TV column for Monday, June 8


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Raising the Bar" season-opener, 10 p.m., TNT.
Tonight's hour starts wonderfully, as friends roast Jerry Kellerman (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) on his birthday. The guy's a public defender -- passionate, caring and profoundly disheveled.
Then -- for the sake of a client -- comes a transformation. That signals a strong start for the second season of this show from Steven Bochco, the "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law" producer.
Viewers will like these idealistic lawyers,changes and all. Jerry has had a makeover, Bobbi (Natalia Cigliuti) is getting a divorce; their boss (Gloria Reuben) is working cases again, because of funding problems.
And viewers will care about the cases. Tonight, a decent chap may go to jail, because his nephew was selling drugs in the back of his barber shop. It's smart, Bochco-quality TV.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "Nurse Jackie" debut, 10 p.m., Showtime.
Even in her "Sopranos" days, Edie Falco didn't tackle such emotional extremes.
As a nurse, Jackie is hard-working and caring. As a person, she pops pills, forges a name, has quick-and-unappealing sex.
The opener quickly confronts sharp tragedy, then veers near comedy. It's dizzying and well-made.
Other choices include:
-- "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here," 8-10 p.m., NBC. With a hockey game pre-empting the show Tuesday, tonight's game has been expanded to two hours. Among other things, we'll learn whether Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag will be allowed to return yet again. Please catch my blog interviewing Angela Shelton, the first person dumped by viewers.

-- "The Bachelorette," 8-10:02 p.m., ABC. More than half the remaining bachelors are from Texas or California -- far from Jillian's northern world. Tonight, she takes all 13 there and shows them some Canadian pleasures -- from curling (sort of shuffleboard on ice) to a snowball fight. Meanwhile, there's dissension when one man claims the others have girlfriends back home.
-- "House," 8 p.m., Fox. In this rerun, a fitness expert's secret puts her health in danger. Meanwhile, Cuddy is temporarily sharing House's office and "Thirteen" is starting her experimental treatment for Huntington's Disease.
-- "The Big Bang Theory," 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a paintball fight leads to arguing between Penny and Sheldon and romance between Wolowitz and Leslie, the delightful character played by Sara Gilbert.
-- "Two and a Half Men," 9 p.m., CBS. This rerun has Jake vanishing with the neighbor girl, leaving Charlie to worry about her dad -- played by the giant Michael Clarke Duncan -- will be angry.
-- "The Closer" season-opener, 9 p.m., TNT. The frills came at the end of last year, when Brenda (the tough homicide cop) actually married Fritz the FBI agent. That episode reruns at 8 p.m.; then things turn serious again. Four people, including two kids, have been killed; "The Closer" has an impressive ability to turn intense when the case requires.
-- "Army Wives," 9 p.m., Lifetime. If you missed Sunday's excellent season-opener, catch this rerun. It includes some big emotional blows for Denise (Catherine Bell); it also leads into a 10 p.m. rerun of the wonderful opening episode of "Desperate Housewives," which will air here on Mondays.
-- "My Life on the D List" season-opener, 10 p.m., Bravo. Kathy Griffin is a terrific stand-up comedian, as we see in concert reruns at 8 and 9 p.m., so now she's cut a comedy album. Tonight's best moments come early, when she saunters into the headquarters of the Grammy people, campaigning for an award; she even carries her two Emmys (for best reality show) as examples. In the second half, which is OK, she communes in Las Vegas with Bette Midler.

TV column for Sunday, June 7


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: Tony Awards, 8 p.m., CBS.
This Broadway show will be stuffed with musical numbers and familiar faces.
Two well-known composers will be on stage with their shows -- Elton John with "Billy Elliot" and Dolly Parton with "9 to 5." Also, the heavy-metal band Poison will join the cast of "Rock of Ages" and Liza Minnelli will perform.
The night includes numbers from all four nominated musicals ("Billy Elliot," "Next to Normal," "Shrek" and "Rock of Ages"), plus the nominated revivals ("Hair," "West Side Story," "Pal Joey" and "Guys and Dolls") and three shows now on the road ("Mamma Mia," "Jersey Boys" and "Legally Blonde").
Viewers who don't go to Broadway will still recognize many of the people involved. They range from host Neil Patrick Harris to the entire cast of "God of Carnage," a comedy-drama about middle-class folks with faw emotions. It's up for best play; all four stars -- James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden -- are up for acting awards and will present.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "Army Wives" season opener, 10 p.m., Lifetime.
Three of the wives find their lives in chaos. Claudia Joy (Kim Delaney) searches for her teen daughter, who has run off to marry a soldier. Denise (Catherine Bell) has split with her husband, after falling for a wounded patient. And Roxy (Sally Pressman) battles a man who claims to own half her bar.
One of these problems is solved with absurd ease, but the others resonates deeply. That gives the hour an emotional conclusion.
Other choices:
-- Basketball previews at 7 p.m. ET, game at 8. Here's the second game of the best-of-seven series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic.
-- "10 Top Bridzilla Moments," 8 p.m., WE. This special re-visits some of the more outspoken brides from the first six seasons. One (who stormed out of her own wedding rehearsal) has already received divorce papers, but others are into behavior modification. One gives herself a breathalyzer test before breast-feeding her baby. This is followed by the season-openers for "Bridezillas" at 9 and "Amazing Wedding Cakes" at 10.
-- "Hannah Montana," "Sonny With a Chance" and "Jonas," 7:30-9 p.m., Disney Channel. All three are new episodes, including some stunt casting in the middle one: Selena Gomez plays herself, who has been cast in a movie to portray Sonny (played by Demi Lovato, who is the series star and Selena's long-time friend in real life).
-- "The Last Templar," 9-11 p.m., NBC. Here's the second half of this so-so mini-series rerun, with Mira Sorvino pursuing an important artifact. After showing the first half, NBC delayed this because of hockey.
-- "Masterpiece Mystery," 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings). New shows are coming, buy yhe season opens with a couple of fairly good "Foyle's War" reruns. In this one, an abrasive doctor has been killed at a soldiers' hospital.
-- "HGTV's $250,000 Challenge," 10 p.m., HGTV. The second episode has the four surviving duos scrambling to make over a bedroom with 20 hours, $3,000 and a carpenter. This is a fun and well-made hour -- despite the fact that the signs in front of each house have punctuation errors.
-- "Expedition Africa," 10 p.m., History Channel. Four strong-minded adventurers try a variation on the route that took Henry Stanley to find David Livingstone. Tonight, they cross the Uluguru Mountains, as tempers build. Like other productions by Mark Burnett ("Survivor"), this is beautifully filmed and edited.
-- "Z Rock" season-opener, 11 p.m., and "Ideal" debut, 11:30, both Independent Film Channel. These two R-rated comedies are spotty, but have their moments. First, friends scramble to get the Z Rock trio back together. Then we meet Moz (Johnny Vegas), who spends his life in his apartment, dealing dope; parts of this are lost in thick English accents, but there are some funny bits involving a cheerily confused babysitter.   

TV column for Saturday, June 6


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Pushing Daisies," 10 p.m., ABC.
This is a rare situation, so we should savor it while it lasts: One of TV's best shows has new episodes on Saturdays.
Tonight, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) has a hint for finding his daughter: Her mom may be implicated in a murder.
Meanwhile, Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) is romanced by the stumbling Randy Mann (David Arquette).
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: Game Show Awards, 8 p.m., Game Show Network; repeats at 10:30.
The network's first award show is stuffed with categories, from best show and best classic show to "funniest moment," "favorite parody" and "favorite celebrity team."
Howie Mandel hosts. He's also up for best host for his work on "Deal or No Deal," which is up for best show.
There are even categories for best reality show and best dating or relationship show. (Oddly, "The Bachelor" is in that first category, not the second.)
And there are nods to the past, with awards for host Bob Barker, producer Mark Goodson and Monty Hall, who did both.
Other choices include:
-- "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), 6 p.m., and "Titanic" (1997), 9 p.m., both TNT. This double feature has Leonardo DiCaprio working with two of Hollywood's best filmmakers. Steven Spielberg directed him in "Catch," a light look at a real guy who scammed his way into jobs as a doctor, lawyer, co-pilot and more. James Cameron directed him in "Titanic," a brilliant mixture of huge visuals and intimate drama.
-- Hockey, 8 p.m. ET, NBC. The best-of-seven Stanley Cup series is tied at two games, with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. Neither team has won on the road yet, which is sort of good for the Red Wings; tonight, things return to Detroit.
-- "The New Adventures of Old Christine," 8 p.m., CBS. In a neat detour from the usual all-crime Saturdays, CBS throws in a couple comedies tonight. In this rerun, Christine tries to get over her funk, after breaking up with Mr. Harris; meanwhile, a therapist tells her brother he's way too dependent on his sister.
-- "Finding Nemo" (2003, ABC Family) or "Casino Royale" (2006, USA), both 8 p.m. Here are two more strong movie choices. "Nemo" is an animated, family delight from Pixar; "Royale" is a James Bond film with a flawed plot, but strong, kinetic action.
-- "Worst Week," 8:30 p.m., CBS. This above-average comedy won't be back next season, but CBS apparently has an episode it hasn't shown yet. Sam tries to help give Dick a good birthday party; instead, he ends up losing his dignity and his pants.
-- "Harper's Island," 9 p.m., CBS. With the death toll mounting, we've been wondering why the remaining wedding guests don't just leave the island. Tonight, that idea hits a bump: One person has disappeared and will be killed, a caller says, if anyone leaves.
-- "Saturday Night Live," 11:30 p.m. (or later, if there's a hockey overrun), NBC. Bradley Cooper hosts this rerun, with music by On The Radio.

TV column for Friday, June 5


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Samantha Who," 9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC.
In real life, Christina Applegate is a dandy dancer. She starred in Broadway's "Sweet Charity" revival (and received a Tony nomination), even after breaking a bone in her foot; she helped the hard-dancing Pussycat Dolls, who did their first rehearsals in her garage.
Good dancers are ideal for playing comically bad ones, which is what happens here.
Regina (Jean Smart) is determined to beat her rival (Cybill Shepherd) in a dance contest. Her partner will be her daughter Samantha -- who, alas, has become an awful dancer since losing her memory.
The result a good start to this show's new spot, getting back-to-back reruns on Fridays. In the second episode, Sam considers doing something selfless, then changes her mind.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "Flashpoint," 9 p.m., CBS.
As Canadian series reach the U.S., Colm Feore has been a gifted asset.
Feore has been in movies, on TV (he was the president's husband in this year's "24") and onstage (in Stratford, Ontario, where he lives). Now he does Canadian-produced shows that reach the U.S. networks.
In "The Listener" (Thursdays on NBC), Feore is the hero's mentor. And in tonight's "Flashpoint," he plays a visiting dignitary, protected by police.
He has a secret and activists are determined to make him confess. There are great moments from Feore and from Wendy Crewson (another gifted Canadian) as his wife.
This is a rerun of the series opener. "Flashpoint" (like "Samantha Who") won't be back in the fall, so catch it now.
Other choices include:
-- "Privileged," 8 p.m., CW. Here's another above-average show that won't be back in the fall. In this rerun of the season-opener, an  Ivy League grad (Joanna Garcia) finds herself with big debts and no income. She reluctantly becomes the tutor for two rich teens who aren't heavily into schoolwork.
-- "Inside the Obama White House," 8-10 p.m., NBC. In a late change, NBC is rerunning the two hours it aired Tuesday and Wednesday, adding some extra footage.
-- "Ghost Whisperer," 8 p.m., CBS. The ghost of a teen athlete is inexplicably following a family that's not her own.
-- "Casino Royale" (2006), 8-11 p.m., USA Network (also at 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday). If you can forgive some awful plot points, you'll enjoy this slick adventure, with Daniel Craig as the toughest James Bond since Sean Connery.
-- "Spielberg on Spielberg" (8 p.m.) and "Saving Private Ryan" (1998, 9:30 p.m.), Turner Classic Movies. Steven Spielberg, Hollywood's best director, talks about his work; then we see one of the best examples, a deeply moving World War II drama.
-- "Mental," 9 p.m ., Fox. Here's a rerun of Tuesday's so-so episode, in which a husband and wife share a belief in a non-existent pregnancy.
-- "Numb3rs," 10 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Don sees a magic act in which the magician vanishes -- and doesn't return.

TV column for Thursday, June 4


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: "Royal Pains" debut, 10 p.m., USA Network.
Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) has a problem with ethics: He has them; his employers don't.
He soon loses his job, his money and his fiancee. That's when he learns about "concierge doctors" -- live-in or stop-in physicians for the wealthy.
That launches the elements for a promising series: "Royal Pains" has a lovely setting (the Hamptons), tanned bodies, humor and an honest guy who's out of his element.
Yes, there are flaws. Hank spends way too much time denying the inevitable, even when he lacks alternatives.
Still, Hank is surrounded by good characters. There's a hospital administrator (Jill Flint), an unstoppable physician's assistant (Reshma Shetty) and more. All, of course, happen to be beautiful; it's the Hamptons.
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: "The New Adventures of Old Christine," 8 p.m., CBS.
Here's a rerun of a terrific episode.
When Christine lets "New Christine" set her up on a blind date, things go terribly -- and hilariously -- wrong. There are great moments near the end, with Gigi Rice as guest star.
TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: "The Listener" debut, 9 and 10 p.m., NBC.
This is the exact opposite of "Royal Pains." It's quiet and spare, just this side of drab, but bring appealing intensity.
Toby (Craig Olejnik) is a paramedic who has told few people his secret: He can sometimes hear thoughts.
That makes him a loner, but it also gives him a chance to help people. Tonight's quietly involving first hour involves a young woman whose son is missing.
This is a Canadian series, following the success of "Flashpoint" with similar values. Olejnik is solid; Colm Feore -- a gifted stage and film actor who was also in the first "Flashpoint" episode -- has a supporting role as Toby's mentor.
Other choices include:
-- Basketball preview (8 p.m. ET) and game (8:31 p.m.), ABC. The NBA begins its best-of-seven championship series.
-- "The Big Bang Theory," 8 p.m., CBS. Leonard's mother (Christine Baranski) arrives, inadvertently nudging him closer to Penny.
-- "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," 9 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the hour that caught the first day of work for Ray Langston, a college professor becoming a rookie CSI. A modest burglary soon entwines with a case of arson and murder.
-- "So You Think You Can Dance," 9 p.m., Fox. As the Las Vegas callbacks conclude, the show chooses its final 20.
-- "Burn Notice" season-opener, 9 p.m., USA Network. Until now, it seems, outsiders have schemed to keep Michael -- the blacklisted ex-spy -- out of police records. Now they step aside and he has to keep ducking arrest, with the help of his semi-shaky friends (Bruce Campbell, Gabrielle Anwar) and mom (Sharon Gless). This hour involves a handsome ex-colleague, an absurdly easy snatch-and-grab and a few detours; it's an OK start to what could be an interesting season.
-- "The Mentalist," 10 p.m., CBS. A hypnotist tells people to commit murder. This, Patrick Jane decides, violates ethical procedure.
-- "The Tonight Show," 11:35 p.m., NBC. On his fourth show, Conan O'Brien's guests are Gwyneth Paltrow and John Mayer.