TV column for Saturday, Sept. 12

“Saturday Night Live” people, everywhere.

If you've ever
doubted the immense impact of “SNL,” start switching channels
tonight. There's the regular “SNL” rerun (James Franco hosts,
Nicki Minaj sings) at 11:29 p.m. on NBC and an odd Will Ferrell romp
(see “tonight's alternative”) at 10 p.m. on HBO. And there are
movies everywhere.

One of the first
“SNL” stars, Chevy Chase, has the fun “Vacation” (1983) at 8
p.m. on IFC. There's also an Adam Sandler film (“Big Daddy,”
1999, Oxygen), plus a dandy Tina Fey double-feature on Bravo: “Mean
Girls” (2004) is at 8 p.m. and “Baby Mama” (2008), with “SNL”
alumna Amy Poehler, at 10.

“Home Free,” 9 p.m., Fox.

If you haven't been
watching this feel-good reality show, jump in for this rerun of its

Mike Holmes, who
knows his stuff, has been supervising the likable duos who work on
home revamps, hoping to win a dream house. They don't realize that
each set of “losers” will actually win the house they've been
working on. Tonight, watch a two more losers ... and the dream-home

ALTERNATIVE: “Ferrell Takes the Field,” 10 p.m., HBO.

As a gimmick, some
baseball players have played all nine positions in one game. Now Will
Ferrell tops that, in a charity fundraiser -- playing 10 positions
(counting designated hitter) on 10 teams in one day.

He did that during
spring training, when some teams are bunched together in Arizona. The
result has a few moderately funny moments, copying the style of old
sports movies; mostly, though, it's merely harmless fun, amiable and

Other choices

“Rocky” (1976),
9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Ion. The original film packed a quiet wallop.
Sylvester Stallone provided a spare script and an understatedly
perfect performance; he was backed by John Avildsen's sharp direction
and Bill Conti's stirring score. The sequels, directed by Stallone,
were adequate; they run at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., then repeat at
7, 9 and 11 p.m.

“Walk the Line”
(2005) 6 p.m., and “Johnny Cash: American Rebel” (2015), 9 and 11
p.m., CMT. We can spend the night reliving Cash's fascinating life.
First is the terrific movie, focusing on his romance with June
Carter; Reese Witherspoon won a well-deserved Oscar and Juaqin
Phoenix was nominated. Then is a new documentary.

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
ABC. The second week of the college season has plenty of mismatches,
but not this one. Two top-10 teams collide, when Oregon visits
Michigan State.

“Running Wild with
Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. On the night before he leads the New
Orleans Saints in their season-opener, we can see this rerun of
quarterback Drew Brees in Panama. He climbs a bat-infested cave,
descends a steep cavern and confronts a crocodile.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. The murder victim is a Navy lieutenant who was going to become
the first openly gay serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Trying to find the source of an impending
anthrax attack, Sam and Callen head to Mexico, going undercover as
food-truck guys.

“Blunt Talk,” 9
p.m., Starz. rerunning at 10 and 11. Walter (Patrick Stewart) tries
to bond with his 5-year-old son. That leads to some funny moments
centering on rock star Moby (playing himself), who is the private
school's music teacher.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 11

“The Civil War” conclusion, 9-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Ken Burns' masterful
documentary concludes with the Union on the move. Sherman burns
Atlanta and marches to Savannah. Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses
Grant on April 9, 1865 (almost exactly four years after the first
shot), but the agony continues, including the assassination of
President Lincoln.

Then real life
resumes. Lee becomes a college president, Grant becomes U.S.
president, Jefferson Davis spends two years in jail, Lincoln becomes
an icon and a broken nation slowly heals.

II: 9/11 films, cable.

Jumping ahead 140
years from Burns' Civil War film, reruns show us more warfare horror,
with the World Trade Center attack. At 7 p.m., National Geographic
airs the four-hour “Inside 9/ll” ... At 8, Discovery Life has
“9/11 Emergency Room” ... At 9, History has “102 Minutes That
Changed America” and Smithsonian has “9/11: The Day That Changed
the World.”

In addition, two
films tell true stories of survival. “Miracle of Stairway B” (8
p.m., History) is a documentary; “World Trade Center” (8:30 p.m., ShowtimeZ) is a 2006
Oliver Stone film, with Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena.

ALTERNATIVE: “Think It Up,” 8 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

As the first week of
the school year concludes in many districts, this show promotes an
effort to encourage and fund kids' projects. The hour includes music
by Justin Bieber and Kacey Musgraves, plus comedy sketches and talk.

There will be
Oscar-winners (Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, J.K. Simmons, Matthew
McConaughey), comedy people (Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Jason
Bateman, Jessica Williams) and more, including Scarlett Johansson,
Jennifer Garner, Ryan Seacrest, Kristen Bell, Julie Chen and Jeremy

Other choices

“Masters of
Illusion,” 8 p.m., CW. With all the big broadcast networks offering
the same show, CW has a chance to grab the leftovers. It has this new
round of quick magic tricks, followed by reruns of “Whose Line Is
It Anyway?” (8:30) and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (9-10 p.m.)

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. Milo Ventimiglia – who was the amnesiac pilot this
summer in “The Whispers” -- is the Ogre here, preparing to make
his move. Meanwhile, young Bruce exposes a corrupt employee.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A famous bounty hunter has been killed. (Yes, Hawaii can
have a famous bounty-hunter; one in real-life is “Dog” Chapman,
who plays imself in this rerun.) Also in this hour, Danny's wife
reveals a shocking secret.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When someone close to him is killed, the police
commissioner (Tom Selleck) orders an all-out push. Dennis Haysbert
plays the deputy chief in this rerun.

“Z Nation”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. Last season ended with Murphy
dispatching nuclear bombs. Now members of the team scatter, trying to
avoid the devastation and the zombies.

“Continuum,” 11
p.m., Syfy. This all began with a techno-glitch: Trying to stop
terrorists, Kiera was swept 65 years backward with them, to 2012. She
scammed her way into a police job, then kept saving the world. Now
the fourth and final season starts its brief, six-episode run.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 10

Football opener, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC; with pre-game at 7:30.

It took judicial
intervention, but NBC now launches the pro season properly – with a
showdown between top quarterbacks. Tom Brady – spared by the courts
(at least for now) from his suspension – leads the Super Bowl
champion Patriots, hosting Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh

The season-opener
tends to have a party atmosphere, including a concert during the
pre-game show. This year, however, the NFL is already pointing its
season-finale: Tonight's concert (with Train and Ellie Goulding) will
be in San Francisco, which will be the site of the 50th
Super Bowl.

II: “Under the Dome” finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

For three seasons,
“Dome” has delivered something unexpected – a big-budget,
Steven Spielberg production in the summertime. Now it ends with the
dome finally crumbling.

That causes new
problems, though. Our heroes – Dale “Barbie” Barbara, Julie and
Big Jim – scramble to keep those infected by the aliens from
getting loose. That includes Junior (Big Jim's son), Joe and Dawn –
the spawn of Barbie and alien Eva, suddenly full-grown and heralded
as the new queen.

ALTERNATIVE: “Longmire” season-opener, any time, Netflix.

For three steady
seasons, Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) trudged ahead as a quiet
Wyoming sheriff. He solved cases, alongside his talkative deputy
(Katee Sackhoff), his friend (Lou Diamond Phillips) and his
daughter, a lawyer. Ratings were high, reviews were favorable ... but
the average viewer was old.

So the A&E
network dumped its most-watched show. Fortunately, this streaming
service stepped in, at a pivotal point: Finally knowing who's
responsible for his wife's death, Walt eyes revenge.

Other choices

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 8 p.m., CW. Liam wants to expose the fact that Vincent is
The Beast; Vincent and Cat try to destroy him first.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After tonight, football will nudge “Big
Bang” to Mondays. This rerun has the first meeting of the guys'
mismatched moms: Sheldon's (Laurie Metcalf) is a religious
conservtive; Leonard's (Christine Baranski) is a cooly distant
psychiatrist and author.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Just before this show begins its two-month break, let's
re-savor the episode that wrapped up a great season. Christy's son
wants to live with his dad; naturally, she blames her mom.

“The Civil War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. On the fourth night of this five-night masterpiece,
Sherman advances on Atlanta. We also get profiles of the two
commanders – Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee.

“Elephant Queen,”
9 p.m., NatGeo Wild. Here's a rerun of the excellent Aug. 30
documentary, which traced an elephant's dangerous, 200-mile trek
through the Kalahari desert, leading her family to water.

“Craig Ferguson:
Just Being Honest,” 10 p.m., Epix. Fifteen years ago, when Ferguson
was unknown to many Americans, he wrote the movie “Saving Grace.”
It would draw praise, leading to a series (“Doc Martin”) ... and
to a chance to write a script with Mick Jagger. Ferguson recalls the
experience with wit and detail. What started as a so-so comedy
special ends as a delight.

“Married,” 10:30
p.m., FX. Billed as a comedy, this episode is surprisingly short on
laughs, but strong on well-crafted drama. Russ and Lena ponder who
would take their kids if they died; they soon realize that their
friends are having trouble.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 9

“Last Comic Standing” finale, 10 p.m., NBC.

For three strange
summers, this show disappeared; NBC simply didn't renew it. When it
finally returned last summer, it proved that there are a lot of
clever comedians out there.

Now it's shown that
again. The comments by the judges (Roseanne Barr, Norm Macdonald,
Keenen Ivory Wayans) don't add much, but the host (Anthony Jeselnik)
is dryly clever and the contestants are terrific. We're down to the
final five now, with one of them about to be named champion.

II: “Home Free” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

No, all reality
shows aren't created equal. “Home” has a smart host (Mike
Holmes), worthy contestants and a great concept: Each week, people
rehab a house; one duo is dismissed and the others remain in the
running for a dream home ... unaware that the “losers” won the
home they were just working on.

Now we're down to
three duos -- perky twins trying to win a house for their parents ...
a couple who lost their first home because of recession and drought
... and a lesbian couple that has faced barriers and setbacks.
Tonight, one will win big ... but all will be winners.

ALTERNATIVE: “You're the Worst” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., FXX.

These two people
couldn shatter any relationships. They're cynical, skeptical,
self-centered and outspoken; they're wrong for anyone ... except,
maybe, for each other.

As the second season
begins (moving from sister channel FX), Jimmy and Gretchen are living
together and begrudgingly admit that they like each other. They will
not admit, however, that they their 30-somethig bodies need an
occasional break from sex, drugs and alcohol. They struggle with that
in this funny (but uneven) opener,, while their roommate Edgar
struggles with his unspoken love for Lindsay.

Other choices

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. Tonight, theshow's top 10 will be complete.

“Young &
Hungry” and “Kevin From Work,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC Family. One
guy (Elliot) wants a big party, but his friends forgot to plan one;
the other (Kevin) doesn't want a party, but his sister is planning a
big one. Also in the oft-overwrought “Young,” Gabi falls for her
friend's brother; in the clever “Work,” Kevin is weary of being
the office problem-solver.

season-finale, 9-11 p.m., CBS. Now the human race is in jeopardy. In
the first hour, Lucy makes a dangerous move against the humans; in
the second, Molly (Halle Berry) and JD scramble to prevent disaster.
Also, in the first hour, Molly reveals disturbing details about
Shepherd's death.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Alex, the diligent student, doesn't want to take part in
the “senior ditch day” custom. In this rerun, her dad and
siblings force her to.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. This wraps up the three-week,
six-episode trial run of a show that has strong topics, plus some
talented veterans (David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine) to spark the
verbal fireworks. Tonight's first hour involves religion; the second
involves guns.

“The League”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FXX. The final season starts with Marshawn
Lynch and a cute take-off on his team's failed Super Bowl decision to
pass on the one-yard-line. Then it deteriorates into its usual stuff.
To savor this, you have to feel that friends-hazing-friends is
terribly humorous.

“Suddenly Royal”
debut, 10:01 p.m., TLC. Back in 2007, a Maryland mechanic said
genealogy revealed he's king of the Isle of Man. It would be another
seven years before he actually visited Man, a self-governing British
protectorate of about 84,000 people, near England and Ireland. This
reality show follows him, with his wife and daughter, as they visit
and get coaching on royal behavior.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 8

“The Late Show Wiih Stephen Colbert” debut, 11:35 p.m., CBS.

For the first time
in 22 years, CBS has a new guy in its key latenight slot. It chose
someone viewers have only seen as a fictional guy on cable; what can
we expect from Colbert now?

He's scuttling the
fake guy, but keeping the habit of interviewing non-entertainers. It
will be Jeb Bush tonight, Joe Biden on Wednesday, Stephen King on
Friday and the leaders of Uber (Wednesday) and Tesla (Thursday).
Tonight also has George Clooney and Colbert's bandleader, Jon
Batiste. And a sample indicates Colbert may continue the
Fallon/Corden habit of elaborate, filmed comedy.

“America's Got Talent” and “Hollywood Game Night,” 8-11 p.m.,

It's another fun
summer night for NBC. “Talent” (8 p.m.) offers the second half of
the 24 semi-finalists; on Wednesday, we'll see 10 acts advance to the

And “Game Night”
(10:01 p.m.) has a fun crowd. Musical people (Pete Wentz, Mel B.)
link with actress Ming Na Wen and comedy people Kevin Nealon, Niecy
Nash and Cedric the Entertainer.

ALTERNATIVE: “Zoo,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

Don't you hate it
when you're injured while trying to stop a global outbreak of animal
attacks and when friends take you to the hospital it's overrun by
angry animals?

That happens tonight
to Jackson (James Wolk) in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Mitch and Jamie
(Billy Burke and Kristen Connolly) scramble to find an overall cure.
Then a shock sets up next week's finale.

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Mimi Rogers plays a CIA agent in this rerun, as several agencies
link to find a terrorist group that's been using the Internet to
recruit American kids.

“Are You Smarter
Than a 5th Grader?” 8 p.m., Fox. The season-fnale sees a physician
struggle with grade-school questions.

“In Their Own
Words,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Muhammad Ali is

“The Civil War,”
9-11 p.m., PBS. The second chapter of this masterful documentary
finds a million Americans at war, stretched from Virginia to
Missouri. Lincoln fidges at the caution of Gen. George McClellan and
hears of the bold approach of Ulysses Grant. Also, navy battles
become important.

“Agents of
SHIELD,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a late move, ABC put up a patchwork night,
with this action show – a season-finale showdown, with losses and
jolts – sandwiched by reality shows. It's “Shark Tank” at 8
p.m. and “Extreme Weight Loss” at 10.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Already married to Phil, Carol now wants to
go a step further: She actually wants to move in with him.

“Public Morals,”
10 p.m., TNT. The wake for Mrs. O'Bannon draws both sides – the
mobsters and Muldoon (Edward Burns), a cop. Patton and his son are
ready to take over O'Bannon's bookie operation ... which has an
enforcer who's ready to make war.