MONDAY
DECEMBER 2
2019

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

CBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

Now that we’re into Thanksgiving leftovers, we’re also, sigh, into Christmas and related holiday TV specials. Tonight is one of the earliest ones – not only in terms of the 2019 calendar, but also in terms of its original production. This tabletop Christmas special was an early entry in this TV genre, premiering way, way back in 1964 – the same television year in which Ed Sullivan presented The Beatles.
 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

This month, one of TCM’s theme is remakes, and tonight’s prime-time lineup is devoted to “Silents to Sound.” The first example of the month: a silent 1925 version of Ben-Hur, followed by the much more familiar 1959 full-color, full-sound, widescreen epic starring Charlton Heston. The first entry, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, is shown at 8 p.m. ET, followed at 10:45 p.m. ET by the shorter title, but much longer movie, Ben-Hur (pictured).
 
  
 
 

Fox, 9:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: The acting in this Fox series, about a serial murderer and his son, has been better than the writing. But if you’ve stuck with it this far, at least you’ve made it to the end of Season 1. Will there be a Season 2? The odds are good, but these days, little on broadcast TV can be taken for granted.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

Like another HBO series, Watchmen, this series gets better, and showcases additional strong performers and performances, each week. His Dark Materials is not in the same league as Watchmen, but it’s rapidly defining the players and strategies on its particular chess board.
 
  
 
 
 
 
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1953 Comments
 
 
Mac
Get your blue books out-summer school in session.
As Trump's approval numbers sink-55.9 disapprove(source-fivethirtyeight.com),the most since Jan. 2018,Tucker Carlson's ratings hits record 4.3 million viewers,while FoxNews hits highest numbers since launch (Deadline)? Scuttle about Carlson for Prez 2024? I understand that both these guys are white,rich,privileged,well schooled,have tons of white supremacist fans and have been long time TV hosts. Tucker & Crew puts up 5 planned hrs. per week,including scary eyebrows,while Trump,when abandoning a Teleprompter, creates instant bat guano,deep fried in a failing fractured presidency. One going up,the other down. Why? Discuss.
Jul 5, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Besides all of the bright moments of 1776,just the beginning of Sit Down,John hooked me with rhyming "It's hot as hell in PhilaDELphia". Not unlike the weather these past few days. Add to the heat,horses in the street,poor sanitary conditions,it was indeed hellish.1793 saw a yellow fever plague(mosquitoes) wipe out 10% of Philly's population in 4 months,including most of Dolley(Dorthea) Payne Todd's family. A few years later, Dolley married James Madison and was First Lady,1809-1817. Dolley's house, when living in Philly and married to Quaker lawyer John Todd,has been restored(a onetime hoagie shop in the '50s) and is one of the best hidden tourist treasures in the city.
Jul 4, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Sean Dougherty
Better enjoy Hamilton while you still can. https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/07/review-hamilton-adores-our-now-problematic-founders/
Jul 3, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
After reading the National Review review,I wander about all the anti-Hamilton fuss? Lots of criticism about faux hip-hop. Over 50 years ago,Broadway's Hair received similar criticism about being "rock". Rock or not,it racked up many hits on Top 40/AC charts . Biggest since West Side Story? It got lots of youngins' involved with Broadway. Hamilton,while not spawning chart hits,has brought a new generation involved with musicals. This effect will last easily as long as Hair. 2070s-it will still be
considered a touchstone for theatre. The criticism of the Obama presidency's "arrogant sense of new social authority" while criticising the show as not being "black enough"-the writer is clueless. The review will be forgotten in days as quaint,antiquated and wrongheaded,while Hamilton influences tomorrow.
Jul 4, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
David's TCM double bill for 6/29 actually encompasses a 5 film celebration of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen,born 6/29/1920. Along with George Pal,Saturday Matinees were elevated with the work of Harryhausen. These guys fed into the imagination of many a kid holding on to their box of Raisinets(for me,root beer barrel hard candy). Mighty Joe Young,Mysterious Island and the original Clash Of the Titans take over the night. Pal gave Ray early work on Puppetoons and along with writer Ray Bradbury & Forest Ackerman(Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine)-all friends-my childhood was enriched by guys who took their craft seriously by scaring the bejeesus out of kids in the theatre. A perfect summer night for fantasy & adventure!
Jun 29, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
After watching Don't Look Back,head over to You Tube for Weird Al Yankovic's take on the Subterranean video-Bob-the lyrics are made up of palindromes and shown on the cue cards. After a few times to catch all the card jokes,concentrate on the two guys in the background. In the original,they are Allen Ginsberg & Bob Neuwirth. Here,they are parodied by Al's longtime band member,Bermuda Schwartz, and Bob Levey,who directed some Weird Al videos. Best Weird Al? Yes! And it only took almost 40 years to make it.
Jun 27, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
TCM's 6/26 daytime (6AM-8PM) celebrates Peter Lorre. The lineup is not chronological,so what is considered Lorre's first star turn and director Fritz Lang's masterpiece,M,(1931)about a serial killer stalking children. Not for the kiddies! Before M,The Maltese Falcon-the Bogie classic oft seen on TCM;in fact,scheduled as an Essential 7/16 @ 8PM(repeat 12/5). Before that,2PM,Scent of Mystery(1960),originally made to showcase Smell-O-Vision-really. And Smell-O-Vision had competition from Aromarama. There is a fun story about it all on TCM's website. A shame- no Pepe LePew cartoon before the movie. Stinks.
Jun 26, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Leila L'Abate
Thank you for all all of you do, while undoubtedly not-so-well paid...What's happened to "TV We're Watching?" I noticed it hadn't changed in quite a while, so maybe David has lost love of it, and doesn't have time for it, with teaching classes and daily emails of faves....But a head's up on its actual demise, even though it was already in rigor mortis, would have been nice...
Jun 26, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
I never paid full attention to Seth Meyers,including his SNL days. So when I say this,I need those Meyers fans to follow up on my saying since he was "locked in the attic",complete with occasional hornets resembling giggling children,and toddler firemen,that these "Closer Look" segments concerning these screwy times are Emmy worthy? And keep another one on hand for writer/segment guest Amber Ruffin retelling her personal lifelong battles with racism. Take a bow,Ms Ruffin for your courage and articulation. And check out the book selection on the 6/24 segment-I can't read the title of the blue book and could use some help.
Jun 25, 2020   |  Reply
 
jan
I absolutely agree. His is one of the better late night shows; it always has been, but especially since he's been relegated to the attic. Also, I have a new appreciation for his band: they are much more appealing now that I see them individually. He's really done a great job.
Jun 29, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
One more once,as Basie said.The TCM jazz films for 6/22 includes a documentary on Thelonious Monk. If anything,watch the beginning with Monk dancing & playing piano in performance. Many a fan trying to understand Monk will agree that his dance is the perfect reaction to the music. He returns to his piano improvising before he sits on the bench. Stay to watch his hands. Thanks to Clint Eastwood funding,it is available to study and rejoice-there will never be another Monk.
Jun 22, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
TCM's jazz entries for 6/22 has many riches. One is One- Mickey One,that is,starring Warren Beatty,directed by Arthur Penn.1965,black & white,new wave influenced,it is an imperfect yet fascinating "Whah?". Beatty,an unfunny stand-up comic,chases demons-some real,some imagined and sometimes,even the imagined ones, face-to-face. The "jazz" is Stan Getz,improvising over a string-filled score by Eddie Sauter-the two had collaborated in 1961 on an album of this kind of material,Focus(a classic). Frustrating to watch the first six times or so,it may never make sense but you may want to see it one more time. The next Beatty/Penn project-Bonnie & Clyde.
Jun 22, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Was hoping that the Perry Mason origin story would start when he worked in Bedrock as Perry Masonite,aka Perry Masonry. A Better Call Saul style would be fantastic.
Jun 22, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
David's video recommendation for the Sat./Sun. tribute to Nat Hiken on Decades Channel-Tonight 8PM-Car 54-Boom,Boom,Boom. Ya gotta see this one.Comic/game host Jan Murray guests.
The Phil Silvers shows include a wondrous Fred Gwynne turn,The Eating Contest. His nickname-The Stomach. Joe E. Brown was in lots of those shows. 11AM.
BTW,Fred Gwynne authored a few children's books that are also an adventure for grown ups. He was a WWII Navy vet,a Harvard grad,artist,cartoonist and singer.
Jun 20, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Alec
Um, the Rosenbergs were guilty.
Jun 19, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Fri. Juneteenth-Only David's video about Roy Cohn is up,so I'm wondering about a 2011 doc up on Sundance(and evidently viewed earlier this month):The Black Power Mixtape-1967-1975. 8PM & 10:50PM. Put together from Swedish video from the era and put together by Swedes. Angela Davis,Stokely Carmichael,Bobby Seale in film footage that never made it to Swedish TV first time around and narrated by lots of voices,including Philly's Quest Love of the Roots. Sounds fascinating-hoping for the best! Almost 10 years in the can with footage 50 years ago. What has changed? What have we learned?
Jun 19, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
A shame that TCM's Jazz movies put one of the most influential music in post-WWII films by scheduling Black Orpheus @ 3AM(actually Fri.). It has been a past Essential and i was able to score a Criterion version when the local Blockbusters bellied up. Evidently rarely rented,the copy is near mint. Also one of the most colorful films of post-WWII.This film was how many first heard music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa,and their themes became cornerstones for the bossa nova sound. Jobim,especially,ranks with Gershwin. These themes have been recorded numerous times. One interesting version is attached to the soundtrack CD-a medley of those themes by guitarist Bola Sete at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sete's album of the concert has also been released with additional music from Sete's set. Another version of the themes came from Vince Guaraldi(Charile Brown music)-Though they are not together on these records,Sete & Guaraldi recorded together on 3 LPS- muy sympatico!
Jun 18, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
The Recorder doc has me anxiously awaiting, not for the national stories that will be included but the local(Philly) stuff archived yet probably outside the scope of the doc. Even the local feeds of Nightline,via WPVI 6, would have local spots and promos. At 90 min.,what they can show is the equivalent of less than one VHS tape. I've already found some of Ms. Stokes' donated tapes on the Internet Archive-free and ready 24/7. I've found episodes of Input,from WCAU 10,dating back to 1968 with Marion,then known as Marion Metelits and the first episode,9/29/68,is as relevant as today's headlines. How far have we come?
Jun 15, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
FYI-The Doc is available for free(no paywall) and well CCd till 7/14.Highly recommended. There is indeed more to Marion's life-what happened from 1959 to her first TV appearances,c.1968,where she seems to be fully formed as an activist and when she met future husband,John Stokes. There is a play/film inside this part of her life.
On a side note,the public service show,Input,used Mason Williams' Classical Gas as theme. Pretty hip,since the hit single came out in April 1968 and the show started that Nov. In 1969,Betty Hughes,wife of then New Jersey Governor Richard Hughes,hosted a daily daytime talk show aimed at housewives,and also taped at Philly's WCAU. The show used Mason Williams' follow-up(and originally the B-side of CS)as the theme.
Jun 16, 2020
 
 
Mac
Marion was born 11/25/29, one month after Black Friday,the start of the Great Depression. She died on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting,12/14/12.
Jun 15, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
Anybody watch the Dave Chappelle special? It dropped by surprise Fri. and is available not only on Netflix,but on You Tube for free? The laughs are few,as they should be. Titled 8:46,possibly the first of many books,shows, & columns with that title. As raw as ever and not only going after Don Lemon but Laura Ingraham & Candice Owens get really scorched. It is less than 1/2 hour but will rattle you,as it should.
Jun 13, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Leila L'Abate
America's Got Talent has some really moving segments this year, from a man falsely incarcerated for 37-years, who the audience palpably falls in love with, to a choir of homeless people, to a trio who wishes to uplift us, and does...Close your eyes for the contortionists, (no plot twists, just twisting bodies) and enjoy the rest....And Simon is, almost, cuddly, now...He'd say, "watch this."
Jun 11, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Vince Everett
Re: today’s Agents of Shield Best Bet ...”post WWII 1930s”
Someone has their timelines jumbled
Jun 10, 2020   |  Reply
 
David Bianculli
Yes, I did. I was very tired when I wrote that pre. I mean, that post... -DB
Jun 17, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
Continuing story about the police and TV. 6/5,A&E stopped new episodes of LivePD,"out of respect for the families of George Floyd". It is the highest rated cable show Fri. & Sat. and just last month A&E along with distributor Sony,ordered 160 episodes to the 296 aired since 2016.
Meanwhile,Paramount has taken Cops off of its schedule as well as their website. They(CBSViacom) have the rights to over 1000 episodes from the beginning and they are dormant for the immediate future.
Jun 9, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
...and as of 6/10,A&E has canned Live PD completely,but no decision on one spinoff,Live Rescue. Host Dan Abrams,who also chief legal analyst for ABC,had repeatedly gave out opinions that the show would resume in a short while,was"shocked & beyond disappointed." To quote Teddy Pendergrass;"Wake up everybody!" The axing of Live PD & Cops are among the hottest entertainment news stories outside of worthless gossip.
Jun 11, 2020
 
 
 
 
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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.