Top Shot, Season 2 Starts Tonight on the HISTORY Channel!

Hi all…

Last season, I was instantly a fan of the new show Top Shot on the HISTORY Channel, which pit modern marksmen (and markswomen) against historical challenges using some surprising weapons. So when we heard that the new season was starting up, we were thrilled!

Season 2 starts tonight at 10/9c on HISTORY with a new set of 16 competitors. And again, they come from a variety of backgrounds with different levels of experience. But a couple of things remain the same – they all want to win $100,000 and the title of “Top Shot.” Hosted by Colby Donaldson, it will be interesting to see what challenges await these marksmen.

Weapons will be a bit different this season than last as well, according to the HISTORY website:

“Weapons this season include more than 20 weapons including the iconic “Tommy Gun“, the .44 Magnum, and a .50 caliber sniper rifle. Not just firearms, the competition also includes archery and primitive weapons as well.”

Last year it was Iain Harrison who took home the title. And we were rooting for Kelly Bachand as well. Who will be our favorites this season?

Be sure to tune in tonight at 10/9c on HISTORY for the season premiere of TOP SHOT!

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Merlin: The Complete Second Season

Hello!

The myths and legends surrounding King Arthur have always fascinated me. Tales of honor, friendship, love, betrayal, swords and magic are woven into a tapestry filled with shiny knights, wizards who age backwards, and a sense of adventure. From Le Morte d’Arthur (Sir Thomas Mallory) and The Once and Future King (T.H. White) to The Sword in the Stone (Disney), Monty Python and the Holy Grail and even Camelot (the musical from Alan Jay Lerner & Federick Loewe), the stories have been told and retold through the ages.

So back in 2009 when Merlin was announced and started to air on NBC (after airing on the BBC), I was planted in front of my television and it didn’t take long for the rest of my family to join me. We were all drawn in by the antics of A young Merlin (Colin Morgan) working as a manservant for Prince Arthur (Bradley James) in a Camelot ruled by Arthur’s strict father King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head, Giles from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer). In another interesting twist, Guinevere (Angel Coulby) works as a maid to Morgana (Katie McGrath), the King’s ward. As we’re dealing with a Smallville-style revisiting of the Arthur myths, Merlin has a couple of mentors along the way – the wise old court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson) and the Great Dragon (voiced by John Hurt, Hellboy).

We tuned in regularly to see what kinds of trouble these characters would get into and how the writers would reinvent a younger Camelot. I was particularly interested in how we’d see characters from the older stories like Lancelot, Mordred, Morgause and Nimue show up as they inevitably would. And honestly I was quite surprised. The production crew did a great job of breathing new life into these stories.

When the first season ended, we were obviously hoping that the show would be renewed. And though NBC didn’t air it directly, season 2 aired on the Syfy Channel last year. Due to insane schedules last spring, we only watched the first few episodes and never got back to see how it ended up. As a result, we were very happy to see Merlin: The Complete Second Season appear on DVD at the beginning of 2011!

Picking right up where the first season left off, the second season starts out with Merlin almost losing his job as Arthur’s manservant to a thief and ends with Merlin saving the day and giving Arthur all the credit, which is a recurring theme on the show. Another recurring theme is the concept of destiny and Merlin’s fate being linked to Arthur’s. It’s something brought up by many shows of this style – from Smallville to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Is a person’s fate decided or can the path change?

It ultimately comes down to the character’s decisions – their choices between what’s right and wrong – that shape their destinies. But like life, not every decision is easy and all have consequences that may ripple far into the future.

What I really loved about season 2 is that these characters are starting to come into their own. Sure, Arthur’s a Prince and supposed to do what his daddy the King says, but we start to see him rebelling a bit against policies he doesn’t believe in. He goes off against orders to rescue Gwen in one episode and on a quest in another episode to find the last remaining Dragonlord because it’s what’s right for Camelot even if it goes against the King’s wishes.

The other relationships really mature and change as well. Where there was a definite class boundary between Merlin and Arthur in the first season, we start to see them become more like best friends or brothers by the end. And the love triangle between Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera), Arthur, and Gwen starts to form. Arthur is recognizing the feelings he has for Gwen, but struggles with them because a relationship between a noble and a servant could never be. That really starts to come into question when he sees the budding feelings between Lancelot and Gwen. And finally we see the Great Dragon really push Merlin to release him as he agreed to. But when Merlin gets a glimpse of what the future could be like when the dragon is freed, does he really want to?

As with the first season, there are serious moments intermixed with some comedic moments. The difference in the second season however is the distance between the light and the dark. As Morgana begins her slide to the dark side, there are many tough choices for Merlin to make – but that makes the lighthearted banter between Merlin and Arthur that much more important to keep things from being bogged down in darkness too often.

All thirteen episodes of the second season are included on the first four DVDs of this five DVD set. The last DVD is a collection of great extras. Without question, the BBC has done an amazing job gathering a set of “Behind the Scenes” features for the season. Every episode has a thirteen minute look at the work that goes into filming, producing, and acting each show, which gives you something more concrete to watch than a longer feature that covers the entire season at once. In addition, there’s an introduction to the new season from the cast and crew, audio commentaries, a collection of photos, and a Making of Merlin documentary that covers the entire season. If you have a PC, you also have access to a set of Wallpapers you can use as background images.

If you were a fan of Merlin as it aired on the BBC, NBC, or Syfy networks, Merlin: The Complete Second Season is definitely a DVD set worthy of your collection. It’s been fun catching up on all the action in Camelot as Season 3 gets in full swing on Syfy!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up both seasons of Merlin on DVD below!

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DVD Review: The Abbot and Costello Show: Who’s on First?

Hi again!

Though life is full of funny moments, I’ve only found a few things that can make me laugh consistently. Among them are Mel Brooks (nearly any of his films from Spaceballs and earlier), George Carlin, Monty Python, and Abbot and Costello‘s “Who’s on First?” routine. All of these comedy greats are masters of pointing out the absurdities of the English language.

Over the last few years, I’ve been introducing my kids to some of these older comic greats as they’ve become more comfortable with language and responsibility. Though it wouldn’t do to have them reciting Carlin’s “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” in class and have them get in trouble on my account! Along those lines, I’ve been seeking some of the comedy greats from television before swearing was commonplace. So when I saw that Entertainment One U.S. would be distributing DVDs of some of the The Abbott & Costello Show episodes from the 1950s, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to share more wordplay with my kids.

Like many comedy groups of that era, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello started long before television. They started with stage routines, eventually moving to movies and radio, and finally to television. In 1952, The Abbott and Costello Show entered syndication on stations around the country and the pair were able to use many of the same routines on television as they did on stage, screen and radio.

It’s impossible for me to think about the pair without thinking of their “Who’s on First?” routine. The combination of word play and confusion, for both Lou and the audience, made it an instant classic. If you don’t know the routine, it’s about the names of the baseball players on a team Abbott manages. The first baseman’s name is “Who,” the second baseman’s name is “What” and the third baseman’s name is “I Don’t Know.” You can imagine the confusion as they try to answer the question of “Who’s on First?” “Who.” “Exactly – who’s on first?” “Right! Who’s on First…”

So to see the routine live on the episode “The Actor’s House,” was very cool. My daughters were confused, but the light went on in my 4th grader’s eyes, so I suspect I’ll be hearing stories about her attempts to tell her friends at school about it next week!

The The Abbot and Costello Show: Who’s on First? DVD includes six episodes – “The Dentist’s Office,” “The Birthday Party,” “The Charity Bazaar,” “Hungry,” “The Music Lovers,” and “The Actor’s Home.” These episodes include routines such as “Who’s on First?”, “The Lemon Pit,” “Alexander 4444,” “The Piano Bit (Alright!)” and many more. It was amazing to see all of these routines – and they’re just as funny now as they were back in the 1930s and 1940s.

Many of these routines were new to me, including “Alexander 4444″ where Lou tries to make a local call and can’t get through, but characters keep interrupting him to use the phone to call long distance about the coffee business (“It’s a grind…”), a kangaroo farm (“The whole place is jumping…”), and others… Fun writing like that makes these routines family friendly and still hilarious.

In addition to Bud & Lou, the series also included other great characters including Sidney Fields, the pair’s always angry landlord; Hillary Brooke, the beautiful girl next door; Mike “The Cop” Kelly, who was always on Lou’s case; “Stinky” Davis (Joe Besser), the mean kid next door; and Mr. Bacciagalupe (Joe Kirk), the entrepreneur always thrown for a loop when the boys would “drop by.” All of these characters added to the brilliant and quick-witted minds of Abbott & Costello to produce some unforgettable moments.

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy two of the greatest comedic minds of a lost era, definitely check out The Abbot and Costello Show: Who’s on First? on DVD. You won’t be sorry and maybe you’ll figure out if Who IS on first base!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great comedy classics below!

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