TV column for Saturday, Aug. 26

“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

On the night after
the inauguration, this “SNL” strained for fun. It opened with
Vladimir Putin -- “We will take good care of the United States;
it's the most expensive thing we've ever bought” -- and closed,
with an interesting change-of-pace: The ballad “To Sir, With Love”
is sung to Barack Obama's photo.

In between, the
emphasis is on silliness, including an oddly funny bit with host
Aziz Ansari as a robot at a kids' arcade. Kate McKinnon has a
vibrant song-and-dance number as Kellyanne Conway and a hilarious
fake ad, joining Bobby Moynihan in a mismatched legal duo. Big Sean
is the music guest.

“In an Instant,” 10 p.m., ABC.

For Kenny Pasten --
an Army veteran, then 29 -- this was supposed to be a one-day mission
in 2015. Joined by his service dog RexiTron and his friend Tiffany
Finney, 21, he would plant an American flag on the 11,000-foot summit
of San Bernardino National Forest. Then a blizzard hit.

Trapped in two feet
of snow, they dug a hole and used the flag for cover. Later, he was
able to climb high enough to get cell-phone reception. It's a
dramatic story – complete with a happy ending, when someone else
found the flag and finished the mission – retold, in shortened
form, in this rerun.

ALTERNATIVE: “Halt and Catch Fire,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at

“I know it doesn't
feel like it,” Joe says to Gordon, “but this is the start of
something.” Certainly, it doesn't feel that way. Their Internet
company has been squashed by the giants. Their ex-partner Cameron is
divorcing and her videogame is on hold; Gordon's ex-wife Donna is big
in financing.

But stick around:
After a slow start, “Halt” has become a surprisingly good series,
starting its fourth and final season. There are fresh surprises in
business and deep moments involving great characters.

Other choices

“Rocky” (1976),
1:30 p.m., AMC. Sylvester Stallone fills our screen today. His
“Rocky” films continue at 4 p.m. (1979), 6:30 (1982) and –
after “Halt” -- 11:08 p.m. (1985) and 1:08 am. (1990). His
“Rambo” films are on IFC at 8 (1985) and 10:15 (1988) p.m. ET,
preceded by the movie that created the character, “First Blood”
(1982) at 6 p.m. ET.
Pro football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS. On Friday, CBS
introduced its top duo, with Tony Romo paired with Jim Nantz.
Tonight, it has Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts working a pre-season game
between what are now the two Los Angeles teams. Last season, the
Chargers (then in San Diego) were 5-11; the Rams were 4-12.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. This reruns the Aug. 14 episode, which
had the top 30 people from the Cleveland regionals. They're competing
for spots in the finals, which start Sept. 4.

Funniest Home Videos,” 8 p.m., ABC. Animals get some attention in
this rerun, including funny goats and a bulldog that eats
nacho-cheese-flavored chips.

Pyramid,” 9 p.m., ABC. Tentatively scheduled is a rerun that has
doctors competing with comedy actors. Mehmet Oz faces Retta; Ken
Jeong (the doctor-turned-actor) faces Dave Foley.

“Elian,” 10 p.m.
ET, CNN (barring breaking news), rerunning at 2 a.m. Here's another
chance to see this balanced and involving story about the passions in
two countries, when Elian Gonzalez, then almost 6, was rescued off he
Florida coast. The film offers empathy for his relatives in Miami,
his father in Cuba ... and Elian, now 23 and an engineer in Cuba.

ALSO, more sports:
The college football season basically begins next weekend, but there
are a few early-starters. Today, the CBS Sports Network has Oregon
State at Colorado State at 2:30 p.m. ET, then South Florida at San
Jose State at 7:30; ESPN has Portland State at Brigham Young at 3
p.m., Stanford at Rice at 10. The big boxing match (Floyd Mayweather
and Conor McGregor) is 9 p.m. ET on Showtime pay-per-view, but its
undercard bouts start at 7 on Fox, with a preview at 6.

TV column for Friday, Aug. 25

Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS.

Tony Romo entered
the pros in obscurity. Undrafted, he spent three Dallas Cowboys
seasons without getting a play from scrimmage. Then he seized the

He was the starting
quarterback for a decade, once having the league's best quarterback
rating. He reached four Pro Bowls and set 17 team records ... on a
team known for quarterbacks. He also dated Jessica Simpson and
married a former Miss Missouri USA. Now, at 37, he's retired; this is
his debut as CBS' lead analyst, with Jim Nantz; it's a pre-season
game, with the Chiefs at the Seahawks.

Reckoning night, Syfy.

This is changeover
time for Syfy, with two season-finales: “Dark Matter” (which is
still unsure if there will be another season) wraps at 9 p.m.;
“Wynonna Earp” (already renewed) is at 10.

Leading into them,
at 8, is the not-quite-finale of “Killjoys,” another show with an
uncertain fate. Once light and bright, it now has a story that's
smart, but tangled – especially now that Dutch deals with her
look-alike adversary, Aneela. Next week's season-finale brings
warfare; first – in what's called “reckoning night” -- people
scheme and prepare. This hour's final moments simply left us

ALTERNATIVE: 1980s movies, cable.

Forget about the
other 1980s stuff -- Wall Street and hair bands and such. The decade
gave us plenty of movies that mixed intelligence with youthful vigor.

Today, AMC has a
string of good ones -- “Crocodile Dundee” (1986) at 1:30 p.m.,
“Goonies” (1985) at 3:20, Francis Coppola's richly emotional “The
Outsiders” (1983) at 6, the delightful “Ghostbusters” (1984) at
8 and its sequel (1989) at 10:30. And if you want more emotion (plus
music and romance), switch to “Dirty Dancing” (1987), at 8:25
p.m. on Freeform.

Other choices

Comedies, any time,
streaming. Chuck Lorre has been the master of mainstream comedy,
producing “Big Bang Theory” and “Mom” for CBS. But now he has
“Disjointed” on Netflix, with Kathy Bates running a legalized pot
shopi n California. That arrives at the same time that “The Tick”
debuts on Amazon ... where you really should catch the recent
“Comrade Detective,” a clever film that pretends to be a 1980s
Romanian cop show, newly dubbed into English.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's show, with a
dozen acts performing; results were announced the next night. There's
one more round next week; over a three-week period, the field will
have been trimmed to 21.

8-10 p.m., Fox. Reality reruns collide. We can switch between NBC's
performers and Fox's home chefs, working with live crawfish and then
with a basic chicken-and-potatoes meal.

Performances at the Met,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). When
“La Traviata” debuted in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi wrote to a friend
that it was a failure. “Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time
will tell.” Time, it seems, has decided this is one of the greatest
operas, when the right soprano is cast. Here is Sonya Yoncheva, whose
performance in this production has drawn raves.

“Whitney: Can I Be
Me?” (2017), 9 p.m., Showtime. After a brief run in theaters,
here's the Whitney Houston documentary. And from 7-9 p.m., Reelz
reruns “Whitney & Bobby: Addicted to Love.”

“Dark Matter,” 9
p.m., Syfy. The season-finale – and, possibly, series-finale of
this well-made show sees the crew uniting Ferrous Corps' enemies, in
an effort to end the corporate war.

“Wynonna Earp,”
10 p.m., Syfy. This season-finale finds Wynonna – who is Wyatt's
great-great-grandaughter – in trouble again. She's desperate to
defeat The Widows before her fate is sealed.

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 24

“Elian,” 10 p.m. to midnight ET (later than originally scheduled), CNN (barring breaking news), rerunning from 2-4 a.m.

This story seemed
designed to stir rage and pain. Elian Gonzalez, almost 6, was in a
boatload of people fleeing Cuba. His mother and her boyfriend
drowned; he was rescued, stirring emotions. His relatives in Miami
wanted him to stay; his father, in Cuba, demanded his return ... and
won in court.

This even-handed
documentary -- rescheduled for an hour later than had been planned -- captures people on all sides. Gonzalez – now 23, with a
college degree, an engineering job and a girlfriend – is critical
of many Americans, but not the young woman (the daughter of his great-uncle) who took care of him in Miami. Her quiet agony is clear, as she describes a time of love and

“Boy Band” finale, 8 p.m., ABC.

The idea sounded
promising, but stumbled in the ratings. “We were feeling there
might have been a larger audience interested in putting together the
next boy band,” said Channing Dungey, the ABC programming chief.
But “it didn't connect with audience in quite the way we had

Tonight, the
five-guy group will be announced and will perform its first single,
“Eyes Closed.” There are eight finalists: Brady Tutton is 15;
Jaden Gray, Sergio Calderon and Marcus Pendleton are 16; Mikey
Jimenez is 17; Michael Conor is 18; and Chance Perez and Drew Ramos
are 19.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Mist” season-finale, 10 p.m., Spike.

As the deadly mist
fills the town, all of the survivors are now inside the mall. Several
died trying to get there, but last week Kevin and Connor arrived;
they're the dads who are pivotal here.

Kevin's daughter
Alex was drugged and raped at a party; her friend Adrian said the
rapist was Jay, the quarterback whose dad (Connor) is the police
chief. Now we know that Adrian is the real rapist; also, he killed
his own dad and almost killed Kevin. There are other liars, including
Gus, the mall manager. He killed Shelley, blamed Alex ... and locked
her up with her mom, Jay and more. Trouble builds.

“Project Runway,” all night, Lifetime.

In a late switch,
Lifetime has apparently ditched its “Date Night Live” and
expanded “Runway.” At 7 and 8 p.m. are reruns of the preview
(introducing the contestants) and last week's season-opener, an
amiable one that let the designers create red-carpet looks.

That leads to the
new episode, from 9-10:30 p.m. This time, the designers split into
teams and dive into discards, lookig for material to recycle.

Other choices

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. As their maternity and paternity leave ends,
Bernadette and Howard have trouble leaving their baby in day care.
This rerun also has a plot similar to one on “Kevin Can Wait”:
The unattractive Bert introduces his girlfriend, played by the
gorgeous April Bowby.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8:31, CBS. Chris Weidman, a former ultimate-fighting champion, plays
the ultra-fit cop who stepped in after the much-less-fit Kevin

“Weekend Update,”
9 p.m., NBC. The first two episodes have had great writing and top
guest bits from Bill Hader, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Tina Fey.
We can expect more fun tonight.

“First in Human”
finale, 9-11:02 p.m., Discovery. This documentary has followed four
cases involving innovative treatment at the government's research
hospital. Tonight brings the final assessments.

“The Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. A SWAT team raid leaves the emergency room filled with
patients ... and with a potential killer. Also, we learn about the
past that Cain (Mark Consuelos) has been hiding.

“Zoo,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Things sometimes get really weird – even by the loose
parameters of an animals-gone -wild tale. Recently, we learned that
the villainous Mr. Duncan is actually Mitch (Billy Burke), one of our
heroes; Abigail implanted something evil. Now he attacks the team's
plane and flees.

TVcolumn for Wednesday, Aug. 23

“The Farthest,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

This was Earthlings'
strongest thrust into space. On Aug. 20 and Sept. 5, 1977, the
Voyager ships were launched. They've continued for 40 years, sending
interstellar information and exceeding all goals.

Beautifully crafted,
this documentary introduces many of the key people. It recalls the
near-failures and the key improvisations. It also views the “golden
record,” designed for outer-space aliens to hear.

“MasterChef,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

As the summer wraps
up, this show takes up a larger chunk of Fox's schedule. There are
two new episodes (instead of the usual one) on Wednesdays, plus
Friday reruns.

This week, the 11
chefs are handed bags of live crawfish and are told to extract as
much meat as possible; the six losers hen face an elimination
challenge. In the second hour, there are 10 survivors; they go back
to basics, tackling a chicken-and-potato challenge.

ALTERNATIVE: “Snowfall,” 10 p.m., FX.

Two weeks from a
powerhouse season-finale, these 1983 stories surge forward. An OK one
has Teddy trying to gently divert a young woman's search for her
sister; he knows she was killed by his Contra-cocaine colleague. A
growing one has Lucia's family learning about her rogue drug

Then there's the
central one, as Franklin ramps up crack sales in his black
neighborhood. There's big money to be made; also, lives will be
shattered, along with (in fierce moments) boyhood friendships.

“Marlon,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

At times, “Marlon”
offers bits of what TV needs – quick-paced, two-generation comedy
taped before an audience. Then, alas, Marlon Wayans breaks into one
of his long, loud bits. The adoring studio audience roars; on a TV
set at home, it just seems absurdly over-the-top.

Tonight's first
episode – Marlon's daughter, 14, likes a guy – has some good
moments. The second – his ex-wife suggests occasional sex – is
really quite awful. The studio audience, however, approved.

Other choices

“The Godfather”
(1972) and “The Godfather, Part II” (1974), all day, AMC. Here
are two of the all-time great films – so good that even the sequel
won the best-picture Oscar. Catch them both at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., or
at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Another great film, “Stand By Me,” is 11
a.m. on Sundance, rerunning at 8 and 10 p.m. on BBC America.

“Nova,” 8 p.m.,
PBS. Two days after the eclipse, we can catch some perspective. This
reruns the special that was mostly done in advance, explaining the
day's science projects; other portions were added, inserting views
from the day.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. On Tuesday, 12 acts performed and viewers
voted. Tonight – including an instant save by viewers – the
second batch of seven advances. There's another next week.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. The first rerun has Mitchell accidentally
spilling the urn containing the remains of Cam's beloved pig. The
second has Phil nudging his father-in-law into joining him on a
real-estate investment deal.

“Salvation,” 9
p.m., CBS. As our heroes scramble to find a way to prevent a deadly
meteor collision, people try to stop them. Grace faces an assassin;
Liam and Darius forge unlikely alliances.

“Criminal Minds,”
10 p.m., CBS. This reruns the season-opener, adding Adam Rodriguez to
the cast. He plays Luke Alvez., fresh from the FBI's fugitive task
force and helping find an escaped convict.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 22

“The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

From the moment
“Supergirl” began, people had pondered the musical possibilities.
The show stars Melissa Benoit, who sang in two “Glee” seasons; it
co-stars Jeremy Jordan, who did four Broadway shows (starring in
three and getting a Tony nomination in “Newsies”) and then TV's

What cinched things
was when the show moved to CW, which has another “Glee” alumnus
(Grant Gustin) as its star. So a two-parter was crafted: On Monday,
the Music Meister (Darren Criss, also of “Glee”) kidnapped
Supergirl; in this fun rerun, she and the Flash are in a
song-and-dance dimension.

“Diana: Her Story” and “Secrets of Althorp,” 8 and 9 p.m.,

As we near the 20th
anniversary (Aug. 31) of Lady Diana's death, overviews continue. Last
week had a new hour on National Geographic and a rerun on CBS; Sunday
brings two Smithsonian Channel hours.

Now PBS steps in.
Its first hour is built around a 1992 video talk that Diana had with
her speech teacher; her comments, sometimes quit frank, are
interspersed with other footage. In the second hour, her brother,
Charles Spencer, offers a tour of the estate where she grew up and is

ALTERNATIVE: “The Bold Type,” 9:01 p.m., Freeform.

Last week was all
about sex (lots of it) and lost romance, as this glitzy drama engages
its young audience. Tonight brings an intriguing detour – a smart
and varied look at life choices.

Lay-off rumors race
through the magazine, as other possibilities appear. Young women face
the uneasy balance between known and unknown, between stability and
adventure. Throw in a tad of romance – especially for Kat, who
likes guys but loves a woman in Paris – and you have an excellent

Other choices

“America's Got
Talent” (NBC) or “Bachelor in Paradise” (ABC), 8-10 p.m. The
summertime reality shows again collide. “Talent” has 12 acts
perform and viewers vote. “Paradise” has two new people arrive,
complicating the sex and romance schemes.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, someone is using terrorism to manipulate the stock

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform, rerunning at 10:02. With understated precision, Bruce
Davison keeps giving perfect performances. He's rarely noticed –
except for a 1991 Oscar nomination for “Longtime Companion” --
but always strong; now Davison, 71, has moving moments as Lena's
father, with warm heart and fading mind. That goes alongside a key
story for Callie and so-so ones for her siblings.

“Great American
Eclipse,” 8 and 11:06 p.m. ET, Science. No, we don't have to forget
about the eclipse already. This channel reruns its Monday-night
special, with footage from the day and a look at any quick results
from experiments; PBS' “Nova” will rerun its Monday special on

“The Mick,” 9
p.m., Fox. Tired of being “the cool aunt,” in this rerun Mick
attempts discipline.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. Until recently, Derek Hough occupied this
cozy slot as a “World of Dance” judge. Now he's back as a
contestant, alongside Darius Rucker, Sherri Shepherd, Andy Richter,
David Feherty and Mel B.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Barring a late change, this reruns the
season opener that added Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) to the
cast. A sniper is targeting crowded events in New Orleans.