TV column for Thursday, June 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Big Bang Theory” and “Life in Pieces,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
CBS.

Lately, networks
have re-discovered the notion of stacking four comedies from 8-10
p.m.; this fall, CBS and ABC will each do that twice. So it's too bad
that CBS is going the other way this summer – breaking up its
Thursday four-plex to make room for “Big Brother.”

All we can do is
savor the two Thursday comedy reruns that remain. “Big Bang” has
a great one; it celebrates Sheldon's birthday, with Leonard's
ex-girlfriend (Sara Gilbert), plus Wil Wheaton and Adam West, TV's
Batman. “Pieces” includes, among other things, a floundering
search for the right nanny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” 8:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

Three years ago,
Gaffigan tweeted (fairly accurately) that no man on Earth cares what
a woman's nails look like. He was hit by a cascade of criticism,
claiming he was a mysogynist and more. Now that's become a great
episode mocking political correctness, with Zachary Quinto perfect as
the prosecutor.

This is one of two
episodes that launched the season Sunday on TV Land and are now
visiting some other channels. Oddly, it's placed after a so-so
episode – Jim seeks a “calling” – at 8 p.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Queen of the South” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Try to skip the
first two minutes, which reveal way too much. Also, forgive the final
15 minute, which turn melodramatic and a tad absurd; in between is a
bracing adventure.

Teresa is a
hard-luck beauty who finds joy and luxury with her drug-dealing
boyfriend; then it all changes. Alice Braga -- a movie star
(including “City of God”), like her aunt Sonia – is Teresa,
with Justina Machado (“Six Feet Under”) as her vibrant friend and
Joaqim de Almeida as a kingpin.

Other choices
include:

“The Croods”
(2013), 6-8 p.m., FX. This pre-historic family comedy is part of a
busy night for animated movies: FX follows with “Hotel
Transylvania” (2012) at 8 and 10 p.m. Also, Starz has “The Good
Dinosaur” at 7:25 p.m. and Disney has “Finding Nemo” (2013) at
8.

“Pride and
Prejudice” (2005), 7 p.m., Oxygen. It's also a night of great movie
romances, let by this one, beautifully directed by Joe Wright. Also:
“Dirty Dancing” (1987) at 8 p.m. on Pop and the musical “West
Side Story” (1961) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. This case stretches all the way to Antarctica. An explorer's
body has been found there ... apparently 10 years after he was
murdered. That makes Dr. Edison a prime suspect.

“BattleBots,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC. The first round begins, with robots in three-minute
matches. There are 48 teams, ranging from teens to NASA scientists;
today and next Thursday, that will be cut to 24.

Reality overload, 9
p.m., everywhere. OK, a little variety please. When “BattleBots”
has its second hour, all four major networks will have reality shows.
This will be the second night for CBS' “Big Brother” and for
Fox's “Home Free,” a feel-good show that gives away a house each
week. And “Spartan” -- the team obstacle race – moves into its
regular spot at 9, after a rerun at 8.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Cat may be pregnant, which means the world
might have another beauty or beast or combination. Meanwhile, Vincent
is targeted and J.T. is kidnapped.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. Rushing to a fog-shrounded accident scene, the doctors put
their own lives in danger. Also in this rerun: Jesse (Luis Guzman)
loses confidence after his heart attack; the condition of Carla
(Shiri Appleby of “UnReal”), Malaya's ex-girlfriend, is
deteriorating.

 

TV column for Wednesday, June 22


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

Here's your classic
success story: The dad started a thriving concrete company. One
daughter teaches; another is running for mayor of Boston. Both sons
had trouble,but one seems fine now. All is well – except that many
of them have dark sides and at least one may be linked to a previous
serial killer.

Subtle and
well-modulated, “Gothic” has only one character – a
gore-obsessed boy – who feels false. Jamey Sheridan and Virginia
Madsen join talented young actors, including “Banshee” star
Antony Starr as a prodigal son and “Defiance” star Stephanie
Leonides as a troubled former daughter-in-law.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Greenleaf,” 9 and 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

In Tuesday's opener
– rerunning at 8 p.m. -- Grace returned for her sister's funeral
and found the family's mega-church in transition. Her brother is
cynical and his wife is scheming; her sister – played by Deborah
Joy Winans, from the gospel-music family – is a great singer who
wants to preach.

This is a world of
secrets – including big ones involving the late sister. Nudged by
her mother's sister – perfectly played by Oprah Winfrey – Grace
sets her own career aside to stick around and investigate. All of
this may sound soapy, but it's sharply written and (with the
exception of Grace) skillfully acted.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Big Brother” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

This year's theme is
“summer vacation,” so the house is designed to suggest the best
warm-weather frolics. That inclues a new pool, hot-tub and gym
equipment.

It's a playground
for anyone who happen to be young and pretty – which most of the
dozen contestants are. Ten are in their 20s, including a disc jockey,
an event planner and a baseball coach. They're joined by a
dog-groomer (and ex-cop), 50, and a teacher, 32. Tonight, Julie Chen
introduces them and explains the new twists; then this continues at 9
p.m. Thursdays and 8 p.m. Sundays.

Other choices
include:

“The Martian”
(2015), 7:35 p.m., HBO. Science and humanity blend in a smart story
of an astronaut (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars. At 8 p.m., the films
include Tom Hanks in the involving, real-life “Captain Phillips”
(2013, FXX) ... the animated “Despicable Me” (2010, Disney) ...
and the flashy but disappointing “Alice in Wonderland” (2010,
AMC).

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last year, Nick Nappi – a dishwasher sales rep from San
Diego – finished fourth. Now it's a different situation:
Contestants cook for Nappi, his bride and 72 wedding guests.

“Young &
Hungry,” 8 p.m., Freeform. Gabi and her friend Sofia start working
together. Then they learn that only one can land a promotion they
both want.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30, Freeform. Two Minnesota blondes collide. Loni Anderson, 70 –
mostly absent from TV for the past decade – plays the estranged
mother of Melissa Peterman, 45; they soon argue.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. A flashback shows how Pines was created by Pilcher (Toby
Jones). And the ruthless Megan (Hope Davis) performs experiments on
one of the creatures from outside the wall.

“Kingdom,” 9
p.m., DirecTV/AT&T. In the title-fight aftermath, Jay celebrates
wildly and Ryan broods ... which are their natural modes. Jay's
sexual romp with Alicia's gorgeous sister goes on pause, when
Christina (his mom) returns from being attacked by her rehab
therapist. This is a good show, but a repetitious one. Both Christina
and Nate have been sexual targets lately; now it may be Alicia's
turn.

“Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. As San Antonio seethes with racial unrest, the hospital
must treat the man who is accused of a racially motivated shooting.

TV column for Tuesday, June 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Person of Interest” series-finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

When this all began
– five years and 102 episodes ago – “POI” was another
crime-of-the-week tale, with a slight sci-fi twist. A computer
predicted people who would be victims or villains, but didn't know
which. The brainy Finch (Michael Emerson) and brawny Reese (Jim
Caviezel) had to do the rest.

Now – following a
TV trend – it's become much bigger. An opposing machine, Samaritan
is trying to control the world. Finch and Reese – linking with
Fusco the cop and Shaw the ex-assassinn – scramble to save their
machine and thwart Samaritan.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Greenleaf” debut, 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

In her youth, Grace
(Merle Dandridge) was considered a powerful pastor in her dad's
church. Disillusioned, she left, becoming a top TV journalist and a
single mom. Now she reluctantly returns for her sister's funeral ...
and soon is struggling with family secrets, old and new.

This is a smartly
layered drama, giving depth to its characters. Dandridge is way too
bland, but others make up for it. Keith David (the voice of many Ken
Burns films) and Lynn Whitfield play her parents; Winfrey is perfect
as Whitfield's estranged sister, who's aware of the abundant family
flaws.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Pretty Little Liars” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
Freeform.

Ever since their
friend Allison died seven years ago, these four women have faced a
cascade of crises. Last season (rerunning from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
ended with Hanna being kidnapped.

Now Caleb – who's
been dating Spencer, but kissed Hanna – leads the desperate search.
That brings a tough situation: To save Hanna, the friends might have
to turn over the details of Charlotte's real killer.

Other choices
include:

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., Lifetime. A rerun marathon includes two
new hours. At 8 p.m. (rerunning at 12:02 a.m.), Robin Leach's friend
leaves her champagne lifestyle to live in Eric Roberts' pet-filled
home. At 9 (and 1:02 a.m.), the wives of soap stars Tyler Christoher
and Ron Moss switch.

“Hotel Hell,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a lakeside town in Washington, a hotel-testaurant-ice
cream parlor business flounders. Gordon Ramsay says it must get the
local community involved.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Stepping into the spot it will hold this fall, “Middle”
has a rerun with Sue anxiously waiting to meet her college roommate.
She inundates her parents with text messages.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the murder of a petty office seems to reflect the
approach of a local serial killer.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Pride and others taking
part in the “Red Dress Run” fundraiser ... until they're pulled
away to probe a death, possibly from a drug overdose,

“Uncle Buck,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. There are some funny moments during Buck's first
official day as nanny for his brother's family. Soon, he's relucantly
searching for gluten-free cupcakes and special-diet dog food. In the
second episode, his brother is jealous when his work colleagues like
Buck.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10 p.m., ABC. Comedian Iliza Shlesinger joins the panel.
Contestants include someone who's both a drag queen and a top
Tupperware salesman.

TV collumn for Monday, June 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Like a mad-science
experiment gone right, this assembles mismatched pieces. It's partly
a serious political satire, via the “Good Wife” creators, and
partly a goofy science-fiction tale. If you missed last week's
terrific opener, don't worry: The musical introduction explains it in
a fun way.

Laurel (the terrific
Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is reluctantly working for her brother, a
senator. She's upset by the way both parties care about gamesmanship,
not results; she'd be more upset if she realized that alien creatures
are invading minds. In tonight's dandy hour, she gets some sharp
surprises.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Fosters” season-opener, 8 p.m., Freeform.

Here is a crisis
that blends the work and home lives of Stef (a cop) and Lena (a
school administrator): Mariana, their adopted daughter, was seen
kissing her ex-boyfriend. She tried to tell her boyfriend Nick that
it was nothing, but now he's headed to school with his dad's gun; the
school is in lockdown.

Also, Stef and Lena
learned that their adopted daughter Callie broke their rule by having
an affair with Brandon, Stef's biologic son. And Jesus (Mariana's
twin) has a sexual opportunity.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Reign” season-finale, 8 p.m., CW.

It's time for a
collision between two of history's powerhouses – Queen Elizabeth I
and her cousin, known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Desperate to retain
her Scottish throne, Mary clashes with Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Lola has
been accused of a heinous crime. And back in France, Mary's scheming
ex-mother-in-law (the gifted Megan Follows) finds that young King
Charles is a changed man.

Other choices
include:

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After being bumped by basketball
last week, the show returns; it finds JoJo Fletcher looking splendid
during a bikini cliffside jump with Robby and looking tearful after
an accusation. Also, the guys celebrate – temporarily -- the
departure of Chad.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun finds Christy trying to host the mother of her daughter's fiance
(Linda Lavin).

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. Two real-life authors are linked in this
fictional tale: Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes creator) helps his
friend Bram Stoker (the Dracula creator).

“Guilt,” 9 p.m.,
Freeform. In last week's opener, Grace woke up from a drunken evening
to find her London roommate Molly had been slain. Now the public
obsesses on the possibility that this rich, attractive American may
be a killer. Two lawyers (one of them her sister) want her to stay
put; instead, she goes to the memorial service and also probes for
information about Molly.

“Devious Maids,”
9 p.m., Lifetime. Deviousness is rampant. Genevieve (Susan Lucci)
make war on Marisol, who's dating her ex-husband. Adrian cuts off
Evelyn's money, to make divorce more difficult. Carmen tries to be a
pal of Daniella ... who doesn't know this is her mother. And Zoila –
pretending to own the place where she's housesitting – works at
befriending her handsome neighbor's mother.

“Unreal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime. While working to create an alternate (male-oriented)
version of the dating show, Chet is also trying to get custody of his
son. Meanwhile, Rachel feels the bachelor has a secret.

“Mistresses,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. This show added a fresh burst of enthusiasm, with
the arrival of Harry's sister Kate; now she learns that the Los
Angeles dating scene is tough. Also, April – her dreams of being an
artist having been dashed – decides what's her real passion.

TV column for Sunday, June 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpierce: Endeavour” opener, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

For 12 “Inspector
Morse” seasons, Morse was calm and confident, with a taste for
luxury cars and classical music. But here he's a young cop (Shaun
Evans), wobbling. Briefly (and wrongly) jailed, he now lives solemnly
in a country cabin ... where there are rich, jaded people and, of
course, murders..

This opener is
movie-like in length and in visuals; jumping from village carnivals
to upper-crust parties, it's a gorgeous-looking film. It also has the
sort of story that Agatha Christie did too often: In the final
moments, the hero suddenly and calmly explains a plot that's
mind-boggling in its complexity.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Last Ship” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., TNT.

For a few minutes,
things seem too sedate. The late Dr. Scott developed a cure to the
global virus and Captain Chandler's ship brought it to the world. His
crew is celebrated; life is good.

Then villains turn
this into a high-octane shoot-out ... so much so that TNT postponed
the debut last Sunday, after the Orlando killings. Now it airs a week
later, nudging the “Murder in the First” opener back a week.
Mostly, you'll find a solid military-battle story with a backdrop of
world crisis.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
Basketball, 8 p.m. ET, ABC.

After becoming the
winning-est regular season team in NBA history, the Golden State
Warriors have had trouble closing out their second straight
championship.

Leading the
Cleveland Cavaliers, three games to one, they lost big twice –
first at home (with Draymond Green suspended for a game) and on the
road. Now they're back home, for this final, winner-taks-all game.

Other choices
include:

“Finding Nemo”
(2003), 7 p.m., and more, Freeform. On the weekend when the “Nemo”
sequel hits theaters, this Disney-owned channel shows us the original
gem. That's part of an animation marathon that starts with classics –
the masterful “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) at 10:15 a.m. and
“Snow White” (1937) at 12:15 p.m. Then there's “Princess and
the Frog” (2009) at 2:30 and “Brave” (2012) at 4:45.

Other choices
include:

“Mother, May I
Sleep With Danger,” 7 and 11:02 p.m., Lifetime. Here are more
chances to see this remake of a non-classic. James Franco directed
and added a lesbian-vampire story. He has a supporting role, as does
Tori Spelling ... who starred in the original, to little acclaim.

Basketball (if
necessary), 8 p.m. ET, ABC. If Cleveland won at home Thursday (see
Sports), then the seventh and final game is tonight at Golden State.
If not, then ABC makes do with reruns of “Celebrity Family Feud”
at 8 and “The Bachelorette” at 9.

“Vicious”
series-finale, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Often, this simply
has two two great actors, overecoming not-great material. Sir Ian
McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi, both 77, play a self-centered actor
and his too-loyal lover. In the previous episode, they finally
married; this one offers four mini-plays, spread over a year. As
usual, the story is loud and loopy; somehow, the sirs make it kind of
fun.

“BrainDead,” 8
p.m., CBS. If you missed this terrific opener, catch it before
Monday's second episode. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is terrific as a
reluctant aide who thinks Washington, D.C., people are crazy ... and
that's before alien creatures start to take over brains.

“Madam
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Elizabeth and colleagues
come up with a scheme to oust the national security advisor, without
hurting the president's reputation.

“Mind of a Giant,”
9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. With a mixture of savvy and teamwork, elephants
manage – usually – to survive a world of human and natural
danger. This excellent documentary studies them.

“Murder She Baked:
A Deadly Recipe,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Alison Sweeney has this down pat. She produces the films, stars as a
crime-solving baker and hires skilled Kristoffer Tabori to direct.
The three previous ones rerun at 3, 5 and 7 p.m.; then we get a new
one, solidly crafted.

“The Tunnel”
debut, 10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This is an idea that
keeps being reworked in new countries: A body is found on a bridge,
forcing police from two countries to reluctantly link. This time,
however, the body is in the trans-Atlantic tunnel; British and French
cops combine warily.