TV column for Wednesday, June 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Mr. Robot” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

After the first
eight minutes, you'll be hooked. The gem of TV's summer season, “Mr.
Robot” has brilliant writing, stylish direction and a memorable new
star.

Rami Malek is 34, an
American with half-Egyptian roots (he's the pharaoh in “Night at
the Museum” films); he brings an unblinking intensity to a great
role. Elliot fits TV's favorite niche, the Sheldon-Sherlock-Scorpion
guy who's brilliant, but socially clumsy. For him, however, the
stakes are bigger. He's a computer hacker who sees injustice, fights
evil and feels people are following him. They are.

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

For its 17th
summer, this show aims for a bigger look and fresh detours. The house
itself is now twice as tall, to allow for a 22-foot-high “wave
wall”; it also has a roof that people can walk on and see through.
And each week, two guests will arrive to set off that week's twists.

Still, the basics
remain -- telegenic housemates, sometimes with bad behavior. There
are 14, ranging in age from 22 to 33, including a wrestler, a poker
player, a poker dealer and a dentist. Coming up are episodes at 8
p.m. Thursday and Sunday; next week, Thursday moves to 9 p.m., with
the first eviction.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “First Peoples” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Here are fresh looks
at the start of human history. The second hour follows the
traditional view that modern humans began in Eastern Africa 200,000
years ago, but then finds variations. Could there have been a second
starting point in Western Africa? Was there inter-species breedng
with Neanderthals?

By comparison, the
first hour seems almost current, viewing the Americas. It views the
first signs of humans here (13,500 and 13,800 years ago), and raises
new questions: Did the first people come by boat from Polynesia, with
others coming later by ice bridge? DNA research brings some
surprises.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. Both
shows still have more auditions, but they pause to rerun previous
ones. “Talent” has highlights of what's happened so far; “Ninja”
reruns its Houston try-outs.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. The show's 99th episode brings two everyday
sort of challenges: Make an exceptional breakfast dish in 45 minutes;
also, make a TV dinner.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. It's a night of audience-pleasers, for kids – the delightful
“Rio” (2011) on Disney – and grown-ups. That includes adventure
(“Divergent,” 2014, on HBO), comedy (“Sex and the City, 2008,
on E) and both, with Eddie Murphy's terrivic “Beverly Hills Cop”
(1984) on CMT.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. For a senior citizen, Pops (George Segal) tends to
celebrate Halloween hardily. In a rerun, he accidentally sets off a
fire and is evicted; now Adam has his Grandpa living with him.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In this rerun, video from the wedding reveals that Phil
is responsible for the cold that has been hitting everyone on the
family.

“Suits”
season-opener, 9 p.m., USA. As the fifth season starts, things have
flipped: Mike is almost comfortable (he and Rachel are now a steady
couple); Harvey is not. Harvey (Gabriel Macht) fumes because Donna is
working for the nasty Louis; more trouble is ahead, when an upcoming
partner challenges Harvey's brash style. And coming is a big case for
Mike (Patrick Adams) and Louis.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Families have changed thoroughly from the
Ozzie-and-Harriet days ... but what about that family's descendants?
Gunnar Nelson -- grandson of Ozzie and Harriet, son of Rick, nephew
of Mark Harmon, half of the Nelsons music duo -- has a fairly new
marriage, with two step-kids; tonight, his wife swaps with the family
of Vince Neil, of Motley Crue fame.

TV column for Tuesday, June 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Another Period” debut, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

Imagine a truly
perverse “Downton Abbey,” illed with crazed Americans. Natasha
Leggero and Riki Lindhome have written that here and gave themselves
dandy roles.

They're sisters in a
1902 Rhode Island family that has too much money and too little class
and sense. Jason Ritter is their brother and Christina Hendricks
(“Mad Men”) is the new maid with schemes of her own. The opener
is a bit blunt at first, then keeps getting funnier. Soon, the family
is trying to impress a social arbitrer (Thomas Lennon) and Helen
Keller; the result is sometimes hilarious.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

When we met Liv in
the opener (which reran last week), she was a medical resident, tired
and somber ... especially since she inadvertently became a zombie.
Now we see what's next: As a medical examiner, she can munch the
brains of victims and get clues to their murders.

She also adds some
of the traits of the departed. After munching an artist, the drab and
dour Liv suddenly wants bright colors and lots of sex; it was a fun
hint of this show's potential.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Extreme Weight Loss,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Tiffany Kasunich was
once a Temple University soccer goalie, tall and fit at 156 pounds;
Cain Myers was a high school wrestler and football player, also fit.
They met, fell in love and fell into a festive-food mode; four years
later, they weighted 260 and 357 pounds.

Now Chris and Heidi
Powell push them to get fit and get married in six months. This is
complicated by his gambling addiction (he admits to losing $250,000)
and her health woes (ulcerative colitis); it's boosted by their
outgoing personalities. Forget the “Biggest Loser” weepers; this
is a fun journey.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts”
conclusion 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The rerun of Ken
Burns' brilliant documentary wraps up Franklin Roosevelt's story and
follows the rising role of his widow Eleanor.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun mixes some light holiday moments (it aired on
Halloween week) and a serious story: A Navy commander's wife, a
therapist, has been killed.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. When a Navy officer with a top security
clearance is killed, the team must determine if there was an
intelligence breach.

“World's Funniest”
return, 9 p.m., Fox. The show's early episodes aired (as “World's
Funniest Fails”) this spring; they were heavy-handed, but drew
fairly good ratings. Now the show returns, again with Terry Crews
hosting; tonight's hour offers clips backing the theme, “Animals:
Nature's Biggest Jerks.”

“I Can Do That,”
10 p.m., NBC. This hour (which follows “America's Got Talent”
auditions at 8) has celebrities trying to match flashy teams of
skaters, modern dancers and ballroom dancers.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Titled “Rape on the Night Shift,”
this documentary probes the sexual abuse faced by immigrant women who
have overnight cleaning jobs.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX. Last week's season-opener found the dictator reluctant to
order the death of the brother (Barry) who had planned a coup. A
hanging involved someone else, under a hood; Barry – until
recently, a Pasadena pediatrician – was dumped in the desert to die
anonymously. Yes, that defies believability on many levels; still, it
sets up strong moments tonight: Barry is stumbling, his wife is
demanding the body, his brother is trying to ignore assasination
attempts as a big oil deal nears.

 

TV column for Monday, June 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Genius,” 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., National Geographic.

Each hour of this
interesting documentary series shows geniuses colliding. Sometimes,
that's just for their own fun and profit; in the new 9 p.m. hour,
however, the world is at stake. During World War II, Robert
Oppenheimer (U.S.) and Werner Heisenberg (Germany) work on nuclear
projects.

That's followed at
10 p.m. by inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Then – after a
so-so “StarTalk” with guest Norma Lear at 11 p.m., those rerun at
midnight and 1 a.m. Other reruns involve radio (3 p.m.), newspapers
(4 p.m.), space (5 and 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.) and guns (6 and 8 p.m.).

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

The show starts
where it left off last week – in San Antonio, with Ian ready to aim
a tirade at Kaitlyn Bristowe. Then she trims the field to nine guys
and heads to Dublin.

There, they find the
usual Irish pleasures – a Cranberries concert and a wake. It's a
fake wake, actually, with they guys expected to create their best
farewells for Bristowe.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV” season-opener, 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

In America's biggest
news city, this caused a stir: Women had beaten and stabbed a man. A
New York Post headline proclaimed: “Attack of the Killer Lesbians.”

Now a filmmaker has
taken a second look. There are questions about what really happened,
wrapped alongside warm portraits of four women. It's a strong start
for “POV,” which consistently delivers documentaries that each
have a strong point of view.

Other choices
include:

“The Godfather”
(1972), 2 and 6 p.m., AMC. Here's one of the all-time great films,
during a collision of master directors. This Francis Coppola classic
faces three “Jurassic Park” films – the first two directed by
Steven Spielberg – at 3 p.m. (1993), 6 p.m. (1997) and 9 p.m.
(2001), on Syfy.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The auditions conclude in New York
City, which always seems to deliver strong dancers. Next week, we see
the Las Vegas callbacks.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. An all-rerun night for CBS starts with a shock for
Caroline: She gets the Lamborghini her dad ordered four years ago,
before he was convicted of financial fraud.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. For once, everyone else is gone and Mike
and Molly have the house to themselves for the weekend.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. These computer geeks keep turning into action heroes. Now
they're racing to rescue a boy who's trapped in a seaside cave, with
the water rising.

“The Whispers,”
10 p.m., ABC. By the end of last week's episode, the mission of “John
Doe” became more clear to viewers ... but not to him. Confused and
amnesiac, he's breaking into a nuclear facility, after convincing one
kid to hack into government secrets and another to distract an
official. Now kids have another possible task, while Claire and Wes
scramble to stop him.

“Unreal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime. Quinn (Constance Zimmer), the producer of a dating
show, now has her own dating chaos. Finally realizing that her boss
will never leave his wife, she re-explores an old relationship.
Meanwhile, a tabloid paper breaks big news about the bachelor who's
at the show's core.

TV column for Sunday, June 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Poldark” debut, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Fresh from the
Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark returns to the Cornwall countryside.
The land is gorgeous (as is he); the life is not. Poldark is still a
property-owner, but he has little money, his mine has closed ... and
his loved one, thinking he's dead, has married someone else.

“Poldark” is the
sweeping story of a rugged individual in a confined society. First
filmed in 1975, it's been remade with modern filming and budgets. The
result is visually stunning, with a top cast. Aidan Turner (the
vampire in the British “Being Human”) stars with Helda Reed and
Eleanor Tomlinson.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“A.D.” and “American Odyssey,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

The new Emperor
Caligula has quickly found the Jewish people's breaking point; when
he sends his statue to the Temple, there's quick resistance.
Meanwhile, Christian disciples remain firm and even have their first
Roman convert, Cornelius.

Then “Odyssey”
nears its conclusion, with Odelle, Luc andAslan enjoying a respite.
It won't last; in the U.S., where most people thought she was dead,
Peter and Harrison separately gather information.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Anne Frank's Holocaust,” 9-11 p.m., National
Geographic.

From her earliest
years, we're told here, Anne Frank stood out. She was “a spicy
little girl, a really clever little girl,” one friend says. She was
“very vivacious,” another says; “she loved to talk, she liked
to be seen and heard.” Her fame would arrive when she became the
individual face of a mass tragedy.

This deeply detailed
documentary has the full sweep of the Holocaust, but it uses Frank
and her family for a focal point. It rages at the fact that the Nazis
continued their death camps, even when they'd lost the war; it
marvels at the concidences that would allow Frank's diary, father and
friends to survive.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Brink” debut (10:30 p.m.) and more, HBO.

Alex (Jack Black) is
a low-level American official in Pakistan. Unambitious – you
probably guessed that when you heard “Jack Black” -- he just
wants to buy some pot; then he bumps into a protest, takes shelter in
his driver's home ... and becomes a key contact, as a global war
nears.

Here is a dark
comedy in the “Dr. Strangelove” style ... and the final piece of
HBO's summer Sunday line-up. At 9 p.m. is the start of a new “True
Detective” series, this time with Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell;
at 10 is “Ballers,” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a
football star-turned-advisor.

Other choices
include:

Golf, 2-10:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. The U.S. Open concludes, causing other Fox shows to get a
week off (“The Simpsons,” etc.) or move to Fox Sports 1 (Women's
World Cup).

“Celebrity Family
Feud” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Viewers know Toni Braxton and
her sisters from reality-TV; mostly, they know Anthony Anderson from
his fictional “Black-ish” family. Now Anderson and his real
family (mom, brother, sister-in-law, aunt) face the Braxtons. Steve
Harvey hosts; the second half-hour has actress Monica Potter and chef
Curtis Stone, with their families.

“BattleBots”
debut, 9 p.m., ABC. Our finest techno-minds have been at work,
building robots to battle each other in this series.

“The Good Wife,”
9 p.m., CBS. Alicia again battles Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox).
This time, it's in a college rape case that goes from a university
hearing to civil court.

“The Last Ship”
season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., TNT. Last season, a Navy ship was a
floating free zone, untouched by the virus that had spread globally.
A doctor found a cure ... but also found officials unwilling to use
it. Now crew members join an underground movement.

“The Crimson
Field,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Two British nurses are
unprepared for the horrors of working in a tented hospital on the
French coast, early in World War I. This stars Suranne Jones and Oona
Chaplin ... who has show-business roots. Her mom (Geraldine Chaplin)
starred in “Doctor Zhivago”; her grandfather and
great-grandfather were Charlie Chaplin and Eugene O'Neill.

TV column for Saturday, June 20


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

Blake Shelton
expanded his NBC domain with this January episode. Already big with
“The Voice,” he hosted, was music guest and did most of the
sketches – some good and some (as usual) not.

Shelton wasn't in
the opener (a clever take-off on the deflated-football controversy)
and then had a so-so “Hee Haw” bit. But his “Bachelor” satire
and a fake country video (“Wishin' Boot”) were brilliant. Others
(“My Darlin' Joan,” “Magic”) were strained and one-note, but
that's a common “SNL” problem.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Astronauts Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC.

If you missed
Thursday's opener, here's a second chance. It's a fairly good hour,
depicting the seven women married to the original Apollo astronauts.

At the core is
Louise Shepard – intense, determined ... and looking past her
husband's continued affairs; they managed to stay married for 53
years. She's the opposite of Trudy Cooper (Odette Annable), a pilot
who had already left her husband once ... just as flashy and
confident Rene Carpenter (Yvonne Strahovski) was the opposite of shy
Annie Glenn (Azure Parsons). They offer an interesting mix.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Seventies” (7 and 8 p.m.) and “Blackfish”
(2013), 9 p.m., CNN.

Give CNN credit for
offering alternatives to all that news-channel chatter. Tonight, it
reruns the start of its “Seventies” documentary series: The first
hour (on 1970s television) is slick and shallow, but fun; the second
turns serious, viewing Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon.

Then is a rerun of
“Blackfish,” in which former amusement-park people condemn the
notion of captive whales. Deeply engaging, it was named
best-documentary by film critics in St. Louis, Las Vegas and
Washington, D.C., and by the Satellite Awards.

Other choices
include:

Golf, 2-10 p.m. ET,
Fox. It's the third night of the U.S. Open, as the week's sports
overload continues. NBC has boxing (Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter)
at 8:30 p.m. ET. And the golf nudges the Women's World Cup over to
Fox Sports 1, with round-of-16 elimination games at 4 and 7:30 p.m.
ET.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. It isn't easy being a kid surrounded by big-time people.
Playing a video game in this rerun, Ralph accidentally reveals the
location of a CIA safe house.

“Gone Girl”
(2014), 8-10:30 p.m., HBO. If you haven't seen this (or read the
book), savor the plot twists. Rosamund Pike got a well-deserved Oscar
nomination; the movie should have had one, too.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. It's Halloween in New Orleans – yes, this
is a rerun – and we find a JAG officer slain, with odd details. She
has a Victorian costume, with vampire-type puncture wounds.

“In an Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. As a high-school-graduation present, Jenna Otter's
dad took her on a hiking trip to Glacier National Park. There, she
confronted a 400-pound grizzly bear; her dad, a hospital
administrator, diverted the bear, survived the attack ... and even
joked about it afterward. It's a strong story that this rerun tells
with recollections and re-enactments.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz. “Why are you telling me this?” James (the secret drug
boss) asks his lover (the assistant district attorney who works drug
cases). We were wondering the same thing. This is a stylish drama
(especially in tonight's Miami episode), but her blunt admission
seems wildly unbelievable.

“Jonathan Strange
& Mr. Norrell,” 10-11:15 p.m., BBC America. As his reputation
for magic grows, the charismatic Strange becomes an apprentice to the
mild-mannered Norrell.