TV column for Friday, Aug. 28

“Defiance” and “Dark Matter” season finales, 8 and 9-11p.m.,

This third season
brought another fierce foe for Defiance, the scrappy town that was
once St. Louis. Townspeople resisted the Earth Republic and the
Vitanis Collective; then came T'evgin and Kindzi, warriors from the
near-extinct Omec race. Tonight, our heroes try a suicide attack.

That's followed by
the final two “Dark Matter” episodes. In the first, a simple
rescue mission builds into an ordeal; in the second, secrets finally
emerge and a betrayal is revealed.

II: “Great Performances,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. (check local

No, you don't have
to be a classical-music buff to like this one. It's a night of lush
sounds, with Zubin Mehta conducting the Vienna Philarmonic, against
the gorgeous backdrop of the Schonbrunn Palace.

That starts with a
trumpet fanfare and ends (as always) with a Strauss waltz. In
between, there's much more, including two Edvard Grieg pieces – the
“Peer Gynt” suite and a piano concerto with Rudolf Buckbinder --
and Jean Sibilius' stirring “Finlandia,” which became Finland's
secret national anthem.

ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8 p.m. ET, CBS.

The cop shows step
aside tonight, when CBS finally gets its turn at primetime,
pre-season football. Fox, NBC and ESPN already had their first
pre-season games; now CBS – which has Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and
Tracy Wolfson as its main broadcast team – has a two-night spree.

Saturday will have
Seattle at San Dieto; first, tonight has Detroit at Jacksonville,
both 1-1 in the pre-season. The Lions finished 11-5 last season, but
promptly lost defensive star Ndamukong Suh; the Jaguars were 3-13,
then lost top draft choice Dante Fowler to a practice-time injury.

Other choices

“Narcos” debut,
any time, Netflix. Pablo Escobar's story was epic. A middle-class
Colombian kid – son of a teacher and a farmer – he created a
massive cocaine cartel; by 1989, Forbes magazine was listing his
personal wealth at $3 billion. Four years later, on the day after his
44th birthday, he was killed. This 10-part series tells
both the story of Escobar and of the search to get him.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's round, with
the final 12 acts performing. “Talent” went on to choose its 24
semi-finalists; half of them will perform next Tuesday.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. This reruns Wednesday's round, which is down to six
people. They split into three-person teams and take over a Los
Angeles restaurant, offering two choices for appetizers and two for
entrees. Then the losing team has a pasta challenge, with one person

(1942), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. This black-and-white film –
with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and deep-but-unstated passion –
is a true classic. An American Film Institute survey named it the
third-best American movie, trailing only “Citizen Kane” and “The

More movies, cable.
At 8 p.m., Disney has “Brave” (2012), the action cartoon with a
young heroine. At 9, TBS has “Due Date” (2010), a road comedy
salvaged by the smart casting of Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey
Jr. as mismatched guys, thrown together by circumstance.

“Gotham,” 9
p.m., Fox. In this rerun, Jim Gordon – a future police commissioner
– looks into the controversy surrounding Commissioner Loeb. Bruce
Wayne – the future Batman – deals with the aftermath of an
attack. And Fish Mooney's loyalty to the prisoners is questioned.

Comedy reruns. At 10
p.m., TV Land reruns “The Jim Gaffigan Show”; Jim gets a chance
to perform on Jimmy Fallon's latenight show. And at 10:30, many PBS
stations rerun the “Vicious” season-opener. It's a big, broad
episode, salvaged by the comic precision of Ian McKellen and Derek

TV column for Thursday, Aug. 27

“The Big Bang Theory” and “Mom,” 8 and 8:31 p.m., CBS.

Always very funny,
these shows have gradually added character depth and moving moments.
That's on display a little bit in the third run of a key “Big Bang”
episode: A power outage requires a quick feast, involving all the
food that Wolowitz's late mom had been saving in the refrigerator.

And the depth is
thoroughly on display in the arc now rerunning on “Mom”:
Crumbling after her ex-husband's death, Bonnie (Allison Janney)
resumed her addiction, this time using pills for her back pain. Now
her AA friends rush to her support; her daughter Christy, who's seen
this before, won't budge. TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Mistresses,” 9
p.m., ABC.

The Calista season
is now a week from wrapping up. When Alyssa Milano quit, “Mistresses”
had her character (Savannah) flee town. The show gave her sister Joss
a new friend, the high-maintenance Calista ... who soon concocted
revenge schemes against her husband, Luca.

Now Calista has been
arrested for Luca's murder ... Joss – pondering a plea baragain,
despite her innocence -- is charged as a conspirator ... and someone
may be framing both. Karen reluctantly keeps the secret that Vivian
has had a health relapse. And April is happy with Marc ... until his
sister arrives.

ALTERNATIVE: “Under the Dome,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Two weeks from the
season-finale – and, we're promised, the dome's dissolution –
people are still choosing sides. Joe chooses to work with Christine
(Marg Helgenberg), who tells him about the entity behind the dome;
others are in the Resistance, trying to rescue loved ones from her

While Barbie (Mike
Vogel) rushes to rescue Eva, Big Jim and Julia work with Hektor, head
of the corporation that wanted to harness the dome's power. He wants
to test a cure for those infected.

Other choices

“Beauty and the
Beast,” 8 p.m., CW. To defeat Liam (Jason Gedrick), Cat and Vincent
may have to use their secret weapon.

“Erin Brockovich”
(2000), 8-11 p.m., AMC. A divorced mom with a two-year college
degree, a law clerk tackled a giant utility, using charm, smarts
and/or sex appeal. It's a great story, beautifully told; Julia
Roberts won an Academy Award, with nominations for the movie, the
script and Albert Finney.

“Bones,” 9 p.m.,
Fox. The victim may have been bullied, causing Brennan to recall her
own girlhood.

“Project Runway,”
9-10:30 p.m., Lifetime. Kiernan Shipka, 15, is the guest judge, which
seems logical: The task involves putting a modern twist on a classic
design; Shipkaa spent parts of eight seasons wearing 1960s clothes in
“Mad Men.”

“Rookie Blue,”
10 p.m., ABC. Everything is changing, both personally – now that
Marlo and Sam have their baby – and professionally; after the
corruption scandal that included Commissioner Santana and Gail's
brother, the precinct will be overhauled. Andy (Missy Peregrym) feels
this may be the right time to accept an undercover job that would
have her leave town for four months.

“Documentary Now,”
10 p.m., IFC. This mock-documentary series opened last week with Bill
Hader and Fred Armisen pretending to be women in a crumbling mansion.
Now comes a quick change with a mock-doc about two journalists,
searching for a Mexican drug lord.

“Married,” 10:30
p.m., FX. Russ' mother visits, criticizing his life and praising a
stranger she met on the Internet ... and is about to join on a
cruise. There are some funny moments, but they're scattered.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 25

(TV column for
Tuesday, Aug. 25)

By Mike Hughes

“Public Morals” debut, 10 p.m., TNT, rerunning at midnight.

This may be the
logical vehicle for Edward Burns. Yes, he's an indie-filmmaker with
leading-man looks. But he's also an Irish-Catholic New Yorker whose
father and uncle were cops. So now he's writing, directing and
starring in a show set in their era.

It's early-1960s New
York, a chance for stylish visuals. Terry Muldoon (Burns) heads a
division that polices – lightly, sometimes – gambling and
prostitution. Co-stars include Katrina Bowden (“30 Rock”), Brian
Dennehy, Michael Rapaport and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

“Hollywood Game Night,” 10:01 p.m., NBC.

Let's think of this
night as a two-network crossover. First, catch “Fresh Off the
Boat,” at 8 and 8:30 p.m.; Constance Wu (who received a Television
Critics Association nomination) and Randall Park are excellent as the
oft-deludedparents; in the first rerun, she's mad at him for NOT
being jealous.

Then both are “Game
Night” contestants. They're joined by other comedy actors -- Bobby
Moynihan (“Saturday Night Live”) and Paul Scheer (“The
League”), plus Amy Smart and Randall Cobb.

ALTERNATIVE: “Katrina: The Storm That Never Stopped,” 9 p.m.,

As Hurricane Katrina
raged through the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, Anderson Cooper was at his
best. He told stories of victims and survivors; he also questioning
officials about slow responses.

Now Cooper returns
to look at some of the losses ... and at the impact on loved ones who
survived. That's part of TV's intense, 10th-anniversary
look at the storm. There have already been primetime specials Friday
(Fox News) and Sunday (ABC and Al Jazeera); others are scheduled
(subject to change) at 8 p.m. Wednesday (BET) and at 8 and 11 p.m.
Saturday (National Geographic).

Other choices

"Dusk Till Dawn," all day, El Rey. A marathon of the first season starts at 11 a.m. Then the new season begins, with all the quirky energy, charm and ... yes, the messy, vampire-style gore that we expect from "Dusk" and director Robert Rodriguez. 

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10:01 p.m., NBC. Twelve more acts perform and viewers
vote, wrapping up the third and final leg of this round. On
Wednesday, we'll learn who's in the final 24.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. “CSI” isn't the only show to discover a cyber division. Now
a cyber guy (Matt Jones) arrives, after a Naval Intelligence officer
is killed.

“Zoo,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Jamie (Kristin Connolly) links with another journalist, trying
to prove the Reiden company's connection to animals-gone-bad.
Meawhile, Mitch (Billy Burke) escapes from Reiden with his daughter's
medication and with the mother cell ... then confronts a flock of
angry birds.

“Below Deck”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Bravo. This reality show follows the staffers
– mostly young, single and telegenic – on a 164-foot yacht. Now
they're in the Bahamas with a hotel-owner and his friends; also,
they're expected to create a “foam party.”

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. Phil had seemed enthusiastic about the
notion of repopulating the Earth, helping both Carol and the
beautiful Melissa (January Jones) get pregnant. Now Todd has arrived
and Carol suggests a monogamous (Todd-Melissa) relationship; Phil is
not pleased.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. Lasalle (Lucas Black) has had a close
relationship with his brother Cade. Now Cade wakes up with no memory
of what happened the night before; his girlfriend's body is in the
trunk of his car and there's a pile of evidence against him.

“Tyrant,” 10
p.m., FX, rerunnng at 11:02 p.m. and at 12:03 and 1:07 a.m.. As
George Washington learned long ago, messy weather can help a surprise
attack. Now a sandstorm aids Barry, as his undermanned forces attack
a Caliphate base; meanwhile, his wife tries a risky plan to save

TV column for Sunday, Aug, 23

“Fear the Walking Dead” debut, 9 p.m. Sunday, AMC, rerunning at
10:29 and 11:59.

“The Walking Dead”
began in mid-chaos; Rick awoke from a coma, to find zombies in
charge. Now “Fear” sees what happened earlier, through two gifted
actors, Kim Dickins and Cliff Curtis.

She plays a
vice-principal, he plays a teacher; they're smart, earnest people
with tattered family lives. Now her son feels he saw something awful;
was it a drug nightmare ... or is the world collapsing? With
relatively little gore – that will come later -- “Fear” is
beautifully written, filmed and acted.

II: “Katrina: 10 Years After the Storm,” 10:01 p.m., ABC.

It was 10 years ago
today that Hurricane Katrina began to form in the Bahamas. It would
go on to kill almost 2,000 people and cause more than $100 billion
damage, destroyimg communities. Now Robin Roberts, who grew up in the
Mississippi Gulf, visits victims, survivors and heroes.

That's part of a
busy, retrospective look at the story. Fox News had a special Friday,
CNN has set one for Tuesday and on Saturday, National Geographic will
rerun a powerful one from 2005-6.

ALTERNATIVE: Football, 8 p.m. ET, Fox.

Do viewers really
watch pre-season football? Apparently; the opener (Aug. 9) was “at
a high school stadium in Canton, Ohio, where none of the stars
played,” said NBC's Fred Gaudelli. “And we had 11 million people
tune in.”

Now Fox has the
Tennessee Titans hosting the St. Louis Rams. If nothing else, fans
get a two-night chance to see the quarterbacks who were this year's
top draft picks – the Titans' Marcus Mariota (No. 2 pick) tonight,
then Tampa Bay's Jamals Winston (No. 1) on ESPN's “Monday Night

ALTERNATIVE II: “Vicious” season-opener, 10:30 p.m., PBS (check
local listings).

Here's the exact
opposite of pro football. In a British parlor, two gay lovers sip
tea, snipe at each other and bicker and banter with friends; it
works, thanks to fairly good writing and superb performances.

Tonight brings a
variation on a theater gimmick: To help a friend, one man (Derek
Jacobi) must pretend to be her husband, with another (Ian McKellen)
as their butler. Naturally, they fail in funny ways.

Other choices

More zombies, all
day. Somehow, the undead are consuming our TV sets? Prior to debuting
its prequel, AMC reruns the entire “Walking Dead” season; the
first episode starts at 3 a.m., the last at 6:30 p.m., leading into
the “Talking Dead” chat show at 8. Meanwhile, BBC America has the
popular comedy “Shaun of the Dead” at 6 p.m. and midnight ET; at
10, FX has the well-crafted “The Strain.”

“Hollywood Game
Night,” 7 and 8 p.m., NBC. Here are back-to-back reruns of a fun
show. There are lots of interesting people, including Gina Rodriguez
(“Jane the Virgin”) and Zachary Levi (who has his own game show,
“Geeks Who Drink”) in the first hour and Mary Lynn Rajskub in the

“Bachelor in
Paradise,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. So Joe pretended to like Juelia, but
really wanted Samantha. And now a newcomer arrives, also wanting
Samantha ... who soon has a big break-up. There's much more deception
and dismay; aren't you glad you're not a pretty person in Paradise?

“On the Record,”
8 p.m., Ovation. These days, everyone in Philadelphia seems to be
Patti LaBelle's friend, Mick Rock finds in this so-so half-hour. That
wasn't true in her girlhood, she tells him: “I didn't have any
friends, because I didn't like people.” But she did like church
choir, launching a great career.

Secretary,” 9 p.m., CBS. For six straight nights, CBS will have a
“Madame Secretary” rerun. Tonight,
Elizabeth faces trouble in Turkey and at school, where her son
slugged a bully.

“CSI: Cyber,” 10
p.m., CBS. Technology keep confusing us: In this rerun, electronic
devices seem to indicate a woman was alive three days after her
official time of death.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 22

“Boston EMS” finale, 10 p.m., ABC.

It's been a tough
summer for the two documentary series from ABC News – good shows,
given inconsistent scheduling. The “Save My Life, Boston Trauma”
finale will be delayed a week, to make room for Sunday's Hurricae
Katrina special; however, “EMS” concludes tonight.

One EMT ends up on
the stretcher herself, after a mis-step. Another is moved to tears by
a 3-year-old's struggle, as he thinks of his own 3-year-old daughter.
And a jogger, seriously injured by a car, mostly seems upset about
missing his work-out.

II: “Aquarius” season-finale, 9 p.m., NBC.

Hodiak (David
Duchovny) has admitted he's selling his soul. A no-nonsense cop, he's
willing to drop his murder investigation against Karn ... if Karn
uses his influence to save Hodiak's AWOL son Walt.

The deal, however,
involves turning over damning Vietnam information that Walt has
uncovered; Hodiak scambles to keep both sides from backing out.
Meanwhile, Karn's daughter confronts one of the other Charlie Manson
women ... only to be interrupted by a crisis. Expect a noisy

ALTERNATIVE: “Blunt Talk” debut, 9 p.m., Starz; rerunning at
10:05 and 11:15;

Here is Patrick
Stewart in full splendor, showing all his talents. His carachter is
simultaneously comic and tragic, vainglorious and pitiful. This week
(while drunk), he does swordplay and Shakespeare; next week (in a
dream), he has a big dance number.

Walter Blunt
(Stewart) is a transplanted talk-show host, with his old Falklands
War underling now serving as his manservant. Tonight, he has a sex
scandal, then tries to get out of it by interviewing himself. Some of
the humor is ... well, blunt; the interview, however, offers
Emmy-worthy brilliance.

Other choices

James Bond films,
all day, El Rey. Robert Rodriguez, the director who runs this
network, is an action fan who's chosen his Bond favorites. Today (the
middle of a three-day marathon) has “GoldenEye” at 6:45 a.m.,
“From Russian With Love” at 9:45, “Goldfinger” at noon,
“Thunderball” at 2:30 p.m.,”You Only Live Twice” at 5:30, “On
Her Majesty's Secret Service” at 8 and “Live and Let Die” at

“Scorpion,” 8
p.m., CBS. Once considered your everyday California nerds, these
people are once again saving the world. In this rerun, they must
salvage peace talks, amid a Eastern European war.

“Running Wild with
Bear Grylls,” 8 p.m., NBC. In the “Fast and Furious” movies and
beyond, Michelle Rodriguez has built a reputation for toughness. In
this rerun, however, she must descend a slot canyon in Nevada, then
spend two days on the searing Red Desert.

“Evocateur,” 8
and 10 p.m. ET, CNN. If you missed this film's debut (which was
Thursday, after being delayed a week), catch it now. It's a powerful
portrait of Morton Downey Jr. Once a sensitive guy who wrote a book
of poetry when Robert Kennedy was killed, Downey became an abrasive
talk-show host. He soared in the late 1980s, then imploded amid
alcohol, sex, tobacco and ego.

Remorse” season-opener, 9:31 p.m., Starz, rerunning at 10:40 and
11:50. Cam is starting to get used to his life as a pro basketball
star ... and to the new mansion where he lives with his extended
family. This is a fairly good episode, but no match for the blunt
brilliance of “Blunt Talk.”

“Hannibal,” 10
p.m., NBC. There's a fresh plan to lure the Red Dragon Killer, using
Dr. Chilton (Raul Esparza) and Freddie (Lara Jean Chorostecki). But
Will's own fragile psyche seems endangered,

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Michael Keaton hosts this rerun, with Carly
Ray Jepson as the music guest.