TV column for Wednesday, June 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother” opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Imagine spending the summer in a gorgeous home designed to
look like a treehouse. One room has a 20-foot tree sculpture, another has
almost 1,000 bird houses and a bed shaped like a nest. Now imagine you’re with
15 other people, young (mostly) and attractive (presumably) … with cameras

That’s the 16th-season plan, with shows also at
9:01 p.m. Thursdays and 8:01 p.m. Sundays. Tonight, Julie Chen offers changes
in Head of Household rules and introduces housemates – 12 in their 20s, three
in their 30s, one 42. They include the elements of an odd party – a DJ, a
barista, a cop and a minister.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

Two remarkable survivors combine for a delightful hour. One
is David Attenborough, still working 
skillfully at 88; the other is the frog species, still around after more
than 250 million years.

Attenborough began collecting frogs as a boy and filming them
as a young TV guy. Occasionally digging into his archives, he can show us the
biggest frog and the smallest, the ones that virtually walks on water or burrow
in the mud. He shows ones that are deadly or ones that went extinct (in the
wild, at least). He has toads that survive the desert and frogs that survive freezing;
it’s a fascinating hour.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Taxi Brooklyn” debut, 10:01 p.m.,

In a way, “Taxi” (2004) was a boon to TV talk. It squelched
Jimmy Fallon’s acting career and slowed Queen Latifah’s, giving them more time to
start talk shows.

Still, the original French film (1998) was a success and the
concept – a cop working with an odd-but-talented cabbie – was clever, so NBC
tries again. This time, the casting is poor; Chyler Leigh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) is
unconvincing as the cop and Jacky Ido – accustomed to French-language films --
is so-so with dialog. Still, there’s a fairly good story and some zesty chase
scenes through New York.

Other choices include:

“So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The survivors
of auditions in five cities have their callbacks in Pasadena. Next week, we’ll
see the top 20 each perform in their own styles.

“Young & Hungry” debut, 8 p.m., ABC Family. Once known as
Miley Cyrus’s co-star and Haley Osment’s sister, Emily Osment shows a subtle comedy
touch, in a fairly good tale of an aspiring chef. The phrase “ABC Family” does
seem shaky after she drunkenly sleeps with her perspective employer on the
first night; still, Osment makes that seem young and innocent. Rex Lee (“Entourage”)
adds broader laughs.

“Mystery Girls” debut, 8:30, ABC Family. It sounded like fun
to have two “90210” stars (Tori Spelling and Jenny Garth) play former TV stars,
starting a detective agency. Alas, the pilot film had horrid overacting by
Spelling; the network scheduled it, then made a late switch. It shows a
different episode in which Spelling is almost OK, but Miguel Pinzon (as Nick)
is well beyond awful. And the network’s “family” name takes another beating,
with an episode that’s mostly about a sex tape.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. A rerun of the season-opener
has plans for a kid-free week.

“Million Dollar Listing: Miami” debut, 9 p.m., Bravo. We
meet three upscale sales people, including one brushing up on his Russian,
hoping to sell a $6-million penthouse.

“Motive,” 10 p.m., ABC. A blood-soaked crime scene creates
pressure to find a missing bartender.  


TV column for Tuesday, June 24


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Experience,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Fifty years ago this summer, about 1,000 idealists
confronted segregation in Mississippi. They were undermanned and overwhelmed;
they sparked crucial changes in America.

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson – whose splendid “Freedom Riders”
(2011) reran last week – shows the same touch here. He interviews people who
grew up in Mississippi and those who arrived for a summer of registering voters
and running “freedom schools.” News clips do the rest; the result is

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Night Shift” (NBC) or
“Perception” (TNT), both 10 p.m.

Scott Wolf has become the go-to boyfriend for dramas. On
both shows tonight, his relationship with the 
female lead expands. In “Perception,” he’s a federal lawyer who is the
ex-husband – and new fiancé – of a key cop; in “Night Shift,” he’s a surgeon
dating the doctor who heads the shift.

The “Perception” story – with a prosecutor who dies mid-testimony
– is OK; the “Night Shift” one is quite good. Previous episodes have been chaotic,
in this story (a giant storm hits San Antonio), the chaos makes sense. June Also,
the show’s absurd administrator character finally turns human.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

In Pasadena, Barry is a pediatrician who’s married to
another professional; they have two kids and a comfortable life. In his
homeland, he’s known as Bassam, son of the tyrannical ruler and younger brother
of the crazed heir to power. A trip home means confronting boyhood.

Molding cable’s latest anti-hero, “Tyrant” sometimes hits
overkill. The final minutes in this opener give Barry surprising depth, while
making him hard to care about. The opener also takes evil-Arab stereotypes to
an extreme … yet crafts characters and a situation worth following.

Other choices include:

“The March,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Leading
into “Freedom Summer,” here’s a rerun of last year’s film, looking back at the
1963 March on Washington.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a truck full of stolen
Marine gear includes faulty bulletproof vests.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds the team
linking with an undercover drug agent.

“Rizzoli & Isles,” 9 p.m., TNT. The so-so season-opener
(rerunning at 8 p.m.) ended with the off-camera death (in a car accident) of Rizzoli’s
colleague Frost. Now she deals with that (and tries to keep her pregnancy
secret), while tackling an interesting case, involving an amnesiac with a gun.

“Motor City Masters” debut, 10 p.m., TruTV. Yes, this show
copies the form used by competition shows for designers, tattoo artists,
make-up people and more. Still, it visits an interesting world (car styling),
populated by people worth knowing. The opener asks them to craft a quick

“Covert Affairs,” 10:01 p.m., USA. Last season, Annie faked
her death and gunned down a villain. Now she tries to come in from the cold and
resume normal CIA life. It’s a so-so episode, but does introduces a fresh
force, an independent contractor, nor bound by the agency’s rules.

TV column for Tuesday, June 24

(Please ignore this one; I accidentally listed the Tuesday column twice.)

TV column for Monday, June 23


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Under the Dome: Inside Chester’s Mill,”
10 p.m., CBS.

For a decade, TV thought it understood summers: Cable had
scripted shows; broadcast networks stuck with reality and reruns. Then CBS
launched Stephen King’s “Under the Dome,” with an ordinary town inexplicably
encased by a giant dome; everything changed.

The opener was seen in 13 million homes, a huge number in
the summer and a top-5 number for almost any week. Ratings held up fairly well
afterward. This summer, the big-four networks will have more than a dozen
non-rerun scripted shows; that includes the “Dome” season-opener next Sunday …
after this special, which includes an update for anyone who missed the first

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

The third episode of the series deepens its characters and its
emotions. We see the quiet rage of one cop (Kathleen Robertson) toward her
ex-husband and others, the soft pain of her newly widowed police partner (Taye
Diggs). And we see the nastiness of their prime suspect, a young tech

None of that, of course, makes him guilty or easy to
convict. Now the case slowly evolves, in the third of 10 chapters of a
beautifully written and acted series.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Case Against 8,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.

When Proposition 8 banned gay marriage in California,
opponents considered a court appeal … and found a surprising ally in Ted Olson,
who was George W. Bush’s solicitor general. “Marriage is a conservative value ….
We should want people to come together in marriage,” he says here.

Olson insisted that David Boies – his opponent in the
Bush-Gore recount fight – join him. Then cameras recorded the five-year push.
What emerges is a deep and emotional portrait of one side of a historic case; it
debuts three days before the anniversary of the decision that threw out
Proposition 8.

Other choices include:

“Teen Wolf,” 2 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., MTV. Here’s a marathon,
leading to the season-opener at 10.

“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. What do you do in
Italy, with its history of romance? Nick gets a gondola ride with Andi Dorfman
in Venice, Cody gets a candle-lit dinner with her in Verona, the city of Romeo
and Juliet. And the other six get lie-detector tests; life isn’t always fair.

“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. Last week ended spectacularly, when the
president accepted a terrorist’s deal – his life for her agreeing to stop the
drone attacks. He was killed by a missile in London’s Wembley Stadium. Will she
keep her promise? Will her colleagues let her? Jack, Kate and Chloe scramble to
prevent war.

“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. After a series of bad dates,
Karen’s spirits are sinking … just as others perk up. Savi finds a guy she
likes; so does her sister Joss … at a high-ticket event she attended for
business reasons. And April introduces her hot boyfriend Daniel to her friends.

“CeeLo Green’s The Good Life,” 10:30 p.m., TBS. With a No. 1
song (“Forget You”) and a top-rated TV show (“The Voice”), CeeLo Green can frolic.
In the opener of this reality show, he throws out the first pitch at a baseball
game and plans a sexy limousine service.

TV column for Sunday, June 22

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Last Ship” debut, 9-10:03 p.m.,

In the first minutes, we get a hint of what’s ahead: A
disease streaks through an African village; a doctor (Rhonda Mitre) can only
gather a sample and leave. Soon, the doctor is on an American destroyer, in its
Arctic expedition. The sailors are cheery … then learn they may be the last
survivors of a dying world.

“Last Ship” has a classic captain (Eric Dane of “Grey’s
Anatomy”) and a taut style (thanks to Jack Bender, the top “Lost” director).
This opener leaves us hanging, but offers enough to keep us coming us back.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Wipeout” season-opener and “Rising
Star” debut, 7-9 and 9-11 p.m., ABC.

On a night dominated by cable debuts, ABC strikes back with
a rerun-free lie-up. First is the silliness of the “Wipeout” obstacle course;
then comes the latest twist on a singing competition.

The difference here involves social media. If singers are
successful, they can actually see how people are voting for them, on a giant
screen. Viewers can feel like they have an instant impact.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Miracle Landing on the Hudson,” 9-11
p.m., National Geographic.

On a night overloaded with three series debuts and three
season-openers, this channel steals our attention with a beautifully crafted
movie. It took interviews with real survivors of the 2009 crash of Flight 1549,
then had actors (talented unknowns) re-create the interviews and the action

This skips the pilot and focuses on the others – the
co-pilot, an air-traffic controller, a veteran stewardess and several
passengers. We meet the man who volunteered to cuddle and shield a baby … the
woman who tried to swim ashore in frigid water … and more. The result is tight
and compelling.

Other choices include:

“Elementary,” 8 p.m., CBS. A drama-rerun night starts with
Sherlock working with an old Scotland Yard colleague. That’s followed by “The
Good Wife” (the episode after Will was killed) and “The Mentalist.”

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” 8 p.m. Hallmark. Carol Burnett,
one of TV’s all-time greats, injects some strong moments into an otherwise
so-so episode.

“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). The first half of “The Escape Artist” saw David Tennant as a
brilliant defense attorney, the only person who knows his wife was killed by a
scheming psychopath. Now he grapples for makeshift justice, in a clever and
well-acted finale.

“The Musketeers” debut, 9 p.m., BBC America. Amid the social
chaos of 17
th-century Paris, these three musketeers (members of the
king’s personal guard) are honest and idealistic. They confront D’Artagnan, a
skilled swashbuckler and lover who is obsessed with avenging his father’s death.
The result is an energetic period piece with huge ambition and adequate

“True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO, rerunning at 10. The final season
starts where the sixth season ended: Sookie had planned a mixer, to let humans
and vampires bond; instead, rogue vampires attacked. Tonight’s early scenes are
way too chaotic, but then we see the show’s power -- a face-off involving the
sheriff … a painful church scene for Sookie … extremely opposite sex scenes
with Sookie and with her brother.

“Falling Skies” season-opener, 10:03 p.m., TNT. After
battling alien invaders for three seasons, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his sons see
fresh hope … and then disaster. Soon, one Mason is in a jail, one is in combat,
one is in Nazi-style re-education. It’s a strong and engaging start.