‘A Chef’s Life’ Continues To Cook Up Success In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS

PBS’ hit reality series A Chef’s Life has become one of the network’s most popular shows since it first debuted some years ago.  The show wrapped its fourth season in 2016 and saw that season released late last November on a two-disc DVD set.  For those who haven’t yet seen Season Four, the series’ fourth season is in itself an enjoyable human drama; so much better than all of the obviously scripted “reality” series on television today.  The story at the core of the series is once again its cornerstone.  However, its home release on DVD does present at least one negative, a lack of printable recipes.  Thankfully, it is the only truly noticeable of the season’s negatives in its recent home release.  The collective information presented throughout Season Four makes up for the season’s one glaring negative.  That information includes the history of the featured ingredients, the stories of the people around Eastern North Carolina and other general information.  When all of that material is coupled with the stories at the center of Season Four, the whole of those elements makes up for the set’s one negative, and in turn makes it another mostly enjoyable collection of episodes from this fan favorite series.

The fourth season of A Chef’s Life is a mostly enjoyable new collection of episodes from PBS’ hit reality series.  That is due in part to the fact that the stories presented throughout the season continue to keep this series completely apart from all of the clearly scripted reality series on television today.  There is no fake drama generated through sharp editing and producers who are aimed only at getting ratings.  Mrs. Howard’s struggle to balance her personal and business life and to maintain her humility through it all is clearly something very real.  Even as Sous Chef John leaves and has to be replaced, there are no alligator tears shed.  It would have been so easy for Howard and others at the restaurant to go that route.  But they didn’t.  They showed they really cared about John and his wife and wished them the best.  Their uncertainty moving forward was just as clearly real.  The emotional struggle going on within Mrs. Howard as she works to balance her life is also fully believable.  This makes Season Four all the easier to watch from one episode to the next.  Speaking of that entertainment that the stories offer, the whole of said stories shows why they are so integral to the season’s presentation in its recent DVD home release.  While there is plenty to appreciate in the stories this season, it is just one of the season’s positives.  While it clearly has positives, there is at least one negative that can’t be ignored in the season’s home release.  That one negative is its lack of printable recipes.

The true reality of the stories in the fourth season of A Chef’s Life is the cornerstone of the season’s enjoyable presentation.  It is clear in watching each of the season’s episodes that there is no fake drama at any point in any of the season’s episodes.  While the stories do plenty of good for the season’s overall presentation, not everything in this season’s home release is positive.  This season’s home release comes without the ability to print out the dishes presented throughout the season.  This is important to note because audiences have been able to print out the recipes for the featured dishes at least in the third season.  So to not have them available for print-out here is a little disheartening.  It forces audiences to either go online to find the recipes or to just buy Mrs. Howard’s new cookbook.  The sad reality is that the recipes were likely left out as a means to push her book since it took so much precedence throughout Season Four.  One can only hope that wasn’t the case.  If it was, then it is not the best way to promote her book.  Thankfully though, this issue is Season Four’s only negative.  The collective information that is presented throughout this season makes up for that negative.

The lack of printable recipes in this season’s home release is a negative about its presentation that cannot be ignored.  It takes away a significant amount from the season’s presentation in its home release.  Luckily though, it is the season’s only negative.  There is still one more positive that can and should be noted.  That positive is the collective information presented throughout the season.  The information in question involves the history of the given ingredients in each episode and the stories of and from the people of Eastern North Carolina.  Audiences will be interested, for instance, to learn of the lack of respect that catfish has as a seafood option.  Just as interesting to learn in this same moment is the southern take on the phrase “more than one way to skin a cat.”  The man who explains its root is partially right, but also partially wrong.  The root he gives is just one of many roots of the verbage.  There are also lessons about the difference between artichokes and sunchokes in “All Sunchoked Up” that will interest foodies and audiences in general.  As if that isn’t enough, the lessons on cabbage are just as interesting even for those who aren’t fans of cabbage.  When these tidbits of information and others are coupled with the season’s engaging stories, they do plenty to make up for the lack of printable recipes this time out.  Overall, they do so much that even with that one glaring negative, the home release of A Chef’s Life: Season Four still proves another enjoyable installment of PBS’ hit reality series.

The fourth season of A Chef’s Life is another enjoyable installment of PBS’ hit reality series.  That is even despite the fact that audiences aren’t able to print out the recipes this time.  The stories make clearly evident that there is no generated drama from behind lens.  Everything that audiences see on camera is clearly real.  The information that is shared throughout the season adds even more interest to each episode.  Those elements are more than enough to make up for the lack of printable recipes this time out.  All things considered, this season proves to be worth at least one watch and gives hope for the series’ fifth season.  A Chef’s Life: Season Four is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and the series’ previous seasons is available online now along with all of the series’ latest news and more at:




Website: http://www.achefslifeseries.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/chefsouth




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PBS Kids’ Super Why Compilation Re-Issue Is A Welcome Addition To Any Family’s DVD Library

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids will re-issue its Super Why DVD Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures on Tuesday, January 13th. The DVD, originally released in 2009, is an enjoyable addition to the home library of any family that does not already own the originally released presentation. The main reason that audiences will enjoy this re-issue is right on the box’s cover. Included with this re-issue is a jigsaw puzzle attached to the box’s cover that can easily be removed, taken apart, and re-assembled. The episodes included on the disc are collectively another reason that audiences will enjoy it. To be more specific, the writing within the episodes adds to the enjoyment. And last but not least of all making this DVD worth the purchase is its bonus material. Included on this disc are games and coloring pages for young viewers, and a handful of activities that parents and children can enjoy together. The combination of those bonuses, the episodes’ writing, and the bonus jigsaw puzzle makes Super Why: Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures a joy for any family and a welcome to any family’s home DVD library.

PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming. Programs the likes of Nature, American Experience, NOVA, American Masters, Antiques Roadshow and so many others are proof positive of this accolade. Just as the programming on PBS proves it to be the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming for the whole family, its kid friendly sister network PBS Kids is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming for children. In comparison to the likes of Nick Jr., Disney Junior, and even Disney and Nickelodeon, those commercial networks offer very little to be honest, in the way of truly worthwhile children’s programming. PBS Kids’ Super Why is just one of so many great programs offered by that network proving why it is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming for children. Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Super Why, audiences will find that it offers plenty to like about it. The most obvious of positives that this re-issue offers audiences is the bonus jigsaw puzzle attached to the box’s cover. The puzzle is attached using rubber cement. So it can easily be removed from the case. And the rubber cement can easily be cleaned off of the case and puzzle. From there, the puzzle can easily be pulled from its sticky backing and just as easily taken apart. Audiences will note that the puzzle matches precisely the box’s cover art. This means that children and parents can–again–easily assemble the puzzle together. Children can use the box’s cover art as a guide to assemble the puzzle. What’s more, they can assemble the puzzle right on top of the box’s cover. That’s because not only does it look just like the box art, but it is also the exact same size as the box’s cover. This also means that there are not a lot of pieces to assemble and take apart. Parents should just find a box or ziplock bag in which to hold the puzzle pieces when they’re not in use. It is easy to lose them. That’s a minor issue since it’s easy to lose pieces with any puzzle. So that in mind, the bonus jigsaw puzzle included with PBS Kids’ re-issue of Super Why: Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures is a good reason for any family to add this DVD to their library if they do not already own said compilation.

The bonus jigsaw puzzle included in PBS Kids’ new re-issue of Super Why: Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures is a great reason for any family to add this DVD to their home library. The puzzle is easy to assemble and take apart. On a deeper level, it helps young audiences build organizational skills and problem solving skills. The problem solving skills that are built through the use of the DVD’s bonus jigsaw puzzle are just the start of what the DVD offers audiences. The writing that went into each of the compilation’s four episodes offer their own share of problem solving skills. They also offer more. The manner in which the episodes were written is especially smart. For starters, the show’s writers use repetition in the episodes. Alpha Pig teaches specifically the letters of the alphabet in each episode. Wonder Red teaches the sound that words make when they are fully assembled. Princess Pea and Alpha Pig both teach young viewers the process of assembling letters to make words. Wyatt teaches the actual reading of the words in their full sentence structure. He teaches how certain words do and do not work together in given circumstances. And that is only the beginning of how the writing behind the episodes makes this compilation so enjoyable. There is actually a secondary aspect to the episodes’ writing that makes said writing even more important.

The primary lessons that are taught through each of the episodes collectively make for plenty of enjoyment for audiences. Young viewers will catch on very quickly to the letters and words taught thanks to the repetition of those skills. Just as important to note of the show’s writing is the very fact that they promote literacy and the general love of reading. Wyatt and company jump into the books and learn important skills, yes. But on an even deeper level, the series, as is evidenced in these episodes, promotes a love of reading. It uses the most classic children’s books of all time for both purposes. These are books that are taught both in the classroom and the living room. So to that extent, the use of these classic children’s books could easily serve as a doorway to reading more and more books. It’s one more way in which the writing behind this series proves to make the series and this DVD in particular such a welcome addition in any classroom and in any family’s home library.

The promotion of literacy and general grammar skills both prove why the writing in these episodes is so important to its success. There is no denying their importance. In the same vein, two of the episodes on this disc–“Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs”–also serve as discussions on how to handle bullies. “The Three Little Pigs” presents that discussion point more so than “Little Red Riding Hood.” But that episode, too does delve into that realm to a point. It adds even more value and “oomph” to the compilation. It is never too soon for parents to start discussing bullying with their children. And it is never too soon to start getting children interested in reading and building their ability to read, either. The fact that the show’s writers could promote all of that in just four episodes and do so without letting the episodes get away from them shows without a doubt why the writing in the collected episodes is so important to the DVD’s success. It could even be argued that said writing proves to be even more important than the bonus companion puzzle included on the box’s cover. Speaking of bonuses, the bonus material included in the DVD for both parents and children puts the final touch on the DVD. Whether it be the games and coloring pages for children or the activities for families in whole, the bonus material included in the DVD serves as a fitting final piece to this presentation, proving once and for all why this re-issue is a welcome addition to any classroom or family’s home library.

The bonus material included in PBS Kids’ new Super Why re-issue of Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures is the final piece of the whole that makes this DVD such a welcome addition to any classroom or family’s home library. Included for children is a handful of games that drives home the repetition used through the episodes alongside coloring pages that can be printed out and colored. For the whole family, parents can print out a handful of activities complete with instructions on how to carry out each activity. Parents can put those activity sheets into a binder with other printable activities offered on other PBS Kids’ DVDs for use later in any setting. It should be noted that in order to access the games, coloring pages, and activities, families should have Flash and Adobe Reader. Otherwise, they won’t be able to be accessed. Having them, audiences should open the disc directly on their computers. They cannot be accessed by playing the disc. Audiences will simply open the disc from their start menu and double click on the disc in the drive. From there, they can go through folders to get to each game, coloring page, and activity. When they do access them, parents and children alike will agree that these bonuses are the final touh on a disc that is a welcome re-issue for any family that doesn’t already own it and a welcome addition to any classroom and family’s home library.

Super Why: Jack and the Beanstalk and Other Fairytale Adventures was originally released six years ago in 2009. In the years that have passed , little has changed overall with the disc. The bonus puzzle that comes with the disc is a great addition to the whole package. For those that did not have access to the DVD in its previous release, the DVD proves all the more worth the purchase not only because of the bonus puzzle, but because of the episodes and their writing, and because of the original bonus features all included in this re-issue. It will be available Tuesday, January 13th and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=49575496&cp=&sr=1&kw=super+why&origkw=Super+Why&parentPage=search. Families can watch even more episodes of Super Why and play more games online at the show’s official website http://pbs.org/superwhy. Families and educators can keep up with all of the latest news from the show online both there are the series’ official Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/superwhy. 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.

PBS Investigates Effects Of Climate Change On Arctic Ecosystem In New Episode Of Nature

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is giving audiences another reason to stay indoors and stay warm next month with the release of another episode of its hit wildlife series Nature on DVD.

PBS will release Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales on Tuesday, January 20th. Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales focuses on a major change in the ecosystem of the Arctic. It is a change that has resulted from global warming and the gradual disappearance of Arctic ice. As the once massive amounts of ice that one populated the Arctic disappear, so does the number of killer whales inordinately increase. The number of killer whales increases because they are being provided with more territory in which to hunt. By contrast, it also means that there is less territory in which polar bears—the once kings of the arctic—have to hunt.

Audiences are presented interviews with native Inuit who discuss the increasing number of killer whales in the Arctic and how it has actually helped them. At the same time, the other side of the proverbial coin is presented as scientists discuss how both humans and killer whales hunting the narwhal is not necessarily a good thing as it increases competition for resources. They go on to argue that this could greatly and negatively affect the lifestyle of the Inuit people. They go on to argue how the decrease in Arctic ice could lead to drastically negative effects on the polar bear population, too.

Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales will retail for $19.99. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=51197006&cp=1378003.2831221&sr=1&origkw=nature&parentPage=family. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

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

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Peg + Cat’s First Outing On DVD Is Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids’ new children’s series Peg + Cat has proven to be a big hit among audiences in its first season.  And now families and educators alike can enjoy a handful of the show’s episodes any time thank to the brand new release of the series’ first ever DVD compilation Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems.  The primary reason that audiences will appreciate this brand new DVD is the list of episodes collected for the compilation.  It features eight shorts from the series’ first season.  The episodes themselves serve a number of purposes including not just problem solving but also encouragement of creativity among audiences and basic math skills.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this collection of episodes is its animation.  Those that are perhaps new to the series will appreciate that the show looks in every way like it was drawn not just by hand but by a child.  That makes it even more relatable to younger viewers.  And rounding out the compilation’s positives is the inclusion of a number of bonus features that prove to be just as fun in the living room as in the classroom.  All three factors together make Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems another welcome addition to the collection of any teacher and family.

Peg + Cat has become a fast hit among its key audiences ever since its debut last fall. Now almost a year after it made its debut on PBS Kids, will release its first ever DVD tomorrow, September 9th. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the series, viewers will all agree in watching the episodes collected for this DVD that the central point of the series’ success is its writing. The series teaches basic math skills and general problem solving skills for children ages four up to perhaps six years old. PBS Kids’ already has a show that teaches math skills for older children in the form of Cyberchase. But the network hadn’t had such a show for younger viewers until Peg + Cat came alone last year. Parents and teachers will appreciate the ability of this series’ writers to balance both skills throughout the course of each short without letting one take the focus more than the other at any one point. What’s more, the episodes are written on the level of the series’ young viewers. This makes each episode easily accessible by those viewers. Add in short run times that don’t challenge the attention spans of the series’ writers (each episode runs roughly ten to thirteen minutes depending on the episode) and those lessons become even more enjoyable. Collectively, the episodes’ run times and the writing that easily reaches the series’ young viewers make a solid starting point in any discussion of what makes Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems another welcome addition to the collection of families and educators alike.

The writing that went into each of the episodes included in the brand new debut Peg + Cat debut DVD is a solid starting point for any discussion on what makes this series such a favorite among its young audiences. Another aspect worth discussing is the show’s animation. The show was animated as if it had been drawn by a young child. This makes the show even more relatable for its key audiences. Just as interesting although more subtle is the use of the infinity sign for clouds within the world of Peg + Cat. And the “infinity clouds” even move in the background. It’s all drawn on a sheet of grid paper with small math problems doodled at various points throughout the paper. This adds even more feel of their world having been created by a child. The end result is even more easily suspended disbelief among viewers. And on a slightly similar note, the animation looks somewhat similar to that of Nickelodeon’s short-lived Nicktoon Chalk Zone. It’s not a direct mirror image. But the similarities are there. Taking into account the amount of work that went into the animation behind Peg + Cat, that animation becomes even more an important part of the whole that makes this brand new collection of episodes worth the watch. It still is not all that viewers will appreciate about the episodes collected for this DVD. The last aspect of the DVD that makes it such a joy for children and adults alike is the amount of bonus material included on the disc.

Included as bonus material in the brand new Peg + Cat DVD are: four flipbooks, a pair of coloring sheets, a board game, and a couple of craft activities for families to enjoy together. Each of the flipbooks comes with cells completely pre-illustrated. All a child has to do to make them complete is print out the cells and follow their included instructions to bring the flipbooks to life. The coloring sheets are self-explanatory. One sheet presents a frame from the show’s opening sequence while the other features a scene from the DVD’s lead episode, “The Chicken Problem.” The bonus board game also comes with all the necessary items and instructions. The goal of the game is to get all of the peaches from the center of the board. The included craft activities encourage young people to get their parents especially involved. Kids will love having their own Cat sewed by their parents. And they’ll enjoy just as much having their parents help them make their own Peg and Cat puppets. As with the other activities, the necessary materials are provided. All parents and children have to do is print out said materials and lay them over construction paper before cutting out the included shapes. The rest is easy when children and their parents follow the included directions. It’s one more way that children and their parents will have a great time together playing with Peg and Cat even after watching the episodes featured on this disc.

The material included on Peg + Cat’s debut DVD is in every way true bonus material. It is that piece that pushes this DVD over the top and makes it another must have for any educator or parent of young viewers. Together with the wonderful, thought out animation and equally considered writing, Peg + Cat: Chickens on the Loose and other REALLY Big Problems proves to be a wonderful first release from a series that will hopefully have a long life on PBS Kids. It also collectively proves this DVD to be not just a must have for parents and educators but also one of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It will be available tomorrow, September 9th in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=42447736&cp=&sr=1&kw=peg++cat&origkw=Peg+%2B+Cat&parentPage=search. Families and educators can play more Peg + Cat games and watch even more episodes of the series online at http://pbskids.org/peg. More information on the show is also available online at http://www.facebook.com/PegPlusCatTV. 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.

Wild Kratts’ New DVD Even More “Wild” Fun For Families

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Martin and Chris Kratt are back again with another new DVD that’s loaded with fun for the whole family.  This latest DVD features two more episodes for parents and kids to enjoy.  It also boasts a pair of activities that parents can do with their kids or that teachers can use in the classroom.  One of those activities offers kids the chance to make their very own passport.  The other, a bat box project, is more closely relevant to this latest DVD.  It teaches kids and adults like how to build an actual bat box and where to best place them in order to offer bats a place to live.  Also included is a link to a website that teaches about a fungus that is killing off the bat population.  Together with the two episodes included in this latest disc, it makes for more fun for the whole family.

The first of the two episodes included in this disc is titled “Rainforest Stew.”  Sounds like an odd name, yes.  But it’s this episode that is most closely linked to the bonus family friendly bat box building activity.  “Rainforest Stew” teaches in large part, the importance of how every member of a given ecosystem works together, and the impact that the loss of even one member of said ecosystem can have.  The lesson is taught when the Kratt brothers have to go up against Gourmand once again.  This time they have to stop him from trying to make a “rainforest stew” from animals in the rainforest.  Of course, the brothers Kratt come out on top.  The episode as a whole continues that tradition of offering plenty of entertainment and information for audiences.  And there is also the continued original animation style that sets the show completely apart from other animated and CG-based shows out there.

Gourmand isn’t the only villain that Martin, Chris, and their friends have to face off against in the Kratt brothers’ new DVD.  They also have to face off against Zach Varmitech again. This time, Zach is after a rare Black Jaguar in South America.  Chris and Martin have to intervene and protect the young jaguar from Zach as he intends to use it for his own evil reasons.  Just as with “Rainforest Stew”, “Shadow: The Black Jaguar” offers audiences even more entertainment and information expertly balanced.  The show’s writers are yet again to be commended as young viewers especially won’t even know that they are learning about biology through this episode.  They learn about the difference between dominant and recessive traits in this episode.  That this lesson is made so viewer friendly is more tribute to the work put in by the show’s writers to keep kids entertained while also teaching lessons that could be referenced in the classroom.

The writers behind this wonderfully entertaining show did an outstanding job of mixing entertainment and information in both of the disc’s featured episodes.  And the artists behind the show continue to play their own part in making Wild Kratts stand apart from all the other kids’ shows out there today, both on PBS Kids and on mainstream television.  This all comes together to make this latest DVD just as enjoyable as previous Wild Kratts DVDs.  The bonus activities included on the disc make this new disc even more enjoyable.  Parents, kids, students, and teachers alike will especially appreciate the “Bat Box” activity.  It teaches how to build a “bat box” that bats can use for a home away from home of sorts.  And thanks to the link included in the activity, everybody can learn more about a fungus called “White Nose Syndrome” that is killing bats.  There is also a listing of books and other websites that parents and teachers can use to help learn even more about bats and their impact on different ecosystems.  The information on the page raised via the link explains in depth what “White Nose Syndrome” is.  It’s definitely interesting, and will interest viewers, too.  As in depth as it is, it’s still easy enough for the average viewer to comprehend, and then understand the importance of trying to help the bat population in one’s own region.

As one should be able to note from all of this, while this new DVD may boast only two more episodes, those two episodes  alone have more than enough entertainment and educational content to please both adults and children alike.  The same can be said of the bonus activities that can be accessed simply by putting the disc in one’s computer and opening by going to “My Computer.”  By the time kids and their parents—or teachers—have taken in everything that this disc has to offer, they’ll agree that it’s proof that one should never judge a book—or a DVD—by its cover.  It is available in stores and online now, and can be ordered online direct via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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Decoding Neanderthals A Good Companion To What Makes Us Human

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Decoding Neanderthals is a welcome companion piece to the recent release of What Makes Us Human? from PBS’ NOVA ScienceNow.  This recent episode of NOVA was released to DVD in late March.  It expands greatly on the concepts raised through the previously mentioned program.  It keeps the concepts discussed simple enough for casual viewers to understand, too.  It does this through interviews with scientists and academics as well as filmed segments used to help illustrate the concepts discussed.  Among the concepts discussed in this program are: what is believed to have actually happened to Neanderthals, how Neanderthals survived the ice age, and the effect of Neanderthals’ fate on modern humans.  Decoding Neanderthals isn’t What Makes Us Human? But considering that it expands so well on the aforementioned program, it is a program that any student of the anthropological sciences will appreciate, as will even the most casual viewer.

Decoding Neanderthals picks up pretty much right where What Makes Us Human? left off.  The latter of the two programs discussed how physical and natural factors set us apart from Neanderthals.  The connecting thread though, is that of genetics.  Where What Makes Us Human? offers a casual glimpse at the genetic connection between modern humans and Neanderthals, Decoding Neanderthals goes into more depth, explaining that genetics has proven that perhaps humans didn’t wipe out Neanderthals, but actually interbred with them, thus leading to the eventual assimilation of Neanderthals into the much larger population of humans that originally came from Africa.  It’s just one concept on which this program expands from the prior program.  Of course, the genetic sciences are just the tip of the iceberg that makes this episode of NOVA so interesting.  Students of the social sciences will appreciate this program in its discussions of Neanderthals’ use of makeup and even social behavior such as burying their dead.

Scientists and academics interviewed for this program reveal in their discussions that Neanderthals actually used makeup and other items of personal decoration.  Even more interesting to note is the theory that just as sports fans use face and body paint at events, so did Neanderthals use face and body paint to determine who was friend and who was foe.  This could perhaps serve as more proof of the genetic interbreeding of Neanderthals and humans as such a behavior would have been passed down through that interbreeding.  The same can be said of the discovery of what is believed to be a burial site for Neanderthals.  That they would take part in such a social behavior as we do serves as even more solid proof that said theory of interbreeding has even more ground on which to stand.  And along with the expanded discussions on the tools used by Neanderthals, viewers get in this episode of NOVA, a program that answers a lot of questions about mankind’s past.  It’s a piece that crosses scientific lines, resulting in a product that makes for a wonderful addition to any college level biology and anthropology course as well as the home library of anyone that has even the most fleeting of interest in this subject.  It’s available now on DVD and can be ordered online at PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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.

New Clifford DVD A True Celebration For Every Fan

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog is turning fifty years old.  Unbelievable!  Everyone’s favorite oversized furry friend is celebrating his birthday with a brand new DVD release next month.  Celebrate with Clifford is the first new Clifford release in two years.  It will be available in stores and online February 5th.  The new release is a special double disc release loaded with lots of fun, family friendly adventures from Clifford, his fellow canine friends, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth.  The two discs in this new release boast fifteen episodes from the hit series.  The set’s first disc, Celebrate with Clifford has seven of the show’s episodes included in the set.  All of the aforementioned episodes included in the first disc are full of family friendly fun and important life lessons that ring true for audiences of all ages.

Audiences learn a number of important lessons throughout the first seven episodes included in the set.  In the episode, “Clifford on Parade”, Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle—The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and Charley (Gary Leroi Grey—The Cosby Show) both learn about working together and about compromise when they have to decide on an idea for the float that they’ll enter in the town’s annual parade.  Thanks to Clifford, they end up with one interesting float that even incorporates Clifford himself.  In another episode, “Team Sprit”, young viewers are introduced to the lesson of good sportsmanship and being kind to others.  The story here centers on young Vaz.  Vaz is friends with Emily Elizabeth and the other kids.  But he’s not the best soccer player.  And Jetta doesn’t help as she openly tells Vaz he’s not that great of a soccer player.  Of course she learns her lesson in the episode’s end.  Audiences can find out how she learns her lesson when they check out this new DVD set for themselves.

All seven episodes included in the set’s main disc offer plenty of enjoyment and lessons for viewers.  Luckily for viewers, they’re not all that viewers get in this new set. The eight bonus episodes included in the bonus disc also offer their own enjoyment.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s even a Valentine’s Day themed episode in “Clifford’s Big Heart.”  In this episode, Clifford is trying to make a Valentine for Emily Elizabeth, but things don’t exactly go as planned.  That is until he finally realizes the best idea for a special Valentine just for her.  His special gift will warm the hearts of both kids and their parents.  Still not enough?  How about the birthday and party themed episodes included in the set?  “Clifford’s Big Surprise”  sees Clifford getting his very own birthday surprise from Emily Elizabeth, her parents and his canine friends.  At first it seems like everybody is avoiding Clifford.  It leaves Clifford bored since there’s no one to play with.  Luckily he finds a way to play by himself.  Ironically, it’s right about then that Emily Elizabeth comes looking for Clifford so she and the others can surprise him with his birthday party.  It’s just one of a handful of birthday themed episodes included in the set’s bonus second disc.  The complete double disc set will be available February 5th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=28180&TitleParentId=8311.

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PBS’ Broadway History Documentary Hits All The Right Notes

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS has shown time and again that it is the last bastion of true kid friendly programming on television.  It has also shown just as many times why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile family friendly programming with series such as Nova, Great Performances, and Nature.  Now, the network has shown yet again why it is one of the best networks out there with its six-episode miniseries, Broadway:  The American Musical.

Broadway: The American Musical is just one more feather in the cap of what is not just a great television network, but a virtual American institution in itself.  This six part documentary series takes audiences on a journey through time.  It takes them from Broadway’s roots in the famed Ziegfeld Follies up to modern day Broadway.  Host Julie Andrews was an excellent choice to lead audiences on this musical journey through not just Broadway’s history, but also America’s history.  Being a seasoned veteran of both screen and stage, Andrews makes the entire presentation worth experiencing.  The inclusion of interviews with other professionals from around the entertainment world (E.g. Mel Brooks, Carol Channing, Tim Robbins, etc.) makes the story even more interesting.  There’s even discussion on some of the greatest names in Broadway’s history, including: the famed Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, Cole Porter, and of course Rogers and Hart just to name a few.  The stories shared around these figures illustrate not only their careers, but the influence of their works on America through each one’s career.  They also serve to illustrate just how important each one was and still is today to both the entertainment world and the world in general.

One of the most interesting of the stories in the special comes in its third episode.  The song, ‘Buddy Can You Spare a dime’ is discussed early on in this segment.  It’s noted that the song was a response to what was going on in the Great Depression.  And if it hadn’t been included in a Broadway play, the powers that be might have kept this extremely important song from every having become known to anyone.  It shows the power of the unseen men in suits even back then.  And that it resonated so much with American audiences today shows its continued musical and cultural importance, especially in this nation’s current economic and political state.  From this point, the program expands on this topic, explaining how musical theater increasingly became the voice of Americans as they weren’t able to voice their own opinions openly.  In simple terms, it shows how musical theater really became the voice of the voiceless, so to speak.

The story behind ‘Buddy Can You Spare a Dime’ is just one of so many at which audiences will amaze.  Equally interesting are the stories of how Disney helped to bring Broadway into a new age and of a working class man’s rise to fame with his original play, “Rent”, his untimely death, and the reaction to his play and passing.  That moment alone will leave any viewer feeling at least somewhat emotional.  It makes for one of the documentary’s more memorable moments.  Just as memorable as that moment are the extra performances included in the triple-disc set as bonus features.  Each disc includes bonus performances of acts from each highlighted era.  They are more than just bonus footage.  They serve to help illustrate the type of performances being held during each era.  And the very fact that the oldest of footage has stood the test of time so well is just as impressive as the stories included throughout the program’s length.

The stories and the footage together make for quite the viewing experience for any Broadway lover.  There is at least one more factor that makes this set the complete item for fans of the theater.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  PBS has hit the mark on the head with the set’s packaging.  All three discs included in the set are placed on their own spot inside the set’s box.  The first two discs are placed back to back on opposite sides of an insert, while the third disc is placed on the backside of the box.  Placing the discs in this fashion protects all three and thus increases their longevity.  Looking at the set from this vantage point to that of the presentation itself, PBS has assembled a documentary that is fitting both for students of the theater arts and of any lover of the theater.  It’s available now.  It can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store, at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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Chuck Goes Good Or So It Seems In New WordGirl Episode

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

WordGirl and her trusted sidekick Captain Huggyface are back with another great brand new adventure for audiences.  In this brand new adventure, WordGirl and Captain Huggyface have to face the evil Dr. Two-Brains again.  And this time, he’s not alone.  Also in Episode #503, Granny May is back with another evil plan.  And of course, Bo Handsome and his trio of contestants are back for another fun episode of everybody’s favorite vocab building game show, “May I Have A Word?”

The first half of Episode #503 opens as Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy is buying (yes, buying) items for sandwiches.  Much to her surprise, Chuck even shows WordGirl his receipt for everything when she accuses him of stealing them.  In her surprise, WordGirl asks Chuck what happened to his mom’s station wagon.  He tells her that he had always yearned for a lunch wagon just like in the old west.  So he converted the station wagon into his own lunch wagon from which he could sell his sandwiches.  After he leaves, Word Girl and Captain Huggyface fly off to keep watch over the city.  While they keep vigil, WordGirl tells Captain Huggyface how she has yearned to tell her friend Violet about her secret identity.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Dr. Two-Brains and his henchmen are driving, when they spot Chuck’s lunch wagon loaded with cheese.  So he pursues it in a plan to hijack it.  Just as Chuck thinks he’s getting away from Dr. Two-Brains, his lunch wagon breaks down, allowing Dr. Two-Brains to catch him.

While all of this is going on, Becky and Violet are at Becky’s house, sharing their dreams.  When Violet tells Becky of her dreams, Becky tells her that she should pursue her dreams.  Then Violet asks Becky about her dreams.  And just as Becky is about to reveal her secret identity to Violet, she’s told by one of the townspeople about Dr. Two-Brains’ plot.  So she has to race off to stop him.  It turns out that not only does she have to stop Dr. Two-Brains, but also Chuck, as he proves that he’s not all good after all.  The confrontation comes down to an old west style standoff, leading to the defeat of both Dr. Two-Brains and Chuck.  Having beaten both bad guys again, WordGirl heads back home to where Violet is still waiting for Becky.  Luckily, Becky/WordGirl is able to come up with a line about where she has been and what she was going to tell Violet, instead of her secret identity, protecting both herself and Violet.

As the first half of the episode ends, audiences get another brand new episode of “May I Have A Word?”  In today’s new episode, the contestants have to define the word, Clutch.  Emily gets the definition right, and wins an official WordGirl dune buggy.

The show moves back to the second half of the episode after this intermission.  In the second half of Episode #503, Granny May is back again.  This time, Granny May has devised a plan that would have made Mr. Big proud.  She has developed a plan to make accessories for everybody’s pets.  What the townspeople don’t know is that Granny May’s pet accessories are in reality mind control devices.  She is using them to get everybody’s pets to steal from their owners for her.  There’s even a reference to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video in this episode that parents will love as the pets’ minds are controlled.  The morning after everybody’s stuff is stolen, Granny May sinks to a new low, trying to frame Becky’s friend, Violet.  So Becky sets out to try and figure out what happened.  Later that night, she does discover what happened when her dad takes Captain Huggyface’s accessory to wash it.  He puts it around his neck to carry it to the wash, when his mind is suddenly controlled.  So WordGirl follows Mr. Botsford and discovers that Granny May really is behind the thefts.  Thankfully, one of the cats there unwittingly sits on Granny May’s mind controller, releasing all the animals from their trance.  Everything is returned and Violet’s name is cleared.

The show moves back to the bonus round of “May I Have A Word” from here, where Emily correctly associates the definition of Clutch to the proper picture, winning her a sand dune to go with her new dune buggy.  Captain Huggyface closes out the episode by showing what the word, perturbed means.

This episode may have aired in some markets and not others.  Audiences should check their local listings to see which new episode is scheduled to air each day.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

WordGirl Wins Again With More New Episodes

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

Education is at a pivotal point right now.  With schools undergoing so many changes right now, educational television is so much more important than ever before.  Thank goodness for PBS Kids.  PBS Kids has some of the most enjoyable and worthwhile educational programming around.  One of the really great programs that PBS Kids offers now is WordGirl.  WordGirl teaches kids the value of literacy all while saving her town from evil masterminds.  It’s a wonderful mix of action and learning.  And now, even more new episodes of fun and learning are coming to PBS Kids.  The first of those episodes sees WordGirl face off once again with the evil Dr. Two-Brains and Ms. Question.

The first of the upcoming new WordGirl episodes, “Seize The Cheese”, is a great episode not only because WordGirl faces off once more against her nemesis Dr. Two-Brains, but also because of its emphasis on getting kids physically active.  As this episode opens, everybody is outside savoring the cool Fall weather.  That is everybody except Becky Botsford (A.K.A. WordGirl).  Becky is indoors playing video games.  So her dad confiscates her video game controller and makes her go outside.  Meanwhile, Dr. Two-Brains’ henchmen have broken him out of jail.  Since they did, he agrees to take them apple picking in return.  To his henchmen, apple picking is the best way to savor the weather.

When Dr. Two-Brains tastes the combination of cheese and apples at the orchard, Dr. Two-Brains uses his “Cheese Seizer” to seize all of the nearby cheese.  So Captain Huggyface, WordGirl’s trusted sidekick follows the trail of cheese by himself since Becky is busy with her parents.  In the process, Captain Huggyface gets himself captured, leaving WordGirl to have to search for him herself.  Luckily, Captain Huggyface manages to escape and grab the “Cheese Seizer” to capture Dr. Two-Brains and his henchmen just before WordGirl gets there.

Having saved the day, Episode 501 moves to the equally famed vocab game show, “May I Have a Word?”  In today’s episode, the contestants have to define the word “apprehend.”  Phil gets the definition right and wins a Captain tangent pirate costume.

Getting back to WordGirl, the second half of Episode 501 sees WordGirl have to face off against Ms. Question once again after defeating what she thinks is all of Toby’s robots.  While she’s busy with the robots on one side of town, Ms. Question is robbing a bank on the other side of town.  When the narrator forgets Ms. Question’s name, she is puzzled at how to become better known.  So she comes up with a plan to become a more infamous super villain.  She takes one of the robots that WordGirl hadn’t finished off in her previous battle, and uses it to block the bridge that everybody is using to go to the beach.  She tells WordGirl that she’ll ask everybody a riddle.  And those who answer her riddles will get to cross the bridge.  Anyone who doesn’t will be stranded.  WordGirl challenges Ms. Question to a riddle contest.  Ms. Uses the Riddle of the Sphinx to try and beat WordGirl.  Thanks to T.J. though, WordGirl defeats Ms. Question and allows everybody to go to the beach.

After this episode ends, audiences are treated to the final segment of “May I Have A Word?”  As the show closes, Phil, having won the first segment, must now identify the right picture that defines the word, “Apprehend.”  He picks the right picture, and in turn, wins a Captain Tangent pirate ship to go with his Captain Tangent pirate costume.  And to close out the show, Captain Huggyface offers one last vocabulary word in “anxious.”  He defines it, giving kids one more vocabulary word.

WordGirl airs on PBS Kids nationwide.  Each PBS affiliate airs the show at a different time.  So parents and kids should check their own local listings to see when this new episode will air.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.