PBS To Release New Bing Crosby Documentary This Fall

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS announced Wednesday that it will release a new documentary centered on legendary entertainer Bing Crosby this fall.

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered will be released on DVD Tuesday, December 2nd. The documentary focuses on Crosby’s role in the entertainment industry during his career. It also takes a look at the man behind the legend. Veteran actor Stanley Tucci (Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Hunger Games, The Terminal) narrates the program. All of the surviving members of Crosby’s family—his wife Kathryn, daughter Mary, and sons Harry and Nathaniel–are featured in interviews included throughout the program. Fellow entertainers Tony Bennett and Michael Feinstein also share their reflections on Crosby and his legacy along with producer Ken Barnes, biographer Gary Giddins, and writers Buz Kohan and Larry Grossman. Emmy Award-winning director Robert Trachtenberg helms the documentary. It will not be the first time that Trachtenberg has helmed an episode of American Masters. He also helmed episodes that focused on the likes of Cary Grant, Mel Brooks, and fellow acclaimed director George Cukor.

Trachtenberg discussed his thoughts on this latest episode of American Masters. He noted that it was not just Crosby’s achievements as an entertainer that lured him to the project, but who Crosby was out of the limelight that interested him in. “Bing’s remarkable appeal, which continues to this day, was in his seemingly effortless ability to pull an audience in to his intimate, laid-back voice,” he said. He added to that thought, saying, “With the new material I’ve found, I think the breadth, depth and candor of his story will hopefully allow people to see him in a new light.” American Masters Executive Producer Michael Kantor echoed Trachtenberg’s thoughts, noting, “Much like his talent, Bing Crosby is a natural for the series. With more No. 1 recordings than anyone, it is easy to overlook all of his other achievements. Thankfully, this film delves deeply into all of his remarkable work, and will surprise many viewers with a unique perspective on his private life.”

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered will be available Tuesday, December 2nd on DVD and on DVD/CD combo pack. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=bing%20crosby%20rediscovered&origkw=bing+crosby+rediscovered&sr=1. More information on this and other episodes of American Masters is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters

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

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.

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.

Al Capone: Icon Is A Welcome Watch For Any Lover Of Crime History

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Al Capone is one of the most revered and reviled figures in American history.  He has been the inspiration behind countless biographies and crime histories and some of the most well-known gangsters and mobsters throughout Hollywood’s rich history.  And that is just the tip of the massive iceberg that is Capone’s life.  There is much more to his life that many people might not know going all the way back to his childhood.  Now thanks to PBS, the world will finally get a much deeper look at Capone, his meteoric rise to the top of the crime world, and his equally surprising end in the new documentary Al Capone: Icon.  The amount of information shared through the course of this documentary is the central point of its success.  It doesn’t just focus on his legend.  Rather it goes behind that legend and shows how the man became the myth.  Al Capone: Icon boasts quite a bit of background on Capone, his life, and legacy.  Another reason that audiences will take to Al Capone: Icon is the program’s pacing.  The program’s pacing does move at a somewhat fast pace.  But it isn’t so fast as to lose audiences along the way.  And last to note is the inclusion of actual photos and footage to help illustrate the story.  All three aspects noted here are important in their own way to the success of the overall presentation that is Al Capone: Icon.  Collectively, they make the documentary in whole one that any lover of crime history will enjoy.

The central point of success in Al Capone: Icon is the amount of information shared throughout the program.  To say that there is a lot of content here would be an understatement.  The program starts at Capone’s childhood, growing up in one of New York’s poorer areas and proceeds to follow his life all the way to his adult life and his eventual, surprising end.  Needless to say, Capone didn’t go out in a blaze of glory unlike perhaps John Dillinger.  Rather his end came with a proverbial whimper.  But during his life, he was seen both as a man of the people and as one of America’s most reviled figures at another point.  That image was all thanks to the work of law enforcement and government officials alike.  And audiences will learn all about that, too.  From the image of Capone himself to the glorification of mobsters in the movies, the government played a big role in how America viewed Capone then and even today.  Speaking of movies, the “experts” brought in to discuss Capone also break the myth of Elliot Ness and the famed “Untouchables.”   Again, there is a lot of information shared throughout the course of this program.   There is in fact, so much information, that those behind the documentary’s creation are forced to move at a somewhat quick pace.  The pace isn’t too fast for viewers to keep up.  But it is fast nonetheless.  And that is the second aspect of this documentary that makes it work.

Al Capone: Icon is a very deep presentation in terms of the amount of information provided throughout the program’s roughly hour-long run time.  It doesn’t just focus on Capone as an individual.  It focuses on his impact on the nation’s culture, and on how that impact led to the government’s focus on him.  It goes without saying that with all of that information, there is a lot to go through.  That forces the program to move at a relatively brisk pace.  As fast as it moves, it doesn’t move so fast as to lose audiences along the way.  Though, audiences shouldn’t go into the presentation thinking that they can just sit back and watch it.  They will have to invest themselves at least to some level.  Keeping everything noted in mind, it might actually have better in hindsight for all involved to spread the program across two discs rather than try to get it all into a single disc.  But it is what it is.  And for what it is, the end product still works well enough to be worth the watch.

The amount of information included over the course of Al Capone: Icon and the pace at which that information is discussed are both important to the overall success of the program.  Somehow, those behind the program managed to balance the two elements.  One element that didn’t require such attention but still helped the overall presentation was the inclusion of actual prohibition-era footage along with photos of Capone throughout the stages of his life.  The use of these elements enhanced the overall presentation to make the story all the richer for those that might not know but so much of Al Capone’s life and how he and the country influenced one another.  Gritty pictures from the now infamous St Valentines Day Massacre are included as are pictures of Capone throughout his life from childhood to adulthood. There is also footage of the speakeasies that Capone helped run and even a soup kitchen that it was said Capone helped open and operate with his ill-gotten gains.  Interestingly enough, audiences will learn as part of the documentary’s included mass of information, that the soup kitchen in question was used solely as a prop of sorts to help his public image.  That goes right back to the rather impressive amount of information shared throughout the program.  And that information along with the program’s pacing and the included footage and pictures collectively make the program worth a watch by any lover of crime history.

The amount of information that spans this program’s roughly hour-long run time is impressive to say the least.  Those that are less familiar with the life and times of Al Capone will appreciate just how much information fills that run-time.  In watching the program, those same audiences will appreciate the brisk but not too fast pace at which the program advances.  And last but not least, the inclusion of actual prohibition-era footage and photos enhances the overall viewing experience.  Each aspect by itself is important to the whole that is Al Capone: Icon.  Collectively, they make this documentary a welcome watch for any lover of crime history.  Al Capone: Icon will be available Tuesday, September 30th on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=43506236&cp=&kw=icon+al+capone&origkw=Icon%3A+Al+Capone&sr=1.  More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.  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.

PBS Kids Releasing New Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVD Gift Set Next Month

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

Officials with PBS announced Tuesday that the network will release a special Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood gift set this fall.

PBS and PBS Kids will release Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tiger’s Happy Holidays in a special gift set on Tuesday, October 14th. The special gift set includes Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel Tiger’s Happy Holidays and a Daniel Tiger toy. The DVD features seven more episodes from the award-winning series, one of which—“Snowflake Day”—is a two-part episode. Everyone in Daniel’s neighborhood celebrates “Snowflake Day” each year. In celebration, the neighborhood holds a community play. And this year, Daniel is the star of the play.

Daniel learns how letters are mailed off in the DVD’s second episode, “Something Special For Dad” after he sees how happy his dad having received a letter from Grandpere in the mail. Seeing how happy the letter made his dad, Daniel wants to mail a letter to his dad, too. So he and his mom go to the post office where they learn how mail is sorted and mailed. To top off his visit, Daniel even gets to join Mr. McSpeedy on his rounds and hand deliver his letter to his dad.

“I Love You, Mom” is another wonderful addition to this compilation of episodes. In this episode, Daniel wants to tell his mom how much he loves her, but wants to do it in a special way. So he and his dad go to Baker Aker’s bakery where they learn how bread is made. While they are there, Daniel gets to make banana bread for his mom. Banana bread is one of her favorite foods. Daniel and his dad bring the bread back and surprise her with the bread, which she then shares with Daniel and his dad.

Grandpere Tiger makes a special visit to Daniel and his parents in “Thank You, Grandpere Tiger,” the fourth episode included on this new DVD. There’s just one problem. Grandpere can’t stay for the neighborhood’s annual “Thank You Day” celebration. That makes Daniel sad. In the process, Daniel learns to be thankful for the time that he and Grandpere get to spend together and gets a very special surprise when it turns out that Grandpere is at the neighborhood’s annual celebration.

Following up on Grandpere’s visit, the DVD continues with the episode “Neighborhood Thank You Day.” Viewers learn all about the neighborhood’s annual “Thank You Day” celebration in this episode. Every year during the “Thank You Day” celebration, everyone in the neighborhood puts a note in the “Thank You Tree” as a way to say thank you to one another. Daniel can’t decide who he wants to thank with his note. He does finally come to a decision. It all ends with a special Thank You Day feast that includes everyone in the neighborhood.

The DVD’s penultimate episode, “Katerina’s Costume” features on Katerina as she is trying to decide what outfit she wants to wear for the neighborhood’s annual Dress Up Day. Daniel and Miss Elena, on the other hand, have no problem deciding on their costumes. Katerina does eventually make her decision.

“Dress Up Day” closes out the DVD. Much like the case of Halloween, Daniel and his friends go to all the stores in their neighborhood, showing off their costumes on Dress Up Day. They get different stickers at every store they visit.

The upcoming DVD gift set will be available Tuesday, October 14th. It will retail for MSRP of $14.99. the DVD will also be available alongside the gift set as a stand-alone presentation. It will retail for MSRP of $12.99. It can be ordered online at PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=45475006&cp=&kw=daniel+tigers+happy+holidays&origkw=Daniel+Tiger%27s+Happy+Holidays&sr=1.

Parents and children can watch more episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and play games together online at http://pbskids.org/daniel. Parents and children can keep up with the latest news from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood online at http://www.facebook.com/danieltigertv. 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.

Peg + Cat’s First Outing On DVD Is Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids’ new children’s series Peg + Cat has proven to be a big hit among audiences in its first season.  And now families and educators alike can enjoy a handful of the show’s episodes any time thank to the brand new release of the series’ first ever DVD compilation Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems.  The primary reason that audiences will appreciate this brand new DVD is the list of episodes collected for the compilation.  It features eight shorts from the series’ first season.  The episodes themselves serve a number of purposes including not just problem solving but also encouragement of creativity among audiences and basic math skills.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this collection of episodes is its animation.  Those that are perhaps new to the series will appreciate that the show looks in every way like it was drawn not just by hand but by a child.  That makes it even more relatable to younger viewers.  And rounding out the compilation’s positives is the inclusion of a number of bonus features that prove to be just as fun in the living room as in the classroom.  All three factors together make Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems another welcome addition to the collection of any teacher and family.

Peg + Cat has become a fast hit among its key audiences ever since its debut last fall. Now almost a year after it made its debut on PBS Kids, will release its first ever DVD tomorrow, September 9th. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the series, viewers will all agree in watching the episodes collected for this DVD that the central point of the series’ success is its writing. The series teaches basic math skills and general problem solving skills for children ages four up to perhaps six years old. PBS Kids’ already has a show that teaches math skills for older children in the form of Cyberchase. But the network hadn’t had such a show for younger viewers until Peg + Cat came alone last year. Parents and teachers will appreciate the ability of this series’ writers to balance both skills throughout the course of each short without letting one take the focus more than the other at any one point. What’s more, the episodes are written on the level of the series’ young viewers. This makes each episode easily accessible by those viewers. Add in short run times that don’t challenge the attention spans of the series’ writers (each episode runs roughly ten to thirteen minutes depending on the episode) and those lessons become even more enjoyable. Collectively, the episodes’ run times and the writing that easily reaches the series’ young viewers make a solid starting point in any discussion of what makes Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems another welcome addition to the collection of families and educators alike.

The writing that went into each of the episodes included in the brand new debut Peg + Cat debut DVD is a solid starting point for any discussion on what makes this series such a favorite among its young audiences. Another aspect worth discussing is the show’s animation. The show was animated as if it had been drawn by a young child. This makes the show even more relatable for its key audiences. Just as interesting although more subtle is the use of the infinity sign for clouds within the world of Peg + Cat. And the “infinity clouds” even move in the background. It’s all drawn on a sheet of grid paper with small math problems doodled at various points throughout the paper. This adds even more feel of their world having been created by a child. The end result is even more easily suspended disbelief among viewers. And on a slightly similar note, the animation looks somewhat similar to that of Nickelodeon’s short-lived Nicktoon Chalk Zone. It’s not a direct mirror image. But the similarities are there. Taking into account the amount of work that went into the animation behind Peg + Cat, that animation becomes even more an important part of the whole that makes this brand new collection of episodes worth the watch. It still is not all that viewers will appreciate about the episodes collected for this DVD. The last aspect of the DVD that makes it such a joy for children and adults alike is the amount of bonus material included on the disc.

Included as bonus material in the brand new Peg + Cat DVD are: four flipbooks, a pair of coloring sheets, a board game, and a couple of craft activities for families to enjoy together. Each of the flipbooks comes with cells completely pre-illustrated. All a child has to do to make them complete is print out the cells and follow their included instructions to bring the flipbooks to life. The coloring sheets are self-explanatory. One sheet presents a frame from the show’s opening sequence while the other features a scene from the DVD’s lead episode, “The Chicken Problem.” The bonus board game also comes with all the necessary items and instructions. The goal of the game is to get all of the peaches from the center of the board. The included craft activities encourage young people to get their parents especially involved. Kids will love having their own Cat sewed by their parents. And they’ll enjoy just as much having their parents help them make their own Peg and Cat puppets. As with the other activities, the necessary materials are provided. All parents and children have to do is print out said materials and lay them over construction paper before cutting out the included shapes. The rest is easy when children and their parents follow the included directions. It’s one more way that children and their parents will have a great time together playing with Peg and Cat even after watching the episodes featured on this disc.

The material included on Peg + Cat’s debut DVD is in every way true bonus material. It is that piece that pushes this DVD over the top and makes it another must have for any educator or parent of young viewers. Together with the wonderful, thought out animation and equally considered writing, Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems proves to be a wonderful first release from a series that will hopefully have a long life on PBS Kids. It also collectively proves this DVD to be not just a must have for parents and educators but also one of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It will be available tomorrow, September 9th in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=42447736&cp=&sr=1&kw=peg++cat&origkw=Peg+%2B+Cat&parentPage=search. Families and educators can play more Peg + Cat games and watch even more episodes of the series online at http://pbskids.org/peg. More information on the show is also available online at http://www.facebook.com/PegPlusCatTV. 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.

PBS To Release New Al Capone Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS Distribution will release a brand new documentary entered on one of the most infamous criminal figures in American history this fall.

Al Capone: Icon will be released Tuesday, September 30th. The program examines Capone, his life, and why Americans remain so captivated by him to this day. It does so by examining his rise and fall from his early days in New York’s gangs to his days as one of the biggest crime bosses in America to his eventual downfall following the events of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. He is analyzed both in terms of how the public viewed him and how he was viewed by others in the country’s various criminal circles.

Capone was a polarizing figure both in his own life and in today’s America. Through this program, audiences will see his impact on the world of organized crime as well as on law enforcement. Audiences will also see how his legend has kept him such a big name in the world of pop culture and in everyday life in Chicago.

Al Capone: Icon will be available Tuesday, September 30th on DVD. It will retail for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=43506236&cp=&kw=al+capone+icon&origkw=Al+Capone+Icon&sr=1. More information on this and other PBS programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org. 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.

Kids Will Love Going Back To School With Arthur

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids recently released its latest collection of episodes from the family favorite animated series Arthur. Arthur Goes Back To School is an especially fitting addition to any family’s home DVD library now that many children are themselves headed back to school this week. Arthur Goes Back To School boasts plenty of positives. The first of those positives is its writing. The writing behind each of the four episodes is the cornerstone of the overall presentation. The quality animation is another factor to consider in the overall enjoyment of this presentation. Last but not least of all is the bonus material included with this collection of episodes. Each of the factors noted here stand by themselves with their own importance. Altogether, they make Arthur Goes Back To School one more wonderful addition to any family’s home DVD library whether at the start of the school year or any other time of the year.

The writing that went into each of the four episodes featured in Arthur Goes Back To School is the cornerstone of the DVD’s overall presentation. There are many reasons that this sole factor is the cornerstone to this DVD, too.   The primary reason for that is the themes incorporated into each of the episodes. “To Eat Or Not To Eat,” the first of the DVD’s episodes, presents a theme of healthy eating. When a new candy bar catches the attention of all the kids in Elwood City, Buster becomes wary of the candy bar because of its effects. His investigation leads him all the way to the head of the company responsible for making the candy bar. That is because of the chemicals he finds in the candy bar. When he and his mother confront the company’s head representative, Buster’s mother breaks the story in the city’s newspaper. This effectively shuts down the company. In an age when childhood obesity remains such a hot button topic, such an episode becomes increasingly important for children and their parents to watch together. That’s because it could serve as a starting point for a very important discussion about healthy eating. It’s just one of the important themes included in Arthur Goes Back To School.

Being that so many youths are headed back to school this week, the show’s writers tackle the stresses of standardized testing in a way to which the show’s young audiences will be able to relate in “S.W.E.A.T.” The writers also take on the much maligned subject of math education in “Brain’s Biggest Blunder.” Brain has a big chore in getting Binky ready for the school’s annual “Arithmattack” competition in this episode. The writers make the episode relatable to young viewers by showing that math isn’t as bad as they think here. There’s even a nice stand-alone episode in “Baseball Blues” that has come along just in time for the countdown to the MLB postseason. Not only does it promote baseball and athletics, it also teaches young viewers that everybody has a special talent. Even if someone isn’t good at one thing doesn’t mean that a person isn’t good at something else.

On a superficial level, Arthur’s writers are to be commended for crafting four episodes to which young viewers will definitely be able to relate given that so many children are now headed back to school this week. On another, deeper level, anyone familiar with Arthur will appreciate that the writers have actually maintained a certain amount of continuity with the inclusion of Harry Mills in “Baseball Blues.” Harry is a former romantic interest of Buster’s mom, as Buster’s parents are divorced. There’s even a reference to the initial episode in which Harry was introduced here. It’s so subtle. But older audiences will potentially catch this. And those that do catch it will appreciate that inclusion.

The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is the most important factor of all in the overall presentation of Arthur Goes Back To School. Whether it be for its more superficial aspect or the deeper issue of continuity, it should be clear by now why the writing in these episodes is the cornerstone of the entire presentation. Just as important to the DVD’s overall presentation is the animation used in each of the episodes. The episodes included on this disc have been pulled from Arthur’s more recent seasons. That means that the animation used in each episode is actually flash animation instead of the hand-drawn animation used in the series’ early seasons. Despite the use of flash animation, the episodes still maintain the look of the original fully hand-drawn episodes. There are those that have complained about the series’ increased use of flash animation. The reality though, is that it would have been just as easy for the show’s heads to go the full-on CG route. This critic personally is thankful that that didn’t happen. Audiences should be thankful that these episodes still have that classic look. That the show’s animators and heads would go this direction couples with the solid writing to make Arthur Goes Back To School all the more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The writing and animation that went into the episodes included in Arthur Goes Back To School. Are both important elements to the overall presentation on this DVD. The activities and coloring pages included with the DVD round out the whole thing. One of the key activities included on the DVD is the “Definition of Cool” activity. This activity is directly related to the stand-alone episode “Baseball Blues.” Adults can use this activity to build self-esteem among young viewers. They do so by having children come up with a list of talents and attributes that they think are “cool.” After they come up with their lists, children can talk about why they think that the attributes and talents of other children in a group are cool, instead of their own. It is a wonderful activity for children especially with the current climate of bullying in schools today. The standard “Crazy Bus” activity is included here, as on previous Arthur DVDs as are the trading card and “Groove It” activities. If these activities aren’t enough for viewers, the coloring pages featuring Arthur and his friends will also make audiences happy. Whether audiences prefer the included coloring pages or the activities on this DVD, there is plenty of bonus material included on the disc to make any viewer happy here.

The bonus material included on Arthur Goes Back To School is the final touch to a DVD that every family will appreciate both now in the start of a new school year and any time of the year. Together with the writing and animation featured in all four episodes included on this disc, it makes this DVD a solid choice for any fan of Arthur whether they be kids or kids at heart. Arthur Goes Back To School is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=41615676&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+goes+back+to+school&origkw=Arthur+Goes+Back+to+School&parentPage=search. More information on Arthur is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSARthur. More episodes of Arthur are available online at http://www.pbskids.com/arthur along with more activities and games for the whole family. 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.