History Detectives Impresses Again With Its Special Investigations

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS has proven time and again in recent years that it is the last bastion of truly worthwhile educational programming.  While History Channel, Discovery Channel, and others of their ilk have continued to fall victim to their heads’ lust for reality TV programming, PBS has held its guns and stood its ground, becoming the gold standard for educational programming.  One show that has helped to make PBS the gold standard is its fan favorite series History Detectives.  PBS recently released a new History Detectives special to DVD titled History Detectives: Special Investigations.  Not that PBS needs it at this point, but this DVD is more proof of why the series is such a fan favorite and why PBS continues to help make PBS the leader in quality educational programming.  Audiences, whether they be new to the series or are more familiar with it, will appreciate that the series delves into some of history’s greatest mysteries in this new special.  That’s a change from its normal format.  Those that are less familiar with History Detectives will appreciate that it uses a rather familiar format in investigating each of the special’s mysteries.  And last but hardly least of all, in none of the cases studied in this special does the team try to prove or disprove any theory set forth.  The team merely investigates the facts and leaves the rest up to viewers.  When audiences take into consideration all three of the factors noted here, they will agree that this DVD proves once more why History Detectives is one of the best series on television for educators and lovers of history, and why PBS remains today the gold standard in quality educational programming.

History Detectives is one of PBS’ best programs.  It is a favorite among educators and lovers of history.  The main reason for this is that it presents history at its purest.  It has never attempted to over-glorify history and make it sexy for the sake of eyeballs to put it bluntly.  It takes the road far less traveled today in comparison to programs on the likes of History, Discovery, Destination America and others under those corporate umbrellas.  This latest release from History Detectives proves why that approach has–and continues to–make it a fan favorite.  Normally, History Detectives focuses on the history behind items and documents owned by ordinary people.  This time though, it turns the focus to a pair of history’s greatest mysteries and a couple that while not as well-known are just as interesting.  The two more well-known of the mysteries presented here center on famed band leader Glenn Miller and Jimmy Hoffa.  The lesser known of the mysteries presented here focus on the river boat Sultana and on a group of servant girls from Texas.  The study on Glenn Miller is exactly what audiences expect.  It examines the possible fate of the famed band leader.  The findings from the study are pretty interesting to say the least.  That’s because they leave just as many questions as answers.  Unlike the study on Miller, the study on Hoffa isn’t what audiences might think.  Instead of focusing on his fate–as so many do–this episode focuses on who might have been responsible for his disappearance.  The findings here are just as eye opening as the theories concerning where he may be.  Some may be surprised to learn that apparently Hoffa even had a link to none other than President Richard Nixon.  That’s just one of many rather interesting facts that audiences will learn from this episode. As if this isn’t enough, the episode centering on the riverboat Sultana brings up thoughts of the Maine and its controversy.  It might event raise thoughts of the Titanic disaster.  And the story centering on the murders of the young Teas servant girls will engage audiences just as much.  As should be evident by now, these stories by themselves more than make History Detectives: Special Investigations worth the watch by any educator or history lover in general.

The stories that make up History Detectives: Special Investigations are by themselves more than enough reason for audiences to check out this new DVD.  The manner in which the team approaches each investigation is another reason that audiences will appreciate this special.  Whether or not they are familiar with this series, audiences will recognize the manner in which the team approaches each case.  It is a formula that was once used in Discovery’s Mythbusters before the team of Kari, Grant and Tory was let go.  The only difference is that unlike Mythbusters, the show’s heads and hosts don’t try to make the investigations sexy for the sake of eyeballs.  It’s a welcome breath of fresh air.  It proves that history doesn’t have to be sexy to be interesting.  It’s just one more way that this latest release from PBS and History Detectives prove the value of both collectively.

The cases presented here and the manner in which each one is investigated together make History Detectives: Special Investigations solid proof of why this series is so belived by fans and why it makes PBS so invaluable to audiences today.  While both of the factors noted here play their own important role to the enjoyment of this presentation, there is one more aspect of this DVD that makes it so enjoyable for audiences.  That last aspect is the fact that within the course of the investigations, at no point does the team of Wes Cowan, Kaiama Glover, and Tukufu Zuberi try to prove or disprove any of the theories around which each case centers.  Rather they merely investigate each case, presenting the facts as they find them.  The rest is left up to audiences to decide for themselves.  In the case of Glenn Miller’s disappearance, audiences are left with a strong probability in terms of what might have actually happened.  But because his body was never recovered, audiences are still left to decide for themselves if the facts gathered actually lead to anything solid.  And in the case of Hoffa’s disappearance, audiences are left just as much to decide for themselves if the mob actually played a role in his disappearance or if in fact Nixon himself might have played a role.  The team never tries to actually say yeah or nay in the end.  They just gather the information needed to make educated guesses in each case.  Such approach serves to make each case all the more enthralling that each already was to begin with.  The end result is a special that leaves audiences wanting History Detectives to investigate some of history’s other major mysteries between its regular investgations.

Next to PBS’ History Detectives, the only other history based series on television today that present any real value anymore are Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum and History’s American Pickers.  While both series offer their own value to audiences, History Detectives still comes in first.  Special Investigations is more proof of that.  The cases and the team’s approach to each case more than make this series a joy for viewers.  The fact that it never really sets out to prove or disprove any theory, but rather simply investigates each one makes these episodes even more enthralling.  Altogether, all three factors together make this collection of investigations one that every educator and lover of history should have in their own personal collection.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=38349276&cp=&sr=1&kw=history+detectives+special+investigations&origkw=History+Detectives+Special+Investigations&parentPage=search.  More information on this release and all of the latest news from History Detectives is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/historydetectives

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/historydetectives

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20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.millcreekent.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/millcreekent

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Films’ 30 For 30 Returns Tonight

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s hit film series 30 for 30 kicks off a new season tonight.

The network’s award-winning film series kicks off tonight at 7pm with the film Playing for the Mob.  The season’s premiere film/episode examines the role of mobster Henry Hill on a number of Boston College’s basketball games.  Hill once helped to fix many of the university’s basketball games.  The film is narrated by actor Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).  It airs tonight at 9pm ET on ESPN.  This season’s complete schedule of films is listed below.

Tuesday, Oct.7, 9 p.m. – “Playing for the Mob”
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 10 p.m. – “The Day The Series Stopped”
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 p.m. – “When The Garden Was Eden”
Tuesday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. – “Brian and The Boz”
Tuesday, Nov. 4, 9 p.m. – “Brothers in Exile”
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 8 p.m. – “Rand University”
Saturday, Dec. 13, 9 p.m. – “The U Part 2”

More information on this season’s schedule and all of the latest 30 for 30 news and is available online at:

Website: http://www.espn.com/30for30

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

SEC Network To Feature College Football Tripleheader Saturday

 

Courtesy:  ESPN/SEC Network

Courtesy: ESPN/SEC Network

This weekend will be a big one for fans of SEC football.

This weekend, the SEC Network will carry a tripleheader of college football games featuring SEC Teams.  It all starts Saturday morning with SEC Nation live Saturday morning at 10am ET.  Saturday’s broadcast will come live from Victory Village in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Joe Tessitore will anchor the broadcast.  He will be joined by Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears, Paul Finebaum, and reporter Kaylee Hartung for the pre-game broadcast.

The first game on tap for Saturday’s SEC Network tripleheader will see Louisiana-Monroe on the road against Kentucky at high noon.  Dave Neal will have the call from the booth.  He will be joined by Andrew Ware and Laura Rutledge for additional commentary.  That game will be followed by a matchup of Tennessee-Chattanooga at Tennessee at 4pm ET.  Tom Hart will anchor that game’s broadcast.  He will be joined by Matt Stinchcomb and Heather Mitts for more throughout the game.  And rounding out the day’s schedule, the Florida Gators host the LSU Tigers at 7:30pm ET.  Brent Musburger will be live in the booth for that game.  He will be joined by Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor for additional commentary.

More information on Saturday’s schedule and all of the SEC network’s programming is available online at:

Website: http://getsecnetwork.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SECNetwork

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

CatDog: The Complete Series Is Another Welcome Addition To Any Classic Cartoon Lover’s Library

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Next Tuesday, October 14th, Shout! Factory will release its latest complete Nicktoons box set thanks to its partnership with Nickelodeon and Viacom.  CatDog: The Complete Series follows Shout! Factory’s most recent complete Nicktoons box set Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series.  That box set was released August 19th.   And as with that series, CatDog: The Complete Series will be available exclusively via Wal-Mart stores nationwide.  This latest box set is another wonderful addition to the home library of Nicktoons Nostalgic that grew up in Nickeldeon’s golden era.  The most obvious reason that any grown up fan of this series will appreciate this new complete series set is the same as Shout! Factory’s previous full series Nicktoon sets.  It contains every episode from the series’ original run on Nickelodeon.  In connection to the episodes, they are contained on the same total number of discs from the previously released stand-alone sets.  The difference is that the twelve discs that make up the series are contained within only two boxes.  This saves space on any DVD rack.  It’s one  more reason that audiences will appreciate this set regardless of whether they have already purchased any of said the said stand-alone boxes.  And last of note that makes CatDog: The Complete Series another welcome release from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is the writing that went into the episodes.  Together with the set’s packaging and the inclusion of every one of the series’ episodes, it completes the box set and makes it all the more welcome an addition to the home collection of any Nicktoons Nostalgic.

CatDog is one of the last of Nickelodeon’s great series that earned the title Nicktoon.  Next to the likes of Hey Arnold!, Rugrats, and Doug, it was one of the last of a special breed of cartoons for kids.  After it ended its initial run on Nickelodeon, it ran in re-runs for a while until the network’s heads decided to move the kid favorite series over to Nickelodeon’s digital “sister station” Nicktoons.  Most cable and satellite carriers general keep Nicktoons on their upper digital tiers, thus making it a premium channel that costs extra for subscribers.  Suddenlink made things even more difficult for audiences recently when its dispute with Viacom led the carrier to drop not just Nicktoons but all of the Viacom networks that it once carried for customers across the country.  This means that for possibly thousands of audiences, there is now no way to see CatDog on television.  This makes CatDog: The Complete Series even more of a positive for anyone that grew up with this series and other Nicktoons.  So now regardless of whether or not audiences can get Nicktoons for one reason or another, Shout! Factory have made it possible for every Nicktoons Nostalgic to own one more piece of television greatness in its entirety.  Things only get better from here, too.  The set’s overall packaging should be taken into consideration, too in its overall success and enjoyment.

The inclusion of CatDog’s complete series in Shout! Factory’s new full series set is something that most definitely should not be taken for granted.  There are those that get Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons network and actually get to see this modern classic cartoon, given.  But there are also those that don’t get the network for one reason or another.  Whether it be because of the cost of subscribing to extra digital tiers on their carriers or their carrier not even carrying the network (as with Suddenlink’s dispute with Viacom), there are in fact those that don’t get to see these episodes.  That makes the release of this set quite the welcome addition to those individuals’ home libraries.  The set’s overall packaging makes it all the more welcome an addition to audiences regardless of whether or not they already own any of the series’ previously released stand-alone box sets.  All sixty-eight episodes that made up the series are spread across twelve discs inside two boxes.  Compared to those aforementioned stand-alone box sets, the packaging of the discs in this format takes up much less space on DVD racks than those sets by themselves.  So not only do audiences get the complete series in this set, but they also get the complete series in yet another ergonomic package.  Once again, the employees of Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon are deserving of their own share of applause for these efforts.  It still is not the last of the factors worth noting that makes this latest full series set from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon a win for fans.  The final factor that makes this set a welcome addition to any classic Nicktoons fan’s home library is the series’ animation.  It separates the series not only from other Nicktoons of its time but from every other children’s program on television today.

The last piece of the puzzle that makes CatDog: The Complete Series such a welcome addition to the library of any classic Nicktoons fan is the series’ animation.  There are still a few children’s shows out there today on cable the feature at least some amount of hand drawn animation.  But by and large, most of today’s children’s programs are more based in computer generated “animation” than actual hand-drawn art.  Unlike those shows CatDog was created largely by hand.  If there was any computer usage in this series, it was minimal at best.  Other than that, it gives the show its own identity much like its fellow Nicktoons and those series that came before it in the golden era of the “Big 4.”  Taking this into account and the fact that true cartoons have officially gone by the wayside—weekday and weekend—such actual art work becomes increasingly valuable.  It serves as one more example of what once made children’s programming so great and still could again one day given the opportunity.  And together with both the overall packaging of this set and the inclusion of its full sixty-eight episode run, it makes this set a must have for any Nicktoons Nostalgic and for any fan of real cartoons.

The partnership between Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon has produced a number of wonderful releases up to this point.  CatDog: The Complete Series is just one more addition to that long line of proper classic Nicktoons released thanks to that partnership.  The set’s packaging and the inclusion of the series’ full sixty-eight episode run works alongside its original animation to make it a joy for any lover of classic cartoons.  It may or may not be the last of the complete series releases from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  At this time, there is no deal in place for releases of Rugrats, Doug, or even Rocket Power.  And there’s no word on when or if Hey Dude! and The Wild Thornberrys will see full series releases.  Whether or not any of these series ever get proper releases from Shout! Factory, at least audiences will have CatDog: The Complete Series.  It will be available next Tuesday, October 14th.  It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ATK Still Television’s Top Cooking Show In Its Fourteenth Season

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS released the fourteenth season of its hit cooking series America’s Test Kitchen to DVD this summer.  For those that might not be familiar with the long-running series, it is the on-air companion to Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.  It is also the only series on television today worth watching by anyone that has a love of food and the culinary arts.  In comparison to all of the celebrity-based cooking shows that pollute today’s television spectrum, America’s Test Kitchen has always focused on the food and not the familiar faces.  This latest release continues that long-held tradition from the hit series.  It’s just one reason that makes this season just as enjoyable as its previous thirteen seasons.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this season is its list of dishes presented throughout the season’s episodes.  From fine dining to even the simplest dishes, host Christopher Kimball and company bring audiences lots and delectable dishes.  And instead of just saying do this or that, they actually discuss how each dish is made.  They even add educational content, explaining the significance of the processes and ingredients in each dish.  For those wanting to try the dishes out for themselves, a number of printable recipes have been included as PDF files complete with fully outlined directions, ingredients and a picture of the finished product.  That bonus rounds out the box set, completing what is even more proof of why PBS truly is the last bastion of worthwhile programming on television.

America’s Test Kitchen has proven for years to be in this critic’s view the single greatest cooking series on television.  The only real contender to that title is its “sister series” Cook’s Country.  It just so happens that Cook’s Country is hosted by Christopher Kimball, who also hosts America’s Test Kitchen.  And go figure, both series are run by PBS, which is really the last true bastion of worthwhile programming on television.  Anyone that might not be familiar with America’s Test Kitchen will see instantly in the DVD release of the series’ fourteenth season why it has remained a hit for such a long time.  The central reason for its continued success fourteen seasons in is the fact that it is not celebrity driven.  That goes completely against the standard used on the shows that make up most of Food Network’s programming and that of the cooking shows on Fox, NBC, and ABC.  It actually makes the food the star, not the people.  It’s such a welcome change in comparison to those other shows.

The downplaying of the host as the star of the show is the cornerstone of what has made America’s Test Kitchen a hit among true foodies and lovers of the culinary arts for fourteen seasons now.  Audiences will appreciate that unlike all those commercially-based cooking shows, the food and cooking equipment are the stars, not the hosts.  Just as worth noting is the variety of dishes that are presented and the manner in which they are presented.  Unlike all of the commercially-based cooking shows, Kimball and company don’t just say “this is what you do”, flying through each dish along the way.  Rather, they take their time.  They explain the significance of the ingredients and the processes that the dishes undergo as each ingredient is added to the various dishes.  That extra educational content shows the importance of cooking not just as some random activity but a science of sorts.  There are so many chemical reactions that go on in preparing and cooking different dishes.  It is really something interesting to consider.  Speaking of the dishes in question, the dishes featured this season range from something one might see on the menu at a four-star restaurant to an update on something as classic and simple as a grilled cheese sandwich.  There is even an easy meals made with pasta, seafood, and corn (yes, corn).  And what’s more audiences can pick and choose which dishes to check out.  They don’t have to sit through episode after episode to get to their dish of interest.  That makes the whole experience even better for any foodie and lover of the culinary arts when watching Season 14 of America’s Test Kitchen.  The positives don’t end here, either.  PBS has once again included a number of printable recipes to complement the dishes presented in Season 14. That inclusion rounds out the set, proving once more why this is the only cooking show worth watching on television today and why PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television today, too.

America’s Test Kitchen: Season 14 brings with it every one of the traditions that have made it a hit with viewers ever since its premiere season.  It includes once again explanations of each dish’s ingredients and the processes that occur in prep and cooking.  This proves that cooking isn’t just cooking.  It proves cooking is a science of sorts.  This is something that no commercially-based cooking show does.  It also makes the food and the cooking equipment the star, not the show’s hosts.  This has been a tradition since the show’s beginning so many years ago, too.  One more tradition that is carried into this season is the inclusion of printable recipes lifted right from the season’s episodes.  Obviously not every dish could receive its own printable recipe.  Sure it would nice to have the recipe for every single dish presented throughout each season.  But that just isn’t possible.  However, the dishes presented in this season’s selection of printable recipes  is delectable in its own right.  There’s a recipe for grilled corn with basil and lemon butter complete with recipe for the basil and lemon butter baste.  For those looking for something *ahem* meatier, there are recipes for grilled chicken, baby back ribs, and even grilled glazed pork loin.  Those viewers with a bit of a sweet tooth will enjoy the recipes for peach pie, lemon chiffon pie, and marbled blueberry bundt cake among other dishes.  There are plenty of other recipes included on the set that audiences will find their own favorite from the extensive selection offered.  That diverse selection perfectly rounds out the set and is sure to leave any viewer’s mouth watering in anticipation of trying these dishes themselves.  It proves once more why even now in its fourteenth season, America’s Test Kitchen remains the only cooking show worth watching on television and why PBS in whole is the last bastion of true worthwhile programming on television.

There is so much that can be noted of America’s Test Kitchen that makes it so enjoyable even now in its fourteenth season.  From the printable recipes to its in-depth episodes to the very fact that it continues to focus on the food and not the hosts, it continues to do so much right.  Any lover of the culinary arts and any foodie that has yet to see why this show continues to be so successful should order this four-disc box set now.  After watching through it, those viewers will join the ranks of those (like this critic) that already know why it is indeed the best cooking show on television today.  It is available now and can be ordered direct online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35446656&cp=&sr=1&kw=americas+test+kitchen&origkw=America%27s+Test+Kitchen&parentPage=search.  More information on America’s Test Kitchen is available online at:

Website: http://americastestkitchen.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/americastestkitchen

Twitter: http://twitter.com/testkitchen

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay, Starz Announce Home Release Date For Black Sails Season 1

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Starz hit high seas series Black Sails will sail into stores this winter.

Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz will release the first season of its hit high seas adventure series Black Sails on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015.  The series’ first season will be released both on DVD and Blu-ray/VUDU combo pack.  Season One will be presented in a three-disc set both on DVD and Blu-ray/VUDU combo pack. The DVD box set will retail for MSRP of $49.98 and the BD/VUDU combo pack for MSRP of $59.99.  Along with the episodes that make up its first season, Black Sails: Season One will also include a handful of bonus features.  Among those bonus features are pieces on the cast’s attire, pirate folklore versus fact, and more.  the complete listing of the set’s bonus features is included below:

New Bonus Features:           

  • BLACK SAILS: A Look Inside
  • Dress To Kill
  • Pirate Camp
  • Folklore Is Finished: Pirate Politics
  • A Place In History
  • Building The Behemoth

 

Black Sails is executive produced by Michael Bay (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers 14, the Purge, The Island) and his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Purge).  The Emmy Award-winning series centers on the adventure of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens—Die Another Day, Space Cowboys, Robin Hood, Masterpiece Mystery! Inspector Lewis) and the newest addition to his crew, John Silver (Luke Arnold).  The pair fights to protect New Providence Island, the most infamous home of pirates and criminals in its day.  The series is also Executive produced by Jonathan Steinberg, creator of CBS’ cult hit series Jericho and Robert Levine (Touch).

Black Sails: Season 1 will be released just in time for audiences to catch up on the series before the premiere of its second season on January 24th, 2015 exclusively on Starz.  More information and all of the latest updates on Black Sails is available online at:

Website: http://www.starz.com/originals/blacksails

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blacksails.starz

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blksails_starz

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.