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David Bianculli first appeared on National Public Radio's Fresh Air in 1985, when it was a local radio show on WHYY-FM in Philadelphia. One of his TV reviews appeared on the first daily national edition in 1987, and he's been the show's TV critic ever since. In recent years, he also has served as guest host, filling in for Terry Gross. Over the decades, these are some of his very favorite reports.

After supplying reviews for two years on the local version of Fresh Air in Philadelphia, this was my first TV review for the nationally broadcast NPR version – included as part of the opening-day broadcast. On May 11, 2012, NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross celebrates its 25th anniversary...
But there's another reason I'm so proud of this review, and it's a long, behind-the-scenes story - two stories, actually. One fascinating element of the David Lynch-directed dream sequence was the odd way the "Man from Another Place," as the dancing midget was billed in the credits, spoke in Cooper's dream. The midget, like the Laura Palmer look-alike played by Sheryl Lee, seemed to be speaking a type of broken English...
My favorite report ever. Fresh Air executive producer Danny Miller, all-around great guy, acknowledged and indulged my passion for everything Beatles by asking me to put together a tribute keyed to the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The idea was to do a track-by-track sampling of the best cover versions of songs from that album, and all I had to do was winnow through my embarrassingly anal Beatles covers collection...
There are old newspaper clips on this site, as well as these old radio reports. Sometimes, though, you can hear things in the voice that you just can't get from the printed page. This Fresh Air report, broadcast nine days after 9/11, is my best example of that. At that moment, I was emotionally raw - not only from watching nonstop coverage of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath for so long, but by personal stuff that had hit me just as hard...
Chris Spurgeon, who worked at WHYY in those days, was a cutting-edge collector and purveyor of all things that really popped in popular culture. One day, he lent me some VHS bootleg tapes of episodes of an imported Japanese cooking show called Iron Chef. Some were translated, others weren't, but all of them were mesmerizing...
I'm proud of this because, without any inkling of how popular, influential or resonant this documentary series would become - and without knowing that Ken Burns was about to become a household word - this review nailed what was best about The Civil War. Namely, historian Shelby Foote, filmmaker Burns' graceful visual approach, the poetry of the storytelling, and one soldier's unforgettable letter home in particular.
Dennis Potter, who wrote the British miniseries The Singing Detective, called it "a drama with music." At the time, I called it the best drama ever written expressly for television - and 20 years later, that assessment still holds true. Getting a chance to steer people towards something this brilliant, then and now, is the biggest joy of being a critic...

Good news, TVWW readers: The release of David’s upcoming book from Doubleday is just around the corner! The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is now available on Amazon for pre-order for its November 15th release. You can read some of the dustcover summary here, including: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way. In tracing the evolutionary history of our progress toward a Platinum Age of Television,…he focuses on the development of the classic TV genres, among them the sitcom, the crime show, the miniseries, the soap opera, the Western, the animated series and the variety show. David Bianculli's book is the first to date to examine, in depth and in detail and with a keen critical and historical sense, including exclusive and in-depth interviews with many of the most famed auteurs in television history.” —TVWW