TVcolumn for Wednesday, Aug. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Farthest,” 9-11 p.m., PBS.

This was Earthlings'
strongest thrust into space. On Aug. 20 and Sept. 5, 1977, the
Voyager ships were launched. They've continued for 40 years, sending
interstellar information and exceeding all goals.

Beautifully crafted,
this documentary introduces many of the key people. It recalls the
near-failures and the key improvisations. It also views the “golden
record,” designed for outer-space aliens to hear.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MasterChef,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

As the summer wraps
up, this show takes up a larger chunk of Fox's schedule. There are
two new episodes (instead of the usual one) on Wednesdays, plus
Friday reruns.

This week, the 11
chefs are handed bags of live crawfish and are told to extract as
much meat as possible; the six losers hen face an elimination
challenge. In the second hour, there are 10 survivors; they go back
to basics, tackling a chicken-and-potato challenge.

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

Two weeks from a
powerhouse season-finale, these 1983 stories surge forward. An OK one
has Teddy trying to gently divert a young woman's search for her
sister; he knows she was killed by his Contra-cocaine colleague. A
growing one has Lucia's family learning about her rogue drug
operation.

Then there's the
central one, as Franklin ramps up crack sales in his black
neighborhood. There's big money to be made; also, lives will be
shattered, along with (in fierce moments) boyhood friendships.

TONIGHT'S CAN-AVOID:
“Marlon,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

At times, “Marlon”
offers bits of what TV needs – quick-paced, two-generation comedy
taped before an audience. Then, alas, Marlon Wayans breaks into one
of his long, loud bits. The adoring studio audience roars; on a TV
set at home, it just seems absurdly over-the-top.

Tonight's first
episode – Marlon's daughter, 14, likes a guy – has some good
moments. The second – his ex-wife suggests occasional sex – is
really quite awful. The studio audience, however, approved.

Other choices
include:

“The Godfather”
(1972) and “The Godfather, Part II” (1974), all day, AMC. Here
are two of the all-time great films – so good that even the sequel
won the best-picture Oscar. Catch them both at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., or
at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Another great film, “Stand By Me,” is 11
a.m. on Sundance, rerunning at 8 and 10 p.m. on BBC America.

“Nova,” 8 p.m.,
PBS. Two days after the eclipse, we can catch some perspective. This
reruns the special that was mostly done in advance, explaining the
day's science projects; other portions were added, inserting views
from the day.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. On Tuesday, 12 acts performed and viewers
voted. Tonight – including an instant save by viewers – the
second batch of seven advances. There's another next week.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. The first rerun has Mitchell accidentally
spilling the urn containing the remains of Cam's beloved pig. The
second has Phil nudging his father-in-law into joining him on a
real-estate investment deal.

“Salvation,” 9
p.m., CBS. As our heroes scramble to find a way to prevent a deadly
meteor collision, people try to stop them. Grace faces an assassin;
Liam and Darius forge unlikely alliances.

“Criminal Minds,”
10 p.m., CBS. This reruns the season-opener, adding Adam Rodriguez to
the cast. He plays Luke Alvez., fresh from the FBI's fugitive task
force and helping find an escaped convict.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Flash,” 8 p.m., CW.

From the moment
“Supergirl” began, people had pondered the musical possibilities.
The show stars Melissa Benoit, who sang in two “Glee” seasons; it
co-stars Jeremy Jordan, who did four Broadway shows (starring in
three and getting a Tony nomination in “Newsies”) and then TV's
“Smash.”

What cinched things
was when the show moved to CW, which has another “Glee” alumnus
(Grant Gustin) as its star. So a two-parter was crafted: On Monday,
the Music Meister (Darren Criss, also of “Glee”) kidnapped
Supergirl; in this fun rerun, she and the Flash are in a
song-and-dance dimension.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Diana: Her Story” and “Secrets of Althorp,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
PBS.

As we near the 20th
anniversary (Aug. 31) of Lady Diana's death, overviews continue. Last
week had a new hour on National Geographic and a rerun on CBS; Sunday
brings two Smithsonian Channel hours.

Now PBS steps in.
Its first hour is built around a 1992 video talk that Diana had with
her speech teacher; her comments, sometimes quit frank, are
interspersed with other footage. In the second hour, her brother,
Charles Spencer, offers a tour of the estate where she grew up and is
buried.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bold Type,” 9:01 p.m., Freeform.

Last week was all
about sex (lots of it) and lost romance, as this glitzy drama engages
its young audience. Tonight brings an intriguing detour – a smart
and varied look at life choices.

Lay-off rumors race
through the magazine, as other possibilities appear. Young women face
the uneasy balance between known and unknown, between stability and
adventure. Throw in a tad of romance – especially for Kat, who
likes guys but loves a woman in Paris – and you have an excellent
hour.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent” (NBC) or “Bachelor in Paradise” (ABC), 8-10 p.m. The
summertime reality shows again collide. “Talent” has 12 acts
perform and viewers vote. “Paradise” has two new people arrive,
complicating the sex and romance schemes.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, someone is using terrorism to manipulate the stock
market.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform, rerunning at 10:02. With understated precision, Bruce
Davison keeps giving perfect performances. He's rarely noticed –
except for a 1991 Oscar nomination for “Longtime Companion” --
but always strong; now Davison, 71, has moving moments as Lena's
father, with warm heart and fading mind. That goes alongside a key
story for Callie and so-so ones for her siblings.

“Great American
Eclipse,” 8 and 11:06 p.m. ET, Science. No, we don't have to forget
about the eclipse already. This channel reruns its Monday-night
special, with footage from the day and a look at any quick results
from experiments; PBS' “Nova” will rerun its Monday special on
Wednesday.

“The Mick,” 9
p.m., Fox. Tired of being “the cool aunt,” in this rerun Mick
attempts discipline.

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 10 p.m., NBC. Until recently, Derek Hough occupied this
cozy slot as a “World of Dance” judge. Now he's back as a
contestant, alongside Darius Rucker, Sherri Shepherd, Andy Richter,
David Feherty and Mel B.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Barring a late change, this reruns the
season opener that added Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) to the
cast. A sniper is targeting crowded events in New Orleans.

 

TV column for Monday, Aug. 21


PLEASE NOTE: This column was compiled before one thing was added -- the presidential address on military issues in Afghanistan. That's scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, with adjustments varying. CBS, for instance, expects to simply delay "Mom" until 9:30, remove "Life in Pieces" and have "Scorpion" at 10, as scheduled. In the Pacitic zone, its primetime schedule will say intact.

 

TODAY'S MUST-SEE:
Eclipse coverage, everywhere.

It's the first total
eclipse in the U.S. in 38 years ... and the first to cross both
coasts in 99 years. News channels and the Weather Channel will pay
attention, from start (1:15 p.m. ET) to finish (2:48 p.m.).

And yes, there's
more. The Science Channel reruns Sunday's preview at 11 a.m. ET, then
goes live from noon to 4 p.m., ABC, CBS and NBC have specials from
1-3 p.m. At night, Science has a new hour at 9:02 p.m. ET, with
scenes (and early experiment results) from the day. PBS has already
prepared an interesting “Nova” hour for 9 p.m., explaining the
science; it will freshen it with scenes from the day.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m. CW.

Lots of guest stars
show up in this rerun, setting up some bigger moments Tuesday.
Arriving here are Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules”) and Teri Hatcher (Lois
Lane in “Lois & Clark”) as Gar and Rhea, king and queen of
the Daxamites. When they try to retrieve their son Mon-El, things
turn nasty.

More important,
perhaps, is the arrival of Darren Criss (“Glee”) as the Music
Meister. By the end of the episode, he'll be whisking Supergirl away
... to Tuesday's jaunty rerun of the “Flash” musical.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Loaded,” 10 p.m., AMC.

Once you get past
the accents – a steep hurdle – this is a delight. It follows four
British blokes who made a fortune on a cat videogame, then sold the
company for millions to greedy Americans.

Tonight, Leon steps
into the glitzy world of his American overlord (Mary McCormack) while
Ewan stays back to do the work. Josh scrambles for a way to finance
his girlfriend's scheme and Watto simply looks for a friend ... or a
hobby ... or, really, anything.

Other choices
include:

“The Good Karma
Hospital,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
This formula keeps working: Take people from staid, stable worlds and
whisk them to little towns where life is quirkier. From “Northern
Exposure” to lots of Acorn shows (“Doc Martin,” “Agatha
Raisin,” “800 Words,” “The Heart Guy”) that keeps working.
This time, a young British doctor, unhappy with her life, moves to a
coastal village in India. The medical stories are way too quick and
simple, but the charm lingers.

“Bachelor in
Paradise,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. One of the guys from the
just-concluded “Bachelorette” shows up, brandishing a date card.

“Mom,'” 9 p.m.,
CBS. In an excellent rerun, Christy and her mother worry about Jill,
on the anniversary of her mother's suicide.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC. This episode will strike you as either quite clever or one
of the most sacrilegious pieces to reach American TV. Consider your
own tastes before sampling it. And be warned.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30, CBS. One of the girls gets shaky advice about her school
project; the other is unhappy about the birthday present (a butterfly
kit) from her grandfather. Also, Matt and Colleen try to babysit for
Lark; in the TV tradition, things goes terribly wrong.

“Midnight, Texas,”
10 p.m., NBC. Manfred had been doing fine with his new life, building
a relationship with Creek (Sarah Ramos). Now his secrets catch up
with him; so does Hightower.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. Panelists range from Olivia Culpo, the
svelte cellist and Miss Universe 2012, to Gabriel Iglesias, the
non-svelte comedian. Others are actors Craig Robinson and Mary Lynn
Rajskub.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Nineties” conclusion, 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news), rerunning at midnight.

Four times now,
producers have dissected a decade in smart-but-fun ways. This one had
the serious stuff in the middle, ending with looks at the Internet
(rerunning at 8 and 11 p.m. today) and music.

Emerging from the
hair-band '80s was a surge of deep, passionate music. Two of the top
voices (Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur) died young, but fresh forces
emerged – from country to gangsta rap to the Lilith Fair. They
shared “the messy, chaotic, fallible experience of being human,”
Alanis Morissette says, Then came what one person calls the
“palette-cleaning,” from boy bands to Spice Girls.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Endeavour” season-opener, 9-10:30 p.m., PBS.

As pledge drives
conclude, most PBS stations (check local listings) return to their
regular line-ups. That's great news in the week ahead, with excellent
science shows Monday and Wednesday; it's merely OK tonight, with an
opener that is beautifully filmed, but has a so-so story.

This “Inspector
Morse” prequel is in 1960s Oxford, where Morse's life is grim. His
one true love has left; his sergeant's exam has been sabotaged. Now a
new mystery starts with a swimming-pool body; also involved is a
device called a computer, which can sometimes find answers within a
few hours.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Season-openers, cable.

The broadcast season
is still a month away, but cable gets a big head start. At 9 p.m.
(rerunning at 11), TNT's “The Last Ship” has its two-hour opener,
with the virus endangering food globally. Then come “Survivor's
Remorse” at 10 p.m. on Starz and “Dice” at 10:30 on Showtime.

But what we're
excited about is “Episodes,” at 10 p.m. on Showtime. In four
tiny-but-brilliant seasons (and only 34 episodes), this has sharply
satirized much of TV, with Matt LeBlanc deftly playing a lunkheaded
version of himself. As the season starts, he's confined to hosting an
awful gameshow.

Other choices
include:

Gymnastics, NBC.
Here are the national championships. The men will be shown live, from
1-2:30 p.m. ET; the women, on tape, will be 7-9 p.m.

“The Simpsons,”
8 and 9 p.m., Fox. After being bumped for two straight weeks (by
“American Grit” and “Teen Choice Awards”), this dandy show
offers two reruns partly focusing on Grandpa. In one, he's whisked to
Cuba for medical care; in the other, he learns he'll be a father
again.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. Tentatively scheduled is a rerun that starts
with teams of male and female comedy people. Then it's the families
of Louie Anderson and Christina Milian.

“Funderdome,” 9
p.m., ABC. A 9-year-old wants to market a way to keep foods separated
on your plate. She appears (with her mom) to compete with the
creation of a sleepover kit for kids. Other proposals range from
litter boxes to a way to exercise while play video games on your
phone.

“Game of Thrones,”
9-10:15 p.m., HBO. Despite all the cable newcomers, this show – now
a week from its season-finale – remains the clear leader. Tonight,
Jon Snow leads his ragged band on a mission north of the wall; the
odds against him, however, may be too steep.

“Chesapeake
Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. Abby is settling in now and send her
daughters to their first day at a new school. Meanwhile, there are
disputes between her ex-husband and her boyfriend Trace ...
complicated by the fact that Trace has some fresh interest from a
Nashville record label.

“Great American
Eclipse,” 9:02 p.m. ET, Science Channel, rerunning at 12:08 a.m.
Here's a preview of the eclipse that will reach the U.S. at 1:15 p.m.
ET Monday. This hour will rerun at 11 a.m. ET Monday, leading into
four hours of live coverage.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Tonight's celebrities are mostly known for
comedy. It's Richard Kind vs. Rachel Dratch, then Margaret Cho vs.
drama/comedy guy Michael Rapaport.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Halt and Catch Fire” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., AMC.

Many shows start
well and decline gracefully; “Halt,” somehow, has gone the
opposite way. Once an OK series about the early days of computers, it
starts its fourth and final year brilliantly.

We've jumped ahead
to the 1990s, with people scattered. Gordon has a fairly successful
server company, with Joe staying in basement to dream bigger things.
Cameron, Joe's ex-lover, was supposed to be helping; instead, she's
married and living in Japan, working on games. Donna, Gordon's
ex-wife, is making a fortune funding start-ups. Tonight, they link,
with intensity, depth and warmth.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Princess Diana: Her Life, Her Death, the Truth,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

As the 20th
anniversary of Princess Diana's death (Aug. 31) nears, TV is loading
up specials. National Geographic had a new one Monday; PBS has a
rerun and a new one next Tuesday. And now CBS, which was early with
this, reruns its own special from May.

Gayle King anchored
from Althorp, the estate where Diana grew up and is buried. She
interviewed close friends and people ranging from Diana's
public-relations chief to the choreographer of a charity performance
where the princess danced with glee.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nineties,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news).

After watching the
fictional brilliance of “Halt and Catch Fire,” you'll want to see
this documentary rerun. (Don't worry, it airs again at 1 a.m. ET and
then at 8 and 11 p.m. ET Sunday.) Using hindsight, it brings focus to
the Internet world that the “Halt” characters try to master.

We see the opposite
giants – the charismatic Steve Jobs, temporarily on the outside;
the deceptively mild Bill Gates, quietly consolidating power. The
government finally squelched his monopoly, but the real change, this
hour says, was from outside: Google brought a key step to
democratizing the Internet.

Other choices
include:

Racing, 7 p.m. ET,
NBC. This NASCAR night is from Bristol, Tenn.

“The Social
Network” (2010), 7 and 9:30 p.m., Bravo. Record this film and watch
it as a sequel to all those shows about '90s Internet. Aaron Sorkin's
script sometimes toys with the truth, but brilliantly captures the
next revolution, when Facebook began in 2004.

More movies, cable.
At 7 p.m., FXX has Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of
Wall Street” (2013). At 8, Syfy has “Terminator 2” (1991) and
FX has the fun spy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2015). At
8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has a stylish gem, “The Manchurian
Candidate” (1962). And families? Freeform has an animation marathon
and, at 8 p.m., Disney repeats the vibrant musical “Descendants 2.”

“America's
Funniest Home Videos,” 8 p.m., ABC. This is, perhaps, why God
created technology: So we could keep re-seeing this home-video of a
man losing his pants while being chased by a goose.

“$100,000
Pyramid,” 9 p.m., ABC. Tentatively scheduled is a rerun filled with
football players. Cam Newton and Brandon Marshall face each other,
Eric Decker faces speed-skater Apolo Ohno and Michael Strahan hosts.

“In an Instant,”
10 p.m., ABC. Much of tonight seems to be about the Internet, for
good or bad. This rerun tells of a Las Vegas woman who met a man
online; he attacked her and left her for dead.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Jimmy Fallon hosts this fun rerun, with
Harry Styles – whom Fallon has impersonated – as the music guest.