Actor Kal Penn is producer/host of a series that attempts to explain how things like money, sex, food, sports and crime influence daily lives. The consequences are shown by analyzing data maps, and episodes investigate different themes through data mapping, creative visualization of information and in-depth personal stories involving fascinating characters. As well, documentary vignettes tell stories that personalize the number crunching, introducing real people who live and work at key intersections of each theme being explored. Penn serves as guide, making the information relatable to viewers.
Julia Child melded TV and food 50 or so years ago. Now with scads of celebrity chefs, cooking shows, and networks devoted to it, cuisine is even more popular. National Geographic Channel's six-hour miniseries salutes its history, science and culture. Each episode tackles a central theme: revolutionaries, meat, sugar, seafood, junk food, and grains -- with stories and reflections by a smorgasbord of chefs, authors, scientists, etc. Interviewees include Padma Lakshmi, Nigella Lawson, Simon Majumdar, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, Anna Boiardi and Graham Elliot.
The old Dolly Parton hit "9 to 5" isn't a tune worth humming for the blue-collar pioneers featured in "Filthy Riches." The series spotlights ingenious Americans who skirt a conventional workplace in favor of making a living in the deep rivers, soggy mud flats and wild backwoods of the U.S. Ray Turner, for example, has been catching eels in Delaware for 30 years. He uses a self-made smokehouse in the woods to cook the critters and sell them. Billy Taylor and his sons hunt for prized ginseng root in the Appalachians. Taylor, a fully licensed wild ginseng dealer, promotes sustainability by planting its berries. In Maine, Jim Campbell and Andy Johns make the coastal mud flats their office, as they dig for valuable bloodworms to sell to fishermen. And Greg Dahl and Albert DeSilva are burl hunters. A burl is a hard, unwieldy outgrowth on a tree, usually at the trunk. Burls have value because of the spectacular patterns found in them when cut open.
Based on the same-named hit movie from 1999 that starred Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, this half-hour series returns to Padua High, where newcomers Kat and Bianca Stratford attempt to navigate the popular crowd and the opposite sex while dealing with their overprotective dad. Kat is a strong-willed, confident kid with an eye toward her post-high-school life, while the only concern Bianca seems to have is how popular she becomes. But smooth sailing it won't be for the pair, especially in the company of head cheerleader Chastity, love-struck nerds like Cameron and the school's mysterious bad boy, Patrick.
"The Casual Vacancy" is a three-part miniseries adaptation of the novel by J.K. Rowling. The story is based on the lives of the residents living in the fictional English village of Pagford. It's home to a market square and ancient abbey, but what lies behind the idyllic surroundings is a community at war over the legacy of Sweetlove House. Parish Council Chairman Howard Mollison argues for an end to the legacy but is opposed by council member Barry Fairbrother, whose impassioned speech outlines Sweetlove's importance. When Fairbrother suddenly dies, the "casual vacancy" on the council soon becomes the catalyst for a clash that rocks the village.
Summertime in the Midwest means another season at summer camp for teens, which usually promises the campers and counselors such experiences as first loves and first kisses. This time, though, the anticipated summer of fun becomes a summer of terror in this drama series set in the late '80s. When a new owner reopens the previously closed Camp Stillwater, its ancient mythologies awaken, and evil pops up at every turn in the seemingly idyllic setting. With the evil happenings, the young people at Camp Stillwater can add first kills to their list of firsts for the summer.
It's a generational clash when 40-something ad exec Thom Payne gets a new wunderkind boss, who is in his mid-20s. When his boss starts using words like digital, social and viral, Thom realizes he may need to rebrand himself to compete in a technology-driven world. His pursuit of happiness is going well to this point -- he has a beautiful house in the woods, a loving family, a roster of big-name clients and a trophy shelf filled with awards for his work -- but being slow to adapt compromises his quest. His immediate supervisor, 50-something Jonathan, has begun to embrace the changing environment and encourages Thom to do the same. Otherwise, Thom may be stuck being just "happyish" for the rest of his life.