TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 4

“CMA Country Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock,” 8-11 p.m.,

Each year, this
concert offers wall-to-wall music, with no time wasted passing out
awards. The music is uptempo, the mood is upbeat, the audience is
kind of giddy.

Little Big Town
repeats as host, with other groups – Lady Antebellum, Rascal
Flatts, Florida Georgia Line, Maddie & Tae, the Zac Brown Band –
on hand. Top individual stars are also there, including Carrie
Underwood, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean,
Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, Chris Young,
Eric Church, Sam Hunt and (really) many more.

“America's Got Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

This is another week
for “Talent” to celebrate itself. Tonight, it brings back Piers
Morgan, one of its original judges; on Wednesday, it's part of a
special eyeing versions of the show around the world.

Morgan holds
tonight;s “golden buzzer,” sending one act directly to the next
round. The judges will do the rest; by the end of the night, we'll
have the top 36 acts, which will start performing live next week.

ALTERNATIVE: “Back on Board: Greg Louganis,” 10 p.m., HBO.

At his peak, Greg
Louganis brought a poetic perfection to sports. The world's greatest
diver, he won two Olympic gold medals in 1984 and two more in '88;
then his world crumbled.

acknowledged in 1995 that he's gay, but before that the mere rumors
seemed to cost him most endorsement deals. He teetered near
foreclosure, faced a bad break-up ... then survived. At 55 (and 27
years after learning he's HIV-positive), Louganis provides a
compelling comeback story.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Robert Wagner returns as Tony's dad. In this rerun, his scheming
past is helpful: He uses his black-market contacts to help trace
stolen artwork.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Mitch and Chloe need to be rescued in Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile,
the others are desperate to re-capture a convicted killer who fled
after a car crash, taking key evidence.

Time for Greatness,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The movie
“Selma” depicted Lyndon Johnson slowing the rush to civil rights;
this documentary takes the opposite view. John Kennedy pushed a bold
civil-rights bill, it says, but lacked the political might to get it
tpassed. When Johnson became president, he provided passion and
power, changing history.

“Playing House”
season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m., USA. When her friend Emma (Jessica
St. Clair) divorced, Molly (Lennon Parham) moved home and moved in,
to help raise the baby. It wasn't easy, especially since the town is
the home of her eccentric mom (Jane Kaczmarek) and her former
boyfriend (Keegan-Michael Key); in a fairly funny episode tonight,
it's clear his wife doesn't approve.

“West Texas
Investors Club” debut, 10 p.m., CNBC. Michael “Rooster”
McConaughey isn't as famous as his little brother Matthew ... yet.
But he's apparently rich (via oil-field supplies) and eccentric. Now
he brings entrepreneurs to his ranch; then he and two friends ponder
investing in them.

“American Titans”
debut, 10 p.m., American Heroes Channel. Andrew Carnegie and H.C.
Frick were powerful figures who merged their companies into what
would become U.S. Steel. They also hated each other and hated the
labor unions. Their story launches this series on the former Military

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. As host of “Geeks Who Drink” (11 p.m.
Thursdays on Syfy), Zachary Levi is quick and clever. Now he competes
in this fun show, alongside chef Curtis Stone and actors Gina
Rodriguez, Tom Arnold, Rex Lee and Yvette Nicole Brown.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 3

“The Daily Show,” 11 p.m., Comedy Central.

One of TV's greatest
runs is ending this week. For 16 seasons, Jon Stewart has anchored
“The Daily Show.” He's brought wit, passion, intelligence and
even a knack for funny voices. The results have been brilliant, at
one point winning 10 straight Emmys for best variety show.

Now Stewart starts
his final week, which ends Thursday. Reruns will follow, before
Trevor Noah – a clever young South African – takes over Sept. 28.
First are four more nights of a comedy master.

II: “The Odd Couple” return, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

From the beginning,
this show has drawn shrugs. Critics grumbled; CBS proclaimed that it
has the best ratings of any new comedy (a “Big Bang” lead-in
helped), renewed it, but kept it off the fall line-up.

That's odd, because
there's much to recommend “Odd Couple” -- a time-tested premise,
solid stars (Mathew Perry and Thomas Lennon) and scripts filled with
slick, sharp dialog. Tonight, Oscar is dating Felix's doctor (Erinn
Hayes), just as Felix's hypochondria hits overdrive.

ALTERATIVE: Season finales, 10 p.m., cable.

Alert your
video-recorder, because three finales start simultaneously. One is a
half-hour; “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo) has Jill deciding between going
to a birthday bash or to a gala with a prime theme.

The other two are an
hour each. “Unreal” (Lifetime) finds a disruptive force visiting
the set of the “Bachelor”-type show; Rachel frets about her
future. “Making of the Mob: New York” (AMC) finds Vito Genovese
and Carlo Gambino making their move; Lucky Luciano must choose a

Other choices

“Chasing Shadows”
conclusion, any time,
Last week's opener introduced a cop with strong skills in detecting
and weak ones with people. Now he's working with a missing-person pro
(Alex Kingston), scrambling to find a link to several disappearances.
It's a dandy story with sharp twists; there's one more two-Monday
story and then all four parts will be on this streaming servie.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week, Moises Parra and Burim “B1”
Jusuf were eliminated. As the 16 remaining people dance tonight,
we'll learn which ones are in the bottom six from viewer votes;
viewers will save two via Twitter, with judges then saving two and
ousting two.

“Bachelor in
Paradise,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Here's the second half of the
season-opener that started Sunday, plunking 16 former “Bachelor”
and “Bachelorette” contestants into a Mexican resort.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. A rerun sees Max and Caroline get a surprise, when a
handsome businessman returns their missing cat.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun finds the team protecting Cabe's ex-wife
(Jessica Tuck), after she finds signs of foul play.

“Chasing Life,”
9 p.m., ABC Family. As her wedding nears, April faces some “lasts”
-- last week of being single, last week of living in her family home
... maybe last chance to throw a wild party.

10:01 p.m., ABC. Claire still assumes that Dril – who talks kids
into deadly deals – is a new force. Now she meets someone who says
he met Dril 30 years ago.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. In theaters now, Ed Helms is the
floundering “Vacation” dad. Here's a different side: Afraid of
heights, he climbs in the Colorado Mountains.


TV column for Sunday, Aug. 2

“Masterpiece: Poldark” season-finale, 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local

We really don't
expect this on a summertime Sunday – an epic adventure, with a huge
emotional story backed by stunning visuals. Tonight, “Poldark”
delivers all of that and more.

Against the grand
vistas of seaside England, lives aere wobbling. Ross Poldark's plan
to revive the mines and save the economy is crumbling ... his wife's
efforts to aid the romance of his cousin's sister is bringing a
backlash ... and now there's a deadly illness. Storm clouds are
rumbling, figuratively and literallty. The first hour is a tad
soap-y, but the second is simply a flat-out terrific adventure-drama.

“Bachelor in Paradise” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

After dealing with
the serious matrimonial matters of “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette,”
ABC loosens up. Former contestants from both shows gather for some
fun and games and lust.

year's edition sprawls across Sundays and Mondays. It starts with
seven men (four from this summer's “Bachelorette”) and nine
women. That includes six women from the most recent “Bachelor,”
two from previous years (including Tenley Molzahn, Jake Pevelka's
controversial runner-up in 2010) and a “mystery woman” who
arrives late. Soon, two women are ousted and the dating begins.

ALTERNATIVE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Last Man on Earth,”
8:30 and 9:30 p.m., Fox.

summer Sundays, we can catch reruns of clever shows starring
“Saturday Night Live” alumni.

is Andy Samberg, a Golden Globe winner as Jake; tonight, he feels
someone is sabotaging his work. Then it's Will Forte in his
Emmy-nominated role as Phil, a survivor of a global plague. Tonight,
he asks God for a “do-over.” Two women (Mary Steenburgen and
Cleopatra Coleman) arrive, doubling the planet's known female
population; soon, Phil is scheming anew.

Other choices

Movies, 6:55 and 7
p.m., cable. At 6:55, HBO has “Birdman” (2014), the
strange-and-stylish film that

won the Academy
Award for best picture. At 7, there are two large adventures --
“Hunger Games” (2012) on ABC Family and “Mission Impossible –
Ghost Protocol” (2011) on FX.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 7 p.m., NBC. This rerun has people known in reality and
talk shows – Rosie O'Donnell, Kevin O'Leary, Nate Berkus, Rocco
Dispirto – plus actress Constance Zimmer and comic singer Weird Al

“Welcome to
Sweden,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC. In a delightful episode last week,
Bruce (Greg Poehler) finally resisted his parents, insisting that his
wedding will be in Sweden where he and his fiancee live. Tonight's
second episode includes bachelor and bachelorette parties that get
out of hand.

“Saturday Night
Fever” (1977), 8 and 10:30 p.m., Sundance. Here's a true classic, a
deep character drama entwined with a pop-culture swirl of BeeGees
songs and disco moves.

“The Last Ship,”
9 p.m., TNT. Rachel tries to re-construct the lost formula and
Chandler tries to reverse the brainwashing on Michener.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. Two networks shift their 10 p.m. shows. ABC inserts its
medical reality show, “Save My Life, Boston Trauma.” CBS has
pulled its original “CSI” show, replacing it with its newest one;
tonight involves the abduction of young women whose social-network
pages were updated.

“The Strain,” 10
p.m., FX. Eph and Nora – Centers for Disease Control doctors
working on their own – have been putting together a possible virus
that would spread among zombies. Now they test it.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 1

New line-up, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

In a late change,
ABC has re-arranged its weekend, even splitting up the two
documentary series from its news division. “Boston EMS” slides to
10 p.m. today; the excellent “Save My Life, Boston Trauma” goes
to 10:01 p.m. Sunday.

The rest of tonight
(8-10 p.m.) will now have “Celebrity Family Feud” reruns. The
show was a surprise ratings hit on Sundays ... but surrender that
slot to “Bachelor in Paradise.” Tonight, it includes football
families -- Rob Gronkowski vs. Holly Robinson Peete and her husband
Rodney, an ex-quarterback.

... which just lost
its Sunday spot, now filled by all those lusty bachelors.(TV column
for Saturday,

“Aquarius.” 9 p.m. Saturday, NBC.

With only three
episodes left, this so-so show stirs up some family links. Charlie
Manson confronts his mom, in wretchedly overheated scenes; Hodiak
(David Duchovny) deals with his wayward dad and his earnest-but-AWOL
son. And a Black Panther leader faces a family tragedy.

There's more,
including one of the Manson girls (a fragile teen) leading a break-in
at the home of a rich neighbor. Blunt and inept, “Aquarius” was
exiled from Thursdays to Saturdays, where it at least offers an
alternative to reality and reruns.

ALTERNATIVE: “Birdman” (2014), 8 p.m. and midnight, HBO.

Few people saw
“Birdman” in theaters, but many saw it at awards time. It won
Oscars for best picture, director, script and cinematography; it also
had five more nominations, including actors Michael Keaton, Edward
Norton and Emma Stone.

That highlights a
film in which the parts are better than the whole. The story -- a
former star scrambles for a theater project – is OK, although a
supernatural touch doesn't add much. The rest – the performances,
the dialog and the energetic filming style – are brilliant and

Other choices

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m. CBS. Now we go all the way back to the pilot film. Content
with her life as a college professor with a sturdy husband (Tim Daly)
and kids, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is suddenly asked to return to
Washington and become secretary of state.

“Cedar Cove,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. Setting up next week's two-hour episode, the gap
grows between Olivia and Jack, who tried to cover up his alcohol
relapse. He decides to give her some space.

More movies, cable.
As the baseball season heats up, fans will enjoy “Moneyball”
(2011), at 8 and 11 p.m. on FXX; it's boosted by Aaron Sorkin's sharp
script and Brad Pitt's performance. At 10 p.m., choose between gifted
actresses – Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games” (2012) on ABC
Family or Julia Roberts' nuanced, breakthrough performance in “Mystic
Pizza” (1988) on Pop.

“Hell on Wheels,”
9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10. Cullen had warned that there would be
trouble because of the mis-treatment of Chinese railroad workers. Now
violence erupts in Chinatown.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz, rerunning at 10 p.m. and 11:05. Ghost is squeezed on two sides
– battling a rival drug cartel and facing Angela's expanding

“Hannibal,” 10
p.m., NBC. Desperate to catch serial-killer Francis Dolarhyde, Will
tries two risky things – confering with Hannibal Lecter and
imagining himself in Dolarhyde's psyche.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Reese Witherspoon hosts this rerun, with
music from Florence and the Machine.

TV columm for Friday, July 31

“Winter's Bone” (2010), 8 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

With their theaters
stuffed with $100-million movies, many people missed this one. It had
a tiny budget ($2 million) and made just $6.5 million at the box
office. But it drew raves, plus Oscar nominations for best picture,
script and actors Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

Lawrence plays a
teen-ager whose dad put up the house to get bail money ... then
disappeared. To save her family, she has to bring him back or bring
proof he's dad. Along the way, she faces all the codes of a
hard-scrabble Ozarks life. The result is written, acted and filmed
with immense subtlety and skill.

“Descendants” debut, 8-10 p.m., Disney.

Imagine taking all
the Disney characters, both good (Belle, Mulan, Dopey) and evil
(Cruella, Jafar). Then have their kids be schoolmates.

This film stirs them
all together and adds seven songs, which seems logical: The director
is Kenny Ortega, who did the “High School Musical” films; some of
the stars are musical, including Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth as
Maleficent and Dove Cameron as her daughter Mal.

ALTERNATIVE: “Virtuosity,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Once every four
years, the world's best young pianists, ages 18 to 30, reach Forth
Worth, Texas. The Van Cliburn Competition has each do two concertos,
a chamber piece, a new work and more.

Often, an
interesting documentary emerges. This one captures young npeople from
the Ukraine, China, Japan, Italy, Russia, the U.S. and more, making
masterful music under difficult conditions.

Other choices

“The Breakfast
Club” (1985) and “Footloose” (1984), 6:30 and 9 p,m., VH1. Here
are two youth favorites from the mid-50s, each from a top director
better known for comedy. John Hughes put an opposite batch of teens
together, for Saturday detention. Herbert Ross started with the story
of a town that banned dance; at times, he injected the look and feel
of the new genre called music videos.

“Elementary,” 8
p.m., CBS. A debt-collector is killed in this rerun, leaving a huge
number of suspects.

“Defiance,” 8
p.m., Syfy. A new beast is on the prowl. While Nolan and Iris hunt
it, Doc Yewll studies its unusual victim.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Bruce Wayne (the future Batman) contronts
Gordon about the lack of progress in finding his parents' killer.
Also, Fish reveals a secret about Oswald, the future Penguin.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The team hunts for a notorious criminal who's never been
seen. When Kono learns the identity, her life is in danger.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a key witness drops out, Erin has to safely bring
a Mob informant (Dan Hedaya) back to town. She needs help from her
brother Danny and his police partner.

“Strike Back”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Cinemax. The two stars of this slam-bang
series are proof that even tough guys can get hurt. Back in 2004,
Philip Winchester lost the starring role in a TV comedy (“Commando
Nanny”) after breaking his foot; a decade later, this show was
suspended for a year, after Sullivan Stapleton fell from a vehicle.
Now they're back, playing top government agents. Tonight, they're in
Thailand, trying to save the British ambassador's daughter.