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.

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.

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.

By now, James Corden has set a very high standard with his Carpool Karaoke TV pieces. Only a million or two viewers watch him on CBS' The Late Late Show when it's broadcast, but YouTube and other social media sites extend Corden's reach phenomenally.

The legend goes like this: On Valentine's Day 1900, at a remote prep school for young women outside Melbourne, Australia, several students and their teacher slipped away from a holiday picnic, ventured to a steep and storied landmark named Hanging Rock — and vanished.

Benedict Cumberbatch, the deep-voiced, strikingly handsome actor whose roles have ranged from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, once said there were only two roles on his long-standing acting "bucket list."

One was Hamlet, a role he played in 2015. The other? Patrick Melrose, a role he tackles — and conquers — in a new Showtime miniseries beginning Saturday. Parts of it are wickedly funny; other parts are searingly dramatic. But all of it is riveting, and excellent.

Movie star Al Pacino came to TV 15 years ago, delivering a marvelous performance as Roy Cohn in HBO's brilliant adaptation of Angels in America. Since then, every time Pacino has returned to TV, he has played real-life, controversial men: assisted-suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack and music producer Phil Spector in the TV movie Phil Spector.

Fifty years ago Monday, when Fred Rogers showed up on national public television as the host of what then was a brand new children's show called Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, TV was a lot different. PBS wasn't even a network then — not by that name, anyway — and aside from CBS, NBC and ABC, there were only a few independent local channels to watch, if that.

Netflix usually presents its new shows one season at a time, with a dozen or so episodes available immediately, but its latest talk show is being unveiled at the unusual rate of one installment per month.

It's called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman — and it's excellent. The program marks Letterman's return to the talk-show format and to series television, a journey he began in 1980 with his brief but brilliant daytime talk show, NBC's The David Letterman Show.

I loved watching Larry David last year in his recurring guest role on NBC's Saturday Night Live, where he provided a perfect impersonation of outspoken politician Bernie Sanders. But I'm even more excited to watch David, beginning this Sunday, on the return of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he'll play an exaggerated version of himself in a role he last portrayed on TV six years ago.

Ken Burns became a star on PBS a generation ago by telling the story of the Civil War in a huge — and hugely popular — documentary series. Since then, he and his collaborators have done invaluable work, including a lengthy and superb examination of World War II.

The villains in comic books usually have grandiose master plans, like targeting and defeating an enemy or ruling the world. Netflix, as it's grown to become more and more of a major player in the modern TV universe, has grand plans of its own.

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.

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."