TV column for Sunday, July 14


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Newsroom” season-opener, 10 p.m., HBO.

Nothing is easy here. Complex dialog
swirls by at blurring speed. Some of it is about relationships from
last season; more is about events we won't even see until next week.

It's dizzying … but worth it. Aaron
Sorkin (“West Wing”) gives brilliant words to great actors.

In the first season, he made news
anchor Will (Jeff Daniels) a bit too all-wise; now there's none of
that. Will's bombast – calling the Tea Party “the American
Taliban” – stirred trouble. A new issue, drone attacks, seems to
paralyze him. Then there's the mistake – a big one, apparently –
we'll see next week.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 8 p.m., ABC.

At opposite ends of the macho scale,
Lorenzo Lamas and Andy Dick both have tangled personal lives.

Lamas lives with his fifth wife – who
runs the home while holding two jobs – and three daughters. Dick
lives in a trailer with his girlfriend; that's in the driveway of the
home where his ex-girlfriend lives with their daughter and her own
two daughters. Tonight, she trade lives with Lamas' wife.

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

It's not easy being Endeavour Morse,
with a taste for classical music. Other cops mock or shun him.

But then a serial killer throws out
clues relating to opera music. Like Rudolph on a foggy Christmas eve,
Morse becomes useful.

All of this seems way too contrived and
convenient, but it's beautifully filmed, with rich use of music.
Abigail Thaw – whose late father John starred as the older Morse
for 13 seasons – is back as a newspaper editor, which she'll
continue for the season's final two “Endeavour” films.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8
p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Homer hangs with a trendy couple from
Portland, Oregon – voiced by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen
from the delightful “Portlandia.” In the second, a new pastor
makes Homer a deacon.

– “Tia & Tamera”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Style. The Mowry twins range from trying the
odd (an herbal formula for intimate areas) to self-propelled personal
crises. This is strictly an acquired taste.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Leaping around wildly, this hour flashes back 5,500 years (really).
It also shows Sookie the truth of how her parents were killed and it
has most of the vampires behind bars, some voluntarily. It's a busy
hour – too busy sometimes.

– “Dexter,” 9 p.m., Showtime. Two
women tug at Dexter in opposite ways, in another strong hour. Dr.
Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) pushes for non-emotion; Deb – who has
secretly killed a cop and a crook lately – is crumbling with
emotion, at the edge of confessing to her former police colleagues.

– “Crossing Lines,” 10 p.m., NBC.
A two-parter begins with the kidnapping of a rich teen-ager.

– “Falling Skies,” 10 p.m., TNT.
On one level, civilization is re-forming, complete with a president,
despite alien attacks. On the other, Tom (Noah Wyle) is on a family
mission with his sons, colliding with a bandit family. It's a strong
hour that ends in mid-crisis.

– “Ray Anthony,” 10 p.m.,
Showtime. Some cops want to keep Mickey (Jon Voight) out of prison,
but his son Ray works to get him back in. We see why, as Mickey
creates chaos everywhere.

TV column for Saturday, July 13


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Haunted
Hathaways” debut, 8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon.

Needing a fresh start, a frazzled mom
moves to New Orleans with her daughters – a cute teen gymnast and
her offbeat, little sister. The new home has their pie shop on the
main floor, their home on the second … and disapproving ghosts in
the attic.

It's a good concept, aiming for the fun
of Disney Channel's “Wizards of Waverly Place” and its Halloween
movies. The best lines, alas, are given to the two youngest actors,
who aren't skilled at verbal comedy. Still, “Haunted” has enough
sight gags and surprises to keep us amused.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “666 Park
Avenue” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

Slickly and stylishly filmed, this show
never found an audience. Here's its 13th and final
episode.

Things started with a husband and wife
(Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor) moving into Manhattan's elegant
Drake … unaware of its grip on lives. Now he gets an eerie warning;
she learns what happened to her mother at the Drake long ago … and
sees her father try to remove her by gunpoint.

Be warned, however, that this episode
is “Lazarus: Part 1”; there is no Part 2.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “American
Girl: Saige Paints the Sky,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

For films based on dolls, the “American
Girl” movies have been quite ambitious.

They've been on the CW, the Disney
Channel and NBC; one was in movie theaters, another went straight to
video. Some had substantial stars (Abigail Bresin, AnnaSophia Robb,
Shailene Woodley) and directors (Martha Coolidge, Patricia Rozema);
three were produced by Julia Roberts.

Now NBC has its second turn. Saige, 9,
faces two crises: Albuquerque is planning to eliminate art from its
schools; her grandmother (Jane Seymour) is to sick to ride her horse
in the parade.

Other choices include:

– “Zero Hour,” 8 p.m., ABC. Hank
(Anthony Edwards) and his wife race to the Faroe Islands, in search
of the True Cross. They're with Beck, the FBI agent who feels her
husband may be alive.

– “Elementary,” 8 p.m., CBS. In
an excellent rerun, Sherlock is on his best bad behavior on two
fronts – a Wall Street murder case and Watson's hesitant return to
dating.

– “Sinbad,” 9 p.m., Syfy. Sinbad
falls for a mysterious woman, unaware of her real identity.

– “Do No Harm.” 10 p.m., NBC.
Jason, the good-guy doctor, faces two problems. Dr. Young (Phylicia
Rashad) feels he tampered with her daughter's medical charts. Also,
he's trying to help a patuent; his evil alternate-persona Ian would
rather leave the patient unchanged.

– “Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious”
debut, 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Each week, Sykes will
introduce stand-up comics and sketches; tonight includes Brooke
Shields.

– “Being Human” season-opener, 10
p.m., BBC America. Alex, the ghost, searches for her drowned body,
in hopes of passing over. Ian ducks a plea to turn someone into a
vampire … then faces a crisis.

– “Primeval: New World,” 10
p.m., Syfy. Some clever little dinosaurs are staked out in a store.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Zach Galifianakis hosts this rerun, with music by Of
Monsters and Men.

TV column for Friday, July 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Winter's Bone”
(2010), 10 p.m. to midnight, Lifetime Movie Network.

Filmed on a micro-budget, this would
have gone unnoticed except that it's brilliantly crafte.

Debra Granik co-wrote a superb script
about a teen who must find the father (dead or alive) who put up the
family home for bail; it creates a gritty Ozarks world with a very
specific code of conduct.

She also directed beautifully, using
real places, clothes and more. And she got perfct performances from
Jennifer Lawrence, then a sitcom kid (“The Bill Engvall Show”)
and now an Oscar-winner (“Silver Linings Playbook”). The result
drew four Oscar nominations, including best picture.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS.

The entire Reagan clan gets involved in
this rerun.

Linda overhears a victim talking to a
priest, telling the identity of a shooter; she passes it on to her
husband Danny, the cop. Henry, the retired police commissioner, is
mugged at an ATM; Jamie – a cop who is Henry's grandson and
Danny's younger brother – rages while tracking the assailant.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Magic City,”
9 p.m., Starz; repeats at 9:50 and 10:40 p.m.

Fresh from a one-week hiatus, “Magic
City” swirls with schemes in 1960 Miami.

Ben Diamond wants legalized gambling.
Ike Evans wants to stop it; he also wants to dump Ben as the silent
partner in his Miami hotel and wants to run Havana casinos. Officials
want to arrest both men and stop the arms deals to prospective Cuban
revolutionaries. And Ike's youngest son – working for the lawmen,
dating the sister of a revolutionary – is caught between it all.

You'll see much fretting – and then a
big finish, spectacularly merging music, dance and violence.

Other choices include:

– “Cult,” 8-10 p.m., CW. This
complex series, about a TV show tied to a cult, ends its 13-hour run.

– “Camp” (NBC) and “Summer
Camp” (E), 8 p.m. Just to confuse us, here are reruns of the
openers of two shows with similar names. NBC has a scripted
comedy-drama that debuted at 10 p.m. Wednesday; E has a reality game
show – adults returning to camp – that debuted at 8 p.m. Thursday
on USA.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. A rerun
finds Brennan – usually cool and logical – drifting into fantasy.
In critical condition after being shot, she has visions of her
mother.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
In this rerun, Joe Carroll pushes for a transfer to a different
prison. Ryan suspects he has more in mind; viewers suspect that, too.

– “American Masters,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). To some people, Elia Kazan was
defined by the moment he gave names that led to the blacklisting of
Hollywood colleagues. Beyond that, however, was a brilliant career
that included Oscars for directing “On the Waterfront” (possibly
the best-acted film in history) and “Gentleman's Agreement.”
Martin Scorsese – who gave Kazan an honorary Oscar in 1999, despite
protests – created this 2010 documentary and tribute.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Violence erupts, amid complaints that a tour company is endangering
Hawaii's shark population.

– “Continuum,” 10 p.m., Syfy. For
a cop, it's helpful to secretly be from the future. Kiera uses her
historical knowledge to find a serial killer; now Carlos wonders how
she gets her hunches.

TV column for Thursday, July 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother,”
9 p..m., CBS.

With its recent schedule shift, CBS
tightens its young-viewer dominance of summer Thursdays.

The change moved “Big Brother” to
Thursdays, a night already ruled by Sheldon and Sherlock (on “The
Big Bang Theory” and “Elementary”). And this is the week's key
episode, with an ouster.

Last week, David Girton, 25, a San
Diego lifeguard, was the first person ousted; now 15 remain.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Two and a
Half Men,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Even in it 11th season,
“Men” has varied from a few dim-witted episodes to this hilarious
one.

Last week, we briefly saw Jake's new
girlfriend; now he brings her for a visit. She's sleek, sexy and
tattooed, zestully played by Jaime Pressly, 35; he's semi-clueless,
drolly played by Angus Jones, 19. His dad is startled, Walden is
amused and Jake is, for now, euphoric.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Winner
Is,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC.

After a couple of “sneak preview”
hours – one of them rerunning at 8 – this show settles into its
regular slot for its final five weeks.

Things start with two singers (or
groups) competing and 101 sorta-experts voting. Then both sides have
a tricky choice: Take some money and leave, or stay in hopes of
winning it all. One of the six people will be tonight's champion …
thrust into the finals with five others, eying a million-dollar
prize. Confidence and pragmatism collide, in a moderately
entertaining mix of music and human psychology.

Other choices include:

– “Hell's Kitchen,” 8-10 p.m.,
Fox. Down to its final five chefs, the show gives tough challenges:
First, compete with a team of previous winners; then prepare gourmet
burgers for dining professionals.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon shares a woe familiar to many science-fiction fans – a
TV series that's canceled before it wraps up its intriguing concept.
Amy – familiar with dashed dreams – tries to comfort him. Also in
this rerun, Raj learns a secret about his new girlfriend.

– “Summer Camp” debut, 8 p.m.,
USA. On Wednesday, NBC introduced its scripted “Camp”; now USA
(its sister network) has a reality variation: Adults go to camp,
competing in the games of summer.

– “Motive,” 9 p.m., ABC. A
health-food mogul has been killed. Viewers are promptly told who did
it, but not how or why.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Looking forward to a long weekend, Andy finds a teen boy bound and
gagged in a car trunk. It is, we're told, a case of young love gone
wrong.

– “Hollywood Game Night,” 10
p.m., NBC. Let's credit NBC for summertime effort. This is its third
show to debut this week; in all, “America's Got Talent” is joined
by seven other non-reruns – two scripted, three reality and this
game show. Jane Lynch hosts teams that include former “Friends”
stars Matthew Perry and Lisa Dudrow, plus Kristen Bell, Martin Short,
Alyson Hannigan, Daniel Dae Kim … and a couple of ordinary folks,
playing with the stars.

– “Showville,” 10 p.m., AMC. Each
week, “Showville” holds a small-town talent competition. Now it
visits the spot that often symbolizes Americana. Mount Airy, a North
Carolina town of 10,000, was the home of Andy Griffith and seemed to
be the prototype for the fictional worlds he inhabited.

TV column for Wednesday, July 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Bridge”
debut, 10 p.m., FX.

This is truly an international case: On
the bridge between El Paso and Juarez, a body is found; it's been
assembled from two murdered women, one American and one Mexican.

To American cops, this is a priority, a
slain judge; to Mexican cops, it's one of 250 young women killed in
Juarez in the past year. This is a dark and difficult story, with
some English sub-titles. But it's also beautifully made; like “The
Killing,” it turns a Scandinavian series into an America gem.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Nova” and
“Secrets of the Dead,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Amid Egypt's current political chaos,
we can step back into that land's glory days.

“Nova” tests the theory that
Egyptian chariots had revolutionary designs that led to battlefield
victories; teams re-create and test two of them. Then “Dead”
takes a detailed look at King Tut – the successes of his nine years
as “boy king” … the possible reasons for his death at 18 ...
the reasons his tomb alone was unscathed … and the possibility that
the tomb and death mask were planned for someone else.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Camp”
debut, 10:01 p.m., NBC.

On its own, this is an almost-adequate
comedy-drama, with Rachel Griffiths as the co-owner of a struggling
summer camp. At first, it strains too hard with broad, sexual humor;
gradually, it settles in for some fairly good character moments.

The problem comes with comparisons.
“Camp” is no match for the depth of FX's “Bridge” (debuting
at the same time) or for “Huge,” the excellent fat-camp show that
only had one season on ABC Family.

Other choices include:

– “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
original plan had this as an eviction night. That changed, however,
after CBS juggled its summer plan; now the live eviction hour starts
at 9 p.m. Thursdays.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Frankie tries some Facebook manipulations, to make her daughter seem
more popular. Also in this rerun, Mike's dad (Jerry Van Dyke) has
read “Tuesdays with Morrie” and wants to share his own
long-winded stories with his son.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In a rerun, things go badly for Phil on Career Day.

– “The American Baking Competition”
finale, 9 p.m., CBS. This series started with 10 amateur bakers.
Tonight, one of them wins $250,000 and a contract for a cookbook.

– “Royal Pains,”9 p.m., USA.
Danny Pudi (Abed in “Community”) plays a radio guy with a
shock-jock approach. Now he's more shocking than ever and there may
be a medical cause.

– “The Neighbors,” 9:31 p.m.,
ABC. In last week's rerun, aliens pondered our odd customs concerning
sex. Now they face another oddity – the fact that Earthlings die.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Hodges is fretting as his wedding nears.
Also, the team probes the death of a famous Cuban singer.

– “Necessary Roughness,” 10:01
p.m., USA. Dani had enough trouble when most of her clients were
football players. Now her patient is a self-help guy who resists
help.