Eric Deggans

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

Deggans came to NPR in 2013 from the Tampa Bay Times, where he served a TV/Media Critic and in other roles for nearly 20 years. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is also the author of Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, a look at how prejudice, racism and sexism fuels some elements of modern media, published in October 2012, by Palgrave Macmillan.

In August 2013, Deggans guest hosted CNN's media analysis show Reliable Sources, joining a select group of journalists and media critics filling in for departed host Howard Kurtz. Earlier in the same month, he was awarded the Florida Press Club's first-ever Diversity award, honoring his coverage of issues involving race and media. He received the Legacy award from the National Association of Black Journalists' A&E Task Force, an honor bestowed to "seasoned A&E journalists who are at the top of their careers." Deggans serves on the board of educators, journalists and media experts who select the George Foster Peabody Awards for excellence in electronic media.

He also has joined a prestigious group of contributors to the first ethics book created in conjunction with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies for journalism's digital age: The New Ethics of Journalism, published in August 2013, by Sage/CQ Press.

Deggans has won reporting and writing awards from the Society for Features Journalism, American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, The Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of News Editors. In 2010, he made national headlines interviewing former USDA official Shirley Sherrod at the NABJ's summer convention in San Diego, leading a panel discussion that was covered by all the major cable news and network TV morning shows.

Named in 2009, as one of Ebony magazine's "Power 150" – a list of influential black Americans which also included Oprah Winfrey and PBS host Gwen Ifill – Deggans was selected to lecture at Columbia University's prestigious Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and 2005. He has lectured or taught as an adjunct professor at Loyola University, California State University, Indiana University, University of Tampa, Eckerd College and many other colleges.

His writing has also appeared in the New York Times online, Salon magazine, CNN.com, the Washington Post, Village Voice, VIBE magazine, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Seattle Times, Emmy magazine, Newsmax magazine, Rolling Stone Online and a host of other newspapers across the country.

From 2004 to 2005, Deggans sat on the then-St. Petersburg Times editorial board and wrote bylined opinion columns. From 1997 to 2004, he worked as TV critic for the Times, crafting reviews, news stories and long-range trend pieces on the state of the media industry both locally and nationally. He originally joined the paper as its pop music critic in November 1995. He has worked at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press newspapers in Pennsylvania.

Now serving as chair of the Media Monitoring Committee for the National Association of Black Journalists, he has also served on the board of directors for the national Television Critics Association and on the board of the Mid-Florida Society of Professional Journalists.

Additionally, he worked as a professional drummer in the 1980s, touring and performing with Motown recording artists The Voyage Band throughout the Midwest and in Osaka, Japan. He continues to perform with area bands and recording artists as a drummer, bassist and vocalist.

Deggans earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and journalism from Indiana University.

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Television
1:15 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Why 'Fargo' For TV Works With Cold Efficiency And 'Bad Teacher' Doesn't

Billy Bob Thornton in FX's Fargo, an adaptation that works by lifting the tone of the film, not the story.
Matthias Clamer FX

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 6:30 am

There is a moment, deep inside the first episode of FX's excellent re-imagination of the Coen brothers' masterful film Fargo, when a police officer gets a phone call.

He's sleeping next to his pregnant wife. It's early. And the well-meaning but sometimes complacent police chief is suddenly called to the scene of a bizarre crime.

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Monkey See
5:35 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Don Draper, The Truth Is: You Lied

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has a lot on his mind as the new season of Mad Men gets underway.
Frank Ockenfels AMC

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:56 am

***For Mad Men fans who missed Sunday night's Season 7 premiere, be warned: There are spoilers below.

Don Draper finally told the truth, and it ruined his life.

Perhaps that shouldn't have been such a surprise. Because Don has mostly been a master of the lie — especially in the form of an ad pitch. And he never lost his touch: He suckered everyone last season with one of his best pitches for Hershey's chocolate bars.

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Monkey See
5:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Stephen Colbert: The End Of One Joke, The Start Of Many More

Stephen Colbert has made a name for himself, literally, as the host of his own show. Now, he will succeed David Letterman as the host of The Late Show.
Scott Gries Picturegroup

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 6:37 am

CBS just ended the longest-running joke in TV history by naming Stephen Colbert to succeed retiring late-night host David Letterman

That's because Colbert, who has won all kinds of acclaim playing fictional right-wing cable TV news host "Stephen Colbert" on The Colbert Report, will now play a new character when he takes over Letterman's Late Show:

Himself.

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The Two-Way
5:20 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Weather Channel Will Return To DirectTV

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reporting from Manhattan's Battery Park during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
Jonathan Saruk/The Weather Channel Getty Images

The Weather Channel will return to DIRECTV on Wednesday, ending a three month dispute which saw the cable channel yanked from the satellite television system reaching 20 million subscribers.

But the new agreement comes with a price: the Weather Channel has agreed to cut back its reality programming by half during weekdays, restore instant local weather and allow DIRECTV subscribers to watch the cable channel on a range of devices in and out of their homes.

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Code Switch
7:10 am
Sat April 5, 2014

Who Will Replace Letterman? Probably Another White Guy

We might have diversity in the White House, but our late night show hosts are still predominantly white.
Brendan Smialowsky AFP/Getty Images

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Television
3:45 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Your Tour Guide To The Glut Of Sunday TV

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 5:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melisa Block, hosting this week from member station KERA in Dallas.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

And as we head into the weekend, here's something to look forward to - a logjam of great Sunday night television. It gets going this Sunday with the new season of HBO's "Game of Thrones."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAME OF THRONES")

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Television
6:35 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Dave Letterman Signals He'll Soon Put Down The Microphone

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

David Letterman, the longest-serving late night television host, is retiring.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, 'LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN')

DAVID LETTERMAN: Sometime in the not-so-distant future, 2015 for the love of God, in fact, Paul and I will be wrapping things up and taking a hike.

SIEGEL: Letterman, who is 66, told the audience today during a taping of his late show program which will air tonight. Here to talk about David Letterman is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. And Eric, why has Letterman decided to retire now?

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Code Switch
5:27 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

In #CancelColbert, A Firestorm And A Lost Opportunity

A joke Stephen Colbert made on his show last week was retweeted by Comedy Central. The joke — shorn of its context because, well, Twitter — sparked an online firestorm, and the hashtag #CancelColbert.
Comedy Central

At first, the idea of canceling The Colbert Report over a wayward tweet sounded like handing out the death penalty for a speeding ticket.

And as much as I understand the notion of using a provocative hashtag to fuel an important conversation, the #CancelColbert controversy mostly shows the difficulty of deciding just how offensive a joke based in stereotypes really is.

And there's a more important question: Once you determine something awful happened, how does it get fixed?

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Media
2:55 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

In The Absence Of Answers, We Return Repeatedly To The Questions

Jean-Paul Troadec (center), special adviser to France's aviation accident investigation bureau, speaks to journalists on Tuesday.
Lai Seng Sin AP

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 5:45 pm

The view from inside a media circus is an odd one, indeed.

But I got a glimpse of the scenery a few days ago, when CNN asked me to weigh in on the similarities between the real-life missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the myriad of fictional TV shows or movies where similar events have unfolded.

Why are we so drawn to these stories? anchor Suzanne Malveaux asked me in a few different ways, perhaps wanting an emotional take on how the plane crash scene in the TV series Lost or the film Alive could have ended Flight 370's mysterious voyage.

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Television
3:09 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

From One Dream To Another, 'The Returned' Shows Promise

Originally published on Sun March 9, 2014 9:42 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's something most writer only dream of, but Jason Mott is living the dream. ABC has turned his first novel into a TV series. "Resurrection" premieres Sunday night. As NPR's Eric Deggans reports, it explores one transition just about everyone faces sooner or later.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: For Jason Mott, it all started with a vision about life after his mother's death.

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Code Switch
6:44 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

A Colorful Night At The Oscars. More Of The Same To Come?

The Mexico-born, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o was one of several artists of color to collect awards during Sunday's Oscar ceremony. She won the accolade for best supporting actress.
Kevin Winter Getty Images

It might have been the most diverse Academy Awards telecast in recent memory.

Sunday night's broadcast was capped by British director Steve McQueen accepting a best picture Oscar for his film 12 Years a Slave — the first film directed by a black man to earn that honor. His emotional acceptance speech was dedicated to "all of the people who endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today."

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Television
5:10 am
Wed February 26, 2014

With Olympics Concluded, New Shows Compete For Viewers

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 6:43 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

TV fans might notice an explosion of new material on the small screen this week. That's because many TV networks and cable channels delayed airing new episodes of shows or the start of news series until after the Winter Olympics ended.

Here to tell us about the surge in new TV programming this week is NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. How are you doing, Eric?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I'm doing great.

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Monkey See
10:52 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Desk, Set: Seth Meyers Lands In Late Night Very Safely

Actress Amy Poehler during an interview with host Seth Meyers on the premiere of Meyers' Late Night.
Peter Kramer NBC

The best thing about late-night TV can also be the trickiest.

On the fringes of TV's big stage, shows airing after midnight can be a home for invention; a place where quirky personalities and developing talent can try things with the potential for massive success or demoralizing failure with relatively low stakes.

That history — and its potential for greatness — may be one reason why Seth Meyers' funny, well-paced, completely professional debut Monday as the new host of NBC's 12:35 a.m. Late Night show nevertheless left me a little underwhelmed.

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Code Switch
10:18 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Are Americans Tired Of 'Arrogant British' TV Personalities?

Piers Morgan poses for a portrait backstage during a 2011 press tour.
Chris Pizzello AP

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 2:24 pm

When the interviewer for BBC Radio finally reached me Monday to talk about the failure of Piers Morgan's 9 p.m. interview show on CNN, she basically had one question, asked many different ways.

Are Americans finally tired of arrogant British TV personalities?

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Monkey See
1:00 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

On 'Tonight Show,' Jimmy Fallon Looks To Bridge Two Eras

Stephen Colbert visits The Tonight Show for Jimmy Fallon's debut --€” and pays up the $100 he bet that Fallon would never host it.
Theo Wargo Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 3:24 pm

When Jimmy Fallon first stepped up to lead a late-night talk show in 2009, he looked like a teenager trying to drive his dad's Ferrari: a good kid who was out of his depth.

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Television
5:32 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Antihero Or Villain? In 'House Of Cards,' It's Hard To Tell

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey play Claire and Francis Underwood in Netflix's House of Cards. When the second season is released on Friday, audiences can expect to see more ruthless behavior from these power-hungry characters — but are they antiheroes, or plain old villains?
Nathaniel E. Bell Courtesy of Netflix

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 7:00 pm

[Editor's Note: This piece references plot points from the first season of House of Cards. If you've been waiting a year to binge-watch it, consider this your spoiler alert.]

When Netflix's groundbreaking online series House of Cards releases its second season to the world Friday — unleashing 13 new episodes about a wily congressman willing to kill to reach the vice presidency — fans will get more than another jolt of TV's most addictive political drama.

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Code Switch
6:00 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Redefining Hollywood: 'Diversity Makes More Money'

NBCUniversal's The Voice judges Adam Levine (from left), Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton at the Season 3 Red Carpet Event at The House of Blues Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Calif., in 2012.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

If you spend much time talking about diversity in Hollywood, it's an argument you'll hear often: that ethnic and gender diversity is nice, but it doesn't make a movie profitable or bring ratings to a TV show.

But researchers at the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA have produced a study that just might stick a pin in that defense, sorting through over 1,200 films and TV shows to reach a provocative conclusion:

Diversity makes more money and brings bigger audiences.

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Television
3:52 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

A Viewing Guide For The Overwhelmed Olympic Fan

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 6:33 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, if you were to try to watch all of NBC's coverage of the Sochi games, it would be a lot of TV: 1,539 hours of programming. The network is serving up more coverage of the Winter Olympics than ever. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans has some advice for those sorting through it.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Watching the Olympics is like a Rorschach test. Years ago, you just turned on the TV and gobbled down whatever they dished up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

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Music News
3:55 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Grammy Show: Light On Awards, Heavy On Entertainment

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 2:51 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Well, let's move from the pre-telecast to the artists you did see on TV, if you were watching; the winners and nominees who were on stage at the Staples Center for a marathon evening ceremony. NPR television critic Eric Deggans joins us to talk about the big show.

Good morning.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: First, let me ask you this. With most of the awards given out actually before the ceremony, the Grammys - unlike the Oscars - are not really an awards show. What would you call it?

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Monkey See
1:05 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

As NBC Prepares For A Late-Night Transition, Everyone Is On Message (So Far)

Producer Josh Lieb (L) and host Jimmy Fallon talk to critics on Sunday about what's to come.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

It felt like a rerun from a long-ago time, with a twist.

Once again, an NBC executive was facing a crowd of TV critic and reporters, saying nice things about Jay Leno just as he was leaving as host of The Tonight Show.

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Code Switch
9:06 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Is There Room For Only One Black Film At The Top Of The Heap?

Chiwetel Ejiofor is nominated in the category of best actor for his role in 12 Years a Slave as the 86th Academy Awards nominations are announced Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:51 pm

First, let's acknowledge one thing: 12 Years a Slave has achieved something amazing and wonderful.

With nine Oscar nominations, it has proven a brutal story about the worst degradations of American slavery can attract the biggest accolades Hollywood has to offer.

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Television
4:31 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Will Fans Return To A Nicer 'Idol'?

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 6:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

"American Idol" is back for its 12th season tonight. The show's huge success gave rise to an entire genre of reality talent shows on TV. For the last few seasons, though, ratings for "American Idol" have been off. So they've freshened up the format and brought in some new judges. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says "American Idol" is trying something new: being nice.

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Monkey See
3:59 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

When Tough Questions Go Horribly Wrong

Girls executive producer Jenni Konner (from left), creator and star Lena Dunham and actress Jemima Kirke take questions on the first day of the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 8:45 am

Nothing exposes you like asking a tough question.

Like a boxer extending a jab, you reveal yourself in the moment, stepping aggressively to a subject in a way that also makes you vulnerable. Handle the moment badly, and like an off-balance prizefighter, you might be the one hugging the canvas after a knockout blow.

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Code Switch
2:08 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

Should NAACP Image Awards Only Go To African-Americans?

Robin Thicke, center, performs with Verdine White, left, and T.I. at The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! in Los Angeles in December. Thicke is nominated for Outstanding Male Artist at the NAACP Image Awards this year.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Who should be eligible to receive an award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? And if that definition becomes flexible, what does that do to the mission of the award itself?

That's a question worth asking as the NAACP Thursday unveiled a huge roster of nominees for its 45th annual Image Awards — a ceremony long thought to be a way to honor African-American performers who are often ignored by mainstream Hollywood awards contests.

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Monkey See
12:39 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

HBO's 'True Detective' Brings Big Stars To Tell A Brutal Tale

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey star in HBO's series True Detective.
JIm Bridges HBO

Woody Harrelson has a simple explanation for how he handled playing the same detective over a 17-year span of time for HBO's newest foray into quality TV, True Detective.

"I just took off my wig," joked Harrelson, sporting a beard and his naturally receding hairline for a press conference here Thursday to tell a roomful of TV critics about HBO's attempt to reinvent the buddy cop story.

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Code Switch
10:43 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Conversation About 'SNL' And Diversity 'Just Getting Started'

Meet Sasheer Zamata, Saturday Night Live's new cast member.
Heidi Gutman ABC via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:10 pm

It may seem, now that Saturday Night Live has hired a black female cast member and two black female writers, that the conversation about diversity on TV's most influential comedy show is over.

But it's just getting started.

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Television
4:14 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Revenge Of The 'Nerdist': Chris Hardwick Takes Over Your TV

Chris Hardwick was unhappy as the host of a dating show before he embraced his geeky interests and started the Nerdist empire. Now he hosts Talking Dead, shown here, and the new Comedy Central show @midnight.
Jordin Althaus AMC

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 6:36 pm

Chris Hardwick could be the nerd king of television. Crown or no crown, no one is a better guide for TV-obsessed fans.

Hardwick's biggest gig is hosting Talking Dead, a show where he and his guests dissect the gore and heartbreak in each episode of AMC's zombie drama The Walking Dead.

"I'm just lucky that people need therapy after a show like The Walking Dead. That's what we provide," Hardwick explains. "We provide a comedown so you can get into bed and your brain stops buzzing."

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Television
3:12 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Don't Know What To Watch On TV? We've Got You Covered

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:18 pm

NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans has suggestions for TV to watch in January, including Justified on F/X, True Detective on HBO, and Episodes on Showtime.

Pop Culture
2:03 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Is The Show Business 'Glass Closet' Collapsing?

Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts recently made an offhand comment on Facebook that revealed she's in a same-sex relationship.
Michael Loccisano Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 9:55 am

Some people insist that Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts acknowledging her girlfriend of 10 years in a Facebook post isn't news at all.

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Monkey See
8:23 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Remote Control: It Was Hard To Turn Off The TV In 2013

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 10:00 am

Here's why picking a Top 10 list of best TV shows has become such treacherous work for critics this year: Quite simply, 2013 was the year quality exploded in the television industry.

Thanks to the simultaneous maturing of Netflix, AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, Amazon, BBC America, Sundance Channel, iTunes and many more media platforms, fans of great television had more options than ever to find high-quality product whenever and wherever they liked.

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