TV column for Thursday, July 24



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden,” 9:01 p.m., NBC.

Life in Sweden is perplexing, Bruce (Greg Poehler) finds. He
wants to talk to his neighbors; that’s not the Swedish way. Also, he wants his
apartment to have things that are quirky and mismatched and maybe even
colorful; his Swedish girlfriend prefers sparse and sleek and (especially)
white.


This comes from Poehler’s real-life experience moving there.
His sister Amy produces “Welcome” and appears briefly (with Audrey Plaza) in
this clever third episode, which is much better than the second.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Black Box” finale, 8 and 9 p.m., ABC.


This has almost everything – a gifted star (Kelly Reilly),
an Oscar-winning co-star (Vanessa Redgrave), a story of a bright and beautiful
neurologist who saves other people, but can’t control her bipolar mind.


Still, viewers have never warmed up to it and now the show
is ending. In tonight’s first hour, she claims that her medicine doesn’t work
and that she has an important Harvard presentation. In the second, she faces
the aftershocks at work and is nudged toward admitting her family secrets.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN, and “NY
Med,” 10 p.m., ABC.


Here are two documentary series with much in common: They are
well-made and richly human; they also have suffered from their networks’ habit
of switching episodes. Now “Sixties” has its space-race hour, originally scheduled
for last week; “NY Med” has some warm, human stories.


We meet one woman who has, in her late 60s,has  met the man she calls “the love of my life”;
that life is imperiled by a torn aorta. We meet Rita Respass-Brown, a vibrant
woman who is saved by her son’s kidney donation. And we see Dr. Debbie Yi’s
personal anguish, with a patient who had a miscarriage.


Other choices include:


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. For a moment there,
Sheldon felt the joy of his accidental science discovery. Now that it’s been
disproven, this funny rerun finds him immersed shame.


“Project Runway,” 8 p.m. and 9-10:31 p.m., Lifetime. First
is a special, showing the selection of this year’s contestants. Then there’s
one more audition, before each survivor designs a spring item.


“Rectify,” 9 p.m., Sundance. An early scene has Daniel – who
spent 19 years in prison for a murder he may not have committed – speaking at a
stranger’s funeral. That moment shows how quietly powerful “Rectify” can be.
The rest is also involving, as he disappears on his mother’s birthday.  


“Working the Engels,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. Jenna – the responsible
one, complete with law degree – realizes she has no friends. Then she finds one,
after her brother gives their grandmother’s ring to a stripper.


“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. The final six comedians
face a fresh challenge – perform at a comedy roast for Gilbert Gottfried.


“Married,” 10 p.m., FX. A too-small shower leads to a
too-big veterinarian bill and a visit to a place with a mega-shower and … Well,
it’s a twisty and funny story, an improvement from the show’s poor opener.


“You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX. Last week’s opener
showed the wonders that can happen when two nasty, acerbic people have a
sex-only relationship. In this good follow-up, they actually try a date.


TV column for Wednesday, July 23



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “America’s Got Talent” (NBC) or “So You
Think You Can Dance” (Fox), 8-10 p.m.

The summer’s big performance competitions are in trim-down
mode now. “Talent” wraps up its brief “boot camp” and announces its final 48 …
which is triple the “Dance” crew.


Last week, “Dance” trimmed to 16, dropping Jourdan Epstein
(one of this season’s two ballerinas) and Stanley Glover, a contemporary
dancer. Tonight that trims to 14,; first, Lucy Hale (a “Pretty Little Liars”
star) sings “Lie a Little Better,” from her debut album.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Divide,” 9 p.m., WE; and “The
Bridge,” 10 p.m., WE.


Suddenly, summer Wednesdays have become a great time for
drama. That grew last week, with the superb “Divide” start: One man was
executed, shortly before DNA evidence arrived clearing him. Now an intern
obsesses on the other man convicted in the case, while the district attorney
scrambles.


Then “The Bridge” mixes great drama with, unfortunately, excessive
gore. Tonight’s focus is on a shunned Amish woman who is cold, sexual and
lethal; the result is nasty, but well-crafted.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail”
debut, 12:30 a.m., Comedy Central.


This is low-budget show-business – a stand-up comedy show in
a Los Angeles comic-book store. Kumail Nanjiani (a regular on “Silicon Valley”
and, previously, “Franklin and Bash”) and Jonah Ray have been hosting it for
four years. Now we get a TV version, with backstage glimpses and edited
routines.


In this opener, Nanjiani and Ray aren’t particularly funny. However,
there are great moments from Steve Agee, Dave Koechner and, especially, Neal
Brennan.


Other choices include:


“The Middle,” 8 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. Both reruns find Sue’s
life changing. In the first, she feels more at ease in high school;, now that
her big brother is in college; in the second, she might get a job and buy a
car. For Brick, however, middle school is tough; in the second episode, we learn
he’s skipping school.


“ET,” 8-11 p.m., CMT. This is, very simply, one of the
all-time great movies, perfectly blending a simple and emotional story with the
brilliant visual touch of Steven Spielberg and music of John Williams.


“Extant,” 9 p.m., CBS. In one way, Molly and her husband
(Halle Berry and Goran Visnjic) are united; they face parents’ doubts when
their android son enters school. In another, they’re divided: He asks about her
strange mood; she’s reluctant to tell him she became pregnant during a solo
space mission.


“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. Secrets abound in this rerun.
Claire and Phil spy on the boys … Haley hasn’t told her family about her photography
exhibit … and Cam uses Mitchell as the scapegoat, when he wants to get out of attending
a party.


“Who Do You Think You Are?” season-opener, 9 p.m., TLC. In
its three NBC seasons, this show did genealogical work on 27 stars, from Lisa
Kudrow (who produces the show) to Spike Lee and Paula Deen. Now its second TLC
season begins; the first of six episodes traces Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the
City.”


“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. A transport vehicle is
attacked, leaving two female prisoners dead and four on the loose. One of the
escapees was a witness in the murder of Cat’s father.


TV column for Tuesday, July 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “History Detectives,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

At his peak, Jimmy Hoffa was a fierce force. In his four
decades with the Teamsters, he saw the union increase tenfold. It had a million
members and forged a national transportation contract.


At his low point, he spent four years in prison, convicted
of fraud and jury-tampering. He was still trying for a comeback when he
disappeared on July 30, 1975. That remains one of the classic unsolved
mysteries; using the FBI report, experts and survivors, this looks at Hoffa’s
final days.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Face Off” season-opener, 9 p.m.,
Syfy.


This competition for aspiring movie make-up people has all
the reality-show clichés, but uses them well. It has a sharp host (actress McKenzie
Westmore) and top experts, including her father (Michael Westmore), who has an
Academy Award and three more nominations.


Tonight – after a 13-hour rerun marathon ends with last
season’s winner -- 16 contestants arrive and learn they might not stay. Each
must create a look representing life or death; then two will be ousted.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Drunk History,” 10 p.m., Comedy
Central.


OK, many of us know the story of a lawyer, temporarily
captive, writing a poem that was later set to a British drinking song; it would
become the National Anthem. But how many know of Edgar Allan Poe’s bitter
rival, who helped make him famous? Or Abraham Lincoln slipping into Washington
for his inauguration; he almost got stuck in anti-Abe turf, because Baltimore’s
noise rule banned trains at night.


Each story is told here by someone who is drunk. Spiced with
odd re-enactments, it’s a fun mix.


Other choices include:


“Food Fighters” debut, 8 p.m., NBC. Amateur cooks bring
their specialties – which celebrity cooks then try to top. Adam Richman (“Man
v. Food”) hosts and Lorena Garcia is a guest chef.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a Marine photographer has
disappeared, before he could testify at a court martial. Now the team probes
that case and his current project, about homeless veterans.


Movies, 8 p.m., cable. There’s family fun in “Bolt” (2008,
Disney), an animated tale of a TV-star dog who thinks he really is a superhero.
For grown-ups, “21 Jump Street” (2012, FXX) is surprisingly clever.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. The auditions have
finished and survivors face a “boot camp.”


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun eyes Hetty’s
past, after an anti-terrorist device is stolen.


“Chasing Life,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. This remains an odd
mish-mash. The core – skilled actors, in a story of a 24-year-old facing cancer
– is solid; around that is clumsy soap opera and an absurd portrait of the
newspaper world. Tonight, April’s romantic dreams wobble when Dominic gets a
job offer.


“Frontline,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here’s a
rerun of a Thanksgiving-week episode, focusing on three kids – ages 9, 10 and
12 – who face hunger day-to-day.


“Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s hour stopped in
mid-crisis, on the anniversary of a late dictator’s genocide. Now his son –
until recently, a Pasadena pediatrician – scrambles to prevent more bloodshed.


TV column for Monday, July 21



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


Last week’s opener was a happy surprise – quick, clever and
unheralded. A shiftless bartender suddenly met two results of his long-ago
sperm donation … with a possible third on the way.


Tonight’s episode – a half-hour earlier than usual, in a
late switch – is another good one. Our guy adjusts to the kids’ extremely
opposite families and is pressed into parenting duties … leading to one of TV’s
funniest show-and-tell scenes.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “MasterChef” and “Hotel Hell,” 8 and 9
p.m., Fox.


Fox’s Mondays are now all-new and all-Ramsay. Gordon Ramsay continues
as one of the three “MasterChef” judges; tonight they join the 13 remaining chefs,
working with Alaskan king salmon.


Then we see Ramsay alone, in the season-opener of a hotel
makeover show. He heads to Las Cruces, New Mexico; the heat is fierce and the hotel
owner is obsessed with singing Cher songs.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m.,
ABC.


The chances for a major culture clash ended last week, when
Andi Dorfman, an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, sent home Chris
Soules, an Iowa farmer.


Next week, Dorfman, 27, is supposed to choose either Josh
Murray, 29, a former pro baseball player who lives in Atlanta; or Nick Viall,
33, a software sales executive in Chicago. First, the show pauses for its
“Bachelors Tell All” chapter, with comments and memories from some of the
rejected men.


Other choices include:


“2 Broke Girls,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Caroline thinks
she’s doing Max a favor by buying new bedding. Then she must scramble to find
the old pillowcase, which has sentimental value.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Nick Zano is now the designated
hot-guy for Monday comedies. After several turns as Johnny in “2 Broke Girls,”
he’s David here – a wild party guy who tempts Christy to her old ways.


“Brain Games,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic. Even without
specific words, it seems, language is deeply rooted. Twin babies have vocal
rhythms like conversation; grown-ups agree on which nonsense sound fits each
shape. Such findings lead to a discussion of language; the second episode views
risk.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In a funny rerun,
Berta injures her back at work. Walden and Alan figure she should retire; for
now, however, she just enjoys being waited on.


“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. Food is scarce under the dome,
so Big Jim and Rebecca ponder the extreme step – reducing the population. Also,
we learn about Melanie and her possible link to the dome.


“Way Out West,” 10 p.m., TruTV. Reality fans like to see people
face primitive challenges, often in Alaska; now comes an Idaho variation. We
meet three families that work at “outfitting” – preparing and guiding people
for the wilderness. Alongside the serious business, we see their makeshift
contests. Tonight pits horse-drawn “chariots” … which look suspiciously like a
toboggan and a raft and such.


“Going Deep,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., National Geographic. In
this witty series, David Rees goes into deep details about the simplest tasks.
Tonight, he learns how to dig a hole and how to flip coins.


TV column for Sunday, July 20



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

Here’s the last of this season’s four “Endeavour” movies,
showing the early years of Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans), before he became the
all-wise Inspector Morse.


Tonight, he’s been probing three cases: A boy is missing, a
journalist is dead and someone has walked out of an open prison. Morse feels
they’re related and they point to a conspiracy among Oxford’s elite.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Lottery” debut, 10 p.m.,
Lifetime.


Suddenly, inexplicably, the world has turned infertile. There
are six known 5-year-olds; no one has been born since then. Now – as word comes
of a possible breakthrough – we see desperate moves.


The government covets the few children … and covets some newly
fertilized eggs. Now the plots grow. “Lottery” has a plot that’s good enough to
partially overcome its so-so filming and adequate cast.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.


Like last week’s opener, this hour tries some precarious
juggling. It’s a sleek, slick adventure drama, beautifully written, acted and
filmed. It’s also a gory horror story.


An airplane landed with only four survivors – except,
unbeknownst to officials, the others have returned to life. Meanwhile, a giant
box was smuggled out, carrying something viral and nasty. Now a Centers for
Disease Control doctor deals with his own crumbling life, while trying to warn
of disaster.


Other choices include:


“The Simpsons,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. The first rerun, a
delight, finds Homer waking up and seeing that he and everyone else is suddenly
made of Legos. The second has Marge deciding to quit having friends.


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. It’s got to be tough to play
poker with someone who remembers everything. Tonight, Carrie admits to fellow
cops that she’s played it at an underground casino; then she goes undercover
there, to probe the murder of a city official.


“Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex,” 9 and 10 p.m., Showtime.
Both shows started their seasons last week, in transition. Now Ray returns his
wayward dad to Los Angeles and the Sully-shooting case is (temporarily) buried.
Then Dr. Masters starts his new job, with Virginia Johnson’s future uncertain.


“Game of Crowns,” 9:01 p.m., Bravo. Even by reality-show
standards, this is a surprisingly dim-witted episode. When one of the women
tries a beauty pageant, the others make a harmless bet. Her husband over-reacts
… they over-react to that … and general stupidity ensues.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Jamie and Roy must set their
differences aside, when combining to defend football players charged with
murder. Also, Preston apologizes after he’s spotted in the sex tape.


“Gunslingers” debut, 10 p.m., America Heroes Channel
(formerly Military Channel). An accidental lawman, Wyatt Earp seemed
inscrutable and unbeatable; even at the OK Corral gunfight, he was barely
touched. Still, he hung with brutal people, including his brothers and the
crumbling Doc Holliday. This is the first of six episodes, mixing rich commentary
and fairly good re-enactments.