TV column for Monday, Aug. 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Emmy awards, 8-11 p.m., NBC

Expect lots of laughs tonight. They’ll come from host Seth
Meyers, who prefers monologs instead of elaborate filmed bits. And from some of
the presenters (Andy Samberg, Amy Poehler, Key-and-Peele, Zooey Deschanel). And
from clips of Robin Williams, in a tribute led by Billy Crystal.

Beyond that, cable dominates with four of the six comedy-series
nominees, five of six dramas and all six movies or miniseries. The exceptions
are “Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “Downton Abbey.”

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

New complications keep appearing, in lives already messed by
the giant dome covering the town.

Now Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel) has been captured by
mysterious men who question him relentlessly. Also, “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean
Norris) makes a deal that could have a huge effect.

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

What happens when a huge resource is found in an
impoverished country? This slow but compelling report traces what one man calls
“a savage struggle for wealth.”

Over five years, we see Ghana’s discovery of oil complicated
by regime change, Wall Street aftershocks and bribery accusations. In Nigeria,
pipelines are diverted or sabotaged. It’s a disturbing portrait of chaos that
still leaves some people wildly rich … and may or may not benefit the average

Other choices include:

“Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case,” any time, David Suchet wrapped up his
triumphant tour of all 70 Poirot stories, logically enough, by doing Agatha
Christie’s final Poirot story. Published in 1975. It re-visits the site of her
first Poirot tale. The detective makes an agonizing decision, while pursuing a
killer who hasn’t actually killed anyone.

“Bachelor in Paradise,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. For Kalin McMahon –
described by ABC as “infamous” – it’s a tough time: Turned down, he becomes the
first person in the show’s history to go on a date alone.

“Friday Night Lights” (2004), 8:30-11 p.m., ABC Family.
Adapting a non-fiction book, writer-director Peter Berg created a vivid
portrait of a football town in Texas, with Billy Bob Thornton as coach. It’s a
good film … but the subsequent TV series was even better.

“America’s Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. After photo shoots
in a subway and at the beach, the finalists – seven men and seven women – are

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Lyndsey
is really not happy with the fact that Alan is sleeping with her boyfriend’s sister,
played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

 “Mistresses,” 10
p.m., ABC. April helps the FBI find her husband … and tries to keep their
daughter from learning what’s happening with Daniel. Also, Savi’s date with
Zack goes astray.

“The Approval Matrix,” 11 p.m., Sundance. Neal Brennan
grumbles about a world in which people are quickly offended, followed by rote
apologies and forgiveness. It’s not that great a subject, but his guests inject
bits of humor (especially Sherrod Small) and wisdom.   

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 24

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Rising Star” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.

After a quick, slick summer run, this show will give someone
a Columbia Records contract.

A frequent front-runner is Jesse Kinch, 20; last week, his
fresh take on “Billy Jean” led the vote totals, edging past an upbeat song by
Austin French, also 20, a musical worship leader. Finishing third was Dana
Williams, a Sarah Lawrence grad and part-time teacher, with a bluesy tune. Audrey
Kate Geiger -- also 24, a bartender and yoga instructor – finished fifth, but
was given the “West Coast save.”

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: More finales, 9 p.m., TNT and HBO.

For TNT’s “The Last Ship,” this wraps up the first season of
a strong story about a ship that may be the only refuge against a global
epidemic. Tonight, it heads toward home, where the captain (Eric Dane) hopes to
find his family; there may be some harsh discoveries.

And for HBO’s “True Blood,” it ends the seventh and final
season. Last week, Hoyt (his memory restored) got back with Jessica and Jason
discovered platonic warmth with Bridgette. Now everything point to Sookie’s
house: Bill is there to talk; the villains are heading there to kill.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: MTV Video Music Awards, 9-11 p.m., MTV,
with red-carpet at 8.

While would-be recording stars are performing on ABC, real
ones perform on MTV. That includes Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Ariana
Grande, Usher, Nicki Minaj, 5 Seconds to Summer and the two leaders in VMA
nominations, Beyonce and Iggy Azalea.

They have eight nominations apiece, including video of the
year. Her “Drunk in Love” and his “Fancy” face Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,”
Sia’s “Chandelier” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

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

In the early 1960s, London’s medical people have good manners,
great diction and deep secrets. Two nurses – flashy Jean and diligent Angela–
are hiding their pasts. Otto, a rich, married doctor (Jack Davenport of
“Smash”) tries to hide his lust for Angela.

Then there’s a wartime secret he and another doctor share.
Now a police inspector, damaged and angry, questions Otto’s wife. This chapter,
the first of three, moves slowly, but is beautifully played.

Other choices include:

Football, 4 p.m. ET Fox and 8 p.m. ET NBC. Two weeks before
the start of the pros’ regular season, we’re supposed to cartch a doubleheader.
It’s San Diego at San Francisco, followed by Cincinnati at Arizona.

“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. A new student (an aspiring
falconer) rescues Bart from bullies.

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. Carrie and Al find a hidden
community on an island near Manhattan.

“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Roy’s high school sweetheart faces
murder charges. He agrees to defend her, despite damage to his family
reputation and his status at work.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Amid flashbacks that show his
painful past with Eichhorst, we see Setrakian insist that the only way to stop
the rampage is to kill the head vampire. It’s a good episode, despite plot
stretches that require wobbly thinking by a child-care provider and by the
usually wise Setrakian.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 23

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Gymnastics, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The tiny teen-agers keep changing, but the skill continues.
Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas has switched coaches and is skipping these
national championships; the new fuss involves Simone Biles, 17, who won last
year’s national and world titles.

The women’s competition has its finals tonight. The men
start their finals at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Doctor Who,” 8:15 p.m., BBC America;
reruns at 12:15 a.m.

In the 51-year “Who” history, 11 men have played The Doctor.
Now the 12
th begins, in a sharp change: Matt Smith was 27 when he
took the role four years ago; Peter Capaldi is 56.

His arrival is treated as a major event. A marathon has
Smith’s final episodes, with the last one starting at 6:40 p.m.; there’s a live
pre-show at 8 and then the movie, with Victorian London facing annoyances,
including dinosaurs and spontaneous combustion.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox.

This one will have to hold us for a while. Fox reruns the
season’s final episode, then plans to wait until January to start the last
“Glee” season.

This hour, stuffed with music, find Rachel meeting an
eccentric writer who might create a TV series for her. Sam and Mercedes feel
pressure as their careers start to take off. And Blaine finally has his big
school showcase with the demanding June Dolloway (Shirley MacLaine).

Other choices include:

Racing, 7:30 p.m. ET., ABC. NASCAR racers converge in
Bristol, Tenn.

Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS. The 2010 Super Bowl teams
re-unite, with New Orleans and Indianapolis. The Saints, who won that one,
still have Drew Brees; the Colts have Andrew Luck instead of Peyton Manning.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. Both reruns come
after Boyle was shot. In the first one, medication causes him to be too frank
about his colleagues; in the second, he returns to work too soon,

“Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz. The second episode (rerunning at
7:55 p.m.), was oddly bland, as was the first. This third one has a sharper
story: With two boys hovering near death, it’s a battle between the church (an
exorcism) and science (a 1940s nurse who has been whisked to 1743 Scotland).

“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. Campbell makes a move against
Durant; also, Cullen is in trouble at home, after taking railroad matters into
his own hands.

“Intruders,” 10 p.m., BBC America. Crafted by one of the
best “X-Files” writers (Glen Morgan), this tries the style that show used so
well: Start with several seemingly unrelated things, then weave them together. “X-Files,”
however, did that in an hour; “Intruders” is an eight-hour series, with an opener
that leaves us bewildered. A wife (Mira Sorvino) has vanished, a killer (James
Frain) is loose, a little girl runs. It’s all very fascinating and, for now,
terribly perplexing.

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Josh Hutcherson, the
“Hunger Games” hero, hosts this rerun, with Haim as music guest.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 21

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC.

After taking a week off (for the “Last Comic Standing”
finale), this drolly clever show has its best episode since the pilot film.
Bruce’s parents (Patrick Duffy and Illeana Douglas) travel to Sweden and meet his
girlfriend’s family; cultures clash about marriage, religion and … well,
everything else.

Wrapped into this is a possible pregnancy. That brings some
great moments from Greg Poehler, the show’s co-writer and star, as Bruce gropes
(unsuccessfully) for the right things to say.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Rookie Blue” season-finale, 9 and 10
p.m., ABC.

For five summers, this show has had solid crime stories,
against the backdrop of young cops in love and angst. It offers quiet Canadian
competence and a likable star, Missy Peregrym.

She plays Andy, happy in her romance with Sam and wondering
what can go wrong. A lot, it seems. Duncan – the rookie she tried to train – is
back and is still over-eager, just as a car bomber lets loose.

TODAY’S MUST-SEE (or tape): “Doctor Who” and “The Simpsons,”
all day, cable.

Two of the longest-lasting (and best) shows in TV history
offer marathons. For “Who,” it’s BBC America’s  build-up to Saturday’s arrival of the 12
Doctor; the terrific 11
th Doctor and his companion (Matt Smith and
Karen Gillan) are introduced in a brilliant episode at 9 a.m., then continue
throughout the day.

And for “Simpsons,” this is big. The FXX channel (an FX offshoot,
owned by Fox) has bought all 552 episodes. It will rerun them all, starting at
10 a.m. with the offbeat holiday opener from Dec. 17, 1989.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Everyone seems to face a
tough choice in this rerun: Raj is dating both Lucy and Emily, maybe
simultaneously. Penny has another cheesy movie offer. And, alas, Sheldon must
decide between two game systems.

“Inside the Actors Studio,” 8 p.m., Bravo. This reruns Robin
Williams’ appearance in June of 2001.

“Rectify” season-finale, 9-10:05 p.m., Sundance. When his conviction
was vacated, Daniel came home after 19 years in prison … with many townspeople
still considering him a killer. Now he disagrees with his lawyer on the approach
to a new trial; also, there are turning points for his sister and step-brother.

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. 
This rerun – the directing debut of Lucy Liu, who plays Watson -- has
Sherlock reluctantly working with his brother Mycroft, on a life-and-death

“Marriage,” 10 p.m., FX. After improving sharply in recent
weeks, this show reverts to the sexual themes of its so-so pilot. The result is
often grim and only occasionally funny.

“The Honorable Woman,” 10:05 p.m., Sundance. In its first
three weeks, this tense show kept pointing to a dark secret from Nessa’s past.
Now a flashback shows us what happened. It requires us to believe a smart woman
would take a foolish risk; the rest – particularly Janet McTeer as the spy
chief – is brilliant.

“You’re the Worst,” 10:30, FX. This sharp,
acerbic comedy links two people who are toxic to the world, but can’t really
hurt each other. Now they toy with their relationship; since they’re not “exclusive”
– or are they? – they should be free to have sex with others. It’s a darkly
funny, and sort of pivotal, episode

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 20

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox) or “America’s
Got Talent” (NBC), 8-10 p.m.

“Dance” trims to its final four … and “Talent” to 24. At 8
p.m., “Talent” reruns Tuesday’s 12 acts; at 9, it tells which five will
advance. That makes 20 for the next round, with each judge then adding one

Meanwhile, “Dance” is in the odd position of having two tap
dancers and a ballerina in its final six; the other three are contemporary or
jazz – categories that usually dominate. Tonight, each dances with an
“all-star”; then – after a song by Rixton – two more will be sent home.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Legends.” 9 p.m., TNT.

A mild-mannered chemistry teacher and his family have been
kidnapped, leaving many questions including the big one: After “Breaking Bad,”
are there really any mild-mannered chemistry teachers?

Now there’s a danger of mass devastation; the FBI’s best
(and shakiest) undercover agent is needed. “Legends” is from Howard Gordon, who
also produces “24,” “Homeland” and “Tyrant.” It has similar flaws (torture, an
open-ended story) and strengths  – a
great star (Sean Bean) in a smart, taut drama.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Extant,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Now this ratings-winner is accelerating its story. For the
next two weeks, it has new hours back-to-back.

Tonight, Molly (Halle Berry) suspects that her baby is still
alive; she races to find the baby before the bad guys do. Also, her husband
(Goran Visjnic) has another problem: The android son he developed is developing
at an alarming rate.

Other choices include:

“Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. Alongside Tuesdays
“Wizard Wars” and Friday’s “Masters of Illusion,” this gives us a dandy week
for magicians.

“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun has
pre-wedding dismay – including Mitchell’s unhappiness with the cake-top image
whittled by Cam’s father.
second has a too-perfect nanny.

 “Suits”’ mid-season
finale (9 p.m. on USA). Harvey and Jessica scramble to stop outside raiders.

“Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
Bravo. We meet two young Englishmen, instantly described as “super smug and cocky”
and (to their faces) “Bert and Ernie” and “The Spice Girls.” Then again, their
clients and competitors are smug, too: One dismisses a 7,000-square-foot,
seven-bedroom home as “a bit small”; another stages a home by adding a
guitarist and a $300,000 car.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” 9 p.m., TLC. Kelsey Grammer has
already described some heavy family background, including the separate murders
of his father and sister. Now genealogy digs deeper.

“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Each week has brought fresh
thunderbolts. Last week, Marco and Sonya killed the two corrupt cops. Now – in
another strong and well-crafted hour -- he works to keep her out of it … while
she finally gets key details in the long-ago murder of her sister.

“Preachers of L.A.” season-opener, 10 p.m., Oxygen. In a
surprisingly lame hour, people have lots of petty arguments. We expect that
from other reality shows – especially from “Real Housewives” ones – but were
really hoping the clergy would have higher concerns.

“Heartbreakers,” 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery.
Originally scheduled for last week, this has Jack Wagner in the odd-but-true
story of a preacher’s affair with the wife of his finance chairman.

“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. When a maid from El
Salvador is shot, police discover her back story.