Weird Creatures Is Weird, Wild Fun

Courtesy:  PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

Everybody knows the names of Steve Irwin and Jack Hanna.  Now nature lovers can add one more name to the list of famed nature show hosts.  That man’s name is Nick Baker.  This young Brit hosts his own show on Britain’s itv called Weird Creatures with Nick Baker.  One part Wild Kratts and one part Crocodile Hunter, this series is aimed at much the same audiences as those shows.  So the question is what sets this series apart from its contemporaries?  The primary aspect of Weird Creatures with Nick Baker that sets it apart is that host Nick Baker comes across as being much more akin to Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans than Hanna or Irwin in terms of his personality.  That is likely because of his seemingly young age.  Also worthy of note in this series is that unlike other nature series, episodes aren’t cut even if Baker and company don’t find the creature for which they are searching.  Regardless of whether or not their intended “target” is found, Baker and company still discuss other creatures that are discovered along the way.  So audiences are still introduced to any number of animals throughout each episode.  Lastly, audiences will appreciate from Weird Creatures with Nick Baker the fact that instead of just showing footage of country’s from which given animals originate, he and his crew actually travel to said regions.  The manifest function here is that not only are audiences treated to animals that they had never known about, they also get a glimpse of different regions of the world due to Baker’s globe hopping.  All of these factors and others show why this nature series stands out as one that today’s younger viewers will love to watch.

The first aspect of Weird Creatures with Nick Baker that audiences will appreciate in watching its first season (or “series” as it’s called by the Brits) is that while Baker obviously knows his stuff, he doesn’t try to be like contemporaries Jack Hanna and the late Steve Irwin.  Rather, he has his own “edge” about him so to speak.  He comes across as being looser about everything that he does than Hanna or Irwin.  He just doesn’t come across as being like Hanna or Irwin.  Even in his look, he will appeal more to younger viewers than to those that perhaps grew up watching those that came before him.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either.  That “edge” and younger look mixed in with an obvious love for and full understanding of his subjects could potentially influence younger viewers to take an interest in biology, zoology, and their associated sciences.  And what parent today could argue against their child or children gaining new interest in said subjects and careers? Exactly.  This is merely the starting point for what makes the show’s first season enjoyable.

Host Nick Baker’s peronsality, his look, and his love for and understanding of his subjects is the starting point for what makes the first season of his show enjoyable.  The adventures on which he and his crew embark are another part of what makes this first season enjoyable, too.  Just like Baker himself comes across as being unorthodox to a point, so do the episodes contained in Season One.  So many nature shows typically broadcast on American television feel spit-shined for lack of better wording.  Audiences are left feeling with American nature shows like their hosts magically find their “target “ animals in each episode.  And they seem so proper.  Weird Creatures with Nick Baker is the antithesis of said programs.  Even if Baker and company don’t find the animals for which they are searching, they still present to their viewers other animals that might not have ever been introduced to viewers.  And as in the case of the Pink Fairy Armadillo, this does indeed happen.  They never do find one in the wild.  But they are lucky enough to meet an Argentinian woman that keeps a stuffed Pink Fairy Armadillo in her home.   They almost don’t manage to find a Basking Shark, either in another episode.  But the weather and mother nature cooperate just enough to the point that they finally get to see one up close in said episode’s final minutes.  It’s nice to see this more “raw” feel from a nature show than something more spit shined and broadcast ready.

That Baker and his crew make the best of some difficult situations serves to make his show even more enjoyable when set next to his personality as a host.  There is still one last factor to look at that makes the show work, though.  That last factor is the exotic locales to which Baker and company travel for each episode of the show.  Again, one can’t help but compare Weird Creatures… to the likes of certain other nature based programs past and present in terms of its travel factor.  So many other nature based shows only present file footage of animals in their natural habitats.  And even the creature specific Animal Planet series River Monsters is limited in showing the areas to which its host travels.  This series on the other hand openly displays the regions to which the crew travels.  What they are doing is promoting interest in not only animals but in geography, and other natural sciences.  It does so much without even trying too hard.  And it is the final piece of Season One that makes it complete and complete fun for audiences.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19453476&cp=&sr=1&kw=weird+creatures+with+nick+baker&origkw=Weird+Creatures+with+Nick+Baker&parentPage=search.  More information on this series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Weird.Creatures.With.Nick.Baker. 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 Pick blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

A Haunting Season Five Offers Fans Ten More Frightful Episodes

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory

Paranormal shows are quite popular right now across the television spectrum.  Bio channel is frontloaded with paranormal shows including: Celebrity Ghost Stories, My Ghost Story, The Haunting Of, and re-runs of Psychic Kids just to name a few.  Travel Channel has Ghost Adventures.  Syfy has Ghost Hunters and Haunted Collector. At one point, the network even had Ghost Hunters International.  That show was short-lived, though.  And at one point, A&E had Paranormal State.  That show ran for five seasons before being moved to Bio Channel and re-run.  And even Discovery Channel for some time had its own show in A Haunting.  It lasted for roughly four seasons on the network before pulled it and it was moved to Discovery’s digital “sister station”, Destination America.  The show aired its fifth season on Destination America after having been off the air for five years.  Now fans of this show can watch all ten episodes from Season Five any time they want thanks to Shout! Factory and Timeless Media Group.

For those that have never experienced this show, it is one of the scarier of the crop of paranormal programs out there today.  So what is it that makes A Haunting stand out?  Let’s start with the most obvious of factors.  It isn’t a reality show.  That eliminates Paranormal State, Psychic Kids, Ghost Hunters (and its spinoff), Ghost Adventures, and Haunted Collector.  To a certain extent, one could also argue that The Haunting of would be eliminated, too.  Having eliminated all of those, that leaves just My Ghost Story and A HauntingMy Ghost Story seems somewhat hokey with its re-enactments.  Sure, A Haunting uses re-enactments and interviews, too.  But the production values of the re-enactments in A Haunting are far more professional.  The re-enactments are so well done that they play out like something straight out of a horror movie.  Because of that, it is so much easier to suspend one’s disbelief and be pulled into these stories of ordinary individuals that have been affected by or have encountered something which they cannot explain.  In turn, it is so much easier to be scared regardless of whether or not one believes in the unexplained.

Each professionally re-enacted story told by the ordinary individuals is the main key to the success of this show in scaring its audiences.  The stories are so well told through the course of each episode that even those that don’t believe will find themselves not wanting to watch any of the chill inducing episodes alone or in the dark.  Through the course of the 2012 season, audiences are introduced to a family in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that was at one point, haunted by the spirit of a civil war soldier that had been killed in battle.  Viewers are also introduced to a family whose story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.  The family in question ends up moving out of its house because an evil spirit is not just haunting the house, but also physically assaulted one of the young ladies in the family.  It becomes so brazen that it lays down in one of the girls’ beds right next to her solely to terrorize her.  The visualization of this evil spirit and the actress’s reaction will frighten any viewer with even the strongest constitution.      

One can tell by now just how scary the episodes contained within A Haunting: The 2012 Season is.  There is still another factor that must be noted about this set that audiences will appreciate.  That factor is the double-disc set’s packaging.  Timeless Media Group, being associated with Shout! Factory, it is no surprise that the discs contained in the case for this season both have their own space within the case.  Shout! Factory was one of the first companies to actively start packaging its multi-disc sets in more ergonomic packaging.  This set is no different.  All ten episodes on both discs are kept safe in their case as one disc is placed in its own spot on one side of the case, while the other is on the other side of the case.  This preserves the quality of the discs as it prevents them from becoming scratched up unlike say, the packaging method for Syfy’s Ghost Hunters season sets.  The discs in those sets are packed one on top of another with no regard for the discs’ safety.  This makes the new set of episodes from A Haunting that much more worth the money for those that are fans of the paranormal sciences and paranormal programming in general.  A Haunting: The 2012 Season is available now in stores and online.

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Bagans, Khans’ Electronica Album A Standout Electronica LP

Courtesy:  Zak Bagans Entertainment

Courtesy: Zak Bagans Entertainment

Necrofusion is one of the most interesting releases in the world of electronica today.  The product of the partnership between Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans and artist Praga Khan has resulted in an album that is as interesting as it is eerie.  The combination of Praga Khan’s music with segments of the Ghost Adventures episodes surprisingly works quite well.  They combine for a release that can’t fully be taken in from a single listen.  One of the most intriguing of this compilation’s songs would have to be ‘Poor Pearl.’  Country artist Bobby Mackey joins in with a little country twang that expertly contrasts the eerie mix of techno and the story of what happened to young Pearl.  According to the story in the song, the young woman was murdered, and her head was used as a sacrifice for a rather nefarious purpose.  Add that story in to the music and Zak’s vocal segments, and listeners are presented with a song that is both scary and enjoyable at the same time.

‘Poor Pearl’ is followed by an equally interesting song in ‘Sing For Me.’ Zak is talking to a spirit in this song who he is trying to get to sing for him.  The spirit does make contact with him, too.  It’s a little bit difficult to make out exactly what the spirit in question is saying to him without any sort of captioning that is done on the show.  But it’s that attempt to make out what the spirit is saying that makes this another of the album’s more interesting songs.  Of course, the musical backing of Praga Khan once again played its own role here.  Khan’s mastery of the craft shows yet again, making for another song that could equal the work of any other electronic artist out there today.

The album peaks at just the right point in ‘Dead Awaiting.’  The mix of heavy guitars, strings and electronics alone make for a song that as with the previously noted pieces stands out.  Add in the vocal segments of Zak asking a spirit about what happens when we die makes this far more than just an eerie track, but a song that is the best of the album.  The song opens very quietly with a guitar and piano.  Listeners then hear Zak asking the spirit in question about what happens after death.  He asks why the spirits come to him.  It’s the tone and delivery of this question combined with the sudden addition of a much heavier guitar part that makes the song that much more powerful.  By contrast, the strings set against the guitars add to the song’s power.  They help to make this the album’s highest point.

Necrofusion boasts far more than just three good songs.  There are far more that fans of electronica and Goth style sounds will appreciate.  For instance, there is the full on hit of ‘Demonator’, the creepy album opener, ‘In My Dungeon’, and ‘Good and Evil’ that listeners will love, too.  Whether for any of these or the album’s other songs, anyone who is a fan of Ghost Adventures or of electronica will find something to cheer about with this album.  It’s available now in stores and online.

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Syfy Brings Fans More Ghostly Tales In Ghost Hunters Season 7 Part 1

Courtesy: Big Vision/Syfy/Image Entertainment

Paranormal shows are some of television’s most popular programming today.  Travel Channel has Ghost Adventures.  Bio Channel has re-runs, still, of Paranormal State.  It also has new episodes of My Ghost Story, and Celebrity Ghost Stories, among others.  It also recently started up another semi-paranormal show called The Unexplained.  Even the CW has its own paranormal drama, simply called Paranormal.  The list goes on and on.  If there’s one show among the masses that stands out right now, it’s Syfy’s Ghost Hunters.  The hit show has even spawned its own spinoff, International Ghost Hunters.  The original recently wrapped the first half of its eighth season.  Its second half is expected to run sometime this Fall.  While fans wait for the second half of Season Eight to premiere, they can enjoy the first half of Season Seven.

Ghost Hunters Season Seven Part 1 is available now on a four disc DVD set via Big Vision, Syfy, and Image Entertainment.  Season Seven sees TAPS head down to New Orleans to check out an allegedly haunted old mint.  Also in Season Seven Part 1, TAPS heads up to Michigan to investigate the Mission Point Resort at Mackinac Island.  And in one of the most interesting episode from Season Seven, TAPS is called to Pearl Harbor to investigate reports of hauntings there.  This episode is actually a two-part episode.

In its trip to New Orleans, the TAPS team is asked to investigate reports of paranormal activity at the old U.S. Mint there.  The team meets security guard Jimmie Jackson, who tells them his story of seeing an entity who is believed to be William Mumford.  Mumford was hanged at the Mint after he took down an American Flag that had been raised there in place of a confederate flag.  The team spends the night in the mint, investigating reports of moaning from what was believed to be Mumford’s mother, crying over her son’s hanging, as well as other phenomena.  In the end, TAPS founder Jason and Lead Investigator Grant (who would later leave in the show’s eighth season) say that there’s no way to say for sure if the Mint is indeed haunted.  The little evidence that they managed to collect was inconclusive and that they would have to come back another time for another investigation to see if it really is haunted.

While it produced a little bit more information and evidence, TAPS’ investigation of the Mission Point Resort wasn’t entirely conclusive, either.  The team haunts for a figure known as “Harvey” who it turns out wasn’t named Harvey.  Though there really was a figure at the resort (which was previously a school) who had committed suicide.  “Harvey’s” real name is kept confidential.  It’s revealed that “Harvey” had actually committed suicide during the Winter and his body wasn’t discovered until the following Summer.  The team does record the sound of what sounds like a little girl while investigating the building’s theater.  This investigation reveals enough evidence that the team is convinced the resort is indeed haunted.

Perhaps one of the most haunted sites that the TAPS team has ever investigated is the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor.  The team goes to investigate the museum’s Hangar 37 and Hangar 39.  While there, the team hears a lot of noises that sound like people running.  One of the team members yells “bullets” a few times, which seems to cause whatever or whoever was there to take off running.  There is even the sound of running on one of the hangars’ catwalks.  At one point, the team even captures what seems to be a figure on one of the catwalks.  The evidence isn’t fully revealed until an episode after as the team is called back from Hawaii to investigate claims of a little girl being haunted by multiple spirits.  But there is little doubt, considering knowledge of paranormal activity, Hangar 37 and 79 are in fact haunted, along with most of Pearl Harbor.  Fans can find out what the evidence from the investigation reveals by picking up Season Seven Part One.

As interesting as the episodes in Season Seven Part One are, there is one glaring black eye to this set.  That black eye is its packaging.  The discs are stacked one on top of each other, rather than being given their own spots inside the slim case.  What stacking the discs potentially does is increase the chances of the discs getting scratched, thus reducing the life of the discs.  Hopefully when the second half of Season Seven is released, this is something that will be fixed.  If not, then perhaps it will be fixed in its eighth season.  Other than that, this is a set that any paranormal fan will enjoy watching.  It’s available in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at http://www.nbcuniversalstore.com/syfy/index.php?v=syfy

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