TV column for Monday, June 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “MasterChef,” 9
p.m., Fox.

Last week's episode (rerunning at 8
p.m.) chose the 18 finalists. Now they face two tough challenges.

The first gives them an hour to cook
from a box that includes salmon, strawberries, pistachio and more.
The judges admit they would have skipped the strawberries; most
contestants are more daring.

Then comes the notion of making a
French dish with specific ingredients. There are plenty of mistakes
– one person seems genuinely surprised that carpaccio isn't French
– and a close finish. With likable amateurs and outspoken judges,
this is much better than other Gordon Ramsay shows.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Two and a
Half Men,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Even when they're re-reruns, some “Men”
episodes can be great fun. Here's a prime example.

Charlie had celebrated when his brother
Alan finally moved in with Lyndsey. Then, alas, Alan burned the place
down; tonight, he returns to Charlie's place with Lyndsey, her teen
son and much commotion.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Countdown
with Keith Olbermann” debut and “Vanguard” season-opener, 8 and 9 p.m., Current TV.

After stumbling with an Internet-style
format, Al Gore's network moves to standard TV – Olbermann (the
former MSNBC star) followed on Mondays by smart, assertive
documentaries.

Earlier, “Vanguard” won a Pulitzer
Prize for Mariana van Zeller's report (rerunning at 7 p.m.) on
lightly regulated clinics in Florida, the state that reportedly
prescribes 85 percent of the nation's oxycontin.

Now her compelling follow-up views the
rush from that drug to heroin. We meet two people – one of them a
high school star whose life crumbled after a football injury – who
remain addicted. We also meet a cop, a courier, a former dealer and
more.

Other choices include:

– “Sid the Science Kid,”
afternoon (check local listings), PBS. In a fun, musical episode, Sid
camps in his yard with his dad and his friend Gerald. Directed by
Brian Henson, this has songs by Mike Himelstein, including a zesty
one about bees.

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. Ashley Hebert takes the final 11 guys to Thailand, where
she goes rafting with two of them (Ashley and Ben C.) and struggles
with another (Ben F.) to follow a restriction not to kiss in front of
an ancient temple. In the show's most ludicrous twist, the other
eight try muay thai fighting – and one ends up in an ambulance.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Ted meets Zoey's wealthy
ex-husband on Valentine's Day. In the second, everyone rushes to a
downtown restaurant.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Now that the hockey season has ended, this
solid show can settle into Mondays and Saturdays. Tonight, Goren and
Eames probe security firms.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:30, CBS.
In the rerun of a funny episode, Mike is planning a great Valentine's
Day – until the baker turns out to be Molly's former boyfriend.

– “Hawaii Five-0,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This rerun starts with a fierce bomber, then diverts to an episode
that stretches credibility. Danny (Scott Caan) seems out of character
when his brother (Dane Cook) visits.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., NBC. They're just trying to confuse us: Here's an episode,
not shown previously, in which Winters (Skeet Ulrich) is still alive.
Next week, he's killed anew.

TV column for Sunday, June 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Falling Skies,”
9-11 p.m., TNT.

The world is crumbling (again), this
time from brutal, outer-space aliens. Heroes emerge.

Most Earthlings are already dead, but
some have split into rag-tag military-civilian units. On the run,
they forage for food and weapons, sometimes fighting back.

As we expect from a Steven Spielberg
production, “Skies” has superb action and rich character
portraits, centering on Noah Wylie as a widowed professor and dad and
Moon Bloodgood as a doctor.

“Skies” says, accurately, that
humans tend to act nobly during crisis. In the second hour, however,
it also adds a fierce villain, sharply played by Colin Cunningham.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Daytime Emmy
Awards, 8-10 p.m., CBS.

Soaps have been stumbling, but this
show plans a Las Vegas party. That includes music by Gladys Knight
and Marie Osmond and performances by Cirque de Soleil, Blue Man Group
and Jabbawockeez dancers. Wayne Brady hosts, with career awards for
game-show hosts Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak.

“All My Children,” which ends in
September, has 13 nominations, including best daytime drama, where it
faces “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “The Young and the
Restless” and “General Hospital.” Its star, Susan Lucci, isn't
nominated, but will be a presenter; in her 41 years on the show,
she's had 21 nominations and one win. There are also nods for talk
shows, kid show (led by PBS) and games.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Game of
Thrones” (9 p.m., HBO) and “The Killing” (10 p.m., AMC) season
finales, cable.

For the steeply ambitious “Thrones,”
there are fierce clashes tonight. Also, Arya tries to escape, Tyrion
heads south and Catelyn demands the truth about the fall that left
her son partly paralyzed.

And the superb “Killing”? Last week
ended stunningly, when a villainous message was traced to a mayoral
candidate's computer. Tonight, we may learn who killed Rosie; AMC
makes no guarantee.

Other choices include:

– “The Shawshank Redemption”
(1994), 7 p.m., AMC; or “The Majestic” (2001), 8 p.m., Ion.
Choose between two period dramas by gifted diretor Frank Drabont.
“Shawshank” has Tim Robbins wrongly imprisoned in the 1940s;
“Majestic” has Jim Carrey wrongly considered a war hero in the
'50s.

– “Masterpiece Mystery” opener, 9
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Hercule Poirot (David Suchet)
usually does fine on his own, but now two enthusiastic amateurs tag
along, forming an age-gap romance. One is an actor, played by Martin
Shaw, 66; the other is a beauty played by Kimberley Nixon, 25. “Three
Act Tragedy” is superbly acted and filmed; its so-so story,
however, is an extreme stretch.

– Miss USA, 9-11 p.m., NBC. Viewers
could reach Las Vegas overload tonight, with this one and the daytime
Emmys. For hosts, NBC has people from its cable networks – Andy
Cohen from Bravo and Guiliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne from E.

– “Finding Sarah” and “Ryan &
Tatum,” 9 and 10 p.m., OWN. Oprah Winfrey's Network is working on a
Sunday reality block. First, Sarah Ferguson tries to revive her
writing career; then, in the series opener, Ryan O'Neal tries to
patch his long falling-out with his daughter Tatum.

– “Amsale Girls,” 10 p.m., WE. In
an OK second episode, Kori tries to move up to a sales job and Debbye
learns how tricky online dating can be.

TV column for Saturday, June 18


 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “CHAOS” and
“NCIS,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

CBS had scheduled a rerun of Michael J.
Fox's first “Good Wife” episode tonight, then switched. Still,
it's a strong night, starting with a new “CHAOS”; Rick considers
reporting on his colleagues, who went against orders to catch an arms
dealer.

Then is an “NCIS” rerun in which a
murder is captured on Pentagon security cameras. It was the first of
three episodes this season with Matthew Willig as a supersized NCIS
agent. Willig, 6-foot-8, weighed 315 pounds in his pro-football days.
Over 14 seasons with six teams, he was in 153 games, 43 as a starter;
he went to the Super Bowl twice, with the winning Rams and losing
Panthers.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rock the
House,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark; repeats Sunday.

Max is an overworked lawyer. Divorced,
he has lots of money and little time for his teen daughter.

Then a reunion triggers memories of his
rock band, 30 years ago. He re-thinks life, maybe too late.

Jack Coleman (a flawed dad in “Heroes”)
is solid in this Father's Day weekend film. Cassi Thomson (Cara Lynn
in “Big Love”) is perfect as his daughter. As a bonus, the band's
songs are quite good.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: All night, 7
p.m. to midnight, BBC America.

With a fresh line-up tonight, this
channel continues to have TV's best Saturdays.

That starts at 7 with the second half
of the brilliant “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries; after
tonight, “Galactica” reruns get the 8 p.m. spot. Then three
series-openers – “Outcasts” at 9 p.m., two comedies at 11 –
sandwich the Graham Norton talk show (10 p.m.), which tonight
includes Lady Gaga and Gwyneth Paltrow. We'll preview the new shows
separately, below.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m.,
ABC. Still upset over Bentley's deceit, Ashley Hebert takes the 12
remaining guys to Thailand in this rerun. Their trip ranges from sea
caves to an orphanage.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. If you missed these on cable, you can spend
summer Saturdays with the final season of this show. This episode
brought Goren (the Emmy-worthy Vincent D'Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn
Erbe) back as police detectives; they probe a fashion designer.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. With Earth inhabitable, pioneers are trying a distant
planet. There, peaceful, scientific instincts collide with frontier,
macho ones. Now – for the first time in years – a ship of
newcomers is trying to land. “Outcasts” starts slowly and builds;
its terrific cast is led tonight by Liam Cunningham as the president
and Jamie Bamber (“Battlestar Galactica”) as a tough rebel.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a witness in a high-profile rape
case has been killed.

– “The Inbetweeners,” 11 p.m.,
BBC America. The final season begins for this high school . Tonight's
episode, about a fashion show, has some funny moments, plus others
that are merely crude.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Jim Carrey hosts, with music from the Black Keys.

– “Come Fly With Me,” 11:30, BBC
America. Over the next six weeks, the “Little Britain” guys (Matt
Lucas and David Williams) will play more than 50 characters – male
and female, young and old. Some are so-so, but several are hilarious
– especially Omar Baba, the super-cheap owner of the FlyLo airline,
addressing his shortage of life jackets.

TV column for Friday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

After winning their first eight games,
the East Dillon Lions imploded.

Now the quarterback (Vince) is
self-centered, the team is bitter, the coach (Eric Taylor) is
desperate. To complicate things, the coach's wife is bewildered by a
frustrated student. And the Taylors don't know their daughter
(Julie) didn't return to college; instead, she's in Chicago with her
former boyfriend Matt.

Delayed a week because of hockey, this
“Lights” hour has an unrealistic game, but the usual great acting
and writing. Many shows overstate dialog and emotion; now watch
Matt's bedside talk with Julie or the coach's locker room talk with
Vince's girlfriend. Admire “Lights” for its quiet eloquence.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Flashpoint,”
8 p.m., CBS.

On one level, this episode is a drama:
A police psychologist (Victor Garber) is questioning team members;
assuming one of them will be cut, they start criticizing each other.

Still, it's also a cop show. Ed (Hugh
Dillon) is shot on the way to the hospital for the birth of his
child.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Dark
Knight” (2008), 8-11:15 p.m., TNT.

“Batman Begins” was a marvel, with
a gifted director Christopher Nolan finding the balance between
stunning action and rich emotion. “Dark Knight,” alas, proved
that great talents sometimes go too far.

Militaristic and metallic, “Knight”
is filled with cold action. Nolan has so many surprise shootings that
they cease to surprise. His villain (the Joker) is so omnipresent
that the police failure to focus on holding him becomes wildly
unrealistic.

Yes, the Joker is played with
Oscar-winning perfection by the late Heath Ledger. Yes, Nolan has
immense visual talents. That may or may not be enough.

Other choices include:

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. Who would
shoot The Gravedigger, when she was already sentenced to death? In
this rerun, the team rushes to find out, while Sweets recovers from
his encounter with her.

– “iCarly,” 8-9:30 p.m.,
Nickelodeon. To blunt the Disney Channel's debut tonight, Nick reruns
this movie merging too popular stars. Carly (Miranda Cosgrove) and
Tori (Victoria Justice) plan revenge, after learning that a guy's
been secretly dating both of them.

– “A.N.T. Farm” debut, 8:30,
Disney. China Anne McClain, 12, stars as a young singer and musician,
suddenly thrown into high school via an Advanced Natural Talents
program.

– “Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution,”
9 p.m., ABC. Continually stymied in his efforts to transform meals in
Los Angeles schools, Jamie's encouraged by smaller things – one
family's change … an award … and a Santa Barbara school's organic
garden.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. Sliding
into its summer slot, this show has a patient whose perfect memory
makes it difficult to bury a feud with her sister. Dr. Masters also
learns sisterly crises are difficult,

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
shooting was done by a man in clown costume. David James Elliott
guests in this rerun, playing the ex-husband of Jo (Sela Ward).

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
this rerun, there's been an attempt to kill the police commissioner
(Tom Selleck). His son (Donnie Wahlberg) rushes to learn who did it.

TV column for Thursday, June 16


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

It's time for the first eliminations.
On Wednesday, 10 duos danced and viewers voted. Now we learn which
three finished in the bottom.

That leaves three men and three women
doing solos for the judges – who will then dump one of each, not
necessarily from the same duo. Also, British singer Jessi J does her
single, “Who You Are.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Here's a sharp, funny episode that
launched a great story line.

Raj's sister – a smart and beautiful
lawyer – visited. She promptly started an affair with Sheldon …
who thought that should stay secret, to avoid hurt feelings. The
episode aired Oct. 28 and spurred funny twists all the way to the
season finale.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The River
Wild” (1994), 8 and 10:30 p.m., TV Guide Network.

Back when films never had female leads,
Meryl Streep broke the trend. Here, she plays someone taking her son
and husband on a whitewater rafting trip, when they confront two
toughs.

It's a solid story, with great
performances from Streep and (in a villain role) Kevin Bacon. It also
was an impressive breakthrough for director Curtis Hanson. His next
film was “L.A. Confidential,” for which he won one Oscar (for
co-writing the script) and was nominated for two more (best picture
and director); his current film is HBO's terrific “Too Big to
Fail.”

Other choices include:

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC. A
strong night of reruns on NBC (except for a new “Love Bites”) and
CBS starts with Hilary Duff playing one of the school's mean girls.

– “Real Housewives of New York
City,” 8-11 p.m., Bravo. The bizarre vacation in Morocco is ending
now. We can see part of it in reruns at 8 and 9 p.m., followed by a
new episode: As the women pack – a big job for them – Ramona
might soothe one foe and face another.

– “30 Rock,” 8:30, NBC. Liz's dad
(Buck Henry) – lapsing into a belated mid-life crisis – visits.
That comes just as Jack has vowed to stay out of her personal
problems.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30,
CBS. Jeff learns that Audrey's at-home trainer is a guy.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
9 p.m., CBS. A body has been shredded, with plenty of suspects.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Michael wants everyone to mark the Christening of Pam and Jim's baby.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 9:30,
NBC. The city is ready to bury a time capsule, with much debate about
what to put in it. There's the usual chaos, some of it quite funny,
plus some poignant moments centering on Will Forte of “Saturday
Night Live.”

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The murder victim was a woman connected to brutal mixed-martial-arts
fighters.

– “Love Bites,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Each week, this comedy has two stories with regulars and one with
guest stars. Tonight, Judd (Greg Grunberg) crashes a party – with,
sadly, no idea what it's about; Annie (Becki Newton) dates a guy
who's way too interested in her pregnancy. The guest-star story has
Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) and Joy Bryant (“Parenthood”) as
people ducking commitment.