TV column for Sunday, Aug. 18

 TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “True Blood” (HBO) or “Whodunnit” (ABC)
season finales, 9 p.m.

Summer shows are wrapping up now. For “True Blood,” that
brings a fresh crisis for humans and vampires; Sookie ponders a change and her
brother feels a vampire attraction.

And for “Whodunnit,” the field of 13 strangers has dwindled
to four. There’s Cris, 27, a former beauty queen; Melina, 29, a flight
attendant; Lindsey, 27, an engineer; and Cam, 30, a lawyer for Homeland

Tonight, we learn which one is the “killer” planted in the
show … and which one wins $250,000.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Imagine you’re sure someone has disappeared … but others say
she was never there. That notion has been borrowed by some films (including “Flightplan”)
and TV series, but it was the 1936 novel “The Lady Vanishes” that captured

Alfred Hitchcock filmed it in 1938 and Cybill Shepherd
starred in a TV-movie remake in 1971. Now comes a fresh version, filmed with
the Balkans as a backdrop. Tuppence Middleton stars, with Keeley Hawes and
others in support.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Crossing Lines,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

Ambitious and international, this has had trouble drawing an
audience. Still, tonight’s show – a movie-length two-parter – could be worth

Hickman (William Fichtner) is the sole American, on a police
team authorized to cross European borders. In tonight’s first hour, he’s framed
for murder; in the second, he’s fighting for his life.

Meanwhile, Louis remains obsessed with finding Dimitrov, who
killed his son. Now Dorn (Donald Sutherland) has information that could help.

Other choices include:

Football, 7 p.m. ET, Fox. The cartoons step aside today.
Taking their place is a pre-season game, with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis
Colts visiting Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

“Breaking Bad,” 7:57 and 9 p.m., Showtime. First is a rerun
of the superb season-opener. Jesse is overwhelmed with guilt; Walt is
overwhelmed by the suspicions of his brother-in-law. Both act rashly; then
comes a new episode, with the aftershocks.

“Secret Millionaire,” 8 p.m., ABC. Debbie Johnston, who made
a fortune with her home-health-care business, goes from prosperous Richmond,
Va., to hard-pressed Richmond, Cal.

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. The murder victim is a
scientist who helped Carrie understand her remember-everything syndrome. To
find the killer, she meets others who share her skill.

“The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the owner of a
ragged wild-West show has been killed.

“The Newsroom,” 10 p.m., HBO. As the season started, viewers
learned this newscast would make a huge error; now we see some of the final
steps leading up to it. Also in this superb hour, Will tries a likability
consultant; the romantic triangle continues, nudging Maggie to a near-meltdown.

“Ray Anthony,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Ray and his brothers mark
the anniversary of their sister’s death.


TV column for Saturday, Aug. 17

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Martin Short hosts a rerun that offers lots of OK moments
and two big pluses – Paul McCartney as music guest (with other A-listers
joining him) and one sketch that’s a comedy classic.

That one has Short as the Palace advance man, giving the
royal gynecologist his instructions. Despite a few crude moments and a weak
ending, it’s an oddly hilarious bit.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The White Queen,” 8 and 9 p.m.,

First is a rerun of the opener – warm, subtle and emotional
– as King Edward IV (Max Irons) meets and marries a beautiful widow (Rebecca

Then the second episode brings a quick reality check.
Elizabeth faces resentment at court and rage from Warwick. Known as “the
kingmaker,” he had planned the king’s marriage of political convenience; now that’s
been scrapped and a historical adventure – epic in scope, rich in humanity --

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “In the Meantime,” 7, 9 and 11 p.m, Up
(formerly GMC); same times Sunday.

This channel’s annual “Faith & Family Screenplay
Competition” has found a gem. Ndzinga Kemp’s script has the wit and characters
to make up for any flaws.

And yes, there are flaws. When Kwame (Darrin Henson) says “I
didn’t see that coming,” he speaks for no one else. The rest of us knew what
was coming as soon as handsome Kwame, organized and successful, collided with beautiful
Jazmin (Kali Hawk), scattered and jobless. Still, it’s fun watching it happen,
especially with some sweet music and fun scenes in their
English-as-a-second-language class.

Other choices include:

“Anna Karenina” (2012), 7:30 to 9:45 p.m., HBO.
After two masterpieces -- “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement” – a great duo
settles for a semi-masterful film. Keira Knightley and director Joe Wright are
brilliant, as usual. The novel’s characters tend to be block-headed, though,
and the film’s gimmick (staging scenes as if this is all at a theater) is a
needless distraction.

Gymnastics, 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here’s the women’s
half of the U.S. championships. The men have their turn at 1 p.m. Sunday. 

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. Two award-show
regulars collide in this rerun, when Frankie (Patricia Heaton) battles with her
dental-assistant teacher (Jane Kaczmarek). Each actress has seven Emmy
nominations; Heaton has two wins, but Kaczmarek is still waiting

“Cedar Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. Family life
remains difficult, it seems – the judge handles an angry divorce case, the newspaper
editor gropes with his son’s employment woes. Both stories are fairly
interesting; another one, involving the library, strains credibility.

“Mamma Mia!” (2008), 8:30-11 p.m., ABC. The plot
is empty, several of the guys sing badly … but somehow it makes little
difference. Against a lovely backdrop, the buoyant music of ABBA is sung by
Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and more.

9 p.m., Fox. When a divorce lawyer is killed, suspects abound. The probe in
this rerun gets more complicated because the victim’s widow and assistant are
hiding evidence

-- “Do No Harm,” 10 p.m., NBC. Now that Jason has ingested an untested drug, his evil alter-ego is showing up randomlhy. 

TV column for Friday, Aug. 16

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC.

After taking most of the summer off, this good-enough comedy
returns to Fridays, where it brightens an otherwise bleak night.

Tonight’s rerun has Vanessa showing up at the Career Day of
her daughter Eve’s school. Alas, the students soon attack her company’s
eco-record; Eve agrees and starts camping out in the yard.

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

Nothing seems to go peacefully for McGarrett and Danny – not
even a pleasant day off.

In this rerun, they plan a quiet fishing trip. Then their
boat is hijacked and they’re stranded in the ocean.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Strike Back,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.

Last week’s season-opener left this British-American team in
mid-crisis, racing down a Colombian river with a gorgeous Israeli spy at their
side and fierce gunmen in pursuit. Now the story procees from there, boosted by
this season’s addition of Robson Green as a leader.

This episode has the usual hardy mixture of action, sex and
(early in the hour) extensive nudity. Still, it also surprises with some quiet
despair and some spy-vs.-spy twists that will keep you guessing.

Other choices include:

Football, 8 p.m. ET, Fox. Tampa Bay – thumped by
Baltimore 44-16 in last week’s pre-season opener – visits the Patriots, who won
their opener, 31-22 over the Eagles.

“The Godfather” (1972, AMC) or “Mildred Pierce”
(1945, Turner Classic Movies). Here are two films considered all-time classics.
“Godfather” holds up beautifully; “Mildred” seems a tad overwrought, despite
Joan Crawford’s strong, Oscar-winning performance.

“The Neighbors,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. Marty and
Debbie want to spend more time with fellow Earthlings. Alas, the
aliens-next-door promptly visit his poker party and her women’s night.

Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Celebrating 75 years of the Tanglewood Music Festival, this rerun is
stuffed with music talent. James Taylor is the token non-classical performer.
Also performing are cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter
pianists Emanuel Ax and Peter Serkin, plus the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops.

“America’s Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. This is
the annual episode that has each contestant get a makeover, not voluntarily.
Since this is the first season to include men, it soon has some guys unhappy
with their new looks.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Shortly after being
named the new head of a Hasidic community, 
a man has been killed; Danny probes the case in this rerun. Meanwhile,
his dad (Tom Selleck) learns a family secret from his own father (Len Cariou).


TV column for Thursday, Aug. 15

(TV column for Thursday, Aug. 15)

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Sherlock Holmes really doesn’t do well with spare time. It’s
been two weeks since he tackled a case and his mental energy is overflowing.

When he hears of a plane crash, he assumes there’s a murder
involved. He’s right; he often is.

This is the rerun that was scheduled for a few weeks ago,
then delayed after a real-life plane crash. It’s a good one, adding depth when
Watson (Lucy Liu) meets a key person (Roger Rees) in Sherlock’s life.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

This holiday rerun finds TV’s best comedy in top form.

The guys scramble to get impressive Valentine presents. That
leaves Sheldon clueless (of course) and asking his assistant to come up with

Meanwhile, Raj and Stuart throw a “lonely people party.” The
final minutes lead to the introduction of Lucy (the excellent Kate Minucci), in
the first of her six episodes this season.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Wilfred,” 10 p.m., FX.

Situation comedies hardly ever turn to neutering for their
primary plot points. Still, that perfectly suits this dark and clever show.

Ryan has convinced himself that he only imagines
conversations with Wilfred, the neighbor’s manipulative dog. But how does he
explain a childhood drawing that seems to have a Wilfred lookalike?

That question leads to his third encounter with Bruce,
played with creepy intensity by Dwight Yoakam; some dizzying plot twists

Other choices include:

­­­“Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, the Glee
Club kids are supposed to tackle “guilty pleasures” – songs they’re reluctant
to admit they like.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8:31 p.m., CBS. Alan is
homeless yet again. In this rerun, he fights with Walden and moves in with

“Big Brother,” 9 p.m., CBS. It’s time for
another ouster.

“New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox. A rerun finds Schmidt worried
about getting older – partly because some young people are moving in across the
hall … and partly because Nick is messing with him.

“The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. A rerun
finds Mindy interested in a guy, before realizing he’s a prostitute.

“Rookie Blue,” 10 p.m., ABC. Chris’ son
disappears while Andy and Nick are watching him.

“Hollywood Game Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. Now that
“The Winner Is” has finished its season, NBC is weak on its former power night.
It has reruns of “America’s Got Talent” and “Hollywood Game Night” at 8 and 9
p.m., followed by this new episode at 10. Players include Dominic Monaghan of
“Lost,” Wilmer Valderrama of “That ‘70s Show” and Aubrey Plaza of “Parks and
Recreation,” plus Molly Shannon, Kristen Chenoweth and Felicity Huffman.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug.

(TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 14)


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Broadchurch,” 10 p.m., BBC America.

Last week’s opener offered the basics: In a pleasant,
seaside town, an 11-year-old boy fell to his death. A police detective, already
upset over the failure to land an expected promotion, is in agony when she sees
it was her son’s best friend.

Tonight, things expand greatly. There are secrets here – in her
own family, in the victim’s family, around town. In the second of its eight
episodes, “Broadchurch” establishes itself as great TV.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

Gloria’s pregnancy brings another problem for Phil – the arrival
of her mother and sister from Colombia. They bring family traditions, baby
names and lots of baggage.

Also in this rerun, Phil’s eccentric parenting methods draw
doubts. And Mitch and Cam must watch their behavior, because Lily is picking up
on their worst habits.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX.

Only the cruelest cable gods would put two very similar (and
very good) shows opposite each other. But here is “Bridge,” similar to “Broadchurch”;
it’s a bit longer, giving more room for surprises.

One big surprise has been the wealthy widow (Annabeth Gish).
At first, she seemed like a mere victim; she never knew that her late husband
had a tunnel to sneak people into the U.S.; she never intended to sleep with
the police detective who was kind to her. Now we see another side to her

 Meanwhile, the probe for
a serial-killer continues, with only a tenuous break: A wealthy teen who ran
off to Mexico may have seen him, but is too terrified to talk.

Other choices include:

“MasterChef,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Fresh from
trimming to  six contestants, the show
comes up with a twist: One ousted  contestant can return in the first hour, by
surviving two challenges. The second hour, involving steaks and the poultry,
takes us back to six.

America’s Got Talent, 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. First
is a shortened rerun of Tuesday’s episode, with a dozen acts performing. Then a
new hour shows which four will advance.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Brooke Shields
returns to her dandy role as the rude, crude neighbor who towers over Frankie
(Patricia Heaton). In this rerun, she accuses Frankie of stealing; also, Axl
shocks his little brother with a graphic account of the birds and the bees.

“Suburgatory,” 8:30 p.m., ABC. This holiday rerun
has Tessa finding that Christmas with her mom is no treat.

“The Neighbors,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. Teen romance
keeps frustrating Debbie. She can’t get any info from her daughter; also, her
advice to the neighbor boy flounders.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. Three
people have been killed and only a 6-year-old survived the killings. Now
Russell tries make a connection and get key information.