Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Documentaries (1-10 of 36)

'NY Med' premiere review: Doctors and nurses with saint-like patience and skill for impossible patients

If you’ve seen any of the other ABC medical documentaries overseen by producer Terence Wrong (Boston Med in 2010; Hopkins in 2008), you know that NY Med is excellent summer viewing… as long as you don’t mind spurting blood and close-ups of tumors along with your true tales of heroic life-saving and saint-like patience with impossible patients. READ FULL STORY

'Johnny Carson: King of Late Night' airing tonight: Overrated royalty? A review

Tonight’s edition of PBS American Masters, titled Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, offers a well-edited description of why Johnny Carson is held in such high esteem as late night’s most influential host, even as it carefully avoids any hard questions about Carson’s talent or originality. READ FULL STORY

'When Mitt Romney Came to Town' review: TV news reacts, while Gingrich enjoys 'the suffering'

When Mitt Romney Came to Town, a half-hour video financed by Newt Gingrich’s super PAC Winning Our Future, is a pulverizing piece of propaganda designed to portray Romney as a rapacious, conscience-less businessman who’ll do “anything for a profit,” as one of the quotes from Romney himself phrases it. Heavy on accusation and poignant interviews with unemployed people, the anti-Romney film could have been made by an Occupy Wall Street film student, or by Keith Olbermann during all the time he’s had declining to appear on Current TV. But the fact that it comes from an opponent in Romney’s own party, and lays out a line of attack the Democrats can use in the November election, raises it to high curiosity status. READ FULL STORY

Completing 2011's TV Top 20: Ken Tucker's Nos. 11-20 shows, including 'Community,' 'Parenthood,' 'Game of Thrones'...

Here, as I do every year, I follow up my TV Top 10 with my picks for numbers 11 through 20. Some of you have said these are consolation prizes, but that’s not so. There’s so much good television, that for a few years, I was stuffing my Top 10 with entries that allowed for multiple shows (“Best Thursday-night sitcoms,” for instance, to let me to sneak three shows into one number) until that started to become unwieldy and ridiculous. (Besides, as a part-time music critic, I like the “Top 20” phrase, with its roots in old pop-music radio.) I had no problem this year coming up with a clean-cut Top 10; what follows are shows that grazed the list, missed it for reasons I’ll occasionally articulate below, and yet are nonetheless full of value.

11. Community So full of pop-culture allusions, it’s the one sitcom steeped in irony that isn’t smug about its own smarts. The series tried to dig a bit deeper emotionally this season, to warm some of the characters and perhaps increase its audience-outreach without betraying itself. Me, I could do with less Chang, more Britta, and a Jeff who doesn’t sometimes seem a charmingly quizzical bystander.

12. Parenthood This was the season that’s come the closest to juggling its big cast most deftly, providing nearly every character with a strong plotline. If it’s inevitable that Lauren Graham’s Sarah and Dax Shepard’s Crosby – the show’s most bumptious personalities – dominated the latter half of the season, I was glad to see strong showcases for Peter Krause, Monica Potter, and Bonnie Bedelia.

13. Prohibition Ken Burns and booze proved to be a smooth yet exciting combination. The year’s best TV documentary extended beyond the history of Prohibition to chronicle the era of women’s sufferage and the rise of gangsterism as well.

14. Modern Family The nation’s most popular sitcom had some growing pains this season: In an admirable attempt to try to widen and deepen its characters, it bumped into some sentimental moments that didn’t quite work emotionally. But that’s just a sign that MF is not becoming complacent, and its ensemble cast is a match for that of any drama on TV. READ FULL STORY

'Suzilla, The Mouth That Roars' review: Tonight's debut is easy to stomach

I thought I’d just about had my fill of reality food/eating shows, but the debut of Suzilla, The Mouth That Roars is awfully fun and satisfying. It airs tonight on Planet Green network.   READ FULL STORY

'A Very Gaga Thanksgiving' review: Singing and talking turkey with Lady Gaga, 'America's Picasso'

Lady Gaga proved her mainstream outreach on a holiday evening with A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, a 90-minute special that dialed back the wacky fashion-sense and “little monster” talk in favor of Tony Bennett and making construction-paper turkeys with third-graders. READ FULL STORY

'Prohibition' premiere review: Get drunk on this good stuff

Watching Prohibition, you can almost hear Ken Burns knock back a shot of Bushmills, slam the glass on the bar, and yell, “Yee haw — let’s make us some television!” There’s a hot-cheeked vigor to this three-night production on PBS, crammed with history, revelation, drama, and opinion. It’s both an eye-opener to the past, and a remarkable metaphor for the woozy present we’re reeling through today. READ FULL STORY

Andy Rooney signs off: Here's why there's a lot more to his TV work than cranky observations (with VIDEO)

Andy Rooney, in signing off from 60 Minutes this weekend, said that “this is the moment I’ve dreaded” — the final weekly installment of his “few minutes” segments. But Rooney is actually ending a chapter in TV history that many have likely forgotten, if you ever knew it to begin with. Rooney has long been the most highly visible link to the first generation of TV personalities — anchors, reporters, and entertainers. He’s a helluva a lot more than the “cranky,” “Did you ever notice FILL IN BLANK?” guy that too many people ridicule these days. READ FULL STORY

9/11 anniversary programming: Is there too much of it? Can you believe people are actually asking this?

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is an occasion being marked in a wide variety of ways by the TV industry. Between now and the 11th, the three major broadcast networks will devote hours of memorial coverage featuring their morning- and evening-news anchors. There’s a fictional drama starring Melissa Leo, The Space Between, about a young boy (Anthony Keyvan) whose father worked in the World Trade Center, that the USA network will air. And there are literally more than a score of documentaries that will be shown on channels ranging from Fox News and MSNBC to Nickelodeon and the Smithsonian Channel.

The scheduling of these shows and many others have already given rise to a backlash: It’s too much, some say. It trivializes the horrific event. It’s cynical business. READ FULL STORY

'Downton Abbey II' and the problem(s) with PBS

“A gift from God,” is the way Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton described Downton Abbey, whose sequel will premiere Jan. 8 (ten hours of English country house huggermugger spread over seven weeks). Eaton was addressing TV critics at the Summer TV Press Tour in Los Angeles on Sunday, bubbling with delight that The Series Formerly Known As Masterpiece Theatre had seen a 43% ratings increase in the past year thanks to Downton, Sherlock (three more of those coming up in May 2012), and the updated Upstairs Downstairs (six more episodes will air in 2013). READ FULL STORY

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