TV column for Thursday, July 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Wilfred,” 10
p.m., FX.

“What are you, a golden retriever?”
Wilfred asks sarcastically. “Why do you care what people think?”

Wilfred certainly doesn't care. The
rest of the world sees him as a scruffy mutt; but Ryan (Elijah Wood)
and viewers see him as a talking guy in a dog suit.

Ryan is a human who lives next door;
facing a pointless existence, he decides to do good. Wilfred objects
– “Community service (is) for drunk drivers and wife-beaters” –
but soon is either a hero or a killer at a nursing home. The result
is sometimes crude and often very funny.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “So You Think
You Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Finally down to its top 10, “Dance”
rushes toward its finale. Tonight, judges drop two people.

First come the usual preliminaries.
There's an opening group number, plus music by Blush (with Snoop
Dogg) and a solo by ballet star Daniil Simkin.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Conan the
Barbarian” (1982), 8-11 p.m., AMC.

This is a strong movie night. We'll eye
the others separately, but let's start here.

Long before he was in politics or in
gossip columns, Arnold Schwarzenegger worked for top directors. He
did three films for James Cameron, three for Ivan Reitman; he worked
for John McTiernan, Andrew Davis and more. John Milius co-wrote
“Conan” with Oliver Stone and directed it to epic excess,
complete with action, violence and the resounding music from Basil
Poledouris.

Other choices include:

– “The Social Network” (2010),
6:50 p.m., Starz. This Oscar-nominated gem captured the ragged start
of Facebook. Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing”) stretched the truth at
times, but wrote a great script.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a terrific rerun, Howard considers moving in with Bernadette
– risking the wrath and dismay of his mom. Also, Leonard's back
with Raj's sister.

– “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in
Italy” (2011) and “Justice for Natalee Holloway” (2011), 8 and
10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network. Here are adequate, balanced views of
cases that drew international attention. Both are well-cast, with
Hayden Panettiere as Knox, Tracy Pollan as Holloway's mother.

– “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and
“Pulp Fiction” (1994), 8 and 10 p.m., Independent Film Channel.
Quentin Tarantino's established his style for stylish dialog, intense
action and occasional excess.

– “Despicable Me” (2010), 8:30,
HBO, or “WALL-E” (2008), 9 p.m., Disney. Choose between two
popular animated films. HBO has a comedy; Disney has a poignantly
moving robot drama.

– Expedition Impossible,” 9 p.m.,
ABC. For Erik Weihenmayer, the blind man who climbed Mount Everest,
is waist-deep in a canyon river. Also, the California women rappel
300 feet down a waterfall.

– “Burn Notice,” 9 p.m., USA.
Matt Lauria – who was superb as Luke in “Friday Night Lights” –
plays a former Green Beret who needs help.

– “30 Rock,” 9:30, NBC. Vacations
go bad in this rerun: Liz and her lover (Matt Damon) find their
flight stalled; Avery (Elizabeth Banks) goes into labor in Canada,
desperate to give birth in the U.S.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Luke has an assignment that puts him close to his ex-lover Jo.

TV column for Wednesday, July 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rescue Me,” 10
p.m., FX.

Last week's opener ended fiercely.
After Tommy's alcoholic daughter relapsed; he shot up the bar.

Now that's partly ignored. Instead, we
get goofy, sometimes-slapstick humor, with the guys covering for Phil
during his physical; we also get loose humor when the women in
Tommy's life gang up on him.

Just as we're ready to dismiss the hour
as too silly, there's a great guest turn. Maura Tierney – a
breast-cancer survivor in real life – returns as Kelly, who
continues treatments after losing one breast. She brings humor (which
Tommy also has) and perspective (which he generally lacks).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “So You Think
You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

After dumping Alexander Fost and Ryan
Ramirez, “Dance” finally has its top 10. From now on, each
contestants will be paired with an “all-star.”

Those stars are pieces of the show's
past, including a runner-up (Twitch), two people who finished third
(Robert Roldan, Kathryn McCormick) and a “Dancing with the Stars”
pro (Chelsie Hightower). Tonight, judges – including guest judge
Neil Patrick Harris – comment and viewers vote.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Comedies, 8-9:31
p.m., ABC.

These reruns offer a quick tour of
special days.

It's Halloween on “The Middle” (8
p.m.); Frankie's excited about a party for grown-ups, but Mike might
not budge. It's Valentine's Day on the first “Modern Life”
(8:30); Phil and Claire try to spice up their love life with
role-playing. And it's Lily's birthday on the second (9 p.m.);
Mitchell faces trouble when he wants his mom (Shelly Long) there, but
doesn't want Cameron to be as Fizbo the Clown.

Other choices include:

– “Melissa & Joey,” 8 p.m.,
ABC Family. Here's one of those dependable situation-comedy ideas –
building a phony story for a class reunion. This time, there's a
twist – by the time Melissa arrives as Joe's fake hot girlfriend,
he's connected for real with a former girlfriend.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. The second group of four acts is sent to the next round, while
eight others are sent home.

– “Ghost Hunters International,”
9 p.m., Syfy. The settings are eerily spectacular – a former leper
colony on an island off Trinidad, a former meat-packing plant in
Argentina. The results? As usual, we have to settle for people saying
they felt something or heard something.

– “Hollywood Hi-Tech” debut,
9:30, DIY. On “Entourage,” Kevin Connolly plays Eric, the friend
and manager of a movie star. In real life, he can now live like a
star himself; this OK episode sees him get a movie room, complete
with 110-inch screen, power shades and power seats. It starts a
series in which Janna Robinson works on the homes of Oliver Stone,
Adam Carola and more.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31 p.m.,
ABC. When things keep disappearing from the guys' apartment,
sleepwalking is suspected. A hidden camera reveals a much odder
explanation, in a funny rerun.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. Two comedy pros – each with five primetime Emmys – collide,
playing old rivals. Betty White just got her 18th
nomination; Doris Roberts has 11. The story has people heading out
for dance night to lose pounds, helped by a gay friend (Antonio
Sabato Jr.).

TVcolumn for Tuesday, July 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Covert Affairs,”
9 p.m., USA.

So far, Augie Anderson has been a
limited force. Blind, he's often confined to CIA desk duty.

Now comes something much bigger. We see
flashbacks of Augie's sighted days as a soldier in Iraq; we also see
him now, pursuing the terrorist who blinded him.

Some of this stretches believability,
but it's all beautifully played. Christopher Gorham is terrific as
Augie, old and new, with help from Piper Perabo and guest star
Rebecca Mader (“Lost”).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “It's Worth
What?” debut, 8 p.m., NBC.

Imagine blending “Antiques Roadshow”
with “The Price is Right” and bursts of pop culture. That's this
game show – setting up summer Tuesdays without a single rerun on
NBC, ABC or Fox.

Cedric the Entertainer hosts.
Contestants guess what was paid for objects, ranging from antiques to
William Shatner's kidney stone (sold at a charity auction) to a
full-sized replica of the White House.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Awkward”
debut, 11 p.m., MTV.

At 15, Jenna is kind of cute, kind of
smart and – she feels – mostly invisible. Then – amid
summer-camp disasters – she loses her virginity, her dignity and
that invisibility.

“Awkward” walks the line between
quirky comedy and angst-ridden drama. Ashley Rickards, 19. makes
Jenna a smart, likable and socially clumsy person worth rooting for.

Other choices include:

– “Hell's Kitchen” and
“MasterChef,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Beginning this week, Gordon
Ramsay's competition shows – one for pros, the other for amateurs –
run back-to-back on Tuesdays … going against Ramsay's
travel-and-food show on BBC America.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. Here are performances from the second patch of 12 acts. On
Wednesday, four will advance.

– “Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape,”
9 p.m., BBC America. Cambodia's strong food culture was almost wiped
out by the Khmer Rouge, Ramsay says in this interesting hour. Now it
has bounced back. He samples tarantula (too bitter), finds an obscure
delight in the jungle and serves it to the royal family.

– “Ludo Bites America,” 9 p.m.,
Sundance. Here , again, is food as adventure. Ludovic Lefebvre and
his wife Krissy (who is a lawyer and his business partner), zoom into
a town and quickly create a “pop-up restaurant.” That starts in
Sante Fe, as part of TV's food-obsessed Tuesdays.

– “Combat Hospital,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Set in 2006 Afghanistan, this finds life difficult for civilians
– at a wedding, the groom is wounded and the bride disappears –
and for military doctors. Rebecca finally shares too much about her
life, at a group therapy session.

– “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). During the week, Luis Soriano made $350 a month as a
teacher in northern Colombia. And each Saturday, for 10 years, he had
his own “biblioburro” – a donkey hauling library books to
remote villages. He started with his ow 70 books and now, with
donations, has 4,800. This donkey-paced documentary is diffi to
watch, but has a great story.

– “Hef's Runaway Bride,” 10 p.m.,
Lifetime. Why did Crystal Harris run off, five days before she was
going to marry Hugh Hefner? This hour has few answers – other than
“it was all happening too fast” – but offers lots of
preparation footage, plus some insights from the maid-of-honor and
others.

– “True Grime,” 10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery. A reality show about people who clean up
crime scenes? In this case, the mere presence of murder and reality
doesn't guarantee interesting drama.

TV column for Monday, July 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Eureka,” 8
p.m., Syfy.

This is what “Eureka” does best –
a mad moment when the whole town of Eureka goes off-kilter.

Last week, Fargo and Zane were
accidentally shot into space. Now we see the bizarre aftershocks.

We also meet a dandy character who will
be around for seven episodes. Holly Marten (wonderfully played by
Felicia Day) is brilliant, awkward, likable. She's s great match for
Douglas Fargo – except he instantly hates her and makes her
disappear. That's “meeting cute,” Eureka-style.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Hell's Kitchen”
opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

The good news: These 18 contestants are
an interesting bunch. There are two long-haired blonds, one declaring
she's “the hottest chef in Texas”; there are two guys who look
like rock 'n' rollers, one with “rock and roll” tattooed on his
forehead.

The bad news: On opening night, Gordon
Ramsay keeps shouting, restaurant customers start leaving and he
shuts the kitchen down. Since that happens every year, it's
surprising that “Kitchen” gets opening-night customers – and
that the show gets many opening-night viewers.

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

Ashley Hebert, the 26-year-old dental
student, heads to the home towns of the final four guys – then
chooses which three she'll take to the Fiji Islands.

Noisy fun? In Atlanta, she meets the
big, Greek family of Constantine, 30, a restaurateur, and gets a
pizza-making lesson. Something quieter? In Sonoma, Cal., Ben, 28, a
winemaker, introduces his mother and sister.

Back East, J.P., 34, a construction
manager, takes her to a Long Island roller rink. Ames, 31, a New York
portfolio manager, takes her on a picnic and a horse-and-carriage
ride in Pennsylvania.

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Here's a rerun of Wednesday's episode, which advanced four acts
and sent eight others home. On Tuesday, the next 12-act batch begins.

– “Martha Stewart Presents,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. The women we meet here have opposite roots. Emily
Rafferty grew up near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she's now
president. Elizabeth Diller was born in Poland and now combines art
and architecture in award-winning ways. Marissa Mayer, a smaller-town
kid from Wausau, Wis., was the first female engineer at Google, where
she's now vice-president and says she fits in: “I'm not a woman at
Google, I'm a geek at Google.”

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Martin Mull has offered low-key fun as Charlie's way-too-lenient
pharmacist. Now Charlie and Alan try to hook him up with their
mother, in a funny rerun.

– “Harry's Law,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Created by David E. Kelley with his usual offbeat wit, this show
became a quick ratings success. Now it returns to its Monday spot for
reruns; it starts tonight with Harry (Kathy Bates) going from a
big-money job to a storefront law office and shoe store.

;– “Rizzoli & Isles,” 10
p.m., TNT. The rich depth of the two characters can sometimes
overcome an overwrought story. This one starts with a pregnant woman
being attacked and Dr. Isles scrambling to save the baby. The story
that follows is melodramatic, straining believability.

TV column for Sunday, July 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Leverage,” 9
p.m., TNT.

A World War II veteran (Danny Glover)
may or may not have a missing Van Gogh painting that's worth a
fortune. Slowly, reluctantly, he tells his story, which we see
re-enacted.

It's a moving story about forbidden,
interracial love in the 1940s, enacted warmly by Aldis Hodge and Beth
Riesgraf. Jumping back to 2011, their regular characters (Alec and
Parker) have a budding love; past tragedy and modern potential merge
into an emotional hour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Castle” and
“Body of Proof,” 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

These well-crafted crime dramas have
been nudged to summer Sundays. Here are two solid reruns.

On “Castle,” a cab driver has been
killed and a larger crisis builds. A tough federal agent (Adrian
Pasdar) takes charge; this is the start of a two-parter that sees the
oft-fun show turn dead serious.

And on “Body of Proof,” Dr. Megan
Hunt (Dana Delany) has been distant from her teen daughter. Now the
girl is shadowing her, making a video about her sometimes-gruesome
medical-examiner work.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Breaking Bad”
season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC.

Once a show about a chemistry teacher
with a ragged meth lab, “Breaking Bad” transformed hugely when
Walt and Jesse began working in a businessman's big-bucks lab.

We think the change hurt the show;
others disagree. Now the season starts after Jesse has killed the
chemist who would have replaced them. “Bad” is slow, ominous,
well-made – but an acquired taste.

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

PBS already has the Wallander
mysteries, which transplant gifted British actors to the settings and
moods of Sweden. Now it does the same with “Zen” tales, filmed
in Rome.

As an honest cop, Aurelio Zen (Rufus
Sewell) is considered an oddity. “Flexibility isn't always
corruption,” says his boss, who tells him to find a suspect guilty.
A higher-up says to find him innocent; separately, a vengeful man
might kill Zen and a gorgeous secretary might love him.

This is a busy story with quick twists,
making good use of Rome and its countryside. But don't get too
involved; there are only two more “Zen” tales this year, and next
week's is almost impossible to follow.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Homer finds he's a great hair stylist, but can't bear the personal
secrets.

– “America's Got Talent,” 8-10
p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's show, with 12 acts performing.

– “Cyberbully,” 8 p.m., ABC
Family; reruns at 10. Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”) plays an
awkward teen, with Kay Panabaker as her friend. On a Web site, verbal
bullies are blasting her.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO. Last
week ended with a statement we've never heard before – “Eric,
you've killed my fairy godmother.” Now Eric, still amnesiac, is
missing and Sookie searches for him.

– “The Marriage Ref,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Denise Richards, one of Charlie Sheen's ex-wives, is kind of an
expert on marriage-gone-wrong. She's on the panel, with Seth Meyers
(the clever “Saturday Night Live” newscaster and writer) and
comedian George Wallace.

– “Falling Skies,” 10 p.m., TNT.
The Earthlings learn they'll soon be on the run again. “Skies”
seems to exaggerate the amount of discord during emergencies, but
otherwise is a beautifully crafted drama.