TV column for Friday, Sept. 15


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Academy of Country Music Honors,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

After years as an
off-camera event, this now gives us some summertime starpower.

Taped on Aug. 23,
its honorees ranged from veterans -- Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton,
Reba McEntire, George Strait -- to almost-newcomer Kelsea Ballerini.
They included Toby Keith, Eric Church, radio man Bob Kingsley,
songwriters, the “Nashville” TV show and more. Strait, Keith and
Ballerini performed; so did Brad Paisley, Thomas Rhett, Alan Jackson,
Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “MTV Unplugged,” 8 p.m., MTV.

Bleachers – a
fun/pop group led by Jack Antonoff – performs, joined by singers
Lorde and Carly Rae Jepson. Antonoff – who's also in Fun and Steel
Train – brings his old-school sound to a classic show.

When “Unplugged”
began in 1989, it stirred emotion. This was where Kurt Cobain showed
just how talented he is. It drew Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Mariah
Carey and more. Many people made albums from it; Eric Clapton's won
six Grammys. Then it stopped and hesitantly re-started; there have
been only 11 shows in five years. Now it's back, with Shawn Mendes
last week and Bleachers tonight.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Harry Potter and/or “Lord of the Rings,” cable.

Some cable channels
try to be fresh and different; others simply show a lot of “Potter”
and “Rings.” Fortunately, both series are well-made – smart
stories, great visuals – and sort of worth re-seeing.

Freeform often fills
weekends with “Potter” marathons. Now it confines itself to
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007), the fifth
one, at 7:50 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday. TNT counters with “Lord
of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002), the middle one, at 6 p.m.
today ad 1 p.m. Saturday.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of Tuesday's show, 12 acts
perform. The next night, five of them advanced to the finals; that
will be Tuesday and Wednesday, with 10 acts remaining.

“Big Brother.” 8
p.m., CBS. With no room for the show on Sunday – that's Emmy night
– it borrows a Friday spot. That's for the second-to-last episode,
setting up Wednesday's $500,000 finale.

“Masters of
Illusion,” 8 p.m., CW. A night of magic includes this new
half-hour, plus reruns of “Masters” at 8:30 and “Penn &
Teller: Fool Us” at 9. Both rounds of “Masters” have Scott
Pepper and Murray SawChuck. The new one also has Tommy Wind, Adam
Wylie, Jonathan Pendragon and more.

“Live From Lincoln
Center,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Ballet Hispanico
does two of its classic pieces. “CARMEN.maquia” is a variation on
the opera; “Club Havana” has a hot nightclub.

“Beat Shazam,” 9
p.m., Fox. Contestants include twin brothers, best friends and a
mother-daughter duo. It's a rerun from last week; so is the 8 p.m.
“MasterChef,” which has eight chefs cooking fish.

“Moon Landings
Declassified,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. This views glitches
that the Apollo missions overcame. It follows a new “Mission
Saturn” at 9 p.m. and a “Mission Pluto” reruns at 8.

ALSO: IFC has a
great Martin Scorsese double-feature, with the Oscar-winning
“Departed” (2006) at 4:45 p.m. ET and “Goodfellas” (1990) at
8. Pop has the terrific “The Fugitive” (1993) at 8. And Netflix
has “American Vandal,” an eight-parter – teens probing naughty
graffiti -- spoofing true-crime tales.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 14


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Truth & Lies: The Murder of Laci Peterson,” 9-11 p.m., ABC.

On Christmas Eve of
2002, Laci Peterson was reported missing. A former high school
cheerleader, she was 27 and eight months pregnant; the public found
the case compelling.

Her body was found
four months later and her husband (who was having affairs) was
convicted; almost 15 years later, interest endures. A&E has a
six-part documentary series which will conclude Tuesday; most of it
reruns from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today ... before ABC packs the story
into two hours.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Zoo,” 10 p.m., CBS.

A week from the
season-finale, the story still has a delicate impasse. The hybrid
creatures are still loose, but they're confined by a barrier.

It's a workable idea
... except now our heroes' plane has crashed inside the hybrid zone.
Daniela and Tessa race to try a rescue.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Better Things” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX; reruns
at 11:07.

This keeps defying
TV's traditions and its categories. It's not really a comedy, but is
sometimes quite funny; it's not a drama, but is sometimes quite
moving. It's often slow, often quiet ... and has perhaps the most
inelegant season-opening minute in TV history.

Then why do we keep
watching? Because creator-star Pamela Adlon delivers someone to care
about, a divorced mom semi-managing her three daughters. The middle
one's troubles (shown in a rerun at 10:34 p.m.) are set aside;
instead, we see the 16-year-old, dating a 36-year-old. It's an oddly
fine start.

Other choices
include:

“Naked and
Afraid,” 1 p.m. to 3 a.m., Discovery. Encased by reruns, there's a
special from 8-11 p.m. After a nationwide search, the show chose six
fans for a 14-day adventure.

“Casablanca”
(1942). 6:15 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. Here's the richly
crafted film the American Film Institute called the third best
American film ever, after only “Citizen Kane” and “The
Godfather.” It leads a great movie night that includes “Saving
Private Private Ryan” (1998) at 8 pm. ET on BBC America and “Hidden
Figures” (2016) at 8 p.m. on HBO. For fun, go with “Spy” (2015)
at 7:30 on FX.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. Paula Deen faces Carson Kressley. Also in this
rerun are people who have been comedy kids – Jaleel White (yes,
Urkel) and Rico Rodriguez (“Modern Family”).

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the government project is finally
finished ... and brings some bad news. Also, Amy might be leaving for
a summer research project.

“Mom,” 8:31,”
CBS. This rerun finds Christy suddenly adopting the healthy habits of
her new boyfriend. Naturally, this leaves her mother and others
dismayed.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8 p.m.) saw
Deyonte Weather – the first-week winner – ousted; Michael
Brambila – in the middle ground for the first three weeks – was
the winner. Now the 12 survivors watch the fantasy musical
“Descendants 2”; afterward, with two of its stars as judges, they
must design something representing good or evil.

“Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun (following a two-hour “America's Got
Talent” rerun), gang members take control of the firehouse.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 13


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“MasterChef,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox.

This is the show
that has home chefs, not pros. That means Gordon Ramsay does a lot
less screaming; it also means there's a rich mix of people, as the
final six go for spots in next week's finale.

The youngest is Cate
Meade, 25, a Chicago nutritionist; the oldest is Yachecia Holston,
43, a Detroit minister. In between are Dino Luciano, 28, a
Bensonhurst dancer; Jeff Philbin, 29, a Tampa marketing director;
Eboni Henry, 33, a Chicago addiction counselor; and Jason Wang, 34, a
high school music teacher in Newton, Mass. They're joined by family
members, then must make a dish inspired by family.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “You're the Worst,” 10 p.m., FXX; rerunning at 10:30 p.m. and
1:30 a.m.

These two have never
been any good at small talk, romance or ... well, anything that
involves a human being. Last season, Jimmy proposed to Gretchen; when
she said yes, he fled. In last week's hour-long season-opener
(rerunning at 11 p.m. today), both moped and he reluctantly returned
to town.

Now he learns that
Edgar and Lindsay – also not people people – have a sex-only
relationship. He also searches for Gretchen; their confrontation is
both odd and oddly funny.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Nova,” 9 and 10 p.m., PBS.

Going in opposite
directions, cameras give us two worlds that haven't previously been
seen. First, they soar up, capturing images of Saturn from the
Cassini mission which was launched 20 years ago.

Then they dive down.
The U.S, Indianapolis was sunk in 1945; on Aug. 18, it was found by a
private group funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This special
– unfortunately, replacing a rerun of a splendid film about the
Voyager mission – offers some of the first views.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Midnight, Texas,” 10 p.m., NBC.

This is the episode
that was scheduled for Tuesday, then bumped by the hurricane
telethon. It's worth looking for, the second-to-last episode of a
sharply made season.

This town already
has plenty of problems, without adding these – an apocalyptic
sandstorm and a faceless creature. But why does the creature only
target Fiji, the good-hearted witch? She knows, but won't tell; we'll
learn via flashbacks, setting up a promising finale.

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-9 p.m., NBC. On Tuesday, 11 acts performed and viewers
voted. Tonight, with the help of a “save” from viewers, five will
advance to next-week's 10-act finale.

“Marlon,” 9 and
9:30 p.m., NBC. Here are the final two episodes of the first (and,
one assumes, only) season. First, Marlon and his ex-wife must be
together, so she can get into a social club that prefers couples.
Then, on the first wedding anniversary since their divorce, they
recall their first date.

“Salvation,” 9
p.m., CBS. A week from the finale, Darius (the tech mogul) must link
with Grace and Harris (who have been government insiders) to prove
the president was murdered.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Mitchell and his dad each feel they need some time away
from the family. Then, alas, they end up at the same resort.

“Criminal Minds,”
10 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode that brought back Shemar Moore
as Derek. He has a lead in finding Mr. Scratch, who had tormented the
team all season.

“Younger”
season-finale, 10 p.m., TV Land. Here's a big way to end the the
fourth season – a trip to Ireland. Liza (Sutton Foster) rushes
there with her friend Maggie (Debbi Mazar), to meet Josh, the
boyfriend 14 years her junior. At work, Kelsey (Hilary Duff) has to
play nice with a new colleague.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 12


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Hand in Hand,” 8 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

This began as a
massive fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Harvey ... then added
Hurricane Irma; it's been that kind of month. Based in Los Angeles,
the hour will jump to stages in New York and Nashville, plus George
Strait's benefit concert in San Antonio.

Other music people
who will be there (or on tape), include Beyonce, Drake, Blake
Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Justin Bieber, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Tori
Kelly and Barbra Streisand. Also expected: Oprah Winfrey, George
Clooney, Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, Dwayne Johnson , Ellen Degeneres
and more.

TONIGHT'S CHANGES:
Schedule switches, four networks.

The telethon forced
quick juggling. The biggest move is at NBC, which had planned a
Monday-Tuesday combo for its above-average “Midnight, Texas”; now
the second hour moves to Wednesday.

ABC had planned a
“Bachelor in Paradise” hour; that's out and the show apparently
ended Monday. CBS has dropped its “CSI: New Orleans” rerun,
nudging “NCIS” and “Bull” to 9 and 10. Fox replaced its
reruns with the telethon and, at 9 p.m., a rerun of Sunday's
flawed-but-interesting “The Orville.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “America's Got Talent,” 9-11 p.m., NBC.

Nudged back an hour
by the telethon, this ratings-leader is near its million-dollar
finish.

Tonight, 11 acts
will perform. There are lots of singers (five individuals, one group)
and dancers (one individual, two groups), plus a mentalist and a dog
act. Then viewers will vote; on Wednesday, we'll learn which five
acts will survive, joining last week's survivors in the 10-act
finale.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “American Horror Story,” 10 p.m., FX.

Even if a show is
well-crafted, you won't necessarily want to embrace it with glee.
“AHS” has typified that over the years, with brilliant acting,
stunning filming and smart – but, often, repulsive -- stories.

Sarah Paulson is
perfect in everything produced by Ryan Murphy, from her two-headed
“AHS” to her Emmy-winning work in the O.J. Simpson mini-series.
Here, crumbling with terror, she's superb; so are Alison Pill as her
wife, Billy Eichner as a creepy neighbor, Billie Lourd as a creepier
babysitter, Kai Anderson as the creepiest candidate. Yes, there's a
lot of creepiness here; proceed cautiously.

Other choices
tonight include:

“Casey Anthony: An
American Murder Mystery,” 7-10 p.m., Discovery. This channel had
planned on rerunning the previous “Manhunt: Unabomber” hours,
leading into the finale. It still has the finale at 10, but precedes
it with this film, mixing documentary segments and re-enactments.

“Martin Luther:
The Idea That Chanted the World,” 8-10 p.m., PBS. On Oct. 31,
people will mark the 500th anniversary of the day a
penniless monk challenged a deeply established religion. This
documentary dramatizes the events, using Europe's castles and
cobblestone streets as backdrop.

“The Flash,” 8
p.m., CW. Aside from the telethon, this is your only 8 p.m. choice
among commercial broadcast networks. It's a rerun, with the team
battling its former friend, now called Killer Frost.

“Black-ish,” 9
and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns focus on Emmy-nominee Tracy Ellis
Ross as Rainbow. In the first, she probes her feelings about being
biracial; in the second, her sister (Rashida Jones) arrives, fresh
from getting attention on a reality show.

“Top of the Lake:
China Girl,” 9-11:40 p.m., Sundance. Monday's chapter made one
character way too nasty; that reduced him to one dimension and made
his teen lover less interesting. Fortunately, this finale bounces
back from that, wrapping up its mystery and advancing its characters.

“Bull,” 10 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Bull must work with a top defense lawyer (Eliza
Dushku), to repay her for defending Billy. They promptly clash.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 11


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Reality-show finale (and near-finales).

It's time for summer
shows to wrap up. “So You Think You Can Dance” (8-10 p.m., Fox) –
which is down to six gifted dancers – is two weeks from its finish;
“American Ninja Warrior” (8-10 p.m., NBC) – now in its closing
round in Las Vegas – is a week away.

And “Bachelor in
Paradise” (8-10:01 p.m., ABC)? With a late start (due to scandal)
and an early finish (to make room for “Dancing With the Stars”),
ir's had a short season, ending now. Chris Harrison offers couples an
extra night, with a “fantasy suite”; some take it and three talk
with him afterward.

TONIGHT'S ODDITY:
“Kevin Can Wait,” 8:30 p.m. today, CBS.

Over the next two
Mondays, we'll see the episodes that led to a drastic makeover: In
its first season, “Kevin” drew shrugs from critics, but decent
ratings from viewers. Then came a stunt: Leah Remini – Kevin James'
“King of Queens” co-star – did a two-parter as Kevin's old
police rival.

Here's the first
half of that, as she nudges him out of retirement for some undercover
work. And the aftershock? CBS decided to keep Remini, kill Kevin's
wife (Erinn Hayes) and alter the show.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” 9 p.m., Sundance,
rerunning at 11:42.

Sunday's opener
introduced compelling characters, brilliantly co-written and directed
by Jane Campion. Robin, a tough cop with a tortured soul, finally met
Mary, the teen she gave up at birth. Elisabeth Moss and Alice Englert
(Campion's daughter) are superb; so is Nicole Kidman as the adoptive
mother.

As this unfolds,
Robin probes a prostitute's death ... which may or may not be linked
to Mary's way-too-old lover Alexander. Tonight's chapter stumbles in
its second hour; by making Alexander too extreme, it diminishes Mary.
It will right itself on Tuesday, wrapping up a superb mini-series.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: 9/11 films, cable.

The anniversary of
the World Trade Center attacks will be noted in newscasts and in
documentary reruns. On History, that goes from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.; on
National Geographic, it's 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Then there's a
scripted movie based on real events. Oliver Stone's “World Trade
Center” (2006) – 7:20 a.m. and 1:30 and 9 p.m. on Epix -- focuses
on some of the survivors, the rescuers and the families waiting for
word. It stars Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mara
Bello.

Other choices
include:

“Newton's Law,”
any time, www.acorn.tv. Josephine
Newton's life and law office have exploded – one of them literally.
She might actually have to work in the high-end law firm she detests.
That's the start of a series that has interesting characters, clever
lines and good courtroom moments; it's sort of what David E. Kelley
(“L.A. Law,” “Goliath”) would write if he moved to Australia.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. This reruns the episode in which Raj moved in
with Leonard and Penny, after his parents quit supporting him.
Christine Baranski returns as Leonard's mother.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Bonnie has never known much about her mother, who gave her up to
foster care. In this funny rerun, her mother has just died, leaving a
major surprise.

“Hooten and the
Lady” season-finale, 9 p.m., CW. Lady Alex has trouble sticking to
the society stuff. Now she puts her wedding in jeopardy, to join
Hooten in a hunt for pirate treasure.

“Preacher”
season-finale, 9-10:15 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:15 p.m. and 12:30
and 2:45 a.m. A strange season ends with waves of tragedy and
confusion. Jesse is being groomed for duty as the new Messiah, a role
that doesn't really fit him. Then his only two friends crumble.
There's also a flashback and Hitler in Hell and more. To understand
it (maybe), try “Talking Preacher” at 10:15, 1:45 and 4.

“Midnight, Texas,”
10 p.m., NBC. Things haven't been going well since the veil to Hell
was lifted; we probably could have predicted that. Now a faceless
supernatural arrives. Manfred confronts his drug problem, while his
girlfriend struggles after learning her brother is a killer, enabled
by their father.