Bianculli’s “Platinum Age of Television”

Bianculli’s “Platinum Age of Television”


David Bianculli’s fourth book dropped Nov. 15. And it’s a big one.

An associate professor in Rowan’s department of Radio, Television & Film – and a TV critic for more than 40 years – Bianculli has produced a 550-page modern history of the medium in The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific.

Bianculli, whose work as a TV critic began in his home state of Florida while he was still in college, has been TV critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Post and the New York Daily News. He’s the longtime TV critic and a guest host of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross program and the founder and editor of the online magazine

Known for an encyclopedic knowledge of television (and a penchant for Hawaiian shirts), Bianculli has been fascinated with the magic of television since boyhood, cribbing his earliest criticisms into his diary by age 7.

“I watch more TV than anyone should and I still don’t watch enough,” he said recently.

But watch he does.

Bianculli once had a TV room with 12 sets hooked up to four different satellite feeds.

In 2014 he curated a show, Bianculli’s Personal Theory of TV Evolution, at apexart gallery in the Tribeca section of New York City.

And he foresaw the on-demand nature of subscription TV services like Netflix and Hulu long before even their names were even invented, speculating in 1992’s Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously about a “massive home entertainment database.”

Today, of course, Bianculli doesn’t just watch and write about broadcast network television but follows programming on cable (premium and standard), original shows on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, and the myriad networks and sub-networks in between.

Which means, of course, that he doesn’t just watch the great stuff but sees a lot of bad.

“That’s the job,” he said.


The Platinum Age

In his new book, Bianculli explores the modern age of television by categorizing most TV programming in 15 genres including children’s programming, animation, variety/sketch shows, soap operas, crime, medical and sitcoms.

He also explores the theory of TV’s evolution, how characters like Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show begat characters and shows like Carrie on HBO's Sex in the City which led, in turn, to Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham’s character on HBO's Girls.

Chapters in the book are complimented by a wide range of interviews with such TV luminaries as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry David, David Chase, David Simon, Louis C.K. and Norman Lear.

“It’s meant to be the kind of book for anybody who’s interested in television,” he said.

When he’s not writing books, broadcasting on NPR and running the popular TV Worth Watching site, Bianculli teaches four courses: TV History & Appreciation, TV History & Appreciation of the 60s and 70s, Film History & Appreciation and the Evolution of Quality TV.


The future of television

With a smartphone in virtually everyone’s pocket and relatively low prices for high definition TVs, the demand for good content has never been greater but the proliferation of programming has made his work somewhat more challenging.

“We have infinite channels now and that does make criticism infinitely more difficult,” he said. “I think streaming sites are important for the development of TV. They’ve earned their way into my attention span. It just keeps expanding but so does the quality.”

So where is TV going?

“I don’t really know,” he said. “A generation ago I guessed correctly, that we’d one day have a national database where you can watch whatever you want to watch and pay for it.

“What I tell my students is, it’s a great time to go into television. In front of the camera or behind it there are lots of opportunities.”


The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific (Doubleday) is available at bookstores and online.

Bianculli will hold a reading/book signing at Barnes & Noble on Rowan Boulevard Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.