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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1429 Comments
 
 
Mac
6/21 TCM musical offerings also include the 1954 Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born @ 10PM. TCM upgraded a previous 1983 restoration for their 2010 film festival,which includes the use of stills and audio-only parts in place of missing footage. It clocks in at just under 3 hrs. Meanwhile,Barbra Streisand just sent her 1976 version of ASIB for Netflix,including footage that Streisand threw out years ago. And this Oct. sees a new version in theaters starring Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga with Lukas Nelson(Willie's kid)involved with songwriting. Cooper directs. Potential problem-Andrew Dice Clay is in it. Fourth time around since the 1937 non-musical version.
Jun 21, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
Women's sexuality portrayed in movies as "monstrous," a recent online article was headlined (did not get around to reading that one. You guys probably should). That title or tag could very well apply to tonight's episode of "Mom." The screenwriting sympathizes with a cheating husband character while mocking the woman he was with..
Jun 18, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bob516
"In its own wat(?), Jeremiah Johnson is just as poetic and captivating..."

I did not know Jeremiah Johnson had a connection to a Buddhist temple in southeast Asia.
Jun 16, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
George Ashur
"Year-to-date, Bee’s Nielsen ratings are down 34 percent among adults ages 18-49, which is the demographic most-coveted by primetime advertisers. Isolating just millennials, a label assigned to adults ages 18-34, she’s shed a whopping 47 percent — or nearly half — of her 2017 viewership." -- Maybe there's hope for our culture yet.
Jun 13, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Lovin' that cut & paste quote like Tom's 6/7 comment. Bee has seen a dramatic drop in ads. But it seems the word "feckless" has reared its head since 5/30,thanks to Sam. Colbert used the phrase "feckless country" a few days ago. Today,Steve Schmidt labeled many Republicans "feckless cowards" as he left the party after working for Cheney,Schwarzenegger,McCain and giving us 2 SCOTUS problems. Even Schmidt thinks the Party of Trump is corrupt. RNC-No feck.
Jun 20, 2018
 
 
 
Reiny in Berkeley
The Aliens in "The Invaders" actually had a curved little finger, not webbed. I remember this well because I have just such a digit, and as a fan of the show, was a little traumatized that perhaps my parents had neglected to tell me I was a alien.
Jun 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bill
Mac, what was your take on Bobby De Niro at the Tonys last night?
Jun 11, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
I decided to retire 11/8/16 as Trump's win was announced into 11/9 and I was on a Wawa hoagie run. I used my usual in-car blast of every cuss word in my vocabulary usually reserved for idiots cutting me off. My dearly departed boss would often come into work,put his briefcase down,and turn a 10 letter epithet beginning with "c" into a 10 second rant. The day would be right.
DeNiro knew CBS was gonna have the seven second delay switch on,so he got the choir riled in the church and got tons more press than if he just came out with a simple speech. After 500 days capped with denouncing Canada while making goo-goo eyes at a guy who kills those in his family, I understand what DeNiro needed to say. However,the kids from Parkland,Fl. stole the night. And Bruce got his point across,too. Me,I was watching a Monk marathon while Tony Shalhoub & Co. were winning-so much winning.
Jun 12, 2018
 
 
 
Ken Rehfield
What, no mention of the last of the Lollypop kids passing away?
Jun 7, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Sam Bee's relationship with TBS has interesting side issues. According to The Wrap,ratings are down 29% from Season 2,as Trump becomes normalized(500 days,sigh). The loss of two sponsors is not good,but possible axing due to low numbers is a possibility. Another issue is The Detour, a scripted comedy show involving Bee's husband,Jason Jones(both are credited as creators/exec. producers). The Detour was just renewed for a fourth season May 11th. TBS parent,Warner, has been tinkering with their cable properties to strike the balance between edgy subscription programming a la HBO(another Warner property)vs. edgy yet advertiser accepted cable fare.
And why is Bee's show scheduled @ 10:30,after 5 episodes of Big Bang repeats? Conan @11(going to 1/2 hr. in the fall) with Bee repeating @ 12,then repeating Sat.@11. Is there a better way to keep/grow an audience? At least put Bee at the top of an hour,not@10:30. TBS sports also gets in the way with time sensitive issue-based comedy.
Jun 6, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Less than a million viewers for late night seems not too bad for this slot. The Daily Show pulled in similar numbers this past April. Host Trevor Noah was punished this past Sept. with a 5 year extension. Conan on TBS(M-Th @ 11PM) seems to have less than half Bee's once a week numbers.Conan was also punished with a renewal,purposely cutting back to 1/2 hour, spun as a plus. Monty Python fans know about problems with being half a Bee,especially one named Eric.
Sam makes me laugh.I always learn something from this well researched show. Her speed talk packs an hour worth of ideas in a 1/2 hr.
I just reviewed an Ivanka segment from Apr. 2017,complete with body insults,eff-bombs and the "c" word(though not a personal insult) complete with the always entertaining "Sonny & Fredo" jabs at Don Jr. & Eric.
Jun 8, 2018
 
 
Tom
Is there a better way to keep/grow an audience?

Put on a better show.

"Year-to-date, Bee’s Nielsen ratings are down 34 percent among adults ages 18-49, which is the demographic most-coveted by primetime advertisers. Isolating just millennials, a label assigned to adults ages 18-34, she’s shed a whopping 47 percent — or nearly half — of her 2017 viewership."

Less than a million people are watching this dreck.
Jun 7, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
That Whose Line pedigree goes back to 1988,on British radio(thanks,Wiki). Stiles & Mochrie started in the U.K. version. Comedy Central ran an edited version of the show and used this not unlike USA Network using Law & Order as cheap daytime filler. Just as radio served as a starting place for many early TV game show hosts,this show is a breeding ground for modern day game shows. Quick thinking while keeping the action going are necessary for overseeing quiz shows,especially those involving a nervous audience member. It is not as easy as it looks.
Jun 4, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The repeat of the 5/30 Sam Bee show scheduled for 6/2@11PM on TBS was bumped by a repeat of Last O.G.,not even replacing 5/30 with an older episode. Also,as the Ivanka portion of the show made it next day on You Tube(I saw it unedited via Huff Post,Thurs. AM) it now seems to be very hard to find(I did just find it unedited-Google is your friend). I guess not even The Flying Nun could help. No word from Warner Bros. if Bee is gone,but it is disturbing. Maybe the "Very Funny" network doesn't understand between a scripted insult to a celebrity(who Daddy POTUS would love to date,so he says) and a racially charged "joke". TBS- very feckless. And afraid about Trump meddling in the merger with AT&T.
Jun 3, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
I wish I had something helpful to add. Just wanted to say, I totally agree.
Jun 4, 2018
 
 
 
Neil
Re: "800 Words": "Note, please, that I managed to describe 800 Words in 50 words or less. Forty-six, to be precise."

Nuh-uh. 48, to be preciser. ("Forty-six" and "Eight Hundred" are two words each.) ??
Jun 1, 2018   |  Reply
 
Neil
"??" was supposed to be an emoji, "8-)".
Jun 1, 2018
 
 
 
Ken Rehfield
When is Chicago airing on HBO? you forgot to post this info
May 30, 2018   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Oops. Sorry, Ken. We knew something looked wrong. We've received conflicting information on this today, but the last thing we read would mean it already aired. That said, we think there's a chance they actually pulled it at the last minute.
May 30, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
Roseanne just burned down this innerwebby thngy. Show canceled.Agency representing her isn't.Lost support from Sara Gilbert,also an exec producer and reportedly the fire to reboot the show.Lost support of adviser Wanda Sykes. Barr's apology comes off just as stupid, half-hearted and half-a**ed as expected. Even ex Tom Arnold chimed in. How long till the reruns of the old series get pulled from TVLand? How long will Fox tolerate low ratings for the Tim Allen return? Rollercoaster year for Tom Werner,exec behind Roseanne & Cosby TV.
May 29, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Update:Viacom,the parent of TVLand,has indeed pulled reruns of Roseanne. Laff,a broadcast network,has also pulled Roseanne from its schedule. As of this writing,local cable listing still has a two hour block of Roseanne scheduled for Laff tonight.
Amazon had not pulled Season 10 from Prime Video as of 5/30@5AM.
Still trying to find if a DVD set of Season 10 was in the works and what is the current status. One reliable news place,tvshowsondvd.com,just pulled their online site last Thurs. and are publishing via social media,but no Roseanne info there yet.
May 30, 2018
 
 
 
George Ashur
The season premiere of America's Got Talent is Tuesday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. This is outrageously entertaining and draws a huge audience, but doesn't get written about in this column (presumably because it's not David's binky, The Voice).
May 29, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bill
1968: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA
CNN, 9:00 p.m. ET
DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE:

Is this a one time event or a 4 part series?
May 27, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Kinda both. The four parts aired this past weekend. Part one-Winter- and part two-Spring-aired on Sun. Part three-Summer-and part four-Fall-aired yesterday. As with many of these CNN docs,they rerun them often,usually on weekends,which,up until 11/8/16, were slow news periods. Rather than fill up the time with expensive live shows repeating the limited amount of news,CNN reruns these docs as a cheap way to fill time and still look classy. It does beat MSNBC prison docs and Judge Jeanine on Fox News.
Me,I lived through 1968 as a high school Junior, Senior and in-between,a Summer School of Advanced French. I"m on overload with these 50th anniversary retrospects.
I think of the Doonesbury animated special,with talk of The Revolution, of which much of 1968 is about:"We're still all trying to figure it out."
That Advanced French stuff is long forgotten.
The Christmas Eve,listening to the crew of Apollo 8-in my heart forever.
May 29, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
With TCM going all war,all the time,for the Memorial Day weekend,know that the daytime schedule may have more interesting choices than usual. In place of serials or westerns,Sat.,5/26,John Wayne At War takes up the day,and Wayne made a bunch of great WWII films. Primetime sees From Here To Eternity and even a war themed/noir with The Clay Pigeon,at the usual midnight spot and a repeat Sun.@10AM. Spend some time this weekend in the spirit of what Memorial Day is all about.
May 26, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
NBC devotes the entire evening,Thurs. 5/24,with Red Nose Day activities. RND is a charity for ending poverty in children's lives,centering on selling foam red noses for a buck and asking for donations from everyone from you to Bil & Melinda Gates. 8PM showcases an RND Ninja Warrior show featuring B,C & D list celebrities. 9PM has a higher grade of celebrities in a Hollywood Game Night. 10PM- a mash of comedy & info surrounding RND and those who benefit from the donations,with the celebrity ranking to Julia Roberts and others. This also signals the end of the network TV season,which might also answer why ABC is showing the Michael Jackson special tonight instead of June 29th. Game shows,reality stuff,grade B talent shows and more Jennifer Lope that you may want will fill the coming weeks.
Also worth noting that the TCM Marlene Dietrich night starts with a lesser known Billy Wilder movie,A Foreign Affair-it is a goodie.
May 24, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bill
2018 NBA CONFERENCE FINALS
TNT, 9:00 p.m. ET
SERIES FINALE:

Not a Series Final. You need someone who has an interest in sports to list the sports picks, so many mistakes when you list sports as Best Bets.
May 22, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bryan Simpson
Real Time is a brain dead debate. I can't watch anymore after the absurd discussion between Maher and Bari Weiss over the Palestinians. You need to rethink how much you really agree with someone like Maher and still think of yourself as someone who cares about oppressed minorities. And this isn't the only idiotic stance by him, anti-vaxer among many others. It would be alright if you were rightwing, but I know you are not. Maher is a putz, he doesn't deserve any thinking person's respect.
May 19, 2018   |  Reply
 
Angela
Since I didn't see this episode, tell us why you think our time is better spent with a comedian other than Bill Maher (and not only how you feel about him)?
Also, I'm fairly certain Bill Maher isn't against all vaccines, though in a show he has said flu vaccines are ineffective and that they only work 25-30% of the time. The guest responded by saying that's a lot better than nothing.
Personally, while I pass on the yearly flu vaccines for reasons I won't get into I'm all for the other vaccines as I imagine is Mr. Maher. That said, I hope people don't get their medical care advise from comedians like Bill.
May 20, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
Been waiting for months for Bombshell. Local cheapo PBS outlet fills the night up with Antiques Roadshow,while,thankfully, our cable set up includes Philly's WHYY,which has Bombshell tonight.
The Royal Wedding nonsense is filling up so much of the schedule this week,there is need of a guide.Folks like me need to know when to go into the computer room while my ever lovin' gets her Royal fix. For me, Royal is a brand of Jello and,once upon a time,a good typewriter. Today,a baseball team in decline. Time to spool Monty Python & the Holy Grail to revisit Dennis' idea of "strange women lying in ponds,distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government." And then there's Chief Bone Spurs and the Chicken Hawks,featuring John Bolton on the brushes...
May 18, 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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