Life Lessons, Pop Culture Tribute Make Arthur’s Fountain Abbey Another Enjoyable Collection Of Arthur Episodes

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS has brought audiences some of the greatest series on television over the course of its roughly four decades or so that it has been on air. Series the likes of Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood, Antiques Roadshow, Nature, and NOVA have proven time and again over the decades why PBS remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming. British imports such as Inspector Lewis, Endeavour, and Mr. Selfridge have served to solidify that reputation even more. Each of the noted programs has done its own part to solidify PBS’ place in television’s upper echelons. As important as they have proven to be to PBS’ success rate, one other series has proven perhaps even more important than any other in recent years as a cornerstone to PBS’ weekly schedule. The series in question is another British import that goes by the name of Downton Abbey. It has garnered itself numerous awards over the course of its now four years and five seasons on the air. It was also recently renewed for a sixth season, which will likely debut in the U.K. later this year. What’s more it has even been spoofed by PBS’ long-running series Sesame Street with a sketch titled “Upside Downton Abbey.” Much like with NBC’s Saturday Night Live audiences know that when Sesame Street spoofs a pop culture phenomenon, it has really made it big here in the United States. It may sound odd to some. But it is true. The same applies to another of PBS’ family and fan favorite series, Arthur. Fittingly, PBS and PBS Kids will release a brand new collection of episodes later this month (January 27th to be exact) that features its own tribute to Downton Abbey. It will do so in the upcoming release Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. This episode alone is makes the upcoming collection well worth the watch by viewers of any age. Of course the trio of episodes that accompany “Fountain Abbey” make it worth the watch, too. That is thanks in large part to their writing. And for those audiences that perhaps are purchasing an Arthur DVD for the first time ever, the bonus material included on this disc is exactly the same as that included on previous Arthur DVDs. Each of the three elements noted here plays its own important part in the success of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. Taken collectively into consideration, they make Arthur: Fountain Abbey a great watch for the whole family.

PBS Kids’ upcoming release of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey is a great watch for the whole family. The four-episode DVD is anchored by a tribute to what has become one of PBS’ most surprising series in Downton Abbey. “Fountain Abbey” focuses on one Muffy Crosswire. Muffy makes a surprising discovery about her family’s ancestry in this episode when she discovers that everything she knew about her family’s history isn’t exactly as it seems. The end result is that Muffy learns to better appreciate her family’s roots. Anyone that is familiar with Downton Abbey will appreciate the Arthur’s writers stayed as true as possible to Downton Abbey as possible in writing this episode. From the social stratification that separated those within Highclaire Castle to the castle’s very look inside and out, this episode’s writers made sure to pay proper respect to Downton Abbey and its fans. Not only that but that it stayed so true to its source material makes for wonderful marketing for that series as it is currently airing its fifth season here in the United States. It’s not the first time that those behind Arthur have paid tribute to pop culture. There have also been references to the likes of Batman, Dr. Katz (yes, Dr. Katz), Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Peanuts, and so many others throughout the series’ years on television. Being that it’s not the first time that the series has paid tribute to a pop culture hit, this latest is just one more notch in the series’ proverbial belt showing why Arthur remains today one of the absolute best series on television for the whole family.

Arthur’s full-on tribute to Downton Abbey on this disc is not the first time that the series has ever paid tribute to pop culture. And while it isn’t the first time it’s done so, it is the first time that it has taken on a show that has proven such a surprising hit among American audiences. The end result of that tribute is a presentation that pays full respect to both Downton Abbey and its fans. There is no denying its importance to the overall presentation on the series’ latest upcoming DVD compilation. It isn’t the only episode featured on the DVD, though. Also included on the disc are the episodes “Arthur Calls It,” “Whip. Mix. Blend.,” and “Staycation.” All three episodes provide their own importance and enjoyment to the whole that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. Each episode presents its own importance to the whole presentation thanks primarily to its writing. The first of the trio—“Arthur Calls It”—teaches a valuable lesson about acting on what one believes is right in life. The lesson is taught when Arthur’s friends force him to make a call on whether his best friend Buster was called out in a baseball game. If he calls Buster out, it could ruin his friendship with Buster. But if he calls Buster safe, it could put in jeopardy his friendship with his friends on the other side of the call. In essence, it teaches young viewers about the difficulties that come with doing what they personally believe is right, even with the potential consequences of said decisions. It is definitely its own important episode. Considering the story’s outcome, one could even argue that there’s a hint of the message that sometimes doing the right thing means doing nothing at all and letting others work out their disputes on their own. Again, more proof of the episode’s importance to the whole presentation. It makes for a great start to any discussion between parents and their children or even between teachers and students about ethics and doing the right thing.

Considering the lesson taught in “Arthur Calls It,” this episode proves to be as important to the whole of Arthur’s Fountain Abbey as the DVD’s title episode. The lesson in question is a basic lesson that centers on the topic of ethics. It is the most basic lesson possible but is just as solid a starting point for that lesson. It’s just one of the important topics covered in “Fountain Abbey’s” companion episodes that make the DVD worth the watch. “Whip.Mix.Blend.” teaches its own important lesson as it tackles the subject of blended families. In this episode, Arthur’s friend Rattles has to come to terms with potentially becoming part of a blended family when his mother starts dating Archie Vanderloo. Not only does he have to face the potential of his mother having a romantic connection to Archie Vanderloo but having to be around his children, too. Blended families have become increasingly common at least in America in the twenty-first century. And even as common as they have become, the very thought of two families coming together to form a whole new family is still not emotionally and psychologically easy for those involved in said situations. This episode will help any young viewer dealing with such situation deal with the situation in question and understand it when they feel like they have no one to talk to about it. And many times, young people in this situation do feel alone. So this episode makes for a good way to help young people cope with potentially having a whole new family when they otherwise might not have been able to. It’s just as much a good starting point for parents to talk to their children about the changes that come with becoming a blended family. Because it is just as valuable for children as for adults, it proves once again to be another reason that any family will want to add this DVD to their home DVD library when it is released later this month.

Both “Whip.Mix.Blend.” and “Arthur Calls It” present their own importance to the overall presentation that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. The lessons that are taught through both of those episodes are just as important for families as that taught in “Fountain Abbey.” The same can be said of the DVD’s closing episode “Staycation.” It is through this episode that Arthur teaches young viewers one of the most important lessons of all of those taught in the disc’s included episodes. It teaches young viewers about taking on too much and about responsibility. The lesson is taught when Arthur offers to babysit for his parents so that they can take a “staycation” in their own backyard. Taking on too much responsibility very rarely ever ends well. And Arthur learns this for himself when he tries to handle his little sister on his own. This is one of those lessons from which viewers of all ages can benefit as even adults have a tendency from time to time to try to take on too much responsibility. To that end, it serves as a good reminder for audiences about knowing their limits. In turn, it proves one more positive part of the whole that is Arthur’s Fountain Abbey. It sill is not all worth noting about the DVD either. The bonus material included with the DVD is the same as that included on previous Arthur compilations. It is a bonus primarily for those that are perhaps just beginning to build their collections of Arthur DVDs. It is the last element of this DVD worth noting. And when set alongside the collection’s episodes, it proves Arthur: Fountain Abbey an early pick for this year’s list of best new DVDs and Blu-rays for children and families.

The episodes that make up Arthur’s Fountain Abbey are on their own plenty of reason for families to add this new DVD to their home collection regardless of the number of Arthur compilations that they already have in said collections. That is not to take away anything from the activities and coloring pages included with the DVD as bonus material. The bonus material in question is the same as that included on previous Arthur DVDs. So those that might be at the beginning of their Arthur DVD collections will appreciate the inclusion of said coloring pages and activities. Parents and teachers alike will appreciate the self-confidence building “Definition of Cool” in which children have to tell things that make others “cool.” There is also a trading card game and even a board game of sorts for younger viewers. All of the activities and coloring pages can be printed out and saved. All audiences need is Adobe Reader in order to access each one. That’s the only catch to the whole thing. Most computers already have Adobe Reader installed on them, though. So it isn’t that much of a catch. Keeping that in mind, it is the last piece of the whole of Arthur: Fountain Abbey that makes the DVD so enjoyable. Together with the DVD’s included episodes, it rounds out the package in whole, proving once and for all why Arthur: Fountain Abbey is another welcome addition to the collection of any educator or family.

Whether it be for the episodes with their in-depth life lessons or the bonus material included on the DVD, Arthur: Fountain Abbey proves in the end to be another welcome addition to the collection of any educator or family. It will be available Tuesday, January 27th and will retail for MSRP of $6.99. It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=49575116&cp=&kw=arthur+fountain+abbey&origkw=Arthur+Fountain+Abbey&sr=1. More episodes of Arthur and games are available online at http://www.pbskid.org/arthur. Viewers can get more information on this special episode of Arthur and all of the latest news on the series both there and through its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

American Pickers Volume Three is one great pick

Reality shows are all the rage right now.  It seems that nearly every network is dominated by reality shows.  From the Big Four (CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX) to the major cable networks, viewers are bombarded by reality shows every day.  There is such a glut of reality shows that one can’t help but wonder which shows will still be standing when and if the reality show industry finally implodes on itself.  When and if that day comes, suffice to say that one of the few shows that will still be standing is History Channel’s hit show, American Pickers.  The show’s newest collection, “American Pickers:  Volume Three” is proof of that. 

“American Pickers:  Volume Three” was released Tuesday.  And the episodes contained on this new collection are some of the best proof of what makes this show stand out in an ocean of reality shows.  What makes American Pickers such a great program is that unlike so many of the other shows of its ilk, it takes viewers across the backroads of America.  It’s not so much about the value of the stuff that Mike and Frank pick.  It’s about learning about America’s history through the nation’s people.  The people that Mike and Frank meet come from every walk of life.  Their stories are the “people’s stories.”  One could almost argue that what American Pickers does is it combines the best elements of PBS’ Antiques Roadshow with legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite’s travels across America.  Now, with the third volume of episodes, fans get another chance to see just what makes American Pickers such a great show.  In Volume Three, Mike and Frank meet a man named Larry.  Larry’s “home made town” epitomizes what American Pickers is all about.  They also meet Hobo Jack, who is literally a hobo.  But his stories and his stuff are worth their weight in rusty gold.  And in what is one of the show’s best episodes yet, Mike and Frank finally let Danielle go picking.  She proves that she’s got what it takes, while Frank learns a hard lesson about doing Danielle’s job.

Volume Three is loaded with great episodes on its two discs.  Among all the great episodes, one of the best is “Mike’s Breakdown.”  This episode opens with the guys meeting Jan Burton.  Danielle had told them that Jan had a 1965 Honda motorcycle.  But she didn’t tell them what line the bike was.  Frank, hoping it was a Scrambler, is excited.  But then when Jan tells Frank that the bike was indeed a Scrambler but had already been sold, it hits him pretty hard.  They do find an old printing press, though.  At the end of the episode, they get their friend, “Mushroom” to appraise it for them.  After looking it over and talking to them about it, he gives it a pretty hefty price tag, at which they’re obviously very happy. 

Next up, they meet a gentleman named Larry in Wisconsin.  Larry had saved loads of old buildings that were going to be torn down, and actually made his own “home made town” called Unionville with them.  As Mike notes, Larry is one of the reasons that he loves doing what he does.  Larry shows that he has respect for America’s history and is trying to preserve it for future generations so they’ll remember America’s past.  The town looks like a life size model town right out of a train set.  Its condition is stunningly impressive.  While they’re touring the “town”, Frank finds a beautiful old “leadlight.”  The guys also find a DX oil sign and an old liquor store sign.  While those were the only real picks they found, Larry’s “town” and his stories about how he brought it together were the real find.  Again, it is a perfect example of what makes American Pickers so great.  It’s not always about the picks.  It’s also about discovering pieces of America’s history.  The stories are just as valuable as the finds.

The final segment of this episode finds Mike and Frank meeting a guy named Ted.  Ted’s house is absolutely amazing.  It’s beyond description.  It really is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed *hint hint*.  Among all the stuff that Ted has, he has fake aliens that were used as props in a little show by the name of Roswell.  He also has a perfect condition porcelain Goodyear tires sign and loads more.  After getting the picks that they wanted, the guys head back to Iowa.  But on the way, they have to call Mike’s brother after the van breaks down.  Frank had been complaining about feeling something weird.  But Mike didn’t believe him until it finally happened.  They do get back to the shop in the end, which is when the printing press is appraised.  And as “punishment” for not listening to Frank, Mike has to pull weeds outside the store while he [Frank] and Danielle kick back and enjoy a cold drink.

In another example of what makes AP such a great show, Mike and Frank meet a Vietnam Veteran named Tony.  Mike and Frank don’t even discover this until later in the first segment of the episode, “Hobo Jack.”  Tony’s got loads of classic stuff, including a korean helmet and grenades.  He also has a classic toy Dick Tracy car that Frank falls for.  Frank also manages to get Tony to sell him a classic movie projector and giant pair of antlers in a bundle. 

Next up Mike and Frank meet Ken in their cross country touring.  Ken has some stuff that the guys get.  They pick out an urn, some chairs, and a bicycle that he was keeping for a friend.

After meeting Tony and Ken, Mike and Frank are still looking for the “golden pick” that could help the shop bring in some real money.  That’s when they come upon real life hobo named Hobo Jack.  Jack doesn’t have a house.  He lives way out in the forest.  And while he and his surroundings look every part the hobo lifestyle, his stuff is just as great a find.  While going through Jack’s buildings, Frank finds a 1921 V-Twin engine for an Indian motorcycle.  It takes over an hour, but Mike finds the transmission that goes with the engine.  The guys also find an old Excelsior bicycle and a 2-cycle engine that turns out to be one heck of a find after having it appraised.  The  engine turns out to be a Curtiss motor.  It’s appraised at $7,000.  That’s a good thing for Mike since he had bought it for $3,000.  The bike itself was appraised at $8,000.  He had bought the bike for $6,000.  So in total, Mike spent $9,000.  But the total appraisal for the two would bring in upwards of $15,000.

In another of the collection’s best episodes, Danielle finally gets to go picking.  After having a bit of a blowup with Frank, she and Frank agree that Frank would give her job a try, while she goes out picking with Mike.  Danielle starts out slow.  But it doesn’t take her long to catch on and take off.  The real fun starts for Danielle when she and Mike meet Jesse and Ricardo in Pennsylvania.  These two guys are eccentric to say the least.  But when she discovers a bunch of vintage clothes in their equally eccentric home, she takes off.  Frank, on the other hand, isn’t doing so well trying to do Danielle’s job.  After meeting Jesse and Ricardo, Mike and Danielle meet Steve and Bill, who work at the Hotel Tidioute in PA.  Danielle finds a portrait of a woman in what looks like Victorian dress.  She falls in love with it.  She decides to start flirting with Steve and Bill in order to get a deal.  And it works.  All four later go to the hotel’s basement, where Mike finds a really old pinball game.  He gets Danielle to use her “womanly ways” to get Steve and Bill to come down on their price.  And do they ever.  They go from wanting a price in the triple digits all the way down to $90.  Mike and Danielle take the pinball machine to have it appraised.  They’re pleasantly surprised when it’s given a number in the range of $800.  To make things better, the machine works, too.When they finally get back to the shop, Danielle tells Frank about the pick, to which he’s very impressed.  Danielle does admit that she’s ready to get back to her job, though.  So everyone did learn a lesson in the end. 

American Pickers is one the best shows in the mass of reality tv today.  It’s such a simple show.  But its general construction is what makes it so great.  And this newest volume from the show proves why it is a leader among the pack.  Whether for the episodes listed here or the others included in the set, “American Pickers Volume Three” is one of the few reality tv shows on dvd worth picking up this year.  Anyone that wants to check out this brand new double disc set can get it through History Channel’s shop site, http//shop.history.com.

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