TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 15

“Wonders of Mexico” conclusion, 9 p.m., PBS.

Like baseball and
the blues, cowboys seem like an all-American creation. Not at all,
this documentary reminds us: In the 16th century, long
before Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy, the Spanish brought cowboys
to Mexico. Today, they're key in a northern region that has 10
million feed cattle.

That's in the
conclusion to a three-week series that uses gorgeous pictures and
rich narration – from Arthur Mendez, the “Jane the Virgin”
voice – for a vivid portrait. Tonight ranges from soaring falcons
to bottom-feeding fish; in the sprawling desert, we see a 50-foot
cactus ... and the pygmy owls inside it.

“24 Hours to Hell and Back” season-finale, 9 p.m., Fox.

Gordon Ramsay's food
shows keep giving Fox a summertime boost. We see the skilled amateurs
– tonight, “MasterChef” has a dozen home chefs tackling halibut
– and the troubled professionals.

The latter involves
Sandra Dee's Bar-B-Que & Seafood, a laidback place in Sacramento.
(No, this isn't the movie-star Sandra Dee; she died in 2005, at 62).
Using hidden cameras, Ramsay decides that the owner lacks any
discipline with family members who work there. Now he has 24 hours to
fix it.

ALTERNATIVE: “Born This Way,” 8 and 9 p.m., and “Raising
Tourette's,” 10:01, A&E.

First is the
season-opener of the much-praised series about young adults with Down
syndrome. It has already won three Emmys (including best unstructured
reality show) and is up for four more.

Then is a new series
following five families. Their children, ages 11 to 17, struggle with
Tourette Syndrome, which causes involuntary movements and
vocalizations. Tonight, among other things, we see one person return
to school after an injury and another try public school after being

Other choices

“800 Words”
return, any time,
The first half of the season ended with George saying yes to someone,
but we weren't sure who. Was it the artist who wants a romance? Or
the EMT (and George's ex-girlfriend) who wants a baby? As he returns
from someone's house the next morning, we – and the townspeople –
still wonder. This series is much better at whimsy than at romance,
but over the next eight Wednesdays, we'll see lots of stories unfold.

“America's Got
Talent,” 8 p.m., NBC. On Tuesday, the season's first live episode
had 12 of the 36 surviving acts. Now we learn which seven will
advance, including an “instant save” via Google.

“Alone Together,”
8 and 8:31 p.m., Freeform. These sorta-friends manage to be
uncomfortable anywhere. In the second episode, Benji is back to his
old high school, to supervise play rehearsals, and promptly meets a
bully. In the first, he and Esther steal a day pass to his brother's
upscale gym.

“World of Dance,”
9-11p.m., NBC. It's the fourth and final round of duels. Next week,
the judges must trim to three finalists in each category.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, the family savors the lush life. It goes on
a wine-tasting trip and stays at the country home of Haley's boss.

“Queen Sugar,”
10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Last week's episode (rerunning at 9)
saw Ralph Angel and Darla go through heated mediation; tonight, they
find some peace. Also, last week Charley faced trouble in her efforts
to block a prison; tonight, the council makes its decision.

“Thrift Haul,”
any time, YouTube or Facebook. Friday is National Thrift Day (who
knew?). This competition – assembling fashions on the cheap --
celebrates it two days early, with Rosario Dawson and Hannibal Buress
as guests.

TV column for Tuesday, Aug. 14

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

The judges have
finished their cuts, delivering 36 acts for viewes to choose from.
For the next three weeks, we'll see 12 acts on a Tuesday and vote; on
a Wednesday, we'll learn which seven advance.

As usual, there are
plenty of individual singers, dancers and magicians ... plus more.
There are two choirs. There are duos that do music, trapeze, comedy
and ballroom-dancing. There's also a cat act, a “danger act,” an
escape artist, a “diablo artist,” an electric violinist and a
singing, dancing accordionist.

“No Passport Required” and “Frontline,” 8-11 p.m., PBS.

Two shows conclude,
each giving us some global perspective. First, Marcus Samuelsson goes
back home ... sort of. He grew up in Sweden and became a chef in
Harlem, but he was born in Ethiopia; tonight, in Washington, D.C., he
samples Ethiopian cooking, dance and spiritual rituals.

Then, from 9-11
p.m., “Frontline” wraps up a two-night, four-hour documentary.
Thomas Erdbrink, a New York Times correspondent, journeys through
Iran, chatting with people.

ALTERNATIVE: “Animal Kingdom,” 9 p.m., TNT, rerunning at 10.

“This family needs
a little fun,” Smurf, he matriarch, says. You think?

She's just out of
jail, her son Pope is out of prison, the others are in and out of
trouble. Pope has just learned for sure that she ordered the murder
of her adoptive son; also, the one remaining person Pope cares for –
his niece Lena – has been taken by family services. And Smurf's
grandson J has a fresh scheme with her accountant Morgan (Laura San
Giacomo); that leads to some strong moments tonight.

Other choices

“Casino” (1995)
and “Goodfellas” (1990), 3 and 7 p.m., AMC. This powerhouse
double feature repeats a strong potent combination – Robert De
Niro, mobsters and director Martin Scorsese.

“The Notebook”
(2004), 6-9 p.m., Freeform. This starts a richly varied movie night.
At 8 p.m., there's more romance with “The Wedding Planner” (2001)
on E, action with “Justice League” (2017) on HBO and drama with
the Oscar-nominated “Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) on FX.

“Bachelor in
Paradise,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. Fresh from “The Bachelorette,” Becca
Kufrin talks to one of the guys she rejected. Also, newcomers keep
arriving. One disrupts what had been a cozy couple; two others take
an interest in a maybe-nerdy computer guy.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Apparently, watching reality shows can be helpful. In this
rerun. Ducky (David McCallum) is doing what many old folks do –
watching a show about antiques. He spots an old war stick that could
be the missing weapon from a murder 16 years ago.

“The Outpost,” 9
p.m., CW. In a rerun, Talon's mysterious savior explains things about
her and the vanishing people she's descended from.

“Making It,” 10
p.m., NBC. This fun show puts tonight's emphasis on crafting fun
things. The first challenge is to create a “snack stadium” from
edible pieces. The second is bigger: Using recycled material, create
a themed party for four, including an outdoor activity.

“CSI: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. A former colleague needs help with a
classified operation that's been compromised. Soon, Pride is heading
to South America with Sebastian and Tammy.

TV column for Monday, July 13

“Elementary,” 10 p.m., CBS.

This is the second
straight day with a new “Elementary” episode. There are plenty to
spare, it seems; CBS ordered 21 hours for this season and didn't
start showing any until April 30.

Tonight, Holmes and
Watson probe the murder of a robotics engineer; they soon find that
his research on teleportation was groundbreaking ... and may have
been the reason he was killed. Also, Bell is blocked from a course he
needs to become a U.S. marshal; he's shocked when he learns the

“Mom,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Over its first five
years, “Mom” has managed a rare feat: It's consistently, sharpy
funny, at the same time that it lets lives change and evolve.

A big boost came
with the arrival of Adam (William Fichtner), a former stuntman who's
the boyfriend of Bonnie (Allison Janney, an Emmy- and Oscar-winner).
Another came with the addition of Adam's richer brother. He arrives
in this rerun, stirring both resentment and romance, and stays for
six episodes.

ALTERNATIVE: Reality shows, 8 p.m., ABC, NBC and Fox.

As soon as
“Bachelorette” finished, “Bachelor in Paradise” zooms in to
take its place on ABC. It started its season last Tuesday and now
will do two nights a week.

It joins a night
overstuffed with reality shows, from the excellent “So You Think
You Can Dance” (8-10 p.m., Fox, with the top nine performing
tonight) to the truly awful “The Proposal” (10:01 p.m., ABC). In
between is “American Ninja Warrior” (8-10 p.m., NBC), tonight
with Philadelphia finals.

Other choices

“Forrest Gump”
(1994) and “The Notebook” (2004), 4:30 and 8 p.m., Freeform. This
double-feature offers two immensely popular films – a whimsical
fable that won six Academy Awards and then a vibrant portrait of new
and old love.

“The Town”
(2010), 6 and 8:30 p.m., BBC America. This gritty crime tale drew
praise for director-star Ben Affleck and an Oscar nomination for
supporting actor Jeremy Renner. For a different sort of crime film,
Eddie Murphy's thoroughly entertaining “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984)
is 8 and 10:30 p.m. on CMT.

“Penn &
Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. The show has offered some terrific
magicians this summer. Tonight, it has Damien James, Kelvin Chow,
Joshua Lozoff and Murray Sawchuck.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. In a change-of-pace, one segment of this rerun uses
animation to show Matt and Colleen struggling to have a baby.

9-11 p.m., PBS; concludes Tuesday. In a two-night, four-hour film,
Thomas Erdbrink, a New York Times correspondent, journeys through
Iran. He meets people often at odds with the clerics and leaders,
discussing such things as martyrdom, visits to the U.S. and protests
about headscarves.

“Better Call
Saul,” 9 p.m., AMC. Jimmy – the low-life lawyer who will become
the scheming Saul – seeks a new job. Meanwhile, Gus faces the
fall-out from Hector's collapse.

“Lodge 49,”
10:05 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 12:13 a.m. In the opener, Dud – a
surfer with vague ambitions – met the strange guys in this lodge.
As he gets to know them, they argue about the declining health of one
of the guys, Larry.

TV column for Sunday, Aug. 12

“Teen Choice 2018,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Mostly, teens choose
fun things – action movies, active music, youthful TV shows. Here
are awards in all three fields; Nick Cannon hosts, Internet star Lele
Pons co-hosts and Khalid does a medley.

And the awards? In
TV, the drama nominees are “This Is Us,” “Riverdale,” “The
Fosters,” “Famous in Love” and the music-based “Empire” and
“Star.” The comedy nominees are “The Big Bang Theory,”
“Modern Family,” “Black-ish,” “Fuller House,” “The Good
Place” and “Jane the Virgin.”

II: Ray Liotta shows, 7:30 p.m., Fox, and 10 p.m., NBC.

First, we hear
Liotta's unnervingly commanding voice on “The Simpsons.” This
rerun has Homer and Marge trying to settle a years-old fight between
Moe and his dad.

Later, there's a new
hour of the taut “Shades of Blue,” with Wozniak (Liotta) trying
to negotiate with the crooked Intelligence Unit. Also, Harlee
(Jennifer Lopez) uncovers a betrayal and Cole scrambles for a way to
be out of Ramsey's reach.

ALTERNATIVE: “Garage Sale Mystery: The Mask Murder,” 9 p.m.,
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

If you and I bid
blindly on the contents of a storage locker, we might get some VHS
tapes, a Twister game and a Scott Baio poster. Jennifer (Lori
Loughlin) finds antiques, including desk masks.

And speaking of
death, there's also a body in one of the lockers, launching her
latest mystery. It's a fairly good one, tying in some other crimes
and, as always, some likable people.

Other choices

“Get Shorty”
(1995), 7:15 a.m., Epix. A marathon begins with the terrific movie
and, at 9 a.m., its so-so sequel (2005). Then the series – a good
one, with Chris O'Dowd and Ray Romano -- reruns its first season,
from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the second season follows, with new hours at
9 and 10.

“Murder on the
Orient Express,” 7 p.m., HBO. A day after its HBO debut, here's
another chance to see Kenneth Branagh's crack at Agatha Christies's
best story. As an actor, Branagh is no Hercule Poirot; as a director,
he's made a great-looking film with a top cast, ranging from Judi
Dench to Johnny Depp.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 7:50 p.m., AMC. A marathon concludes with this special
(including new footage) that brings us up-to-date. Then the show
returns at 9 p.m., with Morgan (Lennie James) trying to lead he
group, as a storm nears. At 11:04 p.m. (after “Preacher” at
10:04), “Talking Dead” returns.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. One game has the families of star running
backs, past (Emmitt Smith) and present (Craig Robinson). The other
has comedy actors Craig Robinson and Casey Wilson.

“NCIS: Los
Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, stolen weapons end up at an
upscale charity event. Now Mosley (Nia Long) gets added to the guest
list, with Sam and Callen as her security detail.

season-finale, 9 p.m., TNT. Weddings rarely go smoothly on TV, so
we're worried about Desna's, tonight: The guy is a sneak, crime
forces are converging ... and a hurricane is on the way.

Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. The season's second episode adds new
people, as Bree welcomes an old friend and Mick (Treat Williams), who
has just inherited a sailboat, meets his brother. Also, Nell (Diane
Ladd) tries to save the town's “wishing fountain.”

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. When a religion professor is murdered, Holmes and Watson
probe a killer connected to the occult.

TV column for Saturday, Aug. 11

“Love at Sea,” 9-11 p.m., Hallmark.

As TV settles into
its August blahs, the Hallmark channels offer a quick solution. They
plan to have something new (a movie or the “Chesapeake Shores”
series) every Saturday and Sunday this month.

We can expect pretty
people, gorgeous settings and – for the movies – happy endings.
That's particularly true tonight, because the film stars Carlos and
Alexa PenaVega, the husband and wife with youth-show and “Dancing
With the Stars” fame. She plays the event planner for a culinary
cruise; he's the new cruise director, who wants things his way. We're
betting they eventually get along.

II: “Pink Collar Crimes,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS.

It's a double
feature of real-life felonious females.

In the first hour,
private-eye Bob Nygaard tries to expose a “clairvoyant” who, he
feels, has scammed people of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the
second, we meet Jamila Davis who was, at 25, both a single mother of
two and a high-flying real estate investor, catering to high-profile
athletes and musicians. Then people began to suspect her sketchy

ALTERNATIVE: “Murder on the Orient Express,” 8 p.m., HBO; also at

This ambitious film
leaves Agatha Christie fans sharply divided. On one hand, Kenneth
Branagh bears no resemblance to Hercule Poirot; only the mustache
seems authentic. On the other ...

Well, Branagh –
who also directed – gave this a richly cinematic look. He assembled
a great cast, mixing arthouse favorites (Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi,
Branagh) with Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley and more. And he's
working with Christie's greatest story; give it a try.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Cinderella” (2015), 8:10 p.m., Freeform.

Here's Branagh
again, this time showing his real mastery as a director. The guy who
started with Shakespeare films has gone on to big-tent movies,
including “Thor” and this gem.

Lily James shines in
the title role – just as she does in the “Mamma Mia” sequel.
Cate Blanchett is properly wicked, with Helena Bonham Carter as the
fairy godmother.

Other choices

“Freaky Friday”
musical, 7-9:10 p.m., Disney. If you missed the debut Friday, you
might catch it now. This is adapted from the stage musical about a
teen and her mom who accidentally switch bodies.

“Little Big
Shots,” 8 p.m., NBC. Steve Harvey meets a couple extraordinary
9-year-olds – a taekwondo champ and a professional cyclist and
sports reporter. He also meets a 3-year-old basketball player, a
young car expert and some musicians: Three boys from the Philippines
sing and a drum prodigy is surprised to rock with her idol, Sheila E.

“Castaways,” 8
p.m., ABC. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's debut, with strangers
separately stranded.

“I Am Paul
Walker,” 9 p.m., Paramount. This profile of the late actor is
surrounded by some of his movies. “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift”
(2006) is 3:30 p.m.; “Fast Five” (2011) is at 6 and 10:31.

“History of
Comedy,” 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. ET, CNN (barring breaking news). These
reruns starts with an hour on comics who died young. A new hour will
be at 10 p.m. Sunday.

“Saturday Night
Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Gal Gadot hosts this rerun, with music by
Sam Smith.