TUESDAY
MAY 14
2019

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

SPECIAL PREMIERE: Original Roman & Martin’s Laugh-In cast members Lily Tomlin, Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley appear in this new celebratory special, honoring the fast-paced comedy sketch series that was among TV’s most popular shows of the early 1970s. Historically, Laugh-In borrowed from the rapid-fire joke style and sight-gag setups of Ernie Kovacs’ brilliant specials of the 1950s, and the prime-time topical comedy of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. But by firing at all targets simultaneously across the political and social spectrum, it offended, and pleased, everyone pretty much equally. This special is a bit late – the actual 50th anniversary of the Laugh-In series was in 2017 – and, built around a live salute held at a Los Angeles theater, with lots of younger performers paying homage to Laugh-In alongside the few participating veterans, it’s not written or performed sharply enough. It’s nice Netflix is paying attention to older TV shows. I just wish, in this case, they’d done a better job, in terms of both the history and the comedy.

 
  
 
 

HBO, 8:00 p.m. ET

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE: Director Antoine Fuqua and writer Steven Leckart have crafted this two-part documentary biography of the former Cassius Clay. It’s a powerful study, and both parts are shown tonight, so settle in and watch with intrigue, to get more proof about how early, and how consistently, the man calling himself “the Greatest” was battling more than rival boxers in his pursuit of freedom, justice, equality and celebrity. What’s My Name? is better than most Ali documentaries at putting us in his frame of mind, and in the ring with him, to understand what was at stake in his many major bouts. But also, by showing footage from his days with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., this documentary shows us how willing he was, from the start, to fight fiercely for his beliefs outside the ring as well. Stay for the end, and you get the two best clips from Ali’s final years: His interview with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes, and his triumphant lighting of the Olympic torch in 1996. It’s worth noting that the producers of What’s My Name? include LeBron James, who, with this documentary and his talk series The Shop, has done a champion’s job of presenting TV shows for HBO that reveal the histories and intricacies of sports and race. For a full review, see Ed Bark's Uncle Barky's Bytes.

 
  
 
 

NBC, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last night, for the first time, The Voice was granted access to the songs of The Beatles, and presented duet showcases in which its semifinalists teamed for such songs as “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude.” Tonight, the results of that battle – but I can reveal my results early. The Voice didn’t do the legacy of The Beatles any favors. The show should have let it be.

 
  
 
 

FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

This sixth episode of Fosse/Verdon is called “All I Care About Is Love,” taking its title from a song from the Broadway musical Chicago. That musical, in which Bob Fosse fashioned a later-career showcase for Gwen Verdon, is the subject of tonight’s episode – and so is the physical stress Fosse put himself under at the time. The movie All That Jazz, directed by Fosse himself, covered this ground already. This time, though, it’s done without changing the names.

 
  
 
 

Sundance, 10:00 p.m. ET

Part 7. With nothing more than dialogue, and an occasional dash down the street or impulsive shove, Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike have made their characters here come fully to life. They play a married couple, at this point living apart and seeing a therapist, trying to decide whether to heal or put an end to their marital relationship. This 10-part series is written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, who collaborated on the wonderful movie version of High Fidelity. And by now, I’m desperately rooting for the characters to work it out, because their conversations are more charming and witty than just about anything else on TV. In fact, I want a sequel series, please.

 
  
 
 
 
 
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1930 Comments
 
 
Mac
5/5-I was looking over the Law & Order episodes on Sundance tonight,getting some info from fandom.com. The AMC Networks divvy L&O episodes in marathons via WE and Sundance on various days and usually in numerical sequence from Season 1,Episode 1,then Episode 2,etc. in chronological order. At 8PM Innocence,Season 20 Episode 16. At 9, Love Eternal, 20.22,the penultimate episode of the entire series,jumping in order from 16 to 22. 10PM has Brazil,20.18. 11PM-Crashers,20.19. The next L&O is for Sat. @ 1:30AM-The Taxman Cometh,20.20. 2:30AM-Immortal,20.21. That is where the episodes end for the day,with the last L&O,Rubber Room,20.23 off of the list. The episode out of sequence and not shown tonight is titled Four Cops Shot-20.17. Unintentional or intentional due to current events?
Jun 5, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
5/5-So TCM couldn't find a way to either shuffle TCM Underground a bit later or start things off earlier so all five of the Marx Bros. Paramounts could be shown. The missing piece-1929's The Coconuts. The first Marx film,based on their first Broadway hit, and filmed during the day as the brothers were live onstage in the evening in Animal Crackers. As an early talkie,there are indeed a few technical drawbacks, butone good thing about re-watching Marx films is picking up missed jokes. All in all,The Coconuts is a pretty entertaining package and quite successful on first release. Bonus-Margret Dumont's first screen appearance-funnier than 4 Zeppos and a Gummo. BTW,TCM doesn't show the 4 films in chronological sequence.
Jun 5, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
David Sicilia
Don't shave! The weirder the better. Next, Letterman? After that, ZZ Top? Let's see where this goes.
May 30, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
For those wanting to take part in the Carol Burnett marathon,go to shoutfactorytv.com and hit "TV",which will bring up slide selections. The Carol Burnett slide has a "more info" box to hit,which will take you to the marathon. Platforms include Shout's You Tube channel,Roku and lots of other places. Shout has recently announced a boatload of Johnny Carson Tonight Show episodes,sans musical moments. Hoping that Burnett's episodes have everything included.
May 30, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re: David's suggestion on his You Tube about to shear,or not to shear seems(at least for me)have no ability to add comments. My 2 cents- David lives in New Jersey-still a hot of new cases and deaths,just behind NY. Even the gov. is holding off for Stage 2 news in openings till Mon. My take on the beard-not until more testing and more accurate numbers.
Years ago,when preparing to open a store,I vowed to the boss not to shave till opening. Delays went over a month,largely due to custom fixtures coming from a hurricane town. I,too,had that "Tom Hanks Castaway" look that truly no one,including my future wife,who tolerated this as this store would be life changing. I cleaned up by opening-11/11/89. For the next decade,life changing events,indeed-may of them spectacular. A goal was set and I still remember that metamorphosis.
May 30, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
5/29-Watching 7:12AM CNN live feed,including the arrests by State Police of an on-scene reporting crew headed by a black reporter 1/2 hr. ago. My personal reason for watching is because of my son not only lives nearby the scene but worked for years at the nearby Hub Bike Co Op,just feet from the 3rd Precinct station. Meanwhile,MSNBC had live on-air coverage,including Ali Velshi. And Fox News online headlines Trump's Twitter blast,already flagged by Twitter for "glorifying violence." Who is in charge here?
May 29, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
5/28-TCM's month of Edward G. Robinson films ends tonight with a uncharacteristic portrayal of a loving father to Margret O'Brien in the small farming town,inhabited by Norwegian immigrants. Dalton Trumbo's last credited script before being blacklisted for Communist leaning writings. What is displayed here is the "we're in this together,good times and bad" idea that permeates everything today. Fairness,helping those in need-pretty radical,huh? Sappy? Yeah,but a tremendous payoff. The film was kinda hidden because of Trumbo's blacklisting,but shows up at TCM many times,sometimes at Christmas. O'Brien is still with us,just 83, and knows how important this role is to her filmography. A true weepy to clean out the tear ducts but not a false moment.
May 28, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Stephen Meskin
Barkskins looked good but ads on Nat. Geo ruined it and drove me away! Please warn us in future.
May 26, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
With David's Best TV for 5/25,the History Channel's Grant docs,this reminds me of a great James Thurber short story,or a casual as they have been called:If Grant Had Been Drinking At Appomattox. I think this showed up on the single season of My World & Welcome To It,a sit-com with William Windom portraying a Thurberesque character in 1969. Why this much-requested show never made it to video is a true crime. Lost in the ether? Destroyed? Windom won an Emmy and the show itself won for Best Comedy Series ,though cancelled. Windom would portray Thurber onstage for years afterwards in a one man show.
May 25, 2020   |  Reply
 
Tom Davis
I was lucky to watch the filming of 'My World & Welcome To It' back in 1969. My brother, Larry Hovis, was a regular on 'Hogans Heroes' and they were filmed on the same lot. I was bored so my brother pushed me over to the 'My World' set and was able to stand around for a few scenes. I loved James Thurber but I had to be dragged back to the 'Hogans' set by a friend. William Windom was very quiet and never complained about a few retakes he was making of a particular scene. My brother and I both believed 'My World' had the best writing.
May 30, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
Is Disney just as lazy as CBS for recycling material to fill a dead Sat. night of TV? CBS continues with recycling Paramount blockbusters of relatively recent vintage on Sun. nights-5/24 it's Titanic,stretched from 3 1/4 hours to a 4 1/2 hour slot,with ads. Disney is airing their ESPN/Netflix documentary about Michael Jordan on ABC,censored,and in two hour blocks,which started last night and continues through 6/20. It goes behind the Netflix paywall in July. Verdict? Just as lazy,but at least more recent and at least no game show nonsense.
May 24, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mark H Flannery
The description for "Billions" is the same as that for "I Know This Much Is True"
May 24, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mary B.
"Labor of Love" is a lazy title for a show with a disappointing premise. Wouldn't it be better to call it "Crock of Love," "Steaming Pile of Love," or "Labor of Crock"?
May 24, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
I had no idea what Labor of Love was,so,after finding out(ties to the insipid Bachelor),I found that the first show pulled in less than a million folk,and an abysmal number for the desired demographic(source-The Hollywood Reporter).
May 24, 2020
 
 
Mary B.
Could call it "Falling of Rock" or "Weakness of Premise." As Steve Ray Vaughn sang, "That's a cold shot.." a slap at women.
May 24, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
5/22-FX, now part of the Disney,premieres AKA Jane Roe @ 9PM. It proclaims deep investigation and interviews,with the headline bombshell from Jane Roe,aka Norma McCorvey ,reneges on her long about face against abortion. Her views renouncing abortion,after being the literal poster woman for abortion rights,a law and its Supreme Court rulings, which changed everything in the U.S. The conversion against abortion,she claimed late in life,were funded in the six figures,by pro-life money,including one religious guy interviewed who has since overturned his ideas. This supersedes any programming tonight. For both sides,ya gotta see what is here. Why this night,at the start of the Memorial Day weekend? Dunno. But thankful Disney didn't hide it behind a paywall and,since they took over FX & FXX,captioning has stabilized so many more can understand this important subject. In the recent past these channels were off limits,due to the folks @ Fox lazy work. Wow! I said something nice about Disney.
May 22, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Ken
Please fix your listings for today
May 22, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Better Call Saul fans might want to look to the funny papers(available online via gocomics.com) for Ruben Bolling's scathing comic,Tom the Dancing Bug from 5/15/20. Taking the format of one of Saul's ads,it is headlined Better Buzz Barr,as in the AG William Barr as doing as much harm as Trump and McConnell. "You can smear Sessions,but you can't dis Barr! Call 1-855-LOWERTHEBARR".
May 21, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
5/19-TCM's daytime theme is madness and it includes 2 brilliant and disturbing British films from director Michael Powell. 1PM The Red Shoes- A young ballerina divided between not only two men- one a composer,the other a master of dance and the ballerina's passion for her own art. 6:15PM-Black Narcissus-A group of nuns working in the Himalayans. Two of the finest examples of color with cinematography by Jack Cardiff(never miss a Cardiff film). Sandwiched in-between-Lawrence Olivier's little effort-Hamlet-but I would still concentrate on the Powell films. Too intense? Try the Cartoon Network.
May 19, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Comedian Jim Gaffigan has been showing up on CBS Sunday Morning during quarantine from his Manhattan apartment. He is not alone-his wife,Jeannie,who had a brain tumor removed 3 yrs. ago,with complications after, is active in everything. Add all five kids-ages 8 thru 15. You Tube extras include a cooking series and a Q&A with the Qs from the kids and As from expert Andy Slavitt. Past episodes via You Tube. Nothing comedic that will spurt your coffee through your nose,but a family that truly loves each other in 2020, getting through Covid-19 while living in the U.S. epicenter-Manhattan.
May 16, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Seth Meyers 5/13-New best seller on the table-not yet a mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain-The Shorn Brads. Possible You Tube videos of Messrs. Pitt,Garrett,Bird & Paisley getting quarantine haircuts?
May 14, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
I don't receive AXS but Dan Rather's interview with Ian Anderson has lit up a music forum I frequent. There are many Jethro Tull fans there and the obsessive nature of many audiophiles onboard bring about a load of comments,well beyond what you would consider merely "fans". Ian Anderson's COPD is incurable and could change things rapidly for the worse if left alone. The soundbite "can still run for the bus" is more than a cliche as Anderson evidently doesn't drive. His health is of great concern to fans and it is odd that the biggest Jethro Tull album is titled Aqualung. That album turns 50 next year.
May 14, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Bill
Why go through the trouble of making a video for BEST BETS and not updating the site?
Not everyone wants to spend the time watching a video.
May 13, 2020   |  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.