David Bianculli

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Leaving Neverland, by documentary filmmaker Dan Reed, is a tough show to watch — but it should be seen. Its central question is whether Michael Jackson used his fame and money to seduce young boys and their families into enabling a hidden pattern of serial pedophilia.

In 1993, a 24-year-old woman named Lorena Bobbitt reacted violently to what she said was a long-term pattern of marital abuse — sexual and otherwise — by severing the penis of her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, then driving away and tossing the remnant out her car window.

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie's first novel featuring fictional detective Hercule Poirot.

An acutely observant crime-solver in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot has since been played on screen by such actors as Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and, most famously, David Suchet, who starred in Poirot, a lengthy series presented in the U.S. by PBS.

Being a TV critic right now is kind of like being a sports writer — in a league where 10 new teams spring up every week. Among the most memorable TV moments of 2018 was James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney, which hit all the emotional notes.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

AMC's decision to show its new six-hour miniseries The Little Drummer Girl over three consecutive nights is a smart strategy. This spy story, based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carré, begins at such a deliberate pace that it takes almost two hours before the central story line — the actual spy mission — is set in motion.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

The rollout plan for the new TV series The Romanoffs is unusual for Amazon — just as the drama series itself is an unusual experiment for the show's creator, Matthew Weiner.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Back in the '70s, when Sean Penn was a teenager and his dad, director Leo Penn, was working in television, Leo got Sean small roles in a few shows, including a pair of episodes of Little House on the Prairie. But since becoming a movie star, Penn hasn't starred in a TV project — until now, when he headlines a new, eight-hour drama series called The First, launching Friday on Hulu.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

By now, James Corden has set a very high standard with his Carpool Karaoke TV pieces. Only a million or two viewers watch him on CBS' The Late Late Show when it's broadcast, but YouTube and other social media sites extend Corden's reach phenomenally.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

The legend goes like this: On Valentine's Day 1900, at a remote prep school for young women outside Melbourne, Australia, several students and their teacher slipped away from a holiday picnic, ventured to a steep and storied landmark named Hanging Rock — and vanished.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Benedict Cumberbatch, the deep-voiced, strikingly handsome actor whose roles have ranged from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, once said there were only two roles on his long-standing acting "bucket list."

One was Hamlet, a role he played in 2015. The other? Patrick Melrose, a role he tackles — and conquers — in a new Showtime miniseries beginning Saturday. Parts of it are wickedly funny; other parts are searingly dramatic. But all of it is riveting, and excellent.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Movie star Al Pacino came to TV 15 years ago, delivering a marvelous performance as Roy Cohn in HBO's brilliant adaptation of Angels in America. Since then, every time Pacino has returned to TV, he has played real-life, controversial men: assisted-suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack and music producer Phil Spector in the TV movie Phil Spector.

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