TV column for Wednesday, July 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Extant” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

Last season was
rough on Molly (Halle Berry), the astronaut. Returning from a
13-month solo mission, she was inexplicably pregnant. The fetus was
removed and became the mind-controlling Offspring who almost killed
her; her android son saved her, but was mostly killed, surviving only
as a video image.

Now the second
season starts six months later, with Molly in a mental ward. Hearing
of murders similar to what she saw in space, she escapes and links
with a cop (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The result is the mid-section of
CBS' summer dramas, with “Zoo” on Tuesdays and “Under the Dome”
Thursdays.

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

The 100th
episode begins amid beauty – a fog-shrouded, oceanside cliff in
Rancho Palo Verdes, near Los Angeles. There, the dozen contestants
(talented home cooks, not professionals) must make dinners for 100
VIP's; then the six on the losing team must each make a birthday
cake.

Soon, in a fun
episode, everything goes wrong. Oysters are overcooked, duck is
undercooked and Gordon Ramsay proclaims one creation “the ugliest
cake ... in America.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Robot,” 10:01 p.m., USA.

This confirms that
life isn't fair – two techno-thrillers in the same timeslot.
“Extant” has Oscar-winners as producer (Steven Spielberg) and
star; “Mr. Robot” has a terrific star and last week's great
opener.

That showed Elliot
(Rami Malek) juggling two worlds: By night, he's a hacker, exposing
bad guys; by day, he's a computer-whiz for a group hired by E
Corporation. (Since he's telling the story, people call it Evil
Corporation.) Now he's being recruited by opposite forces -- a hacker
group and Evil's tech chief.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “First Peoples,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Isolation can be a
mixed blessing, the first hour says. When a group is too confined,
its gene-pool suffers from in-breeding; extinction may follow. In
Asia, early homo sapiens may have saved themself by sometimes
procreating with more-primitive species, including Neanderthals.

But defying most
trends are the remarkable Aborigines. Thoroughly isolated on
Australia, they managed to survive. The second hour offers reasons
why and serves up some stunning cave visuals.

Other choices
include:

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., TruTV. Here's a nine-hour rerun marathon
... kind of like Monday's four-hour string and ones coming next
Monday and Wednesday. We can't blame TruTV; its other shows are weak
and this one – mixing wit, magic tricks and hidden cameras – is
terrific.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Valentine's Day brings mixed expectations: Brick's
girlfriend expects their first kiss; Axl's expects nothing.

“Operation Wild,”
8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). From raging rhinos to cute little
pandas, animals from the wild are saved by veterinarians using rescue
vehicles and high-tech science.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil fears that Luke isn't as interested in being with
him. Now Andy (Adam DeVine), the nanny, becomes a sort of surrogate
son.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two lives – one conventional, one not –
are swapped. Actress Holly Robinson, 50, is married to former
pro-football quarterback Rodney Peete. With 17-year-old twins (one
diagnosed with audism), plus sons 12 and 10, they race to kids'
sports and such. Margaret Cho, 46, is bisexual and an advocate of
varied experiences. She takes Rodney to what ABC calls a “naughty
dungeon”; meanwhile, comedian Selene Luna shows Holly a world of
wine and fun.

“Flipping Out”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Jeff Lewis makes two drastic decisions
that don't fit together – firing some of his employees and then
expanding his business.

 

 

TV column for Tuesday, June 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Zoo” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

Until now, animals
have had a fine image in Hollywood, ranging only from the nobility of
Lassie to the mischief of Bonzo and Curious George. Now, however,
they turn into mass killers.

Based on James
Patterson's novel, this has all of them misbehaving. A safari guide
(James Wolk) feels there's a reason for this; he links with a
journalist (Kristen Connolly) and a veterinary pathologist (Billy
Burke) to investigate. This continues CBS' trend of introducing one
major drama each summer. “Extant” starts its second season on
Wednesday; “Under the Dome” continues its third on Thursday.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“1913: Seeds of Conflict,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For 80-plus years, a
key documentary film was missing. Then -- in France, in 1997 -- “The
Life of the Jews in Palestine” was discovered, with its sweet views
of an agrarian/Utopian world. That film forms a core of this balanced
documentary, which shows the century-old roots of current crises.

Pushed by prejudices
in Europe, Jews moved to Palestine's promised land. They had a great
gift for community, historians say here, building schools, farms and
an economy. But their land-grab – ranging from bribery to simply
outbidding the locals – left others homeless. The seeds of rage
were planted.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

The fictional
country of Abbudin remains shaken. Its dictator, Jamal Al-Fayeed,
ordered the execution of his brother, Barry, after a failed coup; now
his general responds brutally to an assassination attempt.

Meanwhile, Molly
Al-Fayeed tries to adjust to widowhood. She returns to her medical
practice in Pasadena ... grasps at her long-dormant Christian roots
... and is jolted by the quirks of the money inherited from Barry.
BUT viewers know he's not dead at all: Unwilling to kill his brother
directly, Jamal left him in the desert; Barry is alive and in limbo,
in a deep episode with a bizarre ending.

Other choices
include:

Soccer, 7 p.m. ET,
Fox. An unyielding defense faces an unbeaten offense, with the winner
reaching the finals of the Women's World Cup. The Americans allowed a
goal in the first half of their first game, but haven't seen another
in four-and-a-half games – a 423-minute shut-out streak. Now it
faces Germany, which has scored four or more goals in three of its
five Cup games.

“America's Got
Talent” and “I Can Do That,” 8 and 10 p.m., NBC. The “Talent”
auditions continue, followed by the finale of the brief “I Can Do
That” season. This time, celebrities try to match the acts of the
Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, rapper Snoop Dogg and the performance
group Tell-A-Vision.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder probe takes Tony to the military academy he
attended as a teen. Also, Ellie and her husband (Jamie Bamber of
“Battlestar Galactica”) invite the team for dinner.

“Beat the
Champions,” about 9 p.m. ET (after soccer), Fox. Ordinary people
try to win money by beating top athletes. The pros (often given
offbeat handicaps) are basketball star Scottie Pippen,
Olympic-champion swimmer Missy Franklin and record-setting tight end
Rob Gronowski.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. The arrival of “Zoo” is pushing this
show back an hour. In this rerun, the team probes whether the
hit-and-run killing of a Navy recruiter is related to her work or to
her foster kids. Also, Lasalle worries about his brother.

“Scream” debut,
10 p.m., MTV. The well-crafted movies have been adapted (sort of)
into this series. It's a different town, with different teens, but
aims for the same mix of pop-culture-savvy scares.

“Another Period,”
10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. After a hilarious start last week,
“Period” -- set in a Rhode Island mansion in 1902 – has an
erratic second episode. There are clever lines -- “I don't know why
we took all that land from the Indians, if we're just going to act
like them” -- alongside a witless story of a male servant being
raped. In a funnier plotline, the sisters (Natasha Leggero and Riki
Lindhome, the show's creators) have fresh schemes for dumping their
husbands.

TV column for Monday, June 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelorette” (ABC) or “So You Think You Can Dance”
(Fox), 8 p.m.

The dueling reality
shows are at interesting places in geography -- “Bachelorette” in
Ireland, “Dance” in Las Vegas -- and in their competitions.
“Dance” found terrific dancers at its auditions; now the
callbacks begin, creating the final “street” and “stage”
teams.

Meanshile,
“Bachelorette” trims from nine men to six, as the drama boils:
Shawn demands to know if Kaitlyn Bristowe is still in love with him;
it's a reasonable question, since she apparently had sex with Nick
Viall in last week's episode. The “Bachelor/Bachelorette” world
gets kind of messy sometimes.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Teen Wolf” season-opener, 10 p.m., MTV.

This is MTV's big
drama week, with “Scream” starting Tuesday and “Wolf”
returning tonight. If you're not up to date, don't worry; it reruns
all of last season from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Then the season
starts as Scott heading into his senior year of high school, with a
strong girlfriend (who has supernatural powers) and a weak
grade-point-average. His friend, who is a mere human, is dating
someone who isn't. Also, some newcomers are scarier than your normal,
everyday werewolves.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Few documentaries
take the downward plunge of “The Overnighters.” It offers a hero
– Jay Reinke, a Lutheran pastor, providing sleeping spots for the
men who rushed to North Dakota, hoping for oil-boom jobs. We meet a
faithful aide, rebuilding his life after 16 years in prison, and a
lovable family.

Then, during the 18
months of filming, things crumble in Greek-tragedy style. Viewers are
left feeling wretched. If you watch it, take solace in the fact that
Reinke's life improved somewhat afterward. Also, appreciate being
able to visit this dark quagmire and then return to your own life.

Other choices
include:

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, everyone helps Oleg move into Sophie's place
... until she starts rejecting his stuff.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., ABC Family. When her family visits, Lena hopes to end a long
dispute with her half-brother.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. In the show's third episode, rerunning here, team members
flunk a military test. They may be able to redeem themselves by
preventing a bomber from shattering the Internet.

“Larry Kramer in
Love and Anger,” 9 p.m., HBO. When “The Normal Heart” won its
Emmy for best TV movie, viewers saw lots of vibrant, Hollywood people
celebrating onstage alongside Kramer; then 79 and in poor health, he
was the hero of the moment. His play had described his frustration at
trying to make the world aware of the AIDS crisis; now this
documentary views Kramer's life.

“Cedric's Barber
Battle,” 9:30 p.m., CW. After a five-week break, this tries a new
night. In traditional-looking barber shops (tonight is Newark),
competing stylists try to create elaborate cuts. Cedric the
Entertainer keeps it fairly ... well, entertaining.

“The Making of the
Mob: New York,” 10 p.m., AMC. The third episode of this documentary
series finds Lucky Luciano taking control of the Mob in New York. To
get us in the mood, AMC reruns “The Godfather, Part II” (1974) –
Francis Coppola's Oscar-winning gem – from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

“The Whispers,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Claire – the ace FBI interrogator – knows that
this amnesiac “John Doe” is really her husband Sean; the trouble
is that he doesn't know and she can't jar any memories loose.
Meanwhile, Wes heads back to Mali, where Sean's plane was found in a
bizarre crash site.

TV column for Sunday, June 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BET Awards,” 8 p.m., BET, with red-carpet at 6.

A star-stuffed night
has music by Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj (who lead with six
nominations apiece), plus Ne-Yo, Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and the
cast of “Empire.”

“Empire” also
shows up in the acting categories, with nominations for Taraji
Henson, Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett; “Black-ish” has
nominations for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, who are
tonight's hosts. There's much more, including special awards for
Smokey Robinson and Tom Joyner.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Masterpiece: Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Last week's splendid
debut introduced Ross Poldark, shakily lving in opposite worlds. His
instincts are blue-collar, but his family's crumbling estate means he
can mingle (barely) with the elite.

Now we get two
mismatched stories. One seems terribly soapy, involving the family of
Elizabeth (who married an affable fool when she thought Poldark was
dead), but the other packs depth and power: One of the last remaining
mines has been foreclosed, leaving workers destitute and desperate.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me,” 9 and 10:48 p.m.,
CNN.

As Campbell faced
Alzheimer's disease, a farewell tour was planned; he would travel for
five weeks, with family and friends in his band. Audiences cheered;
the tour ran two years and 151 shows.

This Oscar-nominated
documentary is a warm portrait of Campbell, now 79, and his family,
but isn't sugar-coated. It includes his bad days; an amiable country
guy rages at the loss of a wonderful life.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Finales and near-finale, 9-11 p.m., Showtime.

A much-praised
series concludes, as “Nurse Jackie” ends its seventh and final
season. Edie Falco has had five Emmy nominations and one win ... to
go with her three “Sopranos” Emmys. This season, Jackie has
fought to get back her nursing license; she has it ... but now the
hospital is closing.

That's followed at
9:30 by the season-finale of “Happyish”; Thom (Steve Coogan)
ponders a big step at work, while Jonathan tries to change his mind.
At 10, “Penny Dreadful” (a week from its season-finale) finds
Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) in danger. Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and others
rush to battle Evelyn.

Other choices
include:

“Scream” (1996)
and its sequels, 12:45, 3:40, 7:08 and 9:30 p.m. Two days before
debuting its “Scream” series, MTV gives us one for chance for a
half-day screamfest.

Movies-with-music,
cable. Here are quick reruns of two films that debuted this weekend.
Hallmark's “A Country Wedding” (1 and 9 p.m.) is comfortably
adequate, with three excellent country songs from Jesse Metcalfe.
Disney's “Teen Beach 2” (8 p.m.) has 1960s-movie characters
invading modern life.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. One episode has football players, with
the AFC vs. the NFC. The other has the “Dancing With the Stars”
pros against “Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” contestants.

“Humans” debut,
9 p.m., AMC. In some future world, comfy families feel they need a
Synth – a near-human robot. We meet a family that has a new – and
dangerous? -- one and a widowed scientist (William Hurt) who feels
attached to his flawed old one. Adapted from a Swedish series, this
mini-series has already become a hit in England, where it was filmed.

“American Odyssey”
finale, 10 p.m., NBC. Odelle scrambles to get to neutral ground and
expose the officials who claimed she was dead. Back in New York,
Peter and Harrison face the aftershocks.

“Falling Skies”
season-opener, 10 p.m., TNT. Tom (Noah Wyle) succeeded in knocking
out the aliens' power core, but now he's drifting into space, his
life in danger.

TV column for Saturday, June 27


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

J.K. Simmons has
ranged from the silliness of insurance commercials to the fierce
intensity of “Oz” and “Whiplash.” So we shouldn't be
surprised that he stepped easily into hosting this rerun.

Simmons did a
version of his “Whiplash” character, berating drummers ... until
former “SNL” guy Fred Armisen showed some genuine talent. That
followed a weak opener (Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch on Super
Bowl eve), part of a mixed night. The lows were lame, the highs
included a “Teachers Snow Day” video and the hilarious Jebidiah
Atkinson (Taran Killam) attacking the Grammys.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “A Country Wedding,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

A country-music
singer (Jesse Metcalfe) is preparing to marry a gorgeous movie star.
First, he returns to sell his family farm, a place he hasn't been for
decades. Next door, his childhood friend (Autumn Reeser) has a rescue
ranch that's being foreclosed.

You can probably
guess the rest; Hallmark doesn't like surprises. The real surprise,
however, is Metcalfe. First known as the teen hunk on “Desperate
Housewives,” then the star of the new version of “Dallas,” he
emerges as a solid singer, debuting three excellent country songs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Scream” marathon, 7 p.m., MTV.

On Tuesday, MTV will
launch its “Scream” series, with a new generation of teens being
scared and/or killed in Lakewood. First, however, we can revisit the
1996 original, which had Kevin Williamson's witty script, Wes
Craven's sharp direction and a terrific young cast.

That's followed by a
preview of the series at 9:30 p.m. and then the sequels at 9:38 p.m.
(1997), 1 a.m. (2000) and 3:30 a.m. (2011). If that seems too late
for screaming – it is, you know – then catch the four films
Sunday at 12:45, 3:40, 7:08 and 9:30 p.m.

Other choices
include:

“Teen Beach 2,”
11 a.m., Disney. Here's a second chance to see this film, which
debuted Friday (and also airs at 8 p.m. Sunday). The original film
had modern surfers somehow end up inside a 1960s beach musical,
altering its plot. In the sequel, the characters from the movie visit
them in real life.

“The Island” and
“American Ninja Warrior,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., NBC. Two macho shows
offer reruns. First is a June 1 episode in which the guys scramble to
find fresh water; then is a June 17 one, with “Ninja” try-outs in
Houston.

“BattleBots,” 8
p.m., ABC. In a switch, ABC has scratched its rerun of a fairly good
“Astronaut Wives Club” episode. Instead, it reruns Sunday's
opener of this battling-robot competition.

“CSI Cyber,” 8
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, nine planes that left from the same airport
face a Wi-fi attack.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. After their successful sting operation,
three FBI agents were killed in an explosion. In this rerun, the team
tries to find who's responsible.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz. James thinks his Miami trip – squelching an enemy and
frolicking with his mistress – was a success. Now come the
complications from his wife, her sister and the young driver they
both lust for. It's a fairly good hour, with some pivotal moments.

“Jonathan Strange
& Mr. Norell,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Trying to help the British
battle Napoleon's army, Strange finds some disturbing ancient magic.
The show, alas, no longer has its strong lead-in; “Orphan Black”
concluded last week and “Atlantis” returns at 9 p.m. today.