PBS Celebrates Four Decades Of ACL With Special Anniversary Concert

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Austin City Limits hit a major milestone this year.  The network’s hit music series celebrated forty-years with PBS.  In celebration, PBS is releasing a special DVD celebrating the long-running series next month.

PBS will release Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years on Tuesday, December 2nd.  Austin City Limits’ four-decade long run on PBS is especially important to both the network and to music lovers alike.  In the four decades that Austin City Limits has been on PBS, it remains the only TV series to be awarded the Medal of Arts.  Also in that time, MTV’s Unplugged and VH1′s Storytellers have gone by the wayside.  And even CMT’s on Crossroads series has failed to maintain the stability and reputation of ACL.  Throughout its now forty-years on television, ACL has seen and continues to see some of the industry’s biggest names take to the stage.  Those names include the likes of Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and so many others.  Many more names are sure to be added to that list as there appears to be no end to this landmark series.

In honor of the series’ fortieth anniversary, many of those same big names have come on board for this celebratory concert.  Bonnie Raitt joins Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes for a performance of the Sam & Dave classic ‘Wrap It Up’ to open the concert.  Howard returns later in the show alongside Gary Clark, Jr. for a special performance.  Willie Nelson, the red-headed stranger himself, joins Emmylou Harris for a performance of Nelson’s ‘Crazy.’  Singer/actor Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow team up for a performance of Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee.  Foo Fighters even make an appearance to perform Roky Erickson’s ‘Two-Headed Dog.’  That performance was recorded at the original ACL television studio especially for the concert.  Actor Jeff Bridges hosts the night’s festivities.  He also performs a special rendition of ‘What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do’ from the late singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton.  Bruton was a big influence on Bridges’ Oscar-winning role in the movie ‘Crazy Heart.’  As if all of this isn’t enough, Joe Ely and fellow local legend Robert Earl Keen make an appearance.  Blues legend Buddy Guy rounds out the show with a performance of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’  And finishing off the whole thing is a star-studded tribute to Buddy Holly and the one and only Stevie Ray Vaughan.  A who’s who of guitarists performs Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ and SRV’s ‘Texas Flood’ for the night’s biggest finish.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years was taped live at the ACL Live at the Moody Theater and the show’s original studio, Austin PBS affiliate KLRU’s Studio 6A.  The complete list of performers is: Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Mike Farris, Foo Fighters, Grupo Fantasma, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jimmie Vaughan.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years will be available Tuesday, December 2nd.  It will retail for MSRP of $24.99.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50214636&cp=&sr=1&kw=austin+city+limits&origkw=Austin+City+Limits&parentPage=search.  More information on Austin City Limits is available online at

Website: http://acltv.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/acltv

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Endeavour Remains Television’s Top Crime Drama In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Late this summer PBS released the complete second series of itv’s hit crime drama Endeavour to the masses.  The four-episode season from the British television network proved to be such a hit among audiences that only a couple months after its release on DVD and Blu-ray, itv awarded the series with a full-season renewal for a third series.  There is currently no word on when Series Three will be broadcast.  But speculation is that fans won’t see new episodes until sometime in 2015.  That being the case, this summer’s release of Endeavour Series 2 will most definitely tide over audiences.  Series creator/writer/executive producer Russell Lewis has taken the success of the show’s first series /season and built quite solidly upon it in this collection of episodes making it one of this year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.  Lewis has built on the success of Endeavour’s first season first and foremost through his solid writing.  The stand-alone stories that make up each of the four episodes will keep audiences just as much on the edge of their seats as in the show’s first series/season.  Audiences that haven’t yet seen this series/season will note that Lewis has also incorporated a serial element of sorts to the show; a serial element that hopefully will not overshadow the show’s stand-alone element when it returns in 2015.  Luckily in the case of this series the two elements are actually quite well-balanced.  It’s one more reason that audiences will enjoy this series.  The acting on the part of Shaun Evans and his cast mates throughout each of this season’s episodes completes the whole experience.  Evans and company expertly interpret the episodes’ scripts and help to completely immerse audiences in the stories.  Together with the gripping primary story lines and the newly added secondary, the acting proves without a shadow of a doubt once more why Endeavour remains better than any of the crime dramas currently polluting the “Big 4” and the major American cable networks now in its second series/season.

British television network itv’s crime drama Endeavour proved to be a surprise hit in its debut season last year.  Its second series has proven to be even more of a hit both on television and on DVD and Blu-ray.  The central reason for that success is the writing.  The stories crafted by Russell Lewis for this outing are just as gripping as those developed for the show’s first season.  Season opener “Trove” picks up right where the series left off in its first season with Morse having returned from his brush with death in “Home.”  Audiences don’t know it at this point, but the happy working relationship that Morse has with Police Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) is on the verge of a downturn beginning with this episode.  It’s part of the season’s secondary writing that makes this season even more enjoyable and engaging.  It will be discussed later.  Getting back to the primary writing, this season’s second episode proves just as much why the primary writing keeps the show so enjoyable.  “Nocturne” sees Morse investigating a series of murders that are linked to an old ghost story.  And in “Sway” audiences are presented with a story that seems to have been influenced at least to some degree by the stories of Jack The Ripper.  The comparisons are subtle.  But they are there.  “Neverland,” the season finale is perhaps the most gripping of the season’s episodes.  That is because it highlights the secondary writing that comes into play this season.  As Morse investigates a trio of murders, he uncovers corruption within the highest levels of Oxford’s society and even within the very police force for which he works.  It leads to not just one but two cliffhangers that are sure to leave viewers waiting anxiously for Endeavour’s third season.  There are those that have argued and who will, that the use of such a story element as these cliffhangers are far too below the standard set by Lewis in the series’ first season.  Those that are open-minded enough though, will see the value in these elements.  They keep anticipation high for the show’s third season.  It’s also only the first time that Lewis has used a cliffhanger at all.  So it goes without saying that Lewis has been tasteful in using it.  Lewis can easily be forgiven and even applauded for that.  Now the key is for itv to not leave audiences waiting too long for the show’s third season.  If network execs sit on their hands too long, the use of the dual cliffhangers will work against them and Lewis.  That’s because if itv waits too long to premiere Season Three, anticipation might have waned too much and such solid writing would have proven to be all for naught.

Endeavour’s second season proves in the long run to be quite a step up from the series’ first season.  That is not meant in any way to discount its first season.  Its first season was enjoyable in its own right.  But this season has taken the success of that season and built on it in a big way.  That is thanks in large part to Russell Lewis’ writing.  The stories presented in this season each keep audiences engaged from start to finish.  It is in itself a tribute to Lewis’ attention to detail.  The secondary writing that went into these episodes is just as much of a positive worth noting this season.  Lewis has incorporated a romantic interest for Morse this season.  Most interesting to note here is that his love interest is black.  Being that the series is supposed to take place in the 1960s–the civil rights era.  It is interesting to see the cultural acceptance of such a relationship in the U.K. verses the lack thereof in the United States.  It’s just one of the secondary story elements that Lewis incorporates into this season’s episodes that makes them so enjoyable.  The other equally important story element incorporated into Season Two is the gradually degrading relationship between Morse and certain individuals inside the police force.  Right from the season premiere to its finale, audiences see things really start to change especially between Morse and Police Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright.  The ultimate revelation as to Bright’s role in this season’s events makes him a perfectly despicable character in the long run.  It lets audiences know that something big is going to happen to him in the show’s third season.  It basically lets audiences know that Bright will likely get what’s coming to him in Season Three.  Here’s to hoping that in fact does happen.  The inclusion of a new underlying romance subplot and that of corruption within the police force is nothing new to the worlds of television and movies.  It’s been done.  But what makes it work so well here is the fact that [Russell] Lewis had not used these elements in the show’s first season.  With any luck, he will keep them to a minimum in the show’s third season.  Hopefully things will be wrapped up nicely early in Season Three so as to allow the show’s stand-alone elements to once again shine.  Regardless, their inclusion this season has done a lot to help advance the show and make it even more interesting and enjoyable.

The primary and secondary writing that went into Endeavour’s second season are both key aspects of the episodes that make them collectively so enjoyable.  As important as they are to the overall enjoyment and success of Season Two, the acting on the part of the cast is just as important.  Shaun Evans (Morse) and Roger Allam (DI Fred Thursday) are just as talented this season as in Season One.  The duo takes its roles with the full seriousness they deserve even with the show still in its infancy.  The care with which they present their characters makes audiences believe that Evans and Allam have been playing their roles for decades.  At no point in any of this season’s episodes does the duo falter in its high quality acting, either.  It makes suspension of disbelief that much easier and enjoyment of these episodes that much more in the long run.  Together with the season’s stories overall, the pair’s acting makes Endeavour: Series/Season 2 a must for any true lover of the crime drama genre.

Endeavour has proven once again in its second series to be just as enjoyable as any major American crime drama on television today.  It has proven that thanks both to the primary and secondary aspects of the show’s writing.  The expert acting on the part of Shaun Evans and Roger Allam helps prove this argument, too.  By themselves, each factor makes its own case why audiences will enjoy this latest installment of Endeavour.  Altogether, they make it stand head and shoulders above its American counterparts once again.  Endeavour: Series 2 is available no on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620626&cp=&sr=1&kw=endeavour&origkw=Endeavour&parentPage=search.  Audiences can get more information on Endeavour online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/programs/endeavour/

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

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PBS Reveals New Secrets Of China’s Terracotta Army In New Episode Of NOVA

Emperor's Ghost Army Box ArtPBS will release the latest episode of its hit science-based series NOVA to the masses this fall.

NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army will be released Tuesday, December 16th on DVD.  The program follows researchers as they embark on a new archaeological expedition to the mausoleum that houses the famed Terracotta Army of China’s first emperor Quin Shi Huang Di.  The discoveries made in the course of the campaign reveal shocking and eye-opening secrets about the warriors.  The discoveres are made through the use of revolutionary new 3D computer modeling techniques.  Audiences will also learn how the emperor directed the creation of thousands of actual bronze weapons for the warriors and why he intended to use actual weapons for them instead of mere ceremonial weapons.  It’s just one of the many surprising discoveries revealed throughout the course of the episode’s hour-long run time.

NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army will retail for MSRP of $24.99.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50703636&cp=&kw=emperors+ghost+army&origkw=Emperor%27s+Ghost+ARmy&sr=1.  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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

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.

PBS Will Resurrect Royalty This Fall

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is will resurrect King Richard III this fall.

PBS will release Secrets of the Dead: Resurrecting Richard III on Tuesday, December 2nd. The hour-long program focuses on efforts by researchers to identify bones recently found buried under a parking lot in England. The skeleton was of a hunchbacked individual. An arrow was also found in the person’s remains. The million-dollar question was ultimately answered with researchers from The University of Leicester proving that the remains were in fact those of Richard III.

Having positively ID’d the remains as those of the infamous king, researchers looked even deeper into who Richard III was. They asked what the bones show about Richard’s physical condition. They also researched the impact his condition would have actually had on him both as a military leader and combatant. Those questions and research lead to a discussion on the legends surrounding Richard III’s real role in the War of the Roses. A re-enactor is used to help researchers answer their questions. But before any full conclusions can be made, he must be trained to the point that he would be able to actually fight in battle in full armor despite having scoliosis. The findings reached through the training, research, and re-enactments will leave audiences talking long after the program has ended.

Secrets of the Dead: Resurrecting Richard III will be available Tuesday, December 2nd on DVD. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46534286&cp=&sr=1&kw=secrets+of+the+dead&origkw=Secrets+of+the+dead&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online at:

Website: http://pbs.org/secrets

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

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.

PBS’ NOVA Goes Prehistoric In New Episode

Courtesy:  PBS/National Geographic

Courtesy: PBS/National Geographic

PBS’ hit science series NOVA is going prehistoric.

PBS will release NOVA: Bigger Than T. Rex on DVD next month. The DVD will be released Tuesday, December 9th. The program focuses on paleontologists’ discovery almost a century ago of a dinosaur that was even bigger than the king of the dinosaurs, the T. Rex. The dinosaur, dubbed the Spinosaurus, was almost lost to the ages due to a bombing raid by allied forces in WWII. The near complete destruction of the dinosaur’s bones left only drawings of the beast , leaving researchers with more questions than answers.

Many of those questions left by the partially destroyed skeleton are now being answered thanks to the recent discovery of a new skeleton in a Moroccan cliff face. In this new episode of NOVA, audiences will see the processes undertaken by paleontologists as they dig out the skeleton of the 53-foot-long creature and answer those questions previously left unanswered. The episode is presented in partnership with National Geographic.

NOVA: Bigger Than T. Rex will be available on DVD Tuesday, December 9th. It will retail for MSRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50703646&cp=&sr=1&kw=bigger+than+t.+rex&origkw=Bigger+Than+T.+Rex&parentPage=search. It will also be available via digital download. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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

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.

PBS To Release New Bing Crosby Documentary This Fall

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cook’s Country Season 7 Another Great Fit For Any Foodie And Lover Of The Culinary Arts

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release the seventh season of its fan favorite cooking series Cook’s Country tomorrow.  The series’ seventh season is another delectable treat for any foodies and lovers of the culinary arts out there.  Much like its “sister series” America’s Test Kitchen, the central aspect of this season’s success is that it continues to make the food the star instead of the hosts.  And also just as with that series, it also offers the same content as that series, proving once more that cooking is a science rather than just standing over a hot stove.  Rounding out this latest release’s success is the fact that every one of the dishes features throughout the season are also presented with their own printable recipes.  Each of the factors noted by themselves play their own important part in the enjoyment of Cook’s Country: Season 7.  Collectively, all three factors make this latest collection of episodes one more delectable season of one of television’s top two cooking series.  The other top candidate:  That’s right.  It’s America’s Test Kitchen.

Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen are the top two cooking series on television today.  That is merely the opinion of this critic.  It is not a statement by the numbers.  Though, it would be interesting to see the numbers for both of these hit PBS series.  Getting back on topic, one of the reasons that Cook’s Country—much like its “sister series”—has remained so popular among audiences now seven seasons in is that it makes the food the star, not the hosts.  Far too many of the cooking shows on the likes of Food Network, Travel Channel, Fox, and Cooking Channel make the people the stars.  A cooking show shouldn’t be about the people.  It should be about the food.  Thank goodness this series has stuck to that constant now seven seasons in.  And the food is definitely mouth-watering to say the least.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all featured here.  From the rise and shine “Impossible” Ham-and-cheese pie to the Grilled Cowboy-Cut rib eyes and Grilled Caesar Salad for lunch to the Slow-Cooker Baked Ziti for lunch, there are plenty of tantalizing dishes for audiences of all tastes.  There are even some great desert recipes in the form of the Strawberry Pretzel Salad, Italian Cream Cake, and Summer Berry Pudding.  There are plenty of other recipes from which audiences will find their favorite(s).  Regardless of which recipe(s) audiences pick, the vast selection and styles show the respect that the series’ hosts and heads have for food and its role in the world.  It’s just one way in which this season continues the long-held tradition of Cook’s Country to make the food the star of the show.  And that continued tradition is just one part of why audiences will appreciate the series’ seventh season in its DVD release.

The long-held tradition of making the food the star rather than the hosts is a big part of what has made Cook’s Country and its “sister series” hits among audiences for so many years.  Just as important to the enjoyment of Cook’s Country: Season Seven is the focus on food’s history and its educational importance.  This is another long-held tradition that has made Cook’s Country just as much of a hit as ATK.  Audiences learn how different ingredients and chemicals interact with one another in each episode.  They also learn little tidbits along the way that make this season just as interesting as the series’ previous seasons.  One example of those tidbits is the importance of using room temperature milk versus cold milk in making homemade cinnamon buns.  There’s even some history tossed in throughout various episodes.  One of the more interesting pieces of history that audiences will learn is that the New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp actually uses no barbecue sauce at all.  It in fact uses spices and butter among other elements.  Host Christopher Kimball and his co-cook in that episode explain where the misleading name came from.  It’s a pretty interesting little lesson.  And it’s just one more example of why the educational content of Cook’s Country: Season 7 makes this season another wonderful collection for any foodie and lover of the culinary arts.

The combination of educational content and focus on food rather than people makes Cook’s Country: Season 7 well worth the watch by any foodie and lover of the culinary arts.  As enjoyable as the pair makes this season’s episodes, there is still one aspect of this box set worth noting that makes it enjoyable.  That final factor is the inclusion of a full set of printable recipes.   Every dish presented in this double-disc set is accompanied by its own printable recipe in .pdf format.  So all a person needs to print them out is Adboe Reader.  This is important to note in that audiences don’t get this with ATK‘s home releases.  There are some recipes in its home releases.  But they rarely include every recipe for audiences to try themselves.  Cook’s Country: Season 7 is the exact opposite.  Audiences can print out any of the recipes or all of them and start up their very own cookbook (or expand said cookbook).  That way, audiences can try out any of the recipes from this season for themselves whenever they want.  This aspect together with the show’s continued educational content, and its focus on food rather than people, makes Cook’s Country: Season 7 whole.  It makes this set another great addition to the home library of any foodie and lover of the culinary arts.

Cook’s Country: Season 7 is available now on two-disc DVD bo set.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46781986&cp=&sr=1&kw=cooks+country+season+7&origkw=Cook%27s+Country+Season+7&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other seasons of Cook’s Country is available online at:

Website: http://www.cookscountry.com

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

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.