WCSU

Eric Deggans

This was the toughest TV show for me to watch in a long while.

When They See Us is director/writer/producer Ava DuVernay's searing, four-part drama about five black and Latino boys who were railroaded into falsely confessing to the most notorious gang rape in New York City history. But it wasn't difficult viewing for its violence—in fact, the Netflix series is very careful in how it presents many instances of assault, with the most grisly details left to viewers' imagination.

There was a bittersweet quality to ABC's triumphant two-hour live sitcom special on Wednesday night. At least, for me there was.

On the sweet side, watching talented stars like Jamie Foxx and Woody Harrelson re-create classic scripts from All in the Family and The Jeffersons was a shot of pure, uncut nostalgia. There are few spectacles as entertaining as these guys mugging their ways through impressions of classic characters like George Jefferson and Archie Bunker — in live performance.

Tim Conway built a career playing goofballs who rarely took center stage — but he often helped turn good television shows into TV classics. The comic actor, who appeared on shows ranging from The Carol Burnett Show to SpongeBob SquarePants, died Tuesday morning, May 14. The cause was complications from a long illness, according to his representative, Howard Bragman. He was 85.

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.

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!"

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.

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:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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