TV column for Wednesday, Aug. 1


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Wonders of Mexico” debut, 9 p.m., PBS.

Here is TV on a
grand scale – gorgeous scenes, stirring music and interesting
infomation ... delivered by the re-assuring voice of Anthony Mendez,
who also narrates “Jane the Virgin.”

This opener is in
the Yucatan Peninsula, at the country's southeastern edge. We see the
end of the dry season, in a forest without rivers ... but don't
despair. Humans know how to find deep wells, connected by the Earth's
two longest underground cave systems. And monkeys find the remains of
a Mayan city. It held 50,000 people, some of whom planted
fruit-bearing trees that continue to this day.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Originals” finale, 9 p.m., CW.

It's time to end
what one Mikaelson calls “this toxic, co-dependent nightmare we
call family.” Klaus, unaccustomed to noble deeds, has inhaled the
evil spirits that were inside his daughter Hope. The only task
remaining is to end his life, which has lasted for centuries ... as
this finale seems to.

There are endless
false starts and false ends, as “Originals” delivers everything
we expect – a little Mardi Gras, a few reunions, a lot of tears,
some excellent acting and some doubts. “What if there's nothing
after this?” Klaus asks. But there is: His daughter has a spin-off
series; Hope springs eternal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Alone Together” season-opener 8 and 8:31 p.m. and
“The Lion King” (1994), 9:02 p.m., Freeform.

This is a terrific –
albeit mismatched – night of television. An animated classic, rich
in music and emotion, is preceded by the dry and quirky humor of
Benji Aflalo and Esther Povitsky.

People assume
they're a couple, which she disputes. “He's like those oatmeal
packages that are around in the kitchen but you never use them,”
she semi-explains. They both live in the home of his rich brother and
share a life. The opener copies one of the best “Big Bang”
episodes – visiting an ex-boyfriend to retrieve old Bitcoin -- but
adds wonderful flourishes about Benji's recessive personality.

Other choices
include:

“World of Dance,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. A new round of challenges pits dancers and dance
teams.

“Burden of Truth,”
8 p.m., CW. In last week's opener, a lawyer (Kristin Kreuk) was sent
to her home town, to give quick settlements to teen girls with
mysterious ailments. She soon realized she was on the wrong side of
justice. Now comes the precarious job of helping a local lawyer --
overwhelmed and understaffed – find the truth. The acting and
writing are flat, but this hour gradually gets our attention.

“The Revenant”
(2015), 8-11 p.m., FX. Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar-winning performance
is one piece of a beautifully crafted tale of wilderness survival.
Other good 8 p.m. films range from the romance of “Dirty Dancing”
(1987) on WE to the adventure of “The Goonies” (1985) on AMC and
James Bond's “Skyfall” (2012) on Syfy.

“24 Hours to Hell
and Back,” 9 p.m., Fox. Gordon Ramsay tries to save a Cajun fusion
restaurant in Los Angeles. That's a rerun, following a new MasterChef
at 8.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Jay overhears Gloria talk about spanking.
Naturally, he assumes that means she's frustrated in the bedroom.

“Reverie,” 10
p.m., NBC. This time, the person stuck inside is someone from the
virtual-reality company. People must band together for a rescue;
also, Mara's personal tragedy comes to a head.

“Queen Sugar,”
10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. After reruns at 8 and 9 p.m., we see
Charley make another move against Landry Enterprises. Also, Ralph
Angel is visited by Family Services.

TV column for Tuesday, July 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Making It” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

The stakes are low,
the optimism is high; here's a reality competition that's easy to
watch and easy to ignore. Former “Parks and Recreation”
colleagues Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler challenge crafters.

The Nick-and-Amy
interludes get silly and pun-ny at times, but they work ... and they
spread good will. In this reality show, you want everyone to win; in
others, you want everyone to lose and/or implode.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Splitting Up Together,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

“Splitting”
arrived this spring, with a great concept, a fine cast and so-so
execution. Two out of three, apparently, suffices; the show will be
back this fall and will rerun six of its nine episodes tonight.

Oliver Hudson and
Jenna Fischer play likable people who decided to divorce, but can't
afford two homes. They alternate; each gets a week in the house with
the kids, then a week in the garage. That was done with a mix of
clever moments and broad ones. It works well enough to merit this
sampling.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Bold Type,” 8 p.m., Freeform.

From the beginning,
this sleek and smart show has been all about the big city, with three
young women searching for love and life in Manhattan. Now comes a
welcome detour – a road trip to Pennsylvania.

Sutton wants to
retrieve her birth certificate, while ducking her alcoholic mother.
The others go along, despite their worries – Jane over a health
crisis, Kat over her Web site overhaul and her iffy relationship with
her girlfriend. There's some solid drama here – plus a good musical
interlude from Jane. She is, after all, played by Katie Stevens who
– nine years ago, at 16 -- finished eighth on “American Idol.”

Other choices
include:

“America's Got
Talent,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The judges have their third round of
cuts. This time, Martina McBride joins them and has a “golden
buzzer” to send one act directly to the live round.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. French Stewart is back as convicted killer Paul Triff. In this
rerun, he gets a 48-hour fulough in his old home (now McGee's home),
in exchange for information.

“The 100,” 8
p.m., CW. The first half of the two-week season-finale finds Octavia
leading her people into war. Behind enemy lines, others try to save
the Wonkru from extinction.

“The Outpost,” 9
p.m., CW. Here's another warrior woman: Talon goes after the demon
before she's fully prepared. Meanwhile, “The Mistress” proves to
be a ruthless enemy.

“Animal Kingdom,”
9 p.m., TNT. “Smurf” (Ellen Barkin) is back, but faces new
problems. Her sons and grandson cling to the freedom they had when
she was in jail. And her long-ago lover Billy (Denis Leary) insists
on getting he money he's owed.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 10 p.m., CBS. As Dr. Wade works on the mayoral campaign,
the team probes the murder of a petty officer who was trying to help
a refugee family that was recruited by terrorists.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS. This richly crafted series often has long-range
documentaries. This time, however, it has something more current –
a look at the Obama and Trump immigration policies that this year led
to more than 2,000 childen being separated from their families.

TV column for Monday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Next Monday, we'll
learn Becca Kufrin's choice. For now, we have a week to ponder it;
we'll also get some promos for the finale and for “Bachelor in
Paradise.”

Kufrin, 28, is a
publicist in Minneapolis. After sending Jason Tartick home last week,
she's left with two guys who are both sales reps – Blake Horstmann,
28, of Bailey, Colo., and Garrett Yrigoyen, 29, of Manteca, Cal. In
this “Men Tell All” episode, Tartick is back, plus Colton
Underwood and others.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC) or “So You Think You Can
Dance” (Fox), both 8 p.m.

For some reason
known only to TV types, the week's biggest competition shows collide
in one overworked timeslot. For “Anerican Ninja Warrior,” it's
the Miami city finals, rerunning on Friday.

And on “Dance,”
which is one of the best reality shows, the top 10 men perform. Last
week, we saw the top 10 women; next Monday, the show finally expands
to two hours and reveals its overall top 10.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV” (PBS, check local listings) or “Rest in
Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” (Paramount and BET), both 10 p.m.

Aug. 9 marks the
fourth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.;
some 18 months earlier, Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida. There
were differences; one involved a policeman, the other a
neighborhood-watch volunteer. But each case brought the death of an
unarmed black teen.

Now here are
documentaries on both crises. PBS' film has activists recalling the
Ferguson events. The Martin film starts a six-week series on two
networks; Paramount reruns the opener at 2 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Coastal
Railways,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
A train ride around the United Kingdom, we assume, would be slow and
sweet, interesting but uncompelling. The same is true of this series.
Actress Julie Walters has four hourlong journeys along coasts,
meeting some interesting people along the way.

“Race” (2016),
6:30 p.m., BET. This solidly made story provides a neat warm-up for
the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin films. It tells of Jessie Owens,
who squelched Hitler's “master race” claims, winning four gold
medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Christy, who's pushing 40, finds a link with a much-younger
college classmate.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Here are some more generation problems, in a mildly
funny episode: Tyler is dating his sister's 4th-grade
teacher; Jen is mistaken for her daughter's grandmother.

“Salvation,” 9
p.m., CBS. The president tries to bring the country together ...
which isn't easy when the activist hacker group issues a deadly
edict. Also, the Darius/Grace friendship is threatened.

“Dietland”
season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:05. As Plum continues her
probe, there's a sudden change in her circumstances.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. A murder victim, Sherlock discovers, had for years been a
contract killer.

TV column for Monday, July 30


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Bachelorette,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

Next Monday, we'll
learn Becca Kufrin's choice. For now, we have a week to ponder it;
we'll also get some promos for the finale and for “Bachelor in
Paradise.”

Kufrin, 28, is a
publicist in Minneapolis. After sending Jason Tartick home last week,
she's left with two guys who are both sales reps – Blake Horstmann,
28, of Bailey, Colo., and Garrett Yrigoyen, 29, of Manteca, Cal. In
this “Men Tell All” episode, Tartick is back, plus Colton
Underwood and others.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC) or “So You Think You Can
Dance” (Fox), both 8 p.m.

For some reason
known only to TV types, the week's biggest competition shows collide
in one overworked timeslot. For “Anerican Ninja Warrior,” it's
the Miami city finals, rerunning on Friday.

And on “Dance,”
which is one of the best reality shows, the top 10 men perform. Last
week, we saw the top 10 women; next Monday, the show finally expands
to two hours and reveals its overall top 10.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “POV” (PBS, check local listings) or “Rest in
Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” (Paramount and BET), both 10 p.m.

Aug. 9 marks the
fourth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.;
some 18 months earlier, Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida. There
were differences; one involved a policeman, the other a
neighborhood-watch volunteer. But each case brought the death of an
unarmed black teen.

Now here are
documentaries on both crises. PBS' film has activists recalling the
Ferguson events. The Martin film starts a six-week series on two
networks; Paramount reruns the opener at 2 a.m.

Other choices
include:

“Coastal
Railways,” any time, www.acorn.tv.
A train ride around the United Kingdom, we assume, would be slow and
sweet, interesting but uncompelling. The same is true of this series.
Actress Julie Walters has four hourlong journeys along coasts,
meeting some interesting people along the way.

“Race” (2016),
6:30 p.m., BET. This solidly made story provides a neat warm-up for
the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin films. It tells of Jessie Owens,
who squelched Hitler's “master race” claims, winning four gold
medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

“Mom,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Christy, who's pushing 40, finds a link with a much-younger
college classmate.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 p.m., CBS. Here are some more generation problems, in a mildly
funny episode: Tyler is dating his sister's 4th-grade
teacher; Jen is mistaken for her daughter's grandmother.

“Salvation,” 9
p.m., CBS. The president tries to bring the country together ...
which isn't easy when the activist hacker group issues a deadly
edict. Also, the Darius/Grace friendship is threatened.

“Dietland”
season-finale, 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:05. As Plum continues her
probe, there's a sudden change in her circumstances.

“Elementary,” 10
p.m., CBS. A murder victim, Sherlock discovers, had for years been a
contract killer.

TV column for Sunday, July 29


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Masterpiece: Endeavour” season-finale, 9 p.m., PBS.

We expect life to be
peaceful in late-'60s Oxford. It's a world where most of the cops
don't carry guns and most of the crooks use good grammar. But in the
last half of this last episode, things explode.

In town, two crime
families are at war; at a boarding school, a teacher is missing. Now
Morse goes undercover as a teacher; Constable Trewlove – who would
rather be with Morse's assistant George – poses as his wife. It's a
busy story (too busy, at times), but a strong ending to a mixed
season.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
Bruce Willis roast, 10 p.m., Comedy Central.

In the past, these
roasts – often crude, sometimes quite funny – have attacked the
world's weirdest people, from Justin Bieber to Donald Trump.

Now it's Willis'
turn. A sampling shows funny moments from Edward Norton, Nikki Glaser
and Kevin Pollak. But be warned: This show is the exact opposite of
tonight's graceful British dramas; before watching it, make sure the
kids and Grandma are asleep.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: All night, HBO.

A strong night
starts early. At 7 p.m. is “Victoria and Abdul,” the lovely
little Stephen Frears film that shows the real-life friendship
between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and the servant she met in India.

Then HBO turns
contemporary. At 9 p.m., the fourth “Sharp Objects” episode has
the reporter (Amy Adams) give the cop (Chris Messina) a tour of crime
scenes in her troubled home town. And in the ninth “Succession,”
the family gathers at an English castle for for the wedding of Shiv
and Tom.

Other choices
include:

“Little Big
Shots,” 7 p.m., NBC, and “Celebrity Family Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC.
Here are back-to-back Steve Harvey reruns. On NBC, he meets a
4-year-old “La La Land” superfan and a 3-year-old viral star with
his pet dog. On ABC, he hosts one round with basketball stars Steph
Curry and Chris Paul and another with Olympic gymnasts Laurie
Hernandez and Shawn Johnson East.

“One Strange
Rock,” 7 p.m., Fox. The “strange rock” is Earth, but tonight's
rerun focuses on a strange organ, the human brain. Astronaut Leland
Martin and others comment.

“The Simpsons,”
8 p.m., Fox. In a rerun, Bart terrifies the town and is sent to
prankster rehab.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. The spooky side of this city is highlighted
in this transplanted rerun. A new murder seems to link to a case from
150 years ago that's the source of a ghost story.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 9 p.m., ABC. The first game has Leslie Jones of “Saturday
Night Live” and Taye Diggs. The second has a sister face-off, with
Sara and Erin Foster.

“To Tell the
Truth,” 10 p.m., ABC. Paul Reubens, of Pee-wee Herman fame, joins
Joel McHale and two of the last people in the celebrity alphabet,
Sasheer Zamata and Constance Zimmer.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. Framed by the crooked cops she's been investigating,
Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) fights back.