TV column for Saturday, Sept. 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
College football, 8 p.m. ET, ABC.

Isn't the season
supposed to start slowly, with silly mismatches? Not this time; the
first full week of the season has the top-ranked team (Alabama),
hosting the third-ranked team (Florida State).

ABC has another good
one at 3:30 p.m., with Michigan (No. 11) and Florida (No. 17).
There's much more all day on cable. And at 7:30 p.m., Fox has what
may a mismatch: Purdue (3-9 last season) hosts Louisville, which is
ranked No. 16 and has Heisman-winner (Lamar Jackson) at quarterback.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

When The Rock hosted
“SNL” in 2000, it seemed like a lame choice. This was a wrestler
and a pop-culture oddity; he'd done a few acting bits and was about
to be the Scorpion King in “The Mummy.”

And now? He's Dwayne
Johnson, a box-office giant and a surprisingly good comedy actor. In
this rerun of the season-finale – his fifth time as host – some
of his skits are so-so, but others are hilarious. There's Johnson in
an erectile-dysfunction commercial ... and as a fashion-focused
superhero ... and more. The rerun (with music from Katy Perry) starts
and ends mildly, but has a great mid-section.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), 8 p.m. ET; Turner
Classic Movies; or “American Sniper” (2014), 8 p.m., TNT.

On a big screen, at
least, Stanley Kubrick's “Odyssey” was a masterpiece, with a
sparse story stretched alongside visual and musical splendor.

But if you prefer
something down-to-earth, Clint Eastwood's “Sniper” is perfectly
crafted. The true story of Chris Kyle is captured with understated
passion by Bradley Cooper and Eastwood.

Other choices
include:

“The Hangover”
(2011), 7:50 p.m., Comedy Central; and 8 p.m., BET. This is why we
pay for all these cable channels – for freedom of choice. In this
case, we can choose to start at 7:50 or 8. BET reruns the film at
9:55; Comedy Central has “Hangover Part 3” at 10.

“Candy Crush,” 8
and 9 p.m., CBS. Old game shows seem to thrive in the summer, but
this attempt to craft a new one failed. Now CBS is dumping the final
two episodes onto Saturday, when viewership is low. Contestants
include two mother-daughter duos, several couples (married or
dating), siblings, best friends and even some Roller Derby teammates.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. If you missed this on Tuesday and
Wednesday, here's a second chance to see the final batch of people
reach the semi-finals. In tonight's rerun, a dozen acts perform; in
Sunday's, seven of them will advance, completing the field of 21.

“Silence,” 8
p.m., Epix. After years of huge movies (from “Raging Bull” to
“Casino” to “The Wolf of Wall Street”), Martin Scorsese made
this quiet film about Portuguese priests, in Japan to find their
mentor. It died at the box office, but drew praise and an American
Film Institute award.

“Declassified,”
9 p.m., CNN, rerunning at midnight (barring breaking news). This new
hour views the effort to catch a Chinese software pirate. It's
surrounded by reruns involving Cuban spies (8 p.m.), American
terrorists (10) and an international arms dealer dubbed “the
Peacock” (11).

“Julie &
Julia” (2009), 10:02 p.m., Starz. Two great performances spark this
charming film. Amy Adams plays the real-life woman who tried a
different Julia Childs recipe each day; and in delightful flashbacks,
Meryl Streep is the unstoppable Childs.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Richard Linklater
keeps breaking all the rules of filmmaking. He was in Texas, not
Hollywood. He made movies that meandered a little ... with dialog
that meandered a lot. He made quick little films ... and one
(“Boyhood”) that was filmed, off-and-on, for a dozen years.

These should have
flopped – and sometimes did; “School of Rock” soared, but was
soon followed by five straight box-office failures. But then came
“Before Midnight” and, especially, “Boyhood” (2014), piling
up praise, awards and audiences. Here's a deep portrait of a quiet
movie dynamo.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Diana, 7 Days,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The cascade of Lady
Diana films concluded on Thursday, the 20th anniversary of
her death. But now comes one more, viewing the week that followed.

Diana's sister calls
her a religious user of seatbelts and is bewildered by this
exception. Prince Harry, then 12, describes the intermittent shrieks
of pain he heard from onlookers during the funeral procession; Prince
William, then 15, says he was confused by that until he fully grasped
their mother's impact. Also interviewed are her brother, plus
then-prime minister Tony Blair and his press secretary.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Killjoys” season-finale, 8 p.m., Syfy.

For three seasons,
“Killjoys” has skillfully mixed action, humor, character drama
and science-fiction babble. Now – with the fate of the world at
stake – the humor is dialed down a little and the action is cranked
up a lot. The babble remains; this is an hour that makes you say both
“wow” and “huh?”

Dutch is being
attacked by the overwhelming forces of her evil lookalike Aneela
(both played by Hannah John-Kamen). A plan involves disorienting the
attacking ships and killing Aneela ... except that then Dutch would
also die. There's no word on renewal, but this hour would make a good
series finale.

Other choices
include:

Football, 6 and 9:30
p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports1. Most college
teams begin their seasons Saturday, but there were a few
early-starters Thursday, with more today. CSN has Fordham at Army and
then Boston at Northern Illinois. FS1 has 8th-ranked
Washington at Rutgers.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts with the team intercepting a
message intended for Murdoc, the nasty assassin. Now Mac poses as
him.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the first half of Wednesday's show, the
final nine chefs try to re-create their favorite family breakfasts.
Then there's a tag-team challenge involving Mexican food.

“Beach Party”
(1963), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Filled with young people
who seemed to have no cares, few brains and scant clothes, these
1960s musicals were kind of fun retro romps. This is followed by its
sequel, “Muscle Beach Party” (1963) at 10. Then are so-so copies
-- “Surf Party” ('64) at midnight, “For Those Who Think Young”
(1964) at 2 a.m., “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964) at 4.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. McGarrett and the others “face certain death” after
being captured, CBS tells us. Except it couldn't be that certain,
because they've continued to be in the series.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Jamie, the street cop, becomes suspicious after getting
an emergency call. His sister learns that, as assistant district
attorney, she may have helped convict an innocent man. And their dad,
the police commissioner, faces a crisis when an expose is published.

ALSO: “Narcos”
has its fourth drug-drama season today on Netflix. And cable movies?
“The Lone Ranger” (2013) -- ambitious, visual, kind of empty –
is 7:30 p.m. on CMT. Freeform has another Harry Potter weekend,
starting from the beginning at 12:30, 4 and 8 p.m. And Julia Roberts
is brilliant in “Pretty Woman” (1990, 8 p.m., Lifetime), OK in
“My Best Friend's Wedding” (1997, 7:13 p.m., Starz).

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958), 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Somewhere beyond her
movie-star silliness, Elizabeth Taylor was a serious actress.
Onscreen and on Broadway, she tackled the great playwrights –
Shakespeare, Albee, Coward, Hellman, Dylan Thomas and (three times)
Tennessee Williams. She and Paul Newman triumph here in Williams'
“Cat.”

That's preceded at 8
p.m. ET by “Butterfield 8,” a merely-OK drama that brought
Taylor's first Academy Award. And there's more all day – alert your
recording device -- from a 12-year-old Taylor in “National Velvet”
(1944) at 6 a.m. ET to a 1975 “Intimate Profile” at 4:45 a.m. ET
Friday .

TONIGHT'S
MIGHT-SEE:“The Night Shift” season-finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

Thursdays have been
good to NBC lately – no reruns, solid ratings and plenty of movie
ads. Now August ends with the final two new hours of “The Wall”
at 8 and 9 p.m., and then “Night Shift.”

This manages to be
an action-adventure hospital show – often without the hospital.
Tonight, there's a shooting at a nearby college. The doctors rush to
the campus to help Rick, the ex-soldier, married to Drew, who became
a cop after losing his leg. Also, Drew, Shannon and TC face choices
for the future.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Diana documentaries, everywhere.

On the 20th
anniversary of Lady Diana's death, reruns fill the day. Some may be
tacky: Reelz goes non-stop from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. ET; TLC, from
4-7 p.m., has “Princess Diana: Tragedy or Treason?”

But there are also
some solid films. Smithsonian reruns ones about Diana's love-hate
relationship with the paparazzi (8 p.m.) and about her funeral (9).
At 9, many PBS stations (check local listings) rerun “Diana: Her
Story.” It starts with frank comments she made with her speech
teacher, then adds views of a friend, a bodyguard, a personal
secretary and the instructor for her enthusiastic dance performance.

Other choices
include:

Football, cable.
Yes, the college season is already starting; this first full weekend
begins with some possible mismatches. Oklahoma State, ranked No. 10,
hosts Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports1; second-ranked Ohio State
visits Indiana at 8 on ESPN. CBS Sports Network has two games --
Florida International at Central Florida at 6, Louisiana Monroe at
Memphis at 9.

“Kevin Can Wait,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Before landing his own shows, Kevin James
played Ray Romano's pal on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Now this
rerun has Romano guesting as a guy Kevin dislikes so strongly that he
tries to sabotage their sons' friendship. The second episode –
sorry, no “Big Bang” today – has the retired Kevin jealous of
the fit young cop who replaced him.

“Battle of the
Network Stars,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, TV cops
(including Fred Dryer) face science-fiction stars, from Hercules
(Kevin Sorbo) to the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). Then primetime soap stars
(from Donna Mills to Mischa Barton) face former teen stars, including
Anson Williams.

“Invincible”
(2006) and “McFarland, US” (2015), 8 and 10:16 p.m., TNT. Here
are strong stories of real-life underdogs. Mark Wahlberg plays the
guy who became an NFL rookie at 30, with no college football
experience; then Kevin Costner starts a cross-country team in a
hard-scrabble Latino town.

“Project Runway,”
9 p.m., Lifetime; repeats at 10:47. After seeing a dance film and a
dance performance, the designers are told to come up with innovative
creations.

“Zoo,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. After being attacked by Jackson, Abigail is near death. People
race to save her.

“Girlfriends'
Guide to Divorce,” 10 p.m., Bravo. When Abby rushes out of town on
a family emergency, Barbara is left with some key decisions.

TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Vixen” (2017), 8-10 p.m. CW.

Greg Berlanti has
done plenty of full-scale, full-budget CW shows, based on DC Comics
characters. At the same time, however, he's produced a tiny, animated
series for the CW Seed streaming service. Now the first two seasons
(12 mini-episodes), plus new scenes, give us this stylized,
stand-alone movie.

Mari (Megalyn
Echikunwoke) is a tough young woman who grew up in Detroit foster
homes. She didn't inherit much from her parents ... except an African
necklace that helps her summon the power of animals. She uses that to
fight crime, sometimes aided by Arrow and the Flash.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Salvation,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Yes, things remain
grim. The asteroid is still streaking toward Earth and the government
still seems to have secrets and schemes. And after tonight, only
three episodes remain, with no renewal so far.

Demanding answers
from the president (Tovah Feldshuh) are Grace (Jennifer Finnigan),
the government insider, and Darius (Santiago Cabrera), the tech
mogul. Also, Harris finds deadly secrets.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Snowfall,” 10 p.m., FX.

Franklin was
college-bound – smart, diligent, well-raised. Then he saw the
big-money potential of dealing cocaine and crack in his neighborhood.
The result would shatter lives in 1983 Los Angeles.

Last week ended with
Franklin's longtime friend almost killed. Now his mother – who
thinks this is just pot, is enraged. In separate stories, Lucia is
desperate to seize the family drug business and Teddy finds it
increasingly difficult to hide the truth about a killing by is
colleague. It's a strong episode, leading to an even better one next
week, in the season finale.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. The first hour involves a family breakfast and a
Mexican-themed tag-team challenge; the second has fresh fish. In the
process, the field will be trimmed from nine to seven.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. On Tuesday, a dozen acts performed. Tonight,
with the help of a viewer save, seven will advance. That rounds out
the field, with 21 acts.

“Marlon,” 9 and
9:30 p.m., NBC. This has become a tv standard – the goofy but
well-meaning guy goes to excess, reined in by a wise woman. That
happens in most “Marlon” episodes, including these. In the first,
Marlon tries to make the kids experience his hard-scrabble childhood;
in the second, he tries to talk his ex-wife out of a breast
enlargement. Both are funny at first ... and then wildly excessive.

“Suits,” 9 p.m.,
USA. In the show's 100th episode, Harvey and Mike need
outside help in a no-win situation. Also, an encounter throws off
Louis' hiring search and Donna gets a surprising proposition.

“Diana: In Her Own
Words,” 9 p.m. ET, National Geographic, rerunning at 11:30. Back in
1991, with her marriage shattered, Princess Diana made a series of
audio tapes, to be given to biographer Andrew Morton. Now, skillfully
weaved with photos and film clips, those tapes provide an interesting
autobiography – rerun on the eve of the 20th
anniversary of her death.

“Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, a hate crime
becomes hard to prosecute when the key witness is deported.

“CMT Crossroads,”
10 p.m., CMT. The country duo Florida Georgia Line has already teamed
with the pop group Backstreet Boys for a tour and for a song with the
consummate country title: “God, Your Mama, and Me.” In this hour,
they link for each other's hits.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bold Type,” 9:01 p.m, Freeform.

In record time, this
has transformed from a surface sort of youthful spree to a series
with depth and substance. At first, we met three bright-eyed friends
at a magazine in New York. They were blessed with beauty,
intelligence, fun jobs and zesty sex and a great boss; it was fun
fantasy, but nothing more.

Now decisions
arrive, just as a Trump protest makes it impossible to leave the
building. Will Jane take a tougher job at a political magazine? Will
Sutton break out of her underling status? And what about Kat, whose
girlfriend is a global activist? Pretty shows, like pretty people,
can sometimes be deep.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS; concludes next
Tuesday.

The Walt Disney many
people knew was stuck in the 1950s; his films and TV shows were
crippled by stagnant, conservative choices. But here is a sharp
portrait of the early Disney, a fascinating man.

He had a difficult
childhood; the small-town America he later created was partly
wish-fulfillment and partly a reflection of his happiest years (ages
4-9), on a Missouri farm. An endless optimist, Disney hated the
businessmen who kept nixing new ideas ... and who stole his first
star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Eventually, he would plow past the
naysayers, transforming movies and vacations.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Manhunt: Unabomber,” 10:01 p.m., Discovery,
rerunning at 11:04.

For five episodes,
this has followed the intense FBI search for the man (Ted Kaczynski)
known as the Unabomber. Now, two weeks from the finale, comes an
unusual detour.

“We sort of hold
off on that tension,” said writer Andrew Sodroski, “and we go
with this other episode, with its own pace.” Kaczynski (Paul
Bettany) is pondering what took him to this point. Once a kid with a
bright future, Sodroski said, he became “a guy who mails bombs to
people he's never met.”

Other choices
include:

“Diana, Our
Mother: Her Life and Legacy,” 8:45 a.m., HBO; and “The Queen,”
8 and 10 p.m. ET, National Geographic. In the morning is a
documentary, with the warm memories of Princes William and Harry. At
night is Helen Mirren's Oscar-winning portrait of their grandmother,
perplexed by the waves of grief for her sometimes-troublesome former
daughter-in-law.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's the third and final batch of 12
acts. Viewers will vote; on Wednesday, we'll learn which seven are in
the final 21.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After spotting the brother of a key suspect, Gibbs takes a big
risk in this rerun: He assumes a previous alias and goes undercover
with an anti-government militia.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform, rerunning at 10:02. Mariana and Jude try to convince
other students to vote against the school going private. And when
Brandon throws a party, secrets spill out.

“Animal Kingdom”
season finale, 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10:01. Baz has schemed to
but Smurf (his adoptive mother) behind bars. Once she realizes she
might be there a long time, she concocts ways to create dissent among
Baz, her sons and her grandson.

“Face Off: Game
Face,” 9 p.m., Syfy. This spin-off debuted last week, after the
“Face Off” finale. Each week brings back four past contestants
for quick contests. Tonight includes classic monsters and more.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. While the team probes a train heist, Pride
monitors a wiretap on the mayor. Also in this rerun, Sheryl Crow
performs “Halfway There” and “Roller Skate.”