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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cinqo Estrellas Por Dos Amigos Burritos Opening in Newburyport, MA

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A sign in the small coastal city of Newburyport, Massachusetts announcing the upcoming opening of a Dos Amigos Burritos was a nice surprise a few weeks ago. Speaking with uber-hands on Amigos co-owner Joel Harris a week later was the queso sauce on the taco.

Other great timing related to the conversation with Harris roughly coinciding with a memorable line from a  recent sitcom. A character observed that he had no need to visit Mexico because they had brought their food here.

The Portsmouth, New Hampshire Amigos location has been a personal favorite for years. Plans to visit the other four Amigos restaurants (all of which are in New Hampshire) are unfilled.

Harris will complete the south-of-the-border venture for Amigos when the Newburyport location opens between June 15 and June 30, 2015. Folks who do not opt to get their meals to go can enjoy their eats in the completely renovated restaurant that veteran Amigos employees will staff. Having Amigos cater a personal or business event will be another way to get your Mexican food fix without traveling to Acapulco.

The Mexican Food Revolution

Similar to the origin story of the Newburyport Brewing Company, which was the subject of a July 2013 Unreal TV article, Amigos began with a casual conversation. Watertown, Massachusetts native (and son of a preacher man) Harris was friends with  future business amigo Portsmouth restauranteur Jay McSharry through interviewing McSharry for the newspaper the employed Harris.

Harris jokingly asking McSharry "what's next" during one of their sessions evoked the response "how about a burrito shop?" This idea coinciding with Harris craving a substitute for the exceptional fare at the Bueno Y Sano restaurant that he savored during his college years in Amherst, Massachusetts led to McSharry contributing the three Ws of "work, wisdom, and wealth" that resulted in Amigos.

McSharry contributed sweat equity, shared his extensive knowledge of the restaurant business, and invested funds that helped make the project a reality. Harris further shared that McSharry sent him to work at Bueno Y Sano and other burrito restaurants to properly learn the business.

The Proof is in the Salsa

The combination of the love of Harris for Mexican cuisine and the hands-on training that McSharry assigned prompted asking the former if he either developed or tweaked the Amigos recipe. He terrifically responded "I certainly trust my taste buds and provide feedback."

Harris further shared that the menu included vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items.

Other sources of feedback include consultations by graduates of the Culinary Institute of America and Harris' table service Mexican restaurant Vida Cantina in Portsmouth.

This discussion regarding the Amigos fare led to discussing the seasonal and shrimp items that Harris plans to add to the menu. A philosophy of being "really staff driven" and "encouraging staff to come up with innovations" is another anticipated source of new menu items.

Why Newburyport? Why Now?

Harris explained that the appeal of the central-retail district of Newburyport related to his motto "we love being downtown; we love local business." An observation that many competing burrito restaurants end up in shopping centers was an aspect of the desired downtown vibe.

The space, which formerly housed Greta's Great Grains bakery becoming available was the primary reason for expanding to Newburyport at this time after several years of looking for the right location.

Thoughts of the "buy local" policy extended to purchasing produce from a local farm and to selling the products of the aforementioned brewery on acquiring a liquor license. The statement "we love to partner with local businesses" indicated an intent to further contribute to the local economy.

The Whole Enchilada 

The above look at Harris and Amigos shows that his instincts regarding the restaurant being a perfect fit for Newburyport are spot on. Making tasty tasty burritos et al available to residents and tourists provide another compelling reason to stroll the downtown area.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

'Don't Wait Up' S1 & S2 DVD: BBC Britcom of Father-Son Doctors/Roomies Practicing Patience

[Editor's Note: This Australian DVD set is coded for Region 4, which prevents playing the discs in a standard U.S. DVD player. You need a highly-recommended region-free player to watch it.]

The Australian-based DVD producer/distributor Madman Entertainment complete series of the witty BBC britcom "Don't Wait Up" is a terrific example of (primarily) Australian and U.K. Madman fare that has never been released in the U.S. The two series (my people call them seasons) in this "Wait" collection first ran on the BBC in 1983 and 1984 but does not look very dated beyond the earth tones. the cars, and the rotary telephones. The plots and dialogue would be just as effective in 2015 as they were in the '80s.

One can only hope that he future plans of Madman includes releases the remaining four seasons of "Wait."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a hilarious scene from the first episode of "Wait" shows how series creator/writer  (and accomplished actor) George Layton mines wonderful humor from common sitcom techniques.

"Wait" stars a very endearing Niger Havers, whom Unreal TV readers met in the post on the later Havers britcom "Sleepers," as 30-something recently divorced National Health Service General Practitioner Dr. Tom Latimer. The catalyst for the "sits" that provide the "com" in the seven S1 and six S2 episodes occurs when Tom's father Toby announces in the first episode both that he is divorcing Tom's mother and is moving into the one-bedroom apartment, which is a typical abode of a recently divorced man with a burdensome alimony duty, in which Tom resides.

The highly prolific and versatile Tony Britton is well-cast as the elder Dr. Latimer, who is a posh Harley Street dermatologist. He further is a very vocal advocate for the finer things in life and the attitudes that accompany those pursuits.

Although aptly promoted as a "The Odd Couple" style sitcom, that element (which includes determining whether two divorced men can share an apartment without driving each other crazy), is not particularly strong in "Wait." It seems to be more about a father and son in the same profession struggling to come to terms with being peers. A related aspect is the humor associated with Toby treating Tom as his domestic servant in the same manner that he treated his wife. This is particularly true in S2.

The most distinguishable aspect of "Wait" evokes wonderful memories of the 2005-06 Henry Winkler sitcom "Out of Practice" in that it derives laughs from the extreme contrasts between the medical practices of the father and son leads. Tom accurately comments that his father spends his afternoons playing golf and bridge, and Toby criticizes socialized medicine.

At the same time, a second season episode that has a nervous Toby going into a rough neighborhood to treat a patient of Tom's practice shows that the former is a dedicated physician. A more hilarious episode later that season further focuses on issues related to the two healthcare systems.

"Wait" also merits comparison to "Seinfeld" in that it it mines absurd humor from "nothing" and masterfully blends verbal and physical humor. The arguably most predictable (but equally arguably the most amusing) episode is an S1 offering that has a clumsy Toby accidentally staining Tom's cricket uniform Kramer style. This leads to Toby having to visit bitter ex-wife Helen to get his back-up uniform only to learn the fate of his entire wardrobe.

It is equally predictable that the cricket ball that Tom sends sailing crashes through the windshield of the Rolls Royce that Toby just purchased. Further hilarity ensues regarding wacky misunderstandings related to stolen cars. This culminates in yet another highly predictable but still hilarious mishap at the end of the episode.

The very "Seinfeld"esque S1 finale has a very George-like Toby promising his wife a romantic weekend away only to have hilarity ensue on the way to the hotel and for the warm feelings to evaporate within hours. In true "Seinfeld" fashion, this turn-of-events involves Tom.

The liner notes for the first season set in this collection share that the cliffhanger related to that derailed weekend prompted a large audience for the premiere episode in the second season.

Well-crafted elements of "Three's Company" enter in other episodes regarding things such as unintentionally odd bed fellows, unwarranted presumptions regarding potentially dangerous liaisons, and a scheme by Tom to get his father out of the apartment so that he can enjoy a romantic evening with his girlfriend. Great "Company" style physical humor includes injury-inducing repeated opening and closing of a door and an argument over closet space taking its toll.

This "Company" vibe may be partially attributable to Layton and Britton having previously worked together on the Britcom "Robin's Nest," which is a spin-off of "Company" inspiration "Man About the House." For that matter, "Nest" inspired the "Company" spin-off "Three's A Crowd."

S2 ends with a cliffhanger that is a hilarious variation of the end of S1. This one involves Toby and his wife set to take a reconciliation cruise only to have things go comically awry in a manner that leads to potential actual "cabin fever."

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

'Unfreedom' Theatrical/VOD: Banned in Mumbai (But Presumably Not Boston)

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Dark Frames awesomely kicks off its venture distributing non-Bollywood Indian films in the U.S. with the banned-in-India future art house hit "Unfreedom." As shown below, the tag line for this film "how far would you go for what you believe"  is very apt. Additionally, the theme of repressed lesbian love makes the May 29, 2015 VOD and New York and Los Angeles (ahead of a larger rollout) releases of "Unfreedom" just before the Pride month of June very timely.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Unfreedom" offers looks at the range of intense emotions and views around which the film centers. The sense of the exceptional cinematography is a nice bonus.

Writer/director Raj Amit Kumar wonderfully conveys his themes of the extremism and intolerance that sadly mark our modern times in parallel tales (in a manner similar to the recently reviewed Mexican film "Days of Grace") that occur in New York City and New Delhi. The New York story tells the tale of a Pakistani Muslim with good cause for a grudge participating in an uber-violent campaign against a not un-American Muslim scholar; the New Delhi tale, which has its own moments of bloodshed, centers around a 20-something secret lesbian whose stalling techniques regarding moving forward with an arranged marriage to a man are starting to fail.

As seems typical for Muslim terrorist organizations, the Pakistani man is "called up" soon after arriving in New York, His mission (which he must accept) involves kidnapping the scholar and getting him to renounce his widespread message of international peace. The graphic means of persuasion regarding that are extreme to say the least.

Meanwhile back in New Delhi, the impending shotgun wedding finds our heroine fleeing toward the arms of the female acclaimed artist who is her real true love. Things not going as planned leads to some gun play, hostage taking, and a brief Utopian existence before an abrupt return to harsh realities.

An indirect spoiler regarding these plots is that "Unfreedom" being made roughly 8,000 miles from Tinsel Town means that there is no guarantee that that film will produce a Hollywood ending.

On a larger level, "Unfreedom" is among an increasingly rare breed of film that has a blatant bias but provides food for thought while stuffing your gullet with popcorn. Presenting these ideas in the form of a good storytelling makes the entire experience a memorable night at the movies.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

'Butterflies of Bill Baker' DVD: A Modern Jekyll and Hyde Story

Product Details
The recent DVD release of the 2013 Running Bear Media drama "Butterflies of Bill Baker" provides a good primer on the night terrors known as pavor nocturnus in an entertainingly understated film. The titutlar middle-aged man is a textbbook Jekyll and Hyde type in that he is the nicest guy imaginable during the day and a brutal monster driven by horribly violent images (which are a confusing mix of imaginary images and memories of past  events) on becoming mobile while asleep.

The fabulous Baker boy is happily tending to his yard, running his classic car sales/restoring/repair business, and managing his long-term condition well when the surprise reappearance of his ex-wife prompts his id to wake up. This takes the form of equally incredibly surreal and violent images and literally unconscious hostile acts.

The other big change in the life of Bill comes in the form of becoming an (initially highly reluctant) surrogate parent to aptly named seven year-old orphan Annie who is having a hard-knock life. Meanwhile, the new treatment by the latest doctor to care for Bill is less effective than desired.

These elements collide as Bill and his ex-wife quasi-reunite and the manifestations of the terrors directly and indirectly threaten the mutually beneficial relationship between Bill and Annie. A cool aspect of that bond is that it incorporates a few elements of "The Sixth Sense" despite Annie the outcast not being the one who sees dead people.

A really cute scene has Bill explaining to Annie that his night-time behavior precludes spending time together and her using kid logic in responding that they spend time together in the day. This pluck additionally comes through in a few other scenes in which the moppet pushes her way into the heart of Bill.

The past and present collide in the climatic ending sequence in which the emergence of "Hyde" disrupts a previously idyllic weekend that Bill and Annie are enjoying. One spoiler is that the turmoil regarding that provides a relatively unpredictable happy ending that is Shakespearean regarding its surreal elements and the gathering of every major player.

Will Chase of the ABC prime time drama "Nashville" nicely portrays the two faces of Bill nicely. He portrays the light and dark sides of that character equally well and will make many people think twice when striking up a friendship with someone who seems too nice to be true.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' S5 BD: Spock, Klingons, and Mark Twain Oh My

Product Details
This review of the CBS Home Entertainment Blu-ray (BD) release of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" S5 wraps the formal element of the intended "Year of Trek" on Unreal TV that in reality is more "Federation Winter." A wrap-up post later this year will discuss lesser-known elements regarding what makes the "Trek" universe so special.

It is also worth noting once again that the nature of TNG and the tremendous enhancements in the BD set makes owning that series in that format worthwhile even if you have the DVD sets. Your reviewer has put his money where his mouth is regarding this.

This 1991-92 season is notable for being the final voyage of "Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, who passed away in October 1991.

Related nice timing regarding this review is that this season including the two-part episode "Unification," which features "Trek" god Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime. Once again seeing that actor in that role that seems written for him is a nice reminder of the awesomeness of Nimoy within weeks of his passing away. (of course, the relative interval between that death and this post is much shorter in Vulcan years compared to human years.)

A third  aspect of the season creates an imperfect trifecta regarding the involvement of deceased show business luminaries with TNG. The unavailability of Robin Williams to play the role of a quirky human who claims to be a time traveler from 200 years in the future in the episode titled "A Matter of Time" resulted in casting an able Matt Frewer, best known as "Max Headroom," in the role.

Following the "Year of Trek" tradition, the trailer for the S5 BD set is the selected YouTube clip for this review. This one has more humor than promos for other seasons and also includes great looks at the cast interviews in the extras.

The S5 season premiere is the second half of the cliffhanger "Redemption" in the Unreal TV reviewed TNG S4. This story focuses on a power struggle for control of the Klingon Empire that prompts Enterprise Klingon officer Worf to trade in that job (and his Starfleet uniform) for a post on a Klingon ship (and the corresponding garb).

This episode further brings back an S1 cast member in a new role that closely relates to both the former character of that individual and a classic S3 episode.

"Silicon Avatar" brings back another S1 character in having the Enterprise re-encounter the destructive crystalline entity from the "Datalore" episode.

S5 further introduces combative Bajoran Starfleet officer Ro Laren into the "Trek" universe in the aptly titled "Ensign Ro" episode. This one has her called onto the Enterprise to serve as a Starfleet representative to her people.

Conspicuous absences from S5 are a lack of an episode involving the impish Q and a Borg episode in which that fan favorite threatens the Enterprise and the entire Federation to which it belongs. "I, Borg" has our heroes first rescue and subsequently rehabilitate and actually befriend an injured Borg in a relatively benign manner. However, Trekkers and Trekkies alike know that this is not the end of the story.

The entertaining series finale "Time's Arrow" has the discovery of the head of android Enterprise officer Data at a site on earth that dates back 500 years leading to an adventure that involves time-traveling aliens, Mark Twain, another notable literary figure of that era, and the past of Enterprise bartender/"listener" Guinan.

The remaining episodes involve the standard "Trek" style scifi mysteries, seemingly friendly guests with malicious intent, and a handful of ill-fated romances.

The always spectacular special features in these sets this time around includes "A Remembrance of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a tribute to Roddenberry.

Anyone with any "Trek" related questions or comments is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

'Dad' S1 DVD: The Life of Brian

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Australian-made DVD set requires either a Region 4 or international DVD player; it will NOT play in a standard U.S. player.]

The fruits of the initial exploration of the awesome catalog of Australian DVD producer/distributor Madman Entertainment includes the 1997-99 two series (my people call them seasons) BBC Britcon "Dad." This review is of the first season; a review of the second season is scheduled for late May 2015.

The many nice things about "Dad," which revolves around the efforts of middle-aged Alan Hook to relate to his 18 year-old son and his elderly father, include that is supports the theory that foreign shows generally are much better than the American programs that they inspire. In this case, "Dad" is the precursor of the recent Seth Green Fox failedcom "Dads."

A typical episode has either the titular well-meaning but oblivious parent Brian Hook as the instigator by initiating a project that inevitably leaves Alan both physically and psychologically injured or depicts the efforts of Alan to be a better father to son Vincent than Alan perceives that Brian was to him to fail comically miserably. The inevitable collision of the two themes makes the good humor in the show even better.

The pilot titled "Dadism" starts out strong with a delighted Vincent regaling his mother with a list of things that are uncool only to have Alan prove the point on entering the room a moment later. This scene leading to Alan intentionally raising the expectation of Vincent for a spectacular gift for his 18th birthday only to have those hopes almost immediately dashed.

All of this relates to a hilarious flashback to '70s England in which Alan goes to great (but futile) lengths to avoid Brian embarrassing him on his own 18th birthday.

Alan then visiting Brian for one of their very regular visits leads to a wonderful series of mishaps related to the impact on the former of the well-meaning actions of the latter. These include slapstick involving a mannequin.

The episode titled "Dadcipline" arguably best illustrates the concept of the show. The manner in which worlds collide in this outing that involves hilarious mishaps regarding Alan painting Brian's house relates to strict discipline by Brian during the adolescence of Alan strongly impairing an effort by Alan to be part of an important aspect of the live of Vincent.

Another episode in which Brian is largely responsible for a cat becoming glued to Alan and that incident mortifying Vincent is one of the most hilarious things seen on television in several years.

The "Holidad" season finale also wonderfully ties in the great elements of the show by having the group take a typically horrible family outing. Watching the clan navigate via a series of road directions from 1962 is almost as hilarious as the aforementioned scene with the cat.

Very prolific British actor Kevin McNally, who arguably is best known to American audiences through his work on the "The Pirates of the Caribbean" films, plays middle-class mid-level bureaucrat everyman Alan very well.

Equally prolific  British actor George Cole brings the good natured cluelessness of Brian to life; he makes it very hard to get angry at him despite antics that are very at home in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

'Rumperbutts' DVD: Indie Band 'Mates of State' Hilariously Groove on 'Z Rock/' Dan Zanes Kiddie Music Vibe

Product Details
The comedy film "The Rumperbutts" does not disappoint regarding expectations that it offers the same quirky humor as the IFC sitcom "Z Rock," which tells the tale of a group that play clubs at night and kiddie shows in the afternoon. A personal aspect of this type of split personality relates to knowing former Del Fuegos front man/current children's music performer Dan Zanes when he was s a teen dishwasher/doo wop group Kitchenettes singer at a New Hampshire summer camp. (The autographed photo of Zanes and a cassette of his performance still in a box marked "stuff" may be the first of both for Zanes.)

This 90 minutes of fun, which derives knee slappers from actual low-hanging fruit, hits movie screens and VOD menus on Friday May 22, 2015.

The following clip, courtesy of You Tube,of the "Rumperbutts" trailer provides a very nice recap of the story in a manner that communicates the humor and vibe that make it worth watching.

The titular toddler faves are a duo of lions with a hit kids' show and popular musical tour; the mane man and feline fatale in the cat suits are former indie rock performers (and former couple) Jack and Bonnie. Economic necessity prompts breaking up the wonderfully named and talented Dean's List band and trading in the corresponding grumge ware for the mascot outfits.

The real-life counterparts of these characters are power-ballad couple Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner of the real-life indie rock group mates of state. The taleented indie projects actor Josh Brener plays Richie, the impish magical being (whom the Winchester boys of "Supernatural" would gack with gusto) who rocks the world of the reluctant toddler idols.

A hilarious early scene has a theater crammed with hyped-up oblivious youngsters excitedly listening to Jack and Bonnie complaining about their lot in life in the upbeat style of a typical Rumperbutts song.

The combination of List and the current discontent of Jack and Bonnie bring them to the attention of Richie, who offers a chance of returning to their old lives. This aspect of a rock-based Faustian deal evokes thoughts of the Greg Evigan/Paul Shaffer '70s failecom "A Year at the Top."

The must-see fall-on-the-floor scene that provides the impetus for the demise of the Rumperbutts begins a series of fortunate and unfortunate events for Jack and Bonnie. Uncertainty regarding whether the Q-like Richie is the only one messing with the couple contributes to the fun.

The numerous entertaining surreal elements include parallel timelines, Richie having great fun with his special abilities, and apparent time travel. Jack hitting the name "mates of state" on a wall listing the performers who have played a club adds another fantastic (in both senses of the word) element to "Rumperbutts."

The final note regarding "Rumperbutts" is that it is a film that anyone from 12 to 60 can enjoy. The wry deadpan humor will amuse, everyone plays his or her part well, and sour notes are few and far between.

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Jonah Lives' DVD: 'That '70s Show' Meets 'Night of the Living Dead'

Product Details

The Recent Wild Eye Releasing, which offers the best in low-budget slasher movies, DVD of the zombie slasher flick "Jonah Lives" is notable both for being filmed in Fall River Massachusetts, which is the home of axe-wielding Lizzie Borden, and for wonderfully placing parallel universe versions of the "That '70s Show" sitcom teens in mortal danger. The "Jonah" tagline "a rude spiritual awakening" is another fun element.

Our flock of zombie bait is six middle-class teens who seemingly spend most of their time hanging together and use the quasi-finished basement in the home of Francis, who roughly is the Kelso of the group, as a club house. Further Francis and the Eric of the group date the Jackie and the Jackie 2 of their gang.

As an aside, endearing Francis portrayor Ryan Boudreau has potential to follow in the footsteps of Kelso actor Ashton Kutcher at least to the extent of making popular but not-so-great films.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Jonah" trailer provides a good sense of the gory goodness of the film.

As is typical in horror flicks, the mayhem begins ensuing roughly 45 minutes into "Jonah." The girls expressing intense boredom watching the boys play their usual Friday night poker game in the basement first leads to rejecting the impassioned pleas of Tony, who is a mix of Fez from "'70s" and Michael Anthony Hall of the real '80s, to play strip poker.

The solution of Francis to stop the whining is to pull out a Ouija board; his "Captain Planet" style logic is that the combined energy from all six teens is enough to contact the spirit world. Six becomes five when wimpy Tony begs off.

Things then turn hilariously dark when the (soon convulsing) participants in the game contact the titular zombie, provide him the juice to climb out of this grave, and become his meat suits. This leads to plenty of basement-centered blood and gore that proves the adage that it is fun until someone loses an arm.

Meanwhile upstairs, the parents of Francis are hosting a swinging '70s style key party that would send "Red" Foreman of "'70s" out to his garage (if not a divorce attorney). The star of that event Zora Matthias is a very proud gold digger/cougar with a voracious appetite. Seeing Zora pounce on a delighted Francis and watching her dish with her trans-sexual friend/fellow outcast are highlights of "Jonah."

Other humor that is funny because it is true relates to the repentant teens figuratively trying to put the genie back in the bottle in the form of regathering around the Ouija board to vehemently apologize in an effort to get Jonah to return to this grave. This reflects the modern parenting style/Roman Catholic philosophy that no sin is not so great that a sincere confession cannot absolve you of the harm. The harsh life lesson that our gang experiences regarding this is a "must-see" scene in the film.

Although much of the publicity regarding "Jonah" spoils the central premise of the film, learning that in advance ruins the fun of the film. Suffice it to say that the "Honey; I'm home" aspect of the film is not coincidental.

The bottom line is that "Jonah" will appeal to tween and teen boys who enjoy this type of film and their older counterparts who still find them entertaining.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Jonah" is welcome to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

'Inspector Morse: The Dead of Jericho' DVD: Commencement of Timeless British Procedural

Inspector Morse Set 1 DVD
This review of the BFS Entertainment DVD release "Inspector Morse: The Dead of Jericho" is a follow-up to the recent post that provides a broad overview of the epic 25th Anniversary Morse set of which "Jericho" is a part. The three feature-length episodes of this classic style whodunit in the aptly named "Jericho" comprise the first series (my people call them seasons) of "Morse." U.S. airings of these episodes include runs on "PBS Mystery!" and the A&E network during the better days of the latter.

The titular police detective is the wonderfully quirky unmarried middle-aged heterosexual who enjoys his beer as much as his three Bs of classical music and who has the deductive and observational skills that solving his cases require. In many respects, this makes him a more socialized Sherlock Holmes.

The titular region of Oxford is where the three cases around which the episodes revolve occur.

The first episode, which shares the name of this subset of the 25th Anniversary Collection, revolves around the apparent suicide of a music teacher to whom fellow choir member Morse is attracted. The multiple flies in the ointment that contribute to the typical very manageable intricacy of a "Morse" episode include the victim being involved in romance, giving up a child at birth several years ago, trying to be supportive of a very troubled college-aged man, and having a creepy and intrusive neighbor. As always, Morse expertly sorts this all this out and gets his man (or woman) after an initially rough start. This episode is notable as well for being the first pairing of Morse and longtime (and long suffering) professional partner Sgt. Lewis.

Nice elements of this one are that it starts with wonderful humor that provides insight into the challenges that Morse faces, balances the need of any new show for exposition and the desire of the audience to get right to the action, and provides Americans with both a sense of the past of Oxford and a look at this historic locale.

"The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn" requires that Morse solve the mystery related to poisoning the titular academic in the wake of the latter uncovering a scandal related to selling exam secrets. This one nicely involves even more elements of classic British mysteries than the first episode.

The (cynical) insider look at the world of academia contributes brilliant humor in this one.

The third episode, "Service of All the Dead" arguably is the best of the three. The reported murder of a church warden during a service begins with simple assumptions that nicely escalate into great intrigue that involves several forms of family drama, adulterous affairs, church scandals, gambling, apparent blackmail, and bodies piling up like firewood. Directly borrowing from Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie only makes this better.

There is no doubt that these "Morse" episodes (and the 30 others in the "Collection") are an important part of a well-balanced video-viewing diet. Merely being an entertaining program that provides a very doable mental workout sets this series apart from most other fare from any television era. These elements further make "Morse" episodes ones to savor, rather than gorge upon as if you are competing in a hot-dog eating contest that is most likely to end in extreme distress.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

'Fresh Off the Boat:' Nicely Fresh Off the Bubble

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An awesome response by a cast member of the ABC sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat" on Unreal TV promoting the renewal of that series following a few weeks on the bubble planted the seed for a post on this good show; a more recent experience regarding suffering through not turning on the air conditioning during a brief but intense period of heat solidified the decision for these musings.

"Boat" is based on the memoirs of real-life celebrity chef Eddie Huang, who is a rap obsessed tween schemer in the mid-90s setting of the show. The pilot has the Chinese-American Huang family moving from more diverse Washington, D.C. to Orlando. The motive of the move is father Louis Huang, played by a wonderful stoic Randall Park, pursuing the American dream in the form of owning a barbecue restaurant that is a blatant rip-off of a successful change.

The following clip, courtesy of You Tube, of a scene from the "Boat" pilot nicely illustrates the blend of sitcom staples and kind and gentle ethnic humor in the show.

The show has made a star of Constance Wu, who plays highly assertive and disciplined mother Jessica Huang. No doubt exists that Jessica wears the pants in the Huang household.

The combination of Jessica having a strong personality and being a suburban mom wonderfully leads to her becoming a real estate agent under hilarious circumstances. A story line that has a Chinese superstition hindering an effort to sell a house is one of numerous plots that nicely combine the suburban and Asian elements of the series. One can only hope that the "Boat" writers unleash Jessica on Disney World in the second season; that may lead to Americans seeing a grown mouse cry for the first time.

The above reference to air conditioning relates to an episode in which financial concerns prompt Jessica to refuse to allow the family to turn on the central air despite oppressive Orlando heat and humidity. A spoiler is that Jessica later authorizing setting the system on low prompts hilariously excessive excitement.

The season finale, which easily falls in the "hilarious" category, is another notable one. This offering about angst regarding the family losing its Chinese identity would have served equally well as a series finale in nice contrast to other "bubble" shows ending on a cliffhanger.

Further, "Boat" aptly occupies the 8:00 p.m. time slot on ABC that was the slot of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days" on that network 40 years ago. Both series are shows with episodes that range from cute and amusing to hilarious largely without resorting to sexual humor that is highly inappropriate during the "family hour."

Having three boys provides a vibe of the '90s Tim Allen ABC sitcom "Home Improvement," which a very vague memory suggests also aired at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesdays during its run. One difference is that the two older "Home" boys would team up against their younger brother in contrast to polite and diligent pre-teens Evan and Emery facing off against slacker Eddie.

A hilarious "Boat" episode in which all three boys compete in a science fair nicely illustrates the sibling dynamics. The lesson in this is that he who has chicken pox rules the roost.

All of this adds up to a show that depicts a true modern family in which the young Asian child is not a highly unlikable brat.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

'The Awesomes' S1 DVD: Aussies Once More Go Where U.S. Fears to Tread

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[Editor's Note: This Region 4 DVD set will only play on a region-free player in the U.S.]

This entry on the recently released Australian-based Madman Entertainment DVD set of the first season of the hulu animated super-hero comedy series "The Awesomes" represents two Unreal TV firsts. It is the first review of a DVD set of a streaming show and the first set of a currently running U.S. show that seems to be exclusively released in Australia.

"Awesomes" is the genuine brainchild of SNL veteran and current late night talk show host Seth Meyers and his long-time collaborator Mike Shoemaker. The voice talent includes Meyers and a plethora of other folks who "get" this show.

The pilot establishes a comic variation on "The Fantastic Four" by having current team leader of the titular "Justice League" caliber gaggle of heroes Mr. Awesome announce his retirement. A rapid series of events results in super-genius time-stopping (but otherwise meta-less) son Jeremy "Prock" (combination of Professor and Doctor) Awesome, whom Myers voices, assume leadership of the group.

This transition prompts every member of the "A Team" to resign except for Prock's lifelong buddy/fellow junior hero "Muscleman," voiced by Ike Barinholtz of "The Mindy Project." This depletion in turn leads to the continued existence of The Awesomes depending on Prock quickly replenishing the ranks to the minimal governemnt required level.

The desperation associated with finding new recruits requires bringing "rejects" whose super powers are very respectable but whose "issues" greatly impact their ability to properly function in a manner that make them much more "Super Friends" than "League" material.

The very fast but equally hyper and mentally slow Kid Flash like Frantic, voiced by Meyers' SNL buddy Taran Killam. is one of the first to join the "reunion" band in which the effectively drummer and keyboardist are the only surviving original members.

Veteran SNL writer Paula Pell voices the more amusing Gadget Gal, who predictably uses various devices to thwart the bad guys. Gal is an octogenarian who may have the looks of a 20-something babe but retains the slang and attitudes of the greatest generation. Highlights include the team using a book of expressions from the '40s to communicate with Gal in one episode and anticipation related to using the "N" word in a negative context in another episode turning out to refer to ninjas.

Meyers and his team further show a modern fanboy sensibility in having a few continuing story lines run throughout the first season. The primary plot involves arch nemesis Dr. Malocchio pursue an "X-Men" style scheme to remove the powers of every hero. Stefon himself Bill Hader wonderfully voice that villain.

Shorter story arcs have our heroes encounter their evil twins (sans goatees) on a parallel earth, share their origin stories, take on a monster composed of compost, and battle a squad of adorable but deadly baby animals.

All of this is presented in decently animated and well written and acted stories with plenty of nods to current and past hero lore. These elements evoke wonderful thoughts of the better  to create a new golden age of  primetime broadcast network animated fare in the period following the  successful launch of "The Simpsons." The blatant product placement following the closing credits of each episode is icing on the cake.

Anyone with "Awesome" questions or comments is encouraged to either email or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Ghost and Ms.Flanagan: Kellie Flanagan of 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (Good) Mother of All Child Actors

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Speaking on the telephone with '60s child actor Kellie Flanagan several weeks after an equally terrific conversation with her "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" brother Harlen Carraher provided good proof that some kids who grew up in front of the camera became happy well-adjusted adults with whom one would enjoy having a backyard barbecue.

Additionally, the current mutual regard and affection that Flanagan and Carraher express demonstrates that their on-screen compatibility and adorable publicity photos from the "Muir" era are genuine. In fact, an unprompted desire by Carraher to reconnect with Flanagan is largely behind Unreal TV reaching out to her.

Both the wonderful vibe that Flanagan emits, her current life, and the wacky circumstances surrounding our chat scream out for basing a cable show on her. She is one of  the nicest people anyone could ever hope to meet and lives in the beautiful rural community of Coarsegold California near Yosemite with husband of 20 years landscape architect David Briley and their certified brilliant 17 year-old daughter Clara.

When not graciously enduring conversations with fanboys about her 45 year-old series and other acting work, Flanagan writes for a local newspaper and cares for the chickens and numerous other animals with whom her human family shares their five-acre home. All of this screams for including "The Life of Briley" on the September 2015 Hallmark Channel lineup.

The "sit" element related to the "com" regarding the interview was a massive storm coinciding with our talk. Flanagan politely kept the conversation going while waiting for her Internet service to come back up so that she could submit her story on the tempest. Flanagan further kindly laughed in response to a joke that the storm resulted from the titular spirit Captain Daniel Gregg from "Muir" expressing outrage at her speaking with me.

On top of that, Flanagan's dog regularly barked to express anger at Flanagan speaking with me at a time that that pampered pooch wanted attention.

When asked if she has ever considered stepping in front of the cameras again, Flanagan stated "I think about it once in awhile."

"Star Trek"/ Grace Lee Whitney

Knowing that the first television series role of commercials veteran Flanagan was "Blonde Girl" in the "Star Trek" OS first season episode "Miri" prompted asking if she had attended any "Trek" conventions. She replied that she has not done so but occasionally considered making an appearance.

Flanagan added that her one line, which was "Call the police!," in "Miri" earned her her SAG card.

The discussion of "Trek" also included Flanagan sharing that she learned soon after the May 1 2015 death of "Trek" actress Grace Lee Whitney, who portrayed Kirk aide Janice Rand in a handful of first season OS episodes and went on to play an older version of Rand in "Voyager" and other "Trek" projects, had been living in Coarsegold. A publicity photo from "Miri" shows that Whitney appeared in that episode despite her credits not listing it.

"Wild in the Streets"

Flanagan also discussed her role as  the young daughter of a California U.S. Senator that Hal Halbrook played in the far-out groovy 1968 film with an important message "Wild in the Streets."

Flanagan rightly described this movie about a youthful rebellion that sought to lower the voting age to 14 as "a really interesting movie" that attracted many prominent people to the premiere related to the producer and the press presenting that seemingly B-movie as a very important one that addressed significant issues that America faced in 1968.

That premiere occurring more than 45 years ago and Flanagan being nine at the time were factors regarding her memory of the event, but she had a recollection the attendees including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. widow Coretta Scott King.

A recent DVD viewing of "Wild" confirmed that it was a wonderfully entertaining blend of satire, substantial social commentary, and rocking tunes such as "14 or Fight."

The following video, courtesy of YouTube, of "14" includes scenes of Flanagan rocking out (and having fun, living like she's just begun) and singing along.

Ronny Howard

The element of a generation gap continued into discussing a guest appearance by Flanagan in an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show." A casual reference to "Ron Howard" caused Flanagan to share that she always thought of Howard the actor as Ronny and as Howard the adult who directed films as Ron.

The amusing part of this is that Flanagan being not so many years older than your scribe had her closely associate with the Howard of "Griffith" compared to children of the '70s growing up with him on "Happy Days."

A related discussion centered on thinking of actor Rick Schroeder as "Ricky" from his '80s sitcom"Silver Spoons."

Sibling Revelry

Flanagn having a few sitcom guest roles under her belt when "Muir" came along prompted asking if the producers recruited her for the role; she replied that she was not wooed but added that she was "not the most unknown" actor up for the part of Candy Muir.

A follow-up question regarding whether less experienced series actor Carraher was jealous regarding the more extensive experience of Flanagan elicited the immediate response "not at all."

Flanagan further shared that she and Carraher were "little scoundrels together." The shared adventures included exploring the below-set area where the electrical wires ran and swimming in a pool at a park across the street from the set. Flanagan furthered stated that the on-set teacher Mrs. Bone "was sweet and funny."

Flanagan added that "that was a happy set; if there were problems, I was unaware of it."

Reta Shaw

Asking about any bond with Reta Shaw, who played "Muir" housekeeper/surrogate parent Martha, prompted bittersweet memories for Flanagan. These related to Shaw bonding with Flanagan's mother, who was roughly the same age as the elder Flanagan.

Kellie shared that her mother passed away just before her 11th birthday, which also was when "Muir" was wrapping up production for good. She added that Shaw, whom Flanagan described as "a real sweetheart," sent her a very nice sympathy note and continued sending Christmas cards and other correspondence for a few years after "Muir"ended.

The timing of these memories coincided with a recent event that reminded an exceptionally compassionate Flanagan of losing her mother.

Resurrection of "Muir" From Death/Mark Lester Visits Schooner Bay

Asking Flanagan about the lore change that had Captain Gregg allowing Candy to see him beginning with the second-season premiere episode after keeping himself invisible to her during the entire first season prompted a fond memory of her mother.

Flanagan clarified that the switch from NBC to ABC for the second season of  "Muir" was not a case of NBC deciding to not renew the series and ABC picking it up. She explained that NBC had cancelled the show, and that the cast had every reason to believe that the series never would have had a second season.

Flanagan further shared a vivid memory of her mother visiting her at the Saint Monica's catholic school in Santa Monica after that cancellation and asking her to guess the best thing that could happen. Flanagan stated that she knew that that news was that "Muir" was going back on the air.

Returning to the topic of the lore change, Flanagan speculated that that was the result of the new creative team making its mark on the show.

That in turn led to discussing the elation of Flanagan regarding her "favorite" episode of the entire series. That one, which was titled "Puppy Love," had Candy falling in love with a new student played by British child actor Mark Lester of the film version of "Oliver."

The impact of that especially cute and charming episode included shouting "boo" and calling Lester a name that never should be hurled at any 11 year-old boy on recently watching the scene in which Lester's character initially thought that a love struck Candy was a boy.

Another (uncorrected) bummer regarding "Puppy" is that the DVD version of the episode does not include a memorable dream sequence from that offering. Flanagan explained that Disney (a.k.a. 'The Mouse') owned the rights to the at least 215 year-old song "Lavender Blue" that was sung in that scene and would not grant Madman Entertainment the right to use it.

The better news regarding that omission is that Flanagan confirmed that recollections of that scene were accurate. It provided further certainty that the DVD episodes otherwise were the original broadcast versions.

Art Imitates Art

Flanagan making an ideal statement regarding the essence of "Muir" required highlighting it in a short but important section of this article.

The success of mid-60s fantasycoms, such as "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie," made a series based on the overall friendly interaction between a ghost and a living individual of the opposite sex an almost certainty. However basing it on a 1947 film, which was based on a novel, was less certain.

The perfect answer of Flanagan when asked why the fantasycom producers based the show on the "Muir" story, rather than a more generic tale of a woman moving into a modern haunted house, was "there are only so many stories out there; why not tell a good one again."

Lasting Impact of "Muir"

Flanagan and I further nicely bonded regarding the overall impact of "Muir"on our lives. My strong love of the style and layout of Gull Cottage, which was the shared residence of the Muir clan and Captain Gregg, has fueled a decades long dream to have a replica of that house built and live there. If that not entirely impossible dream becomes a reality, one fatal lesson from the original house is to not kick the blasted heater with my blasted foot even if it goes out.

The imprint on a very ungothlike Flanagan includes a nearly lifelong hobby of collecting antiques; neglecting to ask if her collection included an especially valuable barometer or piece of scrimshaw was am inexcusable omission.

Flanagan further shared that she had a great love of Halloween and owned an extensive wardrobe of costumes.

All this aptly wrapped up with Flanagan sharing that an annual migration of tarantulas through Coarsegold inspired holding a tarantula festival. She added that she loved tarantulas and that you could regularly see them walking along during their annual visit to the community.

Anyone with any questions or comments regarding this article is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvvdguy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

'Helicopter Mom' Theatrical/VOD: Nia Vardalos' My Tall Thin Gay Son

Product Details
The Entertainment One film, which is in theaters and is available via VOD services, "Helicopter Mom" is a perfect viewing choice for Mother's Day. Maggie, whom "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "My Big Fat Greek Life" veteran Nia Vardalos perfectly plays, is relatable to all of us as a mother who is far too intrusive in our lives. Focusing that overbearing nature regarding speculation that son Lloyd, nicely played by Jason Dolley of "Good Luck, Charlie" and many other Disney Channel offerings, is gay supports the theory that every gay man has "a mother."

In other words, "Mom" is funny because it is true. The cleverly animated opening credits and catchy theme by "Mom" co-star Lisa Loeb are great bonuses.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the SPOILER-LADEN "Mom" trailer provides the blessing and the curse of introducing most of the best moments and major plot points of the film.

"Mom" opens with a HIGHLY relatable scene in which the free-spirited Maggie drags a very resistant Lloyd into the middle of the freak show that is Venice Beach to celebrate his 17th birthday. An off-hand remark by Lloyd that Maggie would be happy if he was gay excites her to the point that her related new missions in life are to determine where her baby is on the Kinsey scale of sexuality and to push him out of the closet regardless of whether he wants to do so or even is in it.

The ensuing antics by Maggie mortify high school senior Lloyd, who is naturally shy and happily largely invisible at school. These include papering the school with embarrassing flyers, getting him elected to prom court, and secretly applying for a college scholarship for gay students on his behalf.

Maggie further prying into the most intimate aspect of the life of Lloyd and making an absurd assumption regarding the nature of his relationship with his best friend are additional highlights.

Although hilarity often does not ensue, "Mom" is entertaining and is notable for the aforementioned relatable elements. This includes most of the outrageous behavior by Maggie falling within the realm of possibility regarding parents of even the most clearly heterosexual teens.

Unfortunately, the completely inoffensive Dolley is neither unduly endearing nor remotely adorkable. It is equally unfortunate that the producers could not recruit a more expressive actor, such as David Henrie or Ross Lynch, from the Mouse Factory.

Hilarity does occur when Maggie ambushes a still not self-declared gay Lloyd with a date with a flamboyantly out gay teen. The combination of that lad loudly camping it up and touching Lloyd and Lloyd wanting the ground to swallow him up is very entertaining.

Another memorable scene has Lloyd's deadbeat aging rocker father Max, played by Mark Boone Junior, taking him to a bar both as a rite of passage and a response to nagging by Maggie regarding determining the extent to which their son likes boys. The frank statements by Lloyd and the "you're ok" response by an assertively straight Max is nicely affirming without being sappy.

On a larger level, "Mom" is an overall positive tale about teen boys who minimally find themselves attracted to other boys in 2015. The insult "faggot" is diluted in that is seems to refer to nerds and/or wimps, rather than to gay people, Further, the ubiquitous use of it even in that context dilutes the impact of hurling it. One can easily imagine teens using the term merely to express annoyance in the form of statements such as "Faggot, you were supposed to meet me at the movies 15 minutes ago."

Further, no verbal or literal bashing occurs even after a highly embarrassed Lloyd is the victim of a hilarious hissy fit by a jealous boyfriend right in front of the high school.

All of this creates good hope that the next generation will live in a world in which sexual orientation receives very little thought. This merely requires recognizing the lesson from the climatic scene of "Mom" that sexuality is the continuum that many of us consider it and that what a horny teen does in the bedroom, in the backseat of a car, or under the bleachers does not define him.

Any mother out there who is looking for someone for whom they can bake cookies or anyone who merely has questions or comments regarding "Mon" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,