TV column for Saturday, July 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“In an Instant,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Back in 2006,
Danelle Ballengee was a peak athlete. She was 35, two-time world
champion of “adventure racing” and four-time winner of the Pikes
Peak marathon. Then – during a run near Moab, Utah – she slipped
on some ice, fell 60 feet down a canyon wall and shattered her
pelvis.

Her dog stayed for
two days, then headed to town. When rescuers spotted him, he led a
dash to her. Ballengee would go on to a busy life – marrying,
having two children, buying and working at a Moab restaurant ... and
running. Now she's on “Instant,” which mixes re-creations and
first-person accounts.

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

There's splendid
starpower in this rerun – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host; Bruce
Springsteen is the music guest. One terrific skit even gives us two
Hillary Clintons (Poehler as the 2008 version, Kate McKinnon now)
plus a Sarah Palin (Fey).

There's more,
peaking with the biting satire in which married men join a show, then
learn it's “Meet Your Second Wife.” And since this aired at
Christmastime, we get a funny botching of classic songs.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Hell on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC, repeating at 11:01.

For five seasons,
we've seen pain and remorse wash across Cullen's face. A former
slaveholder and former Confederate officer, he's lost wives and
friends, killed many people and built a railroad. But this hour
brings everything – love, loss, rage, even hope – to a compelling
crescendo.

Mei Fong, his
translator, has been disguising as a man, but loving him as a woman.
But now the brutal Chang knows her secret. What follows ranges from a
stylized gunfight (straining believability, but beautifully done) to
scenes of deeply tender emotion. Three weeks from its finish, “Hell”
hits a peak.

Other choices
include:

“Outlander,”
noon to 11:30 p.m., Starz. Pausing during the holiday weekend, Starz
offers a rerun marathon of what's happened so far.

Olympic trials and
more, all day, NBC. This is an overcrowded time for NBC, as it
juggles the trials and NASCAR. It has track-and-field trials from 2-5
p.m. ET, then slides the rest to the NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m.
(decathlon and swimming heats) and at 8 p.m. (swimming finals).
Meanwhile, NBC has the Coke Zero 400 (that's 400 miles, not zero
miles) at 7:45 p.m. ET, with preview at 7.

“Rio” (2011), 6
p.m., and “Rio 2” (2014), 8 and 10 p.m., FXX. As Olympians fret
about Rio de Janeiro, we can put aside all worries and catch some
animated fun. “Rio” -- focusing on a tropical bird's return home
– glows with the sights, sounds and joy of a place at play.

Baseball, 7 p.m. ET,
Fox. Add this to the sports overload. Varying by region, it will be
Reds-Nationals, Cubs-Mets or Angels-Red Sox.

“Angel From Hell,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. This sounded like a good idea at the time –
Jane Lynch, fresh from her “Glee” triumph, playing an acerbic
guardian angel. Alas, the humor was scarce and the final episodes are
consigned to summertime Saturdays. In the first, the angel must do 10
good deeds, which is about 10 more than her usual; in the second,
she's suddenly watching two people, not one.

“Suffragette”
(2015), 9 p.m., HBO. In most places, women are still in their first
century of voting. That didn't happen in the U.S. until 1920; it was
1918 in England ... but only for property-owners who were 30. This
look at the English fight is grim, but superbly acted by Carey
Mulligan and others.

“The American
West,” 10 p.m., AMC. In two stories, this documentary sees powerful
forces ready to collide: Custer heads to Little Big Horn; Jesse James
wants a bank robbery that will make an impact.

TV column for Friday, July 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Killjoys” season-opener, 9 p.m., Syfy.

Here is a rich broth
of ... well, almost everything. There's shoot-en-up action, sci-fi
whimsy and one of the best-looking casts on TV. There's also dry
humor; nowhere else does someone ask: “Remember the part where I
was kidnapped by a gang of slaves who cut off my arm and made me a
robo-slavegirl?”

That's from a great
character who arrives and leaves tonight. Dutch and her colleague,
John, are trying to save his brother D'avin; held by Dutch's old
mentor Khlyen, D'avin is having wild visions. Those bewilder him
(and, at first, us), but they're part of an energetic opener.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Many fans are
unhappy about Michael Weatherly leaving “NCIS” after 13 seasons
as Tony Dinozzo. They can still see him on most of the show's reruns
and, this fall, in the new series “Bull.” And here's a bonus,
rerunning the only crossover episode he did with this spin-off show.

A prisoner has
escaped after a Shanghai-to-LA flight. Now Tony arrives to search for
him.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Great British Baking Show,” 9 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

PBS usually offers
the types of shows we can't get elsewhere. Its president has
discussed her fondness for substance, “rather than another series
about cupcakes.” So it's odd that a prime spot – usually reserved
for performances – goes to this baking competition, starting
tonight with cakes.

Fortunately, it's a
good one, with richly varied contestants, ranging from a 19-year-old
to a greying prison warden. There's a nurse, an accountant, a
firefighter, a band singer and more. They are likable people, in a
fun and slickly filmed show that has everything ... except, perhaps,
a reason to be on PBS.

Other choices
include:

“Beverly Hills
Cop” (1984) and its sequel (1987), 6 and 8:30 p.m., VH1. Here's the
start of great movie night on cable. At 7, catch “Bill and Ted's
Excellent Adventure” (1989) on IFC or James Bond films -- “Dr.
No” (1962) and “Goldfinger” (1964, 8:55 p.m.) on Starz. At 7:30
is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on Freeform. And “Gone
With the Wind” is 9:15 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies.

Olympic trials, 8
and 9 p.m., NBC. Swimming continue at 8 p.m., with track-and-field
starting at 9.

“Rosewood,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Sherri Shepherd arrives as a new medical
examiner. Also, Villa's new police partner may get in the way of her
work with Dr. Rosewood.

“Mega Hammerhead,”
8 p.m., NatGeo Wild. It's the final night for “Shark Fest” ...
while Discovery's “Shark Week” continues through Sunday. In
“Mega,” we learn of this shark's predator skill. This comes from
a hammerhead expert named (really) Neil Hammerschlag ... which is
German for “hammer blow.”

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. This rerun has a plot twist that several shows have
tried lately – sending work partners to couples counseling.
McGarrett and Danny are there, leaving Kamekona to deal with the
aftershocks of his dangerous past.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Frank feels torn, when a flag-burning tests the limits
of freedom of speech. Also, his son Danny is questioned about a
former partner who may have planted evidence.

“Dark Matter”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. After the dandy “Killjoys,” this is
a letdown. The first season began with shipmates waking up, unable to
remember who they are. In this dreary hour, they awaken and find
varying fates – business magnate, cop, teen orphan and (mostly)
prisoners.

TV column for Friday, June 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Greatest Hits” debut, 9 p.m., ABC.

The soundtrack of
past decades lacked one thing – modern TV techniques, the sort that
can make a good song seem great. Now that's been added here; each
episode has hits from a five-year period (tonig is 1980-85), boosted
by flashy lights, zesty camerawork and attractive fans leaping
around fervently.

The original artists
do “Footloose” (Kenny Loggins), “Ghostbusters” (Ray Parker,
Jr.), “Bette Davis Eyes” (Kim Carnes) and “Celebration” Kool
& The Gang. Jason Derulo does Michael Jackson's “Human Nature”;
Pitbull joins REO Speedwagon for “Messin' Around,” which he'd
already remade.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Denis Leary thrives
on dark humor. His “Rescue Me” ended with a bizarre
cremation-ashes episode; now this show starts its second season with
another one. That repeats at 11:02, after a 10:32 rerun.

Micki -- a back-up
singer we only met in the pilot episode – has died. Like the
others, she lived a full-throttle rock life. The difference is that
the others got a second chance, with the arrival of Gigi (the
terrific Elizabeth Gillies), the talented daughter Johnny (Leary)
never knew. Micki's death brings a time to ponder life, loss and
deception; there's not much music, alas, but there's strong humor and
drama.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Shark Week,” Discovery, and “Shark Fest,”
NatGeo Wild.

Both marathons
started on a busy Sunday – Discovery with lots of new shows, Wild
with two new ones and a sea of reruns. Now, with Wild ending Friday
and Discovery on Sunday, we can still jump in.

Tonight, Discovery's
new hours visit the Bahamas (8 p.m.), the former atomic test site at
Bikini Island (9) and a jungle river of Costa Rica (10). Also at 9,
Wild reruns one of its two new shows, the fairly interesting
“Sharkatraz”: Last year, a Great White was filmed in San
Francisco Bay; that brief scene (repeated here OFTEN) revives the
question of whether sharks made an Alcatraz escape imposssible.

Other choices
include:

“Flower Shop
Mystery: Dearly Depotted” (2016), 5 p.m., Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries. Here are quick reruns of three recent murder movies,
starring Brooke Shields at 5, Candace Cameron Bure at 7 and Alison
Sweeney at 9.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. In a rerun, Booth is still missing and Miller (Kim Raver) has
withheld key information that might aid the search.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a previous episode, Raj broke up with
Emily to date someone else ... who, alas, wasn't available. Now Emily
has reached out to him; his female friends offer advice. Also in this
rerun, Howard is reluctant to join a patent partnership with Sheldon
and Leonard.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. When viewers first met Matt, he was single, sad and
living in his parents' garage. Now his ex-wife (Brenda Song, a former
Disney Channel star) visits; also in this rerun, Matt and his dad try
to re-introduce their widowed neighbor (Martin Mull) to the dating
scene.

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. When this season started, Vincent and Cat
finally seemed safe. Not so; tonight, they go into hiding and he gets
a vision of what her life would be without him.

“Preacher,”
9-11:35 p.m., AMC. The first two hours of this series were both
compelling and perplexing. Now they're repackaged here, alongside
extra footage trying to provide insight into Jesse the preacher.

“Aquarius,” 10
p.m., NBC. At the core is a bizarre bit of history: Charles Manson
stayed with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys ... who introduced him to
Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son) at what was later the site of the
Manson murders. Now that's wrapped around fictional charcters Hodiak
and Emma.

TV column for Wednesday, June 29


 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“American Gothic,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Last week's opener
introduced some interesting characters ... and then a jolt. Madeline
(Virginia Madsen), the matriarch, quietly squeezed a hospital tube,
killing her husband.

Was this because he
was the long-ago serial killer? Or because someone else was and he
might tell? We don't know, but tonight's episode has some strong
moments ... and some flaws. There's Madeline's son-in-law (a cop),
frantically racing across town -- apparently unaware of how
telephones work; and her grandson, who's morbidly obsessed. They ring
false, in an otherwise involving tale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “The Night Shift,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.

With Olympic
swimming trials as a solid lead-in at 8 p.m., this show stacks two
new episodes. Each has T.C.'s wayward sister (Sarah Jane Morris of
“Brothers and Sisters”) causing trouble.

The second hour is
set during a San Antonio heat wave; tempers are frayed ... and then
the hospital's air-conditioning fails. Meanwhile, Jordan (Jill Flint,
who was also a doctor in “Royal Pains”) tries to relax by, of
course, going to a wrestling match; soon, she's treating injuries
there.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m., Fox.

We start with a
flashback, showing how the valley – once full of the aberrant
creatures (“abbies”) that evolved after the apocalypse – was
cleared so Wayward Pines could build its wall. Inside are the last
humans on Earth – 1,178 of them. “There are no more second
chances for mankind,” we're told.

And this chance is
shaky, as Abbies attack. With its founder dead and his protege
tenuous, Pines wobbles. Dr. Yedlin has plenty of personal problems,
what with his wife marrying someone else while he was frozen; now he
also sets up an overtaxed emergency ward, in a tough, solidly made
episode.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last summer's champion was Claudia Sandoval, an events
planner in San Diego. Now her cookbook -- “Claudia's Cocina,”
reflecting her Mexican roots – is out; tonight, she chooses the
“mystery box ingredients” that the 17 contestants must use,
creating a dish in 60 minutes.

“Big Brother,” 8
p.m., CBS. The season's second week begins, with lots of twists in
place. After announcing the 12 housemates (most of them young and
attractive), the show suddenly added four favorites from the past –
James Huling and Da'Vonne Rogers from last season, Nicole Franzel
from 2014 and Frank Eudy from 2012; it also split people into four
teams of four.

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. For now, this likable show is starting two nights for ABC
– Wednesdays (its longtime home) and Tuesdays (where it will be
next season). In tonight's rerun, Frankie worries about changes in
Mike and consults Rev. TimTom.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. Danny, the hockey star, is supposed to pretend
to date an actress, to boost publicity for both of them; Riley
retaliates by dating Ross. Meanwhile, Bonnie wants Ben to pretend to
be her husband, so her work colleagues will think she's with a
younger man.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. With Phil visiting Alex at her college, Claire decides
this is the perfect time to lure ducklings out of their nest. Also in
this rerun, Mitchell needs help with Lily's sleepover.

“Dating Naked”
season-opener, 9 p.m., VH1, rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. On Bora
Bora, two strangers begin this no-frills, no-clothes approach. Soon,
more choices arrive; she meets a lifeguard and he meets a nurse and
bodybuilder.

“Greenleaf,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 1 a.m. The show's first
three episodes (rerunning from 7-10 p.m.) centered on Grace,
returning home to the big church her father runs. Now she faces
blackmail involving her late sister. Another sister has trouble
keeping a secret. Their wayward brother and his ambitious wife try
couples counseling.

TV column for Tuesday, June 28


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Dead of Summer” debut, 9 p.m., Freeform.

In our overcrowded
world, this is what we dream of – a lakeside summer camp, dark and
quiet and ... well, ominous. “No cars, no phones, no weapons, no
lock on the doors .... They wouldn't find the bodies for days,” one
guy says helpfully. Clearly, it's “Friday the 13th” turf.

“Dead” has the
terrific Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”) as the owner, surrounded by
newcomers. Some are appealing – especially Elizabeth Lail, who was
Anna (the “Frozen” princess) in “Once Upon a Time” -- as
troubled ingenue Amy. Some characters (especially the workman) ring
false, but it's a solid start.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Zoo” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., CBS.

CBS has already
debuted two surprisingly good shows (“BrainDead” and “American
Gothic”) in the 10 p.m. slots Mondays and Wednesdays. Now it has
“Zoo,” a ratings success last season, between them.

A virus had turned
animals vicious worldwide. Tonight, Jackson (James Wolk) and others
scramble to save Jamie (Kristen Connolly) and the leopard whose DNA
may hold a cure.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “No Man Left Behind,” 9 p.m., National Geographic.

Blending
first-person accounts, re-enactments and news footage, this series
tells stories of soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines.

It starts with a
compelling one, also told in the movie “Black Hawk Down” (2001):
In 1993, U.S. soldiers fought Somali militia and armed civilians.
When two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu, a perilous rescue
operation began.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Animal Kingdom,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

How much
macho-excess do these guys have? They even get in a fight mid-air,
while skydiving.

Tempers seethe after
they violated the family rule by pulling a crime job without their
mom. Even Baz (Scott Speedman), the smart one, is getting crazed.
That puts the show in danger of being one-note, but there's a fresh
twist, with an individual crisis. The response and aftershock are
jolting.

Other choices
includez;

Olympic trials and
“America's Got Talent,” 8 and 9-11 p.m., NBC. It should be a
strong night for the network, as the final heats continue in swimming
and the early auditions continue for “Talent.”

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Abby (Pauley Perette) doesn't get out of the lab much. We
wouldn't blame her for not wanting to do it again: In this rerun, she
finds herself trapped, with no way to contact help.

“Black-ish,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Summer Tuesdays are Anthony Anderson's night. In this
rerun, his family accepts an invitation to go to church. Then he
hosts “To Tell the Truth“ at 10 p.m.

“Containment,” 9
p.m., CW. From the start, you've known this was coming: Teresa –
sweet, single and pregnant – found herself trapped in the
containment zone and then in her mother's store. Now, in the 10th
of 13 episodes, she goes into labor and the others set up a makeshift
delivery room. Inside the hospital, a likable cop (Jake) and teacher
(Katie) get closer to information about how the virus started.

“Uncle Buck,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Miles seems to be acting looser, now that his
Uncle Buck is watching him. In tonight's first episode, he's grounded
... and Buck holds a “going to jail party.” In the second, Buck
may have a multi-task implosion, while watching the kids and a big
Bulls game.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Newark's police systematically
violated civil rights, a Department of Justice study said. But reform
isn't easy; reporter Jelani Cobb follows Mayor Ras Baraka (a former
activist who went to Howard University with Cobb) in efforts to force
change.