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MONDAY
MARCH 30
2015

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

This intense thriller, released in March 1979, presented a story of a TV fluff feature reporter (Jane Fonda) and her more radicalized cameraman (Michael Dougas) doing a piece on state-of-the-art nuclear energy when a power-plant manager in California (Jack Lemmon) shifts from proud proponent to concerned canary in a radioactive coal mine. At the time, the movie went nuclear itself, due to an astounding and frightening coincidence: 12 days after the film’s release, an accident similar to the meltdown dramatized in its fictional story occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. Even divorced from those real-life headlines, though, The China Syndrome is frightening – and very intense, with all three leading actors turning in memorable performances.

 

 
  
 
 

PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

Part 1 of 3. Ken Burns presents this three-part, six-hour documentary, which is directed by Barak Goodman and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, who also appears in this PBS study. Edward Herrmann narrates, gently taking viewers on a tour that shows how the world has fought the war against cancer – on several fronts, and across many decades, sometimes with frustrating results. Mukherjee’s point is that we have to know how we’ve treated this disease over the years to understand what we’re doing wrong – and how, perhaps, to approach from other directions. Surprisingly, this first two-hour installment goes back centuries, then works its way back to relatively modern times – and WWI, and the popularization of cigarettes and the increase of lung cancer. The sequence on how scientists linked lung cancer to cigarettes, over the years, is especially fascinating. Check local listings.
 
  
 
 

AMC, 10:00 p.m. ET

This is the penultimate episode of this fabulous first season of Better Call Saul, and an episode that, based on promos, may fracture the fraternal bonds between Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk, soon to take on the persona of Saul) and his older brother Chuck (Michael McKean). And while Jimmy may be fighting the acquisition of new partners, Mike (Jonathan Banks) reluctantly is seeking them out.

 
  
 
 

Comedy Central, 10:00 p.m. ET

This could be the point, and certainly is perceived and promoted by its subject as such, where the 21-year-old misbehaving celebrity owns up to his bad-boy past, demonstrates a sense of humor while watching others joke about it, and moves on to a new, more mature phase of his life. Or, it could just be the latest in a series of stunningly stupid missteps and mistakes. Time will tell. Meanwhile, here’s this newest roast from Comedy Central. Kevin Hart hosts, and Will Ferrell is one of the roasters – in his Ron Burgandy character.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 10:15 p.m. ET

James L. Brooks, who already had generated one wonderful piece of pop-culture entertainment about TV newsrooms as co-executive producer of CBS’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show, provided another in this very funny, very smart 1987 movie. Albert Brooks (no relation) plays a talented but less than dynamic news correspondent, William Hurt plays the good-looking but vapid anchor rising quickly through the ranks, and Holly Hunter plays the TV news producer who deals with them both. It’s a delightful film, and, like Paddy Cheyefsky’s Network, also serves as a searing satire of the TV medium, written by someone who knew it well.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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578 Comments
 
 
Erin
It's particularly touching that Edward Herrmann narrated the Emperor of all Maladies before he succumbed to brain cancer.
Mar 30, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
I just watched an entertainment tv host say that what James Corden does with bringing all the guests out at the same time unique when we have been enjoying Graham Norton doing that for years and I still hope Stephen Colbert will do the same.
Mar 30, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Casey
The listings have moved to the home page. Hope the passive-aggressive harassment over how this site is run has not cost us the ability to comment here.
Mar 28, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
jan
I hope everything is all right with you.
Mar 26, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Bob
David, I hope everything is ok.
Mar 26, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Cory
Where is your Bianculli's Best Bets for today? I can't live without you.
Mar 26, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
DAN
It is 12:44 pm Wednesday and you are showing Tuesday's info, PLEASE flip the switch at 8 am - it is written please show it!!!!!!!!
Mar 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
Angela
Chill! What would you do if there was a real emergency?
Mar 26, 2015
 
 
 
linda
Just to note, Disney Family will show ALL of their "Princess" movies over Sat & Sun, even the Princesses of color like Mulan & Pocahantas' They are a nice treat as well, maybe even more
Mar 21, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I'll check out Bloodline simply because of Kyle Chandler, though it does sound like there may be other reasons to watch it, too. But I whole-heartedly agree about Kyle's fantastic acting. I do not understand the acting industry. He should have been in thousands of shows by now. Plus he's not bad to look at.
Mar 20, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
I have watched Glee since the beginning and here are my final thoughts---sarahwatches4u.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-tearful-farewell-to-glee-2009-2015.html?spref=tw …
Mar 20, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
I just remembered your synapsis of IZombie, to me, sounds like True Calling, didn't the lead female character die to come back to life only to work in a morgue and when she touched the recently dead was able to see how they died.
Mar 18, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Peter Brumlik
Bianculli, you've gone over to the dark side. The reason people 'binge watch' is to see if a series gets better; it doesn't. Much of what you recommend has about as much depth as 'Dragnet.'
Mar 17, 2015   |  Reply
 
judeann
I totally agree.... and whats the obsession with zombie's and the undead David???? Is it that most people walk around in the state of mental confusion and delirium?? Haven't been on this site since Last Man on Earth debut not sure if it was reviewed but this show to me is worth half hour of my time. Raises some fascinating dilemmas. Now with the addition of January Jones even more potential. Hats off to Will Forte...unique writing and acting!!!
Mar 18, 2015
 
 
 
Elise
There is a peregrine nest on a ledge of the Rachel Carson Bldg. in Harrisburg as well. I agree: best reality footage to be seen and enjoyed. DEFINITELY worth watching!
Mar 17, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
David, I guess every true fan of "Justified" got the same kick out of that line that you did. It's why I lament the end of, to me, one of the most unrecognized, non-award-nominated show on television. But given the way the accolades are awarded these days, it doesn't worry me too much. I have the satisfaction of enjoying the series from the first episode (and subsequently on bluray) in the company of well-informed, intelligent viewers like you and everyone that follows you on this wonderful website!
Mar 17, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Patrick
I'm really surprised and a bit disappointed that Banshee (which just aired its final episode of the season) has not been mentioned outside of its season premier. I do not feel the need to sing its praises, as I'm sure anyone familiar with the show is already aware of its strengths, but I do want to give it a shout out. After all, The Walking Dead has made it onto the list every Sunday night since it first aired, and yet, that remains a show stuck in an endless feedback loop with a lot of gore and violence to push that cycle along. Banshee on the other hand manages to feel refreshed after every episode. This season in particular has been so packed with story telling and action (hands down the best action you will see on television) that each episode has felt almost like a self-contained film. And yet, each episode has also left you white-knuckled and reeling to find out what comes next. Banshee is one of the best shows on television, and probably the most purely entertaining.
Mar 16, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Bob
David, you missed a few things about Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. Along with all the other James Bond connections to Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, you forgot Baron Bomburst aka Goldfinger aka Gert Frobe. How about the male name play, Bomburst as I already mentioned, and my favorite, Dick van Dyke's role Caractacus Potts---crackpot.
Mar 14, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
jan
So glad to mentioned the repeat of Shameless. It's one of my favorite shows, and the acting--especially Jeremy Allan White and Noel Fisher, but really of all of the kids--has been amazing. I'm so glad they have kept the same actors over the years to play the roles of the kids (unlike the replacement Lily in Modern Family whom I still don't like). They're all great.
Mar 13, 2015   |  Reply
 
Bob
Also one of my favorite shows. I don't think I could pick out an actor who does not give an amazing performance. I find the writing so well done. One weakness I have found, I tried to watch it again from the first season, and it just didn't grab me on the second viewing.
Mar 14, 2015
 
 
 
scott
Yesterday, Thursday the 12th of March, you recommended Requiem for a Heavyweight on TCM, specifically the earlier television version, rather than the movie version. However, at least in my area (Comcast of South Jersey) there was only the movie version on TCM and I was unable to find any broadcast of the earlier television version.
Mar 13, 2015   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
David was merely mentioning that his preference is for the TV version of "Requiem..." not that it was actually airing that evening. Sorry for the confusion!
Mar 14, 2015
 
 
 
John
Is it just me, or, is some of the music on last night's "THE GOOD WIFE" filched from the old film: "BARRY LINDEN" (sp?) I'm just sayin'.....
Mar 9, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re:3/7/15 highlights.Worth mentioning that tonight TCM's Essentials starts a new co-host after three years of Drew Barrymore.Tonight,Sally Field joins Robert Osborne to present Roman Holiday. If preview snippets are true,it looks like Field's Norma Rae will be included as an Essential during this run. And hopes that Robert will be able to tell Sally that he likes her.
Meanwhile,know that Llewyn Davis is more specifically a fictionalized version of Dave Van Ronk,even mimicking the artwork for Dave's 1963 LP,Inside Dave Ronk(hence the movie's title). One interesting note,after you've seen the film, compare the cover art for the Inside LPs. Where is the cat?
Mar 7, 2015   |  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.

 
 
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