TV column for Friday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“O.J.: Made in America,” 9-11 p.m. ET, ESPN.

After pausing for
one night, ESPN wraps ups this ambitious documentary mini-series. The
first two episodes reflected O.J. Simpson's immense success in
football, movies and TV, contrasting it with growing unrest in black
neighborhoods. The third (rerunning at 7 p.m. ET today) included his
arrest.

Now comes the trial,
including a bizarre moment: Before the jury visited his home, lawyers
removed photos of Simpson with whites ... replacing then with African
art and photos with blacks.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Here's the second
half of a rerun that started last Friday. In Russia, Sam, Callen and
Anna (Russian-born actress Bar Paly) try to help her father and his
CIA companion break out of prison.

Also, there's a
milestone of sorts for Callen (Chris O'Donnell). Raised in an
orphanage, he never had a first name, except for the letter “G.”
Now – after 159 episodes – he learns what it stands for.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “What Would You Do?” season-opener, 9 p.m., ABC.

The world really
wants us to watch a reality show tonight. In the same slot are reruns
of “MasterChef” on Fox, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” on CW
and a new “Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars” on WE.

But this one, from
ABC News, stands out because it offers interesting human insights. It
has actors fake different situations – anything from a spat to a
theft – and uses hidden cameras to catch responses. Barring a late
change, it begins its 13-week season tonight.

Other choices
include:

“Black Hawk Down”
(2001), 7-10 p.m., AMC. On June 28, National Geographic will have a
documentary, recounting the remarkable rescue of a U.S. helicopter
crew in Somalia. First, here's another chance to see the movie
version – a tough, high-octane film that won Oscars for its editing
and sound and was nominated for its cinematography and director
Ridley Scott.

“Kevin Hart: I'm a
Grown Little Man,” 7:50 p.m., Comedy Central. On the day that his
movie (“Central Intelligence”) reaches theaters, Comedy Central
reruns three of Hart's stand-up hours. The others are at 8:54 and
9:58 p.m., with the middle one rerunning at 10:50.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This reruns Tuesday's round of auditions.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. Moving to its summer spot on Fridays, this show has a
rerun that puts Detective Villa into a romantic triangle with two
handsome doctors. While chasing a serial killer with Rosie (Morris
Chestnut), she's increasingly drawn to Mike (Taye Diggs).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Professor Danno? It sounds unlikely, but Danny (Scott
Caan) goes undercover in this rerun. A college prof has been killed
and Danny is his replacement.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Things are getting too personal for Det. Danny Reagan
(Donnie Wahlberg) in this rerun: A serial killer is threatening his
family. Meanwhile, his brother Jamie, a street cop, argues with his
superior officer about handling a hostage crisis.

ALSO: There are more
movies, ranging from kids (“The Good Dinosaur, 2015, at 8 p.m. on
Starz) to grown-ups (“Woman in Gold,” 2015, a true story with
fine work from Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, at 10 on Showtime).
And as pledge drives wrap up, some PBS stations (check local
listings) have an excellent George Plimpton profile at 9 p.m. and the
wedding episode of “Vicious” at 10:30.

 

TV column for Thursday, June 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Home Free” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

The first season was
both entertaining and good-hearted. Duos scrambled to build a new
house, unaware of a key twist: The “losers” would get the house
they'd just been working on.

This year, that's
revealed to everyone at the end of the opener. “Home Free” adds
ermotion – each person tries to win a home for a hero – and a
host (former pro quarterback Tim Tebow) to work with builder Mike
Holmes. It also adds reality-show challenges ... so many that we
don't see much building work. This is still a good show – but no
better than the version that has been so drasticsally altered.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Aquarius” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Last summer, NBC
broke all the rules by making the entire season available in advance.
Now it tries another approach – mashing the first three episodes
into a two-hour, commercial-free block.

That's generous, for
a show that has its strengths (a rich, 1960s setting) and flaws (a
hyper approach, pushing everything to the extreme). It takes the real
Charles Manson story, then adds fictional cops, an older one (David
Duchovny) and two young ones who work undercover – with Manson and
as a motorcycle moll. This is a nasty series that even briefly
flashes forward to Manson's massacre.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Basketball, 9 p.m. ET, ABC, with previews at 8 and 8:30.

On Monday, the
Golden State Warriors had a chance at home to take their second
straight championship. But with Draymond Green suspended, they lost
big to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now Green is back
and his Warriors head to Cleveland, leading three games to two. If
they lose again, they'll be home for Sunday's finale.

Other choices
include:

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. When a popular hockey player is killed, Booth ends up back on
the ice, facing an old nemesis. Jeremy Roenick – a popular, 18-year
NHL star – plays the victim's coach.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in which Bernadette
finally tells Howard she's pregnant. He's overcome (as he often is),
but the others celebrate with a night of karaoke.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. Life is complicated when you have a baby: When Jen
cuts her finger and Greg (Colin Hanks) takes her to the hospital,
it's the first alone time they've had in a while. Also, in this
rerun, John takes his granddaughters to a restaurant where the food
is named for feelings.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-winner for “The Help,” returns as
Regina, now insisting she's not really an alcoholic. Also in this
rerun, a sober holiday dance is viewed skeptically.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Cat and Vincent continue to find they can't
simply relax as newlyweds. Instead,they're fighting for their lives.

“O.J.: Made in
America,” 9-11 p.m ET., ESPN. This five-part documentary pauses,
rerunning Wednesday's chapter, with O.J. Simpson being arrested. The
final chapters will be Friday and Saturday.

“Funny Girl”
(1968), 10:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. At the Tony Awards (one
of the year's best shows) Sunday, the crowd was ecstatic about Barbra
Streisand's mere presence. You can see why, in this stunning,
Oscar-winning performance. That's part of a musical marathon worth
recording -- “Gypsy” (1962) at 8 p.m. ET, “A Funny Thing
Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1966) at 1:15 a.m., “Camelot”
(1967) at 3 a.m. and “Oliver” (1968) at 6:15 a.m.

 

TV column for Wednesday, June 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“AFI: Lifetime Achievement Award,” 10 p.m., TNT.

In 44 years, the
award had never gone to a composer ... until now. Logically, it's
John Williams, the master. He's won 22 Grammies and five Oscars –
with 50 Oscar nominations. The American Film Institute's list of the
greatest film scores has Williams at No. 1 (“Star Wars”), 6
(“Jaws”) and 14 (“ET”).

Steven Spielberg –
who has used Williams on 27 films – presented the award. Gustavo
Dudamel and Will Ferrell (really) conducted the orchestra. There were
big laughs for Ferrell, Williams (quoting Spielberg) and Harrison
Ford. Other speakers ranged from George Lucas to Kobe Bryant.

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

A night of ABC
comedy reruns starts with this show's season-opener, as Sue heads to
college. She's excited (as usual), until she has to cut her hair. Her
mom is surprisingly at-ease, but her dad keeps piling on advice about
staying safe.

And her brothers?
Axl finds a way to avoid helping her move. Brick, surprisingly, has a
girlfriend who's trying to nudge their relationship to the next
level.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Jaws” (1975, AMC) or “Catch Me if You Can”
(2002, TNT); 7 p.m.

Before seeing
Williams being honored, savor a movie that features one of his superb
scores.

For “Jaws,” the
music is properly ominous; for “Catch,” it's jaunty and jazzy ...
fitting the true-life story of a guy (Leonardo DiCaprio) who
convinced people he was a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and more.
Spielberg gave it a vibrant feel, aided (as usual) by Williams'
perfect music.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Kingdom,” 9 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T.

It's time for two
gym-mates to colide: Ryan (Matt Lauria) – the quiet, maybe sullen
champ – faces the wildly outspoken Jay (Jonathan Tucker). Some fans
are excited; Alvey (Frank Grillo) – Jay's father, Ryan's
father-figure, the owner of the gym where they both train – is
miserable.

Other emotions
swirl, involving Alicia, a tough fighter, and her shallow sister.
Christina – Jay's mother, Alvey's ex-wife – is even out of rehab
for the night. This is strong drama, superbly played.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. The first two weeks trimmed the field in half, via
entertaining, one-on-one battles. Now the 20 survivors have two
quickie challenges, with Wolfgang Puck as guest judge.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. After being banished beyond the fence, Xander managed to
survive. Now he returns and C.J. leads an expedition to try to gather
more territory. Also, Rebecca puts herself at odds with the
controlling Megan, in order to help a young girl avoid a Wayward
Pines tradition.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Dylan needs a place to stay and Haley figures that could
be at her house. Her dad helps convince her mom to allow it ... then
has his own doubts.

“O.J.: Made in
America,” 9-11 p.m. ET, ESPN, rerunning at 1 a.m. ET. Tuesday's episode
(rerunning at 7 p.m. ET) saw O.J. Simpson in post-football splendor in
Los Angeles suburbia. His image remained strong, despite frequent
police calls from his wife Nicole. Tonight, it all explodes after her
murder.

“Criminal Minds:
Beyond Borders,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun involves a string of
deaths that were originally considered suicide. The team flies to
Japan to launch an investigation.

“Another Period”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Comedy Central. For a horrifying stretch, the
sisters have no home or prestige; they get by on sheer fame, fueled
by beauty and bad behavior. And then, faster than you can say
“Kardashian,” things change again. They meet a more-famous person
(Harriet Tubman) and scheme anew. The result is inconsistent --
sometines overblown and sometimes hilarious.

TV column for Tuesday, June 14


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“O.J.: Made in America,” 7 and 9 p.m., ESPN.

If you missed the
terrific opener (Saturday on ABC), that's no problem: It reruns at 7
p.m. today on ESPN, which produced this documentary mini-series; the
second chapter follows at 9.

The opener reminds
us how dominant Simpson was. The leading rusher in pro-football
history, he was an awesome blend of grace and power. He was vibrant
in commercials and interviews, transcending the era's racial issues.
But his self-image kept growing; the opener ends with Simpson meeting
teen waitress Nicole Brown ... and promptly wanting to get her an
apartment; at 9. their problems build

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“To Tell the Truth” (8 and 10 p.m.) and “Uncle Buck” (9 and
9:30), ABC.

Two old titles
return, somewhat shakily. “Buck” was a delight as a 1989 movie;
now Mike Epps plays the aimless chap, watching his brother's kids. A
sampling indicates it's sort of adequate.

“Truth” has one
person with a colorful tale – and two pretending to be him. It
worked almost non-stop for 25 years, with different hosts (Garry
Moore, Alex Trbek, Merv Griffin and more ... including Mike Wallace
fon the pilot), guests (Dr. Seuss, John Scopes) and imposters (Tom
Landry, Cicely Tyson). Now Anthony Anderson hosts; Tracee Ellis Ross
(his “Black-ish” wife) and Betty White are panelists.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Hotel Hell,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Last week introduced
a gorgeous West Virginia inn and its innkeeper, a retired teacher who
keeps her own clothes in a big cabinet in one of the rooms. She was
amiably daft; the hour was great fun.

Now the fun
vanishes, as Gordon Ramsay rants. “You're ignorant, oblivious and
delusional,” he tells her – accurately but superfluously. There's
a happy ending (as usual), but the road there is torturous.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Animal Kingdom.” 9 and 10:04 p.m., TNT.

Joshua is a smart
17-year-old with a gorgeous girlfriend and sunny surroundings. Then
he moves in with his grandmother and gets a jolt. With her four sons
(one adopted), she's running a crime ring.

That starts a series
– adapted from an Australian movie – that finds the right mix of
adrenaline, fear and (surprisingly) warmth. Ellen Barkin, 62, plays a
sexy grandma who keeps steps ahead of her sons; Scott Speedman
(“Felicity”) is the smart-and-adopted one. They're perfect, but
so are the lesser-known actors. Under former “E.R.” chief John
Wells, they mix humanity with fierce intensity.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Vance (Rocky Carroll), the NCIS director, makes a
rare return to field duty. He and Gibbs probe a murder connected to a
former NCIS agent Vance helped convict.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 8 and 9 p.m., Lifetime. The first new hour involves the
families of Vern Troyer, the 2-foot-8 “Austin Powers” co-star,
and Hines Ward, the Super Bowl and “Dancing With the Stars”
champion. The second has the much-honored Cloris Leachman, 90, and
the once-honored Pia Zadora, 62. Those repeat at 12:02 and 1:02 a.m.,
as part of a marathon from 3 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. After pausing for a week, this show has key plot
developments: A doctor has a possible cure for the virus. Jana and
Suzy push ahead with a plan to escape from the containment zone. And
watching tapes at the hospital, Katie and Jake learn the truth about
“patient zero.”

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder victim is a Navy
pilot who was using a black-market drone to gather military
information.

“Person of
Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. A week from the series finale, Finch is
still trying to stop Samaritan. He's undercover in a high-security
government facility; Reese and Shaw rush to find him.

“Feed the Beast,”
10 p.m., AMC. Maybe this show will eventually run out of woe to pile
onto Tommy (David Schwimmer). So far, the pile just keeps growing.
Last week, he made a false assumption, attacked his father ... and
lost, even though his dad was in a wheelchair. Tonight, things only
get worse.

TV column for Monday, June 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BrainDead” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

In a bizarre
election year, we really need this -- a fresh and fun story about a
Washington, D.C., that has gone mad. Beautifully written and played,
it's terrific even before introducing its fantasy twist.

Laurel (Mary
Elizabeth Winstead) is an idealist who would rather make obscure
documentaries. Instead, she's reluctantly helping her brother, a
cynical senator. To her, Washington is crazed ... and that's before
“BrainDead” starts borrowing plot twists from “Invasion of the
Body Snatchers.” Robert and Michelle King, who created subtle
perfection in “The Good Wife,” now have a less-subtle delight.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Guilt” debut, 9 p.m., Freeform.

The real-life Amanda
Knox case made one thing clear: It can be tough for an American –
especially one who's young and attractive – to face a murder charge
overseas. Now comes a so-so variation.

The problem starts
with Grace, the suspect; her deer-in-the-headlights expressions are
charming for a moment, but soon make her seem like a total airhead.
Thr arrival of her sister, a lawyer, makes things far more
interesting. By then, however, the show is pilung up “Scandal”-style
melodrama. An over-the-top lawyer is tolerable because Billy Zane
plays him so well; a young villain is merely wretched.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Spartan” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

With the success of
“American Ninja Warrior,” networks are scrambling for other
high-octane competitions. Fox had “American Grit”; now the
“Ninja” producers have their own variation.

This one involves
five-person teams – two men, two women and a captain – assembled
from friends, family or co-workers. They scramble through a mile of
mud, water and barbed-wire.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Cilla,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

In early-'60s
Liverpool, Cilla White was working grimly in a typing pool and going
joyously to rock clubs , where her friends the Beatles thrived. She
was a zesty teen with a big voice; Bobby Willis – who worked at a
bakery and claimed to be in the music business – thought she could
become a star.

She did ... at least
in her homeland. Most Americans have never heard of Cilla Black (her
stage name), but her story has immense charm. Even when they argue
fiercely, you'll like Willis and Brian Epstein (the Beatles manager)
and especially, Cilla, a role played and suberbly by Sheridan Smith.

Other choices
include:

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a funny rerun, a parent-teacher conference makes something
obvious to Christy: Her son's life is becoming more linked to her
ex-husband's girlfriend (Sara Rue).

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox. Here's the third and final set of
auditions. Next week, the show – now confined to ages 8-13 --
begins its “academy,” which will lead to choosing the finalists.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. Why are several people being literally scared
to death? Conan Doyle finds a possible answer when a hallucinogen
pushes him toward extreme fright.

Basketball, 9 p.m.
ET, ABC, with previews at 8 and 8:30. The Golden State Warriors are
back home, for the fifth game of the best-of-seven series with the
Cleveland Cavaliers. And yes, that means a week without
“Bachelorette” and “Mistresses.”

“Devious Maids,”
9 p.m., Lifetime. After a few shaky moments, last week's opener
launched some great plot twists: Spence regained his memory, but got
drunk and found the slain body of cruel Perry .... Dani arrived from
Puerto Rico, unaware that her “aunt” is her mother .... Powell
was merely faking his paralysis .... And a handsome neighbor mistook
Zoila (who was merely house-sitting) for the home-owner. Now all of
those move forward, in a slick and entertaining hour.

“Unreal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime. Rachel's promotion didn't last long. Chet is back and
grasping for power; Quinn tries to block him by resuming control of
the show, nudging Rachel aside. Soon, there are separate camera
crews, in an hour that has some good moments and many that are merely
odd.