TV column for Friday, June 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Greatest Hits” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

The soundtrack of
past decades lacked one thing – modern TV techniques, the sort that
can make a good song seem great. Now that's been added here; each
episode has hits from a five-year period (tonig is 1980-85), boosted
by flashy lights, zesty camerawork and attractive fans leaping
around fervently.

The original artists
do “Footloose” (Kenny Loggins), “Ghostbusters” (Ray Parker,
Jr.), “Bette Davis Eyes” (Kim Carnes) and “Celebration” Kool
& The Gang. Jason Derulo does Michael Jackson's “Human Nature”;
Pitbull joins REO Speedwagon for “Messin' Around,” which he'd
already remade.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Denis Leary thrives
on dark humor. His “Rescue Me” ended with a bizarre
cremation-ashes episode; now this show starts its second season with
another one. That repeats at 11:02, after a 10:32 rerun.

Micki -- a back-up
singer we only met in the pilot episode – has died. Like the
others, she lived a full-throttle rock life. The difference is that
the others got a second chance, with the arrival of Gigi (the
terrific Elizabeth Gillies), the talented daughter Johnny (Leary)
never knew. Micki's death brings a time to ponder life, loss and
deception; there's not much music, alas, but there's strong humor and
drama.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shark Week,” Discovery, and “Shark Fest,”
NatGeo Wild.

Both marathons
started on a busy Sunday – Discovery with lots of new shows, Wild
with two new ones and a sea of reruns. Now, with Wild ending Friday
and Discovery on Sunday, we can still jump in.

Tonight, Discovery's
new hours visit the Bahamas (8 p.m.), the former atomic test site at
Bikini Island (9) and a jungle river of Costa Rica (10). Also at 9,
Wild reruns one of its two new shows, the fairly interesting
“Sharkatraz”: Last year, a Great White was filmed in San
Francisco Bay; that brief scene (repeated here OFTEN) revives the
question of whether sharks made an Alcatraz escape imposssible.

Other choices
include:

“Flower Shop
Mystery: Dearly Depotted” (2016), 5 p.m., Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Here are quick reruns of three recent murder movies,
starring Brooke Shields at 5, Candace Cameron Bure at 7 and Alison
Sweeney at 9.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun, Booth is still missing and Miller (Kim Raver) has
withheld key information that might aid the search.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a previous episode, Raj broke up with
Emily to date someone else ... who, alas, wasn't available. Now Emily
has reached out to him; his female friends offer advice. Also in this
rerun, Howard is reluctant to join a patent partnership with Sheldon
and Leonard.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. When viewers first met Matt, he was single, sad and
living in his parents' garage. Now his ex-wife (Brenda Song, a former
Disney Channel star) visits; also in this rerun, Matt and his dad try
to re-introduce their widowed neighbor (Martin Mull) to the dating
scene.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. When this season started, Vincent and Cat
finally seemed safe. Not so; tonight, they go into hiding and he gets
a vision of what her life would be without him.

“Preacher,”
9-11:35 p.m., AMC. The first two hours of this series were both
compelling and perplexing. Now they're repackaged here, alongside
extra footage trying to provide insight into Jesse the preacher.

“Aquarius,” 10
p.m., NBC. At the core is a bizarre bit of history: Charles Manson
stayed with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys ... who introduced him to
Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son) at what was later the site of the
Manson murders. Now that's wrapped around fictional charcters Hodiak
and Emma.

TV column for Wednesday, June 29


 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Gothic,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week's opener
introduced some interesting characters ... and then a jolt. Madeline
(Virginia Madsen), the matriarch, quietly squeezed a hospital tube,
killing her husband.

Was this because he
was the long-ago serial killer? Or because someone else was and he
might tell? We don't know, but tonight's episode has some strong
moments ... and some flaws. There's Madeline's son-in-law (a cop),
frantically racing across town -- apparently unaware of how
telephones work; and her grandson, who's morbidly obsessed. They ring
false, in an otherwise involving tale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Night Shift,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

With Olympic
swimming trials as a solid lead-in at 8 p.m., this show stacks two
new episodes. Each has T.C.'s wayward sister (Sarah Jane Morris of
“Brothers and Sisters”) causing trouble.

The second hour is
set during a San Antonio heat wave; tempers are frayed ... and then
the hospital's air-conditioning fails. Meanwhile, Jordan (Jill Flint,
who was also a doctor in “Royal Pains”) tries to relax by, of
course, going to a wrestling match; soon, she's treating injuries
there.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m., Fox.

We start with a
flashback, showing how the valley – once full of the aberrant
creatures (“abbies”) that evolved after the apocalypse – was
cleared so Wayward Pines could build its wall. Inside are the last
humans on Earth – 1,178 of them. “There are no more second
chances for mankind,” we're told.

And this chance is
shaky, as Abbies attack. With its founder dead and his protege
tenuous, Pines wobbles. Dr. Yedlin has plenty of personal problems,
what with his wife marrying someone else while he was frozen; now he
also sets up an overtaxed emergency ward, in a tough, solidly made
episode.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last summer's champion was Claudia Sandoval, an events
planner in San Diego. Now her cookbook -- “Claudia's Cocina,”
reflecting her Mexican roots – is out; tonight, she chooses the
“mystery box ingredients” that the 17 contestants must use,
creating a dish in 60 minutes.

“Big Brother,” 8
p.m., CBS. The season's second week begins, with lots of twists in
place. After announcing the 12 housemates (most of them young and
attractive), the show suddenly added four favorites from the past –
James Huling and Da'Vonne Rogers from last season, Nicole Franzel
from 2014 and Frank Eudy from 2012; it also split people into four
teams of four.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. For now, this likable show is starting two nights for ABC
– Wednesdays (its longtime home) and Tuesdays (where it will be
next season). In tonight's rerun, Frankie worries about changes in
Mike and consults Rev. TimTom.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. Danny, the hockey star, is supposed to pretend
to date an actress, to boost publicity for both of them; Riley
retaliates by dating Ross. Meanwhile, Bonnie wants Ben to pretend to
be her husband, so her work colleagues will think she's with a
younger man.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. With Phil visiting Alex at her college, Claire decides
this is the perfect time to lure ducklings out of their nest. Also in
this rerun, Mitchell needs help with Lily's sleepover.

“Dating Naked”
season-opener, 9 p.m., VH1, rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. On Bora
Bora, two strangers begin this no-frills, no-clothes approach. Soon,
more choices arrive; she meets a lifeguard and he meets a nurse and
bodybuilder.

“Greenleaf,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 1 a.m. The show's first
three episodes (rerunning from 7-10 p.m.) centered on Grace,
returning home to the big church her father runs. Now she faces
blackmail involving her late sister. Another sister has trouble
keeping a secret. Their wayward brother and his ambitious wife try
couples counseling.

TV column for Tuesday, June 28


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

In our overcrowded
world, this is what we dream of – a lakeside summer camp, dark and
quiet and ... well, ominous. “No cars, no phones, no weapons, no
lock on the doors .... They wouldn't find the bodies for days,” one
guy says helpfully. Clearly, it's “Friday the 13th” turf.

“Dead” has the
terrific Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”) as the owner, surrounded by
newcomers. Some are appealing – especially Elizabeth Lail, who was
Anna (the “Frozen” princess) in “Once Upon a Time” -- as
troubled ingenue Amy. Some characters (especially the workman) ring
false, but it's a solid start.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Zoo” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., CBS.

CBS has already
debuted two surprisingly good shows (“BrainDead” and “American
Gothic”) in the 10 p.m. slots Mondays and Wednesdays. Now it has
“Zoo,” a ratings success last season, between them.

A virus had turned
animals vicious worldwide. Tonight, Jackson (James Wolk) and others
scramble to save Jamie (Kristen Connolly) and the leopard whose DNA
may hold a cure.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “No Man Left Behind,” 9 p.m., National Geographic.

Blending
first-person accounts, re-enactments and news footage, this series
tells stories of soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines.

It starts with a
compelling one, also told in the movie “Black Hawk Down” (2001):
In 1993, U.S. soldiers fought Somali militia and armed civilians.
When two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu, a perilous rescue
operation began.

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

How much
macho-excess do these guys have? They even get in a fight mid-air,
while skydiving.

Tempers seethe after
they violated the family rule by pulling a crime job without their
mom. Even Baz (Scott Speedman), the smart one, is getting crazed.
That puts the show in danger of being one-note, but there's a fresh
twist, with an individual crisis. The response and aftershock are
jolting.

Other choices
includez;

Olympic trials and
“America's Got Talent,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., NBC. It should be a
strong night for the network, as the final heats continue in swimming
and the early auditions continue for “Talent.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Abby (Pauley Perette) doesn't get out of the lab much. We
wouldn't blame her for not wanting to do it again: In this rerun, she
finds herself trapped, with no way to contact help.

“Black-ish,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Summer Tuesdays are Anthony Anderson's night. In this
rerun, his family accepts an invitation to go to church. Then he
hosts “To Tell the Truth“ at 10 p.m.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. From the start, you've known this was coming: Teresa –
sweet, single and pregnant – found herself trapped in the
containment zone and then in her mother's store. Now, in the 10th
of 13 episodes, she goes into labor and the others set up a makeshift
delivery room. Inside the hospital, a likable cop (Jake) and teacher
(Katie) get closer to information about how the virus started.

“Uncle Buck,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Miles seems to be acting looser, now that his
Uncle Buck is watching him. In tonight's first episode, he's grounded
... and Buck holds a “going to jail party.” In the second, Buck
may have a multi-task implosion, while watching the kids and a big
Bulls game.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Newark's police systematically
violated civil rights, a Department of Justice study said. But reform
isn't easy; reporter Jelani Cobb follows Mayor Ras Baraka (a former
activist who went to Howard University with Cobb) in efforts to force
change.

TV column for Monday, June 27


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

“This town has
changed,” a Washington insider says here. “It's toxic now.” And
“BrainDead” -- the summer's dandy surprise – is the cure for
any toxicity.

On one hand, it's a
sharp satire of a world unable to compromise; both sides care about
gamesmanship, not progress. On the other, it's goofy sci-fi. In the
first two weeks (summarized by the clever opening song), worm-like
creatures crawled into several heads, changing behavior. Laurel, an
idealistic newcomer, suspect something; she's also interested in a
charming-but-sneaky guy from the other party.

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

Moving quickly, this
show is down to eight guys. Now they're in Buenos Aires, with mixed
success.

Wells gets a
one-on-one stroll with JoJo, with a chance to be in a performance-art
piece. Chase and Derek are unhappy about being in a two-on-one date.
The other five try some neighborhood fun that soon becomes too
competitive. And at one point, ABC says, JoJo walks out of the rose
ceremony.

TODAY'S
ALTERNATIVES: Shark shows, all day, Discovery; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.,
NatGeo Wild.

In the midst of
summertime joy, cable smacks us with its annual shark attack. On
Sunday, Discovery launched its 29th “Shark Week”; Wild
countered with its fourth “Shark Fest.”

The latter has six
days of mostly reruns, including today's “Blitzkrieg Sharks” at 8
p.m., “Shark Alley” at 9 and “Shark Kill Zone” at 10.
Discovery has eight busy days, starting today at 9 a.m. At 7 p.m., a
scientist studies the declining number of great whites near an
Australian island. (This is a problem?) At 8 and 9, we're near
Guadalupe; at 10:04, ““Sharks Among Us” discusses simply
co-existing.

Other choices
include:

"Very British Problems," any time, www.acorn.tv. Christmas, it seems, is a real problem for Englishfolk; by nature, they find gift-giving uncomfortable and greeting strangers worse That's discussed in the first of four fun hours, with comments by people who are famous in England and sometimes (James Corden, David Tennant) in the colonies.

“BET Awards,”
6-9:30 p.m., BET. If you missed this show Sunday (an overcrowded
night), here's a second chance. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis
Ross (the “Black-ish” stars) host a night that has music by
Usher, Alicia Keys, Maxwell, Future and Bryson Tiller ... plus a
tribute performance to Prince, by his former colleague Sheila E..
plus D'Angelo, Janelle Monae and The Roots.

Swimming, 8 p.m.,
NBC. Over the next five nights, NBC will have finals to determine the
U.S. Olympic swim team. Preliminary heats will be on the NBC Sports
Network, tonight starting at 6:30 p.m.; add “American Ninja
Warrior” (9-11 p.m., NBC) and it's a high-adrenaline night.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Now that “Big Brother” is borrowing its Thursday slot, this
is the only night CBS has for “Mom,” one of TV's best comedies.
In this rerun, Candace (Sara Rue), who's living with Christy's
ex-husband, fumes: Her rich father (Harry Hamlin) is attracted to
Christy.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, we meet Sylvester's estranged dad (Jeff
Fahey). A retired general, he says an African dictator has a
dangerous weapon from World War II.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. In his 70s, Thomas Edison told two magazines
that he would like to invent a “necrophone” -- a device to talk
to spirits on the other side, if they exist. Now this episode
imagines he had already created such a device, earlier in his life.
He joins a haunted-house probe.

“UnReal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. After a lot of work has been
done, Darius tells Rachel his secret and is ready to leave the show.
She's desperate to change his mind.

“Mistresses,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Joss pushes hard to get a public-relations client,
but her past brings trouble. And Kate (Harry's sister) isn't finding
the carefree American dating life she'd expected; now she's unhappy
that her former fiance is dating someone else.

 

TV column for Sunday, June 26


 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
(if you get Showtime): “Roadies” debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.

Writer-director
Cameron Crowe has had triumphs (“Jerry Maguire”) and failures
(“Aloha”), but whenever he returns to music, he's been at his
best. From his teen-aged journalism to “Almost Famous” and “Pearl
Jam Twenty,” he's brought depth and passion to the rock world.

Now comes his
perfect vehicle – following the people who make a tour work. We
meet the old boss (Ron White), the new one (Rafe Spall), the cool
heads (Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino), the wide-eyed believer (Imogen
Poots). There's sex, music, humor, drama, idealism and masterful
dialog.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: Game show night, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

“Celebrity Family
Feud” was a surprise ratings hit last summer, so now ABC hopes to
triple the impact. “Feud” returns at 8 p.m., wth Steve Harvey
toying with the famlies of Kellie Pickler, Lance Bass, Ernie Hudson
and NeNe Leakes. Then it's “$100,000 Pyramid” at 9 and Alec
Baldwin's “Match Game” at 10.

“Pyramid,” Kathy
Najimy soon proclaims, is “the best-constructed game show in the
world.” It is, at least, for those with quick minds. Najimy – a
“Celebrity Poker,” “Weakest Link” and “Gameshow Marathon”
champ – keeps up with Rosie O'Donnell, Anthony Anderson, Sherri
Shepherd and others.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “BET Awards,” 8-11:30 p.m., BET, MTV, VH1, Spike,
Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

For five-plus years,
Sheila E. was a star of the Prince world -- variously his
percussionist, singer, opening act and fiancee. Now she'll do a
Prince tribute, with D'Angelo, Janelle Monae and The Roots.

That's part of a
star-stuffed night, with music by Usher, Alicia Keys, Maxwell,
Future, and Bryson Tiller. Then there are all the awards, with
categories for music, acting, videos and sports; Drake leads with
nine nominations. Special honors go to actors Samuel L. Jackson and
Jesse Williams. Six channels combine, but BET is alone for the
red-carpet at 6 p.m., after-party at 11:30 and rerun at 12:30 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: Season-finales, 9 p.m. to 11:15 p.m., HBO.

On an overcrowded
night, many viewers will be glued to HBO for three straight finales.

First is an expanded
“Thrones.” At 10:15, “Silicon Valley” has Pied Piper looking
shaky, but Dinesh's chat app thriving; Laurie prepares to leave and
Gavin's comeback is threatened. And at 10:45, “Veep” has Selena
preparing for inauguration; her daughter gets a makeover and Mike
suffers from exhaustion.

Other choices
include:

Olympic trials, 7-11
p.m., NBC. Here are the finals to determine spots on the U.S. Olympic
team. It's men's platform diving at 7 p.m., swimming events at 8 and
women's gymnastics at 9.

“Dancing on the
Edge” debut, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This richly
crafted, six-week series (which previously ran on Starz) follows a
black jazz leader in 1933 London, facing biases and making great
music. That's followed by an “Endeavour” mystery movie at 9 and
“The Tunnel” at 10:30.

“Explorer” (8
p.m.) and “I Am Rebel” (9), National Geographic. First is a
fairly stark, somber visit to Verunga National Park in the Congo,
where the new warden battles poachers. Then is a fun romp – Kevin
Mitnick describes his transition from a lonely teen hacker to a 1980s
fugitive on the most-wanted list ... and then to an advisor to
companies trying to thwart people like him.

“Flower Shop
Mystery: Dearly Depotted,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. For the fourth straight Sunday, this channel debuts a
mystery movie. This one also launches a series of films, with Brooke
Shields as a flower-shop owner who, of course, will keep stumbling
across murders.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Sherlock probes the murder of a fertility-lab
worker and finds that her secret personal life leaves an abundance of
suspects.

“The Jim Gaffigan
Show,” 10 p.m. Sunday, TV Land. Gaffigan is happy to get a movie
audition ... except the character is named “Ugly” and Alec
Baldwin figures Jim won't need any make-up. Add funny stories for his
wife (Ashley Williams) and her colleague (Michael Ian Black) and you
have a dandy episode. An even better one (a rerun, based on his real
Twitter controversy) follows at 10:30.