TV column for Monday, July 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Capitol
Fourth,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS; repeats 9:30-11 (check local listings).

Each year, this concert offers great
voices, the National Symphony and fireworks, all against a splendid,
Washington, D.C., backdrop.

This year, Steve Martin will bring his
banjo and his Steep Canyon Ramblers. Rock stars will be old (Little
Richard, 78), young (Jordin Sparks, 21) and pretend (the cast of
“Million Dollar Quartet”).

Powerhouse singer Josh Groban will be
there. So will Matthew Morrison (now of “Glee”) and Kelli O'Hara,
who starred with him twice on Broadway and has three Tony
nominations. Jimmy Smits hosts.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: More Fourth, 9
pm., NBC (repeating at 10); 10 p.m., CBS.

NBC will in New York for the “Macy's
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.” Nick Lachey hosts,
with songs by Beyonce and Brad Paisley. This year, however, there's
no orchestra; the fireworks will be accompanied by recorded songs.

The CBS event, however, is built around
the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, doing its 38th
concert for the Fourth of July. Keith Lockhart conducts, Michael
Chiklis hosts and Lionel Richie sings.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Citizen
U.S.A.: A 50 State Road Trip,” 9 p.m., HBO.

After marrying a Dutch native,
Alexandra Pelosi began to see her country through fresh eyes. So they
traveled, meeting people in naturalization ceremonies in every state.

They talked to a few famous immigrants
– Henry Kissinger, Arianna Huffington, Gene Simmons, Madeleine
Albright. The real joy, however, is in meeting regular people who
savor a country where they can hold hands, drive a car or dial 9-1-1.
As with her six previous HBO films, Pelosi (Nancy Pelosi's daughter)
injects the film with warmth and balance.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. In a rerun of last week's episode, Ashley takes the eight
remaining guys to Hong Kong. She also gets a return visit from the
banished Bentley.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. This rerun is stuffed with guest stars – Will Forte as
Marshall's incompetent co-worker, Laura Bell Bundy as Robin's
co-anchor, Jennifer Morrison as Zoey, who enrolls in Ted's class and
stirs up other students against his project.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8:30 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. Here are amiable reruns from early in the season. The
first, centering on a bowling night, introduced Cleo King as Carl's
grandmother; the second found Carl jealous of all the time Mike was
spending with Molly.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This fairly good rerun is supposed to be about Charlie dating
someone who's older. Alas, Liz Vassey, who plays her, is 38; Charlie
Sheen is 45.

– “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, we meet a guy who quit
working out after a knee injury ended his high school football hopes.
At 25, he had reached 651 pounds. He meets former Nate Newton, a
former Dallas Cowboy who ballooned to 401, then lost 175.

– “The Big C,” 10:30, Showtime.
Last week, Cathy made the mistake of telling Rebecca she has cancer.
Rebecca told Cathy's brother, who told the world, starting a pity
party. “Big C” nimbly juggles comedy and drama, introducing Alan
Alda as a doctor with bad bedside manner and great results.

TV column for Sunday, July 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Masterpiece
Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

At a Halloween party, a girl mentions
that she's seen a murder. Most people dismiss her; someone – we
don't know who – takes it terribly seriously.

That brings Hercule Poirot to this
village, which becomes increasingly deadly. The result has the
graceful intelligence of Agatha Christie's story(“Hallowe'en”),
plus the zest of Mark Gatiss.

Originally from the comedy group
“League of Gentlemen,” Gatiss has written scripts for “Doctor
Who” and for the wonderful “Masterpiece” variation on Sherlock
Holmes. Here's his second Poirot script (after “Cat Among the
Pigeons”), adding freshness and wit to an old master.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “True Blood,”
9 p.m., HBO.

Remember when it was enough to just
worry about vampires? Some of tonight's strongest moments come when
Eric confronts the new coven of witches. Others come from the
meetings – sometimes sexy, sometimes quietly moving – between Sam
and his fellow shape-shifters.

And yes, vampires are still there. In
Sookie's year away, Eric bought her house, Bill became king of
Louisiana and her world transformed. A small human deals with giant,
compelling forces.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Falling
Skies,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Prisoners can be a problem, when you're
hiding from alien invaders and pillaging for supplies.

That includes the one alien prisoner,
currently being caged. It also includes an Earthling – an ex-con,
who had his own biker gang, before being captured.

The good news – he's a skilled cook
and he knows how to get a find motorcycles and gas, setting up a
great action scene. There's also bad news, of course, in another
strong episode.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. In
a rerun, Homer goes undercover to probe Fat Tony.

– “Family Guy,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Here's a rerun of the show's “Return of the Jedi” take-off,
complete with the voices of Carrie Fisher, Anne Hathaway and Rush
Limbaugh. That wraps up its take-off trilogy on the original “Star
Wars” films.

– “Castle,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, the murder victim was a lottery winner with plenty of enemies

– “Leverage,” 9 p.m., TNT. This
scam suddenly has a major problem: The intended target is dead and
Nate is the prime suspect; the team scrambles to find the real
killer.

– “The Marriage Ref,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. “Ref” had a fun season-opener last week, with a panel that
included Jerry Seinfeld (also the show's producer) and Ricky Gervais.
We'll see if it can keep that up tonight, when the panelists are
Tracy Morgan, Sussie Essman and Regis Phibin.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Performing an autopsy, Megan realizes she had a connection to the
victim. It's a rerun of a good episode that leaves her making
fumbling efforts at human contact.

– “Treme” season-finale, 10 p.m.,
HBO. Forever in the shadow of “True Blood” or “Game of
Thromes,” this is a terrific show on its own, mixing the music and
flair of New Orleans with deep dramas about a city in recovery.
Tonight, the music dominates, in an expanded episode set during the
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

TV column for Saturday, July 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Waitress”
(2007), 8-10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

This gentle gem works as well on a tiny
TV set as it did on movie screens. It has the look and feel of a TV
comedy-drama – albeit, a really good one.

Keri Russell plays a pregnant waitress
with a dim husband. She finds comfort with her doctor (Nathan
Fillion), her co-workers (Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly), a customer
(Andy Griffith) and pie-making.

Shelly wrote and directed this with
charm and nuance. She was 40, directing her third movie; then she was
killed by a stranger, before the film opened to rave reviews.

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

Yes, there's still one non-rerun
scripted show Saturdays on a big network. That's this drama-comedy,
with Freddy Rodriguez as an earnest CIA guy, surrounded by oddness.

Tonight, he and the others are
dispatched to Germany, where an agent has reportedly gone rogue. They
soon learn the guy has a master plan and help him with it.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Expedition
Impossible,” 9 p.m., ABC.

There's definitely crying on reality
shows. One Kansas teen weeps when her horse – riding in the
Moroccan mountains – refuses to follow directions. “I'm supposed
to be in school,” she says, “going to my locker, going to math
class.”

Still, others have bigger problems in
this rerun of the second episode. One of the riders is blind; a mom
upsets her daughters by flipping out of a kayak and losing her oar.

Other choices include:

– Movie trilogies. This is a night to
see – or, at least, tape – all three films. Disney has the “High
School Musical” movies at 4 p.m. (2006), 5:50 p.m. (2007) and 7:45
p.m. (2008). Showtime has the “Twilight” films at 5:45 p.m.
(2008), 7:50 p.m. (2009) and 10 p.m. (2010).

– “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show,”
8 p.m., ABC. This rerun of the second episode offers more questions
and more abrupt departures. Some of the people are hoisted away by
boat or helicopter.

– “CSI:NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, Adam saw what seemed to be a woman strangled to death during
an online chat. Now he tries to find out if it was real or faked.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. A battle between security firms lead to a
murder.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. Already rocked by accusations since Julius Berger (Eric
Mabius) arrived, this frontier space community now faces a fierce
white-out.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC. In
a rerun, Andy (Missy Peregrym) finds that undercover work is tough,
when you have to be a good waitress, while also being an observant
cop.

– “Law & Order: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of one of the episodes that still had
Detective Winters (Skeet Ulrich). The case involves intruders who
beat party guests to death.

– “Saturday Night Life,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Here's some age variety: This rerun is hosted by Helen
Mirren, 66; three weeks ago, the host was Miley Cyrus, 18. There's
music by the Foo Fighters.

– “Come Fly With Me,” 11:30 p.m.,
BBC America. Wildly inconsistent – and sometimes wildly funny –
this pretend reality show is at its best when viewing the cheapie
FlyLo airline. After booking its resort plan, for instance, a husband
and wife learn the resort has not yet been built; they are not happy.

TV column for Friday, July 1


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

After tonight, there are only two more
episodes in the five-year life of a great series.

Coach Taylor is trying to take East
Dillon High School to a state football championship – just as he
once did with wealthier Dillon High. His wife (East Dillon's guidance
counselor, formerly Dillon's principal) is being recruited by a
college in the East.

Then there are the personal woes,
centering on two ex-cons. One is the quarterback's dad, the other
(Tim Riggins) is a former star who took the rap for his brother, now
an assistant coach. The drama is beautifully played, as always; the
game scenes, sometimes so-so, are terrific this week.

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

Two talented actresses are in this
rerun, playing people linked to Cuddy, who is House's boss, his
antagonist and sometimes his lover. It's the first of three episodes
with Paula Marshall as Cuddy's sister, the second of three with
Candice Bergen as their mother.

Arriving with a mysterious disease, the
mom refuses to let House diagnose her. To get around that, he breaks
the law and creates an ethical crisis for young Masters.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Bucket &
Skinner's Epic Adventures” debut, 8 and 8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon.

These teen friends want to spend their
lives close to water and far from anything requiring long pants.
Appropriately, they work in a surf shop; so does Kelly, who doubles
as the class beauty and brain.

Bucket obsesses on Kelly, but is no
match for a handsome surfer dude named Aloe; Skinner obsesses on many
schemes. In the first episode, he has Bucket run for school
president; in the second, they disguise as girls to infiltrate Aloe's
exclusive party.

Other choices include:

– “Flashpoint,” 8 p.m., CBS. Two
brothers become involved with a white-supremacist group. One has
doubts, however, when the group plans a terrorist attack.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, the suspects include all three of the victim's wives.

– “The Cowboy and the Senorita”
(1944), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Here's Hollywood history –
the first movie linking Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. More are shown
tonight, at 9:30 p.m., 10:45 p.m., 12:15 a.m. and 1:30 a.m.; in all,
Rogers and Evans linked in 28 movies and 100 TV episodes.

– “What Would You Do?” 9 p.m.,
ABC. Now that “Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution,” has ended, ABC
brings back this interesting social experiment. Each week, it uses
hidden cameras to study people's reactions to staged events that seem
real, posing ethical dilemmas.

– “CSI:NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, guests at an exclusive party were being hauled in a
tractor-trailer. Then it ended up in the bottom of the Hudson River,
leaving murders to be solved.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A
former Marine war hero became homeless and was killed. Now the case
becomes an obsession for Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) who is also a former
Marine. Also in this rerun, a rumor spreads that Frank (Tom Selleck),
Danny's dad, will run for mayor.

TV column for Thursday, June 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Wilfred,” 10
p.m., FX.

Last week's wonderfully weird opener
introduced Ryan, a shy guy with a lot of time and confusion. He
things Wilfred – the pet dog of the beauty next door – talks to
him.

Half of tonight's story involves trust
and loyalty. Wilfred is really good at that; Ryan – who must trick
him into visiting the vet – isn't.

The other half has Wilfred tell part of
a secret about his owner, before succumbing to anesthesia. That's a
bit sophomorish, but “Wilfred” remains a delight. Elijah Wood is
perfect as Ryan; Jason – who co-created the series in Australia –
is brilliant in a role that simply has him put on a cheap dog suit.

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

Tonight, the field is trimmed from 16
to 14 – which won't be easy, with this much similarity.

Last week, the judges dumped the only
tapper and the only ballroom dancer, plus a jazz dancer (Missy
Morelli) and a hip-hopper (Wadi Jones). Now the judgesm including
Kristin Chenoweth as guest, face a sea of similar jazz and
contemporary people; also, AXIS – a troupe with disabled dancers –
performs.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Suits,” 10
p.m., USA.

Last week's opener left us with no one
to root for. An amoral genius (Patrick J. Adams) faked a law degree
and worked for a schemer (Gabriel Macht), surrounded by jerks.

That problem continues but now there
are complex stories. One involves patent troubles; the other has
efforts to sign a big-money client. In a slimy world of deceit, they
provide fairly interesting journeys.

Other choices include:

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Almost nothing could split these four friends – not women or
work or whatever. Except that now, in a funny rerun, they've found a
ring from the “Lord of the Rings” movie; the impact, of course,
could be immense.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30,
CBS. In a rerun, Timmy tries to keep his sarcastic boss (David Spade)
from learning he's in an a cappella group.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. A shark has attacked someone in a casino's swimming
pool. Police suspect this was not a natural phenomenon.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Opposite
forces are at work in this rerun: Emma heads the celibacy club; a
free-spirited sub (Gwyneth Paltrow) is back, this time teaching sex
education

– “Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Andyand Gail go undercover, as cocktail waitresses in a seedy club.

– “Louie,” 10:30, FX. The dark
humor has of Louis C.K. has never seemed bleaker than tonight. First,
in a stand-up snippet, describing his so-so sex life. Then we see
prime examples – one mostly tragic, the other with odd bursts of
dry humor in surprising places.

– “Ugly Americans” season-opener,
10:30, Comedy Central. This cartoon lacks the wit of “Futurama,”
which has good reruns at 9 and 9:30 p.m. and a new episode at 10.
Still, it has its moments. Tonight, we learn that Mark's co-worker,
the wizard, has been training someone who looks a lot like Harry
Potter; now the demons plan to invade the wizards' compound.