TV column for Saturday, Aug. 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Gymnastics, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The tiny teen-agers keep changing, but the skill continues.
Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas has switched coaches and is skipping these
national championships; the new fuss involves Simone Biles, 17, who won last
year’s national and world titles.


The women’s competition has its finals tonight. The men
start their finals at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Doctor Who,” 8:15 p.m., BBC America;
reruns at 12:15 a.m.


In the 51-year “Who” history, 11 men have played The Doctor.
Now the 12
th begins, in a sharp change: Matt Smith was 27 when he
took the role four years ago; Peter Capaldi is 56.


His arrival is treated as a major event. A marathon has
Smith’s final episodes, with the last one starting at 6:40 p.m.; there’s a live
pre-show at 8 and then the movie, with Victorian London facing annoyances,
including dinosaurs and spontaneous combustion.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox.


This one will have to hold us for a while. Fox reruns the
season’s final episode, then plans to wait until January to start the last
“Glee” season.


This hour, stuffed with music, find Rachel meeting an
eccentric writer who might create a TV series for her. Sam and Mercedes feel
pressure as their careers start to take off. And Blaine finally has his big
school showcase with the demanding June Dolloway (Shirley MacLaine).


Other choices include:


Racing, 7:30 p.m. ET., ABC. NASCAR racers converge in
Bristol, Tenn.


Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS. The 2010 Super Bowl teams
re-unite, with New Orleans and Indianapolis. The Saints, who won that one,
still have Drew Brees; the Colts have Andrew Luck instead of Peyton Manning.


“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Both reruns come
after Boyle was shot. In the first one, medication causes him to be too frank
about his colleagues; in the second, he returns to work too soon,


“Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz. The second episode (rerunning at
7:55 p.m.), was oddly bland, as was the first. This third one has a sharper
story: With two boys hovering near death, it’s a battle between the church (an
exorcism) and science (a 1940s nurse who has been whisked to 1743 Scotland).


“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. Campbell makes a move against
Durant; also, Cullen is in trouble at home, after taking railroad matters into
his own hands.


“Intruders,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Crafted by one of the
best “X-Files” writers (Glen Morgan), this tries the style that show used so
well: Start with several seemingly unrelated things, then weave them together. “X-Files,”
however, did that in an hour; “Intruders” is an eight-hour series, with an opener
that leaves us bewildered. A wife (Mira Sorvino) has vanished, a killer (James
Frain) is loose, a little girl runs. It’s all very fascinating and, for now,
terribly perplexing.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Josh Hutcherson, the
“Hunger Games” hero, hosts this rerun, with Haim as music guest.


TV column for Thursday, Aug. 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC.


After taking a week off (for the “Last Comic Standing”
finale), this drolly clever show has its best episode since the pilot film.
Bruce’s parents (Patrick Duffy and Illeana Douglas) travel to Sweden and meet his
girlfriend’s family; cultures clash about marriage, religion and … well,
everything else.


Wrapped into this is a possible pregnancy. That brings some
great moments from Greg Poehler, the show’s co-writer and star, as Bruce gropes
(unsuccessfully) for the right things to say.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Rookie Blue” season-finale, 9 and 10
p.m., ABC.


For five summers, this show has had solid crime stories,
against the backdrop of young cops in love and angst. It offers quiet Canadian
competence and a likable star, Missy Peregrym.


She plays Andy, happy in her romance with Sam and wondering
what can go wrong. A lot, it seems. Duncan – the rookie she tried to train – is
back and is still over-eager, just as a car bomber lets loose.


TODAY’S MUST-SEE (or tape): “Doctor Who” and “The Simpsons,”
all day, cable.


Two of the longest-lasting (and best) shows in TV history
offer marathons. For “Who,” it’s BBC America’s  build-up to Saturday’s arrival of the 12
th
Doctor; the terrific 11
th Doctor and his companion (Matt Smith and
Karen Gillan) are introduced in a brilliant episode at 9 a.m., then continue
throughout the day.


And for “Simpsons,” this is big. The FXX channel (an FX offshoot,
owned by Fox) has bought all 552 episodes. It will rerun them all, starting at
10 a.m. with the offbeat holiday opener from Dec. 17, 1989.


Other choices include:


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Everyone seems to face a
tough choice in this rerun: Raj is dating both Lucy and Emily, maybe
simultaneously. Penny has another cheesy movie offer. And, alas, Sheldon must
decide between two game systems.


“Inside the Actors Studio,” 8 p.m., Bravo. This reruns Robin
Williams’ appearance in June of 2001.


“Rectify” season-finale, 9-10:05 p.m., Sundance. When his conviction
was vacated, Daniel came home after 19 years in prison … with many townspeople
still considering him a killer. Now he disagrees with his lawyer on the approach
to a new trial; also, there are turning points for his sister and step-brother.


“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. 
This rerun – the directing debut of Lucy Liu, who plays Watson -- has
Sherlock reluctantly working with his brother Mycroft, on a life-and-death
case.


“Marriage,” 10 p.m., FX. After improving sharply in recent
weeks, this show reverts to the sexual themes of its so-so pilot. The result is
often grim and only occasionally funny.


“The Honorable Woman,” 10:05 p.m., Sundance. In its first
three weeks, this tense show kept pointing to a dark secret from Nessa’s past.
Now a flashback shows us what happened. It requires us to believe a smart woman
would take a foolish risk; the rest – particularly Janet McTeer as the spy
chief – is brilliant.


“You’re the Worst,” 10:30, FX. This sharp,
acerbic comedy links two people who are toxic to the world, but can’t really
hurt each other. Now they toy with their relationship; since they’re not “exclusive”
– or are they? – they should be free to have sex with others. It’s a darkly
funny, and sort of pivotal, episode

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 20



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox) or “America’s
Got Talent” (NBC), 8-10 p.m.


“Dance” trims to its final four … and “Talent” to 24. At 8
p.m., “Talent” reruns Tuesday’s 12 acts; at 9, it tells which five will
advance. That makes 20 for the next round, with each judge then adding one
more.


Meanwhile, “Dance” is in the odd position of having two tap
dancers and a ballerina in its final six; the other three are contemporary or
jazz – categories that usually dominate. Tonight, each dances with an
“all-star”; then – after a song by Rixton – two more will be sent home.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Legends.” 9 p.m., TNT.


A mild-mannered chemistry teacher and his family have been
kidnapped, leaving many questions including the big one: After “Breaking Bad,”
are there really any mild-mannered chemistry teachers?


Now there’s a danger of mass devastation; the FBI’s best
(and shakiest) undercover agent is needed. “Legends” is from Howard Gordon, who
also produces “24,” “Homeland” and “Tyrant.” It has similar flaws (torture, an
open-ended story) and strengths  – a
great star (Sean Bean) in a smart, taut drama.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Extant,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.


Now this ratings-winner is accelerating its story. For the
next two weeks, it has new hours back-to-back.


Tonight, Molly (Halle Berry) suspects that her baby is still
alive; she races to find the baby before the bad guys do. Also, her husband
(Goran Visjnic) has another problem: The android son he developed is developing
at an alarming rate.


Other choices include:


“Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. Alongside Tuesdays
“Wizard Wars” and Friday’s “Masters of Illusion,” this gives us a dandy week
for magicians.


“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun has
pre-wedding dismay – including Mitchell’s unhappiness with the cake-top image
whittled by Cam’s father.
The[MH1] 
second has a too-perfect nanny.


 “Suits”’ mid-season
finale (9 p.m. on USA). Harvey and Jessica scramble to stop outside raiders.


“Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
Bravo. We meet two young Englishmen, instantly described as “super smug and cocky”
and (to their faces) “Bert and Ernie” and “The Spice Girls.” Then again, their
clients and competitors are smug, too: One dismisses a 7,000-square-foot,
seven-bedroom home as “a bit small”; another stages a home by adding a
guitarist and a $300,000 car.


“Who Do You Think You Are?” 9 p.m., TLC. Kelsey Grammer has
already described some heavy family background, including the separate murders
of his father and sister. Now genealogy digs deeper.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Each week has brought fresh
thunderbolts. Last week, Marco and Sonya killed the two corrupt cops. Now – in
another strong and well-crafted hour -- he works to keep her out of it … while
she finally gets key details in the long-ago murder of her sister.


“Preachers of L.A.” season-opener, 10 p.m., Oxygen. In a
surprisingly lame hour, people have lots of petty arguments. We expect that
from other reality shows – especially from “Real Housewives” ones – but were
really hoping the clergy would have higher concerns.


“Heartbreakers,” 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery.
Originally scheduled for last week, this has Jack Wagner in the odd-but-true
story of a preacher’s affair with the wife of his finance chairman.


“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. When a maid from El
Salvador is shot, police discover her back story.


 






 [MH1]





TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 19



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

At last, the near-eternal preliminaries are wrapping up and
things are getting serious.


Tonight, we see the final batch of 12 acts that survived the
auditions; then viewers vote. On Wednesday, five acts will advance. After each
judge adds a wild-card choice, “Talent” will have its top 24.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Wizard Wars” debut, 10 p.m., Syfy.


Sure, some magicians spend months honing a trick; not these
contestants. Tonight, they’re handed Spam, playing cards and a Super Soaker water
gun … then told to work all of that into an act. The results – boosted by a
backstage magic shop – are quick, clever and entertaining.


The show’s flaw is cheapness; to win $10,000, a duo must win
this round and then beat experienced pros. Still, there’s a stream of great
illusions, including a mid-show moment with Penn and Teller. They’re judges
here and also show up Wednesdays and Fridays on CW, making August a magical
month.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Paul Newman movies, all day, Turner
Classic Movies.


Newman was a marvel, forever finding the right mixture of
intelligence, intensity, sexiness and mischief. This marathon includes three of
his best-actor Oscar nominations – the brooding “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) at 5:45
p.m. ET, the buoyant “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) at 10 p.m. and
Tennessee Williams’ brilliant “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) at midnight.


He directed (but isn’t in) “Rachel, Rachel” (1968, 4 p.m.
ET), a best-picture nominee. At 8 is “The Left-Handed Gun” (1958), with Newman
as Billy the Kid … who, historians now say, was right-handed.


Other choices include:


“Doctor Who,” all day, BBC America. As it prepares for
Saturday’s arrival of the twelfth Doctor, the network is zipping through some
“Who” history. At 10 a.m., the Doctor (David Tennant) adds a medical student,
Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), as his companion. Her episodes continue, sandwiched
by specials with Catherine Tate (9 a.m.) and Kylie Minogue (midnight).


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team re-examines a
hit-and-run murder case. Also, McGee is increasingly suspicious of Tony’s odd
behavior.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds al Qaeda
people pursuing a former Marine who embezzled money from Iraq. Hetty has Nell
(Renee Felice Smith) work with Deeks in the field.


“Below Deck,” 9 p.m., Bravo. Last week launched the second season
of this show, focusing on the crew of a 153-foot, $10-million yacht. Tonight,
we’re told, there’s grumbling about the attitude of Kat Held, 29, a stewardess.
At a beach bar, people probe her past dramas; the night ends with a scary
accident.


“Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA. Hank and Boris are back from
Argentina; Divya treats a sickly model.


“The Mindy Project,” 9:30, Fox. A policeman rages when Mindy
gives his daughter birth-control pills.


“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s powerhouse episode saw Bassam
(or Barry) take the first steps in an attempt to overthrow his explosive
brother Jamal and their uncle, the brutal military boss. Now we see the
dangers: Jamal lashes at his opponents; also, the rift between Barry and his
American wife grows.


“A Young Doctor’s Notebook” season-opener, 10 p.m., Ovation.
Mikhail Bulakov was a Russian doctor who used morphine to treat himself in
World War I. He kicked the addiction and became an acclaimed writer. This
series (adapted from his work) finds a 1917 doctor (Daniel Radcliffe) visited
by his 1935 self (Jon Hamm), as war and addiction conspire cruelly. It manages to
be both funny and deeply disturbing.


TV column for Monday, Aug. 18



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Dallas” return, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning
at 11.

 

It was back in 1978 that the Southfork ranch house became an
American icon, the home of the rich and ever-troubled Ewings. And it was on
April 14 that its fire erupted.


John Ross’ wife had raged, after discovering his affair; his
mom Sue Ellen had passed out drunk upstairs. Now, after a four-month break, the
show starts the second half of its season in mid-crisis.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “America’s Next Top Model”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.


We can think of this as the start of the new season … if we
stretch things a lot. Most fall shows are a month away … and no other CW show will
start until October. But “Top Model” tends to be early.


It was set to debut this Friday, then was nudged ahead four
days. Now the first six episodes will air on Mondays and rerun on Fridays …
which will then become the regular night. This is the 21
st edition
of Tyra Banks’ show, but only the second with guys. At first, seven and seven
women will share the house.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Switched at Birth” and “The Fosters,”
8 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.


The season-finale of “Switched” (which reruns at 10) and the
summer-finale of “Fosters” run back-to-back. That’s a mixed blessing, for
dramas that share so many strengths and flaws.


Each has a good heart and a fine cast. Each has an event – a
graduation, a fund-raiser – that includes soaring music and a speech by a teen
girl (with Maia Mitchell superb as Callie in “Fosters”). And each defies its
own reality, creating smart characters and making them do stupid things for
plot convenience.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: Kids’ shows, PBS and Nickelodeon.


If cuteness sufficed, these shows would triumph. One is “Daniel
Tiger’s Neighborhood,” daytime (check local listings) on PBS. Daniel’s baby
sibling – cute and sweet -- arrives in the second-half hour.


Then “Dora and Friends” debuts at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon,
before taking its regular spot at noon weekdays. The “Dora the Explorer” days
are gone now; Dora’s 10, living in a city and doing good deeds. The opener
involves puppies, making this roughly the cutest half-hour in television
history.


Other choices include:


“Teen Beach Movie” (2013), 7:30-9:30 p.m., Disney.
Simultaneously, the talented Maia Mitchell stars in the emotional “Fosters” and
this frothy film. She plays a surfer, swept to the set of a 1960s beach film.


“Running Wild” with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. In the first
three hours, Grylls’ wilderness mates (Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Ben Stiller)
have been mostly young and always fit. Now Tom Arnold -- 55, and with a past of
weight and substance-abuse issues – joins him in Oregon’s coastal mountains.


“An Adventure in Space and Time“ (2013), 8-10 p.m., BBC
America. Five days before introducing the 12
th Doctor (Peter
Capaldi, 56), this channel reruns its movie telling the shaky start of the now-wonderful
“Doctor Who” series, a half-century ago.


“Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” 9-11 p.m., HBO. In
1990, Smart admitted to having sex with one of her teen students; he and two
friends then killed her husband. What she’s never admitted to is paying (or
asking) them to do it. She was convicted and has been in prison for more than
half her life; she and others are interviewed, in a compelling portrait of the
effects of media focus.


“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. Last week, Dale “Barbie”
Barbara found his dad; now he asks him for help re-connecting with Julia …
without realizing that this guy might not be trustworthy.


“POV,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Mahdi Fleifel
only lived briefly in a Lebanese camp for Palestinian refugees, but his grandfather
has been there 64 years. Here is a dark and disturbing portrait.