SATURDAY
JUNE 27
2020

BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS

 

Decades, 12:00 p.m. ET

Another weekend, another welcome marathon from Decades. This time it’s of CBS’s The Wild Wild West, the bizarre mash-up of Westerns, comic-book villains and secret-agent capers that showed up on TV in 1965. That was when the traditional television Western, which ruled the airwaves as recently as 1959, was on the wane – and when the spy craze, thanks to the introduction of James Bond films, was all the rage. So in comes James T. West, a government spy under orders from President Ulysses G. Grant, fitted out with his own gadget-filled train car and partnered with a master of disguise fellow agent, Artemus Gordon. Ross Martin played Artemus, Robert Conrad played Jim West, and this series was bursting with beautiful women, violent brawls, and colorful bad guys. The biggest villain in The Wild Wild West also was the smallest: Miguelito Loveless, who was bent on world domination like Dr. Evil, and was played with so much playfulness by the diminutive Michael Dunn (pictured) that the show kept bringing him back, like a classic Batman bad guy. You can see Dr. Loveless today in episodes televised at 2 and 9 p.m. ET, and in additional episodes tomorrow. (Also tomorrow, at 6 a.m. ET: Speaking of the classic Batman 1960s TV series, watch for Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in that series, as a sexy assassin named Ecstasy La Joie.)
 
  
 
 

Epix, 8:00 p.m. ET

Renée Zellweger plays Judy Garland in this 2019 biographical study, and plays her at a particular time in the singer’s life: the late 1960s, when Garland was filming a series of London stage shows as a late-career comeback. Probably to avoid either rights fees or lawsuits, or both, there’s little in this film about Liza Minnelli (though her siblings are included) – but Zellweger’s central performance, in the title role, is indeed something to see. And hear, because the former Chicago star is indeed providing the singing voice here for Judy Garland, including at scenes filmed and recorded, as they say, before a live audience.
 
  
 
 

HBO, 8:00 p.m. ET

Remember Danny, the little boy in Stanley Kubrick’s film version of Stephen King’s The Shining, who said “Redrum” in a scratchy voice and had a sensory gift known as “the shining”? Well, in this 2019 film adaptation written and directed by Mike Flanagan, based on the King sequel, Danny’s back – as an adult, only slightly less troubled than his possessed dad in the original film. Danny, this time, is played by Ewan McGregor, whose extensive resume already includes having starred in Moulin Rouge, a couple of Star Wars films, and as two very different characters in a season of FX’s Fargo series.
 
  
 
 

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

I have a lot to say about the groundbreaking 1964 Beatles movie musical – but I’ll save it for the book I’m about to dive into. (Writing, not reading.) Let’s just say that tonight, TCM has served up a perfect double feature of movies about the most influential and interesting musical artists of the 1960s: The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night, directed by Richard Lester, and Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back, a 1967 documentary by D.A. Pennebaker.
 
  
 
 

TCM, 10:00 p.m. ET

Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England is chronicled in this 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary, which captures all the insanity, and heightened reactions, as Dylan injected electric guitars and a propulsive into his former acoustic folk act. Backed by the musicians who would later call themselves The Band, Dylan is fearless and gleefully confrontational, upping the intensity and volume as some members of his audience boo – with one famously screaming “Judas!” at the former folk balladeer. It’s an amazing backstage look as well, and shows us a fawning Donovan, an out-of-it John Lennon, a smitten Joan Baez, and Dylan excoriating reporters at press conferences and in individual interviews with a rapier wit they seldom comprehended. “You know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” And the documentary starts with Pennebaker’s pioneering “video” for Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in which Dylan flashes through cue cards of his lyrics as poet Allen Ginsberg loiters in the background. You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows… but you do need to watch this documentary.
 
  
 
 
 
 
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1974 Comments
 
 
Vince Everett
Do you dictate your Best Bet selections ti Siri ? That might explain how Matthew Rhys becomes Matthew Rees
Aug 11, 2020   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Um, yep. Sure. That was it. Thanks, Vince...
Aug 11, 2020
 
 
 
Bill
BIANCULLI’S BEST BETS AUGUST 10 2020

Tomorrow's Best Bets are up as they could be all the time like the video. Entering the computer age as we speak.
Aug 9, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
wwwparker
Last Week Tonight is off tonight (8-9-20). It returns next week.
Aug 9, 2020   |  Reply
 
Linda Donovan
Oops. Thank you!
Aug 9, 2020
 
 
 
Harry B Kidd
Just one persons opinion - it would be good to get some best bets that are on subscription services. There are still some of us who are on basic cable - in fact I know a number of people who have cut back to just BROADCAST.
Aug 6, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
Assuming you mean "NOT on subscription services" ,things are only getting worse. Especially on premiere days of Fri.& Sun,those paywall selections really are the best things out there. Paywall with no later choice( edited cable,DVD,You Tube),once a minor inconvenience,now SOP.
Aug 6, 2020
 
 
 
Roseann Milano
Check your spelling of Dick in the headline.
Aug 4, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Robert Prestifilippo
David had Jorma Kaukonen's Quah album as a prop behind him while describing Best TV Tomorrow for 8/3. Google Jorma for more history.
Aug 4, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Robert Prestifilippo
Love your best TV Tomorrow. Yourvinal of Quah is in much better shape than mine. Are you aware the Jorma has been streaming a show every Saturday night at 8pm on his Fur Peace Ranch You Tube channel. He is up to Quarantine concert #17. He even had Jack there for three of those shows.
Aug 3, 2020   |  Reply
 
Neil
Any chance you can translate that into one of the western languages for the rest of us?
Aug 3, 2020
 
 
 
Eric Bosse
Man I miss that box of ten good current shows on TV. I have found so many delights there. Any chance you'd ever bring it back? Want a volunteer to help keep it going? I'd be glad to help with weekly reminders or anything else.
Aug 2, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
John Oliver expected new show 8/2. Sean Hannity,via radio,let the masses know that Oliver is"not funny." As for Oliver's "knowledge of facts & truths",it is believed that Oliver has one of the best,if not best,research team for a talk show. Meanwhile,hope that Hannity finds chuckles galore on the weekend Fox News shows featuring Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters. I used to thinkl that Adam Sandler was the least funny living comic. Both are part of the weekday jokefest The Five and then the separate weekend shows. Oliver needs less than 30 minutes to pulverize both,as well as Hannity and the rest of Fox News.
Aug 2, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
mf
Thanks David for the extended clip from the Password episode of The Odd Couple at the end of your "Best TV Tomorrow" video today. Appreciate it especially since I don't have access to Decades. Very funny. Has everyone realized that you have these new fun nibbles after the credits? I hadn't. Thanks
Aug 2, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Dan
It is 11:30 am EST and you do not show todays picks.
Jul 31, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Just saw some pics from Ryan Murphy's Ratched,a sequel of sorts centering on the backstory of the demonic nurse from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,via Netflix,9/18. Sarah Paulson,Murphy's go-to villain for American Horror Story is pictured(via HuffPost) in a late '40s outfit that evokes Bette Davis before donning
her nurse uniform. Paulson is so into the character,she calls her Mildred,not Nurse Ratched and attempts sympathy. Previews may be arriving for Bianculli & Co. for review. I despise Netflix,but this looks like the perfect Halloween story.
Jul 30, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Elise
The “Up” scene to which I am sure you are referring gets me too. Every. Time.
Jul 29, 2020   |  Reply
 
ThoroughbredOfSin
Every. Time. It's better than the rest of the movie. Some insurance company used the music to it ("Married Life"), and I had to mute it or end up in tears.
Jul 30, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
Just found that local cable operator(we have a choice in the Lehigh Valley) will be airing local inter squad games of the Phillies which take place just a few miles away from where I type this. Cable company has a financial stake in the AAA minor league operation and have aired all home games.
Many games will take place same day/time as the MLB Phillies,so making call ups are just a 70 mi. ride to Philly and players will not involved with two games on the same day in different places. Minuses-no captioning and on air talent is abysmal(take a drink for every cliche and you will pass out by the 2nd inning). Not to miss a beat,the clubhouse is selling "taxi squad" shirts for $25.
Jul 25, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Jim
Thanks for the alert on “Foxy Brown,” on TMC, but you missed mentioning it’s lead-in, the classic “Big Doll House.” Both classics of the genre and a natural double feature during the golden age of drive-on movies.
Jul 25, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Sorry,David,not a fan of Camelot Sets are as 2 dimensional as Nero's acting. Back when released, I thought a remake could correct the many flaws. It will never happen. Meanwhile,I just received TCM's hardbound book about West Side Story. A movie filled with missteps(the firing of co-director Jerome Robbins,who basically created WWS on Broadway) ,vocal dubbing and a ballet excised,it still is my favorite movie adaptation. Tons of photos and decent writing. Released in anticipation of Spielberg's remake,which may get pushed into 2021 and possibly have its male lead recast due to problematic stories about sexual assault. Disney is now the force behind the film and have made swift,costly decisions in the #Me Too era.
Jul 23, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Re: Pro baseball-2020. Philly's opening day is Fri. 7/23,vs. Marlins,in Philly. All games on local TV,including 2 Fox & 2 ESPN. All are on radio,which is a plus and minus. Plus,because the radio crew does a better job. With no crowd,an empty stadium is not that big a deal,save that MLB will be the forced source for canned fan noise. Sad for this fan-impossible to get the radio feed(I could,and have,listened in a car). No internet radio unless you pony up for MLB.com,a confusing mess.
Anyhoo, non-diabetics-grab a bottle of Yoo-Hoo,a pack of Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets and Cracker Jack and tune into the Nats/Yanks opener a little early tonight as Dr. Anthony Fauci,the MVP of the U.S., throws out the first pitch. Fauci,raised in Brooklyn,yet a Yankee fan,now roots for the World Champion Nationals. In typical Philly phasion,I'll be booing both and lovin' it!
Jul 23, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
Oops-Fri. 7/24 for the Fightin' Phils.
Local Allentown,Pa. AAA minor league stadium will have the excess Phillies team members in practice,part of the expanded 60 man roster,but closed to the public. Sad,as I live just a few minutes from the facility. Also, nearby Reading,Pa. AA franchise shut down this year. The futures of many minor league operations are in peril. 2021 could see a vast thinning of the herd. Reading's operation with the Phillies is the longest affiliation(tie) of any minor league operation,from 1967. One of the best places to see pro ball,as I sat with a scout for a game and listened to his stories about other parks.
Jul 23, 2020
 
 
 
mf
Joan Hackett instead of Suzanne Pleshette? Or working from memory? S.P. would be nice paired with Garner. Anyway thanks for the Sheriff recommendation - nice to see Rockford-in-the-West!
Jul 20, 2020   |  Reply
 
Mac
Hackett-Support Your Local Sheriff as Prudence,Pleshette-Support Your Local Gunfighter.as Patience. Both 90 min.-the perfect length for comedy. Often shown back to back. While Sheriff is the better film,you could do worse by spending 3 hrs. on a Sun, afternoon if both are scheduled. Maybe not the belly laughs as Blazing Saddles, but these films were not designed for raunchy satire as much as gently poking fun at cowboy tropes. The more Westerns you have seen,the more laughs.
Jul 21, 2020
 
 
 
Mac
Notice the operations not showing the 30 Rock special include Sinclair,notorious for right-wing crap disguised as news fodder on local news programs. These segments must be run or else. So while there are enough ads on all NBC shows about Peacock and streaming(New Amsterdam,I'm pointing a middle finger at you) denying this one hour in the middle of summer doldrums-a summer filled with more repeats than usual due to the pandemic-is indeed stoopid. Weds. on NBC are all repeats;the rest of tonight's offerings are repeats-not necessarily a bad thing as the less faux sports, amateur hour singers & dancers,and Ellen's mindless games,the better. Another paywall,that's all.
Meanwhile,TCM on cable to the rescue with The More The Merrier-Joel McRea,Jean Arthur(an Oscar nom) & Charles Coburn(an Oscar win) with cramped living quarters in D.C. during WWII create a truly sparkling comedy. Even Cary Grant could not pull off a '60s remake-Walk,Don't Run.
Jul 16, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Neil
Nothing against Psycho, an indisputably great film, but what does it say about the state of the television industry that a 57 year old movie is the one and only Best Bet available tonight? Well, at least there's a consolation prize: the late-night guys should be returning tonight with new shows (or so I think).
Jul 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.