David Bianculli

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: I'm TV critic David Bianculli. The broadcast networks continue to roll out their new fall series. The CW network premiered "The Flash" week and unveils another surprisingly entertaining series, "Jane The Virgin," on Monday. But cable networks, which used to take a breather as the broadcasters strutted their fall stuff, now compete as strongly as at any other time. This week, FX presented "Freak Show,...

Season 4 of the Showtime drama Homeland begins Sunday — and it begins with a very significant change. Claire Danes is back as Carrie Mathison, the gifted but troubled CIA agent with bipolar disorder. But her co-star for the first three seasons, Damian Lewis, who played former prisoner-of-war and suspected traitor Nicholas Brody, is not. When we left Homeland, at the end of what ultimately was a disappointing season, Brody and Carrie's dreams to escape politics and run off...

Thanks to Netflix, many of us are familiar with the concept of new TV series that premiere not on broadcast or cable television, but on a streaming entertainment service. And Netflix isn't the only streaming service getting into the act. Starting Friday, Amazon Prime subscribers have access to the entire first season of a new series called Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor. To watch the show , which its publicity material describes as a "dark comedy series," you have to...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. This Sunday, CBS follows "60 Minutes" with two drama series about women juggling family lives and high-intensity jobs. One is a new series called "Madam Secretary," starring Tea Leoni as a college professor asked to step into the White House as the new Secretary of State. The other series is the returning drama "The Good Wife," starring Julianna Margulies as a lawyer who in last year's...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his most resonant and famous line during his presidential inauguration speech of 1933: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It was resonant because he was being defiant, and optimistic, in the face of the Great Depression — and it was famous because it was broadcast live, to the entire nation, on the relatively new medium of radio. It was filmed, too, and when we get to this moment in the...

Here's where I stand on so-called reality TV. All those shows that are built around people misbehaving to get attention and claw for fame — in other words, all those Real Housewives shows, and every Big Brother and any show like it — I have absolutely no use for. The talent and competition shows — the real ones, like American Idol and The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance -- I like a lot more, but after several seasons, the repetition...

Agatha Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. It featured fussy Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who proved the most popular of all her mystery-solving characters. Hercule made his final appearance in 1975, in the novel Curtain — and this month, nearly a century after he first appeared in print, the mystery series completes its lengthy run as a TV series, still starring David Suchet in the title role. But as the final episodes of...

The first impression of The Knick, the new 10-part drama series that begins this weekend on Cinemax, is that it seems derivative. It's about a maverick doctor played by Clive Owen who's rude to almost everyone around him — like the abrasive hero of Hugh Laurie's Fox series, House. He works at a hospital in a big city, in the shadow of bigger hospitals, fighting for attention and respect — like the doctors on St. Elsewhere. The title The Knick, in fact, is...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. 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 affect the outcome of what transpires, 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. ...

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 Israeli Palestinian conflict. The Honorable Woman is a co-production between the Sundance Channel, which premieres the eight-part miniseries beginning Thursday, and England's BBC-2, where viewers already have seen about half the episodes. So have I. And while I expected The Honorable Woman to be topical and potentially controversial,...

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...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: 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. DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: "The Graham Norton Show" has been around a long...

Transcript DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: 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. It almost has to be. When Larry Kramer's play "The Normal Heart" was presented by New York's Public Theater in...

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, including 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...

Transcript DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST: 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. NBC's four hour miniseries version of Ira Levin's "Rosemary's Baby" barely justifies the attempt. Showtime's new series called "Penny Dreadful," however, is much more captivating, borrowing characters and...

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