MAY 18



SiriusXM, 9:09 a.m. ET

CHANNEL PREMIERE: I know, I know. As channels go, this one is on radio, not TV – and only on satellite radio, at that. But this is the Beatles we’re talking about, so until I launch a sister website called Radio Worth Hearing (don’t hold your breath), I’m taking the time and space here to note the launch of the world’s first official Beatles 24-hour radio channel. It’s got special programs (including Chris Carter’s long-running FM radio staple “Breakfast with the Beatles”), vintage interview clips, rare outtakes, and lots more. The on-air promos have sounded terrific – and better than that, they’ve sounded smart. The ultimate number for a Sirius/XM channel devoted to the Beatles would, of course, be “number nine, number nine” – but that channel location already is taken by the decade-devoted channel ’90s on 9. So for The Beatles Channel, you have to tune your satellite radios to Channel 18. But numerology enthusiasts, such as Yoko Ono, will be happy to note the time this new channel is launching: 9:09 a.m. ET.  And if you don’t know the significance of “The One after 909,” or “number nine, number nine…,” then maybe this channel isn’t for you anyway. Or, come to think of it, maybe it’s for you most of all.


ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: I don’t recommend watching this show, really, not any more. But I do marvel at both its impact and its longevity. With tonight’s episode, Grey’s Anatomy concludes Season 13, a truly impressive stretch. And it’s not just limping to the seasonal finish line – it’s sprinting there as ABC’s most popular drama series. That’s why so many of ABC’s dramas, for good or for ill, tend to be painted with the same Shonda Rhimes brush, whether they’re shows from that prolific producer or just shows striving to copy her feverish, popular program elements.


CW, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: And here’s another series that’s not being recommended, really, but also is being noted for its durability. Supernatural, with tonight’s two-hour episode, concludes Season 12 – and that’s really an astounding achievement, when you consider that the network presenting it, the CW, is only 11 years old. (Nothing paranormal about that fact: Supernatural began on the WB, and was imported to its new home when the WB and UPN merged to form the CW.)

CNN, 10:00 p.m. ET

For two weeks running now, the scheduled episode of CNN’s Soundtracks – about the shooting of students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard in 1970, and the music it inspired, such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s searingly swift response, “Ohio” – has been pre-empted by breaking news emanating from the White House. And a betting man, or woman, would be wise to bet that tonight will make it three for three. But I’m setting my DVR anyway, in the fervent but most likely futile hope that, for one day at least, headlines will calm down a bit.


Starz!, 10:01 p.m. ET

Stanley Tucci co-directs (with Campbell Scott), co-writes (with Joseph Tropiano) and co-stars (with Tony Shalhoub) in this utterly captivating 1996 movie, about dissimilar brothers, both gifted cooks, teaming together to make a go of it with their proudly authentic Italian restaurant. The restaurant’s future all comes down to one super-important “big night,” and it’s as hilarious as it is touching, dramatic and intense. And the final scene, performed and shot in real time, is one that anyone who’s ever cooked in a kitchen – especially, but not exclusively, an Italian one – will absolutely adore. Co-stars include Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Liev Schreiber, Marc Anthony and Allison Janney. This movie is now 21 years old – but like the food it serves, couldn’t seem more fresh.

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As regards America's Got Talent: when you (DB) write that it's a live show, that is not true for the western time zones. 8 pm ET is 7 pm CT, where it airs live. But unlike a sports broadcast, live in all time zones, this and programs like it are recorded replays in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii (and presumably Guam, if it's still there this evening).
Aug 22, 2017   |  Reply
Eclipse redux. I went to the NASA Channel for the event and was treated to an amazing afternoon of visuals and not-so-polished announcers(a good thing) and no ads(a better thing). C-SPAN 1(unleaded,I guess) simulcast the NASA feed(which included a visit from the space station and pictures they took),so,not unlike NOAA providing the best weather info,our tax dollars seemed to do a great job yesterday. Seemed to me that most of the scientists interviewed were women-a good thing for the granddaughters to experience.Science Channel is not on the overpriced 100+ channels on our upgraded,but still not premium, cable setup(lots of channels selling crud,lots of religious channels selling much the same,but little science)but I'd bet that NASA did as good a job. Don't tell Trump,McConnell & Ryan or they may defund the truth for the masses.
Aug 22, 2017   |  Reply
"Experiment in Terror" is a terrific and very creepy movie. Worth mentioning that it's directed by Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini wrote the very effective background music. I always use this film as an example of what's wrong with movies today. While you are watching it just imagine what a remake would be like. Everything that is insinuated and left to your own feverish imagination in the original would be made graphic and in your face. A remake would be uglier and yet not nearly as unsettling.
Aug 22, 2017   |  Reply
Great Mancini music! Underappreciated,as is Henry's Soldier's In The Rain. Experiment in Terror came out after the practice of radio versions of films and plays(Lux Radio Theatre),but it might have made a decent "theatre of the mind" experiment. True terror is in your head,just ask Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock.
Aug 22, 2017
Correction -- according to schedules on both BBC America and Comcast "Planet Earth: Wild West" will air on three consecutive Saturday nights, not three episodes tonight.
Aug 19, 2017   |  Reply
Linda Donovan
Our apologies. They keep changing these schedules without consulting us! Thank you, MAS...
Aug 19, 2017
In the interest of equality, I was hoping to see Solheim Cup competition listed here among Best Bets, since the PGA Championship was listed (as you typically list most, if not all, of the men's majors).

Can you give the distaff side an equal share of you Best Bets moving forward? I'm surely watching our best women competing in the name of our country!
Aug 19, 2017   |  Reply
I second the accolades for Episodes! It's been fantastic, and should have received a lot more attention as funny and smart comedy. I never really thought of Matt LaBlanc any which way for his acting or comedic abilities, but he has been brilliant in this show.
Aug 19, 2017   |  Reply
Keith Robin
Well said. I could not agree with your more!
Aug 19, 2017
Sean Dougherty
Why do you list movies that are on after this publishes? It seems mean. Midnight ET was 11.5 hours ago.
Aug 17, 2017   |  Reply
If you are referring to the TCM showing of His Girl Friday,that was on @ midnight Thurs.,going into Friday AM. Best Bets for 8/17 was published many hours before. True,sometimes the BBs are late(I'd like to see them up 6AM-8AM when I do my daily news read,but this one wasn't. And know that ,if indeed it is a TCM showing,the channel considers their day starting @ 6AM till 5:59AM the next day,so if they have a film scheduled @ 2AM Friday,TCM lists it as a Thurs. offering on their own schedule. And if one missed His Girl Friday,TCM shows this with some frequency-don't go to the commercial film sites like Movies-you will regret it. Also,ff TCM has a film scheduled,they can email you a few days before screening.
Aug 18, 2017
will forest
Why never any posts about Preacher? It's a great edgy show.
You seem to be so far away fro the type of TV i watch, that if you recommend it, I look for the reason why I should avoid it.
Aug 15, 2017   |  Reply
I tried to watch the Thursday version of Weekend Update, but turned it off after two minutes because of the phony canned laughter. What a disappointment!
Aug 11, 2017   |  Reply
Evidently viewers who stayed were treated by Bill Hader skewing Antny(sic) Scaramucci. Yo,Mooch,we hardly knew #$%^& 'ya!. And were better for it. Cameos from the better cast members of yesterday(please,no Adam Sandler) might keep folks setting their DVRs &orfollowing You Tube for the good stuff.
Aug 13, 2017
They need canned laughter because it isn't funny hoping you will laugh along with the annoying sound of fake laughs.
Aug 11, 2017
Re:Glen Campbell's passing. I have met two singer/songwriters important to Campbell's success as a singer(this, after being a studio go-to-guitar wiz and touring Beach Boy): John Hartford (Gentle On my Mind) and Jim Webb (Wichita Lineman,Galveston,By The Time i Get To Phoenix-and those are just the hits). Both great performers in their own right,but both knew what Campbell brought to their art. Webb has heartfelt words about his friend on his Facebook page. Webb also performs regularly and sometimes has a "Glen Campbell Years" show with singing and stories from the era. Adios!
Aug 10, 2017   |  Reply
Bummer, looks like XFinity does not get the AT&T Audience Network. I would have loved to watch Mr. Mercedes.
Aug 10, 2017   |  Reply
You and me both. I enjoyed the book a lot. I think Mr. Mercedes is only on Dish Network but am hoping it will air on cable in the not too distant future.
Aug 12, 2017
Reiny in Berkeley
Wow. A Firesign Theater ref in your Room 104 review! But are you sure the name is not Regnad Kcin? Thanks for the flashback.
Aug 4, 2017   |  Reply
Elton LeHew
Feed burner says I am already getting your feed, but I no longer am. Can you help me get back on? Thanks. Elton
Aug 3, 2017   |  Reply
Hello Elton: We will look into it -- the feed burner service is a bit old and it might take a little work to update it.
Aug 10, 2017
I am glad The Guest Book comes recommended because my dad who only watches three tv shows, heard a review of it earlier this week and really wants to check it out
Aug 3, 2017   |  Reply
Frank Dracman
Proof that my previous post was dead-on b***s accurate-David Bianculli: "...that’s only because I’m desperate, after six months, for a slow news week."
Aug 2, 2017   |  Reply
Frank Dracman
David B. says " Good thing it was a slow news week, so he’ll have an easy time easing his way back into the swing of things…", as he slowly removes his tongue from his cheek!
Jul 30, 2017   |  Reply
With DB's first in 10 years Best Bets recommendation(s) for last night, how could I not do MY best to watch all 4 of Hitchcock's best? So, I watched Vertigo, North by Northwest and half of Psycho but had to bite the bullet and and make myself go to bed before I could watch my very favorite, The Birds.

I still remember when I saw, The Birds as a 10 year old child. I was scared by it and mesmerized all at the same time. I normally didn't scare easy but Hitchcock got me good that night. And I haven't seen it since! How did they make the birds do what they did? I really need to see it again.
Jul 28, 2017   |  Reply
I like Hooten and the Lady. It is so old fashioned and cute. You seem to knock it every week as you recommend it.
Jul 27, 2017   |  Reply
Re:South Korean show named God's Gift:That phrase was used by my long-departed boss as a nickname for the mailman for our shopping center. He wore shorts as much as possible,was tanned and wore a pith helmet-always attracting the attention of the ladies on the route. We sometimes followed him when he entered another emporium,just to see the attention for him-rarely failed. The nickname was a shortened version of "God's Gift To Women". Next dull Summer day I'll tell you about Leafblower,Leafblower II(his replacement) and Those Two Cleaning Guys From the Multiplex Who Looked Like They Were Going to Steal Stuff But Who Proved To Be Nice Guys(well,one did).
Jul 25, 2017   |  Reply
This is a family-safe place,so I can't print the urban legend blooper of a TV showing of The Barefoot Contessa. The story has the announcer saying:"The next portion the film is sponsored by Bayer Aspirin. Stay tuned for tonight's feature:Ava Gardner in the Barea-- Contessa. Most bloopers have no real tape to authenticate;many that purport to be the real thing are recreations or possibly written after the fact. What actually exists is a 1955 Mad Magazine parody-The Barefoot Nocountessa. Mad icon Jack Davis gets credit for story and art. The movie poster tagline,"The Most Beautiful Animal", refers to Lassie. The parody stars Humphrey Yogurt,Ava Nother ,"plus a cast of plaster". Davis could draw a curvy creature like Gardner better than anyone on staff but lots of Bogey closeups add to the fun! Davis did lots of real movie posters:It's A Mad,Mad,Mad, World and The Russians are Coming!The Russians Are Coming are two standouts.
Jul 24, 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 and his latest, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is now available at Amazon. The paperback version will be released fall, 2017.


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 $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

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