He hands out dollar bills to students who give clever answers in class. Many consider him the “O.G.” of the radio, television and film department. He has been called “the bomb dot com.”
One student doesn’t recall ever seeing him in a plain shirt.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and raised in southern Florida, David Bianculli has studied and reviewed television for decades.
In 2007, Bianculli launched his web magazine, TVWorthWatching.com. Before then, he wrote for many news outlets breaking down and critiquing television programs.
It all began when he approached an editor at The Gainesville Sun while he was attending school at the University of Florida in the mid-1970’s. Bianculli convinced the editor to let him write a review of a brand new TV show aimed at college-aged adults.
That show was called “Saturday Night Live.”
From there, he went on to be a TV critic for five other outlets, including the New York Post and the New York Daily News, the latter of which he worked at for about 14 years.
“There were times that my favorite place to work at was the New York Daily News,” Bianculli recalled. “Some years were terrific. Some weren’t.”
He reminisced on writing reviews for shows such as “Seinfeld” or “The Sopranos” for the Daily News. Bianculli considered the first decade of this century as possibly the best era of TV in its history.
“There were so many good shows in the 2000 to 2010 period and some that spilled over into what’s going on right now. I’d say the first decade of the current century because that covers ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘West Wing,’ ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ and yes, ‘The Wire,'” he said.
Aside from being a TV critic in print, online, and on the radio for NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” Bianculli makes TV appearances for CNN’s documentary miniseries ‘The Sixties,’ ‘The Seventies,’ ‘The Eighties,’ and ‘The Nineties.’
He has also written books, which include “Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,’” and two books in his “Dictionary of Teleliteracy” series, the most recent of which was published in December.
“It was just a way to pull together all of the knowledge that I’m interested in that I’ve collected over the decades,” Bianculli said. “Getting to look at TV and play Darwin and use old TV shows as like fossil records and say okay this connects to this, this, and this.”
Bianculli also teaches at Rowan University as a professor of television and film history, and he loves interacting with students.
“Because I think I’ve been a TV critic for so long, and I’m just giving out my opinion, I’m very interested in your opinions as students,” he said. “Maybe some professors aren’t as interested, but I really am.”
A trademark of Bianculli are his colorful beach-print, button-up shirts, a nod to his native state of Florida. A few years ago, toward the end of a semester, he saw a whole row of students walk into class wearing similar shirts.
“It’s not a good day unless Bianculli is wearing a Hawaiian shirt,” said senior radio, television and film major Jade McDonnough.
Jenn Coulter, a radio, television and film senior, had Bianculli for a television history course. She needed help with an assignment in a journalism course and Bianculli was willing to lend a hand. He provided her an interview about Woody Allen, someone whom Bianculli knows and has talked to.
“He’s so nice and helpful. Also, out there,” Coulter said with a laugh.
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