Special Labor Day edition, with some thoughts on the highs and lows of the holiday weekend programming:
With only two episodes to go, how will Torchwood: Miracle Day (Starz, 10/9c) wrap things up? This penultimate episode jumps forward two months as the embattled remnants of the Torchwood team strike a deal with the devil to track down the "Blessing" and figure out what's behind the "miracle" that has turned the world upside down and sent everyone (including some longtime Torchwood fans) into a depression.
One of the more uplifting recurring themes in the wave of 10th-anniversary 9/11 programming is the documenting of the reconstruction on the site of Ground Zero, with the new One World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the new transportation hub. Discovery exhaustively covered the story over the last two Thursdays in the absorbing six-hour Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero (to be repeated on Sept. 11 on the Science Channel), and Fox News weighs in as Shepard Smith reports Freedom Rising (9/8c; repeats Saturday at 2 pm/1c and Sunday night, 9/8c.) Next Wednesday, PBS' Nova will also chronicle the construction in Engineering Ground Zero.
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While you're surfing: A wallow for fans of serious sci-fi, as BBC America presents Battlestar From the Beginning (starts 9/8c), a marathon of the classically re-imagined space epic of embattled humans and Cylons seeking a new home. It continues until 9 pm/8c on Saturday ... Barf-bag alert: On the second-season opener of Discovery's Man, Woman, Wild (9/8c), survivalist husband-wife Mykel Hawke and Ruth England are "Lost at Sea," stalled in the Bermuda Triangle, and when things get really desperate, Ruth administers an enema at sea to her dehydrated, seasick mate. ... Familiar TV pretty face Cristian de la Fuente guests on Syfy's Haven (10/9c) as a banker who's also a serial killer.
Can BBC America's Doctor Who (9/8c) possibly keep topping itself? After last week's exhilarating encounter with Hitler, a shape-shifting Melody Pond/River Song with poisoned lipstick, and a crew of Fantastic Voyage-like miniaturized crime fighters, a simple case of "Night Terrors" seems like a bit of a relief. In this episode, the Doctor is called in to tackle the monsters in a child's bedroom. Guess what? They're real.
While you're surfing: As part of what NBC is billing "Family Movie Night" (though burying it on Labor Day weekend isn't exactly a sign of support), Chuck's Captain Awesome, Ryan McPartlin, stars in Game Time: Tackling the Past (8/7c), a Hallmark-meets-Friday Night Lights heartwarming about a pro football star who returns to his North Carolina home to visit his ailing father (Beau Bridges) when a professional setback makes his wonder if it's possible to go home again.
Another intense outing of AMC's Breaking Bad (10/9c) as a newly revitalized Hank enlists brother-in-law (and secret meth mogul) Walt to pursue his suspicions about Gus, with a return visit to Los Pollos Hermanos. As Hank continues to question the deceptively milquetoast drug kingpin's bona fides, we get a harrowing glimpse into Gus's past.
On HBO, we're in the final stretch, with penultimate episodes of True Blood, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. High marks for Curb (10/9c), which uses the insistent Mister Softee ice-cream truck theme as a psychological catalyst for Larry David's latest woes — which leads to an inspired encounter with infamous Red Sox ball fumbler Bill Buckner. (Mookie Wilson, who hit the fabled ball his way, also has a cameo.) Look for former Saturday Night Live player Ana Gasteyer (now on ABC's upcoming Suburgatory) as Larry's latest paramour, who gets taken for quite a ride. Meanwhile, on True Blood, Sookie once again enlists her faerie magic to intervene in the witch-vampire war, and Entourage plods on toward its so-far-unmemorable finish line as a peeved Eric crashes Sloan's lunch date with Johnny Galecki, bringing along Sloan's ex-stepmother Melinda Clarke. The most incredible storyline involves everyone pretending that Drama's TV-movie tearjerker (for CBS?) about the trapped miners is somehow a hot property. Remember when Entourage used to be culturally relevant?
If you're among those who've heard critics like me going on about what a great network drama CBS's The Good Wife is, but you're late to the party, consider tuning in for The Good Wife: A New Beginning (9:30/8:30c), a recap special highlighting key moments and characters from the first two seasons and previewing season three, now on a new night.
While you're surfing: As a prelude to Fox's new time-travel family drama Terra Nova, Discovery presents the four-hour Dinosaur Revolution (9/8c) over two Sundays, with vivid illustrations of prehistoric life from artists with comic/graphic novel and feature film backgrounds. ... Masterpiece Mystery! kicks off the fourth season of Inspector Lewis (PBS, check local listings) with a case involving the murder of a student during a reunion at Oxford's all-female college.
One of TV's true sitcom classics, Friends, joins the Nick at Nite rotation, and you know what that means: marathon madness, all week long through Sunday, starting each night at 8/7c and continuing through 6 am/5c. The marathon highlights a different cast member each night, before settling into a pattern of back-to-back episodes at 10/9c next week.
Someone decided the show must go on, so Bravo's exhibitionistic and tragedy-scarred Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (9/8c) will commence, with a fresh interview of several of the cast members introducing the new season and reflecting the suicide of one of the wives' estranged husband. PSAs about suicide prevention also are in the works. I'd like to think we could show how we really feel about this vile brand of train-wreck TV and just ignore these overexposed narcissists, but as Jersey Shore's ratings remind us every week, sensation sells, no matter how degrading.
The 9/11 countdown: NBC News profiles Children of 9/11 (10/9c), following a year in the lives of young people who lost a mother or father in the attacks; the Smithsonian Channel presents 9/11: Day That Changed the World (8/7c), which relives the events of the day from the points of view of many key decision makers, including New York's then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani. It's followed by 9/11: Stories in Fragments (10/9c), telling the stories behind the artifacts in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's 9/11 collection.
While you're surfing: A&E's The Glades (10/9c) wraps its second season with a hostage crisis at Callie's hospital. ... TNT airs an eight-hour marathon of this season's episodes of The Closer starting at 1 pm/12c, followed at 9/8c by a new episode involving the disappearance of a singer's father while new developments in Brenda's civil suit appear too good to be true. ... For film buffs, Turner Classic Movies repeats its entire seven-hour Emmy-nominated documentary Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood, starting at 12:45 pm/11:45c.