TV column for Wednesday, July 2



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

Last week, “Dance” set its 20 finalists. Half are teens (18
or 19), with others up to age 25; three each are from Utah and Miami (always
“Dance” strongholds), with one from Denmark.


Eight are contemporary or jazz dancers, who tend to dominate
the show, but others are richly varied. Four list Latin ballroom as their prime
focus, with two each for tap, ballet and ballroom, plus ones with hip hop and
popping. They’ll eventually have to try other styles, but not now. Tonight,
each person can dance in his or her style, then viewers vote, with the first
elimination coming next week.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Middle” and “Modern Family,” 8
and 9 p.m., ABC.


Two season-openers rerun, offering key education firsts. On “Family,”
it’s Lily’s first day of pre-school, Manny and Luke’s first day of high school;
on “Middle,” it’s Axl’s day of moving to college.


Complicating things further on “Family,” it’s Cam’s first
day of a substitute-teaching job … which sort of makes this Mitchell’s first
real day as a stay-at-home dad.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Mystery Girls” and “Young and
Hungry,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC Family.


These comedies, which debuted last week, have a lot in
common. Both have former teen stars playing women starting new jobs; both have
an effeminate assistant, aimed at extra laughs.


The difference? The “Hungry” assistant (Rex Lee of
“Entourage”) is perfect; the “Girls” one (Miguel Pinzon) is horribly
overwrought. The “Hungry” star (Emily Osment of “Hannah Montana”) is excellent
as a young chef, tonight accused of theft; one of the “Girls” stars (Tori
Spelling as a private eye) takes a broad character and makes her broader.
Tonight, she ducks stake-out duty and probes a glitzy club.


Other choices include:


Movies, 7:45 and 8 p.m., cable. Two movie masters have
popular films tonight – Steven Spielberg with “Jaws” (1975) at 7:45 p.m. on AMC
and Francis Coppola with “The Outsiders” (1983) at 8 on Sundance; the latter is
a richly emotional teen film, with Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and many
more, including (briefly) Tom Cruise. Also at 8, IFC has “L.A. Confidential”
(1997), a stylish crime tale.


“Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. It’s time for the season’s first
power-of-the-veto competition.


“The Goldbergs,” 8:30 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. The first rerun
finds the mom distraught about a Halloween with none of her kids
trick-or-treating. The second has Pops (George Segal) trying to work with
Murray.


“Motive,” 10 p.m., ABC. Here’s a rerun of the season-opener,
with a clever plot involving a pair of “suicides” that are starting to look
like murder.


“Hot in Cleveland,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., TV Land. New episodes
air back-to-back. First, Joy’s boss (Tim Daly) pines for Melanie … who’s dating
a rich guy (Chevy Chase) to help Elka’s political campaign. Then a storm
strands the women with undesirables, including Victoria’s island boyfriend (Rob
Schneider).


“Taxi Brooklyn,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Somehow, bad-acting is
contagious here. In last week’s opener, that centered on the two stars;
tonight, it also infects the guest stars. 
Add in a dull story and clumsy dialog and you’ll find that a few chases
(on foot and by car) aren’t enough to create a good cop show.


TV column for Tuesday, July 1



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Drunk History” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
Comedy Central.


This show delivers history, as told by a drunk. The stories
are true; the emphasis can be wildly funny.


Now comes a daring attempt to give that mistreatment to beloved
civil rights stories. The first (science genius Percy Julian, played by Jordan
Peele) is hilarious; the others are fairly good, offering the tales of boxer
Joe Louis and Claudette Colvin, a teen whose arrest on a Montgomery bus preceded
Rosa Parks.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
Fox.


It was a giddy first season for this above-average show.
That included Golden Globes for best comedy and best-comedy actor (Andy
Samberg) and a spot after the Super Bowl. Now its reruns are back, to replace
the failed “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry’’’ and “Riot.”


Tonight’s first rerun starts and ends badly, with a clumsy
take-off on “Hurt Locker.” In between are good moments when Jake (Samberg) meets
a hard-boiled reporter (Stacy Keach) and great ones when Rosa feigns warmth on
the witness stand. The second is fun, with Jake and Amy concluding their
arrests bet.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant,” 10 p.m., FX.


After a faltering start last week, “Tyrant” shows signs it
could become excellent. It focuses on a staple of fact or fiction, from John
Kennedy to Michael Corleone – the human knack for transformation.


Barry was a Pasadena pediatrician, quiet and diligent. But
in his homeland, he’s Bassam Al-Fayeed; his father’s death and brother’s
near-assassination put him at the edge of ruling a country he hadn’t seen in 19
years. Tonight’s hour cuts back on the anti-Arab stereotypes and gives humanity
to key characters. It avoids the shrill-spouse cliché; Molly (Jennifer
Finnigan) struggles to understand her enigmatic husband.


Other choices include:


“Extreme Weight Loss,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. When Melissa’s
husband (an Afghanistan veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress) committed
suicide, she turned to food for comfort. Four years later, at 301 pounds, she
asked for help; now we see the year-long change.


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Tony’s in a shoot-out and
his dad (Robert Wagner) is the only witness.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. Sam and Deeks have been
rescued from torture, but this rerun finds the team with more lives to save and
a nuclear weapon to locate.


“Celebrity Wife Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Penn Jillette and Judy
Gold have little in common except that they’re tall, clever and each have two
kids. She has a cramped Manhattan apartment; he has desert expanse near Las
Vegas. She follows Jewish tradition each Friday; he has mocked religion. She
has a fiancé Elisa; he has a wife. Tonight, Jillette and Gold temporarily
change homes.


“The Night Shift,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. After a terrific episode
last week, this wildly erratic show has an one that’s mostly awful. As in some early
episodes, it’s wildly overwrought, this time with a mariachi band, a lame
attempt at psych-patient humor and (really) a brawl between surgeons. A
potentially moving portion (involving a closeted gay doctor) fails because of a
wooden performance.


“Nathan For You” season-opener 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central. Nathan
Fielder brings a wonderfully quiet approach, while helping real-life business
people. Tonight, he brings a lie-detector to a mechanic and a bizarre ghost-buster
to a real-estate agent. Absurd notions are offered with deadpan wit.


TV column for Monday, June 30



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Under the Dome” season-opener, 10 p.m.,
CBS.

Viewers know that Dale Barbara (Mike Vogel) is good and “Big
Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris) is evil, as signaled by the difference in their hair
and looks. Still, Jim has prevailed and is about to hang Barbie.


We won’t spoil anything, but will say tonight’s hour adds two
elements: The dome turns magnetic (knives and nails and such flying about) and two
strong characters are added – a handsome loner (Eddie Cahill) and a smart
science teacher. It’s a good script (from “Dome” creator Stephen King, who has
four words of dialog in the diner), boosted by Jack Bender’s usual sharp
direction.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Murder in the First,” 10:01 p.m.,
TNT.


Last week, this beautifully crafted show saw Hildy (Kathleen
Robertson) leave a blind date to save a battered wife. She was a hero, but had
she been drinking? Why shoot to kill … with five bullets, no less?


Tonight, she worries about losing her job, in the midst of a
crucial murder case she’s investigating with Terry (Taye Diggs). They’re
focusing on an arrogant tech billionaire who now has a drug-laced weekend.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “112 Weddings,” 9-10:35 p.m., HBO.


Doug Block is a documentary-maker who supplements his income
by making wedding videos. Then he decided to go back and ask some of those
couples about their marriages.


At first, that’s plagued by broad generalities in many of
the questions and the answers. Gradually, we meet interesting people – some happy,
one battling depression, one taking all the blame for a divorce, another
reserving the blame for her husband. After a slow start, these are people worth
knowing.


Other choices include:


“Baby Doll” (1956), 6 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This
wraps up a string of five films with the gifted Eli Wallach, who died Tuesday
at 98. Two are mere fluff, but then “How the West Was Won” (1962, 1 p.m. ET), “The
Misfits” (1961, 3:45) and this one are directed by John Ford, John Huston and
Elia Kazan.


“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. In Brussels, Andi Dorfman
has her second one-on-one date with Marcus, who she calls “the total-package
man.” She also dates Josh, takes the other four on a bike jaunt … then must
decide which four of the six to choose for visits to their home towns.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Sometimes setting aside the show’s acerbic
wit, this excellent rerun has some warm moments as Christy and Bonnie help a
sick friend (Mimi Kennedy).


“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. With only three episodes left, Jack Bauer
races to stop an ever-widening terror threat. Meanwhile, his former lover
Audrey confronts her husband (the chief-of-staff of her late father, the
president) about his lies. Also, Kate learns the truth about her husband.


“Beauty and the Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Gabe tries to take Cat
on a romantic date


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. Walden is invited to
the opening of his ex-girlfriend’s boutique. That may let Alan take his girlfriend
(Kimberly Williams-Paisley) to what he says is his beach house.


“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Savi and Dominic worry about
repercussions, as work colleagues learn about their relationship. Meanwhile,
Savi shows a devil-may-care side with Zack … Scott makes his move on her sister
Joss … and their friend April gets disturbing news about the guy she’s
blissfully in love with.


TV column for Sunday, June 29



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Last Ship,” 9 p.m., TNT.

Jack Bender is the new hero of summer TV. On consecutive
nights, credits list him as director and executive producer of this episode and
Monday’s “Under the Dome” season-opener. Both show the touch that Bender
flashed with “Lost” – taut and muscular, yet solidly intelligent.


In last week’s opener, the world was encased in a deadly
epidemic. A Navy destroyer includes survivors, a doctor (Rhona Mitre) working
on a cure, her assistant (spying for the Russians) and a classic captain (Eric
Dane). Now they search for food, fuel and medical supplies, in a great hour
with the Bender touch.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Musketeers,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC
America.


Imagine stuffing an entire swashbuckler movie into one TV
episode. “Musketeers” does that tonight, with flashing swords, plus schemes,
pistols, dynamite and French royalty.


Last week, Musketeers met D’Artagnon, a skilled fighter who
(in the TV tradition) charms women and resists orders. Now he’s in big trouble;
stick around for a complex story and (literally) explosive finish.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Reckless” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.


For cable, tonight is stuffed with high quality and dark
deeds – people are dying or disappearing or fighting aliens and vampires and
more. CBS, however, goes the opposite way.


A sampling indicates no effort at quality – we get
soap-looking actors in a soap-style plot – but lots of cotton-candy diversion: A
Charleston, S.C., cop was fired after being filmed during group sex; she says
she was drugged and has hired a Yankee beauty to defend her. Corruption charges
flow.


Other choices include:


“Last Tango in Halifax” season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Alan and Celia (played by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, 75 and
79) see their romance deepen, while the lives of their offspring wobble.


“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A
four-week season of “Endeavour” begins. This one starts with young Endeavour Morse
returning to work, four months after his near death.


“True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO. Remember when this rippled with
romance and cross-cultural tolerance? In tonight’s messy hour, fear and hatred
soar after the attacks by a rogue band of vampires.


“Nurse Jackie” season-finale, 9 p.m., Showtime. For six
seasons, Jackie’s pill addictions have taken her deeper into decline. Now the
lies and schemes are collapsing, in a tough, disturbing episode.


“Californication” series finale, 9:30, Showtime. Hank has
spent seven seasons undermining his work and his relationship with his true
love and their daughter. Things got worse this year, when he met an old
girlfriend and a grown son. This episode -- despite a clumsy detour involving
his friends – ends neatly.


“Unforgettable” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. This solid
series returns, with Poppy Montgomery as the cop who remembers everything.
Tonight, a murder case leads to a counterfeit ring run by an assassin.


“Falling Skies,” 10 p.m., TNT. Confined to a prison camp and
a “re-education” center, Tom Mason and his sons find ways to fight back, in a
tough, solid episode.


“The Leftovers” debut, 10 p.m., HBO. The first few minutes –
we won’t spoil anything here – are compelling. The rest is merely OK, as a
complex series settles in.


TV column for Saturday, June 28



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

In her first two turns as “SNL” host, Melissa McCarthy got Emmy
nominations. And this third time, with Imagine Dragons as music guest? There’s
nothing special for her, but a great moment for Seth Meyers.


As he ended his brilliant run as head writer and “Weekend
Update” anchor, Meyers was converged on by alumni Amy Poehler, Bill Hader (in
his Stefon character) and Andy Samberg. There were big laughs.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs,” 8-10
p.m., Lifetime.


In his church, Warren Jeffs was listed as “president and
prophet, seer and revelator”; in the FBI, he was listed as one of the 10 most
wanted. He faced sexual charges in Utah and Arizona, then was convicted in
Texas of (at age 55) having sex with girls who were 15 and 12.


Jeffs has been profiled in documentaries (including “The Man
with 80 Wives”), but here’s a scripted version. Tony Goldwyn – who plays the
president in “Scandal” – stars and (in the tradition of his grandfather, father
and brother) is also one of the producers.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC.


After floundering for years, NBC finally came up with a
successful scripted show. In its first season, “Blacklist” received a Golden
Globe nomination (for James Spader) and strong ratings.


Now the reruns are on summertime Saturdays, including this
one, filled with twists and scams. Jennifer Ehle – a Tony-winner like her mom,
Rosemary Harris – plays an ex-lover of Red (Spader), who wants him to join her
scam. Soon, two cunning souls are outsmarting each other. Some of this defies
belief, but along the way we get hints about the troubled past and present of
Liz (Megan Boone), Red’s FBI handler.


Other choices include:


“Penny Dreadful,” 5 p.m to midnight, Showtime. Here’s a
fresh look at the beautifully filmed start of this series, with Josh Hartnett
as an American showman (pretending to be a hot-shot cowboy), lured by Eva Green
and Timothy Dalton into a creepy London underworld. This sets up Sunday’s
season-finale.


 “Bet On Your Baby,” 8
p.m., ABC. Can a grandmother guess which of the four toys a baby will choose?
Can a 3-year-old follow his dad through an obstacle course in 60 seconds? Such
challenges offer $5,000 prizes and a shot at a $50,000 college fund.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of the October
episode that temporarily brought back Terry O’Quinn. Catherine’s surveillance
job turns deadly and Adam considers a sacrifice to save Kono.


“When Sparks Fly,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. Meghan Markle (who
plays Rachel in “Suits”) stars in the story of a big-city reporter who returns
home to do a story about a small-town 4
th of July.


“Power,” 9 p.m., Starz. After meeting and flirting with his
old high school love Angela, Ghost finally admits he’s married and has kids. He
doesn’t admit, of course, that he’s a drug kingpin. She may find out; as an
assistant district attorney, she’s monitoring a meeting of drug bosses.


“Almost Royal,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., BBC America. Last week,
this show – with fictional British royalty meeting real Americans – had a hilarious
opener and an OK second episode. Tonight, that opener reruns at 10:30, after a
new episode that takes the fake royals to Texas, to meet cowboys.