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THURSDAY
SEPTEMBER 21
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Fox, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: This new season of Gotham, Season 4, moves forward in its character studies, bringing the principals even closer to the costumed heroes, and villains, familiar from the Batman canon. In fact, by the end of next week’s episode, young Bruce Wayne will don a mask, and costume, as he decides to fight evil on the dark streets of Gotham. And this week, we get even bolder power grabs by the people we know, or soon will know, as the Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow.

 
  
 
 

PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

Part 5. Tonight’s episode covers the last half of 1967, when both the war and the body count escalated significantly – on both sides. It’s a period during which President Lyndon Johnson assures the American public that victory is around the corner. Instead, what’s around the corner, in the next episode, is the demoralizing surprise Vietnamese attack known as the Tet offensive. For a full review of this episode, see Alex Strachan’s TV That Matters. Check local listings.
 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

TCM tonight offers an evening of movies about music – not movie musicals, but films capturing the energy and evolution of rock music. And how rapid an evolution it was. The evening begins with 1968’s Monterey Pop, chronicling the first major music festival,1967’s gathering at Monterey, where Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and others all broke through as major stars. The evening ends, at 1:30 a.m. ET, with 1970’s Woodstock, which famously captured the peace, love, music, drugs and mud at 1969’s Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. In between those two seminal films are two others, the Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back and the Rolling Stones concert movie Gimme Shelter, a disastrous post-Woodstock event that resulted in the murder of a concertgoer, and the death of the peace-and-love Woodstock era. Watch them all. And listen closely.

 
  
 
 

Fox, 9:01 p.m. ET

This third episode of The Orville plays more like a standard episode of Star Trek than anything else – and that’s not a complaint. The plot is pure Sixties-era Trek, with questions asked that are properly allegorical and philosophical. Two crew members have a baby, but there are certain sci-fi twists. The crew members are both male, the child is hatched from an egg, and is born healthy – healthy, but female, which is such a rare and unwanted occurrence in that species’ culture that they ask the ship’s doctor to perform a sex-change operation, and turn their baby girl into a baby boy. It’s a premise that, in the hands of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, could have been played purely for laughs – but it isn’t.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 9:30 p.m. ET

This 1967 documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker follows Bob Dylan on his 1965 concert tour of England. By the time the movie was released, Dylan already had solidified his next musical transformation, and released the groundbreaking, genre-busting, game-changing “Like a Rolling Stone.” But he’s just as potent a force here, too, whether seen mocking Donovan, performing mesmerizingly in concert, or – in the opening filmed sequence – prefiguring both music videos and rap music in his rapid-fire filmed “presentation” of his lyrically dense “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” “Better stay away from those / That carry around a fire hose / Keep a clean nose / Watch the plain clothes / You don’t need a weatherman / To know the way the wind blows…”

 
  
 
 

TCM, 11:45 p.m. ET

In the summer of 1969 came Woodstock, building on the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and ushering in a new age of multi-act, multi-day musical festivals. This new age didn’t last more than a few months. In Florida, I attended two that year, in West Palm Beach and Miami – in the former, the closing three acts on the final night were, in order, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, and the Rolling Stones. Not too shabby. But then, before 1969 was out, came Altamont, where the Rolling Stones, one of several acts playing or scheduled to play there, sang and played as the Hell’s Angels security force stabbed an audience member to death. This 1970 film, by David and Albert Maysles, presents it all. The music is powerful, the mood satanic, the end of an era undeniable. And a few years later, the Maysles brothers would film another eerie, unforgettable documentary: Grey Gardens.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 1:30 a.m. ET

This 1970 movie has been updated, over the years, with several director’s cut editions adding formerly unused footage of performances and interviews. No matter which version of this documentary is shown by TCM tonight, though, it’s guaranteed to include the highlights, which include Joe Cocker singing “With a Little Help from My Friends” and Jimi Hendrix performing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Watch comfortably from your living rooms, because the New York State Thruway is closed, man!
 
  
 
 
 
 
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1234 Comments
 
 
Bob516
I'm curious why the words SERIES PREMIERE starts off the section on Vice Principals, since it was first on last year. Are you going British on us?

I can handle that if you are, but The Orville?
Sep 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
David Kirshenbaum
Sorry I didn't catch this earlier, but surprised you missed it yourself- (so unlike you!) - The director character in The Band Wagon is actually played by Jack Buchanan... primarily a British music-hall star for whom this was easily his main screen credit (and a great one at that). The always-terrific Oscar Levant is one of the writers of the show-within-the-show... he's essentially playing Adolph to Nanette Fabray's Betty Comden. But yes, what a movie, and definitely an essential.
Congratulations on the paperback, and not least of all, glad you finally came around a bit on the new Twin Peaks by the end - no TV I've watched this summer has frustrated and thrilled me more, or kept me thinking about it as much nearly 2 weeks now (& counting) since it ended.
Keep up all the great work!
Sep 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Unable to comment 9/12 but keep in the back of your mind a documentary TCM showed last night that is sure to repeat. Harold & Lillian:A Hollywood Love Story. I'll disclose one of the last events this couple shared:The king & queen in Shrek II were named after them-an homage after decades of behind-the scenes work on many an important post-WWII studio film,including Hitchcock and Mike Nichols(especially The Graduate). Harold was a storyboard artist and later art director,Lillian a research librarian with a self-made library of much needed background materials for Coppola and many others. Their connection to Rain Man alone will bring tears intertwining their personal lives. Much of it told in storyboard/cartoon drawing with personal artifacts as important the the shoes from the Wizard of Oz. Real love stories like this rarely make it to film. Cherish the result and the candid imperfections life gives those struggling to create art and live in the real world. Heartbreaking yet uplifting.
Sep 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
David Tarpley
Is there a written version of David Bianculli September 14, 2017 review of Ken Burns' Viet Nam documentary?
Sep 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Here you go, David... http://www.npr.org/2017/09/14/550939307/new-ken-burns-series-remembers-vietnam-war-through-the-eyes-of-everyday-people
Sep 14, 2017
 
 
 
Keith Robin
No mention of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee? Her show is new tonight, at least according to my program guide.
Sep 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
What is with the screenwriters' savaging of the Robin character on How I Met Your Mother? It's fun to hate seemingly appealing people, I guess. Sure, she's fictional, but making her so selfish and vain to make other characters look better ... makes her too unreal
Sep 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Eric-re; VWW- Totally agree with you about not taking our 24 hour hurricane tracking coverage for granted. I told someone that I was weary of waiting so long for Irma to make landfall and he said, but can you imagine what it was like before we had a warning system of any kind? Good point!
Sep 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Wow! Top of the Lake:China sounds good. With Elizabeth Moss and Nicole Kidman plus Prime Suspect....Ya, I'm in. Sure did need this too! Just back to being able to watch a TV show rather than waiting for Irma's wrath to be done with. Thanks!
Sep 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
9/11 TCM night,which starts with Swiss Family Robinson, is a Disney Vault night,hosted by Leonard Maltin and at 12:15AM,stick around for one of truly great Disney short: Lonesome Ghosts,which not only may have been the inspiration for Ghostbusters,but Mickey Mouse,Donald
Duck and Goofy,as well as the ghosts,pack more jokes in seven minutes than all three Ghostbusters films combined, and throw in those horrid animated versions,both the The Real or Filmation's cheapo stuff(they had the name Ghostbusters first) as well.
Sep 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
feel better
Sep 8, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Post-Jerry Lewis TCM tribute:
While TCM ran their quickly assembled Lewis tribute 9/4,Movies!,a sub-channel network co-owned by Wiegel Broadcasting(MeTV,H&I,Decades,etc.) & 21st Century Fox,had a similar tribute that ran all day. Included were:Don't Give Up the Ship,The Ladies' Man,Boeing-Boeing,The Family Jewels,You're Never Too Young(Martin/Lewis) and The Nutty Professor(the only movie on both channels). Movies! has commercials and often edits and speeds up times,so it is rarely a go-to place to watch movies(also incredibly cheap filler between films),but it is interesting that the two channels had Lewis fare for Labor Day.
BTW,TCM had Ben Mankiewitz and Illeana Douglas for intros. Ms. Douglas, a past romantic partner with Martin Scorese( he directed Lewis in King Of Comedy),is quite capable of hosting solo as she had done for TCM in the past. The intros were poorly edited. One would hope a bit more breathing room for her stories.
Sep 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
I led off my original TCM-Lewis tribute post with the Labor Day connection. Still,it is rare that TCM ran a Remembers spot just hours after Lewis died and they were able to assemble the tribute in such short time. Many times these take days and weeks to assemble.
BTW,Movies! is sprinkling a few more Lewis films this month:The Geisha Boy,The Delicate Delinquent and The Family Jewels show up in the next two weeks. Their website schedule only shows 14 days in advance-another negative for the network as they don't realize that movie fans plan far ahead for certain films. Case in point: last night's TCM's Werner Herzog tribute(thanks,David), featuring all TCM premieres. The only knock is that they scheduled the Fitzcarraldo documentary eight hours after the movie. Showing them back-to back would have made sense. Strange,too that the doc is available from Criterion but there are no Herzog films in their catalog.
Sep 8, 2017
 
 
Tom
"but it is interesting that the two channels had Lewis fare for Labor Day. "

Labor Day was the The Jerry Lewis MDA Day Telethon
Sep 6, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
TCM's Beach Party also includes For Those Who Think Young(2AM ET)which quite possibly is an early "placement" movie(there's a subject needing a written history). The title comes from Pepsi-Cola's then-current ad slogan. I have never seen this(and don't plan to tonight)but there seems to be numerous Pepsi vending machines throughout(a good drinking game but diabetics like me must resort to Diet Pepsi-ecch!). Unfortunately,the movie doesn't use the vocalist for the ads-Joanie Sommers-and I can't find out if there is any version of the jingle(signs point to no). Anyway,like many of these '60s B movies,look for lots of recognizable folk: Tina Louise & Bob Denver(Gilligan's Island),Paul Lynde,Nancy Sinatra(Daddy- Frank) & Claudia Martin(Daddy- Dean).Co-written by George O'Hanlon,who starred in all of the Joe McDoakes Warner one reelers on TCM(and was the voice of George Jetson:"Jane!Stop this crazy thing!"). Movie title also used for the great MadMen season 2 opener.
Sep 1, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
"Today is Marion Davies day on TCM. If her name isn’t that familiar as a star in the Hollywood constellation, try this: She was the B-list actress who was the mistress of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst..."

And (for fans of symphony orchestras, or anyone who has ever lived in or visited the San Francisco Bay area) the "Davies" in Davies Symphony Hall, home to Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.
Aug 29, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Labor Day weekend meant the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon,hosted by the late
Jerry Lewis for decades. It is kinda fitting,yet bizarre,that TCM will spool five Lewis films this Labor Day,9/4. The lineup:
8PM-The Nutty Professor-The best known Lewis film.
10PM-The King of Comedy-Martin Scorsese directs Robert DeNiro as an obsessive wannbe comic kidnapping a Johnny Carson-type,played by Lewis,and mayhem happens with dark ideas. If you aren't familiar with Lewis,avoid this. But longtime fans,and fans of the classic talk-show format,should watch,no matter how strange things get.
12AM-The Stooge-Lewis with Dean Martin,at the time the hottest duo with radio,clubs,screen and TV. The film plays with the idea of the straight man and the clown. They made 16 films from 1959 to 1956.
2AM-The Bellboy-Lewis in total control:producing,writing,directing,even a cameo as himself. Lewis as the schlub bellboy is silent.
3:30AM-The Disorderly Orderly,directed by Frank Tashlin,who directed cartoons.
Aug 29, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mark Flannery
The film "Sideways" was set in Santa Barbara County's wine country, not Northern California. The two places are several hundred miles apart.
Aug 29, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Thank you, Mark. Fixed.
Aug 29, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Musical version of Blazing Saddles? Can't wait or the campfire scene. Little toots? And there has to be a Wells Fargo Wagon type of anticipation number for the arrival of the Rock Ridge Sheriff. It's Hedley,not Hedy. Gum?Spit it out! Did you bring enough for everybody! This thing writes itself!
Aug 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
TCM's annual Summer Under The Stars usually keeps Sat. & Sun. for superstars with deep catalog(e.g.-Jimmy Cagney last night). But today they spotlight Leslie Caron,which,while never approaching the status of Grace Kelly,Doris Day,Audrey Hepburn or Elizabeth Taylor in the post-WWII era,has an interesting canon worth spending some time on the penultimate Summer Sun. And much of it is family friendly:The Glass Slipper,Gigi,Father Goose,a modern day documentary about Caron(always required TCM viewing to understanding film)and Lili-about 12 consecutive hours of a fascinating actress and how she slowly,almost quietly, made her mark in film. Still active at 86.
Aug 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
Oops. An American in Paris follows Glass Slipper,which is always worth your time.
Aug 27, 2017
 
 
 
Elise
If you pay to watch the fight tonight, make sure you watch the singer of the Irish national anthem. If you never heard of her before? You'll know her now. Imelda May. One of Ireland's national treasures.
Aug 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
Thank goodness for the internet to capture this post-fight moment so I didn't have to shell out a hundred bucks for a truly lame pseudo sporting event. But that singing was amazing!. I actually had to investigate why this part of the Las Vegas spectacle-MacGregor is Irish born. Seems he is referred as the Notorious Mystic Mac. Me,I'm neither notorious,nor mystic,but I am still a Mac.Big? Yea,I get that a lot,thanks to Tastykakes & cheesesteaks,but I usually tell folks my nickname is "Mac,like the truck." Allentown was once world headquarters for Mack trucks and their hq was just a few blocks from where I'm writing. I digress. Erin go braugh,except for pretend sports like last night. Time for some pretend football in August!
Aug 27, 2017
 
 
 
Neil
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
 
 
Mac
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
 
 
 
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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 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. 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. 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