‘Best of Enemies’ on PBS


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With today’s 24-hour news cycle with countless cable networks, we don’t think of the past when we had just the three main networks: NBC, CBS, and ABC. Today we take political commentaries and insolent attacks against others and their political views as the norm. But that really didn’t start until the late 1960s. And the two men who started this format were William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, two gentlemen who had very different ideas about life and politics and both had superb knowledge of the English language.

In the Independent Lens documentary Best of Enemies, the rivalry between these two men and their imprints on today’s political landscape are examined. Back in the 1960s, ABC was third among the three networks. They didn’t have the finances to cover the political conventions gavel to gavel, as the other two did. So they reverted to employing Buckley and Vidal to debate the candidates and issues. This was a new tact and one that turned out to be successful for ABC.

What ultimately happened is that name-calling turned the tide and took a toll on Buckley. Both men were well versed in the language and could talk circles around anyone else, but when you put them together in a head-to-head matchup, the explosion was heard around the world, so to speak. Well, at least around the country.

This is a very interesting documentary. “In the focused light of the 1968 national television camera, the seeds were planted for our present media landscape, when the spectacle trumps the content of argument,” says director Robert Gordon. “Each side today, like these two men, sees the other as malignant, promulgating views catastrophic for America; strident partisanship is understood as virile patriotism and compromise is castration. These Vidal-Buckley debates forecast the present state of civic discourse, heated by camera lights and abbreviated by corporate sponsors.”

“Ultimately, this is a story about something I care about deeply; how the way we now ‘talk’ and ‘listen’ to each other through media is in fact corrosive to our society,” says director Morgan Neville. “Sometimes I look around and wonder, ‘What happened to the adults in our culture?’ This film, I hope, offers some clues.”

Once you see this and learn about the Buckley/Gore debates, you won’t look at today’s talking heads the same way.

Best of Enemies premiers October 3, 2016 on PBS.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

Follow her on Twitter

‘Arthur’ turns 20


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The beloved character and star of the PBS series Arthur is turning 20 this month. The little aardvark has been a popular character on TV for two decades and in his animated series continues to bring in new fans for his aardvark antics.

The series began in 1996 and has been broadcast in over 80 countries bringing in 7 million viewers each month. With 7 Emmys, a big presence on Facebook (1 million followers), and ranked as one of the “50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time,” Arthur has a loyal fan base that now encompasses several generations of viewers who have stuck with the little guy year after year and introduced him to their own children.

With the books based on Arthur’s adventures by Marc Brown, Arthur and his friends help kids with problem solving and issues that are part of their lives. “I could never have dreamed, 20 years ago, the wonderful adventure I was about to have with Arthur,” said Marc Brown, creator of Arthur, “It’s been so much fun working with the many talented, smart people who make Arthur happen. I think what’s most rewarding for all of us is using the medium of television to try and make children successful.”

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Besides the books and the long-running TV show, PBS has created an Arthur App which contains several games, each focusing on different skills and fun. With over 15 levels, there is always something new and exciting to keep kids occupied as well as help them develop teamwork skills.

“PBS is committed to using the power of digital media to educate and inspire,” said Ira Rubenstein, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital, PBS. “As part of fulfilling this mission, PBS offers more than 40 apps for kids and parents. With engaging games and popular ARTHUR characters, Arthur’s Big App leverages the educational potential of touchscreen technology to help children develop the teamwork and collaboration skills that will prepare them for success in school and in life.”

“Arthur has reached generations of fans through engaging characters and compelling storytelling,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Children’s Media and Education, PBS. “Arthur embodies PBS Kids’ commitment to help children learn important social-emotional skills, such as managing their emotions, building friendships and developing self-esteem.”

The new season of Arthur premiers October 10, 2016. Join Arthur and all the characters (Buster, Francine, D.W., Alan, Muffy, Binky, Kate, Sue Ellen, George, Fern, Emil, and the rest of the loveable little guys) for new fun and adventures. Even Buster has a podcast, which adds to the relevancy to this day and age. Helping kids deal with issues, problems, and acquire skills to focus on life and goals is what Arthur is all about.

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About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

Follow her on Twitter

‘Ready Jet Go!’ Premiers on PBS Kids


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Ready Jet Go! is the newest series for 3-8 year-olds on PBS Kids. This animated show revolves around a group of neighborhood kids who have all kinds of adventures, thanks to the new kid on the block, Jet Propulsion. Jet is an alien from the planet Bortron 7, and he and his parents introduce the earth kids to some out-of-this-world exploits while the local kids teach their new neighbors about life on Earth. The Propulsion’s pet is a combination
cat/dog/raccoon/kangaroo/ rabbit named Sunspot who joins in the adventures.

Every episode includes some interesting question about space, like why isn’t Pluto still considered a planet? Each episode has two 11-minute animated stories as well as a live-action interstitial that educates viewers about various things like the Space Shuttle. Dr. Amy Mainzer, an astronomer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hosts these little interstitials.

Dr. Mainzer is excited about being part of this program and sparking kids’ interest in space and space exploration. Her own interest began when she was 6 and she has followed the stars ever since.

The show focuses on teamwork, and as Dr. Mainzer explained to the media, “Science is about teamwork. Science, there’s a kind of a misconception that it’s a lone scientist alone in a dark laboratory with a lab coat and big glasses and all that, and nothing could be further from the truth in my experience.”

RJGO_Launch_006Dr. Mainzer said, “Basically, you’re working with a big group of people that try to solve some really complicated problems, and you’re joking around and you’re laughing. And the sense of humor is what allows you to survive the tough times, right? So that’s, I think, one of the things we want to convey through the show, is that science is about teamwork, cooperation, working together, trying to solve hard things. And if you do that, you can actually find solutions to some really difficult problems.”

When she was a kid, Dr. Mainzer researched on her own and admitted, “This is the show that I would have wanted to have when I was a kid. This was the show I was looking for but couldn’t find. And it was really lucky that I had a very supportive mom. As I like to say, my mom knows probably more about liquid helium than a lot of physics graduate students do, because she was a great listener. And it just goes to show, you don’t have to have parents and family who are in the sciences, who are in engineering, to produce somebody who goes on to become a STEM professional science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Jet is a hero to earthlings Sean, who is really into science, and Sydney, who is into science fiction. And another earth girl is little Mindy, a 4-year-old who isn’t allowed to go farther than the neighbor’s backyard, so she has to stay on Earth when the others take off in the flying saucer. But she’s OK with that. However she might be in for some out-of-this-world adventures in the second season. (A little tidbit from the producer.)

And yes, while the kids work together they have fun too, and there are plenty of great songs in the show as well. Plus, each episode has a curriculum like the sun is at the center of our solar system, failure is not he opposite of success but is a stepping stone to success, there are different kinds of stars, etc.

Ready Jet Go! premiers Monday, February 15, 2016 on PBS. Blast off with this new series filled with fun characters and interesting facts. This is something parents will enjoy watching with their kids – and might learn something too!

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

Follow her on Twitter

Downton Abbey – The Final Season


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The final season of Downton Abbey begins Sunday, January 3, 2016, with the series finale airing on March 6. This final season has storylines for every main character, both upstairs and downstairs.

Believe it or not, the wedding of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes is finally here. They were engaged last season. Viewers see how this couple copes with being newlyweds, with some very amusing consequences.

Tom Branson, who left last season for Boston, returns and is now fully ensconced in the Crawley family. Mary becomes even bitchier, if that’s possible. She has a personal conflict to resolve, as does Edith who has the most interesting storyline this season. She is dealing with her secret daughter Marigold and her love life. But she also shows what a good businesswoman she is when it comes to handling the magazine she inherited.

The service staff also finds themselves in changing situations. Anna and Mr. Bates have an especially trying personal situation but their love sees them through. And Mrs. Patmore is confronted with a moral dilemma that blindsides her and puts a damper on her future plans.

The entire household is confronted with the changing world. The service staff dwindles, other estates in the area are being sold, the modern post-WW I world is changing attitudes. Women are taking more control, households are thinning down, and attitudes are changing at a quick pace, which is something that would have appealed to Sybil.

While fans have enjoyed the situations both upstairs and downstairs and in the town, this seems like the best time to bring the series to an end. Yes, viewers have been devoted to the characters through the years, but with the change in the world (1925), the changes in their personal lives just are not as conducive to this program.

The stock market crash is just around the corner, and as Executive Producer Gareth Neame explained, “I don’t know if I could bear to see Robert Grantham go through (another) financial (disaster).”

This season leaves the characters in a way that will not be disappointing to the loyal fans of the series. And there still might be a Downton Abbey movie in the future. The powers that be have not ruled that out.

What – or who – will you miss when Downton Abbey ends? Penolope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) admitted, “I never thought I’d say this, but I got to enjoy wearing those wonderful hats.” Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates) and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) both admit they will miss all the people, both in front of the camera and behind the camera. And Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley) had the best answer. “I’ll miss being in a hit TV show.”

The final season of Downton Abbey runs on PBS January 3, 2016 – March 6. Enjoy the ups and downs of this popular show for the last time.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

Follow her on Twitter