TV column for Monday, June 12


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

The grown-ups are
back now – and that's definitely good. Last summer, “Dance”
retreated to a junior edition; now it returns to ages 18-30 ... and
instantly showcases awesome talent.

That starts with a
Hawaiian who merges modern styles and a Russian husband and wife who
make a ballroom routine (partly blindfolded) both classy and sensual;
it ends with Russian twins – who reached America two days earlier –
and stunning choreography. Once three hours a week, “Dance” is
down to one, so this opener packs one triumph on top of another. It's
overkill ... yet quite impressive.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Superhuman” debut, 9:01 p.m., Fox.

Here is a show that
tests ... well, anything. “You probably are really good at
something, but you feel it's too silly to show off,” Seth Porges
says. His own ability involves spotting a micro-difference between
two objects; that helped him to impress his now-girlfriend ... and
now helps impress a TV audience.

Other skills vary –
a perfect memory ... contorting the body into odd shapes ...
identifying the sound of any frog ... turning colors into music. This
is presented amiably by host Kal Penn; then a $50,000 winner is
chosen by judges (including a surprisingly clever Mike Tyson) and the
studio audience.

 

AND MUST-SEE III
(really): Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, with previews at 8.

For a while, it
seemed like this wouldn't be needed. The Golden State Warriors won a
record 15 straight play-off games, putting them one away from a total
sweep.

But LeBron James'
Cleveland Cavaliers roared back Friday with a 49-point first quarter,
en route to the win. Now the play-offs return to California, with the
Warriors up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.

 

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Ninja Warrior” and “Spartan,” 8 and
10 p.m., NBC.

What started as an
obscure cable show has become a summertime ratings hit. Now “Ninja”
starts its ninth season with people facing demanding obstacle
courses. Between seasons, co-host Matt Iseman – a
doctor-turned-comedian – became the first (and last) champion of
“New Celebrity Apprentice.”

And now there's a
companion show. “Spartan” also has obstacle courses, but this
involves teams.

Other choices
include:

“Betty and
Coretta” (2013), 6-9 p.m., BET. Angela Bassett and Gloria Reuben
play the widows of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. In a night for
gifted actresses, there's also Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at
Tiffany's” (1960) at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies and
Jennifer Lawrence in the first half of the two-film “Hunger Games”
finale (2014), at 8 on TNT.

“Kevin Can Wait”
and “Man With a Plan,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. The first rerun –
Kevin hires someone to do his chores – has some funny moments, but
turns way too silly. The second – Adam plans the school's
Thanksgiving feast – works because of James Burrows, TV's best
comedy director.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Temporarily moving this show and “Life in Pieces” to Mondays
has boosted a so-so comedy night. In this rerun, Violet is sick ...
which is the least of her problems.

“The Putin
Interviews,” 9 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at midnight. Over a
two-year period, Oliver Stone had more than a dozen interviews with
the Russian president. Now that's been boiled down to a four-part
documentary, with one hour per night. On Thursday, all four will run
together.

“Stitchers,” 9
p.m., Freeform. In the season's second episode (following the second
“Shadowhunters” at 8), a young woman's body has been found in her
rich boyfriend's pool.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team heads to Ireland to mark the first
anniveraary of Walter's sister's death. Then Walter finds that a
poisonous cloud endangers the Irish village.

“Better Call
Saul,” 10 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:07. Last week's episode
(rerunning at 8:53) saw Jimmy sink into despair, Chuck emerge from
isolation and Kim confront Hamlin, her former law-firm boss. Now, a
week before the season-finale, it's Chuck's turn to argue with
Hamlin.

TV column for Sunday, June 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Tony awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS.

Each year, this
Broadway showcase offers great musical moments. Tonight, we can
expect big production numbers from the best-musical nominees --
“Great Comet of 1812” (12 nominations), “Dear Evan Hansen”
(9), “Come From Away” (7) and “Groundhog Day” (7).

And the nominated
revivals? There will be numbers from “Falsettos” (5) and possibly
“Miss Saigon” (2). The “Hello, Dolly” (10) revival is
expected to offer a David Hyde Pierce solo, with Bette Midler as a
presenter but not performing. Other presenters include Stephen
Colbert, Tina Fey and Josh Gad.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Steve Harvey's Funderdome” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

Harvey's TV empire
keeps growing – a talk show in the daytime ... “Little Big Shots”
on NBC ... “Celebrity Family Feud” starting its season at 8 p.m.
today on ABC ... and now this.

It's sort of a
noisier version of “Shark Tank,” with the studio audience voting
on which inventions to fund. The ideas are so-so, the inventors are
overwrought, but Harvey adds humor and humanity

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on Earth,” 9 and 10:45 p.m., National
Geographic.

Sebastian Junger is
a gifted writer (“The Perfect Storm”) and filmmaker (the
Oscar-nominated “Restrepo”). Now he's co-directed and narrated a
richly detailed documentary about Syria and ISIS.

Junger gives some
blame to world leaders – Bush for bumbling the Iraqi occupation,
Obama for scuttling an international attack on Syria, Putin for
siding with the Syrian dictator. Mostly, however, he focuses deeply
on the regular people, encased in an unrelenting battle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “American Grit” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

These 17 contestants
are a fragile group. Hannah cries a lot, Richard eats a lot, Gigi
likes glitter and giant fingernails. Will has been bullied; Alison
has been afraid to leave her house.

Now Jon Cena and
four ex-soldiers will lead them in challenges. This is a sharp
makeover for a show that debuted last summer. It's a big improvement,
but also has a major flaw: Tonight's challenges are simply tests of
pain; this is torture-TV, just a half-step from televised
waterboarding.

Other choices
include:

“Bob's Burgers,”
7 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun, involving the planetarium's
final laser show. Then a new episode has Bob trapped overnight in a
wilderness-equipment store; also, Aunt Gayle (Megan Mullally)
rehearses her one-woman show.

Hockey, 8 p.m. ET
NBC. It's game six, with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nashville
Predators.

“Menendez: Blood
Brothers,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. When two rich brothers were charged
with shooting their parents, their trial became a TV event. That
story will be an NBC mini-series this fall, but here's a movie, from
the brothers' view. The actors are good, especially Myko Olivier as
Erik Menendez and a subtle Courtney Love (really) as his mom. Still,
the story feels lurid, nasty and kind of tacky.

“Claws” debut, 9
p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. Desna (Niecy Nash) dreams of a owning a
posh place, servicing rich women's nails; for now, she's stuck in a
storefront salon, doing chores for some crude thugs. “Claws”
starts poorly, gains ground as it humanizes Desna, then has a
powerhouse finish.

“The $100,000
Pyramid” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC. One of TV's best games is
back, with an OK host (Michael Strahan) and sharp celebrities –
Leslie Jones, LL Cool J, Tom Bergeron, Jennifer Nettles. The lone
flaw is a dumbing-down; one category simply required pointing to body
parts.

“I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime. In last week's opener, a comedian had a
good “Tonight” debut, then deliberately (perhaps) stepped in
front of a bus. Tonight, if possible, gets even darker.

TV column for Saturday, June 10


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Jimmy Fallon
returned triumphantly in this April episode. An upbeat guy, he's
rarelty done the harsh, anti-Trump stuff. That's left here to Melissa
McCarthy (who gets big laughs), “Weekend Update” and Alec
Baldwin, although Fallon does show up as Trump's silent son-in-law.

Instead, he savors
goofy stuff – a suitor, singing for a second-chance ... a
blue-collar Bostonian at Harvard ... a Civil War soldier doing a
modern chorus ... a hilarious bit (with blitzing costume changes) as
young and old John Travolta. Harry Styles appears throughout the show
and sings powerfully.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Orphan Black” season-opener, 10 p.m. ET , BBC America.

Five years ago, we
met Sarah, a streetwise drifter who impersonated a lookalike cop. She
soon found more lookalikes; we were heading into the bizarre story of
a global clone conspiracy.

That has kept
getting wilder, but Emmy-winner Tatiana Maslany has been brilliant as
all the clones. Now one of them (icy Rachel) is in control and three
others are hiding in the woods – brainy Cosmina, the feral (and
pregnant) Helena and Sarah ... wounded, perplexed, determined to
retrieve her daughter. It's a powerful start to the final season of a
beautifully crafted show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “In an Instant,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

In the quiet beauty
of northern Minnesota, Victor Barnard led his River Road Fellowship.
He promised an isolated, godly life; he also asked families to let
their first-born daughters stay with him.

Tonight, this
well-made documentary series focuses on the family of Lindsay
Tornambe, who moved in with him at 13; later, she would allege a
decade of sexual abuse. In a change-of-pace for “In an Instant,”
we hear of the efforts ro rescue her and to arrest Barnard when he
fled to Brazil.

Other choices
include:

Ben Affleck movies,
cable. Affleck's 2016 films are back-to-back on HBO – the
disappointing “Batman v. Superman” at 5:25 p.m. and the fairly
good action film “The Accountant” at 8. Also at 8 are two of his
serious dramas -- “The Town” (2010) on IFC and the riveting “Gone
Girl” (2014) on FXM.

“Blue Bloods,” 8
p.m., CBS. Danny is working a child-abuse case that's complicated by
diplomatic immunity; his dad, the police commissioner, intervenes
even though he doesn't have jurisdiction

“World of Dance,”
8 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of the second round of auditions.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 8 p.m., ABC. How do you politely determine which person is
really a professional butt model? That's one of the problems this
rerun poses for Martha Plimpton, Tom Bergeron, Sherri Shepherd and
David Arquette. They also meet Oprah's first guest, plus a
venom-extracter and more.

“The Son”
season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10. In 1849, the tribe faces
a fresh crisis. And in 1915, Eli's plan forces Pete to make a
life-and-death decision.

“Doctor Who,” 9
p.m. ET, BBC America. While waiting for “Orphan Black,” catch a
new “Who” ... which will make any show that follows seem normal.
Written by Mark Gatiss, the brilliant “Sherlock” co-creator, this
starts with the words “God Save the Queen” scrawled on Mars.

“Genius,” 10
p.m., National Geographic. In a rerun, Einstein is the only scientist
to resist Germany's military build-up. That puts him at odds with his
patriotic friend Fritz Haber.

TV column for Friday, June 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Dark Matter” and “Wynonna Earp” season-openers, 8 and 10
p.m., Syfy.

The big networks are
mostly waiting to start their summer shows, but basic-cable is moving
now. There were two season-openers Monday on Freeform, with one
Thursday on USA and now these two.

“Dark Matter”
began with six people waking on a space ship with no memories; they
named themselves One through Six and plunged into a perplexing world.
As this third season starts, a battle has left aftershocks. “Earp”
is about Wyatt's great-great-granddaughter who, of course, is a
demon-fighter. As the season begins, she's facing a new level of
villains.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “Reign,” 9 p.m., CW.

We're a week from
the finale of an ambitious (albeit misguided) effort. The basic
notion was to turn the troubled life of Scotland's Queen Mary into a
youth-oriented soap opera. It has some talented actors (led by Megan
Follows as Catherine) and some who lack the needed subtlety or skill.

Tonight, Mary and
England's Queen Elizabeth continue their power struggle, while facing
personal crises. Mary's pregnancy threatens her life; Elizabeth
learns she has a killer in her inner circle.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), 7-11 p.m., AMC.

Three days after the
D-Day anniversary, here is Steven Spielberg's masterpiece. Alongside
the jolting battle scenes (including D-Day) is a richly personal
story, beautifully played by Tom Hanks and then-newcomer Matt Damon,
with top people – from Bryan Cranston to Vin Diesel – in support.

And if you're
resisting World War II? Clint Eastwood's subtly superb “American
Sniper” (2014, 8 p.m., TNT) is set mostly in Iraq; “World War Z”
(2013, 8 p.m, FX) involves zombies.

Other choices
include:

“Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows” (2010 and 2011), 4:10 and 7:50 p.m., Freeform.
Here's the two-part finale in one gulp. As a warm-up, “Harry Potter
and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009) is at 12:30.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Tuesday's
auditions.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of Wednesday's auditions, the top-20 is wrapped
up. The amiably eccentric contestants range from a Texas rancher to a
ballet dancer, almost pirouetting in the kitchen.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. This rerun finds tat Matty's goddaughter and her boyfriend
were killed in a San Francisco park. Soon, Mac starts to suspect this
is the return of the 1970s “Zodiac Killer.”

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. When a boy undergoes hypnosis, he realizes he may have
seen a murder, 10 years ago. Also in this rerun, Danny's sister
(Missy Peregrym) arrives for a conference.

Basketball, 9 p.m.
ET, ABC. It's the fourth game of the best-of-seven series, with the
Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the Golden State Warriors. The pre-game
shows are at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ET.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. A woman tells Danny and Baez about her abusive
ex-boyfriend ... then becomes a suspect when he's killed. Also in
this rerun, Danny's dad, the police commissioner, must deal with a
cop who, when off-duty, failed to intercede during a robbery.

TV column for Thursday, June 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Queen of the South” season-opener, 10 p.m. and 1:01 a.m,, USA
Network.

Last year, we saw
the life of Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga) transform. A young beauty,
she had the wrong boyfriend at the wrong party. Soon, he was dead and
she was pursued by Vargas, a drug lord.

She scrambled to the
U.S., where Camila (Vargas' estranged wife) taught her to be a
drug-dealer. Now “Queen” -- stylishly filmed and adapted from a
telenovela -- has her link with an eccentric smuggler. Camila tries
to rebuild her empire, while her husband has a new partner he may not
be able to control.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Nashville” and “CMT Music Awards,” 9 and 10:32 p.m., CMT.

Having remembered
that its name used to include “country music,” CMT makes a decent
effort tonight. Charles Estin stars in the season's second
“Nashville,” then hosts the rerun of Wednesday's award show.

On “Nashville,”
transportation has been perilous for the top two characters; Rayna
died after a car crash, Juliette (Hayden Patettiere) frets about her
first major performance after a plane crash.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Game-show overload, 8 and 9 p.m., Fox and ABC.

Remember when game
shows had vanished from prime time? Tonight, oddly, they collide. Fox
has new ones – Jamie Foxx hosting “Beat Shazam” at 8 p.m. and
the amiable “Love Connection” reboot at 9; now both shows collide
with reruns of Steve Harvey's “Celebrity Family Feuds.”

The first hour has
singers Kellie Pickler and Lance Bass; then actor Ernie Hudson faces
reality-TV figure NeNe Leakes. The second has two boxers, but
separately: Sugar Ray Leonard faces Snoop Dogg; Laila Ali faces
George Hamilton. At 10 is a rerun of Michael Strahan's “$100,000
Pyramid.”

Other choices
include:

“The A-Team”
(2010) and “American Sniper” (2014), 5:30 and 10 p.m., TNT. Here
are the extremes of Bradley Cooper's career – high-octane
silliness, then a richly (and subtly) crafted character drama.

Hockey, 8 p.m. ET,
NBC. It's the fifth game of the best-of-seven finals, with the
Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators.

“Supernatural,”
8 and 9 p.m., CW. The first rerun has Hitler's soul trapped in a
pocket watch; the second has a demon killing hunters. We should
probably mention that this show is fiction.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode that saw Raj begin
his belated journey into adulthood. After years of parental support,
he has to pay his own bills.

“Superior Donuts,”
8:31, CBS. For now, this fairly good show gets to nestle between TV's
best comedies, “Big Bang” and “Mom.” Tonight, Arthur (Judd
Hirsch) tries a rarity – a day off; Franco (Jermaine Fowler) hopes
to prove he can run the shop.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. In a clever episode, Roscoe is caught smoking pot. His
mother and grandmother – both experts on the subject – fear he
has a drug problem.

“The Devil's
Advocate” (1997), 10 p.m., Pop. Many people think their boss is
Satan, but this young lawyer (Keanu Reeves) is correct. It's a
splashy role for Al Pacino as the boss.