TV column for Thursday, June 9


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

At times during the auditions, the
“Dance” judges were as giddy as the ones on “American Idol.”
They sent swarms of dancers to this Las Vegas round.

Now comes the tough part: Tonight, they
must trim that down to the final 20.

Next Wednesday, the finalists will
perform as 10 duos. The following night, one man and one woman will
be ousted; it they're from different duos, their partners will become
a team. That continues until “Dance” has its top 10, who will
then be paired with professional all-stars.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang
Theory” and “Rules of Engagement,” 8, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

Even in reruns, these shows offer fun.

First, TV's best comedy finds Leonard
in the rare position of being the one guy without a girlfriend. That
could change quickly; Sheldon wants to break up with Amy, who wants
him to meet her mother.

Then “Rules” continues the saga of
a penniless Russell (David Spade), whose rich mother cut him off.
Previously, he moved in with his classy and ill-treated assistant
Timmy, soon behaving badly. Now the utilities in Russell's own
apartment have been stopped; Timmy tries to teach him budgeting.

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

For sheer fun, there's “Crimes of the
Heart” (1986, TV Guide, rerunning at 10 p.m.), Beth Henley's witty
tale of Southern sisters. Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy
Spacek star.

For drama, “A Single Man” (2009,
Showtime) is a quietly moving portrait of a gay professor in the
1960s, mourning his lover. Colin Firth received a well-deserved Oscar
nomination.

And there's “Too Big to Fail”
(2011, HBO). It takes a richly detailed look at the frantic efforts
to keep the 2008 banking crisis from turning into a full-scale
Depression.

Other choices include:

– “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Here's a rerun of one of the show's better (and stranger) episodes.
The study group is assigned to clean the school's space simulator …
soon stumbling into an adventure.

– “30 Rock,” 8:30, NBC. On a
winning streak, Jack decides to try an imposing task – fixing Liz's
love life. Also, in this rerun, Kelsey Grammer plays himself.

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Michael is required to get counseling from Toby, in a rerun.

– Basketball, 9 p.m., ABC. The finals
stay in Dallas for one more game, with the Mavericks hosting the
Miami Heat. That's preceded by Jimmy Kimmel at 8 and a pre-game show
at 8:30.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Galactica”) plays a
police detective in this rerun, in which a student is killed after a
“Walking With Dinosaurs” show.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 9:30,
NBC. This rerun has some hilarious moments as the flu hits hard.
Chris (Rob Lowe), the health buff, is shocked; Leslie (Amy Poehler)
persists while her mind wobbles.

– “Love Bites,” 10 p.m., NBC.
Tentatively scheduled are segments including Michelle Trachtenberg
and (as parents hesitantly facing their son's relationship) Kurtwood
Smith and Frances Conroy.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
You can tell this one's a rerun: It involves the murder of a Santa.

TV column add (night varies in each city)


Here's a TV-column portion that varies widely from city to city.

Officially, "Out in America" is listed for Wednesday, June 8. That, alas, is when PBS stations are busy with their pledge drives, so nothing is for sure.

For instance, the PBS stations in East Lansing and Cincinnati don't list "Out in America" for Wednesday. Both, however, list the third year of Eric Clapton's superb "Crossroads" concerts for 10 p.m. that night.

East Lansing has confined "Out in America" to 9:30 p.m. Saturday on WKAR World, 23.4 on the digital dial; Cincinnati doesn't list it at all. Anyway, here's that portion:

 

 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Out in America,”
??? (INSERT TIME HERE) p.m., PBS.

There's an understated appeal to the
beginning and end of this documentary. The mid-section deals with
tough subjects – police, laws, AIDS – but the rest gently views
the everyday lives and loves of gays.

We meet a few celebrities – Chely
Wright, Andy Cohen, Armistead Maupin – and a lot of next-door
people. We meet a horseman, an Army officer, a teacher; we're charmed
by two retirees named Harold.

The Rev. Peter Gomes of Harvard (who
died in February, at 68) came out in 1991, after giving the prayers
at the inaugurals of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “There
were many people,” he says, “who say, 'Well, if anybody as dull
as Gomes is a homosexual, it must be all right.'”

TV column for Wednesday, June 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: CMT Music Awards,
8-11 p.m., CMT.

Cable has the best summer parties. Just
three days after the MTV Movie Awards, it's CMT's turn.

This is country music, stretching for
crossover appeal. Kid Rock hosts; presenters include Justin Bieber
and champions from “Dancing With the Stars” (Hines Ward),
“American Idol” (Scotty McCreery, with runner-up Lauren Alaina)
and the Super Bowl (Clay Matthews).

Half the video-of-the-year nominees
will perform – Lady Antebellum, Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, Jason
Aldean and the Zac Brown Band. Also performing: Keith Urban, Toby
Keith, Luke Bryan, Big & Rich.

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

We usually resent summer reruns, but
not when shows are this funny.

In the first “Middle,” Axl tries to
secretly make the biology teacher (Kristin Cavallari of “The
Hills”) the “hot chick” in his band's video; there are also
some great moments when Sue schemes to see an R-rated movie. In the
second, the parents try to break their kids' dominance of the house.

In the first “Modern Love,” Jay
finds himself on a “boys' night out” with Mitchell, Cameron and
their friend Pepper (Nathan Lane). In the second, Cameron directs the
school musical.

ALSO: Some PBS stations debut the excellent documentary "Out in America" tonight. However, this is pledge drive, so that varies widely from station to station. As a result, I'm running that portion separately; under "TV columns," it should appear right above this one.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Men of a
Certain Age,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Quietly meandering between drama and
comedy, this show has offered three guys approaching 50.

Now Terry (Scott Bakula) actually
reaches that age. It's a rough time for someone who's been in a
youthful bubble for decades – and who has just been dropped by his
girlfriend.

Bakula plays it beautifully; other
twists involving Joe (Ray Romano) are so-so. In the final moments,
we're reminded that Andre Braugher – as Owen, Terry's friend and
boss – is one of TV's best actors.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. During auditions, hordes of dancers were advanced to
this Las Vegas round. Now come quick cuts; on Thursday, we'll see who
made it to the top 20.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 and
10 p.m., NBC. Tonight's hockey game is on cable (the Versus network).
That means NBC – which will get the final three Stanley Cup games,
if necessary – can focus on its reality hit. Here, it shows
auditions in Houston and Minneapolis.

– “Franklin & Bash,” 9 p.m.,
TNT. After an OK pilot film, this show is skidding. This episode is
poor; the third (next week) is awful. “Bash” tries to have
outrageous cases; the brilliant David Kelley did that with “Boston
Legal,” but mere mortals shouldn't try. Tonight's case involves a
woman accused of killing her husband via excessive sex; there are
lots of detours, most defying credibility.

– “20/20,” 10 p.m., ABC. Barring
a late change, this will look at the success of reality shows.

– “Locked Up Abroad”
season-opener, 10 p.m., National Geographic. Henry Hill – portrayed
by Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” tells of a downfall that began
when he dealt dope against his boss' orders.

– “Through the Wormhole”
season-opener, 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., Science Channel. Last season,
Morgan Freeman's show posed complex questions about the creation of
the universe. (Reruns today are 7-10 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.)
Tonight comes another big one: What happens after we die?

 

TV column for Tuesday, June 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “White Collar”
season-opener, 9 p.m., USA.

Even in its average weeks, this show
offers crisp characters and smartly tangled plots. Now comes a key
week, with bigger stakes.

Someone set an explosion, seemingly
destroying Nazi-stolen art work. Peter (the FBI guy) suspects that
Neal (the ex-con working for the FBI) took the treasure away before
setting the blast; we suspect that, too, except that “White Collar”
keeps adding fresh twists. Stick with this one.

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

Like Monday's opener, tonight brings a
rich variety of amateur chefs.

There's an intense lawyer, an angry
martial-arts instructor, a gentle pool boy. A hydraulic technician
mixes bacon, strawberry and garlic horse radish; an organic farmer
inexplicably decides to make ahi tuna with coconut – using nothing
from his own farm.

A single mom says she “grew up very
poor,” eating bad food. A deep-voiced trucker wants to “bring
culture food” to his “meat-and-potato community.” Along the
way, some chefs flub and some triumph. “I wish I had two mouths to
eat this,” one chef says; it's another good hour.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “America's Got
Talent” and “The Voice,” 8 p.m. and 9-11 p.m., NBC.

First is another audition round for
“Talent”; then “The Voice” moves on to its quarter-finals.

Tonight, the top singers perform live
and viewers vote to save some of them. The mentors – Christina
Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine – see which
ones will move ahead.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. A night of
CBS reruns starts with this one: When a teen is suspected of killing
his father, Gibbs is surprised to be called in to handle the
interrogation.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This wraps up a two-parter. The team scrambles to retrieve a
book of secrets, while other countries race to find it first.

– Basketball, 9 p.m. ET. ABC. The
Dallas Mavericks host the Miami Heat, in the fourth game of the
best-of-seven series. That's preceded by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” at 8
and a pre-game show at 8:30.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A cleverly complex episode has the firm needing an instant decision
on whether to represent a massage therapist who says she was
assaulted by a Nobel Prize-winner.

– “Covert Affairs” season-opener,
10 p.m., USA. The first few minutes are spectacular, in the aftermath
of the overseas shooting of Annie's lover, Ben. Then things fade with
a story about a Russian tennis star who doubles as a CIA contact;
there are some good moments, connected to a poor plot.

– “How the States Got Their
Shapes,” 10 p.m., History. Here's a visit to some fringe areas.
There's the little nub of Georgia that isn't shown in the state's
design for the quarter. There's Key West, which threatened to secede
from Florida. This hour views them, plus Nevada's controversial “Area
51” and a Kansas area where former missile bunkers have become
five-bedroom homes.

TV column for Monday, June 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Switched at
Birth” debut, 9 p.m., ABC Family; repeats at 10.

Bay is a rich teen, angry and artistic;
Daphne is a modest-income teen, sunny and athletic.

Each is smart and beautiful; neither
looks like her parents. They were, it seems, accidentally switched at
birth. “She's me in another life,” Daphne, who is deaf, says via
sign language.

“Switched” is beautifully written,
giving each character some strengths and flaws. Vanessa Marano, 18,
and Katie Leclerc, 24, are young beauties with strong talent; other
roles – including Constance Marie, D.W. Moffat and Lea Thompson as
parents – are perfectly cast.

The result is so good that we'll
forgive ABC Family for canceling “Huge,” last summer's best show.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “MasterChef”
debut, 8 p.m., Fox.

Here is the flip side of Gordon Ramsay
– not the boorish jerk who screams at chefs, but a fun guy who toys
with amateurs. With Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliott, he auditions
hopefuls.

It's an interesting bunch tonight, from
a classical pianist to a Mississippi trucker who's making an
alligator dish. A young cop and a young firefighter are each bald and
brawny; a recent Miss Delaware USA is overloaded with personality.
Despite an excessive emphasis on begging, this is a strong start.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bobby Fischer
Against the World,” 9 p.m., HBO.

When playing chess, Bobby Fischer was
stunning. His 1972 championship match – in Iceland, with Russian
champ Boris Spassky – drew international TV coverage and propelled
interest.

Away from the game, he never quite
became a person. He feuded with his mother, was 9 before he learned
who his biologic father was. Both were Jewish, but he became
anti-Semitic, paranoid and more. This well-balanced documentary
captures the excitement of his career and the pain of his life.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. There's plenty of opportunity for fun here – a flash-mob
dance … a comedy roast of Ashley Hebert. Alas, one guy makes her
cry and scheming Bentley swoops in, explaining to the camera, “I'm
not going to miss an opportunity to mess with her mind.”

– “Last Man Standing,” 8-10
p.m., Lifetime. Here is a sleek, smart thriller, with a combat
veteran forced to pierce security and steal. The difference is that
the vet (Catherine Bell) is female, saving her husband. “Last Man”
has a few plot flaws, but Bell is perfect. She's surrounded by
skilled pros, led by producer Gale Hurd (“Terminator”) and
director Ernest Dickerson (“Juice”).

– “My Yard Goes Disney” debut, 8
p.m., HGTV. There are great results here, as Disney pros give a
family a dream back yard. Still, this gets repetitious in a hurry.

– More debuts, 8:30 and 9 p.m., HGTV.
First, “House Hunters on Vacation” lets families choose between
three homes for a one-week stay. Then “HGTV'd” has the network's
stars creating a surprise makeover. The opener – a living room
turns into a party room – is overwrought, but fun to watch.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
rerun finds a juvenile-offender trainee and his sergeant with
illnesses that are similar and mysterious.

– “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition,” 10:01, ABC. A shy and pleasant kid from a warm family,
Alex promised his ill mother that he would lose weight. Now, 23 and
459 pounds, he starts.