TV column for Saturday, June 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

Blake Shelton
expanded his NBC domain with this January episode. Already big with
“The Voice,” he hosted, was music guest and did most of the
sketches – some good and some (as usual) not.

Shelton wasn't in
the opener (a clever take-off on the deflated-football controversy)
and then had a so-so “Hee Haw” bit. But his “Bachelor” satire
and a fake country video (“Wishin' Boot”) were brilliant. Others
(“My Darlin' Joan,” “Magic”) were strained and one-note, but
that's a common “SNL” problem.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Astronauts Wives Club,” 8 p.m., ABC.

If you missed
Thursday's opener, here's a second chance. It's a fairly good hour,
depicting the seven women married to the original Apollo astronauts.

At the core is
Louise Shepard – intense, determined ... and looking past her
husband's continued affairs; they managed to stay married for 53
years. She's the opposite of Trudy Cooper (Odette Annable), a pilot
who had already left her husband once ... just as flashy and
confident Rene Carpenter (Yvonne Strahovski) was the opposite of shy
Annie Glenn (Azure Parsons). They offer an interesting mix.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Seventies” (7 and 8 p.m.) and “Blackfish”
(2013), 9 p.m., CNN.

Give CNN credit for
offering alternatives to all that news-channel chatter. Tonight, it
reruns the start of its “Seventies” documentary series: The first
hour (on 1970s television) is slick and shallow, but fun; the second
turns serious, viewing Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon.

Then is a rerun of
“Blackfish,” in which former amusement-park people condemn the
notion of captive whales. Deeply engaging, it was named
best-documentary by film critics in St. Louis, Las Vegas and
Washington, D.C., and by the Satellite Awards.

Other choices
include:

Golf, 2-10 p.m. ET,
Fox. It's the third night of the U.S. Open, as the week's sports
overload continues. NBC has boxing (Adrien Broner and Shawn Porter)
at 8:30 p.m. ET. And the golf nudges the Women's World Cup over to
Fox Sports 1, with round-of-16 elimination games at 4 and 7:30 p.m.
ET.

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. It isn't easy being a kid surrounded by big-time people.
Playing a video game in this rerun, Ralph accidentally reveals the
location of a CIA safe house.

“Gone Girl”
(2014), 8-10:30 p.m., HBO. If you haven't seen this (or read the
book), savor the plot twists. Rosamund Pike got a well-deserved Oscar
nomination; the movie should have had one, too.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. It's Halloween in New Orleans – yes, this
is a rerun – and we find a JAG officer slain, with odd details. She
has a Victorian costume, with vampire-type puncture wounds.

“In an Instant,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. As a high-school-graduation present, Jenna Otter's
dad took her on a hiking trip to Glacier National Park. There, she
confronted a 400-pound grizzly bear; her dad, a hospital
administrator, diverted the bear, survived the attack ... and even
joked about it afterward. It's a strong story that this rerun tells
with recollections and re-enactments.

“Power,” 9 p.m.,
Starz. “Why are you telling me this?” James (the secret drug
boss) asks his lover (the assistant district attorney who works drug
cases). We were wondering the same thing. This is a stylish drama
(especially in tonight's Miami episode), but her blunt admission
seems wildly unbelievable.

“Jonathan Strange
& Mr. Norrell,” 10-11:15 p.m., BBC America. As his reputation
for magic grows, the charismatic Strange becomes an apprentice to the
mild-mannered Norrell.

TV column for Friday, June 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Killjoys” debut, 9 p.m., Syfy.

On a distant
planet, Dutch is the consummate bounty hunter. She's friendly,
flirty, smart and tough. As played by Hannah John-Kamen – a British
beauty with Nigerian-Norwegian roots – she's a sci-fi star.

Her partner tries to
talk his way out of peril ... failing due to sarcasm. Then we meet
his brother, an ex-soldier who has all the military skills, but none
of the bounty smarts. This opener has some irrelevant violence –
why can the brothers only communicate by pounding each other
senseless at a fight club? -- but it's energetic fun, the middle of
Syfy's all-new, three-hour lineup for summer Fridays.

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

Masi Oka, a favorite
of “Heroes” fans, gets the focus here. When the team travels to
the Big Island to probe the murder of a cowboy, Max (Oka) is forced
to work with another medical examiner.

Meanwhile, McGarrett
wants Danny to steal a Christmas tree. Yes, that's illegal; and yes,
it's a rerun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Broadway and opera
merge seamlessly. “The Merry Widow” was taped at the Metropolitan
Opera, with two of the Met's best – Renee Fleming and Nathan Gunn –
starring. But Kelli O'Hara (fresh from her first Tony, and sixth
nomination) co-stars, with Susan Stroman (five Tonys, 14 nominations)
directing.

“Widow” is a
silly farce, but this English translation has some cute lines and
Stroman offers vibrant choreography. Fleming and Gunn bring superstar
power and O'Hara is a delight in her opera debut.

Other choices
include:

“Catastrophe,”
any time, Amazon Prime. In a crowded bar, an American businessman
(Rob Delaney) meets an Irishwoman (Sharon Hogan). They find fun, lust
... and then (we won't spoil the plot) a detour. “Catastrophe” is
a slyly clever show that offers few big moments, but many sharp,
interesting ones. Already renewed in England for a second season,
this makes all six episodes available today.

Golf, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox. Here's the second round of the U.S. Open.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's auditions,
which moved outdoors to sample some “extreme” acts.

“Defiance,” 8
p.m., Syfy. Last week's opener saw the town forge an uneasy alliance
with a powerful father-daughter Omec duo, to re-open the mines.
Meanhile, Gen. Rahm Tak's army was advancing; tonight, Nolan and
Irisa meet someone whose information may help their defense.

“Messengers,” 9
p.m., CW. The team heads to California, trying to stop two brothers.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) has trouble at work – three
community leaders have been slain – and at home: After being
mugged, his wife insists on having a gun.

“Dark Matter,”
10 p.m., Syfy. In last week's opener, spaceship-crew members
awakened, unable to rememember who they are or what their mission is.
Now they get revelations about their past and decide whether to help
miners who seem to face impossible odds.

TV column for Thursday, June 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Astronaut Wives Club” debut, 8 p.m., ABC.

In the 1960s, NASA
nurtured its image: The astronauts were sturdy, their wives were
diligent, all were generic. In truth, this series says, the wives
ranged from shy, stuttering Annie Glenn to Rene Carpenter, a flashy
blonde who would become a post-divorce feminist and media star.

Trudy Cooper was a
pilot who had already left her husband once. Louise Shepard, the
centtral character here, was steel-willed, overlooking infidelity and
staying married for 53 years. They're a deep and varied bunch, part
of a fairly solid start to a promising series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
: “Mistresses” season-opener, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC.

In one night, we can
see a show switch identities. The first hour is overwrought soap
opera, as usual. Jos has walked out on her wedding, to lust with her
sister Savi's ex-husband. Savi has over-reacted wildly. Karen has a
dictor's-office scene that's horribly written and played.

Then, somehow, the
second hour gets looser and lighter. It adds key regulars – one
(Jennifer Esposito) is rich and vengeful; the other is a hapless
soul, trying to watch his sister's son. Meanwhile, Jos – tragic and
teary the first hour – returns to be frantic and funny, fitting the
show's new tone.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Complications,” 9-11 p.m., USA.

For years, USA
thrived on a basic formula – blue-sky adventures, most of them
wrapping up a story each hour. Now it tries (with partial success)
something much more complex.

Dr. John Ellis
(Jason O'Mara) is an emergency-room doctor, unsure about his life.
Then he steps in to save someone after a shooting. Soon, he's pulled
into gang warfare and tangled ethical dilemmas.

Other choices
include:

Golf, 8 p.m. ET,
Fox. Halfway through its 10-week run, “Wayward Pines” takes a
week off so the U.S. Open can start its primetime push.

“Big Bang Theory,”
8 p.m., CBS. On one level, this is a typically funny rerun; the
comic-book store is re-opening, Penny fumes at Amy, the guys say
they've seen Nathan Fillion, star of the old “Firefly” show. On
the other, Howard gets a jolting call, a reminder that this show has
a solid, human core.

“The Odd Couple,”
8:31 p.m., CBS. At a wedding, the guys have opposite goals in this
rerun. Oscar wants to link with an old flame; Felix hopes to convince
his ex-wife (Christine Woods) he's changed.

“Aquarius,” 9
p.m., NBC. Last week ended with Hodiak (David Duchovney) and his
ex-girlfriend retrieving her 16-year-old daughter from Charlie
Manson's turf. That still leaves the question of whether she'll stay:
Tonight ends with some fiercely overwrought moments; before that, it
adds black activists who are – like almost everyone in this
one-note mini-series – crabby and dull-witted.

“The Seventies,”
9 p.m., CNN. This series debuted last week with a look at 1970s TV;
it was quick and slick and not too deep. Not to worry: The previous
series (“The Sixties”) also opened with a fairly thin porttrait
of television, then got much better. Tonight's hour views Richard
Nixon's Watergate woes.

“Mom,” 9:01
p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the episode that introduced Sara Rue as
the new (and wealthier) girlriend of Christy's ex-husband. Ed Asner
guests as the neighbor.

“Elementary,”
10:01 p.m., CBS. The murder of a brilliant bio-engineer seems linked
to a a drug cartel. Also in this rerun, Sherlock and Watson are
reluctant to share their secrets.

TV column for Wednesday, June 17


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Movies, 8 p.m., cable.

A weak night for
other shows happens to be a varied one for movies. Families have
“Bolt” (2008) on Disney, an animated delight about a dog actor
who thinks he really is a superhero; grown-ups have “Get On Up”
(2014) on HBO, the James Brown story. After mastering the contained
power of Jackie Robinsin in “42,” Chadwick Boseman is just as
good as the uncontained and vibrant Brown.

And for
summer-movie-style action? There's “Captain America” (2011) on FX
(repeating at 10:30 p.m.) and “The Matrix” (1999) on IFC.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Modern Family,” 9 p.m., ABC.

On any summer
Wednesday, ABC's comedy reruns are a strong choice. This one finds
Alex (the studious one) visiting the Cal Tech campus; her mom tries
to convince her to go there, but the other Dunphys are out of their
element; soon, they're taking part in psychology tests.

Meanwhile, Jay and
Gloria disagree about anniversary presents; Cam and Mitchell pose for
a picture.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Rambo” (1985) and “Deutschland 83” debut, 9 and
11 p.m., Sundance.

A generation ago,
the capitalist and communist worlds seemed doomed to battle. First,
here's Sylvester Stallone's classic, mastering the art of high-octane
action; then is the German perspective.

That starts with
Ronald Reagan's 1983 “evil empire” speech. Germans expect the
U.S, to hit Russia with a nuclear attack, spilling into their land.
An East German soldier is pressured into posing as the new aide for a
West German general. This is no match for the subtle brilliance of
“The Americans”; also, its sub-titles are a problem during heavy
dialog. Still, it gives us fresh views of a troubled world.

Other choices
include:

“I Can Do That,”
8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun from last week, celebrities try to master
archery (with Ben Blacque), jumping-rope (Double Dutch) and more
(Blue Man Group).

“The Middle,” 8
p.m., ABC. It's college-visit rerun day on ABC. Sue visits colleges
with her dad, while her mom goes to Axl's first college football
game. That leaves no one to help Brick with his project.

“The Goldbergs,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. When Erica's dad quits letting her use the car, she
has an extreme solution – buying a creepy-looking van with her
brother Barry. Also in this rerun, their brother Adam isn't happy
about his image, after the yearbook names him “nicest guy.”

“Baby Daddy,”
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Trying to be pals again, ex-lovers Riley and
Ben compete at hooking up in a bar. They choose gorgeous people –
her target is played by Eddie Cibrian – and have quick
repercussions. The result is funny – despite the usual excesses –
and has long-range impact.

“Skin Wars,” 9
p.m., Game Show Network. Last week's dandy opener (rerunning at 8
p.m.) had gifted artists doing body-painting based on chess pieces.
Now they create camouflaged humans.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a woman's electronic devices seem to show she
was alive for three days affter her official cause of death.

“Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes,” 10 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This sort of comedy
propelled Marilun Monroe. She's teamed with Jane Russell and sings
“Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.”

 

TV column for Tuesday, June 16


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“iZombie,” 9 p.m,, CW.

If you missed this
the first time around (hey, a lot of people did), don't fret. It will
be back this fall and it now is rerunning from the start.

Rose McIver -- a
terrific New Zealand actress who was Tinker Bell in ABC's “Once
Upon a Time” -- plays Liv, an intense medical resident with no time
for fun. She tries one party and, of course, confronts zombies; now
she is one. Working in the morgue, she acquires some of the traits of
the people she chomps ... and also learns hints of their murder. It
sounds goofy, but it's surprisingly well-done.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Sports overload, 7:45 p.m. ET, Fox, and 9 p.m. ET, ABC.

This is a rarity –
two major events on broadcast networks on a Tuesday.

Fox has soccer, with
the Women's World Cup; the U.S. faces Nigeria, in its last game
before the elimination round-of-16 begins. And ABC has basketball,
with game six of the best-of-seven championship, preceded by Jimmy
Kimmel at 8 p.m. and a preview at 8:31. This one is in Cleveland; if
needed, the seventh will be Friday at Golden Stage.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Tyrant” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX.

When this began a
year ago, Barry Al-Fayeed was a Pasadena pediatrician, married to
another doctor, with two kids and a comfy life. He reluctantly
visited his homeland for the first time in 20 years. By the end of
the season, he was facing execution for trying to overthrow his
brother's corrupt regime.

That's where we
start, in an hour that's both bizarre and emotional. What began as a
shaky story, with overwrought characters, has deepened, with richly
layered people played with subtlety and skill.

Other choices
include:

“The Roosevelts,”
8-10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Ken Burns splendid documentary
rerun (which concludes next week) reaches its peak point. Physically
deteriorating, Franklin Roosevelt rallies a nation that's unprepared
for world war.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Auditions continue.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, a gifted Navy research scientist has been killed.
With Russians probing the same case, the team links with the FBI.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. This reruns the first crossover episode.
When a prisoner vehicle crashes, four prisoners escape. Pride (Scott
Bakula) needs information from Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

“Stitchers,”
9:01 p.m., ABC Family. Cameron's neighbor is the victim of a murder
that might have been intended for him. Now the team sets up a
stakeout at his apartment.

“I Can Do That,”
10 p.m., NBC. It's time to learn some more strange skills – the
puppetry of “Avenue Q,” the martial arts of Board Breakers and
the bizarre, shape-shifting dance skills of Pilobolus

“Proof” debut,
10 p.m., TNT. Dr. Carolyn Tyler (Jennifer Beals) has seen her life
crumble. Here teen son died, her marriage to another doctor (David
Sutcliffe) has broken up and there's a growing gap with her daughter.
Then a patient (Matthew Modine), who is a tech-billionarie, convinces
her to look into issues of the afterlife. In the opener, an
8-year-old says she met dead relatives during a coma.