TV column for Monday, June 23


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TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Under the Dome: Inside Chester’s Mill,”
10 p.m., CBS.

For a decade, TV thought it understood summers: Cable had
scripted shows; broadcast networks stuck with reality and reruns. Then CBS
launched Stephen King’s “Under the Dome,” with an ordinary town inexplicably
encased by a giant dome; everything changed.


The opener was seen in 13 million homes, a huge number in
the summer and a top-5 number for almost any week. Ratings held up fairly well
afterward. This summer, the big-four networks will have more than a dozen
non-rerun scripted shows; that includes the “Dome” season-opener next Sunday …
after this special, which includes an update for anyone who missed the first
season.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Murder in the First,” 10 p.m., TNT.


The third episode of the series deepens its characters and its
emotions. We see the quiet rage of one cop (Kathleen Robertson) toward her
ex-husband and others, the soft pain of her newly widowed police partner (Taye
Diggs). And we see the nastiness of their prime suspect, a young tech
billionaire.


None of that, of course, makes him guilty or easy to
convict. Now the case slowly evolves, in the third of 10 chapters of a
beautifully written and acted series.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Case Against 8,” 9-11 p.m., HBO.


When Proposition 8 banned gay marriage in California,
opponents considered a court appeal … and found a surprising ally in Ted Olson,
who was George W. Bush’s solicitor general. “Marriage is a conservative value ….
We should want people to come together in marriage,” he says here.


Olson insisted that David Boies – his opponent in the
Bush-Gore recount fight – join him. Then cameras recorded the five-year push.
What emerges is a deep and emotional portrait of one side of a historic case; it
debuts three days before the anniversary of the decision that threw out
Proposition 8.


Other choices include:


“Teen Wolf,” 2 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., MTV. Here’s a marathon,
leading to the season-opener at 10.


“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. What do you do in
Italy, with its history of romance? Nick gets a gondola ride with Andi Dorfman
in Venice, Cody gets a candle-lit dinner with her in Verona, the city of Romeo
and Juliet. And the other six get lie-detector tests; life isn’t always fair.


“24,” 9 p.m., Fox. Last week ended spectacularly, when the
president accepted a terrorist’s deal – his life for her agreeing to stop the
drone attacks. He was killed by a missile in London’s Wembley Stadium. Will she
keep her promise? Will her colleagues let her? Jack, Kate and Chloe scramble to
prevent war.


“Mistresses,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. After a series of bad dates,
Karen’s spirits are sinking … just as others perk up. Savi finds a guy she
likes; so does her sister Joss … at a high-ticket event she attended for
business reasons. And April introduces her hot boyfriend Daniel to her friends.


“CeeLo Green’s The Good Life,” 10:30 p.m., TBS. With a No. 1
song (“Forget You”) and a top-rated TV show (“The Voice”), CeeLo Green can frolic.
In the opener of this reality show, he throws out the first pitch at a baseball
game and plans a sexy limousine service.


TV column for Sunday, June 22



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Last Ship” debut, 9-10:03 p.m.,
TNT.

In the first minutes, we get a hint of what’s ahead: A
disease streaks through an African village; a doctor (Rhonda Mitre) can only
gather a sample and leave. Soon, the doctor is on an American destroyer, in its
Arctic expedition. The sailors are cheery … then learn they may be the last
survivors of a dying world.


“Last Ship” has a classic captain (Eric Dane of “Grey’s
Anatomy”) and a taut style (thanks to Jack Bender, the top “Lost” director).
This opener leaves us hanging, but offers enough to keep us coming us back.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Wipeout” season-opener and “Rising
Star” debut, 7-9 and 9-11 p.m., ABC.


On a night dominated by cable debuts, ABC strikes back with
a rerun-free lie-up. First is the silliness of the “Wipeout” obstacle course;
then comes the latest twist on a singing competition.


The difference here involves social media. If singers are
successful, they can actually see how people are voting for them, on a giant
screen. Viewers can feel like they have an instant impact.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Miracle Landing on the Hudson,” 9-11
p.m., National Geographic.


On a night overloaded with three series debuts and three
season-openers, this channel steals our attention with a beautifully crafted
movie. It took interviews with real survivors of the 2009 crash of Flight 1549,
then had actors (talented unknowns) re-create the interviews and the action
scenes,


This skips the pilot and focuses on the others – the
co-pilot, an air-traffic controller, a veteran stewardess and several
passengers. We meet the man who volunteered to cuddle and shield a baby … the
woman who tried to swim ashore in frigid water … and more. The result is tight
and compelling.


Other choices include:


“Elementary,” 8 p.m., CBS. A drama-rerun night starts with
Sherlock working with an old Scotland Yard colleague. That’s followed by “The
Good Wife” (the episode after Will was killed) and “The Mentalist.”


“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” 8 p.m. Hallmark. Carol Burnett,
one of TV’s all-time greats, injects some strong moments into an otherwise
so-so episode.


“Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). The first half of “The Escape Artist” saw David Tennant as a
brilliant defense attorney, the only person who knows his wife was killed by a
scheming psychopath. Now he grapples for makeshift justice, in a clever and
well-acted finale.


“The Musketeers” debut, 9 p.m., BBC America. Amid the social
chaos of 17
th-century Paris, these three musketeers (members of the
king’s personal guard) are honest and idealistic. They confront D’Artagnan, a
skilled swashbuckler and lover who is obsessed with avenging his father’s death.
The result is an energetic period piece with huge ambition and adequate
execution.


“True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO, rerunning at 10. The final season
starts where the sixth season ended: Sookie had planned a mixer, to let humans
and vampires bond; instead, rogue vampires attacked. Tonight’s early scenes are
way too chaotic, but then we see the show’s power -- a face-off involving the
sheriff … a painful church scene for Sookie … extremely opposite sex scenes
with Sookie and with her brother.


“Falling Skies” season-opener, 10:03 p.m., TNT. After
battling alien invaders for three seasons, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his sons see
fresh hope … and then disaster. Soon, one Mason is in a jail, one is in combat,
one is in Nazi-style re-education. It’s a strong and engaging start.


TV column for Saturday, June 21



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Crisis” finale, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

After hesitating and stumbling in mid-crisis, NBC has the
decency to wrap up the show.


It began with the Washington, D.C., hijacking of a bus filled
with the teen children of American power-brokers. Gibson – whose own daughter
was in the bus – was secretly involved. Tonight, Finlay (a federal agent) tries
a heroic move; then a new scheme is aimed directly at Gibson.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “The Assets,” 9 p.m., ABC.


This eight-hour miniseries is based on the book by Sandy
Grimes, a CIA agent who headed the 10-year search that led to Aldrich Ames’
arrest for treason.


In the opener, Vitaly Yurchenko defected from the KGB and
revealed there was a CIA mole; ironically, he was debriefed by Ames. Now the
CIA and FBI scramble to plug a leak … while Sandy fears there’s a bigger one.
She bonds with Yurchenko and worries about her contact, Gen. Dmitri Polyakov.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Almost Royal” debut, 10 and 10:30 p.m.,
BBC America.


Georgie and Poppy Carlton grew up with wealth and privilege,
roughly 50
th and 51st in line for the British throne. Fulfilling
their father’s dying wish, they are visiting America.


They are young, pleasant and attractive; they are also
fictional, but the people they meet – from Fabio to cowboys – are real, in what
seems to be mostly unscripted. These two know nothing about baseball, tobacco
or, actually, work. The beginning is drolly hilarious; the rest is mildly fun,
with visits to Los Angeles (including a plastic surgeon) and Boston (with
perplexed members of the Tea Party).


Other choices include:


“Up” (2009) and “Finding Nemo” (2003), 7 and 9:05 p.m., BBC
America. A wondrous double-feature has two gorgeously animated Pixar films.


“Blue Bloods,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun offers one of the few
times that the show’s married couple has had an on-the-job clash. Danny (Donnie
Wahlberg), a police detective, wants to question someone now; Linda (Amy
Carlson), a nurse, bars him until after surgery. Soon, the anger builds.


“Bet on Your Baby,” 8 p.m., ABC. Can a high-energy
4-year-old rescue stuffed animals without tipping over the cardboard blocks?
Can a 3-year-old be coached to make soccer goals? Parents try to guess.


“Orphan Black,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Here’s the
season-finale for this series that has Tatiana Maslany brilliantly portraying street-smart
drifter Sarah and the clones she hadn’t known about. Tonight, one of them (evil
Rachel) forces her to concede, but the others rush to help.


“Power,” 9 p.m., Starz. The second episode (rerunning at 8
p.m.) ended strongly, with Ghost intimidating his competitors. Tonight’s new
hour is disappointing, with clumsy dialog and a grotesque torture.


“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. Liz and her husband are
considering an adoption when, in this rerun, that collides with her work:
Several babies have been stolen and Red points to a specific adoption agency.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Seth Rogen hosts
this rerun, with music from Ed Sheeran.


 


TV column for Friday, June 20



TODAY’S MIGHT-SEE: “Cold Justice” season-opener, 3 a.m. to
10 p.m., TNT.

As a prosecutor, Kelly Siegler reportedly handled 68 murder
trials and got 68 convictions. But that was in Houston, with big-city support;
what about all the small towns that see cases slip through?


In this solid reality series, Siegler helps them re-open
cases, aided by Yolanda McClary, who was a crime-scene investigator in Las
Vegas (the “CSI” city). The 18 cases shown so far have reportedly led to 12
arrests, eight indictments, four confessions, two guilty pleas and a 22-year
sentence. They’ll rerun today, leading to the 9 p.m. season-opener, probing the
1988 death of a single mom in Bay City, Texas.


TODAY’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Shark Tank” etc., 8-11 p.m., ABC.


It’s a rough week for networks that expected big-deal,
seven-ame finals for pro sports playoffs. Hockey (NBC) and basketball (ABC) both
ended in five games.


Now ABC fills the gap with non-fiction shows, starting with
a “Shark Tank” rerun. (Ideas include sun-safe kids’ swimwear, exercise-oriented
playing cards and what Mark Cuban calls the best story he’s heard about
starting a company.) That’s followed by the hidden-camera “What Would You Do”
and “20/20.”


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Masters,” 10 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).


At first, this film almost seems to be trying to chase
viewers away. It opens with old ballet footage, black-and-white and stagnant;
slowly, it gets around to its subject, dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq.


Specifics are elusive. There’s much talk of her height, without
ever saying what it was. One person says (without correction) that she lived to
“almost 80”; she died at 71. Still, the subject is fascinating. “Tanny” inspired
the choreography and the romance of two greats, George Balanchine and Jerome
Robbins; she danced with Arthur Mitchell and Jacques d’Amboise, who praise her
here. She was a star, suddenly stilled by polio at 27. It’s a great story, even
when it’s told (in this film) quite clumsily.


Other choices include:


“24,” 8 p.m., Fox. Here a rerun of Monday’s episode, the
show’s 200
th.  Like most of
the other 199, it has passion, save-the-world stakes and a ticking clock. The
president considers trading his life for an end to the drone attacks. In many
hands, that would feel absurd; on “24,” it’s terrific television.


“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. In a quick rerun of Thursday’s
hour, Carlos hatches a scheme to flex power in his crime family. That leads to
some strong drama … and to a plot contrivance involving a cop.


“Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS. Three murders are linked to a
downed Chinese satellite. Also in this rerun, Danny’s mother (Melanie Griffith)
goes on a ride-along with Grover (Chi McBride).


“Remember Sunday” (2013), 9-11 p.m., Hallmark. Originally a “Hallmark
Hall of Fame” film on ABC, this has splendid work from Zachary Levi, as an
earnest guy whose memory keeps erasing.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. The chief murder suspect is the
brother of Danny’s police partner. Also in this rerun, Danny’s father (the
police commissioner) and grandfather (an ex-commissioner) have probes.


“Crossbones,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. The previous episode was
wonderfully clever; this one is the opposite. It sets up a task for Blackbeard so
impossible that any victory seems unconvincing and unsatisfying.


TV column for Thursday, June 19



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Sixties,” 9 p.m., CNN (barring a breaking-news
pre-emption).

For years, officials insisted the U.S. was winning in
Vietnam. In truth, this compelling documentary says, President Johnson always
had doubts; we hear him on the phone, admitting his fears.


This film ends too abruptly in 1968. PBS has viewed Vietnam
with more depth and has an upcoming Ken Burns project. Still, CNN – helped by
ex-soldiers, reporters and historians – skillfully brings perspective.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Rookie Blue” season-opener, 9 and 10
p.m., ABC.


For four summers, this Canadian drama has juggled solid
crime stories with the soap-style lives of telegenic young cops. It has
succeeded, partly due to the appeal of Missy Peragrym as Andy.


Last season ended with a shoot-out; now Sam and Chloe are hospitalizes
and others are confused. Dov is in a funk after meeting the estranged husband
Chloe hadn’t mentioned. When Andy tries to talk him through it, they end up in
the middle of a hold-up. It’s a good hour; the second one is merely OK.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Dominion” debut, 9-10:30 p.m., CNN.


The 2010 movie “Legion” saw modern Earth as a battleground
between archangels, good (Michael) and evil (Gabriel). This series jumps ahead
25 years: Vile creatures roam; Earthlings huddle in fortified cities.


The best-equipped city is Vega (formerly Las Vegas), where Michael
lives. It’s led by a general (Alan Dale) and an ambitious senator (Anthony
Head), whose daughter and son, respectively, hope for the emergence of a “chosen”
child, now in his mid-20s. Then there’s the angry soldier (Christopher Egan)
who dismisses much of this. “Dominion” takes a while, but builds into an epic
series worth trying.


Other choices include:


“Critics Choice Awards,” 8-10 p.m., CW. There are 145
nominees from 23 networks -- NONE from CW. Expect some fun: Cedric the Entertainer
hosts; presenters include Kathy Griffin and Fred Armisen.


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. With “Big Bang” being a
Critics Choice leader with five nominations (including best comedy series), we
can sample this rerun. Sheldon and Penny (Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco, both nominees)
spend time together, after she quits her job and he’s forced to take a
vacation.


“Black Box,” 8 p.m., ABC. “Box” gets a second chance with a
six-Thursday summer run. Kelly Reilly stars as a brilliant (and mentally ill) neuroscientist;
Vanessa Redgrave plays her therapist.


“Defiance” season-opener, 8 p.m., Syfy. The second season
finds big changes in the mining town where people link against alien forces.
Amanda (Julie Benz) is running a saloon, with creepy Niles replacing her as
mayor. Nolan searches for Stahma, the tough alien he’s raised since girlhood.
She offers some interesting surprises and questions, in an adequate episode.


“Gang Related,” 9 p.m., Fox. Embittered and paraplegic,
Carlos launches his own crime scheme, with nasty results. On the plus side, there
are moments adding depth to Javier (Carlos’s father) and to Kang, one of the
cops. On the minus, a plot twist involving Green (another cop) feels contrived.


“Rectify,” 9 p.m., Sundance. The terrific first season
focused on an ex-con, who’s at home while his murder conviction may get a new
trial. Tonight, people react to the fierce beating he received.


“Undateable,” 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., NBC. Producer Bill Lawrence
borrows actors from his other comedies. In the first episode (a so-so one), it’s
Briga Heelan (“Ground Floor”) as Nicki, returning to visit her new love Justin.
In the second, it’s Josh Hopkins (“Cougar Town”) as Leslie’s ex-husband.