TV column for Saturday, July 11




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Harper's Island”
finale, 9-11 p.m., CBS.

An interesting experiment ends in
semi-obscurity – on a Saturday in July, when viewership sags.
Still, the plan was admirable – a closed-end mystery in which the
suspects keep decreasing.

Henry Dunn, a decent chap, was marrying
Trish Wellington, rich and beautiful. Now wedding guests and
islanders – 17 people in all – have been killed.

Only eight suspects remain, including
the bride and groom and the groom's childhood friend Abby. Others are
Jimmy Mance, “Sully” Sullivan, Danny Brooks, Shea Allen and
Madison Allen. Tonight, CBS promises, all will be explained.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Eli Stone”
finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

Another offbeat show ends in obscurity.

Eli has one more terrifying vision –
that someone close to him will die in a plane crash. Meanwhile, he
defends someone who is denied a heart transplant; the parents of the
late donor don't approve of her, because she's an atheist.

Other choices include:

– “Great Performances at the Met:
The Sonnambula,” noon, PBS (check local listings). Fresh from
drawing praise in “La Fille du Regiment,” Natalie Dessay and Juan
Diego Florez play a bride and groom; she sleepwalks on the wedding
eve, creating a crisis. The music is beautiful, the setting –
oddly, the story takes place in a drab rehearsal space – is not.

– “The Holiday” (2006), 7-9 p.m.,
TBS. An ordinary story – two women, one American and one English,
trade homes for the holiday – is elevated by its superb cast. Kate
Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black star.

– “Kings,” 8 p.m., NBC. King
Silas puts his son in charge of trying David for treason. Meanwhile,
Silas' daughter Michelle faces a medical crisis.

– “The Fugitive” (1993, A&E)
or “The Mouse That Roared” (1959, Turner Classic Movies), both 8
p.m. Here are two terrific movies. A&E has a sleek adventure,
with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones; TCM has a splendid satire
with Peter Sellers.

– “Castle,” 9 p.m., ABC. In a
rerun, a councilman's body has been found, pointing toward dirty
politics. Also, Castle's final Derrick Storm novel goes on sale.

– “Law & Order: Criminal
Intent,” 9 p.m., NBC. In the rerun of an overwrought episode,
jealousy and murder abound amid young musicians and artists.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. When a girl disappears, her father becomes the
first suspect.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Paul Rudd hosts; Beyonce is the music guest and helps out
in a sketch.

TV column for Friday, July 10




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Eureka”
return, 9 p.m., Syfy (formerly Sci Fi).

Like “Warehouse 13” (Syfy's new
Tuesday show), Eureka has it both ways; it's dead serious one moment,
funny the next. This hour neatly illustrates the latter.

Just before the mid-season break,
Carter lost his job as sheriff and Allison announced she's pregnant.
Now the new sheriff arrives – in a box; it's a robot that can be
adapted (with mixed success) to human form. The town really needs
him: Gravity has been selectively misbehaving.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “The Chopping
Block,” 8 p.m., NBC.

A week from the finale, we're down to
two mismatched teams.

One has California duos from different
generations. Lisa Stalvey and Michael Anapol are ex-hippies and
ex-spouses; she's the chef and he's the waiter. Kelsey Henderson is a
young chef with a health emphasis; her sister Vanessa is the
waitress.

The other team has only Dean Della
Ventura, a passionate chef, and his wife Shari, the waitress. They're
immensely likable, but outnumbered going into back-to-back breakfast
and lunch for 40. It's an interesting hour, with an emotional finish.

TONIGHT'S QUIRK: “Beyond the Sea”
(2004), 8 p.m., TV Guide Channel.

Tonight, this channel starts its movie
night. Fridays are already overcrowded with cable films, but these
are different: Many are from Lionsgate (the channel's co-owner),
which often makes enjoyable, independent-type films. “Sea” –
original and obscure – is a perfect way to start.

This pretends that singer-actor Bobby
Darin is an older man, making an autobiographic film. That allowed
Kevin Spacey, at 45, to play someone who was a teen idol at 23 and
died at 37.

Spacey does it all – produce, direct,
co-write, sing, star, dance – very well, giving us a stylish
version of a real (and dramatic) life..

Other choices include:

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
In this rerun, a girl vanished 12 years ago. When Melinda finds her,
she also finds a secret.

– “Are You Smarter Than a 5th
Grader,” 8 p.m., Fox. The season's second episode has two celebrity
contestants, Star Jones and animal expert Jack Hanna.

– “Surviving Suburbia,” 8 p.m.,
ABC. When Anne gets a job, Steve starts to realize how much she was
doing at home.

– Movies, 8 p.m., cable. In a change,
Turner Classic Movies inserted “On the Waterfront,” possibly the
best-acted movie ever. Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint won Oscars;
three others were nominated (without winning) for supporting actor –
Rod Steiger, Karl Malden (who died recently at 97) and Lee J. Cobb.
Other films range from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”
(2001) on ABC Family to “Music and Lyrics” (2007), with fun
byplay between Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, on TBS.

– “Mental,” 9 p.m., Fox. As Jack
tries to learn why a teen tried to kill herself, he finds a secret
and an ethical dilemma.

– “Flashpoint,” 9 p.m., CBS. When
his wife is taken hostage, in this rerun, a bank employee tries to
hack into his own system to get ransom money. Then a discovery
changes things.

– “Numb3rs,” 10 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, a vigilante group goes after a gang leader. Fearing mass
violence, Charlie links with an old enemy.

 

TV column for Thursday, July 9




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

This show began in the summer of 2000,
alongside “Survivor.” It has stayed basically the same –
strangers living under 24-hour camera watch – except for an
increased emphasis on people who are young, single and attractive.

Eight of the 12 housemates are in their
20s and others are 30, 30 and 32. The exception is Casey Turner, 41,
a 5th-grade teacher; the only married people are Turner; Ronnie
Talbott, 30, a gamer; and Michele Noonan, 27, a neuroscientist.

Yes, there's a scientist. This year,
the show splits people into four groups by high school categories –
athletes, brains, popular types and “offbeat”; it ranges from a
graphic designer to two martial artists, a bikini model and a surfer.
They'll share an ecology-oriented house, with a 13th
person added.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “So You Think
You Can Dance,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Tonight, the field is trimmed to the 10
dancers who will go on tour. All 12 survivors are strong – last
week, the talented Vitolio Jeune and Karla Garcia WERE ousted – so
it will be tough.

Also, Kelly Rowland (Destiny's Child)
and David Guetta will sing “When Love Takes Over.”

Other choices:

– “Samantha Who,” 8 and 8:30
p.m., ABC. In one episode, Samantha learns about an aunt (Christine
Ebersole) and grandmother (Florence Henderson) her mother hadn't
mentioned. In another, she makes the mistake of hiring her
self-obsessed – and now wedding-obsessed – friend Andrea.

– “The Office,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
NBC. This two-part rerun has Michael on a speaking tour to other
offices, with Pam as his driver. Back at their own office, people are
grumpy – especially with Dwight and Jim in charge of
party-planning.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, the murder victim is the daughter of a
wanted criminal; also, she has several blood types in her body.

– “Burn Notice,” 9 p.m., USA.
Michael scrambles to stop a defense executive from selling secrets
that could bring the deaths of several spies.

– “Soundstage,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Yes, it's encouraging to see the success of
Death Cab for Cutie, a low-key, independent group that offers smart
lyrics. Still, there's a sameness to its music and a Cutie concert
doesn't make for strong television.

– “Royal Pains,” 10 p.m., USA.
Hank reluctantly heads to a a private island, where a family, living
without technology, is preparing to give birth.

– “The Listener,” 10:01 p.m.,
NBC. Toby helps a blind woman whose brother was killed in Chinatown.

– “Private Practice,” 10:02 p.m.,
ABC. This rerun sets up next week's crossover episodes. Archer (Grant
Show) has a fierce seizure. His sister Addison phones her ex-husband
Derek, the “Grey's Anatomy” doctor.

TV column for Wednesday, July 8




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “The Ascent of
Money,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This four-week film travels the globe
to find the roots of money – which may be the root of all evil.

In Bolivia tonight, author Niall
Ferguson shows us where, five centuries ago, Spanish soldiers forced
Incans to mine silver – so much that its value plummeted. And in
Italy, he describes a moral tightrope.

Christians were banned from making
loans for profit; Jews weren't. A system evolved that Shakespeare
depicted four centuries ago in “The Merchant of Venice.”

Then the Medici family found ways to
slip around the rules. It created the modern banking system and
immense political power.

The notion of stocks was ued by Dutch
shipping companies. Then a Scottish fugitive, John Law, organized a
new and deceptive stock plan in Paris; the resulting crash created
chaos.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Leverage,” 10
p.m., TNT.

If “Ascent” gets you riled up about
money-mongers, you might want to see some fictional revenge.

This rerun has the scam artists going
after someone who may have cheated a charity out of a fortune; the
plan involves getting him to a rehab center.

And next week, a new season starts. The
first target is a crooked banker.

Other choices include:

– Reality overload, 8-10 p.m.,
everywhere. “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox) starts the week
that trims to 10 dancers – the ones who will go on tour after the
season. Meanwhile, NBC continues “America's Got Talent”
auditions; ABC continues “Wipeout” and “I Survived a Japanese
Game Show.”

– “The New Adventures of Old
Christine,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Christine and Barb couldn't
get a loan to keep the franchise for their gym. Now they try to
convert it into a spa.

– Animated movies, cable. HBO offers
family-friendly comedies – “Horton Hears a Who” (2008, 8 p.m.)
has voice work from Jim Carrey; “Bee Movie” (2007, 9:30) was
co-written by Jerry Seinfeld, who does one of the voices. Still,
don't overlook the Disney Channel's “Mulan” (1998, 8-9:35 p.m.);
the story – a girl pretending to be a male soldier – is weak, but
the artwork is gorgeous.

– “Gary Unmarried,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Facing a tax audit in this rerun, Gary asks for help from his
ex-wife's brother.

– “Criminal Minds,” 9 p.m., CBS.
There seems to be a religious theme to several deaths, in this rerun.
Also, Prentiss (Paget Brewster) knew one of the victims.

– “The Philanthropist,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. On a business trip to Paris, Teddy (James Purefoy) and his
husband-and-wife colleagues (Jesse Martin and Neve Campbell) learn of
a wretched sex-traffic ring. Now they want to stop it.

TV column for Tuesday, July 7




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Warehouse 13”
debut, 9-11 p.m., Syfy.

The bad news is that today the Sci Fi
Channel changes its name to Syfy. It does that because … well,
spelling stupidly is fashionable now.

And the good is that the new era begins
zestfully. “Warehouse 13” and “Eureka” (which returns Friday)
blend fantasy drama with offbeat comedy.

This show starts with two Secret
Service agents. She's precise; he's instinctive. They're opposites,
in the standard TV way; then – after some early action – they're
whisked to a South Dakota warehouse.

It's run gleefully by Artie (Saul
Rubinek), who stores great artifacts. He sends the agents out for
more.

The first such story is so-so, but the
side quirks – about the characters and the warehouse – are a
delight. This is fun sci-fi … it may be good syfy, whatever that
is.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “10 Things I
Hate About You” debut, 8 p.m., ABC Family, repeats at 9:05.

Here's a TV comedy based on a movie
based on “Taming of the Shrew.” That's a few steps removed from
Shakespeare, but it's still quite good.

Gil Junger is directing the first few
episodes, just as he did the 1999 film. The characters are cliches,
by the provides a slick look and a fine cast.

Lindsey Shaw, the older sister in
“Aliens in America,” is perfect as Kat Stratford, a teen who
won't back down. Ethan Peck (Gregory's grandson) takes the Heath
Ledger role as a pensive biker.

Other choices include:

– “Superstars,” 8 p.m., ABC. Last
week was Terrell Owens' time, with lots of running; now Lisa Leslie
can shine, when basketball is one of the two sports featured. The
other is swimming.

– “The Great American Road Trip”
debut, 8 p.m., NBC. Comedian Reno Collier takes seven families across
the country, stopping for contests.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. Auditions continue.

– “The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS.
In this rerun a young woman is holding the weapon that killed her
friend. She can't remember what happened.

– “Scrubs,” 9:30 p.m., ABC. With
a full moon, the residents have their worst night yet.

– “P.O.V.: Life. Support. Music,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Jason Crigler was a hot young
guitarist for Nora Jones and others, when he had a near-fatal brain
hemorrhage. This involving film follows his long recovery, through
his family and his love of music. Eric Metzger, mixes first-hand
accounts and clever cinematic devices to hold our interest.

– “Saving Grace,” 10 p.m., TNT.
Not all guardian angels are equal. Grace has Earl, a good one;
tonight, in a well-made hour, we meet an angel (Oscar-winner F.
Murray Abraham), who prefers shortcuts.