TV column for Tuesday, July 27




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Rescue Me,” 10
p.m., FX.

“You've finally done it,” Tommy
Galvin's ex-wife tells him. “You've hit rock-bottom.”

He's been heading there for five-plus
seasons of drinking and cheating. Now he goes way too far.

Stick with the rough scenes early in
this hour, because they set things up. The next day, Tommy can't
remember what happened – but needs to. His daughter (a fellow
alcoholic) is missing; he must pierce his blackouts, for hints of
whether she's in trouble. It's a great episode.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Breakthrough
With Tony Robbins,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Don't expect a “Dr. Phil” show of
studio talk. Robbins – an infomercial and self-improvement king –
has a different kind of show; he focuses on one couple each week,
taking them on adventures.

This week involves a man whose
swimming-pool accident (at his wedding reception) left his legs
paralyzed and his arms semi-paralyzed. Robbins puts him in a
“murderball” wheelchair gamee, then has him skydive. An upcoming
episode sometimes feels contrived, but this one is richly involving.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “MasterChef”
debut, 9 p.m., Fox.

There are huge flaws to other Gordon
Ramsay shows, due to his overwrought personality and the fact that
the viewer – unable to taste the food – can't tell if he's right.

This show still has some of those
problems. (When one expert says something is delicious and two say
it's awful, the viewer is helpless.) Still, it's modified because it
involves layman chefs and it's produced by some of the people behind
the feel-good “Biggest Loser.”

Tonight, we see half the auditions,
before Ramsay and two others: Graham Elliot seems friendly enough;
Joe Bastianich is cold and scary. There are moments of emotional
cruelty, dangling the results for the sake of TV drama; there are
also moments of redeeming joy. We'll wait and see.

Other choices include:

– Wipeout,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.
Here's a rerun of the June 1 episode, which paired 12 single men and
12 single women for the strangest of first dates – tackling an
obstacle course.

– “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. In the first rerun, Tony obsesses on
finding the sister of a TV reporter. In the second, a slain Marine
was living a double life.

– “Hell's Kitchen,” 8 p.m., Fox.
Only four chefs remain and their energy is sagging.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. The show is now at the halfway point in filling its final
16. Tonight, 12 acts perform; on Wednesday, four will advance.

– “The Colony,” 10 p.m.,
Discovery. Here is “Survivor” turned almost-real. Strangers –
ranging from a 22-year-old model to a 70-year-old building contractor
– are dumped into a 10-acre Louisiana section still in ruins from
Katrina. Given a small amount of food (and some looters), they must
fish, hunt, cook, create drinking water and more. It's a raw, rugged
hour that holds your interest.

– “If You Really knew Me,” 11
p.m., MTV. Last week's superb opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.), showed us
a “challenge day” at a California high school. Now we go
pleasant-seeming Whitehouse, Ohio, near Toledo. The cheerleader
learns how badly she's hurt her friend; the gossip tells about her
own crumbling family. People discuss hurts caused up-close and others
created by text-messaging.

– “Louie,” 11 p.m., FX. This
oft-hilarious show has two strange little stories tonight. In one,
Louis rages at a heckler; in the other, he fumbles an acting role.
Each has its good moments.

TV column for Monday, July 26




TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The
Bachelorette: The Men Tell All,” 8-10:02 p.m., ABC.

This odd edition has seen two of the
strongest contenders suddenly having girlfriends back home. Justin
was ousted; Frank dropped out. That leaves Roberto and Chris as
finalists by default.

Next week, we'll learn whom Ali
Fedotowsky chose – if she chose anyone. Tonight, most of the guys
gather for their comments about her and each other; Justin isn't
there, but Jessie (who exposed his relationship) is. Afterward, ABC
News has a special, “The Stories Behind the Rose.”

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

The summer's happiest surprise offers a
sweetly understated episode.

It's movie night at this camp for
overweight teens. That brings lots of discussion – sometimes funny,
sometimes admiring – about a film that's a lot like “Twilight.”

Some of the kids are giddy about it;
Dr. Rand (Gina Torres) is skeptical, but she gets some good-natured
nudging from a workman. He's the sort of character – layered,
complex, believable, with surprising depth – that “Huge”
thrives on.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Homeless: The
Motel Kids of Orange County,” 9 p.m., HBO.

In the shadow of Disneyland, homeless
families live in motels. In a county of high wealth and high
expenses, the odds against the working poor are steep.

One woman chooses a hospital night
shift, so she can get $14.90 an hour; it still takes a two-week
paycheck to pay the $870 monthly rent. (A studio apartment would be
almost twice as much, she says.) Another woman's Disneyland pay,
$9.33 an hour, gives her no hope of moving on.

There are deeply depressing moments
here. Still, this film – the sixth by Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy's
daughter), an impressive talent – also has moments of contrast. In
the parking lot, kids watch the nightly Disneyland fireworks; on a
field trip, a teacher says, “kids become kids again.”

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent” and
“Last Comic Standing,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun,
choosing the second batch of four acts for the final 16. Then is a
new hour, with the final six comedians performing.

– “Lie to Me,” 8 p.m., Fox. A
young woman has been killed at a political rally. Was it an
assassination attempt gone wrong … or was she the intended target?

– “The Good Guys,” 9 p.m., Fox.
It's hard to conceive of Dan – a guy who seems to have “cop”
written all over him – going undercover. Still, he does that
tonight, inside the Mob.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In a funny rerun, Alan watches his ex-wife's baby – who
resembles Alan more than resembling her husband Herb. Their one-night
stand could be a factor.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30
p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the fun episode that threw the guys into
a paintball game with Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert) and Penny. That
led to a fight and a romance.

– “Turmoil & Triumph: The
George Shultz Years” finale, 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).
At the historic Iceland talks, we're told, history teetered. Soviet
chief Mikhail Gorbachev offered massive nuclear cutbacks, if Ronald
Reagan would cease most work on a “Star Wars” defense system –
which skeptics felt would never work, anyway. Reagan refused. The
opportunity passed … but cutbacks soon followed. It's a compelling
story, told here by Shultz, Gorbachev and others.

TV column for Sunday, July 25




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Mad Men”
season-opener, 10 p.m., AMC.

For three seasons, “Mad Men” has
been consistent. Set in the early 1960s, it was about a man –
quiet, brilliant, almost excessively handsome – living multiple
lives. He was creative director of a big ad agency; he had a big
house and beautiful wife. He cheated often; even his name, Don
Draper, was a lie.

The series has brought a cascade of
praise and two straight best-drama Emmys. Now, daringly, “Mad Men”
has set much of that aside.

Don's wife learned his secrets and
divorced him. He and colleagues started their own agency. They have
few clients and no conference table; they are surviving on the Lucky
Strike account and Draper's image. It's a bittersweet episode, at
work and away. And, as usual, it's crafted with quiet perfection.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Masterpiece
Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Agatha Christie has given us another
hateful and hated woman. She does that a lot; when the woman is
killed, suspects abound.

Still, this Hercule Poirot film
(“Appointment With Death”) is above most because of its splendor.
Its story was set in Syria, amid a giant dig for relics; its cast is
stuffed with stars, including Tim Curry as the obsessed
archaeologist, Elizabeth McGovern as a wise travel writer and John
Hannah as a psychiatrist who has worked with Poirot before. The story
uses some familiar Christie tricks skillfully.

Other choices include:

– “Michael Clayton,” 7:30 p.m.,
AMC. Here's the perfect film to lead into “Mad Men” – lean,
smart and uncluttered. Tony Gilroy beautifully wrote and directed a
story of a “fixer” (George Clooney) who becomes enmeshed in
complex schemes.

– “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. A
new week begins, with nominations for eviction.

– “The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. In
a rerun, Bart is convinced that the new neighbor is the villainous
Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) in disguise.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. Here's a second chance to see the episodes that aired
Tuesday and Wednesday. Tonight's rerun has 12 acts perform; Monday's
advances four of them.

– “Scoundrels,” 9 p.m., ABC. This
avoiding-crime idea isn't working so well for the Wests. Their
electricity is cut off and they renew their search for honest work.

– “Leverage,” 9 p.m., TNT. Clancy
Brown plays a doubly nasty villain; he steals from people in
financial trouble, then finances a militia group. The clever plot
manages to dump two of Nate's men into the woods. Eliot is in his
element; Alec keeps pointing out – quite loudly – that he isn't.

– “The Gates,” 10 p.m., ABC. Last
week's episode ended with wild soap-opera excess: Teresa, the
sweet-seeming photographer, was secretly out for revenge on Nick, the
honest-seeming police chief. She pulled a gun on him – and Dylan
turned into a werewolf to kill her. Now Nick is locked into nasty
secrets with Dylan … while one of his men – Marcus, who was
falling for Teresa – presses the case.

– “Entourage,” 10 p.m., HBO. The
moral here is to never beat John Stamos in ping-pong. Vince's brother
learns, while trying to lure Stamos to a situation comedy. Also, in a
good and far-flung episode: Turtle heads to Mexico with the beautiful
Alex; Ari launches his push for a Los Angeles football team.

– “Hung,” 10:30 p.m., HBO. A
so-so episode ends well, when Tanya (Jane Adams) tries a poetry slam.

TV column for Saturday, July 24




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Doctor Who”
season-finale, 9 p.m., BBC America.

This season started brightly: The
Doctor (a Time Lord) visited little Amy Pond, then said he'd be back.
For more than a decade, she talked of her “imaginary friend”; on
the eve of her wedding, he returned.

They've had great adventures, with last
week's terrific episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) setting up a crisis:
The “Pandorica” – supposedly holding the most dangerous
creature in the universe – is opening.

Now The Doctor leaps around in time.
“It's complicated,” the adult Amy says to her little-girl self.

It's also funny, warm and adventurous –
a fitting finale to a great season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bridge”
(8 p.m., CBS) and “Rookie Blue” (10 p.m., ABC).

Canadians have boosted summer TV in the
U.S. On tight budgets, they've created solid cop shows.

“Bridge” has Aaron Douglas as
Frank, who's a cop and a union rep. Tonight, he rages when the chief
(Michael Murphy) orders the tactical team to stand down, after a cop
is shot; Frank takes action.

“Blue” has Missy Peregrym as a new
cop. Tonight (a rerun of Thursday's episode), a home invasion has her
revealing more about her own troubled past.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Juno” (6:30
p.m.) and “Hairspray” (8:30 p.m.), USA.

Here are two gems from 2007, each
beautifully ,made.

In “Juno,” Diablo Cody's script –
capturing the wry wit of a pregnant 16-year-old – won an Oscar.
There were nominations for star Ellen Page, director Jason Reitman
and best picture.

In “Hairspray,” director Adam
Shankman turned the Broadway musical into a vibrant movie. Nikki
Blonsky stars as a young rock fan in 1962, going gaga over Zac Efron.

Other choices include:

– “The Game Plan” (2007), 8-10
p.m., ABC. Dwayne Johnson, known in his wrestling days as The Rock,
plays a football star who savors a bachelor life – until he learns
he has an 8-year-old daughter.

– “Persons Unknown,” 8 p.m., NBC.
Joe takes a chance, telling Janet everything he knows about the
kidnappers. Other rage at him – but also want to use him to escape
of to find Tori.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 and 10 p.m., NBC. In the first episode, a ballet student
has been killed. In the second, a victim was killed in the style of
someone who was executed; this might be a copycat … or Stevens
(Saffron Burrows) might have arrested the wrong person last time.

– “Being Human” season-opener 10
p.m., BBC America. Last season ended with George killing the vampire
boss. That shocked his girlfriend – and may have accidentally
turned her into a werewolf like him. Now they grasp at normality with
their flatmates, a vampire and a ghost. In a good episode, two people
are stalking them – one obsessed with sex, the other with smiting
all supernatural creatures.

– “Pit Boss,” 10 p.m., Animal
Planet. In last week's interesting season-opener (rerunning at 9
p.m.), “Shorty” Rossi made it clear that people in his
little-people talent agency should take all types of jobs; some want
to wait for serious acting roles. Tonight, he has them work a
Renaissance fair.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. On the eve of his “Mad Men” season-opener, Jon Hamm
hosts this rerun. Michael Buble is the music guest.

TV column for Friday, July 23




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable.
This is one of those nights when you're glad you paid your
cable bill.

On the stark side, “Pulp Fiction”
(1994) is on AMC. Quentin Tarantino wrote a wonderfully off-center,
Oscar-winning script, then directed it beautifully.

On the sweeter side, two films – each
linking perfect performances and a great director – are on
relatively obscure channels, generally via satellite or digital
cable. “Pride & Prejudice” (2005), with Joe Wright directing
Keira Knightley, is on Style; “Romeo & Juliet” (1996), with
Baz Luhrmann directing Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, is on the
Fox Movie Channel.

Closer to the mainstream, FX has Ron
Howard's entertaining (if overwrought) “Da Vinci Code” (2006).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Friday Night
Lights,” 8 p.m., NBC.

Dark clouds seem to circle Coach
Taylor.

His daughter is distraught about the
boyfriend who moved to Chicago. His wife finds her job (principal at
West Dillon High) in trouble: She discussed options with Becky, who
chose an abortion.

His star players at East Dillohn? Vince
is running with a gang, to pay for his mom's rehab. Luke (who would
have been the father of Becky's baby) is concealing an injury. It's a
melancholy hour, but stick with it; after tonight, only two episodes
remain in a strong season.

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Pillars
of the Earth” debut, 10 p.m. to midnight, Starz.

Don't expect the splendor of a “Romeo
and Juliet” or “Tudors.” This is an earlier, 12th-century
England – grey and grim and caked with mud. Even the nobles are
sorrowful.

We meet three honest men – a builder
(Rufus Sewell), a monk (Matthew Macfadyen) and an earl (Donald
Sutherland) – and their earnest families. Surrounded by deceit,
they try to build a cathedral.

Ken Follett's novel has been turned
into a mini-series that will sprawl over eight hours on six Fridays.
Patience is needed; it gets better after the extra-drab first hour.

Other choices include:

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a
rerun, a teen blacks out, then hallucinates. Baffled, doctors monitor
her cognitive patterns.

– “Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. This
rerun takes the team to a mental institution and its patients.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS.
Allison's friend (Martha Plimpton) suddenly dies in the hospital, in
this rerun. She had cancer, but Allison still suspects murder.

– “Eureka,” 9 p.m., Syfy. Last
week's excellent episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) found Carter and
others – back from accidental time-travel – trying to adjust to
an altered world. In the new hour, Wil Wheaton (“Star Trek: The
Next Generation”) plays a scientist whose rage is contagious.

– “Flashpoint,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This is taking citizenship too far: A layman goes on a personal
rampage against drug dealers who vandalized his favorite bar.

– “Haven,” 10 p.m., Syfy. In a
mental institution, a doctor went crazy and the patients went sane.
Now random people in Haven are also crazed.