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SATURDAY
JANUARY 20
2018

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

AMC, 9:18 a.m. ET

We’re getting to the end of AMC’s Breaking Bad celebratory marathon, and today there are two specific reasons to celebrate. One is that today – January 20 – is the exact 10th anniversary of the premiere of Breaking Bad, TV’s all-time best dramatic series. The day’s festivities, a continuation of AMC’s month-long weekend sequential presentation of the series, begin at 9:18 a.m. ET, with Season 4, Episode 9. And the other specific reason to celebrate is that today’s mini-marathon ends at 1:48 p.m. ET with one of the series’ most unforgettable episode: The fabulous Season 4 ender, “Face Off” (pictured), the ultimate battle between Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring.

 
  
 
 

HBO, 8:00 p.m. ET

This 2017 comedy wasn’t written by Amy Schumer (Katie Dippold, from Parks & Recreation, wrote the script), but Schumer stars, along with Goldie Hawn. Schumer plays a woman whose boyfriend dumps her on the eve of an expensively booked exotic location, and Hawn plays her mother, invited to accompany her as a last-minute substitute. After which they, and things, quickly go south...
 
  
 
 

Lifetime, 8:00 p.m. ET

I’m not in the habit of pointing out Lifetime telemovies, but this one sounds truly unusual. It’s a biographical film about drug kingpin Griselda Blanco, a rare female power figure in a shady underworld of macho thugs. Griselda Blanca Restrepo was a Colombian drug lord for the Medellin cartel, a major player in the Miami cocaine scene of the 1970s. This Lifetime movie could just as easily been titled one of her other formidable nicknames: The Black Widow, for example, or the clunkier Queen of Narco-Trafficking. And Griselda, in this telling, is played by Catherine Zeta Jones, whose most recent TV role, other than when playing Olivia de Havillard in last year’s Feud: Bette vs. Joan, was her pre-Zorro role in TV’s miniseries version of Titanic. And that was in 1996 – the year before James Cameron’s big-screen version. So for a starring small-screen role by Jones, it’s been a while…

 
  
 
 

Reelz Channel, 8:00 p.m. ET

For those who care about such things, and were pulled in decades ago by the music from this particular imported quartet: Tonight Reelz offers a new documentary, promising the inside story of ABBA. I’m not sure I even know the outside story of ABBA, other than the musical and movie it spawned, but here it is nonetheless…

 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

Plenty of wonderfully entertaining movies have been made from an insider’s viewpoint, making fun of especially pretentious or inept filmmakers who try to tackle, and accidentally destroy, a new play, film or TV show. Writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green were the co-conspirators who wrote two of the very best of these. One was 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, a perfect comedy about the transition from silent to sound movies – and the other, made the very next year, was this other musical, directed by Vincent Minnelli. Fred Astaire stars as a fading song-and-dance star who agrees to revive his career by starring in a new Broadway show – but it’s hijacked by a director with lofty ambitions and absurd artistic visions. The Band Wagon co-stars Cyd Charisse as Astaire’s awkwardly paired leading lady, a prima ballerina – but as a screen duo, Astaire and Charisse throw off nothing but sparks.

 
  
 
 

BBC America, 9:00 p.m. ET

DOCUMENTARY MINISERIES PREMIERE: You can tell when something really, truly special shows up on TV, because this site’s TVWW contributors, coming at it from various angles, are all over it. And that’s the case with this newest Planet Earth nature documentary series, Blue Planet II, narrated by the peerless David Attenborough. So read, please, the full and enthusiastic reports by David Hinckley’s All Along the Watchtower and Alex Strachan’s TV That Matters. But trust me, too, please. Blue Planet II is the kind of show that not only makes you glad you have a TV with widescreen hi-def, it makes you happy to be alive to witness the marvels of nature it presents. Every episode, and this is no exaggeration, contains images and creatures that are flat-out amazing – as is the photography. The technological advances that change with each of these ambitious Planet Earth outings keep making them miraculous pieces of television (in this edition, they literally go where no man has gone before, to ocean depths never before witnessed or photographed directly by humans). But also making these shows miraculous is Attenborough himself, by remaining resolutely and remarkably consistent, enthused and concerned about nature and the planet, for about three-quarters of a century of TV filmmaking. Watch every episode, beginning tonight, with your entire family, and record them all. You’ll want to see them again, a lot.
 
  
 
 

NBC, 11:29 p.m. ET

As this day began, at midnight Saturday, the American government stopped operating – but Saturday Night Live is still at it, and will present a new episode tonight, opening, no doubt, with the government shutdown and other news. Jessica Chastain is the week’s guest host, with Troye Sivan as the musical guest.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 

TV WE'RE WATCHING

  
   Visit our TV We're Watching page for these and other shows on our DVRs right now...



Black Mirror
Netflix
Streaming

The Chi
Showtime
Sundays
10 PM ET

Damnation
USA
Tuesdays
10 PM ET

The Good Place
NBC
Thursdays
8:30 PM ET

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
TBS
Wednesdays
10:30 PM ET

Happy
Syfy
Wednesdays

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Amazon Prime

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
Amazon Prime
Streaming

Somebody Feed Phil
Netflix
Streaming

The X-Files
Fox
Wednesdays
8 PM ET 
 
 

VIDEO WORTH WATCHING

Radio Activity – Portlandia’s final season has premiered and Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are still delivering top-shelf irony in this NPR-style podcast being done in the local police station. Broadcasters Dan and Dana perform the usual radio sound effects in real time, without editing, much to the annoyance of everyone. Live banjo and violin accompanists are also along for the broadcast. Looks like “Serial” has competition. –Eric Gould 

 
 

BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE!


FRESH AIR FAVES

Audio of Bianculli's favorite 'Fresh Air' reports, and the stories behind them...


FAVES FROM
"THE MORGUE"

Bianculli's favorite newspaper articles, and the stories behind them...


EXTRAS & FEEDBACK

Share your favorite TV in-jokes and first TV loves...
 
 
 
Good news TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is now available in paperback for under $13. Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with quality television: what it is and how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. Interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer are high points... Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post 
 
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This Day in TV History

2008: AMC Debuts 'Breaking Bad'
By David Bianculli
 
 
 
 
 
TV WWorth Buying
TOP TVWW SPECIAL DEAL$$
Trumbo

Actor Kirk Douglas was recently honored at the Golden Globes and was again applauded for his role in ending the Hollywood Blacklist, hiring then-exiled screenwriter Dalton Trumbo — one of many accused communist-aligned Hollywood writers — to write the screenplay for SpartacusThis 2007 documentary recounts Trumbo’s fall as one of the most renowned writers of his day to spending the next ten years sending scripts from Mexico under pseudonyms. Joan Allen, Liam Neeson and David Strathaim contribute readings and help paint a riveting portrait of a writer committed to his principles and art under the most enormous pressure imaginable. At Amazon for $14. (The 2015 feature about Trumbo starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is here, for $10.–Eric Gould