TV column for Friday, Aug. 8

MUST-SEE: “Dick Cavett’s Watergate,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

It was 40
years ago today (at 9 p.m. ET) that Richard Nixon announced he was resigning
from the presidency. Now PBS looks back at the crisis, through the clips of a
late-night talk show.

A steady
stream of key players – from G. Gordon Liddy to Bob Woodward – reached Cavett’s
show. Some joked, some lied, most were interesting. Alongside clips, we get
fresh comments and even some revisions: Woodward and Bernstein now agree with
the once-hated pardon of Nixon; so does Cavett.

MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Here’s a
rerun of the episode that introduced Melanie Griffith as the mom of Danny
(Scott Caan). That mixes two second-generation actors – Tippi Hedren’s daughter
and James Caan’s son.

The mom
reaches the island with a surprise, just as the team has other things to worry
about: A real-estate agent’s body has been found, inside the walls of a house
he was trying to sell.

ALTERNATIVE: “Please Like Me” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., Pivot.

the title; there’s an instant likability to Josh. A young, gay man, he has few
plans, prospects or schemes; he pushes amiably through a life with odd friends
and odder parents.

Thomas – who also stars – used parts of his real life (including his bipolar
mother), but added a baby half-sister. That leads to Josh cleaning the
post-diaper baby in the shower because “Google said it’s OK.” It’s a fun show,
after the 10 p.m. debut of an OK reality show, “Human Resources.” 

choices include:

Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a rock-star groupie has
been killed and a prostitute has disappeared. Gene Simmons of Kiss guests,
playing himself.

“How to
Train Your Dragon” (2010, FX) or “We Bought a Zoo” (2011, FXX), 8 p.m. Two
sister channels make sure we’ll find a family film. “Dragon” is an animated
tale, zestful and occasionally violent; “Zoo” is a gentle pleasure, based on
the true story of a guy (Matt Damon), his family and a zoo,

9 p.m., Fox. We enter the deadly world of … well, chess. A master has been killed
in this rerun, so Sweets – a skilled player, as you probably suspected – goes

Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A woman plans to commit suicide, after she kills the
drunken driver who killed her parents; Danny races to stop her. Also in this rerun,
Danny’s dad (Tom Selleck) finds frustration at a grandson’s field trip.

“The Knick” debut, 10 p.m.,
Cinemax. Yes, Steven Soderbergh is a master, with an Oscar (“Traffic”), an Emmy
(“Behind the Candelabra”) and great talent. Still, this opener (which he
directed and helped produce) has a giant obstacle: Its lead character (Clive
Owen) is a brilliant surgeon in 1900 New York, but he’s also a bigot, a drug
addict and a cruel boss. Even jaded cable viewers might reject him.

“Jonah From Tonga” debut, 10
and 10:30 p.m., HBO. The opening minutes are a delight, with wayward schoolboy
Jonah Takalua exiled to relatives on the island of Tongapatu. He misbehaves
there and is sent to a Catholic school in Australia. Soon, “Jonah” -- like
previous Chris Lilley shows -- gets repetitious.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 7

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Now this show has its final four, a week away from the
finale. It’s a diverse and talented group.

There’s Nikki Carr, originally from the Bronx, who didn’t
start stand-up until she was 34; now she’s a mother of four and grandmother of
four. And Lachlan Patterson, a quiet Canadian … and Rod Man, who brings a
soft-spoken Southern style … and Joe Machi, originally from Pennsylvania and
now in New York, where he won the New York Comedy Festival stand-up contest.
Three will head to the two-hour finale.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN.

While the anti-war and civil-rights movements seized
headlines, several other movements were creating profound changes, this
far-ranging hour (the ninth of 10) says.

Feminism jolted a world which barred women from many fields
and choices; the ecology movement nudged a hesitant government. Young
conservatives faltered under Barry Goldwater, but set the groundwork for the
Reagan ‘80s. And as a tumultuous decade ended, gay rights began to emerge.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX.

This show has created surprising fun by skipping all the
situation-comedy niceties: Cynical and self-centered, Jimmy and Gretchen insist
they’re only together for the sex.

Tonight, we finally see her apartment, which is just as
dreary and cluttered as her soul. We also learn more about his housemate, who
has trouble getting anyone to hear his war stories. Yes, that part is
especially dark; somehow, “Worst” manages to make it funny.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun, no one
is at ease. Sheldon must take a vacation, Penny has quit her waitress job and
Bernadette tries to replace Howard’s comic book.

“Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. A pleasant summer
surprise so far, this show has a relatively weak episode tonight. Language
problems keep Bruce (Greg Poehler, Amy’s brother) from mingling with the
friends of his girlfriend; it’s a slow build-up to a funny party scene.

“Working the Engels,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. This OK episode offers
memories of the best moments of Canadian comedy. Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin
of “SCTV” are re-united, when he plays a lawyer and neighbor she secretly lusts
for; Scott Thompson of “Kids in the Hall” plays a nasty client he provides.
Levy’s real-life daughter Sarah adds some fun here, playing his oversexed

“Extreme Guide to Parenting” debut, 9:30 p.m., Bravo. Approaches
to parenting can vary widely, this series shows us. We meet a mom who takes an
“eco-kosher, shamanistic” approach, aiming for an all-natural childhood. And we
meet two men who fought for the right to be parents; now they hover.

“Married,” 10 p.m., FX. After its forlorn debut, this show
keeps improving. Tonight, money woes push Russ near violence and Lina near
applying for a job.

“The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m., Sundance. The core story remains
tangled: Nessa tries to cope with the kidnapping of a boy in her household,
while avoiding a mysterious memory. A sub-plot, however, is taut and solid, as
a British agent probes the woman claiming to be a late businessman’s ex-lover.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 6

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

Last week was a rough one for the dancers; four were dumping,
including the two who specialized in Latin ballroom. That gives the show its final
10, half of them contemporary or jazz dancers; there are two tappers, a popper
(really), a ballerina and a ballroom dancer.

Tonight, each dances with an all-star, ranging from veteran
Twitch to last year’s champion, Amy Yakima. Also, Christina Perri sings
“Burning Gold”; she was a waitress in 2010, when the show used her ballad “Jar
of Hearts”; she was soon signed, the song broke into the top 20 and both her
albums reached No. 4.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Extant,” 10 p.m., CBS.

In a belated burst of logic, CBS has nudged this show back
an hour. That means the summer’s two scripted ratings leaders (each a richly
crafted science-fiction tale from Steven Spielberg) are at 10 p.m. -- Mondays for
“Under the Dome” and Wednesdays for “Extant.”

Tonight, there are doubts that Molly (Halle Berry) really is
pregnant after her solo space mission. Her husband (Goran Visjnic) frets about
her mental state and disagrees with Julie, his science colleague, about her
treatment. Also, there’s a setback with the android son he helped develop.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Skin Wars” (9 p.m., Game Show
Network) and “Top Chef: Duels” (10 p.m., Bravo) debuts.

On one hand, give these shows zero points for originality;
“Top Chef” copies itself; “Skin Wars” copies every other competition show. On
the other, the contestants show awesome talent.

“Chef” starts its series of one-on-one challenges with Richard
Blais (previously a champion) and Marcel Vigneron (a runner-up); they’re
opposites – one calm, one described as having puppy-dog energy -- in fun ways.
“Skin” brings 10 people who sometimes need day jobs – from firefighter to stilt-walker
-- but also create stunning beauty by painting the human body; even tonight’s
loser does gorgeous work.

Other choices include:

“The Middle,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, a strike
forces Frankie to car-pool endangering kids’ chance for the “no tardy party.”
In the second, Mike squirms when required to take vacation days.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Cam is in charge of the spring
dance, with Claire as a chaperone. That means Haley will accompany her dad to
the annual realtors’ banquet.

“America’s Got Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Five more people will
advance, giving us the first half of the top 20. If you missed this week’s 12
acts, catch highlights in the 8 p.m. rerun.

“Nashville: On the Record,” 10 p.m., ABC. One night after
its high-octane country special, ABC remembers that the music also has a deep
and tender side. This rerun features actors from the “Nashville” series; the
conversations are hollow, but some of the music is magnificent. Catch Clare
Bowen (Scarlett in the series) singing “This Town,” “Black Roses” and “If I
Didn’t Know Better.”

“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. TV’s obsession with torture
reaches wretched extremes in this otherwise well-made show. Marco should be
busy with big cases, tracing a web of drug deals, police corruption and rape;
instead, he throws his effort into a darkly complex scheme to avenge his son’s

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: CMA Music Festival, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

This is billed as “Country’s Night to Rock” – a title it
sometimes takes too literally. Nashville’s sensitive side is set aside for a
cascade of high-octane, macho music.

The show is assembled from four concert nights. This year, those
included a few women – Miranda Lambert, Sara Evans and members of Little Big
Town (which hosts), Lady Antebellum and the Band Perry – and lots of guys. The
line-up had Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban,
Hunter Hayes, Eric Church, Darius Rucker, Chris Young, Brantley Gilbert, Charlie
Daniels and more.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week’s powerhouse episode offered two jolts. Bassam convinced
his brother Jamal to risk his dictatorship in an election. When an ailing sheik
led in polls, Jamal quietly killed him in the rest room.

Or did he? After the show’s first episode, we assumed Jamal
was dead; “Tyrant” is all about surprises. Tonight’s episode – another great
one – shows how fragile and dangerous Jamal is; it also pushes Bassam –
previously a quiet Pasadena pediatrician named Barry – to the extremes of
ethical dilemma.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mark Twain” conclusion, 8-10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

This second half of a rerun starts in 1885, the year Twain
wrote “Huckleberry Finn.” He had one more classic (“A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur’s Court”), along with financial disaster (bad investments) and
depression after his daughter’s death. But his speeches and essays were

It’s a richly human portrait, beautifully crafted by Ken
Burns. And it helps viewers get in the mood for “The Roosevelts,” Burns’ brilliant,
14-hour film that will debut Sept. 14-20.

Other choices include:

“Food Fighters,” 8 p.m., NBC. Each week, this show lets an amateur
cook compete with a famed chef. Tonight, at-home mom Annie Smith ends up facing
G. Garvin, the Atlanta chef and TV star.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun brings back Diane Neal
(formerly of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) as a Coast Guard official.
She helps, probe an explosion on an oil rig.

“Jaws 2” (1978), 8 and 10:30 p.m., AMC. In a change, AMC
focuses strictly onn its “Jaws” week. That pushes “4
th and Loud” (a
reality show about the football team owned by the Kiss guys) to next Tuesday.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds agents in
Afghanistan (Kensi and Granger) and the U.S. combining to probe a murder that
seems linked to an ancient form of money transfer.

“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. The second batch of
12 acts performs. On Wednesday, five will advance, to become part of the top

“Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA. Here are new things to worry
about: Hank may be losing his sense of smell; Emma is on the wrong side of Dr. Oz.

 “Covert Affairs,”
10:01 p.m., USA. Annie is in Azerbaijan with McQuaid (Nic Bishop), searching
for a former CIA agent. Back at home, Auggie gets bad news.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Murder in the First,” 10:01 p.m., TNT.

If we were watching an ordinary drama, it would be over now.
Last week concluded the murder trial of Eric Blunt, the evil tech-billionaire whom
cops have been pursuing through eight episodes.

But this is something extraordinary from Steven Bochco, who
re-shaped TV drama with “Hill Street Blues,” 33 years ago. Blunt was found
not-guilty – circumstantial evidence, no proof – then whispered to the cops “I
killed the bitch” and winked. Did he? Is he just trying to stir them? With the
finale of a richly crafted series just a week away, police start struggling
with old leads and fresh possibilities.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Bachelors in Paradise” (ABC) or “Running
Wild with Bear Grylls” (NBC), 8 p.m.

Want blue skies and easy living? That’s “Paradise,” with 14
people from “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” meeting in Mexican splendor. Each
week, it will be eight women and six men, or vice versa. The two who don’t make
a match will be sent home; the next week, two newcomers will tip things the
other way.

Prefer the exact opposite? Tonight’s “Wild” has grey skies,
thick fog and rough living. Grylls, a wilderness master, takes Ben Stiller –
who grew up in New York City and has never camped – up and down cliffs on an
unforgiving Scottish island. It’s a rugged experience, but you end up liking
both men.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Partners” debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m.,

Kelsey Grammer really should know about situation comedies now.
He spent 20 years in two great ones, “Cheers” and “Frasier,” and has produced
some fairly good ones; he’s won five Emmys and much praise.

So it’s remarkable that “Partners” is only occasionally
adequate. A pompous lawyer (Grammer, of course) lost his job; a decent one (Martin
Lawrence) lost his marriage. They collide by accident, forming a law-firm of
opposites. The result has a few great moments and a lot of lame, sub-Grammer

Other choices include:

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. By the end of the night, the show
will have its top 10. First are two challenges, one of which lets contestants
choose ordinary or high-end ingredients.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Max wants to break
up with Deke because he’s been rich.

“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the terrific opener,
Christy finds a family tradition continuing, with the pregnancy of her teen
daughter. That would make Christy’s sexy mom a great-grandmother.

“Arrow,” 9 p.m., CW. So much for the clever comedy “Seed.”
CW aired it once in an awful timeslot, once in a belatedly changed slot, then
dumped it (along with “Backpackers”). Now reruns will replace it.

“Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words,” 9-10:15 p.m., HBO.
Friday will be the 40
th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation announcement.
First, here’s a film assembled mostly from his White House tapes, intercut with
some news footage. We hear a “paradoxical” man (the description of former aide
John Ehrlichman); he advanced several progressive programs, while privately aiming
slurs at Jews, women, Mexican-Americans and homosexuals. We hear the growing
rage of a once-popular president.

“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. Desperate for a way out of
the dome, Dale “Barbie” Barbara and Sam explore a mysterious tunnel … then are
trapped. Meanwhile, a dust storm hits town, bringing a power struggle between
the town’s present and past leaders, Julia and Big Jim.