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About 'Fresh Air,' And TVWW, and Dear Friends
August 26, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 8 comments

This week, NPR’s Fresh Air devotes a week of shows to late-night TV hosts and history – which has me thinking about friendships, and careers, and a just-departed dear friend…

For the week of shows building up to Labor Day, Fresh Air with Terry Gross is presenting a series of programs showcasing some of Terry’s vintage interviews with late-night TV figures – including a rare and revealing chat with David Letterman just before he got the late-night job. Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel are represented too, among several others.

On three of the shows, including Monday’s opener, Terry and I sit down together, talking about various shows and hosts and swapping stories, while I play such old TV clips as Steve Allen’s introductory remarks on the very first national telecast of NBC’s Tonight! show in 1954, and Jack Paar returning to his late-night program after walking off for a month out of protest over a censored joke.

I love the times when I get to sit down and talk TV with Terry, and this time is especially meaningful to me. Because she was asking me my opinion of both the past and present incarnations of late-night television, from Jerry Lester to Johnny Carson to Craig Ferguson to Jimmy Fallon, I was able to be both TV critic and TV historian.

And I was doing it on the radio, which let me combine all my careers – critic, teacher and broadcaster – in one place.

I’m very grateful for that opportunity, just as I am for the continued faith Terry and the Fresh Air family – and it is a family – has put in me over the years, and the decades. Terry, executive producer Danny Miller, my producer Phyllis Myers, my Fresh Air Weekend guest-host producers John Myers and John Sheehan, and my usual Friday-guest-host Fresh Air director and engineer duo of Roberta Shorrock and Audrey Bentham – these people aren’t just colleagues and radio teammates. They’re among my very closest friends, and I treasure them all.

And today, I don’t want to take any of them for granted. Because usually today, the news of my multiple appearances with Terry on Fresh Air this week would be trumpeted all over social media by Christy Slewinski, who has been doing double duty on TV Worth Watching as managing editor and social media director.

Except she died last Friday – a sudden loss that has wrenched the guts of everyone here at this website, though it’s a loss that pales in significance next to the loss of her husband, Darryl Blackall, whom Christy loved unconditionally and beautifully, and vice versa.

Just as I’m especially lucky to be on Fresh Air because of all the friendships it’s provided me since the mid-’80s, I feel blessed by the people surrounding me at TV Worth Watching, a Little Engine That Could website that’s been chugging along since 2007.

In our latest and most ambitious incarnation, Christy, like associate editor and website designer Eric Gould, was a central force, a daily player, and someone I couldn’t imagine doing this without. Now, somehow, I’ll have to, if we’re to keep going.

But I’m as grateful to her, for all her dedication and inspiration and truly unwavering support, as I’m capable of describing. We once worked together on the New York Daily News – where she rose from TV reporter to TV book editor – and it was a joy to reunite with her on TV Worth Watching.

So thanks, Christy. And thanks, Eric. And thanks, Terry and Danny and Phyllis and everyone else at Fresh Air. In your own ways, you’ve made me a better critic, and a better person, and allowed me to experience some honestly treasured friendships.

To listen to the Fresh Air late-night TV shows this week, check local listings and tune in, or, after about 5 p.m. ET each weekday, visit the Fresh Air website.

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Kathy M.
Thank you for this David, it tugged my heart and comforted it at the same time.
Sep 10, 2013   |  Reply
Sally W.
Condolences to you all and her family.
Sep 2, 2013   |  Reply
Very sorry for your loss, a blow to TVWW.
Sep 1, 2013   |  Reply
I'm so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you, the rest of the staff, and Christy's husband at this difficult time.
Aug 29, 2013   |  Reply
Eric Gould
Jan - (And everyone...) Thanks so much for the kind thoughts. We really do appreciate it, as does Christy's family. –EG
Sep 2, 2013
What a horrible blow for all of you there. This site has become indispensable to me. I've noticed all the refinements and appreciate so much how dependably it presents and discusses the best TV has to offer. If, as you suggest, much of this is the doing of Christy Slewinski, then her legacy is great. She's shown you the way. Now, in her spirit, this site can continue to grow into one of the best TV sites on the web.
Aug 28, 2013   |  Reply
That is very sad news about Christy. My condolences to her family, and to you and other friends.
Aug 26, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Thanks, truly. It's tough around here right now, to deal with a loss so unexpected, so devastating, and -- both professionally and personally -- so impossible to replace.
Aug 27, 2013
I just hear a promo for this on my NPR station, and I'm looking forward to listening. However, the host mentioned every current late night host as part of the program, except Craig Ferguson. I hope that's just an oversight of the local host and he'll be included in the conversation. For some reason, he often seems to get left out. He's a bit quirky, but incredibly funny.
Aug 26, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Thanks, Chris. Craig Ferguson is, indeed, included in the conversation. I share your enthusiasm.
Aug 27, 2013
Listening to the early feed of Monday's show.A treat!Jack Paar getting his due,primarily with David's selection of Paar's infamous return to the talk show after weeks away in protest.Paar is where I came in as a fan,as my Mom would let me stay up on Friday's rerun,if my little brother was really asleep.It was like entering a Bizarro world with no kids and I loved it from moment one.
Aug 26, 2013   |  Reply
David Bianculli
I was lucky enough, and am old enough, to have interviewed Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Dick Cavett, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Fallon one-on-one, and to have been at press conferences by Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel. If they were trading cards, I'd have pretty much the whole set -- and it's great fun to talk about them with Terry.
Aug 27, 2013
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