David Bianculli http://kcur.org en 'The Strain' And 'Extant' Play On Fears Of Forces Out Of Our Control http://kcur.org/post/strain-and-extant-play-fears-forces-out-our-control They say every generation gets the science fiction it deserves, built around its biggest and most primal fears. Well, maybe they don't say that — but they should. In the '50s, all those movies about mutant giant monsters going berserk were a way for us to channel our fears about the atomic bomb. In the same way, in that same decade, all those body-snatcher movies were about being unable to tell friend from foe, or trust even your closest loved ones — the perfect paranoid parable for the Communist witch-hunting era.<p>So what are we watching this decade, more than anything else? Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:46:00 +0000 David Bianculli 58624 at http://kcur.org 'The Strain' And 'Extant' Play On Fears Of Forces Out Of Our Control A-List Celebrities Flock To Late-Night 'Graham Norton Show' http://kcur.org/post/list-celebrities-flock-late-night-graham-norton-show Transcript <p>TERRY GROSS, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. Now that the late-night talk show wars have settled down again, our TV critic David Bianculli says there's a talk show we should be watching that's not broadcast by CBS, NBC or ABC or even Comedy Central. It's "The Graham Norton Show," imported by BBC America and shown on Saturday nights. Here's David's review.<p>DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: "The Graham Norton Show" has been around a long time, and so has Norton. But few people I know watch the show or even know about it. Mon, 16 Jun 2014 19:43:00 +0000 David Bianculli 57419 at http://kcur.org HBO's 'The Normal Heart' Looks At The Early Days Of The AIDS Crisis http://kcur.org/post/hbos-normal-heart-looks-early-days-aids-crisis Transcript <p>DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli. Sunday night, HBO presents a new TV version of "The Normal Heart," Larry Kramer's 1985 play about the early years of the AIDS crisis. Kramer himself wrote the screenplay adaptation, which stars Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts. Almost 30 years later, the drama is both presented and viewed differently. Fri, 23 May 2014 16:38:00 +0000 David Bianculli 56230 at http://kcur.org 'The Maya Rudolph Show' And What It'll Take To Bring Back Variety http://kcur.org/post/maya-rudolph-show-and-what-itll-take-bring-back-variety On Monday night, NBC presented <em>The Maya Rudolph Show, </em>a one-hour prime-time variety special executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring many of their mutual <em>Saturday Night Live </em>cohorts, including Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It also co-starred Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes and singer Janelle Monae. <em>The Maya Rudolph Show</em> was an intentional effort to bring back the old-school TV variety show, but with a new-school slant that bathed most of the show in a distancing self-awareness. Tue, 20 May 2014 17:31:00 +0000 David Bianculli 56036 at http://kcur.org 'The Maya Rudolph Show' And What It'll Take To Bring Back Variety 'Penny Dreadful' Is Wonderful, But 'Rosemary's Baby' Is Dreadful http://kcur.org/post/penny-dreadful-wonderful-rosemarys-baby-dreadful Transcript <p>DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli. This weekend two very different TV productions attempt to do much the same thing - revisit old works of literature in the horror and suspense genre and adapt them with new approaches for a new generation. Fri, 09 May 2014 16:11:00 +0000 David Bianculli 55481 at http://kcur.org 'Hill Street Blues' Created Two Eras For TV Drama: Before And After http://kcur.org/post/hill-street-blues-created-two-eras-tv-drama-and-after It's very easy, and not at all inaccurate, to divide dramatic series television into two eras: before <em>Hill Street Blues</em> — which has just been released on DVD in its entirety for the first time --<em> </em>and after. Before NBC televised <em>Hill Street </em>in 1981, most continuing drama series were presented as stand-alone, interchangeable hours starring the same characters. Every week, TV detectives Joe Mannix or Theo Kojak or Tony Baretta would investigate a crime, catch the villains and wait for next week to do it again. Wed, 07 May 2014 17:37:00 +0000 David Bianculli 55366 at http://kcur.org 'Hill Street Blues' Created Two Eras For TV Drama: Before And After FX's 'Fargo' Is Neither Remake Nor Sequel http://kcur.org/post/fxs-fargo-neither-remake-nor-sequel Transcript <p>TERRY GROSS, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. The FX cable network premieres a new drama series tonight. It's called "Fargo" and has the same title as the 1996 Coen brothers movie. Our TV critic David Bianculli says it's a wonderful show in that same wacky spirit, but he says it's just as important to note what this new "Fargo" is not. It's not a remake, and it's not a sequel.<p>DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: The 1996 Coen brothers' "Fargo" film is a brilliant movie. Let's start there. If you've seen it, chances are you haven't forgotten it and smile a bit just at the mention of it. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:33:00 +0000 David Bianculli 54225 at http://kcur.org Without Giving Too Much Away, Here's What We Can Say About 'Mad Men' http://kcur.org/post/without-giving-too-much-away-heres-what-we-can-say-about-mad-men <em>This review discusses the plotline of </em>Mad Men<em>, up through the end of Season 6.</em><p>Matthew Weiner's <em>Mad Men </em> begins its seventh season Sunday on AMC. Every season, as this outstanding period drama has made its way through the 1960s, Weiner has been increasingly insistent about the things he doesn't want critics to reveal in advance. Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:59:00 +0000 David Bianculli 54051 at http://kcur.org Without Giving Too Much Away, Here's What We Can Say About 'Mad Men' 'Parenthood' Is Hard, But NBC Gets This Family Drama Right http://kcur.org/post/parenthood-hard-nbc-gets-family-drama-right During a <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/03/28/295742261/the-good-wife-delivers-a-game-changing-stunner">recent <em>Fresh Air </em>review</a> of the CBS series <em>The Good Wife, </em>I referred to it as one of my "go-to" shows whenever anyone asks me to name a drama series on broadcast TV that's as good as the ones on cable these days. Ever since, I've wanted to give equal time to my <em>other </em>go-to choice. Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:06:00 +0000 David Bianculli 53859 at http://kcur.org 'Parenthood' Is Hard, But NBC Gets This Family Drama Right HBO Fills Sunday Night Lineup With Entertaining Power Struggles http://kcur.org/post/hbo-fills-sunday-night-lineup-entertaining-power-struggles Transcript <p>TERRY GROSS, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. This Sunday HBO presents the season premiers of two returning series - "Game of Thrones" and "VEEP" - and launches a new series, a Mike Judge comedy called "Silicon Valley." Our TV critic David Bianculli has seen them all.<p>DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: HBO presents three series Sunday night: the season premiers of "Game of Thrones" and "VEEP" and the start of a new comedy, "Silicon Valley." But whether they're set in mythical kingdoms, Washington D.C., or northern California, these three very different shows have two things in common. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:19:00 +0000 David Bianculli 53656 at http://kcur.org 'The Good Wife' Delivers A Game-Changing Stunner http://kcur.org/post/good-wife-delivers-game-changing-stunner Transcript <p>DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli. Last Sunday, on the CBS drama series "The Good Wife," something major and unexpected happened. If you don't yet know what occurred, and don't wish to, now is the time to stop listening for a few minutes. For the past few years, whenever I've been challenged to name a series on broadcast TV that's the equal of shows produced for cable or streaming networks, my instant go-to example has been "The Good Wife" on CBS. Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:11:00 +0000 David Bianculli 53346 at http://kcur.org When Your Best Friend Is A Star — And You're Her Minion http://kcur.org/post/when-your-best-friend-star-and-youre-her-minion HBO has done very well in the past with comedy series that explore and expose the inner workings of show business, from Garry Shandling in <em>The Larry Sanders Show </em>to Ricky Gervais in <em>Extras. </em>Wednesday night, the network presents its newest entry in that self-obsessed Hollywood genre: <em>Doll & Em, </em>a British comedy series that's a vanity production in the most literal sense of the word.<p>It stars Emily Mortimer, the lead actress from HBO's <em>The Newsroom, </em>as an exaggerated version of herself. Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:48:00 +0000 David Bianculli 52894 at http://kcur.org When Your Best Friend Is A Star — And You're Her Minion NBC Hostage Drama 'Crisis' Takes Viewers On A Rare TV Trip http://kcur.org/post/nbc-hostage-drama-crisis-takes-viewers-rare-tv-trip When I slipped in the preview DVD to watch the opening episodes of NBC's new drama series <em>Crisis, </em>which premieres Sunday, I have to admit I wasn't expecting much. Oh, there was some anticipation in seeing Gillian Anderson of <em>The X-Files </em>in a series lead again; but I wasn't sure whether we'd be getting the demand-your-attention actress from such marvelous British imports as <em>Great Expectations </em>and <em>Bleak House, </em>or the underused supporting actress from NBC's <em>Hannibal. Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:06:00 +0000 David Bianculli 52653 at http://kcur.org NBC Hostage Drama 'Crisis' Takes Viewers On A Rare TV Trip With Humor And A Nod To History, Fallon Takes Over 'The Tonight Show' http://kcur.org/post/humor-and-nod-history-fallon-takes-over-tonight-show Opening nights of new incarnations of late-night TV talk shows are good, mostly, for first impressions — or, in the case of Jay Leno, sometimes a second impression. It's not fair to make strong judgments on the content alone, because a first show always is top-heavy with ideas, special guests and nervousness. But it <em>is </em>fair game to judge the set, the environment, the overall mood, and how well the host fits into the history of late-night television.<p>Jimmy Fallon, at age 39, fits into it very well. For one thing, he <em>knows </em>the history. He also appreciates it ... Tue, 18 Feb 2014 20:03:00 +0000 David Bianculli 51502 at http://kcur.org With Humor And A Nod To History, Fallon Takes Over 'The Tonight Show' In 'Whole Gritty City,' Marching Bands Vie For Coveted Mardi Gras Spots http://kcur.org/post/whole-gritty-city-marching-bands-vie-coveted-mardi-gras-spots There are times when television really does try to put its best foot forward — promoting a new fall season, for example. But it's an almost twisted rule of TV that sometimes, the better a television offering is, the more likely it is to be shown when even the network <em>presenting </em>it doesn't think many people will be watching.<p>That's why CBS, each year, televises <em>The Kennedy Center Honors </em>during the dead week between Christmas and New Year's. Thu, 13 Feb 2014 18:51:00 +0000 David Bianculli 51242 at http://kcur.org In 'Whole Gritty City,' Marching Bands Vie For Coveted Mardi Gras Spots On TV This Week: 'Babylon' Has Good Fun, 'Detective' Is The Real Deal http://kcur.org/post/tv-week-babylon-has-good-fun-detective-real-deal Two new miniseries this week are worth special mention — and couldn't be more different.<strong></strong><p><em>True Detective, </em>which begins Sunday on HBO, is a combination series and miniseries, kind of like <em>American Horror Story </em>on FX. Each season is designed to tell a different, self-contained story, followed the next year by a new tale with new characters and sometimes even new actors. Wed, 08 Jan 2014 20:18:00 +0000 David Bianculli 49470 at http://kcur.org On TV This Week: 'Babylon' Has Good Fun, 'Detective' Is The Real Deal 'Downton' Returns, And It's As Rich As Ever http://kcur.org/post/downton-returns-and-its-rich-ever When you think about what <em>Downton Abbey </em>has achieved, and is continuing to pull off, it's actually pretty remarkable. In an era when the most acclaimed TV series of the decade is an edgy cable drama about a dying, meth-making criminal, <em>Downton Abbey </em>draws similarly large audiences on broadcast TV — public TV, at that — with an old-fashioned soap opera about servants and household staffers and those they serve. As Season 4 begins on PBS, <em>Downton Abbey </em>is the most popular drama in the history of public television. Mon, 06 Jan 2014 19:05:00 +0000 David Bianculli 49339 at http://kcur.org 'Downton' Returns, And It's As Rich As Ever David Bianculli's Top 10 Shows: 2013 Was A 'Good Year For TV' http://kcur.org/post/david-biancullis-top-10-shows-2013-was-good-year-tv This was a good year for TV, says critic David Bianculli, and that had a lot to do with two new shows from Netflix: <em>House of Cards, </em>the American adaptation of the BBC political thriller series, and <em>Orange Is the New Black,</em> a dramatic comedy which takes place in a women's federal prison. "I was very impressed with the overall quality of what Netflix gave us," Bianculli tells <em>Fresh Air</em>'s Terry Gross. "... Tue, 24 Dec 2013 18:13:00 +0000 David Bianculli 48825 at http://kcur.org David Bianculli's Top 10 Shows: 2013 Was A 'Good Year For TV' Great New DVD Box Sets: Blasts From The Past And 'Breaking Bad' http://kcur.org/post/2013s-best-dvd-box-sets-blasts-past-and-breaking-bad Here's a short list of some of the most exciting recent TV offerings on DVD. These are sets you can still order and receive in time for the holidays — and regardless, they're perfect to dive into over the vacation period, enjoying an episode or two a night.<p>The best — and biggest, and most recent — of the bunch is <em>Breaking Bad: The Complete Series. </em>Vince Gilligan's AMC drama, starring Bryan Cranston as a high school teacher turned criminal mastermind, arguably is the best TV series ever made — so getting or giving it in one gulp is about as good as it gets. Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:08:00 +0000 David Bianculli 48784 at http://kcur.org Great New DVD Box Sets: Blasts From The Past And 'Breaking Bad' Delightful 'Six By Sondheim' Leaves You Wanting Six More http://kcur.org/post/delightful-six-sondheim-leaves-you-wanting-six-more On Monday, HBO presents the premiere of <em>Six by Sondheim, </em>a new TV special that's part biography, part music-appreciation lesson and part performance piece. It's all about the life and music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, in which he explains, among many other things, how and why he became a musical theater composer and lyricist, and the inspirations for some of his most familiar songs. If you're new to the works of Stephen Sondheim, this TV special should entice you. Fri, 06 Dec 2013 19:35:00 +0000 David Bianculli 47944 at http://kcur.org Delightful 'Six By Sondheim' Leaves You Wanting Six More How Live TV Helped America Mourn The Loss Of JFK http://kcur.org/post/how-live-tv-helped-america-mourn-loss-jfk <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quk22UjE-QI</p> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 19:50:00 +0000 David Bianculli 47270 at http://kcur.org How Live TV Helped America Mourn The Loss Of JFK 'Dancing On The Edge' Is Fun For Both The Eyes And The Ears http://kcur.org/post/dancing-edge-fun-both-eyes-and-ears One of my most enjoyable parts of being a critic is steering people toward something so good, but so relatively obscure, that they might never have checked it out unless they'd been nudged in that direction. My personal best example of that, ever, was the imported BBC miniseries <em>The Singing Detective,</em> by Dennis Potter, about 25 years ago.<p>I'm not directly comparing this weekend's new British import, <em>Dancing On the Edge, </em>to that earlier masterpiece, but they have a lot in common. Both are period costume pieces. Thu, 17 Oct 2013 17:31:00 +0000 David Bianculli 45371 at http://kcur.org 'Dancing On The Edge' Is Fun For Both The Eyes And The Ears A Peek Into The Private Lives Of 'Burton And Taylor' http://kcur.org/post/peek-private-lives-burton-and-taylor You have to be of a certain age to remember firsthand the tornado of publicity that erupted when Liz Taylor, the former child star turned screen vamp, first met British stage star Richard Burton on the set of the 1963 movie <em>Cleopatra. </em>But it's still one of Hollywood's most famous and inescapable love stories.<strong> </strong><p><strong></strong>He played Mark Antony, she played the Queen of the Nile, and just like their onscreen characters, they fell in love. Wed, 16 Oct 2013 16:34:00 +0000 David Bianculli 45305 at http://kcur.org A Peek Into The Private Lives Of 'Burton And Taylor' TV Trips Into Fall, But These Days Who Knows Where To Look? http://kcur.org/post/tv-trips-fall-these-days-who-knows-where-look We're kicking off a new fall TV season this week. A generation ago, even less, that was cause for major media focus, as new shows from the broadcast networks jockeyed for attention and position while old favorites returned with new episodes. Also back then, the Emmys were a celebration of the best, and clips from the nominated shows reminded you just why they were considered the best of the best.<p>But now? In 2013? Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:16:00 +0000 David Bianculli 44140 at http://kcur.org TV Trips Into Fall, But These Days Who Knows Where To Look? A 'Curb'-Like Comedy And The Return Of 'Breaking Bad' http://kcur.org/post/curb-comedy-and-return-breaking-bad This weekend, the AMC cable network begins showing the final episodes of its acclaimed drama series <em>Breaking Bad, </em>and launches a new one: <em>Low Winter Sun. </em>Meanwhile, HBO presents its newest made-for-TV movie — this one a comedy, starring and co-written by Larry David.<p><em>Breaking Bad, </em>Vince Gilligan's series about a central character going from milquetoast mild to remorseless killer, returns this Sunday after an extended midseason break. And something fascinating happened during the interim: While the show itself was on hiatus, interest in it kept building. Fri, 09 Aug 2013 15:54:00 +0000 David Bianculli 41708 at http://kcur.org A 'Curb'-Like Comedy And The Return Of 'Breaking Bad' This Summer, Vintage TV Shows Thrive On DVD http://kcur.org/post/summer-vintage-tv-shows-thrive-dvd So much TV, so little time. Even during the summer — when broadcast TV slows down and leaves mostly cable and satellite TV series, and now Netflix, to watch and review — the TV shows on DVD keep coming. And summertime is the perfect time to dive into some of them.<p>A great one, for starters, is a 21-disc Shout! Factory set called <em>The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Complete Series</em>. Mon, 29 Jul 2013 17:20:00 +0000 David Bianculli 41035 at http://kcur.org This Summer, Vintage TV Shows Thrive On DVD Laughs And Drama Behind Bars With 'Orange Is The New Black' http://kcur.org/post/laughs-and-drama-behind-bars-orange-new-black Netflix's original series <em>Orange Is the New Black </em>has two important TV predecessors. One is HBO's <em>Oz,</em> the 1997 men-in-prison drama from Tom Fontana that paved the way for HBO's <em>The Sopranos. </em>The other is Showtime's <em>Weeds</em>, which in the fourth season put one of its central characters behind bars.<p>The creator of <em>Weeds, </em>Jenji Kohan, clearly enjoyed the idea of a women's prison as fertile ground for both comedy and drama. Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:29:00 +0000 David Bianculli 40313 at http://kcur.org Laughs And Drama Behind Bars With 'Orange Is The New Black' Back For More: Sorkin's 'Newsroom' Is A Serious Standout http://kcur.org/post/back-more-sorkins-newsroom-serious-standout The one major change series creator Aaron Sorkin made to <em>The Newsroom </em>between seasons was a structural one. Instead of having each week's show focus on a separate major storyline, this year's edition of <em>The Newsroom </em>follows a single story over the course of the entire season. And it's a season-long plot line in which anchor Will McAvoy and the other employees of the fictional Atlantic Cable News network get one important news report very wrong.<p>Most of the time, though, they're on what the producers of <em>The Newsroom</em> consider the correct side of history. Fri, 12 Jul 2013 17:23:00 +0000 David Bianculli 40081 at http://kcur.org Back For More: Sorkin's 'Newsroom' Is A Serious Standout 'The Bridge:' Mayhem On The Border, With Big Issues At Stake http://kcur.org/post/bridge-mayhem-border-big-issues-stake The FX version of the Scandinavian series <em>The Bridge,</em> like the Showtime version of the Israeli TV series that inspired <em>Homeland,</em> is a major revamp as well as a crucial relocation. With <em>Homeland,</em> the focus became American politics and home-soil terrorism. In <em>The Bridge,</em> premiering July 10, the setting is changed to the U.S.-Mexico border. This allows executive producer Meredith Stiehm, a writer-producer from <em>Homeland,</em> to deal with everything that relocation provides — including the white-hot issues of immigration reform and border security. Mon, 08 Jul 2013 17:29:00 +0000 David Bianculli 39780 at http://kcur.org 'The Bridge:' Mayhem On The Border, With Big Issues At Stake It's Showtime For Untested 'Ray Donovan' And Proven 'Dexter' http://kcur.org/post/its-showtime-untested-ray-donovan-and-proven-dexter For at least as long as there have been Fall Preview issues of TV Guide, there's been a sense of optimistic excitement about the start of new television series. But more recently, producers of long-running TV shows have injected excitement into the ends of their programs' life spans as well. Fri, 28 Jun 2013 21:36:00 +0000 David Bianculli 39317 at http://kcur.org It's Showtime For Untested 'Ray Donovan' And Proven 'Dexter'