Tune in Tonight: All aboard!: Why trains still fascinate

Normally, when a movie’s or series’ plot synopsis contains the words “paid assassin,” my attention begins to wander. I’m just not that into hit men. So shoot me.

The 2022 action thriller “Bullet Train” (7 p.m., FX, TV-MA) stars Brad Pitt as a professional killer who must take on deadly rivals while riding the rails at blazing speed. Do we have bullet trains here in the USA? It doesn’t matter, because this is based on the 2010 novel “Maria Beetle” by Kotaro Isaka. He’s from Japan, where they put great stock in mass transit.

The fact that Pitt got the lead role put some folks up in arms. How can a non-Asian star in a movie based on a book from Japan? The mind reels at the mental straitjackets people now wear. There was a recent dust-up in London about a non-disabled actor playing the title role in Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Soon only pure-blood Danes will get to play Hamlet. I shudder to think how they could cast a remake of “The Elephant Man.”

But I digress. “Bullet Train” was one of those films that got a quick theatrical release before being streamed on Netflix. And for the average (bewildered) viewer it became a “Netflix movie.” So it’s a tad odd to see it on FX. But apparently, its producer, Sony Pictures, has made a deal with Disney, whose portfolio includes Hulu and FX among others. At least for today.

As a confirmed dismisser of hit-man movies, I find “Bullet Train” vaguely interesting because it is an American movie set on a train, a means of transportation all but foreign to most Americans.

But trains have lingered as movie settings rich in metaphor and possibility. It’s where strangers meet. Hence “Strangers on a Train” from 1951 and its savage 1987 spoof, “Throw Momma From the Train.” Few films are as packed with meaning as the 1985 thriller “Runaway Train,” a movie that not only adapted a story by Akira Kurosawa but introduced the viewing public to character actor Danny Trejo. Using an enormous train as a dark metaphor for a hierarchical dystopian future, “Snowpiercer” has spawned a big screen thriller and a TNT series. Season 4 of “Snowpiercer” has migrated to AMC and AMC+ and debuts on July 21.

No roundup of train-centric entertainment is complete without the disastrous 1979 NBC mega-bomb “Supertrain.” It presented a blend of “Grand Hotel” and “The Love Boat” on a train as big as a shopping mall. Reviewers were merciless, describing a show about “the train of tomorrow” with “scripts from yesterday.” Despite being one of the most expensive series of its time, it was canceled after a few months.

The 2022 action comedy “Bullet Train” may have continued the railroad genre, but not everybody went along for the ride. Some critics praised its cast and energy, but just as many felt that it ran off track about halfway through its run.

— Just as folks begin thinking about the upcoming Summer Olympics, Netflix imports the French thriller “Under Paris,” a shocker about a giant killer shark plying the waters of the Seine, the setting for any number of swimming competitions! We’re going to need a bigger bateau!


— Goodwin needs a second opinion on “Chicago Med” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

— Mouch defends his legacy on “Chicago Fire” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

— Drew and Jonathan Scott showcase property renovations on the new series “Backed by the Bros” (9 p.m., HGTV, TV-PG). “Bros” also streams on Max.

— While traveling in Malta, a beekeeper befriends a handsome archeologist in the 2024 romance “For Love & Honey” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

— A raid on a poker party yields surprising suspects on “Chicago P.D.” (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

— Colter teams up with a bitter rival on “Tracker” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).


Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sasha Baron Cohen and the late Alan Rickman star in the 2016 adaptation of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (8 p.m., Freeform, TV-PG). First published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books have been adapted for the screen repeatedly since 1903.


“The Price Is Right at Night” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … “MasterChef” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) … “Let’s Make a Deal Primetime (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … “Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) … “Celebrity Jeopardy!” (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) … “Shark Tank” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).


Jimmy Fallon welcomes Cole Escola, Andrew Huberman and Shaboozey on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Amy Poehler and Stephen Merchant visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) … Taylor Tomlinson hosts “After Midnight” (12:35 a.m., CBS).