TV column for Sunday, June 29

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Last Ship,” 9 p.m., TNT.

Jack Bender is the new hero of summer TV. On consecutive
nights, credits list him as director and executive producer of this episode and
Monday’s “Under the Dome” season-opener. Both show the touch that Bender
flashed with “Lost” – taut and muscular, yet solidly intelligent.

In last week’s opener, the world was encased in a deadly
epidemic. A Navy destroyer includes survivors, a doctor (Rhona Mitre) working
on a cure, her assistant (spying for the Russians) and a classic captain (Eric
Dane). Now they search for food, fuel and medical supplies, in a great hour
with the Bender touch.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “The Musketeers,” 9-10:30 p.m., BBC

Imagine stuffing an entire swashbuckler movie into one TV
episode. “Musketeers” does that tonight, with flashing swords, plus schemes,
pistols, dynamite and French royalty.

Last week, Musketeers met D’Artagnon, a skilled fighter who
(in the TV tradition) charms women and resists orders. Now he’s in big trouble;
stick around for a complex story and (literally) explosive finish.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Reckless” debut, 9 p.m., CBS.

For cable, tonight is stuffed with high quality and dark
deeds – people are dying or disappearing or fighting aliens and vampires and
more. CBS, however, goes the opposite way.

A sampling indicates no effort at quality – we get
soap-looking actors in a soap-style plot – but lots of cotton-candy diversion: A
Charleston, S.C., cop was fired after being filmed during group sex; she says
she was drugged and has hired a Yankee beauty to defend her. Corruption charges

Other choices include:

“Last Tango in Halifax” season-opener, 8 p.m., PBS (check
local listings). Alan and Celia (played by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, 75 and
79) see their romance deepen, while the lives of their offspring wobble.

“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). A
four-week season of “Endeavour” begins. This one starts with young Endeavour Morse
returning to work, four months after his near death.

“True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO. Remember when this rippled with
romance and cross-cultural tolerance? In tonight’s messy hour, fear and hatred
soar after the attacks by a rogue band of vampires.

“Nurse Jackie” season-finale, 9 p.m., Showtime. For six
seasons, Jackie’s pill addictions have taken her deeper into decline. Now the
lies and schemes are collapsing, in a tough, disturbing episode.

“Californication” series finale, 9:30, Showtime. Hank has
spent seven seasons undermining his work and his relationship with his true
love and their daughter. Things got worse this year, when he met an old
girlfriend and a grown son. This episode -- despite a clumsy detour involving
his friends – ends neatly.

“Unforgettable” season-opener, 10 p.m., CBS. This solid
series returns, with Poppy Montgomery as the cop who remembers everything.
Tonight, a murder case leads to a counterfeit ring run by an assassin.

“Falling Skies,” 10 p.m., TNT. Confined to a prison camp and
a “re-education” center, Tom Mason and his sons find ways to fight back, in a
tough, solid episode.

“The Leftovers” debut, 10 p.m., HBO. The first few minutes –
we won’t spoil anything here – are compelling. The rest is merely OK, as a
complex series settles in.

TV column for Saturday, June 28

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

In her first two turns as “SNL” host, Melissa McCarthy got Emmy
nominations. And this third time, with Imagine Dragons as music guest? There’s
nothing special for her, but a great moment for Seth Meyers.

As he ended his brilliant run as head writer and “Weekend
Update” anchor, Meyers was converged on by alumni Amy Poehler, Bill Hader (in
his Stefon character) and Andy Samberg. There were big laughs.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs,” 8-10
p.m., Lifetime.

In his church, Warren Jeffs was listed as “president and
prophet, seer and revelator”; in the FBI, he was listed as one of the 10 most
wanted. He faced sexual charges in Utah and Arizona, then was convicted in
Texas of (at age 55) having sex with girls who were 15 and 12.

Jeffs has been profiled in documentaries (including “The Man
with 80 Wives”), but here’s a scripted version. Tony Goldwyn – who plays the
president in “Scandal” – stars and (in the tradition of his grandfather, father
and brother) is also one of the producers.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC.

After floundering for years, NBC finally came up with a
successful scripted show. In its first season, “Blacklist” received a Golden
Globe nomination (for James Spader) and strong ratings.

Now the reruns are on summertime Saturdays, including this
one, filled with twists and scams. Jennifer Ehle – a Tony-winner like her mom,
Rosemary Harris – plays an ex-lover of Red (Spader), who wants him to join her
scam. Soon, two cunning souls are outsmarting each other. Some of this defies
belief, but along the way we get hints about the troubled past and present of
Liz (Megan Boone), Red’s FBI handler.

Other choices include:

“Penny Dreadful,” 5 p.m to midnight, Showtime. Here’s a
fresh look at the beautifully filmed start of this series, with Josh Hartnett
as an American showman (pretending to be a hot-shot cowboy), lured by Eva Green
and Timothy Dalton into a creepy London underworld. This sets up Sunday’s

 “Bet On Your Baby,” 8
p.m., ABC. Can a grandmother guess which of the four toys a baby will choose?
Can a 3-year-old follow his dad through an obstacle course in 60 seconds? Such
challenges offer $5,000 prizes and a shot at a $50,000 college fund.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of the October
episode that temporarily brought back Terry O’Quinn. Catherine’s surveillance
job turns deadly and Adam considers a sacrifice to save Kono.

“When Sparks Fly,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. Meghan Markle (who
plays Rachel in “Suits”) stars in the story of a big-city reporter who returns
home to do a story about a small-town 4
th of July.

“Power,” 9 p.m., Starz. After meeting and flirting with his
old high school love Angela, Ghost finally admits he’s married and has kids. He
doesn’t admit, of course, that he’s a drug kingpin. She may find out; as an
assistant district attorney, she’s monitoring a meeting of drug bosses.

“Almost Royal,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., BBC America. Last week,
this show – with fictional British royalty meeting real Americans – had a hilarious
opener and an OK second episode. Tonight, that opener reruns at 10:30, after a
new episode that takes the fake royals to Texas, to meet cowboys.

TV column for Friday, June 27

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Girl Meets World” debut, 9:45 p.m.,
Disney Channel.

Two decades ago, families watched comedies – pleasantly
adequate ones, mostly – together, Fridays on ABC. Now – in an era of separate TV’s
and cable-kid-comedies – Disney tries an interesting variation.

“Boy Meets World” spent seven so-so seasons on Fridays, with
Ben Savage as Cory, Danielle Fishel as brainy Topanga and William Daniels as
their teacher and principal. Now the same producers, writers and stars are
back, with Daniels, 87, as guest star. Cory and Topanga married during “Boy”; now
she’s a lawyer and he’s a teacher, with a daughter (in his history class) and
son. A sampling seems promising.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Rake” return, 9 p.m., Fox.

After forgetting it for almost three months, Fox offers the
final episode of this once-promising series.

Keegan (Greg Kinnear) must scramble, when a man (Brian
Baumgartner of “The Office”) and his mom each confess to the same murder. Also,
as usual, Keegan’s life is a shambles. He knows the guy whom Mikki is dating;
also, he’s shadowed by an annoying kid from the win-a-day-with-a-lawyer

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “La Boheme,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local

Back in 1981, Franco Zeffirelli staged a lavish “La Boheme,”
using all three of the Metropolitan Opera’s rotating stages. Now that staging
has been re-created … but with some extra backstage drama.

When the scheduled star had the flu, the Met turned that
morning to Kristine Opolais. She had sung the role in Berlin, Vienna and her native
Latvia and will do it next year at the Met; now, however, she was stepping in
the night after doing “Madama Butterfly.” She seems (to these untrained ears)
perfect; she and Vittorio Grigolo inhabit a story (with English subtitles)
that’s gorgeous and heartbreaking.

Other choices include:

“The Normal Heart” (2014), 7:15 p.m., HBO. Here’s another
chance to see this passionately written and beautifully acted story of agony
and inaction, in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

“MasterChef,” 8 p.m., Fox. In a change, Fox reruns Monday’s
hour. First, teams prepare seafood meals for a beachfront wedding; then members
of the losing team make traditional steak-and-fries meals.

“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Danny (Scott
Caan) trying to re-unite his parents, played by Melanie Griffith and Tom
Berenger. (Caan’s real-life dad, James, had a different role two seasons ago.)
Meanwhile, the team tackles a case in which a girl was taken from her home and her
father was shot.

“Cold Justice,” 9 p.m., TNT. The season’s second episode of
this solid, non-fiction show finds the women probing the murder of a promising
fashion designer in Waller County, Texas.

“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. As they probe a bombing, Danny
and his police partner (Donnie Wahlberg and Maria Ramirez) face community
resistance. Also in this rerun, Frank (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner,
faces his own community troubles, after someone slugs an intense cop.

“Crossbones,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Coyle isn’t sure who is more
dangerous – the pirate he’s spying on (played by John Malkovich) or the English
officer who sent him (Julian Sands).

TV column for Thursday, June 26

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “NY Med” season-opener, 10 p.m., ABC.

In a TV world of low-budget reality, this diligent series
stands out. Every two years, it takes us inside a hospital, for a deep look at
the medical crises and the human details.

Now we’re in a Manhattan hospital with prestigious doctors
(including Mehmet Oz) and a Newark one with gunshot victims. Tonight, a stage
actor, suddenly stricken, hovers near death. A passionate nurse is instantly
fired for a photo and sardonic comment in social media. And a 28-year-old
doctor finds humor in her residency duty of helping older men who have penile

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

In the season’s second episode, the makeover takes shape.
Nolan has found Irisa (the alien he’s raised since childhood), unaware of the
evil force inside her; now they’re back in Defiance.

He used to be the sort-of-sheriff there, when it had a good
mayor (played by Julie Benz) and good intentions. Now the Earth Republic is in
charge and she’s the assistant to a slickly scheming mayor. The show’s best
addition is Jessica “Berlin” Rai, a soldier with a sharp ability to pierce
Nolan’s cowboy façade. Tonight, amid a bomb and threats, the characters

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN.

Two days after PBS’ powerful “Freedom Summer,” CNN tries a
bigger task – a decade of civil rights struggles, packed into two crowded
hours. We get a roller-coaster of triumphs and tragedies.

For a time, the movement slowed; then came a confrontation in
Selma, Ala.: Police had dogs, clubs and fire hoses; marchers had public
opinion. A profound change was coming (slowly) to the U.S.

Other choices include:

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a rerun of a
terrific Valentine-time episode. Two couples go to wine country, while another
rushes Raj’s dog to the veterinarian’s office.

“Blazing Saddles” (1974), 8-10 p.m., AMC. Mel Brooks’ classic
– giving wondrous twists to cowboy cliches – tops a good night for cable
movies. “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006, 7:30 p.m., AMC) is a sleek, smart
comedy-drama; “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004, 8 p.m., USA) is a high-octane adventure.

“Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. On a citywide project to seize
items bought with money obtained illegally, Andy (Missy Peragrym) gets a confession
that seems too easy. She tries to get to the bottom of it.

“Rectify,” 9 p.m., Sundance. The season’s second hour finds a
comatose Daniel drifting into fantasies about his prison life, before his
murder sentence was vacated. Some people don’t want his attackers found, but a
cop persists. Despite the slow, subtle pace, this excellent hour has some big

“Undateable,” 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Now that CBS has
inserted “Big Brother” at 9 p.m., NBC can hope for a bigger chunk of comedy
fans. In tonight’s first episode, Danny manages to foul up his own life; in the
second, he tries to be a peacemaker when Justin’s father (Tom Cavanagh) visits.

“Last Comic Standing,” 10 p.m., NBC. The show has its top 10
comedians and starts giving them challenges. The first involves sketch comedy,
with Cheryl Hines (“Suburgatory”) as mentor.

TV column for Wednesday, June 25

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Big Brother” opener, 8 p.m., CBS.

Imagine spending the summer in a gorgeous home designed to
look like a treehouse. One room has a 20-foot tree sculpture, another has
almost 1,000 bird houses and a bed shaped like a nest. Now imagine you’re with
15 other people, young (mostly) and attractive (presumably) … with cameras

That’s the 16th-season plan, with shows also at
9:01 p.m. Thursdays and 8:01 p.m. Sundays. Tonight, Julie Chen offers changes
in Head of Household rules and introduces housemates – 12 in their 20s, three
in their 30s, one 42. They include the elements of an odd party – a DJ, a
barista, a cop and a minister.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

Two remarkable survivors combine for a delightful hour. One
is David Attenborough, still working 
skillfully at 88; the other is the frog species, still around after more
than 250 million years.

Attenborough began collecting frogs as a boy and filming them
as a young TV guy. Occasionally digging into his archives, he can show us the
biggest frog and the smallest, the ones that virtually walks on water or burrow
in the mud. He shows ones that are deadly or ones that went extinct (in the
wild, at least). He has toads that survive the desert and frogs that survive freezing;
it’s a fascinating hour.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Taxi Brooklyn” debut, 10:01 p.m.,

In a way, “Taxi” (2004) was a boon to TV talk. It squelched
Jimmy Fallon’s acting career and slowed Queen Latifah’s, giving them more time to
start talk shows.

Still, the original French film (1998) was a success and the
concept – a cop working with an odd-but-talented cabbie – was clever, so NBC
tries again. This time, the casting is poor; Chyler Leigh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) is
unconvincing as the cop and Jacky Ido – accustomed to French-language films --
is so-so with dialog. Still, there’s a fairly good story and some zesty chase
scenes through New York.

Other choices include:

“So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. The survivors
of auditions in five cities have their callbacks in Pasadena. Next week, we’ll
see the top 20 each perform in their own styles.

“Young & Hungry” debut, 8 p.m., ABC Family. Once known as
Miley Cyrus’s co-star and Haley Osment’s sister, Emily Osment shows a subtle comedy
touch, in a fairly good tale of an aspiring chef. The phrase “ABC Family” does
seem shaky after she drunkenly sleeps with her perspective employer on the
first night; still, Osment makes that seem young and innocent. Rex Lee (“Entourage”)
adds broader laughs.

“Mystery Girls” debut, 8:30, ABC Family. It sounded like fun
to have two “90210” stars (Tori Spelling and Jenny Garth) play former TV stars,
starting a detective agency. Alas, the pilot film had horrid overacting by
Spelling; the network scheduled it, then made a late switch. It shows a
different episode in which Spelling is almost OK, but Miguel Pinzon (as Nick)
is well beyond awful. And the network’s “family” name takes another beating,
with an episode that’s mostly about a sex tape.

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC. A rerun of the season-opener
has plans for a kid-free week.

“Million Dollar Listing: Miami” debut, 9 p.m., Bravo. We
meet three upscale sales people, including one brushing up on his Russian,
hoping to sell a $6-million penthouse.

“Motive,” 10 p.m., ABC. A blood-soaked crime scene creates
pressure to find a missing bartender.