WEDNESDAY
AUGUST 20
2014

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Netflix, Check local listings

SERIES PREMIERE: Here’s a new Netflix Original series, produced by the BBC, that arrives today with a lot less fanfare than the usual Netflix offering – but it’s well worth seeking out and sampling. Shown in the U.K. earlier this year, the six-episode drama series stars Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, a uniformed police sergeant in a small valley town in Yorkshire. It may be setting expectations too high to compare Happy Valley to Helen Mirren’s groundbreaking role in Prime Suspect, but there definitely are parallels here, especially in the way we get to know her home life, and personal travails, as much as we do her workplace problems and persistent, intuitive investigative work. The strength of Happy Valley is that it presents fully drawn portraits of all its key characters, not just the central protagonist. Try one episode, and I’m betting you’ll stay for all six -- all of which are available immediately.
 
  
 
 

BBC America, Check local listings

I could have just pointed out the Doctor Who takeover week, with its wall-to-wall programming and complete romps through the modern era of this delightful and durable sci-fi series, because I’ve seen all these episodes before. But no. I had to turn my TV to BBC America and get sucked in all over again, freshly impressed by the cleverness of the writing and the freshness of the acting. Few series can manage to be so funny, so suspenseful, so genuinely involving, and so unpredictable, all in the same hour. And the hits just keep on coming. Today, feast on the reboot’s Season 4 episodes, featuring Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, and end up shifting to yet another Doctor. And it’s all building up to Saturday’s new tag-team transfer of the show’s starring role – a role that began on TV back in 1963.

 
  
 
 

ESPN 2, 5:30 p.m. ET

It’s been 25 years since Pete Rose signed a contract agreeing to a lifetime ban from professional baseball – a contract he now says he thought was for one year, and a ban that this special reevaluates in the light of what other baseball players have done since, and how their punishments do and don’t measure up. Interviewees in this special include both Rose and the baseball commissioner who banned him, Bud Selig.

 
  
 
 

CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

CBS is doubling down, or at least doubling up, on this Halle Berry sci-fi series tonight, by presenting two episodes back to back. That’s usually less a show of confidence than a desire to burn off the remaining episodes before the fall season begins in earnest – and that could well be the case here as well.

 
  
 
 

Sundance, 10:00 p.m. ET

I absolutely adore this 1977 movie – which must be obvious to even the casual TVWW reader, because I highlight it almost every time it’s televised. And why not? It’s one of the funniest comedies ever filmed – and one of the most inventive, too. And in the supporting roles, even the actors and actresses showing up just for a line or two hit it out of the park. This time, I think I’ll run a picture of Jeff Goldblum, who always makes me laugh.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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455 Comments
 
 
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Aug 21, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
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Aug 21, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I just finished two episodes of, "Happy Valley" on Netflix. Had to force myself to stop watching as it's getting late. I could have easily watched the entire 6 episodes in one sitting and that's not like me. I was on the edge of my seat for most of it.
Thanks so much for the heads up or I might have missed this excellent show.
Aug 20, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Dennis Paul
Just a correction: Bart Giamatti was the commissioner when MLB and Rose agreed to the lifetime ban. Bud Selig is the current commissioner but was the owner of the Brewers at the time.
Aug 20, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
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Aug 20, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
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Aug 20, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Casey
Should have been a trigger warning on "2Guns" review for Walburg demonstrating his gun handling by shooting the heads off live chickens. How is this necessary in the unfolding of the plot? Prissy? I don't care.
Aug 16, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
George
Ever since I heard David Bianculli's review of "Family Tree"I had been waiting for it to come out on streaming for a while (since I cut the chord) ... Finally saw it on Amazon Prime recently. Loved it! Sadly I found out it's not being renewed for a second season by HBO. I'm frustrated that good shows like this one keep getting canceled before their time. A lot of people are watching TV like me these days just on streaming services... It seems to me shows are more and more often finding their audience after the shows have been canceled. Thoughts?
Aug 15, 2014   |  Reply
 
jan
At least they made it available on DVD, which I bought as soon as it came out. Wish they would do the same with Terriers, Knights of Prosperity, and Amigo. And I wish shows from other countries would get Region 1 DVDs. I loved Family Tree, and I had also hoped there would be more episodes.
Aug 17, 2014
 
 
 
JK
I hope you get a chance to see "Sensitive Skin" on HBO Canada with Kim Cattrall and Don McKellar. It's excellent!
Aug 14, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Susie Foster
Southcliffe, on Netflix is a UK CHannel 4 series of 4 episodes about the impact of a serial shooting on a small English town - very worthwhile watching!! gripping plot if a bit hard to follow the sequences, and Eddie Marsan aka Terry Donovan from Ray Donovan -
Aug 6, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Totally off topic, but tv related.
A few years ago the FCC passed regulations mandating that commercials had to be the "same average volume as the programs they accompany". For a while things actually got better, but now I'm noticing that no one seems to be paying any attention to that regulation and I'm once again having to reach for the volume control every time a commercial comes on. Has anyone else noticed this?
Aug 5, 2014   |  Reply
 
Angela
Yes, unfortunately that regulation didn't seem to be enforced for long as I've wondered for some time whatever happened to the volume being the same for commercials and shows. :-/
Aug 20, 2014
 
 
jan
Yes, I've noticed that, too; and I wondered about whatever happened to that regulation. Very frustrating.
Aug 6, 2014
 
 
 
Jay Gold
The Department of Redundancy Department actually is from the Firesign Theater album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. As that Department will confirm, it's also from the Firesign Theater album Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.
Aug 5, 2014   |  Reply
 
David Bianculli
Dear Jay -- We're both right. I'm a big Firesign fan myself ("I wonder where Ruth is?"), but the references on those LPs postdate, by close to a decade, the appearance of the Redundancy of Redundancy Department in a comic panel in Mad magazine -- a joke so buried you had to read it backwards, on the writing of a glass door in the background, to get the joke. Just like Firesign's "Regnad Kcin"...
Aug 5, 2014
 
 
 
Byron Tidwell
Echoing Barbara Leons comments, the commercial breaks during The Honorable Woman made this densely plotted show near impossible to follow. Any sense of building tension and rhythm was completely destroyed. Why do many viewers wait for the DVD or streaming release? Here is your answer.
Aug 4, 2014   |  Reply
 
Susie Foster
agree totally!!! I'm going to save it all up and zip through the commercials, they are so intrusive.
Aug 7, 2014
 
 
 
Barbara Leons
Because of the good reviews I watched The Honorable Woman on the Sundance channel tonight. It was good bust was interrupted by so many commercials that it was increasingly difficult to get involved in, much less follow. What should have been an hour show from 10 to 11 in fact ended at 11:15, apparently to get in more commercials. What is going on here?
Aug 1, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Mr. B, Ref you comments about Sharknado and Sharknado 2, evening more of a mystery to me than why there is even a sequel, is why is it going to be in theaters August 21st?????Who is going to pay $10 to $13 to see a movie that was available free on TV, and will undoubtedly be on dvd and bluray very soon thereafter (and for rental at under $2 a night????? I'm dumbfounded!
Jul 30, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Since we're remembering James Garner I would like to recommend one of his lesser known films, "Cash McCall" He plays a corporate raider - sort of a mid-2oth century Mitt Romney, but with personality. Some of the financial wheeling and dealing could be from last week's news. The film also stars the breathtakingly beautiful Natalie Wood.
Jul 28, 2014   |  Reply
 
George
I'll have to check that one out... I have fond memories of watching The Rockford Files made for TV movies with my dad... Also a movie, I think it was called "Tank".
Aug 15, 2014
 
 
 
John
You know maybe I'm a little weird or something but I already saw episode 3 of the Bridge before it aired tonight on the 23rd. It was a new episode. Am I missing something?
Jul 24, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
marlene
Surprised not to see a mention of the 1932 Maurice Pagnol film (and play) "Fanny" upon which the 1961 version and Umbrellas of Cherbourg are both based. It's part of his wonderful trilogy Marius/ Fanny/ Cesar. Chez Panisse is named after the "older gentleman".
Jul 16, 2014   |  Reply
 
SharonGS
Thank you, Marlene, for mentioning Pagnol. I'm sure Robert Osborne will mention him as well. Pagnol's films are well worth watching.
Jul 16, 2014
 
 
 
Mac
Hoping to catch The Divide on one of the probable repeats.Had to check if I'm still paying for this channel.Trailer showing up on other channels didn't look too compelling,but reviews are encouraging.And Stephen Bochco's Murder In The First let me down.Hoping the Philly vibe comes through more than the Geico Gecko dancing in front of Geno's.
Jul 16, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Thank you for highlighting the Tour de France. The prime-time show is a recap; live coverage is in the mornings with repeats overnight. Café au lait, croissants, and the Tour are a nice start to the morning.
Jul 8, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
 
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David Bianculli

Founder / Editor

Behind David in the picture is the first TV owned by his father, Virgil Bianculli, a 1946 Raytheon. (The TV, not his father. His father was a 1923 Italian.) David Bianculli has been a TV critic since 1975, including a 14-year stint at the New York Daily News, and sees no reason to stop now. Currently, he's TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and is an occasional substitute host for that show. He also teaches TV and film history at New Jersey's Rowan University, and his most recent book, 2009's Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, has recently been purchased for film rights.  He's currently at work on another.