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MONDAY
FEBRUARY 27
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

SiriusXM, 6:00 p.m. ET

PROGRAM PREMIERE: When my book on the Smothers Brothers came out in 2009, Craig Ferguson had me on as a guest on his CBS late-night TV venue, The Late Late Show. I appreciated that gracious gesture a lot – years before, when I was writing for The New York Daily News, I had identified Ferguson, one of the dozen or so personalities given on-air tryouts as possible replacements for Tom Snyder on The Late Late Show, as the person who should be given the job, based on his tryout performances on CBS. He got the job – and though the two events, my recommendation and his hiring, may not have been even marginally connected, Ferguson always was very nice to me. So even though this is a TV column and website, here’s a shot at giving back: Starting today at 6 p.m. ET, Ferguson launches a new show. It’s an East Coast drive-time satellite radio show on SiriusXM, presented on the service’s Comedy Greats channel, found on SiriusXM Channel 94. I don’t know what he’s going to do, or which guests he’s going to feature – but for this new hosting job, I suspect quite strongly, he’ll be very comfortably dressed.
 
  
 
 

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: In the most recent cycle of this musical competition series, Miley Cyrus did a very good job sliding into one of the judges’ chairs for the first time. She’s established herself as someone who deserves a return invitation – but for this cycle, her chair is being filled by returning judge Gwen Stefani. Stefani has appeared two previous times as a judge on The Voice, and now, of course, is the girlfriend of Blake Shelton, who has been a judge every cycle since The Voice began. So has Adam Levine, but contestants coached by Shelton have won five times, including Sundance Head in a surprise victory the last time around. Levine, as Voice coach, has scored three victories. Stefani and Alicia Keys, who is returning from the most recent cycle after her first time as coach, will be looking for a first victory with the new round of competition, which begins tonight. And since the Blind Audition rounds routinely deliver some of this series’ best moments, so does the fun.

 
  
 
 

ABC, 9:00 p.m. ET

MINISERIES PREMIERE: This scripted miniseries about the rise of LGBTQ rights is the sort of miniseries, and meaningful drama, broadcast network television used to present almost routinely, in such vintage made-for-TV movies as 1972’s That Certain Summer (starring Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen in a story of a family man who divorces his wife and informs her, and their teenage son, that he’s gay) and 1985’s An Early Frost (starring Aidan Quinn as a young lawyer who comes out to his parents after learning he has this new disease called AIDS). In 2017, both a miniseries, and something topical and meaningful, are relative rarities on broadcast prime-time television. But here is When We Rise, broadcast every weeknight this week – except for tomorrow night, when President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress. For a full review, see Ed Bark’s Uncle Barky’s Bytes.
 
  
 
 

A&E, 10:00 p.m. ET

Last week, Bates Motel inaugurated its final season by introducing some delicious new twists. Chief among them is that Norma Bates, played by Vera Farmiga, is dead – but that doesn’t mean she’s not still hanging around the house, and in the disturbed imagination of Freddie Highmore’s Norman Bates. This has made Bates Motel even more fascinating, unhinged and entertaining: Farmiga gets to act not as the old “living” Norma, but as various shades of Norma as concocted by her unduly attached son. Norman, meanwhile, is such a victim of his own imagination that in last week’s episode, when he used the infamous motel peephole to spy on a couple getting amorous in the adjacent room, Norman’s, uh, enjoyment while watching them was interrupted by a phone call. From his mother. Who asked what he was doing. And she’s dead. TV doesn’t get more twisted, or more unpredictable, than this.
 
  
 
 

ABC, 11:35 p.m. ET

After what happened last night at the Oscars (for details and a reaction, see Bianculli's Blog), tonight’s show, with first-time Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel returning to his home base, has got to be considered must-see TV. Don’t be surprised if there’s lots of laughs based on a comedy of errors – and don’t be surprised, somehow, if Matt Damon’s around to participate…
 
  
 
 
 
 
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1090 Comments
 
 
Sue
Angela,
Discuss it with your guests during your big night having dinner with your cats.
Feb 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
2/25 showing of Planet Earth 2 on BBCA was bookended by two episodes(last,followed by first) of their 2013 Africa series and did not repeat PL2's episode one. Not a complaint-they were excellent and I hadn't seen these before!
Feb 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I wonder how many people hesitated to watch Planet Earth 2 like me for fear there would be too much talk about environmental problems? Especially now that our admin seems to be hell bent on hastening the demise of the planet that is trying to save our very lives. (Non withstanding Obama's approving the XL Keystone pipeline not to be confused with the DPAL pipeline) Turns out there's little talk about it, yet. And it's as stunning as David says in his reviews. This is one show that would be mind blowing to see in a theater.
Feb 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
My program guide shows the IFC Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast live on IFC at 5pm EST, as well as again at 10pm. I don't guarantee the information, but I've set my dvr for 5, so I guess we'll see!
Feb 25, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Looks like you're right, Keith. They changed plans, apparently. Thank you!
Feb 25, 2017
 
 
 
Keith Robin
Egg on my face update: "SS-GB" based on a novel by Len Deighton (apologies to British TV).
Feb 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Sue
Gossip Girl had been raped by Twin Peaks

Rape is a terrible, terrible crime, don't make light of it David. Did not the stunned female student give you a clue of that fact?
Feb 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
We're not allowed to use the word rape when talking about a fictional character on a TV show unless we do so only in all seriousness? Good grief! The PC police need to find a real cause to get up in arms about.
Feb 26, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
The story of what Sam Phillips did AFTER he sold his Elvis contract to Col. Tom & RCA,is so fascinating I'm still surprised no one has re-imagined the story,outside of radio.Buried in NPR's online archives is an amazing series,Lost & Found Sound(2000),the result of asking for audio contributions from the public that were unique to the masses. Sam invested in the first all-female radio station,WHER, with the studios located in the fledging Memphis Holiday Inn(Philips also invested in the Inn,smart moves). Not only did the women's voices have to sound compelling enough to keep listener's tuned in,they had to look great for the businessMEN passing through the hotel lobby. Is this how Fox News started? Paging Don Draper...The NPR program was produced by the Kitchen Sisters-two women neither sisters nor named Kitchen,but owe their job to the pioneer women at WHER. Like "A League Of Our Own" for electronic media with far reaching consequences.
Feb 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
A correction: the series is "SS-GB". I had an AARP moment, sorry!
Feb 22, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Regarding your write-up of "The Tunnel", along that same line in another "deja vu" moment, the BBC has just premiered a new series called "GB-SS". Are you wondering, as I was, what the nature of this show happened to be? Well , it takes place in the UK after England has LOST the Battle of Britain. Nazis have barricades in front of Buckingham Palace. Sound familiar? Not to be outdone, it looks like our British cousins have taken a page from Philip K. Dick and his book that is now a series on Amazon. Turnabout is fairplay. We are, after all, famous for rethinking, reimagining or at least, "Americanizing" a multitude of their original productions (as well as those from other countries as you noted in your review) either as television or, in some cases, full-length feature films (e.g. "State of Play"-personally, I preferred the original). In fact, some of the best TV sitcoms were adapted from British originals, and that list goes back a long way and is far too long to mention here!
Feb 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Murrow certainly was timely in his dissection of the Evil McCarthy,but subersive pants pulling came from cartoonist Walt Kelly and his daily comic strip,Pogo. Set in the Florida everglades,the regular "funny animals" of the swamp shared space alongside a sinister polecat,Simple J. Malarkey(Joe Biden would be entering his teen years then and everyone knew what "malarkey"meant) complete with 5 o'clock shadow,a slick oily crop of fur on top and a Chesire Cat grin,inviting those "funny animals" home for a meal,while he held his rifle. Not on the editorial page(yet)but alongside Nancy,Mark Trail and that other new kid,Charlie Brown. Pogo-biting and funny 60 years ago. Mallard Filmore-poorly drawn,unfunny today.
Feb 20, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mark
I am thoroughly enjoying The Platinum Age of Television. I love David Bianculli's writing and criticism, so I was baffled by a major omission in his history of crime TV. He covered the 1970s without even a passing reference to Joseph Wambaugh's excellent NBC anthology series Police Story. In terms of realism it was a significant step forward in crime drama on TV and certainly more noteworthy than Mod Squad, SWAT and Starsky and Hutch which all get mentioned. It was an innovative series that laid the groundwork for better known series like to Hill Street Blues.
Feb 19, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
While recording Planet Earth is a great idea,the DVD,with Attenborough's narration,is readily available and often found dirt cheap in 2nd hand stores. Flip the box over and see if Attenborough's name appear in the upper left hand of the box. UPC(on bottom) is 794051293824,is a 5 disc set,though I've seen individual discs separately(not sure of narration on those). The set has an additional 10 min. per episode with behind-the -scenes material and a 150 min. feature,The Future. This is a fine set for binge watching on a cold,snowy President's Day weekend. Good or bad,the Northeast will be approaching sunny & 60 degrees this weekend,so maybe a game of hoops ,a bike ride or walk is in order with the kids(as my dear,departed boss would call this: Birthington's Washday) and keep the show for night viewing. Keeps the kiddies from watching that Britney biopic debacle.No blankets needed around here the next few days. Don't tell new EPA boss Pruitt anything- too busy deregulating and suing.
Feb 18, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
2/13-The Daily Show serves two purposes nowadays here:It gives the needed laugh at Bizarro Real News with Realer News and keeps me away at spending any attention with Brian Williams and his "Oh, so '90s" approach to the facts. Then,as soon as I change to DS, NSA head Mickey Flynn "resigns"-realer news eventually caught up to realize the Trumpster was really firing his lying a**,someone of way more consequences than the toadies Trump "fired" on his dimwitted TV show. How exasperating to have Williams in the spotlight,(I wanted to switch to Fox to see how they sanitize this mess),but at least MSNBC rolled the "Lock her up!" chant Flynn led last summer. Gender challanged,it should be "Lock him up!" today.Till Trump is out,we are all losers,except Williams getting more face time,still needing Chris Matthews to fill out the hour with a phone call to explain it all.
Feb 15, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The TCM alphabetizing began Feb.1 and goes to Mar. 3 as the latest attempt to showcase 31 Days of Oscar(tm) winners and nominees(aka-Massive Losers in The Trump Era). I think they did this before,but checking the Internet Wayback Machine would take till Mar. 3 to find out. Personally,the best spin was when categories were spotlit so attention to costumes,screenplays,etc. are showcased for the day. But this way mashes genre against genre,across the decades,so tonight it is:Hanna & Her Sisters, A Hard Day's Night,Harvey and The Harvey Girls. And that last one is not a sequel to Harvey,though the idea of a friendly tipsy Judy Garland romancing with an invisible six-foot rabbit would be interesting,at least in the dance and kissing scenes.
Feb 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
George Ashur
" “Foot down to the floor – 70 miles an hour, but no more.” But since he’s driving down an English highway, shouldn’t that be “112.654 kilometers, but no more”? Just asking." -- Nope. British highways and cars use miles, just like the US.
Feb 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Frid. 2/10 Best Bets-Just heard the Fresh Air piece from the early Fresh Air feed. Radio's Theater of the Mind can surpass visual media for hitting a target with speed and precision. Remember that the show will be archived forever online later in the day via npr.org,so if you miss a local broadcast,don't fret. What is a shame is that The Donald will not be listening,as Fox News or Morning Joe are not Fresh Air. For that,I am thankful,but someone in high office will not get to reflect on history repeating itself when feuding with mass media. And no Geico ads to get in the way. The line from the Smothers Bros. to SNL to The Daily Show to Bill Maher is direct. We are once again waist deep and this Big Muddy is filled with much more than dirty water in a dirty war as every branch of government is being re-examined and every cabinet post is being filled with folks primed to do the most harm to the area that they should be protecting and propagating. When will we ever learn...
Feb 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Rinnie
Oops...the Expanse Season 1 is streaming on Amazon, not Netflix.
Feb 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Rinnie
Angela,
The Expanse is a complex space drama set 200 years into the future. Earth has expanded outwards; subjugated workers living in the asteroid belt, and a strong military presence on Mars which is being terraformed for sustaining life. The first season is now streaming on Netflix and fans of the show celebrate a rich, diverse cast of characters. The creators of the show are science geeks and PhD in physics, so the portrayal of life in space is as real as possible. Along with the sci-fi aspects of the show, there's also political intrigue as different factions from Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt compete for power and resources. Season 1 has a central mystery with a private eye trying to uncover the truth as political forces become unstable around him. I'm not sure I'm doing the show justice with this explanation, but it's a really good show. I highly recommend.
Feb 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Oh, wow! This sounds really interesting. I've missed great Sci-fi ever since I finished watching Battlestar Galactica. Thanks for the review.
Feb 6, 2017
 
 
 
Cathy Backus
Never thought Cuba Gooding, Jr. would make it to "Inside the Actor's Studio". Seems like a likable guy but calling him an actor is a stretch in my opinion.
Feb 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Rinnie
The second season of The Expanse starts tonight on the SyFy channel.
Feb 1, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Tell us more about The Expanse and why we would watch it. Thanks!
Feb 2, 2017
 
 
 
 
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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. His next, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is coming this fall, 2016.

 
 

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 available on Amazon for under $20.

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, 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. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post