TV column for Saturday, July 4

Fourth-of-July concerts, 8 p.m., NBC and PBS.

This may be what TV
does best – big crowds, big music and (of course) fireworks. NBC is
in New York, repeating highlights at 10 p.m.; PBS is in Washington,
repeating (check local listings) at 9:30.

NBC has music by
Kelly Clarkson, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Meghan Trainor and Flo
Rida. PBS has it all – pop and rock (Barry Manilow, Nicole
Scherzinger, KC and the Sunshine Band), country (Alabama, Hunter
Hayes, Meghan Linsey) and classical (Lang Lang, Ronan Tynan).

“The Millers” (8 and 8:30 p.m.) and “The McCarthys” (9 and
9:30 p.m.) return, CBS.

Both shows have been
part of CBS' Thursday comedy juggernaut. They weren't good enough for
that ... but they're terrific by Saturday standards; now their final
new episodes will be shown this month.

First, Nathan Miller
(Will Arnett) frets about his cameraman (J.B. Smoove) taking another
job; also, Nathan's mom confronts her work nemesis (Molly Shannon).
Then the McCarthys try to be independent from their parents; also,
Gerard (Joey McIntyre) misses his own engagement party.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Astronaut Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This rerun begins
with Deke Slayton enraged. He's been scrubbed from a mission because
of a heart murmur ... even though officials have known of the problem
for years.

That's the start of
an hour that skillfully mixes history and soap-opera. The Glenns –
John and the painfully shy Annie – remain likable; the Coopers
remain in a tenuous, platonic marriage. And we get to know the
Carpenters, free-thinkers in a place where that was rare and

Other choices

“Sons of Liberty,”
noon to 6 p.m., History; repeats from 6 p.m. to midnight. On July 4,
we can catch a mini-series rerun that shows how this all began. In
Massachusetts, the charismatic Sam Adams links with businessman John
Hancock. Soon, they have a rag-tag army, while Ben Franklin tries to
get other colonies involved. We also meet Paul Revere, George
Washington, Dr. Joseph Warren and more.

“Power,” noon to
midnight, Starz. There's no new episode today, but you can catch up
on everything else. The first season starts reruns at noon, with the
four second-season ones beginning at 8:05 p.m. Slick, sleek and
violent, this sees a drug kingpin – a tough guy to know or like --
become a nightclub owner, while having an affair with his childhood
sweetheart, now an assistant district attorney.

“Steel Magnolias”
(1989), 6:30 p.m., and “Forrest Gump” (1994), 9 p.m., ABC Family.
Here's a dandy double feature, with movies that manage to mix warmth,
humor, tragedy and (for “Gump”) whimsy.

“Scream,” 8
p.m., MTV. Just in case we missed it Tuesday, here's the debut of the
series based loosely on the popular scare films.

“20/20,” 9-11
p.m., ABC. This reruns the April interview Diane Sawyer had with
Bruce Jenner, shortly before he began transitioning into Caitlyn

“Atlantis” and
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” 9 and 10 p.m., BBC America.
Some shows avoid having new episodes on the holiday, but these two
boom ahead. First, Jason faces execution for killing the Oracle; then
Jonathan Strange tries to cure the madness of King George III.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Amy Adams hosts this rerun, with music from
One Direction.

TV column for Friday, July 3

“Jessie,” 2-4 p.m., 7 p.m., 8-10 p.m. and 11 p.m., Disney.

Fridays are short of
laughs, so we might try reruns of this tween-oriented show about a
Texas teen (Debby Ryan) working as a New York nanny. The night even
includes a three-part comedy miniseries.

That starts at 8:30
p.m., with a family cruise; a girl is discovered, stranded at sea. At
9 p.m., Jessie's on an island when she hears that the necklace she
bought has been cursed, dooming her to bad luck in love. At 9:30,
there's a maritime problem: The boat is floating at sea, with no crew
in sight.

II: “MasterChef” and “Gotham,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

Settling into its
summer plan, Fox will rerun these shows each Friday. For
“MasterChef,” that means a quick repeat of Wednesday's episodes.
This is a fairly good one, celebrating the 100th episode;
things go wrong, with Gordon Ramsay pondering a cake that's
simultaneously ugly and delicious.

And for “Gotham,”
it's an episode from the middle of the season, with Cobblepot (the
future Penguin) assembling his army. At theArkhan Asylum, Gordon
probes a murder and meets the imposing Dr. Thompson, played by Morena
Baccarin of “V,” “Homeland” and more.

ALTERNATIVE (kids): Pilot films,

The holiday weekend
might be a good time to try the six pilot episodes that Amazon
recently made available. Two are live-action, with similar themes –
teens moving to a new school, where few people share their obsession.
“Kicks” (about soccer) is OK; “A History of Radness” (music)
is terrific.

Then there are the
animated shows. One is pleasant for pre-schoolers; two (“Bear in
Underwear,” “Lily the Unicorn”) are neatly offbeat. But the
best surprise is “Lost in Oz,” with Dorothy's daughter pulled
into the world her mom found long ago. The result mixes large
adventure with small dabs of humor.

ALTERNATIVE (grown-ups): “”The National Mall: America's Front
Yard,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Think of this as a
warm-up for Saturday, when monuments will offer a stunning backdrop
to the “Capitol Fourth” concert on PBS. First, we learn how this
area became so pivotal.

There were slow
points, including a 24-year pause in building the Washington
Monument. Eventually, the Mall became a vocal point; there was the
March on Washington in 1963, the Vietnam memorial in '82, the AIDS
quilt in '87. Many stations (check local listings) will follow this
with an Annie Lennox concert rerun, including stunning work on
“Summertime,” “Georgia On My Mind” and more.

Other choices

“Jaws” (1975),
7:45 p.m., AMC. On Sunday, two channels – Discovery and National
Geographic – will lauch their annual cascade of shark shows. To get
in the mood, we can watch this Steven Spielberg classic, followed by
its sequels at 10:45 p.m. (1978) and 1:15 a.m. (1983).

“Defiance,” 8
p.m., Syfy. Datak and Stahma try for a decisive move against the
Votanis general.

Summer Pool Party,” 9 p.m., CW. Kelly Clarkson opens this rerun.
There's also music from Nick Jonas (who hosts) and Shaggy, plus David
Guetta with Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The island is in lockdown, as a terrorist uses
weaponized drones. Also in this rerun, McGarrett and Danny are
required to undergo what seems like couples therapy.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun has a murder victim who was living in a
luxury apartment building, due to a requirement that 20 per cent of
the units go to lower-income people.

“Dark Matter,”
10 p.m., Syfy. It was tough enough for the crew to wake up with no
idea who they are or what their mission is. But now that one man is
convinced he's Jake Corso, he meets someone else who has the exact
same face and name.

TV columm for Thursday, July 2

“The Astronaut Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This began two weeks
ago as an uneasy blend of history and soap opera. It has quickly
found its touch, turning many of the 1960s astronauts and their wives
into fascinating people.

They range from John
Glenn and the painfully shy Annie -- “the nicest people on the
planet,” we're told – to Deke Slayton, filled with rage and
alcohol after he's scrubbed from a mission because of an irregular
heartbeat. Scott and Rene Carpenter are independent thinkers; so is
Trudy Cooper, a pilot in a currently platonic marriage. There are
still some soapy excesses, but mostly this is strong drama.

“Food Fighters” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC.

Summertime Thursdays
have become huge, as the big-four networks chase ads for movies
opening the next day. Of their 11 primetime hours, 10 are non-reruns
and seven are scripted dramas.

“Food Fighters”
-- the last of the 10 to arrive – has home cooks (including some
kids, this year) trying to match professionals, with winners chosen
by blind taste tests. Adam Richman (“Man Finds Food”) hosts;
celebrity chefs include Lorena Garcia, Duff Goldman, Rocco DiSpirito
and Eric Greenspan.

ALTERNATIVE: “Big Brother,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

Last week's two-hour
“Under the Dome” opener complicated things, but now CBS has its
Thursday line-up in place. “Big Brother” moves to 9:01 p.m., with
the first of its weekly evictions; “Big Bang Theory” and “Mom”
return at 8 and 8:30, after a rare week off.

Those two are the
night's only reruns ... and the night's best shows. “Big Bang”
has great bits for Bernadette, facing airport trouble; it also has
Sheldon and Penny taking a test designed to make people fall in love.
In “Mom,” Christy savors the luxury of helping the wealthy Jill
(Jaime Pressley).

Other choices

“Annedroids” new
season, any time, Amazon Prime. This kid show takes a good concept –
a girl crafting backyard inventions – and does it badly. The result
is sort of like “Barney” with special effects; for better (much
better) kid shows, catch the six pilots now on Amazon Instant Video.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 8 p.m., CW. This is a tough task for a relationship
therapist – a visit from Cat (a cop) and Vincent (a recovering
beast-like supersoldier).

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Just as Ethan finds the truth about this strange town, a
bomb is planted in his car. Meanwhile, his son's romance is getting

“Mistresses,” 9
p.m., ABC. Fresh from walking out on her wedding, Joss may be too
quick about leaping into a romance with her sister's ex-husband.
Meanwhile, April is dazzled by her son's headmaster ... and Karen is
facing a deeper relationship with Vivian, her stem-cell recipient.

“Aquarius,” 9
p.m., NBC. Against the backdrop of the Charlie Manson case, this show
tries to eye 1960s attitudes toward women and gays. It does so, alas,
in its own heavyhanded, lunk-headed way ... and in a murder case that
goes nowhere.

“Under the Dome,”
10 p.m., CBS. After the bizarre events in the tunnels, townspeople
scramble for a new plan. Now Big Jim suspects Christine (Marg
Helgenberger) and Eva.

“Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC. For Andy (Missy Peregrym), the new romance with Sam was
going great ... until Marla told Sam she's pregnant with his baby.
Now Andy tries to adjust.


TV column for Wednesday, July 1

“Extant” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS.

Last season was
rough on Molly (Halle Berry), the astronaut. Returning from a
13-month solo mission, she was inexplicably pregnant. The fetus was
removed and became the mind-controlling Offspring who almost killed
her; her android son saved her, but was mostly killed, surviving only
as a video image.

Now the second
season starts six months later, with Molly in a mental ward. Hearing
of murders similar to what she saw in space, she escapes and links
with a cop (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The result is the mid-section of
CBS' summer dramas, with “Zoo” on Tuesdays and “Under the Dome”

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox.

The 100th
episode begins amid beauty – a fog-shrouded, oceanside cliff in
Rancho Palo Verdes, near Los Angeles. There, the dozen contestants
(talented home cooks, not professionals) must make dinners for 100
VIP's; then the six on the losing team must each make a birthday

Soon, in a fun
episode, everything goes wrong. Oysters are overcooked, duck is
undercooked and Gordon Ramsay proclaims one creation “the ugliest
cake ... in America.”

ALTERNATIVE: “Mr. Robot,” 10:01 p.m., USA.

This confirms that
life isn't fair – two techno-thrillers in the same timeslot.
“Extant” has Oscar-winners as producer (Steven Spielberg) and
star; “Mr. Robot” has a terrific star and last week's great

That showed Elliot
(Rami Malek) juggling two worlds: By night, he's a hacker, exposing
bad guys; by day, he's a computer-whiz for a group hired by E
Corporation. (Since he's telling the story, people call it Evil
Corporation.) Now he's being recruited by opposite forces -- a hacker
group and Evil's tech chief.

ALTERNATIVE II: “First Peoples,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Isolation can be a
mixed blessing, the first hour says. When a group is too confined,
its gene-pool suffers from in-breeding; extinction may follow. In
Asia, early homo sapiens may have saved themself by sometimes
procreating with more-primitive species, including Neanderthals.

But defying most
trends are the remarkable Aborigines. Thoroughly isolated on
Australia, they managed to survive. The second hour offers reasons
why and serves up some stunning cave visuals.

Other choices

“The Carbonaro
Effect,” 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., TruTV. Here's a nine-hour rerun marathon
... kind of like Monday's four-hour string and ones coming next
Monday and Wednesday. We can't blame TruTV; its other shows are weak
and this one – mixing wit, magic tricks and hidden cameras – is

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. Valentine's Day brings mixed expectations: Brick's
girlfriend expects their first kiss; Axl's expects nothing.

“Operation Wild,”
8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). From raging rhinos to cute little
pandas, animals from the wild are saved by veterinarians using rescue
vehicles and high-tech science.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil fears that Luke isn't as interested in being with
him. Now Andy (Adam DeVine), the nanny, becomes a sort of surrogate

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two lives – one conventional, one not –
are swapped. Actress Holly Robinson, 50, is married to former
pro-football quarterback Rodney Peete. With 17-year-old twins (one
diagnosed with audism), plus sons 12 and 10, they race to kids'
sports and such. Margaret Cho, 46, is bisexual and an advocate of
varied experiences. She takes Rodney to what ABC calls a “naughty
dungeon”; meanwhile, comedian Selene Luna shows Holly a world of
wine and fun.

“Flipping Out”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Jeff Lewis makes two drastic decisions
that don't fit together – firing some of his employees and then
expanding his business.



TV column for Tuesday, June 30

“Zoo” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

Until now, animals
have had a fine image in Hollywood, ranging only from the nobility of
Lassie to the mischief of Bonzo and Curious George. Now, however,
they turn into mass killers.

Based on James
Patterson's novel, this has all of them misbehaving. A safari guide
(James Wolk) feels there's a reason for this; he links with a
journalist (Kristen Connolly) and a veterinary pathologist (Billy
Burke) to investigate. This continues CBS' trend of introducing one
major drama each summer. “Extant” starts its second season on
Wednesday; “Under the Dome” continues its third on Thursday.

“1913: Seeds of Conflict,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

For 80-plus years, a
key documentary film was missing. Then -- in France, in 1997 -- “The
Life of the Jews in Palestine” was discovered, with its sweet views
of an agrarian/Utopian world. That film forms a core of this balanced
documentary, which shows the century-old roots of current crises.

Pushed by prejudices
in Europe, Jews moved to Palestine's promised land. They had a great
gift for community, historians say here, building schools, farms and
an economy. But their land-grab – ranging from bribery to simply
outbidding the locals – left others homeless. The seeds of rage
were planted.

ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

The fictional
country of Abbudin remains shaken. Its dictator, Jamal Al-Fayeed,
ordered the execution of his brother, Barry, after a failed coup; now
his general responds brutally to an assassination attempt.

Meanwhile, Molly
Al-Fayeed tries to adjust to widowhood. She returns to her medical
practice in Pasadena ... grasps at her long-dormant Christian roots
... and is jolted by the quirks of the money inherited from Barry.
BUT viewers know he's not dead at all: Unwilling to kill his brother
directly, Jamal left him in the desert; Barry is alive and in limbo,
in a deep episode with a bizarre ending.

Other choices

Soccer, 7 p.m. ET,
Fox. An unyielding defense faces an unbeaten offense, with the winner
reaching the finals of the Women's World Cup. The Americans allowed a
goal in the first half of their first game, but haven't seen another
in four-and-a-half games – a 423-minute shut-out streak. Now it
faces Germany, which has scored four or more goals in three of its
five Cup games.

“America's Got
Talent” and “I Can Do That,” 8 and 10 p.m., NBC. The “Talent”
auditions continue, followed by the finale of the brief “I Can Do
That” season. This time, celebrities try to match the acts of the
Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, rapper Snoop Dogg and the performance
group Tell-A-Vision.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder probe takes Tony to the military academy he
attended as a teen. Also, Ellie and her husband (Jamie Bamber of
“Battlestar Galactica”) invite the team for dinner.

“Beat the
Champions,” about 9 p.m. ET (after soccer), Fox. Ordinary people
try to win money by beating top athletes. The pros (often given
offbeat handicaps) are basketball star Scottie Pippen,
Olympic-champion swimmer Missy Franklin and record-setting tight end
Rob Gronowski.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. The arrival of “Zoo” is pushing this
show back an hour. In this rerun, the team probes whether the
hit-and-run killing of a Navy recruiter is related to her work or to
her foster kids. Also, Lasalle worries about his brother.

“Scream” debut,
10 p.m., MTV. The well-crafted movies have been adapted (sort of)
into this series. It's a different town, with different teens, but
aims for the same mix of pop-culture-savvy scares.

“Another Period,”
10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. After a hilarious start last week,
“Period” -- set in a Rhode Island mansion in 1902 – has an
erratic second episode. There are clever lines -- “I don't know why
we took all that land from the Indians, if we're just going to act
like them” -- alongside a witless story of a male servant being
raped. In a funnier plotline, the sisters (Natasha Leggero and Riki
Lindhome, the show's creators) have fresh schemes for dumping their