THURSDAY
JANUARY 10
2019

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

CBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

In this show’s final season, plot twists and personal triumphs and tribulations keep coming. On tonight’s new episode, Penny’s ex-boyfriend Zach (Brian Thomas Smith) decides to tackle the infertility problem between him and his wife with a somewhat novel approach: he asks Leonard to be the father of their baby by donating some sperm. Big bang indeed...
 
  
 
 

NBC, 8:00 p.m. ET

The second episode of this super-sized athletic-competition reality series is called “Whatever It Takes” – an approach that tonight’s contestants firmly embrace. Dwayne Johnson hosts.

 
  
 
 

NBC, 9:00 p.m. ET

SERIES RETURN: The Season 6 premiere of this series finds it at a new network: The first five seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine were shown on Fox, but after that network dropped the show, NBC quickly picked it up. The story line picks up where it left off, too. At the end of Season. 5, Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) got married on Fox. Tonight, on the Season 6 premiere on NBC, they make plans for a honeymoon, with suddenly available cash.

 
  
 
 

NBC, 9:30 p.m. ET

I adore this show. The more times I watch an episode, or the more closely I examine its set design and final credits, the more hidden jokes I find. And the more I read about philosophy, the more I almost begin to approach a limited understanding of what this show is really doing. In tonight’s new episode, the gang arrives in the actual Good Place for the first time – but only at a distant outpost. Meanwhile, Michael tries to alert the actual Good Place authorities that the Bad Place demons have hacked their point system for afterlife rewards – and prevented anyone from entering the Good Place for 521 years. For a full review, see David Hinckley's All Along the Watchtower.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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1632 Comments
 
 
Mac
MLK Day means interesting choices on TCM. Odd,no "Sounder"-it's on 1/28. Prime time presents Denzel Washington in the spotlight. 8PM-"Glory"-an obvious but always welcome view. 10PM-"Philadelphia" Dunno. Washington is indeed important to the story,but the story is AIDS and Tom Hanks is front and center throughout. 12:30AM- "A Soldier's Story"another fine choice concerning race and the military. But it is the 2:30AM feature of "Devil in a Blue Dress" that deserves the spotlight. Rarely shown and a box office failure,it is worth attention. Based on the first Easy Rawlins novel from Walter Mosley, concerns an unemployed blue collar worker turned detective in post-WWII Watts,it is fine noir. Bogey didn't have all the fun. This would have been a great film series,especially since the novels age Easy and an older Denzel would be interesting to watch.
Jan 21, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
BIANCULLI, at NO time has Bond been “seen by virtually everyone of adult age”. Not just the “20 dear-olds”, but many people PROUDLY avoid the entire franchise. One group off the top of my head----some slice of NPR listeners, maybe?
I am astounded that, as a critic, you could confuse a strong marketing campaign for a “cultural conversation”, unless you want to trace the apathetic killer genre and how it has impacted the societal violence of today vs a complex Hitchcockian hero (who hesitates to fire a gun)?
It is one thing to remark on the historical methods & habits of consuming media, and another to assume that viewers are/were EVER one cohesive unit. If you find a supposition shaky-year after year, maybe you should modify the assumption?
Especially on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (of Service), there are MANY other opportunities for a Millennial OR a Baby Boomer to seek “enlightenment”; focusing on a character in the media that has zero empathy is too easy the other days of the year.
Jan 21, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
While I've been posting MLK & Bond stuff,Tammy combined both ideas into a a coherent package which begs for added voices. Do NPR listeners avoid James Bond movies? Paging Ira Glass & "This American Life". I ignored Bond but consumed "Bullitt","Butch Cassidy","The French Connection" and lots more with stuff blowing up and bodies tossed about. As mentioned in my post below,it was Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner" that put things in perspective. While Bond ruled,here was a guy trying to get out of the spy business but the spy business was not about to let him get out. Who is the bad guy? Who was #1? The answer(?) proved unsettling and profound,yet "the finale" seemed hastily cobbled together just so McGoohan could get on with other roles. What did I learn:Trust no one,even yourself. You can be wrong as much as you are right. Paranoia strikes deep for a reason. Maybe the MacGuffin is the point of it all-or not. In any event,much more fun than a blowhard trying to rule the world.
Jan 21, 2019
 
 
PS There is something broken on your website. Every time someone posts a link in the "Website" box, it is rendered as a "Bad Request". The link I intended to post above was : https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service
Jan 21, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
Modern times presents many choices and unexpected dilemmas. I have no interest in vampires,super heroes and loud movies with things blowin' up good,while relishing in TV & film I need discovering or rediscovering. In old days of commercial TV spooling movies of the 30s & '40s,it was light fare that captured me. Nowadays,and largely due to Eddie Muller's guidance on TCM,film noir interests me. I didn't understand spaghetti westerns until "Once Upon a Time In the West" 20 yeas ago-missed it in the theatres-a regret. I'm 67 yet have never sat through an entire official Bond movie. Bits & pieces,yes,but "The Ipcress File " and "The Prisoner" made Bond worthless. Also,kudos to Mad Magazine to filling me in on what I missed. Odd,I own the 1967 "Casino Royale",the "anti-Bond" Bond film for the music,but find the chaos and waste of millions of dollars fun. It would have never worked on a low budget.Many directors-no direction.Cowboys & Indians to the rescue-that was just what Bond needed.
Jan 21, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
I was fond of the original. It will be interesting to see how his version turns out. At the same time, it seems Spielberg has made "statement" films on several important topics, from Indiana Jones adventures (Lost Ark, etc.) to the Holocaust, and I wonder why other directors don't get to "go there." To be catty, now he gets to monopolize the immigrant experience, too?
Jan 15, 2019   |  Reply
 
Maybe THIS should be Spielberg's next movie! Anyone want to work on the pitch with me? ;)
Jan 17, 2019
 
 
Angela
"I’m eager for the remake of The Swamp to feature exploding melons!" <--This!!!
Jan 17, 2019
 
 
Mac
"Romeo & Juliet" concerned itself on two feuding Italian families. Shakespeare possibly saved his antisemitism for "The Merchant of Venice",featuring Shylock,a Jewish money lender. Shylock eventually converts to Christianity,then disappears. Is he just a plot device to be tossed when his purpose is over? Like all things Shakespeare,every detail has been examined by scholars since first written/performed.That's not a bad thing. Nor is a new version of "West Side Story" until the finished product shows up on the screen. As for other directors not allowed to "go there",an examination of modern storytelling probably shows otherwise. As for Spielberg,he could find funding for a history of paint drying,as long as John Williams does the music.
Jan 16, 2019
 
 
I’m fond of the original too. And as an immigrant daughter, I’m cynical about any mainstream appropriation of a rich culture translated into a blockbuster without actual investment back into the community. If Spielberg WEREN’T greedy, he could easily use the production of WSS to build a bridge (instead of a WALL) & use it to benefit the people whose story he is monopolizing.
Just from today’s panoply, Hamilton & Drunk History are examples of amazingly creative reinventions of stories & reinvesting into the future.(Meanwhile Drumpf is serving fast food in the White House & berating Democrats for seeing “some play”)
Straight remakes have always been cause for concern. Just getting WSS from Broadway to the big screen, and for getting Romeo and Juliet translated to NYC teen gangs-wasn’t the original version about the Italians and the Jews? Ask DB to ask his pal Sondheim. Roswell seems to be especially gratuitous. (I’m eager for the remake of The Swamp to feature exploding melons!)
Jan 15, 2019
 
 
 
Mary Bolduc
Somebody stop Spielberg from remaking "West Side Story." He's too greedy.
Jan 15, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
While an unusual comment for a TV forum,there certainly is a lot of films that are shown on TV,especially TCM,but from I've been reading about this new interpretation seems positive,primarily from a Vanity Fair story last Oct. While not usually a fan of remakes,this version wants to highlight more of the original Broadway production. Visually,topping the opening of the 1961 film will be difficult-it changed me from someone who liked film to someone who loved film. Reports that Spielberg has been wanting to remake WSS for decades while it took 15 years just to get rights. I hope it comes out great.
Jan 15, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
1/14-TCM is showing pre-code films till 8PM,so,if the kiddies are snowbound,let them see the bad guys doing mayhem and getting away with it. All from 75+ years ago,including "The Public Enemy"(5PM),with Jimmy Cagney having a difficult breakfast with Mae Clarke.
8PM-post pre-code films,a documentary comparing/contrasting James Stewart & Robert Mitchum onscreen and off.Reading the documentary's description,it sounds like a final exam question in film history. I'm not smart enough to do anything but watch. Followed by four films:a Stewart followed by a MItchum,then another round. I like both actors. I enjoy Stewart's root beer and use MItchum's deodorant daily. On a chilly Jan. night, TCM beats vampire/zombie stuff. I just can't sink my teeth into horror stuff like that after a day of non-fake news. Truth much scarier than fiction.
Jan 14, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
Tammy-putting Twain & Thoreau in the same room as a a play has possibilities. But if it becomes a hit,I would avoid casting Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly in the film version. Their most recent opus is so bad Reilly was on NPR's "Fresh Air",1/15,with much discussion of his recent work,but nothing about the Sherlock Holmes film that recently stunk up the cineplexes just weeks ago.
Jan 16, 2019
 
 
Tammy
Your words are sobering for an aspiring playwright who is working on a magnum opus which brings together Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau. I have several parallel experiences and some great coincidences, but they didn’t even do a movie together!
Jan 16, 2019
 
 
Mac
Even with the passings of both actors a day apart and mention that their kids knew each other in school,there still seemed little to connect the two. Stewart was near 10 years older than Mitchum and had a list of prestigious roles before Mitchum's career even took off. They appeared together once,briefly,in a so-so remake of "The Big Sleep". I can look at film clips forever,and the nuggets of personal life were nice,but as a treatise,this seems like a c+ film school effort. It gave a platform for TCM to show a couple of films by both actors. I would have chosen "The Friends of Eddie Coyle"-MItchum,with Peter Boyle,gritty Boston.directed by Peter Yates- a perfect storm of '70s low lifes in the "French Connection"/"Godfather"-era. Maybe next Criterion sale...
Jan 15, 2019
 
 
Tammy
Stewart & Mitchum died a day apart! (Mystery solved) Although I think the best funeral combo was Tom Bosley/Howard Cunningham and Barbara Billingsley/June Cleaver. A bit of casting action going on in the next world. Look for an upcoming documentary about Sammy Davis Jr as the puppeteer and Jim Henson singing Candyman. Or not. Any other notable deaths occurring close together?
Jan 15, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
1/13- TCM scheduled this night of "women in sports" months ago,but it includes "A League Of Our Own",directed by Penny Marshall who died last month. Great story,great cast(including Tracy Reiner,Penny's kid),great music. Sure,Tom Hanks' quote:"There's no crying in baseball." is now iconic,but the whole story is fine(stay till the very end). Often shown on ad-filled cable,watching this ad-free as much of the country is covered in snow and pro football reigns,I long for baseball to return. Tomboy Marshall loved baseball as a kid and loved telling this story of the all women's pro league during WWII. The real life inspiration for the Geena Davis character said that playing baseball was like breathing. She died in 2013 @ 88. Maybelle Blair,another player,turns 92 this week. A 2017 news film has her batting at Fenway Park(with others) and in interview. She seems decades younger.
Jan 13, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Mary Kay Stearns died 11/17 but not publicly reported till this week. Mary Kay who? In 1947,Mary Kay and her real life husband,John had an early sitcom,"Mary Kay & Johnny",1947-1950 on DuMont,NBC,CBS & NBC again. Only one episode exists,archived,no You Tube. It was light,maybe too light, and cute,maybe too cute,but radio was filled with such stuff. A newly married couple doing newly married couple things.No "Alice! To the moon!". Interesting for two things:the couple slept in one bed(horrors!) and Mary Kay's real pregnancy was written into the show;the infant later appeared on camera. Before Lucy. Odd that the show came from NYC and when the Stearns went west(John went on to produce TV),Mary Kay never did any more acting. No known scandals. John died in 2001.
Jackson Upperco,a young guy immersed in TV studies,has an interesting blog, filled with trivia and opinion,including the episode.This guy loves sitcoms,especially multi cams. Worth a visit.
Jan 11, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
TCM's "Sword & Sandal" month includes a rarely shown "Helen of Troy"(1956). Directed by Robert Wise,who seemed to hit any genre. A money loser,it just needs to be noted that this is one Warner film where the heroine would not always have Paris.
Later,12:15AM,Sergio Leone's directorial debut, Colossus of Rhodes(1961). No great reviews,but I never knew Leone did a Rhode trip movie. Filmed in SuperTotalscope-really. Hope the new LED TV that Santa brought you doesn't explode from the Totalscope being so Super. Sounds like it was the greatest ultimate film ratio ever presented. What could be more greatester or ultimater? Oh,yeah,SuperDuperTotalscope.
Jan 10, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" repeats show up on TBS. Odd that NBC/Comcast's USA,passed on this, but the company(who owns it) jumped at bringing new episodes to the mothership. Fox bounced B99 and the last two seasons saw viewer erosion. Now it has a nice slot,Thurs.,pre -"Good Place",though I would have reversed them. B99 is not a lead. Also,though it is probable Fox and TBS had some control,showing some "greatest hits" over the dead Christmas season might have been a way to bring in new viewers. NBC tried this with "The Good Place" before this season,but,as Mr. B pointed out,they screwed it up. Instead of sprinkling promos to fill unsold ads ,why not put a little space at the beginning of the repeats to introduce for context? An ancient idea? Perhaps,but it works for TCM.
Jan 10, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
1/9-TCM has films Elia Kazan directed. 8PM-"America America"(no comma)(1963)- Timely,and lengthy(3 hrs.) story of Kazan's family coming to the U.S. from Greece.
11PM-"A Face In the Crowd"-an often discussed movie around here with Andy Griffith as you never knew could exist. Pretty timely too. Watch it alongside "Network" and understand how some folks saw Trump & Fox on the horizon decades ago. Great supporting cast. Black & white-no color needed with these folks on the screen.
Jan 9, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
"Attenborough and the Sea Dragon"-Sounds like a Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon. Paul Frees could voice Attenborough like Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz and Paul Winchell as Sea Dragon using his evil Dastardly voice,then an underwater creature sounding like Muttley for side-kick humor. June Foray- the mermaid they both need to rescue every week,while racing 20,000 leagues. H-B stalwart Don Messick narrates,of course.13 episodes by Sept.; repeats will be on Boomerang in 2050. Sponsored by Kellogg's-the best to you each morning and Sugar Sea Plankton. Free diver or submarine in every box.
Jan 9, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Reiny in Berkeley
Mr. B: 20,000 leagues under the sea is approx 60,000 miles! This is clearly a measurement of distance traveled while under water, not the depth to which they dive. I’m pretty sure there is no ocean that is 60,000 miles deep!R
Jan 9, 2019   |  Reply
 
Mac
When I was a kid,baseball's National League consisted of just 8 teams;notorious cellar dwellers were the Chicago Cubs or my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. Whenever Disney mentioned "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"(movie,Disneyland TV tours,comic books,a View-Master slide set I owned,book-what book?), that "leagues under the sea" phrase had me thinking of how bad these teams had sunk. Sciences were never my strong suit. Still is today,as I rely to the kindness of real scientists(thanks,Reiny in Berkeley:I too thought it meant depth). Since those dark days of the '50s,'60s & '70s, both the Cubbies and the Phillies have occasionally been World Series champs. Pitchers & catchers report in five weeks.
Jan 9, 2019
 
 
 
Mac
If Trump's broadcast goes too long(rebuttal, lie detector,analysis),here are some alternatives to fill your 9-10PM TV appetite(scheduled hour had a new "FBI", w. Hannity also scheduled):
TCM-Andy Hardy's Private Secretary
Comedy Central- Drunk History
Disney Jr.-Muppet Babies
NBC Sports-Flyers/Capitals. Gritty appearance?
Grit-Rage At Dawn w.-All rise- RANDOLPH SCOTT!
Decades-Dick Cavett-1970 w Janis Joplin,who would be dead 3 months later.
Up TV-Home Improvement w Tim Allen.See,fair & balanced.
Oxygen-Killer Couples. Ugh!
Movies! G.I. Blues,w. Elvis. Today is his birthday-1935.
Inspiration-Walker,Texas Ranger-Fill in your favorite Chuck Norris joke.His solution for The Wall payment via Ted Cruz. It's :"Tonto-sized."
E!-Big Daddy-Adam Sandler. No Don. Jr.,Eric or Ivanka,but potty humor with a little kid.
Lifetime Movies-Psycho Prom Queen. Aka "Mean Queen". No knowledge if singer Julie Brown makes a cameo or has a gun.
Info via Tivo and my cable operator. Online info ends 1/16. Sad.
Jan 8, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Not a big football fan here,but overnight ratings for yesterday's Iggles vs. Da Bears have Philadelphia market with a 44.6/66 rating,meaning 66% of all TVs turned on in that market at that time were watching. Rating higher than Chicago by a point and a half.This topped even last year's Iggles NFC division playoff win. Other tidbits,affirmed by NBC:highest rated Wild Card game on the network since 2006. Best Wild Card rating for NBC in 25 years(they had no NFL presence 1997-2006). This Sun.'s Iggles/Saints match up-Saints blasted Philly 47-8 just a few weeks ago(11/18). Iggles are obvious underdogs(they like that) but a different team so expect no blowout,with revenge the motivator. No matter what,lots of TVs will be tuned to it and possibly lots of grease needed on lampost poles,courtesy of the Crisco Cop brigade. Iggles radio voice,Merrill Reese(since '77),if available,is the way to listen. See it best on the radio.
Jan 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Even if the boss highlights the TCM night of Laurel & Hardy shorts and time is limited,don't miss the first one @8:"The Music Box". Keep reminding yourself of an old ad slogan:the gentleman of moving men. The best 30 min. you'll waste all day.
Jan 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
How important were the Golden Globes? The Fiji Water Girl,who appeared in many shots of the stars,taking dead aim at the camera and letting the viewer know she was part of the festivities. Stole the show. It is termed "photobombing" for unhip folks like me. It worked as I blew through lots of photos including the model and her bottles while ignoring lots of "stars". Is "artesian" French for "tap"? Bottled water is a big no-no in this house. Fiji Waters has a pretty disturbing history including giving away filters for the poor folks of Fiji who lack clean water as their water supply is stolen. Around here(Lehigh Valley,Pa.),Nestle & Niagara(private label bottler) rake in outrageous profits by bottling local tap water. Nestle has a history of using waters from California drought areas while locals(including Native American reservations) are paid off.
Jan 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
Bright pink dress, I was objecting to. Not plausible.
Jan 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B
Let me be superficial and say the character Stevie's recent wardrobe on "Madame S." isn't very plausible. Works at the White House and dresses in grad-school or thrift-shop style togs, including a pale pink cardigan? And why on Earth would she wear a bright-dress to her parents renewing of vows? Wrong year. Her sister character's floral dress also had brightish pink splashes, but worked better and looked more sophisticated, which maybe they gave to her because she is supposed to be a Fashion Girl. Not buying Stevie's assigned taste.
Jan 7, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
Eric Gould and all pet lovers, While I whole heartedly agree with you about the, Great Danes Service Dog Project video for whatever ails you, I found the cure on Netflix's, Dogs documentary. There are six stories in all and each story is better than the last. The most heart warming thing (without being sappy) I've seen in years. Cheers!
Jan 6, 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.

 
 
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