Mr. Selfridge Season Two Coming To Blu-ray, DVD This Spring

Courtesy: PBS/ITV Studios

Courtesy: PBS/ITV Studios

ITV Studios’ hugely popular series Mr. Selfridge just wrapped its second season across the pond. And it just started here on Masterpiece yesterday. In coordination of the U.S. debut of Season 2, ITV Studios and Masterpiece have partnered to release Season Two on Blu-ray and DVD this Spring.

Mr. Selfridge Season Two will be released to the masses on Blu-ray and DVD April 29th. The series, starring Jeremy Piven (Entourage, PCU) follows the famed businessman that changed the face of business in London in the early twentieth century and his business, Selfridge & Co. Season Two of Mr. Selfridge runs a total of 7.5 hours over three discs and features the original U.K. edition of Season Two. Frances O’Conner (Madame Bovary) returns for Season Two in the role of Harry Selfridge’s wife Rose as does Aisling Loftus (Page Eight) as Agnes Towler. Also back for Season Two are: Amanda Abbington (Sherlock Season 3) as Miss Mardle, and Ron Cook (Little Dorrit) as Mr. Crabb.
There is sure to be more drama for Harry Selfridge in Season Two as Katherine Kelly (Coronation Street) returns once again as Lady Mae. Gregory Fitoussi (World War Z) is back, too as Henri LeClair. Samuel West (Any Human Heart) reprises his role as enterprising journalist Frank Edwards. Selfrdige’s personnel director Mr. Grove is once more played by Tom Goodman-Hill (Downton Abbey). And Trystan Gravelle (Anonymous) also returns again as the dashing manager of Selfridge’s Palm Court Restaurant, Victor Colleano.

Audiences will see plenty of familiar faces in Season Two of Mr. Selfridge. They will also see some new faces. Polly Walker (Miss Marple) joins the cast of Mr. Selfridge as Delphine Day, author of numerous steamy novels and proprietress of a new nightclub. Also joining the cast for the first time this season are Cal Macaninch (Downton Abbey) and Aiden McArdle (Jane Eyre) as new head of fashion at Selfridge & Co. Mr. Thackeray, and Lord Loxley, Lady Mae’s estranged husband.

Season Two of Mr. Selfridge opens in the Spring of 1914. The store is now celebrating its fifth anniversary. There have been lots of changes at Selfridge & Co. in terms of staff. Harry’s wife Rose has even inexplicably returned to London after having left Harry to return to America at the end of Season One. There are sure to be even more changes as the shadow of World War I looms over London.

More information on Mr. Selfridge Season Two and the series in general is available online at https://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs, http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs, and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece. It can be pre-ordered now via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=32224996&cp=3529703.20384186&ab=Aspot_Selfridge_3.30.14&parentPage=family.

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.

Anchor Bay To Release New Psychological Thriller

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the new indie-horror flick In Fear this Spring.  The movie, starring Iain de Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures), and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), it is the feature film debut for writer/director Jeremy Lovering.  In Fear has already made waves at international film festivals in nine countries including: Toronto After Dark (Canada), the Rosebud Entertainment Fantasy Festival (Germany), Fancine – Festival de Cine Fantastico (Spain), and the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (South Korea).

In Fear follow’s the plight of a young couple being tracked in their car by an unseen predator.  The couple is trapped in its car as it travels a number of country roads in an attempt to escape its seemingly invisible assailant.  The couple’s car is its only protection.  The story combines the fear of the dark and of the unknown.  It will be available March 11th on Blu-ray, DVD and Video on Demand.  The Blu-ray presentation will be available for SRP of $29.99.  The DVD will be available for SRP of $24.98.

More information on In Fear and other films from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  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.

New Downton Abbey Set An Excellent Gift For Fans New And Old

Courtesy:  itv/PBS

Courtesy: itv/PBS

2014 is set to be a big year for Downton Abbey.  PBS’ British import has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the annual awards show.  The series’ fourth season is also set to premiere on PBS in just a matter of days.  The current date for its Season Four premiere is January 5th, 2014.  And Season Four is also currently scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray January 28th, 2014.  So it goes without saying that the show’s fans have a lot to look forward to this Winter.  Before Season Four makes its U.S. premiere, the show’s fans can get caught up thanks to the new three-season gift set on Blu-ray and DVD.  This new set is a great gift for the most devoted of the show’s fans.  Not only does it include the series’ first three seasons together in their own entirety, but it also includes the companion DVD, The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This is the central point of what this latest set offers audiences.  Those that might perhaps be new to Downton Abbey will appreciate in watching this box set the writing.  Most people don’t like the thought of watching a show about rich people.  But once said audiences allow themselves to get past that outer layer, they will be pulled in by the purely human drama that makes up the series’ plot.  The cast’s attire and the overall setting also play into the overall enjoyment of this series.  That together with the solid writing and the box’s bonus material makes this latest box set a wonderful addition to the library of any Downton Abbey fan.

Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 is not the first of the Downton Abbey box sets released in 2013 by PBS and the BBC.  The show’s first two seasons have already been released in a special Blu-ray box set.  So what sets this latest box set apart from that set?  The first thing that audiences will notice is that the first three seasons are all included in this set.  Also included as an added bonus, is the companion documentary The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This documentary had previously only been available as a stand-alone piece on DVD.  Now, it’s included in its proper place with this set for those that want the full show experience.  It’s not all that audiences get as a bonus, either.  There is also episode-specific commentary that adds even more to the overall experience.  It is all packaged in one relatively ergonomic set.  This is the case both with the DVD and Blu-ray box set.  And it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this set, too.

The packaging and bonus features that comprise the Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 box set are important parts of the set’s overall presentation.  One would be remiss though, to ignore the show’s writing and its effect on the series thus far.  Most audiences don’t seem too interested in watching a TV show about a rich family.  The last time that such show had an audience as devoted as this one was the original Dallas, starring the late Larry Hagman.  What sets this rich family apart from the stereotypical aristocratic family is that its members actually don’t feel above everyone else.  The show’s writers actually give the family members a certain heart despite the cultural divide between themselves and the servants that live and work in Highclere Castle.  The family actually does everything to not get rid of the servants even in somewhat difficult financial situations.  While it may not make the family more relatable to average viewers, it does make them more human and in turn, more worthy of praise.  It makes audiences want to find out what happens next within the confines of the story, which goes back to the overall writing.  It makes the stories all the (pardon the term) richer for viewers.  And in turn, it exhibits just why the show is such a favorite among audiences and critics alike.  It shows why this is the center of what makes this new set so worth checking out especially for those that might be new to the world of Downton Abbey.

The writing behind Downton Abbey is some of the purest writing for scripted television shows today.  By comparison, it outshines so much of the programming that pollutes American airwaves today.  In direct relation to the writing, audiences that are new to this hit drama will be impressed by the backdrops and attire used throughout the show’s first three seasons.  It’s obvious that the show’s heads wanted to be as accurate as possible to the series.  They wanted to be respectful both to the show’s history and its fans.  This is something else that audiences will learn about in the set’s bonus material.  It’s nice to see that just as in Mr. Selfridge painstaking efforts were undertaken to make the series as real as possible.  That’s something else that is rarely seen in most American television offerings today.  It makes the series stand out even more.  Along with its equally solid writing and bonus features, it becomes one more part of what is one 2013’s top box sets for adults.  It is available in stores and online now, and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=29630176&cp=&sr=1&kw=downton+abbey&pg=2&origkw=Downton+Abbey&parentPage=search&searchId=29650486.  More information on Downton Abbey is available online at http://www.facebook.com/DowntonAbbey and http://itv.com/downtonabbey.  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 Offering Extensive Coverage Of 2013 Open Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

 

ESPN will broadcast all four rounds of the PGA’s annual Open Championship live next weekend, July 18th – 21st.  ESPN and WatchESPN will have eleven hours of live coverage beginning with the first two rounds July 18th and 19th.  The first two rounds will be broadcast from 4am – 3pm each day.  Saturday’s round three coverage begins at 7am EST and runs through 2:30pm EST.  Round Four cover begins at 6am EST and runs through 1:30 pm EST.

Those that can’t catch coverage when it airs live next weekend need not worry.  All four rounds will be broadcast in an encore presentation.  The live broadcast and encore presentation of The Open are just part of the sixty-five total hours that center on The Open.  Also celebrating the 142nd renewal of one of golf’s biggest tournaments is The Best of The Open Championship.  The encore presentation of this feature has been edited for time.  It will be broadcast next Thursday – Sunday, July 18th – 21st.  the program will be broadcast Thursday – Saturday from 7pm – 10pm EST on ESPN.  Sunday’s broadcast will air on ESPN2 from 9pm – 12am EST.  Fans can get highlights of each day’s best moments on The Open Championship Today from 3pm – 6pm EST July 18th and 19th on ESPN and at the same time on ABC July 20th and 21st.  All broadcasts will be simulcast on ESPN Radio affiliates nationwide, online at ESPNRadio.com and on TheOpen.com.  A full rundown of coverage times and networks is available below.

SportsCenter will have its own special Open Championship coverage live from Scotland’s Muirfield Golf Links.  It will broadcast a one-hour special, SportsCenter at the Open Championship.  The special will air Wednesday, July 17th at 2pm.  There will also be a number of live in-depth reports beginning Monday, July 15th.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will anchor coverage of the broadcasts for the 18th consecutive year.  He will be joined by Scott Van Pelt of ESPN’s SVP and Rusillo.  The pair will be joined by legendary BBC golf broadcaster Peter Alliss Thursday and Friday July 18th and 19th.  Van Pelt will also serve as hole announcer along with reporters Curtis Strange, Dottie Pepper, and Sean McDonough.  Paul Azinger, David Duvall and Peter Alliss will all serve as analysts for the four-day tournament at different times.  Andy North, Judy Rankin, Dottie Pepper, and Bill Kratzert will be on-course reporters.

During coverage of the annual Open Championship, ESPN will use two technologies to help viewers follow every shot throughout the hole.  The first of the technologies, “Virutal Aerial”, examines wind condition throughout the course and its impact on each hole.  The tech debuted at the 2012 Open Championship.  The second of the tech used to bring viewers into the Open is known as “Flight Tracker.”  This real-time feature will be used on six of the match’s holes.  It will create a virtual line allowing viewers to follow the ball from tee to hole on each of the six holes chosen to feature this tech.

Along with all of the in-depth coverage provided by ESPN, ESPN Radio, WatchESPN, and ABC, ESPN Classic will have fifty-five hours of special golf programming in a tribute to The Open in the days leading up to the famed tournament.  It all begins next Monday, July 15th at 11am EST with a broadcast of highlights from the 1978 Open Championship.  That year’s tournament was won by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.  The programming will run straight through 4am on Thursday, July 18th, when ESPN’s coverage of The Open Championship begins.  The new edition of ESPN The Magazine hits newsstands tomorrow, July 12th.  It will have a preview of next week’s match.  In the meantime, a complete broadcast schedule of next week’s Open Championship is available below.

The Open Championship – Muirfield Golf Links, Gullane, Scotland

(all times U.S. Eastern)

Day/Date Program Start Network
Wed., July 17 SportsCenter at The Open Championship 2 p.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 First Round 4 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 First Round 7 a.m. ESPN Radio
Thu., July 18 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Thu., July 18 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Second Round 4 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Second Round 7 a.m. ESPN Radio
Fri., July 19 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Fri., July 19 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sat., July 20 Third Round 7 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sat., July 20 Third Round 9 a.m. ESPN Radio
Sat., July 20 The Open Championship Today 3 p.m. ABC
Sat., July 20 Best of The Open Championship 7 p.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sun., July 21 Final Round 6 a.m. ESPN, WatchESPN
Sun., July 21 Final Round 8 a.m. ESPN Radio
Sun., July 21 The Open Championship Today  3 p.m. ABC
Sun., July 21 Best of The Open Championship 9 p.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Mon., July 22 Best of The Open Championship Noon ESPN2, WatchESPN

There is far more available on The Open On Demand and via other outlets.  For all of that information and more, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/espn and “Like” it or the official ESPN website, http://www.espn.com.

To keep up with all of 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.

ITV Import Another Impressive Addition To PBS’ Programming Lineup

Courtesy:  PBS/itv Studios

Courtesy: PBS/itv Studios

It’s been said time and again that people love a good story.  People also like drama.  So if this is the case, then why is it that so few people are watching PBS?  The network’s recent import of itv Studios’ Mr. Selfridge offers viewers both a good story and more than its share of drama.  The ten-part mini-series is expertly led by veteran actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage, PCU).  His performance in the role of the famed retail magnate on which the mini-series is based is his finest yet.  The same can be said of co-stars Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Madame Bovary), Aisling Loftus (Page Eight), Zoe Tapper (Zen), Katherine Kelly (Coronation Street), Gregory Fitoussi (Spiral), and Trystan Gravelle (Anonymous).  Together with Piven (and the show’s writers), the ensemble crafted a work that fully immerses viewers both male and female into its world and keeps them engaged through each episode.  Of course, one would be remiss to omit any mention of the show’s production values in its success, too.  As viewers will note in the bonus “making of” featurette, painstaking work went into creating a historically accurate world.  The sets and costumes took massive amounts of time to get just right and accurate.  This understanding makes the final product that much more entertaining for those viewers whose minds are open enough.  By the time it’s all said and done, audiences will see that while it is a British import, much as with Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge shows even more the value and importance of PBS.

The choice of bringing in Jeremy Piven to lead the cast for this itv mini-series was the first positive choice in bringing to life Harry Gordon Selfridge’s story.  His portrayal of Selfridge was completely believable.  He presents a man that despite being a strong and self confident businessman on the surface was also emotionally fragile and complex beneath the surface.  He showed that while Selfridge was this larger than life character, he was just as human as anyone else.  It makes him deeply relatable to viewers.  That ability of viewers to relate to Selfridge is the starting point of the show’s success.   Viewers will see this for themselves when they watch the program for themselves.  On a side note, perhaps most intriguing of all about Piven being picked was why he was chosen.  It was noted in the included bonus features that an American actor was specifically wanted to portray Selfridge.  The woman that is interviewed tells viewers in her interview that while there were plenty of British actors that could easily handle an American accent, an American actor was wanted over a British actor for his role.  This is important considering how many British actors have played American roles recently.  Two prime examples would be Christian Bale and Henry Cavill as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman respectively.  There are others, but these are the first two that come to mind.  Keeping this choice in mind, it makes Piven, the show and its heads worthy of even more respect. 

The acting on the part of Jeremy Piven and his co-stars is one of the prime reasons for the success of Mr. Selfridge.  Their ability to interpret the writing will keep viewers fully engaged from the series’ opening minutes to its bittersweet end.  Staying on that note, the writing behind Mr. Selfridge is another reason for the show’s success.  So much goes on throughout the course of the ten episodes that make up this standout British import.  Despite the number of storylines that interweave throughout the primary story, the show’s writers don’t allow the story as a whole to get bogged down even once.  Rather, the script moves fluidly and at a fast pace.  It isn’t too fast to lose viewers, either.  The different storylines incorporated into the bigger picture make the whole thing even more successful in that they will entertain both men and women.  Men will appreciate watching Selfridge’s personal journey from upstart businessman to one of London’s biggest names to an emotionally broken man.  They will enjoy seeing him in his highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Women will enjoy the series’ more soap opera style elements.  There is infighting between the women working the displays.  The infighting is the result of power struggles and to a far greater degree, romantic interests.  Because the storylines are able to keep from bogging down the mini-series as a whole, it allows viewers in general to focus on one more factor that makes Mr. Selfridge even more believable.  That factor is the series’ production values.

Viewers will see the painstaking efforts taken to make every episode believable in the set’s bonus features.  The bonus features included in the set tell a little about a lot.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Those that are interested in set construction and related topics will enjoy the discussions on how a carpet warehouse was turned into the first Selfridge & Co. store.  It’s incredible to think that such an open space could be turned into such a stunning set.  And anyone that has any interest in fashion will appreciate the discussion on making sure that the costumes worn by both the men and women were precise for the period.  Viewers will especially appreciate the discussion on the use of the corsets for women’s attire.  One of the female cast members even states that she liked using the corset and wearing clothes from the period of the story.  Not many women would likely so openly admit this.  But she did.  It’s one more entertaining and enjoyable aspect of the set that proves programming on PBS is just as valuable as any mainstream American dramas.  It is available now and can be ordered from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19273126&cp=&sr=1&kw=selfridge&origkw=Selfridge&parentPage=search.  And for all of the latest update on PBS’ Masterpiece series, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and “Like” it. 

For all of 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.

The Sweeney One Of The Year’s Best Action Flicks

Courtesy:  Entertaniment One

Courtesy: Entertaniment One

The Sweeney is one of the best action movies of 2013.  This direct to DVD and Blu-ray release was not received to the most shining reviews by a  critics in its original release.  Most of the critics that lambasted it did so perhaps not even realizing that it was based on a British crime drama from the 1970s.  Something else that most American critics and audiences perhaps never took into account with this movie is that it (and the TV series on which it is based) is also the basis for the former hit FX series, The Shield.  Taking all of this into account, anyone that is a fan of action flicks and crime dramas, and that is open minded enough will agree that The Sweeney, while not a major motion picture, is just as good as any major theatrical work released by any of Hollywood’s big guns (no pun intended).  Ironically enough, it is noted in the movie’s bonus features that this movie had in fact been eyed by 20th Century Fox and its independent offshoot, Fox Searchlight Pictures, but ended up instead with Entertainment One.  That’s one company’s loss and another’s gain.

What is it that makes The Sweeney so worth the watch?  Let’s start right from the top.  The story is simple.  This is the most obvious factor in the movie’s success.  The story centers on old school cop Jack Regan (Ray Winstone).  Jack hardly goes by the book (sound familiar yet?)  He and his department—The Sweeney—is anything but conventional in its methods.  The thing is that because of its unorthodox methods, it gets set up and put in danger of being disassembled in this story when one of its operations goes wrong, and it’s made to look like it arrested the wrong individuals in a big case.  When Jack is disgraced as a result of this, he sets out to clear not only his name, but that of his squad.  And thanks to the help of a younger member of the squad, he’s able to do just that.  Thus the action ensues, leading up to one of the biggest car chases and shootout scenes that the action genre has seen in a long time.  As a matter of fact, the amount of action in the final climactic shootout and car chase is more than enough to make any action movie buff squeal with glee like a little schoolgirl. 

Understanding the central portion of what makes this story work, one can move on to the movie’s cinematography.  The shooting style moves just as fast as the story.  This helps to really heighten the story’s tension even more.  It’s not one of those movies in which the cameras keep the audience at bay so to speak.  Rather, the cameras are right up there with the squad quite often in an almost guerilla style shooting manner much like that of The Shield.  It is that heightened sense of action that will keep any open minded action movie fan engaged from the movie’s opening fight scene to its final moments.  This is especially the case with the big Trafalgar Square shootout scene.  This scene gets its own bonus feature on the new Blu-ray release.  Anyone that has any interest in cinematography will appreciate the discussion on how this scene started out with actual storyboards and eventually after dealing with certain agencies came to life.  The cast and crew discuss in this feature how this scene alone had been planned and developed for two years.  Keeping this in mind, the final product came out in outstanding fashion.

Staying on the topic of the movie’s bonus features, the bonus features included in the new home release of The Sweeney are extremely in depth.  As already noted, there is an extensive discussion on the massive climactic gun battle at Trafalgar Square that any production nut will appreciate.  It’s just one of the many bonus features included that help enhance the overall viewing experience of this flick.  Also included is a discussion on everything that went into bringing the movie to life, as well as an equally in depth behind the scenes making of featurette.  Fans of the original crime drama will also enjoy the discussion on “The New Regan and Jack” as well as the crew heading to “The Shooting Range.”  Audiences are always crying foul over movies that are not realistic.  While this feature is short, it does add to the ability of a viewer to suspend his or his disbelief.  That’s because audiences see that the crew wanted to get a detail as small as proper weapons handling correct.  They show through this feature that they made the valid attempt to learn how high powered weapons were properly held because of the kick of said weapons.  Big things come in little packages.  And as small as this package was, that tiny, simple factor made a big difference, making the movie so much better and more believable.  It, along with everything else noted that went into bringing The Sweeney to life, makes this movie one of the best action movies of 2013 and one of the best independent movies of the year.  It all came together to make The Sweeney a movie that any action movie fan should see at least once before the year is out.

Action movie fans can order The Sweeney online now at http://www.amazon.com/Sweeney-Blu-ray-Ray-Winstone/dp/B00B999EZS/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1367960408&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Sweeney.  A trailer for the movie is available to watch online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBk8At1YfRI

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.

K-9 Fun For Dr. Who Fans New And Old

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Park Television productions

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Park Television productions

Any pure blooded fan of Dr. Who’s canine companion, K-9 (I am not a dog!)–Sorry, he had to interject, there—is back at last.  K-9: The Complete Series has been made available for audiences in a four-disc set thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory and Park Television Productions.  The twenty-six episode series ran from October 31, 2009 – November 2010 in the U.K.  And now younger audiences who may only know Dr. Who through its more recent re-incarnation on BBC and BBC America will be introduced to this classic Dr. Who character.  In turn, it could lead those same audiences to gain interest in the more classic Dr. Who series.  On the same tip, it could re-ignite the love for the classic series that fans of that series once had while also generating interest both in this spinoff and in the new Dr. Who franchise.  So while it may have only lasted a total of twenty-six episodes, K-9: The Complete Series is a valuable addition to the library of any fan of Dr. Who.

K-9: The Complete Series was originally aimed at younger audiences during its original run overseas.  And while it was aimed at younger audiences, it’s still a fun show for any fan of the seminal sci-fi series.  Fans of the original series will like this updated take on the companion to The Fourth Doctor’s (Played by actor Tom Baker) robotic companion.  Actor John Leeson reprised his role once again for this series.  And yet again, he was the right choice for the job, as he showed that he had just as much chemistry with a new generation of companions (ba-dump-bump-bump) as he did with the original doctors.  He even got the chance to be a little bit edgier than he would have had with K-9’s previous incarnation, since he is working with a group of teens in the setting of late Twenty-First century London.  That more edgy side will especially entertain younger audiences.  And it may be just as entertaining to some older audiences that are more familiar with the original K-9.  They will even be impressed with his updated look, which is explained away through the plot element in the very first episode, ‘Regeneration.’  This instance of K-9 sacrificing himself isn’t the first time that the robotic dog has done so.  Long-time Dr. Who fans will recall that it has done this before.  And just as interesting is that this is one of very few references made to the original Dr. Who series made anywhere in this specific spinoff.  The only fleeting references made to the original series (including in the bonus “Interview with K-9” feature) are a result of broadcasting and distribution rights, allegedly.  But that is not entirely an issue as this series is certain to garner enough interest in that franchise to lead to a younger generation giving that franchise new life.

While there is little to no reference in K-9 to Dr. Who, it doesn’t necessarily need a link to the aforementioned sci-fi hit as it manages to succeed on its own thanks to the show’s writing staff and those behind the show’s production and costumes.  The show—one part Torchwood, and one part Men in Black—starts out as a grouping of stand-alone episodes.  But even when it does start to become a serial, it still manages to maintain its balance of comedy for younger audiences and action for all audiences, thus keeping audiences engaged throughout every episode.  The show’s writers are to be commended for this.  Everything leads up to a number of revelations that no one would have seen coming.  For all the enjoyment that K-9: The Complete Series offers, it’s sad that it only lasted twenty-six episodes.  The final minutes of the series finale were predictable.  But that’s not a bad thing.  If anything, it will leave audiences who have made their way to those moments wish more episodes had been written, as it leaves the door wide open for even more adventures.  One can only hope that perhaps one day those episodes will happen, and when they do, they will be given more opportunity both in the U.K. and here across the pond in the United States.  Until then, audiences finally get to enjoy all twenty-six episodes offered in this collection any time that they want beginning Tuesday, May 7th.  It will be available both in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216940

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com 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.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Coming To TV, DVD, Blu-Ray In January

Courtesy:  BBC/PBS

Courtesy: BBC/PBS

The countdown is on.  For fans of the British drama, Downton Abbey, the show’s third season will finally come to America on Sunday, January 6th on PBS affiliates across the country.  Downton’s second season was met with mixed reviews, but as fans will see in the season premiere of Season Three, things have gotten much better.  Season Three opens where Season Two closed.  Audiences see Lady Mary and Matthew are finally getting ready to get married.  But among all the happiness of the impending nuptials, things at the abbey aren’t entirely rosy.  Financial issues have the fate of Downton Abbey up in the air.  Fans will also find interesting Matthew’s thoughts that maybe he doesn’t want to live at the abbey after he and Lady Mary are wed.  It’s obvious that things at the abbey are changing through this revelation.  And the introduction of Cora’s mother (played wonderfully by veteran actress Shirley MacLaine) makes for the possibility of plenty of great moments of cultural differences between herself and Lady Violet, Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith—Harry Potter).  There is so much more for audiences to look forward to in Season Three’s premiere, and the season’s other episodes, too without giving away too much.  Even more to look forward to is the upcoming release of Downton Abbey Season Three on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

Downton Abbey Season Three will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 29th.  Included in the upcoming release will be a feature on Shirley MacLaine, a standard behind the scenes featurette, and a bunch more.  Fans will be able to order Season Three online at PBS’s online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Gift Set A Good Idea For Any Downton Abbey Fan

Courtesy: PBS

Far too often, British programs get a bad reputation by most American audiences.  But when the hit show, Downton Abbey cleaned up at last year’s awards shows, it proved that British programming still had a place on American airwaves.  Forget that it was largely shut out at this year’s Emmys.  Downton Abbey is more proof of the value of PBS.  And now fans of this standout serial drama can own the show’s first two seasons on Blu-ray in a single set.

PBS released the first two seasons of Downton Abbey to a very special Blu-ray gift set last month.  The set contains every episode aired so far, including the special Christmas episode.  So one who has never seen this show might ask what is the big deal over it, right?  Right.  So much goes into Downton Abbey to make it a show that any drama lover would enjoy.  Yes, it’s a period show.  But as is pointed out in the included “Making of” bonus feature, a lot of work went into maintaining the show’s believability.  The crew behind the show went to painstaking efforts to properly reconstruct the setting inside the house, from the rooms to the costumes, and other even more minute details.  Audiences will gain even more appreciation for every drama filled episode after viewing this bonus feature, and the others.  Each one intertwines with the other and the episodes themselves to make for a fully immersive viewing experience.

The episodes contained in this set, and the included bonus features make for a wonderful viewing experience.  They are just one part of the overall picture that makes this new gift set perfect for any fan of Downton Abbey.  As minute as it is, even the set’s packaging plays a role in its overall success.  The Blu-ray packaging sees the first two seasons distributed across five discs.  Rather than placing them into a bulky box, each disc gets its own space on inserted “leaves.”  This is a doubly positive packaging effort.  On one hand, placing the discs in this fashion protects them, reducing the possibility of each disc being scratched.  This in turn preserves them, allowing them to be viewed for much longer than less wisely packaged discs.  In combination with the safety of the discs, their packaging also makes the overall packaging ergonomically sound.  The manner in which the discs were placed allowed the box in which they were placed to be smaller than other boxes.  This means the box as a whole will take up less space on anyone’s DVD/Blu-ray rack. 

Whether for the packaging or the bonus features, or for the well written episodes themselves, PBS’ new release of Downton Abbey Seasons 1 & 2 comes together to be a good fit for any fan of the show this holiday season.  Fans can avoid the crowds and order it just as easily via PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Secret Life of Birds is feathery family fun

The Iolo Williams hosted and produced Secret Life of Birds was a big hit when it originally aired on BBC in 2010.  Now nature lovers on this side of the pond get the chance to see the five part series in its entirety.  Mill Creek Entertainment has officially released the entire high flying documentary on a single disc.

Secret Life of Birds is a wonderful piece of film making for nature lovers the world over.  Technically, this documentary could be considered a mini-series, as each of its five episodes runs roughly half an hour.  That’s a grand total of two and a half hours.  None of that time is wasted, either.  Host and producer Iolo Williams focuses on one specific part of birds’ lives in each episode.  The whole thing starts off with a look at the importance of the different calls of different birds.  Who ever would have thought that woodpeckers “drumming” was actually a mating call or that certain “songs” from other birds were actually their way of establishing certain spots as their terriroty?  Williams also explains that birds even have specific calls that serve as warnings to birds around.  So what makes this so important?  Simple.  It shows that the “singing” people hear may well be more than mere singing.  It’s actually part of a much larger communication system within the bird world.  This is just one part of a whole documentary that shows just how intelligent and resourceful birds are.

Whether in Wales or elsewhere, birds have to be very resourceful and intelligent in order to survive.  Secret Life of Birds examines what birds have to do to survive both in the wild and in human company.  The documentary’s segment, ‘Living on The Edge’ explains the perils that birds face in order to survive in the wild.  It’s an interesting segment in that it revleas birds have a lot of obstacles and perils.  That’s especially the case in comparison to the mini-series’ final episode, which focuses on the shared relationship of birds and humans within human confines.  Seeing how resourceful birds are within a given city is eye opening.  From adapting their “songs” to deal with the noise of traffic to using discarded materials for food and shelter, to placement of nests, Williams shows viewers that the world of birds is so much more complex and interesting than most people would even begin to think.

The informational content in Secret Life of Birds isn’t all that makes it the enjoyable documentary that it is.  The discography’s cinematography is beautiful.  The contrast of the birds having to live within city limits makes for an interesting juxtaposition.  Even out in the wild, the footage quality is amazing.  It’s even better viewed on an HDTV. 

Secret Life of Birds has so much going for it.  From the footage, to the informational content, this documentary mini-series is a great fit both for the casual viewer and for the seasoned birder.  It’s an equally impressive tool for an educational setting, too.  Regardless of the setting, Secret Life of Birds is one of the best specialized nature documentaries to come along in some time.  And considering that so much of television in the United States is just “reality” shows, it stands out that much more among the flock.