SUNDAY
SEPTEMBER 21
2014

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

CBS, 7:30 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: This venerable newsmagazine, the longest-running continuing series in prime time, continues to score often with significant scoops, ending up, more than not, in the end-of-week Top 10. Tonight is the start of Season 47 for 60 Minutes, and one of the ways I put that astounding run into perspective is to remember that during its first season, it did a story on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a fellow CBS show that, in 1968 when the story ran, was stirring up all kinds of trouble. During the Johnson adminstration. Almost half a century later, 60 Minutes continues to look for trouble, and troublemakers. Tonight, Scott Pelley interviews former defense secretary Leon Panetta, who explains how ISIS became a formidable force in the Middle East region – and why it shouldn’t have.

 
  
 
 

PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Fans of the PBS Mystery series just lost David Suchet as Hercule Poirot for good – but only a few months later, get to enjoy the return of another famous Agatha Christie sleuth, the prim but observant Miss Marple. Julia McKenzie returns for another small sampling of Miss Marple mysteries, starting with A Caribbean Mystery, in which a planned vacation turns into an unplanned murder investigation – involving the suggested element of voodoo. Check local listings.

 
  
 
 

CBS, 8:30 p.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: I’m very happy to see Tea Leoni back on television, and also glad to see CBS mount a political drama with such an outstanding cast – others in the nix here include Keith Carradine, Tim Daly and Bebe Neuwirth. But the script, at least in this pilot episode, is much less intelligent than its characters are supposed to be, so approach this with low expectations, but hopes for some rapid improvement in the writers’ room. For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, visit the Fresh Air website.
 
  
 
 

CBS, 9:30 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: The final show of last season, after a superb run of episodes, ended with Alan Cumming’s Eli Gold surprising Julianna Margulies’ Alicia, and himself, by asking her to run for State Attorney. This new season picks up that conversation exactly where it left off, and dives in so confidently, and so entertainingly, that The Good Wife, once again, establishes itself as the broadcast drama to beat when it comes to both acting and writing. For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, visit the Fresh Air website.
 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

In tonight’s episode, the trail to the lair of the Master leads deep, deep underground – and to a hellish image straight out of Dante’s Inferno. I wasn’t sure The Strain could get any creepier, but tonight, as it nears the end of its first season, it sure does.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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462 Comments
 
 
mar
For Webmaster: The "New Shows 2014" page says "Previously premiered shows have moved to the bottom of the page.) -DB." They are not visible there, however, and what may be intended as a link to them does not link. Hope this is helpful. Thanks.
Sep 19, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I love listening to Mr. Bianculli's well-informed commentary on NPR but it is quite
distracting and nerve-racking when you take those very audible breaths into the microphone between sentences. I'm sure if u tried a little harder u can control ur breathing better, thereby making it less irritating to listen. Hope my observation is taken in the spirit it is being given. Looking forward to more of ur great reviews.
Sep 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
Jim
Dear Angela,
Since unsolicited advice seems to be the order of the day may I recommend that with a little effort you could make your writing much less irritating by actually spelling out the words you (not u) are using. I've been listening to Mr. Bianculli for years and I have never, ever noticed the verbal tick that you (not u) seem so disturbed by. That doesn't mean you're (not ur) are wrong, but if you want your (not ur) complaint to be taken seriously you really should try writing it in the English language and not in text speak.
I know Mr. Bianculli likes to keep things civil around here and I apologize if this reply crosses any lines, but I couldn't resist.
Sep 18, 2014
 
 
 
Ken
No recommendations for today?
Sep 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
I am loving The Roosevelts-I have already learned more then the school history books told me. Love, birth, death, wealth, family, prestige and ambition are the elements that make a good story and this real life soap opera has it all! I find myself thinking about the "episode" all the next day and I actually cried when T.R. died in last nights episode. A wonderful thing to watch as we wait for the new season.
Sep 17, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Rinnie
Have I missed your recommendations for new shows this fall? I've been looking forward to reading them, but haven't seen anything yet on your website.
Sep 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Hi Rinnie -- Thanks for asking about our 2014 Fall Season Preview. Look for it next week!
Sep 10, 2014
 
 
 
Frank Minor
Was interested in reactions to Peggy Lee-Danny Thomas "The Jazz Singer." I love Miss Lee and usually dig Fifties Technicolor musicals (even the lesser ones), but this movie disappointed me. I much prefer "Pete Kelly's Blues."
Sep 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
jan
Thanks for mentioning The Bridge. I love the show--especially this season after they pretty much got rid of Tate--but I understand a lot of people are not watching, and a third season is in question. I hope they get one and that your mentioning the show as one of the Best Bets helps it find more support.
Sep 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The Pioneer's Robin Williams remembrance had some interesting parts(Pam Dawber's insights,with even her repeatedly asking "Why?" at the end)but they implied that Robin's first HBO special came as a transition,post Mork & Mindy,when it actually aired in 1978,during the first rapture of M&M(Henry Winkler is shown in the audience).Now,he would return to HBO over the years,the next being in 1982,but,while I rarely watched netowrk TV at the time,that '78 HBO show was revealing and exhausting.How could so much material fly from one person my own age?Our generation seemed to be contributing its own Groucho so early on.
Few(any?)visits on talk shows were shown.Robin played the circuit and,as conan pointed out days after Robin's death,the talk show world lost their best guest ever.
And in all of the sadness,losing Jonny Winters and Robin Williams 16 months apart just adds to the emptiness.Father & son gone.
Sep 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Erin
Hey, David, just so you know, the NFL has been playing Monday Night doubleheaders since 2006 for first week of the season. And Thursday Night games have been played (albeit on the NFL Network) during week 2 for the past 2 years. So, 4 games in 5 nights? It's been happening since 2012.
Sep 8, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Karen Engel
Any news on the show "The Divide"? Have been enjoying since July on Wed. nights -- then last night, nuthin. Will it be back? It's really excellent.
Sep 4, 2014   |  Reply
 
Angela
Linda Donovan, Thank you for the update about, "The Divide". I forgot that I came to this show late, and had my DVR set to, "repeats". Yet I fully expected another episode after the finale since it ended the way it did! There has to be more... here's hoping they do renew this excellent show. I may write a letter to WE. :)
Sep 7, 2014
 
 
Linda Donovan
Karen and Angela -- The season finale for "The Divide" aired 8/27. Sadly, no word yet on whether it will be renewed.
Sep 6, 2014
 
 
Angela
Karen, I just checked my DVR and it has a recording for The Divide from 9/4 but it wad recorded at 3am! Not sure if the time changes was because of a conflict in recording or what. I'll let you know if I find any info from my DVR. I sure hope they do a rerun for you and anyone who missed it.
Sep 5, 2014
 
 
 
Ernie
Hi, there's a typo under Welcome to Sweden - it says " Also guest starring: Parts and Recreation co-star Aubrey Plaza." ("Parts").
Aug 28, 2014   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Nicely done, Ernie! You found our deliberate error. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Thank you, Ernie.
Aug 29, 2014
 
 
 
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
 
Angela
Update: This show is not be missed. In depth characters with a lot of action and suspense. At one point I was in tears, a rarity for me.
Aug 27, 2014
 
 
 
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
 
 
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
 
Angela
They cancel before a show runner has have a chance to capture an audience. Also way too many shows from across the pond don't make it to here. Why I haven't succumbed to Bit Torrent mystifies me. I would kill for the entire Forbrydelson series. ;-) Look for, Shadow Line, & Bron, Broen.
Aug 27, 2014
 
 
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
 
Angela
I remembered the name of the BBC series is called Broad Church. They both take place in small closed knit communities and are character studies. Southcliffe's quality is excellent though at times I thought the timeline and some scenes confusing and beyond dark. And I like dark shows. I preferred Broad Church for it's characters and storyline.
Sep 8, 2014
 
 
Angela
I'm looking forward to watching Southcliff. Wasn't there another short series somehow connected to this one? About a missing child in a small seaside town in the EU., and how it impacted the residents? I can't think of the name of it, but it was excellent. (Don't want to give any spoilers so am speaking in only general terms about it.)
Aug 27, 2014
 
 
 
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
 
Angela
I rely on my DVR for that reason but due to the cost I'm going to consider your suggestions on other ways to watch them. But is this why shows receive poor ratings and are cancelled? :-( We need a new system for how shows are rated.
Sep 8, 2014
 
 
Susie Foster
agree totally!!! I'm going to save it all up and zip through the commercials, they are so intrusive.
Aug 7, 2014
 
 
 
 
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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.