TV column for Thursday, July 17

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CBS.

The space race seemed basic, Tom Hanks recalls. “They were
the bad guys. And they were winning.”

For Hanks, this would be a lifelong passion. He starred in “Apollo
13” and produced “From Earth to the Moon.” And now this documentary series,
produced by his company, has its space-race chapter. It has memories from
astronauts and clips of CBS’ Walter Cronkite, called the consummate space nerd.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Satisfaction” debut, 10 to 11:23 p.m.,

Neil seems to have the American dream – a big-money job in
finance, a gorgeous house, a bright and beautiful wife, a clever daughter. He’s
also forlorn.

At first, “Satisfaction” is your usual tale of a mid-life
crisis – albeit a slick and stylish one. It becomes more when it flips the
story, taking the wife’s view. The result is a complex look at two lives in

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Reality debuts, 9-11 p.m., VH1.

First is “Dating Naked,” in which … well, strangers date
while naked. Then come lightweight shows.

Candidly Nicole” (10 p.m.) jaunts through Nicole Richie’s
world, with detours for her famous dad (Lionel) and friend; it feels contrived,
but entertaining. “LeAnn & Eddie” (10:30) visits country star LeAnn Rimes
and husband Eddie Cibrian; there are fun moments, amid too much grumbling about
tabloid rumors.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Penny
confronts Raj’s former girlfriend Lucy.

“Kids Choice Sports Awards,” 8-10 p.m., Nickelodeon. Here’s
the new off-shoot to the Kids Choice Awards. Michael Strahan – who went from
football to a talk show – hosts.

“Rush” debut, 9 p.m., USA. Streaking around in his sports
car, Dr. Rush has a cash-only practice for the rich and nasty. For much of this
hour, it’s difficult to care about him, his patients or the show.

“Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. Last week’s opener was
a droll delight, with the quiet jolts of an American who quit his job to move
to his girlfriend’s Swedish homeland. Tonight has more of that – including a
dandy little guest shot by Will Ferrell – mixed with some blunt bits of sex and
potty humor.

“Working the Engels,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. A young lawyer has
inherited her dad’s ragged law practice. There are some pretty good moments
tonight, as she learns it sometimes helps to have a sexy, scam-y brother.

“NY Med” 10 p.m., ABC. This is the hour (a good one) that was
scheduled for July 3, then delayed. The focus is partly on the patients – a young
man needs heart surgery before his wedding – and more on the staff. We meet
Ziad Sifri, who grew up in Beirut and now treats victims of violence in Newark;
we also meet Diana Costine, a nurse who learns in her 20s that she needs a pacemaker.

“Married” debut, 10 p.m., FX. Russ has noticed his marriage
is missing something, which is sex. His busy wife suggests he just have an
affair; alas, he has neither the style, nor the luck to pull it off.

“You’re the Worst” debut, 10:30, FX. She’s the worst wedding
guest, stealing one of the gifts; he’s the second-worst, ejected after arguing
with the bride. They are strangers who share an acidic (and funny) view of
life. The result is a promising start to a comedy that is much better than one
show preceding it.

TV column for Wednesday, July 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Divide” debut, 9 p.m., WE; reruns
at 10:50.

Here is great television. The writing, directing and acting
are beautifully crafted and (at times) maddening well-layered.

The setting is a law office that defends people who may have
been incorrectly convicted. Still, clichés are flipped. The main character
(Marin Ireland) is living with a cop who likes to talk about feelings; the
defendant is vile. Unfortunately, this story stretches for 10 weeks;
fortunately, it’s worth the time.

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

The eliminations began last week, in a tough night for
ballroom dancers. Two of them – Malene Ostergaard, from Denmark, and Nick
Garcia, from Miami – were ousted.

That still leaves four ballroom people, in an 18-dancer
field that has jazz, tap, contemporary, hip hop and even two ballerinas.
Another ballerina, Misty Copeland, returns as guest judge. Also, Great Big
World sings “Say Something,” which caught on after backing a “Dance” piece last

preview at 8.

After all the talk about LeBron James, you might guess he’ll
be named best male athlete. Not so: Kevin Durant – who topped James in the pro-basketball
finals – is nominated, alongside Peyton Manning, Miguel Cabrera and Floyd
Mayweather. Up for top female are skier Mikaeh Shiffrin, fighter Ronda Rousey,
and two basketball players, Maya Moore (pro) and Breanna Stewart (college).

There are plenty of other awards, presented by Jessica Alba,
Cameron Diaz, Jim Parsons, Jason Segal and more. Drake, the
actor-turned-rapper, hosts with music from Ozomati.

Other choices include:

“America’s Got Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Here’s an
audition rerun; next week, a “boot camp” begins.

“The Middle,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds
the Hecks preparing for the Disney World vacation that Sue won. The second sees
them arrive there, amid troubles.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun of the show’s 100th
episode, Cam’s sister visits. He frets about breaking the news that he’s
marrying Mitchell.

“Extant,” 9 p.m., CBS. Last week’s season-opener went far
beyond the basic plot of astronaut Molly (Halle Berry) getting pregnant during
a year-long solo mission. We also met her scientist husband and the robotized
son he created. And we learned that another astronaut had a breakdown during a
solo mission. Tonight, he she meets him; also, she has her pregnancy tested.

“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. At the end of last week’s season-opener,
a new international murder surfaced. Now two cops -- Sonya (in El Paso) and
Marco (in Juarez) -- must again work together.

“The Linda Perry Project” debut, 10 p.m., VH1. Two decades
ago, Perry rocked in 4 Non Blondes. She went on to be a top producer (profiled
at 9 p.m. in “Behind the Music”); now we see her mold young acts, hoping to
sign one. It’s sort of like other reality shows, but with intensity and lots of
raw talent.

 “Taxi Brooklyn,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. Not considered the maternal type, Cat is surprised by her
fondness for the foster child of a murder victim. The case causes Leo to long
for his son, back in France.

TV column for Tuesday, July 15

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Baseball all-star game, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.

Baseball’s best players meet in Minneapolis, after lots of
last-second moves. Both starting catchers (Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters) are
out with injuries. Also out are two National League pitchers -- Jeff Samardzija
(traded across leagues) and Jordan Zimmerman – plus lots of American Leaguers.

Yankee ace Masahiro Tanaka is out, along with David Price,
Victor Martinez, Alex Gordon and Edwin Encarnacion. Re-stocked and ready, the
teams collide; at stake is World Series home-field advantage.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Night Shift” season’s finale,
10:01 p.m., NBC.

Last week’s overwrought hour ended with Dr. Topher Zia being
shot. Now he faces life-or-death surgery, while other patients – including the
shooter – fill the emergency room.

All of this happens while the doctors face emotional and
physical fatigue during double shifts. Already near a breaking point after his
war years, Dr. T.C. Callahan seems shattered. Like previous episodes, this one
is blunt and noisy; still, it does provide strong emotions, in a show that’s
been a ratings success.

TODAY’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Hotwives of Orlando,” any time,

For years, the “Real Housewives” shows have been ripe for
satire. This show – big and broad and quite clever – does it thoroughly. We
meet the “best friends” who fight constantly, the clueless sister, the woman
who seems convinced that her older husband is dying; it is, alas, just wishful

Casey Wilson (“Saturday Night Live”), Angela Kinsey (“The
Office”) and Kristen Schaal (“The Daily Show”) lead a cast of talented people
who know how to get the big laughs without going overboard.

Other choices include:

“America’s Got Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Here’s a “best of
auditions” episode.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the team probes a Navy
officer’s death. Was it the result of a simple bar fight or a plan to get rid
of him when he knew too much about another case?

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds that a
vaccine project has been compromised.

“Matador” debut, 9 p.m., El Rey (via cable or DirecTV);
repeats at 10 and midnight. A soccer player by day and spy by night? That sounds
goofy, but the script makes it believable and director Robert Rodriguez – who
runs this English-language, Hispanic-oriented network -- adds his usual, ragged
energy. “Matador” has flaws, but it also has zest, action and (as the team
owner) the talented Alfred Molina.

“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX. After a strong start, “Tyrant” faces
harsh realities. Barry. a Pasadena pediatrician, is back in his homeland after
19 years, trying to ease his older brother’s first days as ruler. But the
legacy is fierce. The 20
th anniversary of their father’s genocide is
near and rage builds; the brother is trying, but his son seems to have all the
old sins. This OK hour ends mid-crisis.

“Celebrity Wife Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. On the night when the
“Real Housewives” series is skillfully skewered, we meet one of the originals
from that show’s New York edition. Jill Zarin has an ocean-view summer home
with five bedrooms, a pool, a sauna and household help. She switches with Jenna
Van Oy, the former “Blossom” co-star, now living quietly in Nashville with her
husband and daughter.

TV column for Monday, July 14


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “24” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

This has been a grand experiment, facing key questions: Can
the high-octane “24” formula work at 12 episodes, instead of 24?  Will audiences watch a well-made, scripted
network show in the summer? And can Jack Bauer save the world yet again?

He’s faced a canny villain who seized American drones, but
he’s been helped by key women – his friend Chloe, the tech whiz; his ex-lover
Audrey, the president’s daughter; and Kate, the tough CIA agent.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Seed” debut, 9:30 p.m., CW.

An amiable bartender has spent his life avoiding
involvement. Then a kid shows up at his door; the guy learns he’s a father.

Yes, that was also the plot for a CW drama, “Life
Unexpected.” But this Canadian show is done for laughs – which build quickly.
The guy was a sperm donor (anonymous, he thought), so a second kid and a third
possibility soon arrive. He meets parents who are opposites in funny ways. And
in the proper TV tradition, he’s a smart, caring guy under that party surface.
A surprisingly good comedy emerges.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Going Deep with David Rees” debut,
10-11 p.m., National Geographic.

At one point in the 10:30 episode, Rees proudly introduces
the man with the world’s best Website about shoelaces. (No, we don’t know if
there’s a second-best one.) Indeed, Professor Shoelace flew in from Australia,
to make his American TV debut.

That’s part of a “How to Tie Your Shoelaces” half-hour that
ranges from parachutists to seamen. In this episode – and the 10 p.m. one on
making ice cubes – we learn that there are experts on everything. Rees – who
wrote a book on how to sharpen a pencil – makes them seem fun and interesting.

Other choices include:

“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. After sending Marcus
home last week, Andi Dorfman takes the final three to the Dominican Republic.
She swims with Nick, rides horseback with Chris, plays baseball with Josh (a
former pro player) and Dominican kids. She may invite each for a “fantasy suite”

“Backpackers” debut, 8:30 p.m., CW. Shortly after an engagement,
there are second thoughts. She’s gone off to Europe; now he and a friend
backpack to find her. That’s sandwiched by “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (8 and 9
p.m.), in a comedy line-up concluding with “Seed.”

“Brain Games” return, 9 p.m., National Geographic. First, a
baby sees two identical-looking teddy bears, one acting rudely, the other
politely; then she gets to choose. Each baby, this interesting half-hour says,
chooses the nice bear. (Our cynical side says when she’s older, she’ll choose
the bad boy who will fail to pay child support.) The message is that compassion
is a natural state; a new 9:30 episode views the brain’s role in addiction. Those
two rerun at 11 and 11:30 p.m.; older episodes rerun at 7 and 7:30.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Jenny moves in with
her grandmother Evelyn (Holland Taylor) and Evelyn’s fiancé Marty (Carl Reiner).

“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. As the food stock dwindles,
Big Jim starts a census.

“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Karen’s romance gets an
encouraging sign, but the others are shaky.

TV column for Sunday, July 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Strain” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Two genres – sleek science-fiction and old-school horror –
are skillfully blended by movie director Guillermo del Toro. He co-wrote this
(and the novels it’s based on), directed the pilot, is producing the series … and
crafts it all into an oddly involving tale.

An incoming, international flight suddenly stops on the
runway; all 210 people on-board are dead … or seem to be. We soon meet a
Centers for Disease Control doctor (diligent, but self-centered) and an old
Holocaust survivor who knows something dire. We also see a jolt of gory excess;
expect more ahead.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.

In a wise (if tardy) move, CBS has moved the overheated
“Reckless” back to 10 p.m., giving this fairly solid series the better spot,
behind “Big Brother,”

Tonight, a reporter has been killed, after writing an expose
about the head of the National Security Agency. Simms helps Carrie work the
case; Al meets an old girlfriend.

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

The young French king needs an alliance with Savoy.
Fortunately, the king’s sister is married to the Duke of Savoy; unfortunately,
there’s a would-be assassin, convinced the duke committed a mass murder.

That creates a dilemma for the Musketeers; they’re assigned
to protect the king, but suspect the assassin (a former Musketeer) is right.
Like previous episodes, this is a big-scale, well-crafted adventure.

Other choices include:

“The Butler” (2013), 6:45 p.m.; “Ray Donovan” and “Masters
of Sex,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime. A big night starts with the richly and subtly
crafted movie, followed by two season-openers. Then “Donovan” ends its hour
big, as Ray tries to retrieve his wayward dad (Jon Voight) from Mexico; afterward,
the OK “Sex” finds Dr. Masters stretching to re-build his study after being
fired by the university.

“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. The kids visit other
worlds in these reruns: Bart is thought to spur pregnancies via voodoo dolls.
Lisa is, alas, dating a competitive eater.

“Masterpiece,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). The
gentle, academic world of Oxford has been hit by three murders in a week. Now young
Endeavour Morse tries to catch the Oxford Strangler, while dealing with his
personal problems.

“The Last Ship,” 9 p.m., TNT. After eluding the Russians
last week, the ship faces fresh problems: The propulsion system is breaking
down, the crew is exhausted and the work on a cure for the virus could be
destroyed, ruining what may be mankind’s last hope.

 “Reckless,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. Jamie and Roy compete in a “stand your ground” court case, while preparing
for the big one: She’s representing Le Anne, who lost her police job after a
sex tape appeared; Le Anne says she was drugged and the city is hoping for a

“The Leftovers,” 10 p.m., HBO. After a strong start, this is
drifting in odd directions Tonight’s hour focuses strictly on a priest’s
obsessive attempts to save his near-empty church building.