TV column for Saturday, May 31



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Da Vinci’s Demons,” noon to 10 p.m.,
Starz.

 

A great season concludes. If you don’t get Starz, try to
catch “Demons” later; if you have Starz, settle back to savor the entire
season, with the finale at 9 p.m., repeating at 10 and 11.


Leonardo da Vinci has been obsessed with a mystical book. He
pursued it to South America, where he  found
a recording made by his mother, using a primitive code; then he returned to
despair: Prince Lorenzo, trying to forge a Florence-Naples coalition, instead
was captured by the fake Pope … who has secretly imprisoned the real one. Can
this be saved? And what of the Ottoman invaders? Stay tuned.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Sing Your Face Off” debut, 9-11 p.m.,
ABC.


Here’s the definition of a summer-Saturday show – easy to
watch, easier to forget. Each hour, five semi-celebrities impersonate singers;
they get big help from make-up, but the voices are their own.


Points are awarded (lamely), but it’s hardly a fair fight.
Sebastian Bach (portraying Adam Levine and Lady Gaga tonight) is a big-time
singer; 14-year-old China Anne McClain (Rihanna, Tixna Turner) is surprisingly
good. At the other extreme, basketball player Landry Fields (Lionel Richie,
Pitbull) has never performed; somewhere in between are Jon Lovitz (Elton John,
Luciano) and Lisa Rinna (Dolly Parton, Britney Spears).


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction,
8-11 p.m., HBO.


Most award shows have poor presenters and awful acceptance
speeches. Not here, at least when HBO is done editing. An opening tape reminds
us that rock people are frank and (often) funny. Then we get instant proof when
Chris Martin gives a witty introduction of Peter Gabriel, then jams with him.


Linda Ronstadt couldn’t be there, but was represented
wonderfully by Glenn Frey’s presentation and the voices of Carrie Underwood,
Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks. Also inducted were Hall
and Oates, Cat Stevens and three bands – Kiss, Nirvana and the E Street Band.


Other choices include:


“Aliens” (1986), 6 and 9 p.m., IFC; or “Titanic” (1997),
6:15 and 10:20 p.m., Oxygen. James Cameron is a deeply gifted director and
writer, as we see tonight. “Aliens” is a rare case of a sequel, from a
different director than the original, working perfectly; then, after “Terminator”
time, Cameron made “Titanic.”


More movies, cable. At 7 p.m., there are two strong dramas, “Deliverance”
(1972, Sundance, also at 9:30) and “The Dark Knight” (2008, AMC). For fun, try “My
Fair Lady” (1964) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies or cartoons on ABC
Family – “Mulan” (1988) at 7:45, “The Little Mermaid” (1989) at 9:45.


Baseball, 7:15 p.m., Fox; or basketball, 8:30 p.m., TNT.
Baseball fans, varying by region, get Tampa Bay at Boston or Pittsburgh at the
Los Angeles Dodgers. Basketball has Oklahoma City at San Antonio.


“Bet on Your Baby” season-opener, 8 p.m., ABC. Ever wonder
how fast a toddler can unroll toilet paper? If so, you’ll find this hour to be
at least moderately entertaining.


“Mike & Molly,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. The first rerun has
Molly’s shoe spree creating financial trouble. The second has Mike wounded on
the job; he’s thinking of cherishing each day and quitting the police.


“The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a mapmaker may
have been killed after discovering a spy ring.


TV column for Friday, May 30



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Crossbones” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

In real life, we’re told, the pirate Blackbeard was killed
in 1718, at 38. This series concocts an alternate history: Presumed dead, he
rules a pirate island in 1729. A British spy is sent to kill him, but has
bigger concerns – prevent Spanish rule and protect a longitude device that
could tip the balance of power.


There are vast plot problems here, overshadowed by an
immense plus: John Malkovich is Blackbeard. His beard isn’t black (or very big)
but his persona is huge and dark and filled with Malkovich-style glee.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “MasterChef” and “I Wanna Marry
Harry” debuts, 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.


The good news is that Fox pushes hard to give us fresh shows
in the summer. The bad is that it’s so quick with changes that even its own
listings are wrong. In this case, the network was still listing “24” and “Gang
Related” reruns, after shifting to these reality shows.


Fortunately, these reruns (both season-openers) are on the
good side of reality. “MasterChef” has Monday’s episode, with 30 amateur cooks
bringing their favorite dishes; “Harry” has the one that aired on May 20 (in
another late switch), with Americans given the impression they’re dating Prince
Harry.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Marriage Boot Camp” season-opener, 9
p.m., WE.


Here are five couples with reality
roots, but little else in common. Tanisha Thomas (“Bad Girls Club”) drinks a
lot and yells a lot; her first separation from Clive Muir came a month after
their marriage. At the opposite extreme are Trista and Ryan Sutter (“The
Bachelorette”), still looking cozy after a decade.


Then there are Traci Braxton
(“Braxton Family Values”) and Kevin Suratt, who each admit to affairs, plus two
engaged couples. Roger Mathews says sex has been scarce since he proposed to
Jenni “JWoww” Farley (“Jersey Shore”); Gretchen Rossi is Slade Smiley’s third “Real
Housewives of Orange County” romance. Now all are pushed and Thomas explodes;
it’s odd therapy, but noisy, interesting television.


Other choices include:


Movies, 8 pm., cable. Think of
this as a summer-movie night, inside your TV set. There’s the “Star Trek”
reboot (2009) on FX and the delightful “The Muppets” (2011) on Disney. “The
Wedding Crashers” (2005, TBS), has amiable actors – Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson,
Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher – in summer-style fun. The “Lincoln Lawyer” (2011,
TNT), with Matthew McConaughey as a troubled lawyer, is OK.


 “National Memorial Day Concert,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Here’s a rerun of Sunday’s concert, mixing emotional
tributes and great voices of country (Jennifer Nettles), classical (Anthony
Kearns), Broadway (Megan Hilty) and reality shows (Caleb Johnson, Danielle
Bradbery, Jackie Evancho.


“Hart of Dixie,” 9 p.m., CW. This
reruns the season-opener, with Zoe returning – briefly, she thinks – from New
York, to get a reference that will help her land a big-city job.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
friend of Lt. Grover (Chi McBride) disappeared after apparently committing a
murder; now McGarrett helps Grover investigate. Also in this rerun, Kono
continues her search for Adam.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Two
brothers – both cops and sons of the police commissioner – face personal
tangles in this rerun. Jamie’s conduct is questioned, after a gang-member he
was chasing is killed. Danny finds that the fiancé of his ex-girlfriend
(Charisma Carpenter) may be dealing drugs.


TV column for Thursday, May 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sixties” debut, 9 p.m., CNN.

As the world quaked in the1960s, everything seemed to change
… except TV. Even in 1968-69, three of the top five shows in the Nielsen
ratings were “Mayberry,” “Family Affair” and “Gomer Pyle.”


This hour, “Television Comes of Age,” finds tiny hints of
change – two black stars (Diahann Carroll and Bill Cosby) … variety shows that
stirred with their content (Smothers Brothers) or style (“Laugh-In”) … and news
coverage with fresh vigor. It’s an OK hour, but has too broad a topic with too
little depth; on future Thursdays, better episodes (on Cuban crises, the
Kennedy assassination, etc.) have sharper focus.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox.


Deep conflicts ripple through Ryan Lopez’s troubled world.
He’s a cop (a good one, usually), secretly working for Javier Acosta, the crime
boss who protected him during childhood; one of Javier’s sons (straight-arrow
Daniel) is his best friend; the other (cruel Carlos) is his worst enemy.


In last week’s opener, Carlos killed the friend and police
partner of Ryan … who retaliated with an anonymous tip to the rival gang, which
blasted Carlos with crossfire. It was jolting … and short-sighted. In tonight’s
taut, well-made episode, police scramble to avoid a fierce gang war.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Undateable” debut, 9:01 and 9:30
p.m., NBC.


Rightly or not, Danny (Chris D’Elia) figures he knows a lot
about romance. Rightly (for sure), he figures the people around him don’t. With
help from his sister (Bianca Kajlich), he’ll guide them.


That sounds like fun … and sometimes is. Still, “Undateable”
is a very jokey show, casting stand-up comedies who try too hard to force a
laugh or add a broad gesture. It’s at its best when the laughs come naturally …
especially with the wonderfully understated humor of Ron Funches, as Shelly.


Other choices include:


“Hollywood Date Night,” 8 p.m., NBC. An all-new, all-comedy
NBC night starts here. The stars of the underappreciated (and cancelled) “Trophy
Wife,” Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford, join Arsenio Hall, actors Tony Hale
and Adam DeVine, and designer Nate Berkus.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sheldon
crestfallen after his discovery is disproven.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m., CBS. Jenny has usually been
the love-‘em-and-leave-‘em type in her lesbian romances. But now Brooke (Aly
Michalka, the former “Hellcats” star) refuses a second date; in disbelief, Jenny
turns to Walden for advice.


“The Normal Heart” (2014), 9 p.m., HBO. Shortly after
catching Jim Parsons’ comic perfection in “Big Bang,” see him deliver moving drama.
Some of the characters are overwrought, even for a time (early in the AIDS
crisis) when rage was needed. Parsons and Julia Roberts balance that with quiet
intensity.  


“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. Auditions continue, as
judges sift a 100-comedian field.


“Elementary,” 10:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sherlock Holmes
facing a police inquiry, after an investigation goes terribly wrong.


TV column for Wednesday, May 28



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

For nine summers (and one fall), this show has offered dancers
who have talent and judges who care.  Here are the New Orleans and Chicago
auditions, with Wayne Brady and Jenna Elfman as guest judges.


There’s also a bonus that could be fun: During each of the
four audition weeks, two dance crews will perform; Justin Bieber, reportedly a
long-time “Dance” fan, has taped an introduction, asking viewers to choose their
favorite, via Twitter. The overall favorite crew will dance in the season’s finale.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Nova,” PBS (check local listings),
“The World Wars,” History; each 9-11 p.m.


With the 70th anniversary of D-Day just nine days
away, both networks boost their coverage. In the first two rounds of “World
Wars” (rerunning at 5 and 7 p.m.), we saw the key figures, from Hitler to
Patton, molded by World War I and the uneasy peace that followed; now the new
battle erupts.


Meanwhile, PBS focuses on the naval effort that sent 5,000
ships to Normandy, with a 200,000-man invasion force. This documentary shows
how engineers created ways to stop some of the mines and to make tanks
amphibious; it also scour the ocean bottom, for the hundreds of ships that were
sunk.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: World Music Awards, 8-10 p.m., NBC.


Against the glitzy backdrop of Monaco, performers are from
Europe, China and the U.S.


The Americans include Mariah Carey (winning the Icon Award
after topping 200-million mark in records sold in her career), Miley Cyrus
(performer of the year) and Jason Derulo (R&B performer of the year). Also
performing: Fall Out Boy, Flo Rida, Flip Maestro and Chris Cab.


Other choices include:


“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. A new murder may be the work
of a serial killer, endangering Chin.


Comedy, 8-11 p.m., ABC Family. As the “Melissa & Joey”
wedding nears, Joey’s mother (Faith Prince) and his estranged brother (Matthew
Lawrence, the real-life brother of Joseph Lawrence) show up.  That’s at 8 p.m., with “Baby Daddy” at 8:30
and the slight-but-pleasant “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (2009) at 9.


 “The Goldbergs,” 8:30
and 9:31 p.m., ABC. As ABC’s only new comedy to be renewed, this amiable show
suddenly gets the key summer slots behind “The Middle” AND “Modern Family.” In the
first rerun, the kids learn about their dad’s romantic past. In the second,
they see their mom’s competitive zeal.


 “Modern Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. The past can be tough to deal with in this rerun, when Jay re-visits
a closet convention and Cam takes Mitchell and Lily to his family farm.


“The 100,” 9 p.m., CW. Renewed for next season, this
well-made, futuristic teen drama still has some new episodes for this season.
Tonight, Finn risks his life and Raven has a deal for Bellamy.


“One Night Only,” 9-11 p.m. Spike. Gathering to pay tribute
to Don Rickles -- and/or roast-- him are comedy greats (Jerry Seinfeld, Jon
Stewart, David Letterman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler), plus Johnny Depp, Tracy
Morgan, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and more.


 “Motive,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Jennifer Beals guests in the season’s second episode. At first, this seems
like a simple case of self-defense during a home invasion; then complications
emerge.


TV column for Tuesday, May 27



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “America’s Got Talent” season-opener,
8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

Each year, this show dominates summer ratings. Nick Cannon
hosts, with a noisy set of judges – Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Mel B (Scary
Spice of Spice Girls fame) and Heidi Klum.


Here is a wide-open competition. In the first eight seasons,
some of the winners have been mainstream singers; others, however, have
included a dog act, a ventriloquist, a dancer/mime and an opera singer.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry’,” 8-9 p.m.,
Fox.


Remember the early years of “American Idol,” when young Ryan
Seacrest and odd Simon Cowell would squabble? Who would have imagined that both
would be successful producers, colliding in a timeslot?


Cowell produces “Talent”; Seacrest produces this thoroughly
entertaining dating show. It never tells the 12 American women that the mystery
bachelor is Prince Harry, but makes them think so. Most of the fun comes in the
vast gap between British reserve and American zest.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Night Shift” debut, 10:01 p.m.,
NBC.


A gifted doctor who won’t follow orders? From Hawkeye Pierce
to Doug Ross, TV has been there often; in this case, the bureaucrat who keeps
firing him is (until tonight’s final minutes) a cardboard cliché.


Still, some things redeem “Shift.” There’s the setting – an emergency
room in San Antonio, near several military bases, with many of the doctors
being Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And there’s the shift chief (Jill Flint,
who had a similar role in “Royal Pains”), bringing depth to a show that
desperately needs it.


 Other choices
include:


“Extreme Weight Loss” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC. At 19,
Ty finds that his size (6-foot-4,480 pounds) is blocking a promising baseball
career; at 32, Charita (5-6, 310) struggles with two jobs, to support a husband
and three kids. Both start year-long programs … and one is the show’s first to
quit.


“Coming Back” conclusion, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
Viewing combat veterans, this solid report avoids easy solutions. One man exaggerated
his military record, another has trouble staying with his family, a third tries
a near-impossible task of making a college baseball team, after losing a leg
and being away from the game for a decade. Still, we see wounded veterans
succeed, including one in Congress.


“Holy Smokers,” 8 p.m., Destination America. Throughout the
South, we’re told, barbecues top bake sales as church fundraisers. Here’s a
competition between three churches, one of them an all-biker group. It’s a fun
hour of good-hearted intensity … especially in the first round, when one team
grills freshly killed squirrels – dubbed “tree rats” and “road kill” by the
others – and another has doves.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the 100th
episode, someone claims to be Callen’s father.


“Little Women: LA” debut, 9 p.m., Lifetime, repeating at
11:01. These six are like most reality-show stars, often fun and sometimes
obnoxious. The difference is that they range from 3-foot-7 to 4-foot-4.


“Celebrity Wife Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Six years ago, courts decided
the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter. Now she lives in an unstructured
home with her dad (Larry Birkhead), her cousins and his sister … who swaps
lives with the highly organized girlfriend of racecar driver Helio Castroneves.


“Fargo,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week ended with one cop (Gus)
accidentally shooting another (Molly). Now we pick up there and see Lorne Malvo
in Fargo, seeking revenge. Also, we learn what happened after Lester planted
evidence to cover up his own involvement in two murders. It’s another clever
and quirky hour.