DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

GARY EDGERTON

ROGER CATLIN

KIM AKASS

GERALD JORDAN

TOM BRINKMOELLER

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
What I Learned from My Own Art Exhibit...And Other Things
November 10, 2014  | By David Bianculli  | 4 comments
 

A lot of people, including some of you loyal readers, supported me as I prepared for my Apexart art exhibit. Now it’s time to say thanks – and also to reveal what, to my surprise, I learned in the process…

The exhibit –Bianculli’s Personal Theory of TV Evolution, which runs through Dec. 20 at Apexart (291 Church St., New York, NY 10013) – was one thing when I conceived it, another as I invited more and more people to help me explore it, and yet another when it opened Nov. 5, and I saw it through the eyes of others.

Originally, it was intended to reflect an idea I was developing for my next book: isolating key moments in TV’s evolution, looking at the mutations of various genres and plots as they led to what I consider The Platinum Age of Television. The centerpiece of the exhibition, as I saw it, was a bank of five television sets, arranged in a row – like the five “stages of man” in all those human evolution drawings – which would cycle through selected topics, one by one, showing snippets from various eras of TV.

That ended up working, thanks to help from one of my Rowan University students, Joe Ponisi, who assembled and timed the final edits for each of the TVs, and from Apexart’s Ryan Soper, the gallery production manager, who found the machines to sync up the video so my “evolution” idea would work.

While I was assembling the videos I wanted to show, I also invited a few people to create new artwork for the occasion. I don’t want to describe the results in too much detail, at least while the exhibit is open, because they contain surprises which are so much fun to discover. But stare closely enough at Eric Gould’s photo-mosaic of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, or Richard Rothbard’s secret center to his vintage TV wooden puzzle box, or the obvious inspiration for Melinda Copper’s musical meerkats portrait, and you’ll be rewarded for the effort.

I certainly was rewarded for having them, and others, take part. And what began as a single loaned item for display – the snow globe from the finale of NBC’s St. Elsewhere – turned, at the last minute, into a flurry of TV artifacts, lent for the exhibit, that make it as much a television museum as a personalized gallery, except that every item on display represents a program that, at some point in my TV viewing and/or reviewing life, I have derived great pleasure from watching.

Most of these items were requested, and graciously donated, at the last moment, and thus will serve as surprises even to those who come to the gallery driven by the description in the website’s online brochure. Rod Serling’s typewriter – I still can’t believe I have that on display. And Fred Rogers’ sweater and sneakers. And, from Vince Gilligan, the writers’ room cork board with all his original, handwritten notes describing, scene by scene, what would become the final episode of Breaking Bad.

And more.

And as it was all coming together, I realized that I was able to ask for, and receive, some of these things because of the friendships I’ve developed because of television. I got to know Mark Tinker more than 30 years ago, when he was working on an about-to-premiere series called St. Elsewhere, and when I called him last month out of the blue, he shipped the original NYPD Blue precinct sign just to contribute to the exhibit. Craig Ferguson was just as generous, shipping off three of the hand puppets he used to use on The Late Late Show, kindly acknowledging a friendship that’s endured through his entire decade as a late-night TV host.

And so on. Josh Mills, the son of Edie Adams, sent original scripts, by both Edie and her husband, Ernie Kovacs, that have never been on display before. Ann Serling, daughter of Rod, sent one of his manual typewriters. Mason Williams sent so much great stuff, related to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and his own work, that I could use only a portion of it. I wouldn’t know any of these people, much less be the recipient of their generosity, if not for my having chosen a career writing, broadcasting and teaching about television.

But it took until opening night, when all of it came together, that I realized just how personal an exhibit this truly was. Originally, I had decided to include my 1960 diary as a joke, putting it under glass as though it were a rare book, open to pages where I wrote about TV at age 6. Except that, as I looked around at the entire gallery, it was no joke.

Close to the opening, I got misty enough about all this, and the connections between my childhood TV loves and my adult TV passions, to invite to the opening some of the newspaper and radio editors, producers and colleagues who had allowed me to ply my odd trade for so long. One of them, Adam Buckman, was my editor at The New York Post, and surprised me afterward by writing a review of the gallery show for MediaPost.

I think he understood the exhibit more than I did, and I loved both what he wrote and how he wrote it. In his Small Screen Big Picture TV blog for Television NewsDaily, he took the exhibit personally – which is just how I’d love every visitor to take it. So please visit, if you’re in TriBeCa – and if you do, ask to leave with a copy of the home game. (Actually, it’s a TV-related trinket, and you have to record 15 seconds of a “TV Confessional” to earn it, but it’s worth it.)

For the record, one more time – but probably not for the last time – I’d like to thank everyone who donated to the exhibit, or supported my efforts to mount it, or showed up opening night in support. And the Apexart gang – Steven Rand, Julia Knight, Lorissa Rinehart, Heather Felty, and the aforementioned Ryan Soper – should rest assured that every time I visit the gallery, between now and Dec 20, they’ll all be well fed.

--

Right in the middle of the frenetic build-up to the Nov. 5 Apexart opening, I was asked by CNN.com to write an appreciation of Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s Car Talk, reacting to his death at age 77. I wrote it Monday night, and it was published on CNN’s website Tuesday morning, but I had no time to provide a link to it here, except via social media.

However, I’m happy about what I wrote, and pleased to have been asked to do it, so very belatedly, I’m providing a link here. And as I listened to last Saturday’s tribute show, hosted by Tom’s younger brother and Car Talk co-host Ray and including some of the brothers’ best bits, I missed Tom even more…

--

And during all of this, and other activities – teaching TV and film full-time at Rowan University, recording pieces and guest hosting for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and serving as moderator for live talks with Norman Lear (in Philadelphia, at the Free Library) and a reunion of the Wonder Years “kids” (in New York, at the 92 St. Y, below) – I continued to generate, with invaluable help from Eric Gould and Linda Donovan and our writers, daily reviews for TV Worth Watching.

During this crunch period, we managed to get out a fully packed TV Fall Preview, but we fired on fewer than all cylinders in other areas. Specifically, and personally, I’ll cop to being later than usual with delivery of the daily Bianculli’s Best Bets – an occurrence that was frequent enough to generate complaints from a few readers, and a passionate defense of my efforts from as many others.

When I was at my most emotionally raw (which was most of this fall), my immediate reaction to the criticism, though I never typed or voiced it for the record, was to offer to return, to any dissatisfied customer, any unused portion of the annual subscription fee. It was my effort at bitter sarcasm, because TV Worth Watching always has been, and always will be, free.

But after a deep breath or two, or an hour’s sleep or two, I’d calm down, and realize that even a complaint about the late delivery of something I’d written meant that the writing itself was considered valuable enough to miss. So when I don’t have my recommendations posted on time, it’s not out of spite. It’s out of personal triage.

Which brings me, finally, to something else that’s personal: a very personal thank you to some of my readers.

When my Best Bets were showing up late in the days leading up to my exhibition opening, Casey, Elise, Jan and Angela all came to my defense, said they were happy to get them whenever they arrived, and thanked me for pointing out quality shows they might not otherwise have watched.

To you four ladies, and to any others whom you might represent, let me just tell you that your writing, to me, meant so, so much. Perfect timing. Which, I know, I have to work on.

And just as soon as I finish preparing my TV classes for London and Berlin, I’ll try…

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
 Website (optional)
 
HBTSL
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
4 Comments
 
 
MJ
MR. BIANCULLI - YOU ARE THE MAN FROM THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW WHO SPINS THE PLATES ATOP SLENDER STICKS WHILE THE ORCHESTRA PLAYS "DUT-DUT-DUT-DUT-DUT IN TRIPLETS AND THEN GOES "DWAH-DAH-DWAH-DAH" WHILST HE DASHES AROUND TRYING TO KEEP THEM ALL SPINNING AND NOT CRASHING TO THE GROUND.
YOU MAKE THE REST OF US MERE MORTALS LOOK LIKE WE'RE SITTING ON OUR HANDS. ;-)
THE EXHIBIT SOUNDS FABULOUS. I WISH I WERE ON THE EAST COAST TO SEE IT INSTEAD OF ROLLING AROUND ON THE GRASS HERE IN GEORGIA. (SORRY, HAD TO GET THAT DIG IN THERE.)
THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR GIFT. LONG MAY YOU RAVE.
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Guy Fawkes' Day (I think) as well as the anniversary of this Web site I check often. People that have grown up with TV, who have absorbed its culture in the best sense, will especially benefit. In the words of the Four Tops, "I'll Be There."
Nov 27, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Marlark
What a masterful presentation this exhibit must be! As if I needed another reason to head into NYC, this one goes to the top of the list. Can't wait to see it, and enjoy the hard work you and your colleagues put into it. This must be an EWW.
Nov 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Eileen
Very appropriate your exhibit opened on November 5th, the 7th Anniversary of TVWW. Ah, how the years have flown by! I'm planning to see this exhibit, and am encouraging those near & dear to do the same. All the best, David, to one who truly deserves it. Thanks for all the great reviews, amusing asides and your genuine love of tv. It's made us all better tv watchers.
Nov 10, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: