SUNDAY
DECEMBER 21
2014

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

ABC, 7:00 p.m. ET

Last night, NBC repeated its 2013 Sound of Music Live! television adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical, starring Carrie Underwood. Tonight, ABC trumps that, and wins the holiday pot, by rebroadcasting the 1965 movie version of that same Broadway musical. This one, of course, stars Julie Andrews, and doesn’t require a spoonful of sugar to swallow it. It arrives plenty sweet enough as is.

 
  
 
 

HBO, 7:55 p.m. ET

In this fact-based 2013 war drama, four Navy SEALS are stuck in the mountains of Afghanistan, isolated from reinforcements, when their routine-sounding mission devolves into an unexpected battle against a veritable army of Taliban fighters. Peter Berg directed and is co-writer, and the stars include Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch. The latter, of course, worked with Berg before, on the TV version of Friday Night Lights. But don’t get too attached to both of these leading roles, because the title doesn’t bode well.

 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

Here’s an exciting new occasional offering from TCM: dipping into the Disney vault for vintage treasures, just like they used to do on The Mickey Mouse Show. Tonight’s dip into the Disney archives begins at 8 p.m. ET with a trio of vintage shorts, starting with 1932’s Santa’s Workshop. At 8:30 p.m. ET comes 1954’s The Disneyland Story, the preview for the still-under-construction California theme park, which opened Disney’s cannily cross-promotional ABC series Disneyland. And at 11 p.m. ET – pay attention, Baby Boomers – TCM presents Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, a movie compilation of episodes, starring Fess Parker, made for the Disneyland series as one of television’s first miniseries. And stay up late, or set your recorders, for 12:45 a.m. ET, when the evening continues with 1954’s The Vanishing Prairie, one of those early Disney nature films that, while unabashedly manipulative in its storytelling and editing, probably had as much to do with the birth of the environmental movement as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: You’ve got to give credit to this season’s villain, Haqqani, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but with the right human shield to protect him. First it was Saul, whose presence prevented Haqqani from being obliterated by a bomb strike. Then, last week, it was Carrie, whose presence at the scene of Quinn’s planned bombing of Haqqani’s vehicle allowed him to drive away unscathed from that potential assassination as well. But the person Carrie saw in the back of Haqqani’s car – that means trouble, and leads to the climactic confrontation back home in the States. It’s been a very strong, rebounding season, so this is one to make an effort to watch.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: Whether you watch this season finale depends upon how drawn you’ve been by the interlocking, often contradictory love story that, by tonight’s episode, takes back seat to a detective story. Whether the questions are answered to your satisfaction will depend – on both what you’re expecting, and how the show delivers.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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516 Comments
 
 
Perry
Oh Magoo, You've done it again. You've brought down the House.

Happy Holidays everyone!
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Perry
Wow, they disrespected the last 15 minutes of Magoo with crass Promos.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Perry
The Magoo Christmas Carol is my favorite. Right up there with Charlie Brown And Rudolph. I know the words to all the songs. I remember 7am Saturday mornings waiting for this episode so I could sing along. Today's audience may have trouble watching the first half, but the total is Gold. And Razzleberry Dressing.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Thank you for recommending 'High Society', the remake of the great 'Philadelphia Story'. However, I'm fairly certain that Frank Sinatra plays the Jimmy Stewart part (a reporter sent to cover the wedding) rather than the fiancé.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
For my final thoughts on The Colbert Report---Sarah Watches For You!: The Colbert Report 2005-2014 http://sarahwatches4u.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-colbert-report-2005-2014.html?spref=tw
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Well,the first Colbert Report in the marathon was last night's show,so maybe they are going in reverse order.Can't stay with this,but it might lead up to the first episode to spool at 10:30PM.
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Dan Malloy
It is Wednesday 9:09 am and I'm locked into Tuesday's Best bets.
FLIP THE SWITCH EARLIER!!!!!
Dec 17, 2014   |  Reply
 
David Bianculli
Dear Dan: Please find attached a refund for the remaining portion of your paid subscription. Oh, wait... Well, happy holidays regardless.
Dec 17, 2014
 
 
 
Dave
Your observation re: The Voice that "not one judge selected a female to advance to the final rounds" is puzzling. I believe audience votes (and iTunes downloads) determine which singers advance in the live rounds, not the judges.
Dec 15, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
George
Oprah as one of the most fascinating people of 2014? Why? Oh, that's right, I forgot -- she's on the list every year, because she insists!
Dec 14, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
So,even at an hour, Rudolph gets the modern day chopped & sped routine to fit in the one hour timeslot.I thought for years that the original fitted into a 90 minute slot,since it came on at 5:30PM on its 1964 premiere.Evidently,though,it only pre-empted the G.E.College Bowl & Meet the Press,two half hour shows.And one wonders if the GE small appliance ads,featuring the elves,will ever see the light...that's how I'd celebrate Rudy's 50th.Evidently,even the new Blu-Ray package is just a shiny cover and no attempts to restore Rudy properly since the last do-over in 2008.
Meanwhile,A Charlie Brown Christmas will have a Peanuts movie in theaters when it turns 50 next year and the trailer alludes to the original Christmas special with Snoopy's doghouse lighting contest now involving Woodstock & Co.(pretty good,too).
Dec 9, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
lovely as mention by View from http://www.unathievents.co.za
Dec 7, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Poly Cobb
On your Fresh Air discussion of the live version of "Peter Pan," you said that the craze for the play began with the Mary Martin production. The production I remember and thought so much better was the 1950 production with Jean Arthur as Peter and Boris Karloff as Capt. Hook. Leonard Bernstein wrote a full score, but in the end only five of the songs, plus incidental music, were used. Jean Arthur was so perfectly boy-ish and Karloff showed a wonderful comedic/evil gift in portraying Hook. He also did Mr. Darling. There is a recording of that production which includes much spoken material and all of the songs, and it is a delight--at least to those of us who were enchanted by it as children. I hope you discover it for yurself sometime.
Dec 4, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
You recommend the chopped-for- more commercials version of Charlie Brown Christmas without mentioning the new Toy Story special that proceeded it?It's been a long time since I spooled through an ABC version of Charlie Brown and was left dizzy and disappointed.Meanwhile,even with all of the Disne/ABC fire power and Wal-Mart(exclusives on the figures)couldn't diminish the power of a kid's imagination.Hope the kids scorned the ads between the story and got back to playing with last year's toys while waiting for a new haul in a few weeks.
Dec 2, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mary Ann Rund
Mr. Bianculli, Thank you so much for mentioning the cultural shift of sharing television programming vs. individual selection. I doubt many people consider how this has contributed to our current culture. In my Dance As Art Form course, we discuss the importance of shared experience, particularly in dance and theatre. In the past, whatever townspeople created or, if they were so lucky, the production of a touring company, was what people were exposed to and influenced by. Later on, movie houses, television, and now, the ubiquitous online device. All of this change within a century. Yes, we can reach anyone across the world, "like" a site alongside a foe, watch what our friend recommends, but we cannot sit alongside other people of our community to enjoy a work of performance art. I hope that you are right about Peter Pan television broadcast, a kinda-sorta compromise. Thank you for your insights; I hear regularly on Fresh Air, one of my favorite radio programs, still shared.
Dec 2, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Phillip R. Crabb
Well Dave, that time of year again.

Let's hope they put the best of the Christmas classics in some proximity to Christmas.

I see Rudolph is 50 years old. Geesh! I remember when that was new, and the commercials were some of the characters riding on top of Ronson Electric Razors down a hill of snow.

Charlie Brown, the best of them all, with Dolly Madison and Coke commercials.

Would it be asking too much to bring Red Skelton with Freddie the Freeloader Christmas Skit on Christmas Eve?

Best of the Holidays, Dave. Looking forward to your reflections on those classic days.

Phil
Franklin (Sussex County) NJ
Nov 28, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Keith
I'm really enjoying "The Flash" but I am starting to wonder how long its "freak of the week" focus can last. The "freak of the week" nature of "Smallville's" first season was often cited in reviews as a negative. "Smallville" eventually got rid of the "freak of the week" which, I think, strengthened the series for a while before it started going downhill and jumping the shark for other reasons. I'm just hoping that "The Flash" doesn't get too bogged down in limiting the show to villains (or heroes) affected by the particle accelerator disaster. I think "Smallville" learned not to focus each episode on "meteor freaks." Here's hoping that the producers of "The Flash" learn from "Smallville's" mistakes.
Nov 26, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Jan
I was lucky as a child--before DVDs--that both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind were both re-released to theaters, where I saw both of them. When The Wizard if Oz went from black and white to color, it was magical. Only years later, when I saw it as an adult, did I realize how clever the lyrics were. And Gone With The Wind was shown complete with intermission. I'll never forget either one, and I am eternally grateful for my father who loved movies so much that we went almost every weekend. (For some reason, he never let us see The Bowery Boys :-( but I used to see them on a Chicago TV station every Saturday morning and grew to love them. Still do.)
Nov 24, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Lynn
It's not Thanksgiving yet but I am so thankful for the TVWW emails I receive. After reading about the exhibit I now realize all that has been going on and why the TVWW email's timing has been off on some days. But here's the thing-- I see so many of the 'busy' people around me simplify and very much alter the quality of the products they produce. Personally I would rather most products come later but with the depth and quality I count on. A holiday example, I would always rather receive a thoughtful Christmas letter a month after Christmas than a hurriedly signed card weeks before. I watch TV to enrich my life, so I want to watch quality shows and I don't have or want to make the time to check them out myself. So to get reviews I can trust from TVWW, that are pretty much on time, that is absolutely worth receiving a few late ones for me.
Nov 24, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
You wrote today, "Why in the hell hasn’t [The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize] award been bestowed upon the Smothers Brothers..." Simple answer: demos. Everyone wants the 18-49 audience, including PBS. Leno is relatively current, and he appeals to people in that demo who watched the Tonight Show over the last few decades. To have watched and appreciated the Smothers Bros. Comedy Hour in their last year on air, you needed to have been at least 9 years old in 1969, which puts their audience at age 54 or older today. That's past the demos the TV industry wants to reach, so hence, no Smothers. The Prize Committee's choices have to be influenced by that thinking.
Nov 23, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
You wrote today, "Why in the hell hasn’t [The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize] award been bestowed upon the Smothers Brothers..." Simple answer: demos. Everyone wants the 18-49 audience, including PBS. Leno is relatively current, and he appeals to people in that demo who watched the Tonight Show over the last few decades. To have watched and appreciated the Smothers Bros. Comedy Hour in their last year on air, you needed to have been at least 9 years old in 1969, which puts their audience at age 54 or older today. That's past the demos the TV industry wants to reach, so hence, no Smothers. The Prize Committee's choices have to be influenced by that thinking.
Nov 23, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
 
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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.  He's currently at work on another.