TV column for Wednesday, July 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Middle”
and “Modern Family,” 8:30 and 9 p.m., ABC.

Even as reruns, these comedies make
great summer fun. Tonight, each has an exceptional episode.

On “Middle,” Frankie obsesses on
the royal wedding, Sue becomes a school news reporter and Mike has
the audacity to deprive his workers of free pretzels. There's a funny
(and oddly touching) finish.

“Modern Life” has one of its
funniest scenes, when the kids surprise their parents with an
anniversary breakfast in bed. It's a bigger surprise, because the
parents are celebrating intimately.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Rescue Me”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

For six seasons, “Rescue Me” has
been one of TV's most varied shows. Focusing on firemen in the
aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it spirals into alcoholism, divorce,
death and despair; written by comedy people Denis Leary and Peter
Tolan, it's also sneaky funny.

As the season begins, Tommy (Leary) is
surrounded by two brilliant actresses. He's back with his wife
(Andrea Roth), but helping his ex-lover (Callie Thorne) – whose
husband (Tommy's cousin) died on 9/11 and son was brain-damaged in a
fire. Tommy's daughter, struggling with alcoholism, works at a bar.
Tonight's hour starts slowly and somberly, then ends sensationally.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Who the
(Bleep) Did I Marry?” season-opener and “I Married a Mobster”
debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., Investigation Discovery.

Tammi McCreary and Cheryl Caruso seemed
to marry interesting guys – a doctor, warm and fragile; a
businessman, so forceful that he threw away her engagement ring on
their first date.

Then both learned who these guys really
are. Mixing first-person accounts and re-enactments, these stories
have a tacky feel … yet remain thoroughly involving.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week, another gifted hip-hopper (Chris Koehl)
was ousted, along with contemporary dancer Ashley Rich. Now the final
12 perform.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. On Tuesday, a dozen acts performed and viewers voted. Now – in
the first results show – eight are ousted and four move on.

– “BMW: A Driving Obsession,” 9
p.m., CNBC. After barely surviving the years after World War II, BMW
built its image carefully. It lets some buyers spend a day at the
Munich factory; its Rolls Royce brand has 13 shades of black. This
hour includes a few gripes – a Consumer Reports chief finds BMW's
reliability spotty and the radio way too hard to operate – and much
praise.

– “Damages,” 10 p.m., DirecTV.
Remember when there was nothing new on TV in the summer? Now, oddly,
two of TV's smarted dramas (“Rescue Me” and “Damages”) open
their seasons simultaneously. “Damages” has its hero-villain
lawyer (Glenn Close) tackle a complex case each season. This one
centers on John Goodman as a military contractor.

– “Dance Moms,” 10 p.m.,
Lifetime. The moms are bizarre – one spends $16,000 a year on
dance, another says “pink is a way of life” – and the teacher
is immensely unlikable. Most viewers will find it grating and
disturbing; it follows “Roseanne's Nuts” (9 and 9:30), with
Roseanne Barr in Hawaii.

– “One Man Army,” 10 p.m.,
Discovery. Think of this as war games for individuals. Four tough
guys race, shoot and improvise; there is, at least, lots of action.

 

 

TV column for Tuesday, July 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Baseball All-Star
game, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.

For the 77th year (and the
82nd game), baseball's best collide. This time, the
National League is on a one-game winning streak, something it's not
used to; before last year, it hadn't won since 1996.

Fans didn't do the American League any
favors this time. They chose three-fourths of the Yankees' infield,
added one Yankee outfielder and almost included the light-hitting
catcher. Further hurting is the league is the fact that Justin
Verlander can't pitch, after starting Sunday.

Still, the Americans bring the talent
of Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzales, Josh Beckett and Jered Weaver. The
Nationals have Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, RoyHalladay, Jair Jurrjens
and more. It should be fun.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Combat
Hospital,” 10 p.m., ABC.

The first half of this hour seems
forced, but we'll forgive it. It leads to quietly powerful moments.

The civilian neurosurgeon has gone on a
helicopter trip, just as he's desperately needed at the hospital.
People improvise and get by; as usual, many of the best moments come
from Elias Koteas as the colonel in charge – stern, silent, skilled
and, in interest little gaps, quite human

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

Thet Sambath, a Cambodian news
reporter, spent his spare time for a decade, studying past horrors.
In three years (1976-79), a reported 1.7 million people – including
his father and brother – were killed.

He met some men who are frank about
their murders – “after I slit so many throats like this, my hand
ached” – and their shame. “All the things I did are flashing in
my mind,” one says.

In 2001, he met Nuon Chea, then 75, who
had been No. 2 only to Pol Pot. Three years later, Chea slowly began
to explain the killings as an obsession with ridding Cambodia of
Vietnamese sympathizers. “We had to solve the traitor problem in
the way that we did.”

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of the cliffhanger that had drug boss Paloma Reynosa on the
loose, with people close to Gibbs – including his dad (Ralph Waite)
– in danger.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. Last week, “Talent” announced the final 48 acts. Now
12 of them will perform on each of the next four Tuesdays; viewers
will vote and, each Wednesday, four will be advanced. Rerunning at 8
p.m. today, for no apparent reason, is one of the audition episodes.

– “Memphis Beat,” 9 p.m., TNT.
This excellent show is filmed in New Orleans, which pretends to be
Memphis. Now Dwight heads to the real New Orleans, to talk to the man
who killed his dad.

– “Great Escape,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. Here's a sharp contrast: Just before viewing the “POV”
that captures the horrors of Cambodia, we see Gordon Ramsay visit
modern Vietnam. He offers a warm portrait of a country filled with
“fearless foodies.” And after all the pain he's caused others,
it's refreshing to see Ramsay struggle with exotic food (snake's
heart) and impatient diners.

– “Staten Island Cakes,” 9 p.m.,
WE. Whatever happened to punctuality? Vinny's mom is late bringing
with his clothes for an important photo shoot. Angelina Pivarnick
(“Jersey Shore”) is two-and-a-half hours late for her her hair
appointment with Kristin. “I've been busy,” she semi-explains.

– “Hawthorne,” 10 p.m., TNT. Mark
Anthony has been excellent as Nick Renata, a police detective. Now
Bill Engvall, better known as a comedian, is an internal-affairs cop,
investigating him.

TV column for Monday, July 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Alphas” debut,
10-11:30 p.m., Syfy.

Sleek and sinewy one moment, sci-fi
smart the next, “Alphas” does a lot in a hurry. It lacks the
humor of “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13,” which precede it
tonight, but packs dramatic power.

A Defense Department project has
assembled special people. One's adrenalin puts his muscles into
hyperdrive; another messes with minds. Others see or hear things far
away.

This could be just another strong cop
show. But David Strathairn – Emmy-winner, Oscar-nominee, great
actor – plays the neurologist/psychiatrist . Even at its most
muscular, “Alphas” is brainy sci-fi.

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

Ashley Hebert takes the last six guys
to Taiwan for exotic fun. Constantine releases love lanterns (no,
that's not a euphemism), Ben F. takes her on a scooter ride, catching
gorgeous scenery.

Four of the six will survive to take
her to their families next week; one will find eternal love. Except
that this show rarely produces anything that lasts. Tonight includes
an interview with Emily Maynard, the latest person who had a
crumbling romance with two-time “Bachelor” Brad Womack.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Rizzoli &
Isles,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Cable clearly rules the night. Just as
Syfy launches its Monday line-up, TNT brings back its top cop shows.
Tonight has a so-so “Closer” at 9 p.m., but a terrific “Rizzoli”
ay 10.

Then we meet Rizzoli (Angie Harmon),
three months after she was severely wounded. She's not taking it
well; she spars with her mom (Lorraine Bracco), her friend and more,
while tackling a tough case.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Barney finally meets his dad (John Lithgow).

– “Eureka,” 8 p.m., Syfy. In a
town filled with science geniuses (plus two overwhelmed cops),
anything can happen, often with humor; tonight starts on the wedding
day for two androids. There's more; two opposites – brainy Fargo,
hunky Zane – have a taut, outer-space adventure. “Eureka” is
like that.

– “Warehouse 13,” 9 p.m., Syfy.
There are the usual exotic cases to solve tonight. That starts with
vibrations from Jimi Hendrix's guitar, then has pictures creating
classic deaths. Still, there's more going on: Myka may not be back; a
cop who's a human lie detector may replace her. And an FBI agent
(Ashley Williams), with a sweet voice and fierce soul, dislikes them
all.

– “The Closer,” 9 p.m., TNT. One
of TV's best dramas returns for its final season, starting with a
surprisingly poor case. Filled with cliches about rappers, it's a
half-step from being racist. What saves it is the interchange between
Brenda (Kyra Sedgwick) and her police colleagues; the department is
in transition, she's under investigation and forces are battling.

– “Love Crimes of Kabul,” 9 p.m.,
HBO. The two sweet-faced women, ages 18 and 20, giggle as they
discuss their handsome boyfriends. They are chatting it in prison –
one because she had premarital sex, the other because she's accused
of having sex. It's a odd and disturbing few of Afghan life.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., NBC. Here's a leftover episode from when Skeet Ulrich was
still on the show. He probes the killing of a soccer star's brother.

– “Tough Cookies,” 10 and 10:30
p.m., Food Channel. The Jersey obsession continues on cable. Now we
visit Crazy Susan's Cookies in Garden City, with an expanded and
noisy family at work.

TV column for Sunday, July 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Leverage” and
“Falling Skies,” 9 and 10 p.m., TNT.

First, “Leverage” delivers an
especially smart hour. Its villain is a nasty political operative who
stays in the shadows; Nate must make him famous, then bring him down.

And “Skies”? The first three weeks
focused on Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a former history prof fighting
aliens. Now a key episode has great moments for Dr. Anne Glass (Moon
Bloodgood), plus Tom's eldest son (Drew Roy) and Lourdes (Seychelle
Gabriel), a tough teen who was rescued from a biker gang.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Primetime,”
9-11 p.m., ABC.

Jaycee Dugard was 11 when she was
kidnapped, 29 when she was re-discovered.

Two years later, she lives with her
mother and her two daughters; she tells Diane Sawyer about simple
pleasures: “I can decide to jump in the car and go to the beach
with the girls. Wow, it's unbelievable.”

Her mother tells Sawyer, “I knew she
was out there somewhere.” Also, viewers will finally hear her
mother's comments during the kidnapers' sentencing hearing.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The
Indestructibles” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m.. National Geographic.
Each episode will show us a horrific crash, followed by analysis of
why people survived.

In tonight's opener, a helicopter
plummets 800 feet in New York, crash-landing on a roof. In the second
episode, a man in Dayton, Ohio, is seemingly crushed by a rolling
SUV.

Each crash was fierce. Now we meet the
people involved and learn why they are still alive.

Other choices today include:

– “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone” (2001), 7 a.m., ABC Family. Here's the first Potter film,
with the next four airing in order. They're at 10:30 a.m. and at
2:30, 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.; afterward, you'll still need to find the
other two films, before the last Potter opens Friday in theaters.

– “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS.
After introducing its contestants Thursday, this show settles into
its pattern. Episodes are at 8 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays, followed
by an ouster at 9 p.m. Thursdays.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox.
After a whirlwind romance with Fat Tony, Selma becomes a Jersey Shore
housewife, in this rerun. Concerned, her sister Marge brings the
family for a visit.

– “Masterpiece: Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). “The Pale Horse” is the
season's only new Marple mystery, with Julia McKenzie as the modest
crime-solver. Shortly before being killed, Marple's friend sent her a
list of names.

– “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO. Last
week's final moments offered a delightful detour, when a witch
stripped the menacing Eric of his memory. Tonight's hour starts with
neatly off-kilter moments between Sookie and Eric; it ends with a
brief dialog that you definitely wouldn't hear on any other show.

– “Secrets of SEAL Team 6,” 9
p.m., Discovery. Earlier, Discovery drew a strong audience with
“Killing Bin Laden.” It repeats that one at 10 p.m., preceded by
this profile of the unit involved.

– “The Marriage Ref,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Ellen Pompeo, the “Grey's Anatomy” star, is reportedly a big
fan of this fun show. Now she's on the panel, with comedians Kathy
Griffin and Brian Regan.

– “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
season-opener, 10 p.m., HBO. One theme involves showing (or avoiding)
strident Jewish views. That peaks in the third episode; tonight,
Larry learns his lawyer isn't kosher.

TV column for Saturday, July 9


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

The forces aligned neatly for this
episode in May: Osama bin Laden's death had been announced five days
earlier … and Tina Fey had already been set as host.

There was Fred Armisen as bin Laden,
supposedly in a video he'd made of his revised will. And Jason
Sudeikis as Satan, cheerful about his newest resident. And Seth
Meyers marveling at doubters who make President Obama “the first
black man who has to actually prove he killed someone.”

There was a debate of undeclared
presidential candidates, including Fey as Sarah Palin; and there was
Ellie Goulding as music guest. Despite some weak spots,this was
first-rate “SNL.”

TODAY'S MUST-SEE: Harry Potter films, 9
a.m. to 11 p.m., ABC Family.

Six days before the final Potter film
opens in the U.S., viewers get another chance to catch up.

Here are the first four in order.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (2001) is 9 a.m.,
followed by “Chamber of Secrets” (2002) at 12:30 p.m., “Prisoner
of Azkaban” (2004) at 4:30 p.m. and “Goblet of Fire” (2005) at
7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, they'll start earlier – 7
a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – making room for “Harry
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) at 9 p.m. That still
leaves two more at video stores.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY: “A Fairly Odd
Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner,” 8-9 p.m., Nickelodeon.

For a decade, the “Fairly OddParents”
cartoon has offered the amiable life of a boy whose fairy godparents
keep granting wishes. Now this film mixes live actors and
animated fairies.

Timmy (Drake Bell) is turning 21, with
no desire to leave 5th grade or change his life. Nothing
can nudge him into adulthood … except that Tootie (Daniella Monet)
is back.

This was a great idea, destroyed by
having supporting actors overplay their parts to hideous excess. Some
kids may find that amusing, but grown-ups and other reasonable humans
will exit the room.

Other choices include:

– “CHAOS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The team
hopes to convince a dying dictator not to choose his violent son.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. When a rich investment banker is killed, the
suspects in this rerun include his business enemies and his
working-class girlfriend.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. In a rerun, teams race through a Moroccan canyon, dealing
with cranky camels and a sand storm.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. One of the AC's (“advanced cultivars,” genetically
modified humans) has gone rogue. After saving someone, Fleur has
doubts about the new world's high ideals.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This rerun offers a mixed day for Andy – a turning point with Luke,
a gory discovery at an accident scene.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two Emmy-winners, Debra Messing and Christine
Lahti, link in this rerun. They play friends, a TV host and an
assistant district attorney. After getting threats, Messing feels
she's closer to learning who abducted her sister, long ago.