TV column for Monday, Sept. 7

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

For the second
straight year, TV's best comedy is spending two months in exile. CBS'
early-season football games will take over seven Thursdays; “Big
Bang” slides to Mondays, then returns to Thursdays – alongside
some well-rested shows – in November.

There's still a “Big
Bang” rerun this Thursday, but CBS decided to start the Monday move
early. In tonight's rerun, someone arrives claiming to be Wolowitz's

II: “Empire,” noon to midnight, FX.

Just as some people
were ignoring the broadcast networks last year, “Empire” soared.
It jumped to the top of the Nielsen ratings and got quick honors. The
Television Critics Association named it program of the year; Taraji
Henson received awards (Critics Choice, BET) and nominations (Emmy,

Now here's a chance
to see (or record) the 12-hour first season, before the second starts
Sept. 23.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Civil War” debut, 9-11 p.m., PBS.

It was on Sept. 23,
1990 – 25 years ago, minus a couple weeks – that PBS had a
breakthrough moment, debuting this series. Ken Burns had been doing
splendid documentaries for a decade, but nothing like this, a
sprawling, 10-hour epic that still captured deeply intimate emotions.

Burns has returned
with more gems on subjects light (jazz, baseball) and heavy (the Dust
Bowl, Prohibition, World War II), elevating PBS' profile. Now, in
this 150th-anniversary year of the war's end, the network
replays the film over five nights. It opens with a look at why it all

ALTERNATIVE II: “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Last week, viewers
ousted Megz Alfonso, a hip hop dancer, and Jim Nowakowski, an
impressive ballet star. Now the final four will each do three numbers
– one solo, one with another finalist and one with an “all-star”
from the past. Viewers will vote and a champion will be named next

The “Team Stage”
finalists are from places that are steady sources of great dance --
Miami (Gaby Diaz, 19) and Utah (Hailee Payne, 20). “Team Street”
has finalists who have already soared: Virgil Gadson, 28, had a year
on Broadway; Jaja Vankova, 23, was in an “America's Best Dance
Crew” champion.

Other choices

“Real Housewives
of Orange County,” 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Bravo. In a change, Bravo has
a rerun marathon. That leads to a new episode at 9 p.m. (the
aftermath of Tamra's sex party) and to the “Ladies of London”
season-opener at 10 (the aftermath of Annabelle's accident).

“Z Nation,” 1
p.m. to 2 a.m., Syfy. Lest we feel there just aren't enough zombies
on TV, Syfy gives us this entire first season, setting up the
second-season debut Friday.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The two-Monday finale begins in Las

Football, 8 p.m. ET,
ESPN. Last year, the only blemish on Ohio State's championship season
was a loss to Virginia Tech, as its back-up quarterback was breaking
in. Now here's a shot at revenge, at Tech.

“CBS Fall
Preview,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Jane Lynch hosts this special, which may
claim that CBS' new shows are very good. Surprisingly, some
(especially “Code Black” and “Life in Pieces”) really are.

“Bachelor in
Paradise” finale, 9 p.m., ABC. Couples get their final chance to
try the overnight “fantasy suites.” With “The Whispers”
concluded, this show and its “After Paradise” follow-up (10:01
p.m.) were nudged back an hour; a “Shark Tank” rerun taks the 10
p.m. slot.

“Running Wild With
Bear Grylls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Football star Drew Brees tries the
Panama jungle.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 6

“Masterpiece: Arthur & George,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local

Getting an early
jump on the season, PBS offers an involving blend of fact and

In 1903, George
Edalji – then a a lawyer and a vicar's son -- was convicted of
maiming a pony. Convinced this reflected small-town bias against
someone with Indian roots, Arthur Conan Doyle -- the Sherlock Holmes
creator – pushed for a pardon. Based on a novel, this three-week
tale gives the true story enough fictional twists to hold our
interest. Martin Clunes (“Doc Martin”) plays Doyle.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

It was a tough
summer for this well-made show, as ABC fiddled with its Sunday
line-up. Now – while waiting for its Sept. 21 season opener --
“Castle” gets one chance to rerun the seventh-season finale.

A death in the woods
reminds Rick Castle of a childhood crisis; he soon obsesses, hoping
to answer questions from decades ago. That happens while Kate Beckett
is at a personal crossroads.

ALTERNATIVE: Movies, all day, cable.

You can catch the
dandy “Back to the Future” trilogy today on Syfy; that's at 4
p.m. (1985), 6:30 p.m. (1989) and 9 p.m. (1990). Or try the
“Gremlins” films on CMT, at 5:30 (1984) and 8 p.m. (1990).

There happen be an
abundance of good 8 p.m. choices: Families can try “Descendants”
(2015) on Disney. Others might prefer James Bond's “Casino Royale”
(2006) on BBC America .... early Tom Cruise in “Risky Business”
(1983) on Reelz ... or the epic, Oscar-winning “Titanic” (1997)
on HBO.

Other choices

Animation, all day,
ABC Family. A three-day marathon concludes with great choices.
There's “Tarzan” (1999) at 7:30 a.m., the “Cars” films at
9:30 a.m. (2006) and 12:15 p.m. (2011), “Ratatouille” (2007) at
2:45, “Tangled” (2010) at 5:15, “Finding Nemo” (2003) at 7:30
and “Mulan” (1998) at 10.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 6 and 7:20 p.m., AMC. Even zombies take a holiday break, it
seems. Tonight, AMC simply reruns its first two episodes, both of
them subtle and well-crafted; they also run at 8:30 and 9:59 p.m. and
at 11 p.m. and 12:29 a.m.

“Bachelor Pad,”
8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Ashley I. figures she has the solution to her iffy
romance with Jared: She whisks him away for an overnight date in a
luxury hotel. Guys tend to like that idea.

Sherlock,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Alongside its
new film about Sherlock Holmes' creator, PBS will air reruns from the
2014 season. This one is “The Empty Hearse”; Sherlock's brother
calls him back to London to probe a terrorist group.

“The Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. This rerun brings another setback for Phil:
The four survivors on the cul de sac decide to have a new vote for
president of the United States.

“The Strain,” 10
p.m., FX. With AMC in reruns tonight, some viewers will feel a
zombie/vanpire gap. Not to worry; here's a new hour, with Justine
battling a surprise invasion and Eph and Setrakian facing an old foe.
And at 1 p.m. Monday, Syfy will rerun the first season of “Z

“Vicious,” 10:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). The gang tries ballroom dancing,
leading to the usual – lots of sniping, lots of jokes that would be
way too broad, if they weren't handled by such gifted pros. And stick
around, because the half-hour ends with a surprisingly warm, pivotal

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 5

“Hawaii Five-0,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Why would anyone be
so rude as to kill an Elvis impersonator? There was a good reason, it
seems: Real diamonds were hidden among the sequins in his outfit.

This rerun is set at
an Elvis-impersonator convention, making things mote complicated.
Some of the characters listed include Kung-Fu Elvis, Trans Elvis,
Grandpa Elvis and Plain Clothes Elvis.

College football, everywhere.

The first weekend of
the season is packed, even grabbing prime time on two broadcast
networks. At 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC has Texas at Notre Dame (ranked No.
11); at 8, ABC has the lone battle between ranked teams – Wisconsin
(No. 20) and Alabama (No. 3), at a neutral site in Texas.

The networks are
also busy in the afternoon, with 3:30 p.m. games: CBS has Louisville
at Auburn (No. 6); Fox has Virginia at UCLA (No. 13). And there's
much more on cable, starting with Stanford (No. 21) at Northwestern,
at noon ET on ESPN.

Disney animation, ABC Family.

While their elders
scream about football, kids can savor some animated hits.

That starts with the
“Cars” films, at 11:30 a.m. (2006) and 2:15 p.m. (2011). They're
followed by “Ratatoille” (2007) at 4:45, “Tangled” (2010) at
7:15, “Finding Nemo” (2003) at 9:30 and “Tarzan” (1999) at
midnight. Don't stay up; “Tarzan” also launches a new marathon,
at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Other choices

(1984), 1, 6 and 11 p.m., Sundance. Bill Murray's carteer flashes
before us; we see him at 33 in this delight ... and at 63 in “St.
Vincent” (2014) on Showtime. The latter -- an alternately funny and
moving story of a lonely boy and his odd neighbor – got a Golden
Globe nomination for best comedy. Also, Sundance has “Ghostbusters
II” (1989) at 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

“Bullseye,” 8
p.m., Fox. Here's a rerun of the first episode, with contestants
trying offbeat target shoots. A “Home Free” rerun follows at 9.

“Fresh Dressed,”
8 and 10 p.m., CNN (barring a pre-emption for news). If you missed
this interesting (if overstuffed) documentary Thursday, catch it
tonight. It starts with the emegence of hip hop music in 1980s New
York, then sees the transformation of dance, art and (especially)
fashion. We meet designers, trendsetters and music people --
including Sean Combs, Russell Simmons and Pharrell Williams – plus
Daymond John, who went from street-inspired fashions to “Shark

“Blunt Talk,” 9
p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10 and 11. The pilot film and the second
episode (which reruns at 8:25 p.m.) were terrific; this one is kind
of scattered. Walter (Patrick Stewart) heads to Alcoholics Anonymous,
promptly detouring. His staffers chase their own addictions, some
funny and some not.

Remorse,” 9:30 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:30 and 11:30. When the
mom plans some intimate surgery, the family gets way too involved in
the discussion. It's always frank and sometimes funny, but viewers
may agree with Cam: “Can we promise never to talk about this

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m. (or later, with football overrun), NBC. Woody
Harrelson hosts this rerun, with Kendrick Lamar as music guest.

Previews, 11:30
p.m., Fox. After some tough years, Fox has a solid set of new shows
this fall. Now it has mini-previews, with “Scream Queens” at
11:30, “Minority Report” at 11:36, “Rosewood” at 11:42,
“Grandfathered” at 11:48 and “Grandfathered” at 11:54.


TV column for Friday, Sept. 4

“American Masters,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

After a slow
century, tennis finally became integrated. The U.S. Open (continuing
1-6 p.m. today on ESPN, 6-11 p.m. on ESPN2) is played in Arthur Ashe
Stadium, named for the first black male champion; it focuses on
Serena Williams, the black superstar chasing a rare “calendar grand

But we should also
pause and see where this started. Althea Gibson began life on her
dad's five-acre cotton farm. She moved to Harlem with her family and
discovered tennis in the street. Long (5-foot-11) and lean, agile and
fiercely competitive, she broke barriers and won. It's a great story,
skillfully told.

II: “One Hundred and One Dalmations” (1961) and “The Jungle
Book” (1967), 7 and 9 p.m., ABC Family.

A holiday weekend
stuffed with Disney cartoons starts with two classics from a
half-century ago.

“Dalmations” is
a fun trifle, with cute pups and one of the great animated villains,
Cruella De Vil. “Jungle Book” ripples with great songs from
Richard and Robert Sherman, the “Mary Poppins” guys, who would go
on to fill more Disney movies for decades.

ALTERNATIVE: “Hand of God,” any time, Amazon Prime.

For five fierce
seasons, Ron Perlman was the unbending patriarch on “Sons of
Anarchy.” Somehow, he's now found a show that almost matches that
in brutality, cynicism and powerful drama.

He plays Judge
Harris, whose mind has blurred since a suicide attempt left his son
in a coma; now he's convinced that God is sending him instructions
for vengeance. The one flaw of “Hand” is its lack of variety; it
imagines a world in which virtually everyone is selfish and cruel.
Still, it's told through sharp writing and great actors, led by
Perlman, Dana Delany and Garret Dillahunt.

Other choices

Football, 7 and
10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. As a warm-up for the first Saturday of the college
season, here's a doubleheader. Baylor, ranked No. 4, visits Southern
Methodist; Boise State, No. 23, hosts Washington.

“Elementary,” 8
p.m., CBS. A night of CBS reruns starts with the case of a murdered
judge. The prime suspect is someone who escaped from a privatized

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. In a rerun, the final five chefs face two “mystery box”
challenges, concocting things from mismatched ingredients.

“Strike Back,” 8
p.m. to midnight, Cinemax. For five seasons, this show has had
high-octane action and high body counts. Now it takes a holiday
break, rerunning the first five shows of its final season.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. This rerun finds Fish plotting her escape and Gordon
investigating the Ogre. Also, Bruce and Selena (the futue Batman and
Catwoman) confront Reggie.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. Think of this as a rougher version of “The Hangover.”
Three married men – Jaleel White, Pauly Shore and Kevin Farley –
wake up in their hotel room with a slain woman and no memory of what

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Someone has confessed to the murder of a celebrity
chef, but Danny suspects he's taking the rap for someone else. Also,
Peter Coyote plays a senator who wants Danny's dad, the police
commissioner, to make a DUI charge disappear.


TV column for Thursday, Sept. 3

“Mistresses” and “Rookie Blue” season-finales, 9 and 10 p.m.,

ABC wraps up its
strong summer-Thursday line-up with a reminder that things rarely end

On “Mistresses,”
Calista is behind bars and Joss is free ... but is starting to wonder
if the real killer isn't still out there; also, Harry (her lover, her
sister's ex-husband) has an out-of-town job offer. And on “Rookie
Blue,” Andy finally reaches her wedding day with Sam ... except
that someone stole her car and she's at the side of the road; also,
he has an uninvited guest.

II: “Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Next week's
season-finale will see the end of the dome ... but that doesn't bring
easy solutions.

Tonight, Hektor
(Eriq LaSalle) insists anyone infected must never be allowed out of
the dome; Big Jim, whose son is infected, disagrees. There are
warnings that if people don't do something, they'll suffocate as the
dome fades. And Barbie (Mike Vogel) scrambles to get the half-alien
baby he had with Eva.

“Partners in Crime,” any time,

Back in 1922 –
long before Nick-and-Nora or“Hart to Hart” or “McMillan &
Wife,” Agatha Christie introduced the notion of a crimesolving
husband and wife. Tuppence and Tommy had PBS “Mystery” tales from
1984-7; this time, they're played by Jessica Raine (“Call the
Midwife”) and David Walliams.

These fun stories
are now set in the early 1950s. He's a war veteran who wants to
settle down; she savors adventure, especially after a train passenger
disappears. The first two hours are available today, with the final
hour next Thursday; a second (and better) three-parter then arrives
over three weeks.

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

We already have
“mumblecore,” a minimalist style of acting and filmmaking; now
here's “normcore”: Musicians dress up like they're at the mall
and do ... well, very little.

That's one of
several funny notions tossed around by Denis Leary, who wrote,
directed and stars as an over-the-hill rocker with a talented
daughter. Now he wants to manipulate her dating life via reverse
English; also, their bandmates want to duck the perpetual anonymity
of a drummer and a bass player.

Other choices

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has some fairly funny moments when
Sheldon and Leonard try to sneak onto George Lucas' “Skywalker
Ranch” ... and some very funny ones when Bernadette schemes to get
rid of Howard's impressive “Dr. Who” artifact.

“Mom,” 8:31
p.m., CBS. Bonnie feels the aftermath of her pill addiction. She's
doing community service and she argues so often with Christy that
they've worn out their welcome. None of this sounds very funny, but
it is, with zingy writing and perfect performances.

“Fresh Dressed,”
9 p.m., CNN, repeats at 10:45; also, 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday. As hip
hop music emerged in 1980s New York, we're told, it changed
everything – dance, music, art and (especially) fashions. This
documentary has huge range, interviewing people who are famous --
Sean Combs, Russell Simmons, Daymond John, Pharrell Williams – or
should be. That range is both its strength and weakness, as it
strains to go in so many directions in one crowded film.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:32 p.m., Lifetime. After a condensed rerun of last week's sow at
8, we see the designers in a paint-gun battle, to determine who gets
the first choices of fabrics.

“Graceland,” 10
p.m., USA. Trying to stop a gang war, Johnny goes undercover.

“Married,” 10:30
p.m., FX. The Mother's Day meal isn't going so well here. Lena and
her teen daughter are fighting; both stay outside, as Russ fidgets.
The result is sometimes funny and sometimes just sad.