TV column for Saturday, July 21

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

Will Ferrell returns to host his old
show, inhabiting most of the sketches.

He's George W. Bush in the fairly funny
opener and a bumbling “psychic” in the extremely funny
almost-closer. He's drunken reporter Randy Feather and a candidate
for mayor of Funkytown.

That's in an excellent rerun that also
has Usher, Liam Neeson, a terrific “Weekend Update” and more –
including Justin Bieber sparking a booming celebration of the 100th
“SNL Digital Video.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Castle, 9-11
p.m., ABC.

Deftly switching moods, “Castle”can
be light one week and dead-serious the next.

Last week's rerun was filled with fun
'40s flashbacks. This week has a scramble to prevent a war.

That's in a two-parter that that (in a
late scheduling change) reruns in one night: A ruthless killer is
linked to an international scheme. Now Castle is working anew with
Sophia Turner (Jennifer Beals), a beautiful CIA agent whom he
fictionalized as Clara Strike in his novels.

films, 9 and 11 p.m., cable.

Two movies debut, suggesting good
intentions and happy endings; both repeat Sunday.

GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel) has
“Raising Izzie,” which is also at 7 p.m. A 14-year-old tries to
raise her 10-year-old sister, after their late mother left them money
and encouragement; a childless couple may help. The film re-unites
Rockmond Dunbar and Vanessa Williams (the "Melrose Place" one, not the Miss America one) from the “Soul Food” series
and is produced and directed by Roger Bobb, who did the same for
Tyler Perry's shows.

Hallmark has “How to Fall in Love." Eric Mabius, the guy every woman wanted
in”Ugly Betty,” is convincing as a guy no woman wants. He hires a
dating coach (Brooke D'Orsay) who was the most popular girl in his
class; this has no surprises, but a moderate amount of fun.

Other choices include:

– “30 Most Interesting Olympic
Moments,” 8 p.m., NBC. Bob Costas offers lot of clips and memories,
six days before the new games have their opening ceremony in London.

– “NYC 22,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a new
episode – scheduled earlier, then delayed – “White House”
(Leelee Sobieski) and “Jackpot” find a pregnant woman trapped in
a burning car. “Lazarus” and Tonya guard a PCP lab; Kenny and
Ahmed think they have an enviable assignment, working with a veteran

– “The Help” (2011), 8 p.m.,
Showtime, or “Moneyball” (2011), 9 p.m., Starz. Choose between
two nominees for the best-picture Oscar. Their subjects – racism in
the 1960s, baseball in 2002 – differ sharply, but both films are
well-crafted and entertaining, with surprising bursts of humor.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. The first rerun plays off headlines to have
a respected coach (Dan Lauria) accused of sexual abuse. The second
added Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) to the team. He found a complex story,
with a 13-year-old's pregnancy linked to a prominent family.

– “Todd Barry: Super Crazy,”
11p.m., Comedy Central. Forget the show's title; Barry brings a
quiet, casual style of stand-up humor. It works well as he discusses
such matters as being a lazy germaphobe.

TV column for Friday, July 20

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “John Oliver's
New York Stand-up Show,” 11 p.m., Comedy Central.

This excellent season-opener starts and
ends with clever “Daily Show” people, Oliver and Wyatt Cernac. In
between are fine bits by Hari Kondabolu, Mark Normand and,
especially, Ben Kronberg.

In the Steven Wright style, Kronberg
dryly drops little gems. He does puns (a step-father should be called
a “faux pa”), observes quirks (“rape is75 per cent rap”) and
announces: “I like my women like I like my coffee – sent back
because they're not hot enough.”

8:30 p.m., NBC.

Here's a rerun of another of the
odd-and-clever episodes that make “Community” stand out.

In the biology lab, someone has smashed
a yam that was a class project. Now the study group takes action;
it's a “Law & Order” take-off, complete with theme music,
introduction, “ching-ching” sound between scenes and more. And in
a biology-class courtroom, Annie turns out to be a fierce prosecutor.
TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Batman Begins” (2005, FX); “The Dark
Knight” (2008, TNT), 8 p.m.

This is the day when “The Dark Knight
Rises” reaches theaters, offering the third Batman tale with
Christopher Nolan directing Christian Bale.

And if you missed the first two? They
run simultaneously tonight on cable.

Each of the three films has a few key
people on Batman's side – Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman
as Lucius Fox (head of his Wayne Enterprises) and Gary Oldman as the
honest cop who will be Commissioner Gordon. Other roles are passed
along: Rachel Dawes is played by Katie Holmes in the first film,
Maggie Gyllenhaal in the second … which has superb, Oscar-winning
work by the late Heath Ledger, as the Joker.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. As this
brilliant series neared its finale, colleagues were increasingly
worried about House's health. This reruns an episode in which Dr.
Adams (Odette Annable) planned an intervention. Also, the medical
case centers on an Army veteran, accused of leaking information.

– “Whitney,” 8 p.m., NBC. With
the Olympics taking over next Friday, this show reruns its
season-finale: Whitney and Chris head to City Hall to get married …
only to find complications, starting with an expired driver's

– :Homecoming,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Growing up in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., Joyce
DiDonato didn't really discover opera until her junior year in
college. She soon was finishing first or second in classical
competitions; this year, she won the Grammy for best classical vocal
solo. DiDonato, 43, still lives near her home town; this concert
catches her concert with the Kansas City Symphony, at its new

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a murder may be linked to a high-stakes video tournament.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Monica Raymund has already been a “Lie to Me” co-star (as Ria
Torres) and a recurring “Good Wife” character (as Dana Lodge);
now she plays Jamie's new police partner. Also in this rerun, Jamie's
brother Danny finds that an ex-cop was involved in a bank robbery.

TV column for Thursday, July 19

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Duets” finale,
8 p.m., ABC.

When this series started, Kelly
Clarkson warned that Jennifer Nettles (from the country duo
Sugarland) could dominate. She was vigorous, Clarkson said, in
finding top talent.

And now?. The final three singers
include both of Nettles' guys – John Glosson, 32, of Douglas, Ga.,
and J Rome, 25, of Laurel, Md. They face one of Clarkson's people,
Jason Furol, 23, of Torrence, Cal. The other mentors – Robin Thicke
and John Legend – were shut out. Tonight, their main duty is to
open the show as part of a four-mentor performance.

Son” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., TBS.

As actor-comedians go, Steve Byrne
brings unusual roots. Half Irish and half Korean, he grew up in
Pittsburgh as a hockey zealot and player; now he uses that background

Byrne plays a corporate lawyer,
introducing his glitzy girlfriend to his natural turf – his dad's
zestful Irish bar in Pittsburgh. Rob Long, who created this show with
Byrne, started his career in “Cheers” and offers that sort of
blue-collar humor here. Adding to it are all the Irish and Korean
jibes; yes, these are stereotypes and cliches, but they're delivered
with warmth and wit.

Runway” season-opener, 9 p.m., Lifetime, re-running at 10:30.

The show's10th season finds almost half
its people with international roots. Most of the 16 contestants now
live in NewYork (where the show is taped), but some grew up in
Belarus, Brazil, Dubai, Guyana, Honduras, Japan and the Ukraine.

They're all between 22 and 33, with two
exceptions. Lantie Foster, from Sacramento, is 48; Andrea Katz, from
Oceanside, NY, is 58.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”) returns in this rerun as
Sheldon's religious-conservative mom, visiting from Texas. He needs
attention, but she's busy with the others.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:30,
CBS. In this rerun, Walden starts re-decorating.As hints of Charlie
disappear, Alan fidgets.

– “Big Brother,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Each Thursday, a housemate will be sent home. Here's the first

– “New Girl,” 9 and 9:30 p.m.,
Fox. Both transplanted reruns focus on Schmidt's shaky romances. In
the first, his secret flings with Cece cause trouble, especially when
he's also dating someone else; Katrina Bowden of “30 Rock”
guests. In the second, he's with a smart lawyer (Lizzie Caplan)

– “L.A. Hair” season finale, 9
p.m., WE. This reality show ends its first season with confrontations
for Kimberly Kimble: Angela defies her; China has an emotional
breakdown in front of her.

– “Rock Center,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Americans have more college-loan debt ($1 trillion) than credit-card
debt, one report says. Also, there are profiles of Gabrielle Douglas
– who has a strong shot at being only the second African-American
gymnast with an Olympic medal – and of Mitt Romney's five sons.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p..m., ABC.
When a key witness in a Mob trial disappears, the cops turn to
someone who says he's a gifted psychic. His information checks out,
leaving bigger questions.

– “Point of Interest,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Alan Dale usually plays authority figures in “Lost” and
“Ugly Betty” and “Once Upon a Time” and more. In this rerun,
he's a veteran of Cold War espionage.

– “Great Lake Warriors” debut, 10
p.m., History. Not all big-water drama is on the oceans, it turns
out. This series confines itself to Lake Michigan, between the
Chicago area and Wisconsin. Tiny tugboats battle November storms,
with likably blunt, blue-collar guys in charge.

--”Louie,” 10:30, FX. Nudged by his
daughters, Louie gets serious about finding a girlfriend. This has a
delightful asking-out scene and the start of a two-week guest spot by
the brilliant Parker Posey.


TV column for Wednesday, July 18

Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

It's time for the first eliminations –
a complicated matter, with “Dance” trimmed to once a week.

The 20 contestants will again dance in
pairs and we'll learn which six people hit the bottom in last week's
viewer votes. They'll do solos and the judges – based on what
happened both weeks – will dump one man and one woman.

Yes, it's too tangled. Still, “Dance”
has talented, diverse people worth seeing, despite complications.

Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC.

One of TV's best comedies again offers
a pair of reruns. This time, both center on Alex.

In the first, she's doing a paper on
family harmony. That's not easy with the family in disarray.

In the second, she prepares for her
first prom. Also, Gloria is needed as translator, as Mitchell and Cam
push their effort to adopt a second baby.

Crowd “(1957), 8-10:15 p.m., Turner Classic Movies.

Andy Griffith could have spent his
entire career playing sweet-spirited bumpkins. That's what he did in
his comedy routines and twice on Broadway, in a comedy and a musical.

Instead, he shifted here to Marlon
Brando turf. The same people who had crafted Brando's searing “On
the Waterfront” – director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg –
made this film, with Griffith as a homespun TV star who turns cruel.
One film critic (Leonard Maltin) calls the story “perceptive” and
“fascinating”; another (Robert Moses) calls it “savagely

Other choices include:

– More Griffith, cable. If you prefer
the sweet roles mastered by Griffith (who died two weeks ago, at 86).
there are lots of reruns. WGN has “Matlock” at 9 and 10 a.m.; TV
Land has “The Andy Griffith Show” at noon and 12:30 p.m.

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. The
kids face steep expectations in this rerun – Sue to be a
cheerleader, Brick to resist bullies, Axl to focus on his upcoming
SAT exams.

– “Up All Night,” 8:30 p.m., NBC.
“Saturday Night Live” people, present and past, fill this rerun:
Chris' friend (Will Forte) offers bad advice; Ava (Maya Rudolph) gets
a trainer (Fred Armisen).

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Four more acts advance to the next round. There's still one more
batch of four coming next week; the final 16 compete after the

– “Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT. Each
week, this becomes more wildly overheated,with soap-style excess.
That hits an extreme when John Ross confronts the fake Marta. Also,
Christopher's estranged wife (another fake) is pregnant and his
step-mom holds a secret. Flaws and all, this hour has a great closing

– “America's Lost Treasures,” 9
p.m., National Geographic. When this show debuted two weeks ago,
historians saw charming pieces of Texas' past. Tonight, Los Angeles
mas mostly bland choices.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) finds his
second case is another odd one: Three separate people confess, each
with a different explanation.

TV column for Tuesday, July 17

p.m., ABC.

Jon Kuhfeldt seems to have the things
that matter – a warm relationship with his wife, son and
about-to-be-married daughter. What he need is a new liver; this hour
follows him and the transplant team.

Dr. Sebastian Schubl says he had it all
– a wife, job and city (New Orleans) he loved. All of that was
washed away after Hurricane Katrina; now he's living alone in New
York City. He's one of several attractive and likable hospital people
in this compelling hour; others include nurses Diana Costine and
Katie Duke, dealing with a bizarre bunch of patients.

Talent” and “Love in the Wild,” 8 and 10 p.m., NBC.

One good thing about NBC's Olympic
coverage is that it forces the reality shows to speed up.

“Talent” has a dozen more acts
perform tonight, with viewers voting on the four survivors. Next week
– just before an Olympic break – the show add four more, completing its 16
acts for the next round.

And “Wild” is moving even quicker.
Tonight, its final three couples have an adventure and one is
eliminated. Next week, the champion couple wins an around-the-world

Detectives season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

One person has a fanciful painting from
an artist (“FZ”) who might be Frank Zappa. Another has an
electric guitar (complete with hand-written lyric sheets) that might
be the one that drew boos for Bob Dylan. Brothers have what might be
Beatle autographs from their Miami hotel.

The total cost for all three was $5. (That's
for the painting, in a thrift shop; the guitar was found by Dylan's
pilot.) But are they real? The examination triggers an interesting stroll
through the lives of music masters.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. When a
Coast Guardsman is killed, the search produces a surprise – a
Lebanese family, hiding to seek refuge. Also, the guys seek the
perfect woman for Gibbs.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Here's the start of a two-week rerun, with Kensi Blye (Daniela
Ruah) arrested in a case linked to her late father's sniper unit.

– “MasterChef,” 9 p.m., Fox. The
seven remaining contestants must prepare a Southern meal, from
ingredients chosen by Paula Deen. The winner pairs the others into
teams to prepare a Japanese meal.

– “Trust Us With Your Life,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. In the first half-hour, improvisational comedians
tackle the life of Mark Cuban, the former Internet mogul who owns the
Dallas Mavericks.In the second, they work on comedian Ricky Gervais.


– “American Gypsies” debut, 9
p.m., National Geographic. The Romani (or Gypsy) culture is built on
tradition. The Johns family runs psychic shops in New York; kids are
home-schooled and are told to avoid meeting – and, especially –
dating outsiders. This fairly interesting reality show starts amid
change: One guy secretly dates an outsider; two of his cousins want
to be actresses, not psychics.

– “Franklin & Bash,”10 p.m.,
TNT. This light-hearted law show can get way too silly; tonight's
main story, centering on a military trial, has absurd twists. Other
stories are better: One has Damien meeting a gorgeous young lawyer
from his past; another has Pundar's misadventure with a switchblade.