TV column for Friday, Sept. 22 (slightly out of order)


(This is the Friday column, slightly out of order. If you scroll down, you'll find Sunday, then Saturday, then Thursday.)

 

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“MacGyver,” 8 p.m., CBS.

A week before their
season starts, all three of CBS' Friday shows rerun their finales.
That starts with “MacGyver,” which has been bumped often lately,
by football and by “Big Brother.”

In this version of
the show – as in the original – Murdoc is a prime villain. Now he
has hired a former cellmate to pose as a lab technician ... and then
kill everyone in the Phoenix complex.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE
II: “America's Got Talent” (NBC) or “MasterChef” (Fox), both
8 p.m.

Two days after
naming their champions, these shows have reruns. That's fairly
logical for “Talent,” which reruns its big-deal, two-hour finale,
complete with guests and commotion.

Far less logical is
Fox: It reruns a seemingly random “MasterChef” hour. This one
trimmed the field from seven home chefs to six, with competitions
involving chopsticks and pasta.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Some Like It Hot” (1959), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Here is a true
classic, named by the American Film Institute as the funniest
American film ever. It has a great concept (guys, on the run,
disguising as members of an all-female band), a clever
writer-director (Billy Wilder) and the perfect stars (Jack Lemmon,
Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe).

That list, created
in 2000, includes four of tonight's TCM films. The Marx Brothers' “A
Night at the Opera” (1935) , at 10:15 p.m. ET, is No. 12; Rob
Reiner's brilliant “This is Spinal Tap” (1984). at midnight, is
No. 29; and Charlie Chaplin's “Modern Times,” at 1:45 a.m., is
No. 35.

Other choices
include:

“Twilight Saga”
finale, 5:35 to 11 p.m., Freeform. The epic story of vampires,
werewolves and young love reaches its conclusion. “Breaking Dawn”
(2011) is at 5:35 p.m., with its sequel (2012) at 8:30.

“The State,”
7-11 p.m., National Geographic. After debuting over two nights this
week, the mini-series reruns in one chunk. It's a fictional story of
four people leaving England to join ISIS in Syria.

“Battlestar
Galactica,” 8-11 p.m., Syfy. This is one of Syfy's finest deeds –
reviving a lame old space show and injecting it with smart scripts
and great visuals. Tonight is the 2003 mini-series, with Earth's lone
survivors in a rag-tag collection of ships. Then the first season
reruns from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and from 6 to midnight Sunday.

“Beat Shazam,” 9
p.m., Fox. The teams in this rerun are a mother and son, two music
teachers and two lunch ladies. They tackle the music of Elton John,
Shakira and more.

“On Two Fronts:
Latinos & Vietnam,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS. From the first days,
Latinos played a big role in Vietnam; Everett Alvarez Jr., a pilot,
was the second American prisoner of war and spent 8-and-a-half brutal
years in confinement. That was at the same time that thie Chicano
protest movement was growing. Both stories unfold in this 2015
documentary, rerunning before Ken Burns' Vietnam film returns Sunday,
for the second half of its 10-day run.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. The team tries a risky plan to rescue girls held in a
sex-trafficking ring.

“Blue Bloods,”
10 p.m.. Danny has intercepted a package with millions of dollars. It
was intended for a drug cartel, which is not pleased.

TV column for Sunday, Sept. 24


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Star Trek: Discovery” debut, 8:30 p.m., CBS.

For one hour,
broadcast TV has its sixth “Trek” series. Then, alas, it retreats
to a pay-extra streaming service; CBS All Access has the second
episode immediately, with the rest arriving on 13 Sundays.

There are other ways
this is expected to differ from previous editions: It may be a tad
darker and a lot more serialized. It's also the first one that gives
top billing to the first officer (Sonequa Martin-Green of “Walking
Dead”), rather than the captain (Jason Isaacs). James Frain – a
scheming villain in “Gotham” and “White Princess” -- plays a
good guy, Spock's dad; Rainn Wilson and Michelle Yeoh also star.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.

As the second half
of Ken Burns' brilliant documentary begins, President Johnson is
still talking of victory. “The enemy has been defeated in battle
after battle,” he says. Then comes the Tet Offensive.

To the North
Vietnamese, it was a disappointment: More than two-thirds of the
84,000 soldiers they sent were killed or wounded; the expected
civilian uprising never happened. But to Americans at home, the
images were startling. In Saigon, enemy soldiers were inside the
embassy compound ... and in front of the presidential palace ... and
occupying the main radio station. Opinions began to shift sharply.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Who Shot Biggie & Tupac,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

Tupac Shakur and
Biggie Smalls are considered among the all-time greatest rappers, men
with sharp lyrics and imposing personalities. They feuded fiercely
... and were killed at 25 and 24.

Those unsolved
murders, separated by six months, have been probed ever since. Now
journalist Soledad O'Brien and rapper-turned-actor Ice-T try; Fox
says they have new details and accounts.

Other choices
include:

“The Simpsons,”
7 p.m., Fox. A rerun of the show's first hourlong episode has Mr.
Burns getting messy in the music business. Snoop Dogg, Common and RZA
play themselves; Taraji Henson of “Empire” plays a mogul's
ex-wife Praline.

“Celebrity Family
Feud,” 8 p.m., ABC. While Fox is telling Biggie Smalls' story, his
widow will be competing with Ross Matthews on ABC. Faith Evans, 44,
will play with her mother and three of her children, including
Smalls' son, Christopher Wallace Jr. The second game has Olympic
gymnasts – Shannon Miller, Paul and Morgan Hamm, Dominique Dawes,
Dominique Moceanu – face swimmers.

Football, 8:30 p.m.
ET, NBC, with preview at 7. After two straight wins (by a combined 35
points, the NFL's best), the Oakland Raiders visit the Washington
Redskins, who are 1-1.

“Chesapeake
Shores,” 9 p.m., Hallmark. A camping trip lets Abby talk with Trace
about their past and future. Also, her dad and uncle (Treat Williams
and Gregory Harrison) try to work out their differences.

“Fear the Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC. At the Ranch, survivors prepare for their
biggest threat yet.

“The Deuce,” 9
p.m., HBO. Vincent (James Franco) is finally ready to open his bar,
but the arrival of an unexpected partner causes his brother (also
Franco) to explode. Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the independent
hooker, wants to get into the film business, as the porn scene starts
to transform.

“The $100,000
Pyramid,” 10 p.m., ABC. Kathy Najimy has already shown she's a whiz
at this game; now she faces Yvette Nicole Brown. The first game has
Vanessa Williams and Gary Cole.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 23


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

Four days after the
election, with its people still in shock, “SNL” had some of its
finest moments.

Kate McKinnon (who
had been portraying Hillary Clinton) opened by singing a lovely
“Hallelujah.” Then Dave Chappelle – who won an Emmy for his
work here -- offered a long monolog. Later, he and Chris Rock had
some funny/poignant moments, as guys seeing their white friends get
their first taste of political despair. The music guest was A Tribe
Called Quest.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“The Mick,” 3:30 p.m. to midnight, FXX.

Three days before
its second season begins on Fox, the entire first season reruns here.
It's worth trying.

Short on money or
ambition, Mick (Kaitlin Olson) was just drifting. Then her rich
sister ran from the law, leaving her in charge of three
overprivileged kids, She resents the responsibility, but likes the
big house, the money and (especially) the wine cellar. In her
perverse way, she also tries to help the kids.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), 8 p.m.
ET, Turner Classic Movies.

Two Hustons won
Academy Awards for this adventure classic about gold prospectors.

It was John for
directing and writing the film and his dad Walter as supporting
actor. Some 38 years later, Anjelica Huston (their daughter and
granddaughter) added a third generation of Oscar winners.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE II: “Halt and Catch Fire,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at
10:08.

This started as a
brash journey into the male-dominated world of 1980s computers.
Somehow, it has become a deeply nuanced character study, with many of
the TV's most interesting females.

Two of them once
shared a company. Now Donna is a corporate type, sleek and demanding
and working for the even-more-demanding Diane; Cameron, in a mid-life
crisis at 32, has bought big acreage and a tiny trailer. And emerging
is Haley (Donna's daughter), avoiding her schoolwork so she can work
at her dad's company. Tonight, she moves to the top of a deep and
fascinating group.

Other choices
include:

Bourne films, all
day. TNT has the trilogy – crisp action films with Matt Damon as
the guy with great skills and no memory. The movies are at 3:15
(2002), 5:45 (2004) and 8 p.m. (2007); overlapping them, at 5:55 p.m.
on HBO, is “Jason Bourne,” which brought Damon back to the role
last year.

“Along Came Polly”
(2004), 7 p.m., CMT. Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston launch a night
of fairly good comedies. At 9, you can stick with CMT for Jim Carrey
and Aniston in “Buce Almighty” (2003) or go to FX for Melissa
McCarthy's “Spy” (2015). At 8, Comedy Central has “The
Hangover” (2009).

Football, 7:30 p.m.
ET ABC and 8 p.m., Fox. Those early-season mega-battles are done now
and college football settles into its weekly routine. ABC has
4th-ranked Penn State at Iowa; Fox has Notre Dame at
Michigan State. There's much more, on cable and throughout the day.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 8 p.m., CBS. After a SEAL candidate is killed, the team
reviews unorthodox training exercises. Also in this rerun, Dr. Wade
worries when her adopted son plans to join the Navy.

“Criminal Minds,”
9 p.m., CBS. Dr. Lewis (Aisha Tyler) faces a double problem in this
rerun. A man arrives believing he's her brother ... and knowing
everything about her and her family. Also, she can't get in touch
with her real sibling.

“Declassified,”
9 p.m., CNN (barring breaking news), rerunning at midnight. This
rerun views the effort to catch Haji Bagcho, the Afghan man believed
to once control one-fifth of all heroin sales.

“Oprah's Master
Class,” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. Gladys Knight discusses a
vibrant life and career. That's a new hour, surrounded by hours that
are new (Usher, at 9 p.m. and midnight) and rerun (Steve Harvey, 8
and 11 p.m.).

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 21


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

Back in its second
season – nine years ago -- “Big Bang” put Sheldon in fresh
turf: An attractive grad student (Riki Lindhome) was enamored.
Unaccustomed to attention -- or to women -- he floundered.

This May, the
season-finale brought her back. Now she's Dr. Ramona Nowitzki,
arriving at a tricky time: Sheldon's girlfriend (platonic, except for
once a year) is away at Princeton. Here's a rerun of a great episode,
propelling us to Monday's season-opener ... and then to the
delightful “Young Sheldon.”

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“Zoo,” 10 p.m., CBS.

At a time when the
big networks were floundering each summer, CBS took bold strokes:
Each summer had a couple big-deal science-fiction dramas; the first
ones -- “Under the Dome,” “Extant” -- scored well in the
ratings, but recent ones have struggled.

Now this year's
shows are wrapping up. “Salvation” finished its first season
Wednesday; “Zoo” ends its third tonight. The team races to stop
the hybrid creatures from breaching the barrier wall.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30.

The first half of
Ken Burns' magnificent documentary concludes with one of its most
involving people.

John Musgrave joined
the Marines as a teen from small-town in Missouri, filled with
patriotism and idealism. Then he saw the enemy. “My hatred for them
was pure,” he says. “I hated them so much .... and I was
terrified of them.” There was reason to be. In a fierce fight at
Con Thien, most of the unit was wounded (including Musgrave) or
killed. Officials kept insisting that the U.S. was winning.

TODAY'S ALTERNATIVE:
“Doc Martin” new season, any time, www.acorn.tv.

Most of the time,
this is a low-key drama-with-comedy, centering on a crusty village
doctor. He has a wife (the local teacher), a toddler, an aunt (a
retired doctor) and some pleasantly offbeat neighbors.

The season-opener
also detours toward flat-out, slapstick comedy. The pleasant-but-dim
constable has a beautiful-but-ditzy fiancee; their wedding –
complete with his ailment, her doubts and a medicated vicar – is
wildly funny. That's followed by a mostly serious episode, with Art
Malik as guest star.

Other choices
include:

-- Finales , 8-11
p.m., ABC. A week before their new seasons start, ABC's shows remind
us how the previous ones ended. “Grey's Anatomy” (8 p.m.) has a
patient escape from his room and endanger the rest of the hospital
... “Scandal” (9) has Fitz making big moves at the end of his
presidency ... “How To Get Away With Murder” (10) finally offers
details on the night of the fire and on who killed Wes.

-- “Penn &
Teller: Fool Us,” 8 p.m., CW. After airing reruns all summer, this
amiable magic show has some new hours to show today, Monday and next
Thursday.

-- “Gotham”
season-opener, 8 p.m., Fox. Jonathan Crane – also known as The
Scarecrow – may be back. There's a string of robberies in his stle.
Also, Penguin's crime scheme starts to backfire.

-- “The Orville,”
9 p.m., Fox. The original “Star Trek” was almost an anthology,
shifting in tone from week to week. So after a couple light episodes,
“Orville” moves into its Thursday timeslot with a dead-serious
drama about a one-gender culture. There are a few light, pop-culture
moments, but the drama part – well-meaning, but heavy-handed –
dominates. “Orville” is, as usual, almost adequate.

-- “Project
Runway,” 9-10:33 p.m. Last week's episode (rerunning at 8) involved
designing for good or evil; the new one lets the models having some
control, creating street-style fashions.

-- “Chicago Fire,”
10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun of the season-finale, a warehouse fire
rages. (We'll learn next week if everyone survived.) Chicago Cub
stars Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta play themselves.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“America's Got Talent” finale (NBC) or others, 8-10 p.m.

Suddenly, our TV set
is overloaded with reality-show finales and big-money winners. It
will be $250,000 for Fox's “MasterChef,” $500,000 for CBS' “Big
Brother,” a million dollars for “Talent.”

The “Talent”
money may or may not have to be split up: The dance groups are epic –
nine people in Light Balance, 12 in Diavolo. Others – six singers,
a comedian and a dog act -- have only one person apiece who can keep
all the money ... unless that last one gives some of the money to the
dogs.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic
Movies.

Some people may not
be interested in tonight's reality overload. They want a fictional
tale ... and tonight, they'll get one of the best.

Two of the all-time
great actors collide, with Rod Steiger as an ornery Southern sheriff
and Sidney Poitier as the big-city detective who's told to work with
him. “Heat” took five Oscars, including ones for best picture,
for Steiger and for Stirling Silliphant's sharply crafted script.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE:
“The Good Place” season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m., NBC.

We expect shows to
discard a bad concept; we don't expect them to shed a great one.

Last season opened
with the wonderful notion that Eleannor (Kristen Bell) is a bad
person, whom an inept bureaucrat (Ted Danson) mis-assigned to the
best afterlife. Then the season-finale changed that: This is a
variation on Hell, meant to frustrate Eleanor and three others. Now
memories are erased for a second try. That starts slowly, but turns
hilarious when the towering Tehani meets her “soul mate.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “The Vietnam War,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10.

In a war that killed
more than 50,000 Americans – and more than three million soldiers
and civilians overall – it might be difficult to have one death
affect us. This episode does that powerfully.

Denton Crocker, Jr.,
was an idealistic teen who ran away from home so he could be a
soldier. Entwined with other stories – the anti-war movement, the
failed attempts to win friends in the Vietnam villages -- we see the
effect of his life and death. “I knew our family would never be the
same,” his sister says.

Other choices
include:

“MasterChef”
finale, 8-10 p.m., Fox. This year's finish offers an interesting trio
of home cooks. Dino Angelo Luciano, 28, of Bensonhurst, is a dancer
who will sometimes do a near-pirouette in the kitchen. Eboni Henry,
33, is an addiction counselor in Chicago; Jason Wang, 34, is a high
school music teacher in Newton, Mass. Tonight, each creates a full,
three-course dinner.

“The Twilight
Saga: Eclipse” (2010, Freeform) or “Taken 3” (2014, FX), both 8
p.m. Remember when having a sequel would suffice. Now here are the
third rounds of both of these movie hits.

“Breaking2,” 8
p.m., National Geographic. Three top runners try to break the
two-hour barrier in the marathon. This documentary ranges from their
African homes to the race in Italy.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. Things get out of hand when Manny's birth father takes
him out for a graduation celebration. Now his step-dad, Jay, must
step in.

“Designated
Survivor,” 10 p.m., ABC. A week before the second season starts,
here's a reminder of how the first one ended. Hannah Wells (Maggie
Q), the FBI agent, tries to stop the conspiracy from completing its
plot; also, the president (Kiefer Sutherland) orders a massive
manhunt for the leader.

“Salvation”
season-finale, 10 p.m., CBS. This is an imposing to-do list: Our
heroes must topple an illegitimate U.S. government and prepare an ark
to leave Earth.