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PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

Season 3 of Downton Abbey, featuring Shirley MacLaine, doesn’t premiere until next year – okay, January 6, but still, it’s a wait. In the meantime, here’s a new special, a retrospective that will remind fans what we’ve been missing, and initiate newcomers to what’s about to come. Angela Lansbury hosts. Check local listings.

CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week, Judd Hirsch guest starred as a judge, and gave a typically complex, captivating performance. This week’s new episode presents another guest star who can be counted on to provide the same: Stockard Channing, playing Veronica, the meddling mother of Julianna Margulies’ Alicia. This is her first appearance, but I’m already betting she’ll make more.

AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s episode was a strong and pivotal one, taking several formerly disparate story lines – the prison, the Governor’s compound, the nomadic Michonne, Daryl and his brother – and weaving them, like a DNA strand, into one. And it left us with Rick, coming off a mental crisis that was cleverly scripted, staring through the prison fence at a wounded, wordless Michonne. But when she does speak, it’ll lead to a collision of the two camps, and, perhaps, to the two brothers.

Lifetime, 9:00 p.m. ET

This is not a recommendation in terms of quality – but this new Lifetime telemovie is fascinating in its own creepy way. It stars Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor, and Grant Bowler as Richard Burton. Bowler is convincing in the part, but Lohan isn’t, not for a second. And that becomes fun to watch, in a way, especially when the 1960s show-biz romance wallows in knowing allusions to the present. When the celebrity supercouple is chased by photographers, Lohan’s Taylor shrugs them off as a temporary nuisance. “They’ll find someone else to stalk,” she tells Burton. “You think?” he asks. Drolly, Taylor replies: “Yeah, I think.” And so they have. And while Lohan doesn’t improve her image with Liz & Dick, it has its moments, or at least its seconds. It’s written by Christopher Monger, who wrote the screenplay for one of the best telemovies in recent years, HBO’s Temple Grandin. For a full review, see Ed Bark’s Uncle Barky’s Bytes.

Showtime, 10:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s episode ended with a cliffhanger that left us up in the air – or close to it, as Brody (Damien Lewis) was driven to a remote wooden clearing, with a helicopter appearing from nowhere. Its passenger? The elusive, manipulative and very dangerous Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban).
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
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Casey Chapple
Here begins a 3-part, over 3 days (cause of charac. limits) descrip. of my setup, and program recs.

Part 1

Because you are a captive audience, here’s a trigger warning: there may be TMI (too much info) here, since I’m gonna share a favorite listing site and describe my new DVR gear that lets me follow and gather the programs I like. Also, I’ll recommend a couple new episodes appearing tonight (Thu 7/28) and the next 2 days.

Tonight, I’ll be recording S1/Ep6 of the not edifying but always entertaining “Queen of the South” on USA, and the first ep. of season 4 of “Ripper Street” on BBCAmerica because I like to be frightened and disgusted, on occasion. Both start in the 10pm slot here in the Northeast. 

Get well soon, David. I knew that’s what was up, and though worried, enjoyed the funny joke ongoing in Best Bets. Seemed it couldn’t be TOO serious if you guys were waving that silly thing around for so long.
Jul 28, 2016   |  Reply
I hope you're feeling better, David. We certainly miss your daily input. You often pointed out shows that I might have missed, and I appreciate that. Hope you are back online soon.
Jul 28, 2016   |  Reply
Joe in SF
OK, so Mac will be the TCM guy and I'll be the Syfy guy. I can accept that. But all of you Best Bets Besties know which shows Mr. Bianculli would write the best puns for. I miss him. Tonight (7/28) at 9PM Eastern, it's "Ozark Sharks". Do I even have to give you the plot summary? It's your choice: Democratic Convention or SHARKS OVERTAKING AN OZARK FIREWORKS SHOW!! WHO WILL SURVIVE? I am asking that last question about "Ozark Sharks", not that Philadelphia show on all of the other channels.
Jul 28, 2016   |  Reply
Ripper Street returns tonight on BBC America for Season 4.
Jul 28, 2016   |  Reply
I don't mean to be the "TCM Guy",but with Hillary Clinton and the 300 lb. donkey in the room,even the guilty pleasures are few and far between.Joe in SF will probably fill you in what's happening with Sharknado Week on Syfy. I must admit that they program their Sharknado Week a bit closer to when I first saw Shark Week(1988), during a vacation with my kids down the Jersey Shore.Free cable- then a luxury. Two night time memories-one year NBC spooled The Godfather I & II in chronological order... and Shark Week. My middle kid was a ball of energy and loved it. Such fun watching him. Add hot dogs, root beer floats,the night heat and mosquitoes resulting in true summer love in a screened-in porch.
But I digress. TCM shows a '70s movie that may have gotten away from you:Scarecrow(1973) ,starring Gene Hackman & Al Pacino in what should have been a hit,but proved to be too slow paced for the masses. On a hot summer night,sans mosquitoes,a bittersweet bromance with two greats in fine form.
Jul 28, 2016   |  Reply
Joe in SF
You've seen every "Planet of the Apes" film and sequel and remake. But, have you seen "Planet of the Sharks"? Syfy is airing it tonight (7/27) at 9PM Eastern. Picture it: Global Warming. 98% of the Earth is covered in water. And sharks dominate the planet. I am NOT MAKING THIS UP! It's your choice: Democratic Convention or a MUTATED ALPHA SHARK leading a massive school of sharks!!
Jul 27, 2016   |  Reply
Wed. 7/27 -TCM rewards folks staying up all night,or setting their DVRs,for the final night of their Westerns overview hosted by David Carradine with a quirky quartet of stories with modern ideas.
The Shooter(1966)-Roger Corman funded this super low budget film with Jack Nicholson involvement, starring Warren Oates in a disturbing tale of death and paranoia.Never released to theaters and spare TV showings for this cult film.
Little Big Man(1970)-Dustin Hoffman is a white man raised by Cheyenne and recounts his 121 years,yes,121, and his many changing roles over decades. Weird? You bet. Arthur Penn directs this epic.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller(1970)- Warren Beatty and Julie Christie with Robert Altman's vision of a gritty mining town. The town,actually constructed by Altman and crew, is really the star of this classic.
Finally,Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate(1980) gives the viewer a chance to reflect and decide for themselves if this is a hit or a miss. Cimino died July 2nd.
Jul 27, 2016   |  Reply
Thank you!
Jul 27, 2016
Here's my condensed BB recommendations for any night of the week: Casual, a Hulu exclusive comedy. By the creator of UP and another excellent movie I forget the name of. A feel good series that is also intelligent. It's about 3 siblings trying to navigate relationships and life and that most everyone can relate to because they are the real deal. Meaning they've taken off their masks. Perfect for binge watching. And if you still in the mood to binge on TV after that then check out, Love on Netflix. Down to earth, funny, and clever.

Speaking of masks, I do hope people aren't missing out on Mr. Robot, on Wednesdays nights at USA network, 10pm Eastern time. Even if you decide you have no idea what Mr. Robot is all about, (join the club) the characters more than make up for it, and even if you decide you don't like the characters, though I don't know why anyone wouldn't, the show is worth watching just for the photography. You can see season 1 for free on Amazon Prime.
Jul 27, 2016   |  Reply
Angela - We were just discussing the cinematography of 'Mr. Robot', on par with 'American Horror Story' and a few others. (Although we gave up the nightmares of AHS awhile ago.) Not to be missed, and a true television work of art. --EG
Jul 27, 2016
Oh, who are you kidding? TMC is having an uber-marathon of cool old flicks and you just wanted time off to watch them all. WE'RE ON TO YOU, DAVID! :D Just kidding, of course. Get well soon, we TV sheep need our shepherd to guide us through the muck of daily TV schedules. Come back to "pick" for us soon. ;-)
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Wishing you a speedy recovery.
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Mark N
be well, David
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Hope to "see" you soon, David!
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Get well soon, David!!
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Certainly a night of few bets,outside of NBSCN,which is actually running a marathon of new episodes of Poker After Dark. Best? Dunno. Colbert has been great not only with Jon Stewart popping up but also having a stuffed weasel named Caligula raising havoc last week at the RNC and this week in Philly. Till Then? How about ESPN with crosstown rivals the Chicago White Sox and the Cubs with the added attraction of possibly seeing newly minted Cubbie reliever,Aroldis Chapman,just acquired from the Yankees. Yesterday the Yankees had a mini-fire sale,closing their hopes for 2016 by ridding themselves of the controversial All Star closer that only saw action in pinstripes for three months. Chapman has a 30 for 30 documentary in his future for sure.
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Dearest, most ardent, TVWW readers: We see you’ve noticed the program content keeps coming, but the Best Bets column continues to be conspicuously blank, not even a screen full of white snow to be found. David has been unwillingly offline, home recovering from an illness, but doing very well, you’ll be happy to know. Quoting Monty Python’s "Spamalot" to us today, he said he’s incapacitated but "I’m not dead yet!" You’ll also be happy to learn that the Best Bets switch should be back on very soon, we think perhaps in a week, more or less. Meanwhile, if you want to continue to pinch-hit as you have been (here), please feel free to post your own Bets for others to read and share. We so appreciate your enthusiasm and love for TVWW, and we know David does, too. Please hang in and stay tuned. "Bianculli’s Best Bets" will return after this (relatively) short break! —TVWW
Jul 26, 2016   |  Reply
Joe in SF
Hello Best Bets Besties! Leading up to this weekend's "Sharknado 4", Syfy is running some whoppers. Tonight (7/25), it's "Dam Sharks" at 9PM Eastern. "A group of sharks begin building dams out of human bodies which they obtain from a corporate retreat." I am NOT MAKING THIS UP! It's your choice: Democratic Convention or fish building dams OUT OF HUMAN BODIES!!
Jul 25, 2016   |  Reply
Thanks, Joe, for the heads/fins up about Sharknado 4. I have set it to record!

Hope you feel better soon, David. We miss you.
Jul 26, 2016
lol, Joe in SF, thanks for brightening my Monday! :)
Jul 25, 2016
I'm in Best Bets withdrawal. What about posting some recommendations on your Facebook site? Please.
Jul 25, 2016   |  Reply
Sad week for no TVWW as not only no recommendations of what to watch,but missing takes on the RNC swap meet(I'll trade you one Trump/Pence logo from 7/15 for five Trump/Pence logos from 7/18 and throw in an original Michelle Obama speech ),the Colbert/Stewart shows,the appearance of SNL on MSNBC(they return next week from Philly at the DNC's dance,so Kate McKinnon can steal the night away from the real Hillary),and...Ailes, Ailes, more Ailes and Rupert's new job. And some critique is needed about that PBS/NPR cheapo-cheapo RNC coverage while Charlie Rose had an exclusive with Hillary. Meanwhile, no Palin at the RNC 'cause evidently Science shows that Alaska is far away from Cleveland,but Sarah made numerous stops for The Donald earlier in Iowa,Florida and California.National Enquiring minds want to know...
Jul 24, 2016   |  Reply
Hello BB readers! We will continue to be offline for a few more days at minimum. Please Stand By as you have been, and keep chiming in with your own BB picks! We appreciate it and will return soon. --TVWW
Jul 23, 2016   |  Reply
Has this turned into Bianculli's quadrennial two week vacation? Or has he used the convention weeks to recover from some cosmetic work? (To extend his "Radio Substitute Host" shelf life a while longer.) C'mon, guys, if there really is a technical problem, I'll gladly code the Best Bets into HTML pro bono until it's fixed.
Jul 24, 2016
Good to know there are other BB co-dependents out there ;)
Jul 22, 2016   |  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.

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