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Netflix, Inc.

Elon Musk will host tomorrow night's Saturday Night Live. It is, if nothing else, an odd choice.

Speaking of choices, Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Sitcoms of All Time is out this week.

Finally, This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist is a four-part Netflix docuseries about the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The burglary was the largest museum heist in history in terms of value (thought to be as much as $600 million) until 2019.

Trevor / flickr creative commons

As we were preparing for our show on underdogs, I kept saying that we shouldn't overlook the fact that, often, to be an underdog in the first place, you have to be relatively bad at the thing you’re an underdog about.

The more we talked about it, the more I found myself making the case that losers and losing are fascinating.

And they are. There's a whole podcast about political candidates who lost. We romanticize losers in movies and TV and songs and stories.

MARCO VERCH / flickr creative commons

Seriously: a show about towels.

There's the history of towels, towels in Christianity, Terrible Towels, Towel Day.

Oh, and there are actual towels too.

Because when has a bad idea ever stopped us before?

Jemastock/Harryarts from vecteezy.com

What if, in order to do your job, you had to change your voice? 

Meet an actress who’s an accent expert, a man who is the dubbed-over voice of Peter Griffin and Will Smith in Germany, and a news anchor who went viral when she brought her anchor voice home.

Rod Cornish
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

This month, the CUTLINE series on Connecticut Public Television looks at the many ways small, independently owned retail businesses in Connecticut survived the downturn caused by COVID-19.

There is no doubt that small businesses were hit hard by the pandemic. According to the U.S Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, 34% of small business owners in Connecticut say the pandemic has had a “large negative effect” on their business -- that’s about 4% higher than the national average.

THIERRY EHRMANN / flickr creative commons

Popeye. The World According to Garp. Good Morning, Vietnam. Dead Poets Society. Awakenings. The Fisher King. Aladdin. Mrs. Doubtfire. Jumanji. The Birdcage. Good Will Hunting. What Dreams May Come. One Hour Photo. Death to Smoochy. Insomnia. Night at the Museum.

And that's just a super-abbreviated version of Robin Williams's filmography. And it completely ignores his career as one of the all-time great standup comedians. And it ignores Mork & Mindy. And Comic Relief. And so much more.

This hour: A look at Robin Williams, who would've turned 70 this year.

Apex Photo Company / Wikimedia Commons

During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams earned many nicknames: The Kid, The Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame... but the only nickname that he ever wanted was "the greatest hitter who ever lived."

Ajay Suresh / Creative Commons

Fox News broadcast the first episode of Greg Gutfeld's new late-night show, Gutfeld!, earlier this month. They're betting that Gutfeld can turn his talk show format into a successful late-night comedy show for conservatives. The problem is that conservatives don't do political satire any better than liberals do opinion talk radio.

Dannagal Young believes that opinion talk is political satire for the right and political satire is opinion programming for the left. They serve the same purpose; both formats are responses to a lack of trust in mainstream media. Which one appeals to each of us depends less on how "smart" we are and more on how we process information.

PBS

At Connecticut Public, there's a smallish corner conference room thing that we think of as The Crying Room. I, personally, haven't ever seen anyone cry in there, but I've had my suspicions. In any case, where people go to cry is part of the essential geography of the modern office. On the other hand, do we even have offices anymore?

And: Hemingway is a three-part PBS documentary directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It premiered this week, and all 5½ hours are streamable now.

Apple

As with all weeks, it's been a strange week.

First there were the Cinnamon Toast Crunch shrimp tails. And then an enormous container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal. And now there might be another toilet paper shortage. Which would be bad for the Amazon drivers who have to poop in their trucks.

Maybe it's been an especially strange week.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

Every year around this time, there's a big-old college basketball tournament. So every* year around this time, for every* year that this show has been on the air, we've put together a big-old hour of radio about said big-old college basketball tournament.

Until last year, of course.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Jeopardy! has been part of the fabric of American TV, in a couple different forms and across a couple different breaks, since 1964. It is the longest-running nationally-televised game show in U.S. television history.

At the 2015 Emmys, John Oliver quipped, "The sun could burn out, humanity could flee to another galaxy, time as we know it could cease to exist, but Alex Trebek will still be there scolding librarians from Ames, Iowa, to answer in the form of a question."

Except, of course, Alex Trebek died last year. And before that, Jeopardy!'s long-time executive producer and its long-time contestant coordinator both left at the end of last season.

So what's in store for this quiz show institution?

Discovery Communications, LLC

Criminal Minds. Mindhunter and Manhunt. Cracker and Profiler. Nearly the whole of the Hannibal Lecter universe: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the movie and the TV series), Red Dragon, and now Clarice.

It seems we're fascinated by forensic psychology, by mindhunting, by criminal profiling.

This hour, we look at three different criminal profilers: James Brussel, the psychologist who helped catch the Mad Bomber of New York in 1957; James Fitzgerald, the forensic linguist who caught the Unabomber; and Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, turns his data analysis on a century-old serial killer mystery that no one had even realized was a serial killer mystery before he and his daughter figured it out.

HBO

This Week (or so) in Reassessing Not-Necessarily-Current Bits of Culture: Seuss enterprises pulled six mostly early Dr. Seuss books from future publication. Disney+ added content warnings to certain episodes of The Muppet Show. Amazon tweaked its app logo to look less like, uh, Hitler. Turner Classic Movies launched a new series called Reframed Classics that will, well, frame movies like Gone with the Wind and Breakfast at Tiffany's with discussions of their problematic aspects.

And: Allen v. Farrow is a four-part HBO documentary series that chronicles the sexual assault allegation against Woody Allen by Dylan Farrow.

RKO Radio Pictures

Over just six years, from 1954 to 1960, Alfred Hitchcock made four movies -- Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960) -- that are routinely mentioned among the very best movies ever made. It's maybe an unparalleled run in the history of cinema.

And that's just those four movies. Hitchcock's filmography is full of classics: Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), The 39 Steps (1935), The Wrong Man (1956), The Birds (1963). The list goes on.

HARU_Q / flickr creative commons

There's a theory that ours isn't the only universe. That there are, actually, infinitely many universes.

That there are, then, infinitely many yous.

That there are infinitely many different yous reading infinitely many different versions of this show synopsis. That there are infinitely many universes that don't even bother to include you. Or this show synopsis. Or even reading.

Carol Rosegg

Thornton Wilder's Our Town debuted more than 80 years ago. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and, over the decades since, it has continuously been one of the most produced of American plays.

It is known for its spare set -- just some chairs and tables, perhaps some ladders -- and lack of props and sometimes even costumes. It's known for its metatheatricality and its Stage Manager character, who addresses the audience directly and rarely participates in the action of the play, as much as there really is any.

It is known as old-fashioned, sentimental, nostalgic and, simultaneously, obviously and intentionally not old-fashioned, sentimental, and nostalgic.

This hour, a look at perhaps the quintessential American play: Our Town.

We had trouble mustering enthusiasm to wrap up our final episode of this second season of Pardon Me. Last week's roller coaster of a trial culminated in 43 senators choosing to acquit on a weak and deceptive defense -- despite a factual and painstaking accounting of how bad the breach was, how bad it might have been, and how Donald Trump incited it.

MARCO VERCH / flickr creative commons

We live in an "Everything Should Take Twenty Minutes" world. Movies are too long. SundanceTV has a show that airs in 10-minute episodes. Tierra Whack has a 15-minute album made of fifteen 60-second songs. Todd Rundgren's memoir has 183 one-page, three-paragraph chapters.

So today, we turn our hour over to five short, little shows about short, little things.

Marvel Studios

WandaVision is a Disney+ miniseries that's part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that's set, like, inside the history of television? It follows Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision as they try to conceal their superhero powers and blend into a generic sitcom neighborhood. Episodes so far have taken on the look and feel of American sitcoms from the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Vevo

Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license" is in its second week as the No. 1 song in the country, having debuted there last week. It is the first debut single by any artist to hit the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1 in history.

And: Pretend It's a City is Martin Scorsese's seven-part Netflix documentary series about Fran Liebowitz that's actually also kind of about New York City.

And finally: How To with John Wilson is John Wilson's six-part HBO documentary series of advice and tutorials that's actually also kind of about New York City.

TV: Macrovector at Freepik.com / Illustration: Chion Wolf


With the world the way it is, it’s no wonder we spend so much of our time watching television and movies. From sci-fi flicks like Star Trek, to unscripted reality shows like Queer Eye, to comedy dramas like Schitt’s Creek, we are basking in the very best distractions.

Netflix, Inc.

Tom Cruise's seventh Mission: Impossible installment has been one of the few huge Hollywood productions trying to to figure out how to film during the pandemic. Cruise has been in the news lately for blowing up at his crew for breaking COVID protocols, and now he's back in the news for… buying COVID enforcement robots?

And: Could front porches be just the right "magical intermediate zone" to keep communities connecting during a time of social distancing?

And finally: Nicolas Cage is hosting a documentary series on Netflix called History of Swear Words. Normally I'd try to give you a little more context here, but I feel like that first sentence pretty much covers it.

Sheri Terris, Flickr Creative Commons


I love Reddit. This mostly-anonymous giant internet bulletin board has a plethora of communities called subreddits, which bring all sorts of interests together.

Netflix, Inc.

Last weekend, a little girl asked her father for help opening a can of beans. Rather than help her, Bean Dad left his daughter to figure it out for herself. For six hours (supposedly). And tweeted about it. It was peak internet.

Also: This will come as a shock (it probably won't), but Kim Kardashian is rumored to be divorcing Kanye West. Or she's rumored to be about to be divorcing Kanye West. Or she's rumored to be considering divorcing Kanye West. Or something.

And finally: Bridgerton is a period drama series on Netflix produced by Shonda Rhimes. It's set in Regency London during "the social season," and you're either super interested in a show with that premise or you aren't.

Marc Tavernier / flickr creative commons

2020 was ... not great.

But, from a pop culture point of view, it wasn't so bad either. I mean, we got the Hamilton movie, The Queen's Gambit, the final season of Schitt's Creek, David Byrne's American Utopia, the Borat sequel, "WAP," I May Destroy You, Tiger King, two new Taylor Swift albums, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom...

The list goes on.

This hour, The Nose looks back at the year in pop culture that was 2020.

A screen showing icons of multiple different television streaming services
Harrison Weber / Flickr

2020 is finally almost over, and it’s time for a break. But if your holiday plans are looking different than normal, we’ve got you!  This hour, we talk with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans, who gives us his recommendations on what to binge watch over the holidays.

We also check in with Vox book critic Constance Grady about her recommendations from the best books of 2020.

And later: are you among the 67% of Americans who play videogames? We talk with Washington Post videogame reporter Gene Park about his favorite games of the year. If you’re not a gamer yet never fear—we talk about how to get started exploring the world of gaming.

We Like To Watch

Dec 18, 2020
Robert Couse-Baker / flickr creative commons

For decades, we didn't take television seriously. We saw it as ephemeral, as "chewing gum for the eyes," as, literally, furniture.

And then, around the turn of the century, things started to change. There was The Sopranos. The Wire. And, at the same time, shows like Big Brother and The Amazing Race. For Emily Nussbaum, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer that forever changed her take on television.

This hour: A serious appraisal of television with The New Yorker's television critic.

HBO

Warner Bros. announced Thursday that all of its movies for all of 2021 will be available to stream on HBO Max the same day they debut in cinemas. The movie theater chains see this as "doomsday for the theatrical experience."

And: Three strange, metal monoliths having been discovered in recent weeks, one each in Utah, Romania, and California. The ones in Utah and Romania have since disappeared, and the one in Utah had stood undiscovered for at least four years before it was found.

Finally: The Undoing is a six-part HBO miniseries starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. Its finale aired Sunday.

Netflix, Inc.

Last week, President Obama twittered a list of "memorable songs" from his administration. The list was, let's just say, not necessarily well received.

Vaguely relatedly: Incoming secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken… has his own "wonk rock" tunes up on Spotify?

And: The Liberator is a sort of animated, four-part Netflix miniseries that tells the story of the 157th Infantry in World War II.

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