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Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Sleepers' CS: 1991 Comic British Take on FX's "The Americans'

[Editor's Note: This DVD set from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. DVD player; you must have a (well worth it) region-free player.]

Awesome Australian DVD distributors Madman Entertainment releasing the equally awesome 1991 BBC political farce Britcom "Sleepers" provides a great alternative to the expensive discontinued U.S. and U.K. sets of this hilarious four-episode series that will make you glasnost in your pants. Anyone who remembers the Cold War and the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union or simply is a student of those eras will thoroughly enjoy this show.

"Sleepers" opens "now-ish" in Moscow with KGB officials investigating a previously sealed room in the Kremlin. Two highly apparent aspects of the chamber are that it recreates various settings in 1960s England and that it has been sealed for quite some time. The purpose of the room is a mystery that is solved in the "must-see" series finale.

The ensuing investigation fairly soon reveals that the operation that the room supports involves sending KGB agents Sergei and Vladimir to the U.K. to infiltrate British society for an unknown (but presumably nefarious) objective. This discovery results in sending no-nonsense Natasha Fatale-like KGB major Nina Grishina on the trail of those titular sleeper agents.

Meanwhile back in the U.K., an incident related to the aforementioned investigation prompts Vladimir, now trade-union leader Albert, to contact Sergei, now prominent investment banker Jeremy, 25 years after they parted ways following their arrival in England.

The flawed pursuits of Grishina, the British government, and especially blunder-prone CIA agents prompt "Vodka Vandals" Albert and Jeremy to commence a "Midnight Run"/"The In-Laws" odd couple-style escape across the countryside with their stuffed monkey companion. Said chase provides a great deal of fodder for British-style mid-brow humor.

The real-life political aspects and similar "Hogan's Heroes" element of everyone involved having a mission makes "Sleepers" a more interesting and substantial program than even the best of the more traditional sitcoms from any continent.

The high-stakes pursuits, inter-national rivalries, and life-and-death situations simply make for more compelling plots than inviting the boss over for dinner the same night that a nutty relative is visiting or getting locked in a room with a disagreeable co-worker. At the same time, Albert's "after you've gone" style "monster-in-law" is an element that nicely helps "Sleepers" retain traditional sitcom elements.

"Chariots of Fire" actor Nigel Havers, who also is a veteran of "Coronation Street" and numerous other British programs that include the soon-to-be reviewed Britcom "Don't Wait Up," shines as Jeremy. His portrayal as a man who has his highly satisfying (if not ideal) life horribly disrupted is spot-on.

The even more prolific Warren Clarke is also well-cast as not-so-bright working stiff Albert. He adds a wonderful human element to a character who loves his wife and children, cares about his blue-collar "comrades" whom he effectively represents, and whose status in life affects how Jeremy regards him.

In other words, our leads effectively show us how formerly dedicated KGB agents become so committed to their mission of becoming immersed in British society that they effectively forget why they were brought there. The extensive humorous commentary on the the post-collapse Russian society is terrific icing on the cake.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sleepers" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HBO Mini-Series of J.K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Must-See Its Not TV

The Casual Vacancy (2015) Poster

These musings regarding the HBO three-part mini-series, which premieres tonight, of the J.K. Rowling novel "The Casual Vacancy" are a follow-up to the post yesterday on an interview with BAFTA-winning "Vacancy" director Jonny Campbell.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the HBO trailer for "Vacancy" provides glimpses of the small-town intrigue and underlying creepy vibe of this BAFTA and Emmy-worthy British production.

The primary meaning of the titular opening refers to a slot on the parish council of the beautifully filmed rural town Pagford in the Cotswolds region of England. The origin of this gap is the sudden death of aptly named council member (and all-around good bloke) Barry Fairbrother. The particular significance of  the timing of that event is that it roughly coincides with a council debate regarding a proposal to transform a community center that provides low-income people social services into an upscale spa.

The debate regarding the future of the community center and the election that determines the outcome of that council vote nicely provides a backdrop for the class war in Pagford. That hostility in turn nicely ties in with the recent three-part "Back to Dystopia Days" posts on this site.

Council president (and local wealthy business owner) Howard Mollison wonderfully represents the upper-class in his attitudes and in coercing his son Miles into running for the vacant council seat. For his part, Miles is a weak-willed solicitor with a wife who has a hilarious drinking problem and two daughters who are skilled manipulators.

Any discussion of the Mollison clan screams for mentioning the superb job of "The King's Speech" and several film adaptations of Rowling's "Harry Potter" series (as well as roughly 140 other roles) veteran Michael Gambon. His performance here further screams for him to play the lead in a staging of Shakespeare's "King Lear."

Trying to provide the superb castmates of Gambon their proper due is as challenging as trying to properly thank everyone in an awards ceremony speech. Suffice it to say both that the numerous well-established British actors and everyone else is superb and that the three primary young actors are set to fill in the gap left by now-20somethings Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson of "Potter" fame.

Council candidate (and ineffective school headmaster) Colin Wall nicely represents the middle-class suburban dad element of the village. He is thrust in the limelight to provide the voice of integrity that Fairbrother represents but is not up to the task.

Wall's delinquent son Stuart is one of the most entertaining characters in "Vacancy." He is as very open regarding his seemingly constant urgent sexual desires as he is about his smoking of a form of marijuana that apparently smells like toilet bowl cleaner.

The hilarious humor that Stuart provides includes a very bold sexual encounter in the local library that stains both the philosophy section and the reputation of Colin. Additionally, Stuart's style of "campaigning" outside the polling place on election day is one of the best scenes in the film. In both respects, he is reminiscent of a young Keanu Reeves in his art-house film days.

Simon Price, who is the half-brother of Barry, represents the blue-collar working-class. He is a dishonest employee and mentally and physically abusive father to teen son (and Barry admirer) Andrew. All of this makes the revenge that Andrew enjoys throughout the series equally enjoyable to the audience.

Brilliant screenwriter (and "EastEnders" veteran) Sarah Phelps makes a good choice in centering these stories around welfare-class teen girl Krystal Weedon. Krystal is the daughter of meth addict Terri Weedon and sister/surrogate mother to young Robbie Weedon. Her role largely makes her the center of the story due to it directly or indirectly connecting her with most of her fellow Pagfordites,

On  a larger level, the path that leads to the climatic election is chock full of the best elements of great British drama, humor and Campbell-style creepy surrealism. Personal relationships feel the strain, images of death increasingly haunt one character, teens act like teens everywhere, and battles between good and evil rage on. In other words, life as usual in 2015.

The appeal of all this extends beyond a skilled adaptation of a novel by arguably the most successful author of the 21st century. It provides delectable food for thought while making you laugh, cringe, and emphasize with the fictional counterparts of the people in your life.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Vacancy" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Awesome Chat With BAFTA Winner Jonny Campbell of HBO's 'The Casual Vacancy'

Image result for jonny campbell images

Being a huge fan of British television (including several programs that have never aired in the U.S.) generally and British scifi specifically made the chance to chat over the telephone with Jonny Campbell a tremendous treat. The related chance to run a review of the latest project of Campbell the day of its HBO premiere is a wonderful bonus.

One spoiler is that "Vacancy" awesomely makes occasional use of Campbell's talent for creative surreal scenes. A very creepy grim reaper and maggot-covered cheese are highlights.

Before turning his camera to the three-part television adaptation (which has aired in the U.K. and is premiering on HBO on April 29 2015) of the J.K. Rowling novel "The Casual Vacancy," Campbell devoted his proverbially considerable talents to a literal "who's who" of British scifi shows and other wonderfully quirky projects there. Although his stereotypical British modesty prevented him from acknowledging the honor, he won a BAFTA (which is a combination of the Emmys and the Oscars) for directing the uber-awesome British zombie dramedy "In the Flesh."

The wonderfully witty premise of "Flesh" was a that a teen boy zombie struggled to readjust following a "mainstreaming" program that was directed at his kind. This program easily aced the "one more" test when watching episodes. The Campbell interview prompted a belated purchase of the complete series DVD set.

Doctor Who 

The conversation began with discussing the "The Vampires of Venice" and the "Vincent and the Doctor" "Doctor Who" episodes that Campbell directed during the tenure of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. Campbell shared that the challenges that he faced was finding a European location that would work for the respective 16th century Venice and 19th century France settings of those episodes.

Campbell also cited his admiration for the portrayal of the Doctor by Smith as a motive for signing on to direct the episodes. He added that he wanted to tell the Van Gogh story, which was a personal favorite of your reviewer from the Smith years.

A favorable mention of Smith predecessor David Tennant prompted a sincere agreement that all Whovians have their personal preferences.

Campbell further shared that he was not provided an indoctrination into "Who" lore when he came on board but stated "I had obviously grown up with Doctor Who." This led to mutual expressions of admiration for the portrayal of Tom Baker as The Doctor. Affirmative!

Ashes to Ashes

The insights that Campbell shared regarding directing four of the eight first series (my people call them seasons) episodes of "The Life on Mars" spin-off "Ashes to Ashes" included that he found the concept of "Ashes" main character Alex Drake striving to return from the '80s to her daughter in the 21st century more "moving" than the comparable quest of the childless Sam Tyler in "Mars."

Another intriguing aspect of "Ashes" that Campbell conveyed was that series finding great humor in the form of centering more on the irascible Gene Hunt than was so in "Mars." Mentioning the wonderful '80s soundtrack of "Ashes" further prompted remorse regarding Tivo overload leading to dumping the "Ashes" episodes before watching them a few years ago. (A future DVD purchase will remedy that lapse in judgment.)

A Casual Vacancy

Rowling's novel being in a pile of "to read" books and the opportunity to chat with Campbell beating the arrival of the review copy of "Vacancy" required Cliff Notes style cheating in reading the summary of the mini-series. That description concisely states in full: "The citizens of the small British town of Pagford fight for the spot on the parish council after Barry Fairbrother dies." This seems akin to describing "Moby Dick" as a whaling captain pursues a specific aquatic mammal.

Campbell agreed with the assessment that "Vacancy," which he politely and validly stressed was a drama, was similar to the classic Britcom "The Vicar of Dibley" in that it portrayed a small English community full of eccentric characters.

The follow-up response regarding this topic was that "Vacancy" was "more akin to a contemporary Dickens or Trollope" and that that was "what Jo (Rowling) intended to do." The reference to Dickens prompted inquiring regarding plans for a stage adaptation of "Vacancy" and learning that that would be a massive undertaking for reasons that included the story encompassing "the whole spectrum of society."

General familiarity with the practice of changing some material in British programming for American television and specific knowledge that separate British and American versions of Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels were released prompted asking Campbell if the HBO version of "Vacancy" differed from the one that aired in the U.K. He replied that the content was exactly the same but that the aspect ratio had been altered to adapt to television sets made for the American market.

This discussion regarding changes prompted Campbell to direct the conversation to the differences between the novel and the mini-series. His insightful comments on that topic included that "an adaptation is always going to have to make bold changes" and that the  "Vacancy" team would have ended up with "20 hours of television if we stayed completely true to the novel."

Campbell added that the challenges in making the mini-series included determining the central story. This led to his comment that "the experience of the (mini-series) story is different" than that of the novel.

The cited variations included differences regarding the focus on individual characters and "adapt[ing] the ending in ways that would provide" the aforementioned different experience. Related statements indicated that (executive producer) Rowling actively participated in making the mini-series and directly remarked that it "wouldn't be productive if she (Rowling) didn't let her (screen-writer Sarah Phelps) take charge of the adaptation."

The caveat that Campbell added to his comparison between the novel and the production was that his team recognized that they "must remain true to the characters and stay true to the story." He further shared that that did not prevent adding "a minor surreal element," including an added nightmare, to the story in the context of a fear of death plaguing a character.

Campbell, who was very cool regarding discussing this massive undertaking with someone who had not read the novel or watched his production, further clarified the vibe of "Vacancy" by stating that a reporter aptly described it as "100 years after Downton." This seems almost certain to make the cover of the DVD release of "Vacancy."

An even stronger sense that Campbell provided regarding the success of the project was that the ending moved Rowling to tears. Your reviewer was not so moved but still liked the outcome a great deal and shared the emotions of the characters at that time. One spoiler is that "Harry" turns out alright.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding anything mentioned in this post is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

'Lost Rivers' DVD: Ecology, Tourism, and History Oh My

Image result for lost rivers dvd images
Not realizing the full scope of the subject matter in the Brooklyn-based Icarus Films DVD release of the informative and educational documentary "Lost Rivers" is behind negligence in not featuring it as an Earth Day 2015 post. Although the expression "better late than never" does not always apply to environmental issues, the impact of this release coming several days after Earth Day (but before the May 5 2015 release of the DVD) is not so bad.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Rivers" provides an excellent sense of the geographic and project scope of the film.

The primary focus of "Rivers" is the titular waterways that once openly flowed through cities around the world before being buried and integrated into the sewer systems of those metropolises. This chain of events reflected the rivers providing an impetus for establishing a community near them only to have overuse and/or a related increase in the local population prompt building over them. These projects date from less than 100 years ago to several centuries.

The impetuses for uncovering these hidden waterways include environmental motivations and financial benefits. The former reflects the simple law of nature that the rainwater that once ran through those rivers increasingly is flooding the city because it has nowhere to go. The shared two-prong approach of folks who deal with such challenges involves both the aforementioned return of the rivers to the surface and creating basins (a.k.a. human-made ponds) in parks and other undeveloped urban areas.

The financial benefits of allowing the rivers to once again see the light of day reflects the wisdom of learning from experience, The proven theory is that the rivers being pretty to look at makes their bank areas conducive to tourism, commerce, and residential use as was the case at the time of founding those urban areas.

A more direct fiscal influx involves entrepreneurs in Bresica Italy conducting fully sanctioned tours of the rivers under those cities. However, the award for most fascinating enterprise in the film must go to a group in Russia that is attempting to uncover both a lake and large stone lakeside platform that have remain buried for centuries.

This effort to restore urban waterways geographically hits closest to home for many viewers regarding the Yonkers, New York project to uncover the Saw Mill River. The astounding discovery related to a major advancement in that process is one of the most amazing moments in this beautifully shot and fascinating film.

The Yonkers project further portrays the human element of these literal "big digs" in showing the known impact of the excavation on a very likable pizza parlor owner and speculation regarding his post-project future.

The bottom line regarding "Rivers" is that it will make you want to seek out old maps of your city in search of indications that a river (or rivers) runs beneath it.

Candor requires confessing that the 13 bonus video segments that comprise the special features on the DVD remain hidden from the perspective of Unreal TV. However, plans include bringing them to the surface in the next few weeks.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Rivers" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Friday, April 24, 2015

Child Star Support Group A Minor Consideration: The Anti-Scientology

An interview this morning with former child star and current president of the non-profit organization A Minor Consideration Paul Petersen involved the most genuinely breaking news situation in the three-year history of this site and a nine-year career writing about home-video releases of films and television shows.

The pre-scheduled telephone conversation began pleasantly, but a sharp left-turn roughly 20 minutes later ended the interview roughly halfway through. A question (which is discussed below) inadvertently prompted Petersen to assert a seemingly strongly held opinion regarding an alleged lack of understanding as to the nature of his organization.

Petersen also stated that a 19 year-old former child actor had committed suicide the night before, that Petersen had already received four calls regarding that incident, and that he needed to go. This abruptly ended the conversation.

A Google search immediately on hanging up with Petersen quickly revealed that the actor was Sawyer Sweeten, who played young twin Geoffrey Barone in the early 2000s sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." That article understandably lacked any information regarding the circumstances that caused Sweeten to kill himself.

This obviously is a horrible tragedy for the Sweeten family to which far too many of us can relate. Directly knowing that Petersen and his organization are already on the case is nice.


Awareness of Consideration had prompted interest in an article on that organization for some time. That group coming up in a recent conversation led to another look at the organization website, which led to discovering the recent focus on the practice of children who appear on reality shows not being paid under the false (and despicable) justification that they did not work.

Veteran readers of Unreal TV (which has that name to reflect a strong dislike of reality programming) may recall the March 2013 site manifesto "Reality Stinks" that expresses the philosophy of this site. This seemed right in tune with the beliefs of Consideration.

This led to contacting Petersen via his email address on the website. Petersen quickly responded and agreed to the interview.

The Past and the Present

The initial portion of the conversation regarding former child stars related to Petersen retaining connections with his peers from the '50s and '60s. Mentioned names included Billy Gray of "Father Knows Best" and Tony Dow of "Leave it to Beaver."

The conversation also touched on Tommy Kirk, whom Petersen knew from his days on the original "Mickey Mouse Club." Petersen's response to a comment regarding Walt Disney personally acting to end the career of Kirk based on Kirk coming out as gay was sympathy for Kirk not working for Disney in the current era of that company no longer discriminating against gay actors.

Petersen added that "There was a difference 30-40 years ago. You expected people you hired to be of good character. That is no longer true."

Petersen further addressed the concern in stating "we have problems in the community of young performers who are not being protected." He added that members of that group were exempt from child-labor laws.

A concrete example of the exploitation of child actors that Petersen provided was the Discovery Channel not paying the children who appeared on the series "Jon and Kate Plus 8" a single cent despite the network making $200M from the series.

Comparison to Scientology

Indications that Scientology arguably exploited the insecurities of actors of all ages for financial gain prompted asking Petersen if the support that Consideration provided current and former child stars resulted in that organization considering itself the "anti-Scientology." His immediate and unequivocal response was "of course we do."

Petersen went on to express very strong anti-scientology sentiments that included describing that group as a "deliberate societal attack" and that they were "a lie" and "always have been."

On both reminding Petersen of the history of Scientologists to come after those who criticized them and confirming that he was agreeable to publishing his remarks on the subject, Petersen responded that his clear message to Scientology was "F**k You!"

The Question

The aforementioned abrupt end to the conversation came in the wake of asking Petersen if there was a high-profile case about which he felt that he could speak. The general reference regarding that was a sense that the scope of the work of Consideration extended beyond overall advocating for securing and enforcing legal protections that were designed to fairly compensate child actors and ensure that they retained that pay to counseling individual former and current child stars.

This belief was based on information on the Consideration website. Text in the "Who We Are" section of the home page reads "The members of AMC are always on call to assist parents and their professional children on a 'No Cost basis.' By providing a strong emphasis on education and character development, plus helping to preserve the money these children generate, the members of AMC are always available to help with the tricky transition issues that for many kid stars prove to be so troubling. We've 'been there, done that.'"

Similarly, a January 13 2014 entry in the "News" section of the Consideration website reported on a drunk-driving arrest of former "The Partridge Family" star David Cassidy. This entry, which seemed to be personally from Petersen, stated "We're here to help if called upon. David, you have a standing invitation to call."

Petersen initially responded that I was focusing on the "molecules" rather than the "ocean" community that Consideration supported. This led to his seemingly becoming agitated and stating that I did not understand the purpose of the organization and replying a couple of times "I don't think that you do" on my very politely and calmly expressing the opinion that I did understand the work of the group.

Petersen then politely ended the interview as expressed above before providing an opportunity to refer to the above-mentioned information from the website.

Wrap Up

Nothing in this post is intended to criticize or insult either Petersen or Consideration; this article was intended to promote the good work of the latter.

It is unfortunate that things took a rapid turn for the worse. An invitation to continue the discussion remains open.

The best way to conclude all this is to state that the apparent intense agitation that Petersen experienced regarding the suicide of a child actor about whom he most likely lacked any knowledge before that genuinely tragic event speaks volumes regarding his commitment to his cause.

It further supports that stated belief of Petersen that those of us who are outside the community of young performers cannot understand that world regardless of how many "behind-the-scenes" specials that we watch or auto-biographies that we read.

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding this post is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'My Mistress' DVD: Awesome Aussie 50 Shades of Coming of Age Film

Product Details
The three films that uber-awesome foreign indie film distributor Film Movement is releasing om May 5, 2015 demonstrates the broad range and exceptional quality of the Movement catalog. Venezuelan film (and May 2015 selection of the uber-awesome Movement Film of the Month Club"God's Slave," which is the subject of an upcoming Unreal TV review, is a fact-based thriller that gets into the psyches of a Islamic terrorist and the Israeli agent on his trail. The French film, which also is due for an Unreal TV post, "The Nun" is based on a historic novel regarding a reluctant new member of the titular profession.

Today's film "My Mistress" comes from Australia and is the first release from Omnibus Entertainment, which is the specialty imprint division of Movement, to reach this site. As typical for Movement films, "Mistress" is a terrifically enhanced version of a genre that American filmmakers typically do not handle as well. In this case, the film centers around the relationship between deeply troubled and typically horny 16 year-old Charlie and the exotic older woman who moves into the area.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Mistress" wonderfully conveys the erotic and overall art-house teen-drama themes of the film. It is equally great that these glimpses of sensuality tease you into wanting to see more.

Charlie is already a relatively angry (and quirky) young man when we meet him and when he first sees the titular character Maggie in a highly stressful moment for her. The angst of our young man increases on coming home to a traumatic discovery of his own. The role of his mother regarding that event contributes to the drama and reduces the effectiveness of her efforts to comfort her son.

The general adolescent crush that Charlie develops on Maggie develops into a much darker and more "Fifty Shades of Grey" style relationship on learning that the object of his affection is a professional dominatrix. His objective in having their relationship take that turn relate to his desire to have physical pain suppress his emotional torment.

Once the charming persistence of Charlie wears down the resistance of a reluctant Maggie to give him a good hard spanking (and much more) that he does not deserve but arguably needs, they sit down to one of the most amusing tea parties ever. Our boy both literally and figuratively getting his lumps in this initial training session that is designed to whip him into shape is fall on the floor funny.

Another highlight involves Maggie allowing a highly amused and amusingly concealed Charlie to witness her conducting a session with a client. Seeing that middle-aged man dressed up whole getting dressed down to the charming delight of Charlie (who acts as if he is touring a magical chocolate factory) is one of the best of the film.

Of course, "Mistress" also places serious obstacles in the path of the oddly mutually satisfying relationship between Charlie and Maggie. A hunky regular client and Charlie's mother becoming involved present threats that overcoming requires discipline and/or true love.

Although well-known French actress Emanuelle Beart does an excellent job conveying the tremendous range of emotions that portraying Maggie requires, "Mistress" provides Charlie portrayor Harrison Gilbertson a terrific showcase for transitioning from child star to adult actor.

Gilbertson does a wonderful job with the efforts of Charlie to seem tough, to convey his angst, and simply to literally and figuratively bare himself for the camera in a similar manner as Leonardo DiCaprio in his early art-house films. For better or worse, Gilbertson likely will always be known as the guy who pleasured himself in the shower and took a good whipping in the dungeon in this film.

The DVD extra is a "making of" feature.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mistress" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Thursday, April 23, 2015

'Sweet Lorraine' DVD: Tatum O'Neal as a Hilarious Extreme Real Housewife of New Jersey

Product Details
This review of the Garden Thieves Pictures DVD release, which hits actual and virtual shelves on April 23 2015, of the Tatum O'Neal dark comedy "Sweet Lorriane"  is the second of two posts in the Unreal TV "Jersey? Sure!" series. The first entry is a post on the documentary "Victori: The Truth Can't Be Just One Thing" about the titular New Jersey-based portrait artist.

The titular political wife, played by an expectations defying O'Neal, is the second spouse of mild-mannered New Jersey deputy mayor candidate/minister Freeman BeeBee. The mayor candidate Lou Bava is a hilariously typical "Jersey Shore" style Italian-American with a touch of Bill Clinton. This pairing of candidates perfectly illustrates the concept that politics makes strange bedfellows.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden trailer for "Lorraine" expertly conveys the satirical nature of the '70s/"Sopranos" gritty style feel of the film. You can almost smell the toxic fumes of the Garden State setting.

Waspy incumbent Mayor Ward digging up the sordid not very distant past (think an even tougher and more aggressive Carmela Soprano) of our heroine sets the stage for hilarious dirty politics Jersey style.

The sordid lives of Lorraine, her less-than-respectable friends, our candidates, and campaign officials and volunteers include not-so-foxy boxing, very sloppy cross-dressing, corrupt cops, and sleazy motel hook-ups. The real-life experience of O'Neal being hit on by her drunken father at the funeral of long-time Ryan O'Neal romantic partner Farrah Fawcett seem to be the only socially unacceptable behavior missing from this film.

A wonderfully campy and raucous bedroom scene near the end of "Lorraine" really solidifies the trashy '70s movie/John Waters feel of the film. This, in turn, leads to a great surprise ending that reveals the true brains of the operation.

O'Neal does a decent job as Lorraine and definitley shows that she is no longer the spunky child star who grew up on the big screen in the '70s. Only casting fellow "Little Darlings" co-star Kristy McNichol in the role of Lorraine's equally tough BFF Felicity would have made the film better.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Lorraine" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Party Tricks' DVD: Aussie Political Drama Shows Some Things Universal

[Editor's Note: This DVD set is formatted for Region 4, as opposed to the U.S. format of Region 1. Playing it in the U.S. requires having a (well worth it) region-free DVD player.]

The uber-awesome lighthearted 2014 Australian political camp drama "Party Tricks" is a great subject for the first official Unreal TV review of a DVD set from uber-awesome Australian DVD producer/retailer Madman Entertainment.

Discovering the Madman releases of both seasons of the U.S. '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" led to purchasing and reviewing those sets, which led to exploring the Madman site, which led to writing about Madman generally and its release of the '60s Irwin Allen cult classic scifi series "Land of the Giants"specifically, which will lead to ongoing reviews starting with this one.

One of the best endorsements of "Tricks," which is a highly entertaining tale of a political race between former illicit bedfellows, is that it is the first release in YEARS to pass the test of prompting staying up late to watch an additional episode. The intriguingly presented premise is that front-runner Kate Ballard learns during the pilot that more conservative television journalist David McLeod is challenging her in a race for State Premier, which the series and online research indicates is equivalent to being a super-governor in the U.S.

One wrinkle is that the threat of revealing a now-ended affair of Ballard and McLeod threatens both candidacies, with the lion's share of that risk falling in the Ballard camp. The possibility becoming a probability demonstrates the validity of the concern.

Other relevant irrelevant issues include Ballard not having children, McLeod having a child who does not present an image that supports his candidacy, and a slip of the tongue that causes a not-so-pregnant cause. In other words, Australian politics as usual by U.S. standards.

Other highly recognizable incidents include great concern regarding an accidental cross-over on the campaign trail, an "October surprise" that actually presents an 11th hour crisis, and discord within the ranks.

Flashbacks that open each episode both chart the course of the aforementioned affair and tie into present events. These segments also wonderfully document the developing maturity of our leads in the same manner as the increasing toll of the election on them and their staff.

Although the final episode predictably centers around the election to which the series (my people call them seasons) builds, that result is not predictable. The post-election incidents are even more surprising.

Although Asher Keddie (who seems to be to Australian television today what Jennifer Aniston was to '90s U.S. audiences) and Rodger Corser respectively do terrific jobs as veteran politician Ballard and the more roguish McLoed, Charlie Garber largely steals the show as Ballard speechwriter/confidante Oliver Parkham. The fact that Parkham is gay and has awesome chemistry with his live-in reporter boyfriend is incidental to his character except to the extent that the work duties of Parkham impose great pressure to censor his pillow talk.

The charm of Parkrham relates to his borderline slacker persona that he instantly sheds on needing to spring into action. This relaxed attitude further makes him a much more likable gay best friend to boss Ballard than his flamboyant counterparts in American romcom films. Australian-based site sums this up well in the enviable headline "Charlie Garber is no Party Trick," and other online interviews show that he is equally awesome in real life.

The only hesitancy related to praising "Tricks" so strongly is fear that it may contribute to an American studio attempting a remake as a series or film. Any "suit" considering this travesty is asked to think back no further than the Fox effort to remake the spectacular Australian dramedy "Rake.," which is slated for additional Unreal TV reviews. A contract clause that requires eating (and not regurgitating) a vegemite sandwich in the event that such a remake fails seems apt.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Tricks" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

'Victori: The Truth Just Can't Be One Thing' DVD: Portrait of Contemporary Artist and Son

Product Details
These musings regarding the recent Garden Thieves Pictures DVD release of the documentary "Victori: The Truth Just Can't Be One Thing" is the first of two entries in a "Jersey? Sure!" set of reviews. The second title is a wonderfully trashy Garden Thieves release titled "Sweet Lorraine" with former American sweetheart Tatum O'Neal as the titular tough broad wife of a New Jersey political candidate.  

The primary claim to fame of South Korean-born portrait artist Victor Victori is painting the official White House portrait of Richard Nixon. A Jersey mall gallery is the venue of Victor at the time of the film.

The documentary largely focuses on the efforts of 20-something former Wolf Cub of Wall Street Ed Victori to use his business acumen to promote the art career of his father. Participating in a New York City Art Expo. is a primary element of this campaign. Ed further takes the audience on a literal tour of the New Jersey sites, including a Victori museum, that are significant to the career of his father.

Watching Ed on his cell phone trying to direct his parents to the loading dock at the Expo. is amusing and supports the theory that parents seem incapable of grasping information from their adult children.

The elder Victori displays the actual art for the audience and discusses some of his better-known subjects, including Donald Trump. Hearing Victor share the reaction of Trump to that portrait provides some of the best humor in the film.

The style of the work itself is a tricky subject. To this untrained eye, it looks like motel/mid-level office building art that lacks any appeal. However, the subjective nature of art makes discussing it great fun.

It is fair to say that Victor displays unwarranted hubris in speculating both that the value of his work will soar in the future and that the same type of delayed recognition of the talents of Van Gogh and Monet is likely to reach him. A similar moment has Victori proudly displaying a seemingly endless number of copies of Mona Lisa that he has painted.

The Expo. itself provides good fodder for the film; seeing the other exhibitors discuss the displayed pieces is entertaining.

Assessing "Victori" the film is as tough as evaluating Victori the artist. Neither he nor his son seem particularly engaging, but the presented story is adequately interesting to hold your attention. In that respect, it can be considered a pedestrian mall gallery quality documentary.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Victori" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

'First Period' DVD: 'Square Pegs' in Drag

Product Details
The 80slicious Screen Media movie "First Period," which comes out on DVD on April 21 2015, amusingly combines wonderful elements of that era. The boys in dresses leads are more Buffy and Hildegarde from the Tom Hanks '80scom "Bosom Buddies" than Patty and Lauren of  the Sarah Jessica Parker sitcom "Square Pegs" from the same era but face the same high school challenges of the latter. They are homely awkward teen girls who desperately desire popularity.

The '80s vibe continues with casting Elvira herself Cassandra Peterson as the highly dysfunctional mother of Cassie.

The IMDb page for "Period" adds that, although not mentioned, the film is set in 1989.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Period," does a good job conveying the aforementioned vibes and provides a taste of the soundtrack of "Period" cast member Judy Tenuta.

The film opens with Heather and the other Heather (ala a melange of the girls of the classic '80s film "Heathers" and the two Darryls of the late '80s sitcom "Newhart") meerting and rejecting new girl in town Cassie only to have the latter bump into the desperate-for-friends Maggie.

Cassie is the Lauren of  the duo in that she is more outgoing of the two and develops the scheme for popularity. In this case, it involves shining at an upcoming school talent show. Of course, Heather Prime engages in equal plotting to keep our heroines in their lowly place.

One "Heathers" twist is that the BMOC is Brett, who has a very thinly disguised crush on fellow (but more dim-witted) stud Dirk. The primary humor that hunky Dirk contributes consists of taking off his shirt any time and anywhere that someone demands that he does so.

These story lines set the stage for a series of vignettes leading up to the climax during the talent show, which somewhat surprisingly does not involve the Heathers dropping a bucket of pig's blood on our girls.

The hi-jinks include a hilarious prison rape theme rap battle between Maggie and a male student, an amusing double date in which Brett is more interested in Dirk than Maggie, and assorted drag-style high school drama.

Other humor relates to multiple meanings of the titular term. These obviously extend beyond referring to the initial class of the day.

The aforementioned climax has a strong element of the oft-mentioned John Waters vibe of the film. Suffice it to say that it revels in the off-beat and offers boy-on-boy action.

The DVD extras include a cast interview, the deleted song "Pool Party," and deleted scenes.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Period" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

'Morse 25th Anniversary Collection' DVD Set: Roughly 25 Reasons to Make It Yours

Inspector Morse 25th Anniversary Collection DVD

This post on a monumental in both senses of the word BFS Entertainment DVD set is the beginning of an "endeavour" to do justice to the spectacular BFS "Inspector Morse 25th Anniversary Collection." Subsequent reviews will discuss the 11 "Morse" DVD sets in the sturdy in both substance and leatherette covered sturdy cardboard construction collection.

The first in this series of reviews of actual "Morse" episodes will begin with a late-April 2015 look at the aptly titled set "The Dead of Jericho." These three episodes that comprise the first series (my people call them seasons) of "Morse" revolve around murders in the titular region in the Oxford jurisdiction of our titular hero.

The scope of "Collection" extends well beyond including each of the 33 feature-film length "Morse" episodes. The separately packaged 50-minute feature "The Making of Morse" includes interviews with the late and great John Thaw, who seems born to be Morse, and Detective Sergeant Lewis portrayor Kevin Whatley. The audience also gets a look at the Oxford locations of "Morse"and the behind-the-scenes folks who merge the program and the settings.

"The Story of Morse" is another 50-minute study of this classic on both sides of the pond. This adventure in time (but not space) tells how "Morse" the television program came to be and went on to be such an international hit. The feature-length "Inspector Morse's Oxford" honors the 2012 25th Anniversary of "Morse" with an extension on the themes in "Story." The treats in this one including having "Morse" expert Dr. Antony Richards present it.

In the spirit of "As Seen on Television" products, BFS additionally includes the truly awesome book "The Oxford of Inspector Morse."This comprehensive guide to that city includes maps and descriptions of landmarks in the context of their portrayal in "Morse." Your (sometimes humble) reviewer sincerely will bring this along when a long-desired trip to Oxford (and, of course, "The Prisoner" setting of Portmeirion) becomes a reality.

The 25th Anniversary Collection provides the additional bonus of evoking nice thoughts of the equally special BFS complete series DVD collection of the Thaw legal dramedy "Kavanagh QC." A series of Unreal TV reviews on "Kavanagh" provides more specifics regarding this one.

The appeal of "Morse," which dates back to January 1987, includes the wonderful blend of quirks that our creative and persistent police detective possesses and that Thaw conveys so well, This seemingly (completely straight) middle-aged confirmed bachelor enjoys his pints at the local pub just as much as his classical music, crossword puzzles, and solitude.

It is nice as well that Morse adheres to the methods of fellow fictional detective legend Sherlock Holmes in using deduction and skillful questioning of witnesses, persons with a proverbial horse in the race, and suspects alike to reach the solution. The fact that these resolutions typically are a realistic surprise is nice icing on the cake.

Additionally, the rooster of past, current, and future U.K. stars in the "Morse" episodes rivals that of that group in the "Harry Potter" film series. Random examples include Elizabeth Hurley, Clive Swift, and the truly legendary Sir John Gielgud.

All of this amounts to a well-produced show that holds your attention and provides a vigorous (but not overwhelming) mental workout.

The same candor that requires sharing that this set comes with a literally high price tag also necessitates sharing that the cost is worth it. Aside from essentially getting 33 films with top-notch acting and awesome real-life scenery (plus truly special extra features), you get a complete set of what can be considered a "house-painting" program in that it is one that is conducive to watching again a few months after making your way through the entire set.

On a related note, "Morse" is a series to savor in episode-length (rather than marathon) viewing sessions. It is MUCH more akin to a $25 bottle of wine than a six pack of Budweiser and should be appropriately consumed.

Anyone with questions or comments regrading "Morse" or "Kavanagh" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

'Love Me' DVD: Why He Loves A Ukrainian Is Nobody's Business but a Turk's

Product Details
Film Movement, which operates a "must-subscribe" Film of the Month Club, continues its exceptional job making notable international flicks available to American audiences in releasing the 2103 Turkish romcom "Love Me" on DVD. This film making that genre enjoyable to the large portion of the movie-going public that despises the Katherine Heigl and Julia Roberts films of that nature states a great deal about the film. One spoiler is that the soundtrack lacks any pop music standards.

"Love" further passes the same test as virtually all of the roughly 50 Movement films that are subjects of Unreal TV reviews; it could be filmed almost word-for-word and scene-for-scene in the United States and still make great sense.

Our unlikely pair whose chance encounter leads to a romantic adventure are attractive Kiev resident Sasha, who is having an unhappy birthday for reasons that include being stood up by the married man she is dating, and adorkable Turk Cemal. The back story of the engaged Cemal is that his debauchery-loving cousin and uncle drag him to Kiev for a decadent bachelor party ahead of a convenient but not-so-perfect marriage.

Sasha sashaying into the nightclub where the reluctant Cemal is experiencing intense embarrassment quickly leads to the pair heading to the apartment of the former for adult-oriented fun. Seeing an overwhelmed and nervous Cemal wander the apartment wrapped in a towel is hilarious.

An interruptus before coitus even commences leads to a frantic late-night search for the missing grandmother of Sasha. Like said developments in inferior American romcoms, this results in our pair bonding.

Another romcom stereotype appears in the form of intrusions from the outside world threatening the new relationship. The better news is that the filmmakers present and resolve this development far better than their American counterparts.

The charm of "Love" extends well beyond the appeal of the leads and the variations on the cliches that make any American film featuring an independent single woman and her gay friend unwatchable,. We get a look at the very '50s American style attitude toward women that apparently still is pervasive in Turkish culture. The basic idea is that the bad girls are there to play with and the good ones are there to marry.

The audience is further treated to fascinating footage of Kiev; it looks gorgeous and seems to have a subway system that puts the American counterparts to shame.

The fillmmakers additionally save the more powerful moments for the final 30 minutes of the film; the action crosses the line from regular drama to the "melo" variety without sacrificing quality. You will be bonded with Sasha and Cemal by then, will root for those two crazy kids to make their relationship work, and will feel their pain (and joy?).

The Bonus Short Film that every Movement DVD release includes is an Argentinian drama this time. The titular "The Queen" is a slightly older (and infinitely more sophisticated) Honey Boo Boo whose stage mother coerces into the pageant life. This powerful documentary-style fictional film shows the extent to which such parents go to and the emotional and physical toll of that on the child.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding either film is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

'Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn' DVD: Kilmer as Clemens, Austin as Finbn, Never the Twain Shall Meet

Product Details
The eone films 2013 movie "Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn" is a fun and charming version of that American classic tale by Mark Twain. An indication that this is a modern telling of that story is that the credits identify a character as "Jim," rather than as the name by which that character is traditionally known.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the spoiler-laden trailer for "Sawyer" provides a good sense of the classic and new elements of the film.

The movie begins with two moppets visiting "Batman" veteran Val Kilmer as "Sawyer" author Mark Twain and having him begin the tale of Sawyer, played by Joel Courtney of  the awesome film "Super 8," and Finn, played by Jake T. Austin of the fun Disneycom "The Wizards of Waverly Place."

The first scene involving the boys clearly establishes Sawyer as a 19th century Zack Morris in that it has Sawyer sneaking into his one-room schoolhouse late for class only to con the teacher into having him sit with the female students. This, of course, is reminiscent of the famous scene later in the story in which Sawyer gets the boys in town to both whitewash his fence and pay him for the privilege.

The classic TV vibe continues with introducing the Richie Cunningham/Fonzie relationship that Sawyer has with the slightly older and more wild Finn. An element of the parallel relates to Sawyer consistently referring to his pal as "Huckie."

The action fully kicks in when the boys being in a cemetery at midnight makes them the witnesses to a murder for which an innocent man is arrested. This is turn leads to a dramatic courtroom confrontation that results in our boys going on the run.

The subsequent adventures, which send that character and his buddy figuratively heading for the hills, are well known to "Sawyer" fans. These include a funeral scene and a raft trip down the Mississippi River.

The elements that distinguish this version from more traditional recreations of the story merely make it different, not better or worse. These change also most likely increase the appeal of the film to the more stoic young audiences of today than their more lively predecessors.

Kilmer plays Twain as a slightly eccentric but understated man; this characterization lacks the sparkle and greater sense of mischief that many often associate with the real Twain.

Similarly, the dreamy 20 year-old Austin and adorable 18 year-old Courtney are more than attractive enough to make tween girls swoon over them and pre-adolescent boys want to join their adventures. However, these actual ages and the corresponding appearances of these actors make them a couple of years older than the Twain characters and prior film versions of the story. Again, this merely is different.

All of this amounts to a film that largely holds true to the themes and spirit of the source material and that does a good job both encouraging 21st century kids to pick up an e-reader and in keeping these characters alive roughly 150 years after their creation.

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding Sawyer" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em!' DVD: Michael Crawford Before He Was Broadway Star Britcom

Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em! Collection Set DVD

The BFS Entertainment 11-episode 3-disc DVD release of the mid '70s BBC sitcom "Some Mothers Do' Ave 'Em" illustrates the range of brilliant British fare that BFS sells in North America. These releases further support the theory of Unreal TV that British shows kick the arse of American fare.

These 11 episodes are a "best of" collection culled from the three series (my people call them seasons) of "Mothers."

As an aside, the recent emphasis on nostalgia associated with the averted imminent demise of Unreal TV evokes thoughts of the first review of a  BFS title on this site. A love for the British scifi series "Crime Traveller" led to finding (and reviewing) the BFS release of that show in July 2013; that in turned led to a beautiful business friendship.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene with guest-star Richard Wilson of the classic Britcom "One Foot in the Grave." in the "Mothers" episode titled "Wendy House" offers a look at the good physical comedy and other humor in the series. (The BFS set does not include this episode.)

The nature of "Mothers" further fuels this nostalgia vibe. Future Broadway star Michael Crawford stars as the relatively newly married Frank Spencer. Much of the humor relates to this quirky bloke creating chaos that causes extensive damage and that also hinders his efforts to obtain and maintain full employment.

BFS aptly describes this endearing character as "well-meaning but incompetent, inept, infuriating and injury prone." This introduction to that character equally appropriately compares him to Mr. Bean and Basil Fawlty.

The extended and amazing acrobatic physical humor additionally will bring the late and great John Ritter's Jack Tripper of the fellow '70s sitcom to mind. Having Frank needing to work as a waiter at Jack's Bistro while on holiday in the U.S. would have made for the best-ever "Company" or "Three's A Crowd") episode.

BFS displays great instincts in starting the set with the mid-S1 episode "Have A Break." The opening scene has Frank grabbing onto a moving train as the initial stage of a second honeymoon with wife Betty. Needless to say more hilarity ensues as the efforts of Frank to remedy minor damage to the hotel room where he and Betty are staying only worsens the condition of the room and the mental states of the hotel manager and a fellow guest. In this respect. "Mothers" throws a hint of the Tim Allen sitcom "Home Improvement" into the mix.

The arguably funniest episode in the set is also from S1. The titular "George's House" is a largely automated abode that, although being foolproof, is not Frank-proof. A scene in which a bathroom door with a motion sensor opens each time that Framk tries to use the room for its intended purpose is fall on the floor funny.

A slightly darker S1 episode titled "The Psychiatrist" has Frank seeking the titular therapist. This one is largely notable for including flashbacks that show how Frank met Betty and how a later first meeting with Betty's mother establishes a relationship with her that parallels the in-law relationship in the hilarious Britcom "The Worst Week of My Life."

The combination of Crawford's talent for physical comedy, co-star Michele Dotrice doing a good job as a very loving and tolerant wife, the comic chops of the foil of the week, and the ability of the writers to take everyday occurrences to comically absurd extremes combines to produce a show that represents the best of classic sitcoms on both sides of the pond.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mothers" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Portrait of the Child Star As a Young Man (Part Two of Harlen Carraher Interview)

As Part One of this two-part post on an interview with former child star Harlen Carraher of the Unreal TV reviewed '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" promises, this conclusion to this series follows up the coverage of Carraher's "Muir" years with a focus on his life in the years following that experience.

The awesomeness that is Carraher fully comes across in his sincerely ensuring that anything that he shares that can be interpreted as being critical was not intended as such.

Family Matters

The aforementioned discussion of the "Muir" years includes Carraher explaining that his father being an advertising executive facilitated the acting career of the younger Carraher man. A related aspect of this is that the older Carraher being an alcoholic prevented him from working, thus making Harlen the sole supporter of the family.

Carraher stated very clearly regarding this that "my father was a loving, caring, wonderful father who just drank a little too much." Carraher further emphasized that his father never became violent or abusive in any manner.

The wonderful father-son memories that Carraher shared included the two of them riding a promotional old-style Global Van Lines truck that his father had designed to be displayed at Disney Land right out of that park.

Carraher acknowledged that the financial dependence of his family on him was "a big burden" that became more stressful when "I was no longer in demand." Carraher elaborated by stating that his voice changing when he was 13 or 14 and his beginning to lose self-confidence during that period effectively ended his acting career. This ever-cheerful man further clarified that "the whole acting experience was wonderful" until he reached that point.

Advice to Child Stars

Carraher candidly stated that the only money that he personally received from his work on "Muir" was the money, which he believed was 15 percent of his earnings as a child actor, that the child actor protection act known as Coogan's Law required placing in trust for him. He added that that money financed the education that he received in the engineering program at the University of Southern California.

Citing the drug-related death of '60s sitcom "Family Affairs" former child star Anissa Jones, Carraher strongly advocated that Coogan's Law prohibited distributing any money held under it until the actor reached the age of 21. He explained that most people are too immature to properly manage those funds at 18.

Related advice was that the family of these children save the money that these offspring earned.

On an associated note, Carraher responded negatively when asked if any current child star mentored him when he was cast in "Muir." However, he stated that such a support program was a good idea.

Carraher further praised the work of the non-profit organization A Minor Consideration. The website of that organization stated that its purpose included providing "young performers" "guidance and support." Fellow '60s sitcom star Paul Petersen of "The Donna Reed Show" helms this charity.

[A subsequent Unreal TV interview with Petersen did not go so well. He already was stressed and takes his work VERY seriously.]


A discussion regarding Carraher's children began with the surprising news that his acting career and "Muir" itself did not interest his 14 year-old son Rory, who is heavily into the Call of Duty video game, and the younger sisters of Rory. Carraher and I agreed that having a father who starred in a sitcom would have excited us.

Things took a more serious note in Carraher discussing Rory being diagnosed with a high-functioning level of Asperger's Syndrome. This proud and loving father further shared that Rory attends a traditional school.

This conversation regarding autism encompassed the book titled "Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism" that actress Jenny McCarthy wrote about her experiences as the mother of an autistic child.

Carraher stated both "I love her book," and "I really related to it." He added that he came very close to having an opportunity to have McCarthy autograph a copy for him.

Carraher went on to very calmly express that he considered the claims of McCarthy regarding a link between autism and a child receiving immunization shots "outrageous." Carraher further explained that he loved and respected McCarthy but that (like him) she was an actor rather than a scientist." He added that "I don't think that actors should talk about things that they do not know about."

Righteous Dude

Directing some of the love that Carrraher lavished on the people whose names came up in our conversation his way is the only apt ending for this abbreviated recap of his life. He did not let an experience that very few seven year-olds have go to his head, showed exceptional maturity when his career ended far sooner than it should have (he would have made an awesome Butch on "Nanny and the Professor"), built a terrific professional career, and became an awesome parent.

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding this interview is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

'The Ghost and Mr. Carraher:' Spirited Conversation with "Muir" Child Star (Part One of Two)

Image result for harlen carraher images

One of the best things about speaking with former child star Harlen Carraher over the telephone was finding a guy with whom I would enjoy sharing a wonderfully disgustingly sweet "secret menu" cotton candy frappuccino. For the benefit of folks who are not true classic TV fans, Carraher played elementary school aged Jonathan Muir on the '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." (Unreal TV has previously reviewed the DVD releases of "Muir.")

The tremendous charm of Carraher the adult relates to his kind nature, age-appropriate enthusiasm and awesome parental nature. Respective examples of this include persistently playing telephone tag despite not receiving ANY benefit from this interview, exclaiming "that's my favorite movie" on my speculating that he likes "Chinatown," and conveying his tremendous love for his fourteen-year old autistic son Rory and Rory's 12 and 10 year-old sisters.

Carraher sharing so much during our 90-minute chat requires breaking coverage of that visit  into two parts. The current focus is on Carraher's "Muir" related experiences. The second part will shift to his thoughts on being a child star and other equally interesting aspects of his adult life.

Hopefully achieved objectives of this conversation included not asking the same questions that Cararhcr had been asked 1,000s of time and to provide some depth.


Carraher stressed that pursuing an acting career was his choice. He added that his father was an advertising executive with contacts that facilitated that activity. This career in that context began when Carraher was 18 months old. He also shared that he was the first voice of Sprout in the Green Giant television commercials.

Carraher described the casting process for "Muir" as a cattle call; he shared as well that he did not recall that anyone whom he beat out for the part went on to do anything big.

Carraher attributed looking like "Muir" star Hope Lange, who played the titular widow, and being able to remember his lines as primary reasons for his getting the role.

Kellie Flanagan

Even before discussing the background summarized above, Carraher asked that I tell co-star Kellie Flanagan, who played Carraher's slightly older sister Candy Muir on the series, that he hoped that she was well and that he was sorry that "I was a little brat" if  I spoke with her, On being asked to elaborate regarding the second comment, Carraher explained that Flanagan was "like my big sister, and I was a typical little boy at the time."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The interest of Carraher in connecting with Flanagan and Flanagan expressing the same interest in an interview in another forum prompted tracking down the latter and providing her the contact information for the former. She is just as nice as her fictional brother, and hopes run high for an interview with her in this space.]

Carraher expressed similar regard for a pre "The Partridge Family" Danny Bonaduce in reference to Bonaduce guest starring on "Muir." Carraher nicely but strongly asserted that Bonaduce got the role based on his talent, rather than on Bomnaduce's father Joseph writing the episode in which Danny appeared.

Charles Nelson Reilly

The combination of the persona of "Muir" star Charles Nelson Reilly being so flamboyant and the even late '60s not being the most enlightened of times prompted asking if that characterization of highly anxious Claymore Gregg prompted any negative public feedback. Carraher responded "absolutely not."

Carraher then described Reilly as "very professional and very kind," that "I really enjoyed working with him," and that "he was perfect for the role."

Carraher added that Reilly was a horrible driver and ran down a boom man while filming one scene; this stage hand lived but broke his leg.

The brief discussion related to sexuality in the context of this topic included Carraher volunteering "I'm very straight myself" but expressing an awesome acceptance for gay folks. He is sincere in stating that some of his best friends are gay.


The conversation turned to Scruffy, the wire fox terrier who played the Muir family pet of the same name in the context of Flanagan commenting in an interview that Scruffy was paid more than Flanagan. Carraher responded that he did not recall that but stated that that would not surprise him. He explained that the animal trainer on the series was one of the best in that profession.

The bonus tidbit that Carraher shared regarding Scruffy was that the original intent was to name him Rusty in reference to the rust that formed on the hull of a sailing ship.

Natalie Wood

A question regarding whether any of props in the series were from the 1947 "Muir" film prompted the enthusiastic response "I don't know; I would be thrilled to know that it was."

Carraher elaborated by stating "I am a huge Natalie Wood fan." This was in the context of Wood starring in the 1947 film.

Carraher stated that Wood never visited the set of the "Muir" series and that he had never met her. He added that his brother appeared in the uber-awesome Wood film "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" but that Harlen never visited that set.

Bill Bixby

The portion of our conversation regarding "Muir" guest star Bill Bixby revealed that Carraher and I were on the same wavelength. A confession that "Muir" remained one of my Top 10 favorite shows but that I liked Bixby's '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" a little better prompted Carraher (most likely with a wide grin on his face) to state "me too."

Carraher stated that he did not recall Bixby discussing any techniques regarding the special effects on "Martian" but that Bixby was one of the nicest guest stars who appeared on "Muir." One aspect of this regard was Bixby being very gracious when seven or eight year-old budding photographer Carraher asked to take candid photos of him.

This lead to discussing personal aspects of the life (and genuinely tragic death) of Bixby that included his being a terrific father in real life. This in turn related to both a general discussion of Bixby's sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and comments in Unreal TV reviews of that series that Bixby seemed to be the kind of dad that many children of the '60s and '70s wished that they had. Carraher agreed and added that he loved "Father."

Carraher followed up by stating that future "Coach" star Shelley Fabares was equally gracious about Carraher taking her photo when she guest starred.

Nilsson Rating 

Carraher provided the best way to wrap up this portion of the recap of our talk early in that conversation. A mention of highly prolific singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson appearing on the show prompted Carraher to joyfully sing "you put the lime in the coconut and then shake it all up." This awesomely conveyed that Carraher thoroughly enjoyed acting on the show and retained the spark of childhood that all of us require,

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding these insights in "Muir" and Carraher is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

'if you don't, i will' DVD: Comic Lack of French Connection

Product Details
The good news regarding the international films that New York-based Film Movement, which operates a spectacular Film of the Month Club, releases on DVD in the U.S., is that the reviews of these movies practically write themselves. This is especially true regarding the hilarious 2014 French comedy "if you don't, i will." This release comes out on April 7, 2015.

"don't" goes beyond the typical Movement standard of being able to be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot in the United States. This Woody Allenesque quasi-dystopian tale of stagnant love is a good example of a classic New York based film of Allen. Slightly toning down the neurotic personas and spot-on wry observations are the only differences.

This New York vibe includes scenes with the cosmopolitan friends of the central couple; the members of this clique includes the almost requisite turtleneck-clad bearded pseudo intellectual (a.k.a. uber-pompous ass).

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "don't" nicely selects some of the best moments of some of the best scenes to accurately depict the well-presented themes and tone of the film.

Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric of "Coco Before Chanel" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" respectively respectively play long-time married urban couple Pomme and Pierre.

Filmmaker Sophie Fillieres awesomely establishes the themes and the mood of "don't" in an opening scene in which the not-so-happy couple attends an art gallery exhibition of the work of a friend. The terrifically jaded Pomme responds on a younger and more attractive woman asking her for directions to the bathroom that she does not work there in the same manner that many of us who inadvertently wear red polo shirts to Target react on being asked for the location of shower curtains.

This scene continues with the younger woman responding that she thought that Pomme still might know the location of the bathroom. Pomme then provides the requested directions. The next scene has Pierre, who is absent during the aforementioned exchange, announcing a need to pee only to have Pomme tell him without explanation that he must wait.

The very civilized tension between the pair escalates and climaxes in Pierre running ahead of his wife to catch a bus in the rain without having it wait for her. Information regarding a significant factor related to this deterioration of the marriage is nicely and slowly revealed during the course of the film.

The next portion of the film portrays the less intense level of tension and animosity that characterizes the daily lives of the leads. These include hilarious moments that clearly show that the honeymoon is over.

Some of the best scenes from the portion of this film are between Pomme and her 20-something son from a prior relationship Romain. This role is the first for almost sure to be a star in his own right Nelson Delapaalme. Pomme terrifically conveys a parent doing an overall good job coming to terms with her little boy becoming a man. It is equally clear that she is transferring some of the lost affection with her husband to her son.

Escalating tensions erupt during a hike on which Pomme abruptly announces that she is staying in the forest and orders Pierre to return home. The humor in this scene includes Pierre questioning the need of Pomme for his windbreaker despite having one of her own.

The next portion of "don't" portrays Pomme living in the woods and Pierre largely going about his daily life in the city. Describing their lives during this period as stoic does not properly convey these scenes,

The incidents in the lives of Pierre and Pomme before the audience meets them and the events that "don't" depicts simply boil down to requiring that those characters decide whether they are happier together than they would be if they separated. The fact that this is not a Hollywood romcom keeps the suspense regarding this outcome uncertain right to the end of the film.

The typically well-matched bonus short film this time is the French dramedy "Driving Lessons." The equal parts dram and edy relate to teen Manon contending with her grandmother and a cranky driving instructor in the immediate wake of taking a pregnancy test. The character of the grandmother, the embarrassment of Manon regarding purchasing the pregnancy test, and the inadvertent metaphor that the instructor makes combine for a terrific film that would make a wonderful feature-length production.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "don't" or "Driving" is welcome to email mm. You can also connect on Twitter via

Sunday, April 5, 2015

'Believe Me' DVD: By Young Christian Texans for Young Christian Texans

Product Details
The Riot Studios film "Believe Me," which is a recent DVD release, is most entertaining in the context of the PG-style "Entourage" like 20-somethings behind the movie. This tale of three white middle-class Texas boys (and their black friend ala the Winstons of "Ghostbusters" and "New Girl") who are fresh out of college seems to be a fictionalized adventure of the college buds who helm Riot. This extends to the prominent Christian themes in "Believe" that reflect the informal Riot mission statement.

Online interviews with writer/director Will Bakke (and speculation that anyone in the position of Bakke would cast himself as the self-described "smart, handsome, and charming" lead) strongly suggests that he bases group leader Sam on himself. Brief conversations with "Believe" producer/former college football jock Alex Carroll suggests that he provides the inspiration for the slovenly Baker. That leaves unassuming buddy Pierce to writer Michael B. Allen.

A (not-so-wide) generation and geographic gap hinders assessing whether the Riot boys or their fictional counterparts are guys with whom one would want to hang at the neighborhood bar on a Friday night. Personal tastes run more toward sharing that experience with a more congenial lot.

"Believe" opens with a cliched scene set just before the climatic moment at the end of the film. We then quickly go back several months to near the end of the college careers of this southwest version of Vincent Chase and his posse.

Sam simultaneously learning that his college scholarship has run out and that he owes roughly $10,000 in tuition prompts him to form (and justify) a scheme involving a fake Christian charity. The purpose of the non-existent "All's Wells That Ends Wells" is to dig wells in Africa to provide the natives clean drinking water.

A one-night-stand in the form of a local fundraising event that is designed to dig Sam out of his hole (of course, pun intended) leads to the boys getting in deeper (of course, pun intended) when Christian tour "Cross Country" producer Ken (played by Christopher McDonald) seduces this "God Squad" into spreading their message in a multi-city tour right after their graduation.

Getting our boys on the road introduces them to hilariously mediocre Christian rocker Gabriel, perfectly played by former "Happy Endings" cast member and current "Weird Loner" Zachary Knighton. This character may not steal the fictional show in the story but does make off with the film.

Pangs of conscience among the group and a threat of exposure drives the film to the aforementioned climax. The suspense extends beyond whether Sam will return his wages of sin to whether he will confess his transgressions to the fans who placed their faith (and their funds) in him.

The unfortunate theme of the analysis of  the sometimes amusing "Believe" must be disappointment. This begins with the the Bakke Street Boys promoting the involvement of "Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman in the film in a manner that suggests that he at least has a substantial supporting role. Offerman's Sean is a college official whose part is limited to a roughly five-minute scene in which he informs Sam of the debt of the latter.

Offerman does a decent job with his typical off-beat performance. His repeatedly asking Sam  "are you cool" just before pouring himself a drink during their on-campus meeting and later making a sarcastic remark about Sam being the only college student with financial difficulties are highlights.

This is just one example of the makers of this C+ film, which seems that it far outpaces the recent higher profile  "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas," not living up to their potential. The combined concept of a crooked evangelist and college boy stereotypes seems to have limitless comic potential, but the intentional and unintentional humor is very limited here with the exception of 27 year-star Alex Russell clearly being too old for the role of Sam.

Additionally, our good ole young men are in the indie-film rich area of SXSW Festival base Austin, Texas. It seems that they could have found folks who present indie quirk, dystopian cynicism, or plain ole drama better.

Again, this is not to say that the Rioteers did not do a decent job; many others simply have done what they attempted much better. The aforementioned disappointment includes the interest in this film relating to an expectation that it would be more like a production of the fantabulous L.A. collaboration "Dances With Film" than an above-average student film. This boils down to simply having realistic expectations regarding this film, which is far better than the Unreal TV panned Soderbergh film "Magic Mike."

The DVD extras include (arguably apt for Texas) trailers, outtakes, and deleted scenes.

Folks who are interested in reading about some of the plethora of indie flicks that Unreal TV loves and that created higher expectations for "Believe" are welcome to check out the all-time reader favorite "Unhung Hero," the review of the terrifically quirky "Walter," and the post on the Robert Redford produced "Drunktown's Finest."

Wanting to conclude this discussion on a more positive note, I invite the three amigos to send DVDs of any future productions that they feel address the shortcomings of "Believe."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Believe" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.