TV column for Thursday, July 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Hell's Kitchen”
finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The hellish part is almost over and the
glory is near. Tonight, the winner gets the No. 2 job at Gordon
Ramsay's restaurant in Caesar's Palace.

One of the two finalists will be Mary
Poehnelt, 26, of (inappropriately) Belchertown, Mass. For the other
spot, Ramsay will choose Ja'Nel Witt, 31, of Houston, or John
Scallion, 27, of York, Pa. Then the finalists – aided by past
contestants – try to create the perfect dinner service.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS.

Sometimes, networks do this just to
confuse us. At the last second, CBS has swapped episodes.

The rerun originally scheduled – a
good one – moves to Aug. 15. Instead, we see a rerun of a December
episode in which Sherlock probes the murder of a professor and Watson
is contacted by an ex-lover.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Motive,” 9
p.m., ABC.

This solid drama offers smart scripts
and talented Canadian actors, most of them famliar to U.S. viewers.
Louis Ferreira (who originally worked as Justin Louis) plays a tough
police detective; Lauren Holly (a Canadian citizen by marriage) plays
a medical examiner.

And Kristin Lehman stars as Angie
Flynn, a cop and single mom. Tonight, she tries to decide if and why
a pediatrician committed murder. She also argues that her son knoed
nothing the guy (Che Guevara) on his shirt.”It's a shirt,” her
son argues, “not a manifesto.”

Other choices include:

– “The Winner Is,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
NBC. First is a rerun of last week's episode, which chose the fourth
finalist in this singing competition; then a new hour chooses the
fifth. That puts us two weeks from the finale, when six people go for
the million-dollar prize.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Sheldon, who has never been accused of sexual anything, is
suddenly accused of sexual harassment. In a funny rerun, he soon gets
his friends in trouble.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Walden at a mixer for upscale singles.
He meets perhaps his perfect match – his ex-wife (Judy Greer).

– “Project Runway,” 9 p.m
Lifetime. In last week's opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.), we met one
returning designer (Kate Pankoke) and 15 new, varied ones. Miranda
Levy is a former Army mechanic; Justin LeBlanc turns off his hearing
aid when there's too much drama. Timothy Westbrook is so eco-aware
that he didn't let his model have make-up. Tonight, their designs are
inspired by $30 million in jewels.

– “Big Brother,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.
Some day, this show will run out of guys to evict. Last week, Jeremy
McGuire became the third person evicted, after Nick Uhas and David
Ginton. Tonight, a fourth will go.

– “Hollywood Game Night,” 10
p.m., NBC. Sean Hayes – who produces this show, patterned after
games he hosts – is one of tonight's players. He and Dax Shepard
join “Saturday Night Live” people, past and present – Amy
Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis.

– “Rookie Blue,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
A girl is missing, in what may be a copy of a wrenching case. Luke
returns, to work on the case. Also, Andy and Sam confronting the real
reasons for their break-up.

TV column for Wednesday, July 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC.

This rerun catches “Middle” at its
best, bouncing between four stories. One – Sue dares to miss school
for the first (and last) time – is so-so, but the others are
delights.

There is Brick, reluctant to tell his
counselor (the wonderful Dave Foley) why he dreads middle school.
Meanwhile, both his parents get caught in their foolishness: Mike
accidentally ends up in a ditch; Frankie accidentally impersonates a
doctor.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: Movies, cable.

Like many movies these days, “X-Men
Origins: Wolverine” (2009, 7:30 p.m., FX) has great visuals, gifted
actors (led by Hugh Jackman) and a lame script. Unlike most, “Lord
of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003, 8:35 p.m., Starz) has
great visuals and actors AND a superb script.

More choices? “Loving Leah” (2009,
8 p.m., Hallmark) is a warmly moving tale, with Lauren Ambrose as a
rabbi's widow who marries her husband's brother. “Traffic” (2000,
9 p.m., Showtime) is a richly layered Oscar-winner, finding futility
in the war on drugs.

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

Last week ended in horror: Using
poisoned water, someone killed eight Mexicans who were trying to
cross the American desert, then apparently grabbed the one woman who
survived.

As police scramble to find her in this
sharply crafted hour, other stories build: An American newspaper
reporter meets the alternate world his colleague knows in Juarez. And
a rich widow – trying to shut down her late husband's tunnel –
gets a “Godfather”-style warning.

Other choices include:

– “MasterChef,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.
First, the nine remaining amateur chefs must use a sausage-maker to
prepare a sausage-link dinner. The next challenge gives some people
fresh ingredients and others canned. By the end of the night, the
field is trimmed from nine to seven.

– “Chef Roble & Co.” (8 p.m.)
and “Top Chef Masters” (10 p.m.), Bravo. It's a chef-filled
night. Roble's season-finale has a birthday feast for swimsuit model
Chrisy Teigen and her fiance John Legend. Then a “Masters” season
opens with outdoor cooking for a skydiving team.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Phil makes a tattered try at owning a recreational vehicle. Also in
this rerun, there are hilarious moments when we learn Gloria is the
world's worst charades player.

– “Spell-Mageddon” debut, 9 p.m.,
ABC Family. Didn't spelling bees used to be kind of docile? Here,
words must be spelled after winning an obstacle race or while being
assaulted by water, slush, even electric shocks. (Kids, don't try
this at school.) Despite overpumped contestants, it's kind of fun.

– “Camp,” 10 p.m., NBC. It's time
to host the annual mixer with the upscale camp across the lake.
Meanwhile, Kip remains secretly in love with Marina; he helps her
survive the mean girls … including Chloe, who kissed him last week.

– “Joe Rogan Questions Everything”
debut, 10 p.m., Syfy. Rogan brings a helpful blend – sometimes
skeptical, often hopeful and open-minded. The opener is an amiable
visit to bigfoot buffs.

– “Bulloch Family Ranch,” 10
p.m., UP (formerly Gospel Music Channel). There are everyday crises –
a festival is endangered when a store closes early … and when rain
nears. And there's a larger crisis: A rule forces an earnest coach
to step down. All are dealt with quietly, in this upbeat reality
show.

TV column for Tuesday, July 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rizzoli &
Isles,” 8 and 9 p.m., TNT.

At first, Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha
Alexander) was the comfortable one. Her friend Jane Rizzoli – a cop
from a family of cops – was shot and kidnapped and such; Maura was
fun, flirty and fashionable.

Then that all changed. In last week's
episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.), Maura was a murder suspect. In the new
one at 9, mobster Paddy Doyle is on trial for murder; Maura recently
learned he's her biological father and now she finds more family
secrets.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “America's Got
Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

The semi-eternal auditions are finally
over and the live episodes begin.

Tonight, a dozen acts perform at Radio
City Music Hall in New York and viewers vote. On Wednesday, we'll
learn which four advance. Then the whole thing is repeated four more
times, leaving the top 20.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Vineyard”
debut, 10 p.m., ABC Family.

Here is a dream world, where each
person is young and beautiful and looks splendid in swimwear.
“Vineyard” is billed as “unscripted,” but has story editors,
plus cameras in all the right places.

This is summertime on Martha's
Vineyard, centering on people who work at the Black Dog tavern and
store. Jon (pre-med) and Luis (not yet focused) are handsome and
hunky and thereby angry at each other. Katie – Luis' friend from
long ago – is a fashion designer whose four-year romance is
stagnating. Then there's Sophi the singer and Jackie the writer and
some locals – Cat the artist and Emily who just wants a rich guy.
In this dream world, of course, all are bikini-ready.

Other choices include:

– “Extreme Weight Loss,” 8-10
p.m., ABC. Despite their emphasis on health, Chris Powell tells us,
nurses have one of the highest rates of obesity. Now he flies to
Dearborn, Mich., to work with Trina, 46, a nurse, wife and mother of
three who is 5-foot-4 and 290 pounds; he also sends a hyperactive
Richard Simmons. There are bumps, including a stretch when she
actually adds pounds.

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The field will be trimmed from 16 to 14.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here's the
first half of a rerun that concludes next week. Investigating an
attack on a lieutenant, Gibbs meets a Marine captain who has
post-traumatic stress disorder.

– Movies, 8 p.m.,cable. “Risky
Business” (1983, IFC) is a delight, with a then-unknown Tom Cruise
taking extreme advantage of his parents' absence. “Casino Royale”
(2006, AMC) opens absurdly, but introduces Daniel Craig as an
excellent new James Bond. “The Magic of Ordinary Days” (2006,
Hallmark) is a quietly involving drama, with Keri Russell in an
arranged marrriage in the 1940s.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In this rerun, the team probes the murder of a rich former CIA
agent. Soon, there are questions about Hetty's knowledge of the case.

– “Covert Affairs,” 9 p.m., USA.
Last week's season-opener ended with Arthur announcing he's resigning
because of an extramarital affair. Annie and Auggie (now lovers) are
skeptical about that, but they're distracted by the evil schemes of
Henry Wilcox.

– “Body of Proof,” 10 p.m., ABC.
Kate (Jeri Ryan) can't catch a break. In this rerun, she meets a
handsome guy (Ivan Sergei) and has a tryst with him … then suspects
he was involved in a murder.

TV column for Monday, July 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Under the Dome,”
10 p.m., CBS.

Last week ended with a jolt for “Big
Jim,” the councilman and meth dealer played by Dean Norris
(“Breaking Bad”). He found the woman (Britt Robertson) his son
held captive in their bomb shelter.

Now he decides – slowly – what to
do, while bigger issues build: This is the day the government lets
people visit the edge of the dome, greeting loved ones inside; it
also may be the day everyone inside is killed. The result is another
terrific hour for this excellent Steven Spielberg production.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Next Monday, the show starts its
two-week finale. First, however, it's the “men tell all” episode;
the newest reject, Zak, joins the previous ones to talk about Desiree
Hartsock and each other.

Meanwhile, we see fans at viewing
parties being surprised by the arrival of the “Bachelor Bus,”
with Hartsock, host Chris Harrison and some of the few people to
emerge from all this with marriages – Trista Sutter and Jason and
Molly Mesnick.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Breaking
Pointe” season-opener, 9 p.m., CW.

Slickly filmed and edited, this reality
show puts a human face on Salt Lake City ballet.

Two veteran stars are married to each
other; two emerging ones just broke up. A muscular hero-type is out
with a devastating injury; younger dancers range from a bubbly young
ballerina to a guy who spends way too much time gossiping. Along the
way are snippets of elegant dance.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE II: “POV,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Chances are, Woodward and Bernstein
never heard this from their moms: “It's fine you work hard at
(reporting), but you need to keep the vegetable-stand going.”

A young Chinese blogger hears that, as
he leaps between his rural life and controversial city reports. We
also meet an older blogger whose reporting involves bicycle trips as
long as 1,300 miles.

Opposites – one flamboyant, one dark
– they're among the swarms fighting Chinese censorship. Much of
this was filmed in 2008; four years later, the film says, 69 people
were in prison for Internet work.

Other choices include:

– “How I Met Your Mother,” 8
p.m., CBS. Ted (played by Josh Radnor, 38) has nothing in common with
his young girlfriend (Ashley Benson, 23) in this rerun, but Barney
wants them to stay together.

– “Mystic River” (2003), 8-11
p.m., Independent Film Channel. This dark masterpiece brings depth to
a story of tortured souls. It won Academy Awards for Sean Penn and
Tim Robbins, plus four more nominations, including best picture and
director Clint Eastwood.

– “2 Broke Girls,” 8:30 and 9
p.m., CBS. The first rerun finds a candy-shop owner falling for
Caroline. The second has broadly funny moments, as she and Max meet
two hunky Amish guys visiting the city.

– “Mike & Molly,” 9:31 p.m.,
CBS. This rerun's lesson is to never storm off when you're at a mall.
Mike does that and Molly promptly goes on a shopping spree.

– “Supermarket Superstar” debut,
10 p.m., Lifetime. Each week, three people will push a new food
product, then face judgment on taste, packaging and more. The idea is
so-so, but the opener (involving cakes) has intriguing contestants –
gospel singer, a longshoreman who goes heavy on the cognac and a
kids-party entertainer who sort of looks like Strawberry Shortcake.

– “Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.
Thing are messy for Jos (stridently heterosexual until recently), her
sister Savi (with a husband bitter that the baby might not be his)
and Karen. They're the messiest, however, for April; three years into
widowhood, she suddenly sees her husband.

TV column for Sunday, July 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY: “Axe Cop” and
“High School USA,” 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., Fox.

In odd nooks and niches, people are
doing fresh things with animation. Usually, the shows are confined to
the Internet or late-night cable; now two get primetime Fox spots,
before moving to late Saturdays.

“Axe Cop” was conceived by a
5-year-old and flashes those roots proudly. We get a tough cop (Nick
Offerman) who's afraid of nothing except late-rental charges at the
dinosaur-horn store.

“High School” fashions its
characters after the Archies (including an extreme Reggie lookalike),
then adds fresh subjects. An early monologue on bullying is
hilarious; the rest is mixed, but interesting.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Falling Skies,”
10 p.m., TNT.

For three-plus seasons, Tom (Noah Wyle)
has had a gritty, grimy life, fighting and eluding aliens.

Now he seems to be back in his old life
as a history professor with a sweet wife and three carefree sons.
Unfolding is a complex psycho-drama. It's cleverly written and
beautifully played, with sharp performances by Wyle, Moon Bloodgood
and (as evil Karen) Jessy Schram.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The News
Room,” 10 p.m., HBO.

Last week's opener was both brilliant
and bewildering. Now “News Room” settles in.

We begin to see the disastrous Genoa
story unfold. We watch Maggie (the wonderful Allison Pill) as her
romantic triangle crumbles. We see how Will (Jeff Daniels) came to be
a star anchor; we also see the conservative leanings that were hinted
at before. The brilliance is back, without the befuddlement.

Other choices include:

– “The Librarian” films, 2 p.m.,
4 p.m. and 6 p.m., TNT. Before catching Wyle's dead-serious drama,
here are light adventures. Oddly, they run in reverse order – the
2008 film, then 2006 and then 2004.

– “Celebrity Wife Swap,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. Lisa Leslie has the precise life we expect from a star athlete;
she carefully prepares the food and the fun for her husband and their
kids, ages 5 and 3. “Downtown” Julie Brown has the unscheduled
life we expect of a former MTV host; living with their daughter, 19,
and her boyfriend, she and her husband like poolside champagne. Now
the women trade lives.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Englishmen stiffen their upper lips
here, propelling the drama. A factory prepares for a royal visit …
a rich family ducks the story of a missing woman … and two Oxford
grads flounder at romance. All of that leads into a story that comes
together – stretching believability a bit – with some neat final
surprises.

– “City Girl Diaries” debut, 9
p.m., Style. Here's a reality variation on “Sex and the City.”
Five women are attractive and verbal, with fun jobs. They do public
relations, fashion-design, TV reporting and gossip-editing. They try
too hard at everything; one was so overwrought that her own publicist
dumped her. This hour lets viewers vicariously live in New York,
without the outrageous rents.

– “Dexter,” 9 p.m., Showtime.
Last week, Debra almost confessed to killing a fellow cop. Now Dr.
Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) tries to talk her down … and gives
Dexter brutal news about his past.

– “Ray Donovan,” 10 p.m.,
Showtime. Tony Soprano once killed a guy during his daughter's
college tour. In a strong hour, Ray takes his kids to an upscale
school, while messier issue must be dealt with.