1. David Bianculli says the new 14-hour PBS documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History  is Ken Burns' best yet:


"Each of these Roosevelts, if studied individually, would be fascinating. But looking at them together like this is a revelation – a sort of storytelling synergy, where the whole ends up being even more valuable than the sum of its parts."


Photo: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt with their children in Washington, DC, June 12, 1919. (credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY)

    David Bianculli says the new 14-hour PBS documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History  is Ken Burns' best yet:

    "Each of these Roosevelts, if studied individually, would be fascinating. But looking at them together like this is a revelation – a sort of storytelling synergy, where the whole ends up being even more valuable than the sum of its parts."

    Photo: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt with their children in Washington, DC, June 12, 1919. (credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY)

  2. PBS

    roosevelt

    history

    documentary

    fresh air

    david bianculli

  1. TV critic David Bianculli says the new Starz! unscripted TV series, The Chair, is ”all about the creative process in action.”
The series was created by Chris Moore, who produced Project Greenlight with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in 2001. Greenlight followed a young filmmaker and documented the process of making their first feature film. 
The Chair puts a reality TV spin on Greenlight's idea. “It’s a 10-part documentary series about the making of a new movie – but it’s a competitive situation, with two different young directors trying to make their own distinct films from the same source material.”  At the end of the series, Starz! will air both final products. 
Bianculli says, “I’ll have to wait until I see them to render a verdict on the final product. But the filmmaker’s journey in The Chair —that’s a reality TV show I can actually, and heartily, endorse.” View in High-Res

    TV critic David Bianculli says the new Starz! unscripted TV series, The Chair, is ”all about the creative process in action.”

    The series was created by Chris Moore, who produced Project Greenlight with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in 2001. Greenlight followed a young filmmaker and documented the process of making their first feature film. 

    The Chair puts a reality TV spin on Greenlight's idea. “It’s a 10-part documentary series about the making of a new movie – but it’s a competitive situation, with two different young directors trying to make their own distinct films from the same source material.”  At the end of the series, Starz! will air both final products. 

    Bianculli says, “I’ll have to wait until I see them to render a verdict on the final product. But the filmmaker’s journey in The Chair that’s a reality TV show I can actually, and heartily, endorse.”

  2. the chair

    project greenlight

    tv

    david bianculli

    fresh air

    documentary

    filmmaking

  1. David Suchet has been playing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot since 1989. After a 13-season run, Poirot, the mystery series based on Agatha Christie’s novels, has come to an end. The series is now on Acorn TV, streaming online. David Bianculli reflects on the long-running show:

But since these are, absolutely, the last TV episodes featuring Suchet as Poirot, they do provide a satisfying conclusion to a very long-running viewing experience. The actor has grown into the role, sporting wrinkles to match the wisdom, and perfecting the twinkle in his eye whenever, as the detective himself would put it, Poirot has finally solved the case as only Poirot can. And think of it: The actors of the current movie Boyhood have gotten lots of praise for filming and playing their roles over a 12-year period. David Suchet, as Hercule Poirot, has done the same thing for twice as long.
He’s done it so long, in fact, that he’s ending his run on a medium that didn’t even exist when he started. Wrap your little grey cells around that…
View in High-Res

    David Suchet has been playing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot since 1989. After a 13-season run, Poirot, the mystery series based on Agatha Christie’s novels, has come to an end. The series is now on Acorn TV, streaming online. David Bianculli reflects on the long-running show:

    But since these are, absolutely, the last TV episodes featuring Suchet as Poirot, they do provide a satisfying conclusion to a very long-running viewing experience. The actor has grown into the role, sporting wrinkles to match the wisdom, and perfecting the twinkle in his eye whenever, as the detective himself would put it, Poirot has finally solved the case as only Poirot can. And think of it: The actors of the current movie Boyhood have gotten lots of praise for filming and playing their roles over a 12-year period. David Suchet, as Hercule Poirot, has done the same thing for twice as long.

    He’s done it so long, in fact, that he’s ending his run on a medium that didn’t even exist when he started. Wrap your little grey cells around that…

  2. poirot

    mystery

    agatha christie

    PBS

    acorn TV

    david bianculli

  1. Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews the 10-part Cinemax series The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh. It stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, “a medical maverick and pioneer who has more regard for new techniques than any bedside manner.” Bianculli says one of the good things about the show is its unpredictability: 

"The slowly blossoming beauty of The Knick, as a TV series, is that it moves in unexpected directions and at a thoughtfully deliberate pace. If you presume Dr. Thackery is going to bond with that young nurse, or the new doctor, right away, you’d be wrong. And medical cases, which at first appeared to be singular events, turn out to be continuing story lines where we watch patients heal, or fail to. And doctors, too, keep trying new procedures, and new equipment, in discovering the path to an enlightened new age of medical science.”
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews the 10-part Cinemax series The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh. It stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, “a medical maverick and pioneer who has more regard for new techniques than any bedside manner.” Bianculli says one of the good things about the show is its unpredictability: 

    "The slowly blossoming beauty of The Knick, as a TV series, is that it moves in unexpected directions and at a thoughtfully deliberate pace. If you presume Dr. Thackery is going to bond with that young nurse, or the new doctor, right away, you’d be wrong. And medical cases, which at first appeared to be singular events, turn out to be continuing story lines where we watch patients heal, or fail to. And doctors, too, keep trying new procedures, and new equipment, in discovering the path to an enlightened new age of medical science.”

  2. the knick

    clive owen

    tv review

    david bianculli

  1. The more complex our personal technology gets, the more eager television is to take advantage of it. In the case of interactive TV, that now means the ability to vote on contestants and otherwise effect the outcome of what transpires shows – often in real time. But as our TV critic David Bianculli notes, this new “interactive” wrinkle actually is as old as television itself. In fact, even older.
Listen to the piece and follow along with images here. View in High-Res

    The more complex our personal technology gets, the more eager television is to take advantage of it. In the case of interactive TV, that now means the ability to vote on contestants and otherwise effect the outcome of what transpires shows – often in real time. But as our TV critic David Bianculli notes, this new “interactive” wrinkle actually is as old as television itself. In fact, even older.

    Listen to the piece and follow along with images here.

  2. david bianculli

    tvworthwatching

    reality tv

  1. Tonight on the Sundance cable network, Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in a new eight-part miniseries that couldn’t be more timely: It’s about a woman who finds herself embroiled in the political tensions of the Middle East, and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has this review of The Honorable Woman:


"Writer-director Hugo Blick peels back and reveals the elements of his story, and the motivations and relationships of his characters, very slowly. A scream you hear in episode one isn’t explained until episode four, and the pain behind anguished glances isn’t evident until you’ve clocked hours of TV time. But by that time, The Honorable Woman has taken you places where TV seldom ventures. Not only to the tunnels under the Gaza Strip – and I couldn’t believe I was seeing scenes set in those tunnels, after they’ve figured so prominently in the news – but to the deepest fears and hopes and dreams and despairs of the show’s characters. Politically, The Honorable Woman doesn’t take sides – it comes at you from all sides. And all sides are given motivations and conflicts, which makes this miniseries both a rare and a rewarding viewing experience. The characters in The Honorable Woman may not know whom to trust – but trust me. This is one TV drama not to miss.”


View in High-Res

    Tonight on the Sundance cable network, Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in a new eight-part miniseries that couldn’t be more timely: It’s about a woman who finds herself embroiled in the political tensions of the Middle East, and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has this review of The Honorable Woman:

    "Writer-director Hugo Blick peels back and reveals the elements of his story, and the motivations and relationships of his characters, very slowly. A scream you hear in episode one isn’t explained until episode four, and the pain behind anguished glances isn’t evident until you’ve clocked hours of TV time. But by that time, The Honorable Woman has taken you places where TV seldom ventures. Not only to the tunnels under the Gaza Strip – and I couldn’t believe I was seeing scenes set in those tunnels, after they’ve figured so prominently in the news – but to the deepest fears and hopes and dreams and despairs of the show’s characters. Politically, The Honorable Woman doesn’t take sides – it comes at you from all sides. And all sides are given motivations and conflicts, which makes this miniseries both a rare and a rewarding viewing experience. The characters in The Honorable Woman may not know whom to trust – but trust me. This is one TV drama not to miss.”

  2. the honorable woman

    maggie gyllenhaal

    sundance

    israel

    palestine

    david bianculli

  1. Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews two new creepy sci-fi shows premiering this week, Extant and The Strain:

    "Extant has a premise that could go places, but based on the pilot, many of those places are awfully, unimpressively familiar. The moment when Halle Berry, as female astronaut Molly Watts, encounters an anomaly in space, it’s while talking to her family back home, and to her onboard computer, when she loses the video signal. The computer isn’t named HAL, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey – it’s named Ben. But still…

    Much better, even though it treads on similarly familiar ground, is FX’s The Strain. This one stars Corey Stoll, who’s more than up to the demands of a leading role – in supporting parts, he played the out-of-control young congressman in Netflix’s House of Cards, and a memorably magnetic Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. In The Strain, he plays a scientist named Ephraim Goodweather, who heads the Centers for Disease Control team called in to investigate a very bizarre airline disaster. The plane has landed safely in New York – but neither the crew nor the passengers have made a move, or a sound, since, and may not even be alive.”

  2. extant

    the strain

    david bianculli

    review

    guillermo del toro

    sci-fi

  1. Fresh Air 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. And though it and the host have been around for years, David says it’s never been better. Matt Damon even said “This is the best time I’ve ever had on a talk show.” 

    Hear the review:

    Why did Damon enjoy himself so much? Well, he got to swap stories with fellow guests Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville while swigging champagne, and even knock an audience member off his chair in a specially rigged ejector seat. One secret ingredient of Norton’s show is that, most of the time, the guests all come out at once, sitting and interacting together the way they used to on the old Merv Griffin Show. The other secret ingredient is that Norton, like Craig Ferguson, isn’t so much interested in what a celebrity is there to plug as almost anything else.

  2. the graham norton show

    matt damon

    bill murray

    hugh bonneville

    BBC

    david bianculli

  1. 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 and is directed by Ryan Murphy, producer of “Glee.” 
Our TV critic, David Bianculli says — 

"When Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart was presented by New York’s Public Theater in 1985, its inside-out look at the early history of the spread of the HIV virus and AIDS was both a howl of pain and a call for action and help. When a new production appeared in 2011, it won the Tony award for Best Revival of a Play. Now it’s back again, in a substantially revised made-for-TV movie on HBO – and one of the remarkable things about it is that, nearly 30 years after it first was staged, The Normal Heart still seems both raw and relevant.”

You can listen to the rest of Bianculli’s review here. 
Photo via HBO View in High-Res

    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 and is directed by Ryan Murphy, producer of “Glee.” 

    Our TV critic, David Bianculli says — 

    "When Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart was presented by New York’s Public Theater in 1985, its inside-out look at the early history of the spread of the HIV virus and AIDS was both a howl of pain and a call for action and help. When a new production appeared in 2011, it won the Tony award for Best Revival of a Play. Now it’s back again, in a substantially revised made-for-TV movie on HBO – and one of the remarkable things about it is that, nearly 30 years after it first was staged, The Normal Heart still seems both raw and relevant.”

    You can listen to the rest of Bianculli’s review here. 

    Photo via HBO

  2. tv worth watching

    David Bianculli

    HBO

    The Normal Heart

    reviews

  1. Our TV critic David Bianculli reviews “The Maya Rudolph Show,” the latest rare attempt by network TV to revive the long-dormant variety show genre —

"On Monday night, NBC presented The Maya Rudolph Show, a one-hour prime-time variety special executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring many of their mutual Saturday Night Live cohorts: Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It also co-starred Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes and singer Janelle Monae. The Maya Rudolph Show 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. Even the introductory number by Rudolph made fun of the genre rather than committing to it.
Despite all the guest stars and talent, most of The Maya Rudolph Show fell strangely flat. There was no continuity between segments, and, as on SNL, many comedy sketches just seemed to stop rather than conclude. And while the hostess sang comedy songs with many of her comedy guests, she didn’t share the stage with the hour’s featured musical guest — another missed opportunity.”


Photo of  Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph in The Maya Rudolph Show (Paul Drinkwater/NBC) View in High-Res

    Our TV critic David Bianculli reviews The Maya Rudolph Show,” the latest rare attempt by network TV to revive the long-dormant variety show genre —

    "On Monday night, NBC presented The Maya Rudolph Show, a one-hour prime-time variety special executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring many of their mutual Saturday Night Live cohorts: Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It also co-starred Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes and singer Janelle Monae. The Maya Rudolph Show 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. Even the introductory number by Rudolph made fun of the genre rather than committing to it.

    Despite all the guest stars and talent, most of The Maya Rudolph Show fell strangely flat. There was no continuity between segments, and, as on SNL, many comedy sketches just seemed to stop rather than conclude. And while the hostess sang comedy songs with many of her comedy guests, she didn’t share the stage with the hour’s featured musical guest — another missed opportunity.”

    Photo of  Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph in The Maya Rudolph Show (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

  2. David Bianculli

    Fresh Air

    The Maya Rudolph Show

    NBC

    TV

    tv worth watching

  1. In 1981, NBC presented a new police series called Hill Street Blues – a pivotal show in the history of quality television. It’s just been released on DVD, in its entirety, for the first time – and our TV critic, David Bianculli, says the show was a game changer — 

"Before NBC televised Hill Street, most continuing drama series were presented as stand-alone, interchangeable hours, starring the same characters. Every week, Mannix or Kojak or Baretta would investigate a crime, catch the villains, and wait for next week to do it again. Hill Street borrowed from daytime soap operas, and presented sequential story lines, which carried over from week to week.
There were other innovations, too. Instead of one or two central stars, Hill Street featured a large ensemble cast. Camerawork was often hand-held and frantic, more like a documentary. Dialogue overlapped and sounded natural, as in a Robert Altman movie. Scenes of intense drama sometimes were followed by moments of broad humor. And the crimes themselves, and the solving of them, usually took a back seat to the private lives of the cops, officers and lawyers who populated the show.”

Photo of the Hill Street Blues cast via Fanpix

    In 1981, NBC presented a new police series called Hill Street Bluesa pivotal show in the history of quality television. It’s just been released on DVD, in its entirety, for the first time – and our TV critic, David Bianculli, says the show was a game changer —

    "Before NBC televised Hill Street, most continuing drama series were presented as stand-alone, interchangeable hours, starring the same characters. Every week, Mannix or Kojak or Baretta would investigate a crime, catch the villains, and wait for next week to do it again. Hill Street borrowed from daytime soap operas, and presented sequential story lines, which carried over from week to week.

    There were other innovations, too. Instead of one or two central stars, Hill Street featured a large ensemble cast. Camerawork was often hand-held and frantic, more like a documentary. Dialogue overlapped and sounded natural, as in a Robert Altman movie. Scenes of intense drama sometimes were followed by moments of broad humor. And the crimes themselves, and the solving of them, usually took a back seat to the private lives of the cops, officers and lawyers who populated the show.”

    Photo of the Hill Street Blues cast via Fanpix

  2. Hill Street Blues

    David Bianculli

    Fresh Air

    tv worth watching

  1. Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 



When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.
FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

Hear the full review HERE. 



 

image via FX  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 

    When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

    But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

    His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.

    FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

    Hear the full review HERE.

     

    image via FX 

  2. fargo

    coen brothers

    tv

    review

    david bianculli

  1. This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.
Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.



Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC View in High-Res

    This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

    Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

    When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.

    Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.

    Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

  2. mad men

    don draper

    matthew weiner

    1960s

    amc tv

    david bianculli

    review

    TV

  1. 
Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews Parenthood: 

It’s not too late to dive into Parenthood for these last two shows of the season — or, after a taste, to do your homework, and start at the beginning, watching them on DVD or streaming video. Just don’t let it escape your notice. Family dramas always have been one of television’s most difficult genres to do properly, without getting too sweet, too overwrought, or much too predictable. Parenthood, like Friday Night Lights, is as good as the family drama genre gets.


image via NBC
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews Parenthood

    It’s not too late to dive into Parenthood for these last two shows of the season — or, after a taste, to do your homework, and start at the beginning, watching them on DVD or streaming video. Just don’t let it escape your notice. Family dramas always have been one of television’s most difficult genres to do properly, without getting too sweet, too overwrought, or much too predictable. Parenthood, like Friday Night Lights, is as good as the family drama genre gets.

    image via NBC

  2. parenthood

    friday night lights

    ray romano

    family drama

    david bianculli

    review

  1. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, reviews the season openers of Game of Thrones, Veep, and the new series Silicon Valley:

    HBO presents three series Sunday night – the season premieres 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. One is that they’re all entertaining, with characters that get more interesting the more you watch them. The other is that, bottom line, they’re all about power struggles.

    Hear the full review here

    Bianculli is the founder and editor of tvworthwatching

  2. game of thrones

    veep

    silicon valley

    david bianculli