I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS DVD

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS DVD

Next Tuesday, Paramount and CBS DVD will release the second season of CBS’ classic sitcom I Love Lucy on Blu-ray. It comes a little more than a year after the release of the series’ first season on Blu-ray. Its release marks the first time ever that Season Two has been released in this format. Now, it is easy to question the importance of the show’s fans having this collection in their home collections considering the number of networks on which it currently airs–TV Land, Hallmark Channel, Me-TV, and possibly others. That is a lot of coverage. However, not everybody out there has access to each of the noted networks for one reason or another. That being the case and that it’s not always that easy to find the DVD box sets at the likes of Wal-Mart or Target (one has to be lucky enough to find them at either retail outlet), it increases the importance of this latest collection by quite a bit. It is just one element worth noting in regards to why audiences will appreciate this latest release even despite the one major issue of its price. The writing behind each of the set’s thirty-one episodes is one more reason and by relation the work of the series’ cast within each episode. Last but most definitely not least worth noting to the set’s positives is the massive amount of bonus material included throughout the five-disc set. From the episode-specific commentaries to the multiple viewing options of the set’s timeless season premiere “Switching Jobs” to the multiple viewing options of each episode overall, these bonuses and many more complete the positive viewing experience of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. Each element in its own makes this collection well worth the addition to any I Love Lucy fan’s home collection. Collectively, they make it an ultimate tribute to a series and the series’ fans even despite its rather high price tag.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s upcoming release of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two marks the first time ever that the series’ second season has seen the light of day on Blu-ray (say that two times fast). Being that the series has already been released both in a full-series set and in its own standalone season sets, one can’t help but wonder why one would want to add this new standalone season set to one’s home collection. The answer is simple. It is the first of a number of reasons that it is worth the purchase even despite the relatively high price tag. While the noted DVD sets are currently available for purchase, one must get lucky to find any of the sets in question in any retail outlet. This means that it is easier for audiences to purchase said sets online. Here’s the problem with that. Not everybody shops online. Whether it be for concerns of security, which are fully justified especially in this day and age, or simply for lack of internet access, shopping online is not for everybody. The next argument is one of the show’s coverage on television today. Currently, I Love Lucy runs on no fewer than three networks–Hallmark Channel, TV Land, and Me-TV–on television. That could be argued to be plenty of reason for audiences to not pick up this set. The rebuttal here is that as with the online shopping option, not everybody has access to one or more of said networks. In some regions, issues with certain carriers has eliminated access to Viacom’s networks, thus eliminating TV Land. In others, a network such as Hallmark Channel is considered a premium channel available only via a digital tier. And in regards to Me-TV, it is growing every day in its reach. However still not every household in America has access to Me-TV. Considering all of this, it makes the presentation of Season Two in its complete all the more important for fans of all ages. Add in the fact that not everybody shops online and its upcoming release in stores makes it all the more important while it is available. These issues are in themselves strong arguments in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to fans’ collections. It is hardly the only argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers in Season Two adds even more fire to the argument in its favor.

The issues with the access to I Love Lucy’s DVD box sets both in stores and online make a solid argument in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to audiences’ personal home libraries. Those issues are only the tip of the iceberg in the argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers this season and by correlation the series’ cast adds even more strength to that argument. Season Two sees some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ entire six-season run including the beloved, timeless season premiere “Job Switching” and the multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy. “Job Switching” is one of the most beloved of I Love Lucy’s one hundred and eighty episodes if not its single-most beloved and timeless episodes. It is a clear example of why the work of the show’s writers is just as pivotal in Season Two as any of the series’ other seasons. This classic battle-of-the-sexes episode sees Ricky and Fred change places with Lucy and Ethel. The prior become the stay-at-home figures while the latter go out to find work. While Lucy and Ethel’s scenes trying their hands as candy makers are the episode’s most memorable of the episode, they are just part of what makes this episode such a laugh riot. The writers’ ability to make Ricky and Fred into just as much a pair of bumblers keeps the men and women on the same level. Audiences will be left in stitches as they see Fred completely char a cake he was trying to bake and Ricky completely losing track and control of a pot of rice. In the same vein, Ricky trying to clean the chickens (yes, he actually tries to clean them) makes for just as many laughs. On the other side of the proverbial coin, watching Lucy and Ethel sitting at the employment agency, trying to get a job in the first place is well worth its share of laughs, too. On another level, the manner in which the writers switched up the couples’ gender roles even before everything unravels (both literally and figuratively) will have viewers laughing just as uproariously. Fred and Ricky both sporting frilly aprons is hilarious in itself. Lucy reading the paper, drinking her coffee and ignoring Ricky is even funnier. And then there is Fred’s comment about Ethel not kissing him goodbye as she and Lucy leave. This is yet another great moment. The commentary about this moment and so many others throughout the episode show even more why the efforts of the show’s writers make this episode such a laugh riot. Said commentary will be discussed later. Getting back on topic, this episode is just one, rich example of how the work of the show’s writers makes this season of I Love Lucy well worth the watch. The multi-part story arc following Lucy’s real life pregnancy is another pivotal example of the importance of the writers’ work.

“Job Switching” is in itself a clear example of why the work of I Love Lucy’s writers is so important to the show’s overall success and enjoyment. It is just one example of why their work is so important, too. The multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy is another prime example of the importance of their work. Lucy’s real life pregnancy marked the first time ever that a TV series’ heads had allowed an actress’ pregnancy to be played out on television. Discussing pregnancy in general at the time was considered a major taboo for TV. Men and women at the time couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on television thanks to the censors. So to have her pregnancy directly addressed and even tied into the series is in itself is hugely important. The manner in which the writers handled her pregnancy makes these episodes even more key. Audiences will find themselves laughing just as much in the arc’s lead episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” as they will any of the arc’s others. There is a lot of truth even today in “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable.” Lucy gets mad at Ricky here because she thinks he loves their baby more than her only to turn and get mad at the episode’s end because he had made no mention of the baby. The setting in which this moment happens makes for its own share of laughs even today. Men and women both will laugh because, again, they know that there is a lot of truth here. Even more to the positive is the fact that the writers handled the issue with such tact and playfulness. Much as with “Job Switching” the writers poked fun at both the mood swings that many women experience in pregnancy and the general inability of men to comprehend or even handle them. It is yet another example of everything that was once great about comic writing, proving again why the work of the show’s writers is so important to the overall enjoyment and success of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. It is not the last example of the importance of their work, either. “Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is yet another example of what makes Season Two such a hit.

“Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is another prime example of the importance of the work of I Love Lucy’s writers for not just one reason but two. The first reason is that it is actually a two-part episode in itself. It is part of that multi-part story arc that followed Lucy’s pregnancy. But it is also its own standalone episode that put Lucy into one of so many outrageous situations. In the case of this episode, Lucy decides to try her hand at sculpting art and even goes so far as to get an art critic to come in and judge her *ahem* work. As any fan knows, she becomes her work, leading to what is one of the all-time greatest episodes in the history of both “I Love Lucy” and of television in whole. Lucy’s initial attempts at creating art are in themselves worthy of more than their share of laughs, again putting the talents of the series’ writers on full display. It is just one more of so many ways throughout Season Two’s thirty-one total episodes in which the writers’ talents are put on full display. All thirty-one episodes considered together, they show with the fullest clarity why the writing behind the second season of I Love Lucy is so important to its general effect. Even with all of the laughs that the writing brings in each episode, the work of the writers is just one element that is worth noting. The work of the show’s cast is just as worth noting.

The work of I Love Lucy’s writers in the show’s second season led to what are considered today to be largely some of the series’ best episodes and some of the most timeless episodes in television’s history in whole. Of course, as impressive as the writing proves to be , it would have been nothing without the work of the show’s cast yet again. The work of the cast–Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley–is perfect from the season’s premiere to its finale. That is obvious in the season premiere when Lucy and Ethel struggle to keep the chocolates from getting past them on the conveyor belt. It is just as evident in this episode when Lucy and Ricky switch their household gender roles. Lucy is spot on as she sits at the table reading the paper and drinking her coffee, not paying any attention to Ricky as he talks. There is a lot of truth to that scene even today some six decades plus later. The truth is on both sides. The back and forth between Ball and Vance as Lucy and Ethel vie for head of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is another example of the importance of the cast’s work. The lengths that the pair reaches in its attempts to obtain that elusive leadership position is so hilarious not so much because it is this pair in question but because it is a situation that could apply both to women and men alike. It just so happened that in the case of this episode it was Lucy and Ethel that went toe to toe over the group’s position of leadership. Another example of the importance of the cast’s work this season comes early on in Lucy’s pregnancy as Lucy wants to initially tell Ricky that they are going to be parents. His reaction after learning he has to sing a song to an expecting couple is wonderful. He goes from table to table, singing happy birthday, becoming increasingly nervous as he tries to find out who the lucky couple is. The ultimate reveal that it is in fact him and Lucy will put a smile on any viewer’s face both from joy and the laughter at his reaction as he tries to solve the riddle so to speak. It is one more way that the work of the show’s cast throughout this season makes the season so enjoyable and a must have for any of the series’ fans.

Everything noted already in regards to I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two makes a solid argument why fans of this timeless sitcom should have the brand new Season Two standalone box set in their own home libraries. For all of the importance of each already noted element, there is still one more element worth noting in regards to this set. That final element is the massive amount of bonus material included with the set. As with the previously released Season One box set, Season Two includes among its bonus features: multiple episode-specific commentaries for starters. One of the commentaries in question centers on the season premiere. Audiences will be interested to learn in this episode that Ricky’s bumbling around in the kitchen was just an act. He was, as is revealed, in fact quite the accomplished chef. Just as interesting is the scene in which Lucy and Ethel prepare to leave and look for a job. Fred tells Ethel that she forgot to kiss him goodbye here. It is a great switching of gender roles. Even more interesting is the revelation in the commentary is that this moment was actually wiped from the episode. According to the commentary, it was not the censors that had it eliminated. Rather it is inferred that it might have been Vivian Vance herself who had it removed. If in fact it was her who had it removed, one can’t help but wonder why. Perhaps there was tension off camera between her and co-star William Frawley. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardless, it is definitely an intriguing tidbit to learn. These are just a couple of extras that make the work of the series’ writers so enjoyable this season. It is just one more reason that the commentary included in this episode proves to be a bonus in every sense of the word. It is not the only episode that receives the bonus commentary treatment, either. There are others throughout the season’s run that get their own commentary, too. The commentaries are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the bonus material included in this box set. Audiences get to see “Job Switching” both in their own standalone black-and-white presentation and color presentation. There is also an option to watch the episode with its own French-Canadian presentation, which included its own special opening and closing graphics, and French-Canadian audio track. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the set’s bonus material. There is far more to discuss including other episode viewing options.

The multiple viewing options offered for Season Two’s premiere are bonuses in their own right and fully deserving of being called bonuses. They are however anything but the only bonuses included in this set. Audiences are also treated to the option of watching every episode with or without their original opening and closing sponsor segments from Phillip Morris. The Phillip Morris segments even include a clear disclaimer noting the now known dangers of smoking and that neither Paramount nor CBS DVD advocate smoking in any form. Both companies are to be highly commended for taking this measure along with giving viewers the season’s run in its original presentation. On the same note, audiences can watch each episode with or without their original “heart” openings. As if all of this isn’t enough, Paramount and CBS DVD have also included with this set, the entire story arc involving Lucy’s pregnancy in the special Lucy movie I Love Lucy: The Movie as well as even more installments of the beloved radio series My Favorite Husband. Audiences will note in the select commentaries included throughout this season that it was My Favorite Husband that led to many of its episodes as well as episodes from other seasons of I Love Lucy. There is much more to note, including a sketch from the Red Skelton Show, guest profiles, an episode guide printed on the indie front and back of the set’s case, and so much more. But to go into each one would take far more time and space than is available. Considering that and everything already noted, it is safe to say that the bonus material included in I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two more than lives up to its title and in turn shows yet again why this season in whole also lives up to its name even despite its rather high price tag.

I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two shows in so many ways why it lives up to its title. Its very availability versus that of the series’ previous DVD releases lies at the heart of the ways in which it lives up to its name. The collective work of the show’s writers and cast once again makes for so many laughs and even heartfelt moments from beginning to end. The material included in the set as bonuses more than lives up to its title, too. The end result of all of these factors together is a box set that is in fact the ultimate Season Two experience for any fan of I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 4th. More information on this and other titles from Paramount and CBS DVD is available online now at:

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School Is In Session One Last Time For Mr. Kotter And Company This Summer

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Mr. Kotter and the Sweathogs are back one last time next month.

Shout! Factory has announced that it will release the fourth and final season of the hit classic sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter on Tuesday, August 18th. Season Four continues the series’ tradition of offering up loads of humor and heart throughout its twenty-three episode run beginning right from the two-part season premiere which sees Mr. Kotter promoted to Vice Principal of James Buchanan High School. This causes the Sweathogs to drop out. Of course their departure doesn’t’ last long. The season’s second episode, Beau’s Jest,” is just as entertaining as the Sweathogs welcome a new member named Beau De Labarre into the group. Beau’s introduction to the group makes for its own share of laughs. And in none of the most interesting of the season’s moments, Horshack, realizing that he will be moving, marries Mary in the two-part story arc “Oo-I Do.” These episodes are just a few examples of the humor and heart that continues to run through the series. The series’ writers also tackle the issue of alcohol abuse in “Come Back, Little Arnold.” On a lighter note, the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is put to the test when the Sweathogs have to deal with a younger student that tries to impress them in “Washington’s Clone.” These are just a handful of the episodes that make Welcome Back, Kotter: The Final Season a fond farewell for fans. The season’s complete episode listing is noted below.

Episodes

Episode Episode Title
1 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Drop-Ins, Part 1
2 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Drop-Ins, Part 2
3 Welcome Back, Kotter: Beau’s Jest
4 Welcome Back, Kotter: Don’t Come Up And See Me Sometime
5 Welcome Back, Kotter: Once Upon A Ledge
6 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Sweatmobile
7 Welcome Back, Kotter: Barbarino’s Boo-Boo
8 Welcome Back, Kotter: X-Rated Education
9 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Barbarino Blues
10 Welcome Back, Kotter: Washington’s Clone
11 Welcome Back, Kotter: Frog Day Afternoon
12 Welcome Back, Kotter: A Little Fright Music
13 Welcome Back, Kotter: A Winter’s Coat Tail
14 Welcome Back, Kotter: Bride And Gloom
15 Welcome Back, Kotter: Barbarino’s Baby
16 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Goodbye Guy
17 Welcome Back, Kotter: Come Back, Little Arnold
18 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Sweat Smell Of Success
19 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Gang Show
20 Welcome Back, Kotter: Oo-Oo, I Do, Part 1
21 Welcome Back, Kotter: Oo-Oo, I Do, Part 2
22 Welcome Back, Kotter: I’m Okay, But You’re Not
23 Welcome Back, Kotter: The Breadwinners
Welcome Back, Kotter: The Final Season will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 18th. It will retail for MSRP of $29.93 but can be pre-ordered online now for a reduced price of $24.93 at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/welcome-back-kotter-the-final-season. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

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Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season Gets An A+

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

It’s been a while since this critic has said this but thank goodness for Shout! Factory. Ever since it went from being solely a music distributor to handling home entertainment releases a little more than a decade ago, Shout! Factory has gone on to become the leading name in home entertainment, releasing some of the biggest movies and TV series of the industry’s past and present. That includes one of its latest releases Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Third Season. Released this past May, the third season of the classic sitcom is yet another welcome escape for those wanting to get away from all of the overly violent and over-sexed dramas and comedies on television and in theaters today. Like so many of Shout! Factory’s previous (and current) releases, the secret to this season’s enjoyment and its overall success, is the work of the series’ writers. Regardless of their familiarity with the series, viewers will agree that the stories and the jokes that made up the body of season clearly offer their fair share of entertainment. The work of the series’ cast plays its own part in the episodes’ enjoyment, too. The quality of the episodes’ footage rounds out the ways in which this standalone set shows itself to be so enjoyable and a success. The footage looks and sounds just as good as it did in the series’ original broadcast nearly four decades ago. If not for that element, the other noted elements would be moot. Thankfully that isn’t the case here. Because it isn’t, this season in whole proves to be yet another great addition to any classic TV buff’s home DVD library. It is just as welcome in the collection of any of the series’ fans.

Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season is a welcome addition to any classic TV buff’s home DVD library and that of any fan of the beloved classic sitcom. It may have only lasted a total of four seasons in its original run on ABC, but it still stands decades after it ended that run as one of the best sitcoms of the 20th Century. That is just as obvious in the series’ third season as its first seasons thanks to the work of the series’ writers. Much as with its first two seasons the writing incorporated into Season Three boasts a wonderful, solid mix of both heart and humor. It is yet another refreshing escape from everything on television and in theaters today. It exemplifies everything that was once great about television and could be again. One example of what makes the writing this season so entertaining comes in the form of the episode “Kotter For Vice Principal.” This episode sees Mr. Kotter dreaming about what it would be like if he were vince principal instead of Vice Principal Woodman. The dream takes Mr. Kotter years into the future. His wife and students have all aged by decades. But he is still young. And he is dressed in regal attire. Over the course of his dream, he discovers that everyone is out to get him and replace him, leading to his revelation that he doesn’t in fact want to be Vice Principal. He reveals his decision to the Sweathogs, explaining that a low-paying job that you enjoy is better than a high-paying one that you don’t. In an age when people are being pushed to step all over each other and climb that proverbial corporate ladder, this is a lesson that is all too necessary and welcome.

The heart and humor incorporated into “Kotter For Vice Principal” by themselves make this episode a great example of what makes Season Three a blast. On another level, the use of the dream sequence should be noted, too. The use of the dream sequence is something that while not too overly present, was commonplace among sitcoms of the day. The fact that this is the only one of Season Three’s episodes to use the dream sequence element makes it even more enjoyable. Had any more episodes used this element it might have gotten old. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Because it didn’t, it makes its use here that much more enjoyable and valuable to the season in whole.

“Meet Your New Teacher: Batteries Not Included” is another excellent example of the series’ continued display of heart and humor. This episode sees a computer introduced into Mr. Kotter’s class, leaving both Mr. Kotter and the Sweathogs concerned that it is going to replace him. Thanks to their concern for their teacher, the Sweathogs re-wire the computer in order to make Woodman look bad in front of Mr. Jan. It’s not the only time over the course of the Welcome Back Kotter’s four seasons that the Sweathogs show such dedication and loyalty to their teacher. And even with that in mind, it still doesn’t get old. Rather, it is one of those elements of the series’ writing that continues to put a smile on audiences’ faces even this far into the series’ run. It’s too bad that so few students today have that kind of loyalty for their own teachers. What’s more, it is sad that so few teachers have such dedication to their students. That isn’t to say that there are no teachers and students such as what is seen here. but they seem increasingly rare. So seeing that dedication here, it is in itself a touching scene. It’s just one part of what makes this episode such a clear example of Season Three’s enjoyment and success, too. The commentary of sorts that is included in the episode makes the episode even more enjoyable.

The commentary of sorts that is included in “Meet Your Teacher: Batteries Not Included” shows just as much heart as the episode’s story. It can be argued that the commentary featured in this episode is prophetic in its own right not just in the realm of education but in the workplace in whole. It is a commentary about the role of man and machine in the workplace. As Mr. Kotter notes, the computer should be used as a tool used by man, not as a replacement for mankind. If only employers and businesses today saw this episode, maybe they would take this commentary to heart. Even if they don’t it is nice to see that at least at one point someone out there saw the writing on the wall and cared about it, even if it was just a writer for a TV series.

Both “Meet Your Teacher: Batteries Not Included” and “Kotter For Vice President” are in their own way examples of what makes Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season so enjoyable for audiences. Both episodes show their own share of both heart and humor. They are but a couple of examples of what makes Season Three such a hit. “The Return of Hotsy Totsy”, which comes near the end of Season Three, is one more example of the humor and heart that continued to be exhibited in the series’ third season. As the episode’s title hints, Hotsy Totsy returns. Only this time, it’s in a rather unexpected fashion. She is re-introduced, if only for the one episode, when the Sweathogs make a trip to a strip joint (yes, a strip joint) and discover her working there. They also discover much to their surprise that she is a mother. What happens from there is just as much of a surprise as Mr. Kotter, the Sweathogs, and even Vice Principal Woodman work to find her a job, rather than judge her. Even more touching and surprising is that Horshack reveals he has taken a job in order to support Hotsy Totsy and her baby, even though the baby isn’t even his. Such behavior is the polar opposite of what one might see on TV or even in theaters today given the presented story. There is no judgement, only respect, care and concern for her and her baby. The fact that even Vice Principal Woodman would even try to help her makes this episode even more touching and entertaining. It is one of those few moments from at least this season the Woodman shows he has a heart. There are other moments in which he shows a humane side. This is just one of those moments. It’s yet another way in which Season Three’s writing shows itself to be key to this season’s enjoyment. Whether through the episodes noted here or through any of the others that make up Season Three, audiences will agree that every one of Season Three’s episodes exhibits its own way writing that will both move viewers and move them to laughter. The fact that every single episode can move viewers in such positive fashion is a strong statement in itself. It’s just one way in which Season Three shows itself to be so enjoyable, too. The work of the show’s cast should also be noted in its enjoyment.

The episodes that make up Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season offer far more than their share of enjoyment. Not one episode can be said to be unenjoyable. As much enjoyment as they bring, they are just a fraction of what makes Season Three so enjoyable. The work of the series’ cast makes each episode enjoyable in its own right, too. Whether on their own or interacting with each other, the show’s cast members create plenty of enjoyment for viewers. Horshack’s continued zany antics will leave viewers in stitches as will Washington’s own take on Good Times actor Jimmy Walker’s J.J. Evans. Gabe Kaplan and John Sylvester White are just as entertaining together as Mr. Kotter and Vice Principal Woodman. The duo’s continued back and forth throughout this season harkens back to the comic greats of days gone by even before them. Of course one would be remiss to ignore John Travolta’s portrayal of Vinnie Barbarino. Travolta is just as entertaining as his cast mates both in his comical moments and his more moving moments. There is a solid balance of those moments both for him and his cast mates, too as audiences will see for themselves throughout Season Three. Whether for Travolta’s work in front of the camera or for that of the rest of the series’ cast, it can be said in watching through Season Three that the combined efforts of the cast in whole makes Season Three all the more enjoyable. Together with the work of the show’s writers, both elements make Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season yet another A+ installment of the classic series.

The work of both the writers and cast members throughout the third season of Welcome Back Kotter give it a clear passing grade. For all of the enjoyment that both elements bring to Season Three, neither would be of any importance if not for the work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. Those individuals are to be just as highly applauded as the show’s writers and its cast. Being that nearly four decades have passed since Season Three made its original debut, a lot has changed in the world of recording technology. It is thanks to those advances and the work of those at Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video that the footage looks and sounds as good as it does here. The sound and video are perfectly synched up and sounds wonderful. In regards to the video, many of the imperfections created in the series’ original recording have been handled with just as much as care and precision. While some smaller elements do still remain, the footage by and large looks far clearer than in its original broadcast making it that much more worth the watch. Coupled with its clean audio mix, the overall production values presented in this season round out the ways in which it shows itself to be so enjoyable. Those values coupled with the work of the show’s writers and its cast, all three elements combined show Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season to be one more welcome addition to the home library of any classic TV buff and any long-time fan of a series that is one of the 20th Century’s greatest sitcoms.

Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season is one more welcome addition–and must have for that matter–to the home DVD library of any classic TV buff and fan of Welcome Back Kotter. It shows this clearly through the work of the series’ writers, who have presented once again a solid balance of humor and heart that will move viewers and move them to laughter. The work of the cast in its interpretation of each episode’s script makes for even more enjoyment throughout the season. The restoration of this season’s episodes rounds out the ways in which Season Three shows itself to be so enjoyable. All things considered, Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Third Season gets yet another A+ as does Shout! Factory for its release. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/welcome-back-kotter-season-three. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

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Time Life, StarVista Announce Release Date, Specs For New Carol Burnett Show Compilation

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment will release another new set of episodes from the beloved Carol Burnett Show next month.

The Carol Burnett Show: Together Again will be released Tuesday, February 24th on DVD. The single-disc release will boast three more episodes from the classic variety/sketch comedy series. All three episodes are presented exactly as their aired in their original broadcasts on CBS in 1973 and 1978. This means that all three episodes will be completely uncut. The included episodes in question are Episode #705 (Original airdate: September 29, 2973), Episode #712 (Original Airdate: December 15, 1973), and Episode #1115 (Original Airdate: January 8, 1978). The episodes included in the upcoming DVD feature some of the greatest names from television’s golden era. Those stars include: Roddy McDowell (Cleopatra, Planet of the Apes Series, Fright Night), Ruth Buzzi (Laugh-In, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts), Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard, The Gloria Swanson Hour), Richard Crenna (Judging Amy, JAG, Rambo series), and Ken Berry (Mama’s Family, F Troop, The Andy Griffith Show).

The Carol Burnett Show: Together Again will be available in stores and online Tuesday, February 24th. It will retail for MSRP of $12.95. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Burnett-Show-Together-Again/dp/B00NUSWZ9I/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1421421317&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Carol+Burnett+Show+Together+Again. More information on this and other releases from StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.timelife.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.millcreekent.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/millcreekent

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Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series Is Loads Of Fun And Laughs

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) used to be one of the greatest networks on television.  Classic dramas and sitcoms such as: Route 66, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, and I Love Lucy among so many other greats.  Compared to the glut of crime and medical procedurals that clutter CBS’ weekly programming schedule, as well as the largely boring sitcoms—save for perhaps Big Bang Theory—it is increasingly clear that CBS’ best days are sadly behind it.  Of course those that would argue against this are likely also the same audiences that are fans of the cookie cutter programming currently filling CBS’ weekly schedule.  Thankfully MPI Home Video has given fans of CBS’ golden era yet another piece of that era in the form of Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series.  The six-season box set was released on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014.  And it is a box set that is fully worth the $100+ price tag.  The primary reason for this is the show’s writing.  Audiences will notice a brand of comedy very similar to that of the comedy from I Love Lucy.  Yet despite this, they writers managed to keep from simply recycling episodes of I Love Lucy in this series.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is the bonus material included throughout each season.  And last but not least, audiences will especially appreciate the box’s packaging.  Each of these factors by themselves carry their own weight in the series’ success.  Together, they make Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series a must have for anyone that is looking for an escape from all of the oversexed, overly violent programming currently dominating the broadcast and cable ranks.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is a welcome breath of fresh air from all of the oversexed and overly violent programming currently dominating so much of the broadcast and cable ranks today.  The main reason for this is the series’ writing.  The writing used throughout the series is quite similar to the writing that made I Love Lucy such a hit and keeps it a fan favorite today.  The physical comedy is there.  So are the wacky situations into which Lucy gets herself.  From losing an envelope full of money given to her by her boss and brother-in-law, and thinking her teenage daughter was going to get married to playing landlord and more, the scripts crafted for this show’s six season make for way more than their share of laughs.  Even more interesting about the writing is the fact that Lucy’s character, Lucille Carter, was a divorced, single mother.  It was a reflection of sorts of Lucy’s own personal life.  She and Desi had gotten divorced by the time that Here’s Lucy came on the air.  Even without Desi in the picture, the writers were able to find a fitting replacement for him in the part of Gale Gordon (Dennis The Menace).  Gale played Lucille Carter’s brother-in-law (and boss) Henry. So taking all of this into consideration, the writers behind Here’s Lucy clearly did their homework. The proverbial icing on the cake that is the series’ writing is the fact that the writers didn’t allow the series to become a serial. Lucy’s daily life working for Henry and her life at home are both chronicled throughout the series. But at no point do the writers allow the series to become a serial. In an era today when almost every series on television is a serial requiring people to watch every week, having such a stand-alone series is a breath of fresh air.

The solid and fully entertaining writing that went into Here’s Lucy is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up the recently released six-season box set. It isn’t the only reason that audiences will want to check out this standout series. The set’s bonus features make the set even more enjoyable for audiences, whether they may be new to the series or not. All six seasons include brand new video introductions by Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. There are also introductions by other well-known starts who made guest appearances throughout the seasons. And they aren’t just introductions, either. There are also extra shared in the introductions. One example comes in the introduction to “Lucy Visits Jack Benny.” Lucy’s daughter Lucile shares with audiences the friendship that Lucy had with Jack Benny and other little extras. There is much more shared in the introduction of each episode. And audiences will get just as much entertainment from the introductions as the episodes themselves.

Also included throughout each season set in the box are segments from Lucy’s radio show, “Let’s Talk To Lucy.” The show was an interview style program in which Lucy interviewed not some of the biggest stars of the day. The segments included throughout all six seasons focus primarily on Lucy’s co-stars from the series. Along with these bonuses, there are also slide shows, original syndication promos for the show and much more added as bonus material. The noted bonus material is just the tip of the iceberg and the most important. It makes the overall viewing experience all the more enjoyable and the box set all the more worth picking up by anyone that is a fan of true classic and family friendly programming.

The writing that went into each episode of Here’s Lucy and the bonus features included in this recently released box set are both of equal importance in the set’s overall enjoyment. There is one last factor to consider in the set that viewers will agree seals the deal for the entire package. That final factor is the set’s packaging. While the set seems a bit bulky on the surface having all six seasons contained in one box, audiences will change their minds in looking at the packaging of each season. Each of the series’ six seasons received their own four-disc boxes. The discs themselves are separated from one another inside the cases on their own plastic inserts. They are placed on either side of the inserts with one disc on the top of one side and the other on the bottom of that same insert’s other side. While this is typically the standard for multi-disc sets nowadays, there are still companies out there that do not follow this rather wise ergonomic packaging model. It protects the discs from scratching each other. The end result is that it maintains the discs’ quality and in turn preserves the show for potentially a whole new generation to enjoy years down the road. Keeping this in mind, it makes this final factor in Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series just as important as those already noted. And alongside those previously noted features, the trio together makes this box set a must see for every family and every fan of classic television.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered direct from MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/Store/Detail.asp?ProdID=11176. More information on this and other releases from MPI Home Video is available online now at http://www.mpihomevideo.com, http://www.mpimedia.com, and http://www.facebook.com/pages/MPI-Home-Video/58189629179. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.