This is one of those weeks where everything seems to be going by in a blur. Calm down- sit and relax. That's it, just breathe a little. We're here for you. In fact, we've scoured all that is happening in the media-space, so that we can give you the highlights, the best of the best, and even some of the good stuff. You just take it easy and let us do the heavy lifting.
Top Shelf Pick of the Week
And this one might surprise some of you- but if you have paid attention to the "On the Shelf " on the sidebar, you shouldn't be: This Sunday marks the Series Finale of a show I have grown to love: Charmed.
I was raised by strong women (and a great dad too, of course). My mom is a strong independant and intelligent women- and my grandmother and great-grandmother were along the same lines. Perhaps one of the smartest people I ever knew was my great-grandmother, and I was blessed to be around her almost every week of my life until I was about 19. I also married a very intelligent, strong and fantastic women- so I guess you could say I respect them (I was taught to) and am drawn to them. It should be now surprise if you are familiar with the show, that I like Charmed. Yes, the ladies are very pretty (Piper's my fav) and yes the show's plots and mythology is sometimes complicated- but a sustained viewing rewards you with a deep and continued story line. This season has been a weak one in my opinion, but considering that the show was picked up for another season last year, at the last minute they have done well. They had to work themselves out of plot hole that was designed to be the series finale last year. My favorite characters are Piper and Leo and the story of the strength in family, fighting and preserving to keep those relationships close, and the sacrifices and obstacles that the husband and wife Piper and Leo have made to stay together throughout the years is pretty inspiring. And I really identified with Leo and his relationship with his two boys- being a dad can be tough- be he has done everything he can to be a good dad to them. The show, at it's heart, is about family; and it's supernatural mythology, its heart and humor make it a show I have really enjoyed. This Sunday is the last episode. If you a regular viewer or fan, I don't have to tell you anything- I think you may know what's on the line in the show's finale and what's at stake. Spoilers abound on the internet, but we won't deal in them here. Just take our word for it - don't miss it. And if you have, seasons 1-4 are available on DVD. Season 5 comes out June 6th.
Some more "Can't Miss" Season Finales.
First Up tonight on CBS: The Season Finales of NCIS (Pt.II) and The Unit (Two Hours) NCIS: Gibbs got in the middle of a nasty explosion last week and lost his memory. Naturally, he's the one with the info about the terrorist plot that the rest of the team is trying to prevent. We have learned some things about Gibb's past and I believe we will continue to do so. What is maddening to me, someone who watch since it's spin-off debut on JAG- will they ever tell us who the mystery woman with the car is? You know, the one that picks Gibbs up sometimes at the end of an episode- even though we don't see Gibbs make a phone call or otherwise call for a ride. What kind of GPS does this women have anyway?
The Unit: Here is another favorite of mine that I have watched since the first episode. I have thought the writing was intelligent, the acting and production top notch, and I think, despite some misteps early on, that the show has struck a decent balance between the missions of the Unit and the things going on at home. If you haven't seen it, this summer will be an excellent opportunity to catch. In the meantime don't miss tonight's two hour finale.
Tommorow don't miss the Season finale of The Amazing Race: This is it! The final three teams compete to be the first to hit the finish line...inaracearoundtheworld (that's Philspeak for the uninitiated). The Might Phil K. and crew have outdone themselves with perhaps one of my favorite seasons of all time. Maybe not as much drama and contention as past seasons, but the competition has been fierce and sustained. Don't miss it.
PBS: American Masters:
The World of Nat King Cole
I may get heckled a little bit about picking a PBS show again this week, but if you saw last week's episode of American Masters (last week's Top Shelf Pick) then you know I am right. This week's episode is all about the King- Nat King Cole, that is. I am a huge fan of Nat King Cole, and if you'll check out our music section today, you'll see it's a great week for fans. The velvet tones of his voice are only part of his talents- he was a gifted and amazing jazz pianist. He was also the first African American host of a Television show (his own), but later forced off the air when a sponser could not be found. If you only remember this talented and courageous man from The Christmas Song- well, get the chance to learn about a true American Master Wednesday night on PBS. By the way, this season of American Masters looks great. Upcoming episodes will feature such people as: Preston Sturgess, Muddy Waters, Leonard Bernstein, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles (next week), and Judy Garland.
TCM (check local listings for times)
Shelf recommendations for TCM this week:
May 17th: The Thin Man (1934) William Powell and Myrna Loy star as Detectives Nick and Nora Charles in this Shelf Favorite. Also see Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan as him, Tarzan and her, Jane in Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932).
May 18th: Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (2005) a wonderful documentary about the life and career of Bette Davis. And talk about synergy: the reason the film is titled Stardust is because that was Ms. Davis' favorite song. Well, it's my favorite Nat King Cole song. See, we're all connected.
May 19th: Sailor Fred Astaire attempts to win back performer and former partner Ginger Rogers in Follow The Fleet (1936). Later Irene Dunne (any relation to SNL's Nora Dunne?) and Cary Grant star in the screwball classic, My Favorite Wife (1940) . And don't forget James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939).
May 20th: It's a Fred Astaire trifecta: Top Hat (1935) with Ginger Rogers and the hilarious Edward Everett Horton, Anchors Aweigh (1945) -with Gene Kelly, and Royal Wedding (1951) with Jane Powell. Then stay up for Gene Kelly, Donald O'Conner, and Debbie Reynolds in another Shelf Favorite: Singin' In The Rain (1952).
May 21st: It's a night for Rudolph Valentino fans- several films including Moran of the Lady Letty (1922) and The Young Rajah (1922).
May 22nd: We might be biased, but this will be required viewing this week; the under-appreciated At The Circus (1939) with the Marx Brothers. "You know what I say. Whenever you got business trouble the best thing to do is to get a lawyer. Then you got more trouble, but at least you got a lawyer." And don't miss Tod Browning's classic film Freaks. It was a Top Shelf "Old School" Halloween pick!
May 23rd: Don't miss Danny Kaye in The Kid From Brooklyn (1946) and Wonder Man (1945). Later be sure to see Sidney Poitier in A Patch Of Blue (1965) and the bio-doc, Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light (2000).
The Very Best Of Nat King Cole
Sure you could watch the American Masters episode, but then that would be it. Kaput. Get yourself this CD, which would allow you to pop in some memorable and classic Nat anytime you wish. Starting off with my favorite, Stardust and winding up the 28 tracks with a live version of I Wish You Love, this CD is an excellent retrospective of Nat King Cole as a solo performer. For more of Nat King Cole with his jazz trio check out The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio.
The Complete Peanuts: 1959-1960 by: Charles Schulz
If you haven't been keeping up with Fantagraphic Books project of reprinting the entire run of Charles Schulz's classic strip, Peanuts in hardbound books- well what's your problem? The series is first rate and they have included forwards, interviews, and essays with all editions. Each book is a beautifully designed hardback in a short and wide form. This is book 5 so far- so jump on the bandwagon. I do have one complaint: The Sundays are not reprinted in color. Even with that caveat, I'll take it.
The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia by: Glenn Mitchell, forward by Leonard Maltin.
I was excited to discover this book, of course. If you seen Mitchell's previous The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia or The Chaplin Encyclopedia you know what to expect. I haven't got a copy, yet (What a Father's Day present this would be! hint, subtle hint!), but once we do, we'll let you know what we think. Either way- it's a cinch for a spot on The Shelf.
Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different by: Gordon Wood
One of my favorite Historians working today is Gordon Wood. His books are excellent, well researched, and his writing is impeccable. Two books in particular, The Radicalism of the American Revolution and The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, are essential reading for anyone who studies or wishes to learn more about the period around the American Revolution. Simply put on my required reading list- they hold a prominent spot. This new book gathers some of Wood's previously published essays about some members of the Founding Generation. This book is recommended to the person wanting to know more about that generation, their character, and why they did what they did; as well as for an introduction to Gordon Wood's works. Highly recommended.
The Big Bam : The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by: Leigh Montville .
Sir Christian Johnson, Knight of the Cinerati Table might appreciate this one. This is a biography of one of the more larger than life figures of Baseball. The legend in some ways has outgrown the man, but Montville takes a more intimate look at the man and legend that surrounded him- even in his own lifetime. Montville, author of the bestselling biography of Ted Williams, includes some newly discovered sources that hopefully will add something useful to the story of the Bambino. Pair it with a read about a more modern Baseball hero: Clemente : The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss.
Washington's Spies : The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose.
This story of espionage during war in America, might cause you to think about modern times. But think on this, warfare throughout history has employed espionage in one form or another. Perhaps more associated with the 20th century, spying was used by both sides in an effort to gain an advantage, tactical, stragical, and pyschological. You may be surprised to learn just how much Washington encouraged and worked with espionage. It was an essential advantage to the Contenential Army, which always seemed to be on the cusp between success and ruin. This book by Rose tells the story of an intelligence network known as the Culper Ring, which found and brought information to George Washington while based in New York. More well-known spys and traitors- John Andre, Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold are included as well.
Some interesting DVD news, via Bill Hunt's My Two Cents column over at Digital Bits. Seems as if Warner Brothers will be releasing James Stewart: The Signature Collection on August 8 of this year as well as Ronald Reagan: The Signature Collection. This will be a great opportunity to finally own The FBI Story, The Spirit of St. Louis, and Knute Rockne: All American; all making their debut on DVD. Start saving now.
Well that's all for today's update Shelfers. What's that you say? What about the DVDs? Well sure the DVD section has always been an update essential, but this is one of those weeks where you are just better off not worrying about it. Not much to speak of, but in the coming weeks, more classic movie DVDs and box sets than you can shake a stick it; assuming that shaking sticks is your thing. You'd just better forget about them this week and rest up for what's ahead. Til then- excelsior, er... live long and... I mean, may the for... oh, never mind. See you soon.
I bet your father spent the first year of your life throwing rocks at the stork.