Sapphire And Steel Proves To Be One Of TV’s Most Underrated Sci-Fi Dramas

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/itv

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/itv

Shout! Factory has made quite the name for itself in recent years by releasing some of the twentieth century’s greatest TV shows and movies.  Partnerships with variety of companies have resulted in the release of classic 90s Nicktoons and some equally beloved older movies including: The Producers, Swamp Thing, and They Live just to name a few.  While many of Shout! Factory’s releases in recent years have been relatively well known to American audiences, there have been those releases that are far more obscure.  Earlier this year, Shout! Factory partnered up with an Australian company to release the Dr. Who spinoff, -9: The Complete Series.  Now as the year winds down, Shout! Factory has partnered with British network itv to release another more obscure classic series in the form of Sapphire and SteelSapphire and Steel was a show well ahead of its time.  An examination of its writing and production values proves this.  A side-by-side comparison with the likes of Fox’s hit sci-fi series The X-Files and Fringe shows just how far ahead of time Sapphire and Steel was in its original run from the late 70s into the 80s.    That comparison will prove in the grand scheme of things just how important Sapphire and Steel is today, despite its original short, roughly four-year run.

Sapphire and Steel was in its original run, one of very serials on the air at its time.  Other than soap operas, most networks during the 70s ran very few primetime serials.  This applies even with British television.  That aspect alone puts Sapphire and Steel far ahead of its time.  Putting it even far more ahead of its time is that despite audiences’ desire to compare the two, this series is nothing like its fellow British sci-fi series, Dr. Who.  The only concrete similarity that the two share is the fact that Sapphire and Steel are able to travel through time with ease as they investigate various cases.  Other than that, there are no similarities between the pair.  If anything Sapphire and Steel can be more easily compared to Fox’s The X-Files and Fringe.  All three shows see their main characters investigating experiences that defy any logical explanation.  In the case of Sapphire and Steel, audiences see its two main characters investigating most notable the case of a man who had the ability to trap people in photographs in one episode.  Another saw them investigating a haunted train station that was already being investigated by a self-proclaimed ghost hunter.  And in one of the most interesting of the short-lived series’ episodes, Sapphire and Steel have to deal with a pair of time travelers from the future.  The dialogue between the characters is simple enough for any viewer to follow.  And the music written in as a bed for each scene helps make each one even more gripping.  One must not forget the manner in which each episode ends, too.  The show’s writing staff made no bones about the fact that this show was a serial.  The semi-cliffhanger episode endings were expertly written.  They kept viewers really wanting to know what will happen next.  This is a tribute to the work put into each episode by the show’s writers even with each episode being split into so many episodes.  That writing made having so many episodes per story enjoyable, rather than annoying as some critics would like to believe.

The writing behind Sapphire and Steel is the series’ key point of success.  The show’s writers crafted stories that were largely unlike anything that other British, and even American dramas of the time were doing.  Also to be factored into the show’s importance is its production values.  The general production values of Sapphire and Steel are by today’s standards rather low grade.  However, when one looks at the production values in a larger picture, those behind the show used what they had at the time.  The result is that it led the show to rely on its writing and acting for its success.  That’s not to say that in hindsight the special effects are low budget.  There is something about the show’s production values that in comparison to so many of today’s TV shows and movies that makes one appreciate them.  Today’s movies and TV shows are so over the top in terms of their production values that it makes them feel boring.  Classics such as this show though, have more substance.  It uses the production values as a companion tool to the writing, thus giving audiences a truly full viewing experience.  Whether one is familiar with Sapphire and Steel or not, it proves with its combination of solid writing and its production values that it’s a show that any sci-fi fan should see at least once.  Perhaps in doing so, said viewers will gain a new appreciation for not just the one show, but classic science fiction television and film making as a whole.  Sapphire and Steel is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/catalog/search/?uc_search_word=Sapphire%20and%20Steel.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.

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Title Fight Headlines April 19th Edition Of FNF

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This week’s edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights is headlined by a title fight between Interim Featherweight Javier “El Abejon” Fortuna (21 – 0, 1 NC 15 KOs, The Ring No. 10) and challenger Miguel “Michael” Zamudio (24 – 1 – 1, 13 KOs) in a twelve round main event live from the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.  The match will air live at 10:30pm on ESPN2 HD and ESPN Deportes.  It will also be available online and through mobile media via WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.  This is a slight change from the usual broadcast time of 9pm.  The re-broadcast will air this Saturday, April 20th at 2:30am on ESPNNEWS. 

Fortuna won the WBA Interim Featherweight title in December 2012 in a twelve round unanimous decision win over the previously undefeated Patrick Hyland.  ESPN.com boxing writer Dan Rafael wrote of Fortuna after the bout with Hyland, “Fortuna has looked sensational in some of his fights and has scored some tremendous knockouts, including in his previous two fights – a first-round blowout of fellow prospect Yuandale Evans and a second-round stoppage of former Featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz. Fortuna burst to a big lead over the first half of this fight, but Hyland hung in there and tried to make it a brawl. Hyland, who had never faced a quality opponent, showed toughness and a good chin but little else as Fortuna boxed circles around him.”

Zamudio makes his U.S. debut in Friday’s fight.  His most recent fight resulted in an eight-round split decision win over Gilberto Bolanos.  He discussed this week’s fight in an interview, noting his respect for Fortuna but his desire to make a big impact in his U.S. debut.  “I like the way Fortuna fights,” Zamudio said.  “I respect him, but in the ring it will be totally different. This will be the first time that I’ve been to the United States. My dream is to be champion of the world, and I want to make my dream come true. I’m going to win this fight.”

Friday’s main event will be accompanied by a pair of pre-fight warm-up matches.  The first of the night’s events will pit a pair of undefeated Welterweights against each other.  Emmanuel Lartey (15 – 0, 8 KOs) will face Jhonathan Batista (13 – 0, 6 KOs) in a six-round fight.

The evening’s second fight on the card features Jr. Middleweight “Sir” Cerresso Fort (16 – 0 – 1, 11 KOs) facing off against 2008 Olympian John “The Rock” Jackson (15 – 1, 14 KOs) in an eight-round co-feature.  Both fighters come into Friday’s match looking to extend their respective winning streaks.  Cerresso comes into this week’s fight on the heels of an eight-round unanimous decision win over Dennis Sharpe.  Jackson’s most recent fight resulted in a first-round TKO win over Ramon Pena.

Joe Tessitore is off this week.  Bernardo Osuna will fill in for him, calling the action alongside Teddy Atlas.  The pair will be live, calling all the action for ESPN2 HD.  Todd Grisham, will be in studio with all of the latest boxing news and highlights.  Alex Pombo and Delvin Rodriguez will be back once again to call all the action live for ESPN Deportes along with all the latest boxing news and highlights from studio hosts Leopoldo Gonzalez and Pablo Viruega. 

Friday’s card is presented by Corona Extra and promoted by Sampson Boxing.

To keep up with the latest news from ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, fans can follow the show on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/espn.fnf and through the official ESPN website at http://www.espn.com/boxing.  All the latest boxing news is also available on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ESPNboxing.

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3rd Rock At Its Best In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

NBC’s hit sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun was one of the greatest sitcoms of the 90s.  Now nearly twenty years after it first debuted, it still stands as one of the funniest sitcoms to have ever been created, despite what some critics might want audiences to believe.  And thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, fans can now own all six seasons of this laugh riot comedy.  Audiences who remember the series in its original airings will each have their own favorite season(s) and episode(s).  But there’s no denying that of the series’ six seasons, its fifth season marks one of the series major high points.  From the general writing to the guest spots, 3rd Rock From The Sun Season Five is an example of everything that used to make sitcoms great in television’s modern era.

3rd Rock’s fifth season is an exemplar of great comedic writing and timing right from the get-go.  The triple-disc set’s first disc offers what are two of the series’ best episodes in “Dial M For Dick” and “Sex and the Sally.”  In the first of the pair of episodes Dick and the others attend a mystery dinner theater.  Obviously being aliens from another world, they have no idea that the murders in question are just an act.  That is, they don’t know until something quite unexpected happens.  Audiences will have to find out what exactly that is for themselves.  Along the way, Dick thinks himself a sleuth and tries to pin the blame for the murders on one of his own group.  This alone will leave audiences laughing no less with each watch.  Speaking of laughing, audiences might find themselves laughing so hard that they’re crying in “Sex and the Sally.”  Sally discovers the dangers of sex and ways to keep from getting pregnant.  Along the way, the side effects of her using birth control will undoubtedly leave audiences laughing uncontrollably.

The set’s first disc offers more than its share of laughs, as is already noted.  But the laughs don’t end there.  The second and third discs are also front-loaded with more than enough comedy for audiences to enjoy over and over.  The return of guest star William Shatner as The Big Giant Head in “The Big Giant Head Returns” leads to a love triangle as Harry admits to Mamie that he loves her.  At the same time, Tommy tries to hypnotize Sally in order to get her to stop buying shoes.  It doesn’t work.  But it does work on Harry, resulting in some hilarious physical comedy on his part. 

If the solid writing and the physical comedy aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged, then maybe the bevy of guest stars will.  William Shatner returns not once, but twice this season.  Also Star Trek TNG star Jonathan Frakes makes an appearance along with then WWF/WWE wrestler Chyna, Larisa Oleynick (The Secret World of Alex Mack), “The Hoff” himself, David Hasselhoff (Baywatch, America’s Got Talent, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Pirana 3DD), and many others.  The continued revolving door of guest stars proves just how popular the show was.  Though, Shatner shined brighter than any others with both appearances this season.  Audiences will love seeing Shatner poke fun at himself when he brings Dick (John Lithgow) to a club and The Big Giant Head decides to do some “singing.”  This is just one of so many moments that will stick with both long-time audiences and newer audiences.

Whether for this moment or the loads of others peppered throughout all three discs of Season Five, 3rd Rock From The Sun has proven once more that it is still one of the greatest sitcoms in modern television history.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Mill Creek Entertainment’s online store at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-5.html

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Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Anchor Bay’s Newest Home Release

Courtesy: Anchor Bay

Anchor Bay’s newest straight to DVD and Blu-ray flick, Maximum Conviction is a good turn off your brain action flick.  It’s very much in the same vein as most of Steven Seagal’s other movies.  Add in retired WWF/WWE Superstar-turned-actor Steve Austin and the movie’s target audiences get more than their share of butt kicking, bullets flying, bloodshed, F-bombs and every other mandatory action movie standard ever crafted.The story behind Maximum Conviction is pretty simple.  Steele (yes that’s really his character’s name) and Manning (played respectively by Seagal and Austin) are a pair of former Special Forces soldiers turned private security contractors.  Because of their experience and expertise, they’ve been enrolled to help decommission a “top secret” military prison in Oregon.  There’s just one problem.  It’s revealed early on that Steele has shut down vital portions of the prison’s security before the prisoners have been removed.  It’s not quite explained why Steele has done this.  But thanks to this move, this is where the action starts.  A pair of high priority female inmates are being kept in the prison.  Being that much of the prison’s security has already been taken down, a group of mercenaries has gotten into the prison and intends to get the inmates.  When one of the prison’s guards goes on break and leaves his station empty and password access field open, it allows the action to really start.

Courtesy: Anchor Bay

The mercenaries do have a motivation toward getting at least one of the women.  But audiences have to sit through well over half of the story to finally find out exactly why.  By the time audiences find out why, the story has a little over half an hour left.  That last half hour is spent primarily with Austin and Seagal trying to rescue the young woman from someone who turns out to be working with the mercenaries.  What’s more, audiences have to wait until the movie’s final minutes to actually find out who is really behind everything.  The problem is that this should have been revealed far earlier in the story.  To the story’s defense though, at least it does keep the action moving.  There’s no lag at any point throughout the movie.  For those audiences at whom this movie is targeted, that’s a good thing.  In general it makes the movie worth at least one watch for any action movie fan.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.