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.

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‘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:

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‘Nature: Big Bend — The Wild Frontier of Texas’ Continues To Show Why ‘Nature’ Is One Of PBS’ Prime Series

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Big Bend National Park is one of the most stunning locations within North America’s national parks system.  Covering more than 1,200 square miles in Texas and Mexico, the park features geological structures that date back eons.  It is also home to countless animal species on two and four legs.  The park faced great peril in 2020 due to now former President Donald Trump’s attempts to have a border wall built on the land.  Thankfully, outcry from officials in the region and Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election prevented the delicate park — which was established in 1944 – from being upset by those plans. PBS took audiences on a powerful trip through the park in February in a then new episode of its long-running, hit wildlife series, Nature titled Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas.  The episode was released on DVD last month through PBS’ home distribution arm, PBS Distribution.  For those who have yet to watch this episode of Nature, it is another welcome edition to the show’s already extensive body.  A big part of what makes this episode so engaging and entertaining is its central story.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the story itself is so engaging and entertaining, the cinematography leaves just a little bit to be desired.  That is not to say that the cinematography is a failure.  There is much to like here, but at the same time, it does have a bit of a shortcoming.  It will be discussed a little later.   Considering the impact of the noted content, the DVD’s average price point proves just as important to note as the content.  It will be discussed later,   too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this episode of Nature.  All things considered, they make Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas more proof of why Nature remains one of PBS’ most respected and beloved shows.

PBS’ long-running wildlife series Nature is and has been for a long time, one of the network’s most respected and revered shows.  Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is yet another example of why the series has its noted positive reputation.  That is proven in part through its story.  The nearly hour-long story takes viewers on a cinematic journey through the park, which is one part of North America’s extensive national parks system.  It follows just some of the animal life that calls the park home over the course of a year, starting and ending with a black bear’s journey into the park.  Along the way, the story presents other life, such as an acorn woodpecker (Yes that is really the bird’s name), hummingbirds, bighorn sheep, and various lizard species.  The story, narrated by famed actor Thomas Haden Church (Spiderman 3, Sideways, Wings), also takes time to note the human impact on the park and its wildlife, as well as how the land on which it sits once belonged solely to the people of Mexico.  The discussion is a bit of a digression from the central story, but is still a necessary aspect of the overall story.  That is because as is noted, the land actually crosses international borders between Texas and Mexico, meaning the land still belongs at least partially to Mexico.  Getting back on topic, it should be noted that there is some footage of the bighorn sheep (and one of the lizard species) mating.  So some parental discretion is advised even here.  Overall, the story is relatively simple, and in turn, simple to follow.  That simplicity in itself and the equally simple topic makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  It is just one part of what makes this episode enjoyable.  The episode’s cinematography does its own share to impress viewers, too.

The cinematography exhibited throughout Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is for the most part, impressive.  The rich colors of the expansive desert landscape, with all of its towering rocky structures, its river ecosystem, and all of its other aspects are so enthralling in themselves.  Watching thunderstorms make their way across the park, lightning and all, makes for its own powerful statement through the cinematography.  At the same time, the way in which the cameras capture a Pallid Bat (which is all white) capturing its prey under the cover of darkness is its own engaging visual, too.  On a similar note, the visual of a large bird of prey coasting through the air, the rich colors of the rocks in the distance behind the bird, is yet another powerful visual.  Between these visuals and so many others, the episode’s cinematography offers much for audiences to appreciate.

At the same time that the cinematography offers so much engagement and entertainment, it also poses one problem.  The problem in question comes from what feels like an overuse of slow motion videography.  There is a high usage of high-speed frame rates in the scenes involving the region’s winged creatures.  Those scenes are not the only ones in which the high frame rate approach is used, though.  The scenes in which the bighorn sheep are competing during mating season also see a lot of high frame rate usage.  This even happens as viewers watch raindrops from the noted thunderstorms fall on lizards that crawl along the park’s dusty ground.  It is one thing to adjust the cameras’ frame rates here and there.  Using this approach as much as was done in this episode though, came across as a bit of overkill, and in turn detracted significantly from the overall viewing experience.  Even with this in mind, it is not enough to ruin the episode, even though it cannot be ignored.  Taking all of this into account with the episode’s story, that collective content makes the average price point for its DVD presentation its own positive.

The average price point of Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is $20.99.  That price was reached by averaging prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ online store.  The listings at PBS, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million are the most expensive, with each listing the DVD at $24.99 while all of the other retailers list the DVD well below the noted average, at $17.99.  Considering that the majority of the major retailers list this episode at less than $20, viewers will definitely call this a positive.  That is especially considering, again, the story and its accessibility, and its overall enjoyable cinematography.  All things considered, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation, its cinematography and story make this new offering yet more proof of what makes Nature one of PBS’ most respected and revered shows.

NatureBig BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is a largely engaging and entertaining episode of PBS’ long-running wildlife series.  The episode’s story is simple, straight forward, and as a result accessible for any viewer.  What’s more, save for a couple of moments requiring some viewer discretion, it is a presentation that audiences of all ages will enjoy.  The cinematography that is exhibited throughout the nearly hour-long episode is impressive in its own right, too.  That is even with what feels like an over use of high speed lens work.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation proves to be its own positive.  Its average price point is $20.99, but most major retailers list it for far less than that price.  That means it will not break any viewer’s budget.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode in its new home release.  All things considered, they make the episode another welcome entry in what is one of PBS’ prime series.  Nature: Big BendThe Wild  Frontier of Texas is available now.

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‘NOVA: Looking For Life On Mars’ Will Leave Viewers Looking Excitedly To The Future Of Space Travel

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

NASA has made a lot of headlines in recent weeks thanks to its latest mission to Mars.  The agency’s Perseverance rover and its companion “helicopter,” Ingenuity have kept the agency in the news as they search for any signs of past life on the “Red Planet.”  While the machines’ main goal is to find any evidence of ancient life, that search is just part of their mission.  As is pointed out in PBS’ brand new DVD, NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars, NASA officials are hoping to eventually return that evidence to Earth with yet another mission to Mars when and if it is discovered.  The new DVD in question was released Tuesday, less than three months after the then latest episode of NOVA made its initial airing is another interesting episode of PBS’ long-running science-based series.  The noted story of Perseverance’s mission is at the heart of the episode, and it is a good   starting point for the program.  It will be discussed shortly.  The interviews that are featured within the bigger story add their own interest to the presentation.  They will be discussed a little later.  The program’s collective editing and pacing round out its most important elements.  They will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the presentation of NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars.  All things considered, they make this latest episode of NOVA another engaging and entertaining edition of PBS’ hit science-based series.

PBS’ newly released DVD presentation of NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars will appeal widely to NOVA’s longtime science-based series and to anyone with any interest in space science and even science fiction.  The episode’s appeal comes primarily through the episode’s central story.  Audiences will be interested to learn that the episode’s story is about more than just finding signs of ancient life on Mars, but about looking for ways in which life on Earth can survive on Mars.  The story opens with Perseverance’s landing on Mars back in February following months and years of preparation.  From there, the story turns to Perseverance’s mission, which is to find any traces of ancient microbial life on Mars.  It is pointed out (thankfully) that there is no expectation of finding any signs of more humanoid (*intelligent*) life.  That keeps the episode’s story fully grounded.  Audiences will be interested to learn as the episode progresses, that Mars did in fact once have water.  What’s more it is also revealed that the main components needed for life (CHNOPS – Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur) were all eventually found in Mars’ soil by Pereverance’s equipment, too.  As the program continues, it is revealed that gathering samples from Mars’ surface is only part of NASA’s latest mission to Earth’s “sister planet.”  One interviewee reveals that NASA also plans to send a rocket to Mars to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance and then return them to Earth.  That is certain to be an interesting mission in itself.  This and other interviews incorporated into the program will be addressed shortly.  Getting back onto the topic at hand, along with finding evidence of life on Mars, NASA is also researching how to sustain human life on Mars.  This leads to the discussion on ways to convert Mars’ carbon dioxide rich atmosphere into breathable oxygen.  Filtration company Lydall is working with NASA on that project, and even placed a filter on Perseverance.  That discussion in itself adds even more engagement and entertainment to the story.  The whole story rounds out with a discussion on how the Perseverance program started and where it is going today.  All things considered, the story ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment, in turn creating a solid foundation for the episode’s presentation.

The story featured in NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars makes for a positive starting point for the episode.  Building on the foundation that it forms are the collective interviews that accompany the story.  One of the most notable of the interviews comes in the discussion on Perseverance’s “companion,” the Ingenuity.  A couple of people on the Ingenuity team come right out during this discussion and openly talk about how the very idea was laughed down.  That is because the atmosphere on Mars is so thin that no one thought there would be enough air to get the Ingenuity off the planet’s surface.  Of course as news outlets nationwide reported recently, those doubts were silenced when the mini-“helicopter” did in fact go airborne.


This examination already noted that one of the interviewees featured in this documentary noted early on that Perseverance and Ingenuity were looking for signs of ancient microbial life.  This is important to note because the woman in question stresses that they are not looking for any signs of “alien” life.  This provides for far more credibility and ensures any conspiracy theory types will be silenced early on.  It is a brief statement from  one of the many interviews featured throughout the hour-long program, but is so important because it means officials involved in the project did not want anyone misconstruing what was going on.

Another interesting discussion featured through the episode’s interviews is that of the one-time existence of water on Mars.  The interviewees talk about the reality that at one point, a flowing river once made its way into the crater in which Perseverance landed.  The group talks about smooth rocks in the channel in question prove water once flowed through and into the crater.  Along with that discussion, there is also the discussion on what may or may not have happened to cause the water to evaporate, though no definitive   answer is provided.  Between these discussions, the others noted here and so many others provided through the episode’s interviews, the whole enhances the episode’s presentation even more.  The result is that the interviews prove just as important to the episode as the story.  The interviews and story are just part of what makes this new episode of NOVA so engaging and entertaining.  The episode’s collective pacing and editing round out its most important elements.

The pacing and editing of this NOVA episode are important to note because the episode’s topic is so specific.  It means the show’s creative heads had to make sure that it flowed fluidly and kept everything together solidly.  Viewers will note that it does just that.  The episode opens with the Perseverance’s landing, moves to the search for that ancient microbial life, and closes with the story of the Perseverance’s creation, launch, and landing.  Throughout all three of those segments, the discussions on the related topics and the video are solid in their connections.  Each segment ensures through that editing that viewers are never left feeling left behind or even that the episode drags at any point.  It   brings everything together, completing the episode’s presentation.  When it is considered along with the interest ensured by the episode’s story and its interviews, the whole makes this episode another enjoyable offering from PBS.

PBS’s recently premiered episode of NOVA, Looking for Life on Mars is an enjoyable addition to the long-running series.  The episode’s interest comes in part through its story which follows NASA’s work on its Perseverance rover project.  The story is so interesting in that it is straight forward.  It is the next step in NASA’s exploration of our solar system.  The interviews that are presented throughout the story add their own interest.  That is because of the extra insight that they give into everything that went into and is still ongoing in the project.  The collective editing and pacing that went into the episode rounds out its most important elements.  It ensures viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment as it brings everything together and keeps the episode moving fluidly.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the episode.  All things considered, they make NOVA: Looking for Life on Mars a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  It is available now.

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

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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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‘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

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/PBSNature

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

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/NOVApbs

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.

‘AmEx: The Codebreaker’ Proves Women Can And Sometimes Do, Do Anything Men Do (And Sometimes Better)

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

“Anything you can do, I can do better.” Such is a famous line sung between by Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton in Irving Berlin’s famed Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun way back in 1946.  While the number was in itself meant to be a playful, almost flirtatious moment between the duo, it is a line that has really garnered new meaning in the more than six decades that have passed since the musical’s debut.  That is because over the decades, the gender gap around the world has become an increasingly present discussion topic.  Just as increasingly noteable is that women’s roles in the world’s major events are coming to light and becoming increasingly respected as the world changes.  Thanks to changes in attitudes towards women and their accomplishments, we now know about the role of three women in NASA’s early days.  We also know that if not for Elizabeth Magie, we would not have the board game Monopoly.  Rosalind Franklin’s work in DNA imaging was stolen, too.  If not for her work, much of medical and genetic science might not be what it is today.  These noted women are just some of those whose works were taken without receiving their proper credit.  Thanks to PBS and its home entertainment arm, PBS Distribution, yet another woman —  Elizabeth Smith Friendman — and her achievements are finally receiving credit in a new episode of American Experience, titled The Codebreaker.  Released on DVD March 16, the hour-long presentation will appeal not only to women, but to history and especially military and crime history buffs.  That is due in large part to the program’s main feature, which will be discussed shortly.  The program’s editing adds its own share of engagement and entertainment to its whole.  It will be discussed a little later.  The program’s pricing rounds out the most important of its elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation.  All things considered, they make American Experience: The Codebreaker another enjoyable addition to PBS’ long-running biography-history series.  It is additionally, a positive starting point for any discussion on Friedman’s accomplishments.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s profile of Elizabeth Smith Friedman is a fitting tribute for the famed cryptologist.  That is due in large part to the story featured in this episode of American Experience’s main feature.  The story in question is actually a two-part presentation.  On one hand, it is a love story, telling about her marriage to her wholly supporting husband William.  On the other, it is a presentation of another so-called hidden figure from the 20th century.  Audiences learn through this story that it was thanks in large part to Elizabeth that the illegal booze business that rose from prohibition was stopped.  As a matter of fact, the story even points out directly that Friedman’s own testimony at the trial of Al Capone – more classroom session than just testimony – that he was eventually convicted.  This is something that is not shown in Paramount Pictures’   1987 movie The Untouchables.  Go figure.  This is just part of what makes the story so intriguing.  Friedman’s emotional strength and determination as her husband fell into deep depression even as she worked to decipher ciphers used by German forces during World War II presents her as quite the strong woman; a true to life role model for so many women.  She is even credited with having created America’s first code/cipher organization during World War I, yet was not allowed to serve with that group on the front lines.  That was because of gender roles established during those times.  That in itself is a powerful statement that is still so relevant even today.  The whole thing ends in the revelation that Friedman never got the credit that she deserved, going so far as to allege that much of her work was stolen by a certain high-ranking male government official for his own fame.  His identity will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The revelation is certain to shock may viewers.  Additionally, it is yet more proof that in fact women really can do anything men can do, and in fact sometimes better.  This overall story is in itself reason enough for audiences to watch this episode of American Experience.  It is just one part of what makes the episode worth watching.  The editing that went into the program’s presentation adds its own appeal to the presentation.

The editing that is featured in American Experience: The Codebreaker is worth examining because it works with the story itself to keep the story moving fluidly from start to end.  Whether it be the incorporation of the interviews with various academics and others, or the use of the photos and footage, each element herein is expertly woven into the whole.  The precise timing of each item’s placement within the story does well to help enhance the viewing experience even more.  That is because it all helps give visualization to everything revealed through the story.  The result of the editing is that viewers’ engagement and entertainment is even more ensured, along with that guaranteed through the program’s main feature.  Taking all of that into consideration, the whole makes the program that much more enjoyable.  It all makes the DVD’s pricing appealing in its own right.

The average price point for American Experience: The Codebreaker is $19.09, just below the $20 mark.  That price was reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and PBS.  It was not listed through Books-A-Million and Target at the time of this review’s posting.  For the most part, the listings are well below that average, too.  Amazon, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers all list the DVD at $17.49.   Best Buy’s listing of $17.99 is a little higher, but still well below the noted average price point, making it just as affordable as the other noted listings.  PBS once again lists its product at the most expensive price, $24.99 this time.  So overall, audiences can get this DVD at a relatively affordable price from most major retailers without worrying about breaking their budgets.  Adding to the appeal is, again, the otherwise untold story of another woman who played a key part in America’s history.  That and the editing make the pricing that much more appealing.  Putting the final period on it all is that regardless of which of the major retailers choose, a portion of sales of the DVD will still benefit PBS, allowing the network to further provide so much quality programming.  All things considered, the DVD proves to be another of this year’s top new documentaries.

American Experience: The Codebreaker is more proof that women can and often do, do things just as well as men if not better.  It is a presentation that will appeal to the feminist crowd as well as so many history fans.  That is thanks in large part to the program’s main feature, which outlines Friedman’s otherwise untold story.  It reveals her as yet another of likely so many so-called hidden figures.  The editing that went into the story ensures viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment just as much as the main story.  Considering all of this, the DVD’s average price point and separate listings, which mostly are less than $20, makes for its own appeal.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this DVD’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the whole one  of those rare presentations from PBS that rivals any overly embellished bio-flick that Hollywood’s “Big Six” could ever hope to churn out.  It is available now.

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

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

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperiencePBS

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS

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.