TV column for Wednesday, June 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
“MasterChef” season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox.

For many reality
shows (“Voice” excluded), the audition phase lacks competitive
drama. Here's a solution – with 40 people people and 20 slots; it's
one-on-one (mostly), with a quick winner and ouster.

A charming 5th-grade
teacher from a Kentucky town of 1,181 faces a drink “mixologist.”
A college student from Miami faces a former cheerleader and sorority
girl from Texas. A poker champion faces a restaurant marketer.
There's more, from a tuxedo salesman to Miss San Diego 2015. Fans
will pick favorites ... some of them soon ousted by Christina Tosi
and Gordon Ramsay, in an involving start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Let's credit Fox for
skipping reruns and giving us new shows ... even if they are
bizarrely mismatched. Tonight leaps from chefs to science-fiction, on
an Earth where humankind was almost destroyed. With a wall to block
mutant invaders, a town struggles on, re-stocked with cryogenically
frozen people.

The founder is now
dead. So is last season's hero; his rebel son was banished outside
the wall. Now we have a new protagonist – a surgeon (Jason Patric)
who uses his status to demand answers. “Pines” lacks the mystery
and wonder of the first season, but remains a strong story of the
individual and the system.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Americans,” 10 p.m., FX.

Sure, Paige has
learned the basics: Her parents are Russian spies, enbedded in 1980's
America. Still, she never fully grasped this until last week's
episode, when a mugger attacked her; with astonishing speed and
skill, her mom killed the guy.

In tonight's episode
– the second-to-last of the season -- “Americans” deals with
the emotional aftershock and more. The Russians are trying to steal a
virus from U.S. labs; they've done it before, but this one is so
powerful that even a career spy will pause. Emotions build, in a
strong hour.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Kingdom” return, 9 p.m., DirecTV/AT&T.

TV's most-macho show
is back for 10 summer episodes, radiating energy and emotion.
Foirtunately, it has gifted actors who can make all of this overdrive
feel real.

At the core is Alvey
(Frank Grillo), running a martial-arts gym with his pregnant
girlfriend. His estranged wife has been shattered by drug abuse;
their sons – the flamboyant Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and earnest Nate
(Nick Jonas) are at his gym. So is the intense Alicia (Natalie
Martinez) and her lover Ryan (Matt Lauria). As Ryan and Jay prepare
to fight each other, there are fierce shellshocks.

Other choices
include:

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's another network with a no-rerun
Wednesday. “Ninja” had an all-star competition Sunday, but now it
starts its try-outs in Los Angeles.

“500 Questions,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. The second quick-run season ends for this show, which
has smart people trying to answer questions without flubbing three
straight.

“iHeartRadio
Summer Pool Party,” 8 p.m., CW. June starts with youthful music.
Hailee Steinfeld hosts with Joe Josnas and sings with DNCE; others
include Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, Tinashe and Kygo.

“Roots,” 9 p.m.,
History, A&E. Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network; rerunning at
11:21 p.m. and 1:42 a.m. In the third of four parts, George works to
buy his freedom ... then gets a setback. The first two nights rerun
at 4:35 and 6:50 p.m.

“Cutthroat
Kitchen,” 9 p.m., Food Network. A five-part “time warp
tournnament” begins, with chefs dealing with the quirks and the
cooking of the 1950s.

“Night Shift”
season-opener, 10 p.m., NBC. This hospital show keeps turning to
high-octane action. Near a Texas military base, most of the doctors
and many of the patients are ex-military. Tonight starts with fierce,
action-scene surgery plus Afghanistan drama with Jennifer Beals as
guest star.

TV column for Tuesday, May 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Maya & Marty” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

Network television
was built on variety shows. Fom Berle and Gleason to “Laugh-in”
and the Smothers Brothers, variety soared ... and then – in prime
time, at least -- vanished.

Now NBC is giving it
all the advantages, including a cozy timeslot. The show borrows its
producer (Lorne Michaels) and co-star (Kenan Thompson) from “Saturday
Night Live,” where both of its stars have worked. Maya Rudolph, 43,
did eight seasons there; Martin Short, 66, did one – plus much
more. And both can sing: ahe's Minnie Riperton's daughter; he won a
Tony Award in a musical.

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

Simon Cowell keeps
piling up TV shows ... and, presumably, money. He created “The X
Factor,” which failed in the U.S., but soared in Britain ... and
the “Got Talent” shows, which have succeeded around the globe.
And a few others that sputtered after a year.

And now he takes
another step, joining the judging panel. Replacing Howard Stern, who
stepped down after last year, Cowell joins Howie Mandel, Mel B and
Heidi Klum; the auditions start tonight.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: More reality, ABC and Fox.

As the original home
of “American Idol,” “Survivor” and more, summer has been
prime turf for reality shows. Now two networks try to collide with
“America's Got Talent.”

ABC has “500
Questions,” in a short run; tonight's episode, the fourth, is two
hours, setting up Wednesday's finale. And Fox has two shows: “Hotel
Hell” (8 p.m.) has tentatively scheduled an hour involving an
Austrian-inspired spot in Massachusetts; “Coupled” sees a text
message stir trouble.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Containment,” 9 p.m., CW.

Tonight, this story
of a virus epidemic feels a lot like a zombie tale – a few sentient
humans, facing hordes of invaders. Within the containment zone, a lab
is a safe zone – separated from infected people.

Inside, Jana probes
evidence of a conspiracy ... while trying to keep the invaders out.
Outside the zone, her boyfriend Lex, a police captain, struggles. In
a fairly good hour, he has a heartfelt meeting with his estranged
dad; he also makes one disastrous overstep.

Other choices
include:

“Roots,” 7 and 9
p.m., History, A&E, Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. If you
missed the opener of this miniseries (which remakes a classic over
four nights), you can catch it at 7. The second episode debuts at 9
p.m., rerunning at 11:12 p.m. and 1:24 a.m.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. This hit show's rerun summer begins with the second episode of
the season. Gibbs wants the team to help a federal agent he has a
personal connection to.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. A rerun of the season-opener finds Pride
going deep undercover, in hopes of finding a stolen missile. Dr. John
performs.

“Breaking Away”
(1979), 9:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This modest-budget gem
offers rich portraits of four town guys, desperate to defeat Indiana
University students in a bike race. It won an Oscar for Steve
Tesich's script, with four more nominations, including best picture.

“Person of
Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. The show's 100th episode finds
Finch (the terrific Michael Emerson) in deep jeopardy. His cover has
been blown and he faces more operatives working for evil Samaritan.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns focus on Eddie's dad,
who's having a tough time managing the restaurant. In the first, an
accident keeps him at home – where his life is more difficult. In
the second, he feels offended when Mitch takes a job at a rival
restaurant.

TV column for Monday, May 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Roots” debut, 9 p.m., History, A&E, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie
Network.

Back in 1977, the
original “Roots” caused a sensation. Passionately tracing Alex
Haley's family back to pre-slavery Africa, it gave many viewers their
first deep look at the black experience.

Now that's being
remade into a quicker version, continuing through Thursday. Like the
original, this has a newcomer as Kunta Kinte, but backs him with
familiar stars. Laurence Fishburne plays Haley; others include Anika
Noni Rose, Anna Paquin, Mekhi Phifer, Forest Whitaker, James Purefoy
and T.I. The opener reruns instantly, at 11:15 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

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

At 10, Merrick has a
house full of robots, some of which he designed himself. When he saw
robotic-style dancing, he jumped in ... at a good time: This year,
“Dance” switches to ages 8-13.

There ate plenty of
talented kids, including Lev – French-born, Russian roots, living
in California by way of the Czech Republic; he's studied dance for
half his 10 years. Or Ava; at 13, she's 5-foot-10 ... an inch above
host Cat Dooley (who towers over most adult dancers) and 10 inches
above judge Paula Abdul. These kids aren't as good as the grown-ups
in years past, but they're likable and entertaining.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Mistresses” season-opener, 10:01 p.m., ABC.

Let's credit ABC for
delivering a lush-looking (albeit terribly soapy) summer series
centering on likable women. As the season starts, all three find
their lives at turning points.

Karen is adjusting
to being a mom ... but her nanny (Jerry O'Connell) is making
advances. Joss is taking her romance with Harry (her sister's
ex-husband) to the next level ... but is still haunted by memories of
Wilson and the murder trial. April is living with Marc (Harry's
colleague) ... but worries that he can't find steady work and that
her daughter is growing up too fast.

Other choices
include:

“World War II in
Color,” 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., American Heroes Channel. The 13-hour
series reruns, followed by the two-part “Storming Normandy,” at 9
and 10 p.m. Also on this Memorial Day, PBS (check local listings)
views the impact on soldiers, at 9 (“TED Talks”) and 10 p.m.
(“POV”).

“Saving Private
Ryan” (1998), 5-9 p.m., History. Making a truly great war film,
Steven Spielberg gave a sober respect to soldiers, but also crafted a
stirring adventure. Other films fitting Memorial Day include “Lone
Survivor” (2013) at 8 p.m. on FX; “Where Eagles Dare” (1969),
at 8 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies and, logically, “Memorial
Day” (2012), at 8 p.m. on CW.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. In last week's opener, JoJo
Fletrcher ousted six guys and kept the other 20 – including Jordan
Rodgers (a former college quarterback, like his big brother Aaron),
who got her “first impression rose.” Now she dates Derek, a
banker; others go on group activities, including firefighter training
and a trip to ESPN's “SportsNation.”

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. After planning to return “Supergirl” to Mondays, CBS
switched. Tentatively slated is the episode in which a computer virus
turns the team's “smart house” into a death trap.

“Lost in the
West,” 8 p.m., Nickelodeon. Here's the final chapter of a
three-night, three-hour comedy mini-series, with time-traveling teens
in the Old West.

“Houdini &
Doyle,” 9 p.m., Fox. Emily Hampshire has already been doing great
work in two series – as troubled Jennifer in “12 Monkeys” and
untroubled Stevie in “Schitt's Creek.” Now she guests as a beauty
who claims to be a medium. Houdini is frustrated that he can't figure
out how she does it.

“Person of
Interest,” 9:59 p.m., CBS. Reese and Fusco find themseles trapped
inside their police precinct station, along with armed gang members.
Also, Root makes a jolting discovery

TV column for Sunday, May 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“National Memorial Day Concert,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.
(check local listings).

Each year, the
concert blends strong emotion and great music. This one has the Beach
Boys doing a medley of joyous hits. It also has country's Trace
Adkins and two “American Idol” people -- 2016 winner Trent Harmon
(doing the National Anthem) and 2006 runner-up Katharine McPhee.

There's also the
National Symphony and two opera stars with crossover skills. Alphie
Boe has done British reality shows: Renee Fleming has ranged from
“Sesame Street” to the Macy's parade.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Carmichael Show,” 8 p.m., NBC.

The bizarre
presidential race has been a big boon for satirists. “The Daily
Show,” Seth Meyers and “Full Frontal” have taken big swipes;
others, including “Saturday Night Live,” have taken modest ones.
But the situation comedies have ignored it; the TV era of Archie
Bunker is long past.

“Carmichael” is
the exception, a sometimes-funny show that argues issues from both
sides. Tonight, Jerrod's dad (the talented David Alan Grier) has met
Donald Trump and is a convert; Jerrod's girlfriend (Amber Stevens
West) is appalled. Soon, others jump in ... and Jerrod decides to go
to a Trump rally.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Ninja Warriors All-Stars,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

A surprise ratings
hit in recent summers, “Ninja Warriors” will start its new season
Wednesday. First, it gives us this warm-up.

The show's hosts
have each chosen a five-person team, including at least one woman and
one newcomer. Now those teams tackle supersized obstacles.

ANY-TIME
ALTERNATIVE: “Doctor Thorne,” www.amazon.com/prime.

Some viewers may not
want a Sunday of race cars (see below) and ninjas; they'll mourn the
fact that there won't be a new “Masterpiece” until June 19. Not
to worry: Julian Fellowes, the “Downton Abbey” creator, has
adapted Anthony Trollope's 1858 novel, introducing each of the four
episodes.

Tom Hollander has
the title role, managing the extensive finances of a loud bloke (Ian
McShane). He's hidden the identity of sweet Mary (newcomer Stefanie
Martini), who is tossed around in schemes of marriage and money. This
lacks the warmth of “Downton,” but does have the class-conscious
humor.

Other choices
include:

More Harry Potter,
all day, Freeform. On the day that ABC airs the second Potter film,
its sister channel has the third and fourth (7 and 10:30 a.m.), then
jumps to the final three (1:30, 5 and 8:45 p.m.).

Car-racing, all
afternoon and beyond. First is the Indianapolis 500, at noon ET on
ABC, with a preview at 11. Then – giving sufficient time to refill
our drink mugs and chip bowls – is the NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.
That's 5:30 p.m. ET from Charlotte, N.C.

“Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), 8-11 p.m., ABC. Last Sunday,
Kenneth Branagh brought his “Wallander” mysteries to a somber
conclusion. Here's a younger and cheerier Branagh, in a great
supporting bit as an ego-driven magician. It's a mostly good story,
with a lame finish.

“Undercover Boss,”
8 p.m., CBS. The CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery doffs his
suitcoat, dons dreadlocks and, perhaps, heightens his native Jamaican
accent, to go undercover.

“Preacher,”
9-10:30 p.m., rerunning at 11:31. For the second straight Sunday, AMC
runs the big, movie-style opener. That gives us another chance to
admire its cinematic whoosh ... and another chance to figure out what
it's all about. Stunning scenes seem to collide, some of then
involving a small-town preacher. Maybe they'll tie together in the
second episode, on Monday, June 6.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Last season ended oddly, with Holmes turning violent and
relapsing into drugs. In this rerun of the season-opener, the police
won't give him work ... and may file criminal charges. His father
(the superb John Noble) arrives, unrequested.

 

TV column for Saturday, May 5


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Lost in the West” debut, 8 p.m., Nickelodeon.

It's always
disconcerting to hear a friend say: “I think I accidentally
invented a time machine.” In this case, the machine propels Chip
and Dave to the old West, where they'll try to save their town's
future ... and to return in time for the Homecoming dance.

We'll see if they
actually want to return. In this opener, they find attractive teens
who are ready to teach them cowboy-and-Indian skills. This starts a
three-night, three-hour comedy mini-series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Madoff,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

It's good to see TV
rediscover the art of the mini-series – telling a long story, but
giving it an ending. Whether dealing with fiction (“Fargo,”
“American Crime”) or fact (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”),
this can be a great way to tell a story ... far better than, say,
“The Family,” which left us in permanent limbo.

In this case, ABC
tells the dark story of Bernie Madoff, convicted of cheating many
people – including friends and charities – out of fortunes.
Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner lead a solid, serious cast.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “King Kong” (2005), 8-11 p.m., NBC.

When it comes to
pure visual oomph, Peter Jackson is a marvel. His “Lord of the
Rings” trilogy soared.

But “Rings” had
a big story to tell and exactly the right amount of time to tell it.
This film -- like the “Hobbit” films – is a case of having too
much time and too many toys. The action scenes are beautifully done,
but some of them seem to be wedged into the story for no apparent
reason.

Other choices
include:

“Dr. No” (1962),
1 p.m., AMC. You can choose your favorite James Bond. There's Sean
Connery in this film, which reruns at 12:30 a.m. ... Roger Moore in
“For Your Eyes Only” (1981) at 3:30 p.m., Pierce Brosnan in
“GoldenEye” (1995) at 6:30 and Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale”
(2006) at 9:30.

“Bridesmaids”
(2011), 6 and 9 p.m., E. It's mostly a light-fun for cable movies.
This Kristin Wiig film is rerun often. Meanwhile, Disney has a Demi
Lovato double-feature, with “Camp Rock 2” (2010) at 8 p.m. and
“Princess Protection Program” (2009) at 9:50. At 8 p.m., we also
see two old pros, Robert De Niro in the fairly good “The Intern”
(2015) on HBO, Bill Murray in the better (and more-layered) “St.
Vincent” (2014) on Showtime. And at 9, Pop has Tom Hanks'
delightful “Big” (1988).

“500 Questions,”
8-9 p.m., ABC. Here's the second night of this game show. There's
another hour Saturday, then a pause before the final, two-hour
episodes Tuesday and Wednesday.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a cult has apparentlty
brainwashed a government worker into spilling classified secrets. Now
Deeks and Kensi go undercover in the cult, while others try to stop
the secrets from being sold.

“Outlander,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:01 and 11:02. Claire and Jamie try to
get his grandfather to help fund the fight.

“Walk the Line,”
10 p.m. CMT. Viewers who saw PBS' excellent Highwaymen profile Friday
will also want to re-see this excellent film, focusing main on the
romance of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. The rerun season begins, with details
pending.