Top Picks: PBS's look at family band Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, 'August: Osage County' on DVD and Blu-ray, and more

The White House hosts an all-female musician lineup that includes Aretha Franklin and Melissa Etheridge, YouTube host Jessica Beinecke teaches Mandarin through the Netflix series 'House of Cards,' and more top picks.

August: Osage County DVD
Mad Dog: Inside the Secret World of Muammar Gaddafi
In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul

Women at the White House

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted an all-female lineup of some of the first ladies of music. In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul, recorded March 6, features Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Melissa Etheridge, among others. The musical styles include blues, jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. The hour-long special airs on PBS April 7 at 9 p.m.

Family affair

“Independent Lens” delivers a portrait of a unique musical family in Brothers Hypnotic. Iconic jazz player Phil Cohran created the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble with his eight sons, who were raised as musicians working together in a tight ensemble from an early age. The movie profiles the journey of these young men as they move from living according to their father’s worldview and ideals to discovering their own sound and place in today’s musical scene. It airs on PBS April 7 at 10 p.m.
Science block

Need mental stimulation near the middle of the week? Check out PBS’s new lineup dubbed Think Wednesday. The programs “Nature” and “NOVA” lead off, followed by the new three-part series “Your Inner Fish.” On “Fish,” Neil Shubin, a paleobiologist, examines how animals around us show evidence of our genetic commonalities – for example, human and fish embryos are almost identical. “Fish” debuts April 9 at 10 p.m.

Family drama

The film adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, which centers on an Oklahoma family gathering after a death in the family, is worth checking out just to see the Oscar-nominated performances of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as a vitriolic mother and daughter. Actress Margo Martindale, always a welcome presence, is also great. “August” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray April 8.

Mandarin with a Southern accent

Teaching Mandarin by using the Netflix series “House of Cards”? It seems like an unlikely combination, but Jessica Beinecke, host of the YouTube channel Crazy Fresh Chinese (which instructs English-speakers on how to say fun phrases like “fashionista” and “chill out” in Mandarin), is doing just that. Beinecke dresses up as “Cards” characters such as Vice President Frank Underwood and his wife, Claire, to demonstrate how to say “House of Cards” and “conniving.” Check it out at

Chilling look back

Director Christopher Olgiati looks at the reign of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in his new documentary, Mad Dog: Inside the Secret World of Muammar Gaddafi. For the movie, Olgiati secured interviews with an impressive array of people, including some of Qaddafi’s bodyguards and a German rocket designer with whom the leader became close. The movie airs on Showtime April 11. Note: The film includes graphic depictions of violence.

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