WCSU

David Bianculli

Some TV genres are perennials. They've been around since the early days of television, and probably are never going away — weekly drama series featuring doctors or cops, for example.

Other TV genres are like locusts. They get buried, lying dormant, until they suddenly resurface. On prime time TV, the game show was dead for decades until Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? brought it back. And quite recently, Netflix's Godless, like HBO's Deadwood years before it, did its best to try and revive the TV Western.

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.

The original Roots miniseries, based on the 1976 Alex Haley novel tracing his own family tree from African tribal life to American slavery and freedom, was a phenomenon.

ABC showed it over consecutive nights in January 1977, not because it was expected to earn huge ratings but because network executives were afraid it wouldn't. So they crammed the entire miniseries into an eight-day prime-time marathon, which aired, by coincidence, during a massive winter storm that snowed in much of the Northeast.

First nights on TV talk shows provide quick, and sometimes misleading, first impressions. As Stephen Colbert joked in his opening monologue, he had nine months to plan his first show. But first impressions do count for a lot, especially about the structure — and atmosphere — a new host brings to the job.

By now, viewers know what to expect from a David Simon drama. You expect an intense study of a precise location, as with Baltimore in The Wire and New Orleans in Treme. You expect flawed, fascinating and unforgettable characters — like Omar in The Wire, just to name one. And you expect the story to raise issues, especially about race and politics, that are unfortunately relevant to today.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Last weekend, HBO presented the season finales of its three Sunday night prime-time spring series, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. This weekend, HBO unveils its new Sunday night lineup: the all-new second season of True Detective, and two new comedies, Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the wrestler called The Rock, and The Brink, starring Tim Robbins and Jack Black.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has a review of several recently released big DVD box sets. He says there are reasons to grab them now while you can.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW")

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Pages