TV column for Friday, July 11

TONIGHT’S MUST-TRY: “The Almighty Johnsons” debut, 10 p.m.,

A 21st birthday can be a rough transition for
anyone. Still, it’s even rougher if people suddenly want to kill you … and
others say you’re now a Norse god … and your cousin turns out to be your

Yes, this all might seem odd and silly; this New Zealand series
adapts to that smartly. Its cast – unknowns, plus Oscar-nominee Keisha
Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”) as Axl’s flatmate Gaia – is subtly perfect; its
script adds clever quirks. When was the last time you heard someone say “my
mother the tree”? Or you saw a key event determined by a supernatural speed
round of rock-paper-scissors?    

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

A three-drama-rerun night concludes with an hour awash in
trouble for Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his family.

There’s his daughter Erin, an assistant district attorney,
now held hostage in the courtroom. And his son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), the
chief negotiator in the courtroom. And his other son Jamie, who has disobeyed
orders; now Frank must decide the punishment.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mark Twain Prize,” 9-11 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

In its first 12 years, this comedy prize went to 10 men,
plus Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin. Then that changed, with three women –
Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres and Carol Burnett – in four years.

Burnett, 81, adds this to a list that includes six Emmys and
16 more nominations. This rerun (stuffed with comedians and potential fun), includes
people with long links to her – Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, Julie Andrews,
Lucie Arnaz and Tony Bennett. Fey is also there, plus Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph
and Rosemary Watson, a relative unknown whom Burnett spotted via a letter and
the Internet.

Other choices include:

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), 7:30 p.m.,
ABC Family; or “Frozen” (2013), 8 p.m., Starz. It’s a good night to catch a
family movie. “Frozen” is gorgeous, visually and musically; “Stone” launches
the “Harry Potter” series and will also start a marathon at 7 a.m. Saturday,
with the second film at 10:30.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. Nick and Greg
probe the death of a 16-year-old girl who had links to a brothel.

“Girl Meets World,” 8:30 p.m., Disney. The former “Boy Meets
World” people have done a clever job of stepping into a new generation.
Tonight, a homework project requires teen Riley to actually talk with Lucas
face-to-face, instead of merely texting.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This was the season’s second
episode, back when Kono and Adam were on the lam. Meanwhile, a Texas Ranger
(Tim Daly) arrives, looking for his daughter.

“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. Heading into Monday’s finale, here’s one
more chance to see the episode that sets it up: Jack, Kate and Mark race to
find the terrorists, while Audrey tries the diplomatic route.

“Crossbones,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Alarmed by a plan for
Blackbeard (John Malkovich) to attack civilians, Lowe finds a way to report
back to Jagger. Then he starts to wonder if Jagger is a worse madman.

TV column for Thursday, July 10

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden” debut, 9:01 p.m.,

In real life, Greg Poehler was a lawyer who quit his job,
moved to Sweden and somehow became a stand-up comic and TV guy. Now he turns
that into a comedy: An accountant (Poehler) moves to the homeland of his
gorgeous girlfriend (Swedish actress Josephine Bornebusch).

“Welcome” is produced by Amy Poehler (Greg’s sister), who
guests in the first few minutes. With its low-key style and occasional
sub-titles, it won’t draw a big audience. Still, it has the sort of wit and
fish-out-of-water charm we haven’t seen since “Northern Exposure” began in the
summer of 1990.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN.

One CBS guy got it very wrong: In a news report, Alexander
Kendrick said the Beatles “symbolize the 20
th-century non-hero, as
they make non-music wearing non-haircuts.”

Another CBS guy got it right: Ed Sullivan booked the Beatles
and then all the others. This jaunty hour is billed as “The British Invasion,”
but it goes much deeper, showing a bland music world taken over by, as one man
puts it, “crazy young geniuses.” The report ranges from Tom Hanks (a “Sixties”
producer) to Smokey Robinson and Questlove, who praises the Beatles’ knack for
“the perfect three-minute record.”


Fun activities can be dangerous (and deadly), we see in this
strong hour. A 19-year-old is taking his first flying lesson, when the plane
crashes, killing the pilot and sending the student to the emergency room. A
basketball game leaves a young man with an ankle that must be snapped back into

And basketball causes a fractured finger for Dr. Mehmet Oz,
54, as he’s prepares for a heart procedure on a motorcycle cop who collapsed
from a stroke, in front of his wife and their young children. “When you’re a
surgeon, you need to have use of all your fingers, not just nine of them,” Oz

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This funny rerun gives
Sheldon a surprise, when he visits his mom (Laurie Metcalf) in Houston. Back
home, Raj’s mystery party stirs up fights.

“Black Box,” 8 p.m., ABC. A famed neurologist, Catherine
Black has been hiding her own mental problems from her co-workers and her
lover. Now that reaches a breaking point in a strong episode.

“Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. There are partner problems
everywhere: Andy faces accusations by the jumpy rookie she’s been training. And
Dov starts to suspect his friend Chris.

“Rectify,” 9 p.m., Sundance. Daniel has tried to survive in
a small town where most people still consider him a killer. Now he tries
anonymity in Atlanta. Meanwhile, his sister ponders a new life.

“Working the Engels” debut, 9:30 p.m., NBC. The first
minutes are hilarious, as a widow (Andrea Martin) adjusts poorly to the news
that her late husband’s law practice has big debts. From there, we get an OK
comedy as the office is tackled by her three kids, only one of them (a lawyer)

“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. After pausing to show
the season’s 100 best jokes (many of them hilarious) so far, “Comic” is back to
business. With Ellen Degeneres, the final eight learn talk-show skills.

TV column for Wednesday, July 9

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Extant” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

Steven Spielberg and CBS seem on a mission to save summers
with smart, well-crafted science fiction. Last year was “Under the Dome”; now
“Extant” has the same quality … sort of.

“Dome” has easier appeal, with a big cast and full-blooded
emotion. “Extant” is subtler, with reactions as cool and distant as the show’s
futuristic setting. An astronaut (superbly played by Halle Berry) returns from
a year alone in space, to learn she’s pregnant. That’s overlayed against
stories involving her husband (Goran Visnjic), their son and corporate schemes;
we won’t spoil surprises, but stick with this.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

It was in 1504, this compelling documentary says, that
Leonardo da Vinci (already famed at 52) painted a portrait of Lisa, the
24-year-old wife of a merchant. Much later, the Mona Lisa would be the world’s most
famous painting, hanging in the Louvre almost non-stop since 1797.

But two years ago, news surfaced of a near-identical
painting, stored in a vault and facing rigid scientific study. Is one a fake?
Was one made by a protégé? Does the Louvre have the improved version, done by
da Vinci closer to his death in 1519? There’s no answer here, but it’s a
fascinating journey.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bridge” season-opener, 10 p.m.,

The brilliant first season ended with both cops (one in El
Paso, the other in Juarez) mourning murders -- Sonya’s sister long ago, Marco’s
son recently. Marco’s marriage has crumbled; Sonya (brilliant, but lacking
social instincts) meets a link with her past. Now they’ll get a new,
international mystery.

Meanwhile, old issues continue. Eva – rescued after being savaged
in Juarez -- tries for a new life in the U.S. The Quintana house, where $60
million in drug money was found, draws the focus of some of the show’s best
characters, including El Paso Times reporters and a darkly diligent mystery

Other choices include:

“America’s Got Talent” (NBC) and “So You Think You Can
Dance” (Fox), 8-10 p.m. “Talent” continues its auditions, while “Dance” nudges
into its first eliminations. Tonight, all 20 finalists dance; then we learn
which ones were endangered by viewer votes last week and see the judges send
two home.

“The Middle,” 8 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds
Frankie trying to bring order to her life by only taking kids’ requests during
“office hours,” 5-6 p.m. The second has Mike bonding with his shiftless brother
(Norm Macdonald) during a road trip to Brick’s spelling bee in Chicago.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Phil has found a productive
(and time-consuming) real-estate target – recently divorced women. Also, Cam
concocts a fake funeral for the non-existent wife of Larry the cat.

“Klondike,” 9-11 p.m., Destination America. Six months after
its Discovery Channel debut, this miniseries – set in the 1890s gold rush –
gets a three-week rerun on a sister channel.

“Motive,” 10 p.m., ABC. Vega is pulled away from his father’s
wedding, to probe a skydiver’s death.

“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Last week’s
so-so episode ended with Leo, the taxi-driver, being arrested and targeted for
deportation. Now Cat – the cop who uses him as her driver – must clear that up
while probing the murder of his friend, a Holocaust survivor

TV column for Tuesday, July 8

TONIGHT’S MUST SEE: “The 90s: The Last Great Decade?” finale,
9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

Rippling through the decade’s final years was Bill Clinton’s
ability to escape all crises. Some Republicans (Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani)
say here that their party pushed the sexual controversy too far; Democrats
actually gained six House seats in 1998 and Gingrich resigned as Speaker.

Monica Lewinsky – looking great, sounding smart, still
claiming to be a victim – has extensive time here. Others include a guy whose start-up
( made him $100 million in one Wall Street day, then lost it all.
Eight of the 19 Web sites that took Super Bowl ads in 2000 no longer

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 and 9
p.m., Fox.

Two big, splashy Fox shows -- “Riot” and “I Wanna Marry
‘Harry’” – crashed quickly. That’s bad news for people who hate reruns … and
good news for those who like any show (rerun or not) that’s clever.

Tonight’s first episode sees people adjusting to the return
of Boyle, now a wounded hero. The second, a good one, has a birthday party at
the captain’s home; at first, the cops makes a terrible impression.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Night Shift,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

This hour has all the show’s usual flaws, with absurdly
amped-up stories. There’s a lap dance, parents who resist the obvious and one
of the stupidest crooks in TV history.

But it also shows why “Night Shift” has been a ratings
success, with high-octane stories involving ex-military doctors. And the final
moments set up next week’s emotional season-finale.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Drunk History” and “Nathan for You,”
10 and 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

First, a funny “History” has tales that are true, but
loosely told by drunken comedians. We see the creator of the Statue of Liberty,
who kept having his gift rejected. We see heroic reporter Nellie Bly and a
16-year-old girl who rode 40 miles (twice as long as Paul Revere), to say the
British were coming,

Then comes an odd half-hour. The first half simply seems
cruel, as Nathan Fielder tricks people into buying things at a Hollywood gift
shop, thinking they’re extras in a movie. The second half, however, is a
delight, as Fielder schemes to turn the footage into a short and get an award
at a makeshift film festival.

Other choices include:

“Pretty Little Liars,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. The show’s 100th
episode sees Alison return to school.

“NCIS: Lost Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Sam and
Deeks facing the aftershocks of their ordeal. Nate Getz (Peter Cambor), an
operational psychologist, returns.

 “The Mindy Project,”
9:30 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Danny tricks Mindy into meeting his dad.

“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX. After the first two taut episodes, things
slow down as Bassam (known as Barry in Pasadena) helps his brother take over as
ruler of their native land. Then the story picks up, especially in intelligent
moments with his American-born wife (Jennifer Finnigan), who is also a doctor.

“Restaurant Startup” debut, 10 p.m., CNBC. Fresh from two
“Shark Tank” reruns, CNBC launches a show that borrows from that format. Joe
Bastianich and Tim Love hear two restaurant pitches, choose one for a try-out
and consider investing. The OK opener ranges from a kitchen fire to a tardy

TV column for Monday, July 7

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

Recent episodes may have been a breeze for Andi Dorfman;
it’s easy, we’re told, to fall in love in old Europe. Tonight comes the key
step – meeting the final four guys in their natural habitats.

For Dorfman, 27, an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, that
includes one huge jump: Chris, 32, is an Iowa farmer. The other three visits may
be less dramatic: Nick, 33, sells software in Chicago; Marcus, 27, is a sports
medicine manager in Dallas; Josh, 29, is a former pro baseball player from Atlanta.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “24,” 9 p.m., Fox.

With only 12 episodes (not 24) to save the world, this
edition has moved quickly. It ends next week.

Tonight, Audrey scrambles to open diplomatic channels that
might prevent war. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer teams with Mark Boudreau
(chief-of-staff to the late president, Audrey’s father) and Kate (the tough CIA
agent), trying to catch the villains in time.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The ‘90s: The Last Great Decade?”
9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

Sunday’s opener was filled with bubbly enthusiasm. The
mid-section of this three-night documentary series goes the opposite way: It
starts with the disastrous Waco, Texas, raids that triggered a burst of
anti-government paranoia; it continues through the Oklahoma City bombing on the
raid’s anniversary.

That’s in a disturbing stretch, that granges from homophobic
murder to the rise of Jerry Springer’s talk show. For this stretch, few people
will think of it as a great decade.

Other choices include:

“Home and Family,” noon to 2 p.m., Hallmark. A “Christmas in
July” week begins, with decorations in the house and snow in the yard. The
hosts discuss holiday fashions – why wait to the last minute? – and building
your own front-yard nutcracker. They talk with Kellie Martin about “The
Christmas Ornament,” a likable 2013 film that reruns at 4 p.m. Saturday and
noon Sunday, with other holiday films nightly.

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. Contestants create a “surf-and-turf”
dish and create spring rolls.

“Switched at Birth,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. The families were
startled by the heartbroken Toby’s sudden moving to Iceland. Now he’s back,
with a new career goal. Meanwhile, Bay’s college plans are thrown
off-kilter;  also, Regina’s support of a
development project creates another crisis.

“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Even after an ankle injury, Christy
refuses to admit she needs her mom’s help.

“Beauty and the Beast” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. Here’s
some disturbing news for Cat: An old journal seems to say she must kill Vincent
in order to save Gabe.

“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. Last week’s season-opener
gave “Dome” a helpful makeover. It added depth to “Big Jim” Rennie and had his
son resist him; it added key characters – a handsome loner (Eddie Cahill) and a
smart science teacher (Karla Crome). The latter is important tonight,
discovering a danger to the town’s food supply. Dale “Barbie” Barbara joins her
scramble to find a solution.

 “Mistresses,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Harry shows up in two stories tonight: Savi is ready to sign their
divorce papers, then has an epiphany; also, he gives startling news to her
sister Joss.