DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

GABRIELA TAMARIZ

Social Media Manager

Contributors

DONNA J. PLESH

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

MONIQUE NAZARETH

JONATHAN STORM

P.J. BEDNARSKI

DAVID SICILIA

 
 
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WEDNESDAY
AUGUST 20
2014

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Netflix, Check local listings

SERIES PREMIERE: Here’s a new Netflix Original series, produced by the BBC, that arrives today with a lot less fanfare than the usual Netflix offering – but it’s well worth seeking out and sampling. Shown in the U.K. earlier this year, the six-episode drama series stars Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, a uniformed police sergeant in a small valley town in Yorkshire. It may be setting expectations too high to compare Happy Valley to Helen Mirren’s groundbreaking role in Prime Suspect, but there definitely are parallels here, especially in the way we get to know her home life, and personal travails, as much as we do her workplace problems and persistent, intuitive investigative work. The strength of Happy Valley is that it presents fully drawn portraits of all its key characters, not just the central protagonist. Try one episode, and I’m betting you’ll stay for all six -- all of which are available immediately.
 
  
 
 

BBC America, Check local listings

I could have just pointed out the Doctor Who takeover week, with its wall-to-wall programming and complete romps through the modern era of this delightful and durable sci-fi series, because I’ve seen all these episodes before. But no. I had to turn my TV to BBC America and get sucked in all over again, freshly impressed by the cleverness of the writing and the freshness of the acting. Few series can manage to be so funny, so suspenseful, so genuinely involving, and so unpredictable, all in the same hour. And the hits just keep on coming. Today, feast on the reboot’s Season 4 episodes, featuring Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, and end up shifting to yet another Doctor. And it’s all building up to Saturday’s new tag-team transfer of the show’s starring role – a role that began on TV back in 1963.

 
  
 
 

ESPN 2, 5:30 p.m. ET

It’s been 25 years since Pete Rose signed a contract agreeing to a lifetime ban from professional baseball – a contract he now says he thought was for one year, and a ban that this special reevaluates in the light of what other baseball players have done since, and how their punishments do and don’t measure up. Interviewees in this special include both Rose and the baseball commissioner who banned him, Bud Selig.

 
  
 
 

CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

CBS is doubling down, or at least doubling up, on this Halle Berry sci-fi series tonight, by presenting two episodes back to back. That’s usually less a show of confidence than a desire to burn off the remaining episodes before the fall season begins in earnest – and that could well be the case here as well.

 
  
 
 

Sundance, 10:00 p.m. ET

I absolutely adore this 1977 movie – which must be obvious to even the casual TVWW reader, because I highlight it almost every time it’s televised. And why not? It’s one of the funniest comedies ever filmed – and one of the most inventive, too. And in the supporting roles, even the actors and actresses showing up just for a line or two hit it out of the park. This time, I think I’ll run a picture of Jeff Goldblum, who always makes me laugh.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 

VIDEO WORTH WATCHING

TEARS FOR A CLOWN -- We’ve heard, read and seen many eloquent and emotional tributes to Robin Williams since his death on August 11th.  When David Letterman returned to Late Show after his vacation, it was his turn to pay homage to the highly revered and much beloved actor/comedian. But this one was different. This tribute was for a buddy of nearly 40 years from someone who couldn’t say enough wonderful things about him yet is clearly distressed he had no idea his friend was in such pain. But along with the sadness, Letterman, just like Williams, insisted we should laugh. – Linda Donovan

 
 

TV WE'RE WATCHING

  
   Visit TV We're Watching for these and other shows on
our DVRs right now...


The Divide
WeTV
Wednesdays
9 PM ET

Drunk History
Comedy Central
Tuesdays
10 PM ET

The Honorable Woman
Sundance
Thursdays
10 PM ET

The Knick
Cinemax
Fridays
10 PM ET

Manhattan
WGN America
Sundays
10 PM ET

Moyers & Company
PBS
Check Local Listings

POV
PBS
Mondays
10 PM ET
Check Local Listings

Ray Donovan
Showtime
Sundays
9 PM ET

Rectify
Sundance
Thursdays
9 PM ET

The Strain
FX
Sundays
10 PM ET
 
 

BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE!


FRESH AIR FAVES

Audio of Bianculli's favorite 'Fresh Air' reports, and the stories behind them...


FAVES FROM
"THE MORGUE"

Bianculli's favorite newspaper articles, and the stories behind them...


EXTRAS & FEEDBACK

Share your favorite TV in-jokes and first TV loves...

TV JUKEBOX

A new edition of Bianculli's favorite TV themes, coming soon!
 
 
 

From TV Worth Watching
TOP PICKS FOR YOUR HOME LIBRARY

The TVWW Seal of Approval is an honor we save for TV’s very best – our picks for a truly teleliterate home video library.
 
 

BARBARIANS AT THE GATE – Partly in honor of the passing of James Garner, but also because this 1993 HBO movie fully deserves a Seal of Approval, here it is: a boldly conceptualized, brilliantly realized black comedy about a subject as complex as it would appear to be humorless: the true-life behind-the-scenes story of a leveraged buyout corporate takeover of a major tobacco company. Larry Gelbart wrote the teleplay, based on the nonfiction book by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, that achieved this triumph, and Garner, starring as plain-spoken tobacco executive F. Ross Johnson, absolutely nails it. One of the best, and smartest, and funniest, telemovies ever made, by HBO or anyone else. Co-stars include Jonathan Pryce, Peter Riegert and Joanna Cassidy. Glenn Jordan directs. –David Bianculli

 
 

This Day in TV History

 
 
 
 
 

Dispatches from TVWW

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Robin Williams: 1951-2014
By Bill Brioux
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 TV WWorth Buying
 TOP TVWW SPECIAL DEAL$

'My Name is Earl': Season One

The list of sitcom anti-heroes is long, from Basil Fawlty and Archie Bunker up to Larry David’s infamous self-styled pariah. Jason Lee had a good run in the NBC comedy My Name is Earl (2005 - 2009), about petty criminal and lay-about Earl Hickey, who wins the lottery and is immediately hit by a car. Recovering in a haze of morphine, he dedicates himself to settling his karmic debt by doing good deeds – making up for every bad thing he’s ever done. Needless to say, that’s not the end of his misdeeds or the apologies to come. Executive producer Gregory Garcia would go on to make the similarly themed comedy about similarly downtrodden underachievers, Raising Hope, on Fox in 2010. The Season 1 DVD (perhaps the most focused) is on sale for $12.50 at Amazon. – Eric Gould