TV column for Sunday, Sept. 6

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Design Star,”
10 p.m., HGTV.

This show is down to three people, each
wildly different and wildly talented. Tonight, each designs a
celebrity's room and one is sent home.

Antonio Ballatore, 40, is big, bearded
and tattooed, a tough-sounding New York native who's a Hollywood set
designer. Dan Vickery, 27, is a Portland, Oregon guy with an
architecture degree; he crafts personal art work with speed and
skill. Lonni Paul, 49, is a former model who has her own Los Angeles
design studio; after being too careful at first, she's starting to

Tonight, they tackle rooms for Kathy
Griffin, Jason Priestley and his wife Naomi, and Tiffani Thiessen and
her husband Brady Smith. The results are impressive.

Lights” (2004), 8:30-11 p.m., NBC.“Friday Night Lights” has
established itself as one of the best series on TV. (The new season
will air on DirecTV, then is expected to have a summer run on NBC.)
First, here's the movie that led to it.

The series focuses heavily on the
teens, with moments of optimism. The movie – tied to the real 1988
season at a West Texas high school – is a dark portrait of a town
that seems to feel football is the only answer; after high school,
one player says, there's “nothing but babies and memories.”

Tim McGraw is disturbingly good as a
brutal father and Billy Bob Thornton is perfect as the coach. The
players are often little more than stock characters – but ones
viewers will root for passionately.

Other choices include:

– “Spider-Man 2” (2004), 7:30-10
p.m., Fox. Here's a sequel that brought back all the things that
worked right. That includes director Sam Raimi, stars Tobey Maguire
and Kirsten Dunst and a mixture of emotion and whiz-bang action. The
new element is Alfred Molina as the evil Dr. Octopus.

– “There Goes the Neighborhood,”
8:59 p.m., CBS. There are only four families left, inside the
20-foot-high wall. Then a crane drops in things for them to share.

– “Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector
Lewis,” 9-10:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Against the
gentle backdrop of Oxford, we see no-rules boxing, spy secrets, a
romantic triangle and two deaths. It's a good movie and Bradley James
(Arthur in the “Merlin” series) shows star potential as Jack
Roth, a suspect.

– “Shark Tank,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Here's a lively hour, filled with unusual ideas. There's a “funeral
concierge” to plan celebrations, a “Granola Gourmet,” an
on-line therapy journal, even some surgical masks whimsically
designed with pig snouts and zippers and such. There's also a
weight-loss device, pushed by the 260-pound Cactus Jack. Some draw
investment interest, some are mocked; several draw sniping between
two investors, the acidic Kevin O'Leary and the courtly Robert

– “Defying Gravity,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. In the midst of a six-year space journey, the crew prepares a
big promotion. Then, on Halloween, hallucinations take over.

– “Mad Men,” 10 p.m., AMC. A
fairly good episode brings two major changes – one in Don Draper's
household, the other for Peggy, torn between her downscale roots and
her Manhattan dreams. Meanwhile, Don isn't sure about taking money
for an awful idea.


TV column for Saturday, Sept. 5

Brothers, 7-11 p.m., Spike.

HBO created this brilliant mini-series
in 2001, catching the sweep of one group World War II unit.

Easy Company, of the 101st
Airborne, dropped behind enemy lines for D-Day. It fought through
Belgium and Germany, liberated a concentration camp, even reached
Hitler's mountain retreat. This is a great story, told with tight
scripts, superb direction and top actors, including Damian Lewis,
Donnie Wahlberg, Rob Livingston and Michael Cutlitz.

The first three chapters air tonight,
then rerun from 3-7 p.m. Sunday, leading into the next three, from
7-11. All of those start rerunning at 10 a.m. Monday, before the
finale from 6 p.m. to midnight.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Football, 8 p.m.

The season's first full Saturday of
college football peaks here with Alabama and Virginia Tech.

There's much more, of course. At 3:30
p.m., ABC has Georgia and Oklahoma State, NBC has Notre Dame and
Nevada; ESPN starts with Navy and Ohio State at noon, then continues
all day.

Other choices include:

– Frontier marathon, 7 a.m. to 11
p.m., Hallmark. In one sweep, catch the full, eight-movie saga. That
start with “Loves Come Softly” (2003, rerunning at 11 p.m.) with
Katherine Heigl as a young widow, linking with a widowed dad (Dale
Midkiff) in the frontier. Heigl stayed for one more film, Midkiff for
five more; his daughter Missie is played by Skye Bartusiak in the
first film, January Jones in the second, then Erin Cottrell. These
movies have slow points, but add up to a quietly engaging tale.

– “The Sound of Music” (1965), 7
p.m., ABC Family, or “Grease” (1978), 8 p.m., Oxygen. Choose your
musical – classic Rodgers-and-Hammerstein or bouncy pop-rock.
Either is entertaining; however, “Grease 2” (1983), at 10:30 p.m.
on Oxygen, is quite awful.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Delia's friend has bought what may be the most haunted house in
Grandview, in this rerun. Melinda investigates.

– “Garden State” (2004), 8-10
p.m., Independent Film Channel. Many people know Zach Braff only from
his acting on “Scrubs,” but here he does it all. He wrote,
directed and starred in a “Graduate”-like tale of an aspiring
actor, reluctantly visiting home; Natalie Portman is terrific in

– “Law & Order,” 9 p.m., NBC.
When a fireman and his wife are tortured and killed in this rerun,
detectives find a trail of secrets.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. Here's a re-rerun of an episode showcasing
familiar actresses. Hilary Duff and Gail O'Grady play the mother and
grandmother of a missing girl.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m. Anne Hathaway hosts this rerun, with music by The Killers.


TV column for Friday, Sept. 4

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Movies, 8 p.m. (or
7:30), cable.

Most Fridays are good movie nights, but
few match today, when classics collide.

The best one starts a half-hour earlier
than the rest, at 7:30. On the surface, “Saturday Night Fever”
(1977, WE), has lots of disco glitz and Bee Gees music. Beyond that
is a deeply layered portrait of a blue-collar kid, sensing there are
other worlds out there.

“Flashdance” (1983, Oxygen) has
much less depth, but just as much energy. Forget the absurd plot
points and enjoy the rest; director Adrian Lyne gets stunning
visuals, whether he's showing Jennifer Beals dancing, biking, welding
or just smiling.

“Aliens” (1986, AMC) is a
remarkable sequel, with James Cameron directing Sigourney Weaver in a
science-fiction adventure. “First Blood” (1982, Spike) is a
gritty Sylvester Stallone film that set up its looser (and wildly
successful) sequel; that's “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” which
follows at 10.

p.m., CBS.

In a powerful moment during the
previous season, Anjelica Huston played Cynthia Keener, who found and
killed her daughter's kidnapper, then patiently waited for the police
to take her away.

Now Allison needs her help, in this
rerun . The wife of a rich businessman (Balthazar Getty) is missing;
one clue may involve a previous kidnap victim whom Keener rescued.
Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, plays
Bethany Simmons.

Other choices include:

– Marathons, cable. Two fun shows go
all day. “Monk” is 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on USA; “Eureka” is 8
a.m. to 6 a.m. on Syfy.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Don't soap operas have enough trouble without ghosts intervening? A
soap, shooting scenes in Melinda's home town, is disrupted; Kellie
Martin guest stars in this rerun.

– “Are You Smarter Than a 5th
Grader,” 8 p.m., Fox. Dean Cain, a brainy actor – and a Princeton
grad, no less – competes for charity.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Here's
your third chance to see this wonderful pilot film – and your
second this week. Catch it now, before the new episodes start
Wednesday; you'll find an odd and appealing blend of dark humor,
bright idealism and bouncy music.

– “Jockeys,” 9 p.m., Animal
Planet. This hour views what it sees as tensions between the haves
and the have-nots. Some involve Iggy Puglisi, trying to come back
after an injury that cost him two years; others involve women.
Chantal Sutherland and Kayla Stra were hugely successful jockeys in
Canada and Australia, respectively, before moving last year to the
Santa Anita track.

– “Numb3rs,” 10 p.m., CBS. The
show's 100th episode reruns. Feeling guilty about a
mistake that led to his brother's near-fatal stabbing, Charlie throws
himself into the hunt for a serial killer.


TV column for Thursday, Sept. 3

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Willy Wonka and
the Chocolate Factory” (1971), 7:30 p.m., ABC Family; and/or “Young
Frankenstein” (1974), 8 p.m., AMC.

For a splendid decade, Gene Wilder got
Hollywood's top comedy roles. Here are two of them.

In one, he's Willy Wonka, the candy
king; it's a jaunty film for any age. In the other, he's Dr.
Frankenstein; filmed in black-and-white by Mel Brooks, it's a comedy

Wilder got an Oscar nomination for the
latter – as a writer, not an actor. He had previously co-starred in
“The Producers” and “Blazing Saddles” for Brooks, then
co-wrote “Young Frankenstein” with him.

He would go on to make two hits with
Richard Pryor, “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy.” After
tonight, you might want to try the video store.

Scene Investigation,” 9 p.m., CBS.

Here's a second chance to see the
episode that gave extra attention to Dr. Robbins (Robert David Hall),
the forensics examiner. When seemingly unrelated people die, he and
Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) scramble for a solution.

That puts the spotlight on Hall, a
strong talent – guitarist, pianist, radio program director,
English-lit grad – who lost both legs after a 1978 traffic
accident. He and Fishburne share a love of blues music, which this
episode reflects.

Other choices include:

– “30 Rock,” 8 and 9:30p.m., NBC.
In the first rerun, Jack is demoted; in the second, he finally bonds
with his biological dad (Alan Alda), who has health problems. Guest
stars include Brian Dennehy (as the Teamsters head) in the first
episode and lots of pop stars – Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, Clay
Aiken, Elvis Costello and more – in the second.

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 8 and 9 p.m.,
ABC. Both reruns follow Izzie's increasingly intense medical
treatment; in the second, she tries to throw herself into planning
the wedding of Derek and Meredith. Meanwhile, the first hour has
Derek hesitantly tackling his first surgery since his breakdown; the
second has Callie introducing Arizona as her girlfriend to her
disapproving father (Hector Elizondo).

– “Being Human,” 8 p.m., BBC
America. Here's a second chance to see the season-finale, a well-made
hour that starts and ends brutally. First is a flashback, showing how
a vampire and a werewolf met in modern London; then is a fierce
finish, as one friend tries to protect another. In between are warmer
moments involving Annie, the ghost who missed her chance to cross

– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. The
annual company picnic gives Michael a chance to get back with Holly
(Amy Ryan), in this rerun.

– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, a movie producer has been killed. Rebecca Rigg, the
real-life wife of series star Simon Baker, plays the widow.

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 2

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Glee,” 8:58
p.m., Fox.

This wonderful hour arrived in May –
fresh, original and beautifully done.

Now it reruns in the “director's
cut.” That's expected to add a few things – including a sweet
solo by Matthew Morrison – that were trimmed for time.

Morrison plays a teacher, determined to
revive the glee club. That's not easy; the school obsesses only on
its champion cheerleaders and their tyrannical coach (Jane Lynch).

Still, there's hope. Rachel Berry (Lea
Michele) has talent and passion; the football quarterback (Cory
Monteith), tricked into joining, sings well.

There's a wicked sense of humor here,
as shown with a cheery version of Amy Winehouse's “Rehab.” But
there's also idealism and skill: Morrison and Michele are Broadway
stars; others sing beautifully. “Glee” balances its cynicism with
gleeful music.

You Can Dance: Top 15 Dances,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Next week, “Dance” starts its sixth
season and “Glee” starts its first. Before that, we re-visit the
best “Dance” numbers so far.

Those come from great choreographers,
including Emmy winners (Wade Robson, Mia Michaels) and nominees –
Tyce Diorio, Dmitry Chaplin, Mandy Moore, Shane Sparks, Tabitha and
Napoleon D'Umo.

Masters: Trumbo,” 8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Dalton Trumbo was a top movie writers
when he was plunked onto the anti-Communist blacklist. He would later
write (at low pay) under 13 pseudonyms.

This tells the story mainly through his
letters, which his son assembled into a play. There are moving ones
here, beautifully read by Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Josh Lucas,
Liam Neeson and Donald Sutherland; there are also fiercely funny
ones, read by Nathan Lane and Paul Giametti.

Other choices include:

– “America's Next Top Model,”
8-10 p.m., CW. Next week, a new season starts. First, these reruns
show the current winner being chosen.

– “The New Adventures of Old
Christine,” 8 p.m., CBS. Christine uses her expertise as a
gym-owner, to bring weight-loss for her brother and, to her surprise,

– “CBS Fall Preview,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. Neil Patrick Harris offers peeks at the new shows. There's one
exceptional series (“The Good Wife”) and three comfortably
middle-of-the-road ones (“Three Rivers,” “Accidentally on
Purpose,” “NCIS: Los Angeles”). This also includes “Medium,”
moving from NBC.

– “America's Got Talent,” 9 p.m.,
NBC. After a recap hour at 8 p.m., we learn which four acts will
survive to the next round.

– “Wide Angle,” 10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings). Every three years, this ambitious project
checks on the progress of the same seven kids in seven countries.
This six-year report finds life varying sharply: In Afghanistan, a
girl beats the odds and hopes to be an engineer; in India, a girl did
housework by day and school at night, never getting past 2nd
grade. A Japanese boy savors his school life; a Brazilian boy is sent
to after-school programs, in hopes he'll duck the drug culture..