TV column for Monday, July 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Democratic convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and cable.

Now the spotlight
shifts away from Donald Trump (yes, it does that occasionally) and
Cleveland and over to Hillary Clinton and Philadelphia. Cable news
channels will pay attention all day, PBS will start at 8 p.m., but
the biggest networks will wait until 10 p.m. nightly, through
Thursday.

As a result, all of
the key speakers will be crammed into that hour. Tonight, tentative
plans include Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama and immigration activist
Astrid Silva. Also, “The Daily Show” has its second “the road
to” special at 11 p.m.; last Monday's was quick and slick and
moderately funny.

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

Last week, JoJo
Fletcher, 25, visited the home towns of the final four -- Chase
McNary, 27; Luke Pell, 31; Robby Hayes, 27; and Jordan Rodgers, 27,
the brother of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now she dumps one of
them and takes the others to Thailand.

In the show's
tradition, she'll invite each to stay overnight with her in the
“fantasy suite”; traditionally, the guys say yes. There's a
“bachelors tell all” special Tuesday and the finale next Monday.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “MadTV 20th Anniversary Reunion,” 8 p.m.,
CW.

For 14 years,
“MadTV” provided sketch humor, some of it clever and some not.
Six years after it was cancelled, the show re-assembled many of its
people. Now – on the night before it's relaunched with new stars,
CW reruns the reunion. This was, it turns out, a talented bunch.

There's
Keegan-Michael Key, who went on to the brilliant “Key and Peele.”
And Alex Borstein, of “Getting On” and “Family Guy.” And Ike
Barinholtz, a “Mindy Project” writer and co-star. And Nicole
Sullivan, Artie Lang, Aries Spears, Michael McDonald, Will Sasso and
other funny and/or odd souls.

Other choices
include:

“A Merry Murdoch
Christmas,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
“Murdoch Mysteries” have prospered for nine seasons in Canada
(reaching the U.S. as “The Artful Detective”), with an 1890s
elegance. So it's strange to see just how clumsy this Christmas movie
is. It reduces two men to cartoonish absurdity and makes Murdoch
unable to grasp that someone might wear a mask. Even Scooby Doo knows
that.

“So You Think You
Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Nine young dancers remain; tonight, one
will go.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Allison Janney has another Emmy nomination in this role; she
already has six Emmys, two for “Mom.” You can see why tonight, as
Bonnie (Janney) faces a health scare.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Caroline in Hollywood, where people
want to portray (and revise) her life story. Since this is Hollywood,
Caroline (played by Beth Behrs, 31) ends up on a date with a studio
mogul (George Hamilton, 76).

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. The show returned to Mondays last week, when CBS suddenly
shipped “BrainDead” to Sundays. In this rerun, an earthquake has
the team scrambling to prevent an explosion.

“The Making of the
Mob: Chicago,” 10 p.m., AMC. With their tenuous peace shattered,
Italian and Irish mobs are at war with each other. Al Capone emerges
on top.

“UnReal,” 10
p.m., Lifetime, rerunning at 11:03. Quinn tries to deal with both the
show's chaos and her interest in John. Also, Rachel reveals a big
secret to Coleman.

TV column for Sunday, July 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“BrainDead,” 10 p.m., CBS.

TV's best summer
show was suddenly yanked from its cozy Monday slot and dispatched to
Sundays. The move came so late that it left fans befuddled on Monday;
let's hope they find it here.

The perfect
counterpoint to conventions, “BrainDead” says aliens have invaded
the brains of people from both parties; it mixes humor, drama and
vivid characters. An idealistic staffer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has
finally figured out what's happening;' she begs her brother (Danny
Pino), a senator, to alert the Centers for Disease Control. Instead,
he suggests an entomologist (Margo Martindale).

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Game shows, 8 p.m., ABC and NBC.

For the second
straight summer, ABC has found ratings success with a Sunday game
show. Now NBC does ... well, the same thing. It has scheduled
“Hollywood Game Night” reruns, starting with one that has Kevin
Smith, Helen Hunt, Dave Foley, Tony Hale, Justin Long and Alyson
Hannigan.

Viewers are likely
to stick with ABC's “Celebrity Family Feud,” because it's new and
has Steve Harvey hosting. Tonight, the sibling group The Band Perry
faces the family of Giuliana Rancic, whose husband Bill was the first
“Apprentice” winner. Also, the Melissa Joan Hart and Paul Sorvino
families compete.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Survivor's Remorse” season-opener, 10 and 10:30
p.m., Starz.

Last season ended
bluntly: Reaching for his pot pipe, Uncle Julius ran a red light and
was hit full-force by a truck. Now we see people deal with shock and
agony; also, Cam – whose basketball career supports the family –
struggles to keep out of the tabloids.

Until now, Starz
confined its shows to Saturdays, with little competition. Now it's
moved to Sundays, a battleground for cable's best. “Power” (9
p.m.), which has 10 hourlong episodes, started last week; “Remorse,”
with10 half-hours, catches up by airing two episodes tonight.

Other choices
include:

“Star Trek”
(2009), 5 p.m., and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), 8 and 11
p.m., FX. This weekend, theaters got the third “Trek” to star
Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock. Now here's a new
chance to revisit the first two.

Newscast and “60
Minutes,” 6 and 7 p.m., CBS. The attention shifts to the Democrats
and Philadelphia, where the convention starts Monday. Many of the
talk shows will be there today; also, CBS plans an hourlong newscast,
followed by related reports on its newsmagazine.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. In the first rerun, Selma and Patty try to break
their eternal habit of smoking cigarettes. In the second, Professor
Fink has a algorithm to pair lonely men and women.

“Masterpiece:
Inspector Lewis,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Who
knew there was this much dirt in a classics department? In this
rerun, Hathaway – once a classics student, now a cop – is
fascinated: There's a phony professor, a fraudulent book, blackmail,
affairs and brutal murders.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Eliabeth faces crises at work
– the possible whereabouts of the most-wanted terrorist – and at
home: Her daughter brings home her new boyfriend.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of the episode that brought
Mike Miller (Jason Sudeikis) to Earth. An astronaut, he fears he's
the last person alive ... unaware that his brother (Will Forte) has a
tiny gathering of survivors.

“The Jim Gaffigan
Show,” 10 p.m., TV Land. Last week's episode (rerunning at 10:33)
was the middle of a three-parter, with a star bringing Jim to
Hollywood. In this one, Jim tries to help his friend Dave.

TV column for Saturday, July 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hell on Wheels” finale, 9 p.m., AMC, repeating at 11:05 p.m. and
1:15 a.m.

The transcontinental
railroad, it seems, was built from muscle and murder, cunning and
corruption. “Dreams don't come pretty,” rail magnate Thomas
Durant says here.

The final season
(rerunninng from 5:15 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) has seen it completed; in
this quietly superb finale, the golden spike is pounded and lives
must change. Cullen meets Custer and Grant and others he fought in
the Civil War. He's a hero, but he's shattered physically and
emotionally; the women he loved are gone – one killed, one with
someone else, one returned to China. A rugged life pushes forward.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rush Hour” return, 9 p.m., CBS.

This seemed like a
fine idea at the time: After its Thursday comedies, CBS kept abruptly
shifting to 10 p.m. dramas; why not try action-comedy, the sort that
works so well in movies?

In four “Rush
Hour” films, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker played mismatched cops;
for this TV version, Jon Foo and Justin Hires took over. Alas, the
result was only so-so, ratings drooped and “Rush Hour” was
shelved. Now CBS has five new hours left to show us in the summer,
when they might seem like solid entertainment. First, a prisoner has
escaped and his estranged wife and daughter are missing.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Live From Comic-Con” finale, 8 p.m., Syfy.

Scan box-office
results or TV listings and it's clear that the nerd culture has won;
it's become one of the strongest forces in show business. This San
Diego event is now a centerpoint of pop culture.

So Syfy has a stage
there, where Will Arnett does interviews and shows clips. It
sandwiches that with “Clash of the Titans” (2010) at 5:30 and 9
p.m.; other fantasy films abound today -- “Hunger Games” (2013),
5:30 p.m., Freeform; “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe” (2005),
7:30 p.m. ET, BBC America; “Star Trek” (2009), 8 p.m., FX;
“Divergent” (2014), 8 p.m., TNT; “Wolverine” (2009), 8 p.m.,
MTV.

Other choices
include:

“The Bourne
Identity” (2002), 8-11 p.m., NBC. Six days before “Jason Bourne”
reaches theaters, NBC gives us the original – a slick, smart
thriller about a guy (Matt Damon) robbed of his memory.

“Angel From Hell,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Allison is supposed to be the only one who
knows Amy is her guardian angel; now they accidentally record a
conversation about it on her dad's machine. In the second episode,
Amy must break up someone's wedding, in order to keep Allison's
future intact.

“Last Man
Standing” return, 8 p.m., ABC. After three months on the shelf,
this show and “Dr. Ken” finally get some summer reruns. Tonight,
Mike's new obsession is a collection of miniature tanks; also, the
Outdoor Man restaurant, supervised by his daughter, has just received
a scathing review.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:31
p.m., ABC. Here's a tough task for Ken (Ken Jeong): He's supposed to
speak at a banquet honoring the handsome and successful guy who was
once the boyfriend of Ken's now-wife.

“American West,”
10 p.m., AMC. Last week ended with Billy the Kid in jail. Don't count
him out yet; tonight's hour of this excellent documentary series
continues the story, to his final encounter with Pat Garrett. Others
are on the move – Wyatt Earp to Tombstoe, Sitting Bull returning to
the U.S.

“Looking: The
Movie,” 10-11:30 p.m., HBO. For two seasons, “Looking” followed
Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a videogame designer in San Francisco. His
career went well, his gay romances did not; he moved to Denver. Now
the story concludes: Returning to town nine months later for a
wedding, Patrick sees his former lovers and his former roommates.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. For the second straight week, someone
doubles as host and music guest. Last week's rerun had Drake; this
one has Miley Cyrus.

TV column for Thursday, July 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Republican convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and cable.

This strange
presidential season has drawn huge ratings. Now comes a key step,
with Donald Trump's acceptance speech. Will it be the muzzled Trump,
reading a Teleprompter? The chaotic one, meandering about? People
will be watching variously with fondness, disgust or mere curiosity.

The big networks
will limit coverage, but PBS will fill primetime. The cable news
networks will focus heavily and Comedy Central adds a fresh touch –
tonight's “Daily Show” (11 p.m.), will be live.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Life in Pieces,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Ann Guilbert's TV
comedy career spanned 56 years, peaking with regular roles on top
series. She was Laura's friend Millie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
and Fran's grandmother Yetta on “The Nanny.”

Before her death
last month at 87, Guilbert's final two roles were on “Life in
Pieces,” as the kids' great-grandmother. Tonight, Tyler takes his
sexy girlfriend to see her. Also, his annoying Uncle Mikey (Greg
Grunberg of “Heroes”) visits, setting everyone on edge.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” 10 p.m., FX.

At first, this seems
like your typical episode – lots of brash talk, lots of attitude, a
little music, a fair amount of humor. Then, in the midst of it, is a
truly brilliant scene.

The bass player,
Rehab, has written a 29-song cycle about the potato famine. He and
Bam Bam (yes, the drummer) meet with actor Campbell Scott. The scene
starts with a fairy-tale coloring book, evolves into a “Hamilton”
obsession; playing a perverse version of himself, Scott is perfect.
The rest – Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) being overwrought – is
clever, but familiar; the Scott scene is dryly hilarious.

Other choices
include:

“Bones”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Fox. This oft-pleasant drama dives deep into
the darkness tonight. “The Puppeteer,” who turns his corpses into
marionettes, is back and seems to obsess on Brennan. It's a good
story – especially for viewers who have been with “Bones” from
the start – but a frustrating one. There are lots of red herrings
and false alarms, followed by a cliffhanger until next season.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. A small dispute between Sheldon and Leonard
keeps growing, forcing everyone else to take a side.

“Live From
Comic-Con,” 8 p.m., Syfy. Once just a specialized oddity, San
Diego's event has become a centerpoint of pop culture For each of the
next three days, Will Arnett wiil interview stars on an outdoor stage
and introduce clips.

“Greatest Hits,”
9 p.m., ABC. This jumps to 1990-95, complete with Boyz II Men's
“Motownphilly,” En Vogue's “Free Your Mind,” Seal's “Kiss
From a Rose” and Montell Jordan's “This Is How We Do It.” Then
there are newer stars: Alessia Cara does U2's “One” and Little
Big Town does Oasis' “Wonderwall”; Bonnie Raitt and Audra Day
have cross-generation duets -- Raitt's “Love Sneakin' Up On You”
(a 1995 Grammy-nominee) and Day's 2016 “Rise Up.”

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 9 p.m., CW. Annalynne McCord (“90210”) guests as a sey
operative. Vincent is undercover with her when Cat, his wife, learns
she's an assassin.

“Home Free,” 9
p.m., Fox. This is down to its final four contestants. Each will win
a home for a personal hero, but on Aug. 4, the winner will get the
best home AND $100,000.

“Queen of the
South,” 10 p.m., USA. After seeing a horrific event, Teresa must
push her plans forward. Also, her friend Brenda has reached Dallas
safely, but needs money; she creates a makeshift drug ring.

TV column for Wednesday, July 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Republican convention, 10 p.m. ET, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS ... or dramas,
10 p.m., cable.

It's a key night for
the convention, with vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence speakig.
The big networks again hope to limit it to an hour, but others will
step in: PBS fills all of prime time; cable news obsesses all day.
And “The Daily Show” is there in Cleveland, at 11 p.m. on Comedy
Central.

The complication in
many time zones? On cable, the 10 p.m. slot has suddenly become a
treasure chest, with enough great dramas to exhaust your recorder
device. We'll eye them individually.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Mr. Robot,” 10:01 p.m., USA.

Last week was big
for this terrific show. There was a great, two-hour debut Wednesday,
followed by four Emmy nominations (including best drama series and
Rami Malek as best actor) the next morning.

Elliot (Malek) is
still trying to shed the imaginary nemesis – in the physical form
of his late father – who pushed him to hack banks and shatter the
economy; it isn't easy. His old friend Angela gets an inside view of
E Corp. And after forcing E Corp to burn $5 million, hackers may be
going too far.

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

Two moments tonight
pack fierce power. The first comes as a total surprise; we won't
spill any details. The second focuses on the crisis that began last
week.

Barry, formerly a
Pasadena pediatrician, has reluctantly followed the family business,
becoming temporary president of his Middle Eastern homeland. Now his
daughter has been kidnapped; rebels insist she'll only be traded for
his wife. Stark and startling, it's a key moment in a great series.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “The A Word,” 10 p.m., Sundance.

In last week's
opener, we met well-meaning people in small-town England, including
parents who kept denying that 5-year-old Joe is autistic. That denial
– straining viewers' patience – was a rare flaw in a smart and
subtle series; now we're past that and “A Word” gets deeper and
richer.

Joe's mom wants him
home-schooled; his dad suggests a live-in facility. His uncle has his
own worries, in the aftermath of his wife's affair during her medical
residency; now she's jobless, in a town where a potential employer
dislike her. These are interesting people, groping with changing
lives.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Suddenly, everything in that well-stocked pantry has a
price tag; contestants have $20 (and five minutes of shopping time),
then must create four entree dishes.

“Ghostbusters”
(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 8 and 10:30 p.m., AMC. Yes,
the new “Ghostbusters” movie is a delight. But so were these two
originals, rerunning here.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., Freeform. As Ben prepares to go out with Sam (Daniella
Monet of “Victorious”), they're clearly not in sync: She's
thinking elaborate date, he's thinking immediate sex. Also: Tucker's
dad wants to date a young co-worker ... unaware she's already
Tucker's lover.

“Wayward Pines,”
9 p.m., Fox. Tonight, we learn how Pilcher – the founder of this
human refuge in the future – found his “chosen one.” Also, Theo
and Xander react to Jason's fatal error.

“Modern Family”
and “Black-ish,” 9 and 9:31 p.m., ABC. Oddly, these are the only
broadcast-network shows to get best-series Emmy nominations this
year. In tonight's reruns, Phil feels left out when his wife is
running the closet company; Diane makes a documentary about her
brother and basketball.

“Greenleaf,” 10
p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Yes, there's yet another strong 10 p.m.
cable drama. You can catch its three previous episodes from 7-10
p.m., then watch Mac prepare to be named Memphis man of the year,
while squirming: The IRS continues its audit; Grace continues to
probe his involvement in sex abuse and her sister's suicide. Also,
the church matriarch's father suddenly arrives.