TV column for Saturday, Aug. 1


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
New line-up, 8-11 p.m., ABC.

In a late change,
ABC has re-arranged its weekend, even splitting up the two
documentary series from its news division. “Boston EMS” slides to
10 p.m. today; the excellent “Save My Life, Boston Trauma” goes
to 10:01 p.m. Sunday.

The rest of tonight
(8-10 p.m.) will now have “Celebrity Family Feud” reruns. The
show was a surprise ratings hit on Sundays ... but surrender that
slot to “Bachelor in Paradise.” Tonight, it includes football
families -- Rob Gronkowski vs. Holly Robinson Peete and her husband
Rodney, an ex-quarterback.

... which just lost
its Sunday spot, now filled by all those lusty bachelors.(TV column
for Saturday,

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Aquarius.” 9 p.m. Saturday, NBC.

With only three
episodes left, this so-so show stirs up some family links. Charlie
Manson confronts his mom, in wretchedly overheated scenes; Hodiak
(David Duchovny) deals with his wayward dad and his earnest-but-AWOL
son. And a Black Panther leader faces a family tragedy.

There's more,
including one of the Manson girls (a fragile teen) leading a break-in
at the home of a rich neighbor. Blunt and inept, “Aquarius” was
exiled from Thursdays to Saturdays, where it at least offers an
alternative to reality and reruns.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Birdman” (2014), 8 p.m. and midnight, HBO.

Few people saw
“Birdman” in theaters, but many saw it at awards time. It won
Oscars for best picture, director, script and cinematography; it also
had five more nominations, including actors Michael Keaton, Edward
Norton and Emma Stone.

That highlights a
film in which the parts are better than the whole. The story -- a
former star scrambles for a theater project – is OK, although a
supernatural touch doesn't add much. The rest – the performances,
the dialog and the energetic filming style – are brilliant and
award-worthy.

Other choices
include:

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m. CBS. Now we go all the way back to the pilot film. Content
with her life as a college professor with a sturdy husband (Tim Daly)
and kids, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is suddenly asked to return to
Washington and become secretary of state.

“Cedar Cove,” 8
p.m., Hallmark. Setting up next week's two-hour episode, the gap
grows between Olivia and Jack, who tried to cover up his alcohol
relapse. He decides to give her some space.

More movies, cable.
As the baseball season heats up, fans will enjoy “Moneyball”
(2011), at 8 and 11 p.m. on FXX; it's boosted by Aaron Sorkin's sharp
script and Brad Pitt's performance. At 10 p.m., choose between gifted
actresses – Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games” (2012) on ABC
Family or Julia Roberts' nuanced, breakthrough performance in “Mystic
Pizza” (1988) on Pop.

“Hell on Wheels,”
9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 10. Cullen had warned that there would be
trouble because of the mis-treatment of Chinese railroad workers. Now
violence erupts in Chinatown.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz, rerunning at 10 p.m. and 11:05. Ghost is squeezed on two sides
– battling a rival drug cartel and facing Angela's expanding
investigation.

“Hannibal,” 10
p.m., NBC. Desperate to catch serial-killer Francis Dolarhyde, Will
tries two risky things – confering with Hannibal Lecter and
imagining himself in Dolarhyde's psyche.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Reese Witherspoon hosts this rerun, with
music from Florence and the Machine.

TV columm for Friday, July 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Winter's Bone” (2010), 8 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network.

With their theaters
stuffed with $100-million movies, many people missed this one. It had
a tiny budget ($2 million) and made just $6.5 million at the box
office. But it drew raves, plus Oscar nominations for best picture,
script and actors Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

Lawrence plays a
teen-ager whose dad put up the house to get bail money ... then
disappeared. To save her family, she has to bring him back or bring
proof he's dad. Along the way, she faces all the codes of a
hard-scrabble Ozarks life. The result is written, acted and filmed
with immense subtlety and skill.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Descendants” debut, 8-10 p.m., Disney.

Imagine taking all
the Disney characters, both good (Belle, Mulan, Dopey) and evil
(Cruella, Jafar). Then have their kids be schoolmates.

This film stirs them
all together and adds seven songs, which seems logical: The director
is Kenny Ortega, who did the “High School Musical” films; some of
the stars are musical, including Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth as
Maleficent and Dove Cameron as her daughter Mal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Virtuosity,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Once every four
years, the world's best young pianists, ages 18 to 30, reach Forth
Worth, Texas. The Van Cliburn Competition has each do two concertos,
a chamber piece, a new work and more.

Often, an
interesting documentary emerges. This one captures young npeople from
the Ukraine, China, Japan, Italy, Russia, the U.S. and more, making
masterful music under difficult conditions.

Other choices
include:

“The Breakfast
Club” (1985) and “Footloose” (1984), 6:30 and 9 p,m., VH1. Here
are two youth favorites from the mid-50s, each from a top director
better known for comedy. John Hughes put an opposite batch of teens
together, for Saturday detention. Herbert Ross started with the story
of a town that banned dance; at times, he injected the look and feel
of the new genre called music videos.

“Elementary,” 8
p.m., CBS. A debt-collector is killed in this rerun, leaving a huge
number of suspects.

“Defiance,” 8
p.m., Syfy. A new beast is on the prowl. While Nolan and Iris hunt
it, Doc Yewll studies its unusual victim.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Bruce Wayne (the future Batman) contronts
Gordon about the lack of progress in finding his parents' killer.
Also, Fish reveals a secret about Oswald, the future Penguin.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The team hunts for a notorious criminal who's never been
seen. When Kono learns the identity, her life is in danger.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a key witness drops out, Erin has to safely bring
a Mob informant (Dan Hedaya) back to town. She needs help from her
brother Danny and his police partner.

“Strike Back”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Cinemax. The two stars of this slam-bang
series are proof that even tough guys can get hurt. Back in 2004,
Philip Winchester lost the starring role in a TV comedy (“Commando
Nanny”) after breaking his foot; a decade later, this show was
suspended for a year, after Sullivan Stapleton fell from a vehicle.
Now they're back, playing top government agents. Tonight, they're in
Thailand, trying to save the British ambassador's daughter.

TV column for Thursday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT SEE:
“Bones” return, 9 p.m., Fox.

Bouncing around the
Fox schedule, “Bones” keeps getting OK ratings with OK stories.
Now, after a long break, it settles into the night where it will
start its 11th season this fall.

In this rerun, a
rich and idealistic teacher has been killed; his students and
colleagues are suspects. Also, Brennan's publisher wants her to
become Twitter-savvy. One of the lab geniuses – played by Laura
Spencer, who also plays Raj's girlfriend on “The Big Bang Theory”
-- tries to guide her.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Beauty and the Beast,” 8 p.m., CW.

On most networks,
this would be time for a key farewell tale: As “Beauty” staggers
with micro-ratings, its title characters are preparing their wedding.
Isn't it time for a quick ceremony and farewell?

Not on CW, where
nothing (except “Messengers” and “Hart of Dixie”) gets
cancelled. “Beauty” still has six episodes this season ... and
will be back next season. Tonight, Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) fears
that the experiments with superhumans will disrupt her wedding day,
scheduled for next week.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and “Married,”
10 and 10:30 p.m., FX.

First, Johnny Rock
(Denis Leary) learns one of the hard truths of being a former rock
star: Financially, he's more useful dead than alive. It's a farly
good episode, sparked (once again) by Elizabeth Gillies as his
just-discovered daughter, an aspiring singer with immense talent.

On “Married,”
these people really don't understand the concept of a “date night”
to bring them closer together. They use the night to go out
separately, with friends; appropriately, both efforts go awry.

Other choices
include:

“The Astronaut
Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC. The Apollo astronauts remain busy, but
the new Gemini program is gathering speed. Also, the wife of Gemimi's
Jim Lovell is hiding a surprise pregnancy.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Sheldon has a blanket fort with
Amy and an argument (on Wil Wheaton's podcast) with Penny. Also,
someone claims to be Howard's half-brother.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. In a rerun – setting up next week's rerun of a superb
episode – Christy's parents are vigorously reviving their
long-dormant love. Also, Christy ponders a new career.

“Mistresses,” 9
p.m., ABC.Things turned messy when the sex threesome became a secret
twosome. Now Vivian has found out; she rages at her husband Alec and
at Karen.

“Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC. Cops had arranged a friendly baseball game. Then it's
disrupted by a drive-by shooting; in the aftermath, Gail ends up at
odds with her brother.

“Under the Dome,”
10 p.m., CBS. Beyond the dome, the outside world is battered by a
meteor shower.

Much more, 10 p.m.,
cable. The two reality shows that debuted Sunday on E will rerun
simultaneously. “Stewarts & Hamiltons,” on E, focuses on the
extended family of Alana Stewart, following marriages to Rod Stewart
and George Hamilton; “I Am Cait,” borrowing a spot on Bravo,
views the new life of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner. Cable has
other 10 p.m. shows that have been excellent -- “Rectify” on
Sundauce and the season-opener of “Review” on Comedy Central.

TV column for Wednesday, July 29


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

In Hollywood, time
is relative; so is math. Last week, “So You Think You Can Dance”
had a 10th-anniversary special; now “Talent” has one
... even though it's a year younger. Tonight's party merely
celebrates the fact that the show (nine years and five weeks old) is
in its 10th season.

Singers won five of
the first six seasons (starting with 12-year-old Bianca Ryan), but
haven't won since. The people expected to perform tonight include
ventriloquist Terry Fator (the second-season winner and now a Las
Vegas star) and magician Mat Franco, who won last year and is
starting a Vegas show.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Carbonaro Effect” season-opener, 10 p.m., Tru TV.

Speaking of magic,
few people do it with the low-key charm of Michael Carbonaro. With
hidden cameras, he pretends to be a store clerk while casually doing
bizarre things. He's so good at straight-faced improvisation that
many people think the impossible has really happened.

This new episode
follows a rerun marathon that starts at 7 p.m. There are more reruns
tonight, from 11:01 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.; then a fresh marathon Saturday
will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 7-10 p.m. and more.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Celebrity Wife Swap” return, 10 p.m., ABC.

The 19 editions of
“The Bachelor” have produced two marriages. Now those wives will
briefly switch.

Sean Lowe chose
Catherine Giudici in the 2013 edition and they married the next year.
For Jason Mesnick, it was more complicated: On the 2009 show, he
proposed to Melissa Rycroft ... then changed his mind before it
aired; in the follow-up hour, he broke up with her and proposed to
Molly Malaney. Now they're married, with a 2-year-old daughter and
his son from a previous marriage.

Other choices
include:

“Mission
Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011, FX) or “Terminator 2” (1991,
IFC), both 8 p.m. Cable kindly offers action films that have sequels
this summer. (The new “Terminator” is already in theaters;
“Mission” gets there Friday.) “Terminator 2,” in particular,
is terrific.

“Melissa &
Joey,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. A week before the series finale, Melissa
(Melissa Joan Hart) preaches healthy-living in her Senate campaign.
Then someone films her chomping a Piggy Burger.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Next week's season-finale is supposed to have
Bonnie's wedding; tonight, however, the complications pile up. As
best man and maid of honor, Danny and Riley are expected to concoct
big parties; also, Tucker has a secret and a magician has handcuffs.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. It's spring-break time in this rerun, with Claire
cleaning while her kids and husband play. Jay and Gloria vow to give
up their vices – cigars and Spanish-language soap operas.

“Nova,” 9 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Here's a minute-by-minute account of the
nuclear-plant meltdown after a 2011 Japanese earthquake, with
first-person accounts by the workers who stayed. That's followed at
10 by the second half of “Uranium,” wrapping up PBS' two-night
nuclear focus.

“Last Comic
Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. Last week's two-hour opener had great
comedians, a clever host (Anthony Jeselnik) and bland comments from
the judges. Now “Comic” settles into a one-hour spot.

“America's Best
Dance Crew: Road to the VMAs,” 11 p.m., MTV. Originally called
“Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew,” this
dance-team competition was cancelled three years ago. Now it's back
for a six-week run, leading to the Video Music Awards.

TV column for Tuesday, July 28


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Bomb,” 8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Nestled between two
70th anniversaries – the first atomic-bomb detonation
(July 16) and the destruction of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) – PBS launches
a two-night look at the atomic age.

This compelling
documentary starts with two mismatched forces – a pragmatic general
and an idealistic scientist – rushing to beat Hitler. It follows
fierce twists – spies, scares, civil-defense drills, tests gone
horribly bad – and overload. The U.S. and Russia had a combined
60,000 nuclear bombs ... then faced off over Cuba. It was, historian
Richard Rhodes says, “a much closer call than most people
realized.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“America's Got Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC.

This is a busy week
for “Talent”: Tonight, it comes close to completing its 36-act
field, for live performances at Radio City Music Hall; on Wednesday,
it pauses for a 10th-year celebration.

Tonight, Marlon
Wayans is the guest judge; he holds the “golden buzzer” that can
send one act directly to the next round. Others will be chosen by the
panel ... which completes the field next week.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Face Off” season-opener, 9 p.m.. Syfy; rerunning at
11.

Emmy voters still
haven't discovered it, but “Face Off” is a gem. The winner of a
Critics Choice Award (best reality series), it has aspiring
movie-makeup people crafting elaborate creatures.

The show has a smart
host who knows the subject. McKenzie Westmore is an actress whose dad
Michael (the show's mentor) is a make-up master, with an Oscar
(“Mask”) and nine Emmys. Tonight, the 16 contestants face an odd
challenge: Mold two people into a single creature.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a murder victim has been living under an identity
that was created 20 years ago for Gibbs' undercover work.

Mardi Gras tales, 8
p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies; 10 p.m., CBS. TCM starts the night
with “Always For Pleasure” (1978), a documentary about New
Orleans during Mardi Gras. It follows with films about Cajun and
Creole food and culture, at 9:15, 10:15 and 11 p.m. ET. And at 10,
CBS' “NCIS: New Orleans” reruns an episode that has the team
proving a murder in the midst of Mardi Gras parades.

“Black-ish,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. In a Valentine's Day episode – yes, it's a rerun –
Dre is determined to end the trend of quarreling with his wife on the
holiday.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In Alabama, a chemist has evidence of a drug company's
involvement in the global animal problem. And in Rio de Janeiro, the
team confronts a ruthless drug lord.

“Uranium: Twisting
the Dragon's Tail,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This
two-part documentary, which concludes Wednesday, eyes uranium's
potential in everything from medicine to mass-destruction. Derek
Muller, a physicist, visits mine shafts, a desert and an abandoned
city.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX. This well-made drama keeps getting grimmer. Now there's
fresh tragedy at the palace and a crisis among two sets of rebels.
Trying a daring rescue, Barry – a Pasadena pediatrician whom people
think was killed by his brother, the dictator – confronts someone
from his past.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. This round has lots of people familiar to
reality or talk-show viewers – Rosie O'Donnell, Nate Berkus, Kevin
O'Leary and Rocco Dispirito. Joining them are Weird Al Yankovic and
actress Constance Zimmer.