TV column for Sunday, Aug. 17


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TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “The Strain,” 10 p.m., FX.

After a great start, “Strain” almost descended to standard
horror-dom. No more. Tonight has some horror – including a sensational moment
when a villain is exposed to light – but the plot hits overdrive.


Insisting that evil creatures have invaded human bodies,
Ephraim gets little support. His estranged wife doubts him, police arrest him,
his Centers for Disease Control colleague has retreated to help her mom. Then
things change on a spectacular day, as a solar eclipse lets creatures roam
daytime New York.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: Football, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.


We’re three weeks from the real season, but networks
conspire to make us watch football almost every night. This week has games
Monday on ESPN, Thursday on NFL Network, Friday and Saturday on CBS.


Tonight’s game, in Kansas City, should include the first
chance to see the Carolina Panthers’ supersized duo. Cam Newton (finally
cleared by doctors to play) can throw to Kelvin Benjamin, the first-round pick
who made a spectacular touchdown catch last week.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “True Blood,” 9 p.m., HBO.


“I’ve (been) flying around, dealing with other people’s relationship
problems,” grumbles Eric, the towering, 1,000-year-old vampire. “Does that
sound like me?”


No, and it doesn’t sound like “True Blood,” which has turned
mellow prior to next week’s finale. There  are some great moments involving the tangled
romance of Jason, Hoyt, Jess and Bridgette. But until the final, strong
minutes, tonight is what would happen if Oprah and Dr. Phil made vampire films.


Other choices include:


“The Simpsons,” 7:30 p.m. ET, after the game PT, Fox. In a
rerun, Homer learns how to steal movies.


“Rising Star,” 9 p.m., ABC. Now we’ll learn who will be in
next Sunday’s finale.


“Unforgettable,” 9 p.m., CBS. In an episode scheduled for
last Sunday and then delayed, a mayoral candidate’s campaign manager is killed.
Carrie and Al dig into the past of Eliot, his friend and their boss.


“Reckless,” 10 p.m., CBS. In another episode delayed from
last week, Jamie and Roy are on opposite ends of a wrongful-death suit against
the city.


“Wicked Tuna: North vs. South” debut, 10 p.m., National
Geographic. OK, it’s a TV contrivance to send the Massachusetts boats to North
Carolina … especially since anything they catch robs from the limited local
quota. Still, this is fun to watch. Tonight ranges from a Southern-style start
– shooting a champagne bottle with a rifle – to a grand swirl when one boat
simultaneously hooks two mega-fish.


“The Leftovers,” 10 p.m., HBO. The hour stars with Kevin the
cop straining for normality, inviting somber Nora for dinner. It ends with his
fierce confrontation with an unflinching Patti. In between, there are also
strong moments for his estranged wife and their daughter.


“Sunday Sports Report” debut, 11:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports
Network. This show will focus on the leagues covered by this network and NBC.
It starts on a quiet day (soccer and IndyCar racing), but later will follow
NBC’s Sunday-night football games.


TV column for Saturday, Aug. 16



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: Movies, everywhere.

It’s a can’t-miss night for movies, including one you don’t
need cable for. That’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), 8-11
p.m. on ABC. The second Potter film meanders at times, but has splashy moments
and a great role for Kenneth Branagh, as an egocentric magician.


On cable, the highlight is “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), at
9:30 p.m. on TV Guide, complete with an involving plot, quick twists and even a
musical finale.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox.


Once the fresh face of Fox, “Glee” has vanished lately.
Reruns have been on the shelf; new episodes (for a shortened final season) aren’t
expected until January. As a small consolation, the current season’s final two
episodes are rerunning on Saturdays.


This one was written by Chris Colfer, who gives his
character (Kurt) a quirky assignment – the lead role in a retirement-home
production of “Peter Pan.” Meanwhile, Rachel must repair her Broadway image.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Outlander,” 9 p.m., Starz;
rerunning at 10.


Last week’s opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.) set the basics – a World
War II nurse, suddenly flung back two centuries to 1743 Scotland. It was oddly
drab and uninvolving, especially in the modern portions.


Now it improves slightly, as she uses the historical
knowledge she got from books and from her husband, a history buff. She meets a
good-hearted cook, an enigmatic ruler and some scary types. She – and viewers –
adjust reluctantly to a rather dreary world.


Other choices include:


“Ray” (2004), 5:30-10 p.m., BET. The great-movie night
starts early. Jamie Foxx won a best-actor Oscar for his perfect performance as
Ray Charles,


“True Grit” (1969), 6-9 p.m., AMC. Here’s another best-actor
Oscar-winner. John Wayne wasn’t an actor with range or subtlety, but he was
perfect for this role as an old marshal, helping a 14-year-old avenge the
murder of her father.


More movies, cable. At 7:30 p.m., Oxygen has the sleek and
smart “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006). At 8, there’s Disney’s animated “Tangled”
(2010) on ABC Family and entertaining comedies – “21 Jump Street” (2012) on FX
and “Vacation” (1983) on VH1.


“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., Fox. The first rerun
has Stacy Keach as a veteran crime reporter who’s ready to write Jake’s wayward
comments. The second is a funny episode’ Amy’s Thanksgiving plans go astray,
with Jake and Captain Holt racing off to work a case.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 9 p.m., CBS. Sandwiched by
“48 Hours” episodes, this rerun starts with a minor crime in an airliner … then
escalates to a murder investigation.


“Katt Williams Priceless: Afterlife,” 10 p.m., HBO. Amid a
flurry of “F-“ and “N-“ words and strident attitude, Williams has sharply witty
comments. Catch him on anything from Cheerios commercials to why he still likes
Paula Deen.


“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Anna Kendrick hosts,
with Pharrell as music guest.


TV column for Friday, Aug. 15



TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Hawaii Five-0,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Sometimes, we wonder why TV characters even bother going to
high school reunions. Something nasty (murder, usually) generally occurs.


In this rerun, it’s Chin’s reunion. Naturally, the daughter
of a macadamia-nut tycoon has been killed via a stiletto heel. Foul play is
suspected.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE II: “Cold Justice” season-finale, 9
p.m., TNT.


This well-made show has big-city women – a former Houston
prosecutor and a former Las Vegas crime-scene investigator – revive small-town
cases. Its second visit to Terre Haute, Ind., has its oldest case yet.


In 1975, Earl Taylor told Terre Haute, Ind., police he came
home and found his wife dead in the bathtub, after a radio fell into the water.
He was later convicted for the death of his second wife. Now – with Taylor out
on parole – the first wife’s elderly mother urges that the case be re-opened.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Knick,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.


In last week’s opener, we learned that the head surgeon of
this 1900 hospital is a bigot, an addict and a cruel boss. Now we see that the
administrator is corrupt, taking bribes to cut corners. There are a few good
people, including a black surgeon who’s confined to a basement office and a
slum rooming house.


Don’t expect things to get better soon, in this well-made
but bitter series. Tonight’s episode (again directed by Oscar-winner Steven
Soderbergh) has hints of a typhoid scare and an abortion controversy.


Other choices include:


“Brain Games,” 3-7 pm. and 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., National
Geographic. Here’s a marathon of clever, half-hour reruns, showing quirks of
the brain. An hour-long look at paying attention is at 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.


“Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a quick
rerun of Monday’s hour, Bear and actor Channing Tatum spend two days traveling
the roughest parts of Yosemite National Park.


“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 8 p.m., CBS. This rerun has
an entire family disappear.


“Bones,” 9 p.m., Fox. A kidnap victim was killed and the
probe brings fresh suspects. Also in this rerun, Brennan might co-mingle her
money (lots of it, from her books) with her new husband Booth.


“Girl Meets World,” 9:45 p.m., Disney. Back in the first
season of “Boy Meets World,” Cory mocked Stuart Minkus, the smartest kid in
class. Now, two decades later, Cory is s teacher and Stuart (still played by Lee
Norris, who was “Mouth” McFadden in “One Tree Hill”) arrives for career day.
Also, Riley (Cory’s daughter) finally gets a peek at the troubled home life of
her friend Maya.


“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS. Holt McCallany, who starred as
a boxing champ in cable’s “Lights Out,” plays a guy who meets Erin during
speed-dating … then faces her in court the next day. Also, one of her brothers
tackles a cold case; the other probes the death of a woman who had secret
plastic surgery.


“Jonah from Tonga,” 10 p.m., HBO. In an OK episode, Jonah
flirts with success (a music competition) and disaster (a dare from older guys
in a gang).


“Please Like Me,” 10:30 p.m., Pivot. In last week’s
appealing opener, Josh’s mom was on the high end of a bi-polar swing. Now she
crashes and is taken to a private hospital, where he soon likes her neighbors.


TV column for Thursday, Aug. 14



TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Last Comic Standing” finale, 9-11 p.m.,
NBC.

Three talented – and wildly different – stand-up comics have
their final face-offs. Lachlan Patterson is a towering Canadian, camera-ready.
Rod Man brings an offbeat perspective. Nikki Carr started late, at 34; now she
discusses her life as a lesbian and grandmother of four.


Tonight, one wins $250,000 and a production deal. First, there
will be stand-up bits by two of the judges, Roseanne Barr and Russell Peters,
and by Alingon Mitra, the online “comedy comeback” winner.


TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Gang Related” finale, 9 p.m., Fox.


If you haven’t been watching this tough, tangled show, don’t
worry; there’s a long “previously” section tonight, with much to relate. Ryan is
an oft-honest cop, secretly helping Javier Acosta, the crime lord who was his
boyhood protector. When Ryan’s girlfriend (an assistant district attorney and
the daughter of his boss) pieced this together, someone had her killed.


Now Ryan clings to his secret, while racing with the team on
an international – and, often, foolhardty – revenge mission. The result is hard
and harsh, but it’s definitely a finale that makes an impact.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “The Sixties” (9 p.m., CNN) and “NY
Med” (10 p.m., ABC) finales.


Two well-made documentary series wrap up, back-to-back. That
concludes with a look at medical people in New York and Newark, both
light-hearted – a “mad genius,” a cheery biker – and darkly serious.


Before that, “Sixties” takes us to the year the American
focus shifted to California; singer-songwriters jammed and hippies converged. A
great guide to San Francisco’s “summer of love” is Peter Coyote.  At 72, he’s now a busy actor and narrator
(including Ken Burns’ upcoming triumph, “The Roosevelts”); back then, he was a
founder of The Diggers, scrambling to provide free clothes, food and medical
help.


Other choices include:


“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. After insults fly
between her husband (Howard) and Sheldon, Bernadette tries to broker a peace.
Also in this rerun, Penny is offered an embarrassing movie role.


“Mom,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. This rerun is the first of four
episodes with Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winner (“The Help”) as Christy’s new
(and much-troubled) friend.


“Rookie Blue,” 9 p.m., ABC. Probing a severe beating, Andy
and Chloe find a major crime operation.


“The Honorable Woman,” 10 p.m., Sundance. As the search
continues for the kidnapped son of Nessa’s housekeeper, we learn this is somehow
related to when both women were held captive, seven years ago. Also, Nessa’s
brother finds himself teetering near scandal, in a strong (if perplexing) hour.


 “Married,” 10 p.m.,
FX. After an awful start, “Married” keeps getting better. Tonight, this husband
and wife are nudged into actually finding friends. They meet two people as odd
and fractured as they are.


“You’re the Worst,” 10:30 p.m., FX. This excellent comedy
has its most ambitious episode, whisking people around town, on a “Sunday funday”
search for hip fun. Against that backdrop, Gretchen – still not admitting she
even likes her lover Jimmy – has a chance for a dream date with someone else.


TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 13


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Legends” debut, 9 p.m., TNT.


Big and booming, Sean Bean often plays epic figures. He’s
been Zeus and Odysseus; he’s been killed in “Game of Thrones,” “Lord of the
Rings,” “Henry VIII” and more.


So viewers might be surprised tonight to see him playing a shy
and stuttering killer. Stick around; this series about FBI undercover work
provides real range. Steve Harris leads a team that includes Ali Larter, Tina
Majorino and Bean … who shows us (as PBS viewers already knew) he has subtlety
and skill.


TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8-10
p.m., Fox.


After Michael Jackson’s death five years ago, producer/judge
Nigel Lythgoe planned a tribute – then had to dump it when the estate wouldn’t
allow the music. Now, with a new album coming, there’s no problem: First, a
group number has the eight finalists dance to the new Jackson single, “A Place
With No Name.” Then each one (with an “all-star” partner) will dance to a Jackson
song, classic or new.


Half of the eight specialize in contemporary or jazz; the
others are a ballerina, a ballroom dancer and two tap-dancers. Last week, the
show ousted its “popper,” plus contemporary dancer Bridget Whitman.


TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Heartbreakers” debut, 10 p.m.,
Investigation Discovery.


“You’ve seen too many soap operas,” a villain says tonight.
Maybe we all have, which makes this idea work. “Heartbreakers” often uses
actors from soaps (primetime or daytime) and has a heightened style. That makes
sense, because these true stories are filled with human absurdity.


Tonight, a pastor in Independence, Mo., (Harry Truman’s old
town) has a decade-plus affair with the wife of his finance chairman. He gets
careless, then lethal. Jack Wagner gives him a bigger-than-life feel; Rob Estes
and Jamie Luner (who is particularly good) play it straight, in an oddly
entertaining hour


Other choices include:


“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Little Frankie (Patricia Heaton)
again battles her towering and brassy neighbor Rita (Brooke Shields). In this
rerun, the issue involves Rita’s wind chimes.


“Mystery Girls,” 8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Already wildly
over-acted, this show brings in RuPaul as a self-obsessed designer. An
ostrich-feather bag has disappeared on the day of his fashion show.


“Modern Family,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC. The first rerun finds
generations linking – Jay teaching manly ways, Cam and Mitchell leading a
culture tour. The second is a funny Las Vegas visit by grown-ups.


“Extant,” 10 p.m., CBS. Molly (Halle Berry) comes across
footage that may show the real reason she was chosen for the solo space
mission. Meanwhile, her android son has his first dream.


“The Bridge,” 10 p.m., FX. Most of this hour continues the “Bridge”
strengths – richly drawn characters in life-and-death situations, with a
powerhouse ending. Still, that’s harmed by two flaws – the continued obsession
with torture, plus a sudden loss of logic: Knowing powerful people want to kill
him, why would a man stroll through town alone, carrying the evidence? We’ll
forgive it, for now.


“Jennifer Falls” season-finale, 10:30 p.m., TV Land.
Jennifer (Jaime Pressly) is suspicious when Adam says she and her daughter can
move in with him.