TV column for Wednesday, July 22


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Last Comic Standing” season-opener, 9-11 p.m., NBC.

It's been a bumpy
ride, with eight previous seasons sprawled over 12 years. One time,
NBC skipped the show for three summers; another, it ordered two
editions ... then skipped the finale of the second.

Now “Comic” is
back, with more changes. It's shorter (eight weeks), has its fourth
host (Anthony Jeselnik) and has changed one of the judges (Norm
Macdonald replaces Russell Peters, alongside Roseanne Barr andKeenen
Ivory Wayans). At the core, however, is a show spotlighting gifted
comics.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Extant,” 9 p.m., CBS.

This is an ambitious
summer show, with Oscar-winners as producer (Steven Spielberg) and
star (Halle Berry). Ratings have slipped in this second season,
though, so CBS is moving it an hour earlier.

Tonight, Molly
scrambles to find a virus that would destroy alien hybrids. Also, her
artificial-human son escapes from his keeper, in an attempt to stir
his wiped-away memories of her..

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Debuts of “Home Free,” 9 p.m., Fox, and “Twinning,”
10 p.m., VH1.

In many ways, these
shows are opposites. “Home Free” -- a feel-good, home-fix-up show
-- has a terrific host (Mike Holmes) and, tonight, a wonderful
ending; “Twinning” has neither.

Still, there's a
common point: “Home Free” has a likable set of twins ...
inclucing the first person who gets a time out, for being overzealous
with a sledge hammer; “Twinning” pits a dozen sets of twins,
varying widely: Two guys dress alike and have never been apart for
more than 12 hours; two women have had sharply different looks for a
decade. You'll soon hate some twins and root for others.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No,” 9 p.m., Syfy,
repeating at 11.

Twice now – first
in Los Angeles, then New York – airborne sharks have rained down;
both times, Finn (Ian Ziering) has fought back with guts, luck and
(at times) a chainsaw. But now an attack is zooming down the entire
East Coast; as usual for disaster films, national monuments are early
targets.

This brings back
Cassie Scerbo as Nova, the action hero from the first “Sharknado,”
and piles up the cameo roles, some of them (David Hasselhoff, Mark
Cuban, Frankie Muniz) substantial. It has many flaws – scarce
humor, grisly violence, disjointed story – but never claimed to be
classy.

Other choices
include:

“Black-ish,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. Fresh from its Emmy nomintion (for star Anthony
Anderson), this comedy offers four straight reruns. It starts with
Dre (Anderson) trying to preserve Halloween traditions; it concludes
with him reluctant to tell his mom that his sister (Raven-Symone) is
a lesbian.

“Melissa &
Joey,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. This is basically a clip show, with
scenes from the past. Still, the basic set-up – a parlor game --
brings laughs of its own.

“Baby Daddy,”
8:31 p.m., ABC Family. As Bonnie prepares for yet another wedding
day, her sons are in charge of her dress. The results, of course, are
disastrous.

“Suits,” 9 p.m.,
USA. Eric Close is know as a co-star of many shows (including
“Without a Trace”) and as the cheating mayor on “Nashville.”
But in five “Suits” episodes, he was Travis Tanner, Harvey's
enemy. Now he returns, claiming to be a changed man.

“Modern Family,”
10 and 10:30 p.m., ABC. Both transplanted reruns center on Claire.
The first, which is hilarious, has her stuck in the airport and
spying on the family via computer; in the second, she must quickly
shoot a commercial for her dad's closet company.

“The Jim Gaffigan
Show,” 10 p.m., TV Land. This quietly clever comedy got off to a
good start last week. Tonight, Jim tries to cut back on junk food;
then a kid's birthday cake tempts him.

TV column for Tuesday, July 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Knock Knock Live” debut, 9 p.m., Fox; and its lead-in.

Fox has floundered
lately, but this is its big week. It starts two shows -- “Knock”
tonight and “Home Free” on Wednesday – and ends another
(“Wayward Pines” on Thursday). And at 8 p.m. today, it has an
anniversary party for “So You Think You Can Dance,” with favorite
dancers from its first 10 years.

Then comes a simple
concept: If people hear a knock on the door, they may soon be talking
live to Ryan Seacrest (in a Los Angeles studio) and co-host Kellie
Pickler, winning prizes and more.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Hollywood Game Night,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

The idea sounds
slight - show-business people in a make-believe living room, playing
parlor games. But it works because it has a sharp host (Jane Lynch),
fun guests and cleverly written questions.

So it's logical that
Lynch has an Emmy-nomination as best game host – which she won last
year. And that this took the Writers Guild's game-show award.
Tonight's round has two singers (Josh Groban, Ciara), two comedians
(Wanda Sykes, Jerry Ferrara) and two actors (Cheryl Hines, Michael
Chiklis.

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

This story of a
fictional Middle Eastern country is becoming as thick and imposing as
... well, the politics of real Middle Eastern countries. It's
villain-vs.-villain, as we look for the least-objectonable.

Barry, a Pasadena
pediarician, had tried to peacefully overthrow his brother's evil
regime. He was arrested, convicted and left in the desert to die.
Bedouins saved him ... then were overrun by rebels with their own
form of tyranny. In a tough and violent hour, all three sides strike
hard.

Other choices
include:

“Tut,” 5, 7 and
9 p.m., Spike. You can catch the full mini-series, but be warned:
This odd tale – Tut as a warrior king – requires huge suspension
of disbelief. As the final chapter (9 p.m., rerunning at 11 p.m. and
1 a.m.) begins, Tut is in a tough spot. As tribesmen prepare to
attack, Egypt;s army is ravaged by disease; he must reluctantly turn
to the general who failed to help him and claimed he was dead.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. After a rescue mission in Syria, there's evidence that an
American-grown terrorist was involved in the kidnapping. Also in this
rerun, colleagues question Tony's odd behavior.

“Black-ish,”
8:30 p.m., ABC. Are we sure Santa is white? In this rerun, Dre
(Emmy-nominee Anthony Anderson) wants to take over the job at the
office Christmas party.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. The show's five lead characters have assembled into a team now,
asked by a top intelligence agent to learn what's behind the
worldwide animal attacks. They find that a prison escapee may be
involved and an FBI agent may know something about the prison fire.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds the team rushing to find
who was behind a deadly explosion that was aimed at Pride (Scott
Bakula).

“Frontline,”
10-11:30 p.m, PBS (check local listings). Joaquin Guzman has been in
the headlines since his July 11 escape from Mexican prison. Know as
“El Chapo,” he was the country's top drug kingpin for a decade.
This film followed filmmakers trying to interview him, before his
arrest on Feb. 22, 2014.

“Royal Pains”
season-finale, 10 p.m., USA. This series began six years ago with
Hank's fiancee dumping him, after he lost his hospital job. Now he
bumps into her and has a revelation.

TV column for Monday, July 20


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

It was exactly a
decade ago, that “Dance” began as the little cousin of “Amercan
Idol.” Now “Idol” prepares for its final season and “Dance”
booms ahead with its new judges (Paula Abdul, Jason Derulo) and its
intriguing new “stage vs. Street” format.

Tonight brings the
first viewer-vote ousters and the first time that the 18 survivors
must mix it up, tackling different genres. And Tuesday, (one day
late), the show has an anniversary special.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Tut,” 9 p.m., Spike, rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

As the mid-section
of this mini-series begins, Egypt has mourned (briefly) Tut, its
pharaoh. Now his widow (and half-sister) is marrying his best friend.
Except that Tut is actually racing home, along with the beauty
(half-Egyptian, half-outsider) who saved him on the battlefield, plus
a loyal soldier.

This was set up in
the opener, an odd fact-and-fiction blend that made Tut an action
hero. That reruns at 7 p.m., leading to new troubles. Illness
spreads, a warring tribe looms, a dynasty wobbles. There are
shattering moments at the beginning and end tonight, in a tale that's
lavish and intense, but hard to like.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Magic, 8 p.m., CW or Tru TV.

On either network
you'll find master magicians at work. The CW's “Penn & Teller:
Fool Us” has the episode that was slated for the season-opener,
then delayed. There's humor (Handsome Jack), beauty (Mistie) and
great tricks, including a guy who deftly slides between computer
images and real objects.

Also, Tru TV reruns
the delightful “Carbonaro Effect,” blending magic, hidden cameras
and Michael Carbonaro's droll ability to convince some people that
the impossible just happened. That's 8-11 p.m. and midnight to 3
a.m.; there's another marathon Wednesday, a week before the second
season begins.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “POV: Return to Homs,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local
listings).

Reversing the
Hollywood route, this documentary starts with optimism, then sinks
into despair. We meet Abdul Basset Saroot at 19, handsome, athletic
(listed as the second-best young soccer goalkeeper in Syria) and a
charismatic revolutionary; we meet Ossama al-Habaly, recording the
revolution.

That footage soars
with the idealism of young masses, singing of freedom; then the army
strikes. Some of the scenes – walking through abandoned apartments,
each full of furniture and memories – are haunting. The result won
the 2014 Sundance Film Festival prize for world-cinema documentaries.

Other choices
include:

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Next week, Kaitlyn Bristowe has
the odd task of choosing between enemies. Nick Viall, 34, and Shawn
Booth, 30, seem to have nothing in common except their career choice
(software sales) and their dislike for each other. Tonight, the show
pauses to let this year's contestants comment and confront each
other.

“2 Broke Girls,”
8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Valerie Harper plays a successful
photographer with a secret.

“Mike &
Molly,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. In real life, Billy Gardell managed to shed
70 pounds during the show's first four-and-a-half seasons. This rerun
sees Mike (Gardell) reach a personal weight goal ... then make the
risky move of eating a piece of pie.

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. This rerun finally sees Walter learn what happened to Cabe
(Robert Patrick) in Baghdad. Also, Paige is jolted when her son risks
his life to help the team.

“Running Wild with
Bear Grylls,” 10:01 p.m., NBC. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern
Family”) doesn't claim to be a macho man. Now, however, he's
climbing the “Mountain of Thunders” in the Italian Alps.

“Whispers,”
10:01 p.m., ABC. Claire and Sean had assumed that the “Dril” is
something new. Now, however, they meet someone who had a deadly
encounter with him more than 30 years ago.

 

TV column for Sunday, July 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Welcome to Sweden” season-opener, 8 and 8:30 p.m., NBC.

The first season of
“Welcome” was a quiet delight, catching the benign confusion of
culture clash. In real life, Greg Poehler was a New York lawyer who
married another lawyer, moved to her native Sweden and (like his
sister Amy) did comedy. For TV, he's exaggerated that in fun ways.

He plays Bruce, a
former financial planner, adrift in Sweden. He wants to propose to
his girlfriend, but her parents don't believe in marriage. In the
first episode, Neve Campbell plays a difficult co-worker; in the
second, Jason Priestley plays himself, wanting Bruce to give him a
tour.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Tut” opener, 9 p.m., Spike; reruns at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The settings are
lavish, the actors are solid, the story is ... well, weird. This
takes some historical facts: Tut really did become pharaoh at about
9, married his half-sister and eventually broke from his elders, to
become a foceful leader. On top of that, however, the three-night
tale makes him an action hero.

Tonight starts with
excessive brutality, then adds some decent palace politics. Avan
Jogia and Sibylla Deen are fine as the royal couple, with Ben
Kingsley excellent as the top advisor. Then the battles (and the
oddness) begin. This opener repeats at 7 p.m. Monday and 5 p.m.
Tuesday, as the tale concludes.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Save My Life, Boston Trauma” debut, 10 p.m., ABC.

This is something
ABC News does beautifully -- a real reality show, capturing doctors,
nurses, patients and more. Previous seasons (in Baltimore, Boston and
New York) drew praise and a Peabody Award. Now Boston is back,
doubly. After tonight, this show follows the “Boston EMS” debut
next Saturday.

This opener is
harsher than usual; not until the final minurtes (with an 85-year-old
charmer) does it lighten up. Instead, people scramble (sometimes
unsuccessfully) to save lives. Two women were hit by cars, two men
were struck by drive-by bullets, a guy took a hockey puck to the
neck. Lives teeter.

Other choices
include:

-- “Celebrity
Family Feud,” 8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. One episode has a football
flavor – the families of Rob Gronkowski and Holly Robinson-Peete
(including former pro quarterback Rodney Peete). The other has the
families of actress Keke Palmer and comedian Bill Engvall.

-- “The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. Churches really shouldn't be raising money by gambling
and card-counting. Still, life gets complicated when you're hit by a
police jet pack, as we see in this rerun.

-- “Brooklyn
Nine-Nine,” 8:30, Fox. This rerun offers the wedding day Charles
and Gina. Alas, Jake and Amy are busy chasing a crook; also, the
sergeant struggles with his plans to officiate.

-- “Masterpiece:
Poldark,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Demelza is making the
tricky transition from kitchen maid to landowner's wife. She tries
some matchmaking and she and Poldark are starting a family.
Meanwhile, Francis goes to extremes to make up for his losses.

-- “Ray Anthony,”
9 p.m., Showtime. As Ray deals with shady new father-daughter
clients, his family keeps crumbling. His wife is a shambles, his
ex-con dad ineptly launches a pimp casreer and his now-con brother
faces fights and deteriorating health. It's a tough, taut,
sometimes-involving hour.

-- “Masters of
Sex,” 10 p.m., Showtime. Last week's season-opener ended with the
jolting news that Virginia Johnson is pregnant. Can the spokeswoman
for '60s sexuality suddenly seem to be an unwed mother? This sets off
some interesting debates on all sides.

-- “The Strain,”
10 p.m., FX. Fresh flashbacks visit Abraham's original decision to
dump a comfy faculty life. Meanwhile, the doctors enter shaky ethical
turf, when using a couple as test subjects; that leads to agony and
to a touching moment.

 

TV column for Saturday, July 18


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Cedar Cove” season-opener, 8-10 p.m., Hallmark.

As this third season
begins, “Cove” has mastered its formula. The settings (in a
seaside town) are beautiful; so are many of the people, most of them
well-meaning, Lots of storylines breeze by.

The toughest involve
Olivia, who's a judge, and her boyfriend, who's a newspaperman (and,
thereby, alcoholic). Two people close to Olivia (her daughter and her
best friend) both have tangled romances. Then a handsome newcomer
(Colin Ferguson) arrives, a crooked developer returns and more. One
storyline, involving a town administrator, is lame; others, however,
flow along pleasantly.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Hell on Wheels” season-opener, 9 p.m., AMC; reruns at 10.

This is the exact
opposite of “Cove” in many ways; it's dark in tone, darker in
mood. But like “Cove,” it masters its approach. You can catch
last season (starting at 8 a.m.), then see a new adversary.

Cullen (Anson
Mount), a former Confederate officer, has switched to the opposing
side in the race to finish the trans-continental railroad. Now he
clashes with Chang, who supplies the Chinese workers, keeping half
the money for himself. Two powerful forces collide; this could be a
great season.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” 8-11
p.m., ABC.

Here's yet another
chance to see the second Potter film. Like the first, it's directed
by Chris Columbus, giving it a bright, slick feel. And it leads a
night stuffed with appealing movies.

ABC Family has an
animation marthon, with “Cars” (2006) and “Cars 2” (2011) at
2:30 and 5 p.m., “The Incredibles” (2004) at 7:30 and “Toy
Story 3” (2010) at 10. At 8 p.m., “The Dark Knight Rises”
(2012) is on TNT and the Oscar-winning “Gladiator” (2000) is on
VH1. Also, at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies has “The Candidate”
(1972), a brilliant look at how image can dominate politics.

Other choices
include:

-- Shark overload,
cable. Sundance offers the four “Jaws” films (1975, 78, '83 and
'87) at 6, 9 and 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Syfy – gearing up for
Wednesday's “Sharknado 3” -- starts its shark-film marathon at 9
a.m.; it has two new films -- “Roboshark” at 7 p.m. and “Mega
Shark vs. Kolossus” at 9.

-- “Bullseye”
and “Boom,” 8 and 9 p.m., Fox. Two game shows offer reruns. One
has offbeat target practice; the other (repeating its opener) has
people answering questions under the threat of slime.

-- “The Millers,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., CBS. Two leftover new episodes help spark a
Saturday. In the first, the Millers inhabit a nativity scene; in the
second, Nathan (Will Arnett) tries to use his influence to help his
niece get into a good school; his parents tryto help Kip (Sean Hayes)
with his sleep problems.

-- “Running Wild
With Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of Monday's solid
season-opener, Kate Hudson does a good job agains the imposing
demands of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

-- “Atlantis,” 9
p.m., BBC America. Pythagoras is ready to help the troubled Jason,
but others refuse.

-- “Jonathan
Strange & Mr. Norrell,” 10 p.m., BBC America. For Strange,
this is a complicated plan: Go to Venice and drive himself insane, so
he can access some fairy magic and resurrect his wife.

-- “Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Kevin Hart hosts this rerun, with Sia as
music guest.