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Here Comes Some Must-Find TV… and Some Must-Hear Interviews and Music
August 17, 2014  | By David Bianculli


What do a video streaming site, an audio podcast, and an audio CD and YouTube clip have in common? Very little – except that today, on this site usually devoted to television, I want to write about, and lead you to, them all…

The video streaming site has to do with the final episodes of the long-running Poirot series – and a link to my review of them on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

The radio website leads to a replay of a vintage Robin Williams interview that is even more intimate in retrospect.

The audio podcast also has to do with the late Robin Williams, and is another audio conversation that I feel affords great insight into the conflicted man behind all those manic comedy moments.

And finally, the audio CD and YouTube clip have to do with a young musical duo that I feel is destined for stardom quite soon, and not only because they do a great cover of a relatively obscure Beatles song.

So here we go…


The second of the final three episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, starring David Suchet in the role he began playing all the way back in 1989, premieres in the United States tomorrow (Monday, Aug. 18) – but not on television. Not on broadcast or cable television, anyway.

If you want to see The Labors of Hercules, in which Christie’s intrepid Belgian detective undergoes a rare crisis of confidence, and falls into a deep depression, after failing to protect someone from a murderer, you have to find, and go to, Acorn TV’s video streaming website. It’s at www.Acorn.TV -- and a week later, it’s where you’ll also be able to find Poirot’s Last Case.

You can hear, and read, a full review of the last three episodes of Poirot, and sample a clip from Last Case, by going to the Fresh Air website. But the basic upshot is that the times, they have a’changed: the last case of a TV detective whose mysteries began being solved on PBS is being presented exclusively on a streaming site.

In today’s TV landscape, you often have to look beyond your TV set to get the full picture. Another case in point follows.


The media reaction to last week’s unexpected death of comedian Robin Williams led to instant retrospectives on ABC’s 20/20 and on CNN. I saw them both, but the best reflections on Williams I saw last week, I didn’t see at all.  I only heard them.

The day after Williams’ death, my gang at NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross replayed portions of his 2006 interview with Terry, and the candor with which he talked about his addictions and depressions made for very touching, and prescient, moments. That Fresh Air interview is quite a thing to revisit – and portions of it were replayed during NBC’s news coverage of Williams’ death.


Also reacting with very emotional audio was Marc Maron, who on Monday not only dug out and repeated his 2010 WTF podcast with Robin Williams, but recorded a new introduction that put the entire conversation in a perspective that was just as honest and unforgettable as the talk itself. Maron’s intro, like his interview, is a must-hear media experience – and you can experience it, for a limited time, on Maron’s WTF website.


Finally, on a lighter note, there’s a CD release and a YouTube sample by Nalani & Sarina, singer-songwriters who also are talented musicians – and are twins. Their last name is Bolton, though they go by their first names as an ampersanded duo. Their orbit entered mine through two different work-related avenues, and then, once I heard their music and saw them perform live, I was sold.

Julian Herzfeld, a long-time friend, is an engineer at Philadelphia’s WHYY, from which Fresh Air emanates. He is the co-producer (with Greg Drew) and engineer of Lessons Learned, the 2014 CD, featuring such musicians as Will Lee and Tommy Mandel, on which the sisters wrote all the songs.

That’s one connection. The other is that Nalani & Sarina, without my input or prior knowledge, appeared at a fundraiser at Glassboro’s Rowan University, where I teach. And when I later saw them perform live, these young women, while still on the under-21 side, complemented their original compositions with some knowing, dynamic covers, of everyone from Carole King to Lennon-McCartney. Anyone from any generation after mine who  loves The Beatles has my allegiance. Any two who can nail the harmonies, and make the song sound like their own, has me reaching for superlatives.

Here, as a sample, are Nalani & Sarina performing their song “Get Away” for this year’s Rowan University Radio TV Network telethon for the Ronald McDonald House charity:

That’s one taste of their music.

As for their CD Lessons Learned, you can buy it here.

And as for those superlatives, here are some – my way of saying thanks for the music, and in hopes of getting in some critical kudos before the star-making tsunami that’s all but certain to come very soon.

(My first newspaper column as a critic, before I turned to TV, was as the music critic for my high-school paper, the Nova Vue. And back then, I was singling out and writing about new music by the likes of the Beatles, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Cream, Spirit. Ah, those were the days... So for a few paragraphs, putting my music critic's hat back on is a personal treat.) 

Nalani & Sarina are great fun to watch on stage – because they’re mirror twins, when they strap on guitars and share a single microphone, their guitar necks point the same way, like Lennon and McCartney. They have a similar raucous joy when they perform live, as well as a seemingly effortless gift for intricate harmonies. (Their CD’s kickoff track, “Raw Sugar,” proves all of that with a jolt.)

But in addition to being charismatic and confident singers and musicians, rotating among guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, their secret weapon is their songwriting. “Masha’s Song” starts quietly, and builds beautifully. “Hung Up” nails a James Brown funk. “Bittersweet” is a breakup song that turns out to be much more sweet than bitter. The music, and the lyrics, can be haunting (“In the Eye”), vulnerable (“Should’ve Known Better”), strong and confident (“White Dove”), even anthemic (“Start All Over”).

The songs on their debut CD all seem to have hooks, and both the musicianship and recording quality of Lessons Learned are impressively, surprisingly high.

The only flaw is that it doesn’t include any of their slyly selected, playfully performed covers, of everything from The Beatles to The Ramones. For now, you’ll have to see them live for that.

But you should be doing that anyway – even if you’re a generation or more removed from their demo, as I am. Well-written, strongly performed music is timeless, as well as ageless…

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