TV column for Sunday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Falling Skies”
season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., TNT.

This show has it all – fierce action,
human drama, historical perspective, even family warmth.

With aliens and their robots taking
over, Earthlings have a ragged, guerrilla troop. Tom (Noah Wyle), a
widowed history prof with three sons, surrendered to an alien ship,
to learn more about them.

Now he's back and in danger. Flashbacks
show some of what happened to him, but leave bigger questions.
Meanwhile, the battles rage; the result is a high-IQ
action-adventure.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Basketball, 8
p.m. ET, ABC.

Until now, few people thought of
Oklahoma City as the center of the basketball universe. Still, that's
where the first two games of the best-of-seven finals were held.

Now things move to the more show-bizzy
world of Miami, where the Heat host the Thunder. (Yes, it does sound
like a weather report.) Jimmy Kimmel is at 7 p.m., with a preview at
7:31.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Borgias,”
10 p.m.,Showtime.

This is a night packed with cable
season-finales, but others won't match this for epic emotions.

The beautiful Lucrezia Borgia has
suddenly agreed to a politically correct marriage. Her father, Pope
Alexander VI, is joyous, but viewers know that can't last long. He
doesn't yet know that one of his sons has killed another; he also
doesn't know about a plot to poison the pope. The result is powerful.

Other choices include:

– Golf, 4 p.m. ET, NBC. The U.S. Open
is expected to continue until 10:30. It's kind of like basketball,
only without the running, jumping and cheering.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. In
a fairly good rerun, Kiefer Sutherland plays a nuclear-plant security
guard, still quaking from his days as a CIA agent.

– “The Killing,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
AMC. Here's the two-parter that wraps up this two-season murder
story. At 8 is a rerun of last week's episode; at 9, Sarah wraps up
the case and the Larsens get closure.

– “The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Alicia's key witness commits suicide. She reluctantly
turns to Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker) for help.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m.,
HBO.Things really aren't going well for the people closest to Sookie.
Her two lovers have been captured by the Vampire Authority; also, her
best friend just became a vampire and is acting very unpleasantly.
It's a good – albeit crowded – hour.

– “Nurse Jackie” season-finale, 9
p.m., Showtime. O'Hara is in labor and Cruz (Bobby Cannavale) is in a
panic. Then Cruz's son (played by Cannavale's son Jake) is an
emergency room patient.

– “The Big C,” 9:30 p.m.,
Showtime. In a wonderfully odd season-finale, a Puerto Rican vacation
has taken strange twists. Now the talkative and fretful Cathy is
stranded with a fisherman who doesn't speak English; the quirky
finish is fascinating.

– “Girls” season-finale, 10 p.m.,
HBO. Here's more quirkiness It starts with Lena's falling-out with
her longtime friend, ends with her in the sort of odd blur this show
is so good at.

TV column for Saturday, June 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Cars” (2006),
8 p.m., ABC.

Almost 60 years after Walt Disney
introduced the first feature-length cartoon, Pixar changed
everything. Beginning with the 1995 “Toy Story,” it had clever
writers insert grown-up wit.

This is one of the favorites, with a
hot-shot race car (Owen Wilson) in a backwater town. Other voices
include Cheech Marin, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman, Tony Shalhoub and
Larry the Cable Guy.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “StandUp in
Stilettos,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., TV Guide.

Here's basic entertainment, quick and
slick. Each half-hour has three women doing stand-up comedy.

The opener has smart comics – none
wear stiletto heels, despite the title – doing offering solid
routines. Mary Lynn Rajskub – a stand-up before “24” made her a
star– and British comic Gina Yashere do well; Then Sarah Tiana,
with terrific delivery – has the show's best moments.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable.

On a so-so night for new cable movies,
this is a strong night for big movies that ran in theaters.

“Sherlock Holmes” (2009, TNT) is
overwrought, but has strong work from Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law.
“The Blind Side” (2009, ABC Family) deftly blends comedy, warmth
and real-life drama.

There's the “Star Trek” reboot
(2009, FX), “Shawshank Redemption” (1994, AMC) and Barbra
Streisand's lushly bittersweet “The Way We Were” (1973, Turner
Classic Movies). Also, “Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011, HBO) is
inconsistent, but has fine moments from Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Other choices include:

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Russell (David Spade) was riding high until his rich mom cut him
off. Still, he kept spending; in this rerun, his utilities are cut
off and his assistant suggests a budget.

– “Blue Lagoon: The Awakening,” 8
and 10 p.m., Lifetime. In two movies and one sequel, “Blue Lagoon”
had shipwrecked kids growing up like siblings, then falling in love.
Now this variation finds mismatched teen stranded during a high
school trip.

– “Operation Cupcake,” 8 and 10
p.m., Hallmark. On furlough, an Army colonel decides to help his wife
with her cupcake store and with their kids. That idea is OK and the
stars (Dean Cain, Kristy Swanson) are likable; still, this guy is so
foolish we can't see him commanding a paintball team,

– “How To Be a Gentleman,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. Andrew has been learning how to be stronger and more
assertive. That wobbles with the return of the fiancee who dumped
him.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
This reruns the season-opener, with everything changed. The governor
has been killed and McGarrett is in jail, accused of killing her. His
former SEAL commander (Richard T. Jones) ia governor; also, Kono
(Grace Park) has been suspended.

– “Piranhaconda,” 9-11 p.m.,
Syfy. Roger Corman, 86, has produced almost 400 movies, some of them
good and most of them cheap. This one has a solid idea: The crew of a
cheapie movie is terrorized by a mega-snake. Still, the story is
so-so and the creature is so dominant that the chases lack interest.

– “The Firm,” 10 p.m. (barring a
golf overrun), NBC. Mitch gets a promising offer: If he defends Joey
Morolto's friend in a murder case, Morolto will end his family's
vendetta.

TV column for Friday, June 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Let it Shine," 8
p.m., Disney.

The good news is that the Disney
Channel continues the surge it started with “High School Musical.”
Here's another vibrant music movie, with a terrific singer (Coco
Jones, 14) and director (Paul Hoen).

And the bad? Once again, cable
stretches a creaky old plot idea. Nickelodeon's “Rags” recently
merged great music with a silly “Cinderella” take-off; now Disney
clumsily borrows “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Roxy thinks the great rap lyrics are
from cute Kris; they're actually from his good-guy friend Cyrus. That
gets stretched way too long, joined by cliched preacher-vs.-rap
sub-plot. It's enough to make viewers flee – or would be, if the
rest of “Shine” weren't so good.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “House,” 8
p.m., Fox.

Give the Disney people credit for
continually spotting new stars. That includes Jones (mentioned above)
and Bridgit Mendler, who guests here.

Mendler, 19, stars in the Disney
Channel's “Good Luck Charlie,” a comedy that ha a rerun at 10:30
p.m. today. :And in this “House” rerun, she plays a homeless teen
with a complicated past.

Also in “House” are relationship
woes – Taub with his babies, Foreman with a married woman.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Fairly Legal”
season-finale, 9 p.m., USA.

At first, this seems like a minor case,
one Kate can rush through in mediation: Lesbians were fired for
violating a rule against workplace romance; a settlement nears.

Then that leads to something bigger –
just as Kate prepares to buy a new condo with the guy she almost
divorced. In a well-made hour, we get huge changes in his election
campaign, her life and more.

Other choices include:

– “Megastunts,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.
Most times, ABC has better things to do than show people risking
their lives in stunts. Tonight, alas, the first hour reviews major
stunts in history. Then a 9 p.m. special views Nik Wallenda, 33,
trying to walk a 1,550-foot tightrope, 173 feet above Niagara Falls.

– “Whitney,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun, Whitney and Alex hear a theory that couples know in their
first 48 hours if they belong together. Soon, they're recalling their
own start together.

– “Community,” 8:30, NBC. Fun
things – foosball, a missing DVD – stir commotions in this rerun.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a judge was killed and the probe flashes back to a case in
which Jo was blamed for a suspected rapist going free.

– “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. While
probing the murder of a toy-company executive in this rerun, the
pregnant Brennan ponders the foggy concept of toys and play.

– “Great Performances,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Harry Connick is on Broadway, backed by a
big band and a 12-piece string section.

– “Comedy Bang Bang,” 9 and 10
p.m., Independent Film Channel. Last week's opener, rerunning at 9
p.m., has great moments from Will Forte (as an unheroic pilot) and
Zach Galifianakis. At 10, a fairly good new episode has Amy Poehler,
plus a Reggie Watts take-off on high-concept movie comedies.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
a rerun, a witness says a uniformed cop fled after a diner shooting.

TV column for Thursday, June 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Saving Hope,”
9 p.m., NBC.

The enviable world of two surgeons was
shattered in last week's opener. A car accident, just before their
wedding, left Charlie (Michael Shanks) in a coma; Alex (Erica
Durance) plunged back into work.

Now Charlie, who narrates the show,
roams the hospital, seen only by others who are dead or dying.

The result is a delicate balance
between body and soul. It works because talented Canadian actors
perform with skill and restraint. Tonight, emotions ripple as a young
boy lingers near death.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Burn Notice”
season-opener, 9 p.m.,USA.

As last season ended, Fiona had been
framed by the evil Anson Fullerton. She surrendered, to save Michael;
now, as Michael scrambles to catch Anson, we see this show at its
best and worst.

The best: “Burn Notice” has strong
action, big explosions and passionate characters.

The worst: It creates impossible tasks:
Some fail; others lack believability when they succeed.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “41,” 9-11
p.m., HBO.

Autobiographies (which this mostly is)
are rarely as insightful as biographies. Here, George H.W. Bush
simply brushes subjects aside. Ross Perot? “I don't want to talk
about him,” he says.

And any sort of biography is the
richest when it views a complex life. That's not Bush. His entire
life – from Harvard baseball captain to war hero to politician and
president – was an even trajectory.

Still, “41” succeeds despite all of
that. It captures a quiet decency, something that's been missing from
politics lately; it also catches the beauty of the Maine setting that
helped mold Bush.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS.Wolowitz is trying to choose his astronaut nickname in this
rerun, but the others have bigger problems: Sheldon went too far and
Leonard may end their friendship.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. In an exceptionally funny rerun, the women must break into
Caroline's old home to retrieve her night guard. That gives Max a
first look at how the rich live.

– Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, ABC. Here's
the second game of the best-of-seven championship, with Miami at
Oklahoma City. That's preceded by Jimmy Kimmel at 8 and a pre-game
show at 8:30.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Craig Bierko plays a former pro quarterback in this rerun. When his
car blows up, he's presumed dead.

– “Rock Center,” 10 p.m.,
NBC.There still is one boom real-estate market in the U.S., Natalie
Morales says here; that's South Florida, with rich Brazilians
elevating prices. Also, Harry Smith interviews Candice Bergen on
everything from Charlie McCarthy to Murphy Brown to dealing with a
mild stroke. And Dr. Nancy Snyderman considers shortages in
bone-marrow transplants.

– “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). We meet some of the people who survived
the years when AIDS deaths were at an epidemic level. The resulting
film packs understated power.

– “Suits,” 10 p.m., USA. Mike's
secret – that he never even went to law school – is becoming
known to a disturbing number of people at the law firm. In an OK
season-opener, Harvey scrambles to suppress trouble while Mike
tackles the lone obstacle in a big-deal merger.

.

TV column for Wednesday, June 13


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Duets,”
9:31-11 p.m., ABC.

With basketball complicating things,
this show slides to Wednesdays for a couple weeks, getting a helpful
“Modern Family” lead-in.

Tonight, singers do party songs with
their mentors. Then the field is trimmed from seven to six.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Dallas,” 9 and
10:15 p.m., TNT; reruns at 11:13 p.m. and 12:28 a.m.

We expect everything these days to be
bigger, bolder, brasher. Even “Dallas.”

The original rarely filmed in Texas;
this one starts with high-octane scenes there, then keeps pushing the
plot harder. There are enough schemes and twists in the first two
hours to fill two seasons.

That's sometimes overwrought. (Why
would an intimate meeting be on the 50-yard-line of Texas Stadium?)
Still, a strong cast makes the human level work.

Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman are
perfect as the good and bad Ewing brothers; Jesse Metcalfe and Josh
Henderson star as their sons, equally pure and evil. Jordana Brewster
is the housekeeper's daughter, a gorgeous scientist who has loved
them both.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Thorne:
Scaredy Cat,” 9-11 p.m., Encore; “White Heat” finale, 10 p.m.,
BBC America.

The approaches vary sharply, but
British drama keeps showing smart writing and great acting.

Here, we get the second of two “Thorne”
movies, with David Morrissey as a shattered cop. It's another nasty
tale of targeted women, but an early scene (Thorne at a victim's
closet) is beautifully done.

We also get the last of six “Heat”
episodes. Strangers had shared a flat in 1965; now we see flashbacks
to a 1990 reunion, with a key revelation. In modern times, we learn
which one is dead.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The auditions move to Salt Lake City, which has
provided many of this show's best dancers.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Ed
Asner – who won five Emmys as newsman Lou Grant – plays a local
news guy in this rerun. Brick is a paper boy at his newspaper.

– “Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.
A rerun has Tessa meeting her dad's radiant new girlfriend (Alicia
Silverstone). There are some good moments, marred by Tessa being way
out-of-character at her job.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
This rerun has Barry Corbin as Cam's father, annoying Mitchell.

– “Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA.
Divya remains tangled in a family dispute, but the brothers have
partly patched their rift: Hank tries to help Jill's nephew; Evan
targets a lonely heiress as a potential client.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun seems to have a strange killer at work: The
victim was dressed in vintage-style clothes, with 1970s-style hair.

– “Necessary Roughness,” 10 p.m.,
USA. In last week's opener, T.K. remained emotionally frayed from the
shooting. Now he has to prove he can run; also, Dani works with a
roller-derby star.