TV column for Wednesday, July 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Salvation,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Last week's opener
was quick, slick and exciting, as mismatched people learned a meteor
will destroy the world in three months. But can the story grab us
while focusing on bureaucracy and labs.

It does tonight.
There's a government secret that brings fear and death ... a
bureaucrat spying on her boss/lover .... two young writing journalism
and science fiction., one doing science-fiction. One plot element
(swiping uranium) seems wildly unbelievable, but the rest of this is
strong, high-stakes TV.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

Last Wednesday,
ABC's entire comedy line-up was bumped by the ESPY Awards. Now we can
settle back and catch six straight reruns, led by a double “Modern
Family.”

This show again has
an Emmy nomination for best comedy series. It's been nominated in
each of its eight seasons and won the first five times. Its only
other nod this year is for Ty Burrell, who gets the focus here: In
the first rerun, Phil (Burrell) gets a chance to be on TV; in the
second, it's Father's Day.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Snowfall,” 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:06 p.m. and
1:15 a.m.

Many shows start
with skilled schemers; not here. A CIA man, previously deskbound,
flounders with the early stages of the Contra deal for drugs and arms
... A beefy guy is told he must kill someone, to cover up a previous
heist-gone-wrong ... And at the core is the compelling story of young
Franklin.

His scheme – to
move cocaine from rich whites to neighborhood blacks – seemed
simple at first. Last week, however, he was beaten and robbed of
everything. Now he tries to get it back ... in scenes that unfold
with slow-motion intensity. The result is brutally painful to
Franklin, to others and to viewers.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Fargo” (1996), 8 p.m. ET, IFC; and/or “O
Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), 8 p.m., CMT.

Amid a cascade of
great movies written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, these are
two of the best. Now they collide in most time zones ... and make a
great double-feature in the Pacific zone.

Both films show the
brothers' knack for capturing characters far from the Hollywood
mainstream. In “Fargo,” it's their native Minnesota, where words
are sparse; in “O, Brother,” it's Mississippi, where an
escaped-convicts tale is beautifully entwined with old-timey music.

Other choices
include:

Movies, all night,
cable. There epics, with the final Harry Potter films (2010, 2011) at
4 and 7:45 p.m. on Freeform ... “Gladiator” (2000) at 7 p.m. on,
oddly, Syfy ... and “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) at 7:30 on
FX. And there are teen films – Francis Coppola's richly emotional
“Outsiders” (1983) at 8 p.m. on Sundance, “Scream” (1996)
horror at 8:30 on Pop and “Descendants” (2015) at 9 p.m. on
Disney,

“Little Big Shots:
Forever Young,” 8 p.m., NBC. Steve Harvey ranges from an
82-year-old acrobat and hand- balancer to a 92-year-old yodeler.

“Speechless,”
8:30, ABC. In a rerun, Maya and Jimmy need their daughter's help to
get on the good side of an insurance agent.

“The Carmichael
Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Cynthia (Loretta Devine) is key to
both episodes. In the first, she views her parents' troubles and
ponders her own marriage. Then, in a rerun, she sees her friend's
husband with someone else, sparking a discussion about cheating.

“This Is Us,” 10
p.m., NBC. Now that the show has eight Emmy nominations (including
best drama), catch a terrific rerun involving the family cabin. Some
great scenes link Kevin, his theater co-star (Janet Montgomery) and
their playwright (Milana Vayntrub, from all those cell-phone
commercials).

“Queen Sugar,”
10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. There's a setback for the mill's
opening celebration.

TV column for Tuesday, July 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Bold Type,” 9:01 p.m., Freeform, rerunning at 10:02.

There are so many
good things about the show that we'll excuse occasional
exaggerations. Set them aside and you have three interesting young
women at a Cosmopolitan-type magazine.

Jane (Katie Stevens,
formerly of “American Idol”) wants to write serious things ...
but drew praise for a sex narrative. Kat (Aisha Dee) is a tech type,
barraged tonight by Internet trolls. Sutton (Meghann Fahy) is a
skilled assistant – which makes it hard to move on. Avoiding
cliches, “Bold” gives them a wise boss (Melora Hardin) and
flawed-but-worthy guys. Amid lots of flash, there's some solid drama.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Weekend in Havana,” 8 p.m., PBS.

Geoffrey Baer is a
Chicago guy who had the usual images of Cuba – old cars, crumbling
buildings, tattered economy. He did find all of that, but this
quick-paced hour also offers surprises.

A former factory now
has a tangle of bars, galleries and performance spaces, drawing
fashionable young people. Homes become mini-restaurants, with
personal touches. Talented dancers (from flamenco to showgirls) and
jazz musicians emerge from a government that's big on arts education.
It's a bright, upbeat hour that even includes a visit to Ernest
Hemingway's cottage.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Shooter” season-opener, 10 p.m., USA, rerunning at 1:01 a.m.

The first season's
crisis has been settled now; Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) is free
to go back to his Texas spread with his wife and daughter ...
briefly. There's a fierce gun battle at the start of this hour (in a
flash-forward), repeated in the middle. That sets the stakes for this
season.

Now Swagger must
protect his old unit from a master marksman, while his ally (FBI
agent Nadine Memphis) is confined to desk duty. “Shooter” offers
likable people in a high-stakes, high-energy story.

Other choices
include:

“Shooter”
(2007), 5-8 p.m., USA. The original film covers some of the same turf
as the first year of the series. Mark Wahlberg (who produces the
series) plays Swagger, forced into one-man action.

“America's Got
Talent” and “World of Dance,” 8 and 10 p.m., NBC. Both shows
start new rounds. On “Talent,” the auditions are over and judges
make new cuts. On “Dance,” the duels have ended and judges
(joined by ballerina Misty Copeland) start trimming to two acts in
each category.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Laura San Giacomo plays a doctor who must break her
confidentiality after a Marine sergeant's fatal fall.

“The Fosters,” 8
p.m., Freeform. The show's best and worst characters collide early
and often tonight. The best is Callie (Maia Mitchell), a deep
portrait of a teen in crisis; the worst is Stef (Teri Polo), the cop
who's her adoptive mother – and often becomes terribly one-note.
Fresh from Callie barely escaping a sex-trafficker, changes are
coming. Alongside that are big moments for Brandon and Jesus ... and
some fresh twists, with new neighbors arriving.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns focus on Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross).
In the first, she tries to buy a black doll. In the second, her
reality-star sister (Rashida Jones) visits.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Tom Arnold plays a hacker whose group tends
to expose corruption among New Orleans' prominent people. Now
thousands of classified files have been stolen.

“Being Mary Jane”
season-opener, 10 p.m., BET, rerunning at 11. Distrusting him, Mary
Jane tries to stay clear of Justin ... which undermines her work as
co-anchor.

TV column for Monday, July 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Loaded” debut, 10 p.m., AMC.

Four London blokes
have sold a silly videogame for millions. These guys are likable, but
clueless in matters of love, life, law and more. One buys a Ferrari
and takes a champagne bath (literally); another gets new pants and a
lot of sandals. Money moves quickly ... romances don't ... and
problems loom.

Now they work for an
American company, led by someone (wonderfully played by Mary
McCormack) who calls herself “a sexy Darth Vader.” Also, they're
being sued by a neighbor who may or may not have had something to do
with their creation. Smart and fun, “Loaded” is off to a great
start.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Rachel Lindsay has
breezed though Scandinavia, shedding guys, Last week she dumped the
one from her Dallas home town (Adam, a real estate agent) and one
from Connecticut (Matt, a sales rep). Now she's visiting the home
towns of the others.

Lindsay, 32, is a
lawyer, but half of the final-four guys are physical trainers –
Erick, 29, of Los Angeles and Peter, 31, of Madison, Wis. Others are
Bryan, 37, a Miami chiropractor, and Dean, 26, a start-up recruiter
in Venice, Cal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” 10 p.m., NBC.

This isn't one of
those summer reality shows that drag through endless auditions and
such. Tonight – just its sixth hour – wraps up the second round
of obstacles.

That kicks things
over to Sunday, for the two-hour finale. And it clears Mondays to get
weird: Next week, NBC debuts “Midnight, Texas,” based on books
from “True Blood” author Charlaine Harris.

Other choices
include:

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8 p.m., Fox. The auditions are finished now and lots of
talented dancers have moved to an interim step. That's this
“academy,” which starts tonight.

“Super Human,” 9
p.m., Fox. The lone flaw in this show is a lack of suprise; people
keep completing steep challenges involving memory and more. Tonight,
Fox promises, there will be an exception.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. When Bonnie (Allison Janney) meets her boyfriend's ex-wife
(Wendie Malick), she has a quick reaction: “Well, we kow he has a
type.” Definitely; the 5-foot-10 Malick and the 6-foot Janney have
much in common in look and attitude; that makes this rerun work well.

“Preacher,” 9
p.m., AMC. It takes some explanation, just to survive this odd
episode: In Dallas, Jesse and Tulip were low-class killers who tried
to go straight; he then fled to take over his dad's church, where
this series began. Now we leap clumsily between two times in Dallas –
back then, and now, after she was kidnapped by a husband Jesse didn't
know about. It's a dreary way for us to wait for “Loaded.”

“Will,” 9 p.m.,
TNT, rerunning at 10. Like a mad science experiment, this forces
mismatched pieces together. One is the buoyant tale of Shakespeare's
arrival in London; the other is the gory story of the persecution of
his fellow Catholics. Tonight's hour starts badly, ends well, is
muddled in-between.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30, CBS. Ann Guibert did two episodes as Gigi, Joan's mother. After
her death last summer, at 87, the show fashioned this episode: Joan
creates some jewelry in her memory, John learns about her life in the
nursing home and Greg has second thoughts about the money she gave
him.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. During a desert mission, exploding shrapnel leaves Cabe's
life in danger.

TV column for Sunday, July 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Game of Thrones” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO, rerunning at 10
p.m. and midnight.

When you fill your
show with dragons and warriors and wobbling worlds, it takes a while
to make an episode. It's been 12-and-a-half months since a new one
aired; now that the show is finally back (for its second-to-last
season), it only has seven episodes.

So just relax and
savor it while it's here. Two previous episodes rerun at 6:45 and
7:45; then forces erupt. Inside the wall, armies collide; outside,
the undead loom. And, of course, winter is coming.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Grantchester,” 9 p.m., PBS.

Here's an hour
that's pivotal ... and gloomy. Yes, there's a possible murder to
solve; it's a fairly interesting one, but is brushed aside quickly.
In this 1950s village, personal problems loom.

Geordie – a good
cop with a wife and four daughters – continues his affair with a
secretary at the station. Sidney – a deeply caring vicar –
continues his affair with a divorcing woman. Leonard, his assistant,
is in denial about his sexuality. The results, tonight, are deep,
dark and quite disturbing.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nineties,” 9 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking
news).

Viewed in
retrospect, the Bill Clinton story is both bizarre and fascinating.
Here was someone who was awful at denials and great at apologies. He
made popular moves as president, then kept damaging himself. One poll
showed 75-percent approval of his work, 11-percent approval of his
personal life.

He rebounded from
early mistakes, including inaction overseas. Then the investigation
of an Arkansas real-estate deal somehow turned into a probe of Oval
Office sex. This is a strange story, told with balance and,
fittingly, a sense of astonishment.

Other choices
include:

Cartoon classics,
all night. Catch all three “Toy Story” movies on Freeform (3:15,
5:15 and 7:20 p.m.) or three “Shrek” ones on TBS (6, 8 and 10
p.m.).

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. Is a former basketball star smarter than a
world-class scientist? We'll see; Rick Fox's family goes against Neil
deGrasse Tyson's. Also, Nick Lachey and other boy-banders face Carrie
Wilson and other girl-groupers.

“Funderdome,” 9
p.m., ABC. The world has always needed a floating beverage-holder.
Now that invention competes with an all-in-one fishing system.

“Remember Me”
opener, 10 p.m., PBS. On a night of solid dramas, PBS suddenly takes
a wild detour. This hour (the first of three) is sometimes
inexplicable and sometimes maybe-supernatural. We see an old man
(Michael Palin of Monty Python fame) feigning a fall ... a young
woman helping her brother ... a middle-aged cop flunking his job
interview. For a long time, we can't tell how this all fits together.

“The Strain”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX, rerunning at 11:05. Discouraged by his
failures in New York, Eph retreats to Philadelphia. Meanwhile,
Setrakian pushes a new way of stopping The Master..

“The History of
Comedy,” 10 p.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). When “Tonight”
beckons, comedians usually jump. Dick Gregory, however, says he
turned the show down; black people perform, he said, but are never on
the couch, chatting with the host. Jack Paar promptly welcomed him to
the couch ... and TV took a step into the modern world. Gregory, 84,
recalls such stories in an interesting hour – a lot about black
comedians, a little about other ethnic groups – peppered with sharp
one-liners.

“I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m., Showtime, rerunning at 11. This 1980s comedy world
sees many of the guys spinning downward. Still, there are intriguing
twists, both good and bad, for the one female comic. And there are
great moments from the boss, superbly played by Oscar-winner Melissa
Leo.

TV column for Saturday, July 15


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Still Star-Crossed,” 10 p.m., ABC.

Four centuries after
his death, William Shakespeare is making a modest TV comeback.
Cable's “Will” imagines his early years in London; the two-hour
opener reruns at 11:02 p.m. Sunday, with new episodes at 9 p.m.
Mondays. And this tale imagines his characters after the deaths of
Romeo and Juliet.

Tonight, Benvolio is
in serious trouble. Surprisingly, he turns for help to Rosaline –
his wife via a forced marriage intended to merge the warring
families. Meanwhile, Princess Isabella goes to Venice, hoping to make
peace with the city leader (called the Doge) ... who has other
intentions.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Doubt,” 8 p.m., CBS.

This show keeps
giving its lawyers emotional tangles. Sadie (Katherine Heigl) is
supposed to be focusing on the murder trial of her sometimes-lover;
now, however, she goes to prison to talk with her mother (Judith
Light), who has key information about a former accomplice.

Then there's
Cameron, who is transgender – as is Laverne Cox, who plays her.
She's defending a trans woman charged with stabbing a baseball star.
Also, Cameron gives in to her romantic feelings for Peter.

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

Sunday will be a
busy time for CNN series: The second episode of “Nineties” will
view Bill Clinton; the return of “History of Comedy” views
diversity. First, here's another look at the “Nineties” opener.

This one looks at
changes in TV. Once broad and bland, it began splintering. With new
networks (Fox, CW, UPN) and cable, audiences became smaller and more
specific; there were more shows aimed at blacks, women, teens, gays,
geeks, more. Here's a tour of TV's chaotic decade.

Other choices
include:

“Toy Story”
(1995), 5:25 p.m., Freeform. This is the gem that launched the Pixar
revolution. Its sequels are at 7:25 (1999) and 9:30 p.m. (2010).

Boxing, 8-10 p.m.
ET, Fox. Deontay Wilder, who is undefeated, defends his heavyweight
title against Chris Arreola, a two-time title challenger,

“In An Instant,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Using re-enactments and first-person accounts, this
tells of a time when a banker's family was held hostage, forcing him
to rob his own bank.

“Little Big Shots:
Forever Young,” 8 p.m., NBC. This reruns an hour that includes a
gymnast who's 91, a showgirl who's 93 and Thomas Kelley – leader
and lead singer of a first-rate gospel quartet at 103.

“Turn,” 9 p.m.,
AMC, rerunning at 10. There's a plot to kidnap Benedict Arnold.
Also, George Washington and the French disagree on strategy.

“Orphan Black,”
10 p.m., BBC America. Just what is Neolution's ultimate plan with its
clone schemes? Krystal stumbles onto a clue. Also, an old enemy
returns to the island, forcing Cosima into an alliance.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Alec Baldwin hosts this rerun, which drew
some of the show's best ratings. Viewers were expecting his scathing
Donald Trump impersonation; they got it, but also got Melissa
McCarthy's hilarious press-secretary ... plus Leslie Jones pitching
her version of Trump. Also, Ed Sheeran sings about how much he likes
someone's body. We're happy for him (and for her), but as radio
keeps repeating the song, we wish he would expand his horizons.