Ben Franklin’s Bones Proves Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction (And More Entertaining)

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

People love drama.  A quick look through the shows dominating both the broadcast and cable networks today proves that.  The same can be said of offerings filling America’s theaters both past and present with dramas even dominating the Oscars ever since the very first Academy Awards celebration nearly ninety years ago in 1927.  Given comedies, musicals, and rom-coms have picked up their own share of Oscars for the “Best Picture” since that year.  But their wins have been extremely sparse.  So what is wrong with this seemingly never-ending fascination with drama?  The issue is that the dramas and medical procedurals that dominate television are entirely fictional.  The dramas that have won so many Oscars over the past eight decades plus have been either fictional or fictional in part.  The problem is that with so much fictional drama dominating television and movie theaters for so many decades, the importance of real life drama seems to have been decreased.  Thankfully though, PBS’s hit history-based series Secrets of the Dead continues to prove that real life drama is just as important as all the made up material on both the small screen and the silver screen.  Its new episode Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones proves that. It proves that primarily through its story of bones found in Franklin’s home in England upon renovations done on the residence back in the late 1990s. The story plays out like something right out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. The twist revealed as the story progresses will throw everyone unfamiliar with the story for a loop. The story’s pacing set against its material adds to the overall presentation. The juxtaposition of the story’s pacing to its included material will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish. Rounding out the whole thing are the collective re-enactments, interviews, and actual footage that are used to help illustrate and advance the story. The re-enactments are kept to a minimum instead of being made the star of the show. Coupled with the video of the actual excavations and the included interviews, all three elements work in tandem to fill out the presentation and prove yet again that real life crime and medical drama can be just as gripping as the fictional material broadcast to thousands of households every week and sent to thousands of theaters every month. And together with the episode’s actual story and its pacing, everything together shows why the drama of Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones makes it a piece that every drama lover will appreciate.

Anyone that is a fan of all the fictional dramas that dominate American television and theaters will appreciate the real life drama contained in Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones. The drama comes from the story of skeletal remains found in the one-time home of Benjamin Franklin and the resultant search for clues and answers as to where the bones came from and how they got there. The bones were discovered in the late 1990s when a group of individuals was working on the house in order to turn it into a museum honoring Franklin and his legacy. The identity of the bones has never been revealed. And for those that have not yet seen this episode of Secrets of the Dead, the discovery as to the remains themselves will be left for those viewers to find out for themselves. Even more shocking to learn is the semi-criminal link to how the bodies got to the home and the purpose for which the bodies were used. It’s wild to think that as dark as everything presented in the story seems, if not for the revelations made in this episode of Secrets of the Dead, the advances made in the medical field today might never have happened. As the old adage states: truth is stranger than fiction. And because it is so much stranger than fiction, any lover of drama on television and in movies will be just as entertained by this episode of Secrets of the Dead as they would by those fictional dramas.

The story presented in Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones is just as gripping a drama as anything that could ever be written for an episode of Law & Order, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy or any other crime drama and medical procedural. The difference between this episode and those of the noted shows is that the story presented in Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones is real. It proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. And because of that it makes this episode just as entertaining as anything on television and in theaters today. As enthralling as the story in this episode proves to be in the end, the information in the story is only part of what makes it work. The story’s pacing works in tandem with its in-depth information to keep the program moving forward and interesting at the same time. No time is wasted ruminating on one aspect of the story or another more than others. Rather, equal time is offered to every part of the presentation from the discussions on the excavation and resultant research to the re-enactments to the interviews, every part of this episode receives just enough time to keep audiences engaged from start to finish, waiting on the edge of their seats to find out the next revelation.   Along with the story at the center of this episode, it and its pacing combine to strengthen the episode even more and prove even more clearly why any fan of television and theatrical dramas should watch this episode of Secrets of the Dead just as much as those fictional presentations.

The story presented in Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones and its pacing are both key to the enjoyment of this program. Both elements work together to make the story just as entertaining and as gripping as anything ever churned out by the writers at CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, or Law & Order: SVU. While both elements are equally important to the whole of Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones, there is still one more element to note that makes the episode complete. That element in question is the episode’s collective interviews, re-enactments, and actual excavation footage. These three parts make up the body of this episode’s story. And thanks to the work of those behind the episode, all three elements are given just enough time to keep things interesting. It goes right back to the show’s pacing and in turn the work of the show’s writers to keep the pacing just enough that none of the noted elements dominates the program. Had one of them dominated, it might have hindered the show and in turn made it far less interesting and enjoyable than it is. Luckily that didn’t prove to be the case. And the end result of that is an episode of Secrets of the Dead that proves again to be just as interesting and engaging as any of the major dramas on television and in theaters today. It proves to be a piece that any drama fan will appreciate just as much as those offerings.

Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones is one of the best episodes that the hit PBS series has produced to date. Whether for the in-depth information shared throughout the program, its pacing, the surprise twist revealed through the program’s in-depth information or for another reason, it proves to be just as entertaining as any crime drama and medical procedural on television and in theaters today. Some might even argue that being a real life crime drama and medical procedural in one, it is even more entertaining than said offerings on television and in theaters Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin’s Bones will be available on DVD on Tuesday, March 17th. It can be pre-ordered direct from PBS’ online store now at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=57131096&cp=&sr=1&kw=secrets+of+the+dead&origkw=Secrets+of+the+Dead&parentPage=search. Audiences can check out a clip from this episode of Secrets of the Dead online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pkQeQJU9eU. More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

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Perry, Fox Carry Patterson’s Cross

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Actor/producer/director Tyler Perry is known largely for his widely popular movies focusing on the over the top Madea.  So it goes without saying that when he was announced to take over the role of Alex Cross from veteran actor Morgan Freeman, audiences both of his work and that of author James Patterson were left quite in shock to say the least.  Any time that an actor or actress takes a leap outside of his or her comfort zone, it also pulls said actor/actress’ fans out of their comfort zones.  And that apparently is what happened in the case of his take in the new action flick bearing the character’s name.

Perry’s audiences and critics alike were pulled out of their comfort zone with Alex Cross because all involved became so accustomed to seeing Perry in dramadies, not action flicks.  So much so that they refused to see Perry’s potential in this movie.  Director Rob Cohen even discusses this in the Director’s Commentary of the movie’s new home release on DVD and Blu-ray.  It’s just one of many discussions that he raises which will make for more appreciation for this movie among audiences.  The reality of Alex Cross is that while the story may be somewhat outrageous, it’s no more outrageous than the criminal profilers in CBS’ Criminal Minds going out on “missions” to stop deranged killers, which is exactly what co-star Matthew Fox (ABC’s Lost) plays here.  Fox expertly plays the absolutely deranged sociopathic killer Picasso who is hell bent on taking down Cross for past events.  Much like Perry, his performance is a powerhouse.  He is one of those villains that is totally believable.  He is one of those rare villains that audiences love to hate, and by whom they are disturbed.  That means that Fox did his job and did it well.  So to that extent, Fox and Perry together really are what make the story work.

Keeping in mind why Picasso is after Cross, one can’t help but make at least a slight comparison to fellow actor Denzel Washington’s 1999 crime drama, The Bone Collector.  The difference between the two is that this crime drama is far better and moves much faster.  What Perry has done here for all intents and purposes is harnessed both Washington and fellow action star Will Smith and proven to be even better than both.  Audiences need only allow themselves to suspend their disbelief and they too will realize Perry’s talents as an action star.

It goes without saying that a number of factors were changed in this adaptation of its namesake book by author James Patterson.  But few movies ever adapted from books have ever stayed one hundred percent true to their origins.  Just look at the movies in the Die Hard franchise.  They are prime examples of that.   Audiences need to keep this in mind as well in order to maintain their suspension of disbelief.  Allowing that to happen allows audiences to simply enjoy the fast paced action that starts right off the bat and barely lets up right to the movie’s final confrontation.  And if doing that doesn’t work, then perhaps watching the bonus making of featurette in the brand new DVD and Blu-ray release of the movie will finally convince people to let go of their own expectations.  The feature, “The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting & Filming Alex Cross” features interviews with James Patterson himself in which he in no uncertain terms lets audiences know that he accepts the big screen adaptation of Cross.  It’s nice to see an author giving his personal stamp of approval on an adaptation of one of his books.  And hopefully both Patterson’s readers and Perry’s fans will come together after watching this new home release and give the movie the appreciation which it deserves.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online and is worth at least one watch by any true action movie fan.

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