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Busy ‘Fresh Air’ Week: Last-Second DVD Gift Ideas, Year-End TV Debriefing with Terry Gross
December 23, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

The last week of 2013 is a doubleheader for me on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. First comes a last-second roundup of DVD gift ideas – then my year-end TV chat with Terry…

The DVD roundup is scheduled for broadcast Monday, Dec. 23 – giving just enough time for panicked procrastinators to pay next-day shipping and order gifts online in time for Christmas. But even if you shop later, the recommendations remain.

Those of you who already have peeked at the TV Worth Watching Holiday Shopping Guide are aware of most of these suggestions already – and that’s where you’ll find instant links to buy them as well. But one nice thing about the radio report, which you can hear on NPR or, after about 5 p.m. ET, on my page on the Fresh Air website, is that you can hear actual snippets from some of the selections.

Imagine me, for a moment, as a public radio carnival barker:

HEAR Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad about to peek at their series finale script for the first time!

HEAR the guest lineup for a celebrity roast of Dean Martin!

HEAR the opening theme to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman!

HEAR Edie Adams sing on  a TV series that hasn’t been seen in 50 years!

HEAR The Rutles sing “Ouch!”

That’s all on Monday. Then on Tuesday, Dec. 24, I’m one of Terry’s guests (another on the same show is, I think, Fresh Air movie critic David Edelstein), there to talk with her about the year. Among other things, I’ll provide my end-of-year Top 10 List – as well as my argument for why my Top 10 list is harder to compile than those of any of my Fresh Air colleagues.

I’m just saying.

That program, too, can be heard on NPR Tuesday, and subsequently on the Fresh Air website. But as a preview for you TVWW buddies, here’s a spoiler that I trust won’t spoil anything, or, if you’ve visited here often, even be very surprising:

The best television program of 2013?

AMC’s Breaking Bad. Nothing else even comes close...

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I heard the segment with you and Terry Gross about an hour ago, and noted your comment about the broadcast networks' "march to oblivion" (if I remember your wording correctly). But I can't believe you avoided the 800-lb elephant in the room.

When that Edie Adams program originally aired, back when you and I were kids, the networks had spot loads between 6 and 8 minutes an hour, plus a couple more minutes for the local affiliates. Today that number is double. An "hour" program is 40-41 minutes of program, plus 16-18 minutes of spots, plus promos and other clutter. That's why you can view 3 "half-hour" comedies on Netflix in an hour. That's why the hourlong dramas fly by when streamed but drag when viewed over the air. That's why an HBO or Showtime program seems so much more meaty.

The networks' march to oblivion is fueled by their own greed, and if the ad-supported cable channels don't learn the lesson, they're next.

Merry Christmas, David and everyone who produces and visits TVWW!
Dec 24, 2013   |  Reply
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