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FRIDAY
MARCH 24
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Netflix, 12:00 a.m. ET

Theater director Lonny Price, an original cast member of Stephen Sondheim’s 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along, directs this documentary looking back at why that particular musical, with its tale told in chronologically reverse order, became a famous flop from Broadway’s reigning musical genius – and what has happened to the show, and the players, since. Price is seen here, along with original castmates Ann Morrison and Jim Walton. This slipped past me when Netflix added it to its schedule last week – but here it is.

 
  
 
 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin return, respectively, in the title roles, launching all of Season 3 today on Netflix. Season 1 began when their husbands, Sam Waterston’s Sol and Martin Sheen’s Robert, admitted they were gay – and in love with one another. In the cliffhanger to end last season, Frankie slept with Sol, which might complicate things. Maybe this season, the show will take on an even more liberated Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice vibe (a famously “swinging” Seventies film), and, eventually, rename itself Grace & Frankie & Sol & Robert. But I doubt it…

 
  
 
 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

The title is taken from the headline of a 1964 Life magazine profile of its, and this film’s subject: famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose achievements included pressing for a successfully argued U.S. Supreme Court case banning mandatory Bible readings in public schools. Writer-director Tommy O’Haver focuses this film biography on the last bit of O’Hair’s life, which certainly has its dramatic elements – but, even with flashbacks, may leave behind some other very interesting bits along the way. Melissa Leo stars in the title role, and co-stars include Juno Temple and Adam Scott.

 
  
 
 

Various Networks, 7:00 p.m. ET

Ken, a longtime, loyal TVWW reader, posted a question yesterday, asking politely, in essence, why I didn’t just keep my basketball-related Best Bets to myself – arguing that anyone who is interested in watching this year’s NCAA college games, or any others, knows where and when to find them, and other readers simply don’t care. And while, in one respect, I appreciate that argument, I’ll beg to persist, giving two reasons of my own. One is that Bianculli’s Best Bets are served up in tiny, stand-alone bites, with a headline that tells you both the subject and the time. If you don’t want to read the entry, just scan or scroll down to the next one. The other is that, especially with tournaments such as March Madness, where games are played on as many as four networks simultaneously, and where the teams playing games aren’t set until a few days before, depending on whether they advance, I feel that even fans who want to follow, say, their alma mater may not know where or when to find their home team. So I did, and will continue to, list the day’s games – also because, in the final analysis, Best Bets are no more, and no less, than what I find most interesting about that day’s universe of TV offerings. So: At 7 p.m. ET on CBS, it’s the South’s No. 4 Butler vs. No. 1 North Carolina. At 7:25 p.m. ET on TBS, it’s the East’s No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 3. Baylor. At 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS, it’s South’s No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 2 Kentucky. And finally,  at about 10 p.m. ET on TBS, it’s East’s No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Florida. If you read that, you took my advice. If you didn’t read that, you took my advice, too. Everybody should be happy…

 
  
 
 

Disney Channel, 7:30 p.m. ET

First came Tangled the animated Disney film, based on the Rapunzel fairy tale and starring Mandy Moore. That was in 2010. Then, earlier this year, came Tangled Before Ever After, a Disney Channel original made-for-TV movie prequel, also starring Moore. And now, beginning today, comes Disney Channel’s Tangled: The Series, an animated series also starring Mandy Moore – who’s also starring, in the flesh, in NBC’s This Is Us, playing Rebecca. I guess it’s true what they say: the Moore the merrier…

 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

Whenever this movie is shown in prime time, I mention it. That’s the rule.

 
  
 
 

VH1, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Normally, I wouldn’t point out this show, even on its Season 9 premiere, but tonight’s episode is special, inarguably and especially thematically. It makes room for a very special guest, as both muse and judge: Lady Gaga. The contestants are asked to dress up with a couple of different fashion “looks” for themselves: one that’s small-town simple, and the other that’s simply Gaga. And the guest judge herself comes dressed to impress, if not to kill…

 
  
 
 

HBO, 10:00 p.m. ET

This week’s scheduled guests include MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who has interviewed Bill Maher on his own show in the past (pictured), but is showing up tonight on Real Time with a new book to promote – but who, this week, better be prepared to talk about a lot more than just that book…

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1105 Comments
 
 
Ken
Thanks for your thoughts Dave... makes sense. Honored you remember me and my know I've been following you for years and years! And as a fellow UF alumnus, go Gators tonite! Ken
Mar 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
Dave, why do you always put the basketball games in your Best Bets? Any fan of college BB already knows this and others could care less.
Mar 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
As wonderful as the BBC's Planet Earth II has livened Sat. nights,I just researched the ongoing story about Great Britain's naming contest for their Antarctic research vessel. Internet jokesters won the numbers with naming it Boaty McBoatface but the ship was officially named for naturalist Sir David Attenborough,superb narrator for the Planet Earth series. Meanwhile, an online petition raised over 2,000 signatures requesting Sir David to change his name to Sir Boaty McBoatface. Add to the story,there will be an actual Boaty McBoatface on the ship. You can look it up,but you can't make it up.
On this Pi Day(no pie for this diabetic),3/14,while Blizzard Stella(paging Marlon Brando) is burying my area with an 18 hr. snowstorm,this makes perfect sense.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Robert Prestifilippo
Madeleine's constantly absent husband is Sam Loomis. That was the name of Marion Crane's lover in Psycho. He and Marion's sister Lila show up at the Bates Motel investigating Marion's disappearance.
Mar 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Many, many thanks for the heads up regarding the Cream concert on AXS-TV. As a long-time fan, it is one more nugget for my cache of "golden" treasures from the artists that have become lifetime favorites!
Mar 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Here, here!
Mar 12, 2017
 
 
 
Robert Steinberg
I was at your lecture last evening and wanted to thank you for an illuminating event.. You didn't pick the obvious /low hanging fruit and gave one much to mull over.. I have enjoyed and used your recommendations for a long while and wanted to thank you for shining a bright light on our pop culture. Rob
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Jimmy Stewart was not in "North by Northwest." Perhaps you meant "Rear Window"?
Mar 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Sue
Thanks Zeke. Maybe someday Angela as a "woman" will come around and see what the word rape represents and realize it shouldn't be used in a joking manner. David posted that it was a mistake to post "rape" as a joke.
Mar 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
Casey
As a “person” I find your admonition to Angela (of all people) for holding a less rigid attitude than yours to the term “rape” to be, um, “disappointing”. Add to this sludge in your cold coffee the suggestion that Angela might have several cats with whom she may enjoy dining. This is outrageous and “beyond the pale”. The “cat lady” meme has died a miserable but oh, so deserved, death at the hands of, among others, the “cat men and women of Earth”, a proud, feisty lot who rule, RULE the internet. So stand down, “Sue”. And, before you find some charming way to call me a “dog”, be aware that, among us cat people, dogs come in a close second. Very close. Tread carefully.
Mar 7, 2017
 
 
 
Michele
Guess you aren't a fan of DC Legends of Tomorrow, or you would be aware that every episode of this show provides sly comedy when you least expect it.
Mar 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke
To Sue; re language of rape.
I also was startled at the use of the verb. A better one could be used.
With overuse, casual use, it can become normalized... and it needs to carry the emotional freight it deserves. Out of respect, not out of PC.
It is also shameful the way showers in Men's prisons have become a punchline.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
I meant at *first* through clumsy attempts at humor. Then with ease we are able to discuss problems more meaningfully.
Mar 8, 2017
 
 
Angela
I believe what becomes normalized is our ability to speak about difficult topics without fear of reproach. And through dialog is how we solve problems. Not by covering over problems too long shrouded in secrecy due to fear or by making problems almost taboo to discuss. I'm also guessing that abuse in men's showers hasn't become more prevalent because of jokes about it but rather the problem has been there all along and we seek to solve through our often clumsy but, oh so human attempts at humor.
Mar 8, 2017
 
 
 
SharonGS
As the college basketball regular season ends, today (Saturday) is a fan's paradise, and Carolina-Duke is in prime time.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Casey
Cluelessly, the broadcast networks are stingy with their encore showings of new programming. People interested in "When We Rise" were probably rapt by nightly coverage of the ongoing political travesty, driving down the ratings for this interesting miniseries. Hope it is handed off to Netflix (at LEAST) or presented again in gulps less demanding of time and/or during calmer times so that it can get the attention it deserves.
Mar 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Note that Ring Lardner Sr. was a noted humorist,including a baseball book from 1916,You Know Me Al. The film Eight Men Out includes the director,John Sayles, portraying Lardner Sr. as one sports writer already onto the Chicago White Sox players throwing the World Series.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
While TCM winds down the Oscar films, note of a little seen French musical,The Young Girls Of Rochefort at 12:AM. Jacques Demy re-teams with Michel LeGrand and Catherine Deneuve to make another all-singing,all-dancing,colorful musical after the success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. American guest stars inlcude Gene Kelly,George Chakaris and Grover Dale,along with Deneuve's sister, Francoise Dorleac(she died before the film's premiere). While La La Land still has audience and critical praises,here is a '60s film that really loves the film musical. Not for all tastes(nothing offensive,just some unusual sights and the Americans dubbed in French) it is energy filled with real outdoor scenes and LeGrand's music an important co-star.
Mar 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
Preview: In the something to look forward to category: The first season three episode of "Broadchurch" just ran on ITV (and got 7.5m UK viewers)!
Feb 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Big "like" !
Mar 1, 2017
 
 
 
Sue
Angela,
Discuss it with your guests during your big night having dinner with your cats.
Feb 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
2/25 showing of Planet Earth 2 on BBCA was bookended by two episodes(last,followed by first) of their 2013 Africa series and did not repeat PL2's episode one. Not a complaint-they were excellent and I hadn't seen these before!
Feb 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I wonder how many people hesitated to watch Planet Earth 2 like me for fear there would be too much talk about environmental problems? Especially now that our admin seems to be hell bent on hastening the demise of the planet that is trying to save our very lives. (Non withstanding Obama's approving the XL Keystone pipeline not to be confused with the DPAL pipeline) Turns out there's little talk about it, yet. And it's as stunning as David says in his reviews. This is one show that would be mind blowing to see in a theater.
Feb 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
My program guide shows the IFC Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast live on IFC at 5pm EST, as well as again at 10pm. I don't guarantee the information, but I've set my dvr for 5, so I guess we'll see!
Feb 25, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Looks like you're right, Keith. They changed plans, apparently. Thank you!
Feb 25, 2017
 
 
 
Keith Robin
Egg on my face update: "SS-GB" based on a novel by Len Deighton (apologies to British TV).
Feb 24, 2017   |  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. His next, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is coming this fall, 2016.

 
 

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 under $20.

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