TV critic from USA Today visits Steubenville Rotary

STEUBENVILLE – A city native and TV critic for USA Today was the guest speaker during the city Rotary Club’s Friday luncheon meeting at the Fourth Street YWCA.

Robert Bianco has been television critic for the national newspaper for the past 15 years after previously working as a critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bianco began by telling Rotarians he left a job as a lawyer in Pittsburgh to take a job as critic for the Post-Gazette, much to the consternation of his father, the late Dom Bianco, a longtime attorney in Steubenville. He eventually became critic for USA Today, said Bianco.

“What I mostly write is opinion,” the Steubenville High School graduate said, adding he writes reviews on TV shows broadcast on major networks and independet and cable networks. He said because USA Today is a national newspaper, it has no political affiliation.

“We try to engage society, and I try to be a part of that,” he said.

Bianco said TV has changed dramatically over the years, adding that the major networks are a “not-quite-happy family” and “like children” because “they are always demanding that you pay attention to them. The major network shows are more popular than anything else. You think this is what would make (major networks) happy, but they aren’t.”

Bianco said major networks always look for shows that attain popular and critical success, but don’t always succeed. He said a TV show such as “Breaking Bad” on the AMC network has a niche audience and critical success, while much of major network TV has exponentially larger audiences but not as much critical acclaim. He also spoke briefly about some new shows coming this fall.

“This fall is mixed,” Bianco said, adding he doesn’t expect major networks to have a break-out-of-the-box hit that critics and the public love.

He added the new trend in major network televion what amounts to a mini-series, “programs that last for a short time and build toward an ending.”

Bianco also said the days of TV shows bringing families together are over.

“I grew up with shows that brought people together, like the ‘Ed Sullivan Show,'” he said. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”

He said TV viewers in the typical modern household watch shows that appeal to them separately, which Bianco called the “splintering” of TV.

“The ability for TV shows to bring people together is gone,” he said.

Bianco also said there was such a variety of networks and TV shows it could sometimes be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. He also briefly spoke about new fall shows featuring Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams, “The Michael J. Fox Show” on NBC and “The Crazy Ones” on CBS.

“(Fox’s) show is very good, and it’s very funny” said Bianco, adding Fox plays a character who has Parkinson’s disease. “Robin Williams is very Robin Williams. You either like him, or you don’t. It will be one of the more highly promoted shows.”