TV column for Thursday, Aug. 28



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Welcome to Sweden” finale, 9 and 9:30
p.m., NBC.


It’s been an odd month for this neatly offbeat
Swedish-American comedy. NBC suddenly aired two episodes last week, skipped a
transitional episode entirely and now airs the dandy final pieces.


In real life, Greg Poehler was a lawyer who moved to Sweden
with his girlfriend; in the series, he plays Bruce, who did the same. In the
missing episode, life crumbled: They had a semi-breakup … her parents split,
sending the dad to the hospital in despair … and he took a three-month deal to
return home and help Amy Poehler (Greg’s sister, but not Bruce’s). Now things
are resolved in clever and amiable ways.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Defiance” season-finale, 8 and 9 p.m.,
Syfy.


A rough, gruff loner, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) sometimes
seems to care about no one … except Irisa, the fierce alien orphan he’s raised
as his daughter. Now her being is possessed by the Kaziri and she heads toward creating
mass destruction. He wants to stop her; his colleagues want to kill her.


There’s much more to worry about in this ambitious series.
That, includes battling the Earth Republic and facing Pilar (Linda Hamilton),
Rafe’s crazed wife, who’s on the loose after 15 years in prison.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).


For many viewers, this will be a fresh journey – a chance to
visit a glorious music genre we rarely hear. Itzhak Perlman, known as a
classical master, performs the traditional Jewish music he’s always loved.


Perlman is surrounded by stunning talent, including cantor
Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, a chamber orchestra and Hankus Netsky and his Klezmer
Conservatory Band. There are also memories from Joel Grey, Neil Sadaka and
author Elie Wiesel, who recalls bringing his violin to Auschwitz.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE II: “The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m.,
Sundance.


For the first half of its eight-week run, this
thick-but-compelling story kept hinting at secrets. Now they to cascade. That
begins with a flashback to eight years ago, with Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and
her translator held hostage; raped by the son of an Arab official, she’s
pregnant.


Then we leap back to where this started. Nessa runs the
family business (a job her brother vacated); the translator’s son has been
kidnapped. As spies and journalists probe, schemes unravel.


Other choices include:


“The Quest,” 8 and 9 p.m., ABC. Now that “Rookie Blue” has
finished its season, ABC scrambles to fill up Thursdays; tonight brings a 10
p.m. special and this double episode: There are eight role-players left, facing
fresh challenges – first a raid, then a spy. By the end of the night, only six
will remain.


“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. Don’t look for “Big Bang
Theory”; it temporarily moving to Mondays (starting Sept. 1), to make room for
football. Tonight, “Men” borrows the spot; Alan tries to impress his new
girlfriend (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) with the beach house when Walden visits
ex-girlfriend Kate.


“Project Runway,” 9 p.m., Lifetime. Last week’s challenge
(rerunning at 8 p.m.) was to design a gown for Heidi Klum to wear on the red
carpet gown. Tonight, designers must create offbeat wedding dresses.


“World’s Wildest Commercials,” 10 p.m., ABC. These
collections of international oddities tend to be thoroughly entertaining. Chris
Parnell hosts this one, with such categories as “animals with attitude.”


“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds a murder on
U.S. soil to have international impact. British agents arrive and Watson
re-evaluates her relationship with Sherlock and his brother Mycroft.


TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 27



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

In past summers, tap-dancers have been only a mild
diversion; one finished fourth, none has gone higher. Now that will change:
Valerie Rockey of Indianapolis and Zack Everhart of Georgia, each 20, are
vibrant tappers who also seem to be good at everything else.


They’re in the final four, alongside 18-year-old jazz or
contemporary dancers. Rickey Ubeda of Miami has a pixie-ish charm; Jessica
Richens of California had a great night last week. Viewers’ voting last week and
this week will be added, with a champion named next week. Also tonight, Jason
Mraz sings.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE:  “Extant”
9 and 10 p.m., CBS.


On a summer night , we never used to expect even one hour of
richly produced science fiction, with an Oscar-winning star. But tonight, like
last week, we get two hours.


Driven by visions of his late daughter, Sparks has swiped
the baby. Molly (Halle Berry) is in pursuit with Yasumoto … who may not have
her best interests at heart. Tessa Ferrer -- Debby Boone’s daughter, Rosemary
Clooney’s granddaughter, Red Foley’s great-granddaughter – plays Sparks’
daughter.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Hot in Cleveland” season-finale, 10
p.m., TV Land.


The fifth season concludes with everyone fretting about
something. Elka (Betty White) is running for city council; Victoria (Wendie
Malick), once a soap-opera has-been, is up for an Academy Award.


Then there’s Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli), fretting about a
visit from her mother. We haven’t seen the overprotective mom since she showed
up in the first season, played by Emmy-winner Shirley Knight.


Other choices include:


“America’s Got Talent,” 8 and 9 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun
of the 12 acts that performed Tuesday. Then we’ll learn which six will advance.


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Frankie will only
take kids’ requests during her “office hour.”


“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds
Jay reluctantly going to ClosetCon and Mitchell reluctantly going to Cam’s
family farm … where Grams (Ann Guilbert) causes trouble. The second has Phil
telling a lie that he has trouble maintaining; also, Gloria obsesses on the
family photo.


“Legends,” 9 p.m., TNT. As last week’s episode ended, the
FBI reluctantly agreed to put its best (and least stable) undercover agent back
in the field. Now Martin (Sean Bean) pretends to be a high-roller.


“The Divide” season-finale, 9 p.m., WE. Christine (the
terrific Marin Ireland) finds that her friendship with Terry puts her in
trouble with Danny and with her nemesis, Stanley Zale.


“Motive” season-finale, 10 p.m., ABC. Already troubled by an
old case, Angie faces a new problem: The murder of a prosecutor is personal to
Cross; now she must come clean about their past.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. A powerful little scene pits the
show’s leads, each an international star. Demian Bichir, plays Marco, a Mexican
cop; Diane Kruger, a German native, plays Sonya, a Texas cop. Tonight, she rages
over his helping a drug kingpin who’s now the center of attention: Marines are
chasing him; he hired hit men to kill a reporter (mistakenly maiming her
lesbian lover) and to get Sonya.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 26



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “iHeartRadio Album Release Party,” 8
p.m., CW.

Adam Levine continues his march through all media. He has a
hit TV series (“The Voice”), a good movie (“Begin Again”) and lots of radio
hits; now his Maroon 5 band adds a prime-time special.


The album (“V”) arrives next Tuesday, a big deal because the
four previous albums have reached No, 1 (twice), 2 and 6 on the Billboard
chart. One single, “Maps,” was released early and reached No. 6; five previous
Maroon 5 singles have been in the top 10, two of them hitting No. 1.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Chelsea Lately” finale, 11 p.m., E;
repeats at midnight, 2 and 3 a.m.


The male world of late-night loses its only female host
tonight. Passed over in all the moves by broadcast networks (including NBC, E’s
sister network), Chelsea Handler quit after seven years and 1,300-plus
episodes; then she was signed by Netflix for a show that will start in 2016.


First, here’s the live, hour-long finale. Guests reportedly
will include top stars (Melissa McCarthy, Selena Gomez, 50 Cent, Minnie Driver)
and quirky souls (David Hasselhoff, Kathy Griffin, Buzz Aldrin). There will be
many more, including Miley Cyrus singing Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over.”


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: Finales, cable.


Two shows have their mid-season finales. “Pretty Little
Liars” (8 p.m., ABC Family) sees Allison submit to a lie-detector test – always
a mistake for a liar; “Covert Affairs” (10 p.m., USA) finds Annie heading out
on another adventure with McQuaid (Nic Bishop), over Auggie’s objections.


The big one, however, is the season finale of “Tyrant” (10
p.m., FX), which keeps getting better. Bassam – “Barry” when he was a Pasadena
pediatrician – has been preparing to oust his shaky brother as dictator. Now he
faces a sudden jolt, plus the sharp opposition from his wife, an American-born
doctor.


Other choices include:


“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. Two weeks ago, this show reran Ralph
Waite’s final primetime appearance. Now here’s the episode filmed after his
death at 85; Gibbs returns home after his dad’s death.


“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. An undercover agent may be
helping the smuggler he’s supposed to investigate. Also in this reruns, Kensi
returns to the field and ponders her relationship with Deeks.


“America’s Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC. A new round begins,
with half the final 24 performing and viewers voting. On Wednesday, six of the
acts will advance.


“Iyanla: Fix My Life,” 9 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Iyanla
Vanzant, who is an ordained minister and a life coach, goes to Ferguson, Mo.
She brings the police chief face-to-face with Charles Ewing, the pastor whose
nephew, Michael Brown, was slain by a policeman. She sits down in a church with
young men (some of them admitted gang members) and crosses police checkpoints
at 1 a.m., to join a protest.


“The Mindy Project,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Mindy is
dating a cop (which makes Danny jealous) and Peter is dating a brain surgeon
who may be too mature for him.


“Wizard Wars,” 10 p.m., Syfy. This entertaining show – a good
companion to the 9 p.m. “Face Off” – assigns magicians to work with random
props. Tonight, that includes doggy treats.


TV column for Monday, Aug. 25



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Emmy awards, 8-11 p.m., NBC


Expect lots of laughs tonight. They’ll come from host Seth
Meyers, who prefers monologs instead of elaborate filmed bits. And from some of
the presenters (Andy Samberg, Amy Poehler, Key-and-Peele, Zooey Deschanel). And
from clips of Robin Williams, in a tribute led by Billy Crystal.


Beyond that, cable dominates with four of the six comedy-series
nominees, five of six dramas and all six movies or miniseries. The exceptions
are “Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “Downton Abbey.”


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


New complications keep appearing, in lives already messed by
the giant dome covering the town.


Now Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel) has been captured by
mysterious men who question him relentlessly. Also, “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean
Norris) makes a deal that could have a huge effect.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “POV,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).


What happens when a huge resource is found in an
impoverished country? This slow but compelling report traces what one man calls
“a savage struggle for wealth.”


Over five years, we see Ghana’s discovery of oil complicated
by regime change, Wall Street aftershocks and bribery accusations. In Nigeria,
pipelines are diverted or sabotaged. It’s a disturbing portrait of chaos that
still leaves some people wildly rich … and may or may not benefit the average
guy.


Other choices include:


“Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case,” any time, www.acorn.tv. David Suchet wrapped up his
triumphant tour of all 70 Poirot stories, logically enough, by doing Agatha
Christie’s final Poirot story. Published in 1975. It re-visits the site of her
first Poirot tale. The detective makes an agonizing decision, while pursuing a
killer who hasn’t actually killed anyone.


“Bachelor in Paradise,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. For Kalin McMahon –
described by ABC as “infamous” – it’s a tough time: Turned down, he becomes the
first person in the show’s history to go on a date alone.


“Friday Night Lights” (2004), 8:30-11 p.m., ABC Family.
Adapting a non-fiction book, writer-director Peter Berg created a vivid
portrait of a football town in Texas, with Billy Bob Thornton as coach. It’s a
good film … but the subsequent TV series was even better.


“America’s Next Top Model,” 9 p.m., CW. After photo shoots
in a subway and at the beach, the finalists – seven men and seven women – are
chosen.


“Two and a Half Men,” 9:30 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, Lyndsey
is really not happy with the fact that Alan is sleeping with her boyfriend’s sister,
played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley.


 “Mistresses,” 10
p.m., ABC. April helps the FBI find her husband … and tries to keep their
daughter from learning what’s happening with Daniel. Also, Savi’s date with
Zack goes astray.


“The Approval Matrix,” 11 p.m., Sundance. Neal Brennan
grumbles about a world in which people are quickly offended, followed by rote
apologies and forgiveness. It’s not that great a subject, but his guests inject
bits of humor (especially Sherrod Small) and wisdom.   


TV column for Sunday, Aug. 24



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Rising Star” finale, 9 p.m., ABC.


After a quick, slick summer run, this show will give someone
a Columbia Records contract.


A frequent front-runner is Jesse Kinch, 20; last week, his
fresh take on “Billy Jean” led the vote totals, edging past an upbeat song by
Austin French, also 20, a musical worship leader. Finishing third was Dana
Williams, a Sarah Lawrence grad and part-time teacher, with a bluesy tune. Audrey
Kate Geiger -- also 24, a bartender and yoga instructor – finished fifth, but
was given the “West Coast save.”


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: More finales, 9 p.m., TNT and HBO.


For TNT’s “The Last Ship,” this wraps up the first season of
a strong story about a ship that may be the only refuge against a global
epidemic. Tonight, it heads toward home, where the captain (Eric Dane) hopes to
find his family; there may be some harsh discoveries.


And for HBO’s “True Blood,” it ends the seventh and final
season. Last week, Hoyt (his memory restored) got back with Jessica and Jason
discovered platonic warmth with Bridgette. Now everything point to Sookie’s
house: Bill is there to talk; the villains are heading there to kill.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: MTV Video Music Awards, 9-11 p.m., MTV,
with red-carpet at 8.


While would-be recording stars are performing on ABC, real
ones perform on MTV. That includes Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Ariana
Grande, Usher, Nicki Minaj, 5 Seconds to Summer and the two leaders in VMA
nominations, Beyonce and Iggy Azalea.


They have eight nominations apiece, including video of the
year. Her “Drunk in Love” and his “Fancy” face Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,”
Sia’s “Chandelier” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece Mystery: Breathless”
opener, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).


In the early 1960s, London’s medical people have good manners,
great diction and deep secrets. Two nurses – flashy Jean and diligent Angela–
are hiding their pasts. Otto, a rich, married doctor (Jack Davenport of
“Smash”) tries to hide his lust for Angela.


Then there’s a wartime secret he and another doctor share.
Now a police inspector, damaged and angry, questions Otto’s wife. This chapter,
the first of three, moves slowly, but is beautifully played.


Other choices include:


Football, 4 p.m. ET Fox and 8 p.m. ET NBC. Two weeks before
the start of the pros’ regular season, we’re supposed to cartch a doubleheader.
It’s San Diego at San Francisco, followed by Cincinnati at Arizona.


“The Simpsons,” 8 p.m., Fox. A new student (an aspiring
falconer) rescues Bart from bullies.


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. Carrie and Al find a hidden
community on an island near Manhattan.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Roy’s high school sweetheart faces
murder charges. He agrees to defend her, despite damage to his family
reputation and his status at work.


“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Amid flashbacks that show his
painful past with Eichhorst, we see Setrakian insist that the only way to stop
the rampage is to kill the head vampire. It’s a good episode, despite plot
stretches that require wobbly thinking by a child-care provider and by the
usually wise Setrakian.