TV column for Friday, May 29

Competition reruns, 8-10 p.m., NBC and Fox.

This week, networks
launched many of their summertime reality shows; now they give them
instant reruns: NBC repeats Tuesday's opener of “America's Got
Talent”; Fox repeats one show (Tuesday's “Are You Smarter Than a
5th Grader?”) at 8 p.m. and another (Wednesday's
“Bullseye”) at 9.

Before grumbling
about reruns, keep this in mind: In the first eight days of TV's
summer season (through Thursday), NBC had 23 primetime hours of new
shows and two hours of repeats.

II: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

The focus shifts to
Jamie (Will Estes), a young street cop. After intervening in a thug's
abusive relationship with a woman, Jamie becomes the guy's new

Also in this rerun,
his dad (the police commissioner, played by Tom Selleck) has trouble:
His own dad (the former commissioner, Len Cariou) was secretly taped
making insensitive comments.

ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9-11 p.m., PBS (check local

Maybe this is what a
Latvian boy dreams of: It's his opening night as the Boston
Symphony's 15th music director. Five feet away is his wife
(a Latvian opera star), looking and singing splendidly.

That moment comes
early in this concert, with Kristine Opolais singing the love song
from Wagner's “Tristan and Isolde” as Andris Nelsons conducting.
The night starts fairly slowly, but ends powerfully, with two duets
(Opolais and tenor Jonas Kaufmann) and Respighi's “Pines of Rome.”

ALTERNATIVE: “Nightingale,” 9-10:30 p.m., HBO.

Sure, there were
complaints when David Oyelowo didn't get an Oscar nomination for
“Selma.” But that role was limited by Martin Luther King's
guarded public persona; here is a spectacular vehicle.

The early minutes
recall Billy Bob Thornton's dark “Slingblade.” Soon, we see
Oyelowo rage, crumble, revive, scheme, dream and collapse; it's a
stunningly perfect (albeit depressing) one-man movie.

Other choices

“Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), 7 p.m., ABC Family. A strong movie
night starts with the second Potter film, nimbly directed by Chris
Columbus. Also fun (but for grown-ups) is “Forgetting Sarah
Marshall” (2008), at 7:18 p.m. on Bravo.

More movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. FX has action with “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012);
Lifetime has the Whitney Houston story with “Whitney” (2015).

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. You don't expect this amid Hawaiian beauty: One Detroit
hit man has killed another. Also in this rerun, Chin risks his career
to help Danny find money to save his brother.

“What Would You
Do?,” 9 p.m., ABC. Here's return of a smart hidden-camera series
that sets up intriguing ethical situations. John Quinones hosts.

“Marriage Boot
Camp: Reality Stars” opener, 9 p.m., WE. These people were envied
by reality fans. Mike Sorrentino partied on “Jersey Shore”;
Kendra Wilkinson, a former Hugh Hefner girlfriend, had three reality
series and married football pro Hank Baskett. And now? Baskett has
been accused of infidelity. Sorrentino went to rehab, faces tax-fraud
charges and is back with his college girlfriend. This edition also
has people from “Big Brother”, “Basketball Wives” and “Making
the Band.”

“Beyond the
Headlines,” 10:02 p.m., Lifetime. This looks at Whitney Houston's
life. In a way, that helps get us ready for the Saturday-Sunday debut
of the channel's Marilyn Monroe mini-series.

TV column for Thursday, May 28

“Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Often enough, a
mini-series is superior to a series. It can surprise us, stun us; it
can build a character up, then dispose of him abruptly. We were
reminded of that last week when Ethan's only ally (played by Juliette
Lewis) was suddenly captured and executed; that won't be the last
such surprise.

Ethan (Matt Dillon),
a federal agent, is seemingly alone, facing a murderous sheriff
(Terrence Howard), a stern nurse and more. Elsewhere, his wife and
son try to find him; in the town, his former colleague and lover
(Carla Gugino) offers mixed messages. Stick around; more jolts are

II: “Mom,” 9:01 p.m., CBS.

This reruns one of
the episodes that helped nudge “Mom” into the top tier of current

In the
season-opener, we learned that Christy had lost all her money through
gambling (and a post-gambling robbery). Now she's in a motel room
with her mom and kids, trying to convince them that things are fine.
Her mom tries common sense, which is unfamiliar turf for either

ALTERNATIVE: “Aquarius” opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Fact and fiction
co-exist tenuously. We meet Charles Manson in 1967, two years before
his murder spree; a career criminal who's spent half his life in
prisons and such, he obsesses on being a rock star.

Tacked onto that is
the fictional Sam Hodiak (David Duchovney), a cop and a World War II
veteran, unhappy with this new world. A fragile-looking16-year-old
has wandered into Manson's lair; her mother (Hodiak's ex-lover) begs
him to help. The result has its moments, but these first two hours
seem terribly one-note. The same, seething attitude is assigned to
most cops, crooks, the girl's dad and more.

Other choices

“Lip Sync Battle,”
7 p.m. to midnight. Amid a 10-episode marathon, a new 10 p.m. show
has Queen Latifah facing Marlon Wayans. It's surrounded by reruns,
from a 7 p.m. Stephen Merchant vs. Malin Akerman to sibling rivalry
at 11:32, with Derek and Julianne Hough. Jimmy Fallon, whose own show
launched “Battle,” faces Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at 9:30.

“500 Questions,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Here's the finale of the nine-day, 11-hour quiz show.

“Bones,” 8 p.m.,
Fox. In a new episode, the team investigates malice and murder in the
world of cookie-jar collectors. Really. Also, Booth's gambling
addiction causes Brennan to make him move out.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Raj frets while waiting for results of a
space probe he helped launch. Also in this rerun, Leonard and Sheldon
find themselves dress-shopping with Penny and Amy.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode that introduced Geoff Stults
as a retired baseball star. Felix is supposed to ghost-write his
autobiography; Oscar keeps trying to “help.”

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Holmes and Watson are working together again, but there's
a problem: Kitty, his young assistant, keeps getting in the way.

“The Comedians”
and “Louie,” 10 and 10:30 p.m., FX. The short, odd (and sometimes
brilliant) “Louie” season ends with Louis CK on the road.
Fortunately, the clever “Comedians” has five more episodes after
today. Also, FX uses the 11:04 p.m. slot to debut CK's new stand-up
comedy special.

TV column for Wednesday, May 27

“iHeartRadio Country Festival,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

After languishing on
the CW, the “iHeart” specials have moved up to a bigger network
and bigger ratings. This one packs starpower, starting with hosts
Jennifer Nettles and Darius Rucker.

There's much more --
Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert, Justin
Moore, Sam Hunt and Tyler Farr, plus Craig Robinson, disc jockeys,
Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Big & Rich and
Jessie James Decker with her husband, football player Eric Decker.

“”Black-ish,” 9:31 p.m., ABC.

It was a good season
for ABC, with first-year shows that were diverse, distinctive and
clever. Here's one example, rerunning a fairly good pilot film.

Dre (Anthony
Anderson) is an ad man married to a doctor. He has a comfy life ...
and a fear that his kids don't feel their black roots. That's
verified by the fact that his son now wants to be Jewish, so he can
have a bar mitzvah. As a one-shot story, this is terrific; as the
start of an ongoing series, it's OK.

ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local livings).

Viewers like the
long-shots, the underdogs (or underpigs) who beat the odds. So
they'll love the creatures in this dandy rerun. Chris P. Bacon is a
pig whose back legs don't function; Roofus is a golden retriever
who's blind and has two bad legs. They thrive, thanks to both
enthusiasm and technology.

That prosthetic
technology also provides forelegs for a pony, a beak for a swan, and
a tail for an alligator. This gem will make you feel good about
people, science and the power of a positive pig.

Other choices

“The Briefcase”
debut, 8 p.m., CBS. A decade ago, Joe Bergin was laid off from his
corporate job. He and his wife started an ice cream-truck business,
but they're struggling to support their daughters, now 15, 13 and 12.
Suddenly, they're given $101,000; they can keep it all ... or share
some with Dave Bronson, a wounded Iraq veteran whose wife (a nurse)
is expecting their second child. What they don't know is that the
Bronsons face the same choice; it's the first chapter in

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. The nine-day quiz show is on the eve of its finale.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last week's opener chose 22 home cooks. Tonight, they have
their first challenge with “mystery box” ingredients. Then the
elimination round involves baking an apple pie.

debut, 9 p.m., Fox. Sure, it sounds easy to throw yourself toward the
middle of a target. But these people are jumping from an 18-wheel
truck ... or leaping from a helicopter ... or being propelled by a
giant slingshot. And that's just the first round, heading toward a
weekly $50,000 winner.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. This rerun finds the Dunphys vowing to change, after a
near-death experience on a car ride. Claire will be more care-free,
Phil will be a take-charge guy, Luke will fulfill a bucket list and
his sisters will stop fighting. Or not.

“Celebrity Wife
Swap,” 10 p.m., ABC. Verne Troyer, the 2-foot-8 actor who was
Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, swaps with Hines Ward, the former
football star and “Dancing With the Stars” champ.

“Soul Man,”
10:30 p.m., TV Land. While broadcasrt networks obsess on games, cable
has some scripted comedies. Here, Stamps obsesses on a self-help
program. That follows a “Hot and Cleveland” (10 p.m.) with clips
and bloopers. Earier, “Young & Hungry” (8 p.m., ABC Family)
has Gabi tempted to take a Swiss internship

TV column for Tuesday, May 26

“America's Got Talent” and “I Can Do That,” 8 and 10 p.m.,

First is the
season-opener of “Talent,” a ratings hit each summer. The
auditions begin; expect lots of noise, odd moments and occasional

Then is the debut of
its companion piece. Each week, we meet three acts that do amazing
and/or bizarre things; this opener has the Harlem Globetrotters, Penn
& Teller and AirRealistic. Then the six regulars, working in
duos, try to join in. They str dancer Cheryl Burke, comedian Jeff
Dye, actor Alan Ritchson and singers Joe Jonas, Nicole Scherzinger
and Ciara.

“Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” return, 8-9 p.m.,

The important thing
is to skip the first few minutes, when an overzealous introduction
spoils most of the hour. After that, thrtr'd a gentle quiz show,
filled with likable people.

The contestant is a
pastor and the host (Jeff Foxworthy) is a Georgia guy who knows all
the right biblical references. Some questions are absurdly easy. (How
many minutes are between 2:43 and 3? How many states border at least
one other state?) Some are surprisingly tough. (How many planets are
bigger than Earth?) All of it is overhyped, but still offers modest
summer fun.

ALTERNATIVE: “iZombie,” 9 p.m., CW.

Most scripted shows
have closed for the season, but this well-made (and offbeat) show has
three more new episodes. Tonight, things get fairly personal.

The victim is
connected to Major (Liv's former fiancee). In the morgue, she eats
his brains – she does that a lot – to learn more about him; soon,
she's alternating between paranoia and a secret computer.

Other choices

“500 Questions”
(8 p.m.) and “Extreme Weight Loss” (9-11 p.m.), ABC. First the
nine-day quiz show continues, heading to its Thursday conclusion.
Then “Extreme” introduces twins who were 13 when their mother
went to jail, leaving them in charge of two younger sisters. Now
weighing 381 and 378 pounds, these men, 42, start a year-long fitness
program with Chris and Heidi Powell.

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). This chapter of Ken Burns'
superb film starts in 1920, with a then-healthy Franklin Roosevelt as
New York governor with a bright future.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. A rerun night for CBS starts with an explosion at a global
conference. While his team works on it, Gibbs tries to help Fornell
(Joe Spano), who rages after his wife's murder.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Amid Mardi Gras celebrations, there's a
murder to solve. Also, we see the strained relationship between Pride
(Scott Bakula) and his dad (Stacy Keach).

“Hell's Kitchen,”
9 p.m., Fox. The final five chefs have 45 minutes to prepare a
small-plate meal.

“Person of
Interest,” 10 p.m., CBS. Reese had been keeping his identity secret
while working as a police detective. Now his worlds entwine, when
people he's protecting are targes of a police probe.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Enrtitled “Obama at War,” this
hour traces the events since 2011 that found the U.S. forced to work
with a brutal Syrian dictator, to face the even-worse ISIS.

TV column for Monday, May 25

“Driving America,” 9-11 p.m., National Geographic.

With all those
vacant miles, Americans were in a rush to create cars. Oliver Evans
drove a 30-foot, steam-powered boat-on-wheels in 1805; a century
later, Henry Ford mastered the assembly line. Other great inventions
would follow, including motels, drive-ins, windshield wipers and the

Here's a splendid
dash through two centuries of car history. It offers smart narration,
sharp experts (led by pop professor Robert Thomson and writers Larry
Edsall and Hannah Elliott), slick editing and a desire to include
everything -- from artful design to potent engineering, in a nation
in perpetual motion.

“The Bachelorette,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

Last week took care
of the big questions: Guys chose their “bachelorette” -- Kaitlyn
Bristowe, the dance teacher, topping Britt – and she got down to
business. She had her first kiss (Chris, the dentist) and first
make-out session (Shawn B., the personal trainer); then the
dismissals began.

One guy (Ryan M., a
junkyard man) was dismissed early after drinking; another (Brady, a
singer) left to pursue Britt. Kaitlyn dumped four more, including the
part-time exotic dancer and the “amateur sex consultant.”
Tonight, the 19 survivors learn comedy and boxing from Amy Schumer
and Laila Ali.

ALTERNATIVE: “Texas Rising” debut, 9 p.m., History; repeats at

After getting big
ratings with “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible,”
History has another epic tale. Directed bty Roland Joffe (“The
Killing Fields”), the eight-hour story – continuing Tuesday and
next week – tells of the Lone Star revolution and the creation of
the Texas Rangers.

Bill Paxton stars as
Sam Houston. Others include Olivier Martinez (as Gen Santa Anna),
Kris Kristofferson (as Andrew Jackson), , Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta
and Thomas Jane.

ALTERNATIVE II: Memorial-day films, everywhere.

A three-day, 34-film
marathon concludes on Turner Classic Movies, including two war-film
classics -- “From Here to Eternity” (1953) at 12:30 p.m. ET and
“Patton” (1970) at 10:15 p.m. ET. Even better is Steven
Spielberg's triumphant “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), at 6 p.m. on

And there are films
you don't need cable for. At 8 p.m., CW has “Memorial Day”
(2011), with a boy discovering the footlocker of his grandfather
(James Cromwell). At 9, PBS (check local listings) debuts “The
Homefront,” which follows military families.

Other choices

“Blaze and the
Monster Machines,” 11 a.m., Nickelodeon. In the ominous setting of
Dragon Island, a good-hearted monster truck (yes, this is animated)
races the cheating Crusher. We won't reveal the result, but adults
will approve and kids will find it moderately entertaining.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Try-outs begin as fit folks tackle an
obstacle course.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. There are four more nights for this nine-day quiz show.

“Top Gear,” 8-11
p.m., BBC America. It's a big day for vehicles, from “Blaze” to
“Driving America” to “Top Gear,” a wonderfully clever
British series. In this two-parter, the three guys try to drive
across Burma (long closed to Westerners) and literally build a bridge
on the River Kwai.

return, 9 p.m., CBS. After loaning its spot to the failed “Stalker,”
this ratings-success returns. In a rerun, the young geniuses have a
key task: Boost peace talks and prevent World War III.

“Grace of Monaco”
(2014), 9-11 p.m., Lifetime. Nicole Kidman stars as former movie star
Grace Kelly, with Tim Roth as her husband, Prince Ranier of Monaco.

“”The Island”
debut, 10 p.m., NBC. Think of this as “Survivor” without the
gimmicks. Fourteen men – four of them embedded film-crew people –
spend a month on an island, finding their own food. There's a
firefighter and a former police chief, plus a doctor, a lawyer, an
engineer, a shoe salesman and more.