TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 3


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “America's Got
Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC.

This is a time when key reality
episodes start to pile up. Fox's “Dance” nears its finale; NBC's
“Talent” finally nears its next round.

Tuesday had the performances by the
final batch of 12 acts. Tonight, eight get sent home; the others
advance. That puts 16 people into the next round; next week, four
YouTube people will be added.

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

Over the next two days, this show will
pick the four dancers for next week's finale.

Last week, Jess LeProtto – the show's
only Broadway-style dancer – and Jordan Casanova were ousted. Tadd
Gadduang and Caitlynn Lawson survived being in the bottom four.

Now the final six has Gadduang – a
sensational hip-hopper – alongside five jazz or contemporary
dancers: Lawson, Marko Germar, Sasha Mallory, Ricky Jaime and Melanie
Moore. Tonight, they're linked with six “all-stars” from past
seasons, including two runners-up – Kent Boyd from last year and
Twitch from 2008 – and the always-popular Pasha Kovalev.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Rescue Me,”
10 p.m., FX.

As a TV station airs its
10th-anniversary story about Sept. 11 firemen, people worry about the
comments of Tommy (Denis Leary), the loose cannon. They should; rage
and threats soon ensue.

There are lighter plot twists tonight –
one involving Tommy's daughter's wedding plans, the other involving
Sean having a hot and perplexing date.

The highlights, however, again involve
Kelly, wonderfully played by Maura Tierney. She gets word on her
latest cancer treatments and reacts in surprising (and very human,
Kelly-like) ways.

Other choices include:

– “The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, Sue wins a family trip to New York. It doesn't go smoothly.

– “The Untouchables” (1987), 8-11
p.m., AMC. Here's the rare case of a TV series becoming a terrific
movie. David Mamet wrote a smart script about Eliot Ness, the
gangbuster. Brian De Palma directed sharply, with Kevin Costner
getting great support from Robert De Niro and Sean Connery.

– “Modern Family,” 8:30 and 9
p.m., ABC. The first rerun offers many reasons why people might miss
Manny's graduation; they range from a faulty gate to Jay's botched
Botox treatment. In the second, Jay insists he wants a quiet
birthday; also, there's a good moment, after Phil tries to impress an
old rival.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31 p.m.,
ABC. In this rerun, Dave and Alex – now split – kind of regret
having tattoos with each other's names.

– “Love in the Wild,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. The five remaining couples trek through the Costa Rican jungle
and ride horseback to a waterfall. They go up a rope ladder and down
a mud slide.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun centers on a convention of vampire and
werewolf enthusiasts. Andy Dick has a guest role.

– “Hot in Cleveland,” 10 p.m., TV
Land. Victoria (Wendie Malick) gets Joy to help her get revenge on
her TV-station nemesis. Meanwhile, George Newbern is back as
Melanie's odd boyfriend.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 2


By MIKE HUGHES

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Take the Money
and Run” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

A clever concept has been sharply
filmed by the “Amazing Race” people.

Handed a briefcase with $100,000, two
guys are given an hour to hide it. Then two off-duty cops try to find
it, with lots of help – from interrogators to cell-phone tracking
to a GPS device in the car. If the cops find the money, they win it;
if not, the two guys do.

The result is quick and slick and
engaging – yet lacks an interesting turning point. We're reminded
that it's much easier to make up a smart twist than it is to find one
in real life.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Moby Dick”
conclusion, 8-10 p.m., Encore.

The fist half of this terrific
mini-series ended with the ship's first confrontation with the great
white whale. It was fierce and jolting; wise souls would have changed
their mission.

Captain Ahab, of course, will never
change. Brilliantly played by William Hurt, he is so many things –
passionate, poetic, smart – that his men overlook the crazy. Only
Starbuck (Ethan Hawke) and a few others have doubts. “Moby Dick”
plunges toward what is both inevitable and tautly involving.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Awkward,”
11p.m., MTV.

At first, this might have seemed close
to the standard teen comedy – the awkward girl, the dim jock. Then
came last week's surprise: Sensing her pain, Matty showed up at
Jenna's home.

Don't expect that to last, said
BeauMirchoff, who plays him. “We may have had that passionate kiss
on the second episode, but Matty always does find a way to screw
things up.”

The show is like that, said Ashley
Rickards, who stars. “None of these characters can be stereotyped.”

Other choices include:

– “Live From the Lincoln Center,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The Mostly Mozart Festival
opens with violinist Christian Tetzlaff, violist Antoine Tamestit and
soprano Susanna Phillips.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a radio shock-jock and his guest, a Navy officer, are killed.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. Here are performances from the final batch of 12 acts. On
Wednesday, four of them will become the final members of the show's
top 16.

– “MasterChef,” 9 p.m., Fox. The
show is expected to trim from eight chefs to six.

– “50 Documentaries to See Before
You Die” debut, 9 p.m., Current TV. Over the next five Tuesdays,
Morgan Spurlock (“Supersize Me”) will survey some of the top
documentaries. He visits some of the settings and talks with the
people who made “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “The Thin Blue Line,”
“Jesus Camp,” “King of Kong,” “The War Room,” “Hoop
Dreams” and more.

– “Ludo Bites America,” 9 p.m.,
Sundance. Ludo Lefebvre – the French chef with an American-biker
look – reaches Mobile, Ala. For the first time, he eats (and tries
to pronounce) a Po'Boy sandwich.

– “Combat Hospital,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Under investigation, Rebecca begins to doubt her own decision.
She refused to give “go pills” to a tired pilot – who then had
a fatal crash.

– “Picker Sisters,” 10 p.m.,
Lifetime. Fresh from being designers on “Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition,” Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen scour the boondocks for
old pieces to turn into art. They bring little money, but much Texas
charm – which is also true of the show itself.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The
Bachelorette,” 8 p.m., ABC, with follow-up at 10.

Tonight, Ashley Hebert finally chooses
a guy – and a way of life.

Maybe it will be Ben Flajnik, 28, the
fun-loving Californian. He's a soccer buff who was on a
state-championship team in high school and traveled to Germany to
watch the 2006 World Cup. He's studying winemaking and co-owns a
Sonoma winery with a friend.

Or maybe it will be a higher-octane
life with J.P. Rosenbaum, a Long Island construction manager. His
city lifestyle may match Hebert 26, a Philadelphia dental student and
dancer. We'll see.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Moby Dick,”
8-10 p.m., Encore; concludes Tuesday.

Beautifully filmed, this two-night
miniseries has a gifted cast stepping into classic roles.

William Hurt is a deeply layered
Captain Ahab – bright, passionate, caring, blindly obsessive.
Charlie Cox is young Ishmael, who is starstruck by the captain; Ethan
Hawke is Starbuck, who isn't.

There are smaller roles on shore for
Gillian Anderson, Donald Sutherland and more. But it's once “Moby
Dick” gets to sea that it becomes epic, visually and emotionally.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Rizzoli &
Isles,” 10 p.m., TNT,

Most weeks, “Rizzoli” brightens its
murder mystery with brief bursts of wit. Not this time: In the
opening minutes, a cop's daughter is kidnapped; the rest of the hour
is intense and passionate.

There's one false note, with the dad
reaching absurd extremes in his fury. Mostly, however, this is a
strong story of smart people working in unswerving unison.

Other choices include:

– “The Wild One” (1953), 8 p.m.
ET; “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), 9:30; “On the
Waterfront” (1954), midnight; Turner Classic Movies. Each night in
August, TCM features a different star. That begins with the ultimate
actor, Marlon Brando. Some of the films (including “Guys and Dolls”
at 5:15 p.m.) aren't prime Brando, but these three show his fierce
and naturalistic power.

– “The Godfather” (1972), 8 p.m.,
AMC. Here's more Brando, maybe his best film. The difference is that
Brando dominated the TCM films; here, he's just one piece of a
brilliant tale.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8:30 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Mike finally spends the night at
Molly's house. In the second, he helps her mom's boyfriend study for
his GED.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Three years ago, Courtney (Jenny McCarthy) conned Charlie of his
money and went to prison. Now she's free, sexy and scheming, so
Charlie spends heavily. It's a too-broad episode with some funny
moment

– “Rogue Sharks” and “Summer of
the Shark,” 9 and 10 p.m., Discovery. It's all-shark, all-week.
Most of the hours are reruns, but these two are new. The first asks
if some sharks simply “go rogue” in the “Jaws” style,
attacking humans; the second views a recent summer when Australia's
toll was high.

– “Koran By Heart,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
HBO. Tom Sawyer and his pals only learned a few Bible verses. Now
many kids memorize the entire Koran, preparing to recite (sing,
actually) any portion in a contest. This film follows three
10-year-olds: Two (from Tajikistan and Senegal) don't speak Arabic;
they learn by rote. The third (from Maldives) is a girl, in a field
that's 90-percent male. All are easy to root for.

TV column for Sunday, July 31


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

Who would have guessed that Jason
Stackhouse – kind of pretty and dim – would be involved in two of
the show's greatest dialog scenes? Both happen tonight – first with
his sister Sookie, then with his friend's vampire lover Jessica.
Jason a decent guy, hears thoughtful discussions of being different.

Don't worry that this will be a
talkfest, though. The hour starts and ends with its main story: Eric,
stripped of his memories, has been hiding at Sookie's place; the two
finally fall in lust … just as Bill (the vampire king and Sookie's
ex-lover) learns where Eric is. In between? Well, it's a full moon.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The
Bachelorette,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

On Monday, Constantine admitted that he
wasn't in love with Ashley Hebert, 26, a dental student. (We're kind
of with him on that.) After rejecting a return visit by Ryan Park,
she was down to two guys – Ben, 28, a winemaker in Sonoma, Cal.,
and J.P., 34, a construction manager on Long Island.

Now we get the “men tell all”
edition, with the guys talking about Hebert and each other. That
sets up Monday's finale, with Hebert choosing one of the guys.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Shark Week”
begins, 9 a.m., Discovery Channel.

Once a year, Discovery grabs big
audiences with a steady formula: It mixes urgent music, scientific
facts and lots of footage of sharks looking fast and furious. Much of
this involves reruns from 23 previous years; that starts with “Shark
Rebellion” and “Great White Appetite,” at 9 and 10 a.m.

Still, there are also some new hours,
fairly well-made. At 9 p.m. today, “Great White Invasion” views a
global phenomenon – great white sharks moving to shallower waters;
at 10, “Jaws Comes Home” sees the return of sharks to the
now-wary world of Cape Cod ad Martha's Vineyard.

Other choices include:

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. A
non-cranky Grandpa Simpson? That happens after Lisa discovers some
calming water … which may have side effects.

– “Same Name,” 9 p.m., CBS. Last
week's OK opener saw two David Hasselhoffs – TV star and
hard-working Texan – briefly trade lives. Tonight, we have two
Kathy Griffins; one goes to Georgia to be a wife and mother while the
other goes to Hollywood to lunch with Joan Rivers and do a comedy
gig.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Last week's “Zen” tale was way
too garbled, but this one is solid. A prominent businessman has been
kidnapped and Zen (a police detective in Rome) finds instant
troubles: The kidnappers seem like amateurs, there may be two sets of
crooks involved … and the new boss is a foul guy who complicates
Zen's affair with the beautiful Tania.

– “Against the Wall” debut, 10
p.m., Lifetime. Abby (Rachael Carpani) has always wanted to be a
Chicago police detective. Now she is – but the opening is in
Internal Affairs, a unit hated by some cops, including her dad (Treat
Williams) and brother. What follows is a mixture – a good,
well-acted personal drama for Abby, against the backdrop of a
terribly uninteresting case.

– “Entourage,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.
This season started in the aftermath of two ruptured romances – Ari
and his wife, Eric and his former fiancee. Now both have key moments.
It's a fairly good episode, at its best when Ari goes into a rage
because his wife may be dallying with a waiter.

TV column for Saturday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Who Do You
Think You Are?” 8 p.m., NBC.

Tim McGraw was a teen-ager before he
knew that his father was Tug McGraw, the popular baseball pitcher.
They didn't really bond until a few years before Tug's death.

Now McGraw – a country-music star –
gets a chance to dig into his dad's roots. His search goes back to
early settlers and a link with George Washington.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Law &
Order: Criminal Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC.

Three gifted actors turn a so-so
mystery into a solid hour, in this rerun.

The story involves the death – maybe
murder, maybe suicide – of a banker whose sole client is the
Catholic Church. Neil McDonough, as a priest.

This is the hour that brought the
gifted Vincent D'Onofrio back to the show and Kathryn Erbe back to
full employment. Goren (D'Onofrio) returns after being dropped for
his anger issues; Eames (Erbe) returns to police-detective work. For
the show's final season, gifted stars return.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Cabin,”
8, 10 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel; also 8 p.m. Sunday.

Lily MacDougal (Lea Thompson) is
revisiting her roots, taking her kids for a fun week in Scotland.
They promptly find their cabin has also been rented to Conor
MacDougal (Steven Brand) and his kin. The two families compete in
Scottish games; the two parents squabble about everything.

Astute viewers might guess that the two
grown-ups will kind of like each. The Hallmark channels aren't built
around surprises; “Cabin” has enough charm to keep viewers
modestly interested.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets” (2002), 8-11 p.m., ABC. The second “Potter” film was
the final one in the series directed by Chris Columbus, keeping the
light tone of the original.

– “The Mentalist,” 8 p.m., CBS.
When a jockey is murdered, the horse track has plenty of suspects.

– “Beauty and the Beast” (1991),
9-11 p.m., ABC Family. In the old days, animated films didn't draw
much respect. Then came “Beauty,” with a best-picture Academy
Award nomination. Don't expect the wicked wit of Pixar; this is a
straightforward romance, lush in its look and in its Oscar-winning
music.

– “Outcasts,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. A distant planet has become a tough frontier. Stella and
Tate learn of a hostile force and try to make contact with it.
Meanwhile, someone knows Cass' secret.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Two major lawyers collide, in a so-so case.
One is Casey Novak (Diane Neal), returning to help prosecute a rape
suspect; the other is Jonah Dekker (Terrence Howard), the “Law &
Order: Los Angeles” character, flying east to defend his cousin.

– “Outnumbered,” 11 p.m., BBC
America. Here's the first of tonight's two new comedies. Parents
realize that their kids – ages 11, 7 and 5 – outnumber and maybe
outsmart them.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Emma Stone hosts this rerun, with Kings of Leon as the
music guest.

– “Friday Night Dinner,” 11:30
p.m., BBC America. Once a week, this family tries to have a normal
dinner with their sons, now in their 20s. Normality, alas, is
elusive; “Dinner” starts slowly, then gets very funny when the
dad decides to give his younger son some advice about sex.