TV column for Tuesday, Sept. 8

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-TRY: “Melrose Place”
debut, 9 p.m.,CW.

In some ways, this is the same
“Melrose” that left the air a decade ago.

It's the same apartment complex, with a
central courtyard and a pool where (tonight) a body is found. Sydney
Andrews (Laura Leighton), from the old days, owns it; Michael Mancini
(Thomas Calabro), her former lover, is keeping an eye on a wayward
son there.

Most of the residents are young,
attractive and ambitious. One extreme is an overwrought publicist,
well-played by Katie Cassidy (David's daughter); even the newcomer
(played by pop singer Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) seems shaky.

Much of the opener involves overheated
storylines. Fortunately, two people – a grade-school teacher and an
aspiring filmmaker – give “Melrose” some gentle counterbalance.

season-opener, 8 p.m., CW.

Annie's world crumbled after the prom.
She was in a hit-and-run accident; she also reported Naomi's party to
police, leaving her classmates bitter.

Now she feels isolated, while others –
Naomi, Silver, Adrianna – enjoy a sunny summer at the Beverly Hills
Beach Club. Meanwhile, her adoptive brother Dixon may end his
relationship with Silver.

Other choices include:

– “America's Got Talent,” 8 and
9-11 p.m., NBC. First is a rerun of the hour that sent four acts to
the finals. Then 10 more perform and viewers vote.

– “Shark Tank,” 8 p.m., ABC. In a
change, ABC is tucking “Shark Tank” reruns into this Tuesday
spot. This fall, will have new episodes there, up to the Oct. 27
season finale. Tonight reruns the Aug. 30 episode, with ideas ranging
from a graffiti-removal service to a child-care product.

– “Get Schooled,” 8 p.m., cable.
This half-hour discusses education with Kelly Clarkson, LeBron James
and others; it also looks at an education effort by Bill and Melinda
Gates. The special runs simultaneously on BET, CMT, Comedy Central,
MTV, Nickdelodeon, Spike, TV Land and VH1.

– “Shaq Vs.,” 9 p.m., ABC.
Whatever happened to weight categories? Tonight, Shaquille O'Neal –
7-foot-1 and 320 pounds prepares to fight boxing champion Oscar De La
Hoya, 5-10 and 160.

– “More to Love,” 9 p.m., Fox.
Luke takes the final three women on a Hawaiian vacation.

– “P.O.V.: The English Surgeon,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Big things happen in this
documentary, as a British brain surgeon continues his 15-year
practice of going to the Ukraine to try life-saving operations.
Still, the approach is so slow and dry that viewers will rarely feel
the drama.

– “Sons of Anarchy”
season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. This motorcycle-gang drama remains tough,
taut, well-acted – and, if anything, more brutal than ever. A
white-supremacist is trying to take over, with Adam Arkin as its
chillingly smooth spokesman; the violence and torture build on both

TV column for Monday, Sept. 7

TONIGHT'S MIGHT-SEE: “Durham County”
debut, 10 p.m., Ion.

The first new show of the season is
also the darkest. Stick with this for a while.

A Toronto homicide detective (Hugh
Dillon) and his wife move back to their home town, where she can
focus on fighting cancer. This should be a quiet, soothing place;
it's not.

Bodies are found in the woods and the
river. Teens boys are sexual predators. The cop's high school enemy
(Justin Louis) is now his neighbor, with a thin coat of civility.

This story has all the darkness (but
none of the humor) of “Twin Peaks.” In Canada, two six-episode
seasons have been filmed, each resolving a story.

Cooper 360,” 10 p.m., CNN.

Cooper is at his best when working in
the field. He'll be in Afghanistan all week, leading into the eighth
anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Also reporting will be Dr. Sanjay Gupta
(covering field trauma surgery), Peter Bergen and Michael Ware. The
reports will then be re-assembled into an hourlong news special at 8
and 11 p.m. Saturday.

debut, daytime (check local listings), PBS.

OK, we realize that dinosaurs probably
never rode in trains … or formed cheery play groups. Still, this
computer-animated show is so visually charming that we'll forgive

Each half-hour has two stories, plus
some live-action moments with a likable dinosaur expert. Most
stations will usually run “Dinosaur Train” once per weekday, but
will have a two-hour block today.

Other choices include:

– “Castle,” 8, 9 and 10 p.m.,
ABC. Two weeks before the show starts its second season, we get three
reruns. In the first, a woman has been frozen. In the second, Beckett
must work with her former boyfriend. In the third, a plastic surgeon
has been killed.

– “House,” 8 p.m., Fox. While
treating a deaf boy, House can't sleep..

– “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM
Plant,” 9 p.m., HBO. The assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, was a
relatively modern and efficient one; built in 1981, it had won 11
national awards. But it was assigned to build SUV's; when sales
plummeted, it was closed two days before last Christmas. This moving
documentary tells what the plant meant to its 2,200 workers and what
the closing felt like. Strong, silent people unsuccessfully resist

– “Two and a Half Men,” 9 p.m.,
CBS. Charlie romances his brother's sweet receptionist.

– “Manson,” 9-11 p.m., History.
There was potential here to tell an important and and dramatic story:
Linda Kasabian, who had testified against her fellow Manson-family
members, had been hiding her identity for 40 years; now she was
giving a first-hand account of the brutal events of 1969. That should
have been enough, especially when linked with the perceptive
commentary of Vincent Bugliosi, the Manson prosecutor. Instead, this
film uses lurid re-enactments throughout. The technique – which
worked well in History's “Moonshot” – reduces this to bad pulp

– “The Big Bang Theory,” 9:30
p.m., CBS. In a terrific rerun, Penny reveals some information during
her second date with Stuart. Also, the guys all help correct an error
in Wolowitz's NASA design.

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.