Worst Friends Is One Of This Year’s Best New Indie Flicks

Courtesy:  Level 33 Entertainment

Courtesy: Level 33 Entertainment

Level 33 Entertainment’s new dramedy Worst Enemies is one of this year’s best new indie flicks. This movie is a surprisingly entertaining work. It is more proof that when the dust settles from Hollywood’s downfall (thanks to its insatiable desire for prequels, sequels, and remakes), the indie movie industry will still be standing strong. The main way in which it proves that is through its original script. The story behind this movie isn’t just another buddy comedy. It’s a story that is just as entertaining as it is moving. What’s more, in comparison to other buddy comedies released by other indie flicks and even other major studios, this story stands well apart from those works as its own creation. And that’s just part of what makes it work as well as it does. The story’s overall simplicity makes it even more enjoyable. There are no big sets, no unnecessary sexually driven jokes, and not even an annoying poppy song to be heard at least until the story’s final scene. The movie’s cast is one more reason that it works as well as it does. Save for actresses Kathryn Erbe and Sara Chase, most of the movie’s cast is made up of unknown actors and actresses. Even as little experience as they might have, they come across just as professional as any more seasoned actors, Erbe and Chase included. Together with the story’s overall simplicity and its largely original script, all three factors show in full once again why Worst Friends is one of this years best indie flicks and a work that anyone thirsting for a real story should see at least once.

Level 33 Entertainment has released in recent years some of the best movies that most audiences have never seen. The Wedding Video, The Formula, and The Moleman of Belmont Avenue are each examples of what makes this studio one of the best in the world of indie flicks. Every one of those movies stands out from the other in its own special way. Now with Worst Enemies, Level 33 has proven once more why it is deserving of that honor. One would think in looking at the movie’s synopsis that it is something of a buddy comedy, especially in partner with the movie’s box art. But the reality of the movie is that it is more drama than comedy. The movie’s original script is one that stands out not only from other movies released by Level 33 but from so many movies released by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ studios–Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Disney. It is a deep, thoughtful story that reminds us that BFF is not always the case for friends. We live, we grow, and sometimes we grow apart. Audiences will especially appreciate that writer/director Ralph Arend and his writing partners Noah Barrow and Richard Tanne don’t waste any time waxing poetic about this message. They don’t waste any time trying to set up a back story, explaining what caused the original fallout between Jake (Richard Tanne) and Sam (Noah Barrow). The trio keeps the story simple but still manages to send the story’s central message in an original manner, but not so much that it goes over the heads of its audiences. It alone makes for plenty of reason to see this movie, even if only once. It’s not the only reason to check out this movie, either. Another audiences should give this surprisingly entertaining drama is its overall simplicity.

The script behind Worst Friends is the central point of the movie’s success and enjoyment. It presents a very deep story and some very deep themes in a fashion that avoids any stereotypical artsy indie indulgences. At the same time it isn’t presented in such fashion as to feel over simplified, either. It balances that serious approach with a delivery that is just simple enough to be taken seriously without feeling overly done. In other words, it isn’t so serious or simple as to make it seem stereotypically sappy or hammy. Speaking of that simplicity, the general simplicity of the movie’s other elements help to make it even more enjoyable. The sets are simple. The camera work is just as simple. There are no unnecessary sexually driven jokes. And unlike so many other movies of its ilk, this piece doesn’t torture audiences with a constant barrage of annoying pop and emo songs throughout the course of the movie. The movie’s final scene won’t be given away here. But that scene is the only one in which audiences are exposed to said musical backing. It is all kept to such a minimum that it keeps the story at the center of the movie. Arend, Tanne, and Barrow (as well as the rest of those behind the cameras) are to be highly commended for this. It makes the movie in whole that much more enjoyable for audiences. It still isn’t all that is worth considering in the movie’s success, either. One more aspect worth noting in the movie’s success is its cast.

The actors and actresses that make up Worst Friends’ cast are largely unknowns. Perhaps the most well-known of the movie’s cast are actresses Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: CI, The Mighty Ducks, What About Bob) and Sara Chase (The Other Guys, Arthur, The Little Black Book). Fellow cast mate Larry Fessenden is known for his work in the world of horror movies. But by and large the movie’s cast is made up of unknown actors and actresses. Even while most of the cast might not be known for major TV series or movies, the cast is collectively just as convincing any more well-known actors and actresses. They come across as being just as seasoned as said individuals. Audiences will see this when they watch Worst Enemies for themselves.   Together with the movie’s overall simplicity and the script’s originality, this last aspect shows in full once more why Worst Friends is one of this year’s best new indie flicks. It shows why it is a good watch for anyone that is tired of the seemingly endless Stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes being churned out year after year by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ studios.

The aspects noted here each play an important role in their own right in the success and enjoyment of Worst Friends. Given, they are important in their own right. That is not to take away from the importance of the movie’s run time. The movie runs roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. That is far below the norm of most of the big name movies churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ each year. Yet with such a short run time, the movie still accomplishes so much. It plays its own important role in the movie’s success and enjoyment, too. That aspect taken into account with everything else previously noted pushes Worst Friends over the top and makes this movie not just one of the year’s best new indie flicks, but potentially one of this year’s best new movies overall, too.

Worst Friends is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other releases from Level 33 Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://level33entertainment.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Level33Entertainment

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Level33_ent

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.

Quincy, M.E. Season 7 Is A Fond Farewell For One Of TV’s Greatest Dramas

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/NBC Universal

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/NBC Universal

Medical dramas are among the most popular series on television today.  Series such as E.R., House, M.A.S.H., and others have been cornerstones for television’s “Big 4” throughout the decades.  They obviously weren’t the only medical dramas to make waves over the years.  But compared to all of the cookie cutter medical procedurals that dominate the airwaves today, they are some of the best that have ever been on television.  One other series that remains just as beloved today is NBC’s hit series Quincy, M.E.  The series ran for seven seasons on NBC from 1976 – 1983.  Thanks to Shout! Factory, this classic series started receiving the honor and respect that it deserves in 2005.  And now this week, Shout! Factory finishes off the series with the release of its seventh and final season.  Quincy M.E.:  Season 7 is another wonderful farewell for what is one of the greatest medical dramas in television’s modern eras.  Audiences will agree that seven seasons in, the series’ writing was still as solid as in its first season.  The stories presented in this season’s episodes are fully believable.  They are not the overly sexualized and overly violent prime-time soap operas that dominate television today.  Speaking of that overly sexualized and overly violent format of today’s prime-time medical soap operas, that in itself is another reason that these episodes are so enjoyable for audiences.  Their general content, in other words, is another reason that this season is so enjoyable.  The list of guest stars that make appearances throughout Season seven adds even more enjoyment.  It is a list of stars that have become some of the most well-known A-listers in Hollywood today.  Each of the factors noted plays its own integral role in the enjoyment of this final season of Quincy, M.E.  Collectively, they make this season a fond farewell for one of the best dramas in television’s modern era.

When it originally ran on NBC, Quincy, M.E. ran for a total of seven seasons.  Seven seasons by today’s standards is a lot for a scripted series.  By the standards during which it aired, for a series to run seven seasons was not that big of a surprise.  One reason for that is that scripted series at the time actually had scripts that were actually believable and worth watching.  The scripts penned for this series’ seventh season is proof of that.  The writers have one again crafted a handful of scripts for this season that are just as relatable to audiences today as they were in their original broadcasts decades ago.  Early on in Season Seven, the show’s writers present a story titled “The Golden Hour” that tackled the issue of hospital negligence and malpractice.  A car wreck lands a father and daughter in two different hospitals in this episode.  The father survives at the hospital to which he is transported.  His daughter on the other hand is taken to another hospital and is misdiagnosed, leading to her death.  This leads to a conflict between Quincy (Klugman) and the doctor that misdiagnosed the girl.  It is a conflict that eventually leads all the way up to the hospital’s heads.  Many might not believe it, but the issue of malpractice and misdiagnoses of patients is just as relevant to audiences today as it was in this episode’s original broadcast over three decades ago.  “Gentle Into That Good Night” is another prime example of the writing in this season continued to make the series so enjoyable.  This episode dealt with the issue of a man and his wife having to come to terms with the fact that she is dying from a terminal illness.  This is a very touching episode.  Again, it is one of those pieces that will reach audiences just as much today as it did in its original broadcast.  Nobody wants to hear that they are going to lose a loved one and that there is nothing that can be done about it.  It is an episode that is not easy to watch, even for those that have not lost a loved one in such fashion.  But because of the way in which the series’ writers handled the topic, it proves to be one of this season’s best episodes and best examples of what made this show so good even seven seasons in.  Even when the series left the hospital and delved into other realms, the writers still kept the show believable and relatable to audiences.  That is proven late in Season 7 in the episode “Stolen Tears.”  The writers tackled the issue of the holocaust in this episode, which interestingly enough aired on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th, 1982 to be exact).  Quincy had to investigate a case in this episode that is linked to a well-known figure who publicly denied the existence of the holocaust and its events.  There are still today people that believe the holocaust never happened.  It’s another part of the whole that makes Season 7 so enjoyable regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.  These are just a few examples of how the writing in Quincy, M.E.’s seventh season makes this series so enjoyable even in its last run.  It even tackles air pollution and other social issues throughout the course of its episodes.  It’s really something to behold.  How many dramas today can pull that off and do it so well for that matter?  The answer is very few.  It’s another reason that the writing this season is the cornerstone of this season’s success.  Something else worth noting that makes the show so enjoyable is the fact that unlike today’s crime and medical dramas, it didn’t rely on sex and violence to work.  It relied on that writing, again.

So many of today’s medical and crime dramas (honestly all of them) rely more on sex and violence to keep audiences engaged.  That is in itself a sad statement.  It shows how far audiences and studios have fallen together.  As compared to today’s medical and crime dramas, the lack thereof in Quincy, M.E. even in its seventh season is another reason that the show remained so enjoyable.  As the calendars turned from the 70s to the 80s, it seemed that a lot of TV shows started to make a turn away from real substantial writing in favor of said sex and violence.  It is good to see that even as this series entered the 80s, it didn’t fall victim to that curse.  It continued on in its final season relying solely on the solid writing that had made it such a solid drama throughout its previous six seasons.  The show’s heads never show the gory detail that is used in today’s forensics-based series.  Stories involving murders, car crashes and other cases don’t rely on the blood, sex or overall violence that is used by so many of today’s dramas.  It is a sign that shows don’t need that excess that dominates today’s dramas to be enjoyable and gripping.  Too bad today’s writers either don’t see that, or do, and just don’t care.  Maybe if they did care, they would see it’s one more reason that this show will always be more memorable than most of what’s offered to audiences today.

The lack of overt violence and sexuality throughout Season 7’s episodes and the show’s writing at this point are both important factors to consider in the show’s success even seven seasons into its run.  Both factors exemplify just why this series will always outperform the medical and crime dramas on television today.  Others must have seen that even in the show’s original run.  The list of guest stars that have gone on to make up today’s major stars proves that.  Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey, Judging Amy), Mimi Rogers (Two and a Half Men, The X-Files, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), Diana Muldaur (L.A. Law, Batman: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation), Dixie carter (Designing Women, Family Law, Desperate Housewives) Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gargoyles, Falcon Crest), Steve Antin (The Goonies, NYPD: Blue, Burlesque) and Colleen Dewhurst (Murphy Brown, The Civil War, Ann of Green Gables) all joined Klugman and his cast mates as special guest stars this season.  Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men, K-Pax) also appeared in one episode that could be argued as the influence behind a number of episodes of other crime dramas that have followed.  Each of these actors had already established themselves or were in the process of establishing themselves in the worlds of TV and film at the time that they guest starred in the episodes of Season 7.  Each one since went on to become major A-Listers in their own right, too.  Anytime actors that are already celebrities in their own right go to shows that are just as popular even as guest stars, it is a statement of their faith in the show.  It adds credibility to the show.  And it wasn’t the first time that the show had seen its share of big names appear, either.  It just goes to show the popularity of the show then and now.  And together with the writing and overall tame content in comparison to today’s dramas, it becomes all the more important.  It serves to prove once more just how important this show was and still is to the history of television.

The writing that went in to the seventh season of Quincy, M.E. shows why even decades after the show ended its run, it is still just as entertaining as it was in its original run. The same can be said of the overall content throughout the show’s seventh season. It didn’t need the sex and violence that is so pervasive in today’s medical and crime dramas. And the list of stars that were already establishing themselves at the time of their appearance adds even more credibility to this season and the series in whole. All three factors together more than make this season worth adding to the collection of the show’s fans. Quincy, M.E. Season 7 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/quincy-m-e-season-seven. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:


Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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


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PBS Announces Release Date For “Finding Your Roots Season 2″

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release the second season of its hit celebrity-based historical series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. this fall.

Officials with PBS announced this week that Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season 2 will be released on Tuesday, December 16th.  Gates meets some of the country’s biggest names in the series and examines their ancestry in each hour-long episode.  In the series’ second season, Gates studies the ancestry of big names such as: Derek Jeter, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Sting, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Stephen King, Nas, and many others.  In all, twenty-nine celebrities are featured throughout the course of Season Two.

Gates goes into even more depth with his guests in Season Two than was possible in the show’s premiere season. He studies his guests’ specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions, and the inner works of his guests’ families. New advancements in DNA testing even allows for study of genetic genealogy. The advancements allowed for revelations linked to questions of paternity, geographic origins of his guests’ ancestors, and even tribal Native America ancestry in other cases. It is all revealed over ten episodes spread across three discs.

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season Two will be available only on DVD Tuesday, December 16th. It will retail for MSRP of $39.99 and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46207086&cp=&sr=1&kw=finding+your+roots&origkw=Finding+your+roots&parentPage=search#Details. Audiences can access more information on the series, and watch videos from the show online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/henrylouisgates


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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, Wreck-It-Ralph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 - 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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.

The World Needs More Red Skelton And Less Blue Comedy

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Television has come a long way since its heyday.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, though.  Between the advent of mobile video and the seemingly endless stream of overly violent and sexualized dramas and comedies available to audiences today, it has come a long way in the wrong direction.  Television used to be something that would bring families together.  Now it has become an increasingly divisive medium aimed at specific audiences from one time slot to another.  Whether it be those series aimed more at younger audiences or those geared more towards older audiences, they all seem to be equally violent and sexualized.  The result is that families rarely ever sit down together to sit down together to watch television.  The advent of mobile video hasn’t helped with this, either.  Thanks to Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory though, audiences have been given plenty of alternatives to that programming in recent years.  They have released titles such as I Spy: The Complete Series, The Gene Autry Show: The Complete Series, Highway 66 and others in recent years, much to the pleasure of classic television lovers such as this critic.  Earlier this year, Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory even went so far as to release The Red Skelton Show: the Lost Episodes.  Now they have followed up that release with the brand new release of another great classic in the form of The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955.  This new box set from Timeless Video and Shout! Factory is another excellent addition to the home library of any true fan of classic television.  The primary reason that classic TV fans will love this latest box set is for the show itself. To be more exact, audiences will appreciate the largely family friendly nature of the episodes that span these episodes.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this latest collection of Red Skelton Show episodes is the quality of the footage.  The footage in these episodes has truly stood the test of time.  It looks just as it did in the episodes’ original broadcasts decades ago on NBC.  Last but hardly least worth noting about this set is its packaging.  The set is comprised of eleven discs, the eleventh being a disc loaded with bonus features.  There’s no easy way to package so many discs in one set.  But Timeless Video and Shout! Factory pulled it off.  All three aspects taken collectively into consideration, they make The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955 a set that any true lover of television’s golden era will want to add to their personal DVD library.

The Red Skelton Show is one of the great comedy sketch shows to ever grace television screens across the country during its two decade-long run.  The brand of comedy presented by Skelton and his cast mates has influenced countless comedians and actors throughout the decades since its original broadcast from 1951 – 1971.  By comparison to the brand of comedy being offered to audiences today, the comedy presented in The Red Skelton Show is an example of what once made comedy great.  It serves as an example of everything that comedy has lost since shows such as this ended.  That is the central reason that audiences will enjoy this latest collection of episodes from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory.  As audiences will see in these episodes, Skelton and his cast mates needed only rely on its physical comedy and family friendly writing to entertain audiences.  That same physical comedy and family friendly writing is just as entertaining today as it was decades ago.  Audiences will love watching Skelton’s prat falls and his monologues that start every episode.  It’s so easy to see just how many of today’s comedians have been influenced by Skelton’s physical comedy alone.  The various characters that he portrays are just as funny.  And even when his cast mates join in the fun, things never get too blue for audiences.  Though, older audiences will probably appreciate some of the sketches more than younger audiences.  From some not-so-lightly veiled political commentary to a skit about the reality of married life to Skelton taking on the role of a male ballet dancer and more, the skits within each episode will have audiences laughing uproariously.  Some might even be surprised at how much they will laugh.  The constant show-ending bit of Skelton being pulled under the curtain will have audiences laughing just as much no matter how many times it happens.  The fact that these episodes can entertain audiences of all ages so much even today with its older brand of comedy is a true testament to the work of the show’s writers and its cast, Skelton included.

The brand of comedy presented across the episodes in The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 - 1955 is a big part of what makes this set well worth the purchase by any true classic TV connoisseur.  The brand of comedy presented in this series can be seen in the likes of The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Show and other variety shows of the ilk.  It’s just one part of why audiences will appreciate this latest release.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this box set is the footage itself.  Almost sixty-five years have passed since the show’s debut in 1951.  And nearly sixty years have passed since 1955.  The footage presented in this box set has stood the test of time quite well since then.  The footage looks just as it did in the show’s original broadcast so many decades ago.  That is a testament to the work of those charged with resurrecting these only reels that remain from the series.  While television in the 1950s was not exactly on the level of today’s television in terms of its resolution, there’s still something special about seeing this old footage. It’s like finding an original 45 rpm record and hearing that static from days gone by once the needle drops.  It’s just a special feeling that can’t fully be explained in words.  The best way to understand it is for viewers to see these episodes for themselves.  Audiences will understand and appreciate the look of the footage when they pick up this box set for themselves.  That understanding and appreciation will in turn lead viewers to be in agreement as to why the episodes’ footage is just as important as the episodes themselves to the episodes’ enjoyment.

The quality of the episodes’ footage, the writing for each episode and the acting on the part of the show’s cast (I.E. the episodes overall) collectively does so much to make The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 a wonderful addition to the personal collection of any classic television connoisseur. The packaging of the set is just as important as the set’s content and the look of the episodes in their presentation. Its final count is eleven discs. There’s no easy way to package that many discs into a single box set without a certain amount of space being taken up on a DVD rack. So taking that into account, the means of packaging in this set is itself worth noting. The set’s primary ten discs are placed inside their own slim cases inside the bigger box. Each slim case holds two discs. The eleventh and final disc contains the set’s bonus material in its own slim case. Again, it’s not the smallest box. But considering the fact that the people at Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory took the high road makes it impressive in its own right. There are companies out there even today that package multi-disc sets by overlapping discs within the boxes. That is hardly smart. It means the potential of scratching the set’s discs. Such a practice greatly reduces the life of discs in said boxes and eventually wasted money on the part of the consumer. So while the packaging for The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 may come across as slightly bulky, the reality of the packaging is that it is actually quite smart. Even if the companies had packaged the set with two boxes holding five discs in one and six in the other, the end result would still have been about the same. Again, the conclusion is that Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory have taken the smart route with the set’s packaging. That smart packaging along with the quality of the footage and the episodes themselves collectively makes The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 that much more of a must have for any true fan of classic television and for anyone looking for a way to bring the family back together every now and then for some quality time together.

The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from the Timeless Video store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/the-red-skelton-show-the-early-years-1951-1955. More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory is available online at:


Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364


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.

The Midnight Special’s Re-Issues Will Have Audiences Singing, Dancing Well Past Midnight

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment have made quite the name for themselves over the course of recent years.  Releases of classic series such as The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, The Dean Martin Show, China Beach, and most recently The Wonder Years have taken a company that for years was the butt of many people’s jokes to a place in the upper echelons of home entertainment companies.  For years, Time Life was known mainly for the not-so-well-known products that it pushed through extended advertisements on television.  Now it has carved out even more of a comfortable place in that upper echelon with the release of The Midnight Special on DVD.  The classic late night live concert series was released in a number of formats last month, resurrecting one more important piece of television and music history.  The show’s six-disc collector’s edition is one of the best of the sets that any fan of classic television and music can add to their own home library.  That is because it is one of the best examples of what made this series so great during its nine-year run on NBC.  It presents ninety-six total performances from bands, artists and groups across the music industry’s spectrum.  The acts that make appearances throughout the set’s six discs are the center of this box set’s enjoyment and success.  Just as important to note is the quality of the footage.  More than four decades have passed since the Midnight Special first debuted in 1972.  In that time, the footage presented in these performances has stood the test of time quite well.  And last but not least worth noting in the set’s success is its companion booklet.  The booklet serves as an episode guide for viewers.  That is the central point of its importance.  It also features personal insight from the series’ creator Burt Sugarman. Sugarman’s retrospection on the series and its importance adds one more layer of appreciation for this series.  Together with the acts that appear on each set and the quality of the footage, all three factors together make The Midnight Train another wonderful release from Time  Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment.

The Midnight Special was one of the most famed and beloved series on television during its day.  Unlike so many other series of the time, acts that came on the series in its heydey actually sang instead of lip synching.  What’s more, unlike American Bandstand, The Midnight Special focused on more than just the big pop acts of its day.  The acts that came to perform on NBC’s live overnight concert series spanned the music world’s ranks.  That is the most important aspect of this recently released classic series.  The acts that performed on The Midnight Special included the likes of John Denver performing alongside Linda Rondstadt and Aerosmith performing alongside Barry White, The Stylistics, and ELO.  It also featured acts the likes of: B.B. King, Frankie Vallie, Sammy Hagar, The O’Jays, BeeGees, and so many other greats that are still remembered today.  Even the show’s host himself, radio host Wolfman Jack was a celebrity in his own right.  Even today, he and those acts noted here are just as beloved as they were decades ago.  In an era when so many musical acts are little more than flash-in-the-pan pop acts and rarely radio worthy rock bands, musicaians and audiences alike need to be reminded of what once made music great and could again–originality and real talent.  That in mind, it makes sense that the list of performers that came on The Midnight Special is the central point of this series’ success whether in its six-disc box set or its other formats.

The list of artists, bands, and groups that graced The Midnight Special’s stage during its nine-year run on NBC is the most important aspect of this series’ recent re-issue.  More than four decades have passed since it first debuted on NBC in 1972.  That makes for plenty of reason to be concerned about the quality of the show’s footage in its transfer from tape to disc.  Luckily for audiences of all ages, painstaking efforts were taken to present the performances as they appeared in their original broadcasts. Those efforts paid off in spades as both the audio and video of each performance have been well-balanced.  Any impurities in the quality of the footage whether in the audio or video are so minute that they are unnoticable.  The end result is a product that for the show’s original audiences will generate a much-welcomed sense of nostalgia.  Both for those same audiences and the show’s much younger audiences, it also serves to show just how far music has come (both in a good and bad way) and how far recording technology has come, too.  So in the end, the quality of the footage in these performances makes Time Life and StarVista’s new re-issue of The Midnight Special even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The efforts taken to transfter The Midnight Special’s master tapes to disc have definitely not been for nothing.  The show looks and sounds just as good as it did in its original run all those years ago in its rencet re-issue.  The acts that appeared on the show (and that are featured on the new six-disc compilation) are just as important to the overall presentation.  Both aspects together more than make the series worth a watch or two in any of its three re-issue formats.  The last aspect of the series’ re-issue (at least in its six-disc compilation format) that makes it a success and so enjoyable is the set’s companion booklet.  The booklet serves primarily as an episode guide, pointing out disc-by-disc and episode-by-episode each artist, band, and group that appears.  That listing even includes the songs performed by said acts.  By itself, the episode listing more than helps the enjoyment of the series’ re-issue.  The added insight from series creator Burt Sugarman adds one more layer of enjoyment to the series’ various presentations.  In terms of the six-disc box set, Sugarman recalls how so few people had faith in the show and how great it felt to prove those naysayers wrong.  That insight along with other comments from Sugarman make for even more interest and enjoyment in watching the performances culled for the show’s different re-issues.  While being the last of the noteworthy factors that make The MIdnight Special so…well…special, it is hardly the least important of the factors that make the series’ sets such a joy.  This aspect, along with the quality production values and the performances culled for the releases, makes The Midnight Special a truly special experience for viewers of all ages.

The Midnight Special is available online now.  Its eleven-disc and sixteen disc sets can be ordered online direct from Time Life’s online store at http://timelife.com/products/the-midnight-special-collector-s-edition.  The six-disc collector’s edition can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Special-6DVD-Amaray/dp/B00L9OPJ5C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1414009549&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Midnight+Special.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.timelife.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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

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

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

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

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

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

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

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

Website: http://americastestkitchen.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/testkitchen

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