TV column for Sunday, Aug. 10



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Teen Choice Awards,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The world will promptly forget who won the awards, which are
kind of silly anyway. (Our favorite has Kevin Hart facing Godzilla and others,
for best “movie hissy fit.”) Still, there’s the fun of a live show.


Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Tyler Posey (“Teen Wolf”)
host; music is from Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato, Rita Ora, Rixton and Magic. There
are plenty of presenters, from Taylor Swift to Kim Kardashian. For best comedy,
“Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “Glee” face cable’s “Sam & Cat” and
“Austin & Ally.” Dramas are “Hart of Dixie,” “Pretty Little Liars,”
“Twisted,” “Fosters” and “Switched at Birth.”


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: Shark Week, 7 p.m., Discovery.


Yes, it seems like every week is shark week. But Discovery
is the one that created this 26 years ago and has done a fine job … or did,
until it started inserting unidentified fiction alongside its documentaries.


That makes us wary of this start – a rerun of “Return of
Jaws” at 7 p.m., “Air Jaws: Fin of Fury” at 8, “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of the
Submarine” at 9 and a live, nightly talk show at 11. Those last two then rerun,
letting us go to sleep (if possible) at 3 a.m.; it all starts anew, Monday
evening.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO.


TV’s trend – informing a series in advance that it’s the
final season – has mostly been a good thing. Stories are tightened, characters
are sharpened; “True Blood” offers a prime example.


With the finale two weeks from tonight, this meandering
story is coming together. Tonight starts with two climactic confrontations and
follows with key character moments. Then it propels Sookie to learn that there
may be a true cure. That’s followed by a closing jolt … which must be resolved
soon.


Other choices include:


“Maid in Manhattan” (2002), 7-9 p.m., Lifetime. Tyler
Posey’s career passes before us. See him at age 10 as the son of Jennifer
Lopez, who’s in an OK romance; then watch him at 22, co-hosting “Teen Choice.”


“The Simpsons,” 7:30 p.m., Fox. Nudged a half-hour earlier
than usual to make room for the awards, this rerun has Homer giving romance
advice (really) to Comic Book Guy.


Movies, 8 p.m., cable. At one extreme is Quentin Tarentino’s
fierce “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) on IFC; on the other is “To Be or Not to Be”
(1942), a much-praised dark comedy on Turner Classic Movies. Somewhere between
is “The Lucky One” (2012) on ABC Family, which shares a common flaw in fiction:
The story would be settled in 12 minutes, if people just talked to each other.


“Rising Star,” 9 p.m., ABC. The quarter-finals end. Barring
a change, we’ll have a winner in two weeks.


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. One of Eliot’s best friends
has been killed. That forces Carrie and Al to dig into their boss’ past and
into his current demons.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. The incendiary relationship
between Jamie and Roy reaches extremes in both directions tonight – they share
an intimate dance … they oppose each other in a wrongful-death case.


“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week, Nora decided this
whole business – complete with beheadings and six-foot-long tongues – was too
much for her. Now Ephraim reluctantly partners with Setrakian (all-knowing, but
all-creepy), trying to gather enough evidence to force a city-wide quarantine.


TV column for Saturday, Aug. 9



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
Fox.


Summertime Saturdays are piled high with reruns. Fortunately,
Fox has some good ones; “Brooklyn” – the Golden Globe-winner for best comedy –
has one rerun on Tuesdays, two on Saturdays.


Tonight’s first has a veteran cop take credit for arrests. (He’s
played by Dean Winters, who’s had great cop roles, from “Rescue Me” to “Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit” … but is better known as Mayhem in insurance
commercials.) The second sees Halloween bring a flurry of undercover disguises.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Unforgettable,” 8 p.m., CBS.


Once cancelled by CBS, this show has become a key part of
the network’s summer strategy. New episodes get good ratings at 9 p.m. Sundays;
now there’s also this Saturday rerun.


It’s the season’s second episode, which showed up on the
busy 4
th-of-July weekend. Carrie and Al (Poppy Montgomery and Dylan
Walsh) must figure out how a boxer was beaten to death, apparently without
fighting back.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Outlander” debut, 9 p.m., Starz,
repeating at 10:10 and 11:20.


Fuelled by all the right things – best-selling novels, an
exotic plot, lush production values and a respected producer – this should be
terrific. Surprisingly, it’s often limp and sleepy.


When Ronald Moore re-crafted “Battlestar Galactica,” he
injected instant visual and emotional energy; his “Outlander” production has
none of that. We meet a World War II combat nurse who suddenly finds herself in
1743, amid Scottish warriors. The 20
th-century scenes, alas, are
British-drab; the Highland transformation does little to snap our attention.
Maybe this will get better; maybe not.


Other choices include:


“Agents of SHIELD,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, agents Garrett
and Triplett (Bill Paxton and B.J. Britt) help the team chase the Clairvoyant …
and face the possibility that Deathlok will destroy them all.


“Cedar Cove,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. Olivia finds the past
causing troubles everywhere. Her daughter meets a troubled war veteran; her
friend Grace learns her ex-husband lied during the divorce. Meanwhile, Jack’s
son ponders one job offer from his dad and another from a shady developer.


“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. With the finale coming
Thursday, here’s a second chance to see the episode that sets it up. Ryan (the
cop) wants his mentor Javier (the gang leader) to make a deal with the district
attorney. Meanwhile, both men find their secrets are being uncovered.


“Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. Cullen plans to challenge the
Swede and escape from the fort. Meanwhile, a new foe arrives in Cheyenne.


“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. This
rerun finds a college football recruit in jail. Police soon suspect that an
elaborate hazing scheme went wrong.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Edward Norton hosts
this rerun; Janelle Monae is music guest.


TV column for Friday, Aug. 8



TONIGHT’S
MUST-SEE: “Dick Cavett’s Watergate,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

It was 40
years ago today (at 9 p.m. ET) that Richard Nixon announced he was resigning
from the presidency. Now PBS looks back at the crisis, through the clips of a
late-night talk show.


A steady
stream of key players – from G. Gordon Liddy to Bob Woodward – reached Cavett’s
show. Some joked, some lied, most were interesting. Alongside clips, we get
fresh comments and even some revisions: Woodward and Bernstein now agree with
the once-hated pardon of Nixon; so does Cavett.


TONIGHT’S
MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.


Here’s a
rerun of the episode that introduced Melanie Griffith as the mom of Danny
(Scott Caan). That mixes two second-generation actors – Tippi Hedren’s daughter
and James Caan’s son.


The mom
reaches the island with a surprise, just as the team has other things to worry
about: A real-estate agent’s body has been found, inside the walls of a house
he was trying to sell.


TONIGHT’S
ALTERNATIVE: “Please Like Me” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., Pivot.


Forget
the title; there’s an instant likability to Josh. A young, gay man, he has few
plans, prospects or schemes; he pushes amiably through a life with odd friends
and odder parents.


Josh
Thomas – who also stars – used parts of his real life (including his bipolar
mother), but added a baby half-sister. That leads to Josh cleaning the
post-diaper baby in the shower because “Google said it’s OK.” It’s a fun show,
after the 10 p.m. debut of an OK reality show, “Human Resources.” 


Other
choices include:


“CSI:
Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a rock-star groupie has
been killed and a prostitute has disappeared. Gene Simmons of Kiss guests,
playing himself.


“How to
Train Your Dragon” (2010, FX) or “We Bought a Zoo” (2011, FXX), 8 p.m. Two
sister channels make sure we’ll find a family film. “Dragon” is an animated
tale, zestful and occasionally violent; “Zoo” is a gentle pleasure, based on
the true story of a guy (Matt Damon), his family and a zoo,


“Bones,”
9 p.m., Fox. We enter the deadly world of … well, chess. A master has been killed
in this rerun, so Sweets – a skilled player, as you probably suspected – goes
undercover.


“Blue
Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. A woman plans to commit suicide, after she kills the
drunken driver who killed her parents; Danny races to stop her. Also in this rerun,
Danny’s dad (Tom Selleck) finds frustration at a grandson’s field trip.


“The Knick” debut, 10 p.m.,
Cinemax. Yes, Steven Soderbergh is a master, with an Oscar (“Traffic”), an Emmy
(“Behind the Candelabra”) and great talent. Still, this opener (which he
directed and helped produce) has a giant obstacle: Its lead character (Clive
Owen) is a brilliant surgeon in 1900 New York, but he’s also a bigot, a drug
addict and a cruel boss. Even jaded cable viewers might reject him.


“Jonah From Tonga” debut, 10
and 10:30 p.m., HBO. The opening minutes are a delight, with wayward schoolboy
Jonah Takalua exiled to relatives on the island of Tongapatu. He misbehaves
there and is sent to a Catholic school in Australia. Soon, “Jonah” -- like
previous Chris Lilley shows -- gets repetitious.


TV column for Thursday, Aug. 7



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Now this show has its final four, a week away from the
finale. It’s a diverse and talented group.


There’s Nikki Carr, originally from the Bronx, who didn’t
start stand-up until she was 34; now she’s a mother of four and grandmother of
four. And Lachlan Patterson, a quiet Canadian … and Rod Man, who brings a
soft-spoken Southern style … and Joe Machi, originally from Pennsylvania and
now in New York, where he won the New York Comedy Festival stand-up contest.
Three will head to the two-hour finale.


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


While the anti-war and civil-rights movements seized
headlines, several other movements were creating profound changes, this
far-ranging hour (the ninth of 10) says.


Feminism jolted a world which barred women from many fields
and choices; the ecology movement nudged a hesitant government. Young
conservatives faltered under Barry Goldwater, but set the groundwork for the
Reagan ‘80s. And as a tumultuous decade ended, gay rights began to emerge.


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


This show has created surprising fun by skipping all the
situation-comedy niceties: Cynical and self-centered, Jimmy and Gretchen insist
they’re only together for the sex.


Tonight, we finally see her apartment, which is just as
dreary and cluttered as her soul. We also learn more about his housemate, who
has trouble getting anyone to hear his war stories. Yes, that part is
especially dark; somehow, “Worst” manages to make it funny.


Other choices include:


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun, no one
is at ease. Sheldon must take a vacation, Penny has quit her waitress job and
Bernadette tries to replace Howard’s comic book.


“Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC. A pleasant summer
surprise so far, this show has a relatively weak episode tonight. Language
problems keep Bruce (Greg Poehler, Amy’s brother) from mingling with the
friends of his girlfriend; it’s a slow build-up to a funny party scene.


“Working the Engels,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. This OK episode offers
memories of the best moments of Canadian comedy. Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin
of “SCTV” are re-united, when he plays a lawyer and neighbor she secretly lusts
for; Scott Thompson of “Kids in the Hall” plays a nasty client he provides.
Levy’s real-life daughter Sarah adds some fun here, playing his oversexed
daughter.


“Extreme Guide to Parenting” debut, 9:30 p.m., Bravo. Approaches
to parenting can vary widely, this series shows us. We meet a mom who takes an
“eco-kosher, shamanistic” approach, aiming for an all-natural childhood. And we
meet two men who fought for the right to be parents; now they hover.


“Married,” 10 p.m., FX. After its forlorn debut, this show
keeps improving. Tonight, money woes push Russ near violence and Lina near
applying for a job.


“The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m., Sundance. The core story remains
tangled: Nessa tries to cope with the kidnapping of a boy in her household,
while avoiding a mysterious memory. A sub-plot, however, is taut and solid, as
a British agent probes the woman claiming to be a late businessman’s ex-lover.


TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 6



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


Last week was a rough one for the dancers; four were dumping,
including the two who specialized in Latin ballroom. That gives the show its final
10, half of them contemporary or jazz dancers; there are two tappers, a popper
(really), a ballerina and a ballroom dancer.


Tonight, each dances with an all-star, ranging from veteran
Twitch to last year’s champion, Amy Yakima. Also, Christina Perri sings
“Burning Gold”; she was a waitress in 2010, when the show used her ballad “Jar
of Hearts”; she was soon signed, the song broke into the top 20 and both her
albums reached No. 4.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Extant,” 10 p.m., CBS.


In a belated burst of logic, CBS has nudged this show back
an hour. That means the summer’s two scripted ratings leaders (each a richly
crafted science-fiction tale from Steven Spielberg) are at 10 p.m. -- Mondays for
“Under the Dome” and Wednesdays for “Extant.”


Tonight, there are doubts that Molly (Halle Berry) really is
pregnant after her solo space mission. Her husband (Goran Visjnic) frets about
her mental state and disagrees with Julie, his science colleague, about her
treatment. Also, there’s a setback with the android son he helped develop.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Skin Wars” (9 p.m., Game Show
Network) and “Top Chef: Duels” (10 p.m., Bravo) debuts.


On one hand, give these shows zero points for originality;
“Top Chef” copies itself; “Skin Wars” copies every other competition show. On
the other, the contestants show awesome talent.


“Chef” starts its series of one-on-one challenges with Richard
Blais (previously a champion) and Marcel Vigneron (a runner-up); they’re
opposites – one calm, one described as having puppy-dog energy -- in fun ways.
“Skin” brings 10 people who sometimes need day jobs – from firefighter to stilt-walker
-- but also create stunning beauty by painting the human body; even tonight’s
loser does gorgeous work.


Other choices include:


“The Middle,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, a strike
forces Frankie to car-pool endangering kids’ chance for the “no tardy party.”
In the second, Mike squirms when required to take vacation days.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Cam is in charge of the spring
dance, with Claire as a chaperone. That means Haley will accompany her dad to
the annual realtors’ banquet.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9 p.m., NBC. Five more people will
advance, giving us the first half of the top 20. If you missed this week’s 12
acts, catch highlights in the 8 p.m. rerun.


“Nashville: On the Record,” 10 p.m., ABC. One night after
its high-octane country special, ABC remembers that the music also has a deep
and tender side. This rerun features actors from the “Nashville” series; the
conversations are hollow, but some of the music is magnificent. Catch Clare
Bowen (Scarlett in the series) singing “This Town,” “Black Roses” and “If I
Didn’t Know Better.”


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. TV’s obsession with torture
reaches wretched extremes in this otherwise well-made show. Marco should be
busy with big cases, tracing a web of drug deals, police corruption and rape;
instead, he throws his effort into a darkly complex scheme to avenge his son’s
death.