
documentary, with one hour per night. On Thursday, all four will run
together.

“Stitchers,” 9
p.m., Freeform. In the season's second episode (following the second
“Shadowhunters” at 8), a young woman's body has been found in her
rich boyfriend's pool.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team heads to Ireland to mark the first
anniveraary of Walter's sister's death. Then Walter finds that a
poisonous cloud endangers the Irish village.

“Better Call
Saul,” 10 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:07. Last week's episode
(rerunning at 8:53) saw Jimmy sink into despair, Chuck emerge from
isolation and Kim confront Hamlin, her former law-firm boss. Now, a
week before the season-finale, it's Chuck's turn to argue with
Hamlin.

TV column for Sunday, June 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Tony awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

Each year, this
Broadway showcase offers great musical moments. Tonight, we can
expect big production numbers from the best-musical nominees --
“Great Comet of 1812” (12 nominations), “Dear Evan Hansen”
(9), “Come From Away” (7) and “Groundhog Day” (7).

And the nominated
revivals? There will be numbers from “Falsettos” (5) and possibly
“Miss Saigon” (2). The “Hello, Dolly” (10) revival is
expected to offer a David Hyde Pierce solo, with Bette Midler as a
presenter but not performing. Other presenters include Stephen
Colbert, Tina Fey and Josh Gad.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Steve Harvey's Funderdome” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

Harvey's TV empire
keeps growing – a talk show in the daytime ... “Little Big Shots”
on NBC ... “Celebrity Family Feud” starting its season at 8 p.m.
today on ABC ... and now this.

It's sort of a
noisier version of “Shark Tank,” with the studio audience voting
on which inventions to fund. The ideas are so-so, the inventors are
overwrought, but Harvey adds humor and humanity

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on Earth,” 9 and 10:45 p.m., National
Geographic.

Sebastian Junger is
a gifted writer (“The Perfect Storm”) and filmmaker (the
Oscar-nominated “Restrepo”). Now he's co-directed and narrated a
richly detailed documentary about Syria and ISIS.

Junger gives some
blame to world leaders – Bush for bumbling the Iraqi occupation,
Obama for scuttling an international attack on Syria, Putin for
siding with the Syrian dictator. Mostly, however, he focuses deeply
on the regular people, encased in an unrelenting battle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “American Grit” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

These 17 contestants
are a fragile group. Hannah cries a lot, Richard eats a lot, Gigi
likes glitter and giant fingernails. Will has been bullied; Alison
has been afraid to leave her house.

Now Jon Cena and
four ex-soldiers will lead them in challenges. This is a sharp
makeover for a show that debuted last summer. It's a big improvement,
but also has a major flaw: Tonight's challenges are simply tests of
pain; this is torture-TV, just a half-step from televised
waterboarding.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers,”
7 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun, involving the planetarium's
final laser show. Then a new episode has Bob trapped overnight in a
wilderness-equipment store; also, Aunt Gayle (Megan Mullally)
rehearses her one-woman show.

Hockey, 8 p.m. ET
NBC. It's game six, with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nashville
Predators.

“Menendez: Blood
Brothers,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. When two rich brothers were charged
with shooting their parents, their trial became a TV event. That
story will be an NBC mini-series this fall, but here's a movie, from
the brothers' view. The actors are good, especially Myko Olivier as
Erik Menendez and a subtle Courtney Love (really) as his mom. Still,
the story feels lurid, nasty and kind of tacky.

“Claws” debut, 9
p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. Desna (Niecy Nash) dreams of a owning a
posh place, servicing rich women's nails; for now, she's stuck in a
storefront salon, doing chores for some crude thugs. “Claws”
starts poorly, gains ground as it humanizes Desna, then has a
powerhouse finish.

“The $100,000
Pyramid” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. One of TV's best games is
back, with an OK host (Michael Strahan) and sharp celebrities –
Leslie Jones, LL Cool J, Tom Bergeron, Jennifer Nettles. The lone
flaw is a dumbing-down; one category simply required pointing to body
parts.

“I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime. In last week's opener, a comedian had a
good “Tonight” debut, then deliberately (perhaps) stepped in
front of a bus. Tonight, if possible, gets even darker.

TV column for Saturday, June 10


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

Jimmy Fallon
returned triumphantly in this April episode. An upbeat guy, he's
rarelty done the harsh, anti-Trump stuff. That's left here to Melissa
McCarthy (who gets big laughs), “Weekend Update” and Alec
Baldwin, although Fallon does show up as Trump's silent son-in-law.

Instead, he savors
goofy stuff – a suitor, singing for a second-chance ... a
blue-collar Bostonian at Harvard ... a Civil War soldier doing a
modern chorus ... a hilarious bit (with blitzing costume changes) as
young and old John Travolta. Harry Styles appears throughout the show
and sings powerfully.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Orphan Black” season-opener, 10 p.m. ET , BBC America.

Five years ago, we
met Sarah, a streetwise drifter who impersonated a lookalike cop. She
soon found more lookalikes; we were heading into the bizarre story of
a global clone conspiracy.

That has kept
getting wilder, but Emmy-winner Tatiana Maslany has been brilliant as
all the clones. Now one of them (icy Rachel) is in control and three
others are hiding in the woods – brainy Cosmina, the feral (and
pregnant) Helena and Sarah ... wounded, perplexed, determined to
retrieve her daughter. It's a powerful start to the final season of a
beautifully crafted show.

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

In the quiet beauty
of northern Minnesota, Victor Barnard led his River Road Fellowship.
He promised an isolated, godly life; he also asked families to let
their first-born daughters stay with him.

Tonight, this
well-made documentary series focuses on the family of Lindsay
Tornambe, who moved in with him at 13; later, she would allege a
decade of sexual abuse. In a change-of-pace for “In an Instant,”
we hear of the efforts ro rescue her and to arrest Barnard when he
fled to Brazil.

Other choices
include:

Ben Affleck movies,
cable. Affleck's 2016 films are back-to-back on HBO – the
disappointing “Batman v. Superman” at 5:25 p.m. and the fairly
good action film “The Accountant” at 8. Also at 8 are two of his
serious dramas -- “The Town” (2010) on IFC and the riveting “Gone
Girl” (2014) on FXM.

“Blue Bloods,” 8
p.m., CBS. Danny is working a child-abuse case that's complicated by
diplomatic immunity; his dad, the police commissioner, intervenes
even though he doesn't have jurisdiction

“World of Dance,”
8 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the second round of auditions.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 p.m., ABC. How do you politely determine which person is
really a professional butt model? That's one of the problems this
rerun poses for Martha Plimpton, Tom Bergeron, Sherri Shepherd and
David Arquette. They also meet Oprah's first guest, plus a
venom-extracter and more.

“The Son”
season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10. In 1849, the tribe faces
a fresh crisis. And in 1915, Eli's plan forces Pete to make a
life-and-death decision.

“Doctor Who,” 9
p.m. ET, BBC America. While waiting for “Orphan Black,” catch a
new “Who” ... which will make any show that follows seem normal.
Written by Mark Gatiss, the brilliant “Sherlock” co-creator, this
starts with the words “God Save the Queen” scrawled on Mars.

“Genius,” 10
p.m., National Geographic. In a rerun, Einstein is the only scientist
to resist Germany's military build-up. That puts him at odds with his
patriotic friend Fritz Haber.