‘Human: The World Within’ Is A Fully Accessible Look At How Our Bodies Work

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

The human body is such an interesting structure.  That is because it is so contradictory in itself.  It is made of thousands of miles of nerves, veins, and full of fluids and organs (at least two of which – tonsils and the appendix – are not even needed).  For all of its immense complexity, the human body is so frail and fragile.  As the past year-plus has shown, it is so simple for humans to fall sick and worse.  All it takes is one virus for the human body to fail, even being so complex.  PBS examines that contradicting duality of the human body in its recently released documentary, Human: The World Within, showing just how deep it runs.  Having originally aired May 5, the six-part program was released on DVD June 22 through PBS Distribution.  This five and a half hour documentary will appeal widely to medical students, those of the biological sciences, and anyone with any interest in said topics.  That is due in no small part to its content, which will be discussed shortly.  The presentation of said content adds to the documentary’s appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered, they make the documentary just as appealing to the noted audiences in its home release as in its recent TV presentation.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s Human: The World Within is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  That is due in large part to its topic.  As the documentary’s title suggests, it focuses on all of the inner workings of the human body.  More specifically, it examines each of the body’s systems – circulatory, reproductive, digestive, immune, nervous, and sensory – and how each does its own part to make the human body work.  One of the most interesting of the segments focuses on the circulatory system.  Viewers will find interesting, that the circulatory system can actually be “trained” in a manner of speaking.  This is explained through a profile of a woman living in Colorado who spends her free time scaling ice walls.  It is explained here that because of her choice of free-time activity, her circulatory system works differently than that of most other people.  It can handle environments in which oxygen levels are lower, whereas more “normal” people would have far less chance of survival in such situations.  As another example of the interest in the segments, “Birth” — which focuses on the reproductive system — is more than just a refresher on how the system works.  It explains that sometimes the body’s reproductive system can and does fail, leading to an issue, such as a miscarriage.  It is an emotionally difficult incident, but understanding it from a biological aspect might help some families make better sense of those sad events, leading to more ability to cope.  “React,” which opens the documentary, presents its own interesting explanations of how the body’s nervous system works.  It helps understand how back pain is connected to the nervous system, for instance, and how the so-called funny bone is also connected to the body’s nervous system.  It is just one more way in which the content proves so important to the documentary’s presentation.

Staying on the matter of the content, it is delivered through a mix of narration, discussion from medical professionals, and average, everyday people.  From a cell phone technician, to a distance runner, to a boxer, to the noted ice climber and more, the discussions from these noted everyday figures will connect with viewers.  That is because viewers will see themselves in these figures even more than the medical professionals. The medical professionals who are also featured here present their discussion in simple terms, rather than trying to use complex language.  This ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment even more.  Making for even more engagement and entertainment is the general fashion in which the documentary is presented.

The documentary is presented through six separate segments.  Each segment runs just under an hour.  The separation of the segments encourages audiences to watch the documentary at their own pace.  This means that as audiences do watch each segment, they are more inclined to remain engaged in each discussion.  The segments’ run times create their own psychological impact.  The impact in question is that audiences will be more comfortable take the time to watch.  That overall encouragement to watch will ensure viewers will catch everything discussed in each, especially considering the segments’ pacing.  Taking that into account along with the content itself, this proves even more, just how much the program has to offer viewers.

The content featured in Human: The World Within and its overall delivery style does much to make this documentary appealing.  It is, collectively just a portion of what makes the program so appealing.  The documentary’s packaging in its home release rounds out its most important elements.  The packaging finds the documentary split into two discs, with three segments each on each disc.  The discs are placed on their own spindle separate from one another inside the standard size DVD case.  The separation of the discs inside the case ensures the discs will not get marred in any way since they cannot touch one another at any point.  The use of a standard size DVD case saves space on viewers’ DVD/BD racks.  This creates its own appeal.  These two items are each positive aesthetic elements.  When they are considered along with the documentary’s content and its overall presentation, the documentary in whole proves a complete success.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s recently released documentary Human: The World Within is a program that proves a successful presentation that its targeted audiences will enjoy.  Its appeal comes in large part through its content.  The content in question focuses on the body’s systems and how they make the body work in their various ways.  The relatively simple way in which each is examined makes that content accessible for any viewer.  The separation of the content into segments – each of which runs less than an hour – adds to the appeal.  That is because it will encourage audiences to watch each portion that much more.  The documentary’s packaging will appeal to audiences because of its aesthetic value.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary.  All things considered, they make the documentary just as appealing on DVD as in its TV premiere.  Human: The World Within is available now.  More information on this and other titles from PBS and PBS Distribution is available at:

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbs


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Bibliophiles, Cinephiles Alike Will Appreciate ‘AmEx: American Oz’ Despite Its Pacing

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

It goes without saying that author L. Frank Baum’s timeless novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 1939 cinematic adaptation are among the most iconic presentations in their respective arenas.  There is some variance between the original fairy tale and its big screen adaptation, but that aside, the two tales have remained beloved by generations of audiences since their releases.  Early this spring, PBS offered a deep look into how each came about in a new episode of its series American Experience titled American Oz.  Audiences did not have to wait long for the nearly two-hour-long program to come to DVD, either, as it was released just last month on DVD.  While this episode of American Experience is an interesting presentation – thanks in large part to its story – it is not a perfect work.  It does suffer from one notable problem, that being its pacing.  Luckily, as much as the pacing does to detract from the program’s presentation, it is not enough to make the episode a failure.  The transitions throughout work with the story to make for even more reason to watch.  Keeping all of this in mind, the episode might not be as magical as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or even The Wizard of Oz, but is still an interesting presentation in its own right.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s home presentation of American Experience: American Oz is an interesting new episode of American Experience.  It is so interesting in part because of its story. Instead of just examining Baum’s book and related topics, the story instead takes a look at author L. Frank Baum and how his own experiences played into the creation of his now timeless fairy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its equally timeless cinematic adaptation (from MGM), The Wizard of Oz (and the novel’s sequels).  So really, this episode is one part biography of Baum and one part examination of how his life and career played into his rise to fame.  Additionally, it examines the role of the novel and movie in America’s own culture.  Audiences will be interested to learn of Baum’s determination to be successful and how his time living in South Dakota likely played into the very setting for the story’s opening.  Additionally, the discussion about Baum’s disenfranchisement with certain things in the country played into the original story of Oz’s Emerald City makes for its own interest.  Even more noteworthy is the duality in Baum himself.  On one hand, he was clearly ahead of his time in his support for women’s rights.  That social and political leaning is believed to have played into the story of Oz.  On another hand, according to the information provided in this profile, he was also seemingly somewhat racist.  The allegations are supported through a show of the characters that he presented in his books and even comments he made about Native Americans in some newspaper editorials that he wrote early in his professional life.  That apparent duality in Baum’s personality is eye-opening.  Between everything noted here and so much more presented over the episode’s one hour, 52-minute run time, audiences get a rich, in-depth examination of Baum, his work and their place in society today.  It is reason enough for audiences to watch this episode of American Experience.  For all that the story does to make this episode of AmEx engaging and entertaining, that appeal is countered to a point by the story’s pacing.

The pacing proves problematic because it feels like it moves so slowly throughout all of the information provided throughout the story.  On one hand, that could be because of the way in which the story is presented.  On the other though, narrators Kent Drummond and Susan Aronstein feels so bland throughout, too.  Their delivery just does not do much to call on audiences’ attention.  Considering how important Baum’s own life experiences and views were one would have thought that the pair would have given more life to their narration.  Instead, it was the interviewees who helped tell the story that did that.  Meanwhile, Drummond and Aronstein instead make audiences feel as though they are listening to a lecture in a college class in a bad way.  Bringing things full circle here, the result is that even despite the best efforts of the interviewees, the pacing is just too slow.  As a result, it is easy to grow bored.  Thankfully though, the story is still interesting enough thanks to the efforts of the noted interviewees that audiences will just be able to keep themselves engaged.

Keeping in mind the duality in American Oz’s pacing, the episode is still worth watching occasionally.  Considering this, there is still one more item to examine.  That item is the collective transitions within the story.  The transitions are solid and keep the story moving fluidly.  This is important to consider because of all of the twists and turns that Baum’s life apparently took.  From his various businesses – raising chickens, running newspapers, running a store, being an author – to his career choices – working in theater, writing – to dealing with other matters, a lot happened to Baum and Baum did a lot.  Even despite the pacing issues in that story of all that Baum did and had happen, the story’s transitions still manage to make clear each chapter of his life.  This and the efforts by the interviewees to keep the story’s pacing moving, work together to make for even more encouragement to keep viewers engaged and entertained.  Keeping all of this in mind, this episode of American Experience is maybe not as magical as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or its cinematic adaptation, but is still engaging and entertaining.

American Experience: American Oz is a presentation that cinephiles and bibliophiles alike will find relatively interesting.  That is due in large part to its story.  The story featured in this episode of AmEx examines the life and work of legendary author Frank Baum.  The story examines ho Baum’s life and work influenced his novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its cinematic adaptation, The Wizard of Oz, and the place of those two works in America’s culture and history.  It is a rich, in-depth examination of all things noted.  While the story itself gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this episode of AmEx, the story’s pacing proves problematic.  That is due in large part to the narration.  The narration comes across as a lecture in a college classroom.  It is just that flat.  Thankfully, the commentary from the interviewees featured throughout the story just do make up enough for the problems posed by the narration.  The transitions work with the interviewees’ commentary to add even more appeal to the program.  That is because they keep the story moving fluidly, even despite the problems posed by the narration and pacing.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the episode engaging and entertaining even though it is imperfect.

American Experience: American Oz is available now. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience

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Problematic Pacing Aside, PBS’ Hemingway Profile Proves To Be A Strong Presentation

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

It goes without saying that Ernest Hemingway is among the most polarizing figures in the history of American literature.  The same applies to the books and short stories that he crafted during his life.  Audiences either strongly like or dislike him and his works and strongly dislike them.  There is no in-between.  Period.  Now thanks to PBS and PBS Distribution, Hemingway and his works are getting renewed attention in the simply titled documentary, Hemingway.  Helmed by famed documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the documentary originally aired on PBS stations nationwide April 5-7.  Its home DVD presentation followed on May 4.  Whether one is a Hemingway devotee or literary lover in general, audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will find this three-part documentary a powerful presentation.  That is proven in part through its deep, rich examination of Hemingway and his works.  This will be discussed shortly. While Burns and Novick are to be commended for the depth that they offer in showing Hemingway warts and all, the six-hour show’s pacing proves somewhat problematic.  It does not make the show a failure, but does detract from the presentation to a point.  This will be discussed a little later.  The documentary’s average price point on its DVD and Blu-ray platform is its own positive, considering the depth of the show overall.  This element will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary.  All things considered, Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick proves itself a presentation that audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree deserves its own spot among this year’s top new documentaries and DVD/BD box sets for grown-ups.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s presentation of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a deep, powerful presentation.  It is a work that continues to cement Burns’ and Novick’s place among America’s elite documentarians and historians.  Those on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree after watching this six-hour (yes, it runs six hours total) examination of the myth and reality of Ernest Hemingway and his literary works.  The documentary’s story is deserving of praise from both sides because of its depth.  It shows Hemingway warts and all.  From his five total marriages, to his alcoholism, to the highs and lows in his literary career, it is all here.  Burns and Novick go all the way back to Hemingway’s childhood upbringing in a household controlled clearly by two very different parents.  His father, while conservative, was far less extreme in his views than his mother.  In looking at his relationship with his mother, one cannot help but imagine that relationship played at least partially into his unstable relationship with women in his adult life.  At the same time, his relationship with a certain young nurse during World War I (which is also examined here) and how it ended, likely also played into that aspect of his life, too.  He could not control how his mother treated him and his siblings, nor could he control that nurse’s love (or lack thereof) for him, so in compensation, he went from woman to woman as an act of control.  On a related topic, one of the many academics interviewed for the documentary makes her own interesting point that Hemingway’s braggadocious behavior and claims likely stemmed from his own insecurities.  Those insecurities likely were deep seated from his own life experiences.  It would make them more compensation to try and hide things.  This makes for even more interest.

Staying on the topic of the richness in this presentation, audiences will remain just as interested as they learn how Hemingway’s own life experiences played into his novels.  This in itself will lead to plenty of their own discussions.  That is because Hemingway is hardly the only author to go that route.  Fellow author Thomas Wolfe did much the same, and came under fire for doing so, too. 

On yet another note, the examination of Hemingway’s waning days is powerful in its own way.  Audiences who might not have already known (such as this critic) will be surprised to learn that electroshock therapy was used in those final days, as a means to try to cure his depression.  Interestingly enough, the use of that treatment likely led to Hemingway’s increasingly declining mental state and eventual suicide.  Between this discussion, everything else noted here, and other topics, such as Hemingway’s own lack of connection with his sons and the impact thereof, and his own apparent sexual preferences, the overall presentation here offers a lot to keep audiences engaged and entertained.  To that end, the in-depth presentation at the center of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick gives audiences more than enough reason to watch, regardless of which side they take on their love or lack thereof for Hemingway.

While the story at the center of PBS’ new Ernest Hemingway documentary is in-depth (to say the least), it is not without at least one concern.  That concern comes in the story’s pacing.  The six-hour program does have a tendency to drag from beginning to end.  Maybe that is due to the decidedly somber mood set throughout the story.  Hemingway’s life was rather troubled instead of glorious, so the overall tone here is slow and somber.  Maybe it was just a lack of focus on the part of Burns and Novick, but that generally would not be the case.  Keeping that in mind, the story’s pacing does create some difficulty, even for the most devoted Hemingway fans.  While this is clearly a concern, it is not enough to make the presentation a failure.  Rather, it is just something that audiences must keep in mind and expect, going into the presentation.

The detraction caused through the pacing of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is problematic, but again is not enough to make the program a failure.  Keeping that in mind, there is at least one more positive to address, that being the average price point for the documentary.  The average price point for the documentary in its DVD presentation is $31.42.  The average price point for the documentary’s average price point on Blu-ray is slightly more expensive, at $39.28.  Those prices were reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million, among the nation’s biggest major retailers.  Looking at those prices, they are about at the same level as other multi-disc sets on each platform.  As a matter of fact, there are some Blu-ray box sets out there with more discs (and the same number of discs) that top the $40 mark.  Many box sets with the same or more number of discs on DVD are typically in the $35-$40 range.  Additionally, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble all list the DVD set at $27.99 and the Blu-ray set at $34.99.  That is rare, that so many retailers list a DVD and/or BD at the same price.  Books-A-Million and PBS each list the set at $39.99 and $49.99, well above the noted average price points.  To that end, the majority of the retailers charging the same price makes for even more motivation for audiences to purchase the set on either platform.  Going back to the depth of the story at the documentary’s center, that makes the two averages that much more appealing for audiences.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price point for this set pairs with that content to make for even more reason for Hemingway fans and bibliophiles alike to watch this latest offering from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  That is even with the problem of the program’s pacing in mind.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s presentation of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a strong new offering from all parties involved.  Regardless of audiences’ fondness for Hemingway and his work, those on both sides will agree the documentary is an in-depth presentation that goes well beyond what anyone might learn from any literary history course.  That alone is reason enough to watch this documentary at least once.  While the presentation’s rich history gives audiences much to appreciate, the documentary’s pacing proves problematic.  From start to end, the documentary moves relatively slowly.  Regardless of what caused this to happen, the fact of the matter is that audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree that this is problematic.  It is not enough to make the documentary a failure.  However, it does make engagement and entertainment more difficult (again regardless of audiences’ love for Hemingway and his works).  The average price point for the program on DVD and Blu-ray pairs with its depth and richness of content to make for its own appeal.  That is because both each platform’s price point is right on par (and in some cases even lower than) other box sets with the same number of discs.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary in its new home release.  All things considered, they make the documentary among the best of its category.  Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is available now.

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available at:

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PBS

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

‘NOVA: Beyond The Elements’ Goes Beyond The Enjoyment Of Its Predecessor

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

Science, like math, is at the heart of everything.  Science can be and is also cooler than most people realize.  Just ask David Pogue, the host of PBS’ NOVA: Hunting the Elements and its recent follow-up, NOVA: Beyond The Elements. Released on DVD April 6 following its nationwide airing in February, NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that proves just how prevalent and fun science really is.  That is proven through the episode’s main feature.  This will be discussed shortly.  The three-part episode’s presentation style ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The episode’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the episode’s presentation in its new home release.  All things considered, they make this episode of NOVA an unquestionably positive addition to this year’s field of new documentaries.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s recently released home presentation of NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that fans of the popular, long-running, science-based series will enjoy.  That is proven in part through its main content.  The content here refers to host David Pogue’s experiences showing how the elements play into our everyday lives.  From partaking in a chili eating contest (no, not chili as in the stuff with beans and meat, but actually chilis), to watching stuff explode (who doesn’t love a good explosion?) to examining how glass can actually be unbreakable (truth is stranger than fiction), Pogue puts in layman’s terms how the elements work together play into our everyday lives in so many ways.  In the case of the chili eating contest (which will have audiences laugh uproariously), it is used to show how molecules in chilis actually act as a “defense mechanism” for the vegetables.  Pogue discovers in his discussion with a scientist that the molecules in question actually trick the human brain into thinking chilis are spicy when in fact they really are not.  It makes for a really interesting exploration and discussion in itself.  In regards to the explosions, the discussion turns to talks on how molecules in certain elements come together to make explosives, such as ammonium nitrate and C4.  The discussions are presented in an effort to show how construction resources are obtained at their base from quarries.   It is yet another clear, accessible discussion on how the elements play into our daily lives, and is certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained in its own right.  The noted exploration of how glass can possibly be unbreakable is used to show how elements and their molecules play together to create glass, another item which we use daily.  Audiences will be surprised here to watch as a super hot piece of molten glass is cooled quickly in water and made virtually unbreakable.   Throughout the experiments noted here and so many others, Pogue maintains a certain humility.  He never tries to be more than he is, making for even more  enjoyment.  His everyman presence makes him more relatable to audiences, sort of like fellow media personality Mo Rocca.

While the experiments featured throughout NOVA: Beyond The Elements go a long way towards making science so enjoyable and accessible, they are just a portion of what makes this episode’s primary feature so entertaining and engaging. The discussions about the ecological effects of products created by the elements make for their own interest.  What’s more, the discussions on the efforts that are being made to counter the noted effects makes for even more interest.  All things considered here, the primary feature of NOVA: Beyond the Elements makes for a strong starting point for the episode.   Building on the foundation formed by the main feature is the episode’s presentation style.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements runs just shy of the three-hour mark (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact).  Being that this episode is so long, it is divided into three separate segments in its DVD presentation, just as was done in the episode’s original broadcast early this year.  The segmentation seems minimal on the surface, but taking into account all of the information delivered through each segment, it is necessary.  It allows audiences to watch the episode at their pace.  In watching at their own pace, audiences will find themselves that much more inclined to remain engaged.  That increased engagement means that viewers will in turn more easily comprehend and remember the topics discussed in each segment.  Keeping all of this in mind, the way in which this episode of NOVA was presented proves important in its own right.

Moving from the matter of the episode’s presentation, the packaging of the episode in its home release proves important in its own right.  The packaging stands out primarily in that a brief but concise summary of each segment is provided on the back of the episode’s box.  What’s more, it lets audiences know before they even put the DVD in their DVD/BD player, that it is separated into each segment.  This is an aesthetic element, but is important in its own way.  It allows viewers to decide for themselves which segment to watch before they even start watching.  The decision might take a moment, but that moment will take less time than having to learn the topic of each episode one at a time by playing out the start of each episode.  The positive mindset that will result from the use of   the segment summaries will play greatly into the overall engagement and enjoyment in its own right.  When that impact is considered along with the impact of the episode’s main feature and its presentation style, the whole of that content completely rounds out the episode and makes it completely enjoyable.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a welcome follow-up/companion presentation or NOVA: Hunting the Elements.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that it is in fact an improvement from its predecessor.  That is due in part to the episode’s main feature.  The main feature is accessible because it presents so much heavy science content in a fashion that is accessible to the most average viewer.  That in itself will hopefully help viewers see the fun in and importance of science.  The fact that the episode is separated into its three segments here just as it was in the episode’s initial airing makes the episode even more appealing.  That is because the separation will encourage viewers to remain engaged and appreciate the whole even more.  The episode’s packaging in its new DVD presentation puts the finishing touch to the episode.  It does so through the brief but concise segment descriptions on the box’s rear artwork.  The summaries allow viewers to decide which segment to watch before they even place the disc into their DVD/BD players.  This in itself will give viewers a positive mindset, too.  When the positive mindset ensured by the packaging is considered along with the positive mindset generated by the episode’s content and its segmentation, that whole makes this episode of NOVA one more of this year’s top new documentaries.  NOVA: Beyond the Elements is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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Twitterhttps://twitter.com/novapbs

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.

BBC One, PBS Distribution’s Presentation Of ‘The Long Song’ Is A Deeply Moving Historical Fiction

Courtesy: BBC One/PBS Distribution/NBC Universal International

It’s better to be late than never.  Everyone knows that old adage.  It is an adage that applies well for PBS Distribution’s DVD release of BBC One’s 2018 adaptation of author Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song.  PBS Distribution brought the drama to American audiences in February as part of PBS’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of its program, Masterpiece.  The nearly three-hour mini-series (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact) is a powerful and memorable work that while maybe not at the level of the cinematic adaptation of author Alex Haley’s novel Roots, it is sill moving, powerful and memorable.  That is proven in part through the historical fiction’s story.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s general look (the backdrop and costuming) rounds out the program’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the mini-series’ presentation.  All things considered, they make The Long Song a presentation that is well worth watching at least once.

BBC One’s adaptation of author Anrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song is a powerful story that audiences with any interest in the history of slavery (and especially Great Britain’s role in the slave trade) will find worth watching. That is due in part to its central story.  The central story is a historical fiction that is based on the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831-32.  The story in fact opens in the waning days of slavery in Jamaica, which was controlled by the British government.  The opening story in its three-episode run in fact takes place as the Great Slave Revolt essentially begins.  The difference here is that the slaves burned down portions of the region’s sugarcane fields right at Christmas as a group of British aristocrats meet at the Amity plantation.  In reality, the sugarcane fields were not burned, but certain estates in Jamaica.  That aside, the story here is still close enough to reality that viewers can forgive the fiction. 

The related story of the tension between the plantation workers and overseer Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden – War & Peace, Small Axe, Fighting With My Family) adds to the overall story’s presentation.  It is so telling because what happens with Robert’s development is in reality, its own commentary on how so much of the white world is even today.  Even people who claim they are not racist still do have some racist tendencies because it has been ingrained into them by another generation.  It is a topic that the world really needs to address.  On a similar note, that moment when James (Ansu Kabia – Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Hobbs & Shaw, Murder on the Orient Express) tells Robert that he and his fellow emancipated friends refused to pay higher rent for their home and to work longer hours adds to the story involving Robert’s clearly deep-rooted racist tendencies.  This is a matter that will resonate with audiences even today, not just African-Americans.  Average workers everywhere are dealing with the issue today, of increases in the cost of living versus stagnant wages.  It makes this part of the overall story that much more engaging because it shows how far back this issue has reached in human history.

On yet another note, the love triangle between Roger, July (Tamara Lawrance – The Gurney, Kindred, On Chesil Beach), and Caroline (Hayley Atwell – Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man) adds   yet another layer of engagement and entertainment.  The love triangle between the trio is like something out of a trashy romance novel, so it is certain to bring in plenty of female audiences.  At the same time, July getting caught up in-between Robert and her fellow freedmen adds to the drama, and that will engage and entertain men and women alike.  Considering this story line and the other two noted here, it is clear that there is a lot going on over the course of The Long Song’s story.  All of the noted story elements go a long way toward making the story fully engaging and entertaining.  Considering how much is going on in the story, it is all well-balanced.  To that end, the story featured in The Long Song forms a strong foundation for the mini-series’ presentation.  The cast’s work in front of the camera builds on that foundation, making the presentational the better.

The work of The Long Song’s cast is so important to discuss because it is so impressive.  Atwell really steals the show here.  She makes it so easy to hate Caroline.  The way that Caroline treats July throughout the story and the way that she competes with her over Robert makes her that stereotypical spoiled bratty aristocrat.  It makes her a great antagonist.  Not to give away too much, but her behavior late in the second episode in regards to Emily (July’s infant daughter) is just plain despicable.  It makes her performance all the richer.  What’s more, considering her extensive time in the Marvel universe (and her overall resume), taking on the villainous role makes for an interesting turn.  She handled it expertly and makes for a clear example of why the cast’s work is so important.

Kabia’s performance is one of the surprise standouts in this story.  While some might consider his role supporting, he comes across more as a lead actor.  That is because of the lead that he takes among the plantation workers.  The noted confrontation that James has with Robert is just one way in which Kabia shows his chops.  What he does is what so many viewers wish they could do to their bosses. It is such a believable moment.  Throughout the story, his leadership of the plantation workers shows him as such a respected figure.  At the same time, the contrast of his presence to that of July really helps to build the tension.  Between his performance here and that in Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Kabia continues to show his talent.  Considering that, it will hopefully not be long before he gains his own even bigger role that finally really breaks him through.

Lawrance’s performance is just as notable as that of Atwell and Kabia.  There were plenty of points at which she easily could have chewed the scenery so to speak, considering all of the drama in the story.  Yet, her performance from beginning to end, Lawrance interprets each scene expertly in her own right.  Case in point is the moment when Caroline tells July that Robert is going to marry her.  The emotion that she brings out here is so moving and not too emotional.  That fateful moment in which the plantation workers refuse to work on Christmas and Robert storms off, nearly leaving her behind is another key example of Lawrance’s talents.  The way she stands there, trying to make sense of the situation showed July as someone who was just so torn.  And her vulnerability as she had to get Robert to stop the carriage added even more to the moment.  On a more subtle note, the way in which Lawrance handles July’s reaction to Caroline imagining kidnapping Emily is another example of Lawrance’s talent.  Rather than just go all out, freaking out, Lawrance instead brings out the mother in July, making her concern for her daughter evident.  It is yet another powerful presentation.

Lawrance’s performance is just one more that makes clear, the importance of the cast’s work.  That of Lowden is yet another prime example of that importance.  At first Robert comes in as this dashing, almost prince charming type figure.  However, his reaction at the very sight of a cockroach shows a certain weakness.  It is funny.  Also, it is a wonderful depiction of someone who clearly spent his upbringing being very coddled.  Lowden’s portrayal of Robert in this case does so much to really bring out that aristocratic side of Robert.  As the story progresses, Lowden’s display of Robert’s gradual breakdown does just as much to keep viewers engaged.  It makes viewers want to see to what point Robert will go.  What’s more, it slowly reveals Robert’s innate racist tendencies that he otherwise wants to deny and hide.  Audiences will find themselves wanting to watch his performance throughout just as much as the other noted cast’s work.  When all of that work is considered collectively, that whole makes clear the importance of the cast’s work.  When that work is considered along with the richness of the overall story, the two elements collectively make for so much engagement and entertainment.  They are just a portion of what makes The Long Song so enthralling.  The story’s general look rounds out its most important elements.

The Long Song’s look is important because it also plays into the presentation’s overall appeal and believability.  Audiences will find interesting that while it takes place in Jamaica, its visual presentation was captured in the Dominican Republic.  If audiences did not know that, they would just as easily believe their eyes.  The rich greens of the sugarcane fields and the look of the Amity House are so enveloping.  Even the look of the Brits and plantation workers is proper for the era.  From Caroline’s and July’s dresses to the plantation workers’ far simpler apparel, the overall look of the story proves correct.  That attempt to make the story believable through its look paid off just as much as the work that that cast and show’s heads put in.  All things considered, the overall presentation that is The Long Song proves a powerful story that deserves seeing at least once if not more.

BBC One’s presentation of The Long Song is a presentation that history buffs and drama fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its story.  While the story is a historical fiction, it does have some reality incorporated into its whole.  That and the drama that is added to the story makes the story even more engaging.  The work of the cast in interpreting the scripts adds to the overall appeal.  The general look of the program’s presentation does its own share to make the whole appealing, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way in making this presentation appealing.  All things considered, they make the whole a powerful, memorable work that history and drama fans alike will find well worth watching at least once.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from BBC One is available online at:

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The First Season Of “All Creatures Great & Small’s” Reboot Is A Surprisingly “Great” Presentation

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/Channel 5/Screen Yorkshire/Playground/all3 media

Reboots have become in recent years, an all too common thing in television.  Paramount is rebooting Rugrats, NBC tried (and failed) with its reboot of Will & Grace, as did CBS with its reboot of Murphy Brown.  There are even so many game shows getting rebooted over on ABC, and none are nearly as entertaining and engaging as the original series.  So when it was announced that the British drama All Creatures Great & Small was getting the reboot treatment on Britain’s Viacom-owned Channel 5 last year, there was good reason for audiences to be tense.  The original series, which also aired on Channel 5 from 1978 – ’80 and again from 1988 – ’90, offered so much for audiences to enjoy, so needless to say the  bar was already set high, considering the simplicity, heart and warmth of the original series.  Now with the release of the rebooted series’ lead season available on DVD (it was released Feb. 9 on DVD), it can be said that this show is one of the very rare exceptions to the rule of reboots being less than their source material.  Rather, this update on the original series is just as enjoyable as the original show.  That is proven in part through the stories, which will be discussed shortly.  The presentation thereof plays its own subtle but important part to this presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The work of the show’s cast also does its own share to engage and entertain audiences.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot.  All things considered, they make the lead season’s presentation one that makes this reboot stand out in the best way from so many other reboots being churned out on either side of the Atlantic.

Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging presentation in its debut season, considering that it is, again, a reboot.  One of the items that makes this reboot shine in its lead season is its stories.  Given, the stories are loosely connected to the semi-autobiographical stories by James Herriot and just as loosely connected with the stories featured in the original series.  That aside, the stories bear so much heart and warmth from one to the next as they expertly balance drama and comedy alike for a fully immersive whole.  One episode that exemplifies the show’s powerful dramatic element finds James (Nicholas Ralph) facing the consequences of having to euthanize a horse that was suffering internally.  It would have been so easy for the show’s creative heads to go and make this moment early in Herriot’s career way schmaltzier than it needed to be.  That’s something that producers of any American drama might do with such a show, but thankfully was not allowed to happen here.  The way in which the story was handled, with James eventually gaining Siegfried’s (Samuel West) trust and  even respect, but still beating himself up, is so moving because of the control on all aspects therein.  That is also attributed to the work of the cast, which will be discussed later.  The result of that overall control is that said story becomes one of the series’ most moving and powerful moments in this its debut season.

By contrast, the story that finds James having to take part in the Dales’ annual fair balances drama and comedy together.  This story has equal parts drama and comedy as Siegfried, Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), and Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) make a bet as to how long James will last at the fair before he finally snaps.  That these otherwise prim and proper types were gambling, and on the fate of their own friend no less, makes for so much laughter.  James’ own struggles to handle all of the pressure make for their own lighthearted moments, too.  It really serves to bring out that Buster Keaton type persona that Nicholas Ralph presents throughout the season. This will be discussed later.  Alongside with all of the laughs is James’ own inner struggle with having to decide whether to keep a secret involving a bull’s potency or lack thereof.  It is a simple matter, but the manner in which the show’s writers handled this story crates real engaging drama and ensures viewers’ engagement in its own way. That balance of lightheartedness and seriousness makes this story another memorable addition to this season.  It shows in its own right, what makes the show’s stories so important in its debut season.

Another story that shows the importance of the stories in this reboot actually stretches throughout the show’s debut season.  The story in question is that of Tristan’s personal growth.  He starts out as an indignant, snotty brat, but as his time at his brother’s office continues, audiences see him grow as a person.  It would have been easy in this case, to have just left Tristan a static character.  Thankfully that did not happen. His growth leads to scenes throughout that will lead to awe and laughter throughout.  The balance of dramatic chops and physical comedy that Woodhouse incorporates into his character as Tristan changes does so much to entertain audiences, too.  It is yet another example of how the stories featured in this season make it so appealing.  When these stories are considered along with the story of James’ romance with Helen (Rachel Shenton), James’ efforts to save a cow’s life, his near fatal mistake with another cow’s diagnosis, and even the powerful holiday-themed story that serves as the season finale, that whole makes clear why the stories featured in the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot surprisingly entertaining.  The manner in which the stories are presented here couples with the stories themselves to make for even more appeal.

The manner in which the stories are presented in the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot is important because by and large, it breaks from the norm of so much of today’s television.  The stories are presented as standalone works rather than as part of some serialized presentation.  Yes, there is a serial type aspect to the show in terms of the character development, but that is where that element stops.  This means that for the most part, audiences do not have to feel like they have to invest themselves in the show but so much.  In an age when far too much programming (on either side of the Atlantic) has become serialized, it is nice to return to a simple brand of programming if only for once.  Keeping that in mind, audiences who, like this critic, are beyond sick and tired of serialized shows will openly welcome this once familiar brand of story telling, making for even more appeal here.  This aspect is just one more that makes this season so enjoyable.  The cast’s work on camera puts the finishing touch to the presentation.

The work of All Creatures Great & Small is important to discuss because of the engagement and entertainment that it ensures.  As noted previously, newcomer Nicholas Ralph’s take on James gives James a new sort of identity this time out.  Not only does Ralph look somewhat like silent film legend Buster Keaton with his often stone-face emoting, but the personality that Ralph brings to James has that same sort of character type to the role.  That type in question is the innocent, underdog figure.  Whether Ralph set out to emulate Keaton is anyone’s guess.  Regardless, it makes Ralph’s performance and James that much more endearing and enjoyable.

Ralph is just one of the cast members, whose work on camera deserves attention and credit here.  Samuel West’s performance as Siegfried is entertaining in its own right.  Watching West develop Siegfried’s persona from the gruff, eccentric figure that he was in the season’s premiere to the more vulnerable, open type that he became by the season’s end is just as enjoyable as watching any of his cast mates.  West is fully believable in the role, and just as entertaining because viewers never know which side of Siegfried that they would see from one episode to the next.  The way in which West plays his character alongside/against Ralph’s own performance adds even more to each actor’s portrayal.  It shows there must have been some real chemistry between the pair off camera and on.

Much the same said of Ralph and West in regards to their performances can also be said of Callum Woodhouse’s presentation of Tristan.  At first, his take on Tristan’s snotty, arrogant behavior makes it so easy for audiences to dislike Tristan and write him off as just an antagonist to James (and even his own brother to a lesser extent).  However, as the season progresses, Woodhouse shows just as well, Tristan’s gradual desire to grow and become a better person.  The result is that audiences will find themselves surprised at their desire to actually pull for Tristan.  The reason being, that he manages to make Tristan a reflection of audiences.  He mirrors that desire that audiences have to better themselves because they know they, too, are imperfect.  Woodhouse’s clear understanding of that concept makes his portrayal just as strong as any other this season, and certainly not the last.  The one and only Anna Madeley is just as entertaining as her cast mates.

Madeley, who takes on the role of Mrs. Hall this time out, is the closest thing to a matriarch at Siegfried’s office.  She plays friend/confidant to Siegfried while taking on the part of a motherly figure to James and Tristan.  Her ability to be gentile with those two at times and firmer at others gives just the right balance of care and concern while also treating them as the adults that they are.  At the same time, the vulnerability that she allows Siegfried to see shows her softer side in a completely different fashion.  That is just a part of what audiences will enjoy watching from her.  There is a scene at the fair in which she silently but firmly goes toe to toe with a crooked carny who took a young girl’s money.  Her fortitude in that moment against the carny makes for another great performance on her part.  All things considered here, Madeley makes Hall just as great and beloved in this season of the show’s reboot as do her cast mates make their characters.  That is, again, the way in which she interprets each scene and Hall’s role in each circumstance.  That talent makes Hall unquestionably just as important to this show as her fellow characters.  Keeping that in mind, when Madeley’s performance is considered along with those of her cast mates, the result is performance after performance that fully immerses audiences into each story.  That immersion in turn results in appreciation for the stories and their own presentation style.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is no question in the end that all things considered, the lead season of Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly entertaining presentation, especially being a reboot.

British network Channel 5’s reboot of the classic series All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly enjoyable new take on that original series.  It truly stands out among all of the otherwise forgettable reboots that have and do pollute the airwaves and ISPs.  That says a lot in itself.  Part of the reason that it stands out is its stories.  The stories, while loosely based on James Herriot’s books and the original series’ episodes at best, they are still enjoyable works that boast so much heart and depth.  The dramatic plot elements never get too extreme while the comedic elements get just enough time of their own.  At the same time, that the stories once again focus on James’ development at Siegfried’s office adds even more appeal to this aspect.  The fact that the stories are presented more as standalone stories than serial style tales makes for even more engagement and entertainment.  The work of the show’s cast within each episode puts the finishing touch to the whole.  When all three elements are considered together, they make Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small a rare exception to the rule of so many reboots being unnecessary and lacking in any entertainment and engagement.  They make this first season of the series’ reboot a surprisingly “great” presentation.  All Creatures Great & Small: Season 1 is available now.  More information on the series and other shows from Channel 5 is available online at:

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‘Miss Scarlet & The Duke’ Is Mostly Succesful In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: A+E Networks International/PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

Fans of the British crime drama Miss Scarlet and the Duke received some positive news this week.  The series will return for a second season.  The announcement came Monday through an email newsletter from WGBH and PBS.  Season Two’s premiere date was not announced, as the global COVID-19 pandemic forced stoppage of Season Two’s filming early this year.  That means filming will have to resume first if it has not already restarted.  While audiences await the premiere of Season Two, they can watch the series’ debut season on DVD thanks to PBS Distribution and A+E Networks International.  Released Feb. 16, the lead season of the Victorian-era crime drama is an interesting presentation.  That is due in part to its writing, which will be discussed shortly.  While the writing makes for its own share of interest, the acting deserves its own share of attention, too.  It will be discussed a little later.  For all that the writing and acting do for this series, they are just a portion of what audiences will appreciate about this season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke.  The season’s look fits relatively well with the time, too.  Taking into account that aesthetic element along with the writing and acting, the whole of the elements makes the first season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke worth watching at least once.

Miss Scarlet & The Duke is a presentation that will appeal to most crime drama fans in its debut season.  That is due in part to its writing.  Season One’s writing follows Eliza Scarlett, daughter of well-known private detective Henry Scarlett.  The story opens with Eliza facing her father’s death, and in turn, taking over his business.  The move is a result of not only her own love of solving crimes – instilled by Henry – and a need to financially support herself.  That need to support herself comes because she is a progressive woman in a very male-dominated Victorian-era England.  She does not want to rely on a man, which will appeal to plenty of hardcore feminists today.  Ironically (and no to give away too much) it would seem that odds are she and William – her male counterpart at Scotland Yard – will likely end up together by Season Two. Season One starts off with what seems like a random story, but as the season continues, viewers eventually find that each case that Eliza investigates is connected to the prior, ultimately leading to one last case, which brings everything full circle back to her father’s death.  This writing style will keep viewers engaged throughout.  Of course for all that the writing does to entertain and engage with the storytelling itself, there are some problems.

The future of the relationship between Eliza and William is predictable to say the least.  What’s more, in that Eliza is so progressive yet that she and William are becoming closer, emotionally just seems very contradictory.  This is just one of the problems from which the writing suffers. The all-too-familiar plot element involving the private detective outsmarting the official law enforcement which shows up here detracts from the writing, too.  It has been done so many times in shows, such as Psych, Murder, She Wrote, and even Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? just to name a few shows that have used this approach. To that end, that the show’s writers would fall victim to that trapping is discouraging.  The same applies to Eliza getting herself trapped in “Cell 99.”  The detective getting into a dangerous situation has been done, too.  Even with these negatives in place, the writing in reference to the stories is enough to make the writing of at least some interest.  It is just one of the important items to note in examining this season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke.  The work of the show’s cast is also worth noting in examining this series’ debut season.

The work of Scarlett & The Duke’s cast is entertaining in its own right.  Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin do very well together onscreen as Eliza and William.  The duo’s chemistry is on full display even as their characters come across just as similarly as so many onscreen romantic duos.  It is obvious in watching them together, that as much as they argue, the connection is there.  To that end, the progression of the couple’s relationship and the result of that progression – which will not be revealed here – should come as no surprise.  Keeping that in mind, their acting will appeal to anyone who is already so familiar with so many similar on-screen romantic relationship stories. 

On yet another note, Ansu Kabia is just as impressive as Moses.  Moses becomes a key character in this season’s run.  Odds are, his finale with William makes one wonder if (and even hope that) he will return in Season Two.  It will not be a surprise if he does in fact become a regular in Season Two.  Not to reveal too much, but his acting leaves audiences fittingly wondering throughout, about his loyalties.  It leaves the final reveal that much more fulfilling. His work is just that subtle and impressive.

Speaking of unsuspecting, Danny Midwinter’s role as DS Frank Jenkins adds its own nice touch to the whole.  As William’s partner, he and Martin bounce off of each other so well throughout the season.  It makes the revelation of Jenkins’ truth that much more hard hitting, again, because at no point does he make it even possible to know what would come.  To that end, credit where due with his acting, too.

Looking at all of the notable work put in by the cast of Miss Scarlet & The Duke, it builds on the slightly shaky foundation formed by the writing to help secure that foundation.  That work is just one more notable aspect of the season’s presentation.  The sets and costumes featured in this season add their own interest to the presentation.  The sets that are used, including even the horse-drawn “taxis,” fully immerse audiences into Victorian-era England.  The sound of the horses’ hoofs against the cobblestone streets (yes, there are even cobblestone streets) is a minor aesthetic element, but adds so much to the believability in terms of the backdrop.  At the same time, the cast’s attire – from the men’s suits and tuxedos to the women’s hairstyles, dresses, and hats – is period  appropriate, too.  It serves to show the show runners’ dedication to making the show’s look just as appealing as its acting and writing.  That ensures the program’s engagement and entertainment even more.  When this is considered along with the program’s writing and acting, that whole makes this lead season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke a presentation that the most die hard crime drama will find is worth watching at least once.

The debut season of A&E Networks International’s Miss Scarlet & The Duke will find appeal among most crime drama fans.  That is due in part to its writing, imperfect as it is.  The writing keeps the season moving, as it connects each of the season’s six episodes without making the connections too obvious.  The way in which the season’s stories build on one another and ultimately bring everything together will generate appeal among audiences in hindsight.  The problem with the writing rests more in the plot elements that are tied into the stories.  They are all too familiar within the crime drama realm, and in turn become little more than tropes here.  Luckily, they do not detract from the writing to the point that they completely negate the importance of the writing.  The work of the series’ cast on camera adds its own touch to the whole.  It proves even stronger than the show’s writing because of the professionalism in that presentation.  The show’s look puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  That is because the majority of the show’s look is era-appropriate.  It shows the dedication that went into making the show believable even in that aspect.  When it is considered along with the noted work of the writers and cast, the whole, again, makes this lead season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke a presentation that will appeal for the most part to most crime drama fans.  It is available now on DVD.  More information on this and other shows from A+E Networks International is available online at:

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PBS Distribution, itv’s ‘Jekyll And Hyde’ Home Release Will Hopefully Bring This Underappreciated Show Some New Life

Courtesy: itv/PBS Distribution

Ahhhhh ,’tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.  Everyone knows that old adage about relationships.  The thing is that the saying can just as easily apply to other areas of life, such as finding a television show that one enjoys, only to lose that show too soon through cancellation.  In those cases, audiences have to remind themselves that at least for that moment, they had something they loved, if only momentarily.  Such is the case with British television network’s short-lived action/drama, Jekyll and Hyde.  The series ran from October to December 2015 on the British television network itv, but thanks to itv and PBS Distribution, the series, which was canceled after only one season, is getting another chance to be loved.  That is because the two sides partnered to release the show on DVD March 9.  Regardless of whether audiences are new to the show or original viewers, each side will agree that the show’s rebirth of sorts is a welcome return.  Odds are it won’t help the series get some surprise second season, more than five years after the show’s original cancellation, but it will still provide audiences with at least 10 great stories.  Those stories serve as the foundation for the series’ new DVD release.  They will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own appeal to the series’ enjoyment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The collective sets, costumes, and special effects round out the most important of the show’s elements.  This will all be addressed later, too.  When that is all considered along with elements, such as the show’s cinematography and editing, too, that overall whole makes Jekyll and Hyde a series that shows in its new home release, it more than deserves if not a new season, at least a movie.  Even if it doesn’t get that much, this home release of Jekyll and Hyde proves itself a presentation that horror and science fiction fans everywhere will enjoy.

British TV network itv and PBS Distribution’s new home release of itv’s short-lived series Jekyll and Hyde is a presentation that so many audiences will appreciate and enjoy.  That is due in absolutely no small part to the series’ story.  The story in question finds a young Dr. Robert Jekyll dealing with his curse as he fights an evil monster organization called Tenebrae in Victorian-era London.  In the process, Robert is also trying to make sense of his past, of which he knows next to nothing.  Prior to fighting the evil monsters, he had lived in India with his adoptive family, even then fighting his curse.  A letter that he received about his grandfather’s estate is what brought him to London in the first place.  The whole story has such a comic book feel, most specifically that of Hellboy.  At the same time, domestic audiences will also manage to make comparisons to the likes of other American science fiction shows, such as Fringe and The X-Files to a slightly lesser extent.  The Hellboy comparison should come as no surprise.  The show’s heads even mention in the “Introduction” in the set’s bonus content that the superhero feel that the show exhibits is fully intentional.  The story starts off a little slow and does leave audiences with some questions, but luckily those questions are gradually answered as the story progresses.  Even the fashion in which the questions are answered makes for a comic book vibe, even though apparently this series is not adapted from any comic book.  Much the same can be said of the dialogue here.  It is just as superhero/comic book-esque, and will be discussed more when the cast’s work on camera is addressed.  All things considered here, the story featured at the center of Jekyll and Hyde makes for a solid foundation for this wonderful show.  It is just a part of what makes the show so enjoyable.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of enjoyment and engagement to the whole.

The cast’s work is so notable because of everything that it adds to the show.  As noted, this show was intentionally presented in a very distinct superhero/comic book fashion.  As most audiences know, such style presentation makes it easy for characters/actors to go over the top and really ham it up (sometimes too much).  In the case of lead actor Tom Bateman, he balanced both of his roles (Jekyll and Hyde) so well throughout.  The confident swagger that he presents as Hyde and the growth that he helps Hyde show throughout is applause worthy in its own right.  That is because of the control that Bateman uses in his performance.  At the same time, those moments in which Robert is facing his existential crises, Bateman does just as well to control his performance.  Those moments have been and are far too often overacted by other actors in other shows.  Thankfully, Bateman did not let himself fall victim to the moments.  Rather, the way he handled the moments made his performance all the more engaging and entertaining. That balance of personalities and presentations from Bateman makes his performances through the show another bright spot.  Of course his performance is just one of the many that shines here.  That of Donald Sumpter, as Garson, is another notable performance.

Sumpter’s take on Garson is important to address because of its unique presence.  Garson is, for all intents and purposes, the straight man to Bateman’s evocative lead.  The subtle way in which Sumpter exhibits Garson’s concern for and friendship with Robert makes for an interesting juxtaposition to Bateman’s performance.  One can almost sense a certain fatherly concern from Garson for Robert, not just a friendship.  That is not to say that audiences should compare the duo’s relationship to that of a Bruce Wayne and Alfred, but it is there regardless, just with more of a lighthearted feel.  Sumpter’s sometime deadpan delivery adds to that lighthearted nature, making for even more entertainment and engagement.

For all of the entertainment and engagement that Bateman and Sumpter bring to Jekyll and Hyde, their performances are but a bit of what makes the cast’s work stand out.  Natalie Gumede’s take on Bella will appeal to men and women alike.  She does so well to make Bella both a strong, confident figure, and feminine at the same time.  That is evident in the swagger that she gives Bella.  That balance of confidence and vulnerability does well to make audiences want her and Robert to end up together even more so than Robert and Lily.

Speaking of Lily, Stephanie Hyam’s performance in the role does well in its own right to make her a red herring of sorts.  Right from Lily’s first meeting with Robert, audiences know something isn’t right about Lilly, that she is not all she seems to be.  That proves to be exactly the case as the show progresses.  At the same time, Hyam does so well to keep it from being too obvious.  She makes Lily’s reluctance to fully commit herself to Robert clear that something is up, but the controlled fashion in which Hyam handles the duo’s interactions keeps viewers guessing at what is really going on, especially as Harry is introduced.  All things considered here, Hyam’s performance is just as important to this show as the performances of her cast mates.

One more performance that is worth noting in examining the cast’s work is that of Christian Mckay as Max. Max is one of the first people that Robert meets when he arrives in London, and quickly becomes more friend than acquaintance.  As with Sumpter, McKay’s performance alongside that of Bateman makes for its own share of entertainment and engagement.  The somewhat skittish personality that McKay brings out in Max opposite Bateman makes for a lot of funny moments.  The duo’s performances together are important to note because in comparison to Bateman’s performances alongside Sumpter, these moments make Bateman more the straight man and McKay more the comic relief.  It serves well to help show Bateman’s versatility as an actor while also showing Mckay’s own enjoyable talents.  Between McKay’s performance and those of Hyman, Gumede, Sumpter, and Batement (the majority of the show’s lead cast) no doubt is left as to the importance of the cast’s work.  One could just as easily cite the work of Richard E. Grant as Bulstrode, Michael Karim’s supporting role of  Robert’s adoptive brother Ravi, and even Tom Rhys Harries’ subtle but still engaging take on Sackler as proof of that importance, too.  Either way, the fact of the matter is that the cast’s overall work stands out throughout the series.  The cast’s ability to interpret the scripts brings the story even more to life and immerses audiences even more into the show.  It is another tribute to the cast’s work and the show itself, proving even more why this show deserves so much more respect than it got in its initial run more than five years ago.  It is just one more example of what makes the show just as entertaining and engaging all these years later as it was in its initial run.  The collective sets, costumes, and special effects put the finishing touch to this show.

The sets, costumes, and special effects are so important to address because of their aesthetic impact.  While sadly not discussed at all in the bonus content featured with the show’s new first-time DVD release, it is deserving of its attention.  Audiences will be in awe as Garson reveals the original Dr. Jekyll’s lab to Robert early in the series.  The cobwebs and dust that covers everything succeeds in making the lab look like something right out of an old Universal horror flick.  In the same breath, it looks increasingly like something out of a comic book as Robert works to restore his grandfather’s old lab.  That is evident in the vibrant lighting and the cleaned up lab equipment.  It almost makes one think of the bat cave for lack of a better comparison. 

On another note, Grant’s MIO office, as simple as it is, is strangely appealing with its gothic look.  The large sculpture that hangs behind Grant looms over the set.  What looks like a sun carved into the sculpture is interesting considering that MIO’s mission is a sort of Men in Black type quest: to keep the general public in the dark as it battles dark forces.  Yet here is this sun-type presentation behind him.  The sun is light and life.  So it’s almost as if it is meant as a sort of intentional, subtle statement about MIO bringing life by combating darkness and keeping people in the dark about those battles against dark forces.  It really adds so much to the importance of the show’s sets. 

On yet another hand, the Empire music hall shows in its own way, the importance of the sets.  The inside and outside looks so time appropriate.  The stage lights are built into the stage floor, as lights in that era were known to be done.  The curtains, tables and piano, and even the marquee outside the building are so eye catching in their own right.  The seemingly period proper set makes for such a contrast to Grant’s MIO office and Jekyll’s lab.  It almost comes across as a source of ease and relaxation against the sense of tension created in the other two sets, proving its success in helping set the mood as audiences watch.  It also leads into a discussion on the costumes and their importance.

Just as the Empire transports audiences back to the roughly 1800s, so do the cast’s costumes and even costumes.  Robert’s fine suits and the ladies’ dresses and gloves help enhance the setting.  The same can be said of the cars.  It takes audiences back almost to the turn of the century.  That contrast of such a spectacular story taking place in such an era makes for so much more engagement and entertainment.  Add in the special effects, such as Robert’s transformation into Hyde (which is simple in its own right, but still powerful) and the disturbing presentation of the Reaper as it goes from host to host, and audiences see even more how much work and time went into making Jekyll and Hyde fully immersive, entertaining and engaging.  When result of the time and work spent on the show’s sets, costumes and special effects is considered along with the result of the cast’s acting and that of  the story itself, the whole makes this show a presentation that   every science fiction and horror fan will enjoy and appreciate even in just one season.  With any luck maybe the renewed popularity of and interest in the show will lead to a deserved rebirth of the show either on the small or big screen.  If not, then oh well.  Audiences will at least have this short-lived standout series to enjoy anytime they want.

PBS Distribution and itv’s new domestic home release of Jekyll and Hyde is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation that every horror, science fiction and comic book fan should see at least once if not more.  It only lasted one season, thanks to complaints from people who are far too easily offended and by ratings (supposedly), but now it will hopefully receive the respect that it deserves even years after its initial television run ended.  Its appeal is due in large part to its story.  The story is very much a comic book/superhero type presentation, even though it was not adapted from a comic book.  It succeeds quite well, too throughout.  The work of the show’s cast builds just as successfully on the foundation formed through the show’s story, making for even more enjoyment and engagement.  The time and work that went into presenting the show’s sets, costumes, and special effects puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  It makes the show that much more believable and immersive.  When it is considered along with the show’s story and the work of the show’s cast, the whole of all of that content makes this presentation in whole a must see, again, for so many audiences.  Jekyll and Hyde is available now.  More information on this and other shows from itv is available online at:

Website: https://itv.com

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/itv

More information on this and other titles from PBS Distribution is available online at:

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‘Nature: The Alps’ Rivals Any Museum’s IMAX Documentary

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

The Alps is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.  Yes, that is a subjective statement.  It may not be on the “official” list of the world’s “Seven Natural Wonders,” but that hardly negates it from deserving such honor.  Now thanks to PBS and PBS Distribution, audiences will see for themselves why exactly the 750-mile mountain range deserves that title in a new episode of its wildlife-based series, Nature.  Simply titled The Alps, the two-part episode, which runs almost two hours, fully explains why the Alps deserves to be noted as one of the world’s great natural wonders through its story.  That story serves as a strong foundation for the episode, which was released Tuesday on DVD.  It will be discussed shortly.  The episode’s cinematography featured in this episode adds so much to its general effect and will be discussed a little later.  The program’s pricing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the program’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the episode in whole such that any PBS and Nature fan will appreciate.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s new home release of Nature: The Alps is its own wonder of a presentation that any PBS and Nature fan will appreciate.  That is proven in part through the two-part episode’s story.  The story, which is in fact separated into two separate segments, presents the diverse ecosystem that exists within the expansive mountain range.  The story starts as winter in the Alps gives way to the warmth of spring.  Marmots come out of their dens well below the snow to mate, while also having to avoid being eaten by golden eagles.  Deer also come out to mate.  Certain rodent species even come out of their hibernation.  Audiences will be interested to see how even in the higher elevations, animals survive just as much as in the valleys below.  Watching Ibex compete and animals, such as brown bears and wolves return to the region after being nonexistent from that space for such a long time is engaging in itself.  Just as interesting is to learn about how climate change has impacted the Alps, including the recession of a major glacier in the Alps.  That leads into another important aspect of this episode of Nature.  Yes, the message of ecological concern is there, but thankfully it is not taken to the preachy level.  It just reminds audiences at points throughout the program, the changes that are taking place in the alps – at the higher and lower elevations – is due in large part to humans’ influence on the naturally occurring process that is climate change.   That  and the simple story of the wide range of animals that call the Alps home is reason enough in itself for audiences to watch this episode of Nature, and just one reason.  The cinematography that is featured throughout adds even more to the episode’s appeal.

It goes without saying that the cinematography of most Nature episodes is powerful, IMAX-level content.  That has been proven time and again.  The cinematography in this case is no exception to that rule.  The slowed frame rates of the golden eagles in flight and the time lapse photography of the sunrise over the majestic peaks are awe-inspiring  to say the very least.  On another level, the drone footage and what is likely footage recorded from a helicopter-mounted camera makes for just as much engagement and entertainment.  The footage of the Ibex fighting along the craggy mountaintops will send shivers through viewers as they wonder if one of the beasts will fall from the sheer cliff side.  In a similar vein, the aerial shots of the wolfpack make its way across the snowy, frozen landscape during winter presents its own unique impact.  Seeing them kick up the snow as they run across the snowy, forested valley makes for a thought and emotion that viewers will only understand in watching this themselves.  On yet another level, watching a group of crows essentially guide a family of bears to a deer carcass makes for its own interest.  There’s something almost human in the way they almost seem to direct the bears to the carcass and then patiently wait their turn to eat.  It is just one more way in which the cinematography proves its impact to this episode’s appeal.  When it and the other noted examples are considered along with the rest of the program’s cinematography, that whole makes for a viewing experience in itself that is fully engaging and entertaining.  When it is considered alongside the simple story of the mountain range’s ecosystem, that whole ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment even more.  Taking all of this into account, it makes the pricing for the episode’s home release acceptable for the most part.

The average price point of Nature: Alps is $20.79.  That figure is reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS.  It was not listed through Target and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting.  That price point is actually relatively affordable in comparison to some of PBS’ other recently released single-disc presentation.  PBS and Barnes & Noble Booksellers once again exceed that price point, each listing the DVD at $24.99.  Meanwhile, Amazon, Walmart, and PBS all list the DVD well below that point, at $17.99.  In other words, the average price point barely tops $20 while the majority of the major retailers’ single listings put the DVD below that mark.  Add in the fact that the program runs just shy of two hours, that puts the DVD at less than $10/hr at the noted less expensive major retailers.  Additionally, considering the positive impact of the cinematography and the simple story, that makes the pricing even more positive.  All things considered, this presentation offers a lot for audiences to enjoy.  It makes the DVD another high mark that shows why after so many years on the air, Nature remains such a beloved series.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s new home release of Nature: The Alps is yet another enjoyable addition to the long-running wildlife series.  It is a presentation that audiences will find worth watching time and again.  That is due in part to the simple story, which presents the diverse ecosystem of the Alps.  The cinematography that accompanies the story adds to the appeal exponentially.  It is once again on the level of so many IMAX quality museum documentaries.  The episode’s overall pricing in its new DVD release puts the final touch to its presentation.  That is because for the most part it is relatively affordable and will not break viewers’ budgets.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD and its presentation.  All things considered, they make this episode of Nature yet another of this year’s top new documentaries.  Nature: The Alps is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

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To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘NOVA: Secrets In Our DNA’ Sheds Interesting New Light On Consumer DNA Testing

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Genealogy is big business around the world today.  People everywhere use companies, such as 23and Me, Ancestry, and even Myheritage every year to find their roots.  For all that the tests do to enlighten consumers about their families’ connections and histories, there are still some concerns raised through their use.  That balance of pro and con in what is known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing is at the center of another new episode of PBS’ hit science-based series NOVA.  Released Tuesday on DVD, the nearly hour-long examination of DTC genetic testing proves an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is again due in part to the noted topic at the episode’s center.  It will be discussed shortly.  The editing that is used to help tell the story adds its own interest to the presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The DVD’s pricing is worth examining, too.  It will also be discussed later.  When it is considered along with the DVD’s overall content, the whole makes this episode of NOVA worth the purchase and watch.

PBS Distribution’s home release of NOVA: Secrets in Our DNA is a presentation that audiences will agree is worth the purchase and watch.  That is due in large part to the episode’s story.  The story in question examines the popularity of what is known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing.  The nearly hour-long feature is an unbiased look at the positives and negatives of the now multi-million (if not billion) dollar industry.  Audiences learn through the program that while DTC genetic testing can and does help people find family that they otherwise might not have known about, it can also lead to some unexpected consequences.  That is evidenced through a variety of interesting stories.  One of the stories that explains the unexpected consequences is a real crime story that opens the program.  It tells how a woman who used DTC testing ended up playing an unexpected role in a decades-old double homicide in Washington State.  The woman was not the murderer, but her DNA profile that she sent to a DTC testing company led police to the killer.  The whole story will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  In another interesting case, viewers learn from another woman that the man she thought was her father was in fact not.  These and other stories featured in the program lead to discussions on the privacy of the DNA kits that people use for what they believe is their personal genealogical research.  As it turns out, the crime story is linked to this matter because as it turns out, much of the results from those tests goes into a database that law enforcement uses to solve cold cases.  Previously it was not known by consumers that this was happening.  The stories also lead to discussions on the efficacy of the tests in being able to determine whether consumers might be at risk for specific genetic concerns, such as cancer and whether companies might be in relation, selling the genetic information to drug companies for the purpose of patenting drugs.  The late, great author Michael Crichton touched on this topic in his 2006 novel Next.  Representatives from various genetic testing companies responded to the concerns, alleging consumers’ information is not being sold, one even stressing (justifiably) that the companies are not forcing consumers to take the tests.  Overall, both sides of the discussion are presented here.  The result of the non-biased presentation will hopefully encourage audiences to do their own additional research into DTC testing and make their own decisions on whether to use them in their own family history research.

The main feature presented in NOVA: Secrets in Our DNA is certain to keep viewers engaged from beginning to end what with its news story type presentation that delves into the business of DTC genetic testing.  It is just one part of what makes the episode worth watching.  The editing that went into the episode plays its own part in the presentation, too.  That is exemplified through the way in which the interviews and visuals were incorporated throughout the program.  Their placement helps to keep viewers engaged throughout.  The coordination between the narration and footage is its own tribute to the editing.  It all makes the program’s pacing steady and solid from start to end.  That fluid pacing works with the story itself to further engage and entertain viewers.  Keeping that in mind, the general presentation ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment.

Considering the unbiased story featured in NOVA: Secrets in Our DNA and its editing, the program proves unquestionably that it is worth watching at least once.  These elements are just a pair of items that make the program as appealing as it is.  The DVD’s pricing adds at least slightly more appeal to the program’s home presentation.  The program’s average price point is $22.01.  That price was reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS.  It was not listed through Target and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and PBS have the most expensive listing at $24.99 each while Amazon and Best Buy each list the DVD at $17.99, the least expensive of the listings.  Meanwhile, Walmart’s third party seller, DeepDiscount lists the DVD at $24.09, again, well above the average price point.  Yes, only two of the major listed retailers have prices for the DVD.  However, that is two more than could otherwise have listed.  What’s more, the Walmart listing is, again, through a third party seller, not the retailer itself.  Keeping that in mind and that Walmart typically lists PBS’ product among the least expensive retail prices, the pricing even at this point should not be viewed too harshly.  All things considered, those noted inexpensive listings will not break viewers’ budgets, even with shipping and handling in mind.  Keeping this in mind along with the DVD’s content and editing, the whole makes this episode of NOVA worth watching at least once.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s home presentation of NOVA: Secrets in Our DNA is an interesting work that deserves at least some attention.  That is due in part to the story at the episode’s center.  Presented in the style of a broadcast news piece, the story shows in unbiased fashion, the pros and cons of direct-to-consumer genetic testing.  Viewers will find themselves interested in the “secrets” that testing can reveal, both good and bad.  Additionally, they will be interested in the discussion on privacy concerns raised in connection to the business’ popularity.  The editing that went into the program does its own share to keep viewers engaged, and together with the story, ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment even more.  The program’s price in its DVD presentation rounds out its most important element.  While the average price point exceeds the $20 mark, two of its listings are well below that mark, making for at least some appeal.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the program in its DVD presentation.  All things considered, they make the DVD a presentation that proves worth purchasing and watching at least once.  NOVA: Secrets in Our DNA is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

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Twitterhttps://twitter.com/novapbs

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.