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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Code Switch
3:50 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

'Freedom Summer' And 'The Watsons': Powerful TV About A Civil Rights Journey

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegates and supporters stage a demonstration on the boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City Convention Center in 1964.
Courtesy of George Ballis/Take Stock

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 3:15 pm

As part of NPR's "Book Your Trip" series, TV critic Eric Deggans looks at a different kind of summertime journey, described in two books that became TV shows: PBS's documentary Freedom Summer, debuting tonight, and The Hallmark Channel's The Watsons Go to Birmingham.

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Monkey See
2:48 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

FX's 'Tyrant' Drowns An Opportunity For Nuance In Stereotypes

Jennifer Finnegan is Molly Al-Fayeed and Adam Rayner is Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed, the Americanized couple at the heart of FX's Tyrant.
Patrick Harbron FX

With Iraq spiraling out of control in a conflict where everyone involved has a compromised and troubling past, there's no better time for a TV series about the son of a brutal Middle Eastern dictator who returns home from America ready to oppose his father's tactics.

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Television
3:43 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Sputtering On Fumes, 'True Blood' Has Outstayed Its Welcome

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:08 pm

HBO's True Blood, which returns for its final season Sunday, is a prime example of a TV show that kept going long after it should have ended. It's not alone, though: Other shows have stayed too long at the party, including Dexter and Law & Order: SVU. Why is it that some shows stay on air well after they've run out of creative juice?

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Television
4:17 am
Fri June 20, 2014

A Plea To Emmy Voters To Consider Overlooked Shows And Actors

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:29 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

For Emmy insiders, today is crucial. It's the last day for those who vote on the Primetime Emmy Awards to select the nominees. The nominations won't be announced until July 10th, but NPR TV critic, Eric Deggans, is going to make some early calls and point out some great, underappreciated performances that Emmy voters should recognize. Eric, welcome to the program.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

WERTHEIMER: Now, you seem to think that Emmy voters need a bit of a nudge in the underappreciated direction.

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Monkey See
5:03 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Hey, Emmy Voters, Stop Ignoring 'Orphan Black' — And Other Suggestions

Tatiana Maslany wasn't even nominated for an Emmy last year, despite her star turn as clones Sarah and Rachel (and Allison and Cosima and Helena and Katja and Tony).
BBC America

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:37 am

Emmy nominations are a tough time for a TV critic.

That's because much of the work involved in choosing the best achievements for television's highest award is done in the nominating process.

Tatiana Maslany, the talented Canadian actress who plays a multitude of clones on BBC America's mind-bending sci-fi drama Orphan Black, found that out the hard way. She wasn't even nominated for an Emmy last year, despite nailing the most difficult role in one of TV's most challenging new series.

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Monkey See
4:33 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

'Working Stiff TV' — Hey, Meat And Potatoes Are Pretty Tasty

Mary McDonnell stars in Major Crimes, a good solid show that preserves the ensemble created in TNT's more successful drama The Closer.
TNT

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 11:13 am

Even the snobbiest entertainment fan has got to admit it: Television is pretty good these days.

So it's easy to get distracted by talk of big-ticket dramas like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Orange Is the New Black. But the fact is, there's a whole wide universe of TV shows out there that aren't trying to top critics' best-of lists, make the short list at the Emmys or get recapped on Vulture.com.

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Television
7:14 am
Mon June 9, 2014

More Scripted TV Shows Included In Top-10 List

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Not sure if you heard or not, but American Idol just crowned a new winner.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN IDOL")

RYAN SEACREST: The winner of "American Idol," season 13, is Caleb Johnson.

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Television
4:41 am
Sat June 7, 2014

New Faces Keep 'Orange Is The New Black' Humming In A New Season

Taylor Schilling's Piper Chapman is among the fascinating characters who continue to push forward in the second season of Netflix's Orange Is The New Black.
Jojo Whilden Netflix

Orange is the New Black has always been a bit of a head fake.

Creator Jenji Kohan has admitted she uses the story of WASPy prison inmate Piper Chapman to draw TV audiences into stories about the types of women who rarely take centerstage in more mainstream fare: a transgender woman, an older Russian woman, poor and undereducated black and Hispanic women and the mentally ill.

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Monkey See
10:03 am
Tue May 27, 2014

'Mad Men' Pauses At The Half-Season With A Song And Dance

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, who ended the first half of Mad Men's last season in a state of uncertainty — as always.
Justina Mintz AMC

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 3:38 pm

A death, a divorce, a song and dance number and a sale; must be the end of another Mad Men season.

Creator Matt Weiner has a reputation for ending seasons on a melodramatic note. And even though this year's run of Mad Men episodes was cut in half by AMC to set the series finale next year, Sunday's "Waterloo" still managed to close 2014's seven-episode run with a jolt.

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Monkey See
10:50 am
Fri May 23, 2014

A Painful But Critical Reminder From 'The Normal Heart'

Mark Ruffalo in HBO's filmed version of The Normal Heart.
Jojo Whilden HBO

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 1:09 pm

Every so often, storytellers land on the same idea close enough to the same time that it rattles the zeitgeist like an earthquake.

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Monkey See
12:13 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

This Fall, TV Looks Much More Diverse: Now Don't Screw It Up

ABC's How To Get Away With Murder stars Oscar nominee Viola Davis.
Craig Sjodin ABC

For those of us who have spent time arguing for increased ethnic and cultural diversity on television, the last seven days have felt like a fantasy fever dream.

This week, the big broadcast networks announced their schedules for the 2014-15 TV season during the industry's "upfront" presentations to advertisers. And there are 10 new series featuring non-white characters and/or show creators – numbers we haven't seen since the days when everybody was trying to clone The Cosby Show.

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Television
2:42 am
Wed May 14, 2014

How Funny Or Die Makes Room For What Works

Billy Eichner's series Billy on the Street is an example of a project that was developed at Funny or Die and now lives on cable television.
John Durgee AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 3:11 pm

When I showed up at Funny or Die's West Hollywood headquarters earlier this year, staffers weren't hanging out with Will Ferrell or taping a cool new video with the president.

They were kicking around a ball.

"The Internet went out for 10 minutes, so we were playing soccer," said one young staffer, nudging around a ball in a set of offices that looked more like the home base of a Silicon Valley startup than a comedy incubator.

It was just growing pains; at the time, the company was completing its third move in four years.

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Television
3:21 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Louis C.K. Takes On TV Hypocrisy, Aiming Scrutiny Back At Himself

Louis C.K. in the episode "So Did the Fat Lady," which also stars actress Sarah Baker.
Craig Blankenhorn FX

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 11:51 pm

He's known as an astute comic observer with an unerring ability to skewer the most hypocritical moments of modern life. But it turns out Louis C.K. can also be a surprising example of TV's double standard when it comes to men, women and weight. He complains about his tubby body in part of his standup act. But on his TV show, his love interests are often beautiful, thin actresses like Parker Posey and Yvonne Strahovski.

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Monkey See
12:33 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

4 Lessons From The Networks' Report Cards

Katherine Heigl as Charleston Tucker and Alfre Woodard as President Constance Payton in NBC's State Of Affairs.
Michael Parmelee NBC

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 9:56 pm

It's rubber meets the road time in TV land.

Today begins the week in which the nation's big broadcast networks officially unveil their new schedules for the 2014-15 TV season to New York's advertising community – and by extension, the world.

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Code Switch
9:29 am
Sat May 10, 2014

Breaking Things Up: 'Senior Black Correspondent' Gets Colbert Slot

Larry Wilmore accepts the best talk show award for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at the Critics' Choice Television Awards in June 2013.
Frank Micelotta Invision/AP

Originally published on Sat May 10, 2014 9:43 pm

It's not often the gods of TV hand you almost exactly what you ask for.

So it's time to praise Comedy Central for trying something different in late night, handing Stephen Colbert's time slot to the guy who plays The Daily Show's "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore.

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Television
3:16 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Let's Be Careful Out There: The Legacy Of 'Hill Street Blues'

Michael Conrad as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus does the cop roll call, concluding with his signature line: "Let's be careful out there."
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 6:49 pm

This is the moment that launched a TV revolution, every week. The police roll call: Sgt. Phil Esterhaus faced his colleagues — a paternal, knowing grin on his face — while he ran down the day's advisories about a black male pickpocket wearing a blond wig and purple dress, or the need for officers to catch a rapist terrorizing their precinct.

"Let's spend a little less time flirting with the hookers and the waitresses and put some heavy attention on that park," Esterhaus told his patrolmen in one roll call, sparking laughter and feigned denials from the crowd.

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Monkey See
7:03 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Jack Bauer Is Back, But One Woman Has His Number

Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is back in Fox's 24: Live Another Day.
Christopher Raphael Fox

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 3:36 pm

Let's get one thing straight right away: Fox's new version of 24 references all sorts of newfangled ideas about politics, espionage and terrorism — from the use of drones to kill America's enemies to efforts by hackers in the Edward Snowden mold to expose governments' illegal acts.

But the heart of Fox's slimmed-down 24: Live Another Day is the same as it's always been: a principled, misunderstood Jack Bauer letting no rule book, villain or clueless bureaucrat stop him from doing what must be done for the greater good.

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Monkey See
12:35 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

How Craig Ferguson Unmade The Late-Night Talk Show

Craig Ferguson set a very individual course for himself in a field with a lot of standard elements. Now, as David Letterman moves on from CBS late night, Ferguson does too.
Lisette M. Azar CBS

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 12:42 pm

As has become the recent custom over at CBS, when Craig Ferguson decided to announce his departure from The Late Late Show on Monday, he had a self-deprecating joke ready.

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Television
12:44 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

John Oliver Does His Best 'Daily Show' Impression For HBO

John Oliver's new show, Last Week Tonight, debuted Sunday on HBO.
Eric Liebowitz HBO

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 4:37 pm

Fans who worried that John Oliver's new HBO program might somehow diminish his legacy at The Daily Show can rest easy.

Because apparently he's decided to copy it.

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Code Switch
4:28 am
Sat April 26, 2014

3 Pitfalls To Avoid When Talking About Race

In a recent dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that "we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

My first hint that a recent column on diversity in late-night TV had made an impact came when I saw a tweet from an old acquaintance.

He runs a website and blog devoted to covering television and had decided to write a post based on my audio story on late-night TV. He then sent out a Twitter message with the headline:

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Television
3:36 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

'Inside Amy Schumer,' Some Surprising Commentary

Inside Amy Schumer showcases the work of Schumer, here with Deborah Rush.
Matt Peyton Comedy Central

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:50 am

No one can send up sexism with a punch line quite like Amy Schumer.

"A lot of the women's magazines are supposed to, like, be confidence building, but they really just scare ... you so you buy the products in them," she says in one stand-up routine. "Like, they all will put Jessica Alba or somebody like that on the cover. And she's supersexualized no matter what magazine. ... And you're like, 'Good Housekeeping?' "

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Television
11:48 am
Fri April 18, 2014

The Return Of The Many Shows They Call 'Orphan Black'

Tatiana Maslany plays many roles in BBC America's Orphan Black.
Steve Wilkie BBC America

When I saw the first episode of BBC America's Orphan Black last year, I was convinced it was a crappy Canadian police drama.

That's because the set-up seemed like the oddest sort of crime procedural nonsense. A street urchin-style grifter sees a middle class woman who looks just like her leap in front of a commuter train, nabs her purse and climbs into her life – only to find her doppelganger is a troubled police officer with problems of her own.

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Television
3:23 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Big Stars Don't Always Guide TV Shows To Success

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 7:06 pm

CBS is planning a one-hour season finale for Robin Williams' The Crazy Ones. It was one of three sitcoms built around big established stars this season, all three of which suffered in the ratings. It raises the question: Does television make stars, or is it the other way around?

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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

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

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

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