SUNDAY
JULY 16
2017

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

This 1953 movie, starring Alan Ladd in the title role, is one of the most effective and emotional Westerns ever made. Ladd plays a weary drifter, a former gunslinger who opts to befriend and protect a family of homesteaders against a ruthless band of encroaching ranchers. Jean Arthur is the woman in distress, Brandon De Wilde is her idolizing son, and Jack Palance, as hired gun Jack Wilson, plays one of the most menacing bad guys in Western history – even, or especially, when he’s smiling (pictured).

 
  
 
 

CNN, 9:00 p.m. ET

Tonight’s installment of The Nineties is called “The Comeback Kid,” and is all about the volatile presidency of Bill Clinton. It begins with ABC anchor Peter Jennings issuing an incredulous turn of events: “The impossibility of impeaching the President,” he tells his viewers, “must now be addressed. What follows is a tale that, in many ways, sounds astoundingly familiar, with a protracted and divisive battle over health care reform, the surfacing of a headline-grabbing scandal, the appointment of, and investigation by, a special prosecutor, and the denials by the President of the United States of any wrongdoing. One image, with Clinton issuing his public  denial of having “sexual intercourse with that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” looks uncomfortably like the opening image of The Good Wife, with Hillary Clinton standing in support, but clearly uncomfortable, at his side. (Other moments from the Nineties and The Nineties, like the passage of a balanced budget, seem like a much more distant and disconnected memory.) In trying to contextualize today’s current events, the Seventies and Watergate would seem to be the pertinent go-to (or go-back-to) decade – but The Nineties makes a strong case that the Nineties, too, has something to tell and teach us about what’s happening now, and what might well happen next.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: HBO did not provide tonight’s Season 7 premiere for preview. Some TV critics are upset about that, but not I. These days, the fewer hours of TV I have to watch to do my job, the better – because right now, it’s three steps from overwhelming (and I’m not saying from which direction).  But I’ll be watching tonight, in real time, because I’m excited to see what comes next, as this mammoth fantasy series embarks on its final, two-part season, and appears to be handing all the power to all the women – including Cercei (Lena Headey), who’s now atop the Iron Throne – but for how long?

 
  
 
 

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week, Twin Peaks ended with, among other things, FBI Agent Tammy Preston (played by Chrysta Bell, portraying one of the few successfully intriguing new characters added to this revival), interrogating William Hastings (Matthew Lillard), who babbles and sobs about an alternate universe while swearing he had nothing to do with his wife’s grisly death. My favorite part of Twin Peaks: The Return to date came when the medical examiner recounted, at length, the mysterious events surrounding Hastings, including his wife’s murder and the mysterious spontaneous explosion of his secretary – to which the sarcastic Albert (the late, great Miguel Ferrer) dryly replies, “What happens in Season 2?” Tonight is episode 10 of this revival, and still, Dale Cooper isn’t himself. At least Albert is.

 
  
 
 

PBS, 10:00 p.m. ET

MINISERIES PREMIERE: Don’t let this one slip by amid all the hubbub over other, more attention-grabbing Sunday shows. This three-part miniseries stars Michael Palin, in his first fully dramatic role in decades, playing an elderly Yorkshire man who is admitted to a nursing home – and almost instantly becomes the sole witness to a violent death. And the more we learn about him, and probe his seemingly sketchy memory, the more mysterious, and perhaps dangerous, he becomes. I’ve loved this particular member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in almost everything he’s done, in and out of Python, and see no reason to stop now. Check local listings.

 
  
 
 

CNN, 10:00 p.m. ET

DOCUMENTARY SERIES RETURN: Tonight’s new installment of this series is called “One Nation, Under Comedy,” and is an impressively compiled overview of ethnic humor in standup comedy. TV situation comedies are touched upon, but only briefly – mostly, this is about the development of standup comedy, including the slow but sure progression, for example, from Dick Gregory to Bill Cosby to Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy (pictured) to Chris Rock to Dave Chappelle. Other ethnicities are deconstructed and revisited, too, making this a particularly inclusive, as well as funny, hour of comedy history.
 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: Season 4 begins with both a time jump and a re-imagining, after the explosive events of the Season 3 finale. The villainous monsters are now firmly in charge, and now able to travel in daylight as well – but there’s still an underground effort to defeat and unseat them. But the old Master, in a new body, is even more dangerous than before, and the body-swapping doesn’t end there. To me, The Strain ended up straining its plot lines a bit too much, but if you’re still on board, here it is, back at the station for a final circuit around the track.
 
  
 
 
 
 
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1394 Comments
 
 
Mac
4/24-TCM Primetime salutes screenwriter I.A. L.Diamond,best known for director Billy Wilder's co-writer on truly funny films with underlying dark themes. 8PM is The Apartment-a perfect storm of love & adultery in 1960's MadMen New York. Jack Lemmon plays the low level schlub working in a skyscraper where he sees his unrequited love everyday,elevator operator Shirley McClaine. Add to Jack's troubles -he lets the biggie execs use his apartment for their extramarital trysts.The biggest exec is slimy Fred MacMurray(this, during Fred's goodie two shoes My Three Sons/Shaggy Dog era). Diamond & Wilder create the storm around this triangle,winning Best Screenplay. Five Oscars total including Best Film and Director Wilder.Later a Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach/Hal David Broadway musical,Promises,Promises,with Jerry Orbach in Lemmon's role. Sean Hayes & Kristin Chenoweth starred in the 2010 revival. Shut up and deal.
Apr 24, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
4/17- Keep your dial(Grandpa-where's the "dial" on this remote? set on TCM after Casablanca for :10PM :Mildred Pierce-Joan Crawford.Midnight:Yankee Doodle Dandy-James Cagney.2:15AM: Life With Father-William Powell. 4:30AM :The Sea Wolf-Edward G. Robinson. All great! Different genres. All directed by Michael Curtiz from 1941-47.
Apr 18, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Annie
Why does no one seem to be watching Legion except you and my family? It is the most amazing show on television in this timeline and many others. Please keep spreading the word!
Apr 17, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Thats 1.6 million You Tube hit,but you knew that.
Apr 17, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
I have been an infrequent follower of SNL since mid-season 1976,so without seeing every bit,the 4/14 Lobster sketch just seemed to me everything great about SNL,outside of topical humor. I was expecting a cheesebooga or Samurai-style but rewarded with an overdue skewering to bloated Broadway of the '90s,including a plug for Tina Fey's Mean Girls-what Broadway should look like. Story is that the sketch has been incubating since 2010 from Mulaney & Yost. Another sketch from 4/14 was hidden since '09. What else is hiding in the drawer? Game show parodies are too easy. This is Emmy worthy with 1.6 You Tube hits in less than 24 hrs. Brilllianttt! On a personal note-on Sunday I ordered the broiled seafood combo in a diner and still paying the price. Where are my Tums?
Apr 17, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Another Mac comment-three on the same day-bad luck for you or me?
A sleepless night found a George Burns/Gracie Allen episode from 1953(evidently also on You Tube:"Gracie Takes Spanish Lessons". Another comic giant missing in 2018- the non-sequiturs of Gracie Allen. Deportation is a major plot line here,so,even with the non-PC antics of George,there are threads of modern times. Imagine an SNL sketch with ICE meeting Gracie. Trump vs. Gracie? Who need borders when the Blockhead- In- Chief meets Gracie's ideas of who should be in the country and how our tax dollars gives us rights to be deported. Hilarity ensues.
Apr 14, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Mulaney on SNL-even the teasers during the week have that dry Mulaney touch. Shirley Temple,straight up. joke would be lost on the WWE USA crowd. And Trump. Mission Accomplished,redux.
Apr 14, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re-TCM showing Lolita 4/14@ 3PM. I was just about to highlight that TCM seems to be slipping in some 'toons that they have rights to, on Sat. mornings,mixed with their serials and oddball two reelers. And then I noticed Lolita @ 3PM as extra goodies for the kiddies on a Spring afternoon. Another great film for the youngins' precedes- Anatomy Of A Murder,which started as I write this. That Lee Remick,she is such a role model for teens. You thought her baton twirling in A Face In The Crowd was inspiring? All kidding aside-six hours of classic black & white '50s-'60s films that are more than a little ambiguous about sin and consequences. If you missed them,TCM shows them often ,but the double-feature aspect is worthy of Essentials prime-time pairings.
Apr 14, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Linda Feeney
The last episode of Homeland (#9 ) was so ridiculous, unbelievable and insulting to our intelligence that the Useful Idiots are those of us watching.
Apr 9, 2018   |  Reply
 
Goeff Bal
Agree completely. Hospitals do not have security cams? A federal witness in protection with no guards in or by his room? Another TV show that lost its way and should have ended last season.
Apr 10, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
It's worth remembering Chuck McCann,a comic actor who died yesterday. Baby Boomers growing up around NYC saw Chuck supply hours of inventive fun on kiddie shows,many times along side puppets. Puppets were a low budget plus of live kiddie shows. Puppets drew the attention of kids and needed no animation to provide laughs. Rubber face Chuck was a natural foil for puppets. As a long time Laurel & Hardy fan,he impersonated Ollie many times,alongside even Stan Laurel himself and L&H superfan, Dick Van Dyke,and in lots of commercials. It is commercial work that most will remember Chuck. He was the voice for Sonny,who was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.Chuck surprised many a tenant opening up their medicine cabinet with a cheery,yet troubling,"Hi,guy!",on the other side,pushing deodorant. Once Groucho Marx once showed up on the other side of the cabinet. Chuck did lots of TV,many a voice on cartoons and a persaonal favorite St. Elsewhere episode,"Sweet Dreams",aka the ZZ Top episode.
Apr 9, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
That,too,Matt. A shame he was West Coast based later in his career as the Law & Order franchise was New York based. While hopefully not going against his kiddie performer persona(many "good guy" actors loved going against type on L&O,so.thankfully,no "evil clown" roles),Chuck could have fit in many L&O scenarios: crime victim,heartbroken dad,patsy in schemes devised by the bad guy,blue-color father of one of the cops or lawyers,etc. while adding pathos and NYC credibility.
Apr 9, 2018
 
 
Matt Alpern
And, Chuck McCann was superb in a very lovely movie version of "Heart is the Lonely Hunter."
Apr 9, 2018
 
 
 
Terry
I tried to watch Killing Eve, but bailed because of the obtrusive and extremely annoying music. The phrase Insulting My Intelligence came to mind.
Apr 9, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Leila
Give American Idol another chance. I herd none of the meaness from the judges oddly mentioned by one of your commentators. Unlike the last few seasons of American Idol, where they had Idol Bots, singers with great technical proficiency but not much heart or soul, the new reboot is all about heart and soul. Even formerly plastically emotionless Ryan Seacrest gets a chance to be heartful, and to hug contestants. Many of the top AI singers this tear are much more moving than most of The Voice singers, who are getiing a little Voice Bot-ty...None of the AI judges are as beautifully and deeply and pacefully centered as Alicia Keys, nor as entertaining as Kelly CLarkson, nor as verbally astute in their assessments, but they drawbetter contestnts, and share more moving stories about them....
Apr 7, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Scooter
Oops!! You've confused Tracy Morgan with Tracy Jordan!!
Apr 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
4/3-TCM fetes Michael Douglas with a lengthy interview with Ben Mankiewicz from last year's TCM Classic Film Festival @ 8PM with a repeat @11:30PM. In-between-two Douglas vehicles:China Syndrome @ 9:15PM and Romancing The Stone @ 12:45AM. Douglas co-produced both films,and though China Syndrome shows up often on TCM's schedule,Romancing The Stone is a rarity. More than a passing nod to Indiana Jones at least Danny DeVito is fun and features Kathleen Turner.
Apr 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
jan
FYI, "The Middle" takes place in Indiana, not Ohio. I love that show and am sorry this is its last season.
Apr 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
We know better, Jan, so thank you. We're sorry it's ending, too. David would like you and anyone else who read the error to know he spent three years working in Akron and conflated. And apologizes.
Apr 3, 2018
 
 
 
Bob516
I made the mistake of watching The Crossing as a preview on Hulu before any reviews came out. Big mistake. Agreed this series should not be recommended. Is it the nature of network television to take an interesting premise and ruin it with the rehashed plot lines? To bad, this idea had such potential.
Apr 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Jason Gacek
How did King in the Wilderness not get mention as a Best Bet? I know I'll be watching.
Apr 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I'm on episode 6 and all I can say is, wow! Why isn't anyone talking about, Looming Tower? Maybe, it's exactly for the reasons talked about in Ed Bark's review.
Even before I read his article I was thinking about what to watch and I noticed how I almost subconsciously thought about watching something other than Looming Tower because it's so dark. And I like dark shows... It also feels very realistic. Which makes sense considering what it's about. But they've managed to figure out how to make it *feel* real. I'm not doing a very good job selling this series. Ah, well. I hope people give it a try. First the Hand Maiden and now this. Keep it up, Hulu.
Apr 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Rendfeld
I'm surprised "Jesus Christ Superstar" wasn't a Best Bet. It was likely the best production of it since the 1970 LP.
Apr 2, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Dondi
Oh man! You got me on Roseanne Roseannadanna! ACK!
Apr 1, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
 
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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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