TV column for Friday, Aug. 12


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Karaoke Battle
USA” debut, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Imagine taking current hits – “Idol,”
“Talent, “Voice” – and stripping them to the basics.

That's what you have in this cheapie,
six-episode series. Visiting various House of Blues spots, it watches
people sing to karaoke tracks, in front of cheery crowds.

That starts in Las Vegas; it will try
Houston, Chicago and New York, then take the best people to a Los
Angeles finale. Joey Fatone hosts, with Carnie Wilson, Joe Levy and
Brian Scott (the 2009 national karaoke champ), judging. An advance
peek shows some singers have talent, but the show is barebones.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Strike Back”
debut, 10 p.m., Cinemax.

The war on terrorism is translated into
non-stop action. That starts with a guns-blazing rescue attempt, ends
mid-story with a hotel siege; it's British-made, but with American
style – taut drection and editing, fierce violence and
dispassionate sex.

Sullivan Stapleton plays an American,
dishonorably discharged from the Special Forces. Phillip Winchester
(“Crusoe”) and Eva Birthistle play members of a sharp British
unit that reluctantly works with him. The story is so-so; the action
sometimes suffices.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Whisker
Wars,” 11 p.m., Independent Film Channel.

International beard competitions? It's
easy to agree with national champion Aarne Bielefeldt: “There's
really not much to say. It grows.”

Others have more to say. Jack Passion,
a world champion, considers himself an athlete. Myk O'Connor met
Karolina (his “beard coach”) at a contest; in tonight'a OK
episode, he prepares to propose.

Other choices include:

--”Friends With Benefits,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., NBC. In the first episode, Aaron is bummed because an
ex-girlfriend is engaged; friends take him out. In the second, Ben is
relieved that an ex-girlfriend has amnesia; that means they can start
dating again.

– “Flashpoint,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Valentine's Day, we're told, is one of the toughest days for suicides
and hostage situations. Now that's the night when a new member joins
the Strategic Response Unit.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a
leader is killed in this rerun, police scramble to prevent gang
warfare. On one front, they rush to find the killer. On another, Mac
goes to prison to meet one gang's co-founder, played by Emmy-winner
and Oscar-nominee Edward James Olmos.

– “Whale Wars,” 9 p.m., Animal
Planet. The season finale is sandwiched by two other new hours. At 8
p.m. is a look at four seasons of battling whaling in the Antarctic;
at 10, Paul Watson, the expedition leader, is interviewed by Lisa
Ling.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Two Reagans re-visit pieces of their past in this rerun. Danny
(Donnie Wahlberg) returns to the club scene, after a doorman is
killed; his father Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner,
makes a decision regarding his former police partner.

– “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” 10
p.m., Starz. In last week's brilliant episode, the team learned of
plans to confine and kill people who are sick. Gwen rescued her
father, only to have him suffer a heart attack; Rex watched in
horror, as Dr. Juarez died in flames. Tonight, the Torchwood people
are trapped.

 

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 11


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

A strong season ends with four
impressive finalists.

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar have
been the favorites, drawing consistent raves. But Tadd Gadduang, a
sensational hip-hopper, and Sasha Mallory have shown the ability to
stir emotions.

Tonight, one of them wins the $250,000
prize. All of the top 20 will be back, including some – ballroom
champion Iveta Lukosiute, tapper Nick Young – who were dispatched
far too soon.

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

Some of TV's finest moments – from
“Twelve Angry Men” to a stunning “Chicago Hope” – have come
from forcing characters to be together.

Now “Blue” has its turn. A
seemingly drunken man has a mysterious disease; the precinct station
is quarantined. Other plot twists involve a sexy bomb technician and
a brutal robber covered in blue dye.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Louie,”
10:30 p.m., FX.

You really don't see many TV comedies
about masturbation. Jerry Seinfeld did it once, finding light fun;
Louis C.K. tries it here in a darkly comic-serious version.

An attractive young woman is
campaigning against masturbation. From there, the show finds some
surprising twists and turns. This is not your usual, bright sitcom;
the fictional Louie – a bit weary and cynical, but a quietly caring
person – adjusts to life's setbacks.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, someone has hacked into Sheldon's video-game
character account. Now he and the others are obsessed with finding
who did it.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30.
This rerun has Russell (David Spade) meet the sister of Timmy, his
much-maligned assistant.

– “Big Brother,” 9 p.m., CBS.
It's time to oust another person.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. The six remaining teams navigate a giant Moroccan lake.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun, the new boss (Will Ferrell) runs Michael's award ceremony.

– “Project Runway,” 9-10:32 p.m.,
Lifetime. Kim Kardashian is a judge because … well, maybe because
she wears clothes. The contestants prepare for an outdoor show that's
open to the public.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Two attempted robberies, one of them deadlu are probed.

– “Jersey Shore,” 10 p.m., MTV.
Last week's season-opener (rerunning at 9 p.m.) brought the gang to
Italy. Tonight, there are possible hook-ups between Mike and Snooki
and Pauly and Deena.

– “Wilfred,” 10 p.m., FX. Ryan
has felt it was his fault that the family dog died. Now Wilfred –
the neighbor dog who looks to Ryan like a guy in a dog suit –
challenges that. The result is typical “Wilfred” – sometimes
excessive, sometimes very funny and one time (tonight only) quite
moving.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 10


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

TV's best summer show is down to its
final four dancers. They perform tonight and viewers vote; on Thursday, we'll have a champion.

The front-runner is Melanie Moore, 19,
from Marietta, Ga. With a kewpie-doll face and flawless technique,
she's never been in the bottom.

Then again, last year's front-runner
(Kent Boyd) finished second. So the winner could be Marko Germar, 22,
a jazz dancer from Guam. Or Sasha Mallory, 23, a contemporary dancer
from Bakersfield, Cal. Or Tadd Gadduang, 25, a spectacular hip-hopper
from Salt Lake City.

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

One of the strengths of “Everybody
Loves Raymond” was the steely relationship of Doris Roberts and
Patricia Heaton, as Debra and her mother-in-law. This rerun re-teams
them.

Heaton plays Frankie, with two
troublesome kids and the brainy Brick. Alas, Ms. Rinsky (played by
Roberts for the third time) says he can't go on to 4th
grade unless he finishes a journal.

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

After seven seasons of deftly blending
drama and comedy, this great series has only five episodes left. This
isn't one of the better ones, but catch it because there's greatness
ahead.

Tommy's comments during a TV interview
have dumped him into a suspension, with more trouble ahead. Now his
colleagues scheme to stop TV coverage and override the penalty.

The solutions are a bit broad and
unconvincing. Still, “Rescue Me” always has moments worth
catching; that peaks tonight, when Tommy finally battles the female
forces ruling his life.

Other choices include:

– “Modern Family,” 8:30 and 9
p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds Claire excited about Halloween;
everyone else, alas, is merely grumpy. The second has people
converging on Manny's birthday party … except Claire and Phil are
having an odd race and Mitchell and Cameron are pausing for a
present.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Tuesday brought a dozen acts that had entered via YouTube.
Tonight, four of them advance; four more (via wild-card) will be
added next week.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31, ABC.
Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) is visited by his dad (Damon Wayans,
logically enough). The latter parties hard, confusing his son. Also,
Penny dates a handsome guy who only speaks Italian … a language she
only speaks when drunk.

– “Primetime Nightline,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. What happens when kids find quick fame. This hour studies ones
from beauty pageants (Eden Wood), a bad video (Rebecca Black) and
teen TV (Big Time Rush).

– “Love in the Wild,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. This well-crafted reality show started with attractive strangers
pairing for Costa Rican adventures. Many have switched partners
and/or been eliminated. After tonight's challenges – one
underwater, another requiring memorization – two couples will
remain.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, an ex-cop was convicted and sent to
prison, where he was killed. The CSI team finds a list of people he
felt might have killed his wife.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “America's Got
Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

It's time for the YouTube portion of
the show.

People submitted audition tapes;
viewers voted and picked a favorite. That act – plus 11 others
chosen by the show – perform tonight; on Wednesday, four will
advance.

There's another crop coming. Next week,
the show brings back four previous acts for wild-card votes.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Mentalist,”
10 p.m., FX.

Beautiful and serene-looking, Morena
Baccarin makes an imposing enemy. On “V,” she was the alien
leader; in this rerun, she plays the one person who can match Patrick
Jane, eye-to-eye.

Baccarin plays a big-money matchmaker
whose husband has was killed. Jane tries to prove she did it.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Take the
Money and Run,” “Combat Hospital,” 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

Let's credit ABC for trying a rich
variety of summer shows. Then let's remember that good ideas –
especially unscripted ones – don't always work out.

That's the case with “Run.” The
concept – give two people an hour to hide money, then give cops 48
hours to find it – seems sharp; the production quality, from the
“Amazing Race” people, is superb. Still, this week's episode,
like last week's opener, lacks the interesting twists that fiction
would give.

“Hospital,” by comparison, is a
solidly constructed drama, set in 2006 Afghanistan. Tonight, a
decision by Bobby (Terry Chen) has caused what could be a growing
rift between doctors and nurses.

Other choices include:

– “Hell's Kitchen” and
“MasterChef,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first show is down to 10
professional chefs; the second is down to five amateurs.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Abby
(Pauley Perrette) becomes increasingly obsessed with the murder of a
Navy scientist. Also in this rerun, DiNozzo's latest romance brings
him an odd Halloween.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In this rerun, a Navy engineer has been killed. Eric – usually
sticking to tech work in the lab – must go undercover.

– “Beauty and the Beast” (1991),
9-11 p.m., Disney. Here's another chance to see one of the great
Disney cartoons. It won Academy Awards for the title song and the
score and had four more nominations, including best picture.

– “Ludo Bites America,” 9 p.m.,
Sundance. Most chefs, it seems, expect the meat to come to them from
a store; few will take a gun and hunt it. Tonight, Ludo Lefebvre is
the exception. Traveling with Krissy (his wife, lawyer and business
partner), he reaches her home town of Denver. Then he hunts wildlife,
to get fresh meat for Biker Jim's Gourmet Hot Dogs.

– “White Collar,” 9 p.m., USA.
The mid-season finale for this smart scam series continues to find
Neal battling with FBI people (including his friend Peter), while
trying to keep his stash of Nazi-stolen art. He and his friend Mozzie
are scrambling.

– “Covert Affairs,” 10 p.m., USA.
Annie is still fairly new to the CIA, but tonight she gets a chance
to be in charge of a mission, helping a Chinese scientist defect to
the U.S.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Blazing Saddles”
(1974, AMC) or “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006, FX); 8 p.m., cable.

A comedy classic and a stylish, modern
comedy-drama are both worth catching.

“Saddles” (rerunning at 10 p.m.) is
Mel Brooks at his goofy best; he sends up the cowboy genre, with
Cleavon Little taking over a town that's really not ready for a black
sheriff. “Prada,” beautifully filmed, catches a smart intern
(Anne Hathaway) and her overbearing boss (Merle Streep at her subtle
best).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “How I Met Your
Mother,” 8 and 8:30 p.m,, CBS.

Here's a double shot of one of TV's
better comedies.

In the first rerun, Ted is best man at
Punchy's wedding and Barney finds benefits to Christmastime giving.
In the second, Robin starts her new job and Marshall and Lily try a
pregnancy specialist.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bachelor Pad”
season-opener, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Don't expect any subtlety here. Chris
Harrison quickly tells us the show has invited “the hottest,
sexiest, most outrageous 'Bachelor' and 'Bachelorette' contestants.'”

The emphasis is on outrage. One person
calls Michelle “creepy,” another says Vienna “(will) kill you
in your sleep.” Vienna's former fiance Jake is there; he's said she
sold their break-up story to the tabloids.

Also, Michelle says she's not crazy.
She says it in the tone of someone offering a minority opinion.

Other choices include:

– “Hell's Kitchen” and
“MasterChef,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first hour has 11
professional chefs remaining; the second is down to six amateurs.

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. Here's a rerun of Wednesday's hour, filling the field of 16
people who started with auditions. On Tuesday and Wedneday, four
YouTube entrants will be added..

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Short on money, Alan decides to give Lyndsey a creative birthday
present. Meanshile, Courtney (Jenny McCarthy) is never short of
money.

– “The Closer,” 9 p.m., TNT. The
investigation of a minister's murder gets difficult, because his
family is hiding his secrets.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30, CBS.
Talking to a flirty woman, Mike introduces his lover Molly as “my
friend.” This doesn't go well with Molly.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
McGarrett's sister (Taryn Manning) is kidnapped, providing hints
about their mother's murder.

– “Rizzoli & Isles,” 10 p.m.,
TNT. Rizzoli and her brother – both honest cops – have sometimes
talked about their brother, who's in prison. He gets tonight,
stirring complications.

– “Citizen Kane” (1941), 10 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies. Orson Welles directed and starred in the film
that's tops many best-movie lists. It's part of an all-Welles day.
He's an actor in Carol Reed's “The Third Man” (1949) at 8 p.m.;
he directed and co-starred in the odd “Touch of Evil” (1958) at
12:15 a.m.