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.

Pages

Television
1:07 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Even If Torture Doesn't Work In The Real World, TV Has Us Convinced It Does

Kiefer Sutherland (right) with Peter Weller and JoBeth Williams on Fox's 24.
Fox TV

As the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee clash over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are considered torture, another question arises: Have depictions of torture on TV and film helped convince us that it works?

Consider this warning that recently greeted viewers of ABC's political soap opera, Scandal:

"The following drama contains adult content. Viewer discretion is advised."

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Television
2:26 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

'Sons Of Anarchy' Ends As A Macho Soap Opera Often Anchored By Women

Charlie Hunnam co-stars with Katey Sagal (center) and Drea De Matteo on FX's biker drama Sons of Anarchy.
Prashant Gupta FX Network

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 4:47 pm

Sons of Anarchy is probably the most macho drama on television, featuring a gang of gun-running, porn-making bikers.

But the biggest moment of the final season has featured a woman: Gemma Teller (played by Katey Sagal), mother to biker club president Jax Teller. Gemma admitted killing Jax's wife, Tara, and lying about it, which started a gang war.

When Gemma finally came clean, Jax insisted she pay the ultimate price.

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Code Switch
9:38 am
Sat December 6, 2014

Four Lessons From The Media's Conflicted Coverage of Race

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared on the Fox Business Network earlier this year. He has been a frequent cable news commentator about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
Rob Kim Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 11:52 am

Now more than ever, America needs productive conversations about race, stereotyping, police, crime and social justice. And too often, our national media continues to fall short.

After many years of dissecting how race works in media, I was both disappointed and but, sadly, not surprised by much of the coverage so far. It repeats many of the same mistakes we've seen for years in how we talk about race-fueled controversies in America.

We don't have the right conversations.

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Television
1:17 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Hate The Idea Of 'Peter Pan Live'? NBC Is Counting On It

NBC is hoping you might just hate Peter Pan Live! (starring Allison Williams) enough to watch it.
Virginia Sherwood AP

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 8:40 am

It's one of the biggest ironies of NBC's gamble tonight with the blockbuster production Peter Pan Live!

This incredibly earnest TV musical just might succeed if enough people hate it.

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Television
3:27 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

Diversity On 'The Walking Dead' Wasn't Always Handled Well

Chad Coleman, left and Sonequa Martin-Green star as Tyreese and Sasha on AMC's The Walking Dead.
Frank Ockenfels AMC

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 4:22 pm

Language advisory: Quotes from The Walking Dead in this story contain language some find offensive.


For The Walking Dead, it was less like a conversation between two characters and more like a mini manifesto.

The moment came during an episode called "Four Walls and Roof," as Bob Stookey spoke to hero Rick Grimes about a central theme this season: keeping your humanity in midst of a zombie apocalypse.

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Performing Arts
9:06 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols, Award-Winning Director Of 'The Graduate,' 'Silkwood,' Dies

Mike Nichols was an ultimate Hollywood insider who won every major show business award directing for stage, film and TV. But his life in America began as an immigrant from Germany. Nichols was honored with an AFI Life Achievement Award in June 2010.
Kevin Winter Getty Images for AFI

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 9:31 am

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Television
3:42 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Bill Cosby's Silence On Rape Allegations Makes Huge Media Noise

Bill Cosby speaks at a press conference about African- American art on Nov. 6.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Sat November 22, 2014 5:29 pm

This may be the first time in a long while that Bill Cosby can't control the public conversation about Bill Cosby.

Read the recent biography Cosby: His Life and Times, and you see a portrait of a talented performer who took control of his business and career interests early on, forever suspicious of journalists and industry executives who might try to interfere.

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Television
4:08 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Farewell To Randy Jackson, An Example Of All That Ails 'American Idol'

Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, the original judges on Fox's American Idol.
Michael Becker AP

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 5:09 pm

Look up "show business survivor" on the Google machine, and you're likely to find a picture of Randy Jackson staring back at you.

That's a curious thought, as news breaks that Jackson is leaving Fox's American Idol singing competition after 13 years as a judge and mentor — the second-to-last person from the show's inaugural season left on the show, besides host Ryan Seacrest.

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Television
4:03 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

As A New 'Doctor Who' Season Ends, Have Its Stories Matched The Hero?

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman star in the BBC series Doctor Who.
Ray Burmiston/Ali BBC

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 6:21 pm

It was, perhaps, one of the biggest gambles on television this year. And it has worked out beautifully.

British character actor extraordinaire Peter Capaldi stepped into the shoes of the biggest character in science-fiction TV, the Doctor, alien star of the BBC's Doctor Who. And his portrayal of a morally conflicted, intensely knowledgeable, occasionally ruthless 2,000-year-old Time Lord has added new depth to television's longest-running science-fiction series.

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Television
1:11 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

'Daily Show', 'Colbert' Strain To Lampoon Democratic Losses

Jon Stewart (from left) and Stephen Colbert hosted live editions of their programs, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, on Tuesday.
Comedy Central

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 1:17 am

Jon Stewart may be the only media figure who started his election coverage Tuesday with an apology.

"I did vote today ... I was being flip and it kind of took off," said Stewart, who had told CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour in an interview earlier Tuesday that he wasn't voting because he "had just moved, and I don't even know where my thing is." The comment sparked loads of stories about how the comedian wasn't voting in an election he had been talking about for months.

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Television
1:25 am
Tue November 4, 2014

'Sherlock' Star Benedict Cumberbatch: Show's Last Season 'Really Freudian'

Benedict Cumberbatch, right, and Martin Freeman star as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson on the BBC's crime drama Sherlock.
Robert Viglasky © Hartswood Films

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 10:35 am

When I sat down with Benedict Cumberbatch to talk about Sherlock, the first thing on his mind wasn't exactly the show.

"I'm really worried about those Sherlock fans, because they have been here, probably, for a while," Cumberbatch says to his assistants, asking them to tell a small clutch of fans waiting outside the hotel where we were meeting that he would stop by to see them soon.

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Television
12:22 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

HBO's 'Olive Kitteridge' May Be The Best Depiction Of Marriage On TV

Frances McDormand, left, stars with Richard Jenkins, right and Devin McKenzie Druid in HBO's Olive Kitteridge.
Jojo Whilden HBO

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 2:44 pm

Marriages, especially long ones, are among the most complex and misunderstood relationships regularly depicted on television.

On the small screen, marriages are usually static things; they are good or bad and continue along in whatever way is needed to further the week's plotlines, from Mike and Carol Brady's upbeat union to Walt and Skyler White's perpetually doomed partnership. But marriage veterans know it's often a complicated, evolving thing, as two people negotiate a continued relationship even as time and circumstance transform them into different people.

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Television
12:05 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Can Shows Like 'The McCarthys' Replace CBS' 'Thursday Night Football'?

Tyler Ritter (center) stars in CBS's The McCarthys with, clockwise from top left, Jack McGee, Laurie Metcalf, Jimmy Dunn, Joey McIntyre and Kelen Coleman.
Monty Brinton CBS

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 2:47 pm

Five weeks after the fall TV season started, the broadcast networks are still cranking out new shows.

And in the case of CBS's The McCarthys, you may wish they had stopped a bit sooner.

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Monkey See
2:59 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Winners And Losers Of The Fall TV Season Begin To Emerge

Debra Messing stars with Robert Klein in NBC's The Mysteries of Laura.
Will Hart/NBC

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 7:34 am

What's most amazing about this point in the TV season is what hasn't happened yet.

One month into the new season, no new fall TV show has yet been canceled.

(By this point last year, several shows had already been put out of our misery, including ABC's Lucky 7 and NBC's Ironside remake.)

Still, despite programmers' patience this year, there are still lots of clues about what's working this TV season and what isn't. Here's a peek at what we know so far about the current TV season.

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Code Switch
3:24 pm
Sun October 19, 2014

The Boston Herald's Missed 'Cartoongate' Lessons

The Boston Herald published this cartoon earlier this month.
The Boston Herald

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 8:38 am

The worst fate of all may be to make a terrible mistake and then learn the wrong lessons from the experience.

That's the thought I had reading a heartfelt column about the Boston Herald's unfortunate decision to publish a cartoon featuring a White House gate-crasher asking the nation's first black president if he had "tried the new watermelon flavored toothpaste."

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Television
5:45 am
Sat October 11, 2014

AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Is A Hit Show With Two Meanings

Andrew Lincoln, left, and Norman Reedus star in AMC's The Walking Dead.
Frank Ockenfels AMC

Originally published on Sat October 11, 2014 12:20 pm

The Walking Dead is so successful – it's TV's most popular show with young viewers and cable television's highest-rated drama – that AMC has already picked it up for a sixth season, days before the fifth season starts Sunday.

And it returns this fall with a bloody, explicit answer to a troubling question from last season:

What is the deal with the people in this place called Terminus?

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Television
2:22 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

'The Flash' And 'Gotham' Succeed By Taking Comic Book Stories Seriously

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash on The CW's The Flash.
Jack Rowand The CW

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 12:03 pm

As The CW's new superhero series The Flash debuts tonight, it seems there are more TV shows based on comic books in prime time than ever before.

And a look at two of the best new network TV dramas this fall also reveals two different ways to tell superhero stories on television, both with wonderful results.

It's tough to find a more traditional superhero story than The CW's take on The Flash, which opens with a voice over from the hero himself:

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Monkey See
3:52 am
Sun October 5, 2014

Showtime's 'Homeland' Now Depends On Carrie Mathison As Flawed Hero

Claire Danes, right, plays CIA station chief Carrie Mathison with Alex Lanipekun on Showtime's Homeland.
Joe Alblas Showtime

(Be warned: There are spoilers ahead, particularly if you haven't watched all of Homeland's third season yet.)

Showtime's widely-lauded terrorism drama Homeland returns Sunday facing a curious question for a show starting its fourth season.

What, exactly, is this series about now?

That was the biggest issue left by the death last year of Damian Lewis' supremely dysfunctional soldier-turned-terrorist-turned-doomed hero Nicholas Brody. And it's not clear if producers have found an answer yet.

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Monkey See
11:00 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Fox's 'Gracepoint': An American Remake Best Viewed With Fresh Eyes

David Tennant, left, and Anna Gunn star in the Fox TV crime drama, Gracepoint.
Ed Araquel Fox TV

Even though some TV critics hate Fox's new crime drama Gracepoint, you just might love it.

And that mostly depends on one thing: Whether you've seen the British TV series it's based on, Broadchurch.

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Television
2:59 am
Wed October 1, 2014

FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes

Demian Bichir, left, and Diane Kruger star in FX's cross-border crime drama The Bridge.
Bryon Cohen AP

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 7:06 am

It's the best show that you're probably not watching.

As FX's The Bridge ends its ratings-challenged second season Wednesday, it has told a sprawling story about two detectives — one in El Paso, Texas, and one in Juarez, Mexico — pursuing a Mexican drug cartel.

This year, much of the story has centered on reluctant hero and Mexican police detective Marco Ruiz, who's chasing cartel boss Fausto Galvan. Almost all of those moments are filmed in Spanish, helping flesh out characters who tend to remain mere stereotypes in other shows.

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Monkey See
2:18 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Gilligan's Island At 50: A Goofy Show From A Time Of TV Innocence

The cast of Gilligan's Island (clockwise from top left): Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Alan Hale Jr., Dawn Wells, Bob Denver, Russell Johnson
CBS/Landov

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 4:23 pm

It was 50 years ago today (Friday, Sept. 26) that the world was introduced to what may have been the oddest idea around for a TV comedy until Hogan's Heroes cracked jokes in a German prisoner of war camp a year later.

Yes, Hollywood wanted to make America laugh about seven people who got marooned on a tropical island. And that oddly endearing show celebrating its golden anniversary had an unlikely name: Gilligan's Island.

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Television
2:27 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Network TV's Fall Lineup Distinguished By Diversity

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 4:14 pm

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

Code Switch
6:16 am
Tue September 23, 2014

How Not To Handle A New Voice In TV

Shonda Rhimes (left) with Scandal star Kerry Washington at a 2012 press conference.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 10:26 am

This is what happens when voices that have normally been pushed to the background take center stage.

That's the reaction I usually offer these days whenever someone asks me about a race-based media firestorm — this time, in reference to the nuclear-sized backlash against New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley's bewildering commentary on Shonda Rhimes, one of the most successful showrunners in television history.

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Monkey See
8:33 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Deggans Picks 'Gotham,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Flash' Among Fall TV's Best

Ben McKenzie (front right) and Donal Logue (left) lead the cast of Fox's Batman prequel Gotham.
Fox TV

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 8:20 am

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Code Switch
2:16 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Examining Bill Cosby's Legacy As 'The Cosby Show' Turns 30

The Cosby Show starred Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad as Cliff and Clair Huxtable, an upper-middle-class couple in New York. Tempestt Bledsoe, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Lisa Bonet and Keshia Knight Pulliam played four of their five children.
Frank Carroll AP

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 4:59 pm

The Cosby Show celebrates its 30th birthday on Saturday.

It was a monster hit inspired by the comedy and life experiences of its star, Bill Cosby, as shown in the new biography Cosby: His Life and Times. In the book, author Mark Whitaker makes a strong argument that Cosby's comedic style and approach to race issues turned The Cosby Show into television's most quietly subversive program.

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Code Switch
3:40 am
Sat September 13, 2014

Why Michael Che's New Role Could Change More Than 'SNL'

Daily Show correspondent Michael Che will become the first black co-anchor of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update.
Paul Marotta Courtesy of Michael Che

Originally published on Sat September 13, 2014 11:27 am

It seems some TV networks have gotten the message on late-night diversity and others have not.

Friday's news — that Saturday Night Live hired comic Michael Che to join Colin Jost behind the anchor desk on its popular "Weekend Update" segment — shows NBC's venerated late night comedy franchise may, finally, stand among those in the first group.

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Code Switch
4:38 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Does It Matter That Rosie Perez Is The First Latina Co-Host Of 'The View'?

Rosie Perez (above) becomes a regular co-host on The View Sept 15.
Phil McCarten Reuters /Landov

The View just made history in naming Rosie Perez as a new co-host of ABC's daytime chat show.

ABC revealed Wednesday that Perez would join former GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace, teaming with stars Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg when The View's new season debuts Sept. 15.

In hiring Perez, a Brooklyn-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents, ABC did something new: It named the first Latina as a regular co-host in The View's 17-year history.

Which raises an important question: Will it matter?

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Arts & Life
1:48 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers, An Enduring Comic Who Turned Tragedy Into Showbiz Success, Dies

Rivers became permanent guest host for The Tonight Show in 1983, a gig that ended when she left to host her own late-night show on Fox. Here she interviews Miss America Suzette Charles in 1984.
AP

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 4:49 am

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Television
1:32 am
Thu September 4, 2014

CBS's Thursday Night Football: An Ambitious Alliance With A Lot At Stake

Actor Don Cheadle will narrate the opening for each broadcast of Thursday Night Football.
Neil Jacobs CBS

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 11:49 am

How much football is too much for TV?

That's the question CBS and the NFL may face Sept. 11, when the curtain rises on their ambitious experiment to build a new broadcast television home for pro football on Thursdays.

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Monkey See
3:03 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

New Amazon Series Pilots Fall Short Of A TV Revolution

Jay Chandrasekhar and Sarah Chalke are a married couple in the new Amazon Studios pilot Really.
Quantrell Colbert Amazon Studios

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 10:01 am

When it comes to original TV series, it's tough to understand exactly where Amazon is going.

At first, its strategy seemed simple: It went where big-ticket competitors like Netflix and HBO didn't, greenlighting comedies like Garry Trudeau's political satire Alpha House and the Silicon Valley series Betas, along with a raft of kids' shows.

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