TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 17

“My Last Days” opener, 9 p.m., CW.

Claire Wineland is
19 and bubbly, a sweet-face teen who seems luminous on her podcast.
Darth Vader – yes, that's now his legal name – is none of those
things. After surviving a brutal childhood decades ago, he became a
tough and imposing force, plowing through “mudder” survival

Exact opposites ,
they have one thing in common: Both learned they'll die early. Justin
Baldoni (a “Jane the Virgin” co-star) has beautifully crafted
this first of consecutive three nights of documentaries about people
facing death. Claire (with cystic fibrosis) and Darth (leukemia) are
worth knowing.

II: “The A Word” season-finale, 10 p.m., Sundance.

After a fairly slow
start, “A Word” ends its seaon superbly. Even if you've skipped
the first five episodes, you'll be engrossed with this one. All you
need to know is this:

Paul and Alison are
struggling in small-town England. His widowed father owns the local
brewery, where Paul's brother (who's had job and marital troubles)
works. Now Paul is opening his pub today. His teen daughter will be
there; so will Joe, the 5-year-old whom Paul and Alison have never
publicly acknowledged is autistic. Then a crisis stirs emotions,
transforms lives and grips viewers.

ALTERNATIVE: Olympics, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight, 12:35
to 4:30 a.m., NBC; also, cable.

Much of NBC's
coverage is tape-delayed, but the network plans to go live with the
women's beach-volleyball gold-medal match. That's the event Kerri
Walsh Jennings of the U.S, has won (with her previous partner) in
three straight Olympics, during a 112-match winning streak.

There's more in
prime time, including men's decathlon and women's finals in 200-meter
run, 100-meter hurdles and long jump. On cable, live coverage starts
at 6:30 a.m. on Golf, 8 a.m. on NBC Sports Network, 9 a.m. on USA and
11 a.m. on MSNBC.

Other choices

(2015), 7:55 p.m., HBO. Amy Schumer's comedy – sometimes raunchy,
often clever -- leads a good movie night. For kids, there are
animated movies -- “Monsters vs. Aliens” (2009) at 7 p.m. on AMC,
“Ratatouille”(2007) at 8:30 on Freeform. And for any age, “We
Bought a Zoo” (2011) -- an amiable trifle based on a true story –
is 8 p.m. on FXX.

“The Real
O'Neals,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. In four straight reruns, these amiable
people try to adjust to sudden changes, after Kenny came out as gay
and his parents separated. The trickiest part comes at 9 p.m., when
they hope to keep all of this secret from the visiting grandmother
(Frances Conroy).

“MasterChef,” 8
and 9 p.m., Fox. Retreating to reruns during the Olympics, this
ranges from a mystery-box challege to splitting into teams to help 30
teens celebrate sweet-16 birthdays.

Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. Here's the second half of a rerun,
profiling Ronald Reagan.

“American Gothic,”
10 p.m., CBS. Garrett is finally forced to reflect on the 14 years he
spent in solitude. The result reveals family secrets.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX. This started as a tale of a good American, overwhelmed by
evil when he visits his native land. But now it has flipped: Consumed
by rage over the murder of his daughter, Bassam (Barry when he's back
in the U.S.) overstepped tragically. An upcoming election has brought
tough posturing on all sides. Until then, Bassam remains president,
plunging into deeper trouble.

“Mr, Robot,”
10:01 p.m., USA. By now, Elliot (Rami Malek) knows that Mr. Robot
(Christian Slater) is just in his imagination, a figment taking the
image of his late father. He's quit trying to resist him, however,
and simply tries to get along. Meanwhile, Joanna faces an ultimatum.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 16

“Scream” season-finale, 10 p.m., MTV.

Last week, young
viewers learned things that their elders knew many movies ago: 1)
Don't visit a lonely farm at night, especially if you're in a
serial-killer story; and 2) If you find a body, don't pull the
pitchfork out and hold it, just as the police arrive.

Now the mayor is
dead; Emma and Audrey have been arrested. To warm up for tonight's
finale, you can try more youth scares from “Dead of Summer,” at 9
p.m. on Freeform. Two weeks before the season-finale, the camp
counselors try to recover from a night of horror.

II: Olympics, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight, 12:35-4:30 a.m.,

Some track-and-field
events have their finals today, while gymastis apparatus competition
continues. NBC has gold-medal finals for women's 1500-meter run and
men's high jump and 110-meter hurdles.

That's tape-delayed,
but the cable networks will resist that. NBC Sports Network goes live
at 8 a.m. ET, USA at 9, MSNBC at noon and CNBC at 5 p.m.

ALTERNATIVE: “New Girl,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

Jess never seems
headed for a solid, settled love life. Sure, she's dating Sam (David
Walton), a bright and handsome doctor; now, however, she confesses to
Cece that she's had a sex dream about Nick.

Also in this rerun,
Winston mopes because his police partner (Nasim Pedrad) has a
boyfriend. But Schmidt hears that the guy is a talent agent for pets;
he wants an audition for Furguson the cat.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Tony's identity has been stolen by several people.
Now it seems like he's blackmailing senators.

Nine-Nine,” 8 p.m., Fox. Terry (Terry Crews) frets that the
precinct thinks he's a joke. Now he wants Jake (Andy Samberg) to help
solve a case from his past.

“Pretty Little
Liars,” 8 p.m., Freeform. Mrs. Grunwald has a vision that the women
are in danger yet again. Also, they demand answers from the doctor
who delivered Mary's baby. Meanwhile, Ali decides to return to work,
grasping for some normalcy; Emily and Paige go after the same
swim-coach job.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. As a crime-solving partner, Lucifer isn't very dependable.
In this rerun, he becomes bored with a case, quits it ... then wants
to rejoin it when something personal has been stolen.

“MadTV,” 9 p.m.,
CW. This is a quick rerun of the second episode, which aired two
weeks ago. “MadTV” alumni Ike Barinholtz (now of “The Mindy
Project”) and Bobby Lee host.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Trying to determine the origin of a set of triple helix animal
bones – crucial to solving the virus – Mitch (Billy Burke)
reluctantly asks his father (Robin Thomas) for help. Also, Jackson
(James Wolk) faces the toughest decision of his life.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Pride's daughter has been
attacked on campus. Investigating, the team finds a shock – a
surveillance van, filled with photos of his every move.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 15

“American Experience.” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

It's time for the
second half of a splendid set of reruns. Last weerk. we got two
nights of John Kennedy, then one apiece of Lyndon Johnson and Richard
Nixon; now it's Jimmy Carter tonight, Ronald Reagan on Tuesday and
Wednesday and George H.W. Bush on Thursday.

These are wildly
different people ... which is what makes elections so interesting or
bizarre. And “Experience” tends to trace them beautifully,
catching the merger of personalitty and policy,

II: Olympics, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight, 12:35 to 4:30
a.m., NBC.

Yes, it would be
ironic if we scuttle Carter for the Olympics. He is, after all, the
one who pulled the U.S. out of the 1980 games. The games' final week
begins today, with gold-medal finals in track-and-field; in prime
time, NBC has the women's 400-meter and men's 800-meter and pole

That's tape-delayed,
so avoid spoilers. Some of the cable channels have wrapped things up
now, but live coverage starts at 8 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, 9
a.m. on USA and noon on MSNBC.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Making of the Mob: Chicago,” 10 p.m., AMC,
rerunning at 11.

Now the Mob has lost
its two biggest assets – Al Capone and Prohibition. Capone faces
seven-years in prison (some of it in Alcatraz) for tax evasion, as
his mind and body deteriorate from syphilis. His aides scramble for
ways to make money in new (and crooked) ways.

They try taking over
the Hollywood labor unions, They also follow Sam Giancana's lead,
seizing the numbers racket from Chicago's blacks. This hour is way
too graphic, but spins a strong story.

Other choices

Disappearance,” any time,
Lea is a blond beauty in Lyon, France, heading to a music festival on
her 17th birthday. There is a bright, French-style joy to
the early moments ... until, she simply disappears. In the first of
eight hours, “Disappearance” (with English sub-titles) offers
solid drama, capturing depth to the family members, an earnest cop
and – in her absense – to Lea.

“Mom,” 8 and 9
p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Bonnie goes with the man (William
Fichtner) she met on the phone; in the second, he's jealous of the
time she spends at Alcoholic Anonymous. The latter episode is funny
and moving, as we meet the guy who was with Jodi on the night she

“True Life,” 8
p.m., MTV. Four survivors talk about the Orlando shooting and their
attempt to resume daily life.

“Rizzoli &
Isles,” 9 p.m., TNT. When an accountant is slain, the women find
themselves investigating a complex Ponzi scheme.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Felix wants to learn how to drive. That's
bad news for Oscar, who's offended that he's not asked to teach him
... and worse news for everyone who tries.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Cabe captured in Africa. Now the team
must rescue him.

10:01 p.m., ABC. Harry's sister Kate is finally moving out of his
place ... but not before the damage has been done. She created a rift
between Harry and Joss, who soon descends into pills.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 14

“Chesapeake Shores” debut, 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

Like most Hallmark
characters, Abby (Meghan Ory) moved to the city, finding financial
success and personal frustration. Divorced, she brings her twins to
visit her gorgeous home town.

This is where her
dad (Treat Williams) was often consumed with work, her mom left and
her grandmother (Diane Ladd) often took over. It's where she broke up
with ahandsome, hunky Trace (Jesse Metcalfe). And it's where where
her sister flounders with plans for an inn. Nothing here will
surprise you, but “Shores” is a pretty, pleasant film, launching
a promising series.

“Celebrity Family Feud,” 8 p.m, ABC.

After retreating to
reruns last week, Steve Harvey's show – a summer ratings hit – is

One game pits
experts in cooking (Paula Deen) and fashion (Carson Kressley).
Another has child stars from the past (Jaleel White of Urkel fame)
and present (Rico Rodriguez of “Modern Family”). That's followed
by “$100,000 Pyramid” (possibly a rerun) at 9 p.m. and “Match
Game” at 10.

Olympics, all day.

This is a busy time
for gold-medal finals. The men's golf finals start at 6 a.m. ET on
(logically) Golf. Tennis finals on Bravo are 11 a.m. ET (men), 1 p.m.
(women's doubles) and 3 p.m. (mixed doubles).

There's more live
coverage, starting at 9 a.m. ET on USA and at 1 p.m. on MSNBC, CNBC
and NBC Sports Network. Meanwhile, NBC mixes live and tape, from 8
a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 p.m. to midnight and 1:35 to 4:30 a.m. In prime
time, it has gold medals for men (100-meter, 400-meter), women
(triple jump, springboard diving) and both (gymnastics apparatus).

Other choices

“The Walking
Dead,” 4:22 a.m., AMC. The entire sixth season reruns. That ends at
10 p.m., in time for an hourlog preview of the seventh season ...
which is, alas, still two months away. At 11, “Geeking Out” has
Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg chat with J.J. Abrams, Nathan Fillion
and Alan Tudyk.

“A Country
Wedding” (2015), 7-9 p.m., Hallmark. Think of this as a warm-up for
“Chesapeake Shores.” Metcalfe is a current country star in this
one (singing some excellent songs) and a current one in “Shores.”
He returns home and finds a pleasant non-surprise, in the Hallmark

“50 Years of Star
Trek,” 8-10 p,.m., History. On Sept. 8, “Trek” really will turn
50 ... and might then be ignored by TV people obsessed with ages
18-49. For now, it's still thriving, with a movie now and a series
coming in January. Here's a look back.

Inspector Lewis,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). We
again find that Oxford is a deadly place. A dean has been killed in a
pub. Soon,Lewis and Hathaway ponder a tattoo, an alchemic image
suggesting that more murders are coming and, sure enough, two more

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Elizabeth scrambles to help captive

“BrainDead,” 10
p.m., CBS. Even during the Olympics, this offbeat gem has new
episodes. Tonight, Rochelle and Gustav question a man whose brain
may be infected by the alien bugs. Also, two senators, the infected
Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub) and Laurel's brother (Danny Pino), argue
about a war.

“Murder in the
First,” 10 p.m., TNT. There's a new murder, forcing police to
re-visit an old suspect.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 13

Olympics, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight, 12:30-5 a.m., NBC.

This should be one
of the biggest days for NBC, with swimming events concluding and
track-and-field just getting started. In primetime, the latter
includes gold medals for women's 100-meter and heptathlon and men's
long-jump and 10,000 meter.

That will be
tape-delayed, but there's lots of live coverage on cable. Golf starts
at 6:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network at 9, USA at 10 (with beach
volleyball), MSNBC at noon (with men's soccer) and CNBC at 5. Bravo
starts bronze-medal tennis at 11 a.m. ET; the women's gold match is
at 5 p.m.

“Boston EMS,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Two TV staples,
crime and medicine, combine in a non-fiction hour. In a tough
Dorchester neighborhood, an ambulance crew finds two gunshot victims
on a snowy street.

There are personal
moments for the responders. Beth Rimas, whose son suffers from
febrile seizures, comforts a young woman whose 2-year-old has that
affliction. And waiting for the bomb squad to assess a package at a
daycare, Ed Hassan discusses what he saw at the Boston Marathon

ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Manager,” 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., AMC.

Once a Britsh
soldier, Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) has found obscurity as a
hotel's night manager. Then he keeps crossing paths with Richard
Roper (Hugh Laurie), a slick businnessman who has lethal henchmen, a
gorgeous mistress, an imposing island estate and a thriving business
in illegal arms.

Based on a John le
Carre novel, this is a smart and involving story worth recording, It
has seven Emmy nominations, including ones for Hiddleston, Laurie,
Olivia Colman and best mini-series.

Other choices

“Doctor Who,”
all day, BBC America. Here's the second half of a two-day marathon.

“The Peanuts
Movie” (2015), 10 a.m., HBO; and “The Good Dinosaur” (2012),
10:12 a.m., Starz. While their parents stare at the Olympics, kids
can have some animated fun.

“Hotel Hell,” 8
and 9 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Gordon Ramsay visits an
Austrian-style inn in Southbridge, Mass.; in the second, he's at a
lakeside spot in Chelan, Wash.

“Rush Hour,” 8
p.m., CBS. In the show's second-to-last episode, a mystery person
keeps humiliating prominent people.

(2015), 8 and 11:30 p.m., HBO. Moving from Ireland to the U.S. in the
1950s, a young woman finds loneliness, good-hearted people and a
well-meaning guy. The result is boosted by the subtle perfection of
Saoirse Ronan's performance and Nick Hornby's script. Hornby's own
novels have become “About a Boy,” “High Fidelity” and “Fever
Pitch”; now he skillfully adapts a Colm Toibin novel. The result
brought Oscar nominations for Ronan, Hornby and best picture.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Ken's dad visits; he's not a jolly guy.

“In an Instant,”
9 p.m., ABC. A decade ago, Danelle Ballengee was a peak athlete at
35, a two-time world champion of “adventure racing.” Then she
slipped on ice, fell 60 feet and shattered her pelvis. Her dog
comforted her for two days, then managed to lead rescuers back to
her. Here's a shortened version of the film that ran earlier this
summer, mixing re-enactments and first-person accounts.

“Fargo” (1996),
10 p.m., Viceland. This network (formerly H2, a History offshoot)
often focuses on alternative-lifestyle subjects; tonight, it has
“Weediquette” from 7-10 p.m. Afterward, however, it pauses to
show this quietly brilliant movie.