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ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: Does TV really need another cooking competition show? Of course not. But this one, like The Voice, brings something new to the mix: a democratic sense of fair play. In The Voice, contestants, in the initial round, are heard but not seen, so judges spin their chairs around in approval based on only the singing skills of the competitors. The Taste is the culinary equivalent of that. A quartet of judges, including Nigella Lawson (pictured) and Anthony Bourdain, select the best recipes in a blind taste test. Not blind as in blindfolded, but blind as in not knowing which chefs prepared which dishes, and having only one spoonful to register a very important first impression. So taste tonight's episode, and form your own first impression.

PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

This installment is devoted to prime-time soaps – but has such a narrow focus, it’s devoted almost entirely to Dallas, its spinoff Knots Landing and its main Eighties competitor Dynasty. Though ABC’s Sixties hit Peyton Place does get a mention, the genre’s first prime-time series, DuMont’s Faraway Hill in 1946, isn’t noted at all, not even with a fleeting mention. Nor, for that matter, is the current TNT revival sequel to Dallas, which seems really odd. All that said, this hour is worth watching for getting Larry Hagman on the record before he died, and for exploring and explaining both the “Who Shot J.R.?” and “Bobby Ewing in the Shower” Dallas phenomena. Check local listings.

NBC, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: This final episode of the season is a pivotal one, especially for the women on the show. Kristina (Monica Potter, pictured) gets ready for the next stage of her cancer treatment, and Sarah (Lauren Graham) makes the choice regarding the two men in her life.

BBC America, 10:00 p.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: Dominic Monaghan, the charismatic actor who played Charlie on Lost and “Merry” Brandybuck in the Lord of the Rings movies, takes viewers on a hectic romp to try and hunt dangerous animals and insects – but only with a film crew, and a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm. He ends up being an infectiously delighted, unafraid and nature-loving mixture of Sir David Attenborough and the late Steve Irwin. The opener takes him, and us, to Laos, and deep into a cave in search of the world’s largest spider. For a review of the show, and an interview with Monaghan, see Bianculli’s Blog.

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

Where are things going this season? I’m not sure – but the twin primary plots this year, a cold case involving a skyjacker thief and the intrusion of a new fundamentalist religious sect into the Kentucky countryside, seem quite promising. And Timothy Olyphant, as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, continues to swagger with a wry comic edge that hasn’t been seen since early Eastwood.
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Since you're celebrating Grant Tinker's legacy and the memorable moments in his MTM shows, don't forget that classic WKRP Thanskgiving "turkey drop" episode from their first season.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
Dec 3, 2016   |  Reply
Keith Robin
I was never much of Tracey Ullman fan before, but with age comes wisdom. I started watching th enew HBO show, and AFAIAC, it is one of the funniest half-hour shows on television. Not every sketch hits the mark, but more do than don't and the ones that do are outrageously hilarious!
Dec 2, 2016   |  Reply
Keith Robin
I agree wholeheartedly about "Koyaanisqatsi". I was ribbed mercilessly by my colleagues at the video store where I worked because I had seen and was recommending it when it was released on video. But I stood by my opinion and all I can say now is that it would be best viewed at home on the largest screen you have available to capture the full impact of the 70mm original!
Nov 30, 2016   |  Reply
New Vikings episodes begin tonight on the History Channel. I recently streamed the entire series on Amazon. I highly recommend it.
Nov 30, 2016   |  Reply
Dolly Parton doesn't show up much on the pop culture radar nowadays,but,at the moment,she is at the top of the headlines. Tonight's(11/30) Christmas themed movie has been heavily promoted on NBC. Meanwhile,wildfires in the Smokey Mts. came very close to the huge resort and entertainment center Dolly co-owns,putting operations on hold till at least Fri. as the immediate needs of the community are met. Dollywood is home to one of the biggest Christmas displays in the U.S.
Nov 30, 2016   |  Reply
Phillip R. Crabb
Hello David,

That time of year again. Happy to see WPIX come through with March of the Wooden Soldiers Thanksgiving morning, and the promise of the Yule Log on Christmas.

Watching Rudolph as we speak for probably the 50+ time, along with my "little family" now in their 20's. As we discuss every year, I think the Christmas shows are a bit premature until the month says 'December', but I'm glad the tradition carries on with Rudolph, and Charlie Brown a few days later.

Of course, we miss the classic Christmas shows of the 60's, where every series seemed to have shot a special Christmas show, especially Red Skelton who would often break the 4th wall in character.

It's 50 years, but certainly does not seem that long ago.
Best of the Season and glad you are feeling better...

Phil Crabb
Franklin (Sussex County) NJ
Nov 30, 2016   |  Reply
I love "Jane the Virgin" so much that I don't even mind the references to the network--CW--or the blatant product placement--Honey Bunches of Oats--even though I have no intention of ever buying any. The don't try to hide it; they are refreshingly straightforward about it--unlike many other shows which try to sneak in the product placement--unsuccessfully, I might add. I hope "Jane" keeps going for a long time--unlike the late, lamented-by-me "Devious Maids," which I also looked forward to each week. And speaking of unusual shows, is "I,Zombie" coming back later this season?
Nov 29, 2016   |  Reply
Thanks Joe in SF. I didn't think it had been cancelled, but I'm never sure. I don't mind waiting as long as it comes back.
Nov 30, 2016
Joe in SF
Hey, Jan. I'm a big iZombie fan, too. Season 3 will start on April 4, 2017. We still have quite a while to wait.
Nov 29, 2016
Since Comedy Central is promoting its version of Howdy Doody with those precious South Park tur...err,episodes,Black Friday finds a special vinyl LP edition of the 1999 CD,Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics, in many a record store amongst limited edition "vinyls*[sic] available during Record Store Day,Brown...err,Black Friday. The previous CD-only feces...err,piece of physical product for this raunchy album climbed,not unlike Mr. Hankey,to #30 on the charts. Brown colored. Scented. Added inscentive[sic] If you collect this stuff,please use a scooper. I,too, am flushed with excr..excitement. What's next?A scented,white striped Pepe Le Pew DVD? Idea #2 that went down the hopper.
David,if you wipe...err,delete this post,I understand. Please flush twice. Its a long way to the Lehigh Valley,Pa.(message copped from a public restroom wall).My response:"Crap! Great Scott!Party pooper! I was just tryin' to be Charmin." Gotta go....
Nov 25, 2016   |  Reply
"Back in 1994, FX’s sister network FXX put itself on the map by presenting a marathon of all 552 episodes then produced of Fox’s The Simpsons – a 12-day marathon that set records as the longest TV marathon in history. "
Nov 24, 2016   |  Reply
Keith Robin
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Yes, it did! FX premiered on June 1, 1994...FXX, however, didn't spin off until September 2, 2013, and it acquired syndication rights to the Simpsons and ran the first marathon in 2014. All in all, not worth spoiling dinner over a typo.
Nov 24, 2016
Did FX even exist in 1994, much less the spinoff FXX? And how long ago did episode #552 land, if we're at #600 today?
Nov 24, 2016
True,the First and third Peanuts specials need repeated annual visits,but there are a few more that at least uphold the spirit of the strip and can be enjoyed by all ages. The second special,Charlie Brown's All Stars and the fourth,You're In Love Charlie Brown hold up,so the first four go from 5 stars to just 4. Can't say that for Garfield. Even the Looney Tune shows suffer from comparison of the classic shorts to the new animation Special mention should be made to the Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show,a Sat. morning attempt to keep the young Peanuts fans interested. Short episodes,with a blckout quality,more in line with the six-day archs of the printed strip,keep the filler to a minimum,while the animation and backgroud music are pretty good-a giant step above Scooby-Doo.
Nov 23, 2016   |  Reply
Joe in SF
For all you “Downton Abbey” fans who miss jolly old England stories, I recommend “The Crown”. Ten episodes are streaming on Netflix now, full of historical drama, royal family shenanigans and some solid acting. They spent big bucks producing these episodes and it shows in the sets and costumes. It’s as if they really filmed in all of these historic places and raided Queen Elizabeth’s and Princess Margaret’s 1950s closets.
Nov 21, 2016   |  Reply
My turn to add a recommendation- The Night Manager is now on Amazon and with Prime it's free! I was blown away by this gorgeous and highly taut and suspenseful series that had me on the edge of my seat with serious butterflies in my stomach for 6 plus hours. I also realized I could never be a spy or work for the CIA, etc. I'm much too chicken and prefer to avoid physical pain. Fortunately torturing of the enemy isn't shown in gruesome detail on The Night Manager. It is the perfect show for when you want or need to take a break from certain realities though it will make you think about the dark side of governments.
Nov 19, 2016   |  Reply
Michael Zand
Has anyone seen any of the Epix show “Graves?” It is one of those gems flying under the radar. The setup is that Graves, played Nick Nolte doing the best work in his career, is a former two term Republican president (a cross between Reagan and George W. Bush) lauded by conservatives for his regressive, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-environment which have wreaked havoc on the country. Now, twenty years out of office, he has an epiphany and realizes what a horrible president he was.Wracked with regret and on a constant verge of a nervous breakdown, he embarks on a whacked out odyssey of redemption to the consternation of his respectable Republican wife, played by Sela Ward also doing the best work in her career. This show is one of the smartest and funniest political show to hit TV in years. One would have to go back to the "All In the Family" to find a show that combines politics, social issues and comedy in such a brilliant way.
Nov 19, 2016   |  Reply
Hey, thanks for the heads up about Graves. I believe reviews weren't that great. But you've convinced me to give it a try, thanks.
Nov 19, 2016
Alec Baldwin is supposed to show up as Trump 11/19,which may be his last for a while(hmm,does sweeps mean anything-Feb. 2017 and just a few days past Trump's swearing at...err,in.
One hopes that at least a few seconds are spent for the show to remember the passing of Sharon Jones-a true New Yorker and the best soul voice since Aretha's heyday. Her story of how a Rikers prison guard channeling the power of of James Brown,not achieving fame till past 40 and now dead at 60 from pancreatic cancer is both inspiring and sad.
Nov 19, 2016   |  Reply
Reiny in Berkeley
You are correct, sir! DB is confoosed. It's an 8 part series, resuming Mon - Wed with three more parts. This has been a great show, and I am looking forward to the remaining 3.
Nov 19, 2016   |  Reply
I's confoosed. DB writes that tonight's episode of Soundbreaking is the finale of a five-part series. But Hinckley says it's an eight-parter. I thought PBS also promo'ed it as running across two weeks. So which is it?
Nov 18, 2016   |  Reply
Just a note about the outstanding music contained within all three TCM documentaries airing 11/16. First,the obvious- Woodstock,but pay special attention to Sly & the Family Stone-believed to be the best performance during the weekend and they get a decent amount of screen time. Recently I had to explain to someone under 30 about the group-just watch and know that without computers and pre-taped vocals,this band was indeed a family.
Endless Summer contains instrumental surf music by the Sandals,think early Beach Boys without lyrics-including a chart hit with the theme song.
And Hoop Dreams is so long,Ben Sidran has ample time to stretch out a bit.Sidran presentss lots of different styles throughout the film.His roots go back to the days when the Steve Miller Band was indeed a band and Miller was not a cliche.
Nov 16, 2016   |  Reply
Keith Robin
How ironic that there's a picture of George Martin right above...I am hearing The Beatles singing "Birthday" which I play for everyone in the house on their birthday.
So, Mr. B., allow me to wish a very happy birthday and many more, and here's a link to the Fab Four so you hear them singing it too!
Nov 15, 2016   |  Reply
Bernadette Pastore
Happy birthday, David! Many happy returns! I'm glad that you're back in action and back to TVWW. The fall season wasn't nearly as fun without you. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Take care!
Nov 15, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Bernadette, Thanks so very, very much. The fall season wouldn't have been much fun with me, except for "The Good Place" -- but I'm glad to be back. And very glad you're interested in reading my book...
Nov 15, 2016
Catch -22,one of the most important American novels,needs to be rediscovered by Netflix,HBO or FX. Take the time to tell ALL of the story,not just the Cliff Notes Mick Nichols version. Of course,it would be great to time travel Bob Newhart and many of the others(Artie,just sit and watch,OK). I have to read this over again every couple of years and with the Trump Inauguration just weeks away,need to remind myself of guys like Milo Minderbinder who will have a place in the Cabinet:What's good for Milo is good for the country." And,of course,mediocrity's most important military man,Major Major Major Major,for Defense. Irving Washington or Washington Irving,I don't care,please write a screenplay for 12 episodes or so-just do it.
Nov 12, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Mac, What a great idea: Catch-22 as a miniseries!!!
Nov 13, 2016
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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 now avaialble on Amazon.

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

New From TVWW

Grant Tinker: 1925-2016
By David Bianculli