PBS “Finds” More Success With The Fourth Season Of ‘Finding Your Roots’

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

PBS’ hit family history-based series Finding Your Roots has, over the course of its now four seasons on television, become one of television’s most significant series with the presentation of various celebrities’ humble family roots. Late last year — Dec. 19 — the series’ fourth season wrapped with profiles of Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari’s family histories, and its fifth season is said to already be in production. While audiences wait for the premiere of Season Five, they now have the series’ fourth season to enjoy any time they want as Season Four was released on DVD early last month. This latest entry in the series’ run is another interesting offering that is certain to keep audiences engaged while also leaving audiences wanting to learn more about their own families’ histories. That is due in part to the guests featured in this season. This factor will be discussed shortly. While the guests clearly form the season’s foundation — and a solid foundation at that — they collectively lead to the season’s one negative, the lack of an episode guide other than on disc. As always, this might not seem overly important on the surface, but even as an aesthetic element, is important to the season’s overall presentation. To that end, it is something that cannot be ignored in examining this season’s presentation. It is, luckily, the season’s only negative. Its other positive is the collective information shared through each interview. That includes not only the celebs’ family histories, but the additional history to which each family’s history is connected. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of this season’s presentation, as will be pointed out throughout this review. All things considered, Finding Your Roots: Season Four proves to be another engaging and entertaining entry for the series.

The fourth season of PBS’ hit family history series Finding Your Roots is yet another engaging and entertaining entry for the series. It is an offering that is certain to not only engage and entertain audiences, but potentially have them doing more research on their own family histories. That is due in no small part to the guests who are featured throughout this season. The guest list this season includes celebrities from the worlds of television, movies, music and sports and people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. That variety includes NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony, veteran actor William H. Macy, political strategist Ana Navarro and so many others. Simply put, the guests featured this season are black, white, Latin American and so many others. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest surprises that is revealed is that comedian Fred Armisen, another of the season’s featured guests, is in fact Korean by descent despite being American by birth. That is information that will be discussed later. Getting back to the matter at hand, this reaching into so many avenues of the entertainment world yet again, and presenting guests of so many ethnic and cultural backgrounds is another way to promote America’s diversity. It’s nothing new for the series. It creates its own interest for this season, and while it does plenty to make this season interesting and entertaining, it also leads to the season’s one negative, its lack of an episode guide outside of the discs’ main menu.

Omitting an episode guide might not seem like an important factor in the overall presentation of a box set, but it is in fact far more important to note than many might think. That is because of the number of guests (and by connection, information) presented throughout the season. The season’s total guest count sits at 27, with the majority of its episodes featuring three guests each. Episodes 1, 8 and 10 are the only episodes of the 10 total episodes to feature only two guests. Keeping this in mind, not having a physical episode guide leaves viewers to have to go through each disc manually or just go to Wikipedia for an episode listing. That takes extra time that viewers likely won’t like having to take. So again, while this aesthetic element might not seem all that important, it reduces the ease of choosing an episode/episodes to watch. The last time that the series seemed to have included an episode list was the series’ first season. Since then, there has seemed to be no sign of an episode list printed anywhere on the seasons’ cases, taking away at least some points for general effect. Luckily though, that once again lack of listing is not enough to make this season a fail by any means. It’s just one thing that really should be taken in to consideration for re-addition beginning with next season. Keeping that in mind, there is one more positive that should be noted here: the information shared throughout each episode.

The information that is revealed about each guest’s family history is so important because it reminds audiences that while these people are celebrities, their roots are just as humble as anyone else’s. That, in turn, makes the guests more relatable to viewers, and — coming full circle — makes the program that much more engaging and entertaining. Audiences will be surprised to learn that one of William H. Macy’s ancestors was one of a group of people who originally bought Nantucket Island and that The Tonight Show drummer/The Roots founding member Questlove’s roots go back to the last slaves to ever come to America aboard the slave ship Clotilda. Just as interesting to learn is that Ana Navarro and Carmelo Anthony’s famil histories involve stories that sound like something right out of a soap opera. As noted previously, Fred Armisen’s family history, which reveals that his family’s roots reach all the way back to Korea, is interesting in its own right. It’s just one more family history that is certain to keep viewers enthralled. Of course the histories are not the only interesting information shared throughout this season. The deeper histories presented alongside those family histories adds even more interest to the season.

As Armisen learns his family’s history, he (and viewers) learn about the mistreatment of the Koreans by the Japanese during and before World War II. This is another little-known piece of history that history buffs (and especially WWII history buffs) will appreciate. Gates’ interview with Lupita Nyong’o reveals the military element of her family’s past. This leads to a brief but concise history of Kenya that is sure to be the start for another lesson. Navaro’s family history leads to a brief discussion on the conflicts in Nicaragua and Cuba while interviews with Larry David and Bernie Sanders reveal the pair’s connections through their Jewish roots. Between these lessons and so many others presented through the guests’ family histories, audiences get even more to appreciate in each episode, historically speaking. When those history lessons are coupled with the guests’ own family history lessons, the whole of the two elements proves completely why the information shared throughout this season is just as important to its presentation as its guest list. That list, together with the information, makes this season well worth the watch, even without a printed episode list. Taking this into consideration, Finding Your Roots: Season Four proves to be another solid entry in the series’ run and one of this year’s top new box sets for grown-ups.

Finding Your Roots: Season Four is yet another solid entry into the hit celeb/history-based series. The guest list presented this season is just one part of what makes it such a strong new offering. The dual history lessons presented on the guests’ families and the connected world histories prove that even more. When these two elements are joined together, they make the lack of an episode listing anywhere on the box an element that, while it can’t be ignored, not enough to ruin the season’s presentation. It is a nuisance, but not an overwhelming issue. With that in mind, this season’s presentation overall is such that the season is not only another solid entry to the series, but one of this year’s top new box sets for grown-up audiences. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store. More information on Finding Your Roots‘ fourth season is available online now along with all of the series’ latest news at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/finding-your-roots

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

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PBS Presents One Of Aviation History’s Most Important Moments In New ‘NOVA’ Episode

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

PBS and Public Media Distribution are taking audiences on an epic journey next month with the release of another new episode of NOVA.

NOVAThe Impossible Flight will be released on DVD April 10. Having originally premiered on PBS Jan. 31, 2018, this episode follows the journey of the Solar Impulse II as it made its round-the-world journey, using only the power of the sun to keep it going.  The plane’s March 2015 journey was the culmination of a 13-year project meant to show the potential for renewable energy sources.

The two-hour program will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be pre-ordered no at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  Audiences can see the episode’s trailer now here.

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/NOVApbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/novapbs

 

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PBS Taking Audiences Back To The Pyramids In A New Episode Of ‘Secrets Of The Dead’

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

PBS and Public Media Distribution are bringing home another episode of PBS’ hit history-based series Secrets of the Dead.

Secrets of the DeadScanning the Pyramids will be released April 3.  It will be released exclusively on DVD.  This new episode of SOTD follows the first scientific expedition of the pyramids authorized by the Egyptian government in the last 30 years.  The expedition is conducted by the investigative team known as Scan Pyramids, which consists of members from around the world — particle physicists, thermal imaging experts, and 3D tech experts.

The organization uses its talents and tools in this episode to explore and map the pyramids over the course of two years.  Those searches resulted in some new discoveries including some previously undetected chambers in the Great Pyramid of Khufu — chambers previously undetected since the Middle Ages.  Audiences can view a trailer for the episode now here.

Secrets of the DeadScanning The Pyramids will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

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PBS’ New Da Vinci Doc Paints An Interesting New Picture Of Leonardo

Courtesy: Public Media Distribution/PBS

Leonard Da Vinci is considered around the world to be one of the most important figures in the realms of art and science.  His paintings are revered as masterpieces.  His inventions are said to be creations of a genius mind.  However his inventions may in fact not be entirely his as is argued in a new episode of PBS’ hit history-based series Secrets of the DeadSecrets of the Dead: Leonardo The Man Who Saved Science, released on DVD early this month, examines the reality of Da Vinci’s contributions to the scientific community.  That reality is the most important part of the program’s presentation.  It will be discussed shortly.  The re-enactments used to help tell Da Vinci’s story are important in their own right to the program’s whole.  They will be discussed later.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.  Each item is important in its own right to the program’s whole.  All things considered, they make Leonardo – The Man Who Saved Science a secret worth sharing with lovers and students of science of all ages.

Secretes of the Dead: LeonardoThe Man Who Saved Science is a secret that should be shared with lovers and students of science of all ages.  Released earlier this month on DVD, it paints a picture of Da Vinci (yes, that awful pun was fully intended) that is rarely shown.  It uses new information found in Da Vinci’s own journals to reveal that inventions previously thought to be Da Vinci’s own creations likely were not entirely his.  Rather the program reveals Da Vinci likely took designs from other sources and enhanced them with his own specs.  Those designs included designs for the parachute, the tank and even catapult among so many other inventions.  This is such an intriguing revelation because Da Vinci has been considered a scientific genius responsible for so many of the world’s advances for centuries.  This revelation shows that while he obviously was a smart man, he might not have in fact been the full-on genius that he was previously thought to be.  That is not meant to mean he was not smart.  He clearly was very intelligent.  But the level of his contributions to the scientific community definitely needs to be re-evaluated as is evidenced in this program.  Interestingly enough, the changes that he seemingly made to the pre-existing designs is something that is done in companies worldwide to this day.  To that end, one could argue that Da Vinci’s approach is the model for so many major companies’ employees today.  To that end, one could argue that Da Vinci was a ground breaker in that avenue.  Keeping in mind all of this, the story at the center of this program and its related information ultimately proves to be the program’s most critical element.  It is just one of the program’s key elements.  The re-enactments used to tell the story are collectively just as important to its presentation as the story itself.

The story at the center of SOTD: Leonard The Man Who Saved Science is the cornerstone of the program’s overall presentation.  It sheds new light on Da Vinci and his contributions to the scientific community.  While clearly important to the program’s presentation, it is only one of the program’s key elements.  The re-enactments used to help tell the story are just as important as the story to the program’s presentation.  That is because they provide a full visual aid for audiences.  It serves to entertain audiences, much like so many other episodes of PBS’ hit series, at the same time that they are being educated.  The re-enactments are once again on the same level as those presented in the documentaries that once made History Channel so respected.  Audiences will enjoy seeing Da Vinci try to convince his assistant take a giant leap of faith with his parachute design early on in the program.  They will enjoy just as much, seeing the wheels spinning in his head as he examined another man’s plans as a young man, thinking how he could improve on them and watching him work on the designs throughout his life.  Between these and other moments, the re-enactments that are used throughout the course of this program add to the depth generated through the story.  They truly do make the story just as entertaining as it is educational.  To that end, they help make the program a success just as much as the program’s central story.  It is not the last of the program’s most important elements, either.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.

The story at the heart of SOTD: Leonardo The Man Who Saved Science and the re-enactments used to help tell that story are both important parts of the program’s whole.  That has been made clear in the discussions already noted here.  They are not its only important elements, though.  The program’s pacing is just as important to its whole as those previously discussed elements.  The nearly hour-long program’s pacing is to be applauded as it remains stable from start to finish.  It would have been very easy for the program to get muddled at so many points in the discussion on Da Vinci’s contributions to the scientific community.  The same applies to the discussions on his personal life, as it does focus on that aspect of his life, too.  Instead of letting that happen, it never allows itself to get stuck on either aspect.  This is important to note because that expert balance keeps the program moving forward solidly from start to finish.  The result is a program that will keep audiences engaged and entertained the entire time.  That maintained engagement and entertainment ensures even more retention of the material presented throughout and in turn assures even more audiences’ appreciation for the program.  That appreciation will lead audiences to agree once more that the program in whole is its own enjoyable addition to this year’s crop of new documentaries.

Secrets of the Dead: Leonardo The Man Who Saved Science is an interesting and entertaining new look at the life and work of Leonardo Da Vinci.  It shows an important part of Da Vinci’s story that has rarely, if ever, been shown.  The re-enactments used to tell that important story deepen the story even more.  The solid pacing from start to finish puts the finishing touch to the program’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right, as has been already been discussed.  All things considered, they make this episode of Secrets of the Dead its own enjoyable addition to this year’s crop of new documentaries.  It is available now and can be ordered direct online via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of SOTD is available online now at:

 

 

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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‘SOTD: Graveyard Of The Giant Beasts’ Is A “Giant” Hit

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Giant menacing monster animals on the rampage are familiar fodder for sci-fi and horror fans. From the killer beasts that terrorized audiences in Universal’s classic creature features to killer reptiles and mammals that followed from other studios, they are the stuff of nightmares (and sometimes all out laughs).  However, some of those giant creatures might not be as much of a stretch as some might think after watching Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts.  This eye-opening episode of PBS’ hit history-based series is a program that creature feature fans will appreciate just as much as those with any interest in the biological sciences.  That is due in no small part to the program’s story.  This will be discussed shortly.  The information presented throughout the story is just as important to discuss as the episode’s story.  It will be discussed later.  The program’s graphic illustrations used to help tell the story round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right.  All things considered, Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts proves to be a “giant” success.

Early this past January PBS released Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts on DVD.  At the time, the most recent episode of the his history and science-based series was the most recent of the series’ episodes to be released on DVD.  Those who have yet to watch this episode will find that it will appeal to a wide variety of audiences.  That is due in part to its story.  The story follows a group of researchers examining the remains of two massive prehistoric predators—an alligator and a snake.  The researchers compare the massive beasts’ remains to those of their modern-day descendants to reveal just how immense the creatures were.  The revelation of each animal’s true size finds that some of the animals at the center of Hollywood’s classic creature features might not have been so far-fetched after all.  Sure, the snake and alligator discovered here were not the immense sizes of those on the silver screen.  They do prove to be pretty big, though.  Along the way, the program pits the two against one another in a battle of the beasts to find out which would win.  The result is just as shocking as the revelation that such giant creatures even existed.  The finding wouldn’t be possible without the information that is shared throughout the nearly hour-long program either.  That information is just as important to discuss as the story at the center of this episode of SOTD.

The story at the center of Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts is in itself a key piece of the program’s overall presentation.  That is because it proves the creature features created during Hollywood’s golden age (and perhaps even more recently) might not have been such a stretch after all.  It is just one element that makes this episode such an interesting watch.  The information that is provided throughout the course of this program is just as important to its presentation as its story.  The key information provided throughout the program includes the revelation of the snake’s strike and killing ability despite its massive size.  Viewers will be shocked to learn that despite being so enormous, it had the ability to strike in the span of only a second before killing its prey.  Its crushing power is just as incredible to discover.  In the same vein, the ability of the mega croc to kill.  It makes one appreciate that the modern day descendants are nowhere near as huge as themselves even though they are still just as deadly in their own right.  As if this is not enough, the very fact that the investigation begins in a massive open pit coal mine that was a swamp millions will get people thinking and talking just as much.  The discussion on the discovery of a skeleton of a turtle that was as big as a car in that same location is just as interesting and certain to generate discussion.  These and so many other items revealed throughout the course of this episode of SOTD prove in whole why the program’s information is just as important to its whole as its story.  It is still not the last important element to discuss in examining this episode either.  The graphic illustrations that are coupled with the information round out the program’s most important elements.

The story at the center of Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts and its information are both key elements to discuss in examining the program’s overall presentation.  They are not its only important elements.  The graphic illustrations that accompany the program’s information are important in their own right, too.  That is because they present a picture of what the Titanoboa and the mega croc are believed to have looked like when they were alive.  That visualization creates a new appreciation for their sheer size and how dangerous they must have been.  The visualizations provided through the graphic illustrations also paint a rich picture of what the open pit where the skeletons were found might have looked like in the creatures’ lifetimes.  Such a vivid contrast between the open pit and that lush landscape is impacting in its own right.  There are other ways in which the program’s graphic illustrations prove important to this episode’s presentation, but discussing each instance would take far too long.  Suffice it to say that when the program’s collective graphic illustrations are set against its breadth of information and its equally engaging story, the whole of those elements makes this episode of Secrets of the Dead a program that is its own “massive” hit and one of this year’s top new documentaries.

Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts is one of the “biggest” episodes that the hit history and science-based series has produced in recent memory.  That is proven through a story that reveals truth is just as interesting as fiction (or even stranger).  The information that is shared throughout the program is just as interesting and engaging as the story.  The graphic illustrations that are incorporated into the program round out its most important elements. They drive home just how big the Titanoboa and the “mega croc” were, and get audiences really thinking about the contrast of their sauna-like swamp home and the open pit mine that took its place millions of years later.  Each element is an important part of the program in its own right.  All things considered, they make this episode of Secrets of the Dead–once again—a giant hit and one of this year’s top new documentaries.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

 

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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PBS Takes Audiences To Africa In New Episode of ‘Nature’

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

PBS will take audiences into the wilds of Africa later this month in a new episode of its hit wildlife series Nature.

PBS Distribution will release Nature: GiraffesAfrica’s Gentle Giants.  The hour-long program will be released December 20 exclusively on DVD.  The program takes new meaning this year with the recent news of the creatures’ potential fates.

The program follows research conducted by Dr. Julian Fennessy Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation as he studies the decline in the giraffe population and attempts to help protect a group of the giants.

Fennessy’s work isn’t without its dangers.  The film follows him as he travels to Ethiopia’s border with war-torn Southern Sudan to collect DNA samples from giraffes for his species analysis.

His research is responsible for the recent revelation that there are four distinct species of giraffes – the northern giraffe, southern giraffe, reticulated giraffe and Masai giraffe.

As Fennessy searches for one group of giraffes by helicopters, gunfire aimed at the chopper in which he rides forces quite the change in schedule.  This and much more is presented throughout the course of the program.

Nature: GiraffesAfrica’s Gentle Giants will be released on DVD December 20.  It will retail for MSRP of $24.99 but can be pre-ordered now at a discounted price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.

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

 

 

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

 

 

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PBS Distribution To Release New ‘Nature’ Episode Next Month

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

PBS Distribution will release a high flying new episode of its hit wildlife series Nature next month on DVD and Blu-ray.

Nature: Super Hummingbirds will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 22.  The program examines the “super powers” that make hummingbirds one of the most incredible species of bird in the world.

The program is Emmy-winning filmmaker Ann Johnson Prum’s (Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air, An Original DUCKumentary, Animal Homes) second film focusing on hummingbirds.  The program focuses on new discoveries about hummingbirds.

Those new discoveries include how hummingbirds actually manage to drink nectar from flowers so quickly, and what allows them to survive in settings that are otherwise uninhabitable for other creatures.

For the first time ever, audiences will also get to see in this documentary how hummingbirds mate (meaning some parental discretion may be advised for younger viewers), lay eggs, fight, and even raise families.

The hour-long program opens with the research of Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara explaining how hummingbirds are able to lap up nectar at 20 times per second.  This is done through the use of a clear feeding tube and a real flower.  The flower contained the same amount of nectar found in a real bloom.

High speed macro photography reveals the birds’ secret; a secret that audiences will discover for themselves when they order the episode for themselves.

Dr. Christopher Witt and his team of researchers are also presented in this episode as they uncover the secret to hummingbirds’ ability to survive at altitudes where oxygen is 40 percent more scarce than at sea level.  Experiments conducted with the birds revealed a very stunning connection between the birds’ hemoglobin and their ability to survive at those high altitudes.  Research also revealed a connection between the birds’ ability to fly at high speeds and their ability to capture extra oxygen as they fly and breath.

The program’s final segment audiences are taken to the rainforests of Costa Rica where Dr. Marcelo Araya-Salas and researchers from Cornell University have spent seven years studying the mating habits of hummingbirds.  The group filmed more than 2,000 hours of footage in its research and caught the first footage of hummingbirds mating in that footage.

The whole thing ends with a life cycle of the hummingbird, from nest building, to parenthood to the first flight.

Nature: Super Hummingbirds originally premiered on PBS stations nationwide on Oct. 13.  It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 22 and will retail for MSRP of $24.99 on DVD and $29.99 on Blu-ray.  It can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $24.99 (Blu-ray) and $19.99 (DVD) now online at PBS’ online store.

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

 

 

 

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

 

 

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.