Hearts Afire An Interesting Trip Back In TV History

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The history of modern television is rife with wonderful, memorable series.  Every genre has its own share of interesting programs.  And then there are those that for whatever reason were not as memorable despite having their own flare.  One of the shows that fits into that latter category is the short-lived political satire, Hearts Afire.  This series, starring Markie Post and the late John Ritter lasted all of fifty-four episodes.  It ran from 1992 – 1995, right around the peak of its more successful counterpart, Murphy Brown.  It was likely the similarities to Murphy Brown that forced this sitcom to the curb.  It could also be argued that while it did have its share of funny jokes, a good share of the show’s writing felt somewhat forced.  Making things even more difficult for the show was the circumstances under which its cast came into it.  These factors alone were enough to doom the show after just three seasons and make it disappear into the mists of television history.  That is, until this year, when Mill Creek Entertainment resurrected the show in its entirety.

Hearts Afire ran a total of fifty-four episodes over the course of its three seasons.  In that time, it had its own level of success.  Though, it never reached the level of its counterpart in Murphy Brown.  CBS ran both shows in the network’s prime time lineup.  This is where the trouble for Hearts Afire begins.  Hearts Afire came along right around the peak of Murphy Brown’s run.  It was pretty obvious the network heads figured if one show about a strong female news personality would work, then another would if a couple minor tweaks were made.  Thus, Hearts Afire was born.  The tweak with this show was that instead of Candace Bergen, Markie Post was introduced as a former news figure who works at a politician’s office.  Post’s Georgie Ann Lahti is a strong female figure along the lines of Murphy Brown.  And that’s a good thing.  The problem is her character’s lines (and those of the entire cast).  The show had its own share of funny lines in each episode.  And the chemistry between Ritter and Post was solid.  But for every truly funny line, there were just as many lines that felt forced.  It isn’t subtle, either.  It’s pretty obvious where the lines become are forced.  This taken into account alongside the blatant similarities to Murphy Brown did a disservice to the show.

The writing behind Hearts Afire was not terrible.  But it was problematic.  It caused some problems for the show.  This problematic aspect aside, the show does deserve a certain amount of defense.  The show’s casting came in under some difficult circumstances.  The term difficult is not meant with a bad connotation here.  Rather, it is meant more in the case of the actors already having established themselves in previous roles made making these new roles all the harder to portray to audiences who had come to know the actors in different roles.  In the case of Markie Post, audiences already knew her as Christine Sullivan in NBC’s Night Court.  And because he had not any major acting since the end of Three’s Company years before, most people knew him for the role of Jack Tripper.  The only major acting that Ritter had done since then was the largely forgettable Problem Child movies in 1990 and 1991.  This same kind of problem plagues so many actors to this day.  Both Ritter and Post had both been pigeonholed of no fault of their own.  The resultant effect was it made these new roles less believable to audiences that knew them for completely different roles. 

If audiences can take into account that both actors were trying to branch out into something different, that will make it easier to put aside beliefs about the pair’s previous roles.  And with any luck, it will allow viewers to let themselves get past some of the show’s writing problems, too.  Getting past both of these obstacles, viewers will find that Hearts Afire has its own charm, and is worth an occasional watch.  It is available now on DVD courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. 

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New Clifford DVD A True Celebration For Every Fan

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog is turning fifty years old.  Unbelievable!  Everyone’s favorite oversized furry friend is celebrating his birthday with a brand new DVD release next month.  Celebrate with Clifford is the first new Clifford release in two years.  It will be available in stores and online February 5th.  The new release is a special double disc release loaded with lots of fun, family friendly adventures from Clifford, his fellow canine friends, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth.  The two discs in this new release boast fifteen episodes from the hit series.  The set’s first disc, Celebrate with Clifford has seven of the show’s episodes included in the set.  All of the aforementioned episodes included in the first disc are full of family friendly fun and important life lessons that ring true for audiences of all ages.

Audiences learn a number of important lessons throughout the first seven episodes included in the set.  In the episode, “Clifford on Parade”, Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle—The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and Charley (Gary Leroi Grey—The Cosby Show) both learn about working together and about compromise when they have to decide on an idea for the float that they’ll enter in the town’s annual parade.  Thanks to Clifford, they end up with one interesting float that even incorporates Clifford himself.  In another episode, “Team Sprit”, young viewers are introduced to the lesson of good sportsmanship and being kind to others.  The story here centers on young Vaz.  Vaz is friends with Emily Elizabeth and the other kids.  But he’s not the best soccer player.  And Jetta doesn’t help as she openly tells Vaz he’s not that great of a soccer player.  Of course she learns her lesson in the episode’s end.  Audiences can find out how she learns her lesson when they check out this new DVD set for themselves.

All seven episodes included in the set’s main disc offer plenty of enjoyment and lessons for viewers.  Luckily for viewers, they’re not all that viewers get in this new set. The eight bonus episodes included in the bonus disc also offer their own enjoyment.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s even a Valentine’s Day themed episode in “Clifford’s Big Heart.”  In this episode, Clifford is trying to make a Valentine for Emily Elizabeth, but things don’t exactly go as planned.  That is until he finally realizes the best idea for a special Valentine just for her.  His special gift will warm the hearts of both kids and their parents.  Still not enough?  How about the birthday and party themed episodes included in the set?  “Clifford’s Big Surprise”  sees Clifford getting his very own birthday surprise from Emily Elizabeth, her parents and his canine friends.  At first it seems like everybody is avoiding Clifford.  It leaves Clifford bored since there’s no one to play with.  Luckily he finds a way to play by himself.  Ironically, it’s right about then that Emily Elizabeth comes looking for Clifford so she and the others can surprise him with his birthday party.  It’s just one of a handful of birthday themed episodes included in the set’s bonus second disc.  The complete double disc set will be available February 5th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=28180&TitleParentId=8311.

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Clifford celebrates a “big” birthday

Courtesy: PBS/Scholastic Media/Scholastic, Inc.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is celebrating a “big” birthday.  Beginning September 24th, Scholastic Media and Scholastic, Inc. will kick off a birthday celebration that will span the entire 2012-2013 school year.  The party will celebrate Clifford’s 50th birthday.  It all leads up to a huge party on February 14th, 2013, the official birthday of Clifford The Big Red Dog. 

The entire year long event will kick off with a “Biggest Birthday Party Ever”/Live Classroom Webcast on September 24th.  The webcast will be run at 10am that morning live from Scholastic Inc.’s New York headquarters.  it will be broadcast to classrooms across the country.  The webcast will include lots of interactive events for kids in attendance and for those watching from school.

The celebration will also include the publication of Norman Bridwell’s Clifford Collection.  The collection will compile Bridwell’s six original Clifford stories published from 1963 -1977.  the collection will include some very special bonuses for those who pick it up.  There will also be a publication of a brand new Clifford book, “Clifford’s Bedtime Story” next Spring, along with the publication of “CLifford’s Birthday Party.” 

Publication won’t be the only celebratory avenue for Clifford’s coming year.  There will be a release of brand new apps, a brand new sweepstakes, and the brodcast of of Clifford’s Really Big Movie in December.  To find out more about this year’s upcoming “big” Clifford events, go online to http://www.scholastic.com/clifford, http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/clifford, http://www.facebook.com/officialclifford, and http://PBSKIDS.org/clifford.

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