TV Critic David Bianculli Explores Mark Twain’s Representation on the Small Screen in the Next “Trouble Begins” Lecture


The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 17 in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “Mark Twain, TV Star,” will be presented by David Bianculli of Rowan University and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The real Mark Twain, Samuel L. Clemens, appeared in only one film in his lifetime, shortly before his death: a short silent movie of him walking around his Stormfield home, photographed by Thomas Edison’s Edison film company in 1909. But since then, Mark Twain has been on television dozens of times – immortalized, and impersonated, by a frankly startling array of actors on the small screen. The best of them, Hal Holbrook in his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, you know, and should. But the rest of them? Other actors portraying Mark Twain, in various programs over the 70-year-history of television, have ranged from Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby to Woody Harrelson and William Shatner. The character and image of Mark Twain have been kept alive by shows ranging from Bonanza and The Rifleman to Touched by an Angel and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bianculli will discuss and show clips from all these and more.

TV Critic David Bianculli

Bianculli has been the TV critic for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he also appears as occasional guest host, since 1987. Beginning in 1975, he has worked as a TV critic for newspapers in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, most recently for the New York Daily News from 1993-2007. Currently, he is a full-time professor of television and film history at Rowan University, and editor of the website TV Worth Watching (www.tvworthwatching.com), which he launched in 2007. Bianculli has written four books – The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific; Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’; Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously; and Dictionary of Teleliteracy – and has written chapters for and co-edited, with Douglas Howard, Television Finales: From ‘Howdy Doody’ to ‘Girls,’ to be published by Syracuse University Press in November. Bianculli has a B. S. in Journalism and an M. A. in Journalism and Communications, both from the University of Florida.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series
In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

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