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TV Worth Watching: Springwatch 2013

May 27th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Springwatch 2013

Springwatch is the type of show I don’t think could ever be produced here in the US. It is a quintessentially Uk show that goes out LIVE with coverage of the amazing Springtime wildlife as the season takes the country. With cameras seemingly everywhere in their host nature reserve, they follow the fledging of birds, the movement of animals and everything nature each evening.

There are happy stories — and also a few sad ones — dictated not by some script, but rather by nature itself. You can watch episode 1 of Springwatch 2013 in the YouTube video below and also find more information on the Springwatch web site at the BBC. There you can also follow the 24/7 live webcams of nesting birds and other activities.

 

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TV Worth Watching: Torchwood

May 19th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Torchwood

As a big fan of Doctor Who, I was quite eager to watch this spin off when it first aired in 2006. We had seen the main character, Captain Jack Harkness in several Doctor Who episodes and that provided a bit of continuity to attract us even further. Torchwood (and anagram of Doctor Who, used as a code name during production) is a more adult show than Doctor Who with a bit of sex and violence and deeper, more pyschological story lines. We quite enjoyed the first 2 seasons of the show, but I found the story arcs of Season 3 and Season 4 (produced in the US in partnership with the Starz network) to be a bit dark for my usual viewing sensibilities. That said, as I am rewatching Season 1 and 2, I am remembering why I liked it so much when we first saw it. Each episode is well written, engaging with a bit of science fiction thrown in for leavening.  

 

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TV Worth Watching: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course

May 12th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course

 I must admit that I never would have thought I would watch anything by Gordon Ramay. After seeing pieces of his various shows I found him entirely unlikable and the confrontational style put me off immensely. Imagine my surprise then, when a friend pointed out this Ultimate Cookery Course from Gordon Ramsay and told me I had to watch it. I couldn’t believe it, but after checking out the first episode I was amazed. Gone was the bluster, the pushiness, the rather obnoxious behavior. Instead there was a chef who cared deeply about food and offers up some great recipes and advice on cooking technique.

Most of the series is available via YouTube using the links below. There is also a cookbook highlighting some of the recipes from the series.

Watch first 20 Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course episodes of here

More information on Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course:

 

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TV Worth Watching: Hamlet starring David Tennant

May 5th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Hamlet with David Tennant

When done right, Shakespeare can be an amazing experience. Given the source of Shakespeare and his plays, the British can perform his plays better than most, especially when given the money and this television movie production of Hamlet shines in every way. Former Doctor Who actor, David Tennant grabs the role and wrestles all the depth and psychological drama that this play has to offer. Hamlet is often considered the defining moment for any actor and Tennant does great service to the role and himself.

Performed onstage originally with the Royal Shakespeare Company, this adaptation doesn’t just film the stage, but rather creates a full movie production that makes us a voyeur of the scenes that play out. In fact, some scenes are shot using faux security cam footage, since the time of the play is brought forward into the present and not set in some ancient past. Patrick Stewart puts in a star turn as both King Claudius and his ill-fated ghostly brother

Overall, the setting, the production and the actors help to make this a very accessible version of Hamlet. If you have been scared off from Shakespeare tragedies before, this could be your way into a deeper understanding of what Shakespeare has to offer.

Hamlet tennant

Hamlet aired as part of Great Performances on PBS here in the US but it also now available from several online video on demand services as well as on DVD. Do yourself a favor and five into this deep, deep, presentation of Hamlet. I think you will find something in this performance that you haven’t seen before.

You can watch the entire performance (with advertising) in the small video below, although watching it on a larger screen would be a better experience.

Watch Hamlet on PBS. See more from Great Performances.

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TV Worth Watching: Zen

April 29th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Zen

Zen poster

Let’s see…mystery series? Check! Italian characters? Check! Shot on location in Italy? Check. BBC Production? Check! (LAUGH) Zen hits all my markers of TV Worth Watching. Based on a series of novels by British author, Michael Dibdin, they are taut, exciting and deep mysteries. As with most of the shows I highlight, the acting is top notch as are the writing and the production. Another thing that often happens with series like this and Commissario Montalbano is that I end up reading the novels on which the productions are based. As with most adaptations, there is usually a lot more depth and character development in the novels and this leads to an even deeper enjoyment of the television productions.

From Masterpiece on PBS.org…

Watch Zen Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

What does an honest cop do when his bosses are on the side of the lawbreakers? Outwitting prosecutors, politicians, mobsters and run-of-the-mill kidnappers and killers, Detective Aurelio Zen brings justice to modern-day Italy, whether the authorities want it or not, on Zen, a trio of spellbinding cases based on the bestselling novels of by British crime writer Michael Dibdin, airing on Masterpiece July 17-31, 2011.

Rufus Sewell (Middlemarch) stars as Zen, a Roman police detective hailing from Venice, where “Zen” is a local shortening of the name Zeno. Separated from his wife and living with his mother, he is too frazzled by his job to think about romance. That is, until he meets Tania Moretti (Caterina Murino), his chief’s new secretary.

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TV Worth Watching: I, Claudius

April 20th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: I, Claudius

I claudius artwork

I, Claudius

I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman,[1] it proved one of the corporation’s most successful drama serials of all time.
It starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius, with Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart.

I, Claudius follows the history of Rome, narrated by the elderly Claudius, from the death of Marcellus, nephew and son-in-law of Augustus, in the first episode to Claudius’ own death in the last. The series opens with Augustus, the emperor of Rome, attempting to find an heir, and his wife, Livia, plotting to elevate her own son Tiberius to this position.

The plotting and double-crossing continue for many decades, through the conspiracy of Sejanus and the rule of the lunatic emperor Caligula, culminating in the seemingly accidental rise to power by Claudius. — Wikipedia.org

If you haven’t seen I, Claudius, I urge you to go and watch it as soon as you can. Filmed in 1976 and starring a host of big name UK stars, I, Claudius was the “Game of Thrones” of its day. Intrigue, betrayal, sex, revenge, perversion and more. Derek Jacobi shines as Claudius, marked by a childhood prophecy to eventually be Rome’s protector. Claudius is afflicted with a nervous tick, a club foot and — others think — a feeble mind. Little do they know that Claudius may be smarter than them all.

As you can see from the link above, most of I, Claudius is available on YouTube, but I encourage you to stream or buy the best copy possible to enjoy it in all its glory. 

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TV Worth Watching 3: Wreck-It Ralph

April 6th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Wreck-It Ralph

Stream it now from Amazon.com

Yes, I know this is considered a “movie”, not TV, but since it is available for home viewing now, I am including it here.

We are trying to catch up with some movies we weren’t able to see in the theater. Our son tends to see new movies with his grandmother while we do other stuff (usually work (SMILE)), so we are often left out.

Wreck-It Ralph from Disney Animation is now available via a variety of online streaming rentals, so we decided to watch it, after many recommendations by our son. He really seemed to enjoy it and he was quite right. It is a typically charming Disney film with an interesting story and great execution. The animators must have had a really good time playing on the video game tropes and also working in all the different video game graphic styles. The puns, both verbal and visual, fly sat and furious throughout the film. As a rather geeky household, we enjoyed the in-jokes quite a bit.

We all enjoyed it, especially on our new 46″ HDTV. I don’t feel I need to see every movie in the theater (although I did make a special trip to see The Hobbit) so watching movies on this new set is the next best thing for me. Add the ability to pause the movie when needed to this arrangement and I am sold.

Wreck-It Ralph

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of being overshadowed by Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), the “good guy” star of their game who always gets to save the day. But after decades doing the same thing and seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides he’s tired of playing the role of a bad guy. He takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a game-hopping journey across the arcade through every generation of video games to prove he’s got what it takes to be a hero. On his quest, he meets the tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from the first-person action game Hero’s Duty. But it’s the feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) from the candy-coated cart racing game, Sugar Rush, whose world is threatened when Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade. Will Ralph realize his dream and save the day before it’s too late?

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TV Worth Watching 2: The Story of Science from BBC (6 parts)

March 31st, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

story-of-science

TV Worth Watching: The Story of Science from BBC (6 parts)

I love BBC Documentary and look them up whenever I can. This 6 part series on Science was quite amazing. Unfortunately, I can’t find it on DVD via Amazon — only through this YouTube playlist. Still, it is worth watching to show you the important role that science has played (and plays) in the world.

The Story of Science

For thousands of years we have wrestled with the great questions of existence. Who are we? What is the world made of? How did we get here? The quest to answer these is the story of science.

Each week, medical journalist Michael Mosley traces the often unpredictable path we have taken. From recreating a famous alchemist’s experiment, to following in Galileo’s footsteps, and putting himself in the hands of a hypnotist, Michael unpicks how science has changed the way we see ourselves, and the way we see our world.

It is a tale of courage and of fear, of hope and disaster, of persistence and success. It interweaves great forces of history – revolutions, voyages of discovery and artistic movements – with practical, ingenious inventions and the dogged determination of experimenters and scientists.

This is the story of how history made science and how science made history, and how the ideas which emerged made the modern world. — BBC Web Site

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TV Worth Watching 1: Inspector Montalbano (Il Commissario Montalbano) – Italy

March 27th, 2013 Comments off

TV Worth Watching is a new series highlighting my favorite television viewing. I am a big fan of UK television, so you are sure to see many UK shows and movies featured here. — Douglas

TV Worth Watching: Detective Montalbano (Il Commissario Montalbano) – Italy

 

For our first entry in this series, I figured I would share something that is a little challenging, since it is not in English. All episodes are fully sub-titled, though, so you can still enjoy the series, even if you speak no Italian at all.

We were introduced to Inspector Montalbano by our Sicilian relatives when they took us to visit the city of Modica on our last trip. Modica is the real world stand-in for the city of Vigata where Montalbano is the head of police. When we started watching the series, it was much like watching television shows that are shot here in Los Angeles. We kept spotting locations where we had visited, buildings, churches and more. We also enjoyed seeing the Italian people and hearing the language again on a regular basis.

While we may have some personal connection to the series, Montalbano is also an excellent television show in its own right. The acting and writing is top notch, as is the production. The scripts are all based on the best selling novels by Andrea Camilleri. As much as I might like the English language remakes of various, international detective shows, it is such a pleasure to see (and hear) these stories in their original locations, with their original actors and language. We were so happy to find that it airs locally on Channel 28.4 KCET which is the home of the Mhz Network. Mhz focuses on international entertainment, especially mystery series. There are several other Italian series as well as French series, such as Maigret, which also air on the network.

“Inspector Salvo Montalbano (Italian: Commissario Salvo Montalbano) is a fictional character created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri in a series of novels and short stories.

The fractious detective’s character and manner encapsulate much of Sicilian mythology and astute detective work. The original books are written in a mixture of Italian, strict Sicilian, and a Sicilianized Italian.

Although the Inspector Montalbano series of novels are staged in the Sicilian context, Camilleri uncompromisingly confronts many contemporary political and social problems. The novels were translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli. The translation of the Montalbano novels started only after five novels had already been published in Italian and gained popularity among the Italian-speaking public. The translator Stephen Sartarelli has attempted to maintain the mixture of Italian and Sicilian dialect in the dialogues. In addition, he has added notes at the end of each of the novels, which give short explanations regarding many of the peculiarities of Sicilian and Italian society depicted in the novels.

The name Montalbano is a homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalbán’s Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri’s fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists’ gastronomic preferences.[1]
Inspector Montalbano is an engaging hero – honest, decent and loyal. He has his own way of doing things, and his superiors regard him as something of a loose cannon. One of the strengths of the novels is Montalbano’s ability to navigate through a murky world, a world of shady connections and favours owed and owing, without compromising himself beyond what he can live with. There is a great deal of humor in his character, but the subtext is hard criticism of the social and political situation of both the Sicilian and Italian contexts. In fact, Camilleri has said that social commentary “…was always my aim. In many crime novels, the events seem completely detached from the economic, political and social context in which they occur. […] In my books, I deliberately decided to smuggle into a detective novel a critical commentary on my times. This also allowed me to show the progression and evolution in the character of Montalbano.” [2]

As the head of the Vigàta police precinct, Montalbano is balancing between the demands of his superiors and the realities of local crime and life in general. In fact, a determining factor of his success as a Sicilian policeman seems to be his ability to bridge between different cultures. There is the “northern” force, coming from Milan that attempts to standardize regulations and increase transparency. On the opposite side is the particularistic “southern” culture with complex webs of relationships that affect the way things are done. Montalbano excels at balancing between these two, while being true to his principles. [3]” — Wikipedia

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