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TUESDAY
JANUARY 10
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Larry Edmunds Bookshop, Check local listings

I know, this isn’t on TV – but it’s about TV, and when I appear tonight to talk about and sign copies of my new book The Platinum Age of Television, I’m planning to show some TV. Besides, Larry Edmunds Bookshop is a Hollywood bookstore – not only the first of its kind in Hollywood, as an independent store specializing in books about TV, the cinema, photography, theater and the media, but the last surviving one as well. I’ve been buying books from this shop since my first trip there in 1977, and I’m honored they’re hosting a book event for me there tonight. It’s at 7:30 p.m. PT, the address is 6644 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028, and their website is here. Come on out! I’ll be the guy in the Hawaiian shirt. And technically, if an appearance by me, smack on Hollywood Boulevard framed by the sidewalk of Hollywood stars, doesn’t qualify as a Bianculli’s Best Bet, then I don’t know what does.
 
  
 
 

Various Networks, 9:00 p.m. ET

Live from Chicago, where his quest for the presidency began, retiring two-term U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a farewell address tonight. It’s expected to be covered by all the major news networks, and even some of the minor ones.
 
  
 
 

TNT, 9:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: The first season of this unusual character study, starring Michelle Dockery as a kleptomaniac con woman with plenty of issues, concludes tonight, with Dockery’s Letty on the run, and seemingly painted into a dark, inescapable corner. But this is when con men, and con women, generally get the most inventive… Time to put on another wig and vamp, one way or another.

 
  
 
 

ABC, 10:00 p.m. ET

This series returns for the new year, focusing on a new danger in the midst of the always beleaguered agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last fall, in a disappointingly flat story arc, it was the Ghost Rider. Starting tonight, the focus is on Aida, a Life Model Decoy built to look and act human, but with an agenda all its own. Or her own, if we’re being both mechanically and politically correct. Mallory Janson, who co-starred on ABC’s musical comedy Galavant as Queen Madalena, plays Aida – and she’s not the only LMD in play in this new episode.

 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: Tom Hardy stars in this first new FX series of 2017, and it’s a daringly different type of role, series, and setting. Most of the action takes place in London, but it’s the London of 1814, when England is still reeling from the revolt of the American colonies. Hardy plays James Delaney, an adventurer with a strong claim on a key piece of land wedged between territories, and claimed by both British and U.S. interests. Flashbacks take Hardy, and the viewer, back to Africa and a decade before, with stories of slaves, savagery, and the powerful East India Company. Jonathan Pryce plays the main bad guy, and co-stars include Oona Chaplin. Visually and structurally, it’s a dense and different series. Taboo is co-written by Hardy, his father Chips, and by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, the writer-director who directed Tom Hardy in their joint cinematic triumph, the 2013 movie Locke. For full reviews, see David Hinckley's All Along the Watchtower and Ed Bark's Uncle Barky's Bytes.
 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1084 Comments
 
 
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
 
 
 
Matt
Seeing that today is the 24th Anniversary of the debut of "Homicide:
Life on the Streets" brought back many memories of one of the
greatest shows in network TV history. I was hooked from the very
first episode and remember fondly when Pembleton solved the Bianculli
cold case, after returning to work from his stroke. Like David, I consider
"Three Men and Adina" to be one of the most unforgettable hours in TV
history.
Jan 31, 2017   |  Reply
 
Matt
Good that you made the link between "Homicide" and the Dick Wolf franchises.
Ironically enough, as Tom Fontana always pointed out, the only time that
"Homicide" ever got strong ratings were when it did cross-overs with "law
and Order." It's a mystery to me, with hundreds of channels and streaming
services, why no one is currently showing this great series.
Feb 3, 2017
 
 
Mac
Angela-While I would not put these suggestions at the level of Homicide(odd that Homicide currently is only available on my cable system in Spanish while the DVD releases by A&E are not closed captioned-morons!),the Dick Wolf Chicago franchise of fire,cops,docs,soon law and maybe Chicago Pizza Delivery Guy-Deep Dish Unit next year is indeed super-hero free. Many of the folks who worked on other Wolf series,as well as NYPD Blue,St. Elsewhere and other greats,on screen and off,are involved. Thank goodness no crapped,err caped crusaders and the heroes has a few flaws. The way the characters move around from one show to another is interesting.It is a Bizzaro Chicago where everyone is good looking, real crime and the reasons for it are misguided sometimes.The ghost of Jerry Orbach haunts Wolf shows,needing a bit more sarcasm and black humor. Meanwhile,know that Homicide's Paul Attanasio,is behind Bull,a tepid CBS law show that wastes talent but seems to be finding an audience.
Feb 3, 2017
 
 
Angela
Homicide Life on the Streets was a show that both my mother and I loved to watch. It's not like we don't often like the same shows but like you said, this was one of the greats. Which reminds me of Third Watch, for some reason- another very good show we both enjoyed a lot. Oh when will we see more good dramas like these without comic book character heroes?
Feb 2, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Rather than choose the many remembrances of Mary Tyler Moore on this site,I'll post here that CBS Decades,one of those "retro" channels(and the strangest since it forgoes the usual schedule of "same show, same time slot" most use)will start a weekend of Mary Tyler Moore with a six hour stretch on Friday,2/3 of Mary interviewed by Dick Cavett,a 77 Sunset Strip episode,two feature films: "Ordinary People" and "Just Between Friends", and a poorly produced 1/2 hour bio-this block repeats four times Friday. From Sat 1PM till Mon. 2/5@7 AM,they will present an 84 episode marathon of the Mary Tyler Moore '70s show. Strange that Fox owns the MTM catalog and CBS owns The Dick Van Dyke Show(through some screwy set up that only Sumner Redstone knows),but no Van Dyke in the mix.
Jan 31, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Tom
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "THE RACE UNDERGROUND"

You might look for that one on Tuesday.
Jan 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mike
Vincent D'Onofrio is another great actor in The Player
Jan 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The Friday's NPR Fresh Air is often when David hosts and the 1/27/17 edition,a tribute to Mary Tyler Moore,is recommended. The bulk of the show revisits the Terry Gross interview from 1995,when MTM was making the rounds plugging her autobiography. If you aren't aware of Terry's preparation and yet natural ease of questioning,this is Exhibit A. But David is the perfect host for bookending the tribute. Oh,and stay for Ed Ward's appreciation of the Monkees,as a pop group. Though the 50th anniversary of their debut onto the scene happened last summer,Ed's belated positive views(and he passed on them as trifle first time around-he wasn't alone)reminds us of just how much talent was brought to the studio.Hired songwriter,hired back up studio musicians and eventually,the actors themselves-Mike Nesmith,the tall one with the ski cap,in particular.Try them in glorious mono,as many a fan did on TV,45 RPM singles and LPs. LPs were available in stereo,but many had only mono as a choice. MONO!
Jan 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Man,Riverdale meets Twin Peaks,as this was termed at pitch meetings. Dunno. If Jughead turned out to be the love child of Wimpy and Olive Oyl,I'm in. I think I'll revisit the classic Firesign Theatre LP,"Don't Crush That Dwarf,Hand Me Those Pliers".
Miss(now Ms.) Grundy committing sin with our hero? That's strange enough.
I read literally 100s of Archie Comics in my Dad's drug store decades go,phasing out a few years before those fun bubble gum songs (filled with double entendre and catchy hooks)used as background for those dreadful Filmation 'toons.
Jan 26, 2017   |  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. 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