TV column for Tuesday, July 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “History Detectives,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

At his peak, Jimmy Hoffa was a fierce force. In his four
decades with the Teamsters, he saw the union increase tenfold. It had a million
members and forged a national transportation contract.


At his low point, he spent four years in prison, convicted
of fraud and jury-tampering. He was still trying for a comeback when he
disappeared on July 30, 1975. That remains one of the classic unsolved
mysteries; using the FBI report, experts and survivors, this looks at Hoffa’s
final days.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Face Off” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
Syfy.


This competition for aspiring movie make-up people has all
the reality-show clichés, but uses them well. It has a sharp host (actress McKenzie
Westmore) and top experts, including her father (Michael Westmore), who has an
Academy Award and three more nominations.


Tonight – after a 13-hour rerun marathon ends with last
season’s winner -- 16 contestants arrive and learn they might not stay. Each
must create a look representing life or death; then two will be ousted.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Drunk History,” 10 p.m., Comedy
Central.


OK, many of us know the story of a lawyer, temporarily
captive, writing a poem that was later set to a British drinking song; it would
become the National Anthem. But how many know of Edgar Allan Poe’s bitter
rival, who helped make him famous? Or Abraham Lincoln slipping into Washington
for his inauguration; he almost got stuck in anti-Abe turf, because Baltimore’s
noise rule banned trains at night.


Each story is told here by someone who is drunk. Spiced with
odd re-enactments, it’s a fun mix.


Other choices include:


“Food Fighters” debut, 8 p.m., NBC. Amateur cooks bring
their specialties – which celebrity cooks then try to top. Adam Richman (“Man
v. Food”) hosts and Lorena Garcia is a guest chef.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a Marine photographer has
disappeared, before he could testify at a court martial. Now the team probes
that case and his current project, about homeless veterans.


Movies, 8 p.m., cable. There’s family fun in “Bolt” (2008,
Disney), an animated tale of a TV-star dog who thinks he really is a superhero.
For grown-ups, “21 Jump Street” (2012, FXX) is surprisingly clever.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. The auditions have
finished and survivors face a “boot camp.”


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun eyes Hetty’s
past, after an anti-terrorist device is stolen.


“Chasing Life,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. This remains an odd
mish-mash. The core – skilled actors, in a story of a 24-year-old facing cancer
– is solid; around that is clumsy soap opera and an absurd portrait of the
newspaper world. Tonight, April’s romantic dreams wobble when Dominic gets a
job offer.


“Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here’s a
rerun of a Thanksgiving-week episode, focusing on three kids – ages 9, 10 and
12 – who face hunger day-to-day.


“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s hour stopped in
mid-crisis, on the anniversary of a late dictator’s genocide. Now his son –
until recently, a Pasadena pediatrician – scrambles to prevent more bloodshed.


TV column for Monday, July 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Seed,” 9 p.m., CW.


Last week’s opener was a happy surprise – quick, clever and
unheralded. A shiftless bartender suddenly met two results of his long-ago
sperm donation … with a possible third on the way.


Tonight’s episode – a half-hour earlier than usual, in a
late switch – is another good one. Our guy adjusts to the kids’ extremely
opposite families and is pressed into parenting duties … leading to one of TV’s
funniest show-and-tell scenes.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “MasterChef” and “Hotel Hell,” 8 and 9
p.m., Fox.


Fox’s Mondays are now all-new and all-Ramsay. Gordon Ramsay continues
as one of the three “MasterChef” judges; tonight they join the 13 remaining chefs,
working with Alaskan king salmon.


Then we see Ramsay alone, in the season-opener of a hotel
makeover show. He heads to Las Cruces, New Mexico; the heat is fierce and the hotel
owner is obsessed with singing Cher songs.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m.,
ABC.


The chances for a major culture clash ended last week, when
Andi Dorfman, an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, sent home Chris
Soules, an Iowa farmer.


Next week, Dorfman, 27, is supposed to choose either Josh
Murray, 29, a former pro baseball player who lives in Atlanta; or Nick Viall,
33, a software sales executive in Chicago. First, the show pauses for its
“Bachelors Tell All” chapter, with comments and memories from some of the
rejected men.


Other choices include:


“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Caroline thinks
she’s doing Max a favor by buying new bedding. Then she must scramble to find
the old pillowcase, which has sentimental value.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Nick Zano is now the designated
hot-guy for Monday comedies. After several turns as Johnny in “2 Broke Girls,”
he’s David here – a wild party guy who tempts Christy to her old ways.


“Brain Games,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic. Even without
specific words, it seems, language is deeply rooted. Twin babies have vocal
rhythms like conversation; grown-ups agree on which nonsense sound fits each
shape. Such findings lead to a discussion of language; the second episode views
risk.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun,
Berta injures her back at work. Walden and Alan figure she should retire; for
now, however, she just enjoys being waited on.


“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. Food is scarce under the dome,
so Big Jim and Rebecca ponder the extreme step – reducing the population. Also,
we learn about Melanie and her possible link to the dome.


“Way Out West,” 10 p.m., TruTV. Reality fans like to see people
face primitive challenges, often in Alaska; now comes an Idaho variation. We
meet three families that work at “outfitting” – preparing and guiding people
for the wilderness. Alongside the serious business, we see their makeshift
contests. Tonight pits horse-drawn “chariots” … which look suspiciously like a
toboggan and a raft and such.


“Going Deep,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., National Geographic. In
this witty series, David Rees goes into deep details about the simplest tasks.
Tonight, he learns how to dig a hole and how to flip coins.


TV column for Sunday, July 20



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Here’s the last of this season’s four “Endeavour” movies,
showing the early years of Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans), before he became the
all-wise Inspector Morse.


Tonight, he’s been probing three cases: A boy is missing, a
journalist is dead and someone has walked out of an open prison. Morse feels
they’re related and they point to a conspiracy among Oxford’s elite.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Lottery” debut, 10 p.m.,
Lifetime.


Suddenly, inexplicably, the world has turned infertile. There
are six known 5-year-olds; no one has been born since then. Now – as word comes
of a possible breakthrough – we see desperate moves.


The government covets the few children … and covets some newly
fertilized eggs. Now the plots grow. “Lottery” has a plot that’s good enough to
partially overcome its so-so filming and adequate cast.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.


Like last week’s opener, this hour tries some precarious
juggling. It’s a sleek, slick adventure drama, beautifully written, acted and
filmed. It’s also a gory horror story.


An airplane landed with only four survivors – except,
unbeknownst to officials, the others have returned to life. Meanwhile, a giant
box was smuggled out, carrying something viral and nasty. Now a Centers for
Disease Control doctor deals with his own crumbling life, while trying to warn
of disaster.


Other choices include:


“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. The first rerun, a
delight, finds Homer waking up and seeing that he and everyone else is suddenly
made of Legos. The second has Marge deciding to quit having friends.


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. It’s got to be tough to play
poker with someone who remembers everything. Tonight, Carrie admits to fellow
cops that she’s played it at an underground casino; then she goes undercover
there, to probe the murder of a city official.


“Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime.
Both shows started their seasons last week, in transition. Now Ray returns his
wayward dad to Los Angeles and the Sully-shooting case is (temporarily) buried.
Then Dr. Masters starts his new job, with Virginia Johnson’s future uncertain.


“Game of Crowns,” 9:01 p.m., Bravo. Even by reality-show
standards, this is a surprisingly dim-witted episode. When one of the women
tries a beauty pageant, the others make a harmless bet. Her husband over-reacts
… they over-react to that … and general stupidity ensues.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Jamie and Roy must set their
differences aside, when combining to defend football players charged with
murder. Also, Preston apologizes after he’s spotted in the sex tape.


“Gunslingers” debut, 10 p.m., America Heroes Channel
(formerly Military Channel). An accidental lawman, Wyatt Earp seemed
inscrutable and unbeatable; even at the OK Corral gunfight, he was barely
touched. Still, he hung with brutal people, including his brothers and the
crumbling Doc Holliday. This is the first of six episodes, mixing rich commentary
and fairly good re-enactments.


TV column for Saturday, July 19



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

Kerry Washington of “Scandal” hosts, in a rerun that helped
change “SNL.” In the opening sketch, she’s supposed to portray Michelle Obama,
Oprah Winfrey AND Beyonce; then the show apologizes for having no black women
in its cast.


It’s a funny bit, but it also made an impact; the show soon
made Sasheer Zamata its first black female regular in seven years. There are
other good moments here, with Eminem as music guest.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “For Better or For Worse,” 9-11 p.m.,
Hallmark.


Wendy took over her late husband’s wedding-planning
business, helped by her friend. That provides a “Facts of Life” reunion, with
Lisa Whelchel and Kim Fields.


Complicating this is Marco, who moves his divorce-attorney
office next to Wendy’s wedding business. She’s unhappy about that …. and less
happy when his daughter plans to marry her son.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC.


At the end of last week’s rerun, we learned that Liz’s
husband really is a deeply planted spy. We also met the woman trying to
manipulate him.


Tonight, in a strong hour, their relationship peaks at the
same time that Liz’s colleague is involved in a fierce crisis: An escaped
prisoner is killing everyone jnvolved in his arrest.


Other choices include:


“Hell’s Kitchen,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Instead of baseball,
Fox reruns the episodes that set up Thursday’s finale. First, five chefs make a
meal with leftovers; then the four survivors are trimmed to two.


“48 Hours,” 8 and 10 p.m., CBS. In a change, CBS has two
hours, sandwiching “Bad Teacher.”


“Sugarland Express” (1974) and “AFI Master Class,” 8 and 10
p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. First is Steven Spielberg’s big-screen debut,
with a woman (Goldie Hawn) trying to re-unite her family the hard way -- help
her husband escape from prison, then kidnap their son. That’s followed by a
look at Spielberg’s relationship with composer John Williams; it began with that
film and has lasted 40 years.


“Bad Teacher,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. In the first episode,
Meredith finds money in the school parking lot and uses it for a field trip …
then feels a tad guilty when she realizes it was the field-trip money that
Ginny lost. In the second, she argues with the parents of the best student,
then refuses to apologize.


“Mistresses,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Savi gets caught in a
lie and her sister, Joss, is troubled by her boyfriend’s plastic-surgeon work.
Also, April braces herself to confront Daniel.


“Power,” 9 p.m., Starz. Ghost has troubles on many levels: He
forgets his wife’s birthday; also, Angela – his high school girlfriend and now
a government lawyer, probing the drug business he dominates – has wired a
member of the Ruiz gang. Now Ghost and Angela discuss the reality of their
affair.


“Almost Royal,” 10 p.m., BBC America. The young royals –
actually, actors amiably pretending to be British royals – reach Washington,
D.C., where they meet a congressman and gun-toting women. That’s followed by a 10:30
rerun of their visit to Detroit, where they tried to be car mechanics.


TV column for Friday, July 18



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

If you have enough channels – and many people do – you’ll
have great choices tonight.


For families, the delightful “Rio” (2011, FXX) reflects its
Rio de Janeiro setting with vibrant animation and music. For grown-ups with
lots of time, “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962, Turner Classic Movies) – with a deep
personal story tucked inside an epic adventure – is 8 p.m. ET to midnight. Then
there’s, “Casino Royale” (2006) on BBC America; except for one flaw (a poker
plot), it’s first-rate James Bond.


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


This hour – the middle of CBS’ three-drama-rerun night –
finds McGarrett with two imposing missions.


He must find the person who killed an undercover federal
agent. Also, he must take care of a baby, because his sister (Taryn Manning) is
sick. Daryl Hannah guests as a real-estate agent.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Crossbones,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.


For Jagger (Julian Sands), the obsession with Blackbeard (John
Malkovich) is growing. He visits an insane asylum, where one of the inmates may
be a key to winning.


Meanwhile, Lowe (Richard Coyle) fears Jagger will kill all
the people of Santa Compana while smiting Blackbeard. A possible solution:
Kidnap Blackbeard and deliver him to the English, but not to Jagger.


Other choices include:


“Say Yes to the Dress,” 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., TLC. This marathon
includes new half-hours at 9 and 9:30 p.m. and a new hour at 10, with a former
pro cheerleader getting more tense as her wedding nears.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. During a reality-show
cooking competition, people unknowingly eat human flesh. They’re not happy about
it and an investigation ensues.


“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. This rerun starts with pure
Americana – contestants working at a busy Los Angeles diner. Those on the
losing team then compete by making red velvet cakes.


More movies, 8:30 and 9 p.m., cable. “Sleepless in Seattle”
(1993), a pleasant romantic comedy with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, is 8:30-11 p.m.
on ABC Family. “The Butler” (2013), the beautifully nuanced portrait of a White
House staffer over decades, is 9-11:15 p.m. on Showtime.


“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. This show finished its story Monday, but
here’s a second chance. The final two episodes rerun today and next Friday.


“Cold Justice,” 9 p.m., TNT. This well-made show has seen
two talented women -- a former prosecutor and a former crime scene investigator
– re-open cold cases in small towns. Tonight, they’re interviewed by John
Walsh, the “America’s Most Wanted” host.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny learns there’s a deadly
new type of heroin on the streets. He tries to find the distributor, while his
dad, the police commissioner, takes other steps.


“The Almighty Johnsons,” 10 p.m., Syfy. Last week’s amiable
opener saw Axl receive surprising news on his 21
st birthday: His
older brothers are Norse gods, he is, too … and he may be Odin, the mightiest
god. Now he must save his family by finding a goddess named Frigg.