TV column for Sunday, July 9


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Tennison” finale, 10-11:30 p.m., PBS.

Over the past two
Sundays, we've seen Jane Tennison transform. This isn't the
tough-eyed police boss Helen Mirren began playing in 1991; we're
flashing back to her first days at work in 1973 London.

A probationary cop
with middle-class roots, Jane (Stefanie Martini) was ignored by the
men ... then found key clues in two perplexing cases. Now they both
peak: There was the murder of Julie Anne, a prostitute from an
upscale family; now there's the bank heist planned by the family of
Julie Anne's boyfriend. Both stories peak, in an explosive
(literally) finale to a strong mini-series.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Candy Crush” debut, 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

Sure, this game has
been played on tiny phone screens; now it gets MUCH bigger. There are
points where contestants (in harnesses) are playing it on a giant,
20-by-25-foot screen.

The opener, hosted
by Mario Lopez, has people who have been on two other CBS shows. From
“Survivor” are Kelley Wentworth, Joe Anglim, Woo Hwang and Jeremy
Collins; from “Big Brother” are Paul Abrahamian, Da'Vonne Rogers,
Frankie Grande (Ariana's half-brother) and Caleb Reynolds.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Nineties” debut, 9-11 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning
at midnight.

For decades, TV
shows were big and broad and bland; each seemed to try to please
everyone. Then came newer networks -- Fox, WB, UPN – and a cascade
of cable shows. TV turned to “remarkably specific, niche
programming,” producer John Wells says here.

TV seemed to
discover blacks, women, gays, geeks and more. Some of this was
temporary; some was a permanent change in our living rooms. This look
at '90s TV starts a weekly profile of the decade.

Other choices
include:

“My Mother and
Other Strangers,” 8 p.m., PBS. A transplanted Englishwoman, Rose
has been an outsider in this seaside Irish town; now she has a
compatriot when her sister arrives. That soon brings joy for Rose's
kids ... and trouble for their dad, who runs the village pub.

“Earth Live,”
8-10 p.m. ET, National Geographic and NatGeo Wild, rerunning at 11.
Let's credit this for sheer ambition. Hosts Jane Lynch and Phil
Keoghan will leap between live wildlife locations on six continents.
That's followed at 10 p.m. ET by another epic, “Migration,” which
then moves to Fridays.

“America in
Color,” 8 p.m., Smithsonian. While CNN takes a leisurely ride
through the '90s, this show races through the '30s. Adding color to
old film and photos, it ranges from the Dust Bowl to the birth of
surfing, from the New Deal jobs to the attacks on protesting veterans
and Ford workers. That's followed at 9 by “First Ladies Revealed,”
with an interesting look at Betty Ford and others whose husbands were
instantly elevated to the White House.

“Grantchester,”
9 p.m., PBS. In this 1950s village, crimes are usually quiet and
unseen. But now there's an armed robbery at the post office,
witnessed by Leonard, the assistant to Sidney, the vicar.

“The Defiant
Ones,” 9 p.m., HBO. Jimmy Iovine was an Italian guy from Brooklyn,
a record producer who worked with everyone from John Lennon to U2;
Dr. Dre was a black guy from Compton who rapped. These seemingly
opposite forces linked to bring major changes to the record industry.
That will be traced in a documentary mini-series over the next four
nights.

“Alec Baldwin: One
Night Only,” 9-11 p.m., Spike. Here's a “tribute” to Baldwin
that may be more like a roast. It has Tracy Morgan, Julianne Moore,
Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer and more, including taped pieces from
Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon.

NCIS: Los Angeles,”
10 p.m., CBS. With the arrival of “Big Brother” and “Candy
Crush” from 8-10 p.m., this is the only CBS drama to survive on
summer Sundays. In a rerun, our heroes – Callen, Sam, Granger and
Deeks – are arrested after evidence has been planted.

TV column for Saturday, July 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Doubt,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS; “Still Star-Crossed,” 10 p.m.,
ABC.

This is an
unexpected bonus – three hours of full shows (not reruns or
reality) on a summer Saturday. The only problem: They've been dumped
here because they failed – in quality and ratings – elsewhere.

“Doubt” has
lawyers whose lives entwine with their work. Sadie (Katherine Heigl)
is defending her sometimes-lover, a murder suspect; in tonight's
first hour, she also defends her childhood friend. “Star-Crossed”
(airing two hours later than originally scheduled) views life after
Romeo and Juliet died; tonight, Rosaline and Benvolio try to figure
out who's scheming to keep their families at war.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Eighties,” 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news).

On Sunday, “The
Nineties” will debut with a look at changes in TV; first, however,
here's one more chance to see “The Eighties” ... also starting
with TV.

This was when
viewers began to feel they had some control. They had remotes and
VCR's; they weren't the hostages of network schedules. TV would
change a tad in '80s ... and (as we'll see Sunday) profoundly in the
decades ahead. Other episodes tonight look at music videos (11 p.m.),
Wall Street (midnight), the tech boom (1 a.m.), Ronald Reagan (2) and
the Berlin Wall (3).

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Movies, cable.

There's a theory
that the best movies are small, quirky ones on small channels. That
seems true if you look in the right places tonight.

On Viceland (7 and
9:15 p.m.) is “Whiplash” (2014); writer-director Damien Chazelle
drew an Oscar nomination for his script, before triumphing with “La
La Land.” J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar, is perfect; also
brilliant is Matt Damon in the delightfully odd “The Informant”
(2009), at 8 p.m. on Cinemax. But big movies can also be well-made;
prime proof is “Titanic” (1997), at 5 and 9 p.m. on E.

Other choices
include:

Animated movies,
FXX. This is a time for sequels and spin-offs. There's “Penguins of
Madagascar” (2014) at 4 p.m., “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
(2014) at 6 and “Despicable Me 2” (2013) at 8 and 10. There will
be more; “Despicable Me 3” -- hyperactive and generally quite
funny – is now in theaters.

“Dirty Dancing”
(1987) and “Grease” (1978), 4:10 and 6:40 p.m., Freeform. Both
movies recently had new versions done as TV specials – adequately
for “Dancing,” vibrantly for “Grease.” Here are the originals
– one quite passionate, the other (that's “Grease”)
empty-headed fun.

“In An Instant,”
8-10 p.m., ABC. An Army veteran had a personal mission – to plant
an American flag on an 11,000-foot summit of San Bernardino National
Forrest. But then a blizzard struck, trapping Kenny Pasten and his
friend Tiffany Finney. They tried to fashion a tent with the flag;
when that failed, they stumbled toward help. It's a dramatic story,
told with re-creations and first-person accounts.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. In its first two seasons, this has totaled 22
hours of amazing kids, plus Steve Harvey. Ratings soared, so NBC will
plop some reruns into Saturdays.

“Turn,” 9 p.m.,
AMC, rerunning at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Abe is determined to avenge his
father's death – and, especially, to get revenge on Simcoe, the
evil British lieutenant colonel. Fortunately, the British still think
he's on their side; now he joins Benedict Arnold's legion.

“Orphan Black,”
10 p.m. ET, BBC America, rerunning at 3 a.m. Sarah gets some
much-needed time bonding with her daughter – just as new
information emerges about the girl's gifts. Also, Cosima has an
unusual dinner with Delphine in the mansion.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. John Cena hosts this rerun, with music from
Maren Morris.

TV column for Friday, July 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Gershwin Prize,” 10-11:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

This is rarefied
territory – an award (for a songwriter and/or performer) that's
only been given out eight times. Paul Simon was the first winner,
followed by Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney. The Burt Bacharach/Hal
David duo, Carole King and the ones featured in reruns on the next
three Fridays.

It will be Willie
Nelson next week, with Smokey Robinson the week after that; tonight,
it's Billy Joel. The show is poorly done, but there's great music
from Tony Bennett (recently named the next winner), Boyz II Men,
LeAnn Rimes, Josh Groban, Gavin DeGraw, John Mellencamp and Joel.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Soul Surfer” (2011), 8 and 10:30 p.m., CMT.

Growing up in
Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton loved surfing. Then, when she was 13, a
shark took her arm and almost her life. The comeback was remarkable;
the next year, she won surfing championships.

Now, at 27, Hamilton
is an author, surfer and media figure who is shown surfing in the
final minutes of this film. Her story is told competently here and
her church leader is played by Carrie Underwood ... which may be why
CMT (a name derived from Country Music Television) is interested.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Dark Matter,” 9 p.m., Syfy.

It's probably a good
thing that we never criss-cross with alternate universes. Things
would get too complicated, as we tried to undo the evil deeds of our
alternate selves.

That happens here,
in a complicated hour. There are deals and schemes involving members
of the Raza crew ... or maybe the alternate-universe versions of
them. It's twisty – sometimes too much so. But amid a mountain of
steel-hearted characters, some stumblingly human ones make this
episode work.

Other choices
include:

Movie
double-features, cable. You can settle back and catch a pair of
big-scale adventures. Freeform has the final “Twilight” films
(2011 and 2012), at 5:35 and 8:18 p.m.; FX has Marvel heroes, with
“Thor: The Dark World” (2013) at 5:30 and “The Avengers”
(2012) at 8.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. It's an overflow night for reality reruns.
The two-hour “Talent” season-opener collides with the lively,
one-hour “MasterChef” opener on Fox (followed by “Beat
Shazam”). Both face a “Shark Tank” that includes pitch doe
software that automates plant care.

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. This reruns the first episode, which successfully reworked
an old series. We see Mac link with a federal agent, to recover a
stolen bio-weapon.

“Killjoys,” 8
p.m., Syfy. Last week's strong season-opener linked Dutch and D'avin
with a new aide who has none of their heroic impulses. Also, Johnny's
search for Clara linked him with a young woman who's both tough and
homeless. Tonight, that search is bothering the others.

“Riverdale,” 9
p.m., CW. One of the lesser episodes of a good first seson, this
deals with a “shame book” by the football players and with
Archie's double trouble. Grounded, he sneaks out to write for Josie
and the Pussycats. Also, his affair with his music teacher reaches a
crisis point.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. This rerun starts with a probe of people poaching sharks
for their fins. Then it expands to the possibility that a Nazi war
criminal is living on a former leprosy island.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Danny probes a murder suspect who has been
romantically involved with his parole officer. Worried that this will
spread gang violence, the police commissioner (Danny's dad) meets
with an imprisoned gang leader, played by Method Man.

TV column for Thursday, July 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Mist,” 10 p.m., Spike.

Describing an odd,
outdoor moment, a woman says it was “as if all nature came alive.”
There's been a lot of that on TV lately. In CBS' “Zoo” (also 10
p.m. today), animals went wild; they're better now, but hybrids are
attacking. And in “The Mist,” a fog encases the town, cloaking
creatures.

Now many people are
huddled in a mall, where there are efforts to establish rules. Others
– crooks, cop, clergyman – are in a church, where the policeman
fervently enforces his own rules. Despite some excesses, “Mist”
offers top-notch Stephen King, with interesting people in creepy
situations.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Howie Mandel All-Star Comedy Gala,” 8-10 p.m., CW.

Canada has kept
giving us great comedy talent, from Jim Carrey to Samantha Bean to
all those Second City and Kids in he Hall people. So its logical that
Montreal's “Just For Laughs” festival (featuring lots of
non-Canadians onstage, too) is big and that there's this annual TV
special.

Surprisingly,
several comedians – including Mandel – have weak material here.
Still, there ae great moments from Alonzo Bodden and newcomer Matt
Donaher,. There are also some fairly good ones from Tom Papa, Iliza
Shlesinger, J.B. Smoove, Russell Peters and Jay Pharoah.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Zoo,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Here's another
chance for the outdoors to be scary. Animal hybrids have attacked in
Portland and New York; now Jackson and Logan discover a link.
Meanwhile, Mitch's problems didn't end when he was found and
unfrozen; now he's interrogated by someone claiming to be his
daughter Clementine.

The original
rampaging-animals crisis was settled, but at the cost of sterilizing
the human population. Now Abraham's research into that crisis
endangers his family.

Other choices
include:

“Boy Band,” 8
p.m., ABC. It's time for the third six-guy group to rehearse and
perform. Afterward, the judges send one guy home, giving the show its
final 15.

“The Big Bang
Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. Last week's rerun found Sheldon working with
Amy on her research; this one has that continue, while he also helps
Leonard and Howard ... reaching a Sheldonesque form of exhaustion.
Also, Bernadette's maternity leave is ending.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:31, CBS. Lyle Lovett plays an odd wedding planner in this rerun
and rock star Charlie Puth plays himself.

“Battle of the
Network Stars,” 9 p.m., ABC. This battle has “TV sex symbols”
(Traci Bingham, Rosa Blasi, Keegan Allen, Galen Gering and Brant
Daugherty) facing a mish-mash that includes the husband-wife duo of
Nick and Vanessa Lache, plus Jack Osbourne, Gilles Marini and Joanna
Krupa.

“Nashville,” 9
p.m., CMT, rerunning at 10:02. Also, 10 p.m., Nickelodeon. Widowed
from Rayna, who was his one true love, Deacon feels pressure to move
on. Also, Will shoots a big-deal commercial and Scarlett confronts
journalist Mackenzie Rhodes.

“Night Shift,”
10 p.m., NBC. An oil-field explosion creates crises. Drew and Paul
scramble to save a severed hand; Jordan (Jill Flint) and Cain (Mark
Consuelos, new this season) work out their dynamics while facing
extreme injuries. And at a military base, TC and Amira clash over
treating a Syrian child.

“The Gong Show,”
10 p.m., ABC. It's a tough night for Tommy Maitland ... who's
actually Mike Myers in character; he's chased around the stage by a
girl who's doing a handstand. Other acts include bug exterminators
playing “Toxic” on violin and, of course, a contortionist who
impersonates a tree.

TV column for Wednesday, July 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Snowfall” debut, 10 p.m., FX.

Leaving his South
Central Los Angeles home, Franklin went to high school with the rich,
white kids. He's bright, ambitious ... and unsure he'll get a fair
shot. Now, in 1983, he spots a chance for big money, bringing cocaine
to black neighborhoods.

We know how this
will end – families shattered, lives destroyed – but he doesn't;
his story and others provides a compelling (and R-rated) start to a
show with strong characters and a big-movie look.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Carmichael Show,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Wildly inconsistent,
“Carmichael” remains fresh, controversial and worth trying.
Tonight, both stories include Bobby (Lil Ray Rel Howery), Jerrod's
semi-focused brother.

In one, he gets a
mysterious message that leads to a long-dormant family secret. In the
other, the gentrification of an old neighborhood leaves him and
Jerrod on opposite sides.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Queen Sugar,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network;
reruns at 1 a.m.

You can catch up on
this well-made (and semi-soapy drama), with the season's first three
episodes starting at 7 p.m.. Charley, a sleek businesswoman, is
helping revive the family farm, but.she forged her estranged
husband's signature to get a loan; he lied to get partial custody of
their teen son Micah.

Now Charley searches
for a more permanent home for Micah. Her brother frets about a
whitefly infestation that threatens the farm. And their sister, an
activist and journalist, adjusts to her new editor.

Other choices
include:

Movies, cable. Want
a series filled with supernatural elements? “Twilight” films
(2006, 2009, 2010) are at 2, 5 and 8 p.m. on Freeform; the original
“Ghostbusters” films (1984 and 1989) are 8 and 10:30 p.m. on AMC.
And for a fun film in the James Bond style, catch “Kingsman“
(2015), from 7-10 p.m. on FX.

“Little Big Shots:
Forever Young,” 8 p.m., NBC. Here's the episode that was scheduled
for last week and then delayed. It includes Thomas Kelly who, at 103,
continues to be the leader and lead singer of Masters of Harmony, a
talented gospel quartet in Detroit..

“Nightcap,” 8
p.m., Pop. Penny is missing and Rachel Bloom and Naked Cowboy are
betting on if she's alive. Also, Jimmy's nemesis (Cedric the
Entertainer) is duped into doing the show.

“Speechless,”
8:30 pm., ABC. Maya can go too far at times. In this rerun she's
forced the cancellation of the homecoming bonfire, leaving students
mad at her ... and at J.J.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Phil is excited about the upcoming charity basketball
game he's playing in. That will put him alongside Charles Barkley and
DeAndre Jordan.

“To Tell
theTruth,” 10 p.m., ABC. Ever since Paul Bunyan's days, lumberjacks
have had attention; now it's time to meet a six-time world champion
in “lumberjill” competitions for women. Other contestants include
Jennifer Lopez's stunt double and the record-holder for selling Girl
scout cookies.

“This is Us,” 10
p.m., NBC. The relationship between Kevin and his adoptive brother
Randall has been rocky; we learn more about it tonight. Also,
Randall's wife spends time with his biological father, bringing out a
key secret.