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What's The Only Thing Better Than Being a 'Fresh Air' Guest Host? Being a 'Fresh Air' Guest
November 10, 2016  | By David Bianculli  | 8 comments

Friday, Nov. 11, I return to NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross as a guest host. But today, the day before, I’m scheduled to show up as a guest guest – with Terry interviewing me about my new Platinum Age of Television book…

How cool is that?

For me, very cool indeed. I’ve served as TV critic for Fresh Air since it went national in 1987, and have been a guest host for more than a decade now. I’m honored to be associated with the show at all, much less to add my voice to the mix. But nothing is more fun for me, or more memorable, than those times when Terry and I sit in the same studio, across the table from each other, and just talk.

We’ve talked, in depth, about the history of late-night TV talk shows, about political coverage, about end-of-year best-and-worst wrap-ups, and other things. Back in 2009, we talked about my book on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a critical biography called Dangerously Funny. And this week, we’re discussing another book of mine, my combination Darwinian exercise and interview-profile collection, The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific, which is published Nov. 15 (my birthday!) by Doubleday.

 I don’t take these conversations for granted – Terry is too proud and protective of her air time to squander it, even on long-time colleagues – but I do treasure them. And yes, every time we talk, she hits me with some questions that make me think about TV, my own chosen specialty, in a different way. And, many times, she makes me think about myself and my own life, too, and I usually avoid that particular exercise like the plague.

So all I’ll say about today’s conversation, other than thanks to Terry and everyone else at Fresh Air who made it a reality, is that Terry does it to me again. She not only guides me to make connections about television that I hadn’t made before she asked the question – but also about my own childhood TV preferences and enthusiasms.

Tomorrow, I’ll be the guest host again, returning to that chair after several months off for health reasons. But before that I’m in the guest chair, for an interview you can hear today (Thursday, Nov. 10) on Fresh Air, or catch afterward by listening to the Fresh Air website.

And I couldn’t be happier.

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Meeting your article has been a great help to me.
It's late, but I'm so proud to see your post even now.
I always support your writing

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Feb 14, 2023   |  Reply
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Apr 28, 2022   |  Reply
Michael Adams
Hello, David. I've been a fan of Fresh Air for many years and have always enjoyed your pieces and hosting. I just got around to listening to the podcast version last night and I was so impressed by the questions that Terry asked you and even more, the questions and thoughts that came from you. We are roughly the same age and I enjoy listening to your take on TV from the "olden days" and the new stuff. Glad to have you back on the show. Best Wishes.
Nov 13, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Michael, Thanks very much. You're very kind - and if you're roughly my age, you have a very...mature perspective.
Nov 15, 2016
Arlene Tuttle
Hi David! I am a voice from the distant past!! I was a friend of your Dad and Reba. I am struck with how much you resemble your Dad Virgil in this photo. I was sorry to hear of your health issues, but am so happy to see you back here now. I was sorry to miss the Fresh Air broadcast-(I hate the new time slot btw!!), but will listen to the podcast. Take good care David. It's always a joy to hear your beautiful voice on NPR!!
Nov 13, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Arlene, So nice to hear from you! Please write back after you've heard the podcast -- because my dad is mentioned in it, more than once. And saying I look like my dad... you couldn't make me smile more. Please write back!
Nov 13, 2016
Lisa Howard
Listened to your interview with Terry yesterday. Per usual, whenever I tune in and learn you are the guest I know I'm going to hear something special. Thank you for your thoughful insights. You and Fresh Air are a treasure.
Nov 11, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Lisa, And with comments like that, so you are. And I mean it. That's quite a compliment, and I'll try my best to continue to live up to it.
Nov 13, 2016
I appreciate the story you shared about your mother's illness at the time of the Kennedy assassination. I was in a similar situation - I was 10, my father was suffering from cancer, and my mother hated for him to have to hear the news. My father passed away just 3 weeks later, so it is still hard for me to see pictures and videos of Kennedy's death and funeral. Hearing you talk about it was comforting.
Nov 11, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Pat: Wow. Thanks for writing that, and for sharing. Sorry for your loss, and for what you went through at the time. But what's amazing: I'm usually hesitant to reveal much about myself, whether writing or talking about TV, but there are times in the book where I intentionally went in that direction -- and certainly, Terry steered me that way. They used to tell us, in journalism school, that at times, the more personal and specific you get, the more you connect with other people. It took me a while to believe that. But I do, especially with comments like yours. We went through about the same thing, at the same age... and we're both still here...
Nov 13, 2016
Unfortunately, Fresh Air is on here at an inconvenient time for me. I'll try to catch it live, but otherwise I'll check the website. Congratulations on being both a guest AND a host. So neat.
Nov 10, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Jan: Thanks! I'm proud of being both. And being a guest may be even more of an honor: in my life, at least, it's a lot more rare of an event.
Nov 13, 2016
Get the podcast (I use iTunes).
Nov 12, 2016
One of the few good things about our local NPR outlet,WDIY, is that they have the early feed of Fresh Air,sometimes with occasional flubs before final editing,at noon ET. On line is available at that time.
Where I type this(Lehigh Valley,Pa.) is actually a treasure trove of NPR,with Philly's WHYY available(home to Fresh Air-I've sat in the studio and used the mike on a tour) playing FA at 3PM & 7PM and Scranton's WVIA feed at 6PM. All online as they broadcast,then FA is archived for online anytime,as all(I believe)of David's face-to-face moments with Terry as noted above. A great place for real radio,as WXPN(home of World Cafe) and WRTI(classical/jazz) bounce in here on translators. At least driving around here isn't as dreadful on the way to work. No Limbaugh,no AC/SC,no Taylor Swift,no traffic on the 2s-life is good.
Nov 10, 2016   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Mac: In Philly, Fresh Air indeed is broadcast at 3 and 7 p.m., though it's performed live at noon, and sent out to some stations, including yours, at noon. That's why, on the days I host, my voice sounds so nervous at times: In parts of the country, what we're doing is live radio. And that's scary, folks, at least to a long-time print journalist who somehow ended up behind the mike occasionally.
Nov 13, 2016
Uhh,that's AC/DC.
Anyway,the first feed of FA just aired and Terry is even able to unglue her friend and co-worker. One would make a reel of folks interviewed by Terry using the phrase "I never thought of that before" to help the next NPR begathon. No one,not even Charlie Rose,does it better. Without spoilers,the interview does indeed center on the book first,but who is the writer and why that subject is just as important to the dialogue. And stay tuned for the full hour as book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews essays by the late Stanley Elkin-you won't look at a bar of hotel soap the same way. Another great hour of Fresh Air!
Nov 10, 2016
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