THURSDAY
MAY 18
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

SiriusXM, 9:09 a.m. ET

CHANNEL PREMIERE: I know, I know. As channels go, this one is on radio, not TV – and only on satellite radio, at that. But this is the Beatles we’re talking about, so until I launch a sister website called Radio Worth Hearing (don’t hold your breath), I’m taking the time and space here to note the launch of the world’s first official Beatles 24-hour radio channel. It’s got special programs (including Chris Carter’s long-running FM radio staple “Breakfast with the Beatles”), vintage interview clips, rare outtakes, and lots more. The on-air promos have sounded terrific – and better than that, they’ve sounded smart. The ultimate number for a Sirius/XM channel devoted to the Beatles would, of course, be “number nine, number nine” – but that channel location already is taken by the decade-devoted channel ’90s on 9. So for The Beatles Channel, you have to tune your satellite radios to Channel 18. But numerology enthusiasts, such as Yoko Ono, will be happy to note the time this new channel is launching: 9:09 a.m. ET.  And if you don’t know the significance of “The One after 909,” or “number nine, number nine…,” then maybe this channel isn’t for you anyway. Or, come to think of it, maybe it’s for you most of all.

 
  
 
 

ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: I don’t recommend watching this show, really, not any more. But I do marvel at both its impact and its longevity. With tonight’s episode, Grey’s Anatomy concludes Season 13, a truly impressive stretch. And it’s not just limping to the seasonal finish line – it’s sprinting there as ABC’s most popular drama series. That’s why so many of ABC’s dramas, for good or for ill, tend to be painted with the same Shonda Rhimes brush, whether they’re shows from that prolific producer or just shows striving to copy her feverish, popular program elements.

 
  
 
 

CW, 8:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: And here’s another series that’s not being recommended, really, but also is being noted for its durability. Supernatural, with tonight’s two-hour episode, concludes Season 12 – and that’s really an astounding achievement, when you consider that the network presenting it, the CW, is only 11 years old. (Nothing paranormal about that fact: Supernatural began on the WB, and was imported to its new home when the WB and UPN merged to form the CW.)
 
  
 
 

CNN, 10:00 p.m. ET

For two weeks running now, the scheduled episode of CNN’s Soundtracks – about the shooting of students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard in 1970, and the music it inspired, such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s searingly swift response, “Ohio” – has been pre-empted by breaking news emanating from the White House. And a betting man, or woman, would be wise to bet that tonight will make it three for three. But I’m setting my DVR anyway, in the fervent but most likely futile hope that, for one day at least, headlines will calm down a bit.

 
  
 
 

Starz!, 10:01 p.m. ET

Stanley Tucci co-directs (with Campbell Scott), co-writes (with Joseph Tropiano) and co-stars (with Tony Shalhoub) in this utterly captivating 1996 movie, about dissimilar brothers, both gifted cooks, teaming together to make a go of it with their proudly authentic Italian restaurant. The restaurant’s future all comes down to one super-important “big night,” and it’s as hilarious as it is touching, dramatic and intense. And the final scene, performed and shot in real time, is one that anyone who’s ever cooked in a kitchen – especially, but not exclusively, an Italian one – will absolutely adore. Co-stars include Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Liev Schreiber, Marc Anthony and Allison Janney. This movie is now 21 years old – but like the food it serves, couldn’t seem more fresh.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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1320 Comments
 
 
Mac
Re:Pro wrestling in the Best Bets:Even with David's caveat,we are all doomed. Especially disheartening that college kids are into this nonsense. Wait till they find out how rigged life is outside of the ivy covered walls of Rowan University. Just googled that there is a Martin University,located in Indianapolis,In. So it is possible for a Rowan student to transfer to Martin for graduate work and achieve a true Rowan & Martin education. Probably eligible for that desired laurel & hearty handshake from Howard Johnson in Rock Ridge. And the college kids will not get any of these lame jokes(Hey,I'm a Dad & a Grandad,so I have privilege)
Jan 22, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
ThoroughbredOfSin
It's been about 2 decades so I probably have this wrong, but I think the Grey's Anatomy crew started as interns not residents.
Jan 21, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Ah, Breaking Bad! What a masterpiece! How could I have forgotten just how amazingly real and perfect this show is! Breaking Bad is the bomb!
Jan 21, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re: Planet Earth:Blue Planet II-While reading the two added reviews by David Hinckley & Alex Strachan,you will find that the series will be available on five-count 'em-five AMC networks simultanously:AMC, BBC America,IFC,Sundance & WE,all @t 9PM(ET). BBC America usually repeats the first showing;this episode is indeed repeated @ 12:30AM. The other four networks apparently are not repeating the episode,at least so soon after the premiere. I cannot find if the AMC Network airings have an SAP translation and no Spanish language stations have been included.
Need more of a Planet Earth fix? The New Yorker Radio Hour,on many public radio stations and podcast,has a lengthy interview with David Attenborough.
Jan 20, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Interesting side about Blu-ray/DVD availability. Street date is 3/6. Amazon is taking pre-orders. Already 10 reviews as of 1/22. There is one bonafide review-they purchased the Region Free version from the U.K.(for all players) and have viewed all episodes. And there are three one star reviews. Why? Ticked off that streaming/downloading not available immediately after purchasing. For a while this brought the aggregate reviews to one five star and three one star.Those stupid one star reviews don't go away. Like the music buyers upset about scratched discs/broken jewel cases bringing down reviews that should be based on content. Do these folk bring down the egg business if they get a cracked one in a dozen?
Jan 22, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
1/15-TCM's MLK day offerings may seem repetitive eachyear,but like many a holiday schedule,there are treasures worth revisiting.
4PM-Sounder. Considered a "family film",Disney this ain't. It involves a poor black family headed by a sharecropper father who is imprisoned for stealing food during the depression. A major part of the story concerns the son,who has an unquenchable thirst for learning. Beautifully filmed,with a great soundtrack by blues great Taj Mahal(who also has a part in the film). Nothing is dumbed down,nothing is sugar coated and repeated viewings reveal hidden treasures. Whenever TCM shows this(often on Sun.PMs),there is a short featuring actress Cecily Tyson,who portrays the strong mother,telling the fascinating story of how she got the part. Don't miss it. The book is more concerned about the dog the story is named after,but it is fine reading for any age(a Newbury Award winner).
Mattel toys helped finance the film,directed by Martin Ritt.
Jan 15, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
I have a modest suggestion for the Best Bets and contributor preview pieces. On programs like the Gershwin Prize, where the program length has varied over the years, how about mentioning the running time alongside the starting time. This is obviously not necessary for half hour sitcoms or one hour network dramas, but it would be a nice addition for programs with indeterminate lengths to show what the time commitment is going to be.
Jan 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
NPR's Only A Game had an episode a few weeks back regurgitating the Tonya story.Fun fact:I always assumed this was a bratty poor girl with harsh looks vs. rich pretty princess. Not so.
Also,thoughts of Weird Al Yankovic's amazing video,Cable News,come to mind. A perfect storm parody from 1994. The song:Mmm,MmmMmm,Mmm-a one hit wonder for Crash Test Dummies. The idea:presenting three ripped from the '93-'94 headlines of: the Harding incident,the infamous head 'em off at the pass spousal violence with John & Lorena Bobbitt and overseas caning of a US. teen,Michael P. Fay. All presented as one-act plays,similar to the original video for CTD's hit. All presented as our appetite for 24 hour news cycles was exploding post-1991 Gulf War. The parody reeks of the mid-'90s in a good way. All under four minutes. Young folk will have to google the references.Older folk can guess the cameos. Warning:it contains an accordion solo, a possibly gay sumo wrestler and cross-dressing. Great fun!
Jan 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Also worth noting that Gaslight features a teenage Angela Lansbury, in her first movie and receiving her first Oscar nomination for supporting actress
Jan 11, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
SharonGS
Tonight (1/9) is the series finale of “Major Crimes,” a police procedural with a very fine ensemble cast.
Jan 9, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Satisfying end.Interesting that G.W. Bailey got top billing for the last three episodes. 214 episodes of The Closer/Major Crimes over 13 years-take a bow,George!
Jan 10, 2018
 
 
Mac
Once again,without spoilers,this last story arc gave the supporting cast moments to shine one last time. I still remember when TNT ran a marathon of the first season of The Closer against Super Bowl Sunday and I got hooked. The idea that the subordinates hated the new boss,partially for good reasons,kept that first year up in the air. TNT inserted a great promo, mid-episodes:shots of Brenda's desk in the dark,with Ring Dings in the drawer(I always want to think they were Drakes Ring Dings and not Hostess Ding Dongs. Since the show had no Philly ties, no chance for the superior Tastykake Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes-a diabetic nightmare/dream-sad.),while Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine(when she's gone) played as audio. Hold that Ring Ding up with pride(unwrap it as the foil will kill your fillings) for great ensemble casting.
Jan 9, 2018
 
 
 
jan
I think there's a new episode of "My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" on tonight as well. Love that show. Also, I agree with your comments on "The Amazing Race." It's been less and less fun to watch with all the product placement and collaboration between teams. It's sort of a hate watch for me now. Too bad, because I used to love to watch it.
Jan 5, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Many Fridays have new listings on VOD services. I can't afford any of them,but here is a goody: Hulu has all of the episodes of Animaniacs,Pinky & the Brain and Tiny Toon Adventures,all Warner Bros./Amblin cartoons originally shown on Fox Kids over 20 years ago. And Hulu just green lit new Animaniacs adventures,set for 2020. The Warner brothers Yakko & Wakko & Warner sister Dot escaped from the iconic WB water tower to wreck havoc on us all. Greatest bit-their take on early 'toons found nowadays in public domain DVDs-giving a backstory on a Looney Tune star,Buddy. The Animaniac episode,The Warner's 65th Anniversary Special,is pretty dark,especially for kids even in the '90s who had no memory of these 1930s 'toons. In some ways,as diabolical as Roger Rabbit. Add to the reboot of DuckTales(I love it and I'm an Uncle Scrooge fan from decades ago) and its pretty great to be a kid in 2018.
Jan 5, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
I won't say how long it's been since I watched toons as a kid but wanted to mention Hulu's running a special- get a years worth for $5.99 @ month. Must take advantage of the special rate by the 1/9. I plan to. (Normally it's twice as much.)
Jan 6, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
9-1-1 vs. Law & Order:SVU? SVU in a heartbeat. While not Netflix level of intensity,L&O:SVU, since Mariska Hargitay got an producer credit,has become a weekly "Me,too" exhibit on the many sides and consequences of sexual assault. One notable exception: the "lost" Trumpian p###y grabbing episode from last year. Some folks think that mega media companies lean left. Know that the power and the money go with Comcast(owner of NBC & Universal) and their ilk,getting the FCC to make things worse for the consumer,while hiding embarrassing stuff like this fictional version of Trump's crimes against women.
Jan 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
1/2-TCM prime time has a night of W.C. Fields. No matter how dyspeptic the 1/2/18 news brings you back to post-holiday reality,a night of Fields will either make you feel more cynical or let you forget your troubles. Lots of goodies here,so many great comedies know how long to keep things going and not wear out their welcome. TCM has seven events over ten hours,so there's many different sides of Fields. I'll highlight It's A Gift(9:15 ET). Classic bits from Field's vaudeville & silent movies grafted into a portrait of a mild-manner,henpecked man,interacting with his family,including Baby Leroy and the world. Stop for the back porch scene,stay for the rest and maybe put the close caption on to catch all of the asides. Fields' character is named Harold Bissonnette-pronounced "Biss-On-Ay". You'll never look at kumquats the same way. A 1934 film that holds a 100% fresh 80+years from Rotten Kumquats,err,Tomatoes.
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
I'm a comedy critic (very picky) but I'm sure I saw every W.C. Fields flick there is when I was growing up. Great stuff!
Jan 6, 2018
 
 
 
Susan Dannemann
David,
Have enjoyed listening to you on NPR. I grew up in Western PA and even worked at Sycamore Pharmacy on Rt. 286 in Plum Boro while in high school. My Mom was a first grade teacher in the district and was so gifted when it came to working with children and reading, especially. I'm certain that she had a student by the name of Tim Bianculli--probably your cousin. It's been enjoyable and comforting to listen to you on the radio. Happy 2018!
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Just a heads up that POV on PBS is airing some new and old documentaries starting today on their website. I originally wanted to see one about Corey Booker but am tempted by others, like one about a film-maker's struggle with an MS diagnosis. Or another one about a Vietnam vet who is having a terrible time transitioning home so he decides to go on a 750 mile walk (if I remember the miles correctly). Happy 2018 everyone!
Jan 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
Turns out it's POV's 30 year anniversary and they're streaming 30 films for 30 days. POV's films may not be as polished as a big production company's film might be but that's also that's what makes them a lot more personal in nature. Plus they're often filmed on someone's cell phone so I feel like I'm getting the real thing as opposed to something that might be "fake" news.
Jan 4, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
What a disastrous NYC 2018 ball drop. Rev. Steve Harvey performing a wedding ceremony for his co-host,a pro wrestler,marrying a producer of online content. The wrestler was the bride. ABC had Ryan Seacrest,Jenny Don't Immune My Kids & Mariah joining a tea party-ugh,3 reasons to avoid that one. CNN's Anderson Cooper was matched with Andy Cohen,who,even after Googling,I have no idea why I would pay attention to any project he puts his name on. By 12:10AM,back to The Thin Man marathon on TCM.,snuggled up with my ever-lovin'.
With so much Rose Bowl coverage,Philly's Mummers Parade is at least available online. 8 degrees when it started. Lots of music. Lot's of dancin'. Lots of gold paint for those Golden Slippers(sneakers). Lots of alkyhol,too. Goes on till dark,then indoors with the Fancy Brigades.
Lastly,those TCM caper films David highlighted include Gambit, Arabesque(Donen channeling Hitchcock again) and The Happy Thieves. Charade & Arabesque feature fine Henry Mancini scores.
Jan 1, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re:Almost Famous.Making the case for the Director's Cut(aka Bootleg Cut) with extended footage of Phil Hoffman as Lester Bangs. I could watch an entire movie about Bangs;sad that Hoffman is not around to make that happen. The movie evokes a time when Rolling Stone mattered and reading this new Crowe kid was required reading-and he was five years younger than me(16 vs. 21). The Tiny Dancer scene evokes exactly as it seemed when every two weeks I received a dispatch from Out There with Crowe,Jon Landau,Hunter Thompson,Ben-Fong-Torres,David Dalton,Chet Flippo,Jerry Hopkins,Timothy Crouse-how I miss this writing and how needed it is as we enter 2018. At least Vanity Fair,Politico,The Atlantic,New York,The New Yorker,the NYT & The Washington Post keep up the fight. If this is Fake News,then keep fakin' it.
Dec 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Curious, I've never before seen anyone describe Janet Leigh as one of the most memorable characters in The Manchurian Candidate. I'm a huge fan of both the film and the late Janet Leigh. However, as much as I like her she is so tangential to the plot of this movie that I forget she's even in it. I know some fans have created back stories for her character and her place in the film, but most of that isn't actually supported by anything in the film. I would be interested in hearing more about what stands out about the character for you. Maybe I'm missing something (it happens).
Dec 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Vince Everett
Nitpicking... but... Zero Mostel's character in "The Front" (Hecky Brown) was a comedian who Woody couldn't/ didn't front for
Dec 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Zero Mostel starred in Fidler on Broadway, but (in my opinion, unfortunately) the film had Topol as Tevye. Yes, Zero is *always* Tevye, but not in the film.
Dec 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
I'll make the case for Topol in the big budget film. He had already played Tevye hundreds of times in the London production and makes a quality Tevye,even in close-ups. The film has aged well and shows up frequently on TCM. Topal,then in his mid-30s, was playing a man 20 years older and at least 20 lbs. heavier. Later,he portrayed Teyve on stages around the world, eventually racking,by his count,3500 performances. He literally aged into Tevye.
Other notable Tevye's include Herschel Bernardi(yes,Charlie the Tuna and Peter Gunn's cop friend),and Theodore Bikel(folksinger and the original Captain for Broadway's Sound of Music),who may hold the record of Fiddler performances.
Dec 28, 2017
 
 
Linda Donovan
You are right, of course, as is Sean. We got our Tevyes confused.
Dec 27, 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.

 
 
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