TV column for Monday, July 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Midnight, Texas” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

Following a family
tradition, Manfred claims to talk to the departed. “Some of it's
real; a lot of the time it's theater,” he admits. Then it gets way
too real and he needs to flee. On the advice of his dead grandmother,
he retreats to a Texas town where people are left alone.

This is a peaceful
place, if you ignore the vampire, witch, angel, assassin and
Satanists. Like “True Blood,” this springs from the novels of
Charlaine Harris. And like “True Blood,” it's not for everyone,
what with the gore and the weirdness. Still, it has rich, Southern
Gothic passion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

When the show picked
a brainy lawyer (Rachel Lindsay, 31), it included some professionals
to choose from. There were two doctors, two lawyers, a law student
and more. Instead, she's getting physical.

Bryan Abasolo (a
Miami chiropractor, 37) did reach the final three, but he's alongside
two personal trainers -- Eric Bigger, 29, of Los Angeles and Peter
Kraus, 31, who has a training business in Madison, Wis. Tonight, they
meet her family and have “overnight dates” in Spain. It's a
neatly diverse group: Lindsay and Bigger are black, Kraus is white,
Abasolo has Colombian roots.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Loaded,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Last week's debut
rippled with wit, as four likable blokes became instant millionaires,
selling their videogame to Americans. Now one guy obsesses on revenge
and another tries to rekindle romance.

It's another strong
hour, cleverly written and perfectly played, and it adds a fresh
twist: The new boss (Mary McCormack) arrives in London; she's ready
to work, just when the guys expect to play.

Other choices
include:

“Shark Week”
(Discovery) and “SharkFest” (NatGeo Wild). These are here all
week, so get used to them. NatGeo confines its shark stuff to 10
hours (4 p.m. to 2 a.m.), but Discovery goes all day. It has reruns,
then a “Sharkopedia” edition of “Phelps vs. Shark” at 7 p.m.
and new hours from 8 to 11:30.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox. Wedged alongside bigger reality shows
(“Bachelorette,” “American Ninja Warrior”) this has terrific
dancers, now in the second of three callback hours.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a very funny rerun, Bonnie faces the fact that no one – not
even her boyfriend or her daughter – lists her as an emergency
contact.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC. Last week's episode was so-so, but now “Preacher”
rebounds wonderfully. There's a slow preamble that will make sense
eventnually; then we return to The Saint of Killers. We learn his
back story and see him collide with Jesse. The result is smart and
well-crafted, but gory.

“Will,” 9 p.m.,
TNT, rerunning at 10. A newcomer, William Shakespeare already has a
hit show and the love and lust of the theater owner's beautiful
daughter. What could go wrong? Much, from anti-Catholic scourges to
Marlowe's efforts to show him the naughty side of London's elite.

“Somewhere
Between” debut, 10 p.m., ABC. Laura (Paula Patton) is a TV news
producer, helping police find a serial killer. Then comes a rare
opportunity: She can re-live a wretched week and try to make it
better. After ths debut (taking advantage of the “Bachelorette”
lead-in), this airs on Tuesdays..

“People of Earth”
season-opener, 10:30 p.m., TBS. Like many people, Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac)
felt that his boss was an alien, out to destroy Earthlings. Unlike
most (we assume), he was right. Now this clever show returns, with
that ex-boss living in an alien-centric town.

TV column for Sunday, July 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Grantchester,” 9 p.m., PBS.

As a 1950s village
vicar, Sidney has seen lives crumble. His true love is divorcing and
disinherited, with a baby; the Church of England says a vicar can't
marry a divorcee. His friend had an affair ... his assistant is gay
and closeted ... his housekeeper's money was stolen by her long-lost
husband.

All of this gnaws at
a decent (if morose) man. Tonight, he leaves his clerical collar and
tries a solo journey. The result mixes a solid mystery and some deep
portraits of people who are good (usually) and flawed (always),
setting up next week's strong season-finale.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Shark Week” and “Shark Fest,” all day, Discovery and NatGeo
Wild.

Ever since 1988,
Discovery has entertained, frightened and (occasionally) informed us
with this week. This year's eight-day edition begins with reruns
today and new hours starting at 6 p.m. It also has a fresh gimmick:
At 8 p.m. (rerunning at 11:36), Olympian Michael Phelps tries to outswim
a shark.

That's the same day
that NatGeo Wild begins its six-day SharkFest. The reruns start at
noon; at 8 p.m. ET (rerunning at 11) is a fast and impressive hour,
viewing the few creatures that dare to attack sharks.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Spartan” finale, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Mostly, NBC has
filled its summer Sundays with reruns, but here's an exception: For
six Mondays – following “American Ninja Warrior,” from the same
producers – we've seen teams tackle an elaborate obstacle course;
now the winners compete for the $250,000 championship.

Olympic champion
Apolo Ohno hosts with Kelvin Washington; MJ Acosta and baseball's
Nick Swisher are reporters. It's part of a macho night, colliding
with John Cena's “American Grit,” at 9 p.m. on Fox.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The Nineties,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news) and more.

On the first day of
the 1990s, David Dinkins became New York City's first black mayor.
That seemed to signal a new era – but didn't. For three days in
1991, blacks and Orthodox Jews fought in New York's Crown Heights
neighborhood; on the other coast, things would become more intense.

This documentary
takes us briskly through Rodney King, O.J. Simpson and more. It
competes with a rerun (3-9 p.m., National Geographic) of a series
called “The '90s: The Last Great Decade?” That title feels
ironic, when the channel follows it (9 and 11:30 p.m.) with the
blistering riot film, “LA 92.”

Other choices
include:

More decades, cable.
Alongside that '90s cascade, there are other decades to sample. From
9 a.m. to 3 p.m., National Geographic reruns “The '80s: The Decade
That Made Us”; and at 8 p.m., Smithsonian's “America in Color”
visits the '50s, with the Cold War, McCarthyism, Rosa Parks and, for
fun, Elvis.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. One match-up has the families of Louie Anderson
and Christina Milian. The other has comedy actors; it's men vs.
women, pitting a husband and wife (Paul Scheer of “Fresh Off the
Boat” and June Diane Raphael of “Grace & Frankie”) against
each other,

“Wild Alaska
Live,” 8 p.m., PBS. The PBS people love nature and rarely go live.
Now they combine the two, going live in some time zones at 8 p.m. ET
(4 p.m. in Alaska) today, Wednesday and next Sunday. With wildlife at
its summertime peak, Chris and Martin Kratt anchor from Tongass
National Forest. Steve Backshall is at Glacier Lake, tracking salmon
migration; Liz Bonnin is at Katmai National Park – one of the most
remote spots in the U.S. -- where bears grab those salmon.

“Game of Thrones,”
9 p.m., HBO, rerunning at 11:30. There's trouble everywhere: Tyrion
Lannister sets a plan to conquer Westeros; Jon Snow faces a revolt.

“First Ladies
Revealed” season-finale, 9 p.m., Smithsonian. This looks at
presidents' wives – from Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary Clinton –
who became activists.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, one team member is being held
and tortured at an unknown location. Another learns he was betrayed.

TV column for Saturday, July 22


TONIGHTS MUST-SEE:
Bette Davis marathon, 8 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies.

The splendid “Feud”
mini-series captured the clash of titanic egos, when Davis and Joan
Crawford made “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Now we can see
“Baby Jane” and two more Davis films.

We're reminded that
this was a gifted actress who had 11 Oscar nominations and two wins.
“All About Eve” (1950) won six Oscars and was nominated for eight
more, including ones for Davis and Anne Baxter. It's at 8 p.m. ET,
followed at 10:30 by “The Star” (1952). At 12:15 a.m. ET is “Baby
Jane” (1962), which drew nominations for Davis, but not Crawford –
fanning their feud some more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Doubt,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

Crises are piling up
for Sadie (Katherine Heigl). Preparing for her sometimes-lover's
murder trial, she and other staffers listen to tapes of his sister's
therapy sessions. At the same time, she's representing her boss'
daughter (Paula Marshall) in divorce proceedings.

Then there's what
could be the last chance for her mother (Judith Light) to be paroled.
In the first hour, Cameron agrees to represent her; in the second,
Sadie must testify at the parole hearing. Also, Cameron's romance
heats up and Nick has his first case; it's a busy show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Declassified” season-opener, 9 p.m., CNN (barring
breaking news).

For five seasons,
viewers have been fascinated by “The Americans,” a fictional tale
of Russian spies embedded in American life in the 1980s. Now this
hour looks at the real-life stories.

That launches the
second season of a show hosted by Mike Rogers, the former chairman of
the House Intelligence Committee. It reruns at midnight ET, with
first-season episodes rerunning from 1-4 a.m. Future ones will range
from arm dealers and airline terrorists to a software pirate.

Other choices
include:

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a change, ABC has this rerun
at 8, with an hour-long version of “In an Instant” (re-telling
real-life crises) at 9.

“Cold Justice”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Oxygen. Stoking its new image as a
true-crime-story network, Oxygen is bringing back this series, which
had a three-season run elsewhere. It's again produced by Dick Wolf
(“Law & Order”); former prosecutor Kelly Siegler again
re-opens unsolved cases, now with a variety of investigators. The
opener takes her back to a 1991 murder in her native Texas.

“The Jury Speaks”
debut, 9 p.m., Oxygen. Over four nights, we'll hear from people who
were jurors at controversial trials. This opener is the O.J. Simpson
trial; coming are Michael Jackson on Sunday, George Zimmerman on
Monday and Robert Durst on Tuesday.

“Turn,” 9 p.m.,
AMC, rerunning at 10. Working undercover in the British army, Abe is
at the core of two ambitious plots – a rebel one to kidnap Benedict
Arnold and his own to kill Simcoe, the nasty officer who killed Abe's
father. It's a tense hour, propelling us toward a crisis.

“Still
Star-Crossed,” 10 p.m., ABC. The patriarchs – Lord Montague
(Grant Bowler) and Lord Capulet (Anthony Head) -- have an argument
that leads to violence. Also, Rosaline finds herself in danger.

“Orphan Black,”
10 p.m., BBC America. Sarah fights to save her daughter, while
Westmoreland demands more aggressive action on her. Meanwhile, Cosima
has a clue about Westmoreland's identity.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Emma Stone hosts this rerun, with Shawn
Mendes as the music guest.

TV column for Friday, July 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Descendants 2,” 8 p.m., ABC, Disney, Freeform, Lifetime, Disney
XD.

A decade ago, Disney
began introducing musicals to a new generation. It's had a dozen
(including three “High School Musical” films), with bright music,
cute stars and, often, Kenny Ortega directing.

Now Ortega again has
Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson and more, as the children of Disney
villains, this time joined by China Anne McClain as the daughter of
the sea witch Ursula. Most have settled into an idyllic kingdom, but
Mal (Cameron) retreats to her rotten roots. There are six new songs,
plus “If Only” and “The Space Between” from the original and
“Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS.

OK, now they're just
trying to confuse us. CBS has taught viewers the “Big Brother”
basics – episodes at 9 p.m. Thursdays and 8 p.m. Sundays and
Wednesdays. Now, inexplicably, here's a Friday one.

Well,
semi-explicably. The show's Nielsen ratings have soared, especially
among key age groups. One recent week saw the three episodes finish
No. 1, 2 and 3 for the week in same-day ratings for ages 18-34, 18-49
and 25-54. Now an extra episode borrows the “MacGyver” spot.

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

This continues to be
the science-fiction ideal – a rare mixture of action, warmth and
whimsy. Tonight's hour starts with the sort of bar-room brawl that
would leave even John Wayne impressed; midway, it has a beautifully
written and played truth-serum scene with Dutch and Johnny.

And great characters
fill in the edges. One is Zeph, the auiliary nerd who was added when
Johnny was missing. The other is Pree, the bartender with a warlord
past. That past – and Pree's flamboyant personality – play a big
role when Johnny's future seems tenuous.

Other choices
include:

“Ozark” debut,
any time, Netflix. Sought by a druglord, a money man (Jason Bateman)
flees to the Missouri mountains with his wife (Laura Linney) and
family. That's one of two series debuting today on streaming
services; Amazon has the animated “Niko and the Sword of Light.”

Movies, cable.
Tonight's films range from a 1954 classic (Alfred Hitchcock's “Rear
Window,” 8 p.m. ET) on Turner Classic Movies to the witty “Juno”
(2007) at 7:06 p.m. on Bravo. At 8 p.m.: “Bourne Identity” (2002)
on TNT, “The Birdcage” (1996) on Pop and “Dark Shadows”
(2012) on IFC.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Last week's show was bumped at the last minute for a
“Salvation” rerun. Tonight, barring another late change, the
cunning Dr. Madison Gray (Elizabeth Rohm) is back.

“The Great British
Baking Show,” 9 p.m., PBS. The final six bakers tackle desserts.
And at 10, many PBS stations will rerun a terrific Gershwin Prize
special, with the music of Smokey Robinson.

“Dark Matter,” 9
p.m., Syfy. You've seen the basics before: Semi-strangers meet in a
mansion ... one of them may be a killer ... suddenly, the lights go
out and the doors lock. Now put that on a spaceship, add an errant
android, and you have the start of this strong hour, giving geeky
Five a shot at heroics.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This reruns the season-opener, with fresh evidence
against Danny. Also, Lori Loughlin plays the wife of a slain cop,
asking Frank to keep her son out of the police force.

“Live From
Comic-Con,” 11 p.m., Syfy. OK, this is clearly Syfy's night –
three new drama hours (capped by “Wynonna Earp” at 10) and then
Zachary Levi hosting from the fantasy-fan gathering.

TV column for Thursday, July 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Zoo,” 10 p.m., CBS.

At times, our heroes
were scattered around the globe. Animals had gone wild; crises were
everywhere. But now – for the first time this season – there's a
reason for them all to be together:

The animals have
been calmed, but the “hybrids” -- lab-created creatures – may
overrun New York City. TV shows have always been fond of New York, so
Abraham and Dariela head there to join Oz (James Wolk), Jamie
(Kristen Connolly), Mitch ( Billy Burke) and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hooten and the Lady,” 9 p.m., CW.

Thursdays have
transformed into the epicenter of new, scripted summertime dramas. At
10, Zoo collides with “Night Shift” and “The Mist”; at 9,
there's “Nashville” and this one.

Last week's opener –
very flawed, yet kinda fun – had a classy curator and a rough-edged
adventurer meet in the Amazon. They argued a lot, never admitted they
liked each other, and split. Now, however, he needs help finding an
ancient book in Rome; that will require them to break into the
Sistine Chapel and to wrestle an alligator – neither an easy task.
We'll also meet her well-bred mother (Jane Seymour).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Growing Up Hip Hop,” 9 p.m, WE, rerunning at 10:30,
midnight, 1:30 a.m. and 3 a.m.

We assumed it would
be easy to be young, rich and attractive; not so, apparently. When an
actor walked out of “Empire,” Romeo Miller had a chance to do
three episodes in the splashy role of Gram; he took the job ...
enraging his dad (Master P) by skipping a big-deal event. Tonight,
they argue.

Then there are the
gorgeous daughters of Rev. Run and nieces of Russell Simmons. Angela
Simmons learned of her fiance's felony past; Vanessa tries to tell
her sister about her new clothing line. There are some contrived
fights (verbal for the women, physical for the men), but the people
remain interesting.

Other choices
include:

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Sheldon's most startling
decision so far: As he puts it, he feels that he and Amy should
procreate.

“Boy Band,” 8
p.m., ABC. Viewers are voting now, so they need to pay attention.
This opens with all 14 contestants doing “Uptown Girl.” Then
they're split into three new groups, to perform Bon Jovi's “Livin'
on a Prayer,” Cyndi Lauper's “True Colors” and the Rolling
Stones' “Satisfaction.”

“Battle of the
Network Stars,” 9 p.m., ABC. One side has people from primetime
soaps – Donna Mills, Ian Ziering, Gabriele Carteris, Josh Henderson
and Mischa Barton. The other has those from assorted ABC shows –
Anson Williams, Olivia d'Abo, Jason Hervey, Michael Fishman and Shari
Belafonte.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT, rerunning at 10. As Scarlett's pregnancy faces
complications, Gunnar searches for the mugger. And Deacon, running
his late wife's record label, considers a new singer.

“The Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. Adventures seem to hit these people everywhere: Drew is
on a flight with his mom when passengers get sickened, one-by-one. In
his military duties, TC puts his life in danger. And back home,
others try an obstacle fundraiser in the “American Ninja Warrior”
mode.

“The Mist,” 10
p.m., Spike. Kevin finally manages to reach the hospital with the
others. There, however, he has a painful encounter with his brother.

“Live From
Comic-Con,” 11 p.m., Syfy. After some detours, this channel is
making a fresh try to be the go-to place for sci-fi and fantasy, on
its Web site and on-air. For the next three nights (live on tape), it
will have what it calls “all things nerd-related” from the San
Diego super-gathering. Hosting is Zachary Levi, an expert on such
things and a co-star in “Heroes Reborn” and “Thor: The Dark
World.”