TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The X Factor” season-opener, 8 p.m.,

The third season brings the third judge line-up. Britney
Spears and “L.A.” Reid are gone; now Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato are joined by
Kelly Rowland and Spanish-language star Paulina Rubio.

It’s an energetic bunch, but the key is to have interesting
contestants. A sampling (from the auditions tonight and Thursday) is promising.
Two women in their 50s draw wildly opposite results … a 13-year-old girl brings
instant love … a coffee-shop guy charms. It’s a great start.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “MasterChef” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

As soon as “X Factor” finishes, we can see who wins this
year’s prize as the best amateur chef.

 Natasha Crnjac, 26,
of San Diego is a stay-at-home mom. Luca Manfe, 31, of Astoria, NY, is at a
restaurant manager. Now they each plan and prepare a three-course meal before
the judges decide.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Arsenio Hall Show,” late-night
(check local listings).

Back on Nov. 7, 1991, Hall had the most important hour of
his oft-cheery show. His friend Magic Johnson discussed having AIDS.

Now, on the third night of Hall’s new show, Johnson is a
guest. Also scheduled are George Lopez – one of many people who debuted on Hall’s
old show – and rapper Nas.

Other choices include:

“Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The second of
the six gorgeous “Earthflight” hours follows birds as they soar above Africa.

“America’s Got Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Sandwiched between the
latest “Million Second Quiz” and the “Camp” finale, this show announces its six
acts for next week’s finale.

“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns involve
the effort to fix and flip a house. In the first, a neighbor must resolve an
impasse. In the second, Phil’s skills as a Realtor are challenged.

“The Flag,” 9 and 10:30 p.m., CNN. This oddly interesting
film leads a busy night on the 12
th anniversary of the World Trade
Center attacks. There; on Discovery, History and National Geographic.

“Broadchurch, 10 p.m., BBC America. As this superb hour begins, the
entire town attends the funeral of the old shopkeeper who killed himself after
being accused (falsely, apparently) of killing Danny. As it ends, there are
three new suspects, plus a fleeing intruder. In between, the hour deals richly
with grief.

"The Bridge," 10 p.m., FX. As the finale nears, Sonya and Marco
close in on a suspect. Meanwhile, the wealthy widow (Annabeth Gish) scrambles
to save her ranch.

"It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia," 10 p.m., FXX. Frank
(Danny DeVito) stirs up a local gun rush. There are funny moments … including great
ones for Andrew Friedman, returning as Charlie’s odd lawyer uncle.


TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 10


Masters,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS.

In one strange evening, everything
swirled together. There was hype and heroics, circus and sport and
social revolution: Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis'
“battle of the sexes.”

That night – 40 years ago on Sept. 20
– was only one piece of King's busy life. She triumphed on the
court – including six Wimbleton singles titles – and off. She
fought for equal money; she started World Team Tennis and addressed
her sexuality,. It's a great story, beautifully told.

You Can Dance” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Four superb dancers remain. Now, after
lots of special numbers – we'll see male and female winners.

The men are both from Las Vegas, but
are opposites. Fik-Shun is 18, a charming sprite who's done hip-hop
since he was 2; Aaron Tuner is 25, a big guy who has tap-danced in
his dad's show since he was 8.

The women are both in the
jazz/contemporary mode. Jasmine Harper, 20, long and leggy, is from
Lawrenceville, Ga; Amy Yakima, 19, small and quick, is from
Northville, Mich.

Anarchy” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

If you've ever grumbled that nothing
much happened in an hour, here's the opposite. Everything
(approximately) happens, always passionately and often violently.

Jax's wife (a doctor) and his step-dad
(the former biker-club president) are both in jail. A fierce new
force (sharply played by Donal Logue) wants to push both into
testifying against the club.

There's much more – an evil
torture-porn crew … a gorgeous brothel-owner (the terrific Kim
Dickens) … a shoot-out, three beatings and then, out of left field,
a jolting addition to a packed hour.

Other choices include

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun,
Colin Hanks (Tom's son) plays an investigator, probing the pursuit of
Podnar, who killed Ziva's father and NCIS Director Vance's wife.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Going undercover in this rerun, Deeks starts a risky relationship
with a woman. Kensi, working surveillance, has mixed emotions.

“America's Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m.,
NBC. The top 12 acts perform; on Wednesday, six will advance to the
Sept. 17-18 finale.

“Rizzoli & Isles”
season-finale, 9 p.m., TNT. A murder case comes during key personal
decisions – Maura about her paroled grandfather, Jane about her

“Cold Justice,” 10 p.m., TNT. This
involving reality hour opens up the unsolved, 2006 murder of a
beloved mother and churchgoer.

“King of Thrones” debut, 10 p.m.,
Destination America. Don't expect “Game of Thrones”; this is an
amiable look at Minnesota guys who specialize in bathrooms. One
project adds a quality bathroom to an ice-fishing shack. (Did we
mention this is Minnesota?) Another is $60,00 and state-of-the-art.

“The Vineyard” season-finale, 10
p.m., ABC Family. This oddity – claiming to be a reality show, but
having story editors – wraps up its Martha's Vineyard summer. Emily
isn't sure her romance with Jon will last. Katie is undecided about
Luis … then is surprised when he asks her to stay on the island.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 9


Second Quiz” debut, 8 p.m., NBC,

It was 14 years ago that ABC shook up a
sleepy August by introducing a quiz show (“Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire?) and airing it almost every night for two weeks. Ratings

Now NBC tries something similar. From a
fancy Manhattan studio, Ryan Seacreast hosts a game that has trivia
challenges day and night, with TV jumping in for prime time – 8-9
p.m. through Sept. 18, Sunday excluded – and occasionally during
“Today” and other shows. Then the four biggest winners, plus the
final occupant of the chair, compete from 8-10 p.m. Sept. 19.

Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's another show that brought a
summer ratings spike. Now it's a week from its season finale.

“Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris) has
been a crook, a councilman and a killer. Still, he's convinced people
that all the bad things were done by Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike
Vogel). Now Barbie is on the run – not easy, when a town is encased
in a dome – while also protecting Julia (Rachel Lefevre).

Hall Show” and “Bethenny” debuts, times vary.

The annual talk-show competition begins
with key competitors for non-network time slots..

Hall was a fresh force in 1989, younger
and hipper and more rock 'n' roll than other latenight hosts. He left
after five successful years; now he's back at 57. Opening-night has
actor-comedian Chris Tucker and surprises; a key night is Wednesday,
with Magic Johnson, George Lopez and Nas.

Bethenny Frankel, 42, found fame on
“Real Housewives of New York City” and her own spin-off. She had
a six-week test on some stations, for an upbeat daytime show; now she
goes national.

Other choices include;

“How I Met Your Mother,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Over the next two Mondays, reruns will point to the
season-opener, in which Robin and Barney may or may not get married.
Tonight, she searches frantically for the “something old” she
buried in Central P ark; he bonds with her dad, Robin Sr.

“Two and a Half Men” and “The Big
Bang Theory,” 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. These Thursday comedies
re-visit their old night with reruns. First, Walden comforts Alan
after a break-up with Lyndsey; then Howard and Raj try to figure out
where Sheldon goes at 2:45 p.m. each work day.

“Mistresses” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.
After starting well, this show descended into weepy soap-opera,
something the original British version avoided. Tonight, April
chooses between her boyfriend and the husband who faked his death.
Karen is confronted by the wife of the patient she had an affair
with, then helped end his life during a fatal illness. And Savannah
gets a jolt during her birthday road trip.

“POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Widowed after 40 years, Inge Hermann slipped into dementia
and depression. She moved to a nursing home … and discovered
ping-pong. This uneven-but-interesting documentary catches her 15
years later, a seniors champion at 89. It views others, from an
81-year-old weightlifter to an Australian woman who, at 100, is past
her prime

“Siberia,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. This
scripted show has pretended to be a reality show in which the
contestants found themselves abandoned and frightened. Now – a week
from the finale – three people are kidnapped by natives; the others
find hints of creepy experiments at this site..

“Totally Biased,” 11 p.m., FXX.
Formerly a weekly show, W. Kamau Bell's clever, four-day-a-week
series now faces tough competition. Tonight's guest is Chris Rock,
who also produces the show.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 8


Halifax,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Slow and gentle, this series also has a
disarming charm.

Derek Jacobi, 74, long a PBS favorite,
plays a widower who reluctantly makes computer contact with the woman
(Anne Reid, 77) who stood him up on their only date. These are
likable souls, with colorfully contrasting families; watching them
interact is a quiet pleasure.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: Football, 8:20
p.m. ET, NBC, with previews at 7..

The opening Sunday of the pro season
wraps up with Eli Manning and the New York Giants visiting Tony Romo
and the Dallas Cowboys. It also brings a couple fresh touches.

In one, the Cowboys have installed 24
cameras around each end zone. NBC people insist the replays will seem
almost like “The Matrix” or a John Madden video game.

In another, Faith Hill has stepped down
after six seasons of singing the theme song. Now Carrie Underwood
(yes, Romo's former girlfriend) will sing “Waiting All Day For
Sunday Night.”

Empire” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO.

Always erratic and sometimes brilliant,
“Empire” has had moving moments involving Richard Harrow, who was
a World War I sniper until his face was shattered. With a half-mask
and an unflinching attitude, he became a bodyguard with fierce
loyalty; Jack Huston – the grandson, great-grandson and nephew of
Oscar-winners – has handled the role beautifully.

Now Harrow has key scenes in this
opener. It finds the once-flashy Nucky Thompson keeping a low
profile, while trying to settle the gangster rift that almost killed

Other choices include:

Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience, 7
p.m., CNN. Unless breaking news intervenes, CNN will devote the night
to memories of the Sept. 11 attacks. This film i's followed by
“Footnotes of 9/11” and then (at 9 and 10:30 p.m. by “The
Flag,” eyeing th4 strange history of the flag firemen raised after
the attack.

“Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC. Cable
has its “Shark Week,” so ABC launches “Shark Tank Week” –
six straight reruns, each chosen by a “shark” investors. This
first one ranges from the odd – electric unicycles, yogurt for dogs
– to an emotional story of why a stylist started her own business.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, guys seem to make all the wrong moves. Marge is fed up with
Homer; Milhouse tries to impress Lisa with a bad- boy persona.

“Masterpiece,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). In the last of this season's “Silk”
movies, Martha and Clive both interview for an elevated “silk”
status among British lawyers. She's distracted, however, by a tough
case – defending a repeat offender who's charged with murder.

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Wrapping up its summer run, this solid show has an episode about a
slain urban explorer who may have been hunting a treasure in New York

“Breaking Bad,” 9 p.m., AMC. With
only three episodes after tonight, Walt faces fresh pressure.

“The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. This
rerun brings back the talented Pruitt Taylor Vince as J.J. LaRoche.
For nine years, he'd been hiding a mysterious container in his house.
Now it's been stolen.


TV column for Saturday, Sept. 7

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Bruno Mars jumped into rare turf –
Justin Timberlake/Mick Jagger land – when he doubled as the host
and the music guest. He threw himself into it with his usual energy,
as we see in this rerun.

Mars sang his uptempo “Locked Out of
Heaven” and ballad “Young Wild Girs” … plus much more, in a
sketch that had him as a temp who must rescue a radio station by
singing every song. He leaped into other sketches, including one as
an angry woman on a Jerry Springer-type show.

finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

Doomed from the start, this modern-day
Jekyll-and-Hyde died instantly in the ratings. Still, NBC is
providing closure – letting the 13-episode run conclude on

Now Jason is ready for drastic brain
surgery that could eliminate his evil alter-ego Ian … unless others
manage to stop the operation. Also, his long-time medication leaves
him immune to normal anesthesia; he's put into a deep dream state
that reveals the childhood origins of Ian.

(2012, HBO) and more movies, 8 p.m., cable.

“Argo” does it all – telling a
tense, real-life story, yet peppering it with neat moments of humor
and humanity. It tells – sometimes whimsically – of the effort to
use a fake movie to rescue Americans during the Iranian hostage
crisis. The result won Oscars for its script, its editing and best

If you don't get HBO, just cruise
cable. “Giant” (1956, Turner Classic Movies) won an Oscar for
director George Stevens and was nominated for nine more, including
best picture and stars James Dean and Rock Hudson. “Michael
Clayton” (2007, Sundance) is a smart drama that won one Oscar (for
Tilda Swinton in support) and was nominated for six more, including
best picture. For sheer fun, Disney has “The Princess and the Frog”
(2009); Syfy has “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Other choices include:

Football, 7 p.m. Fox and more. Expect
some wide-open offenses, with Oklahoma (ranked No. 16 in the ESPN
poll) hosting West Virginia. There's more on cable, including Texas
(ranked 15th) at Brigham Young, at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and
Notre Dame (14) at Michigan (17), at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Earlier movies, cable. Here are two
bright, clever films – “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) at 7 and
9:30 p.m. on Oxygen and “Love Actually” (2003) at 7:30 p.m. on TV

\“American Ninja Warrior,” 8-10
p.m, NBC. This reruns Monday's episode, with finalists facing a
four-phase challenge in Las Vegas.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a
drone has struck a bomb-making spot in Afghanistan. One of the bodies
is a retired U.S. Marine; now the NCIS team must determine if he was
a traitor.

“The White Queen,” 9 p.m., Starz,
rerunning at 10 and 11. The previous episode, rerunning at 8 p.m.,
saw Warwick's attempted overthrow end in storm-tossed (literally)
disaster. Now King Edward IV and Elizabeth are back on top …
briefly. In another terrific episode, crises build quickly.

“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC.
Cullen is still in charge of the Union Pacific as it pushes westward.
But now Durant – disgraced, deposed, jailed – has filed an
injunction against the railway he once ran.

“Salt,” 10 p.m., FX. With slick
action and a powerhouse star (Angelina Jolie), this spy thriller is
great fun for a while … then throws in more twists than it needs.