TV column for Sunday, Sept. 20




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Emmy awards, 8-11
p.m., CBS.

Neil Patrick Harris, who was terrific
as the Tonys host, takes over the Emmys. He also has a
supporting-actor nomination and his show (“How I Met Your Mother”)
is up for best comedy series.

A dance number is planned, dedicated to
the surge of dance on reality shows. It will be choreographed by
Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo of “So You Think You Can Dance” and
will include Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff of “Dancing
With the Stars.”

Many of the presenters will be from CBS
shows. Still, there are plenty of others, including Tina Fey, Jimmy
Fallon, Bob Newhart, Hayden Panettiere and cable hunks Jon Hamm and
Stephen Moyer.

Kyra Sedgwick will present with her
husband Kevin Bacon; they're nominated for performances in a drama
series and a movie, respectively. And two people who have already won
for guest roles will hand out the other guest Emmys: Ellen Burstyn
won for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Michael J. Fox
for his spectacular work in “Rescue Me.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Curb Your
Enthusiasm” season-opener, 9 p.m., HBO; repeats at 10.

It's been 22 months since the last new
“Curb” aired. Now it's back and at its best.

In two weeks, the show starts a fun
story that brings the “Seinfeld” cast together. First, there's
there's a complication: Larry's wife Cheryl is gone and his live-in
affair with Loretta (Vivica A. Fox) is crumblinh. Everything annoys
him, from her mother to the room temperature. Now she may have
cancer; Larry, who hates responsibility, wants out.

Yes, this show that can find humor in
cancer. Tonight, it also gets laughs from mental illness; Catherine
O'Hara gives a wonderfully offbeat performance as crazy Bam Bam
Funkhouser.

Other choices include:

– “King Kong” (2005), 7-11 p.m.,
ABC. With the “Lord of the Ring” movies, Peter Jackson
beautifully mixed human moments and epic action. This time, however,
he failed to do that. Visually impressive, the movie offers nothing
else; some of the action scenes go on approximately forever.

– Georgia O'Keeffe,” 7-9 p.m.,
Lifetime. If you missed this movie's debut Saturday, catch it now.
Director Bob Balaban makes rich use of period settings, the original
O'Keeffe paintings and two gifted stars. Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons
play O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, who transformed the art world.

– “The Beautiful Life: TBL” (8 p.m.) and “Melrose Place”
(9), CW. Here's a chance to catch up on these glitzy new shows. CW
reruns the pilot of “TBL,” the second episode of “Melrose.”

– “Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis,” 9 p.m., PBS. When
a teen girl is assaulted, respected leaders offer a convenient alibi
for the prime suspect.
– “Bored to Death” debut, 9:30 p.m.,
HBO. There's a droll tone to this show that fits neatly alongside
“Curb.” Facing writer's block, a novelist (Jason Schwartzman) has
just lost his girlfriend. He has one friend (Zach Galifianakis), one
suitcoat, one occasional employer (Ted Danson) and one diversion –
working as an unlicensed detective. He's all wrong for that, which is
where the show gets its dry humor.

– “Mad Men,” 10 p.m., AMC. Big promotions are expected as
this hour begins – one for Joan's husband at the hospital, another
for Don when corporate chiefs arrive from London. Then come the
surprises; in the final minutes, there's the sort of dark touch “Twin
Peaks” would savor; it's tragic, dramatic and (at times) oddly
funny.

– “Project Antonio,” 10 p.m.,
HGTV. Last Sunday, Antonio Ballatore topped Dan Vickery, to win
“Design Star.” Both are immensely talented designers, but
Ballatore brings an unusual touch; big, bearded and tattooed, he's a
native New Yorker with a streetwise approach. On the day after he
wins, he's surprised by a five-day challenge to make over his own Los
Angeles home.

– “Entourage,” 10:30 p.m., HBO.
No one is happy with what he has, in this enjoyable episode. Vince's
brother wants to change jobs, his manager wants to change girlfriends
and his friend Turtle worries.

TV column for Saturday, Sept. 19




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Georgia
O'Keeffe,” 9-11 p.m., Lifetime.

The two strong forces met in a New York
gallery in 1916.

Georgia O'Keeffe was 28, a former
Wisconsin farmgirl who had studied art, off-and-on, in the big
cities. Alfred Stieglitz was 52, a man of many words and opinions
about art. He had helped introduce Americans to Picasso, Matisse,
Cezanne and more.

They had communicated often by letter,
but now – without her permission – he was exhibiting her pieces,
which a friend had shown him. “You will have to take them down,”
she said.

It was the start of a great partnership
in art and life. They were lovers then as husband-and-wife, usually
living apart – for 30 years. This film catches small glimpses ofa
sweeping story. Bob Balaban directed it beautifully, making fine use
of two great actors (Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons), period settings
and O'Keeffe paintings.

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

A week away from its season-opener,
this show reruns an episode hosted by a key alumnus.

That's Will Ferrell, who arrived in
1995 and stayed through 2002. He came back often to portray George W.
Bush … something he then repeated on Broadway. Here, his music
guest is Green Day.

Other choices include:

– “Lonesome Dove,” (1989), 4 p.m.
to midnight, AMC. Here's a chance to catch the mini-series in one
gulp. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones lead a superb cast in Larry
McMurtry's cowboy classic.

– Football, 8 p.m. ET, ABC. After
pausing for NASCAR last week, ABC returns to its Saturday-night
college football. This one has Texas Tech at Texas.

-- "Survivor," 8 p.m., CBS. In a late change, CBS is rerunning Thursday's season-opener here.

– “Dirty Dancing” (1987), 8-10:30
p.m., ABC Family. Scheduled prior to the death of Patrick Swayze
(Monday, at 57, of cancer), this lets us see him in his element.
Swayze was a dancer – a guy who grew up at his mother's studio in
Houston and married his boyhood dance partner; here, he enthralls a
teen (Jennifer Grey), during a 1960s vacation in a Catskills resort.
Other Swayze films, added late to the schedule, include the so-so
“King Solomon's Mines” (2004), from 6-10 p.m. on Hallmark
(rerunning from 2-6 p.m. Sunday) and “Road House” (1989) at 10
p.m. on Spike.

– “VH1 Divas,” 8-10 p.m., VH1.
Here's a second chance to see Thursday's concert, with an “American
Idol” flavor. Paula Abdul, the former “Idol” judge, introduces
former “Idol” winners Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks, plus
Adele, Miley Cyrus and Leona Lewis, a protege of “Idol” judge
Simon Cowell.

– “Law & Order,” 9 p.m., NBC.
In the rerun of a fairly good episode, the death of a charity
official leads to information about blackmail and scheming to get a
state senate seat.

– “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,”
9 p.m., CBS. In this rerun, a mother and her young child are killed,
in a case that reflects a murder 12 years earlier.

– “Robin Hood,” 9 p.m., BBC
America. Last week's season-opener (rerunning at 8 p.m.) saw Robin
mourning the death of Marian Viewers will mourn her, too, after the
new hour introduces Kate, who has all of Marian's strength and none
of her wisdom. This hour finally has some vibrant action scenes in
its final 15 minutes.

– “Law & Order: Special Victims
Unit,” 10 p.m., NBC. In a rerun, Stabler is injured by a
schizophrenic artist who kidnapped a girl.

TV column for Friday, Sept. 18




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: ALMA Awards, 8-10
p.m., ABC.

Each year, the American Latino Media
Awards offer a strong night of music and glitter. This year's show
gets a better time time-slot than usual – and precedes a fresh
surge of Latino interest.

Coming up on cable are George Lopez's
late-night talk show in November and Soledad O'Brien's two-night
Latino documentary in October; also in October is PBS' two-night look
at Latino music. First, ALMA has Lopez as co-host (with Eva Longoria
Parker), O'Brien as a presenter and music by Shakira, David
Archuleta, Nelly Furtado, Sean Kingsley and Pitbull.

TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY: “Crash”
season-opener, 10 p.m., Starz.

Like the movie, this series is based on
mismatched lives crashing together.

Only a few key characters are back from
the first season. Ben (Dennis Hopper) is out of rehab and deep into
grief for his slain daughter. There's also Anthony, his assistant;
Inez, a beautiful Gypsy; and Kenny, a cop who lost his marriage and
job after an affair.

Now more collisions begin. Inez is
living with Jimmy, a squirmy gambler. Kenny is the security guard at
a mini-mall, where Bo – once a big-league pitching prospect –
works at his mom's fading store. Seth (Eric Roberts), a mogul
launching a football franchise, stops at that mall, putting events in
motion.

There's a sameness here – a sense of
desperation to the characters. Still, you'll find them interesting
people to spend some time with.

Other choices include:

– “Dateline,” 8-10 p.m., NBC. The
network is stretching to make sure it doesn't have any low-viewership
shows leading into the early episodes of “The Jay Leno Show.” It
won't start the “Law & Order” season until next week and
won't start “Southland” until Oct. 23.

– “Are You Smarter That a 5th
Grader,” 8 p.m., Fox. Next week, this show trims back to a
half-hour and slides over to cable's CMT (Country Music Television).
First, however, is a final Fox hour; George Smoot – a Nobel
Prize-winning astrophysicist – tries to prove he's smarter than
grade-school kids.

– “Ghost Whisperer,” 8 p.m., CBS.
Shortly before her baby is born, Melinda gets an unsettling visit
from a ghost, in this rerun.

– “Medium,” 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a
rerun of the season-finale that jolted viewers when it first aired
last spring (on NBC). Allison dreams of her family being killed by a
mystery man. Soon, she's tracking a drug-cartel assassin; she also
faces an illness.

– “Glee” (Fox) or “The
Beautiful Life: TBL” (CW), both 9 p.m., These two hours both aired
at 9 p.m. Wednesday, so you probably missed at least one of them. In
“Glee,” Will obsesses on his acapella group and ignores his
glee-clubbers; they hire a choreographer. In the “TBL” debut, we
meet a sweet-faced beauty and a solid farm guy, thrust into the
flashy world of modeling.

– “Jockeys,” 9 p.m., Animal
Planet. At 45, Alex Solis has already had a spectacular career, with
more than 4,500 wins, plus three second-place finishes in the
Kentucky Derby. Now he and his son feel they have the horse that can
get back to Kentucky by winning the Santa Anita Derby. That plan hits
trouble when a rival trainer puts a fast horse in the race and hires
Aaron Gryder – shown earlier winning the Dubai World Cup by a
record margin – as the jockey.

– “The Jay Leno Show,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Drew Barrymore is expected to be the guest and to try the
celebrity racetrack next to the studio. Jim Norton is the comedy
correspondent.

TV column for Thursday, Sept. 17




TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “Community”
debut, 9:30 p.m., NBC.

Busted as a fake lawyer, a schemer
(Joel McHale) starts over at a community college.

He forms a fake study group in Spanish
– a language he knows nothing about – hoping a beautiful blonde
(Gillian Jacobs) will be the only person there. Instead, the group
ranges from a mogul with seven divorces (Chevy Chase) to a
half-Palestinian guy (Danny Pudi) obsessed with 1980s movies.

The result crackles with quick humor.
Put it just a half-step behind ABC's “Modern Family,” as the
year's best new comedy.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Fringe”
season-opener, 9 p.m., Fox.

As last season ended, Olivia had
flashed to an alternate universe, where she could talk to Dr. Bell,
who started all this spooky fringe science.

Now she's propelled fiercely back to
our world. She may already be dead; if not, there are skilled people,
eager to finish the job.

“Fringe” nearly matches “The
X-Files” in style and quality. It's creepy, confusing and
beautifully done. Peter and his dad have become deeper characters and
a new agent (Megham Markle) has been added.

Other choices include:

– “Grey's Anatomy,” 8-10 p.m.,
ABC. Here's a rerun of the season-finale, which had the show at its
best, rippling with emotion. Izzie prepares for her surgery and
George drops some major news. The final minutes left us stunned and
upset, but good drama is like that sometimes.

– “Bones” season-opener, 8 p.m.,
Fox. Recovering from brain surgery, Booth tries to jump back to work.
He's still a big shaky; so is this so-so story, about a fortune
teller who knows (literally) where the bodies are buried.

– “Survivor” season-opener, 8
p.m., CBS. In Samoa we meet 20 contestants, ranging in age from 22 to
62. That includes two bartenders, two hair stylists, three students
and lots of sales people. It also includes a doctor, a lawyer and a
rocket scientist.

– “Saturday Night Live Weekend
Update Thursday” season-opener, 8 p.m., NBC. There will be three of
these at the start of the season, before “30 Rock” returns. The
first two have Amy Poehler joining Seth Meyers as co-host, helping
boost her own show that follows.

– “Parks and Recreation”
season-opener, 8:30 p.m., NBC. Leslie (Poehler) decides it would be
cute to have a marriage ceremony for penguins at the zoo. In some
moderately funny twists, she soon becomes a hero to gay-rights
activists.

– “The Office” season-opener, 9
p.m., NBC. After a funny sight gag in the opening moments, this
episode settles into a silly story in which Michael spreads rumors.

– “The Jay Leno Show,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Halle Berry is the sit-down guest and there's a music duo of
Eric Clapton and Bruce Hornsby. Also, Leno plans to close with
“Dealing With the Public.”

– “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia” season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. In a funny episode, Frank
(Danny DeVito) wants to grab foreclosed homes and Dee (Kaitlin Olson)
wants to be a surrogate mother.

 

TV column for Wednesday, Sept. 16




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

Things wrap up quickly now, with none
of that slow slicing of one person per week.

On Monday, eight acts performed and
viewers voted. Tonight, one will win $1 million; it's all planned to
blend neatly into the debut of Jay Leno's show and into the start of
NBC's season.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Dark Blue”
season finale, 10 p.m., TNT.

Lt. Carter Shaw (Dylan McDermott) is a
classic character, lean and taut and unyielding. He bends rules,
breaks laws, seems battered by life; many of TV's undercover cops are
like that.

This hits an extreme tonight, when
Carter kills someone. Viewers know his explanation is a lie; so do
his colleagues, who were spying on him.

This is nine-tenths of a great episode,
flawed only by a finish that stretches believability to the extreme.
Until then, it's a great ride, beautifully acted by McDermott, Sasha
Alexander (as the investigator) and Andrea Roth – who plays the
star's estranged wife here, just as she does on “Rescue Me.”

TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “The Beautiful
Life: BTL” debut, 9 p.m., CW.

Here's schedule flow: After “America's
Next Top Model,” CW offers a fictional look at models.

We quickly catch a full range, from a
sweet beauty (Sara Paxton) just starting out to a troubled star
(Mischa Barton) with a secret. Elle Macpherson plays a veteran of the
business, which she is; Corbin Bleu plays some who may be a tad too
short for the runway, which he is.

There's also an Iowa farmboy, getting
an instant shot. That's a reminder that Ashton Kutcher – who went
from smalltown Iowa to the top of the modeling world – is producing
this. We haven't seen the final version, but the an early one had
enough flash and beauty to hold viewers.

Other choices include:

– “America's Next Top Model,” 8
p.m., CW. Some cable-viewers will recognize this show's guest judge
(Lauren Conrad of “The Hills”) and the setting of its photo shoot
(the Santa Anita Race Track, site of the “Jockeys” reality show).
Also, host Tyra Banks advises the models on “smiling with your
eyes.”

– “Live From Lincoln Center,” 8
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Alan Gilbert takes over as the New
York Philharmonic's music director, in a concert that includes a solo
by soprano Renee Fleming and a new fanfare written by Magnus
Lindberg, plus Berlioz' “Symphonie Fantastique.”

– “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8
p.m., Fox. Last week's season-opener found some spectacular dancers
in Los Angles. Tonight, things move to Phoenix.

– “Glee,” 9 p.m., Fox. Will is so
busy with his male acapella group (the Acafellas) that he ignores his
glee club – which promptly hires its own choreographer. This hour
includes guest stars who happen to be terrific singers – Victor
Garber as Will's dad and Josh Groban as himself.

– “The Jay Leno Show,” 10 p.m.,
NBC. Robin Williams is the sit-down guest and Miley Cyrus presents
“10 at 10.” Also, an Austalian duo (Hamish and Andy) reports on
“Ghosting to America.”

– “Great Performances,” 10-11:30
p.m., PBS (check local listings). There's a night theme here, as the
Vienna Philharmonic ranges from Mozart's “A Little Night Music”
to Mussorgsky's “A Night on Baldy Mountain”; guest conductor
Daniel Barenboim moves to the piano for “Nights in the Garden of
Spain.” It's all quite splendid, except for how often we see the
setting instead of the performers. Baroque Park is beautiful, but too
often we're watching it during the most dramatic parts of the music.