David Bianculli

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.

From 1993 to 2007, Bianculli was a TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Bianculli has written four books: The Platinum Age Of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific (2016); Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 2009); Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously (1992); and Dictionary of Teleliteracy (1996).

A professor of TV and film at Rowan University, Bianculli is also the founder and editor of the website, TVWorthWatching.com.

On June 30, the Showtime network launches a new TV miniseries called The Loudest Voice. Based on the Gabriel Sherman book The Loudest Voice in the Room, it's a seven-part drama about the television triumphs and controversies of Roger Ailes, who created and ran the Fox News Channel.

Legion and Jessica Jones come from the more recent generations of Marvel comics, featuring relatively obscure characters. Neither show's protagonist is a superhero in the conventional sense of wearing a costume or having a secret identity, and both are battling inner demons as well as powerful adversaries. Yet even though they're technically comic-book stories, these shows are impressively ambitious and surprisingly satisfying.

City on a Hill is a period cop series about trying to change the system from within, and encountering resistance — sometimes deadly resistance — everywhere you turn. It's a bit like the 1973 biographical crime film Serpico, except set in '90s Boston instead of '70s New York, and starring Kevin Bacon in the Al Pacino role.

When CBS All Access unveiled its new version of The Twilight Zone earlier this year, the general consensus was that the initial episodes in the new series had fallen short of Rod Serling's original version. Not only were they unworthy of The Twilight Zone of old, but they also weren't nearly as good, or as smart, as a show that had begun in England in 2011, Black Mirror.

The three seasons of the series Deadwood, which ran on HBO from 2004 until 2006, were set in a mining town in the territory of the Dakotas — the black mining hills sung about by Paul McCartney in "Rocky Raccoon." There was no established law there in 1876, when the first season of Deadwood is set, but there was plenty of gold and silver, which led to a quickly growing community of miners, laborers, gamblers, prostitutes, opportunists and outlaws.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Leaving Neverland, by documentary filmmaker Dan Reed, is a tough show to watch — but it should be seen. Its central question is whether Michael Jackson used his fame and money to seduce young boys and their families into enabling a hidden pattern of serial pedophilia.

In 1993, a 24-year-old woman named Lorena Bobbitt reacted violently to what she said was a long-term pattern of marital abuse — sexual and otherwise — by severing the penis of her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, then driving away and tossing the remnant out her car window.

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie's first novel featuring fictional detective Hercule Poirot.

An acutely observant crime-solver in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot has since been played on screen by such actors as Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and, most famously, David Suchet, who starred in Poirot, a lengthy series presented in the U.S. by PBS.

Being a TV critic right now is kind of like being a sports writer — in a league where 10 new teams spring up every week. Among the most memorable TV moments of 2018 was James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney, which hit all the emotional notes.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

AMC's decision to show its new six-hour miniseries The Little Drummer Girl over three consecutive nights is a smart strategy. This spy story, based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carré, begins at such a deliberate pace that it takes almost two hours before the central story line — the actual spy mission — is set in motion.

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The rollout plan for the new TV series The Romanoffs is unusual for Amazon — just as the drama series itself is an unusual experiment for the show's creator, Matthew Weiner.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Back in the '70s, when Sean Penn was a teenager and his dad, director Leo Penn, was working in television, Leo got Sean small roles in a few shows, including a pair of episodes of Little House on the Prairie. But since becoming a movie star, Penn hasn't starred in a TV project — until now, when he headlines a new, eight-hour drama series called The First, launching Friday on Hulu.

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