TV column for Monday, July 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Alphas” debut,
10-11:30 p.m., Syfy.

Sleek and sinewy one moment, sci-fi
smart the next, “Alphas” does a lot in a hurry. It lacks the
humor of “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13,” which precede it
tonight, but packs dramatic power.

A Defense Department project has
assembled special people. One's adrenalin puts his muscles into
hyperdrive; another messes with minds. Others see or hear things far
away.

This could be just another strong cop
show. But David Strathairn – Emmy-winner, Oscar-nominee, great
actor – plays the neurologist/psychiatrist . Even at its most
muscular, “Alphas” is brainy sci-fi.

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

Ashley Hebert takes the last six guys
to Taiwan for exotic fun. Constantine releases love lanterns (no,
that's not a euphemism), Ben F. takes her on a scooter ride, catching
gorgeous scenery.

Four of the six will survive to take
her to their families next week; one will find eternal love. Except
that this show rarely produces anything that lasts. Tonight includes
an interview with Emily Maynard, the latest person who had a
crumbling romance with two-time “Bachelor” Brad Womack.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Rizzoli &
Isles,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Cable clearly rules the night. Just as
Syfy launches its Monday line-up, TNT brings back its top cop shows.
Tonight has a so-so “Closer” at 9 p.m., but a terrific “Rizzoli”
ay 10.

Then we meet Rizzoli (Angie Harmon),
three months after she was severely wounded. She's not taking it
well; she spars with her mom (Lorraine Bracco), her friend and more,
while tackling a tough case.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Barney finally meets his dad (John Lithgow).

– “Eureka,” 8 p.m., Syfy. In a
town filled with science geniuses (plus two overwhelmed cops),
anything can happen, often with humor; tonight starts on the wedding
day for two androids. There's more; two opposites – brainy Fargo,
hunky Zane – have a taut, outer-space adventure. “Eureka” is
like that.

– “Warehouse 13,” 9 p.m., Syfy.
There are the usual exotic cases to solve tonight. That starts with
vibrations from Jimi Hendrix's guitar, then has pictures creating
classic deaths. Still, there's more going on: Myka may not be back; a
cop who's a human lie detector may replace her. And an FBI agent
(Ashley Williams), with a sweet voice and fierce soul, dislikes them
all.

– “The Closer,” 9 p.m., TNT. One
of TV's best dramas returns for its final season, starting with a
surprisingly poor case. Filled with cliches about rappers, it's a
half-step from being racist. What saves it is the interchange between
Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) and her police colleagues; the department is
in transition, she's under investigation and forces are battling.

– “Love Crimes of Kabul,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. The two sweet-faced women, ages 18 and 20, giggle as they
discuss their handsome boyfriends. They are chatting it in prison –
one because she had premarital sex, the other because she's accused
of having sex. It's a odd and disturbing few of Afghan life.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., NBC. Here's a leftover episode from when Skeet Ulrich was
still on the show. He probes the killing of a soccer star's brother.

– “Tough Cookies,” 10 and 10:30
p.m., Food Channel. The Jersey obsession continues on cable. Now we
visit Crazy Susan's Cookies in Garden City, with an expanded and
noisy family at work.

TV column for Sunday, July 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Leverage” and
“Falling Skies,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT.

First, “Leverage” delivers an
especially smart hour. Its villain is a nasty political operative who
stays in the shadows; Nate must make him famous, then bring him down.

And “Skies”? The first three weeks
focused on Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a former history prof fighting
aliens. Now a key episode has great moments for Dr. Anne Glass (Moon
Bloodgood), plus Tom's eldest son (Drew Roy) and Lourdes (Seychelle
Gabriel), a tough teen who was rescued from a biker gang.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Primetime,”
9-11 p.m., ABC.

Jaycee Dugard was 11 when she was
kidnapped, 29 when she was re-discovered.

Two years later, she lives with her
mother and her two daughters; she tells Diane Sawyer about simple
pleasures: “I can decide to jump in the car and go to the beach
with the girls. Wow, it's unbelievable.”

Her mother tells Sawyer, “I knew she
was out there somewhere.” Also, viewers will finally hear her
mother's comments during the kidnapers' sentencing hearing.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Indestructibles” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m.. National Geographic.
Each episode will show us a horrific crash, followed by analysis of
why people survived.

In tonight's opener, a helicopter
plummets 800 feet in New York, crash-landing on a roof. In the second
episode, a man in Dayton, Ohio, is seemingly crushed by a rolling
SUV.

Each crash was fierce. Now we meet the
people involved and learn why they are still alive.

Other choices today include:

– “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone” (2001), 7 a.m., ABC Family. Here's the first Potter film,
with the next four airing in order. They're at 10:30 a.m. and at
2:30, 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.; afterward, you'll still need to find the
other two films, before the last Potter opens Friday in theaters.

– “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS.
After introducing its contestants Thursday, this show settles into
its pattern. Episodes are at 8 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays, followed
by an ouster at 9 p.m. Thursdays.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
After a whirlwind romance with Fat Tony, Selma becomes a Jersey Shore
housewife, in this rerun. Concerned, her sister Marge brings the
family for a visit.

– “Masterpiece: Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). “The Pale Horse” is the
season's only new Marple mystery, with Julia McKenzie as the modest
crime-solver. Shortly before being killed, Marple's friend sent her a
list of names.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO. Last
week's final moments offered a delightful detour, when a witch
stripped the menacing Eric of his memory. Tonight's hour starts with
neatly off-kilter moments between Sookie and Eric; it ends with a
brief dialog that you definitely wouldn't hear on any other show.

– “Secrets of SEAL Team 6,” 9
p.m., Discovery. Earlier, Discovery drew a strong audience with
“Killing Bin Laden.” It repeats that one at 10 p.m., preceded by
this profile of the unit involved.

– “The Marriage Ref,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Ellen Pompeo, the “Grey's Anatomy” star, is reportedly a big
fan of this fun show. Now she's on the panel, with comedians Kathy
Griffin and Brian Regan.

– “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
season-opener, 10 p.m., HBO. One theme involves showing (or avoiding)
strident Jewish views. That peaks in the third episode; tonight,
Larry learns his lawyer isn't kosher.

TV column for Saturday, July 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

The forces aligned neatly for this
episode in May: Osama bin Laden's death had been announced five days
earlier … and Tina Fey had already been set as host.

There was Fred Armisen as bin Laden,
supposedly in a video he'd made of his revised will. And Jason
Sudeikis as Satan, cheerful about his newest resident. And Seth
Meyers marveling at doubters who make President Obama “the first
black man who has to actually prove he killed someone.”

There was a debate of undeclared
presidential candidates, including Fey as Sarah Palin; and there was
Ellie Goulding as music guest. Despite some weak spots,this was
first-rate “SNL.”

TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Harry Potter films, 9
a.m. to 11 p.m., ABC Family.

Six days before the final Potter film
opens in the U.S., viewers get another chance to catch up.

Here are the first four in order.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001) is 9 a.m.,
followed by “Chamber of Secrets” (2002) at 12:30 p.m., “Prisoner
of Azkaban” (2004) at 4:30 p.m. and “Goblet of Fire” (2005) at
7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, they'll start earlier – 7
a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – making room for “Harry
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) at 9 p.m. That still
leaves two more at video stores.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY: “A Fairly Odd
Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner,” 8-9 p.m., Nickelodeon.

For a decade, the “Fairly OddParents”
cartoon has offered the amiable life of a boy whose fairy godparents
keep granting wishes. Now this film mixes live actors and
animated fairies.

Timmy (Drake Bell) is turning 21, with
no desire to leave 5th grade or change his life. Nothing
can nudge him into adulthood … except that Tootie (Daniella Monet)
is back.

This was a great idea, destroyed by
having supporting actors overplay their parts to hideous excess. Some
kids may find that amusing, but grown-ups and other reasonable humans
will exit the room.

Other choices include:

– “CHAOS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The team
hopes to convince a dying dictator not to choose his violent son.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. When a rich investment banker is killed, the
suspects in this rerun include his business enemies and his
working-class girlfriend.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, teams race through a Moroccan canyon, dealing
with cranky camels and a sand storm.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. One of the AC's (“advanced cultivars,” genetically
modified humans) has gone rogue. After saving someone, Fleur has
doubts about the new world's high ideals.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun offers a mixed day for Andy – a turning point with Luke,
a gory discovery at an accident scene.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two Emmy-winners, Debra Messing and Christine
Lahti, link in this rerun. They play friends, a TV host and an
assistant district attorney. After getting threats, Messing feels
she's closer to learning who abducted her sister, long ago.

TV column for Friday, July 8


 

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

Two years ago, “Torchwood”
transformed from a pretty good series to a great mini-series.

That was the five-part “Children of
the Earth.” This one is twice as long and almost as good.

It starts on the day no one dies –
not the convicted killer (Bill Pullman) who gets a lethal injection
or the CIA agent (Mekhi Phifer) who has a horrific accident or anyone
else on Earth.

This is clearly the turf of Torchwood,
a secret British agency that disbanded. Its only survivors are Jack
Harkness (who is eternal, literally), ex-cop Gwen Cooper and her
overwhelmed husband. Linking with two CIA people and a doctor, they
try to save the world. Again.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

For five years, “Lights” has
crafted a deep portrait of a tough Texas town, focusing on its
football team. Now, a week from its finale, “Lights” hits an
emotional peak.

The coach (Kyle Chandler) won a state
championship for Dillon High, then was bounced to low-income East
Dillon – where he's heading to the state finals again. His wife
(Connie Britton) became principal of Dillon, drew controversy, then
became the guidance counselor at East Dillon.

Each of their conversations tonight is
a gem of understated eloquence. Meanwhile, young people are returning
– Tim from prison, others from college. A great show offers waves
of quiet passion.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Flashpoint,”
8 p.m., CBS.

Last week, Ed (Hugh Dillon) was shot.
Now he's rushed to the hospital – where his wife has a difficult
delivery of their baby.

Meanwhile, his colleagues on the police
Strategic Response Unit search for the shooter, who may be linked to
a drug kingpin. And a psychologist continues to interview members of
the unit.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone” (2001) and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
(2002), 3:30 and 7 p.m., ABC Family. Here are the first two films of
the Potter series; they'll be back (with more) Saturday and Sunday.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. A rerun
has Sweets and Booth pondering their relationships with Daisy and
Hannah. Meanwhile, a case seems to involve a bike trick that went
terribly wrong.

– “Salt” (2010), 8:19 to 10 p.m.,
Starz. This slick thriller is being timed to lead directly into
“Torchwood.” Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent
accused of being an enemy spy. All of this is wildly unbelievable,
but Jolie and director Phillip Noyce turn it into a high-octane,
entertaining film.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, a man's wife still thinks he has a comfortable real-estate
job. Now his ailment seems linked to his secret, blue-collar job.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this
rerun, a serial rapist has been killed, after being restrained in the
same way he held his victims. Now police reluctantly pursue the
killer. Lindsay Price (“Lipstick Jungle”) plays one of his
victims; Megan Ward (“General Hospital”) plays her lawyer.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Danny (Donnie Whalberg) has seen a murder by a drug boss who's known
for intimidating witnesses. Now someone in Danny's family is in
danger.

TV column for Thursday, July 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CBS.

CBS started this whole summer reality
rush more than a decade ago. It debuted “Survivor” and “Big
Brother” in 2000, “The Amazing Race” in 2001.

The others have moved up, but “Big
Brother” remains CBS' summer staple. It has new episodes at 8 p.m.
Sundays and Wednesdays and (starting next week) evicts someone at 9
p.m. Thursdays.

Living in a beach-style house will be
eight newcomers – from a cocktail waitress, 23, to an executive, 41
– plus what CBS calls “notorious duos” from previous seasons,
who will be announced tonight.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC.

Startled by the possibility of an
intruder, Andy (Missy Peregrym) starts ruffling through Luke's
things. (She wasn't snooping, she insists.) She makes a discovery
that transforms their relationship.

On her job as a cop, there's another
discovery, this one grotesque. It's part of a strange day.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Wilfred,”
10 p.m., FX.

It's really not a good idea to agree to
a dog's suggestions. In the opener, Ryan (Elijah Wood) followed the
plan of Wilfred (Jason Gann). They broke into a mean neighbor's house
and … well, defecated.

Now that comes back to haunt him. This
episode isn't as good as the first two – but is way better than
almost anything else on TV. Just keep remembering that Wilfred is a
dog, but we're seeing him the way the deluded Ryan does – as a
talking guy in a scruffy dog suit.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8
p.m., Fox. Tonight, the judges – including guest judge Carmen
Electra – trim the field from 14 to 12. Also, there's music from
Florence and the Machine and dance from Cedar Lake Contemporary
Ballet.

– “An American Family: Anniversary
Edition,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Back in 1973 –
19 years before “The Real World” – people were fascinated by a
series offering an intimate portrait of a photogenic but crumbling
family. This film offers highlights.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Most times, the guys would resent Penny's muscular boyfriend.
But now, in a funny rerun, they need him to help win a superhero
talent contest.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Jeff decides this should be “Jeff Day,”
when he gets his way on everything. That works, for a while.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun
has Kathy Griffin and Loretta Devine as tough judges for the
regionals. The glee club decides to only solution is to write
original material.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's another tough time in Morocco for Mackenzie Fuller,
the Kansas teen who missed her prom to be on this adventure. That
includes a sandstorm, uncooperative camels, a close call for her
eldest sister and a breakdown for Mackenzie.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The team barely escapes when a building explodes during an
investigation. Also, Lisbon (Robin Tunney) again meets billionaire
Walter Mashburn.

– “Louie,” 10:30, FX. This comedy
remains fascinating, even when it doesn't seem to be trying to make
us laugh. Tonight's stand-up portions aren't particularly amusing.
The main story – Louis C.K., who is divorced, seeks a home in New
York's difficult market – is oddly, dryly entertaining.