TV column for Monday, July 14


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “24” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

This has been a grand experiment, facing key questions: Can
the high-octane “24” formula work at 12 episodes, instead of 24?  Will audiences watch a well-made, scripted
network show in the summer? And can Jack Bauer save the world yet again?

He’s faced a canny villain who seized American drones, but
he’s been helped by key women – his friend Chloe, the tech whiz; his ex-lover
Audrey, the president’s daughter; and Kate, the tough CIA agent.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Seed” debut, 9:30 p.m., CW.

An amiable bartender has spent his life avoiding
involvement. Then a kid shows up at his door; the guy learns he’s a father.

Yes, that was also the plot for a CW drama, “Life
Unexpected.” But this Canadian show is done for laughs – which build quickly.
The guy was a sperm donor (anonymous, he thought), so a second kid and a third
possibility soon arrive. He meets parents who are opposites in funny ways. And
in the proper TV tradition, he’s a smart, caring guy under that party surface.
A surprisingly good comedy emerges.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Going Deep with David Rees” debut,
10-11 p.m., National Geographic.

At one point in the 10:30 episode, Rees proudly introduces
the man with the world’s best Website about shoelaces. (No, we don’t know if
there’s a second-best one.) Indeed, Professor Shoelace flew in from Australia,
to make his American TV debut.

That’s part of a “How to Tie Your Shoelaces” half-hour that
ranges from parachutists to seamen. In this episode – and the 10 p.m. one on
making ice cubes – we learn that there are experts on everything. Rees – who
wrote a book on how to sharpen a pencil – makes them seem fun and interesting.

Other choices include:

“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After sending Marcus
home last week, Andi Dorfman takes the final three to the Dominican Republic.
She swims with Nick, rides horseback with Chris, plays baseball with Josh (a
former pro player) and Dominican kids. She may invite each for a “fantasy suite”

“Backpackers” debut, 8:30 p.m., CW. Shortly after an engagement,
there are second thoughts. She’s gone off to Europe; now he and a friend
backpack to find her. That’s sandwiched by “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (8 and 9
p.m.), in a comedy line-up concluding with “Seed.”

“Brain Games” return, 9 p.m., National Geographic. First, a
baby sees two identical-looking teddy bears, one acting rudely, the other
politely; then she gets to choose. Each baby, this interesting half-hour says,
chooses the nice bear. (Our cynical side says when she’s older, she’ll choose
the bad boy who will fail to pay child support.) The message is that compassion
is a natural state; a new 9:30 episode views the brain’s role in addiction. Those
two rerun at 11 and 11:30 p.m.; older episodes rerun at 7 and 7:30.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Jenny moves in with
her grandmother Evelyn (Holland Taylor) and Evelyn’s fiancé Marty (Carl Reiner).

“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. As the food stock dwindles,
Big Jim starts a census.

“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Karen’s romance gets an
encouraging sign, but the others are shaky.

TV column for Sunday, July 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Strain” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Two genres – sleek science-fiction and old-school horror –
are skillfully blended by movie director Guillermo del Toro. He co-wrote this
(and the novels it’s based on), directed the pilot, is producing the series … and
crafts it all into an oddly involving tale.

An incoming, international flight suddenly stops on the
runway; all 210 people on-board are dead … or seem to be. We soon meet a
Centers for Disease Control doctor (diligent, but self-centered) and an old
Holocaust survivor who knows something dire. We also see a jolt of gory excess;
expect more ahead.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.

In a wise (if tardy) move, CBS has moved the overheated
“Reckless” back to 10 p.m., giving this fairly solid series the better spot,
behind “Big Brother,”

Tonight, a reporter has been killed, after writing an expose
about the head of the National Security Agency. Simms helps Carrie work the
case; Al meets an old girlfriend.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Musketeers,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC

The young French king needs an alliance with Savoy.
Fortunately, the king’s sister is married to the Duke of Savoy; unfortunately,
there’s a would-be assassin, convinced the duke committed a mass murder.

That creates a dilemma for the Musketeers; they’re assigned
to protect the king, but suspect the assassin (a former Musketeer) is right.
Like previous episodes, this is a big-scale, well-crafted adventure.

Other choices include:

“The Butler” (2013), 6:45 p.m.; “Ray Donovan” and “Masters
of Sex,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime. A big night starts with the richly and subtly
crafted movie, followed by two season-openers. Then “Donovan” ends its hour
big, as Ray tries to retrieve his wayward dad (Jon Voight) from Mexico; afterward,
the OK “Sex” finds Dr. Masters stretching to re-build his study after being
fired by the university.

“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. The kids visit other
worlds in these reruns: Bart is thought to spur pregnancies via voodoo dolls.
Lisa is, alas, dating a competitive eater.

“Masterpiece,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The
gentle, academic world of Oxford has been hit by three murders in a week. Now young
Endeavour Morse tries to catch the Oxford Strangler, while dealing with his
personal problems.

“The Last Ship,” 9 p.m., TNT. After eluding the Russians
last week, the ship faces fresh problems: The propulsion system is breaking
down, the crew is exhausted and the work on a cure for the virus could be
destroyed, ruining what may be mankind’s last hope.

 “Reckless,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Jamie and Roy compete in a “stand your ground” court case, while preparing
for the big one: She’s representing Le Anne, who lost her police job after a
sex tape appeared; Le Anne says she was drugged and the city is hoping for a

“The Leftovers,” 10 p.m., HBO. After a strong start, this is
drifting in odd directions Tonight’s hour focuses strictly on a priest’s
obsessive attempts to save his near-empty church building.

TV column for Saturday, July 12

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC.

This rerun opens with a scene that is stark, silent and
(this is a very good thing) “Fargo”-esque. Against a wintry backdrop, a man
(Steven Weber) trudges down the road, staring blankly.

He’s a lawyer who was missing for a dozen years, which
points Liz to what’s considered a jailhouse myth – “The Judge,” exacting
revenge for law gone wrong. It’s a strong hour, with Dianne Wiest (who has two
Oscars and two Emmys) as guest star … and, in the final minutes, a key
revelation about Liz’s husband.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Bad Teacher,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

For Saturdays, this is a rarity on two counts – it’s a
comedy and it’s not a rerun. If it were a good comedy, that would be even
better, but you can’t have everything.

In the first episode, Meredith tries to attract the
attention of a rich and famous vegan chef; he cares about the environment, she
doesn’t, so she needs help from Irene (Sara Gilbert). In the second, she joins
the teachers’ pool, betting on Lily in the science fair; now she must sabotage
the others.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m.,

Like many “SNL” weeks, this rerun -- with Lena Dunham
hosting and The National as music guest – is wildly inconsistent. Still, two
sketches make it worth watching.

One is a “Scandal” take-off, with Dunham as a newcomer,
perplexed by all the jargon. The other is a fake ad for an Adam and Eve movie
starring Adam and Hannah (characters from Dunham’s “Girls”). The wispy moral
uncertainties of modern life collide wonderfully with Biblical absolutes.

Other choices include:

Christmas films, all day, Hallmark. “Christmas in July” continues
until 8 a.m. Sunday. Highlights? “Christmas With Holly” (2012, noon) reflects
its lush “Hallmark Hall of Fame” budget … “Angels Sing” (2013, 8 p.m.) has
Connie Britton and Harry Connick Jr. …. and at midnight, three Debbie Macomber
tales arrive – “Mrs. Miracle” (2009), “Call Me Mrs. Miracle” (2010) and
“Trading Christmas” (2011).

“Bet on Your Baby,” 8 p.m., ABC. One mom tries to guess how
many soccer goals her 2-year-old can make in 90 seconds; another tries to guess
her 3-year-old’s celebrity impersonations.

“Mistresses,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Karen’s secret life
brings a backlash. Also, Harry is ready to sign the divorce papers with Savi
and has some shocking news for her sister, Joss.

“Under the Dome,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a quick change, CBS is
rerunning Monday’s episode, the season’s second. The high school science teacher
(introduced in the season-opener) has found an infestation in the town’s food
supply. Dale “Barbie: Barbara scrambles tohelp her stop it.

“Power,” 9 p.m., Starz. Increasingly worried about her
husband (known as Ghost), Tasha interferes with his nightclub’s business. She
has other things to fret about: His romance with Angela – his former teen
girlfriend – is deepening. Meanwhile, Ghost and Tommy are convinced Ruiz is
behind the attacks.

“Almost Royal,” 10 p.m., BBC America. The make-believe
royals visit Detroit, where they try rapping and being auto mechanics. That’s
followed at 10:30 by a rerun of their Fashion Week visit to New York.

TV column for Friday, July 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-TRY: “The Almighty Johnsons” debut, 10 p.m.,

A 21st birthday can be a rough transition for
anyone. Still, it’s even rougher if people suddenly want to kill you … and
others say you’re now a Norse god … and your cousin turns out to be your

Yes, this all might seem odd and silly; this New Zealand series
adapts to that smartly. Its cast – unknowns, plus Oscar-nominee Keisha
Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”) as Axl’s flatmate Gaia – is subtly perfect; its
script adds clever quirks. When was the last time you heard someone say “my
mother the tree”? Or you saw a key event determined by a supernatural speed
round of rock-paper-scissors?    

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

A three-drama-rerun night concludes with an hour awash in
trouble for Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his family.

There’s his daughter Erin, an assistant district attorney,
now held hostage in the courtroom. And his son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), the
chief negotiator in the courtroom. And his other son Jamie, who has disobeyed
orders; now Frank must decide the punishment.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mark Twain Prize,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

In its first 12 years, this comedy prize went to 10 men,
plus Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin. Then that changed, with three women –
Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres and Carol Burnett – in four years.

Burnett, 81, adds this to a list that includes six Emmys and
16 more nominations. This rerun (stuffed with comedians and potential fun), includes
people with long links to her – Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, Julie Andrews,
Lucie Arnaz and Tony Bennett. Fey is also there, plus Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph
and Rosemary Watson, a relative unknown whom Burnett spotted via a letter and
the Internet.

Other choices include:

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), 7:30 p.m.,
ABC Family; or “Frozen” (2013), 8 p.m., Starz. It’s a good night to catch a
family movie. “Frozen” is gorgeous, visually and musically; “Stone” launches
the “Harry Potter” series and will also start a marathon at 7 a.m. Saturday,
with the second film at 10:30.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. Nick and Greg
probe the death of a 16-year-old girl who had links to a brothel.

“Girl Meets World,” 8:30 p.m., Disney. The former “Boy Meets
World” people have done a clever job of stepping into a new generation.
Tonight, a homework project requires teen Riley to actually talk with Lucas
face-to-face, instead of merely texting.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This was the season’s second
episode, back when Kono and Adam were on the lam. Meanwhile, a Texas Ranger
(Tim Daly) arrives, looking for his daughter.

“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. Heading into Monday’s finale, here’s one
more chance to see the episode that sets it up: Jack, Kate and Mark race to
find the terrorists, while Audrey tries the diplomatic route.

“Crossbones,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Alarmed by a plan for
Blackbeard (John Malkovich) to attack civilians, Lowe finds a way to report
back to Jagger. Then he starts to wonder if Jagger is a worse madman.

TV column for Thursday, July 10

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden” debut, 9:01 p.m.,

In real life, Greg Poehler was a lawyer who quit his job,
moved to Sweden and somehow became a stand-up comic and TV guy. Now he turns
that into a comedy: An accountant (Poehler) moves to the homeland of his
gorgeous girlfriend (Swedish actress Josephine Bornebusch).

“Welcome” is produced by Amy Poehler (Greg’s sister), who
guests in the first few minutes. With its low-key style and occasional
sub-titles, it won’t draw a big audience. Still, it has the sort of wit and
fish-out-of-water charm we haven’t seen since “Northern Exposure” began in the
summer of 1990.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN.

One CBS guy got it very wrong: In a news report, Alexander
Kendrick said the Beatles “symbolize the 20
th-century non-hero, as
they make non-music wearing non-haircuts.”

Another CBS guy got it right: Ed Sullivan booked the Beatles
and then all the others. This jaunty hour is billed as “The British Invasion,”
but it goes much deeper, showing a bland music world taken over by, as one man
puts it, “crazy young geniuses.” The report ranges from Tom Hanks (a “Sixties”
producer) to Smokey Robinson and Questlove, who praises the Beatles’ knack for
“the perfect three-minute record.”


Fun activities can be dangerous (and deadly), we see in this
strong hour. A 19-year-old is taking his first flying lesson, when the plane
crashes, killing the pilot and sending the student to the emergency room. A
basketball game leaves a young man with an ankle that must be snapped back into

And basketball causes a fractured finger for Dr. Mehmet Oz,
54, as he’s prepares for a heart procedure on a motorcycle cop who collapsed
from a stroke, in front of his wife and their young children. “When you’re a
surgeon, you need to have use of all your fingers, not just nine of them,” Oz

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This funny rerun gives
Sheldon a surprise, when he visits his mom (Laurie Metcalf) in Houston. Back
home, Raj’s mystery party stirs up fights.

“Black Box,” 8 p.m., ABC. A famed neurologist, Catherine
Black has been hiding her own mental problems from her co-workers and her
lover. Now that reaches a breaking point in a strong episode.

“Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. There are partner problems
everywhere: Andy faces accusations by the jumpy rookie she’s been training. And
Dov starts to suspect his friend Chris.

“Rectify,” 9 p.m., Sundance. Daniel has tried to survive in
a small town where most people still consider him a killer. Now he tries
anonymity in Atlanta. Meanwhile, his sister ponders a new life.

“Working the Engels” debut, 9:30 p.m., NBC. The first
minutes are hilarious, as a widow (Andrea Martin) adjusts poorly to the news
that her late husband’s law practice has big debts. From there, we get an OK
comedy as the office is tackled by her three kids, only one of them (a lawyer)

“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. After pausing to show
the season’s 100 best jokes (many of them hilarious) so far, “Comic” is back to
business. With Ellen Degeneres, the final eight learn talk-show skills.