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 three books: 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.

By now, I hope my position on spoiler alerts is firmly established. My feeling is that once something has been televised, it's fair game for discussion. I feel it's the responsibility of the person who's delaying his or her enjoyment of a TV show to avoid mentions of it, rather than putting the onus on critics. And believe me, I know that's not always easy. I have to do some time-shifting myself — there are so many good shows presented on Sundays this season that it sometimes takes me the whole week to catch up on the episodes I've recorded.

Woody Allen: A Documentary is the result, though not the culmination, of three very long and distinguished careers.

First, there's Robert Weide, the writer-director whose examination of Allen's life and art follows similar — and similarly impressive — documentaries on the Marx Brothers, Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce.

Almost every time TV takes a look at itself, and tries to explore or explain what it does as a medium, the result is a major disappointment — at least to me. I want TV to take itself seriously, but it almost never does. Every show about TV is either one of those dumb "Top 100" lists that networks like E! and VH1 crank out every month, or it's a show that's built entirely around the guests it can book, the clips it can afford, and the shows on its own network it want to promote.

If you don't want to hear details, especially about last night's season finale of Breaking Bad, turn away from this website now. But I consider it fair game to talk in detail about TV shows once they've been televised — especially if they're doing interesting enough work to be saluted for it.

[Note: If the previous paragraph didn't convince you, maybe this will: There are many, many spoilers for Breaking Bad ahead. Proceed at your own risk.]

I was blown away by the season ender of Breaking Bad.

The documentary Prohibition is the latest PBS multi-part presentation by Ken Burns. He and his filmmaking partner, Lynn Novick, aren't just riding the Boardwalk Empire train here – their story begins a full hundred years before Prohibition began in the 1920s. In fact, they spend the entire first installment explaining how alcohol became a wedge issue, and how religious conservatives, woman suffragists and other groups all used it to gain political power.

I'm well aware that most of the buzz this time of year goes to the new fall TV shows – and one of the passably watchable ones, ABC's Pan Am premieres this Sunday. But for the most part this fall, broadcast TV has been more interesting because of the older, more familiar elements – especially familiar faces who are returning to TV in new roles.

For the second year in a row, the new shows served up by the broadcast TV networks are dull and disappointing — not a great new program in the bunch. There are a pair of terrific new series on the horizon, on cable. But the entire fall TV season concept has been defined and dominated by broadcast television for half a century now — and though that changes a little each year, it's still the biggest game in town, with the most viewers and the most attention.

So here we go again.

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