MONDAY
MARCH 12
2018

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

Last night, American Idol premiered in its new iteration, brought back by ABC with new judges, but the same host (Ryan Seacrest) and basic tone and approach. That was one test – but another arrives tonight, as the musical competition series that formerly ruled television now goes up directly against the reigning champ in that genre, NBC’s The Voice. And when you put the two head to head, to me it’s no contest at all. Katy Perry, the most attention-demanding of the new Idol judges, didn’t really connect fully in her initial turn – and the first time a self-delusional, overly confident singing “talent” faced the rejection of the three judges, American Idol revealed the mean underbelly that separates it so clearly from The Voice. There are times, in these early audition episodes, when Idol not only allows itself to be cruel, but revels in it. The Voice is just as emotionally manipulative in framing its contestants’ stories, but in a positive way. Go there. Skip this. For a full review, see Roger Caitlin's TV Eye.
 
  
 
 

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

The new cycle of The Voice, still in Blind Auditions in its third week, is a very enjoyable show to watch. The byplay among the four judges – this time, it’s Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and newcomer Kelly Clarkson – is genuinely giddy and boisterous. They’re all having a good time, and clearly in full-out competitive mode, doing whatever they can to amass talented rosters for their own teams while undercutting the other judges with verbal counter-arguments, shrewd timing of supportive chair turns, and this new, very effective “blocking” gimmick, which allows each judge to prevent another from grabbing a talent – once. Head to head, I suspect The Voice takes American Idol the first time out, which is tonight, and never looks back. And I have to admit: I adore the approach, and the quiet humanity and sincerity, of Alicia Keys.

 
  
 
 

National Geographic, 8:00 p.m. ET

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE: This feature documentary makes its TV premiere uninterrupted by commercials tonight on the National Geographic Channel, and it’s a beautiful piece of work. It’s about the pioneering chimpanzee-study work of Jane Goodall, and is built around hundreds of hours of film footage that was taken more than 50 years ago, but stored in archives and never used until now. Filmmaker Brett Morgen, who has helmed dramatically compiled documentary studies of Kurt Cobain and Robert Evans, lets the story tell itself – and it ends up being not only a nature story, but a love story, too, and a life study of the human species as well. We see Jane Goodall today, reflecting on her younger selves and looking just as beautiful and enthusiastic a human being as when she first went to Africa to study apes in the wild. And in the vintage footage, we see wildlife photography, and behavior, that is spectacular. And the entire movie is scored, brilliantly, by composer Philip Glass, who elevates the experience even more. BBC America’s just-concluded Blue Planet II was a nature documentary for the ages, a wonder to behold and a thrill to watch. Jane is right up there in that astounding company. Do not miss it. For a full review, see David Hinckley's All Along the Watchtower.
 
  
 
 

Smithsonian, 8:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s opener in this miniseries study of the Egyptian queen traced her ascent to, and early exercise of, power. Tonight’s follow-up, “Love and Death,” succinctly summarizes tonight’s events – even if it does sound like a Woody Allen comedy.

 
  
 
 

CW, 9:00 p.m. ET

Tonight’s new episode, the first of a two-parter called “Brainless in Seattle,” has Liv (Rose McIver) hitting the clubs in town after ingesting the brains, and optimistic attitudes, of a hopeless romantic.

 
  
 
 

NBC, 10:00 p.m. ET

This is the third episode of this new NBC series, which continues to entangle the three suburban buddies – played by Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, Another Period), Mae Whitman (pictured, from Parenthood) and Retta (Parks and Recreation) – as unwilling agents of a fierce local mobster. In tonight’s installment, “Borderline,” he sends them on a mission to cross the border into Canada and bring back a mysterious package. Making them reluctant agents of a powerful blackmailer is no different, really, than the relationship Robert Wagner’s cat burglar had with his government “handler” in the 1960s classic series It Takes a Thief – but this show, so far, is one-third It Takes a Thief, one-third Charlie’s Angels, and one-third Desperate Housewives. But even with these three elements, and very likable female stars, Good Girls has yet to live up to its title, and gel into something Good.

 
  
 
 
 
 
Read and add comments HERE for today's Best Bets!
 
 
 
 
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1670 Comments
 
 
MAS
You are not wrong. It's a rerun from March 3
Mar 24, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Bob
I believe John Oliver mentioned he would be off this week.I hope I am wrong.
Mar 24, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
I've heard the real Queen Victoria was not as fond of children as her character on "Victoria" is portrayed as being. How close is the TV series to historical reality?
Mar 22, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
TCM with movies with "Alice" in the title? Heck,it took me over a week till I figured out this month's Star of the Month is Frederic March because the month is....March.
Mar 20, 2019   |  Reply
 
Angela
:-D
Mar 22, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
Fox News preempted Sat. 3/16 Jeanine Pirro show with little response from the higher ups,sighting "internal scheduling matters". After Pirro's 3/9 remarks concerning Minnesota Democrat Ihan Omar,which Fox News condemned and led to at least 4 advertisers pulling out what has been a cable news ratings leader. Variety reported around 4PM and some online schedules caught the change. Many news sources didn't kick in till after the fact,with MSNBC & CNN live broadcasts missing the story. Hopefully Monday will bring some clarification as to either a temporary or long term punishment. The online Fox schedule for 3/23 already lists no Pirro.with the show that filled in last night,a repeat of the pretaped Scandalous,but that could be a mistake.
Mar 17, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
3/19 check of the online schedule of Fox News 3/23 still lists no Pirro and 3/24 overnight schedule,which includes early morning repeats of the 3/23 prime time shows also excludes Pirro,but no official word from Fox,as Trumps laments her absence,fans threaten boycott of Fox News in general and advertisers face boycotts if they don't abandon Pirro. This Sat. is the 2nd round of NCAA men's basketball and what some sports junkies consider a perfect storm including pro b-ball,pro hockey,spring training pro baseball and others,so maybe they can get away with a 2nd week without comment or final decision.
Mar 19, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
St. Patty's Day brings an all day,all Irish bunch of films on TCM,with the 8PM slot for another airing of A Quiet Man,John Ford's fantasy of love and lust in a small Irish town.
If you have access via DVD or non-broadcast services,I''ll suggest Brooklyn(2015), another Irish fairy tale (and America). Starring Saiorse Ronan. Luminous.
Mar 17, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
This just in. As AMC showed The Godfather II,Frank Cali,head of the NY Gambino family,was assassinated outside his home. Nothing this big for the Gambinos in over 30 years. No reports of anyone named Paulie,Rocco,Frankie Five Angels or Fredo involved. Also no Don Jr. nor Eric,but if Johnny Ola shows up at your door,run.
Mar 14, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
Hey DB, if you're recounting reclusive cartoonists, don't forget Berkeley Breathed, creator/cartoonist behind Bloom County and Opus the Penguin (and Bill the Cat - Ack! Ack!). He does drawings that appear on his Facebook page, but has also been out of the daily/weekly strip business for many years.
Mar 13, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
Breathed's continuing opus with Opus can also be found via gocomics.com. They list the new ones as Bloom County 2018(?),while older Breathed material is simply under Bloom County. Go Comics,from Andrews McMeel Universal, can email favorites or use the "updated today" feature at the website. Tons of comics,including political 'toons of many sides. Other cartoons with a pedigree that update few times include Doonesbury,Foxtrot and Tom the Dancing Bug. Ruben Bolling's Tom is a throwback to the comics of alternative newspapers(think Matt Groening's Life In Hell) with a decidedly '60s hippie vibe while satirizing current events and mimicking many styles. Scratch your head or spit your coffee out,Tom is worth your attention,as well as his daily Super-Fun-Pak Comix.
Other worthy strips : Lio,Non Sequitur,9 Chickweed Lane and Pearls Before Swine. Comics are alive & kinda well.
Mar 14, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
Bob Saget's new show premiered on the same day that Lori Loughlin was indicted on a college entrance exam cheating scandal. Karma? Meanwhile,John Stamos is scheduled for a Beach Boy show next week in Texas. I use the term "Beach Boy"as when folks pony up dough thinking they will see The Beach Boys,they only get one-Mike Love. Maybe 1.5 as Bruce Johnston is there and has put in 45+ years touring,but is considered a hired worker. Folks going to see Brian Wilson get two-Wilson & Al Jardine.
Mar 13, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
David Goeller
TV Worth Spoiling. That's TVWW too often. There was no need to tell Shameless fans that Fiona was leaving the series. For me, Shameless was an automatic watch, so I didn't read the TVWW blurb. It's likely some other fans who did had their Season 9 finale ending ruined.
Mar 12, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
Just a little online checking that Emmy Rossum announced last August that she was leaving. Source-New York Magazine's Vulture,Aug. 30,even including a confirmation from Showtime same day. So an open secret for over six months. Fans of a show should watch carefully about stories and/or clickbait. Unless those Sister Wives gang up on the Husband-that I would watch even knowing the outcome. Especially if Mitt Romney would make a cameo.
Mar 12, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
Dick Gautier was the original Conrad Birdie in the Broadway cast of "Bye,Bye Birdie". While he never achieved superstar status,he did have a few moments in the sun. Dick Gautier was Hymie The Robot in "Get Smart". Memorable but he was only in six episodes. Gautier later starred in Mel Brooks' first attempt at spoofing Robin Hood,the short-lived TV series "When Things Were Rotten". Lots of cartoon voice work.
Mar 9, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
David Goeller
Your TVWW pick - I Am the Night - was good but far from great. Want a better Black Dahlia spinoff? True Confessions, the 1981 flick with DeNiro, Duvall and a cast of top supporting actors grooving on a script by Joan Didion & John Gregory Dunne.
Mar 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
2/2 SNL indeed had the either the crown or crapper show of the season with what will be termed The Bathroom Bodega sketch as a companion to last April's Diner Lobster;another John Mulaney musical and yet,to keep the spoilers away,you just gotta see it. You will never see a Virgin Mary votive candle in the same light again.
Mar 3, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
First time I saw Hugo. Your description for it was perfect.
Mar 2, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Tammy
Granted, I generally am against TCM airing ANY movie that was made after 1990. But a "20100 Martin Scorsese movie" is just ridiculous. Can't the director stick to his own millennia? ;)
Mar 1, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
2001:A Space Odyssey
2010:Te Year We Make Contact
20100:Bryce Harper Retires:The Final Bobblehead
Mar 1, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
House Oversight Committee Hearing-I'm listening via NPR but C-SPAN would be my choice to view,bouncing around cable TV when the questions go on hold. Started with the leaked opening statement that I've been reading,via Poliitico,since early AM. Riveting.
Feb 27, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Last Sept. there was notice of a new digital subchannel from Weigel (MeTV,H&I,Decades,Movies!),Start TV,affiliated with CBS. Much confusion on our local cable setup as Start was to replace Decades till it didn't. Now both show up on our system,along with Escape,from Katz/Scrippts. Start & Escape are showing shows of recent past. Start includes The Closer,The Good Wife and Cold Case. Escape has Boston Legal,Without A Trace & Law & Order and edited movies. Both have lots of ads for lawyers involved in asbestos poisoning while the catheter cowboy seems to have ridden into the sunset after John Oliver gave him a new role instructing Trump on science. Lots of Medicare scams but some interesting TV for free. And you can't have too many channels showing Law & Order.
Feb 26, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
Ooops. Scripps. Got the two "p"s,still threw in an extra "t" for no reason. I'm the product of a drug store family and "script" is an everyday word.
Feb 27, 2019
 
 
 
JOEL
Re: Drunk History. Try "femmes fatales".
Feb 26, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Hats off to John Oliver for saving me from wading through piles of Oscar rubbish and finally get to some real stuff. Psychics,Dr. Oz(Scumbag Extraordinaire),Dr. Phil,Montel Williams(winner of the Art Linkletter Lifetime Liar Award) and Matt Lauer-all bad folks,all predators and all media demons.
Feb 25, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
BF-Before Fellini-TCM schedules "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness"(1958) @ 3:15PM. I vividly remember watching this in a second-run theatre with my Mom. I think she just wanted to see it and,at 7, I was the accompanying patsy to give her an excuse to get out of the house. Most theatre movies for kids were under 2hrs.-this one clocks in at 156 min. Also it was th first time we entered midway in the showing. I understood nothing about this,but it was indeed sprawling,and I remember the scene where we came in,so that meant leaving. The star,Ingrid Bergman,wearing a bamboo domed hat. Lots of kids singing "This old man,he played one...". It wasn't till decades later, while watching a preview on TV,that the title and some scenes(everyone was climbing hills) rushed back in my memory. It was the era of David Lean and Cinemascope epics.
Feb 21, 2019   |  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.