TV column for Monday, July 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rizzoli &
Isles,” 10 p.m., TNT.

This show usually gets its fun by
bumping together the opposites: Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) is
blue-collar, macho, given to action; Isles (Sasha Alexandder) is
frilly, flirty, given to big words.

Now comes a variation, as Isles falls
in lust for Rizzoli's muscular cousin. Their date and the end of the
romance are so-so, but the other scenes are great. Rizzoli's
self-pitying mom adds to the brew.

Yes, there's also a murder case. It;s
too brutal in the opening scenes, then solid.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The
Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m., ABC.

This is the week when each of the three
finalists could get invited to an overnight stay in the “fantasy
suite.” We're betting they'll say yes.

First, Ashley Hebert takes each on a
grand Fiji day. There's a yacht and snorkeling with Ben, a helicopter
to a lagoon and waterfall with Constantine, a seaplane ride to a
white-sand island with J.P.

It's all serene enough – except
Constantine has some startling news and one of the past guys returns.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Eureka,” 8
p.m., Syfy.

Last week, Holly Marten finally told
why she's here – to keep an eye on a $20-billion space project.
That puts extreme social clumsiness – Fargo and Marten – together
and stirs the fun. They interview applicants; that brings guest
roles for Wil Wheaton,comic-book king Stan Lee and more.

And yes, there's a fresh invention –
glasses that see tragedy in advance – and a life-and-death crisis.
Occasionally a tad too goofy, this “Eureka” is mostly great fun.

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Here's a rerun of Wednesday's hour, advancing four people.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. A few great moments here make up for a lot of so-so ones.
The good parts come with fresh glimpses of Robin's Canadian past,
when she was pop singer Robin Sparkles. Now Barney has found clips of
the show (“Space Teens”) she did with her friend (Nicole
Scherzinger). It turns out that the grown-up star (Alan Thicke)
filled it with sexual innuendo.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8:30 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Samuel loses his restaurant job
and moves in with Mike. In the second, Mike unwisely follows advice
and ignores Molly.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In an excellent rerun, Berta leaves for a few days; she arranges
for an immaculate replacement who works with great diligence.

– “Warehouse 13,” 9 p.m., Syfy.
Lindsay Wagner returns as the team's doctor, who has romanced Artie
(Saul Rubinek). He has problems now, including the fact that Steve,
the new guy, has disappeared.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This rerun offers two problems: A tsumani is coming and the head of
the tsunami warning center is missing.

– “Harry's Law,” 10 p.m., NBC. In
a rerun, Harry represents a man serving a life sentence for a crime
he apparently didn't commit. Also, Adam continues his ill-advised
defense of a laundromat.

 

TV column for Sunday, July 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Falling Skies,”
10 p.m., TNT.

Last week, our heroes – ordinary
Earthlings, formed into a ragged army to fight the aliens – were
told of an impending attack. They sent their kids to a sanctuary –
except that it was all a lie, with turncoats planning to give the
kids to the aliens.

What follows is prime “Skies” – a
sharp action-adventure, alongside a full range of human emotions.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Castle,: 9
p.m., ABC.

At times, “Castle” floats along
with a wink and a grin, solving mysteries in a sly, wry way.

Still, it has the ability to turn dead
serious. This rerun, wrapping up a two-parter, is proof.

On a large scale, a federal agent
searches for a “dirty bomb” in New York. On a small scale, Castle
and Beckett are trapped in a container, short on warmth and oxygen.
Lives are at stake, in a strong episode.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Same Name”
debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

David Hasselhoff is a working guy in a
Texas town of 27,000. He has a full-time electrical job with his dad,
a part-time lawn-service job with his mom … and a night-time job
helping his wife with the baby.

Then he trades lives with the other
David Hasselhoff. The Texans are dismayed that the Hollywood
Hasselhoff lives alone in a mansion, eats sushi and doesn't know his
neighbors.

Still, “Same Name” aims for the
feel-good style of “Undercover Boss.” In this OK opener, it
tries to show us that in their hearts, all Hasselhoffs are the same.

Other choices include:

– “Leverage,” 7-10 p.m., TNT.
This starts with two excellent reruns. In the first, the team must
build up a schemer, then tear him down; the second has the quietly
moving tale of an inter-racial romance in the 1940s. That's followed
by a new hour (at 9, repeating at 11) about big agriculture and a
valuable potato.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. A
mystery unfolds in this rerun, after Lisa finds a secret classroom.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The first “Zen” film was
terrific, but this one is almost impenetrable. Tangled in here are a
murder (or suicide), a courageous informant (or mad
conspiracy-theorist) and an icily beautiful prosecutor. At one point,
Zen is given an important satchel, casually sets it on a desk and
strolls away; it's that kind of story.

– “Drop Dead Diva,” 9 p.m.,
Lifetime. In a story reflecting real life, lesbians are banned from
the prom.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Dazed and bewildered, Eric has been staying at Sookie's house –
unaware that he owns the place; late in this hour, there are major
aftershocks. Meanwhile, Jason has a shot at freedom and Bill is
caught in the battle between witchcraft and vampires.

– “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” 10
p.m., HBO. In a funny episode, Larry finds ethnic lines blurring when
the best chicken is at a Palestinian restaurant. Also, he finds new
duties as “social assassin.”

– “Breaking Bad,” 10 p;m., AMC.
Financial success isn't wearing well on these guys. Walt has a gun
and a scheme; Jesse has the blahs and a loud party.

– “Entourage” season-opener,
10:30, HBO. The eighth and final season begins with Vince emerging
from rehab and his brother scrambling to rid the place of any hint of
drugs or booze. Everyone is busy trying to soothe Vince … except
Eric and Ari, who both have big troubles with their women.

 

TV column for Saturday, July 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Who Do You Think
You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Gwyneth Paltrow has a great
show-business background. Her mom (actress Blythe Danner) has a Tony
award and two Emmys. Her late dad (Bruce Paltrow) was a
writer-director-producer known for “St. Elsewhere” and “White
Shadow”; he was a mentor, molding TV's first generation of black
directors.

Now she learns more about their
background. She learns about her dad's father and struggling
grandmother; she also learns that her mother's family had strong ties
to Barbados.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001), 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Now that roughly 12 zillion people have
seen the eighth and final Harry Potter movie, they might enjoy going
back to the start. ABC has scheduled the first four films on
consecutive Saturdays.

Daniel Radcliffe turns 22 today; Rupert
Grint is 22, Emma Watson 21. Here, we see them as pre-teens.

Directed with a light touch by Chris
Columbus, this film starts wonderfully as a perplexed Harry is zoomed
away to wizards' school. It ends limply, but has fine moments and a
masterful supporting cast.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Magic Beyond
Words: The J.K. Rowling Story,” 9-11 p.m., Lifetime.

If you've already seen Harry Potter
plenty of times, you might want to meet his creator.

Poppy Montgomery (“Without a Trace”)
plays Rowling – a small-town British kid who got a strong
education, but then found herself divorced and raising a baby on
welfare. It was during that time that she finished the first Harry
Potter novel and started heading to mega-millionaire status.

Other choices include:

– “Transformers” (2007, Cartoon
Network) or “Iron Man” (2008, FX), 6-9 p.m. You can start prime
time early, with these films, which found humor amid slam-bang
action. Shia LaBeouf plays a teen whose car transforms into a hero
robot; Robert Downey Jr. plays the creator of the Iron Man machine.

– “Front of the Class” (2008),
6:55 to 9 p.m., Hallmark. In real life, Brad Cohen became a top
teacher despite Tourette's syndrome. That's told beautifully here,
with great work from Jimmy Wolk.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, an NCIS agent has disappeared while undercover.
Working with a Los Angeles cops, the team proves human-trafficking,
money-laundering and drugs.

– “Pirates of the Caribbean: The
Curse of the Black Pearl,” 8-11 p.m., ABC Family. Here's another
film that found humor among the action. The final battles drag on too
long, but Johnny Depp brings great fun to the earlier scenes.

– “NCIS,” 9 p.m., CBS. After a
bomb tech is attacked in this rerun, her guarded personal life is
probed.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a philanthropist is missing. His
body has been switched with one of the cadavers in the
medical-research facility he was funding.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. After disappearing from the fortress city, a woman returns
and is acting strangely. Tate and Stella try to figure out what
happened.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. This rerun has Rose McGowan as a popular
figure at a swingers' club. After a stabbing, Benson and Stabler
visit the club undercover.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Amy Poehler hosts this rerun, with music by Katy Perry.

TV column for Friday, July 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Torchwood:
Miracle Day,” 10 p.m., Starz.

This brilliant series won't string us
along forever, “Killing”-style. It promises to wrap things up
with 10 episodes; this one, the third, tells us about the villains
and their scheme.

Suddenly, no one can die (except Jack
Harkness, who used to be immortal); a conspiracy has formed. Fighting
back are Jack, his Welsh colleague Gwen Cooper, two CIA people and a
doctor.

This hour is filled with smart
science-fiction, plus sex (straight and gay) and occasional humor.
When told that lemonade is fizzy in Great Britain and flat in the
U.S., Gwen says that “just about sums it up.” Filmed in the U.S.,
but crafted by the British, “Miracle Day” crackles with good
fizz.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Who Do You
Think You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

The bad news is that “Friday Night
Lights” is gone, after a brilliant, five-year run.

The good? NBC is helping two
low-viewership nights by inserting reruns of this excellent,
roots-tracing documentary. Tonight, Ashley Judd traces one ancestor
to a Civil War battlefield and another to the country's earliest
settlers. That will be followed by Gwyneth Paltrow on Saturday, then
Steve Buscemi and Tim McGraw next Friday and Saturday.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Iron Man”
(2008, FX) or “Titanic” (1997, WE), 8-11 p.m.

This might be a good night to settle
back with a big movie. The Oscar-winning “Titanic” fits that
description; James Cameron wrote and directed it so well that it
works long before the ship sinks.

But “Iron Man” is also a pleasant
surprise. Its plot is badly stretched – requiring, for instance,
the least-observant jailers in movie history – but Jon Favreau
directed it sharply, with a fine cast. Robert Downey Jr. brings extra
humor to the role and the underemployed Gwyneth Paltrow is his
assistant.

Other choices include:

– “Toy Story” (1995), 7-9 p.m.,
Disney. Here's another strong movie choice. It propelled Pixar to the
top of animation, thanks to a clever idea (traditional toys become
heroes) and a witty script.

– “Flashpoint,” 8 p.m., CBS. The
media culture goes too far – robberies streamed live on the
Internet.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Here's a
rerun of the season-opener, with the team in disarray. Scattered
around the globe for individual projects, people learn Cam needs help
on the tough case of an unidentified boy's body. In “Bones”
style, this is a quietly entertaining blend of mystery and character
interplay.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Masters –
the young doctor who is usually no-nonsense – finds herself with a
crush on the patient, a bullfighter, in this rerun.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. For Jo
(Sela Ward), things get complicated when her adopted daughter
witnesses a murder. David James Elliott – whose “JAG” used to
rule Fridays – returns as Jo's ex-husband, with Taylor Kinney (“The
Vampire Diaries”) as the killer.

– Hooters swimsuit contest, 9 p.m.,
Spike. Spike – billed as the first cable channel for men – has
determined that men want to see what Hooters waitresses look like
when they don't dress so modestly.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Three teens have died from a narcotic. Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) rushes
to learn what it is and how to prevent an epidemic.

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.