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).

An associate professor of TV and film at Rowan University in New Jersey, Bianculli is also the founder and editor of the online magazine, TVWorthWatching.com.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The original Twin Peaks series really was original — one of the most inventive, unprecedented, sometimes thrillingly unique TV series ever presented. David Lynch directed several episodes, including the very best ones: the mood-establishing pilot and the dreamy and nightmarish third episode with the Tibetan rock toss and the dancing, backwards-talking dwarf in the Red Room.

On Friday, two different streaming services present the first seasons of new drama series. Both are based on novels written by women, both have female characters squarely at their center — and both come to TV with accomplished women producers overseeing their adaptations.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The 1996 Coen Brothers movie Fargo was so good, and so original, that when the FX cable network announced it was making a new version for television, I expected it to be awful — especially since the creator of the adaptation was Noah Hawley, a writer-producer who hadn't really done much.

You don't need to know all about Breaking Bad, and the meth-making, drug-dealing former schoolteacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, to enjoy Better Call Saul. This spinoff series more than stands on its own — and, as TV spinoffs go, is the best in the business since Cheers begat Frasier.

On Friday, the streaming service Netflix unveils the entire first season — all 13 episodes — of its newest children's series, called Julie's Greenroom. It stars Julie Andrews, who also is its executive producer along with her daughter, children's book author Emma Walton Hamilton.

Last week, when news surfaced about various meetings between the Russian ambassador and members of Donald Trump's campaign, Huffington Post editor Howard Fineman appeared on MSNBC and said, "If you think the Russian ambassador is just an ambassador, you haven't been watching The Americans."

As horror movies go, 1962's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was a B movie, in budget and, if I gave it one, a letter grade. It didn't deserve an A for its scares or its innovation, as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho did two years earlier, or his movie The Birds would in the following year.

Big Little Lies, which begins Sunday on HBO, is a miniseries that begins with a murder scene, and investigation, in the close-knit oceanside town of Monterey. It's a seven-episode drama, and HBO made the first six available for preview. Even after watching all of them, I still don't know the identity of the murderer — or, for that matter, the victim. But that's on purpose.

There are two things viewers should know right from the start about Legion, which premieres Wednesday night on FX. One is that it doesn't look, or feel, like a drama based on a comic book — it's more like a next-generation version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as filtered through H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe.

I don't want to oversell this new version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I don't know how not to. Everything that the movie version got wrong, this TV adaptation gets right. And not just right, but brilliantly.

The difference is as stark, and as significant, as the difference between the movie and TV versions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- where the writer of that story, Joss Whedon, took the reins and made a television version much truer to his original vision.

TV critic David Bianculli says that 2016 wasn't a great year for broadcast TV — but that's OK, because audiences had a lot of streaming, cable and Web options to make up for it.

"The things we're getting out of Amazon and out of Netflix and out of Hulu, it's increasing our options and they're trying some pretty good stuff," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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