TV column for Saturday, July 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Toy Story” (1995) and its sequels (1999, 2010), 5, 7 and 9 p.m.,
Freeform.
At first, Pixar was a special-effects shop, dabbling
with animated shorts. Then came its grand idea -- turning ordinary
toys into characters. The rest was done first-rate: Tom Hanks and Tim
Allen starred; the script and the Randy Newman music received Academy
Award nominations.

There have been two
sequels (a third is set for 2018), some TV specials, a Buzz Lightyear
series and endless products. And there's been a giant quake in the
movie business, with clever animated movies – from Pixar and others
– dominating. These originals will also be at 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
Sunday.

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

At first, people
rarely did double-duty on the show. When Paul Simon hosted, he often
had someone else as music guest. Justin Timberlake has done the same;
Mick Jagger and Madonna have reversed it – music guest, but not
host. But now we get two straight – Drake and Miley Cyrus –
hosting and singing.

Both were child
actors; Drake was big in Canada (under the name Aubrey Graham) for
about 150 “Degrassi” episodes. This time, “SNL” varies its
hilarious “Black Jeopardy” sketch. Previous times had a perplexed
white contestant; now we have a black Canadian, baffled by talk in
urban America.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11 p.m.
and 1 a.m.

A great project –
the trans-continental railroad – concludes tonight and a great show
is a week from its conclusion. Over five seasons, we've seen Cullen
(Anson Mount) go from railroad worker to the man in charge. Now he's
in a mad rush to get to the finish line, where the prize is
mineral-rich Ogden, Utah.

But is the race
really decided by might and muscle ... or by backroom deals? And can
Cullen – shattered physically and emotionally – find any joy.
This terrific hour takes us through the extremes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Concussion,” (2015), 9 p.m., Starz.

Remember the fuss
over this year's all-white Academy Awards? Now we can try two
overlooked films.

Some people feel
“Straight Outta Compton” (8 p.m., HBO) should have been a
best-picture nominee. And many felt Will Smith deserved a nod for
“Concussion.” Smith is quiet perfection as the real-life Nigerian
native who exposed football's concussion crisis. Maybe he wasn't
nominated because his work was so subtle, or maybe because it was a
great year for actors. Either way, this is worth catching.

Other choices
include:

“Mr. Robot,”
9:30-11:30 a.m., USA. Here's one more chance to catch the riveting,
two-part opener, before the next episode airs at 10:01 p.m.
Wednesday.

“Ghostbusters”
(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), noon and 2:30 p.m.,
Sundance, rerunning at 5 and 7:30 p.m. and at 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
After plenty of airings on AMC, this moves to a sister channel.

“Angel From Hell,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. How long was this show delayed after its early
ratings troubles? Tonight, we get the Thanksgiving episode. In the
second episode, we learn that even guardian angels need money; when
Amy can't pay her rent, Allison tries to fined her a job.

Sports, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox and NBC. Fox has boxing, with heavyweights Deontay Wilder and
Chris Arreola. NBC counters with speed – from skateboard to BMX –
in the Nitro Circus World Games.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Two weeks before the new Jason Bourne movie arrives, four
related channels will air the original “Bourne Identity”; that's
on Bravo, USA, E and even Syfy. Also, Disney has “Up” (2009); and
at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has the delightful “Odd Couple”
(1968).

“In an Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. Four years ago, Kelli Groves found herself barely
hanging on. A 36-year-old teacher, she'd been driving with her
daughters, 10 years and 10 months, when a truck failed to make a turn
and ran over her car. Now the car was hanging over a guardrail, 100
feet above the burning truck. The crisis is recalled here, including
elaborate footage of the rescue.

“The American
West,” 10 p.m., AMC. This excellent chapter catches old West
violence at its peak. Jesse James returns from two years of hiding
... Billy the Kid shoots a sheriff in revenge and somehow escapes an
army ambush ... And Wyatt Earp fumes when a killer uses influence to
go free.

TV column for Friday, July 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Secrets of 'The Force Awakens,'” 8 p.m., ABC.

A lot can change in
40 years: Chewbacca got younger and shorter. That's what people
learned in the theater version of this documentary about the “Star
Wars” film; now, slightly shortened, it reaches TV.

Peter Mayhew
returned as Chewie, but he's 72, with bad knees; mostly, his double
-- 29 and 7-foot (two inches less than Mayhew) took over. Little BB-8
had two versions; he was sometimes remote-control, but more often a
rod puppet. Also: John Boyega auditioned nine times ... Malala (the
teen Nobel laureate) visited the set ... and director J.J. Abrams
flew 9,000 miles to attend parents' night at school.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Often underemployed
here, Chi McBride gets some focus in this rerun: Lou Grover (McBride)
returns to Chicago, to finally get a confession from the man (Mykelti
Williamson) who killed his wife.

Back on the island,
there's another crisis: Chin and Kano (Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park)
are held at gunpoint, by killers who don't realize they're cops.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Magic shows, 8-10 p.m., CW.

TV used to love
magic acts – mostly because they were easy to televise. Ed Sullivan
had magicians back in 1949 and 1950; he got a huge audience for
Fantasio in 1966 – possibly because the Beatles were also there.
Nowadays, magicians have much better acts ... and much less TV time.

Now CW uses them as
summer diversions. At 8 p.m., a new “Masters of Illusion” has
Michael Grandinetti, Greg Gleason, Murray SawChuck, The Shocker and
Sittah. That's followed by reruns of “Illusion” at 8:30 and of
Wednesday's terrific (except for the last bit) “Penn & Teller:
Fool Us” at 9.

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012) and “Thor: The Dark World” (2013), 5 and 8 p.m., FX. The
Marvel heroes give us an action double-feature. Other movie choices
include the excellent “Die Hard” (1988) at 8 p.m. on IFC, the
pleasant “You've Got Mail” (1998) at 8 p.m. on CMT and the rather
silly “Blades of Glory” (2007) at 8:44 p.m. on Comedy Central.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This rerun goes back to the first stage,
with acts auditioning and each judge holding one “golden buzzer”
that allows instant advancement.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. Someone has shot extensive surveillance
footage of Sam's family. While the family is whisked to a safe house
in this rerun, Sam and Callen try to find who's responsible.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Rosewood gives too good a talk at a pathology
conference. Someone may have used his information to commit a murder;
he and Villa go undercover to solve it.

“MasterChef,” 9
p.m., Fox. This reruns Wednesday's hour, with 15 chefs feeding 101
military veterans.

“Cesar 911”
return, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Truffle is small, fluffy, cute ... and
sometimes quite nasty. John Henry is fine at home; when he's brought
to work, however, he scares clients and delivery guys. Cesar Millan
handles both dogs in his usual, calm way, in a standard, OK episode.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank worries about a book that's been written by his
first police partner. Also in this rerun, Frank's son Jamie and his
partner head out on a call; their response will sharply affect their
careers and their relationship.

TV column for Thursday, July 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 6 and
8:30 p.m., AMC, repeating at 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

On the night before
the “Ghostbusters” remake reaches theaters, we can savor the
original films. With clever scripts (from Dan Aykroyd and Harold
Ramis) and nimble direction (Ivan Reitman), they found that perfevt
balance between quiet character humor and big, laugh-out-loud sight
gags.

Aykroyd and Ramis
are joined by Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson as ghostbusters, with
Annie Potts as their assistant and Sigourney Weaver as their client.
All of them are briefly in the new film; meanwhile, these originals
will air at the same times Friday on AMC, then will move to the
Sundance Channel.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

By
heart-of-the-season standards, “Bones” is merely a sorta-OK show,
with mild mysteries tackled by mildly interesting people. By summer
standards, it's a gem; now it's a week from its season-finale.

A body has been
found with a diamond lodged in its jaw. Soon, a French inspector
accuses the victim's husband – a marquis living in Virginia.
Meanwhile, Booth has a temporary eye illness and Hodgins somehow
thinks he's being followed by a ghost.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Greatest Hits,” 9 p.m., ABC.

The late-'80s, we're
sometimes told, were all about money and music and more. So tonight's
hour, focusing on 1985-90, could be fun.

It will be Wilson
Phillips' “Hold On,” Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” and Bret
Michaels with “Nothin' But a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its
Thorn.” Also, newer stars jump in: Grace Potter does Bon Jovi's
“You Give Love a Bad Name,” Miguel does Steve Winwood's “Higher
Love,” Aloe Blacc does two songs with Chicago and Nate Ruess joins
Foreigner for “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Other choices
include:

“The Avengers”
(2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. It's a night for popcorn-munching movies --
“Avengers” action or “Ghostbusters” humor. Also, the
“Adventures in Babysitting” remake (2016) is 7:15 p.m. on Disney.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Even in the show's ninth season, characters
have been learning secrets about each other. Last week's rerun saw
Sheldon show Amy his hoarding hideout; this one -- involving a
camping trip – sees him reveal a secret about Leonard.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has some couples-activities that may not
turn out that well: Greg and Jen slip away for a massage; Colleen
asks Matt to illustrate a children's book she's writing.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m.. CW. Cat finds that she and her new husband are on
opposite sides: She's a cop; he's trying to find and destroy
beast-hunters. Now she searches for secret information.

“Code Black,”
9:59 p.m., CBS. Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) has always had
a deep layer of sadness. In this rerun, she finally goes to the
prison to confront the drunk-driver who killed her family.

“Aquarius,” 10
p.m., NBC. A shoot-out between the Los Angeles police and the Black
Panthers reverberates in the interracial marriage of Shafe and
Kristen. Also, Hodiak faces roadblocks in his search for the
photographer killer; the Manson family gets two surprises, one
pleasant and one not.

“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,”
10 p.m., FX. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10:30) obsessed on
lesbian and three-way sex. Now we see the aftershocks, as the guys
are told about their sexual inadequacies. Some viewers will consider
both episodes hilarious; others will consider them over-the-top
crude.

TV column for Wednesday, July 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mr. Robot” second-season opener, 10:01 p.m., USA.

Few shows have
soared like this. “Robot” has won Peabody, AFI and Golden Globe
awards. Three major critics called it TV's best show; the Television
Critics Association has nominated it for the same.

Elliot, a hacker,
was nudged by a stranger (Christian Slater) to disrupt the financial
world -- except he only imagined this guy, in the image of his
father. Now his hacking has shattered the economy. Elliot recedes
into a routine, ignoring the chaos that immerses his old friend
Angela, their boss (and fall guy) Gideon, superhacker Darlene and
more. The result is sometimes perplexing and always riveting.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
ESPY Awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Only two athletes --
Lance Armstrong and LeBron James -- have hosted the show in its 23
years. Now John Cena – current actor, former pro-wrestling champion
and small-college football star – is in charge.

Other stars –
Stephen Curry, Lindsey Vonn, JJ Watt, Lisa Leslie, Dwayne Wade --
will be presenters; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be part of a Muhammad
Ali tribute. There will be music (Andra Day, plus Crown and the M.O.B
as house band) and special awards. Last year, a courage award to
Caitlyn Jenner drew controversy; this year, it goes to Zaevon Dobson,
a teen football star who died saving two girls.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The A Word” debut, 10 p.m., Sundance.

This is small-town
England, where jobs are scarce and people are pleasant. Maurice
(Chris Eccleston) is a widower who owns the family brewery. His
son-in-law, Paul, is zesty and playful; his son, Steve, is not ...
especially after his business failed and his wife had an affair
during her medical residency.

Now it's clear –
despite denials by parents and grandfather -- that Paul's son, 5, is
autistic. The level of denial is a key flaw tonight, straining belief
and becoming repetitious; also, key exposition is buried in thick
accents. Be patient though; as these troubles melt away, a rich
character drama emerges.

Other choices
include:

“Penn &
Teller: Fool Us” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. Nearly everything about
this opener works wonderfully ... except, ironically, the routine by
Penn & Teller. That one falls flat, the lone bump in a night that
has a likable new host (Alyson Hannigan) and four magicians – Shawn
Farquhar, Nathan Burton, Michael Kent and Nathan Coe Marsh – who
are talented and, often, quite witty.

“America's Got
Talent” (NBC) and “MasterChef” (Fox), both 8 p.m. These reality
shows keep colliding. Tonight, “Talent” judges continue their
cuts and home chefs cook for 101 military veterans.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Theo came here as a doctor, but now he and Adam Hassler
are trying to track down an “abbie,” or aberrant creature, who
has escaped.

“Suits”
season-opener, 9 p.m., USA. Mike adjusts to prison life, while his
former co-workers try to keep his plea deal from shattering their law
firm.

“American Gothic,”
10 p.m., CBS. A death at the Hawthorne estate gives Brady – a cop
and a Hawthorne son-in-law – a chance to investigate. Meanwhile,
Alison Hawthorne scrambles to save her mayoral campaign; her brother
Garrett pursues the daughter of a victim of the “Silver Bell
Killer.”

“Flipping Out”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Even in easy times, Jeff Lewis frets
and fumes. Now this season starts with him facing work troubles while
remodeling the house where he and his partner live ... and where
they'll soon add (via surrogate) a baby in their overcrowded world

“Wahlburgers,”
10:30 p.m., A&E. The network had scheduled the debut of “Black
and White,” a show that plans to juggle politics, race and comedy.
In an extremely late change (Tuesday afternoon), it pushed the debut
back two weeks, to July 27.

TV column for Tuesday, July 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Baseball All-Star Game, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with pre-game at 7:30.

Yes, the American
League has dominated this lately. Ever since there's been something
at stake (home-field advantage in the World Series), it's won 10 out
of 13 games, including the last three.

Still, the past
doesn't matter much in a year when everything is different: For the
first time, all the American League starting infielders are 26 or
younger; for the first time, all the National League starting
infielders are Chicago Cubs (three of them also 26 or younger). The
game will be in San Diego but the American League will be called the
home team and will bat last.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Containment,” 9 p.m., CW.

A week from its
finale, this mini-series continues to find crises and chaos. Inside
the containment zone, people are desperate. Some scramble to buy into
an escape plan; that leaves ethical questions about raising the money
... and about leaving the baby behind, with family.

And outside the
zone, Lex continues to learn the truth about the virus. He again
confronts Dr. Lommers (Claudia Black); also, a cryptic note from Leo
leads him to an abandoned warehouse.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The White House: Inside Story,” 8-10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

What does a “chief
usher” do at the White House? On Sept. 11 of 2001, Gary Walters did
a lot. Orders came down to evacuate the building; Walters ignored
that. He dismantled tents, so the president's helicopter could land
on the lawn; he also prepared the Oval office for an address from the
president.

During disasters,
Walters says here, “people have a tendency to turn to the White
House.” Such serious moments are mixed with light ones, during a
documentary that includes two presidents, four First Ladies,
historians and White House staffers.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's one of the few major shows daring
to throw a new episode against the All-Star Game. Tonight, the
judges' cuts begin.

“Celebrity Family
Feud” and “The $100,000 Pyramid,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Tentative
plans call for setting aside the comedy reruns that had been
scheduled, replacing them with these game reruns.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, volunteer doctors are attacked in Sudan. Tony heads
there with McGee ... and finds ex-girlfriend Jeann Benoit (Scottie
Thompson), whose husband is one of the victims. Also, Jon Cryer is
back as the eccentric doctor who saved Gibbs.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Hey, it's not always gritty stuff about people fleeing animals.
Tonight, the team must infiltrate a black-tie event, in order to be
colser to Gen. Davies.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a black-out hits the city while
Pride tries to solve the murder of a family friend's fiance.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10 p..m, ABC. Contestants offer large and small
accoplishments: One can escape underwater, while chained and
handcuffed; another has the world's longest fingernails.

“Feed the Beast,”
10 p.m., AMC. For weeks, “Beast” has shoveled fresh piles of
agony atop Tommy (David Schwimmer). He finally started his upscale
restaurant in a downscale Bronx neighborhood – only to have a
drive-by shooting scare people away. Now the show actually has two
promising possibilities float past him. It then piles on fresh
despair, but at least it's trying for variety.