TV column for Saturday, June 2


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

It's been a busy
month for Donald Glover. On May 10, his “Atlanta” ended its
second season, drawing acclaim; last weekend, “Solo” (with Glover
co-starring) made $104 million. And in between, Glover hosted
possibly the season's best “SNL,” doubling (under the name
Childish Gambino) as music guest.

Here's a quick
rerun, with an opener that has Ben Stiller, Jimmy Fallon, Scarlett
Johansson, Martin Short, Alec Baldwin and even Stormy Daniels. It's
hilarious ... but so is a “Weekend Update” bit in which Pete
Davidson shows jealousy of Colin Jost and Michael Che for being the
next Emmys hosts.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Taken,” 8 p.m., NBC.

We're happy to see
any series – even a lame-duck one – that has a new, scripted hour
on a summertime Saturday. After tonight, “Taken” will have three
episodes left.

In this one, the son
of a CIA analyst has been kidnapped; the team gets some help from
another kidnapping victim. Also, Hart (Jennifer Beals) discovers the
motive behind the kidnappings.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Titanic” (1997), 3 and 7:30 p.m., CMT; and/or
“Terminator” (1984), 8 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. ET, IFC.

Today, we can tour
the career of writer-director James Cameron. When he made
“Terminator,” he was 29 and working with a slim budget, sometimes
using makeshift methods; for “Titanic,” he spent so wildly that
the studio considered scuttling it halfway through.

Both films, however,
were beautifully crafted. “Titanic” won a record-tying 11 Oscars
and was, for a while, the all-time box-office champion. “Terminator”
spawned a string of sequels, including “Terminator 2,” which runs
at 2:30 and 10:30 p.m. ET.

Other choices
include:

Sports, Fox and
cable. The Stanley Cup finals move to Washington, where the Capitals
host Vegas at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. In baseball, Fox
has three games (varying by region) at 7:15 p.m. ET. Also, Fox
Sports1 has the Indians and Twins at 4:10 p.m., ESPN has
Miami-Arizona at 10:10.

“The
Bachelorette,” 8-10 p.m., ABC. As Becca Kufrin sifts the
possibilities, we instantly root for her. She's from Minnesota and
thereby seems nice. She's also a victim of “Bachelor”
misbehavior; Arie Luyendyk proposed to her, then changed his mind. In
this rerun of Monday's opener, she meets an interesting bunch of
guys. One is riding a bull, another has a mini-van, a third is inside
a chicken suit.

“Ransom,” 8
p.m., CBS. A teen boy has been kidnapped by someone copying the
methods of a convicted serial killer. To figure out what's next, Eric
must negotiate with the killer.

“Trading Spaces,”
8-9:06 p.m., TLC. This episode involves some of the show's newcomers
– designer Kahi Lee and carpenters Brett Tutor and Joanie Sprague.
They come across a superfan of the show.

“Patrick Melrose,”
9 p.m., Showtime. The five-week mini-series has already seen huge
changes in Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch). Once a hopeless addict,
he's now married, with two kids and kind of stable. In this episode,
the fourth, news from his widowed mother sends him on a downward
spiral.

“Nate &
Jeremiah by Design,” 10:08 p.m., TLC. A couple wants the guys to
re-design a poorly laid-out home, to allow more family time while the
three daughters are still at home.

TV column for Friday, June 1


TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“My Last Days” and “Life Sentence,” 8 and 9 p.m., CW.

What do you do when
a doctor says your life will end soon? Ellie Oben, given two weeks,
planned a celebration with friends. Bob Charland, given longer,
launched a charity: Each night, he restores bikes to donate to kids.
That's in the mid-section of Justin Baldoni's three-week documentary
series.

It's followed by
“Life Sentence,” with Stella (Lucy Hale) embracing life, after
learning she doesn't have a fatal disease after all. Tonight, her
hurry-up mariage to Wes is in a good place (briefly), but her brother
creates business problems for Wes. Also, she helps plan a hospital
event.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “Quantico,” 8 p.m., ABC.

This show has much
in common with “Life Sentence”: It has an appealing star
(Priyanka Chopra); it won't be back next season, but offers a handy
break from all the summer reruns and reality shows.

Tonight, a physics
professor has stolen some weaponized uranium. Now the team scrambles
to prevent it from being used against an international summit meeting
in New York.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“800 Words,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

As June begins and
the big networks rest, it's a good time to discover the streaming
services – from Britbox to CBS All Access – that have monthly
rates. Fortunately, Acorn has this Australian gem.

“Words” started
as the sly tale of George, a widowed newspaper columnist who moved
from Sydney to an odd New Zealand village. It was a droll delight ...
then turned serious. George's daughter loves (but recently broke up
with) Ike. Now Ike is lost at sea, with his dad and another man. The
latter two – and George – are possibilities as father of
soon-to-arrive twins. Stick with it; it's worth the effort.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE
II: More shows, streaming.

At a slow time for
broadcast, streaming services get busy. In recent days, Netflix has
returned two of its top series, “Arrested Development” and
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”; Hulu has added the witty “I,
Tonya” movie, with Allison Janney's brilliant, Oscar-winning work
as Tonya Harding's mother.

Now comes more,
today. Amazon Prime has Kate Winslet and Justin Timberlake in Woody
Allen's “Wonder Wheel.” Netflix has “November 13,” a
documentary mini-series about the 2015 Paris attacks; it's by the
French brothers who directed the Emmy-winning “9/11.”

Other choices
include:

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. Here's a quick rerun of Wednesday's
season-opener, with a qualifying round in Dallas.

“Undercover Boss:
Celebrity Edition,” 8 p.m., CBS. Now it's Deion Sanders' turn to go
undercover. He finds some deserving youth-football coaches and even
leads a choir of homeless people. Sanders knows the sports part; he's
a football Hall of Famer who also had a baseball career ... and is
the only person who has played in a Super Bowl AND a World Series.

“Love Connection,”
8 p.m., Fox. Each week, we see two cases of people going on dates
with three strangers; then the studio audience tries to guess which
one will be chosen. In this rerun of the season-opener, the answers
are way too obvious; still, it's a fun ride, especially with Andy
Cohen hosting.

“Phenoms,” 9
p.m., Fox. This mid-section of a three-week, five-hour soccer
documentary focuses on goalkeepers worldwide.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, the boss of a crime family is slain, setting
off a fresh wave of revenge killings on the island.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m., CBS. This rerun finds Jamie helping deliver a baby and
Danny protecting a nurse who has a violent boyfriend. Their dad hears
suspicions about an inmate's death.

TV column for Thursday, May 31


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
Basketball, 9 p.m., ET, ABC.

Sure, it seems like
the NBA keeps repeating itself. For the eighth straight year, LeBron
James is in the finals; for the fourth straight, his Cleveland
Cavaliers face the Golden State Warriors.

Still, this year has
definitely been different. Last year, both teams breezed to the
finals; combined, they were 24-1 in the previous rounds. This time,
both teams teetered; each was a game from elimination, before winning
two straight. Now Golden State hosts the start of the best-of-seven
finals. The pre-game show is at 8:30 p.m. ET, with Jimmy Kimmel at 8.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Beat Shazam,” 9 p.m., Fox.

After starting its
second summer Tuesday, this gets a quick rerun tonight. It's a
name-that-tune show at hyperspeed, boosted by the amiable addition of
Corinne Foxx to a show hosted by her dad Jamie.

“Shazam” has the
usual game-show faults: The commotion is incessant; the point system
makes early rounds seem futile. Some viewers will have no clue what
the songs are ... or what Jamie Foxx is wearing around his waist. (It
appears to be a plaid shirt used as a belt, a fashion that hasn't yet
swept the nation.) Still, they'll find the music, the contestants and
the Foxxes to be fun.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

The other networks
are keeping things fresh in the summer, b ut it's still hard to beat
CBS when it as first-rate reruns. Tonight starts with a good one from
TV's best comedy.

Leonard is
infuriated by the tenants' association ... then learns that Sheldon –
who's big on rules – is the president. Also, Howard wants to track
the drone that landed in his back yard.

Other choices
include:

“The Wedding
Planner” (2001) and “Maid in Manhattan” (2002), 6 and 8:30
p.m., Freeform. It's a Jennifer Lopez double-feature, with
lightweight, low-impact romantic comedies.

“MasterChef,” 8
p.m., Fox. This is a key week for Fox, launching many of its summer
shows and then quickly rerunning them to make sure we saw them.
Tonight, has half of Wednesday's “MasterChef” debut, with amateur
chefs cooking for Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastanich. It
also reruns “Beat Shazam” tonight and the fun “Love Connection”
on Friday.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. It's a night of instant reruns on Fox and
on NBC. This is the season-opener that aired Tuesday, with Dallas
try-outs.

“Black Lightning,”
9 p.m., CW. The opener – a good one – saw Jefferson Pierce, a
crusading school principal, reluctantly return to his superhero
persona, to save his daughters. In this rerun, the public hopes Black
Lightning is back; Pierce is reluctant. It's an excellent episode ...
even though the show subsequently stretched its hesitant-hero story
way too long.

“Mom,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Amid the funny chaos of other people's lives, Marjorie (Mimi
Kennedy) has been the perfect counterpoint, with a blend of wisdom
and bromides. Now this rerun sees a time for others to comfort her,
after her husband has a stroke.

“Life in Pieces,”
9:30 p.m., CBS. Julie Chen guests in an odd segment of this rerun:
She's the wife of Jen's boss; Jen, alas, can't remember her name.

“World of Dance,”
10 p.m., NBC. It's a night of Jennifer Lopez overload. She's in the
Freeform double-feature and she produces and is a judge on this
high-energy competition. It follows “America's Got Talent” (8-10
p.m.), both of them reruns from Tuesday.

“Splash” (1984),
10 p.m., Pop. A generation before he made the current Han Solo
mega-movie, Ron Howard was considered an actor – Opie and Richie
and such – not a director. Then he crafted this gem, with a young
man (Tom Hanks) finding a mermaid (Dary Hanna).

TV column for Wednesday, May 30


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“The Americans” finale, 10-11:32 p.m., FX; reruns at 11:32, 1:04,
2:36.

A great series
concludes, with freedom and family at stake. For six seasons, we've
seen Elizabeth and Philip (Emmy-nominees Keri Russell and Matthew
Rhys) as Soviet spies, deeply embedded into 1980s D.C. suburbia.
Their daughter is now a novice spy; their son, in college, is
blissfully unaware of this.

But now life is
closing in on them. Their neighbor, an FBI agent, has suspicions;
their colleagues are being questioned. They have the money and the
plan for fleeing to Russia, but what about the kids? “Americans”
ends as it began – smart, complicated, awash in mixed emotions.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Reverie” debut, 10 p.m., NBC.

Here is technology
at our service: An implanted program lets a mind wander into a
virtual reality. Each one is individualized; each is warm, pleasant
... and dangerous.

Some people failed
to exit; while their minds linger, their bodies are in comas, near
death. The solution, of course, is to send a former hostage
negotiator to retrieve them. “Reverie” has great visuals and two
skilled stars, in Sarah Shahi and Dennis Haysbert; the opener also
has a fatal flaw: It's too easy to simply explain to someone that if
he doesn't get out soon, he'll die.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Code Black,” 9 and 10 p.m., CBS.

This show won't be
back next season, but it has nine new episodes to offer during a
summer that's stuffed with reruns and reality shows. That includes
two tonight, the first one offering a big role for Julitta Scheel,
the 14-year-old daughter of series star Marcia Gay Harden.

She plays a teen
whose mom lost consciousness while flying their plane. It crashed and
now Leanne (Harden), over the radio, must tell her how to use plane
parts to create a defibrillator. In the second hour, Willis and Rox
(Rob Lowe and Moon Bloodgood) search for a boy amid a raging forest
fire.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef”
opener, 8-10 p.m., Fox. After cursing out professional chefs on
“Hell's Kitchen,” Gordon Ramsay turns pleasant each summer.
That's when he has an appealing and diverse bunch of home chefs.
Tonight, he links with Joe Bastianich and Aaron Sanchez, trimming the
field from 40 to 24.

“American Ninja
Warrior,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. After some specials, the season starts
with Dallas try-outs. That moves the hockey finals (Washington at Las
Vegas) to the NBC Sports Network, at 8 p.m. ET

“The Goldbergs,”
8 and 8:30 p.m., ABC. Both reruns focus on the older kids. Barry
learns he's not very good at football; Erica tries to warn her
boyfriend not to have dinner with her strange family.

“Modern Family,”
9 and 10 p.m., ABC. In the first rerun, Mitchell thinks Cam is
dominating the kitchen renovation. In the second, Jay overhears
Gloria discuss spanking and misunderstands.

“The Originals,”
9 p.m., CW. This show won't be back next season, but its spin-off
will. It has eight more summer episodes to get us ready. At the core
is Hope Mikaelson, played by 18-year-old Danielle Rose Russell. The
daughter of Niklaus and Hayley, she's the world's only
vampire-witch-werewolf tribred. Now she tries a dangerous mission,
hoping to undo the mess she's created.

“Nova Wonders”
season-finale, 9 p.m., PBS. This smart and entertaining series wraps
up with a tangled subject – dark matter, dark energy and the fate
of the universe.

“Queen Sugar,”
10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network, rerunning at 1:30 a.m. There are
fresh career possibilities for Violet and for Nova; also, Micah wants
to switch schools. That wraps up the two-night season-opener; it's
surrounded by reruns, in a “Queen Sugar” block from 7 p.m. to 3
a.m.

TV column for Tuesday, May 29


(The original version of this column runs below. Things have change drastically, however, with the sudden banishment of Roseanne Barr, That punishment -- for an abominable tweet -- was the correct thing to do; it also marks the tragic end to a comeback that had meant so much to ABC and to TV comedy in general. My only gripe with the network is that it simply slapped in a "Middle" rerun, without politely telling viewers there had been a change. In fact, when "The Middle" episode started, ABC's own Web site was still listing "Roseanne" in that timeslot.)

 

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Experience: Chinese Exclusion Act,” 8-10 p.m., PBS.

Not long ago, the
U.S. did more than tolerate a racial bias: It specified it in law.
From 1882 to 1943, it barred Chinese people from coming here ... and
said those already here couldn't become citizens.

Other laws would
follow, nationally and in states. It's an amazing story that producer
Ric Burns tells with the same mix he brought to “New York” and
more – visual beauty alongside verbal passion.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“America's Got Talent” opener, 8-10 p.m., NBC.

Each summer,
“Talent” propels NBC to the top of the ratings. A sampling shows
that it again has the sort of acts – acrobats, dancers, magicians,
even a monster truck – that draw gasps from judges. Americans do
have talent, but apparently not for judging. This year's panel again
has natives of Germany (Heidi Klum), Canada (Howie Mandel) and
England (Simon Cowell, who produces the show, and Mel B). Tyra Banks,
the token American native, starts her second year as host.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY
II: “World of Dance” opener, 10 p.m., NBC.

This noisy hour
starts with a hip hop team from India, dancing to “I'm In Love With
Your Body”; it ends with a whirling, swirling couple from Chile. In
between, acts range from a blindfolded duo to flashy groups; all seem
to elicit screams from the studio audience and from the judges.

It does gets
monotonous. Still, we must admit that: a) The judges – Derek Hough,
NE-YO and Jennifer Lopez – know about dance; and b) These talented
acts really are scream-worthy.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Animal Kingdom” season-opener, 9 p.m., TNT,
rerunning at 10.

Last season ended
fiercely: Baz (Scott Speedman) framed his adoptive mother Smurf
(Ellen Barkin) for a murder he figured she'd done anyway. Then he was
gunned down, propelling key questions.

Who did the
shooting? Will Baz survive? What happens to his daughter? And will
Smurf use this as a way to strike at some of her sons? It's a big
episode; even Christina Ochoa – who in the past year starred in two
series, “Valor” and “Blood Drive” -- is back as Renn, the
fiery drug dealer. And for a macho and muscular show, “Kingdom”
closes the hour with a scene of immense visual beauty.

Other choices
include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun, Reeves' friend has been kidnapped and the prime
suspect has disappeared with confidential military information.

“Roseanne,” 8
p.m., ABC. This episode has already run twice, but it's worth
catching again. David (Johnny Galecki) returns for his daughter's
birthday. His first scene with ex-wife Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is
beautifully written and played.

“Black-ish,” 9
p.m., ABC. This rerun sees the family game night turn intense.

“The Love
Connection” season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox. This dating show was
surprisingly good last summer, thanks partly to Andy Cohen's skillful
hosting. Now it's back, following the 8 p.m. return of “Beat
Shazam,” the music show that now adds host Jamie Foxx's daughter
Corinne as the DJ.

“Queen Sugar”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network; rerunning at 1 a.m.
The third season starts with a splash: This episode will rerun at 9
p.m. Wednesday, followed by one in what will be the regular slot at
10 p.m. Wednesday. Amid fierce personal crises, Charley and her kin
try to keep their sugar-cane farm alive. Producer by Ava DuVernay
(“Selma”) again has all episodes directed by women.

“100 Code”
debut, 10 p.m., WGN America. Here's the start of a 12-part Swedish
mini-series. A New York cop (Dominic Monaghan) follows a murder case
to Sweden, where he's reluctantly linked with a local cop (Mikael
Nyqvist). This aired in 2015, two years before Nyqvist died at 56 of
lung cancer.