TV column for Thursday, Sept. 11

MUST-SEE: Football, 8:30 p.m. ET, CBS and NFL Network.

For eight
weeks, CBS rests (or moves) its hit Thursday shows to make room for football.
That begins with two rivals that tied last season with 8-8 records. Pittsburgh
opened this season by edging Cleveland, 30-27; Baltimore lost to Cincinnati,

Jim Nantz
and Phil Simms will be in the booth, with Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines. James
Brown hosts a pre-game at 7:30 p.m. on CBS, with the NFL Network airing pre-pregame
(6 p.m.) and post-game shows. The latter two are hosted by Rich Eisen, with
Michael Irvin and more.

MIGHT-SEE: “The Biggest Loser” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

current pros collide on CBS, two former ones have a new battle. As a
quarterback, Scott Mitchell was 6-foot-6, 240 pounds; 13 years after retiring,
he weighs 366. As a lineman, Damien Woody was 6-3, 327; just four years after
retiring, he’s at 388.

They join
“Loser,” which this year adds a sports emphasis. It includes a former WNBA
player, an Olympic softball gold-medalist and former high school and college

ALTERNATIVE: “You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX.

We met
these characters at their worst: Jimmy was thrown out of his ex-girlfriend’s
wedding … where Gretchen was stealing a gift. But what were they like before

episode spans almost three years. Starting with his failed attempt at real
romance and her reluctance to be a grown-up, it ripples with dark humor,
cleverly done.

choices include:

Quest” finale, 8-10 p.m., ABC. Actors and special effects have linked to give
12 contestants the ultimate role-playing experience. Now only four remain –
Andrew Frazer, 25, a personal trainer; Shondo Blades, 30, a mixed-martial-arts
fighter; Lina Carollo, 27, a school counselor; and Patrick Higgins, 40, a high
school math teacher. They must escape and save the queen.

season-opener, 8 p.m., Syfy. Last season was dizzying for viewers and splendid
for Emily Rose. She started as Lexie, a vibrant bartender … returned to being Audrey,
a tough cop … then was nasty Mara, the original version of someone who keeps returning
in new personas. Now Mara seethes; it’s fine work in an OK episode, two hours
earlier than first scheduled.

9 p.m., Fox. In a rerun of the season-finale, a conspiracy blogger is killed
shortly before he could tell something to Booth.

Guide to Parenting,” 9:30 p.m., Bravo. In the season’s second-to-last hour, we
meet one woman who has raised her teen twins through hypnosis and another who
feels her young daughter should know everything about sexuality.

10 p.m., FX. Here’s another milestone for Russ and Lina, maybe the last chance
to trick-or-treat with their eldest daughter. Meanwhile, their relationship
droops and his friend needs to be hauled to rehab. It’s a bleak episode, with
some good moments near the end.


TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 10

CHANGE: Presidential address, 9 p.m. ET, several networks.

Obama plans to address the nation about the ongoing situation in Iraq.

That will
be carried by CBS (which already had anchor Scott Pelley in Iraq this week) and
others. Varying by time zone, it will affect other schedules; the times listed
below are the ones that were set prior to plans for the talk.

MUST-SEE: “Nova,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Long ago,
this strong documentary tells us, one-third of all children died before they
were 5. In the past century, vaccinations ended much of that; measles and
whooping cough virtually disappeared … until recently.

there’s been an increase in people who delay or skip vaccinations. In 2011,
there were unvaccinated people … but none in neighboring boroughs. “Nova”
paints a compelling picture.

MIGHT-SEE: “America’s Got Talent,” 8 and 9 p.m. (or later), NBC.

By the
end of the night, we’ll know which acts will be in the finale.

there’s a recap hour at 8, showing the dozen acts that performed Tuesday. Then
we’ll see which six will reach the finals next Tuesday and Wednesday, with a
shot at the million-dollar prize. After being dominated by singers (and one
ventriloquist) in its first six years, “Talent” has seen its last two titles go
to a dog act and a dancer-mime-illusionist.

choices include:

“Hell’s Kitchen”
season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox. Two challenges face the 18 chefs. The winning
team frolics, including a yacht party; the losers clean up and then see one
person ousted.

Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Sue is excited about heading to Disney World
on the family vacation she won. Brick wants to detour to North Carolina, to
meet his Online girlfriend.

 “Big Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now that football
has taken over CBS Thursdays for eight weeks, this show moves its live eviction
hour to Wednesdays.

the Lights,” 9 p.m. (or later), CBS. As a preview to Thursday’s game, here’s a
special hosted by Jim Nantz; CBS people chat with pros, often with something in
common. Earl Campbell and  Jadeveon
Clowney were No. 1 draft picks taken by Houston teams; Mark Harmon (UCLA) and  Andrew Luck (Stanford) were starting
quarterbacks in the Pac-10 conference.

9 p.m., TNT. Placed on leave after a confrontation, Martin Odum (Sean Bean)
uses the time to probe his own past. He finds a possible source, to learn who
he really is.

Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Fiercely stoic, Eleanor Nacht is at the core of this
tough hour. Last week, she escaped when a bloody shoot-out left others dead or
dying. Now she’s desperate to find her ledger; others are just as desperate to
arrest or kill her.  Despite its
perplexing habit of having undesignated flashbacks, this is a terrific hour.

TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 9

MUST-SEE: “Fashion Rocks,” 9-11 p.m., CBS.

After a
five-year absence, this again links New York’s Fashion Week with a live
mega-concert. Ryan Seacrest – yes, he has a fashion line – hosts and

include some of his “American Idol” hosts and contestants (Jennifer Lopez,
Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson) and more. Scheduled are Usher, Pitbull, Enrique
Iglesias, Rita Ora, Nico & Vinz, Duran Duran, Afrojack, Magic and Kiss,
plus country’s Luke Bryan and The Band Perry.

MIGHT-SEE: “Sons of Anarchy” final-season opener, 10 p.m., FX.

Few shows
have done more to draw viewers in and – almost simultaneously – drive them
away. This episode begins with its main character (Jax) doing a brutal torture;
almost 90 minutes later, he’s doing an even more-brutal one … to someone who
was falsely accused.

scenes are horrendous. In between, however, is the drama – tautly written,
directed and acted -- that makes this compelling. Viewers know Jax’s mom killed
his wife … and Juice (on the lam from the motorcycle club) shot the cop who
found her. Now she clings to her cover-up.

ALTERNATIVE: Documentaries, all night, PBS (check local listings).

Five days
before launching Ken Burns’ brilliant “Roosevelts” series, PBS offers
wide-ranging films. That starts with a portrait of Noor Inayat Khan, daughter
of an India-born spiritual leader, who became a British World War II hero; it
ends with a “Frontline” look at the Ebola epidemic.

In between,
in a late addition at 9 p.m., is a Robin Williams portrait. Taking a long
interview he did for “Pioneers of Television,” it adds friends’ comments and
more. This tends to be one-note and repetitious (also a flaw of the Khan
portrait), but it’s redeemed by a cascade of great clips.

choices include:

Bloods,” 4-11 p.m., WGN America. This cop show – a ratings-winner Fridays on
CBS – has a big rerun splash on cable. The next three nights have seven-hour

Amazing Spider-Man (2012), 7-10 p.m., FX. On a reality-clogged night, cable has
movie alternatives. Other good choices are at 8 p.m. – “Karate Kid” (1984) on
ABC Family, the splendid “WALL-E” (2008) on Disney and the wryly romantic “Notting
Hill” (1999) on TV Guide.

Brother,” 8 p.m., CBS. With football temporarily taking CBS’ Thursdays, this
show slides to a Sunday-Tuesday-Wednesday run. That means two Tuesdays without
ratings-leader “NCIS.”

overload, 8 p.m. The top four networks collide hit overflow. Fox’s “Utopia”
begins its Tuesday-and-Friday routine, facing “Big Brother” and two summer-shows
finales: NBC’s “Food Fighters” has a retired fashion executive face celebrity
chef Elizabeth Falkner; ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss” has a father and daughter (423
and 265 pounds) hoping to shed 330 pounds.

Loving You is Wrong,” debut, 9 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 10.
Tyler Perry’s latest series follows families in one neighborhood, starting with
the discovery of an affair.

“A Young
Doctor’s Notebook” season-finale, 10 p.m., Ovation. The older version of the doctor
(Jon Hamm) forces the younger one (Daniel Radcliffe) to confront his addiction.
That sounds somber, but as usual it’s done with skill and, at times, sly humor.

TV column for Monday, Sept. 8

MIGHT-SEE: “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” season-finale, 8 p.m., NBC.

Deion Sanders
has done a lot in his first 47 years. He thrived in pro football and baseball,
then became a broadcaster. What he hadn’t done was to go camping.

Now that’s
taken care of on a big scale – hiking Utah’s canyon’s with Grylls. It’s the
last new episode of the “Running Wild” season … and part of a night stuffed
with finales.

MIGHT-SEE II: More season finales, everywhere.

seems to be ending. There are athletes: “American Ninja Warrior” (9-11 p.m.,
NBC) has its national championship, with a shot at $500,000. And there are
lovers: “Bachelors in Paradise” (8-10:01, ABC) tells people to decide if their
relationships will last beyond the show.

But it’s
not all reality. In the “Teen Wolf” season-finale (10-11:15 p.m., MTV), Kate
abducts Scott and Kira and takes them to Mexico. Derek and others try to save
them and the world.

ALTERNATIVE: “A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY,” 9 p.m., HBO.

his acting career began, Steve Buscemi spent four years as a New York fireman.
In this beautifully understated film, he gathers stories from firefighters, old
and young.

There are
light tales of cooking, camaraderie and pranks. And there are sobering
reflections on fear and confronting death and meeting mass tragedy. The hour
ends with memories of Sept. 11, from the deaths that day to the continuing
losses from cancer and more. “I got to drive a fire truck,” one dying man says.
“It’s every kid’s dream.”

Other choices include:

Football, 7:10 and 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN. The opening week of
the regular season concludes with a doubleheader. It’s the Giants at Detroit
and then San Diego at Arizona.

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In its temporary Monday
home, “Big Bang” has Sheldon trying to be spontaneous. Also in this rerun, Raj
needs Howard’s help to prepare for a date with Emily.

“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. After Allison Janney’s two-Emmy
season, here’s a chance to savor one of her roles. She and Alvin (Kevin  Pollak) feud, putting their daughter Christy
in the middle.

“Dallas,” 9 p.m., TNT. As Ewing Global goes public, the maneuvers
build. Bobby reaches out to an ex-lover; Judith and Ryland create an unusual

“Two and a Half Men,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. Both reruns catch
Alan when he was claiming to be Jeff Strongman. In the first, Gretchen (Kimberly
Williams-Paisley) thinks the Malibu beachhouse is his; in the second, she wants
him to confess his ruse to Larry.

“Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS. This season’s newcomers –
Sam (Eddie Cahill) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) -- are needed when temperatures
plummet. Also, Rebecca is severely injured in an accident.

“Shark Tank,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. This is “Shark Tank Week,”
with a rerun at 10 p.m. nightly through Friday. Tonight we meet, among others,
an 11-year-old whose bow ties have drawn Oprah Winfrey’s interest.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 7

MUST-SEE: “9/10: The Final Hours,” 8-10 p.m., National Geographic.

The story
of Sept. 11, 2001, has been told often and well, but here’s a compelling
variation. It starts on Sept. 10, then moves into the morning of the tragedy.

We meet
people who had brief contact with the terrorists – serving them at a Pizza Hut,
checking them in at the airport. We meet those who barely missed disaster. And
we meet a man whose sister treated their mom to a birthday dinner at the World
Trade Center restaurant … then died the next morning, in the same building.
There are deeply human moments.

MIGHT-SEE: “Utopia” debut, 8-10 p.m., Fox.

The new TV
season begins today … sort of. The official start is still two weeks away, but
this reality needs extra time. For a while, it will be settling into Tuesdays
and Fridays.

In a wilderness,
15 strangers try to build a civilization. They include a doctor, a lawyer, a
chef, a construction guy and more … including a former drug dealer and a
self-described “hillbilly MacGyver.” There’s a pastor; others include a fan of tantric
sex, a believer in “polyamorous relationships” and someone who calls herself “six
feet of twisted steel and sex appeal.”

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9-10:30 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings).

The three-part “Breathless” concludes with a cascade of
secrets. For a cocky surgeon, his wife and a cowering anesthesiologist there’s
a dark deed in wartime Burma. For another surgeon, it’s an affair with an older
woman. For his wife, it’s her secret sister (another nurse) have a demented

Some points are logical, and some – especially involving the
anesthesiologist’s search for another job – make no sense. What started as a
sleek, 1960s drama concludes as an odd (but interesting) soap opera.

Other choices include:

“Saving Private Ryan,” 8-11:45 p.m., TNT. Here is Steven
Spielberg’s epic, World War II masterpiece.

Football, 8:20 p.m. ET, with preview at 7, NBC. The first
Sunday of the pro season wraps up with Peyton Manning’s old team (the
Indianapolis Colts) visiting his new team (the Denver Broncos).

“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS.  There’s a surplus of suspects, when a worker
at a top-dollar matchmaking service is killed.

“Boardwalk Empire,” 9 p.m., HBO. The final season begins
with glimpses of Nucky’s troubled boyhood, long before he ruled Atlantic City.
That’s against the backdrop of dealings in Havana, as he dreams of a post-Prohibition
windfall. There are other snippets of stories, some turning violent, in a show that’s
often hard to follow, but remains fascinating along the way.

“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. Six days before the show’s
two-hour finale, we see complications in Lee Anne’s upcoming trial – a possible
jury-tampering and a growing romance between the competing lawyers. Meanwhile,
Vi’s ex-husband faces a malpractice charge that points to a bigger problem.

“The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX. Last week’s powerful episode saw
Jim Kent (Sean Astin) killed by his colleagues, after it was clear he’d been
infected. Tonight, Eph races to protect his own family.