Category Archives: TV

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: WATCH “DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENT” AND RELIVE CLASSIC TV OF THE PAST

Old-time actor [read: great actor] Brian Donlevy stars in the old-time TV series [read: great TV series from yesteryear] Dangerous Assignment: The Complete Series (MPI Media Group]. Here, the veteran plays U.S. Government Agent Steve Mitchell, who travels the globe investigating cases of espionage, sabotage and threats to National Security.
Sound familiar? Donlevy originated the character on NBC Radio. The set includes all 39 episodes of the action-packed TV series from the 1950s.

The forgotten police series “Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files” comes back in all 39 episodes

Interested in binging on an arresting (but forgotten) police series? All 1020 minutes spanning 39 episodes? Then mark July 20 on your must-get list; that’s the date Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files hits the shelves.

In 1957, Hal Roach Studios and producer Ben Fox brought the fast-paced drama to television, starring Richard Travis as Sheriff George Barrett of the Los Angeles County Police Department, Denver Pyle as Sgt. Murchison and Fredd Wayne as Sgt. Bill Hollis.

3D
Like its sister series Dragnet, Code 3 featured true crime cases–this time from the files of the search and rescue branch of the Los Angeles Police Department–always “changing the names to protect the innocent.” At the end of most of the broadcasts, the real-life Sheriff of Los Angeles County, Eugene W. Biscailuz, made an appearance to recap that night’s adventure.
Code 3 enjoyed a healthy run in television syndication and featured lots of guest stars. Instead of naming names, we are going to tease you by tossing out the names of other TV series from which the guests were imported . . . Star Trek, The Patty Duke Show, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Mannix, Zorro and The Dukes of Hazard.

How and why Dolly and I are bosom buddies and breast friends…from 9 to 5 and beyond

I knew Dolly Rebecca Parton and I would become fast friends when she let me hold her left breast. Before you start calling the tabloids or TMZ, let me explain. It was 1987, and we were in a photographer’s studio on the Upper East Side where Dolly was being photographed for the cover of Redbook.

She was dressed in a handmade denim blouse (size 0), the wig was perfectly placed, the makeup flawless. She eyed the catered buffet and picked up a piece of chicken with her two fire-engine red (fake) fingernails, brought it to her mouth and, plop!, the sliver landed on her blouse, smack-dab on her left . . . well, you get the picture.

The adrenaline kicked in. “Quick, Dolly!” I said. “You hold and I’ll wipe.” I poured water on a paper towel and began to very gently dab the spot. Dolly grabbed a portable hair-dryer and with that infectious giggle cooed, “Now quick! You hold and I’ll dry.”

With those seven simple words, my entry into the dizzy, delightful world of Dolly Parton—40DD-17-36—had begun. “One day,” I thought to myself, “I will live to write about this.”

The shoot was a success, and as Dolly climbed into her limo, I whispered, “I feel like your bosom buddy.” Without missing a beat, she said, “And my breast friend.”

And so Dolly—so surgically streamlined so many times she’s starting to look like a Siamese cat—continues to be honored and remembered, in books, TV specials, films, a failed Broadway musical, a Time-Life super-duper (and expen$ive) DVD box set and the marvelous PBS program Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry.

The Queen of Country Music celebrates 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Recorded live in Nashville, this amazing special pays tribute to her songs and career with special performances from Dolly and her star guests, including Lady A, Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams, Jr. This incredible concert brings together five decades of hits & memories into one unforgettable evening of entertainment for everyone to enjoy.

Alicia Keyes produces the riveting, important “How It Feels to Be Free”, a look at six Black Legends

Black lives matter. And 15-Time Grammy Winner Alicia Keys knows it so well, she executive produced How It Feels to Be Free (PBS Distribution), an essential documentary that takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers—Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier—changed American culture through their films, fashion, music and politics while challenged by entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.

The film features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with contemporary artists influenced by them, including Keys, Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and other luminaries, as well as family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.

Based on the book How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement by Ruth Feldstein, the film highlights how each woman — singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne; jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress Abbey Lincoln; Tony-winning actress, singer and model Diahann Carroll; jazz, blues and folk singer Nina Simone; actress and model Cicely Tyson; and actress Pam Grier — harnessed their celebrity to advance the civil rights movement.

“These revolutionary Black women embody stories of courage, resilience and heroism. They fought for representation and economic, social and political equality through their artistry and activism,” said Michael Kantor, American Masters series executive producer. “We are proud to share the stories of how each left an indelible mark on our culture and inspired a new generation.”

Executive producer Alicia Keys adds, “I am proud to be a part of such a meaningful, important project. Art is the most powerful medium on the planet, and I continue to be inspired by and learn from these powerful, brave and stereotype-shattering women who leveraged their success as artists to fearlessly stand up against racism, sexism, exclusion and harassment. I honor their courage by celebrating their stories and continuing the work they started.”

Henry Louis Gates hosts essential “The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts some pretty heady programs.  His latest: The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song (PBS Distribution). This powerful history of the Black church in America takes us from his own experience onto a 400-year journey throughout which the church has been the Black community’s abiding rock and its fortress. As Gates brilliantly shows, the Black church has never been only one thing, and its story lies at the vital center of the civil rights movement, having produced leaders such as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gates

also penned an essential companion to the series of the same name (Penguin Press, $30); a tome loaded with countless photos, as written as the special is hosted.

Also hosted by Gates: Gates Finding Your Roots: Season 6 (PBS Distribution).

Betty White and Allen Ludden return, of sorts. The passwords are: ‘Pet Set’.

And the password is . . .
Animals.
Every one knows that Betty White loves animals, especially dogs. Every one she still loves Allan Ludden, her husband of a mere 17 years, who died from complications of  stomach cancer on June 9, 1981, at age 63.
Fifty years ago, the Luddens came up with an idea that remains a a project still close to White’s heart:  The Pet Set, a TV series that she conceived, wrote and produced (and on which Ludden served as announcer).
The show, alas, lasted just one year, and 39 episodes.
According to her autobiography, White recalls that the show was cancelled when Carnation Company decided to put their advertising budget exclusively to commercials rather than having an amount aside for programming.
Finally, the show is back making its debut on digital platforms and DVD on February 23, 2021. Celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary and renamed for publicity push,  Betty White’s Pet Set will be released by MPI Media Group in partnership with Darren Wadyko Media and Albets Enterprises. The three entities have come together to make this series available to fans, marking the first time it will be seen in decades. “If I haven’t told you already, I will now. The Pet Set is one of my favorite shows. I’m thrilled it’s going to be seen again after all these years,” coos White.
The show featured Ludden and White welcoming their celebrity friends with their dogs, cats and horses, in addition to a wide range of wild animals including tigers, bears, elephants, lions, wolves, gorillas, chimps, cougars, cheetahs, seals, kangaroos, zebras, eagles, snakes and penguins––both in the studio and on location.
The 39 episodes of the series, unseen for decades, feature such guests as Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Eva Gabor, Paul Lynda, Agnes Moorehead, Jimmy Stewart, Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds, Shirley Jones, Michael Landon, Bob Crane, Amanda Blake, Vikki Carr, Barbara Eden, James Brolin, Della Reese, Vincent Price and Rod Serling.
Special features on the set includes a  look behind the scenes of the series, original promotional spots, the featurettes Betty White: Game Show Goddess and Daytime Hostess: The Betty White Show, Betty’s Photo Album and her public service ads.
Bet it becomes your pet set!

Sonny and Cher share 10 memorable and magical episodes from their TV show. Yep, they still got it babe

Yes, the beat goes on.
And on.
And on.
Sonny and Cher share great memories, great music and great guest stars when they take the spotlight on I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny & Cher (Time Life). The five-disc set is packed with never-before-released episodes of their ’70s variety TV show. And the added bonus–an interview with Cher recalling those sunny days—is most welcome!
When Salvatore “Sonny” Bono and Cherilyn “Cher” Sarkisian came together it was undeniably magical. America first knew them as the duo behind the classic hit “I Got You Babe,” and their popularity exploded with the ’70s smash variety show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. The perfect match on stage and off, millions of fans tuned in each week to watch the sparks fly and see what Bob Mackie rags Cher was (or wasn’t!) wearing and the show quickly became essential viewing.
The TV gig was a gift from heaven . . . or at least CBS entertainment chief Fred Silverman, who “discovered” them performing in nightclubs and decided they had great potential for a weekly variety series. The  Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premiered on August 1, 1971 as a summer replacement, but quickly reached the top 20, becoming a Wednesday night draw for the CBS and cementing Sonny and Cher as one of Hollywood’s most beloved couples.
The DVD set contains 10 hilarious, never-before-released episodes beginning, bringing  by bringing TV viewers back to the beginning with the pilot episode,. Oh! The classic sketches are still just naughty enough for nighttime! And tune in for an incredible line-up of guest stars including Dick Clark, Jerry Lewis, Jim Nabors, Joe Namath, The Righteous Brothers, Dinah Shore, Carroll O’Connor, Art Carney, Chuck Berry and The Supremes.

I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny & Cher also features exclusive extras including:
Sonny & Cher’s pilot, an appearance on The Barbara McNair Show (Original Air Date: February 15, 1970)
Jerry Blavat’s 1970 interview of the duo on Jerry’s Place featuring an impromptu performance of “I Got You Babe”
Interviews with Frankie Avalon, producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde and Cher herself!

February is a month of love, and what better than binge watching PBS programs with Russell Stover?

February is a month of love, and what better to love than binge watching PBS programs with an armful of chocolates?

Enjoy!

MASTERPIECE: Sanditon
Andrew Davies, Britain’s national treasure, has given Jane Austen fans what they have been waiting over a century for: the completion of Austen’s last piece of work, unfinished due to her death in 1817. Now Davies takes the first 11 beautifully crafted chapters of the final Austen masterpiece and creates an epic drama for all to enjoy. The lavish adaptation stars Rose Williams as Austen’s lively, but levelheaded heroine Charlotte Heywood and Theo James as the humorous, charming (and slightly wild) Sidney Parker.

Charlotte observes hypochondria, avarice and attempted seduction run amok. Lady Denham is playing matchmaker for her destitute nephew, Sir Edward, who is determined to seduce Lady Denham’s ward, Clara and become the primary heir to his aunt’s estate. Then, the arrival of wealthy, mixed-race heiress Miss Lambe, under the guardianship of Tom’s upright brother Sidney, adds another interesting complication.


MASTERPIECE: Howards End
Written by Kenneth Lonergan, comes the four episode adaptation of E.M. Forster’s, Howards End. Starring Matthew Macfadyen as Henry Wilcox, Philippa Coulthard as Helen Schlegel, Julia Ormond as Mrs. Wilcox, Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel and Tracey Ullman as Aunt Juley,

this is a fresh take on the story of two independent and unconventional sisters and the men in their lives seeking love and meaning as they navigate an ever-changing world. Also starring Joseph Quinn, Rosalind Eleazar and Alex Lawther.


American Experience: McCarthy
The legacy of Joseph McCarthy’s relentless search for anyone he deemed a communist or enemy of the state will forever be shrouded in infamy. The Wisconsin Senator’s crusade is now the centerpiece of any conversation involving the government’s role in decency, democracy and ethical conduct. This witch hunt, completely free of restraint or oversight, led to the trials and imprisonment of many celebrities, Americans and immigrants.

This program details the rise of McCarthy’s political life which led to his belief that there was a great conspiracy threatening America, culminating in a chilling campaign full of groundless accusations, bullying intimidation, grandiose showmanship, cruel victimization and a web of lies to keep public opinion on their side.


NOVA: Decoding da Vinci
On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, with guidance from historian Walter Isaacson, NOVA pulls back the curtain to investigate what led to da Vinci’s ahead of his time, legendary successes.

The program examines how Leonardo’s scientific studies, from dissecting humans to studying optics, led to a host of brilliant inventions, like hang gliders, armored tanks, parachutes and many others. Decoding da Vinci further explains how this deep scientific curiosity was behind the most captivating work of art in history, The Mona Lisa. Viewers now have the chance to delve deep into Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance genius.


NOVA: The Violence Paradox
Violence is ubiquitous in our every day lives. We see it in the news, in movies, on TV and video games so why do some experts say that violence is decreasing and that we’re living in the most peaceful time in history? Can this actually be true?

The Violence Paradox addresses these questions and explores the intricacies of how violence permeates our life, psychology and every day thoughts and actions. The program takes us through time and the human mind to investigate what impacts the violence rates and what people are doing now to reduce violence in the world.


NOVA: Animal Espionage
Studying animals that are incredibly hard to approach or observe without them being aware has always been a constant struggle for wildlife experts. Though now, with the technological advancements of the camera industry, experts and viewers are able to get an intimate view of these species behind closed doors during their everyday lives. Camera traps and drones, completely hidden from the animal’s view, are allowing for revolutionary findings in wildlife biology, allowing viewers to get closer than ever before to animals like whales, tigers and elusive giant armadillos.

NOVA: Animal Espionage DVDThe recordings featured on this program capture everything from the unexpected to the comical, and these technologies are giving wildlife analysts insights that could ultimately help them fight extinction and habitat loss.

Mill Creek Entertainment offers exceptional box sets of favorite and funny TV series

Curious people may meander down to the old mill stream, but whenever we want something special to do, we head to Mill Creek. Here is where we (and you) will find with Entertainment with a capital E.

We stumbled upon two nifty complete series box sets whose content Mill Creek licensed (legally, of course).  Great picture quality and sound. And a hell of a lot cheaper than the same sets issued by the original studio.

Once upon a time… there were three girls who went to work for Charles Townsend, a mysterious man they never got to see, at his Beverly Hills detective agency. And they became the sexiest private eyes to ever grace TV.

Welcome to Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series, a 20-disc Blu-ray gem. Enjoy every episode of high-kicking action, glamour, guns, bikinis and hair. Each is packed with dangerous intrigue in the Angels’ world of money, mystery and murder. And the guest stars?

Then there’s, the 12-time Emmy winning Mad About You that explores the romantic ups and downs of an endearingly neurotic couple, Paul and Jamie Buchman, as they cope with marriage, mood swings, love and life. Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser still make us laugh . . . again and again.

Celebrity guests include such familiar faces as Lisa Kudrow, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Estelle Getty, Bruce Willis, Hank Azaria and Cyndi Lauper. The 14-disc set includes a host of bonus features including commentaries, featurettes and a blooper reel.

PBS Distribution’s New Year Bounty of must-see, must-own DVDs . . . all score 20/20

We always hope a New Year promises happiness, good health, safety and weight loss.
We always know a New Year brings oodles of great new films and shows and specials and programs . . . especially from the King of TV, PBS.
We share the great ones for the month of January.

FRONTLINE
Fire in Paradise

A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who’s to blame and why was it so catastrophic? With accounts from survivors and first responders, the inside story of the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change.

In the Age of AI
It’s been called “The New Space Race.” This time it’s China taking on the United States, and the race is to seize control of a technology with the potential to change everything — the way we work; how we play; how our democracy functions; how the world could be realigned. FRONTLINE explores some of the ways in which our world is being re-shaped and reimagined by the technology of artificial intelligence, whose development has been compared to the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity as an epochal event in human history.

The film explores both the peril and the promise of this ascendant technology — tracing the battle between the U.S. and China to harness its power; examining fears about what AI advances mean for the future of work; and revealing how AI algorithms are ushering in an age of both great problem-solving potential, and of new and troubling threats to privacy and democracy.
In the Age of AI is a powerful and telling journey into how this new technology will transform our world — and some of the ways it already has.

NATURE
Okavango—River of Dreams
The Okavango River in Southern Africa is an unlikely oasis and lush paradise in the middle of a hostile desert that supports and feeds an incredible abundance of wildlife. Unlike most rivers that flow toward the shores of a nearby ocean, it instead runs inland through Botswana, creating a huge river delta before finally disappearing into the Kalahari Desert. An all-star cast of charismatic African wildlife lives and dies in the timeless drama of survival revealed in the program.

Among the one-of-a-kind footage captured includes that of a lioness injured by a buffalo and left for dead by her pride. While recovering, she must find a way to care for her two young cubs on her own. In a surprising sequence, hyena and warthog families share neighboring dens, helping each other by keeping an eye on potentially threatening predators such as lions and leopards. And in the deadliest part of the river, a leopard mother must climb trees in order to hunt from above.

Nature’s Biggest Beasts
Discover the ingenious strategies that nature’s biggest beasts employ to conquer their environments, from the Komodo dragon with a deadly bite to the tallest giraffe to the bird-eating Armored ground cricket. Nature’s Biggest Beasts shows their epic surivival stories.
Being massive can have its advantages, but it brings equally immense challenges to survive. Big bodies need more fuel, more space and can attract unwanted attention.

Take the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, whose huge appetite means it must take on prey ten times its weight, or the tallest of them all, the giraffe, who with such a long neck must control immense blood pressure. From the 150-ton blue whale who can suck up four tons of krill a day, to Japan’s finger-length giant hornets that can decimate a hive of 30,000 bees to feed on their larvae, nature’s biggest beasts must go to extraordinary lengths to thrive.

Bears
From the mighty grizzly bear to the endearing spectacled bear (the real-life “Paddington Bear”) and from the bamboo-eating panda to the bizarre-looking sloth bear, this remarkable animal family has long captured the human imagination.

Among the biggest land mammals on the planet, bears need a lot of resources to survive and must use all of their skills, brawn and brains to get what they need—whether they’re foraging for honeycombs or tasty plants, standing up to their rivals or raising cubs.  Follow the adventures of bears across the globe as they draw on their remarkable adaptations to survive in an ever-changing world. Viewers find out what it really takes to be a bear.

NOVA
Why Bridges Collapse

On a rainy August morning in 2018, a massive section of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed and killed 43 people. As emergency responders raced to rescue survivors, authorities began investigating the cause of the collapse. For 50 years, the iconic bridge had stood up to ever-increasing traffic, a testament to the strength of its pre-stressed concrete and cable stays. So what went wrong that fateful day?
Through eyewitness testimony, expert interviews, and dramatic archival footage, the program pieces together the sequence of events—and investigates what may have led to the bridge’s downfall. But the Morandi Bridge isn’t alone.

Across the United States and Europe,  thousands of bridges are listed as structurally deficient. Join experts as they compare what happened to the Morandi with other deadly bridge collapses, including Minnesota’s I-35W bridge over the Mississippi and the ill-fated Silver Bridge over the Ohio River. How can new technologies and engineering improvements make bridges across the world safer and more durable than ever before?

Look Who’s Driving
After years of anticipation, autonomous vehicles are now being tested on public roads around the world. Dozens of startups have sprung up alongside established auto and tech giants – which are also testing the waters—to form what many hope will be a transformative new industry.
Nova: Look Who's Driving
But as innovators rush to cash in on what they see as the next high-tech pot of gold, some experts warn there are still daunting challenges to overcome—like how to train computers to make life-and-death decisions as well as humans can. NOVA peers under the hood of the autonomous vehicle industry to investigate how driverless cars work, how they may change the way we live, and whether we will ever be able to entrust them with our lives.

Rise of the Mammals
The course of life on Earth changed radically on a single day 66 million years ago. Blasting our planet, an asteroid caused the extinction of three of every four kinds of living things. The impact ended the Age of Dinosaurs and launched our age, the Age of Mammals. But our understanding of the asteroid’s aftermath has been spotty. Who survived? How quickly did mammals and their habitats spring back? How did our planet recover from this global cataclysm?

Now a remarkable find—a trove of exceptionally preserved fossils from the critical first million years after the catastrophe—shines a revelatory light on what followed Earth’s darkest hour. With exclusive access, viewers see the discovery from the first thrilling moments of the initial find in 2016. Providing a rare record that combines plants, animals, and precise dates—a paleontological trifecta—the discovery paints a vivid portrait of the emergence of a brand-new world. Thanks to the vision, grit, and luck of the scientific team, we are gaining our first clear understanding of how our modern world of mammals arose from the ashes.

Dead Sea Scroll Detectives
One of the greatest archaeological finds of all time—the Dead Sea Scrolls—was made by a Bedouin shepherd boy in 1947. And since the 2,000-year-old scrolls were first taken from a cave, they’ve intrigued scholars, religious leaders, and profiteers alike. These fragile parchment relics include the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. But who compiled them? And do more scrolls await discovery?

While some scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time—burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces—and remain an enigma. Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes.

American Masters
Rothko: Pictures Must be Miraculous

One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko’s signature style helped define Abstract Expressionism, the movement that shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York.

American Masters—Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous is an intimate portrait of the celebrated painter whose luminous canvasses now set records at international auctions. Interviews with Rothko’s children, Kate and Christopher, as well as leading curators, art historians and conservators present a comprehensive look at the artist’s life and career, complemented by original scenes with Alfred Molina in the role of Rothko. Molina performs segments from Rothko’s writings, and the documentary features clips from the six-time Tony-winning play Red.