TV column for Saturday, Aug. 24


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “It’s Complicated” (2009), 8-10:30
p.m., Ion.

Jane (Meryl Streep) has a sunny world of smiles and flowers.
Then – at her son’s college graduation – she meets her ex-husband  (Alec Baldwin) and complicates her life.

Steve Martin also stars in a film by writer-director Nancy
Meyers. Like other Meyers films (from “Baby Boom” to “The Holiday”), it’s
pleasant enough, in an uncomplicated way.

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

Musically, this rerun is fine. Maroon 5 – with Adam Levine,
NBC’s new favorite – is the music guest; host Jeremy Renner shows he’s pretty
good at singing and playing the piano.

And the rest? Well, there’s a  good “Weekend Update,” with Gov. Chris
Christie, fresh from Hurricane Sandy; there’s also a neatly odd bit with the ultimate
gun stand-off. Othes are mixed, at best.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The White Queen,” 8 p.m., Starz.

The first two episodes of this terrific 10-parter had
moments of genuine joy, as King Edward IV met and married the good-hearted
Elizabeth Woodhill. Naturally, things soon crumbled.

As this hour begins, Edward is held prisoner by his cousin
Warwick, who has a scheme: Parliament will agree to make George -- Edward’s
weak-willed brother, married to Warwick’s reluctant daughter – king.

It’s a great episode, storm-tossed moments. There are
powerful performances by the stars … and a neatly eccentric one by Amanda Hale
(the inspector’s wife in “Ripper Street”) as the obsessed Margaret.

Other choices include:

“For Love of the Game” (1999), 7-9:30 p.m., TV Guide. Before
tackling his Spider-Man trilogy, director Sam Raimi made this smaller film
about a pitcher (Kevin Costner) in what could be his final game. The baseball
scenes and the drama moments are fairly well-made.

“The Princess and the Frog” (2009), 7:15 p.m., ABC Family;
repeats at 9:15. Alongside all its computer-crafted Pixar hits, Disney came up
with this traditionally drawn tale. It moves the story to New Orleans, where
Randy Newman’s songs fit the setting. Anika Noni Rose stars.[i]

Sports, 7:30 p.m. (ABC) and 8 p.m. ET (CBS). Half the
big-four networks are tied up tonight, so don’t expect many scripted shows. ABC
has NASCAR from Bristol, Tenn.; CBS has pre-season football, with Peyton
Manning’s Denver Broncos hosting the St. Louis Rams.

More movies, 8 p.m., cable. Costner also has his
Oscar-winning “Dances With Wolves” (1990) on Encore. HBO has “Life of Pi”
(2012), which is splendid on a big screen and interesting on a small one. There
are adventures – “Karate Kid” (2010) on FX, “The Bourne Identity” (2002) on
A&E and the splendid “Red” (2010) on TNT. And Lifetime’s new “Escape from
Polygamy” has a teen fleeing from a forced marriage.

“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. To solve a case, Booth must pretend to
be a would-be comedian at an open-mic night. Meanwhile, Angela falls for a
street artist who is literally stuck to part of a murder victim.

“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. Needing more lumber for their
railway, Cullen and Elam head deep into Indian territory.

“Do No Harm,” 10 p.m., NBC. Troubled by his alter-ego, Jason
finds himself banned from meeting his son and viewed with suspicion at the
hospital.

 

 



[i]

TV column for Friday, Aug. 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m., cable.


Topping a great night is the Oscar-winning “The Departed”
(2006), with a tangled Hong Kong crime tale beautifully re-done by director
Martin Scorsese. Lots of A-listers – Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack
Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin  Sheen –
collide amid schemes and counter-schemes.


A couple other films each link two perfect performances –
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) on Turner
Classic Movies, Sean Penn and an Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon in “Dead Man
Walking” (1995) on Sundance.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS


It was the game that ended the referees’ strike and brought
sanity back to pro football.


Last Sept. 24, the Green Bay Packers were one play from
victory, when a ball was lofted into the end zone. A Packer intercepted it,
with a Seahawk nearby; a replacement ref ruled it a Seattle catch and victory.
Replays refuted him, fans groaned, the strike was promptly settled.


Both teams had strong, 11-5 records; now they meet in Green
Bay, where fans sometimes hold a grudge. So far this pre-season, the Packers
are 1-1; the Seahawks have had two dominating wins.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC.


For viewers who want scripted, broadcast-network shows,
tonight’s choices are limited. That makes this the time to explore the odd
pleasures of “The Neighbors,” a droll series about outer-space aliens trying
(often ineptly) to copy Earth life.


Tonight, Dick has reached the spelling-bee finals, going
against Max, his Earthling neighbor. Dick’s parents obsess on making a
documentary about it.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “Strike Back,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.


When this British series started, it was almost non-stop
violence and sex. There’s still a lot of the former here, including fierce
shoot-outs at the beginning and end. In between, however, is character depth.


There’s the major (Rhona Mitra), increasingly obsessive and
rogue. And her boss (Robson Green), a key addition to the show. And a Lebanese
informant with unresolved loyalties.


Other choices include:


“Giant” (1956), 4:15 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. An
Elizabeth Taylor day has her kid roles in the morning, then becomes
increasingly grown-up. It also has “Suddenly Last Summer” (1959) at 10 p.m. and
the fierce “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966) at midnight.


Double-features, 7 p.m., cable. ABC Family has a pair of
popular animated musicals, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996) and, at 9 p.m.,
“Hercules” (1997).  Oxygen has blandly adequate
Jennifer Lopez comedies – “The Back-Up Plan” (2010) and, at 9:30, “Maid in
Manhattan” (2002).


 


“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC.
This rerun finds Eve ready to join the Junior ROTC at 14. Her mom has doubts.


Bones, 8 p.m., Fox. A documentary crew is following Brennan,
who struggles to seem warm and likable. Also in this rerun, the team probes the
complex case of a slain clop with diamond in his body.


The Following, 9 p.m., Fox. Two fascinating characters
confront each other in this rerun, when Claire (Natalie Zea) meets Emma, the
sweet-faced  nanny who kidnapped her son.


Fantasy films, 9 p.m., cable. “Looper” (2012), on Starz, has
a clever, time-travel script; “Conan the Barbarian (1982), on BBC America, has
John Milius’ richly stylized direction.


Continuum, 10 p.m., Syfy. Here’s more time-travel. As Alec
and Emily try to escape, there’s a revelation about his past.   


 


  


TV column for Thursday, Aug. 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a
Half Men,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS.

These comedies stay sharp by finding new ways to mix and
match their characters.


For “Big Bang,” that’s meant adding three women, each as
interesting and quirky as the guys. In tonight’s rerun, Raj’s date with Lucy
goes so badly that he’s in a deep funk.


For “Men,” this rerun has oft-sunny Walden befriending solemn
Herb. Opposites mingle in fun ways.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Clear History” (2013), 9 p.m., HBO.


In real life, Larry David twice quit “Seinfeld,” the show he
co-created and co-produced; had he not returned, that could have cost him a
fortune. And in this film, he plays someone who quits a company at the wrong
time, costing himself a billion dollars.


The bad news is that David makes zero effort to
differentiate this character from the cranky one he plays in “Curb Your
Enthusiasm” the good news is that we enjoy seeing that guy. Now he has a full-scale
movie, with action and a stellar supporting cast that includes Jon Hamm, Kate
Hudson, Bill Hader, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes and J.B. Smoove.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Ghost Shark,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.


Who knew that sharks are so dangerous after their death?


This one is terribly testy; it’s also glowing, see-through
and capable of striking from any water – lake, swimming pool, puddle, even
bathtub. (Please don’t ask us if this is scientifically accurate; we don’t know
anything about dead sharks.)


“Ghost Shark” is an odd mix. The young actors are
surprisingly good, the older ones are surprisingly awful and the attack scenes
are absurd enough to be oddly, perversely appealing.


Other choices include:


“Sharknado” (2013), 7-9 p.m., Syfy. Before there was “Ghost
Shark,” there was this film, drawing big ratings. Chances are, we can expect future
films about a shark volcano and zombie sharks.


“Glee,” 8 p.m., In a change, Fox is rerunning the episode in
which the lights go out at the high school; Will and Finn encourage people to try
unplugged solos. Also, in New York, Isabelle Wright (Sarah Jessica Parker) ask
Kurt to help with a fund-raiser.


“Motive,” 9 p.m., ABC. Often, these cops are scrambling to
find anyone with a motive. This case is different: Everyone seems to have a
motive.


“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Brooklyn Decker guests
as a morose beauty who brings dissension between Nick and Schmidt.


“The Mindy Project,” 9:30, Fox. This rerun has Ike causing
Danny’s ex-wife (Chloe Sevigny) to show up. Danny fires him … which is bad
timing: The midwives promptly hire Ike, in time for a triathlon competition.


“Hollywood Game Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. Shortly after seeing
Max Greenfield as Schmidt in “New Girl,” you can see him tackle games. Also
playing are two “Office” actresses, Angela Kinsey and Ellie Kemper, plus Keenan
Thompson, Minnie Driver and Kal Penn. In addition, last week’s hour reruns at
9.


“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. 
A bad guy, simply known as M, seems to have followed Sherlock Holmes
from London to New York.


“Rookie Blue,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. What starts as a routine
marijuana bust expands into the first murder case for Traci (Enuka Okuma).
Meanwhile, ABC says, many of the guys have retreated to a cabin, for a weekend
of male bonding and generator repair.


 


TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 21



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Cam has taste, Claire has efficiency and both have time on
their hands. So shouldn’t they be in business together -- buying a house,
spiffing it up and then having Claire’s husband Phil, the Realtor, sell it?


They come up with that scheme tonight, with Phil and
Mitchell promptly trying to discourage them. These two don’t discourage easily;
this rerun starts a story that continues in other episodes.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Philadelphia” (1993, Sundance) or
“Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957, Turner Classic Movies), both 8 p.m.


Here are two classics, each winning a best-actor Oscar – for
Tom Hanks and Alec Guinness, respectively.


Both now feel like tales from a long-departed (fortunately)
world. One (“Kwai”) involves war with the Japanese; the other has an AIDS
victim fighting for his rights.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Broadchurch,” 10 p.m., BBC America.


Each week, this series – probing the murder of an
11-year-old boy in a gorgeous, British seaside town – gets deep and more
involving.


Tonight, police tighten their probe of the boy’s father,
learning what he’s been hiding. We also get new hints of the pain and failure
that follow the newcomer (David Tennant) leading the investigation:


Other choices include:


“MasterChef,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. The first hour involves
T-bone steaks and poultry. That trims the field to six – just right for
splitting into teams and taking over an upscale Los Angeles restaurant.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. As their 20th anniversary
nears, Frankie fears that Mike’s interest is dwindling. Meanwhile, Sue tries to
organize her brothers for a celebration … but Brick is too busy fuming about
Axl revealing a book’s ending.


“Exhale,” 8 p.m., Aspire, rerunning at 9 and 11. Is it
possible to let go of grudges and fears? The women (plus Todd Bridges) discuss
their attempts.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Tuesday’s hour
(repeating in trimmed form at 8 p.m.), had 12 acts perform. Now four of them
will advance.


“The Neighbors,” 9:31 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Marty goes camping
to show he can keep up with his macho dad (Stacy Keach). He can’t, of course,
so the women try to secretly help him.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. The team’s
favorite diner has suddenly become a crime scene: Eight people were killed
there.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. A key suspect is cornered.
Meanwhile, Charlotte, the rich widow, is starting to wonder about the immigrant-smuggling
scheme she was thrust into.


“Necessary Roughness” season-finale, 10:01 p.m., USA. When
Dani expanded her therapy practice beyond athletes, things only got more
difficult; now her climate is missing. Meanwhile, TK may have to miss a key game.


TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 20


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Gone With the Wind” (1939), 8 p.m.,
Turner Classic Movies.

In olden days, it seems, people had time and patience. They
sat in theaters for hours, watching lush epics.


Many of the films were promptly, properly forgotten, but a
few great ones hold up beautifully. Now TCM has two back-to-back -- today
(filled with Hattie McDaniel films) has “Wind”; Wednesday, William Holden day,
has “Bridge on the River Kwai.”


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


Two weeks from its performance finale, TV’s best summer
reality show is down to eight dancers.


Tonight, with actress Jenna Elfman as guest judge, each will
dance with an “all-star” who (in a first for the show) will also choreograph
the number. These are some of the favorite dancers from previous seasons,
including tWitch, Comfort, Emmy-nominee Travis Wall and Chelsie Hightower, who
went on to “So You Think You Can Dance.”


By the end of the night, the field will be down to six and
viewers will vote, propelling some dancers toward the final four.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Life of Muhammad,” 8-11 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).


Rippling through this large life are all the elements of
great biography.


Orphaned at 6, Muhammad became a master trader in the
crossroads town of Mecca, then married an older woman who was already successful
in business. Facing assassination attempts and army attacks, he triumphed
militarily (when needed) and emotionally.


This report by British journalist Rageh Omaar includes the
criticisms – nine wives, one quite young; a moment of vengeful genocide – but is
mostly a fond portrait. Muhammad lived simply and emphasized that he was only a
messenger, not a god, it says; in his last sermon, at 60, he preached love
among all races and religions.


Other choices include:


“Face Off,” 7:30 and 9 p.m., Syfy. First is a  rerun of last week’s opener, a good one
that  introduces aspiring movie make-up
people – from a 24-year-old working in her garage to a 52-year-old doing
national business. Then – with one person gone – a new episode has them create
new Frankensteins.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a quick investigation,
after a tragedy strikes close to home.


“Pretty Little Liars,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. Hanna is
crumbling under double pressure: Her mother is a murder suspect and there’s a
stalker. Now the latest battleground is the school prom.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. Twelve more acts
perform; then viewers vote, with four acts advancing on Wednesday.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. As a probe of Russian
super-spies continues, some of Sam’s secrets may be revealed.


“Erin Brockovich” (2000), 9-11 p.m., AMC. On one side was a
power company, with lawyers and money; on the other was a law-office secretary,
with charm and sex appeal. The secretary won. It’s a great story, superbly told
by director Steven Soderbergh and an Oscar-winning performance from Julia
Roberts.


“Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC. Here is the fictional version
of a Bernie Madoff-type character who stole billions. Now he’s been kidnapped
while leaving the courthouse with security people


“Perception,” 10 p.m., TNT. Pierce, who has his own
problems, tries to help a war veteran who has neurological problems.