TV column for Friday, July 2

Celebrates July 4th at Ford's Theatre,” 9 p.m., ABC.

This variety show has its pop moments.
Kelly Clarkson sings “Everybody's Got Their Something”; Lionel
Richie sings “All Night Long.” Comedian George Lopez assuring the
Obamas that he's behind the campaign against childhood obesity; he
has the same weight he had in 3rd grade and does push-ups
“because I want my arms to be as nice as the First Lady's.”

There's also a Broadway feel. The “Mary
Poppins” cast sings “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”; Dick
Van Dyke, 84, who was in the “Poppins” movie in 1964, does a sort
of rap version of “Spoonful of Sugar.” And Montego Glover belts
“Colored Women,” from the Tony-winning “Memphis.”

Classical star Renee Fleming is also
there, singing “Soul Meets Body” and joining the Soldier's Chorus
for a spectacular “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

a.m. to 11 p.m., Syfy.

This OK British series has Merlin as a
teen, hiding his skills because magic was banned by King Uther
(Arthur's dad). It aired its first season on NBC, its second on Syfy.

Now that season airs in one long swoop.
It starts at 10 a.m. with a big special-effects episode, as a servant
schemes to get a magic jewel. At 4 p.m. it has a darkly well-crafted
hour, with Charles Dance (an Emmy-nominee for “Bleak House”) as a
witch-hunter. Throughout the season, Morgana learn of her magic
powers and her evil connection, peaking at 8 and 9 p.m.

Then comes the season's last new
episode, at 10. The dragon can only be stopped by a dragon lord –
which is unfortunate, since Uther had most of them killed. Arthur and
Merlin visit the lone survivor.

Other choices include:

– “Friday Night Lights,” 8 p.m.,
NBC. There are quietly moving moments on several fronts. Becky,
pregnant after one night with Luke, seeks comfort from Tim. Coach
Taylor tries to bring lights to a troubled park and romance to his
sluggish marriage. And, in a nice scene, his daughter Julie finds
some joy after mourning her break-up with Matt.

– “Medium,” 8 p.m., CBS. This
wraps up a two-part rerun that began when Allison dreamed of a girl,
then saw her in real life. Now she must bond with her and protect her
from a killer.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. Tonight's
schedule has been shuffled, with “House” nudged an hour earlier.
In this rerun, a college football star wants a quick cure, before the
pro tryouts.

– “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), 8-10
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Here's a great family film.

– “The Good Guys,” 9 p.m., Fox.
In a quick rerun of Monday's episode, Dan vows to solve a
drug-smuggling case with the $3.52 in his pocket.

– “Flashpoint,” 9 p.m., CBS. A
politician is held hostage in a radio studio.

– “Miami Medical,” 10 p.m., CBS.
Here's the final episode of this series, which has tried to blend big
visuals with more-intimate stories. Tonight, separate accidents bring
ethical questions for Proctor (Jeremy Northam) and Zambrano (Lana
Parrilla), while Deleo worries about his brother's agenda.

TV column for Thursday, July 1

10 p.m., ABC.

Doctors scramble to save people on both
ends of the life cycle, in this well-made documentary.

At one end, a boy is born with a heart
problem that will require three surgeries. At the other, a man faces
a complex cancer procedure, while his wife of 54 years frets.

Dads race to big moments – a soldier
rushing from Iraq to see his son born, a surgeon rushing to his
daughter's dance concert. And two sweet faces might conceal some
richer depth.

Amanda Grabowski – an award-winning
nurse – is quick with both her anger and her wit. Pina Patel
(introduced in last week's opener) is the first doctor in her family;
she's described (accurately) as “ridiculously hot” by a friend
and “dating Kryptonite” by herself.

You Van Dance,” 9 p.m., Fox.

In the first two weeks, the guys have
dominated. For men, the odds of being in the bottom three were
1-in-12; for women, that was 5-in-9.

Now only three women remain, alongside
the original six guys. There's another elimination; also, Ne-Yo sings
“Beautiful Monster” and Cirque du Soleil does a number from its
“Viva Elvis” show.

a Cause” (1955), 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies.

Teens will draw the focus each
Thursdays this month. That starts with this intense story – a good
tale turned great by the casting of James Dean, Sal Mineo, Natalie
Wood and more.

Things turn sunny next week (including
“Gidget” and “Beach Blanket Bingo”), comic on July 15 and
retro on July 22, before ending with a rock 'n' roll burst, July 29.

Other choices include:

– “Glee,” 8 p.m., Fox. Two
Broadway stars link. Will (played by Matthew Morrison, a Tony
nominee) brings in his old classmate (played by Kristen Chenoweth, a
Tony-winner). Feelings are trampled.

– “The Mentalist,” 8 and 10 p.m.,
CBS. In the first rerun, a rich jeweler at a fund-raiser. In the
second, Patrick Jane tries to restore the memory of a woman who is
splattered in blood.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. You can't take these people anywhere: Tonight, three of
the guys take Henry to a biker bar to celebrate his birthday.
Naturally, they find a double murder.

– “Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. In
last week's opener, a good show and a first-rate star (Missy
Peregrym) were thwarted by an absurd concept: Cops had no idea what
to do when Andy (Peregrym) arrested undercover cop Sam Swarek; they
botched everything and his six-month effort was blown. Tonight,
Swarek and Peregrym try to save an endangered informant.

– “Raising Sextuplets,” 10 p.m.,
WE. So far, Jenny and Bryan Masche have had great back-up. Their six
2-year-olds have four grandparents and others, giving free care. Now,
oddly, the Mashes want to move from Arizona to to Destin. Fla., where
neither is sure of full-time employment.

– “Parks and Recreation,” 10:30
p.m., NBC. Megan Mullally (“Will & Grace”) guests on the show
that co-stars her husband (Nick Offerman) as Ron. She plays his
ex-wife who still impacts him.

– “The Green Room,” 10:35 p.m.,
Showtime. In the most outrageous session so far, comics find humor in
slavery, the Holocaust, incest, pedophilia, lynching and more. Some
of it is hilarious, some just rude. Rain Pryor marvels at jokes even
her late father (Richard) wouldn't have tried.

TV column for Wednesday, June 30

Abroad” season-opener, 10 p.m., National Geographic.

Life was sunny for Billy Hayes in his
youth, he says. In the 1960s, sex and drugs were easy for him to
find; so, at first, was money. He made three trips to Istanbul, a
city he loved; each time, he smuggled back enough drugs to make a big

The fourth try came shortly after a
hijacking crisis. Hayes was searched, arrested, sentenced to more
than four years in a brutal prison. When his time was almost up, that
grew into a life sentence.

What followed was his daring escape
from a prison island, on a stolen dinghy in the midst of a storm.

Hayes has told part of that story in
his book and the movie “Midnight Express,” but withheld details –
including his previous smuggling. Now here's the full story, taut and

Mother,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Ted seems tickled that his old college
girlfriend Karen has moved to New York.

That's when his friends finally tell
him the truth: Karen (played by Laura Prepon of “That '70s Show”)
is a terrible person and they've all hated her. In the show's style,
there are great flashbacks.

8-11:05 p.m., HBO.

This show is taking a 4th-of-July
vacation, with no new episodes. It's a good week to catch up on the
season's first three new episodes, which air today and again at 9
p.m. Sunday.

Bill (the good vampire) has been
kidnapped and Sookie is desperate to find him. Her brother Jason
killed Eggs (leaving Tara distraught), but Andy the deputy sheriff is
taking the blame. Also, Sam seeks his shake-shifting kin and Jessica,
the ditzy teen vampire, has a body to dispose of.

This would all be silly, except that
it's written, filmed and acted with intelligence and subtlety.

Other choices include:

– “So You Think You Can Dance,”
8-10 p.m., Fox. Viewers have quickly dumped women into the bottom
three, where judges dropped them from the show. Cristina Santana was
ousted last week, Alexie Agdeppa the week before, with Melinda
Sullivan in the bottom three both times. Now – with only three
women and six men – a new round begins.

– “The Middle,” 8 and 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. The first rerun sees a futile attempt to have the kids quit
fighting with each other. In the second, Frankie (played by the
5-foot-2 Patricia Heaton) is intimidated by a nasty neighbor,
zestfully played by the 6-foot Brooke Shields.

– “Best in Show” (2000), 8-10
p.m., TV Guide Network. This quietly clever film pretends to be a
documentary about a dog show. Christopher Guest directed it, using
actors with improvisational skill.

– “Dave” (1993), 9-11 p.m.,
Lifetime. An ordinary chap (Kevin Kline) must pretend to be the
gravely ill president whom he resembles. The resulting comedy is
clever and well-made.

– “Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.
In last week's rerun, all the family members converged on Hawaii.
Tonight, complications keep getting in the way of their fun.

– “Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. The
final two episodes of “Happy Town” remain in limbo. Instead, we
get this rerun, as Castle frets that Beckett is attracted to the
homicide detective they're working with.

TV column for Tuesday, June 29

season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

This series deftly stirs heavy drama
and perverse comedy. Tonight, it's on the heavy side.

Tommy (Denis Leary), an unbudging
alcoholic, has been shot by his Uncle Teddy. When we last saw him, he
was bleeding to death; Teddy vowed to shoot anyone who tried to save

Yes, it's possible that Tommy will
survive; that doesn't mean his ordeals are over. There are afterlife
visions. There are troubles with his estranged wife and their older
daughter, who has her own alcoholism. There's a demand from Sheila,
who is Tommy's sometimes-lover and his cousin's widow. And the fire
station might be closed. It adds up to a great start for a terrific

p.m.), “Downfall” (9) and “Mind Games” (10), ABC.

As a World Cup tribute (sort of),
“Wipeout” turns its “big balls” into soccer balls. They
batter a lot of people, including one who's competing three months
after having a baby.

It's all kind of silly, but at least
ABC has no-rerun Tuesdays. “Downfall” is an odd quiz show;“Mind
Games” is a “Primetime” show, with real-life stories of people
under pressure.

Beat,” 10 p.m., TNT.

Last week's terrific opener introduced
Jason Lee as a passionate cop and occasional Elvis impersonator.

Tonight, a small case grows. “Maybe
there's a lot more lies where this one's from,” he says.

There are, in a good hour that has
Juliette Lewis as a mom with many of those secrets.

Other choices include:

– “Hell's Kitchen,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
Fox. The first challenge has 10 contestants create gourmet sandwiches
for an upbeat deli; the second has the nine survivors working on a
golden-anniversary dinner.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a
rerun, the team races to stop a “dirty bomb” in Washington, D.C.

– “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. A Marine has been gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Now his
younger brother may be the next target, in this rerun.

– “Frontline/World,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Good intentions can go bad, we see in two
reports. One involves the “PlayPump,” which uses the energy of
African kids, romping on a merry-go-round, to put water into village
wells; things started well, but maintenance was slow and some
villages went dry. Another seeks a balance, so relief efforts don't
sabotage Haiti's retail economy.

– “POV,” 10 p.m, PBS (check local
listings). At 81, Agnes Varda blends memories (French, with English
sub-titles) and cinema techniques, to tell her life story. She
discusses growing up in Belgium, being a teen-ager in occupied Paris,
then being an activist and a New Wave filmmaker.

– “The Good Wife,” 10 p.m., CBS.
This rerun has Alicia preparing for an arson trial, when she's
surprised that her husband wants her to testify on his behalf.

-- “Louie” debut, 11 and 11:30 p.m.,
FX. After trying a conventional comedy on HBO, Louis C.K. switches to
a far-ranging style. In each busy half-hour, he includes two stories
and some stand-up comedy. The fairly good first episode catches Louie
– 42, divorced, with shared custody of two daughters –
supervising a school field trip and out on a disastrous date. The
second episode – complete with lots of frank talk by comics at a
poker game – is much funnier and much more R-rated.

TV column for Monday, June 28

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

As “Huge” begins, few of the
characters wants to be here. It's a summer camp for overweight teens;
there's much work, little food, scarce freedom.

Viewers might be reluctant, too; they
expect TV teens to be fit. Stick around, though; this is well-done.

Winnie Holzman – writer of Broadway's
“Wicked” and TV's “My So-Called Life” – did the script with
her daughter Savannah Dooley. Allison Liddi beautifully directed a
fine cast led by Nikki Blonsky (star of the “Hairspray” movie) as
Wilhelmina and Hayley Hasselhoff (David's daughter) as Amber.

Bachelorette,” 8-10:02 p.m., ABC.

Cameras capture some rough moments. We
see both ends of the phone conversation, as a woman tells Ali
Fedotowsky that her boyfriend (Justin, the wrestler) came on the show
to fake a romance.

Ali promptly confronts him. Beyond
that, she has a romantic time in Istanbul, complete with a castle
date and a dinner cruise. The others still around are Frank, Roberto,
Ty, Kirk, Craig R. and Chris L.

World Divided,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In the years after World War II, more
than two million East Germans simply walked to West Berlin and
defected. One night in 1961, the wall was built.

It would eventually be 87 miles long,
12 feet high, with a second layer of barbed wire. At first, people
could still make daring leaps from bordering apartments; later, few
survived attempts to cross the wall.

This documentary covers the wall's
28-year history. There are brief interviews with George Bush, Mikhail
Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, but the best moments are with the East
Germans. We meet one whose trouble began with a Woodstock poster,
another who tunneled his family to freedom.

Other choices include:

– “Lie to Me,” 8 p.m., Fox. While
trying to help an Iraq veteran, Lightman ponders his own past.

– “The Good Guys,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Cut off from all police-department resources, Dan vows to bring down
a drug-smuggling ring using only the $3.52 in his pocket.

– “Last Comic Standing,” 9-11
p.m., NBC. In a switch, NBC has moved the disappointing “Persons
Unknown” to 8 p.m. That puts “Comic” – finally reachinh its
semi-finals – at 9.

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Charlie really isn't taking his break-up with Chelsea very well.
In a fairly good rerun, he returns from Las Vegas, married to someone
he'd never met before.

– “Kevorkian,” 9 p.m., HBO.
Earlier this year, HBO brilliantly captured Jack Kevorkian in “You
Don't Know Jack.” Now here's a so-so documentary on the same
subject; it traces the assisted-suicide doctor as he leaves prison
and runs for Congress. There are great insights into his roots and
into his strategic mis-step. At other times, however, the leisurely
style simply comes off as lazy and unedited.

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:31
p.m., CBS. In this funny rerun, Leonard, a physicist, can take a
friend to visit the see the world's biggest particle accelerator.
Should he bring Sheldon, who loves physics? Or Penny, who loves (or
likes very much) Leonard? Does it help to know the trip is on
Valentine's Day?

– “Make It or Break It”
season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC Family. Fresh from “Huge” saying we
don't need perfection, this show brings the opposite. It centers on
young gymnasts with sleek bodies and great faces; one is shattered by
the news that she's grown from 5-foot-3 to 5-4. There are lots of
soap-opera twists tonight, some quite heavy-handed.