TV column for Sunday, July 6

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

For Americans, some decades set their identity quickly. The
2000’s descended into darkness on Sept. 11, 2001; the ‘90s seemed to glow after
the 1991 Gulf War.

Borrowing an Alan Greenspan phrase, the film calls the 1990s
“10 years of irrational exuberance.” The economy prospered; politics followed
the ceaseless optimism of Bill Clinton – here dubbed by Tony Blair, James
Carville AND Newt Gingrich as the best politician of his era. Tonight’s film –
the start of a three-night mini-series – is jaunty and fun, giving equal time
to world crises and Anna Nicole Smith.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Last Tango in Halifax” and “Vicious,”
8 and 10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Ever since triumphing in “I, Claudius” 37 years ago, Derek
Jacobi has been a PBS favorite. At 75, he stars in two short-run series (each
with a six-episode season) that are thorough opposites.

“Halifax” is slow and sweet, with Jacobi and Anne Reid as
people who get together after a 50-year gap; tonight brings their first day of
marriage. “Vicious” is loud and brash, with roommates who have sniped fondly for
decades; in other hands, it would be awful, but Jacobi and Ian McKellan make it

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Musketeers,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC

Others may settle for small stories and small-screen
productions; “Musketeers” tries to create an epic adventure movie each week.

Tonight’s main story would be more than enough, with the
Musketeers arresting a scheming slave-trader. It has clever twists and the gifted
James Callis (Baltar in “Battlestar Galactica”). But there’s another story,
with Athos confronting past pain; it’s played like a sweeping Harlequin
historical novel.

Other choices include:

“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. These reruns see Homer
look at the past and future. First, people ponder old mistakes; his was selling
his Apple stock to get a bowling ball. Then his dad and two others are staying
at the Simpson house; Homer quickly falls into old-guy habits.

“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Almost
a century ago, there were murders at a girls’ school. Now young Endeavour Morse
probes the dreary school, to stop a new round of slayings.

“Reckless,” 9 p.m., CBS. Last week’s opener centered on two
lawyers – a handsome Southerner and a gorgeous Yankee – on opposite ends of a
case involving a cop in a sex tape. That case continues, but tonight they’re
also on the opposite ends of a custody case that turns violent.

“The Last Ship,” 9 p.m., TNT. This tautly terrific series
follows a Navy ship with mankind’s last hope – a scientist who has the sample
and the lab to try to stop a global virus. As last week ended, the ship was
pinned in port by Russians. Some of tonight’s plot twists – especially involving
mid-mission romance – seem contrived. Still, this Michael Bay production is so
sleek and sharp that gripes fade away.

“Witches of East End” season-opener, 9 p.m., Lifetime. All
sorts of spooky things happen tonight, with spells, hallucinations and the open
portal to Asgard. It gets excessive, but is brightened by some fun moments for
both sisters, including a clumsy job interview and a meet-cute feud with a new

“Unforgettable,” 10 p.m., CBS. A champion boxer has been
beaten to death, with no indication he defended himself. Now Carrie probes his
past to see what happened.

TV column for Saturday, July 5

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Here is a rerun rippling with strong emotions. Many of those
involve the villain, a mild-mannered scientist (Robert Sean Leonard of “House”),
causing mass death for intensely personal reasons. There are also strong
emotions for the two lead characters

Liz finally has hints of happiness, now that she’s convinced
her husband was framed. And Red (James Spader) has deep layers of pain; that
becomes clear in the hour’s explosive (literally) finish.

TONIGHT’S CAN-SKIP: “Bad Teacher,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In a burst of baseless optimism, CBS gave this weak comedy
one of its best slots. And in a bit of common sense, it yanked it after five
episodes, shelved it for seven weeks … and now exiles the rest of the episodes
to summertime Saturdays.

Tonight’s first episode has scheming Meredith helping
diligent Ginny finish the yearbook in one day. In the second, she wants to join
the principal’s “Divorced Dudes” groups, in hopes of finding a rich guy.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
(1966), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Onstage, “Woolf” was a blistering powerhouse, the winner of
five Tonys. Then came the Hollywood surprise: The movie version would be
directed by a former comedian (Mike Nichols) known for nimble stage comedies;
it would star fan-magazine royalty, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

A bigger surprise: This became a terrific movie – grueling,
relentless, but well-crafted. It won five Oscars (including Taylor and Sandy
Dennis) and was nominated for eight more, including best picture, Burton,
George Segal and Nichols … who would win the next year for “The Graduate.”

Other choices include:

“The Walking Dead,” all day, AMC. The show’s marathon
continues. The fourth-season opener reruns at 9 p.m. today; 24 hours later,
“Talking Dead” will peek at the upcoming fifth season.

“The Pink Panther” (1963), 8 p.m., BBC America. From the
opening credits – with a clever cartoon character backed by Henry Mancini’s
vibrant music – viewers know this will be fun. It is, with tangled sight gags
and Peter Sellers’ perfect touch. It was be followed by fun sequels and a bad

“Mistresses,” 9 p.m., ABC. “The Assets” has been yanked,
replaced by a rerun of this glitzy show. Savi has a devil-may-care approach
with Zach, while confronting scowls at work, after she and Dominic admitted
their relationship.

“Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a shallow grave, three
bodies have human and animal bite marks.

“Almost Royal,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., BBC America. First is a
new episode of this clever show, with the fake royals visiting Fashion Week in
New York. Then is a rerun of the Texas episode.’

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Paul Rudd hosts this
rerun, with music from One Direction.

TV column for Friday, July 4

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “A Capitol Fourth,” 8 p.m., PBS; most
stations (check local listings) rerun at 9:30.

Each year, this concert offers a splendid mix of music,
fireworks and emotion.

The emphasis is on big voices, the kind that can soar to
crowds sometimes estimated at 500,000; this year, that includes Patti LaBelle,
Jordin Sparks and Broadway belter Kelli O’Hara. There’s much more, including
Frankie Valli, Michael McDonald, country’s Sara Evans. The Muppets, Phillip
Phillips (like Sparks, an “American Idol” champion), the Muppets and Kendall
Schmidt of TV’s “Big Time Rush.”

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “4th of July Fireworks
Spectacular,” 8 p.m., NBC, partially rerunning at 10.

Here’s more music, more fireworks, more spectacle. This is
in New York City, with Nick Cannon hosting.

There’s a country emphasis this year, with Miranda Lambert
and Hunter Hayes … and a youth emphasis, with Hayes, 22, and Ariana Grande, 21.
Lionel Richie also performs in a big, busy night.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Walking Dead,” 9 a.m., AMC.

Here’s an alternate way to celebrate the holidays – a
three-day, 60-hour marathon that AMC bills as a “Dead, White and Blue” weekend.

That starts with the terrific opener, in which a cop awakens
from a coma to find the world overrun by zombies. It continues to 9 p.m.
Sunday, when a new “Talking Dead” previews the fifth season.

Other choices include:

“Life Below Zero,” 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., National Geographic. On
a maybe-steamy holiday, people can enjoy 17 hours of reruns, watching hardy and
likable souls survive in the northern outreaches of Alaska.

Action movies, 5:52, 6:25 and 6:30 p.m., cable. The first
two “Bourne” films (2002) and (2004) rerun , with Matt Damon not sure who he is
or why people want to kill him; the first is at 5:52 p.m. on Bravo, the second
at 8:26 and 10:56 p.m. More action? “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981, 6:30 p.m.,
Spike) is superb; “The Lone Ranger” (2013, 6:25 p.m., Starz) could have been,
if hadn’t stretched on and on.

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. The 16 remaining contestants must
create a masterful dish using canned food. Then this rerun has them work on one
the specialty dishes of previous winners.

“Philly 4th of July Jam,” 8-11 p.m., VH1. This
Philadelphia party is scheduled to include Jennifer Hudson, Ed Sheeran, Nicki
Minaj, Aloe Blacc and Ariana Grande … who’s also scheduled for New York on NBC.

“The Carbonaro Effect,” 8-11 p.m., TruTV. Here are six
reruns of a dandy surprise – a quietly clever show in which Michael Carbonaro
uses his magician skills to create hidden-camera deceptions.

“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. This rerun finds Jack scrambling with two
very different women – Kate, the tough CIA operative, and Chloe, the
techno-whiz – to try to prevent more terrorist attacks from rocking London.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. It always seems to work out in
movies, when someone crashes a wedding and the bride runs away. Alas, this
rerun finds the crasher dead and the bride as the prime suspect.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun returns to a
familiar TV plot – a movie star shadowing a cop, to prepare for a role. This
time, the star is attacked and Danny tries to avoid attention while

TV column for Thursday, July 3

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE (or record): “The Sixties,” 7 p.m. to 2
a.m., CNN.

It’s time to relive large chunks of a decade in one swoop.
This marathon reruns the first half of the Tom Hanks-produced documentary series,
before it resumes next Thursday.

Oddly, the only weak hour is the first one, looking at 1960s
TV; trying to do too much, it does very little. But the ones that follow are
consistently smart and involving. We see the Cuban crises at 8 p.m., the
Kennedy assassination at 9, Vietnam at 11 (ending abruptly in 1968, a year that
will get its own chapter) and civil rights at midnight. A nation transforms in
our living rooms.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “NY Med,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Sure, these real-life patients in New York are interesting.
One needs vital surgery before his wedding; another lost his apartment key, tried
to leap from his fire-escape to the window and missed.

But the medical people are interesting, too. One left Beirut
during the Lebanese civil war; he now treats similar violence in Newark.
Another – a handsome chap dubbed “Brad Pitt” by his colleagues – sees a
homeless patient get an external and internal makeover. And a young nurse
experiences the hospital from the other side, when she learns she’ll need a
pacemaker for the rest of her life.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Bridesmaids” (2011, USA) or “Beverly
Hills Cop” (1984, VH1), both 7 p.m.

There’s a steady flood of people moving from “Saturday Night
Live” to the movies. Often, the films fail has anyone seen “It’s Pat,” “Superstar”
or “Ladies Man”? – but here are two people whose first starring role in a big
movie scored big. Each started with a good script that received an Oscar

Kristen Wiig co-wrote her “Bridesmaids” script; the result
is big, broad and sometimes (like a bad “SNL” sketch) overwrought, but a crowd-pleaser.
“Cop” gave Eddie Murphy a smart script and sharp direction (from Martin Brest);
there’s intensity and great action, alongside Murphy’s great comic touch.

Other choices include:

“Black Box,” 8 p.m., ABC. After winning a competition,
someone loses the ability to sing.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the second
of three terrific episodes with Bob Newhart as an old TV science host. He asks
Leonard for help; a jealous Sheldon befriends Bill Nye, the science guy.

“Undateable,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. The first episode has
Justin’s friends meddling, after they help pay off the debts on his bar. The
second has a lot of jokes about a Web site that rates guys’ sexual performance;
there are a few great lines and a lot of loud, witless ones.

“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. This hour pushes Ryan’s
loyalties to the breaking point. His friend Daniel is held hostage; to save
him, Ryan (a mostly-honest cop) must steal drugs from the evidence room.

“Justified,” 9 p.m., Sundance. Daniel is out of his coma and
back home, not yet aware that the sheriff has arrested someone for his brutal
beating. What follows is surprising and sometimes disturbing, but beautifully
done. The curt perfection of Aden Young in as Daniel is beautifully balanced
here by Abigail Spencer’s emotional performance as his sister, who believes passionately
in his innocence.

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. Watson (Lucy Liu) signs up for a
dating service in this rerun, just as she and Sherlock face a tough case:
Cyber-activists are defending someone who leaked classified information.

TV column for Wednesday, July 2

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m.,

Last week, “Dance” set its 20 finalists. Half are teens (18
or 19), with others up to age 25; three each are from Utah and Miami (always
“Dance” strongholds), with one from Denmark.

Eight are contemporary or jazz dancers, who tend to dominate
the show, but others are richly varied. Four list Latin ballroom as their prime
focus, with two each for tap, ballet and ballroom, plus ones with hip hop and
popping. They’ll eventually have to try other styles, but not now. Tonight,
each person can dance in his or her style, then viewers vote, with the first
elimination coming next week.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Middle” and “Modern Family,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC.

Two season-openers rerun, offering key education firsts. On “Family,”
it’s Lily’s first day of pre-school, Manny and Luke’s first day of high school;
on “Middle,” it’s Axl’s day of moving to college.

Complicating things further on “Family,” it’s Cam’s first
day of a substitute-teaching job … which sort of makes this Mitchell’s first
real day as a stay-at-home dad.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mystery Girls” and “Young and
Hungry,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC Family.

These comedies, which debuted last week, have a lot in
common. Both have former teen stars playing women starting new jobs; both have
an effeminate assistant, aimed at extra laughs.

The difference? The “Hungry” assistant (Rex Lee of
“Entourage”) is perfect; the “Girls” one (Miguel Pinzon) is horribly
overwrought. The “Hungry” star (Emily Osment of “Hannah Montana”) is excellent
as a young chef, tonight accused of theft; one of the “Girls” stars (Tori
Spelling as a private eye) takes a broad character and makes her broader.
Tonight, she ducks stake-out duty and probes a glitzy club.

Other choices include:

Movies, 7:45 and 8 p.m., cable. Two movie masters have
popular films tonight – Steven Spielberg with “Jaws” (1975) at 7:45 p.m. on AMC
and Francis Coppola with “The Outsiders” (1983) at 8 on Sundance; the latter is
a richly emotional teen film, with Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and many
more, including (briefly) Tom Cruise. Also at 8, IFC has “L.A. Confidential”
(1997), a stylish crime tale.

“Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. It’s time for the season’s first
power-of-the-veto competition.

“The Goldbergs,” 8:30 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. The first rerun
finds the mom distraught about a Halloween with none of her kids
trick-or-treating. The second has Pops (George Segal) trying to work with

“Motive,” 10 p.m., ABC. Here’s a rerun of the season-opener,
with a clever plot involving a pair of “suicides” that are starting to look
like murder.

“Hot in Cleveland,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., TV Land. New episodes
air back-to-back. First, Joy’s boss (Tim Daly) pines for Melanie … who’s dating
a rich guy (Chevy Chase) to help Elka’s political campaign. Then a storm
strands the women with undesirables, including Victoria’s island boyfriend (Rob

“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Somehow, bad-acting is
contagious here. In last week’s opener, that centered on the two stars;
tonight, it also infects the guest stars. 
Add in a dull story and clumsy dialog and you’ll find that a few chases
(on foot and by car) aren’t enough to create a good cop show.