TV column for Friday, Sept. 16

“Last Man Standing” and “Dr. Ken,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., ABC.

Ever since the Brady
Bunch arrived in 1969, ABC has known that weekends should start with
family comedies. There have been gaps, but mostly this has gone from
Webster and Urkel to “Full House” and beyond. The shows have
rarely been great (“Benson” was an exception), but often are

Now, after a summer
of laughless Fridays, these comedies return with reruns tonight and
new episodes next week. Tonight, Ed asks Kyle to secretly get an
engagement ring fitted; Mike sees him and jumps to the wrong
conclusion. Then Ken tries stand-up comedy, with shaky results.

II: “Z Nation” season-opener and “Dark Matter” finale, 8 and
10 p.m., Syfy.

Here is the one
network that keeps shoveling new, scripted networks into a Friday
landscape littered with reality and reruns. Along the way, it offers
some quirks.

“Z Nation” is
your standard zombie-overrun tale, but it adds occasional humor and
oddities; the oddest touch is starting this season with a two-hour
flashback, an untold tale from last season. “Dark Matter” began
with strangers waking up on a ship with no idea who they are; in
tonight's season-finale, they must save a space station and then
prevent corporate warfare.

ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

It's family fun
night, including two movies that mix humor and great visuals. AMC has
“Ghostbusters” (1984) at 8 p.m.; “Freeform” has “Wall-E”
(2008) at 6:15 and “Willy Wonka” (1971) at 8:30.,

If you prefer sharp
dialog and clever plot twists, George Clooney's “Michael Clayton”
(2007) is 8 p.m. on HBO. And for whiz-bang action? “Star Wars: The
Force Awakens” (2015) is disappointing by “Star Wars”
standards, but first-rate by action-epic standards.

Other choices

Fleabag,” any
time, Amazon Prime. Self-loathing has never been quite this much fun.
Adapting her own play – and often talking directly to the audience
-- Phoebe Waller-Bridge gives her view of single life in London. The
result is often quite raunchy and often very funny.

“Star Trek,” 4
and 11 p.m. ET, BBC America. Don't you hate it when someone comes
aboard and steals the best brain you have? That happens here, with an
alien woman swiping Spock's brain. It's the opener of the show's
third and final season. The next five episodes also rerun, from 5:10
to 11 p.m.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. If you missed Wednesday's finale, you can catch this quick
rerun. Going for the $250,000 prize are two Las Vegas guys – Shaun
O'Neale, 33, a DJ, and David Williams, 36, a poker player – and
Brandi Mudd, 27, a grade-school teacher from small-town Kentucky.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's another finale, as people try to
conquer the extreme obstacle couse.

“Big Brother,” 8
p.m., CBS. With the finale still coming up on Wednesday, CBS adds
this extra episode, which may include reflections on what's happened
so far.

“Art in the Twenty
First Century,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Changing its
format, “Art” has two two-hour Fridays, divided by city –
Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Vancouver. Top directors --
Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”), Deborah Dickson and Pamela
Mason Wagner – are in charge.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. To fight the meth epidemic, the cops pose as pilots in
this rerun. But when McGarrett is seriously wounded, Danny must blow
his cover.

“Blue Bloods, 10
p.m., CBS. Serial killer Thomas Wilder gets personal in this rerun:
With his latest victim, he attaches a note to Danny ... who is not

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 15

“Beauty and the Beast” finale, 9 p.m., CW.

This story never
really goes away, you know. For centuries, people have told of a
beautiful woman and beastly guy – why never the other way around?
-- who fall in love.

It was a fairy tale
that became a 1740 book. It's been 10 movies, with an 11th
(starring Emma Watson) next year. It's also been a Broadwaty musical,
a ballet and two TV series, the first with Linda Hamilton and Ron
Perlman. This one has Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan as Cat; to stop an
attack and rid the world of beastmakers, they may have to make an
extreme sacrifice.

II: “Superstore” (8-10 p.m.), NBC.

For five weeks, NBC
has the Thursday comedy audience to itself. Next week (alongside “The
Good Place”), “Superstore” starts its season; first, it has
four reruns from the fairly good first season.

That starts and ends
with Cheyenne, the pregnant teen-ager. At 8 p.m., a wedding sale
makes her despondent; at 9:30, she has the baby, but can't stop
working, because there's no maternity leave. In between, the workers
accidentally have an all-nighter at the store; also, when Jonah tries
to duck the amorous Dina, there are repercussions storewide.

ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET CBS; or “Project Runway”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Lifetime (each with a preview an hour

Put these together
and we should have something for everyone. CBS starts its
five-Thursday football run with teams trying to bounce back from
opening losses. The Bills sputtered, getting only 11 first downs
while losing to the Ravens, 13-7; the Jets lost to the Bengals on a
last-minute field goal, 23-22.

Then there's
“Runway,” starting its 15th season with familiar
people. Heidi Klum, the host, and Tim Gunn, the mentor, join judges
Nina Garcia and Zac Posen. They'll start with 16 designers, ranging
from Jenni Riccetti, 22, of San Francisco to Linda Marcus, 55, of

Other choices

“How to Train Your
Dragon” (2010), 6-8 p.m., FXX. This likable cartoon adventure is
framed by more animation -- “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (2012)
at 4 p.m., “Simpsons” at 8 and “Archer” (now an Emmy-winner)
from midnight to 2 a.m.

“Grey's Anatomy,”
8 and 9 p.m., ABC. A week before its new season begins, the show
reruns the final two hours of this season. Both center on Amelia
(Caterina Scorsone): In the first, she and Owen take their
relationship to the next level; in the second, Meredith and Maggie
help her on an important day.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, a rich patient disappears, then is found dead.
The investigation brings surprises ... and forces Dr. Rosewood to
make a decision about the women in his life.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. Using a familiar TV technique, this rerun pretends to be a
documentary about the lab at work, with each character commenting to
the camera.

“Time for School:
2003-2016,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Right now, we're
told, there are 58 million children out of school and 100 million who
won't finish primary school. Still, efforts by the UN haveimproved
the situation,. This ambitious film follows five kids in five
countries, from kindergarten to high school graduation. It's tough to
watch – especially when the white sub-titles are against light
backgrounds – but tells an important story.

“How To Get Away
With Murder,” 10 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the season-finale, the
pressure finally gets to Annalise, who needs to escape. Also, Wes is
closer to knowing his own roots.

“Better Things,”
10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11. Last week's quietly clever debut
(rerunning at 10:30) introduced a fictionalized version of Pamela
Adlon and her three daughters. This new hour starts and ends with new
takes on menstruation; in between, she comes home early and finds a
party aftermath.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 14

“Million Dollar Duck,” 9:01 p.m., Animal Planet, rerunning at

Here is Americana at
its best – warm, odd, human, occasionally sad and sometimes funny.
It centers on the annual contest to choose the national duck stamp
... and on the rich variety of entrants.

One artist hopes his
work can support his three young kids; another admits her blind dog
made more money as a painter (really) than she did. A
sometimes-security-guard is the only one doing sequin-studded
abstracts; he battles his nemesis, a window-painter. A young
rural-mail carrier grasps to find her life. Beautifully filmed,
“Duck” tells their stories warmly, while we wait to see who wins.

II: “America's Got Talent” (NBC) or “MasterChef” (Fox)
finale, 8-10 p.m.

On Tuesday, the
show's top 10 acts performed; half are singers, but the others
include a magician, a juggler, a contortionist, a mentalist duo and
an offbeat comedian. Tonight, one wins $1 million.

Meanwhile, three
home chefs compete for a $250,000 prize. Two are from Las Vegas –
Shaun O'Neale, 33, a DJ, and David Williams, 36, a poker player; they
compete with Brandi Mudd, 27, a folksy grade-school teacher from
Irvington, a Kentucky town of 1,181, with one restaurant and no
traffic lights.

ALTERNATIVE: “Blindspot” season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC.

In one crowded hour,
we see TV's worst trait – a despicable obsession with torture –
alongside its best recent traits: There's a strong female hero,
alongside great fight scenes and a thickly complex story.

Maybe too thick, but
that's another matter. As the story starts, Jane Doe (who still isn't
sure of her real name) has been tortured for months. Eventually,
she'll get some explanations for who she is and who the good guys are
... except that she (and we) still won't know if any of this is the

ALTERNATIVE II: “Queen Sugar,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network.

If you missed the
first two episodes, catch them at 8 and 9 p.m., before a fairly good
new one. Both were directed by Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), before
turning things over to other women; all three hours – which rerun
from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. -- were written by DuVernay and Winfrey.

After quick jolts in
the first hour, “Queen” has an easy, Southern pace. Now the
siblings open their dad's will and ponder what to do with his
troubled sugar-cane farm. They face troubles of their own –
Charley's cheating husband, Ralph Angel's parole officer and the
drug-addicted mother of his son.

Other choices

“Documentary Now,”
8:30 to noon ET, then 10 p.m. ET, IFC. First, we can catch (or
record) the first season of clever pseudo-documentaries. Then a new
season starts at 10 p.m. ET, rerunning at 1 a.m., with a terrific
political satire. Bill Hader (playing a James Carville type) and Fred
Armisen manage a guy who's only running because he feels there should
be two candidates.

 “The Goldbergs,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Both episodes eye the relationship between Adam
and his older brother. In the first, their mom overcompensates when
Barry says she favors Adam; in the second, Adam uses his brother to
get respect from upper-classmen.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Manny talks people into
taking a train to his grandmother Dede's wedding. In the second,
Claire can't find the right time to fire someone.

“Nova,” 9-11
p.m., PBS. Continuing its week-long focus on education, this talks to
neuroscientists, psychologists and educators. Studying the way kids'
brains work, they ponder new techniques.

“Code Black,” 10
p.m., CBS. This rerun of the season-finale focuses on the new romance
of Christa and Neal ... neither of whom will be back in the new
season. She learns how deeply he and Grace were involved, before
Grace left for Haiti. Also, there are efforts to keep the nurses from
walking out.

“American Horror
Story” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. In a sharp change, the show has
kept its story secret. All we know is that the season will include
scenes in Roanoke – the colony where everyone vanished in 1590 –
and the first episode will include familiar “AHS” stars: There's
Angela Bassett, Lady Gaga, Cheyenne Jackson, Evan Peters, Denis
O'Hare and Sarah Paulson – who's had four straight “AHS” Emmy
nominations ... and will probably win this time for “The People v.
O.J. Simpson.”

“You're the
Worst,” 10 p.m., FXX, rerunning at 11. Last week's episode (a good
one, rerunning at 10:30) ended with Gretchen finally openingthe mail
... and learning that Jimmy's dad had died. Now Jimmy must deal with
the loss of someone he tended to hate.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 13

“America's Got Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The top 10
performers get one more chance to impress us; on Wednesday, one will
the winner. There are kids; singers Grace VanderWaal ad Laura Bretan
and contortionist Sofie Dossi were 12, 13 and 14 when the season
started. But there's also magician Jon Dorenbos, who is in his 14th
year a a pro-football long-snapper ... and is one of the
longest-lasting players in Philadelphia Eagle history.

There's a
Ukrainian-born juggler (Viktor Kee) and Austrian-born mentalists (the
Clairvoyants), plus the physical comedy of Tape Face and singers Sal
Valentinetti, Brian Crum ad Linkin' Bridge.

II: “New Girl,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

A week before its
season opens, “New Girl” reminds us that that the last one ended
beautifully. It's the wedding day for Cece and Schmidt ... who's fly
across the country to retrieve her disapproving mother.

That plan is doomed
– especially when cover-up duties go to Nick, the world's worst
(and funniest) liar. Jess is in her usual state of romantic flux;
meanwhile, wedding guests include former loftmates (Megan Fox, Damon
Wayans Jr.), Schmidt's dad (Peter Gallagher) and more.

ALTERNATIVE: “Better Late than Never,” 10 p.m., NBC.

When this odd
journey began, William Shatner says, his goals were to catch a pass
from Terry Bradshaw and box with George Foreman. We see the latter
happen tonight in Thailand, as this show (a ratings success) has its
season's fourth and final episode .

Shatner, 85, and
Henry Winkler also get an un-relaxing massage, but part of the focus
is on Bradshaw's 67th birthday. He gets his first tattoo
and is serenaded at a dinner. Later, the men visit an elephant
sanctuary and meet the women and children of the long-neck tribe.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Frontline,” 9 p.m., PBS.

The problems at
for-profit schools go far beyond Trump University, it seems. Last
week, ITT Tech closed, shuttering about 130 campuses; this report
focuses on Corinthian Colleges, which once had more that 100
campuses, but closed last year.

Both were hit by
federal crackdowns. “The federal goverent is being duped, in many
instances, into subsidizing loans and education that are worthless,”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) says here. The hour adds a report on
innovative education ... which is also the subject of “TED Talks,”
at 10 p.m.

Other choices

“The Contenders,”
8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). There are eight Tuesdays before
Election Day. On each one, this will profile two past candidates;
that starts with Shirley Chisolm and John McCain.

“The Middle,” 8
and 8:30 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Brick wants to be
valedictorian; in the second, his song is cut from the graduation
ceremony. Also in the first, Frankie and Mike try to enforce a curfew
for Brick's college-age siblings.

“NCIS,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Here's a rerun of the season-finale, which doubles as the
farewell of Tony (Michael Weatherly). It's a fairly good episode,
continuing the search for an escaped British spy.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-finale, the team
finds a mole ... and tries to find 900 pounds of explosives.

“Halt and Catch
Fire,” 10 p.m., AMC. Everyone – well, everyone except Ryan –
knows there's no work on the 4th of July. So Cameron and
John have a giant road trip; Donna and Gordon prepare a camp-out. The
future – of Mutiny and of Joe – wobble precariously. It's a key
episode, with Cameron remaining simultaneously a fascinating and
frustrating enigma.

“Atlanta,” 10
p.m., FX. Life is complicated when money is tight, Earn finds. Soon,
he's trying to order a kids' meal for himself ... and trying to steer
his date to the cheap side of the menu. Also, a drug deal puts his
cousin in treacherous territory, in an episode that mixes drama with
dry comedy.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 12

“Dancing With the Stars” opener. 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

If nothing else,
“Stars” has real diversity. It's contestants range in size from
retired football star Calvin Johnson (6-foot-5) to actress Terra Jole
(4-foot-2); they range in age from gymnast Laurie Hernandez, 16, to
actresses Maureen McCormick and Marilu Henner, 60 and 62, and former
Gov. Rick Perry, 65.

There are more
athletes (swimmer Ryan Lochte, driver James Hinchcliffe), plus
singers (Jana Kramer, “Babyface” Edmonds), actor Jake T. Austin,
rapper Vanilla Ice and model/designer Amber Rose.

“So You Think You Can Dance” finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

While older dancers
(and others) compete for a disco-ball trophy on ABC, younger ones on
Fox have a shot at winning the championship and $250,000.

J.T. Church, whose
specialty is jazz, was 10 when this season began; Kida Burns (hip
hop) was 14. In between are Emma Hellenkamp (tap), 11, and Tate McRae
(contemporary and ballet), 13. Last week, viewers had their final
vote. Tonight, all 10 finalists perform and we'll have a winner.

ALTERNATIVE: “CBS Fall Preview,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

When the season
starts next Monday, CBS insists, it will have wonderful shows.
Mostly, alas, it doesn't.

One comedy (“The
Great Indoors”) is quite clever, but the others (“Kevin Can
Wait,” “Man With a Plan”) are oddly ordinary. An adventure show
(“MacGyver”) has reworked its opener. And two dramas (“Bull”
and “Pure Genius”) share a mix that's high in technology and low
in human warmth.

Other choices

“The Secret
Agent,” any time,
More than a century ago, Joseph Conrad wrote this complex tale of a
British shopkeeper who works as an informant for the Russians ...
then is asked to create a hideous bombing that can be blamed on the
anarchists. It's a tough story to follow or like, despite Toby Jones
in the lead. A better bet are the third and fourth episodes of “800

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 and 9:01 p.m., CBS. The first rerun, a terrific one, has
Sheldon reveal a personal secret when his laptop breaks. The second
has more secrets, during a cabin retreat.

“AFI Life
Achievement,” 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. First ia a rerun of
a terrific tribute to composer John Williams. At 9:15, we get an
example of his immense impact -- “Jaws” (1975), the Steve
Spielberg classic that has Williams' music as one of its characters.

“Mom,” 9:31
p.m., CBS. Bonnie has approximately zero experience as a
disciplinarian. In this rerun, she has to do that, when Christy is
distracted by the financial woes of trying to get to law school.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC. Some people remember Marshawn Lynch's
refusal to talk to reporters before the Super Bowl. But now he chats
with Grylls, during the quiet moments of a Corsican adventure in
which they confront a wild hog and the French Foreign Legion.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Two of the show's sharpest contestants,
Rosie O'Donnell and Kathy Najimy, have a rematch in the
season-finale. The other round has comedian Jon Lovitz and
football-baseball star Deion Sanders.

“POV,” 10 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). For five years, this diligent and
involving film followed two men from tough Chicago neighborhoods to
college campuses. The colleges – Lake Forest in Illinois, Fisk in
Nashville – differ sharply; so do the men and their approaches.