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'Fresh Air' Turns 30 - And I Was There for Its Birth
May 11, 2017  | By David Bianculli  | 16 comments

Today, May 11, Fresh Air with Terry Gross celebrates its thirtieth anniversary as a national public radio series on NPR. I’m proud, and a little amazed, to say I was there at the start, am still there today, and will be there tomorrow. Literally, because tomorrow I’m guest hosting.

Or, as they say, “sitting in for Terry Gross.”

There is, of course, no sitting in for Terry Gross, not really. But “warming the chair for Terry Gross” doesn’t have a very professional public-radio ring to it.

That first day of Fresh Air, 30 years ago today, included my review of the finale of NBC’s Hill Street Blues as one of its reviewer segments. I know that not because I’m that anal, or self-absorbed, but because years ago, I researched and uncovered that piece, and a few others, to present as audio pieces on TV Worth Watching, back when I launched this website 10 years ago.

Ten years may seem like a long time. Triple that, and that’s how long I’ve been working for Fresh Air. Put it this way: That’s long enough to have reviewed Twin Peaks the first time around.

I got involved with Fresh Air, originally, by accident, back in 1985, when it was still a local show on Philadelphia’s WHYY-FM. The town’s two jointly owned newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, were on strike. I worked as a TV critic for the Inquirer, and was asked by Fresh Air executive producer Danny Miller to come in and talk about TV shows that were coming up – to serve his listeners the way I would normally serve my readers.

Out of that, eventually, came produced preview segments that became part of the local broadcast of Fresh Air, along with similar pieces by other critics covering other disciplines. An Inquirer colleague, Ken Tucker, was another local contributor who appeared on that inaugural Fresh Air national broadcast in 1987 – and who, like myself, is still aboard three decades later.

I’m so proud to have contributed to the show, and so grateful for the many and lasting friendships that have come out of it. And selfishly, so many professional opportunities have come my way because of Fresh Air that I can’t even begin to even the scales. So I won’t.

But I will say thanks, for 30 wonderful years… the longest professional partnership of my life. And personal, too, now that I think of it. But we won’t go there…

Thanks, Danny, and Terry, and Phyllis, and everyone else. I owe you. I have no intention of paying you back – but I owe you.

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Nov 27, 2023   |  Reply
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of 'Fresh Air' is a testament to its enduring excellence in journalism and storytelling. As someone who witnessed its inception, I'm in awe of how this program has consistently offered insightful and thought-provoking content. It remains a vital voice in the world of broadcasting.
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Terry's interview of Bruce Springsteen was tge first time i'd heard him speak outside of one of his shows. She seemed to be a serious fan and asked very good questions because of that.
Jul 9, 2017   |  Reply
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Here's to 30 (+ a few days) more!
May 28, 2017   |  Reply
Congratulations!! I volunteered back then for their fund drive and one time Mr. Cunningham was so kind and welcoming that he took a couple of us through the studios for a tour. We ran across Ms. Gross and a co-worker in studio and I got a chance to express my gratitude for her show. I had been listening to her since my move to the Philly area, and I loved the show. Fresh Air has been my adult education and it's where I heard and respected your reviews also. Thank goodness for Fresh Air AND TVWW. Here's to thirty more years?!
May 14, 2017   |  Reply
As a devoted fan of "Fresh Air" for many, many years, I am a great fan of David Bianculli's intelligent television reviews and interviews. I've been led to watch many wonderful shows I surely would have overlooked.
I rarely write comments, but I'm glad for the opportunity to say thank you.
May 13, 2017   |  Reply
The BEST interview hour in any medium. Around here,I can receive Fresh Air's early feed at noon,Philly @3 PM & 7PM,Scranton @ 6PM and then online,if necessary. Sometimes this is a pretty good place to live. Oh,while I have not literally sat in Terry's chair,my nephew had the honor and tried the mike while I stood by during an open house tour.
Many of the live performance shows including Dave Frishberg,Suzanna McCorkle and Don Byron are audio treasures!
May 13, 2017   |  Reply
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