Ireland’s Wild River Is An Example Of A Wildlife Documentary Done Right

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ireland’s Wild River is one of the most enjoyable episodes of PBS’ beloved wildlife series Nature to come along in quite a while. This episode of Nature is such a joy first and foremost because of its approach. There is quite a bit to note on that matter alone. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Nature thanks to the beautiful cinematography. That plays directly into the episode’s approach. One more reason that viewers will enjoy this episode of Nature is its editing. Much like the cinematography, the editing plays directly in to the episode’s overall approach. All three factors together make this episode of Nature one that any viewer should see at least once.

PBS’ Nature has been a hit with viewers for years. That is because of its general approach. It has typically stayed as far as possible from all of the wildlife shows that are based more on personalities (whether on camera or off) than on the animals. Because they focus more on personalities, those same shows take more of an intrusive approach than Nature for lack of better wording. While this episode of Nature actually does have a host of sorts in Colin Stafford-Johnson, he is not the center of attention. Nor does he show any interest in taking center stage. The only time that he is shown is occasionally as he paddles (yes, paddles) along the Shannon. Even his own narration is apart from that of hosts of other wildlife program. That makes this episode even more enjoyable for true nature lovers. His narration isn’t the same high energy approach of so many nature show hosts. Much like the cinematography and companion editing of this episode, Stafford-Johnson’s own narration is low-key and non-intrusive. He takes the angle more of a full-on observer than the standard host that goes in and grabs everything in sight, trying to stay in the camera. It’s one part of the episode’s approach that makes the episode such a joy.

Host Colin Stafford-Johnson’s hands off, observer style approach to Ireland’s Wild River is just one part of what makes this episode of Nature so enjoyable for lovers of any wildlife programming on television. Another, more subtle aspect of the episode’s approach that makes it so enjoyable is in how Stafford-Johnson made his way along the Shannon River. Whereas shows like River Monsters and others are so quick to use motorized boats because they make the show more “sexy” for viewers, Stafford-Johnson gently paddles along in a canoe. It’s a nice change of pace. It shows that Stafford-Johnson isn’t trying to present that same spit-shined, “sexy” appearance of those other shows. And it shows a true reverence for the wildlife along the river, too. He is showing that he doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the wildlife. This is such a welcome alternative to what audiences are accustomed to seeing from nature shows. It makes the episode’s overall approach all the more entertaining for audiences.

The approach taken by Stafford-Johnson and those responsible for the final product here resulted in what is one of the series’ best episodes so far in 2014. That work is not all that makes this episode so enjoyable. Just as important to the overall enjoyment factor is the combined cinematography and editing used for the final product. The shots of Stafford-Johnson paddling gently along the river, and sitting in his canoe among the reeds create such a sense of serenity. There are no overdone pans setting him against the backdrop of the river or other unnecessary flourishes. It’s just straight forward camera work. In terms of flourishes, audiences will like the high speed photography capturing in flight, the many birds that populate the Shannon. Even here, it isn’t overdone. This effect is used just enough to add a little extra “oomph” to the program. And the editing used to transition from one bird to the next adds even more of that feeling.   Just as worth noting is one specific moment in which a shot of a bird on a reed fades to a show of Stafford-Johnson’s silhouette against the setting sun in the sky. Given, it’s a standard edit effect. But it’s the only time that audiences see this effect used, too. Simply put the editing and cinematography are minimized just as much as Stafford-Johnson’s time on camera. There’s no over the top anything here. Everything is balanced just right throughout the course of the program. In the end it’s that balance makes Ireland’s Wild River one of the best episodes of PBS’ Nature yet.

Ireland’s Wild River is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

PBS Marks 50th Anniversary Of Freedom Summer With New Episode Of American Experience

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS announced this week, the upcoming home release of another episode of its series American Experience.

PBS will release American Experience: Freedom Summer June 24th on DVD. The documentary takes viewers back to the Summer of 1964, recalling the events that would change America forever over a mere ten weeks. It was over those ten weeks that the civil rights movement took a big turn. Over seven hundred student volunteers joined forces with organizers and local members of the African American community in Mississippi to establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and Freedom Schools throughout the state. The goal of the movement was to challenge the state’s already established Democratic Party at the DNC in Atlantic City that year.

The efforts of Freedom Summer organizers and student volunteers were met with a lot of resistance. Three civil rights workers were killed that year. There were also numerous beatings. And some thirty-five churches were burned. A total of seventy homes and community centers were bombed in the process, too. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders, the Murder of Emmitt Till) directed this documentary. Till takes viewers through the dramatic events of the Freedom Summer, from the violence to the efforts to get African Americans registered to vote and everything in between. It shows the sheer complexity of the movement to end segregation in America.

American Experience: Freedom Summer retails for $24.99. It can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at,, and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

PBS Kids Announces Release Date, Info For Latest Arthur DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS

PBS Kids will release the latest Arthur DVD next month.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 13th. The DVD includes four more episodes of the family favorite series based on author Marc Brown’s beloved literary series. Those four episodes are: “Arthur Makes a Movie”, “Go To Your Room, D.W.”, “Agent of Change”, and “D.W. Unties The Knot.” The DVD will retail for an SRP of $9.99.

In the title episode of the new DVD, Arthur and his friends decide to make their very own movie since they’re not old enough to see a real “James Hound” movie. Muffy Crosswire takes the helm and taps Arthur to play the lead role in the kids’ movie. However, things don’t go exactly as planned when the kids try to put their plan in action.

“Go To Your Room D.W.” tackles a very familiar subject for audiences of all ages when four-year old D.W. is sent to her room by her parents. D.W. has to stay in her room for ten whole minutes! That’s a lot for a four-year old. And it’s just enough time for a four-year old to ruminate on his (or in this case her) difficult childhood, and plan a life away from home. D.W. finds out the reality of trying to run away when she tries to put her plan in action and the folly of her decision in this episode sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

“Agents of Change” is another episode that audiences of all ages will enjoy. It tackles the subject of gender inequality in the movie industry. After Francine and Muffy go to see a movie about a boy and his truck, they are left rather disenfranchised. So they set out to make their own movie that focuses on a strong female lead. They are joined by Molly, who helps to handle the movie’s artwork. With Molly on board, the trio set out to make their very own movie with interesting results.

Wedding season is just around the corner. So what better way to close out Arthur Makes A Movie than with an episode titled, “D.W. Unties The Knot?” In this episode, D.W. decides to get married after watching “The Wedding Channel.” There’s just one problem. D.W. being a child, she doesn’t fully graspt everything that goes into a wedding and what exactly a wedding is or what it represents. She ends up realizing she’s gotten herself in much deeper than she ever imagined. So she’s left to figure out how to get everything back to how it was.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be available Tuesday, May 13th. It can be pre-ordered now via the PBS online store at More information on this and other Arthur DVDs is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

PBS Kids Announces Release Date, Info For New Martha Speaks Compilation DVD

Courtesy;  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy; PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids has announced that it will release a brand new DVD from its family favorite series Martha Speaks next month.

Martha Speaks: Martha’s Superhero Adventures will be available May 13th. The new single-disc compilation features six episodes from the series. It will retail for an SRP of $9.99. The six episodes include with this compilation are: “Martha The Hero Maker”, “Starstruck Martha”, “Return of the Bookbots: The Case of the Missing Words Part One”, “Return of the Bookbots: The Case of the Missing Words Part Two”, “Verb Dog: When Action Calls”, and “Martha’s Adverb Adventure.” It will also feature coloring pages and activities for children, and resources for parents.

“Martha The Hero Maker” sees Martha come up with an idea for a new adventure story.  She shares her story with Truman, T.D., and Helen. The trio starts drawing the story for Martha. There’s just one problem. When they work on the story for Martha, they each start to add their own element to Martha’s original story. Those extra elements include: butter, a ground squirrel, and the Incredible Exo-Skeleton-of-Wow. Things only get more wild from there as art starts to mirror reality in more ways than one.

In “Starstruck Martha”, Martha gets stars in her eyes when a famous Collie named Courageous Collie Carlo comes to town. In her attempts to meet Carlos, Martha inadvertently reveals that Carlo isn’t as courageous as he seems. So it’s up to Martha to save Carlo’s reputation. Otherwise, Carlo’s TV career could be history.

The Announcer takes center stage in the two part Episode, “Return of the Bookbots.” Martha and her friends have to stop The Announcer in this episode after he goes on a rampage through Wagstaff City, bringing nouns to life from books. It’s up to Martha to lead the charge against the Announcer once and for all in this episode.

The last of this compilation’s episodes, “Martha’s Adverb Adventure”, brings back the villainous Weaselgraft and Pablum. The pair develop a new invention called The Adverbalizer in this episode that is sure to make them rich. That is because The Adverbalizer can actually activate adverbs. It allows the holder of the Adverbalizer to make things happen completely, sloppily, and instantly. Not realizing its true potential, T.D. orders an Adverbalizer, causing all kinds of problems immediately.

Martha Speaks: Martha’s Superhero Adventures can be pre-ordered online via the PBS online store at More information on this and other Martha Speaks DVDs is available online at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Downton Abbey Even “Richer” In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy: PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

The fourth season of Downton Abbey is another success for the hit imported drama.  Yes, it is one more serial.  But unlike so many of the serials that dominate American television, this serial has actually stepped it up once again.  The show’s writers have made the series’ progression feel natural. Just as important in the success of Season Four is the work of those in the show’s costume department.  Just as the writing has helped the show progress, the costume design department has progressed with the writing.  The acting on the part of the cast continues to shine, too.  There is far more to consider than just the work of the actors, writers, and costume department in the success of Downton Abbey Season Four.  That would take far too much time and space than is available.  Needless to say, the three factors noted here collectively are more than enough reason to purchase or order this latest season of PBS’ hit imported drama.

Serials are all the rage on American television.  So it leaves one wondering why the “Big 4” have ignored Downton Abbey leaving it instead to PBS for four seasons now.  It’s the loss of the “Big 4” and the gain of PBS, proving once again the need and importance of public broadcasting.  Now in its fourth season, Downton Abbey is still just as enjoyable as it was in its first season.  The primary reason for that is the series’ writing.  The show’s writers have continued to make the show’s progression feel entirely natural now in its fourth season.  Put simply, the writers don’t make viewers feel like they absolutely must watch from week to week to keep up with everything going on even now in the show’s fourth season.  That’s what separates this drama from all of the serials that dominate American television.  Viewers can tune in and miss a week here or there and still be able to have a relatively good idea of what is going on.  By direct connection, those charged with keeping the series believable in terms of its look have helped the show‘s progression, too.

Audiences that have watched Downton Abbey since its very first season will recall the time and place in which the series began.  Those audiences will notice that those charged with maintaining the cast’s attire have gone to great lengths to keep the cast’s attire proper for the times.  From the women’s flapper attire to the men’s dresswear, it’s obvious that the costume department’s heads wanted to maintain viewers’ suspension of disbelief.  And considering just how few studio execs and moviemakers today care about maintaining the accuracy of their period pieces, it’s wonderful to see that at least someone cares.  It serves so well to help pull viewers into the series and make them feel like they are actually there and not just watching it on television.  It’s just one more part of why DA’s fans will appreciate this latest season.

The work of the costume department and the writers behind Downton Abbey work in tandem to make the series just as enjoyable in its fourth season as it was in its debut season.  As impressive as the writing and costuming are in Season Four, one would be remiss to ignore the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast has once again expertly interpreted the writers’ scripts.  Michelle Dockery instantly pulls at viewers’ heartstrings as the now widowed Lady Mary.  Lady Mary is now faced in Season Four, with raising a child alone as her husband has been killed.  And Maggie Smith’s return as Dowager Countess of Grantham is one of the season’s highest points.  She continues to prove why she is one of the leading actresses in the industry today.  Even the servants show their acting prowess.  From romance plot lines to a maid that has a serious attitude problem, they pull in viewers just as much as the rest of the cast that fills Highclere Castle.  Viewers will each find their favorite moments from the cast throughout Season Four when they order and purchase this box set for themselves.  Audiences will also see for themselves just why the costume department and the series’ staff of writers deserve their share of credit, too this season.  It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at  Fans can follow Downton Abbey online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

PBS Still The Science Standard INew Episode Of NOVA

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Asteroids have been objects of fascination for mankind for ages.  They have been the focus of any number of disaster movies.  And they have been the center of discussion for just as many scientists throughout the years.  Now thanks to PBS’ NOVA, audiences have been presented with what is the most straight forward and honest look at the good and bad of asteroids in NOVA: AsteroidDoomsday or Payday?  This episode of NOVA is well worth the watch first and foremost because as the episode’s title infers, it is balanced in its examination of asteroids.  By direct relation, the organization of the near hour-long program makes it just as enjoyable for audiences.  Making everything complete in this episode of NOVA are the visual aids used to help illustrate the discussion.  All three of these factors each play their own role in the success of the program.  Together, they continue to prove why NOVA continues to stand tall as television’s best science-based program to this day.

The first and most important aspect of NOVA: Asteroid Doomsday or Payday? that plays into its success is the fact that it is balanced in its examination of the good and bad of asteroids.  It doesn’t try to be like all of the over-the-top documentaries churned out by History Channel and Discovery Channel or even any of the excessively over the top movies and made-for-TV movies about asteroids that have ever been created.  It specifically examines the dangers of asteroids as well as their potential benefits to humans.  It even takes time near the program’s end to explain how the potential benefits of asteroids could even play a role in being able to deflect them from Earth’s orbital path.  It does all of this without any overly sensationalized writing to try and make it “sexy” for viewers for lack of better wording.  Even better about the writing is that not only does it not try to be “sexy”, it is also not above the heads of average viewers. That ease of accessibility for viewers is just the starting point to the success of this episode of NOVA.

The balanced writing in NOVA: AsteroidDoomsday or Payday? is central to the success of this episode of PBS’ hit science series.  By direct relation, the program’s organization makes it just as enjoyable.  The program starts off by explaining the history of the relationship of sorts between Earth and the asteroids that have both hit and come close to hitting the planet.  From there, it goes on to explain the modern methods used to track asteroids and even the possible future of tracking and stopping them; especially the ones that have previously eluded detection by Earth’s many satellites and observatories. The general progression takes viewers into the most discussed theories as to how to keep asteroids from potentially hitting Earth.  It all winds up with a discussion on how mankind could potentially mine asteroids for their water and mineral wealth all while diverting them from a path that would otherwise intersect with Earth.  Each segment clearly progresses from the last. This keeps audiences fully engaged throughout the course of the episode’s near hour-long run time.  That maintained engagement also leads viewers to note one more positive to this presentation.  That positive is the collective visual aids used throughout the feature.

The balanced writing and equally balanced segmentation of this episode of NOVA work in unison to show once more why NOVA continues to stand tall as the best pure science-based program on television today.  There is one more aspect of this episode that should be taken into account in the overall success of this episode of course.  That aspect is the collective visual aids used to help illustrate each discussion.  Whereas certain other commercial-based shows that try to call themselves science-based programming use over the top slow motion graphics and computer generated simulations, NOVA has a long-standing tradition of being as minimalist as possible in the use of such elements.  This episode of NOVA is no different.  Audiences are presented with CG based video of possible devices that could be used to potentially mine asteroids.  It also shows through unadorned high speed footage, a demonstration by a NASA scientist of the effect of both trying to destroy asteroids and nudge an asteroid.  There were no extra bows and whistles. The gentleman in question, aided by an assistant, recorded two different scale models of an asteroid being hit by two different size objects.  Simply put, the visual aids used in this episode were used sparingly like a fine spice.  They were tossed in just enough to keep viewers engaged, just as with the episode’s writing and organization.  Each of the factors noted here are integral pieces of the whole that make this episode of NOVA well worth the watch.  There are even more factors that audiences will themselves enjoy when they order this DVD for themselves.  It can be ordered online now direct from the PBS online store at

Audiences can find out more about NOVA: AsteroidDoomsday or Payday? and other episodes of NOVA online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Meet The Coywolf Takes A Different Look At Human, Animal Interactions

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Meet The Coywolf is an interesting addition to the network’s wildlife series Nature.  It is an interesting addition to the beloved series first and foremost because of its writing.  Just as important to keeping audiences engaged throughout the course of the program’s near hour-long run time is its editing.  The visuals used in conjunction with the program’s writing make it all the more interesting to watch.  The visual aids used in certain segments round out the presentation, making it complete and completely worth watching.  It is available now on DVD.

The first aspect of Meet The Coywolf that makes it so interesting is its writing.  This episode of Nature, which is based on a book by the same name, introduces the hybrid animal to many audiences for the very first time.  At the same time, it explains how humans within the territories of the coywolf are meeting them at an increasing rate, too.  Most interesting of all is that by and large, this episode of Nature takes the high road.  Instead of being preachy, it is presented from a primarily objective standpoint.  It shows how citizens of two totally separate regions hundreds of miles apart are living in closer and closer proximity to coywolves.  Despite that proximity to one another, the two sides seem to live peacefully alongside the other.  There’s no sense of preaching to audiences for the most part.  The closest that this episode comes to preaching is a point at which it is noted a male coywolf was killed by a police officer because the unnamed officer thought the coywolf was acting aggressively toward him.  As was pointed out, the reality is that the coywolf was merely protecting his mate and child because he felt the officer was too close to them.  That is the extent of the episode’s subjective commentary.  Other than that, this episode is objective.  That objectivity is the key to the program’s ability to reach the level which it reaches.

The writing behind Meet The Coywolf is key to its ability to reach viewers.  By direct connection, the program’s editing is just as important to the episode’s overall presentation.  Editor Janet Hess did a wonderful job of presenting footage in their natural habitats and even within the confines of the human world.  It’s interesting to see just how close the two worlds come to one another on a daily basis.  She also clearly presents the avenues taken to track the wolves in hopes of gathering information that could be used to help protect them.  Simply put, she has worked with writer Siobhan Flanagan to present a fully unbiased and informed episode that serves as the basis for what could be a much deeper future episode.

The writing and editing that make up Meet the Coywolf are both equally important to making this episode of Nature engaging for viewers.  There is one more aspect to this episode that makes it engaging for viewers.  That aspect is the visual aids.  More specifically, the CG maps outlining the coywolves’ territories make the program more engaging.  The maps tie right in to the episode’s editing because they are used to help illustrate the extent of the coywolves’ territories even within the confines of a city.  It’s incredible to see the expanse of those territories as they are tracked by the individuals watching them.  It shows the wolves’ ability to adapt to their surroundings and thrive.  That is the ultimate statement to this episode of Nature.  Even though humans and coywolves are living in increasingly close proximity to one another, the coywolves have shown their ability to adapt and survive.  And as long as there is understanding of them, they will continue to survive and thrive.  Audiences will understand this and more themselves when they order this program on DVD now.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at  More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

At The Edge Of Space Is 2014′s First Great Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

At The Edge of Space is the first really enjoyable documentary of 2014.  This episode of PBS’ hit science based series NOVA is the prime example of what makes the series such a hit even after so many years.  This episode is so enjoyable first and foremost because it is one that connects to more than just one audience.  It will impress both lovers of science in general and of the meteorological sciences.  Its ability to connect to more than just one audience base is the foundation of this documentary’s enjoyment.  The visuals used throughout the near hour-long program add even more enjoyment to the whole thing.  Rounding out the episode’s positives, none of the concepts discussed throughout the program are over the heads of viewers.  The visuals used throughout the program play a part in that ease of understanding, too. That ease of understanding, the visuals, and the fact that it can so easily reach more than just one audience group makes At The Edge of Space a complete joy for any science nut and weather nut. It all makes this program the first truly enjoyable documentary of 2014.

The title chosen for At The Edge of Space is somewhat misleading.  This has apparently upset some viewers.  However, it is misleading in a good thing.  That’s because unlike previously released documentaries from PBS, the reality of this program is that it isn’t just another program about space and what goes on right at its edge.  If anything, this episode of NOVA is centered more on the meteorological sciences than on general science.  That in itself is a huge positive to this episode.  It actually reaches multiple audiences.  The main focus on the program is the search for the elusive “sprite” which is created above thunderstorms.  Some have complained that the search for “sprites” is the only focus of the program.  Given, it does take up much of the program.  However, as audiences will notice in giving the program its full time, that search is just one of many.  As one scientist notes late in the program, it’s only one of so many phenomenon that take place near the edge of space.  There are “blue jets” and all kinds of other phenomenon that go on in Earth’s upper atmosphere, including the awe inspiring aurora borealis.  Yes, even that is discussed.  And by direct connection, the sun’s impact on the aurora borealis is also discussed.  There is even discussion on how all of these occurrences reflect the overall health of the earth.

It goes without saying that despite the view of some, this episode of NOVA covers a lot of ground.  In the process, it sets the groundwork for potentially other episodes, too.  It even does all this without getting bogged down in itself.  This is a side note of course.  But it is just as important a factor as anything else.  That’s because of the fact that there is so much information compressed into this one episode.  It goes to show the continued tradition of professionalism established early on by those behind the series.  For that reason, it is made even more enjoyable and useful both in the classroom and the living room.

The immaculate organization of the information contained in At The Edge of Space and the fact that it can reach multiple audiences are obviously important to the overall success and enjoyment of this episode of NOVA.  The visuals used throughout the program are equally important to that level of success.  Audiences actually get to ride along with the scientists that go out in search of the elusive “sprites” that explode from the tops of massive thunderstorm systems.  To actually see these bursts of electrical energy first hand is incredible.  Those behind the program make it easier to understand how “sprites” form through the use of computer generated graphics.  It really helps in the discussion of how this bizarre form of lightning comes to life so to speak.  Some will be truly surprised to see that even above the cloud level, this form of lightning doesn’t form necessarily from the clouds themselves.  Rather, they form between clouds and the upper atmosphere because of electrical charges sent up from the clouds in a channel of sorts.  Viewers see this first hand thanks to high speed footage shot through the search for “sprites.”  It’s just one more of so many visual aids that enhance the viewing experience of At The Edge Of Space.

The visuals incorporated into At The Edge of Space are massively important to the overall viewing experience of the program.  They are another part of the impressive amount of information compiled for this episode of NOVA. And their ability to make the concepts discussed easier to understand makes them all the more important.  Speaking of that ease of understanding, the visuals aren’t all that make the topics easy to understand throughout this episode. The topics themselves are discussed at a level that the average viewer can understand.  Some episodes of NOVA admittedly present information that might be above some viewers’ heads.  That isn’t the case with this episode.  Everything presented within this episode is easy to understand for even the most casual viewer.  Whether it be how “sprites” and the aurora borealis form or even how the earth’s own atmosphere plays a role in each one, it is all easy enough to understand.  Add in the program’s meticulous organization and the visual aids, and audiences get an episode of NOVA that is one of its best of the year and a program that is the first truly enjoyable documentary of the year, too. It will be available, Tuesday, February 25th.  It can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

The Amish Shunned Shows The True Reality Of Amish Life

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS proved time and again throughout 2013 why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile educational programming. Where History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel have all allowed themselves to fall victim to the plague that is “reality television”,PBS has stayed the course, standing tall while the aforementioned networks have become but pale shells of what they once were. As 2014 is still in its infancy, PBS continues to prove to audiences why it sits atop the broadcast spectrum with the release of the latest piece in its American Experience series, The Amish Shunned. The first part of this presentation that audiences will appreciate is the stories shared by those on both sides of the divide. Audiences won’t find any Breaking Amish or Amish Mafia style stories here. What audiences get in this presentation is real reality. Just as key to this new documentary is its editing. The entire presentation runs roughly two hours. The manner in which the documentary was edited goes a long way toward keeping viewers engaged throughout the course of the program. The last piece of the whole that makes The Amish Shunned is the cinematography. The work of those behind the cameras works directly with the editing and the storytelling to make this piece another impressive presentation from PBS proving why it remains the last bastion of true worthwhile programming.


The stories presented in The Amish Shunned are the central piece of the whole that makes this program well worth watching. They are nothing like the overhyped, over the top drama ofAmish Mafia and Breaking Amish. Instead, viewers see the true emotional impact on young Amish individuals in their decisions to leave their communities. Right from the program’s outset, audiences are introduced to a young Amish girl that had made the decision to leave her community. It’s shocking to learn the lengths to which she had to go in order to make her escape. Just as eye-opening is the revelation of how she (and other Amish individuals) initially feel a certain amount of guilt for leaving the Amish church despite knowing they need to break away. Her story of her departure from the Amish church is just one of many that are shared over the course of this program’s roughly two hour run time. Each of the stories shared by those that have left the Amish church presents more drama than audiences will ever get from those shows on Discovery and TLC. They are far more moving, too.


The stories shared by the subjects in The Amish Shunned are in themselves quite moving and powerful. Making the stories so powerful in part is the program’s editing. Editor Rachel Clark is to be commended for her work. The transitions from one subject’s story to the next are clear and solid. On top of that, her ability to reach the emotional heart of each story with her editing is to be applauded. As audiences will notice throughout each story, footage of daily life within the Amish community is used to heighten the emotional depth of each story. And it works quite well. On a more subtle yet important level, audiences that watch closely will notice that the face of the program’s first subject is shown a little more each time she is re-introduced each time throughout the program. This editing illustrates how she is becoming increasingly open to her new lifestyle and feeling less guilty for having broken away from the Amish church and culture. As subtle as it is, it is a powerful statement. And it’s just one of so much expert editing done throughout this piece that audiences will appreciate about this new release.

The editing and storytelling both are integral pieces to the overall presentation that is The Amish Shunned. Just as key to the overall presentation is the camera work. The work of those behind the cameras works in direct connection with the documentary’s editing. The wide shots of the Amish countryside are outstanding to say the very least. The serenity portrayed in those shots in comparison to those of the city life that the program’s subjects have taken will actually lead some to wonder in the backs of their minds why in fact they would leave such peace and serenity.  That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have.  But it definitely opens the door for some discussion.  It’s just one of so many examples of how effective the cinematography was in this piece.  There is much more worth noting in terms of the documentary’s cinematography.  And audiences will find out just how much more there is to note when they order the program for themselves.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at  More information on this and other documentaries from PBS’ American Experience is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Celtic Woman Announces New Album, Live DVD, Tour

Courtesy:  Manhattan Records/Blue Note Records

Courtesy: Manhattan Records/Blue Note Records

Music phenomenon Celtic Woman returns this Winter in a big way.  The four-piece will release a new album and DVD titled Emerald: Musical Gems Tuesday February 25th.  The new album and DVD will be released via Manhattan Records.  The dual release is a greatest hits package from the quartet includes hits such as ‘Mo Ghile Mear’, ‘Dulaman’, ‘She Moves Through The Fair’, ‘Caladonia’ and its own take on the timeless classic ‘Danny Boy’ among many more.  Fans can also look forward to the group’s new takes on ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘You Raise Me Up’ on the new dual release.  The combo release can be pre-ordered now online via Amazon and Target at and respectively.  The track listing for both the CD and DVD are available below.


1.     Mo Ghile Mear

2.     Dúlaman

3.     Caladonia

4.     Amazing Grace

5.     The New Ground

6.     She Moved Through The Fair

7.     Bridge Over Troubled Water

8.     Níl Sé’n Lá

9.     Danny Boy

10.   The Voice

11.   The Parting Glass

12.   You Raise Me Up



2.     DULAMAN




6.     DANNY BOY




10.   NIL SE’N LA









3.     AVE MARIA


Emerald: Musical Gems is not all that fans of Celtic Woman have to anticipate this year.  The group will follow up its upcoming dual release with a new PBS special, too.  The trailer for that special can be viewed online via YouTube now at

Celtic Woman’s upcoming live DVD, EMERALD: Musical Gems Live in Concert was recorded in 2013 in South Bend, IL, the home of the University of Notre Dame.  The production was recorded under the direction of Emmy® Award-winning music producer David Downes.  Downes previously served as music director for the famed Irish dance phenomenon Riverdance.

Downes discussed the new release in a recent interview.  He explained what the opportunity meant for him and what it will mean for Celtic Woman’s fans.  “Creating the new show allowed me the opportunity to revisit and re-imagine some of our most popular Irish songs, as well as writing some exciting new material for the show” said Downes.  “With all-new performances of these great songs—Emerald has created a whole new experience for both our longstanding fans, and for those who have just discovered our music. This is a Celtic Woman experience that will soothe the soul and have you dancing in the aisles!”

In coordination with the new releases and PBS special, Celtic Woman also has announced details for a seventy-five date North American tour that will run from February 14th – June 3rd.  The tour includes a trio of dates in North Carolina.  The first of those dates sees Celtic Woman perform at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday, March 6th.  From there, Celtic Woman will move on to perform at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, North Carolina on Friday, March 7th and the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) on Saturday, March 8th.

The complete tour schedule is listed below.



Nashville, TN

Tennessee Performing Arts Center


Nashville, TN

Tennessee Performing Arts Center


Huntsville, AL

Von Braun Center


Montgomery, AL

Montgomery Performing Arts Centre


Macon, GA

Macon City Auditorium


Pensacola, FL

Saenger Theatre


Clearwater, FL

Ruth Eckerd Hall


Melbourne, FL

Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts


Lakeland, FL

Lakeland Center


Daytona, FL

Peabody Auditorium


Jacksonville, FL

Times-Union Center For The Performing Arts


Gainesville, FL

Curtis M. Phillips Center


Columbia, SC

Township Auditorium


N. Charleston, SC

North Charleston Performing Arts Center


Charlotte, NC

Ovens Auditorium


Asheville, NC

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium


Durham, NC

Durham Performing Arts Center


Roanoke, VA

Roanoke Civic Center


Richmond, KY

EKU Center For The Arts


Elizabeth, IN

The Showroom At Horseshoe Southern Indiana


St. Louis MO

Fox Theatre


Green Bay, WI

Weidner Center for the Performing Arts


St. Paul, MN

Xcel Energy Center


Saskatoon, SK

TCU Place – Sid Buckwold Theatre


Edmonton, ON

Edmonton Expo Centre


Calgary, AB

Jack Singer Concert Hall


Abbotsford, BC

Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre


Everett, WA

Comcast Arena at Everett


Eugene, OR

Hult Center for the Performing Arts


Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Memorial Auditorium


Oakland, CA

Paramount Theatre


Ontario, CA

Citizens Business Bank Arena


San Diego, CA

San Diego Symphony Hall


Costa Mesa, CA

Segerstrom Center for the Arts


Tucson, AZ

Tucson Music Hall


Tempe, AZ

ASU Gammage Auditorium


Albuquerque, NM

Popejoy Hall


El Paso, TX

Plaza Theatre


Houston, TX

Hobby Center


Corpus Christi, TX

American Bank Center – Selena Auditorium


San Antonio, TX

Majestic Theatre


Tulsa, OK

Mabee Center


Denver, CO

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts


Greeley CO

Union Colony Civic Center – Monfort Concert Hall


Cheyenne, WY

Cheyenne Civic Center Performing Arts Theatre


Colorado Springs, CO

Pikes Peak Center


Lawrence, KS

Lied Center of Kansas


Sioux City, IA

Orpheum Theatre


Duluth, MN

Symphony Hall


Rockford, IL

Coronado Performing Arts Center


Peoria, IL

Peoria Civic Center


Milwaukee, WI

Riverside Theater


Evansville, IN

The Centre


Detroit, MI

Fox Theatre


Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan Theater


Saginaw, MI

The Dow Event Center – The Heritage Theater


Columbus, OH

Palace Theatre


Cincinnati, OH

Aronoff Center for the Arts


Akron, OH

Akron Civic Theatre


Pittsburgh, PA

The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts


Dayton, OH

Schuster Performing Arts Center


Williamsport, PA

Community Arts Center


New York, NY

Radio City Music Hall


Washington, DC

Warner Theatre


Baltimore, MD

The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center


Burlington, VT

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts


Bangor, ME

Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion


Albany, NY

Palace Theatre


Red Bank, NJ

Count Basie Theater


Red Bank, NJ

Count Basie Theater


Lancaster, PA

American Music Theater


More information on Celtic Woman’s upcoming CD/DVD, PBS special, tour and more is available online at, http://www.facebook.comcelticwoman and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at