NYPD Blue’s Seventh Season Is The Series’ Best So Far

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release the seventh season of ABC’s former hit crime drama NYPD: Blue next Tuesday, September 30th.  The series’ complete seventh season is one more example of just why it remained so popular for so many years.  Regardless of whether one is new to the series or is more familiar with it, all audiences will agree in watching these episodes that the main reason it remained so popular in its seventh season is its writing.  Unlike Dick Wolf’s now mostly defunct Law & Order franchise, the writers behind NYPD: Blue continued to craft wholly original stories that didn’t have to be “ripped from the headlines.”  At the same time, the series’ writers managed to balance that with continued focus on character development and storylines within the department.  And in this season, there are most definitely some interesting developments among the show’s characters.  The ability of the show’s writers to balance these aspects so expertly is key to its continued success in its seventh season.  Just as important to the series’ success in its seventh season is its trademark look.  Even years after it started, audiences will see that it still maintained a certain gritty look that helped to set it apart from its counterpart over on NBC.  Where the season’s writing left off, that look picked up and continued to make suspension of disbelief even easier and in turn the show’s enjoyment all the greater.  The series’ writing and its look both play pivotal roles in the success of NYPD: Blue’s seventh season.  Last but hardly least worth noting is the show’s camera work.  That, too is something that had been established early on in the series’ run.  And much like the writing and look of the series, it too continued to set the series apart from the likes of Law & Order and other crime dramas.  All these factors taken into consideration, NYPD: Blue’s seventh season is one more must have for any fan of this modern classic crime drama.

The seventh season of NYPD: Blue has what proves to be some of the best writing that the series had seen up to this point.  That writing is the core of what makes NYPD Blue just as successful at this point as when the series kicked off so many years ago.  The stories presented throughout the series’ seventh season continued to separate NYPD: Blue apart from its crime drama counterpart on NBC as it didn’t use stories “ripped right from the headlines.”  Rather the stories continued to be wholly original.  Ironically enough, as original as the stories prove to be, the fact that they weren’t just adapted from actual headlines makes them all the more believable.  Case in point is the season premiere episode, “Loogie Nights.”  This episode sees Sipowicz and Sorenson handling a case of a fatal police beating.  Considering recent headlines and the focus today on criminal cops, it’s proof positive as to why the series’ writers didn’t need to take stories from the news and adapt them for their “own” works.  There is also a case of a young woman being gang-raped in another episode.  And a close examination of this season also reveals that while the series’ writers continued to craft wholly original and gripping stories in each episode, it also reflected the real world as there seemed to be more focus on and acceptance of the gay community throughout this season.  That is just this critic’s thought.  But it seems to be more prevalent than in previous seasons of the series.  That in itself is a starting point in another discussion, proving once more just how important the writing is to this series.

The work put into the episodes that make up Season Seven is by itself a major reason for the show’s continued success.  The stories themselves though are just part of what makes the writing work so well.  Audiences that are familiar with this series see even more development among the characters both by themselves and within their daily interactions.  Audiences will especially enjoy seeing Sipowicz’s personal growth as a father and a person after his wife’s death in the series’ sixth season.  He hasn’t lost any of his edge while on the job.  But while spending time with his son, he exhibits so much humanity.  He encourages his son and actually acts like a father should.  It’s enough to make even the hardest person smile and tear up.  Sipowicz’s personal relationship with Sorenson matures, too.  While their working relationship continues to appear as dysfunctional as ever, those that know Sipowicz’s history and personality know that things have actually gotten between the two detectives.  Even more impressive about this is that the writers didn’t let either of these character development factors overtake the rest of the show.  They balanced the character developments expertly with the stories with the end result being another group of stories that by themselves prove once more why the writing by itself makes Season Seven well NYPD: Blue’s best season yet.

The work of the writers behind NYPD: Blue shows exactly why this crime drama remained a hit among viewers even well into its seventh season.  Their work was just part of why the series continued to be so successful seven seasons in.  The work of those responsible for the show’s look deserve their own applause, too in this season.  The gritty, more realistic look of NYPD: Blue established early on in the series’ run is maintained even here in its seventh season.  Much like the show’s writing, that look helped to maintain the series’ separate identity from the other crime dramas that were on television at the time; more specifically from NBC’s Law & Order franchise.  It’s one more element that continued to help maintain suspension of disbelief, and in turn, enjoyment of the series.  It’s one more way in which the series continued to shine even in its seventh season.

The writing behind Season Seven’s episodes goes a long way toward making this season another hit for the series’ fans.  The continued realistic, gritty look and feel of the show also helps in its own way.  Last but not least of all is the series’ camera work.  To some, camera work is something minor.  But those that are more production minded will take note of the show’s short, fast paced shots throughout each episode.  Again, this is something that other crime dramas on TV at the time were not doing.  Such use of the cameras helped to heighten the tension within each episode.   It also helped with the scene transitions, too. Those scene transitions set NYPD: Blue apart from its counterparts just as much as the series writing and its look.  The fact that the series’ heads and those behind the cameras maintained this aspect of the series, too only serves to make Season Seven all the richer and more enjoyable for audiences.  Together with the noted writing and gritty look, it makes Season Seven just as much of a must have for fans of the show as the show’s previous full season sets.

The camera work incorporated into the seventh season of NYPD: Blue is one aspect of the show that had been there from the series’ first season.  It’s nice to see this element of the show maintained so far into the show’s run. The same can be said of the show’s gritty look.  The two elements, along with the wholly original stories and character development come together in this season to make it another collection that any fan of the series will welcome in their collections just as much as the series’ previous season sets.  NYPD: Blue Season Seven will be available next Tuesday, September 30th on DVD.  It can be ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/nypd-blue-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

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.

Motown 25 Is A Musical Diamond In The Rough

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Television in America possesses a rich history in its modern era.  The moon landing, JFK’s assassination, The Korean and Vietnam wars, presidential elections, 9/11 and so many other events fill the history of television in its modern era.  While it would seem that many of the most important events broadcast on television in its modern history are memorable because they are tragic, there are positive events recorded in television’s modern history, too.  Some of the most memorable of those more positive events are concerts that have brought people together from all walks of life.  Live Aid, The Concert For New York, and the Beatles’ first ever live performance on American television each make the list of television’s top live broadcast draws.  Next Tuesday, September 30th, Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment will add another concert to that list of television’s greatest live concerts when they release Motown 25Yesterday-Today-Forever.  Motown 25: Yesterday-Today-Forever was originally broadcast on NBC on May 16th, 1983.  This new three-disc DVD presentation marks the first time since its original VHS release in 1983 that the concert has seen the light of day.  Being that this is the first time in just over three decades that it has been released to the public, this edition of Motown 25YesterdayToday.-Forever is well worth the price and the watch.  The central reason for that is the sheer magnitude of material included in the overall presentation.  Audiences don’t just get the original broadcast.  They get to hear from the concert’s original heads and some of the artists that performed on that night.  Audiences also get a brief yet still insightful history on the famed “Hitsville USA” as a bonus.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this recording is the overall audio and video mix.  The painstaking efforts undertaken by those charged with restoring the concert’s footage paid off in spades.  Both the audio and video presented here sound and look just as good as the concert’s original broadcast if not better.  Completing the set is its companion booklet.  The booklet includes a brief yet thorough history on the concert and its lasting impact by author Nelson George and Motown 25 EP Suzanne De Passe.  Also included in the companion booklet is a complete guide to the concert’s lineup and bonus material along with full credits listing those behind the show.  The booklet is the final touch to a package that any old school r&b fan and lover of music and music history will appreciate.

Motown 25Yesterday-Today-Forever is one of the most enjoyable live recorded concerts in the modern history of television.  As enjoyable as it proves to be even today, it sadly is not one that most people think of when they think of major broadcast concerts.  That view will hopefully change though, after watching this presentation.  The amount of material included in this three-disc set alone is more than enough reason for viewers to change their view of Motown 25Yesterday-Today-Forever.  That vast amount of material includes not just the original concert recording, but a number of bonuses to go along with it.  Those bonuses include roundtable interviews with both the show’s heads and some of the performers, a brief but still thorough history of Hitsville, USA, and even an in-depth look at the very creation of the concert from pre-production to the finished product.  Audiences will be moved to hear the emotion as the show’s heads discuss their favorite memories from the concert.  There are plenty of laughs along the way.  And there are some tears, too.  The history lesson on Hitsville, USA is especially enjoyable for those that might not be so familiar with the history of the label that started it all for so many legends.  And the insight into the concert’s creation will interest anyone with any interest in television production.  Collectively, those bonuses along with the concert itself more than make Motown 25Yesterday-Today-Forever worth the watch whether one is a lover of old school lover of r&B, a music lover in general or even an individual with a love for music history.  And it is just part of what makes the collection worth the watch, too.  There is far more worth nothing that audiences will appreciate and enjoy just as much.  Another aspect worth noting is the overall quality of the concert’s footage (I.E. its audio and video mix).

The vast amount of material that makes up the body of Motown 25 is by itself more than enough reason for every lover of music.  It is just one part of the whole that makes the viewing experience a joy for audiences within this presentation.  The presentation’s collective audio and video mix adds to the presentation’s enjoyment.  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment included a disclaimer before Motown 25’s central concert presentation begins stating the footage may have some minor discrepancies at various points throughout the concert.  But audiences will see that if there are any such discrepancies, they are too minute to see with the naked eye.  Those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation in this set are to be commended for their painstaking efforts as they paid off in spades.  That applies both to the audio and video mix.  Every note comes through crystal clear as does every single camera shot.  Again, kudos go out to those responsible for bringing the footage back to life as it most definitely looks and sounds as good as it must have in its original broadcast.

The work that went into restoring the footage from the Motown 25 concert and the amount of material included in the new upcoming box set collectively makes it such an enjoyable experience for anyone that has any love for the classics and for music history in general.  As enjoyable as they make the experience together, the people at Star Vista and Time Life didn’t stop there.  They also included a companion booklet with the set that adds even more depth to the presentation.  The companion booklet included with this three-disc set features its own look back at the Motown 25 concert from the show’s EP, Suzanne De Passe as well as one from author Nelson George, who wrote The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Dance and Style.  Their shared insights offer a look at the concert that echoes the sentiments shared in the round table discussions that were included as bonus features.  Along with the additional insight and background on the concert, the set’s companion booklet also includes a complete song-by-song guide to the concert and bonus features.  And closing it out is a full listing of the names of those responsible for both the original concert and its re-working for its presentation here.  It finishes off a set that is arguably one more of this year’s best new archived live recordings.

Motown 25: Yesterday-Today-Forever is a diamond in the rough. With its full concert experience, bonus interviews and retrospective roundtable discussions, it offers audiences a concert experience unlike most others released so far this year.  The painstaking efforts on the part of those charged with re-mastering the concert’s original footage make the concert even more enjoyable for audiences.  And the bonus booklet added as a companion to the concert adds even more depth and insight to the show and its importance to the history of both r&b and the music world in whole.  All three factors together make Motown 25: Yesterday-Today-Forever one of this year’s best new archived live recordings and one that every lover of music will enjoy.  It will be available next Tuesday, September 30th and can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Motown-25-Yesterday-Today-Forever/dp/B00L9OPA56/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1411671053&sr=1-1&keywords=motown+25th+anniversary+television+special.  A special limited edition six-disc set and an expanded limited edition six-DVD/eight-CD set online via the Time Life online store at http://timelife.com/products/motown-25-yesterday-today-forever.  More information on these and other releases from Time Life and StarVista is available online at

Website: http://timelife.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.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.

Yankees Fans And Baseball Fans Alike Will Enjoy MLB Productions’ Latest Release

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: Lionsgate/MLB Productions/A&E/A&E Home Video

The New York Yankees are in the waning days of the team’s 2014 season.  And along with the end of that season is the end of an era as Yankees great Derek Jeter is set to close out his Major League Baseball career, too.  While this season has not exactly proven to be everything that Yankees loyalists had hoped for MLB Productions has given Yankees nation reason to look back after this season’s end and still have plenty to smile about thanks to the recent release of Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics.  This latest release continues a long-held tradition of excellence from Major League Baseball Productions as is evidenced throughout all four games contained in this set.  The inclusion of four full games is central to the enjoyment of the presentation.  That each game celebrates Jeter’s various accomplishments makes things even sweeter for fans.  As with previous MLB Productions releases, audiences are given the option to start at the top or bottom of any of the games’ innings.  They are not forced to sit through the whole game or even fast forward through to their key moments.  It adds even more enjoyment to the overall presentation.  And last but not least of all worth noting in this set is the collective video and audio mix in each episode.  MLB productions includes a disclaimer before the game, noting that there may be some discrepancies at given points.  But those discrepancies are few and far between.  If anything, seeing the games as they were originally broadcast adds to a certain sense of nostalgia among viewers, whether or not they be Yankees loyalists.  Each factor noted by itself is important to the whole in its own right.  All three together make Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Yankees® Postseason Heroics another welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.

Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is a welcome addition to the library of any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded MLB fan Yankees loyalist or not.  It is especially welcome being that New York’s season hasn’t exactly lived up to the hopes and expectations of the team or its fans.  Luckily for fans, this four-disc set features four past Yankees games on which fans can look back and smile after the season’s end.  The first of the games is Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS in which the Yankees faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.  The second game takes fans forward four years to Game 4 of the 2000 World Series.  The Yankees faced off against the Mets that year.  The key moment of this game was Jeter’s leadoff home run against the Mets.  The third game takes audiences another year forward to Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.  That year, the Yankees faced off against Oakland.  After taking down Oakland, the Yankees moved on in 2001 to the World Series, in which the team took on Arizona for the championship. MLB Productions features Game 4 of that year’s World Series as the set’s closing game.  As with the set’s other games, Jeter’s accomplishments are highlighted here, too.  Of course it doesn’t focus solely on his achievements.  Rather, the entire game is presented from the first pitch to the last.  The commercials have been cleanly cut, again displaying that commitment to quality from MLB Productions.  Simply put, with each game, audiences get the full game experience sans the commercial limitations.  They can pause the game at any point that they choose so as to use the bathroom, get a couple cold ones, or anything else.  All things considered here, it all proves just why the inclusion of the games and their inclusion in full at that is the central point of the set’s success.

The inclusion of four important recent Yankees games is central to the success of Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is central to the success of the set.  Their inclusion in full and the fact that they are meant to highlight the accomplishments of the soon-to-be-retired Yankee great Derek Jeter makes it even more of a solid center to the set.  Adding to the set’s success is the fact that once again, audiences are able to choose the inning at which they start each game.  To be even more precise, audiences can choose whether they start at the top of an inning within a given game or at the top of said inning.  So rather than be forced to sit through the whole game or fast forward through so much baseball, audiences can pick precisely where the game starts.  So if viewers have to stop for any reason, they can just pop in the DVD, pick the inning (and its top or bottom) and go from there.  If fast forwarding is still necessary, it won’t have to be but so much as a result of this inclusion.  This is a standard that those at MLB Productions have maintained for years.  So it is wonderful to see this standard maintained even here.  It serves to make the set’s overall presentation even more enjoyable and a success.

MLB fans and Yankees fans alike will appreciate that those with MLB Productions took painstaking efforts to maintain the tradition of excellence established by the company with every one of its releases up to this point including this set.  The games included in this set are presented in full. Audiences can once again choose the point at which they start giving games, whether the top or bottom of said inning(s).  All of this taken into consideration, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to offer plenty of enjoyment for MLB fans regardless of their team loyalty.  There is still one more aspect of this set that makes it a joy for audiences.  That last aspect is the fact that the games in this set are presented exactly as they were seen in their original broadcast(s).  Game 1 of the team’s 1996 ALCS matchup against the Orioles was originally broadcast on NBC while the other three games were each broadcast on FOX.  MLB Productions’ people covered their bases, including a disclaimer noting the potential issues with the games’ video.  But the reality is the video looks just fine.  As a matter of fact, seeing the games as they looked in their original airings brings back a wonderful sense of nostalgia for fans. Considering that this season hasn’t lived to the hopes and expectations of the team and its fans, that sense of nostalgia is especially welcome for the members of the Yankees nation.  Together with the aforementioned aspects of the set, the presentation of each game from its original broadcast rounds out Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics and makes it complete.  It is one more reason that audiences, regardless of allegiance, will welcome this latest collection of games from MLB Productions and A&E Home Video.

MLB Productions and A&E Home Video have a long history together, releasing wonderful pieces of baseball’s history every year.  Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics is one more wonderful piece of that history.  The inclusion of four games in their entirety proves that right off the top.  That audiences can once more choose where they start viewing each game makes it even more of an enjoyable experience.  And the still quality video and audio mix of all four games rounds out the entire set.  All things considered, Baseball’s Greatest Games: Yankees® Postseason Heroics proves to be its own home run for any Yankees loyalist and any true-blooded baseball fan in general.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from The Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=31220&TitleParentId=9945.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate and A&E Home Video is available online at:

 

Lionsgate

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate
Twitter: http://twitter.com/linosgatemovies

A&E Home Video

Website: http://www.aetv.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AETV
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AEHomeEnt

MLB Productions

Website: http://mlbproductions.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mlbprod

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.

IFC’s Portlandia is As Solid As Ever Now In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

When it first debuted on IFC almost four years ago in 2011, Portlandia was little more than an unknown sketch comedy show.  Now three years later, it has gone on to quite the unexpected success.  It has garnered itself a nomination for an Emmy award and even a Peabody award win; this despite the show still being largely a cult favorite.  Now with the recent release of the show’s fourth season on DVD, audiences that might still be unfamiliar with Portlandia will be able to see for themselves just what has made this little show that could a fan favorite for four seasons now.  The first and most obvious reason that Portlandia has garnered such a fan following over the course of its run is its writing.  The writing behind this show is the sort of writing that will impress any fan of The Kids in the Hall and The Upright Citizens Brigade.  Also worth noting of this season is the acting on the part of lead stars Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein along with their co-stars and guest stars.  Speaking of the guest stars, the guest stars lined up for Season Four add their own comedic element that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  All three factors together make the fourth season of IFC’s Portlandia a presentation that audiences new and not so new to the show will enjoy from start to finish.

The central point in the enjoyment of Portlandia Season Four is the show’s writing.  This season’s writing is a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein take no prisoners with co-writer Jonathan Krisel throughout this season.  From social media to organized religion to horror movies, pet adoption agencies and so much more, nothing is off limits this season.  There’s even a spoof of the classic 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama Indecent Proposal in one episode.  The episode in question features none other than the star of HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi.  The pokes at all things pop culture alone make Season Four well worth the watch.  They’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in what makes this season’s writing work.  As with the series’ previous three seasons, each episode is split into multiple segments with one skit serving as the hub of each episode.  That hub is sandwiched by a group of other stand-alone sketches.  This aspect of the writing is likely thanks in large part to SNL head Lorne Michaels also playing a role in this series, too.  And it proves to work quite well surprisingly enough even here.

Directly related to the writing behind Portlandia’s fourth season is the acting on the part of the both Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  The characters that have become so familiar and beloved by fans throughout the show’s first three seasons are back once again.  And the way that Armisen and Brownstein handle their portrayals makes for more than its share of laughs.  Those that might not be so familiar with the duo’s brand of comedy might see the duo’s acting as being aimed at a very specific audience.  The reality is that their acting is meant entirely to poke fun at certain groups of people.  They do so by going completely over the top in their stereotypical presentation of said characters.  It works perfectly with the scripts in general to make each of the sketches even more of a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein’s acting combines with the season’s writing to make each of this season even more entertaining, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.

Both the writing and acting that went into the fourth season of Portlandia play their own part in the overall enjoyment of this cult hit series.  Adding even more enjoyment to the overall presentation that is the series’ fourth season is the inclusion of a who’s who of guest stars.  It has already been noted that Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi is on board this season.  Joining him are the likes of Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1,23), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence DayHoly Man), and singer k.d. Lang among others.  Goldblum actually makes multiple appearances throughout this season’s sketches.  And Dunst opens the season in a hilarious episode that pokes fun at all of the really bad horror movies polluting theaters, store shelves and online retailers.  It is certain to leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry.  k.d. Lang’s appearance later in the season is just as funny.  She appears in a skit about a group of lesbians on a nature retreat.  The retreat just happens to be led by an older man.  Needless to say that things turn rather interesting for him and Lang’s character.  These are just some of the laughs offered by the guest stars throughout Portlandia’s fourth season.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they pick up this season’s box set.

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  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.

Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 DVD Set Is Fun But Flawed Re-Issue Set

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Television today is a virtual wasteland of programming.  If one takes the time to examine the current programming lineup for the “Big 4” and even the cable spectrum reveals that dramas and reality shows are the biggest draw for most of those networks right now.  The comedies that are there sadly lack the heart of the comedies crafted from television’s golden era up until about the mid to late 90s.  They have all become oversexed and dumbed down.  And the news magazines all seem to be dominated by stories about murders.  Taking into consideration what has happened to television today, Mill Creek Entertainment’s re-issue of Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 early this year becomes quite the welcome box set.  Seasons 3 and 4 offer plenty more laughs for viewers.  For all of the enjoyment offered in the box set’s five discs, the set isn’t without one glaring fault.  It is the same fault that has hindered each of Mill Creek’s box sets.  Luckily, that one fault isn’t enough to take away from the one other positive to this season, which is the inclusion of a young Tony Shaloub to the show’s cast as well as celebrity appearances from members of the Cheers cast and other well-known figures.  The good and the bad taken together here, Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 proves to be an easy candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s release of Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 is an easy candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.  The main reason for that is the show’s writing.  The series, which was co-created and produced by Cheers staffers David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee, proves in its third and fourth seasons to still have more heart than any of the sitcoms currently on television today.  A look at the writing in these two seasons proves that.  The series’ writers managed to do something in these two seasons that few if any writers have managed to do in recent years.  They managed to balance the series’ story lines so as to not let its serial side overpower its standalone side.  That balance is just as visible in Cheers.  So it should come as no surprise that it is just as stable here.  In terms of the show’s more serial-centered side, the relationship between Helen and Joe will keep viewers laughing through every episode.  ‘Ladies Who Lunch” is one of the best of those episodes.  Helen and Gail, Joe’s ex and his current girlfriend hang out and end up becoming friends.  Ironically, Gail ends up breaking up with Joe in the process.  On the other side of things, there is the two-part story arc that sees Antonio trying to get his green card.  That arc is made up of the episodes “Marriage, Italian Style” and “Divorce, American Style.” The two episodes together make up what is a time honored storyline used in so many sitcoms before and after. As many times as it has been used even before this case, these two episodes are just as funny as those of any of those noted series. The ability of the show’s writers to balance the series’ serial elements with its standalone elements is just one part of what audiences will appreciate in its third and fourth seasons. Audiences will appreciate the writing itself in terms of its jokes and story lines.

The jokes and story lines incorporated in the third and fourth seasons of Wings should not be omitted in examining what makes these seasons work so well. Audiences will enjoy the writers’ homage to I Love Lucy in Season 4’s episode “I Love Brian.” Brian badmouths I Love Lucy because of the show’s writing. Yet he ends up taking part in an equally bird brained scheme in order to meet country singer Clint Black (who makes a guest appearance for the episode) and impress a woman. In “Goodbye, Old Friend,” Lowell loses a dear friend. Even in his grief, he provides his own share of laughs as he goes through the five stages of grieving in a matter of a minute if that. The timing of that moment along with Brian’s (Steven Weber) statement that Lowell would go through the stages over months makes it an especially lighthearted moment. At the same time though, Lowell is still struggling with his feelings at having lost such a friend. His final gesture for his friend makes the episode whole and will warm any viewer’s heart. These are just a couple examples of how the actual writing in Seasons 3 & 4 makes these two seasons even more welcome additions to the library of anyone looking for a break from all of the over sexed and overly violent programming out there today. Together with the writers’ ability to balance the show’s serial elements with its standalone elements, it is even more a welcome respite from those shows.

So much was done right with Wings in its third and fourth season n terms of its writing. For all of those positives, this recently released box set is not without one glaring fault. That glaring fault is the box set’s packaging. All five of this set’s discs are set one on top of the other on a single spindle inside the case. This creates a certain amount of difficulty in pulling the disc of choice by viewers. It also increases greatly the likelihood of the discs scratching themselves. This is a major issue that Mill Creek has yet to address even to this day. And until it fixes the problem, that poor manner of packaging is going to continue to cause Mill Creek to trail its “big brothers.” Luckily, it isn’t enough to take away too much from the overall enjoyment taken from the series’ writing or the last factor worth noting in this set. That last factor is the celebrity guest appearances made throughout Seasons 3 and 4.

The celebrity guest appearances made throughout the third and fourth seasons of Wings round out the package in whole and make these two seasons all the more worth the watch. Seasons 3 and 4 see some of the cast members from Cheers make appearances along with other celebs. Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth make an onscreen appearance as Dr. Frasier Crane and his wife Lilith in one episode, while fellow Cheers alumnus Kirstie Alley also makes an appearance alongside country superstar Clint Black in “I Love Brian.” Oliver North and William Hickey (Prizzi’s Honor, The Nightmare Before Christmas) also make appearances. The fact that the series could garner such star power was by itself a major statement of faith. It was a statement of faith in the series. That faith combined with the series’ solid writing to make it just as much a fan favorite then as it will be now in its latest re-issue by Mill Creek. And audiences will agree to all of that when they purchase this five-disc set themselves.

Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered now direct from Mill Creek’s online store here. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online through the official Mill Creek Entertainment website and Mill Creek Entertainment Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog.

Wynonna To Appear On NBC’s Hollywood Game Night Thursday Night

Courtesy:  Mitch Schneider Organization

Courtesy: Mitch Schneider Organization

Country music superstar Wynonna will be on TV tomorrow night.

Wynonna Judd will appear tomorrow night at 8pm ET/7PM CT on NBC’s hit celebrity game show Hollywood Game Night. She will be joined by fellow celebrities Johnny Weir, Scott Foley, Leah Remini, Krysten Ritter, and Nick Swardson on tomorrow night’s episode. She and her team won’t be the only ones cying for a win tomorrow night. Audiences will actually have the chance to win a free pair of shoes from Wynonna’s own “Got Soul” line during tomorrow night’s episode. Here’s how: Wynonna and the show’s people will tweet out a question about the episode. Those that answer the question correctly and tag both @Wynonna and @NBCGameNight with the hashtag #WynonnaGame Night will have the chance to win a free pair of shoes. One lucky winner will be chosen this Friday morning. More details on tomorrow night’s contest are available online at http://www.wynonna.com.

Tomorrow night’s appearance on NBC isn’t the only event on Wynonna’s very busy schedule. She is also scheduled to perform the National Anthem Sunday August 3rd at Dodger Stadium before the currently NL West Division leading Dodgers host the Chicago Cubs. And the night before her performance, Wynonna will hold a free concert in Los Angeles as part of the “Country in the City” concert series. The concert is an all-ages show and is presented by KCRW 89.9 FM. The concert series serves to celebrate the Annenberg Space for Photography’s “Country: Portraits of an American Sound” exhibit. The exhibit is currently running and will run through September 28th. Ticket information for all of Wynonna’s shows is available online at http://www.wynonna.com/the-road.html. Wynonna’s current tour schedule is listed below.

Catch WYNONNA & The Big Noise out on the road this summer:

Tue

7/15 Central Point, OR Jackson County Fair
Wed 7/16 Livermore, CA Wente Vineyards
Fri 7/18 Tacoma, WA Emerald Queen Casino
Sat 7/26 Calgary, AB Canada Grey Eagle Resort & Casino
Sat 8/2 Los Angeles, CA Annenberg Space for Photography
Fri 8/8 Rock Hill, SC Old Town Amphitheater
Sat 8/9 Waco, GA Black Tie & Boots Event – Murphy Campus
Thu 8/14 Shreveport, LA Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
Fri 8/15 Robinsonville, MS Horseshoe Casino
Tue 8/26 Scottsdale, AZ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Thu 8/28 Redding, CA Win-River Casino
Fri 8/29 Reno, NV Atlantis Casino Resort Spa
Sat 8/30 West Wendover, NV Peppermill Concert Hall
Sun 8/31 Copper Mountain, CO Copper County Festival

 

To top off everything that Wynonna is currently doing, she and her husband , producer/drummer Cactus Moser, are working on material for her eighth full length studio release. That album is due out in 2015 on Curb Records. She recently sat down with Rolling Stone for an interview and explained what fans can expect from the album. “It’s vintage yet modern,” she says. “It’s hard to explain. A lot of the things I did I’m drawing from, yet the new sound is so simple and so pure. I’m playing instruments on stage that I started playing when I was nine. I’ve never done that in my whole career. So it’s a time of going back to the well and starting over.” The complete interview can be read online now at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/wynonna-gets-raw-primal-on-life-changing-new-album-20140709.

More information on Wynonna’s tour, album and more is available online at http://www.wynonna.com, http://www.facebook.com/wynonnajudd, and http://twitter.com/WynonnaMusic. 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.

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

Video Services Corporation (VSC) will release the fourth season of IFC’s hit comedy series Portlandia this summer.

Portlandia: Season 4 will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 26th. Armisen’s beloved characters Dave and Kath are back in Portlandia’s fourth season, as are Spike and his uptight girlfriend, Iris. Spike and Iris have to deal with a difficult situation at a Thai restaurant while Dave and Kath actually give relaxation a try. And then there is the couple, Nina and Lance. Nina and Lance have to recover from the trauma of losing a pet this season.

Season Four sees a who’s who of celebrity guests across its ten episodes. Among some of the more well-known guests that appear on the show this season are: k.d. lang, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1 – 3), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Mark Proksch (The Office), and many others. Also returning from Portlandia’s previous seasons is an equally high profile list of stars including: Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 1 &2, Independence Day), Ed Begley, Jr. (Arrested Development, Pineapple Express), Jason Sudeikis (How I Met Your Mother), and director Gus Van Sant (Promised Land, Milk) and just as many other big names.

Portlandia: Season Four was shot entirely in Portland, Oregon. It is co-created and co-written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel. Krisel is also the series’ director. The series is executive prodiced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and produced by Broadway Video. Portlandia: Season Four is comprised of ten episodes on two discs. It will retail for SRP of $19.98. Portlandia has earned a Peabody © award and has been nominated for an Emmy ® award as well, and has run for four seasons exclusively on Independent Film Channel.

More information on this and other releases from Video Services Corporation is available online at http://www.facebook.com/videoservicescorp, http://www.videoservicescorp.com, and http://twitter.com/vidserv. 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.