Friday TV: The Woman Behind the Image

MigrantMotherThe unforgettable photograph “Migrant Mother” that Dorothea Lange shot for the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s perfectly captured the worry and bleak hopes the Depression brought to everyday families.

But there was more to the work of the photographer than that great image. “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” a lengthy documentary by her granddaughter Dyanna Taylor that debuts on “American Masters” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings) examines her life and remarkable work, depending quite a bit on a 1960s era interview and film. And the woman in the famous photograph, Florence Owens Thompson, was tracked down, looking like many a modern day grandmother and a little annoyed by the attention (and no remuneration) she got from that image.

He was one of the only remaining country stars with a connection to the past, so it was sad to see him stage his last concert earlier this summer in Arlington, Texas. But the show presented before 104,000 that night was captured for the rest of us in the special “George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away” (CMT, 7 p.m.) that also featured performances from Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow, Eric Church, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride and Jason Aldean, among other guests.

A couple of standup comedy specials are on tonight, “Jim Jeffries: Bare” (Netflix, streaming) starring the Australian comic from “Legit,” recorded last year in Boston, and “Heather McDonald: I Don’t Mean to Brag” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

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Thursday TV: Football Seeps In

jets-vs.-eaglesThursday night, that once must-see showcase of the networks’ best, looks to crumble this fall with the simple addition of Thursday Night Football on CBS. Local markets will do a lot of pre-empting tonight but the other preseason games are on the league’s own cable network, Jets at Philadelphia (NFL, 7 p.m.) and Seattle at Oakland (NFL, 10 p.m.).

And now, for the first time, there are a whole bunch of college games including Wake Forest at Louisiana-Monroe (ESPNU, 7 p.m.), Boise State vs. Mississippi (ESPN, 8 p.m.), Tulane at Tulsa (CBS Sports, 8 p.m.) and Rutgers at Washington State (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m.).

Every so often, the commercial breaks get so lengthy, they take over an entire hour. Such is the case with “The World’s Wildest Commercials” (ABC, 10 p.m.), counting down the 20th funniest from abroad, hosted by Chris Parnell.

Designers must make unusual wedding dresses on “Project Runway” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.) — weird enough anyway for guest judge Dita Von Teese to like.

Six contestants are left after two episodes of “The Quest” (ABC, 8 and 9 p.m.).

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Wednesday TV: Healing Races Through Glam

GirlfriendInterventionThis may not be the way to fix the racial gulf in the U.S., but it’s a try.

On the new “Girlfriend Intervention” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.), four glammed-up African American women — Tiffiny Dixon, Tanisha Thomas, Nikki Chu and Tracy Balan — coach white girlfriends on fashion, makeup, interior design and positive thinking, or as they put it, “how to embrace and celebrate their lives, speak their mind, lighten up and love themselves again.” Actually, how they say it in the show is: ““Trapped inside of every white girl is a strong black woman ready to bust out.” No, this isn’t going to work at all.

It’s the season finale for one of those great summer series you haven’t been watching, “The Divide” (WEtv, 9 p.m.).

Think of it as amore enlightened Shark Week feature, using truth. “Operation Maneater” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings) follows the process of how to reduce shark attacks.

It’s election night for Mayoral candidate Betty White on the 100th episode of “Hot in Cleveland” (TV Land, 10 p.m.).

Quentin Tarantino is scheduled to end his two part conversation on “El Rey Network Presents: The Director’s Chair” (El Rey, 9 p.m.) but I can’t believe he’d ever stop talking.

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Tuesday TV: The End of ‘Chelsea Lately’

Chelsea Head Shot Final_photo credit Melissa Holt.jpgWhen she appeared to introduce somebody at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday, Chelsea Handler looked like somebody’s mom, coming to pick up Traci from the rave.

That’s not why she’s signing off for good tonight on “Chelsea Lately” (E!, 11 p.m.). Constantly complaining about how she’s treated on the talk show that gave some ratings and slight respect for the flimsy entertainment channel (though her ex used to run the place) Handler is moving on to slightly green pastures, if you can call a series of comedy specials and an eventual talk show on Netflix that.

For her last hurrah on cable for how, she welcomes 30 different stars, from Jennifer Aniston to Sandra Bullock, including yet another ex-, 50 Cent. Also: Justin Theroux, Selena Gomez, Sammy Hagar, Gerard Butler, Minnie Driver, Kristin Chenoweth, Buzz Aldrin, Kathy Griffin, Joe Manganiello, Melissa McCarthy, Avril Lavigne, James Van Der Beek, Helen Hunt, David Hasselhoff, Johnny Knoxville, Tim Gunn, Vanessa Hudgens, Allison Janney, Kevin Nealon and Marlee Matlin. And Miley Cyrus will be on hand to sing “It’s Over.” Or she’ll send the runaway guy to do it. Replacing Handler starting tomorrow at 11: same-day repeats of the super-terrible “E! News.”

Back for a victory round is “The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m.) which won an Emmy last night despite being called the “Colbort Report” by Gwen Stefani. Colbert and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.) haven’t been on for more than two weeks, and there’s a lot of news for them to catch up on.

The first new episode of “Tosh.0″ (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.) since May is on. He apparently follows a school year too.

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Emmys: Another Summer Rerun

BryanIt’s fitting that in a time when “Breaking Bad” is rerunning every season in order in Sunday night marathons, there was a marathon, too, for Emmy Awards showered on the program that seems to have ended so long ago now.

In a pronounced sweep of an Emmys where nearly ever winner was a repeat, “Breaking Bad” won best drama, best lead and supporting actors and best writing.

It was a great show, with a strong ending. But the Emmys results (and that of the TV Critics Associations awards earlier this summer, to be honest) was that it blew everything else away, when in fact it was very good and stayed good. You would hardly know that 2014 was the year of “Fargo” and “True Detective” — the standout shows on my roster in part because they were so new — from the results of the show.

True the Emmys are absolutely meaningless in terms of how they convey “best” anything. I don’t get involved in office pools, don’t even have an office, and have no horse in this race at all. But like you, I don’t mind watching stars mingle and talk off the top of their head for a night. But really, look at the results and you’d think “Mad Men” was crap instead of something you look forward to seeing every episode; or that “Game of Thrones” or “Silicon Valley” weren’t much.

I’m happy Julia Louis-Dreyfus won again for “Veep” — she’s actually very good in a strong field. But that anything Chuck Lorre produces would win conflates what is popular with the public with what is actually quality comedy. “Louie” is superior in every way to “Big Bang Theory” and especially “Mom” even if it doesn’t pander for every laugh.

Seth Meyers wasn’t a bad host. His monologue was filled with true facts, but not a lot of hilarity. That was saved for pretty good “Billy on the Street” segment that proved that, yes, to most people the Emmys don’t really mean anything.

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Monday TV: Emmys on an August Night

2208sethmeyers0_3014992bOnce, it was an event that honored the old television season even as it ushered in the new. Now “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards” (NBC, 8 p.m.) has been kicked back to before Labor Day. And instead of the usual Sunday night showcase, it’s been shoved over to a random Monday.

Still, Seth Meyers hosts for the first time and there seems a battle set up between some awfully good shows, from “True Detective” to “Fargo.” Billy Crystal will get all maudlin about Robin Williams and a sting is planned for Sarah Barielles. Three hours of awards will be hard enough (especially after Sunday’s exhausting MTV Video Music Awards). But what will really seem strange on a Monday night will be “Live from the Red Carpet: The 2014 Primetime Emmys” (E! 6 p.m.) (which will be kicking off on the West Coast, of course, at 3 p.m.). Bad as it will be the network version of the red carpet at 7:30 p.m. will seem even more amateurish.

One good thing that’s always held this time of year: The U.S. Open (Tennis Channel, 11 a.m.; ESPN, 1 and 6 p.m.) begins first round play in Flushing, N.Y.

Brad Pitt helped produce a new documentary about a Texas oil company’s efforts to begin drilling in Ghana though the experience of such interloping has not been a positive one in in nearby Nigeria. Rachel Boynton spent five years filming “Big Men” that makes its debut on “POV” (PBS, 10 pm., check local listings).

Andrew Zimmern recalls his ickiest intake on “Bizarre Foods” (Travel, 9 p.m.).

Introducing new singles each week to “Bachelor in Paradise” (ABC, 8 p.m.) is turning it into “Temptation Island.”

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Sunday TV: MTV Awards, Last ‘Blood’

2014-mtv-vmaThere has already been some casualties from the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards (MTV, 9 p.m.). Iggy Izelia, who was to open the event with Ariana Grande and Nick Minaj singing “Bang Bang,” fell off the stage in rehearsal. One of Minaj’s backup dancers was bitten by a snake in her “Anaconda” number. And — this just in — Suge Knight was shot at Chris Brown’s pre-party.

Much more can go wrong at the live event at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. And they probably wish they do, dreading as they do in chaos and edge.  Other performers are Usher, Taylor Swift, 5 Seconds of Summer, Adam Levine, Rita Ora, Sam Smith, Zedd and DJ Mustard. Beyonce will both perform and receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. She’s also up for the most awards — eight– with Azalea and Eminem behind her with seven each.

The end finally comes for “True Blood” (HBO, 9 p.m.), a series that may have outlasted its interest level but provided several seasons of good storytelling, a wealth of splendid characters in the town of Bon Temps, La., and some wry commentary on modern life as seen through the uneasy alliance with vampires in the Deep South. Now, Sookie and Bill have to come to some sort of agreement (long since their actors have actually gotten married) and Eric and Pam have to settle issues as well in a final episode called “Thank You.”

Stick around for “The Leftovers” (HBO, 10 p.m.) if only to hear Amy Brenneman speak for the first time on an episode-long pre-disappearance flashback episode.

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Saturday TV: A New ‘Doctor Who’

Peter_Capaldi_cost_2803858bAlthough Peter Capaldi at 56 is 30 years older than the last incarnation of “Doctor Who” (BBC America, 8:15 p.m.) when he started, there is no reason to think he won’t be one of the best at the game. Already he’s been a standout as foulmouthed Malcolm Tucker on “The Thick of It” and “In the Loop” and for roles in “Torchwood” and “The Hour.

The third Scottish actor to play the doctor, his role shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who saw “World War Z” where he played a character called “W.H.O. Doctor.” He’ll bring an intensity and mercurial presence to the Tardis — and quite an age difference with his companion Jenna Coleman. His sly playfulness will work just right as the 12th doctor; he’ll just have to suppress the vulgar Malcolmisms for which he is known. In his first episode, he has to figure out how a dinosaur landed in the Thames in Victorian London. A pre show at 8 p.m. is, of course, hosted by Chris Hardwick.

It’s accompanied by a rather confusing new series “Intruders” (BBC America, 9 p.m.) set in the Pacific Northwest, where a series of seemingly unrelated characters start to have their pupils expand and act strangely. When people start disappearing, it figures that one of the first is the biggest name, Mira Sorvino.

Claire gets hopeful she can time travel home on “Outlander” (Starz, 9 p.m.).

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Friday TV: A Funnier Talking Horse

NETFLIX, INC. BOJACK HORSEMANWill Arnett is funniest when he’s a dim narcissist, which is why it seems like he’d never surpass his character as Gob on “Arrested Development.” Make him a lead in something and it just looks like he’s being insincere when he’s nice. Though he appeared, oddly, Thursday night throwing ice water on Julie Chen’s head during “Big Brother,” Arnett, the star of “The Millers” can be found squarely in his element as the bitter former sitcom star in“Bojack Horseman” (Netflix, streaming).

In it, he’s not just a former sitcom star, but one who is a horse in people’s clothing in a world occasionally peopled with animals (Amy Sedaris plays his agent and sometime girlfriend, a cat); a rival is a dog actor named Mr. Peanutbutter and voiced by Paul F. Tomkins. Voices (and writing, obviously) is what make deadpan animated shows stand out and this show has both of them, in bite sized little half hour episodes that might just find you gobbling several at a time.

Aaron Paul makes his most significant post-”Breaking Bad” series appearance by essentially playing a Jesse Pinkman-type — unshaven slacker roomate in a wool cap. But he’s funny and it’s good to hear his voice again. By the time you get to episode you will catch the joys of Keith Olbermann as an outraged blue whale TV commendator on MSNBSea. And, this being Netflix, you can watch that one first if you want.

The fourth season of “Bering Sea Gold” (Discovery, 9 p.m.) with some treacherous conditions in Nome.

On “The Knick” (Cinemax, 10 p.m.) Thackery wonders if he should operate on a woman with whom he’s operated.

The USA Gymnastics Championships (NBC Sports Network, 7 p.m.) may put you in an Olympic state of mind.

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Thursday TV: Every ‘Simpsons’ Episode

the-simpsonsTo herald a new website that boasts every episode, with searchable quotes, scenes and characters, television’s biggest marathon begins, showing every single episode of 25 seasons of “The Simpsons” (FXX, 10 a.m.) in order.

Playing all 552 episodes ’round the clock for a dozen days straight through to Sept. 1 to let the world know that FXX is the new home for “The Simpsons” reruns, the event will also include “The Simpsons Movie” on Aug. 29, at 6 p.m., fitting in where it did between those seasons. No word on whether it will include every Butterfingers commercials as well.

Another good marathon today would be to catch up on every subtle, finely-wrought episode of the underrated “Rectify” (Sundance, 9 p.m.) before its second season finale.

The new show “The Feed” (FYI, 10 p.m.) is a talk show about food, with Gail Simmons, Marcus Samuelsson and Max Silvestri.

The fifth season of Canadian import “Rookie Blue” (ABC, 9 p.m.) ends with two episodes, dealing with that Toronto bomber.

The 2001 interview with Robin Williams is replayed on “Inside the Actors’ Studio” (Bravo, 8 p.m.).

Every episode of “The Honorable Woman” (Sundance, 10 p.m.) seems packed with drama, tonight’s better explained eight years ago in Gaza.

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