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Friday, February 28, 2014

New Cosmos Series on the Horizon

Written by Jon Williams

In 1980, famed astronomer Carl Sagan teamed up with PBS to create Cosmos, a 13-episode series that explored a number of scientific themes, particularly about the universe and our place in it. It was written with the assistance of astrophysicist Steven Soter and cosmologist Ann Druyan, who would soon become Sagan’s wife. Sagan served as host of the series, which is still the most-watched series in PBS’s history.

In a field predicated on exploration and new discoveries, the 34 intervening years have brought a wealth of new knowledge. Now that knowledge is set to be brought forth, as Cosmos is being reimagined into a new series. Debuting next weekend, on Sunday, March 9, and being broadcast simultaneously on ten Fox networks, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will present nine episodes. Unfortunately, Sagan passed away in 1996; the new show will be hosted by astrophysicist NeildeGrasse Tyson.

The new series is produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who was a fan of the original Cosmos series and wanted to get involved with something outside of his usual range. Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan is involved as well, as she was with the original. Tyson, Druyan, and MacFarlane will attempt to inject the series with the same kind of broad appeal that made the original such a hit, exploring scientific concepts in an understandable and entertaining way. Like the first series, music will play a big part; the score will be written by film composer Alan Silvestri (the original used music by Vangelis and a number of other artists).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Memoriam: Harold Ramis

Written by Jon Williams

American comic actor, writer, and director Harold Ramis passed away on Monday at the age of 69. While he appeared in a number of films, if you know his face, chances are good that it’s for his role as Dr. Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters franchise. If you’re a fan of comedy, though, there’s no doubt you’re familiar with his work, as he was involved in many of the funniest films created since 1978.

Ramis got his start in comedy with the famed Second City troupe in Chicago, which led to a stint as a performer and head writer for the sketch comedy series SCTV. During his years working on the show (1976-1979), he worked with two collaborators to write the script for Animal House.

Ramis’s first attempt at writing a feature film was a success, to say the least. It earned over $141 million at the box office, breaking comedy records. He followed it up with the goofy camp comedy Meatballs, the first of six collaborations with Bill Murray. In 1980, he teamed up with Murray again for the golf classic Caddyshack, which he directed as well. He then stepped in front of the camera for the first time, starring with Murray in Stripes (which he also co-wrote), about two slackers who join the army.

After Stripes, Ramis returned to his roots with National Lampoon, writing the original Vacation movie that introduced Chevy Chase as well-meaning family man Clark Griswold. Then Ramis was called in to consult on a Dan Aykroyd script about a dark comedy about a group of enforcers traveling through time and space to battle the paranormal. Ramis brought the story back down to Earth, and the result was the 1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters. He joined Aykroyd and Murray on the screen for the film, as he did for the 1989 sequel (one of the few sequels Murray has done in his career).

Cartoonist Ash Vickers (@Mega_Ashra) pays tribute to Harold Ramis/Egon Spengler

Ramis was able to carry his string of classic comedies into the 1990s with the hilarious Groundhog Day in 1993, in which an insufferable Pennsylvania TV weatherman (played by Murray) is forced to relive the same day over and over again. From there, he took a break from writing, but made memorable appearances in the films Airheads and As Good As It Gets (currently unavailable). He came back with a vengeance, penning and directing the 1999 mob comedy Analyze This with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro, along with the sequel in 2002. The last film Ramis wrote was 2009’s Year One, starring Jack Black and Michael Cera.

Harold Ramis was an undisputed comedy genius, and this is just a sampling of the films he was involved with over the course of his career. For more, SmartBrowse his name on our website.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Wonder Years Finally Coming to DVD

Written by Jon Williams

Watching TV shows on DVD is a trend that has really caught on in recent years, and contemporary shows have really taken advantage, with new seasons or complete series usually being released on disc shortly after their initial television run. Did you miss Friday Night Lights or Breaking Bad when they aired (or just want to see them again)? No problem. Do you need to catch up on Game of Thrones or True Blood before the new seasons begin on HBO? You can do that too.

With older shows, it can be a little harder. While a great many have come to DVD over the years, there are plenty that devoted fans are still waiting for. One of the most highly sought-after series that has not yet come to DVD is The Wonder Years, which aired from 1988 to 1993. Starring a young Fred Savage, the show portrayed the trials and tribulations associated with growing up and coming of age in the U.S. in the turbulent 1960s. It explored themes of sibling rivalry, family struggles, first love, and friendship against the backdrop of Vietnam and the space race.

Well, it appears the wait is almost over. It was announced yesterday that Time Life is finally bringing the complete series to disc. Although an official release date has not yet been nailed down, plans are for it to be in “the second half of 2014.” This isn’t the first acclaimed older show that Time Life has brought to DVD—they’re responsible for the recent release of China Beach, among others.

Considering The Wonder Years was a show about youth in the ‘60s, it was only natural that music played a large part in the show. That has contributed to the delay in bringing the show to DVD, as it was necessary to secure rights to all those songs in order to include them in a new release. Time Life is working on that, ensuring that the upcoming DVDs will come with all the music intact—including the theme song, Joe Cocker’s cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” originally recorded by the Beatles.

With fans waiting so long for this release, demand is sure to be high. Keep your eye on our website for more information on a release date as it comes available.