David Bianculli

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:

Tonight HBO premieres a new four-part miniseries called "Catherine The Great" starring Helen Mirren as the 18th century Russian empress. Our TV critic David Bianculli has this review.

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Back in the old, old days of TV, before either streaming or cable television, the broadcast networks were king — enjoying a virtual monopoly. And each fall, CBS, NBC and ABC would roll out their new shows at the same time to attract the most viewers for their automotive advertisers, who, in turn, were rolling out their new fall models. It's a TV tradition that has persisted, even though neither Detroit nor the networks are nearly as dominant as they used to be.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The original Veronica Mars premiered on television 15 years ago, which, in TV terms, was a whole different era. David Milch's HBO series Deadwood, which just reunited its cast for a fabulous TV movie, premiered that year. So did two major hits for ABC, Lost and Desperate Housewives.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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 pouting and singing a somber Christmas song.

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

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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.

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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.

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.

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