TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 3


 By
MIKE HUGHES

 

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

 

The
final four dancers perform tonight. Next Tuesday, two of them will
win $125,000 apiece.

 

On
one side, two jazz/contemporary women – Jasmine Harper, 20, and Amy
Yakima, 19 – compete. On the other are Fik-Shun, 18, a hip-hopper,
and Aaron Turner, 25, a tap-dancer. They'll be paired with past
favorites – Comfort, tWitch, Melinda Sullivan and Robert Roldan;
they'll also hear comments from the judges, including two guests,
Gabrielle Douglas, the Olympic-champion gymnast, and Paula Abdul.

 

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “Luther” opener, 10 p.m., BBC America.

 

Big
and brooding, John Luther (Idris Elba) has been one of TV's great
cops. He breaks rules and catches crooks, while showing deep layers
of pain.

 

Now
“Luther” returns, with what's presented as a four-night
mini-series. Actually, it's a pair of two-night movies. The first
(concluding from 9-10 p.m. Wednesday) is brilliant, despite some
brutal excess; the second (10 p.m. Thursday and Friday) flies
off-target.

 

A
couple threads connect the two: Luther meets the sort of gentle woman
who complements his internal chaos. He's also probed by Internal
Affairs; there's a lot of rule-breaking the IA could find.

 

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cold Justice” debut, 10 p.m., TNT.

 

Viewers
know the sleek efficiency of modern crime-scene investigation. But
that's city stuff; this non-fiction series re-opens cases in small
towns, far from fancy crime labs.

 

The
opener is in Cuero, an East Texas town of 6,400, some 24 miles from
larger Victoria. A 2001 case (originally ruled suicide) is re-opened
by an investigators and a prosecutor with top track records. Slow and
diligent, “Cold Justice” is a refreshing change from the
overwrought tone of many cable shows.

 

Other
choices include:

 


“Extreme Weight Loss” season-finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. Bob is a
Wisconsin cop who – at almost 450 pounds – may flunk a new
fitness test. “Extreme” traces an eventful year that includes two
major knee injuries and (in Paris) renewing his wedding vows and
riding the last leg of the Tour de France.

 


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Resisting ordets from Homeland Security in
this rerun, the team continues to hunt Bodnar, the man believed
responsible for killing Ziva's father and Vance's wife.

 

–“NCIS:
Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Deeks gets close to a woman
while working undercover. Kensi, doing surveillance on the case, is
not pleased.

 


“The National Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The
second chapter of Ken Burns' gorgeous documentary rerun takes us to
1915, the year before the National Park Service finally began.

 


“My Big Fat Revenge” debut, 9 p.m., Oxygen. By now, we're used to
the feel-good endings of weight-loss shows; not this time: Once the
women lose weight, they use a hidden camera to get revenge on past
tormenters. Think of it as a feel-bad ending, a vengeance that mostly
feels sad and hollow

 


“Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, a plane crash batters
Philadelphia's power grid. Megan must do autopsies between
black-outs. During one of them, a body disappears..

 


“Brickleberry” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.
Straining to be outrageous, this animated show lobs lots of jokes
about religion and (for variety) about deformities and sex with an
old woman. Some of the jabs are quite clever, especially in the
second half; more of them merely seem forced.

 

 

TV column for Monday, Sept. 2


TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE: “The National Parks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

At
first, few Americans talked about preserving our wilderness. There
was a lot of it, out of reach for most people. Even the greatest
treasures – Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon – were
imperiled.

Then
John Muir began his long campaign. This Ken Burns mini-series
(rerunning through Friday) starts in 1851, 65 years before the
National Parks Service began; it's beautifully written and filmed.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-SEE II: “Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

By
now, viewers know “Barbie” Barbara is a hero; “Big Jim”
Rennie is a crook and a killer.

Tonight,
however, Big Jim convinces townspeople that Barbie is the bad guy and
leads a manhunt. Also, Maxine (Natalie Zea of “The Following” and
“Justified”) confronts Barbie's allie.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Comedy roast, 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

Ever
since he was the way-too-cool co-host of the AcademyAwards, James
Franco has seemed ripe for a roast. Now he gets one, with Seth Rogen
as the emcee.

Taking
shots will be Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill, Aziz Ansari,
Nick Kroll, Natasha Leggero and more, including the inevitable Jeff
Ross.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Movie history, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., Turner Classic
Movies.

Over
the next 15 Mondays, TCM will air Mark Cousins' mega-documentary “The
Story of Film.” That starts at 10 p.m. today, with a look at 1895
to 1918.

This
be surrounded
by
classics
on
Mondays and Tuesdays. Tonight
has
the early films of Thomas Edison's studio (8 p.m.) and the
Lumiere
Brothers (9:30). Later, the 1902 French “A Trip to the Moon” is
11:15 p.m. and silent shorts by Alice Guy-Blache, the first major
female director, are at 11:30.

Other choices include:

– “Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood,”
11 a.m., PBS (check local listings). This “Mr. Rogers” spin-off
turns Labor Day into “neighbor day,” full of good deeds. The
result is almost too lightweight for even a pre-school crowd, but the
characters are so lovable that all is forgiven.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Friends are determined to throw Barney a legendary
bachelor party. Frances Conroy returns as his mother in this rerun
and Ralph Macchio plays himself.

– “Raising Hope,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., Fox. Before drawing praise for this show and “My Name is
Earl,” producer Greg Garcia drew shrugs for “My Name is Earl.”
Now that show's stars (Mike O'Malley and Liza Snyder) guest as a
couple that has the family's an incriminating video. In the second
rerun, Luke Perry plays the ghosts of Arbor Day present, past and
future.

– “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. On
Cece's wedding day, Schmidt is still scheming ways to break it up.

– “Mistresses,” 9 p.m., ABC. A
week from its finale, this show moves up an hour to escape “Dome.”
It promptly finds crises everywhere. April's daughter is missing;
Karen sees her court case resolved and more trouble loom. Joss learns
it's not easy to juggle affairs with a man and a woman. Savannah
accepts the fact that her marriage is ending, then gets news about
her husband's restaurant.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30 p.m.,
CBS. Mike and Molly decide to get serious about having a baby. Also,
Carl is unhappy that Molly still hangs out with his ex-girlfriend
Christina.

– “The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m.,
Fox. This rerun has a party for Mindy, before her mission to Haiti.

– “Castle,” 10 p.m., ABC. Finally
returning to its old tme slot, the show has a rerun in which a giant
footprint is near the murder site. Cops ponder the possibility that a
bigfoot monster was involved.

 

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The MDA Show of
Strength,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

For decades, Labor Day weekend meant
Jerry Lewis hosting a Muscular Dystrophy Association marathon on a
random collection of stations. Now that's changed; the 48th
edition will be like the New Year's Eve telecast – with Ryan
Seacrest, on ABC, produced by “RAC” Clark (Dick's son).

Performers will include other “American
Idol”people (Paula Abdul, Jessica Sanchez), plus Matthew Morrison
from “Glee” and Chris Mann from “The Voice.” Country stars
Darius Rucker and Lee Ann Womack will perform, plus Enrique Iglesias,
Austin Mahone, Kenny Loggins and the Backstreet Boys.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “TV's Funniest
of the Funniest,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Betty White has spanned most of the
history of situation comedies, from “Life With Elizabeth” (in
1954) to “Hot in Cleveland” (which will have a sort of “Mary
Tyler Moore Show” reunion Wednesday). Now, at 91, she hosts this
Paley Center look at TV's 30 funniest shows.

There will be scenes from current shows
(“Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family,” “The Simpsons,” “New
Girl,” “Saturday Night Live”) and others. They include “I
Love Lucy,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Malcolm in the
Middle,” “30 Rock,” “Taxi” and – from NBC's golden age –
“Seinfeld,” “Cheers: “Friends” and “The Cosby Show.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece
Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The second “Silk” movie finds
Martha (Maxine Peake) defending a vulnerable teen and a cop accused
of racism. On the night before the trial, a client disappears.

Meanwhile, Clive (Rupert Penry-Jones)
receives a jolt that could affect his work and his personal life.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 7:30 and 8
p.m., Fox. Before seeing the show honored as one of the funniest
ever, we can savor a couple reruns from this 24th season.
In the first, Tina Fey plays Lisa's mean teacher; also, Flanders
frets that his parents like Homer more. In the second, Bart is
falsely accused of a prank.

– “Secret Millionaire,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. For the second straight week, this show visits Gulf Coast areas
recovering from disasters. Last week involved Hurricane Katrina, this
week is the 2010 oil spill. Wing Lam, co-founder of Wahoo's Fish
Taco, goes undercover in Mobile, Ala.

– “Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
young man is found dead in a sports car he was delivering to a
diplomat. The investigation soon has an overload of suspects.

– “Breaking Bad,” 9 p.m., AMC.
Cable's other big Sunday shows – “Dexter,” “Newsroom,” “Ray
Donovan” – are skipping the holiday weekend, but “Bad” booms
ahead. It reruns last week's show at 7:57 p.m., then sees Walt launch
an odd strategy that might succeed.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A murder victim got advice from a noted “love doctor.” In this
rerun, Rigsby and Van Pelt (Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti) pose as
a troubled couple.

– “Low Winter Sun,” 10:04 p.m.,
AMC. This terrific show started with Geddes tricking Frank (his
police partner) into killing someone in “revenge” for the murder
of Frank's loved one Katia. Now, realizing Katia is probably alive,
Frank plunges into a dark world. Also, Geddes has family troubles.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 31


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Football, all day.

Now that it's September – well,
almost – we have the first Saturday of the college-football season.

ABC has the big one – Georgia (ranked
No. 5 in the ESPN poll) at Clemson (No. 8) at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN has an
evening doubleheader, with Virginia Tech and Alabama at 5:30 p.m. and
Texas Christian and Louisiana State at 9. There's much more, during
an overcrowded afternoon.

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

Most summer reruns are recent and
familiar, but not tonight. “SNL” retrieves one from 2007.

That sort of makes sense. On Thursday,
NBC will open the pro-football season with Peyton Manning's Broncos
hosting the Super Bowl champion Ravens; that's also when it
introduces Carrie Underwood singing the theme song. This rerun has
Manning hosting, with Underwood as music guest.

It's a good one, ranging from a parody
of a United Way commercial to the most perverse moment: The host
plays someone who hears “pull a Peyton Manning” as an expression
for blowing the big game.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Do No Harm,”
9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

A week from the series finale, “Harm”
finds both Jason and his evil alter-ego Ian going to extremes.

In the first hour, Ian kidnaps his son
(their son, actually). In the second, Jason has a risky plan that
might let Ruben inject him with an experimental drug during surgery.

Other choices include:

– Indiana Jones marathon, 1 p.m., USA
Network. Here are the four Steven Spielberg adventures with Harrison
Ford as a two-fisted archeologist. The first (1 p.m., 1981) and third
(6:06 p.m., 1989) are magnificent; the others (3:32 p.m., 1984 and
8:55 p.m., 2008) are merely way better than average.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. It turns out that the wedding was a failure after all: In this
rerun, we learn that Mike ruined all the photos by having his eyes
closed or his mouth open.

– “Les Miserables” (2012), 8
p.m., HBO. It's easy to snipe at thecoincidence-filled plot – or at
Russell Crowe's mismatched singing voice. Ignore that, however, and
savor the moments of sheer power. The music and visuals have an epic
feel. Hugh Jackman is perfect and Anne Hathaway's solo is stunning.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. In a rerun from last November, Walden must choose between
the daft Rose and the reserved Zoey.

– “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. When an
animal-expo employee is killed, the team learns about the world of
illegal animal trafficking. Also, there's a change in the
relationship of Sweets and Daisy.

– “The White Queen,” 9, 10:05 and
11:10 p.m., Starz. If you haven't started this terrific 10-parter,
here's a chance to catch up instantly. The first three episodes
rerun, leading to a powerful new one next Saturday. Tonight, watch
Elizabeth – 27, widowed, with two sons and little money –
suddenly become queen of England. Based on 15th-century
history, “White Queen” soon finds dizzying highs and lows.

– “Catch Me If You Can” (2002),
10:30 p.m., TNT. You can start and end the day with Spielberg films.
This one, based on true story, is light and jaunty; Leonardo DiCaprio
plays a master of new identities, with Tom Hanks in pursuit.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS.

Soon enough, most cop shows have an
episode in which an actor or filmmaker shadows the heroes.

In this rerun, it's a TV talk-show
host, played by Aisha Tyler … who's been great as a sexy voice on
“Archer” and (this summer) as host of “Whose Line Is It
Anyway?” She follows the “Five-0” people, facing danger when
they have an unexpected collision with Wo Fat.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Side by
Side,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

When “Slumdog Millionaire” piled up
its eight Academy Awards in 2009, one of them jolted people. It was
the first cinematography Oscar for a film shot mainly in digital.

So is this the era of filmless films?
There are strong arguments on both sides; this documentary talks to
our greatest filmmakers – Martin Scorsese, James Cameron,
Christopher Nolan, George Lucas, David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh and
more. It's a tad dull, but stick around; at 10 p.m., most PBS
stations rerun a “Live From Lincoln Center” concert with the
superb Audra McDonald.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable.

For sheer variety, this is an amazing
movie night.

Want something light and breezy?
“Shrek” (2001, TBS) is an animated delight; “Puppy Love”
(2012, Hallmark) has a cute dog and a likable-enough romance.

Prefer adventure? “Red” (2010, TNT)
has action, wit and surprise twists.

Or music, maybe? “Footloose” (1984,
CMT) is a buoyant classic; “Teen Beach Movie” (2013, Disney) is a
modern variation, time-transporting current surfers into a 1960s
musical. In between is “Moulin Rouge” (2001, Sundance),
gorgeously filmed by Baz Luhrmann.

Other choices include:

– “Bones,” 8 p.m, Fox. A TV
producer has been killed, but the brainy crimesolvers have bigger
worries in this rerun. Brennan frets that her daughter might merely
be average; Hodges tries to use his lab skills to re-create Finn's
hot sauce.

– “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Here's another “Home Improvement” reunion, with Richard Karn
guesting on Tim Allen's show. Earlier, he was upset when Mike (Allen)
didn't hire him, as usual, for an architecture job. In this reunion,
he's drunken and angry.

– “The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m.,
ABC. Bethenny Frankel, the reality-show star who starts her own talk
show this fall, guests in this rerun. She revives Debbie's purse
business … which gets out of hand once Jackie (the neighbor from
outer space) gets involved.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m.,Fox.
You can switch between Kevin Bacons tonight – early (in
“Footloose”) and current (here). In this rerun, the local police
and sheriff complicate efforts to save a kidnapped boy.

– “Strike back,” 9-11:30 p.m.,
Cinemax. Here are the season's first three episodes, in a series that
keep getting better. Starting as pure action and sex, this British
commando tale has added key characters, long-term – Rhona Mitra as
an obsessive major, Robson Green as her boss – and temporary. Key
in these reruns are Lyne Renee as an Israeli agent and Zubin Varla as
a go-between with shifting loyalties.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
woman from a devout family has been killed in a cemetery. Danny soon
learns her family didn't know she was dating someone from another
faith.

– “Continuum,” 10 p.m., Syfy.
This time-travel thing is difficult for young Alec, who's endangered
by his old self, a techno-genius. Keira, the cop from the future,
tries to save him from himself … literally.