TV column for Saturday, July 4




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Capitol
Fourth,” 8 p.m. ET, most PBS stations; some repeat it at 9:30.

Each year, this special offers
broad-based music and lush visuals.

This one starts and ends with medleys
by Barry Manilow. It also has soul great Aretha Franklin, fresh pop
star Natasha Bedingfield, singer-pianist Michael Feinstein and the
Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys.”

Since this is PBS, there's classical
music (pianist Andrew von Oeyen, the National Symphony). And since
it's the 4th, there will be fireworks at the Capitol.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Macy's 4th
of July Fireworks Spectacular” (9 p.m., NBC) and “Boston Pops
Fireworks Spectacular” (10 p.m., CBS).

First is the New York show, with music
by Jewel, Rob Thomas and the current Broadway cast of “West Side
Story,” including Tony-winner Karen Olivio and nominee Josefina
Scaglione. The fireworks have moved to the Hudson River (marking the
400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration), fired
from six barges.

Then is the Boston show, with music
from Neil Diamond. Craig Ferguson hosts.

Other choices include:

– Frontier films, 9 a.m. To 11 p.m.,
Hallmark. This starts with the second of the films – “Love's
Enduring Promise” (2004) – based on Janette Oke's frontier
novels. It continues through the 2009 finales, “Love Takes Wing”
at 7 p.m. and “Love Finds a Home” at 9. Most offer gently
adequate views of decent people in a tough frontier era.

– “Tarzan” (1999), 7 p.m., and
“Happy Feet” (2006), 8:40 p.m., Disney Channel. Here's a
double-feature of acclaimed animated films – first an
adventure-romance, then a brilliantly offbeat tale of a tap-dancing
penguin.

– “Kings,” 8 p.m., NBC. When Jack
announces his engagement, his parents – the king and queen, both
aware of his gay affairs – have opposite reactions. Meanwhile,
David is on a mission to retrieve a crucial artifact; along the way,
he makes a discovery about his father's death.

– “Burn After Reading” (2008), 8
p.m., HBO. The Coen Brothers are at their best here, writing and
directing a masterful comedy about thick-witted people wrapped in
schemes.

– “Harper's Island,” 9 p.m., CBS.
This show pauses on the holiday and reruns the opening episode. We
see Abby Mills return to the island for the wedding of the guy who
was her childhood friend. It's her first time back since her mother
and others were killed; a new round of murder is near.

– “Eli Stone,” 10 p.m., ABC. A
CEO sent his company into ruin and his employees into unemployment,
yet emerged with $43 million. Eli struggles to get the money back.

– “Saturday Night Live,” 11:29
p.m., NBC. Tim McGraw hosts this rerun, with music by Ludacris, with
T-Pain.

TV column for Friday, July 3




TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Are You Smarter
Than a 5th Grader” (Fox) or “The Chopping Block”
(NBC), both 8 p.m.

These two reality competitions are
exact opposites.

Fox's show – settling into its summer
slot – is sunny and feel-good, with cute kids, bright host (Jeff
Foxworthy) and enthusiastic contestants. Tonight, that's Joey
Chestnut, a hot-dog-eating champion.

NBC's show is the opposite, with raw
emotions. Tonight's show – delayed from last week because of a
Farrah Fawcett special – is particularly rough.

Both teams must serve Italian food to
lunchtime crowds of Italian New Yorkers. That includes two “Sopranos”
actors; one is delighted, the other not. And it includes something
more imposing – hungry and impatient children.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Love Comes
Softly” (2003), 7 p.m.; and “Love's Enduring Promise” (2004), 9
p.m., Hallmark Channel.

Just before “Grey's Anatomy” made
her famous, Katherine Heigl starred in these sweet-spirited frontier
films. She plays a bride who quickly becomes a widow, then must share
the journey with a quiet dad; in the second film, her daughter
(played by January Jones of “Mad Men”) is a teacher and a love
interest.

That one reruns at 9 a.m. Saturday,
followed by the final six films in the gentle “Love” saga.

Other choices include:

– “The Bourne Identity” (2002), 6
and 8:30 p.m., USA. Here are two chances to catch the crowd-pleaser
about a guy (Matt Damon) who wakes up with no memory, but lots of spy
skills.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Here's a rerun from last season, when Jay Mohr was still on the show,
as Professor Payne. He's dating a faculty colleague who doesn't want
her photo taken; soon, Melinda finds people whose photo image fades
away when exposed.

– “Analyze This” (1999), 8 p.m.,
and “Analyze That” (2002), 10 p.m., Bravo. Two enjoyable films
have a mob boss and his psychiatrist. They're perfectly played by
Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.

– “The Goode Family,” 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. As “community service,” teen-aged Bliss is assigned to clean
up graffiti. This is a problem, since the town has no graffiti to
clean; her mom decides to change that.

– “According to Jim,” 9 and 9:30
p.m., ABC. Jim's gamesmanship causes trouble in both reruns. In the
first, he turns a dads-babysitting day into a frenzy of contests; in
the second, he convinces Andy to play football – causing an injury
that must be hidden from Mandy.

– “Flashpoint,” 9 p.m., CBS. At
first, this rerun seems to involve a random home invasion. Then new
complexities are found.

– “Numb3rs,” 10 p.m., CBS. In
this rerun, a car has crashed into a coffee shop, killing one person
and injuring others. But was this actually an accident?

TV column for Thursday, July 2




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Soundstage,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Sugarland seems made for TV. It has a
vibrant and expressive singer, a deep well of emotion and a variety
to its music.

One moment, Jennifer Nettles stird
pathos with the spare “Stay”; the next, she's up to rowdy
mischief with “Down in Mississippi.” Other songs also range from
fun (“It Happens,” “All I Want to Do”) to pain (“Already
Gone”).

Sure, there are occasional flaws.
(“Settlin'” and “Something More” are too similar to be sung
close to each other; audience-singalongs are pointless on TV.)
Mostly, however, this is a terrific hour.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Wedding Day,”
8 p.m., TNT.

After only two episodes – good ones,
at that – this show was booted to a different night.

Maybe it will do well here. This is the
spot where “Survivor” thrives; now the same producer (Mark
Burnett) gives us this well-made show.

Each week, we meet a likable couple
that had its plans delayed; friends and family make it work.
Tonight's hour – involving Army officers who have been too busy in
Iraq and elsewhere to plan a wedding _ is first-rate.

TONIGHT'S CHANGE: “The Listener,”
10 p.m., NBC.

The deaths last Thursday of Michael
Jackson and Farrah Fawcett caused last-minute schedule changes.

In particular, NBC delayed a good “The
Listener” hour; it airs tonight. Toby tries to help a fragile teen
boy, who may have killed someone named Lisa.

Other choices include:

– “Wizard of Oz” night, 7-11:15
p.m., Turner Classic Movies. The film, a familly classic, airs at 8
p.m., but it's sandwiched by more. At 7 is a special, hosted by
Angela Lansbury, that celebrated the movie's 50th
anniversary. At 10 is a documentary that views the amazing year of
1939, when Hollywood came up with “Oz,” “Gone With the Wind,”
“Stagecoach” and more.

– “30 Rock,” 8 and 9:30 p.m.,
NBC. The first rerun has some great moments, as Liz tries to squelch
Jack's product-placement demands by putting him in a sketch. In the
second, she sets her first date with the handsome neighbor (Jon
Hamm), not realizing it's on Valentine's Day.

– “Samantha Who,” 8 p.m., ABC. In
her bad old days, Samantha may have cost Todd a job. Now she figures
she'll compensate by sabotaging a job-seeker he's competing with.

– “In the Motherhood,” 8:30 p.m.,
ABC. Emily really wants her sister Jane to be designated as guardian
of her children, if there's a tragedy. First, she must transform Jane
into a perfect parent.

– “The Office,” 8:30 and 9 p.m.,
NBC. The first rerun has the holiday party hit some flaws –
including when Phyllis' hair is set on fire. The second begins when
Andy is the only one who doesn't know Angela cheated on him with
Dwight.

– “So You Think You Can Dance,” 9
p.m., Fox. The field is trimmed to 12; also, Kelly Clarkson sings.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. This reruns has seemingly random people dying and
freezing in place.

– “The Mentalist,” 10:01 p.m.,
CBS. The victim in this rerun is an investment banker who cheated
people out of fortunes. With so many suspects, Patrick Jane needs a
way to trick the killer.

TV column for Wednesday, July 1




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “American
Masters: Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes,”
8-9:30 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Garrison Keillor is full of wonderful
contrasts.

The master of small-town storytelling,
he moved to New York when he was young, to be a magazine writer. A
deeply funny man, he carries a solemn air. Drab in style, he wears
red tennis shoes.

This film follows Keillor for a year,
ranging from his St. Paul home to Manhattan (where he still keeps an
apartment) and to a Rhubarb Festival in a Minnesota town of 788.
Using words from his essays and monologues, it captures the wondrous
quirks of being Keillor.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “So You Think
You Can Dance” (Fox) and “America's Got Talent” (NBC), both
8-10 p.m.

Now the two summer powerhouses will
collide for two hours on Wednesdays.

“Talent” is still in its auditions
phase, but “Dance” is already trimming out some terrific dancers.
Dumped last week were Jonathan Platero (despite his teen-magazine
look and acrobatic flair) and Asuka Kondoh. Their former dance
partners, Vitolio Jeune and Karla Garcia, will be one of the seven
duos remaining.

Other choices include:

– “Wipeout” (8 p.m.) and “I
Survived a Japanese Game Show” (9:02), ABC. This is the night
reality shows reach overload. ABC sticks to the loopy side. The big
moment may be on “Japanese Game Show” as a whack-a-gopher game
uses real people, trying to spit out balls while being whacked.

– “World Music Awards,” 8-10
p.m., MyNetwork. Here's a rerun of the 2006 show that included an
honor for Michael Jackson. “If there weren't a Michael Jackson, I
would never, ever have sung,” Beyonce says. A Guinness World
Records spokesman says his “Thriller” (104 million at that point)
is the best-selling album ever and proclaims him “undisputedly the
world's most famous human being.” There are zesty clips and a
spectacular production number, with Chris Brown and mega-dancers
doing “Thriller.” The crowd is excited – sometimes overly so,
drowning out Brown and Jackson's acceptance.

– “Gary Unmarried,” 8:30 p.m.,
CBS. In this rerun, Gary spends some time with Anna Lopez (Aimee
Garcia), then panics when her brother Dennis talks about them
marrying.

– “The Philanthropist,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Teddy's company may have ties to a firm that uses force labor
overseas. Now he tries to contact an imprisoned Burmese leader; he
also tries to help a girl whose father is in a labor camp.

– “Primetime Crime,” 10 p.m.,
ABC. Here's the season-opener, delayed by a week because of the
presidential health-care special. This hour traces the death of San
Diego defense lawyer Tim MacNeil, with his two teen step-children
facing separate juries.

– “Wide Angle: Crossing Heaven's
Border,” 10 p.m., PBS. This compelling hour traces the tense
journey of people who risk round-about, 3,000-mile journeys from
North Korea to South Korea, by way of China and Laos.

TV column for Tuesday, June 30




TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “The
Superstars,” 8-9:30 p.m., ABC.

Whenever the world thinks Terrell Owens
is gone, he bounces back.

Last week, the flamboyant football
star, paired with actress Joanna Krupa, got tangled in the obstacle
course nets and finished last. Now another duo is out and they're
back – in time for the sprints, which are an Owens specialty.

Things soon get interesting, though.
“My partner has too much ego,” Krupa says. “That's when many
athletes start to go downhill, when they're too cocky.”

You see a lot of that, in this show
that pairs athletes with actors. On broad jumps, the male athletes
set the bar too far and get nothing. On the nets, non-athletes roll
efficiently; athletes run and get stuck. It's a fun battle, with more
surprises.

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE II: “Hawthorne,”
9 p.m., TNT.

Four stories are juggled, ranging from
silly to serious.

One -- a man resists taking his mom off
life support – seems forced, Another _ a baby with suspicious
symptoms _ has key twists.

Then Christina Hawthorne's rebellions
daughter sums things up with a school essay. In the “Grey's
Anatomy” style, she gets it all to make emotional sense.

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 and 9
p.m., NBC. Now that “I'm a Celebrity” is gone, NBC has room for
back-to-back audition hours.

– “NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. In this
rerun, McGee (Sean Murray) is captive in a women's prison, where a
guard has been killed.

– “Nova: Musical Minds,” 8 p.m.,
PBS (check local listings). Last week, a fascinating, two-hour
documentary surveyed links between music and the mind. This hour
focuses on four specific cases, most involving treating neurological
disorders. A focal point is Dr. Oliver Sacks, who was also in least
week's film.

– “Nova ScienceNow”
season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). It's getting
harder to tell what's real. One segment views artificial diamonds so
precise that experts have trouble identifying them. Another checks a
computer that cleans up a singer's bad notes.

– “The Mentalist,” 9 p.m., CBS.
When a teen girl's body washes ashore, in this rerun, Patrick Jane
uses mind games to get local surfers to reveal secrets.

– “Better Off Ted,” 9:30 p.m.,
ABC. The bio-computer spews ooze. Soon, people are sharing offices,
causing new trouble.

– “P.O.V.: Beyond Hatred,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings).In France, three neo-Nazi skinheads
were looking for an Arab to beat. Instead, they found Francois Chenu,
who confirmed without hesitation that he was gay, even calling his
attackers cowards. This documentary – with English sub-titles,
filmed in a darkly emotional style _ begins two years later, as his
parents prepare for the murder trial and come to grips with their own
hatred.

– “Saving Grace,” 10 p.m., TNT. A
bomb has gone off in the church where Grace's brother is a priest.