TV column for Wednesday, June 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice” (8
p.m.) and more, NBC.

For a wobbly network, this is a big
night. NBC follows the “Voice” finale with another hour of
“America's Got Talent” at 9 p.m. and the debut of “Love in the
Wild” at 10.

“Wild” takes 20 singles to a
beautiful (and scary) section of Costa Rica. Split into couples, they
have the sort of contests that cause people to fall in love or hate.
The top people can stay together or try to hook up with others. If
they're rejected, they're back in the dating pool and could be
ousted.

All of this may be silly and surface,
but it also is beautifully filmed and kind of fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Necessary
Roughness” debut, 10 p.m., USA Network.

A fierce force on “Rescue Me,”
Callie Thorne now has her own series.

She plays a psychotherapist who lashes
at her cheating husband, then needs a a new life. She gets one, after
working with a troubled football star.

The player is a poorly created
character, overflowing with cliches, but everything else works.
Thorne gives us a struggling woman, worth rooting for.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Melissa &
Joey” season-opener, 8 p.m., ABC Family; repeats at 9, 10.

Like “Hot in Cleveland” (10 p.m. on
TV Land), this recaptures the rhythms of past situation comedies,
using actors who know the form. Melissa Joan Hart plays a busy
bureaucrat who won't admit she likes the nanny (Joey Lawrence) she
hired for her niece and nephew; the first season reruns from 2-8
p.m..

And like many old sitcoms, this often
goes over the top. Blunt, jokey dialog seems desperate for laughs.
That's especially true tonight, when his ex-wife re-visits, loudly.
We're soon reminded of what was wrong with those p;d sitcoms …. and
why we sometimes liked them anyway.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Last week, the judges dumped the show's only ballroom
dancer, its only tap dancer and one of its four hip-hoppers. Now the
16 survivors perform.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. In the first rerun, spring cleaning digs out some memories that
were better to forget. In the second, Axl has a techno-disaster,
mis-sending a prom invitation.

– “State of Georgia,” 8:30 p.m.,
ABC Family; repeats at 9:30, 10:30. Maybe no one told Raven-Symone
she's no longer on the Disney Channel; maybe the writers didn't know.
That's the only explanation for a character (a would-be actress) so
hideously overwritten and overacted.

– “Modern Love,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Manny's birthday party brings assorted chaos.

– “Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA. The
season starts big, with a bus accident in front of Hank. Then it
settles into some mild dramas. Those stories are bland, but the
Hamptons settings are gorgeous.

– “Beyond Belief,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Delayed by last week's presidential address, this five-week series
view things that defy explanation. Tonight's opener has twins who say
they share thoughts and pain.

– “Men of a Certain Age,” 10
p.m., TNT. Business woes are grinding Owen and Joe. That's in a mixed
hour that goes from joy to despair, from fine moments to
car-commercial scenes that don't ring true.

TV column for Tuesday, June 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Voice,”
9-11 p.m., NBC.

The final four get one more chance to
impress us; on Wednesday, one will win $100,000 and a Universal
Republic record deal.

Javier Colon once had a deal with
Capital; he's 33, a father of two from Stratford, Conn. Beverly
McClellan has had five independent albums; at 41, she's worked Fort
Lauderdale clubs for 20 years.

The others: Vicci Martinez. 26, from
Tacoma, Wash.; Dia Frampton, 23, from St. George, Utah.

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

Last week, this well-made Canadian
series opened with two surgeons reaching a field hospital in 2006
Afghanistan. Rebecca Gordon (Michelle Borth) is Canadian; Bobby Trang
(Terry Chen) is American.

Now they confront a strange disease.
The operating room is quarantined, forcing surgery to be done in the
dining room. Also, Rebecca and Major Grace Petersen find a woman who
needs surgery.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Memphis Beat”
(TNT) and “Raising Hope” (Fox), both 9 p.m.

Jason Lee competes against himself
tonight.

“Beat” is the excellent summer show
in which he plays Dwight, a Memphis detective. Tonight, he helps a
man who is desperate to find his daughter; also, his boss (Alfre
Woodard) is rocked by family news.

And “Hope”? It's produced by Greg
Garcia, whose “My Name is Earl” made Lee a favorite. Tonight, it
reruns the episode in which he plays a rock star, singing with
Jimmy's dad.

Other choices include:

– “Wipeout” and “101 Ways to
Leave a Game Show,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Before airing the solid
“Combat Hospital,” ABC exposes us to a silliness overload.

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. The New York auditions continue.

– “History Detectives,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). During times when men ruled the art
world, Ann Weston and Frances Blackmore had busy careers. Blackmore
lived in Japan before and after World War II; during the war, she
designed propaganda leaflets dropped on the people there. Weston kept
creating stained-glass beauty, after moving from the Tiffany studio
in New York to Duluth, Minn. This intriguing hour tells their stories
and tells of a black hero during the Spanish civil war.

– “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,”
9 p.m., ABC Family. It's tough to be 16 – especially when one guy
wants to kill you and another wants to kiss you (which could kill
him); it's tougher when you've just added power and just learned of
your destiny. In this fairly good episode, Chloe has two smart women
to depend on – her mom (Amy Pietz) and her new mentor (Alicia
Coppola).

– “White Collar,” 9 p.m., USA.
Mozzie – Neal's friend-in-crime – is at the core tonight. He has
ties to someone who could set off a mob war – unless Mozzie can
scam him first.

– “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Modern Russian life is shown through five people who
grew up together. Two, married to each other, are serious history
teachers. Also political is a musician who dropped out of a top rock
group and now barely gets by. Then there's a guy whose stores sell
upscale French shirts and ties. And the prettiest girl in the class;
when her banker boyfriend was killed, she was a single mom,
scrambling through her life.

 

TV column for Monday, June 27


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

Back in the season's first episode,
Ashley Hebert said she'd received a call, saying Bentley Williams is
a fraud. Later, she dated him anyway, learned more about his deceit,
dumped him and (last week) moped.

Now come more odd twists: Williams
arrives to plead his case; later, Hebert shatters the cheery mood by
talking about him – first to J.P. on a date, then to the other
seven guys. They are not pleased.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Big C”
season-opener, 10:30 p.m., Showtime.

Suddenly, this show is specializing in
great endings.

It had one of the best, to wrap up last
season. Adam – unable to cry over his mom's stage-four cancer –
discovered her storage shed. There, she had neatly wrapped presents
for all the moments in his life that she'll miss. He wept; he wasn't
the only one.

And tonight's episode? It ends with a
wonderful change-of-pace scene and a great line.

This is classy drama-comedy. Laura
Linney – who already has three Emmys and two Golden Globes (one for
this role) – is perfect in the lead. John Benjamin Hickey – fresh
from his Tony award – is excellent as her bipolar brother.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Hot Coffee”
(HBO) or “Vanguard” (Current TV), 9 p.m.

Combine these two and you have a fierce
condemnation of business ethics.

“Vanguard” (which follows Keith
Olbermann's show each Monday) has Christof Putzel visiting Indonesia,
where a video showed a 2-year-old smoking. He finds tobacco companies
– including one owned by the U.S. firm Phillip Morris –
successfully targeting youth. Among the country's boys, ages 13-15,
one-fourth smoke; among its men, 70 percent do, despite physical and
financial distress.

“Hot Coffee” finds businesses
blocking the common man's access to the judicial system. Methods
include limiting liability … stacking state Supreme courts via
big-money ads … and companies that require arbitration – and
chose the arbitrators. Often, companies use a ban-frivolous-lawsuits
argument; this film dissects that beautifully, even re-visiting the
famed McDonald's hot-coffee case.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., CBS.The first rerun has Barney falling for Nora – and,
in a funny scene, Robin dating a guy with dog-like characteristics.
The second has Ted falling for Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), a protester
who opposes the building he hopes to design.

– Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Alan meets women by pretending to be his brother.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. When a rich businessman is killed, suspects
range from his competitors to his working-class girlfriend.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., NBC. Here's one of the unseen episodes from the show's early
phase, when Morales (Alfred Molina) was still a deputy district
attorney and Winters (Skeet Ulrich) was still alive. Tonight, party
guests are beaten to death – with one suspicious exception.

– “Weeds” season-opener, 10:05,
Showtime. Last season ended with Nancy, the neighborhood pot dealer,
finally being arrested. Now we jump ahead three years, to her parole.

TV column for Sunday, June 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “True Blood” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

As last season ended, Sookie simply
disappeared in a flash of light. Now the new season finds her in an
alternate world – at least for a while.

We won't spoil any surprises here,
except to say that Sookie faces huge changes. “True Blood” fans
are used to this, watching a young waitress witness a world of
vampires, werewolves and more. The plot leaps are extreme –
especially tonight – but the writing, acting and directing are
superb.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Marriage
Ref” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC

A pleasant trifle last year, this has
been improved for its second season. Now the couples appear onstage
with their amiable quarrels; the panel chooses one person as being
right. Then the studio audience goes further – one person is the
night's “most right,” with a billboard to prove it.

Still, the core is the banter with host
Tom Papa and the panel – tonight, Jerry Seinfeld, Julianne Moore
and Ricky Gervais. It's great fun to see Gervais' dismay when
Seinfeld – one of his comedy heroes – sings the “Pumpkin Man”
song he does for his kids.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Leverage”
and “Falling Skies,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT.

First is the season-opener of a show in
which scam artists are out-scammed. This time, that happens during a
perilous mountain climb; as usual, it's a smart show, well-played.

Then the second week of “Skies”
finds rebel forces fighting back against the aliens. Amid horror,
good people (including Noah Wyle as a professor-turned warrior) find
glimmers of hope.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Vampires are everywhere these days; tonight, Lisa falls in love with
one. That's in the “Twilight” take-off, in a”Treehouse of
Horror” rerun; there's also a fairly weak shipboard tale and a
terrific one in which board games go amok.

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 and 9
p.m., NBC. Here are reruns of Atlanta and New York auditions.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In a transplanted rerun, the team must protect a brutal dictator who
faces an assassination plot.

– “BET Awards,” 8-11 p.m., BET.
Kevin Hart hosts a night filled with awards (for music, movies and
sports), plus special honors for Steve Harvey and Patti LaBelle.
Also, there will be music by Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Lil
Wayne, Trey Songz, Jill Scott, Donnie McClurkin, Kelly Rowland, Chris
Brown, Drake and more.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS. Last week's movie was weak by Hercule Poirot standards,
but this one is first-rate – once we forgive a few coincidences.
“The Clocks” probes pre-war espionage and a murder scheme, with
plenty of strong suspects.

– “Castle” and “Body of Proof,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. Finally with two good crime-solver shows, ABC is
putting their reruns together on summer Sundays. The first has
Castle's old friend as the suspect; the second has Megan trying to
disprove a murder-suicide theory.

– “CSI: Miami,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Here's another crime-solver rerun. A fire hydrant has washed away all
the evidence, so the team tries to re-create the crime scene.

TV column for Saturday, June 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: New shows, 8-11
p.m., ABC.

Let's credit ABC for taking summers
seriously. From Mondays through Thursdays, 10 of its12 hours are new;
here's a sampling of seasom-openers from three styles.

At 8, “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show”
is sheer silliness. The questions are fairly interesting; the methods
of ejecting the losers are offbeat and sort of fun.

At 9, “Expedition Impossible” is a
brutal race across Morocco. Producer Mark Burnett gets no credit for
originality or humanity, but much for great camera work and
contestants.

At 10, “Rookie Blue” is back for
its second season. Missy Peregrym brings depth and likability as a
young cop; tonight, a concert shooting has a personal effect on her.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Outcasts,”
9 p.m., BBC America.

Last week, we saw people building a
frontier world on another planet, as the Earth crumbled.

Now, for the first time in five years,
there are new arrivals. That brings conflict, including a bureaucrat
(Eric Mabius) and the teen who says he stole her mom's spot. Another
teen is grabbed by bandits.

“Outcasts” is so-so during violent
confrontations, terrific at ethical dilemmas. Liam Cunninghamis
especially good as the frontier president, a decent-but-flawed man on
a flawed planet.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: More
science-fiction, everywhere.

Saturdays have become a great fantasy
zone. It starts with reruns of the great “Battlestar Galactica”
series (7 and 8 p.m., BBC America); tonight has the first episodes
after the opening mini-series.

That leads into “Outcasts” on BBC.
Then you could switch to a rerun of the “Falling Skies” pilot
film (10:12 p.m. on TBS) – a sharp Steven Spielberg production
about rag-tag armies, eluding aliens. Or you could have silly fun
with “Swamp Shark” (9 p.m., Syfy), mentioned below.

Other choices include:

– “Chaos,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In
the first hour, the team rushes overseas after an apparent
assassination. In the second, it hopes a former agent (Bruce
Boxleitner) still has his skills.

– “The Dark Knight” (2008, TNT)
or “Pride & Prejudice” (2005, E), 8 p.m. Two master
filmmakers find opposite audiences. Christopher Nolan repeated the
visual power of his “Batman Begins” and added the Oscar-winning
brilliance of Heath Ledger; still, his film seems cold and metallic.
Joe Wright took a wordy novel and showed that pictures (especially of
Keira Knightly) can transmit rich emotions.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a tough and well-made rerun, Goren and
Eames probe the death of a banker whose only client was the Catholic
church.

– “Swamp Shark,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.
This film makes full use of the Louisiana experience, complete with a
swamp boat, party boats, bikini beauties, music and a gator festival.
In the midst of this is a standard tale of an evil sheriff and a
killer shark. Most of the guys, including a jailer played by former
baseball star Wade Boggs, are dim-witted. Fortunately, two sisters –
played by Kristy Swanson and Sophia Sinise (Gary's daughter) –
provide the missing IQ points.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,:
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, the investigation of a mortgage firm is
detoured by an accusation of racial profiling.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Elton John doubles as host and music guest, in this rerun.