TV column for Thursday, June 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Mist” debut, 10 p.m., Spike, rerunning at 11.

For a solid stretch,
this is simply a well-crafted drama, a slice of small-town life.
There's an overprotective mom, an underprotective dad, their fragile
teen daughter and a crisis; there's also an extremely un-fragile
woman who is looking for a treasure. It's good stuff, well-played.

But this is a
Stephen King story; what about the spooky part? That's suggested in
an opening scene and in the show's title. Like the original version
of “The Fog” (which John Carpenter made back in 1980), this shows
that a misty day can grip our fears; “The Mist” is off to a
terrific start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Gong Show” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

Tommy Maitland, the
British comedy legend, is hosting this revival, ABC tells us. Except,
there is no such person; it's Mike Myers, with lots of make-up and
cleverly corny jokes. Other fictional people have hosted shows --
Paul Reubens did one in character -- and this neatly fits “Gong”
goofiness.

Here are acts that
are stridently bizarre – a guy plays the bagpipe while riding a
unicycle (in a gorilla suit, of course); a woman plays the harmonica
with a tarantula in her mouth. Alongside all this silliness, there's
a remarkable talent, a 58-year-old who's a jump-rope master. Such
moments keep us watching.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Games, everywhere.

The big networks
have to be serious about summer Thursdays; that's when movie
companies spend a fortune on ads for films that open the next day.
While CBS has its can't-miss comedies, the other three counter with
rerun-free nights of reality and game shows, filled with youthful
energy.

Fox has already
launched its music (“Beat Shazam”) and dating (“Love
Connection”) shows; tonight, ABC debuts “Boy Band” and “Gong
Show” and NBC brings back past successes -- “Hollywood Game
Night” (pitting the casts of “Veep” and “Walking Dead”),
“The Wall” and the drama “Night Shift.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Boy Band” debut, 8-10 p.m., ABC.

Didn't the era of
“boy bands” -- cute lads with choreographed moves – pass? Maybe
not; it was just seven years ago that a British TV show turned five
strangers into One Direction, which soon had No. 1 songs and
$100-million years. Now a new show tries to do the same.

Tonight, we meet 30
guys, ages 14 to 24. Some are ousted, others are in three groups of
six; one group offers an early (and quite good) sampling. Experts –
Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys), Emma Bunton (Spice Girls), Timbaland
and Rira Ora – will mold them, but viewers will choose the five-guy
group.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun, the friends ponder who will
help out when Raj – no longer backed by his parents – must move
out of his apartment.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun finds Bonnie and Christy returning to their old,
law-breaking ways.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT. Just as Maddie's career looked promising, things crumbled
last week. Juliette swiped a song intended for her ... a disc jockey
only wanted to talk about her late mom Rayna ... and her argument
with a traffic cop went viral. Now she deals with the aftermath.

“The Night Shift”
season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. In a hospital with current and former
soldiers as patients and doctors, this has action-adventure moments.
Tonight, Jordan tries a daring rescue, then has a plan to reunite her
team. Also, Mark Consuelos plays a travelling nurse with a mysterious
past.

“MacGyver,” 10
p.m., CBS. Plugging this slot until “Zoo” arrives next week, CBS
inserts one of the more bizarre episodes: Undercover, Mac must help a
drug kingpin break out of prison, then track him.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. Teresa and James confront border vigilantes.

TV column for Wednesday, June 21


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“To Tell the Truth” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

Sixty years ago,
this debuted with Bud Collyer as host (Mike Wallace did the pilot)
and Dick Van Dyke on the panel. Over the years, panelists guessed
which people (including John Scopes of “monkey trial” fame and
Dr. Seuss) were real and which (including Cicely Tyson and Tom
Landry) were imposters.

Now the show joins
ABC's “fun and games” summer -- “Gong Show,” “Boy Band,”
“Network Battle of the Stars,” three Sunday games and this one,
which moves to Sundays this fall. Michael Strahan has Usher's
choreographer, a designer for celebrities' dogs and a guy who biked
to the South Pole.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Little Big Shots: Forever Young” debut, 8 p.m., NBC.

After scoring big
with little kids, producer Ellen DeGeneres and host Steve Harvey go
in the opposite direction. Guests on this show will range from age 60
to (next week) 103.

Tonight includes a
few people who are famous – gospel star Shirley Caesar, 78; actress
Betty White, 95 – and many peole who aren't. There's an 80-year-old
tap dancer and an 81-year-old great-grandma who has a swap-pole act,
85 feet in the air.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Queen Sugar,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network;
rerunning at 1 a.m.

Yes, there really
are a few new, scripted shows amid all those summer games and such.
This one opened Tuesday, with Charley fuming because her estranged
husband used his basketball fame to get their son – arrested for no
apparent reason – out of jail; she soon forged his signature on a
loan.

Now “Sugar”
moves to its regular night, with Charley blindsided by the divorce
mediation. Her sister holds a fundraiser; their brother – alone
again, after his son's mother said they were rushing their re-romance
– has an idea for the farm. The most recent episodes rerun from
7-10 p.m. and 11 to 1.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Do lifeguards even like to eat fish? We're not sure, but
tonight there are 101 of them, with two teams of home chefs making
them fresh-fish dinners.

“To Joey With
Love,” 8 p.m., CMT, rerunning at 10:15. Joey and Rory Feek hit a
career peak in 2010, when the Academy of Country Music named them the
top vocal duo. Then life intervened; their daughter was born with
Down's syndrome, Joey died of cancer. Rory wrote and directed this
film.

“Kingdom,” 8
p.m. ET, DirecTV/AT&T; rerunning at 11. Who thought Jay would
find perpetual peace selling real estate and being a dad? Tonight,
Nate tries to make peace when Jay causes trouble at home. Also, Alvey
gets a surprise from the past and is bothered by Dom's relationship
with Ryan.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the season's second episode, Phil goes out
of his way to impress the family moving in across the street. Also,
Manny tries to attract a radical thinker.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 p.m., NBC. After his mom reacts negatively to a birthday
present, Jerrod launches a family debate about what is and isn't
acceptable when it comes to race.

“Superstore,”
9:30, NBC. Politics intrudes, when the store becomes a voting place.
Corporate has put out a voting guide that benefits its interests, so
Amy and Jonah counter with one of their own. Also, in this rerun,
Mateo goes to extremes to hide his undocumented status.

“This Is Us,” 10
p.m., NBC. In a season filled with great episodes, this one is merely
OK. Much of it is a flashback at the community pool, with overstated
drama for each kid. Better stories involve Kevin's Broadway audition
and Kate's insecurity after meeting Toby's ex-wife.

TV column for Tuesday, June 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Genius” finale, 9-11:06 p.m. ET, National Geographic, rerunning
at 11:06.

In the mid-1930s,
Albert Einstein could have settled into a serene, academic life. He
was nearly 60, with his key discoveries behind him. He had fled Nazi
Germany and helped many others do the same.

But new agony
appeared – health crises for his wife and her daughter ... a rift
with his son ... despair over American indifference to the plight of
Jews ... doubts about the atomic bomb. This finale seems to overheat
many portions, making J. Edgar Hoover near-Satanic; still, it's a
strong and involving drama.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Downward Dog,” 8 p.m., ABC.

We all need goals in
our life and for his 7th birthday, Martin has a worthy
one: He wants to have a perfect nap. Martin – did we mention that
he's a dog? -- approaches this with great focus. Then a puppy
intervenes, leading him to actions that are both despicable and –
in his mind – heroic.

That blends with a
story that has Nan trying to cheer her friend, ranging from a loud
bar to a gentle singer, played by Nichelle Nichols, 84, of “Star
Trek.” It's a great mix of comedy and sentiment.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Queen Sugar” season-opener, 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey
Network.

This sprawling
series has seen Charley put her life in rewind. A big-time
businesswoman, she caught her basketball-star husband cheating; after
her dad's death, she returned to Louisiana to help her ex-con brother
Ralph Angel revive the family farm and build a sugar mill.

The bad news is that
Charley keeps changing, for plot convenience; she's wise one moment,
a shrill fool the next. The good is everything else. There are strong
moments involving her teen son, her sister (an activist) and,
especially, Ralph Angel, his son and the boy's mother, a recovering
addict.

Other choices
include:

“Transformers”
(2007), 6-9 p.m., TNT; or “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
(2011). 8-11:30 p.m., FX. On Wednesday, the fifth Transformers film
will reach theaters. To get us in the mood, we can watch either the
first or the third one.

“The Story of
China,” 8 and 9 p.m., PBS. Americans may consider anything that;s a
century old to be ancient; now Martin Wood takes us back millennia.
He mixes bright, current views with visits to key moments from the
deep past ... some of them only uncovered recently. It was in 1899
that an academic went to a pharmacy and was given “dragon bones”
that had writing on them. Tracing them relentlessly, he found such
“bones” (actually turtle shells) had the first Chinese writing,
more than 3,000 years ago.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Bruce McGill plays a cantankerous Vietnam veteran,
reluctantly helping the team probe the death of a Marine.

“iZombie,” 9
p.m., CW. This clever show starts its two-week season-finale with Liv
munching the brain of someone close to Ravi. She has intimate visions
of him ... and a desire to sleep with anyone.

“Animal Kingdom,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. Deran is ready to open the bar; so far,
however, he hasn't told his mom. Also, Pope (the ex-con and killer)
goes on a date with Amy (the church lady). And Nicky must choose
between J, who is her age, and Craig, his reckless uncle.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. After being bumped often by “The Real
NCIS.” this show returns to its regular night. The team must watch
a 9-year-old who was the only witness to his aunt's murder.

“World of Dance,”
10 p.m., NBC. In its three weeks of auditions, this offered some
amazing talents, ranging from soloists to high-octane dance crews.
Now – following some more “America's Got Talent” auditions from
8-10 p.m. -- the survivors are paired for duel, with one of the two
acts advancing.

TV column for Monday, June 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Super Human,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Last week,
basketball ruled the world; the final playoff game (on ABC)
obliterated the start of a terrific Fox duo that will fill Mondays
this summer. Now we can spend two hours admiring amazing talent.

At 8 p.m. is “So
You Think You Can Dance,” back to grown-ups – some of them
dazzling – after last year's junior edition. At 9 is this show,
with Kal Penn introducing people who have impressive mental skills.
One guy does math faster than a computer, another remembers every
playing card in order; a woman can tell every country by shape, even
when fakes are mixed in. These humans really are super.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

This is the good one
in the shaky “Bachelor” universe. Yes, “Bachelor in Paradise”
(set to follow it in August) suspended production to investigate
whether sex was non-consensual because a woman was impaired. But
“Bachelorette” is the show with brainy Dallas lawyer Rachel
Lindsay in control.

After its one-week
basketball break, it returns to a cocktail party that had the guys
arguing with each other; now Lindsay makes a decision that surprises
all of them. Then, after a rose ceremony trims the field, the shows
moves to Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina, where she hopes for a
fresh start.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Loch Ness” debut, any time, www.acorn.tv.

In a gorgeous town,
a body has been found at the base of a cliff; a local cop expects to
be in charge, but then an outsider takes over. So far, that's the
“Broadchurch” plot, recycled. But this mini-series benefits from
its setting – the cop's family toys with the “Loch Ness monster”
myth -- and from deep characters.

We meet a convincing
bunch of suspects for two smart female detectives to probe. Focusing
on British shows, Acorn is a pay service (after a free trial period)
that usually lets people binge a series instantly. This time,
however, the six episodes are coming one per week; they're worth
waiting for.

Other choices
include:

“American Ninja
Warriors,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This show is definitely glad that
basketball season is over. Now has the action audience to itself; its
team spin-off, “Spartan,” follows at 10.

“Shadowhunters,”
8 p.m., Freeform. Fearing a Downworlder uprising, the Institute goes
to extremes.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This show and “Life in Pieces” remain on Thursdays, but also
add quality to the weaker Monday line-up. Tonight, friends worry
about Jill on the anniversary of her mother's suicide.

“Stitchers,”
9:01 p.m., Freeform. When a high-profile divorce attorney is killed,
there's an abundance of suspects. Also, Linus learns what the
neurosync problem has been, affecting Kirsten and Cameron.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30, CBS. It's time for some memories. We learn about John (James
Brolin) expecting chaos when the year 2000 arrived. Also, we see the
honeymoon of Jen and Greg ... when she realized how involved his
mother was in his life.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. After a busy week (with three reruns), the show is back to
one. Tonight, Paige's estranged mother (Lea Thompson) has found a
nuclear reactor on the verge of exploding.

“Still
Star-Crossed,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. After that basketball breaks, we
return to Verona after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Now her cousin
Rosaline is supposed to marry Benvolio, to create the illusion that
the two families are at peace. Prince Escalus suggests a public
ceremony (Charles-and-Diana style) to make them seem madly in love.
But a conspiracy tries to stir the families' feud.

TV column for Sunday, June 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Grantchester” season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

So far, Sidney
Chambers' life has been a quiet compromise. He's a small-town vicar,
a decent (and handsome) chap, but he's been alone, since his love
Amanda married a rich man.

Now Amanda has left
her husband; pregnant and disowned by her family, she wants to be
with Sidney. That peaks during a busy Christmas season – his
assistant, directing the pageant, is into absurdism -- and a
complicated murder case. The result is a rich blend of mystery,
romance and even some humor.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Claws,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

Last week's opener
had lots of empty flash and sass – then turned serious in the final
minutes. Angry about money, Desna almost killed her lover; he
attacked her ... and was killed by dim Virginia.

Now Desna must
dispose of the body, calm Virginia ... and act like a widow. “Claws”
is flawed but interesting; Niecy Nash frolics as Desna and Harold
Perrineau is superb as her brother. Dean Norris – usually a cop or
soldier – goes way too far as the mob boss ... until a great moment
in the final minutes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Gods” season-finale, 9 p.m., Starz, reruns
at 10:02, 11:04.

Writer-producer
Bryan Fuller thrives with mainstream shows (he's molding the upcoming
“Star Trek” series) and bizarre ones (“Pushing Daisies”).
This one is clearly on the bizarre side, with Mr. Wednesday rounding
up old gods to battle the new ones – Tech and Media and
Globalization and such.

He needs one more
god, which brings the focus to Kristin Chenoweth, the former
“Daisies” co-star. She's Ostara, previously known as Easter,
Goddess of the Dawn. Tonight, she has a “date” on her namesake
holiday and is asked to bring a polite dead woman back to life; she
can do that, you know.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “My Mother and Other Strangers” debut, 8 p.m.,
PBS.

World War II brought
profound changes for the tiny towns on the British coasts. Air bases
sprang up; soldiers and civilians entwined, as we've seen in “Home
Fires,” “Foyle's War” and now this.

Our narrator recalls
when he was 10 in 1943 Ireland. His dad grew up in this little town,
where he has a pub, a farm and a store; his mom is an English
transplant. His sister is 16, sweet-faced and studious. She
inadvertently attracts airmen and townsmen, setting up some solid
drama tonight.

Other choices
include:

Golf, etc., 11 a.m.
ET, Fox. This is new for Fox, which added golf two years ago. The
final round of the U.S. Open leads into a “Family Guy” rerun at
8:30 p.m. and a new “American Grit” at 9.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. Hispanic stars bring their families for the
battle, with George Lopez vs. Eva Longoria. Also, another battle has
Ashley Graham and Yvette Nicole Brown.

“Funderome,” 9
p.m., ABC, Now Steve Harvey's ABC shows are back-to-back. Tonight's
entrepreneurs include solutions for pesky problems – drying dogs
and shaving bald heads.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11. A mysterious stranger becomes
tied into the search for a key resource.

“$100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Here are two of the 'N Sync guys, Lance
Bass and Joey Fatone, plus Bobby Moynihan and Sasheer Zamata, who
have just ended their “Saturday Night Live” runs.

“I'm Dying up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Alongside some good stand-up comedy,
“Dying” keeps offering a cascade of despair. The first episode
had suicide ... the second had mutual defecation in each other's cars
(really) ... the third has a painful scene with Goldie's old friend.
Also, there's laughter.