Former World Cup Champs Foudy, Markgraf Discuss U.S.-Germany Matchup

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPNFC

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPNFC

The U.S. women’s soccer team faces its biggest challenge yet tonight when it takes on Germany in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Tournament. Ahead of tonight’s big match, espnW Julie Foudy and analyst Kate Markgraf—both members of the 1999 U.S. World Cup winning team—sat down with members of the media to discuss tonight’s matchup. Foudy and Markgraf discussed their thoughts on the implications of tonight’s match, game planning, and even the successes of both the Germans and Americans over the years in the tournament among many other topics. Below is the full transcript of the pair’s discussion with the media. Audiences can also listen to the duo’s discussion with the press online now at http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=13170457.

Q: What are your general impressions of the tournament thus far, and U.S. team’s success through the tournament to date.

KATE MARKGRAF:  I think so far, the tournament has accomplished its objectives, which was to expand the field.  We saw eight new teams come in, and although the mainstays are what we saw basically in the quarterfinals — more of the established countries — it did open up the game globally, and the only way that could have happened in increasing exposure was to open up the field.  So that was one objective.

The second objective was to hopefully see some great soccer, and we have seen that.  Specifically in the Germany‑France game, [we saw] the game has evolved quite a bit.  And a side like France who was relatively unknown two World Cups ago is now a team to watch for the next one.

So the game is evolving, and those are two things that have happened.

JULIE FOUDY:  I think if you look at the U.S. team, [they] haven’t played yet to their potential, but [are] getting it done essentially, with winning that group — which was a tough group — and then getting that nice draw after that.

I’m excited to see these last few games, and unfortunately I’m sad to see France go out so soon because I thought they were a beautiful team to watch, and the way that matched up on the side of the bracket.  But I think the draw and the U.S. winning the group obviously worked in [the U.S.’s] favor with the knockout stages and the easier path.  So this will be a great test for them against Germany.

  1. If you were drawing up a game plan for tomorrow’s game, and Julie I know you think the Americans win this one, how would you design a game plan to beat Germany right now? 

FOUDY:  If I was drawing up a game plan against Germany, I actually would go in that 4-3-3, which I’ve been talking about, because I like the idea of the U.S. pressing higher.  I like the idea of the U.S. having two attacking central midfielders in Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday, which I think both of them playing higher is better suited.  I just think it suits your personalities better, and it also brings Abby on to the field.

I don’t think Abby can play in a two-front.  I think if you play a three front you have her in the game as your target high forward.  You keep her eye, and you put speed around her.  I don’t think that is going to happen, but if they do go in a 4-4-2, which is what I’m suspecting, I’m suspecting as well that they’ll leave Abby on the bench again and go with two faster forwards and then bring Abby off the bench, which I think is the right move.

I think you need pace up front because one of the weaknesses of Germany is their back line isn’t as fast.  Then go with some pace on that outside midfield spot as well.  You have [Megan] Rapinoe coming back in, and I thought Kelley O’Hara did really well on that right‑sided position the other night.  Apparently she’s been training really well, which is why she got the look.  So I would go aggressively and step offensively, step defensively.  But you’ve got to go and grind them and put some pressure on the ball.

  1. You kind of touched on this a little bit, Julie, but obviously with Holiday out last game, Carli was able to get into the attack more with Morgan [Bryan] sitting.  How do you think that ‑‑ obviously, I’m assuming Holiday’s going to be back in the starting lineup ‑‑ how is Carli going to be able to keep that role with this lineup kind of going back to what it was?

MARKGRAF:  I would say the Holiday and Rapinoe subtraction was actually addition by subtraction.  I thought the team as a whole improved when those two players went out.  Not so much because the two players that went in for them, but because everyone else stepped up, and it forced [coach] Jill [Ellis] to kind of tinker with the lineup, something that she seems to have been hesitant to do in terms of how that midfield pair position themselves.

She used to have them side-by-side in “two sixes,” is what they call it.  And from what we’re reading is now Carli’s been given the responsibility of more the attacking role, and she’s obviously excited about it judging from her quotes, as well as her inspired play.  So against Germany, which will play three in the middle, they play 4‑2‑3‑1, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a 4‑5‑1, and you’ll see it triangle.  They need to kind of stagger.  If they sit square side-by-side, it’s really easy to penetrate through that line with just the movement that they have, because they run the triangle offense.

They’re able to get at you through multiple passing channels.  So if they’re staggered a bit more…their wide midfielders, they have a chance of stopping Germany in the midfield.  But also it makes Carli sit higher.  So, that’s what I envision is going to happen against Germany, if she decides to go with the 4‑4‑2, which Jill Ellis seems to prefer.

  1. Julie, kind of picking up a conversation we had from last summer with the Men’s World Cup.  I’m just curious if you’re seeing a continual gaining of traction?  It just feels like it in the States.  But I don’t know because I’m kind of in a soccer bubble.  I’m wondering if you get the sense that this Women’s World Cup is building also is building on it which the domestic league really needs?

FOUDY:  Are you talking about how much traction it’s gaining with mainstream people in the public in this country?

  1. Yeah, like we were talking last summer how crazy it got and there was a whole different feel for soccer in America, and now with the women’s league in that crucial third year or however you want to look at it. 

FOUDY:  Right, right.  It’s hard.  I was just having this conversation with Kate, I think, the other day.  It’s hard because, again, we’re kind of in this bubble as well, to gauge how it’s being received.  I mean the numbers, in terms of people watching the games obviously have been huge, which has been great to see.  Especially when you’re not just talking FOX, you’re talking FS1 as well.  Their numbers have been great.

So I think that’s a positive sign.  If you’re pulling in 5 million on FS1 or just about, which is what I think they got, I think that’s a great sign.  And there is constantly conversation now, not just about, oh, this is where they like to shop or these are the things they like to do.  It’s tactics.  It’s what should we be playing.  How come we’re not playing better?  It’s all these questions that you get from people just walking around town of what’s going on or that was better and constant commentary on how they’re playing, which I think is healthy.

So instead of treating it as an anomaly, and wow, what is this?  It’s more, okay, we’re in this and we’re paying attention, so I think that’s all positive.  Hopefully, it will have a positive impact on this critical third year with the league.  The great news is this World Cup creates more U.S. personalities as well, outside of the Abbys, and the Alexes and the Hopes that everyone knows, obviously Meghan Klingenberg, and you’re seeing Kelley O’Hara in there, and Tobin Heath and all the others, Amy Rodriguez are getting some time.  It’s great to see.

  1. Kate, kind of picking up off what you were talking about going back to tactics, it seemed like Kelley O’Hara really opened up the right side, the flank, which the teams seem to need.  Can you talk just a little bit about that?  What she’s meant to that and going forward how important that might be?

MARKGRAF:  Yeah, I think that’s a great question.  I think one thing that is different about O’Hara, and how she differentiates herself compared to who she’s playing against for playing time in that role, is she’s not a converted forward like Christen Press, whose first instinct when she loses the ball is not to turn around and chase.  That’s something that if you’re not used to having to do that, it kind of takes a while to learn.

Tobin Heath is very crafty, but she has a tendency to prefer the left side more than the right in terms of getting end lined.  She seems to get end lined a lot more eagerly when she’s on the left than she is on the right.  Kelley O’Hara is the next person we saw in there, and that is someone that, if you tell her what to do, she has the skillset to get to do it as well as if she were to lose the ball.  That’s what I love best, is she would turn and press.  I think that combination of having Carli Lloyd higher and then O’Hara’s intensity was contagious.  And all of a sudden, her ability to lockdown China on that side allowed Ali Krieger to come up.  All of a sudden there are more numbers to advance on that position.

When Krieger got the ball, her first look wasn’t to lump it into the box, which is what we saw in the first couple games, a little more direct, and it was closer so she could hit passes more accurately and she was more inspired to do so because there was such a good shape in front of her.  I think against Germany, you’ve got to terrorize them on the flanks.  They are not fast, and that is a strength of the United States, so you have to exploit it.  And you can’t to exploit them down those wings, especially because they like to push their wing backs, Kemme and Maier, up so high that that’s how you punish them.

That’s how France punished them.  It ended up holding those guys back.  And if those forwards counter attack so swiftly that the United States can do that as well, as long as they start fast players that want to get end line, and are disciplined to get end lined within the game plan.

  1. Kate and Julie, this question is about the other semifinal, Japan and England.  Do you think it will even be close?  What do you foresee there?

FOUDY:  I do actually think it will be close.  That is one of the things that Japan has dominated teams and passed them to death almost.  They don’t have a finisher who’s been consistently dangerous in front of goal.  So these small margins of games they’ve been winning by keeps it close.  I think if England can keep it close, then you never know, right?  Especially with this English spirit and the way Lucy Bronze is finishing some of these goals in these knockout stages.  I thought Jodie Taylor, putting her in the starting position and some of the tactical changes England has made have been very good.  I thought Mark Sampson has been pretty bold with a lot of his moves.

So I think it could be close.  If it’s close, then England has a chance.  But I suspect Japan is probably going to win it.

MARKGRAF:  Yeah, I think England has probably been ‑‑ the England squad has been utilized fully in terms of everyone seems ready to step in.  With Mark Sampson outcoaching a lot of the other opponents with his tactics as well as his personnel decisions have been very bold and very drastic compared to what we’ve seen from other teams.

So I think England definitely has a chance if they physically push Japan around a little bit.  And Japan, they kind of just lull you to sleep.  I compare them to a boa constrictor, they slowly suck the game out of you because you never have the ball.  They defend by their attack, and they hold on to the ball so long that that’s their defense.  All of a sudden, when a team wins the ball, they’re in their own half and they have to build out of that, and they have all these numbers around them.  So they’re kind of strangling other teams to death slowly.  But I think England has a chance if they can quickly counter.

I think in that quarterfinal game, England didn’t take the game to Canada at all.  They capitalized on two Canadian mistakes.  So that is something they’re going to have to be a bit more creative with and try to create some chances on their own.

  1. Kate and Julie, what did the win over Germany in 1999 mean within the U.S.’s run to the title?  And what did Germany’s win in 2003 mean for their rise to becoming a women’s soccer power?

FOUDY:  I actually think that was probably one of our hardest games [in 1999].  I think that was our hardest game, actually, because we had so many things to overcome in that game.  You had the Brandi own goal.  You have them equalizing or going up, I think, at halftime.

Yeah, it was one of those games I remember it was just hot and humid.  I remember feeling like I had a hole in my heart or a hole in my lung — one of the two — that game and struggling.  But think once we got through that quarterfinal, we knew that was one of the biggest tests.  That’s always such a hard hurdle to get over.  Once we got through that quarterfinal, you were only one game away from the final, of course.  It was just this sigh of relief of, okay, because we knew just how good the Germans were.  So I’d say that was one of the hardest games of ’99.

I’ll let Kate speak to 2003 because I’m still scarred by it.

MARKGRAF:  That and she wants to avoid the Germany part.  In 2003 I think the game evolved in 2003 specifically because of Germany because it was the first time a women’s side had effectively utilized four lines.  So they were already starting to toy with this 4-2-3-1, and I remember we lined up in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, and because they had an additional line that that person was sitting in they basically always had someone sitting in between two lines.  So they always had an easy passing option, and we had no idea how to defend that.

So even though we were only down 1‑0 at the half, they were just outplaying us.  I remember I was starting at a left outside back, and I always had two to three people that were passing options every time my player got the ball or someone came up.  I literally as a defender, I was always on an island because they just kind of surrounded me.  And that’s kind of what you see now.

That was borrowed from the men’s game, right, and it finally started to transition to the women’s game where Germany showed everyone how to do it, and that’s what you see a lot of sides now.  We just play a 4-3-3, we never thought about making it a 4-5-1, and on defense having those two forwards drop back.  That’s what Germany did in terms of style, and for them, it just helped bolster the federation, and they got money from it and they put it right back into their league.

Germany’s probably arguably maybe one of the best leagues in the world.  Maybe better than the United States in the sense that it’s more unified, so that all the teams are connected with their federations.  So basically all the players are kind of playing the same positions or had the same role responsibilities within the positions.  They’re playing the same tactics and same formation, so when they go into the National Team, if they get called up, there isn’t this huge learning curve because they have to learn a new formation or a new style of play or have the different responsibilities than they had on their club team.

So always the United States will have bigger hurdles and unifying their game compared to other federations, but specifically against Germany.  So that was a huge win for them.

I had a couple of teammates from the first league iteration, and it was great to see them win because they played such great soccer.

  1. Regarding one of our local players in the pro team, Christen Press.  She really has a more permanent role from the beginning of the tournament and we’ve seen less of her.  I wanted to get your thoughts on how her tournament has gone, and has she lived up to the expectations that you guys had for her?

FOUDY:  Well, I think you saw what you can get from Christen Press in that first game when she scores that important goal, and a nice one.  And that’s the thing with Press, is you want her in front of goal because every time you talk to a player or a staff member on the U.S. Team they’ll say she is the purest finisher.  She can strike a ball like we’ve never seen.  She can strike it with both feet and just how good she is in front of goal.

I think the challenge for Press going forward is that she’s got to be an impact player even when she’s not in front of goal.  Meaning, is she making a difference offensively getting in line?  Is she making a difference defensively by getting stuck in on tackles and working both sides of the ball?  And I think when she can bring that consistency, because we know what she can do in terms of goal scoring when she gets close.  But if she can bring that consistency of really getting in line and making an impact in games and turning players and taking on and doing that on both sides, then I think she’s going to get more minutes.

  1. Do you think Julie Johnston has been the breakout player or the MVP?  What stands out as being so superlative? 

MARKGRAF:  I think what has to be said when we talk about Julie Johnston is that she’s extremely lucky to play next to Becky Sauerbrunn, and that’s not to take away anything that she’s doing because she’s playing great, but Becky Sauerbrunn holds down the fort.  When you know you have no responsibility other than to show up and play and do what you want to do, then you are the freest person on there.  Becky is organizing everybody.  Becky is making sure that Klingenberg comes back and that Johnston’s on the same line and she’s reading the passing angles and holding the line and telling them when to drop.

And Julie is very similar to the role that I had in 1999 where I dropped into a position where I could just play, and it was so easy, to be honest, because you can just go and have fun and you don’t quite have the pressure that the person next to you does.

But where Julie is really killing it, to me, is just what she brings offensively.  Because now if you are a defender on a set piece, you’re not only worried about Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach, if Wambach is in the game, now you have a third person you have to mark.

So that makes the U.S. attack very unpredictable on who their target really is because arguably Julie is just as dangerous in the air as Lloyd.  And then if you add Leroux in there and all four of those players on the field, that’s four players you have to mark because they’re all really good in the air going forward.

So Julie Johnston has been a breakout star, but a lot of that is because she’s free to do what she wants because of Becky Sauerbrunn.

  1. I was wondering, someone had mentioned earlier the success of Germany in 2003 and pouring money back into the women’s league there, and given sales growth here, how much this kind of match and how much deeper into the tournament might help to springboard to help the league here especially given the great TV ratings so far? 

FOUDY:  I think it absolutely will help, especially if the U.S. can get through this Germany semifinal, and especially if we can see the U.S. team that we all know is there and that’s playing more fluid, offensive soccer as well.  You know, that is the thing I think that you heard so much early on in the tournament about their offensive struggles and the reason for that is because you know it’s there.  You have all this talent.

So I think that will obviously help the league if they can not only win this Germany game, but do it in a style like Americans are like — I want to see that on a weekly basis.  Because the numbers that are watching are great, but translating that to a weekly basis is always the biggest challenge, of course.  That we’ve seen with the past leagues.

But I just feel this league is in a better place as well.  It’s got all the Americans back here playing.  You’ve got the support of the federation.  You’ve got MLS owners who are in it right now, and I think going forward you’re just going to see more and more ownership interest from parties that get this is really an untapped market that if they tap into can eventually get a return on.

  1. I’d like to hear from both of you, just an assessment of Alex Morgan?

MARKGRAF:  I think she has improved game by game, and improvement in just how her body is holding up minute after minute, because she’s been off for a while.  So the last thing to come back is your confidence.  But how it starts to build that is by being able to make that intense run at the 61‑minute mark when you could previously only get to 59.

So she’s starting to get her fitness and her strength back.  I think the biggest thing about Alex Morgan is her agility.  She’s very difficult to knock off balance running at speed with the ball, and you’re starting to see that come back.  Even though maybe she’s not the same player yet, but she has been in some of the ‑‑ in 2012 and 2011 [form] — because of her injury, just having her on the field is impactful because defenses don’t know if she’s back yet.

And it doesn’t matter if the United States is being beaten stylistically or being dominated.  Alex Morgan is the type of player that she just needs a half chance and she can convert that.  We haven’t quite seen it at that level, but you’re starting to see the impact she has with how she set up both those goals or have a part in the first goal in the Colombia game.  Even though the United States was never in danger of losing it, they weren’t able to create much either except when she started to have space in that second half.

We got to see what she was able to do with her intelligence runs and movement.  So she’s getting better every single game, but that’s how you have to measure her success right now because you can’t compare who she was if she’s a hundred percent healthy because that takes time.

Soccer fans can get all of the latest updates on tonight’s matchup as well as all of the latest soccer news online now at:

Website: http://www.espnfc.us

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NOVA: Nazi Attack On America Is One Of 2015’s Top New Documentaries

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

From 1939 – 1945, the world faced one of its greatest challenges when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime rose to power in Germany and started their efforts to take over the world. The stories that came from those that rose to the challenge are some of the greatest in the world’s modern history. They are numerous to say the least. There are so many stories in fact that many have yet to be told. Sadly, just as many likely will never be told. That is because so few people that fought and served in World War II are still around today to tell their stories. Thanks to PBS and its hit science-based series NOVA though, at least one more story from the Greatest Generation has been told in the recent episode Nazi Attack on America. The story presented in this episode centers on the actions of Navy officer Commander Herbert Claudius. Commander Claudius was responsible for heading the operation that sunk a German U-boat right off the coast of the United States during WWII. However, it would not be until decades later that he would receive the credit and honor that he so rightly deserved. It was all thanks to the efforts of one Robert Ballard, the same man that discovered the final resting place of the RMS Titanic. It is that story that serves as the centerpiece of this episode’s enjoyment and its success. The re-enactments and footage of Ballard’s search for the elusive sunken U-boat together add even more interest to the episode. Rounding out the whole thing is the episode’s pacing. The combination of all three elements together presents yet another story from WWII that audiences will be thankful to have experienced in the end. They prove it to be a story that also will hopefully be passed down at the very least to the next generation now that it will be released on DVD later in July.

On Tuesday, July 14th, PBS will bring to audiences another new episode of its hit science-based series NOVA. The episode in question is one that viewers of all ages should watch. That is because the episode in question tells one of the countless stories from The Greatest Generation that needed to be told. Had it not been presented by PBS, this surprising story of service might have otherwise faded into history without ever being given the proper respect that it deserves. The story in question centers on Navy Commander Herbert Claudius’ sinking of the German U-boat U-166. As audiences learn via this episode, despite sinking a U-boat that was lying in wait right off of the Gulf Coast, he was never given the respect that he so rightfully deserved. That is because his superiors did not believe him. Rather the credit for the sinking, again as audiences will learn, was given to another U.S. Navy officer in a later operation. More than seven decades would pass before Claudius would get his due credit. That is thanks to the efforts of one Robert Ballard, the same man that discovered the final resting place of the RMS Titanic. Thanks to the work done by Ballard and his fellow researchers, Claudius finally received the posthumous recognition that he had for so long deserved but never lived to see. Anyone that has any interest in military history in general or more specifically that of naval combat will take great pleasure in experiencing Claudius’ story. Those viewers will be shocked to learn of the original disregard and disbelief that Claudius’ superiors had towards his actions; actions that likely saved countless American lives. They will watch in awe as Ballard discovers U-166 and confirms without a doubt that it was in fact Claudius who deserved credit for stopping the long-elusive U-boat. The story in whole is one that not only needed to be told but deserved to be told. It is one more story from The Greatest Generation that hopefully will also be passed down to not just the next generation but generations to come so that the world will know of the service of one more great American.

The story that lies at the center of NOVA: Nazi Attack on America is a gripping story in its own right. It is one of so many stories that in having experienced it, audiences will agree far more than proves to be a story has needed and deserved to be told. The story itself is only one aspect of the presentation that makes it worth the watch. The collective re-enactments and the footage of Ballard’s discovery of U-166 add even more interest to the program. In regards to Ballard’s discovery, audiences actually get to see U-166 first-hand. The shocker comes as U-166 is revealed to be largely intact. So viewers will see, as Ballard and his companions discuss, where the depth charges must have hit the sub and ultimately doomed it. In the same breath, the re-enactments provide an equally clear view of the showdown that led to Claudius’ sinking of U-166. The sepia tone effect that is used ever so sparsely in the re-enactments are a nice touch. They help to establish that classic vibe even though audiences know that they are watching re-enactments. Getting to see the actual sub as it lies in its watery grave along with re-enactments, audiences will in turn have even more appreciation of the story that lies at the center of NOVA: Nazi Attack on America.

The re-enactments used in partner with the footage of Ballard’s discovery of U-166 go a long way toward making NOVA: Nazi Attack on America a truly intriguing presentation. They and the story itself are still collectively not all that audiences will appreciate about this episode of NOVA. The program’s pacing is solid from beginning to end of the nearly hour-long program. It wastes no time on any one element of its story. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t rush through any one aspect of the presentation or another. The resultant effect of this solid pacing is an easier and better grip on the story. It makes the story easier to follow and in turn makes for more appreciation for the story itself. That solid pacing coupled with all of the previously noted factors makes NOVA: Nazi Attack on America even more gripping, proving entirely why this episode of NOVA is one of the year’s best new documentaries.

NOVA: Nazi Attack on America is one of this year’s best new documentaries. Its central story is itself plenty of reason to watch it. The re-enactments and companion footage of Ballard’s hunt for U-166 offer even more interest to the whole of the episode. The program’s pacing brings everything together, making NOVA: Nazi Attack on America a program that every history buff and military history buff alike will want to see. In watching it, those same viewers will agree that it is one of this year’s best new documentaries. NOVA: Nazi Attack on America will be released on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015. It can be ordered online now via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=61808026&cp=&kw=nova+nazi+attack+on+america&origkw=NOVA%3A+Nazi+Attack+on+America&sr=1. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

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The Dead Rise Again This Summer

Courtesy:  AMC/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: AMC/Anchor Bay Entertainment

The Walking Dead rises again this summer!

Anchor Bay Entertainment has just announced that the fifth season of AMC’s hit zombie drama will be released on DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack on Tuesday, August 25th. Season Five opens with Rick and company having to make their way out of Terminus after it is revealed that its inhabitants are murderous cannibals. Of course the zombie hordes are there, too. Gareth is hot on the group’s trail, too. Along the way, loyalties are once again tested as are the wills of the survivors in a number of situations. Season Five will come complete with roughly three hours of bonus material for true diehard fans. Those bonuses are listed below.

Bonus Features on the Blu-ray™ + Digital HD and DVD include:

Audio commentaries featuring Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer Tom Luse, Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Supervisor /Director Greg Nicotero, Director Julius Ramsay; Actors Lauren Cohan, Chad L. Coleman, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Danai Gurira, Alana Masterson, Melissa McBride, Josh McDermitt, Norman Reedus, Christian Serratos and Steven Yuen.

Deleted Scenes
Inside “The Walking Dead”
The Making of “The Walking Dead”
The Making of Alexandria
Beth’s Journey
Bob’s Journey
Noah’s Journey
Tyreese’s Journey
A Day in the Life of Michael Cudlitz
A Day in the Life of Josh McDermitt
Rotters in the Flesh

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season will retail for MSRP of $79.99 on Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and $69.98 on DVD. More information on The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season as well as the series’ upcoming sixth season is available online now at:

Website: http://www.amc.com/shows/the-walking/dead

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheWalkingDeadAMC

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

2015 NBA Draft Pulls In Record Numbers

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The 2015 NBA Draft presented by State Farm is officially in the books. And even with the draft being said and done, there are still lots of story lines for basketball fans to talk about in regards to who was and wasn’t taken. Now ESPN has added another item to discuss as it has announced the ratings numbers for this year’s draft.

ESPN has announced that this year’s NBA Draft presented by State Farm is the most-watched in the event’s history. This is according to Nielsen ratings. According to Nielsen’s numbers, the 2015 NBA Draft presented by State Farm averaged 3,738,000 (P2+). That is up eight percent from ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 NBA Draft. At its highest point, this year’s broadcast had 5,131,000 viewers. That was in the fifteen minute block from 8pm – 8:15pm ET. Not only were this year’s numbers the highest in the draft’s history but they were the highest ever on ESPN, averaging a 2.4 U.S. household rating. That is up four percent from the 2014 NBA Draft. It peaked in the 8pm – 8:15pm ET block with a 3.3 rating.

Even more impressive of ESPN’s broadcast of the 2015 NBA Draft presented by State Farm is that it pushed the worldwide leader in sports to win the night across both the broadcast and cable spectrum in a number of key demos. Those demos include: P 18 – 34, M 18 – 34, P 18 -49, M 18 – 49, and M 25 – 54.

ESPN has carried the NBA Draft ever since 2003 while the draft itself has TV records dating back to 1994. More information on the ESPN networks’ NBA coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NBA news at:

Website: http://www.espn.com.nba

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NBAonESPN

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

Curious George: The Complete First Season Is Complete In Name Only

Courtesy:  Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Curious George is one of America’s most beloved literary figures. For generations everybody’s favorite curious little monkey has been entertaining readers and viewers of all ages with his adventures. From an extensive series of literary adventures to a classic animated series of sorts in the 1980s to his most recent series, which debuted in 2006, George’s adventures have been teaching important lessons and putting smiles on families’ faces for ages. And this past May fans of George’s most recent animated series were finally rewarded for their loyalty to the series as Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) finally released the series’ first season in its entirety on DVD. Its release marks the first time that this series’ first season has seen the light of day in whole on DVD. And as entertaining as it is, it has to be said that it isn’t a perfect release. On the good side, audiences get the entire sixty episode (yes, sixty episodes) run from Season One on just four discs. That equals to roughly ten hours of entertainment and education for audiences of all ages. This is especially important for a number of reasons and will be discussed shortly. Sixty episodes is a lot of episodes. So one would naturally think that an episode guide of some sort would have been included in this set. Sadly the exact opposite proved to be the case. There is no episode guide. And that’s just one of a handful of cons that weigh down the set. For all of the cons that weigh it down, there is at least one more positive to consider. that positive is in fact the writing that went into each of the set’s episodes. More simply put, the mix of entertainment and education incorporated into each episode offers its own value to the whole of Season One. That value set alongside the set’s cons and its one major positive, Curious George: The Complete First Season isn’t a total loss for audiences. It is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. Though, sadly it can’t be said that it is the year’s best.

Curious George: The Complete First Season has been a long time coming. Ever since the series made its debut nine years ago, audiences have waited patiently for its release. Yet for some reason the people at USHE instead started with the series’ sixth and seventh seasons and only now released its first season. Why USHE would take that route is anyone’s guess. Getting back on track, audiences will appreciate that while it is complete in name only, Curious George: The Complete First Season is complete at least in terms of its episode listing. Season One boasts a total of sixty (yes, sixty) episodes. Those episodes are spread across a total of four discs that are packaged wisely inside a standard DVD case. The inclusion of all sixty original Season One episodes here is a positive in that it replaces a number of USHE’s previously released standalone Curious George compilation discs. This critic alone owns no fewer than a dozen of those standalone DVD compilations. That means that no less than half of those DVDs can now be eliminated. In other words, that means less DVDs cluttering up the house. Any parent will welcome less clutter. What’s more, owning sixty episodes in one set means that much less worry about missing George when it comes on TV regardless of whether it be on PBS or a family’s local PBS Kids affiliate. Keeping all of this in mind, the inclusion of all sixty Season One episodes in a wisely packaged four-disc set definitely makes Curious George Season:  The Complete First Season worth the addition to any family’s home DVD library.

The presentation of all sixty episodes from Curious George’s first season is within tiself plenty of reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. It potentially eliminates clutter from families’ homes. And it means that much less worry about missing Curious George when it comes on TV. Those are all great aspects of Season One. For every positive there is always at least one negative, though. Sadly, Curious George: The Complete First Season has its share of cons. The most glaring of those cons is linked directly to the season’s sixty-episode run. It is the lack of an episode guide of any kind. Considering that Season One boasts so many episodes, one would have thought it common sense that some thing as simple as an episode guide outlining which episodes are on which disc would be included in the set. Apparently someone at USHE thought otherwise. So audiences essentially have to either memorize the episode listing or write up an episode listing themselves and add it into the box. It’s sad that that was apparently an afterthought for the people at USHE. It is just one of a number of cons that weigh down this set, too. Along with that con, audiences will also note that there are no bonus features to speak of anywhere in the set.

The “mid-show” segments that feature kids doing what George did in the corresponding episode are nowhere to be found, either. The “mid-show” segments are commonplace with each broadcast on television. They are even there on the series’ standalone sets. So why not here? It’s doubtful having them in each episode would force an extra disc or even more to the set. So why not have them here? It seems a trivial aspect. But in reality those segments help to drive home the concepts being taught in each episode. They drive home the presented concepts because they present children doing the things that George did in the corresponding episodes. This makes them that much more relatable for young viewers and in turn more capable of reaching them. So not having them included here yet again weighs down the set even more. It means that parents and teachers have to find ways to keep those audiences engaged after the episodes are over and figuring out how to drive the lessons home themselves. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it would have been nice to have that starting point regardless. Because it isn’t there audiences are actually losing out by not having them included here. The same can be said of the lack of bonus features.

The bonus features that are so commonplace in the series’ standalone compilations also help to drive home the concepts being taught in the presented episode. They, too are starting points for bigger lessons that can be taught on the presented topics. A prime example is the rocket building game that corresponds with “Curious George’s Rocket Ride.” That game is included in the standalone DVD which features said episode as its focal point. That game in nowhere to be found anywhere on this set. It keeps children interested in rockets and space all while teaching a basic lesson about shapes. It’s just one of so many games and other activities not included in this set that could have been included. Because it and the others from other Curious George DVDs aren’t here, it means teachers and parents having to figure out how to come up with a cost-effective way to present the same games on their own. Yet again, that’s not a total loss. But still it would have been nice to have at least something there. Not having any bonus games, “mid-show” segments, or episode guide to go by, so much enjoyment and even education that could have been had is potentially lost from this set. Considering this, Curious George: The Complete First Season loses a lot of points and shows even more to be in reality complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is sadly complete in name only. That is because despite having its full complement of sixty episodes, it is lacking in a number of other areas, as has been pointed out. For all of its cons, there is at least one more important pro that should be noted here that is directly related to the cons. That pro is the actual writing that went into this season’s episodes. The writers expertly balanced the series’ entertainment value with its educational content in every episode without fail. From one episode to the next there are various lessons that teach problem-solving skills, basic math and science skills, and so much more. For example, in “From Scratch,” George teaches viewers about using deductive reasoning by trying to solve what made scratches on the furniture at Chef Pisghetti’s restaurant and clear Gnocci’s name. Young viewers won’t even realize that they are being taught thanks to the fact that the series’ writers made the episode a whodunit sort of story with George playing the detective. “Zero To Donuts” teaches viewers basic math skills as George accidentally orders one hundred dozen donuts when he should have only ordered one dozen. So he has to learn about the values of certain numbers. And in “The All Animal Recycled Band” kids learn both about music and conservation as George wants to make a band of his own. The problem is that he has to figure out how to make his instruments and who will play them. His decision on who will play makes for plenty of laughs for the whole family. The lesson about conservation taught through George’s development of his instruments is just as important to the episode. It’s another example of the writers’ ability to balance important educational content with entertainment throughout Season One. There are plenty of other episodes that could be used as examples of how the writers’ ability to balance educational and entertainment content make Season One’s episodes makes them so enjoyable. There just is neither enough time nor space for a discussion on each one. Needless to say, the talent of the writers to balance both elements set along with the fact that all sixty episodes are finally presented in one complete set makes Curious George: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. This is the case even with all of its negatives. Those negatives make this season enjoyable but sadly complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. The fact that al slixty of its episodes have been presented together here for the first time is just one reason that it is such a welcome addition. The balance of educational and entertaining content within each episode makes for even more reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. Sadly there are some glaring issues with the set including the lack of something as basic as an episode guide, the “mid-show” segments that are commonplace in the series’ TV broadcasts and its standalone DVDs, and any bonus features that are common on those same standalone DVDs. Even with those cons noted, they don’t make Curious George: The Complete First Season a total loss. They only make it complete in name only. All things considered, Curious George: The Complete First Season is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. But it is hardly the best. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other available Curious George DVDs is available online along with the latest Curious George news at:

Website: http://www.curiousgeorge.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/curiousgeorge

Audiences can also get more information on Curious George, print out coloring pages, and play Curious George games at http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Cardinals, Cubs Face Off In NL Central Showdown This Week On ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has a big game on tap for this weekend’s edition of Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell.

This  ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell, the league-leading St. Louis Cardinals host the Chicago Cubs in a pivotal NL Central showdown. The game, which could have potential playoff implications as the first half of the season winds down, will be the closer in a three-game series between the NL Central foes. The Cardinals currently sit at 48 – 24 on the season and 7 – 3 in their last ten games. The Red Birds are currently riding high on a six-game win streak. Chicago is third in the division, eight and a half games back from St. Louis, sitting currently at 39 – 32. The team is 5 – 5 in its last ten games and is currently looking to end its two-game skid. Sunday’s broadcast is expected to begin at 8pm ET. The game will be simulcast on ESPN Deportes for the network’s Spanish-speaking viewers. And those that won’t be near a TV during Sunday Night’s game can still catch it online via WatchESPN and on the radio on ESPN Radio. Dan Shulman will have the call for Sunday’s game. He will be joined by analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk in the booth. Reporter Buster Olney will also be on hand with all of the latest in-game news. As with every broadcast of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell, Sunday’s broadcast will be preceded by Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet at 7pm ET. Karl Ravech will anchor the broadcast and will be joined at the desk by analyst Aaron Boone and ESPN MLB Insider Tim Kurkjian. The broadcast will be simulcast online via WatchESPN.

The second game in the Cubs-Cardinals weekend series will air live on ESPN Radio Saturday night at 6pm ET. Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton will have the call for Saturday night’s game.

Carlos Martinez is currently expected to take the mound for St. Louis in Sunday’s game. His last time on the mound was Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. St. Louis won that game 4 – 3. He pitched seven innings in the game, allowing eight hits, three earned runs, one walk, and struck out nine batters en route to the team’s win.

Jason Hammel is expected to start for Chicago in Sunday’s game. Hammel’s last time on the mound was Tuesday against the Dodgers. The Cubs won that game 1 – 0 over the Dodgers. Hammel Pitched 7.2 innings, allowing 2 hits along the way, no runs or earned runs, only two walks, and struck out six men.

Monday night on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball presented by USAA Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles will host Prince Fielder and the Texas Rangers on ESPN. Fielder just hit his 300th home run tonight as the Rangers face the Blue Jays. It makes Fielder and his famed father only the second father/son duo since Bobby and Barry Bonds to hit 300 home runs each. Monday night’s game is the first in a four-game series that will run thought next Thursday, July 2nd. Dave O’Brien will have the call for the game. He will be joined in the booth by Eduardo Perez and Mark Mulder in the booth for additional commentary. The game will be simulcast on ESPN Deportes for ESPN’s Spanish-speaking audiences. It will also simulcast online via WatchESPN for those that won’t be close to a television during the course of the game.

Bud Norris is expected to start for the Orioles in Monday night’s game. Norris’ last time on the mound was Wednesday against the Red Sox. Baltimore dropped that game 5 – 1 with Norris pitching 5.2 innings in the game. He allowed seven hits, five runs, no earned runs, one walk, one home run, and struck out three batters in his time on the mound.

Wady Rodriguez is expected to start for Texas in Monday night’s game. His last time taking the mound was Wednesday against Oakland. He struggled in that game, allowing eleven hits, right runs, eight earned runs, three walks and two home runs over the course of four innings and striking out only four batters. By comparison, Rodriguez’s team-mate Anthony Bass only allowed two hits and one walk over the course of four innings, striking out five batters along the way. He allowed no runs, no earned runs, and no home runs in that time, too.

More information on ESPN’s Major League Baseball coverage is available online along with all of the latest baseball news at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

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

PBS’ NOVA Tackles A Major Talker In Its Next DVD

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

This summer, PBS will release a deep, insightful episode of its hit science-based series NOVA on DVD when it releases NOVA: Lethal Seas.

NOVA: Lethal Seas will be released on DVD on Tuesday, July 21st. The episode centers on the effects of carbon dioxide on the earth’s oceans. It points out that the rising amount of carbon emissions being released into the earth’s atmosphere are also being absorbed by the earth’s oceans. The result of that absorption is that the oceans’ acidity is increasing, thus having an equally negative and far-reaching effect on the creatures that live beneath the waves. In outlining these problems, the program follows a group of scientists that is searching for answers to the problem including a unique coral garden in Papua New Guinea that exhibits what the world’s oceans could potentially look like in the next fifty years. Audiences can check out a trailer for NOVA: Lethal Seas online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpIOk3ew8bc.

NOVA: Lethal Seas will be available on DVD on Tuesday, July 21st. It will retail for MSRP of $24.99. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=62105326&cp=&kw=nova+lethal+seas&origkw=NOVA+Lethal+seas&sr=1. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

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