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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Music News
8:14 am
Fri July 25, 2014

'Purple Rain' Taught Me How To Be In A Band

"I never wanted to be your weekend lover": Prince and his Purple Rain costar Appolonia Kotero.
Warner Bros. Getty Images

Originally published on Sat July 26, 2014 10:54 am

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Monkey See
4:19 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

5 Things I Learned About TV's Future From The Critics Press Tour

Noah Hawley (left) and Warren Littlefield, executive producers of the FX series Fargo, speak at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 7:09 pm

The voice came from over my shoulder, a shouted greeting in a room crowded with journalists, publicists, network executives, producers and stars.

I tuned to see David Boreanaz, star of the Fox TV show Bones, calling out to me like a long-lost friend. I knew he had mistaken me for someone else β€” in a party held by Fox at the exclusive Soho House club, where everyone from Kelsey Grammer to David Tennant was sipping cocktails and talking shop, it wasn't hard to make that kind of mistake.

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Monkey See
4:41 pm
Sun July 20, 2014

Appreciating James Garner: TV's Best Unhero

James Garner plays Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files in a 1988 photo.
DPA /Landov

I didn't know, watching Isaac Hayes push James Garner around on The Rockford Files, that I was seeing a special character continue an important television legacy.

All I knew, as a devoted fan of Garner's put-upon private eye, was that Jim Rockford seemed like a kind of hero you never saw anywhere else on television.

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Code Switch
12:51 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Viola Davis Gets Groundbreaking Role As ABC Bets On Diversity

Actress Viola Davis speaks about her new ABC show How to Get Away with Murder at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 1:49 pm

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Monkey See
7:03 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Snubs And Successes: 6 Lessons Learned From This Year's Emmy Nominations

Mindy Kaling and Carson Daly announce nominations for The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards Thursday morning.
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 7:27 pm

There are things you could quibble about in the array of nominations announced today for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.

No best drama series nomination for CBS' The Good Wife, though several stars got acting nods. No acting nomination for Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany, though she plays about eight different roles on BBC America's clone-focused adventure drama. No best variety show nod for John Oliver's increasingly stellar Last Week Tonight on HBO. And a best TV miniseries nod for Lifetime's dreadful Bonnie and Clyde?

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The Two-Way
1:18 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Diane Sawyer's 'World News' Departure Sets Off Big Changes At ABC News

ABC News anchors (from left) David Muir, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos meet with ABC News President James Goldston.
Heidi Gutman ABC

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 3:50 pm

Diane Sawyer will leave her job as anchor of ABC News' flagship program, World News, during the last week of August, capping a five-year run at the show and kicking off an anchor shuffle at the network.

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Code Switch
4:30 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 4:15 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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Television
4:43 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:08 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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Monkey See
1:02 pm
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 β€” as always.
Justina Mintz AMC

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 4:38 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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Television
2:05 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

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 1:13 pm

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
10:37 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 4:11 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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Code Switch
10:43 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 10:43 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
4:16 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 7:49 pm

This is the moment that launched a TV revolution, every week. The police roll call: Sgt. Phil Esterhaus faced his colleagues β€” a paternal, knowing grin on his face β€” 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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Television
12:45 pm
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 4:36 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 β€” 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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Code Switch
10:31 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

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 5:28 am

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
2:17 pm
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

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 12:48 pm

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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Monkey See
6:41 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 7:56 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 β€” 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
5:33 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 7:37 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
6:20 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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Television
4:30 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Your Tour Guide To The Glut Of Sunday TV

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 6:18 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
7:35 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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Media
3:55 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 6:45 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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Code Switch
3:24 pm
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

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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Music News
4:55 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Grammy Show: Light On Awards, Heavy On Entertainment

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 3:51 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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Code Switch
3:08 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 β€” 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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Code Switch
12:39 pm
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 1:10 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
4:12 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 6:18 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.

Television
9:28 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 11:00 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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Television
5:23 am
Mon December 30, 2013

TV Prank Reveals News Media Shortcoming

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:42 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, let's look back just a single year now with NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. He's been giving us his most memorable television moments from 2013. And this morning, Eric has something of a twofer because he says the best TV prank of the year became one of the worst moments for television journalists.

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Code Switch
6:15 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

It's Called 'Africa.' Of Course It's About Race, Right?

Steve Lukather, vocalist and guitarist, is Toto's frontman.
Courtesy of Toto

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 8:26 am

The email arrived with the kind of snarky tone reserved for a moment when the author is sure he β€” and it's usually a he β€” thinks he's hoisted you with your own petard.

A bit of back story: Last week, I tweeted a question wondering why CBS This Morning used a clip of Toto's hit song "Africa" under a montage of photos from Nelson Mandela's funeral. The tweet went viral, sparking stories on several websites and agreement from a co-founder of the band.

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