‘Finding Your Roots’ Proves Interesting But Once Again Imperfect In Its Seventh Season

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

PBS’ hit genealogy based series Finding Your Roots wrapped its seventh season late this past May.  With the season officially wrapped, PBS Distribution released the season to home audiences late last month on a three-disc DVD set.  The discussions that host Henry Louis Gates Jr. has with his guests this season make for the majority of the season’s interest.  For all of the interest that those discussions offer, the season’s presentation in its new home release proves problematic.  This will be discussed a little later.  Keeping all of this in mind, it makes the set’s average price point and separate listings worth noting in their own right.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this season worth watching at least once.

The seventh season of PBS’ Finding Your Roots is an intriguing presentation that audiences will find worth watching at least once.  Its interest comes largely through the discussions that host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has with his guests.  Gates welcomes guests from across the entertainment world once more in this season.  Actors John Lithgow and Mandy Patinkin join journalist Nina Totenberg and Gretchen Carlson, as well as comedian Lewis Black and hip-hop star Pharrell Williams along so many others.  One of the most interesting interviews that Gates conducts is with filmmaker John Waters.  That is due to one point in particular in which the discussion turns (as Waters even notes that it so often does in Gates’ interviews) to the talk of a guest’s ancestors being slave owners.  Waters seemed irritated that the discussion turned to the matter, too.  As the discussion progresses, Waters says very briefly that “It’s always astounding when this kind of thing is found, but what can you do?”  That brief statement is so powerful.  Gates has made a habit of pointing out to certain interviewees that their ancestors were slave owners.  In the process, Gates seems to have a certain sense of schadenfreude as his guests react (normally in shock and disgust).  It is really discouraging to go back and see that happen time and again throughout the series, including in this season.  Waters’ comments are necessary because they speak to what so many people feel and think.  Yes, many people have ancestors who did bad things.  This critic’s own ancestors were on-board the Mayflower.  That means they were part of the group that persecuted the Native Americans in the region with that so-called treaty that essentially gave the Native Americans no rights against the Pilgrims.  This critic also has ancestors who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  That does not make this critic a bad person.  At the same time, this critic also has ancestors who fought for America’s freedom from British rule.  This is a discussion that we as Americans must have just as much as the discussion on the white washing of America’s history, yet Gates even in this season does not seem to want to have the discussion on people’s ancestry.

Staying on that topic, Williams’ reaction at the revelation that his ancestors were slaves is powerful, as is his statement following that revelation.  Justifiably, he is shocked and angry.  At the same time, he stresses in his comments that while he would like to have a conversation with the descendants of the man who owned his ancestors, that conversation would not be to try and make them feel ashamed of themselves, but just to have that discussion on the white washing of America’s history.  That is a mature reaction and statement from Williams, even though it certainly seemed at times that Gates was trying to egg him on, telling him “You should be angry.  We should allbe angry.”  Yes, we should be angry, but we should also not allow that anger to divide ourselves.  It seemed here that Gates did not care about that.  He just wanted to get a reaction out of Williams, it seemed, which is so discouraging.

Williams’ discussion with Gates is just one more example of what makes this season’s discussions so interesting.  His discussion with Mandy Patinkin is one of the season’s most powerful.  That is Patinkin is known on and off screen for being very stoic and strong.  Yet his reaction at finding out the fates of his Jewish ancestors at the hands of the Nazis shows a completely different profile from him.  It shows a real human side from him.  What’s more, learning about his upbringing might also explain his inability or unwillingness to stick to one project for but so long.  It is just one more notable interview conducted in this season of Finding Your Roots.  Between these interviews and all of the others featured in this season, the whole makes the interviews a solid starting point for the season.  While the featured interviews do plenty to make this season of Finding Your Roots worth watching, the season’s DVD packaging proves problematic.

Once again, the packaging lacks any episode listing anywhere on the case or even on the three discs that make up the season.  This means that audiences are left to have to play each DVD to figure out which interviews are on which disc.  This in itself is problematic, too.  Instead of listing the celebrities in the episodes, the episodes have semi-cryptic titles, leaving audiences again to spend that extra time to figure out which episodes are on which discs.  Having to take that unnecessary extra time is an aesthetic element, but do not be confused, the frustration at having to take that extra time can and will discourage audiences from even wanting to take the time to try.  That means that it will decrease odds of audiences even wanting to watch, having to take that extra time going from one disc to the next.  This sadly, nothing new from the series in terms of its home releases.  In only one season so far have audiences had an episode guide.  It is just too bad that that only happened that one time.

There is no denying that the lack of an episode guide once again detracts from Season 7’s home presentation.  In this case, that negative impact can and will be very notable.  Luckily for the same of those behind the show, there is at least one more positive.  That positive is the set’s average price point.  The set’s average price point is $32.70.  That price was obtained by averaging prices listed Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ store.  That price is about on part with most other DVD sets of the same size.  The least expensive listing, $26.99 is at Amazon, Walmart, and Target.  That is well below that average.  Again, considering the average price of most other box sets of the same size, that price of less than $30 is welcoming to say the least.  Even Best Buy’s price of $27.99 is below that average.  Yes, it is more expensive than the other three retailers, but is still relatively affordable.  By comparison, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS each list the set far above the average at $39.99.  So considering those prices against the average price point and those of the other retailers, this is actually encouraging in its own right.  That is because it reminds audiences that there are some affordable prices for this set.  Keeping that in mind along with the interviews featured in this season and even the problems posed by the set’s packaging, the whole proves still worth watching at least once.

The seventh season of PBS’ Finding Your Roots is a presentation that audiences will find interesting and worth watching at least once.  That is even despite the problems posed by its packaging.  The interviews featured in this season are the main reason audiences will want to watch.  They are with celebrities from across the entertainment world.  They also serve as starting points for bigger discussions on race relations this time around.  While the interviews form a strong foundation for this season, the lack of an episode guide in the packaging detracts from the season’s engagement and entertainment.  The extra time that audiences will once again have to spend going from disc to disc in order to find specific episodes will detract notably from audiences’ enjoyment. Audiences do not want to have to take that extra time, and in turn, may end up just not watching any of the episodes.  As much as the issue of the packaging detracts from the enjoyment of this season, the average and separate pricing for the set makes for its own positive.  The set’s average price point is in line with most other DVD sets of its size.  Many of the separate listings are even below that point, too.  That is more encouragement for audiences to purchase the set even despite the packaging problems.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the season’s set.  All things considered, they make the album neither a full success nor a total failure.  Finding Your Roots Season 7 is available now.

More information on Finding Your Roots is available online now at:




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PBS Announces Release Date For New Fred Rogers Doc

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Public Media Distribution will release to DVD next month another documentary focused on Fred Rogers and his beloved series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like was released digitally Sept. 3 and is currently scheduled to be released on DVD Oct. 2. The hour-long documentary, which originally aired on PBS and not to be confused with the other Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is a retrospective on Fred Rogers and his beloved series.

Veteran actor Michael Keaton (Batman, Baman Returns, SpidermanHomecoming) serves as host for the heartwarming documentary.  It also features interviews from other well-known figures, such as Yo-Yo Ma, John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the SunThe World According to GarpInterstellar), Whoopi Goldberg (The ViewStar TrekThe Next GenerationGhost) and others.

Mr. RogersIt’s You I Like was produced by JoAnn Young (JFKThe Lost Inaugural GalaOscar HammersteinOut of my Dreams) and John Paulson (JFKThe Lost Inaugural GalaA Raising in the Sun Revisited).  Ellen Doherty and Kevin Morrison of Fred Rogers Productions executive produced.

Mr. RogersIt’s You I Like will retail for MSRP of $19.99 and can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $14.99 at PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:


Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs


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3rd Rock’s Season 6 A Funny Finale For Former Standout NBC Sitcom

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Today’s sitcoms are anything family friendly.  They have become increasingly over laden with sexual innuendo, foul language, and completely dumbed down humor.  These are the main complaints that are received by many audiences about many of the sitcoms currently airing on television’s “Big 4”, and even on some cable based comedies.  Thank goodness for companies Mill Creek Entertainment for offering audiences an alternative to the mostly blue humor that pollutes today’s comedies.  One of the most recent of those alternatives from Mill Creek Entertainment is the release of NBC’s hit sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six.

The sixth and final season of the once powerhouse NBC comedy is just as funny as the show’s previous five seasons thanks once again to the show’s writers.  The Solomon family continues trying to learn the ways of humans in its ongoing mission, all while creating its own share of laughs along the way.  Dick learns in the show’s final season that he’s *gasp* Canadian.  The Solomon family also temporarily takes on new lives in an alternate universe.  And Tommy experiences the human experience that is college.  These are just a few of the funny moments that fill out the final season of 3rd Rock from the Sun.  That’s not all that makes this season such a joy.  A who’s who of guest stars appears throughout Season six, too, adding to the laughs.  A whole slew of fellow NBC stars come in this season including former Saturday Night Live cast members Darrell Hammond, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer.  Richard Belzer (Law & Order: SVU) and Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and singer Elvis Costello also show up this season.  Even as small as their parts are, the guest stars add their own comic element to the show, making it even more entertaining.

The writing in 3rd Rock’s final season is just as entertaining as it was in the series’ premiere season.  Some might have considered it a bit of a cheap thing to do a Saturday Night Live crossover and a slight pump for Law & Order: SVU.  But it all works quite well in the two-part episode, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  The writers, probably knowing it was the show’s last season, take a playful stab at then fellow NBC hit, Saturday Night Live and even the NBC brass as Harry becomes the head of the network.  The writers didn’t just take a stab at NBC.  They even poked fun at HBO’s then hit show, Sex and the City, with Sally (Kristen Johnston) taking the place of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie.  It gets even funnier, with each member of the cast having their own hilarious moments.  This standout episode was just one that served as a tribute to the wit of the show’s writers.  Fans will also love the semi-political comedy of “Red, White & Dick.”  This episode sees Dick discovering that he is Canadian in his quest to become more American.  What it is about this kind of joke that makes it so funny is anyone’s guess.  Canada seems to be the butt of so many jokes in American entertainment.  But it is hilarious nonetheless, and it serves as a solid cornerstone for Dick’s attempts to become more American and in the same vein, more human.  It will have any viewer laughing till they cry.

The writing behind each episode of 3rd Rock’s final season offers nonstop laughs in every episode.  It’s a prime example of what used to make NBC a powerhouse network during the 1990s.  The cameo guest spots don’t hurt, either.  Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) appears as Mary’s (Jane Curtin) sister Renita Albright this season.  She sets out to steal Dick from Mary purely out of sibling rivalry.  That adults could be such strong rivals goes back to the show’s solid writing.  Audiences will love watching Mary and Renita going back and forth, sniping at one another like two little children.  Mullally is just one of the many guest stars that made an appearance this season.  Richard Belzer, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer—all NBC stars—made appearances, as did singer Elvis Costello.  Costello made an appearance in the series finale.  The others all appeared in the two-parter, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  Watching a then young Joseph Gordon-Levitt go toe to toe with the then rising SNL stars is a laugh riot.  Who ever would have thought that Tommy would date Ana Gasteyer.  And his moments with Tracy Morgan are just as funny.

The writing and the guest spots together make this final season a fitting way to close out what is by this critic’s view, one of the greatest sitcoms of the 20th century.  The DVD release of this season has one more aspect that while not being perfect, is still good in its own right.  Mill Creek has packaged all three discs of this set in their own envelope.  Mill Creek Entertainment is the only company that packages DVDs in this fashion.  It isn’t a perfect packaging method, considering that the envelopes are not padded.  That would make them perfect.  But having them in envelopes allows audiences to take as many discs as they want when travelling instead of having to take an entire DVD case.  This is actually quite smart in its own right.  If the higher ups at Mill Creek would maintain its form of packaging and simply make the envelopes padded, it would make this packaging fashion quite impressive and the overall presentation of its multi-disc sets that much more impressive.  3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-6.html. After ordering the three-disc set, audiences can find out about more releases from Mill Creek Entertainment on its official website, http://www.millcreekentertainment.com or its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

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3rd Rock Reclaims Its Spot In TV’s Upper Realms With Complete Set

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/carsey werner Distribution

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/carsey werner Distribution

Mill Creek Entertainment will release tomorrow, the full collection of what is one of the greatest sitcoms of the 1990s.  That sitcom is the one and only 3rd Rock From The Sun.  The one of a kind show ran on NBC from January of 1996 to October of 2000.  Since the show’s original run, few shows—if any—have managed to live up to the level of 3rd Rock.  The show’s writers and the now all-star cast proved throughout its six-season run that comedy could (and can) be fun without being too blue.  Thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, the show’s original fans and a whole new generation of audiences can see exactly that even over a decade after it ended its original run on NBC.

A big part of the success behind 3rd Rock From The Sun is the show’s writing.  In some bizarre way, the show’s writers were able to take what would have otherwise been mere observational humor and made it into a format that is as funny today as it was in its original run.  It would be safe to say that a big reason for the show’s writing being so timeless is its balance of being edgy, but not too edgy.  Simply put, there were comic elements that only older audiences would get, and then there were elements that some younger viewers would get.  The more adult comic elements weren’t so overt as to make parents want to usher their kids out of the room.  And the show’s tamer elements were still edgy enough to be proper for younger audiences, but still just as entertaining for the parents of said audiences.  Take a pick from any episode of this show’s six seasons on air.  Any of them exhibit that.  One good example of this comes from the show’s fifth season.  “Dial M For Dick” sees the Solomons going to a Murder Mystery playhouse, not knowing that everything that happens was an act.  Needless to say, plenty of laughs ensure, including plenty from the show’s final minutes.  Audiences will have to see for themselves what that means when they pick up this complete collection of the show’s six seasons.

The writing behind 3rd Rock From The Sun is a big part of the success behind the show’s continued success even more than ten years after it ended.  It wasn’t the only part of the show’s success, though.  The acting of the show’s cast also played a big part in its success.  There was an obvious chemistry between the cast—veteran John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and French Stewart—throughout every episode.  The cast’s ability to interpret the comic elements of each script was expert.  And it makes for nonstop laughs from one episode to the next in every season.  If the chemistry between the cast isn’t enough for audiences, then the physical comedy from every member of the cast will push the show over the top.  This too is an element that today’s sitcoms have lost.  The physical comedy in this show harkened back to television’s golden age.  It just heightened each episode’s writing that much more, and made it that much more enjoyable for both adults and some younger viewers.

As one can already tell by this point, 3rd Rock From The Sun had so much to offer audiences.  It still offers every bit of that same comedy and heart to this day.  There is one more factor in this new complete set that audiences will appreciate.  That factor is the inclusion of the same bonus features from the original single season sets released over the past couple of years.  Now audiences who perhaps were unable to pick up previous seasons have the chance to have the complete series exactly as it appeared from Mill Creek’s previous releases.  Mill Creek Entertainment is to be applauded for this inclusion.  Considering everything that this show still offers today, one can only wonder if Mill Creek, or perhaps even another company, will one day give it the re-mastering it deserves and re-issue it to blu-ray.  Until then, audiences now have the entire series in one complete box set that they can enjoy over and over again.  It will be available in stores and online tomorrow, Tuesday, May 14th

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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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