SUNDAY
MARCH 19
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Various Networks, 12:00 p.m. ET

So here we go… Today’s games begin at noon ET, with CBS coverage of the Midwest’s Michigan (seeded No. 7) vs. Louisville (No. 2), who thus far have advanced against lower-seeded teams. Next, at 2:40 p.m. ET, is the South’s No. 2 seed, Kentucky, facing No. 10 Wichita State, one of only a handful of double-digit seeds to make it into the second round. The CBS coverage continues at 5:15 p.m. ET with the Midwest’s No. 1 seed, Kansas, battling No. 9 Michigan State – and then, the action spreads to other networks. South’s No. 1 seed, North Carolina, faces Arkansas at 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT. Midwest’s No. 3 seed, Oregon, faces No. 11-seeded Rhode Island at 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS. The East’s No. 3 seed, Baylor, faces another No. 11 seed, USC, at 7:45 p.m. ET on truTV.  The East’s No. 2 seed, Duke, battles No. 7 seed South Carolina at 8:40 p.m,. ET on TNT. And I think that’s it. Good luck finding the games (I hope this helps) – and if you’re rooting for your home team, good luck there, too.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Season 1of The Circus was subtitled Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth. For Season 2, the subtitle is slightly different, for the focus is on governance, not campaigning. But the behind-the-scenes political insights and coverage by reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann and co-creator Mark McKinnon are just as valuable – and these Circus animals are now attempting to offer same-week coverage of the President Donald Trump administration, with a news cycle that, if anything, is even more hectic and complicated. Fasten your seat belts… It’s Washington, D.C., in mid-March 2017, and The Circus is in town.

 
  
 
 

AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET

There was, indeed, a sudden death on The Walking Dead last week, after a relative though short-lived lull. What was less surprising than who died was the manner of death, and the person doing the killing – but that all sets up tonight’s escalation of tensions, when the Saviors pay a surprise visit to the Hilltop.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

This is episode 5, and things are getting more and more roiled up, like the seaside surf this miniseries keeps returning to as a mood-setter. And nothing in Big Little Lies is more frothy or intense than the troubled marriage between Celeste and Perry, played by Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s Homeland ended with gunplay, and with one character dead and another very nearly killed. And that only adds to the paranoia of the surviving characters, who seem poised in this episode to reunite and to band together – but against whom?

 
  
 
 

ABC, 10:00 p.m. ET

American Crime continues with the second episode of its third season, once again telling an extended, separate story, and once again allowing many of its recurring players, including the very talented Felicity Huffman (pictured), to take on different looks, roles, and attitudes. This season, she’s a blonde – but I’m not expecting that to mean that, as the vintage hair-color TV ad used to claim, she’s about to have more fun.

 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are terrific as, respectively, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in tonight’s Episode 3 of Feud: Bette and Joan, which delves in deeply into the on-set battles between the two actresses during the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? And what happens tonight is that those fights become physical as well as psychological. For a great feature on this miniseries' opening graphics title sequence, see Eric Gould's current Video Worth Watching.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 11:00 p.m. ET

For a political fix, and perspective, tonight, start on Showtime with The Circus, and end on HBO with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Both shows are likely to teach you something – and both shows, I suspect, are well aware of both the importance and unpredictability of their current subjects.

 
  
 
 

MGM HD, 12:25 a.m. ET

In this 1988 psychological vampire black comedy, Nicolas Cage gives a bravely larger-than-life, larger-than-death performance as a man who comes to believe he’s been stalked, and eventually turned, by a seductive female vampire. Like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, which rewarded fans with deep knowledge of the horror films he was spoofing, Vampire’s Kiss alludes, visually and comically, to many previous films in the genre, starting with the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu. This is the film where Cage commits to his craft by eating a live cockroach on camera, which I’ve never forgotten. But most of all, I’ve never forgotten the performance by Jennifer Beals as the “is-she-or-isn’t-she?” vampire dominating Cage’s imagination. As the embodiment of both his fears and desires, she’s equally spellbinding.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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1316 Comments
 
 
Mac
1/15-TCM's MLK day offerings may seem repetitive eachyear,but like many a holiday schedule,there are treasures worth revisiting.
4PM-Sounder. Considered a "family film",Disney this ain't. It involves a poor black family headed by a sharecropper father who is imprisoned for stealing food during the depression. A major part of the story concerns the son,who has an unquenchable thirst for learning. Beautifully filmed,with a great soundtrack by blues great Taj Mahal(who also has a part in the film). Nothing is dumbed down,nothing is sugar coated and repeated viewings reveal hidden treasures. Whenever TCM shows this(often on Sun.PMs),there is a short featuring actress Cecily Tyson,who portrays the strong mother,telling the fascinating story of how she got the part. Don't miss it. The book is more concerned about the dog the story is named after,but it is fine reading for any age(a Newbury Award winner).
Mattel toys helped finance the film,directed by Martin Ritt.
Jan 15, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
I have a modest suggestion for the Best Bets and contributor preview pieces. On programs like the Gershwin Prize, where the program length has varied over the years, how about mentioning the running time alongside the starting time. This is obviously not necessary for half hour sitcoms or one hour network dramas, but it would be a nice addition for programs with indeterminate lengths to show what the time commitment is going to be.
Jan 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
NPR's Only A Game had an episode a few weeks back regurgitating the Tonya story.Fun fact:I always assumed this was a bratty poor girl with harsh looks vs. rich pretty princess. Not so.
Also,thoughts of Weird Al Yankovic's amazing video,Cable News,come to mind. A perfect storm parody from 1994. The song:Mmm,MmmMmm,Mmm-a one hit wonder for Crash Test Dummies. The idea:presenting three ripped from the '93-'94 headlines of: the Harding incident,the infamous head 'em off at the pass spousal violence with John & Lorena Bobbitt and overseas caning of a US. teen,Michael P. Fay. All presented as one-act plays,similar to the original video for CTD's hit. All presented as our appetite for 24 hour news cycles was exploding post-1991 Gulf War. The parody reeks of the mid-'90s in a good way. All under four minutes. Young folk will have to google the references.Older folk can guess the cameos. Warning:it contains an accordion solo, a possibly gay sumo wrestler and cross-dressing. Great fun!
Jan 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Also worth noting that Gaslight features a teenage Angela Lansbury, in her first movie and receiving her first Oscar nomination for supporting actress
Jan 11, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Tonight (1/9) is the series finale of “Major Crimes,” a police procedural with a very fine ensemble cast.
Jan 9, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Satisfying end.Interesting that G.W. Bailey got top billing for the last three episodes. 214 episodes of The Closer/Major Crimes over 13 years-take a bow,George!
Jan 10, 2018
 
 
Mac
Once again,without spoilers,this last story arc gave the supporting cast moments to shine one last time. I still remember when TNT ran a marathon of the first season of The Closer against Super Bowl Sunday and I got hooked. The idea that the subordinates hated the new boss,partially for good reasons,kept that first year up in the air. TNT inserted a great promo, mid-episodes:shots of Brenda's desk in the dark,with Ring Dings in the drawer(I always want to think they were Drakes Ring Dings and not Hostess Ding Dongs. Since the show had no Philly ties, no chance for the superior Tastykake Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes-a diabetic nightmare/dream-sad.),while Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine(when she's gone) played as audio. Hold that Ring Ding up with pride(unwrap it as the foil will kill your fillings) for great ensemble casting.
Jan 9, 2018
 
 
 
jan
I think there's a new episode of "My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" on tonight as well. Love that show. Also, I agree with your comments on "The Amazing Race." It's been less and less fun to watch with all the product placement and collaboration between teams. It's sort of a hate watch for me now. Too bad, because I used to love to watch it.
Jan 5, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Many Fridays have new listings on VOD services. I can't afford any of them,but here is a goody: Hulu has all of the episodes of Animaniacs,Pinky & the Brain and Tiny Toon Adventures,all Warner Bros./Amblin cartoons originally shown on Fox Kids over 20 years ago. And Hulu just green lit new Animaniacs adventures,set for 2020. The Warner brothers Yakko & Wakko & Warner sister Dot escaped from the iconic WB water tower to wreck havoc on us all. Greatest bit-their take on early 'toons found nowadays in public domain DVDs-giving a backstory on a Looney Tune star,Buddy. The Animaniac episode,The Warner's 65th Anniversary Special,is pretty dark,especially for kids even in the '90s who had no memory of these 1930s 'toons. In some ways,as diabolical as Roger Rabbit. Add to the reboot of DuckTales(I love it and I'm an Uncle Scrooge fan from decades ago) and its pretty great to be a kid in 2018.
Jan 5, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
I won't say how long it's been since I watched toons as a kid but wanted to mention Hulu's running a special- get a years worth for $5.99 @ month. Must take advantage of the special rate by the 1/9. I plan to. (Normally it's twice as much.)
Jan 6, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
9-1-1 vs. Law & Order:SVU? SVU in a heartbeat. While not Netflix level of intensity,L&O:SVU, since Mariska Hargitay got an producer credit,has become a weekly "Me,too" exhibit on the many sides and consequences of sexual assault. One notable exception: the "lost" Trumpian p###y grabbing episode from last year. Some folks think that mega media companies lean left. Know that the power and the money go with Comcast(owner of NBC & Universal) and their ilk,getting the FCC to make things worse for the consumer,while hiding embarrassing stuff like this fictional version of Trump's crimes against women.
Jan 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
1/2-TCM prime time has a night of W.C. Fields. No matter how dyspeptic the 1/2/18 news brings you back to post-holiday reality,a night of Fields will either make you feel more cynical or let you forget your troubles. Lots of goodies here,so many great comedies know how long to keep things going and not wear out their welcome. TCM has seven events over ten hours,so there's many different sides of Fields. I'll highlight It's A Gift(9:15 ET). Classic bits from Field's vaudeville & silent movies grafted into a portrait of a mild-manner,henpecked man,interacting with his family,including Baby Leroy and the world. Stop for the back porch scene,stay for the rest and maybe put the close caption on to catch all of the asides. Fields' character is named Harold Bissonnette-pronounced "Biss-On-Ay". You'll never look at kumquats the same way. A 1934 film that holds a 100% fresh 80+years from Rotten Kumquats,err,Tomatoes.
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
I'm a comedy critic (very picky) but I'm sure I saw every W.C. Fields flick there is when I was growing up. Great stuff!
Jan 6, 2018
 
 
 
Susan Dannemann
David,
Have enjoyed listening to you on NPR. I grew up in Western PA and even worked at Sycamore Pharmacy on Rt. 286 in Plum Boro while in high school. My Mom was a first grade teacher in the district and was so gifted when it came to working with children and reading, especially. I'm certain that she had a student by the name of Tim Bianculli--probably your cousin. It's been enjoyable and comforting to listen to you on the radio. Happy 2018!
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Just a heads up that POV on PBS is airing some new and old documentaries starting today on their website. I originally wanted to see one about Corey Booker but am tempted by others, like one about a film-maker's struggle with an MS diagnosis. Or another one about a Vietnam vet who is having a terrible time transitioning home so he decides to go on a 750 mile walk (if I remember the miles correctly). Happy 2018 everyone!
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
Turns out it's POV's 30 year anniversary and they're streaming 30 films for 30 days. POV's films may not be as polished as a big production company's film might be but that's also that's what makes them a lot more personal in nature. Plus they're often filmed on someone's cell phone so I feel like I'm getting the real thing as opposed to something that might be "fake" news.
Jan 4, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
What a disastrous NYC 2018 ball drop. Rev. Steve Harvey performing a wedding ceremony for his co-host,a pro wrestler,marrying a producer of online content. The wrestler was the bride. ABC had Ryan Seacrest,Jenny Don't Immune My Kids & Mariah joining a tea party-ugh,3 reasons to avoid that one. CNN's Anderson Cooper was matched with Andy Cohen,who,even after Googling,I have no idea why I would pay attention to any project he puts his name on. By 12:10AM,back to The Thin Man marathon on TCM.,snuggled up with my ever-lovin'.
With so much Rose Bowl coverage,Philly's Mummers Parade is at least available online. 8 degrees when it started. Lots of music. Lot's of dancin'. Lots of gold paint for those Golden Slippers(sneakers). Lots of alkyhol,too. Goes on till dark,then indoors with the Fancy Brigades.
Lastly,those TCM caper films David highlighted include Gambit, Arabesque(Donen channeling Hitchcock again) and The Happy Thieves. Charade & Arabesque feature fine Henry Mancini scores.
Jan 1, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re:Almost Famous.Making the case for the Director's Cut(aka Bootleg Cut) with extended footage of Phil Hoffman as Lester Bangs. I could watch an entire movie about Bangs;sad that Hoffman is not around to make that happen. The movie evokes a time when Rolling Stone mattered and reading this new Crowe kid was required reading-and he was five years younger than me(16 vs. 21). The Tiny Dancer scene evokes exactly as it seemed when every two weeks I received a dispatch from Out There with Crowe,Jon Landau,Hunter Thompson,Ben-Fong-Torres,David Dalton,Chet Flippo,Jerry Hopkins,Timothy Crouse-how I miss this writing and how needed it is as we enter 2018. At least Vanity Fair,Politico,The Atlantic,New York,The New Yorker,the NYT & The Washington Post keep up the fight. If this is Fake News,then keep fakin' it.
Dec 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Curious, I've never before seen anyone describe Janet Leigh as one of the most memorable characters in The Manchurian Candidate. I'm a huge fan of both the film and the late Janet Leigh. However, as much as I like her she is so tangential to the plot of this movie that I forget she's even in it. I know some fans have created back stories for her character and her place in the film, but most of that isn't actually supported by anything in the film. I would be interested in hearing more about what stands out about the character for you. Maybe I'm missing something (it happens).
Dec 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Vince Everett
Nitpicking... but... Zero Mostel's character in "The Front" (Hecky Brown) was a comedian who Woody couldn't/ didn't front for
Dec 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Zero Mostel starred in Fidler on Broadway, but (in my opinion, unfortunately) the film had Topol as Tevye. Yes, Zero is *always* Tevye, but not in the film.
Dec 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
I'll make the case for Topol in the big budget film. He had already played Tevye hundreds of times in the London production and makes a quality Tevye,even in close-ups. The film has aged well and shows up frequently on TCM. Topal,then in his mid-30s, was playing a man 20 years older and at least 20 lbs. heavier. Later,he portrayed Teyve on stages around the world, eventually racking,by his count,3500 performances. He literally aged into Tevye.
Other notable Tevye's include Herschel Bernardi(yes,Charlie the Tuna and Peter Gunn's cop friend),and Theodore Bikel(folksinger and the original Captain for Broadway's Sound of Music),who may hold the record of Fiddler performances.
Dec 28, 2017
 
 
Linda Donovan
You are right, of course, as is Sean. We got our Tevyes confused.
Dec 27, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Re:Kennedy Center Honors. Trump would probably need his Fox & Friends to read those inscriptions.
Norman Lear could spool some of his "greatest hits",tackling many of the ideas of tolerance, true equality and needing more voices. Today.
Lionel Richie not only created pop songs for the Commodores and his solo career,but had success teaming with Kenny Rogers. Motown & country music-a mix that the masses loved.
LL Cool J has his share of music hits,as well as an acting career including police procedural NCIS:L.A.,portraying a Navy SEAL genius with a home life.
Carmen de Lavallade took her ballerina shoes to new places,new audiences,including Duke Ellington, and her acting chops on stage & screen.
Gloria Estafan,Cuban born with true American roots,has taken her gift of music and dancing to the world.
Common theme:mashing of cultures creating art for everyone. Sorry,Charlie,err,Donald,we need folk with good taste from ALL backgrounds.
Dec 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Jim Carrey in almost anything is over the top. This is the worst. Add to that,Faith Hill singing a truly annoying tune that got tons of airplay when released. Wiki reveals that Mariah Carey has a songwriting credit for the tune,and recorded it,but a dispute with ex-hubbie Tommy Mottola(head of her label at the time)meant that Faith Hill was used in her place. Another Festivus Miracle. Making "Christmas" a place instead of the religious holiday it means for Christians-I'm a non-believer and find that offensive. Where are you Super Bowl Sunday? I have the jersey,beer,chips and beef jerky but where are you? Hey,Guy Fawkes Day,where are you? I've got the matches,but your effigy is not to be found. Enjoy the Chuck Jones Grinch and then turn it off. Maybe read the book. Oh,and remember that "You're A Mean One" is sung by Tony The Tiger(Thorl Ravenscroft) and written by Dr. Shorofsky from Fame(Albert Hague).
Dec 25, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Happy holidays, whichever one you observe, to all my fellow tv watchers that come here to find tv worth waatching, and especially the creators and contributors, Professor Bianculli and his entire cast.
Dec 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Thank you for the wishes, Keith, and Happy Holidays to you, too. From all of us. Happy New Year to all our readers! -- TVWW
Dec 26, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Today's term paper:Secular Christmas stories that resonate in modern times:
A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Story. A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Grinch. There are others I'm missing.What is the common thread? Dark ideas,including suicide,depression,the rich manipulating the poor,stealing,finding out about fraud in your life. These dark ideas permeate much of the stories, eventually coming to a redemptive ending,which take up just the last few minutes of the story.Some of that redemption is short lived. Folks of Bedford Falls still have to deal with Potter. Charlie Brown will never kick the football. That Little Orphan Annie Decoder will always to an Ovaltine pitch. The Grinch and Scrooge?Well,they seem to be redeemed. All have a lot of faith,hope and love needed not only for Christmas Day but year round,while always watchful of potential perils.Compare and contrast. Discuss. You have 50 minutes. Blue pen. Double space. No talking. Unseal your blue books now.
Dec 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
 
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David Bianculli

Founder / Editor

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's also an author and teaches TV and film history at New Jersey's Rowan University. His 2009 Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', has been purchased for film rights. His latest, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV.

 
 
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