Reviews of Movies, TV shows & metro Detroit Restaurants

Short movie & TV show reviews and metro Detroit restaurant reviews

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Favorite Mini-series of All Time!

The mini-series has become somewhat of a lost art after being quite popular in the mid to late 70s and the 80s. I have seen most of the ground-breaking mini-series, some of which are on this list. For the most part, the only way a great book can be turned into something on either the small or big screen is via the mini-series. I have read 6 of the books that resulted in 6 of the mini-series below, including 4 of my favorite books of all time (Pillars of the Earth, Lonesome Dove, Roots & Shogun…the other 2 that I read were Centennial & The Thorn Birds).

- Lonesome Dove: My favorite mini-series of all time. The definitive depiction of the American West. The first time I saw “Lonesome Dove” was when it first aired in 1989. My Mom had already read the book so she kept giving away things that were going to happen! My brother Brian & I kept getting mad at her for spoiling it for us. It is one of my funniest memories of my Mom. The story, acting, drama, humor, cinematography, etc. are all outstanding. And Robert Duvall as Gus McRae is one of my favorite characters of all time regardless of genre. In fact, he may BE my favorite character of all time and that includes movies, TV shows, mini-series & books! I quote Gus as much as I quote anybody! I watch this at least once a year. And if for some reason I am a little bit bummed about something going on in my life, I pop this in & it definitely improves my mood! 

- Centennial: My 2nd favorite mini-series, all 20+ hours of it! I make a point of watching this every single year. It's a great piece of historical fiction that depicts the U.S. West oh so well. Check it out on IMDb ( to see how many people who we all know were in this mega mini-series. Check out the credits & you will see what I mean!

And of course "Mr. Mini-series" is in it!

- Roots: The mini-series that set the tone for the rest to follow. Its portrayal of slavery in this country is like no other. It truly is the story of an American family if there ever was one. The cast is a who’s-who of 1970s television actors. It is an epic in the truest sense of the word. Words do not give “Roots” the justice it deserves. I believe every American should watch “Roots.”

- Band of Brothers: My favorite "modern" mini-series. This mini-series is possibly the best Blu-ray set that I own. “BoB” is a visual epic. The story-telling is also epic as it tells the true story of the men of the 101st Airborne Division from their time in boot camp, to parachuting into France on D-Day, to almost freezing to death in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, to liberating a concentration camp & then finally taking Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the Alps. The characters (all based on real men) are some of the most memorable you will ever meet. I believe every American should watch this mini-series & then thank the first WWII vet that they come across, especially since the men of the Greatest Generation are getting more difficult to find...

- Shogun: Yet another of the ground-breaking mini-series that defined the genre. "Shogun" is very true to the book, has wonderful acting, good action scenes and gives great insight into feudal Japan & its culture. It portrays the politics & ruthlessness of the times very well. As with many good plots, there is a love story at the center with all sorts of chaotic & complex events surrounding it. Richard Chamberlain’s portrayal of Blackthorne shines as does ToshirĂ´ Mifune’s performance as Toranaga.

- Winds of War/War & Remembrance: Even though these are 2 different mini-series, it is easier to review this epic all as one. I did enjoy "Winds of War" a bit more though as “War & Remembrance” gets to be quite long & drawn out. Plus “Winds of War” does an excellent job of showing pre-war Germany and then Poland during & after the German invasion. As Americans, we tend to think of WWII starting with Pearl Harbor but so much happens in Europe prior to that. “War & Remembrance” portrays the fate of the Jews like no other show has & at times, is difficult to watch because of that. Both shows have stellar casts.

- Pillars of the Earth: When I first watched "Pillars", I wasn't too impressed with it since the book is so incredible. But after watching it a couple more times, I do think it's very good. For the most part, it is true to the book even though it’d have to be 30 hours long to give the book the credit it deserves. I wish the mini-series would have focused a bit more on the love story that I believe is at the core of the book. But the mini-series is well-made & well-acted. And it does a nice job of the epic undertaking of building the cathedral...

- The Thorn Birds: Another mini-series that defined the genre. And guess who is in it? Of course...Richard Chamberlain! What could be juicer than a priest having a blasphemous love affair with a beautiful woman? “The Thorn Birds” is much more than that as it tells the story of a family & also delves into the hypocrisy of the Church. Look for Christopher Plummer’s excellent portrayal as Archbishop Vittorio.

- Jesus of Nazareth: My yearly Eastertime tradition is to watch this mini-series. Robert Powell plays Jesus as well as anyone ever has on film & you are mesmerized by his performance. When he delivers the Sermon on the Mount, you feel as if you were there. Again, a stellar cast for a well-made mini-series that captures the life of Jesus in a chilling, dramatic way.

- The Civil War: Not necessarily a mini-series, but it's so awesome, that I had to include it in this list. The Ken Burns documentary is by far his best that I’ve seen. Listening to Shelby Foote speak alone makes this an epic. Here is one of history's greatest speeches as depicted in "The Civil War":

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