TV column for Saturday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Who Do You
Think You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Tim McGraw was a teen-ager before he
knew that his father was Tug McGraw, the popular baseball pitcher.
They didn't really bond until a few years before Tug's death.

Now McGraw – a country-music star –
gets a chance to dig into his dad's roots. His search goes back to
early settlers and a link with George Washington.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Law &
Order: Criminal Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Three gifted actors turn a so-so
mystery into a solid hour, in this rerun.

The story involves the death – maybe
murder, maybe suicide – of a banker whose sole client is the
Catholic Church. Neil McDonough, as a priest.

This is the hour that brought the
gifted Vincent D'Onofrio back to the show and Kathryn Erbe back to
full employment. Goren (D'Onofrio) returns after being dropped for
his anger issues; Eames (Erbe) returns to police-detective work. For
the show's final season, gifted stars return.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Cabin,”
8, 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel; also 8 p.m. Sunday.

Lily MacDougal (Lea Thompson) is
revisiting her roots, taking her kids for a fun week in Scotland.
They promptly find their cabin has also been rented to Conor
MacDougal (Steven Brand) and his kin. The two families compete in
Scottish games; the two parents squabble about everything.

Astute viewers might guess that the two
grown-ups will kind of like each. The Hallmark channels aren't built
around surprises; “Cabin” has enough charm to keep viewers
modestly interested.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets” (2002), 8-11 p.m., ABC. The second “Potter” film was
the final one in the series directed by Chris Columbus, keeping the
light tone of the original.

– “The Mentalist,” 8 p.m., CBS.
When a jockey is murdered, the horse track has plenty of suspects.

– “Beauty and the Beast” (1991),
9-11 p.m., ABC Family. In the old days, animated films didn't draw
much respect. Then came “Beauty,” with a best-picture Academy
Award nomination. Don't expect the wicked wit of Pixar; this is a
straightforward romance, lush in its look and in its Oscar-winning
music.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. A distant planet has become a tough frontier. Stella and
Tate learn of a hostile force and try to make contact with it.
Meanwhile, someone knows Cass' secret.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two major lawyers collide, in a so-so case.
One is Casey Novak (Diane Neal), returning to help prosecute a rape
suspect; the other is Jonah Dekker (Terrence Howard), the “Law &
Order: Los Angeles” character, flying east to defend his cousin.

– “Outnumbered,” 11 p.m., BBC
America. Here's the first of tonight's two new comedies. Parents
realize that their kids – ages 11, 7 and 5 – outnumber and maybe
outsmart them.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Emma Stone hosts this rerun, with Kings of Leon as the
music guest.

– “Friday Night Dinner,” 11:30
p.m., BBC America. Once a week, this family tries to have a normal
dinner with their sons, now in their 20s. Normality, alas, is
elusive; “Dinner” starts slowly, then gets very funny when the
dad decides to give his younger son some advice about sex.

TV column for Friday, July 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Who Do You Think
You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Steve Buscemi has played lots of bad
guys, peaking with the “Boardwalk Empire” role that has already
brought him a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination. In this
rerun, he tries to see if there are any real-life bad guys in his
family's past.

The search takes him from a Virginia
battlefield to a Potomac River port. He finds a
great-great-grandfather who had a shabby Civil War record and other
secrets.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Torchwood:
Miracle Day,” 10 p.m., Starz.

In the first three episodes, “Miracle
Day” established Esther Drummond as a smart and careful CIA agent.
Now we see her behave foolishly, endangering everyone.

That's a rare flaw in a sensational,
10-week series. Once we get past that, this hour has fresh twists.
Moving to Los Angeles, the team tries to invade the headquarters of
the scheming drug company. There's a taut finish, setting up a strong
episode next week.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Platinum
Hit,” 8 p.m., Bravo.

A week before the finale, four
songwriters remain. They face a key task – creating a pop-music
hit.

Commenting on their work will be people
who know pop music – high school students and Taio Cruz, who last
year had songs reach No. 1 (“Break Your Heart”) and 2
(“Dynamite”) on the Billboard chart.

Other choices include:

– “Treasure Planet” (2002), 7-9
p.m., Disney XD. The “Treasure Island” story was moved to outer
space, with lots of flash and a funny robot whose brain is missing
(literally). It's many levels below a Pixar film, but kids find it
fun.

– “Flashpoint,” 8 p.m., CBS. A
woman and her daughter have been kidnapped. The only clue about the
abductor involves a dark secret.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, two bodies were found in a cave; the team must first learn who
they were. Also, Booth's girlfriend (Katheryn Winnick), a war
correspondent, makes a rare visit.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Personal
problems build in this rerun, as Cuddy feels guilty about her
break-up with House. Meanwhile, the patient is a loner who has good
reason to hide his identity.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a murder seems linked to a serial killer. Also, Mac meets his
former police partner (Peter Fonda). A man they put in prison long
ago is now out and stalking them; that sets up a strong episode –
that rerun hasn't yet been scheduled – that has fierce forces
collide.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Jamie (the street cop) witnesses a crime and gives chase. When the
suspect dies, his brother Danny (the police detective) tries to probe
the case quickly, before an internal-affairs investigation begins.

– “Haven,” 10 p.m., Syfy. The
docks are attacking people – which is really bad behavior for
inanimate objects. Also, things are getting complicated with two
alternate versions of Audrey Parker.

 

TV column for Thursday, July 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Project Runway”
season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime.

Fresh from its seventh straight Emmy
nomination for best reality competition, “Runway” is back with
its usual combination – quirky contestants and interesting
challenges.

Heidi Klum hosts, with Tim Gunn
advising the contestants. There are 20 of them to start, but four are
dumped tonight.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

The romance between Leonard and Raj's
sister has brought some terrific stories. This rerun offers a prime
example.

With Leonard spending so much time
there, Raj's apartment becomes the new gathering spot. Upset, Sheldon
tries to create a new circle of friends; it's a fine episode that
even has Levar Burton as himself.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC.

It's a tough day for Gail Peck: She's
in charge of an 8-year-old, seemingly homeless, who's a key witness.
Also, her mother – Supt. Elaine Peck (Lauren Holly) – shows up at
the office.

Meanwhile, Andy is teamed with Jo
Rusati – the former girlfriend of her fiance Luke.

Other choices include:

– “Bruce Almighty” (2003), 7
p.m., ABC Family. There are some clever moments as God (Morgan
Freeman, of course) puts a self-centered chap (Jim Carrey)
temporarily in charge. That's followed at 9 by Steve Carell in the
less-popular sequel “Evan Almighty” (2007).

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun, the study group organizes a Dungeons and Dragons game, to make
a loner feel involved. The plan goes wrong when Pierce starts to take
over.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. The eight remaining teams leap off a cliff, zip-line to
the river and kayak down the rapids. It's tough for all of them –
especially Erik Weihenmayer, who is blind.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, Coach Beiste fumes when she learns the strategy Finn and Sam
have for controlling their urges.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. This
rerun has the office holding its first garage sale, while Michael
prepares to propose to Holly (Amy Ryan). We're not expecting that to
go well.

– “30 Rock,” 9:30, NBC.
Sleep-deprived because of the baby, Jack loses his negotiating edge.
Also in this rerun, Jenna tries to distract Liz, who is despondent
after a break-up.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, a doctor has been killed and the hospital has plenty of
suspects. Also, LaRoche (Pruitt Taylor Vance) is in charge of the CBI
and makes Cho the team leader.

– “Wilfred,” 10 p.m., FX. Ryan
and Wilfred agree on a couple things: Both love Jenna (Ryan's
neighbor, Wilfred's owner) and hate her boyfriend. Now Wilfred – a
dog, whom Ryan sees as a talking guy in a dog suit – has schemes to
get rid of the guy.

– “Louie,” 10:30, FX. One of last
season's best episodes came when Louie (Louis C.K.) hung out with
Pamela – a platonic friend who shares nothing with him except a
sense of exhaustion as parents. She's played by Pamela Adlon, who
played C.K.'s wife on an HBO comedy and is a producer here.

TV column for Wednesday, July 27


fTONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rescue Me,” 10
p.m., FX.

We're lucky this show came up with the
master stroke of bringing back Kelly (Maura Tierney) for its final
season. Her scenes – simultaneously funny, solemn and wise – are
“Rescue Me” at its best.

The other plot twists are merely OK.
One – Lou still refuses to guard his health – drags on, before
wrapping up beautifully. The other – Colleen's wedding obsession –
is merely silly.

But Kelly is back. She's been through
breast-cancer treatments (as has Tierney). She bristles with anger
and humor and more; she reminds us why this has been such a strong
show.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “So You Think
You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., FX.

Down to its final eight people, “Dance”
brings in some big-time guest judges. One is Lady Gaga, who will also
perform Thursday; the other is Rob Marshall, the
director-choreographer who has an Oscar nominations (for “Chicago”)
and six Tony nominations.

The finalists will each do a solo and a
duet with an “all-star” from previous seasons. That includes
Lauren Froderman (last summer's champion), Neil Haskell (who finished
third in 2007) and Pasha Kovalev, who draws studio-audience raves
whenever he dances.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “CSI: Crime
Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Two excellent guest performances redeem
this flawed-but-powerful rerun.

One is by Bill Irwin, as the notorious
“Dick and Jane” killer – now his own lawyer as Ray testifies.
The other is by Justin Bieber. (Really.) Going against type, he's
icily perfect as a troubled teen.

They're so good that we'll forgive the
warehouse scene's lack of tension and a non-credible ending.

Other choices include:

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. On
Valentine's Day – yes, this is a rerun – Frankie is delighted
that Axl wants advice on his date. Meanwhile, Mike accidentally
embarrasses Brick by revealing his crush.

– “Modern Love,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. Phil and Claire are key to both reruns. In the first, they have
a fight – but Phil doesn't know what it's about; in the second,
they try to reverse parenting roles for a day, with Claire being the
fun one. Also, Gloria has a karaoke machine in the first episode;
Lin-Manuel Miranda – the Tony-winner for writing “In the Heights”
– plays a dog-trainer needing advice.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-10
p.m., NBC. The third batch of four acts is named. There will be one
more next week, before “Talent” moves to its next round.

– “Wonders of the Universe”
debut, 9 p.m., Science Channel. This is what Carl Sagan did 30 years
ago – complex, intergalactic science, via a charismatic host. Brian
Cox is a British particle physicist and a former keyboardist for a
pop band. He's 43, looks 30 and has the Sagan-like ability to
explain things in people terms. Using great visuals, he explains
nothing less than the birth and death of stars.

 

– “Franklin & Bash,” 9 p.m.,
TNT. Now we know that Janie has consistent taste. A year after
breaking up with Peter (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), she's engaged to a guy
(James Van Der Beek) who could be his twin. Now, in an OK episode,
the new guy needs Peter's help, after a bachelor party gone bad.

 – “Happy Endings,” 9:31, ABC.
Penny dates the gang's favorite high school teacher – and feels
he's not what they all thought.

– “Love in the Wild,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. The six remaining couples face a fierce waterfall, demanding
stairs and another problem – a change in rules.

 

TV column for Tuesday, July 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Awkward,” 11
p.m., MTV.

The MTV people are working hard to give
this show a strong start. They're surrounding it with a new “Teen
Mom” (10 p.m., rerunning at 11:30) and putting more “Mom”
reruns at 8 and 9 p.m.

That's fine, because “Awkward” is
going from a fairly good opener to a better episode tonight.

Last week we met Jenna (Ashley
Rickards), 15, cute and smart and unnoticed … until she ended up in
a cast after what people thought was a suicide attempt. The cast
comes off, but the mocking continues.

There's one false note, when Jenna
takes an out-of-character step. Mostly, however, “Awkward” finds
fresh humor at the expense of the people around her; it also has a
closing moment worth waiting for.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Combat
Hospital,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Soldiers are convinced that their
teen-aged platoon-mate is a lucky charm. Rebecca scoffs at this,
leading doctors to a discussion of luck, fate, God and more.

Elsewhere, this story – set in 2006
Afghanistan – has issues ranging from organ donations to the sexual
orientation of Major Grace Petersen, the psychiatrist.

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

“Land redistribution” may have
noble, Robin Hood sound, but this documentary says it has gone very
wrong under Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe.

It's racist, the film says, targeting
whites. It gives the land to Mugabe lackeys with no farming skills
and is enforced brutally. We watch Mike Campbell, 75, as he refuses
to budge, resisting the Mugabe forces in person and in international
court. The result is alternately uplifting and deeply disturbing.

Other choices include:

– “Deadliest Catch,” 9 a.m. to 10
p.m., Discovery. The season-finale is at 9 p.m., with the Cornelia
Marie returning to shore with an uncertain future. Leading into it,
we get a 12-hour marathon of the most-recent episodes, starting with
the fourth. A follow-up is at 10 p.m.

– NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun,
an American has been killed on a British Navy vessel.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun has the team racing to learn who stole a key
document, before it can be decoded..

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. Twelve more acts perform and viewers vote. On Wednesday,
four of them will advance to the next round, with one more 12-act
round next week.

– “Ludo Bites America,” 9 p.m.,
Sundance. Ludo Lefebvre's next “pop-up” restaurant is in Omaha.
At Big Mama's Kitchen, he tries soul food with a French twist.

– “Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape,”
9 p.m., BBC America. In Malaysia, Ramsay finds that women dominate
the upper tier of chef-dom.

– “Staten Island Cakes,” 9 p.m.,
WE. When a cupcake tower becomes a mess, Vinny hurries back to the
shop – and fumes when he finds people doing nothing. Eventually,
his mentor intervenes.

– “True Grime,” 10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. One tough clean-up job involves a hoarder
whose body had been decomposing for weeks.