Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels the length and breadth of Africa to chronicle the continent’s history from a firmly African perspective. Viewers can join him as Professor Gates’ journey takes him from the city of Great Zimbabwe to the pyramids of the Kingdom of Kush in Sudan, from the spectacular rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia to the continent’s oldest university in Fez, from the Blombos Caves in South Africa to Ancient Mali, the empire of King Mansa Musa, still thought to be the wealthiest person ever to have lived.
No passport needed, just a copy ofAfrica’s Great Civilizations, available on DVD and Blu-ray on May 16; the program will also be available for digital download.
In the program, Gates chronicles a sweeping 200,000-year journey of discovery, showing the complexity, grandeur and diversity of many millennia of undiscussed and unknown details about Africa’s compelling and dramatic history. Gates presents—for the first time for a popular audience—a new vision not only of Africa’s pivotal place in world history, but also the world’s relation to Africa.
Africa’s contributions to the human community’s development of art and language, writing and religion, agriculture and government, the arts and sciences are commonly misunderstood, or even ignored. This landmark series presents a new and comprehensive narrative about Africa and the history of the extraordinary diverse peoples of its continent, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Cape of Good Hope, from the Red Sea and down the Nile River, and from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. The series sizzles with exciting interviews with leading historians, creative writers, art historians, paleoanthropologists, geneticists and museum curators.
“Africa is the ancestral home to the human community and to many of the pivotal breakthroughs in the history of civilization, yet the continent continues to be stereotyped as an isolated and underdeveloped region in the mind of outsiders, devoid of any profound historical achievements,” says Gates. “This series will dispel these myths and other inaccuracies about Africa through a detailed and riveting examination of significant historical events, such as the rise of its powerful kingdoms, the growth of extensive trade networks with the Middle East, Europe and China, seminal technological and artistic discoveries, and its peoples’ resilience in the face of harrowing past traumas. We made this series to end this ignorance about the African past, to reveal how Africans not only shaped the history of their continent, but also how profoundly and how extensively Africa has shaped the contours of our modern world.”
Beginning deep in the continent’s past with the origins of Homo sapiens and the “Out of Africa” migration of all of our human ancestors from east Africa, Gates vividly paints a picture of the earliest African civilizations—from Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush to the end of the 19th century as Africans faced Europe’s infamous “Scramble for Africa”—through their artistic and cultural achievements, their religious practices and political and social structures. Viewers examine the origins of the first human beings in Africa and the art and writing they created, and are introduced to unique environmental marvels such as the Gilf Kebir plateau, Jebal Barkal, the major climatic transformation of the Sahara Desert, and the emergence of cities in Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, South Africa, Great Zimbabwe, Angola, Benin, Ghana, Morocco and beyond. In terms of cultural and artistic innovation, the program looks at how the sculptors of West Africa exhibited craftsmanship rivaling that of European masters, and how the early Christian church—both through its theology and Christianity’s most architecturally stunning foundations—was nurtured in African cities like Alexandria, in Nubia along the banks of the Nile River and in Ethiopia. The crucial role of Africa in the evolution of Islam, and Islam’s major shaping role throughout North and West Africa, are subjects addressed with vigor throughout the series.
Africa’s history and its rich culture did not develop in isolation—it is and was greatly influenced by complex interactions with the rest of the world, since the most ancient of times. Gates shows how Africa’s interactions with foreign civilizations and ideas transformed these trading partners, and how African societies and cultures themselves were shaped through these extended contacts, including the arrival of Islam in medieval North Africa and Western Sudan and the rise of a maritime civilization on the East African coast, which regularly traded with Persian and Chinese visitors. Trade in salt and gold across the Sahara placed Africa in contact with Europe and the Middle East for millennia. Further, Africa was an epicenter of Christian theology and philosophy, reflected in the influential thinking of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century, and in travel accounts of such Islamic scholars as Leo Africans and Ibn Battuta.
The series also examines the ancient African kingdoms’ increasingly complex relationships with the political economies of Europe and the burgeoning trans-Atlantic slave trade, and how these interactions began to change the internal dynamics of the continent. Finally, the series draws to a close at the end of the 19th century, when the infamous “Scramble for Africa” witnesses the industrial nations of Europe fighting for control of the vast riches of Africa’s natural resources, and when on the Plains of Adwa, Ethiopia makes a heroic stand against an invading colonial power.
The 16th--century legend of King Henry VIII is turned on its crowned head as the dramatic stories of his six tumultuous marriages are told from the wives’ perspectives in Secrets of the Six Wives (PBS Distribution). The fascinating documentary will be available on DVD March 14; the program will also be available for digital download.
With extraordinary attention to detail–including actual first-person accounts pulled from historical records and secrets and stories from the women who surrounded each Queen–the program offers an ambitious approach to the oft-told tales.
Led by UK author and historian Lucy Worsley, who moves seamlessly from the present to the past and appears throughout the series as an observer and commenter on the happenings at court, the program gives history a new point of view. Worsley is the Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, and a face familiar to British audiences as a regular historical contributor to BBC, whose best-selling books bring new angles on centuries of British history.
The series’ three episodes follows the trajectory of a well-known British nursery rhyme used to teach children the order of the six wives, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” Additional information about each of the episodes included on this DVD are below:
Episode 1 Young Henry is smitten with Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon, who became his first wife, until her “inability” to deliver a suitable heir destroyed their marriage. Henry’s wandering eye leads him to Mary Boleyn then to her sister, the infamous Anne Boleyn, as he begins divorcing his first wife.
Episode 2 Viewers learn that Anne Boleyn was not necessarily the “harlot” described by history, but instead a strong and intelligent woman. After Anne’s famous beheading, King Henry marries his professed “true love” Jane Seymour, who bore the King’s only son but died soon after the child’s birth.
Episode 3 Taking place in Henry’s later years and traces the failed marriages he had with Anne of Cleves, whom he divorced, but who got a very good settlement and ended up as one of the richest women in England, and Catherine Howard, a teenager who Lucy discovers was exploited by older men from a young age. She was also beheaded. Henry remained married to his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, until his death.
Whether as witness to, participant in, or wry commentator on the marital dramas as they unfold, Worsley shines an empathetic light on the featured women and, in doing so, delivers a new take on the legend of King Henry VIII.
Murray says the cast of Secrets of the Six Wives features mostly new faces from the U.K., helping to bring the story a contemporary feel. Starring as the six wives are Paola Bontempi (Katherine of Aragon); Claire Cooper (Anne Boleyn); Elly Condron (Jane Seymour); Rebecca Dyson Smith (Anne of Cleves); Lauren McQueen (Catherine Howard); and Alice Patten (Katherine Parr). Notable veteran actor Richard Ridings (who voices the character of Daddy in the popular children’s show Peppa Pig) appears as the older King Henry VIII in episode 3. Scott Arthur plays Young King Henry VIII in episodes 1 and 2.
On Thanksgiving Day 1950, American-led United Nations troops were on the march in North Korea. U.S. Marine and Air Force pilots distributed holiday meals, even to those on the front lines. Hopes were high that everyone would be home by Christmas. But soon after that peaceful celebration, American military leaders, including General Douglas MacArthur, were caught off guard by the entrance of the People’s Republic of China, led by Mao Zedong, into the five-month-old Korean War.
Twelve thousand men of the First Marine Division, along with a few thousand Army soldiers, suddenly found themselves surrounded, outnumbered and at risk of annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, high in the mountains of North Korea. The two-week battle that followed, fought in brutally cold temperatures, is one of the most celebrated in Marine Corps annals and helped set the course of American foreign policy in the Cold War and beyond. Incorporating interviews with more than 20 veterans of the campaign, American Experience: Battle of Chosin recounts this epic conflict through the heroic stories of the men who fought it.
The PBS Distribution documentary will be available on DVD on January 24; the program will also be available for digital download.
The events that led to the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir started five months earlier when Korea unexpectedly became the battleground for the first hot conflict of the Cold War. Split across the middle at the 38th parallel in the political settlement that followed World War II, the Korean peninsula had solidified into separate states by 1950.
The two new governments symbolized the rising struggle between the world’s dominant political ideologies: democracy and communism. The Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s new Communist China supported North Korea while South Korea had the backing of the United States and other Western democracies. This balance of power held until June 25, 1950, when North Korea led a surprise attack against South Korea and quickly overran most of the Korean peninsula.
The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution to end the hostilities in Korea and authorized the United States military to lead a multi-national force against North Korea. President Harry Truman told the world that the United States would take “whatever steps were necessary” to contain Communist expansion in Korea. This included the possibility of unleashing nuclear weapons on China. Fears of World War III filled the news.
Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, American-led forces had turned back North Korea’s aggression. MacArthur then set his sights on quickly pushing north to the Chinese border and reuniting the country under democratic rule. On the eve of MacArthur’s final offensive, the First Marine Division was strung out on a single 78-mile-long supply route leading to the Chosin Reservoir.
Mao Zedong had won a long and deadly civil war a year earlier and united China under the communist flag. When MacArthur’s UN forces threatened his border in the fall of 1950, Mao decided to act. By late November 1950, tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers had quietly infiltrated North Korea and surrounded MacArthur’s forces. On the night of November 27, Mao sprung his trap at the Chosin Reservoir.
The worst of the Chinese onslaught landed on the forces encamped in the hills around the Chosin Reservoir—the First Marine Division, under the command of General Oliver P. Smith, and a small, attached Army unit. Night after night, Mao’s army swept down from the hills and attacked the vastly outnumbered American troops.
The only hope for the surrounded men was to fight their way back to the coast, a perilous journey into the teeth of a subarctic winter, through tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers waiting in the high ground above the single road out. For the next two weeks, General Smith’s men fought brutal battles against the Chinese in some of the harshest conditions American forces had ever experienced. Dead bodies, frozen in grotesque and contorted shapes, littered the battlefield. Finally, 14,000 surviving troops made their way back to safety.
The carefully staged withdrawal succeeded and also inflicted devastating losses on the enemy. Two Chinese divisions were entirely destroyed, and an estimated 40,000 Chinese soldiers were killed.
Thousands of North Korean refugees were also fleeing south, many trailing the column of Marines. Nearly 100,000 refugees were part of the massive evacuation of American and UN troops out of North Korea.
It’s certainly a hot topic: The coldest and snowiest places on earth pose a challenge to anyone visiting such locations as the Arctic Circle or Antarctica, but what about the year-round animal population? How do they cope for many months with life in these frozen wonderlands where temperatures can plummet to as low as minus 50 degrees?
In Nature: Snowbound: Animals of Winter (PBS Distribution), Gordon Buchanan, a wildlife cameraman used to filming in frigid lands around the globe, explains how creatures like the wolf, Arctic fox, bison, reindeer, lynx, weasel, polar bear, penguin, Weddell seal and woolly bear caterpillar adapt to their surroundings or employ clever tactics to survive in these extreme climates. The documentary will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7; the program will also be available for digital download.
In the opening segment, Buchanan is seen calmly stroking the thick coat of a wolf in Norway’s Polar Park where wolves have grown up with humans. He shows how the wolf’s fine hairs provide much needed insulation, while its longer, outer hairs repel snow and water. Also helping to reduce a wolf’s heat loss, despite its paws being in constant contact with ice and snow, is an ingenious adaptation: An image displayed on a thermal camera illustrates that as a wolf’s warm blood flows down its leg, it cools down. This means only cold blood stays within the paws and all the warm blood can remain within the body.
The Arctic fox however has a different solution to keeping warm during the winter months: its thin brown summer coat undergoes an amazing transformation to one that is white, very fluffy and 200 percent thicker, the warmest coat of all arctic mammals.
The film also cites hibernation as another cold weather strategy practiced by several animals including the brown bear, ground squirrel, and polar bear. Buchanan explains that even though a female polar bear’s heart rate drops dramatically in hibernation and she doesn’t eat or drink and relies solely on fat reserves, she can still give birth during this time. The cubs are kept warm by her body heat and grow quickly due to their mother’s extremely fatty milk. The wildlife cameraman is on hand as tiny twin cubs crawl out of their winter den to explore the outside world.
Possessing super senses gives other animals an edge when it comes to successfully hunting prey during the big freeze. Buchanan describes how a lynx can use its keen vision to spot a mouse 80 yards away or the benefits a reindeer has with ultra violet vision. He also remarks on how the great grey owl employs its super sensitive hearing to detect the movement of mice or voles beneath two feet of snow. Similarly, a young Arctic fox can pick up the faint sound of lemmings under the snow. To nab its unseen victim, the fox performs a special pouncing technique known as mousing. Buchanan says foxes align their pounce to the earth’s magnetic field in order to pinpoint the right spot for the kill. The film concludes with the remarkable metamorphosis of the Arctic woolly bear caterpillar that spends most of its life frozen stiff during the winter months and miraculously thaws itself in the spring, as if rising from the dead.
Whether it’s undergoing a physical adaptation, using super senses, employing clever tactics to gain the advantage, or just being built for frigid conditions, these animals of winter not only subsist, but thrive in some of the coldest places on earth.
PBS Distribution will be releasing a DVD that has been dubbed being called “an urgent wake-up call” about the national threat posed by Alzheimer’s disease. Many know the unique tragedy of this disease, but few know that Alzheimer’s is one of the most critical public health crises facing America. The powerful documentary Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts illuminates the social and economic consequences for the country unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease.
Save the date: The documentary will be available on DVD February 21; the program will also be available for digital download.
There are more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the growing number of aging baby boomers, and the fact that the onset of Alzheimer’s is primarily age-related, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is projected to rise by 55% by 2030; by 2050 the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the total number could explode to nearly 14 million.
This “tsunami” of Alzheimer’s will not only be a profound human tragedy, but an overwhelming economic one as well. Because of the length of time people live with the illness and need care, it’s the most expensive medical condition in the U.S. Future costs for Alzheimer’s threaten to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and the life savings of millions of Americans. It is estimated that if the number of patients increases as projected in the years ahead, the costs to care for them will exceed $1.1 trillion.
With power and passion, the program weaves together the sobering statistics about Alzheimer’s, expert commentary and compelling personal stories filmed around the country that represent previews of the future happening today.
The dreaded day comes Friday, but we found a great new PBS Distribution two-disc DVD that trumps it all: 16 for ’16: The Contenders. The multi-part documentary features candidates in the most contentious and compelling political campaigns of the last 50 years and includes interviews with candidates and their inner circles that offer unexpected human moments and new insights into political battles for the U.S. presidency.
Each part in the program features two candidates whose stories appear vastly different on the surface but share common elements that changed the outcomes of campaigns and the course of history.
16 for ’16: The Contenders will be available on DVD January 24; the program will also be available for digital download.
The program kicks off with one such unlikely pair: 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, the first black American and first female to run for the country’s top post, and Senator John McCain, who ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 primaries and against Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008. Despite extraordinarily different backgrounds, Chisholm and McCain both ran as plain-spoken outsiders. Chisholm’s slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” was underscored by a grassroots approach that saw her teams collecting cash in the streets, while McCain’s image as an outspoken maverick often led him to speak off-the-cuff.
The show depicts game-changing moments in both campaigns: Chisholm’s betrayal by a friend in the House of Representatives who, at the last moment, decided he would not officially nominate her; and a revealing off-camera show-down between McCain and George W. Bush just prior to a live debate.
The second part revisits the campaigns of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and conservative insider Pat Buchanan—men of two divergent perspectives who were seen as insurrectionists within their own parties. Dean provided a voice for furious Democrats who opposed the war in Iraq and brought “participatory democracy” innovations to his campaign, such as the introduction of Internet fundraising that is now a standard part of campaigns.
Buchanan—a so-called “paleo-conservative” insider who served several American presidents and advocated a strong move rightward for the Republican Party—ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination (1992 and 1996) and on the Reform Party ticket in 2000. Despite the strategies, scripts, data analysis and marketing that went into these campaigns, it was, again, the human moments that led to their unpredicted outcomes. For Dean, it was the excitement (and problematic acoustics) that gave rise to his infamous, campaign-imploding “scream.” For Buchanan, who had barely recovered from heart surgery at his first convention in 1992, a decision to go off the party script and detail his concept of a “cultural war” for the soul of America resulted in a speech that many believe divided Republicans and propelled Bill Clinton to the White House.
Pairings for the balance of the series include: Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis; Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson; Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; Ross Perot and Ralph Nader; Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin; and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Featured alongside the candidates, their families and their friends are a who’s who of campaign managers, observers and Washington, D.C., insiders such as Susan Estrich, Karl Rove, Donna Brazile, Karen Hughes and dozens more. Through background stories of groundbreaking campaign moments, fatal missteps, behind-the-scenes insights and lessons learned by each candidate, the series explores deeper questions such as “Can a positive campaign be a winning campaign?” and “Should a single misstep define a campaign and a candidate?”
Listen up, dear readers. This is important news. Even those with a scant knowledge of art know about the moment when artist Vincent van Gogh looked into a mirror, held up a blade and cut into his ear. Ouch! The deed was dramatized by Irving Stone in his best-selling novel Lust for Life, and portrayed vividly by Kirk Douglas in the 1956 film.
But did Stone get it right? What did van Gogh really do on the fateful night of December 23, 1888 in the town of Arles in southern France? Afterwards, there was a successful effort by his family to play down the event. His friend, artist Paul Gauguin, who was present, gave conflicting accounts. Still others tried to profit from his local infamy. Generations have theorized about what really happened, but no one has unearthed the true details. Until now.
Answers lie in Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh’s Ear (PBS Distribution), available on DVD January 17. The program will also be available for digital download.
The program offers fascinating evidence discovered by Bernadette Murphy, an independent researcher living in Provence, France. Murphy had long been intrigued by van Gogh’s story and spent seven years piecing together a meticulous picture of his life in Arles; person by person, house by house, exploring closely his friends and his enemies.
Her detective work uncovered definitive long-lost evidence, which graphically reveals exactly what happened that night, who was involved and how it ultimately shaped van Gogh’s remarkable art. Murphy finally provides answers to the mystery that has divided art historians for decades.
The program focuses on van Gogh’s time in Arles including the visit from Gauguin which proved to be life-changing, weaving together a detailed timeline of the momentous events. Following Murphy’s meticulous research and a reexamination of van Gogh’s work, the film reveals the artist’s roller coaster of emotions and his mental health, placing his actions in proper context for the first time.
The new year is a a mere fast forward away, but PBS Distribution has already a list of upcoming DVDs they are releasing that demand you to write “Save the Date” on your new 2017 calendar . . . and spend the you found in your money found in stocking hanging from the mantle.
Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge (Available now) Three thousand years ago, the Egyptians were building the pyramids, but little is known about what was going on in Europe during this same time. Scholars have long believed that nothing nearly as advanced was happening in Britain. Could a new discovery prove historians wrong?
On the edge of Must Farm Quarry in an area southeast of Britain known as the Fens, archaeologists are uncovering the charred remains of a 3,000-year-old English settlement.
The program follows a team of archeologists, scientists, historians and specialists, as they shed new light on the ancient history of the western world. Perfectly preserved in mud, the prehistoric British Bronze Age Village–built at least one thousand years after Stonehenge–has been called the “British Pompeii.”
Because the site is so delicate, the experts have been working in secret inside the quarry. But now they are rushing to complete their work and map the site before the land is returned for its owner’s use. Have their findings forever changed what we know about life in Bronze Age Britain? What revelations about the villager’s lives can be gleaned from the cache of finds, unprecedented in number and quality, emerging from the marshy Fens?
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth (on sale January 3)
All around us is Earth’s bounty—spectacular mountains, Caribbean blue oceans and abundant, delicious food crops. But what we can see is only a part of the riches Earth provides. Its hidden assets are some of our most important natural resources and they have helped shape humankind.
The program is a three-part series that takes us on a journey deep inside the Earth to uncover the mysteries of how these treasures were created and explores how they have allowed humans to evolve and build great civilizations.
Projections of America (January 3) During the darkest hour of WWII, a team of idealistic filmmakers hoped the power of the movies could reshape the world. Led by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Robert Riskin, the filmmakers created 26 short documentaries about American life shown to millions of people around the world. The films told stories of cowboys and oilmen, farmers and window washers, immigrants and school children, capturing the optimism and messiness of American democracy.
The gorgeously crafted films were idealized versions of what America could be, created by politically engaged filmmakers who while fighting tyranny abroad, wanted also to fundamentally change America itself. But 70 years later, the films have disappeared. John Lithgow narrates this story of war, idealism and the power of cinema. This emotionally charged story is told through rare and evocative archival materials, including pristine new transfers of the propaganda films themselves, interwoven with interviews with filmmakers, audience members, and film critics.
FRONTLINE: Confronting Isis (January 3) One of the biggest foreign policy challenges America’s next president will face is the battle against ISIS. Where does the U.S.-led fight against the terror group stand today?
In the special, FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith travels to five countries with key roles in the anti-ISIS fight—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey—to report on successes, failures and challenges as ISIS loses ground in the region but strikes out with attacks abroad. Beginning with the fall of Mosul to ISIS in 2014, the program deeply examines two years of American-led efforts to defeat ISIS, taking viewers step-by-step through a number of initiatives involving different regional players. Smith gains rare access across the region and beyond. In the process, he finds a fundamental problem: At times, the White House’s narrow focus on defeating ISIS hasn’t always aligned with the top issues faced by America’s allies—om how to deal with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to Saudi Arabia’s fears about Iran, to the war in Yemen, to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict.
Puppy Power (January 10) This fun-filled DVD includes four puppy-packed Super Why! adventures. Join Woofster and the Super Readers for exciting adventures where they save other troubled pets, explore a comic book that Whyatt created called “The Missing Princess of Pet City,” and learn to concentrate by overcoming distractions! This collection of stories features tons of new furry friends and will inspire kids to go on reading adventures. Super Why! helps kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures. The program features a team of superhero characters with reading powers who jump into books to find answers to everyday preschool challenges.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Command and Control (January 10) A cautionary tale of freak accidents, near misses, human fallibility and extraordinary heroism, the program exposes the terrifying truth about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal and shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us.
The film recounts, in chilling, minute-by-minute detail, the story of a deadly 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas. Through the first-person accounts of Air Force personnel, weapon designers and first responders who were on the scene, the film reveals the unlikely chain of events that caused the accident and the feverish efforts to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States—600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
On the evening of September 18, 1980, Airmen David F. Powell and Jeffrey L. Plumb were performing routine maintenance at the Titan II silo in Damascus, Arkansas. At the age of 21, Powell was considered a highly experienced missile technician; Plumb, who had just turned 19, was still in training. As the two stood on a platform near the top of the Titan II, a socket fell from Powell’s wrench, plummeted 70 feet and, shockingly, punctured the missile. A stream of highly explosive rocket fuel began pouring into the silo.
Nothing like this had ever happened to a Titan II before and the Air Force had no procedures in place to deal with the event. For the next eight hours, the leadership of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) frantically struggled to figure out how to prevent a massive explosion and retain control of the thermonuclear warhead—a weapon so powerful that it could destroy much of Arkansas and deposit lethal radioactive fallout across the East Coast.
A cautionary tale filmed in an abandoned Titan II missile silo in Arizona, Command and Control forces viewers to confront the great dilemma that the U.S. has faced since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do we manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?
Odd Squad: The Movie(January 24) Odd indeed! This is the first-ever movie from the Emmy-winning live-action PBS KIDS series from The Fred Rogers Company. When a rival agency called Weird Team, led by Weird Tom, arrives on the scene with a gadget that fixes any odd problem, Odd Squad suddenly finds it doesn’t have any cases to solve and goes out of business.
The agents close shop and go back to their lives as regular kids. Using math and teamwork, they soon uncover that Weird Team’s gadget isn’t actually fixing the problems around town, but only covering them up. Olympia and Otis join forces with Olive and Otto to stop Weird Team–and save the world from destruction!
MASTERPIECE: Victoria (January 31) Jenna Coleman stars as the young Queen Victoria at the outset of her epic reign, which set the stage for an entire era that would be named in her honor. Scripted by bestselling novelist Daisy Goodwin, the series follows Victoria from her accession to the throne at age 18, through her education in politics, courtship and marriage, Victoria paints a portrait of a monarch who was raised to be the pawn of her powerful elders but who wasted no time in showing the empire who was in charge.
Goodwin imaginatively depicts what it was like for an ill-educated, emotionally deprived teenager to wake up one morning and find that she is the most powerful woman in the world. That it happened at all was practically a miracle. Victoria was queen only by virtue of ill luck and unfruitful marriages on the part of her uncles, who failed to produce legitimate heirs to the crown. Furthermore, her immediate predecessors were so disliked as kings that the institution of the monarchy seemed to be doomed.
Goodwin has been careful to stay faithful to the facts, while reading between the lines to fill in the gaps where the early Victorians were scrupulously silent. The result is a gripping historical pageant that reveals a side of Victoria that is at odds with her later reputation for prudery and a high moral tone.
We have praised the DVDs releases from PBS Distribution, Lionsgate and Public Media Distribution for years, and this time we offer a wide selection of some of their best releases from 2016 that make super gift choices. Educate and entertain yourself with specials, documentaries and specials that r\demand a place in your library and a place close to the “play again” button! In no particular order we offer. . .
Spillover-Zika, Ebola & Beyond takes us around the globe, where viruses are on the march: Zika, Ebola, Nipah, Chikungunya, Dengue and West Nile. All of these viruses reside in animals and have the potential to “spillover” and infect humans. What’s behind the rise in spillover viruses? Are the United States and the world prepared to anticipate, contain and prevent the next outbreak? The program traces the spread of viruses and reveals strategies to prevent devastating outbreaks. The program features scientists across Africa, Asia, North America and South America who are searching for ways to combat these dangerous diseases.
The program mixes stunning graphics and compelling personal stories to provide much-needed scientific context for the current Zika crisis, the devastating Ebola pandemic and recent Nipah outbreaks. Viewers encounter the new frontiers of disease detection, prevention and containment as they travel the world with virus hunters, whose mission is to identify, track and ultimately control dangerous pathogens. Interspersed throughout the documentary are in-depth interviews with a range of leading researchers, epidemiologists, doctors and public healthcare experts, who shed light on how human behaviors increase spillover events, how science is learning to anticipate and tame spillover events and how the global community must pull together to face the public health threat.
Public Media Distribution’sBlack America Since MLK: And I Still Rise, the series hosted, executive produced and written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In the program Gates looks at the last 50 years of African American history—from Dr. King to Barack Obama, from James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” to Beyoncé’s “Formation”—charting the remarkable progress black people have made and raising hard questions about the obstacles that remain. The series begins at a point in history when the story we tell about ourselves as Americans becomes complicated. Almost every schoolchild today learns about the civil rights movement—about how our nation moved itself forward, against the will of many, out of a shameful past. Yet what has happened since? From here, the series steps out of the sanctified past and into the complex, raw, conflicted present. Today, Barack Obama sits in the White House and African Americans wield influence in every domain, from business to academia to the arts.
At the same time, black people are incarcerated at six times the rate of white people, and due to financial inequality white people now have 13 times the wealth of black people. Many of our schools and neighborhoods are more segregated than they were in 1965, and police killings of unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Baltimore and Baton Rouge recur with tragic frequency—inspiring radically different responses within black and white communities. How did we end up here, when half a century ago racial equality seemed imminent—even inevitable?
The program begins in 1965, in the wake of Malcolm X’s assassination and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was followed five days later by an incendiary explosion of black rage: the Watts riots. It moves on to explore the burgeoning Black Power movement which took much of America (including many old-school black leaders) by surprise, telling stories of Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers and cultural icons like James Brown alongside an exploration of the cultural trends that expressed black pride—from Afros and dashikis to Soul Train. The series continues, charting a wave of new opportunities and new consciousness that would lift African Americans to undreamed-of heights—in Ivy League schools, major corporations, the Supreme Court and even the White House.
Cook’s Country Explores: All-American Recipes: Season 9 features the best regional home cooking in the country and relies on a practical, no-nonsense food approach where family-friendly recipes are scientifically re-imagined for the modern home cook. Join the experts from America’s Test Kitchen as they uncover blue-ribbon regional specialties from across the country, and classic fare in need of a makeover. And as always, find out which cookware, kitchen tools, and supermarket foods are worth the dough, and learn more about the history of American food. Cook’s Country: Season 9 also includes tips and techniques, food tastings, equipment tests and printable versions of all 31 recipes.
Our ancient human ancestors once lived as tiny bands of hunter-gatherers scattered across the vast continent of Africa. Numbering no more than a few thousand, small groups of these intrepid humans began to move out of Africa—eventually reaching every corner of the earth. How did these early humans overcome the world’s most difficult terrain and ultimately dominate the planet? How did our prehistoric forebears acquire the skills, technology and talent to thrive in every environment on earth? How did they cross the furnace of the Sahara survive frigid ice ages or manage to sail to the remotest Pacific islands? The program takes viewers on a spectacular global journey through the past, following our ancestors’ footsteps out of Africa along a trail of fresh scientific clues to help unravel the mystery of how we got where we are. Profound answers are to be found NOVA: GREAT HUMAN ODYSSEY.
Our species has the unique ability to live almost anywhere, in any climate and any terrain. NOVA crisscrosses the world to examine why and how Homo sapiens has spread everywhere—from the far corners of Africa to the Siberian Arctic to the Pacific Islands and the Americas and beyond. The program features interviews with leading historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and geneticists, opening a door to a world of fascinating new discoveries about the origins of us. With unique glimpses of today’s Kalahari hunters, Siberian reindeer herders and Polynesian navigators, NOVA unveils the amazing skills in these traditional hunter-gatherer communities that hint at how our ancestors may have survived and prospered long ago.
Throughout the program, NOVA follows anthropologist Dr. Niobe Thompson as he travels the globe, searching for echoes of the past in the skills of people living in remote and demanding environments—conditions that may be similar to the ones our ancestors had to surmount on their global journey. For decades, anthropologists have been observing such societies trying to understand their social, cultural and spiritual beliefs, and how they live their day-to-day lives—from the food they eat to the natural medicines they use.
Charlie Hebdo. Paris. Brussels. Since January of 2015, a wave of attacks by terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS has overwhelmed Europe, killing nearly 200 people and injuring hundreds more. Could those attacks have been prevented? And why does Europe remain so vulnerable to the terrorism threat? The program tells the inside story of the missteps and systemic breakdowns that allowed known terrorists to strike in the heart of Europe, the problems that persist today, and the unprecedented threat the continent now faces.
In unusually candid interviews, counter-terrorsim veterans tell ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella how the attackers escaped detection, and how European countries have failed to put in place effective intelligence sharing and border enforcement — such as procedures for tracking air travelers that became standard in the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
The program reveals stunning details of many missed chances in the run-up to the attacks. It tells the story of how previously convicted terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo were able to hatch the plot with al Qaeda in Yemen—and of the decision to end surveillance on them. It details how more than a dozen Paris and Brussels attackers shuttled across Europe and back and forth to Syria, crossing borders and fending off police repeatedly—even though most of them were wanted or on watch lists.
Neither pestilence, starvation, nor betrayal can stop Ross Poldark from fighting for justice in his native Cornwall. Aidan Turner returns as the ex-officer, class warrior, lover and mining entrepreneur, called by The New York Times “the noblest, hottest, most down-to-earth hero.”
Also back is co-star Eleanor Tomlinson, playing Demelza, the miner’s daughter who is Ross’ equal in passion, wit, and daring—which is, of course, why they marry. Catch up with the adventures in Poldark Season 2.
New this season—or thrust into prominence from last—are Gabriella Wilde as Caroline Penvenen, a flirtatious young heiress under the watchful eye of her rich uncle, Ray, played by John Nettles; Luke Norrisas earnest young doctor Dwight Enys, who only has time for his patients nd for Caroline; and Henry Garrett as Captain McNeil, Ross’ old comrade from the war, now hunting smugglers and an opportunity to woo a certain married lady.
Viewers of the first season will recall that Ross shocks his relatives and neighbors when he shows up from America, since all had presumed him dead. Then he sets about upending their lives—threatening the copper mining interests of his uncle and cousin, Charles and Francis Poldark, and the rival operation of upstart George Warleggan. He is also ensnared in a romantic web that connects him, Francis, and George to the beautiful Elizabeth. Nevertheless, Ross happily marries Demelza and they have a daughter. But in the final episode of Season 1, an epidemic takes the child away, and a shipwreck and drowning are blamed on Ross.
So at the start of Poldark Season 2, Ross stands accused of murder and “wrecking”—luring a cargo ship to the rocks for plunder. It’s a capital offense, the judge is unsympathetic, hostile witnesses have been bribed and Ross appears headed for the gallows. It’s just the first in a string of suspenseful episodes every bit as precipitous as the steep cliffs of Cornwall.
Cats are one of the most diverse and studied mammals in the world, yet only now is their real identity being understood. Evolutionary tricks and adaptations have contributed to their successful survival. In fact, all 37 species of the cat family behave similarly in the way they hunt, utilizing flexible spines and sharp teeth to catch their prey. No surprise, then, that they are one of the greatest predators since the dinosaurs and are still evolving.
NATURE: The Story of Catschronicles the 11 million year history of how the most widespread carnivore on the planet evolved, from their roots in ancient rainforests to today’s popular house cat. The latest discoveries by scientists studying their physiology and behaviors are also incorporated into the series.
The first episode, Asia to Africa, shows how the first cats arose in the rainforests of Southeast Asia and moved throughout the continent adjusting to other environments such as high altitudes (snow leopard, Pallas’s cat) and frozen forests (Siberian tigers). The film introduces the most ancient type of cat existing today, the rare clouded leopard, whose genetic blueprint is shared by all cats. Learning how to become ambush predators through play is one of the crucial traits that all young members of the cat family must develop in order to survive in the wild. Cubs of species like the clouded leopard don’t have much time to master these skills before their mother forces them out to find their own territories as solitary predators. It is one of the reasons that around nine million years ago, the ancient tree climbing felines began to fan out all over Asia.
The program explains that a drop in sea level about eight million years ago made Africa accessible via the Red Sea land bridges to the adaptable cats. On the African plains, a keen sense of hearing and an ability to jump high were often necessary attributes for these solo hunters to catch prey. The lion however is the only cat who transitioned from being solitary to living in prides with shared responsibilities and defined roles. Experts theorize that early lions figured out they could hold the best hunting grounds if they worked together. The second episode, Into the Americas, traces how the first cats crossed the Bering Strait land bridge from Asia into North America around nine million years ago, competing for food and territory with the early canida ancestors of wolves and foxes.
But the origins of the most successful cat of all, the domestic house cat, lay in the wildcat’s ability to catch mice attracted by grain stored in villages. They made their way from the Mideast to Europe to America serving the same mouser role on trading ships. The program states that a genetic mutation created the first distinct feline breed, the Siamese cat, in Southeast Asia. People then bred domestic cats for the features they wanted, resulting in more than 40 different types of felines. But although cats are still wild at heart, they may evolve yet again if owners want to reduce the time their pets spend hunting.
FOR TV FANS Get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the first two seasons of Outlander with The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official Guide to Seasons One & Two (Delacorte,$50), an official, fully illustrated companion to the hit TV series based on the bestselling novels. Millions of readers captivated by the epic romance of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser have eagerly followed. Now the must-watch drama has inspired this must-have guide, which reveals that it takes a village (or perhaps a Scottish isle) to bring the breathtaking world of Outlander to life in front of our eyes. Spanning the first two seasons of the small-screen, The Making of Outlander leads readers behind the scenes and straight into the action as cast members, writers, producers, musicians, costume designers, set decorators, technicians, and more share the many adventures and challenges they face to make this sweeping saga come alive on the screen.
In the special treat Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas (PBS Distribution), the Wild Kratts crew is resting and relaxing as they get ready for the Wild Kratts Christmas party after a busy year filled with amazing creature adventures. It’s too bad their arch villains Donita Donata, Gaston Gourmand, and Zach Varmitech are about to spoil the fun. The sound of jingle bells is replaced by alarm bells as the team discovers that Donita, Gaston, and Zach are capturing baby animals from around the globe. With Christmas fast approaching, can Martin and Chris rescue their baby animal friends and return them to their homes in time for the holidays?
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel’s Winter Wonderland(PBS Distribution)features four stories including “A Snowy Day,” “Daniel’s Winter Adventure,” “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” and “Baking Mistakes.” In the stories “Daniel’s Winter Adventure” and “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” Daniel discovers that when sledding, ice skating, or learning a dance for “The Nutcracker” ballet, “if something seems hard to do, try it a little bit at a time!” In addition to these grr-ific stories, kids can watch Daniel and Miss Elaina play snow astronauts in “A Snowy Day,” and Daniel and Prince Wednesday make cookies with Baker Aker in “Baking Mistakes.”
FOR NATURE LOVERS
In The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World(Greystone Books, $24.95), Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him.
Countless books and blogs have extolled the virtues of the Cat Lady, now photographer David Williams celebrates cat-owning men and the precious kitties who have stolen their hearts. Men With Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship (Quirk Books, $12.95) represent a cross-section of American society—musicians and artists, soldiers and CEOs, truck drivers and tattoo artists—with one very furry common denominator. These fun, fuzzy, and offbeat portraits are full of personality, and the accompanying stories share everything from “how we met” to how the cats earned their names. Men with Cats is a delightful gift book for anyone who appreciates the bond between pets and their people.
Small is size, big in tips and hints. Miniature Garden Grower(Mitchell Beazley, $14.99) from garden designer and writer Holly Farrell shows how to grow a variety of miniature gardens from scratch, using inexpensive, everyday equipment and materials. Projects include: one-pot gardens, terrariums, wildlife gardens, water gardens, herb gardens and vertical gardens. Heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs, and packed with charts and tables, this book is a gardening book the whole family can enjoy.
FOR POP-UP PRAISERS: LEGO Pop-Up(Scholastic, $29.99) is the first-ever LEGO pop-up book Matthew Reinhart creates another spectacular pop-up book, this time telling the LEGO story with equal amounts facts, fun and adventure. Packed with a variety of features- pop-ups, pull tabs, turning wheels and more, this “fun-formative” book will be a delight for both LEGO and pop-up fans alike. Part book, part comic strip, all fun, this is the ultimate collector’s item for LEGO fans.
In this spectacular pop-up guide to the White House by bestselling paper engineer Robert Sabuda, readers can take a tour behind the scenes of the office of the executive branch and the residence of the president and his family. Enter The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home (Orchard Books, $29.99) and travel through time as you open each spread and discover the North Face of the White House, the East Room, the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rose Garden, the Oval Office, and the South Lawn of the White House. year. According to First Lady Michelle Obama, “It’s the ‘People’s House.’ It’s a place that is steeped in history, but it’s also a place where everyone should feel welcome.”
The iconic art of Japanese artist Hokusai, from great waves to waterfalls and mountains, are reimagined in dramatic 3-D pop-ups in Hokusai Pop-Ups (Thames & Hudson, $29.95). Realized in jewel-like colors, Hokusai’s simple views of everyday scenes in Japan, his sense of balance and harmony, and his highly stylized but ever-changing techniques seem to capture the spirit and traditions of his homeland. Hokusai Pop-Ups brings this stunning art to life.
FOR MUSIC MAVENS As the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love floods the media with debates and celebrations of music, political movements, flower power, acid rock and hippies, The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965–1975 (PM Press, $22.95) offers a critical re-examination of the interwoven political and musical happenings in San Francisco in the Sixties. Musician and native San Franciscan Mat Callahan uses dozens of original interviews, primary sources and personal experiences to show how the intense interplay of artistic and political movements put San Francisco, briefly, in the forefront of a worldwide revolutionary upsurge.
Prince: Life & Times (Chartwell Books, $24.99) is a lavishly illustrated authoritative chronicle of his ground-breaking career, covering every album, every movie and every tour. Jason Draper includes profiles of key collaborators such as The Time, Sheila
E and Vanity 6, assesses his various business dealings, reviews of every album and details his many side-projects, on stage, on record, on screen, and beyond. This updated second edition includes detailed information on Prince’s activity from 2008 up to his death this year.
In the new book Fleetwood Mac: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, $40) music historian Richie Unterberger digs deep into the band’s entire career, highlighting details that will surprise even the most loyal fans. The scope of the book is as large and varied as Fleetwood Mac’s career, starting with their formation as a blues band in the ’60s to the pop superstardom of the ’70s and ’80s to their 2015 reunion. Each chapter features separate reviews of each of Mac’s 17 studio albums, authored by noted rock critics such as Barney Hoskyns, Tom Moon Martin Popoff and Gary Graff. In addition, there’s a myriad of photographs and images and memorabilia, including rare and little-seen items.
He is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and controversial artists of all time. Now, for the first time ever, author Daryl Easlea explores the life and history of Michael Jackson, in reverse, in Michael Jackson: Rewind (Race Point Publishing, $40). Starting with his tragic death and rewinding to his early hits with the Jackson 5 and life in Gary, Indiana, this is a complete illustrated history of the King of Pop: his genius, his life and his demons.
Life Amplified World Tour: Live at WVU (City Drive Films) is the new live concert DVD and CD from multi-platinum country superstar Brad Paisley. The concert was shot with 20 cameras in front of a hometown crowd of more than 15,000 people. Paisley played an electrifying two-hour show that included many of his 23 number one singles, such as “Mud on the Tires,” “Then,” and a surprise rendition of “I’m Still A Guy,” featuring Chris Young. The show also includes a very special version of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which has become an anthem for WVU.
The early ’50s was a heyday for vocal groups, riding the wave of middle-of-the-road popular music in the Tin Pan Alley-dominated years before rock ‘n’ roll changed pop music for ever. The Ames Brothers were one of the most popular of those groups, making their US chart debut in 1948, and racking up a lengthy string of hits over the next few years.
Their following was such that despite the upheaval that rock ‘n roll occasioned in the pop landscape, they continued having chart entries right through to the start of the new decade. This 54-track two-CD collection from Acrobat comprises all of the Billboard Top 100 entries they achieved during their career. It’s an evocative and definitive souvenir of one of the most popular and successful groups of their era.
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE DEAD THINGS The Driller Killer (Arrow Films) is the definitive look at NYC s underbelly a slasher that is as much at home in the arthouse as it is the grindhouse. None of Abel Ferrara’s films have quite managed to match the shock, extremity and downright notorious nature of the fright flick. Ferrara plays struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of New York living in the late seventies and the No Wave band practicing in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey . . . Remember, it’s only a movie. or is it?
The Walking Dead tells the story of Rick Grimes and his band of survivors living in the gruesome aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. This deluxe The Walking Dead Blood Globe (Running Press, $12.95) includes a one-of-a-kind blood globe, featuring a scene of walkers. When the globe is shaken, it fills with fake “blood.” The kit also includes a 32-page book with quotes and images from the show.
An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Sobekmose(Thames & Hudson, $40)is the first-ever translation of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead of Sobekmose―fully illustrated and explained by a leading Egyptologist. The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, is one of the most important surviving examples of ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead. Such “books”―actually papyrus scrolls―were composed of traditional funerary texts, including magic spells, which were thought to assist the deceased on their journeys into the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed in an underworld fraught with dangers that needed to be carefully navigated, from the familiar, such as snakes and scorpions, to the extraordinary: lakes of fire to cross, animal-headed demons to pass, and the ritual Weighing of the Heart, whose outcome determined whether or not the deceased would be born again into the afterlife for eternity.
FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG-AT-HEART
In a quiet wood, a gray squirrel declares war on the machines that invade his wood, threatening his nest and tree. Taught words and how to use simple machines like the wheel by a young boy who names him Jack, the squirrel shares what he’s learned with the other animals. And so we enter the world ofEvolution Revolution: Simple Machines(CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $5.99.)
This is a smart and charming book for younger readers that will have them wondering just what the animals in the yard are up to! Watch for the next book in this series coming
WithJumbo Stickers for Little Hands: Jungle Animals(MoonDance Press, $5.99), sticker fans of all ages can play with large vinyl, resusable stickers of colorful, jungle animals. From Siamese fighting fish to lions,
tigers, monkeys, zebras, butterflies and panda bears-what’s your favorite animal? With 24 pages of jungle scenes, monkeys can hang from trees. And so can elephants and lions!
The battle between cats and dogs goes galactic! Star Paws(MVD Entertainment Group) stars Adventure Cat and his evil kitty army, who hope to snatch a magical galactic bone that will give them the power to take over the entire galaxy. It’s up to an elite group of space dogs, headed by the intrepid General Ruff to beat Adventure Cat to the bone. Four paws up!
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some