DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

KARLE DUNBAR

Social Media Manager

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

GERALD JORDAN

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

CANDACE KELLEY

TOM BRINKMOELLER

MONIQUE NAZARETH

DAVID SICILIA

GABRIELA TAMARIZ

NOEL HOLSTON

JONATHAN STORM

 
 
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FRIDAY
NOVEMBER 17
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE: This new Netflix documentary utilizes a rich treasure trove of formerly unseen footage, filmed for a proposed but unrealized documentary during the time in 1999 when Jim Carrey played performance-art comic Andy Kaufman in the biographical movie Man on the Moon. It also interviews, at length, present-day Carrey, with a rich, David Letterman-style beard, reflecting on his life and comedy, and Kaufman’s, and how they intersected, in and beyond the movie they made. Carrey is smart about what made Kaufman’s approach to comedy unique, and even insightful about his own comedy approach, and how his Jim Carrey “Dr. Jekyll,” in front of an audience or camera, turns into an improvising, not-caring “Mr. Hyde.” The behind-the-scenes footage from Man on the Moon, in which such co-stars as Danny De Vito, Judd Hirsch and Paul Giamatti react in amazement, and sometimes annoyance, to Carrey’s “living-the-role” approach to Kaufman – and to Kaufman’s occasional, ultra-abrasive alter ego, nightclub “performer” Tony Clifton. It’s all of a piece, and Jim & Andy shows how, in that 1999 movie and beyond, those two dissimilar comic approaches did indeed meet, and meld.

 
  
 
 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: The latest Marvel series to appear on Netflix has gotten a head-start: Jon Bernthal, who plays this particular brutal and haunted antihero, first portrayed the Punisher in a season of Netflix’s Daredevil, occupying the major story line as a former soldier seeking revenge for the mob-related deaths of his family. This new spinoff, therefore, doesn’t have to spend a lot of time establishing the superhero’s origin story – good thing, because the Punisher, technically, is not super, and arguably isn’t much of a hero, more of a heavily armed and driven vigilante. But Bernthal, who rose to stardom in The Walking Dead, is excellent at portraying both angst and strength, and lends a little depth to a comic-book title that, frankly, needs it. And Deborah Ann Woll, whose own ride to stardom came in another genre series, True Blood, continues her Daredevil role as Karen Page – one of the few people in that show’s story arc who believed in, or at least empathized with, the man known as the Punisher. So now, together, their story continues.

 
  
 
 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

MOVIE PREMIERE: This new film by Dee Rees is based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, a period piece often, and fairly, described as Faulkneresque. It’s set in Mississippi, after WWII, and is about a family of tenant farmers, and all the tensions that the region’s unforgiving conditions and unrepentant racism threw at them. Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan star, with a strong supporting role provided by Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad.

 
  
 
 

CW, 8:00 p.m. ET

Last week, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend got lots of comedy out of Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) retreating from her woes by going home to mother – who, played by Tovah Feldshuh, was unusually supportive. Unusually and, as it turned out, deceptively, by slipping Rebecca mood-altering drugs without Rebecca’s knowledge. Rebecca found and stole the pills, left her mother, and, on the plane back home, swallowed them all in a suicide attempt before informing the flight attendant. Then, at episode’s end, came a public service message with a suicide hotline number, encouraging viewers who are depressed and potentially suicidal to seek help. It’s a much stronger tone than you’d expect from a CW musical comedy series – and this week’s episode will build on that, not avoid it.

 
  
 
 

PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

I saw this on Broadway, and recommend it to anyone who has seen, or loves, a lot of Broadway history, especially musicals. Harold Prince did a lot of amazing work as the producer of some of Stephen Sondheim’s best musicals, including Company and Follies and Sweeney Todd – but also did a lot of other amazing work, too, and tastes of them are here, enacted by a small but talented cadre of performers, each of whom gets a chance to shine. And, briefly, to play Prince himself. Check local listings.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 9:30 p.m. ET

Hal Ashby directed this astounding 1979 film version of Jerzy Kosinki’s novella, a modern-day fable that took someone as great as Peter Sellers to embody the central role, and the slippery central concept. He plays a man upon whom everyone else projects what they wish, and interprets him accordingly. Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden and Richard Dysart co-star, and there’s a set piece, utilizing a Deodato instrumental, that is cinema perfection.

 
  
 
 

HBO, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: Chelsea Handler. Max Brooks. Rebecca Traister. Bill McKibben. Carl Bernstein. This is Bill Maher’s last show of the season, and it sure sounds like he intends to go out not with a whimper… but with a bang. The week’s top headlines, from tax bills to Al Franken, should provide all the fuel he needs for a big verbal bonfire.

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

TV WE'RE WATCHING

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



Alias Grace
Netflix
Streaming

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
CW
Fridays
8 PM ET

Curb Your Enthusiasm
HBO
Sundays
10 PM ET

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
BBC America
Saturdays
9 PM ET

The Girlfriend Experience
Starz
Sundays
9 PM ET

The Good Place
NBC
Thursdays
8:30 PM ET

Mr. Robot
USA
Wednesdays
10 PM ET

Stranger Things 2
Netflix
Streaming

This Is Us
NBC
Tuesdays
9 PM ET

The Walking Dead
AMC
Sundays
9 PM ET

 
 

VIDEO WORTH WATCHING

Stranger Brew – With their corny lines and canned laugh tracks, ‘80s sitcoms are never far from ironic reference. (See SNL’s surrealistic “Beers” from last weekend’s episode.) For the recent premiere of the second season of Stranger Things, Jimmy Kimmel Live has chimed in and created its own mash up for that horror series since it has a fair amount of retro cliches of its own. Of course, then, it’s a perfect match for Perfect Strangers. In this clip called “Perfect Stranger Things," the kids from Hawkins, Indiana meet Larry and Balki and their new roommate… the Demogorgon. (Perfect Strangers is never far from mind – The Leftovers made hay out of a writers room gag, and made that series and star Mark Linn-Baker into an ongoing subplot for season three.) –Eric Gould
 
 

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...
 
 
 
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 now available in paperback for under $15. 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. Interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer are high points... Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post 
 
 
 

This Day in TV History

 
 
 
 
TV WWorth Buying
TOP TVWW SPECIAL DEAL$$
The Dana Carvey Show

The new Hulu documentary about SNL veteran Dana Carvey’s failed 1996 ABC sketch comedy show is now available. Too Funny to Fail recounts how the iconoclastic series, cancelled after seven episodes, got off to a horrendous start with advertisers, after a sketch with Carvey as then-President Bill Clinton, eager to demonstrate his compassion, suckled a baby, puppies and a kitten simultaneously from canine-like array of prosthetic nipples. Carvey’s edgier side turned out to be somewhat ill-suited for prime time, and the show lost six million viewers before the premiere episode ended. The show is now considered a milestone however for it’s now A-list stable of performers and writers: Louis CK, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Robert Smigel. Includes the final unaired eighth episode and deleted scenes. On sale at Amazon for $18. –Eric Gould