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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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1196 Comments
 
 
Mac
Sat.7/22-TCM has a triple feature of Betty Davis films starting with the Essential All About Eve,with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey chiming in for what promises to be a bumpy ride,indeed. The next two films also showcase Davis in roles as an actress:The Star and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. I bring these to folks attention after the recent FX series surrounding the real backstory ill will between Davis & Joan Crawford when filming Baby Jane. What's all the hubbub,bub? It's on display tonight.
Jul 22, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Anytime Rear Window rears it pretty little head,it is time to look out for the real David Seville(Ross Bagdasarian) before he turned his rodent problem a profit when he found out the chimpunks living in his house could sing,Raymond Burr and even Frank Cady,before he opened up his general store in Hooterville as Sam Drucker in Petticoat Junction & Green Acres.
Jul 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Ed Q
Ditto on Friends from College. Perhaps it's just that the cast is incredible but I enjoyed the series. It's not always perfect and they're not always likable but it's pretty good tv during a summer lull
Jul 18, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jim
Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" is a wonderfully entertaining movie, but incomplete without it's somewhat darker sequel "The Four Musketeers" The fact that the cast thought they were filming one movie which turned out to be two movies led to several lawsuits. Whatever. The movies themselves are great fun.
Jul 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Joe in SF
If you’re going to start recommending movies based on candy bars, your 7/17 pick is a good one. Much better than any Kit Kat videos currently playing on YouTube.
Jul 17, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Tom Cellupica
Correction: the Dali dream sequence is in Spellbound, not Notorious. In that one, the wine bottle sequence is classic.
Jul 14, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
George Ashur
You do know, don't you, that America's Got Talent has been airing for six weeks, and that tonight's one hour episode is a recap of the first six weeks of auditions? You wrote it up as if tonight was the season premiere.

(By the way, I find AGT to be hugely entertaining, and a real diversion from everything else going on in the world.)
Jul 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
PAUL S SCHATZ
I am usually in agreement with your reviews. However I have found the Penn and Teller show amusing. It's not must see TV. But it is fun to watch the various magicians try to stump these guys
Jul 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
7/13-...or,spend 2 &1/2 hrs.with the epic 1937 adventure,Lost Horizon,(8PM-TCM)directed by Frank Capra and TCM's Star of the Month,Ronald Colman. Action,fantasy,mystery,romance,special effects,political stuff that resonates today-a then-record high to produce,at one time,a six-hour film(never released commercially at that length and much lost footage)there is now a restored version(though it does include some audio-only sections with stills)that is probably much different if you remember this from commercial TV showings in the past.
Columbia didn't recoup its investment till later re-releases,yet gambled on a 1973 musical version which almost ruined the studio.It also ended the famed Bacharach/David music team and was the last 5th Dimesnion hit. This was the last film made by Ross Hunter. I walked out on the original roadshow version. Liv Ulmann's singing(dubbed) and dancing(can't dub dancing) did it for me. Bad beyond belief,while the original shown tonight is great! Great book,too!
Jul 13, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Stories trickling about Manning's time on field-e.g.- in his rookie year,he was given hearing aids by a coach so he could hear the huddle info-that's a big N-O,buddy! Add to that,the turmoil at ESPN as they lose their cash cow status from Daddy Disney and fire lots of people because so many smart folks(I'm not one of them) have cut the cable. These are some reasons to not view ESPY awards. They add a free night to ABC's dreadful Summer schedule while behind- the- scenes there is less to see and fewer to report about it.
Instead,make it a night of Hitchcock,ending with Sabobteur: Dr. Auschlander (Norman Lloyd from St. Elsewhere) as the unforgettable Frank Fry and comic actor Bob Cummings in a role you will never forget. I saw this decades ago on commercial TV and it scared me more than any horror film. And Lloyd,at 102 years,still is acting.
Jul 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
cheryl
No mention of the World Series of Poker? On ESPN, and they are not delaying the final until November this year.
Jul 9, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
With many early Hitchcock films showing up as bootlegged DVDs,these TCM showings should spur folks to steer towards legitimate authorized versions.
Jul 7, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Reiny in Berkeley
The "Bulldog Drummond " song reference was not in a song by the Searchers, but rather was called Searchin'. It was a Leiber and Stoller song written for the Coasters, and as DB says, covered memorably by the Beatles. It also name checks Boston Blackie, another detective whose films TCM is currently showing.
Jul 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
Reiny in Berkeley
And also Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan, and the Northwest Mounties!
Jul 6, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Ronald Colman had a pretty interesting career in radio and TV. Colman and his second wife,Benita Hume,proved to be such comic fodder to Jack Benny,that The Halls of Ivy,was created by the longtime writer of Fibber McGee & Molly,Don Quinn. While much of early TV was low brow and full of middle class situations,The Halls of Ivy was about a college president and his wife. Radio-1950-52,NBC. TV- 1954-55-CBS. Info from Wiki,but I have heard some of the Colman/Benny stuff and it is fun. Seems like one of the Pythons could have revived this idea while John Cleese went into the hotel business with Fawlty Towers. Or- Wiliam Daniels and his wife,Bonnie Bartlett(did everyone notice her in Better Call Saul? 88 years old and still a scene stealer).
Jul 6, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith E Robin
Thanks for the heads-up about Hitchcock's early work on TCM. Their schedule also shows that there are three more films after "Blackmail": "Murder!" at 6:45am; "The Skin Game" at 8:30am; "Rich and Strange" at 10am; and following an installment of MGM Parade, "Psycho" will be on at noon. Hitchcock fans rejoice!
Jul 5, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
jim
If I was to pick a song from The Music Man that described what has made the country what it is I think I would select "Trouble" A huckster manipulating the narrow minded prejudices of the populace to make a buck. I'm not so cynical that I think that's all there is to America, but it certainly sounds like the America we live in today. Sad. Actually, I love this film and if I'm going to spend a couple of hours in the company of a huckster I much prefer Robert Preston's Henry Hill to the one that confronts us all on a daily basis.
Jul 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
On further reflection on this quote,I want to see someone do a parody with Shipoopi-title it Covfefe and just watch the fun. A shame that most young voters would not get the reference. I just looked up the history of "covfefe" and can't believe that it only appeared May 31st,less than eight weeks ago. It seems that the nonsense has been going on longer than that. It has but we only had "alternative facts" to describe these past two years:"Covfefe,covfefe-the facts that Don makes up!" And Buddy Hackett,RIP, would have done this justice.
Jul 10, 2017
 
 
Angela
Well said. Though I thought you'd be watching the Twilight Zone. ;-)
Jul 4, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
7/4-TCM rules,even though they just had YDD on Sunday. YDD,1776,TMM-then,Miss Firecracker,a Holly Hunter treat. The problem with the PBS A Capitol Fourth is host John Stamos,who will possibly force himself on the touring Beach Boy band,which has only one true BB-Mike Love,1/2 a BB,Bruce Johnston,Jeff Foskett,who used to front Brian Wilson's touring band and a Cowsill( remember them?-he ain't bad,but he ain't a real BB). Likewise,there is only one real Blues Bros. showing up on the show-Ackroyd. There is a local (Lehigh Valley) Blues Brotherhood tribute band which often features original horn arranger Bones Malone(they guy who wore colorful stuff in the CBS Orchestra) & Lou Marini. If they show up near you,check out the lineup and see a great show!
Jul 4, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Keith Robin
I was sorry to see that Season Two of "Cleverman" on the Sundance Channel wasn't one of your highlights last Wednesday. The season premiere plus extras are available on their web site. It airs Wednesdays at 10pm Eastern.
Jul 3, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Reiny
It's true that Paris is featured in A Little Romance, but the real star is actually Venice. In fact it is the focus of the whole "little romance" A very charming movie well worth your time.
Jun 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
As good as a romance can get. Both the guy and the girl are super smart,combining their talents to make a great couple. Little touches like the autographed photo of Robert Redford,(the biggest movie star at the time,due to the guy directing the film) and Broderick Crawford's bombastic Trumpian portrayal of "himself" are quite unexpected and keep the viewer to pay attention to details here. The music did get an Oscar and was one of the first LPs released by Varese Sarabande,a label that would make its mark with soundtracks but ALR never achieved the audience it deserved. 40 years later and Lane currently stars in a film set in France,Paris Can Wait.
Jul 1, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Music for Time For Sushi is Dynamoog,1978, by Jean-Jacques Perry & Gilbert Silrist. Perrey was an early Moog synthesiser proponent. The track also appears on a 2002 CD comp,La Pulpe 2 and shows up on You Tube. Perrey can be seen on You Tube in a 1960 I've Got A Secret episode with a pre-Moog instrument,the Ondioline,used in the 1960 film,Spartacus. Perrey just died last Nov.
Jun 30, 2017   |  Reply
 
EG
Thanks, Mac!
Jun 30, 2017
 
 
Mac
I forgot to add special mention to the cameo in Time For Sushi ,3:13, by Mitch McConnell. Vacation day away from putting together Trumpcare. Imagine Albert Einstein watching this and exclaiming:"Time for Sushi! After Time For Beany!"
Jun 30, 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 and his latest, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific, is now available at Amazon. The paperback version will be released fall, 2017.

 
 

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 available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

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

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