Last week, I wrote about some of the best TV Travel shows. I received an email asking me if I had seen EQUITREKKING.
EQUITREKKING is a travel show, with a difference. Host Darley Newman travels the world and sightsees a different way, on horseback. No, this doesn't mean that she gallops through the Louvre on a horse. She visits the cities on foot. But then local guides show her the little seen areas on horseback.
Part travel show, and part nature show, this is a wonderful program.
It airs on many PBS channels, as well as the PBS digital channel Create, where I caught two episodes this past weekend.
In one episode, Darley visited Iceland. In addition to the clubs and spas, she visited the lava fields on traditional Icelandic horses. In another episode, she visited Alaska. She toured the glaciers, did some white water rafting, and visited on horseback locations of the old gold rush days.
As someone whose knowledge of horses doesn't extend beyond what John Wayne rides in old Westerns, I was fascinated by it. You don't have to be a horse fanatic to like the show.
Of all the travel shows, this may be one of the most beautifully shot programs. Unfortunately, Create (where I saw it) isn't broadcast in HD. If it was, this could rival what is on some of the HD nature channels.
EQUITREKKING airs on various PBS channels, as well as the Create Digital Channel. You can find out much more, as well as purchase DVDs of episodes, on their website.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A YEAR IN THE LIFE was such a critically acclaimed show, with so few people watching, that NBC used to run promos advertising this fact. One such promo had a woman in an office, while people all around her were talking about the show. The promo said to tune in to see what people were talking about.
Sadly, none of these promos worked and the show, one of the best dramas of the 80’s, was cancelled after one season.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE began as a three part, six hour miniseries in the Spring of 1987. It followed a family in Seattle. Richard Kiley and Eva Marie Saint were the parents. They had several grown children, and grandchildren.
The miniseries covered just what the title implied, a year in the life of the family. One of the families was going through a divorce, another was pregnant, a son was breaking up with his fiance, and the black sheep of the family was trying to get his life in order.
Critics loved the show and it ended up winning the Emmy for Best Mini-series that Fall, when the show was turned into a weekly series.
The show aired Wednesday nights at 9 P.M., before St. Elsewhere (which was created by the same team, Joshua Brand and John Folsey).
I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched the mini-series was because in the TV Guide ad for it I saw that one of the stars was Amanda Peterson, then the girl from EXPLORERS. I was already a fan then. The summer after the miniseries aired, before the series began, she made a little film called CAN’T BUY ME LOVE. On her promotion tour for that film, she talked about YEAR becoming a series and I was already setting the VCR. (NOTE: You can read much more about Amanda in my piece here).
But even if she wasn’t in the show (and she only played a small part as one of the Kiley’s grandkids), this was truly one of the great series of the decade.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE had one of the great theme songs of the decade. Well, two of them actually. The mini-series used almost the same footage but a slightly different (and I think better) piano theme.
The cast was superb. But sadly, it wasn’t much of a jumping off point for many of them.
Wendy Phillips, who played Amanda’s ex-hippie mom, has turned up on BIG LOVE recently, but that is one of the few times I have seen here. She was excellent in this.
Jayne Atkinson also has shown up in TV recently (in 24) but also spent years doing mostly stage work.
Morgan Stevens was on MELROSE PLACE but hasn’t acted since 1989. Trey Ames hasn’t acted since the early 90’s. I’ve written about what happened with Amanda. And very sadly, David Oliver passed away in 1993.
There was one star from the show, Sarah Jessica Parker. At the time, she was still “the girl from SQUARE PEGS”. Heck, she is STILL “the girl from SQUARE PEGS” to me, but she would go on to do a lot more, starring on some cable show.
And, Adam Arkin would join the creators on their next show, NORTHERN EXPOSURE.
This is one show that I would LOVE to see on DVD. A full season, with the miniseries, could be released. There may be some music rights issues (U2’s “With Or Without You” was played memorably in one scene and I remember several Steve Winwood songs), but I’d pay more. I believe it is with Universal.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE only aired for a year, but it won’t be forgotten by those who saw it.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It is summer. Time for everyone to plan their annual vacations.
Sadly, not me. I haven’t been on vacation in over five years.
Yet, I love watching travel shows. I watch them too much.
Rick Steves has always been a favorite. His TRAVELS IN EUROPE has been airing on PBS for years. I’ve probably seen every episode two or three times. I watch it most afternoons (now that I’ve discovered it is on a PBS digital channel).
Each episode is about the same. He visits a European city and gives tips on the best places to go, things to see.
Rick is sort of the Ned Flanders of tourism. He is very proper, and serious. Yet, he knows everything, and travels everywhere.
He made this news this year when in April he travelled to Iran. It was one of the most informative views of that country that I have seen on American television. I learned more about the country and the people than I do on the nightly news. An excellent episode.
Lately though, I’ve discovered someone else.
Samantha Brown is the new Queen of the Travel Channel, hosting many shows over there. I found her when they were showing a weekend marathon of her taking cruises around the world. After that, she launched a new series, PASSPORTS TO A GREAT WEEKEND. And, I’ve been hooked every since.
Samantha is a lot less serious than Rick. Maybe it is because she reminds me of 80’s comedy actress Corinne Bohrer (they could pass as sisters), but she can be downright goofy at times, and I mean that in a good way.
While Rick is trying to tell travelers the best things to see, Samantha is just there to have fun.
Although sometimes, especially on her US weekend trips, I have to wonder how much fun the trips would be without her alcohol consumption. I mean, she had a weekend in Orlando, a city I know somewhat, without visiting any of the theme parks or major tourist attractions and instead going to a glass blowing demonstration. Really? You can find that in most artist communities anywhere in the US. Why go to the home of Mickey or Universal or the many nightspots and miss all that? But since she spent one night at a wine bar, maybe she wasn't up to it.
From watching both of them, I kind of feel like I’ve been there, but not quite.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
To many, John Hughes was the most important filmmaker of the 1980's. His films more than anyone else defined the era.
So, it comes as a shock to read the reports that he passed away today in New York City of a heart attack while with his family.
Beginning at the National Lampoon as a writer in the 1970's, he would go on to write for DELTA HOUSE, the short lived ANIMAL HOUSE spin off sitcom. He wrote NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CLASS REUNION, also based on a popular National Lampoon premise. While neither of these were successful, his next surely was.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, based on a short story he wrote for the magazine, was I still believe one of the funniest films of the decade. Of all the films he was involved in, it was the one I have probably seen the most. He also wrote the follow ups EUROPEAN VACATION and CHRISTMAS VACATION, one of the few modern Christmas classics. While these films may not be thought of as "John Hughes films", they are some of his best.
There was the Michael Keaton comedy MR. MOM, and the uncharacteristic pirate film NATE AND HAYES. Next came the John Hughes we all remember.
1984 saw the release of SIXTEEN CANDLES, his first film as writer and director. While Molly Ringwald had been around for years before, this is the film that made her a star, along with Anthony Michael Hall, previously seen in VACATION.
BREAKFAST CLUB may be his masterpiece as a writer and director. Written and directed very quickly, I thought it was the most focused of all his films, with the best cast. Judd Nelson gives his career performance in this immensely quotable film. Middle school basically involved quoting this film on a daily basis.
The next couple years saw the releases of a string of films that he wrote and sometimes directed WEIRD SCIENCE, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, SHE'S HAVING A BABY, THE GREAT OUTDOORS and UNCLE BUCK. Several of them are considered classics today, with all of them still in heavy rotation on TV.
In the 1990's, things started to slow down for him. Molly Ringwald and the gang had grown up and instead, he started making films for younger audiences. There were the HOME ALONE and BEETHOVEN films, DUTCH and CURLY SUE. While these films were successful with audiences, they weren't up to his 80's output.
ONLY THE LONELY was an attempt to make a film for adults. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES with Jennifer Connelly was a favorite of some (and is probably my favorite of his from this period), but Hughes was not happy with it as he had essentially rewritten it as HOME ALONE.
In recent years, he would often write films using a pseudonym. MAID IN MANHATTAN and DRILLBIT TAYLOR had Hughes as a writer somewhere along the way, but he used another name.
I don't know exactly what happened with his career along the way. After 1991's CURLY SUE, he never returned to directing. A few years back, he did a commentary track for FERRIS BUELLER and it was one of the most depressing commentaries I've listened to. He didn't seem to have any sense of humor about the film. Whether he was forced to do it, I don't know. I do know that on subsequent issuings of the DVD, his commentary was removed.
No matter what happened to him though, I can honestly say that his films had more of an impact on my growing up than just about any other filmmaker. John Hughes was one of the few names we knew, even when we didn't know what a writer or director did with a film.
Posted by TALKING MOVIEzzz at 6:08 PM
Our latest FORGOTTEN TV entry is a show called E/R.
E/R was a show about an emergency room in a Chicago hospital. It starred George Clooney.
I know what you are thinking “ER just went off a few months ago! It is too soon to be a FORGOTTEN TV series.”
Well, this isn’t the same ER.
E/R (notice that /) was a sitcom from 1984 that lasted only one season. While George Clooney was a regular, the main star was Elliott Gould. He played Dr. Sheinfeld.
Also in the cast were Conchata Ferrell, Corinne Bohrer (DEAD SOLID PERFECT), Jason Alexander, Pamela Segall Adlon (GREASE 2, KING OF THE HILL) and Mary McDonnell. George Clooney played “Ace”.
I used to watch the show every week, yet have no memory of it today. I don’t know if it was good or bad.
Airing on CBS for 22 episodes in the 1984-1985 season, the show has truly been forgotten. No one seems to know about it. Clooney has casually mentioned it in interviews, but it hasn’t been seen for years. No clips are on YouTube.
Since it was an Embassy release, I assume it is with Sony. They were once doing a great job with TV on DVD before essentially abandoning it all. You would think they could release a complete series set, and ride the wave of popularity of Clooney’s other series.