TV column for Saturday, Sept. 13

MUST-SEE: “Great Performances,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

It was
200 years ago today that Baltimore’s Fort McHenry withstood a fierce British
assault. Francis Scott Key promptly wrote the words for what would become the
National Anthem.

Now that’s
celebrated with a live Baltimore Symphony concert on the city’s harbor, plus
fireworks. Jordin Sparks, who hosts with John Lithgow, sings the Anthem, but
there are plenty of other stars from pop (Melissa Etheridge, Smokey Robinson,
Train), country (Kenny Rogers, Little Big Town), classical (Denyce Graves) and
Broadway (Kristin Chenoweth, Paulo Szot).

MIGHT-SEE: “Reckless” finale, 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

revived the notion of scripted summer shows on a big network. It did that with
rich Steven Spielberg productions (“Under the Dome,” “Extant”) and a sturdy
transplant (“Unforgettable”).

But this
one – a lawyer drama stuffed (soap-style) with gorgeous newcomers – floundered and
was exiled to Saturdays. Here’s the court case it’s been pointing to: Fired
from the police department after her sex tape surfaced, Lee Anne said she was
drugged; she sued for sexual discrimination. Jamie and Roy work opposite sides …
then decide about their own relationship.

ALTERNATIVE: “Outlander,” 9 p.m., rerunning at 10, and “The Chair,” 11 p.m.,

really can get better, you know; these did, after so-so starts. As last week’s
episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) ended, English soldiers found Claire (a
time-traveling English nurse) with a Scotsman. Tonight, she faces a dilemma … and
then a game-changing possibility.

“Chair” gives
two opposite people the same script, with each making a $600,000 film. Tonight,
the crises grow: Money is slow to arrive … approval for a key location is in
limbo … and a director of photography (a vital position) must drop out. Indie-filmmaking,
it seems, is tough.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Deliverance Creek,” 8 p.m., Lifetime.

Sparks has had 10 of his novels turned into movies, many of them – “The
Notebook,” “Safe Haven,” “A Walk to Remember” – big on Lifetime-type networks.
Now comes something different: He produced this TV film, which has someone else’s
original script.

heroine (Lauren Ambrose) is Sparks-ian – smart, beautiful and in trouble. A
widow in 1863 Missouri with three kids, she’s been mistreated by the bank; now
she considers crime.

choices include:

7:30 p.m. ET, NBC. This match-up – Notre Dame and Purdue, in Indianapolis – seemed
OK until last week. That’s when Notre Dame (now ranked No. 11) crushed,
Michigan 31-0 … while Purdue was losing to Central Michigan, 38-17.

football, 8 p.m. ET. Here’s one of those nights when three of the four big networks
have college games. There’s NBC, ABC (Tennessee at 4th-ranked
Oklahoma) and Fox (12th-ranked UCLA at Texas). Cable has more,
including 9th-ranked Southern California at Boston on ESPN.

Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. Olivia, a judge, finds a secret about the new assistant
district attorney.

Who,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Yes, this show has some large-scale tales. Tonight,
it sends the Doctor and Clara to the end of the universe.

“Hell on
Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. Now that Elam is back, Cullen tries to re-connect with

Night Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or later, with football overrun), NBC. Tina Fey hosts
this rerun, with Arcade Fire as music guest.  

TV column for Friday, Sept. 12

MIGHT-SEE: “James McNeill Whistler and the Case for Beauty,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Whistler carried opposite extremes, this elegant film says. His personality
reflected his American roots; brash and bombastic, he was at the center of
London’s party scene. But his paintings were understated, a hint of the
impressionism that Europeans later embraced.

A leading
art critic said his abstracts amounted to merely “flinging a pot of paint in
the public’s face”; Whistler sued him, won and went broke in the process. He
bounced back and his painting (understated, of course) of his mother became a

MIGHT-SEE II: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

(Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, goes into high gear whenever a cop is
killed. This time, it was an undercover cop in his son’s precinct; Frank is
intense … then finds a secret.

Also in
this rerun, teen Nicky seeks a former classmate who is living on the streets.
Her uncle Jamie (Will Estes) and his police partner help with the search.

ALTERNATIVE: “Z Nation” debut, 10 p.m., Syfy.

anyone watching “The Walking Dead,” with its zombie herds and gore, grumble
that there’s too much subtlety? Apparently, because “Z Nation” avoids that

It starts
in full crisis – lots of chomping, shooting, spurting – before reluctantly
introducing its characters. They’re in a human outpost, with a handsome
semi-leader (Tom Everett Scott). Soon, they meet a solid soldier (Harold
Perrineau), hear a passionate radio voice (DJ Qualls) and get a mobile mission.
That’s accompanied by much gore and little intervening subtlety.

choices include:

& Julia” (2009), 7 and 10:10 p.m., Oxygen. Bouncing between eras, this is a
jaunty portrait of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and the blogger (Amy Adams) who
obsessed on her recipes.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Yes, it’s good news that Eve has a boyfriend and
told her mom about him; not so good, her older sisters feel, is the fact that
the couple will be on an ROTC camping trip together. In the second rerun, Boyd’s
report causes people to consider changing the school’s name.

8 p.m., Fox. This reality show settles into its Tuesday/Friday pattern.

Nightmares” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox. Gordon Ramsay revisits several spots,
to see if people really followed through. Did the professional belly dancer
quit dancing and focus on her restaurant? Did a dad hand over control to his
daughter? Are sisters cooperating? We’ll see.

Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Nick Jonas plays a young computer hacker in this rerun.
McGarrett must link with police Captain Grover (Chi McBride) to serve him a

Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax. Rumors swirl that this hospital (in early-1900s New
York) will head to the same posh surroundings where its rich patrons moved.
Still, in this OK episode we also see how crucial it is to its hard-scrabble
neighborhood … and how deeply its administrator is imbedded in local

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 11

MUST-SEE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, CBS and NFL Network.

For eight
weeks, CBS rests (or moves) its hit Thursday shows to make room for football.
That begins with two rivals that tied last season with 8-8 records. Pittsburgh
opened this season by edging Cleveland, 30-27; Baltimore lost to Cincinnati,

Jim Nantz
and Phil Simms will be in the booth, with Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines. James
Brown hosts a pre-game at 7:30 p.m. on CBS, with the NFL Network airing pre-pregame
(6 p.m.) and post-game shows. The latter two are hosted by Rich Eisen, with
Michael Irvin and more.

MIGHT-SEE: “The Biggest Loser” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

current pros collide on CBS, two former ones have a new battle. As a
quarterback, Scott Mitchell was 6-foot-6, 240 pounds; 13 years after retiring,
he weighs 366. As a lineman, Damien Woody was 6-3, 327; just four years after
retiring, he’s at 388.

They join
“Loser,” which this year adds a sports emphasis. It includes a former WNBA
player, an Olympic softball gold-medalist and former high school and college

ALTERNATIVE: “You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX.

We met
these characters at their worst: Jimmy was thrown out of his ex-girlfriend’s
wedding … where Gretchen was stealing a gift. But what were they like before

episode spans almost three years. Starting with his failed attempt at real
romance and her reluctance to be a grown-up, it ripples with dark humor,
cleverly done.

choices include:

Quest” finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. Actors and special effects have linked to give
12 contestants the ultimate role-playing experience. Now only four remain –
Andrew Frazer, 25, a personal trainer; Shondo Blades, 30, a mixed-martial-arts
fighter; Lina Carollo, 27, a school counselor; and Patrick Higgins, 40, a high
school math teacher. They must escape and save the queen.

season-opener, 8 p.m., Syfy. Last season was dizzying for viewers and splendid
for Emily Rose. She started as Lexie, a vibrant bartender … returned to being Audrey,
a tough cop … then was nasty Mara, the original version of someone who keeps returning
in new personas. Now Mara seethes; it’s fine work in an OK episode, two hours
earlier than first scheduled.

9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the season-finale, a conspiracy blogger is killed
shortly before he could tell something to Booth.

Guide to Parenting,” 9:30 p.m., Bravo. In the season’s second-to-last hour, we
meet one woman who has raised her teen twins through hypnosis and another who
feels her young daughter should know everything about sexuality.

10 p.m., FX. Here’s another milestone for Russ and Lina, maybe the last chance
to trick-or-treat with their eldest daughter. Meanwhile, their relationship
droops and his friend needs to be hauled to rehab. It’s a bleak episode, with
some good moments near the end.


TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 10

CHANGE: Presidential address, 9 p.m. ET, several networks.

Obama plans to address the nation about the ongoing situation in Iraq.

That will
be carried by CBS (which already had anchor Scott Pelley in Iraq this week) and
others. Varying by time zone, it will affect other schedules; the times listed
below are the ones that were set prior to plans for the talk.

MUST-SEE: “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Long ago,
this strong documentary tells us, one-third of all children died before they
were 5. In the past century, vaccinations ended much of that; measles and
whooping cough virtually disappeared … until recently.

there’s been an increase in people who delay or skip vaccinations. In 2011,
there were unvaccinated people … but none in neighboring boroughs. “Nova”
paints a compelling picture.

MIGHT-SEE: “America’s Got Talent,” 8 and 9 p.m. (or later), NBC.

By the
end of the night, we’ll know which acts will be in the finale.

there’s a recap hour at 8, showing the dozen acts that performed Tuesday. Then
we’ll see which six will reach the finals next Tuesday and Wednesday, with a
shot at the million-dollar prize. After being dominated by singers (and one
ventriloquist) in its first six years, “Talent” has seen its last two titles go
to a dog act and a dancer-mime-illusionist.

choices include:

“Hell’s Kitchen”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox. Two challenges face the 18 chefs. The winning
team frolics, including a yacht party; the losers clean up and then see one
person ousted.

Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Sue is excited about heading to Disney World
on the family vacation she won. Brick wants to detour to North Carolina, to
meet his Online girlfriend.

 “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that football
has taken over CBS Thursdays for eight weeks, this show moves its live eviction
hour to Wednesdays.

the Lights,” 9 p.m. (or later), CBS. As a preview to Thursday’s game, here’s a
special hosted by Jim Nantz; CBS people chat with pros, often with something in
common. Earl Campbell and  Jadeveon
Clowney were No. 1 draft picks taken by Houston teams; Mark Harmon (UCLA) and  Andrew Luck (Stanford) were starting
quarterbacks in the Pac-10 conference.

9 p.m., TNT. Placed on leave after a confrontation, Martin Odum (Sean Bean)
uses the time to probe his own past. He finds a possible source, to learn who
he really is.

Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Fiercely stoic, Eleanor Nacht is at the core of this
tough hour. Last week, she escaped when a bloody shoot-out left others dead or
dying. Now she’s desperate to find her ledger; others are just as desperate to
arrest or kill her.  Despite its
perplexing habit of having undesignated flashbacks, this is a terrific hour.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 9

MUST-SEE: “Fashion Rocks,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

After a
five-year absence, this again links New York’s Fashion Week with a live
mega-concert. Ryan Seacrest – yes, he has a fashion line – hosts and

include some of his “American Idol” hosts and contestants (Jennifer Lopez,
Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson) and more. Scheduled are Usher, Pitbull, Enrique
Iglesias, Rita Ora, Nico & Vinz, Duran Duran, Afrojack, Magic and Kiss,
plus country’s Luke Bryan and The Band Perry.

MIGHT-SEE: “Sons of Anarchy” final-season opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Few shows
have done more to draw viewers in and – almost simultaneously – drive them
away. This episode begins with its main character (Jax) doing a brutal torture;
almost 90 minutes later, he’s doing an even more-brutal one … to someone who
was falsely accused.

scenes are horrendous. In between, however, is the drama – tautly written,
directed and acted -- that makes this compelling. Viewers know Jax’s mom killed
his wife … and Juice (on the lam from the motorcycle club) shot the cop who
found her. Now she clings to her cover-up.

ALTERNATIVE: Documentaries, all night, PBS (check local listings).

Five days
before launching Ken Burns’ brilliant “Roosevelts” series, PBS offers
wide-ranging films. That starts with a portrait of Noor Inayat Khan, daughter
of an India-born spiritual leader, who became a British World War II hero; it
ends with a “Frontline” look at the Ebola epidemic.

In between,
in a late addition at 9 p.m., is a Robin Williams portrait. Taking a long
interview he did for “Pioneers of Television,” it adds friends’ comments and
more. This tends to be one-note and repetitious (also a flaw of the Khan
portrait), but it’s redeemed by a cascade of great clips.

choices include:

Bloods,” 4-11 p.m., WGN America. This cop show – a ratings-winner Fridays on
CBS – has a big rerun splash on cable. The next three nights have seven-hour

Amazing Spider-Man (2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. On a reality-clogged night, cable has
movie alternatives. Other good choices are at 8 p.m. – “Karate Kid” (1984) on
ABC Family, the splendid “WALL-E” (2008) on Disney and the wryly romantic “Notting
Hill” (1999) on TV Guide.

Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. With football temporarily taking CBS’ Thursdays, this
show slides to a Sunday-Tuesday-Wednesday run. That means two Tuesdays without
ratings-leader “NCIS.”

overload, 8 p.m. The top four networks collide hit overflow. Fox’s “Utopia”
begins its Tuesday-and-Friday routine, facing “Big Brother” and two summer-shows
finales: NBC’s “Food Fighters” has a retired fashion executive face celebrity
chef Elizabeth Falkner; ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss” has a father and daughter (423
and 265 pounds) hoping to shed 330 pounds.

Loving You is Wrong,” debut, 9 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 10.
Tyler Perry’s latest series follows families in one neighborhood, starting with
the discovery of an affair.

“A Young
Doctor’s Notebook” season-finale, 10 p.m., Ovation. The older version of the doctor
(Jon Hamm) forces the younger one (Daniel Radcliffe) to confront his addiction.
That sounds somber, but as usual it’s done with skill and, at times, sly humor.