TV column for Thursday, Sept. 8

Pro football season-opener. 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.

Each year, the NFL
gets its season off to a flashy start. It has a pre-game show with
music –this time, Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic – and then a
major match-up.

This one has the
Super Bowl teams – with a major exception. The Carolina Panthers –
who had lost only one game before dtropping the Super Bowl – are
back, again with Cam Newton at quarterback. Denver is also back, but
Peyton Manning has retired. Champions are led by Trevor Siemian, who
was the 250th man chosen in the 2015 draft, then had
exactly one play (a kneel-down) all season.

II: “Better Things” debut, 10 p.m., FX; reruns at 11:06 p.m. and
2:09 a.m.

Louis C.K.'s “Louie”
is a revelation – a set of wonderfully understated slices from the
life of a single dad with two daughters and a show-business career.
Now Pamela Adlon, his co-writer, has her own quiet gem, with C.K. as
her co-producer and co-writer.

We see a single mom
with three daughters and a career as an actress and cartoon voice.
That fits Adlon, who voiced Bobby on “King of the Hill.” She
finds humor in big moments – a teen asks her mom to buy pot – and
small. There's something funny about two people alternately
demanding: “What?”

ALTERNATIVE: “Star Trek,” 8:30 p.m. ET, BBC America.

At 8:30 p.m. on
Sept. 8, 1966, NBC hesitently debuted the long-shot “Trek”
series. So exactly 50 years later, BBC reruns that first episode.
Then – one per 70 minutes (to allow for increased commercials and
promos these days) – it shows the others in order.

That continues –
pausing only from 3-6 a.m. daily – until 3 a.m. Monday. Flashing
before us is a classic that was often limited by a shortage of money,
but never by a shortage of imagination.

Other choices

“Star Trek”
movies, all day, Syfy. “Generations” (1994) -- the OK movie that
linked the old and new “Trek” casts – airs at 8 a.m. and 3 and
11 p.m. “First Contact” (1996) -- with Alice Krige as the
powerful Borg Queen – is 10:30 a.m., 6 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. “Star
Trek IV” (1986) – the lightest and brightest of the films – is
at 1 and 8:30 p.m.

“Building Star
Trek,” 6-8 p.m., Smithsonian. Here's a reruns of a delightful
documentary, jumping between preparations for “Trek” exhibits and
scientists trying to match the show's fictional feats.

Pyramid,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Here are reruns of four battles. It's
actor Alfonso Ribeiro and chef Mario Batali, “Shark Tank”
financiers Barbara Corcoran and Damond Johns, actors Steve Schirripa
(of “Sopranos”) and Melissa Peterman and actors Teri Polo and
Zachary Levi.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After tonight, “Big Bang” will be in
exile for a while, moving to Mondays to make room for five football
games. So enjoy this fairly good episode, with Howard having second
thoughts about the business arrangement and Raj having confusion
about his girlfriends.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Next Thursday, this emotional show ends its
four-season run. For now, as usual, there's a crisis. Vincent is
being secretly interrogated about an impending attack and may be near
the breaking point; next week, he and/or Cat may have to pay the
ultimate price.

“Code Back,”
9:59 p.m., CBS. Last week, the show reran the episode introducing
Boris Kodjoe as the ER and OR chief who's supposed to keep an eye on
the budget. Tonight, he surprises Grace by asking her out; also,
Christa must set aside her feelings about Grace, when they treat a
troubled teen.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. With the season-finale coming next Thursday,
we see Camila take more steps to take over Epifanio's drug empire.
Also, Teresa and Brenda try some daring extortion.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 7

“Harley and the Davidsons” finale, 9 p.m., Discovery, rerunning
at 11:04.

If you missed the
first two parts, you can catch then at 5 and 7 p.m. They share key
flaws with the finale – cartoonish villians and a one-note approach
to dialog, which overflows with antagonism.

Still, this remains
a terrific story of blue-collar Milwaukee guys, transforming the
motorcycle world. Tonight's finale abruptly drops the previous story
(patent suits) and finds a bigger one: The Depression is crushing
everyone; instead of buying bikes, many people (including Walter
Davidson's teen son) are rebuilding old ones. There are health and
business crises ... and an abrupt, booming conclusion.

“American Gothic” finale, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week,”Gothic”
concocted a wild explanation for the odd events: The real “Silver
Bells Killer” was slain while invading the Hawthorne mansion.
Instead of telling the police, the patriarch had his son Garrett bury
the body ... while he and his wife killed a nemesis and made it look
like an “SBK” job.

Garrett ending up
killing someone else (there seemes to be a lot of that) in the woods,
then ran away for 14 years. Now he's told what he knows to his
brother-in-law, the cop. Also, it's election day for his sister's
mayoral campaign ... while a copycat killer stalks the entire family.

ALTERNATIVE: “Queen Sugar,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network,
rerunning at 1 a.m.

Big events cascaded
through Tuesday's opener, which reruns at 9 p.m. and midnight. Now
“Queen Sugar” moves to its regular night and to the easier pace
of a steamy Southern day.

The funeral of
Ernest, whose sugar-cane farm was floundering, brings back his
mismatched kids. Nova is an activist and journalist ... Ralph Angel
is an ex-con, trying to shield his son from the boy's drug-addicted
mother ... Charley is a business whiz whose basketball-star husband
was scandalized. They fret, fume and argue in a slowly engaging hour,
skillfully directed by Ava DuVernay (“Selma”).

Other choices

8-10 p.m., Fox. With five contestants left, it's time to see who will
be in next week's finale. A mystery-box challenge will make one
person safe; others must prepare either duck or halibut and – if
they lose that one – come up with three pork dishes.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. First is a shortened rerun of Tuesday's
performances by 11 acts. Then a new hour will tell us which five will
survive, rounding out the show's top 10.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. Claire has a complicated life at home and at
work. She's trying to hide a stray dog from her husband; also, she
suspects there's a mole in her office.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS. As the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks
nears, “15 Years of Terror” looks at the mindset of a terrorists.
It shows how they use modern propaganda and social-media techniques
... and how governments try to thwart them.

“The Tyrant”
season-finale, 10 p.m., FX. A superb season concludes with Bassam –
known as Barry when he was in the U.S. -- finding his worlds
teetering. With his wife, he's ready to go to war against the people
who killed their daughter; also, he and his ex-lover Deliyah reach a
final reckoning.

“Mr. Robot,”
10:01 p.m., USA. As the FBI agent gets closer to nabbing them,
Darlene struggles to do the right thing and her brother Elliot has
doubts about Mr. Robot, the figure he fantasizes in the image of
their late father. At 11:04 p.m., the show's cast and creator will
field questions from fans.

“The Middle,”
10:31 p.m., ABC. Frankie finally has the backyard patio she's dreamed
of relaxing in. Alas, the neighbor kids are so loud that relaxation
seems impossible.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 6

“Zoo” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Let's credit CBS for
big, bold strokes – three scripted summer dramas. Now come the
two-hour finales of all three, with “American Gothic” and
“BrainDead” on Wednesday and Sunday.

First is “Zoo,”
which links two great actors – James Wolk as Jackson, Ken Olin as
the dad who vanished and faked his death. Now they've reconciled,
trying to find a cure for animals gone wild ... and trying to squelch
the “Noah Objective,” which could destroy everything. Mitch and
Jamie have a fresh scheme to stop Noah, while others try to concoct a
final cure on the island of Pangaea.

II: “Harley and the Davidsons,” 9 p.m., Discovery, rerunning at

If you missed the
start of this three-night mini-series, catch it at 7. Occasionally
overwrought – lots of frenetic emotions – it's an involving look
at three blue-collar guys, competing with corporate giants.

This mid-section
retains a key flaw, with stereotypical villains; still it gives the
story fresh obstacles. The Harley-Davidson people take a stand
against “motordome” racing. They create their own flat-track
style, complete with cheerleaders and beer tents ... then have a top
racer swiped away. Their biggest obstacle is a legal one – the
failure to patent key parts. Added together, it's a powerhouse story.

ALTERNATIVE: “9/11 Inside the Pentagon,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Five days before the
15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, this pieces
together the events after the Pentagon was struck. It's filled with
quiet heroes.

We meet Army Col.
Marilyn Wills, who crawled and pulled a stranger to a window, then
found that (for a while) the glass wouldn't budge or break. And Navy
Capt. William Toti, who had dropped off his retirement letter on
Sept. 10 ... and retrieved it on Sept. 12. And workmen who ignored an
order to evacuate the building. These are moving stories, ending with
an emotional reunion.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Queen Sugar” debut, 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey

Like many other
shows adapted from novels, this is thick with richly drawn
characters. And like many such shows, it's reluctant to tell us who
the characters are and why we care.

Gradually, we
realize they're the children of an old man with an 800-acre sugarcane
farm. There's a publicist, married to a rich basketball star ... an
activist, working in her New Orleans community ... and an ex-con,
raising his son because the boy's mother (an addict) would be a worse
choice. Beautifully directed by Ava DuVernay (“Salem”), this sets
the stage for Wednesday's move to its regular night.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This continues the search for an escaped British spy. With one
colleague in intensive care, Americans link with Clayton Reeves
(Duane Henry), who will be an “NCIS” regular.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, 10 semi-finalist acts performed
and five advanced. Now the other 11 have their turn; on Wednesday,
some will move up the top 10.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. A woman's body is found in the swimming pool of a star
quarterback. Naturally, the guy is a friend of Lucifer.

season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC. The show leaps ahead several months,
finding two sets of parents dealing with babies. Marc (with April)
becomes an overly attentive dad; Harry (with Joss) has a hands-off
approach ... and has fresh problems involving someone from his past.

“Better Late Than
Never,” 10 p.m., NBC. After living in a luxury Hong Kong hotel last
week, the guys stay in a $6-a-night spot in Seoul. They also go to
pop-music school; that gives the rare chance to see a Girls
Generation video with William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw
and George Foreman.

“Atlanta” debut,
10 p.m., FX; reruns at 11:08 p.m. and 12:16 a.m. Donald Glover
(“Community”) wrote, produced and stars as a guy trying to rfix
his drifting life by managing his cousin the rapper. The result
meanders between drama, comedy and confusion; by the second
half-hour, it finally pulls us in.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 5

“Rizzoli & Isles” series finale, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at

For seven seasons,
this has provided something that's way too rare – a solidly made
series that wraps up a story each week. At the core is an ideal
mismatch -- Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), the tough Boston cop, and
Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), the fashionable, know-it-all medical

Now the final season
reruns at 9 a.m., leading to this farewell. The case involves a
murder victim who was handcuffed to his bed; meanwhile, people are
busy making farewell videos for a party.

“Harley and the Davidsons” opener, 9 p.m., Discovery, rerunning
at 10:58.

Not all business
stories take place in dreary boardrooms. The tale of Harley-Davidson
motorcycles begins with three hard-scrabble Wisconsin guys, then
rushes into fierce races.

At times, “Harley”
becomes monotone: Most of its blue-collar characters share the same
edgy attitude; most others are streotype villains. Beyond that,
however, is a solid story, with bigger companies being battled by
three guys who wouldn't quit – the hard-scrabble Davidson brothers
and their brainy engineer friend Bill Harley. At its best, “Harley”
has great period flavor and high-octane race scenes.

ALTERNATIVE: “Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

This is changeover
time for ABC: Today and Tuesday, “Bachelor in Paradise” (8 p.m.)
and “Mistresses” have two-night season finales.

For “Mistresses,”
tonight brings endless emotional tangles: April hasn't told Marc
she's pregnant ... Karen moves forward with Adam, but faces trouble
from Lydia ... Kate fumes at Joss. Then Tuesday's finale will
suddenly jump the story months ahead.

ALTERNATIVE II: “800 Words” opener, any time,

It's been 26 years
since “Northern Exposure” delivered something magical – a
quirky little town, viewed by a total outsider. Now we get a sort of
“Southern Exposure.”

George is a widowed
writer who feels he and his two teen-agers need a new life. He sells
his home in Sydney and buys one, sight-unseen, in small-town New
Zealand. Then things go thoroughly, hilariously wrong. Acorn, a
subscription streaming service, will dole out the eight episodes at
two-per-week. Some are merely pretty good, but the first hour is a
pure delight.

Other choices

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The “next generation” edition is
down to its final four now, with a winner being named next Monday.
The two boys are the youngest and oldest – J.T. Church (whose
specialty is jazz) was 10 when the season started, Kida Burns (hip
hop) was 14. The girls are Emme Hellenkamp (tap), 11, and Tate McRay
(contemporary and ballet), 13.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Last week, half the finalists took on the
first stage of the course. Now the others have their turn, setting up
next week's championship.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. TV's best comedy makes its temporary
move to Mondays. It still has one more Thursday rerun, then won't
return there until CBS finishes its five-Thursday football run.
Tonight's first rerun includes a special “Fun With Flags”
podcast; the second one finds the news of Bernadette's pregnancy
greeted with cheer, worries and karaoke.

“The Essential
Hillary Clinton” and “The Essential Donald Trump,” 8 and 10
p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at midnight and 2 a.m. With only two months
before the election, here are profiles.

“15 Septembers
Later,” 9-11:02 p.m., History. Six days before the anniversary of
the Sept. 11 attacks, this special catches memories from officials
and first-responders, plus photos and reports that were released this
year. It reruns at 1:03 a.m. and is surrounded by 9/11 reruns, from 4
p.m. to 4 a.m.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC. Getting close to to the season-finale, this show has Olympic ski medalist Lindsey Vonn tonight and Mel B, of Spice Girls fame, on Wednesday.

"Roast of Rob Lowe," 10 p.m., reruns at midnight. In between his departed comedy ("Grinder") and his upcoming regular role on "Code Black," Lowe draws barbs from comedians.

"Mary + Jane" and "Loosely, Exactly Nicole" debuts, 10 and 10:32 p.m., MTV, rerunning at 11:04 and 11:34, MTV. The TV season gets an early start, with a pair of youthful comedies.


TV column for Sunday, Sept. 4

“Building Star Trek,” 8-10 p.m., Smithsonian; repeats at 11.

It was 50 years ago
on Sept. 8 that “Star Trek” debuted on NBC. The show would limp
through three seasons of so-so ratings and modest budgets ... then,
in different ways, would live forever.

This terrific
special visits a world with distinguished “Trek” fans. The
National Air and Space Museum restores the original Engerprise model,
so it can take its place next to the crafts of Lindbergh and the
astronauts. A pop-culture museum in Seattle gathers artifacts. And
scientists keep trying to create real-life versions of tractor beams,
invisibility cloaks, laser guns, warp speed and more.

II: “BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

The summer's best
show hasn't drawn the attention it deserves. Now, a week before its
two-hour finale, there's still time to join in.

As a new Senate
aide, Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has had some success; last
week, her video prevented a war. So far, however, she's convinced few
people of the real threat: Key officials in Washington – led by
Sen. Red Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub) -- have alien bugs that invaded
their brains. Now Laurel and her brother, a senator, search a massive
budget bill, to find Red's secret agenda.

ALTERNATIVE: “ABC Fall preview,” 7 p.m., ABC (after football on
the West Coast).

Networks like to
have cheery specials, telling us that their new fall shows are
terrific. Now ABC strikes first ... and is partly telling the truth.

It does, indeed,
have the best new network show -- “Designated Survivor,” with
Kiefer Sutherland as a lowly official, thrust into the presidency. It
has a sharp “Secrets and Lies” mini-series, a promising
crime/court show (“Conviction”) ... and several shows that are
merely ordinary. Here's a sampling.

Other choices

Racing, 6 p.m. ET,
NBC. On the final Sunday before the pro-football season begins, NBC
has NASCAR's Southern 500, from Darlington, S.C.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. The first rerun flashes back to when the Simpson
and Flanders families vacationed in the Grand Canyon. The second has
Selma and Patty attempt a conversion: After all those years of
puffing cigarettes, they've learned that their dad died of lung

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET, ABC. A college game on a Sunday night? That's a rarity, but ABC
is taking advantage of the last chance before the pros take over.
Notre Dame (ranked No. 10) visits Texas.

Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox. This rerun finds the Nine-Nine linking
with a neighboring precinct. That puts Jake (Andy Samberg) with his
old police partner (Damon Wayans Jr.).

Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. As the Pakistan government wobbles in this
rerun, the U.S. considers a drastic step – going into the country
to seize and secure its nuclear weapons.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC, and more. Yes, some cable channels are sticking
with reruns during the holiday weekend. Still, 9 p.m. has new
episodes here and on USA (“The Last Ship”), Hallmark (“Chesapeake
Shores”) and Starz (“Power”). And “The Strain” looms at 10
p.m. on FX.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. With a lot of spare time on her hands –
there are, after all, only a few people still alive -- Gail (Mary
Steenburgen) has been drinking a lot of wine. Now the others confront
her. Also, Todd mayhave extra duties in the propagation of the

“Murder in the
First,” 10 p.m., USA. The season concludes, in an hour that adds a
grisly new murder.