TV column for Thursday, Aug. 3


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Football, 8 p.m. ET, NBC.

Really? Football? It
was seven weeks ago that the pro hockey and basketball seasons ended.
Those are winter sports; now, shuffling spring and summer aside, we
have a fall sport.

This is the annual
Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio, with the first pre-season game
(tonight) and the Hall induction (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN); Dallas
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is involved with both. On Saturday, he'll
be inducted; first, his team plays the Arizona Cardinals, during a
tricky time: Jones and his coaches are still sorting out the
off-season troubles of several Cowboy players.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Guest Book” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m., TBS.

Quirky characters
have rippled through Greg Garcia's previous shows, “Raising Hope”
and “My Name is Earl.” Now he's found a way to have a new batch
of characters each episode.

This is a vacation
cabin; Charlie Robinson is the manager, Kellie Martin is the local
cop and others (Garrett Dillahut, Laura Bell Bundy, etc.) are nearby.
But the main stories involve the guests: In the first episode, a
mild-mannered science teacher wants to spice up his marriage; in the
second, a devout mom (Stockard Channing) is appalled that her son is
engaged to an atheist (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “I Love Kellie Pickler” season-opener (CMT) or “The
Chris Gethard Show” debut (Tru TV), both 11 p.m.

This is a
time-of-night when we really should be watching “The Daily Show”
... or Conan ... or the local news. Tonight, however, two quirky
alternatives arrive. CMT has a reality show, built on the easy,
Nashville charm of Pickler; tonight, her husband tries to roust
squirrels from the attic.

Opposite that
country tone, Gethard has a weekly talk show that started on New York
cable; now it leaps to the national level. It's a free-form show,
done live, with famous people and a young studio audience – sort of
what David Letterman or Steve Allen would have done, if confined to
public-access.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. With Sheldon moving across the hall, it's
time for he and Leonard to divide their possessions. Naturally, they
agree on nothing. It's a terrific rerun.

“Boy Band,” 8
p.m., ABC. The 11 remaining guys tackle a vital skill in the boy-band
spectrum – singing sad songs about break-ups.

“Battle of the
Network Stars,” 9 p.m., ABC. It's a generational battle. One team
has people who played kids on TV; that includes Jimmie Walker and
Mackenzie Phillips – who did “Battle” when they were on “Good
Times” and “One Day at a Time” – plus Jonathan Lipnicki,
Krista Marie Yu and Jeremy Miller. They face TV parents – Greg
Evigan, Chad Lowe, Jackee Harry, Ted McGinley and Lesley Fera.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT. Given a chance to do the Grand Ole Opry, Deacon hesitates.
Juliette lands a mascara commercial, but disagrees with the director.
Also, Gunnar and Avery sample life on the road.

“Zoo,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. As Jackson battles the fierce hybrids, we're learning that his
family is at the core. A look into his sister's past shows how the
crisis started; Ken Olin returns as their father.

“The Mist,” 10
p.m., Spike. Would anyone really try to duck danger by going into a
psych ward? These characters do; they wouldn't if they knew they're
in a Stephen King story.

“What Would Diplo
Do?” debut, 10 p.m., Viceland. James Van Der Beek plays a comic
version of the real-life electronic-music star known as Diplo.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Salvation,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

Here are
back-to-back episodes of this slickly crafted science thriller. The
government is being secretive about the fact that a meteor will
destory the Earth; its plans are iffy, but a mismatched trio – a
grad student, a tech billionaire and a government insider – are
trying other solutions.

Tonight, Liam (the
student) learns who's been selling secrets to the Russians; also, he
helps his new love Jillian adjust to her new job. Darius (the tech
guy) scrambles to prove he's not a traitor.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Sinner” debut, 10 p.m., USA.

Cora (Jessica Biel)
lives your standard, small-town life. She's a wife (working in her
father-in-law's business) and a mom; she does nothing unusual ...
except for the time she savagely stabs a stranger.

Why did she do it?
No one seems to know, including her. In the episodes ahead, a local
cop (Bill Pullman) finds secrets about her, about her victim and even
about himself.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Baroness Von Sketch Show” debut, 10 p.m., IFC,
reruns at 1 a.m.

Some of TV's
greatest sketch-comedy people – “SCTV,” “Kids in the Hall,”
transplants to “Saturday Night Live” -- are Canadians. Most of
them, alas, are guys.

Now four women take
over. Most are comedy writers; all are skilled actresses. This opener
packs 13 sketches into a half-hour. A few (including the final one,
at a cottage) fall flat, but most are clever. Especially sharp are a
women's-products meeting and what seems to be the world's worst book
club.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Lowe Files” debut, 10 p.m, A&E,
rerunning at 11:03 p.m.

Ghosthunting shows
often deteriorate into people trying to get excited about a few blips
and beeps. But here's a family that makes it fun: Rob Lowe is a
lifelong fan of the supernatural; now he takes his semi-skeptical
sons (college students, 23 and 21) on weekend jaunts.

This opener visits a
former reformatory in central California. There are the usual blips,
but these guys make it easy to watch; stick around at the end, for a
station's report on which doughnut Rob Lowe ate.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Arriving at the kitchen are the purveyors of fine
ingredients – butchers and beekeepers, vegetable-growers and herb
gardeners. What they bring must be formed into dishes.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. Juggling its Wednesday line-up, NBC inserts
this “best of auditions” hour. Also, at 10 p.m. it has a “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit” rerun involving a clash between
freedom-of-religion and a rape investigation.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. After an injury, Jerrod's brother –
not a great student – wants to go to college; his career choice
draws no enthusiasm. That's followed by a rerun in which their dad
makes a decision that incites family controversy: He'll vote for
Donald Trump.

“Modern Family,”
9 amd 10 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Haley spends a day with the
daughter of her older boyfriend, Rainer Shine. In the second, her mom
goes to a wedding with Mitchell; also, Cam is infuriated by a rude
parent at Lily's recital.

Dramas, 10 p.m.,
cable. This continues to be an amazing hour for new summertime
dramas. Alongside “The Sinner” are FX's “Snowfall,” the Oprah
Winfrey Network's “Queen Sugar,” BBC America's “Broadchurch”
and Syfy's “Blood Drive.” Maybe you should tape them all.

“Portlandia,”
10:30 p.m., IFC. After the “Baroness” debut, savor the great
American sketch show. This is the funny season-opener, with Carrie
and Fred trying to learn how to tell stories to friends.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“World of Dance,” 10 p.m., NBC.

Tonight, we'll have
a championship – three of them, actually -- but that still won't be
the end. The show chooses a winner in each of the three categories.
Next week, they'll compete for the overall title.

In the junior
division (ages 17 and under) are two pre-teens, Diana Pompo and Eva
Igo. In the 18-plus division (including small groups), the
contemporary duo Keona & Mari faces the French hip hop twins,
simply called Les Twins. And in large groups (five or more), the
Kinja bring ninja-inspired moves and Swing Latino gives ballroom
dancing a Colombian flavor.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Manhunt: Unabomber” debut, 9-11 p.m., Discovery.

These were crimes
that frightened the public and bewildered the police. The victims
seemed random; anyone could get a deadly bomb in the mail. Now an
eight-hour mini-series leaps between two phases: A profiler (Sam
Worthington) searches for a clue; later, he meets the bomber (Paul
Bettany) in prison. There are plenty of flaws here: The story takes
too long and time-jumps too often. It portrays the profilers' bosses
as total fools, making the whole story seem hard to believe. But
underneath it all is a story of two nimble minds (one of them
demented) at work; the result is sometimes riveting.

TONIGHT'S
MUST-RECORD: Monroe marathon, Turner Classic Movies.

In a wondrous little
14-year career, Marilyn Monroe did 26 movies and had uncredited
moments in others. She made a few great ones and a lot of
entertaining ones, as we'll see today.

One of the greatest,
“Some Like It Hot” (1959), is at 11:30 a.m. ET, alongside trifles
-- “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950) at 9:30 a.m., “Love Nest”
(1951) at 2 p.m. Then it's “There's No Business Like Show Business”
(1954) at 3:45 p.m., “Bus Stop” (1956) at 6, “The Seven Year
Itch” (1955) at 8, “Niagara” (1953) at 10, “River of No
Return” (1954) at midnight, “How to Marry a Millionaire”
(1955) at 2 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The judges continue to make their cuts,
this time with Laverne Cox joining them and getting the power of the
“golden buzzer.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
NCIS. In a rerun, a congresswoman (Mary Stuart Masterson) gets
escalating threats. Vance (Rocky Carroll), the NCIS director,
oversees a temporary protection detail.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, it's Dre's turn to choose a
baby's name; he goes for something culturally significant. In the
second, Zoey has been accepted to several colleges, some of them far
away; now her parents become sentimental.

“Animal Kingdom,”
9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10. Baz drops out of the yacht heist and
instead wants J to join him for a more-personal job. That leaves
Craig and Deran pondering their yacht options.

“The Bold Type,”
9:01 p.m., Freeform. Jane's writing career was zooming, but now
there's a detour: She and the magazine are being sued by the subject
of her story about a woman who left a finance job to be an exotic
dancer. Sutton sees progress in her fashion work; Kat is discouraged
about romance.

“Somewhere
Between,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last week's opening hours saw Laura wake up
with a chance to re-live the previous week ... and maybe stop a
serial killer who would eventually slay her daughter. The first try
by Laura and Nico failed; now they endanger themselves while trying
to set a trap.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A JAG lawyer who handles controversial and
classified cases has gone missing. Now Pride's friend (Chelsea
Field), a military attorney, asks him to investigate.

TV column for Monday, July 31


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

Things wrap up next
week, with Rachel Lindsay – a Dallas lawyer, 31 – choosing among
three guys. First, however, is the annual “Men Tell All” detour.
Some of the men Lindsay rejected return to talk about her or about
the other guys. Then we get quick views of the finalists.

There's Bryan
Abasolo, 37, a Miami chiropractor who seems confident – too
confident, her family insists. The others are personal trainers --
Eric Bigger, 29, and the slow-to-commit Peter Kraus, 31.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“To Tell the Truth” or “Loaded,” 10:01 p.m., ABC, or 10:03,
AMC.

From “West Wing”
to “In Plain Sight,” Mary McCormack keeps playing brainy types.
That's a subject she knows well; how many other stars have a sister
who's a state Supreme Court jusice?

Now she competes
with herself. In the “Truth” rerun, she's a panelist. And in the
delightful “Loaded,” she's the new boss of a videogame company.
Tonight's hour starts hilariously, as she cracks down on guys who
just want to have fun; then one of them (Josh) is dismayed when his
parents return home.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “CBSN: On Assignment” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

In summers past, the
networks would use the slow time to add extra news shows – real
ones, not just true-crime tales. Now CBS links with its streamig
service, www.CBSNews.com, for
this hour.

Adam Yamaguchi looks
at Japan, with the largest population decline in modern history. He
visits an abandoned school and sees robots being used as friends and
roommates. Vladimir Duthiers views how visa fraud is used to put
foreign works in U.S. auto plants. And Charlie D'Agata is in Iraq,
where parents say ISIS is indoctrinating a generation of children to
become potential killers.

Other choices
include:

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox. This is the final night of the “Academy”
callbacks. Next week, we'll learn the top 10. And with “Super
Human” (9 p.m.) ending tonight, next week “Dance” gets the
two-hour slot that it deserves.

“AFI Life
Achievement Award” and “Reds” (1981), 8 and 9 p.m. ET, Turner
Classic Movies. First is a rerun of Diane Keaton being honored. Then
we see her in a supporting role in Warren Beatty's film. The first
half is a sweeping epic; the second – like life itself – stumbles
into semantic tangles.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Adam moves in with Bonnie;
lovers turn into squabblers. Also, Christy is ready to meet guys; she
makes the mistake of letting Jill be her guide.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:03.. Tulip confronts her near-death
experience.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Joan's forgetfulness is dismissed as “old age,”
an excuse she's not happy about. Meanwhile, Greg revives an old
family feud and Tim makes the kids try an extreme hardship: Get home
without money or cell service.

“Midnight, Texas,”
10 p.m., NBC. Last week's terrific debut centered on Manfred, a fake
(usually) medium who suddenly finds that it's too real. On the advice
of his dead grandmother, he moved to a distant Texas town. Now a
friend is accused of murder; Manfred can help him by talking to the
victim.

“Sharknado”
(2013), 10 p.m., Syfy. This film brought so much goofy fun that Syfy
started copying it – and then re-re-re-copying it. Tonight, it's
preceded by the new “Mississippi River Sharks” at 8 p.m., with
lots of other shark tales before that. It all leads up to Sunday's
“Sharknado 5.

TV column for Sunday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grantchester” season-finale, 9 p.m., PBS.

A superb season ends
with subtlety and passion. Yes, there's a fresh mystery to solve;
this one – involving a missing boy – again brings surprises,
subtlety and a quiet sense of human frailty.

But the mysteries
have been overshadowed by personal stories. There is Sidney, the
village vicar who will be defrocked if he marries the divorcee he
loves. And his assistant,who's never admitted to anyone (including
himself) that he's gay. And their housekeeper, now widowed and free
to marry. And the cop, who shattered his own marriage with an affair.
Their stories offer depth and bittersweet emotion.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“5-Headed Shark Attack,” 8 p.m., Syfy.

If two heads are
better than one, can five heads be worse than three? They may be,
when attached to a cranky shark. Two years ago, Syfy had a cruise
ship face “3-Headed Shark Attack,” which reruns at 6 p.m. today.
Now a new film has more heads and a bigger target – Puerto Rico.

That's part of a
shark marathon, including “Sharktopus” (2010) – yes, it's
part-octopus – at 10 a.m. and “Atomic Shark” (2016) at both
noon and 10 p.m. There will be much more; today's onslaught launches
a week-long build-up for next Sunday's “Sharknado 5”; goofy
films, new and old, will abound.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Lost Tapes: The Son of Sam.” 9 p.m., Smithsonian.

It was 40 years ago,
on Aug. 10, that the terror in New York began to fade. David
Berkowitz – eventually convicted as the “Son of Sam” shooter –
had been arrested.

The shootings has
begun a year earlier (on July 29, 1976), with little in common. Six
people were killed and seven were critically wounded; most victims
were young women with long brown hair, sometimes with their
boyfriends. Fear had grown; lives had changed. Skillfully edited from
old news footage, this tells the story of a case that gripped a city
... then got its break from a parking ticket.

Other choices
include:

More shark stuff.
Alongside the silliness of those shark movies, here's the conclusion
of the eight-day “Shark Week.” The final two hours involve
Olympic champion Michael Phelps – at 7 p.m., a rerun of the
“Sharkopedia” version of his race with a shark; at 8, “Shark
School with Michael Phelps.”

“Wild Alaska
Live,” 8 p.m., PBS. This concludes the ambitious, three-part visit,
much of it live (in some time zones) at what is 4 p.m. Alaskan time.
The salmon are expected to be in full run now, trying to overcome
beaver dams, bears and wolves. We also see wolves migrating and bears
feasting.

“Celebrity Family
Feud” and “Funderdome,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Steve Harvey has his
double-header. Tonight's “Funderdome” offers such
semi-necessities as a shirt with a giant pocket and a tie that can
hold bottles and cans.

“Chesapeake
Shores,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. We're a week from the second-season
opener of this oft-charmig series. Tonight reminds us how it began,
with a young woman returning – briefly, she thinks – to the
gorgeous coastal town where she grew up. Memories (and ex-boyfriend
Jesse Metcalfe) linger.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Are famous chefs good game-players?
Tonight, Rachael Ray faces Curtis Stone; also competing are David
Arquette and RuPaul.

“Remember Me,”
10 p.m., PBS. This odd three-parter concludes as Tom faces a terrible
decision and we finally learn why there's been an obsession with the
song “Scarborough Fair.”

“The Strain,” 10
p.m., FX. This fairly good episode focuses on extreme bits of
guerilla warfare: Fet and Quinlan learn it isn't easy to steal a
nuclear warhead; Eph and Alex try to poison a blood supply. On the
lighter side, young Zack tries to nurture a quiet romance with the
new maid.