TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 9



TONIGHT’S
MUST-SEE: “Fashion Rocks,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

After a
five-year absence, this again links New York’s Fashion Week with a live
mega-concert. Ryan Seacrest – yes, he has a fashion line – hosts and
co-produces.


Performers
include some of his “American Idol” hosts and contestants (Jennifer Lopez,
Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson) and more. Scheduled are Usher, Pitbull, Enrique
Iglesias, Rita Ora, Nico & Vinz, Duran Duran, Afrojack, Magic and Kiss,
plus country’s Luke Bryan and The Band Perry.


TONIGHT’S
MIGHT-SEE: “Sons of Anarchy” final-season opener, 10 p.m., FX.


Few shows
have done more to draw viewers in and – almost simultaneously – drive them
away. This episode begins with its main character (Jax) doing a brutal torture;
almost 90 minutes later, he’s doing an even more-brutal one … to someone who
was falsely accused.


Both
scenes are horrendous. In between, however, is the drama – tautly written,
directed and acted -- that makes this compelling. Viewers know Jax’s mom killed
his wife … and Juice (on the lam from the motorcycle club) shot the cop who
found her. Now she clings to her cover-up.


TONIGHT’S
ALTERNATIVE: Documentaries, all night, PBS (check local listings).


Five days
before launching Ken Burns’ brilliant “Roosevelts” series, PBS offers
wide-ranging films. That starts with a portrait of Noor Inayat Khan, daughter
of an India-born spiritual leader, who became a British World War II hero; it
ends with a “Frontline” look at the Ebola epidemic.


In between,
in a late addition at 9 p.m., is a Robin Williams portrait. Taking a long
interview he did for “Pioneers of Television,” it adds friends’ comments and
more. This tends to be one-note and repetitious (also a flaw of the Khan
portrait), but it’s redeemed by a cascade of great clips.


Other
choices include:


“Blue
Bloods,” 4-11 p.m., WGN America. This cop show – a ratings-winner Fridays on
CBS – has a big rerun splash on cable. The next three nights have seven-hour
marathons.


“The
Amazing Spider-Man (2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. On a reality-clogged night, cable has
movie alternatives. Other good choices are at 8 p.m. – “Karate Kid” (1984) on
ABC Family, the splendid “WALL-E” (2008) on Disney and the wryly romantic “Notting
Hill” (1999) on TV Guide.


“Big
Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. With football temporarily taking CBS’ Thursdays, this
show slides to a Sunday-Tuesday-Wednesday run. That means two Tuesdays without
ratings-leader “NCIS.”


Reality
overload, 8 p.m. The top four networks collide hit overflow. Fox’s “Utopia”
begins its Tuesday-and-Friday routine, facing “Big Brother” and two summer-shows
finales: NBC’s “Food Fighters” has a retired fashion executive face celebrity
chef Elizabeth Falkner; ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss” has a father and daughter (423
and 265 pounds) hoping to shed 330 pounds.


“If
Loving You is Wrong,” debut, 9 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 10.
Tyler Perry’s latest series follows families in one neighborhood, starting with
the discovery of an affair.


“A Young
Doctor’s Notebook” season-finale, 10 p.m., Ovation. The older version of the doctor
(Jon Hamm) forces the younger one (Daniel Radcliffe) to confront his addiction.
That sounds somber, but as usual it’s done with skill and, at times, sly humor.


TV column for Monday, Sept. 8



TONIGHT’S
MIGHT-SEE: “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” season-finale, 8 p.m., NBC.

Deion Sanders
has done a lot in his first 47 years. He thrived in pro football and baseball,
then became a broadcaster. What he hadn’t done was to go camping.


Now that’s
taken care of on a big scale – hiking Utah’s canyon’s with Grylls. It’s the
last new episode of the “Running Wild” season … and part of a night stuffed
with finales.


TONIGHT’S
MIGHT-SEE II: More season finales, everywhere.


Everything
seems to be ending. There are athletes: “American Ninja Warrior” (9-11 p.m.,
NBC) has its national championship, with a shot at $500,000. And there are
lovers: “Bachelors in Paradise” (8-10:01, ABC) tells people to decide if their
relationships will last beyond the show.


But it’s
not all reality. In the “Teen Wolf” season-finale (10-11:15 p.m., MTV), Kate
abducts Scott and Kira and takes them to Mexico. Derek and others try to save
them and the world.


TONIGHT’S
ALTERNATIVE: “A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY,” 9 p.m., HBO.


Before
his acting career began, Steve Buscemi spent four years as a New York fireman.
In this beautifully understated film, he gathers stories from firefighters, old
and young.


There are
light tales of cooking, camaraderie and pranks. And there are sobering
reflections on fear and confronting death and meeting mass tragedy. The hour
ends with memories of Sept. 11, from the deaths that day to the continuing
losses from cancer and more. “I got to drive a fire truck,” one dying man says.
“It’s every kid’s dream.”


Other choices include:


Football, 7:10 and 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN. The opening week of
the regular season concludes with a doubleheader. It’s the Giants at Detroit
and then San Diego at Arizona.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In its temporary Monday
home, “Big Bang” has Sheldon trying to be spontaneous. Also in this rerun, Raj
needs Howard’s help to prepare for a date with Emily.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. After Allison Janney’s two-Emmy
season, here’s a chance to savor one of her roles. She and Alvin (Kevin  Pollak) feud, putting their daughter Christy
in the middle.


“Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT. As Ewing Global goes public, the maneuvers
build. Bobby reaches out to an ex-lover; Judith and Ryland create an unusual
alignment.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Both reruns catch
Alan when he was claiming to be Jeff Strongman. In the first, Gretchen (Kimberly
Williams-Paisley) thinks the Malibu beachhouse is his; in the second, she wants
him to confess his ruse to Larry.


“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. This season’s newcomers –
Sam (Eddie Cahill) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) -- are needed when temperatures
plummet. Also, Rebecca is severely injured in an accident.


“Shark Tank,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. This is “Shark Tank Week,”
with a rerun at 10 p.m. nightly through Friday. Tonight we meet, among others,
an 11-year-old whose bow ties have drawn Oprah Winfrey’s interest.


TV column for Sunday, Sept. 7



TONIGHT’S
MUST-SEE: “9/10: The Final Hours,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic.

The story
of Sept. 11, 2001, has been told often and well, but here’s a compelling
variation. It starts on Sept. 10, then moves into the morning of the tragedy.


We meet
people who had brief contact with the terrorists – serving them at a Pizza Hut,
checking them in at the airport. We meet those who barely missed disaster. And
we meet a man whose sister treated their mom to a birthday dinner at the World
Trade Center restaurant … then died the next morning, in the same building.
There are deeply human moments.


TONIGHT’S
MIGHT-SEE: “Utopia” debut, 8-10 p.m., Fox.


The new TV
season begins today … sort of. The official start is still two weeks away, but
this reality needs extra time. For a while, it will be settling into Tuesdays
and Fridays.


In a wilderness,
15 strangers try to build a civilization. They include a doctor, a lawyer, a
chef, a construction guy and more … including a former drug dealer and a
self-described “hillbilly MacGyver.” There’s a pastor; others include a fan of tantric
sex, a believer in “polyamorous relationships” and someone who calls herself “six
feet of twisted steel and sex appeal.”


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


The three-part “Breathless” concludes with a cascade of
secrets. For a cocky surgeon, his wife and a cowering anesthesiologist there’s
a dark deed in wartime Burma. For another surgeon, it’s an affair with an older
woman. For his wife, it’s her secret sister (another nurse) have a demented
dad.


Some points are logical, and some – especially involving the
anesthesiologist’s search for another job – make no sense. What started as a
sleek, 1960s drama concludes as an odd (but interesting) soap opera.


Other choices include:


“Saving Private Ryan,” 8-11:45 p.m., TNT. Here is Steven
Spielberg’s epic, World War II masterpiece.


Football, 8:20 p.m. ET, with preview at 7, NBC. The first
Sunday of the pro season wraps up with Peyton Manning’s old team (the
Indianapolis Colts) visiting his new team (the Denver Broncos).


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.  There’s a surplus of suspects, when a worker
at a top-dollar matchmaking service is killed.


“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. The final season begins
with glimpses of Nucky’s troubled boyhood, long before he ruled Atlantic City.
That’s against the backdrop of dealings in Havana, as he dreams of a post-Prohibition
windfall. There are other snippets of stories, some turning violent, in a show that’s
often hard to follow, but remains fascinating along the way.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Six days before the show’s
two-hour finale, we see complications in Lee Anne’s upcoming trial – a possible
jury-tampering and a growing romance between the competing lawyers. Meanwhile,
Vi’s ex-husband faces a malpractice charge that points to a bigger problem.


“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s powerful episode saw
Jim Kent (Sean Astin) killed by his colleagues, after it was clear he’d been
infected. Tonight, Eph races to protect his own family.


TV column for Saturday, Sept. 6



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or
later, with football overrun), NBC.

Like any “SNL,” this rerun is inconsistent; like some, it
has great moments. That’s led by the “Black Jeopardy” sketch, with Louis C.K.
as Brigham Young University’s African-American history professor.


C.K. got an Emmy nomination for this episode; he didn’t win,
but did win for a script for his own cable show. The music guest is Sam Smith.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Brittany Murphy Story”
(Lifetime) or “Houdini” (History), both 8 p.m.


Here are movie portraits of two show-business lives cut
short. Murphy was a gifted actress in movies (“Jersey Girls”) and TV (“David
and Lisa”), who died at 32, of complications including pneumonia; Harry Houdini
was a master magician who died at 52, of a ruptured appendix.


“Houdini” is a mini-series that debuted Monday and Tuesday
and now reruns in one chunk, until 11:32 p.m. Erik Weisz goes from a tough
childhood – son of an unemployed rabbi in Wisconsin – to world fame. We see him
(played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody) battled frauds and befriending world
leaders.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Chair” debut, 11 p.m., Starz.


Here’s an intriguing experiment: Take two very different
filmmakers. Give them the same script (which they’re free to change), setting
(Pittsburgh) and modest budget. Then release both movies.


At first, the “Chair” debut gets mired in insider talk about
artistic intentions. Then it comes alive when we see how different these people
are. Shane Dawson, a YouTube star, is a just-do-it guy who wants to boom ahead,
starring in the film; Anna Martemucci is an NYU Film School grad and indie-film
favorite, tending toward doubts and rewrites. He adds jokes, she adds character
drama; this should be fun.


Other choices include


Movies, all night, cable. Things start early, with the epic “Avatar”
(2009) at 5 p.m. on FX and the charming “Love Actually” (2003) at 7 p.m. on
Oxygen. Other winners include “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980), at 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies and “Forrest Gump” (1994), at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.


Football, 6:30 p.m. ET Fox. The first college week was
filled with mismatches, but now come a terrific collision of opposites. Last
year, Oregon had the nation’s No. 2 offense, in yards-per-game; Michigan State
had the No. 4 defense. Now MSU (ranked 7
th) visits Oregon (ranked 3rd).


More sports, everywhere. ABC has NASCAR at 7:30 p.m., but
others obsess on football. Michigan visits 16
th-ranked Notre Dame
(7:30 p.m. on NBC); Virginia Tech is at 8
th-ranked Ohio State (8
p.m. on ESPN).


“Person of Interest,” 8 p.m., CBS. For once, the machine
doesn’t have the answer. In this rerun, all it can do is spit out five numbers;
the team must figure out what to do from there.


“Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz; reruns at 10. Accompanying a
rent-collection journey, Claire begins to understand the good and evil of these
rugged Highlanders. It’s a fairly well-made episode, but leaves viewers suspended,
virtually in mid-sentence.


“Leftovers,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Failing to find his wife
in Seattle, Jack returns home … and finds her there, seeming distraught and
distant.


TV column for Friday, Sept. 5


.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Stand Up to Cancer,” 8 p.m, on ABC,
CBS, NBC, Fox, Ion and at least 26 cable channels, plus Hulu and Yahoo.

For the fourth time, Hollywood people combine to raise money
and awareness for fighting cancer.


We can expect lots of music, including Jennifer Hudson,
Ariana Grande, Dave Matthews, The Who and Lupe Fiasco linking with Common.
Other celebrities will be on-air (including Katie Couric and Pierce Brosnan,
who were widowed by cancer) or on phones. Instead of phoning pledges, people
can register at
www.werecallingyou.org
to have a celebrity possibly call them this weekend.


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


Occasionally, this show departs from its island beauty and
tackles an international adventure.


This one sends Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and
Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), both former Navy officers, to Afghanistan.
There, they try to rescue a boy whose family previously saved her life.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Masters of Illusion,” 8 p.m., CW,
and “Wizard Wars,” 10 p.m., Syfy.


For a brief summer stretch, it’s been possible to catch two
magic shows on Fridays. That ends now – Syfy debuts a zombie show next Friday –
so tonight is the final chance.


First, “Masters” has tricks Nathan Burton, Jonathan
Pendragon and more. Then “Wizards” has magicians devise with mismatched props;
in this rerun, that includes tarot cards and a pirate costume.


Other choices include:


“Grown Ups 2” (2013), 6:15 p.m., Starz; “Grown Ups” (2010),
8 and 10:30 p.m., FX. This was why techno-geniuses created cable? So we could
have our choice of Sandler-Spade movies?


“The Unauthorized ‘Saved by the Bell’ Story,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime.
Here’s a repeat of Monday’s film, about an empty-headed teen comedy that became
a launching point for stardom.


“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” 8:30 p.m., CW. In a rerun, the
improvised-comedy team is joined by actor Gary Anthony Williams and by Mel B of
Spice Girls fame.


“America’s Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. This rerun sees the
14 finalists move into their house.


“Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). On the next two Fridays, PBS will portray painters (Wiley and
James Whistler) who may be opposites, but draw great praise. “Grace” watches
Wiley recruit ordinary people and transform them via designer clothes and
portraits.


 “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox.
A rerun starts with a rich girl’s body being found in a national park. She may
be the latest victim of the Ghost Killer and has a surprising connection to
another victim.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Danny finds a man wandering the
park, covered in his girlfriend’s blood and unsure what happened. Also in this
rerun, Danny’s brother Jamie is in trouble after helping an off-duty cop hide
the fact that he was drunk when catching an armed robber.


“The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. This 1900-era hospital often seems
drenched in one-note despair. The administrator is a body-snatcher … the chief
surgeon is a drug addict … his assistants are vile to the lone black doctor,
who deliberately puts a patient at risk. But at the end of this hour, the beefy
ambulance driver has a scene (at the paupers’ burial grounds) that resonates
with quiet beauty and emotion.