TV column for Monday, May 25


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“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
Interstate.

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.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“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.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Texas Rising” debut, 9 p.m., History; repeats at
11:07.

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.

TONIGHT'S
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
AMC.

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
include:

“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.

“Scorpion”
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.

TV column for Sunday, May 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“National Memorial Day Concert,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local
listings), with most stations repeating at 9:30.

Each year, on the
eve of Memorial Day, this Capitol Lawn concert lets music and
memories entwine passionately. That should be especially true when
Gloria Estefan – whose dad had rough times in Vietnam and at the
Bay of Pigs – sings “Comingt Out of the Dark.”

There's more, from
“Voice”-winner Tessanne Chin and Tony-winner Laura Benanti, young
actor-singer Jason Dolley, classical singers Katherine Jenkins and
Russell Watson and the National Symphony.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Battle Creek” finale, 10 p.m., CBS.

A terrific series
concludes with an episode that is odd, upsetting and somehow
appropriate. Last week, we finallylearned more about Russ, the tough
and scruffy cop who (it turns out) was a teen poet; we also saw
progress in his unspoken love for Holly. Now, as the series ends, we
learn about Milt.

What makes him so
obsessively by-the-book? As a gunman pursues him, we flash back to
his time as a California cop. It's a good story and almost a double
role for Josh Duhamel, who's been constricted until now. Then comes a
jolting ending .... which may be the best way for this strange gem to
depart.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “A.D.,” 9 p.m., NBC.

As other shows
retreat into reruns, NBC still has new hours of “A.D.” and
“American Odyssey” to run deep into June. And tonight, it has one
of the most dramatic moments in the early years of Christianity.

So far, Saul of
Tarsus has been an unrelenting enemy of Peter and of this new
religion. Now, on the road to Damascus, is the moment that propels
him to become Paul, a pillar of the church. Meanwhile, Claudia's
nightmare becomes true and Pilate's fate worsens.

Other choices
include:

War films, all day,
Turner Classic Movies. At the mid-section of a three-day, 34-movie
marathon, the highlight is “MASH” (1970), at 10 p.m. ET. Don't
expect the stars or the subtlety of the TV series that followed. This
is a fairly broad tale of wartime medical people who just wanna have
fun. But it has some clever moments and, in Robert Altman, a master
director.

“Outlander,”
2:45-11 p.m., Starz. Here's the complete second season, so far. That
will rerun again next Saturday, leading into the season-finale.

Racing, 5:30 p.m.
ET, Fox. Sorry, cartoon fans; the night has been commandeered by
NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, in Charlotte, N.C.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. This new quiz show will continue nightly, through
Thursday.

“Fresh Off the
Boat,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. Running a restaurant is tough, Eddie's
dad finds in these two episodes. First, he needs to have a
sexual-harassment seminar; then a billboard is vandalized.

“Madame
Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun offers a universal problem:
Don't you hate it when you have are problems with the China-Japan
peace talks AND with your daughter's sleepover?

“American
Odyssey,” 10 p.m., NBC. As Odelle (Anna Friel) keeps eluding and
surviving in North Africa, schemes are probed in New York: Peter
reluctantly pacts with a corporate head; Bob learns more about
Harrison's lover, who has been pretending to be a reporter.

“Castle,” 10
p.m., ABC. In a transplanted rerun, crime-scene pictures show up on a
Web site.

TV column for Saturday, May 23


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Rio” (2011), 7:30-9:30 p.m., ABC Family.

A weak night for
many grown-ups is a great one for kids and animation. That peaks with
this gem, in which a Minnesota macaw – it got there by accident –
learns he may have a mate in Brazil. Then “Rio” offers a cascade
of bright colors, zesty music and clever writing.

It's joined by
“Horton Hears a Who” and “Kung Fu Panda” (both 2008) at 5:30
and 9:30 p.m. FXX counters with “Ice Age” cartoons -- “Dawn of
the Dinosaurs” (2009) at 6 p.m. and “Continental Drift” (2012)
at 8 and 10.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “In an Instant” return, 9-11 p.m., ABC.

An Iraq war veteran,
Don Evans wanted a quiet life amid natural beauty. He and his
pregnant wife would share a teaching job, living in a native village
(pop. 85) in Alaska with their kids, 8 and 10.

But their plane
crashed, killing the pilot and a passenger; amid snow and cold, the
Evanses struggled to survive. It's an involving rerun, skillfully
told with re-enactments and first-person memories.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Baseball, “ 7:15 p.m., ET Fox, with pre-game at 7.

Seasons overlap
tonight, creating as sports surplus. That includes the start of Fox's
Saturday baseball package; varying by region, it has
Cardinals-Royals, Angels-Red Sox or Orioles-Marlins.

Meanwhile, two
winter sports are (finally) in the conference finals of their
playoffs. It's hockey on NBC, with the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago
Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET ... and basketball on ESPN, with the Golden
State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks at 9 p.m. ET.

Other choices
include:

War films, all day,
Turner Classic Movies. Over the next three days, 34 films will fill
the Mermorial Day weekend. That goes from “Journey for Margaret”
(1942) at 6 a.m. ET today to the much-loved “Best Years of Our
Lives” (1946) at 10:30 p.m. ET Monday, and beyond. Tonight jumps
from Sean Connery's somber “The Hill” (1965) at 5:45 p.m. ET to
the high-octane “Dirty Dozen” (1967) at 8.

“Outlander,”
2-10 p.m., Starz. A week away from the season-finale, the first
season reruns from 2-10 p.m.; we see Claire, a 1945 English nurse,
swept away to the Scottish Highlands of 1743. The second season
reruns from 2:45-10 p.m. Sunday and again next Saturday, leading into
the season-finale.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. This new quiz show continues nightly, through Thursday.

“Madam Secretary,”
8 p.m., CBS. As a college professor, Henry (Tim Daly) rarely gets
involved with international deals. In this rerun, however, his wife
(Tea Leoni), the secretary of state, uses his position as leverage
during negotiations with Pakistan. Also, a reporter threatens to
publish leaked documents.

“Blue Bloods,” 9
p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the season-opener, Danny and Baez are taking
confiscated drugs to the incinerator. Their convoy is attacked, she's
injured and he battles the cartel.

“Orphan Black,”
9 p.m., BBC America. After learning Coady's plans, Paul makes a
dangerous move.

“Where Are They
Now,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. This visits singer Lisa Loeb,
chef Curtis Stone and Taylor Armstrong, formerly of “Real
Housewives of Beverly Hills.” In 2011, her estranged husband,
accused of abuse, committed suicide; she remarried in 2014.

TV column for Friday, May 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Lincoln Awards” and “In Performance at the White House,” 9
and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings.

The long Memorial
Day weekeend starts, appropriately, with concerts paying tribute to
soldiers. The second is a rerun, bringing stars – Willie Nelson,
Mary J. Blige, John Fogerty Common and Romeo Santos – to the White
House; also, Chris Daughtry performs at an air base in Japan.

Brfore that is a new
event, honoring people who have helped veterans. Performers include
Nick Jonas, Gavin DeGraw, Aloe Blacc and Arturo Sandoval; also, there
are comments from Brian Williams (taped shortly before his troubles
began), Whitney Cummings, Rob Riggle, Jerry Lewis and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox.

The notion of
make-believe winds through this above-average rerun. There's the
imaginary friend of Christine, whose parents (Booth and Brennan) are
just-the-facts types. There's the fortune-teller who's the
murder-victim ... and others who are suspects.

And there's Avalon
Harmonia;, the psychic invited onto the case by Angela ... to Booth's
disapproval. Zestfully played by Cyndi Lauper – former rock star,
current Broadway composer – she adds fun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Messengers,” 9 p.m., CW; and “Bitten,” 11 p.m.,
Syfy.

The good news is
that these no longer share the same timeslot, forcting fantasy fans
to time-shift. The bad is that “Bitten” -- a good show – has
been exiled from prime time.

Tonight, as the
messengers rush to find the second horseman, Erin finds that her gift
comes at a cost. Then “Bitten” can breathe a bit, now that Elena
and Savannah escaped Aleister and his minions. There's even time for
a moving piece of character drama, with Nick on a detour. Then things
tighten again; the alpha werewolves convene, insisting that Savannah
(a young witch) needs to be executed.

Other choices
include:

“Sing It On,” 11
a.m. and noon, repeating at 8 and 9 p.m., Pop. As “Pitch Perfect 2”
scores in theaters, here's a chance to catch up on the first two
episodes of the reality version, watching top college groups. We see
the auditions and then the Midwest regionals.

“500 Questions,”
8 p.m., ABC. It's the third night of the nine-day, 11-hour quiz show.

“The Blacklist,”
8 p.m., NBC. If you missed the season finale (eight days ago), here's
another chance. Liz is being framed and Red has to intervene. Also,
there may be a mole on the team.

“Princess Bride”
(1987), 8 p.m., BBC America. Rob Reiner's offbeat gem has wonderful
supporting roles, ranging from 11-year-old Fred Savage to the 7-foot
Andre the Giant. It collides at 8 with two musical movies -- “Teen
Beach Movie” (2013) on Disney and the “Glee” concert (2011) on
FXX.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. After robbing a tur bus, three women find more than they
can handle. Also in this rerun, Danny scrambles to find the millions
his brother – whose life is now in danger – hid.

“Matilda”
(1978), 9 p.m., ABC Family. Roald Dahl's novels have been adapted
into two gems – this one and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Danny DeVito's superb direction captured the dark humor of a little
gitl who's mistreated everywhere ... then develops special powers.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. When a cop learns his police partner is gay, he refuses
to ride with him. The shake-up has Danny and Baez temporarily teamed
with others. Also, Danny's dad, the police commissioner, speaks out
on equality; his brother Jamie seeks revenge on a pompous detective.

 

TV column for Thursday, May 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Red Nose Day,” 8-11 p.m., NBC.

This has been a
British tradition for three decades -- a mega-special every two
years, to raise money for charity. Now it reaches the U.S., with the
“Funny or Die” people linking with British producers.

There will be music
– guests include John Legend, Coldplay and the “Voice” judges
-- but the emphasis is on comedy, via sketches, videos and more.
There will be comedy people – Will Ferrell, Neil Patrick Harris,
Jack Black, Martin Short, Nick Offerman, Steven Merchant – and
others. They include Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pine,
Reese Witherspoon, Bill Gates and Simon Cowell.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Wayward Pines,” 9 p.m, Fox.

If you missed last
week's terrific debut, catch the 8 p.m. rerun. Recovering from a car
crash, a federal agent (Matt Dillon) found himself in a little town
where time is twisted and no one ever leaves.

He was searching for
two colleagues. Now one is dead and the other (Carla Gugino) has an
alternate existence. He has ominous enemies (Terrence Howard, Melissa
Leo) and one ally (Juliette Lewis), who joins his escape plan. None
of this makes sense yet, but it's deep and compelling along the way.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Odd Couple,” 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Today marks the
start of TV's four-month summer season, when hit shows retreat into
reruns. It's also a good time to reconsider shows that may have been
slighted – especially this one.

When it debuted,
critics grumbled that its stars (Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon) are
no match for the people in the original series (Jack Klugman, Tony
Randall) or movie (Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon). Maybe not, but they
do a good job and each episode gives them material that's quick,
slick and reasonably clever. Catch this rerun of the pilot film, then
give the show a summer chance.

Other choices
include:

“500 Questions,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Most nights, this show – which started Wednesday –
will get one hour. Tonight, however, is one of two two-hour nights;
the other is the finale, next Thursday.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Amy has some genuine doubts about the future
of her relationship with Sheldon ... especially after he applies for
a one-way mission to Mars.

Movies, 8 p.m.,
cable. It's time for separate TV's. Grown-ups have “Dirty Harry”
(1971), a solid Clint Eastwood cop film on AMC; kids have “Cars 2”
(2011), which is fun despite a so-so spy plot. Also, “The Poseiden
Adventure” (1972), a high-energy escape tale, is 8 p.m. ET on
Turner Classic Movies.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Here's the episode that started the second season, helping
nudge “Mom” from a pretty good show to one of the best. Christy
– who's had alcohol and gambling addictions – plunges her family
toward homelessnes. Also, she helps someone (Jaime Pressley) who's
fresh from rehab.

“Mike &
Molly,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. The wit level of the night drops 50 percent
when this joins CBS' Thursday line-up. This rerun of the noisy
season-opener sees Molly land a book deal.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. Freshly fired in London, Sherlock wants to work for the
New York police again ... but needs Watson's approval. Also, he
brings Kitty, a young apprentice.

“Jimmy Kimmel
Live,” 10 p.m., ABC. Tuesday's episode gets a quick, primetime
rerun, offering a promo push for ABC and its Disney owners. George
Clooney, who stars in Disney's “Tomorrowland,” guests; so does
the woman who was ousted when guys got to choose between two
“Bachelorette” stars.