TV column for Friday, July 15

“Secrets of 'The Force Awakens,'” 8 p.m., ABC.

A lot can change in
40 years: Chewbacca got younger and shorter. That's what people
learned in the theater version of this documentary about the “Star
Wars” film; now, slightly shortened, it reaches TV.

Peter Mayhew
returned as Chewie, but he's 72, with bad knees; mostly, his double
-- 29 and 7-foot (two inches less than Mayhew) took over. Little BB-8
had two versions; he was sometimes remote-control, but more often a
rod puppet. Also: John Boyega auditioned nine times ... Malala (the
teen Nobel laureate) visited the set ... and director J.J. Abrams
flew 9,000 miles to attend parents' night at school.

II: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Often underemployed
here, Chi McBride gets some focus in this rerun: Lou Grover (McBride)
returns to Chicago, to finally get a confession from the man (Mykelti
Williamson) who killed his wife.

Back on the island,
there's another crisis: Chin and Kano (Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park)
are held at gunpoint, by killers who don't realize they're cops.

ALTERNATIVE: Magic shows, 8-10 p.m., CW.

TV used to love
magic acts – mostly because they were easy to televise. Ed Sullivan
had magicians back in 1949 and 1950; he got a huge audience for
Fantasio in 1966 – possibly because the Beatles were also there.
Nowadays, magicians have much better acts ... and much less TV time.

Now CW uses them as
summer diversions. At 8 p.m., a new “Masters of Illusion” has
Michael Grandinetti, Greg Gleason, Murray SawChuck, The Shocker and
Sittah. That's followed by reruns of “Illusion” at 8:30 and of
Wednesday's terrific (except for the last bit) “Penn & Teller:
Fool Us” at 9.

Other choices

“The Avengers”
(2012) and “Thor: The Dark World” (2013), 5 and 8 p.m., FX. The
Marvel heroes give us an action double-feature. Other movie choices
include the excellent “Die Hard” (1988) at 8 p.m. on IFC, the
pleasant “You've Got Mail” (1998) at 8 p.m. on CMT and the rather
silly “Blades of Glory” (2007) at 8:44 p.m. on Comedy Central.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This rerun goes back to the first stage,
with acts auditioning and each judge holding one “golden buzzer”
that allows instant advancement.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. Someone has shot extensive surveillance
footage of Sam's family. While the family is whisked to a safe house
in this rerun, Sam and Callen try to find who's responsible.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Rosewood gives too good a talk at a pathology
conference. Someone may have used his information to commit a murder;
he and Villa go undercover to solve it.

“MasterChef,” 9
p.m., Fox. This reruns Wednesday's hour, with 15 chefs feeding 101
military veterans.

“Cesar 911”
return, 9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Truffle is small, fluffy, cute ... and
sometimes quite nasty. John Henry is fine at home; when he's brought
to work, however, he scares clients and delivery guys. Cesar Millan
handles both dogs in his usual, calm way, in a standard, OK episode.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank worries about a book that's been written by his
first police partner. Also in this rerun, Frank's son Jamie and his
partner head out on a call; their response will sharply affect their
careers and their relationship.

TV column for Thursday, July 14

“Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 6 and
8:30 p.m., AMC, repeating at 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

On the night before
the “Ghostbusters” remake reaches theaters, we can savor the
original films. With clever scripts (from Dan Aykroyd and Harold
Ramis) and nimble direction (Ivan Reitman), they found that perfevt
balance between quiet character humor and big, laugh-out-loud sight

Aykroyd and Ramis
are joined by Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson as ghostbusters, with
Annie Potts as their assistant and Sigourney Weaver as their client.
All of them are briefly in the new film; meanwhile, these originals
will air at the same times Friday on AMC, then will move to the
Sundance Channel.

“Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox.

heart-of-the-season standards, “Bones” is merely a sorta-OK show,
with mild mysteries tackled by mildly interesting people. By summer
standards, it's a gem; now it's a week from its season-finale.

A body has been
found with a diamond lodged in its jaw. Soon, a French inspector
accuses the victim's husband – a marquis living in Virginia.
Meanwhile, Booth has a temporary eye illness and Hodgins somehow
thinks he's being followed by a ghost.

ALTERNATIVE: “Greatest Hits,” 9 p.m., ABC.

The late-'80s, we're
sometimes told, were all about money and music and more. So tonight's
hour, focusing on 1985-90, could be fun.

It will be Wilson
Phillips' “Hold On,” Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” and Bret
Michaels with “Nothin' But a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its
Thorn.” Also, newer stars jump in: Grace Potter does Bon Jovi's
“You Give Love a Bad Name,” Miguel does Steve Winwood's “Higher
Love,” Aloe Blacc does two songs with Chicago and Nate Ruess joins
Foreigner for “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Other choices

“The Avengers”
(2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. It's a night for popcorn-munching movies --
“Avengers” action or “Ghostbusters” humor. Also, the
“Adventures in Babysitting” remake (2016) is 7:15 p.m. on Disney.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Even in the show's ninth season, characters
have been learning secrets about each other. Last week's rerun saw
Sheldon show Amy his hoarding hideout; this one -- involving a
camping trip – sees him reveal a secret about Leonard.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has some couples-activities that may not
turn out that well: Greg and Jen slip away for a massage; Colleen
asks Matt to illustrate a children's book she's writing.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m.. CW. Cat finds that she and her new husband are on
opposite sides: She's a cop; he's trying to find and destroy
beast-hunters. Now she searches for secret information.

“Code Black,”
9:59 p.m., CBS. Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) has always had
a deep layer of sadness. In this rerun, she finally goes to the
prison to confront the drunk-driver who killed her family.

“Aquarius,” 10
p.m., NBC. A shoot-out between the Los Angeles police and the Black
Panthers reverberates in the interracial marriage of Shafe and
Kristen. Also, Hodiak faces roadblocks in his search for the
photographer killer; the Manson family gets two surprises, one
pleasant and one not.

10 p.m., FX. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10:30) obsessed on
lesbian and three-way sex. Now we see the aftershocks, as the guys
are told about their sexual inadequacies. Some viewers will consider
both episodes hilarious; others will consider them over-the-top

TV column for Wednesday, July 13

“Mr. Robot” second-season opener, 10:01 p.m., USA.

Few shows have
soared like this. “Robot” has won Peabody, AFI and Golden Globe
awards. Three major critics called it TV's best show; the Television
Critics Association has nominated it for the same.

Elliot, a hacker,
was nudged by a stranger (Christian Slater) to disrupt the financial
world -- except he only imagined this guy, in the image of his
father. Now his hacking has shattered the economy. Elliot recedes
into a routine, ignoring the chaos that immerses his old friend
Angela, their boss (and fall guy) Gideon, superhacker Darlene and
more. The result is sometimes perplexing and always riveting.

ESPY Awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Only two athletes --
Lance Armstrong and LeBron James -- have hosted the show in its 23
years. Now John Cena – current actor, former pro-wrestling champion
and small-college football star – is in charge.

Other stars –
Stephen Curry, Lindsey Vonn, JJ Watt, Lisa Leslie, Dwayne Wade --
will be presenters; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be part of a Muhammad
Ali tribute. There will be music (Andra Day, plus Crown and the M.O.B
as house band) and special awards. Last year, a courage award to
Caitlyn Jenner drew controversy; this year, it goes to Zaevon Dobson,
a teen football star who died saving two girls.

ALTERNATIVE: “The A Word” debut, 10 p.m., Sundance.

This is small-town
England, where jobs are scarce and people are pleasant. Maurice
(Chris Eccleston) is a widower who owns the family brewery. His
son-in-law, Paul, is zesty and playful; his son, Steve, is not ...
especially after his business failed and his wife had an affair
during her medical residency.

Now it's clear –
despite denials by parents and grandfather -- that Paul's son, 5, is
autistic. The level of denial is a key flaw tonight, straining belief
and becoming repetitious; also, key exposition is buried in thick
accents. Be patient though; as these troubles melt away, a rich
character drama emerges.

Other choices

“Penn &
Teller: Fool Us” season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. Nearly everything about
this opener works wonderfully ... except, ironically, the routine by
Penn & Teller. That one falls flat, the lone bump in a night that
has a likable new host (Alyson Hannigan) and four magicians – Shawn
Farquhar, Nathan Burton, Michael Kent and Nathan Coe Marsh – who
are talented and, often, quite witty.

“America's Got
Talent” (NBC) and “MasterChef” (Fox), both 8 p.m. These reality
shows keep colliding. Tonight, “Talent” judges continue their
cuts and home chefs cook for 101 military veterans.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Theo came here as a doctor, but now he and Adam Hassler
are trying to track down an “abbie,” or aberrant creature, who
has escaped.

season-opener, 9 p.m., USA. Mike adjusts to prison life, while his
former co-workers try to keep his plea deal from shattering their law

“American Gothic,”
10 p.m., CBS. A death at the Hawthorne estate gives Brady – a cop
and a Hawthorne son-in-law – a chance to investigate. Meanwhile,
Alison Hawthorne scrambles to save her mayoral campaign; her brother
Garrett pursues the daughter of a victim of the “Silver Bell

“Flipping Out”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Even in easy times, Jeff Lewis frets
and fumes. Now this season starts with him facing work troubles while
remodeling the house where he and his partner live ... and where
they'll soon add (via surrogate) a baby in their overcrowded world

10:30 p.m., A&E. The network had scheduled the debut of “Black
and White,” a show that plans to juggle politics, race and comedy.
In an extremely late change (Tuesday afternoon), it pushed the debut
back two weeks, to July 27.

TV column for Tuesday, July 12

Baseball All-Star Game, 8 p.m. ET, Fox, with pre-game at 7:30.

Yes, the American
League has dominated this lately. Ever since there's been something
at stake (home-field advantage in the World Series), it's won 10 out
of 13 games, including the last three.

Still, the past
doesn't matter much in a year when everything is different: For the
first time, all the American League starting infielders are 26 or
younger; for the first time, all the National League starting
infielders are Chicago Cubs (three of them also 26 or younger). The
game will be in San Diego but the American League will be called the
home team and will bat last.

“Containment,” 9 p.m., CW.

A week from its
finale, this mini-series continues to find crises and chaos. Inside
the containment zone, people are desperate. Some scramble to buy into
an escape plan; that leaves ethical questions about raising the money
... and about leaving the baby behind, with family.

And outside the
zone, Lex continues to learn the truth about the virus. He again
confronts Dr. Lommers (Claudia Black); also, a cryptic note from Leo
leads him to an abandoned warehouse.

ALTERNATIVE: “The White House: Inside Story,” 8-10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

What does a “chief
usher” do at the White House? On Sept. 11 of 2001, Gary Walters did
a lot. Orders came down to evacuate the building; Walters ignored
that. He dismantled tents, so the president's helicopter could land
on the lawn; he also prepared the Oval office for an address from the

During disasters,
Walters says here, “people have a tendency to turn to the White
House.” Such serious moments are mixed with light ones, during a
documentary that includes two presidents, four First Ladies,
historians and White House staffers.

Other choices

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's one of the few major shows daring
to throw a new episode against the All-Star Game. Tonight, the
judges' cuts begin.

“Celebrity Family
Feud” and “The $100,000 Pyramid,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Tentative
plans call for setting aside the comedy reruns that had been
scheduled, replacing them with these game reruns.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, volunteer doctors are attacked in Sudan. Tony heads
there with McGee ... and finds ex-girlfriend Jeann Benoit (Scottie
Thompson), whose husband is one of the victims. Also, Jon Cryer is
back as the eccentric doctor who saved Gibbs.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Hey, it's not always gritty stuff about people fleeing animals.
Tonight, the team must infiltrate a black-tie event, in order to be
colser to Gen. Davies.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a black-out hits the city while
Pride tries to solve the murder of a family friend's fiance.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10 p..m, ABC. Contestants offer large and small
accoplishments: One can escape underwater, while chained and
handcuffed; another has the world's longest fingernails.

“Feed the Beast,”
10 p.m., AMC. For weeks, “Beast” has shoveled fresh piles of
agony atop Tommy (David Schwimmer). He finally started his upscale
restaurant in a downscale Bronx neighborhood – only to have a
drive-by shooting scare people away. Now the show actually has two
promising possibilities float past him. It then piles on fresh
despair, but at least it's trying for variety.

TV column for Monday, July 11

“So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

After choosing this
season's top-10, “Dance” settled for a rerun on the Fourth of
July. Now its new round begins, pairing the young contestants with
pro dancers and letting the viewers vote.

The line-up has six
girls, ages 11-14, and four boys, 10-14. Most are from California
(five dancers) and Miami (three); those have been hot spots for the
show ... along with Utah, which has no one this year. (The others are
from Virginia and Canada.) All three Miami kids are ballroom dancers;
others have varied specialities – three hip hop, three jazz or
contemporary, one tap.

II: “BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

After being bumped
by the fireworks last year, this summer gem is back. In its first two
episodes, Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) quickly realized there's
something wrong with Washington, D.C., people, but didn't have the
full explanation – worm-like aliens are invading their brains.

Now – nudged by
two laymen – she's getting closer. She pushes her friend Abby to
have her brain scanned, trying to learn why her behavior has suddenly

“Jericho,” any time,

After conquering the
1950s twice – as star of “Call the Midwife” and “Partners in
Crime” -- Jessica Raine goes further back. It's the 1870s and her
world has crashed; with two children, no money (but great
dinnerware) and no future, she's in a rough shanty town where a
railway viaduct is being built.

This is a place
where everyone has a secret – especially the new foreman (Clarke
Peters) and the oddly well-mannered worker (Hans Matheson). Soon, her
family has its own secret. Some of this feels a tad contrived, but
it's filled with interesting, well-acted characters who will interest
us for all eight hours.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Hip Hop Honors,” 9-10:30 p.m., VH1.

After vanishing for
almost seven years, the show returns for a good reason: This special
focuses on hip hop's female pioneers, honoring Queen Latifah, Missy
Elliott, Lil' Kim and Salt-N-Pepa.

That's live (in some
time zones) from the Lincoln Center, with Eve hosting. Also scheduled
to are Pharrell Willias, Nelly Furtado, Common, Timbaland, MC Lyte,
Naughty by Nature and more.

Other choices

Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. With six guys left, JoJo Fletcher
must decide which four she'll visit next week in their home towns.
Tonight, we see her in Buenos Aires, riding horseback with Luke,
trying a fireside kiss with Alex and daring Robby to streak down a
hotel corridor in his underwear. They're all in the running, plus
Jordan (the brother of football star Aaron Rodgers), Chase and James.

“Just For Laughs,”
8-9:30 p.m., CW. This reruns a special from a Montreal comedy
festival. Howie Mandel introduces Jim Breuer, Pete Holmes, Jeff Ross,
Fortune Feimster, Vladimir Caamano and Marina Franklin. Also, there
are recollections from Jon Stewart, Eddie Izzard and the late Joah

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. As the nicest person in this eccentric group, Marjorie (Mimi
Kennedy) deserves a serene wedding. There are plenty of complications
– including the groom's foul sister (Rhea Perlman) – in a rerun
that skillfully juggles joy, humor and tragedy.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. Drugs are being smuggled in via drones. Also, this rerun
continues a recent TV trend – couples-counseling for work
colleagues. Penn Jillette counsels Walter and Toby.

“The Making of the
Mob: Chicago” debut, 10 p.m., AMC. Last season, this documentary
series saw the Mafia grow in New York. Now this eight-week
documentary starts with the next step: Al Capone, a Brooklyn native,
moves to Chicago to be an enforcer for Johnny Torrio.

10:01 p.m., ABC. Life never gets easier for Joss. Preparing to marry
her sister's ex-husband, she's invited to Las Vegas with him ... and
suddenly snaps. Meanwhile, his sister Kate is finding American
romance tougher than she'd expected; her new lover brings