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.
 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1273 Comments
 
 
Mary Bolduc
Trying to list ways in which Charles Manson-led killings were uniquely Californian. So far I have:
Formed cult
Attacked famous people, or the "Beautiful People"
Inspired by, and inspired, media
Nov 20, 2017   |  Reply
 
Tom
Mac, are you always angry?
Nov 21, 2017
 
 
Mac
Uniquely Californian? Check out Boston's Mel Lyman's cult from around the same time. So,uniquely American? Cults are everywhere. I'll grant you Manson indeed craved evil on some name folk for attention,but he basically only knew Beach Boys Dennis,Carl & Brian Wilson, and Doris Day's son,Terry Melcher,hardly A-list celebrities. Biggest media inspiration? The Beatles' White Album. How about uniquely human? Few stories,outside of "fables", involve lions or tigers or bears manipulating other animals to do the dirty work. Let's get the BBC Natural History folk to explore it all in an 8 part series. David Attenborough's narration is preferred.
Nov 21, 2017
 
 
 
Oswald
Is there a mention here of the final season of Longmire dropping tonight on Netflix?
Nov 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Yes! Yes! Yes! Sam Bee WILL have an amazing show tonight! Overage creep at a mall seeking underage girls,signing yearbooks,asking Mommy if it is OK to date a child. A Bannon Breitbart Bad Boy walking through a field of broken Keurig machines!
Just saw the incredible segment on MSNBC today with Ali Veshi & Stephanie Rhule interviewing Ray Moore's attorney,Trenton Garmon. Looked up Garmon's law office website-it is a personal injury operation. Have ambulance,will chase. Paging Saul Goodman! Trenton is your next Cinnabon baker. Maybe an accident in the mixer will make them both rich but joined together in Cinnabon's sticky goo.
Nov 15, 2017   |  Reply
 
Angela
Right on to all the above!
Nov 19, 2017
 
 
 
Howie
Young Sheldon is a delight. Lots of humor without the canned laughter. I can not watch Big Bang because of its obnoxious sound track - absolutely horrible.
Nov 9, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
Canned laughter vs. some of the best writing in sitcom history(exhibit A-Prof. Proton episodes)? Also,I would suspect that knowledge of events in Modern Sheldon's life would bring an added chuckle watching Young Sheldon(exhibit A-Prof. Proton). I'll take some pretend laughs to get some genuine laughs in my life. I was born as TV became a fixture in households so maybe I'm immune from this as an intrusion. Timing is one reason why the giggles are added. Timing is also one reason why giggles are sometimes shortened. Actors breaking up each other can add to the audience laughter,but with only 22 min. of material,those seconds need to be trimmed. That is why editing is so important and when it is invisible,so great. Many a "live" recording in my music collection has turned out to be manipulated with either additional music in a studio to cover mistakes or added audience reactions. Either does not keep me from pulling out the desired album for another listen.
Nov 15, 2017
 
 
Terry
I don't watch ANY program with canned laughter. Don't understand why anybody does.
Nov 15, 2017
 
 
 
David Clarke
I believe the 'Charles (Manson) in Charge' of AHS was not the season finale but the penultimate episode. Either that or it's a ridiculous cliffhanger for multiple seasons.
Nov 9, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jim
For some reason when people discuss the fact that The Shop Around The Corner/You've Got Mail/She Loves Me were all based on the same play they fail to mention that the play was also the basis for 1949's In The Good Old Summertime starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson and featuring in a seconds long cameo at the end 3 year old Liza Minnelli.
Nov 8, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
I'm right there with you, Professor, as a fan who still has the Drumpfinator installed on my pc. Last week, I had to change my shorts after the first part of the show. John Oliver continues to bring me to tears of laughter whenever he is on!
Nov 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
11/4 Graham Norton episode has received online uproar. Adam Sandler makes uncomfortable touches on Claire Foy's knee. Ms. Foy has since said she was not offended but the tape appears otherwise. In this era of Harveys & Kevins & Billos-oh my!-it is pretty disgusting. Wonder if the U.S. version gets edited? Adam Sandler - the maker of the least funny films for years. There are a bunch of SNL alum who have made a dud or two, but Sandler has a full blown production company to churn out his crud. Thankfully, the last few tanked, so maybe his audience has aged and left the cinema for Kevin Can Wait, Season 2, and to a new generation of kids just wanting super hero stuff take over the popcorn palaces.
Nov 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
Wish we here in NYC could watch Big Bang & Young Sheldon, but we're force fed the Jets game
Nov 2, 2017   |  Reply
 
Keith Robin
You can if you stay up until 3:30 am...WCBS is broadcasting BBT and YS starting at 2:30am, unless you have a dvr, in which case you can set it and watch when at your convenience.
Nov 2, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Those not watching the World Series are missing out of one for the ages. MLB Network is offering a condensed version of Game 5 multiple times between today and Tues., just before Game 6 starts. How they will encapsulate 5 hrs.,21 min. into the two hour slot,I don't know. Hopefully eliminate those sneaky visual ads pushed during the action(note to self:never use T-Mobile or Duracell). If only there was a way to hook up ESPN Radio in sync with the taped action-Dan Shulman & Aaron Boone are stellar. Things were so crazy last night I had to go for a Wawa hoagie run as the game went extra innings. The last time I went for a late-night Wawa hoagie run,NPR called the 2016 election for Trump. I decided to retire during that return trip. Last night-a whoop of elation as your Houston Colt 45s,err,Astros, won(sorry about the noise,neighbors). For those with a Wawa in Pa.,N.J.,Del.,Md.,Va. & Fl.-you know. For all the rest-sorry.
Oct 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
John m
How can you recommend FEARLESS if it is not actually available where and when you say it is?
Oct 28, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
David D
Fearless w/M Gambon not listed on Amazon Prime - anywhere.
Oct 27, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Reiny in Berkeley
Re: Michael Cerveris on Gotham. He also played another "killer" role - Sweeney Todd, opposite Patti LuPone, on Broadway. I also got to see him as Tommy in the Who's rock opera. Incredibly gifted actor. And speaking of Gotham, is it just me, or does this show have the largest concentration of spectacularly beautiful actresses of any on TV?
Oct 26, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
While there are alternatives to tonight's TV(World Series),I'm hoping to catch Amy Sedaris at some time. Amy's books seem to give a preview of what may happen. There is a combination of sincerity(she can actually do these projects and is interested in getting others involved) and ridicule(she has a healthy wink-wink that may not be for all tastes).For this she has to go beyond Leigh French's scripted few minutes of dope humor. Gotta use up 22 min. and still want viewers to stay for the ads and come back next week. My advice for TruTV: amass a season of Amy and run two against the morning TV she skewers. This sounds like it could be the Fernwood 2 Night of the cooking/crafting shows. I would watch,but I'm an old white male and TruTV doesn't want me unless I add my name on a class action suit for knee replacement devices or baby powder use pitched by a crazy-eyed blonde. Is there humor to be mined? Hey,this is how Ernie Kovacs started on Philly TV.
Oct 24, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Tom
Thanks Linda, while the reviews are good to have for guidance, the usual fall season review link was the best source on the web for the season, to see all of your critics takes on each new show, whether positive or negative....please bring back next season!
Oct 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
We're certainly glad you feel that way, Tom, and appreciate you telling us! Understood. We'll try to do better next year.
Oct 27, 2017
 
 
 
Angela
I just want to say, thank you to all who contribute to this wonderful and very helpful site. Kudos!
Oct 23, 2017   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Thank you, Angela, and thank you for being here with us!
Oct 27, 2017
 
 
 
George Ashur
"I wouldn’t be surprised if the former presidential candidate gets preferential solo treatment, and gets to talk to Norton alone. Power, even when not fully realized in the electoral college, has its privileges." -- Why has Hillary Clinton concluded that she is necessary to our lives? For the love of God, woman, would you please exit the stage?
Oct 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
Hillary indeed goes solo on the show. Exit the stage? When the DNC or folks running for office do not want her helping,then she might shrink away. But as long as Real News is labeled Fake by those in power,her voice is necessary. Look what happened when Obama returned to campaigning the other day:"Four more years!" We have not heard the last from them. Their kids will be part of the scene as well. For the love of(your deity here),please keep fighting the good fight. Let's start with gerrymandering,voter intimidation,with a goal of having all voters counted in every election by using 21st century technology instead of 18th century standards.
Oct 22, 2017
 
 
Angela
For better or worse, I don't imagine HRC's going anywhere anytime soon.
Oct 21, 2017
 
 
 
Brad
The George Michael: Freedom ‘documentary’ is a farce. Why? Having seen it on Channel 4 in the UK last week, I can tell you it's got real issues of honesty. For instance, (1) the complete omission of anything about Fadi Fawaz, Michael’s partner when he died, and Andrew Ridgeley, Michael's Wham! partner; (2) audio with Michael scattered with fake audio of a guy who sounds like him, but isn't (credits read, “Simon Rutter as George Michael.”) putting into doubt the accuracy of the quotes; and (3) a film produced by Sony Music, who Michael sued, can only be watered down to make Sony look better than they came out. As the Guardian reviewer put it, “(it’s) like seeing that a documentary on Brexit (that) has been funded by the European Union.” Want more reasons? Read The Guardian review at...https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/oct/16/george-michael-freedom-singer-stays-out-of-sight-in-tv-biography
Oct 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Game 7,ALCS. C.C. Sabathia,Yankees,vs. Charlie Morton,Astros. Game 3,same matchup,in NYC, was a big win for the Yankees. Verlander,who pitched Fri's Astros gem,is possibly available. Heck,everyone is available,including old popcorn vendors like me. Should be lots of scoring on both sides,for a change. Has Fox had only one post season game on the broadcast network? Even tonight, it is FS1 for baseball,while college football is on Fox. Kansas @TCU,while Michigan @ State Penn on ABC and NBC has USC @ Notre Dame,so a Simpsons marathon might fare better.
Oct 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Tonight's NLCS info needs the obvious caveat: game 6 & 7 will be played in L.A.-if necessary. We can only hope,if only to skunk a Dodgers-Yankees World Series that makes Fox go nuts with ratings-it will be like Hannity & Billo for a week. Last night's Cubby win and Joe Maddon's ejection for being right will certainly awake Chicago fans,but it is indeed "back against the wall". Meanwhile,The Daily Show is in Chicago this week and Ronny Chieng did a great segment on Chicago style deep dish pizza,how it sucks and how to get the best pizza in the Chicago area---where else,but the Cook County Prison.
Oct 19, 2017   |  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.