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MONDAY
MARCH 20
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

This week, The Voice moves on to the Battle Rounds competition. This used to be the low point of the series, but it’s been massaged, over the years, to make it more of a showcase duet between contestants than a grab-the-spotlight show-off fest. So there’s reason to keep watching. Other reasons include: welcoming the guest mentors aiding the various coaches (Gwen Stefani, for example, brings along Celine Dion, and Adam Levine calls on John Legend). And checking out the outfit Stefani wears for the opening Battle Round, which I can’t quite describe, but can’t quite forget, either.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

I’ve been marveling, with increasing enthusiasm, at how the actors, writers, producers and directors of the Bates Motel A&E prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film classic Psycho have made this final season so multilayered, inspired, and entertaining. The closer the TV show gets to the timeline of the movie, the better it’s gotten – and it was good to begin with. So tonight, at a pivotal time when the TV show and movie plots finally intersect on Bates Motel, TCM prefaces that with a prime-time showing of the original Psycho, starring Janet Leigh. Watch it at 8 p.m. ET, then flip to A&E to watch Marion Crane, played by a different woman entirely, arrive at the Bates Motel…
 
  
 
 

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

Last week, Freddie Highmore’s Norman Bates, still grieving the death of mother Norma (Vera Farmiga), went on a quiet “date” with Madeleine (Isabelle McNally), who had invited him to her house, with her boorish husband out of town, for a home-cooked meal. She even wore some of Norma’s old clothes, which Norman had creepily given to her. But as Madeleine and Norman were preparing some cake batter together, Norman’s manifestation of Norma appeared to grab a nearby kitchen knife and slit Madeleine’s throat. From Norman’s point of view, his dead mother had killed his new girlfriend, a lookalike for his mother – but then he snapped out of it, and returned to reality, realizing that Madeleine was fine, and it was all a horrible vision. But what I wonder is: Was it? Norman is such an unreliable narrator of his own story, isn’t it possible that he, as Norma, did murder Madeleine, then prevented himself from acknowledging that reality? Tonight. we should learn the truth about that. And we’ll also have another compelling story line advancement, as Rihanna (pictured) shows up as Marion Crane, the role played by Janet Leigh in the original Psycho. Which, of course, you can and should watch tonight at 8 p.m. ET on TCM, as a very spooky appetizer to tonight’s Bates Motel main course.

 
  
 
 

AMC, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: The Season 2 finale of HUMANS is presented tonight, as AMC squeezes the year’s final two episodes into one two-hour telecast. Last week, we learned that the formula to awaken the consciousness of all the synths had been completed. This week, we’ll learn whether it’s implemented – and, if it is, what consequences pulling that mental and emotional switch will have. Gemma Chan stars.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 4:00 a.m. ET

Once again, here’s another link between different Best Bets offerings tonight. HUMANS, as a TV series, both preceded the HBO series Westworld, and shared its interest in exploring the awakening of consciousness of human-like androids programmed for the amusement and convenience of humans. But HBO’s Westworld, like AMC’s HUMANS, had a much older precedent: The 1973 movie Westworld, which starred Yul Brynner as an out-of-control robot gunslinger. The movie, shown tonight late at night on TCM, was written and directed by Michael Crichton, the fertile imaginative brain that also concocted The Andromeda Strain, Coma, Jurassic Park, Twister and, believe it or not, the smash NBC medical series ER.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1106 Comments
 
 
Neil
*How* do you want us to share? In the comments section? Email? Facebook? (POTUS tweet?) Be more specific. I've got one I've been carrying around for 50+ years.
Mar 25, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
Thanks for your thoughts Dave... makes sense. Honored you remember me and my know I've been following you for years and years! And as a fellow UF alumnus, go Gators tonite! Ken
Mar 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
Dave, why do you always put the basketball games in your Best Bets? Any fan of college BB already knows this and others could care less.
Mar 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
As wonderful as the BBC's Planet Earth II has livened Sat. nights,I just researched the ongoing story about Great Britain's naming contest for their Antarctic research vessel. Internet jokesters won the numbers with naming it Boaty McBoatface but the ship was officially named for naturalist Sir David Attenborough,superb narrator for the Planet Earth series. Meanwhile, an online petition raised over 2,000 signatures requesting Sir David to change his name to Sir Boaty McBoatface. Add to the story,there will be an actual Boaty McBoatface on the ship. You can look it up,but you can't make it up.
On this Pi Day(no pie for this diabetic),3/14,while Blizzard Stella(paging Marlon Brando) is burying my area with an 18 hr. snowstorm,this makes perfect sense.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Robert Prestifilippo
Madeleine's constantly absent husband is Sam Loomis. That was the name of Marion Crane's lover in Psycho. He and Marion's sister Lila show up at the Bates Motel investigating Marion's disappearance.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Many, many thanks for the heads up regarding the Cream concert on AXS-TV. As a long-time fan, it is one more nugget for my cache of "golden" treasures from the artists that have become lifetime favorites!
Mar 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Here, here!
Mar 12, 2017
 
 
 
Robert Steinberg
I was at your lecture last evening and wanted to thank you for an illuminating event.. You didn't pick the obvious /low hanging fruit and gave one much to mull over.. I have enjoyed and used your recommendations for a long while and wanted to thank you for shining a bright light on our pop culture. Rob
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Jimmy Stewart was not in "North by Northwest." Perhaps you meant "Rear Window"?
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Sue
Thanks Zeke. Maybe someday Angela as a "woman" will come around and see what the word rape represents and realize it shouldn't be used in a joking manner. David posted that it was a mistake to post "rape" as a joke.
Mar 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
Casey
As a “person” I find your admonition to Angela (of all people) for holding a less rigid attitude than yours to the term “rape” to be, um, “disappointing”. Add to this sludge in your cold coffee the suggestion that Angela might have several cats with whom she may enjoy dining. This is outrageous and “beyond the pale”. The “cat lady” meme has died a miserable but oh, so deserved, death at the hands of, among others, the “cat men and women of Earth”, a proud, feisty lot who rule, RULE the internet. So stand down, “Sue”. And, before you find some charming way to call me a “dog”, be aware that, among us cat people, dogs come in a close second. Very close. Tread carefully.
Mar 7, 2017
 
 
 
Michele
Guess you aren't a fan of DC Legends of Tomorrow, or you would be aware that every episode of this show provides sly comedy when you least expect it.
Mar 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke
To Sue; re language of rape.
I also was startled at the use of the verb. A better one could be used.
With overuse, casual use, it can become normalized... and it needs to carry the emotional freight it deserves. Out of respect, not out of PC.
It is also shameful the way showers in Men's prisons have become a punchline.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
I meant at *first* through clumsy attempts at humor. Then with ease we are able to discuss problems more meaningfully.
Mar 8, 2017
 
 
Angela
I believe what becomes normalized is our ability to speak about difficult topics without fear of reproach. And through dialog is how we solve problems. Not by covering over problems too long shrouded in secrecy due to fear or by making problems almost taboo to discuss. I'm also guessing that abuse in men's showers hasn't become more prevalent because of jokes about it but rather the problem has been there all along and we seek to solve through our often clumsy but, oh so human attempts at humor.
Mar 8, 2017
 
 
 
SharonGS
As the college basketball regular season ends, today (Saturday) is a fan's paradise, and Carolina-Duke is in prime time.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Casey
Cluelessly, the broadcast networks are stingy with their encore showings of new programming. People interested in "When We Rise" were probably rapt by nightly coverage of the ongoing political travesty, driving down the ratings for this interesting miniseries. Hope it is handed off to Netflix (at LEAST) or presented again in gulps less demanding of time and/or during calmer times so that it can get the attention it deserves.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Note that Ring Lardner Sr. was a noted humorist,including a baseball book from 1916,You Know Me Al. The film Eight Men Out includes the director,John Sayles, portraying Lardner Sr. as one sports writer already onto the Chicago White Sox players throwing the World Series.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
While TCM winds down the Oscar films, note of a little seen French musical,The Young Girls Of Rochefort at 12:AM. Jacques Demy re-teams with Michel LeGrand and Catherine Deneuve to make another all-singing,all-dancing,colorful musical after the success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. American guest stars inlcude Gene Kelly,George Chakaris and Grover Dale,along with Deneuve's sister, Francoise Dorleac(she died before the film's premiere). While La La Land still has audience and critical praises,here is a '60s film that really loves the film musical. Not for all tastes(nothing offensive,just some unusual sights and the Americans dubbed in French) it is energy filled with real outdoor scenes and LeGrand's music an important co-star.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Preview: In the something to look forward to category: The first season three episode of "Broadchurch" just ran on ITV (and got 7.5m UK viewers)!
Feb 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Big "like" !
Mar 1, 2017
 
 
 
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
 
 
 
 
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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