TV column for Friday, July 8


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Torchwood:
Miracle Day” debut, 10 p.m., Starz.

Two years ago, “Torchwood”
transformed from a pretty good series to a great mini-series.

That was the five-part “Children of
the Earth.” This one is twice as long and almost as good.

It starts on the day no one dies –
not the convicted killer (Bill Pullman) who gets a lethal injection
or the CIA agent (Mekhi Phifer) who has a horrific accident or anyone
else on Earth.

This is clearly the turf of Torchwood,
a secret British agency that disbanded. Its only survivors are Jack
Harkness (who is eternal, literally), ex-cop Gwen Cooper and her
overwhelmed husband. Linking with two CIA people and a doctor, they
try to save the world. Again.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

For five years, “Lights” has
crafted a deep portrait of a tough Texas town, focusing on its
football team. Now, a week from its finale, “Lights” hits an
emotional peak.

The coach (Kyle Chandler) won a state
championship for Dillon High, then was bounced to low-income East
Dillon – where he's heading to the state finals again. His wife
(Connie Britton) became principal of Dillon, drew controversy, then
became the guidance counselor at East Dillon.

Each of their conversations tonight is
a gem of understated eloquence. Meanwhile, young people are returning
– Tim from prison, others from college. A great show offers waves
of quiet passion.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Flashpoint,”
8 p.m., CBS.

Last week, Ed (Hugh Dillon) was shot.
Now he's rushed to the hospital – where his wife has a difficult
delivery of their baby.

Meanwhile, his colleagues on the police
Strategic Response Unit search for the shooter, who may be linked to
a drug kingpin. And a psychologist continues to interview members of
the unit.

Other choices include:

– “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone” (2001) and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
(2002), 3:30 and 7 p.m., ABC Family. Here are the first two films of
the Potter series; they'll be back (with more) Saturday and Sunday.

– “Bones,” 8 p.m., Fox. A rerun
has Sweets and Booth pondering their relationships with Daisy and
Hannah. Meanwhile, a case seems to involve a bike trick that went
terribly wrong.

– “Salt” (2010), 8:19 to 10 p.m.,
Starz. This slick thriller is being timed to lead directly into
“Torchwood.” Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent
accused of being an enemy spy. All of this is wildly unbelievable,
but Jolie and director Phillip Noyce turn it into a high-octane,
entertaining film.

– “House,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, a man's wife still thinks he has a comfortable real-estate
job. Now his ailment seems linked to his secret, blue-collar job.

– “CSI: NY,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this
rerun, a serial rapist has been killed, after being restrained in the
same way he held his victims. Now police reluctantly pursue the
killer. Lindsay Price (“Lipstick Jungle”) plays one of his
victims; Megan Ward (“General Hospital”) plays her lawyer.

– “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Danny (Donnie Whalberg) has seen a murder by a drug boss who's known
for intimidating witnesses. Now someone in Danny's family is in
danger.

TV column for Thursday, July 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother”
season-opener, 9 p.m., CBS.

CBS started this whole summer reality
rush more than a decade ago. It debuted “Survivor” and “Big
Brother” in 2000, “The Amazing Race” in 2001.

The others have moved up, but “Big
Brother” remains CBS' summer staple. It has new episodes at 8 p.m.
Sundays and Wednesdays and (starting next week) evicts someone at 9
p.m. Thursdays.

Living in a beach-style house will be
eight newcomers – from a cocktail waitress, 23, to an executive, 41
– plus what CBS calls “notorious duos” from previous seasons,
who will be announced tonight.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC.

Startled by the possibility of an
intruder, Andy (Missy Peregrym) starts ruffling through Luke's
things. (She wasn't snooping, she insists.) She makes a discovery
that transforms their relationship.

On her job as a cop, there's another
discovery, this one grotesque. It's part of a strange day.

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

It's really not a good idea to agree to
a dog's suggestions. In the opener, Ryan (Elijah Wood) followed the
plan of Wilfred (Jason Gann). They broke into a mean neighbor's house
and … well, defecated.

Now that comes back to haunt him. This
episode isn't as good as the first two – but is way better than
almost anything else on TV. Just keep remembering that Wilfred is a
dog, but we're seeing him the way the deluded Ryan does – as a
talking guy in a scruffy dog suit.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8
p.m., Fox. Tonight, the judges – including guest judge Carmen
Electra – trim the field from 14 to 12. Also, there's music from
Florence and the Machine and dance from Cedar Lake Contemporary
Ballet.

– “An American Family: Anniversary
Edition,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Back in 1973 –
19 years before “The Real World” – people were fascinated by a
series offering an intimate portrait of a photogenic but crumbling
family. This film offers highlights.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Most times, the guys would resent Penny's muscular boyfriend.
But now, in a funny rerun, they need him to help win a superhero
talent contest.

– “Rules of Engagement,” 8:30
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Jeff decides this should be “Jeff Day,”
when he gets his way on everything. That works, for a while.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun
has Kathy Griffin and Loretta Devine as tough judges for the
regionals. The glee club decides to only solution is to write
original material.

– “Expedition Impossible,” 9
p.m., ABC. It's another tough time in Morocco for Mackenzie Fuller,
the Kansas teen who missed her prom to be on this adventure. That
includes a sandstorm, uncooperative camels, a close call for her
eldest sister and a breakdown for Mackenzie.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
The team barely escapes when a building explodes during an
investigation. Also, Lisbon (Robin Tunney) again meets billionaire
Walter Mashburn.

– “Louie,” 10:30, FX. This comedy
remains fascinating, even when it doesn't seem to be trying to make
us laugh. Tonight's stand-up portions aren't particularly amusing.
The main story – Louis C.K., who is divorced, seeks a home in New
York's difficult market – is oddly, dryly entertaining.

TV column for Wednesday, July 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Love in the
Wild,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Imagine an action-adventure version of
“The Bachelor.” That's the surprising appeal of this show.

The adventures– racing across a
rickety bridge, through a bat cave, etc. – are OK, boosted by the
fact that couples (virtual strangers) are trying them. That's a much
better test for a relationship than any cocktail party. One gorgeous
couple crumbles; one woman finally blurts “shut up!”

At the end of the hour, couples can
re-form, nudging two people out of the show. In last week's opener,
that brought no surprises; tonight, it brings a dandy.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Men of a
Certain Age” season-finale, 10 p.m., TNT.

After meandering a bit in earlier
weeks, this series has strong moments for each of its main men.

There's Owen (Andre Braugher), finally
running the auto dealership his dad started. And his friend and
employee Terry, who has changed from being an unsuccessful actor to a
top-notch salesman.

And there's Joe (Ray Romano); divorced,
alone, trying to shake his gambling addiction, he's put his hopes on
a long-shot chance for the seniors golf tour. Two good actors and one
great one (Braugher) deal with lives of depth, joy and pain, now
reaching key points.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “America's Got
Talent” (NBC) or “Flipping Out” (Bravo), 9 p.m.

Overcrowded with reality shows, the
summer now has NBC competing with one of its cable networks.

It has a key “Talent”; we learn
which 48 acts have survived; they'll move on to the live shows.

And “Flipping”? Originally, Jeff
Lewis would “flip” houses – buying, remodeling, selling. Now
he's mostly a designer; that's thriving and he's put his boyfriend in
charge of business development.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. Last week, the show dumped an entertaining hip-hop
dancer (Robert Taylor Jr.) and a contemporary dancer (Miranda
Maleski). That leaves only two hip-hoppers, plus a Broadway dancer
and 11 people who have a prime specialty of jazz or contemporary.
Tonight, they perform in seven duos; then viewers vote.

– “Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory goes undercover.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. The first rerun offers the pains of summer – Axl fights for a
lifeguard job, Sue dithers over swimsuit selection, Brick is afraid
to cross any bridge. The second has characters trying a “do-over,”
when the first Mother's Day celebration goes awry.

– “Modern Family,” 9 pm., ABC.
Mary Lynn Rajskub, who was terrific in “24,” guests in this
rerun, as someone who was Mitchell's girlfriend, when he was still
dating the opposite sex.

– “Franklin & Bash,” 9 p.m.,
TNT. In a so-so episode, Jason Alexander plays a mean-spirited
client.

– “Happy Endings,” 9:31, ABC.
Dave has kind of accepted the fact that Alex broke up with him. In
this rerun, however, we find that he really pines for her great
apartment.

– “Beyond Belief,” 10 p.m., ABC.
This hour views reported sightings of Virgin Mary apparitions –
overseas (Bosnia, Rwanda, Portugal) and in Champion, Wis,, and
Passaic, N.J.

 

TV column for Tuesday, July 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “America's Got
Talent,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

Now that “The Voice” has ended its
first season, NBC needs “Talent” to grab big ratings.

Tonight, it has the show's final
auditions hour at 8 p.m.; from 9-11 p.m., a new round begins in Las
Vegas. On Wednesday, judges choose the 48 acts that will be around
when show goes live next week.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “MasterChef,”
9 p.m., Fox.

In a late change, “MasterChef”
moves to its new 9 p.m. slot. Thirteen amateur chefs remain in the
competition – an appealing one in which Gordon Ramsay generally
doesn't scream at anyone.

And if you prefer the screaming? At 8
p.m., Fox reruns a “Kitchen Nightmares”; Ramsay heads to New
Orleans, to help Zeke's Restaurant. At 9, BBC America launches a
five-hour marathon of the British version, “Ramsay's Kitchen
Nightmares.” And later this month, Fox brings back “Hell's
Kitchen.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Teen Mom”
season-opener, 10 p.m., MTV.

First comes a rerun marathon, starting
at 9:30 a.m.; then comes new drama – much of it self-induced.

Maci Bookout, for instance, bemoans her
“boyfriend drama.” Spurring it on: When her old boyfriend (Ryan)
texted a rude question about her new one (Kyle), she promptly passed
the text on to Kyle.

Farrah Abraham is way too busy as a
waitress, culinary student, model and mom. Now she's having trouble
getting a loan for a $4,700 breast enhancement.

Then there's Amber Portwood, choosing
between her old boyfriend (the one she attacked) and her new one. And
Catelynn Lowell, hoping to live with her boyfriend and graduate from
high school.

Other choices include:

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. This
reruns the season finale, as the team confronts the “Port-to-Port
Killer.”

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Sam goes undercover in a prison, trying to track a
terrorist group.

– “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,”
9 p.m., ABC Family. It's not easy being a teenager with superpowers,
you know. For one thing, Chloe must train every night; for another,
she overhears friends' conversations that she'd rather not hear.
Also, Whitley keeps obsessing on killing her.

– “Combat Hospital,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Treating a severely wounded soldier, Rebecca has depleted the
blood supply; now Col. Marks needs a “walking blood bank.”
Meanwhile, Major Pedersen struggles with conflicting accounts of the
shooting. Also, Simon romances a photographer (Tia Carrere).

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
A case involving a drilling company is going well, until a South
American dictator gets involved. In this rerun, an
actor-turned-lawyer is played by Fred Dalton Thompson – in real
life, a lawyer who became an actor, then a senator, then an actor
again.

– “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). A tradition of the American West – long-distance
sheep-herding – was ending when this film was made. “Sweetgrass”
follows Lawrence Allestad and his hired hands, taking 3,000 sheep on
a 250-mile round trip to a rugged Montana range north of Yellowstone.

TV column for Monday, July 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Capitol
Fourth,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS; repeats 9:30-11 (check local listings).

Each year, this concert offers great
voices, the National Symphony and fireworks, all against a splendid,
Washington, D.C., backdrop.

This year, Steve Martin will bring his
banjo and his Steep Canyon Ramblers. Rock stars will be old (Little
Richard, 78), young (Jordin Sparks, 21) and pretend (the cast of
“Million Dollar Quartet”).

Powerhouse singer Josh Groban will be
there. So will Matthew Morrison (now of “Glee”) and Kelli O'Hara,
who starred with him twice on Broadway and has three Tony
nominations. Jimmy Smits hosts.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: More Fourth, 9
pm., NBC (repeating at 10); 10 p.m., CBS.

NBC will in New York for the “Macy's
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.” Nick Lachey hosts,
with songs by Beyonce and Brad Paisley. This year, however, there's
no orchestra; the fireworks will be accompanied by recorded songs.

The CBS event, however, is built around
the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, doing its 38th
concert for the Fourth of July. Keith Lockhart conducts, Michael
Chiklis hosts and Lionel Richie sings.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Citizen
U.S.A.: A 50 State Road Trip,” 9 p.m., HBO.

After marrying a Dutch native,
Alexandra Pelosi began to see her country through fresh eyes. So they
traveled, meeting people in naturalization ceremonies in every state.

They talked to a few famous immigrants
– Henry Kissinger, Arianna Huffington, Gene Simmons, Madeleine
Albright. The real joy, however, is in meeting regular people who
savor a country where they can hold hands, drive a car or dial 9-1-1.
As with her six previous HBO films, Pelosi (Nancy Pelosi's daughter)
injects the film with warmth and balance.

Other choices include:

– “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01
p.m., ABC. In a rerun of last week's episode, Ashley takes the eight
remaining guys to Hong Kong. She also gets a return visit from the
banished Bentley.

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. This rerun is stuffed with guest stars – Will Forte as
Marshall's incompetent co-worker, Laura Bell Bundy as Robin's
co-anchor, Jennifer Morrison as Zoey, who enrolls in Ted's class and
stirs up other students against his project.

– “Mike & Molly,” 8:30 and
9:30 p.m., CBS. Here are amiable reruns from early in the season. The
first, centering on a bowling night, introduced Cleo King as Carl's
grandmother; the second found Carl jealous of all the time Mike was
spending with Molly.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. This fairly good rerun is supposed to be about Charlie dating
someone who's older. Alas, Liz Vassey, who plays her, is 38; Charlie
Sheen is 45.

– “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss
Edition,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, we meet a guy who quit
working out after a knee injury ended his high school football hopes.
At 25, he had reached 651 pounds. He meets former Nate Newton, a
former Dallas Cowboy who ballooned to 401, then lost 175.

– “The Big C,” 10:30, Showtime.
Last week, Cathy made the mistake of telling Rebecca she has cancer.
Rebecca told Cathy's brother, who told the world, starting a pity
party. “Big C” nimbly juggles comedy and drama, introducing Alan
Alda as a doctor with bad bedside manner and great results.