New Downton Abbey Set An Excellent Gift For Fans New And Old

Courtesy:  itv/PBS

Courtesy: itv/PBS

2014 is set to be a big year for Downton Abbey.  PBS’ British import has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the annual awards show.  The series’ fourth season is also set to premiere on PBS in just a matter of days.  The current date for its Season Four premiere is January 5th, 2014.  And Season Four is also currently scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray January 28th, 2014.  So it goes without saying that the show’s fans have a lot to look forward to this Winter.  Before Season Four makes its U.S. premiere, the show’s fans can get caught up thanks to the new three-season gift set on Blu-ray and DVD.  This new set is a great gift for the most devoted of the show’s fans.  Not only does it include the series’ first three seasons together in their own entirety, but it also includes the companion DVD, The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This is the central point of what this latest set offers audiences.  Those that might perhaps be new to Downton Abbey will appreciate in watching this box set the writing.  Most people don’t like the thought of watching a show about rich people.  But once said audiences allow themselves to get past that outer layer, they will be pulled in by the purely human drama that makes up the series’ plot.  The cast’s attire and the overall setting also play into the overall enjoyment of this series.  That together with the solid writing and the box’s bonus material makes this latest box set a wonderful addition to the library of any Downton Abbey fan.

Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 is not the first of the Downton Abbey box sets released in 2013 by PBS and the BBC.  The show’s first two seasons have already been released in a special Blu-ray box set.  So what sets this latest box set apart from that set?  The first thing that audiences will notice is that the first three seasons are all included in this set.  Also included as an added bonus, is the companion documentary The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This documentary had previously only been available as a stand-alone piece on DVD.  Now, it’s included in its proper place with this set for those that want the full show experience.  It’s not all that audiences get as a bonus, either.  There is also episode-specific commentary that adds even more to the overall experience.  It is all packaged in one relatively ergonomic set.  This is the case both with the DVD and Blu-ray box set.  And it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this set, too.

The packaging and bonus features that comprise the Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 box set are important parts of the set’s overall presentation.  One would be remiss though, to ignore the show’s writing and its effect on the series thus far.  Most audiences don’t seem too interested in watching a TV show about a rich family.  The last time that such show had an audience as devoted as this one was the original Dallas, starring the late Larry Hagman.  What sets this rich family apart from the stereotypical aristocratic family is that its members actually don’t feel above everyone else.  The show’s writers actually give the family members a certain heart despite the cultural divide between themselves and the servants that live and work in Highclere Castle.  The family actually does everything to not get rid of the servants even in somewhat difficult financial situations.  While it may not make the family more relatable to average viewers, it does make them more human and in turn, more worthy of praise.  It makes audiences want to find out what happens next within the confines of the story, which goes back to the overall writing.  It makes the stories all the (pardon the term) richer for viewers.  And in turn, it exhibits just why the show is such a favorite among audiences and critics alike.  It shows why this is the center of what makes this new set so worth checking out especially for those that might be new to the world of Downton Abbey.

The writing behind Downton Abbey is some of the purest writing for scripted television shows today.  By comparison, it outshines so much of the programming that pollutes American airwaves today.  In direct relation to the writing, audiences that are new to this hit drama will be impressed by the backdrops and attire used throughout the show’s first three seasons.  It’s obvious that the show’s heads wanted to be as accurate as possible to the series.  They wanted to be respectful both to the show’s history and its fans.  This is something else that audiences will learn about in the set’s bonus material.  It’s nice to see that just as in Mr. Selfridge painstaking efforts were undertaken to make the series as real as possible.  That’s something else that is rarely seen in most American television offerings today.  It makes the series stand out even more.  Along with its equally solid writing and bonus features, it becomes one more part of what is one 2013’s top box sets for adults.  It is available in stores and online now, and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at  More information on Downton Abbey is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Downton Abbey Season 3 Coming To TV, DVD, Blu-Ray In January

Courtesy:  BBC/PBS

Courtesy: BBC/PBS

The countdown is on.  For fans of the British drama, Downton Abbey, the show’s third season will finally come to America on Sunday, January 6th on PBS affiliates across the country.  Downton’s second season was met with mixed reviews, but as fans will see in the season premiere of Season Three, things have gotten much better.  Season Three opens where Season Two closed.  Audiences see Lady Mary and Matthew are finally getting ready to get married.  But among all the happiness of the impending nuptials, things at the abbey aren’t entirely rosy.  Financial issues have the fate of Downton Abbey up in the air.  Fans will also find interesting Matthew’s thoughts that maybe he doesn’t want to live at the abbey after he and Lady Mary are wed.  It’s obvious that things at the abbey are changing through this revelation.  And the introduction of Cora’s mother (played wonderfully by veteran actress Shirley MacLaine) makes for the possibility of plenty of great moments of cultural differences between herself and Lady Violet, Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith—Harry Potter).  There is so much more for audiences to look forward to in Season Three’s premiere, and the season’s other episodes, too without giving away too much.  Even more to look forward to is the upcoming release of Downton Abbey Season Three on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

Downton Abbey Season Three will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 29th.  Included in the upcoming release will be a feature on Shirley MacLaine, a standard behind the scenes featurette, and a bunch more.  Fans will be able to order Season Three online at PBS’s online store,

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Audiences Will Enjoy Their Stay At The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainemtn/Fox Searchlight

Hollywood has had a seemingly insatiable appetite for churning out prequels, sequels, and remakes for the better part of the last decades.  It’s been so strong that movie critics and audiences alike have questioned both the current state of the movie business and its future.  While it may seem at times that Hollywood has lost its originality and its soul, a movie comes along every so often that re-ignites the flame of hope, proving that originality is still alive.  It just needs that chance.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those movies.  On the surface, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is just one more ensemble story.  On a deeper level though, it’s a deep and moving dramedy starring some of the industry’s top names today.


The story of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel centers on seven individuals who came together as a result of their trip to the hotel in question.  Each individual comes for their own reason.  Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith—Harry Potter) came to stay due to a hip operation.  Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy—Pirates of the Caribbean) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) came for a getaway.  And then there is Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson—Batman Begins, The Samaritan).  Graham came for a reason that is one of the story’s biggest surprises.  That surprise is just one of a handful that make the story that much more enjoyable.  The surprises aren’t all that make the movie enjoyable.  What really makes this story worth the journey is each individual’s journey of self-re-discovery and personal growth.  Given at times, the story does tend to drag its feet.  But that can be forgiven as audiences will feel satisfied and fulfilled by the story’s end.

At the beginning of their stay at the hotel, things are rather rough for the group.    However, as their stay moves forward, each member of the group of seven changes in their own way.  The most important of those changes comes on the part of Muriel.  Muriel starts out her journey to India as an overt racist individual.  But ultimately, she ends up playing perhaps the biggest and most surprising role of all in the story’s outcome.  In hindsight, it’s a somewhat predictable ending.  But as with the story’s pacing, it too, can be forgiven as it will move any open minded viewer.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a very deep and moving story.  But it is also very funny in its own right.  It has more than enough comical moments for its audiences.  One of the most memorable of those moments comes early on when the group arrives.  They are having their first dinner at the hotel.  And the young hotel manager, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) is doing his routine, when Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) falls over, leading Sonny to think he [Norman] is dead.  The reality is the exact opposite though.  And the reaction from everyone makes for one of the story’s funniest moments.  At another point late in the story, Evelyn (Dame Judi Dench—James Bond) comes up to the hotel’s balcony area and proceeds to drink one of the other group member’s drink.  She states that she needed some water, to which she gets the response, “I know that now.”  The way in which that moment is delivered is kind of a dry, witty moment.  But it’s also very funny.  There are many more funny moments throughout the movie’s roughly two hour run time.  And any audience who is open minded enough to take in the journey will find their own favorite funny moments.  They will also find their own favorite moving moments throughout the story when they rent or buy the movie for themselves.  Through it all, audiences will discover that while it may not be the year’s best, it is one of the year’s more underrated movies.  It’s one that any true lover of movies should see at least once.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct here:

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New Gift Set A Good Idea For Any Downton Abbey Fan

Courtesy: PBS

Far too often, British programs get a bad reputation by most American audiences.  But when the hit show, Downton Abbey cleaned up at last year’s awards shows, it proved that British programming still had a place on American airwaves.  Forget that it was largely shut out at this year’s Emmys.  Downton Abbey is more proof of the value of PBS.  And now fans of this standout serial drama can own the show’s first two seasons on Blu-ray in a single set.

PBS released the first two seasons of Downton Abbey to a very special Blu-ray gift set last month.  The set contains every episode aired so far, including the special Christmas episode.  So one who has never seen this show might ask what is the big deal over it, right?  Right.  So much goes into Downton Abbey to make it a show that any drama lover would enjoy.  Yes, it’s a period show.  But as is pointed out in the included “Making of” bonus feature, a lot of work went into maintaining the show’s believability.  The crew behind the show went to painstaking efforts to properly reconstruct the setting inside the house, from the rooms to the costumes, and other even more minute details.  Audiences will gain even more appreciation for every drama filled episode after viewing this bonus feature, and the others.  Each one intertwines with the other and the episodes themselves to make for a fully immersive viewing experience.

The episodes contained in this set, and the included bonus features make for a wonderful viewing experience.  They are just one part of the overall picture that makes this new gift set perfect for any fan of Downton Abbey.  As minute as it is, even the set’s packaging plays a role in its overall success.  The Blu-ray packaging sees the first two seasons distributed across five discs.  Rather than placing them into a bulky box, each disc gets its own space on inserted “leaves.”  This is a doubly positive packaging effort.  On one hand, placing the discs in this fashion protects them, reducing the possibility of each disc being scratched.  This in turn preserves them, allowing them to be viewed for much longer than less wisely packaged discs.  In combination with the safety of the discs, their packaging also makes the overall packaging ergonomically sound.  The manner in which the discs were placed allowed the box in which they were placed to be smaller than other boxes.  This means the box as a whole will take up less space on anyone’s DVD/Blu-ray rack. 

Whether for the packaging or the bonus features, or for the well written episodes themselves, PBS’ new release of Downton Abbey Seasons 1 & 2 comes together to be a good fit for any fan of the show this holiday season.  Fans can avoid the crowds and order it just as easily via PBS’ online store,

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