TV column for Thursday, Sept. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Next week, “Big Bang” open its
season with two episodes. Here are terrific reruns to get us ready.

In the first, Howard finally tells his
mom he's marrying Bernadette – bringing an extreme response. In
the second, Bernadette gets her doctorate, leaving him as the only
one with a mere Master's.

Also in that 8:30 episode, Raj
overhears his sister's lovemaking with Leonard. He moves into
Sheldon's apartment, with aftershocks that set up next week's opener.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Secret
Circle” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

Brittany Robertson is the ideal CW
actress – talented, attractive and looking really young.

Robertson, 21, again plays a smart and
sensitive teen-ager, overwhelmed by a new situation. She's done it
beautifully in “Life Unexpected,” “Avalon High” and now as
Cassie in this series.

The hour starts spectacularly with her
mom's murder. Then Cassie moves to her old home town – where way
too many people seem to know some secret. A couple side characters
are overwrought, but Robertson brings a richly human depth.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Archer”
season-opener, 10:30 p.m., FX.

When we last saw Sterling Archer, his
Russian bride had been killed at the wedding. He seemed upset.

Apparently, he was. The season-opener
finds him missing for three months; his mom sends a former superspy
(voiced by Patrick Warburton of “Rules of Engagement”) to find
him.

The rest is a big adventure, with
exotic islands, shoot-outs, pirates and a plane crash. Animated shows
can do that easily; this one, starting a three-parter, skillfully
mixes humor and violence.

Other choices include:

– “Castle,” 3-11 p.m., TNT.
Here's a marathon of key episodes from this above-average series.
That includes Alyssa Milano's guest spot (4 p.m.), Castle being
arrested as a murder suspect (6) and two hours involving the search
for the long-ago killer of Beckett's mom (9 and 10 p.m.).

– “Wipeout,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. In
the season-finale, 12 couples will meet for the first time, then go
on a messy blind date, complete with obstacles and a $100,000 prize.

– “Vampire Diaries”
season-opener, 8 p.m., CW. As her 18th birthday nears,
Elena is searching (with Damon) for Stefan, who's searching (with
Klaus) for a werewolf. Also, Jeremy sees ghosts of his sister and his
former girlfriend.

– “The Mentalist,” 9 and 10 p.m.,
CBS. Leading into next week's season-opener, here are reruns of the
final hours from this year. Patrick Jane finally learns who has been
informing Red John, the serial killer who murdered Jane's wife. Then
comes a confrontation with Red John.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun of the season-finale has Owen finally choosing his chief
resident and Teddy making a surprising choice of her own. Christina
finds her relationship with Owen wobbling. And Meredith's cheating on
the clinical trial has caused huge problems.

– “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. This show sometimes
assumes sheer excess is automatically funny. It's not in this
episode, as Frank prepares to marry a prostitute.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept.14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “America's Got
Talent” finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

After getting huge ratings all summer,
this show tries to end big. It has guest performances across a great
age range – Tony Bennett, 85, Queen Latifah, 41 and last season's
runner-up, Jackie Evancho, 11.

Then we'll learn who wins the
million-dollar prize. It could be singer Landau Murphy, teen group
Poplyfe or one of two movement groups – Silhouettes and Team
iLuminate.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Survivor”
opener and “Big Brother” finale, 8 and 9:30 p.m., CBS.

“Survivor” has 16 newcomers –
ranging from an oil crewman, 19, to a rancher, 51 – ad two past
favorites. Ozzy Lusth, 30, was a runner-up in 2006, when he won
almost every physical challenge; Benjamin “Coach” Wade finished
fifth in 2009; he turns 40 on Monday and has been a composer,
conductor and soccer coach. Each did an all-star edition; now they'll
be on opposite teams.

Then “Big Brother” wraps up its
season and names the $500,000 winner.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Up All Night”
debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

For the first few minutes – as an
upscale husband and wife learn she's pregnant – this is fresh and
funny. After that, it settles for adequacy.

Yes, she (Christina Applegate) has a
needy boss (Maya Rudolph). Yes, he (Will Arnett) clings to bits of
his male ego, while watching the baby at home. And yes, neither one
gets much sleep. None of that, however, is terribly funny. “Night”
will have to improve when it moves to 8 p.m. next week.

Other choices include:

– “H8R” debut, 8 p.m., CW. Think
of this as historic: “H8R” may pass ABC's “Are You Hot”
(2003) as the worst broadcast-network show of the millennium. The
idea is to pair a celebrity with someone who hates him or her. In the
opener, neither Nicole Polizzi (Snooki on “Jersey Shore”) nor her
hater has anything interesting to say. Also, the camerawork is shaky.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. In the first rerun, Frankie has an awful time getting the kids
ready for the second day of school. In the second, Mike has an
extreme punishment for Axl.

– Melissa & Joey, 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC Family. In the first episode of this kinda-fun comedy,
Melissa (Melissa Joan Hart) and Joey (Joey Lawrence) worry when her
daughter goes to a dance. In the second, he finally gets money from
his scandalized ex-employer; now he can leave his job as her nanny.

– “Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30
p.m., ABC. This remains Wednesday's best comedy. In tonight's first
rerun, the rush to Manny's graduation is complicated by everything
from a faulty gate to a bad Botox reaction. The second has touching
(and funny) moments, when Phil tries to impress an old nemesis.

– “America's Next Top Model”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CW. In a night of reality overkill, this show
launches its first edition to pit past contestants.

– “My Fake Fiance” (2009), 9-11
p.m. ABC Family. If you liked “Melissa & Joey,” you can stick
around for this movie. It has the same stars, the same adequate tone.

– “Free Agents” debut, 10:30
p.m., NBC. Alex (Hank Azaria) isn't taking his divorce well; he cries
after sex. Helen (Kathryn Hahn) isn't doing any better with her
fiance's death. Would there be humor in pairing these two sad sacks?
Maybe in the British version, but not in this one.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Parenthood”
season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC.

There are no thunderbolts here.
“Parenthood” has subtle drama involving the families of four
siblings.

Sarah is aging – it's her 40th
birthday and her daughter is moving out – while her life remains
unsettled. The good news: With “The Event” gone, Jason Ritter,
31, is back as the young teacher she likes.

Adam is desperate for a job, Crosby
longs for Jasmine, Julia longs for a baby … and somehow, this hour
has a fair amount of fun.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Jacqueline
Kennedy: In Her Own Words,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

In the months after her husband was
killed, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded more than eight hours of audio
tapes with historian Arthur Schlesinger. They're released today in a
book and this special.

We hear Kennedy saying her husband
feared a Lyndon Johnson presidency and was looking for a plan to stop
him in 1968. We also hear her own dislike of Martin Luther King.

There's also perspective from Caroline
Kennedy. She says her mother's view of King was poisoned by rumors
from J. Edgar Hoover, but her dad ignored the rumors and respected
King.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Ringer”
debut, 9 p.m., CW.

The first new network show of the
season has only one real plus, its stylish visuals. Richard Shepard,
who also did the gorgeous “Ugly Betty” pilot, offers the look and
feel of a 1940s “film noir.”

Beyond that, this is a mess. The plot
defies credibility, with someone stepping into a twin sister's life
that she knows nothing about. The story makes her unlikable – which
isn't easy for someone played by Sarah Michelle Gellar – and wastes
such talents as Ioan Gruffudd, as her twin's unobservant husband.

Other choices include:

– “90210” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
CW. Accustomed to being a diva, Naomi has trouble adjusting to being
just another college student – and a pregnant one at that. Navid
and Silver run into a problem after moving in together. Dixon needs a
place to live; also, his sister Annie gets a surprise.

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun
of the season finale, the Glee kids have gone from small-town Ohio to
New York City for the national finals. It's a fairly good episode,
with a long kiss playing a big role.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. The final four acts perform – singer Landau Murphy, teen music
group Poplyfe and two movement-and-spectacle groups, Silhouettes and
Team iLuminate.

– “Frontline,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). In a change, PBS will give much of this hour to an
interview with Ali Soufan, the Arabic-speaking FBI agent who feels
the Sept. 11 attacks were avoidable and torture has been ineffective.

– “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Daniel McGowan was a city kid from Queens, who had
never camped out. At an activists' retreat in rural Wisconsin, he
fell in love with nature; later, he confessed to two arsons causing
millions of dollars of damage to Oregon timber companies. This
documentary captures a seemingly gentle young man with strong beliefs
and some regrets.

– “Sons of Anarchy,” 10 p.m. FX.
You really couldn't expect these bikers to escape repercussions,
after stealing from and killing Russian mobsters. Tonight brings
another deadly showdown. It also brings a quietly powerful scene, as
Jax and Clay offer their opposite goals.

 

TV column for Monday, Sept. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Closer”
summer finale, 9 p.m., TNT.

This hour starts sensationally, ends
limply. The start is worth it.

Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) is a defendant
in court. It's a big case, but people start looking at their cell
phones and disappearing; something bigger is going on elsewhere.

The next few minutes are powerful.
Midway in its final season, “Closer” is looking strong.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Miss Universe,
9-11 p.m., NBC.

In its 60th year, this
pageant – owned by Donald Trump – doesn't aspire to anything
cranial. It's strictly a beauty pageant, based on swimsuit, evening
gown and interview categories.

This time, there's a lush Latino feel.
It's in Sao Paolo, Brazil, home town of one of the judges, race
driver Helio Castrones. Some other judges grew up in the Phillipines
(Lea Salonga) and the Dominican Republic (Amelia Vega). Miss Universe
(Ximena Navarete) is from Mexico. One host, Natalie Morales, grew up
in Panama and Brazil; the other, Andy Cohen, is merely from St.
Louis.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: The post-Oprah
shuffle, everywhere.

With no more “Oprah” to rule late
afternoons, other talk shows try to step in.

That includes “Ellen” and two from
Opah Winfrey's company – “Dr. Phil” and “Dr. Oz.” Oz has
inherited Winfrey's slot in 85 markets; today's season-opener deals
with bellyfat for women over 40.

Then there are the newcomers. The light
“America Now” is hosted by Leeza Gibbons and Bill Rancic.
“Anderson” has Anderson Cooper, who also has a show at 8 p.m.
(rerunning at 10) on CNN weekdays … but not today, when CNN has a
Republican presidential debate sponsored by the Tea Party.

Other choices include:

– “Bachelor Pad” finale, 8-10
p.m., ABC. This show started with 18 pretty people. Now eight are
left, split into four couples. Each duo tries to learn a Cirque du
Soliel routine in 24 hours; the winner chooses one other couple to
compete with for the $250,000 prize.

– “Gaga by Gaultier,” 8 p.m., CW.
Lots of people like Lady Gaga, including Frenchmen and fashion
designers. Here's a French special (in English) with designer Jean
Paul Gaultier interviewing her.

– “Rocky” (1976), 8-10:30 p.m.,
AMC; or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), 8:30-10:05
p.m., Disney. The world loves underdog movies and these two are
beautifully done. A broken-down boxer faces the champ; an earnest
teen-ager and some tiny old men face an evil queen.

– Two and a Half Men, 9 p.m., CBS.
Here's a rerun of the 177th and final episode taped by
Charlie Sheen. After this one – Charlie learns about Rose's
make-believe husband – production was suspended and then,
two-thirds of the way through the season. Next week, Ashton Kutcher
takes over.

– “CW Fall Preview,” 9:15 p.m.,
CW. Here's a peek at CW's season, which starts Tuesday, six days
ahead of the others. It has two promising new shows (“Secret
Circle,” “Hart of Dixie”) and two others.

'– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
When the season starts next week, McGarrett will be in jail. Here's
the rerun that shows us why, as Wo Fat schemes.

TV column for Sunday, Sept.11


TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Coverage of the 10th
anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The news networks expect all-day
coverage and the others will also be busy. ABC, CBS and NBC plan
morning specials from 8-11 a.m. ET; ABC's will have Katie Couric and
Christianne Amanpour join Diane Sawyer and others, with reports from
Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.

There are also primetime specials,
which we'll list separately, on PBS, ABC, CBS and cable.

TODAY'S MUST-SEE II: Football, all-day.

This is the first full Sunday of the
pro season and the games boom ahead, with some 9/11 tributes –
especially at tonight's game in New York. That's where the Jets –
with an 11-5 regular-season record last year – host the Dallas
Cowboys, trying to bounce back from a 6-10 season that was shattered
by Tony Romo's injury; kick-off is 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC, with
“Football Night in America” at 7.

Earlier games are 1 p.m. on CBS and on
Fox, which has a second game – Giants-Redskins, Seahawks-49ers or
Panthers-Cardinals – at 4:15.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Space
Between,” 9-10:21 p.m.,, also 10:53 p.m., USA.

Amid the chaos of Sept. 11, two
strangers are stranded. A cynical stewardess (Oscar-winner Melissa
Leo) and a 10-year-old Pakistani boy (Anthony Keyvan) begin a
cross-country trip.

It's a foolish journey and the film
feels slow-paced, even at just 81 commercial-free minutes. Still,
it's beautifully filmed and acted, winning festival awards for a
surprising filmmaker.

Travis Fine was a successful actor, one
of the stars of ABC's “Young Riders.” He quit show-business,
became an airline pilot, then returned to write, produce and direct
this quietly moving film.

Other choices include:

– PBS documentaries, 4-9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). First are four hours of reruns – “Objects
and Memories” at 4, the splendid “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero”
at 5 and “Engineering Ground Zero” at 7. Then the “PBS
Newshour” team has the new “America Remembers” at 8.

– “60 Minutes,” 7 p.m., CBS. The
full hour will focus on 9/11 themes.

– “9/11: 10 Years Later,” 8-10
p.m., CBS. A French documentary crew happened to be filming in New
York on Sept. 11, 2001. It emerged with an Emmy-winning film that's
been updated here.

– “Backstory: Lady Antebellum,” 8
p.m., Great American Country. A singer's daughter, a surgeon's son
and a dentist's son merged into a country group that soared to No. 1.
Here's an interesting profile.

– “Great Performances,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Gustav Mahler's second symphony –
“Resurrection,” first performed in 1895 – is done by the New
York Philharmonic as a 9/11 remembrance, with chorus, soprano
Dorothea Roschmann and mezzo soprano Michelle DeYoung.

– “True Blood,” “Curb Your
Enthusiasm” and “Entourage,” 9-11:10 p.m., HBO. Two shows end
their seasons and “Entourage” ends its eight-season run. First is
Sookie vs. Marnie and the witches, then Larry vs. Michael J. Fox.
Then we see if Eric gets back with Sloan and if Ari gets back with
his wife.

– “Dinosaur Revolution,” 9-11
p.m., Discovery. Here's the second half of this well-made
documentary.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This rerun has Martha Plimpton as a fired attorney.

– “Twin Towers,” 10:21 p.m., USA.
Joseph Vigiano was filmed for a rescue reality show that didn't air.
When he and his brother died on Sept. 11, filmmakers crafted this
35-minute, Oscar-winning gem.

– Also: Other 9/11 specials: “Making
the 9/11 Memorial” and “102 Minutes” (8 and 9 p.m., History),
“Twins of the Twin Towers” and “From the Ground Up” (9 and
10:15 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network), “Rebirth” (9 p.m., Showtime).
Also, VH1 repeats the epic “Concert For NewYork” from 4-10 p.m.