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.

TV column for Saturday, June 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The American West,” 10 p.m., AMC.

This series offers
vivid portraits of the West in its wild years after the Civil War.
Skillfully mixing new re-enactments, old photos, narration and
talking heads, it captures a tough, chaotic time.

Last week's opener
saw ex-Confederate soldier Jesse James launch an angry crime spree.
He's back tonight, but a bigger problem is George Custer. The hour
starts with Custer's savage 1868 raid, killing 150 Lakota people;
President Grant creates a tentative peace ... until Custer shatters
it.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“In an Instant” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Skillfully mixing
first-person memories and re-enactments, this re-creates recent
crises. It had planned to open the season with the story of a gunman
at a Utah hospital; after the Orlando shootings, it switched to a
story that doesn't have a human villain.

In 2013, a tornado
roared into Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people, injuring 377 and
causing an estimated $2 billion damage. Featured is Jennifer Dorn,
who protected her elementary-school students.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “O.J.: Made in America” conclusion, 9-11 p.m. ET,
ESPN.

This ambitious,
five-part documentary series wraps up. The fourth part (rerunning at
7 p.m.), focused on the high-profile murder trial; the fifth views
O.J. Simpson's post-trial life, including his subsequent conviction
and his current life in prison.

That finale also
runs on 1 a.m. ET on ESPN2 ... which promptly reruns the final three
chapters, from 3-9 a.m. ET Sunday.

Other choices
include:

“Mother, May I
Sleep With Danger,” noon and 8 p.m., Lifetime. Back in 1996, Tori
Spelling starred as someone dating a too-attentive guy. That film
reruns at noon, setting us up (sort of) for the remake ... a
lesbian-vampire tale, directed by James Franco. He has a supporting
role, as does Spelling; that will rerun tonight at 12:01 a.m. and
Sunday at 7 and 11:02 p.m.

“Alice in
Wonderland” (1951), 2:30 p.m., Freeform. This gem leads an
animation marathon that goes from the OK “Gnomio & Juliet”
(2011) at 10 a.m. to the wonderful “Finding Nemo” (2003) at 9
p.m. and “The Princess and the Frog” (2009) at 11:45.

Sports rush, 7:30
p.m. ET Fox and 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. Fox has baseball, varying by
region, with Tigers-Royals, Braves-Mets or Pirates-Cubs. NBC has
boxing.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Callen has
gone rogue, with a mission on his own. Hetty tries to shut it down
and assigns others to learn what he's doing.

“Hell on Wheels,”
9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11. Last week's brutal opening saw Cullen
arrive in time to save his wife and baby from “The Swede.” Then
came the painstaking ride to Fort Douglas, where the Swede was hung
and Cullen's leg was saved. Shattered physically and emotionally,
Cullen returns to the homestead to see if he has any life there. It's
another grim episode, but ends beautifully.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. Halting their march on London,
leaders send Claire and the Highlanders up North, where their
Scottish brethren face Redcoat soldiers.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Peter Dinklage, the “Game of Thrones”
Emmy-winner, hosts this rerun, with Gwen Stefani as music guest.

TV column for Friday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“O.J.: Made in America,” 9-11 p.m. ET, ESPN.

After pausing for
one night, ESPN wraps ups this ambitious documentary mini-series. The
first two episodes reflected O.J. Simpson's immense success in
football, movies and TV, contrasting it with growing unrest in black
neighborhoods. The third (rerunning at 7 p.m. ET today) included his
arrest.

Now comes the trial,
including a bizarre moment: Before the jury visited his home, lawyers
removed photos of Simpson with whites ... replacing then with African
art and photos with blacks.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Here's the second
half of a rerun that started last Friday. In Russia, Sam, Callen and
Anna (Russian-born actress Bar Paly) try to help her father and his
CIA companion break out of prison.

Also, there's a
milestone of sorts for Callen (Chris O'Donnell). Raised in an
orphanage, he never had a first name, except for the letter “G.”
Now – after 159 episodes – he learns what it stands for.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “What Would You Do?” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

The world really
wants us to watch a reality show tonight. In the same slot are reruns
of “MasterChef” on Fox, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” on CW
and a new “Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars” on WE.

But this one, from
ABC News, stands out because it offers interesting human insights. It
has actors fake different situations – anything from a spat to a
theft – and uses hidden cameras to catch responses. Barring a late
change, it begins its 13-week season tonight.

Other choices
include:

“Black Hawk Down”
(2001), 7-10 p.m., AMC. On June 28, National Geographic will have a
documentary, recounting the remarkable rescue of a U.S. helicopter
crew in Somalia. First, here's another chance to see the movie
version – a tough, high-octane film that won Oscars for its editing
and sound and was nominated for its cinematography and director
Ridley Scott.

“Kevin Hart: I'm a
Grown Little Man,” 7:50 p.m., Comedy Central. On the day that his
movie (“Central Intelligence”) reaches theaters, Comedy Central
reruns three of Hart's stand-up hours. The others are at 8:54 and
9:58 p.m., with the middle one rerunning at 10:50.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This reruns Tuesday's round of auditions.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. Moving to its summer spot on Fridays, this show has a
rerun that puts Detective Villa into a romantic triangle with two
handsome doctors. While chasing a serial killer with Rosie (Morris
Chestnut), she's increasingly drawn to Mike (Taye Diggs).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Professor Danno? It sounds unlikely, but Danny (Scott
Caan) goes undercover in this rerun. A college prof has been killed
and Danny is his replacement.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Things are getting too personal for Det. Danny Reagan
(Donnie Wahlberg) in this rerun: A serial killer is threatening his
family. Meanwhile, his brother Jamie, a street cop, argues with his
superior officer about handling a hostage crisis.

ALSO: There are more
movies, ranging from kids (“The Good Dinosaur, 2015, at 8 p.m. on
Starz) to grown-ups (“Woman in Gold,” 2015, a true story with
fine work from Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, at 10 on Showtime).
And as pledge drives wrap up, some PBS stations (check local
listings) have an excellent George Plimpton profile at 9 p.m. and the
wedding episode of “Vicious” at 10:30.

 

TV column for Thursday, June 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Home Free” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

The first season was
both entertaining and good-hearted. Duos scrambled to build a new
house, unaware of a key twist: The “losers” would get the house
they'd just been working on.

This year, that's
revealed to everyone at the end of the opener. “Home Free” adds
ermotion – each person tries to win a home for a hero – and a
host (former pro quarterback Tim Tebow) to work with builder Mike
Holmes. It also adds reality-show challenges ... so many that we
don't see much building work. This is still a good show – but no
better than the version that has been so drasticsally altered.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Aquarius” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Last summer, NBC
broke all the rules by making the entire season available in advance.
Now it tries another approach – mashing the first three episodes
into a two-hour, commercial-free block.

That's generous, for
a show that has its strengths (a rich, 1960s setting) and flaws (a
hyper approach, pushing everything to the extreme). It takes the real
Charles Manson story, then adds fictional cops, an older one (David
Duchovny) and two young ones who work undercover – with Manson and
as a motorcycle moll. This is a nasty series that even briefly
flashes forward to Manson's massacre.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, with previews at 8 and 8:30.

On Monday, the
Golden State Warriors had a chance at home to take their second
straight championship. But with Draymond Green suspended, they lost
big to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now Green is back
and his Warriors head to Cleveland, leading three games to two. If
they lose again, they'll be home for Sunday's finale.

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. When a popular hockey player is killed, Booth ends up back on
the ice, facing an old nemesis. Jeremy Roenick – a popular, 18-year
NHL star – plays the victim's coach.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in which Bernadette
finally tells Howard she's pregnant. He's overcome (as he often is),
but the others celebrate with a night of karaoke.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Life is complicated when you have a baby: When Jen
cuts her finger and Greg (Colin Hanks) takes her to the hospital,
it's the first alone time they've had in a while. Also, in this
rerun, John takes his granddaughters to a restaurant where the food
is named for feelings.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-winner for “The Help,” returns as
Regina, now insisting she's not really an alcoholic. Also in this
rerun, a sober holiday dance is viewed skeptically.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Cat and Vincent continue to find they can't
simply relax as newlyweds. Instead,they're fighting for their lives.

“O.J.: Made in
America,” 9-11 p.m ET., ESPN. This five-part documentary pauses,
rerunning Wednesday's chapter, with O.J. Simpson being arrested. The
final chapters will be Friday and Saturday.

“Funny Girl”
(1968), 10:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. At the Tony Awards (one
of the year's best shows) Sunday, the crowd was ecstatic about Barbra
Streisand's mere presence. You can see why, in this stunning,
Oscar-winning performance. That's part of a musical marathon worth
recording -- “Gypsy” (1962) at 8 p.m. ET, “A Funny Thing
Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1966) at 1:15 a.m., “Camelot”
(1967) at 3 a.m. and “Oliver” (1968) at 6:15 a.m.