David Bianculli

When it came to new programming, broadcast TV didn't impress critic David Bianculli much this year. But if you add in cable and streaming services, then the story changes. All told, cable and streaming made it "another great year for TV," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. The year was so good, in fact, Bianculli says he could have made a Top 20 or even a Top 30 list, but in keeping with tradition, he has narrowed it down to 10 — OK, fine, 11 — picks: 1. Better Call Saul (AMC)
"I...

A Very Murray Christmas is directed and co-written by Sofia Coppola, who also worked with Bill Murray on the movie Lost in Translation . In that film, Murray played an actor in Japan, reluctantly doing a series of commercials there, and not at all happy. In A Very Murray Christmas, Murray starts out in much the same mood — he's in his room at New York's Carlyle Hotel, killing time with old friend Paul Shaffer, who's noodling at the piano. Outside, a snowstorm is raging. Inside, Bill Murray is...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, is very enthusiastic about two just-released DVD box sets of TV shows. One is season one of "Better Call Saul," the "Breaking Bad" prequel that premiered earlier this year. The other is a new compilation of an old show he's been waiting to see again since the '70s, "The Great American Dream Machine." Here's his review. DAVID...

For broadcast TV, this year's fall season has been decidedly, and disappointingly, below average, especially for drama series. But on streaming television, there's a new show — available on Amazon Prime Video in its first-season entirety on Friday — that's about to change all that. The show is called The Man in the High Castle. It's based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, the same writer whose stories inspired the movies Blade Runner and Total Recall, and it's excellent. The executive producers...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Despite the popularity of streaming services that make make many old episode of TV series available on-demand, DVD box sets continue to be released and embraced by serious fans and collectors, including our TV critic, David Bianculli. He's going to tell us about the four recent releases he most treasures - two just-completed TV series and two very vintage ones...

Supergirl, premiering Monday night on CBS, follows in the same path of other prime-time DC Comics superheroes established on the CW by Arrow and The Flash. And they're only part of a much wider trend, because superheroes are as popular, and profitable, on TV as they are in the movies. With Supergirl, Greg Berlanti and his Arrow and The Flash producing team are attempting to mount a modern, youth-appeal superhero series not for the CW but for older-skewing network CBS. The Superman family...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: Tonight, the TV drama series "Fargo" begins its second season on the FX Network. It has a new story and a new cast, but one familiar character is at its center. Our TV critic David Bianculli has a review. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: Last season when it premiered, "Fargo," the TV series, had to overcome the misconception that it was a remake of "Fargo," the fabulous Coen brothers movie. Instead, this TV ...

One of the newest trends on TV — and one of the most intriguing — is the season-long anthology drama series. In the Golden Age of TV, back in the 1950s, anthology series presented a brand-new story and cast every week. A lonely butcher named Marty looking for love. Jurors arguing over a verdict in 12 Angry Men. Mannequins coming to life in The Twilight Zone. Then the anthology format all but vanished, except for the rare and noteworthy revival over the past few decades: HBO's Tales from the...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Last night, seven weeks after Jon Stewart stepped down as the long-time host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," the new host stepped in, Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old biracial comedian from South Africa. Here's our TV critic David Bianculli with his first impressions of the new "Daily Show" era. (SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW") TREVOR NOAH: First of...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Viola Davis, the star of ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder," made history last night by becoming the first African-American to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama series. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, is going to look back on last night's Emmy ceremony and look ahead to the new fall TV season which begins tonight. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: Last night's Emmy awards managed to...

Over the past few years, NBC has tried a few times to revive the prime-time variety show, a TV format that once was as popular and ubiquitous as reality TV is today. NBC even has tried to inject the variety television genre with the excitement of live television, in hopes of luring viewers back to their television sets in real time. But those previous NBC attempts, hosted respectively by Rosie O'Donnell and Maya Rudolph, fell flat. So now, with a new program based on a long-running,...

First nights on TV talk shows provide quick, and sometimes misleading, first impressions. As Stephen Colbert joked in his opening monologue, he had nine months to plan his first show. But first impressions do count for a lot, especially about the structure — and atmosphere — a new host brings to the job. Colbert didn't mess with the existing structure of the Late Show itself — opening monologue, sit behind a desk, interview a few guests, showcase some music at the end. But the interior...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Edward Burns made his mark 20 years ago by writing, directing and starring in the movie "The Brothers McMullen." Now, he's the creator, writer and star of the new TNT cable series "Public Morals," which begins tonight. He directed two of its 10 episodes. It's a period cop drama set in the '60s. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, says it reminds him of some classic cop movies from another...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has reviews of two very different new TV projects, IFC's "Documentary Now!" which premieres tonight, and AMC's "Fear The Walking Dead," which begins Sunday. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: "The Walking Dead," which crept onto TV on Halloween night in 2010, has become the AMC cable network's biggest hit ever - bigger than "Mad Men," bigger than "Breaking Bad."...

By now, viewers know what to expect from a David Simon drama. You expect an intense study of a precise location, as with Baltimore in The Wire and New Orleans in Treme. You expect flawed, fascinating and unforgettable characters — like Omar in The Wire, just to name one. And you expect the story to raise issues, especially about race and politics, that are unfortunately relevant to today. Show Me a Hero, a six-hour miniseries presented by HBO over three weeks, checks off all those boxes. It's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. After 16 years as host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart presented his farewell program last night. Our TV critic David Bianculli says it was an entertaining finale from start to finish, and also at times a quietly emotional one, for Stewart and for viewers. Here's his review. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: In the days leading up to Jon Stewart's final "Daily Show"...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The last few weeks have been an amazingly busy news cycle, with a mass shooting at a South Carolina church, landmark Supreme Court decisions being handed down and more presidential hopefuls announcing their candidacies. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has been following it all, but not just on the standard news outlets. He says he's learned a lot, in both tone and substance, from TV's...

Last weekend, HBO presented the season finales of its three Sunday night prime-time spring series, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. This weekend, HBO unveils its new Sunday night lineup: the all-new second season of True Detective, and two new comedies, Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the wrestler called The Rock, and The Brink, starring Tim Robbins and Jack Black. Let's start with Ballers. HBO has tried building a sitcom around pro football before — back in 1984,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has a review of several recently released big DVD box sets. He says there are reasons to grab them now while you can. (SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW") ELVIS PRESLEY: This is probably the greatest honor that I've ever had in my life. And there's not much I can say except, it really makes you feel good, and we want to thank you from the...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Last night after 33 years on television as a late night talk show host, David Letterman presented his final program. Today, we'll salute Letterman by visiting with his longtime executive producer Rob Burnett. We'll start with a look at David Letterman's last show by our TV critic David Bianculli. Letterman's career on national TV began in daytime television in 1980 on...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. "Mad Men," the AMC series that premiered in 2007, won four Emmys as best dramatic series and helped change the landscape of modern television, ended last night after an eight-year run. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has this review aimed at "Mad Men" fans who, like himself, watched it when it aired. If you haven't seen it yet, you can listen when you're ready on our website. DAVID...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. David Letterman is retiring May 20 after 33 years as a TV late-night talk show host. CBS presents a retrospective special tonight in primetime. And during his final month, friends of "The Late Show With David Letterman," including President Barack Obama in an appearance scheduled for tonight, have been dropping by to show their appreciation. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, would like...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: TV series used to just end. Now - the best ones, anyway - they conclude with a final episode attempting to give viewers a sense of satisfaction and closure. And the way a series chooses to say goodbye these...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Tomorrow night, the FX cable network presents the return of Louis C.K.'s comedy series "Louie," along with the premiere of a new mockumentary comedy series called "The Comedians," starring Billy Crystal and Josh Gad. Both series are unusual and ambitious and both feature celebrities playing exaggerated versions of themselves. But according to our TV critic David Bianculli, only one of...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, HBO is presenting a two-night, four-hour documentary on Sunday and Monday, April 5 and 6. It's directed by Alex Gibney, who examined another musical icon in his film "Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown" and whose film "Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief" just premiered on HBO. Our TV critic, David Bianculli,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Last night, CBS premiered "The Late, Late Show With James Corden," the replacement for Craig Ferguson in the timeslot that follows David Letterman. American audiences might know Corden for his role as the baker in last year's film version of Stephen Sondheim's "Into The Woods." He's also won a Tony on Broadway and is a star on British TV. Our TV critic David Bianculli has a review of...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Sunday's conclusion of the HBO documentary series "The Jinx" has made major headlines, and not only for what was included in its final installments. Our TV critic David Bianculli thinks it was an important and dramatic moment of television. But he also thinks it was important the way it was shown, and he sees that as an opportunity to also talk about the popularity of the Fox series ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. This week, ABC presents "American Crime," a new drama series from John Ridley who wrote the screenplay for the movie "12 Years A Slave." Also this week, Netflix presents the "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," a new comedy series from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock who collaborated on NBC's "30 Rock." According to our TV critic David Bianculli, they're both part of the new TV revolution, and...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: Last year, TV writer-producer Vince Gilligan wrapped up "Breaking Bad," the much-acclaimed AMC drama series about a meek science teacher turned master criminal. Earlier this year, he launched another cable hit, "Better Call Saul," the prequel to "Breaking Bad," co-created with Peter Gould. And this weekend, he teams with another TV producer, David Shore from "House," to present another new series - ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Last month, the TV Guide cable network rebranded itself and is now known as the Pop network, pop as in pop culture. On Wednesday, it presents the first series that our TV critic David Bianculli considers worth mentioning. But, on the radio, mentioning the title is somewhat problematic. Here's David's review and his explanation. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: The show I'm about to review,...

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