TV column for Wednesday, June 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: CMT Music Awards,
8-11 p.m., CMT.

Cable has the best summer parties. Just
three days after the MTV Movie Awards, it's CMT's turn.

This is country music, stretching for
crossover appeal. Kid Rock hosts; presenters include Justin Bieber
and champions from “Dancing With the Stars” (Hines Ward),
“American Idol” (Scotty McCreery, with runner-up Lauren Alaina)
and the Super Bowl (Clay Matthews).

Half the video-of-the-year nominees
will perform – Lady Antebellum, Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, Jason
Aldean and the Zac Brown Band. Also performing: Keith Urban, Toby
Keith, Luke Bryan, Big & Rich.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Middle,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., and “Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30, ABC.

We usually resent summer reruns, but
not when shows are this funny.

In the first “Middle,” Axl tries to
secretly make the biology teacher (Kristin Cavallari of “The
Hills”) the “hot chick” in his band's video; there are also
some great moments when Sue schemes to see an R-rated movie. In the
second, the parents try to break their kids' dominance of the house.

In the first “Modern Love,” Jay
finds himself on a “boys' night out” with Mitchell, Cameron and
their friend Pepper (Nathan Lane). In the second, Cameron directs the
school musical.

ALSO: Some PBS stations debut the excellent documentary "Out in America" tonight. However, this is pledge drive, so that varies widely from station to station. As a result, I'm running that portion separately; under "TV columns," it should appear right above this one.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Men of a
Certain Age,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Quietly meandering between drama and
comedy, this show has offered three guys approaching 50.

Now Terry (Scott Bakula) actually
reaches that age. It's a rough time for someone who's been in a
youthful bubble for decades – and who has just been dropped by his
girlfriend.

Bakula plays it beautifully; other
twists involving Joe (Ray Romano) are so-so. In the final moments,
we're reminded that Andre Braugher – as Owen, Terry's friend and
boss – is one of TV's best actors.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. During auditions, hordes of dancers were advanced to
this Las Vegas round. Now come quick cuts; on Thursday, we'll see who
made it to the top 20.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 and
10 p.m., NBC. Tonight's hockey game is on cable (the Versus network).
That means NBC – which will get the final three Stanley Cup games,
if necessary – can focus on its reality hit. Here, it shows
auditions in Houston and Minneapolis.

– “Franklin & Bash,” 9 p.m.,
TNT. After an OK pilot film, this show is skidding. This episode is
poor; the third (next week) is awful. “Bash” tries to have
outrageous cases; the brilliant David Kelley did that with “Boston
Legal,” but mere mortals shouldn't try. Tonight's case involves a
woman accused of killing her husband via excessive sex; there are
lots of detours, most defying credibility.

– “20/20,” 10 p.m., ABC. Barring
a late change, this will look at the success of reality shows.

– “Locked Up Abroad”
season-opener, 10 p.m., National Geographic. Henry Hill – portrayed
by Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” tells of a downfall that began
when he dealt dope against his boss' orders.

– “Through the Wormhole”
season-opener, 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., Science Channel. Last season,
Morgan Freeman's show posed complex questions about the creation of
the universe. (Reruns today are 7-10 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.)
Tonight comes another big one: What happens after we die?

 

TV column for Tuesday, June 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “White Collar”
season-opener, 9 p.m., USA.

Even in its average weeks, this show
offers crisp characters and smartly tangled plots. Now comes a key
week, with bigger stakes.

Someone set an explosion, seemingly
destroying Nazi-stolen art work. Peter (the FBI guy) suspects that
Neal (the ex-con working for the FBI) took the treasure away before
setting the blast; we suspect that, too, except that “White Collar”
keeps adding fresh twists. Stick with this one.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “MasterChef,”
8 p.m., Fox.

Like Monday's opener, tonight brings a
rich variety of amateur chefs.

There's an intense lawyer, an angry
martial-arts instructor, a gentle pool boy. A hydraulic technician
mixes bacon, strawberry and garlic horse radish; an organic farmer
inexplicably decides to make ahi tuna with coconut – using nothing
from his own farm.

A single mom says she “grew up very
poor,” eating bad food. A deep-voiced trucker wants to “bring
culture food” to his “meat-and-potato community.” Along the
way, some chefs flub and some triumph. “I wish I had two mouths to
eat this,” one chef says; it's another good hour.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “America's Got
Talent” and “The Voice,” 8 p.m. and 9-11 p.m., NBC.

First is another audition round for
“Talent”; then “The Voice” moves on to its quarter-finals.

Tonight, the top singers perform live
and viewers vote to save some of them. The mentors – Christina
Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine – see which
ones will move ahead.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of
CBS reruns starts with this one: When a teen is suspected of killing
his father, Gibbs is surprised to be called in to handle the
interrogation.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This wraps up a two-parter. The team scrambles to retrieve a
book of secrets, while other countries race to find it first.

– Basketball, 9 p.m. ET. ABC. The
Dallas Mavericks host the Miami Heat, in the fourth game of the
best-of-seven series. That's preceded by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” at 8
and a pre-game show at 8:30.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A cleverly complex episode has the firm needing an instant decision
on whether to represent a massage therapist who says she was
assaulted by a Nobel Prize-winner.

– “Covert Affairs” season-opener,
10 p.m., USA. The first few minutes are spectacular, in the aftermath
of the overseas shooting of Annie's lover, Ben. Then things fade with
a story about a Russian tennis star who doubles as a CIA contact;
there are some good moments, connected to a poor plot.

– “How the States Got Their
Shapes,” 10 p.m., History. Here's a visit to some fringe areas.
There's the little nub of Georgia that isn't shown in the state's
design for the quarter. There's Key West, which threatened to secede
from Florida. This hour views them, plus Nevada's controversial “Area
51” and a Kansas area where former missile bunkers have become
five-bedroom homes.

TV column for Monday, June 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Switched at
Birth” debut, 9 p.m., ABC Family; repeats at 10.

Bay is a rich teen, angry and artistic;
Daphne is a modest-income teen, sunny and athletic.

Each is smart and beautiful; neither
looks like her parents. They were, it seems, accidentally switched at
birth. “She's me in another life,” Daphne, who is deaf, says via
sign language.

“Switched” is beautifully written,
giving each character some strengths and flaws. Vanessa Marano, 18,
and Katie Leclerc, 24, are young beauties with strong talent; other
roles – including Constance Marie, D.W. Moffat and Lea Thompson as
parents – are perfectly cast.

The result is so good that we'll
forgive ABC Family for canceling “Huge,” last summer's best show.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “MasterChef”
debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

Here is the flip side of Gordon Ramsay
– not the boorish jerk who screams at chefs, but a fun guy who toys
with amateurs. With Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliott, he auditions
hopefuls.

It's an interesting bunch tonight, from
a classical pianist to a Mississippi trucker who's making an
alligator dish. A young cop and a young firefighter are each bald and
brawny; a recent Miss Delaware USA is overloaded with personality.
Despite an excessive emphasis on begging, this is a strong start.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bobby Fischer
Against the World,” 9 p.m., HBO.

When playing chess, Bobby Fischer was
stunning. His 1972 championship match – in Iceland, with Russian
champ Boris Spassky – drew international TV coverage and propelled
interest.

Away from the game, he never quite
became a person. He feuded with his mother, was 9 before he learned
who his biologic father was. Both were Jewish, but he became
anti-Semitic, paranoid and more. This well-balanced documentary
captures the excitement of his career and the pain of his life.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. There's plenty of opportunity for fun here – a flash-mob
dance … a comedy roast of Ashley Hebert. Alas, one guy makes her
cry and scheming Bentley swoops in, explaining to the camera, “I'm
not going to miss an opportunity to mess with her mind.”

– “Last Man Standing,” 8-10
p.m., Lifetime. Here is a sleek, smart thriller, with a combat
veteran forced to pierce security and steal. The difference is that
the vet (Catherine Bell) is female, saving her husband. “Last Man”
has a few plot flaws, but Bell is perfect. She's surrounded by
skilled pros, led by producer Gale Hurd (“Terminator”) and
director Ernest Dickerson (“Juice”).

– “My Yard Goes Disney” debut, 8
p.m., HGTV. There are great results here, as Disney pros give a
family a dream back yard. Still, this gets repetitious in a hurry.

– More debuts, 8:30 and 9 p.m., HGTV.
First, “House Hunters on Vacation” lets families choose between
three homes for a one-week stay. Then “HGTV'd” has the network's
stars creating a surprise makeover. The opener – a living room
turns into a party room – is overwrought, but fun to watch.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
rerun finds a juvenile-offender trainee and his sergeant with
illnesses that are similar and mysterious.

– “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition,” 10:01, ABC. A shy and pleasant kid from a warm family,
Alex promised his ill mother that he would lose weight. Now, 23 and
459 pounds, he starts.

 

TV column for Sunday, June 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “MTV Movie
Awards,” 9-11 p.m., MTV.

Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night
Live”) hosts, with a mixture of songs, stars and silliness.

Music will be from the Foo Fighters and
Lupe Fiasco – alone and with Trey Songz. Some awards are offbeat –
categories range from “best kiss” to “best fight” – some
not. Up for best movie are Oscar nominees (“Inception,” “Social
Network,” “Black Swan”), plus “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”
films.

Reese Witherspoon will be there to get
the Generation Award. Other stars scheduled include Ryan Reynolds,
Cameron Diaz, Steve Carell, Serena Gomez, Shia LaBeouf and Jesse
Eisenberg.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “America's Got
Talent” (NBC) or “The Next Food Network Star” (Food Network),
both 9-11 p.m.

The summertime reality competitions are
settling in now.

For NBC, this is a rerun of Tuesday's
opener; for the Food Network, the season starts tonight, with 15
contestants making breakfast specialties. They'll also cook for
celebrities, including Mario Lopez.

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

OK, this is MTV's night. Fresh from its
award show, it introduces a series that will air Mondays.

“Teen Wolf” is sort of based on a
1985 movie, except that basketball has turned into lacrosse and
Michael J. Fox has turned into Tyler Posey. He's a busy teen actor
who has ranged from regular TV roles (“Doc,” “Lincoln Heights,”
more) to being Jennifer Lopez's son in “Maid in Manhattan.”

Posey brings a quiet likability to the
lead character. Russell Mulcahy – one of the masters of MTV's early
music-video days – directed, providing the sleek look that all
werewolf films demand.

ALSO SUNDAY:

– “Ray” (2004), 4:30-8 p.m., BET.
Taylor Hackford directed beautifully, with Jamie Foxx winning a
well-deserved Academy Award as Ray Charles.

– Basketball, 8 p.m. ET, ABC. The
finals move to Dallas for the third game, with the Mavericks hosting
the Miami Heat. That's preceded by Jimmy Kimmel at 7 and a preview at
7:30.

– “CSI: Miami,” 8 and 10 p.m.,
CBS. The first rerun finds that Horatio's wife's killer has escaped.
The second (the show's 200th episode) has a search for
someone who attacked a pregnant woman.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Fans are accustomed to seeing Homer choke Bart; when seen on a
stadium's giant screen, however, this is not well-received. Homer is
sent to bully therapy.

– “Malice” (1993), 8 p.m., TV
Guide Network. Fresh from “A Few Good Men,” Aaron Sorkin co-wrote
this brilliant screenplay, including a blistering monolog for Alec
Baldwin as a wobbly surgeon. It's a good movie – a sign of bigger
Sorkin things to come, including “West Wing” and “Social
Network.”

– “The Glades” season-opener, 10
p.m., A&E. To prevent a war between mobs, Jim must quickly solve
the murder of a mobster's daughter.

– “Treme,” 10:05 p.m., HBO. It's
time for a Mardi Gras celebration – several , actually. They range
from Janette in New York City to Annie at a rural Cajun party. In New
Orleans, there are somber moments for Toni, who has never really
discussed her husband's suicide with their teen daughter. Mix this
together, add great music and you have “Treme” – oddly
disconnected and oddly embracing.

TV column for Saturday, June 4


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “CHAOS,” 8
p.m., CBS.

In the old days, shows were simply
thrown away. Now they might linger on Saturdays or in summers.

NBC slid its unused “Chase” and
“Outlaw” hours to Saturdays; it's putting the entire “Love
Bites” season on summer Thursdays. And now Saturdays get leftover
episodes of CBS' “CHAOS.”

It's an enjoyable show, actually. Rick
(Freddy Rodriguez) is a wide-eyed idealist who finds the CIA filled
with odd schemers; somehow, they still manage to save the world each
week.

Tonight, they pretend to be seeking
Russian brides. The plan wobbles when a woman falls for Rick.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Red Faction:
Origins,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.

In a shabby Martian bar, a shabbier man
– once a hero, now a drunkard – reflects on his endless search
for his daughter. Suddenly, we realize this isn't the usual Saturday
silliness; a skillful actor (Robert Patrick, formerly of “X-Files”)
is delivering beautifully written dialog.

“Origins” is designed as a bridge
between two video games – “Red Faction: Guerilla” came out in
2009; “Red Faction: Armageddon” arrives Tuesday. Instead of being
a cheap knock-off, it hired skilled people; Michael Nankin
(“Battlestar Galactica”) directed, Patrick plays Alex Mason.

There are flaws, including absurdly
easy jailbreaks, but the dialog by Andrew Kreisberg – who's been a
“Warehouse 13” and “Fringe” producer – is excellent … and
miles above the Saturday average.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE: “Room Crashers,”
2 p.m., HGTV.

HGTV will waits until Monday to debut
three primetime shows. Today, it warms up by introducing this
afternoon show.

Todd Davis was runner-up in the second
“Design Star” competition. Here, he hangs around stores, looking
for strangers with weekend projects; then an entire team converges to
help. The opener reworks a fireplace and gives a room a
Moroccan-style design.

Other choices include:

– Hockey, 8 p.m. ET, NBC. The second
game of the Stanley Cup finals has the Vancouver Canucks hosting the
Boston Bruins.

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m.,
ABC. The entire Monday line-up reruns tonight, in case we were gone
for the holiday. Here, Ashley Hebert has a water-fountain setting for
her first date, then shows great dance moves with the guys in Las
Vegas. Afterward, she trims the field from 18 to 15.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Danny's former police partner has been killed.

– “Surviving D-Day,” 9-11 p.m.,
Discovery. Two days prior to the 67th anniversary,
Discovery takes a fresh look at the Omaha Beach landing. The story
ranges from conventional weapons to unorthodox ones (floating tanks,
exploding dummies on parachutes), from human mass to individual
initiative.

– “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition,” 10 p.m., ABC. Each of the eight episodes will follow
someone on a year of weigh loss. Here's a rerun of the opener,
focusing on an overachiever – valedictorian and homecoming queen –
who, at 21, is a 369-pound gym teacher.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m. (barring a hockey overrun), NBC. Scarlett Johansson hosts this
rerun, with music by Arcade Fire.