TV column for Thursday, June 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Astronaut Wives Club” debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

In the 1960s, NASA
nurtured its image: The astronauts were sturdy, their wives were
diligent, all were generic. In truth, this series says, the wives
ranged from shy, stuttering Annie Glenn to Rene Carpenter, a flashy
blonde who would become a post-divorce feminist and media star.

Trudy Cooper was a
pilot who had already left her husband once. Louise Shepard, the
centtral character here, was steel-willed, overlooking infidelity and
staying married for 53 years. They're a deep and varied bunch, part
of a fairly solid start to a promising series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
: “Mistresses” season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

In one night, we can
see a show switch identities. The first hour is overwrought soap
opera, as usual. Jos has walked out on her wedding, to lust with her
sister Savi's ex-husband. Savi has over-reacted wildly. Karen has a
dictor's-office scene that's horribly written and played.

Then, somehow, the
second hour gets looser and lighter. It adds key regulars – one
(Jennifer Esposito) is rich and vengeful; the other is a hapless
soul, trying to watch his sister's son. Meanwhile, Jos – tragic and
teary the first hour – returns to be frantic and funny, fitting the
show's new tone.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Complications,” 9-11 p.m., USA.

For years, USA
thrived on a basic formula – blue-sky adventures, most of them
wrapping up a story each hour. Now it tries (with partial success)
something much more complex.

Dr. John Ellis
(Jason O'Mara) is an emergency-room doctor, unsure about his life.
Then he steps in to save someone after a shooting. Soon, he's pulled
into gang warfare and tangled ethical dilemmas.

Other choices
include:

Golf, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox. Halfway through its 10-week run, “Wayward Pines” takes a
week off so the U.S. Open can start its primetime push.

“Big Bang Theory,”
8 p.m., CBS. On one level, this is a typically funny rerun; the
comic-book store is re-opening, Penny fumes at Amy, the guys say
they've seen Nathan Fillion, star of the old “Firefly” show. On
the other, Howard gets a jolting call, a reminder that this show has
a solid, human core.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. At a wedding, the guys have opposite goals in this
rerun. Oscar wants to link with an old flame; Felix hopes to convince
his ex-wife (Christine Woods) he's changed.

“Aquarius,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week ended with Hodiak (David Duchovney) and his
ex-girlfriend retrieving her 16-year-old daughter from Charlie
Manson's turf. That still leaves the question of whether she'll stay:
Tonight ends with some fiercely overwrought moments; before that, it
adds black activists who are – like almost everyone in this
one-note mini-series – crabby and dull-witted.

“The Seventies,”
9 p.m., CNN. This series debuted last week with a look at 1970s TV;
it was quick and slick and not too deep. Not to worry: The previous
series (“The Sixties”) also opened with a fairly thin porttrait
of television, then got much better. Tonight's hour views Richard
Nixon's Watergate woes.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the episode that introduced Sara Rue as
the new (and wealthier) girlriend of Christy's ex-husband. Ed Asner
guests as the neighbor.

“Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. The murder of a brilliant bio-engineer seems linked
to a a drug cartel. Also in this rerun, Sherlock and Watson are
reluctant to share their secrets.

TV column for Wednesday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

A weak night for
other shows happens to be a varied one for movies. Families have
“Bolt” (2008) on Disney, an animated delight about a dog actor
who thinks he really is a superhero; grown-ups have “Get On Up”
(2014) on HBO, the James Brown story. After mastering the contained
power of Jackie Robinsin in “42,” Chadwick Boseman is just as
good as the uncontained and vibrant Brown.

And for
summer-movie-style action? There's “Captain America” (2011) on FX
(repeating at 10:30 p.m.) and “The Matrix” (1999) on IFC.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

On any summer
Wednesday, ABC's comedy reruns are a strong choice. This one finds
Alex (the studious one) visiting the Cal Tech campus; her mom tries
to convince her to go there, but the other Dunphys are out of their
element; soon, they're taking part in psychology tests.

Meanwhile, Jay and
Gloria disagree about anniversary presents; Cam and Mitchell pose for
a picture.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rambo” (1985) and “Deutschland 83” debut, 9 and
11 p.m., Sundance.

A generation ago,
the capitalist and communist worlds seemed doomed to battle. First,
here's Sylvester Stallone's classic, mastering the art of high-octane
action; then is the German perspective.

That starts with
Ronald Reagan's 1983 “evil empire” speech. Germans expect the
U.S, to hit Russia with a nuclear attack, spilling into their land.
An East German soldier is pressured into posing as the new aide for a
West German general. This is no match for the subtle brilliance of
“The Americans”; also, its sub-titles are a problem during heavy
dialog. Still, it gives us fresh views of a troubled world.

Other choices
include:

“I Can Do That,”
8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun from last week, celebrities try to master
archery (with Ben Blacque), jumping-rope (Double Dutch) and more
(Blue Man Group).

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. It's college-visit rerun day on ABC. Sue visits colleges
with her dad, while her mom goes to Axl's first college football
game. That leaves no one to help Brick with his project.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. When Erica's dad quits letting her use the car, she
has an extreme solution – buying a creepy-looking van with her
brother Barry. Also in this rerun, their brother Adam isn't happy
about his image, after the yearbook names him “nicest guy.”

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Trying to be pals again, ex-lovers Riley and
Ben compete at hooking up in a bar. They choose gorgeous people –
her target is played by Eddie Cibrian – and have quick
repercussions. The result is funny – despite the usual excesses –
and has long-range impact.

“Skin Wars,” 9
p.m., Game Show Network. Last week's dandy opener (rerunning at 8
p.m.) had gifted artists doing body-painting based on chess pieces.
Now they create camouflaged humans.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a woman's electronic devices seem to show she
was alive for three days affter her official cause of death.

“Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes,” 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This sort of comedy
propelled Marilun Monroe. She's teamed with Jane Russell and sings
“Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.”

 

TV column for Tuesday, June 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m,, CW.

If you missed this
the first time around (hey, a lot of people did), don't fret. It will
be back this fall and it now is rerunning from the start.

Rose McIver -- a
terrific New Zealand actress who was Tinker Bell in ABC's “Once
Upon a Time” -- plays Liv, an intense medical resident with no time
for fun. She tries one party and, of course, confronts zombies; now
she is one. Working in the morgue, she acquires some of the traits of
the people she chomps ... and also learns hints of their murder. It
sounds goofy, but it's surprisingly well-done.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Sports overload, 7:45 p.m. ET, Fox, and 9 p.m. ET, ABC.

This is a rarity –
two major events on broadcast networks on a Tuesday.

Fox has soccer, with
the Women's World Cup; the U.S. faces Nigeria, in its last game
before the elimination round-of-16 begins. And ABC has basketball,
with game six of the best-of-seven championship, preceded by Jimmy
Kimmel at 8 p.m. and a preview at 8:31. This one is in Cleveland; if
needed, the seventh will be Friday at Golden Stage.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

When this began a
year ago, Barry Al-Fayeed was a Pasadena pediatrician, married to
another doctor, with two kids and a comfy life. He reluctantly
visited his homeland for the first time in 20 years. By the end of
the season, he was facing execution for trying to overthrow his
brother's corrupt regime.

That's where we
start, in an hour that's both bizarre and emotional. What began as a
shaky story, with overwrought characters, has deepened, with richly
layered people played with subtlety and skill.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Ken Burns splendid documentary
rerun (which concludes next week) reaches its peak point. Physically
deteriorating, Franklin Roosevelt rallies a nation that's unprepared
for world war.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Auditions continue.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a gifted Navy research scientist has been killed.
With Russians probing the same case, the team links with the FBI.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the first crossover episode.
When a prisoner vehicle crashes, four prisoners escape. Pride (Scott
Bakula) needs information from Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

“Stitchers,”
9:01 p.m., ABC Family. Cameron's neighbor is the victim of a murder
that might have been intended for him. Now the team sets up a
stakeout at his apartment.

“I Can Do That,”
10 p.m., NBC. It's time to learn some more strange skills – the
puppetry of “Avenue Q,” the martial arts of Board Breakers and
the bizarre, shape-shifting dance skills of Pilobolus

“Proof” debut,
10 p.m., TNT. Dr. Carolyn Tyler (Jennifer Beals) has seen her life
crumble. Here teen son died, her marriage to another doctor (David
Sutcliffe) has broken up and there's a growing gap with her daughter.
Then a patient (Matthew Modine), who is a tech-billionarie, convinces
her to look into issues of the afterlife. In the opener, an
8-year-old says she met dead relatives during a coma.

TV column for Monday, June 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Whispers," 10 p.m., ABC.

Last week ended with
Claire (the FBI's child-psychology expert) facing a startling
possibility: The amnesiac “John Doe” -- the one manipulating
kids into tragedies – may be her husband, a military pilot who was
believed to be killed in a crash.

Now he has a doctor
at gunpoint, headed toward an unstated target. Claire's in pursuit,
alongside the guy whose affair ruined her marriage. Yes, it's
complicated; it's also a taut story, building well.

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

With its new “street
vs. stage” theme, this show has been off to a great start. The
Memphis and Detroit stops, in particular, have shown off great
street-dancers ... including styles that were created there.

Still remaining are
two towns where street- and stage-dancing both shine – Los Angeles
(where judge Paula Abdul got her start by choreographing the Laker
Girls and the Jacksons) and New York City. Tentative plans have Los
Angeles this week.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “UnReal,” 10 p.m., Bravo.

The first couple
weeks rippled with bad behavior by everyone at this fictional version
of a “Bachelor”-style show. Now we meet some of the back stories
that have it sort of make sense.

For Rachel (Shiri
Appleby) – brilliant, broke, alcoholic and manipulative – it's a
mother who's a rich and domineering psychiatrist. For Quinn
(Constance Zimmer), her boss, it's an unpromising affair with the
show's matrried producer (superbly played by Craig Bierko). With
their own lives in tatters, these people try to maneuver fragile
young women for ratings and profit.

Other choices
include:

“Texas Rising,”
1-11 p.m., History. Here's a chance to catch the full mini-series in
one gulp. The opener, which starts right after the Alamo, is at 1
p.m.; other reruns are at 3, 5, and 7. That leads to the finale at 9
p.m., a new episode with Sam Houston (Bill Paxton) pondering his
post-revolution life.

“Goodfellas”
(1990), 7-10 p.m., AMC. Martin Scorsese's Mob classic includes Robert
De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Breacco and Ray Liotta ... who also
narrates the docudrama that follows at 10 p.m.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Before catching the fictional
version on “UnReal,” see the real show ... which is starting to
seem unreal. Last week, Nick Viall – who was runner-up last year,
then boasted about sex with the bachelorette – suddenly begged to
be added this year. Somehow, Kaitlyn Bristowe agreed; tonight, he's
confronted by the other men. Then the party moves to San Antonio.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun finds mild-mannered Walter arrested for a Las
Vegas robbery. Now the rest of the team must find a way to clear him.

“Major Crimes,”
9 p.m., TNT. The season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.) saw Rusty face a
decision from Raydor. Tonight, he tries to identify a victim; the
team tackles a tangled case of love and murder.

“Independent
Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In 1975, a Boulder.
Col., county clerk, feeling that gay-rights and women's-rights were
linked, granted marriage licenses to gay couples. The federal
government disagreed and Tony Sullivan (an Australian) received a
denial – including a harsh slur-word for gays – to his
naturalization request. That launched a 40-year struggle, emotionally
told here.

“The Making of the
Mob” debut, 10 p.m., AMC. Over the next seven weeks, this docudrama
will trace the rise of the Mob in the U.S. Its story starts with
Lucky Luciano coming to New York.

“Odd Mom Out,”
10 p.m., Bravo. These rich folks fret about admission standards for
kindergarten AND for a cemetery. There's funny material here, but the
mistake is casting Jill Kargman as a perverse version of herself. A
better actress could have made this soar.

TV column for Sunday, June 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Game of Thrones” season-finale, 9 p.m., HBO (rerunning at 11:31)
and/or “Lord of the Rings” films, TNT.

Hollywood once
seemed to have only two modes – small-and-skillful movies or
large-and-loud-and-lame ones. Then a new generation of filmmakers
created smart epics; two examples arrive tonight.

If you have HBO,
you're probably planning on “Thrones”; Stannis' army is on the
march and Daenerys – fresh from her first dragon ride – is
surrounded by strangers. And if you don't have HBO, catch Peter
Jackson's “Rings” trilogy (8 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) and
his “Hobbit” (2012) at 8 p.m.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Basketball, 8 p.m. ET, ABC.

Things return to the
Golden State home court, where the Warriors – in the finals for the
first time in 40 years – are hungry for a win. After having the
NBA's best regular-season record, Stephen Curry's team breezed
through the play-offs ... until colliding with LeBron James'
Cleveland Cavaliers.

That's preceded by a
Jimmy Kimmel special at 7 p.m. and a preview at 7:31.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Crimson Wing” (2008), 8-10 p.m., NatGeo Wild.

Tanzania's Lake
Natron might seem like a desolate spot; it dries up so quickly that
salt islands remain. Somehow, flamingos decide that's the perfect
place to court, to mate and to hatch their babies.

“Wing” is part
of Disney's splendid nature-film series, which finally has a TV home
with NatGeo. Each of the annual films is beautifully done; this one
is alternately gorgeous (an estimated million soaring birds), creepy
(predators stalk) and funny, with stick-legged creatures walking in
unison.

Other choices
include:

“Love Finds You in
Charm,” 3 p.m., UP. Fueled by Jane Austen romances, a young Amish
woman wonders about the outside world of “Englishers.” Visiting
Charm, Ohio, she meets two fine-looking Englisher specimens (played
by Trevor Donovan of “90210” and Tiffany Dupont of “Greek”).
“Charm” starts slowly and rushes its finish, but the rest is
likable and ... well, charming.

“Crash” (2005)
and “American Beauty” (1999), 6:30 and 9 p.m., Sundance. Here's a
chance to catch two best-picture Oscar-winners, each a portrait of
modern life; “Beauty” repeats at 11:30.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Lisa writes a town anthem; also, Homer's new cause is
“wide pride.”

“Southern
Uncovered,” 8 p.m., Ovation. On the next six Sundays, Matt and Ted
Lee will show a hip side to traditional Southern cities. In this fun
view of their home town of Charleston, S.C., they visit a graffiti
artist, a homestyle chicken place and a guy who ages wine underwater
in the harbor. We also see them finally learning (really) to dance
the Charleston in Charleston.

“A.D.,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. After a perilous start, this new Christian religion is making
progress. James strikes a compromise with Caiaphas, the Jewish leader
... Paul gains followers after he resurrects Tabitha ... and the
Ethiopian backer of the Zealot army converts to Christianity.

“CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun – the apparent return of
the Gig Harbor killer – was the second with Patricia Arquette as
cyber-expert Avery Ryan. The character soon starred in “CSI: Cyber”
... which returns this fall, with Ted Danson moving there from the
cancelled “CSI.”

“American
Odyssey,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Held captive in North Africa, Odelle is
forced to confront the effects of her recent past. In New York, Peter
reaches a low point, professionally and personally. Meanwhile,
Harrison is vacationing with Ruby, who originally had been scamming
him.