TV column for Friday, June 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Owen Benjamin:
High Five Til It Hurts,” midnight, Comedy Central.

This isn't your standard comedian.
Benjamin, who says he's 6-foot-7, is the son of college professors
and plays classical piano. He may be the only person to link
Timbaland and Beethoven in one joke.

The second half of the hour, at the
piano, is fairly funny and very original. The first half has
brilliant up moments, especially when viewing the etiquette of car
horns. The solution, he says, is separate horns for “just
mentioning” and “I'm not mad at you, it's the guy in front of
you.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS.

It's not enough of a bonus, apparently,
to have blue skies and great beaches. This hour also throws in s
roller derby and Dog the bounty-hunter.

Dog (who is based in Hawaii) is working
a case when the murder occurs. To learn who did it, Catherine
(Michelle Borth) goes undercover in the derby.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Annie: It's
the Hard Knock Life,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

A documentary about the rebirth of a
musical? Well, sort of.

This film sticks to the kids,
especially the 9-year-old who plays mini-Molly. Until a final little
glimpse of Jane Lynch, there's no proof that this Broadway show
includes grown-ups.

The film also meets the costumer, the
set designer and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who frets about
mop buckets, until a colleague finds a great alternative. It talks to
“Annie” creators, including Thomas Meehan, who in 1977 said:
“This little girl is going to support us for the rest of our
lives.”

Other choices include:

– “Rain Man” (1988) and “Julie
and Julia” (2009), 7 and 9:30 p.m., TV Guide. The two finest actors
of our time are back-to-back – Dustin Hoffman as a
funny-and-touching savant, Meryl Streep as a robust Julia Child.
Streep was nominated for an Oscar; Hoffman won, as did his director,
script and film.

– “Cult,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW. Does
anyone remember this tangled show? After seven low-rated episodes, it
disappeared for three months; now the final six can run on three
Fridays. Part of tonight's focus is on Skye, convinced that a cult
and a TV show are connected to her father's disappearance, a decade
ago. In the first hour, she has a talk with her mom; in the second,
she infiltrates a group for new believers.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. This is
really a bad way to start a day: Having been drugged, Hodgins and
Angela waken to find a bloody corpse on their canopy and flower
petals around their baby's crib. This rerun has them ignore Booth and
launch their own search for the evil Pelant.

– “The Following,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Desperate to find her son, Claire gets a key phone call in this
rerun.

– “Magic City,” 9 p.m., Starz.
“What would you do,” a district attorney asks, “if you new
where the Devil lives?” He's asking a young lawyer whose dad has
Miami's devil (Ben Diamond) for his silent partner. That's part of a
fairly quiet hour, as this strong show builds its ethical tangles.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Danny probes the murder of a college student who was considered a
drug dealer. Meanwhile, his brother Jamie has a key encounter with a
former law-school classmate; also, their sister Erin realizes she
must give more room to her teen daughter Nicky.

– “Lidia Celebrates America,” 10
p.m.. PBS (check local listings). Born in an Italian region of
Croatia, Lidia Bastianich was 11 when her family fled to the U.S. At
66, she co-owns four trendy Manhattan restaurants with her son Joe
(“MasterChef”). So it's logical for her to do this special that
looks at food and the immigrant experience of many ethnic groups.

TV column for Thursday, June 27


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Motive” and
“Rookie Blue,” 9 and 10:01 p.m.,ABC.

Bumped by basketball for three weeks,
these well-made Canadian shows are back.

In “Motive,” a rich lawyer has been
killed; viewers know the killer, but not the motive or how cops will
solve the case. One cop faces the distraction of her teen son's
arrest for shoplifting.

In “Rookie Blue,” new police
partnerships get messy. Andy is with Swarek's new girlfriend; Dov is
with Chloe, after an indiscreet moment when they first met.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Wilfred,”
10 and 10:30 p.m., FX.

In an early monologue tonight, we see
the dark depths of Wilfred's mind. Or maybe of Ryan's mind, since
he's imagining everything Wilfred the dog says.

Desperate for his sister's approval,
Ryan soon volunteers to watch her baby. Naturally, Wilfred (or Ryan?)
finds hilarious ways to sabotage this. It's another terrific episode,
with strong guest shots by Barry Watson and Gina Gershon; another new
episode follows at 10:30.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Independence
Day-Saster,” 9-11 p.m., Syfy.

For years. Syfy had new (and sometimes
goofy) movies on Saturdays. Now that night has series (one,
“Primevil: New World,” is quite good) and this film shows up on a
Thursday.

Don't expect any goofiness this time,
though. The plot finds a credible – really – way for the
president (Tom Everett Scott) to be stranded in a small town during
an alien invasion, alongside his son, his brother (Ryan Merriman),
the son's cute girlfriend and four tech geeks.

The geeks are crucial here, one reason
sci-fi (and Syfy) fans will enjoy this film.

Other choices include:

– “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
(2000), 7:30 p.m., AMC. An interesting movie night is led by this
Coen brothers classic. At 8, E has “The Lake House” (2006), with
an interesting supernatural concept not quite resolved. At 8:30,
Showtime has the deeply moving “Brokeback Mountain” (2005).

– “Parks and Recreation,” 8 and
8:30 p.m., NBC. Now that she's on the council, Leslie is busy. She
tries to revamp Animal Control in the first rerun and eliminate
outdated laws in the second.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, the guys give a talk that is supposed to encourage
girls to become scientists. Sheldon, of course, is rarely
encouraging.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. This rerun wraps up the stretch that had Walden pretending
to be poor, while secretly financing Kate's fashion line. Now she has
her New York show.

– “The Office,” 9-10:01 p.m.,
NBC. Now that he's back in town and assistant regional manager, Jim
convinces Dwight he needs an assistant to the assistant regional
manager. Also in this rerun, Andy tries out for an a cappella show;
guests include Clay Aiken, Aaron Rogers and Mark McGrath.

– “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. As
a fierce storm heads to New York in this rerun, Holmes and Watson try
to prevent a break-in at one of the country's largest vaults.

– “America's Got Talent,” 10:01
p.m., NBC. “Hannibal” – a strong show with weak ratings – is
gone now, replaced tonight by this rerun. It's from June 18, with
auditions in Chicago

TV column for Wednesday, June 26


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother”
season-opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Tonight, viewers can see the new house
– wa sleek, “mid-century” design – and hear new rules: Three
people (not two) will be up for eviction; also, viewers will choose
an “MVP,” with special powers.

And viewers meet the 16 contestants.
It's a youthful bunch, ages 22 to 37, with some serious jobs (speech
therapist, railroad conductor, English professor) and a lot of jobs
associated with youthful fun. There's a bartender and a lifeguard, a
pizza delivery guy and a college grad who's unemployed.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “How to Live
With Your Parents (for the rest of your life),” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

A fairly clever show with likable
actors, this never caught on in the ratings. Now it has its last
episode.

Polly (Sarah Chalke) feels her life was
muted by low expectations; she wants the opposite for her daughter
and scrambles to get her into a program for the gifted. Also, when
her mom (Elizabeth Perkins) has a role in a play-reading for her dad
(Brad Garrett), their sex life is affected.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Hot in
Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV Land.

On any week, this show has the neat
feel of an old situation comedy, with four pros – Valerie
Bertinelli, Betty White, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick – and a
studio audience.

This time, it adds some more sitcom
veterans. Therd's Jean Smart,Tim Conway and (as Malick's mom, a
horrendous hoarder) Carol Burnett.

Other choices include:

 

– “Dateline,” 8 p.m., NBC. The
network hoped for a seventh-and-final hockey battle tonight. Alas,
Chicago won in six, leaving NBC with its fallback plan – a new
“Dateline,” then reruns of :”Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit” (a sportscaster accuses her camara man of rape) and “Chicago
Fire.”

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
funny rerun, Frankie is dismayed by the “Bachelor” choice.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Dreams and secrets collide in funny ways during a family yard sale.
Phil is tempted to buy a motorcycle … Manny finds a trunk that
contains his mom's secret … and Mitchell and Cam analyze Alex's
sort-of boyfriend.

– “Nova,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Here's a rerun of an ambitious film that uses
satellite footage to show global developments. We see a hurricane
building, dust swirling and more, including an underwater “waterfall”
that propel ocean currents around the world.

– “Franklin & Bash,”9 p.m.,
TNT. For Peter (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), this case is personal: His mom
(Jane Seymour) has been charged with prostitution.

– “Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA.
Last week, the HankMed people got an offer to merge into the
corporation that bought the Hamptons hospital. Now they visit another
of the company's hospitals; also, Hank uncovers fresh information
about Boris' death.

– “Criminal Minds,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Nudged an hour later than usual by “Big Brother,” this show
has the team wondering if two Kansas events – a murder and an
abduction – are related.

TV column for Tuesday, June 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rizzoli &
Isles” season-opener, 9 p.m.,TNT

This show keeps getting better as it
builds interesting characters to go with fairly solid crime cases

Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) is accurately
summed up tonight by a suspect: “You're a detective? Wow.”

We follow her lovelorn mom, her
earnest-cop brother and her brainy friend Maura (Sasha Alexander), a
medical examiner who gave a kidney to her troubled sister and learned
her biologic dad is a mobster.

These characters deliver slick, smart
dialog. Mix in tonight's case and you have a winner.

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

Now that basketball has ended, reality
shows reach overload. At 9 p.m. today, they'll be on three of the
big-four networks; next Tuesday, the fourth jumps in.

Still, this one stands out, with gifted
young dancers, great choreographers and earnest judges. Last week, we
met the 20 finalists; tonight, in the season's first live episode,
they dance and viewers vote.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Perception”
season-opener, 10 p.m., TNT.

Last season we met Daniel Pierce
(perfectly played by Eric McCormack), a college prof and police
consultant with a fragile reality. He imagined people –especially a
wise blonde – and talked to them.

Now he's taking his medication and
improving. The blonde (Kelly Rowan) turned out to be a real person
he's dating. (He had imagined her because he met her long ago.) Life
is better … until a new case kicks up his old troubles. The case is
so-so, but the personal story is beautifully written and acted.

Other choices include:

– “Extreme Weight Loss”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., ABC. Each week, we'll see one person on a
year-long mission. That starts in Appleton, Wis., with a former high
school football player. Now 23, he's been unemployed for two years,
lost an arm in a traffic accident and weighs 410 pounds.

– “Betty White's Off Their Rocker”
return (8 and 8:30 p.m.) and “America's Got Talent”(9-11 p.m.),
NBC. Nick Cannon shows up everywhere. He guests in the opening
“Rocker,” discussing the 2-year-old twins he and wife Mariah Cary
have. Then he hosts “Talent” auditions.

– “American Experience” (check
local listings), 8-10 p.m., PBS. Henry Ford savored rural life, but
propelled an urban world; he championed working men and hired thugs
to brutalize them when they went on strikes. Kind and cruel, he was a
powerful force, captured in this excellent rerun.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, Tony worries about Ziva's plans of revenge for her dad's
murder

– “Minute to Win It” return, 8
and 9 p.m., Game Show Network; repeats at 11 p.m. and midnight. Duos
tackle quirky games, the sort to improvise at home. NBC's version,
loudly hosted by Guy Fieri, was too frantic; now Olympic star Apolo
Anton Ohno takes over, capturing the show's basic likability.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Ina a rerun, Sam helps an Afghan man who once saved him.

– “Person of Interest,”10 p.m.,
CBS. With “Brooklyn DA” exiled to Saturdays, reruns of this show
fill in. Tonight, Reese is kidnapped by an old acquaintance who has
deadly plans.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
The first half of the excellent season-opener reruns, with Megan
finding a new police partner (Mark Valley) and a crisis: Her daughter
has been kidnapped.

– “Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). This documentary views rapes of migrant
workers.

TV column for Monday, June 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Under the Dome”
debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

At first, we catch interesting glimpses
of small-town life. There's the struggling newspaper owner, the
power-hungry businessman, the handsome newcomer; the sweet-faced
woman with an angry boyfriend.

Then … well, then a dome instantly
descends, encasing the town.

That dome is a great specal effect –
bringing vehicles to a crash and slicing a cow in half. But the
people making this 13-hour series – novelist Stephen King, “Lost”
director Jack Bender, producer Steven Spielberg – seem to have much
more in mind, with deep drama. Tonight, they start well.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Anger
Management,” 9:30 p.m., Fox.

Two bad-behavior types in one place?
That sounds more like a rock concert than a situation comedy.

Still, that's what we have her. Charlie
Sheen plays Charlie, who is a therapist; Lindsay Lohan plays Lindsay
Lohan, who needs one, They clash in comic (perhaps) ways.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE:“POV”
season-opener, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

“When it comes to death,” Isaiah
Owens says, “African-Americans have our own way.”

It's often joyful – soaring music,
glowing words, even humor. As a sharecropper's son in South Carolina,
he was 5 when he did funerals, real (for real animals) and
make-believe.

Now he's a Harlem funeral director.
This gorgeous documentary catches the extremes. It also chats with
the mourners and even with the deceased-to-be, cheerfully planning
her own funeral.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. As Desiree Hartsock visits Europe for the first time, the
11 remaining guys reach extremes. There's warmth, as Chris reads a
poem … lightness, meeting a yodeler in the Alps … ugliness, in a
debate about whether Ben uses his single-dad status as a convenience.

– Hockey, 8 p.m. ET, NBC. The sixth
game of the Stanley Cup play-offs is in Boston. If a seventh game is
needed, it will be Wednesday in Chicago.

– “The Real Housewives of Orange
County,” 8-10 p.m., Bravo. This started in 2006 as a reality-show
variation on “Desperate Housewives.: It has spun off new versions,
while keeping this version alive. Now we have the the 100th
episode, mixing current and past housewives.

– “Switched at Birth,” 8 p.m.,
ABC Family. Overwhelmed by wedding preparations, Toby might need a
shot of youthful fun. So Bay hires his band to perform at a festival.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. Trying to guarantee a strong start for “Dome,”CBS
has reruns of TV's best comedy. Both involve Sheldon's friendships
with the famous. In the first, he plays “Words With Friends”
online with Stephen Hawking; in the second, he tries to intercede in
a feud between Wil Wheaton and Amy.

– “The Fosters,” 9 p.m., ABC
Family. As Mariana prepares for her quinceanera (15th
birthday celebration), romances bring trouble. Her twin brother is
secretly dating her friend. And Callie – new to the notion of
wearing a gown and being on a court – may be inspiring a forbidden
love with Brandon.

– :”Mistresses,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Last week ended with a jolt, as Savi (Alyssa Milano) learned she's
pregnant. Now she frets that this is via her one-night stand with a
co-worker, not with her husband. Meanwhile, her lusty sister is
increasingly fond of a lesbian client. More complications: Karen
spends time with the grown son of her late, secret lover; April may
have to pay for her late husband's affair.