TV column for Wednesday, July 12


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

With steady
competence, CBS has shown a smart approach to summers. Alongside the
reality-type flash (“Big Brother,” “Candy Crush”), it has
inserted a few richly crafted science-fiction shows -- “Under the
Dome,” “Extant,” “Zoo,” “BrainDead” and now another
good one.

An amiable grad
student, zipping through life on his bicycle, discovers a
world-changing (literally) secret. Soon, he links with a tech mogul
(Santiago Cabrera of “Heroes”) and a White House insider
(Jennifer Finnigan of “Tyrant”), trying to save mankind. The
opener is smart and involving.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Odd Mom Out” season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo.

For the first two
seasons, Jill and Andy were outsiders – almost-normal people, in a
New York neighborhood of wealth and excess. But now a Ponzi scheme
has seen others crash down.

Her sister (Abby
Elliott) faces life without household help ... his mom (Joanna
Cassidy) has moved in with them ... neighbors must learn how to use
ovens and irons and such. A sub-plot (Hazel is becoming a teen-ager)
is so-so, but the main story has some moments of sharp satire.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: ESPY Awards, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Peyton Manning has
already shown a dry sense of humor on “Saturday Night Live” and
in commercials. Now he's the host – a job usually reserved for
comedians or actors.

Manning has won nine
ESPYs, but never (despite three nominations) best male athlete. This
year, the nominees are Kris Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Sidney Crosby
and Michael Phelps; the women are Simone Biles, Serena Williams,
Katie Ledecky and Candace Parker. There will be music by Gallant and
celebrity presenters include Bryan Cranston, Dove Cameron and
four-time host Samuel L. Jackson.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Suits” season-opener, 9 p.m., USA.

For six seasons,
this has been a mixed blessing, with smart dialog uttered by
unlikable and un-varied characters. It has drawn moderate attention
... until now.

The difference is
that Meghan Markle is now dating Prince Harry; suddenly, romance
readers may be watching a show about corporate lawyers. Markle plays
Rachel Zane, who at times tonight seems to be the only sane and
balanced soul in the law office. Her fiance, Mike Ross, is returning
to the firm, which his former mentor, Harvey Spector, plans to
control. Others scheme and shout, in an un-royal manner

Other choices
include:

“Queen Sugar,” 7
p.m. to 2 a.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. First, are reruns of the
previous three episodes, as Charly tries to manage her family's farm
while facing battles over her divorce from a basketball star. The new
episode (at 10, rerunning at 1 a.m.), has her therapist find
childhood issues.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. This episode is entitled “Silenced By the Lambs.”
First, the home-chefs prepare racks of lamb. Then some must try to
match Gordon Ramsay's lamb chop dish.

“Little Big Shots:
Forever Young,” 8 p.m., NBC. Steve Harvey meets one woman who's a
blues guitarist at 78, another who's a bodybuilder at 81. They are
young 'uns compared to two sisters, 98 and 103, who have become big
on the Internet.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 and 9:30, NBC. Bobby's ex-wife has been drinking a lot
lately; in the first episode, the family plans an intervention. In
the second, Maxine and Jerrod had rushed out to buy an after-the-fact
birth-control pill; instead, a storm forces them into his parents'
basement.

“This Is Us,” 10
p.m., NBC. This reruns a pivotal moment: Randall's fondness for his
adoptive mother is blurred when he learns that she'd always known
(and kept secret) the identity of his biologic father.

“Snowfall,” 10
p.m., FX. Last week's opener introduced a young man spreading cocaine
to the black community in 1980s Los Angeles; tonight, he learns how
difficult that can be. Also in this tough and well-made hour: A
federal agent's undercover scheme advances; and there are fierce
aftershocks to a burglary that went bad, leading to murder.

TV column for Tuesday, July 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Baseball All-Star game, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.

Baseball's best
players collide in Miami's almost-new (opened in 2012) Marlins Park.
That means there are no rain worries; the room is detractable. It
also means the National League bats last.

The American League
has won four straight and 16 of 19. Still, the past can't count for
much in a game of newcomers. Six AL starters are in their first
All-Star game, topped by Aaron Judge, who leads the majors in home
runs and is fifth in batting average and seventh in RBI. His 30
homers have already broken Joe DiMaggio's record for a Yankee rookie;
Mark McGwire's all-time rookie record is 49.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “America's Got Talent” and “World of Dance,” 8 and 10
p.m., NBC.

After being bumped
last week by a 4th-of-July special, these two
ratings-leaders are back.

For “Talent,”
it's the sixth and final night of auditions; for “Dance,” it's
the third and final night of “duels,” with judges choosing
between two acts. Next week, a new round of cuts begins.

TONIGHTS
ALTERNATIVE: “Adam Ruins Everything” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
TruTV, reruns at 11.

Adam Conover has
created something unique. His show disputes common beliefs – even
inserting experts and footnotes – but makes it all feel like a
comedy. And tonight, he approaches childbirth.

The biological clock
shuts down at 35? That's based on flawed data from long ago, Conover
says; a woman of 37 who's trying to be pregnant has an 82-percent
chance of succeeding in a year. He disputes other beliefs, from
arguments against baby formula to notions that each mom will bond
instantly with the baby. And he does it with such offbeat wit that we
barely notice the footnotes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Story of China” conclusion, 8 and 9 p.m.,
PBS.

History might
celebrate the Ming Dynasty, with its splendid artifacts, and condemn
the barbarians who overthrew it. But Michael Wood takes an opposite
view: The Ming had become cold and corrupt; the new leaders had
stability (one emperor ruled for 61 years) and an inclusive approach.

It would be China's
last dynasty, ultimately tormented by the outside world. This series
– richly illustrated by views of current China – closes with Wood
blaming his own British countrymen. Eager to trade opium for tea,
they crippled China at first through trade and then through military
attack.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the season's second episode, the newcomers are
settling in – for now; that's Jennifer Esposito (who is leaving the
show after one season) and Wilmer Valderrama. The story involves a
bomb plot targeting a reunion of the FBI's Quantico people.

“The Middle,” 8
and 10:30 p.m., ABC. A night of comedy reruns is bookended by this
clever show. In the first episode, Mike uses the high school coach as
a ringer to boost his softball team; in the second, Axl runs into his
old girlfriends at a dance.

“The Fosters”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Freeform. While Marian leads the protests
against Anchor Beach Charter's privatization, her twin Jesus –
struggling with his traumatic brain injury -- lashes out. Also, their
adoptive sister Callie is missing; Stef, a cop, desperately searches
for her.

“The Bold Type,”
9-11 p.m., Freeform. Based loosely on the life of a former
Cosmopolitan editor, this traces three young women early in their
magazine career. Katie Stevens – who entered the 2010 “American
Idol” when she was 17 and finished eighth – is one of the stars,
playing Jane.

“The Animal
Kingdom,” 9 p.m., TNT. It's double-trouble for Baz. He clashes with
Pope after the mega-church heist; also, he faces a secret that was
kept hidden by Catherine.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Desperate to trap Garcia, Pride has
Sebastian go undercover and asks Patton to use his old gambling
skills.

TV column for Monday, July 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Rachel Lindsay has
trimmed from 31 guys to six; now she picks a final four and visit
their home towns. Lindsay, 32, is a Dallas lawyer and has another
Dallas person (Adam, 27, a real-estate agent) to consider. She could
choose a chiropractor (Bryan, 37, of Miami) or get physical, with
personal trainers -- Erick, 29, of Los Angeles and Peter, 31, of
Madison, Wis. Others are Matt, 32, a sales rep in Connecticut, and
Dean, 26, a start-up recruiter in Venice, Cal.

TONIGHT'S
SHOULD-TRY: “Will” debut, 9 and 10:01 p.m., TNT; reruns 11:09
p.m. and 12:17 a.m.

Before he turned 21,
history tells us, William Shakespeare was married, had three kids and
was a glovemaker in his dad's small-town business. Somehow, he
vaulted to theater fame in London.

The in-between part
is unclear, so writers can make stuff up; “Will” takes that to an
extreme. Some of its moments – involving theater or a possible
romance – are pretty good; others are not. A religious-suppression
sub-plot throws in torture needlessly; a bar confrontation is absurd.
Yes, a real-life man named Greene considered Shakespeare a rube;
here, that turns into a sort of drunken rap duel.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

After winning awards
in nine festivals – including Sundance, where it won for best
documentary and the audience voted it the best in world cinema --
“Last Men in Aleppo” reaches TV .

This follows the
“White Hats,” Syrians who rush into bombed buildings to save
strangers. It's tough to watch, with some gore and much despair ...
including a final gut-kick. But it's also an uplifting view of
humanity. We see the warm reunion of a boy and the man who pulled him
from the ruins; we watch another man hugging his girls as they see a
video of him saving a baby. These are warm, decent people.

Other choices
include:

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The qualifying round moves to Cleveland.
That's followed by a new episode of the “Spartan” team event.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8. This is the second half of the New York auditions.
Next week starts the “academy” round of callbacks.

“Home Run Derby,”
8 p.m. ET, ESPN. On the eve of the All-Star game, baseball's top
sluggers go for the fences.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Bonnie doesn't deal well with setbacks. In a funny rerun, she's
unbearable after Adam breaks up with her; Christy begs him to take
her back.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10:03. Last week, Tulip's secret past finally
caught up with her; she was abducted ... but who did it? We'll find
out at the end of this odd-and-intriguing hour, but first come
detours – to Hell (really) and to the return of the “fake God”
character.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30, CBS. This rerun of an election-time episode sees Greg
committing a double sin: He fails to vote (because the lines are too
long) and then lies about it.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. One problem, in this rerun, involves a man teetering at
the edge of a giant sinkhole. Another, more serious, one is that the
sinkhole could destroy Los Angeles' water supply.

TV column for Sunday, July 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Tennison” finale, 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Over the past two
Sundays, we've seen Jane Tennison transform. This isn't the
tough-eyed police boss Helen Mirren began playing in 1991; we're
flashing back to her first days at work in 1973 London.

A probationary cop
with middle-class roots, Jane (Stefanie Martini) was ignored by the
men ... then found key clues in two perplexing cases. Now they both
peak: There was the murder of Julie Anne, a prostitute from an
upscale family; now there's the bank heist planned by the family of
Julie Anne's boyfriend. Both stories peak, in an explosive
(literally) finale to a strong mini-series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Candy Crush” debut, 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

Sure, this game has
been played on tiny phone screens; now it gets MUCH bigger. There are
points where contestants (in harnesses) are playing it on a giant,
20-by-25-foot screen.

The opener, hosted
by Mario Lopez, has people who have been on two other CBS shows. From
“Survivor” are Kelley Wentworth, Joe Anglim, Woo Hwang and Jeremy
Collins; from “Big Brother” are Paul Abrahamian, Da'Vonne Rogers,
Frankie Grande (Ariana's half-brother) and Caleb Reynolds.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nineties” debut, 9-11 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning
at midnight.

For decades, TV
shows were big and broad and bland; each seemed to try to please
everyone. Then came newer networks -- Fox, WB, UPN – and a cascade
of cable shows. TV turned to “remarkably specific, niche
programming,” producer John Wells says here.

TV seemed to
discover blacks, women, gays, geeks and more. Some of this was
temporary; some was a permanent change in our living rooms. This look
at '90s TV starts a weekly profile of the decade.

Other choices
include:

“My Mother and
Other Strangers,” 8 p.m., PBS. A transplanted Englishwoman, Rose
has been an outsider in this seaside Irish town; now she has a
compatriot when her sister arrives. That soon brings joy for Rose's
kids ... and trouble for their dad, who runs the village pub.

“Earth Live,”
8-10 p.m. ET, National Geographic and NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 11.
Let's credit this for sheer ambition. Hosts Jane Lynch and Phil
Keoghan will leap between live wildlife locations on six continents.
That's followed at 10 p.m. ET by another epic, “Migration,” which
then moves to Fridays.

“America in
Color,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. While CNN takes a leisurely ride
through the '90s, this show races through the '30s. Adding color to
old film and photos, it ranges from the Dust Bowl to the birth of
surfing, from the New Deal jobs to the attacks on protesting veterans
and Ford workers. That's followed at 9 by “First Ladies Revealed,”
with an interesting look at Betty Ford and others whose husbands were
instantly elevated to the White House.

“Grantchester,”
9 p.m., PBS. In this 1950s village, crimes are usually quiet and
unseen. But now there's an armed robbery at the post office,
witnessed by Leonard, the assistant to Sidney, the vicar.

“The Defiant
Ones,” 9 p.m., HBO. Jimmy Iovine was an Italian guy from Brooklyn,
a record producer who worked with everyone from John Lennon to U2;
Dr. Dre was a black guy from Compton who rapped. These seemingly
opposite forces linked to bring major changes to the record industry.
That will be traced in a documentary mini-series over the next four
nights.

“Alec Baldwin: One
Night Only,” 9-11 p.m., Spike. Here's a “tribute” to Baldwin
that may be more like a roast. It has Tracy Morgan, Julianne Moore,
Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer and more, including taped pieces from
Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon.

NCIS: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., CBS. With the arrival of “Big Brother” and “Candy
Crush” from 8-10 p.m., this is the only CBS drama to survive on
summer Sundays. In a rerun, our heroes – Callen, Sam, Granger and
Deeks – are arrested after evidence has been planted.

TV column for Saturday, July 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Doubt,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS; “Still Star-Crossed,” 10 p.m.,
ABC.

This is an
unexpected bonus – three hours of full shows (not reruns or
reality) on a summer Saturday. The only problem: They've been dumped
here because they failed – in quality and ratings – elsewhere.

“Doubt” has
lawyers whose lives entwine with their work. Sadie (Katherine Heigl)
is defending her sometimes-lover, a murder suspect; in tonight's
first hour, she also defends her childhood friend. “Star-Crossed”
(airing two hours later than originally scheduled) views life after
Romeo and Juliet died; tonight, Rosaline and Benvolio try to figure
out who's scheming to keep their families at war.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Eighties,” 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

On Sunday, “The
Nineties” will debut with a look at changes in TV; first, however,
here's one more chance to see “The Eighties” ... also starting
with TV.

This was when
viewers began to feel they had some control. They had remotes and
VCR's; they weren't the hostages of network schedules. TV would
change a tad in '80s ... and (as we'll see Sunday) profoundly in the
decades ahead. Other episodes tonight look at music videos (11 p.m.),
Wall Street (midnight), the tech boom (1 a.m.), Ronald Reagan (2) and
the Berlin Wall (3).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

There's a theory
that the best movies are small, quirky ones on small channels. That
seems true if you look in the right places tonight.

On Viceland (7 and
9:15 p.m.) is “Whiplash” (2014); writer-director Damien Chazelle
drew an Oscar nomination for his script, before triumphing with “La
La Land.” J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar, is perfect; also
brilliant is Matt Damon in the delightfully odd “The Informant”
(2009), at 8 p.m. on Cinemax. But big movies can also be well-made;
prime proof is “Titanic” (1997), at 5 and 9 p.m. on E.

Other choices
include:

Animated movies,
FXX. This is a time for sequels and spin-offs. There's “Penguins of
Madagascar” (2014) at 4 p.m., “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
(2014) at 6 and “Despicable Me 2” (2013) at 8 and 10. There will
be more; “Despicable Me 3” -- hyperactive and generally quite
funny – is now in theaters.

“Dirty Dancing”
(1987) and “Grease” (1978), 4:10 and 6:40 p.m., Freeform. Both
movies recently had new versions done as TV specials – adequately
for “Dancing,” vibrantly for “Grease.” Here are the originals
– one quite passionate, the other (that's “Grease”)
empty-headed fun.

“In An Instant,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. An Army veteran had a personal mission – to plant
an American flag on an 11,000-foot summit of San Bernardino National
Forrest. But then a blizzard struck, trapping Kenny Pasten and his
friend Tiffany Finney. They tried to fashion a tent with the flag;
when that failed, they stumbled toward help. It's a dramatic story,
told with re-creations and first-person accounts.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. In its first two seasons, this has totaled 22
hours of amazing kids, plus Steve Harvey. Ratings soared, so NBC will
plop some reruns into Saturdays.

“Turn,” 9 p.m.,
AMC, rerunning at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Abe is determined to avenge his
father's death – and, especially, to get revenge on Simcoe, the
evil British lieutenant colonel. Fortunately, the British still think
he's on their side; now he joins Benedict Arnold's legion.

“Orphan Black,”
10 p.m. ET, BBC America, rerunning at 3 a.m. Sarah gets some
much-needed time bonding with her daughter – just as new
information emerges about the girl's gifts. Also, Cosima has an
unusual dinner with Delphine in the mansion.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. John Cena hosts this rerun, with music from
Maren Morris.