TV column for Thursday, Aug. 14

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing” finale, 9-11 p.m.,

Three talented – and wildly different – stand-up comics have
their final face-offs. Lachlan Patterson is a towering Canadian, camera-ready.
Rod Man brings an offbeat perspective. Nikki Carr started late, at 34; now she
discusses her life as a lesbian and grandmother of four.

Tonight, one wins $250,000 and a production deal. First, there
will be stand-up bits by two of the judges, Roseanne Barr and Russell Peters,
and by Alingon Mitra, the online “comedy comeback” winner.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

If you haven’t been watching this tough, tangled show, don’t
worry; there’s a long “previously” section tonight, with much to relate. Ryan is
an oft-honest cop, secretly helping Javier Acosta, the crime lord who was his
boyhood protector. When Ryan’s girlfriend (an assistant district attorney and
the daughter of his boss) pieced this together, someone had her killed.

Now Ryan clings to his secret, while racing with the team on
an international – and, often, foolhardty – revenge mission. The result is hard
and harsh, but it’s definitely a finale that makes an impact.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties” (9 p.m., CNN) and “NY
Med” (10 p.m., ABC) finales.

Two well-made documentary series wrap up, back-to-back. That
concludes with a look at medical people in New York and Newark, both
light-hearted – a “mad genius,” a cheery biker – and darkly serious.

Before that, “Sixties” takes us to the year the American
focus shifted to California; singer-songwriters jammed and hippies converged. A
great guide to San Francisco’s “summer of love” is Peter Coyote.  At 72, he’s now a busy actor and narrator
(including Ken Burns’ upcoming triumph, “The Roosevelts”); back then, he was a
founder of The Diggers, scrambling to provide free clothes, food and medical

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After insults fly
between her husband (Howard) and Sheldon, Bernadette tries to broker a peace.
Also in this rerun, Penny is offered an embarrassing movie role.

“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. This rerun is the first of four
episodes with Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winner (“The Help”) as Christy’s new
(and much-troubled) friend.

“Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. Probing a severe beating, Andy
and Chloe find a major crime operation.

“The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m., Sundance. As the search
continues for the kidnapped son of Nessa’s housekeeper, we learn this is somehow
related to when both women were held captive, seven years ago. Also, Nessa’s
brother finds himself teetering near scandal, in a strong (if perplexing) hour.

 “Married,” 10 p.m.,
FX. After an awful start, “Married” keeps getting better. Tonight, this husband
and wife are nudged into actually finding friends. They meet two people as odd
and fractured as they are.

“You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX. This excellent comedy
has its most ambitious episode, whisking people around town, on a “Sunday funday”
search for hip fun. Against that backdrop, Gretchen – still not admitting she
even likes her lover Jimmy – has a chance for a dream date with someone else.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 13

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

Big and booming, Sean Bean often plays epic figures. He’s
been Zeus and Odysseus; he’s been killed in “Game of Thrones,” “Lord of the
Rings,” “Henry VIII” and more.

So viewers might be surprised tonight to see him playing a shy
and stuttering killer. Stick around; this series about FBI undercover work
provides real range. Steve Harris leads a team that includes Ali Larter, Tina
Majorino and Bean … who shows us (as PBS viewers already knew) he has subtlety
and skill.

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

After Michael Jackson’s death five years ago, producer/judge
Nigel Lythgoe planned a tribute – then had to dump it when the estate wouldn’t
allow the music. Now, with a new album coming, there’s no problem: First, a
group number has the eight finalists dance to the new Jackson single, “A Place
With No Name.” Then each one (with an “all-star” partner) will dance to a Jackson
song, classic or new.

Half of the eight specialize in contemporary or jazz; the
others are a ballerina, a ballroom dancer and two tap-dancers. Last week, the
show ousted its “popper,” plus contemporary dancer Bridget Whitman.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Heartbreakers” debut, 10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery.

“You’ve seen too many soap operas,” a villain says tonight.
Maybe we all have, which makes this idea work. “Heartbreakers” often uses
actors from soaps (primetime or daytime) and has a heightened style. That makes
sense, because these true stories are filled with human absurdity.

Tonight, a pastor in Independence, Mo., (Harry Truman’s old
town) has a decade-plus affair with the wife of his finance chairman. He gets
careless, then lethal. Jack Wagner gives him a bigger-than-life feel; Rob Estes
and Jamie Luner (who is particularly good) play it straight, in an oddly
entertaining hour

Other choices include:

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Little Frankie (Patricia Heaton)
again battles her towering and brassy neighbor Rita (Brooke Shields). In this
rerun, the issue involves Rita’s wind chimes.

“Mystery Girls,” 8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Already wildly
over-acted, this show brings in RuPaul as a self-obsessed designer. An
ostrich-feather bag has disappeared on the day of his fashion show.

“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds
generations linking – Jay teaching manly ways, Cam and Mitchell leading a
culture tour. The second is a funny Las Vegas visit by grown-ups.

“Extant,” 10 p.m., CBS. Molly (Halle Berry) comes across
footage that may show the real reason she was chosen for the solo space
mission. Meanwhile, her android son has his first dream.

“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Most of this hour continues the “Bridge”
strengths – richly drawn characters in life-and-death situations, with a
powerhouse ending. Still, that’s harmed by two flaws – the continued obsession
with torture, plus a sudden loss of logic: Knowing powerful people want to kill
him, why would a man stroll through town alone, carrying the evidence? We’ll
forgive it, for now.

“Jennifer Falls” season-finale, 10:30 p.m., TV Land.
Jennifer (Jaime Pressly) is suspicious when Adam says she and her daughter can
move in with him.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 12

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.

Getting better each week, “Tyrant” keeps throwing dramatic
thunderbolts. Last week, we learned that Jamal’s attempt to kill his political
opponent fell short; his brother Bassam (or Barry) – an honorable doctor until
now – finished the job … then suspected that Jamal must be overthrown.

But are secrets possible? Will Jamal learn of the plot and
execute everyone? Will he blurt out that his brother is a killer? And what of
Bassam’s wife, also a doctor? Tough twists are skillfully told.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “20/20: From Hell,” 10 p.m., ABC.

What can go wrong during a vacation? Plenty, we learn from
this collection of previous “20/20” reports. We hear confessions of
baggage-handlers and we see some of the world’s worst passengers; we also meet
a man who somehow survived, after his parachute didn’t open.

Then there are hotels. Some, this report says, advertise one
thing and deliver another. Another had two cases of carbon-monoxide deaths in
the same room … without fixing the problem in-between.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Chasing Life” summer finale, 9 p.m.,
ABC Family.

This odd series continues to blend mismatched elements. At
the core is a solid, well-acted story about a young woman with cancer; tacked
onto that are awful bits of soap-type drama.

Like many bad dramas, that requires people to never quite
tell each other things … until they do it in excess; it also requires
self-destructive idiocy. Tonight, that reaches overload.

Other choices include:

“America’s Got Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Twelve more acts
perform; on Wednesday, five will advance.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of the final primetime
performance by Ralph Waite, who died in February at 85. In this episode, he’s intent
on meeting someone who saved his life during the war. When his son Gibbs helps
him, Tony and McGee are left to argue about who should be lead on a case.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds an
undercover agent killed and the team rushing to find the mole. Meanwhile, Kensi
is missing in Afghanistan and Granger is worried.

“4th and Loud” debut, 9 p.m., AMC. Puffed up with
their usual confidence, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (the Kiss rockers)
brought pro football back to Los Angeles. They launched an Arena Football
League expansion team, complete with flashy uniforms, sexy cheerleaders and
fireworks. They expected big crowds and a championship; they got one out of
two, with this reality show following them.

“Royal Pains,” 9 p.m., USA. Usually, this show sticks to the
beauty of the Hamptons. Tonight, Hank and Boris head to Argentina, to see a
potential patient for Boris’ clinical trial.

“Matador,” 9 p.m., El Rey. Whisked away on Galan’s private
jet, Tony ends up in Nicaragua, amid drug lords, danger and a life-or-death
(literally) soccer game.

 “The Singles Project”
debut, 10 p.m., Bravo. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the dating decisions
of TV characters or real people, here’s a semi-solution. Bravo says viewers will
be able to steer some young New Yorkers, via social media.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Murder in the First” season finale,
10:01 p.m., TNT.

Almost 33 years after he remade TV drama with “Hill Street
Blues,” Steven Bochco has done some of his best work. “Murder” has followed one
case all season – an idea he first tried back in 1995.

It’s been filled with beautifully drawn characters, led by
the cops played by Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson. They’ve felt an arrogant
tech billionaire killed a woman (who was bearing his child), shortly after
firing her; a jury acquitted him, however, and they’ve been scrambling for
other possibilities.

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

For two summers, we’ve seen a town encased in a dome,
without a way out. Or is there?

Last week, Barbie (Mike Vogel), the show’s hero, plunged
into a tunnel. He was searching for Sam (Eddie Cahill), a newcomer this season.
Now that tunnel leads to a world that seems familiar, but isn’t; Brett Cullen –
a busy TV figure ever since “Falcon Crest” and “Young Riders” -- plays Barbie’s

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “21 Jump Street” (2012), 6:30 p.m.,
FX; and/or “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Here are two chances to see Channing Tatum go far beyond his
handsome-hunk image.

First is a good comedy; he and Jonah Hill do an offbeat
version of the TV show about undercover cops in high school. Then is a
real-life adventure; Grylls takes him to the toughest parts of Yosemite.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “The Approval Matrix” debut, 11
p.m., Sundance.

Four people sitting around talking for a half-hour? That can
work if the host is sharp, the guests are clever and the subject is lively; in
this case, all three click.

Neal Brennan – a writer, producer (“Chapelle’s Show”) and
stand-up comedian – is witty … even if he is often wrong in tonight’s debate
over whether this is a new TV golden age. (The correct answer – yes, but only
for drama.) Clever counterpoint comes from comedian-writer Whitney Cummings,
critic Matt Roush and “Today” personality Willie Geist. Only the out-of-studio
interview (Amy Poehler) is so-so.

Other choices include:

“Elephants Can Remember,”
Here’s the first of three Hercule Poirot tales debuting on Mondays. By Aug. 25,
the streaming service will have all 70 films with David Suchet.

“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. Nicolas (Gilles Marini) has
invited Caroline to dinner in his loft.

“Candid Camera” opener, 8 p.m., TV Land. The classic concept
returns, with Mayim Bialik (Amy on “Big Bang Theory”) hosting with Peter Funt …
whose dad, Allen, launched the original 66 years ago.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies. One of the all-time great actors is celebrated. Marlon Brando stars in
“Streetcar,” followed by “The Wild One” (1953) at 10:15 p.m. and the brilliant
“On the Waterfront” (1954) at 11:45.

“Mike and Molly,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Mike and Samuel
join Carl on a road trip to Memphis.

“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. April finally learns who has
been stalking her. Joss goes to meet Scott’s big family … shortly after Harry
plants some doubts. Also, Karen blurs patient-doctor boundaries (again).

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 10

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Teen Choice Awards,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The world will promptly forget who won the awards, which are
kind of silly anyway. (Our favorite has Kevin Hart facing Godzilla and others,
for best “movie hissy fit.”) Still, there’s the fun of a live show.

Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Tyler Posey (“Teen Wolf”)
host; music is from Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato, Rita Ora, Rixton and Magic. There
are plenty of presenters, from Taylor Swift to Kim Kardashian. For best comedy,
“Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “Glee” face cable’s “Sam & Cat” and
“Austin & Ally.” Dramas are “Hart of Dixie,” “Pretty Little Liars,”
“Twisted,” “Fosters” and “Switched at Birth.”

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: Shark Week, 7 p.m., Discovery.

Yes, it seems like every week is shark week. But Discovery
is the one that created this 26 years ago and has done a fine job … or did,
until it started inserting unidentified fiction alongside its documentaries.

That makes us wary of this start – a rerun of “Return of
Jaws” at 7 p.m., “Air Jaws: Fin of Fury” at 8, “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of the
Submarine” at 9 and a live, nightly talk show at 11. Those last two then rerun,
letting us go to sleep (if possible) at 3 a.m.; it all starts anew, Monday

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO.

TV’s trend – informing a series in advance that it’s the
final season – has mostly been a good thing. Stories are tightened, characters
are sharpened; “True Blood” offers a prime example.

With the finale two weeks from tonight, this meandering
story is coming together. Tonight starts with two climactic confrontations and
follows with key character moments. Then it propels Sookie to learn that there
may be a true cure. That’s followed by a closing jolt … which must be resolved

Other choices include:

“Maid in Manhattan” (2002), 7-9 p.m., Lifetime. Tyler
Posey’s career passes before us. See him at age 10 as the son of Jennifer
Lopez, who’s in an OK romance; then watch him at 22, co-hosting “Teen Choice.”

“The Simpsons,” 7:30 p.m., Fox. Nudged a half-hour earlier
than usual to make room for the awards, this rerun has Homer giving romance
advice (really) to Comic Book Guy.

Movies, 8 p.m., cable. At one extreme is Quentin Tarentino’s
fierce “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) on IFC; on the other is “To Be or Not to Be”
(1942), a much-praised dark comedy on Turner Classic Movies. Somewhere between
is “The Lucky One” (2012) on ABC Family, which shares a common flaw in fiction:
The story would be settled in 12 minutes, if people just talked to each other.

“Rising Star,” 9 p.m., ABC. The quarter-finals end. Barring
a change, we’ll have a winner in two weeks.

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. One of Eliot’s best friends
has been killed. That forces Carrie and Al to dig into their boss’ past and
into his current demons.

“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. The incendiary relationship
between Jamie and Roy reaches extremes in both directions tonight – they share
an intimate dance … they oppose each other in a wrongful-death case.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week, Nora decided this
whole business – complete with beheadings and six-foot-long tongues – was too
much for her. Now Ephraim reluctantly partners with Setrakian (all-knowing, but
all-creepy), trying to gather enough evidence to force a city-wide quarantine.