THURSDAY
JANUARY 11
2018

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

CBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

From the beginning, which by now is a very long time ago, The Big Bang Theory (which premiered in 2007) has been especially adept at two things: introducing and developing new characters, and finding ways to pair off its players in unexpected combinations. The introduction of former Blossom star Mayim Bialik as Sheldon’s girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, has been a comic godsend since she first appeared as Amy in 2010. And tonight, with Amy and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) now planning their wedding, you’d think they’d be inseparable – but tonight’s new episode separates them, at least professionally. Sheldon throws Amy out so he can work solo on his research, which leads to some temporary shuffling of the comic deck. Amy finds herself working well with Leonard (Johnny Galecki), while Sheldon ends up spending unexpected solo time with Leonard’s wife, Penny (Kaley Cuoco).
 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

Ingrid Bergman stars as a young, newly married woman whose husband (Charles Boyer) takes her back to her old home, the site of a family tragedy. And from there, things get… complicated, and very, very confusing. So confusing, with so many layers of deception and obfuscation, that even today, more than 70 years after this 1944 movie was directed by the great George Cukor, the title and term Gaslight continues to be used to describe efforts to hide, deny or alter reality simply by fabricating an alternate set of facts. You may have heard the term recently, for example, on MSNBC – but tonight’ Gaslight is on TCM. And that’s a fact.

 
  
 
 

NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET

All of Season 1 of The Good Place was a treat, and a trick. Since the start of its current Season 2, The Good Place has been one reboot after another, each one a delight. Last week’s episode, the first new one of 2018, ended by throwing yet another curveball, with Ted Danson’s Michael saving the very people he’d been called upon to torture for eternity. And now, he’s been told to scrap his just-abandoned experimental alternate hell neighborhood – but that’s where his protected charges, including Kristen Bell’s Eleanor, continue to hide. So what now? The great thing about this comedy is, I have no idea…
 
  
 
 

CBS, 8:31 p.m. ET

Tonight, in this new episode, young Sheldon (Iain Armitage) has his first taste of a very formative experience: playing the game Dungeons & Dragons.

 
  
 
 

ABC, 9:00 p.m. ET

With I, Tonya now in theaters, starring Margot Robbie as infamous Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding, ABC News presents this special, in which Amy Robach profiles and interviews the athlete who became, unwittingly and unflatteringly, one of the major stars of the 1994 Winter Olympics. That’s because some of the men she knew conspired to target one of Harding’s on-ice rivals, Nancy Kerrigan, and clubbed her in the knee at a practice session before the Olympics that year. We saw her story dramatized in I, Tonya. Now we hear it in her own words, from Her, Tonya. (Or is it She, Tonya?)

 
  
 
 

HBO, 10:30 p.m. ET

Comedian Jordan Peele stunned audiences by making an astounding successful, creepy, and only occasionally and intentionally funny horror movie with this 2017 thriller, Get Out. In this wonderfully spun story, written and directed by Peele, Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, who is being taken by his girlfriend, Rose (played by Allison Williams from Girls), on a weekend vacation to meet her parents for the first time. He’s black, she’s white – and what happens once they arrives is, among other things, a modern approximation of Rod Serling’s classic The Twilight Zone. And as such, it served as a winning audition: Peele, the former co-star of Comedy Central’s Key and Peele, has been hired to oversee a new version of The Twilight Zone, which will be presented exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming service.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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1584 Comments
 
 
Mac
12/10 -The TCM night is chosen by director John Landis(Animal House,Trading Places) with two Laurel & Hardy shorts from their MGM talkie days and W.C. Fields' classic "It's a Gift",a personal favorite that reveals new laughs with every viewing. Lots of Field's onstage bits woven into this one.
It's not all laughs,at least intended ones,as Landis includes the rarely seen "The Monster & The Girl" with "and unusual melange of genres:film noir,courtroom drama, white slavery,gangster,mad scientist,gorilla and a boy-and -his-dog movie"(John's quote from the TCM website). The film is only 64 min. long-talk about bang for your buck! Oh,and also a Kubrick classic-"Paths Of Glory" thrown in the mix. On any other night,that would get the spotlight. Stan & Ollie,Fields,monsters in crime....and an anti-war masterpiece. Fun for the whole family.
Dec 10, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Comic strip alert:Foxtrot by Bill Amend,12/9(also @ gocomics.com). A great 2018 take on the Frosty the Snowman special,drawn in the Rankin/Bass style. Bill only does new material on Sun. but the strip is more than your usual family fare.
Speaking of Frosty on TV- Comic Jackie Vernon voiced Frosty for 3 shows,before his passing in 1987. In real life,Vernon's shtick was a dead-panned slow delivery-kinda like Rodney Dangerfield on quaaludes. He was everywhere on the talk show circuit,but I had no idea about his raunchy onstage act. His TV material was pretty good. Radio stations playing the Jimmy Durante version of Frosty usually have Vernon's voice at the start and finish. Few know Jackie's real job. Wiki says he often opened for Dean Martin & Judy Garland.
Dec 10, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
A few days late, but responding to Mac. What people on the East Coast may not be aware of is that NBC, since Spring 2017, has been feeding SNL live across the country. So in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area (where I am), Seattle, San Diego and all through the West Coast, it's in prime time, 8:30-10:00 pm. In Mountain time zone markets like Denver and Phoenix, it starts at 9:30pm. That has to be a big bump to their numbers, since by then they have the field to themselves and there's really no competition from the other networks (the college football games are over and CBS and ABC are into Saturday night dreck like 48 Hours, and Fox airs reruns and local news). I doubt SNL's numbers would look as good if the western third of the country was still waiting till 11:30 to see the cold open, and 12:15 to see Weekend Update.
Dec 5, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
NBC airing SNL actually live coast-to-coast was due directly to Trump-a decision that only took 40+ years. The fear that the kiddies may be exposed to PG-13 humor in 1975 finally gave way to keeping topical jokes topical and delivered with an ad,not through social media,DVR, or You Tube. The chicken or egg question was that the Trump jokes came first and delivered great ratings. Then the light bulb went off,especially as Melissa McCarthy skewered Sean Spicer(she also was given the final host spot for the four experimental "live coast to coast" in spring 2017). West Coast also repeats the newest episode @ 11:30.
Dec 6, 2018
 
 
 
George
"There’s been so much news on the President Trump front this week, it’s not unreasonable to expect, or at least hope for, a guest appearance by Alec Baldwin in the cold open of tonight’s new installment." -- Or not.

Saturday Night Live last weekend had the same share and audience size as a repeat of something called Robbie the Reindeer in the 8:00 p.m. hour. SNL is about as culturally relevant today as Doonesbury (speaking of which, Garry Trudeau -- unless he is bumped by a George Bush tribute -- is scheduled to be on CBS Sunday Morning this weekend; must have a book to pimp).
Dec 1, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Indeed Trudeau has a book-"Sad!",a collection of Sunday strips since Trump was sworn at...er,in.Trudeau only does new material for Sunday newspapers. If broadcast,Jane Pauley,aka Mrs. Garry Trudeau,interviews her husband. They've been married 38 years with 3 kids and 2 grandkids. Pretty stable family,AFAIK.
The 10/24 10PM SNL repeat did indeed have Robbie type numbers.But, according to Dateline:Hollywood: the new 11:30PM episode(host Steve Carell) was the "#1 telecast of the night on the Big 4 networks in metered market households and 18-49 local people meters,out rating every Sat. primetime program in those nets in both measures." The main primetime competition were 2 college football games-USC vs. Notre Dame(ABC) & Oklahoma State vs. TCU(Fox). The website also lists the episode as second best for this SNL season.
Dec 1, 2018
 
 
 
Bob516
"mood-alerting drugs" Guess I missed that episode. How do drugs alert one's mood?
Nov 30, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Phillip R. Crabb
Hello Dave, we've been talking about this for years now, but the creep of scheduling for these holiday classics continues to drift farther away from Christmas. Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, and Grinch have no business, nor much relevance, being broadcast in...wait for it...November.

Like when we were kids, these holiday staples all deserve to be held off to the week before Christmas for the anticipation, and the buildup to the Holiday they represent. Even "A Wonderful Life" has already been broadcast.

Have these networks lost sight of how things were back when these were broadcast in the '60s? Kids talked about these shows a week before they came on.
The Red Skelton Special, and almost every regular series taped a Christmas themed episode.

I don't know who these Network planners have become, but it's being mailed in.

Have a great Holiday season...
Phil
Franklin (Sussex County) NJ
Nov 30, 2018   |  Reply
 
Mac
Important to remember that all of these shows,almost every TV broadcast,is aired to sell something. Even C-Span and religious channels. Charlie Brown Christmas,first aired 12/9/65 and sponsored by Coke. Lots of soda consumption during holidays. No sponsor,no show.
If you're selling stuff for 12/25,the sooner you make the sale,the sooner the profit. If this programming weren't effective,they wouldn't air.
From Vulture: "The War for Christmas TV is More Competitive Than Ever",examining Hallmark,Freeform,Lifetime,Netflix and now AMC with hundreds of holiday hits,which started before Halloween. All while folks are buying and warehouses are shipping.
Quick take-Whoever thinks that Christmas has been abandoned hasn't turned on a TV. It is everywhere. And yes,for me,fatigue has set it in. But hope is around the corner: AMC has another Godfather marathon 12/27.
It is time to listen to Stan Freberg's 1958 "Green Chri$tma$". Want to hear it on You Tube? First an ad for Christmas candy.Ugh.
Nov 30, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
Loved when Keith Olbermann "lit" the Rockefeller Christmas tree during Keith's MSNBC days.The lighting always happened during his live (9PM) broadcast. He hit a red Staples-Easy style button, nonchalantly mid-sentence during any topic,the tree lit up and the show went on. Saved viewers from putting up with Mariah Carey embarrassing herself or whatever stuff they had planned for the network special.
Nov 28, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
While exploring media the next few days,you will come across a remembrance of Stephen Hillenburg,who created Spongebob Squarepants,the first true hero of the 21st Century. Stop and think of the gift Hillenburg gave to us. If the average 5 year old child watched Spongebob at the beginning,they are now a young adult, well prepared to handle 2018. So when our feckless leader scoffs about manmade climate change while a government report says otherwise, there a bunch of youngins' who recognize Stupid. And these folks will have to find ways to clean up the mess.
There aren't more cockeyed optimists than Spongebob,except maybe Patrick. You may sometimes think your best friend maybe be part Patrick,but that best friend sees some of Patrick in you. And you love each other because of that stupid and might learn something together. Thanks,Mr. Hillenburg, for the little song,little dance and seltzer down the pants. Even under the sea,that seltzer bottle made us laugh and learn.
Nov 28, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Noticed that AMC is using the colorized version of "Miracle On 34th Street". Kinda takes the miracle out of it. TCM, though founded by colorize fanatic Ted Turner,stays away from this practice. My first color TV came with a switch to go from color to black & white. I sometimes enjoyed using it when stations used damaged color prints. I wish that button was still available.
I also had an audio system with a switch from stereo to mono,which came in handy to strengthen weak stereo FM radio signals and at least make an attempt to normalize LPs that used awful "reprocessed" effects that ruined many old recordings. For decades,as mono was eliminated in the marketplace, listeners had no choice except the "reprocessed" versions. The practice ended around the advent of the CD with mastering pros gaining access to original sources and knew that natural was better than gimmicks.
Nov 27, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Kathleen
In “TV We’re Watching” section Homecoming is listed as Netflix. It’s actually on Amazon Prime. And definitely worth watching!
Nov 24, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
I just read a story on Vulture about the revolving door of Christmas movies and TV specials finding new homes. AMC has corralled many favorites(and a few duds) to create "Best Christmas Ever" to compete with ABC's Freeform "25 Days" and Hallmark's "Countdown to Christmas.". Primarily Warner Bros.(now AT&T)owned properties,AMC snagged "Elf","National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "Polar Express", away from Freeform,along with 12 Rankin/Bass TV productions made after 1973(so no original Rudolph,but there are two Rudolph themed specials in the deal). The ownership of Rankin/Bass output is tangled and multinational. AMC & Warner sealed this deal three years ago but it is just now ready to roll. AMC claims to have 600 hours of Christmas programming scheduled from 11/26 to 12/25. After 12/25,how about a "Walking Dead Not-So-Shiny New Year"? Later,a "Godfather Valentine" to snag jewelry ads in January? Clemenza-"Hide her ring in a canolli,but leave the gun. Every kill begins with "K".
Nov 23, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Erik huf
Your “what we’re watching” section lists the Amazon Prime offering “Homecoming “ as being on Netflix.
Nov 23, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Strange that MST3K has Mac & Me on the new season while TCM schedules this turkey leftover as the next Underground feature,Sat. 11/24 @ 2AM. Actually a double bill-The Garbage Pail Kids Movie follows @ 3:45AM. That stinker was produced,written,and directed by Rod Amateau,who had a long career in TV,including Dobie Gillis, Mister Ed & Gilligan's Island. Convoluted trivia between these two films:Mac & Me and another 1988 film Sunset,shared Golden Raspberry awards(aka Razzies) for direction. Sunset was based on a unpublished novel by ...Rod Amateau. Spreadin' the fertilizer...
Nov 22, 2018   |  Reply
 
Since Mac and I (a MUCH better movie title) are both paying attention to TCM, let me also do a shout out to Phantom Tollbooth (1970, animation directed by Chuck Jones, voices by lots of the usual suspects) the plot centering around the loss of Rhyme and Reason and how words don’t mean anything anymore. Also, Gilligan is now being re-interpreted as Communist Propaganda, now in theaters but (eventually coming to a TV near you) http://gilliganmovie.com/. Note:Rod Amateau was also married to the daughter of Burns & Allen (Sandra Burns) from 1959-1962. He should have listened to his mother in law more.
Nov 22, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
Mention early that MeTV airs WKRP's Thanksgiving classic episode,"Turkeys Away" 11/22,9:30PM ET. Fun fact:this was only the 7th episode of the series-a series that took some time to find its footing. Wiki fact:after one more episode,CBS put WKRP on hiatus(what TV now labels "fall finale"),trying to figure out the focus of the sitcom and how to find an audience. In hindsight,it was CBS, their censors and scheduling changes that kept WKRP from reaching its potential. But as God as my witness,if you've never seen "Turkeys Away",pull away from the pumpkin pie and NFL tomorrow night for this episode.
Nov 21, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Danny M
Trevor Noah show is called The Daily Show and not the Daily News who used to be your former employer.
Nov 20, 2018   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Oops
Nov 21, 2018
 
 
 
Mac
Though little connection to TV,the passing of writer William Goldman leaves a hole in my heart. Movies:"Butch Cassidy","All the President's Men"("Follow the money."),"Marathon Man","Harper" and,"The Princess Bride"(his greatest hit-also wrote the book). Breezy fun-to-read fiction. Non-fiction:"The Season"-the best book about Broadway. "Adventures in the Screen Trade",which opens,"Nobody knows anything." Truth. If you see his name attached to anything,stop and take a chance. Scott Simon's NPR remembrance was read underscored with a melancholy piece of music from "Butch Cassidy". A straight shooter,a true Renaissance man and great storyteller.
Nov 17, 2018   |  Reply
 
"Though little connection to TV"-interesting point of distinction, because all of these movies get shown on TV eventually. And with the decline of Video Rental and the rise of cable, most viewers will be exposed to these works through broadcast, ahead of the numbers who see them On-Demand or maybe in the classroom. He was multi-media, indeed, with his published books and exploration of theater-nice touch, Mac, bringing in radio to round him out. Most things come to TV eventually, at least for now, as a central place of accessibility. The actual line between film/TV and even online content is joyously blurred nowadays, because why and how do these industries need to remain separate? (Other than economics, prestige and tradition, WHY are they separate at all?) "The Screen Trade" is a wide open field.
Nov 18, 2018
 
 
Keith Robin
Hear, hear! I could not have said it better. Thank you, Mac!
Nov 17, 2018
 
 
 
Keith Robin
I know it occurred after "information" (what those faceless voices from "The Village" always asked No. 6 to provide!), and that was before I googled Oxford comma.
And please allow me to wish you health, happiness, and great book sales this Thanksgiving and on into Christmas and the new year!
Nov 15, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Ahhh-the thrill of a TCM afternoon discovery! Honeymoon Killers (1969) is a great surprise for the random broadcast lottery. Low budget, ($150k), no stars, could easily fall into exploitation territory. But it is fascinating. A mashup (before mashups) of The Producers, Natural Born Killers and Bonnie & Clyde. Couple goes around pretending to be brother & sister (weird enough, since one of them has a heavy Italian accent and they look nothing alike) keep pulling con jobs on “lonely hearts” women who can be fooled by letters. Murder is not such a big deal, pills & you can dispose of a body on a Greyhound. For some reason He keeps being surprised that She is jealous when he fools around with the marks. Bad situation all around but riveting.
Slight digging on the internet reveals major treasure. FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT’s favorite American film! Based on a true story! And the kicker? Some scenes directed by a young SCORSESE, almost his 2nd film, except he was FIRED for working too slowly!
Nov 14, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Bob516
When I first read "ROWAN UNIVERSITY'S TV FINALE FEST IS THIS FRIDAY" I thought it said Final Test. I thought it would be really interesting to the see the final exam in your class. I am a perpetual student at heart.
Nov 12, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
Tammy
Breaking Away 1st timer: Odd movie to broadcast/recommend just after elections, when the idea of divisiveness is still prominent. Both the film & politics seem to frame themselves as if they are about a single winner, rather than what they are: a relay w/ constantly changing elements.
“Cutter” is what invading college kids call the natives, even though those kids will never have the masonry jobs their parents had. The father objects to an Italian invasion by his own son. In my hometown, townies are Irish and/or Italian and I had never heard “Itie”. Interesting to note what seems foreign and what is as American as “French Fries”. Evolution & growth are the crux.
Details & lines glow, scenes breathe; character development doesn’t have to compete w/ plot. The film starts & lingers at the swimming hole at the quarry, the water is impossibly blue, as is the angle of the stone they sun themselves on. Sky seen through trees. The journey is much more interesting than the race itself.
Nov 12, 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.