Category Archives: TV

PBS Distribution’s “Nova: Holocaust Escape Tunnel” is a powerful history lesson

Once again, PBS Distribution has released a documentary that demands viewing . . . and a place in your library. Make note, please: Nova: Holocaust Escape Tunnel, available now on DVD and also available for digital download.

For centuries, the Lithuanian city of Vilna was one of the most important Jewish centers in the world, earning the title “Jerusalem of the North,” until the Nazis destroyed it. About 95% of its Jewish population of Vilna, its name in Hebrew and Yiddish, was murdered and its synagogues and institutions were reduced to ruins. The Soviets finished the job, paving over the remnants of Vilna’s famous Great Synagogue, for example, so thoroughly that few today know it ever existed. Now, an international team of archaeologists are trying to recover this lost world. They will excavate the remains of its Great Synagogue and uncover one of Vilna’s greatest secrets: a lost escape tunnel dug by Jewish prisoners inside a horrific Nazi execution site.

Robert Mugge offers a revealing, musical look at the life of Al Green in “Gospel According to Al Green”

Listen up, folks. Let’s stay together.

After filmmaker Robert Mugge produced Black Wax with Gil Scott-Heron for Britain’s Channel 4 Television in 1982, he and Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Music Andy Park wanted to collaborate again. Park suggested Mugge create a portrait of African American gospel star Andraé Crouch. But Mugge, a longtime fan of soul and pop singer Al Green, countered that suggestion. Mugge figured that Green’s rejection of soul music to become a Memphis-based preacher and gospel singer perhaps made him a richer potential subject. (Interestingly, Green was kicked out of the family home while in his teens, after his religiously devout father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson).

Indeed.

Park agreed. Mugge needed 13 months to secure Green’s approval, getting his approval only days before the planned Seventh Anniversary Celebration of Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle. That Sunday afternoon church service featured not only Green’s usual church choir and musicians, but also a second choir from Ellington, South Carolina and most of Green’s touring musicians and backup singers. Mugge arranged to document that December 18, 1983 service with three 16mm cameras and a 24-track audio recording truck, making it the first (and reportedly still the only) Al Green church service to be committed to film, Gospel According to Al Green.

While in Memphis, Mugge and his crew went on to film an interview with legendary Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell (who had produced and co-written Green’s commercial hits of the ‘70s), a studio rehearsal featuring Green and his musicians and an extended interview with Green himself. In Green’s interview, he explored his early days in the music business, his creation of such popular hits as “Tired of Being Alone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You”, the traumatic events that led to his abandoning of his successful soul and pop career, the purchase of the Memphis church building which he transformed into a church of his own, and the ways in which his soul and gospel backgrounds had each informed the other.

Image result for Mary Woodson White
Mary and Al

Perhaps the most emotional part of Green’s interview was his discussion of the so-called “hot grits incident,” wherein spurned girlfriend Mary Woodson White assaulted him in the shower of his Memphis home with a pot of boiling hot grits, then ran to another room of his house where she shot and killed herself. (Although she was already married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her). This interview, conducted two days after his church service, was the first occasion on which he discussed this experience publicly, and he included facts that even his own band members had never heard.

In February of 1984, Mugge also filmed Green and his band in concert at the Officers Club of Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., this time utilizing four 16mm cameras and the same Nashville-based 24-track recording truck he had hired to record the Memphis church service. It should be noted that, at that point in Rev. Green’s career, he had embraced the Southern fundamentalist notion that blues, rhythm ‘n’ blues, and rock n’ roll were “music of the Devil,” and that, therefore, he should now perform only gospel music.

However, among the numbers Green performed at the D.C. concert was Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which exists somewhere between soul and gospel. In addition, during the staged rehearsal in Memphis, Green agreed to perform “Let’s Stay Together,” which had been one of his biggest commercial successes and now represented a recurring theme in the film. Along with fragments of a few more hits he performed during his interview, these songs helped to depict “Al Green the pop star” who had preceded “Al Green the pastor.”

Among the top Memphis musicians who appear in this film are, number one, Lawrence H. “Larry” Lee, Jr., who was best known for touring with Green and for performing at Woodstock and elsewhere with Jimi Hendrix’s Gypsy Sun and Rainbows; and number two, Mabon Lewis “Teenie” Hodges, who co-wrote Green’s hits “Take Me to the River” and “Love and Happiness” and toured and recorded widely as a guitarist with the Hi Records Rhythm Section. Lee can be seen performing in the church service and rehearsal sequences of the film, and Hodges can be heard, and briefly seen, playing incidental guitar behind Green during much of his interview. Sadly, both men are now deceased.

The resulting 96-minute film, Gospel According to Al Green, had its world premiere presentation in the summer of 1984 at Filmfest Munchen (a film festival in Munich, Germany), its television premiere over Britain’s Channel 4 later that fall, and its U.S. theatrical premiere at Coolidge Corner outside Boston a year later. After each of the two opening night screenings on October 25, 1985, Green sat on the Coolidge Corner stage and, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, freely offered the commercial hits that he had mostly refused to perform during the making of Mugge’s film, thereby demonstrating his storied unpredictability. Naturally, audience members at both shows were enchanted by his presentation, and since these and other premiere screenings, the film has been in constant release around the world.Image result for al green 2014

As to Rev. Green—now Bishop Green—this past December, he and his congregation celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his Full Gospel Tabernacle church. For MVD Visual’s new worldwide Blu-ray and DVD releases, director Mugge has overseen 4K remastering of the film and created a new 17-minute video titled Soul and Spirit: Robert Mugge on the Making of Gospel According to Al Green. Other bonus features include audio of Green’s entire 1983 interview, audio of the climactic final hour of Green’s seventh anniversary church service, an extended film version of a key song from the church service, and the personal telephone answering machine message Green recorded for Mugge in the mid-’80s.

The brilliant “King Charles III” comes to DVD after critical UK and Broadway acclaim

A willful king . . . a prophetic ghost . . . family betrayals . . . revenge! It sounds like a play by Shakespeare, but it’s a drama about the future. Masterpiece presents an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway show King Charles III, starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith as Prince Charles after his accession to the throne, sometime in the years ahead.

King Charles III, a co-production with the BBC, will be available on DVD June 27. The program will also be available for digital download.

Pigott-Smith, who died unexpectedly on April 7, had appeared in several Masterpiece productions, including The Jewel in the Crown and Downton Abbey. “The Masterpiece family is heartbroken at the loss of Tim Pigott-Smith, a wonderful actor and a warm and charming man,” says Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. “We are going to miss him.”

King Charles III playwright Mike Bartlett remembers him as “one of the real greats, both as an actor and a man.”

Daringly scripted in blank verse by Bartlett and directed by Rupert Goold King Charles III focuses on the crisis-strewn transition of power after the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth II, currently the longest-serving monarch in British history. For his part, Charles is the longest heir-in-waiting ever, and Bartlett envisions the turmoil that rocks the monarchy when his turn finally comes.

Also starring are Oliver Chris as Charles’s heir, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Charlotte Riley as William’s bride, Kate; Richard Goulding as Charles’s younger son, Prince Harry; Tamara Lawrance as Harry’s love interest and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Jess Edwards; Margot Leicester as Charles’s doting wife, Camilla; and Adam James as the polished British prime minister, Tristan Evans.

The original London staging of King Charles III won Best New Play accolades from both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. Moving across the Atlantic, it garnered five Tony nominations during its Broadway run. The New York Times hailed the production as “flat-out brilliant … dazzlingly presumptuous.” And in London, The New Statesman marveled at the playwright’s audacity: “If the Lord Chamberlain still policed the stage, Bartlett would be in the Tower.”

Shakespeare-lovers will detect echoes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and Henry IV, among other of the Bard’s works. They will also revel in the rhythmic music of blank verse—unrhymed iambic pentameter—which captures the natural flow of the English language and which Elizabethan dramatists helped popularize, revived by Bartlett to startling effect.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” That piece of blank verse is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, and it perfectly portrays the hero’s quandary in King Charles III.

 

Chances are you will love the bittersweet “My Mother and Other Strangers”

Chances are . . .

Hattie Morahan and Aaron Staton star as a village teacher and U.S. air force officer whose chance meeting in Northern Ireland during World War II leads to a friendship that blossoms into something deeper.

Welcome to Masterpiece: My Mother and Other Strangers (PBS Distribution), coming to DVD on July 11. Also starring is Owen McDonnell as the teacher’s dour but loving husband, along with Eileen O’Higgins, Michael Nevin, Des McAleer, Kate Phillips, Fiona Button and Ciarán Hinds.

During its recent UK broadcast, viewers and critics were deeply moved by this bittersweet tale. “No other recent drama has captured quite so keenly a sense of the complex, hidden, unspoken desires that can roil away beneath even the quietest surface,” wrote the reviewer for The Telegraph, who added, “Hattie Morahan is superb.”

Shot on the stunningly beautiful Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland, the film portrays the culture clash when a U.S. bomber base is established near the fictional village of Moybeg in 1943, bringing hundreds of gum-chewing, swing-band-listening American airmen to a remote Ulster farming community, with its winsome women and stolid workingmen.

The action is framed from the point of view of a young boy, Francis Coyne (played by Nevin, with voiceover of Francis as an older man by Hinds). Francis’s childhood is populated by strangers. On the one hand, there are the friendly Americans in their Jeeps and airplanes, who treat him like a little brother. Then there is his mother, Rose (Morahan), an upright Englishwoman who married Michael Coyne (McDonnell) and moved to his hometown, Moybeg, where she is raising their three children, teaching in the village school, and tending a grocery shop next to Michael’s pub. Despite being a pillar of the community, Rose has never fit in. She speaks more properly than the locals, loves English literature, and has a lively interest in the wider world.

Into this isolated domain comes Captain Ronald Dreyfus (Staton), U.S. Army Air Forces, who encounters Rose during a walk on the heath. When they meet again, he quotes her a line from Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott”—one of her favorite poems.

Captain Dreyfus is as reserved as Rose is. But in his capacity as base liaison officer, he has occasion to see her frequently: dealing with a fracas between airmen and regulars at the pub, arranging for an army nurse (Phillips) to care for a sick child, and planning a Christmas party for the school.

Both would-be lovers fight against the stronger feelings that are overwhelming them—emotions that are increasingly evident to those around them.

Wary of betraying her husband, Rose feels seized by some otherworldly force, a sentiment she can only recognize from a piece of literature—Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights—which she quotes from memory: “Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”

 

MHz gems are imported to the U.S. Think priests and liars, murder and betrayal and a French Ironsides

It’s worth the wait. On Tuesday, June 27, MHz Networks premieres the latest installments in the long-running Italian TV series, Detective Montalbano, A Nest of Vipers and According to Protocal. Both will be released Day-and-Date in the United States on its SVOD platform, MHz Choice and on its DVD imprint, MHz on DVD.

Based on the blockbuster crime novels by Andrea Camilleri, the episodes depict life in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata–where the pace of life is slower, there are few cars and home cooking abounds. (Seconds are mandatory.)

Detective Montalbano (portrayed by Luca Zingaretti) heads the police department, solving crimes with his always loyal and sometimes effective police squad who find themselves crossing paths with housewives and fisherman, priests and liars, saints and Mafia dons. MHz Networks will also release the first two seasons of the French detective series, Caïn on DVD.  Bruno Debrandt stars as the wheelchair-bound Captain Fred Caïn who’s smarter, quicker and more mobile than most able-bodied people.

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 28 & 29
Murder, betrayal, office politics, temptation . . . it’s all in a day’s work for Detective Salvo Montalbano. With intuition and a cadre of police officers, Montalbano solves crimes in the fictional small city of Vigata. This work brings him across the paths of unforgettable characters who could only come from Sicily. He also wages a personal war with his own demons, which fight against his professional ideals and personal commitment to beautiful long-distance girlfriend, Livia. Yet there’s always time to indulge a long-standing flirtation with his ultimate temptress, Italian cuisine. The series is filmed in the ancient, sun-washed Sicilian city of Ragusa, and is based on the international best-selling mystery novels by Andrea Camiller.

A Nest of Vipers
A man arrives at his father’s home to find him dead, murdered with a shotgun while drinking coffee in the kitchen. With no sign of forced entry, it’s clear the victim knew his murderer. Finding locals with possible motives is easy, because he spent a lifetime exploiting young women and making enemies of fellow townspeople. Montalbano also discovers that the victim wasn’t just shot, but had been poisoned hours earlier. It’s as if two murderers had decided that night, independently of one another, to kill him.

According to Protocol A beautiful, beaten woman manages to drive herself to an apartment building, where she collapses and dies in the foyer. Her intent seems to have been to direct investigators to one of the building’s tenants. During the investigation – in which Ingrid and Livia meet for the first time–the team uncovers a world of vice and hypocrisy that leaves them all in shock. Montalbano also strikes up a friendship with his new neighbor, a retired judge haunted by the idea that true justice and objectivity may not be possible.

Caïn: Season 1 and Cain Season Season 2
In this darkly comic French crime series wheelchair-bound police captain Fred Caïn (played by able-bodied Bruno Debrandt) is quicker and more mobile than most able-bodied people. In his investigations, he spins circles around suspects and digs deep inside the darkest hidden corners of the human mind. A motorcycle accident caused by speeding and his own use of narcotics has left him unable to walk, but clear-eyed about criminality and motive. Image result for Cain Season 2 MHzHe’s left the drugs behind but a dark sense of humor remains, and his disdain for ‘bipeds’ can make him difficult to work with. He uses his disability to his advantage by breaking with convention and the law without an ounce of shame or trepidation. Only army veteran Lucie Delambre can handle him as a partner, and his friend and boss Jacques Moretti runs interference for him with the higher-ups. Set in Marseille, Caïn is a crime drama with a twist, a police procedural that focuses on psychology and the human being behind the criminal.   Season 1 includes: Jealousy Justice Judge and be Judged The Attacker Confusion Under The Skin Hostages Innocence

Season 2 includes: Suicide Ornella Cain and Abel, Part 1 Cain and Abel, Part 2 The Island Bad Boy Duels God, Caïn, etc…

New customers receive a free 30-Day Trial. For more information or to subscribe, go to www.mhzchoice.com.

The full list of MHz Choice premieres can be found here: MHz Choice Premiere Schedule.

 

PBS Distribution about to serve a most tasty “American Masters: The Art of Craft,” the life and flavors of Jaqcues Pepin

Hungry for a special treat? Leave it to PBS Distribution who is about to serve American Masters: The Art of Craft on DVD. This culinary journey traces the life of Jaqcues Pépin, a young immigrant with movie-star looks and a charming Gallic accent, who elevated essential kitchen techniques to an art form to become one of America’s most beloved food icons. The delight goes on the table when it’s released June 6; the program will also be available for digital download.

The program traces his journey from his childhood in the countryside of wartime France, where his family’s tradition of running homegrown restaurants propelled him into an early culinary career.Image result for pepin jacques

At the age of 13, Pépin leaves home to begin a formal apprenticeship at the distinguished Grand Hôtel de l’Europe. His first break comes at 16, when, as the sole chef, he cooks the fireman’s banquet in the alpine resort town of Bellegarde, a success that results in his first newspaper photo op. “I start to realize that I could put some of myself in the food. It didn’t have to be exactly the way my mother wanted it to be,” says Pépin, recalling this pivotal moment in his life.

Nearly 17, Pépin moves to Paris, initially without a job, and eventually works at dozens of restaurants learning about classical cooking. He trains under Lucien Diat at the Hotel Plaza Athénée where the emphasis is on technique. Four years later, he is drafted into the Navy, but because his older brother is already on the front, Pépin is assigned to stay in Paris as a cook at Navy headquarters.

Now an accomplished chef, he is assigned to create special dinners for the top brass and becomes the personal chef for three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. But Pépin understands that in the late ’50s, the cook, even if “first chef,” is really at the bottom of the social scale and viewed as the help. Not content cooking in French palaces; Pépin decides to move to the United States in ’59.

In New York, Pépin lands a job at Le Pavillon, the most influential French restaurant in the country, and soon meets the three people he calls the “Trinity of Cooking”: Craig Claiborne, food editor of The New York Times; James Beard; and Julia Child. In later years, he partners with Child on a television series, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, for which he and Child win a Daytime Emmy in 2001.

While at Le Pavillon, Pépin is courted for the position of “first chef” in the new Kennedy White House, a position he turns down. Instead, he goes to work in the kitchens of Howard Johnson’s hotel and restaurant chain (1960–70) where he learns about mass production, marketing, food chemistry, and American popular food.

In 1974, a near-fatal car accident is the catalyst that pushes Pépin’s life in a different direction as writer, teacher, and ultimately a media star. With his early landmark books on the fundamentals of culinary craft, La Technique (1976) and La Methôde (1978), and television shows, Pépin ushers in a new era in American food culture.

An American citizen for more than half a century, at age 81, Pépin continues to crisscross the country teaching, cooking, speaking, consulting, and enjoying the celebrity generated by 14 television shows, nearly 30 cookbooks, and accolades including the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor.

Interviews with Pépin’s wife Gloria and daughter Claudine, culinary stars and media personalities including José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson and Fareed Zakaria, offer insights about the man, who with his catchphrase “happy cooking” has always emphasized honesty of ingredients, simplicity of approach, and a joy for sharing food with loved ones.

The film is produced and directed by Peter L. Stein, a Peabody Award–winning documentary filmmaker who first started working with Pépin in 1989 as producer of what became Pépin’s landmark public television series Today’s Gourmet, and who went on to oversee seven seasons of cooking programs with Pépin in the ’90s.

 

“Mummies Alive” brings home everyone’s mummy . . . throughout 5,000 years

We want our mummy! And we will get her, along with her well-preserved relatives, in Mummies Alive (Public Media Distribution, LLC).   The series finds it home on DVD July 4.

Mummies Alive spans 5,000 years of history, with each of the six episodes focusing on one mummy, time travelers from the past and the most precious human link we have to our ancestors. By investigating their incredibly preserved remains and bringing them back to life through cutting-edge CGI, their stories and the secrets of past civilizations come to light.

The series kicks off with The Gunslinger Mummy, nicknamed “Sylvester”, whose preserved remains and eerily life-like face are on display in the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in downtown Seattle. According to one legend, he was an American Wild West cowboy, killed 120 years ago in a saloon shootout. He’s got what appears to be a bullet hole in his stomach, but using CT imaging technology and state-of-the-art virtual autopsy techniques, investigators piece together a new and surprising story; one involving a notorious con man, the sideshow circuit, and a lesson on how to turn a buck using the myth of the Old West. But as the color is restored to his sunken cheeks and his ancient eyes open, scientific investigation and computer animation reveal the most likely and surprising truth about Sylvester’s last moments.

Buried in a Bog: In 2003, the police were twice called to the peat fields of the Irish midlands to examine mangled corpses unearthed from their peaty graves by the claws of peat-harvesting machines. Found within three months of each other and a mere 16 miles apart, these two bodies had evidently met with extremely violent ends before being buried in the bog.  Despite their incredible states of preservation it quickly became clear that they were long dead – possibly thousands of years old–and that an archaeological, rather than criminal investigation, was in order.

Ötzi the Iceman (below) was discovered frozen on a mountain glacier in the Italian Alps. This episode re-opens one of the oldest cold cases in human history by examining a Neolithic murder victim buried under ice for more than 5,000 years. Chilling events are reconstructed, and the latest forensic and scientific techniques are employed to expose Europe’s ancient, violent past. Samples taken from his stomach reveal his last meal. A copper axe found with his body may rewrite the history books, and wounds discovered on his hand and back suggest a violent death.Image result for Ötzi the Iceman

 Another mummy, The Inca Maiden, believed to have been 14-years-old at the time of her death, was found buried near the top of a 22,000-foot volcano in South America. A CT-scan will try to solve the mystery of how she died and what she was doing at 22,000 feet. The Inca Maiden is a stunningly preserved mummy, the best-preserved mummy in the world, and today she is kept in a specially-designed cryogenic chamber at a museum in Argentina. The extreme environment guaranteed her preservation, but did it also kill her? As the secrets of a lost civilization are revealed, shocking clues point in a more sinister direction and provide an unprecedented emotional and intimate look at the tragic life and death of this young girl, below.Image result for The Inca Maiden,

The Pharaoh’s Secret peels back the wrappings on a mysterious, mutilated pharaoh. Using the latest forensic techniques, investigators unearth a violent story of conquest and rebellion that laid the foundations for Ancient Egypt’s golden age.

Hero of Herculaneum: This investigation looks into a forgotten chapter from the volcanic destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Three hundred mummified skeletons were found buried in ash, including the body of a man armed to the teeth and carrying a huge cache of gold and silver. Who was he? What was his role in the disaster? How did he die? For the very first time, his story is told.

PBS serves up two fascinating documentaries on DVD, just in time for the July holiday

Food, glorious, food. What better way to celebrate incredible edibles than on July 4, the holiday that offers the independence to choose among so much delish dishes? PBS Distrubtion comes into action with the DVD being released that day.

“What fish should I eat that’s good for me and good for the planet?” That’s the question bestselling author and lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg sets out to answer. As part of his quest to investigate the health of the ocean—and his own—Greenberg spends a year eating seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a journey that’s brought to life in Frontline: The Fish on My Plate produced by Neil Docherty, David Fanning and Sarah Spinks. The documentary will be available on DVD July 4; the program will also be available for digital download.

The program chronicles Greenberg as he works on his upcoming book, The Omega Principle—and consumes more than 700 fish meals in hopes of improving his health through a dramatic increase in his Omega-3 levels.

With people worldwide consuming more seafood than ever, Greenberg also explores questions of sustainability and overfishing, traveling to Norway, where modern fish farming was invented; Peru to witness the world’s largest wild fishery; Alaska, where 200 million salmon can be caught each year; and Connecticut to visit a sustainable ocean farming pioneer who is trying to transform the fishing industry.

On the wild side, Greenberg finds that not everything is as it seems: At America’s largest seafood trade show, American wild salmon is labeled as a product of China. Why? Alaskan salmon is shipped frozen to China, thawed there to be deboned and filleted, and then refrozen to be shipped back to American supermarkets.

When it comes to farmed fish, things aren’t much more clear-cut: In Norway, the world center for farming America’s favorite fish, the Atlantic salmon, Greenberg finds a “salmon war.” The country’s fjords are festooned with farms, profits are huge, and growth expectations are high—but there is fierce criticism from environmentalists who complain the farms create more sewage than the entire human population of the country, that they spread disease, and that escaped farmed salmon are polluting the genetics of dwindling wild stocks.

Plus, a parasite, the sea louse—which feeds off the blood of the salmon—multiplies exponentially in the farms, and then infects entire fjords. This has led the government to halt the industry’s growth until the louse can be restrained.

In the program, Greenberg charts the industry’s efforts to accommodate its critics and search for solutions—visiting a “green” fish farm just south of the Arctic Circle, and discussing proposals for a genetically modified salmon that will be grown in tanks out of the ocean.

The Fish on My Plate isn’t just the story of one man’s journey. It’s a must-watch documentary for any consumer who cares about both his or her own health, and the health of the planet.

The three-part program Hungry for Food delves into the physics , chemistry and biology that creates each bite of food we take.  Dr. Michael Mosley (below) and botanist James Wong celebrate the physics, chemistry, and biology hidden inside every bite.

Image result for hungry for food Dr. Michael Mosley

Together Mosley and Wong travel the world and take over the UK’s leading food lab as they deconstruct favorite meals, taking viewers inside the food, right down to the molecular level.

The documentary will also  be available on DVD July 4; the program will also be available for digital download.

Descriptions of each of the episodes included on the DVD are listed below:

We Are What We Eat
Michael and James explore how the chemicals in our food feed and build our bodies. The world is full of different cuisines and thousands of different meals. Yet when they’re reduced to their essence, there are actually just a handful of ingredients that our bodies absolutely need from our food to survive. These essential molecules come in a series of familiar sounding groups–carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals–but Michael and James discover plenty of surprises as they seek to understand exactly why each class of molecule is so important for the way our bodies work.

This is food taken to its fundamentals. By using the latest imaging techniques and incredibly detailed specialist photography, Michael and James offer a whole new way of thinking about the relationship we have with our modern diet.

A Matter of Taste
Michael and James explore how the marriage between chemistry and biology is the root of all the sensations, tastes, and flavors that we enjoy in our food. Michael begins by deconstructing a Thai meal. Its effect on the tongue can be reduced down to just five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the less well-known umami. Umami is the most recently discovered of all the tastes. It’s a Japanese word that translates as ‘pleasant savory taste.’ By the end of their journey through flavor, they reveal that taste if far more than just being delicious–it’s a matter of survival.

Food on the Brain
Michael and James explore the effect of Food on the Brain. The brain is one of the greediest organs in the body in terms of the energy it needs to run. It influences our diet by generating the cravings we all experience. The food we put in our mouths has a very direct effect on all the grey matter lurking above. And the brain does something rather ingenious with all this sensory input. We all have a series of interconnections in our brains called the reward pathway. This allows us to make pleasant associations between the food we eat, who we eat it with, and where we eat it–and these feelings keep us coming back for more.

 

 

Has the federal government overstepped its authority? “American Patriot” says yes

Drawing on deep access to key people on all sides of the battle, Frontline: American Patriot (PBS Distribution) investigates the standoffs that propelled the Bundy family into the national spotlight and the crosshairs of the federal government. With “Patriot” groups that rallied to the Bundys’ cause surging to levels not seen in decades, the film also reports on what’s next for the family and the wider movement around them. The riveting documentary will be available on DVD June 13; the program will also be available for digital download.

 

The effort traces the Bundy family’s story as ranchers in the high deserts of Nevada, grazing cattle for generations on federal land and ultimately going to war against the government.

Now, their fight has become a lot bigger.

What began as one family’s dispute with the government over grazing fees has reinvigorated a national movement of self-styled militias and “Patriots.” They believe the federal government has overstepped its authority, strayed from its founding principles, and is filled with agents they are duty-bound to oppose. They call themselves Oath Keepers, Constitutional Sheriffs, sovereign citizens, Three Percenters. And while each group has its own cause, they rally under the same banner: opposition to federal overreach.

Over the past several years, many of these “Patriots” have answered the Bundys’ call, taking up arms to defend against what they see as government infringement of their rights as American citizens. In 2014, armed men faced down the federal government at the Bundy ranch when agents came to impound their cattle. In the end, the federal agents backed down. Then, last year, armed “Patriots” again joined Ammon and Ryan when they occupied a federal wildlife preserve in Oregon to protest the imprisonment of fellow ranchers, the Hammonds, who were convicted of starting fires on federal lands. Last October, Ammon, Ryan and five other supporters were acquitted of federal charges relating to the occupation. A trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin next month.

 American Patriot and the accompanying written and audio story helps audiences to understand the Bundys, their fight and the people who have rallied to their cause.

‘Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City’ takes a riveting look at Roman Beverly Hills

Beneath the turquoise waves of the Bay of Naples lies an extraordinary underwater archeology site, the ancient Roman city of Baiae. From the first century to the third century AD, Baiae was the exclusive playground for the rich and powerful among Rome’s elite. What made Baiae such a special place? What really went on there? And why did it disappear?

For the first time, an international team of scientists, archaeologists and historians is meticulously mapping the underwater ruins and piecing together evidence that could provide answers to these questions in the riveting documentary Secrets of the Dead: Nero’s Sunken City. The DVD will be available on May 9; the program will also be available for digital download.

While some of Baiae’s ruins remain intact on land, more than half of this coastal city is submerged under water. These underwater ruins are three times the size of those in Pompeii. Archaeologists have found a network of roads, miles of brick walls and villas with rich marble floors, and splendid mosaics. But what they haven’t found are any identifiable public buildings, no forum, temple or market place.

The remains consist of one vast luxury villa after another–a Roman Beverly Hills–with elaborate spas and water features, marble statues inspired by Greek art, ponds for farming fish and more. The villas were like mini-cities. No expense was spared to create these seaside vacation homes where barges floating in the bay were the site of raucous parties.

More than any other emperor, Nero was infamous for his hedonism and Baiae was his escape. Here, he could indulge in his sadistic fantasies. But Baiae was more than a place of opulence, the Las Vegas of its day. It was also the site of some of the most treacherous political dealings of ancient Rome with Emperor Nero and his enemies hatching deadly plots against each other.

What lengths was Nero willing to take to gain his Aunt Domitia’s villa? What plans did Gaius Calpurnius Piso, a wealthy nobleman, have for the emperor as he vacationed at his villa?  What scheme did Nero devise in Baiae to end the power struggle with his mother?

In the fourth century AD, seismic activity caused half of Baiae to sink into the bay. Located 150 miles south of Rome, Baiae remains one of the least explored places in the Roman Empire. Until now.