Stay Tuned

Stay Tuned

Associate Professor David Bianculli lives, breathes and teaches TV (and film).

Maybe you shouldn't listen to your parents after all (at least that bit about watching so much TV.)

David Bianculli, associate professor of Radio, Television, Film, doesn't just love TV, he's made a career out of watching it, reporting on it, talking about it, writing about it, and, ultimately, teaching all about it.

Bianculli, who began his career as a part-time TV critic while still in college, found a niche covering all the hits, misses, bombs, bloopers, reruns and retreads that Americans can't seem to get enough of.

Sure, there's been lots of bad TV and Bianculli has seen a good bit of it (his last full-time criticism gig, for the New York Daily News, paired him with 12 running sets at once).

But for every single-season "Emeril" (a 2001 sitcom bomb featuring the TV superchef) or "Cavemen" (a 2007 dud inspired by the Geico caveman characters that lasted just five weeks), there are long-running, much-beloved series like "Family Guy," "Seinfeld" and "M.A.S.H." For every "Cop Rock" (a heavily-hyped musical police drama that tanked) there's a masterpiece like "The Sopranos."

Bianculli, a full-time Rowan faculty member since 2008 and an adjunct Rowan professor for 12 years prior to that, has published three books about television, is a former TV critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Post and has been the TV critic and substitute host of Fresh Air on National Public Radio since 1987.

His Bozorth Hall office is a tribute to TV's golden years and features a 200-pound 1940s era television that belonged to his dad, framed images from "I Love Lucy," and a working replica of The Robot from "Lost in Space."

"However much anybody reading this watches TV," he said recently, "I watch more."

Bianculli, whose typical uniform is a button-down Hawaiian shirt, said lessons on the medium are not hard to find.

His classes include Television History and Appreciation I and II as well as Film Appreciation but even a casual conversation with Bianculli can be a tutorial on TV.

"Most people don't know this but the fall programming season started in the late 1950s to sell more cars," he said.

Bianculli noted in his first book (Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously, 1992) that roughly 90% of the programming on television is junk, but said there's still a lot of really good stuff on TV and his goal in class is to share that enthusiasm with students and inspire them to go out and make some.

To help viewers find the good stuff he created a Web site,

"The centerpiece of the site is the six best things to watch on any given night," Bianculli said. "It can be anything from 'The Simpsons' and 'Dexter' to 'The Pacific' (an HBO series on World War II) to 'Life,' a documentary mini-series on The Discovery Channel."

Still, he said, the life of a TV critic is not all Emmys and popcorn.

"Let's just say you have to find what's good," he said. "If you're living next to a horse farm you have to learn to appreciate the horses."