TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Pretty Little Liars” mid-season finale, 8 p.m., Freeform.

If you've missed
this season – hey, summers are busy sometimes – don't worry. The
entire year reruns, beginning at 11 a.m.; after that things wrap up
for this show and for “Dead of Summer.””.

On “PLL,” one of
the women learns a crucial secret about her past; another finds
something about her future. A chaotic fight with enemies turns
fatal.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II:
“America's Got Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC.

After three months
of winnowing, “AGT” has its finalists. Tonight, 10 perform and
viewers vote; on Wednesday, we'll learn which five reach the finals.
Next week, the other 11 step in.

Tonight has lots of
singing – from groups (Musicality, Edgar) and individuals (Laura
Bretan, Sal Valentinetti and 12-year-old whiz Grace Vanderwaal). But
there are also two magicians (Blake Vogt, Jon Dorenbos), plus
comedian Lori Mae Hernandez and physical acts Tapehead and Deadly
Games.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: New shows everywhere, 9 p.m.

Remember when
summers were mired in reruns? In this hour, we can try five new
shows. Two are reality (“AGT” on NBC, the “Bachelor in
Paradise” post-show on ABC), but three are scripted.

CBS has “Zoo,”
with Jackson finally getting answers and Mitch and Jamie facing an
animal attack at the Russian embassy. CW has the sketch comedy of
“MadTV.” And Freeform's “Dead of Summer” sees the summer camp
wrap up its season. It's already been a deadly one; now, we're told,
a centuries-old battle between good and evil will finally be settled.
We're rooting for good.

Other choices
include:

“Video Music
Awards,” 7:10-10 p.m., MTV. Here's a rerun of Sunday's ceremony,
which planned music from Britney Spears, Rihanna, Nick Jonas, Future
and a Nicki Minaj/Ariana Grande duet. “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. It's a
busy time for Gibbs. He suspects that a 14-year-old who stopped a
home invasion is whithholding information; also in this rerun, he
goes to Washington to meet Michelle Obama (playing herself), in a
program supporting military families.

“Lucifer,” 9
p.m., Fox. When you suspect a drug operation at the neighborhood
youth center, who ya gonna call? In this rerun, a priest calls
Lucifer.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Apparently, it's not just grub any more.
Now a Navy “culinary specialist) is targeted, while visiting her
family's classic restaurant in the French Quarter.

““Better Late
Than Never,” 10 p.m., NBC. Last week's debut (sometimes fun,
mostly silly and contrived), William Shatner, 85, climbed 800 steps;
he also squeezed into a Tokyo “capsule hotel room” the size of a
refrigerator. Now he says he wants to “find his Zen” in Kyoto; in
Hong Kong, he insists that he and colleagues (Henry Winkler, George
Foreman, Terry Bradshaw) have a fine hotel and a yacht. Also in
Kyoto, the guys range from a festive geisha house to a serious
Samurai school.

“Halt and Catch
Fire,” 10 p.m., AMC. At home, the Mutiny founders struggle with a
crowded house and frayed emotions; Gordon grasps for the solitude of
his ham-radio days. At work, they've been wobbling since
super-programmer Ryan left to work for Joe, the imposing Steve
Jobs-type figure. In a good episode tonight, Ryan tries to find his
role with Joe; Mutiny chases an acquisition.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 10:30 p.m., ABC. Eddie's parents tend to be serious sorts.
Tonight, his mother learns to relax; his father combines a business
trip with a family trip to Gator World.

TV column for Monday, Aug. 29


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

One of TV's best
competition shows has its 250th episode .... sort of. This
season bears the sub-title “The Next Generation”; it's not quite
the show that for 12 seasons offered stunningly gifted grown-ups.

Still, credit
“Dance” for persisting. Its final six contestants are ages 10,
10, 12, 12, 13 and 14; two prefer hip hop, the others range from tap
to ballet. For the first time, they'll do their own choreography
tonight. Also, one number will be choreoraphed by Tony-winner Savion
Glover. Another will be by Emmy-winner Travis Wall; he'll dance it
with Maddie Ziegler, the show's 13-year-old judge.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mom,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

This witty comedy
hit a peak with an episode that aired in May. As usual, Christy (Anna
Faris) was mad at her mom Bonnie (Allison Janney); as usual, she had
good reason to be: Bonnie was indifferent to the fact that Christy
had made the Dean's List, against great odds. That leads to a
hilarious fight scene ... and to a funny dream scene that recalls
Janney's Emmy-winning work on “The West Wing.”

That's the first of
two reruns tonight. In the second, also a good one, there are
conflicting accounts of Christy's daughter Violet's break-up. Linda
Lavin returns as the mother of Violet's ex-fiance.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Fosters” mid-season finale, 8 p.m., Freeform.

Like a “Scandal”
episode in overdrive, this piles every trouble into one crowded hour.
As Stef (Teri Polo) weighs risking her police career to stop a
corrupt cop, her kids (foster/adopted/biologic) implode.

Callie scrambles to
save a prisoner, while juggling her friend Aaron and AJ, her hothead
boyfriend. Mariana frets over grades and her boyfriends past (and
dangerous) and present (and leaving); she keeps taking medication
stolen from her brother. There's more, building to an odd but
involving crescendo.

Other choices
include:

“Janet King,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. In the
eight-episode second season, Janet (Marta Dusseldorp, an Australian
star) becomes Royal Commissioner of serious gun crime in New South
Wales.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The finals begin, with the first of four
obstacle phases.

“Supergirl,” 8
and 9 p.m., CW. In the first rerun, Cat (Calista Flockhart) suspects
Kara is Supergirl (which, of course, she is); in the second, she
hires Lucy (Jenna Dewan-Tatum.). In the first hour, Hank (David
Harewood) is captured by Astra's husband; in the second, he's asked
by Alex (Chyler Leigh) to use his powers to help uncover Maxwell
Lord's plans.

“The Odd Couple,”
9:30, CBS; and “Odd Mom Out,” 10 p.m., Bravo. Joanna Cassidy is
everyone's mom these days. In the “Odd Couple” rerun, she's
Emily's mom, whom Felix thinks (wrongly) would be fun to meet. In
“Odd Mom Out,” she's Jill's mother-in-law; in tonight's
season-finale, her other son has a vow-renewal ceremony that could go
terribly wrong.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. To test the security sytem, the team is hired to breakinto
Fort Knox. The problem, in this rerun, comes with trying to do it
again.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m., NBC. We've never thought of Shaquille O'Neal
as the nimble type. But now he's in the Adirondacks, facing a dense
forest, blood-sucking leeches and more.

“Mistresses,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Two weeks from its season-finale, this is another
show with cascading events. Joss and her class friends go to find the
man who killed their friend; she also tells the truth to Harry ...
who has his own troubles, juggling business opoortunities. Also, Marc
is furious at April; Karen is furious at Lydia, who was posing as her
online. No one, it seems, is terribly happy.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Video Music Awards,” 9 p.m., MTV, VH1, CMT, BET, Spike, TV Land
and Comedy Central; repeats at 11:30 on MTV and VH1.

Once a year, MTV
remembers music videos and assembles starpower. This time, the VMA's
have Britney Spears performing for the first time in a decade. Other
performers include Rihanna (the Video Vanguard winner), Nick Jonas,
Future and a duet with Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande.

There will be comedy
commentary, led by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Beyonce and
Adele lead with 11 and 8 nominations; for Video of the Year, they
face Drake, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Strain” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

This third season
begins just 23 days after the first attacks by long-tongued
creatures. Now New York is a war zone, with soldiers facing steep
odds; still, the personal stories are far more interesting.

Ephraim scrambles
for an answer in the lab, while searching for his walking-dead
ex-wife, who took their son; even getting gasoline is perilous
Setrakian searches an ancient book. And Fet leads a tunnel search; he
remains refreshingly vibrant, in a dark (but well-crafted) adventure.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “America's National Parks at 100,” 8 p.m.,
Smithsonian.

In the early years,
this was a learning experience. With no walking paths, some
Yellowstone visitors died in fiery cauldrons ... bears and burros
came up to cars ... Yosemite offered a nightly fire cascade.

And now? In its
100th year, the National Park Service has guides who
converse, not recite. It has parks in Washington, D.C. and New York
City ... and on distant islands. One park has exactly one employee;
others swarm. This hour is smartly written and beautifully
illustrated, mixing past and present.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVES II: Finales, 9-10:45 p.m., HBO; and 10-11 p.m.,
Showtime.

HBO's “The Night
Of” began with a Pakistani-American college student, working as a
taxi driver; after a wild night with a woman, he woke up next to her
body. Now his murder trial concludes.

Showtime's “Roadies”
has been a richly human story of life on a rock 'n' roll tour; now
its season concludes with a memorial concert ... and with questions
about who will be working the European tour.

Other choices
include:

Football, all day.
Two networks combine for a pre-season tripleheader. Fox has the San
Diego Chargers at the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. ET and the Arizona
Cardinals at the Houston Texans at 4. Then NBC has the Cincinatti
Bengals at the Jacksonville Jaguars, at 8 p.m. ET.

“WE Day,” 7
p.m., ABC. This is the 10th year for this event, which
urges young people to give time and money to children's charities.
It's only the second, however, to have an hour on a broadcast
network. There will be music, documentaries and talks, with Demi
Lovato. Selena Gomez, Jennifer Hudson, Ciara, Common, Joe and Nick
Jonas, Zooey Deschanel, Paual Abdul, Big Sean and Kermit the Frog

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. TV viewers know Steve Harvey and Sheryl
Underwood from “Feud” and “The Talk,” respectively, but she
also contributes to his radio show. Here, she faces Gus Kenworthy, an
Olympic silver-medalist skiier. Another round has Alan Thicke and
David Chokachi.

“VMA Pre-Show,”
8 p.m., MTV. This won't be just babbling about gowns. There will be
music by Alessia Cara, Jidenna and Lukas Graham; DJ Khaled hosts,
with Lizzo and Charlamagne Tha God.

“Madam Secretary,”
9 p.m., CBS. Elizabeth's husband (Tim Daly) seems to merge Mr. Chips
and James Bond. A former Marine captain, he's a college-professor who
doubles as a top-level spy. In this rerun, he's involved in a mission
to Islamabad, to eliminate the world's most-wanted terrorist.

“BrainDead,” 10
p.m., CBS. When her brother Luke, the senator, needs an anti-war
film, Laurel works with an ex-boyfriend. Then there's the alien-bug
thing; she worrues about the health of Luke's baby.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 27


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

After being bumped
by the Olympics for three straight weeks, “SNL” is finally back.
And in this wild election year, any episode – even this rerun from
March – is welcome.

Yes, there's lots of
political talk. The opening bit has Darrell Hammond and Jason
Sudeikis as Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. There's also a fake Trump
ad ... and Cecily Strong visiting “Weekend Update” as someone
babbling about the election. But there's also lots of silliness,
including a closing bit with host Jonah Hill as an overzealous
caterer. The music guest is Future.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Boston EMS” season-finale, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

This well-crafted,
non-fiction series wraps up with some contrasting stories. On one
side of town, a man who was shot in the thigh says he's ready to turn
his life around and focus on his 9-month-old child. On the other, a
man must be convinced to accept medial care, for the sake of his
young children.

Meanwhile, Deputy
Supt. Ed Hassan faces a different kind of crisis: At a school, the
carbon monoxide alarms are ringing and students report feeling dizzy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Ghostbusters” (1984), “Ghostbusters II” (1989),
6 and 8:30 p.m., VH1.

When the new
“Ghostbusters” arrived this summer, people howled in protest;
suddenly, the original was being elevated to the status of the
revered.

We still say the
remake is excellent. But yes, the original is in a class of its own,
because it was so fresh. At a time of small comedies and big action,
it created a large-scale comedy, filled with both wit and sight gags.
It and its sequel are both great fun.

Other choices
include:

“City Slickers”
(1991), “City Slickers II” (1994), 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., Pop.
Alongside “Ghostbusters,” this is another classic comedy with a
sequel. In the original, Jack Palance won an Oscar as the tough
cowboy working with city-guy Billy Crystal. Other worthy
early-starters: “Mean Girls” (2004) at 7 p.m. on MTV; “The
Hunger Games” (2012) at 7:15 on Freeform.

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
CBS. For the second straight night, CBS has a pre-season game in
primetime. This one has the Tennessee Titans at the Oakland Raiders.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Bill Engvall plays the new
minister. Kyle is reluctant to see him ... but soon Mike is there for
counseling, after a squabble with his wife.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Yes, this is a strong movie night. There's the classic “Dirty
Dancing” (1987) on Bravo, the epic “Avatar” (2009) on FX and
the funny “Naked Gun” (1988) on IFC. HBO's “In the Heart of the
Sea” (2015) has strong maritime scenes, but wooden characters.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30,
ABC. Randall Park of “Fresh Off the Boat” guests as a member of a
community club that Ken is nudged into joining. It turns out to be
not as noble as expected.

“Aquarius,” 9
and 10 p.m., NBC. After a five-week break, this show is being tossed
away – two episodes each Saturday, TV's slowest night. In both
hours tonight, Hodiak searches for Emma ... who's also sought by
Charles Manson. In the second one, undercover cop Shafe tries to kick
a heroin habit.

“Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Kathy Garver was a UCLA
sorority girl when she landed the role of 15-year-old Cissy in
“Family Affair.” After its five-year run, she focues on voice
work -- in TV cartoons, Ron Howard movies and recorded books. Here's
a visit with Garver, 70; other segments have Geri Horner,
better-known as Ginger Spice, and Ed Lover of “Yo! MTV Raps.”

TV column for Friday, Aug. 26


 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Killjoys” and “Dark Matter,” 9 and 10 p.m., Syfy.

Yes, there's
something missing tonight – scripted shows (reruns, even) on a
major network. CBS usually supplies three of them on Fridays, but
tonight it has football.

You could try these
Syfy shows, which tend to be well-made. “Killjoys” has Dutch
working the galaxy as a bounty hunter; when the plan to free Old Town
sputters, she's captured by a mob. “Dark Matters” has the crew,
desperate to save its leader, taking a dangerous mission inside Dwarf
Star Technologies.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “MasterChef,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

At times, this
home-chef competition sticks to the basics. The entire second hour of
this rerun focuses on the potato – French fried, then mashed, then
turned into a gourmet dish.

But the first hour
has a fun detour to the high end. Our contestants – a trainer, a
poker player, a DJ, a tuxedo salesman and more – are cooking
octopus and such. “These are definitely not ingredients you see in
the firehouse,” said Eric Howard, who usually cooks for his fellow
North Carolina firefighters.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Comedy movies and sequels, AMC and IFC.

A weak night for
series happens to be a strong one for movies, including some fine
silliness. IFC has the delightful “Bill & Ted's Excellent
Adventure” (1989) a 6 p.m. and “Bogus Journey” (1991) at 8.

AMC has the
“Vacation” films – twice. The first and fourth are first-rate;
the others have drawn shrugs. Now “Vacation” (1983) is at 11
a.m., “European Vacation” (1985) at 1 p.m., “Vegas Vacation”
(1987) at 3 and “Christmas Vacation” (1989) at 5; they repeat at
7:15, 9:15 and 11:15 p.m. and 1:15 a.m.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Brooklyn” and “The Danish Girl” (both 2015),
7 and 9 p.m., HBO.

In a universe far
from those comedy movies, this feels like a double feature at a
splendid arthouse.

“Brooklyn” drew
a best-picture Oscar nomination, plus others for Nick Hornby's script
and Saoirse Ronan's wonderfully subtle performance, as a shy
Irishwoman, hesitently emigrating in the 1950s. “Danish Girl”
drew nominations for its costumes, its sets and Eddie Redmayne, as
the artist who transitioned to female in 1930; Alicia Vikander won a
supporting Oscar as Redmayne's spouse.

Other choices
include:

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
CBS. In the first of two straight nights of pre-season football in
prime time, CBS has the Cleveland Browns at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's another rerun of Tuesday's show ...
which already had its highlights rerun on Wednesday. We see the final
dozen prospects for semi-final spots, including Julia Scott, Linkin'
Bridge and 12-year-old singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. Martin Freeman simultaneously stars in two classic bits of
English literature -- “The Hobbit” (2012) on TNT and the amiably
odd “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (2005) at 8 p.m. ET on BBC
America. Other choices range from light fun -- “Wedding Crashers”
(2005), on E – to Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart in “Panic
Room” (2002) on Pop.

“Girl Meets
World,” 8:30 p.m., Disney. Even a teen-ager needs her childhood
teddy bear. When Barry the Bear is missing, Riley calls on her
friends to form a search party.

“Cesar 911,” 9
p.m., NatGeo Wild. Cesar Millan helps someone who can't control her
golden retriever/chow mix. That's a new hour, following reruns of the
amiable “Animal Storm Squad” and “Unlikely Animal Friends,”
at 7 and 8 p.m.

“Mother, May I
Sleep With Danger?” 10 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network. This is,
apparently, the 1996 non-classic, with Tori Spelling dating a serial
killer.