Eric Deggans

HBO's Leaving Neverland is ultimately a tribute to the power of personal testimony.

Over four hours, the film slowly excavates the stories of James Safechuck and Wade Robson. The two men each met Michael Jackson as children in the 1980s and allege the pop star sexually abused them for years while showering their families with attention and gifts.

Pepsi should have chosen a different slogan for its ads during this year's Super Bowl.

The company's slogan was "More than OK." Well, not really. In fact, most of the high-priced commercials we saw between the football plays were just OK. They were so careful to avoid scandal and backlash that they felt leached of originality or bite.

That's pretty much what Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Beverages North America, predicted when I asked him last week what this year's spots would look like: nothing controversial.

Hundreds and hundreds of series air every year. They are good and they are lousy; they are new and they are old. There's too much television for a comprehensive ranking, so Glen Weldon, Linda Holmes and Eric Deggans round up 16 of their favorite shows from 2018.

The Americans (FX)

Stan Lee was always a hero of mine; a feeling I share with many comic book fans. But it wasn't until recently – and especially following his death Monday at age 95 – that I began to realize that some of my love for him came specifically from my perspective as a black kid who grew up reading comic books in the 1970s.

Note: Spoilers abound for the upcoming and past seasons of House of Cards.

I wish I could say definitively that the #MeToo-fueled elimination of star Kevin Spacey from Netflix's House of Cards raised the political drama's game for its final season.

Before the Emmy and Grammy awards, before hosting the Academy Awards and before earning status as one of the best stand-up comics of his generation, Chris Rock had nearly fallen out of big-time show business.

Back in the early 1990s, Rock was known mostly a protege of Eddie Murphy who got fired from Saturday Night Live, worked as a stand-up comic and popped up in movies like New Jack City and CB4. Another brother who almost made it.

Then came Bring the Pain.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


Ask Freedom Singer Rutha Mae Harris, and she'll tell you plainly: You can't just sing "This Little Light of Mine." You gotta shout it:

"Everywhere I go, Lord, I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!"

Roseanne Barr has just given a master class on how not to apologize for a massive public flameout.

Appearing on Fox News pundit Sean Hannity's show Thursday, Barr claimed the backlash over a widely condemned racist tweet that led to ABC canceling her show was a huge misunderstanding.

The tweet implied that senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and an ape. Barr's defense? She didn't know Jarrett — who was born in Iran to American parents — was an African-American woman.

The best thing about seeing previously marginalized groups claim their own space in pop culture is it often ends up showing — in the most compelling ways — how alike we all really are.

Now that ABC's Roseanne reboot has wrapped up its unexpectedly successful nine-episode run, it's worth asking a simple question:

What just happened?

What didn't happen was what some pundits feared when the show debuted: ABC positioning a hit TV show to embrace and normalize what they believe are the worst aspects of Donald Trump's ideology. Instead, star Roseanne Barr used her personal support for the president and the character's admission she voted for Trump to pull off the TV season's most masterful head fake.

Finally, we no longer have to use the word "allegedly."

A court of law has delivered a verdict that the court of public opinion seemed to have already reached: Bill Cosby, 80, has been found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, resulting from allegations first made by Andrea Constand back in 2005.

The public eventually saw more than 60 women accuse "America's dad" of sexual misconduct and assault, with many alleging he surreptitiously drugged them first. This is the first of those stories to get a verdict.

Here's the good news about Westworld 2.0: It's a little easier to follow than the first cycle.

That's a welcome development, because the debut season of HBO's sci-fi-infused drama about artificial people in the world's trippiest theme park seemed to twist itself in knots to keep viewers guessing. Worst of all, the effort didn't work: Many fans guessed the show's biggest plot twists weeks before they were revealed onscreen.

The first season ended more than a year ago, so here's a refresher before we get into Sunday's episode. (Yes, there are spoilers below.)

One of my greatest lessons in the power of representation on TV came from watching an episode of Scandal.

In fall 2013, I spent an evening with a group of black and brown women watching an installment from the show's third season. We were gathered in a comfortable, tastefully decorated town house in Washington, D.C. Spirits were high — everyone was ready to watch political fixer supreme Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) tackle the latest bizarro crisis invented by series creator Shonda Rhimes.

Be warned: The review below contains plenty of spoilers about past and present episodes of Billions.

The biggest problem Showtime's Billions has: It's a show that is way too easy to underestimate.

At a time when income inequality and the struggles of the middle class are front-page news, it's tough to lionize a show about a millionaire U.S. attorney in an all-consuming personal and professional grudge match with a billionaire hedge fund owner.

It seems like another example of television's gender pay gap: executive producers of Netflix's drama The Crown have admitted that star Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth, was paid less than Matt Smith, the supporting actor who played her husband, Prince Philip.

But a look at the details of this deal also shows how well stardom pays off in show business, especially when an actor in a supporting role is more famous than the star of their new television series.

After watching ABC's two-hour premiere of its American Idol reboot, I'm still not sure they answered the most important question: Why bring this faded music competition back now?

The easy answer is money.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been nearly two years since we heard someone say...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN IDOL")

RYAN SEACREST: This is "American Idol."

Marvel's Jessica Jones follows an alcoholic private eye who has superstrength and serious anger issues.

In a scene from the show's second season, due Thursday on Netflix, Jessica gets a little carried away in anger management class. She bounces a rubber ball against a wall while talking about what makes her emotional: "My whole family was killed in a car accident. Someone did horrific experiments on me. I was abducted, raped and forced to kill someone." Eventually, the wall gives way.

Critics tend to judge Olympics coverage by a few key metrics: How many mistakes did the commentators make, and how many people are actually watching the games in prime time?

When it comes to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, the first category has a couple of doozies, such as the network declaring a winner of the women's super-G Alpine skiing event before all the competitors had skied, including the actual winner.

It's the biggest smorgasbord on TV. NBC and its related platforms are serving up more than 2,400 hours of Olympics coverage through the closing ceremony on Feb. 25 — a record for a Winter Olympics. It's all there in front of you, but figuring out what you want and when you want it is a challenge. Here are a few ideas on sorting through it all:

How To Watch On TV

As a child of Gary, Ind., I've waited years for a TV show or movie to intimately explore Chicago's poor, mostly black South Side neighborhoods — like The Wire did for West Baltimore and Boyz N The Hood did for South Central Los Angeles. I so wanted Showtime's The Chi, which debuts Sunday, to be that show in this moment, but the first four episodes I saw didn't quite hit the mark.

The snow and severe cold of the "bomb cyclone" currently hitting the East Coast is no joke.

But for a TV nerd, a storm that shuts down work and school means more time for binge-watching!

It may be only a day or two, so viewing choices are crucial. Can't waste time with dramas that go nowhere or marginally funny sitcoms (yes, Twin Peaks and Curb Your Enthusiasm, I'm talking about you). I'm here to give you some suggestions tailored to your tastes. Hopefully, these shows will act like a hot bowl of chicken soup and a thick, warm blanket.

In a year filled with paradoxes, this might be one of the saddest: 2017 has been a great year for women in TV. But current circumstances sometimes make it difficult to celebrate.

That's because we're in the early stages of a reckoning over sexual harassment in Hollywood that is reshaping the industry in ways that are painful, necessary and tough to predict.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Today we are wrapping up our series of Highly Specific Superlatives. And this entry starts with a scene in a TV show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ONE MISSISSIPPI")

To be honest, I never really understood why so many people saw The Crown as a superior TV show last season.

Yes, the Netflix drama has the production values and ambition of an epic motion picture, tracing the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II. And for those who miss the aristocratic soap opera of Downton Abbey, a big-budget recounting of the royal family's turmoil over marriages and abdications is quite a replacement. Who can argue with 13 Emmy nominations?

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The latest powerful man to be accused of sexual misconduct is the hip-hop mogul who introduced us to sounds like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I NEED A BEAT (REMIX)")

ABC's Grey's Anatomy might be the best show on television that TV critics rarely talk about.

Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson has a way with words that borders on magic. At least, it seems that way after watching a few episodes of CBS's newest police drama reboot, S.W.A.T.

In the new show, beefcake star Shemar Moore is Hondo, a nonwhite guy (the show isn't more specific) from a tough neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles who winds up leading a Special Weapons and Tactics police unit. Every chance he gets, he defuses tension with suspects or crime victims (often people of color) by telling them about his hardscrabble background.

It was TV history made in a moment. Goofy 13-year-old Cyrus Goodman came out as gay by confiding to his good friend Buffy that he had a crush on a boy. That boy is cool kid Jonah Beck, who just started dating Cyrus and Buffy's best friend, Andi Mack.

The show is the Disney Channel's hit tween dramedy, Andi Mack. And it's the first time the channel has featured a coming-out story for a teen in a live action show. The series hinted that Cyrus might have a crush on Jonah through its first season, but Friday's episode was the moment when Cyrus finally said it out loud.

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