SUNDAY
MARCH 19
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Various Networks, 12:00 p.m. ET

So here we go… Today’s games begin at noon ET, with CBS coverage of the Midwest’s Michigan (seeded No. 7) vs. Louisville (No. 2), who thus far have advanced against lower-seeded teams. Next, at 2:40 p.m. ET, is the South’s No. 2 seed, Kentucky, facing No. 10 Wichita State, one of only a handful of double-digit seeds to make it into the second round. The CBS coverage continues at 5:15 p.m. ET with the Midwest’s No. 1 seed, Kansas, battling No. 9 Michigan State – and then, the action spreads to other networks. South’s No. 1 seed, North Carolina, faces Arkansas at 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT. Midwest’s No. 3 seed, Oregon, faces No. 11-seeded Rhode Island at 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS. The East’s No. 3 seed, Baylor, faces another No. 11 seed, USC, at 7:45 p.m. ET on truTV.  The East’s No. 2 seed, Duke, battles No. 7 seed South Carolina at 8:40 p.m,. ET on TNT. And I think that’s it. Good luck finding the games (I hope this helps) – and if you’re rooting for your home team, good luck there, too.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Season 1of The Circus was subtitled Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth. For Season 2, the subtitle is slightly different, for the focus is on governance, not campaigning. But the behind-the-scenes political insights and coverage by reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann and co-creator Mark McKinnon are just as valuable – and these Circus animals are now attempting to offer same-week coverage of the President Donald Trump administration, with a news cycle that, if anything, is even more hectic and complicated. Fasten your seat belts… It’s Washington, D.C., in mid-March 2017, and The Circus is in town.

 
  
 
 

AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET

There was, indeed, a sudden death on The Walking Dead last week, after a relative though short-lived lull. What was less surprising than who died was the manner of death, and the person doing the killing – but that all sets up tonight’s escalation of tensions, when the Saviors pay a surprise visit to the Hilltop.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

This is episode 5, and things are getting more and more roiled up, like the seaside surf this miniseries keeps returning to as a mood-setter. And nothing in Big Little Lies is more frothy or intense than the troubled marriage between Celeste and Perry, played by Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard.

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s Homeland ended with gunplay, and with one character dead and another very nearly killed. And that only adds to the paranoia of the surviving characters, who seem poised in this episode to reunite and to band together – but against whom?

 
  
 
 

ABC, 10:00 p.m. ET

American Crime continues with the second episode of its third season, once again telling an extended, separate story, and once again allowing many of its recurring players, including the very talented Felicity Huffman (pictured), to take on different looks, roles, and attitudes. This season, she’s a blonde – but I’m not expecting that to mean that, as the vintage hair-color TV ad used to claim, she’s about to have more fun.

 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are terrific as, respectively, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in tonight’s Episode 3 of Feud: Bette and Joan, which delves in deeply into the on-set battles between the two actresses during the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? And what happens tonight is that those fights become physical as well as psychological. For a great feature on this miniseries' opening graphics title sequence, see Eric Gould's current Video Worth Watching.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 11:00 p.m. ET

For a political fix, and perspective, tonight, start on Showtime with The Circus, and end on HBO with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Both shows are likely to teach you something – and both shows, I suspect, are well aware of both the importance and unpredictability of their current subjects.

 
  
 
 

MGM HD, 12:25 a.m. ET

In this 1988 psychological vampire black comedy, Nicolas Cage gives a bravely larger-than-life, larger-than-death performance as a man who comes to believe he’s been stalked, and eventually turned, by a seductive female vampire. Like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, which rewarded fans with deep knowledge of the horror films he was spoofing, Vampire’s Kiss alludes, visually and comically, to many previous films in the genre, starting with the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu. This is the film where Cage commits to his craft by eating a live cockroach on camera, which I’ve never forgotten. But most of all, I’ve never forgotten the performance by Jennifer Beals as the “is-she-or-isn’t-she?” vampire dominating Cage’s imagination. As the embodiment of both his fears and desires, she’s equally spellbinding.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1293 Comments
 
 
Neil
To Mac, I say, "Excelsior, you fathead!"

A few brief coments about the dou of Albert Brooks movies on TCM tonight. First, Real Life is on TCM, as it says in the header, not TNT, as it says in the body of the preview. Second, Albert Brooks and James L. Brooks are no relation in real life. Third, Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein are related. They're brothers. Albert Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein (yup!).
Dec 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
I was going to use the "fathead" tag,but those not knowing the joke may have felt offended. To Neil:"Fathead. Right back at 'cha." A great honor. While I was involved at my college radio station,the Class Prez thought that all one had to was open up a mike, begin talking and Shep Magic would spew. I'm engineering this bozo and couldn't wait until he eventually admitted defeat. Shep was unique,not even one to a generation. There is a reason why they call it art. David Sedaris? Love 'em,but it ain't the same. James Thurber,Henry Morgan,Ernie Kovacs-more of my heroes.
I heard someone talk about Jean(Barry Farber?) hanging around WOR all day,buttonholing anyone passing through with one-to-one versions of the material for that night's performance. While many felt trapped,this was one way Shep edited the show rolling around in his head.
Its a good thing James L. & Albert Brooks are not brothers. What if they opened up a men's clothing store? Obviously it would named ---Barneys.
Dec 17, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Good luck with the Live Christmas Story. Really. I haven't seen the stage version and there are supposed to be new songs for the TV performance. Maya as Mom-looks good on paper. Same with Broderick as the Jean Shepherd/narrator,who evidently does a duet with Ralphie,his kid persona. As a long time fan of Shep's radio stories,I just don't want to see this screwed up. Previous filmed versions of Shep's stories,written by Shep,are hit and miss. Thankfully, he was gone when the awful Christmas Story 2 went straight to video,which has shown up on TV. Radio was Shep's medium. Unscripted. Written down for Playboy,the stories are too polished and best read aloud. Shep was indeed Radio Worth Listening. Shep/Ralphie's real life was a bit melancholy. A storyteller in search of a wider audience,and true love,though he didn't want to do the hard work. Excelsior! Indeed.
Dec 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
12/13- TCM proved to have surprises as they celebrated the 2017 announcement of the National Film Registry selections for 2017. Leonard Maltin hosted and he is one of the folks who gets to narrow the list each year. A 2011 documentary,These Amazing Shadows,told the story of how films are picked ,filling up the screen with great clips,not all of them the obvious Citizen Kane,Gone with he Wind,etc. After that,one of the films chosen,Ace In The Hole:Billy Wilder's cynical take on media manipulation during headline stories. Wilder predicted Fox News in 1951 but the masses ignored him and the film failed.
Next up,a truly obscure film,Wanda,1970,directed by its star,Barbara Loden. Wanda is a woman with a troubled life. This film also foreshadows much of what is finally being discussed today:abuse,violence,wrong choices and hopelessness. The film,too,has a troubled history,just getting wide recognition this century. The rest of the evening was filled with other films new to the list.
Dec 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re:Pia Zadora-Maybe the awards were for her performance in Santa Claus Conquers The Martians,a film that,thankfully,came out as I was exiting kiddie films. A year or two before and I would have been in line for the 1PM Sat. matinee(an hour of color cartoons,possibly a Three Stooges short,a newsreel and tons of previews-all for thirty five cents,and fifteen cents for a small popcorn,with the promise of going to Confession @ 4PM,in readiness for the 9AM Sunday Mass,a suburban Philly Catholic kid ritual. All true in 1964.
And Pia's nomination reminds me of a comic bluegrass tune John Hartford sang about the awards. Best line:
"I'm gonna see you get that Golden Globes award for both of your...." Look up the rest. Sad,he ever got to perform this on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,though he was indeed singing about a good time. Bah,censors.
Dec 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
The Deer Hunter is long- I believe 3 plus hours long and I'm always emotionally drained by the end. But I first saw it in 1978 and it's still my favorite movie of all time and it's won a ton of awards. I hope anyone who hasn't seen it yet finds the time for it. You won't regret it. (If I had Cinemax I'd be watching it now.)
Dec 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
SVS74Nova
Would love to see you in a televised HHPA reunion performance, David!
Dec 10, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jan
Yea! Stephen Fry on Graham Norton. He's one of my favorites, so should be good.
Dec 9, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Bob516
A little surprised the season finale of The Orville tonight was not mentioned. With the done season and The Good Place on hiatus until January, Thursday nights won't be as much fun in December.
Dec 7, 2017   |  Reply
 
Bob516
Meant, "With the season done..."
Dec 8, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
One interesting thing about the TCM Great American Songbook nights is that there will be a number of musicals that don't get a lot of exposure,even on TCM. This evening's offerings are great examples. For me,Betty Garrett's sublime interpretation of There's A Small Hotel from Words & Music is one highlight. TV fans know of Garrett as a comic personality on All In The Family & Laverne & Shirley but she had a great singing voice well suited for the innocent yet eager bride-to-be,a subject that rarely gets mention in the lyrics of millions of love songs.
Dec 7, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Reiny in Berkeley
No sign of Lennon: The New York Years. Comcast is showing "Imagine" which is perfectly fine, but is hardly new.
Dec 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
George Ashur
I don't understand why this column pimps The Voice to the extent that it does, but largely ignores America's Got Talent every summer, a much more entertaining show.
Dec 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
George, I should check out America's Got Talent and I'm glad TVWW has "pimped" The Voice because now I'm hooked on it and it's everything they've said it is. Honestly, I feel like I need this show- because sometimes I need a nice show to watch. And I believe music to be healing so that's another plus.
Dec 12, 2017
 
 
 
Frank Dracman
When's the last time you saw ANYTHING cut and interrupted onHBO?
Dec 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Wondering how much of the Carol Burnett clip show is what shows up on the infomercial for the mail order DVDs? It seems that the infomercial uses interview footage from previous Burnett clip shows. For those needing more Burnett,MeTV has the half hour versions edited for syndication, M-F,11PM(ET). While not a recommendation,Mama's Family,a spin off series based on Vicki Lawrence's irascible character from Burnett show sketches,is shown on MeTV earlier @ 9 PM. Once again,not a recommendation. There are lots of great sketches from Carol Burnett,but without Burnett & Harvey Korman involvement,I don't allow no Mama 'round here.
Dec 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
12/2-SNL's guest host, Saoirse(rhymes with inertia,as per Wiki-Sur Sha-use it in conversation and look brilliant) Ronan brings her American/Irish acting chops to live TV. Born in the Bronx,raised in Dublin. Pay attention. She is the Next Big Thing. Find the 2015 film,Brooklyn-luminous! Oh,and SNL features U2 for the music-now second biggest thing from Ireland. Well,maybe third,after a pint of Guinness.
Dec 2, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The first airing of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting on Kate Smith's variety show is interesting in a personal way. I was incubating inside my Mom and made my first "airing" about three weeks later. Was Mom watching Kate? Dunno. The family had a TV then,which became a "second" TV in our basement years later. A tiny screen in a big wooden box,this would be the set that I watched Bandstand(pre-American) and Mickey Mouse Club(according to Mom,created just so she could be make dinner in peace). With a New York setting and Christmas singing,I believe Mom was watching. I hope I quieted down for her to enjoy the show. Also,with the ceremony on Kate Smith's show,here was a moment when a tradition started,not ended,with a fat lady singing. No real offensive to Ms. Smith. I'm a Philly boy,literally born there,raised in the West Philly 'burbs,and know importance of Kate Smith's recording of God Bless America in Flyers pro hockey lore. Like Rocky,there is a statue in Philly.
Nov 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Viewers missing Matt Laurer at Rockefeller Center should at least take heart that doctors have ordered Mariah Carey to stay away from performing for a bit,so that is one last minute snafu that won't happen. Keith Olbermann used to have a little fun with the tree lighting and he just signed off of his Resistance videos,but somehow that ain't gonna happen,but it would be fun. Trump has already weighed in( pun intended)on not only Lauer,but his boss,Andy Lack,who has troubles of his own. Has Brain Williams served his time in Purgatory/MSNBC? Does Megyn Kelly have any credibility with Laurer's firing? She doesn't know how to do "light" and Savannah already has the female side of Today,so it has to be a male for balance. This might take a while as the candidate will have some serious vetting to do before a final decision is made. Remember,when the music stops,they have to sit on a chair and not on anyone's lap.
Nov 29, 2017   |  Reply
 
Tom
"Remember,when the music stops,they have to sit on a chair and not on anyone's lap."

Interesting, guess you mean a sexual harasser's lap?
Nov 30, 2017
 
 
Mac
Still found a way to mess up Matt's name-Lauer. This will be on the final. Olbermann-easy. Lauer-difficult. Hey,I don't do morning talk shows. After recovering from a heart operation and GMA forced in most doctor offices,watching any of that is off limits. NPR's Morning Edition,then the BBC World service or sleep.
Nov 29, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
The Rankin/Bass Rudolph story isn't so bad,as Santa legends go. The idea of "misfit" is a potent idea and one that many kids could relate to in 1964(yes,myself included,as I entered my teen years). When things sag,another song or subplot shows up to entertain. Every character in the show is unusual,save for the elves,who kinda look like NY businessmen.
It should be noted that the show existed to sell stuff.The original sponsor,GE's home appliance division,made tons of products: vacuum cleaners,hair dryers,electric knives,coffee makers and more. The ads featured the elves and have been recently restored,though in living black and white and are on You Tube.
In reality,all that stuff was made at GE's massive Appliance Park in Ky. which has its own zip code. At one time,23,000 folks(many unionized) worked there. Today around 4,000,still unionized,making washers,dryers,water heaters,etc. GE sold the appliance division to the Chinese Qingdao Haier in 2016.
Nov 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Phillip R. Crabb
Hello David,

Well, here we are again. Classic Christmas show all available on DVD but still compel family viewing on regular broadcast. As even with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and especially with Charlie Brown Christmas the reminiscence and message continue to put these on the radar even 50 years later.

But, yet again, both are being broadcast before any semblance of Christmas spirit has had any chance to percolate. It's NOVEMBER for crying out loud. These are classic shows, still with significant viewership, and nobody has the common sense in the scheduling office to schedule in some proximity to the holiday they represent?

Back the, the holiday shows would build up in frequency the week before Christmas. Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Grinch....Bob Hope Special, Red Skelton Special. Now they just throw them out there without any apparent thought at all, and dilute classics like Charlie Brown Christmas with related holiday 'spinoffs'. Let's light the Rockfeller Ctr Tree first!
Nov 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
These shows are aired to sell stuff. When CBC was first aired,Coke was the advertiser. Coke is has prided itself on the slogan:"Thirst knows no season", so conning folks into drinking a cold beverage while temperatures plummet meant that the show could air anytime. It worked. Just ask Don Draper-he wanted to buy the world one. Today ads for gift giving dominate the air and showing them during the diminished effect of Nov. sweeps helps future ad rates. The idea of "last minute gifts" has also changed. Brick and mortar stores have to get bucks in the register as early as possible. Once cyber business goes on overdrive,all they have left is Dec. 26 clearance and gift cards. Throw in a couple of warm Winters, with little need for bundle up clothing, and folks who do all shopping online and you can see why the local mall is passe. Linus may be right but that message is surrounded by the poison that depressed good 'ol Charlie Brown decades ago.
Nov 30, 2017
 
 
 
JP
Whatever happened to Laurel & Hardy's 'Babes in Toyland' and original 'King Kong' on Thanksgiving? (I could be wrong but I also remember 'Mighty Joe Young' & 'Cricket In Times Square')
Nov 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
JP
I guess I missed it yesterday....just assumed it wasn't showing anywhere.
Nov 24, 2017
 
 
Mac
L&H's March of the Wooden Soldiers(probably the Babes In Toyland that you are thinking about) was on T-giving Day twice where it usually spools-NYC's WPIX,11, and will show up again 12/25 on WPIX.
Nov 24, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Remember when CBS showed multiple municipal Thanksgiving parades? Online research shows that the parades were originally Gimbel's from Philly,Macy's in NYC,Hudson's in Detroit and Eaton's Santa Claus Parade from Toronto(evidently that one was taped). Captain Kangaroo & his friends hosted. Loads of toy ads.
A favorite part of jJan Shepherd's A Christmas Story is the arrival of Santa after the town's parade with all of the confusion,happiness and drama surrounding kid-dom in the U.S.
Nov 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
Oops. Sorry about the sloppy editing,Jean. RIP.Though your life was full of sadness,you brought much humor and insight with your monologues.
Nov 23, 2017
 
 
 
 
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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. His latest, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV.