It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but there really hasn’t been enough on to choose from. But summer TV’s starting to heat up, so I’ll try to get back in the swing of things. Here’s a look back at the best and worst of TV in the past week (July 9-16), and a peek at what’s coming up next week.
1. “Deadliest Catch” (Discovery). A moving, emotional episode showing Captain Phil Harris’ last days. His death was presented tastefully and powerfully, in one of the most heartbreaking episodes in reality TV history.
2. “Covert Affairs” (USA). Call it “Alias”-lite, but this new series about a girl-next-door who joins the CIA is breezy fun that follows the formula of fellow USA shows “Burn Notice” and “White Collar” (charismatic hero + smart banter + explosive action = a hit). At this point, it’s my favorite new show of the summer.
3. “Friday Night Lights” (NBC). Wow, not only did they mention the word “abortion” about six times (and that’s about six times more often than any other recent network series), they actually went through with it. That was a fantastic episode that dealt with a serious, volatile issue with emotional honesty and courage. The Vince storyline was great too, as he made a fateful decision to help his mom at the risk of blowing everything else.
Honorable mention: “Louie” (FX). A hilarious show. I loved Pamela Adlon as the bitter single mom who came over for a play date (and her conversations with Louie were actually kinda poignant and funny in a realistic way), but the best scene was the PTA meeting with the self-important, horrible parents and Louie’s befuddled reaction — “It’s school. School’s supposed to suck.”
1. Home Run Derby (ESPN). I had watched the past few years’ derbies at work with the sound muted. I forgot how this always degenerates into the Chris Berman show, as he just yells “Backbackbackbackbackbackback . . . ” for about three hours. With sound, it was unwatchable. Muted, it was simply boring.
2. “Leverage” (TNT). I saw a few episodes a couple of seasons ago and thought they were fine, but nothing I needed to watch every week. But I tuned in last Sunday and my jaw dropped at how awful it was. Was I imagining things back then, or has the show really dumbed itself down recently? So much unnecessary exposition — really, you don’t need to tell me what’s going on over and over again, I get it! So, so bad. However, my cousin’s wife did a great job as a guest star — the FDA inspector — who shot down the show’s supposed hunky guy.
3. “The Bachelorette” (ABC). What was up with Frank’s cleavage-baring undershirt? Good lord, that was a terrible look. Ali should have dumped him right then and there.
Dishonorable mention: World Cup final (ABC). I liked the tournament, and ESPN/ABC did an outstanding job covering it, but the championship game was a dog. God, that was awful to watch, a 120-minute mugging with absolutely no flow. You’re not going to win over any new soccer fans in America with displays like that. LeBron James: The Decision (ESPN). OK, this was last Thursday, but it was so bad it needs to be mentioned. What a shameful, self-indulgent move by LeBron, and what a gutless, embarrassing display by Jim Gray and ESPN. It’s already earned a place in the pop culture pantheon as an absolute joke.
Looking forward to . . .
1. “Deadliest Catch” (9 p.m. Tuesday, Discovery). As a storm batters the fleet, the other captains react to news of Phil’s death in the season finale. It promises to be a pretty powerful farewell. Stay tuned afterward for an hourlong special honoring Phil.
2. “Burn Notice” (9 p.m. Thursday, USA). Burt Reynolds guest stars as a spy on the run. How cool is that?
3. “Pillars of the Earth” (10 p.m. Friday, July 23, Starz). An eight-part miniseries based on the enormous Ken Follett novel, following the generations-long construction of a cathedral in medieval England and the royal intrigue that surrounds it. It’s got an all-star cast, including Ian McShane (“Deadwood”), Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell (“Dark City”) and Matthew Macfadyen (“MI-5”). Looks kinda trashy but fun.