Somehow, human beings have found a way to exist alongside Mother Nature’s most breath-taking creations. What makes these Natural Wonders so extreme? What are the challenges to human survival within them? And what helps and what hinders us in that struggle?
Answer (and stunning photography) are found with PBS Distribution’s Earth’s Natural Wonders: Season 2: Life at the Extremes. This program, presented in partnership with the BBC, takes viewers to parts of the natural world that nature has carved out on such a scale that they beggar belief.
Vast mountain ranges, impenetrable rainforests and dazzling tropical islands—places where nature is visible at its most primal, most powerful, and most extraordinarily beautiful. For human beings, survival within these wonders can pose extraordinary challenges. Yet in even the most extreme and remote parts of our planet people do survive.
American Masters—Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lives in now on DVD and Digital HD. The new program, co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s remarkable on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself.
During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Williams earned many nicknames—The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame, but the only nickname that he wanted was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” In that pursuit, he combined his preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball and in the process elevated the science of hitting in ways still emulated today.
Through never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and award-winning broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg, the program demonstrates the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished. Lesser-known topics explored int eh film include Williams’ Mexican-American background, his experiences serving during World War II and the Korean War, and his deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother.
Narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Jon Hamm, the documentary also looks at the legendary player’s impact on the game of baseball and his relevance in the almost 60 years since his retirement, highlighted by Williams’ iconic achievement—he is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players—including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto—share how Williams’ philosophy, commitment to greatness and approach to hitting influenced them in the film.
It is from New Zealand, a six-part mini-series based on the life of mountaineer and philanthropist Sir Edmund Hillary. Capturing Hillary’s life of incredible bravery and heartbreaking tragedy, the program lovingly and vividly brings back to life the man New Zealander’s affectionately called “Sir Ed.”
The saga is available on DVD from PBS Distribution.
Based on thousands of hours of exclusive interviews, Hillary tells the story of the first man to conquer Mt. Everest. The program recounts his beekeeping days in South Auckland, to his ascent of the world’s highest mountain with climbing partner Tenzing Norgay, to the plane crash that killed his wife and daughter.
When he summited Everest in May 1953 and, as he told it, “knocked the bastard off,” Hillary put his small home country on the map. He was so beloved in New Zealand that his likeness is featured on the five-dollar note, and he was given a state funeral after his 2008 death.
Andrew Munro stars as Hillary, while Dean O’Gorman plays George Lowe, his longtime friend and climbing partner, and Amy Usherwood plays his wife, Lady Louise Hillary.
Filmed over the course of two distinct seasons, The Outback is a new three-part series that explores the people and animals of Australia’s Kimberley region in North West Australia, a vast, rugged and remote wilderness bursting with character. As large as California, the Kimberley has a population of only about 40,000 people, living alongside animals so superbly adapted to the harsh and beautiful extremes of their habitat. It’s a spectacular adventure into the life of Australia’s unique and precious North West corner.
Catch the adventures on the PBS Distribution on DVD, though you have to save the date: It will be released August 2.
Episodes for this program include:
The Kimberley Comes Alive The Kimberley region in North West Australia boasts some of the most spectacular wilderness—and tough characters—in existence. As the wet season comes to an end, the humans and the creatures begin their adventures across this diverse and surprising landscape. From tiny, orphaned joeys to majestic ospreys, survival takes guts (and sometimes even the huge hearts of humans to care for them). It’s a land where humans and animals live in dangerous, and exquisite, proximity.
The Dry Season
It might be the dry season but there’s no rest in the Outback: there are turtle eggs to be laid, saltwater crocodiles to dodge and young birds on maiden flights. Cattle must be mustered from the far corners of vast cattle properties and, when that is done, rodeos spring into action. More quietly, archaeologists are led through remote wilderness by traditional owners, revealing breathtaking galleries of ancient rock art. Out at sea, elite athletes dive the ocean depths in the name of the world’s most spectacular pearl, risking dangerous encounters with curious giants. While mother to marsupials, Mandy Watson, sets her babies free.
Return of the Wet Inland Kimberley is now so stiflingly hot, everything and everyone moves with caution with the exception of gold diggers Honest John and Steve. The region’s remaining waterholes are packed with animals, forced dangerously close together. Windjana Gorge is a prime example–a pristine oasis where brave humans wade into crocodile-infested water in the name of science. The coast is also a place to congregate. Thousands of shorebirds arrive from the world’s longest single migration, only to be blasted with nets by crafty bird lovers. The humidity builds until the skies finally explode with thunder and rain. Nyul Nyul ranger Albert Wiggan sings a welcome to the life it brings and arrival of a new season in his ancient land.
PBS Distribution flies high with Kingdoms of the Sky, a landmark three-part series, presented in partnership with the BBC, reveals the extraordinary animals and remarkable people who make a home on the iconic mountain ranges of the world, including the Himalaya, the Rockies and the Andes.
It’s now available on DVD and the Blu-ray edition hits Blu-ray on August 7.
Episodes for this program include:
Himalaya Meet the extraordinary wildlife and people of the Himalaya–the highest mountain range on earth, where the air is the thinnest, the wind the strongest, the storms the fiercest. The higher you climb, the tougher it gets to survive. See snub-nosed monkeys, snow leopards on the prowl, and Tibetan monks performing ancient rituals high in the mountains.
Rockies The Rockies stretch 3000 miles across a beautiful wilderness of snow-capped peaks and hidden valleys. It is home to cougars, wolverines, wolves, and grizzlies, and where daredevil wingsuit fliers jump from high peaks and Native Americans compete in breakneck horse races.
Andes The longest mountain range on the planet holds dozens of hidden worlds, from the driest desert on Earth to cloud forests teeming with life. Pumas hunt guanaco, shape-shifting frogs hide in remote forests, and the descendants of Inca build bridges of grass. Magnificent snow sculptures, huge salt lakes, and spectacular peaks are all found in these rugged peaks.
Mother Nature, with some help from PBS Distribution, has two new hot NATURE titles: Nature: Shark Mountain and Nature: The World’s Most Wanted Animal on DVD and Digital HD. Both titles are also available now on Digital HD.
Nature: Shark Mountain In the dead of the night, a team of filmmakers jump into the ocean to film hunting behavior on the reef. But first, they must make it through a pack of as many as 50 large and dangerous sharks gathering just below the surface. It is not a dive that many would make. But with Howard and Michele Hall, two of the world’s leading underwater filmmakers, something incredible is always just about to happen.
Thousands of sharks–silkies, white tips, black tips and hammerheads–hunt along the volcanic reefs of Cocos Island, so many that the island has also become known as Shark Mountain. But the waters around this tiny outpost in the Pacific are filled with ocean life so rich and diverse that the island and a twelve-mile zone all around it has been designated a Costa Rican National Park and World Heritage Site.
Shot in spectacular high definition video, the program takes viewers on the underwater journey of a lifetime, showing the wonders of Cocos. Yet it is a world that is disappearing as the years pass, for even places as remote and protected as Cocos are at risk in today’s world.
Nature: The World’s Most Wanted Animal Pangolins are often described as “the most endangered animal you’ve never heard of.” The world’s only scaly mammal, pangolins are now trafficked at a higher rate than rhinos, elephants and tigers combined, for medicinal use in China, Thailand and Vietnam. Very little is known about even their most basic biology, and this is hampering conservation efforts–pangolins almost always die in captivity. In Namibia, conservationist Maria Diekmann found herself on the frontline of the battle to save these wanted animals after unexpectedly becoming a surrogate mother to an orphaned baby pangolin named Honey Bun.
On an emotional journey, Diekmann travels to Asia to better understand the global issues facing pangolins, before joining forces with a Chinese megastar to help build a campaign to bring awareness to the plight of these surprisingly charming creatures.
Yep, they are the best.
A new series from PBS Distribution takes audiences on a lively exploration of American architecture, design and urban planning. Hosted by Geoffrey Baer and produced by Dan Protess, the series illustrates how our built environment came to be and how our monuments, streets and modern marvels reflect our nation’s history, values, ingenuity and hopes for the future. Take a tour of the places where American history was born.
Episodes for this program include: 10 Monuments That Changed America
Explore the stories behind ten wholly-original American monuments and the historical moments that inspired them. From the Statue of Liberty to Mount Rushmore, and from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the AIDS Quilt, discover pivotal moments in the evolution of American monuments when daring artists found new ways to honor our history.
10 Streets That Changed America
Trace the 400-year evolution of Broadway in New York from a Native American road to a poster child for the “complete streets” movement of the future. Also visit the Boston Post Road; St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans; and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. It’s an episode about how streets have connected the nation, divided communities, and changed the way Americans live, work and shop.
10 Modern Marvels That Changed America
Meet arrogant engineers who have scoffed at the laws of nature and defied naysayers by undertaking amazing feats of engineering. Each story in this episode includes a fun physics lesson and a tale of human folly, from the Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway System, to the Holland Tunnel and Eads Bridge. Find out which 10 modern marvels made the list.
We are always gushing over programs, documentaries, shows, specials, films and mini-series that are released on Blu-ray and DVD by PBS Distribution. And with good reason. They are always riveting. Here are two that could easily fall through the cracks. Take note!
Through the eyes of servicemen and women, GI Jews: Jewish Americans in WWII brings to life the little-known story of Jews in World War II—as active participants in the fight against Hitler, bigotry and intolerance. These men and women were religious and secular, Zionists, socialists, even pacifists. Some had been in America for generations; others were recent immigrants, with close family members left behind in Hitler’s Europe. Their extraordinary experiences are at the heart of the film, telling the story of World War II from a uniquely Jewish perspective.
Like all Americans, they fought against fascism, but they also fought a more personal fight– to save their brethren in Europe. In the midst of it all, they battled anti-Semitism within the ranks of the U.S. military, facing slurs and violence from their fellow servicemen. In the end, the story of the Jewish GIs is the story of becoming American; the story of immigrants who earned their citizenship by shedding blood and fought for democracy and tolerance abroad and at home.
Meet the men and women who make their living cleaning our shoes. From the brash street shiners of New York City, to the masked shoe shine boys of La Paz, this program takes viewers around the world to give viewers an insider’s perspective of this overlooked profession. The Art of the Shine introduces the people who do this job and the chance to see the world through their eyes.
Viewers discover that despite being literally and figuratively “looked down upon” by society, shoe shiners universally take great pride in their work. They like the freedom that comes with being their own bosses and enjoy interacting with customers who always walk away happy. People around the world have turned to shoe shining to provide for themselves and their families. These are their stories. Step into their world. You’ll never look at a shoe shiner the same way again.
The plot opens on the Italian front near the end of World War II. British Captain Michael Berryman saves the life of a wounded fellow officer and recognizes him as Thomas March, an old schoolmate, now serving as an official war artist. Though engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Flora, Michael feels a powerful attraction to Thomas, who feels the same way. After the artist’s recuperation, the two share a brief, passionate encounter before parting.
With the war over, Michael looks up Thomas in London, and they spend a liberating, amorous weekend at Michael’s rundown country cottage. There, Thomas sketches Michael for a painting that will become “Man in an Orange Shirt.” In an era when homosexuality in England was punished by prison, there is no hope of living together. Furthermore, Michael feels honor-bound to marry Flora, and he asks Thomas to be his best man. This sets the stage for a turbulent marriage, not least because Flora suspects nothing about her fiancé’s sexual preference.
The second half of the drama skips two generations to the present day. Michael and Thomas have died, and Flora keeps house with her grandson, Adam, a young veterinarian active in London’s gay hookup scene—a subject Flora carefully avoids.
Into Adam’s restless life comes Steve, an architect eager for a stable relationship and intrigued by the challenge of fixing up the cottage that Adam has been given by Flora—the same place where Michael and Thomas spent their idyllic weekend six decades earlier. The times change, the laws change, the technology changes (as illustrated by Adam’s addiction to dating apps), but the problem of love, commitment, and acceptance is as persistent and formidable as ever.
It’s not just Adam and Steve who face this dilemma. Flora, too, has unfinished business with the past.
Such is the wonder of MASTERPIECE: Man in an Orange Shirt (PBS Distribution), a critically-acclaimed film that portrays a pair of love stories, 60 years apart, linked by family ties, sexual identity, and a mysterious painting. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray June 19; The program will also be available for digital download.
Scripted by bestselling novelist Patrick Gale, the film was a two-part original drama which formed part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia season. Man in the Orange Shirt was broadcast to wide critical acclaim in the UK in 2017 for the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality.
Playing the star-crossed lovers are Oliver Jackson-Cohen, James McArdle, Julian Morris and David Gyasi. Joining Vanessa Redgrave are Joanna Vanderham, Laura Carmichael, Julian Sands, Frances de la Tour, Adrian Schiller and Joanna David.
Fly high this summer withNature: Sex, Lies & Butterflies, now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD from PBS Distribution. Butterflies have been flying around our planet for more than 50 million years, and today around 20,000 different species inhabit the globe. This program, narrated by Paul Giamatti, follows their lives from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the emergence of the full-blown, winged creature.
Explore their astonishing survival techniques, including 360° vision, deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry and fantastic flight. Through sophisticated macro-filming, look beyond the butterflies’ bright colors and fragile beauty to follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth.
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